race Rule: Cover The Topic

Blacks, Police & the Minerva Research Initiative: The Wrong Kind of ‘Solution’ Unreported

This blog is a follow-on to the previous one. The two, together, form a pair of bookends that give a ‘big picture’ clarity to how policies contribute to the deadly confrontations between blacks and the police, and the peril of underreporting them.

The Minneapolis Miracle blog covered the media’s failure to report on solutions to the underlying issues of economic inequality and concentrated poverty, solutions that could, at least in part, preempt crises that lead to police confrontations. This blog covers the equally underreported subject of programs aimed at containing the fallout from those crises once they’ve hit.

Anticipating civil breakdown from economic crises, climate change, resource depletion or some other cause, the Minerva Research Initiative was created in 2008, by the Pentagon, with the overall purpose of studying social unrest, how to detect it, and how to manage it. It consists of a set of Department of Defense programs and university funded projects. Among it’s objectives are: identify regions of potential destabilisation around the world or in the US, track impending threats, and define the line that seperates peaceful activism from political violence or terrorism.

I learned about Minerva from reports on RT’s Breaking The Set in the summer of 2014 when Abby Martin interviewed international security expert, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, about his Guardian piece, Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown.

One of those reports, in the video below, is from August 22, 2014, two weeks after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO. Though both the RT interviews and The Guardian article focus on Minerva’s research on destabilisation contexts other than excessive police force against blacks, Dr. Ahmed cites the Ferguson protests as an example of “the kind of threats the DoD is looking at.”

(No ads; Minerva report 14:50 minutes in)

Regarding to the line separating protesting and terrorism, the report includes a Dept. of Homeland Security study on the Arizona Occupy movement. Dr. Ahmed says: “DHS looked at Twitter posts from Arizona Occupy to see where the next threat could come from. It wasn’t coming from terrorism, it was coming from civil disobediance.” Citing the inability of any of his sources in the program to differentiate peaceful protestors from terrorists, plus Minerva’s own statement: “A lack of violent rhetoric is insufficient to classify an organization as pacifist.”, Ahmed opines: ”The boundaries have been blurred to the point that this isn’t really about terrorism, it’s about political dissent.”

On Minerva’s funding of university programs, Ahmed identifies a Cornell Univ. researcher who studied “social movement mobilisation and contagions” for the DoD, as the same person who conducted the “Facebook emotional contagion study”. In the Facebook experiment, news feeds to members sites were controlled for positive vs. negative content, then subsequent postings by those members were analyzed to see if they had been affected. The experiment caused an uproar and was stopped. After initial denials of funding, the DoD admitted they had funded it “in part”.

In the RT video below from July 2, 2014, Ahmed expounds on and bemoans the militarization of social research in universties, saying it prevents objective, independent social science scholarship which is important input to policy. This fascinating interview also covers efforts to dilute the findings in the summary of the UN climate change report, more on protestors vs. terrorists, and other topics.

(No ads)

You may think that some of these programs are needed in certain cases, given what’s happening in the world. Maybe they are. But I write about Minerva and the Minneapolis Miracle because they seem to also highlight what is wrong with America: We are not acting responsibly and preventing preventable crises for the general welfare, and then we are making the cold calculations to manage the fallout from that inaction.

In other words, we’re getting it exactly backwards. And the News Media isn’t reporting it. (A TVNews Archive* search of all 24 of its networks produced 0 hits).

Doesn’t the public have the right to decide that policies be made and resources allocated to preempt catastrophes on the front end, rather than engage in damage control on the back end?

Stating the obvious, to the News Media (sans RT): Cover the Topic of programs like Minerva!

Anybody with me?

About RT & Breaking the Set:  Breaking the Set (now defunct) was a half hour show on the RT America channel, which is part of the Russian funded Russia Today network. There has been controversy over the question of whether American journalists working for RT America have true editorial freedom (click on Wikipedia links).  After Russia intervened in the Ukraine, one news anchor resigned claiming she was pressured to tow the line for Russia in her reporting on the invasion. Shortly after, Abby Martin and Tom Hartman (The Big Picture), both of whom had expressed disapproval of Russia’s actions, vehemently asserted that they have total editorial freedom for their shows.

From my viewing experience (mostly Breaking the Set & The Big Picture), RT America has a decidedly progressive/activist bent.  The real value for me, however, is the content.  Both shows rely heavily on interviews with credible experts often seen on other channels, but report stories & points of view that never get covered on those channels.

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*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog.  [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional References:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

income inequality race Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Blacks, Police & the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’: A Solution Unreported (Updated)

In the quest for answers to Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, attendant focus on unemployment and urban blight, and the role they play in the tragic encounters between blacks and the police, brought to mind a story reported in March on the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’, a story with proven answers.

The joint piece between News Hour and The Atlantic tells of a broad regional prosperity that resulted from shared wealth policies in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area in the 1970’s, and the subsequent decline after policies were rolled back. Though the Twin Cities still enjoys high ratings in both affordability and upward mobility, an anomaly and powerful lure for millennials, the current ‘miracle’ is not as evenly distributed as it once was. Minneapolis now has one of the widest disparities in opportunity between blacks and whites in the country.

(No ads)

It wasn’t always so. In the 70’s a concerted effort was made to create policies that benefited everyone. Progressive education, tax-sharing and housing laws were passed. The fiscal disparities law mandated that 40% of each community’s business tax base growth was shared regionally. That allowed the less rich communities to share in the commercial wealth of the entire city.

The Minnesota legislature also focussed on integration in public housing. For 15 years, 70% of low-income housing was in the whitest neighborhoods, providing access to better schools and jobs for those occupants.

In the late 80’s, as civil rights laws lapsed across the country, the housing laws were dialed back. Though fiscal equalization did survive, current statistics speak to a divide. High school graduation rates are 47% for African-Americans vs. 86% (statewide) for whites. Homeownership is 34% for African-Americans, 76% for whites. The state, overall, has the highest unemployment gap between whites and people of color, nationwide. (Comparative statistics for ‘before housing rollback’ were not cited, and would have strengthened this report.)

Still, Minneapolis is headquarters to 19 Fortune 500 companies, more than any other for a metro its size. Explaining the locale’s historical appeal to them, U. Minnesota’s Myles Shaver says: “Its most important resource never leaves the city–educated managers of every level, who can work at just about any company.” The implication of all this? Judy Woodruff sums up local leaders’ thoughts: “The racial disparity in education, opportunity and income must be addressed if Fortune 500 companies continue to come and thrive.”

So… one solution–progressive housing–found, then lost. The other–fiscal equalization–intact, but unreplicated and barely reported on. According to The Atlantic, no other large American city has adopted tax revenue sharing. In 2008, Seoul, Korea imported a version of it. The result was the gap between districts in social services funding, narrowed. Poorer communities were able to grow their tax base with minimal impact on richer ones.

The Minneapolis Miracle cries out for more widespread coverage, especially in these times of growing inequality and its manifold symptoms. A TVNews Archive* search yielded no reports of it other than News Hour’s. For print media, other than The Atlantic article, I found this (long titled) Minnesota story: “This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Raised the Minimum Wage. Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country”. Short and data rich, it makes a clear case for policies that benefit everyone.

Once again, we see coverage of the problem but nothing on solutions–proven solutions–in this case. The more I encounter this, the more it makes my blood boil.

To the News Media: Cover the Topic of solutions to poverty! They are off-the-shelf, ready-made and working. They help people… you know, the people you are supposed to inform so as to make their vote meaningful.

Do it!   It’s.  Your.  Job.


Three days after I posted the above Minneapolis Miracle blog, News Hour filed another such report on solutions to poverty, this one on Purpose Built Communities in East Lake, Atlanta Ga. PBC, started by Warren Buffett and local community leaders, turned East Lake around by targeting multiple elements simultaneously–housing, education, health and jobs.

(Short ad)

The project has been mostly successful–crime is down 90%, test scores are up, and other cities have replicated it with a Federal project in the works. The downside: surrounding areas have become more expensive, and there is less subsidized housing than originally, forcing the displaced to move to other low income areas. Still, with the state of things, it is ever more important to report on these endeavors to learn what works and empower the public to demand change. Predictably, a TVNews Archive search produced only a handful of CSPAN results in addition to News Hour.

So, again, good job News Hour.  But to the rest of the News Media, I repeat:
Cover the Topic of solutions to poverty!

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*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog.  [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional References:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

Minnesota’s Miracle by Tom Berg (former MN congressman)