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USA Today Ignores Climate Change as Factor in Alaskan Drilling

USA Today: Drilling Closes in on Alaska Wildlife Refuge

“Oil exploration debate takes on a new urgency”–but USA Today (11/20/17) left out the most urgent part of the debate.

The lead story of the November 20 USA Today, “Drilling Closes In on Alaska Wildlife Refuge,” was supposed to give readers the basics surrounding proposed legislation to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The article is intended as an explainer—“Here’s What You Should Know,” its online headline concludes—but one idea is conspicuously absent from its explanation: climate change.

Sales of drilling rights in the northeastern Alaskan coastal plain are slated to be attached to the Senate version of the tax bill, ostensibly as a way to raise revenue to offset the cost of massive tax cuts. The article’s lead frames the issue in terms of proponents’ view of the refuge “as an area rich with natural resources that could help fuel the United States’ drive for energy independence”—despite the fact that the United States became a net exporter of oil in 2013, and any increase in oil production would likely go to overseas markets.

After many paragraphs of wrangling over how much oil is likely to lie under the refuge, and how much money the US government would be likely to make from it, reporter Michael Collins includes a single sentence on the environmental impact of opening the wilderness area to oil extraction:

What’s more, opponents argue, drilling is a risky endeavor that would cause widespread and permanent damage to the coastal plain, destroy the area’s natural beauty and jeopardize its wildlife and ecosystems.

But nowhere does the article mention the biggest environmental danger posed by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling: If the billions of gallons of petroleum believed to be under the refuge are pumped out and burned, they will add gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to the ongoing climate catastrophe.

Nowhere in the article do the words “climate,” “warming,” “greenhouse” or “carbon” appear. Here’s what USA Today should know: This kind of coverage of energy issues is wrecking the planet.


Please tell USA Today to mention climate change prominently when writing about energy issues.



Twitter: @USA Today

Please share your messages to USA Today in comments. Remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

Justin Anderson contributed to this Action Alert. Source:

Wealthy Countries Have Damaged the Climate in Incredible Ways’

Janine Jackson interviewed Karen Orenstein about the climate disconnect for the November 17, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: A New York Times explainer in advance of the Bonn climate talks told readers the worst case scenario for the UN summit is it “could get bogged down by the traditional rift between richer and poorer nations.” That might “stall momentum right before the next big round of climate talks in 2018.” Of course, others may see different forces behind any stalled momentum, and might offer a different frame for questions of climate justice than that of a “traditional rift” between the world’s rich and poor.

Karen Orenstein is the deputy director of the Economic Policy Program at Friends of the Earth US where she works on issues of international public finance and climate finance in particular. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Karen Orenstein.

Karen Orenstein: Thank you for having me on

JJ: I have to start with the event that inspired a statement from you, and that boggled so many. Here we’re at an international conference to address the reality of human-driven climate disruption. It’s in Germany, but it’s hosted by Fiji, in part to highlight the problems facing island nations, problems caused by other countries’ emissions. And the Trump administration does a presentation titled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.” What the heck?

KO: I think you introduced it correctly by talking about, this was in response to the reality of climate change, but Trump and his administration live in a parallel universe that is not based on reality, so it is not a surprise that the climate deniers, for them, upside is down and downside is up, so that they would go to a climate conference, the most important climate talks of the year, to try to promote climate pollution. It’s just what they do.

NYT: Trump Team to Promote Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power at Bonn Climate Talks

New York Times (11/2/17)

JJ: It’s truly strange. But Barry Worthington, the executive director of the United States Energy Association, who spoke at this panel, told the New York Times beforehand, he’s just going to be delivering a dose of reality. He says “no credible projection” shows fossil fuels meeting less than 40 percent of global energy needs. He says it’s going to be a “horrible experience”—for him—to have to deliver that message to climate activists, but “the reality of it is the world is going to continue to use fossil fuels, and if I can throw myself on the hand grenade to help people realize that, I’m willing to do it.” So their argument is they’re just being realistic.

KO: Well, isn’t he nice to make such sacrifices. I think, again, it comes down to the question of reality. His reality as a fossil fuel executive is one thing. The reality of, say, for example, someone living in Bangladesh, whose home is now getting inundated with water, or in Kiribati or Tuvalu or Marshall Islands or Fiji, Fiji which is hosting the conference, for them their reality is that their country faces an existential crisis, because it might not exist anymore. Or farmers in Malawi, whose crops aren’t working, or people in Houston or Florida or Puerto Rico, who just encountered storms that have unprecedented vigor to them and resulted in unprecedented destruction, that’s their reality. So I would believe more the farmer in Bangladesh than I would believe the coal and oil executive like Barry Worthington.

Karen Orenstein

Karen Orenstein: “The US, more than any other country in the history of the world, is most responsible for causing the climate crisis…. We sort of broke the climate, we’re responsible for paying for it.”

JJ: I want to bring you back to this question of climate finance. What does that mean; what questions are being addressed by that?

KO: Basically, that’s about the provision of money from rich countries to poor countries to help the poorer countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because to do that is A) very expensive and B) they’re not the ones responsible for causing the climate crisis, right?

The US, more than any other country in the history of the world, is most responsible for causing the climate crisis. So we abide by the idea of the “polluter pays” principle, the idea that if you walk into a shop and you break something, you’re in charge of paying for it. Well, we sort of broke the climate, we’re responsible for paying for it, the US and other rich countries. And so that’s really what climate finance is about. It’s both about justice, it’s about practicality, it’s about expense, and it’s about morality.

JJ: So what it sounds like it’s not about is an age-old “traditional rift,” that will always be with us, between the world’s rich and the world’s poor. You make it much more dynamic than that.

KO: Yeah, I really dislike that framing. The rift is caused because wealthy countries have damaged the climate in incredible ways, and it’s having the first and worst impact on countries, for example, in Africa, and so it’s about people in Africa saying we need to be able to live, we need—we deserve a life of dignity. The actions of people in richer countries have impinged on their ability to have a dignified life. I don’t know, I wouldn’t call that a rift, I would call that about fairness and justice and basically the right to livelihoods and to a quality life.

JJ: Yeah.

KO: It’s not a rift. “Rift” makes it sound like there’s people disagreeing over whether, you know, bananas are the best fruit.

JJ: Uh-huh.

KO: And it’s not. This is people’s lives.

JJ: Well, this event that we’re talking about, this fossil fuel, described as “surreal” event at the climate talks, it was interrupted. I want to be clear. Before it even started, two US governors from Washington and Oregon came in and said, we don’t agree with this, this is not our view. And then young activists who were there interrupted with a seven-minute song, and then left peacefully. At the same time, we saw the largest-ever climate protest in Germany. I feel that people understand that what we’re talking about is a matter of political will, and not some sort of arcane science question or technology question. It seems that activism really is going to be the core to moving forward here.

KO: Yeah, I agree. There’s not rocket science here, it is entirely political. The fact that 95 percent-plus of scientists agree that humans are causing climate change, climate change is causing global warming, etc. It’s a fact. It’s about entrenched interests in wealthier countries. The fossil fuel industry, for example, Wall Street, they want to maintain the status quo to their benefit. And I think we often see governments not necessarily acting in the best interest of their constituencies, but that’s certainly true of the Trump administration.

So to expect that governments with their own vested economic interests are going to necessarily do what is needed for the benefit of average ordinary people and the planet is probably not entirely in line with the history of civilization, which is to say that I think we’re going to find the answers in the streets, the demand will come from the streets, and from just everyday folks who take action, especially now people are so inspired to act because, I mean, Trump is just such an extreme villain in so many ways, including on the climate.

Public Citizen: Silent ProtestJJ: I have to note in this context a new study from Public Citizen that shows that media severely underreport activism at climate conferences, even though those demonstrations are really a primary way that the public is claiming a voice here. And that underreporting distorts public understanding. It gives the impression that there’s less support for this action than there actually is. I wonder what in general you might like to see from media, more or less of, not just on climate talks, but on this whole set of issues. What do you think journalism can do here?

KO: Yeah, I agree there’s a big problem looking at corporate-controlled media, and also this idea that they’re afraid to wade into the controversy of climate change, which isn’t actually a controversy. So I would, for example, like to see during weather reports, meteorologists talk about climate change, because that affects the weather in an extreme way. So that actually your daily nightly newscast, which a lot of people watch—you know, they have the Doppler radar and all that stuff, they can talk about climate change.

To be honest with you, most of my own news comes from Democracy Now! and alternative sources, and until I think we have less media consolidation and more local decentralized media, it’s going to be up to people on the ground to get their stories out and to pay attention to alternative sources of information.

But I think things are changing. I’m from Illinois, I go back home and talk to my family, and they think about climate change in a way that they didn’t before, and they’re not a bunch of very political people. So I think things are changing, especially with the devastation that’s happened in the United States, and especially with just how extreme Trump is.

JJ: So maybe not thanks to media or thanks to government, but things are nevertheless changing in terms of awareness.

KO: Yeah, maybe in spite of media and the government.

JJ: All right then, I’ll have to end it there. We’ve been speaking with Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth US. You can find their work online at Karen Orenstein, thank you so much for joining us today on CounterSpin.


KO: Thank you very much.


***** Source:

The Nuclear Enterprise Is on Autopilot’

Janine Jackson interviewed William Hartung about nuclear overkill for the November 17, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: We have this idea that things should make sense. But we have homeless people and empty buildings, we have unemployed people and work that needs doing—and we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet, and are building more. The thing is, these things do make sense—just not in a way we would hope for, or the way we are often told. When it comes to nuclear weapons, our next guest explains, all the talk you hear about strategic considerations driving proliferation—how do we look tough with North Korea, and so on—is in a sense a distraction from what’s really going on. If you really want to know why the US keeps churning out nuclear warheads, follow the money.

William Hartung has been doing just that for years now. He’s director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, author most recently of Profits of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military/Industrial Complex, and a contributor to the book Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, which is just out now from New Press. He joins us now by phone from here in town. Welcome back to CounterSpin, William Hartung.

William Hartung: Thanks so much for having me.

Huffington Post: Massive Overkill Brought To You By The Nuclear-Industrial Complex

William Hartung’s Tom Dispatch piece (11/14/17) reposted on Huffington Post (11/14/17).

JJ: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the authority and process for the use of nuclear weapons. One senator said constituents are asking him at townhalls if Trump can just order a nuclear attack without any controls, and, obviously, that’s because they’re worried that he might. As you write, “A tough guy attitude on nuclear weapons, when combined with an apparent ignorance about their world-ending potential, adds up to a toxic brew.” No argument there. Let’s start by just talking about the current state of the arsenal that we’re being told needs to be “modernized” and expanded. We have, what, some 4,000 nuclear weapons?

WH: Yes, in the active stockpile. So any of those could be deployed at any time. There’s a little under 2,000 ready to go now, in ballistic missiles and in submarines, on bombers. And that’s far more than would be needed to destroy North Korea—that would be a handful of weapons—pretty much disable and destroy any country in the world. And if there were a large exchange, probably end the prospects of life on the planet over the medium term. So there’s massive nuclear overkill and, you know, some experts—those who believe in nuclear deterrence, as opposed to getting rid of nuclear weapons—say about 300 would be enough to dissuade any country from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. So you’ve got huge excess. Some of it is leftover ideology from the Cold War but, as I said, most of it is power and profits.

JJ: Let’s get into that, because, despite the arsenal you’ve just described, we are looking at a “modernization plan” to the tune of some $1.7 trillion. I’ll ask it simply: Why is that the case?

WH: Well, I think the nuclear enterprise is on autopilot. They always build a new generation, and the companies always need a new contract. The Pentagon cooked this up under Obama, so it’s not, unlike many other things, a Trump invention. But General Dynamics wants to make new nuclear submarines; companies like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin want to make new nuclear bombers; the ballistic missile force, which is based in Wyoming, North Dakota, some in Nebraska, etc.; the senators from those states are very keen on a new generation of ballistic missiles, because they’re afraid they might get dropped from the arsenal if they’re not brand new and shiny. So there’s a lot of pork barrel politics involved, and also just kind of, bureaucracies want to be fed, and they want to be fed dollars, both in the Pentagon and the services, and of course the companies.

JJ: I think it was from you that I learned about the strategy, if you will, of breaking up the production process of a particular weapon, so that you’ll have many states and their representatives invested in it.

WH: Exactly. And the nuclear complex is very much that way. You’ve got weapons labs in California and New Mexico; you’ve  got a uranium facility in Tennessee; you’ve got submarines based in Washington state and Georgia; you’ve got those ballistic missiles in the northern Midwest, as I mentioned; Connecticut’s building nuclear-capable submarines; and on and on. So if you put together the senators and representatives from those states as kind of a solid bloc—I’ll support your nuke if you support mine—you’ve already got a huge group in Congress pushing for this stuff.

And when Chuck Hagel, for example, was being confirmed as secretary of Defense, he had signed on as an advisor to a project by the group Global Zero that said we could get by with as few as 900 nuclear weapons, not the 4,000, and also perhaps we didn’t need ballistic missiles. And he was pilloried by members from states that have the missiles, or the command and control for the missiles, and so forth, to the point where he basically backed off and said, well, that was just one idea, you know, that was a study, it doesn’t mean it’s something we’re going to do. So Congress is a big part of the problem.

Dwight Eisenhower

President Dwight Eisenhower

JJ: I’d like to do a little bit of history, as you do in this piece for Tom Dispatch, because it seems as though we used to see this in a more clear-eyed way. I mean, Eisenhower pretty much called it, right, with the military/industrial complex?

WH: Yes. And he was most concerned about things like the push for a new nuclear bomber by the contractors and the Air Force. Some generals who—you know, he was the commander in chief, after all—were talking out of school about needing this, even if he thought we didn’t. He basically called the push for the bomber, and the false claims about a missile gap that were used to fuel a missile buildup, political demagoguery, and he said that, basically, there was undue influence on senators like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, by the industry to get them to adopt these positions.

So he was right on target way back then. And I think he would be horrified to see the shape of the nuclear/industrial complex now, the size of the companies like Lockheed Martin, which gets $30 to $40 billion a year, in a good year—for them, not a good year for the taxpayers. So there were no companies of that size in Eisenhower’s day, and they have that much more influence, because of their spread across the country, their campaign contributions, their lobbyists and so forth.

JJ: Well, I was just going to go there, because the mechanics, the techniques, you say, haven’t really changed fundamentally, and that is: campaign contributions and lobbying. And it’s not partisan, it’s bipartisan.

WH: Exactly. So, for example, the entire weapons industry has, in any given year, 700 to a thousand registered lobbyists, almost two for every member of Congress in some years, and that’s not counting board members and people who consult and other people who try to influence the process, but aren’t technically lobbyists. They give tens of millions of dollars in contributions. They also fund think tanks, like the Center for Security Policy, the Lexington Institute, the Democratic-leaning Center for New American Security. In many cases, those think tanks advocate positions that the logical conclusion is, we need more Pentagon spending. So they’re almost like, in some cases, mouthpieces for the industry, but very useful, because the industry doesn’t have to lobby for it themselves; it’s being done under the alleged aura of objectivity, which of course doesn’t exist when you’re on the payroll of the arms industry.

JJ: And media, of course, play a role here, in a general failure to indicate which think tanks are tied to where, so that they do abet this process of presenting them as independent entities that just happen to have a point of view that dovetails with that of weapons makers.

WH: Yeah. We need truth in labeling, basically.

William Hartung

William Hartung: “Pentagon spending is the least effective way to create jobs…. Infrastructure spending is about one-and-a-half times as many jobs as Pentagon spending, and education spending more than twice as many.”

JJ: Yes, exactly. And another thing that media can play a role in is credulous, shall we say, reporting of another angle of approach, which is that weapons are about jobs.

WH: Yes. Well, the thing is, Pentagon spending is the least effective way to create jobs. Economists at the University of Massachusetts have done very good work on this, and they’ve figured out infrastructure spending is about one-and-a-half times as many jobs as Pentagon spending, and education spending more than twice as many. So it’s really about serving particular areas and members. You know, if you have a fighter plane built in St. Louis, the Missouri delegation is going to push for that, and if you have a nuclear-capable submarine in Connecticut, that delegation is going to push for it, and those, as you said, are both Democrats and Republicans. So it’s not that we couldn’t create jobs differently; it’s that there’s a political logjam in Washington against investing in other things.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, you remind us that grassroots activism in Europe and in the US, the freeze movement, that was what played a role in helping turn around Ronald Reagan’s view on nuclear weapons. Is that what we need now?

WH: Absolutely. And I think, globally, there’s been some hope. The UN has passed a treaty to abolish nuclear weapons, which many people thought would not be possible, and the majority of the world’s countries are behind that. Of course, the big players are not, but I think this puts them on the moral defensive and political defensive, such that if we can build the movement here, we might make some progress.

And, of course, all bets are off about what Donald Trump himself might do, but I think there’s already building support in Congress for a new policy, including not letting the president be the sole person to decide if we launch a nuclear war.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with William Hartung. His article, “Massive Overkill Brought to You by the Nuclear Industrial Complex,” can be found on, and the new book Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation is out from New Press. William Hartung, thank you very much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

WH: Thank you. Source:

Ignoring Washington’s Role in Yemen Carnage, 60 Minutes Paints US as Savior

by Adam Johnson

60 Minutes' Scott Pelley introduces Catastrophe

60 Minutes‘ Scott Pelley (11/19/17) introduces a report on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen–without mentioning the US role in the conflict.

In one of the most glaring, power-serving omissions in some time, CBS News 60 Minutes (11/19/17) took a deep dive into the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and did not once mention the direct role the United States played in creating, perpetuating and prolonging a crisis that’s left over 10,000 civilians dead, 2 million displaced, and an estimated 1 million with cholera.

Correspondent Scott Pelley’s segment, “When Food Is Used as a Weapon,” employed excellent on-the-ground reporting to highlight the famine and bombing victims of Saudi Arabia’s brutal two-and-a-half year siege of Yemen. But its editors betrayed this reporting—and their viewers—by stripping the conflict of any geopolitical context, and letting one of its largest backers, the United States government, entirely off the hook.

As FAIR has previously noted (10/14/16, 2/27/17), US media frequently ignore the Pentagon’s role in the conflict altogether. Pelly did not once note that the US assists Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign with logistical support, refueling and the selling of arms to the tune of $400 billion.  The US also routinely protects Saudi Arabia at the UN from condemnation—a shield that may have vastly prolonged the war, given that it signals the support of the most powerful country on Earth.

Meanwhile, Iran’s involvement in the conflict—which, even by the most paranoid estimates, is far less than the United States’—is placed front and center as one side of the “war.” The conflict is framed in hackneyed “Sunni vs Shia” terms, with Saudi Arabia unironically called the “leader of the Sunni world” and Iran the “leader of the Shia world.” A reductionist narrative that omits that Sunnis have fought alongside the Houthis, and the fact that Saudi bombs kill members of the marginalized, mostly Sunni Muhamasheen caste, who are neither “led” by Saudi Arabia nor part of the “Shia world.”

This cartoon dichotomy is the extent of the context. Saudi Arabia is rightly singled out as the primary aggressor (though a dubious comparative body count of 3,000 killed by Saudis vs. 1,000 by Houthis is proffered that is far lower than the UN’s January 2017 estimates of 10,000 total civilians killed), but who the Saudis’ primary patrons are—the United States and Britain (and Canada, too)—is simply not mentioned. One would think, watching Pelley’s report, it was a purely regional conflict, and not one sanctioned and armed by major Western superpowers to counter “Iranian aggression.”

To compound the obfuscation, 60 Minutes doesn’t just omit the US role in the war, it paints the US as a savior rescuing its victims. The hero of the piece is American David Beasley, the director of the UN’s World Food Programme, the organization coordinating humanitarian aid. “The US is [the World Food Programme]’s biggest donor, so the director is most often an American. Beasley was once governor of South Carolina,” Pelly narrates over B-roll hero shots of Beasley overseeing food distribution.

Beasley, in his sit-down interview, bends over backwards to downplay Saudi responsibility, insisting at every turn that “all parties” are to blame:

You see it’s chaos, it’s starvation, it’s hunger, and it’s unnecessary conflict, strictly man-made. All parties involved in this conflict have their hands guilty, the hands are dirty. All parties.

The spin that the crisis is the fault of “all parties” is understandable from a US-funded de facto diplomat, charged with providing some cover for a major regional ally. But the premise that “all parties” are causing the famine is never challenged by Pelley. It’s taken as fact, and the piece moves on.

Washington Post: Yemen is on the brink of a horrible famine. Here’s how things got so bad.

The $400 billion in arms the US has sold to Saudi Arabia are not part of the Washington Post‘s explanation (11/19/17) of how things got so bad in Yemen.

It’s part of a broader trend of erasing American responsibility for the conflict and resulting humanitarian disaster. The Washington Post ran an editorial last week (11/8/17) and an explainer piece Saturday (11/19/17) detailing the carnage in Yemen, neither one of which bothered to mention US involvement. American complicity in the war is so broad in scope, it merited a warning last year from the US’s own State Department they could be liable for war crimes—yet it hardly merits a mention in major media accounts. The war just is, a collective moral failing on the part of “all parties”—irrational sectarian Muslims lost in a pat “cycle of violence” caricature.

As momentum builds in Congress, animated by grassroots anti-war activists, to push back against the war and hold US lawmakers accountable, how the US contributes to the death and disease in the Arabian peninsula is of urgent political import. By erasing the US role in the war, CBS producers obscure for viewers the most effective way they can end the war: by pressuring their own lawmakers to stop supporting it. Instead, viewers are left with what filmmaker Adam Curtis calls “Oh, dearism”: the act of feeling distressed but ultimately helpless in the face of mindless cruelty—perpetrated, conveniently, by everyone but us.

You can send a message to 60 Minutes at (or via Twitter: @60Minutes). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Source:

Tolerance of Violence in Homes Is the Necessary Precursor to Public Violence’

Janine Jackson interviewed Soraya Chemaly about the link between domestic violence and mass murder for the June 17, 2016, episode of CounterSpin, an interview that was reaired for the November 10, 2017, show. This is a lightly edited transcript of the rebroadcast.

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Janine Jackson: After the Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass shooting, media picked up the familiar threads on gun violence and mental health, but some also took up the less commonly explored—though established—connections between mass shootings and domestic violence.

And not just whether those with records of domestic violence, as the Texas shooter had, should be able to buy guns, but the bigger problem of how domestic violence is portrayed—you might say “dismissed,” including by media—as a private problem, rather than a societal one.

We talked about this last June, after the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Writer and activist Soraya Chemaly directs the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and is organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition. She had just written about domestic violence and the Orlando shooting for Rolling Stone.

JJ: I’ll start where your article starts: I was not, in fact, surprised to learn that the killer in Orlando had a record of domestic violence. Why wasn’t I?

SC: I think time and time again we’ve seen examples, and I mean, we could go through a list: Sandy Hook, the Sydney shootings—I’d forgotten about that, but that had started in domestic violence—the Colorado abortion clinic attack. And so, when you see it happen, and it’s such a distinct pattern in the course of the violence, you sort of wait for the other shoe to drop.

Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly: “We are so silent, so shamed by what is happening in homes, that we cannot construct the language or the public policy to make sense of it, and to then prevent it.”

And I think what happens is that most people who maybe aren’t attuned to this particular dimension will see items in the news that are fairly poorly framed, are given headlines that don’t really address perpetration, but instead identify victims. It’s hard to then understand the wider context for this idea that it’s violence in homes, and tolerance, societal tolerance, for violence in homes, that is the necessary precursor to all of this public violence.

JJ: Connecting dots between coercive and abusive behavior, some of which is considered “normal,” and lethal violence doesn’t mean saying every domestic abuser is a mass murderer in the making, but it’s a value in seeing these echoes, right, in terms of telling us all of the points that we need to engage?

SC: That’s right. I mean, I think a lot of people hear 57  percent, I think it’s 57  percent of mass killings, start in acts of intimate partner violence or family violence, whether it’s sons killing parents and siblings, or fathers killing entire families or ex-spouses attacking intimates. They leap from that to hearing, instead, all domestic abusers are going to be mass killers, which is obviously just kind of a breakdown in logic.

But I think that as a society, we’re trying to figure out why this is happening, how can we prevent it from happening. And very clearly, one thing we have to do, otherwise I really do believe efforts will fail—even though, clearly, better gun control would reduce the number of gun deaths we have—but clearly one of the things we have to do is really take a step back, introspectively, and look at how tolerant we are of violence in homes. Very hands off about it, still.

JJ: Right. And of course you don’t want to be framing it as, let’s pay attention to men who commit domestic violence because they might go on to do something else.

SC: No. That’s right.

James Dobson (cc photo: Chip Berlet)

James Dobson (cc photo: Chip Berlet)

JJ: The point is what they’re doing now. Well, some people—not enough, maybe, but some—noted that a week before the killings, conservative Christian leader James Dobson had suggested that men take up arms to defend their wives from trans people in bathrooms. He said:

If you are a married man with any gumption, surely you will defend your wife’s privacy and security…. If this had happened a hundred years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood?

Well, there’s a line between that and killing queer people in a club, and it doesn’t pass through Islam.

SC: Right.

JJ: At the same time, Dobson said, Barack Obama is “a tyrant, he is determined to change the way males and females relate to one another.” And I think that gets at something that you wrote about as well.

SC: What we’re looking at here is this clash of some very, very fundamental beliefs about gender roles and gender identity. And there simply are people who, for whatever reasons—psychological, emotional, financial—they really believe in binary gender roles, rigid gender roles; and changes in the culture that destabilize that belief are highly threatening.

So that’s why public bathrooms are such a flashpoint. I mean, the point is that women and children are much, much, much, much, much more vulnerable in their own homes and in places of worship to sexual assault, than anybody is in a public bathroom. I mean, that’s just clear, factually, on the basis of what we know. So the public bathroom flashpoint is more symbolic of the fear that people have about those cultural changes.

And in this shooting, you know, we really don’t know enough about the man as an individual, in terms of sexual shame or sexual practices, but what we do know is that he was extremely abusive to his first wife. He treated her like a piece of property. He held her hostage, he violently assaulted her, and he thought that was his right. And in point of fact he wasn’t really challenged in that, ultimately, because, while she was removed from the home by her family, the family, for a wide variety of reasons, as families often do, don’t want to criminalize the person.

And so there ends up being, for lack of a better way of putting it, a kind of hermeneutic void in public understanding, because we are so silent, so shamed by what is happening in homes, that we cannot construct the language or the public policy to make sense of it, and to then prevent it.

Democracy Now!: When It Comes to Orlando Massacre, Domestic Violence is the Red Flag We Aren’t Talking About

Democracy Now! (6/14/16)

JJ: And with that is an inability to collect data, I heard you say on Democracy Now!, to collect the kind of data that would make it a coherent issue so we could see the scope of —

SC: Absolutely.

JJ: Right. Well, I remember in 2014, a man came to New York City and killed two police officers, and the media were like, basically, Oh, right, and before that he shot his girlfriend. You know, it was very clearly segregated, it was not of a piece in the story.

SC: No. It’s like incidental. Oh, by the way.

JJ: You know, it was like what happened before he was violent.

SC: Yes.

JJ: Stopping doing that would be good. Stopping saying that people had “no history of violence,” when they have records of domestic violence. What else would you ask for from media in terms of this issue?

SC: Well, I’d like media to diversify its own management. Because as long as we have distinctly not-diverse management and ownership of media, we will continue to have these kind of epistemologically skewed understandings of the world. We’re not asking the right questions, so we cannot end up with the right headlines or the right counter-narrative.

And that connection is, I think, also fairly elusive. I mean, it’s hard for media to critique itself, right? I mean, the reason that we don’t have a good understanding of domestic violence and sexual violence, and the role that those play in persistent misogyny and racism, is, frankly, because we don’t have a very diverse media. And so people tell stories that tend to reflect their own experiences, or that they understand, and as a result of that, you just don’t see these stories in dynamic profusion.

Rolling Stone: Why Did Judge Aaron Persky's Stanford Rape Decision Go Viral?

Rolling Stone (6/16/16)

JJ: Right. And you sometimes wonder why some stories do rise to the surface. The Stanford rapist, for example: You feel grateful for the opportunity to shine a light on certain things, but part of you says, You know this happens every day, right?

SC: Right.

JJ: But for media, it’s almost as though the everyday-ness of a problem means it gets less attention.

SC: You know, it’s interesting. I actually just this morning published a piece about why the Stanford story became viral. What was that? Because it is something that happens absolutely every day, and there are some other really horrific stories that are extremely similar, like the Vanderbilt gang rape case last year, that didn’t raise any public alarms.

And what I think is interesting about the Stanford case is that it brought together the Title IX movement and the Black Lives Matter movement in a very graphic way. I mean, Brock Turner’s face really became a graphic symbol of those two issues coming together in their mutual critique of fraternal white male supremacy. And it just happened to be at this moment of time that those two forms of entitlement, which are often exercised in rape, came together.

JJ: That was writer/activist Soraya Chemaly, speaking with CounterSpin in June of 2016. In a new Village Voice piece in the wake of the Texas shooting, Chemaly cites a landmark four-decade study of 70 countries that found that the most important force in reducing violence against women—more significant than economic wealth or even government representation—was a social commitment to strong, independent feminist movements. Source:

Guardian, NYT Paint Power-Grabbing Saudi Dictator as Roguish, Visionary ‘Reformer’

by Adam Johnson

Guardian: Saudi arrests show crown prince is a risk-taker with a zeal for reform

The Guardian (11/5/17) reported that de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman “is willing to take on the kingdom’s most powerful figures to implement his reforms and consolidate power.”

Two weeks ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman carried out a brutal crackdown on his political opponents, arresting dozens of high-ranking relatives, kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon, and seeing eight of his political rivals die in a convenient helicopter crash. The “consolidation of power” by the de facto Saudi ruler comes as his government ramps up its siege of Yemen and gets even closer to its US sponsor, thanks to a Trump’s dopey love affair with—and direct assistance of—the regime.

The cynical plan has been met, in some media quarters, with condemnation, but for many in the Western press, Mohammed’s self-serving power grab is the action of a bold “reformer,” a roguish bad boy doing the messy but essential work of “reforming” the kingdom—the “anti-corruption” pretext of the purge largely repeated without qualification. The most prominent sources for this spin were two major newspapers, the New York Times and Guardian:

  • Guardian (11/5/17): “Royal Purge Sends Shockwaves Through Saudi Arabia’s Elites: Move Consolidates Power of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as He Attempts to Reform Kingdom’s Economy and Society”
  • Guardian (11/5/17) : “Saudi Arrests Show Crown Prince Is a Risk-Taker With a Zeal for Reform: Mohammed Bin Salman Is Confronting Some of the Kingdom’s Richest and Most Powerful Men in His Anti-Corruption Drive—but Is He Taking on Too Much Too Fast?
  • Guardian (11/6/17): “Oil Price Rises to Two-Year High After Saudi Arabia Purge: Markets Push Price Up to $62 a Barrel After Anti-Corruption Purge by Billionaire Crown Prince Who Backs Prolonging Oil Production Curbs”
  • Guardian  (11/7/17): “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform: Consolidation of Power in Mohammed Bin Salman’s Hands Has Upended All Aspects of Society, Including Previously Untouchable Ultra-Elite
  • New York Times (11/5/17): “Saudi Crown Prince’s Mass Purge Upends a Longstanding System”
  • New York Times (11/14/17): “The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Wind”

While the text of the Times articles was far more skeptical about Mohammed’s motives, the Guardian’s (11/5/17) initial coverage of the bloody purge—not just the headlines—was written in breathless press release tones:

Saudi Arabia’s leadership has pulled off its boldest move yet to consolidate power around its young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arresting 11 senior princes, one of the country’s richest men and scores of former ministers in what it billed as a corruption purge.

The move sidelined at least 20 senior figures, among them outspoken billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sending shockwaves through the ranks of the kingdom’s elites, who had long viewed senior royals as immune.

Lot of glowing prose to unpack here. Longtime Mideast correspondent Martin Chulov began by referring to “Saudi Arabia’s leadership,” which is a nice, sterile way of referencing the country’s unelected hereditary king and crown prince. Then he pivoted into marketing pablum about “bold moves” and “consolidating power,” before unironically framing the purge as an “anti-corruption” gesture designed to stick it to the “kingdom’s elites.” One could come away from reading this lead with the impression that the billionaire aristocrat was a populist folk hero in the vein of Robin Hood or John Dillinger. The thrilling profile continued:

Prince Mohammed will oversee the corruption commission, adding to his already formidable list of responsibilities, including his role as Defense minister and champion of the economic transformation, dubbed Vision 2030, that aims to revolutionize most aspects of Saudi life within 12 years.

Prince Mohammed told the Guardian last month that the kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years and pledged to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.

While the author had a “to be sure” paragraph, citing “others” calling it a “naked attempt to weed out dissent,” the overall thrust of the article was that a roguish billionaire Boy King was earnestly seeking “reform” and opposing “elites.”

A follow-up piece (11/7/17) took flattering coverage to new extremes. The dispatch, again by Chulov, cited nothing but anonymous Saudi court hanger-ons and a Gulf-funded talking head from the NATO-aligned Atlantic Council think tank. The article, “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform,” was populated with blind quotes from such adversarial voices as a “senior minister,” “a senior Saudi official,” a “senior figure,” a “senior Saudi businessman” and “veteran business leaders.” (Evidently no junior officials or rookie business leaders were available for comment.)

The article painted the “consolidation of power” by Mohammed as an inevitability with broad support—using the dubious “reform” narrative without irony. With Guardian editors again painting Mohammed as a populist hero by insisting he “upended” “previously untouchable ultra-elite,” one is left to wonder why they don’t consider the absolute-monarch-in-waiting—who just bought a $590 million yacht—part of the “ultra elite.” It’s a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.

NYT: The Young and Brash Saudi Crown Prince

The New York Times (6/23/17) editorialized that Mohammed bin Salman “has cultivated an image as a dynamic leader, keen to take a rigid conservative country into the modern era.”

This was a trope one could see emerging over the past few months. Similar “bold reformer” frames were used in New York Times editorials (“The Young and Brash Saudi Crown Prince,” 6/23/17) and straight reporting (“Saudi Arabia’s Grand Plan to Move Beyond Oil: Big Goals, Bigger Hurdles,” 10/24/17). Everything’s new and exciting. The brutal, routine functions of the Saudi state are seen as laws of nature—and those in charge of it are the reformers of the very oppression they initially authored.

A Guardian editorial on November 7 was critical of the government, calling it “regressive” and Mohammed “belligerent,” but ultimately rested on “both sides” framing of recent events. The only meaningfully critical coverage of Saudi Arabia coming from the Guardian since the purge has been in two articles (11/12/17, 11/16/17), both in the context of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Neither mentioned bin Salman, and both stressed how the Saudis are responding in earnest to international pleas to stop their mass-murdering blockade of the Arab world’s poorest country.

Per usual, the Guardian reserves the label “regime” for Official Enemies like Syria and North Korea; Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a regime, it has “leadership.” Unlike adversary governments, often seen in need of “regime change,” the Saudi government merely requires “reform”—and a bold new “reformer,” of the sort championed by the likes of the Guardian and New York Times.

You can send a message to the New York Times at , and to the Guardian at (Twitter@NYTimes, @Guardian). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

Guardian: Source:

William Hartung on Nuclear Overkill, Karen Orenstein on Climate Disconnect

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Bikini nuclear test (photo: Department of Defense)This week on CounterSpin: The opinion column in Scientific American headlined “The Caveman and the Bomb” conveys, just a little more colorfully, the sense one got from the Senate hearing on the process involved in the use of a nuclear weapon. Put simply, folks are scared that Donald Trump may not understand the difference between threats to “rain fire and fury” on the people of North Korea and the devastating reality of nuclear war. But while we’re talking about the dangers of Trump having his hand on the figurative button, we should also be asking why we maintain a world-ending arsenal at all. We’ll hear from William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, about what drives nuclear-weapons production.

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Smokestacks (cc photo: Bill Burris)

(cc photo: Bill Burris)

Also on the show: Countries from around the world are grappling with the current and coming impacts of climate disruption at the UN conference in Bonn, Germany. The Trump administration, for its part, contributed what was described as a “surreal” event promoting fossil fuels. We’ll talk about the disconnect between the White House and the rest of the planet on climate change with Karen Orenstein, deputy director of economic policy at Friends of the Earth.

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Plus a quick look back at recent press, including campus free speech and Edward Herman.

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There’s All Kinds of People Who Have Their Snouts in the Trough Here’

 International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' Paradise Papers

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Paradise Papers

Janine Jackson: Establishment media cover poverty sometimes, sometimes in a compassionate and compelling way. And they cover wealth and the rich, sometimes, sometimes in a thoughtful and critical way. When the discussion called for is about the relationship between the two, the limits of media’s spotlight approach are salient. Such a case may be presented by the Paradise Papers, a trove of some 13 million documents leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, that describes various tax-hiding and avoidance schemes used by politicians and celebrities, along with corporations.

Stories like the New York Times’ “Paradise Papers Shine Light on Where the Elite Keep Their Money” make it all seem pretty dog-bites-man. We read cases like that of Twitter investor Yuri Milner, who used money from a Russian state-controlled bank, or the hedge funder who hid money somehow in Bermuda. But without serious interrogation of the impacts, it comes off a bit like profiles of people who are richer than you and also smarter, especially as so much coverage seems to pivot on the fact that these activities are not illegal.

So what’s the next step on disclosures like these? How do we move them from journalistic feat to drivers of real change, and what sorts of changes do they suggest are necessary? Joining us now to discuss the Paradise Papers is investigative economist James Henry. He’s a senior adviser at the Tax Justice Network, senior fellow at Columbia University Center for Sustainable Investment, and a contributor to the 2016 book Global Tax Fairness. Welcome back to CounterSpin, James Henry.

James Henry: Good to be with you.

JJ: We can’t cover them all, naturally, but what are some of the sorts of mechanisms or maneuvers that are revealed in these documents, that mainly come from this place Appleby, a Bermuda law firm that specializes in offshore funding?

JH: The big picture take-away from this is that we have, really, a global haven industry that consists of a whole lot of enablers, like Appleby, and other law firms mentioned in this include US law firms like Baker McKenzie, the big accounting firm KPMG…. We’ve seen this pattern over and over again. But basically one story here is that this industry has now expanded to the point where at least $30 trillion of private offshore wealth, maybe $3 trillion of corporate wealth, is offshore, beyond the reach of tax authorities. So that’s about 12 percent of total world financial wealth.

And if you went back 30 years, when I started writing about this in the ’80s, they were talking about 15 havens. Now there’s more than 90 offshore. The Paradise Papers are the latest installment. A lot of the journalists writing on this are under the age of 35, and are writing about it for the first time, but I’m just impressed with how long we’ve known about it, and how little we have done effectively to clean it up.

JJ: And when you start to talk about the amounts involved, it moves us directly onto the impact. One can imagine, of course,  what could be the impact of that amount of money if it was actually taxed and actually could contribute to the public coffers in the way it was intended.

JH: We have a big problem, not so much with tax-dodging, but with kleptocracy. It’s a problem of public officials helping themselves to the public wealth and moving it offshore to these havens, financial secrecy jurisdictions, where they can hide it beyond the reach of the home country. I worked on a project involving Angola, where the son of the dictator was basically using the sovereign wealth funds as a kind of ATM, $5 billion moving offshore to havens like Mauritius, which is an African tax haven, with the help of US banks and KPMG and Swiss tax advisers.

So you have to imagine the global haven industry as not just about tax havens. There’s a kind of a Star Wars bar scene of clients here. You have the kleptocrats, you have the giant multinationals like Apple, Nike. Both of them were mentioned in the Paradise Papers as moving assets offshore, beyond the reach of tax authorities, paying themselves royalties tax-free. Then you have mobsters, and then you have the royals. We saw the Queen and Prince Charles mentioned in these papers. Bono the rock star, who likes to worry about development issues; in this case, it turns out he’s been pretty aggressive in use of tax havens to shelter his own income.

James Henry (image: Great Canadian Tax Dodge)

James Henry: “This industry is probably one of the most influential on the planet in terms of lobbying, political contributions. So it’s not so much that we lack the technical ideas to clean up the industry, but we have lacked the political will.” (image: Great Canadian Tax Dodge)

So there’s all kinds of people who have their snouts in the trough here, and the basic thing they’re sharing is this access to financial secrecy, which, you know, without these leaks we wouldn’t know all this stuff. I think that that’s the problem that the world really fails to address, because this industry is probably one of the most influential on the planet in terms of lobbying, political contributions. So it’s not so much that we lack the technical ideas to clean up the industry, but we have lacked the political will.

One thing that comes out of this that I think is really important, is it sort of lays the foundations for a different system of taxation to get at this stuff. And I have proposed, Jeffrey Sachs has proposed, a global wealth tax, which really goes at the top class in the world, a 1 to 2 percent per year tax on wealth, especially anonymous wealth. Most of this stuff we don’t know where it is. If you just withheld against it, you don’t really have to know who owns it.

JJ: Right.

JH: But we’re facing a situation where in order to, say, realize the development goals that we’ve established for the world’s poorest economies, by the year 2030, we need about $80 billion a year. And this kind of revelation just justified the imposition of a cross-country wealth tax on billionaires and high-net worth individuals with assets more than $30 million, and you could easily raise the money that we need.

JJ: And let me just say, that is leapfrogging—the response that you’re talking about, it leapfrogs this whole question of legality, which it seems like a lot of reporters are getting almost hung up on. First of all, secrecy begs the question of legality. [If] you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t even talk about what’s following the law. And then you have made the point that places are invested in this business model, and so the sanctions may not exist. But that’s also part of the problem.

JH: The legality defense of this activity is really the standard defense you hear from the havens every time this comes up, and it’s such a red herring. The point is, first of all, in a lot of countries, like let’s say Angola, these activities aren’t illegal because they control the show. Secondly, in the First World countries, like the United States and the UK and Switzerland, where a lot of this money ends up ultimately, they have devised very complicated legal structures. And so the question of what is legal is really a whole process, involving lots of interpretations and laws. Even if you knew what these people were up to, it would be hard to pronounce.

The way it works in an accounting firm like KPMG is they say: “What’s legal? We define it as tax structure that has a 50 percent chance of surviving an audit.” So it comes down to a kind of probability distribution. There is no bright line between legal and illegal. But that’s just a standard kind of response. The real point is this stuff should be illegal. Whether it is or not is a question for thousands of lawyers.

JJ: Let me just take you back to the big picture for a moment, because I find myself — you know, my frustration in reading some of the coverage comes from the other media that I know exists out there, the media climate, which propagates this view that basically poor people take from the state, and rich people don’t rely on the state and therefore owe nothing to it. There’s an ideological problem here that these bombshells don’t seem to break through.

JH: Well, that’s right. The problem really is a political one, where have to educate people about what’s going on. I mean, many of the largest fortunes on the planet derive from state activity, have benefited from it in many, many ways. These people have enormous amounts of, I guess, representation without taxation. So they really want to control the political system, and influence it directly on a host of policy issues that are favorable to them.

But on the tax side, they really want us to go back to the Middle Ages, when we had peasants pay all the taxes and the landlords and the feudal lords paying nothing. I don’t think that’s a recipe for a healthy democracy. You know, the United States was at the forefront of designing and defending a progressive tax system, and the current trends are in the opposite. We’re going to end up with middle class and the poor paying all the taxes, and the wealthy just taking advantage of globalization to offshore their wealth.

JJ: It seems a good point to mention, I had left it out, but the same CNBC analyst who had told us that Trump’s tax plan is the farthest thing possible from a plan for the 1 percent, he had this to offer, and I’ll just leave you with this. “What’s the biggest take-away from the Paradise Papers leak? America needs tax cuts—now.”

JH: Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely false. Historically, we’ve had 30, 40 years of tax cuts, the corporate tax has been chopped again and again. Also on the individual side. We’ve been engaged in a race to the bottom with other countries around the planet. No major US multinational pays anything like a 35 percent corporate tax rate. You know, Apple’s average tax rate is less than 5 percent, because they take advantage of the offshoring that they’re already able to do. And the average effective rate for corporations, including small business, in the country is about 12 percent right now, after all the tax breaks.

Furthermore, these companies are the most powerful and most successful in the world. They’re at an all-time high in terms of stock market valuation and corporate profits as a share of national income.

So it’s just ludicrous to propose that the United States somehow is suffering. What we would suffer from would be a gigantic inflated deficit if this tax bill were passed, on the order of $2 trillion, which, you know, I thought the Republicans were opposed to that. But it would be an immediate $800 billion gift to the top hundred companies on the planet, that have stashed $2.6 trillion offshore, because the first stage of it would give them a 5 to 10 percent tax rate on any of that that they rebated, without conditions. And so that would be a huge payday for them.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with James Henry. He’s a senior fellow at Columbia University Center for Sustainable Investment, a global justice fellow at Yale University, and senior adviser at the Tax Justice Network. James Henry, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

JH: You’ve very welcome. Source:

Spinning E-Commerce as Rust Belt’s Salvation

by Eoin Higgins

NYT: Where Internet Orders Mean Real Jobs, and New Life for Communities

The New York Times (10/22/17) reports that “a constellation of vast warehouses” has “breathed new life into pockets of the country that had fallen economically behind.”

Times are tough in Middle America, but the New York Times (10/22/17) says there’s hope on the horizon—conveniently packaged in the economic boom of e-commerce. The paper’s reporting, unfortunately, avoids confronting the insecurity inherent in relying on retail conglomerates for long-term work.

Retail giants, the Times reported breathlessly in October, are reshaping the economic landscape in America and saving the working class:

Sellers like Zulily, Amazon and Walmart are competing to get goods to the buyer’s doorstep as quickly as possible, giving rise to a constellation of vast warehouses that have fueled a boom for workers without college degrees and breathed new life into pockets of the country that had fallen economically behind.

Using the city of Bethlehem, Pa., as the jumping-off point, the paper’s Natalie Kitroeff reported on the economic benefits that big-box retailers can bring to the community. Large chains are revitalizing the city’s decayed infrastructure, but questions on the meaning of the change weren’t raised by the Times. Rather, the entire project was treated uncritically as a boon for the community—using language that ranged from laudatory to exciting.

A revamped warehouse in Bethlehem feels “like home” to a worker (because her father had worked there when it was steel plant); “Amazon saw something promising in the city’s bones”; in fact, rural Pennsylvania is “a warehouse mecca.” And the explosion in warehouse reuse is far-reaching in its benevolence:

The boom in warehouses has created a seemingly endless appetite for stockers, pickers and packers, turning the town into a magnet for people in need of a second chance.

The Times wasn’t alone in its uncritical praise for conglomerates turning to Middle America for labor and warehouses. Just last month, FAIR (10/25/17) caught the Washington Post relying on unattributed Amazon press releases to tout the benefits of its owner’s company to communities. Forbes (9/15/17) said that “the Heartland has a lot to offer” to e-commerce companies coming to the Midwest. And Axios (10/23/17) headlined its summation of the aforementioned Times story “E-Commerce Warehouse Jobs Breathe Life Into the Rust Belt.”

But any benefits of big box companies in the Heartland could be temporary, as was pointed out by The Outline (8/10/17) in a piece published over the summer. The online magazine cautioned that even though the current e-commerce economic boom is real, the benefits could be fleeting:

The revival is welcome, but the new jobs are neither as well-paid nor as steady as steel jobs once were. It’s also unclear how long they will last.

Unfortunately, that measured view of the consequences of an evolving sector of the economy is hard to find when corporate media avoid mentioning the negatives. The Times did acknowledge that technology will inevitably reduce the amount of human labor needed to deliver goods to consumers—only to reassure, “But for now, humans are still needed, in ever-increasing numbers.” The article closes with the promise that Walmart’s warehouse, which doubled the 1,100 employees it started with this year, will have hired “hundreds more” by this time next year.

Independent: Online retailing spells the end for American malls but is breathing life into the Rust Belt

The Independent (10/28/17) declares that the Rust Belt is “stirring again, not because steel is back in vogue, but because online shopping has arrived.”

A similar spin was given by the Independent (10/29/17) to the problem of

how online living—and shopping—has compounded the difficulties so many communities face keeping jobs nearby for the families that live in them.

“This narrative is more complicated than at first appears,” the British-based paper insisted:

And less gloomy. It isn’t just about the old giving way to the new…. Look more closely and the old models of doing business and the new ones are sometimes starting to mash together. They are colliding in ways that are producing new and unexpected energy.

The Independent found this “new and unexpected energy” in the same Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, warehouses that were the setting for the Times’ upbeat take. “Online Retailing Spells the End for American Malls but Is Breathing Life Into the Rust Belt,” was how the Independent headlined it.

If moving boxes in an online retailer’s warehouse—at a job that will likely be replaced by a robot in a few years—is the best unemployed factory workers have to look forward to, then critical media coverage, not Chamber of Commerce boosterism, is desperately needed. Source:

The Pathological Refusal to Report the Simple Truth About Presidential Lying

It is a truism to say that everyone lies to someone. Since public officials entrusted with power in our democracy are no exception to this human trait—as historical research documents—it should be exceedingly acceptable to point out that all politicians, from your local city council right up to the White House, lie as well. The Framers afforded the press special constitutional protection in large part to ensure that such lies would not reach the public unchallenged.

Tragically, one of the most honest rhetorical tools that journalists have in the fight for truth has been struck from the lingua franca of US journalists. Within the stilted framework of mainstream news “objectivity,” the simple act of calling out “lies” or “lying” by a politician—especially a president—is now taboo. It imputes impossible-to-determine motives to those accused, the thinking goes, so the use of these words to identify a documented falsehood is now considered controversial, partisan, inflammatory, unfair.

Last fall, NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes constructed his own Orwellian logic to defend his news organization’s refusal to use “liar,” asserting that the word constitutes “an angry tone” of “editorializing” that “confirms opinions” (, 3/1/17).  In January, Maggie Haberman, one of the New York Times’ preeminent political reporters, said much the same, claiming that her job was “showing when something untrue is said. Our job is not to say ‘lied.’”

The absurd lengths to which corporate media will go to avoid calling presidential lies what they are has been readily apparent in the past month. After four US soldiers were killed in combat in Niger at the beginning of October—under still mysterious circumstances—Donald Trump and then his White House team issued a series of escalating and contradictory false claims to cover for their bumbling, belated response.

To its credit, the mainstream press did push back against Trump’s grossly untrue claims—at least initially. When Trump, in a Rose Garden press conference, boldly said he makes condolence calls to military next of kin unlike other presidents—namely, his predecessor—NBC News reporter Peter Alexander followed up and publicly disputed it with facts.

NYT: Trump Falsely Claims Obama Didn’t Contact Families of Fallen Troops

“Falsely claims” is often the default alternative to directly accusing the powerful of lying (New York Times, 10/16/17).

In any other walk of life, reasonable adults would recognize his statement as a pack of lies, spoken in a panic, with evident bad faith. But the closest that “straight news” journalism got to actually calling them “lies” was a New York Times headline (10/16/17) that stated, “Trump Falsely Claims Obama Didn’t Contact Families of Fallen Troops.”

This phrasing, “falsely claims”—or “falsely asserted”—has become corporate media’s default alternative to directly accusing the powerful of lying. But the journalistic instinct to vary a story’s language also works in favor of the powerful, allowing euphemisms for official lies to multiply throughout coverage. And rarely do these replacements do anything but weaken the indictment against the liar.

For example, the same Times story referenced above went from “falsely asserted” to a much more passive, even less forceful description just a few paragraphs later (all emphases added): “Mr. Trump’s assertion belied a long record of meetings Mr. Obama held with the families of killed service people.” As for the president’s embarrassingly obvious attempt at covering up his first lie with a bunch of others, the paper wrote: “Mr. Trump was pressed later in the news conference about his claim that Mr. Obama had never called bereaved families. This time, he seemed to soften his tone.”

The Wall Street Journal’s take (10/16/17) on the real-time factchecking of the president’s condolence claims was similarly credulous: “Later in Monday’s news conference, when asked about his statement on the former presidents, Mr. Trump appeared to backpedal.” Yes, the Journal wasn’t even willing to report that Trump “backpedaled” without hedging. For its part, Politifact (10/17/17) called Trump’s claims “misleading,” but decided the issue was too fraught with caveats to render an official judgment as to whether they were true or false.

From there, Trump’s phony allegations escalated and his White House staff doubled- then tripled-down, attacking a war widow and a Democratic congressmember along with the press itself. As it did, the coverage began to wilt. Evidently afraid to be seen as taking sides in an increasingly public, partisan fight, our neutrality-minded media stopped trying to scrupulously adjudicate facts.

Roll Call: Pentagon Document Contradicts Trump’s Gold Star Claims

Roll Call (10/20/17) defanged its expose with circumlocutions like “undermines veracity.”

In a Fox News radio interview the next day (10/17/17), Trump claimed that he’d contacted “virtually everybody” who had lost a loved one in the military since taking office. It was a reckless lie, since his own White House military office didn’t have the necessary information to fulfill that task. In fact, only about half of the families had been contacted. We know this because Roll Call (10/20/17) caught the White House dead to rights in an exclusive story. Nevertheless, that same story pulled its punches, right from the headline: “Pentagon Document Contradicts Trump’s Gold Star Claims: Email Undermines Veracity of President’s Statement About Gold Star Contacts.”

This inanimate-object-affects-president construction is no coincidence. It’s a staple of press coverage that wants to dance around White House lying without directly confronting it. (Contrast that with this clear, concise Vanity Fair10/21/17—headline about the revelation, which zeroes in on those really responsible and their actions: “The White House Panicked After Trump Lied About Calling Soldiers’ Families.”)

After Trump’s bungled condolence call with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson drew outrage from Florida Rep. Federica Wilson, the press’s syntactic contortions multiplied. CNN (10/19/17) got downright creative with its linguistic workarounds in one report:

Trump’s reflexive boast that he was more attentive to the relatives of war dead than his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush set off a cascade of consequences that has left his White House reeling…. The chain of events offers lessons in how a president walks a rhetorical tightrope every time he speaks and underlines how Trump’s outspoken bluster and relish for confrontation that was so successful on the campaign trail threatens to undermine his hopes for a successful presidency.

Trump laid down a clear marker for the press to check—both on Twitter and to TV reporters at a White House meeting—when he claimed that Wilson’s account of the call was “totally fabricated” and he “had proof.” He did not hedge, and offered no outs for the press to give him the benefit of the doubt under the banner of a misunderstanding or partial error. But when the mother of Sergeant Johnson, who was present for the call, and then Trump’s own proxies corroborated Wilson’s story, the press folded like a cheap suit.

To be fair, the press was partly distracted by White House chief of staff John Kelly’s entrance into the saga. After a credulous, fawning review of his defense of Trump, it turned out he too was pushing false claims against Representative Wilson. From the White House press podium, Kelly recounted a story about her 2015 speech at the opening of a new FBI facility in her district, clearly meant to highlight her supposed penchant for crass self-aggrandizement. But within a day, the Florida Sun-Sentinel (10/21/17) uncovered video evidence that unraveled Kelly’s story completely.

CNN: Rep. Frederica Wilson: Kelly lied about FBI ceremony

News outlets often attribute the word “lie” to an interested source (CNN, 10/20/17)–reinforcing the idea that calling something a lie is a partisan charge.

Another crutch corporate media use when they don’t want to weigh in on the truth is the attributed “lie”—as in a CNN story (10/20/17) that ran under the headline: “Rep. Frederica Wilson: Kelly Lied About FBI Ceremony.” It’s telling that the word “lie” is not allowed to stand on its own, as an informed assessment by the reporter or editor.

Soon the lies and the White House’s stubborn denials of them were piling up on top of one another so fast that establishment press coverage took on an almost weary tone. The Washington Post (10/20/17) inflicted this lazy, garbled phrasing on its readers to describe the White House:

The ensuing debate has focused on attacks against Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D) that have proved to be inaccurate but that the White House has refused to back away from, with the latest episode ensnaring Chief of Staff John F. Kelly…. Instead of backing down, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders piled on Friday and said Kelly was justified in accusing the lawmaker of grandstanding, despite erring on the facts.

Similarly, a New York Times news analysis (10/21/17) offered up an embarrassment of riches:

By attacking Ms. Wilson, Mr. Kelly amplified the controversy. And by citing past events that turned out to be false, Mr. Kelly invited news media scrutiny and criticism even from his former military colleagues…. In another White House, a chief of staff might have followed up with an apology of his own, or at least an attempt to correct the record.

The Associated Press (10/21/17) simply chalked Kelly’s claim up to a bad memory: “Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.”

What these stories all failed to do, though, was fully connect the dots between Trump’s and Kelly’s demonstrably false claims, on the one hand, and the White House’s stunning refusal to acknowledge or accept that as reality. When Trump or his White House proxies continue to stand by or repeat claims that facts have proven are simply not true, that establishes an intent to deceive—the very definition of lying—by anyone, president or no.

By the time Myeshia Johnson, Sergeant Johnson’s widow, went public, again confirming Rep. Wilson’s account, the corporate media began treating the storyline much like any other political dispute, worthy of the full panoply of compromised, parsed phrasing. For example, a Washington Post update on the story (10/23/17) was a case study in how the press generously deploys euphemisms to cover for official lying. In it, you’d learn of Trump’s “over-broad boasts” and “inconsistent official accounts,” as well as that “Trump and Kelly disregarded…fidelity to fact.

The press’s fecklessness rumbled on, as the first charges from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—two indictments, for Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, and a guilty plea for lying from Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos—came to light on the morning of October 30. That afternoon, Trump White House press secretary Sarah Sanders gave an Orwellian performance for the ages. During her daily press briefing, she made a number of premeditated, demonstrably false statements to the press about the Mueller probe that fit the very definition of a lie.

Brian Stelter, in his daily CNN Reliable Sources newsletter (10/30/17), came the closest to directly calling out what were obvious, intentionally misleading claims as lies:

The Trump administration and its media allies want this to be foggy. When you say “Russia,” they say “Hillary.” Sarah Sanders did it at Monday’s strange press briefing…after reading an old parable about taxes to promote Trump’s tax cut plan…. She said “today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president” (untrue) “nothing to do with the president’s campaign” (untrue) “or campaign activity” (untrue). This part was music to Fox‘s ears: “The real collusion scandal,” she said, “has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS and Russia.” This “change the subject” dodge has to be called out….

Still, Stelter couldn’t bring himself to say Sanders was lying.

Other news coverage was even more accommodating to Sanders and the White House’s willful dishonesty. Stelter’s colleague at CNN, political analyst Chris Cillizza, ran a column (10/31/17) that characterized her claims as a “massive exaggeration” and a “very bold claim,” before throwing in some false equivalence to conclude that Sanders’ claims were “part and parcel of the political spin all administrations engage in when trying to bury a bad story.”

NYT: White House Says Charges Against Campaign Advisers Do Not Touch Trump

You’re doing something wrong when your headlines (New York Times, 10/30/17)…

Others in the mainstream media fell into the maddeningly negligent trap of granting her claims the privilege of running in their headlines unchallenged, further perpetuating her lies to the many readers who will only glance at their coverage.

  • New York Times (10/30/17): “White House Says Charges Against Campaign Advisers Do Not Touch Trump”
  • NPR (10/30/17): “White House’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders Says Indictments Don’t Prove Collusion With Russia”
  • Newsday (10/30/17):  “WH Distances Trump from Mueller Indictments”
  • USA Today (10/30/17): “After Paul Manafort Indictment, Trump Points Finger at Hillary Clinton”

(USA Today’s online headline has been changed, but as of November 15 this was still the headline that shows up in a Google search.)

Compare this widespread credulity by the corporate media to the headlines among the pro-Trump, right-wing media

  • Breitbart (10/30/17): “White House Responds to Robert Mueller Indictments: ‘No Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion’”
  • New York Post (10/30/17): “White House: Arrests in Mueller Probe Have Nothing to Do With Us”
  • Fox News Insider (10/30/17): “Sanders: Indictments by Mueller Have Nothing to Do With Trump Campaign”
Breitbart: White House Responds to Robert Mueller Indictments: ‘No Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion’

…are interchangeable with those of a white nationalist website (Breitbart, 10/30/17).

If your top-level news framing about a White House misinformation campaign is no different than a pro-Trump or white nationalist site’s, it’s safe to say your coverage is not really living up to its duties to thoroughly inform the public. The effect of all this served to divorce the White House’s lies from the contradictory context and disappear inconvenient facts, which is what Fox News unquestionably did in the aftermath of the Mueller news.

The impact from the Mueller indictments soon tripped up Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been a Trump campaign advisor. When NBC News (11/2/17) reported that Papadopoulos had, in fact, told Sessions about his planned trip to Russia during the campaign, he directly refuted earlier, under-oath testimony by Sessions to Congress. Nevertheless, the NBC News reporter hedged his own reporting in a (since deleted) tweet, saying the news “appeared to contradict [Sessions’] previous accounts.”

This, too, was a common reaction. Time and again over the past two weeks, Trump campaign and White House officials have been forced to recant their previous claims or testimony as the truth has come out. And yet these revelations have been routinely downplayed, despite a longstanding pattern of obfuscation and dishonesty.

For example, a New York Times headline (11/2/17) used an awkward construction to avoid calling out the president and his attorney general’s unequivocally false comments: “Trump and Session Denied Knowing About Russian Contacts. Records Suggest Otherwise.” The article itself was no better, saying: “Court documents unsealed this week cast doubt on both statements,” despite the White House offering no evidence to the contrary, instead merely churning out distracting comments about Papadopoulos being a low-level “unpaid volunteer.” On Twitter, fellow Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman chose a different tortured euphemism, saying the just-released documents “strain Trump claim he was unaware of all that was happening.”

This week, as Sessions was called back to Congress to testify once more, this gentle treatment by the press continued. A Washington Post political analysis (11/14/17), which ostensibly has more latitude to make contextualized judgments about the news, ran with a headline that made the attorney general’s flip-flop sound like he merely forgot to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s: “Sessions yet again refines his past statements about communications with Russians.” For its part, the New York Times (11/14/17) generously summed up Sessions’ latest, absurd explanation—that he did not recall being informed of Papadopoulos’ planned trip to Russia, but that he did recall advising against it—as a case of “unsteady recall.

Most striking, however, was how establishment media flip-flopped in response to Sessions vehemently objecting to Rep. Ted Lieu’s questions at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, which plainly stated that Sessions had either lied to Congress earlier or was lying now in his latest, contradictory testimony. (In an earlier moment at the committee, another House member pointed out that Sessions also failed his own, personal standard for what constituted prosecutable perjury.) Now that another entity—not the press—had leveled the charge of lying against a White House official, countless news organizations, including the New York Times (11/15/17), the Associated Press (11/15/17) and the Wall Street Journal (11/15/17), no longer showed any reluctance to using the word, and instead lead their coverage with Session’s denial of it.

It might be tempting to view this egregious double standard as merely a debate about journalism semantics. One could argue that whether or not a news story reports a president or his attorney general “lied” versus “falsely asserted” or “refined his testimony” are simply distinctions without a difference. But top editors and managers inside the corporate media certainly don’t believe that; why else would they so consistently counsel choosing the latter and avoiding the former in their news reports? It is precisely because words like “lie,” “lying” and “liar” resonate so strongly with the public that newsrooms have developed a separate set of often informal, but nonetheless robust, institutional bans against their usage.

It’s undeniable that the overuse of “lie” and “lying” would be detrimental to both journalism and the truth. But modern newsrooms have instead erred in the other direction, by either consigning these words to the narrative ghetto of partisan quotes, or locking them out of the the press’s political coverage altogether. In pursuit of a more bottom-line friendly pose of neutrality, the corporate media have neutered a critical tool of truth-telling and political accountability.

In the grand scheme, the Trump White House’s lies about his fealty to bereaved military families, awkward lack of empathy on condolence calls, and axe-grinding grudges with a member of Congress may not rise to the level of a genuine threat to the republic. So the press’s refusal to call them such may not seem like a cardinal sin of journalistic candor. But that parade of white lies blossomed from the president’s deafening silence about a tragedy involving one of our country’s many military missions abroad—a tragedy that Trump now seems compelled to respond to by pushing the US even further into another theater of a war on terrorism with no foreseeable end. And as the past few weeks of the Mueller investigation have also shown, a press corps that habitually pulls its punches only makes it easier for those in political power to keep lying when there are greater issues at stake.

Nearly a century before the corporate media obligingly enabled the Bush White House’s propaganda campaign of lies about Iraqi WMDs, early 20th century German critic and journalist Karl Kraus presciently predicted the damage from just such a failure by the press. He famously wrote: “How is the world ruled and how do wars start?… Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.” If the press can’t tell the public what’s a lie on any given day, how can it be trusted to tell the truth when it really matters? Source: