Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.
“How to Beat Citizens United,” by EJ Dionne Jr. The Washington Post, April 22, 2012.
This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo told New York State Public Radio he would renew his efforts to get state campaign finance reform in the coming months. “We have to get the people of this state to demand campaign finance reform,” he said. “I plan on doing that, and I think this presidential election will be the bully pulpit for this discussion.” This news reminded me of a WaPo op-ed by E.J. Dionne, “How to Beat Citizens United.” If Cuomo did pass a law requiring the government to give candidates $6 for every dollar an individual donates up to $175, as he pledged to do, Dionne argues New York could “repair some of the Citizens United damage.” The legislation would incentivize 99 Percenters to make small donations, offsetting the influence of the One Percent’s hefty contributions. America, Dionne concludes, “badly needs the example of politicians who believe in democracy enough to democratize the mother’s milk of politics.”
Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
“Does 'Gay Inc.' Believe in Free Speech?” by Steven Thrasher. The Village Voice, June 20, 2012.
Since Village Voice staff writer Steven Thrasher was just named the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association journalist of the year, it seems appropriate to share from his series on the so-called “Gay Nonprofit 1%.” In “Does ‘Gay Inc.’ Believe in Free Speech?,” Thrasher examines how privileged gay voices—from porn-king and Zionist Michael Lucas to GLAAD—pander to “pro-gay” corporations at the expense of queer workers, stifle free speech and, ultimately, prevent the LGBTQ movement from achieving radical change.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on dissent in the US.
“Are We at a Tipping Point?” by Mark Brenner. Labor Notes, June 27, 2012.
Mark Brenner, the director of the magazine and organizing project Labor Notes, presents his view on the labor movement post-Wisconsin and post-Occupy. Brenner encourages unions to focus on building cross-union solidarity, organizing the supply chain, and making every fight about the 1%. Considering the current state of the labor movement, his injunctions provide at the very least a helpful conversational starting point for bringing back labor.
Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.
“Cell coverage,” by Alysia Santo. Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2012.
This piece features Alysia Santo from the Columbia Journalism Review in conversation with Paul Wright, a journalist and former prisoner who founded the Prison Legal News—a publication dedicated to the review and analysis of prisoners’ rights—while serving a seventeen-year sentence in Washington State. “We’re advocacy-oriented,” Wright explains, “but the facts are what they are.” The PNL has helped put critical issues on the map, from censorship (the magazine has filed several lawsuits against prisons that have banned distribution), to the private use of prison labor, to unfair and inadequate treatment. Wright highlights the corporate media’s lack of ethnical inquiry into prison-related stories, suggesting that inside narrative is crucial to advancing public discourse.
Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
“Heat Wave Causes US Airways Plane To Get Stuck In Tarmac At Reagan National Airport,” by Timothy Stenovec. The Huffington Post, July 8, 2012.
As The Nation's only intern in DC, I feel as if I have some kind of responsibility to comment on the ridiculous heat wave that ripped through the Capitol last week. (Also, being originally from Southern California, I think any day that isn't 75 degrees and sunny is a supernatural phenomenon that must be discussed.) It reached 105 degrees on Saturday in DC— just one degree short of the city's highest temperature ever recorded— and, as this article explains, it was so hot that the tarmac at Reagan National Airport melted slightly and a plane sunk in four inches. Studies have shown repeatedly that climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and more severe (another study affirming this actually just came out Tuesday) and I'd say this is a perfect example of that.
Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
“The Great Charter: It’s Fate, Our Fate,” by Noam Chomsky. In These Times, July 6, 2012.
Noam Chomsky argues that the Magna Carta is being destroyed before our eyes. He demonstrates how President Obama's “kill list” of terrorists, which incorporates the idea that "all military-age males in a strike zone” are combatants, is the clearest example of the dismantling of the ideas ingrained in the Great Charter, such as the "presumption of innocence." In addition, he notes that the elements of the charter that required protection of common natural resources from external power has “fallen victim to the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality.” The privatization of the commons and domination of free trade agreements has made genuine environmental protection nearly impossible. In the wake of the abject failure that was the Rio+20 Conference, Chomsky's observations are vital in order to contextualize the destruction of the commons.
Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.
“Judge rules that city must reinstate staff at turnaround schools,” by Rachel Cromidas and Philissa Cramer. GothamSchools, July 10, 2012.
I've been following this story since the announcement Bloomberg made in January regarding the closures of a number of New York City public high schools, including three from Queens that are 100+ years old (my mom and several of my friend’s parents went to Newtown). At first I supported the effort given these schools are not only some of the worst performing in the city, but also some of the most dangerous. However, after the coverage provided by the reporters at GothamSchools, I've changed my position. Reading the arbitrator’s opinion in favor of the unions was evidence enough that this was yet another attempt by the Bloomberg administration to chip away at the UFT's rights because of his dislike of the way they handle terminating poor teachers—sigh, I should've guessed. I'm not partial to tenure either and do believe there needs to be a change to make the termination process less bureaucratic, but that change can only come through negotiation. Besides, the issue at hand here really should have never been about that. Last year both sides came together in an effort to receive a School Improvement Grant of about $60 million that is part the Obama administration’s efforts to turn around failing schools across the country. The city and unions agreed to adopt the less invasive models of the program for the schools that required them to devise new teacher evaluations. But by December they had declared an impasse over the union's proposal to allow teachers to appeal their poor-performance grade to a third party arbiter (in an effort to avoid “capricious” reviews like the one at the center of a scandal at Fordham HS for the Arts). I can't help but feel those negotiations were all just a show by Bloomberg to paint himself as having “tried” diplomacy with the unions. Why? Because 2 weeks after the talks broke down he was already announcing the school closures. Tsk-tsk. To quote the hysterical woman from The Simpsons: "Won't someone please think of the children?"
Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
“Courts Putting Stop-and-Frisk Policy on Trial,” by Russ Buettner and William Glaberson. The New York Times, July 10, 2012.
More than 80 percent of those targeted by stop-and-frisk in New York are black or Latino, with 686,000 stops last year and numbers on the rise. But the city's controversial policy has recently been criticized, not only on the street (as with the Father's Day March), but in the courtroom as well. Recent rulings by federal and state courts have shown judges to be critical of the practice, and from their decisions, many conclude that New York will have to redefine its stop-and-frisk policy. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, granted class-action status to a civil suit filed on behalf of people who were frisked and released, remarking on the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” NYT writes, “A settlement last year of a class-action case involving stop-and-frisk policies in Philadelphia laid out a model that, if followed in New York, could call for the courts to supervise an imposed system of police monitoring and accountability.” But with homicides in that city up since 2011, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey wonders how to curtail violence without infringing civil rights. Many Philadelphians report that stop-and-frisk is still used violently and irresponsibly today.
Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
“Money Talks,” by Daniel Denvir. Philadelphia City Paper, July 5, 2012.
Daniel Denvir, who has been all over the corporate take-over of the Philadelphia school system (he even wrote a short piece for The Nation), keeps following the money in this article for Philadelphia's City Paper. Highlighting the often politically-motivated “generosity” of major foundations, Denvir traces how the head of the William Penn Foundation has spearheaded “an emerging corporate education-reform network” that aims to stifle dissent and end public administration of the Philadelphia school system. One of the most egregious corporate take-overs of a public good, this whole affair illustrates the insidious ways the corporate elite will work to dismantle all public goods, and with it, any chance of a true, equitable democracy.
Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
“BP Spill Workers Say Dispersant Made Them Sick,” by Kate Sheppard. Mother Jones, July 11, 2012.
Dispersants are a combination of surfactants and solvents that work like detergents to break up oil into droplets, to speed up the process of microbial degradation of spilled oil. During those three months in 2010 before the well was capped, BP applied an estimated 1.8 million gallons of two types of the dispersant Corexit in an attempt to break up the oil. Much of the Corexit was applied directly to the wellhead at the ocean floor, something which had never been done (or tested) before. Now, spill workers are sick, and the company who makes Corexit, Nalco, is trying to get out of paying damages. This Mother Jones article is chock full of excellent links that tell the complicated story of this dispersant and why our chemical approval system needs a complete revamping.
Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.
“Michael Semple interviews a senior member of the Taliban,” by Michael Semple. New Statesman, July 11, 2012.
Semple (who is an excellent Foreign Affairs writer) interviewed the top leadership in the Taliban for New Statesman. Their leaders believe the following: the insurgency is futile; there is deep resentment towards al-Qaeda; they cannot militarily defeat the U.S. or the Afghan forces; and that they will need to negotiate with other parties in the near future as the U.S. withdraws.
Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
“Behind the Paraguayan coup,” by Nikolas Kozloff. Al Jazeera, July 8, 2012.
Nikolas Kozloff's analysis is a valuable read for a number of reasons. First, and most simply, by drawing attention to US military endeavors in Paraguay as far back as 2005, he provides a compelling counter-narrative to conventional wisdom that Bush Administration policymakers were complacent towards Latin America. He describes how the election of Fernando Lugo complicated the US military's relationship with Paraguay. Towards the end of his article Kozloff zooms out. Moving away from discussing US interests in Paraguay as a bulwark against Hugo Chavez, Kozloff explicates the trajectory of US policy objectives throughout the entire Southern Cone. Additionally, he astutely bolsters his analysis by digging deep into the diplomatic cables cache, published by Wikileaks, and unearthing several gems—like a cable from 2007 which suggested “that Washington should enhance relations with regional military leaders who shared concerns over Chávez's rising influence.”