GOP to Workers: "Why Should They Get What We Took Away From You?"

Was recently listening to the journalists on Slate's Political Gabfest pondering why union density is so much higher amongst public sector workers than the private sector. None of them mentioned the most important difference: It's harder for a government to get away with running a terror campaign against the union. There's more oversight and accountability to restrain public sector management from threatening workers for union activity, implying benefits to keeping out the union or danger with it, holding captive audience meetings against the union, or just firing union leaders. Only some of these tactics are even illegal. And bosses get away with those all the time. (Check out this reportfrom Human Rights Watch, or this one from Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner). Consultants get very wealthy guiding companies on how to run fear campaigns against employees trying to organize. It's a lot harder for the TSA to cut anti-union consultants a check than it is for Wal-Mart. When it comes to organizing, the fundamental difference between public sector and private sector workers is that public sector workers have a better chance at organizing free from fear. So lots and lots of public sector workers do.

Right-wingers' desire to crush workers' freedom to organize and bargain collectively, whether public sector or private, is old news. But the zeal with which newly elected right-wing politicians are going after public employees is based in a sense of opportunity - one that comes not just from high unemployment or the media's deficit hysteria or GOP electoral gains but from the continuing decline in private sector union density. Republicans are emboldened to go after public sector workers organizing rights because so few private sector workers are organized.

(Resentment towards public sector workers can take on a gendered angle as well, as in some European countries where the public sector is significantly more female than the private sector, giving politicians an easy subtext to wield against public workers.)

If more private sector workers had the right to bargain for pensions, affordable healthcare, and a living wage, conservatives would see less purchase in high-profile fights to shred their rights and benefits for the janitors, firefighters, and teachers who work for us.

You see this in anecdotes like the one in a recent NYT piece where a woman says "I don’t get to bargain in my job, either." This is the chutzpah of the Right: They erode the right for private sector workers to organize for a voice in the conditions of their work and their benefits on the job. They go after all the programs that help people to get jobs or provide protections that don't depend on a job. They attack public education, deny us public healthcare, and deride public infrastructure. They push corporate-dominated "globalization" that privileges the flexibility of capital and further denies people around the world a voice in the conditions of their lives. They throw up barriers to the political participation of the non-rich. They enshrine the rights of bosses to fire without cause, outsource with impunity, escape taxes without consequence, punish pregnancy and lock workers inside buildings. Then, looking out across the wreckage they've created, they tell workers: "Why should that janitor be above the poverty line when your job sucks? Who do you know that has a pension these days?"

In other words, the push on those of us who reject the right-wing future, besides exposing their shell game, is to organize. We need to defend the human right to organize across industries, sectors and countries. And we need to strengthen it and exercise it. Goes without saying that Republican politicians have shown far more zeal about being part of the problem than Democratic ones have shown about being part of the solution.

There's not much future for the American labor movement without turning around the decline in private sector union density. And there's not much democracy if you spend half your waking life under dictatorship.

The Great Twitter/Facebook Revolution Fallacy

For some strange reason, the American media has always been obsessed with Twitter and Facebook. The movie “The Social Network,” which is about the founding of Facebook, received far more media commentary than any other movie in 2010, despite being only the 28th highest U.S.-grossing film that year.

This applies to foreign affairs as well. In the context of the events occurring in the Middle East, the Western media loves to argue that Twitter and Facebook constitute catalysts for revolution in the modern era. Indeed, some articles called the 2009 Iranian protests the “Twitter Revolution.” One excited journalist at the time wrote:

Iranians are blogging, posting to Facebook and, most visibly, coordinating their protests on Twitter, the messaging service. Their activity has increased, not decreased, since the presidential election on Friday and ensuing attempts by the government to restrict or censor their online communications.

On Twitter, reports and links to photos from a peaceful mass march through Tehran on Monday, along with accounts of street fighting and casualties around the country, have become the most popular topic on the service worldwide, according to Twitter’s published statistics.

The trouble with all this is that in June 2009, the entire country of Iran only had 19,235 Twitter users, according to statistics assembled by Sysomos. This is about half the number of people who attend a professional football game. To be fair, the figure is probably not exact; the true number could be higher (due to Iranians not reporting being from Iran) or lower (due to foreigners setting their residence to Iran to protect native Iranian Twitter users).

But it certainly is not enough to make a “Twitter Revolution.” Foreign Policy analyst Golnaz Esfandiari probably provides a more accurate analysis of Twitter’s role in Iran:

Twitter was definitely not a major communications tool for activists on the ground in Iran.

Nonetheless, the “Twitter Revolution” was an irresistible meme during the post-election protests, a story that wrote itself. Various analysts were eager to chime in about the purported role of Twitter in the Green Movement. Some were politics experts, like the Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder. Others were experts on new media, like Sascha Segan of PC Magazine. Western journalists who couldn’t reach — or didn’t bother reaching? — people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets posted with tag #iranelection. Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.

The recent revolutions in the Arab world also, in all likelihood, have very little to do with either Twitter or Facebook, whatever the Western media might say. Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen have a combined total of 14,642 Twitter users. That is a tiny, tiny number. There are more people in a major public university than Twitter users in these three countries combined.

Facebook is relatively more widely used throughout the world; its penetration in Egypt was 4.58% as of July 2010.  This is better than Twitter, but the usage pales in comparison to – say – the percent of the population that watches Al Jazeera. Fortunately, given the nationwide Internet shutdown in Egypt, journalists are not talking about a “Facebook Revolution” in Egypt.

But the articles about Facebook or Twitter supposedly inciting revolution continue. One recent Times article argued that in Sudan “protests, organized by groups of university students and graduates, came together as Facebook, Twitter and other Web sites were used to rally several thousand demonstrators.”

Maybe. But only 10% of people in Sudan even have access to the Internet, let alone use Facebook or Twitter. One wonders how many people in Sudan (or Egypt or Iran, for that matter) even know that these websites exist.

Indeed, the primary users of Twitter and Facebook seem to be well-educated, Internet-savvy Westerners – the type of people who, not coincidentally, write articles for the New York Times and Washington Post. The Western media’s focus on so-called “Twitter Revolutions” may tell less about the revolution and more about the preoccupations of the American journalists who cover about the revolution.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Sexual Assault Coverage by Media Shows Double Standard, Paternalism, and Sexism

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Lara Logan, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent, was beaten and sexually assaulted, Feb. 11, while on assignment in Cairo to report on the revolution that concluded that day with Hosni Mubarak resigning as president.

            Logan, according to an official CBS announcement, was attacked by a group of about 200 Egyptians and "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers." The mob, probably pro-Mubarak supporters, but never identified by CBS—had separated Logan from her camera crew.

            About a week earlier, Mubarak's army detained, handcuffed, blindfolded, interrogated, and then released Logan and some of her crew after several hours. The government ordered her expelled from the country, probably for her on-air comments about the government intimidating and harassing foreign journalists. Logan returned to Cairo shortly before Mubarak resigned. She returned to the United States the day after the assault, and spent the next four days recovering in a hospital.

            The Mubarak administration at the beginning of the protests had expelled the al-Jazeera news network, and began a random campaign against all journalists, the result of the government believing that the media inflamed the call for revolution and the overthrow of Mubarak. There were about 140 cases of assault and harassment of journalists during the 18-day protest, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Ahmad Mohamad Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed by sniper fire, probably by pro-Mubarak supporters.  Among American reporters physically assaulted were CNN's Anderson Cooper and photojournalist Dana Smillie, who was seriously wounded by what appeared to be a dozen BB-size pellets. Journalists displayed "admirable levels of courage as they—initially as individuals and small groups, and eventually in droves—made statements and took actions that exposed them to immense personal and professional risk," according to the CPJ.

            There can be no justification for the rogue gangs of thugs who attacked Logan, dozens of journalists, and hundreds of citizens. But, from the story of reporter and citizen courage against a 30-year dictatorship, no matter how benevolent it may have appeared, there emerged another story, one not as dramatic, nor as compelling, nor as important. But it is a story, nevertheless.

            Because of deadlines and a sense of having to get the story at any cost, news organizations sometimes become in-your-face inquisitors. Privacy isn't usually something the more aggressive news organizations give to those they want on air or in print. It's still common to see microphones stuck inches from faces of people who have suffered tragedies

            But when it comes to one of their own, news organizations seem to have a different set of standards. The brutal attack upon Logan occurred Feb. 11, but it was four days until CBS released any statement. After a brief review of the facts, CBS refused to make further comment or to respond to reporter inquiries. "Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time," the network said. A four day delay to give a basic statement is inexcusable by CBS; a statement that it did not give more information about the attack in order to protect the correspondent's privacy is hypocritical, and trumpets a double standard that the news media are somehow exempt from the reporting practices it demands of news sources.

            There is another factor in this mini-story. Judith Matloff, a journalism professor at Columbia University, told the L.A. Times, "Generally, female correspondents do not come out and talk about it [sexual assaults] because they worry that they won't get sent on assignments again."

            Paternalism in the news profession often has editors and news directors, most of whom are male, "protecting" their female reporters and correspondents. Journalists and news crews who go into dangerous situations, including riots, demonstrations, and war must be trained to deal with violence—and must be given every assistance by their organizations when they have been harassed or attacked. But, for news executives to discriminate on who to send because of the "fear" that women may be subjected to sexual assault, and for women not to report it to their bosses, is to acknowledge that they, and probably society, haven't come far in eliminating sexism within the profession.

            There is a further reality. The news media often don't identify adults who have been raped or sexually assaulted, a belief that somehow these crimes are more personal and more traumatic than any other kind of assault. However, sexual assaults and rapes are always brutal and vicious crimes of power and control. For the news media to continue to adhere to some puritanical belief that they are protecting womanhood by not reporting names and details perpetuates the myth that rape is purely a sexual intrusion, and not the brutal attack it truly is.

 

[Walter Brasch has been a journalist about 40 years. During that time, he has covered everything from city council meetings and music festivals to demonstrations and riots. He is the author of 15 books, most focusing upon history and contemporary social issues. You may contact Dr. Brasch at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

Sexual Assault Coverage by Media Shows Double Standard, Paternalism, and Sexism

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Lara Logan, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent, was beaten and sexually assaulted, Feb. 11, while on assignment in Cairo to report on the revolution that concluded that day with Hosni Mubarak resigning as president.

            Logan, according to an official CBS announcement, was attacked by a group of about 200 Egyptians and "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers." The mob, probably pro-Mubarak supporters, but never identified by CBS—had separated Logan from her camera crew.

            About a week earlier, Mubarak's army detained, handcuffed, blindfolded, interrogated, and then released Logan and some of her crew after several hours. The government ordered her expelled from the country, probably for her on-air comments about the government intimidating and harassing foreign journalists. Logan returned to Cairo shortly before Mubarak resigned. She returned to the United States the day after the assault, and spent the next four days recovering in a hospital.

            The Mubarak administration at the beginning of the protests had expelled the al-Jazeera news network, and began a random campaign against all journalists, the result of the government believing that the media inflamed the call for revolution and the overthrow of Mubarak. There were about 140 cases of assault and harassment of journalists during the 18-day protest, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Ahmad Mohamad Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed by sniper fire, probably by pro-Mubarak supporters.  Among American reporters physically assaulted were CNN's Anderson Cooper and photojournalist Dana Smillie, who was seriously wounded by what appeared to be a dozen BB-size pellets. Journalists displayed "admirable levels of courage as they—initially as individuals and small groups, and eventually in droves—made statements and took actions that exposed them to immense personal and professional risk," according to the CPJ.

            There can be no justification for the rogue gangs of thugs who attacked Logan, dozens of journalists, and hundreds of citizens. But, from the story of reporter and citizen courage against a 30-year dictatorship, no matter how benevolent it may have appeared, there emerged another story, one not as dramatic, nor as compelling, nor as important. But it is a story, nevertheless.

            Because of deadlines and a sense of having to get the story at any cost, news organizations sometimes become in-your-face inquisitors. Privacy isn't usually something the more aggressive news organizations give to those they want on air or in print. It's still common to see microphones stuck inches from faces of people who have suffered tragedies

            But when it comes to one of their own, news organizations seem to have a different set of standards. The brutal attack upon Logan occurred Feb. 11, but it was four days until CBS released any statement. After a brief review of the facts, CBS refused to make further comment or to respond to reporter inquiries. "Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time," the network said. A four day delay to give a basic statement is inexcusable by CBS; a statement that it did not give more information about the attack in order to protect the correspondent's privacy is hypocritical, and trumpets a double standard that the news media are somehow exempt from the reporting practices it demands of news sources.

            There is another factor in this mini-story. Judith Matloff, a journalism professor at Columbia University, told the L.A. Times, "Generally, female correspondents do not come out and talk about it [sexual assaults] because they worry that they won't get sent on assignments again."

            Paternalism in the news profession often has editors and news directors, most of whom are male, "protecting" their female reporters and correspondents. Journalists and news crews who go into dangerous situations, including riots, demonstrations, and war must be trained to deal with violence—and must be given every assistance by their organizations when they have been harassed or attacked. But, for news executives to discriminate on who to send because of the "fear" that women may be subjected to sexual assault, and for women not to report it to their bosses, is to acknowledge that they, and probably society, haven't come far in eliminating sexism within the profession.

            There is a further reality. The news media often don't identify adults who have been raped or sexually assaulted, a belief that somehow these crimes are more personal and more traumatic than any other kind of assault. However, sexual assaults and rapes are always brutal and vicious crimes of power and control. For the news media to continue to adhere to some puritanical belief that they are protecting womanhood by not reporting names and details perpetuates the myth that rape is purely a sexual intrusion, and not the brutal attack it truly is.

 

[Walter Brasch has been a journalist about 40 years. During that time, he has covered everything from city council meetings and music festivals to demonstrations and riots. He is the author of 15 books, most focusing upon history and contemporary social issues. You may contact Dr. Brasch at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

Why is Nancy Pelosi So Unpopular?

The news that Democrats have just selected Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to continue as House Minority Leader has led a number of commentators to note her continuing unpopularity. Blogger Nate Silver, for instance, recently came up with a column titled “Is Pelosi America’s Most Unpopular Politician?

There is no denying that Ms. Pelosi is very, very unpopular. This is old news, and relatively boring stuff.

What is more interesting is exploring how Ms. Pelosi became one of the least-like politicians in America.

When Democrats came roaring to take control of Congress in 2006, Ms. Pelosi was a favorite Republican target. Conservative commentators liked to warn Americans about how extreme to the left Ms. Pelosi was. And the House leader was quite an inviting target: a congresswoman from a hotbed of American liberalism, who did not look good on television, and who occupied an inherently unpopular position (quick: name one House speaker who’s ever had positive approval ratings).

These attacks continued throughout her term in power; indeed, they continue to this very day. Republicans were quickly able to succeed in making Ms. Pelosi as disliked a figure as possible amongst conservatives. It was not hard, especially given Ms. Pelosi’s inherent liberalism.

But what really killed Ms. Pelosi’s approval ratings was the fact that Democrats declined to defend her. Ms. Pelosi got punched and punched and punched, and Democrats never bothered to punch back. Take, for instance, an everyday occurrence in cable news: a Republican commentator blasts Ms. Pelosi for being an extreme liberal out-of-touch with mainstream America. If this happens, one almost never sees the Democratic counterpart arguing that Ms. Pelosi isn’t out-of-touch. This is quite different from what happens, for instance, when a Republican commentator attacks President Barack Obama.

Even Ms. Pelosi herself didn’t bother to defend her reputation. Instead, she spent her time passing laws Republicans hated and making the life of the Republican minority miserable. Ms. Pelosi was quite good at doing this; indeed, her skills at whipping the Democratic caucus rival those of the legendary Lyndon Johnson.

In not bothering to defend Ms. Pelosi, Democrats calculated that her unpopular approval ratings did not really matter; they would not affect the mid-term or presidential elections. Most probably don’t like Ms. Pelosi anyways.

The correctness of this calculation is almost impossible to prove. The Democratic Party’s good results in 2008 would indicate that Ms. Pelosi’s unpopular ratings had little effect. Their bad results in 2010 would indicate the opposite.

Whatever the truth, one can be fairly certain that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will continue doing her best to make Republican lives as miserable as possible.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

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