February 5th, 2012

The Change.org people have been touting a Nicholas Kristof piece about successful petition drives on their site. His first example is of a petition by a fourth grade class, looking for changes in how a movie (of a Dr. Seuss book) is promoted – “Don’t lose the environmental message!” A great example of the importance of action – the class petition ‘gained legs’ and garnered over 57,000 signatures, leading to action by Universal, including some of the specific actions requested by the class. A good example, too, of a teacher who helps his class learn, by doing, about engaging with the world.

Environment Petition: Universal Pictures: Let the Lorax Speak for the Trees! | Change.org.

The interplay of copyright and creativity – a Storify collection

February 4th, 2012

I’ve recently started playing around with Storify. In the piece embedded below, I’m gathering together various different snippets concerning the interplay of copyright and creativity.


Why Phil Knight’s eulogy of Paterno was so problematic

January 28th, 2012

In Knight, we also have someone who pays college coaches a fortune so “student-athletes” can wear and by extension advertise their products. We have someone who ploughs millions to the University of Oregon football program funding state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, while the school endures terrible cuts. We have someone who I would argue represents the corrupting of amateur sports and by extension the corrupting of Joe Paterno and Penn State. By defending Paterno, Knight is doing little more than defending himself and the kind of moral relativism he’s brought to campuses around the country.

via The Final Insult: Nike CEO Phil Knight Eulogizes Joe Paterno | The Nation.

Solidarity, unions, and the unemployed

January 28th, 2012

This to me is the key section from George Lakey’s piece in the Indypendent’s blog:

The Depression hit bottom in 1931. More people were jobless there than in any other Nordic country. Unlike in the U.S., the Norwegian union movement kept the people thrown out of work as members, even though they couldn’t pay dues. This decision paid off in mass mobilizations. When the employers’ federation locked employees out of the factories to try to force a reduction of wages, the workers fought back with massive demonstrations.

via How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’ | The Indypendent.

It requires – and fosters – a broader class consciousness than a union system built wholly around those who currently retain employment. There may be wrinkles, administratively, in a developing this concept within a craft union model – not least, figuring out what it means to retain these unemployed members as workers? What is asked of them, what do they get out of it, and where do they fit into a system that has been built around a contract model?

Of course, the trade unions, with members who often work by the job, and retain union benefits and seniority between spates of employment, may provide some guidance. What might, for instance, teacher unions learn from this approach?

Why no cafe bars?

January 28th, 2012

The Irish Times reports on a forthcoming government report on alcohol, and the numerous suggestions made in it, including more stringent rules around advertising (none on TV before 9pm, no outdoor advertising, no sports sponsorship), minimum price floors (and bans on discounts for bulk purchases) and more aggressive health monitoring.

I was disappointed though – if not surprised – not to see mention of cafe bars. The report claims that pubs “make a greater social and economic contribution, and exercise greater control on alcohol consumption” than do off-license premises, and also recommends increase in the number of Youth Cafes, and of their hours.

No mention, though, of the value in building out smaller pubs that might be required to make some part of their revenues from non-alcohol sales. That short-lived idea was successfully killed off by the the vintners some years ago, and their sign-off was sought for this report, so it’s not surprising, but it is a shame.

Doctors without Borders make claims of torture in Libya

January 28th, 2012

Disturbing news out of Libya, where Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders are claiming that prisoners are being tortured:

“Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres has halted its work in detention centres in a Libyan city because it said its medical staff were being asked to patch up detainees mid-way through torture sessions so they could go back for more abuse.”

via MSF suspends Misrata work amid torture claims – RTÉ News.

Of carried interest and capital gains

January 28th, 2012

Wondering how Mitt Romney manages to pay under 14% of his income in tax? Confused by all this talk of ‘carried interest’? Eileen Appelbaum lays it all out very clearly in this piece, carried by US News, which also lays out the case for why this income should not qualify for the reduced rates charged on investment income:

Why Carried Interest Should Not Be Taxed at the Capital Gains Rate – Economic Intelligence (usnews.com).

Spotted in Syracuse

January 27th, 2012

Odd image of the day: A billboard, off I-690 (which runs through the middle of Syracuse) with an ‘In Memorium’ message for Joe Paterno.

The perils of poor copy-editing

December 27th, 2011

This article about PhoneDog’s suing of a former employee, Noah Kravitz, over his twitter account is interesting in itself (they’re claiming rights to the account followers, as a customer list, and seeking compensation on that basis). However, what caught my eye was the claim in the RTÉ sub-heading that Kravitz “must pay” $2.50 per user, which matched rather too well what PhoneDog are listed, later in the piece, as seeking.

A quick search reveals that the case is still being litigated. Thus, the ‘must pay’ is merely the claim being made by his former employer, and no damages have yet been assessed. Indeed, if what Kravitz says is correct, it looks like this is a counter-suit aimed at balancing out his claim for a share of PhoneDog’s advertising revenue.

RTÉ’s headline is fine, but the sub-heading implies that the suit has been settled, and compensation levels set. I’m not sure how much copy-editing RTÉ employs before adding news articles to its site, but this is something that could have been caught (and easily corrected) by a good copy-editor – or caused by poor editing that sought to simplify an overly complex construction in the draft lead.

Media Ownership, Journalism and Sam Smyth’s firing

October 20th, 2011

Labour Senator John Whelan has called for a Seanad debate on media ownership policies. The development that has brought this issue into focus is the firing of journalist Sam Smyth from Today FM. While the station has claimed that the firing was merely part of a re-organization of the station’s schedule, an attempt “to improve the programming quality and its relevance to audience”, there is widespread suspicion that the station’s controlling shareholder, Denis O’Brien, is behind the decision.

O’Brien is taking legal action (for defamation) against Smyth over comments he made in other outlets about O’Brien’s business activities. The Moriarty Tribunal, into political corruption in Ireland in the 1990s, “found that Mr Lowry had assisted Mr O’Brien in his bid to secure a mobile phone contract for Esat Digifone,” according to the Irish Times.

Journalistic independence from powerful forces is, on some level, a standard that can never be fully achieved – but a diverse media, with a broad range of owners and structures, can help. In this regard, Whelan’s right to draw attention to the recent announcement by Noel Curran, the Director General of public service broadcaster RTÉ, that the network will include investigative journalism as one of its six core areas in the years to come.