Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Canadaland, or: four questions about an emerging petrostate

26 July 2013

My wife Rachelle tells me that I’m obsessed with Canada. I spent a few days up on Cortes Island last month at a conference on social change at Hollyhock (Dave Roberts from Grist was there too; here’s what he wrote about it) – and I pretty much haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

1. Canadaland

In 1967, my high school gym teacher took a bunch of us to Expo 67 in Montreal. How totally cool: me, a 15 year old, crossing an international border for the very first time – even if it was just north of Plattsburgh. The Canadians had a way better looking flag. The girls spoke English with a French accent. I think I ate poutine. Everything was scrubbed clean and shiny. The future looked great.

Whoa.

Read the rest of this entry »

You get Norman McLaren. We get Baseball (A question from time at Hollyhock)

3 June 2011

Here’s a question that came up for me at the Media that Matters gathering at Hollyhock a couple of weeks ago. I’m no expert on things Canadian, so if it’s totally off the mark, toss it.

We got to Hollyhock just after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won majority control over the national government in Ottawa, so it wasn’t all that surprising that in the 4 days we were together, a lot of people were still trying to figure out what that victory signified. It triggered some anxious questioning for people who had spent much of their professional lives in an environment supported by public funding, and who had mastered the art of obtaining it.   Read the rest of this entry »

Friday dog day with Mingus the Super Dog 8 Jan 2010

9 January 2010

A walk at the end of the day w Mingus the Super Dog cleared the brain and eased the soul. Here is the noble canine, after we’ve come down the hill. I spent most of the walk thinking about journalism and politics, and questions of balancing independence with strategic focus.

And just now, watched David Corn and Kevin Drum do a superb job talking with Bill Moyers, breaking down the story in our current issue on why and how the banking industry has “intellectually (as well as politically) captured Washington pols. A great show. Really feeling tonight all the pride and honor of working with guys like these – and the rest of the MoJo team.

The Erdos Number and social nets

31 December 2009

My friend Don – we’ve been pals since elementary school – has one of the strongest moral centers of anyone I know (here‘s an example of what I mean, and here’s another side to this guy). I can remember back in high school sitting around a camp fire having one of those “meaning of life” conversations, when he caught me up short with the simple, obvious, and still true question we’re all struggling to answer. The question, he said, was simply, “how to live.” What are the ethics of a life well lived, he was asking. I still think that’s the essential question, partly because it’s something we can actually do something about.

Which brings me to Paul Erdos.

The other day I was listening to a show about “Numbers” from my absolutely all-time favorite podcast, Radiolab. The show featured a story about Paul Erdos and something called Erdos Numbers. (Sidebar: walking Mingus the Super Dog up the hill and down the hill yesterday I was thinking about this post, and it occurred to me that – while they’re quite different – Radiolab’s the aural equivalent of my all-time favorite magazine, the late, lamented, wish-it-was-still-around Whole Earth Review aka Coevolution Quarterly. Why? Because both are rich in sideways thinking, bringing the unexpected together with the everyday in brilliant moments of insight.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Asymmetrical power relations in the social sector: Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy”

11 December 2009

Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector” has gotten a lot of attention on the Intertubes and among the twitterati (hashtag: #disruptphil) the past few days – and rightfully so. Her plain-English portrait of how digital technology is already changing the face of philanthropy and NGO life is, I think, a foundational document for what comes next. It’s that good.  (BTW, it’s one of those weird Futurama disconnects that Lucy works at BluePrint R+D 2 blocks away from the Mother Ship, with Jack Chin, who was one of the first people I met in the SF NGO scene way way back – and we’ve never met in person. We’re promising coffee in the new year, right Lucy!?)

It sounds like philanthropy is approaching one of those “whoa, what comes next” moments that us folks in the media/journalism world have been living through for, well, years. It makes for a fun ride (if your livelihood doesn’t depend on old models that are shakier by the day) and is definitely food for thought and the young at heart. So with one foot in (30+ years of) nonprofit life and the other in journalism world with more than passing interest…
Read the rest of this entry »

The New McCarthyism

9 October 2009

Because this image is so rich in history. Chilling.

The New McCarthyism

H/t to Down With Tyranny. (Anyone know who to credit for the image?) (Update: link corrected.)

Friday Dog Blogging, 7 August 2009: Good food, big mouths, and the sublime

7 August 2009

The theme of the day: food, or maybe mouths, or mouthing off, or some combination therein. Part of the reason  food’s on my mind right now is that I’ve been working on an event we’re planning for November with New York Times food blogger Mark “Bitten” Bittman. It’s shaping up to be a really good time, Mark’s a real pleasure to work with, the food, drink and conversation is going to be terrific, and I’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do…Consider yourselves the first to know about it, so if you’re interested in joining us in November, let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

But speaking of things mouth-based (besides food) what would Friday Dog Day be without Mingus the Super Dog? Here he is on our NorCal/Southern Oregon (SouOr?) vacation last week, doing one of the things he does best: turning a simple rock into an oral object of pleasure. He’ll do this for hours, grab it, push it around with his snout, bury it, find it, and start all over again. Usually in a altered state of canine awareness: that rock, it’s aliiiive. P1030165 Read the rest of this entry »

MoJo v the IRS and what it might mean for non profit newspapers

15 June 2009

Update 15 June 09: Rich Schmalbeck (who is on the Duke law faculty, btw) emailed me his comments on my post re MoJo v. IRS. With his okay, here’s what he said:

The Technical Advice Memorandum that turned the tide in your case has almost certainly been published, though I didn’t look to verify that.  These are documents prepared by the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office, at the request of either a taxpayer or a field office of the IRS, in the context of an audit that raises difficult legal questions.  They had long been completely private, but a Freedom of Information Act suit sometime in the 1970s compelled their disclosure, but with information that might identify the taxpayer redacted.  They are typically not reviewed at the highest levels of the IRS or Treasury, and so are specifically not intended to establish precedent, but are merely supposed to resolve the issues with respect to a particular taxpayer.  But now that they are routinely published, lawyers do consult them, and do sometimes cite them, though with the understanding that a court may not accord them much weight.

I think the Mother Jones Tech Advice is helpful in this issue, but I’m not as sanguine as you seem to be in this piece that it answers all the questions the IRS might raise about a regular, full-service daily newspaper.  Mother Jones is more like Harpers, Commentary, and the like, than it is like the Chicago Tribune.  And my sense from talking with people in the industry is that while they would like to continue publication of at least some newspapers within a nonprofit framework, they would like nearly every other aspect of publication to remain the same.  And that’s where the IRS may say that the operation is not sufficiently distinguishable from an ordinary commercial enterprise to justify tax-exempt status.  But we’ll see.  In the long run, I think the IRS is going to lose on this question of exempt purpose.  But you are quite correct in thinking that no single newspaper wants to head down a road that might involve an IRS audit, followed by litigation in the Tax Court, and ultimately perhaps up to the Court of Appeals level.  So it would certainly make things easier if Congress would simply enact legislation clarifying that newspaper publication was a suitable exempt purpose, period.  But my understanding is that the bill that would do that isn’t making much progress.

A few days ago, I said I would come back to one specific item from the Duke conference a while back on non profit media, so here goes. It’s triggered by an issue raised in a paper prepped for the conference by Rich Schmalbeck, “Financing the American Newspaper in the Twenty-First Century.” Turns out that a battle royale Mother Jones went through with the Reagan-era IRS has some relevance today. It might point to a way to deal w/the IRS for newspapers and other publications looking to convert to non profit status.

Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Reid needs to look Bobbi and Richard Peterson in the eye and explain himself

23 April 2009

Greg Mitchell on reporter Kevin Elston’s investigation into the death of Alyssa Peterson:

Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq. A cover-up, naturally, followed. CM8ShowAd(“Middle”);

Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a “non-hostile weapons discharge.”

“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.”

“She said that she did not know how to be two people; she … could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”

Peterson was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards. . . “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.

Spc. Peterson’s mother, Bobbi Peterson, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard had received any official documents that contained information outlined in Elston’s report.

Harry Reid needs to look the Petersons in the eye and explain why he’s against an independent commission to investigate torture.

Welcome to the club, Jane…

21 April 2009

So here’s Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake.com announcing that they’re kicking off a $150,000 fundraising campaign to pay for Marcy Wheeler (blog handle: emptywheel), plus another investigative reporter and a researcher.  Why? Here’s the money quote:

“I’ve been trying for months to get funding for Marcy so she can do what she does full time. I’ve been turned down by every major donor and donor representative I’ve asked. They’d rather create their own “astroturf” blogs.”

Amen and welcome to the congregation. It’s not just good bloggers getting locked out from access to progressive funding; it goes way back, and this is just the latest iteration.

Ridiculous – based on an elitist, ill-informed, and ultimately completely self-defeating take on what all this independent reporting is about.

Now is the time for progressive donors to make many small bets on independent journalism. Let the experiments flourish. Support the leaders, encourage the innovators, find the new ones pushing the edge.

As this blog’s namesake once said: The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.

Update: as of 4/23: $41,193 raised from 682 people (that’s about a $60 average gift).