Fighting Words

In Praise Of Getting Paid: Internship Supporters Get The Facts Wrong

This morning, Michael Moroney wrote one of those pro-internship op-eds that seem to be so in vogue these days. But like so many who've come before him, Moroney failed to get all the facts first. He started with criticizing the recent lawsuits, so we'll start with this: "As Forbes recently noted, the Supreme Court established nearly six decades ago in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co. that unpaid internships are legal and exempt from minimum wage laws as long as six conditions are met. These conditions heavily emphasize that the internship is to the benefit of the intern, not the employer. Thus, so long as the intern is aware of, and agrees to, the fact that his internship is unpaid, and the employer approaches the internship with the intention of training the intern rather than just receiving output from him or her, the internship is lawful."
Supreme Court DOMA activists 27March2013

DOMA Decision: Equal Protection For All In Social Security

A recent Wall Street Journal article noted the Social Security Administration’s struggle to cope with last week’s Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage. In its ruling, the Court said federal agencies managing federal benefits programs -- e.g., social security widow/widower’s benefits -- need to look at the marriage laws of the claimant’s state of residence, not where the person was married. Some have noted that this situation presents an issue of equal protection. That may be true, but the truth is that “equal protection” is currently a very flexible notion at the SSA. ...
http-__content

NSA PRISM: Don't Be Shocked, Government Surveillance Isn't Anything New

After Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA PRISM surveillance program to the Guardian, everyone on the Web was shocked and outraged, but it really shouldn't be so surprising that the government has that sort of program up and running. While the outrage at the United States government's overstepping of its constitutional bounds persists, we have to wonder why everyone suddenly cares so much about privacy and surveillance? After all, this kind of far-reaching surveillance was reported on in the early 2000s, and millions of people over-share their information every day.

If George Orwell Were Here, He'd Be Really Tired Of Hearing About '1984'

June was a great month for doublespeak. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was caught lying in a congressional hearing about the scope of the National Security Agency’s ability to snoop on American communications. Clapper, when asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., last March, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” he answered “No, sir … not wittingly.” When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Clapper how his testimony squared with the details on the PRISM program revealed by leaker Edward Snowden, he said his response was the “least untruthful” answer that he could give.
China Tiananmen Square 2

The Other China Story -- The One Without Dead Babies Or Poisoned Rice

The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie warned in her popular TED talk that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Adichie illustrated her point by talking about her childhood in Nigeria, when she read British literature filled with white characters, and thought that stories cannot have African characters. For me, the danger of the single story is most pronounced in Western media coverage of my home country, China. I only started to read American newspapers while at college. It was initially interesting to see that there is nearly always news on China -- I hadn’t realized how "big” my country had become.
Gas Prices US Spring 2013

US Gas Prices: Can American Drivers Ever Catch A Break?

Regardless of the political weather in Washington, D.C., and the perpetual bickering between Democrats and Republicans, if there’s one thing that unites all Americans in frustration – exasperation, really – it’s gasoline prices. And lately, gas prices in the states seem to know only one direction: up. What’s more, in decades past U.S. motorists could count on at least one form or relief – seasonality, with gasoline prices falling in the autumn/winter, before rising in the spring/summer - the latter being the U.S. travel season. However, this decade even that seasonal relief seems to have disappeared.
justice

Hey, Interns: Keep Suing Until You Get Paid

On Monday, Megan Willett of Business Insider clumsily attempted to make the case that unpaid interns should stop complaining about -- and suing over -- their unpaid internships. They are lucky to have jobs, as she puts it, even if those jobs are unpaid. It’s the kind of untenable argument that reminds one of Mayor Bloomberg’s assertion that New York’s carriage horses should be grateful for the opportunity to schlep tourists around Central Park in the middle of July. Putting aside for a minute the semantic paradox of calling an internship a “job,” Willett’s position ignores the unavoidable fact that many unpaid internships, as they exist today, are illegal -- particularly those in so-called glamour industries like media and entertainment. Except under the narrowest of conditions, unpaid internships violate federal and state labor laws, and no amount of winking, nodding and accepting them as “paying your dues” is going to change that.
Farm Bill Amendment

Farm Bill's Defeat Gives Breathing Space For Reform

Last Thursday’s surprise defeat of the House farm bill resulted in a litany of finger-pointing from the lobbyists on K Street to the House Ag staffers in the Longworth Building. But they’re looking for blame in all the wrong places. It really belongs to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- and many other Republicans and conservatives -- who said so many times last year that America was going broke. If we are really going broke, then why did the bill maintain generous subsidies for agriculture? The Republican House members, including Ryan, who voted against the bill, took last year’s “broke” message to heart and should be congratulated for their fortitude.
Barclays chairman David Walker

Why ‘Hostility’ To Banks And Bankers Is Healthy For The Global Economy

Leaders of the world’s largest banks have been desperately trying to escape the ghosts of the financial industry’s bad old days -- Libor rate manipulation, tax avoidance, rogue trading, swap misselling and the breaking of antimoney laundering rules -- and rebrand the industry as a responsible force for good in the economy. Well, good luck with that. Barclays PLC (NYSE: BCS) Chairman David Walker recently fired back against what he said has become the “political and media industry” of badmouthing banks and bankers, and insisted on banks’ irreplaceable role in a free-market economy.

What Bill Clinton Said To Shimon Peres In Israel

Former President Bill Clinton was in Israel last week to accept the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest honor, from Israeli President Shimon Peres, who also happened to be celebrating his 90th birthday (two months before the actual date). What did our former chief executive say to this man who escaped the Holocaust by immigrating to Israel in 1932? What would could one say to a man who heard that every member of his family who stayed in Poland was murdered by the Nazis? What would you say to a man who has served his country both in the military and government for decades? What would any decent human being say to a man who is the oldest living president of one of the world’s most productive democratic republics, one which happens to surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who wish her total destruction, and makes no bones about it?
Turkey

Turkey's Erdoğan Should Fire EU Minister Egemen Bağiş

On the laundry list of things Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should do to restore his image as a Western-style democratic leader: Fire Egemen Bağiş. The pugnacious European Union minister, responsible for negotiating Turkey’s way into the 27-nation club, has done little but humiliate himself and his country with a series of combative public statements and decrees that make him seem disconnected from reality at best, and waxing despotic at worst. He said in a speech last week that he deemed protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square supporters or members of terrorist organizations. He spent 849 words lambasting The Economist over an article comparing Erdoğan to a sultan. And on Thursday, he ignited already fraught relations with Germany, the de facto leader of the EU, by claiming Chancellor Angela Merkel was stalling Turkey’s accession talks because she was “looking for domestic political material for her elections.”
Erdogan

Erdogan's Abuses Go Beyond The 'Now'

The New York Times editorial board has written a pretty much true piece on the "turmoil" going on in Turkey, saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had "many opportunities over the last three weeks to resolve the political crisis in Turkey peacefully and quickly. However, with almost every statement and directive[,] he has made the situation worse, increasing concerns at home and abroad over his authoritarian tendencies and Turkey's future as a democratic model in the Muslim world." I have no great umbrage to take with the piece; I agree with it. But if I may, I'm going to be a smidge nit-picky, and it has to do with this bit here: "Mr. Erdogan has worked hard to promote Turkey as a democracy aligned with the United States and Europe. Yet he is now intimidating the local news media, attacking the international news media, making veiled anti-Semitic remarks and suggesting that undefined 'foreign forces' are behind the unrest."

Remembering Michael Hastings

It was the playwright and first president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, who said we inhabit a system “in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.” And the late journalist Michael Hastings, who died Tuesday in a car accident in Los Angeles, was physical representation of that truth. If his writings didn’t prove mightier than 10 military divisions, it was enough to at least bring down the career of a military general -- and piss off other high-up government officials, including an aide to the secretary of state.
TaksimSquare

What Do The Gezi Park Protests Mean For Turkish Democracy?

ISTANBUL -- I was visiting Istanbul when the Gezi Park protests erupted. I had a unique chance to observe how the events evolved over time as both social and political events. The Gezi Park events started as peaceful demonstrations against the municipal government’s controversial construction plans to demolish the small public park in the iconic Taksim Square to make way for a shopping mall. Taksim is situated on the European side of Istanbul and is a popular destination for both tourists and Turkish youth. It is famed for its long pedestrian streets full of restaurants, shops, nightclubs and hotels. The initial response to the demonstrators by the Turkish police was rather punitive, though not surprising given the history of protests and provocations that have routinely taken place in Turkey. Yet the turning point was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rather uncompromising and highly dismissive speech in which he called the protesters “capulcu,” looters or marauders.
The Big Ben clock and a statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill are silhouetted against the morning sky in central London

Winston Churchill And His Finest Hour

Even before the rise of Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill warned of the danger of the Nazis, only to be fought at every turn by the British government. What Churchill had foreshadowed became reality as one by one Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France had fallen under Nazi control. In the spring of 1940, Britain was the last one standing, the last barricade to all of Europe being under Hitler’s full control. The man leading Britain onto the battlefield was Churchill, who had been prime minister all of six weeks. As the threat of invasion encroached from a Nazi-occupied France, Churchill, on this day 73 years ago, gave what historians have called one of the greatest speeches -- the “finest hour” speech of June 18, 1940 -- ever delivered in the English language.
Bill Maher

Bill Maher: The Bottom Of The Mass Media Barrel

Bill Maher, the obnoxious, execrable and unfunny “comic” who hosts a talk-show on HBO called “Real Time,” is inexplicably one of the most successful and popular television celebrities in the United States. His rise to the top presents yet another example of how mediocrity, vulgarity (and, of course, luck) are far more important in determining the quality of contemporary pop culture than such quaint and forgotten qualities as talent and integrity. Like many of his dubious contemporaries -- including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Moore, Spike Lee, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, among numerous others -- Maher has become a “brand,” a brand that is meticulously marketed for the sake of maximizing profit. Maher does not engage in reasoned debate, nor does he really care about the validity of his viewpoints. Having identified the demographic he wants to target (that is, upscale urban liberals), he simply ladles out what they want to hear.

Pages

Rape Vigil

Rape Laws In Dubai Are Awful, But So Is Rape Culture In America

Yesterday, my colleague Alex Kaufman commented on the awful case in Dubai of the Norwegian woman who reported her rape to police and was thrown in prison for 'extramarital sex', which is apparently illegal there. He basically argued, not incorrectly, that we should pressure Dubai to change its laws via boycott. And make no mistake, their laws are awful, but while his frustration is fair, the experience of women who are raped here is not that much better. In a recently published a personal essay in VICE, Gina Tron writes about her awful experience dealing with authorities after she was raped.
Kelly Ray NYPD 2013

Why NYPD's Ray Kelly Is Wrong For DHS Secretary

President Barack Obama and NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s surprising courtship has led to a great deal of excited Beltway chatter over the past few days, but it should be seen for what it is: scary and strange. Obama fawned over New York’s top cop last week, going so far as to float his name and the title of Department of Homeland Security Secretary in the same sentence. “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he's not I'd want to know about it, because obviously he'd be very well qualified for the job,” Obama told Univision’s New York affiliate last week, adding that Kelly has done an “extraordinary job” as NYPD commissioner, Politico reported.
RTX11UJS

Let's Boycott Dubai Until It Revises Its Rape Laws

Tourists should avoid Dubai until it passes new laws to protect women who report being raped. The city’s glitzy hotels and luxury retailers create a veneer of modernity over the desert city, nestled on the shores of the United Arab Emirates. In many ways, Dubai can count itself among the world’s international centers of commerce -- alongside London, New York and Hong Kong. But like the backwoods cast of CBS’s 1960s hit “The Beverly Hillbillies,” newfound oil wealth can put you in league with the global elite before you catch up with its social mores. In the UAE, as in some other countries that use Islamic law, a woman can only help convict the man who rapes her if the accused confesses or four adult men must testify as witnesses.
Obama fundraiser

Wait, Barack Obama Is Black?

I am well aware this is an extremely sensitive and controversial subject and may upset and offend some readers, but here goes anyway. East Indian people are very race- and skin-color conscious. It's a trait that is permanently embedded in our ancient DNA. When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 (and after he won the election), my Indian friends, acquaintances and relatives made some of the following comments about him: “He has light skin and fine features, he's not really black”; “He talks very well, not like most black people”; “The Democrats chose him because he's articulate, went to Harvard and seems nice and civilized”; “He probably wouldn't suffer any racial problems, nor rejection, in India”; “Why on earth did he marry her [Michelle]?”; “I wouldn't be afraid of him if I saw him walking down the street”; “If he had straight hair, he'd almost look Indian.” The list of far more inflammatory remarks goes on, but I'd be too embarrassed to repeat them here.
New York Yankees Derek Jeter

Should Derek Jeter Retire? No, New York Yankee Shortstop Injured But Not Done, Needs More Time

After New York placed Derek Jeter on the 15-day disable list a slow rumbling began calling for his retirement. Many have praised Jeter for all his accomplishments, but said they didn't want to see him fall. And that’s the crux of the problem. We’ve already come to recognize how immense and powerful a player Jeter has became over the past two decades. Now as we see him struggle we realize he is human. The revelation is similar to the first time we realize that our parents are not invincible and are capable of mistakes.
Britain's Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge arrive for a Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk in east England,

The Royal Baby Is Just Another Reminder That It's Them And Us

The royal baby is late. This will probably be the first and last time that punctuality will ever be a problem for the child throughout what will be a very privileged life. Really, any later and the child may have to abdicate. But why should we care about the royal baby? The United Kingdom looks to be heading toward a triple-dip recession, which could endanger more jobs and put strain on an already fragile public service sector. Despite all this misery, some 2,013 of the mothers who give birth the same day as Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, will be entitled to a silver 1p coin with a value of about $39, or 26 pounds. In total, that’s around 56,000 pounds worth -- or about $84,000 in total. Not much considering that the royal baby is expected to bring in about $400 million for the economy.

Hey Florida, How About Revoking Zimmerman's Concealed Carry Permit?

Now that a Florida jury says it’s legal for armed people to follow unarmed people they deem suspicious-looking, and then shoot them dead in self-defense if tailing them leads to physical confrontation, is it OK to revoke acquitted killer George Zimmerman’s license to carry his Tec 9 pistol on his pants? And is it also OK to point out that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if Zimmerman had not been empowered by the state of Florida to take the gun out of his car (all Floridians are allowed keep guns in cars) and conceal it under his clothes. We’ve all heard the gun rights arguments that assert people have a right to defend themselves, and that gun laws only harm law-abiding citizens while criminals get them by other means. And it’s true.

Not The Law: The Culture Failed Trayvon Martin

The George Zimmerman verdict shouldn't really surprise anyone. The case really couldn't have gone any other way; in a situation like this with few witnesses and a lot of conflicting accounts, it is much easier for the defense to put enough reasonable doubt in the jury's minds than it was for the prosecution to do otherwise. The problem, really, has less to do with the specifics of the case and law and a lot more to do with how we apply that law.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Don't Call New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 'Girlie'

Name It, Change It, an organization dedicated to pointing out sexism in the media, recently criticized an NPR report about New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that described her as "petite, blond and perky" with a "soft, girlie voice." The story was eventually revised to remove those references.

Look, Up In The Sky, It's A Blatant Political Message With A Cape

I don't want to be like one of the bullies in "Man of Steel," but I have a bone to pick with this work of fiction, mainly because it incorporates so many real and relevant issues ripped from the headlines. You've had a few weeks to see the film, so please pardon any spoilers. Maybe you've heard by now that the filmmakers updated the Superman story for modern times, not only by retiring his trademark red underwear and making sure we recognize familiar items during opportune moments of product placement ($160 million worth), but also by offering two bits of very contemporary political commentary -- one so subtle you'll need X-ray vision, the other more powerful than a locomotive.
Watching TV

Guess Who Talks About Abortion On Cable News? (Hint: Not Experts)

Building off a bit of yesterday's post on the lack of diversity within the newsroom, it appears cable news' diversity problem extends beyond merely the people in the newsroom, but the people who appear as guests as well. Media Matters reports that, of the 92 guests that discussed Texas' abortion bill on cable news (the one Wendy Davis filibustered), only four of them were women's health experts. Unsurprisingly, Fox News hosted none, "while CNN and MSNBC hosted two and three, respectively."
At Issue: Poverty in America

The Lack Of Diversity In The Newsroom Is Bad For Society

The American Society of News Editors annual study of newsroom diversity just came out, and The Atlantic's Riva Gold did a terrific job describing the current state of newsroom diversity and its causes. At a time when non-whites make up roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population, the percentage of minorities in the newsroom has fallen to 12.37 percent from its 13.73 percent high in 2006. In last year's 2012 ASNE study, overall newsroom employment was down 2.4 percent, but the picture looked much worse - down 5.7 percent - for minorities. It's bad and getting worse, and the most important aspect of this isn't necessarily its impact on individuals, though that is a problem, but its impact on society.

BuzzFeed List Insults And Debases The Egyptian Revolution

Following a massacre of 50 Islamist protesters, the interim government in Egypt selected a temporary prime minister on Tuesday and detailed a six-month timetable to restore democracy. BuzzFeed, a news website that mixes serious articles with entertaining lists or “listicles,” decided to summarize the conflict with a list of .gif images from the 1993 movie “Jurassic Park.”
SF Bart Strike 2013

If You Want To Privatize BART, You Can Probably Afford Something Else

The BART strikes are in full swing, and the reaction from the locals highlights striking differences in how different socio-economic status groups treat public services. Given its location in San Francisco, you would expect to see a outpouring of indignation from the tech industry, and you'd be right: PandoDaily has this amusingly myopic piece from writer Sarah Lacey (hat-tip to ValleyWag for pointing this one out), which ends with this money quote: "I’ll say this: The last few days have been a rare opportunity for cab drivers to shine. Every cab I’ve taken has been impeccably clean, accepted credit cards with no grousing, and the drivers have been incredibly polite. Although they all hate the scourge of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, the result of those services coming into the market is what’s made my commute to and from work bearable this week. Competition, it turns out, does indeed make everyone better. It’s too bad no one is working on disrupting BART."

Yasiin Bey's Demo Of Gitmo Force-Feeding Could Be The Jolt That Congress Needs

Actor and rapper Yasiin Bey's -- also known as Mos Def -- latest video isn’t promoting a new song or movie. Instead, it’s a raw demonstration of him cringing and squirming and screaming as he undergoes a force-feeding, a torture technique used on those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. "Standard Operating Procedure," directed by Asif Kapadia, is meant to raise awareness about how gruesome the force feeding process is and how it is akin to torture.

Pages