“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is toa provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.
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Anya Schiffrin: The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism
From Asia to Africa to Latin America, muckrakers have corrupt officials and corporate cronies on the run
In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers are shrinking, folding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies. Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.
Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.
Lynn Stuart Parrymore: Is Comcast the Worst Company in America?
A firm so horrendous, the very mention of its name causes body tremors.
There are a lot of really strong contenders for the title of worst company in America. Walmart, Bank of America, Ticketmaster and Carnival Cruise Lines have all consistently delivered exquisitely horrible experiences to the American consumer, and their contributions to the national anxiety-level must not be underestimated. But there is one firm that truly stands out – a company so horrendous the very mention of its name causes body tremors and facial constrictions. I refer, ladies and gentlemen, to Comcast, which seems to take as its motto, If you do a thing, do it as badly as possible.
According to Comsumerist’s annual reader poll to nominate the Worst Companies In America, Comcast is the best at being the worst. The cable company has won the Golden Poo award for the second time, excelling in awfulness in an industry dominated by companies that treat their customers to a never-ending pile of crap.
You shouldn’t expect women to wear modern chastity belts or a real-life vagina dentata to be safe from sexual assault.
There are a lot of things I expect nail polish to do: dry fast, chip infrequently and make me look halfway put-together. Something I don’t generally depend on my manicure for, however, is warding off rapists. But the members of the all-male invention team behind Undercover Colors – four students at North Carolina State University – say that, with their new polish, “any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger.”
I’m appreciative that young men like want to curb sexual assault, but anything that puts the onus on women to “discreetly” keep from being raped misses the point. We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it. [..]
Even if a woman were to wear special nail polish or anti-rape underwear, or if she listens to common – but misplaced – advice about not getting drunk and always walking home in a group, all she’s supposedly ensuring is that she won’t be attacked. (And even then it’s not real security, because women who do all the “right” things get raped too) What about the girl at the same party who decided to have a few drinks that night? So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape.
White defenders of officer Darren Wilson are raising money by slandering Mike Brown.
Not surprisingly, a thriving franchise of the nation’s booming white grievance industry has opened up in Ferguson, Missouri, over the last week. It’s worth examining closely. As usual, it consists of two parts lies, one part paranoia, but at its heart it’s a big grift.
The weekend featured multiple protests supporting Darren Wilson, the missing Ferguson police officer who shot an unarmed Mike Brown on Aug. 9. His superiors apparently withheld Wilson’s name long enough for him to delete all social media accounts and skip town, but his supporters are declaring Wilson, not Brown, the victim here. A GoFundMe site raising funds for Wilson’s defense – though he’s not been charged with anything – garnered not only $250,000 in donations, but so many ugly racist rants GoFundMe administrators had to disable comments for the site. (They’ll have no trouble taking a cut of the racists’ money, of course.) Wilson’s supporters say they’ve raised $374,000 online and at local events, “to support his family,” one woman told MSNBC. [..]
It’s worth noting the way the phony information and paranoia peddled by well-known, oft-discredited right-wing media activists like Hoft and Loesch makes its way into the mainstream media ecosphere, again and again. CNN media critic Brian Stelter called out Fox this weekend for peddling the fractured eye socket story, and good for him, but to my knowledge he didn’t rap his own network for peddling the phony “Josie” story. The right’s influence on big stories like this can be more subtle and insidious: Who believes the New York Times would have stooped to calling Mike Brown “no angel” – the evidence? He’d been in some “scuffles” and had “taken to rapping” – without the right wing braying about Brown’s stealing cigarillos and making up stories that he did even worse?
Michelle Chen: When Workplace Training Programs Actually Hinder Workers
Each weekday morning, ex-assembly line workers, struggling single moms, and other job-seekers shuffle into government offices to get help retraining for a new career, to start over as a radiology technician or programmer, perhaps, or finish an associate’s degree. These workforce investment programs are set up to offer workers a chance to jump-start a new livelihood in a sagging labor market. But after decades of plowing billions of workforce investment dollars into federal job training initiatives, it’s still hard to tell how much these programs are helping workers regain their footing in an increasingly precarious economy.
Congress recently reauthorized the main funding law for workforce development, the Clinton-era Workforce Investment Act (WIA), purportedly to invest more wisely in the country’s downtrodden workers. In an apparently bipartisan push to “improve accountability and transparency within the system,” the legislation streamlines coordination between employers and agencies, strengthens oversight of program outcomes and cuts some programs deemed ineffective. But both the training programs and the new reforms amount to small drops in a very deep bucket of labor stagnation.
Moreover, since the reforms do not alter the decentralized structure of the workforce investment system, it won’t resolve the main criticism of WIA-that its investments don’t pay off for workers.
Why still so much confusion about consent?
Trend pieces about so-called college hookup culture tend to overestimate how much sex students are actually having. Last year, a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association found that less than 30 percent of college students had more than one partner in the previous year. Which about equals data from surveys taken over the last twenty years. This means, as Time’s Maia Szalavitz noted at time time, college students “aren’t hooking up more than they ever were, or even more than their parents did.”
So with this in mind, I didn’t put much stock in a Bloomberg News headline declaring that hookup culture was waning “amid assault alarm.” According to the piece, heightened awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and a greater move toward justice for survivors has made some college men’s boners shrink in terror. We are, it seems, meant to feel alarmed at these shrinking boners.