U.S. Media Shortcomings Enhance Injustice

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Traditional newspapers and broadcasters are failing to report news of injustice competently or fairly, thereby greatly enhancing the problems for all of us. That‘s a common theme of news developments we have been observing during recent days regarding our project's core mission of legal reform.

Fortunately, two of our favorite legal commentators, Roger Shuler and Scott Horton, have recently connected the dots between festering  problems of gross injustice and the failed journalism that;s helped enable the scandals. Their particular focus is, respectively, several Deep South states and in our nation’s Mideast misadventures. Other writers excerpted below point similarly to problems in election fraud and elsewhere that the traditional media simply do not want to examine.

In response, our project is greatly upgrading our capability to help empower our readers via social media to take direct action.  This has helped prompt a massive response to our recent column on the scandals afflicting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with readership more than 50x the normal rate.

Better reach is especially welcome right now because the Florida State Bar has proposed an atrocious new rule forbidding anyone but conventional journalists from being able to use electronic equipment to chronicle activities in Florida courts. The deadline, conveniently for the bar association, is close of business today, Feb. 1. Anyone who reflects upon the meaning of press freedom, particularly its historical roots in the 1700s largely with one-person publications created far more like today's bloggers than corporate media, needs to help thwart this vicious assault on press freedom, as described below. Lawyer journalist Mark Adams describes the situation in his Daily Censored column Jan. 31 and urges comment to these two email addresses by close of business today. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Florida Bar Association, with a copy to the Florida Bar's This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with a subject stating, “Objection to Proposed Rule 2.451″ and with the body stating, “I oppose the provisions of proposed Fla. R. Jud. Admin 2.451 which limit the rights of citizen journalists to record court proceedings.”

Also from the Deep South, the Alabama legal commentator Shuler, right, published a column describing the latest marketing plan by the Birmingham News, his state’s largest newspaper and his former employer. Shuler has a better idea than marketing hokum and razzle-dazzle. It’s what he calls “real, bold, in-depth journalism.” Consider, he says, “some of the numerous stories the News has largely ignored."

• The abusive practices of federal prosecutors in Birmingham (Alice Martin) and Montgomery (Leura Canary);
• The apparent railroad job and wrongful conviction of former Governor Don Siegelman;
• The connections between the Siegelman case and a similar case in neighboring Mississippi involving attorney Paul Minor;
• The dirty-money trail that helped funnel $13 million from Jack Abramoff to Governor Bob Riley's campaign;
• The stain Mississippi gambling interests have placed on the Republican Party in Alabama and throughout the Deep South.

Horton provides a similar view, but one focused on the Mideast. “I spent the last week watching the developments in Egypt from London, where U.S., European, and Arab media are equally accessible,” he writes. ”Watching them side-by-side, sometimes over many hours a day, I was struck by the weakness of the American coverage. Almost every broadcast news source has its high and low points, but the American cable news coverage, which used to command a global audience, were languishing behind its competitors.”

These stories and others are excerpted below. Included is an essay by Paul Craig Roberts describing how are fundamental rights are fast disappearing, along with a column describing how the conventionally non-partisan organization Common Cause is attempting to fill the gap by means of its new and more activist agenda.  This is evident in its investigative report lobbying in California against a billionaires’ gathering and by showing how Justice Clarence Thomas has been flouting the law by failing to report spousal lobbying income for many years. Tune in for more on our weekly public affairs radio show at noon (ET) Thursday as we interview Common Cause leadership.

Below is a selection of significant blogs and news articles on legal reform and related political, security and media factors. The articles contain a sample of news. Click the links to see full articles.

U.S. Court and Election Coverage

Daily Censored, Attorneys Attack Rights of Citizen Journalists, Mark Adams, JD, MBA, Jan. 31, 2011. The Florida Bar has proposed a new rule to eliminate coverage of court proceedings by citizen journalists. The Bar’s proposed rule prohibits anyone other than an employee of a traditional media outlet or an official court reporter from using any device which can make video or audio recording from being brought into a court including laptop computers.  Of course, the proposed rule allows the courts to continue to record you, but unfortunately, the courts usually don’t want to give up their own recordings without a fight even though they are required to do so.

Legal Schnauzer, A Conservative Newspaper Thinks a Marketing Campaign Will Save It, Roger Shuler, Jan. 31, 2011. Alabama's largest newspaper, The Birmingham News, has launched a marketing campaign in an apparent effort to turn around its declining financial situation. The campaign, called "This Is Our Story," only shines a light on the cluelessness that seems pervasive in the News' hierarchy. We had to chuckle at the notion that marketing gurus could save a bumbling newspaper from the ash heap of history.

OpEd News, SC Republican Commodities Broker Uses FOIA to Investigate Electronic Voting, Joan Brunwasser, Jan. 31, 2011. Overall, there has been stiff resistance on the part of the major newspapers in South Carolina to publish anything critical of the voting machines. It would appear they do not want to risk losing the voters' confidence in our faith-based voting system by informing voters of any of these troubling details. The information the auditors are uncovering flies in the face of SC's catchy slogan, "Every vote matters and every vote counts."  However, the smaller newspapers and blogs are much more receptive. SC citizens and the smaller local newspapers are finding election problems, not the major newspapers.

Mideast Coverage

Harper’s No Comment, Some questions about Egypt, Scott Horton, left, Jan. 31, 2011.I spent the last week watching the developments in Egypt from London, where U.S., European, and Arab media are equally accessible. Watching them side-by-side, sometimes over many hours a day, I was struck by the weakness of the American coverage. Almost every broadcast news source has its high and low points, but the American cable news coverage, which used to command a global audience, were languishing behind its competitors.

OpEd News, Crack Down on Media in Egypt As Egyptians Escalate Revolution, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 1, 2011.

 

The military regime under President Hosni Mubarak is increasing its crack down on the press as they move to contain the revolution unfolding in Egypt. The regime moved on Sunday to silence and suppress Al Jazeera and since the crackdown journalists have been arrested and had materials confiscated.

New Yorker, Who is Omar Suleiman? Jane Mayer, Jan. 29, 2011. One of the “new” names being mentioned as a possible alternative to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is actually not so new to anyone who has followed the American policy of renditions for terror suspects. Since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.

Washington Post, Social media curbs pose hurdle for U.S., Mary Beth Sheridan, Jan. 29, 2011. Egypt's decision to virtually shut down the nation's Internet access Friday marked an escalation in the growing battle between authoritarian governments and tech-savvy protesters, and posed a challenge to the Obama administration's policy of promoting Internet freedom. Egypt's five main service providers halted Internet access early Friday, and cellphone service was disrupted.

U.S. Civil Rights and Due Process

TPM Muckraker, Allen Stanford's Case Highlights Prison Violence, Ryan J. Reilly, Jan. 27, 2011. An inmate at the Joe Corley Detention Facility, a private prison owned by the GEO Group, was on the phone in his cell. The other prisoners in his unit on that day in late September 2009 didn't like that. Had this been one of the many other assaults that take place in federal and private prisons each year, that would have been the end of it. But this was Allen Stanford. A year and four months after Stanford -- the Texas billionaire who allegedly stole millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme -- was assaulted, a federal judge yesterday ruled him incompetent to stand trial.

OpEd News, Constitution: The Enumerated Rights Are Hanging By A Thread, Paul Craig Roberts, right,Jan. 27, 2011. In the public's mind, civil liberty can easily morph from  procedures that coddle criminals into procedures that coddle terrorists. Should this occur, all would be lost. Defense of the enumerated rights would become "giving aid and comfort to terrorists."

Non-Partisan Reform

OpEd News, Twenty-Five Arrested, Thousands Converge on Koch Brothers Billionaire's Caucus in the California Desert, Joan Brunwasser, Jan. 30, 2011. Sunday's protest against the Koch brothers' right-wing pow-wow in Rancho Mirage demonstrated a growing boldness by progressive causes and activists. The protesters generally decried the Koch Brothers’ influence over American democracy, in particular their use of the Citizens United ruling to spend corporate money in elections. Koch Industries’ funding of climate denialism and other conservative causes was on the minds of the protesters as well. Bob Edgar, the President of Common Cause, said in a brief interview that he was happy with the turnout and the outcome. I asked him if this was evidence of a more aggressive organization. “Keep watching,” he said.

Associated Press/Huffington Post, OpenLeaks, WikiLeaks Rival, Launches New Secret-Spilling Site, Frank Jordans, Jan. 28, 2011. A former WikiLeaks spokesman launched a rival website Friday, saying he planned to give whistleblowers more control over the secrets they spill. The new platform, called OpenLeaks, will allow sources to choose specifically who they want to submit documents to anonymously, such as to a particular news outlet, said Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The difference between his group and WikiLeaks, he said, would be that his group leaves reviewing the material up to the publication or advocacy group chosen by the source to receive the information.

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