What happens when a fundamental principle of journalism is weakened or even stops working? The values that help get the facts right and reveal the truth with reasonable accuracy begin to slide away when independence gets sticky; impartiality weakens and bang, fairness and accountability slip and slide away. On March 31, 2019, I read that “following a story” to the end or until it kills the journalist or the “ism” is one way to go. As the so-called first draft of history, it can miss many dots. I compiled the Tweet O-Rama idea as one new way to look at everything all at once annually. These groups uniquely highlight our problems, and I believe they respect its sweet demands for brevity. They are not journalists, but they are rebuilding and strengthening their principles on a routine basis.RLC
Conducting a Tweet-O-Rama scan is a task that needs about twelve people if you are interested, contact us (here). Following is a summary of the groups. As promised, I am weaving the 2019 narrative with 2020 in search of some “year later” insight. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a shattering impact on the content. Nevertheless, it’s worth a shot at reintroducing them a year later for a 2021/2022 ride into what people think.
2019 Think Tank People
Creating a section on the think tank people (ttp) occurred when an article in the WSJ details the maturation of technologies for surveillance – facial recognition, following capital through multiple accounts, command centers aggregating microwaves, RFID chips, and hundreds of other digital communication platforms. The headline read, “The Autocrat’s New Tool Kit,” making current efforts to spread propaganda or end dissent appear childish. The tank group is ideologically diverse and sizeable, with fifty on the list. I will attempt to sum them up in April. The practice is to breeze through their tweets searching for common themes, and I recommend you do the same, 500 words max.
2020 – Think Tank People
First, the impression through March 2020 was how some TTPs were nitpicking at various policies at the state level. A direct critique of national policy was held back. The stimulus discussion was coming alive, and most agreed that this is not your regular recession ballgame. The idea of raising aggregate demand does not compute when $3 trillion [? 2008 federal spending] goes “poof” globally. “Essential personnel” working fifteen-hour shifts while everyone else stays at home requires a new approach. The TTP pointed to the European model that kept people employed and paid their wages even though they kept home. The recovery strategy got this critique in March 2020
Three problems were identified that needed solving. 1) Accessing accurate and timely information from trusted sources. 2) Total disruption of business as usual without alternatives beyond e-commerce. 3) An apparent inability to scale up and speed up preemptively.
2019 Social Policy People
My selection of social policy people (spp) finds a prioritized set of messages concerned with a rising level of damage to children in our society. The United States is a place where half of the babies born will live in or near poverty. Their observations also find children in trouble because of housing and school systems. The danger to children is also due to segregation patterns that remain that one think-tank called an “intentional American institution.” Diversity has begun in the workplace while other parts of our society remain “ghettoized” and easily subjected to malicious stereotypes and manipulative “fox in the hen house” messaging. It is a uniquely vulpine American problem that requires greater focus and serious attention in social policy. Just saying we are a diverse society is not enough.
2020 – Social Policy People
At the beginning of March, the Social Policy People SSP sustained attention on education policy moved to include college debt. Their framework for helping working people and children in poverty from an impending crisis in all things is ready to go as a plan. Funds for implementation remain unavailable. Time was spent on highlighting good employers for “paid leave” and others who would not get sidetracked when they realized those most hurt were getting the least financial help. If it ever ends, the terrifying argument will be on why and how low-income population groups felt the highest impoverishment and death rates.
2019 Watch Dog and Public Accountability People
The watchdog people (wdp) are into the “statistical malpractice” issues of the Trump administration regarding the U.S. Census and concerns related to the National Emergencies Act’s potential misuse. On the positive side, an effort to formalize the “emergency” powers of Presidents may be the result. They have some general worries about Boeing’s “lobbying” before and after the grounding of the “738 Max 8” fleet. Major concerns regarding the criminality in the Trump campaign’s fundraising behavior have heightened in intensity. The WDP exposes hot buttons, but they also sustain worries about the abuse of power within the military complex because it claims half of the national revenue. Finally, a set of “web changes” that examine various internet manipulations under #Gov404 and the “web integrity project” require scrutiny. The DOJ’s long-term resistance to FOIA requests and appeals also concerns the watchdogs.
The public accountability people (pap) are similar but more likely to emphasize positive reform efforts; this month, it is #HR1, #ForThePeople. Isolating xenophobic behaviors remains in the context of a pushback against violence and racial bigotry. An example this month is the relatively weak House Resolution condemning all forms of discrimination in response to a representative’s language use about the Israeli lobby. Accountability requires recognizing “white supremacy” as an ideology that is a growing threat to national security in a society built on diversity. Other concerns involve the legal system’s criminal sentencing which appears to value abusers of public trust with light sentences over those who expose power abuse. Between the lines, it is all about placing pressure on the majority party in the Senate (currently Republican) to take reasoned vs. political stances on issues.
2020 Watch Dog and Public Accountability People
The groups I organized as the Watchdog (wdp) and Public Accountability People (pap) continue to review challenges to the U.S. Constitution – the focus on policing and voting started the month protection of health rights took hold of the tweets. In mid-month, the attack on recipients of food assistance at the onset of a possible pandemic was accompanied by the Senate leadership’s reported effort to make an all-out push to get judges to retire. The thinking being it would be the right timing for weak radar appointments.
The best response on the rise of xenophobia due to the pandemic caught my eye: “Italy is awash with the virus, and no one is boycotting Olive Garden.” The weak government response to climate change, expanded use of poorly regulated pesticides, and related issues disappeared in a blaze of health-related concerns. Finally, the public purse concerns continue to exhaust WDP, and PAP resources watching the “to the winner goes the spoils” of D.C. on every conceivable issue. They are now shaken by the need to keep track of billions of stimulus dollars.
2019 Consumer Protection People
The consumer protection people (cpp) focus on food and consistently remind their constituents to understand calorie labeling. America’s obesity is a whole vs. processed foods crisis that could lead to warning labels and food marketing behaviors that maximize per unit profits over people’s health. Straight-forward market strategies often fail to reflect the cost to future generations. Nutrition has moved from a renewable system to one highly dependent on non-renewable inputs. The most direct example is people in cities cannot eat without planes, trains, and trucks that run on fossil fuels. Removing “petrol on your plate” has barely entered the American planning, architecture, and urban design schools curriculum or in a formal public policy or market response. Consumer protection people are also examining the post-carbon future and the sustainability crisis with heightened seriousness. Several brief papers on the subject are available (here). Finally, scientists and economists’ original analyses flail hopelessly against a war on science in agriculture and environmental protection. The USDA and many others are carefully detailed in a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (here).
2020 Consumer Protection People
The CPC focus on product safety for people in cars or baby carriages opened the month accompanied by several agents pointing out that it is easier for a $20M CEO of an airline to apply for a 32B bailout than it is for a random worker to get food stamps. The effort of a couple hundred thousand students defrauded to seek relief was blocked by the DOE (DeVos), but the congressional policy may block DOE rules that prevented their efforts. It seems those needing greater consumer protection are the ones seeking a better education. Along with some progress on the food and health debate, other issues were drowned by efforts to educate dreaders on health safety measures.
2019 Tax Accountability and Economic Policy People
The tax accountability people (tap) and economic policy people (epp) are on the defensive, removing tax breaks for outsourcing, “carried interest,” and the investment income of wealthy corporations and people do not pay for themselves.
- One side of the internal revenue administration recognizes the national security implications in the loss of financial transparency. The other side says going after the high-income earners with income tax produces obstruction instead of revenue.
- Wealth at the billionaire level is defined by investment income behaviors, not “a job.” More anonymous and public corporations form in the United States per year than any other place globally.
Company formation is a big business; however, the dark side of anonymous entities should be apparent to legislators. Detailed knowledge of the role tax havens and shell companies have paid in facilitating the opioid epidemic is an obvious example. Finally, there is outright glee regarding the first hearing on corporate transparency in the new Congress. The impetus was the exposure of world leaders caused by the data in the Panama Papers. A documentary reviews 376 journalists in 76 countries regarding the methods used by the super-wealthy to hide money. A documentary began streaming on @Hulu (Here) & @PrimeVideo (Here) in the U.S.
2020 Tax Accountability and Economic Policy People
A year later, the shell company problem remains for the lack of accountability among accountancy firms and a long list of financial service providers. The demand for transparency remains politically unrecognized. So despite modest gains – the pandemic exposes policy failures – Cruise Lines sail under foreign flags to avoid corporate tax and now demand a bailout, a practice that is endemic to all large companies, such as the practice of using public dollars for stock buybacks. What appears to go unfunded in the $2T stimulus package are the accountability agencies.
2019 Economic Justice People
The economic justice people (ejp) selected here are those on the ground floor of dignity and looking for broken glass ceilings, safety in the workplace, success in acquiring fair wages, and steps toward a global labor movement. Displacement from full-time employment, affordable housing, and being displaced by institutional cutbacks and criminal justice reform exacerbates neighborhood stability initiatives and weakens local governments. The housing crisis reigns while the undertow is a grinding deterioration of housing in modest-income suburban areas and displacement in dense urban places.
2020 Economic Justice People
The work to sustain a damage assessment is the continuous outlook of the many organizations in this group. Paid leave and a broad set of crucial protections remain impossible to acquire. Throughout the month, the focus on Amazon (free corporate tax ride) and workplace abuses topped Uber and other hourly work environments. During the hearings, one expression noted the phrase “gig-worker” was in the context of many congressional comments as “so-called”; however, it employs 57 million people who remain unprotected.
2019 Business Integrity People
I gave the business integrity people (bip) a small triple bottom line header as the line’s argument is between profitable and when. Why do ten energy company failures in the UK exhibit the perils of privatization? How did a software problem collapse a Boeing fleet, and who wants teenagers to vape until addicted? What about the asbestos in their make-up products? Some of the good news is about more pension funds selling off tobacco stocks despite this strategy. Antibiotic resistance is identified as a significant threat to humankind, while documentation of medical insurance companies failures to provide mental health services continues. The message of climate change resonates with the young based on the premise that it is the quality of their lives on the line. It is a business issue because they can organize for or against a business within hours. Power is moving toward the consumer. Lake Erie’s health will affect every business along with its shores as the Ohio Supreme Court has given it legal rights.
2020 Business Integrity People
The highlight of the Business Integrity People I selected to scan came from the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. If a crisis such as a pandemic occurs, government policy to help people and businesses recover must acquire key assurances in both law and policy. The examples provided are void of political posturing a no-poverty, clean water, and sanitation guarantee in every worker’s community, coupled with a commitment to zero hunger, good health, and all people’s well-being. Other assurances include steps and measures that produce affordable, clean energy and strong efforts to produce quality education, gender equality, and safe work environments. Planning to put rules, laws, and policies in place before a crisis such as a pandemic would make implementation far easier, less costly, and fair.
2019 Organizing Local People
Finding and exercising influence over the organizations that support organizing local people (olp) such as representatives to city/county state and the federal government can be difficult. Most of the real nitty-gritty battles are at the state level. To the agonized voices of our brothers in the street, we will begin the hard work of change. The cult of legal action has become a cult. The climate strikers are not part of some class action screen process. The interest in beginning another revolution (anti-war or civil rights) is conducted by doing bold work. Among the protect the vote people (pvp) there appears to be a lot of effort to suppress the vote and people fighting t to overturn bad laws. For example, the Georgia legislature recently passed legislation that allows a non-verifiable digital ballot without a hard copy backup.
The next few months, we will take a look at these organizations a year later because we depend on them to pay the most attention. Currently, they remain groups of people using their special lens on issues. I cannot help but wonder, will the summary of them a whole year later be completely different?
Will the focus on global health be more developmental? Will tweets on issues be little more than a set of episodic statements to build a constituency, or might they have more depth? These organizations represent disciplined teams. They are weaving threads for a common fabric to wrap over our shoulders like the atmosphere.
The GHG threat is growing into a public certainty; this fine cape over the shoulders of policy may force a broad consensus on resilience and mitigation. The viral pandemic threat raises the earth’s temperature in a different way. Science suggests as strongly as science can in a world designed by lawyers and economists that the “steadiness” in the indicators of global temperature and viral challenges can reach intolerable threat levels that can only be exacerbated by poor planning.