Below is my last MoJo blog post. I concluded my internship at the DC bureau of Mother Jones on Friday and had an editor publish the post for me at the beginning of this week. Next stop Reykjavík? (If you have any better ideas, leave me a comment.)
Could Iceland soon be to journalists what the Cayman Islands is to wealthy magnates? Supporters of the groundbreaking Icelandic Modern Media Initiative introduced a proposal today to establish the European island nation as the world’s first “offshore publishing center.” The proposal is based on the business model of offshore financial centers like Switzerland, which attracts foreign depositors with an enticing combination of low taxes and strict bank secrecy laws. The IMMI aims to do the same for investigative journalists by compelling Icelandic legislators to pass the strongest combination of source protection and freedom of speech laws in the world.
The IMMI was drafted with help from Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt, two of the founders of Wikileaks, an otherwise anonymous whistleblower website dedicated to publishing leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, organizational, or religious documents. Wikileaks, which is currently offline due to fundraising difficulties, has already experimented with ways of breaking stories on a particular country by publishing outside their legal jurisdiction. Last May, when the UK’s strict libel laws prevented the BBC from posting documents detailing the dumping of 400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, the papers appeared on Wikileaks days later. At the end of the summer, an Icelandic broadcaster listed the URL for Wikileaks on TV to circumvent a ruling blocking it from revealing a list of the country’s creditors.
Johnathan Stray of the Neiman Journalism Lab asks, “Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?” In the wake of an economic collapse that some legislators feel was brought on by a lack of transparency, the Guardian reports that the proposal “has widespread backing” among Iceland’s 51 members of parliament. “The main purpose is to prevent something like our financial crisis from taking place again,” MP Lilja Mósesdóttir told Stray, noting the country’s financiers had great influence over the Icelandic media. “They were manipulating the news.”
Most coverage of IMMI has focused on the increased accountability that could result from passage of the groundbreaking proposal. But serious questions remain about the viability of the initiative. For instance, every country has libel laws for a reason. How will the IMMI ensure that it becomes a hub for investigative journalists and not the tabloid capital of the world? And if Icelandic MPs intend to remedy the country’s financial woes via journalism, they are likely to be sorely disappointed. As Gawker helpfully warns, “if you’re trying to pull in money from investigative journalists, Iceland, that’s strike two for you.”
Photo credit: Stig Nygaard (via Flickr)
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Yup, that's me
Just add snow—the more, the messier. A few wet, white flakes in the Washington metro area are all it takes to wash away the veneer of efficiency local politicians try to maintain. When faced with nearly 30 inches of snow, as it was last weekend, America’s seat of government freezes up.
As the virulent debate over health care has made clear, America’s legislative process already moves at a glacial pace. The near record-setting snowstorm has not only suspended the city’s semi-reliable buses and commuter trains, but has halted all congressional momentum (such as it was) for two days straight. Only the centre lanes of most important thoroughfares have been ploughed, leaving Congressmen, lobbyists and well-paid bureaucrats stranded in the suburbs. Cars that ventured out on unploughed roads packed the snow between the wheel ruts into block-long medians. Wet snow snapped branches off magnolia trees and stately pines; broken boughs still clutter the sidewalks in many neighbourhoods.
In defence of Adrian Fenty, the city’s mayor, administrators everywhere struggle to cope with extreme weather. In Britain any break from the despairing rain causes officials to panic. Closer to the DC, the governments of Maryland and Virginia exhausted their snow-removal budgets even before this latest storm had hit. They could take a page from the government of New York City, which stretches its municipal dollars by hooking ploughs to the front of its biodiesel garbage trucks.
The threat of the coming snowstorm caused a run on area supermarkets. In its aftermath, some fashionable shops dug themselves out and lured discharged workers with snow-day sales. Most bus stops still sit behind a fortress of thigh-high snow, but entrances to smart shops soon sparkled in the afternoon sun with puddles and salt crystals. I noticed the Banana Republic near my office was mobbed with shoppers yesterday when I attempted to buy lunch at the closed food court across the street.
Washingtonians seem to be making the best of the snow, despite the municipal ineptitude. Massive organised snowball fights have been staged across multiple neighbourhoods. Even the president, who spent many winters in America’s snowy Midwest before moving into the White House, took a moment to poke fun at his adopted city’s inability to process precipitation. At an event over the weekend, he thanked his party faithful for being “willing to brave a blizzard—Snowmaggedon right here in DC”.
But the collective amusement may wear off soon: an additional six to 16 inches are expected in the area later today.
Click here to see the original MIL blog post or to make a comment.
Photo credit: The Pumpernickel (via Tumblr)
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Posted in Mother Jones, tagged Law & Order, Scandal, Washington DC on September 15, 2009|
My editor made me swap “GOP lawmakers” in for the more deliciously spiteful “least honorable colleagues.” It made me sad.
UPDATE: My post has been tagged as one of today’s “Must Reads” and featured on the next day’s “Need to Read” wrap-up.
Last week Stephanie asked, “Where’s Mitch McConnell?” Well, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has just released its fifth annual report on the 15 most corrupt members of Congress, and the good-government group has an answer: misusing his nonprofit and handing out favors to former clients and staffers.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell, the highest ranking elected Republican, is no stranger to CREW’s survey of the seamy side of Washington. He’s been on the list the past two years as well. This year’s list features five new members: Senators Roland Burris and John Ensign; Representatives Nathan Deal, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Pete Visclosky; and, after a two year absence, Rep. Maxine Waters.
Although Democrats outnumber Republicans on this year’s list, Republicans punch well above their weight in this congressional corruption survey, with seven GOP lawmakers on the list, which can be viewed below in its entirety. The full report and individual dossiers on those named and shamed can be viewed at the special site CREW has set up to publicize its findings.
McConnell is one of only three lawmakers on CREW’s list who are not currently facing a formal investigation. Which leads to a bigger question posed by annual reports like this: Why do other public servants (police officers, district attorneys, etc.) have to take a leave of absence when they are implicated in ethical violations but lawmakers like Rep. John Murtha can keep passing out the pork for years under the cloud of federal investigation?
Click here to see the list and comment on the MoJo post.
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This is a fun little post about a movie I have yet to see. I hope to change that soon.
Over Independence Day weekend Michael Mann, acclaimed director of such films as “Heat”, “The Insider” and “Collateral”, released another beautiful crime drama about an infamous Midwestern bank robber, John Dillinger. Over the course of a 14-month crime spree during the Great Depression, Dillinger came to be viewed by much of the press and public as a modern-day Robin Hood. “Public Enemies“, based on the book of the same name by Bryan Burrough, a Vanity Fair correspondent, is the seventh film to be made about the short-lived bandit turned folk hero. By many accounts, it is also the most elegant. Aided by Johnny Depp’s star power, the film has raked in over $66.5m thus far at the domestic box office.
While the film is not a diatribe against the banking excesses that lead to both the Great Depression and what is now being referred to (perhaps optimistically) as our “Great Recession”, banks and their guardians have not taken its release lightly.
Click here to read the rest of the blog post and make a comment.
Photo credit: Aaron Landry (via Flickr)
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From the pages of Time to the ranting of Fox News, politicians and pundits cannot seem to look past Supreme Court Justice-nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s Hispanic heritage.
Click here to watch The Daily Show segment.
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