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Friday, July 19, 2019

Baltimore: The Real News Network

Nice logo.

Last weekend Cheryl and I were traversing downtown Baltimore on our way to Pigtown when I saw a large sign on the side of a building. Turns out "The Real News Network (TRNN)" is located here (as well as in Toronto). That had escaped me.

I'd been aware of them online for quite a while, given my daily news surfing stops at the Naked Capitalism blog, which routinely features their videos, replete with interview transcripts.

I dig their Mission Statement:
The Real News Network (TRNN) produces independent, verifiable, fact-based journalism that engages ordinary people in solving the critical problems of our times. As legendary journalist Ida B. Wells said, “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”
We examine the underlying causes of the chronic problems, and investigate and report on effective solutions and models for change. We don’t just cover people in high office or limit news to the partisan horse race for power. People who fight for human rights and work for solutions are newsmakers. We believe that real change will be driven by the people who need it most.
While we report on and investigate all important issues of social and economic concern, we consider the climate change crisis an existential threat. In all of our programming and journalism, the impact of environmental degradation and the climate crisis, especially on marginalized people, and the urgency of finding solutions will be front and center. 
Our motto is “The Future Depends on Knowing.”...
"We consider the climate change crisis an existential threat."
I am so with you on that call-out point. See, e.g., here, and here.

One of TRNN's numerous topical areas is that of health.

Yeah. I've been hip to Wendell Potter for a long time.

"Environment" topics?

More and more, I am going to focus on our accruing environmental crises (note plural)--from a pubic health perspective and more. Shaving another 30 seconds off a clinical EHR SOAP Note patient encounter workflow won't mean diddley if we allow our world to turn into a cheesy 'The Day After Tomorrow" disaster flick.
"We examine the underlying causes of the chronic problems, and investigate and report on effective solutions and models for change."
No small tasks. I'll certainly be watching.


Wendell Potter's initiative.
"Tarbell is pioneering journalism that informs, galvanizes and changes America.We take a unique approach to coverage of money in policy, not just politics.

We uncover how powerful people and companies use their influence to shape a system that works for them, not you. We highlight solutions to pressing problems. Our fiercely independent, unbiased news inspires our members in all 50 U.S. states to take action.We understand there are stories that matter to all Americans.

believe there’s journalism that can inspire people to see how much we agree. We know people want actionable, evidence-based solutions..."
The foregoing brings back to mind this cool book I reviewed in 2017:


The Tech Oligarchs Are Going to Destroy Democracy — Unless We Stop Them
Once, the big tech firms embodied American exceptionalism and aspiration. Today, they are strangling these ideals. Government: do something.
Joel Kotkin, for Daily Beast Inside

Congressional posturing about tech firms may have quieted for the moment, but the existential crisis that these firms are creating remains as now unchecked. Even faced with opposition on both sides of the aisle, the oligarchs—those five tech giants that now constitute the world’s five most wealthiest companies—continue to rapidly consolidate economic, cultural, and, inevitably, political power on a scale not seen for over a century.

This tiny sliver of humanity, with their relatively small cadre of engineers, data scientists, and marketers, represent a challenge to democracy, competitive capitalism, and the future of the middle class. Given their virtual monopoly status, a laissez faire approach will likely result in more consolidation; only government action of some kind can stop them now. Current concerns are large enough now that both the Trump administration and many Democrats oppose Facebook’s bid to issue its own currency. That’s a hopeful first step.

Historian Jeffrey Winters defines oligarchy as being based on “extreme concentrations” or power and wealth. Whether in ancient Athens or Rome, or contemporary New York or London, this overclass tends to be “unusually resistant to radical dispersions of power.” In our time, the ascendant tech oligarchy, as a recent World Bank Study suggests, have exploited “natural monopolies”—roughly 80- to 90-percent control of most key digital markets —that adhere to web-based business, and have served to further widen class divides not only in the United States but around the world.

The imperative for all oligarchies is to preserve their power. Once the media lights are off, and the posturing is done, the oligarchs can continue  playing a clever double game, making common cause with the defenders of capital and pouring money into the welcoming arms of the conservative think tanks…

 It might seem strange to think that the slick, urbane, and well-educated oligarchs as a greater threat to our future freedom than the blathering apostle of “fake news.” But despite his crude statements, it’s not Donald Trump curbing free speech and consigning even the mildly dissident into digital exile. If he loses next year, Trump will leave office as the bizarre leader of a peasant rebellion, but we could be living with the oligarchs information empire for decades…

…Long after Trump has retreated to his world of golf links and gold-plated faucets, an embarrassment at best, oligarchs like Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, and Lauren Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs, will have gained ownership over the nation’s fading traditional media.

But the main vehicle for oligarchical wealth comes from the exploitation of personal data, what Alibaba founder Jack Ma calls the “electricity of the 21st century.” These “super platforms,” as one analyst noted, “now operate as “digital gatekeepers” lording over “e-monopsonies” that aim to monitor our lives in ways even the snoop-crazy Chinese would admire. Firms like Facebook and Google seek to ferret out “psychographic” profiles as part of their core business.

We are already headed toward a world controlled by these super-snoopers. With their enormous financial resources and control of the key digital channels, they are positioned to dominate older industries like entertainment, education, and retail, as well as those of the future: autonomous cars, space-exploring drones, and most critically artificial intelligence…

In its earlier iteration, Silicon Valley was a uniquely egalitarian place where outsiders made success and working people had decent incomes. Today, Wired magazine's Antonio Garcia Martinez has labeled Silicon Valley as ‘feudalism with better marketing.” Despite enormous wealth, tech-driven cities like San Francisco and increasingly Seattle have become dysfunctional places, with massive homeless populations and a shrinking middle class. The urban website CityLab has described the Bay Area as “a region of segregated innovation,” where the rich wax, the middle class wanes, and the poor live in increasingly unshakeable poverty…

Once, the tech moguls legitimately could be sold as exemplars of American exceptionalism. But now, if unrestrained, the moguls are likely to be its assassins. Once, it was wise to let them work their magic unimpeded. But now, if we do this, we will create a society that is profoundly hierarchical, uncompetitive, and undemocratic. They need to be stopped, and now, or the world of tomorrow will not be a place we would like our children to inherit.

(Paywalled. Fairly long read. Subscribe. It's worth it.) 
AAAS proposes a "Science of Deliberation" as crucial for functional "democracy."

Assumes that we all want democracy (participatory or representative). Enthusiasts of technocracy, "epistocracy," "libertarianism" (please), aristocracy, autocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, etc., might well (and do) differ. And, in that regard in the wake of "Citizens United," "one person, one vote" is fast becoming "one dollar, one vote" in the U.S.

Let us not forget this, either:

Anything come to mind?

More to come...

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