A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
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“Protest works. Just look at the proof”


The last place you will hear about the new American labor movement is in big American outlets.

Via lambert, via susie. See them, their blogrolls, Twitter hash tag #1u and just about any other outlet where citizens can get the word out.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Via.


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Will Bloggers Rescue the Lehman Story?

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Last year I wrote about Mark Mitchell’s story of Deep Capture, a complex tale of financial corruption centered around the use of illegal naked short selling and phantom stock. It was (and is) a difficult story to write about because of its absence in the business press. One of Mitchell’s key points is that a small, insular and strictly conformist group of outlets determine what is acceptable news to report on, and the vast majority of other outlets take their cues from that. Meaning, a story like Mitchell’s could be squashed or marginalized relatively easily; it would not require a vast conspiracy. How then can a reader decide if it is delusional, paranoid ranting or an explosive investigation that elites wish to suppress?

Events since publication have tended to support Mitchell’s reporting. A temporary ban on short selling was instituted for some companies in order to “protect the integrity and quality of the securities market and strengthen investor confidence.” Last summer the ban was made permanent. (This could be yet more evidence of Wall Street’s privileged status: Naked short selling that brings down Novastar Financial is the all-knowing Market wisely engaging in creative destruction; naked short selling that threatens Morgan Stanley is evidence of “hidden manipulation”.) Add Patrick Byrne’s successful lawsuit against a hedge fund he accused of naked shorting and Deep Capture looks more and more reliable.

I have been somewhat reminded of it in the wake of the Manhattan U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s report on Lehman Brothers. It is an absolutely mammoth exposé; surely it will monopolize business news cycles, right? Well, Ryan Chittum at the Columbia Journalism Review evaluated the coverage, then concluded: “If you’ve wanted to know about the Valukas report and its implications, you’ve been better served by reading Zero Hedge and Naked Capitalism than you have The Wall Street Journal or New York Times.” (He also singles out Baseline Scenario for distinguished coverage.)

Like Deep Capture, this story makes smaller, iconoclastic voices look better. Newspapers, magazines and other traditional outlets have had a distressing tendency lately to blow it on the most important issues. As people discover they can be better informed by going to alternative outlets they will gravitate to them. As it begins to sink in that mainstream publications for whatever reason (excessive deference to advertisers, devotion to conventional wisdom, institutional inertia) will periodically fail on a spectacular scale they will find these smaller, independent voices a necessary complement.

Also like Deep Capture, the Lehman story has its critics at the margins of the financial press. Auditioning for the role of Gary Weiss in this saga is John Carney of Business Insider, who wrote a jaw-droppingly stupid piece (via) on why we should do nothing about it. It seems to be written in such transparently bad faith as to defy criticism, with casually unsupported assertions like “criminal prosecutions are rarely the best way to uncover facts” (he evidently does not think Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on trials and the law apply to business as well, but then Jefferson seems to have fallen into disfavor on the right).

His basic argument seems to be that businesses that break the law will eventually go bust, and being an executive in a bankrupt firm is sufficient punishment even if they have committed felonies. In the midst of all that shoddy analysis he does perform one service, though. He identifies the scapegoat, should the need for one arise (link added):

If we had to bet, we’d say that the best bet for prosecutors looking to flip a senior executive would be Erin Callan. She held her title of chief financial officer briefly and was forced out of the office by Fuld. She likely harbors some ill will toward the executives who failed to stand behind her. What’s more, she has announced that she is retired from the securities industry-which means she doesn’t need to worry about finding a new job if she were to rat out her fellow Lehman executives.

Can’t you just feel the seething contempt? The sense of her being set up was strengthened when digby pointed to this piece by Alexandra Frean detailing just how much of an outsider Callan was. If things start to get ugly look for her to be singled out and demonized.

The Bankruptcy Court report is over 2,100 pages. People have just started going through it, getting reactions, digesting it and generally figuring it out. There is no reason for it to sink like a stone or to hurry past it. Sure, it may not have the sizzle of a Congressional sex scandal - a Democratic one, anyway - but this would seem to be an ideal situation for the slower, more deliberative possibilities of print. The signs so far are not encouraging, though.

Reader Comments (6)

Not the friggin A list, that's for sure. Seems that you've got to go the the econobloggers these days if you want to get anything other than pom pom waving.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlambert strether

Fortunately, the names on the A list were not etched on stone tablets and brought down the mountain by Moses. No one starts on the A list, and no one is guaranteed a place there.

March 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterDan

"Bic's Place," a tiny blog I read almost daily was right on the story at the beginning.

http://bicsplace.blogspot.com/2010/03/lehman-brothers-autopsy-report-released.html

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Brown

Thanks for the link, Keith!

March 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterDan

I think you would find this article by David DeGraw in The Market Oracle on point: "Lehman's Bankruptcy Report,
Evidence of a Financial Coup in America"
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article17957.html

And by the way, Deep Capture rocks!

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergizzardboy

Thanks for the link gizzardboy! I particularly like "If you have a society where it becomes foolish not to steal, then only fools don’t steal"

March 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterDan

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