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Payola at PBS
February 12, 2014 11:33 AM   Subscribe

The Wolf of Sesame Street. What do you get when you blend together a billionaire former Enron trader, a conservative vendetta against public pensions, and $3.5 million dollars? Corruption at the heart of public broadcasting. PBS is allowing corporate sponsors to dictate the content of its news programming, and failing to disclose that conflict of interest to its viewers, Pando Daily's David Sirota alleges.
posted by Diablevert (62 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Children's Television Workshop has nothing to do with PBS News' foibles and using Sesame Street as a metaphor seems very inappropriate.
posted by Renoroc at 11:40 AM on February 12 [32 favorites]


Although I'm not totally surprised, this does make me sad. It's a slippery slope.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:43 AM on February 12


The reckless narcissism of money won't be happy until it has wormed itself to the heart of every public good, diverted the benefits for personal gain, and ruined it for those around now and those who will come in the future. This is what happens when you apply the "run it like a business" philosophy to things which are not businesses. Taking out public pensions and getting the "bonus" of a story that discredits PBS sounds like a major win for the plutocracy.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:48 AM on February 12 [19 favorites]


Previous PBS funding thread with Koch.
posted by dr_dank at 11:52 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


My wife and I once got into a fight because I ruined the Dinosaur exhibition for my son at the Museum of Natural History by preceding to tell him all about how corporate scumbags like David Koch buy their way into respectability by sponsoring prestigious public displays. She just wanted to have a nice day but that fucking plaque just set me off.
posted by any major dude at 12:01 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


And these useless kleptocracts always get so upset when someone is, in any way, less than fawning toward thier obviously divine and all-worthy actions. Huge babies in bad suits.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


( and the fact that I'm going to have to look at the name Koch every time I go to the Met now angers up the blood like nothing else.)
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Don't forget that this is a direct result of defunding by a republican congress, forcing various "liberal" PBS organizations to look around for funding from people whom they would normally have never approached, nor been approached by. This was even a plank of Mitten's campaign.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:08 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


I do wish that journalists who write about PBS would take some time to actually differentiate between PBS, member stations, and companies (like the Children's Television Workshop mentioned above) that produce programming for PBS.

The donation from the Arnold Foundation went to WNET, which is affiliated with, but not owned by PBS. PBS doesn't own stations. WNET is producing the series, and really is the primary organization at fault, but it also seems to be the case that PBS ignored its own rules regarding program funding by accepting the WNET series. The article also notes that segments have run on PBS NewsHour, which is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Did they also not ask about the pension segments' funders? Or did they know and choose to ignore it.

But in any event, while this is all pretty sad, it's really not terribly surprising. We are basically seeing the inevitable results of the funding structure for public broadcasting in the US. Without a dedicated, non-political source of public funding, producers and stations were always going to have to rely on private donations. And private donations frequently come with strings.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:08 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


WNET is not "the Public Broadcasting Service’s flagship station" as the article suggests... since PBS doesn't have one. That's why the press release says "New York's flagship PBS station," not "the nation's" or "PBS's".

Enron had 20 thousand employees... it seems somewhat underhanded to use that as John Arnold's primary identifier. As far as I can tell he was not a high level manager there.
"A single note buried on PBS’s website – but not repeated in such explicit terms on PBS airwaves – confirms that the money is directly financing the 'Pension Peril' series."
Wait... so this is blatantly false:
"Pando has exclusively confirmed that 'Pension Peril' is secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold..."
But in fact, it's neither secret nor exclusive.
posted by Jahaza at 12:12 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Huge babies in bad suits.

To be fair, most kleptocrats have incredibly nice suits.

Come on!
posted by officer_fred at 12:18 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


( and the fact that I'm going to have to look at the name Koch every time I go to the Met now angers up the blood like nothing else.)

Time to start a campaign among nonprofits: Don't Be A Koch Sucker!
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:20 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


yes I know it's not pronounced that way
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:20 PM on February 12


For PBS’s part, WNET officials refused to provide any details of the Arnold Foundation-PBS contract with a spokesperson telling Pando that “such agreements are always confidential.” This refusal came despite PBS being a public institution that watchdog groups insist is subject to Freedom of Information Act regulations.
This is wierd.

PBS and WNET are separate organizations. The foundation has an agreement with WNET. PBS may or may not be subject to FOIA provisions, but whether they are are not has nothing to do with getting WNET to disclose their agreement with the foundation.
posted by Jahaza at 12:21 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


The same thing happened with NPR, oh, about a decade ago. Suddenly the actually somewhat-balanced news reporting skewed to the right, with lots of opinion pieces featuring right-wing pudits. Several of their reports and newsreaders left about the same time. Oh, and the news was always brought to you by the Koch brothers, as well as the listening public.
posted by Blackanvil at 12:30 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


The fact that corporate influence over the "news" is being bemoaned on pandodaily is hillarious. This is a site which presumably has such a silly name only so because "silicon valley sucks itself off for fun and profit" is too long for a domain name.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:34 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Et tu, PBS?
posted by edheil at 12:38 PM on February 12


My wife and I once got into a fight because I ruined the Dinosaur exhibition for my son at the Museum of Natural History by preceding to tell him all about how corporate scumbags like David Koch buy their way into respectability by sponsoring prestigious public displays. She just wanted to have a nice day but that fucking plaque just set me off.

Man, I would hate to be in a bar with you and look up to see the Vanderbilt vs. Carnegie-Mellon game* on the tv!

*In what bizarre fictional sport I have no idea.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:40 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Enron had 20 thousand employees... it seems somewhat underhanded to use that as John Arnold's primary identifier. As far as I can tell he was not a high level manager there.

Hm - well he was the biggest money maker on their Nat Gas desk - but lets be honest here -
"Commodity Hedge Fund Billionaire" isn't much better.

(of course to me that scam and the way he played it is as bad as Enron - but that would be a side topic)
posted by JPD at 12:41 PM on February 12


The sense of resignation and defensive shoulder shuffling about how this is all really the affiliate's fault and that's not like, the same as PBS-for-real is surprising to me. (There may be an inch or two more air between PBS and it affiliates than between McDonalds and it's franchisees, but expecting them to adhere to the same basic ethical principles don't seem at all out of bounds to me. If the roaches were running over my feet in any given McDs, I'd expect Ronald & Co. to come down on the owner like the hammer of God.) Jesus Christ, liberals, if we can't hang PBS out to dry on a tide of outrage, why not shoot ourselves now?
posted by Diablevert at 12:45 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


The fact that corporate influence over the "news" is being bemoaned on pandodaily is hillarious. This is a site which presumably has such a silly name only so because "silicon valley sucks itself off for fun and profit" is too long for a domain name.

Sirota's one of the writers who came along when Pando bought NSFW Corp, which is one of the great examples of literally buying credibility. It's a fucking shame.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:51 PM on February 12


The sense of resignation and defensive shoulder shuffling about how this is all really the affiliate's fault and that's not like, the same as PBS-for-real is surprising to me.

Well but the first fault is WNET's because they accepted Arnold's money, and they are producing the program. Without WNET to get the ball rolling, there is no role for PBS to play.

Part of what I object to is the way the article conflates PBS and WNET, because it makes it hard to figure out exactly who knew what and when. It's not clear to me, for example, if WNET lied to PBS about the funding, failed to disclose it, or disclosed it later. And I also can't tell how much due diligence (if any) PBS did - did they ask, did they investigate the Arnold Foundation, did they play dumb, or did they accept the program knowing full well who was funding it? If the article were written more clearly I probably would have a better sense of where to direct my anger/disappointment.

To be clear, I think this is an important story and one that shows the continued degradation of whatever "journalistic standards" we have left in this country. The article is just poorly written.

And for the record the relationship between PBS and its member stations is really not that similar to McDonald's and its franchisees. PBS does not have that kind of authority over member stations.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:09 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


(There may be an inch or two more air between PBS and it affiliates than between McDonalds and it's franchisees, but expecting them to adhere to the same basic ethical principles don't seem at all out of bounds to me. If the roaches were running over my feet in any given McDs, I'd expect Ronald & Co. to come down on the owner like the hammer of God.) Jesus Christ, liberals, if we can't hang PBS out to dry on a tide of outrage, why not shoot ourselves now?

You're making assumptions that aren't correct. I don't even want to get too far into it, but as an employee of a member station, I can assure you that the relationship between member stations and PBS is much more complex than franchiser/franchisee. PBS is unique among networks, in that its affiliates make the content. Imagine that the local CBS affiliate in Boston made most of the prime time shows, and the one in New York made a bunch, and a handful of others made one or two shows apiece. And it was CBS Corporate's job to hand out money to make some of those shows, but not others, which find their own funding. Further imagine that it was CBS Corporate's job to distribute (i.e. sell) these shows that they didn't make to the hundred other CBS affiliates, who are largely autonomous and not obligated to carry any of the programming if there's no demand or if they simply can't afford it. That's how PBS works.

WNET is not PBS, WNET is not fully beholden to PBS, WNET is not the largest producer of PBS content. The author's beef should be with WNET, but it's clear that s/he doesn't know or care how these things actually work. And probably couldn't tell you the difference between PBS and CPB without Googling. Is it so hard to do research? I guess it's more important to make your story as salacious as possible than to make sure it's accurate.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:18 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


WNET is not PBS, WNET is not fully beholden to PBS, WNET is not the largest producer of PBS content. The author's beef should be with WNET, but it's clear that s/he doesn't know or care how these things actually work. And probably couldn't tell you the difference between PBS and CPB without Googling.

Exactly. And that is a sufficient level of ignorance on the very core of the subject under investigation as to cast doubt on the whole piece. It would be nice to see if someone with real understanding of the context has also written about this.
posted by yoink at 1:21 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Moyer is still on so the "conservatives" haven't won yet and frankly, if PBS starts broadcasting CNN quality news, regular viewers will see right through it. Getting rid of public funding is, as cited above, a large reason for any decline in news coverage or production which is why real news is something you have to search for these days. PBS doesn't stand any sort of magical chance to survive as is (or was) if the taxes used to fund it are cut.

If PBS has a flagship station, I'd say it's WGBH.
posted by juiceCake at 1:29 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


By the way, all the stuff about how PBS is keeping the funding source ultra-top-secret is kinda BS. Have a look at this PBS webpage which gives a transcript of one of the instalments in the series (one generally praising the Dutch universal state-mandated pension scheme--not exactly Arnold's favorite model)--funding from the Arnold Foundation is explicitly credited at the bottom.
posted by yoink at 1:32 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


You're making assumptions that aren't correct. I don't even want to get too far into it, but as an employee of a member station, I can assure you that the relationship between member stations and PBS is much more complex than franchiser/franchisee. PBS is unique among networks, in that its affiliates make the content.

I accept that PBS has a more complex relationship with its affiliates and their producers than McD's does with their franchisees and their fry cooks. I don't see how the complexity of that relationship excuses or obviates the the gross ethical violation here. The fact that PBS does select and control which affiliate's content gets distributed to member stations makes this whole thing more repellent to me, not less. I don't think it's irresponsible to for Sirota to conflate WNET and PBS when WNET's content is selected to be included for broadcast across the country on PBS's national newscast. The actions and ethics of the affiliate are inextricably linked to and reflect on the parent network. And always will be, so long as every gosh-darn independent affiliate is running 30 second spots at every break reminding viewers, "you're watching PBS."

As to your point, yoink, it's not at all clear to me whether the note at the bottom of the transcript was included as part of the show. Either way, a line of text mentioning that the show was sponsored by some bland-sounding foundation hardly meets the case here --- the entire editorial slant of the piece echoes the advocacy position of the foundation. My personal feeling is that they shouldn't have taken the money at all, but even if you grant them that the obligation would be to explicitly make clear in the piece itself that it was produced in partnership with an advocacy organization, high, high up in the text. Good god, buzzfeed's more above board. And they're scum.
posted by Diablevert at 2:02 PM on February 12


Have a look at this PBS webpage which gives a transcript of one of the instalments in the series (one generally praising the Dutch universal state-mandated pension scheme--not exactly Arnold's favorite model)--funding from the Arnold Foundation is explicitly credited at the bottom.

Yes, but that's explicitly addressed in the article:

PBS’s only mention of the Arnold Foundation in connection with the “Pension Peril” series appears to be a single line at the bottom of one PBS website transcript, but that line was not mentioned on air, where most of PBS’s viewers are exposed to PBS content. Beyond that one mention, searches for mentions of the Arnold Foundation and John Arnold on both PBS’s website and WNET’s website turn up no results.

Emphasis mine. The "single line" is the line on the page webpage you linked. That line is also not included in the audio clip on that page. It's not unreasonable to argue that if the entirety of their disclosure is putting a written disclaimer in the transcript of an audio piece intended to be listened to -- when the disclaimer insn't included in the audio the transcript purports to transcribe -- may be insufficient disclosure. If the majority of people listening to the piece or watching the piece don't see the disclosure or hear the disclosure, they might as well not be making it, and that's problematic. Obfuscating funding disclosures can be practically the same as not disclosing the information at all (the 'that information is on public display in a locked cabinet down the basement' sort of situation), and the allegations made have enough evidence to be concerning.

Problematically, though, that's not the argument the article is making; it keeps pushing the idea that funding is being kept secret, rather than merely obfuscated, from the hyperbolic opening claim that the piece was 'secretly funded' (despite later noting the PBS disclosed the funding) to the closing claim that 'the lack of explicit disclosure... has served to obscure the content’s financial, political and ideological links to Arnold and his pension-cutting crusade' (despite, again, also noting that PBS did disclose it, albeit not in a way to reach its viewership).

That's not even addressing the conflation of PBS and WNET, which...yeah, that's really not helping. I'd love to see someone do a more in-depth piece on the concerns Sirota raises, because although the piece does make it clear that there's a lot of potential for biasing reporting, it doesn't quite prove anything.
posted by cjelli at 2:08 PM on February 12


It's David Sirota. So I'm not surprised. He's not a Greenwald-level sophist, but he's close.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:13 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


the entire editorial slant of the piece echoes the advocacy position of the foundation

Does it, though? Arnold believes in scrapping public pensions and encouraging individuals to invest in hedge funds (!!). I don't see any hint of that in the transcript of the piece to which I linked.

I mean, the real question here to ask here is the terms of the relationship between the Arnold Foundation and any editorial decisions made in compiling the piece. If anybody at the Arnold foundation had any say in what was or was not included in the report or any of the conclusions it came to then that would be a genuine outrage. But it's not clear to me from this pretty slapdash piece of reporting that they did. Nor does it seem self-evident from the actual examples of the reports.

That funding for this piece comes from a body with an interest in the issue is not, in itself, either surprising or proof of corruption. I'll bet we'd none of us be equally up in arms about PBS getting funding support for a series of this kind from, say, public employee unions, nor would we automatically assume that that reduced their reporting to mere propaganda.
posted by yoink at 2:15 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Oh, this from "Pando Daily", funded by noted non-assholes Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel? Tell me more.
posted by junco at 2:18 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Quite a few on the left (e.g. Pacifica-types) think that there is a vast corporate conspiracy that controls news content; and this explains why so many important stories go unreported. I think there's a better explanation: Many reporters are lazy and are more concerned with giving impressionistic takes on who's up and who's down than doing serious reporting. (See, e.g., this story from Jay Rosen.)

It's not that they're worried about losing funding. It's that they're worried John McCain won't let them ride on the tire swing at the next Village party.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:19 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Pando Daily is not a credible news source. Is anyone reliable reporting on this?
posted by Nelson at 2:31 PM on February 12


Quite a few on the left (e.g. Pacifica-types) think that there is a vast corporate conspiracy that controls news content; and this explains why so many important stories go unreported.

I've never heard that phrase before, about Pacifica types. Where does it come from, I'm curious? (Partially because I've never heard it before, and partially because there is a long history of corporate conspiracies to not report certain stories, and I'm curious to know what club I've been joined to.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:39 PM on February 12


It's interesting to look at where the Arnold Foundation does give it's money. It's not exactly confined to predictable right-wing noise machine places. The Brookings Institution, the Pew Charitable Trusts, MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab etc. There are definitely conservative axe-grinders in there too (Federalist Society; Manhattan Institute etc.) but the overall picture doesn't suggest that they're heavy handed bullies who insist on only supporting enterprises that will toe their party line.
posted by yoink at 2:54 PM on February 12


Where does it come from, I'm curious?

I would assume it refers to Pacifica Radio network.
posted by yoink at 2:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


So if I'm understanding this discussion correctly so far, if a PBS affilliate produced a program debunking anthropogenic climate change funded in large part by Exxon and wasn't real up front about disclosing that, it'd be okay as long as we heard about it from pandodaily.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:56 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


So this Pando hate, it's like the Rob Ford scandal, I guess - he's done a ton of shit that's Wrong, but all you hear about if you don't dig up the actual wrongdoing is alcoholism, experimentation with crack, and eating his wife's pussy, tending to inspire sympathy if you're not a moralizer or drug warrior. Has Pando done anything wrong, or just politics/tribalism offences? Gawker doesn't like them, which inclines me towards Pando...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:56 PM on February 12


The sense of resignation and defensive shoulder shuffling about how this is all really the affiliate's fault and that's not like, the same as PBS-for-real is surprising to me. (There may be an inch or two more air between PBS and it affiliates than between McDonalds and it's franchisees, but expecting them to adhere to the same basic ethical principles don't seem at all out of bounds to me. If the roaches were running over my feet in any given McDs, I'd expect Ronald & Co. to come down on the owner like the hammer of God.) Jesus Christ, liberals, if we can't hang PBS out to dry on a tide of outrage, why not shoot ourselves now?

I think that being some level of upset or outraged over this is reasonable. I think that you posting this and then chastising the commenters for not being outraged enough is problematic.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:00 PM on February 12


So if I'm understanding this discussion correctly so far, if a PBS affilliate produced a program debunking anthropogenic climate change funded in large part by Exxon and wasn't real up front about disclosing that, it'd be okay as long as we heard about it from pandodaily.

I think the first problem with that analogy is the 'debunking anthropogenic climate change' part. I don't see any real evidence that the PBS reporting is parroting Arnold's line on public pensions. The report on the Dutch pension system, for example--which is radically counter to anything Arnold advocates--holds it up as a universally admired "model" and, at most, points out that it has a few small challenges that it's facing.

In your "global warming" parallel that's more like Exxon funding a documentary that says anthropogenic global climate change is real, a serious problem that needs immediate and radical action, but scientists do still have some of the details still left to figure out.
posted by yoink at 3:04 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Has Pando done anything wrong

PandoDaily is funded by a consortium of tech industry angels and Silicon Valley angels. Greylock, Redpoint, Founders Fund, Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, CrunchFund, SV Angel, etc etc. PandoDaily's primary news beat is the tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley. The very existence of the company is an impossible conflict-of-interest. They have a novel view of that conflict.

There's a lot of nasty tribal gossip too. One oft-repeated rumor is that their funding pitch was basically "give us some funding and we'll give your companies good press!". And also most of the staff comes out of the cesspool that was TechCrunch in the early go-go days of conflict of interest and a total disregard for fact checking or editing for accuracy. Then there's the crazy shit Pando people say. Sadly a lot of this is reported by Gawker/Valleywag which has its own ridiculous drama associated with it. Meantime the adults go on and read the SJ Merc, the NYTimes, or re/code (formerly AllThingsD).

To be fair Pando is publishing some interesting articles, including this one. It's more than stenography-style blog journalism, it's real research. A lot of these articles are coming from the people they got in the NSFWcorp acquisition. But given the history of the people behind PandoDaily and the setup of the company, take anything they say with more than the usual skeptical eye.

(I apologize if this seems like a derail, but in the case of PandoDaily you really can't separate the source from the story.)
posted by Nelson at 3:31 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


PandoDaily may be a trashy local gossip rag, but David Sirota is about as well-known as it is possible to be for a journalist in 2014. The media giants are going to pay attention and vet this story over the next few days.
posted by miyabo at 3:50 PM on February 12


The position of the Arnold foundation is actually quite close to that PBS Newshour "Pension Peril" segment on the Dutch system. Arnold mainly doesn't agree with the Dutch requirement that pensions be funded to 105% of a defined benefit liability. And lo and behold, that would be precisely the part that the report doesn't like either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:54 PM on February 12


The position of the Arnold foundation is actually quite close to that PBS Newshour "Pension Peril" segment on the Dutch system.

Um, not according to the document you link to (which, by the bye, says nothing about the Dutch system or about opposing the 105% funding requirement, which, also by the bye the PBS report does not criticize--it praises it as part of the key to the model's "resilience"). That document is advocating defined contribution without a defined benefit: i.e., the individual worker/investor is a risk pool of 1. That is not the Dutch model with creates a much larger risk pool and which keys benefit rates (which are typically defined benefits, although with some flexibility according to the fate of the overall funding of collective benefits) to group investment levels.
posted by yoink at 4:11 PM on February 12


I did read the document, and I did not claim that it specifically mentions the Dutch system. The document identifies a range of five solutions, and by my reading the Dutch system falls well within the scope of the models presented, with the exception of the defined benefit. Which, again, is main thing that the PBS report didn't like about the Dutch system.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:18 PM on February 12


by my reading the Dutch system falls well within the scope of the models presented

It doesn't, for the reasons I explained above.

is main thing that the PBS report didn't like about the Dutch system


Again, they explicitly praise the way in which the Dutch system combines both a socialization of risk (the thing the Arnold foundation is against) and the flexibility to respond to economic downturns:
It’s this collective sharing of risk that’s another hallmark of the Dutch system. Unlike public pensions in the U.S., where workers are guaranteed a set payment whether there’s funds in the plan or not, or individual retirement plans like IRAs or 401Ks, where each individual bears the sole risk, the Dutch have spread the risks — and the benefits — across tens of thousands of workers. That makes their system much more resilient in tough times.
posted by yoink at 4:28 PM on February 12


by my reading the Dutch system falls well within the scope of the models presented

It doesn't, for the reasons I explained above.


I note you cut off the second part of the sentence, where I said "except for the defined benefit".

Again, they explicitly praise the way in which the Dutch system combines both a socialization of risk (the thing the Arnold foundation is against) and the flexibility to respond to economic downturns

Spreading the risk is specifically provided for in Solution 2, et seq.,:
Instead, the retirement system manages the funds for the employee and promises
an average investment return. [emphasis mine]
So again, we have an edition of this series which singles out a system, of all the world's pension systems, which could have largely come out of Arnold's playbook, except for the defined benefit, and the problems that the program points out are specifically to do with having to cut benefits; the entire last third of the discussion is basically about how people need to wake up to the need for changes in the system specifically related to promises about how much they'll get. Pretty much pure Arnold Foundation without squinting very hard.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:38 PM on February 12


(By the way, though we clearly disagree on the significance and sympatheticness, if that is a word, of the content we're seeing, I do appreciate that you are taking the approach of judging the matter on fact and content rather than who we hate more between Pando and the Kochs.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:44 PM on February 12


I should also add that if the Arnold Foundation were proponents of the Dutch retirement system, that would be a pretty disastrous dent in the "Arnold Foundation are Evil Right Wing Group Seeking to Destroy US Retirement Security" plot line. You know, given how the Dutch retirement program is one routinely lauded by left-leaning groups in the US (like the National Institute on Retirement Security and the Pension Policy Center). Suddenly the story is...what? "Arnold Foundation Corrupting PBS in Fiendish Attempt to Turn US into Pinko-Euro-Socialists"?
posted by yoink at 4:53 PM on February 12


Well, hey, the Dutch are the good kind of Europeans don't you know. Important pioneers in modern capitalism, and their healthcare system is basically private, if functionally not-for-profit overall.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:56 PM on February 12


Well, hey, the Dutch are the good kind of Europeans don't you know. Important pioneers in modern capitalism, and their healthcare system is basically private, if functionally not-for-profit overall.

These are not the actual positions held by any of the various players in this debate, however (on either the healthcare OR pension issues, come to that). No Republican is going to propose Dutch-style healthcare for the US and get a resounding chorus of approval from his party. The Arnold Foundation are not promoting the Dutch retirement system as a model, whereas, as I note, a number of left-leaning, public-union-affiliated organizations in the US do.
posted by yoink at 5:01 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Besides, it works out for the Arnolds if they get a Dutch-style system without the defined benefit or the funding mandate. Basically it means that the private sector manages all that money without the taxpayer being involved in any goddamn entitlements. Nothing socialist about it, but if the "European" taint shuts up the Occupyers then it's win-win for the Arnolds.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:03 PM on February 12


The Whelk: "And these useless kleptocracts always get so upset when someone is, in any way, less than fawning toward thier obviously divine and all-worthy actions. Huge babies in bad suits"

Krugman made the exact same point a few days ago:

we live in the age of the angry billionaire, furious if anyone should suggest that his wealth doesn’t entitle him to acclamation as well as luxury.

I am increasingly of the feeling that there is no navigable path within the current system by which this kleptocracy can be curtailed. The previous successes in this endeavour have mostly involved the return home of (literally) legions of angry ex-combatants with a universally acknowledged entitlement, a grateful public and a demonstrated capacity for violence. Personally, I would prefer civil disobedience rather than overt threat, but I believe that we are approaching the either/or point.

I believe that the oligarchy feel that they are not really part of the society that the rest of us exist in. They don't value the same things that the rest of us do. Instead, they view everything as a tool for their exclusive use or an asset to be leveraged or liquidised. There is no such thing as the commons. I'm not sure that most of us have got our heads round the fact that we are dealing with people who have such fundamentally different values and aims. It's like a sci-fi novel. It's not necessary to think of them as evil. What they are is alien.

I'm sure they don't twirl their moustaches and admire their own evil. In fact, quite the contrary, I'm sure they feel that their piss is like manna from heaven for the rest of us. However, their experiences and expectations of life are so radically different from the hoi polloi that we may as well be different species. We need to realise that we need to run our countries for the benefit of the vast majority of the people, rather than the vast majority of the money.

But how do we get there from here? The media, the economy, the judiciary and the body politic are entirely in thrall to the filthy lucre. It is almost inconceivable that change can be achieved at the ballot box in face of such odds. I think people on the streets is the only option. I would strongly prefer peaceful people on the streets, but once you fire up the populace enough to turn them out in big numbers, the result is not always predictable or desirable. As Carlyle put it “If something be not done, something will do itself one day, and in a fashion that will please nobody.”
posted by Jakey at 6:11 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Pando and NSFW are a match made in heaven. The former doesn't do any journalism at all, the latter just smears people with accusation and innuendo without any real evidence to back it up. Which is why its original model failed and it has to be propped up by Pando.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:16 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


PanderDaily, amirite?
posted by sneebler at 6:55 PM on February 12


The Nightly Business Report is produced by CNBC, I guess because it was going to go under without help.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:21 PM on February 12


I think you guys are maybe under some illusions maybe as to how the news and esp. the business news works. Unless WSJ, FT, NYT, Economist, etc. have all reincorporated as charities when I wasn't looking?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:49 PM on February 12


Ok I scanned the article. The points in it seem pretty valid to me: News programs shouldn't accept major funding from political organizations and, if they must, they need to let viewers know about it clearly and are at a premium to not show bias. I love PBS, but I think "Get the Money" is the ethos of the prevailing age. And most orgs appear willing to do whatever it takes to get it. This is the state of business and politics in the 21st Century.

That said I do believe something is rotten in the station of WNET. The pox begins with its king.

Maybe the PBS ethicist blog will address this.
posted by nowhere man at 6:14 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


any major dude: "My wife and I once got into a fight because I ruined the Dinosaur exhibition for my son "

Stop right there. She was 100% right, even if everything you said was technically correct. You know that, right?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:06 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


News programs shouldn't accept major funding from political organizations and, if they must, they need to let viewers know about it clearly and are at a premium to not show bias

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is a charitable organization, not a "political organization." Of course, its directors have political beliefs that shape their decisions about what to fund and not to fund, but that is true of every organization that might conceivably sponsor PBS activities. I think it's true that PBS should disclose, on air, major sponsors of any news series they run, so you can fairly fault them for that. As for the "not show[ing] bias" thing: well, I don't see that anybody has yet made a convincing case that the items in this series do have a clear bias or, if they do, that it conforms to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's biases. This is a story that needs far better and far more in-depth reporting than it gets in the linked article.
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Iambroom wrote:

Stop right there. She was 100% right, even if everything you said was technically correct. You know that, right?

I guess you just don't get the point. Don't worry you're not alone. The reason why pricks like Koch get away with what they get away with is because it would ruin all of our lives - every damn day that we have left- in order to do what it takes to render his influence null. And every day that goes by that we sit idle and do nothing is 1000 more ruined lives in the future.
posted by any major dude at 11:21 AM on February 14




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