B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Monthly Archives: June 2016

Roger Cohen’s down with TPP, but not American jobs

Studying and opposing offshoring is part economics, part being uncool in the eyes of the foreign policy and economic establishment, and mostly “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.

Whether it’s neo-Keynesian and Krugman-ite economists, foreign policy wonks who see trade as just a card to play in global politics, the idiotic free market arguments that see free trade as a matter of principal and not policy – it’s the same false arguments that were made during NAFTA have survived 25 years. The same arguments are replicated in favor of he Trans-Pacific Partnership, the potential “Garfield: Tale of Two  Kitties,” “Aloha,” or “Hyde Park on the Hudson) of trade deals.

That TPP is being addressed is due only to the insurgent campaigns of Bernie Sanders, and most in particular Donald Trump, who has won the delegate count for the Republican nomination on a platform based primarily on American primacy in economics and – like a true free-marketer would say – considering our own interests in the matters of world trade. Detractors call it populist, others would say working class.

If you discuss globalization or American manufacturing its the same reoccurring nightmare, where you keep going to school without your clothes, or you repeatedly fall off the same cliff. Article after article, pundit after pundit, it’s waking up to Sonny and Cher all over again:

  1. Globalization is good because interlinking countries and their economies lessens war. True in some cases, not true in others. Ask Europe how comfortable it feels knowing Putin controls the spigot on their gas and oil.
  2. Killing trade is bad because it makes our allies poorer. If only these concerns were shared for the flyover plebes, the working class types, the NASCAR fans those who would benefit from manufacturing jobs. Then your populist Trump-ian doomsday wouldn’t have occurred.
  3. Opening our markets to the world opens our companies to new customers. It’s a net gain. For who? The overarching theory on free trade in the 1990s was America’s working class would suffer job losses for a 15-20 year period before things stabilized, when other economies would see a growing working class with higher wages, and the losses would even out. This has not happened. Job losses continue in manufacturing sectors.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times declared in a commentary Thursday, June 2, 2016, “If TPP fails, China wins.” Cohen is referencing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the United States and 11 Asian countries comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. A trade agreement that has been negotiated in secret, has not been made public except in stolen extracts that have been leaked surreptitiously. An agreement many of our elected legislators haven’t seen, had access to, or had an opportunity to write. But corporate lawyers have had a large part in filing the details and putting the deals and negotiations together.

Cohen talks about America’s failing status in the world, how most countries have little regard for the United States – except Vietnam, which is one of the 11 countries involved in TPP. Not signing TPP would be a sign of de-committment to them and other countries, a signal that China will be the dominant faction in Asia, not the United States, and they’ll be dictating power in the region.

Cohen spends five paragraphs in an 800-word column agonizing over Vietnam’s image of the United States before he gets to what he’s really writing about.

But such long-term transformations, pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty in Asia, are not the stuff of an American election characterized by anger above all. Among the popular one-liners is this: International trade deals steal American jobs. Not one of the three surviving candidates backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton was for it — and right — before she was against it — and wrong. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are simply against it, big time.

Those angry, selfish populists want to keep their jobs and stay employed. Actually, they want their jobs back. Manufacturing is disappearing as a matter of employment in the United States. If you go to a rust belt city, walk into a Walmart or Wendy’s, you won’t be greeted by a teenager, which was the case 10 years ago. Most likely it will be a former supervisor in his 40s or 50s, a single-mom who once had her child in a house but is now in an apartment with help from SNAP – the typical angry crowd, angry because they can’t afford anything. The one demographic in the world – working class American whites – which has seen its mortality rate rise in recent years.

Cohen admits the deal doesn’t adequately address currency manipulation or medical copyrights which could drastically change the prices of prescriptions. As far as jobs go, Cohen goes through an exercise of mental gymnastics and euphemism that a 5 year old wouldn’t take on its face.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that some manufacturing and low-skilled jobs will be lost, but argued this will be offset by job growth in higher-wage, export-reliant industries. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a report issued this year, found the accord would stimulate job “churn” but was “not likely to affect overall employment in the United States,” while delivering significant gains in real incomes and annual exports.

“Job churn,” a phrase George Orwell lived to see die, is Cohen and the Obama administration’s kind way of saying if you work in a blue collar job that involves making or building a product, there’s a good chance it will disappear. These jobs would supposedly be replaced by “higher-wage, export-reliant” industries, while somehow magically delivering higher incomes and exports.

This same argument was made in regard to NAFTA and the $8 billion it had brought in business to the state of Ohio, a heavy manufacturing state – or was. Dayton’s auto-heavy manufacturing base was the fuel for the local economy – not just the plants themselves, but the machine shops and small parts manufacturers they kept in business in small towns and suburbs throughout the western half of the state. The actuality was different – Ohio from 2000 to 2011 lost $22 billion in payrolls due to what the Dayton Daily News (who I work for) called a state whose jobs were “under siege.”

In Montgomery County alone, where Dayton is the county seat, payrolls dropped $3 billion – 27 percent. That’s over a quarter of personal income gone in 11 years. That job loss isn’t a churn, it’s catastrophic.

Cohen calls out Trump for calling TPP “the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals” of American workers, and not citing evidence outside currency manipulation, but the deal has largely been kept secret – which means its doubtful there’s good news in it except for those who put it together. I’m not a Trump supporter, but on this issue we have much common ground, and he’s right to be skeptical, especially given the NAFTA track record.

Cohen called on Congress to resist “populist ranting” and fears increased tension abroad if the deal isn’t ratified, but blows off growing tension at home over job losses and a country that operates currently with two separate economies. The one Cohen wants to service – the economy of Wall Street, Manhattan and D.C. – and the economy the rest of us are stuck with – rising health insurance, lower wages and higher debt.


The New Yorker gets everything wrong on Hogan, Gawker, Thiel

The number of apologists for Gawker and their recent, titanic, Cleveland-esqe loss in court to Hulk Hogan has been limited to fellow hot-take writers, who propagate the web from the Northeastern enclaves. Oh, those poor kids writing at Gawker, how could you celebrate them losing their jobs? Probably the same way the Gawker generation has heralded the death of objectivity and traditional journalism, as well as the traditional journalist. Except without the glee they shared, I shake my head.

Andrew Breitbart detested the idea journalism was an objective enterprise, that trying to adhere to a code was a waste of time because every writer brought their biases with them to every story – there was no such thing as credibility. Breitbart’s writers sometimes called themselves journalists, even as they shuttered when the name was applied to their site or work. For the most part they are activists, adopting Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals into a propaganda machine that was re-written into another book by Michael Walsh, a former Breitbart editor. What it led to was the Shirley Sherrod smear and subsequent blow up, the O’Keefe gotcha tapes – which led to O’Keefe being charged with a federal crime and losing numerous times in court – and most hilariously, the Friends of Hamas debacle. As far as I know (and I could be definitely wrong), I don’t think the site has issued any correction ever except to regret not watching the complete video of Sherrod.

Would you call Breitbart a journalistic institution? They never call themselves one unless they want press protection, which is the case with Gawker. Gawker’s news was buying photos of Brett Favre’s genitals, and publishing a story on a Notre Dame linebacker who was having a fraudulent love affair online with a woman that didn’t exist – with Deadspin (the Gawker site that ‘broke’ story) asserting not-so-boldly at the end “we’re 80 percent he’s in on it.” Not exactly a high threshold for sources, there. The accusation at the linebacker was later deleted.

That’s not journalism. Neither was Gawker’s publication of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape. It was filmed without his knowledge and published by an editor who later ranted and raved about revenge porn.

Hogan won a $140 million judgment against Gawker. Hogan’s legal team was paid for by Silicone Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who held a grudge against the site for nearly a decade after it outed him as gay. Thiel previously donated to causes supporting journalists. Several years ago he began funding lawsuits against Gawker by people who had felt the wrath of the site and didn’t have the financial means to take on the site in court.

The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann finds the suit and Theil’s funding of it a substantial threat to journalism. The standard established in Sullivan v. New York Times nearly half a century ago set a precedent that made the United States the most press friendly country in the world. This could be in danger if billionaires are successful in funding lawsuits and running websites and publishers out of business.

Adding to Lemann’s concerns, Thiel is a delegate for Trump out of the state of California. Trump wants to end press standards protecting the press from libel suits from public figures. Lemann sees the combination as inherently dangerous.

Lemann qualifies the differences between the Hogan and Sullivan cases, but maintains they aren’t fundamentally different at their core – one was involving libel against Dr. Martin Luther King, the other is defending a gossip site that posted a sex tape – but beyond that the case changes the rules regarding public figures and how the press can cover them. At their core, they are stories about public figures and the standard hasn’t been met.

That standard is malicious intent. A case can be made Gawker’s inherent raison d’être is malicious. The site in no way has conformed to a professional journalism standard, in fact it disregards all standards, so what makes it a news or a source of journalism? Does Gawker qualify as a journalistic outlet?

Blame will be thrown at the court and jury. If the appeal fails, Gawker will go out of business. The insurance company that was covering its previous suits was tired of the amount of legal bills and settlements it was paying for, and believed Gawker had acted inappropriately and sued it as well.

Press freedom and general whistle blowing are under attack, and those rights need defended, but Gawker isn’t the battle to fight. Gawker needs to go. Those fights need to be saved for battles that matter, not saving a garbage website that posts garbage and has staffers that spend their time mucking in it.

In the end, their own behavior and testimony in court killed Gawker. It was a site with a lot of terrible people involved – no journalism ethics and no journalists.

Emma Carmichael’s admission, she would post the video again if she could, proved her a hypocrite after she ranted for days about revenge porn when hackers uploaded dozens of nude photos of celebrity women (this happened at Jezebel after she took a job there). Many want the case thrown out because a juror asked Carmichael if she was sleeping with Denton. Most felt the question unbelievably sexist, it made me wonder if a member of the Gawker staff was on the jury. After such a horrible answer, maybe the juror was curious as to how she could keep her work at a popular website

A.J. Daulerio and Nick Denton proved that wasn’t the case, as they were idiotic, dismissive, sick and showed Carmichael as the brains representing the company. She did leave after all. Denton had an air of superiority, seemingly put off by being judged by a group of “regular people” and some no-name judge in Florida. Daulerio was worse, acting like a 17-year-0ld being lectured or questioned after coming in past curfew. When asked if he had any journalism scruples, he said he would post any sex video of a celebrity – when pressured he said maybe not if they are four years old or younger. Their behavior was odd, aloof and at odds with the gigantic stakes the case had for the future of Gawker. Adding the site would post pedophilia if they thought it would get views showed these aren’t people with any scruples or responsibility.

Not only was Gawker’s actions against Hogan malicious, the staffers are themselves. How does someone say such an awful things on public record? How does someone reconcile a battle with revenge porn with Carmichael’s answer on whether she’d post the video again?

Gawker has damaged journalism for a while. Many other entities have as well, and social media and search engine monopolies are eating most of the pie that should be going to content. Or what we used to call stories and articles and the people who wrote them and published them. While Lemann throws around Thiel and Silicone Valley trademarks, such as this suit is his way of ‘disrupting’ media, is ridiculous on its head because Gawker’s central theme hasn’t been journalism but swill and disrupting the journalism profession from the bottom. Deadspin is the sports site for people who hate sports. Of sarcastic, ironic, bawdy youngsters with their liberal arts degrees, making a couple bucks and trying to pop something viral so they can get a job. It’s people with no real soul, no real story of themselves, so they see no story in anyone else. The price of that is $140 million.