Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The San Diego Reader's Jim Holman compares abortion to the Holocaust, pays big money to manipulate voters


Jim Holman thinks that he and his ilk have a right to control women's bodies--rather than the women themselves--because...the Holocaust.
See all Jim Holman posts.

Nefarious claims
By Aaryn Belfer
City Beat
Feb 17, 2009

“At JP Catholic we have an event called On Mission. The night consists of a guest speaker speaking about living out your Catholic faith in business or media, and after that there is confession and Eucharistic Adoration.”

So begins a Feb. 9 student blog post on the website of the unaccredited John Paul the Great Catholic University located in Scripps Ranch. Now, maybe you’re snickering about the “speaker speaking.” Or perhaps the mention of “Eucharistic Adoration” gives you a mysterious hankering for a Carr’s Water Cracker followed by a session of heavy petting.

But what’s notable in the post is not the redundancy in an opening paragraph by a kid who needs the guidance of a publicly validated learning institution. Nor is it a sudden, overwhelming hunger for crudités and kink. Rather, it’s the who who spoke, and what he said.

“Recently at JP Catholic,” the blogger continues, “Jim Holman, founder and editor of The San Diego Reader and a pro-life supporter, recently spoke to the students about the recent election cycle and Proposition 4 in California.” I think it’s fair to say our author effectively established that the speaking happened recently.

“He made an interesting comparison that rocked my world,” the blogger wrote of Holman, whose speech centered on his beloved-yet-failed parental-notification initiative last November. The conspicuous overlord of the gay-loathing, right-leaning, dressed-up-in-alt-weekly-clothing publication best used as an Ambien substitute—since it’s both sleep-inducing and non-addictive—inspired this student to “stand up vocally” on behalf of the unborn, by comparing abortion with the Holocaust.

...Thanks to JP Catholic and its speaking speakers, we can be assured of a whole bunch of mini-Holmans flooding the business and media industries in the near future with their right-wing extremism, average writing skills and susceptibility to snow jobs.


Abortion notification backers not giving up
By Bill Ainsworth
UNION-TRIBUNE U-T
April 14, 2008

SACRAMENTO – Jim Holman, owner of the San Diego Reader, has spent millions trying to persuade Californians to pass a law requiring parents to be notified before their underage daughter has an abortion.

After two failed ballot measure campaigns, Holman said last year that he didn't want to try again.

But when other anti-abortion advocates, including winemaker Don Sebastiani, launched a third campaign, Holman couldn't resist opening up his checkbook once again.

“Sebastiani was not deterred. He said, 'We have to go back again and again,' ” Holman said. “He led with big donations and I sort of followed.”

The result could make California political history.

The $1.8 million donated by Holman and Sebastiani so far is likely to put a parental-notification initiative before voters for the third time in four years. The measure would require a physician to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion for a girl under the age of 18.

If the measure qualifies, it would be the first time since the California initiative process was established in 1914 that the state's voters will consider the same measure so many times in a four-year period.

Opponents predict another defeat for Holman, who has spent a considerable personal fortune on the three measures, about $4.6 million so far...

“Never in the history of California has one person manipulated 36 million people through his electoral hoops based solely on the extremism of his ideology and the balance of his checkbook,” said Vince Hall, spokesman for Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties.

Holman has spent about twice as much as Sebastiani on the ballot measures, but both wrote big checks to qualify nearly identical measures rejected by voters in 2005 and 2006.

“They don't give up easily,” said Katie Short, a spokeswoman for the ballot measure...

“I'm a dad with daughters,” said Holman, 61. “But beyond my personal situation I see it as a great horror that young girls under 18 can be whisked away to hide an abortion.”

Holman, who is a devout Catholic with seven children, said he has stayed active because he believes he can fill a gap. He charged that others, including Catholic bishops, are too afraid.

“The bishops of California are cowards,” he said.

In the past, Holman hasn't talked about the issue publicly, instead preferring to remain behind the scenes. Last week, he agreed to a rare interview.

Holman compared his efforts to the persistence shown by civil rights advocates, who eventually succeeded in eliminating discriminatory laws.

The current campaign, which is based at the San Diego Reader offices on India Street in Little Italy, expects to turn in the 694,000 valid signatures needed to place it on the November ballot...

The new initiative also provides another option. Girls who say they are victims of parental abuse can tell a physician to notify another adult relative who is at least 21 years old, including a grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling. Existing law requires health practitioners to report known or suspected child abuse to authorities.

To bypass a parent under the initiative, the girl has to accuse a parent of abusing her in the past and sign a written statement saying she fears physical, sexual or severe emotional abuse in the future. Her statement then would go to the adult relative who is being notified about the abortion.

“We're modifying the law to respond to Californians who were concerned about abusive parents,” Short said. “It's a progressive law for a progressive state.”

Planned Parenthood's Hall said the new provision changes nothing.

“It's a deceiving, phony solution,” he said.

Hall said the provision would require a girl to level an accusation against a parent under a penalty of perjury. Hall believes that this provision would intimidate the most vulnerable girls.

“Anything that puts a barrier between pregnant teenagers and health care is a dangerous public policy,” he said...

Campaign spokeswoman Short, who has nine children and is counsel to the Legal Life Defense Foundation, acknowledges that the measure is promoted by those who favor outlawing abortion...

Holman said that backers of the measure are motivated by their beliefs, while opponents are promoting their financial interests. He has been arrested demonstrating in front of San Diego's Planned Parenthood clinic and was honored for his anti-abortion activism by the San Francisco-based Ignatius Press.

“I don't have an economic interest in this and neither does Don Sebastiani,” Holman said. “Planned Parenthood does because they perform abortions and they make a lot of money.”

Hall disputed that, saying Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that serves clients at low or no cost, depending on the woman's ability to pay...

Holman and others first backed this issue in the special election of 2005, but Proposition 73 was rejected, 53 percent to 47 percent.

In November 2006, the next parental-notification measure, Proposition 85, fared worse, with 54 percent against and 46 percent in favor.

Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, which analyzes state politics, said the vote in favor of parental notification declined in 2006 because Republicans made up a lower percentage of the electorate...

Jim Holman apparently settled lawsuit filed by three female sales reps alleging a 'boys club' at San Diego Reader


Jim Holman, publisher of SD Reader
See all Jim Holman posts.

San Diego Reader owner Jim Holman did not file any response to this lawsuit filed by three female employees. Since the plaintiffs asked the court to dismiss the suit, it would appear that Jim Holman reached a settlement with them. The employees were represented by Sean Simpson.

Former employees accuse San Diego Reader of gender discrimination
Lawsuit filed by three female sales reps alleges a 'boys club' at alt-weekly
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Nov 08, 2011

Three former sales representatives for the San Diego Reader filed a lawsuit against the alt-weekly in October, alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

The suit, filed by Kelly Bonelli, Amy McKibben and Beth Wexler (who have a combined 78-year work history with the Reader), alleges that publisher Jim Holman is responsible for allowing preferential treatment for men in the workplace, which intensified with the hiring of sales manager John-Paul Franklin in 2008.

"Plaintiffs' efforts to succeed within the company were frustrated by a 'boys club' that created a corporate culture in which the overriding environment was such that men were seen as superior and were given unfair advantages such as preferred leads and 'head starts' on new sales promotions," the suit claims.

Wexler, who worked for the Reader for more than 30 years, says she was "constructively terminated" (i.e. felt compelled to resign after conditions were made intolerable) in August 2009. McKibben, a 16-year employee, was fired in March 2011, as was Bonelli, a 26-year employee, who was terminated while on disability leave for "work-related stress."

The women obtained a right-to-sue letter from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Oct. 4, 2011. They allege that the Reader did not have a Human Resources department capable of handling discrimination or harassment complaints.

"For many years, women seemed to be tolerated, but not equal to men," the lawsuit states. "The environment became noticeably worse in 2008 when JP Franklin became the manger [sic] of the sales department.... Franklin has and displayed a very 'bullying' style of management, and it is ostensibly directed more toward women than men."

As examples, the plaintiffs say that Franklin would regularly engage in casual conversations with male staff, but abruptly stopped whenever a woman tried to join in. He "frequently" went to lunch with male employees, but rarely included female workers. Franklin is currently listed on the Reader masthead as "general manager."

Franklin's alleged conduct included, "telling women sales is a 'man's world,' withholding new sales promotions from women until after a man or men had been able to sell the new offer to one of their clients, and displaying favoritism toward men when re-assigning accounts."

Inquiries were sent to the Reader and California Catholic Daily, another publication operated by Holman. This post will be updated when we receive a response.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Chula Vista Star-News does a much better job than the San Diego Reader at covering Common Core


I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader and the Chula Vista Star-News in reporting the implementation of Common Core standards in Chula Vista schools. Star-News Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did the Reader's Susan Luzzaro.


Kristin Phatek
Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better
solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

See all posts re Common Core from CVESD Reporter blog.

UPDATE April 15, 2014:

I just spoke to Anthony Millican at CVESD, and he tells me that it is not at all true that if a student "failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade." I hope that Susan Luzzaro at the Reader will publish this fact, since her article offers no contradiction to this quote in its first paragraph.

Mr. Millican notes that many teachers are delighted with Common Core. I'll bet the students of those teachers are also delighted. Why didn't Ms. Luzzaro quote any of them?

ORIGINAL POST:

I'm sure that there are many classrooms in Chula Vista Elementary School District where confident, competent teachers--and their students!--are completely relaxed about upcoming standardized tests. In fact, those kids probably think that taking tests is fun.

But what about the teachers who simply don't know how to teach well? They are having hissy fits, and pointing the finger at Common Core Standards. There is nothing at all wrong with Common Core Standards. It's just that many teachers don't grasp the concept of a basic concept. That's what Common Core is all about: basic concepts.

Historically, a large percentage of teachers have taught mostly by rote, without teaching kids how to think. Also, there are some pretty good teachers who simply don't like to go into depth when teaching a subject. They like to teach a concept and then move on. This method is NOT used in countries with highly successful education systems.

These two types of teachers are intentionally upsetting children so that parents will come in and complain about Common Core instead of complaining about the teacher.

Why isn't this parent asking why 70% of kids don't understand basic facts? Has she not been paying attention for the past decades as student performance has gone down? Does she know during those decades fewer and fewer teachers have come from top colleges? The average teacher these days is simply not up to the job. As teachers have become weaker, the job itself has become harder.

So why doesn't the district simply teach the teachers how to teach? Perhaps you think that the district is run by brilliant minds? Administrators tend to be people who were very immersed in teacher culture and school politics when they were teachers. They played the game. They followed the right people. Don't expect them to have a particularly good understanding of the educational process, and don't expect them to know how to teach teachers.

Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

Perhaps she might consider this solution to the problem: Here's how every child can have an excellent teacher--without firing or laying-off any teachers!

San Diego County parents should have access, as do parents in Los Angeles, to information showing how much the students in each classroom are learning each year, as measured by year-by-year changes on standardized test scores. The Los Angeles Times published these "value-added" scores for each teacher. Why doesn't any San Diego news source publish our information?

Amazingly, it was revealed that students of the most admired and highly-regarded teachers frequently showed remarkably little improvement. You can always find teachers and parents who think they know who the best teachers are, but it turns out they're often completely wrong.

Of course, test scores are only a clue, not a final determination, as to whether a teacher is doing a good job. Proper evaluation would consist of regular observations, interviews and test scores of both students and teachers. In the current system, most principals have very little knowledge about what most of their teachers are doing in the classroom. Often, years go by without a principal spending more than a few moments in a teacher's classroom. And in my 27 years teaching in CVESD, not once did any principal ever sit down and talk to me about my thinking about how to educate children.

If teacher performance were evaluated effectively, there would be an added bonus: administrators could be chosen from among the best teachers.

But the district administration isn't the only problem. There's also the teachers union. The one thing you can count on the California Teachers Association to do is to protect incompetent teachers. The parent in the article below who claims that Common Core is "advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education" is doing what the teachers union calls "staying on message". She certainly sounds like she was coached.

The test isn't creating a problem, it's exposing a problem that has existed for years.



Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents

“My son had been experiencing headaches”
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

One night last year, Gretel Rodriguez was playing the word game Hangman with her son who attends HedenKamp Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. He chose an unusual word. When Rodriguez asked him why, her son said he was learning it for the California State Test. Then he said he was nervous — worried that if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade.

Rodriguez said in an April 7 interview, “My son had been experiencing headaches, then when he told me his worries, I made up my mind to opt him out of any standardized exams.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Rodriquez ask the school district if test results might be used to hold a child back? Did she ever consider helping her child to get the problem into perspective? Does she normally try to teach coping skills to her child? Does she teach her child to search out the facts before dissolving in fear? I suspect that the teacher might have been manipulating his or her students emotionally instead of dealing with his or her own fears about test results. Was the teacher really afraid of what might happen to himself (or herself)?

Also, I'm wondering why the reporter who wrote this piece, Susan Luzzaro, fails to tell us if this child's fear is based on reality. Why doesn't Ms. Luzzaro report on this important question? Luzzaro's entire article seems to be based on the belief that the district actually flunks kids who do poorly on the test.]


Rodriguez is one of many parents, locally and nationally, who are choosing to opt their children out of testing.

“By opting my son out of standardized tests I’ve also ensured he doesn’t have to take the SBAC [Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium] test this year as well,” Rodriguez continued.

In 2012, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was one of two companies that split a $330 million Department of Education grant to develop a computer-based test aligned with Common Core Standards.

In 2014, students will be taking a Smarter Balanced field test, or a test to test the test — based on Common Core Standards. The test will be administered to California students between March and June.

Rodriguez has another son who is a special-education student in the Sweetwater Union High School District. At first he told his mother that he wanted to continue taking the standardized tests and Rodriguez agreed.

Recently he changed his mind and asked his mom to opt him out. Rodriguez said she was happy about his decision because the new Common Core test has no modifications for special-education students or English-language learners.

The Phataks have three children in public schools. Two of them go to Salt Creek Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District; their older son attends Eastlake Middle School in the Sweetwater district.

When asked which tests she was going to opt her children out of, Kristin Phatak answered, “All of them.”

Phatak believes that “tests designed by publishing companies are not a good measure of my children’s progress. They also encourage teaching to the test.”

Regarding the Smarter Balance test aligned with Common Core, Phatak stated, “I firmly believe that test is being designed to fail the children, and in turn fail the teachers and the schools. It’s an attack on public education.”

When asked why she believes the test is designed to fail, Phatak resonded, “When you start looking at the money behind new Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balance testing, you begin to question both of them. Venture philanthropists, like the Gates Foundation, have poured millions into advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education.

[Maura Larkins' comment: The Gates Foundation? Phatek sounds pretty paranoid to me. Why wouldn't Bill Gates simply be trying to do for education the same thing he does for health--giving away huge amounts of money in an effort to make life better for people around the globe? Or perhaps Phatek has simply been influenced by teachers who don't want to improve their performance.] "In states like Kentucky, where the Smarter Balanced Consortium test has already been used, the student failure rate was 70 percent. New York also had disastrous results with their Common Core exam. The push is to tie test scores to teacher evaluations. You can’t fail the teachers unless you fail the kids.”

Phatak encourages “parents who wish to be in tune with their childrens’ education to go to the Smarter Balance website and take the pilot test that corresponds to their child’s grade level.”

Phatak said she began talking to other moms about opting out last year. She is “shocked” because so many are coming up to her this year and telling her they are opting out.

Phatak is in contact with parents across the United States through her Facebook page, though she is not a member of a national opt-out organization.

“There are no consequences for refusing to take the tests,” Phatak said. “They [districts] cannot hold a child back.”

Opting out is not new to San Diego. In 2002, the Wall Street Journal carried a report on 212 Rancho Bernardo students who refused to take standardized tests. Rancho Bernardo parents expressed reasons similar to Chula Vista parents. They felt there was “no personal incentive for their children to labor over tests that aren’t included on school transcripts or are required for high school graduation.”



I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader (above story) and the Chula Vista Star-News (story below) in reporting this issue. Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did Susan Luzzaro.

Common Core receives mixed reviews
Robert Moreno
Chula Vista Star-News
Sep 28 2013

California's newest testing method is getting high praise by education officials in the South Bay, but some parents in the area’s school districts are giving the new testing measure an F.

The Golden State signed on for the model on Aug. 2, 2010, with full implementation this school year. Forty-five states — including California — use the Common Core method of testing.

John Nelson III, E.d.D, assistant superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said the new testing model places higher standards on students than the STAR testing did.

“We (the district) believe that these new Common Core standards reflect the academic need of all students to be successful,” he said. “We know that the old standards, we’ve learned a lot of good lessons from them; however, when it came to being college- and career-ready, the standards fell short.”

Nelson said under the STAR testing standards, students entering college were not prepared and as a result, dropout rates at the university continues to be high.

Common Core tests students from K-12 in math, English, science and social science. The tests and curriculum are based more on the use of critical thinking skills than memorization.

While the elementary school district approves the new testing measures, some parents are not getting with the Common Core program.

Kristin Phatak has a son in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and another in the Sweetwater Union High School District. She is opposed to the Common Core because she said it is “dumbing down” the education standards.

[Maura Larkins' comment: How does Kristin Phatek come up with this stuff? I'm guessing that she like the old rote-memory method of teaching that left students unprepared for college. Kids were left with very little understanding of basic concepts, and a whole lot of memorization that tended to be forgotten. I agree with John Nelson that the new concept-based instruction is better for kids.]

“California and Massachusetts were known in the nation as having some of the highest standards in the United States,” she said. “They did not use California or Massachusetts standards to rate these standards, they actually lowered the standards, and so by California signing on to these standards, we have in effect lowered our standards.”

Nelson said the Common Core is not dumbing down education standards, but rather deepening the understanding of learning. He said it is more critical thinking-based than the STAR testing.

Phatak claims that the Common Core puts local school districts in violation of the Williams Settlement Act.

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2000 and argued agencies failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities and qualified teachers. As a result of this, for every student in a classroom, the school must make available one textbook for each student.

Phatak said because there are no textbooks available for the Common Core, teachers are struggling to come up with their own curriculum with Common Core methods.

[Maura Larkins' comment: What is this woman talking about? You can use ANY textbook to teach Common Core. But teachers who rely on textbooks to guide every step of instruction are simply failing to understand how to teach basic concepts. For one thing, the teacher should be guided by what her students know, and how well they are learning. The teacher's instruction should largely be coming from the teacher's brain rather than a textbook, and should be using his or her own words. The teacher should be making heavy use of the white board and a marker--and should be putting manipulatives in students' hands.

“What’s happening now is that the publishers have not come out with the textbooks for Common Core, yet the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater School District have decided to go ahead and implement it,” she said.

Nelson said the Common Core is not solely dependent on textbooks.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Hear, hear!]

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding in the community, Common Core is not about the curriculum, it’s about how we teach,” he said. “Literature is literature. Now we did achieve use of more complex literature but Common Core is about changing the instructional practice of teachers.”

Monica Cervantes is another parent who is against the Common Core. She has a child attending Tiffany Elementary School in Chula Vista. She said the elementary school district adopted the model without conducting research to see if it will actually work.

“I think before you implement any type of curriculum, you have to make sure it works,” she said. “If you go back and look where it was implemented first there is a lot of downfall with this.”

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently announced that the Sweetwater Union High School District is receiving more than $8 million in state funding with the transition to the new testing model.

Manny Rubio, director of grants and communications with the Sweetwater Union High School District, said a portion of that money could be spent on new textbooks used in preparation for the Common Core.

The Sweetwater District is adhering to the Common Core too, because Rubio said the testing is mandated by the state, and therefore they have no choice but to implement it.

“This is something that is coming from Sacramento. It’s our mandate as far as following the law that they’ve issued.

My understanding is that ... we do not have a choice (to not implement the Common Core),” Rubio said.

Rubio said the district is implementing a Common Core curriculum for teachers this year with pilot testing for students. He said come next school year, the district will have mandated testing.

Tina Jung, information officer for the California Department of Education, said the adoption of the Common Core is not mandatory. She said it is up to the local school districts, not the state, to decide if they want to implement the testing.

“It is completely voluntary on the states and schools,” she said. “We can’t tell districts what to do. California is a local control state, that means local districts have more control than the state.”

Jung also said if a district accepts money from the state for Common Core, then that money must be used for Common Core purposes.

Because she did not want her child to take the Common Core test, Phatak withdrew one of her children from Tiffany Elementary school. The child is now being home schooled.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Phatek help her child cope with anxiety instead of taking such a drastic measure. I have a suspicion that there's a lot more going on in Phatek's family than is revealed here.]

Cervantes said she plans to opt her child out of Common Core testing.

“We (parents) can try to stop this because this was adopted and not mandated by the state,” she said. “We have a choice, it is not mandated. They chose to adopt this.”

According to the California Department of Education’s website, the Common Core describes what each student should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

The name Common Core derives from the testing method that uses a set of national standards that apply to every school, district and state that has adopted the Common Core model.

Rubio said parents “will not” have a choice of opting a child out of the testing.

But while Rubio mentions that students can’t opt out, California’s education code says differently.

According to Education Code 60615, a student can opt out of testing.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted,” the code reads.





Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram


I just noticed that the San Diego Union-Tribune has published a hysterical commentary on this subject by Lance T. Izumi. Mr. Izumi's rant contained an interesting fact:

...Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram, an architect of California’s previous top-ranked state math standards and a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee, harshly criticizes the rigor of Common Core’s math standards: “With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the [Common Core] math standards end after Algebra II. They include no pre-calculus or calculus.”...

Professor Milgram wants every kid in California to learn calculus!?!

That's ridiculous. I took calculus in high school, and it didn't do me one bit of good because I didn't understand the basic concepts well enough. I got an A in the class, not because I understood the material, but because I learned and applied formulas. I had to take calculus over again at UCLA. I also took vector calculus, and when I graduated I thought I knew math.

Even though I wasn't interested in going to graduate school at the time, I decided to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) at that time. I figured I'd never again do as well on the math section of the GRE than when I was fresh out of college math classes.

I was wrong.

I spent the next fifteen years teaching basic math concepts to fourth and fifth graders. I taught those basic concepts like they were going out of style. As a result, I myself came to understand those concepts really, really well.

Then I took the GRE again. My GRE math score went up 100 points, from 640 to 740.

My big improvement was due to focusing on elementary math concepts. I have had proof in my own life that if you want your kid to be really good in math, you must make your kid really learns basic concepts. And you shouldn't worry one bit whether your kid takes calculus in high school.



Will Susan Luzzaro continue to turn her back to
requests for more even-handed reporting?

I sent the following email to the Reader on April 17, 2014:

Regarding this story:
Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

In the very first paragraph, Susan Luzzaro quotes a parent saying that her child was worried that "if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade."

Ms. Luzzaro makes absolutely no effort in the article to assure Readers that the test is not actually used to flunk children. This is not good journalism.

I urge the Reader and Susan Luzzaro NOT to leave this false impression dangling in the minds of readers. Luzzaro should issue a clarification about the matter.

COMMENTS ON SUSAN LUZZARO ARTICLE:

eastlaker April 10, 2014 @ 12:41 p.m.

So, the testing is being done initially on materials the students have not been given. Gee, how fair is that?

Especially when not only the students will be evaluated, but the teachers will be evaluated.

[Maura Larkins' response to eastlaker:

The teachers are supposed to teach kids how to think, not just teach them specific facts and rules.

A good test measures thinking ability. That's why teachers who don't know how to teach reasoning and logic hate them so much. If you call that "teaching to the test," then teaching to the test is a good thing.]



oneoftheteachers April 10, 2014 @ 6:36 p.m.

First of all, let's dispel the myth that corporations fostered:our educational system was broken. The US has some of the best universities in the world attended by graduates of our American public schools.

[Maura Larkins' response: No one is saying that American universities are broken. They're so good that people from all over the world come to attend them. Unfortunately, no one is breaking the door down trying to get into our average K-12 public school because so many students are failing.

It's interesting that there is only ONE comment one this page (at 9:50 a.m. on April 17, 2014) that even suggests looking at this issue differently.

Bvavsvavev had the courage to say: "I am not an expert in education, so I don't know the answers. What I do know is that change is needed, money is needed, and testing is needed. The hows and whys can be left to experts to figure out."

Of course, he is immediately shot down by the regular commenters.

Interestingly, the Reader is the only news outlet in San Diego or elsewhere that prevents me from making comments. The reason was not that I made an improper comment, or even a comment that the Reader didn't like. In fact, the very first time I tried to sign up to make comments I was unable to do so. Who could have set this up? I suspect that Susan Luzzaro might have originated the idea. Susan Luzzaro's husband Frank, a former teacher and union official at Chula Vista Elementary School District, has made it clear to me that he doesn't want me revealing events at CVESD, at least not those that involve him. I once contacted the Reader to complain about not being able to make comments, and the result was that I was allowed to comment on this one story! Obviously, there is little effort at the Reader to provide a public forum. It's very much a controlled environment, run by political paymaster Jim Holman.]


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does Frank Gormlie approve of our biased arbitration system? Or is he simply not paying attention?


Frank Gormlie

UPDATE APRIL 11, 2014:

Omar Passons seems to cultivate a lot of friends in the media in addition to Frank Gormlie. Mr. Passons has apparently charmed Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego, whose office is just across the courtyard from Mr. Passons' office at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. Passon's handsome face is featured frequently in the rotation of photos at the top of VOSD's web pages.

Does this photo look familiar? It's Omar Passons' image from the header of a VOSD web page.

Stutz law firm must be delighted to have such loyal friends in the media. Dan Shinoff, one of the three major partners of Stutz law firm, must have been very grateful when Mr. Lewis not only stopped Emily Alpert's investigation of Mr. Shinoff and his benefactors at SDCOE, but fired her for good measure! But now that so many public officials who were (and still are) clients of Stutz law firm have been indicted, perhaps the media might want to rethink the amount of cheerleading it does for the firm. Why is Mr. Gormlie silent about this issue? Does he assume that no children are being harmed? If so, he's very wrong. But at least he's a good pal to his lawyer friends.


ORIGINAL POST (UPDATED):

I was surprised to see that OB Rag's Frank Gormlie included attorney Omar Passons' blog in his list of "independent and progressive blogs" last August. Passons is certainly not progressive. Just because he's African-American doesn't mean he isn't working for the 1%. I imagine he's about as independent as is expedient for him as an employee of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm. Perhaps the marketing director at Stutz law firm urged the hiring of Mr. Passons to help with public relations.

Maybe Mr. Gormlie hasn't been paying attention. The following appeared in Voice of San Diego last May.

Justice for Sale, Part One: Arbitration Purgatory
By: Will Carless
Voice of San Diego
May 20, 2013
See Part 2 HERE.
See Part 3 HERE.

...Companies across the country insert wording into their small-print contracts that bars consumers from taking them to court...

The contracts require consumers to settle disputes in arbitration, a private form of conflict resolution. As mandatory arbitration clauses have become ubiquitous, companies have carved out a world of justice that some insiders and academics say is deeply flawed and biased against consumers...

Not only do corporations write arbitration into their contracts, they’re also increasingly stipulating the exact company or organization that will facilitate the arbitration. “It is almost impossible for us not to be self-serving,” says one arbitrator. Another disagrees...

Perz said an independent expert he hired concluded the car had probably been submerged in water, causing the electrics to fail and rotting the vehicle’s frame with rust. Perz decided he couldn’t in good faith sell it to recoup his money...

Arbitration is supposed to provide a cheaper and quicker way to settle legal disputes than the court system. But academics, attorneys, plaintiffs and even an independent arbitrator contacted for this story described arbitration as an uneven playing field, with consumers facing an uphill battle from the start...

In California, most arbitrators are affiliated with one of several large organizations. The largest is the American Arbitration Association (AAA); another big one is JAMS (formerly Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services). Both have offices in San Diego. Both companies declined to comment for this story...

“In no way in my wildest dreams did I realize an arbitration agreement would allow them to do this,” he said. “It’s so frustrating. It’s just heartbreaking.”


COMMENTS BY OMAR PASSONS AND MAURA LARKINS

"Most people, particularly the people to whom the $30.22 is most critical, do not have the time and/or skill to pursue these issues."--Maura Larkins

Omar Passons May 28, 2013

I almost don't know where to begin. A 3-part series and you dedicate 3 sentences in the final part of the series to the opposing view? Wow. $30.22 is enough to buy food for almost a week, so it's nothing to shake a stick at.

But the ATT Mobility case is the paradigmatic example of why we need class action reform. You left out that the Concepcions only had to fill out a 1-page form to have their issues heard. And you left out that their MINIMUM recovery if they were right on their $30 claim as $7500. And you left out that they had the option to pursue their $30 claim in small claims court, where there are no lawyers and the judges are very relaxed with the rules, if they didn't want arbitration.

You also left out that class action cases can very easily cost more than $100,000 before you even address whether anyone did anything wrong. The "liability" portion of a class action doesn't even really get going until a judge certifies a class. I get it, your a journalist, not a lawyer, but as I mentioned previously there are plenty of lawyers around town who would give you a more fair picture. Or, for that matter, call any in-house lawyer for any large company. Or better, call the CFO. These cases are huge sources of awards for attorneys, not so much for the little guy or woman you claim is being so wronged by class waivers.

Your article also fails to acknowledge that there is no requirement that people actually have been wronged to bring a class action suit. They just need a few plaintiffs to be willing to stand in as the named plaintiffs and then a very expensive fishing expedition can begin to attempt to find people who are actually wronged. And put all this aside for a moment. The whole reason class actions exist is to create a way to make people whole when there is no incentive for them to bring the suit on their own. Here, where the barrier to getting your rights vindicated is a one-page form and a telephone call, there is almost no fear of it not being worth someone's time to file. In fact, with a recovery of more than 1000 times their actual harm I'm surprised everyone who bought an AT&T phone didn't try to use their more than generous dispute resolution procedure. I'm not even a particular supporter of the system of arbitration, it is frequently patently unfair. But this journalism isn't even an attempt to give people enough information to make an informed decision about the topic.


MAURA LARKINS' RESPONSE TO OMAR PASSONS May 28, 2013

Omar, I found that I disagreed with a number of your statements. Here are those statements with my responses:

[Passons] "$30.22 is enough to buy food for almost a week, so it's nothing to shake a stick at."

[Maura Larkins' response] Most people, particularly the people to whom the $30.22 is most critical, do not have the time and/or skill to pursue these issues.

[Passons] But the ATT Mobility case is the paradigmatic example of why we need class action reform.

[Maura Larkins' response]"Paradigmatic"? Why didn't you just say it's a good example? And are you really sure that there is only one paradigmatic example? I doubt that very much. I'm sure many people consider other examples to be more significant in arbitration reform.

[Passons] You left out that the Concepcions only had to fill out a 1-page form to have their issues heard.

[Maura Larkins' response] That's just the start, Omar. Then they have to deal with the big corporation for heaven knows how long.

[Passons] And you left out that their MINIMUM recovery if they were right on their $30 claim as $7500.

[Maura Larkins' response] Since when did arbitration decisions depend on who was "right"? Did you look at the graphic in part 2 of this series? No matter how right the Concepcions might be, they are almost certainly going to lose.

[Passons] And you left out that they had the option to pursue their $30 claim in small claims court, where there are no lawyers and the judges are very relaxed with the rules, if they didn't want arbitration.

[Maura Larkins' response] That would require serving a subpoena on a huge corporation (AT&T) after they discover who it AT&T's agent for service. Then AT&T's lawyers would probably contest everything, including whether service was proper. Then the Concepcions would have to prepare documentation and arguments and go to court. And that still wouldn't guarantee that the judge would side with the little guys against a big corporation.

[Passons] You also left out that class action cases can very easily cost more than $100,000 before you even address whether anyone did anything wrong.

[Maura Larkins' response] That's why you need a big class of people, Omar. So that the payoff will be bigger than the cost.

[Passons] The "liability" portion of a class action doesn't even really get going until a judge certifies a class. I get it, your [sic] a journalist, not a lawyer, but as I mentioned previously there are plenty of lawyers around town who would give you a more fair picture.

[Maura Larkins' response] Don't be patronizing. I think Will got a very fair picture of the situation. And I think there are plenty of lawyers around town who would be happy to give Will an unfair picture.

[Passons] Or, for that matter, call any in-house lawyer for any large company. Or better, call the CFO.

[Maura Larkins' response] We already know AT&T's position. It's in the case pleadings, and in the Supreme Court decision. It's the OTHER side of the story that we need, and Will did a good job on that.

[Passons] These cases are huge sources of awards for attorneys, not so much for the little guy or woman you claim is being so wronged by class waivers.

[Maura Larkins' response] [But the little guy usually can't represent himself effectively. That's why we need lawyers who will represent consumers and make sure that the powerful respect the legal rights of the powerless. Plaintiff lawyers wouldn't have to work so many hours and collect so much pay if there weren't lawyers on the other side being paid big bucks to come up with one reason after another to slow down the case.]

[Passons] Your article also fails to acknowledge that there is no requirement that people actually have been wronged to bring a class action suit. They just need a few plaintiffs to be willing to stand in as the named plaintiffs and then a very expensive fishing expedition can begin to attempt to find people who are actually wronged.

[Maura Larkins' response] [We all know what planet we're on, Omar. Yes, people make false claims all the time. Big corporations are among the worst offenders, making claims that they are owed money when they are not owed anything at all.]

[Passons] Here, where the barrier to getting your rights vindicated is a one-page form and a telephone call, there is almost no fear of it not being worth someone's time to file.

[Maura Larkins' response] [You know very well that you have to do a lot more than fill out one page and make a phone call to get your rights vindicated. And you must have a lot of time on your hands, Omar. Most people go to bed every night wishing they had had time to do things plenty more important than trying to get $30.22 back from AT&T.]

[Passons] In fact, with a recovery of more than 1000 times their actual harm I'm surprised everyone who bought an AT&T phone didn't try to use their more than generous dispute resolution procedure.

[Maura Larkins' response] [If this surprises you, Omar, then you must walk around in a continual state of shock as you observe the incomprehensible behavior of the ordinary people you meet. But I get the feeling that you rarely find the actions of corporations to be anything other than completely reasonable.]

Maura Larkins May 28, 2013

The Concepcion suit never should have been filed in the first place. ATT didn't collect the sales tax, the state did. So to suggest that ATT scammed anybody out of their money is false. It's no wonder companies want to reduce the possibilities of lawsuits when lawyers can talk simple-minded people into filing class actions based on false premises. Carless wants to paint business as the bad guy because that's what he fundamentally believes: that business is bad. Power to the people and all that nonsense. But the sad fact is that if it wasn't for lawyers of questionable moral value hooking up with simpletons, the courts wouldn't be full of bogus lawsuits and our ladders wouldn't have a dozen stickers telling us not to do stupid things. If the lawyers were so worried about the Concepcion's thirty dollars, they should work to rewrite the state law that says the state can collect sales tax on something a company is willing to give away for free.

Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis acknowledges that he's been playing it a little too safe; Matt Taibbi shows how it's done


Scott Lewis and Matt Taibbi
Matt Taibbi recently published DIVIDE, a book about our two-tiered justice system. He says, “Journalists should be dark, funny, mean people. It’s appropriate for their ­antag­onistic, adversarial role.”
See also Who is exposing the underbellies of school systems, U-T San Diego or Voice of San Diego?

UPDATE: WHAT DOES SCOTT LEWIS DO WHEN HE'S LETTING IT ALL "PLATEAU"?

Scott Lewis stops investigations. For example, he and Andrew Donohue stopped Emily Alpert's investigation into school attorney Dan Shinoff and Shinoff's pals at San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). And then Lewis fired Emily Alpert. (I imagine she was happy to be fired because it wasn't much of a job after her freedom to investigate was curtailed.)

But now that so many of Mr. Shinoff's public school clients have been charged with corruption, maybe Scott will restart the investigation?

I wouldn't count on it. VOSD has to pay its bills. And given the fact that VOSD features one of the lawyers from Dan Shinoff's law firm (Omar Passons) among the alternating photos at the top of its web pages, I suspect that someone at Stutz law firm is making it financially worthwhile for VOSD to ignore the backroom shenanigans at SDCOE. Also, VOSD's major donors, Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs, are closely connected the non-teacher-union players in the education establishment. They will probably get their wish that the public never even learn what's on the FBI tape of Dan Shinoff's meeting with a witness in a school case.



Does this photo look familiar? It's Omar Passons' image from the header of a VOSD web page. Mr. Passons is a lawyer at Stutz law firm.

Tending Bar on New Year’s Eve in 1997 Made Me Resolve to Risk More in 2014
By: Scott Lewis
Voice of San Diego
January 1, 2014

...I’ve always felt a drive, an angst and worry. It’s made me always change, always want to keep improving.

Recently, though, something else has been happening.

Perhaps it has come from having kids and a mortgage. Maybe I feel more vulnerable. But I feel it. Like small tremors. They are these urges to want to protect what I’ve gathered. They are flashes of desire to be (gasp!) conservative.

I can’t have that. It’s not me.

[Maura Larkins comment: I think it is you, Scott. And I think you've been playing it safe for a few years now. You've been paid to protect some people and expose others (such as when you stopped the investigation of SDCOE by Emily Alpert and then let her go, but at the same time did a proper investigation of SEDC).

So this year I’m resolving to take more risks. I resolve to resist the urge to let it all plateau – to cruise. I want to keep building, keep dreaming and keep dancing with failure...

[Maura Larkins comment: Sounds like a typical New Year's resolution. It's April now. You've forgotten about it, right?]


Raging Against Hacks With Muckraker Turned Magazine-Maker Matt Taibbi
By Matthew Shaer
New York Magazine
3/9/2014

Matt Taibbi, the ­former enfant terrible of ­political journalism, limps into a cozy diner on ­Chambers Street, in Tribeca a ­Russian-style fur cap pulled over his ears, a half-formed apology for his lateness already on his lips. “I am—I must have—did I keep you waiting?”

Informed he is actually seven ­minutes early, his shoulders slump in relief. “Okay,” the lanky 44-year-old says, with a toothy grin. “Good. You’ll have to excuse me. It’s been a crazy time for me.”

This is Matt Taibbi, circa 2014: ­deferential, polite, very busy. In mid-­February, shortly after the birth of his first child, Taibbi announced he was leaving Rolling Stone, where he has worked for almost a decade, to start a digital magazine for First Look Media, the company owned by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. The last few weeks have been consumed with business matters—hiring editorial staff, signing off on designs. Taibbi won’t discuss the exact format of the new venture, nor its name—that’s still being worked out, too—but he sees it focusing, in part, on the same matters of corporate malfeasance he’s been covering for years.

“What I’m hoping to capture is the simultaneously funny and satirical voice that you got with Spy magazine,” he says. “The whole thing will probably be a little different than what a lot of people expect.”

What people expect, of course, is the ­ribald, loudly antagonistic voice of a writer who is, in his own words, “full of outrage.” The guy who compared Goldman Sachs to a “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” The reporter who dropped acid, donned a Viking hat and wraparound ­sunglasses, and had a nice casual chat with the former deputy head of the Office of National Drug Policy, the same policymaker responsible for the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” advertising campaign. And the person who, as the editor of a Moscow paper, marched into the local offices of the Times and slammed a pie filled with horse semen into the face of a reporter he deemed a “hack.” The ­unfiltered, uncowed Matt Taibbi who once dumped coffee on an interviewer from Vanity Fair and then chased him down the street.

But despite his newfound personal courtesy, none of Taibbi’s anger at the “toothlessness” of the media has dissipated. “I think it’s a lost art in this country—developing that narrative voice where readers connect with you as a human being,” he says, harpooning a stray piece of scrambled egg. “They want to see how you react individually to things. And if you think something is outrageous, and you write about it in a tone without outrage, then that’s just deception, you know?”

Taibbi says his decision to leave Rolling Stone was predicated in part on the need to make a change and “keep from falling into a pattern,” and partly by his desire to “be on Glenn’s side.” Glenn being Glenn Greenwald, who, along with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, is currently editing another First Look property, the national-security-centric The Intercept, which has been live since February. “Glenn’s in this position of being a reporter trying to put out material that came from a whistle-blower, and now they’re both essentially in exile. It’s crazy. If the press corps that existed in the ’60s and ’70s had seen this situation, they’d be rising as one and denouncing the government for it,” Taibbi says.

Like former Washington Post scribe Ezra Klein, who recently moved to a new venture at Vox Media, Taibbi sees hope in the foundational, start-up mode of journalism. “You’ve got this widespread mistrust of media organizations,” he says, “and the feeling, from people on both sides, that the networks are in the tank for one political party or another. I think people are more willing to trust individuals than they are organizations.”

Taibbi grew up on the South Shore of Boston, where he was by his account a “depressive” kid, content to spend the day burrowing into old Russian novels. “I must have read Dead Souls a hundred times,” he says. “I had this fantasy that I was living in 19th-century Russia.” (It was his Russophilia that led him, in 1992, to move there, where he remained until 2002, working first at the Moscow Times, and then at the eXile, a news­paper he helped found with fellow expat Mark Ames.)

Taibbi’s father is the Emmy Award–­winning NBC reporter Mike Taibbi—and along with Gogol and Tolstoy, he also idolized the “middle-class, working-class people” who then populated newsrooms. “They relished their role as jerks who wouldn’t let anything slide. And I was attracted to that,” he says. “I mean, ­journalists should be dark, funny, mean people. It’s appropriate for their ­antag­onistic, adversarial role.”

Contrast that with today, he argues, when for a lot of reporters, “the appeal of the job has more to do with proximity to power. They want to say they had a beer with Hillary Clinton or whatever it is.” Espe­cially offensive to Taibbi: the ­ten­den­cy of his peers to go to great lengths to always give equal weight to opposing arguments. “If there’s one way of looking at things, and there’s another way of looking at things that’s totally ridiculous, you don’t have to give the latter point of view as much ­quarter as some contemporary journalism professors might tell you.”

He stands up. Time to leave—the day is full with appointments, and at home, in Jersey City, his wife, a family doctor, and his son are waiting. But first he wants to take a look at the waitress’s tattoo. She holds her hand ­forward: I FUCKING LOVE YOU, reads a line of blue cursive script. “Very nice,” Taibbi says appreciatively.

Outside, the temperature has dropped to 19 degrees. Taibbi, tucked into a boxy old coat, says it isn’t as cold as it was when he lived in Moscow, and it’s ­pos­itively balmy compared with the climes in ­Mongolia, where he, at age 25, had spent a season playing professional basketball. The team was the Mountain Eagles; Taibbi was a small forward. “I’d met this kid playing street ball in Moscow, and he told me about a pro league in Mongolia called the MBA. So I quit my job and took a train to Ulan Bator. They called me ‘the Mongolian Rodman,’ ” he says. “I would have stayed. I was having a blast. But I caught pneumonia and I had to go back to Moscow.”

Taibbi lopes southward, toward the cloistered streets of the Financial District. I wonder aloud if he feels that the work he did about Wall Street—on subprime mortgages, and the student-loan apparatus, and the “teeming rat’s nest of corruption” that led to the 2008 meltdown—had made a difference.

“I think the first clue I had was when Occupy happened,” he says. “And I could see that a lot of the stuff that I wrote about was in the background. People carrying papier-­mâché squids at some of the protests, which was cool. I think that’s part of what every journalist wants: to have an impact.” Still, that impact has only gone so far. None of the operators Taibbi regards as criminally liable for the crash has been punished; meanwhile, movies like The Wolf of Wall Street are, in his view, idolizing bankers in a way he finds unseemly. “It’s kind of the same way they glamorized the Mafia once upon a time,” he says. “But at least with the Mafia, there was always this lesson that you got at the end, that crime didn’t pay.”

Taibbi pauses at the top of the steps of the Fulton Street subway station. “Big companies like Goldman Sachs have billions to spend on their own publicity. They don’t need us to do that for them. And everyone else in this world does need us to do that for them,” he says, waving good-bye. “I think about that a lot.”

*This article appears in the March 10, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.




COMMENTS from Jan. 1, 2014 VOSD story above

... Scott Lewis administrator
Hi guys, I didn't mean politically conservative. I meant conservative in actions, ie, concerned with conserving what I have, not risking...Just want us to keep our edge, be willing to upset folks from time to time and make wise investments in broader coverage that we think can be sustained in future.

... Doug Porter subscriber
Excellent writing. Bravo to the story line, too! Happy New Year!

[Maura Larkins' comment:
I agree. Very good writing, Scott. As a journalist, I'm sure Mr. Porter genuinely empathizes with your story line. He, too, must feel the pressure to avoid controversy, to avoid truths that are unpleasant to him. But he's recovering from a bout of cancer. He has a lot better excuse than Mr. Lewis for "plateauing".]


Scott Lewis administrator
Happy New Year to you, too, Doug.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Alabama Journalist Tells Us What It Was Like To Spend Five Months In Jail For Reporting A Story

"[The] order included a vague mandate to take down all content related to the alleged affair, without ever deeming which content was actually defamatory."

Alabama Journalist Tells Us What It Was Like To Spend Five Months In Jail For Reporting A Story
By Nicole Flatow
Think Progress
April 7, 2014

“You get down to survival mode.” That was blogger Roger Shuler’s state of mind after being arrested and hauled off to jail for writing about a politically connected Alabama lawyer.

“Once you’re arrested I mean there’s not much you can do,” he told ThinkProgress in a conversation after his release, explaining that he felt powerless to handle the legal defense of his case. “Your hands are tied literally and figuratively and just to try to figure out how to get out was almost impossible … I really was afraid for my life at times.”

Until last week, Shuler was the only known journalist in the Western Hemisphere jailed for doing his job. Shuler, a former sports reporter and university editor who developed the political blog Legal Schnauzer, is known as a controversial figure in his community. He has fielded other allegations of falsehoods and has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over his blogging. But even his critics conceded that a court order banning him from writing anything about the alleged extramarital affair of a man rumored to be running for Congress was likely unconstitutional, and a First Amendment outrage.

First, a Shelby County judge ruled that Shuler could not continue writing about the alleged affair of Robert Riley, Jr., the son of former Gov. Bob Riley rumored to be running for Congress. Then, when Shuler refused to comply with the order, police came to his home one evening and arrested him for contempt of court. Contempt of court is a punishment for failure to comply with a court order. In many instances such as this one, it is a “civil” offense, meaning it doesn’t carry long-term criminal penalties. But officials use jail as a means of forcing compliance with the order. So Shuler sat in jail until he complied.

Shuler was initially resistant to the order. But even when he wanted to comply, he didn’t know how.

“At my Nov. 14 hearing, the only hearing I had in the case, the court gave me no direction on how I could purge myself of contempt,” Shuler told the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “I noted that I had no computer or Web access to take down the posts, even though I knew it was unlawful to be forced into taking them down. The court’s response was more or less that I had to resolve that problem myself. With that kind of response from the court I felt caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’”

Shuler said if he was lucky, he got to make a 15-minute call three or four times a week. “That’s the only communication I had with anybody,” said.

And getting a lawyer wasn’t easy. While defendants in criminal cases who cannot afford a lawyer have a right to court-appointed counsel, the same is not true in civil contempt cases. Shuler called himself middle class, and said he would “really need either pro bono or contingency type of legal representation and I think it’s a possibility but it’s very slow in trying to make it happen.”

Shuler was supported by legal briefs in his case from the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. But neither organization was representing him directly, and only he had the power to appeal his own case. Shuler didn’t appeal. He said he spent his time in jail fearing for his life, and figuring out how he could comply with a sweeping contempt order and get out of jail. As the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press explained in an October letter, the order included a vague mandate to take down all content related to the alleged affair, without ever deeming which content was actually defamatory.

What ultimately facilitated Shuler’s release was the intervention of his wife, Carol, who drafted an agreement to take down some material that allowed Shuler to be freed at least temporarily. “She was the one that really negotiated getting me out,” he said.

Shuler was perhaps the most prominent inmate in Shelby County jail these last few months, but he says he wasn’t the only one who shouldn’t have been there. Most of the people he met were there for drug and alcohol problems, he said, or for mental health issues the jail didn’t appear suited to handle.

“Jail is I guess by definition a holding facility for people a lot of whom have not yet been found guilty of anything,” he said. (Jails typically hold individuals who have been charged but not yet convicted, or those who receive short sentences, typically less than a year). “I go to bed at night and a lot of times I think there are guys still in there … I get the feeling we’re in a culture right now, it’s sort of like arrest first, and ask questions later.”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ukraine protesters rally after attack on journalist Teyana Chornovil

Ukraine protesters rally after attack on journalist Teyana Chornovil
By Barbara Miller
ABC News
Dec. 27, 2013

Photo: Protesters hold photos of Tetyana Chornovil during a demonstration at the Internal Affairs Ministry. (AFP: Sergei Supinsky)

Journalist Teyana Chornovil was attacked in the early hours of Christmas morning, shortly after publishing an article on the alleged assets of the interior minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko.

Ms Chornovil, 34, has written a series of articles purporting to expose the wealth of senior government figures and was an active participant in the current wave of anti-government protests that were sparked by president Viktor Yanukovych's decision to turn away from a trade deal with the European Union.

Footage from a dashboard camera in Ms Chornovil's car appears to show the early stages of the attack and has reportedly been used to help track down the alleged attackers.

"A jeep ran into me, tried to smash into me. They broke my window, I jumped out of my car and tried to escape, but they caught me and started to beat me up," Ms Chornovil said.

Police say three men are now being questioned.

Footage uploaded to YouTube shows the journalist with a bloodied and bruised face being treated by medical staff.

The incident has sparked fresh protests in Kiev, with opposition groups gathering outside the Interior Ministry chanting: "Down with the bloody minister."

"I simply can't stand this injustice anymore, everyday so many people come out to protest, but nobody's listening to us," one protester said.

Mark Rachkevych, the business editor of the Kyiv Post newspaper, says the public is demanding those who ordered the attack are punished.

"The more they use force, the more radicalised protestors become," he told AM.

"The public wants the ones who ordered it - not [the] fall guys, not lower level people."

Hundreds of protesters are continuing to camp out around braziers on Kiev's Independence Square, swelled by weekly mass rallies of around 100,000 or more.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reform the New York Times! Media protecting companies tied to Chinese corruption

Reform the New York Times!
Media must stop protecting companies tied to Chinese corruption
U.S. corporations are complicit in Chinese corruption. Why are our newspapers so afraid to report the truth
Patrick L. Smith
Salon.com
Nov 23, 2013

Once upon a time, people on this side of the Pacific were encouraged to assume that China’s post-Mao economic reforms would make the land of 1.4 billion mostly miserable souls a democratic, equitable, orderly place. It always happens this way, after all: Open markets make open, free societies. Straight-line equation.

And this was why it was terrific that hundreds of multinational banks and manufacturers were investing in Chinese operations. Making China democratic was, when one truly got down to it, what all those CEOs wanted. You knew this was so: You read it in the newspapers.

Reading now about China’s latest reforms, announced the other day after a plenum of the Communist Party’s central committee, one is not treated even to the old pretense. Of course, one is not treated to the story, either — and certainly not any mention that the old pretense has turned out to be a pretense.

The story would be too much to take. Not to raise ignitable topics among readers of my previous column about how the New York Times shades the truth with quotation marks, but the story would require that reforms be changed to “reforms.” The story is that America and most of its people are heavily dependent upon, if not addicted to, the very system of suffocating control and exploitation they profess to regret.

Here it is in a phrase: We are all corrupt Communist Party apparatchiks now. And the moment comes when we have to recognize that we have been since the days of Deng way back in the 1980s. Why can I not read about this in my newspapers?

The reforms just announced by President Xi Jinping are supposed to be the greatest thing since Saran Wrap. (Is that made in China now, too?) Pundits and Sinologists compare them with the big reversals Deng Xiaoping initiated when Mao was dead two years and it was safe to come out of the closet with the getting-rich-is-glorious bit.

We await a full-dress document listing all of Xi’s reforms. So far we have some price liberalization, some reduction of investment restrictions, some increased competition for state-owned enterprises (known as SOE’s), and so on. All of this — the phrase now prompting a frisson in the financial press — is intended to “allow the market to play a decisive role in allocating resources,” as the central committee communiqué explained it.

I do not find markets especially reliable in allocating resources — ask a mergers-and-acquisitions man and then ask a schoolteacher — but we can leave this for a minute.

There are some social measures planned. Urban migrants will get equal treatment when they arrive in cities to find work. Farmers will be allowed to sell land when they surrender the village to join the urban drift. The item readers will have read about is the liberalization of the one-child-only policy, which was among Deng’s earliest reforms — excuse me, “reforms.”

Look at this list, sketchy as it is. What do we have here from the desk of Comrade Xi? The correspondents in Beijing will not help you on this point.

These are top-down, technocratic adjustments intended to make China’s authoritarian-capitalist system work better (or “better”). It is the obvious point of the market adjustments. Most of the new social provisions are simply responses to labor shortages that will, if unaddressed, leave factories short of fodder and cause wages to rise.

Reforms alter institutions; they imply fundamental change in a society’s direction. What our press has just reported are “reforms.” They offer more efficient ways to exploit and control people within the social economy just as it is. They are mechanisms, not reforms. And this is why they meet with unanimous approval in the West. The China play is too good to change but at the margins.

It is almost as if Xi and his central committee comrades wanted to put this point as starkly as possible. Along with the economic “reforms” came a big one on the administrative side. Beijing is now to form a “National Security Commission” to concentrate power over domestic security, external intelligence, foreign policy, and military policy. Xi is likely to head this agency. My favorite detail: The model is a cross between our National Security Council and the National Security Agency. Something to be proud of in some quarters.

We come to what is missing from the reports of Xi and his “reforms.” We have no account of our complicity, our interest in Xi’s success as he fortifies and extends centralized power such that a one-party dictatorship can survive a carefully attenuated opening of the most profitable sectors of the social economy. It is because of our complicity that our press overstates the Chinese case: “Reforms” have to come across as reforms.

The Financial Times now runs headlines (Nov. 16, Page 3) of “hopes for a decade of radical change.” With respect for a newspaper I read regularly, this is misleading nonsense.

A couple of recent incidents in the press cast curious light. Ten days ago came a long piece revealing how Matt Winkler, the controversial (let us remain polite) editor in chief of Bloomberg News, spiked a year-long investigation of corrupt ties between a Chinese tycoon and senior C.P. officials. “If we run the story we’ll be kicked out of China,” one of the correspondents quoted his boss as saying in a late-night telephone call between New York and Hong Kong.

Winkler denies all, but then he would. (Transparency here: This columnist once wrote commentary for Winkler’s organization and got a variant of the same treatment.) If any reader can think of a lowlier example of depravity in the face of Chinese power and the profits earned therefrom, please use the comment box below.

It gets more curious. The Winkler story was leaked to and published by none other than the New York Times, which put it on Page One (Nov. 9). And curiouser still. Five days later the Times ran a huge takeout on — believe it — its investigation into how JPMorgan Chase had more or less bribed the daughter of Wen Jiabao, who was then premier, to win underwriting business for the China Railway Group, one of the larger SOE’s.

The Times item was by David Barboza, the paper’s Shanghai correspondent. (More transparency: Barboza was previously a colleague.) It is a remarkable piece of work; the graphic mapping the Wen family’s many imaginative corruptions must have cost thousands and a lot of legwork, and is well worth all of what was spent assembling it.

So far as I know, Barboza continues to live and file in Shanghai. The piece is remarkable (and devilishly timed to follow the Winkler revelation). A tip of the cap. But something is missing, making an untruth by omission.

The flow of under-the-table funds from Western banks and corporations is essential to Chinese corruption and those who benefit from it on both sides. Follow the logic out: It is one reason (of many, of course) that China is among the world’s most inequitable societies by way of income distribution. JPMorgan did but one thing differently: It got caught (which seems to be CEO Jamie Dimon’s special gift).

I find nothing radical in the thesis just described. It is a straight-up replica of what I used to call the Cold War social contract when I lived in Southeast Asia. Populations accept varying degrees of tyranny, political silence and across-the-board corruption among the elites, always with foreign funds to keep it all going. In exchange they receive a modicum of material comfort — TV’s, refrigerators and so on, usually the first they have ever owned.

I shorthand the deal as “shut up and change the channel.” You recall some of the names: Marcos, Suharto, Park Chung Hee, the amazing Kakuei Tanaka and his Lockheed scandal. I think Kaku-san actually did make green money sprout from trees before he was done.

To sum up: China under Xi Jinping does not represent a reform of this long-standing arrangement across the Pacific. Add his name to the list. And never leave home without your quotation marks.

Footnote: At midweek, the Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan has just withdrawn as underwriter of a $2 billion stock offering in Hong Kong by a mainland institution called China Everbright Bank. This is rare in the merchant-banking game. It seems that JPMorgan hired a young man named Tang Xiaoping prior to getting its piece of cake. Tang’s dad is chairman of China Everbright Group, the state-backed owner of Everbright Bank. This is one of several such deals U.S. authorities are investigating under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Remember that? Congress passed it after Lockheed got caught bribing Tanaka, who was premier at the time (mid–1970s). What a footprint we leave at the other end of the Pacific.

Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Michael Hastings Sent Panicked Email Hours Before Car Crash

Michael Hastings Sent Panicked Email Hours Before Car Crash
By Daniel Politi
Slate
June 23, 2013
v Journalist Michael Hastings wrote an email to his colleagues hours before he died last week in which he said his “close friends and associates” were being interviewed by the FBI and he was going to “go off the radar for a bit.” The 33-year-old journalist said he was “onto a big story,” according to KTLA that publishes a copy of the email that Hastings sent at around 1 p.m. Monday June 17. Hastings died at around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in a fiery one-vehicle car crash. Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who knew Hastings from Afghanistan, supplied a copy of the email to the network.
v “It alarmed me very much,” Biggs, who was blind-copied on the email, said. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.” The FBI has denied Hastings was under investigation. But WikiLeaks published a message on Twitter last week that said Hastings contacted the organization’s lawyers hours before he died, “saying the FBI was investigating him.”

The email with the subject “FBI Investigation, re: NSA” reads:

Hey [redacted] the Feds are interviewing my "close friends and associates." Perhaps if the authorities arrive "BuzzFeed GQ," er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I'm onto a big story, and need to go off the radat for a bit.

All the best, and hope to see you all soon.

Michael

Monday, April 29, 2013

Qworty goes nuts on Wikipedia regarding Amanda Filipacchi

Writer Andrew Leonard of Salon.com gets a bit defensive on behalf of the New York Times in the following article, although I do agree that editors at Wikipedia like Qworty have agendas other than the search for truth. Does Wikipedia have a way to demote editors who go out of control?

Wikipedia’s shame
Sexism isn't the problem at the online encyclopedia. The real corruption is the lust for revenge
By Andrew Leonard
Salon.com
Apr 29, 2013

Is Wikipedia sexist? Or is it merely an unreliable mess of angry, ax-wielding psychos engaged in agenda-driven editing? Or is it something much more complicated than that?

Last Wednesday, novelist Amanda Filipacchi published an Op-Ed in the New York Times recounting her discovery that Wikipedia editors were culling women authors from Wikipedia’s list of “American Novelists” and relegating them into their own subcategory: “American Women Novelists.”

“The intention appears to be to create a list of ‘American Novelists’ on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men,” she wrote, noting that there was no “American Men Novelists” subcategory. (Although, amusingly, just such a category was created shortly after the Op-Ed appeared.)

In the furor that erupted on Wikipedia in response to Filipacchi’s article, it was quickly determined that the bad behavior she noticed appeared to be the work of a single misguided Wikipedia editor. One could argue that, if true, this made the Times’ headline “Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists” unfair and inaccurate. All of Wikipedia was being tarred by the unthinking stupidity of one bad editor.

But then things got a lot worse. In a follow-up Op-Ed published on Sunday, Filipacchi recounted the all-too-predictable reaction from aggrieved Wikipedia editors.

As soon as the Op-Ed article appeared, unhappy Wikipedia editors pounced on my Wikipedia page and started making alterations to it, erasing as much as they possibly could without (I assume) technically breaking the rules. They removed the links to outside sources, like interviews of me and reviews of my novels. Not surprisingly, they also removed the link to the Op-Ed article. At the same time, they put up a banner at the top of my page saying the page needed “additional citations for verifications.” Too bad they’d just taken out the useful sources.

Welcome to the age of “revenge editing.” The edits didn’t stop at Filipacchi’s page. Edits were also made to pages about her novels, stripping content from them on the grounds that they were overly self-promotional (a big Wikipedia no-no.) One editor, as recently as Monday morning, even started editing the pages devoted to Filpacchi’s parents, and slashed huge swaths from a page about the media conglomerate Hachette-Filipacchi, whose chairman emeritus happens to be Filipacchi’s father, Daniel Filipacchi.

As is usually the case with Wikipedia, high-profile “revenge editing” clearly motivated by animus tends to draw a lot of attention. A frequent result: ludicrous “edit wars” in which successive revisions are undone in rapid succession. Eventually, someone higher up in the chain of hierarchy steps in and freezes a page in which an edit war is occurring, or some measure of consensus is reached after a lot of shouting. Indeed, hardcore Wikipedia advocates argue that no matter how dumb or ugly the original bad edit or mistake might have been, the process, carried out in the open for all to see, generally results, in the long run, in something more closely resembling truth than what we might see in more mainstream approaches to knowledge assembly.

Wikipedia’s saving grace is that all the edit wars — all the ugly evidence of “revenge editing” — is preserved for eternity for anyone curious enough to investigate in the “talk pages” that reveal precisely how Wikipedia’s knowledge is constructed. A review of the talk pages associated with the various Filipacchi-related Wikipedia pages edited after the Op-Ed’s publication reveals the vast majority of the anti-Filipacchi edits to have been made by just one person, a Wikipedia editor who goes by the user-name “Qworty.”

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Self-publishing is the future — and great for writers

I strongly recommend clicking on the title below to see all the great links on the Salon site.

Hugh Howey: Self-publishing is the future — and great for writers
Books have changed forever, and that's good. Writers will find readers and make more money going it alone, like me
By Hugh Howey
Salon.com
Apr 4, 2013

Contrary to recent reports, I am not the story of self-publishing.

The story of self-publishing is Jan Strnad, a 62-year-old educator hoping to retire in four years. To do so is going to require supplemental income, which he is currently earning from his self-published novels. In 2012, Jan made $11,406.31 from his work. That’s more than double what he made from the same book in the six months it was available from Kensington, a major publisher. He has since released a second work and now makes around $2,000 a month, even though you’ve never heard of him.

Rachel Schurig has sold 100,000 e-books and made six figures last year. She is the story of self-publishing. Rick Gualtieri cleared over $25,000 in 2012 from his writing. He says it’s like getting a Christmas bonus every month. Amanda Brice is an intellectual property attorney for the federal government. In her spare time, she writes teen mysteries and adult romantic comedies. She averages $750 a month with her work.

Like Schurig, Robert J. Crane is quickly moving from midlist to A-list. When Robert shared his earnings with me late last year, his monthly income had gone from $110.29 in June to $13,000+ in November. He was making more in a month than many debut authors are likely to receive as an advance from a major publisher. And he still owned his rights. His earnings have only gone up since.

Right now you are probably thinking that these anecdotes of self-publishing success are the result of my having cherry-picked the winners. In fact, these stories appear in this exact order in my private message inbox over at Kindle Boards. The only sampling bias is that these writers responded to a thread I started titled: “The Self Published Authors I Want to Hear From.” I wanted to know how many forum members were making $100 to $500 a month. My suspicion was that it was more than any of us realized. Every response I received started with a variation of: “I’m actually making a lot more than that.”

My fascination with this story began back when major media outlets like Entertainment Weekly and Wired magazine called to interview me. Perhaps the transition from near-minimum-wage bookseller to New York Times bestseller was too surreal for me to embrace, but my reaction to these entreaties was that I couldn’t possibly be the real story. For every outlier like myself or Bella Andre or Amanda Hocking, there must be hundreds of people doing well enough with their writing to pay a few bills. The more time I spent online in various writing forums, the more this hunch hardened into a real theory. People I interacted with every day were appearing on bestseller lists or emailing me for advice on handling calls from agents. The hundreds appeared to be thousands. And this could only be a fraction of the actual number.

My call for anecdotes was my first attempt to find data to support this theory. Before I wrote this article, the first thing I did was click on a random page of my private message inbox. I received such a flood from that forum post that any page likely would have worked, and the first one did. I could regale you with hundreds of accounts of publishing success, all from people you’ve never heard of, all making more than most traditionally published authors, and all messaging me within a few hours of my call to arms. The story, I started to realize, was much bigger than I had thought.

Of course, you’ll see articles lamenting the paucity of sales most self-published books enjoy, but there’s a problem with comparing average self-published sales with traditionally published books. In self-publishing, the slush pile is made available to readers. These comparisons between the two paths take the tip of one iceberg (the books that made it through the gauntlet and into bookstores) with an entire iceberg (all self-published books). It’s not a fair comparison.

Another problem with the data that disparages self-publishing is that much of it comes from the age of self-pub authors having to print hundreds of books and warehouse them in their garages. These tales of literary woe will include all the people who simply wrote and published a book to tick off a task on a bucket list. Or those who wanted to share a memoir with family and friends. Or those who only had a single book in them. Or those who gave up after completing that first novel. Or those who chose to write in a genre that has a very limited readership.

I celebrate writing for any of these reasons — I wish more people wrote more often. But what fascinates me as a self-published author are not those who publish a single novel but rather those who approach this as a major hobby, a second job or even a career. Those who take their writing seriously, who publish more than one title a year and do this year after year, are finding real success with their art. They are earning hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. I’ve watched several online friends go from publishing their first books to hitting the New York Times bestseller list. I’ve watched even more get themselves out of debt while pursuing a lifelong dream. There’s a silent mob out there making hundreds of dollars a month while doing something they love, and this should be celebrated.

None of this is meant to say that everyone who self-publishes — even those who study the craft, take their work seriously, and produce a constant stream of material — will find material success. There is also luck involved and the fickle tastes of readers. But what is becoming more apparent with every passing day is that you have a better chance of paying a bill or two through self-publishing than you do through any other means of publication.

Many of you are no doubt wiping beverage spittle off your computer screens right now. Some of you are probably angry at hearing this. You may think that this is post hoc reasoning from one of the people who had success happen to him. Except that I was espousing this view well before my own works took off. It seemed logical to me then, and it seems logical to me now. As soon as the cost of distribution and production both hit zero, the game changed. It just took a while for everyone to realize it (we’re still waiting on a few laggards, but they’ll catch on eventually).

Let’s compare music and literature for a moment. No, not the industries, which are following similar disruptions due to the arrival of the digital age, I mean the people who make music and those who craft literature. Let’s look at the artists.

How many people teach themselves to play the guitar? We celebrate this, don’t we? Even as they go through the callous-building phase, we admire anyone who learns the grammar of chords and then strings these phrases together into music. They begin by playing cover tunes the way an aspiring author might write fan fiction. They go on to strum on the sidewalk with a hat by their feet much like someone might blog and hope for a donation. They play small venues on open-mic nights that we can think of as free books on Smashwords. They get a few paying gigs, which is like self-publishing on Amazon. They hope to gain a following, local at first. Maybe they’ll get invited to open for a bigger act, which would be akin to scoring a blurb from a bestselling author. Perhaps a scout will see them live or on YouTube, like an agent noticing an author on a bestseller list. This is how artists are born. They are self-made. They perform for people. They learn and improve as they do both.

The old route for literary success looks stodgy and outdated by comparison. You write in a vacuum or for a professor who frowns on genre; you workshop with other writers; you craft a query letter; you appeal to the tastes of an intern at a literary agency; you claw your way out of the slush pile; you hope to win over an editor at a major publishing house; your book comes out a year later and sits spine-out on a bookshelf for six months; it gets returned to the publisher and goes out of print; you start over. The general reader is a mile away from you in this process. You never had a chance to be heard by the only people who truly matter.

With self-publishing, you learn your craft while producing material. You win over your fans directly. You own all of your rights, and your works stay fresh and available for your lifetime (and beyond). Nothing goes out of print. I think this advantage is difficult to fully appreciate. My bestselling work was my eighth or ninth title. As soon as it took off, the rest of my material took off with it. To the reader, it was all brand-new. To those being born today who will become avid readers 15 years from now, those works will still be brand-new. My entire oeuvre will always be in print and always earning me something. Nothing is pulled and returned from the digital bookshelf.

Another advantage is price. I recommended a book to readers recently, only to discover that the e-book was priced at $12.99! I can’t believe publishers do this to themselves. But then, they have to worry about competing with their other products. If they price their backlist too low, the fear is that readers will ignore the works currently being promoted. When John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series came out at $11.99, they lost a customer: Me. At $2.99, I would have purchased every single one of those classics. I doubt I would have actually read them (again), but I would have bought them. They would have competed with nothing; the electrons wouldn’t clutter my house; the price would be impulse territory. It all comes back to the fear that the e-book will cannibalize a print copy or a more recent title. When you self-publish, you care about your work more than anyone else ever will. That means pricing it to gain as many readers as possible.

The twin advantages of price and permanence made it easy for me to walk away from offers from major publishers. Even when those offers soared into the seven figures, there was no chance that I would give up a monthly income for the rest of my life for a one-time payment, especially when that payment meant that in six months, my work would be seen as competition to whatever was newly released. The print-only deal I signed with Simon & Schuster was advantageous because my physical sales, even at thousands of dollars a month, were a fraction of my total self-published earnings. Digital is where it’s at, and even major publishers understand this.

That’s why the self-publishing community shook its collective head over a recent story here on Salon. A professed self-publishing failure turned out not to have an e-book available. Old thinking like this has no place in today’s publishing world. For all the author of that piece knows, his story might find its audience 10 years from now and hit every bestseller list. The chances aren’t great, of course, because he only wrote one novel, gave it mere months to succeed, and chose the medium least suited to discoverability. That’s how it used to work. It no longer has to.

Here’s the reality: How you publish will not significantly affect the quality of your story. If it needs a ton of work, it’s not going to make it out of the slush pile anyway. These days, manuscripts need to be perfect before they’re submitted to agents or before you self-publish, so don’t fool yourself into thinking a rough draft can become a great novel with the help of an agent or editor. It’s simply not likely to happen. Your book will be your book no matter what path you take. It won’t suddenly be horrible because you self-publish it, and it won’t be amazing just because some agent or editor seems to think so. It will need to prove itself to readers one way or the other, whichever path you take.

There are two possibilities. Your book might be in the top 1 percent of what readers are looking for — whether by the magic of your plot or the grace of your prose — in which case you are far better off self-publishing. You’ll make more money sooner, and you’ll own the rights when it comes time to negotiate with publishers (if you even care to). If, on the other hand, your work isn’t in the top 1 percent, it won’t escape the clutches of the slush pile. Your only hope in this case is to self-publish. Which means there isn’t a scenario in which I would recommend an author begin his or her career with a traditional publisher. Not a one. Even Jim Carrey is going the self-pub route with his children’s book, and he’ll make a mint because of it. The new top-down approach is to self-publish and retain ownership. The course of last resort would be to sign away your rights for the rest of your life.

Louis C.K. proved this for comedy. The better you are, the better it pays to produce and own your own work. If you’re not on that level, producing it yourself is the only option. Only option or best option. It’s that simple.

“But I only want to write,” you might say. “I don’t want to be a publisher.” Well, good luck. Even if you land with a major publishing house, the success of your work will depend on you knowing this business and embracing all the challenges that a self-published author faces. There are only a handful of authors in the world who can make a living writing and passing along those words to someone else and not doing a single other thing. Most people who attempt this method teach creative writing for a living, and not because they want to. Promotion will be up to you. Your publisher will want to see your social media presence before they offer you a book deal. Learning the ins and outs of self-publishing before signing with a major house is the best training imaginable. Not doing so would be like a hopeful race car driver not caring what’s under the hood. I’ve been shocked to discover, having worked with major publishers, that many of my self-published friends know more about the current publishing landscape than industry veterans with decades of experience. The more you learn and the more you keep an open mind, the better your chances for success.

The rest of this story will be written in the coming years. It is early yet, but I predict that more and more people will find success by self-publishing first and proving themselves to small audiences. They will follow the route of other artists who work their way up from small beginnings rather than hoping to blow it out on their first attempt on the stage. I’ve already heard from authors who gave up on self-publishing only to have their still-available works bloom years later and earn them real money. Some books will be like locusts, emerging by some fickle whim long after they were forgotten. What will matter for those books and those authors will be that the work was created and made available, and neither of those feats will expire.

Aspiring authors email me all the time asking for advice, and I tell them the same thing: I found success because I wrote for the love of writing. I self-published simply because I wanted to own my work and I wanted to make it available to readers. I expected nothing. I wrote as one might garden or knit, simply because they enjoy the act of creation. The fact that I pay my bills — a feat growing more and more common by the day — is an unexpected bonus. I’d be doing this on the street with a hat by my feet if I had to. I’d be building callouses and nodding my thanks to anyone who tossed a coin my way. Sure, it would be crazy to think I might become the next Clapton or Hendrix, but for every outlier like that, there are thousands of musicians playing steady gigs on the weekends, loving what they do, and paying a few bills as a result. Finally, the same can be said of authors. And that’s the real story of self-publishing.