HDM: Our Only Hope

The word mainstream has several synonyms but only one antonym:
heterodox (het·er·o·dox)
ADJECTIVE
1. disagreeing with established opinions: at variance with established or accepted beliefs or theories, especially in the field of religion
So I would like to herein coin the term Heterodox Media (HDM) and apply it to anyone disseminating information for primarily educative rather than monetary profit.  To illustrate the dangers of the latter from just the past week:
The Daily Show ran a piece on the death of investigative journalism at CNN which included the admission by a media consultant that digging into stories was simply not profitable:

.

.
which led to watchdog.org running a piece extolling the HDM and making the point:

Real journalism – investigative reporting – is costly. The old guard media has been struggling for nearly a decade to stay in the black. It appears they can’t stay in business if they have to do their job.

which leads me to New Jersey’s largest newspaper laying off 10% of their newsroom staff to which Gardengirl commented:

The print edition of the Star-Ledger has become a sickly skeleton of what was once a robust and valued newspaper. We ended our subscription a couple of years ago after realizing most of the ink was devoted to legal notices, page upon page of obituaries and advertisements. The S-L also continued to cut back on what many people like most about the Sunday paper — the comics. This is not as much news as it is the ongoing closing of the casket.

Rather than ‘comics’ I would put ‘investigative journalism’ which died at the Ledger with Dunstan McNichol but the point is many newspapers are only hanging on because of legal notices which are bribes for silence on real issues.  Among the bribe-takers is a group of local papers in Union County who had a front-page above-the-fold story yesterday poking fun at a citizen-watchdog which started out:

After weeks and months of lambasting the county and the prosecutor’s office for dragging their feet on an investigation into misused generators, a county watchdog has refused to help when asked, even though she claims to have all the answers.

Which leads me to ask all the above:

1) Where are your reporters at public meetings?

2) Where are your stories on accounting fraud, self-dealing, or even the misappropriation of generators by the people you cover?

3) What do we-the-people need professional journalism for as that term is currently being defined?

If you in the MSM can only survive through the bribes you take from the people you are supposed to cover then we, the public, are well rid of you and we in the HDM can take it from here.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by skip3house on January 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Had thought years ago Dunstan McNichol should have been NJ Treasurer

    Reply

  2. Posted by Javagold on January 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    stop fighting it and grab all you can before the ponzi bubble pops

    Reply

  3. Posted by Al Moncrief on January 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Hi guys, my reaction to yesterday’s Florida Supreme Court ruling:

    FLORIDA SUPREME COURT PENSION DECISION: ACCRUED PUBLIC PENSION BENEFITS ARE INVIOLATE; HOWEVER, PENSION BENEFITS NOT YET EARNED CAN BE ALTERED . . . PROSPECTIVELY.

    VESTED PUBLIC PENSION COLA RIGHTS IN FLORIDA REMAIN UNTOUCHED – LEGISLATIVE IMPAIRMENT OF PREVIOUSLY ACCRUED BENEFITS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE “CANNOT RETROACTIVELY ALTER ACCRUED BENEFITS.”

    The Florida Supreme Court has reached a decision in the Scott V. Williams public pension case. Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court held that while the Florida Legislature cannot take back pension benefits that have already been earned, it can change benefits yet to be earned . . . prospectively. The ruling impacts current, active public pension members in the state. In accordance with the ruling, public employees will continue to contribute three percent of their salaries toward their pension benefits (previously, the public pension system was “non-contributory.”) Florida public sector retirees, of course, have completed accrual of public pension benefits, and are unaffected by the ruling.

    http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/

    The sponsors of the challenged Florida pension reform legislation argued that the reform measure operated on a purely prospective basis, and accordingly, did not impair any of the state’s existing contractual relationships. (I cannot fathom how so many members of the Colorado General Assembly reached the conclusion in 2010 that they could legally breach existing public pension contracts in SB 10-001 . . . retroactively seizing previously accrued public pension benefits.)

    The Florida Supreme Court decision is in conformance with legal arguments made by law professor Amy Monahan at the University of Minnesota School of Law. In her paper, Public Pension Reform: The Legal Framework, Monahan writes:

    “What if, ten years into X’s tenure with the state, the state announces that effective immediately, pension benefits will only accrue at the rate of 1% of salary per year? I have argued that such prospective changes should be permitted absent an explicit agreement protecting against such changes.”

    Monahan concludes:

    “This Article has argued that pension benefits that have already been earned through services rendered to the state should be protected against impairment, but that it is hard to find legal justification for protecting the rate of future benefit accruals.”

    Link to Monahan law article:

    http://www.law.umn.edu/facultyprofiles/monahana.html

    As I have previously written, Monahan’s arguments have been contested. Also, many state courts have ruled that employee rights to public pension benefits vest upon commencement of employment, or in the early years of public employment. It is also legally relevant that prior to enactment of the challenged public pension reform legislation in Florida, the state’s pension system was “non-contributory.” This fact significantly alters the contractual relationship of the parties in Florida and limits applicability of the decision’s legal rationale to most other public pension systems in the United States.

    From the Florida Supreme Court ruling:

    “Section 121.101(3), as amended in 2011, continues to provide a 3% cost-of-living adjustment to those persons who retired prior to July 1, 2011.”

    (My comment: Note that, according to the Florida Supreme Court, public pensions with 80 percent funded ratios are adequately funded. Why does the Colorado General Assembly propose to breach Colorado PERA pension contracts until a 100 percent funded ratio is achieved? A ridiculous and unnecessary overreach?)

    From the decision:

    “the FRS has been operating well above the 80% funding ratio recommended by experts . . ”

    From the Orlando Sentinel:

    “‘We recognized the authority of the Legislature to amend a retirement plan prospectively, so long as any benefits tied to service performed prior to the amendment date are not lost or impaired,’ wrote Labarga.”

    Link:

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2013/01/supreme-court-upholds-pension-changes.html

    From Reuters:

    “Florida legislators were mindful enough of constitutional considerations that when they passed amendments to state pension law in early 2011, they made the changes prospective. Past pension benefits weren’t affected by the amendments, but after July 2011, the new law said, state workers would have to contribute 3 percent of their gross compensation to a plan that had previously required no employee contribution; and they would have to forgo 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustments to their pensions. The prospective consequences of the law seemed to comply with the Supreme Court’s 1981 holding in Florida Sheriffs Association v. Department of Administration, which said that although past benefits are protected under the state constitution’s contract clause, the legislature has the power to change future pension rights.”

    “Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Court reversed the trial court but stopped well short of offering broad support for the constitutionality of pension cost-shifting. The court reiterated its holding from Florida Sheriffs that state law ‘does not create binding contract rights for existing employees to future retirement benefits’ and said that the new law’s changes were, indeed, prospective and thus legal.”

    Link:

    http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/01_-_January/Florida_high_court_upholds_pension_changes,_but_on_narrow_grounds/

    From NW Daily News:

    “A law championed by Gov. Rick Scott that requires teachers, state and county workers and some municipal employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the state’s pension plan was narrowly upheld by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.”

    “The 4-3 decision reversed a trial judge’s ruling that the law violated the collective bargaining, contract and property rights of about 600,000 public employees including police, firefighters and other first-responders.”

    “The law, which went into effect on July 1, 2011, also repealed 3 percent annual cost of living increases for benefits accrued after that date.”

    Link:

    http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/florida-supreme-court-upholds-pension-law-1.80585

    From the Miami Herald:

    “Scott argued it was unfair that Florida’s public employees didn’t contribute because workers in most other states and the private sector are required to help pay for their pensions if they still have that benefit.”

    “The high court majority cited a 1981 Supreme Court opinion that said the law protected rights and benefits already earned but did not preclude the Legislature from altering benefits prospectively for future service.”

    “Justice Jorge Labarga wrote for the majority that the same principle applied to the new law that restored employee contributions, so it does not violate employees’ contract rights nor take away property in the form of their pension benefits.”

    Link:

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/17/3187166/florida-supreme-court-upholds.html

    Link to the Florida Supreme Court decision:

    http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2013/sc12-520.pdf

    From the Florida Supreme Court Ruling:

    “In so ruling, the circuit court acknowledged this Court’s 1981 decision in Florida Sheriffs Ass’n v. Department of Administration, 408 So. 2d 1033, 1037 (Fla. 1981), in which we held that the preservation of rights statute ‘vest[ed] all rights and benefits already earned under the present retirement plan’ but did not preclude the Legislature from altering benefits prospectively for future state service in the existing noncontributory plan.”

    (My comment: According to the Florida Supreme Court, virtually no degree of impairment of existing contracts will be allowed.)

    “In determining the question of unconstitutional contract impairment in Florida, where a contract has been found to exist and to have been impaired by subsequent legislation, this Court in Pomponio v. Claridge of Pompano Condominium, Inc., 378 So. 2d 774 (Fla. 1979), adopted a balancing approach to determine if a statute unconstitutionally impairs a contract. We recognized in Pomponio that ‘virtually no degree of impairment’ will be tolerated . . .”

    “The government’s significant impairment of its own contract is not justified by necessity if ‘the State[] could have adopted alternative means’ of achieving its goals without altering the contract rights.”

    (My comment: At saveperacola.com, dozens of “less drastic” alternatives to the breach of Colorado PERA public pension contracts have been documented.)

    From the Florida Supreme Court decision:

    “We again hold, as we did in Florida Sheriffs, that the preservation of rights statute was not intended to bind future legislatures from prospectively altering benefits for future service performed by all members of the FRS. We further hold that the 2011 amendments requiring a 3% employee contribution as of July 1, 2011, and continuing thereafter, and the elimination of the COLA for service performed after that date are prospective changes within the authority of the Legislature to make. The preservation of rights statute does not create binding contract rights for existing employees to future retirement benefits based upon the FRS plan that was in place prior to July 1, 2011.”

    “As correctly held in Florida Sheriffs, this interpretation would be contrary to the Legislature’s intent as well as the logical meaning of the statute, which is to ensure that the Legislature cannot retroactively alter accrued benefits.”

    “The State contends that the 2011 amendments to the FRS operate prospectively only and, thus, the trial court’s order finding that the law impairs existing contract rights of current members of the FRS is inconsistent with this Court’s interpretation of the preservation of rights statute in Florida Sheriffs.”

    “Both parties agree that if an existing member of the FRS retired on June 30, 2011, none of his or her benefits would be diminished.”

    “Further, the amendments provide that upon retirement, any right to a COLA is limited to a calculation giving credit only for the employee’s service performed prior to July 1, 2011.”

    “The State contends that because the 3% contribution requirement and the elimination of the COLA did not take effect until July 1, 2011, and did not diminish any benefits earned as of that date, the amendments were purely prospective.”

    “We explained: ‘That rule of law has now been changed by the ‘preservation of rights’ section which modifies the Voorhees rule and vests all rights and benefits already earned under the present retirement plan so that the legislature may now only alter retirement benefits prospectively.’”

    “We stress that the rights provision was not intended to bind future legislatures from prospectively altering benefits which accrue for future state service.”

    “A reading of the entire decision discloses our conclusion that the preservation of rights statute was enacted to give contractual protection to those retirement benefits already earned as of the date of any amendments to the plan. We recognized the authority of the Legislature to amend a retirement plan prospectively, so long as any benefits tied to service performed prior to the amendment date are not lost or impaired.”

    “We again hold, as we did in Florida Sheriffs, that the preservation of rights statute was not intended to bind future legislatures from prospectively altering benefits for future service performed by all members of the FRS. We further hold that the 2011 amendments requiring a 3% employee contribution as of July 1, 2011, and continuing thereafter, and the elimination of the COLA for service performed after that date are prospective changes within the authority of the Legislature to make.”

    “As we held in Florida Sheriffs, we again hold that the actions of the Legislature have
    not impaired any statutorily created contract rights and, thus, we reverse the judgment of the trial court on this ground.”

    Reply

  4. Posted by Al Moncrief on January 18, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Hey John, have you ever considered reproducing this blog on Facebook? That would be cool. Al

    Reply

    • Al, never.

      Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are not for me, though that may have something to do with my ignorance of how it’s supposed to work. I signed up for them but never rarely feel a need to check in.

      There is so much useful and entertaining content on the internet that it seems like a waste to go to those facebook sites. It’s the difference between going to a play or a movie that people have put a lot of thought and effort into creating and overhearing someone else’s conversation, and a guarded conversation at that since people know you’re listening in on them.

      Again, I could be wrong but I see the only groups facebook benefits being the desperately lonely and stalkers. If you want to communicate with your friends on the internet what’s wrong with email?

      Reply

      • Posted by Al Moncrief on January 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

        I hear you . . . I resisted getting involved with Facebook for many years, but there seems to be a public policy explosion on Facebook recently, of all political stripes. Over time, all of your like-minded “Friends” (or opponents who want to monitor their policy foes) begin to accumulate. You build this audience that sees posts every day and has access to many tools to interact with the author and the entire group. “Like” BuryPensions on Facebook?

        Al

        Reply

        • If that’s where its heading then it’s only an extension of community voting patterns as have always existed, it seems to me, where people have a ‘sense’ of who they should be voting for instead of looking at the people running and making reasoned choices. It’s shorthand citizenry.

          Reply

          • Posted by skip3house on January 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

            Really?
            My observations tell me the people who vote on election day should be in on the nominating process to pick the candidates ,not those chosen by party (extreme) regulars. And, I mean before Primary Day !

  5. Love this post. We’re doomed here in Illinois in part because the regular media endlessly use only the state’s phony $96B unfunded pension liability number, so no real reforms are even under discussion. Only in HDM are numbers questioned. And I propose a new term for the regular media’s numbers: Kekua (Manti Te’O’s fake girlfriend (i.e., fiction; bullshit).

    Reply

  6. Posted by My Ignorant Opinion on January 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    The problem is that without subscription revenue you cannot employ journalists to represent the interests of the readership. So instead you get news sources that as businesses lose money but represent the interests of the owners, who take a loss on their news business in exchange for making money through influence they buy with their newspaper.

    The only newspaper I know of that still is supported by its subscription base is the “The Chief” http://thechiefleader.com/ whose readership is Civil Servants and people who want to be Civil Servants.

    Reply

  7. Posted by MJ on January 20, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I thought that newspapers made most of their revenue from advertisements. Anymore, the papers are full of legal notices, local government announcements. Most papers are going to online subscriptions. I remember awhile back that the Sheila Oliver? was proposing legislation to have all government notices posted online and not in the newspapers? At the time it seemed it was a warning to the Star Ledger? All propaganda. As far as the pensions, don’t you all by now know how this might play out ?

    Reply

    • Posted by My Ignorant Opinion on January 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      News papers are almost universally money losers these days so for example the New York Times got a large investment from Mexican telecom monopolist Carlos Slim. I doubt Slim expects to get the money back unless he sells it to someone who desperately wants to be in the news business, sort of like owning sports teams.

      That said at some point some news sources will have to return to being financed by readers. You could look at the financial statements of Gannett for info about how a news source might be able to make money, assuming Gannett is profitable.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: