Education Privatization Distorts News Coverage

Andrew KreigThe Washington Post's reluctance to cover many important stories involving legal reform is an important obstacle for those engaged in such work. So we excerpt below two revealing columns illustrating how the paper's leading revenue source -- profits from the education industry -- creates perverse financial incentives for what most readers assume is the paper's goal, selling newspapers. In fact, the paper is only partly engaged in what a Supreme Court justice once evocatively called "The marketplace of ideas." Instead the paper's quarterly reports indicate that it receives about 4 percent of its revenue from newspaper circulation. At least 60 percent of revenue typically comes to the Post from its Kaplan subsidiary, which provides a wide array of education services in K-12, college and post-college sectors. But a significant portion is funded by controversial government programs for which the Post (through its revenue-dominate affiliate) must lobby officials.

Excerpted below is a Salon column by Alex Pareene about the Post's involvement in the nation's looming student debt crisis: The $1 Trillion Student Loan Rip-Off: How an Entire Generation Was Tricked into Taking on Crushing Debt That Just Enriches Banks. This larger picture is illustrated also by a recent Huffington Post column by Chris Kirkham, With Goldman's Foray Into Higher Education, A Predatory Pursuit Of Students And Revenues. But other parts of our news round-up today include column excerpts show a happier tale: How the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey's largest newspaper, is finally grasping the dangers of political prosecutions that we've been reporting for more than two years.

At last, the Star-Ledger's editorial board has focused in blunt language on how Chris Christie misused his powers as a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney to bring the kind of political prosecutions that helped him win the governor's mansion in 2009. As we're frequently reported, the "Bid Rig III" innvestigation Christie initiated to foster his image as a corruption-fighter was deeply tainted. It grew out his longstanding abuses of power and the nationwide Bush political purge of U.S. attorneys in 2006, leaving in power fierce partisans, such as Christie. The news media in New Jersey and elsewhere enabled this by a temporary, superficial focus on the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired instead of on conduct by those President Bush and his advisors allowed to keep their jobs so long as they acted in sufficiently partisan manner. The larger problem is that news organizations find it cheaper and otherwise more convenient to look for a quick headline that prosecutors can provide more readily than defendants, for obvious reasons not necessarily related to the merits.

Also, we excerpt a Legal Schnauzer blog this week by Alabama's Roger Shuler, right, a fighter for readers Roger Shulerand legal reform who never quits. In it, he responds to legal threats by the law firm of the wealthy entrepreneur Ted Rollins, who is extremely unhappy with Shuler for reporting that his children are on food stamps following a messy divorce. Shuler takes us through what it's like for an experienced journalist who dares to use court records to write about one of America's wealthiest families. The Rollins family made its fortune in the pest control business. But, as indicated below, Rollins is having trouble with a particular breed that is hard to exterminate fully: pestus journalisimus.

Another example in the same vein is investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, who alerted me over the weekend to a major discovery he planned to print this week on his subscription-only site, the Wayne Madsen Report. Based on sources, he reported Oct. 24 that the Obama campaign in 2004 obtained the sealed divorce records of two Senate opponents and leaked them to the Chicago Tribune to destroy their candidacies. This paved the way for his successful Presidential campaign in 2008.

 


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For Profit Education and Student Loans

Huffington Post, With Goldman's Foray Into Higher Education, A Predatory Pursuit Of Students And Revenues, Chris Kirkham, Oct. 14, 2011. Education Management Corp. was already a swiftly growing player in the lucrative world of for-profit higher education, with annual revenues topping $1 billion, but it had its sights set on industry domination. So, five years ago, the Pittsburgh company's executives agreed to sell its portfolio of more than 70 colleges to a trio of investment partnerships for $3.4 billion, securing the needed capital for an aggressive national expansion. One of the new partners brought an outsized reputation for market savvy, deep pockets and a relentless pursuit of profits -- the Wall Street goliath, Goldman Sachs.


Salon, The $1 Trillion Student Loan Rip-Off: How an Entire Generation Was Tricked into Taking on Crushing Debt That Just Enriches Banks, Alex Pareene, Oct. 20, 2011. USA Today says that at some point this year, student loan debt will exceed $1 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. Felix Salmon says the number is closer to $550 billion. Either way total student loan debt is rising as other debts have tailed off. Delinquency has increased, too, since the height of the financial crisis. It’s a huge mess. Thanks to the horrific 2005 bankruptcy bill, one of the most nakedly venal modern examples of Congress serving the interests of the rentiers and creditors over the vast majority, debtors cannot discharge student loans through bankruptcy. The government is shielded from the risk, and creditors are licensed to collect by almost any means they deem necessary, giving no one in charge any real incentive (beyond basic human decency) to fix the situation. In other words, this is unprecedentedly awful for an entire generation of young people just entering adulthood.The impossibility of escaping student loan debt is why an industry sprang upto foist useless, overpriced degrees on vulnerable people. It’s a scam, but a profitable one, and respectable enough for major establishment players to feel comfortable making a killing on it. Like, for instance, Kaplan University, a chain of for-profit colleges built on winning free government student aid money and attracting suckers to borrow small fortunes.
The crooks are shameless. Here’s my favorite entry:

If I could do one thing, it would be to ensure the future of for-profit education companies, which this administration seems bent on eliminating. The Washington Post Company has struggled hard to be a good and decent company, but our for-profit education division is under fire by the administration, as are other for-profit education companies like Apollo and Strayer. (Full disclosure: I and my family have an ownership interest in WPO.) The majority of students in for-profit education companies are minorities, which makes you wonder how shutting down these companies will help achieve the president’s goal of having more college graduates in the U.S.

This wisdom comes from Lally Weymouth, “Senior Associate Editor” at the Washington Post and also part owner of the Washington Post Co., owner of for-profit college company Kaplan, the exploitative education corporation that subsidizes the money-losing newspaper. Lally’s idea for solving America’s “fiscal crisis” is to allow her to continue enriching herself by burying already poor people in paralyzing debt. But, of course, she’s only doing it to help those poor creatures who otherwise couldn’t attend schools! If she happens to make a killing doing so, then the market is working its magic, I guess. This is the same argument used by exploitative payday lenders — loan sharks in ghettos — to justify predatory lending habits targeted at impoverished and vulnerable communities. Only it’s coming from one of the most respectable members of Washington’s elite, and not the proprietor of a check-cashing joint.

New Jersey Political Prosecutions By Chris Christie
Newark Star-Ledger, Chris Christie's subpoena on Senator Menendez during an election was a mistake, Editorial board, Oct. 24, 2011. The news that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has been cleared of wrongdoing is prompting some soul-searching among those who supported the launch of the investigation during his last campaign, including this editorial board. This story broke about two months before election day in 2006. It became the central theme of state Sen. Tom Kean Jr.’s campaign against Menendez, if not the only theme. It is chilling to think that Menendez might have lost that election based on an allegation we now know is unfounded. And that’s why prosecutors have to be careful about dropping subpoenas during campaigns.

Justice Integrity Project, N.J. Defendant Slams Gov. Christie, Obama DOJ, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 22, 2011.  A former New Jersey assemblyman defending himself on corruption charges filed on Oct. 18 a wide-ranging brief alleging selective prosecution in the 2009 case that helped propel Chris Christie to his state's governor's mansion. Louis Manzo, left, requested also that courts vacate his most recent charges as vindictive or help enable a special prosecutor.

Newark Star-Ledger, Former N.J. Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria survives the 'slings and arrows,' Bob Braun, Oct. 19, 2011.For more than two years, Joseph Doria — one of New Jersey’s most powerful Democratic politicians — lived under a cloud of a federal probe first revealed in spectacularly public FBI raids on his Bayonne home and Trenton office. Doria won’t criticize federal authorities or even mention the name of Gov. Chris Christie, under whose tenure as U.S. attorney the so-called "Bid Rig III" investigation began.

Newark Star-Ledger, U.S. DOJ should clear Sen. Robert Menendez as it did Joseph Doria, Editorial Board, Oct. 18, 2011. It was a shock when Joseph Doria, the longtime mayor of Bayonne and former Assembly speaker, was forced to resign from Gov. Jon Corzine’s cabinet after FBI agents raided his home in the summer of 2009. And now, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has sent a letter to Doria that clears his name. The investigation is over.  Prosecutors rarely clean up their messes by sending these letters. In rare instances, though, it is the right move.

Tycoon Threatens Alabama Blogger Over Divorce Coverage
Legal Schnauzer, CEO Continues to Tussle With Progressive Blogger, Roger Shuler, Oct. 24, 2011. I have written that Rollins v. Rollins is "No. 1 on my 'hit parade' of courtroom abuse." Put another way, it's the most blatant example of courtroom corruption in a civil matter that I've uncovered--and that's saying something. I stand by that statement, by the way.

Legal Schnauzer, The Road from Clarence Thomas to Harlan Crow Runs Close to Home, Roger Shuler, June 27, 2011. Mounting evidence indicates Justice Clarence Thomas is so ethically compromised that he should be removed from the U.S. Supreme Court. The latest evidence comes from a New York Times piece about Thomas' ties to a Texas real-estate baron named Harlan Crow. We have discovered that the Thomas/Crow story, in a roundabout way, links to one of our storylines here at Legal Schnauzer. In fact, our story is about judicial chicanery in Alabama, the kind that favors the wealthy over regular citizens:

Sherry Rollins moved from South Carolina to Alabama eight years ago, in the midst of her divorce from Ted Rollins, the head of Campus Crest Communities and other enterprises. Ted Rollins is the son of the late John W. Rollins, a right-leaning businessman who helped found Orkin Pest Control and a number of other highly profitable companies. The Rollinses, now based mostly in Atlanta, are one of America's wealthiest families....How do certain members of the Rollins family view the American justice system? Public documents indicate that Ted Rollins, for one, treats it as his personal plaything. Mrs. Schnauzer and I got to know Sherry Rollins when she contacted me in spring 2010 after doing a Google search related to injustice in Alabama and stumbled upon my blog. Sherry Rollins told us that she had filed for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina, but was forced to flee to Alabama, with her two daughters, when Ted Rollins ignored a court order to maintain payments on the family home.

Wayne Madsen Report, Obama's CIA psy-ops dirty tricks campaign against his 2004 opponents, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 24, 2011 (Subscription-only). Two top Democrats, a former official with the Democratic National Committee and a former elected member of Congress, have revealed that Barack Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois destroyed his Democratic primary and Republican general election opponents. The Obama campaign obtained the contents of sealed divorce records.

Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
Salon, Book release: With Liberty and Justice for Some, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 25, 2011. I’m genuinely excited today to announce the release of my new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. As of this morning, it is available in bookstores as well as for shipping online. The book focuses on what I began realizing several years ago is the crucial theme tying together most of the topics I write about: America’s two-tiered justice system – specifically, the way political and financial elites are now vested with virtually absolute immunity from the rule of law even when they are caught committing egregious crimes, while ordinary Americans are subjected to the world’s largest and one of its harshest and most merciless penal states even for trivial offenses. As a result, law has been completely perverted from what it was intended to be – the guarantor of an equal playing field which would legitimize outcome inequalities – into its precise antithesis: a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality.

How the Legal System Was Deep-Sixed and Occupy Wall Street Swept the Land, Glenn Greenwald. As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? It is now clearly understood that, rather than apply the law equally to all, Wall Street tycoons have engaged in egregious criminality -- acts which destroyed the economic security of millions of people around the world -- without experiencing the slightest legal repercussions. Today, it is glaringly obvious to a wide range of Americans that the wealth of the top 1% is the byproduct not of risk-taking entrepreneurship, but of corrupted control of our legal and political systems.... In lieu of the rule of law -- the equal application of rules to everyone -- what we have now is a two-tiered justice system in which the powerful are immunized while the powerless are punished with increasing mercilessness. As a guarantor of outcomes, the law has, by now, been so completely perverted that it is an incomparably potent weapon for entrenching inequality further, controlling the powerless, and ensuring corrupted outcomes.