Allison Kilkenny December 30, 2010

Allison is, with Jamie Kirstein, the founder of Citizen Radio. She tweets as @allisonkilkenny.

She and I have been in some interesting discussions with other folks on twitter, which led to my inviting her to the program.

The plan is to structure our talk in two areas. First, is the new Austerity narrative that is taking over the Beltway. Allison put up a great post documenting its emergence in TIME. The idea that regular Americans are just gonna have to suck it up is dominating the discussion, moving today into the idea that union contracts, and state employee pensions are not really contractual commitments. See DDay’s video in the previous post.

Second, is more on Wikileaks, because the implications keep growing, multiplying and spawning.  Here I refer you an earlier post, and to this interesting NYTimes editorial, also pointed out to me by Allison’s tweet stream, beating out the dead tree edition:

But a bank’s ability to block payments to a legal entity raises a troubling prospect. A handful of big banks could potentially bar any organization they disliked from the payments system, essentially cutting them off from the world economy.

The fact of the matter is that banks are not like any other business. They run the payments system. That is one of the main reasons that governments protect them from failure with explicit and implicit guarantees. This makes them look not too unlike other public utilities. A telecommunications company, for example, may not refuse phone or broadband service to an organization it dislikes, arguing that it amounts to risky business.

Our concern is not specifically about payments to WikiLeaks. This isn’t the first time a bank shunned a business on similar risk-management grounds. Banks in Colorado, for instance, have refused to open bank accounts for legal dispensaries of medical marijuana.

Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.

What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.

All by itself, this editorial raises a host of issues–not just the Times noticing that policies like this put them at risk.  Just for starters, are these banks properly regarded as private institutions? Is this action really the action of an operator in a functional marketplace?

Please post questions, suggested issues in comments. I’ll have an update before the program.


Journalist/Ethnographer C W (Chris) Anderson interviewed by the Council on Foreign Relations on WikiLeaks. (He stopped by Virtually Speaking last August.)

Glenn Greenwald on the integration of government spokepeople and “journalists”.

digby on “the idea that the press is actually hostile to the leaking of secret government documents is…down the rabbit hole.”


One Response to Allison Kilkenny December 30, 2010

  1. […] enough to invite me on his show, Virtually Speaking, to discuss all kinds of interesting things (austerity, media, blizzards, and Wikileaks, to name a […]

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