Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Torture in Era Obama...?

Being an American abroad in era Obama is glorious. No more talk about Iraq, about Bush ruining the world. No more jokes about his second term (ya know, that we let him have one). Now it's sunshine and roses. The student council at my school Oku JHS even chose "change" as this year's slogan. Despite the health care chaos and lingering recession Obama is still a rock star and as an American I am officially off the hook.

But as I read the news from back home (admittedly sparingly), it's becoming clear his rock star status in the States is decidedly in question. And the questions are getting harder.

On Christmas Day a Dutch man saved 278 passengers and crew of a Northwest flight. A man was preparing to detonate an explosive that would take down the aircraft when he was stopped by several fellow passengers.

Like our assessment of the 9/11, we've decided it's not an intelligence failure but--as Obama said--a failure to "connect the dots." I'm not sure there is a difference.

It's certainly a failure of the National Counterterrorism Center, the organization put in place after 9/11 to ensure intelligence sharing occurs. Or perhaps we ought to create another organization that will be in charge of "connecting the dots" so our intelligence agencies don't have to think just gather, then one organization will make sure this gathered information is shared between the intelligence community and yet another organization will make sure that the gathered and shared intelligence is analyzed. Effective?

But what's more alarming than this near miss or even the fact that we're continuing the Bush-era reference to "enemies" and the Bush-era standard "something has gone terribly wrong and it was a failure but none of us are to blame" is Obama's new stance on Guantanamo Bay captives. The release of all captives from Yemen is being postponed. A group from Yemen is apparently responsible for the failed attempt on Christmas Day. Obama once represented a strong stand against this detention facility. Now, however, much like a plot line from Fox's 24 Obama seems to be saying that miscarriages of justice are OK if it means saving American lives.

Guantanamo Bay is wrong. It needs to be closed. It was wrong on December 24th and is just as wrong in the aftermath of this botched terror attempt.

Obama now is in the precarious position of reassuring a public that's already been failed by it's intelligence community that we're safe and our government is doing a good job while also trying to explain his new position on Guantanamo. I realize it's complicated and that we need to be careful after such an event. However Obama must justify his new--and seemingly contradictory--position regarding Guantanamo.

Is torture permissible in in era Obama, or not? Can he, as president, make the difficult decisions to give America the change it needs?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Watergate in 2009

One year in Japan turned into two. It will not turn into three.

So what now?

I studied English Writing in college, wrote for and then became the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper there, with the intention of writing for a newspaper one day. (To be honest, no one else wanted to be EiC and so I fell into the position as opposed to fighting for the spot like most other EiCs do. It was still a crazy amount of work and all that jazz. Just sayin. Truth is truth).

But they tell me newspapers are dying. My own beloved Chicago Tribune, the paper I grew-up watching my parents read as I flipped through the comics (skipping Calvin and Hobbes half the time because there were too many words) has been bought up and renovated, to resemble--I assume--a less prestigious form of USA Today.

I'm idealistic, though. I'm a child of the 90's. I don't know economic hardship or world wars or presidential assassinations or the break-up of the Beatles. I know Popples and college education and a car and license at 17 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the absurd impeachment of a president and the absurd re-election of another (ok, wasn't actually a child for G. W. Part II, but I couldn't resist the parallelism).

My parents raised me on the belief that TV rots your brain but I guess decided it was too cruel to ban the whole thing altogether. Yet, despite the one-hour-a-day-except-on-special-occasions regimen I was on, I would have to say media is one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life. Specifically movies.

In journalism class during the second year of college we spent a class watching most of "All The President's Men." Not getting to finish the movie (and knowing only the vaguest bits about the scandal that changed American politics and journalism forever) I rented the movie and watched it with my roommate.

It was inspiring. When deadlines bogged me down or budgets didn't line up again threatening printing, I would recall the tenacity of Woodward and Bernstein, the ups and downs, and I was able to press (HaHaHaHa) on. And even though I knew the world journalism was getting a bit more complicated, the energy in the story, in the newsroom, captivated me.

What what the Watergate of 2009? Where's my contemporary inspiration gonna come from?

I just finished watching State of Play a couple hours ago. Starring Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck, it's a story about political scandal surrounding the mysterious death of a Senator's mistress just as said Senator is in the process of conducting hearings regarding allegations of misconduct and extortion by a corporation responsible for sending military contractors to Iraq and Afghanistan.

SPOILER ALERT! read further at your own discretion....


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Ok. So this whole complicated, inter-connected story is handled by a veteran journalist played by Crowe and the unlikely side-kick of a blogger for the news paper played by Rachel Adams.

A fascinating story involving the conflict of capitalism and a war effort, public and private lives of politicians, and print vs new media, not to mention how trustworthy friendships become when power is inserted into the mix and perhaps even a slight rebuke against the military and how it handles discharged soldiers. The Senator ends up in the middle of the scandal as a key, though wholly indirect, player in the murder of his mistress as well as clearly having manipulated his friend, the veteran journalist, to tell the story with e favorable bent toward the Senator. In the end, blogger chick smiles to the veteran and says that this story is so big that people should read with with print between there fingers.

Victory for old journalism despite changes in ownership and form as well as for truth and justice in the land of the free and home of the brave. Take that!

Meanwhile in the reality, we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan as the causalities mount. The contractors haven't been rooted out or held accountable in any real way for the lives they've put at risk. Rupert Murdoch owns all of our souls if we watch TV news. Print news can't get it catchy enough and online news can't get it relevant enough, leaving a huge information gap that MTV is all too happy to fill up with utter and addicting garbage.

Like only Hollywood can deliver, it was an intense thriller tied to current events with a melancholy, though chummy ending that left you feeling that "it" (whatever that means to you) was getting taken care of by someone out there.

Devoid of a real enough connection to current events (namely, victories for print journalism or truth and justice), it was simply an entertaining movie. No real meat to it, I suppose.

Though it's got me thinking. And writing. And planning my next step that won't be in Japan.

So maybe like Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, this movie serves as an inspiration for action in the direction I was heading even if it isn't--in itself--connected to anything substantial.

Maybe the point is there is no Watergate in 2009. There is no one big issue. There are hundreds. It's our move. To not tune out. To take small bites and plan our next steps, in faith.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some Perspective as the Economy Rumbles

A couple weeks ago my school gave me a recontracting form. This misleadingly simple-looking document represents a big decision. One that I won't have to make until February 6th, thankfully. I had always intended on this experience being a one year deal but am now on the fence in a big way. As I told someone recently, I'm going to put the thought of another year in Japan away in my mind and see if time persuades me to either side.

Recontracting was a major topic of discussion as I hung out with other ALTs this weekend. Many have decided "yes" or "no" but equally as many are in my position. Though this is not a major factor (as it shouldn't be) the economy in our respective countries and how much money we're making now has been brought up many times. The fear of a recession, another Great Depression, loom in most of our minds. With these conversations fresh in my mind I stumbled upon a news story today at school that was ironic and prophetic in many ways. The story takes place as the economy rumbles, stops and starts.

A contractor was working on a house and found a stash of money hidden inside a wall dating back to the Great Depression. $182,000 to be exact. At a time when banks were drowning, families homeless and starving, a man hid almost $200,000 in the walls of his house for a rainy day that I guess never came for him.

As if that measure of greed and lack of compassion wasn't prophetic enough to give us some perspective on our present condition, the reason this find is even making news is because the contractor and the homeowner were never able to reach an agreement on how to split the money. This feud went on so long and was so heated that a newspaper picked the story up. Once it appeared in the news, the descendants of the Depression-era hoarder wanted in on the loot.

The home owner, who owns at least one other property that was recently foreclosed, spent or lost much of the money. The contractor has lost business, he says, because of the negative view many clients now hold of him. (Click here for the full story).

Wow. The contractor said it best when he explained that finding the money "was a neat experience" and "something that won't happen again." The rest that followed, though, was regrettable he said. That's a good reminder to relish in the simple, extraordinary moments that grace our days.

It's a good reminder to keep some perspective on the value of money as the economy rumbles.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The "Hockey Mom" in Me

Got my absentee ballot in the mail! I love voting. I love being a citizen of a country that wants to know who I think ought to be President of the US. I really, really like that. Plus, I can navigate the Post Office by myself which gives my otherwise bewildered self a boost of confidence. All in all, voting this year is going to rock.


Living abroad has it's perks. For example, I ride a bike to work. It's a 10 minute bike ride. Pretty perky, eh? Also, there is a bakery in the department store that's about 5 minutes from my house. After work every Friday I stop by and get some sort of tasty treat, Japanese style.

Last week I got a pizza-like bread roll with melty cheese and green peppers. Very perky. But one of the biggest perks is the automatic media filter that living abroad is. If I want to stay abreast of latest campaign controversy, it's just a click away. However, If I had no fingers or toes I could count on my hands and feet how many political ads I have seen this election year. That's right, I have been able to completely miss the serious-voiced ads, with their misleading quotes and overt manipulation of the voters. Completely miss, I mean I haven't seen a one.


I stay informed however, and have watched both the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate as well as any and all media that comes across my desk (okay, there's my Palin jab, I confess). I usually catch some commentary in the wake of the debates, to find out what everyone else is paying attention to. More often than not, though, I find myself not just "paying attention to" what the media is covering but I also I find myself adopting the criticisms and observations of the media. In the presidential debate I really liked the way Obama would agree with McCain when he could. I saw that as him living out his beliefs of coming together as a nation, his beliefs about bipartisan politics. By the time I was finished watching and reading commentary on the debates I started thinking that maybe Obama was too soft, maybe he should have attacked McCain more. I didn't notice that McCain never looked Obama in the eyes. And yet, after enough New York Times pieces I began thinking that, hey, that must be indicative of something...weakness, timidity, contempt? I don't know yet, but it's got to be important if it's getting so much coverage.


So decided that after watching the VP debate I would take a moment and process my impression before being told what to think about each candidate. This is particularly difficult for me because I am 100% for the Obama/Biden ticket so my impressions are naturally biased. However, I want to disagree with McCain/Palin for my own reasons and not because of what Countdown's Keith Olbermann has so say. Here's a list of some of the things that struck me as I watched the debate:
  1. Palin used the rallying cry "Never again" to refer to our economic meltdown. This, to me, was incredibly creepy given that this same cry was heard after the Holocaust and yet genocide has been a constant in our modern times, from Bosnia to Rwanda to Darfur to the Congo.
  2. Speaking of the Holocaust, it was incredibly tacky of Palin to repeatedly say that we needed to be vigilant against Iran lest we allow, by our lack of vigilance, "a second Holocaust." As mentioned above, our world is rife with genocide, to single out the Holocaust seems to send a clear message that Africa matters less.
  3. Okay, I obviously agree that intervention is needed in Darfur, Sundan. But "boots on the ground," as the moderator suggested, was a tactic not questioned by either candidate. I appreciated Palin's discussion about Alaskan divestment and Biden's comments about his work in the Senate. What about international pressure, though? What about peacekeeping efforts? What about effective sanctions? What about China's interests in the region? Noisy silence was what I got from both candidates.
  4. Other Palin problems: suggesting that her position as a mother (not parent) put her in a special position to identify with the American public that's worried about their kids' futures (I'm glad Biden called her out on this gender stereotype, citing his experience as a single parent); her excessive use of the word "maverick" detached from any real meaning and in the face of facts contradicting it's applicability; rephrasing "inexperience" as being a "Washington outsider" as if it's a good thing our country could be run by someone who has no knowledge of/experience in national politics.

But really, that's all I that stuck out to me. Our hands off policy surrounding genocide is something that is concerning to me, so I picked up on that. Also, I think words--even coming from the mouths of politicians--have meaning and it upsets me when for the sake of manipulation or catering to a demographic words are divorced from their meanings. But Palin's winking or "Joe Sixpack" comments didn't really make an impression on me. I also didn't notice Palin avoiding questions as much as the media has highlighted.

So maybe I'm just a gullible everyday "Hockey Mom" who doesn't notice the details and elects people into office who are unfit to run. Or maybe I'm a voter, who just cares about the issues she cares about, interested to hear from the candidates an honest statement, a clear position. While the media frenzy works out which candidate was most likable and SNL works out their next sketch I'll still be here hoping our economy doesn't collapse and that when I come back home I'll be able to get affordable health care.

An average American "Hockey Mom" (minus being a mom, or liking hockey) praying it's not too late for honesty from the White House.