Friday, May 28, 2004

What’s Happened To Our News?

There has been increasing concern about the effectiveness of the media and news coverage. Now the press has joined the concerned group. That’s good. Paul Krugman reviews some ideas that really deserve our attention.

“People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.” Krugman points out that, “After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.”

You may not agree with Krugman’s view of the president, but it is hard to escape the changes we’re seeing in the media and their impact on our ability to think effectively about the problems this country faces today.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Koppel Communicates

I hear “debates” wherever I go about the war in Iraq and I’m reminded that nearly none of us have firsthand information about what is happening in that country. We get it from the mass media. The mass media isn’t really in the business of keeping us informed nearly so much as making a profit. So we should be careful with the data we get from them. On the other hand, the “debates” almost always sound like the debaters have a complete and accurate database on the war in Iraq and that their conclusions are the only reasonable conclusions.

Here is just a part of Ted Koppel's graduation address at Berkeley recently. He points out that we must set aside how we feel about what we know in order to conduct the nation's business even on our own city block. We must be informed and think as clearly as possible before we become part of the problem rather than part of a solution. Koppel said, “We have become so embroiled in the distaste we have for one another's ideologies that we are losing sight of the real peril that confronts us. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, and invoking the war against terrorism for the U.S. invasion of Iraq invites skepticism. Still, terrorism is not a figment of this administration's imagination. It doesn't matter what you believe the United States is doing or may have done to earn the enmity of so many people around the world; someone has to be thinking about the consequences of that hatred, even as we consider what can reasonably done to address it.”

No matter what our government has done and no matter whether we agree with what has been done, we still have an obligation to become informed before we attempt to communicate what we think ought to be done. Knowing how to communicate is important, but it is not more important than the things about which we are expected to communicate.

Seek balanced information. Don’t rely on the efforts of the mass media to inform you and your community. Use every available channel, think about the information and then communicate. That is, after all, the only hope we have to live in the community of our own choice. We must help to build it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

How Should We Spend The Money?

We are facing some huge problems in the world and right here in the United States. They include: health, education, oil, crime, and highway infrastructure to name a few.

I agree that looking toward goals that stretch our imaginations and make us feel better about a brighter future raises the human spirit. But, when I think of the money spent on space missions and the attempt to land men on Mars, I can't help but think that there are students who can't afford to go to college. There are elderly folk who have to choose between eating and medication or worse.

How 'bout setting goals like these: find a cure for cancer, cover human beings need for health care, provide the best possible education for everyone, find a better source of cheaper energy and other goals in these areas.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

How Do We Feel? How Should We Feel?

When horrible things happen and we feel powerless to do anything about it, that stirs us in many ways. Anger. Frustration. Hate. Powerlessness. We don't know what we should feel, although we suspect that dropping a nuclear device on the people who beheaded an American seems like a good idea. We know that isn't the answer.

What is the answer. First, don't lose your ethical balance. Continue to evaluate everything with the same ethical yardstick you used before this happened. Don't kill all, even figuratively, to be rid of the "confusion" about what civilized people will or won't do. Don't assume that only some civilizations do not have deviants in their midst. We all have our share of humans that seem to us to be uncivilized.

Talk to somebody. Not about what you've seen, heard or read, but about how you feel about what you've seen, heard or read. Friends are great for that. If you can't find a friend, find an advisor, councilor or anyone who will help you talk about your feelings. Don't keep them inside. You really can't. They will come out and you may not like what you see when you explode.

Give yourself a chance to absorb the event and keep expressing yourself as you do. You will be able to cope.

That is no way changes the horror of what happened. You're the one that adjusts. Now you're free to move ahead helping others cope with what life dishes out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Paul Krugman Nails The Issue

Without the media we all depend on to know what is going on in the world, the probability of abuses of all kinds became real.

Paul Krugman in his column, "Just Trust Us" makes the point, "No administration since Nixon has been so insistent that it has the right to operate without oversight or accountability, and no administration since Nixon has shown itself to be so little deserving of that trust. He adds, "Sooner or later, a moral catastrophe was inevitable."

Great column giving us all insight into why we need a truly free press everywhere.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Bush administration’s stance on Kerry’s military service has been bothering me for some time. Until recently, it was generally assumed that one of the “smartest” things you could do was to serve your country in a low risk and rewarding fashion: join the National Guard. Unfortunately, the National Guard is no longer a safe haven for those who fear to serve. It’s becoming the backbone of the United States military. In fact, seen on an Oregon vehicle not long ago was a sign about the National Guard that said, “One weekend a month . . .like hell!”

That’s what George W. Bush did. Conventional wisdom held that military service could be “dodged” without the stigma. If you “needed” to do something other than serve the National Guard, an early out might be arranged. Sort of a flexible service plan.

Kerry, on the other hand, joined and risked everything in a war that Americans really grew to hate. He served without regard to the risk. He did the job he was asked to do and did it better than most. He was awarded medals and recognition for his service.

Now, by a strange kind of reasoning, Kerry is being depicted as a person who doesn’t understand things military and that he wants to make life for soldiers as bad as possible. The Bush administration is saying to the nation that Kerry, who fought and knows war from the ground up, isn’t worthy to think about wars and make decisions. While those who have avoided serving their country in the military, know best what to do with our young people by putting them to war for reasons progressively unclear.

The Bush administration's current TV spot about Kerry's military votes in the Senate, his military service and military support is, as the commercial says, “Troubling.”