Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “media”

And the Winner Is… Syria! – Tom Rossi

Ryan Seacrest: “And the winner of this year’s Trumped-Up Bullshit Justification for War Award is… Syria! (applause) Here to present the award is well-known fake journalist, Sean Hannity.”

 Hannity: “Congratulations, Syria, on this accomplishment. The question on everyone’s mind is, how did you manage to beat out perennial front-runner Iran?”

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 Syria: “Well, I thought I’d just lay low for a while, then make my move when the other countries got overconfident. Iran had been ‘phoning it in’ for quite a while, riding on its reputation. Iran just started to assume it had the award in the bag. Iran didn’t push through the finish line.”

 Hannity: “Wow. That’s a lesson for young people… and young nations everywhere.”

 Syria: “I like to set a good example.”

 Hannity: “So, how did you manage to overcome the Iraq ‘problem,’ as it has come to be known?”

 Syria: “Uh, by that do you mean the inevitable comparisons with the famous Iraq quagmire? Well, a famous American jazz musician once said, ‘…it’s the notes you DON’T play that are important.’ I paid heed to this advice and didn’t try too hard. I just let the American War… I mean, media machine, do the work for me. They did a beautiful job and I certainly owe half this award to them.”

 Hannity: “Well, speaking for everyone, as I often do, thank you. But could you expand on just how the war… I mean, media machine, helped you in your quest to become the most focused-on ‘rogue nation’ in the world?”

 Syria: “Certainly. They used a… how you say in America… ‘tried and true’ method. They simply repeated, or featured interviews with ‘respected’ officials like John McCain who repeated a sort of mantra – ‘It’s nothing like Iraq. It’s nothing like Iraq. It’s nothing like Iraq.'”

 Hannity: “So, you learned from, well… Iraq!”

 Syria: “Exactly! In the drum-up… er… I mean, lead-up, to the Iraq war, I believe President Bush named it, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ right? During this period, we saw the same comparisons to America’s most famous quagmire, Vietnam. But the American people were simply told, over and over again, how terrible was Saddam Hussein. Then, they started to forget, or simply not to care. But that was much easier. Decades had passed since the Vietnamese conflict – decades of opportunity for the ridicule of the anti-war protesters. Iraq was still a raw memory in the minds of Americans. And, like Iraq, Syria is a desert country. Is it ‘desert,’ or ‘dessert’? I always forget! Ha ha! Anyhoo, even though it had only been ten years, people forgot the propaganda campaign for Iraq. The U.S. government and media repeated exactly the same lines! Can you believe that? People had forgotten the whole thing. And Syria was there to capitalize. That’s what people don’t understand – good preparation makes good luck. If you prepare, you will be ready when the opportunity arises for greatness.”

 Hannity: “Another gem for young Americans. Are you looking forward to the bombings?”

 Syria: “Who wouldn’t be? Hahaha!”

 Hannity chortles.

 Syria: “No, I kid, I kid. That part of it is, how you say… hit or miss?”

 Hannity laughs.

 Syria: “That’s just a part of this process. Syria accepts its role on the world stage, the good, the bad, and the unholy.”

 Hannity: “Ha! You’ve exposed my long hidden sense of humor! Certain people over at ‘The Daily Show’ will certainly be taken by surprise. Thank you, Syria! Enjoy your award. Let’s give the stage back to Ryan Seacrest.”

 Syria: “Thank you so much!” (blowing kisses to the audience)

 Ryan Seacrest: “Isn’t Syria delightful? Next up, after the commercial break, the award for ‘Most Maligned Leader of a Non-Muslim Country. Stick around, everybody!”

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 -Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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San Onofre Nuclear Shutdown – A Medium-Sized Victory – Tom Rossi

It was announced this week that the nuclear power plant at San Onofre, California (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, or SONGS) would be permanently shut down. Finally. But this was not really a victory for what I’ll call the “anti-really-obviously-stupid-nuclear” movement. And I’ll tell you why.

SONGS should never have been built. Its first reactor came on line in 1968. It wasn’t known, at the time of its construction, that the site was almost directly atop a fault line, but what was known? It was well known that California was the home of thousands of fault lines, even if some of those are fairly short.

What’s important is that geologists knew that they didn’t know about all of California’s faults. They knew that it was likely that many more than were known at that time would be discovered in the coming decades. They were right.

San Onofre, like pretty much anywhere in California, was an idiotically dangerous place to build a nuclear power plant. But that wasn’t the only issue.

Nuclear power plants have limited lifespans. This is due to both the inevitable seepage of radiation (and its effects) into various parts of the mechanisms of the plant, and to the fact that tiny flaws due to vibration (as was the case in San Onofre) make the first problem worse and also cause general deterioration that is incredibly difficult and expensive to fix. Mainly because of these problems, the risk of a radioactive leak or release increases with time.

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So, nuclear power plants typically are only in operation for around 40 years anyway. As a whole, SONGS had outlived that, even though its second and third reactors had only been on line for about 30 years.

And, in fact, each of the reactors at SONGS had problems. Activists are claiming victory, and I wish it were so, but SONGS has succumbed not to political pressure nearly as much as decay and economics. And the victory gets even more hollow…

The news coverage of the closing of SONGS has been sparse and, as usual, somewhat dominated by the nuclear industry’s PR messages. And while some anti-nuclear activists are celebrating, continued industry control over the media may tell us which way the wind still blows.

Today, almost every story on SONGS is about how many jobs will be lost and how much it will cost to decommission the plant. That’s how dirty businesses are defended, now – they provide jobs. I guess we never should have shut down asbestos production. Think of all the jobs we could have saved!

And the cost of decommissioning any nuclear power plant is almost completely predictable and has to be figured into the total cost-benefit analysis of a nuclear power plant project. Decommissioning cost is part of the reason that nuclear power is an economic failure (a predictable one) as well as a hazard to both human and ecological health.

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I pay close attention to corporate influence on the media. It’s visible pretty much everywhere, but often, so is the backlash. Other people who pay attention make lots of noise and usually get some media attention themselves when the media show bias toward war profiteers or oil companies, for example. But the nuclear industry dominates the media much more thoroughly. They act pre-emptively in planting their messages on networks like PBS (on the completely pro-energy-industy program “Need to Know” for example) and the other “mainstream” channels.

It doesn’t bother me so much that some people are pro-nuclear. Some of them are actually real environmentalists that have been convinced that nuclear is a solution to carbon emission and, therefore, climate change. But in the media, there is no debate. That’s because the anti-nuclear side has no money with which to sponsor television programming. The grass-roots movement is still very strong, but the nuclear industry fights top-down.

These days, I always hear about new reactor designs that will be the greatest things since sliced bread – with much less radioactive waste and so forth. I asked famously converted “climate skeptic” and physicist at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore Labs, Richard Muller (who is a really nice guy, by the way) what he thought about these new reactor designs, and he said, “Well, they look good on paper.” Interesting response.

One thing I’m sure of is that the crop of older nuclear plants that are still in operation need to be shut down. Any old excuse will do just fine, but shut them down, soon. They are all old and the risk of an accident is increasing, as are stockpiles of radioactive waste.

The closing of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is certainly something to celebrate. But don’t sound the victory gong just yet. We have a long and difficult battle ahead if we want to slow down the energy-addiction-justified poisoning of our planet… and ourselves.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Occupy Movement Endorsed by Washington – Roger Ingalls

After listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address, I couldn’t stop smiling. Similarly, I grinned during the last few months of the presidential election. The Occupy Movement is routinely portrayed by mainstream media and conservatives as a failure; however, reviewing the political chatter during the recent elections and the President’s speech on Tuesday, the Occupy influence is front and center.

Prior to the Occupy Movement, there was no media or political focus on the destruction of the middleclass, tax breaks for the wealthy, tax loopholes for corporations or the disparity between the 1%ers and 99%ers. The movement brought attention to all these topics and they were the main sound bites throughout the entire election season. Fast forward to Tuesday and a significant portion of the President’s time was dedicated to Occupy topics: 1) rebuilding the middleclass, 2) increasing wages for many Americans, 3) returning a fair tax burden to the wealthy and big business, 4) closing tax loopholes for corporations and 5) stopping corporate off-shore cash hoarding.

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When comparing the Tea Party and Occupy Movements, the latter has been much more beneficial to Middle America. The Tea Party has done nothing but create gridlock in Washington, slowing economic recovery. They’ve also placed political handcuffs on Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He’s ineffective because the fanatical right is holding the larger conservative party hostage. Even though the Occupy Movement hasn’t received due credit, its original talking points are on the tongues of politicians today. In addition, a fairer tax burden was realized in January when taxes were increased on the wealthy; an original Occupy demand.

The media is no longer discussing the Occupy Movement but Washington’s politicians are endorsing it through action and sound bites.

The Moron Interview – Tom Rossi

One of the things that often angers me about journalism (hey, what would I do with myself if I wasn’t angry about something?) in recent years is the way that time is wasted during network television news broadcasts.

Video: I LOVE being angry!

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News shows on TV are usually broken up into half-hour segments. They may be scheduled for an hour like, say, the “5 o’clock news,” but often the second half hour starts off repeating the top stories from the first half hour. That’s the first way that valuable time is eliminated – repitition.

 

Then, there is the inevitable story about some celebrity. This is never an actual news story like, “Jennifer Aniston goes on shooting spree in the U.S. House of Representatives.” No, it’s always something like, “Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing.” Tripe.

 

Then, if that wasn’t enough time wasted on Hollywood “news,” it’s followed by the “Hollywood Minute,” “What’s up in Hollywood,” or “Celebrity Corner,” or something equally ridiculous (it’s never only a minute, by the way).

 

Then there might be a legitimate (sort of) news story as sort of a break in the inanity, followed by a newish and horrifying phenomenon, the “What’s Hot on Twitter/Google/Facebook” segment. Really? Is this news? Is there really nothing more important going on than this?

 

As stupid, annoying, and wasteful of my time and, worse, the opportunity to actually inform the populace about current events and concerns these useless segments and stories are, they pale in comparison to the most offensive snippet of all: the street moron interview.

 

“Yeah, the train got shut down, I guess, and I had to wait over two hours to get on a bus to get to work. I was late and everything.”

 

“I never saw anything like it! It was mud! Just flowing down the street!”

 

“I was just standing out here and, like, I heard, like, “pop, pop, pop!” And I looked, and this dude was, like, laying in the street, and I was like, ‘Whoa!'”

 

What purpose do these interviews serve? What insight do they provide into the events? Why are these interviews taking up my news time?

 

In the never ending quest to make news more “entertaining,” the news deteriorates further and further. During a half hour news cast a few months ago, I saw an eight-minute story about one of the Jonas brothers doing a solo album. And when news room managers are asked about this pathetic state of affairs, they always say: “That’s what people want.”

 

It’s not what I want. And the people who want Hollywood gossip don’t watch the news. News managers are failing in their responsibility to inform the public. They are violating our trust. They are depriving us of opportunities to educate ourselves about the community and the world around us. Those of us who actually want news are getting sick of it and turning, more and more, to the internet. With considerable research, we are finding better alternatives.

 

Before I forget…

This just in: Michael Jackson is still dead.

 

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Occupying an Agenda

I have posted frequently about my excitement over the Occupy movement. The ‘uprising,’ if I may use such a term, is both a shift of consciousness and a call for grassroots action. I am proud of those who are creating micro communities on these sites and seeking an inclusive culture that allows for everyone present to feel involved and listened to. I am sorry that the mass media do not seem willing to give this aspect the attention it deserves.

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This is the crux of the movement. What mobilized people is the rising frustration that the vast majority of us are simple pawns in a game played with impunity by corrupt big business principles and a failed political system where those sent to Washington do not represent those who voted to send them (and those who didn’t), but rather represent those who paid for them to get voted in.

People need to feel listened to. They have a right to know that if they work hard, save for retirement, buy a house, and then they will receive a minimal social network. Their children will have a good education, their medical needs will be taken care of, law enforcement are there to protect them, and that they can retire with dignity. If you play by the rules and participate in the system, surely you have entitlement to basic human rights.

The rains are coming and it is unclear how the Occupy movement will cope with the coming winter. What most worries me is that, as far as I know, there is no strategic plan. It is unclear who is the leadership and we will revisit next week on this blog whether there should be an agenda.

Will people come out in the rain?

This past summer, ‘Tent Cities” were created in most major towns in Israel. There was a huge outpouring from a disenfranchised and disillusioned public (many of them under 40) with a myriad of social issues represented. Some were similar to here in the US, others more unique to Israel.

There are many similarities to Occupy. There was no recognized leadership because there was a desire not to exclude anyone and creating a power structure, however open and inclusive, runs the risk of marginalizing people. Furthermore, there was no central agenda, again because of a desire to promote different social injustices and issues, according to those who stepped up to join the Tent City. There were also clashes with police.

Israelis of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and religions came together for a summer.

When the summer ended, the groups slowly lost momentum. I am afraid that without a framework and platform, then it might not be able to sustain itself. I believe the Occupy system needs to decide one of two things:

i) To create an agenda – and they might do well to read Roger Ingall’s suggestions.

ii) Decide to create a leadership structure and strategic plan, or take the momentum into the Democratic Party.

More on this second aspect next Wednesday.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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