The Media Searches for Meaning In Trump's Words But Does Not Look At What Trump Does

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Now the national search is on, at least in the media, for the larger dimensions of the attack Trump ordered, how . . . → Read More: The Media Searches for Meaning In Trump’s Words But Does Not Look At What Trump Does

Media's Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

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DDGrowing frustration exists about the role of global media in sharing the truth and facts about politics. Even the media’s cherished idea of balance has taken a slant. The American media’s direct reporting omits deep backgrounds. In print and broadcast, anonymous sources are assigned the duty of representing an ideology and attacking those who disagree. In live reports, face time is more important than oral intelligence. And no news broadcast is complete without a YouTube clip.

What recent stories has the media missed and how have the omissions affected the country?

The biggest missing story is about the media itself: it has abandoned analysis. Instead of being shaped by insights and history, or by conflict and values, stories are “blocked.” They are packaged for immediacy rather than viable information, and immediacy has come to mean any story which zooms in on a crisis in the social order, a threat to well-being or life.

Blocking a story means it will be limited to reviewing events without examining causes; limited by sensationalism that ignores the mainstream; limited by the next big story without any follow-up on the previous big story. But the story’s limits always include speculation, no-rules chatter about what happens next. Speculation, and its inaccurate prophecies, unleashed fears and violations of logic and common sense, is featured without critical review. By offering speculation, media abandons the idea of wrong or right; its stories are blocked to show who is for and who is against.

For example, in one recent big story about Ebola, a deadly, contagious virus spreading in three West African countries, media helped generated mass fear and hysteria in America. Justified by media stories, rather than experience, experts and successful protocol, civil liberties went flying out of the window faster than domestic cases of the disease, amid calls for restricted travel to and from the region.

States demanded medical professionals be quarantined even when displaying no obvious symptoms of fever and coughing. Twice-a-day telephone monitoring was put in place for persons returning from countries experiencing the Ebola epidemic. Hours of hard news time were devoted to tracking each single potential threat as the source of an impeding holocaust. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bad-mouthed a nurse who had demonstrated the courage to travel to the medical front to fight the disease by caring for infected patients.

In the midst of the Ebola fear, Congress members proclaimed the likelihood of legions of Ebola-infected terrorists arriving in Mexico, walking like zombies across unsecured borders—yet so heavily monitored by manpower and technology that enforcement agents intercepted nearly 40,000 unescorted children last year. Many of the same Congress members who conjured a deadly and imminent link between terrorists and Ebola believed this undocumented children’s crusade also had come to destroy the American way of life, stain the American Promise, and end freedom as we know it—by busting public budgets and demanding the right to education. Continue reading Media’s Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

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What Is Happening to the Children

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DDWhat’s happening to the children? I bet your first thought is which children? The kidnapped girls in Nigeria who captured the interest of the world, gaining commitments from international governments to send troops to pursue their return—but suddenly vanished from our imaginations, or at least our television screens and social media accounts?  Or the 40,000 children massed along the US southern border with Mexico, whose 1,000-mile pilgrimages were met with protests, demanding their immediate return to countries and communities where they would be met by death and rape, the violence of  promised threats from criminal gangs? Or maybe the uncounted and silent thousands of children who suffer from hunger because food assistance was cut by the Congress to “help” the balance sheet of federal deficits driven by Wall Street and tax giveaways to corporations, who are leaving the country in a huff because they want more even as we give the children less.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

Thousands of children are refugees, displaced by conflict violence, whose only hope is to abandon their homes with their families and flee into the unknown. They live on the edge of civilization, marginalized as temporaries, their lives suspended from education and the security of a society rooting for them to find a future of success. As refugees, they live in a world in which hope is denied.

What’s happening to the education of US children? Why are states and communities resisting a national standard that allows any methodology and curriculum to meet the new standard?

Why is there a virus that suddenly emerges in 47 states that is sending hundreds of children to hospitals and has registered more US deaths than Ebola, with only miniscule public outcry?

Why are teachers engaging in sex with students, according to reports from Louisiana where two female teachers are alleged to have had a threesome with a male high school student; in Virginia where a married female teacher admits to having sex with four high school students; in Red Bank, NJ where a male substitute teacher is accused of having an ongoing sexual relationship with a student; in Bucks County, PA where a female middle school band teacher is accused of having sex with a student inside her vehicle; in Maplewood, NJ where a female teacher is charged with having oral sex with 15-year-olds on school property; in Brooklyn, NY where a male math and science teacher at one of the city’s elite high schools is charged with having sex with at least six female students, supported by evidence from videos and texts; in New Hampshire, where a male teacher is accused of having sex with a student in his classroom and encouraged the student to cover it up in an e-mail; in El Paso, TX which has reported four incidents so far in 2014; in South Carolina, where among multiple incidents involving multiple students, a female Berkeley County teacher is alleged to have had sex with a three students during a house party? Continue reading What Is Happening to the Children

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Eat Your Lunch and Don't Hold Your Breath

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DDAn old Revolutionary War tale begins with a meeting between a British officer and the legendary Swamp Fox, the American officer Francis Marion. As an act of hospitality, Oscar, Marion’s manservant, prepared a dinner of sweet potatoes baked in the campfire’s hot coals.

A painting depicting the dinner hangs in the Congressional gallery in the US Capitol. It’s meaning and importance is found in the report the British officer took back to his general staff. “We cannot defeat the colonials,” he concluded. When asked why, he replied, “Men willing to fight for freedom on suppers of sweet potatoes will not be defeated.”

Marion’s men were living on roots, drinking water, and “all for liberty.” This example of the exceptionalism of the American Promise—the willingness to sacrifice and show the courtesies of humanity even to enemies engaged in bitter war is never raised by originalists who put priority on budgets over values. John Blake White’s painting of the American heroic spirit is forgotten and today unknown.

The painting is a powerful reminder of three things. One, Marion’s manservant was an adult, Oscar; rarely did historic portraits show children except in family portraits. Two, this simple sharing of meager provisions led to the perception of greatness and put fear and doubt into an American enemy with a superior force. Three, the budget has never been the guidebook to politics, but wars are made and fought for wealth.

Before the era of public relations and short-form spin by analysts out of power who are not scholars, but ideologues, cultural events provided the meanings for trends and predictions of success. Modern media removes culture and replaces it with a scrubbed, filtered view of reason and half-truths in which meaning is misplaced. The immigration crisis is a heroic, three-nation pilgrimage of children. How different from Marion’s time! This exodus of children has nothing to do with border protections. It has two push-pull factors; the first, the daily violence, deaths and threats, beatings and rapes the children are witnessing against their friends and families pushes them to leave to survive, to protect their lives.

But what pulls them to America are not the beds and hot meals many Republicans in Congress insistently emphasize over and over—instead it is a belief in themselves and a belief in opportunity—the idea that America has kept faith with the promise it fought for in its founding—that it offers liberty and justice for all. The repeated insinuations that children have walked thousands of miles for America’s table scraps is ugly and demeaning. It belittles democracy. It rips away its hope. It says America’s beacon is only a light of limited material welfare, offered as sandwiches and sleeping mats.

C-SPAN broadcast a July 29th House hearing organized by the House Progressive Caucus and chaired by Arizona House member Raul Grijalva, attended by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others, in which three immigrant children spoke and answered questions, giving Congress and the American people their first opportunity to hear their experiences and reasons in their own voices.

Among the speakers were a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old. The 15-year-old came with her younger sister five years ago and has learned nuanced English She has a beaming, abiding love for America. She wants to be a doctor. The 10-year-old recently arrived, speaks confidently in flat Spanish and is finding her center.

But the welcome mat has loud voices of opposition. And the Republican Congress is taking the opportunity to create a crisis you can believe in. They emphasize the law, not justice. Turn them back, they say. More, they speak of political mistrust as a reason to do nothing.

Public Television’s Frontline recently showed clips of Iranian Sunni leaders during the Bush administration counting out thousands of dollars in support of “democracy,” but the new Republicans have lost their compassionate humanism and would deny children the fair play of due process. And a recent study shows 90% of children with attorneys show up for their hearings, with a 60% average overall.

This reduction of life to a balance sheet, with a thousand cited reasons to keep the poor and the foreign and low-wage workers away from prosperity and opportunity as defense spending and farm subsidies increase and huge tax breaks are in place for major industries like oil is not what Oscar, a black slave, had in mind when he stirred the coals of a colonial American campfire; nor is it the dream that lit up the faces of children who never once mentioned the nice meals and warm beds of America in their testimony before Congress.

Instead, they told of violence against their families, seeing the adults in a household killed because they didn’t have “rent,” an extorted payment demanded by gangs from powerless citizens. They spoke of dreams. How they felt secure in America. They spoke of how they were hungry for education.

But some in Congress think only of bread and costs.

This latest migration of children to our borders is a cultural event that points to the plight and treatment of children around the globe. Go back to October 9, 2012 when Malala Yousafzai was shot, with some of her friends and classmates, for denying an order by the Taliban for girls not to attend school. Her incident can be used to mark a shift to children as the intentional targets of terrorist and state violence, as deliberate targets of drug gangs and human traffickers, as main players in the violence tied to politics and greed and balance sheets.

Since then, we have seen the bodies of Syrian children, wrapped in shrouds, dead from chemical attacks carried out by their own political leadership. We have seen 300 or more girls from northeastern Nigeria disappear into the forest after being kidnapped from schools, and others beaten and raped. We have seen children at the beach and at schools, and playing in the street killed by rocket fire aimed a residential neighborhoods in Gaza.

A lot of style points are being racked up in the reporting and debates about the rocket attacks in Israel and Gaza as both sides overlook the fundamentals to see who can build the tallest house of cards. Continue reading Eat Your Lunch and Don’t Hold Your Breath

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The Painful Lives of Our Youngest Pawns

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DD

(Warning: Disturbing image near the end of the article.)

What does a grown man feel as he kicks and punches a child viciously in the head? What fear or anger propels the blows? Doesn’t the thud against the bone make his stomach sick? Is politics so sick with our own vitriol that we beat and kill our children and feel dead? That instead of stopping, we spread beatings and killings and harm to children who are not our own?

What makes a person strike a child until a child’s face is unrecognizable to his mother? Is swollen so badly that he cannot speak or see? What security or vengeance or justice is gained from such insanity?

In the time of the world’s greatest prosperity, attacks of all kinds on children multiply. Wealth is used to buy infants for sex to cure HIV infections in South Africa, prepubscent children are purchased for work in brothels or as brides across Asia and Africa; boys are taken from schools and given guns and drugs and taught to kill and rape as child soldiers; in Mexico, adolescents who carry out hits ordered by drug lords are given Mercedes to drive, for which they are to young to have a legal license.

A child holds a banner as she participates in an anti-Syria regime protest held by Bahrainis at United Nation Headquarters in Manama

In a global cry for help, the children who throw away despair and evil, violence and crime; the ones making a heroic witness of hope by walking across the central America isthmus, facing down the ravages of hunger and starvation, the exhausting fatigue that weighs each step (to protest against their conditions and search for a better life build on moral truth) arrive in the US to face shouting adults with signs that say, “We didn’t ask for you,” “Go back.”

The government hears their cry, turns the buses around, and sends a funding request to Capitol Hill. We seek funds for judges for hearings to deport children, to send our youngest, most innocent neighbors back. We are sending the children of the world, who have shown the greatest courage of our era, back to iniquities and atrocities. Because they have challenged our ideas and laws, we treat them like criminals—which some decry as free meals. As we do, we are making hope a crime and hate a matter of law. Communities that a generation ago didn’t lock their doors now close their borders.

Am I a bleeding heart jumping on the most recent liberal bandwagon? Am I guilty of ignoring the national balance sheet? Deaf to limits of policy? Am I advocating taking jobs and resources away from Americans? Encouraging reckless behavior? No.

Children are dreamers, not schemers. Their turning to America by a path of footprints is an act of brave hope, not cynicism. Meeting needs, material and social, helps create prosperity. The economy is not a static or fixed sum, shared by pluses and minuses. It is a dynamic, interactive system, in which issues create opportunities, and opportunities lead to jobs. Protecting, rescuing and saving children no more takes away jobs and paychecks than buying a Chinese-built iPad or iPhone—the money spent on idevices and Galaxy 5s creates no American jobs except retail and transportation, drains the trade balance, increases the deficit, and the bulk of the purchase price for idevices will rest in Apple’s cash reserves—now larger than the entire GDP of all but the world’s 55 largest countries. Continue reading The Painful Lives of Our Youngest Pawns

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Freedom Isn't Protected; It's Practiced

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DDThink above the noise. Blot out the video images and the inane questions about fault, authority, notification, gangs, judges, hearings, surges, resources, executive action. Find the quiet within yourself.

Think about the faces of children—your own face, your friends when you were young. Would you have walked a hundred miles when you were nine, ten, eleven? Could you have walked two, three, four, five hundred miles across three countries to reach a dirty inland river crossing a scrub bush prairie? Could you have confronted an uninhabited wilderness under a burning sun, without food or love?

The enslaved were once guided by the North Star. What guides the children—is there an intangible sense of security and freedom strong enough in young hearts to drive them from home and hugs? Should our laws make us blind to their dangers, the threats of violence they report?

Played out on our borders, stretching back into the depths of Central America to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, beginning in 2012, but rising rapidly, we are witnessing the greatest tragedy for children since the Crusades, when Europe sent children off to fight its religious wars.

It has created an internal conflict.

Protesters blocked the paved streets of Murrieta, California. Waving large American flags, they blocked the entry of three buses of children and adults to a federal border facility, calling the 140 detainees on aboard a security threat—a danger to peace and safety—chanting: “We want to be safe.”

Children, driven by fear, propelled by opportunity, who walked hundreds of miles, are blocked by organized adults (some with children!) who believe displaced children and mothers are a safety threat? Yes.

When people respond directly to human needs without regard to class, race, condition—or law—those in need become our neighbors. However they have arrived, barriers are removed. Yet the reaction of many around the nation and along the borders is one that acts as though the displaced who came in hope are our personal enemies. We see a response that says their being victims is making victims of us, too.

Many reject what seems to be the most natural of claims: the heroic demonstration of their desperation for respect, the vivid demonstration with each step of their journey of how their status has broken down at home. Some defy their need and demand the new arrivals submit to humiliation and blame, to reject the birthright which is the arc of human history and accept painful consequences for an amazing example that is no longer considered an expression of the strong relying on integrity, but the weak turning to an inner urge of calculation and cunning that is measured as mere irregular, illegal behavior. Panic and public rage form; protests begin.

Many of those protesters were answering the Mayor of Murrieta’s call. He asked his community to block the processing of the detainees at the Border Patrol station so they could not be released to the care of a group of religious volunteers who agreed to provide for them until they can receive a hearing.

With this thinking in our political leadership, we have become a threat to ourselves. Quick to point out others are breaking the law, many are exceptionally slow to recognize we are abusing freedom and violating its pillar of wise restraint and the knowledge that freedom grows when it is a gift that grows for all.

Freedom isn’t protected. It’s practiced. It’s not defined by a set of laws—those regulate society. Freedom is the space we step into after the law is in place. Do we use that space to express our fear of children without walking in their shoes? Do we call for law and order without knowing freedom demands a cry for justice?

What is right is often above and beyond the law. It is the path of living where we build community and trust.

“We didn’t ask them to come here,” one protester shouted. “We are never given sufficient warning,” a city spokeswoman said. Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said, “This caught us all by surprise locally. We are getting 140 traumatized people. Our services are strained.”

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More than 52,000 children have crossed the southwest US border from Central America since October 2013, a 92 percent increase over the same period last year.

In May, 9,000 crossed, an all-time record. Since last October, 39,000 adults with children have been detained, another record. And the Border Patrol projects more than 240,000 illegal migrants, about three-quarters from Central America, will cross the Rio Grande Valley to enter America during this fiscal year.

And once the detainees reach the land of freedom, carrying only their dreams, in the final mile of their journey, they find their path rerouted by protesters. One held a sign: “Return to sender.”

What if God sent them, and their dreams? Are we still deferring dreams?

And are we saying God tells at least some of us who own businesses to deny birth control to women while we pay for Viagra for men through insurance. Many of those same few who who would deny women the insurance purchase of birth control buy goods from China, a country that actively practices abortion as state policy, affecting millions of families.

Those same few also invest in pension funds that hold shares in the pharmaceutical manufacturers of birth control. So God—and the Supreme Court—has said it’s okay to provide men aids for sexual dysfunction, trade with countries that have mandated abortions as official government policy, and invest in companies that make and sell the very products the women who work for them cannot buy—the women who work for the chosen few who allow their God to direct their balance sheet to trade with China and invest in pharma, many of whom insist detainees be handled by the full letter of the law. Continue reading Freedom Isn’t Protected; It’s Practiced

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The Opposition

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DDWe have become a country of opposition. Not opposites, but opposition: the difference is subtle yet important. Opposites stand on different sides of the same process. Sight reading or phonetics, the goal is to teach reading. Opposites have different strategies but share the same goals; they have a common commitment. It is how the Republican-led senate under Bob Dole passed the King Holiday bill. How Hillary ended up voting for Halliburton’s war fund. Opposites, surprisingly, are often eager to accommodate and make their differences less important, to claim the high ground.

Opposition, on the other hand, creates two distinctively different processes. Opposition fundamentally changes the nature of politics. Opposition places its emphasis on winning, gaining greater power, protecting its position, and accumulating wealth. More importantly, opposition can exist even when there is only one player. It can undertake its mission even if the other political players refused to engage. Republicans have turned opposition into a one-sided game.

Opposition (not opposites!) reigns on health care, budgets, women’s issues, foreign policy, military budgets, education, income, media, guns, crime, race, voting, the environment, regional conflicts, food and speech. That’s the short list.

In opposition states, powerful economic forces are quietly establishing shadow governments. Their first opposition task is to reshape public opinion in these key states. Here, in South Carolina, well before the March 30 deadline for candidate filings, a massive barrage of ads began with the intent of shaping voters attitudes and politics. Daily, voters are asked to reject the expansion of Medicaid in a state at the bottom of every health matrix. The opposition treasure chest is so huge it can conduct guerrilla operations in plain sight within states without the rest of the country knowing what is going on. The opposition is tireless in its efforts to win applause for appalling lies.

The main tool of opposition strategy is micro-management. Campaigns, ads, legislation, miscues are cause to pounce and magnify every wedge and thorn, all behind a media fortress where the misrepresentations can not be engaged. Media is no longer a tool of communications. For the opposition, it is also a barricade. The opposition uses media as a shield while making false claims highly visible.

At one point, corporate opposition claimed increasing levels of carbon dioxide would “green” the planet. “They call it pollution, we call it life!” one series of ads claimed. The opposition has tried to redefine rape, make women issues about the pocketbook even as they oppose raising wages and disenfranchise voters as they claim to be protecting voting as a constitutional right.

But nowhere has the opposition been more egregious than on the issue of child safety in South Carolina.

Children under the protection of the state ought to be safe from death, but in 2012 in South Carolina, 76 children died while assigned to the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS). That’s an average of more than one a week. The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, vigorously defends her DSS director, saying under her tenure the death rate for South Carolina children under DSS care had fallen by 25 percent—from 101—nearly two a week, on average.

This macabre reasoning is a big part of the new opposition at the core of politics, in which the opposition puts an optimistic face on tragedy, citing cheery claims of success in the face of massive failure. Sometimes the opposition will do the opposite: it will blow up a tragedy to epic proportions so that the grief is entirely out of balance. Either way, the opposition tries to tip the moral scale. Continue reading The Opposition

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Digging Deeper: The Real Issue of Redefinition

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Stand down from greed; strike the last word: I argue the real issue today is cultural literacy. This week, Ann Romney forgot her manners as she speculated on the number of vacations she and her family might take if in office. “Not as many as the Obamas,” she coyly pronounced.

Has Ann being counting? Is she envious of these trips where the dog doesn’t have to be tied to the roof of the car? Does she long for the common touch of the Obama vacations? Or will the trips to her five homes not count? Better to say, “I’m not thinking about vacations now when the recovery has left some many homeless and displaced.” But the homeless and displaced are behind Ann Romney’s invisible veil.

Also behind that veil is the need to redefine the public-private partnership between business and government and reset common and national goals. The wrongheaded approach of greed, deception and inequality cannot sustain itself in a global environment that is changing by leaps to cooperative measures.

For example, the Philippines has lent $251M to Ireland, Greece and Portugal and put $4.55B into a multilateral Asian fund. Thirty-two countries are funding a great Asian highway, connecting the economies of Vietnam and Cambodia to Europe, while the US squabbles over bridges and potholes and the GOP holds up a transportation bill. Japan has directly financed debt issues for other countries. The most successful efforts at eliminating poverty are direct payments to families tied to education (Mexico, Brazil).

My point is not the quality of the projects, but to highlight the underlying way of thinking—and its abysmal absence from discussions of US growth and priorities. The scatter-shot examples here only highlight hundreds of cooperative relationships involving government and business not feuding for advantage but teaming to productively expand into global markets.

The G-20 early this week focused on women’s and youth’s roles in economic sustainability. Heard any noise on the American front about forward plans for expanding the place of women and youth in growth?

More than labor costs led India to develop customer service outsourcing (now, expanding into the Philippines). Brazil, now larger than Britain’s GDP, developed the world’s fastest-growing middle class, reducing its poverty significantly in a decade. China, in the first quarter 2012, bought a million GM cars. Continue reading Digging Deeper: The Real Issue of Redefinition

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