Paris Criticisms: Politicking at Its Finest

While the national conversation of what happened at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have simmered down, criticism against the Obama Administration took up the newly vacant space in the airwaves and bylines of radio and online outlets all across cyberspace.

There was no shortage of statements by “experts” and consultants on the media circuit immediately following White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s comment at a White House Press briefing days after the attacks in Paris. At the briefing, Earnest responded to questions regarding the absence of U.S. officials and said, “It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile” to attend the Paris March immediately following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

WhiteHouse Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers press briefing 1/12/15
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers  press briefing 1/12/15

While this is an easy example of a moment where Mr. Earnest wasn’t wearing his P.R. hat correctly, it would also be fair to say that his comment didn’t consider national security concerns, or the inevitable criticism from opponents that would stem from the wording of his statement. However, he made some of the security concerns clear following his initial statement.

Sending President Obama or any other “high ranking” official to March in the streets with the people of Paris would have come off as an attempt to capitalize on another country’s tragedy, have given republicans more fuel for their anti-Obama fires, and most importantly, would posed been a huge security risk.

Obama signs a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, the statement took about two whole minutes to write, but seemed much longer

On the day of the attacks, President Obama personally called French President Francois Hollande and extended an offer of American resources to help investigate and apprehend those who carried out or enabled the attacks in Paris. The next day he visited and signed a lengthy statement in a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, and even seemed to pray (or at least gave a moment of silence) for those who lost their lives in the attack.

Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and   sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before when they funded a defund Obamacare tour
Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before during a defund Obamacare tour in 2013, which they funded.

Despite this, conservatives pulled no punches in their pathos-based criticisms. Perhaps the most notably theatrical was Ted Cruz’s Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit speech, where he mimed marching with the people of France and affirmed “how sad” it was to see “40 world leaders marching in the streets of Paris” with the United States absent (completely ignoring the fact that the march was spontaneous in and that those leaders were much closer in physical proximity than the U.S. is).

Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta
Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta

Even ex-figures of state like former director of the CIA Leon Panetta and ex-political strategist for the Carter administration Patrick Caddel threw in their own baseless and highly-arguable accusations and opinions as to how and why the Obama Administration came up short in showing solidarity.

Caddel was bold enough to emphasize that American absence was “to our detriment,” and that as a country, “we will pay a price for this”, while Panetta claimed that the U.S. “missed a chance to show solidarity with the French people.”

John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and "higher officials" absence at Paris...Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word
Left to right: John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and “higher officials” absence at Paris…Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word

Perhaps what is most depressing about these accusations is the rigor that these figures devote to ignoring the data behind what could have contributed to an American absence from the marches.

In mid-December of 2014, the United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel issued a review to the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding the White House fence-jumping incidents, and included within it were important memos and recommendations on how the service could seek to reduce the amount of risks and incidents against government officials and White House staff.

The highest recommendation? An increase in the amount of guards employed by the service. Throughout the report, the importance of an increased Secret Service force were noted to the point where the USSSMP suggested overlooking the financial implications of more hires, in the report they boldly stated: “Forget about what the Service has asked for in the past: Define the mission, and make the argument to policy makers in the Executive Branch and Congress that this sum- which we believe to be more than current appropriations-is needed.”

USSSMP report

As ex-director of the C.I.A., the likelihood of Mr. Panetta not knowing the risks associated with sending the President of the United States to a foreign country where a terrorist attack’s investigation still remains fresh is slim to none. The nature and environment of the march (outside, open, with millions of pedestrian foot traffic) would have most likely been a nightmare for the Secret Service to keep up with. It should be noted that a week after the Paris attack, four assistant directors of the Secret Service were reassigned, so the work environment of the service could have also been called into question.

As for Senator Cruz’s statement: if he felt so strongly for the people of France, and the need to show U.S. support for France, what stopped him from attending the march himself?

One answer could be that Cruz realized his political capital would be much more wisely-utilized in the speech to his donors and lobbyists at the Heritage Action for America rather than living up to his word. Let’s not ignore that even if Obama had gone to Paris, the Republican Party would have had a talking point about the president favoring international travel rather than facing domestic issues in the bag, regardless of the tragedy that took place.

In short, this and every other criticism that came Obama’s way for this incident stems from the same root: it’s just politics.

Texas Textbook Controversy – Publishers and Board of Ed at Fault

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the drama. Last September emotions went wild in the Texas State Board of Education meetings when board members reviewed textbooks by publishers that contained an unprecedented amount of revisionism and flat-out inaccuracies. Publishers included within this barrage of misinformation included McGraw Hill, Cengage Learning, Discovery Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and Learning Worldview Software.

The motivations behind the revisionism is transparent as day, The TSBOE has a very flawed and biased view of what they deem as history and sciences and expect publishers to conform to their perceptions of history. The problem is that some of these errors could be seen and identified by any student who paid attention in history class 4-5 years ago.

TexasBooks

What is perhaps most unsettling and disturbing about these inclusions were the thin lines between religious preference and respect for fact that ran rampant throughout the publisher’s pages. Biases were reflected through false comparisons between religious figures and perspectives with ones that were pro-democracy and led to the founding of our country. An example includes an excerpt from a Pearson text which misleadingly reads that the “roots of democratic government” could be found in “Judeo-Christian Philosophy”, but does not include any models or examples within the Bible to support this claim. Other concerning mentions were the misinterpretations and negligent characterizations of Islam, which blurred the lines between ignorance and fear-mongering. The full 57 page report by Associate Professor Emile Lester PhD for the Texas Freedom Network contains even more specific and troubling examples of negligent and inaccurate historical characterizations which can be accessed by a simple Google search.

As a citizenry and as a state of parents, Texas deserves better than to allow the facts history and science to be manipulated by influential ideologues who hold publishers hostage; and on that same note, shame should be casted on the textbook publishers who lend credence to unqualified historical and scientific doubt. It’s times like these that I’m grateful for the history books I kept in middle through high school, so that I can remember times where publishers didn’t censor themselves so heavily before, and when history was much more enlightening to read…back when it had a backbone.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Texas State University Newspaper, The University Star.

New Hopes For Cuba and The U. S.

A child in Havana, Cuba gazes from his porch. Photo taken by User Jorgensen at HitRecord.org
A child in Havana, Cuba gazes from his porch. Photo taken by User Jorgensen at HitRecord.org

The Obama administration has made a giant stride in what could be the biggest diplomatic victory in recent memory by reestablishing connections with Cuba. There’s no reason why the embargo should remain enforced and by cooperating with the Cuban government, the United States can make bank and subtly encourage Cubans to explore the possibilities of pursuing a more direct democracy.

After more than 50 years of trade embargos, strict isolation to the Communist Island, and sour tensions over the Cuban missle crisis, the United States issued an intense trade embargo that has been documented as the most enduring embargo in modern history and it’s clear that such policy is officially a remnant of cold wars past.

By opening up and easing trade with Cuba, the United States can facilitate the commerce that American companies have been eager to pursue (The auto mobile industry is an appropriate example, Cubans have become experts at replacing old car parts due to our embargo of sending replacement automobile parts to them, The United States could also pursue automobile competition with The Chinese, who now hold most of the automobile trade)

On a separate front; opponents of renewed Cuban relations argue that by endorsing trade between the two governments, the United States would be officially forgiving and ignoring the human rights abuses committed by the Castro administration against the Cuban people. Opponents also argue that our trade with the Chinese government hasn’t made them any less repressive, so the same result cannot be expected to be reached in Cuba, and that the hopes of instilling a democratic mindset into the Cuban people through economic activity is a “long-term play”

This idea is understandable, but flawed to a certain degree. If history has taught us anything- it’s that the ideal “American mindset” that we’re raised with is an appealing thing not only for our citizens domestically, but for foreigners and hopeful emigrants abroad.

A “longer-term play” is better than no play at all. Right now there are more invigorated protesters and freedom fighters in China than probably ever before. It isn’t too much of a stretch to assume that our economic cooperation with them has  influenced the political mindset of most Chinese citizens to the point that many of them feel that democratization of their country is inevitable – and while this might not make the government “less repressive” – it will and has lessened the government’s ability to tame the wishes of their people, which democracy never hopes to limit.

Trade has the potential to open immigrants to the wonders of our democracy. What we’re seeing is the beginning of increased economic activity and ease of tension. What we can hope for is the beginning of the Cuban people’s liberation.

And it could all start here.

Terrible “Alternative Media” video Innacurately Portrays Autopsy Findings and Officer Testimony

In response to a video posted by the Facebook Police Watchdog community Cop Block, I mentioned (in not very much detail at first ) in the comments section that the following video inaccurately portrayed both the autopsy results of Mike Brown, and Darren Wilson’s testimony as to how the event unfolded.

My comment was met with unprecedented antagonism to say the least. I was insulted,told to kill myself, that I was a “stupid kid”, and that I should go out and fight out in the streets of Ferguson, the commenter deleted his comment before I could screen shot it, but it was definitely violent and I was taken aback by it, but then I remembered most death wishes over the internet don’t actually have much weight to them for the most part.

As mentioned before, the comment telling me encouraging me to commit suicide was removed before being captured, but it's apparent that I was dismissed due to assumptive Ageism
As mentioned before, the comment telling me encouraging me to commit suicide was removed before being captured, but it’s apparent that I was dismissed due to assumptive Ageism

What insulted me the most of the comments was the derogatory way my age was used to immediately dismiss my criticism and logical conclusion for the video’s poor portrayal, oversimplification, and misleading nature.

I responded to the last comment, which I believed the author meant to refer to me as a stupid kid which led me to respond with the following:

“I’m actually a professional journalist who’s tired of media not doing their jobs correctly

With the rise of the internet is the increased attempt by other parties to disseminate untrue information for their own ends.

Such instances require that we examine the information present to us.

The information presented here is done inaccurately and uses 3-d modelling to elicit an uninformed emotional response based off of misrepresented evidence

If you don’t believe me let’s review the video’s version of the autopsy with the official document right here: http://www.documentcloud.org/…/1370715-2014-5143…

Notice the absence of the markings in the video shown at 1:26 that do not show the shots to the chest? Or the central forehead?

The woman in the video is citing Brown’s private autopsy as the source…but even so shots to the center of the forehead and chest are too out of place to even be up for debate, especially given that the federal government is and has investigated this case, there’s no way they would have let a detail like that slide

Also, Darren Wilson’s testimony as described here: http://www.documentcloud.org/…/1370494-grand-jury… (pages 227-229)

says that Wilson claims to have shot Brown when Brown charged towards him notice how that part is missing in the video…this video doesn’t necessarily “depict both sides”

also notice how at 3:30 the same flawed autopsy graph is shown again as being cited by the private autopsy (that now mentions the shot to the head, but still remains flawed in missing the chest shots)”

As of now, 6:48 A.M.,no one has refuted or acknowledged the evidence or assertions I put forth, or apologized for their assumptious arrogance.

I’d be proud if I wasn’t disappointed. We deserve better “media” than this.
Alternative media is just as unsafe as mainstream media, especially now given the powerful global influence of the internet.

Read all evidence relating to the Ferguson documents yourself here

To Anyone Who Truly Wishes For Justice In Ferguson

The following stemmed from a FaceBook post generated 11/26/14 by me, changes for grammar and context have been made

My posts on social media [Re-tweets, shares, and comments] lately regarding Ferguson have not been unbiased and I apologize for that.

I’m now going over witness interviews and testimonies [that, and more are available here] a long with evidence and all other relevant articles so that I may have a more informed context on what actually happened on August 9th 2014.

As a journalist, it’s my job to read first and ask questions later, but sometimes not being sure about the realities around you frightens you into hypothetical situations and rhetorical evaluation.

When events like these happen, maintaining a commitment to truth needs to be your first response, now that I’ve had time to digest the hysteria that has been the last couple of days (and weeks, and months) I can continue to pursue that same commitment with a much leveler head

I think it’s important that as we review the evidence, witness interviews and witness testimonies, we must keep an objective eye on the prize, and it wasn’t until I saw this post by Charles Cooke earlier that I really harnessed in that sentiment completely.

The point raised in the tweet above is one that I found myself asking when I was reviewing evidence and interviews myself. Although I functioned my way through the documents with assumptions guiding my eyes and mind, the number of citizens who were actually trying to review the information for themselves or for the sake of promoting good media did cross my mind in form of a question. And as a result, I encouraged others to dig into the documents for themselves.

With the recent spotlighting of police brutality, especially against minorities- that has until this point gone mostly undocumented, it’s reasonable to see why I may have been too quick to come to conclusions, however these incidents are arguably separate in nature. (Though I do believe our law enforcement should practice and develop more regular, non-lethal ways to dissolve situations)

So far I’ve only began reading witness, evidence and autopsy reports, I hope to read as much of the evidence as possible this week as the tension de-escalates over time.

I encourage my fellow journalists and citizens to do the same, should they wish to make an informed opinion of the case’s conclusion.

To not do so would be to provide a disservice to all ears eager of hearing truth and justice, and would allow for deconstructive ignorance to grasp this conversation and slowly submit it to the silence of shame.

Same Sex Marriage Opponents Struggle to Convince Nation, here’s why

10733604_801512883223794_850988465_n
Photo by Brianna Kight

The following is a mock-up I did for the Opinion section of the University Star on the struggle for same sex marriage opponents both in realms of religion and law, discussion is more than welcome in the comment section:

When approaching the subject of gay marriage, citizens should evaluate the constitution and what they believe the age-old document’s role is in conjunction with their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans.

Homosexuality, as most of us know, has been as present in history for as long as conflict has been in politics. Virtually every culture known to man has some evidence of early homosexual depiction, and in some ancient instances (Greeks specifically) homosexuality was a normal part of everyday life.

Since then, things have changed. The world has become more civilized. With the rise of mass media and information, no excuse should suffice that allows for the restriction of rights from your fellow Americans. No arguments of faith, and definitely no arguments of law.

Many conservatives argue that the primary role of the constitution is to limit the national government from encroaching on the rights of the states, and this argument is true within the outlining of the 10th amendment.

However, other constitutional procedures and standards must be revisited and prioritized.

For example, the full faith and credit clause – outlined in Article 4 Section 1 of the constitution – calls for the mandatory duty of states within the United States to respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

The significance of this law will stand out to any transfer student who’s come to Texas State, because without it, States would have the right to decline their birth certificate, identification, and other legal documents regardless of their importance or value to the student’s life. Without this, Texas would be able to deny anyone else in the U.S. recognition as a citizen. (or maybe even a person, which would have been an issue during the 19th century undoubtedly)

For LGBT couples, marriage licenses are denied and go unrecognized by the states who choose not to recognize gay marriage, and as a result- partners can be denied hospital visitation rights for their spouse, expect misallocation of their estates after they die, and possibilities of having their children taken away due to the difference in State laws for adoption practices.

These actions are a true and frank example of how those who deny recognition of same-sex marriage highlight what is written in their holy books (which for the current time, cannot be proven) more than the text of the law the they swear to uphold.

For those who can’t support same sex marriage for holy reasons answer the following: Do you ultimately know the entrapment of God’s will? How do you know this? God is supposedly an all-mighty and powerful being so how could you, a human not of divinity, know God’s will? Man and women only being capable of creating children? Not anymore, adoption and artificial insemination actually helps same sex marriage couples create children together, and ultimately provide the parenting which has been scientifically proven to show no abnormal average of issues arising from the “non-traditional” households. All holy books were written by men hundreds and thousands of years ago, which brings me to my next question, how do you know God hasn’t changed his, her, or its mind since then? If you find an answer for any of these and they sound legitimate, find me on campus and I promise I’ll lend you an ear.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

The ‘State’ of Media at Texas State University

Texas State University is a great choice for mass communication majors who are interested in pursuing an education and future occupation in the any aspects of media. Between the campus media outlets such as the radio station KTSW,  newspaper The University Star, and weekly newscast Bobcat Update, students can be expected to leave Texas State with tons of experience upon reaching graduation. However, if students want a hard-hitting experience, they may want to reconsider working for campus media.

An interesting notion about Texas State University that I mistakenly gathered in my first year upon applying at The University Star was that it had achieved a degree of notoriety for being a rugged and enthusiastic outlet for students who wish to walk a thin line between challenging the establishment and countering traditional media coverage. I can recall my first time entering The Star’s HQ and noticing a yellow old-fashioned and laminated newspaper clipping of an old story involving a brigade of students engaging in night-time streaking across campus.

Much to my chagrin, the experience of being at The University Star as a videographer my freshman year didn’t turn out to be as inspiring as I had imagined. I quickly learned that the image I had of the newspaper didn’t necessarily match up with the realities of the work environment that I was led into. Our management direction was skewed, and assignments either always fell through or were so banal that there was almost no reason to cover them at all. Still, I remained committed to pursuing the most hard-hitting pieces and ideas that I could find.

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There was an unfortunate ‘formality’ of almost always getting shut down on story ideas. Whenever SXSW in March of 2014 was going on, it featured Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange, and I thought I had hit a no-brainer for a story idea or at least a coverage piece, but I was told that since it was in Austin (which is about 25 minutes away), it wasn’t relevant enough for the paper to pick up- despite the fact that the broader story of government overreach and invasion of privacy was happening not only in Austin- but the entire country (and as we know now, the entire world).

Another time there was a student* who was accused by the city police of creating a bomb hoax. As I read the piece in The University Star, I couldn’t help but think, “How did the police justify an attempt of a bomb hoax when they were the ones who investigated his vehicle against his will?” Probable cause was evident, seeing as how he was initially smoking on campus, and fled arrest from officers (smoking on campus is a violation of university policy) but a “hoax” implies a sort of intentional cause to create panic- which was only created by the police department enlisting the Austin bomb squad to blow up packages that were “incapable” of being recognized as explosive or not.

*The suspect was first reported as a student, later reports confirmed that he was not a student of the university

Obviously as I had read this piece, I was stunned with more questions than answers and suggested to my superiors that we should do a follow-up piece on the suspect and the police department’s view of how the event unfolded. Initially, I was told that I’d be given the suspect’s lawyer information and that although cooperation from the police department wasn’t likely, I had the support of The Star to go out and pursue the leads.

Time went on. I checked my inbox, nothing. I found myself asking different editors of the paper for the same piece of information over and over again, sometimes being told that it had already been sent (which obviously wasn’t true) and other times being told “yeah sure, I’ll do it”.

I continued pressing my supervisor on the matter – lightly of course-  because as passionate as I am about journalism I still very much believe that I have to earn my stripes as a reporter. My main concern was getting this story shot and so long as that was done, I’d consider being a minor annoyance a small step in a long path towards victory. I asked for the contact information a third week in a row, believing that I still had supervisor support when his tone seemed to take a different note this time around.

“The thing is, it would require getting law enforcement involved…”

Long story short, I was told that it would be too much of a hassle to get police cooperation on the story, and that I could pursue the story on my own time, but not as The University Star’s reporter. I never followed up on the story solo because after 3+ weeks of asking for something so minor as a number and being met with dragged feet, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I found the whole incident ironic considering that The Star’s lower tagline reads “Defending the First Amendment since 1911 | The independent student newspaper of Texas State University” That same line that had once ensnared my attention and loyalty before now stared back at me awkwardly. If you’re too nervous about police cooperation or retaliation then you’re not really defending the first amendment, at least not confidently .

The paper, as I’ve known it since my year-and-a-half of being here, seems to typically play it safe when it comes to covering local issues, the most controversial thing I had heard of being reported by The Star was an incident that questioned a city council member’s ethics when he, Carter Morris, met with a developer while approval for their project was still being deliberated by city council. Morris was the planning and zoning Vice Chair at the time.

Although the campus media aren’t necessarily the hell-raisers that I typically like to consume, I still hold their motives as an outlet for students to polish themselves in high regard. Certainly there is creativity and insight in all areas of the campus media (especially in KTSW ,their program diversity and professionalism is astounding for a student publication) and while they focus on polishing craft more than breaking media barriers, it at least ensures that students will be professionally prepared to cover news for future publications.

Hopefully by the time they get out of college, they’ll be done playing it safe.

Intellectual bullying and the postmodern discourse of GamerGate

The Mitrailleuse

The discrediting of voices in intellectual discourse is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when a person holds a position that is indefensible and plain wrong, they should either accept that they are wrong or have their soapbox revoked. Most of the time it isn’t this clear. Different opinions are held by disagreeing parties, and silencing dissenting voices requires tactics that are a little more underhanded. The tactic of dishonestly re-framing a viewpoint into something outrageous in an attempt to discredit those who hold the viewpoint is known as intellectual bullying.

Black_box bulling

This is a powerful tool. With enough voices dishonestly insisting that someone holds all those beliefs that everybody hates, the person in question will either be shamed into silence or suffer from character assassination. The black box takes an honest input and produces a dishonest output. But what goes on inside the black box? I am going to try…

View original post 2,133 more words

Water Shutoffs in Detroit: Violation of Human Rights or Blatant Irresponsibility?

Photocredit: http://syntheticzero.net/author/arranjames/The City of Detroit has decided to shut off water for customers of the Water and Sewage department who haven’t paid their bills for access and usage of the city’s water. Activists and citizens of Detroit have expressed disappointment and outrage over the city’s handling of the water utility department, and U.N. officials have even gone so far as to condemn the city for the shut-offs.

                                Here’s what happened.

Before the shutoffs occurred, the Detroit water and sewage department faced debts and uncollected payment upwards of $90 million. A substantial amount of that pre-shut off debt stems from the department’s lax attempts to collect payment from customers. In hopes of reversing the dismal financial situation, city officials turned to the old-fashioned tactic of shutting the water off, in hopes that this would encourage citizens to pay for their water usage.

The results were mixed; over half of the 17,000 citizens who had their water shut off subsequently paid their bills and had their water restored, (this is according to city officials), while citizens who really couldn’t afford the bills met the shutoffs with outrage.

More recently following the U.N.’s condemnation of the water shut-offs, the city of Detroit released a statement outlining modifications to their initial and more stringent shut-off strategy.

Changes contained in the modification include desisting holds on properties facing foreclosures who can’t meet the financial obligations of paying water utilities on time, setting up payment plans with struggling with their payments and additional funds and resources for citizens who need assistance paying their water bill, namely – The Detroit Water Fund, which includes nearly $2 million devoted solely to the cause.

The question at heart remains, are the shutoffs an example of “Cold hearted” penny-pinching greed, or is the situation more complex in terms of what city officials have called “An Economic Reality”?

This issue is simple to a certain degree, there is no doubt that it is a demonstrable consequence of misaligned of priorities, both on behalf of the city government and (some) of the citizens of Detroit. After filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit was blinded by an overwhelming amount of duties to get out of bankruptcy.

One of the biggest concerns with the bankruptcy filing had to do with pensions of city government employees and retirees; many of which saw their pensions take cuts for the sake of digging the city out of the $18 Billion debt accrued. The second largest concern was their water and sewage department’s financial state, which contained over $6 Billion of the bankruptcy debt alone.

Now let’s be clear here, the fact the Detroit fell into such bankruptcy and problems with its Water and Sewage Department to such an extreme extent is a transparent sign of failure to the constituency that is the citizens of Detroit. The fact that pensions had to take cuts in the first place for current and retired employees speaks in volumes about the fiscal irresponsibility that the city had in allowing those events to transpire that far.

What really makes matters worse is looking into how Detroit initially handled the water situation. After deciding to restructure the financial integrity of the water and sewage department, the city realized that delinquent customers continued to abstain from paying their bills and shifted the costs onto dependable customers.

If that wasn’t enough to spark outrage, after shutting off the water to more than 14,000 homes, the city took longer than two months to even begin shutting off water access to 36 delinquent commercial businesses- 12 of which contained delinquencies totaling more than $100,000. The city responded to criticisms from citizens claiming the commercial businesses were gaining favoritism over the households affected by stating,

“The contractor couldn’t shut them off…They’re not equipped to shut off a larger industry like a Ford Field or what have you.”

As if that excuses two months of delayed action.

The irresponsibility of the City government is mostly to blame for this situation, however some of the delinquent citizens must be held accountable too, after all; the citizens who paid immediately after having their water shut off demonstrated that the water bill wasn’t so much a priority as it was an inconvenience.

This irresponsibility is also illustrated by customers who could have initially afforded to pay their water bills, but chose not to for whatever reason and waited for their water to be shut off or for their debts to accumulate to untamable amounts.

Shifting the blame to the city for not collecting sooner is easy to do because yes, the city is responsible for collecting the payment that it seeks- but why did it take so long for these customers to take care of their financial obligations or voice their concerns over their bills?

After the City’s meeting with U.N. officials, Chief Staff Alexis Wiley noted a perceived narrowness by their perspective in a statement:

“Hundreds of cities in Michigan and thousands nationwide shut off water to people who do not pay.  It is a standard practice among utilities. Yet for some reason, the UN is focusing only on Detroit, apparently to the exclusion of all others.”

The way that the city handled the Water and Sewage department’s financial crisis was deplorable, and the citizens were merely following example set forth by their so-called community leaders who took oaths of responsibility and failed them in providing it through the practice of their policies.

Photocredit: Wikimedia.com
Photocredit: Wikimedia.com

But that’s not to say things aren’t capable of being steered on to the right track.

The city does seem to be making strides in atoning for its sins, just yesterday it reappointed retirement investment committees to oversee future developments in pension funding. This latest move is one of the essential last steps in resolving Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, and will lead the city to its way of eventually curing the blight that has been its national image.

Maher’s Show Accidentally Teaches You About Media

Typically pundits and roundtables don’t work so well in the sphere of constructive conversation about current events, and especially not about foreign policy. But sometimes Real Time With Bill Maher mines up some real gems (most of which don’t come from Maher himself).

What happened in this Real Time with Bill Maher clip from May 2013 is a perfect example of the consequences that come from a society more engaged in shouting than examining. While many people (and you might be included in this) roll their eyes over the thought of discussing Benghazi situation, (that was how long ago?) Glenn Greenwald mentions something that most liberals couldn’t find themselves to come to terms with: That when government officials make untrue statements on the air despite whatever team they may be on – their actions and statements deserve investigation and retribution when they prove to be false.

While Maher continued to insist that he didn’t know what the scandal was, Charles Cooke of the National Review Online added very beneficial and constructive reflections of how the media and its audiences turned to partisan distractions rather than actually addressing the issue and while this is slightly off-topic and not on point enough for Maher’s question-beckoning, it is very beneficial food for thought which I will come back to later.

Glenn Greenwald came in and supported Cooke’s claim that the polarization in coverage proved to be more distracting than beneficial, and came out with this awesome statement at 1:26

The problem is that this arose about 6 weeks before the election when everybody was desperate to protect their side, so Fox [coverage] was ‘this is the worst scandal ever’ MSNBC [coverage] was ‘Obama did absolutely nothing wrong, he acted perfectly as always’ and the reality was something in-between which was:

A U.S. ambassador was killed (there’s only been 6 times in our nation’s history when that happened) The president went on the air and other people did too and made statements that proved to be untrue about why the attack took place- that it was a reaction to this film, when in rea- that’s just a reality, whether they were lying or just an error, the statements they made were- it was untrue.

Maher: It was a fluid situation

Glenn: No but it it still- when the government goes on the air and says things that prove to be untrue that is a – something that needs to be investigated and it was in a place where President Obama and NATO had gone and invaded and bombed and changed the regime, I’m not saying it’s a huge scandal, but there certainly are questions when the government and political officials six weeks before an election say things about a major event like that prove to be untrue. There should be investigations even if the republicans are doing it for political ends the same is true when democrats were investigating Bush officials and saying ‘these are the worst scandals ever’

Maher then goes off and brings in a statement made by Cheney that security at the Libyan Embassy was typically stronger during the 9/11 anniversary under the Bush administration, and while there is a fair amount of irony in that statement, it’s clear that Greenwald’s statement is still lost on Maher.

What is perplexing and frustrating is that Maher, just like the left-leaning outlets that Greenwald and Cooke mentioned, refused to acknowledge that the government should be held liable and answer for the inaccuracies in the statements they were providing.

And therein lies the biggest problem that we can see in modern media reporting.

With no tenacity for the truth or expectation of accountability for themselves or from the government, the media turned to partisan talking points and bile-quality reporting because doing so covertly plays it safe when compared to turning press conferences into interrogations.

While ‘interrogation’ might seem like a strong word to use for this situation, is it not appropriate? Lately there’s been a shift in tone when it comes to the usage of that word to imply some type of malice or harsh-intent, but at what point should media and society break away from accepting non-answers and expect their elected leaders to not only answer honestly to questions from the press, but to also answer for their misinformation?

We see this happen in debates where candidates don’t answer questions directly and veer off course, or when they cite statistics that are unfounded, debunked, or misleading

As Glenn pointed out, the statements made by the President and elected officials at the time proved to be untrue, and at the time they didn’t answer as to why. The fact that the media never asked them shouldn’t be reason enough to not address an accidental dissemination of misinformation. I understand that when constituents are harnessed in by the party-line tactics, it’s hard to expect quality journalism to take hold, but where media fails, journalism– true journalism should never falter- and I believe that Glenn was advocating for that in his statements.

As Charles Cooke later mentioned, “The Scandal here is that the media, as it did during the Bush years sides with power, the media did not want to investigate this and so it reported a process story right from the beginning Mitt Romney attacks the President

After Maher persists in claiming ignorance over what the scandal is, he goes on to cite supposed interferences and limits to what the administration can take on, saying

“What’s the crime? Something bad happened in the world. Obama is supposed to micromanage everything that happens in the world? He’s got four million people under his charge.”

Glenn later interjects and adds,

“You don’t think that when the U.S. ambassador is killed and there are people within the state department saying that they were asking for help and not getting it and that the U.S. government went onto the world stage for a week and made claims about what happened that turned out not to be true, that that doesn’t merit any investigation?

After minor interruption by Joy Reid of The Miami Herald (Reid didn’t seem to share the same skepticism as her Herald colleagues Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay) Greenwald, Maher and Reid’s voices collide together and Maher cuts off the conversation, sputtering in:

Okay, Alright, Alright let’s move-no, wait I don’t. I don’t and I’m bored with it let’s move on.”

Glenn smiles and sips from his cup, Joy Reid says OK- laughs and sits back, and the audience applauds enthusiastically from being saved from their duty as citizens that Glenn almost reminded them of.

If information is the currency of Democracy as Ralph Nader once said, it would seem that American media is doing its best to pick apart the collective piggy bank themselves. As hard as it may be, it’s up to us-the citizenry to count up what’s been exchanged and forged, otherwise the money that comes out of our mouth will never be any good.