With the midterm elections just around the corner, wars and corporate excess ruining the economy and environmental calamity all around us, I’ve been doing quite a bit of wishful thinking of late.
I wish Obama was a socialist.
I wish journalists would get out of show business and do some honest reporting for a change.
Dear friends and readers,
Anyone familiar with Bloomington knows August is a time of transition here. Locals, students and migrants alike move in, move out, take time off, go on vacations and brace for the stunning transformation the community undergoes when the IU student body returns.
That's likewise been the case here at The Bloomington Alternative through the years; back when we had a print edition, we took the month off. And these brief recesses have always been times for reflection on the ever-changing challenges of presenting uncomfortable truths to a world in which unrestrained greed and willful ignorance reign supreme. They also have often spawned changes in the way we do things, as is the case this summer.
The Brown County Hour started with a flash of inspiration in 2007. Planning, learning and acquiring new skills started a year later with around two dozen volunteers, which led to its premier July 24 on WFHB Community Radio.
The show features Brown County residents and adopts a flexible, hour-long variety-show format with a range of elements that includes arts, music, history, storytelling, theater and natural resources. After it airs each time, the Brown County Hour will be archived and available for download and podcast on it Web site and WFHB.
Here's a news item that caught my eye last week: National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR.
Of course, with economic calamity devastating communities from Maine to California, environmental catastrophe in the Gulf and grinding occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, public radio's decision to re-brand itself is strictly small potatoes.
Still, I can't help thinking that NPR's re-branding efforts are one more indication that the public is being squeezed out of public radio.
For all of our concern with safety and security -- in our homes, at the airport, and on the border -- our way of life is threatened as never before.
According to national security experts, the threat comes from Islamic extremists, and, to a lesser extent, popular democratic movements in Latin America. For the Tea Party movement, Big Government threatens traditional American values and individual liberties. White supremacist and anti-immigration groups perceive undocumented workers from south of the border as threats to American national identity and culture. Meanwhile, U.S. business interests point to labor and environmental regulations that threaten our competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
And that's just the short list -- the one that plays out on a regular basis in the American news media.
There are many disturbing similarities between the United States’ disastrous war in Vietnam and the growing tragedy of Afghanistan: a corrupt ally unworthy of American bloodshed; a population historically adept at repelling invading forces; a promising presidency weighed down by runaway war spending.
But one difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is even more disturbing than the similarities. In this war, we Americans are not being asked to take responsibility for the violence waged in our name.
This time, there is no draft to put my teenagers at risk of unwilling sacrifice. This time, we have yet to concede the domestic damage caused by a trillion taxpayer dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In recent weeks, a handful of seemingly unrelated events -- the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, umpire Jim Joyce's blown call that cost Detroit Tiger's pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game and reporter Helen Thomas's abrupt retirement from the White House press corps over her controversial remarks on Israel-Palestine -- offer valuable lessons about taking responsibility for one's actions.
Call it an index of accountability.
Despite conflicting reports over the amount of oil that is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, there is no doubt this is the worst oil spill in U.S. history. To date, BP's efforts to control the leak have failed. And while the extent of the environmental damage is difficult to assess at this time, it is clear that the Gulf's ecosystem is in crisis -- and likely will be so for years to come.
The end of the school year is always a bit hectic: meeting with students, reviewing assignments, tallying final grades and attending commencement ceremonies. Then there's all the head scratching that comes with the feckless decisions university administrators tend to make at this time of year. It all makes it difficult to keep up with the news and current events.
Now, with the semester's work behind me and a busy summer ahead, it's as good a time as any to catch up with the headlines and see what is -- and isn't -- making news of late.
From the Middle East to the Gulf to the Internet to the Tea Party.
Long-time Bloomington Alternative readers know that we operate on an academic calendar here in our utopian little university town. But in our case that doesn't mean we go on vacation when the school year ends at the beginning of May. It means we really get down to work.
My obligations as a lecturer at IU effectively end this time of year, allowing the time I truly need for my writing projects. More on those in a minute, but this summer they include a book proposal on my autism-and-the-Indiana-environment exploration, some investigative reporting in northern Kentucky and a series of first-person accounts of my experiences with the medical industry over the past two years, emphasis on "industry."
And one of the perks that come with teaching at a journalism school is access to some of the best aspiring journalists the place has to offer. The last two editions have introduced Alternative readers to three of them -- Clinton Lake, Megan Erbacher and Kara Gentry. They enable us to recapture some of the local focus that we tend to lose during the school year, not to mention adding some new young voices to our biweekly journalistic fare.
Editor's Note: On Friday April 30, 2010, veteran journalist Bill Moyers, host of the PBS public affairs series Bill Moyers Journal, retired from broadcasting at the age of 75.
Like a lot of people across the country who are troubled by the crisis of journalism, I have mixed feelings about your retirement from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
On one hand, I have grave misgivings about the future of investigative journalism and current affairs programming on public television. Despite assurances from PBS executives to the contrary, I fear that in your absence journalistic standards on U.S. public television will decline precipitously.
On the other hand, I appreciate your desire to take a break from the demands of a weekly public affairs program. You have been a fixture on public television for as long as I can remember, and you deserve some time for yourself.