Bad Year For The News, pt 1

When I see people and they ask me what I’ve been doing lately, I usually take a step back and rub my eyes or forehead.
I mean, really, where do you start? I usually let them tell their story first and if they’re still wanting me to tell them what I’ve been up to, I try and say as simply as possible, “I’ve been up past my eyes in the news.”
People who know me over the last fifteen or twenty years will know this about me. A quick run down is enough to kill any conversation, I’ve found. Just a mention of a couple wars and an economic crisis is usually all it takes to glaze most people’s eyes.

So, instead these days I typically just say, “It’s been a bad year for the news.”

With so many big changes in North Africa and Yemen, Bahrain, even Syria you’d think the President of the United States would have more to say. But the fact is the economy at home and internationally is still a big sucking chestwound of a problem, so naturally Obama proposes debt relief for Egypt and Tunisia. After Netanyahu’s rousing speech in the US Congress, setting big-defense spender’s hearts a-stirring and while hands on hearts aren’t available to clutch their wallets, the talk has it that after Egypt opens the border with Gaza just today, it won’t be long before some kind of action will re-start.

Action in Libya still goes on with our NATO allies helpfully leading the military efforts to officially help the rebels help themselves to a government they can find and hopefully give shape to. Good luck to them! But the refugee problem as a result of the exodus from Libya and Tunisia has become a massive problem in Italy and France. For not just France and Italy. In economics, Greece and Portugal and Spain and Italy as well as Iceland and Ireland as well as Poland are all seeing the edge loom larger. Default seems a greater likelihood for some. Solutions for the rest remain murky, at best. The US has it’s own sovereign debt issue with a made-up limit to $14.3 trillion of US debt having been exceeded last week. No one is sure what that means except that they’ll raise the made-up arbitrary figure. Again, of course. Hopefully without shedding more jobs or American Values? Tough luck. All the leaders and all the experts seem to disagree and point figures at somebody else. Meanwhile Humpty Dumpty keeps spilling egg.

Despite so much success in Europe and Africa, the US is still engaged in at least three official wars. In Iraq we are in official observation mode of the training of Iraqi forces with drawdowns and evacuation of our forces still occurring. But it’s easier to make enthusiasts of those US wars of choice aware of all that thru twitter, the Oscars or their X-boxes so maybe it’s best to just leave their impending civil war in their hands after all?
Obama and his Pentagon we are told will make announcements in July about future proposals or perhaps a new direction in Afghanistan. Don’t hold your breath but the news of bin Laden’s death rattles Pakistan at the highest levels and it’s most secret it seems. But Pakistan has seemed such a hair’s breadth away from disaster for so long it’s a wonder anything can get done there at all. Speaking of which, how come nobody stays at the top of the CIA for long? Leon Panetta’s choice is moving to Secretary of Defense and General Petraeus gets the plum this time around. Despite mostly unvoiced concerns about a general heading the top civilian spook agency, albeit of an international scope, most complaints were centered on issues of executive privilege rather than what the military or the CIA can or can’t do. Guantanamo remains in place, right of habeas corpus is still up for grabs, privately owned prisons make money by incarcerating immigrants with impunity or debtors (or people who are lousy at following rules, apparently), privacy issues are given away for free by happy consumers of bandwidth and the human rights of some are worth less than the right of others to torture. Of course there’s so much more to be said about the war on information, it’ll be awhile before I can get to it and that’s without mentioning ‘culture’.

The devastating floods and tornadoes across the midwest, south and east in the US are matched and even still exceeded by the disaster in Japan. Most Americans I fear aren’t able to understand or comprehend how profound the effects of the failures of three plants and the cooling pond at Fukushima have been. After the 6000 earthquakes and the thousand-year tsunami, the dead can be recovered as far as they can, the roads cleared, the wrecking crews called out, the cracks in the infrastructure slowly repaired. It may take many years in some areas but can still be done as in the US along the Mississippi or in Joplin, Missouri. Forest fires in Russia and the Ukraine are worse this year than any can remember. But comparatively, it may certainly take more than a few decades to ‘clean up’ those nuclear plants if not more. If they can. It may take much longer than that. All the while the danger for leaking more radiation will exist. One likely scenario is at least ten thousand years. There are many efforts afoot, all over the globe to scale back and stockpile the world’s nuclear weapons. That threat of loose nukes or dirty bombs still remains and when you couple that everpresent cloud of doom with the fact that governments or their industries who deal in these matters seem so unwilling to talk or even approach a semblance of opacity about such things, you find yourself in a weird nexus where spy thrillers and science fiction stories compete with reality for attention. And the ending always seems worse.

There are experts that tell us these problems could have been prevented but then they aren’t paid as much as the ones saying that climate change is a conspiracy or that nuclear power is always safer than everything else put together. So like half the Obama administration waiting to be approved or any of the new hopeful federal judges, they’ll just have to wait until Washington DC can learn another word besides ‘No’.

Thankfully there are those who won’t take no for an answer and continue to press for more information, greater understanding and a willingness to focus on solutions rather than worsening the lot for more. Yes, but wait there’s more!

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