Politics & Pop culture

perspectives on current issues in politics, pop culture etc.

MJ

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On Thursday at around 2pm I called my sister and she asked me “did you hear about Michael Jackson? He just died.” In that moment, I didn’t really digest the information, because it didn’t feel real to me. I almost forgot about it over the next few hours. When I got home, I flipped on the evening news and saw images of Michael’s childhood, musical montages with his greatest hits as the soundtrack and excerpts from interviews he had done in the last forty years. It then hit me, he was really gone.

Over, the last three days the coverage of this tragedy has saddened and at times disturbed me. The majority television specials about Michael Jackson have been focused on the sexual misconduct allegations against him and his increasingly eccentric behavior over the last few years. While the media, from Barbara Walters to that blonde woman on Access Hollywood, claim to be hurt and affected by the loss, they remain comfortable picking away at Michael Jackson’s life without any concern for his children or family. In some ways, the media has acted exactly as we expected them to – petty and opportunistically, using his death to increase their ratings.

However, while much of the media coverage of Michael Jackson’s life and death has focused on the negative, I feel that the masses, both here in the United States and abroad are genuinely saddened by his sudden and tragic death and are paying homage to him in their own way.  It feels like every store and restaurant I have walked by or entered in the last few days has been playing his greatest hits, and there are many who have been blasting their car radios in tribute as well. This reaction has been surprising and refreshing – with people showing genuine appreciation for Michael Jackson – the talented artist, writer, producer and choreographer.

I think that all of us are surprised at how we feel at the loss of someone who we might not have consciously considered important in our lives. Yet, Michael Jackson cast a wide net inspiring artists everywhere with the rare talent he brought to the stage.

Written by Veena

June 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Bailouts galore

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I read Harry Paulson’s op-ed in the Times this morning, “Fighting the Financial Crisis, One Challenge at a Time” and upon finishing it, I felt compelled to comment on the issue. I of course, don’t have all the details, and am trying to make a concerted effort to understand the details of the bailout. More posts will probably follow this, in trying to deconstruct this disaster and also try to rally some support for trying to reach out to our elected officials.

Here are my comments on Harry Paulson’s article:

I have several concerns about this slough of bailouts. Namely, taxpayers’ money is being siphoned off into unknown territory, without any formal monitoring and evaluation in place.

Naomi Klein wrote a very interesting article about the details of the bailout, including that $10.7 billion dollars of Morgan Stanley’s bailout money is going towards paying bonuses. Is this really how taxpayer money should be used?

In Britian a similar bailout plan was engineered by Gordon Brown. However, Mr.Brown made sure that the government had ownership and oversight about how the funds were being used, none of which are allowed to go to paying bonuses off for a bunch of financiers, while taxpayers struggle to put food on the table and pay their mortgages.

With a bailout of the auto industry looming and more and more American families struggling, I am in awe that the federal government hasn’t come to the aid of taxpapyers by providing them relief from foreclosures etc. The NY Times just two days ago wrote a story about how more Americans are filing for bankruptcy. However, the difference between them and giant corporations and banks is that, they can’t ask the government for assistance.

No financial companies, corporations or others should be paying out bonuses. If the Treasury is going to manage this effort responsibly there needs to be detailed regulations around how the money is spent. While I don’t like advocating for government ownership of private companies, this is an unprecedented situation that should move existing board members aside to make way for government oversight.

Finally, if we are to lend the auto industry a hand, then, we should use it as an opportunity to move them towards alternative fuel technologies. Everything from the factory production to the cars themselves should shine of American green-ingenuity. If we don’t put this stipulation in, then we will be bailing out the very companies that lobbied hard to maintain the status quo by staying in bed with the oil and gas companies. This isn’t sustainable and it certainly isn’t responsible.

As an American I don’t want to pay for someone else’s mistakes.

Written by Veena

November 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Palin on National Security

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Charlie Gibson had the opportunity of being the first journalist to interview Sarah Palin, after several days of being prepped by McCain aides. The New York Times wrote that choosing Mr. Gibson allowed the campaign to go with “a journalist known for having a mild manner but the gravitas to be taken seriously.” However, Gibson ranged from being somewhat stern to exasperated throughout the course of the interview, which focused on national security issues.

The most interesting moment, which was covered only by the Huffington Post, was in minute 7:52, when Palin is visibly confused about how to respond to Gibson’s question “Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?” She does not seem to know what the doctrine is, and tries to circumvent the question twice, before Gibson actually explains to her what the doctrine is all about. There are other tense moments throughout the interview, but this one was the most telling. It is interesting that a Republican governor who is the Vice Presidential Nominee doesn’t know about the Bush Doctrine, which is a set of foreign policy positions that has changed the course of this nation for decades to come, as it has led us into two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan). 

In general, Palin does not have a strong command of the issues, often regurgitating small catch phrases. However, she fails to make a case for why she is strong on national security, even though at the beginning of the interview, she confidently explained that she was ready to be VP. Even on energy security, which both McCain and Palin have said was her area of expertise, she failed to persuade viewers that she understood the complexity of national energy security policy. 

However, what is more interesting is the coverage that followed. I did a comparison of the headlines from a series of online news sources, including some of the major networks. Here are the ways each of them represented what was a fairly lackluster performance, for the heavily touted VP: 

New York Times: In First Big Interview, Palin Says ‘I’m Ready’ for the Job

LA Times: Palin says she’s prepared to be president

Washington Post: Palin Links 9/11 Attacks to Iraq

CNN: Palin takes tough stance on Russia

Fox News had NO article! They provided the transcript, which I had to search for myself. Here you go: RAW DATA: PALIN’S INTERVIEW WITH ABC NEWS

Well, I’ve been reading the comment boards, and there are still people who are writing things like ‘Oh she nailed it!’ I suspect many did not listen to her evade questions and repeat simple catch phrases over and over. I don’t doubt that Sarah Palin is a smart woman, but thats not really what the national debate is about. Its about whether, she is ready to lead the country, on any issue. Judging by just the Gibson interview, regardless of his demeanor toward her, I would say she’s not. Why? Well, if she’s angling for the number 2 spot in the country, and in many ways the world, she ought to not falter on a gimme question like the Bush Doctrine, especially when the McCain campaign has set the bar so high with regards to experience.

Written by Veena

September 12, 2008 at 4:30 am

Out of Focus

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Enough is enough. Barack said it best today, as he discussed the time and energy wasted by the McCain campaign in the last few days obsessing over whether he called Palin a pig with lipstick. He likened this intrigue to catnip that the media eagerly slurped up. In the world of  24/7 news, each media company is eagerly out to make a buck, especially in this high stakes Presidential Election. However, the lack of journalistic integrity on major all-news networks like CNN, FOX News and MSNBC to obsess over the minutia of the campaign detracts from more serious issues. 

You can turn on any of the aforementioned news networks at anytime during the day and find that they are interviewing experts on each small story that comes across their desk. The format of having multiple advisers all over the country weigh in on something as simple and inane as Obama’s lipstick comment, results in a ripple effect, with every TV station down to the local and international outlets covering this garbage in the nightly news. In the meantime, Americans are bombarded with the same 8 images or news clips both online and on television, which helps to drive negative attention toward whichever candidate has made the latest offense. This formula results in a group of uninformed voters who are voting based on media frenzy and hype versus an understanding of issues. 

The only way for this to stop is if one of these networks takes a stand. We also need more publicly funded broadcasts that don’t have other agendas and don’t need to worry about whether their ratings are going up, so they can focus on reporting news instead of selling it.

If there ever was a time to take some action it is now. If you are reading this post and any of the sentiments above resonate with how you see the world, then write to your local news paper, write a blog post. Do something, because it matters.

Written by Veena

September 10, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Out of Hand

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Take a look at this: 

Latest News
These are the “headline” news titles on a major news network website. Which one? CNN. The original title of “Will Biden/Palin Debate Get Nasty?” morphed within the last hour, when it began as something like “What will Biden/Palin Debate Be Like?” CNN is one of the biggest offenders in the political news business. In a 24/7 market, where they have allocated so much money and personnel to covering the news during the day, they completely destroy the purpose of news reporting. Their job should be to inform the public, not sway them. From the headlines to the way most of their regular news stories are presented via online or on live television, exemplify what is utterly wrong with the news media. 
Someone said it before, but we seriously need to consider how our news is delivered, who owns these news sources, and how we can remove the political biases that make their way into our living rooms and onto our laptops on a daily basis. 
This is not the best political news team on television, its competing with Fox for ratings and has thus morphed into one of the most sensational. I can never watch any coverage on their network, because most of it is talking over the speeches that people are actually tuning into see or blowing a simple story out of proportion. 

Written by Veena

September 10, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Posted in media, News, real news

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Divided We Fall

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All Americans recognize that partisan politics are part of a Presidential election, but the head first dive that speakers at the Republican Convention took into divisive politics that sought to deepen existing fissions along cultural lines in this country was considered reprehensible by many. 

I’m talking about how the speakers at the Republican convention relentlessly evoked images of service, patriotism, duty and tried to associate them as Republican values. The language of patriotism is usually delivered under the guise of supporting the troops, as if Democrats are somehow incapable of this. 

I’m talking about how they disparaged Democrats for being wasteful and reliant on the government, perpetuating the sentiment that only Republicans strive for efficiency in government.  Starting on Tuesday evening and culminating with John McCain on Thursday, every speech at the Republican convention was interspersed with words like; service, fight, defend, honor, legacy, protection and so on. I sat by and watched as George Bush used these same tactics in the last two elections, by demonizing ordinary Americans and accusing those who disagreed with him as being unpatriotic. I watched in 2004 as incumbent President Bush promised Americans in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan that he would take care of them, as he cooly stood by and let them dishonor John Kerry’s honorable service. (Had the opposite have been true in this election, Democrats would have been denigrated to the status of heretics by the other party).  Unfortunately, eight years have passed and no significant domestic policy changes have occurred except for the Patriot Act, which largely curbed our civil liberties and No Child Left Behind, which was severely underfunded, otherwise those folks in Ohio and elsewhere were very much forgotten. 

So now the United States has sixty days to choose between two men, who both claim to hold the key to our progress. While many John McCain supporters claim that he is not George Bush in sheep’s clothing, many remain unconvinced.  When you look at the direction President Bush has taken the country, and understand that John McCain has been in line with the large majority of his policies, its hard to believe that he’s the maverick that is going to “shake up the Washington establishment.” 

John McCain’s speech focused a great deal on his military service, for which he should be honored. His speech also touched on the economy and how he seeks to change America’s course, because he recognizes that the country is moving in the wrong direction. This is striking because for 6 of the last 8 years, the Republican party who claims to represent true American values, have held power in the legislative and executive branches and have not been able to make the changes to the Washington. It is this party, who seems to have forgotten the core principles our founding fathers took great pains to create. America’s founding fathers wrote that “all men are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights including Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Their speeches throughout the week, and policies that exclude all groups, reflect their rejection of the very creed that freed our nation.

Instead, their policies have helped to increase the inequality in this country, with tax cuts for the rich and severe under-investment in education, healthcare, science and technology. While McCain showed promise, he has reversed his positions on energy and immigration, helping him to fall back in line with his party’s base.  

When Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani ridiculed the “others” for freeloading off the government, and explained that Republicans know the difference between good and evil, he was saying, “you are either with us or against us.” Their hypocrisy could be the topic of several other articles, but what was even more compelling was the large audience cheering them on with rhythmic and regular chants of “USA” and “Country First,” laughing along with their fairly crude humor. The Republican party fails to recognize that every American is the grandson or granddaughter of generations of immigrants who came to the United States for religious freedom and economic opportunities. As someone who is a daughter of South Asian immigrants, who learned about the American dream, by watching her parents work hard to send their children to the best schools and raised them with strong values and instilled great patriotism and commitment to our communities, these images of the “other America” were eerie and saddening. John McCain might claim to understand the world, but the RNC convention made sure that anyone who was not on the Republican side, felt extremely alienated and bewildered.

If the United States is to heal after The horrendous 9/11 attacks, The agonizing and underrepresented wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The racial profiling against Americans at the behest of feds that were in hot pursuit of terrorists, The resurgence of race and class wars and vast inequality, The diminished standing of the United States and our lack of forward vision, then we need someone who has the strength of character and conviction and a strong devotion to all Americans, not just those who fit an ideal, defined by the Republican party. This is not an opinion shared by one, but by many, as evidenced by the ten million dollars raised by the Obama campaign, the day after the RNC went on the attack. 

America needs a President who will lead them into the future, one who has lived the American dream, who has an informed world view and can bring innovation, creativity and integrity to the role and who has a definition of American, that encompasses all, not only the few, this is why Barack Obama will make a great President.

Pit bulls With Lipstick

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If you thought this convention was going to be about issues, tonight’s line up of speakers from Mitt Romney to the VP nominee herself, Sarah Palin, made it clear that it was more about the art of illusion. Throughout the summer McCain had trouble rallying his base, and in the wake of the convention and the proximity to election day, he decided to coalesce and go along with traditional Republican themes. I suppose what is disappointing is that before this election began, twenty or so months ago, John McCain had a reputation in Washington as a Senator who had worked across party lines and had focused on issues like campaign finance reform and energy security. However, in the last few months, and especially in the weeks since Steve Schmidt joined his campaign, it seems that much of this independence has dissipated in a race for the White House. This feeling was most apparent in Mitt Romney’s speech, which was both Romney’s opportunity to appeal to the base, and a way to rouse the crowd, after a fairly uneventful first night.

Mitt Romney’s speech was perhaps the most reprehensible because of his use of fear mongering; reaching into Bush’s vocabulary using phrases like axis of evil and exclaiming that John McCain would defeat radical violent Islam. He also tried to evoke the notion that Patriotism was reserved to Republicans. It amazes me that he can talk about what America needs and then talk about how Democrats as elitist liberals who were more interested in giving rights to criminals. When someone who was running for President questions habeas corpus, you have to wonder if they really understand what America is really about.  This sentiment was echoed forcefully by Sarah Palin, who stated ““Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America; he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.” These are dangerous remarks to make, they are polarizing and inaccurate and it is irresponsible for the Republican party to play to Americans’ vulnerabilities in such a misguided way. Since 9/11 the “imprison now, question later” motto of the Bush/Cheney administration has seriously encumbered on our rights as Americans. Romney also talked about how the Republican party was the “party of big ideas, not the party of big brother.” What about wiretapping, isn’t that as big brother as it gets? 

As far as Sarah Palin went, she seemed to be the refreshing face that the Republicans have needed. She was effective with the crowd and is definitely a more exciting speaker than McCain. However, I thought it was in extremely bad taste for her to diminish the role of community organizers, saying “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,” which was a direct reference to Senator Obama’s remarks, that were later called sexist by Carly Fiorina. Several commentators pointed out that her remarks have the potential to alienate the communities she was seeking to reach out to in her speech. The other interesting thing is that in recognizing Sarah Palin’s executive experience, albeit still rather slim, one must also recognize that John McCain does not have any executive experience. Since this is one of their strongest claims against the Obama/Biden ticket, and McCain is angling for the top job, does that mean he too is ill-equipped for the job? 

Sarah Palin came out fighting, and in her own words remarked that she is a pitbull with lipstick, so I am hoping Carly Fiorina will stop playing the sex card, and recall the cheap shots that were angled at Obama’s character, instead of his policy stances, when the Dems start to fight back. 

As an American, I think that RNC Night 2, was extremely offensive. Mike Huckabee actually used the phrase “man of color”, Palin dimished the importance of community organizers and the whole host of speakers made it seem like Democrats were both unpatriotic and unAmerican. I watched speech after speech last week, and the Dems did not go for the jugular, they went after McCain on the issues. On the other hand, the Republicans, while trying to rally a cry to all Americans, made it seem like they were focused on a very particular demographic. This is concerning, as the latest census shows that in 30 years, this country will be one-third Hispanic and one-third White.

However, I do recognize that Sarah Palin appeals to people in a way that Barack and Joe have not been able to, because I think they seem different, despite their humble beginnings. This is where the Democrats need to improve their appeal. In any case, I look forward to less of the partisan politics and more to some substantive discussions on issues where America is headed.

Written by Veena

September 4, 2008 at 7:13 am