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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Counterpoint 06/14: The Relevance of Affirmative Action

By Meg McGee | Counterpoint | June 15th, 2013 |

Our debate on the relevance of affirmative action was easily one of the most heated ones we’ve ever had on the show (a clip is below). Race is always a tricky topic to talk about when many of the issues surrounding it remain unsolved in our country. But debates such as the one we had was one that needed to happen. People seldom confront the issue of race head-on in the media and we at Counterpoint were happy to be able to delve into such a subject.

With that said, I think its important for us (especially as Americans) to not think that because we are starting to see more black people in positions of power that we live in a “post-racial America”. Racism, particularly towards blacks remains an open wound that has not healed even after years of progress. Those who are not minorities may think, “How unfair, why is it necessary to still have these policies when we are not in the 60s?” It is easy to not understand the importance of such policies when you are not a black, Latino, or Asian in America.

Affirmative action opens doors for minorities and with that, it puts people of different backgrounds in settings such as a school or workplace. And in that setting we are confronted with race, we come face-to-face with the ugly history and reality of America. Once confronted with these themes, we can either continue with ignorance or learn to embrace differences with an open mind. Affirmative action is not some gateway for minorities to get whatever job they want or get into a good school without putting forth effort. Actually minorities have to work harder than anyone else to prove stereotypes wrong and break barriers.

 As I stated in the show, you cannot get into Harvard or some other Ivy League school with a bad GPA or test score, regardless of race. And as we all know from our experience of applying to various universities they look at more than just your test score. There’s essays, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, etc that also add to your application. So to say that the student at University of Texas was rejected solely on the premise that she’s white, is completely baseless. I can only hope that the Supreme Court will also understand the value of diversity in schools/workplace made possible by affirmative action.

 We should not undervalue or underestimate the importance of diversity. It’s one the reasons I chose UM, even though it still remains a majority white school. But UM still tries to value the diversity of its students by enrolling people of not just different races but also nationalities. Affirmative action is still a work in progress as many universities remain overwhelmingly white but the positives of these policies can be seen  in not just our elected officials like the president but in business, entertainment, and sports.

I’m proud to be a voice for blacks and women on Counterpoint and I hope that our show continues to challenge and inspire not just our contributors but our listeners as well.

 

Below is a clip of our discussion on the subject during our live show.  Counterpoint airs live Fridays at 1pm ET. 

Counterpoint Clip: Affirmative Action by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

The Farm Bill and Poverty in the United States

By Jordan Lewis | Counterpoint | June 14th, 2013 |

 

This week, the U.S. Senate passed an extensive, 955 billion dollar Farm Bill package that will extend certain subsidies and crop insurance packages for the next 10 years. The Senate also cut $3.9 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which allows low-income families to pay for food costs, through the food stamp program. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on its own version, cutting food stamps by $20.5 billion over the next 10 years, denying 2 million people the food they need.  From a policy and an ethical standpoint, Congress erred by cutting SNAP considering that poverty has only worsened since the Great Recession.

Over time, food stamps were integrated as part of the Farm Bill as a means for urbanites to support the agricultural sector. While preserving family farms should be a focus of the government, much of our agricultural policy is rooted in giving subsidies to large corporations such as Monsanto, whose bottom line is enhanced by the American taxpayer. Other recipients of this money include wealthy landowners, such as Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN), who cited the Bible in his defense of cutting food stamps: (while pocketing $70,000 in farm subsidies) “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Food stamps provide an important function in combating both urban and rural poverty. They not only provide additional resources for the user to pay for their other needs, but also help provide sensible nutrition, which will save us money in the long run. They also provide the biggest economic stimulus per dollar out of any policy the government could enact (multiplier effect of 1.73 per dollar spent). Americans think that hunger is a relic of the past, and while it is true that the United States produces a surplus of food, hunger is an everyday battle for many families. One out of five American children (16 million) struggle with hunger (No Kid Hungry). With extensive health and retirement benefits, and a healthy salary, most members of Congress are seemingly unaware of the challenges of surviving on food stamps. This week, nearly 30 congressmen will take the SNAP challenge and live on $4.50 a day, as 47 million Americans (1 in 7, half of whom are children) do. In many cases, SNAP isn’t enough, evidenced by record numbers serviced at food banks and other charities.

Furthermore, over half of Americans will spend a year under the poverty line. The government has the resources to combat poverty and has instead squandered it on corporate welfare, tax cuts for the wealthy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the drug war. The poor don’t have the political clout that America’s wealthy do. In an era where demagogues like Grover Norquist make any tax increase on America’s wealthiest an anathema, America’s poor are left to fight for themselves.

Over the last few years, conservatives have used welfare as a means to rile up their base and stoke racial divisions among Americans. In fact, the majority of welfare recipients are white, and working Americans. We’ve seen a rise in unemployment and a great increase in discouraged workers that artificially reduced the unemployment rate. Pension plans and other economic security measures have weakened over the last 10 years as employers look to cut back on expenses. Many Americans today work part-time jobs or work without a living wage, or suitable health care coverage. On this topic, the Florida Legislature voted to eliminate Miami-Dade County’s minimum wage provision that will only hurt the weakest in our society.

America’s working poor is growing and growing as the middle class has shrunk. Many workers are forced to take multiple jobs or make incredible sacrifices to make ends meet. The average Chartwells’ worker at UM makes less than $20,000 a year and often must rely on assistance programs to pay their mortgages, get health care, or eat.

If you thought that poverty in America was on the downturn, recent policy alternatives may make it worse.
The decline in unionization has cost millions of workers decent jobs, and the advent of Right to Work (for less) in states like Indiana (and already in Florida) will union and non-union workers alike.

The sequester has laid off millions of workers and hurt many more. Republican cuts to the social safety net have only worsened poverty.

A failure to pass a suitable immigration bill will jeopardize the prosperity of millions of Americans already here and allow owners the leverage to pay their legal workers less.

Unless Congress acts, the student loan interest rate will double to 6.8%, with student debt already surpassing $1 billion and difficult to remove even post-bankruptcy. (Our banks receive preferred rates of less than 1% from the Fed).
However, the biggest test to controlling poverty over the next generation is securing our entitlement programs. Republican ideas to reform our entitlement programs enrich the wealthy while damning the poor. Social Security has been the single-biggest anti-poverty measure undertaken, and have reduced poverty among our seniors by a wide margin. Medicare is effective, popular, and essential for our seniors’ health care needs. Finally, Medicaid provides vital health care to low income Americans. The refusal to take up Medicaid expansion paid for by the Affordable Care Act is a massive failure on the part of the Florida House and cuts millions off from health care coverage they need. Reducing entitlement benefits will only shrink the middle class and make the poor poorer.

We haven’t had a targeted approach to reducing poverty since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Wall Street has recovered from the recession. The majority of Americans haven’t. Income inequality is at an all-time high, with record CEO compensation and giveaways to agribusiness and Big Oil. It’s time to address the problem that nobody really wants to talk about.  We need to make sure that our fellow Americans can lead dignified and prosperous lives. We have the both the means and moral responsibility to do so.

 

 Counterpoint airs Fridays at 1pm ET

 

The NSA Leaks A Week Later: What Next?

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | June 13th, 2013 |

Over the weekend it was revealed that the whistleblower behind the NSA leaks was a man named Edward Snowden. Snowden is presumably in Hong Kong, although there hasn’t been any confirmation yet, other than the fact that he checked out of a hotel there recently. There has also been chatter about Snowden having a bid for political asylum, though there has been no official confirmation or denial of such asylum at the time of writing, be it from China, Iceland, or Russia, the three nations allegedly weighing the possibility, with only Russia officially “considering” asylum.

 

That’s all well and good, but what about his homeland, the U.S.? Already, some members of congress are calling for his head, Obama is trying to do damage control, and as stated above, Snowden isn’t even in the country. On the other side, there is already a whitehouse.gov petition to pardon him, even without any charge of wrongdoing so far, and privacy advocates are taking a break from performing the “I Told You So Dance” to show support of the person behind the information.

 

I don’t want this to be another article entirely about whistleblowers, so I’ll shift to the leaks themselves–I wrote last week about the notion that some things shouldn’t be classified to begin with, but this leak goes beyond that. The PRISM program and the Verizon (and I would assume other major telecoms companies) data mining efforts shouldn’t have even been started, and for revealing them, I thank Snowden very much.

 

I believe the best part of these leaks is the re-ignition of the discussion of privacy vs. safety: at what point does “anti-terrorism” become too invasive? At some point during the show last week, I asked “what terrorism?” and by that I was questioning how many terrorism plots were, or even could be, foiled by this type of surveillance. I realize that the CIA/FBI/DHS/etc. have to keep some things secret, but I believe that if they want to even propose this type of surveillance, there had better be concrete, publicly available evidence that it works, and even then, there is no reason that the government needs the metadata on every call. Heck, I call in to Counterpoint from over 1500 miles away for an hour once a week, and I’m sure that could be construed as “odd,” even though I can say with 100% certainty that I am not a terrorist.

 

But what about the one in a million who is a terrorist? Surely we can’t just let him/her continue uninhibited. Do we trust that the government and police can catch most of them? Do we trust each other to be on the lookout for bomb/etc. factories across the country? In all honesty, I don’t know what we can do to stop terrorist attacks from ever happening again, but just because there isn’t an alternative idea at this point in time does not make the surveillance state is a good idea. I can live with the current airport security; it’s a pain, but it’s only a little overzealous. I can get behind the occasional wiretap, but I think a warrant should be required beforehand. I draw the line at the public camera system/Trapwire and Internet monitoring in any form; the first is far too invasive, and the second is too easy for the actual intended targets to circumvent and only harms the bystanders.

 

We have to accept that there are people out there that want to hurt us, be it from some bastardized form of an otherwise peaceful religion, or from run-of-the-mill psychopathy, and I’ll admit that I don’t know how to stop them 100% of the time, but what I do know is that turning America into an Orwellian state out of fear of terrorism would be “letting the terrorists win,” and I’m sure I’m blowing these programs a little out of proportion, but one of the hallmarks of such a state is total surveillance, which, thanks to Snowden, we know is closer than we thought it was last week.

Sometimes Leaks Shouldn’t Be Fixed

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | June 6th, 2013 |

On June 3rd, the trial of Bradley Manning finally began, just a touch over three years since his arrest. He is charged with leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, and in turn to enemies of the U.S., via the nature of the Internet’s global availability. Among the leaked information, was the “Collateral Murder” footage of a U.S. helicopter gunning down four journalists and two kids, and reports confirming the Granai Airstrike, which killed anywhere between 86 and 147 civilians, most of which were apparently women and children, and a good number of diplomatic cables containing information that embarrassed the U.S. government.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the recent crackdown on whistle-blowers in general, not just Manning. While I have said before that I am a staunch defender of personal privacy, I’ll admit to having lopsided standards when comparing personal privacy to governmental privacy. I believe that Manning should be applauded for showing something that, quite frankly, needed to be exposed: I believe that the American people have a right to know who we have killed half way across the world while fighting a war against an abstract concept (terrorism), and furthermore, I believe that even if these incidents were accidental, that they shouldn’t just be swept under the rug and classified because they might embarrass a few officials. We’re not all babies, I don’t think anyone who knows we’re at war expects us to not have at least some civilian casualties, and I think that the American people can certainly “handle the truth,” even if it is unpleasant.

But moving away from Manning specifically, there seems to be a recent shift towards this head-in-the-sand idea: that dissenting or even leaking is not okay. From the Obama administration’s six uses of the Espionage Act– more than all other presidents combined– to the Patriot Act, to even the recent DOJ scandal(s). What I am gathering from these, among others, is that it’s no longer completely okay to speak out, or else a whistle-blower, or even just a dutiful reporter, risks getting caught up in the vortex, as we’ve seen with the AP scandal recently. Add in just the chilling effects alone from the Patriot Act and it looks to me like we’re nibbling away at the first amendment. To the argument that this is just all in the name of counter-terrorism and that we should have more faith in the government, I counter with “once you give it up, you aren’t getting it back”; the Espionage Act has been around since 1917, almost 100 years ago, and the Patriot Act just got extended in 2011 to last four more years, but I will concede that this government-press scandal will probably blow over, though I’m not so sure leakers will bother coming to the press for quite some time.

WVUM News Reports: Underage Drinking at UM

By Chloe Herring | September 16th, 2012 |

Many students often joke around about tricking bars and clubs with their fake ID's and boast about getting drunk at hotspots like the Grove. However, underage drinking has become a serious issue at UM and around the nation's universities.

Below, a WVUM investigation:

WVUM News Reports- Underage Drinking and ‘U’ by Wvumnews on Mixcloud