Today’s All Things Considered: Writing Experiment

This is part two of today’s writing experiment where I use the headlines of NPR’s news stories to write about culture, media, hegemony, and digital literacy. I will then listen to the program and see what else I learn from the broadcast. It is a way to more actively consume the news. It prompts me to learn things that I would otherwise not really retain. For example, I learned more about the situation in Sudan and Yemen today. I also learned about the attorney generals and the state level DOJs. NPR is the best media we have going, and I’m using this experiment to go deeper with some of the stories.

20 April 2023

All Things Considered

1. First raise the debt limit. Then we can talk about spending, the White House insists. This is continuing the ongoing battle over Kevin McCarthy and the GOP’s attempt to tie slashing federal funding to the raising of the debt ceiling. Included in that budget cutting is Biden’s plan to cut some of the student loan debt burden. This is of course a contentious issue, as much of Biden’s legacy is tied up in what they are attempting to reduce. Is this an example of checks and balances at work, or is this toxic infighting with the same old bickering back and forth? I think that aiming for fiscal solvency and responsible spending is a good goal, but that is clearly only part of the agenda, and is the positive element of a more wholescale attack on Biden’s administration and legacy.

2. Fighting in Sudan tears families apart, with members fighting on each side. The situation in Sudan is a tragic example of how war affects civilians. This morning, there was a story about the impossible situation faced by hospitals, with a shortage of supplies and closures of most of the hospitals. Meanwhile, the carnage is creating wounded who badly need treatment. This is one of the hot spots of conflict in northern Africa, and it is horrifying to see the toll it is taking on normal people’s lives.

3. During Miami’s poetry month, a poet shares her story through 5 lines on a billboard. This is a great idea. I look forward to listening to this story. In fact, I will do a deep dive on this poet and the program that created this opportunity to see if we can do something similar here in Santa Cruz. Bravo Miami for such an uplifting action. This is sure to inspire people to write, and will motivate young poets. Visibility is everything and billboards are almost exclusively used to sell things. To share ideas on a billboard is a great use of a public space.

4. Author Judy Blume is finally ready to tell her own story in new documentary. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about Blume and this moment in her career. I saw her tweeting on behalf of trans kids’ rights, so I’m assuming that she has been caught up in that controversy in some way, but I’m very interested in learning more about her career and the legacy she has created. I wasn’t a huge Judy Blume fan as a kid, but her importance in U.S. letters is well known to me and her novel Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret is such a beautiful title, it brings me to a place of contemplation and empathy. Young people go through so much turmoil as they come to grips with some of the hard facts of life, and the process of looking for meaning and solace amidst the madness is truly something admirable. Sharing that idea with kids is truly worthy of our attention, especially in our current climate of politicization of kids and social media. I think that it is more challenging than ever to be a kid, and we should champion their champions.

5. Four minutes into SpaceX’s new Starship test flight, it tumbled and exploded. This will be a continuation of this morning’s story on the explosion that happened this morning. I learned from listening to the morning broadcast that SpaceX received federal funding to power NASA’s upcoming mission to the Moon. This is the second time that U.S. Americans will have traveled to the moon, and that is pretty awe inspiring. I still think that we should be focusing on solving critical problems here on Earth, but it is entirely possible that we could do both.

6. Extreme anti-gay legislation has much of Uganda’s LGBTQ community living in fear. What a sad headline. It is a reminder of how far we have come here in the U.S. with regards to civil rights. How do we learn more about other cultures around the world without applying our standards to their practices? Is it fair to be critical of Uganda for legislating their beliefs? I think that it is, despite the potential offense that it entails. I believe that people should not live in fear of their governments for their identity.

7. ‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant’ marks a change of tone, but not pace for Ritchie. Guy Ritchie is a stylish filmmaker who consistently delivers entertaining suspenseful films. This is an exciting new direction for the director moving towards historical fiction. Following a soldier in Afghanistan who has his life saved by a member of the Taliban into a private mission to return the service, it looks to be absolutely exhilarating and will probably be very well received. I’m curious to hear from Dakota Meyer, who is a veteran of Afghanistan who has spoken openly about his respect for the people of Afghanistan. It seems like this film is attempting to show their humanity in ways that have not been common fare. After decades of xenophobic depictions of Afghans as dangerous others, it is refreshing to see another approach to the longest conflict in U.S. history.

8. How to travel if you’re a DACA recipient. The first question is: “What is DACA?” DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and it is a program developed by Biden to help the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States and who wish to become American citizens. They have been named the Dreamers and have been a point of political controversy. The Trump administration tried to do away with DACA, and Biden tried to reinstate it and to formalize it as law. This article looks like it will explain some of the situations posed by this in between status of these young Dreamers. Whatever your stance on immigration is, there is no excuse for punishing children born in the U.S. They are innocent and should be protected like all of our children.

9. John Fetterman wants to “pay it forward” by speaking openly about his depression. This is an amazing headline, and I look forward to hearing more of Fetterman’s story. It is incredibly brave to talk candidly about mental health issues in this climate of political attacks from a person who has such high visibility.

10. From ‘Short Wave’: magnetosphere music, Jupiter’s icy moons and a runaway black hole. I am noticing that All Things Considered is more focused on other kinds of stories rather than your typical news, today. I will continue my study and see if this holds true. I am guessing that ‘Short Wave’ is a series of stories about space and this edition features these three short vignettes about the great beyond. Magnetosphere music sounds like what Barney was always talking about, which is a kind of music that you could play if you had some sort of device that could measure the topography of the earth and assign different tones to the various levels, like a record player. Jupiter’s icy moons sounds like the search for life in our solar system. Where there is ice, there is water, and where there is water there are movies about aliens. A runaway black hole sounds altogether terrifying. If you think that the weather gets bad here on Earth, it is unimaginable the amount of devastation and destruction that is built into the way the galaxy works. I am going to start imagining characters or scenarios that fit these stories. For this one, it is a group of astronauts in a not too distant future who are studying the moons of Jupiter when they discover a runaway black hole is on course to swallow our solar system and the only defense is to play some sort of magnetospheric music to slightly alter the course of destruction and thereby saving our entire series of planets.

11. To raise debt ceiling, House GOP wants new work requirements for safety net programs. This is a controversial part of this struggle between McCarthy’s GOP and Biden’s administration. One of the demands that McCarthy is trying to include in using the debt ceiling lift as leverage is to create new work requirements for people receiving food assistance or other forms of government benefits. They will spin this as though they are trying to help the working class get back on its feet, and that it will help to create a more fiscally solvent economy, but it ignores the real situation of the working class who are already stretched beyond their limits. That’s how capitalism works, and this guy wants to make it worse. That shows his allegiance to an ideology that has very little to do with reality. It is a jingoistic view of the U.S. and worse. It is the dark side of the MAGA movement, which places the blame of our supposed mediocrity on people who are taking a free handout from the government. This feeds directly from the GOP talking points of personal accountability and the ethic of hard work, but it ignores the fact that inflation has caused the working class to fall further behind the cost of living. Making the working class work for their aid sounds like a good idea on the surface, but in reality it is a front for the billionaire class, who should be more than happy to pay for these programs, since this country made them rich beyond comprehension.

12. Photograph or… ‘promptograph?’ Artist questions implications of AI generated images. This story has been making the rounds as AI becomes increasingly enmeshed in our culture and the production of art. This is from the Sony World Photography awards, where they recently gave the top award for the “Creative” category to someone who later gave it back because it was not actually a photograph but an image created by AI. The artist said they were being a “cheeky monkey” in submitting the image and hoped to spark a conversation within the photography world about the role of AI in the coming years. They said that they didn’t want the award, because they didn’t consider the image to be photography. I suppose that is true to some extent, although I think that for the category it shouldn’t matter that much. Maybe we should do away with the categories of photography instead of trying to police what counts as a photograph. After all, photoshop and other means of altering images have been happening since the beginning of photography. Dodging and burning are just the beginning.

13. Lasers can measure mountain snowpack — important data for drought-stricken areas. Again, this obsession with technology and data is driving the story. One might suspect that AI had already infiltrated the world of news and media and were slanting our coverage to be pro-robot. My question is, what good is that data if we are not going to do anything about it? Let’s get the data, sure, but then can we understand that there is not enough water and develop a plan to ensure that we in fact do not have any drought areas? Distribution of water is going to become a major issue in the world as global warming ensues.

14. ‘Chevalier’ tells the forgotten story of a Black composer in the 1700s. Another interesting story with not much to do with the news. I am curious to learn more about this composer. I have no doubt that many people who were not accepted by the mainstream may have made wonderful creations that have been forgotten or minimized by history. This is also another example of trying to make history more equitable by finding hidden voices from marginalized people in the past. I am for it, but I also think that it can go too far. I will be interested to hear why this story is important.

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