CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Comments on a Week of Lousy News Events

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

Let’s take a look at the week’s news in review. [Okay, to start with, mine has to be decaf with a touch of cream and sugar, milk’s okay. If lunchtime, make certain it’s green Jappo tea. And if your refrig is supplied, a bottle of Asahi or Kirin later would be nice.]

The idea of paying people to boost voter turnout is not only being floated at high levels, it’s gaining momentum. OMG! What next? Free public transportation to improve MTA ridership numbers? As it is, you can get $3 a square foot to rip out your lawn in an effort to conserve on water. [CR2S did so years ago, without DWP urging, replacing sod with glistening white pebbles.]

While the downtrodden and oppressed in foreign democracies face grave danger to exercise their voting rights, the cradle of freedom is turning to bribery. Benedict Arnold, where are you? Whether the lure of a jackpot will entice more to exercise the right to cast a ballot is questionable, but what do I know? I’m one of those baka-tares who used to vote for judges.

Probably the Ice Bucket Challenge will still be in vogue as this is being composed. You know how social media fads come and go. CR2S is totally supportive of anything that is for the public good – especially when it comes to medical research. If dumping a bucket of ice water over the heads of celebrities, politicians, stars, icons and friends raises $50 mil and counting, banzai! [The total in contributions last year was $1.8 million.] And if a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is soon found, wonderful!

The CDC estimates there are approximately 12,000 suffering the incurable disease; the ALS Association counts 30,000. There are those who believe well-publicized drives cannibalize less-promoted causes. Philanthropy work aims to create a sustainable donor base: the March of Dimes is a good past example; Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day telethons another; Elizabeth Taylor leading a celebrity-driven battle against AIDs. But fad campaigns tend to catch the public fancy only to quickly disappear. If pouring ice water over someone’s head is the new wave, so be it. Meanwhile, ALD sufferers number more than five.two million.

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An L.A. Times back-page business story reported on another Medi-Cal fraud wherein $93 million in payments made to L.A. County substance abuse clinics were potentially fraudulent. The Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered a scam of billing for patients who didn’t go to the clinics, including some who were either dead or in prison. CR2S was not so much interested in the swindle as in the investigators: Who were they and how do they manage to exist in today’s threatened free press battleground? Investigative reporting has not lost its appeal or importance; it’s a long, expensive process without a pot of gold at the end. Only the majors, like The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, have budgets for such important but costly probes. No one seems to care anymore, but can you imagine the sad state of public affairs if not for watchdogs?

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The death of James Foley in Syria, no matter its heinous nature, shares the nation’s headlines with the rioting in Ferguson. Mo. Location, location. Location. I guess an officer-involved shooting is of greater interest than an overseas beheading.

Of course CR2S is prejudiced. And upset. The military has a “no body left behind” credo. And you can’t help but notice how quickly law enforcement responds when one of its own is involved. Impressive response and result. But when the victim is a mere photojournalist, chalk it up as another civilian casualty of an unpopular war; especially in the case of a free-lancer, a lone adventurer sans major network/newspaper connections. I don’t doubt efforts were made to free him. But since the TV war in Vietnam, the American public wants nothing but warm and fuzzy endings.

The unbelievable story of WWII survivor Lt. Louis Zamperini is retold on television, in book form and an upcoming motion picture. John McCain parlayed his ’Nam captivity into a political career; our own Hershey Miyamura emerged a Korean War hero. Foley will be fortunate to be remembered as an Al Queda footnote. Who remembers the teenage girls kidnapped in Africa? The sports gladiator who kayos his spouse?

CR2S is quite aware of journalism’s dismal ranking in the eyes of the public: In a flat-footed tie with lawyers and Wall Street denizens, a slot above Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. It does no good to point to Watergate, Pentagon Papers, whistle-blowers, scandals and political shenanigans exposed because of reporting excellence and diligence. With due respect to teachers, public servants, law enforcement, doctors, scientists et alia, none serve the public with more fervor and dedication (and less compensation) than journalists.

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Despite all the gloom and doom, CR2S continues to survive if not exactly thrive. Naw, no two-bit philosophizing today, maybe some other time. It’s gonna be Labor Day, fercryinoutloud! Will someone please tell me where the year has gone?

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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