Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bridgegate, Inside the TSA, Japan's Beethoven's Fall from Grace, and More

A look at Chris Christie's struggle to control his own narrative, an inside look into the TSA, and a musical scandal at the Olympics.

Water Under the Bridgegate?

When a benign traffic jam due to lane closings on the George Washington Bridge was revealed to be politically motivated revenge exacted by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's top aides, all hell broke loose. After tales of the Christie administration's dirty tricks became national news, here's a look at the shift in media coverage, and how Christie could emerge stronger than before the scandal.

The Media Shrugs, Again

Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine was recently working a crowd of seniors in his Oklahoma district and complaining about President Obama, when a constituent raised her hand and called the president an "enemy combatant" who should be "executed." Congressman Bridenstine responded not by objecting to her statement, but rather by stoking the flames with his own angry anti-Obama rant. A video of the event was posted online, but triggered little attention. Bob ponders the ubiquity of vile, ignorant, and just plain crackpot speech among elected officials, and the extent to which the public, and the media, fail to care.

The (Not So) All-Knowing NSA

Last week the Washington Post reported that the NSA collects less than 30% of phone metadata, contrary to the popular perception that all call activity is being gathered en masse. As it turns out, the agency is unable to keep up with the explosion in cell phone use, which raises significant questions about the efficacy and potency of the program. Bob talks with Ellen Nakashima who wrote the story for the Washington Post.

Taking Sense Away

Jason Harrington worked as a Transportation Security Administration officer at O’Hare airport in Chicago for seven years. Harrington quickly became disgruntled. Not just with the day-to-day absurdity of carrying out what he saw as ineffective security tactics, but by how much the TSA kept away from the public. So, he started writing a blog, anonymously, called Taking Sense Away. Bob speaks to Harrington about his time in the TSA and his Politico article “Dear America. I Saw You Naked. And, Yes, We Were Laughing" which unmasked his anonymity.

No, US Press Freedom Is Not In Dire Decline

This week, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index, ranking the media environment of nearly every nation on earth from most free to least. The United States landed, embarrassingly, in 46th place, a 13-place drop from last year. The rank -- below Lithuania, El Salvador and Botswana -- has set off a panic-stricken (and in some instances, gleeful) barrage of media coverage declaring that press freedom in the US is “plunging,” “plummeting,” and “profoundly eroding.” Bob talks with Washington Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher about why he's suspicious of these headlines.


In the past OTM has covered sock-puppetry -- the act of assuming another persona online to praise or defend the work of your real self. We’ve seen it done by art critics, comic book artists, and politicians. Well, now it's an orthodox rabbi. Bob speaks with Steven I. Weiss, an anchor and managing editor at The Jewish Channel, about the rabbi and his online persona. 

Behind the Scandal of "Japan's Beethoven"

This week Japanese Olympic figure skater, Daisuke Takahashi, found himself in the midst of national scandal, through no fault of his own. Takahashi skated his short program to a piece of music that had been initially attributed to Mamoru Samuragochi, known as "Japan's Beethoven," who was recently revealed to be neither a composer, nor possibly even deaf. Bob talks with Roland Kelts, author of JapanAmerica, about the revelations and the Japanese media's reaction to them.

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