Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten years on after the Iraq Invasion; Three things I was writing back then...

What Does Iraq's Oil Law say About an Invasion

By Cody Lyon from OMNI
Amman, Jordan, is set to play host to a three-day economic trade show, a corporate meet and greet between powerful, well-moneyed investors and those who the guard the gates of vital decision-making government ministries in perilous but oil-rich Iraq.

On its Web site, loosely defined organizer Iraq Development Program (IDP) calls the Jordan gathering a "historic landmark event" Officially titled the Iraq Oil, Gas, Petrochemical and Electricity Summit, the three days of face to face meetings that begins on May 28 could impact Iraq's economic future for years to come.
Link to full story

Al Qaeda and Iraq: The Panel and the President

Letter from Cody Lyon- New York Times

While it is upsetting that President Bush and his administration used fear, anger and manipulation to intimidate the American people into believing that Iraq played a role in Sept. 11, it is even more disturbing that many Americans accepted his word as fact.

Link to NYT

Notes on a Thursday in Spring- Before Memorial Day

From my blog

The weather goes from cool to warm and the sun is bright this particular Thursday in New York’s East Village. At a Mexican takeout shop, beef tacos are purchased, then eaten sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, under a tree that appears very lush, and filled with chirping birds.

The park is crowded, the playground full of kids, the grass covered with sun bathers, the dog run is noisy, chaotic.

At the dog run, people gather, watching the dogs, apparently a fight has broken out, first between dogs then it spreads among humans. One man pushes another, barks and shouts are traded, as all the dog owners yell at an older man, because of what they say is an aggressive dog.

But the cell phone rings, it’s a friend in Alabama, she says hello and the conversation lasts for a while.

She’s been dating a new guy, she thinks she really likes him and he’s taking her on a trip to Las Vegas.

Link to the post

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Has social media transformed politics-yet?

OPINION- by Cody Lyon

Today I got called out on Facebook.

Of my two thousand or so BFFBF's, a few aren't so shy about offering their thoughts on the issues of the day. Today one of those friends, who happens to be on the more politically conservative side, called me to task after I posted an opinion article by a New York Times columnist about a new republican senator from Texas . I found the piece smart, informative and a good statement on the toxic climate in Washington these days.

But, all I did was post this other person's published piece, I didn't offer any of my own thoughts, observations or supporting material other than a quote I lifted from the piece and then attributed to the writer.

The conservative friend from another state ask me what my specific thoughts were. I responded, that I was just sharing, I'll leave the opinion writing to the TIMES. He responded to me, saying "oh, you're just putting it out there," with no opinion of your own, and then he ask, "did you even read the article?" That set me off a bit and then I said a few words about why I found the piece worthy of a share. A discussion ensued that included a liberal friend from yet another part of the country.

Soon after, I left my apartment in Harlem with my bike, on what was a very cold Sunday. I began a very long and solitary journey down to Chinatown. Along the way I took a few pictures of buildings and other NYC sites, and posted them on Facebook and Instagram- then made my way to the restaurant I knew I wanted to go to, and ate soup dumplings. Also along the way I was thinking about my own online posting patterns. To be honest, I had in some ways put off by what had happened but also re-inspired by the power of social media thanks to what my conservative friend had done.

Have I become lazy? Like so many other people I see online in social networking sites- I've assigned Facebook the role of new town square. But, it's more like the public aggregator and I too enjoy reading or watching a politically charged opine and then sharing. Does that in turn mean I'm stamping my name on the words or thoughts of another columnist or pundit- and if so- does that act itself somehow make me feel smart or politically engaged? Perhaps.

I guess you could say I tend to swing left on many issues, or what I'd like to call progressive. But, that word, progressive means a lot of things to different people. In the 1970's, when I was a kid, my hometown newspaper, "The Birmingham News" had at the top of its front page-'serving a progressive south." To me, that kind of progressive has always meant, progress, moving forward, evolving towards what I assumed would be a more equal world where we are all afforded the same ladders of opportunity, be it in business, education or just the ability to get good wireless service no matter where you live.

But somewhere along the way, I think I forgot that it takes a lot of work-to move forward. It also takes at least an attempt at understanding all sides of the coin. And, unfortunately these days,it seems more about beating ones on chest or issue- for a minute or two at least. Point being, people don't seem as interested in posting fact based news any more. I find more clips of punditry flowing down facebook feeds verses meticulously well researched investigative news- that bothers me.

The newspaper in Birmingham is now a cyber shell of its former self and instead an online site focused more so on real time news. "The Birmingham News" no longer publishes a seven day a week newspaper, it's down to three. Thanks to the changing landscape of journalism and media- the paper's mother ship company laid off most of its old reporting staff- then hired several new online reporters at a fraction of the salaries- rarely delivering longer form investigative or analysis pieces. Even the paper's brand new building is for sale. But who among us, at least these days, would take time to read those longer form pieces anyway? In truth- reading long form journalism takes effort and time not only to report but to read. Time is on short supply for a lot of Americans these days. Add to that, media companies rightfully say the necessary reporting for an earth shaking story that truly impacts a community- those also take a lot of time and since reporters need to eat too, those type stories end up being expensive to do. Still, I love turning on people who haven't already- to a delicious Newyorker investigative piece with flavor as rich as a sweet tea in Alabama.

Still instead, many of us have become spoiled by the instant gratification of the news cruise online. Often we gravitate to a site that caters to the political side you swing. At that point, the seduction begins. When done reading, you are encouraged to share, like or tweet that piece to the millions out there in cyber land. And, truth be told, you'll find that ability to stamp your name on something you've just shared- fulfilling- as if you are doing your part for what you believe- because maybe, you'll assume that you've just helped to enlighten a few people. But in truth, the people you are sharing that piece, video or item with probably already agree with you and that pundit anyway. Still, if they actually read or watch it, they'll likely say, good piece or right on, and that will once again- falsely assure you that you're somehow doing your part to change society

When it comes to hot button political issues -do we tend to preach to our own choirs and if so, what good does it do? Do we for lack of a better word- mobilize around an issue and if so- does that mobilization bring real change or does it antagonize? Perhaps there has been some impact that has changed a few political races but its hard to truly measure. Hopefully if anything- FB and other sites bring people's attention or impact how they feel about issues they weren't aware of. But the hope is we all do our homework and fully understand what we're liking etc. Clearly, if social media has brought on a more participatory government, then how do we explain the dysfunction we see in our nation's capital- the likes of which we've never ever seen in our nation's history?

There's no shortage of pundit posts or cable TV news anchors blasting this politician or that issue on Facebook or any other site, and there is certainly no shortage of people like me who have no problem posting a NYT opine and walking away without doing some homework or understanding the issue even more. Media companies monitor the trend lines of social media now- knowing that precious profits are at stake by how trends in who is reading or sharing what.

Sometimes- I wonder if in fact we are living in one of the most misinformed and politically lazy eras ever.

Deep inside, I'd always assumed that engaged, means understanding all sides of an issue and then moving on it. But then, you have clear injustice or discriminatory issues such as segregated Birmingham where engagement meant marching, walking and protesting then enduring fire hoses, police dogs and bombs- which thanks to media coverage- induced national outrage thus convincing politicians to slowly eradicate the official injustice of segregation. More recently the horror of AIDS and the engagement of gay mean and their allies via ACT UP. Working in climate of fear and very little information and fact- young people stared down a plague. Members of ACT UP took to the streets staged protests, invaded government agencies, made demands-often in the face of harsh criticism and downright awful bigotry- but in the end likely changed the course of an epidemic-at least in America.

These days ACT UP seems like a distant memory. When did cheap, bitter and insulting reactionary rhetoric that fizzles week by week depending on the issue become so tolerable?

If we were truly engaged by all the postings we see daily we'd move beyond a simple LIKE- , we would recognize the power of social media and its ability to reach everyone and seize the power it possesses and transform politics at virtually no cost. By now- it should have already happened.

But to impact politics- that also means moving beyond the land of adversarial thinking. It means more people like my conservative FB friend asking me to defend the reasons why I posted a left leaning Opinion piece.

Facebook and other sites could make the billions of dollars wielded by lobbyist, campaign contributions and special interests in the nation's capital- mute .

Point being after all that is this; The next time I share an opinion piece online- I'll be explaining why I agree- or better yet- why I disagree with the writer. I'll invite discussion and I'll be asking how can I make a difference- not simply jumping on the shrill bandwagon of lazy political disengagement that has apparently infected the nation's ability to be truly engaged.

Or perhaps -I'm just half blind to all the changes taking place around me as we speak.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Loving Your City in the Bike Lane

By Cody Lyon

Tonight myself and one other cyclist almost ran into a group of pedestrians who were saying goodbyes in the pedestrian section of a Midtown crosswalk. The traffic signal was seconds away from changing- from yellow to red- for cars and yes, bikes. Both cyclists made the stop- no one was hurt. But-with my bike-centric certitude adrenalin flowing, I yelled what must have sounded pretty bratty- GUYS!!! This rather debonair looking fellow turned to me and said, "the light's red, you should be ashamed." In truth- I think I was! As he walked up 8th ave with his other friend, he turned back and smiled. I smiled back.

There are times when citizens of our busy and super-driven city are consumed with getting from point A to B in the fastest way possible. Any added hurdle that delays that mission, human or otherwise is cause for dirty looks or even an outburst. But sometimes, an unplanned pause that may have triggered that all to common reaction leads to an even greater appreciation of this palace of smart urban planning where humans constantly encounter other humans- called New York. There's more to this city than energy, dreams and tall buildings- there are also amazing people. Not only did I smile back at the gentleman who had scolded me, I smiled because I knew this would only happen here in this place I love, in New York.