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As promised, here’s part two of why the media scrutiny of Sarah Palin is perfectly normal.

When you run for public office in this country, you are fair game in the eyes of the media. The American people are electing you to a position of power. You are meant to represent the voice and will of the people. You will oversee our tax dollars and enforce or create our laws.

So if you’re running for office, we the people want to know a little bit about you.

Someone has to learn all about you and disseminate that information to the public, because if we don’t know who we’re voting for, then we no longer live in a democracy. The handlers for politicians aren’t going to give you the whole story, because they’re working for the politicians to make them look their best. The pundits pick and choose what information they disseminate based on an agenda; they answer to their base.

Now, a lot of people aren’t going to believe this, and it is a bit shocking, so I hope you’re sitting down: The media works for and answers to YOU.

Yeah yeah, we can argue about corporate ownership of the major news organizations, someone can chime in with a quip about Rupert Murdoch and skewer the “media elite,” and don’t even get me started on how the mainstream media covers celebrities. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a perfect system.

However, when you boil it down to the basics, the whole point of the profession of journalism is to serve the public by giving them the truth.

So is the press picking on Sarah Palin, or anyone else involved with the election? No. She chose to accept the nomination and knew the consequences. Like every politician before her, she has chosen to enter a profession that puts her and her family in the spotlight. And the press, as the only nongovernmental check on power, is simply doing its job and investigating a person who chose this path.

If you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t have signed up for this.

Going Green, the American Way

Australians are picking up on a way of getting things done that we here in the U.S. know rather well. From Australia’s Business Day:

“Companies could face class actions from shareholders unless the companies adequately report the risks that climate change poses to their businesses.

While climate change-related litigation has been confined to planning in Australia, class actions against regulatory authorities have been taken up in the US.”

That’s right — sue. The Great Barrier Reef isn’t going to save itself, mates. (At least, not for a very long time.) Stockholders, your companies aren’t going to stop polluting just because you ask them to, or because of some expensive regulations, or because the CEO thought the Outback looked so beautiful in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert that he thought, hey, let’s protect it! (Choose your own Australian cliche and insert here.)

Litigation. It’s the American Way.

The redundancy of environmental Buddhism

What is the difference between an ecobuddhist and a regular ol’ Buddhist?

Yesterday I discovered, which conveys environmental messages in slightly different packaging. Here’s a quote from an interview with Dudjom Rinpoche on the site:

“Well, then it seems renewable energy is possible, but the negative forces who seek to continue excessive use of fossil fuels are still too strong. It would be very difficult to change all these things at once.  If we want to climb upstairs, we have to go step by step. If we build a house, first we lay foundations, and that takes time.  Scientists and others should work together to progressively establish the benefit of new, harmonious energy sources.  We have to make real effort to achieve the benefits of renewable energy. It is probably not possible to change everybody’s attitude immediately. But I think, cooperative, progressive efforts can lead to better results in the future.”

When Dudjom Rinpoche says “negative forces,” I hear the NRDC saying “the oil industry.”

When I spotted this site, I thought, pshaw, aren’t all Buddhists environmentalists, anyway? Buddhism asks adherents to take responsibility for their minds, their worlds–it’s not a leap to environmentalism from there.

Well, I was wrong. According to a U.S. religious landscape survey at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, not all Buddhists are environmentalists. A mere 75 percent of U.S. Buddhists said “stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.”

I guess they’re worried about that other 25 percent.

Condensed scrutiny

This might seem smack-your-head obvious, but in all of the defenses I’ve read of the media elite‘s “attacks” on Sarah Palin, no one has came out and stated the obvious. Before the announcement that she would be McCain’s running mate, no one in the lower 48 (what they like to call “outside” in Alaska) had ever heard of her, therefore: She has to undergo the same scrutiny as everyone else all at once, rather than spread out over months of primaries or a decades-long career in national politics.

Is this really that hard to understand?

Journalists don’t get together and say, hey! Let’s pick on this VP candidate none of us know! That’s not how it works. Journalists ask questions. Lots of them. Who is she? What does she stand for? What is her record? Why is she on this ticket? Where is Wasilla? The public, our stakeholders, didn’t know the answers to these questions.  So journalists had to ask and answer.

Everyone else has been scrutinized already. No one really knew Obama before, either, but the press has had a year to analyze, dig, dig more, scrutinize, interview, dig — you get my point. Hillary Clinton even used this as a talking point during her campaign; everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the dirt on her.

When you enter the national stage with a flash and a bang, that’s how you’ll enter the fourth estate, too. The press isn’t picking on Sarah Palin. The press is doing its job as quickly as possible to bridge that knowledge gap. Now, stay tuned for part two: why choosing to run for elected government office in this country makes you 100 percent fair game to be scrutinized by the media. (Hint: It’s called democracy.)

One hour of pain, spread around

Yesterday morning, Mr. Fields and I arrived at the Boulder Rock Club at 8 a.m. for something dubbed Group Training. We didn’t know what it entailed; when I inquired, I was told to just show up, no sign up necessary.

It turns out that Group Training is a solid hour of spreading pain and exhaustion into every corner of your body, including — despite this being your body — corners you didn’t know existed. This experiment in masochism is hosted by the BRC’s head coach, Chris Wall, who somehow manages to seem perfectly nice even as he pushes you through plyometric leaps, plank poses, and violent overhead throws of a medicine ball.

Today, I can’t raise my right arm above my shoulder without being reminded of the smiling bald man who put us through a climbing-inspired wringer. Nor can I straighten my left arm. Or walk without my calves seizing up.

In short, it was the best hour of conditioning I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to go back.

Media Elite, noun

I’m often amazed by the buzzwords and phrases the PR people create. They lend heavy connotation to words that lacked weight before. As a writer, I have to respect their cunning use of language. But “media elite” has always baffled me, so the recent bashing of the media elite sent me to my friend Merriam-Webster for help.

Elite, noun, 1a: the choice part 1b: the best of a class 1c: the socially superior part of society 1d: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence 1e: a member of such an elite — usually used in plural.

The choice part? Hey, that’s not so bad. Who wouldn’t want to get their news from the choicest of journalists? The best of a class? Well, that might depend on which class we’re talking about. The socially superior part of a society? A group that exercises much power or influence? Now we’re getting into dangerous territory.

We can appreciate the choice part. When you order fillet mignon, you want to eat the choice part of the cow. We can appreciate the best of a class — the brainiac who aces every test in school. But the rest is too much. It’s undemocratic. Besides, we independently minded Americans don’t like to think anyone could really influence us that much anyway, right?

If you don’t like the media elite, dissent all you want — they can take it, it’s what they signed on for. Choose not to be influenced by them, and use the democracy of the web to choose a non-elite media for yourself.

Here’s the rub: In your search for non-elite media, did you find the choice part, or the best?

Chamonix Diary: Waiting to Climb

When we arrived in Chamonix in June, I peered up from under my umbrella in search of the mountains. I knew they were there. I sought out breaks in the clouds up the valley, or a window up above, where the Aiguilles (needles) should have been poking at blue sky. But there were only clouds and drizzle.

This daily search in the sky became our waiting game.

On our first morning there, we hiked despite the weather, just to walk out the jet lag. We returned to the hotel soggy but feeling human again, rather than like cattle packed for export to France via three airplanes and two trains.

On day two, after a morning of futzing around between hopeful gazes at the gray skies, we met Michael, our mountain guide. Michael is calm and quiet, and he bears a resemblance to Pierce Brosnan — if Pierce Brosnan were a thin, strong, guide-type who couldn’t be bothered with a perfectly sculpted hairdo and therefore sported a shorter cut. We wanted a one-day mixed (snow or ice and rock) route — preferably high above the low-hanging drip of the valley clouds, something we couldn’t do on our own. Michael said the Arete des Cosmiques would be fun. We caught him at a rare break in his schedule, so agreed to guide us on the route as soon as the weather allowed.

As we sat peering out a window of one of Chamonix’s less savory bistros that night, I spotted a familiar face squinting against the drizzle as he moved quickly down Rue Joseph Vallot. He recognized me, too, and did a quick about-face to come inside and find us.

“Tim! What are you doing in Cham?” I asked as I wrapped my arms around his wet jacket.

Tim and I had worked together in an outdoor store in St. Louis years ago.

“I work for Patagonia now, and we have meetings here every year.”

Before he headed back out into the rain, he invited us to an American climber’s slide show at the Patagonia store the next evening.

“Well,” I said to my husband, “At least we have something to do besides waiting out the rain tomorrow.”

Although it threatened rain the next morning, no drops fell, so we geared up and walked to the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Our goal: Go up the mountain to find snow and practice our self-arrest technique.

The cable car climbed straight up out of Chamonix into the clouds. Water beaded on the car’s windows as the jade forest gave way to scrub and rock, and finally, patches of filthy old snow. We stopped at the Plan de l’Aiguille, which at 2354 meters is about halfway to the cable’s final destination (and our eventual climbing destination), the Aiguille du Midi.

The snow line was about 500 meters above us, so it was raining. Again. Across the valley, the Aiguilles Rouge were invisible under the gray blanket.

We exchanged c’est la vie looks as we pulled our hoods overhead and wandered away from the cable car station. Within minutes, clouds obscured the station. This is how people get lost mere minutes from safety in the mountains, I thought.

Not far from the station, we found a perfect snow slope with a safe run-out. We repeatedly climbed up and flung ourselves down, shouldering our ice axes into the crusty snow to stop. The rain continued, but laughter crept into the dreary day, because practicing self-arrest is as much fun as sledding, and like a kid sledding on a snow day, I didn’t care that my gloves were wet, or that I was out of breath from climbing up to do it again, head first now, on my back next, pretending to slip, each time wielding my axe with glee.

We eventually grew tired and cold and shuffled back to the cable car and our return to Chamonix. After a hot lunch and even hotter showers, we called Michael and learned that the forecast called for a break in the rain overnight. Our climb was on for tomorrow. The wait was almost over.

Excited and nervous about our climb the next day, we made our way through the rain to the Patagonia store. A professional climber and fellow Boulderite — climbing is a small world — greeted us at the door with beer and we settled in for a stunning slideshow while the rain continued outside.

Climbers wait out the weather perched on high ledges and in tiny tents on snowfields. While tentbound, they dig out of snowstorms, boil water, read and play cards. We ended our wait indoors with beer and the perfect pre-climb entertainment. Waiting to climb is trying, but in Chamonix, it’s as easy as waiting for your morning cafe au lait.

Want attention? Go naked.

Employees at Lush, a handmade and natural cosmetics store, worked in their usual black aprons yesterday, but nothing else. The stunt was intended to call attention to the massive amounts of waste produced by packaging for consumer goods.

In this case, the packaging was clothes, the metaphor goes.

The first time I went in Lush, a snotty salesman talked down to my sister-in-law after she didn’t immediately reply to what type of skin she had. “Oily, dry, comb-o?” he said to her sing-song, like she was a 5-year-old. I haven’t been a fan since. But after seeing pictures in the paper (not online yet, sorry) of the Boulder store’s employees standing on Pearl Street in nothing but an apron and their underwear for the sake of reducing waste, well, maybe they deserve another shot.

Media Bashing

Journalists need thick skin. Even if your journalistic goal is to write about eye shadow for Glamour, you’ll still be labeled as a member of that enigmatic, anger-inducing “media.” That means you’ll be subject to an occasional old-fashioned media bashing by complete strangers, and even your friends and family.

I was chatting up a brand-new acquaintance at the climbing gym recently when this happened. I blame the typical small talk we engage in when meeting someone new: So, what do you do?

Joe, it turned out, was a climate scientist. (Between NOAA and NCAR, Boulder has no dearth of climate scientists.) And he is baffled by the media’s coverage of climate change.

“If you go to a conference of climate scientists, there isn’t a single scientist there who disagrees with global warming,” he said. “It’s happening. Why is CNN giving equal time to these people — they’re not even scientists, I saw an economist they had on to debate that global warming is a myth!”

Joe was clearly exasperated.

So was I. I’m frustrated every time I see this supposed attempt at balance and objectivity on the news. People outside of the media can see that this isn’t a balanced way to examine the issue. Why can’t the journalists see it themselves?

I think they do see it, and some of them get it. But the worst offenders, like the ones Joe saw? Perhaps they just don’t know how else to do it without being accused of, well, everything the media is accused of: liberal bias, tree hugging, elitism. But that doesn’t excuse them for giving 50-50 time to both sides of an issue when, as Joe pointed out, you’d be hard pressed to find a single real climate scientist to argue against climate change.

I tried to explain to Joe (who I like quite a bit, and I didn’t mind his well-intentioned bashing at all, because I agree) that this is actually a modern example used in journalism schools to discuss the inherent problems with some definitions of objectivity. But it doesn’t bring me much comfort. By covering contentious issues this way, isn’t the media — whose job is to expose the truth and shed light in dark places — perpetuating many myths on many issues?

And despite what the media bashers say, perpetuating myth is not part of the job.

Woman chases down attacker. On bike.

A story appeared on the front page of my paper today that I have to share.

A woman was riding her bike back from the post office with her baby in a carrier on her back when a man rode up next to her and grabbed her breast. Completely shocked, she wanted to kick him, but thought better of it. Instead, she followed him.

This is Boulder. If you violate a female cyclist in a ride-by-groping, you’d better be prepared to ride away fast, because she could be a pro racer or triathlete, or in this case, a woman who has ridden across America twice and can chase you down. With a baby on her back.

The woman pulled out her cell phone, dialed 911 and directed police to the groper. He was arrested.

The woman told the Daily Camera that chasing down her attacker was “empowering.”