{ An Autopsy of Democracy }

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Dean FINALLY acknowledging that Kucinich opposed the war. WHAT TOOK HIM SO BLOODY LONG???

After running ads that were, as I understand the term, libelous (claiming he was the only candidate who opposed the war from the beginning, which is a deliberately false statement, deliberately damaging Kucinich's campaign), Dean finally has started to acknowledge Kucinich as his fellow anti-war candidate. Unfortunately, it seems to me that he's only doing this now because, after the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, it's pretty clear that he doesn't have to worry about competing with Kucinich anymore.


On Saturday, Dec. 27, the Concord Monitor in Concord, NH, noted: "Dean recently mailed brochures to homes in New Hampshire with a headline stating that Dean is the only candidate who 'opposed the war from the start.'"

Here is an image taken from the brochure, which the Dean campaign has mailed to people in New Hampshire and other states:


It's hard to believe that Dean supporters would stand for this kind of misrepresentation.  We won't stand for it.


1.--Contact all of your friends who are Dean supporters.

2.--Contact the media and ask them why they are not asking Dean about his misrepresentation. Remember to be polite and keep to the point.  Make each communication unique. No form letters.

Here are Email addresses for letters to the editor:

Here are phone numbers for talk shows:

Here are a few key places to contact:

New York Times News Desk phone 212-556-7356, fax 212-556-7614,
Email national@nytimes.com

Los Angeles Times News Desk phone 213-237-7001, fax: 213-237-4712.

Washington Post Political Desk phone 202-334-7410, fax 202-334-3883.

USA Today News Desk phone 703-854-7121, fax 703-854-2078.


As you all know so well, Dennis Kucinich led the effort against the war in the House of Representatives, is the only candidate who voted against the war, is the only candidate who consistently opposed the war from the beginning and continues to oppose it now, and is the only candidate with an exit strategy. His "Prayer for America" speech against the buildup to war in February 2002 catalyzed this campaign. Rev. Al Sharpton and Ambassador Carol Mosley-Braun also opposed the war.

The war is not over. Soldiers are dying every day. And Dean would like to continue the military occupation of Iraq for "a few years," as he said in the debate on December 9th. Dennis is campaigning on his record of opposition to the war and his plan to end it in 90 days.
Dean's flyer and mass mailing effectively calls Dennis a liar. People have begun asking Dennis whether he really opposed the war. Dean knows the truth. After we complained in October about his similar misrepresentations in TV ads in New Hampshire, he acknowledged Dennis' leadership against the war at an AFL-CIO forum and stopped running the ads. He later acknowledged Dennis' courage on this issue during a national debate. And yet he continues to use a flyer that says "Only Dean Opposed the War from the Start."

If Dr. Dean chooses to gloss over the inconsistencies of the positions he took during the first stage of this war, that's his business. But when he denies Dennis's record, that becomes our business, and
it ought to be the business of the media. Dean is misrepresenting a material fact, and doing so despite his demonstrated knowledge of the truth. It is the media's responsibility to find out why he is doing this. The public has a right to know.

Here is information on who opposed the war when:

Please forward this Email quickly and widely.
(Delete the opt-out link at the very bottom, so that no one accidentally cancels your subscription.)
If you received this Email from a friend and would like to receive them directly, click here:http://kucinich.us/alerts-signup.htm 

Contact us:
Kucinich for President
11808 Lorain Avenue - Cleveland, OH 44111
216-889-2004 / 866-413-3664 (toll-free)





Remember how quick and cheap Bush et. al said the war would be? . . .

Putting aside for a moment the lies and propaganda, the senseless death, the complete contempt for democracy . . . Let's just think about the money for a second: If the president had said, before the invasion of Iraq, "This war will cost at least $200 billion dollars," . . . would even Congress have approved it? In fact, the cost of the war might well be the biggest, most deliberate, conscious, outright LIE that this administration told.


President Bush and his aides have spent the last year and a half telling the
American people that the war in Iraq would cost little. A new report by
Defense News, however, says the president will propose another $50 billion,
in addition to the $166 billion already spent. According to the non-partisan
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the request "won't come
until after the Nov. 2 presidential election" - effectively concealing the
spending request from public scrutiny.

In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the president's staff conducted a PR
campaign aimed at quelling public concern about its cost. Then White House
Budget Director, Mitch Daniels, said Iraq "will not require sustained aid"
and that the war cost would "be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion."
The president's top reconstruction official at the State Department told
Nightline that "The American part of [reconstruction] will be $1.7 billion
and we have no plans for further-on funding of this." The president's top
economist, Glen Hubbard, said that "costs of any such intervention would be
very small". Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz "dismissed articles in
several newspapers asserting that put cost of war and reconstruction at $60
billion to $95 billion." And Bush had his new Budget Director tell the
Senate that "we don't anticipate requesting anything additional for the
balance of this year" - six weeks before he announced a request for an
additional $87 billion. When White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey
admitted that Iraq could cost up to $200 billion in the fall of 2002, he was
summarily fired for his candor.

Days after the $87 billion request made by the president, the Administration
was questioned by skeptical Republicans and Democrats in Congress about the
rising costs of continued involvement in Iraq. But even then, the president
dispatched Wolfowitz to answer the charges with a flat-out denial. Despite
the public record leading up to it, Wolfowitz told Congress that "No one
said we would know anything other than...this could be very expensive."

Read the Mis-Lead -->
< http://daily.misleader.org/ctt.asp?u=1331046&l=15013 >"





Thursday, January 22, 2004

George W. Bush's State Of The Union Address; The "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" to be found on Mars?

(This isn't really about Mars--but I thought Dennis Kucinich's line about this was funny.) With many people (as many of us predicted) no longer all that concerned about the original basis for going to war (since it somehow became a war to overthrow a dictator instead), let's refresh our collective memory about the assertions made by the POTUS in last year's State Of The Union Address . . .

"In his State of the Union address, Bush claimed if the US did not invade Iraq, "the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day." He did not acknowledge, however, that U.S. inspectors have uncovered no unconventional weapons.
A year ago at the 2003 State of the Union, Bush made the case for war by claiming that Iraq had 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tones of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas and 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. After 10 months of weapons searches, none of this has been uncovered. We hear from acclaimed Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy and Hans Von Sponeck, the former head of the UN mission to Iraq. [includes transcript]" (DemocracyNow.org)

Everyone with a longer memory span than a fly is now [or should be] rather upset with the whole situation in Iraq--and with the whole pretext having proven to be just that, a pretext and nothing more.

Here's a quick summary of the WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!!! (sorry--it seems like these words not only are supposed to be meaningful, but also must be followed by an exclamation mark, much like TERROR!!! and EVIL!!!)--alleged and found . . .

Many of us kept pointing out before the invasion that there was really no evidence of any significant weapons program, and very little evidence that Iraq was not complying with the U.N. inspectors.

"January 9, 2003

Hans Blix reports to the Security Council that Iraq has cooperated by providing an "open doors" policy of unfettered access to requested sites. According to a later statement from Blix, "the most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect." IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei likewise reports on January 9 that "Iraqi authorities have consistently provided access without conditions and without delay." Blix reports that Iraq has provided new information on its weapons activities, including an "Air Force document" that may shed light on Iraq's use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war."

source: "Grading Iraqi Compliance": A Report by the Sanctions and Security Project of the Fourth Freedom Forum and the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

In fact it seemed that Iraq was going above and beyond, doing whatever was asked of them (even allowing inspections of the palaces), in order to avoid being bombed to smithereens. It also seemed clear that the Bush administration was bound and determined to go to war no matter what, with or without good reasons/evidence, and with or without U.N. authorization or support [actually, this part was stated openly and explicitly].




Sunday, January 18, 2004

Welcome to 1984, folks.

The astonishing thing is not the propaganda campaign itself, but the fact that the propaganda campaign is working. Have Americans completely lost all our critical faculties?

Truth is the first casualty of war. Fear breeds consent. And so on.

Some of the current madness is familiar territory. And the administration's tactics are hardly unique or surprising.

What's surprising is that they're able to get away with it.

For a while there polls were showing that around 50 or 60 percent of the population believed that Saddam was personally behind the 9-11 attacks. (Even Bush and Cheney have come out publicly saying there's no evidence of that.)

Mike Malloy did a pretty good little summary of the methods of manipulation Bush's speech-writers use to gain support. Listen to mp3, if you're so inclined:

(scroll down to "Bush's Orwellian Tendencies")

(Or click here to download the mp3 file directly.)





Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Capture and Trial of Saddam Could (and Should) Lead to the Capture and Trial of Bush and His Cabinet for War Crimes

Saddam is in custody. Wonderful. Now, just what exactly are we going to try him for? We put him in power, armed him, and supported him through his worst atrocities (not simply "we" as in the United States as a country or abstract entity, but many of the very same people orchestrating this war). And are we going to have trials for the countless other atrocities committed by the United States during this same period of time?

I'm extremely surprised that Saddam was captured, rather than simply killed. It's rather astonishing that this was allowed to happen, given that a trial will no doubt serve to remind the world how much we helped Saddam and the Baath Party.

Will such a trial actually take place? And will it be an open/public/transparent trial held by an international court?

Very, very doubtful.

Every body of international law and justice has always been fiercely opposed by the U.S., precisely because we would be indicted on so many different counts. (In fact we actually have been indicted, tried and convicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and the U.N. Security Council for the terrorist "Contra" wars in Nicaragua and Guatemala--the U.N. at its most "relevant"--but of course Reagan simply said we would not recognize the authority of such courts.)

With an open trial of Saddam, it's not just that it will expose the U.S. It's that there are individuals heading the U.S. government that could be arrested and tried themselves for their complicity in Saddam's crimes.

Let's recall. During Saddam's atrocities:

Rumsfeld was Special Envoy To The Middle East.

Cheney was Chief Of Staff and then Secretary Of Defense.

Bush Sr. was head of the CIA, then Vice President.

James Baker was Reagan's White House Chief of Staff (1981-1985).

Richard Perle was Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan (1981-1987).

Douglas Feith was a "Middle East specialist" on the National Security Council, then served as Special Counsel to Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy.

Paul Wolfowitz was head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, then U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia (like Suharto, he has always been a lover of democracy . . . ).

John Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to Honduras and Mexico (not as relevant to the Middle East, I admit--but have a look into his humane diplomacy and opposition to brutal dictators in Central and South America . . .).

John Poindexter was Military Assistant (1981-1983), Deputy National Security Advisor (1983-1985), and then National Security Advisor (1985-1986).

Richard Armitage was a Pentagon consultant through 1976, senior advisor to the Interim Foreign Policy Advisory Board for Reagan in 1980, Deputy Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (1981-1983), Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (1983-1989), playing a "leading role in Middle East Security policies."

Caspar Weinberger (now on the National Security Council) was Reagan's Secretary of Defense (1980-1987). (Relevant side note: he was also the Vice President, Director, and General Counsel of the Bechtel Corporation, "which has multibillion dollar ties to Saudi Arabia and numbers among its alumni two Reagan cabinet members, one deputy secretary, and the special ambassador to the Middle East. Re: George Schultz . . .)

Elliott Abrams (now "senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations" on the National Security Council) served under Reagan as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs. (Again, not as much relevance to Saddam or the Middle East, but his fervent and unapologetic support for the contras and Salvadoran Death Squads make him a great appointment for an administration that now wants to oppose dictators and terror.)

Lewis Libby was on the Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Secretary, then Director of Special Projects at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the State Department. (Libby is also on the board of the Rand Corporation, which has many contacts with the Pentagon. He owns shares in armaments companies and has oil interests. He is a consultant to Northrop Grumman, the Defense contractor, which has an active presence in the Defense Policy Board of the Pentagon.)

. . . . .

Well, I guess a lot of very twisted people had a change of heart, suddenly. Maybe Bush helped them to find God or something.



Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Iraqi Leader Seeks Regime Change In Washington

Hussein met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan this week to make the case for invading the United States. (satire)

Although the U.N. Security Counsel has been reluctant to offer its support for an invasion of the United States, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein vowed to invade with or without U.N. authorization.

"The United Nations has let the American regime get away with far too much for far too long, and it's time to back up its words with actions, lest it become irrelevant," Hussein told the Counsel.

Hussein cited a vast array of reasons for invasion.

"I will first demonstrate that the United States is a violent rogue state, which has consistently behaved agressively, displayed utter contempt for the rule of law, for democracy, and for human rights, and has aided, abetted, financed, and protected terrorist organizations, repressive militias and paramilitary groups, and repressive dictators. I will recount how the United States has acted willfully and consistently to undermine and control the United Nations, thereby jeopardizing world peace. Furthermore, I will show that the United States under its current leadership is out of control, and poses a dangerous and immediate threat to Iraq and to the world.

"With an annual budget of more than $400 billion, the United States of America spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. The U.S. has more nuclear weapons than any country has ever possessed in the history of this planet, and rather than working for disarmament continues instead to develop new nuclear weapons--specifically what are called "mini-nukes," which are quite clearly being developed with the full intent of their use.

Even more frightening, however, is the fact that the U.S. is currently attempting to militarize and control space, to set up satellite bases in space from which nuclear weapons can be targeted at any site on earth. This not only violates several U.N. resolutions but threatens the security of the world and indeed the very survival of the species. The U.S. is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its actions have fueled weapons proliferation.

In addition to hoarding nuclear weapons, the U.S. possess--and has used--chemical and biological warfare agents, which we believe it continues to develop. The country's refusal to allow inspections, and its repeatedly voting against resolutions prohibiting such weapons, can only lead us to assume the U.S. possess them and has no plans to destroy them.

Mr. Anan was compelled to agree that all of Hussein's arguments were correct and accurate, and conceded that there had been countless violations of international law. "While it is true that the United States has often acted willfully to undermine our organization and the standards of human rights, justice, and international law," Anan said, "we do not perceive that the United States at this time poses a sufficient imminent threat to justify the use of force. We will work with Iraq and the international community in continuing our policy of containment towards the United States, and will not authorize military intervention until all avenues of diplomacy have been pursued. War should always be a last resort."

Hussein has repeatedly demanded that the United States allow U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access throughout America, including in private industries such as Bechtel, Drummond, and Lockheed Martin. Hussein also said he will not be satisfied until the White House and the Pentagon are also thoroughly inspected, along with hospitals, churches, schools, and other public facilities.

"If we don't find any WOMD's, I can assure you it is because President Bush is hiding them. We believe he may also be trying to smuggle the weapons to Canada or Mexico."




Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Left VS. Left, OR, Fearing Fear Itself

While Michael Moore laughs off the "orange alerts" as scare tactics, Noam Chomsky forecasts the end of human civilization. How afraid should we be?

Many people have recognized the many parallels between the "War on Terror" and the "Cold War"--in fact, the former is just a continuation of the latter, with a new ubiquitous enemy who we will be "at war with" [but not really] into the foreseeable future, an attack always imminent, you're either with us or you're with them, etc. etc.

And while there was a Soviet threat, in retrospect it seems pretty apparent that the notion of imminent armageddon was in large part a propaganda campaign and little more. (Granted, I wasn't even alive during much of this. But it's abundantly clear that the Red Scares were just that: fabrications intended to scare in order to control the population and coerce them into supporting whatever policies the government wanted to pursue. And it's not just "hindsight is 20/20" or any of that rubbish. It was deliberate and conscious deceit.)

Right now I think everyone should re-visit some Cold War propaganda--even if you feel that the "War On Terror" is somehow different, at least remind yourself that there is propaganda in America, and lots of it. Watch "Dr. Strangelove" (as Spike Lee said, if you don't see Bush and Rumsfeld in that movie, you're not looking). "Atomic Cafe"--while keeping in mind that this stuff was not perceived as propaganda at the time. Last week we rented "Red Dawn"--which I had never seen, but had read about (John Stockwell mentions it as a clear example of propaganda, in his book "The Praetorian Guard, and I think it's universally acknowledged to be propaganda at this point). Funny stuff.

But also disturbing. Because I don't know how funny people thought it was at the time. I mean, you watch something like "Atomic Cafe," and if you talk to people from that generation, they get a sort of nostalgic kick out of seeing it again, but it's not so funny--at least not in the blatantly-absurd-obvious-rhetoric-and-propaganda-type way that we see it as funny. And if you think about the fact that people of that time did not necessarily realize it was blatant propaganda . . . what might that tell us about right now?

But, again, there was a Soviet threat. They did invade Eastern Europe and etc. And, we were attacked on September 11th. Millions of people do indeed hate us (or at least our government, or at least our government's policies/behavior). So just how afraid should we be? How calm is too naive? And how afraid is too paranoid?

Yes, the "orange alerts" and duct tape and all sound Orwellian (or like "Duck and Cover," I should say). I'm not about to build a bomb shelter and stock up on SPAM and peanut butter or anything.

Yet Noam Chomsky, in his new book "Hegemony or Survival" (and in recent lectures), suggests that unless we do something fairly soon, the species may not be around much longer. The invasion of Iraq has succeeded where Bin Laden failed: in starting a Holy War between Islam and the West. Arab nationalists and "terrorists" have united together against a common enemy, and clearly that enemy (us) has no intention of leaving until we've "won the peace" (and controlled the region). And it's conceivable that, as resentment for the U.S. builds, terrorists may find more and more friends, some of whom possess nuclear or other destructive weapons, and use them against us--in which case, clearly, we'll respond in kind, but with far greater ferocity, and doomsday will indeed be upon us.

And as Arundhati Roy and others have pointed out: by treating war (and potentially nuclear war) as a viable response to terrorism, we've effectively given terrorists the power to start a nuclear holocaust.

Either way, we need to get these people out of the White House as soon as humanly possible.

But, see, that's going to be extraordinarily difficult because in the current climate of anxiety the Bush Boys have a win-win strategy, in a way. If the war ends, they'll brag about having overthrown a dictator and brought democracy to a troubled country. If the war is still a quagmire, they'll use the old "don't change horses in mid-stream" line; in other words, we've got to "stay the course" and "win the peace," to "finish the job," etc., etc., or things or only going to get worse. And the pressure will not be on Bush (though it ought to be) but on the Democrats to propose an exit strategy. (The assumption is that the Bush Boys got us into this, therefore they must have a plan to get us out of it--or, at least, will have more of an idea than someone outside the initial planning.)

Same with the economy. Never mind whether or not Bush caused the recession. If the economy picks up, people will vote for him since he "boosted/saved/rescued" the struggling economy. And if the economy is still in tatters, they can always (as they always have) blame it on 9-11 and homeland security--[never mentioning, of course, that the 150 billion or so we've spent on Iraq was unnecessary, or that the economy was lagging before 9-11, etc.]. They will never admit that the enormous tax cuts for the rich have been the problem, either; always they are the solution; and even if the economy is poor, they'll say that things would be even worse if it hadn't been for those generous tax cuts . . .

It's like the bloody "Patriot Act": if there are no more terrorist attacks, they'll say "See, it's working, we've got to keep it, it's an invaluable tool and it's working." If there are more terrorist attacks, they'll say "It's just not enough. It's good, but not good enough. See now, how petty you've been to cry about your 'civil liberties'? There are more important things than liberty. And if you hadn't objected so much to the Patriot Act, this might not have happened. Now we definitely need to keep it in place, don't you agree? Actually, we really need to expand it . . . How can you object to expanding it, when we've just been attacked? . . . What are you, 'Anti-American'? Are you some sort of Terrorist?? . . ."

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party or any party?" . . . . .

The administration has a thin tight rope to balance upon. They must scare us and convince us that the "War On Terror" is ongoing and permanent, that we are never safe and must always rely on Big Brother to protect us, for our very lives are at stake; yet they must also convince us that their responses to terror are good and sound, that they're doing the right thing and "winning" the "war on terror."

It's much like the tight rope they had to walk before the war: basically, they had to convince us that Iraq was a heavily-armed war machine that could easily and quickly launch nuclear, chemical and biological strikes at will, killing multitudes; yet, in the same breath, they had to convince us that the war would be quick and painless, with very few casualties, and would not result in a nuclear war. (Has any attention EVER really been paid to this?--that is, they [mainly Britain] were saying that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack within 45 minutes, yet how much discussion did you hear about the fact that, if this were true and if it were true that Saddam was a raving suicidal madman, we were entering not merely a war but a NUCLEAR WAR?????)

(Incidentally, I recently learned that during the first Gulf War, American forces had 400 nuclear warheads armed and ready in the middle east; sound like an important detail that ought to have been widely reported and discussed? . . . .)

It has been pointed out, too, that what has actually happened in Iraq since the invasion has been worse than the "worst-case-scenario" considered before the invasion--mainly, the region has been turned into a haven for terrorism, civil war, and further widespread resentment of the United States.

Let's be realistic about how most of the world's muslims probably feel about us (even long before the Iraq invasion, of course, resentment was intense) . . . Now, let's consider the possibility that the world's muslims decide to unite against us . . . And remember that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Libya might also (though, apparently, they are giving up their defenses). . . .

If we have a president who feels the only solution is to "fight fire with fire," one whose first response to any threat is "Bring 'em on" . . . The "Eye For An Eye" approach could very easily blind us all. That is, destroy us all.

I, for one, will sleep well, knowing that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld will protect me from any Bogeymen that may appear. Good night.





Jobless Recovery, Captial Punishment, and Fortune Cookies

If consistent, unemployment statistics do provide some measure of the economy; but they probably vastly underestimate the reality.

Capital punishment might be morally permissible; but it is punishment, NOT self-defense (and what lesson does a dead man learn? . . .).


First, this from Misleader.org :


Within a span of 24 hours, President Bush twice attempted to mislead the
American people about the economy and his tax policies. On Friday, the
president said, "Unemployment dropped today to 5.7% [which] is a positive
sign that the economy is getting better."

But the president didn't add that the unemployment drop occurred not because
the economy was getting better, but because continued weak job growth led
309,000 people to stop looking for work. As one nonpartisan economist said,
"Most of these dropouts would still be in the labor force working or trying
to work if the economy were doing better," The president made no mention
that only 1,000 total jobs were created in December - a "shockingly low
number," where most economists had expected job growth to be around 100,000
to 150,000 for the month. 33 months after the beginning of the recession,
this recovery is distinguished from all previous cycles of job contraction
and resumed growth since 1939, according to the Economic Policy Institute,
for not having fully recovered job levels to those above the
pre-recessionary peak within 31 months from its start.

The following day, the president touted the same economic policies that
helped create the unemployment crisis. Despite the bad economic news, he
said, "Tax relief has got this economy going again," and bragged, "every
American who pays income taxes got a tax cut." His use of the phrase "income
tax," however, was tailored to divert attention from the millions of
low-income American taxpayers (who pay payroll tax but not income tax) who
received nothing. Bush's 2001 tax cut completely excluded 31% of all
families in America. Similarly, Bush's 2003 tax cut completely excluded 31%
of all taxpayers - including one million children of military families."

Something else occurred to me the other day. I used to think that unemployment statistics measured how many people lacked jobs (logical, no?); but people have told me that in fact they do not measure this, nor do they measure those seeking unemployment benefits. No sir. They measure only those actually receiving unemployment benefits.

This is not trivial in the least. This means that people who are too proud to accept unemployment or welfare benefits (and contrary to the angry proclamations of cynical conservatives of the Rush Limbaugh ilk, this class of people is great in number) are not included; nor are people who are trying desperately to get some assistance but have been turned down. (And of course the unemployment stats say nothing about the fact that millions can only find part-time or temp work, millions are forced to work two or three part-time minimum- or low-wage jobs just to make ends meet, and almost every family in the country survives on not one job but two [both parents have to earn an income]--but this is, I suppose, technically another topic . . .)

At any rate, here's my observation/theory (and please correct me if I'm wrong on this): By reducing or eliminating unemployment benefits, Bush can actually make the unemployment rate go DOWN. . . . No? . . . I think I'm correct. Less people receiving benefits = less people technically "unemployed." Now that's screwed up, my friends.


Recently our governor, Tim Pawlenty, got the idea into his head that Minnesota needs to reinstate the death penalty (which we haven't had for something like 90 years)--not only for murderers, but for sex offenders and attempted murders and all sorts of things. Hmmm . . . This was brought on, apparently, by the disappearance of Dru Sjodin in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the arrest of a formerly convicted sex offender for her kidnapping. (I'm from North Dakota [my sister and her boyfriend both had met Dru] and now live in Minnesota, so I've been hearing a lot about this.)

First of all (as some law professors pointed out on NPR), capital punishment for attempted murder is unprecedented and unconstitutional; and even for violent sex offenses it's extremely controversial and rarely proposed. Governor Pawlenty has since adjusted his position slightly, I think (no longer calling for executing attempted murderers); but it really makes you wonder about this guy.

Incidentally, from a strictly Kantian (motive-based) moral perspective, one could argue that there's little difference between killing someone and trying unsuccessfully to kill them. The consequences are different, due to the would-be killer's incompetence, but the intent/motive/will is the same in both cases. And if, say, the victim was simply able to defend him or herself in one case, whereas in the other case he or she was too weak to do so, this has very little moral relevance to the crime itself. Morally speaking. Legally speaking, of course, it's another story.

O.K. State-Sponsored Killing.

I'm not going to make a thorough argument here, for or against. (Personally, I'm against, if you care.) But I will say this: capital punishment is not in any way "self-defense" [that is, defending society from this person]. If someone breaks into your house and tries to kill or harm you or your family, and so you kill that person to protect yourself, that's self-defense. When you have a person in custody, and you make a conscious, deliberate decision to methodically cause that person to cease to exist, that is not defense.

I'm not even convinced it's punishment. Aside from the oft-mentioned irony that "we're killing you to show you that killing is wrong," more to the point, what does that person learn? True, it will change their behavior; a dead person is unlikely to commit another crime (or, for that matter, a beneficent act); but they haven't been taught anything, seeing as they're dead and all.

To protect society from them (again being terribly trite, sorry) you need simply to lock them up. So the only lesson here must be not for the accused but for society: teach them that if they kill someone they will themselves be killed. Make this person a concrete example.

Well, I haven't studied ethics all that much, but I think any sane person can see that there are some problems with this principle [that of using a person as an example]. Generally speaking, that's considered a form of repressing [or terrorizing] the population into submission and is to be found in harsh totalitarian systems. In moral terms, it's using a person as a means to something else, not as a means unto himself. And in legal terms, well, the decision has nothing at all to do with individual rights.

And, yes, it might be argued that a murderer has forfeited all rights, moral and legal alike, and therefore these rights need no longer be considered.

But this begs the question because it presumes absolute certitude. That is, if we accept this, then we assume the person is guilty with no possibility of error. On this assumption, once convicted, no one should ever be able to appeal, to present new evidence, call for a mistrial, etc.; because they would need rights in order to do so. Some crimes, of course, do not constitute a forfeiture of all rights; perhaps only murder, and possibly rape in some cases.

But this is precisely the point: the more severe the offense, the more severe the punishment; and the more severe the punishment, the more certain we must be of the person's guilt. More is at stake, and the decision to execute someone holds far more weight than any other decision. And this is understood, which is why those on death row can appeal indefinitely [provided there is some new evidence for consideration], which is why it's actually more expensive to execute. (Though the cost should not be a large factor here, by the way.)

Long story short: of course mistakes are made. And many people feel that it's better for one hundred guilty men to walk free than for one innocent man to be wrongfully put to death. Not to mention the fact that the death penalty is not consistently or fairly applied, and there's a huge race correlation that has been shown time and time again [blacks far more often executed than whites for the same offense].

The emotional aspect is enormous, and rightly so. Everyone, in the backs of their minds, imagines someone hurting or killing someone they love, and thinks, "What if it were me? Or my sister, or son, or mother, or daughter, or . . . Wouldn't I want the murdered executed?" . . . Probably that's how anyone would feel, at least for a time. But the thing is, it's easier for us to think of ourselves as potential victims than as potential perpetrators. Very seldom do we ask, "What is I were sentenced to death for a crime I didn't commit? Or my sister, or son, or mother, or daughter, or . . ." Well, every innocent person on death row, and every innocent person who has already been put to death, was someone's sister or son or brother or mother or daughter . . . . .


The other day we ate at "Taste of Thailand" and my fortune cookie was simple and direct: "You will be promoted." Hard to put a negative spin on that one, really. But this is how I recognized myself for the true pessimist that I am. My interpretation: probably means I'll be drafted into the armed forces. ("Hey, you were just a civilian before. Now, you're a lieutenant!! Congratulations!")

I think the only fortune cookie I ever took seriously was this one (and I'm not making this up, this is a real fortune I once got): "Strong in opinions, always in the wrong." Yes. Well. There it is.

For my senior art exhibit in college I made my own fortune cookies to set out by the guest book and brochures. Some of them were pretty humorous (and none terribly fortunate). I'll have to find them and post them on here at some point . . .




Friday, January 09, 2004

The Last Straw: Kucinich is being deliberately marginalized in the media

After months of wanting to write a letter to NPR complaining about their skewed coverage of the democratic candidates, I finally did. The last straw? A 'Morning Edition' story covering the Iowa debates didn't even mention Kucinich's name. And we're close to the primaries here, folks.

For such a long time now I've been praying for some coverage of Dennis Kucinich, who has been campaigning for a long time now and who I've supported since pretty early on. Nada. Almost never. Despite his consistent and fervent stance against the Iraq war. (And if he IS ever mentioned, not only is it invariably in passing but STILL they insist on stating [you know, just in passing] that he's a hopelessly unelectable candidate who doesn't stand a chance etc. etc... Grrr. . . .

Anyway, here's the email I sent to various and sundry folks at National Public Radio:

To whom it ought to concern:

This letter is long overdue. I should have written several letters before now, but in my naive hope that things would improve, I did not. At this point my tone might sound bitter and hostile, for which I apologize; but, quite frankly, I'm fed up.

Firstly, I will say I appreciate that NPR broadcasts interviews with each of the Democratic candidates running for president. This is very important, and sometimes more fair than a debate in which everyone struggles to get a word in edge-wise and ends up speaking for scarcely a minute or two.

I have been a supporter of Dennis Kucinich for many months now, and have noticed a consistent pattern in the media--including NPR, which I listen to every day--of ignoring and marginalizing this candidate. Until this week, I would not allow myself to believe this was deliberate. But the "last straw" came when Kucinich's name was NOT EVEN MENTIONED in the Jan. 6 Morning Edition coverage of the debates in Iowa, despite the fact that Dennis has been campaigning extensively there. Edwards was discussed--and I like Edwards, but his poll ratings are no better than Dennis's, so even a blind obsession with polls cannot explain the omission. Even candidates who were not campaigning in Iowa were mentioned. What's going on here?

Again, even though this is a crucial time before the primaries, I would not be so upset about this; except that it's been a quite consistent pattern for a long time, and there's simply no excuse for it. NPR has continued joining the mass media in trying to choose the candidates for the people--and if I hear Howard Dean's name one more time I think I'm going to slam my own head against the nearest wall.

Several months ago NPR ran a story ostensibly decrying all the publicity given to Kerry and Dean in various newspapers, magazines, etc. and criticizing the media for this undermining of democracy. The net effect of this story? More publicity for Dean, hardly an issue discussed, a public still ill-informed, and an undermining of democracy. (This was just the first of many such stories.) Dean was also explicitly called the "only" candidate who opposed the war in Iraq--which struck me as not merely an oversight but an outright lie at that point, because Kucinich had always spoken out fiercely against the war, voted against it and led the opposition in the House. The guest also said there were too many candidates, and the Democratic Party secretly wished all the rest would simply disappear. (Here Kucinich was named--as among those who ought to disappear.)

Indeed, I can't recall a single time I've heard Kucinich mentioned without the accompanying refrains: "long-shot," "doesn't stand a chance," "hopeless," "unlikely," "will never win," "doesn't have much money," "low ratings in the polls," "should just drop out," etc. etc. etc. I'm really not exaggerating here. Not a single time. (Even John Stuart, whom I love, made a point of it in Newsweek last week.)

Why is this? More than a year before the election, a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom had been set up, so that even people who had somehow managed to hear about him already believed he couldn't win.

Let's assume this is true, then; the question that needs to be addressed is WHY is this true? That's what you should be discussing. (Start with campaign financing, the moderate/right-of-center two-party system, media control/bias and the "liberal media" myth, . . .)

I would submit that my complaints are quite legitimate--and different from, say, someone complaining that Sharpton or Carol Mosley-Brown have been shunned and marginalized. Why? Forget the money and the polls for one second and start by looking at the issues and the platforms of the candidates. Compare Dean (a moderate portrayed by the media as a "liberal") with Kucinich, and it should be abundantly clear. (And keep in mind that as a governor Dean was under no pressure whatsoever, did not have to actually take a stand on anything [i.e. vote], whereas Kucinich did.) Again, Kucinich not only voted against the war but led the opposition to it in the House, and has consistently held this position; voted against the Patriot Act and promises to repeal it; voted against the $87 billion this summer [this holds great significance when you look at the number of abstentions from this vote, especially in the Senate--the vast majority abstained]; has repeatedly called for an end to the occupation of Iraq and has laid out a proposal for the transfer of control to the U.N.; promises to cut the bloated Cold-War-Era Pentagon budget [this is a huge, huge issue affecting every policy decision, foreign and domestic]. He's the only candidate (to my knowledge) with a plan for national health care, and who opposes NAFTA and its looming expansion (both these issues are regarded as very important to the vast majority of the people of this country).

Howard Dean (for all the hype) has had only reservations about the Iraq war, no plan for getting us out, will not cut the military/Pentagon budget, whole-heartedly supports the "war on terror," has a weak stance on the "Patriot Act," believes we should be TOUGHER on Iran and North Korea, supports NAFTA, and has a convoluted and feeble proposal for health care reform (NOT national health care) that does not address the for-profit system run by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. He also vows to balance the budget without saying what he will cut or if he would raise taxes (and in terms of "electability," if he wants to raise taxes he's simply not going to get elected, pure and simple).

And I could go on. But the point is, Kucinich is pretty much the only candidate with clear, strong positions on all the important issues. And he's being left out of the discussion.

I do not expect Kucinich to receive as much attention as Dean; Dean does have a great deal of support, it seems. But I will say this: the Iraq war and the presidential race should never be mentioned together without the mention of Dennis Kucinich. Ever. And this is the most glaring failure of the media, because in fact he is almost never mentioned.

I have tried to spread the word to people about Dennis, and invariably I receive the same response: "Wow, this guy's really great. Who is he? I've never heard of him." Almost EVERYONE says something to this effect. (Followed soon after by "I'd definitely vote for this guy--but it sounds like he doesn't stand a chance of winning . . .") I pose the question to you: why hasn't anyone heard of him? And what, exactly, is it about him that makes people declare him "unelectable"?

Ralph Nader spoke on CSPAN the other day and announced that he's considering running again. (Incidentally, Nader and LaDuke have both expressed support for Kucinich--now, with all the hype about Gore's endorsement of Dean, don't you think this might be worthy of at least some mention in the press?) Although I fear a repeat of 2000, I have to say: Thank God. I implore you to give Nader, also, the attention he deserves. He knows he won't win, but he's brilliant and inspiring and brings the real issues to the fore, giving a voice to millions who feel they have no one to represent them or even speak up for them, who are so disgusted with the system that disenfranchises them that they don't even vote. That's your job, too. You have a great deal of power in the political process, and thus a great deal of responsibility. Please, correct your skewed approach, and try to convince some of us that democracy is not dead. If things change, you can count on my membership and support; if not, I guess I'll just stick with DemocracyNow!, CSPAN, and the internet.

Thank you very much for your time.


Dustin W. Hansen
St. Paul, MN

p.s.: Sorry this is so long; again, it should have been several letters spanning several months, but I let it stew for too long. I hope you can appreciate that this is not a spur-of-the-moment rant, but rather the result of months and months of listening and consideration.

(Click here for the NPR story) (then scroll down to "Campaigning in Iowa Heats Up")

If you think I'm whining about this or being overly critical of the media, do a little study/search for yourself. Just search for "Kucinich," read some articles, and see whether or not his hopeless unelectability is referred to. The pattern is rather interesting . . .

You'll also discover that some right-wing nut has put up a satire site ( http://www.kucinich.com/ ) for the sole purpose of ridiculing him. I don't even know what to say about this one . . . I guess if it were humorous, I'd have no problem with it. But, well, it's really not.

Couple o' quotes for ye (from an interview):

"Your platform reads like Progressive pillow talk - universal healthcare, full employment, fully funded public education through college - but is America ready for that radical of a shift to the left?

What is radical about healthcare for all? What is radical about education for all? What is radical about jobs for all? When that starts to be radical, we have to ask ourselves, what in the heck has happened to this country? All of a sudden somebody starts talking about peace and prosperity and is seen as a radical? My God, where are we going as a nation? What does that say? All of a sudden "mainstream" is supporting monopolies? Mainstream is supporting war? Mainstream is supporting a healthcare system that is stopping people from being able to get care? It's like America has gone upside down, and so, you know, I am here to help put it right side up.

. . . . . .

Are you frustrated by the national media already discounting your candidacy as irrelevant before the first primary has even been held?

No, I think that the fact that they have done that has now become a story [laughs]. It kind of takes care of itself. After a while people are saying, well, why did they do that? Especially when people hear me. [They say,] "This guy makes sense! Why wouldn't you hear him?" When that happens people start saying, what is the motivation of not wanting this candidate to be heard? It is not the proper role of the media to tell people, these are your candidates, and these are not. It just isn't. This is a democratic society and people have the right to their own choices. Americans are particularly sensitive to stuffing the ballot box, whether it is electronically or with hanging chads. So, we have to be careful about the role of the media in a democratic society. The American people don't want the media telling them who to vote for.

. . . . . ."

(Click here for the whole interview)





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