Since you asked

Politics is driving me insane! Should I leave the country?

By Cary Tennis

Oct. 28, 2004 | The letters started in August. Instead of asking about unfaithful husbands and drug-addicted boyfriends, people started asking, Should I commit election fraud to ensure Bush's defeat? Should I leave the country if he is reelected? Why am I so utterly out-of-my-head about politics? Am I insane?

I didn't have answers to these questions. I needed time to think. But the election is now nearly upon us. So last week I put out a call for letters.

What resulted was an avalanche of great letters from Salon readers.

I coded the request for letters with the subject line "Politics Is Freaking Me Out" so that I could sort them easily. Refrain after refrain appeared as we scrolled through our e-mail: Politics Is Freaking Me Out! Politics Is Freaking Me Out! Politics Is Freaking Me Out! At Salon, politics has been freaking us out for nearly four years. So it was heartening to hear from you.

So here are my responses to two letters that represent my thoughts on why this presidency, this war and this election are freaking us out.

Dear Cary,

This year's election is taking a toll on many people. I currently reside in a state that is definitely going to the candidate I like and my parents reside in a swing state. I am still pretty young and during the last election I was living at home so I voted in that swing state.

This year, I wonder, is it ethical to not vote in my decided state but reregister in my parents' district? I know it is fraudulent, but ethically I feel like shouldn't I do everything possible to ensure that the candidate I actually respect gets elected?

"Undecided" voter

Dear "Undecided,"

I do not think you should do everything possible to ensure that the candidate you actually respect gets elected. Rather, I think you should do everything possible to ensure that our republic remains a republic governed by laws and not by expediency. I do not think you should violate the law and your own ethics. I think instead you should hold yourself to the highest ethical and legal standards.

To this end, you could vote absentee in your state and then travel to a swing state and work on get-out-the-vote efforts. That would be legal, inspiring and fun, and it would multiply your effectiveness. Instead of discrediting your own constituency for the gain of only one vote, you could help several voters reach the polls and thus multiply your effectiveness legally.

If you cannot travel to a swing state, you can call voters in swing states on the phone. This also is a way to work for your candidate without violating election law.

If accusations of election fraud do arise in the wake of the 2004 election, you will want to have acted in exemplary fashion. Our side ought to have clean hands.

Dear Cary,

As the election draws near, I am finding myself growing more and more anxious. I believe our democracy is in serious trouble, that we are headed toward an even more totalitarian government, and that the current administration will stop at nothing to maintain power. Having studied rhetoric in college, I can't help but note that Condoleezza Rice is using identical language to describe Iran as was used to describe Iraq before the administration started its "hard sell" on war there. Having gone to school with many Iranians I find the idea of invading their country even more horrifying than I found the invasion of Iraq.

My problem is, I am beginning to feel hopeless. "Cowed" might be a better word. As the resistance grows, so does the repression, exemplified by the latest FBI preemptive interviews. (Why isn't anyone saying: Preempting what?)

I have many obligations and emotional ties to this country, but I am seriously considering emigrating. How does one know when it is time to leave a country? How did our ancestors know when it was time to leave "the old country"?

Wondering When to Pack Up and Leave

Dear Wondering,

I carried this question around with me for several weeks before suddenly, with great passion, I realized what I believe: No, of course you should not leave. This is your country. This is our country. Why should we have to leave because things are not to our liking?

If this country has been hijacked by right-wing zealots, we can vote them out.

To leave now, it seems to me, would be premature. It might relieve you of a certain chronic angst. It might make it easier in certain ways. But it would be wrenching personally; the costs would be high. And there is much work to be done here. What more can one do from France or England to organize Americans to resist their own government? To leave would not impede this country's imperial quest or enlighten its leadership. It would not strengthen the resistance at home.

If we feel this country has been lost, let's find it again. If we feel threatened, let's vanquish the threat. In whatever sense we feel that this country is no longer recognizable, let's refashion it. Let's re-create what we have lost. If the media have become enslaved, let's create new, free media, and support the few independent media that survive. If the country has taken reckless foreign adventures, let's rein it in.

When people start disappearing, that's when you pack your suitcase and bury the silver. The paradox, of course, is that only when you are prevented from leaving does it finally seem like it's time to leave. Oh, well.

As to the sense many have that we have awakened a latent fascism, I think elements of fascism have become visible in our national character and in our leaders, but I do not think we are on the road to a fascist or totalitarian form of government. What we have seen in the last three years is a clumsy and incompetent reaction to an unprecedented threat. Our stupid little men in Washington are not up to the job. We have got the wrong government for our times. We need a new one. We can get one.

Now, some would say that the battle is lost already, that the manufacturing of consent is so finely tuned that we are all slaves without a shot being fired. So why stick around? Why stick around? Because we own this thing. It is ours.

Until they start taking people away in the night, I say fight the bastards. After they start taking people away in the night, I say fight the bastards. Why? Because it's our friggin' spacious skies and amber waves of grain.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Cary Tennis is Salon's advice columnist.

* Disappeared Weapons * Iraqi WMDs

Institute for Public Accuracy
915 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * *

4:30 p.m. ET -- Thursday, October 28, 2004

* Disappeared Weapons * Iraqi WMDs

The 380 tons of high explosives missing from al Qaqaa in Iraq have
become an issue in the waning days of the presidential campaign. The New
York Times reports the explosives were there when U.S. soldiers arrived,
but when local Iraqis asked the soldiers to guard them, they "were told
this was not the soldiers' responsibility." KSTP-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul
reports that one of its film crews "in Iraq shortly after the fall of
Saddam Hussein was in the area where tons of explosives disappeared, and
may have videotaped some of those weapons." [See:

A former nuclear scientist with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission,
Khadduri wrote the new book "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage." Starting before the
invasion of Iraq, he wrote a series of articles questioning the Bush
administration's assertions regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
capacity. He said today: "I am familiar with the facility at al Qaqaa. I
dealt with people there when Iraq still had a nuclear program in the late
1980s. Iraq had no nuclear program after the Gulf War and it's ridiculous
that the Bush administration got away with claiming that it did. Some are
claiming that this shows that Iraq did in fact have weapons of mass
destruction, but these explosives are conventional and are quite easily
available on the global market. They are quite likely being used as
explosives by the resistance. All this highlights that disarmament was
hardly driving U.S. actions, contrary to the rhetoric we hear. This
facility was being monitored by the IAEA before the invasion -- since these
conventional weapons could be useful in building nuclear weapons -- and
doors had IAEA seals on them which were apparently broken by U.S. forces.
The U.S. ignored IAEA warnings about this facility. This also ominously
occurred at another nuclear site, at the Nuclear Research Center at
Tuwaitha, 20 km east of Baghdad. There were nuclear burial mounds there
that contained hundreds of tons of yellow cake, unprocessed natural
uranium, and other nuclear waste accumulated over 30 years of research and
development. The U.S. military broke open the IAEA-locked mounds, probably
got some of the U.S. soldiers contaminated, and then left the mound open to
looters. That facility was in fact looted by villagers of three or four
surrounding villages who needed the barrels that contained the yellow cake
and caused serious radioactive contamination in these villages, which is
harmful to civilians. But since they are Iraqi, and not American, the issue
did not warrant that much attention, then."

Kull is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which
just released a study of public attitudes on Iraq. Kull said today: "There
is now a consensus among the American public that if Iraq did not have WMD
and was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda, the U.S. should not
have gone to war with Iraq. Seventy-four percent overall have this view,
including 58 percent of Bush supporters and 92 percent of Kerry supporters.
A majority also rejects the argument that the U.S. should have gone to war
with Iraq because Saddam Hussein had the intention to acquire WMD. Overall,
support for the decision to go to war has eroded slightly since August, so
that a majority of 51 percent now says that it was the wrong decision, and
46 percent say it was the right decision. It may seem contradictory that
three-quarters of Americans say that the U.S. should not have gone to war
if Iraq did not have WMD or was not providing support to al Qaeda, while
nearly half still say the war was the right decision. However, support for
the decision is sustained by persisting beliefs among half of Americans
that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda, and had WMD, or at
least a major WMD program. Despite the widely-publicized conclusions of the
Duelfer report, 49 percent of Americans continue to believe Iraq had actual
WMD (27 percent) or a major WMD program (22 percent), and 52 percent
believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda."

Author of the article "What We Think About When We Think About Iraq: How So
Many Americans Can Be So Wrong About WMD," Schwarz said today: "Given the
continuing dishonesty of the Bush administration and others, it's no wonder
many Americans continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
The latest distortion is that the al Qaqaa explosives were WMD. Although
highly dangerous, they were not. In the election season, it's vital that
citizens get accurate information about this issue."

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

[PWW-headlines] October 30,

October 30, People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo

* * * * * *

VOTE Nov. 2! Problems? Call ‘Election Protection’ 1-866-OUR-VOTE

by Wally Kaufman and Denise Winebrenner Edwards, 10/28/04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 1,000 union members marched on the offices of
Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Oct. 25, to demand that he
protect the rights of 700,000 newly registered Ohio voters threatened by
Republican vote suppression tactics in this crucial battleground state.

Read entire article at

VOTE Nov. 2! ‘We have numbers, momentum’

by Susan Webb, 10/28/04

“We have the numbers, we have the momentum,” said New Mexico labor leader
Danny Rivera. “It’s going to be about performance” — about who gets the
voters to the polls.

Read entire article at

>From COINTELPRO to the Patriot Act: The long battle for justice and civil

by Tim Wheeler, 10/28/04

COINTELPRO’s “aim was to neutralize the movement, to disrupt legal
activities. Dozens were murdered or assassinated. The
result was that effective movements for social change were disrupted and
in some cases destroyed.”

Read entire article at

S.F. hotel owners defy mayor’s ultimatum

by Marilyn Bechtel, 10/28/04

SAN FRANCISCO — The fat was in the fire Oct. 26 as operators of 14 large
downtown hotels defied San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s demand to end a
four-week lockout of their workers and accept a proposed 90-day
cooling-off period previously agreed by the union.

Read entire article at

Struggle continues to save trauma center

by Rosalio Muñoz, 10/28/04

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is steamrolling
towards the closure of the trauma center at the county’s Martin Luther
King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Read entire article at

Philadelphia revs up to get out the vote

by Rosita Johnson, 10/28/04

PHILADELPHIA — More than 100,000 people filled the center of the city here
Oct. 25 to welcome Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and former
President Bill Clinton. Just two days earlier in the same city the Black
Radical Congress (BRC) hosted a forum to get out the vote on Election Day.

Read entire article at

Visit to read the entire edition, back editions and subscribe
People's Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo
235 west 23rd st
New York, NY 10011

newsletter - Progesterex HUSBAND'S TALE, FOLKS


Dear Readers,

It's a boo-boo, but the good news is, there is no
such thing as progestrex. It's a hoax, meant to
make young women feel scared. Isn't that awful?

Rophynol, however, does exist and is something
young women need to know about. Please see below
for the whole story on this urban legend. thanks
to you all who wrote in right away!

No, we didn't check, and we're sorry. that is,
I'm sorry. I'm afraid that at the keyboard late
last night during the lunar eclipse of the full
moon, I was the only one at work on the
newsletter. I should have "smelled" this one
coming down the pike -- but hey, there is a story
here, and it's date rape. How come there's so
much more abuse on our college campuses then
there was when I was a girl.

Appreciate all your help -- as you can see, I
need it. Readers are offering their services and
I thank you. Anyone want to help out with

And let me wish all of you the deepest Samhain
blessings. This is the Witches New Year. May the
spooks go poof in the night!

Thank you for staying with us!

love, Stephanie

Hi Stephanie!
Probably should have done a little fact checking
before you let the last article in your newsletter
I did, and there is no such thing as Progesterex.

It seems a bit unlikely that there is a pill that
could make you sterile, because then why did I bother
to get my tubes tied? Please let your readers know!

Comments: This is a hoax whose only reason for
existence is to frighten young women. "Progesterex"
doesn't exist. There's no mention of it anywhere in
medical or scientific literature. Neither of the two
hyperlinks within the text itself lead to actual
information about "Progesterex."

The email, circulating since November 1999, displays
several features common to urban legends and Internet

* an urgent, fear-inducing tone;
* a lack of verifiable sources (instead, a
reference to an unnamed authority figure ó "my best
friend's mom");
* the usual plea to forward the message to
everyone one knows.

Rohypnol, the surgical anesthetic also mentioned in
the email, does exist and has frequently been
implicated in cases of date rape. It is said to
dissolve quickly in liquids, and, when combined with
alcohol, causes drowsiness, lowered inhibition, and
memory loss. (The drug was recently reformulated to
change color when dissolved in liquid so its presence
is more detectable.)

It's important for young women to be aware of the
crime of date rape and the fact that drugs are used to
sedate date rape victims. But it's equally important
to separate fact from fiction. The "Progesterex" scare
is baseless. If you receive this hoax by email, please
do not forward it further.


Eminem's Mosh

Eminem's Mosh

Mon, 25 Oct 2004 16:05:45 -0700
View Video (quicktime)
video Broadband
video Dial-Up
Eminem's Mosh Music Video - Directed by GNN's Ian Inaba
*Directors Note:* Most Americans are well aware that in 2000, the
presidential election was decided by 537 votes. From hanging chads to
the hourly updates of the manual recount, this story was obsessively
covered by the mainstream press. However, what wasn't covered was what
journalist Greg Palast discovered
that thousands of
primarily minority voters were scrubbed from the voter registry in
Florida and prevented from potentially changing the course of America's
turbulent last four years.

By the spring of 2004 all around the country, groups from both sides of
the aisle were organizing and activating plans to impact the coming
presidential election from MoveOn to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Here
at GNN we were finishing our book, True Lies
, two related documentary projects
and barely had enough time
for our own attempt of an online voter registration campaign.
Through Palast's reporting and our own
investigations into electronic voting machines and the crossover
campaign that defeated Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, we became
increasingly aware of the fallibility of elections and the fragile state
of America's most fundamental democratic process. We also knew the
potential power of the youth vote. With more than 55 million voters
between the ages of 18 and 35, this demographic group accounts for 36%
of the total eligible voters in the U.S. And as witnessed in 2000 it all
comes down to who shows up to vote on election day.

So on the eve of one of the most spirited elections in recent times,
it's time to try and turn out the vote. As a music video director, ideas
for videos usually come independent of the song and are then adapted to
fit the timing and lyrics of the featured track. I initially developed a
concept for this video in June 2004 and contacted Interscope shortly
after to find out what artists in their roster would be releasing albums
near the election. The goal was to make a video that inspired young
people to vote because they too often disregard it as a powerless
exercise. To show them that political decisions do impact their daily
lives and that voting is the most powerful act we all have to voice our
opinion and effect change. And to educate and reiterate the point that
whether or not people want to accept it, there are forces in play that
attempt to suppress the youth and minority vote.

When I got the callback that our favorite conspirator of controversy,
Eminem would be releasing an album in November, I knew we had the
potential to say something that would be heard by the masses. And after
hearing the song later that month it seemed Mr. Mathers had also been in
the lab concocting his own plans for the election and it was precisely
the anthem I had been looking for. So with less than six weeks to
deliver we put together a team and forgot about what it meant to sleep.
In order to produce animation for a song that runs 5:20 in just over 5
weeks we were going to need a lot of green tea and mate and a little
help from Marshall himself. This video was made possible by a team of
artists who came together inspired by a song and video that might be
able to effect the next four years of all of our lives.

Two years ago, this video would not have been approved by a single
record label. A year ago it would never had the possibility of being
played on television. But with the changing tide of public sentiment
marked by the success of our last video for Chronic Future, an anti-war
message that made it into rotation on TRL we think it might just have a

Now, it's up to the broadcasters. Will they ban the top selling musical
artist for being anti-establishment while they allow other propaganda to
air? Or
will they finally allow an artist who has the courage to speak out to
take center stage and utilize the airwaves for something other than
typical celebrity fodder?

Stay tuned here for updates on
the unfolding antics and remember to show up and vote for you candidate
of choice on November 2nd.

To purchase GNN's new book, /True Lies/, go here

To purchase DVDs of other GNN videos go here

*More info on issues raised in Mosh*:

*Soldiers' Rights:*
National Gulf War Resource Center
Operation Truth
Soldiers for the Truth

*Voting activism and information:*
My Polling Place
League of Pissed Off Voters
Black Box Voting
Air Traffic Control: Documenting and Supporting Music and Activism

Kensington Welfare Rights Union
(see GNN's Drug War Reality Tour video

*Police Brutality:*
(see GNN's CopWatch video )
Human Rights Watch

Media Matters
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
(see GNN's Countdown video


Track: Eminem, "Mosh" from the album Encore

Producer, Director, Editor: Ian Inaba:

Art Director, 3-D Animation: Anson Vogt

Character Animation: Haik Hoisington

Motion Graphics: Steve Ogden

Illustration, Animation: Craig Patches

Eminem Animation: Kevin Elam

After Effector: Mark Nicola

Green Screen Producer, Cameraman: John Quigly

Illustration Design: Thomas Brohdal

Illustration Support: Nicholas Sanchez


Fahrenheit 911 FREE movie download link

from a dear friend in canada:



*Subject:* Fahrenheit 911 FREE movie download link

Here is a link to download a free copy of Fahrenheit 9/11

Spread the word, especially to your American friends who have a say in
the upcoming American election.

One person can make a difference, especially when one person tells 5
those 5 tell 5 people,
those 25 tell 5 people,
125 tell 5, 750 tell 5,
3750 tell 5,

Household Survey Sees 100,000 Iraqi Deaths

A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months after the U.S. invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war.

There is no official figure for the number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-governmental estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000. As of Wednesday, 1,081 U.S. servicemen had been killed, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

The scientists who wrote the report concede that the data they based their projections on were of "limited precision," because the quality of the information depends on the accuracy of the household interviews used for the study. The interviewers were Iraqi, most of them doctors.

Designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, the study is being published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet medical journal.

The survey indicated violence accounted for most of the extra deaths seen since the invasion, and air strikes from coalition forces caused most of the violent deaths, the researchers wrote in the British-based journal.

"Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," they said.

The report was released just days before the U.S. presidential election, and the lead researcher said he wanted it that way. The Lancet routinely publishes papers on the Web before they appear in print, particularly if it considers the findings of urgent public health interest.

Those reports then appear later in the print issue of the journal. The journal's spokesmen said they were uncertain which print issue the Iraqi report would appear in and said it was too late to make Friday's issue, and possibly too late for the Nov. 5 edition.
Les Roberts, the lead researcher from Johns Hopkins, said the article's timing was up to him.

"I emailed it in on Sept. 30 under the condition that it came out before the election," Roberts told The Asocciated Press. "My motive in doing that was not to skew the election. My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq.

"I was opposed to the war and I still think that the war was a bad idea, but I think that our science has transcended our perspectives," Roberts said. "As an American, I am really, really sorry to be reporting this."

Richard Peto, an expert on study methods who was not involved with the research, said the approach the scientists took is a reasonable one to investigate the Iraq death toll.

However, it's possible that they may have zoned in on hotspots that might not be representative of the death toll across Iraq, said Peto, a professor of medical statistics at Oxford University in England.

To conduct the survey, investigators visited 33 neighborhoods spread evenly across the country in September, randomly selecting clusters of 30 households to sample. Of the 988 households visited, 808, consisting of 7,868 people, agreed to participate in the survey. At each one they asked how many people lived in the home and how many births and deaths there had been since January 2002.

The scientists then compared death rates in the 15 months before the invasion with those that occurred during the 18 months after the attack and adjusted those numbers to account for the different time periods.

Even though the sample size appears small, this type of survey is considered accurate and acceptable by scientists and was used to calculate war deaths in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

The investigators worked in teams of three. Five of the six Iraqi interviewers were doctors and all six were fluent in English and Arabic.
In the households reporting deaths, the person who died had to be living there at the time of the death and for more than two months before to be counted. In an attempt at firmer confirmation, the interviewers asked for death certificates in 78 households and were provided them 63 times.

There were 46 deaths in the surveyed households before the war. After the invasion, there were 142 deaths. That is an increase from 5 deaths per 1,000 people per year to 12.3 per 1,000 people per year — more than double.

However, more than a third of the post-invasion deaths were reported in one cluster of households in the city Falluja, where fighting has been most intense recently. Because the fighting was so severe there, the numbers from that location may have exaggerated the overall picture.

When the researchers recalculated the effect of the war without the statistics from Falluja, the deaths end up at 7.9 per 1,000 people per year — still 1.5 times higher than before the war.

Even with Falluja factored out, the survey "indicates that the death toll associated with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is more likely than not about 100,000 people, and may be much higher," the report said.

The most common causes of death before the invasion of Iraq were heart attacks, strokes and other chronic diseases. However, after the invasion, violence was recorded as the primary cause of death and was mainly attributed to coalition forces — with about 95 percent of those deaths caused by bombs or fire from helicopter gunships.

Violent deaths — defined as those brought about by the intentional act of others — were reported in 15 of the 33 clusters. The chances of a violent death were 58 times higher after the invasion than before it, the researchers said.

Twelve of the 73 violent deaths were not attributed to coalition forces. The researchers said 28 children were killed by coalition forces in the survey households. Infant mortality rose from 29 deaths per 1,000 live births before the war to 57 deaths per 1,000 afterward.

The researchers estimated the nationwide death toll due to the conflict by multiplying the difference between the two death rates by the estimated population of Iraq — 24.4 million at the start of the war. The result was then multiplied by 18 months, the average period between the invasion and the survey interviews.

"We estimate that there were 98,000 extra deaths during the postwar period in the 97 percent of Iraq represented by all the clusters except Falluja," the researchers said in the journal.

"This isn't about individual soldiers doing bad things. This appears to be a problem with the approach to occupation in Iraq," Roberts said.

The researchers called for further confirmation by an independent body such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, or the World Health Organization.

The study was funded by the Center for International Emergency Disaster and Refugee Studies at Johns Hopkins University and by the Small Arms Survey in Geneva, Switzerland, a research project based at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

© AP
thank you to catjamb for this report

Tomgram: Jay Rosen on a political empire made of TV stations

Practically everyone in America must know by now that Sinclair Broadcasting, a media conglomerate that owns 62 local TV stations nationwide (but none in Washington, New York, or Los Angeles), threatened to air an anti-Kerry "documentary" called Stolen Honor in prime time in the home stretch of the presidential election. A storm of protest on and off the Internet, loss of advertisers, complaints from shareholders, and a drop in the company's stock price forced Sinclair's execs to pull back from the brink of their right-wing political message and air instead a relatively innocuous, "balanced" show.

As Bob Zelnick, former ABC reporter and head of Boston University's journalism program, pointed out recently, "market pressures worked on Sinclair exactly as they should have." End of story. At least, say others, end of story if John Kerry is elected.

Well, says Jay Rosen, journalism reformer and NYU professor, think again. Sinclair -- along with its radio counterpart Clear Channel Communications -- isn't just a typical media conglomerate that happens to have a sideline political message; it's something new in our media world, a political empire made up of television stations. And whoever is elected next week, we better all brace ourselves.

The largest owner of television stations in America, Sinclair until recently existed under the media radar screen, lacking as it does a presence/outlet in America's political and media capitals. Now it's swept out of the imperial provinces and into the glare of media attention. Though we don't yet have a media mogul with a Sinclair-like reach running for office, Italy has been living with the equivalent for years. What we may, in fact, be seeing is the first stage of the Berlusconization of the United States.

Jay Rosen offers below a sobering assessment of the new kid on the media block, one that points us beyond the usual frameworks and towards possible futures that threaten to toss the normal business model of a media corporation out the window. Rosen's weblog Press Think, which is his own little magazine of the Internet, is a daily must-stop for news and newspaper junkies. Now, step out of the frame, off the charts, and into one possible media future. Tom

Off The Charts

Sinclair Broadcasting's Political Vision
By Jay Rosen

On October 7th I was interviewed by Elizabeth Jensen, a media-beat reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who sometimes calls me for expert commentary. She had some news and wanted to get my reaction, but my first reaction was disbelief. My second reaction was: This is going to be huge. What she described sounded so improbable. (And in fact it never came to pass.)

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iran's hard-liners turn a censorious eye on Web journalists

Several online journalists have been arrested recently.

 NICOSIA, CYPRUS - The recent arrest of several bloggers, online journalists, and Internet technicians in Iran has raised fears that the country's old guard is determined to muzzle dissent in cyberspace.

The Internet has become a refuge for liberal journalists since the hard-line judiciary closed scores of reformist publications over the past four years. The Web log, or blog, format - a cross between a diary and public commentary - has allowed dissident writers to reach a mass audience with less of the expense and oversight of print media.

Government efforts to curtail this new forum are seen in Tehran as linked to the ascendancy of hard-liners who wrested control of parliament from reformers earlier this year after elections that many moderates were banned from contesting.

"They [hard-liners] see all these websites, including blogs, as newspapers they haven't been able to crack down on yet," says Hossein Derakhshan, a Canada-based Iranian blogger.

New laws covering "cyber crimes" were announced last week by the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahrudi.

"Anyone who disseminates information aimed at disturbing the public mind through computer systems or telecommunications ... would be punished in accordance with the crime of disseminating lies," he declared.

At the same time, a judiciary spokesman said that people running unauthorized sites would soon be tried on charges including "acting against national security, disturbing the public mind, and insulting sanctities."

The government had originally focused on blocking pornographic sites. Reformist President Mohammad Khatami, told a UN digital summit in Geneva last year that his country blocked access only to "pornographic and immoral" sites that were not compatible with Islam. But, he insisted: "We are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK."

Prominent bloggers include a key Khatami ally and presidential adviser, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who resigned as vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs earlier this month, saying he could not work with the Parliament. His enemies saw him as the voice of Khatami's attempt to introduce greater democracy and freedom. Mr. Abtahi's lively blog covers subjects from soccer to freedom of speech. When two reformist papers were shut in July, he wrote in his blog that the "voice of the majority will not be heard any more."

Four of those detained recently were among dozens of Iranians accused by an ultrahard-line newspaper, Keyhan, of being part of a "dastardly" web of bloggers and journalists that was attempting to undermine the regime. Keyhan, which identified dozens of Iranians working in Iran and abroad, claimed the network was supported by the US and a "few centers in Europe."

Concerned colleagues of those arrested said that many accused of political crimes in recent years were arrested after false allegations against them were published in Keyhan.

Mr. Derakhshan says those arrested were not targeted because they had blogs, but because they were "connected technically or journalistically to reformist websites."

In August, when the Internet-related arrests began, the authorities blocked access to three websites close to Iran's leading reformist party. This prompted a protest by the party's leader, Mohammad Reza Khatami, the president's brother.

One of the sites moved its content onto a blog. Hundreds of bloggers also protested by renaming their sites after pro-reformist papers and sites that have been banned. They have also posted news stories from the banned publications.

The protest was organized by Derakhshan who, in addition to his own blog,, has started a site called in which he provides details of arrests and other news.

Derakhshan says authorities are having trouble filtering sites and suspects they are considering a "national intranet," or service just for Iran, separate from the Web. Derakhshan and others are working on a way to get around it with e-mail subscriptions.

Four years ago, just 250,000 Iranians used the Internet, a figure that has soared to about 4.8 million. Experts believe there are as many as 100,000 weblogs - 10 percent of which are political in nature.

The arrests have been denounced by Iran's pro-reform Press Association. The union met last week to protest and to underscore their concerns that a rising generation of journalists - most of the bloggers are in their 20s - may be at risk.

A foreign envoy in Tehran says: "My Iranian contacts are complaining that the size of the environment for free speech is getting smaller and ... that the electronic environment is now being concentrated on ... but it will be very difficult to stifle it all."

By Michael Theodolou | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | Copyright © 2004
from the October 28, 2004 edition -

Editor: Leaks Hastened Report on Missing Explosives

On Sunday night, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told Jeff Fager, executive producer of CBS's "60 Minutes," that the story they had been jointly pursuing on missing Iraqi ammunition was starting to leak on the Internet.

"You know what? We're going to have to run it Monday," Keller said.

The paper's front-page story, charging that 377 tons of powerful bomb-making material "vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year," hit the presidential campaign with explosive force, as Sen. John F. Kerry seized on it for three straight days and President Bush accused Kerry yesterday of making "wild charges."

The article has also sparked criticism of the two news organizations from some conservatives, who accuse the Times and CBS of orchestrating a late hit against Bush.

Keller said in an interview yesterday that campaigns "attack the messenger" when they do not like the message. "Beating up on the so-called elite media has a nice populist ring to it, and some of it is calculated," he said. Bush campaign officials thought that "if they barked at us, we would back off. . . . We've vetted this every way we can, and we continue to do that."

Keller said "60 Minutes" executives asked the newspaper to hold the story until this Sunday so they could report it the same day, and "we said we weren't comfortable doing that because it wouldn't give the White House a fair opportunity to respond."

Fager dismissed criticism of the timing as "absurd," saying "it was a breaking news story and a significant one. It's impossible to manage these things." He said "60 Minutes" and correspondent Ed Bradley had planned to break the story this Sunday -- two days before the election -- only because "the story came to us on relatively short notice" and that was the next available show. The program has a separate staff from "60 Minutes Wednesday."

Fager said it was "incredibly unfair" to link the ammunition story to the earlier "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on documents about Bush's National Guard service, which CBS has admitted it cannot authenticate.

A Bush campaign release Tuesday accused the Times of publishing a "false story," without elaboration. Critics on the right say the story was overblown.

Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said the front-page piece, while accurate, was "somewhat hyped" and that it "didn't put it into context how important 380 tons are when there are tens of thousands of explosives in the country." He also called CBS's plan to report the story Sunday night "really kind of stunning."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page questioned the article's timing. Among Fox News commentators, Bill O'Reilly questioned whether it was "a legitimate story or a dirty trick," while Tony Snow said the article "looks pretty bogus" and is "an embarrassment to the New York Times and also CBS."

The principal uncertainty about the story involves the timing of the ammunition's disappearance. The White House says the explosives may have gone missing while Saddam Hussein still controlled Iraq.

"Sure there's a possibility" that happened, Keller said, "and I think the original story accounted for that possibility. . . . I don't think we've ever claimed there was a definitive answer to what became of this stuff."

Bush campaign officials point out that Kerry's foreign policy advisers cannot say for sure what transpired. Richard C. Holbrooke told Fox that "I don't know what happened," and Jamie Rubin told CNN it was "possible" the weapons were removed by Hussein. A top Republican strategist said the Times did not spell out the possibility that Hussein moved the ammunition and that CBS was planning a last-minute "ambush on the president."

 Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton deflected questions about whether the Democratic nominee was going beyond the available evidence in assailing Bush for "incredible incompetence" and using the Times headline in an attack ad. "This is a devastating report for the Bush administration," Clanton said. "The president could clear this up if he would come forward and tell us what happened."

There have been reports for 18 months about the looting of Iraqi weapons. What three Times reporters wrote Monday, days after getting a tip from a "60 Minutes" producer, was that Iraq's interim government had warned U.S. and international inspectors earlier this month that 377 tons of explosives were missing.

 NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, who was embedded with the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the war, reported Monday that the unit visited the Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, and never found the explosives.

Anchor Tom Brokaw clarified the next night that "we simply reported that the 101st did not find them. For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived. That is possible, but that is not what we reported." The Times on Tuesday quoted the unit's commander as saying his troops had stopped at the facility but did not search it.

Keller said the original story noted that the Qaqaa facility had last been visited by U.N. inspectors in March 2003, and quoted a letter from a senior Iraqi official saying that the stockpile disappeared after early April 2003 -- during the war -- because of theft and looting. Other than some last-minute checks and editing on Sunday, Keller said, "the story was basically ready."
 © 2004 The Washington Post Company  
By Howard Kurtz
 Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page A07

A Soldier Speaks: Denver Jones

This is the second in a series of profiles of some of the tens of thousands
of Iraq War veterans who have come home bearing the scars of battle -
emotional and physical wounds that may never heal unless the nation
pays them the attention and care that they deserve. We believe that in
an election defined by a deep and bitter partisan divide, it is the one
issue that can and must bring us all together as Americans.



When U.S. Army Reserve Specialist Denver Jones re-enlisted
in the military after the 9/11 attacks, little did he realize that he
would become one of the invisible. The Gulf War veteran - who was
working as a UPS mechanic at the time - was soon deployed to serve in
Iraq with a transportation unit.

Disaster struck when a Humvee accident ruptured three disks and
fractured two of the vertebrae in his spine. As he described it to Now
with Bill Moyers, "My head came up, hit the ceiling, jammed my neck
down, I came down and hit on my tail in the seat, and it broke some seat
brackets out from under the seat, and I pretty much was, you know,
pretty hurt after that."

Although now disabled for life, Denver is not included in the Pentagon's
estimate of the casualties of war - the 7,500-plus number of wounded
that counts only those who were injured in combat. After a year-long
medical review, the Army finally awarded Denver $1,300 a month, along
with VA benefits. But it's small compensation for a life permanently
shattered by war. It's hard for Denver to perform the simplest tasks:
walk, sit, sleep. As he puts it, "I feel like a 90-year-old man trapped
in a 35-year-old body."

Yet when Denver spoke on the phone from his home in North Carolina, he
talked not of his pain but the suffering of the Iraqi children.

*Is there one memory from the war that still stays with you?*

One of the things I think about a lot and can't get out of my head is
the living conditions of the majority of the children in Iraq.

Some of them have no home whatsoever. Some of them had mud huts, but
there was no windows, no roof, or no doors. If it would rain and they
would get some water, they would let their camels and sheep drink out of
it before they did. And when the water dried, they would scrape the salt
up and put it in bags.

I've spoken to several people over here - about how many children are
starving over there - and they come back and say, "Well, there's people
starving over here too." [laughs] They have no idea of the size of the
problem I'm trying to describe. There is just no comparison to someone
who lives on the street over here. Over there, it's not about living on
the street - it's how you /live/.

*When you look back, how has this war changed you?*

As far as my life goes, it's been changed 180 degrees. It's changed in
that I'm not able to do anything physically that I want to do anymore.
I'm less mentally strong as I was.

I've learnt to respect human life more and appreciate how precious life
is. In more - well, my religious word for it would be blessed -
wealthier societies we take for granted how well our lives are. We
complain about things that we should be ashamed of complaining about.
And people don't even realize what we have. I give a little girl [in
Iraq] a dime and she has more joy and happiness and laughter than when I
give my child a $5,000 motorcycle.

You don't see those things on TV. When you see Iraq on TV, you see the
small areas that were run by Saddam or where his friends lived. You
don't see where the majority of Iraqis lived.

When they captured Saddam Hussein, they said, "Oh, what a terrible place
that [the underground spider hole] was." That was a hundred times better
than how 95 percent of his people live.

In that area, there was grass. Somebody had to go plant grass and
water it five times a day. So he was in a nice place, with mattresses
and candy and food. And 20 miles down the road, a family is drinking out
of the water that the animals have urinated in.

*What are your hopes and fears now that you look at the future?*

My hopes are that the world can communicate as people - not governments
communicating for us. If we communicated as people, there wouldn't be
disputes and problems and war.

The governments of countries go and speak as though they represent the
people of the country. But they don't represent what the people are
actually saying. I've spoken to Iraqi soldiers who at one point wanted
to kill me. And once we talked, there was no reason for fighting. Their
leader tells them one thing while our leader tells us another. And we go
on that.

Just because someone is in a "Third World" country, they're not
different than I am. They're human beings and one of God's children.
Because I have been blessed with the opportunity to achieve what I have,
it doesn't mean that as a human being that I'm more deserving or any
better than they are.

Fear-wise, I fear that countries get too involved in who has the most
control, or most power. If you use the Bible as a historical reference -
and that's not to put any religion into it - there's repeated times it's
shown in there that the things we do will not work. That greed won't
work. That envy won't work. If it didn't work then, thousands and
thousands of years ago, it's not going to work now.

*If you had five minutes with the president - whomever it may be on Nov.
3, George Bush or John Kerry - what would you say to him?*

Give me just a minute. [pauses] I believe I would say - regardless of
who the president was - is to remember how this country's been blessed.
To remember the people who are the backbone of this country - the
working people. Without the working people, this country wouldn't exist,
it couldn't function.

And most of all to remember who has paid and made the sacrifices to keep
this country safe - the soldiers. And to take care of those soldiers,
irrespective of what the circumstances might be. I would ask him to
eliminate the bureaucracy governing the medical care of a soldier after
he has been released. There is so much political maneuvering involved in
taking care of a soldier.

Just lay down one basic rule - one plain paragraph - so that the
soldiers can be taken care of. Just so you understand, you might have
one soldier who was grazed by a bullet across the shoulder. And the only
thing that is wrong with him physically is a little two-inch long scar.
He receives a multitude of benefits.

On the other hand, you have another soldier who was in the same war, at
the same time, in a truck accident. And his legs get cut off. But he
doesn't get the same gratitude or benefits as the first soldier.

If a soldier is doing the job he is supposed to be doing and injured,
then how is that any different? But that's the way it is. I was
personally in the war, during the war, before the ceasefire. I get
injured and the Army says it's not war combat-related. That's not what
the regulations say. When you question them, they say, "The regulations
are only a guideline."

But then they get to tell me that if I were at Fort Bragg or Fort
Jackson - any training facility within the United States - simulating a
war, playing a war game, and got injured, then it would've been war-related.

That's what I'd do. Work with the president and Congress to take all
these laws - this basic crap - and throw it in the trash can.

By Lakshmi Chaudhry,

October 28, 2004
© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


Hold Bush Accountable

I do not write the headlines for my columns. Someone else does. But if I were to write the headline for this one, it would be “Impeach George Bush.”

Of course, I realize there's no chance Congress would impeach the president at this point or under almost any circumstance. It somehow reserves its outrage for lying about sex under oath and not, as now seems clear, the making of war under false pretenses. Say what you will about Bill Clinton, no one died in the White House pantry.

The same cannot be said in the larger sense about George Bush. Well over 1,000 Americans and countless more Iraqis have died because the president insisted on going to war. I know I should grieve for the Iraqi dead as much as I do the Americans, but I simply don't. It is the Americans -- those names I read almost every day, the hometowns, the lives I conjure up for them, the hideous moments of death -- who would make up every one of my articles of impeachment. I would read every name from the well of the House.

I do not hold George Bush accountable for believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. I have talked with senior administration officials who opposed the war and they, too, thought Hussein had chemical and biological weapons -- but not nuclear ones. By the time Bush had firmly decided to go to war, all in Washington knew Hussein's nuclear weapons program consisted of a wish. Even Vice President Cheney had to know that, but the truth does not matter to him. In a long career as a Cold Warrior, he morphed into the enemy: The end justifies the means.

In his forthcoming book on the Crusades, "Fighting for Christendom," Christopher Tyerman of Oxford University argues, "There existed no strategic or material interest for the knights of the west" to invade the Muslim east and try to wrest Jerusalem from Islam. "Consequently, the Christian wars of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the Near East provide startling testimony to the power of ideas."

I cite this book for a reason. You will remember that early on Bush referred to the war against terrorism as a "crusade." The word, though, was too freighted with Christian-Muslim conflict, and Bush quickly backed down. But, really, he was speaking the truth. Just as the original Crusades were a form of mass madness, so was this one when it was extended to Iraq. It came, as did the original one, out of the bonnet of a leader: Bush this time, Pope Urban II in 1095 -- and it swept everything before it. Congress lent its approval and so, significantly, did the media (myself included). The failure of leadership was across the board. The events of Sept. 11 were as emotionally wrenching to us as the Muslim capture of Jerusalem was to medieval Christians.

 My peripatetic colleague Dana Milbank recently reported on a poll showing that 72 percent of Bush's supporters believe Iraq did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction and that 75 percent believed Hussein gave al Qaeda "substantial support." These beliefs are false, in contradiction of the facts, and even Bush, when pressed, has admitted that. But these beliefs did not arise out of nowhere. They are a direct consequence of the administration's repeated lies -- lies of commission, such as Cheney's statements, and lies of omission, the appalling failure to correct wrongly held views.

 Not since the Spanish-American War has the United States gone off to war so casually, so half-cocked and so ineptly. The sinking of the Maine, the  casus belli for that dustup, has been replaced by missing weapons of mass destruction, and the Hearst and Pulitzer presses are now talk radio and Fox News Channel. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Still, though, we mourn the dead, look away from the wounded and maimed, and wonder what it was all about. We embarked, truly and regrettably, on a crusade.

Yet from Bush comes not a bleep of regret, not to mention apology. It is all "steady as she goes" -- although we have lost our bearings and we no longer know our destination. (Don't tell me it's a democratic Middle East.) If the man were commanding a ship, he would be relieved of command. If he were the CEO of some big company, the board would offer him a golden parachute -- and force him to jump. But in government, it's the people who make those decisions. We get our chance on Tuesday.

 Impeach Bush.

By Richard Cohen
 Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page A25

 © 2004 The Washington Post Company

No Change in US Torture Policy Amnesty


by Jim Lobe

The United States has failed to meaningfully change its policies on the treatment of prisoners, opening the door to repeats of abuses like those at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and making an independent probe into torture by the US military essential, says a leading human rights group.

In a 200-page report released Wednesday, London-based Amnesty International (AI) stressed that without such an investigation and the clear, unequivocal rejection of torture and ill-treatment by top US officials, "the conditions remain for further abuses to occur."

Six months after CBS-TV's 60 Minutes broadcast photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, AI welcomed a number of Pentagon-sponsored probes into the torture and other abuse there but warned they alone are not sufficient.

"Many questions remain unanswered, responsible individuals are beyond the scope of investigation, policies that facilitate torture remain in place, and prisoners continue to be held in secret detention," said William Schulz, executive director of the US section of Amnesty (AIUSA).

"The failure to substantially change policy and practice after the scandal of Abu Ghraib leaves the US government completely lacking in credibility when it asserts its opposition to torture," he added in a statement.

The report also calls on US President George W Bush to make public and rescind any measures or directives authorized by him or any other official that could be interpreted as authorizing "disappearances," torture, or other inhuman treatment.

It was released amid almost daily revelations about how decades-old US policies regarding the treatment of prisoners-of-war were either circumvented or ignored by small groups of political appointees in the Bush administration, who argued that those policies were obsolete in waging what one White House memorandum called a "new kind of war."

Investigative articles appearing over the past three days in the New York Times have described how top lawyers in the Pentagon, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the Justice Department and the White House kept Bush's own national security adviser, the State Department and career military attorneys in the dark about their plans for "military commissions" that deprived suspects in the "war on terrorism" of basic rights under domestic and international law.

At the same time, the 'Washington Post' reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with the Pentagon's cooperation, had secretly transferred dozens of non-Iraqi prisoners out of Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, under an opinion by political appointees in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in direct defiance of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The revelations come on top of disclosures after the Abu Ghraib scandal last April of legal memoranda prepared by political appointees that appeared to justify the use of torture and ill-treatment against detainees, practices that were explicitly prohibited by US Armed Forces field manuals over the past several decades.

All of these disclosures have contributed to calls by AI and other groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Human Rights First, dating back to last April and May, for a comprehensive independent probe of torture and abuses. In a resolution passed last summer, the American Bar Association (ABA) also urged such a move.

Until now, the Bush administration ignored these calls, arguing that the Pentagon's own efforts to investigate and prosecute abuses were adequate for dealing with the issue.

Earlier this month, for example, the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division recommended that 28 soldiers be charged in connection with the beating deaths of two prisoners at a detention facility in Afghanistan in December 2002, while some seven military police are being prosecuted or have plead guilty to charges arising from the Abu Ghraib abuses.

Last Thursday one Army reservist, the highest-ranking soldier charged after the Abu Ghraib scandal exploded in the international media, was sentenced to eight years in prison for abuse.

Amnesty's new report, ''Human Dignity Denied: Torture and Accountability in the 'War on Terror'," documents what it calls a pattern of human rights violations running from Afghanistan to Abu Ghraib via Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (where prisoners in the "war on terror" were taken to a specially-constructed detention facility that the Bush administration maintained was outside the jurisdiction of US law) and "secret" overseas detention facilities about which the administration has said virtually nothing.

The report stressed that no senior US officials has yet been held accountable.

Noting the administration's claims that prosecuting the "war on terror" after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon required "new thinking," the report finds the administration's ideas about how to fight the war fit a "historically familiar pattern of violating human rights in the name of national security."

It argues that decisions linked to torture start at the very top. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for example, explicitly authorized a number of abuses - including stripping, isolation, hooding, stress positions, sensory deprivation, the use of dogs in interrogations and secret detentions, which amount to serious human rights violations and, in some cases, torture.

"The denial of habeas corpus, the use of incommunicado and secret detention - in some cases amounting to 'disappearance' - and the sanctioning of harsh interrogation techniques are classic but flawed responses," Amnesty said.

"By lowering safeguards, demonizing detainees, and displaying a disregard for its international legal obligations, the administration at best sowed confusion among interrogators and at worst gave the green light to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

It said the sheer number of abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq that have come to light through media leaks or official Pentagon investigations has "punctured the administration's assertions that torture and ill-treatment were restricted to Abu Ghraib and a few aberrant soldiers."

An independent commission of credible experts should be formed, and call on the advice of international groups and agencies that specialize in such investigations, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, the report recommends.

It should be empowered to investigate all levels and agencies of the US government, including the CIA, whose operations - including secret transfers of detainees to other countries - have so far largely escaped scrutiny.

Any commission should also include within its scope recommendations for preventing future torture and ill treatment of detainees in US custody, beginning with a clear requirement that the highest administration officials must make clear their absolute and unequivocal opposition to torture and abuse under any circumstances.

Such a move is indispensable in light of the memoranda prepared by the administration to justify abuses. "What these documents show is a two-faced strategy to torture," according to AI. "It has been a case of proclaim your opposition to torture in public, while in private discuss how your president can order torture and how government agents can escape criminal liability for torture."

October 28, 2004

Jim Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.

Copyright © 2004 Inter Press Service


The Presidential Pageant: There He Is, Mr. America....

Less than two weeks before Election Day 2004, the ABC television network cancelled Miss America. Fifty years after it premiered on national TV, the famous "beauty pageant has fallen on hard times. Last month, the annual show drew just 9.8 million viewers, the smallest audience ever.

“The pageant has changed, but not for the better,” commented an editorial in a New Jersey newspaper, the Asbury Park Press. “Eliminating most of the talent portion of the competition from this year's broadcast was a mistake. Trotting the contestants out in string bikinis rather than one-piece suits probably did more to alienate traditional viewers than attract new ones.”

Despite this year's modernizing make-over, the Miss America pageant is a throwback to the 1950s, the decade that launched it onto the nation's TV screens -- an era when sexism was inseparable from supposed Americanism. Women were reduced to competitors in bathing suits who could sing and flash their shiny white teeth while they briefly made
conversation. Perhaps subtly but pervasively, the spectacle was an exercise in humiliation.

These days, we shouldn't burn a lot of calories patting ourselves on the back. In 2004, television routinely features a steady flow of rigid gender roles -- as a close look at an array of commercials attests -- and the use of women's bodies to sell products is standard media operating procedure.

Throughout our society, there are plenty more options for women today, professionally and personally. But the media images of females are still heavily slanted by stereotypes. Meanwhile, in the workaday world, women receive just 76 cents for every dollar paid to men for comparable jobs. We have a long way to go before there can be any credible claims of social equality.

As reflected in the viewer ratings, the concept of Miss America has gone out of fashion. In contrast, the networks devote countless hours to covering what we might call the Mr. America pageant -- also known as the presidential campaign.

While this country has become a good deal more skeptical about the mythic allures of Miss America, the news media and the nation as a whole are still boxed in by the Mr. America extravaganza. During thousands of public appearances, presidential candidates pose, preen and posture, trying to measure up to our images of what and who the man in the Oval Office should be. And the media evaluations often seem scarcely more sophisticated or discerning than the retrograde judges who assign points according to arbitrary standards of physical proportions and womanly poise.

They're polar opposites -- an inconsequential Miss America contest and a momentous presidential contest -- yet political journalists, especially the ones on television, often lapse into reviewing debate performances and stump speeches on the basis of little more than style. Reporters and pundits are apt to applaud well-executed spin without
reference to the factual basis or wisdom of the assertions.

We may scoff at the imagery of Miss America, with her regal cape and glittering crown. And it will certainly be a step forward if the pageant can't find a major network next year to air the retro show.

But for half a century, few people had reason to care exactly who became Miss America. Ever since the 1950s, however, each battle to win the presidency has been more about television than the one before. Candidate performances in front of TV cameras -- and how journalists characterize those appearances -- have assumed ever-greater importance in the nation's presidential selection process.

Ordinarily, as a practical matter, the game of political drama merely requires that someone play a passable version of a wise president on television. What we see on the screen are the pretenses of a man who tries to follow a script written to fit the public's fondest image of Mr. America. The gaps between televised appearances and real-world realities have never been more profound than the abyss between George W. Bush's favorite televised personas and the consequences of his presidential reign. It may soon be this president's misfortune that most voters have seen through the poses of a pleasant TV performer.

ZNet Commentary
The Presidential Pageant: There He Is, Mr. America... October 28, 2004
By Norman Solomon

Promises to Keep

By William Rivers Pitt,

The presidential election of 2004 is finally upon us. After a thousand days of fear, doubt, anger and set-jawed patriotism in the face of everything we as a nation have been forced to deal with, we are down to a single week in which to consider our place and position, a single week to decide where we go from here, a single week to remember where we have been.

John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Today in America, politics has become a bloodsport where wishes, inclinations and passions lead us to attack those we disagree with as fools, as dangerous, as less than patriots. Both sides of the political aisle are guilty of recrimination and hyperexaggeration; debate, these days, is done at top voice, a means to shout your opponent down. It is a lessening of us all.

More than 1,100 flag-draped symbolic coffins line the reflecting pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 in Washington. The tribute is in honor of the American service men and women who have been killed in Iraq to date. In the background is the Washington Monument.

Yet the stubborn facts and evidence remain, and no amount of red-faced bellowing by partisans and paid operatives can change their nature. The following facts are addressed to the fence-sitters, to the undecided voters, to the independent voters, to those who have come to see voting as a waste of time, and to the millions upon millions of Republicans in America who are of good conscience, who voted for George W. Bush four years ago and wonder now at the wisdom of their choice.

These are the facts.

George W. Bush and the members of his administration told us, beginning in September of 2002, that the nation of Iraq was a grave and growing threat to the security of the American people. We were told by this administration that Iraq was in possession of vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, that they were vigorously pursuing a nuclear weapon, and that they enjoyed operational connections with the al Qaeda terrorist network.

The implications were clear: Saddam Hussein would be more than happy to deliver these horrible weapons to the same terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11. "It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country," said Bush in his January 2003 State of the Union address, "to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known." Bush, in that same speech, went on to specify the exact volume of weapons in Iraq which were demanding invasion: 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents – 500 tons equals 1,000,000 pounds – plus nearly 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, and additionally, a plan to seek uranium from Niger for use in the production of nuclear weapons. If you doubt these facts, please reference the White House website. Their page describing these horrors is still there.

Now, of course, we know better. The American weapons inspection team sent to Iraq by the Bush administration itself – 1,625 inspectors investigating 1,700 suspected weapons sites over two years at a cost of $1 billion – came up completely empty. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there have been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the UN inspections of the mid-1990s, Hussein had no concrete plans to make any weapons of mass destruction, and even if he did, the facilities needed to create such weapons were no longer operational in any way, shape or form. Bush's threat of a "day of horror like none we have ever known" because of these Iraqi weapons was revealed to be devoid of substance.

The push to invade and occupy Iraq was so strong that it overwhelmed other, more pressing matters. The war in Afghanistan remains unfinished to this day because the Bush administration removed vital American military forces from that nation and sent them to fight in Iraq. Because of that decision, the warlords in Afghanistan are powerful again. Because of that decision, opium production in Afghanistan is booming. Because of that decision, Osama bin Laden is still alive and free.

As the occupation of Iraq ground on, as the promises that we would be greeted as liberators were rendered hollow by a steadily rising death toll among our soldiers and their civilians, the rationale for war proffered by the Bush administration began to drift. It wasn't about weapons of mass destruction anymore. It was about bringing freedom and democracy, and about bringing hope to a beleaguered populace that had lived long under a tyrant.

Leave aside the long argument about the efficacy of bringing democracy by the point of a sword, leave aside the reality that nothing approximating democracy is going to take root in Iraq while an American-installed government with no credibility among the Iraqi people sits in power, and leave aside the reality that no kind of true democratic election is going to take place in Iraq because large swaths of that nation are beyond the control of any government, are still at war with the American army, and will never see a ballot.

The fact remains that bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq was not the reason given to the American people for why war was necessary, and necessary now. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we were made to feel fear because Saddam Hussein was going to give his weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, and they were going to use those weapons against us.

Millions of people in America did not go out and buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to support democracy and freedom in Iraq. Millions of Americans bought plastic sheeting and duct tape because their government terrified them into believing a poison cloud would envelop them and their families at any moment.

It comes down to this. George W. Bush and his administration desired a reckoning with Saddam Hussein from the moment they took office. Powerful administration officials like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz had been advocating for an invasion and occupation of Iraq for many years, well before they ever took office. They used the fear and uncertainty that came after Sept. 11 to arrange that reckoning. They used Sept. 11 against their own people, against us all, deliberately and with intent.

Three new terms have entered the American political lexicon in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq: Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame and transfer tube.

Abu Ghraib is, of course, the chamber of horrors well-known to the American people by now. Under the instruction of American soldiers and private military contractors, innocent Iraqi civilians were tortured, raped and murdered in the prison once used by Saddam Hussein for the same purposes. Photographs of these degradations were broadcast far and wide, delivering a crippling blow to the reputation of the United States.

The investigations which followed these revelations have revealed that such abuses were not relegated solely to Abu Ghraib, but had taken place in military detention facilities from Afghanistan to Cuba. Forty-five troops have been recommended for court martial, and some 23 others face summary discharge. Yet the officers who ordered or allowed all this to take place have thus far escaped any serious censure. The civilian leaders in Washington, whose lawyers argued that torture isn't really torture and is therefore acceptable in war, bear as much of the burden of responsibility for this as the soldiers who put the policy to living flesh. They, too, have not been called to account.

Where does the awful reality of Abu Ghraib fit into the global puzzle that is this war on terror? Philip Carter, writing for Washington Monthly, said it best. "America suffered a huge defeat the moment those photographs became public," writes Carter. "Copies of them are now sold in souks from Marrakesh to Jakarta, vivid illustrations of the worst suspicions of the Arab world: that Americans are corrupt and power-mad, eager to humiliate Muslims and mock their values. The acts they document have helped to energize the insurgency in Iraq, undermining our rule there and magnifying the risks faced by our soldiers each day. If Osama bin Laden had hired a Madison Avenue public relations firm to rally Arabs' hearts and minds to his cause, it's hard to imagine that it could have devised a better propaganda campaign."

If the story of Abu Ghraib strikes at the heart of our reputation worldwide, the story of Valerie Plame reaches into the guts of our ability to defend ourselves at home. Plame was a deep-cover CIA agent running a network dedicated to tracking any person, nation or group that would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. Her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was dispatched in February of 2002 to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking uranium there for use in a nuclear weapons program. Wilson returned from Niger after a diligent investigation and reported to the CIA, the office of the National Security Advisor, the State Department and the office of Vice President Cheney that the claims had no merit whatsoever.

In January of 2003, during the same State of the Union speech in which he spoke of that "day of horror" and described Iraq's weapons by the numbers, Bush used the debunked Niger uranium claim as further evidence that the invasion of Iraq was an absolute imperative. Wilson, in July of 2003, exploded the administration's Niger-uranium claim in a detailed editorial in the New York Times. Days later, his wife Valerie Plame was exposed to several reporters as a deep-cover agent by operatives for the White House. Plame's operations against those who would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists were wrecked. Her intelligence network was destroyed. The front company she worked out of, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was likewise exposed, a fact that had the corollary effect of ruining the operations and networks of any other agents working under the cover of that office.

The White House agents who blew Plame's cover did so for one reason, and one reason alone: To intimidate and silence any government analysts or whistleblowers who might go to the press and contradict the Bush administration's carefully crafted story line about the threat posed by Iraq. A number of people had come forward before Wilson wrote his article, but few came after Plame was attacked. It is one thing to put yourself at risk by taking on the Bush administration, but it is another thing entirely to be shown that the decision to do so puts your family in the line of fire.

Beyond the fact that our capacity to track and interdict the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists was damaged by the outing of Valerie Plame – and isn't that the reason we went to war in Iraq in the first place? – there is the damage done to our overall capacity to watch a world filled with threats. The Bush administration ignored the data and warnings coming from the American intelligence community before the war, because that data did not fit the decision for war which had already been made, and then scapegoated the intelligence community after their story line did not match reality. The attack upon Valerie Plame is but one example of the administration's dangerous misuse and abuse of our intelligence services. Today, the CIA is at war with the White House because of this. In no way does this deplorable situation heighten our security here at home.

Finally, there are the transfer tubes. One thousand one hundred and six transfer tubes have been put to use by the American military since the invasion of Iraq was undertaken 17 months ago. You may not have heard of these things, because the Bush administration has forbidden the press from taking pictures of them. The term itself is a bland Pentagon-created euphemism. Once upon a time, "transfer tubes" were called coffins.

It has been widely reported since Monday that almost 400 tons of high explosives disappeared from a storage facility in Iraq called al Qaqaa. The International Atomic Energy Agency voiced public warnings about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured. These warnings went unheeded; American soldiers were used to guard petroleum facilities after the invasion, and were used to tear down statues in politically helpful photo-opportunities in Baghdad. The explosives were left unprotected.

How much of the stuff has been used in the last 17 months to kill American troops? How many of the 1,106 are dead because of a decision to ignore the al Qaqaa facility? Because of the woeful ineptitude of the Bush administration in managing the occupation and in guarding the borders of Iraq, that country has become the terrorist haven it never was before March of 2003. How much of this missing material has fallen into the hands of people who would use it to explode airplanes and buildings, along with American soldiers in convoys and military bases?

When a man or woman raises their right hand and swears the oath, when they don the uniform of the United States military and take up arms in the common defense of us all, they are promising to give their lives. They stand and deliver, and the honor and nobility of their service goes beyond description. The only promise they expect in return is that their lives will not be spent by their leaders for anything less than the greatest need.

That promise has not been kept by George W. Bush and his administration. The failure to secure the al Qaqaa facility is but one example of this. Some have argued that 1,106 dead American soldiers in Iraq is a paltry number compared to the death toll absorbed by American troops in places like Normandy and Iwo Jima. Some have argued that, compared to annual murder rates in places like Detroit and Los Angeles, 1,106 dead American soldiers is statistically insignificant.

One American soldier sent home to his family in a transfer tube after dying in an unnecessary and mismanaged war is exactly one American soldier too many. No manipulation of statistics can alter this last, heartbreaking, stubborn fact. If nothing else touches you, if the missing weapons of mass destruction and the deliberate use of fear and the shame of Abu Ghraib and the abuse of our intelligence services and the re-creation of Iraq into a terrorist stronghold does not touch you, if the fact that all of this combined has birthed a world where we are all far less safe does not move you, remember that promise.

They made it. We must keep it.

© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.