Sunday, May 22, 2005

Paper Eliminates Free Speech

Dear Editor:

You guys have done some pretty strange things in the past; cancelled Molly Ivins in an election year, engaged in selective reporting, allowed the wires to dictate your content, ignored third-party candidates, eliminated your online forum and continuously glorified our violence against the civilian population of Iraq.

Now, you’re out to destroy our only venue for free speech by eliminating the Letters to the Editor section. You already reduced letter size last year, claiming it would allow for “greater participation”. Sixty-one fewer letters have been printed this year.

In every paper, the “Letters” section exists to allow readers an opportunity to redress the common media practice of burying news or completely ignoring issues which the media, arrogantly, deems to be "unimportant". This practice also allows editorial staff to focus on diversionary fluff (which they so often seem to prefer).

Unfortunately, it seems you're no longer content with this rather traditional arrangement. In your cute, little “Its Debatable” section, you now get to decide what the issues are and allow us 50 words or so for readers to state their opinion. Issues chosen are usually brainless pap (teen drinking, Erin Dreyer, Jessica and the Prom, etcetera). I am pretty upset that our valuable “Letters” space, often the most interesting part of the paper, is now being eliminated to make space for this new, totally useless and ill-conceived, section.

Need I remind you that there is a war on?! People are being killed! Why on earth would you want to limit citizen voice at such a crucial juncture in our history? Our very democracy is at stake. All of your “corporate media” attempts to manipulate the agenda towards shallower topics is duly noted. I hope that you’re ashamed of yourselves for trying to limit discourse and encourage greater ignorance. Very un-American .... or is it?

Matt Funiciello

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Howard Dean: My Favorite Pro-War "Spoiler"

Here is an open letter from Denis Kucinich to Howard Dean. Well worth a read.

I would really like to believe that Howard Dean did not lie to all of his supporters just to remove Kucinich from the race. After all, Kucinich was THE Democratic Peace candidate. The more time goes on and the more Dean opens his mouth, the less I question my own unflinching support of Ralph Nader. Like many working Americans, I would have voted for Kucinich if he had been the Democratic candidate. Ralph said he would vote for Denis too and he put that in writing long before the primaries even occurred.

What the Hell is Dean doing? Is there a Dean-supporter out there who didn't feel betrayed when he dropped out of the race over microphone sabotage? How could any peace advocate NOT feel betrayed by his latest remarks suggesting that we "stay on in Iraq"? Please tell me what the thinking is on this. I am truly at a loss.

The way I am seeing it take shape, its becoming obvious that Dean "spoiled" the primaries for Kucinich, his only ideological opponent. When he was dealt his "defeat" (the Dean Yawp), that heralded certain victory for his two corporate opponents, Kerry and Edwards. There appears to have been some pretty good horse-trading going on behind the scenes ... Look who is now chair of the DNC ...

I hope progressive Dems can explain this to me. Failing that, I hope and pray that they will wake up soon and support the growth of the progressive movement before its too late! The Democratic Party's manipulation and betrayal of its own grassroots is just unconscionable. There were many very good people in the Dean fold who fully bought in to the rhetoric and strategy and who did not deserve to have their effort cast, so casually, aside.

Matt Funiciello

Kucinich responds to Dean
An Open Letter to Howard Dean
author: Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich

The Democratic leadership should be pressing for quick withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. That's what most Democrats want, too. Your performance in the early stages of the primary, and your recent chairmanship of the party, were made possible by many, many progressive and liberal Democrats. It was their hope and expectation that you would prevent the party from repeating its past drift to the Republican-lite center. They hoped that this time the party would not abandon them or its core beliefs again.

Speaking before an ACLU crowd last week in Minnesota, the home state of Paul Wellstone, the only senator to vote against the war, you were quoted as saying, "Now that we're there [in Iraq], we're there and we can't get out.... I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now." Did these words really come from the same man who claimed to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, and who had recently campaigned on the antiwar theme? What's changed?

Perhaps you now believe that an electoral victory for Democrats in 2006 and beyond requires sweeping this war under the rug. If so, you are only the latest in a long line of recent Democratic leaders who chose a strategy of letting "no light show" between Democrats and the President on the war. Emphasize the economy, instead, they advised, in 2002 and again in 2004.

Following this advice has kept us in the minority. During the 2002 election cycle, when Democrats felt they had historical precedent on their side (the President's party always loses seats in the midterm election), the Democratic leadership in Congress cut a deal with the President to bring the war resolution to a vote, and appeared with him in a Rose Garden ceremony. The "no light" strategy yielded a historic result: For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, a President increased his majorities in both houses of Congress during a recession.

The President went into the 2004 election with tremendous vulnerability on the war, which the Democratic Party again sacrificed: by avoiding the issue of withdrawal from Iraq in the party platform, omitting it from campaign speeches and deleting it from the national convention.
Why does failure surely follow from sweeping the war and occupation under the rug? Because the war is one of the most potent political scandals of all time, and it has energized grassroots activity like few others.

President Bush led the country into war based on false information, falsified threats and a fictitious estimate of the consequences. His war and the continuing occupation transformed Iraq into a training ground for jihadists who want to hunt Americans, and a cause cйlиbre for stoking resentment in the Muslim world. His war and occupation squandered the abundant good will felt by the world for America after our losses of September 11. He enriched his cronies at Halliburton and other private interests through the occupation. And he diverted our attention and abilities away from apprehending the masterminds of the September 11 attack; instead, we are mired in occupation. The President's war and occupation in Iraq has already cost $125 billion, nearly 1,600 American lives, more than 11,000 American casualties and the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis. The occupation has been more costly in this regard than the war.

There is no end in sight for the occupation of Iraq. The President says we will stay until we're finished. A recent report by the Congressional Research Service concluded that the United States is probably building permanent military bases in Iraq. The President refuses to consider an exit strategy. The Republican Congress gives the President whatever he asks for.

We can draw no clearer distinction with the President than over this war. He cannot right a wrong (unjustified war) by perpetuating a military occupation. Military victory there is not possible. General Tommy Franks concedes that. The war will end when we say it's over. The Democratic leadership should be pressing for quick withdrawal of all troops from Iraq.

That's what most Democrats want, too. Your performance in the early stages of the primary, and your recent chairmanship of the party, were made possible by many, many progressive and liberal Democrats. It was their hope and expectation that you would prevent the party from repeating its past drift to the Republican-lite center. They hoped that this time the party would not abandon them or its core beliefs again.
Yet you say that you hope the President succeeds. With no pressure exerted from the leadership of the Democratic Party, the past threatens to repeat itself in 2006. We may not leave Iraq or our minority status in Washington for a long time to come.

Dennis J. Kucinich

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

If You're In the Majority, You're Already a Green!

I did not write this op-ed (I wish that I had, though). It was written by Sam Smith, the editor and publisher of the Progressive Review. In it, he shows that the Green Party, in thought and deed, is in alignment with a clear majority of us on all of the day's most important issues. Why then are the majority of American voters enrolled in the two corporate parties, neither of which support or advocate their prefereed positions? Where is principle in the "great" American political paradigm? At the very least, its great food for thought.

The Biggest Media Sin
by Sam Smithfrom Progressive Review

WHICH AMERICAN political party best reflects the views of a majority of citizens on the Iraq war, environmental issues, health care, campaign financing, population growth, genetically modified foods, and marijuana use?

The answer, based on various polls, is the Green Party.
That you may not be aware of this points to a problem with American journalism far more important than plagiarism, blogs, or Fox News, namely that our media - for all its professed objectivity - is stunningly biased towards the views of the American elite and particularly those who buy space in their papers or time on their channels.

On the environmental issue alone, the Green Party has been proven by the latest scientific data far more prescient and sane than either of the older parties. Yet the media prefers to dismiss, discredit or disregard the Greens as well as leaders who share their views such as David Cobb or Ralph Nader.

But let's assume for a moment that one is not entitled to coverage simply for being right and let's adopt the childish media view that the only ideas that count are those that demonstrate sufficient strength at the polls. We're still left with all those Americans who agree with the Greens and don't know it:

- The 52% of Americans who think Iraq war was not worth fighting.
- The resolutions critical of the Patriot Act that have been passed in 378 communities in 43 states including six state-wide resolutions.
- The 68% who find the "problems of the global environment: global warming, destruction of rainforests, destruction of species, loss of ozone layer" to be very or extremely important to their life.
- The 62% of Americans who support universal health coverage as opposed to the current system.
- The 68% of the public who support a version of public campaign financing used in several states.
- The 78% who think population is growing too fast.
- The 80% or more of Americans who believe "protecting the environment will require most of us to make major changes in the way we live," that an underlying cause of environmental problems is that "the way we live produces too much waste," that "we focus too much on getting what we want now and not enough on future generations," that "we need to treat the earth as a living system," and that "Americans should have more respect and reverence for Nature."
- The 61% of the American public who oppose arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana smokers.
- The 76% who believe that large companies have too much concentrated power.
- The 73% who agree with the statement: "I regard myself as a citizen of the world as well as a citizen of the United States."
Why do we hardly ever see any of these folks on cable television, on the op ed pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times, or mentioned in political analyses? It would be interesting, for example, for a columnist to attempt to square the red vs. blue, Christian vs. secular dichotomies currently in fashion with some of the data above. Or to ask the question: do our elites want us to hate each other so we don't find out what's really on our minds? And what we have in common?

The Harris polling people report that over the past ten years 31 million Americans have had someone close to them die after the removal of life support systems, but the media would have us believe it only happened once in Florida. 29,999,999 true stories left untold so one more myth can be created.

Here then is the real sin of America's media: It has created an America it chooses to see, not the one that exists. It has denied access to its pages and its channels to voices representing the majority or even greater percentages of Americans on key issues. And it has made us dislike each other even when on many of the critical issues that it ignores or distorts we have much in common.
Sam Smith is the Publisher and Editor of Progressive Review.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Teen Drinking Redux


I just have to ask why the Post-Star feels a need to cover "teen drinking" as if it is a real issue? I would love to write a smart and devastatingly nasty letter to the editor for you which addresses this strange collective obsession on your part, but there's a small problem with that. I already wrote that letter OVER FIVE MONTHS AGO and you already printed it! Its copied below just in case you need to be reminded of how "smalltown" and puritanical your ridiculous position is.

I just want you to know that you're boring us all to death with your artificial focus on this non-issue. Please stop. Right away. You got rid of Molly Ivins because she was "always on about the same thing". She was a "one-trick pony", you guys said. Well, putting the merits of that merit-free argument aside, what the hell is it that you've become? You sure got rid of that "boring" Ivins woman pretty quick, didn't ya? You allowed your string-pullers to have their way with her removal and totally ignored the will of your own customers. Now, on an almost daily basis, you drone on and on about kids who ... gasp ... drank a beverage ... gasp ... in the privacy of their own home ... gasp ... with permission from their parents!

Sometimes, when I'm reading these idiotic attacks on these obviously well-intended parents and their kids (who are simply experimenting, which is what kids do, by the way), I can almost forget that we are involved in an illegal war and that our newspapers are run by people who love that war (not to actually be IN it, but to watch it "progress" and to cheer it from the sidelines like spectators at a sporting event).

Good job lulling the populace to sleep with nonsensical crap! I hope you will fire the "boring" staffers who keep messing around with this "teen drinking" idea as if it has merit. They're boring your readers to death and, Hey, we can't have that now, can we? ;-)


Letter from Dec. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,

Today, Ken Tingley ranted at Patrick Russell, a letter-writer who voiced an opinion running counter to Tingley’s own on the topic of underage drinking. Russell’s letter was about the Post-Star’s excessive coverage of the arrest of thirteen teens and the parents who had allowed them to “party” at their home. Russell stated, correctly, that kids will drink, so what’s wrong with allowing them to do so in a place where car keys and behavior can be monitored? Surely, home is safer than a bar or in the woods, right?

Ken spoke sneeringly of the “culture of acceptance” (which, apparently, is to blame for the 10 area teens killed in the past two years). He says Russell’s thought process is not “acceptable reasoning”. While the inference that Tingley has the capacity to engage in “acceptable reasoning” is undeniably humorous, I must take exception with his rather strange viewpoint.

Russell was applauding the well-intended behavior of two parents who “accepted” that kids drink alcohol. They decided it was better to know where their kids were than to try and stop them. Never once in his letter did Russell applaud teen vehicular deaths or condone underage alcohol consumption. He simply implied that these parents were trying to prevent deaths.
Contrary to Tingley’s opinion, that’s quite a reasonable argument.

How many alcohol-related deaths take place in Europe where alcohol isn’t a rite of passage, but just something you drink with dinner? Surely, that’s a healthier attitude, yielding a better result? I believe that all ten of the teens killed were in cars returning from unsupervised parties. If they’d been at home, they might still be alive.

That is “acceptable reasoning”, Ken, whether you agree with it or not.A good example of “unacceptable reasoning” might be the press’ shameless cheerleading of our unconstitutional occupation of Iraq. This has already caused the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings, American and Iraqi. Where is your anger about this, Ken? Do you, like so many others in the mainstream press, not see the hypocrisy inherent to your own “culture of acceptance”? Like our so-called leaders, you editorialize about steroid use and horsemeat while, somehow ignoring the fact that, yesterday, 22 young Americans were killed and many more will never be the same. Get your priorities straight! Where is your righteous indignation and editorial grandstanding when it’s actually warranted?

Matt Funiciello