....LMB: "News Salad"....

January 12, 2003

Illinois Governor Commutes All Death Sentences- Three days before leaving his position as governor of the state, George Ryan has announced that he is changing the sentences of all 167 of Illinois' death row inmates from execution to 40 years to life in prison. The link above is to a lengthy but worthwhile speech about his decision, the death penalty, flaws in the judicial system, victims' rights, families of the executed, and more. Given the timing of the decision (just before he leaves office and can't face the political fallout of the decision) and length of the speech (way, way beyond the press release/soundbite length that would get him proper spin on the news), I think this was an actual political decision made by a man looking to do what he thought was best for his state and its people. Essentially, Ryan claims that due to the number of innocent people on death row, and the completely haphazard way in which execution is meted out as justice, that he could not leave these men to die.

The United States population seems to be deeply divided on the issue of the death penalty, with most seeming to think that it's both pragmatic and justified on many occasions. But many European countries seem to think that it's simply a moral outrage and completely unacceptable. Any European readers want to comment below about the unity of opinion on this issue in your country (or lack thereof if I'm misinformed)?

U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past- "On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2Ĺ-page document marked "TOP SECRET" that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism. Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq, senior administration officials said. The previously undisclosed Iraq directive is characteristic of an internal decision-making process that has been obscured from public view. Over the next nine months, the administration would make Iraq the central focus of its war on terrorism without producing a rich paper trail or record of key meetings and events leading to a formal decision to act against President Saddam Hussein, according to a review of administration decision-making based on interviews with more than 20 participants. With the nation possibly on the brink of war, the result of this murky process continues to reverberate today: tepid support for military action at the State Department, muted concern in the military ranks of the Pentagon and general confusion among relatively senior officials -- and the public -- about how or even when the policy was decided."

Quite frankly, it looks as though the top members of the Bush government simply decided that we needed to invade Iraq before they even had a clear idea as to why this was necessary. That might be an even more frightening reality: that we weren't going to Iraq for oil, that we were going to Iraq "just because."

Battle of the Boffins- read the whole article and still don't know what a "boffin" is. But the article is mainly about the new U.S. high-tech weapons and toys that will be used in the upcoming Gulf War 2.

Activist Deported to Toronto- rather harrowing tale of Canadian activist Jaggi Singh. I first heard about him with some of his anti-globalization journalism, and then when he was mysteriously kidnapped and arrested by police during the 2001 FTAA protests in Quebec. He was standing near an amusing activist prop, a catapult that was lobbing teddy bears over the chain link fence surrounding the summit meeting's compound, and cops nabbed Singh, charging him with some sort of weapons possession offense. But recently, Singh was in Israel and Palestine, as a human rights monitor/reporter with the International Solidarity Movement. The link is Singh's own story of how he was arrested, beaten and deported by Israeli police.

A Split Screen In Strike-Torn Venezuela- an American's first-hand account of the strife in Venezuela, arguing that nearly every "fact" about the conflict heard in the American media is false.

Posted by Jake at 01:17 PM

FYI, a "boffin" is Brit-speak for a scientist/researcher, usually in the context of technology/engineering.

Posted by: Mark Arthur at January 12, 2003 10:42 PM

I applaud Governor Ryan for his action. Capital punishment is barbaric and makes the executioner, and by extention society, no better, no more moral, than the one being executed. There aer many other reasons to be opposed to state sponsored murder.

There is no possible way to be 100% certain that a erson is guilty or was given a fair trial. So long as the chance remains that an innocent person can be executed this punishement should be abolished.But, that is not the only reason for abolishment. the number of inmates on death row that were found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers and who have since been freed because of DNA evidence alone is horrifying. All of those inmates would have been executed if this technology had not come along and someone was willing to take up their case and pay for the tests to be done. For every innocent prisoner executed a murder case gets filed as closed and a real murderer walks free among us - remember that because the DA will never re-open a case for which someone they helped convict has been executed.

Due to the number and length of the various appeals processes it costs almost as much to execute a prisoner as it does to keep him in jail for the rest of his life. Lessen and shorten the appeals process you say? Well then you have just guaranteed murdering innocent prisoners.

If punishment is the objective here then capital punishment is hardly punishment at all. Prison, particularly maximum security prisons, are not pleasant places to live. Keeping someone locked up for the rest of their lives in a place like that, is far greater punishment than executing them.

Posted by: The Dynamic Driveler at January 12, 2003 11:11 PM

It is ironic that Gov. Ryan, whom I believe was once a supporter of the death penalty, does a complete 180...as a Republican, no less.

My objections to the death penalty: it's mostly the poor and uneducated who are subjected to the death penalty and they're put to sleep like stray animals; it's moral hypocrisy on the part of the state and public; anything less than 100% accuracy is unacceptable.

Posted by: Eric at January 13, 2003 12:19 PM

Boffin has a bit of a 1940s feel to it - the bouncing bomb guys are classic boffins.
I spent 20 years in Europe, 15 in England where I think I never heard anyone in favor of the death penalty. It's possible that the rags suggested death on some occasions, but I don't think so. The last execution was in 1948, and for instance the Moors murderers, a couple who tortured children to death and tape-recorded them screaming, are sometimes mentioned in the news (helping to find bodies, etc) without a hint that they should be fried.
Three years in France, I think there's a little more chance of a death penalty discussion, but basic unanimity.
A year in Germany - I think a pro-death penalty discussion is less likely than in France. But the former East Germany pretty certainly had the death penalty until 1989.
My impression that you have a national consensus in these countries that execution is simply not part of civilized society. It is just bizarre to come from there to here and see 70-80% support for the death penalty in the polls. it makes you questoin what civilization means.

Posted by: John Isbell at January 13, 2003 05:13 PM

"well you can definatley see that george w. bush is a lying sack of caca, and that cleary he is no person who likes "democracy". hugo chavez was ELECTED by the people of venezuela. although hugo chavez was a millitary leader who tried to stage a coup in the early 90s, he was cought and went to jail. later, when he got out the people voted him in office. because george w. is a person who dosent like democracy, [as presented by him not even being the person that the majority of americans voted for] he and the cia were involved in his overthrow. or at least supported it openly.

because chavez is a man who actually cares about the huge and growing underclass in venezuela, [or at least says that he does] he as been trying to inact reform and make change. but the business class and land owners plotted against him. the only reason he was able to escape and not be killed by the coup in april, is that there would have been Massive rioting in the streets. already tens of thouands of people were protesting, and the threat of true civil unrest is what lead to him being released.

george w. dosent like him because he friends with iraq and other mid east oil producing countries. because chavez wants to establish relations with russia and china, because america cant 100% control him, they supported the overthrow of his goverment. you heard condoleeza rice on tv saying last april that [paraphrasing] "he should listen to the people and that theyre dissatisfied". what bullshit is that. so were gonna support a coup against him because thats the true "democratic" way?

its acts like these that happen right in front of our eyes that gives my country, u.s.a. no credibility. we wonder why people in other countries "hates us" as if its out of the blue and totally unfounded. and that they hate us because there jealous.

but what can i say, george w. nush is a man that was NOT elected by the majority of americans, so of course hes no friend of true democracy. " - "Mooseboy"

Posted by: Katarina at January 14, 2003 12:32 AM

The above was written by a friend of mine. As you can see George Bush II and his team of War Mongrels are fucked up pieces of crap with shit for brains. God, the injustice that happens in this world.

Posted by: Katarina at January 14, 2003 12:34 AM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

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