I've had a whole day in which to think about my overall impressions of the final presidential debate. I've watched a little television, read some articles, and thought about what people have been saying and writing. I think the most descriptive and concise statement characterizing the final presidential debate is by William Rivers Pitt:
There was a statesman and a salesman on that debate stage on Wednesday night. Kerry, the statesman, was calm and clear, in command of the facts, and not afraid to stare into the camera at the American people and tell some hard truths. Bush, the salesman, left behind the muddled foolishness of the first debate and the screaming histrionics of the second debate, in favor of an aw-shucks smirk and a series of ill-timed snickers that makes one truly wonder if he knows his job is on the line. All the pundits agreed that Bush, having lost the first two debates, needed to dominate during this third and final meeting. He failed completely to do so.
Still, no one has stated the obvious thing. During the debate, president Bush was clearly channeling the infamous American Idol contestant, William Hung.
Today, the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, called John Kerry a bad man or something. She said he employed a tawdry political tactic by mentioning their daughter; the fact that she's a lesbian. Are the Cheney's ashamed of their daughter? Only a guilt-ridden social conservative would think there was anything derogatory at all about that.
In the course of my own spirit channeling and in other family values related comments, my dead mother was pleased to hear that John Kerry remembers what his own dead mother told him about Integrity.
She also reminded me to buy a package of condoms, just in case I wanted to enlist in one of George Bush's Armies of Compassion that will be spreading democracy around the world. She said some quick, unsolicited compassion is okay, but that I should protect myself against any sexually transmitted democracy.
When it comes to the principles of civil liberties in a civil society, everyone, including you and I, must remain ever watchful and forever vigilant. In the matters of privacy and free expression for all of us, there are a number of violators of these principles in our world.
Whether it is one of many multinational conglomerates data mining your personal information for marketing purposes or government officials and bureaucrats overstepping their authority and mandate in the name of national security, examples of corporate or governmental entities violating the civil liberties and civil rights of people simply abound.
When a government official violates a person's rights and liberties (or literally throws someone in jail) for seemingly no legal reason, won't divulge the reason to that person, then throws away the key -- the only reason you and I ever know of it is because someone yells loud enough for us to eventually hear of it.
I don't have to tell you that you're not going to hear about every story involving Jack Booted Thugs on CNN or read about every secret detention, property seizure, or victim of ethnic profiling in the New York Times. That's like looking for a slice of your mother's special home-made pie at McDonald's. It's not going to happen.
However, in this age of hyper information, some things percolate to the top of RSS and XML news feeds quickly, and the length of time between event and outcry shortens significantly. One thing that is sure to raise eyebrows rapidly is when the grapevine itself comes under attack.
To me, there is a difference between the heirarchy of news journalism and the foodchain of media outlets. Think of it in terms of brain food. The foodchain of media outlets is like the various chains of fast food drive-thru places available to you in any city in the modern world. The names of these places occupy a rastor-burned portion of your gray matter due to the 48,156,234 times their name or logo has been advertised to you. McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell are just some of my personal coronary favorites. Perhaps you prefer one more than the other. Perhaps you prefer FOX over ABC, NBC, CNN or CBS.
Unlike the fast foodchain of media outlets, the heirarchy of news journalism more resembles the mom-and-pop restaurants and diners. You may have a favorite family-owned pizza parlor in your neighborhood or chinese restaurant around the block. Even if you grab some chinese take-out or have a pizza delivered by the owner's teenage son, it's food they made for you. Independent news journalism, or indymedia, is like those small, out of the way, but favorite places where I like to occasionally feed my brain.
Without indy news, all you'd have left to feed your own brain would be the fast foodchain of media outlets which are corporate owned and whose primary motivation is advertising revenue and secondary corporate mission is to bring you the news. And it's the just the news they deem fit for you to hear.
Independent news journalism is vital to our watchful and vigilant eye on the character and activities of governments all around the globe. Without individual journalists highlighting events about which they write, we might never have heard the name Abu Ghraib. Freedom of expression is a civil liberty that is important to all of us.
That's why it is especially outrageous when a government agency oversteps their authority, or when law enforcement agents are just doing their job, and it violates civil liberties like free expression. Cry out all you want; if no one can hear you, no one can tell another person about it. The web does level the playing fields a bit. It's difficult to act outrageously and keep it a secret any longer.
Such is the case that I read today on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) XML news feed. I feel it highlights the character of the Bush Administration's Jack Booted Mindset:
October 12, 2004
EFF Challenges Secret Government Order to Shut Down Media Websites
Seizure of Servers Hosting Indymedia Websites Violates the First Amendment
San Francisco, CA -- The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing a coalition of independent Internet journalists whose websites were shut down on Thursday, October 7, when their servers were seized by the FBI. The two servers, which were located in the United Kingdom and managed by San Antonio-based Rackspace Managed Hosting, hosted Indymedia's Internet radio station and more than 20 Indymedia websites, as well as several email lists.
The seizure was in response to a "Commissioner's Subpoena" issued at the request of a foreign government. Citing a gag order, Rackspace has provided no further details. An FBI spokesperson has confirmed that the subpoena was issued at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. Earlier this month, the FBI made informal requests to both Rackspace and Indymedia to remove an Indymedia news story that included photos of undercover Swiss investigators posing as anti-globalization activists. At the time, the FBI admitted that the posting did not violate US law.
EFF has contacted the FBI to demand Indymedia's illegally seized servers be returned and is preparing for legal action in the event that negotiations with the FBI fail. EFF is also calling on Rackspace to challenge the government's illegal seizure. "If Rackspace stands behind its claim of providing 'Fanatical Support' to its customers, it will go to bat for Indymedia--one of its biggest customers--and demand that the FBI return the seized Internet servers," said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney. "Rackspace should also fight for its own rights and challenge the gag order preventing it from sharing its side of the story." A federal court in New York City recently found a similar gag order unconstitutional in Doe v. Ashcroft, the ACLU's challenge to a secret PATRIOT Act subpoena served against an Internet service provider.
"The FBI can't pull the plug on more than 20 news websites -- our modern printing presses -- based on a secret proceeding at the request of a foreign government. This is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. "As far as the Constitution is concerned, Indymedia has the same rights as any other news publisher. The government can't shut down the New York Times, and it can't shut down Indymedia."
The Indymedia seizure bears a striking resemblance to EFF's very first case, Steve Jackson Games v. US Secret Service. In that case, the Secret Service seized the hardware and software of Steve Jackson Games, an Austin, Texas-based computer game publisher. That seizure, which shut down an Internet bulletin board and email server in addition to disrupting the publisher's business, was found to be an illegal violation of the publisher's rights.
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation email@example.com
For inquiries about Indymedia:
And don't forget, people like Dave Thomas, Mike Ilitch and even Colonel Sanders all started out in the kitchen before they ended up in the boardroom. Indymedia is an important voice and a vital source for healthy minds.
Random skyward weapons fire, spontaneous erections, and much praising of the lord are the reactions by forum trolls at Free Republic upon hearing the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc plans to broadcast the Stolen Honor documentary film about ten days before the presidential election, later this month. Initially viewed by many as a Swift Boys Noise redux propoganda production, Stolen Honor was only previously available on DVD and pay-per-view basis on the internet. In this highly charged and radically divided election season, however, indie films and videos portraying either presidential candidate are getting more attention and buzz than if Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had released the highlights of their private sex video tape collection.
And seriously, Brad. If you have any tapes, it's high time you share the love, bud.
When I blogged about the 2nd presidential debate in Town Hall Tap Dance, I told you how the news media outlets were likely to declare the debate a tie and promote the contest in order to make money. Subsequently, in USA Today, media columnist Peter Johnson asks the perennially question, "Are the media playing politics?" and highlights the difference between the presidential debate candidates' performance characterizations made by broadcast and cable news outlets.
Johnson handily cites a recent Center for Media and Public Affairs study showing the difference between cable news (CNN, FOX) and the broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) in a table entitled "Cable's Even Split". Basically, this study analyzed the positive and negative comments made about Bush and Kerry. Johnson's table highlights that the broadcast outlets favoring Kerry heavily after both presidential debates, and comments on NBC praising Kerry over Bush more that 2-1.
Rather than looking to one of its 527 corporation minions, like the Swift Boys, in order to put a tourniquet on George Bush's public opinion hemorrhaging, the Bush Cheney 2004 campaign must have made an emergency conference call to Sinclair Broadcast Group executives.
It has been reported that these fat cats whose political contributions are given 98% of the time to the GOP plan to preempt normally scheduled programming on their television station holdings for three days in order to broadcast the anti-Kerry piece Stolen Honor. Sinclair's television group includes 20 FOX, 19 WB, 6 UPN, 8 ABC, 3 CBS, 4 NBC affiliates and 2 independent stations and reaches approximately 24% of all U.S. television households. This is the same corporation that stopped it's ABC affiliates from reading the soldiers' names killed in Iraq.
I am not slamming the Stolen Honor piece. I have not seen it. Unlike the GOP faithful at the Republican National Convention that slammed and loudly jeered Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911 -- but then admitted they had not even seen the award-winning documentary film, like respected Senator McCain has done -- I am merely pointing out that broadcasting Stolen Honor seems like typical GOP dirty tricks. Do you see any so-called battleground states in the SBGI sphere of influence map? I do.
Before you get your own underwear in a jumble, like the Michigan GOP did, Sinclair Broadcasting has posted this on their corporate website home page:
We welcome your comments regarding the upcoming special news event featuring the topic of Americans held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has been invited to participate. You can urge him to appear by calling his Washington, D.C. campaign headquarters at:
if you would like to make further comments on this matter, you may do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yeah, that's just great SBGI. Thanks for the information. Right after I follow your instructions, I'm going to call John Kerry on his cell phone and ask him, "So, when's the last time you beat your wife?"
I think it might be more appropriate for me to send SBGI an email and simply ask them to put their money where their fair and balanced mouth is. If SBGI and the GOP wants to further move the political discussion away from reality and talk about the Vietnam War instead of Iraq right before the presidential election by elevating the status of a film previously only seen by uber-conservative forum trolls by broadcasting it to millions of people in the country, maybe someone should be looking into SBGI's FCC license and other relevant corporate documents.
Here's an idea that's fair and balanced. Pre-empt the O'Reilly Factor for three nights in a row and broadcast Fahrenheit 911 in its place. I'd really love to see that.
Predictably, the Town Hall Tap Dance was not overly impressive as a defining moment for either U.S. Presidential candidate. I realize this sounds immediately cynical to most of you. However, let's take a closer look at who you might actually be.
1. You have always supported George Bush through thick and thin. No matter how many lies, distortions, mistakes, or acts of incompetence, arrogance and corruption come out of the Bush administration, he's your buddy. You are a Dubya-defender. You are a Bush World cultist. You will vote for Bush.
2. You believe George Bush already stole the 2000 presidential election and you certainly don't want him to have four more years in which to run amok with his neo-con foreign policy, his clenched sphincter cultural attitudes, or his pesky way of compassionately outsourcing your job to the third world. You're hopeful that John Kerry can turn this mess of a country around. You will vote for Kerry.
If either of those descriptions even remotely characterizes your feelings, then you already know who won Friday night's presidential debate, don't you? If you need someone in the editorial media to back you up, you can easily find it. If you look toward the candidates' punditry, they'll agree with your own astute assessment of the debate. That's their job, remember?
And don't forget what the jobs of most media outlets really are -- bringing in ad revenue. If not declaring the debate an outright tie, headlines are likely to focus on the closeness of the overall contest. They will sell the contest, make it exciting, and make money. It would be counter-productive and unprofitable for any media business to declare that either candidate has absolutely trounced the other one. This election, if nothing else, is an absolute cash cow for media.
If Bush fell on his face during the first debate, the expectation by any thinking person would be that he simply had to do a little better in the second debate. His wife could likely find some happy seratonin uptake inhibitors rolling around in the bottom of her purse like orphaned tic-tacs to help Dubya turn his nervously defensive stupidity into compassionate conservative buddy-speak.
3. You are undecided. You watched the town hall meeting where undecided people asked questions about the issues that concerned them, but you still can't make up your mind who to vote for come November. You tend to annoy your friends while eating out because they have to wait ten minutes while you weigh your fluctuating desire for both soup and salad. You get nervous choosing between paper and plastic. Not only do you shop for holiday gifts the evening before, but also then spend the holiday red-eyed and listless because it took you all night choosing the perfect wrapping paper and pretty, fluffy bow combination for each gift recipient.
If you are undecided, I encourage you to decide, rather than become apathetic. In order to help you, I've illustrated a four step plan in Homeland Security threat level colors that you can adopt. I respect someone who votes more than someone who succumbs to their own confusion or doesn't care enough about our country to be involved in its future. In my opinion, you're self-centered and sociopathic, if you do nothing.
Rather than attempting to lay out articulate arguments for my own views on various issues that may be of common concern between us, let me make it simpler than that to assist you. You can always read my take on foreign policy and important domestic policy issues. You can boil the entire election down to an admittedly over-simplified, but hopefully clear, selection.
If you think you, your family, and our country as a whole is doing just great and can do no better -- you have to stay the course, break out the anal vaseline, and vote for Bush. If you think the country deserves better leadership, some fresh thinking on the domestic and international problems that face all of us, and a change at the top -- you will vote for John Kerry.
Do vote for someone. You know how I feel about apathy. Even if you choose to take it up the ass for four more years with Dubya, I did remind you to bring vaseline, and I'll still respect you in the morning.