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Posted by gustav at 03:01AM, Tuesday, December 02nd, 2003
The top underreported stories in this election year
What should we think when the major news media outlets seem unencumbered by their supposed role as protectors and watchdogs of the public, and are merely mouthpieces and PR representatives for the interests of the mega-corporations which own them?
There have been many evidently important news stories, some evolving over the past several years, which the big media (ABC, NBC, CNN, and the unabashedly biased FOX and CBS; the New York Times; The Boston Globe; Newsweek; Time...) have covered only lightly, if at all. Most have at least some bearing on all of our day-to-day lives; many should make us wary of how the government operates these days, and how those operations get reported on. All of them deserve more attention.
Where's Osama bin Laden? Almost two and a half years after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and the fourth plane which crashed in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Government has still failed to capture Osama bin Laden, the man they identified on September 11th as responsible for the attacks that day. Why? What are we doing spending billions of dollars, and getting multiple American soldiers killed each day, in Iraq -- which, so far, has no documented ties to 9/11 -- when we've utterly failed to locate the man U.S. officials claim is responsible?
Rebuilding Afghanistan As with the previous item, we have not only failed to locate Osama bin Laden; we've shifted our efforts and attentions away from Afghanistan entirely, allowing al Qaeda to resurge there, making many feel that they must earn money to eat by farming opium poppies, in the absence of other means of subsistence, and making an already war-torn country even less safe for women and families.
Why does the President not understand how the Constitution works? Repeating a meme widely and wildly distributed by the more reactionary elements of the press, the President, in his State of the Union address, said:
Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our Nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
By saying this, the President not only demonstrates his bigotry -- he believes gays and lesbians are unequal to their heterosexual peers, and do not deserve the same right, which is for each to marry the person he or she desires; that if they did so, it would somehow unsanctify marriage -- but he also shows that he does not understand the separation of powers built into our government by the U.S. Constitution: while Congress has the power to write the laws, it is the duty of the courts to interpret those laws, and to provide remedies when the laws are in conflict. Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is based on that of the United States, the courts have the same obligations, and it is those obligations that the Supreme Judicial Court ruling fulfilled, when it found that the Department of Health's refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples was in violation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. To claim that by doing so the court practiced "judicial activism" is to evince that one does not understand the role of the courts in America. Furthermore, for one to claim "judicial activism" because the SJC of Massachusetts ruled in the absence of a popular vote, when one is an executive officer appointed by a court (with a highly contentious dissent, which includes judges appointed by members of one's own party), after receiving fewer votes than one's opponent, reeks of hypocrisy of the highest order. This is the kind of hypocrisy that demonstrates less about its speaker's views of the subject at hand -- constitutional law -- than it does about his views on those to whom the subject is applied -- gays and lesbians in the United States.
The President wants to be the first one in U.S. history to change the Constitution to deny rights to individuals To announce such a plan so near to Martin Luther King Day is surely a frightening legacy to leave.
Why did the President not do anything about the warnings given to him by the outgoing Clinton administration about Al Qaeda? The President would like us to believe that his administration does all it can to prevent terrorism, yet it has not explained why it sat on a report warning about planned Al Qaeda attacks for nine months -- until the beginning of September, 2001. If there is even a chance that by acting on this report earlier, the government could have prevented the attacks of September 11, the American people deserve to know what happened.
The jobless rates statistics that we hear every week are dismal enough, but they actually mis-represent the state of the job market. For any given week, it seems, when the government announces that jobless rates are down, what they mean is that the number of new unemployment claims this week is fewer than the corrected number from last week, which is actually thousands more than the number that was reported a week ago, just as the corrected number for this week, which will be released next week, will be thousands more than the number reported today. Not only does the number of new jobless claims fail to account for people who have given up looking for work, and fail to demonstrably, accurately tally the number who have actually found work, it is always inaccurate -- and, evidently, always on the low side. Like some sort of fake perpetual motion machine, reporting the numbers this way, constantly revising past information and reporting on the un-corrected new information, it gives the impression that the jobless rate is constantly falling, when it is not.
With the number of uninsured, the cost of health care, the cost of insurance, and the jobless rate all increasing, why does the United States, almost singularly amongst the industrialized nations of the world, not have universal health care? There are now more than 40 million citizens without health insurance in the United States. Our infant mortality rate ranks 23rd behind the best in the industrialized world. Meanwhile, we plan to spend an unspecified amount of money -- "less than 1 percent of the Federal budget" -- to go to Mars -- much of which will go to aerospace contractors with ties to the arms industry. Are these the priorities you want for the United States?
Why hasn't the president explained about his close family ties to Al Qaeda and the bin Laden family -- closer (in the same way that 90 is a bigger percentage than 0), in fact, than Saddam Hussein's? While the media cover the President's photo opportunities, they -- with the exception of Vanity Fair -- fail to mention not only his close family ties with the bin Ladens in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, but the administration's assistance escorting members of the family out of the U.S. in the days following September 11.
Bush cuts veterans benefits, and refuses to attend funerals for those who have died fighting his war. He claims that his is the party that supports the troops -- yet his is the party, often under his explicit leadership, that continues to cut health benefits, pay, and pension benefits for current and retired servicepeople. My grandfather served this country for decades, and, as a reward, has seen his health care cut shockingly in the last few years.
Ultimately, I'll leave the reader to determine what this says about our current administration and whether the media are fulfilling their mission -- to keep the populace informed about current events and about not only what people in power say, and how much they may claim to love their country, but also about what they actually do.
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