Sagittarius approaches, the month of the dreamer. As slender and nearly invisible as a bowstring is the dream that a fair recount in Ohio will yield a sufficient amount of truth to change the identity of the oath taker on January 20.
I don't believe in Bush's popular victory either, when one million Florida votes were trashed before voting day, or even on early voting days. Here we are judging the Ukrainian election results invalid. Ironies abound. The Bush people behave like phonies, too. Something about the disingenuousness of their facial expressions and body language.
So many Democrats have given up and are busy padding themselves with enough insulation to survive the next four years. Today is Thanksgiving. I am grateful for what I have but know that in this unsteady climate it could be swept out from under me in two seconds. I am but two generations removed from my Holocaust victim forebears. That is what happened to them. I have photos, of people glowing with life a year before the end, of survivors who look like cancer patients under chemo, their wrists tattooed for life.
I have photo after photo of crowds of people, crowds of faces, hands, feet, dreams rallying against election 2000 and then against the Iraq invasion. Some of these stand ready to become part of my 2005 calendar. But I am waiting, hope against hope, for occasion to recreate this calendar into a celebration of, rather than desperate clinging to wispy vestiges of, democracy.
I am waiting for Kerry to be named president. As Edwards said at Haverford last month, their candidacy represents the American dream.
As to the other calendar already in mechanicals, it too ends on a note of hope.
Copyright © Marta Steele 2004. All rights reserved.
NOTES ON THE SAYINGS OF PAPA CHOM
(on Yasser Arafat, Iraq, and the Draft)
(Lecture by Noam Chomsky
at the Coalition for Peace Action's 25th Anniversary Conference,
Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ, 11/14/04)
by Marta Steele
"We live in an extremely free country. The U.S. is nothing like the
countries that receive our military assistance. We are the freest country."
"It's, the culture, stupid!"
Implication of a New York Times article: "We support democracy as long as it comes out the right way." That is, we opposed elections in Palestine while Arafat was alive, because we were afraid he'd win, which would imply support for Hamas.
New York Times on Arafat: he never reached the heights of Sadat," who won back the Sinai through a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 because he was able to reach out to Israelis and address their fears and hope with his visit to Jerusalem in 1977.
Advice: Always start at the end of a newspaper article, which usually has the most interesting information. "The first paragraph usually has something for the headline writers and for the casual reader."
The U.S. and New York Times are an obstruction to the state of Palestine:
--Time and again the establishment of two separate states has been vetoed by the
--Sadat offered a peace treaty to Israel in 1971, which Israel rejected. U.S. support
of Israel led to the 1973 war and the Camp David accords to 1979, when Israel
accepted the 1971 peace offer.
This is one example of the reshaping of history.
What picture of war do the media present? How does that affect public opinion?
--answer in Friel and Falk, Record of the Paper: Fifty Years of the New York
Times on U.S. Foreign Policy.
The U.S. never violates international law; the New York Times cheerfully depicts violation of the Geneva accords. In 1996 Congress legislated that the penalty for violation is capital punishment; Ashcroft's replacement, Gonzalez, stated that the U.S. has the right to rescind the Geneva accords.
The Nuremburg trials ruled that preemptive war violates the Geneva accords. The 1999 bombing of Serbia was an ongoing genocide. The State Department published justifications for it. The atrocities were rooted in the bombing and did not cause it.
Impact on the public? The press lied about Iraq in 2002: Iran and Kuwait hated Saddam but did not fear him. According to polls, 75% of the population say we shouldn't have invaded Iraq—that we went to war based on lies; 50% approve of the war (no contradiction here; this is how polling works).
A different track: We the people versus we the government. The evidence is clear: the public accepts the UN charter and rejects preemptive war.
80% of the population approve expansion of healthcare and other public services—so that it is politically possible to implement but blocked by the insurance and drug companies who oppose it.
Bush supporters don't accept many of Bush's views; Kerry supporters are a bit more accepting of their candidate's views. According to Gallup surveys, 10% of voters voted on issues and the others voted for "qualities": "It's the culture, stupid!"
There is little similarity between the image and reality: business is happy over the Bush "victory," not because they oppose gay marriage [laughter here]; the election did not reflect the mood of the country; the "stolen election" is an intellectual concern.
Last March (2003) the Spanish election won great praise for its role in the New Europe; a country is a member of the New Europe in accordance with its agreement with Bush's policies, and so one year later, 3/2004, Spain was condemned for appeasing terrorism just because the people agreed with 70% of Americans about the Iraq invasion.
In Spain there is an awareness of public opinion; in the U.S. polls are needed to determine it.
The leader of countries who want peace is turning out to be China. The U.S. can no longer lead the world to peace.
How do the media contribute to the huge U.S. deficit? See two on-line studies of public opinion: the Program of International Policy Attitudes and the Chicago Council on International Relations.
Public opinion now states that the Vietnam war was not a mistake but fundamentally immoral and wrong—there were too many U.S. fatalities. The war was fought by civilians who ended up on drugs and opposed orders—that's why the war ended [implied:
not because of protest at home, as accused by right wing with Kerry as symbolic leader]
This month's Harper's magazine has an article on the 9/11 Commission cover-up; Chomsky's opinion is that the commission simply did not ask the right questions, such as Why do the Arabs hate us?
Because the U.S. supports brutal and oppressive methods to reach oil resources. The Wall Street Journal was the only publication to study Arabs directly after 9/11. They found that the hugely wealthy Arabs hate the U.S. government, especially its support of Israel, which only 17% of the U.S. population approves of.
Regarding the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, Saddam had carried out all his crimes with our help. Stability is defined as "doing what we say." The Iraqis couldn't overthrow Saddam because of the sanctions. Those same rich Arabs are bin Laden's main target. Every act of violence is a gift to bin Laden.
On the likelihood that the U.S. draft will be reinstated, Chomsky said it was unlikely; he himself was never against the draft—the army should be the citizens' army. The top brass want a mercenary army of the disadvantaged to reflect the attitudes of society.
Top media officials are skeptical of the media. In the 1960s the Pentagon financially supported MIT, even though Chomsky and others were protesting the Vietnam war outspokenly. He avoided being thrown in jail because of distraction caused by Tet Offensive. "The trials were called off."
In answer to the question how an elementary school teacher can teach the truth to his students: "Do you want him to lose his job?" Then more seriously, "Have the students research the truth of news reported by the media.
The elections are framed by the PR industry the same as "the guys who sell you toothpaste." The U.S. elections are run on qualities and values, not issues. The candidates are taught to be unclear on the issues; Bush has been trained to produce malapropisms to appeal to the people. The New York Times asks him silly questions, as opposed to European newspapers, which have intelligent discussions and interchanges.
Vietnam wasn't really an issue in the 2004 election (though Kerry's record was). Chomsky's question is What was Kerry doing in the very south of Vietnam when it had been destroyed and the fighting was centered farther north when he was there?
(With help from Amy Goodman's on-line [partial] transcript, http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/15/1448219#transcript)
PROFESSOR ALAN SCHECHTER VISITS
Princeton Wellesley Club
Sunday, November 21, 2004
by Marta Steele
Alan H. Schechter, Professor (Emeritus); Director, Wellesley Washington Summer Internship Program, has taught American constitutional issues, politics, and public policy at Wellesley College for 42 years. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 2003, but continues to direct the Wellesley Washington Internship Program and a Wintersession course entitled "Washington Decision-Making." Professor Schechter was appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President Clinton in 1994, reappointed in 1997, and selected for a third three year term in 2000. The author of numerous publications, Professor Schechter has been honored with a Fulbright Scholarship, and has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Ford Foundation, the US Steel Foundation, the Danforth Foundation, and the Huber Foundation for his research and his commitment to undergraduate teaching. (source: Wellesley College Web site)
rofessor Alan Schechter has never seen the Wellesley campus so forlorn over an election, not in the forty-two years he has taught there. Bush supporters are rare.
Two weak candidates ran against each other in election 2004, he said.
The election focused on the language of patriotism and morality—as if there was only one possible definition of patriotism and one definition of morality.
Further, the war in Iraq was a major factor in the president’s victory. Remember what a failure the administration was before 9/11, before he became a war president? The rise of the religious right wielded a large influence on voters. Eighty percent of evangelical Christians voted for Bush, whose campaigners bused large number of them to the polls—increased turnout by many evangelicals who hadn’t voted in 2000 was crucial for Bush.
This election must be viewed in a historical context. Liberals dominated in the 1960’s, led especially by LBJ, Earl Warren, and Martin Luther King. With popular support, they were able to push the pendulum in a progressive direction that was far different from the era of “normalcy” after the two world wars and the depression. The civil rights movement changed this country profoundly. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 broke southern segregation. When LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act, he said he feared the law will be “the death of my party.” At the time there was no religious right as a political force. Most of the southern politicians were Democrats—segregationists but otherwise not conservative in the social or economic arenas.
In the sixties sixteen out of the twenty-two southern senators were Democrats. Now only four remain. This development reflects not just a party switch, nor the influence of the business class—rather cultural values were at work converting Democrats to Republicans. In 1994, in the election of Clinton’s first mid-term occurred the Gingrich revolution. The Republicans took control over the House of Representatives and have dominated it ever since. The last time the Republicans controlled the House for so long was from 1920-1932. The immediate culprit was probably the Clintons’ attempt to come up with a universal healthcare plan, which was defeated in Congress.
Today there is an alliance between business-class and religious right Republicans that is as unstable as was the Democratic party under FDR, who never pushed for civil rights for reasons similar to those that have kept the Fulbright Program from ever winning the Nobel Peace prize despite the contribution of the Program to understanding of other nations and cultures through educational exchanges. Though he was not a racist, Fulbright had to vote as if he were in order to keep his seat in the Senate as a representative from Arkansas.
Schechter called both Earl Warren and LBJ heroic—LBJ because of the civil rights revolution he sponsored and Warren because of what his court accomplished: ruling against school prayer, application of the Bill of Rights to individual states, which meant, among other things, the right to counsel and reproductive rights. Roe v. Wade, though passed after Warren’s death, is based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The inventive construction (compare its even more distorted application in Bush v. Gore in 2000), which the professor called “hard to defend,” focused on the right to privacy and freedom of choice.
The result of this evolution toward a more egalitarian society was a rightwing backlash. The 1960s politicized the evangelical Protestants, who migrated en masse to the Republican party under the aegis of Richard Nixon. Jesse Jackson’s rhetoric angered them even more.
In the most recent election another Republican victory occurred: the RNC beat the DNC because it was better at communicating with potential supporters. 2.5 million pamphlets were distributed in Ohio alone to evangelical churches. The development of direct mail by Republicans was a key strategy, Schechter added later. Marketing is key, not think tanks, which both parties use. Exit polls showed that 75-80 percent of evangelicals voted for Bush. Democratic issues this time around were outsourcing and unemployment, the economic recession, and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In the sixties one-quarter of all U.S. workers were unionized; now that women have entered the workplace, only one-eighth of U.S. workers are in unions. Reflecting this curve, unions have declined in Ohio, as did the Catholic vote for Democrats, the latter because of the abortion controversy and the dispute over gay rights.
The state of Massachusetts is partially responsible for the election of Bush, Schechter continued. When the Massachusetts state Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legitimize gay marriage, many Americans became scared. Twenty-six states had already passed an amendment defining marriage as a bond between a man and a woman only, and 11 more states, primarily in the South and Midwest, passed similar amendments on November 2 by lopsided votes of from 60 to 75 percent. The decision by the White House to sponsor a constitutional amendment on this issue the month before the election sent a clear message to conservative votes. Also, it was easy for Karl Rove and the administration to link Senator Kerry with the support for gay rights in his own state, despite the fact that Kerry favored only civil unions, not marriage between gays. In terms of population segments, the idea of gay marriage is most disturbing to older white males, then older white females, and so on, in order, down the line. Incredibly, despite the election results, the U.S. population as a whole is pro choice. Certainly at Wellesley College the idea of equal rights for gays is extremely popular. The student body at Wellesley also supports universal health insurance, and reproductive rights.
There was also a backlash against Kerry’s war record and opposition to the Vietnam Was back in 1971, since many Americans believe that that war was lost because of opposition at home. The high point in the Kerry campaign occurred during the first debate, when he called the Iraq invasion the “wrong war at the wrong time.” He also promised to “wage a better war” than Bush and promised to regain our alliances with our traditional allies in Europe. However, Kerry’s promises were unconvincing, said Schechter.
Moreover, the Bush side of the campaign succeeded in negatively defining Kerry as a flip-flopper while the Democrats could not define Bush so effectively. Kerry made a bad mistake after it was clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when he said that given another chance he would still have voted to authorize Bush to wage war with Iraq. Kerry had a legitimate explanation for subsequently voting against the 87 billion for Iraq reconstruction, since a tax measure to pay for the bill was stripped from the legislation, but all that came through to the public was the comment by Bush that Kerry first voted for the bill and then voted against it. The limited amount of time devoted to news, amounting to seven minutes of sound bites per each half hour, does not allow for nuanced explanations.
Massachusetts voters know Kerry, but the rest of the country did not. Issues certainly determined the vote of most people, perhaps 60 percent or so, but personal appeal has an enormous impact on how “inattentive” voters decide to vote, and Kerry was unable to attract many of these voters. This latter group looks for personal appeal, charisma, and “trust,” and Bush gained the support of the majority of these voters. Kerry did not generate a feeling of personal warmth, although he improved as the campaign wore on. Kerry could not generate a majority out of all the voters who favored him because he was the alternative to Bush. In an election year that saw a large increase in the number of voters who turned out, Bush’s advisors, “not right but politically sagacious,” won him the election.
Will the Democrats run another Massachusetts liberal again? They have been remarkably stupid so far, said Schechter. A cliché about the Democrats is that they line up for a firing squad by forming a circle. The House Republicans are far more organized than the Democrats. Kerry is now trying to assert leadership in the Senate, which indicates he plans to continue in a leadership role. But in the last forty years only southern Democrats have won the presidency: LBJ, Carter, who was a born-again Christian, and Clinton, whose charisma succeeded wherever he went, from the humblest corner of the south to the elite audiences at Harvard.
Bush’s tax cuts reach out to the wealthy business community, who support his promise to make them permanent as one of his first actions in the new Congress. Other Republicans are alarmed at the impact these cuts will have on the economy their children inherit, a huge deficit they will have to pay off.
Predictions for the coming four years are that the new Congress will have to allow the importing of drugs from Canada, since there is so much support throughout the political spectrum for lowering drug prices. Positive outcomes are not predicted, according to Ted Kennedy, for increases in the minimum wage, the No Child Left Behind act, and reducing outsourcing of jobs to places like rural China. Schechter did point out that businesses that didn’t take advantage of lower labor costs, when they are available, are not going to survive. The Bush foreign policy will continue in its assertive, muscular pattern, reinforced by the electoral victory.
As far as further warfare is concerned, the Bush administration will be severely limited in its second term with countries like Syria, Iran, and North Korea (which now has 8 nuclear bombs) because the American military is fully engaged in Iraq. We will need to use diplomacy rather than force.
On the domestic level, what of the filibuster, called the only weapon that remains to Democrats, specifically applied to Bush’s very controversial judicial appointments? If the Democrats filibuster in the Senate, 67 votes will be needed to stop debate and proceed to a vote. However, “51 Republicans can unite to change the filibuster rule for judicial appointments,” said Schechter. Congress also has the power “to change the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.” There is a proposal being discussed to withdraw the jurisdiction of the Court to rule on the controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance. Both of these actions would be quite radical, since they would change the institutional balance dramatically. An early indication of whether the Republicans have the bit in their teeth will be whether efforts to make these changes are made in 2005. Several moderate Republicans may refuse to go along, however. Schechter said that a count of the votes will be made by the Republicans in private beforehand, to see if the votes are there to sustain such a change in procedure.
The survival of Roe v. Wade depends on the composition of the Supreme Court, with Sandra Day O’Connor the most crucial member. Politicians speculate that Hillary Clinton position in the Democratic Party is stronger as a result of the election, though she lacks her husband’s charisma and universal appeal. But as a New Yorker she is stereotyped in the red states. Can she appeal to them? “It’s unclear,” said Schechter, although he felt that the rise of the religious right politically makes it more difficult for her nationally.
Regarding the question whether a Democrat can win four years from now, Schechter said that Iraq can implode anytime; elections may not be held there because of the insurgent violence and threats of more. A Democrat could win, with Congress remaining in the hands of the far right, which would have been the scenario had Kerry won this time. “Congress resists change because of the power of incumbency,” said Schechter. Kerry might have stood up to the “moral right” but wouldn’t have been able to advance a progressive agenda.
On another subject, Schechter opined that the Bush support for Ariel Sharon has been a terrible mistake that stimulates Arab enmity. Sharon’s visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was a huge provocation, he said. The pro-Sharon policy appeals to many American Jews, but not to those who support the Peace Movement in Israel. However, the administration’s policy also appeals to the Christian right, who believe that Armageddon is coming and Jerusalem must be in Jewish hands before the Second Coming can occur. The Iraq war created countless new terrorists, continued Schechter, a destructive direction for the United States, which must regain its posture as honest broker in the Middle East.
To another audience questioner Schechter remarked that John McCain had advised Kerry not to “report for duty” as a major campaign theme. Many believe that the Vietnam war was lost because of “betrayal at home,” and Kerry had been an outspoken leader among veterans who came home and opposed the war.
As to the root causes of terrorism (which has been defined as the most effective way the powerless can oppose the powerful), Schechter’s definition was “hatred of our policies and deeds.” Neither Bush nor Kerry addressed this issue during the campaign; reassessment of the root causes must lead the US to support moderate Arab leaders, although this must be done sensitively since many of their people have become radicalized by the war. For example, 97 percent of Jordanians oppose the United States now—which could lead to a fundamentalist takeover, Schechter said.
And how can we find a Democratic candidate who will win? “Our direct primary system does not choose rationally,” answered Schechter. “The Iowa caucuses determined that Kerry would be the candidate.” Wesley Clark was the only candidate who appeared sufficiently broad appeal to beat Bush, but he entered the race too late and did not compete in Iowa; major contributors and campaign professionals had already decided to support other candidates by the time Clark entered the race. Clark’s personal background included southern origins, military heroism, hunting, and identification with Judaism, Protestantism, and Catholicism.
In the context of an anecdote proving that this country comprises such a large diversity of cultures, Schechter said that he frequently felt he had more in common with many Europeans than with rural southerners. He said that in the rural South many people he met had never met a Jew; because nearly all of the Jewish immigrants went to blue states. The anomaly that emerged was that the blue states encompass the most wealthy people of this country, while the poorest reside in red states.
Schechter believes that the Electoral College will never be eliminated because none of the lobbies have elimination as a major priority. He called it as sacred as the U.S. Constitution, as is the very undemocratic Senate, in which Alaska, with its population of five hundred thousand, has the same number of votes as does California, which has 27 million inhabitants. Democracy itself does not mean majority rule alone, but the separation of powers and the recognition of minority rights as set out in the Bill of Rights. Electoral votes are distributed proportionately, however, in Nebraska and Maine, but that concept is unlikely to spread.
A further problem raised by the audience was outsourcing as it relates to the unemployment of those in this country with only high school education. Schechter compared the problem to that in Japan, which outsources to rural China. “We are losing comparative advantage to low cost producing countries,” he said. Education must begin sooner (note that Bush has subtracted allocations from Headstart) and parents must become more involved. He added that most jobs are lost to automation, not to outsourcing, and it is inevitable that technological developments will lead to more and more automation in the future. “Education is the key to improving opportunities,” he concluded.
Copyright Marta Steele 2004. All rights reserved.
BLACK BOX TEA PARTY
ELECTION 2004 FRAUD PROTEST
NOVEMBER 27, 2004
by Marta Steele
“Democracy?” I offered, holding out a leaflet describing the latest stolen election and how it was accomplished. “Democracy?” People shook their heads “no” and kept walking.
I got creative. “Democracy or fascism? Take your choice,” and then, when I saw all the shopping bags, “Shop for a new president, not presents!”
About forty or fifty of us had convened this afternoon on the island in the midst of Times Square, for a “collective and symbolic dumping of our black box election” (according to votersunite.org) that includes simple pc programs any elementary school student these days can invade. The list of other violations of voter rights is endless and the methods and ingenuity varied. The end product is betrayal of the American people: both those who know and those still asleep.
“We were peaceful, the cops didn't bother us, and we handed out nearly 1,000 flyers to pedestrians,” said Alexis Adair who, along with votersunite.org, organized the rally. Members of Democracy for New York City, a branch of Howard Dean’s brainchild Democracy for America, also attended, among others.
According to Alexis (at www.dfnyc.org/cms/node/view/1117), “The goal is to raise visibility in the media about the major flaws in the electronic voting and vote tabulating systems, as well as other voting irregularities, suppression and fraud. . . . VotersUnite suggests throwing the boxes in a body of water, but we’re just going to throw our black boxes in the trash (that’s where so many of our votes went, anyway).”
“Questions the election; the exit polls were right!” was the most popular chant. Several signs encouraged us to emulate the Ukraine, whose citizens’ refusal to accept the wrong leader succeeded in nullifying the election results. A new election will be held there.
“What do we want? Democracy! When do we want it? Now!”
“You’ll be sorry!” warned another protestor repeatedly in a sing-song voice.
Some of the passers-by accepted leaflets. A few smiled in support. One Bush supporter screamed, “Four more years!” at us repeatedly. “Four more minutes!” I yelled back.
I took lots of digital photos. What had so few protestors shown up? Is our cause hopeless? What if the investigations that do occur reveal a Kerry victory? Will the Bushites just sit back and congratulate us?
What sort of corruption will attend the recount?
“If there is so much as one chance in a million that Bush will fall, I’ll do what I can,” I promised people yesterday.
State-by-state mobilizations are planned between now and December 18, including December 7, the day of official preliminaries to vote certification, and December 13, when electors meet throughout the country.
“Begin the fight without compromise to finally establish a uniform, verifiable voting system, throughout the entire country,” reads the leaflet of trueblueusa.org, whose representative handed out not only leaflets but small blue ribbon pins, looped around like other activist emblems, to indicate support of “blue state values,” those that we used to think characterized the whole country, now so bitterly divided.
Further information is available at the following websites: votersunite.org, freepress.org, bloggermann.com, gregpalast.com, wired.com/news/evote, blackboxvoting.org, therandirhodessow.com, buzzflash.com, chuckherrin.com/hackthevote, and stolenelection2004.com
Copyright © Marta Steele 2004. All rights reserved.
What Color Is My Country?
How did a county fairly evenly divided into “red” and “blue” turn all red?
by Ellen Shapiro
When Mao Zedong said, “The East is Red,” he wasn’t referring to New York and Pennsylvania. But that’s how those states—both of which John Kerry won—look on the county-by-county election results map that appeared on the networks, USA Today, and just about every other media outlet in the country on election night and the days following.
The map turned a close election into a decisive conquest.
Has there ever been a more widely disseminated—and misleading—piece of graphic design?
On that map, even California, which Kerry won by a million votes—his 54.6% to Bush’s 44.3%—is mostly red. A narrow blue swath of coastline defines the San Francisco bay area and a few other counties.
Everyone “knows” that the election was close: Bush 59,770,100—51%, Kerry 56,307,604—48%. Not that nearly three and a half million votes aren’t a victory. It’s just that this particular piece of graphic design has turned what people rationally “know” into what many of them want to believe.
And they’re getting their feelings validated.
However, as most schoolchildren who’ve studied a bit of U.S. geography could helpfully point out, the blue counties are the most densely populated; the red, if inhabited at all, are rural or suburban. In California, the red counties are primarily in the empty spaces: the Coastal Range, the Sierra Nevadas, the Mojave desert. The red parts of the U.S.A are the great plains, the deserts, the national forests, the Rockies: the most sparsely populated parts of the country.
No matter. The map has almost instantaneously, added new, polarizing, terms to our collective vocabulary. Now, everybody is “red” or “blue.”
Last weekend I was in the Cleveland area, where the November 7 edition of The Plain Dealer featured a full-page version of the map: almost the whole country awash in a crimson tide of moral triumph. The letters page was filled with communiqués by citizens dressing down the Democrats and the “liberal media,” whom they perceived as trying (and not succeeding) to dumb them down. “Don’t call us stupid!” they wrote. “Look at that map. See how much of the country we won! Now we can boldly move ahead with our mandate and get right-wing judges on the Supreme Court, ban abortion, get prayer in the public schools, etc., etc.”
I saw a different message in the results, something like this: “Bush and Co., congratulations on your win. But it’s a fairly slim one, and you’d better pay close attention to the 56.3 million citizens who didn’t vote for you and who are equally passionate about wanting a different agenda for the next four years.”
Ohio, of course, was one of the closest races: Bush 2.8 million; Kerry 2.7 million. But on this map, there are no in-between colors. “Close” has become a landslide.
Leaving political punditry to the experts who tell us what we’re thinking, I will try to restrain my comments to the graphic design of the map: It sucks.
Unlike a ballot whose unfortunate layout and production defects produced voter confusion and miscounted results, the original incarnation of the map could actually be attributed to a graphic designer. Yet nobody is stepping forward to take credit right now. Perhaps it was one person or perhaps it was a department, working under the direction of zealous editors or producers. In any event, some one (or ones) produced a piece of “information architecture” that in its intent and the results it achieved, is wrong.
When the AIGA published its Ethics Game more than a decade ago, AIGA members and chapters across the country submitted various ethical dilemmas, the answers to which ostensibly rated one’s ethical scale as a graphic designer. Some of the more poignant questions related to the use of the power and magic of graphic design to make data look like what it isn’t. (“Your client asks you to design a bar graph that inflates the company’s earnings. Would you… A: Refuse, call him an unethical creep
and resign the account; B: Alter the scale of the graph just a tad, carefully explaining your objection but not jeopardizing your client relationship; C: Do what he asks. After all, he’s paying the bill.”)
To a greater or lesser degree we graphic designers do have the power to influence opinion. And that seems to mean sometimes making things look like what they aren’t. Like making a company’s policies and actions look more altruistic than they are by designing a green, environmentally friendly looking logo. Or making the Bush team’s win look significantly larger and broader than it was.
A few people are getting it right, though.
Leave it up to the academics at our nation’s big universities. They have drawn some goofy looking but more accurate maps of red vs. blue distribution, with states re-proportioned by population, not geographic area. For example, go to: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/ and you’ll see how three researchers at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan physics department, Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman, have mapped the results by color.
The map that “was widely seen on election night and the days after,” as they put it, is described as follows:
“The (contiguous 48) states of the country are colored red or blue to indicate whether a majority of their voters voted for the Republican candidate (George W. Bush) or the Democratic candidate (John F. Kerry) respectively. The map gives the superficial impression that the “red states” dominate the country, since they cover far more area than the blue ones. However, as pointed out by many others, this is misleading because it fails to take into account the fact that most of the red states have small populations, whereas most of the blue states have large ones. The blue may be small in area, but they are large in terms of numbers of people, which is what matters in an election.”
How did they fix this problem? Describing their methodology, they write:
“We can correct for this by making use of a cartogram, a map in which the sizes of states have been rescaled according to their population. That is, states are drawn with a size proportional not to their sheer topographic acreage—which has little to do with politics—but to the number of their inhabitants, states with more people appearing larger than states with fewer, regardless of their actual area on the ground. Thus, on such a map, the state of Rhode Island, with its 1.1 million inhabitants, would appear about twice the size of Wyoming, which has half a million, even though Wyoming has 60 times the acreage of Rhode Island.”
Their maps make the United States, as we are used to seeing it, look like it got caught in a wind tunnel or casually tied like a silk scarf. But the distribution of red and blue is just about equal.
So why didn’t our “liberal media” print maps like that instead? A few, including The New York Times, did. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to make much difference in the American consciousness. Just this morning, two talk-show hosts were chatting about which “red” and “blue” states Hillary Clinton might be able to win in 2008.
Once a powerful piece of graphic design has made its point, the damage becomes very difficult to undo.
Ellen Shapiro is a graphic designer and writer based in Irvington, New York. She is a contributing editor of Print magazine and frequent contributor to Communication Arts. This article was written for VOICE, the online journal of graphic design published by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (www.aiga.org).
No More Wilderness
By Lillian Light
When the state of Utah sought to revoke wilderness protection for land that the Clinton administration had shielded from development, the state’s head lawyer, Connie Brooks, wrote the following to an Interior Department attorney: “We need a clear statement. No more wilderness.” According to the article, “Recasting Wilderness as Open for Business,” (LA Times,10-25-04) this appears to be the mantra of the Bush administration.
The 1964 Wilderness Act was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Initially, the law set aside 9 million acres, and banned oil and gas drilling, road building, logging, and off-road vehicles from those lands and from further acquisitions. Nor could any new mining claims, new reservoirs, power lines, or pipelines be established there. Over the last 40 years the national wilderness system has grown to 105 million acres, more than half of it in Alaska. Much of the rest is scattered through some of the nation’s most dramatic mountain country. This wilderness system takes up less than 3% of the lower 48 states. Until now, every president except Richard Nixon has added at least three million acres to America’s inventory of wilderness for the sake of wildlife, clean water sources, scientific study, and human enjoyment.
Now the Bush administration is ending a decades old policy of protecting wild land in its natural condition. In a sweeping policy shift Interior Secretary Gale Norton said that the department would no longer provide interim protection for lands nominated for wilderness designation, as it had been doing for decades. The Interior Department is barred forever from identifying and protecting wild land the way it has since 1964. Early in 2004, Representative Maurice Hinchey (D NY), joined by 103 members of Congress, including 23 from California, requested that Norton stop development on a portion of the 9.1 million acres of Utah land the lawmakers were trying to protect through a bill called America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. This bill covered all of the land that the Clinton era Bureau of Land Management (BLM) formerly declared had wilderness character. In September, for the third time this year, the BLM sold leases to oil and gas companies within the proposed wilderness area.
In 1998, the BLM put more than 440,000 acres of Utah’s scenic red rock wilderness off limits to industrial development. Utah then brought suit against the Clinton administration in order to revoke protection for 2.6 million acres of this land. Utah lost the case in the federal appeals court in 1998, but was allowed to file an amended complaint five years later. In a Bush-era court settlement, Utah won the right to revoke wilderness protection for the 2.6 million acres. Environmental groups have challenged the accord, arguing that it was an illegal backroom deal between Norton and Leavitt. A short time later, Bush appointed Leavitt head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Now the administration is all set to aid the development of other proposed wilderness areas including 43,600 acres in Western Colorado, huge areas of the rare temperate Tongass Rain Forest in Alaska, and mountainous areas of California.
Do you find it disturbing that we have just elected a president who is determined to open our roadless areas as well as our last wilderness areas to road construction, oil and gas drilling, mining, and off-road vehicle destruction? Then you must become a member of an environmental group that is fighting back. At the last meeting of our Environmental Priorities Network, our members wrote to the Price BLM chief. Since the settlement discussed above, only the Price BLM has issued a land-use plan, and it is destructive to the wilderness there. It leaves 98% of wilderness-quality lands open to oil and gas development, despite the fact that the U S Geological Survey estimates that those deposits would amount to 4 days worth of oil and 4 weeks worth of natural gas. It allows ORV use without limitation on much of the land within the Red Rock Wilderness Act area. I encourage you readers to write to the following address and to oppose the Price Resource Management Plan. Urge them not to designate any “open areas” where Off Road Vehicle use is allowed without limitation. Send a letter, card, or E mail to demand that the unique and scenic Red Rock wilderness area be maintained as nature’s habitat and protected from commercial exploitation.
Send mail to:
Price Bureau of Land Management
Attention: Floyd Johnson
125 S 600 West
Price, Utah, 84501 or
You will need to fight hard to protect America’s priceless natural heritage!!
A former chemistry teacher, Lillian Light served as president of the Palos Verdes/South Bay (California) Audubon Society from 1991 to 1994. She then became conservation chair and writes a column in their newsletter every other month. In early September of 2001 (just before 9/11), together with friends, she started the Environmental Priorities Network, which has run an Earth Day conference the last two Aprils, In November EPN is sponsoring a forum on diesel fuel air pollution, which is a big problem in the Los Angeles area.
BLOGGING: A NEW UNIVERSE IN CYBERSPACE
by Marta Steele
Five experts in the field of blogging (short for "web logging") comprised a panel "Everyone's Critic: The Rise and Resonance of Literary Blogging" Thursday evening, November 18, at the Small Press Center in Manhattan. Organized and moderated by WNBA's Janet Reid, owner of Jet Reid Literary Agency, the panel included Michael Cader, creator/publisher of PublishersLunch and PublishersMarketplace; Adam Hertz, vice president of engineering for Technorati; Wendy McClure, columnist for Bust magazine and author of I'm Not the New Me (Riverhead, 2005); the widely published Maud Newton of MaudNewton.com; and Sarah Weinman, contributing editor of January magazine, author of the blog www.sarahweinman.com, and newly appointed crime fiction columnist for the Baltimore Sun.
To Janet's first question, "How did you get into blogging?" Michael Cader answered that he was first a book packager, until about four and one-half years ago, at the end of the Internet boom, when he realized that "the real information is on the Web." Thence he produced the "Alpha Dog website of the publishing industry," PublishersLunch. The blog serves thirty thousand people daily, "looking for news about people, promotions, hot deals, and reviews." With his thriving blogs that began as "links and lists," Cader "realized people were writing about his business and liked reading about it." He called the blogging process "an experiment in putting my internal conversations onto the Web."
Sarah Weinman started blogging after completing graduate school in New York and returning home to Toronto. She began reading blogs and, through following links to other blogs, "liked what they did." She conceived of her own blog as a combination of sensibility and her knowledge of crime fiction. One day in October 2003, she surfed to blogging.com and "by the first weekend I was addicted."
For Maud Newton, who as an adult first worked as a lawyer and then for an accountant, blogging represented "a new way to procrastinate." She began blogging on authors and articles, which "soon became an obsession, focusing more and more on books . . . an amazing community of other bloggers, never enough."
An MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa,'s celebrated writers' program, back in Chicago Wendy McClure first wrote as a "pitiless critic" for a website called "TV without Pity." She then started an on-line journal about her experiences with Weight Watchers, which evolved into a blog that she described as "more personal than the others' here." She said that after a year she heard from both agents and authors.
Adam Hertz came to the WNBA panel from Technorati in San Francisco, "the leading Internet aggregator and search engine for blogs and the live Web." Technorati is less about literary blogging, more about "collecting information from 4.7 million blogs and acquiring ten thousand more every day . . . a Google for blogs and much more": there are .5 million posts a day linking to an index of what interests people that also measures authors' popularity. There is an engine for "who's linking to URLs—"for instance, who refers to Maud's blog, how many, and what do they say?" Another department of Technorati, "booktalk," links to amazon.com to inform about "what books readers are linking to now."
The high perspectival point was Janet's question "Are bloggers a new form of journalism? Are they replacing newspapers (there are fewer newspapers in New York than there used to be)?"
"The idea of competing with newspapers is a misconception," answered Newton, "but we often respond to them. There is a journalistic aspect to blogging--anything from personal critical essays to a photo of your dog." She specified the blog Beatrice, written by Ron Hogan, who was in the audience. She likes his reports on literary events, she said. "Blogs are conversations," she said, "a new way but unthreatening to newspapers." "The media read us for ideas and stories," she later added.
Sarah Weinman sees blogging as "seeking information and sharing it with the rest of the world." As a former lawyer, Newton is concerned with meticulous crediting of sources. Cader called Regarding blogging during this election year, the issue "complex and challenging . . . "a myth of objectivity that falls down." Expanding on the issue of transparency, that is, revealing every source used in a blog, McClure said that readers deserve respect and "want to know sources."
Adam Hertz does not see blogging as doom for mainstream journalism, but rather, in that blogs often feature news, they lead journalists to more accountability. They also add to news stories. For example, when the New York Times reported that an author slapped a critic for a poor review of his book, Newton was offered another version of the event, which she blogged only after receiving the account by email from its source. Hogan said that the author came to his blog and called him a "minor man" when he wrote about the incident.
McClure said that blogs can correct themselves more easily than newspapers can, while Hertz opined that "bloggers can't take it back; bloggers must think twice about posting." "Don’t write anything that you wouldn't want screamed to you on the bus," said McClure. Newton and Weinman both remarked that their blogs steer entirely clear of gossip. Weinman noted that she never publishes friends and is cautious about having publishers advertise on her site, worried about conflict of interests. But "if you trust and like a blogger, you can challenge mighty organizations," Cader added. Newton advised an audience questioner to "know what your bloggers want—bloggers are increasingly important in the literary world."
You can gain income by accepting advertisements on your blog or you can self-promote in many ways, was a point that emerged during the question period. "Web advertising is growing—affordable and effective, but it can't support content," noted Cader. Weinman remarked that author blogs also discuss the publication process from manuscript to bound book, including promotion and illustrations. An author can discuss his/her latest book and then refer back to earlier work once readers show interest.
Both Newton and Weinman told a publicist questioner that they go through volumes of books to select subjects for review but don't want to be bombarded; Newton said she refuses to "lend" her site to a publicist for a day for promotional or any other purposes.
Copyright © Marta Steele 2004. All rights reserved.
On a Lighter Note …
Sim, Vandalism, Não: ICOGRADA Design Week Discovers São Paulo’s Graffiti
by Ellen Shapiro
(first published at http://www.brazilmax.com/news.cfm/tborigem/pl_southcentral/id/20)
São Paulo - In the world’s third-largest city, there is no shortage of graffiti. From its colonial center to centers of international commerce; from the poorest favelas to the walls surrounding the graveyards that honor the ancestors of the metropolitan area’s 18 million inhabitants, it can seem as if nearly every surface is tagged with angular, prosaic, gang-related graffiti.
One neighborhood (bairro in Portuguese) stands out: Vila Madalena. This working-class enclave of narrow streets has become the canvas of a group of street artists who work in airbrush, spray paint, paintbrush, marker, chalk, and collaged magazine pages. Their names are Ana, Artur, Eliana, Juliana, Marciano, Mazilla. Layer upon layer, they’ve created a mixed-media streetscape of rich orange and blue and metallic gold letterforms, images and words that delighted the graphic designers from around the world who attended the ICOGRADA (International Council of Graphic Design Organizations) Design Week in May 2004.
It may be no coincidence that three decades ago current ICOGRADA president, Danish graphic designer Mervyn Kurlansky collaborated with U.K. photographer Jon Naar and U.S. novelist/essayist Norman Mailer on The Faith Of Graffiti, a 1974 book that compared New York’s taggers to Giotto and Rauschenberg — and that a metropolis rich in graffiti was selected for this conference.
Kurlansky's sentiments were not shared by most New Yorkers, however, and the rise of the art form he celebrated so alarmed the populace that cans of spray paint are kept in locked cabinets in hardware stores, harder for minors to buy than bottles of whisky. Today, the police are encouraged by the mayor’s task force to “arrest individuals who commit graffiti crimes.”
But in America Latina, everything is different. Visitors to São Paulo soon grasp the true meaning of Latin American magic realism: it’s everywhere in the cities and the countryside; you feel it in the people, the music, the food, the drinks (caipirinha!), the art, the air. Magic can happen. You might not dig into a sack of rice, find a string, pull on it and draw out a necklace of genuine pearls, as did Eréndira in the famed tale by Gabriel García Márquez (with a film version by Ruy Guerra set in Paraty). But you do feel different, bewitched. Things don’t happen the same way they do at home. Here, graffiti still has connotations of fine art. It’s poetry, not vandalism.
Even the conference was different. It wasn’t just the modernist venue and multimedia staging, the nonstop events, parties, gallery openings. It was the amazing cross-cultural mix of speakers from around the world. My talk, introducing the conference theme of “Fronteiras,” took a brief visual look at the frontiers of design, from cave paintings to “greenwashing” by corporate multinationals. Other speakers included Max Bruinsma of The Netherlands on cross-cultural communication; Fumi Massuda of Japan on sustainability; Kurnal Rawat of India on Mumbai street graphics, including some pretty amazing do-it-yourself license plates and decorated taxicabs. Of aboriginal background herself, Alison Joy Page of Australia spoke about designing community centers for indigenous peoples; Bennett Peji of San Diego on developing the first Filipinotown in the U.S.; Ronald Shakespear of Argentina unlocked urban design codes (using typically Latin, flowery language to do so); and Garth Walker of South Africa introduced his remarkable typeface for the Johannesburg Courts, based on vernacular prison and street lettering.
It’s not surprising that the speakers and other attendees were enchanted by Vila Madalena and spent an afternoon madly snapping pictures of the walls and of each other. I was especially taken with one little girl, Taís, whose family’s house (see photo) is layered with some of the most compelling graffiti in the bairro.
Our guide, Marina Chaccur, an energetic young designer who had been in charge of volunteer events that week, translated some of the graffiti from Portuguese for us:
“Tem um cara aqui que pensa que é pássaro.” - “There’s a guy here who thinks he’s a bird.”
“I want to do whatever idea comes to my mind. You should do it, too.”
Recalled ICOGRADA board member and past president Robert L. Peters: “A bunch of us foreigners explored this particularly colorful part of the city and photographed this ephemeral work.” Along the way we stopped for a cold beer or three (the hot sun demanded this) and bumped into two more of Marina’s friends: Milena Codato and Daniel Vilela. A keen observer of São Paulo graffiti, Vilela explained the unique straight-letter style called pichação. He also offered to share his on-line collections of pictorial images, and provided a link.
Daniel also mentioned The Twins (Os Games), a renowned pair of graffiti-artist brothers, and supplied another link.
Ellen Shapiro is a California-born graphic designer and writer headquartered in Irvington, New York. Her work can be seen and read at the website of her company Shapiro Design.
This issue is dedicated to the American Dream and its realization.
Election 2004 isn't over year.
Season's joyous greetings
All writing and photography, unless otherwise noted, copyright © Marta Steele 2003.
All rights reserved.