Viewpoint: Working the system -- Minimum turnout law can actually discourage voting.
Viewpoint: Expanded Access -- New policies will better serve and inform the public.
Viewpoint: Tampering with the Truth -- Media and public pass on propaganda.
Letters: EW readers sound off.
Working the System
Minimum turnout law can actually discourage voting.
When you voted in the last election (and I hope that you did), you may have noticed in your green Ballot Booklet the following words included in the summary of each city of Eugene tax or bond obligation measure:
"This measure may be passed only at an election with at least a 50 percent voter turnout."
Well, that sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it? The idea, of course, is that money cannot be extracted from the voters without a robust turnout to demonstrate that the people are truly willing to pay for whatever is being proposed. But this voter turnout law can do some very peculiar things to the election process.
Let's look at a hypothetical election where, for simplicity's sake we'll assume that there are just 100 registered voters. A measure appears on the ballot calling for a tripling of property tax rates in order to build a mayor's mansion. The Eugene electorate, having money to burn, is clearly in favor of this wise proposal, and every poll indicates that the support is overwhelming.
On election day the ballots are counted, and indeed the polls are correct: 47 out of the 100 registered voters have voted "yes" on the measure. Only a paltry two voters have pooped on the party by voting "no." (The rest of the electorate is on vacation in Belize, and having way too much fun to bother voting!) The numbers look like this:
"Yes" votes: 47 percent. "No" votes: 2 percent. No shows: 51 percent. Voter turnout: 49 percent
So what happens? Sadly, despite overwhelming support, voter turnout fails to meet the 50-percent requirement. The measure goes down to defeat, and the mayor must do without.
Now suppose in a slight variation of the above scenario: At the last minute, one vacationer decides that the new tax might actually cut into her jet-ski budget. She locates her ballot, finding it wedged between the sunscreen and the piña colada mix, and hastily fills it out, voting "no" on the ballot measure, and mailing it in. Now the tally looks like this:
"Yes" votes: 47 percent. "No" votes: 3 percent. No shows: 50 percent. Voter turnout: 50 percent.
So what happens? Our civic-minded vacationer has single-handedly managed to reverse the election results. (Who says your vote doesn't count?) But amazingly, she has reversed it in the direction exactly opposite from how she voted. By voting at all, she has validated the election, having brought the voter turnout up to the required 50 percent. In voting "no," she has effectively voted "yes"!
And you thought that the Electoral College was nuts! The minimum turnout law can actually discourage people from voting against measures they oppose. My friend Neil told me that he in fact refrains from voting in elections containing ballot measures that he opposes, in order to avoid validating those elections. He's hoping to defeat measures that might otherwise pass. It is a manipulation of the system, carried out at the cost of disenfranchising himself from the opportunity to vote for or against any other issues and candidates. How many more "Neils" are out there? Enough to distort a real election?
When support and opposition on a revenue measure are relatively even, and voter turnout is expected to be high, as in a presidential election, those opposed to a revenue measure will of course do best by voting against it. But when voter turnout is expected to be low, as in an off-year election, the best strategy may well be to simply not vote and thus tank the election.
Such an approach violates the basic concepts of democracy and citizenship, turning the election process into a game. According to Annette Newingham at Lane County Elections, the most recent election is the only off-year election in the last decade to meet the 50 percent turnout requirement for revenue measures. This is disgraceful in and of itself. Compounding the neglect of democracy with this ill-conceived law is wrong. We should repeal it.
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New policies will better serve and inform the public.
On May 16, Eugene Weekly reported that a new "press pass policy" adopted by the Eugene Police Department will allow police to decide which media may cover protests. As a member of the Police Commission committee that developed the policy recommendations, I ask readers to take a few minutes to review the facts.
The committee had two goals in mind when reviewing police policies on media:
1) to ensure that police policies and practices maximize media access to events, recognizing that limitations will exist (e.g., privacy rights of involved parties, protection of crime scene evidence); and
2) to ensure that the procedures for release of information are inclusive, consistent and fair, recognizing both traditional and modern media.
The new policies have accomplished these goals, and have the support of not only the Police Commission, but also the local chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union. The police department plans to implement the policies July 1.
The new policies emphasize the essential role media play as the eyes and ears of the community. Prior to these changes, police policy was to treat the public and the media the same in terms of gaining access to incidents. While that may seem like the most equitable approach, the downside was that when the public was restricted from an area, so too were media. Now, by simply wearing an identification card, any member of the media can obtain greater access to events than that provided to the general public.
These identification cards are not issued by the city, but by the news organization that the media representative is affiliated with, or can be self-generated by independent media. Identification cards will only be necessary in cases where police have restricted access to an incident. Examples might be crime scenes, car accidents or public events that involve police enforcement actions. The intent of this change is to create an easy mechanism to distinguish media from other members of the public and then to provide those media with closer access to incidents.
The new policies also allow those media with identification cards to remain in an area following a crowd dispersal order from police, unless the dispersal order specifically includes the media. When all other options for accommodating media access fail, the policies provide for the formation of a media pool, with the pool composition determined by members of the media, not the police. These changes represent expanded access opportunities for media, and will facilitate newsgathering activities during dynamic events.
The policies take a common-sense approach to those media who want to both participate in the event and document/report on the activities. People are free to be in dual roles unless they want to gain access to restricted areas. If they use their media identification cards to get closer to police actions, the policy requires that they limit their activities to newsgathering functions when inside restricted areas. The new policy also states that decisions on whether a person may be excluded or removed from the media area should be based on conduct, not group affiliation.
The policy revisions do not impose new restrictions on media. Media representatives who are philosophically opposed to wearing an identification card will have the same reporting and access rights as they did prior to the policy revisions: the same as the general public. Individuals who want to maintain dual roles as both event participants and media will continue to have the same access as before.
Tensions between the police and media, both of which have a legitimate and important responsibility to the public, are not unique to Eugene. The policy changes adopted offer pragmatic solutions to a complex set of issues, and are fair and inclusive of all media. And while they may not resolve everyone's concerns, keep in mind that policies are living documents that can and will be modified over time.
On behalf of the Police Commission, thanks to all those who worked with us over the past nine months to revise these media policies. By ensuring broad media access, we believe that the new policies will better serve and inform the community. More information on this topic and other Police Commission activities is available on-line at www.ci.eugene/or.us/policecomm/index.htm
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Tampering with Truth
Media and the public pass on propaganda.
I received an e-mail from Bethlehem the other day. The author was a Palestinian academic whom I had interviewed for an article about a month back, and I was one of a long list of recipients, mostly academics and writers. The message was supposed to have originated in Jenin at the height of the fighting, written by a Palestinian man cowering in his home as Israeli soldiers raped the female members of his family in the adjoining room. The text was graphic and the tone was one of raw fear and immediacy. It had been forwarded under the title "JUST READ IT!!!"
As I sat in my home in Jerusalem, a mix of emotions overwhelmed me. Revulsion and anger mixed with resignation and a certain hardening of the self that I find myself undergoing with increased frequency these days. Underlying it all though was a sense of doubt. Something about the message rang false and every instinct I possessed told me that I was looking at a piece of propaganda. But how to prove it? More importantly, in the absence of proof, how was I to feel about it? How would that affect my postion in the midst of this conflict? In the end I saved the message and filed the decision away in my mind amidst a host of similar shades of gray and half-digested questions. The news was bad that day and I had work to do.
Two days later I received another message. It was from another of the list-serve recipients whose initial reaction to the forwarded account had been one of dismay. The story had raised some red flags with him too, though, and he decided to check it out. He looked for families in Jenin by the names cited and/or for records of such atrocities. Instead he found undeniable evidence that the message was a hoax. The Palestinian academic who had forwarded the original message contacted us all and apologized, ending as usual with platitudes of peace. They rang hollow for me, though, and the whole experience represents a disturbing trend.
Too many these days speak of peace on the one hand while carelessly starting fires with the other. Those who rally behind the bits of propaganda that are generated often have good intentions. What they seem to lack is knowledge, a sense of history and a willingness to understand that every conflict has at least two sides. Such ignorance is easily played upon by pro-Palestinian media sources producing increasingly anti-Israel invective
Recent events in Jenin present a good example. The Palestinian media, human rights organizations and individuals, immediately claimed "massacre" and even staged fake funerals ("corpses" were captured walking away on camera). Palestinian leaders in Jenin encouraged the digging up of 2-year-old bodies to dump in mass graves, and refused to allow decomposing bodies to be cleared away in order to increase "evidence" of Israeli offenses. But when the initial uproar had subsided, consensus among human rights organizations, foreign reporters and the UNRWA was unanimous. No "masasacre" took place in Jenin.
In fact, according to Fatah numbers only 56 Palestinians, many armed and returning fire, were killed during fighting. Rather than just bombing the area — the norm amongst Western armies — the IDF entered Jenin on the ground, reflecting a desire to minimize civilian casualities. Israeli forces also bused out civilians before beginning operations. In contrast to terror tactics that target civilians indiscriminately, Israeli action does not reflect a policy of wanton destruction of human life. But even though there was no "massacre" in Jenin, the damage of this fabrication has already been done.
By introducing into the public consciousness a concept as horrendous as "massacre," Palestinian sources established the point from which any ensuing dialogue must proceed. Therefore, even as it emerged that no such atrocity took place, ground has already been gained in that a certain percentage of the international population was prepared to believe the worst of Israeli forces, regardless of the reality of the situation.
A Palestinian leadership that falsely claims as many as 500 people dead, and human rights organizations that create fictitous accounts like the one I received, are disturbing. Even more disturbing are international media outlets that uncritically promote these lies, whether in print or online, and readers that immediately accept them as fact. Encouraging blatantly anti-Israel opinion in this way only affirms for Palestinian leaders that they can generate sympathetic coverage regardless of the truth, and shamelessly manipulate both the media and the public. Supporters of human rights and peaceful coexistence cannot ignore the implications of such actions. Nor can we escape becoming implicated ourselves, unless we learn to listen fairly and critically to the voices that are crying out from both sides of this conflict.
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THE SAFE SIDE
Kathleen Tyson's letter (5/23) misrepresented my opinion (4/25) about the ethics of publishing information implying "HIV is harmless" without any cautions. I agree that the suppression of scientific dissent is unethical, but so is misleading gay men into acquiring HIV via bareback anal sex.
Peter Duesberg, the leading scientist who believes that "HIV doesn't cause AIDS," refuses to prove it by infecting himself because he is worried that an undiscovered co-contaminant might cause AIDS, according to the carefully documented interview notes in Edward Hooper's book, The River, which links African HIV infections to 1950's polio vaccine shots. Everybody should be scared of being infected given that Duesberg is scared.
Duesberg's personal decision to avoid being infected with HIV required no scientific proof. Duesberg is also right that much stronger scientific proof should be required before harmful anti-HIV drugs are prescribed to delay the onset of AIDS or "just to be on the safe side" as Lucas Spiegel (5/9) said. The iatrogenic harm that was caused by AZT is tragic, but it is irrelevant in making a decision to avoid infection.
Before you volunteer to become an HIV-infected human lab rat, in an unethical experiment to prove Duesberg is right, please read "The Evidence That HIV Causes AIDS" (11/29/2000 www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/evidhiv.htm) by the National Institutes of Health. Don't donate your life to science on a whim!
This letter is in response to Kari Johnson's letter (5/9) "Who Decides?"
I must say I've been a feminist for a long time, yet I have a huge problem with pointing fingers at an entire sex. Saying men are in "low level warfare against women"? What about all of the males that love and honor their mates, mothers, daughters and grandmothers?
Is the hate you feel really for "men," as a massed together conglomerate, or for a certain type of mentality that exists?
In the last line of your letter, you liken men to "rich, colonizers." You liken women to "poor, colonized." How can you declare such a massive generalization? Is it really that black and white? I think there are quite a few spirits born into male bodies this time around that would disagree with you.
I also believe it's quite possible that your narrow point of view comes from experiences in a somewhat isolated section of one country in the entire world of people. All of the stereotypes you place on others, will many times fall back on you. And remember, you can't have a yin without a little yang.
Mayor Torrey made some statements in reference to the newly elected City Council in Wednesday's (5/22) Register-Guard that were presumptuous and simplistic. He said that electing Jennifer Solomon and George Poling is a clear message from voters for predictability on the council and "... when the voters tell you to put a road in west Eugene, you put a road in west Eugene." He ignores the fact that David Kelly won his ward handily with 71 percent of the votes cast. This does not sound like a clear message of predictability to me. As far as the voters saying they want a road in west Eugene, I would like to remind Mayor Torrey that almost 50 percent of us voted against the parkway.
Parkway proponents spent a whopping $6 per vote to wage a campaign of misinformation that only managed to garner a slim majority of votes. All this showed was that advertising works. We already knew that!
I challenge the new City Council to follow the recommendations of the Eugene Planning Commission, who represent us all, and vote "no" on the parkway.
I typically exist outside of the political sandbox and have little use for a liberal "feel good" advertising rag like EW. I am interested in a social movement that strives to understand the immensity and immediacy of our situation and the fundamental change that is required to put an end to the brutal authority being imposed over the entire planet.
I have been mostly ignoring the predictable and moralistic pleas from pacifists demanding that we utilize only their symbolic and ineffective tactics, their condemnation of anarchists who would dare to suggest the use of "violence" as an act of self defense or for revolutionary change, and the numerous personal attacks and slander toward anyone with the courage to publicly state their complete opposition to this system. Although I have little desire to continue down this endless rhetorical dead end, after a letter from a self-righteous authoritarian, named Kenneth Cater (5/16), I feel that it is important to add just a few comments.
Cater calls us "agents provocateur ... secret agents hired to penetrate some organization to incite trouble ... as a way to turn public opinion against progressive causes." Well, Kenny, most anarchists, while being open to individuals who might identify as "progressive," want nothing to do with your "liberal organizations," which only work to legitimize the state and make you feel good.
He goes on, "I believe that all advocates of violence are agents provocateur, knowingly or not, and should be treated as such by the progressive movements. ... something needs to be done to keep them from discrediting the moral causes they would destroy."
You seem to be clear that you align yourself with the apparatus of the state, much like those who assaulted and snitched on window breakers in Seattle. You promote a method of change that arrogantly reproduces the same repressive society we currently live within.
I will continue to disturb the "peace" of "business as usual" in this death-culture that you wish to see "progress" and I wish to destroy so that we may all live a harmonious existence with all of life.
Society does not change overnight. When some anarchists ask why we do not live in a perfect utopia as a result of nonviolent movements, they ask the wrong question. The meaningful question is whether society is being moved in more humane directions.
Nonviolence has been anything but "passive." Issues confronted include slavery, women's right to vote, expulsion of colonial powers, civil rights, Vietnam, farmworkers, nuclear power and weapons. In every case, disciplined nonviolent resistance successfully brought the issue into sharper focus and shifted public opinion. Abundant documentation (requested by anarchist letter-writers) can be found in the book The Power of the People: Active Nonviolence in the U.S. and at: www.warresisters.org
Replacing the "belly of the beast" (corporate capitalism) with a nonviolent economics based on democratic cooperatives (see www.coop.org) and a non-consumptive lifestyle (see www.ic.org) is urgently needed. Achieving change within the current framework is not a "sell-out" that confers "legitimacy" on the system. This anarchist analysis fails to comprehend the critical need to slow down the corporate juggernaut's assault on life-sustaining ecosystems WHILE we work to dismantle it. Apathy toward powerful efforts to establish this slowdown — such as initiatives banning corporate money from elections — brings glee to corporate boardrooms.
I applaud Alice Parman's call (5/23) for an end to personal character attacks, and hope this applies to all debate participants. If Zerzan does not "advocate violence against living beings," why not un-muddle this message by disassociation, from a publication (Green Anarchy) which does?
The world is already saturated with violence — both structural and overt. Hearing a "solution" of yet more violence (political rather than self-defense), many rightfully hesitate. If anarchists wish to "strike a blow" for the "liberation" of Earth, may it be a strike against the pervasive violence itself that already oppresses us all.
Most of the damage that has been perpetrated on Oregon in the past few years by con artists, highbinders and other scammers has been by way of constitutional amendments put on the ballot by paid signature gatherers and sold to the public by spacious advertising campaigns. As a result, the Oregon Constitution must be about the size of War and Peace by now.
The only way to put a stop to this hijacking of our legislative process is to vote down constitutional amendments — all of them.
Unfortunately, this will work some hardships until the Bill Sizemores and others of his ilk learn that the constitutional amendment route is closed.
I invite other voters who are weary of this mischief to join me in turning down all proposals to amend the Oregon Constitution.
I'd like to refute some of the inaccurate statements recently made by pacifists.
1. Violence can't achieve peace. Has a peaceful society ever been achieved through non-violent means? No. Contrary to pacifist myths, Gandhi's "peaceful revolution" didn't create peace. The only remotely peaceful societies I'm aware of came from violent revolutions.
During the Spanish revolution of the '30s, anarchists defeated Franco through a combination of methods, including violence. For a time, anarchists "seized the means of production" and divided wealth equally. This revolution was later crushed, but it provided a glimpse of how society could be. This was a peaceful society achieved through violent revolution. Peace can't be achieved until the state is destroyed, which necessitates violence.
2. Violence is cowardly. This statement is reflective of the arrogance of pacifists. Do pacifists really believe that the Yanomami Indians who fight against the colonizer do so because they're cowards? These people use violence against colonizers because it's often an effective method. Those who've died during confrontation with oppressors aren't cowards who don't have the "intelligence" to have "peaceful" dialogue with the oppressor. Armed struggle occurs because oppressors don't negotiate with the oppressed.
3. Violence brings repression. Violence brings repression because effectiveness brings repression. Effective struggles, violent or not, are met with repression.
4. Anarchy is fascism. Anarchists have always fought fascism. Anarchists combated fascism in Spain/Italy/Poland during the 1930s-40s. Today, many anti-racist organizations have anarchist membership. Because anarchists will use violence against oppressors hardly means they'll use violence against anyone. On the occasions anarchists have used violence, it was against tyrants (like McKinley).
The article "Under Seige: LandWatch fights to preserve shrinking resource lands" (EW 5/16) contains many errors. I have not authorized anyone to speak for me. My position on the Camp Yale property is limited to this statement sent to the hearings official on March 12:
"My husband and I were the former owners of the property located at 58980 Old McKenzie Highway in McKenzie Bridge. That lot is now being considered as a site to build two 15-unit lodges. I am not opposed to the construction of the lodges, but I do have concerns about details of those plans.
My concerns center on the potential adverse impacts of sewage disposal. A preliminary map of the project shows a subsurface sewage disposal area near the property's edge and running parallel to the Old McKenzie Highway. That piece of ground slopes away from the road with runoff collecting in a small pond that floods and then dumps into a creek that flows year 'round. The other adjacent lands are also very wet. Over the last 60 years I have often seen water standing on the surface of the property in many areas.
Because of those conditions, I am worried that the potential for contamination is quite high. I currently live downstream from this site and use the creek to water vegetables in my garden. My well is also adjacent to the creek, which makes me worry I might lose my source of drinking water if the creek becomes contaminated. Two other families live downstream as well.
One solution might be to pump sewage further away from the lodges to drainfields located in better soils on the Camp Yale park grounds.
I urge you to consider my concerns closely and make sure this project does not cause any harm to its neighbors."
That is all.
Keep up the good work and help us keep Bush from filling the supreme court with Nazi-like nominees. This country is enough of a police state already.
Once again we have flaunted international law. In an unprecedented move, the Bush administration recently unsigned a treaty on International Criminal Court signed by Bill Clinton in 1998. By unsigning the treaty on ICC, we are in violation of the Vienna Convention on the law of Treaties. This 1969 pact, signed by the U.S. and most of the countries of the world, details the obligation of nations to obey international treaties. The law states that once a treaty is signed, the signatory is prohibited from acting to defeat the purpose of that treaty.
No one, not even some of the world's infamous rogues, have done what our leader has just done. This blatant, opportunistic move will have far-reaching consequences world over. While preaching rule of law to the world, we have once again gone outside the law in order to protect our leaders and soldiers from war-crimes prosecution.
This flagrant violation of international law comes on the heels of several other treaties we have violated recently. We will not abide by the Kyoto treaty on global warming because it is not in our "economic interest." We want to undo the ABM treaty with the Russians because it is "outdated" and prevents us from developing a new "star wars system." We are for "free trade" when it favors us, but are all for protective tariffs and subsidies when it comes to supporting our steel industry and our corporate agricultural interests. So much for the "rule of law."
I am writing this letter in support of the Eugene Peace Academy/Little Peace School. The vision of this school is exactly what our community (and country) needs right now.
For children to be encouraged to embrace their own individuality and to be educated on practices of other cultures could be the first step in creating a world of oneness and peace. If our children are exposed, at an early age, to identify with and respect differences we may create a world without bias, prejudice, conflict and violence.
This community is known for its celebration of cultural diversity and its fondness for the environment. Having an educational forum which correlates and overlaps with how so many of us choose to live our lives is an amazing thing.
I had the pleasure of meeting the director and teachers (of The Little Peace School). They are all remarkable people who are truly dedicated to making a difference. I want to commend them on their devotion and energy they are putting into this program.
I believe that a program like this is essential for our future if we want our children to live in a world of peace, love, respect for our environment and respect for all beings.
Attention ladies and gentlemen! The government has come up with another way to take your money! In case you haven't noticed, there is a drive to ticket everyone driving without using their seat belt.
It is one thing to criminalize behavior detrimental to others and another thing to criminalize behavior detrimental only to yourself. How is not using a seat belt, or wearing a helmet if you're a motorcycle rider, detrimental to others? I was told everyone's insurance rates go up in the case of a crash because injuries are more severe. Bogus! If you get a lot of tickets or are in some wrecks, insurance companies simply raise your rates, not others'.
Is this a measure to compensate the insurance companies or simply to fill police coffers? You decide.
But remember to use your seat belt. Big Brother is watching!
I was surprised at EW featuring Highway 99 as a "strange and wonderful strip" gateway to Eugene (5/16). Along with West 11th, it presents one of the ugliest first impressions of our city which one could imagine. Just bring in a guest from the airport, and try to rationalize why we have such examples of poor planning and low standards. We could have done better.
LETTERS POLICY: We welcome letters on all topics and will print as many as space allows. Please limit length to 250 words, and submissions to once a month. E-mail to email@example.com, fax to 484-4044, or mail to 1251 Lincoln, Eugene 97401.
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