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Mayoral Survivor Contest: The BEAST Wants You to Run for Mayor!

Truth is Overrated: Why Does My TV Think Bush Won the Debate? - Al Uthman

Political Snickering: M&M/Mars' Campaign of Terror - Matt Taibbi

Big Brother Knows Best: Blockbuster Rents Bogus Fahrenheit 9/11 DVDs - Paco Alameda

Scary Little Man: Bush's Belligerence -William Rivers Pitt

Kneeling Before George: President Bush is a Serious Stud - Merry Dunce, the Beast's "Fresh Voice"

American Indian Museum Opens in DC, Promptly Stolen by American History Museum -Jake Novak

Reading the Blitz: Election Hacks Score Touchdown in Overtime Frenzy - Matt Taibbi

Freedumb: Zell Miller Echoes Militaristic Fallacy - Mark Golden


Buffalo in Briefs


Notes from the Big House

The Straight Dope w/ Dr Rotten

Brush with Greatness: I met Gretzky - Seamus Gallivan

Page 3

Separated at Birth?

[sic] - Letters



Kino Korner


Album Reviews: Tom Waits, De La Soul


Misfits Roadie's Haunted House -Ken Barnes



High Quality Losers: Numbers Game Pays little for Bills -Ronnie Roscoe


Deep Fried - Jason Yungbluth

Bob The Angry Flower - Stephen Notley

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2004 The Beast


Zell Miller's Imperial Fallacy

by Mark Golden

Every Veteran's Day I receive this poem, often attributed to Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC, in at least one e-mail:

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Every year I am stunned by the wrongheadedness of the ideas expressed in this poem. Usually, I don't think about it again until the next Veteran's Day. But this year, in his speech at the Republican National Convention, Georgia Senator Zell Miller said

For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.

Now that these ideas have been endorsed by a major speaker at a major political convention, I think it's time that we look more closely at them, because they are absolutely contradictory to the principles of any democracy. They also evidence a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of human rights and of the relationship of the military to a civilian government.

In fact, rights are not granted by anyone. They inhere in every human being, regardless of time or place. This is a basic underlying belief of any democratic political system. Governments and militaries may recognize these rights, or they may suppress them or deny their existence. But they cannot create, destroy, give, or grant a right. We often say that we must "fight for our rights," but what we really do is fight for the recognition of our rights. We form democratic systems of government in order to ensure that our rights are recognized, but a person living in the most brutal dictatorship imaginable has precisely the same rights as a person living in Canada, Norway, or the United States.

A truly democratic system must proceed from this premise. For if a right is "granted," it can be simply taken away. It is the recognition that rights are inherent that leads people to fight for democracy, and the same recognition that makes a democratic government legitimate. If we acquiesce to the notion that rights are not inherent, brutality follows instantly. Any violation of this principle is necessarily arbitrary and is committed in order to advance a cruel agenda. If rights are not inherent, why not have an Abu Ghraib? If rights are not inherent, why not blow up civilians? Kill dissidents? What difference would it make? It is the fragile recognition of the inherent rights, and the inherent value, of every single human being that prevents atrocities from becoming everywhere commonplace.

The basic premise of this Veteran's Day poem, that soldiers give us rights, is utter nonsense. But even the specific examples offered are counterfactual. Most glaringly, the soldier does not "allow" a protester to burn the flag. The soldier, if he or she is an agent of a democratic government, acknowledges the universally shared inherent right to freedom of expression, and follows the law that permits such expression. The soldier does not allow or have the authority to allow anything. The soldier works for the government, and the government works for the people - and is of the people, with the same rights. In an undemocratic system, the soldier has precisely as much legitimacy as the government he or she serves - that is, none. In the absence of democratic, civilian control the soldier is often a thug.

Who protects the freedom of the press, the freedom of speech, the freedom to demonstrate? Is it the soldier? It might be, or it might not. Soldiers are expected to follow orders. Those orders might be in the interest of protecting rights or in the interest of attacking those who exercise their rights. Were soldiers who fought for the Allies in World War II protecting rights? Yes, they were. Were the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, or who "fought" at Kent State, protecting rights? No, they were not. They were doing the exact opposite. They were following the orders of a government determined to suppress self-determination and the right to demonstrate. In doing so, they were themselves demeaned along with their victims and the principles of democracy.

It's also true that people who are not soldiers make great sacrifices in the defense of rights. In the presence of a government that refuses to recognize individual rights, those who exercise the freedom of the press, of speech, or to demonstrate take great risks. In defying those who wish to suppress their rights, they fight for those rights and force progress toward their recognition. Who did more to fight for the freedom to demonstrate, protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention, or those soldiers at Kent State? In which role did Tom Paine do more to defend the right of freedom of expression, as writer or as soldier? Who did more to protect democracy, Woodward and Bernstein or Oliver North?

This isn't just a stupid little poem or a stupid right-wing speech. These are dangerous ideas, antithetical to the functioning of a democracy, that have been spread uncritically throughout our society at a time when the people running the government love power more than freedom. It's very important that we recognize and object to these kinds of undemocratic ideas wherever they appear.


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Truth is Overrated Al Uthman

It's been almost a week since the second Presidential debate, and I'm still baffled at the post-debate coverage.

Well, no, that's not really true. I remember turning to a fellow viewer as we watched Bush go to pieces and saying, "watch; they're gonna come on and call it for Bush."

Political Snicker-ing Matt Taibbi

The good folks at M&M/Mars and BBDO New York have combined recently to give the world one of the more uplifting cinema experiences of the year: a series of commercials in which hapless, ambitionless zeroes with terrible haircuts make improbable journeys from their couches to the throne of mankind after eating Snickers bars.


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