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August 13, 2007 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-08-13

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Monday August 13, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

EMMARIE HUETTEMAN
My conviction

GARY GRACA
Stamping out the media

This summer marks the
35th anniversary of the
Supreme Court's tempo-
rary mora-
torium An eye for an
on capital
punish- eye has made
ment. And our country
today marks blind.
the second
day since I heard that Sen. Sam
Brownback (R-Kans.) and I might
actually agree about something.
Because Sam and I are Roman
Catholics, it seems only natural
that we should be opposed to the
death penalty. Our faith promotes
forgiveness and life, after all. And
as the Republican presidential
hopeful once reasoned, "If we're
trying to establish a culture of life,
it's difficult to have the state spon-
soring executions."
But then again, Catholicism
wasn't enough to change the
minds of death penalty support-
ers Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Sen.
Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Gov. Bill
Richardson (D-N.M.) and former
New York City Mayor Rudy Giu-
liani (R). In fact, when the Pew
Forum on Religion and Public Life
conducted a survey two years ago
to gauge American opinion on the
death penalty, it discovered that
opposition to it is highest among
those who characterize their reli-
gious affiliation as "secular." So if
religious convictions aren't moti-
vating individuals to oppose capi-
tal punishment, what is?
Maybe it's suspicion about
why the United States is the only
Western nation that still uses
the death penalty. Our neighbors
Canada and Mexico abolished the
practice in 1976 and 2005, respec-
tively. Even Germany, which has
been fighting the culture of death
stereotype since the Third Reich,
got rid of the death penalty in
1949.
Maybe it's the influence of social
theorists who believe that capi-
tal punishment doesn't deter vio-
lent crime. They assert that those
who commit murder are not typi-
cally in a rational frame of mind,
whether due to drug use, passion
or mental illness, and thus don't
consider the consequences of their
actions. In fact, a United Nations
study in 1998 concluded that the
death penalty's effectiveness in
deterring crime could not be prov-

en, addingthat it was unlikelythat
it ever would.
Or maybe it's an acknowledge-
ment that we're only using the
death penalty to comfort our-
selves. In "The Audacity of Hope,"
Sen. BarackObama (D-Ill.) asserts
that while the policy is ineffective
in reducing crime, he supports its
use when "the community isjusti-
fied in expressing the full measure
of its outrage." When someone
rapes and murders a child, for
instance, the crime is so horrify-
ing that we want to feel justified
in our almost primal desire to
exact revenge. We don't want to
recognize our shared humanity
with that murderer, and we cer-
tainly don't want to see any simi-
larities between his crime and our
justice.
This year marks the 31st anni-
versary of the reinstatement of
capital punishment. And today I
realized thatnmaybe I was too quick
to say that I agree with Brown-
back. Upon further research, I
found out that he used to support
the death penalty, and still sup-
ports it in "rare, extreme cases."
His convictions aren't even strong
enough for the issue to appear in
his platform.
But if Brownback won't take a
strong stance on this, I will. Capi-
tal punishment is an antiquated
policy, ineffective in purpose and
unjust in nature. Rather than take
steps toward its abolishment,
though, this country continues to
ignore its blatant flaws and aggra-
vate the problem.
Last month, Missouri legis-
lated that anyone who reveals
the identity of an executioner is
fair game for legal action. Why?
Because The St. Louis Post-Dis-
patch released the name of the
doctor who admitted to giving
inmates less than the required
sedative dosage during lethal
injection, basically subjecting
them to torture. He blamed his
dyslexia. Far be it from anyone to
subject him to discomfort for the
sake of questioning an inherently
flawed system.
I wish someone would question
the system.
Emmarie Huetteman is the
summer associate editorial
page editor. She can be reached
at huettemeiumich.edu.

The sky is falling on Ameri-
can media.
That was the message
in every newspaper and televi-
sion station across the country on
Aug. 1 when
Rupert Mur- Postage
doch finalized will be the
his takeover of
Dow Jones & media's
Co., publisher downfall.
of The Wall
Street Journal. Since Murdoch is
a media tycoon and egotist with
a love for crowding out competi-
tion and forcing his opinion on an
unsuspecting public, what could
possibly be worse?
Just consider that, according to
the Guardian, all 175 of the pub-
lications in Murdoch's empire
editorialized support for the war
in Iraq in 2003. Or consider that
Murdoch is so cozy with legisla-
tors around the world that he has
both avoided media ownership
laws and helped create laws more
favorable to media monopolies
like his company News Corp. Or
just tune in to Fox News Channel
sometime.
But while all the hoopla about
Murdoch made for a riveting story,
the media missed a more impor-
tant, but far less glamorous, story.
Although a Murdoch-controlled
Wall Street Journal isn't ideal,
if the current state of America's
media moved closer to its demise, it
probably didn't happen on August
1, 2007. It probably happened on
July 15, 2007. That was the day
when the postage rates for periodi-
cals increased.

On the surface it's easy to
brush this off as an inconsequen-
tial change that won't do much
but raise the cost of your Sports
Illustrated by a few cents. But
that's not quite the case. For the
thousands of small, independent
publications across the country,
these pennies are adding up to
massive, unexpected increases in
cost - costs that many of these
magazines can't afford and cer-
tainly can't afford to pass on to
their readers.
Alreadysituated in a fragile mar-
ket that places mass-media corpo-
rations at a clear advantage from
the start, independent publica-
tions are highly vulnerable to this
postage increase. If they choose
to pass the cost onto readers, they
risk losing an already dwindled
readership. If they choose to meet
the costs head on, they may have to
skim valuable content from their
publications or cut staff.
Although the change affects
all small publications relatively
equally across the political spec-
trum, from the leftist magazine
The Nation to the right-wing The
National Review, it doesn't affect
all publications equally.
According to a May op-ed piece
in the Los Angeles Times by Tere-
sa Stack and Jack Fowler, when
the United States Postal Service
originally proposed the postage
increase, it was supposed to be
a 12-percent hike for all publi-
cations. But, that proposal was
abandoned, and in its place, a
proposal drafted by the larg-
est magazine publisher in the

country, Time Warner, was pushed
through.
By giving preference to higher-
weighted items and bulk mail, the
new rate system is expected to
raise the cost for large publications
slightly while piling on increases
to the small publications. Some
estimates from McGraw-Hill even
estimate that it could increase
postage for small magazines by as
much as 30 percent. But because
the new system is so confusing, no
one is certain.
Regardless, the new postage
system promises to be an added
threat to an already endangered,
but important, part of Ameri-
can media. Publications like The
Nation and The National Review
offer something that the media
monopolies don't. While the tra-
dition of investigative reporting is
largely dying at newspapers across
the country, these magazines are
challenging and provoking, even if
you disagree with the political ide-
ology they advocate.
If the American media is going
to die, it isn't going to end with the
bang of Murdoch's fortune - it's
going to end with a whimper, as
small publications across the coun-
try wither away.
Gary Graca is the summer
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at gmgraca@umich.edu.
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