Arturo Garcia in Raw Story describes how Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, was handcuffed (you know, the plastic ones that sometimes cause nerve damage) to a chair during an 8-hour imprisonment after being arrested trying to gain access to the second presidential debate at Hofstra University on Tuesday night.
Here is a link to the youtube of her act of civil disobedience and arrest.
Jill Stein told Amy Goodman: “For most of the time it was just [running mate] Cheri Honkala and myself. Yet they felt the need to keep us in tight plastic restraints tightly secured to metal chairs.”
Stein and Honkala were held inside a facility specifically designed to hold protesters. They had only been charged with violations -- essentially blocking traffic on a dormant street. When they requested release the authorities told them they didn’t want them “wandering around.”
Stein explained that they were not allowed to make a phone call. No phone was working and they did not have their own, having given them to their assistants. Stein was allowed to return a call from her lawyer at one point. Stein and Honkala were challenged getting home after 8 hours -- released 30 minutes after the debate had ended. The authorities told members of Stein’s and Honkala’s staffs they would be arrested if they did not leave the area. Neither the two candidates nor their staff members knew how long the women were to be held.
According to Eric Dolan of Raw Story:
Stein said the presidential debate was a “mockery of democracy” because it only included Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Stein will appear on about 85 percent of state ballots this year. Another presidential candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson, will also be on the ballot in at least 47 states. But neither third-party candidate will be included in the presidential debates.
After failing to outmaneuver a number of police officers who had created a blockade, Stein and Honkala sat down in the middle of the street. They were informed by an officer that if they did not move, then they would be arrested for blocking traffic.
Honkala responded that she didn’t want to block traffic, she just wanted to get into the debate. Stein and Honkala were then arrested without incident.
The debate rules specify that to be included, candidates must receive at least 15 percent in a major poll. Most major polls do not even list Stein and Johnson as an option. Televised presidential debates date back to 1960, and have been a regular event since the 1976 election. Originally administered by the League of Women Voters, they’ve been jointly organized by the Democratic and Republican parties through the Commission on Presidential Debates—a group the two parties jointly formed—since 1987.
So, let’s see. Stein and third party candidates can’t participate in the nationally televised debates because they can’t get 15% popularity on many of the polls that don’t even include their names as options. That sounds about right.
Glenn Greenwald declares the debating “rituals” are set up to“eliminate spontaneity” and “exclude all viable third-party voices.” From a recently leaked 21-page “memorandum of understanding” between the two campaigns that governs the rules of the debates, John Cook in "Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards" of the Gawker discloses a few of the debating rules:
They aren't permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a "predesignated area."
And for the town-hall-style debate tomorrow night, the audience members posing questions aren't allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.
Greenwald quotes George Farah, author of "No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates”:
"The town hall debate we're going to see tonight is the most constrained and regulated town hall debate in presidential debate history. The first town hall debate was introduced in 1992, and no one knew what anyone was going to ask, none of the audience members were going to ask. The moderator could ask any follow-up questions. It was exciting, and it was real.
"Well, President George H.W. Bush stumbled in response to an oddly worded question about the federal deficit, and the candidates - the campaigns have panicked and have attempted to avoid that kind of situation from happening again. In 1996, they abolished follow-up questions from the audience.
"In 2004, they began requiring that every single question asked by the audience be submitted in advance on an index card to the moderator, who can then throw out the ones he or she does not like. And that's why the audience has essentially been reduced, in some ways, to props, because the moderator is still ultimately asking the questions.
"And this election cycle is the first time that the moderator herself is prohibited from asking follow-up questions, questions seeking clarification. She's essentially reduced to keeping time and being a lady with a microphone."
Greenwald explains that the Commission is run by lobbyists and funded by big corporations. Anheuser-Busch is one of the big backers this year.
Greenwald holds forth on the whole sordid scenario:
“Meanwhile, the moderators were selected to ensure that nothing unexpected is asked and that only the most staid and establishment views are heard. As journalism professor Jay Rosen put it when the names of the moderators were unveiled, using terms to describe those views that are acceptable in Washington media circles and those which are "fringe":
"In order to be considered as a candidate for moderator you have to be soaked in the sphere of consensus, likely to stay within the predictable inner rings of the sphere of legitimate controversy, and unlikely in the extreme to select any questions from the sphere of deviance."
"Here then, within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy. The two parties collude in secret. The have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.
"All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.
"Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media's role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it's all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.
"To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm."
As the Great American Ethical Freakshow continues.
[cross-posted on correntewire and sacramento for democracy]