Dialing In For Democracy – Now Is Critical

Jeff Taylor is one of Vermont’s three electors – representatives elected by the citizens of Vermont to vote for President of the United States. He and his two peers have joined the electors of several other states in signing resolutions asking their state’s congressional delegation to protest the Ohio slate of electors.

“If they can have fair elections in Kiev,” Taylor told me, “why not in Cleveland?”

Here’s what troubles Taylor:

If you flip a coin a hundred times, odds are that around fifty times it will come up heads and fifty times tails. In reality, it may be 49-51 or even 47-53, but it will always pretty much evenly split. That’s the nature of random events, including random errors and mistakes.

So if the tens of thousands of election “irregularities” being reported all across the nation – but particularly in Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, and North Carolina – showed “irregularities” worked randomly to the benefit of both parties, it would be easy to say that we have a broken, but not a stolen or hacked, election system. But that was not the case.

Thom Hartmann | read more |

A ‘Long War’ Against Whom?

George W. Bush’s vision for America’s future is coming into clearer focus following Election 2004: For the next generation or more, it appears the American people will be asked to sacrifice their children, their tax dollars and possibly the remnants of their democracy to what a top U.S. commander now candidly calls the “Long War”.

While Central Command’s Gen. John Abizaid defines the “Long War as the indefinite conflict against Islamic extremism around the world, Bush and his supporters have already opened a second front at home, determined to silence or neutralize domestic dissent that they see as sapping American “will”.

Not only has Bush continued to purge his second-term administration of even the most soft-spoken skeptics, but his disdain for criticism has emboldened his supporters to routinely refer to public dissenters as “traitors”.

Robert Parry | read more |

The End of War

About 20 years ago, a disaster struck the Forest Troop of baboons in Kenya. There was a tourist lodge within their range, and the biggest and toughest males in the troop would regularly go to the garbage dump there to forage for food. Subordinate males, however, did not go — so when the brutal and despotic alpha males of Forest Troop all ate meat infected with bovine tuberculosis at the dump and promptly died, the less aggressive 50 per cent of the group’s males survived. And the troop’s whole culture changed.

Male baboons are so obsessed with status that they are always on a hair-trigger for aggression — and it isn’t just directed at male rivals of equal status. Lower-ranking males routinely get bullied and terrorized, and even females (who weigh half as much as males) are frequently attacked and even bitten. You really would not want to live your life as a baboon.

Yet after the biggest, baddest males of Forest Troop all died off at once, the whole social atmosphere changed. When it was first studied by primatologists in 1979-82, it was a typical, utterly vicious baboon society, but after the mass die-off of the bullies the surviving members relaxed and began treating one another more decently.

Gwynne Dyer | read more |

No Peace on Earth During Unjust War

One reads in the papers that the Pentagon expects the war in Iraq to continue till 2010. Donald Rumsfeld will not guarantee that it will be over by 2009. How many dead and maimed Americans by then? How many sad obituaries? How many full pages in the papers with pictures of all the casualties?


The reasons change: weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, freedom and democracy for the people of Iraq, American credibility. All are deceptions. This cockamamie and criminally immoral war was planned before the Sept. 11 attack in which Iraq was not involved. It has nothing to do with the war on terror. American-style freedom and democracy in Arab countries are hallucinations by men and women like Paul Wolfowitz and Condi Rice whose contribution to the war is writing long memos — Republican intellectuals with pointy heads.

Andrew Greeley | read more |

Worse Than Fiction

I’ve been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won’t be any nuance: the villains won’t just espouse an ideology I disagree with – they’ll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator’s diatribe against gay marriage will link it to “man on dog” sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a “good man” who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.

Paul Krugman | read more |

The Torturer General

It seems surreal: The president’s nominee for the highest legal position in the land is a proponent of torture. In his notorious Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum to Bush, Alberto Gonzales clearly fancies himself a shrewd thinker, a smooth operator when it comes to finessing the inevitable outrage of our allies when they learn that we have violated the Geneva Conventions. His suggestion for rebuttal to, among others, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who argued that the Conventions applied to the Taliban and al-Qaida? “First, some of the language [of the Conventions] is undefined (it prohibits, for example, ‘outrages upon personal dignity’ and ‘inhuman treatment’).” Are personal dignity and inhumane treatment really so mysterious? So fungible?

The universal horror elicited by the photos of Abu Ghraib attests to the innate human ability to recognize humiliation, degradation and abuse. As we saw in those photos, young soldiers — acting in accordance with the climate established high up in the chain of command — displayed, mocked and toyed with the genitals of prisoners who had also been beaten up, deprived of sleep, chained, hooded and made to stand for hours on one leg on elevated boxes lest they fall into the gaping jaws of trained attack dogs. According to Gonzales’ reasoning, none of these practices constitute torture unless they result in years of protracted suffering or “organ failure.” In other words, only if a prisoner dies, or almost dies, can one know if one is actually committing torture.

Marguerite Feitlowitz | read more |