American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Thursday, February 24, 2005

FREEDOMS

Certain freedoms were most important to the framers of our Constitution. So important, in fact, that they gave them a title...The Bill of Rights...and the ideas incorporated into the First Amendment had pride of place.

Having broken the ties to the mother country, England, where there was a state religion, the freedom to worship, as one chose, was at the top of the list. It was important enough, to them, to see to it that the government never be allowed to establish a state religion, that no one religion take precedence over another, or that one religion be persecuted by another or by the state.

Freedom of speech was next as, again, to have spoken freely, or against the government, under English law, could have resulted in a jail term. Freedom of speech guaranteed the free flow of ideas, the pros and cons of an argument or a particular stand on an issue. This also goes hand in hand with the right of the people to petition their government for a redress of greivances. Speak up about what is bothering you. Those who fomented our Revolution had done so at great peril when speaking out publicly, or printing "subversive" material.

Freedom of the press allowed the press to print material which may or may not be pleasing to some, but nonetheless allowed, once again, the free flow of ideas.

"The right of the people to peacably assemble" and "to petition their government for a redress of grievances."

It seems today that most of these rights are being slowly undermined by a government which sees them as anathma to their agenda. They speak of Democracy and yet, at every turn, we see another example of our democracy, those freedoms in the Bill of Rights, OUR freedoms being eroded.

We have a religion which is striving to have the government operate in a manner which is to their liking. We have a President who adhers to this religion and feels he is in direct communication with God, and it is his duty to let us know that there are things which God does not care for. The last I knew, God made all the peoples of the earth, warts and all. We are all free to worship as we see fit, or not at all.

Our freedom of speech has been curtailed when we have a president, who is OUR representative, not allowing We The People into assemblies where he is speaking. We apparently no longer have the right to address our concerns to the man who was elected to govern us? ALL of us.

The press nowadays just seems to be along for the ride. They parrot that which the religious and political zealots have to say and hardly have been the keeper of the trust of giving the public the truth about issues. Their major concern these days seem to be keeping their corporate owners happy. Investigative journalism seems to have faded into the night with Richard Nixon and Watergate.

It has been my experience that we all have choices.
If you do not care for the radio program change the station or turn the radio off. If what you view on TV is unpleasing to you, again, change the channel or turn it off. You may chose to buy a newspaper or not. If you are a parent it is YOUR job, not the government's, to regulate that which you want your children to know about, see or hear.
As a parent it is my right to send my child to a public school without the fear of them being force fed prayer on a daily basis. That is the job of Sunday school or the family. Not the government on any level, state or Federal.

My fear today is that all those Freedoms, which we have taken for granted for so long, are being slowly and deliberately taken from us by a government that sees those freedoms as an impediment to their greater goals.

I would urge you all to take another look at our Constitution. A document which men, at the outset of our country toiled so hard and long to get "just right" so that we would never, hopefully, be at the mercy of those in a position of goverance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Uses and Abuses of a Corrupt Press

For the past four years or more (mostly a lot more) people of the Liberal persuasion have been complaining about the press, mainly the traditional 20th century media--the newspapers, television, and talk/news-radio. The allegation is that the press is so in bed with the power structure that a completely truthful account of most news is a rarity and most "news" is vetted against corporate interests and standards of journalism that would best be described as, well, politically and economically conservative, yet amazingly belligerent and incredibly self-serving. We call that "corporate news."

But, I think that the mainstream news enterprise ceased to be interested in real, complete, truthful news much longer ago than when Bush (43) entered office. In Los Angeles, where I used to live, the news leaders between shows were inevitably about crimes and other forms of personal misbehaviors. One such leader had us poking around down by the port in a garbage dump looking for fetuses. That was about the last thing I remember from network news. I switched over to McNeil-Lehrer for a while, but soon got tired of listening to the same experts, particularly Mr. Perle, and quit that show, too.

The corporate press, (and nearly all of it is "corporate" these days), is beholding to capital and all the rules regarding capital formation and retention. It gives lip-service to Liberal ideas from time to time, but increasingly has reserved its big guns for conservative points of view. This means editorial censorship, omission of facts, multiple airings/printings of conservative-tending major issues while giving short, back-of-the newscast or third section, shrift to vital information. The tradition in the American press has been to cozy up to power and let the alcoholism, philandering, donation plundering, and out-and-out mental incompetence go by unnoticed.

Last year I wrote about the direct harassment that the corporate media (nevertheless) receives from the Bush Administration. The Rove White House has intimidated more than one young MSNBC producer and many more reporters and correspondents. The reason for this is that the corporate board rooms really do not have direct control over the daily "news" operations and are, in any case, set on a policy of deception and policy bias that serves their immediate interests. In other words, they permit the hoi polloi down in the studio and pressroom to take a few left-leaning stances ... but not many ... and none on serious matters.

The advantage of a weak and corrupt press may soon become apparent as the Democrats gear up under Reid, Pelosi, and Dean to find the timber with which to build a platform for the mid-term elections and the next really big one in 2008. This is the poetic way of saying that the Democrats must weld their coalition together and establish the priority of election success over a clear enunciation of all but the three or four most urgent of issues. Democrats have to win to play the game, not the other way around. At the same time, the Liberal and Progressive issues must be prioritized; and believe me, this will cause some angst!

I believe the current state of the press—corporate and corrupt—will backfire on the conservatives and serve the Democrats for a change as they go through the awful process of public coalition building.

The biggest problem is the war in Iraq. The Democrats are terribly divided on this issue. Dean is ready to lead toward the peaceful side, as is Kennedy, but Kerry and many in the Congress are still committed to the idea that now that we are there, we should try to accomplish something besides the utter destruction of Fallujah (and soon Ramadi). And, organized labor has yet to be heard on much of anything. Labor is the second problem the Democrats are going to have to metabolize.

All of this will be done in public, by tradition. The Republicons invented the smoke-filled room for their own machinations, so we do not get to see much of the in-fighting, but Democrats are, well, democratic about it. And a normal, uncorrupted press would have played a serious, perhaps damaging role.

We suspect that the current corporate press will become even more conservative during the next three years. This will be something of an advantage, because the nuances being fought for inside the Democratic Party will go right over the heads of corporate decision makers in the newsrooms. We will still see and hear negative and embarrassing sound bytes, but very little in terms of the real open wounds that must be given time to heal ahead of a concerted effort to win the election.

And, meanwhile, of course, there is the blogosphere, that haze of news, rant, and rumor that surrounds the traditional media like cloud of hungry mosquitoes at dusk. Bloggers and the internet may be the salvation of truth in the long run, but that blogosphere is (as we have seen in South Dakota in 2004 in the anti-Daschle campaign) open to both sides, so expect lots of baloney and deception, too, and a few bites!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Intelligence Czar-A Bush League Selection

Intelligence Czar-A Bush League Selection


Recently, after being turned down by Robert Gates, Sam Nunn, and William Barr, George Bush settled for a poor fourth choice in selecting John Negroponte to be the new Director of Intelligence (DNI). Negroponte is currently our ambassador in Baghdad and, according to an US official quoted in the New York Times, has been looking for an excuse to leave Iraq.

It would be hard to find a person who was less qualified for this position. Negroponte has almost no intelligence experience. As our UN ambassador Negroponte was the point man for disseminating the totally false information about Iraq’s WMD program and its ties to terrorist organizations.

As the US ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte ignored reports about the systematic torture and killing of Honduran citizens by the Honduran army. He not only tolerated it but covered up its abuses. In a series of reports to Congress, Negroponte lied about the conditions in Honduras so that it would continue to receive aid from the US to support the attempted overthrow of the duly- elected government of Nicaragua.

The very first tenant of intelligence reporting is absolute objectivity and honesty. When I was a senior intelligence analyst, it was incumbent upon me to report to decision makers the unvarnished truth even if it directly contradicted programs or actions the administration wanted to support or take. As DNI, Negroponte will be responsible for giving the President his daily intelligence briefing. Will he have the character, the integrity, and the will to report to Bush intelligence that contradicts or undermines administration goals and objectives? If one looks at Negroponte’s record, it is not very reassuring. Given this administration’s penchant for distorting the truth to support its policies, it is perhaps understandable that Bush picked someone who appears to subscribe to the old adage:”Go along to get along”.

Even more disturbing, is the power the new DNI will have to order investigations of US citizens. Formerly, the law, to protect civil liberties, kept the CIA and the FBI completely separate. The CIA was responsible for foreign intelligence and operations and the FBI had a similar domestic responsibility. This law was enacted as result of serious abuses by the CIA which spied on US citizens who opposed the Viet Nam War. Under the intelligence reform legislation, the DNI will have control of both the CIA and the FBI. Unless the DNI has the integrity and guts to prevent it, the potential exists for serious abuses of our civil liberties. Again, given his record, it’s not clear that Negroponte would not knuckle under to White House pressure to violate our civil rights.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Love & Hypocrisy

I am a mom.

I love my children with my whole heart.

I love their faces, their foibles, and all that goes into making them who they are. I have even loved them when their behaviors have been less than stellar, or their choices have not been those that I would have made. I like to take credit for creating these wonderful human beings who are caring, giving, tolerant and trustworthy.

As parents we are expected to give our offspring unconditional love. I cannot imagine a parent who could have feelings that are anything less than that.

Now, would I have loved them had one of them come to me and told me that they had feelings for another of the same sex? Indeed I would! Their sexual orientation is not what makes them the people that they are. The deciding elements, to me, are family values.

Yet there are children, teenagers and adult children who have felt their parents' wrath because of their sexual orientation.

I have always told my children that they can come to me about anything. It would be nice if they always had. There were times when they felt they needed the counsel of an older sibling or a friend or another family member. This did not distress me, particularly, as I can recall not always telling my parents "everything". Somehow, my parents always found out, and somehow I always found out. And even though I may, initially, have felt disappointment that my children had not turned to me with every problem, my reaction to the situation, I always hope, would be one that would be to reinforce the idea that I was approachable, and understanding. My darned old family values...again.

But what of the youngster who does not have that option? There is a child who since the beginning of awareness has been told that being "different" is an abomination, who has seen others who were different treated with ridicule and scorn. These children who FEEL and KNOW they too are "different" are made to feel that they are at fault? Their parents' solution: "It is nothing that cannot be fixed with prayer or a good beating, perhaps." What stupifies me the most that their parents are supposedly educated people! I do not know about you, but these to me are NOT family values!

We have a Vice President whose daughter is openly gay. Obviously she has made peace with her parents and they have accepted her for who she is. Yet, her parents are members of an administration which has a decidely homophobic agenda. This is hypocrisy. I have to accept you but will do my utmost to persecute others like you. It doesn't wash. How can this be a family value?

We have a failed Senatorial candidate, Alan Keyes, whose daughter has recently stated that her homosexuality is NOT accepted by her parents. They have cut her off. Again, "I love you...but...as long as you are the way you are, do not come for Thanksgiving." "As long as you are identified with a group that I loath, you are on your own."

I am tired of the right wing stating that anyone to the left of THEIR ideas of how the world works, or whose lifestyles are not reflected in their image, have no family values! No, it is they who are confused!

This is what I have found.

Throughout history, those who have made a magnificent impact on us have been those who were, well, "different". They were the dreamers, the creators, great politicians and great thinkers. Great philosophers, Jesus included here, and, yes, even great warriors. They were the most tolerant, the most giving and the most loving. We have great literature, great poetry, great works of art, and most definitely a great religion, Christianity, all given to us by those who dared to be "different."

I would ask any of you to show me where in Christianity we have been told that we should be none of these things. Currently, there is a group of rightwing politicians who are preaching intolerance. They have wrapped themselves in a false coat of many colors and the stolen words, "family values." It is they who are false and intolerant and hypocritical, not we!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Church and State

There is an excellent article in The Nation by Brooke Allen which does a very good job of describing exactly how secular were the Founding Fathers and to what great lengths they and those who followed them went to erect and then support a clear and compelling separation of church and state. I recommend it to you. I recommend it even though there is something perilously wrong in it.

Yes, our nation, the United States of America, was founded in the full blush of the Enlightenment upon Enlightenment Principles, as Brooke Allen writes. The Enlightenment arrived in the New World after its earlier, more gradual appearance in Europe. But, Brooke, America's heritage is also what went before the Enlightenment, before the founding, before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. America was founded by religious dissidents looking for a place to practice their beliefs unfettered by the principle of cuius regio eius religio (whomever rules the land shall determine the religion of the land), which was enunciated in the Peace of Augsburg, 1555, settling the hostilities between the Lutheran Protestants and the Roman Catholics in Germany.

It is extremely important to give due notice to the early colonial period, its religious extremism, the early and continuing dissidents, and the escape from the principle "cuius regio ..." that brought them there. Think about it. The puritans in Massachusetts, the Anglicans dotted throughout, the Catholics in Maryland, then the Quakers, Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans, Jews, etc., all came to be rid of a ruler telling them what to think in their private spiritual lives!

And, Brooke, it is necessary to add that the Enlightenment was in part a reaction from the oppressive hand of the Roman See over intellectual matters, but it did not take place in a spiritual vacuum. Although many leading minds of the Enlightenment were agnostic or even more firmly resolved in their reaction, many, indeed most, maintained contact with their religions, various forms of Judaism and various forms of Christianity. It is a mistake to see the Enlightenment and America's participation in it as a broad negation of the spiritual element of life. It is, however, a watershed, an object lesson in public life. Where Enlightenment principles took root and formed the basis of government, religion was separated from the doctrines of government and set aside for that private part of life—the spiritual side.

In either case, escaping the doctrine of "cuius regio ..." or implementing "separation of church and state" the American experience is notably and assiduously a separation of the public and the private. About that, Brooke and I agree completely.

So while we are talking about such things wouldn't it be good then, for modern politicians to express themselves less spiritually and privately in public. The parting shot ("... and may God bless the United States of America") virtually all politicians give to their speeches these days is unbecoming our heritage, our separation of church and state, and our more mature beliefs that deity would hardly heed such brazen calls to favoritism.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Why I Am a Liberal

Recently, John Edwards gave a speech in New Hampshire in which he talked about what the Democratic Party believes in and what it should stand for. It got me thinking about what are the core beliefs of liberals and more to the point, what do I believe in.

For me personally, being a liberal means first and foremost respecting the dignity and worth of every person. It means creating a society in which every person has the same opportunity to achieve his or her goals. It means that no one should go hungry, go without decent shelter, go without decent medical care, and not have the opportunity for a good education.

It further means that it is the responsibility of all of us to see that such a society exists through legislation and through the courts. Yes, my Republican friends, Government is the answer, not as you believe the problem. It is only through laws made for the common good that we can exist as a whole country. Liberals do not believe in class warfare, do nor believe the rich deserve to be rich and the poor deserve to be poor. We believe in a level playing field for all and we believe that if it is not level it is incumbent upon government to make it so.

We believe it our moral duty to help those who are doing everything right and are still not sharing in the American dream. We judge a nation by how it treats its least fortunate, not its most. We do this not only because of our moral values, but also because we recognize that a democracy can only thrive where all citizens are educated and feel they have a stake in the future of their country.

In the last election, a large number of voters chose not to vote. I believe this is because many citizens felt they had no stake in the outcome of the election. We need to give them hope that they are not forgotten, not marginalized. We need to create a society where all citizens feel that their voice will be heard where all have an equal chance to share in the American dream.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

School Daze

Many years ago, many old timers might have said, "I only had an eighth grade education".

I am sure this was intended to build impetus in youngsters to take advantage of their opportunity for more advanced educational prospects, especially, in light of the fact, that most of those "oldsters" had managed to carve themselves out a pretty nice slice of the American Dream with only that eighth grade education.

Suffice it to say, that if any of us today were faced with taking that final exam for graduation, our jaws would drop and we might not even know where to begin. I have included a link to a copy of one of those eighth grade final exams. (Link)

We have dumbed down America. This is obviously another reason that the citizens of our country have chosen to give George W. Bush another four years in office.

Even in my state, one of the bluest of the blue, education is in a state of turmoil. New tests have been created and standards set. Much has been made of these tests and one cannot graduate now unless they are passed. Never mind that when they were first created, 54% of those charged with imparting the wisdom, contained therein, were unable to pass them!

Now they are teaching to the test, and a major portion of the year is spent on taking pre-tests in order to see how one will do before the BIG exam.

One of my heros has been E.D. Hirsch, an educator, who created The Common Core of Knowledge curriculum. (Link) This curriculum has had wonderful results in those places it has been implemented, Caney Creek, for instance.

The crux of Hirsch's argument is that we live in a society where we share a certain culture, and in order to be a productive and knowledgable person in that society's culture, there are certain things we need to know. It would seem to me that one of the most important things would be our country's history.

Now it seems that those, who are receiving an education in today's classrooms, have little, if no real knowledge of the Bill of Rights. How depressing is this? To think that those youngsters who will one day, in the not too distant future, perhaps be in positions of power, and voters (hopefully) at the very least, think that the First Amendment goes too far? This shows, shamefully, a very basic lack of understanding of our Constitution and the creation of our Republic. The very REASONS we have a Bill of Rights.

We need to get back to basics. This will be a long hard pull, as Bush has made it painfully clear that monies which should be spent on education, healthcare, our environment and a myriad of other social programs will not be used for those things but rather to increase the bank accounts of the more wealthy of his cronies, and to support a war which should never have been begun.

Less time needs to be spent on worrying about "intelligent design", or whether or not your teenager (who will be sexually active anyway!) knows what a condom is, and more time spent on cultivating questioning, seeking minds...minds that have an appreciation of just what our Founding Fathers fought so hard to create.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Evil" Is Not an Explanation

The Tuesday edition of the New York Times carried an article entitled "For the Worst of Us, the Diagnosis May be 'Evil'." You can read it here.

The question posed by the article is whether or not we should call people "Evil" who are surpassingly brutal in their crimes, who are deemed uncorrectable by judges and wardens, who have mixed their crimes so enthusiastically that normal moral outrage is inadequate to express our concern. The question is whether people like these should be considered "Evil" by the general society. The idea is that such a person would be branded (figuratively) with the conclusion that ... whatever it may mean to you ... this person is irredeemably bad.

The concept of Evil is both secular and religious. The secular meanings actually come from the most liberal construction of modern religions and are usually a shorthand for a conclusion that the person's behaviors seem to be permanently bent toward the sociopathic, that they are inherently incapable of not doing horrific things.

Virtually all religions have such a concept, but differ widely on the causes. Satan is a key character in Judeo-Christian-Islamic cultures, the personification of Evil, the prime cause after which all other arguments and conclusions are threadbare and meaningless.

This Times article seems to suggest the idea that there is a religious definition appropriate to Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Buddhist America for the causal factors of criminality and psychopathology. Original sin and Satan are the two religious answers. In other words, there really isn't a causal explanation, and so the suggestion is a huge and ugly cop out and a clumsy attempt to meet the current American theocons halfway.

No thank you, Times, we do not have to put on grass skirts to talk to Polynesians, nor do we have to abandon the Theory of Evolution to talk archaeology to Epicopaleans, Lutherans, Catholics, and other reasonable people who have spiritual values. Neither do we have to employ the vocabulary of spiritualism to explain abnormal human psychology. In fact we should not.

The idea should be rejected for the atavistic nonsense that it is. Evil is a relic from our more innocent past, a word that expressed our ultimate chagrin at the intractable immorality of some people. It stood for things we did not in fact understand. It is pathetic and naive arrogance to reify one's ignorance.

We still do not understand why Charles Manson was the way he was or Timothy McVeigh or Adolph Hitler or Pol Pot or Edie Amin or any of thousands (probably millions) of persons who were really bad. We do know that these people were different from all the people who did not act that way. It does not mean that everyone that did not act also did not think or daydream the demise of a rival or enemy. As nightmares and the like tell us, the brain is capable of all kinds of thoughts. The ability to be sociopathic, however, seems to be a relative rarity, perhaps a disturbance in brain chemistry, perhaps a conclusion about life drawn incorrectly then kindled into habit, probaby something quite complicated and not quite the same thing from one case to the next.

Some day we will understand better the psychopath and his ways. In the meantime it is okay to say that we do not know why Manson is Manson and at the same time say that we believe from all the evidence and knowledge of our skill that he is uncorrectable. He may be spiritually "born again" and be given absolution and remission of his spiritual sins, but in society he is bad news and must be kept apart from the rest of us.

So, as for the rest of us, there is the constant temptation to do something illegal or immoral. We are not therefore Evil; we are nothing more than self-centered and lacking in conscience. We are not tax cheats because we have enlisted in Satan's army; we just believe that it will make no appreciable difference ... so it must be okay, even if it is sort of wrong. We are not Evil when we kill our nation's enemies in battle; we are not Evil when we kill mice to develop pharmaceuticals; we are not Evil when we kill patients in our hospitals with diseases they contract there.

Evil goes nowhere to explaining things that hurt and kill other people. For hospital administrators trying to cut costs and "inadvertently" compromising sanitation, the prognosis is thoughtlessness, avarice, expediency, and lots more, but Evil does not explain it. Neither can Evil explain sanity and insanity, it does not explain idiocy or imbecility. It is a useless social or political concept, but it is a wedge against the separation of church and state, and for that reason we must (again) reject it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Will Anybody Listen

A February sixth article in the Washington Post by David Kay, former chief UN inspector in Iraq, makes a compelling case for not repeating the same mistakes in Iran that we made in Iraq. Kay wisely calls for the US to pause and recall what went wrong with Iraq and recommends the US take five important steps before we go off half cocked into a military misadventure in Iran. Kay worries that the US is already beginning to beat the drums of war and that there are eerie similarities to the run up of the Iraq mess.

Unfortunately, Kay thinks he is dealing with rational people and can persuade with reason. He fails to realize that the intelligence on Iraq was deliberately distorted by the Pentagon with the full knowledge of the White House so that if the wheels should come off the train, the Intelligence Community would take the blame. The reasons for the invasion of Iraq have been laid out in previous articles and don’t need to be repeated. Needless to say, the invasion had nothing to do with WMD or any threat to the US from terrorists.

Now that the Bush Administration has eliminated from its ranks those who might have dissented, such as Colin Powell, from supporting a military solution to destroy Iran’s possible nuclear threat, we should all be concerned that we may soon be engaged in another military adventure in support of the “war on terror.”

It is the time for liberals to speak out that we will not be taken in by lies and half truths. We must insist on a diplomatic solution to remove Iran’s nuclear capabilities. War should be the last option, not the first.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time Travel

When one looks back over the last few hundred years of our country's existence, it is hard not to see what progress we have made in the area of women's rights. Yet today, there are those in power in Washington, and elsewhere in the country, who feel that women have been given too much freedom and something must be done about this ASAP.

At the dawn of our founding, Abigail Smith Adams became a spokesperson, for the women of her day, when she called upon her husband to "...remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." Abigail certainly planted the first seeds for women's rights, although we cannot see any immediate changes, she was certainly one of the first women to question women's rights in a free society.

From that year of 1776 until 1848, when the first Women's Rights Convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York, there were very stereotypical views, prevalent across society, of women's and men's roles in society. Historians have even given a name to this era..."The Cult of Domesticity."

At Seneca Falls, many signed the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions", which had set forth women's goals in a developing woment's movement. From this point on such meetings were held on a regular basis. It was at one such meeting that we hear from Sojourner Truth. In 1851, at one such meeting in Akron, Ohio, the former slave, held her audience spellbound with her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" Not only was this a question to her white female audience but rather to society in general, still locked in the throes of slavery.

In 1859 the invention of vulcanized rubber finally made the condom a reliable form of birth control. Even though the birth rate had steadily been declining over the last century, women still generally raised 3 to 4 children. But again, methods of birth control, though much more readily available to women in the middle and upper classes of American Society, the poor, a vast majority of whom were recent immigrants and those in rural areas or large city ghetto areas, were still at the mercy of unwanted pregnancies and back alley abortionists.

Although the Civil War interrupted most of the women's movement activities, it acted as a training ground for women who were called upon to take up organizational roles and the skills they acquired served them well into the next century. And as more and more women had the benefits of a college education, the ranks of social workers swelled, bringing help tot hose less educated and without resources.

In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, two women in the vanguard of the women's rights movement formed the American Equal Rights Association, which was inclusive of both black and white women and men. They present a petititon to Congress, demanding the right to vote for women. It would take another 50 + years for this to finally become a reality, because in 1868, the fourteenth Amendment is ratified and describes all citizen voters as "male."

From this point on, into the beginning of the 20th century the Women's Movement was fraught with upset; from the arrest of Susan B. Anthony for her attempt to vote, the fracturing of the Women's Movement into two groups (NAWSA and AWSA), and the start of non violent protests. From all this history and struggle, emerged the 19th Amendment, finally giving women a voice in the Republic!

Now, we are faced with a bizarre throwback to the days of Neanderthal, an administration which couches it's agenda in the words "Family Values". They wish to sweep all this progress and years of struggle under the carpet. Hidden within those words "Family Values", lurk dark and evil forces. Would men tolerate this debate over their rights? Absolutely not. Would men tolerate the overturning of the male equivalent of a Roe v. Wade? You bet they would not!

Perhaps it is time for us to heed the words of Abigail Smith Adams, when she wrote to her husband John, ..."If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

WOMEN! (and men so inclined...) TO THE BARRICADES!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Iraqi Vote

The biggest story in the world this week is the vote in Iraq. By most estimates about 60% of the eligible voters came out and voted for slates of candidates numbering in the thousands. It was a remarkable day, to be sure!

There are several schools of thought about what caused the vote to be so large. After all, with bombs bursting in air, you would not get that kind of a vote turn-out anywhere else in the world. One school of thought says that the Iraqis had not had a chance to vote in fifty years, so they took their fates in their hands and showed the rest of the world that Iraq is a modern nation, capable of progress and democracy. We think that Bush and Rumsfeld will be spreading this story.

Another school says the Iraqis, when faced with the alternatives, decided to vote a variety of national and regional issues: the Kurds in the north voted for their own autonomy, believing they had to get their oar in the Tigris now or never; the Sunnis voted to get the Americans out of their country; the Shiites voted to establish their majority position among the factions. Doubtless some of these are true to one extent or another.

Yet another view of the situation is that Iraqis voted to avoid starvation. Yes! It is alleged by some independent reporters on the ground that Iraqis were told that they would not get their food ration, if they did not vote. This is not widely reported, but we are reasonably sure that there is truth in it. The question then becomes: what value is a election held under the threat of withholding food?

Since we do not know ANYTHING about what these people voted for or against, nor do we know who nominated the people who stood for office, nor do we know if there are platforms among candidates for reconstruction of the country that make any sense, (and many other very germane questions,) the answer to the question about the meaning of a "forced" vote is really very problematic, if not completely meaningless.

One thing we can be sure of: the vote had nothing to do with abortion, gay marriage, swift boats, etc. In other words, according to the U.S. press view of our own election, the American public is going to have a hell of a time understanding the Iraqi election. Clearly, Iraqis voted their immediate interests as they saw them, whether out of compulsion or their free will. Now we have to decide what those interests might have been and how, if at all, the United States can interpret them.

Our guess is that whoever takes office will be in an incredible bind--how to assert sovereignty and national identity in the midst of an occupation that provides both security and opportunity for deadly antagonism!

Bush does not want to leave the Iraqis before they are capable of defending themselves. It could take a decade for that to come about. Iraqis are not going to like the prospect of being occupied and protected over that long a haul.

It boils down to this: whatever the election was, it was part of a process that needs every bit of goodwill it can muster. The history of post-WWII Germany and Japan should be instructive. Notice, please, that we are still in both Japan and Germany SIX decades later!

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