6.22.2005

american voices

Letters to the New York Times today about the Guantanamo gulag.
To the Editor:

Re "Guantanamo's Long Shadow," by Anthony Lewis (Op-Ed, June 21):

I want to assure Mr. Lewis that despite his statement that "Americans have seemingly ceased to care" about the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, this American, and everyone I talk with, continues to be outraged by it and cares deeply. It is the leaders of this country, specifically the Bush administration, who do not care and want our country to forget.

I am continually frustrated that as a citizen with little voice or power other than contacting my elected representatives and casting my vote, I lack the ability to move this country to take the appropriate action.

Mr. Lewis, please tell me what you would have us do.

Patricia Smith
Madison, N.J., June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

I agree with Anthony Lewis ("Guantanamo's Long Shadow"). And the longer we keep Guantanamo open, the more anger we will generate in the Muslim world.

The attack on 9/11 came not because the suicide bombers and their handlers were envious of our free democratic society but because of American foreign policy.

No matter how many terrorist plots we foil using new and better efforts, the only true safety for Americans will come when we become better world citizens, when we eschew military intervention and use diplomatic intervention.

I am an old woman, but I can dream, can't I?

Susan Stern
Chestnut Hill, Mass., June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

At a June 20 press briefing, President Bush, in response to a question about the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and elsewhere, said, "What do you do with these people?" I have one suggestion: You could give them a trial.

James Scalzo
Philadelphia, June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

Re "Who We Are" (editorial, June 18):

Americans are proud to be a society that lives under the rule of law, but our post-9/11 detention facilities were created specifically to sidestep accountability for prisoner abuse under any law, United States or international.

Our country will continue to pay an incalculably heavy global price till this self-righteous folly is ended.

Ted S. Corin
Austin, Tex., June 18, 2005



To the Editor:

Re "Who We Are" (editorial, June 18):

We should have closed Guantanamo and the other prisons where torture has occurred long ago, if only in self-interest.

As you correctly point out, abusive treatment of prisoners jeopardizes members of our own military, if captured.

But another selfish consideration should be what the torturing does to the torturers.

What becomes of our young people in the military who are asked or commanded to do the unspeakable to another human being?

Torturers seek to dehumanize the prisoner, but in fact, it is they who lose their humanity.

Is this "who we are"?

Bev Smith
Wheeling, W.Va., June 18, 2005
These letters do my heart good. They give me hope.

30 comments:

Lone Primate said...

Oh, it's hard for a Canadian to say... hard for a Canadian to admit... but you know, if all the people of the United States came around to this way of thinking, the US would become what it set out to be... the greatest force for good in the world.

There. I said it. I didn't hurt that much. :)

Anonymous said...

L-girl on iPAQ:

Like the letter-writer says above, we can dream...

Though the cynic and socialist in me says that even if we did, those in power profit too much from war to give up the habit.

Anonymous said...

ALPF...

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/11944852.htm

RobfromAlberta said...

the US would become what it set out to be... the greatest force for good in the world.

It already is, unless you can name a bigger one.

Anonymous said...

The greatest force for good in the world, in my book, has always been individual people who care passionately about justice, leading others. People like Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Cesar Chavez. And hundreds of others.

Progress has been made in spite of governments, not through them.

L-girl on iPAQ

RobfromAlberta said...

Individual voices are important, but only when people care what is being said. Nelson Mandela would have died in a South African prison were it not for the pressure of western democratic governments. The Polish solidarity movement would have been crushed by the Soviets, as previous reform movements in eastern Europe had, were it not for Soviet weakness in the face of a resolute American president.

It's true that governments don't do anything positive, in and of themselves, but democratic governments must succumb to the will of the people (not always, I'll grant you) and if the epople are basically good, the actions of their government will be too.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you in part. I would add that the minority (as it usually seems to be) of people who care enough have to exert enough pressure, kick up enough dust, to get masses of people interested, and eventually, finally their govt should come along.

Your point about Mandela is correct, but those western govts were *forced* to do the right thing, the didn't pony up on their own. They didn't want to upset the status quo.

Since that is almost always the pattern, I can't credit "the US" as a force for good.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me.

L-girl

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

"It's true that governments don't do anything positive, in and of themselves, but democratic governments must succumb to the will of the people (not always, I'll grant you) and if the epople are basically good, the actions of their government will be too."

Unless they're carefully manipulated into doing evil in the name of good. Nazi Germany is a prime example of why the "democratic peace" theory doesn't work. And America is dangerously close to following in the same footsteps. However, there is signs (like the above letters) that America won't derail and fall into fascism.

However, if anything the last few years have shown is that real fascism does exist in America, and it must be watched (in contrast to the traditional call-everyone-on-the-right fascist and call-everyone-on-the-left communist).

Anonymous said...

"Unless they're carefully manipulated into doing evil in the name of good."

Excellent point, Kyle.

L-girl

RobfromAlberta said...

Nazi Germany is a prime example of why the "democratic peace" theory doesn't work.

I sometimes think too much hay is made of the fact that Hitler was elected. It's true that he lulled a humiliated and impoverished populace into voting him into power, but he didn't keep power that way. To maintain his hold on power, he had to dispense with German democracy.

Likewise, with the US, Bush was elected, but his popularity ebbs and flows. He was beatable even in the last election and a strong Democratic candidate could regain the presidency in 2008. The shock of 9/11 is already starting to fade.

L-girl said...

"I sometimes think too much hay is made of the fact that Hitler was elected."

I agree.

But too much is made of the "fact" that Bush was elected. He probably was not. There is much evidence that the results of both the 2000 and 2004 elections were fraudulent.

In addition, the US system (campaign contributions + media) is so corrupt that it can barely be called a democracy anymore.

In a sense this is even more dangerous than a flat-out fascist government, as it placates people with the appearance of democracy.

People are less alarmed. They can say, well, we don't like what the govt is doing, but they were elected, all we can do is ride it out until the next election. Meanwhile they get away with all of it.

G said...

Hard to tell. 2000, to me at least, was a case of mainly system failure, with the dreaded chads and, more importantly, the unimportance of the popular vote. It's a system in which 10 of the States (1/5 of the country!) matter in an election, and the rest really make no difference. In other words, 20% of the country is effectively represented in every election. Some democracy.

2004 is a bit trickier, as I see it, anyway. Again, the system is flawed and again, 20% have the say. Add into that Ohio:

There was a serious lack of voting machines in Ohio, forcing long lines which people just left after 3 hours, or couldn't even get to the machine before polls closed. Network news actually reported calls from Republican volunteers to registered voters instructing them (especially inner city, where education levels are not high) to go to the wrong voting centres, where their votes, because of the wrong location, didn't count. This of course was never followed up on or officially verified. There were also reports of harrassment, and intimidation (also mentioned in Network News but never verified - of course). And then, post election, it was revealed that many ballots initially ruled invalid were actually valid. Hmmm.

So the end result in Ohio was one of the lowest effective voter turnouts (by way of votes registered and votes that actually counted) due to all of these factors.

It may appear the case of fraud is very strong indeed in 2004. There are some good articles on Ohio, and specifically the issues with the machines, below.

Freepress.org
Lots of good links in this one.

Institute For Public Accuracy
Important views on what went wrong in Ohio.

L-girl said...

It's a crazy system, there's no doubt about that. The electoral college is anti-democratic and shouldn't exist.

However, it's not really hard to tell that there was fraud in 2004, and it's not just in Ohio. It's much deeper than that.

There were unexplained
"irregularities" with electronic voting (with no paper trail) in counties in Florida, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, among others. There were signficant numbers of these strange occurences during the 2002 midterm election as well.

I can't quote chapter and verse anymore, my memory isn't that good, but I assure you it didn't come down to a few counties in Ohio.

I followed this stuff avidly from 2000 to 2004 and became firmly convinced that the election system in the US is rigged. Meaning, we don't actually have elections anymore. It's a huge part of why Allan & I decided to emigrate.

The leading authority in this are the folks at black box voting.org, led by the Bev Harris.

G said...

Oh yes, certainly I know it was deeper than that. Didn't want to cast the impression it was only Ohio - that just happened to be the example I was personally most familiar with. :-)

Getting used to the system here shouldn't take long. Basically there are 3 power parties, then toss in the Green Party to make it 4 contenders for the title, 5 if in Quebec with the Bloc, but really only 3 have any shot at actual leadership.

Voting is done by riding, similar to precinct. There are 308 ridings in Canada, and 308 seats in the House of Commons. One MP per riding is elected. If a party wins more than 154 seats, then, they win the majority government.

Population plays a large role in which provinces have which number of ridings. So Ontario has 106 as opposed to Alberta's 28. Again, similar in some respects to the US inthat it appears that some provinces have more say.

And to an extent they do. What's interesting though, is the political landscape in Canada. Ontario is often deemed, for instance, to be a Liberal province. Yet provincially our leadership goes back and forth from CPC to Liberal and back again. Even Federally, it's about 40-40 here between those two with the rest split between NDP and Green. In Quebec, the same holds true with Bloc vs Liberal numbers. In effect the larger provinces cancel themselves out, and always have. It's one thing you can always count on from Ontario and Quebec. This leaves the rest of the provinces (whose numbers are much closer to each others') to effectively make the decision. So balanced is achieved across the land.

The funny thing is the Big 3 here aren't all that far off from each other in the grand scheme. Their individual policies don't differ a great deal outside of the Health Care system, US relations and the gay marriage issue. It's less policy differences and more the approach taken to those policies that make the difference:

The NDP love to spend, and feel social spending and aid should be the top priority. The CPCs don't dismiss social spending, but feel that economic stability of the country should come first, and if that means social cuts, they are a necessary evil. The Liberals talk a good game on both sides, and will usually go the way of public opinion (though there are cases where they do not - GST foremost). That strategy, while not always best for the country, has historically resulted in a strong vote count as people feel listened to.

So because the policies themselves are so similar (even the CPCs advocate a form of public health care mixed with the private) it will almost always be close in many provinces when it comes to voting. Which I think is great - there is more pressure on platforms and on approach, and the vote can go either way at any time (illustrated no better than the current Liberal minority govt). It's part of what is great about living here - our votes actually do count all across because it's really just small differences (ie approach) that separate the parties. Cool.

And we can still get passionate about those differences also (as you've seen in my own, Rob's, and Lone Primate's exchanges). It's a different kind a passion, one focussed on those very specific differences that exist in our views. It's detailed, not broad, as we learn through our political system that truth does indeed lie in the details. And that is just awesome.

Sorry, this was horrendously long, but I hope informative. What can I say - you got me going on something close to my Canuck heart. :-)

Great Canadian election info at
Elections Canada

L-girl said...

It's very informative, and I thank you! Especially for the link.

Unfortunately I won't be able to participate in the system for at least three years. After being a Permanent Resident for three years, we can apply for citizenship. So for a while I'll only be a spectator - unusual for me.

G said...

That's OK - good to know anyway. Three years .... hmmm, at the rate we're going that means you'll miss out on participating in 6-8 elections.

;-)

Here's hoping it's only 1.

Lone Primate said...

It's a crazy system, there's no doubt about that. The electoral college is anti-democratic and shouldn't exist.

And how. It's making a mockery of the election of the president. People are seriously suggesting it's fixed. Different rules, not just state by state by county by county. How is that fair? Why does the opinion of someone in North Dakota count for more than the opinion of someone from New York... or the same person if he or she happens to move from one state to the other? I'm amazed the democratic election of US senators was achieved in the 19th Century, but this needless jiggery-pokery of processing what ought to be a straightforward, one-American-one-vote election for the only single federal office elected by the whole country, still exists.

Lone Primate said...

These letters do my heart good. They give me hope.

Sigh. Then, on the other hand...
there's the voice of smug insensitivity and indifference disguised in clown make-up... :(

L-girl said...

That's OK - good to know anyway.

Oh definitely. I'm amazed at how much I've picked up over the last year or 18 months - but I still have a long way to go.

Three years .... hmmm, at the rate we're going that means you'll miss out on participating in 6-8 elections.

Hee hee.

Why does the opinion of someone in North Dakota count for more than the opinion of someone from New York...

And even crazier, the system has its staunch defenders. They are mainly from sparsely populated states, and feel believe their votes won't count at all unless they're bundled in the winner-take-all state-by-state system. It's nonsensical.

You'd think that after the 2000 debacle there'd be a serious movement to abolish it. But no...

Lone Primate said...

Unfortunately I won't be able to participate in the system for at least three years. After being a Permanent Resident for three years, we can apply for citizenship. So for a while I'll only be a spectator - unusual for me.

Just in the actual vote. From what I recall, there are no citizenship requirements to joining a federal or provincial party and electing that party's candidate. I was, briefly, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada when I was in university. On the lead-up to a federal election, I was active in selecting our party's candidate in my riding. The night we nominated the candidate (ironically, on my campus at the university), I lined up with other delegates who were using their foreign passports to meet the photo ID requirements. No kidding. So those folks couldn't vote in the federal election yet, but they did have a say in shaping the polity of their new country by helping to steer the federal candidacy. As far as I know, that's open to you and Allan the minute you arrive as landed immigrants.

Some countries are even more liberal in their voting rights. In the UK, any legally-resident Commonwealth citizen (Canadian, Australian, etc.) is elegible not only to vote, but even to run in elections and hold office!

RobfromAlberta said...

Getting used to the system here shouldn't take long. Basically there are 3 power parties, then toss in the Green Party to make it 4 contenders for the title, 5 if in Quebec with the Bloc, but really only 3 have any shot at actual leadership

That's pretty optimistic. I would say one party with a realistic shot at governance, one more with a ridiculously-improbable but non-zero chance.

L-girl said...

As far as I know, that's open to you and Allan the minute you arrive as landed immigrants.

Wow. I'll have to look into that, I haven't come across it anywhere else. I wonder if it's changed with the new immigration rules.

G said...

Nah, Rob, really it's 2 - 3.

Look at the minority situation right now. Perfect example of that.

Another election this summer? Waste of time. Polls show results would be similar to the minority govt now. A while back it would have been a CPC minority in a new election, but hey, Harps did himself and his party in.

Yet given that, it remains close, with the NDP again playing the Ralph Nader of Canada role. My bet, should an election take place in the summer, is Liberal minority with close numbers between CPC and NDP. People remember the tantrums. And the insults. And the walkouts. And it will cost the CPCs, perhaps even enough that NDP gets 2nd-most seats. And Conservatives have only Harper to thank for their freefall.

Lone Primate said...

Yet given that, it remains close, with the NDP again playing the Ralph Nader of Canada role.

Yeah, that's how the Tories did it in '88. Most Canadians voted against the FTA, but the Grits and the NDP split the vote. The Tories squeezed up the middle with 43% and got a huge majority which they used to foist the FTA on us, despite the fact that nearly 3/5 of us demonstrably didn't want it. I wouldn't be in any rush to the polls either if Harper could benefit from that today, much the same way that the PC-Reform split hampered the conservatives for so long.

RobfromAlberta said...

And it will cost the CPCs, perhaps even enough that NDP gets 2nd-most seats.

Never happen, the CPC won't lose any ground in the West. What easterners see as tantrums and insults, westerners see as legitimate responses to Liberal corruption. I even expect "Landslide Annie" is seeing her last days in government.

RobfromAlberta said...

The Tories squeezed up the middle with 43% and got a huge majority which they used to foist the FTA on us, despite the fact that nearly 3/5 of us demonstrably didn't want it.

The Liberals have had 12 years to get rid of it (along with the GST). Yet, we still have both. I guess they weren't such bad ideas after all.

Lone Primate said...

The Liberals have had 12 years to get rid of it (along with the GST). Yet, we still have both. I guess they weren't such bad ideas after all.

When I voted for them, it was to get rid of those policies. Finally, in 2000, I voted against them because I'd gotten fed up. Don't pat Muldoon on the fanny too hard. The GST revenue is to a large extent what's paying down the federal debt, and from what I recall, we larded on about 60% of it during his watch (figures I found in the Hansard are from $187B in 1984 to >$500B in 1993). The GST is our "stupidity for voting Tory" tax. I only wish it were confined to the 43% of the electorate who gave him the nod in 1988 when they'd had four years to know better.

As for the FTA and NAFTA... again, what can I say. When I was born, we were doing about 60% of our export trade with the US. Today, it's about 90%, and that represents nearly a third of our economy. That's one dangerously large egg in one basket, and I expect us to be wearing it sooner or later.

So if you were expecting me to fall down and roll around in the strong smell of Liberal wisdom, think again. They dropped the ball on both issues. The best I can say for them is they faced hard choices in the Tory wake that they didn't really have the guts to make on the night.

Lone Primate said...

As far as I know, that's open to you and Allan the minute you arrive as landed immigrants.

Wow. I'll have to look into that, I haven't come across it anywhere else. I wonder if it's changed with the new immigration rules.


Yup, it's official. All three parties are open to permanent residents of Canada, and do not require citizenship. The first two sources are from the federal Liberal and Conservative websites, respectively. Info for the NDP comes from Mapleweb:

********

Join the Liberal Party of Canada

It's easy to join. Canadian residents 14-years and older, and who belong to no other federal political party, can simply fill out and submit this form.

It will then be forwarded to your provincial or territorial association that will contact you directly.

********

Conservative Party of Canada

Conditions of Membership:
• Permanent resident of Canada
• Active support for the founding principles of the CPC
• At least 14 years of age

********

New Democratic Party of Canada

Membership Prerequisites

Individual Membership - Membership for individual persons.

Prerequisites include:
A resident of Canada
Not a member or supporter of any other political party
Age prerequisite will differ from province to province
Support the Principles of the New Democratic Party as set out in the Party’s Constitution.

L-girl said...

Amazing!! Thank you so much.