Political MoJo

A Moment of Truth for Electronic Voting

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 9:04 PM EDT

A third of the nation's 8,000 voting jurisdictions are using electronic voting for the first time this November. How are their systems expected to perform? Patchily, according to a committee of National Research Council experts.

"Some jurisdictions -- and possibly many -- may not be well prepared for the arrival of the November 2006 elections with respect to the deployment and use of electronic voting equipment and related technology, and anxiety about this state of affairs among election officials is evident in a number of jurisdictions." (Washington Post)

The panel's chairman called the November midterms "a moment of truth for electronic voting," and the analysis a "caution sign, not a stop sign, but not a clean bill of health for a technology that everyone recognizes there may be problems with."

For more on those problems--machines can screw up and are vulnerable to hacking--see this and this, and this.

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Public Ready to Withdraw from Iraq

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 8:34 PM EDT

The New York Times poll about Iraq is pretty stunning. 56 percent of respondents think the United States should "set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq". A whopping 72 percent think the war in Iraq is "making the U.S. image in the world… worse." And 41 percent think the U.S. presence in Iraq is leading to "less stability" in the Middle East (as opposed to a mere 25 percent who thinks it's leading to "greater stability.")

At this point, it appears that any candidate—Democrat or Republican—who truly believes that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of the very bad options available has no political reason for refraining from saying so. Meanwhile, on the partisan front, 42 percent of respondents thought that Democrats were "more likely to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq," compared to 36 percent who thought Republicans were more likely to do so. I wonder how those numbers would change if Democrats came out more strongly in favor of a timetable for getting out.

I also wonder how to square this with the fact that, according to a poll published a few days ago, over half the people in this country falsely believe Saddam Hussein had WMDs, and 55 percent of respondents believe that "history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq." Maybe they can be reconciled. Maybe polls just show that people are usually quite confused.

Is Europe Afraid of Lebanon?

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 8:03 PM EDT

Hmmm… Harold Meyerson writes that Europe should "put up or shut up" and deploy peacekeepers in southern Lebanon to secure the borders and stop the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Okay, but is this realistic? Would a European force actually be able to stop Hezbollah from firing missiles into Europe? He doesn't say.

What if Hezbollah defies this much-heralded international force, or what if they start waging a guerrilla war against the peacekeepers to try to drive them out? Should Europe stay? Should Europe fight? Should they try to wage a counterinsurgency battle against Hezbollah? Is that realistic? If European countries are really just refusing to deploy troops to Lebanon out of sheer cowardice, that's one thing, but if they have serious objections to deploying troops there, because they're afraid of getting caught in a situation similar to what the United States faces in Iraq, well, that deserves a hearing, no?

IHCIA not a Congressional priority

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 7:51 PM EDT

A couple of days ago, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman stood on the Senate floor and told terrible stories of Native Americans in his state who could not get health care. Native Americans are five to seven times more likely to get diabetes, and they are also more likely than other Americans to get tuberculosis, yet their healthcare choices are very limited.

Bingaman talked about a little girl who died because she could not get treatment, and then talked about a man who had run out of insulin, but when he went to the only available clinic, there was none there and the doctors were unable to get any for at least twenty-four hours. Patients who need serious or emergency treatment have no hospital, and often have no transportation to take them to one.

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) was passed in 1976. IHCIA expired in 2000, and Congress has yet to renew it, despite putting about $3 billion a year into it. Native American advocates say this sum is too low, and that the lack of reauthorization make future funding uncertain.

The U.S. Senate only recently restored funding for the Urban Indian Health Program, which George W. Bush has proposed be eliminated in the 2007 budget.

The IHCIA reauthorization that is being proposed includes funding to recruit and train healthcare professionals, provide mental health treatment and mental and behavioral health education, and provide disease preventon and cancer screening. But Congressional interest in reauthorizing IHCIA, as usual, is low. In the meantime, the Indian Health Service estimates that two-thirds of health care needed by Native Americans and Alaskan Natives is denied.

In related news, Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment announced today that it will, along with Dooda Desert Rock Committee, oppose the approval of an air quality permit for the Desert Rock power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

From the announcement:

Two existing plants in the vicinity have been called two of the worst point-sources of pollution in the U.S. by the EPA, spewing concentrations of a number of pollutants proven to be damaging to human health and the environment. The health of neighboring residents has already been compromised by their exposure to these toxins; it would be genocidal to subject them to more pollutants in their already overburdened community. Despite the talk of so-called reduced power plant emissions, the San Juan County area simply cannot afford the increased emissions levels that will result from Desert Rock.

The announcement goes on to say that "The U.S. government spends twice as much per capita ($3800) on health care for federal prisoners as it spends for Native Americans."

Venezuela Buys Arms from Russia, Hints at a Nuke Program

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 7:39 PM EDT



[Guardian] Russia signed a £1.6 billion [$3 billion] arms deal with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela today, risking a confrontation with the U.S., which has imposed an arms embargo on the South American country.

The outspoken Venezuelan president, who has claimed that America wants to assassinate him and pledged cheap heating fuel for London's poor, also told reporters in Moscow that his country could develop its own nuclear program.

Earlier this month, Chavez looked deep into the soul of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an African Union summit and liked what he saw. "Doesn't Iran have the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful means?" he asked--rhetorically--while Ahmadinejad returned the compliment by lashing out at "bullying powers" who "think the countries and nations of the world must be their slaves. I know how the oppressed people of Africa and Latin America have suffered." Good thing we have so much leverage with both these countries.

What's Wrong With the Child Custody Protection Act

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 7:19 PM EDT

Yesterday, the House and Senate passed the Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to transport a pregnant minor across state borders for an abortion without parental consent, and allow parents to sue abortion providers if their daughters go to a clinic without permission. Today in the American Prospect, Helena Silverstein and Wayne Fishman take the time to explain what's wrong with this law.

Thirty-four states have laws in effect that require either parental consent or notification before a minor can get an abortion. The official purpose of the CCPA is to bolster these state laws. After all, what good is it for, say, Pennsylvania to require parental consent if grandma or boyfriend can just take missy to New Jersey? It's a fair enough point.

But here's another fair point: Not all families are well functioning, and missy might have very good reason to think that dad would unleash some righteous whoop-ass on any daughter of his who is even sexually active, never mind one who wants an abortion. So a minor's wellbeing can be put at risk by making it more difficult for her to get an abortion without parental involvement -- for instance, by going out of state. Now some supporters of parental notification laws argue that if a pregnant minor is really in trouble with her parents (because they're abusive, say, or because the girl's father was the one who got her pregnant), then she can just go get a "judicial bypass" from the courts that would allow her to get an abortion without notifying her parents.

But as Silverstein and Fishman point out, the judicial bypass system is a complete and utter mess. In Alabama and Tennessee, "nearly half of the courts charged with implementing the bypass mechanism were unprepared to do so." And many judges, unaware of their responsibilities, simply refuse to give pregnant minors a waiver to get an abortion for ideological reasons. So often there's no escape, and the CCPA is, in effect, bolstering a court system that doesn't work.

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What You Don't - and Won't - Know About Iraq Casualties

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 5:15 PM EDT

How many Americans have really been killed in Iraq? No one knows, because the Army won't release information on private security contractors involved in shooting incidents. Yesterday a federal judge, ruling against a Los Angeles Times FOIA request, declared that policy was a legitimate means of keeping information from insurgents - even though the Army does release the names and locations of regular soldiers involved in shootings. This fits right into the Bush administration's pattern of downplaying casualties, including tricky dodges like undercounting soldiers injured in battle who aren't actually shot.

Iraq War vs. Drug War

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 5:06 PM EDT

Seems the war in Iraq is undermining the Bush administration's war on drugs. While alcohol is harder to find because of harassment from Islamic extremists, "illegal narcotics are available everywhere in Iraq and anyone can get products containing amphetamines and codeine from any pharmacy or sidewalk throughout Iraq," says a local health official.

"War is a total failure of the human spirit."

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 4:40 PM EDT


Dahr Jamail is filing daily dispatches for Mother Jones from Beirut. Read his latest here.

Who's Arming Israel? Take a Guess.

Thu Jul. 27, 2006 3:24 PM EDT

Until a few days ago, there was room for debate over the extent to which the United States was to blame for the tragedy unfolding in Lebanon. Then came the administration's decision to expedite a shipment of laser-guided bombs to Israel, followed by Condoleezza Rice squelching calls from Europe and Arab nations for a ceasefire in Lebanon. Anyone who still doubts that the U.S. has blood on its hands is either delusional or, as Fouad Siniora said yesterday, none too concerned with Lebanese blood.

But American culpability for Israel's actions goes deeper than that. A report published yesterday by Foreign Policy in Focus entitled "Who's Arming Israel?" sheds light on one aspect of this support. "During the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing—the Pentagon's biggest military aid program—and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries." The jet fuel and bombs that have been offered in July are drops in the bucket by comparison.

The report's authors describe this military support for Israel in order to argue that the United States has a lot of leverage over its ally—enough to stop its vicious campaign against Lebanon whenever it wants. But there is another point as well: by not only supporting but facilitating Israel's destruction of Lebanon, the United States is guaranteeing that the fires of anti-Americanism will keep burning for years to come—and not just in the Middle East. In what world body will the U.S. ever receive welcome reception of its aims and ideals after this shameful spectacle?

In an interview with Mother Jones last week, University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer placed this point in a broader context:

It's not just bin Laden—people in the Islamic world more generally are deeply hostile to the United States because we support Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. As a consequence, huge numbers of people in the Middle East tend to be more sympathetic to bin Laden than would otherwise be the case. As long as the United States continues to support Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, it will be impossible to win hearts and minds in the Arab and Islamic world and solve the terrorism problem.