No tears for the voteless

RE: “Barring Democracy


The very idea that any citizen should be denied the right to vote is fundamentally ridiculous. There is absolutely no public danger inherent in allowing either current or former prisoners to participate in the democratic process. But there is, as pointed out in your article, a very real danger in not allowing them to vote. This is especially true in a society like ours, where the madness of a dubious “drug war” has imprisoned tens of thousands of innocent people.

It’s an uncomfortable fact to deal with, and one which most unincarcerated Americans would rather not acknowledge — until it happens to them, or to someone they care about. You don’t have to be a political scientist to figure out that one of the primary reasons elected officials will never examine this travesty is that the very people most profoundly affected by it have been disenfranchised and, consequently, no longer matter to those in a position to do anything about their plight.

And therein lies the danger. As history has shown time and again, once any group of citizens is barred from the political process, their issues become non-issues. It doesn’t matter how tragic or unjust their circumstances are. In the eyes of the power brokers, if they can’t vote, they don’t matter.

Greg Tyrey



It seems strange to me that you don’t see the obvious connection between criminals and votes for Democrats. What you have stated in your article is that criminals vote for Democrats more often than they do Republicans. I agree wholeheartedly! What this clearly demonstrates is that the criminal element favors Democrats. Now please go away and see if you can get someone to help you pull your foot out of your mouth.

Thanks for the incredible revelation. This is certainly landmark information for the Republican party.

Taylor Mullaly


Don’t forget the johns

RE: “Innocence for Sale


I liked your article, because I did not know of the industry’s emergence in Costa Rica. But please do some work on who the patrons are. This is what is often left out of reporting, and I do think that if we can figure out the profile of the type of person who travels around the world looking to have sex with children, we can then target that type of person in the prevention campaign. We already know generally why children are vulnerable to entering this market. Please don’t make the same mistake we make in domestic reporting on prostitution, which is to allow the perpetrators to escape through the cracks anonymously.

Jennifer Bowles
Washington, DC


Observing the disgrace

RE: “US Elections Need International Observers


I agree completely. There’s a bumper sticker I downloaded off a site in Switzerland, “Evil Empires, One Down, One to Go.” It had a picture of the former Soviet Union’s flag with an “X” through it next to that was, you guessed it, a US flag.

There’s so much that’s wrong with this country, including the naive notion that we really do have freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Michael Huffman



I think what happened this year with our election process is a national disgrace. Now that the trumped up Commission on Debates is seen for the private club it is, it ought to be abolished and the debates returned to the League of Women Voters.

I thought I had heard it all until the last debate this week, when Jim Lehrer gave out with the rules. When a citizen asked a question, he said, his/her microphone would be turned off so he/she couldn’t converse with the presidential candidate. The candidate was not permitted to ask a question of the questioner. Who are the controllers shutting off free speech in this country, and why isn’t every citizen screaming his/her head off about this?

For Ralph Nader to be turned away, ticket in hand, from attending one of the debates by three security policemen is another national disgrace. It was bad enough he was kept off the debate platform, but to further deny him his rights in that fashion is unconscionable.

I saw the third party debate on C-Span and it was terrific. Not many saw it I suppose, thanks to our corporate-driven media. Thank you, C-Span! Those third party candidates had a lot to offer. Too bad they can’t get a fair shake in their own country.

D. Balkan


Checking on Cheney

RE: “Cheney’s Checkbook Democracy


Cheney should be held accountable for his disdain for democracy. Unfortunately, I believe that in reality as a voter I have little impact except at the local level. Even then, the most influence I can achieve is to align myself with groups or organizations who hold similar viewpoints to my own, and hope that they, with my participation, will drive the debate on issues at campaign time

Mike Settell


That sick liberal agenda

RE: “Barring Democracy


Those who commit felonies lose their right to vote. This is part of the punishment of engaging in anti-social activities. Your desire to enable felons to vote in order to create more votes for the liberal agenda is sickening. Once a felon, always a felon. It is the scarlet letter for life, much as being convicted of child molestation or sexual assault is for life.

Felons do not deserve the right to vote. They rejected that right by engaging in criminal activity.

Billy Riddle



Jello Biafra has described the war on drugs as ethnic cleansing, American-style.

If your readers doubt this, they should ask themselves why white drug users outnumber nonwhite drug users, but a majority of those being deprived of their vote or dying or doing time for nonviolent drug crimes are people of color.

Maybe the corrupt politicians and media are required to adhere to the party line of prohibition because law enforcement, customs, the prison and military industrial complex, the drug testing industry, the INS, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, and the politicians themselves can’t live without the budget justification, not to mention the invisible profits, bribery, corruption, and forfeiture benefits that prohibition affords them. The drug war also promotes, justifies, and perpetuates racist enforcement policies and is diminishing many freedoms and liberties that are supposed to be inalienable according to the Constitution.

Myron Von Hollingsworth
Fort Worth, Texas


Coke or Pepsi?

RE: “US Elections Need International Observers


I agree wholeheartedly. Nader’s removal from the hall, despite his possession of a ticket, is nothing short of an atrocity upon free speech — as opposed, say, to the Supreme Court ruling that soft money from corporations is free speech, which defies belief.

Also bad is the exclusion of Buchanan, however one feels about his politics. These two candidates bring real issues to the forum, which are not even touched by Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, Gore and Bush. But your article touches on the critical point, that Americans and participatory democracy are not served this way, but rather stymied. What a disgrace. The corporatization of our once proud nation continues. Keep on with the honest articles, and thanks.

Clarke W. Johnston
Novato, Calif.


Hypocritical to a fault

RE: “US Elections Need International Observers


The major parties have created a catch-22 for the future of multiparty politics in this country. The reason? Those in power will do anything they can to stay in power, even if that includes tyranny.

The real problem with this country is that we are too comfortable. Even those of us who stand out against the system — by voting third party despite scare tactics such as “You’re wasting your vote” or “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” — are too comfortable with our lives and the present system to stand up in the face of such blatant affronts to democracy. We may see no change until disenfranchisement comes with its equal in brutal living conditions that are so obvious that no amount of money spent advertising them as “the good life” will dupe us into believing they really are.

We’re certainly heading down that path at an astonishing rate — environmental diseases are running rampant, animals are going extinct, social disorders are dividing our cities, and the middle class is losing out to poverty more than ever. It is becoming increasingly obvious that American government is here to support the American corporate economy and not the American people that economy purports to serve.

Capra J’Neva



Not only did the US make noise internationally about the unfairness of the Yugoslavian elections, it actively gave millions of dollars and all forms of direct and indirect aid. This, according to our State Department, was to “level the playing field” and “encourage democracy” by supporting opposition parties to Milosevic.

Hypocrisy doesn’t begin to cover it. We need stronger words for such behavior. The active suppression of not just alternative candidates but even alternative media (see the shutdown of the LA indymedia center during the DNC protests in LA) should make our country the laughingstock of the world. It would indeed, I suspect, if we weren’t also the world’s biggest bully with a military budget 10 times larger than our nearest competitor’s and at least twice the size of the rest of the world’s combined. But as all bullies do, we will get our comeuppance, eventually.

Matthew Mausner
Portland, Ore.


Out of government and into voting booths

RE: “Cheney’s Checkbook Democracy


Voting is a privilege and a duty. If one dismisses this duty as the quaint obligation of the non-ruling class, then that person is a threat to democracy and need never stand near the office of President of the United States. As for the shameless contributions made to and by Mr. Cheney and others, let them have their enterprises, but keep them out of my government.

Cyndy Forman


You call these elections?

RE: “US Elections Need International Observers


I think we have a big problem in this country with regard to our democratic process. Stripping voting privileges from felons sounds like a good idea at first, but then the demographics show how unfair it is, especially since a huge percentage of them are in for drug-related charges, and now they can’t vote against the excesses of the drug war that put them in jail. It seems to me that our country could be headed for a future in which corporations become like governments and can pass their own laws and impose restrictions on civil rights.

Carter Reedy



I believe that one of the weaknesses of the US approach to voting and the franchise is that there is still the outdated and inappropriate attitude that voting is a right. In Australia, voting is regarded as a responsibility. As such, registration is mandatory, as is attendance at the polls during state and Commonwealth elections.

Unfortunately the US seems to be so obsessed with individual rights that it has lost the concept of social obligation.

The legitimacy of any government is directly proportional to the number of citizens involved in the electoral process which installed it. Any restriction on the franchise or failure to exercise it delegitimizes the process and the government. The rate of participation in US elections makes a mockery of any claims to be a democracy.

Gerard R. McEwen
Glandore, South Australia



This is a really good article. I agree that some international observers would keep the political process in check and would make America a better democracy. But this would never happen because Americans have the mentality that they are the most perfect country in the world. We applaud groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch when they criticize Cuba or Afghanistan, but as soon as they say something about the US criminal justice system, we stop listening. America is based on the idea of freedom from other countries; any kind of foreign intervention is “un-American”.

An interesting statistic: India has a higher percentage of voters than the US, and India has a 20-party system.

Sandeep Jani


All wrong

RE: “The Kids Who Confronted Milosevic


In hindsight, almost every assertion and prediction made in this article proved inaccurate. The author neglects to mention that the real “new opponent” is not the “irreverent, nonviolent, student-led movement called Otpor,” but the millions of dollars and covert aid supplied to the opposition in Yugoslavia by the United States in a successful attempt to subvert and manipulate the election there.

If this were taking place in Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala, or Vietnam, you and the rest of the leftist movement in this country would rightly be condemning the US government for its interference in the sovereign affairs of another nation. What of our commitment to the right of self-determination for the peoples of the world?

There should be no doubt that the government that emerges from this “great revolution” in the Balkans will be nothing but a puppet for US interests and hardly reflective of the true will of the Yugoslav people.

H.M. Hays