July 08, 2006

Saturday's Potpourri

What happens when the Logic & Accuracy tests for automated voting machines are defective? Here's a cautionary tale about why you should worry about even the OptiScan systems that record votes from an optical scan card. But even worse is what happens when this type of programming error is programmed into a DRE (the touch screen machine) where there isn't any record of how someone voted to recount by hand.

Krogmeier also told me that there was a problem in Dallas Co., a suburban county just to the south of Des Moines, where a professor from Drake University asked to use the AutoMark machine when he voted. He went through the ballot, marking his choices, and when he was through he checked the ballot to find that one race had been swapped. His ballot was "wasted" and he voted again with the same results. He then agreed to allow a poll worker to sit and watch while he voted. The same thing happened and the machine was taken out of service at that point. The problem was the same as in Pottawattamie County except that we only know of one ballot that was affected. How many more were marked incorrectly on this and the AutoMark systems used in 20 other Iowa counties.

Have you checked with VerifiedVoting lately to see what you can do to help stop the madness of unreliable machines being relied on without sound checks for our elections lately?

KanziFor a long time, humans have thought that language was one of the main reasons that humans were different from other living creatures. Well, here is another area where human superiority might be thrown out as we find that other creatures have the capacity to learn language and communicate on the level of humans. This morning, Saturday Morning Edition had a fascinating piece about a couple of bonobos who demonstrate an incredibly rich capacity for language. There's also an excellent multimedia piece that talks about language and what is involved in human communication.

Altercation's Thursday Book Review discusses Greg Grandin's new book, Empire's Workshop : Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism which shows how the Christian Right shaped the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Grandin shows how the Central American wars of Reagan's days were the harbinger of the Bush policy writ large.

The influence of neocons in Bush’s “remoralization” of American diplomacy has been widely noted. But Empire’s Workshop sheds light on the Christian Right’s contribution as well. To understand this contribution, one has to revisit Ronald Reagan’s brutal patronage of death-squad states in El Salvador and Guatemala and anti-communist insurgents in Nicaragua – a crusade which in retrospect now has to be understood as boot camp for the shock troops of the gathering New Right.

Sara Diamond exposed the Christian Right involvement in the Central American wars in her book, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Her investigations into the Christian Right showed that their ultimate goal was to make the United States a theocracy and the launching pad to take dominion over the whole world and these wars were to further these goals. She foretold the type of foreign policy that would once more take over the American superpower when the Christian Right gained influence again. Grandin closes the loop by once more showing the links to the ideology that has declared war on a more humanist and tolerant world. (Here's a review of Diamond's work.)

One annoyance I have is with the way the media has taken to calling the reactionary Christian Right "evangelicals". It's become ubiquitous. Here's how Grandin introduced his subject:

... evangelicals have long been key in backing the kind of muscular internationalism espoused by Bush since 9/11.

In recent years, there has been a number of books accounting for the strength of the religious right, some of which – most notably Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? – suggest that if “value” issues such as abortion and gay rights could be neutralized, evangelicals would support a return to New Deal social democracy. Scratch an evangelical, the argument goes, and you’ll find an economic populist waiting to get out. Likewise, when commentators do look at the role of foreign policy in the rise of fundamentalism, they tend to focus on the strange alliance formed between neoconservatives and evangelicals in support of Israel.

Yet, there are huge differences between Americans who call themselves evangelicals and it seems wrong to me that they could be painted as backing this warlike and immoral ideology. One very thoughtful blogger I read all the time is Fred Clark at the Slacktivist, and he is very public in his being a liberal evangelical. He clearly does not back Bush's foreign policy.

And even in the ranks of those who are conservative Christians, are very strong disagreements with the more extreme Christian Dominionists and the Bush agenda. A number of Evangelicals have come together to combat global warming despite the fact that the more reactionary leaders believe that God wouldn't let the world burn up.

And just last month, Rick Warren, the founder of the one of the largest evangelical churches in the USA and author of The Purpose Driven Life, publicly joined with a number of other religious leaders in the campaign to abolish torture which I had written about last February.

It is too bad that our government is so beholding to some of the worst influences of the Christian Right. Howard Dean was right to focus on the Fundamentalist Preachers as part of the insanity that has hijacked our country. The job becomes more manageable when we can be accurate in the language we use, because the danger isn't from "evangelicals", it is from the Christian Right who claims to speak for the evangelicals when they really don't.

I've written about the inappropriate use of Deceptive Language before. It's still a huge problem. So why does the media insist on using the language of the corrupt and lying Right-wing?

Update: Here's a nice exposition by Fred Clark which explores how the use of the language, i.e., "Bush is a war president", is wrong because the Congress has not ever declared war. As he notes, clarity of language and thus thought would definitely help.

Posted by Mary at July 8, 2006 02:02 PM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |