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Editorial correspondence | Back to Politics | Back to the world news

What is democratic about this election?
A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader
The dirty business of AIDS medicine
Money buys George W Bush the presidency
The United States is singled out as world's largest polluter
Bush imperils world's economy and peace to reward his mentors
Bush imperils world's economy and peace to reward his mentors
Murder declines nationwide...not!
What do the United States, China and Iran have in common?
The USA biotechnical industry is jeopardizing life on this planet
Older articles

    Click here for 2001 articles

  • (December 2000) Bush imperils world's economy and peace to reward his mentors. George W Bush is committed to "bipartisan" politics but the first actions he takes are 1. A large tax cut and 2. The missile defense, two of the most controversial topics in recent memory. Why would anyone risk his already low popularity with such divisive issues? Why would anyone risk to, respectively, 1. Cause a budget deficit after Clinton finally produced a budget surplus and 2. Cause a new world-wide arms race after Clinton finally reduced defense spending? Why undo two popular victories of the Clinton administration, just to create the premises for financial and international crises? And just after promising to work with the Democrats on non-controversial issues? Commentators who are puzzled by George W Bush's agenda forget how he was elected: he got loads of money from powerful godfathers. Those godfathers now want to see the return to their investment. Bush owes his presidency to the large corporations and to the arms manufacturers. He owes them billions of dollars, and the way he can deliver is by cutting taxes and by increasing defense spending. That has to be his first priority: jeopardize the country's economy and world peace in order to pay his personal debt to the powerful forces that got him elected. An expert in the missile defense project declared that "Until the technology is improved, a strategic missile defense would simply be a huge financial cost with no certain benefit." He missed the point: what Bush wants is the huge financial cost, not necessarily a working defense system. It's the money, stupid!
    Since both issues are so controversial, they are unlikely to pass both house and senate. Unless... there is a recession. Bush is likely to engineer an economic recession in America to make sure that Congress will pass his tax cut and his strategic missile defense program. Faced with a recession, Congress will have no choice: Americans will demand action to boost the economy, and any third-world country knows that tax cuts and free spending are the way a government can boost the national economy. Engineering a recession is very easy for a president: all he has to do is start talking about it. Just like Clinton engineered an economic expansion by injecting confidence in the country, Bush can engineer an economic recession by injecting pessimism in the country. All he has to do, basically, is start talking about a recession. If the president himself does not believe in the economy, why would anybody else? This will have a snowball effect that will eventually result in a recession. And then Bush will get his tax cut and his defense spending, and then Bush's godfathers will be appeased. Politics is that simple.
  • (November 2000) The United States is singled out as world's largest polluter. American politicians like to talk about protecting the environment and American citizens exhibit a unique hypocrisy (wasting more than anybody else but pretending that they "recycle" and therefore they should be absolved). In 1997 the United States signed an international treaty to reduce polluting waste. Easier said than done: the only way to accomplish it would be to raise taxes on energy, so that Americans learn to save energy and pollute less. Unfortunately, that also means upsetting American citizens who are used to waste as much as possible (In 2000, Americans even complained that gasoline price went up, even if it remains the lowest in the western world). At the Hague conference, Americans have outraged the rest of the world: when the world asked them to abide by the agreement they signed in 1997, Americans simply proposed that they would buy pollution from other countries. In other words, every country must stay within a "quota" of pollution. The United States vastly exceed that quota. But, for example, Ethiopia pollutes far less than its allowed quota. So the United States would like to give Ethiopia some money and be allowed to pollute for the quota that Ethiopia does not use. In other words, "I'll pollute for anybody who does not".
    Pollution remains one of the biggest problems of the United States. Unfortunately, that is also one American problem that becomes the problem of the entire planet, because gas emissions spread everywhere, they don't stay just in Texas.
  • (November 2000) Democracy in the United States: the loser wins. So much for democracy: the democratic candidate for president won more votes than the republican candidate, but the republican becomes president; the democratic candidates for senator won more votes than the republican c.andidates for senator, but the senate is going to be republican; the democratic candidates for the house of representatives (the parliament) won more votes than the republican candidates, but the house is going to be republican. The United States of America has become a republican dictatorship even if the will of the people was obviously the exact opposite. It takes the very convoluted logic of republican lawyers (who have sued just about everybody everywhere) to still call this country a "democracy". By that definition, Cuba is also a democracy.
  • (November 2000) Money buys George W Bush the presidency. When they started, there were four: Bush was in trouble with McCain, Gore was in trouble with Bradley. Every citizen with even a passing knowledge of the candidates knew that McCain and Bradley were much better men than Bush and Gore. But Bush and Gore had a lot more money to spend, and sure enough Bush and Gore won. Then it was Bush, whose credentials are almost nil, against Gore, who may not be a genius but presided over the longest economic expansion in history. But Bush had a lot more money to spend than Gore, and Bush did win. It doesn't take Einstein to figure out the relationship between campaign funding and the outcome of the election. What the relationship is between the outcome of the election and the concept of democracy is far less clear.
    Bush didn't even win the popular vote. Most people voted for Gore, but Bush wins the presidency. Bush's machinery worked and delivered the "states" (not necessarily the "votes") that elect the president. Bush won because with his money he was able to buy the best machine.
    Gore, on the other hand, lost in Tennessee, his own state. And he was the vice-president during the longest economic expansion in the history of the United States. What does it take for Gore to win the votes of the people who know him best?
    Bush supporters rule out voting again in any city, county or state, no matter how many irregularities surface, and one can only take this as an admission that Bush would lose any fair election, that Americans do not want Bush for president. Bush is behaving like a thief caught stealing: I got the dough, now stop investigating how I got it.
    Gore, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge that every election is flawed, and the "winner" is simply the one who is declared the winner, not necessarily the one whom people meant to vote for. The very elections that brought Clinton and Gore to the White House were flawed, those very elections depended on Ross Perot "stealing" votes from their opponents, those very elections never gave Clinton-Gore the majority of the popular vote. But Clinton-Gore were the winners, and the whole country accepted it without arguing. If you don't like the constitution, change it. Don't whine after you lost. Gore never complained while he was winning.
    Bush keeps saying that he trusts the people, but the last thing he wants to do is listen to the people, who voted against him and his party country-wide. Even in Florida, it doesn't take a political genius to realize that Gore+Nader beat Bush+Buchanan by a large margin, and it takes simple arithmetics to realize that the majority of Floridians did not vote for Bush, contrary to what he claimed.
    Gore, the very technocrat who wrote books about the wonderful benefits of computers, does not trust machine recounts and requires hand recounts. Gore has forgotten that the beauty of machines is that they take no side: if they make mistakes, they make them in a random manner, favoring neither candidates. If it helped him win, Gore would even renege the Internet.
    Bush has showed his arrogance and disrespect for the constitution and the people by declaring victory before the vote counting was completed, and before a few thousand absentee votes were received, and regardless of the outcome. Fidel Castro could not have done it better.
    Gore has showed his arrogance and disrespect for the constitution by turning the mistakes of a few Florida voters into a case for armies of lawyers. It is not "every vote counts", but "every lawyer counts".
    Bush will be one of the few western leaders, if not the only one, who was once arrested and was once a drug user. In other words, he is an ex criminal. What a moral standard to lead the free world in its crusade against corruption and drugs. What an improvement over Bill Clinton's sexual escapades. Not to mention Bush's dismal record as governor of a third-world state.
    Gore, who has been vice-president for eight years and a Washington politician all of his life, Gore, who should have had a tremendous advantage over anybody else, Gore could have won the presidency only by stealing votes from Nader, a far better man whom many millions of Americans would have voted for if only they had been given a chance. Unfortunately, the supreme soviet of the Communist Party... oops, I meant "the convention of the Democratic Party", picked Gore.
    One would expect these two failed men to be at least humble, and realize that they are there only because of the money that put them there. The problem is that both know they won't get a second chance. Gore knows that the American people will always remember him as the "sore loser" who dragged the country into this mess. Bush knows that he would never win a fair election. Gore knows that he will never win an election again. Bush knows that he will never win an election again. They are both ruined, finished, delegitimized, politicians even before starting.
    Both Gore and Bush are extremely selfish and amoral politicians, who do not deserve to become president of the most powerful country in the world. More than anything else, they are just names behind two formidable political organizations that have spent millions of dollars to get them elected, and organizations that represent billions of dollars in special interests. Those organizations cannot afford to lose.

    After-election update:

    • During his campaign, Gore introduced himself as the candidate who represented the everyman, who had nothing to do with corporate America. At the latest count, he has dispatched some 70 laywers to Florida. So much for the everyman.
    • During his campaign, Bush candidly admitted that he is ignorant of the issues, but promised he would 1. unify the country and 2. respect the sovereignity of the states. So far he has divided the country as it has not been since the civil war, and he has sued the state of Florida in a federal court for not obeying his orders. And he isn't even the president yet.

  • (October 2000) The dirty business of AIDS medicine was highlighted by a lawsuit filed on October 2000 by Immune Response, a California-based corporation, against two researchers who conducted a study on AIDS victims, found no benefits from taking an AIDS drug produced by the company, and published the results on a scientific journal. Apparently, when the company realized that the data were proving that AIDS patients were gaining no benefits from this (very expensive) drug, they tried to hide the data (which are still mostly unavailable). Then they threatened to sue the researchers if they made public any of the data. The researchers went ahead and published whatever data they still had in the journal and the company sued them for millions of dollars in damage.
    This is a case in which the researchers resisted pressions from the industry and still published the results of their studies. One wonders how many of these cases will never be known, because the researchers simply decide to protect their careers and families and forget about the dismal results of an experiment. One wonders how many companies are getting richer by selling ineffective drugs to AIDS or other fatally sick patients. One wonders if there is any law at all protecting truth from the scheming of the medical industry.
  • (October 2000) A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader. The Democratic Party is using a "scare tactic" to steal votes from Ralph Nader's Green Party. The theory is that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, because it may help elect George W Bush. Therefore the Greens should vote for Gore, not because they like Gore but because they dislike Bush more.
    For those who didn't study mathematics, it may be worth rephrasing the Democratic Party's theory. There are three possibilities. The first one is that George W Bush has already won the election, with or without the votes of Ralph Nader's supporters. In this case a vote for Gore is a wasted vote. You would have voted for somebody you didn't like and you would have taken away a vote from the candidate you liked, thereby keeping Nader from winning 5% of the votes. The second possibility is that Al Gore has already won the election, with or without the votes of Nader supporters. In this case, too, betraying your faith and vote for Gore would be useless. The third possibility is that the race is still undecided, and in that case your vote could elect Gore or Bush. But nobody knows which of the three options apply. Nobody can know a priori whether we are in scenario one, two or three. Therefore the statistical chances that your vote helps Bush are very low: only if we are in scenario three (most polls show that in most states we are in scenario one or two).
    They ask you to sacrifice your conscience and the very values of the American democracy for the unlikely case that your vote would count to keep Bush out of the White House.
    Nader is certainly the most honest of the three main candidates. Nader may not be as competent and experienced as Gore, and may not be as much a leader as Bush as proven to be. But, if you believe that Nader is your man, you should vote for him and not be influenced by the Democratic Party's twisted math.
    Gore supporters argue that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. By the same token, a Nader supporter could claim that a vote for Gore is a vote for Bush: vote Nader and Bush won't be elected.
    (After-election note: Gore lost the presidency because he lost his own state, Tennessee, not because of Nader).
  • (October 2000) What is democratic about this election? Americans are called to elect a president, and the choice is basically between George Bush or Al Gore. There are almost 300 million Americans. Who has decided that only two of those 300 million, and specifically those two (coincidentally both very rich and sons of famous politicians, and hardly representative of real America), are entitled to become president? Did Americans vote to pick Bush and Gore? Most Americans didn't even know them before the convention that nominated them. Are they America's favorites? Quite the contrary: poll after poll shows that most Americans don't like either, that most Americans are just struggling to pick the lesser evil. In communist countries, it was customary to have similar elections. The communist party would nominate a candidate, and then the people were asked to vote for him. Those were elections with only one candidate. America has improved over that model: there are two candidates, not only one. But the rest is eerily similar: the parties have decided those two candidates. What is democratic about Americans being forced to choose between two candidates that were chosen without any respect for the will of the American people?
  • (May 2000) Murder declines nationwide...not! According to the FBI, murder has fallen 59.4% since its peak in 1991. This statistic tells us very little, as similar gains are registered in every state and throughout the western world. It is normal in times of prosper economy and full employment that crime-related murder drops dramatically. It has always happened. A more interesting story is: did crime decline in the US to the levels of other western countries? The answer is no. If you live in the US, you have to be prepared to be murdered. Even at today's "low" murder rate, a person who spends 80 years in the US has a 15% chance of being murdered, as opposed to 0.04% chance in Germany. Just multiply the number of murders time 80 and divide by the population. Secondly, the crime rate has not declined uniformly throughout the country: it has declined a lot in large cities, especially New York and Washington. Drops in those cities account for a big chunk of the overall drop (those cities, incidentally, are the ones that issued strict gun laws over the last decade). If you don't count large cities with strict gun laws, the drop in murder would be far less exciting. Thirdly, and far more telling, has "senseless" murder declined? By "senseless" we mean the almost exclusively American type of murder whereby a perfectly normal citizen walks into a restaurant or office or school and shoots everybody on sight. If you are not involved in drugs, chances of being killed by a professional criminal are slim. If you are murdered, it will be a colleague or a neighbor or a relative who will shoot you. This type of crime has not declined. In fact, instances of shootings in public offices by so called (after the fact) "deranged" individuals are at an all-time high. If you are a drug trafficker, you are less likely to be murdered because crime-related murder has declined. If you are a honest law-abiding citizen, you are more likely to be murdered in your home, at work or in the post office because that type of murder has increased. Can you call it "safer times"?
  • (March 2000) What do the United States, China and Iran have in common? They are among the few countries that still execute people. Foreigners wonder: how can the United States lecture anybody in the world when the United States rank with rogue countries around the world in executions? Some Americans fail to see that outrage in the world for the death penalty is no different than outrage for Saddam's or Milosevic's atrocities. How can the United States lecture other countries in human rights when it executes 75 people a year (1999)? America ranks with China and Iran among the countries with the death penalty, and barely trails them in number of executions. Soon, a resolution will be submitted to the United Nations asking for a world-wide ban on the death penalty, just like there are world-wide bans against chemical weapons and landmines: the United States will officially become a rogue country, in violation of international law. What moral authority can the United States assert in the world when it is in violation of elementary principles of civilization?
    Statistics show that the death penalty is even counterproductive: a 2000 FBI report shows that homicide rates have been consistently lower in states without the death penalty. The homicide rate in states with the death penalty has always been higher (sometimes as much as 100% higher) than in states without the death penalty. The South accounts for over 80% of the US' executions and still has the highest number of homicides: are southerners genetically evil or is the death penalty a factor that increases the number of homicides?
    In a 1995 study, 100% of criminologists and 85% of police chiefs said that politicians support the death penalty to show that they are tough on crime. 94% of criminologists and 79% of police chiefs believed that the death penalty does not significantly reduce the murder rate. Police chiefs listed five factors that would be more effective than the death penalty to deter crime (one of them being gun control). Countries in Europe that have long abolished the death penalty have a far lower murder rate than the US.
    Can please psychologists start studying why so many Americans favor the death penalty? What kind of terribly dangerous frustrations keep this barbaric practice in use? Isn't it time that we try to heal this very sick people before their psychoses explode in a devastating manner? Would you trust a country that still practices cannibalism with an arsenal of nuclear weapons?
  • (February 2000) The USA biotechnical industry is jeopardizing life on this planet Bio-food is being boycotted all over the world, but the US still claims that this is a case of unfair trade and wants the European Union and other trade unions to remove any barrier against "artificial" (genetically modified) crops. It is shameless that the US government is defending the thesis of greedy, reckless capitalists: the advantage of artificial crops is simply that the companies would make bigger profits. Nobody has even tried to claim that there is an advantage to the health of consumers. On the other hand, it should be fairly obvious what the disavantages are: every artificial crop releases in the environments a new batch of genes, that did not previously exist. Those genes can mutate and spread, in particular through pollination. There is no cure for a gene gone wrong: it will spread forever. To realize the impact of genetic engineering one has to realize that, traditionally, cross-breeding, as performed in every farm in the world, worked only between plants of closely related species. The effects on the environment were, by definition, contained. But now genetic engineering is capable of creating plants which have a wildly different behavior from the originals. Genes are already causing the extinction of animal species: some have been designed to repel insects and those insects will be decimated within a few years. Genetic pollution is not a possibility, it is already a reality: nothing can stop those genes from spreading around the globe and exterminating billions of insects. We may not care, or even be happy, that those insects are exterminated (although some butterflies are, accidentally, among them) but it proves that those genes can have devastating effects on the ecosystem. Other species are feeding right now on those insects: they will be the next to go. And other species are feeding on those species, and so on and so on. Eventually, it will get to the top of the organic chain. And guess which species sits at the top, and depends on the entire chain to work properly? Even if genetically engineered food is not directly harmful to humans, its consequences on the environment are. And, by the way, if genetically engineered food is not directly harmful to humans, why in heaven is the biotech industry so opposed to label genetically engineered food?
  • January-December 1999

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