Wednesday, December 29, 2004


By Jack Random

As the magnitude of the tsunami catastrophe comes into view, there is a danger that we will soon grow numb; we may forget that numbers are only symbols of individual human beings, with lives as rich as our own and promise yet untold. I think of India’s renowned writer.

Arundhati Roy, speak to us.

We long to hear your singular voice. We need to know that you are well or, at least, that you and your loved ones have survived this catastrophe and that you will not suffer the cruelest fate: to have survived to witness the misery unfold.

Arundhati Roy, you have so often given words of comfort, words of solace, words of wisdom to ease us through our trials. We wish now to give some of them back.

Perhaps you do not live near the coast. Perhaps you were not vacationing with western visitors in your corner of the world. Perhaps you do not know how deeply you have touched so many of us. Perhaps you do not recognize the bond you have tied to those who have consumed your words. Still, we need to know you are safe. We have learned that Sri Lanka’s most distinguished writer (at least, from a western view), Arthur Clarke, has survived but we have yet to hear from you.

Perhaps it is selfish and ignoble but we would rather lose a thousand ordinary men, women, even children, than to lose one extraordinary being. Of course, the difficulty is: one never knows who is or might become extraordinary. Perhaps we will never know the full extent of our loss in this disaster. Who knows but that a small child in Bangladesh, if not for an untimely death, might have grown up to be the next Gandhi, the next Einstein, or indeed the next Arundhati Roy.

In America, we are mourning the loss of one of our own most precious beings. Susan Sontag was a voice of reason and, above all, a voice of compassion. She understood the value of human life.

We know in our hearts that every being is precious, that every child is or should be loved, and that every mother’s grief runs as deep as the divide that cracked the ocean floor. If only we cared as much for dark skinned children as we do for those draped in red, white and blue.

We cannot save those who are already lost but we can save those who will be lost if the world does not rally to this cause.

Arundhati Roy, speak.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


By Jack Random

Perhaps the most dubious decision in American legal history (Bush v. Gore 2000), has cast a growing shadow on Democracy in America.

The valiant effort of Jesse Jackson to bring to light the deplorable state of our democracy and the introduction of legislation by Jesse Jackson, Jr., to establish a constitutional right to vote, has garnered little attention in American mainstream media. In the new standard of journalism, anything that is not on the White House list of approved topics is to be regarded as peripheral, including the very principles and foundations of democracy.

In deference to the new standard, even traditionally progressive media have opted for a policy of forward-looking news coverage. The elections of 2000 and 2004, along with the impeachment proceedings and the decision to invade Iraq, are regarded as yesterday’s news and delegated to the renderings of dead history.

We have too often forgotten the historian’s admonition: Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. Moreover, the events of the last two elections are living history. They have a direct and profound effect on our system of governance today. As such, they must be revisited and addressed now if we are not to be condemned to live with their consequences in perpetuity.

In revisiting Bush v. Gore 2000, it is revealing to apply the reasoning of second amendment advocates to the right to vote. The second amendment refers to the right of the state to maintain well-regulated militias yet it is commonly interpreted as the right of the individual to bear arms. The 15th and 19th amendments, in prohibiting racial and sexual discrimination, refer specifically to “the right of citizens…to vote” yet the Supreme Court, in one of the most convoluted decisions in history, specifically denies the individual’s right to vote in presidential elections.

“The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.”

Here is a decision so damaging and so brazenly undemocratic it deserves to be remembered to the end of time as a model of judicial treason. The decision placed the franchise of all citizens in legal limbo and rendered the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments feckless to the point of absurdity. Of what use is it to prohibit discrimination in the application of a right that no longer exists? It is revealing indeed that George the Dubious could never have ascended to the nation’s highest office without a denial of democracy’s most fundamental right.

By arriving at this remarkable conclusion, the court presumably cleared the way to invoke the constitution’s kickback clause: the tenth amendment delegates authority not founded in the federal constitution to the states or to the people. Ironically, in the case of the 2000 election, both Congress (as representatives of the people) and the state of Florida, whose laws clearly mandated a complete and comprehensive recount, were denied.

Today, four years after that dark and fateful hour of democracy’s supreme betrayal, we are left with the bitter fruits of partisan judicial bias. A decision ostensibly rendered to avoid a constitutional crisis has created the same. We are left with a system in which massive and deliberate disenfranchisement is not only tolerated but institutionalized.

When the individual does not possess the right to vote, there is no legal recourse to the most blatant and despicable crimes against democracy. When there is no individual right to vote, partisan Secretaries of State are allowed to establish discriminatory guidelines and to purge entire blocks of the electorate with impunity. Without the individual right to vote, computer-assisted gerrymandering (tailoring districts to partisan demands), a practice that systematically disenfranchises all minority representation, is given the official stamp of approval and sanctuary from legal retort. (It will be fascinating to watch the court rule on several pending cases of designer redistricting for it is logically impossible to see how they cannot fall back on their own precedent. Of course, in a virtual confession of their own fallacy, the court took pains to discount the precedent value of their own ruling but how legal scholars can discard the precedent of one of the most critical decisions in history is beyond the scope of reason.)

It is neither disloyal nor an exaggeration to declare that, without the fundamental right to vote, whatever our system is it is neither a democracy nor a republic; rather, it is a cheap fa├žade that will soon crumble before the halls of power.

In the year 2004, when the corruption of the electoral process in the critical state of Ohio is regarded by our media as the shenanigans of playful politicos, even to the extent of lifting its chief engineer to the status of political genius, it is clear that a constitutional amendment is the only remedy left to the people of this nation. At a time when all branches of government are controlled by the party which reaped the rewards of the court’s betrayal, that remedy is as likely as the moon falling from the sky. At a time when the only viable party of “opposition” seems more resigned than indignant, the only real remedy is to throw both parties out on their collective arse.

At a time when we pretend to be the world’s champion for democracy, the state of our own democracy is little more than the sentimental remembrance of the promise of our founders.

Cry America, for it seems our fate is to value that which we have lost only when it has receded beyond our reach.