King Features Syndicate

Obama Traveling in the Company of Killers

If a volcano kills civilians in Indonesia, it's news. When the government does the killing, sadly, it's just business as usual, especially if an American president tacitly endorses the killing, as President Barack Obama just did with his visit to Indonesia.

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What Rotten Eggs Reveal About the State of Our Democracy

What do a half-billion eggs have to do with democracy? The massive recall of salmonella-infected eggs, the largest egg recall in U.S. history, opens a window on the power of large corporations over not only our health, but over our government.

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Troy Davis Deserves a New Trial

Troy Anthony Davis was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday. Two hours before the state of Georgia was to execute him, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay until Monday. It had earlier agreed to hear Davis' case on Sept. 29, but Georgia set his execution date six days before the hearing.

Davis was charged with killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. Davis had gone to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped in a parking lot. Seeing the gun, he said he fled. MacPhail, working security nearby, intervened next, and was killed. Davis, an African-American, claimed his innocence, but was found guilty and sentenced to death. Since his conviction, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining their testimony. By coming forward and recanting, they face serious repercussions, possibly jail time. Some have identified a different man as the shooter. This man is one of Davis' remaining accusers.

In July 2007, Davis faced his first execution date. Just a day before he was to be executed, the Georgia Pardons Board granted a stay of execution for up to 90 days. Then, Davis' attorneys argued before the Georgia Supreme Court for a retrial or for a hearing to present new evidence. The requests were denied, by a 4-to-3 vote. In the same period, the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether death by lethal injection constituted cruel and unusual punishment (the court ultimately allowed its use).

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Monday whether it will take on Davis' case. If it decides not to, he very likely will be executed.

Among Davis' defenders is former President Jimmy Carter. He said: "This case illustrates the deep flaws in the application of the death penalty in this country. Executing Troy Davis without a real examination of potentially exonerating evidence risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice." Georgia Congressman John Lewis also supports Davis. I spoke with Lewis at Invesco Field in Denver, just before Barack Obama's acceptance speech. It was 45 years to the date after the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Lewis recalled that historic day: "We were in Washington, more than 250,000 of us, black and white, Protestant, Catholic, Jews, people of different background, rich and poor. ... In many parts of the South, people could not register to vote, simply because of the color of their skin. And we changed that."

Yet this week, in light of Davis' plight, Lewis told me: "In spite of all of the progress that we've made as a nation and as a people, we still have so far to go. The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in every corner, in every aspect of the American society." He went on to say, when I pointed out that Sen. Obama himself supports the death penalty: "It is troublesome. You know ... someplace along the way, some of us must have the courage to say -- and I'm moving closer and closer to this point -- that in good conscience, I cannot and will not support people who support the death penalty. I think it's barbaric, and it represents the Dark Ages. .... I don't think as human beings, I don't think as a nation, I don't think as a state, we have the right to take the life of another person. That should be left for the Almighty to do."

The death penalty is a noxious and racist practice. According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, of more than 3,300 people on death row in the U.S., over 41 percent are African-American -- more than three times their representation in the general population. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973 there have been 130 people exonerated -- people wrongly sentenced to death -- in 26 different states, including five exonerated on death row in Georgia. Evidence even suggests that at least four innocent people have been executed in recent years. There is no physical evidence in the Troy Davis case. After the stay was announced, Davis asked his mother to have people pray for the MacPhail family, and to keep working to dismantle this unjust system. He told her he wouldn't be fighting this hard for his life if he were guilty. This is a case of reasonable doubt. Troy Davis deserves a new trial.

Dissent Is Essential to Democracy

The bulwark against tyranny is dissent. Open opposition, the right to challenge those in power, is a mainstay of any healthy democracy. The Democratic and Republican conventions will test the commitment of the two dominant U.S. political parties to the cherished tradition of dissent. Things are not looking good.

Denver's CBS4 News just reported that the city is planning on jailing arrested Democratic convention protesters at a warehouse with barbed-wire-topped cages and signs warning of the threat of stun gun use. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that a designated protest area is legal, despite claims that protesters will be too far from the Democratic delegates to be heard.

The full spectrum of police and military will also be on hand at the Democratic convention in Denver, many of these units coordinated by a "fusion center." These centers are springing up around the country as an outgrowth of the post-9/11 national-security system. Erin Rosa of the online Colorado Independent recently published a report on the Denver fusion center, which will be sharing information with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Northern Command. The center is set up to gather and distribute "intelligence" about "suspicious activities," which, Rosa points out, "can include taking pictures or taking notes. The definition is very broad."

Civil rights advocates fear the fusion center could enable unwarranted spying on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights at the convention. Documents obtained by I-Witness Video, a group that documents police abuses and demonstrations, revealed that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency were receiving intelligence about the protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. The growing problem is that legal, peaceful protesters are ending up on federal databases and watch lists with scant legal oversight.

Former FBI agent Mike German is now a national-security-policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said, "It's unclear who is actually in charge and whose rules apply to the information that's being collected and shared and distributed through these fusion centers." Maryland State Police were recently exposed infiltrating groups like the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty. German explains how police expand "beyond normal law-enforcement functions, and start becoming intelligence collectors against protest groups. The reports that we obtained ... make clear that there was no indication of any sort of criminal activity. And yet, that investigation went on for 14 months, and these reports were uploaded into a federal database. ... When all these agencies are authorized to go out and start collecting this information and putting it in areas where it's accessible by the intelligence community, it's a very dangerous proposition for our democracy."

After Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, the protest coalition in Denver splintered, as many were motivated originally by the anticipated nomination of the more hawkish Hillary Clinton. An anarchist group, Unconventional Denver, actually offered to call off its protests if Denver would redirect the $50-million federal grant it is receiving for security to "reinvest their police budget toward real community security: new elementary schools; health care for the uninsured; providing clean, renewable energy." The plea has not been answered. The city, meanwhile, is stocking up on "less-lethal" pepper-ball rifles and has set aside a space for permitted protesting that some are referring to as the "Freedom Cage."

In the Twin Cities on the evening Obama was giving his Democratic acceptance speech in June, the St. Paul Police Department arrested a 50-year-old man peacefully handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention. After mass arrests at the RNC in Philadelphia in 2000 and roughly 1,800 arrests in New York City in 2004, ACLU Minnesota predicts hundreds will be arrested in St. Paul, and is organizing and training 75 lawyers to defend them.

For now, the eyes of the world are on the Beijing Olympics. Sportswriter Dave Zirin is reporting on the suppression of protests that are occurring there. He has an interesting perspective, as he is a member of the anti-death-penalty group infiltrated in Maryland. He told me, "Our taxpayer dollars went to pay people to infiltrate and take notes on our meetings, and it's absolutely enraging ... a lot of this Homeland Security funding is an absolute sham ... it's being used to actually crush dissent, not to keep us safer in any real way." The lack of freedom of speech in China is getting a little attention in the news. But what about the crackdown on dissent here at home? Dissent is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. There is no more important time than now.

Obama Runs to the Middle

I was on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado this week when Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asked me, "Is Obama a sellout?" The question isn't whether he is a sellout or not -- it's about what demands are made by grass-roots social movements of those who would represent them. The question is, who are these candidates responding to, answering to?

Richard Nixon's campaign strategy was to run in the primaries to the right, then move to the center in the general election. Bill Clinton's strategy was called "triangulation," navigating to a political "Third Way" to please moderates and undecided voters. This past week, Barack Obama has made some signal policy changes that suggest he might be doing something similar. Will it work for him?

Take the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for example. A Dec. 17, 2007, press release from Obama's Senate office read: "Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies and has cosponsored Senator Dodd's efforts to remove that provision from the FISA bill. Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same." Six months later, he supports immunity for the companies that spied on Americans.

I asked Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., about Obama's position on the FISA bill. He told me: "Wrong vote. Regrettable. Many Democrats will do this. We should be standing up for the Constitution. When Sen. Obama is president, he will, I'm sure, work to fix some of this, but it's going to be a lot easier to prevent it now than to try to fix it later."

Feingold and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., are planning on filibustering the bill. It will take 60 senators to overcome their filibuster. It looks like Obama will be one of them. Disappointment with Obama's FISA position is not limited to his senatorial colleagues. On Obama's own campaign Web site, bloggers are voicing strident opposition to his FISA position. At the time of this writing, an online group on Obama's site had more than 10,000 members and was growing fast. The group's profile reads: "Senator Obama -- we are a proud group of your supporters who believe in your call for hope and a new kind of politics. Please reject the politics of fear on national security, vote against this bill and lead other Democrats to do the same!"

Then there were the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on gun control and the death penalty. Obama supported the court in overturning the 32-year-old ban on handguns in the nation's violence-ridden capital. It's the court's most significant ruling on the Second Amendment in nearly 70 years. And in a blow to death-penalty opponents, Obama disagreed with the high court's prohibiting execution of those who were found guilty of raping children.

In a Jan. 21, 2008, primary debate, Obama called the North American Free Trade Agreement "a mistake" and "an enormous problem." He recently told Fortune magazine, "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified ... my core position has never changed ... I've always been a proponent of free trade." This, after the primary-campaign scandal of the alleged meeting between Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee and a member of the Canadian consulate. A Canadian memo describing the meeting suggested Obama was generally satisfied with NAFTA. Goolsbee described the accounts as inaccurate. Now people are beginning to question Obama's genuine opposition to NAFTA and "free trade."

Then there is the floating of potential vice presidential candidates. Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post was on the Aspen panel and noted that he has been receiving e-mails from gay men who angrily oppose former Sen. Sam Nunn as an Obama running mate. They can't forget Nunn's key role in shaping "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The e-mails trickled up, prompting the writing of an influential Capehart column, "Don't Ask Nunn."

It may be the strategy of the Obama campaign to run to the middle, to attract the independents, the undecided. But he should look carefully at the lessons of the 2004 Kerry campaign. John Kerry made similar calculations, not wanting to appear weak on the war in Iraq. Uninspired, people stayed home. There are millions who care about the issues from which Obama is distancing himself, from FISA to gun control to gay rights to free trade to the death penalty. Rather than staying home, they should recall the words of Frederick Douglass: "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

The Real Story Behind the Midwest Floods? Climate Change

The floodwaters are rising, swamping cities, breaching levees. Tens of thousands are displaced. Many are dead. No, I am not talking about Hurricane Katrina, but about the Midwest United States. As the floodwaters head south along the Mississippi, devastating communities one after another, the media are overflowing with televised images of the destruction.

While the TV meteorologists document "extreme weather" with their increasingly sophisticated toolbox, from Doppler radar to 3-D animated maps, the two words rarely uttered are its cause: global warming. I asked former Energy Department official Joseph Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, about the disconnect:

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The Road to Better Media

"This way to better media," read the floor sign directing people through a skyway to the Minneapolis Convention Center. Thousands of people gathered there for the fourth National Conference for Media Reform, hosted by freepress.net. They came from all walks of life and all ages to address a central crisis in our society: our broken media system. I was one of the invited speakers.

Despite increasingly complex digital-media offerings and hundreds of channels, we see the diversity of media ownership shrinking, along with the diversity of voices that are broadcast. People are fighting back, organizing, creating alternatives and holding the corporate media giants accountable. The corporations are pushing back. With life and death, war and peace, at stake, hinging on an informed and engaged populace, the stakes have never been higher, the media never more important.

Prominent traditional journalists with decades of experience mingled with the emerging generation of new media producers. Journalist Bill Moyers, who has won more than 30 Emmys, authored four best-sellers and currently hosts the popular PBS weekly news program Bill Moyers Journal, opened Saturday with a plenary address, saying:

"Our dominant media are ultimately accountable only to corporate boards whose mission is not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the whole body of our republic, but the aggrandizement of corporate executives and shareholders." Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is the poster child of media conglomerates. Murdoch's media empire spans the globe, with 35 TV stations in the U.S., the Fox News Channel (so-called) and many other cable channels, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, HarperCollins, 20th Century Fox movie studios and a slew of interrelated sports and entertainment properties.

Moyers' outspoken critique of the corporate media has provoked Murdoch's chief attack dog, Bill O'Reilly. Last week on his Fox show, O'Reilly said of the media reformers, "These people are crazy ... real nuts!" Josh Silver, Free Press executive director, responded: "He's a mouthpiece for the largest media corporations. And that kind of omnipotent power that these large networks have, taking control of that and taking that power back from them is what this conference is about."

As Moyers finished signing his latest book, O'Reilly Factor producer Porter Berry and his camera crew pounced. Dan Rather was at the conference but eluded the Fox stakeout. Moyers turned the Fox ambush back on Berry:

Moyers: "Rupert Murdoch said the best thing that will come out of the Iraq war will be [oil] at $20 a barrel. Now, today, when I came here, I looked, and it was $130-something. When is Rupert going to explain why the war didn't give us $20-a-barrel oil?"

Making the link between media conglomerates and militarism, Moyers questioned Berry further about Murdoch:

Moyers: "Does Bill O'Reilly work for Rupert Murdoch?"

Berry: "He works for Fox News."

Moyers: "But who owns Fox News?"

Berry: "News Corp. ... "

Moyers: "Rupert Murdoch is the boss."

Indymedia videographers crowded around the two, and the video clips soon found their way onto the Internet. O'Reilly ran a heavily edited clip of the exchange, with none of the above included, but had a "body-language expert" on his show, attempting to smear Moyers. The fact that Murdoch producers were at the conference trying to discredit prominent participants demonstrates the need for honest, strong, countervailing media outlets.

Sen. Byron Dorgan also addressed the conference. On Monday, he and Sens. John Kerry, Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg introduced a bill that would end Pentagon use of funds to spread propaganda and charged both the Pentagon inspector general and Congress' Government Accountability Office to investigate allegations that retired generals were used to push for war with Iraq.

Elected officials will not solve our media crisis alone. The grass-roots movement for media reform is growing, and with mass layoffs in newspaper and broadcast newsrooms, critical elections, burgeoning military budgets and multiple wars and occupations, and with emergent and accessible digital-media tools and networks increasingly available to most people, there is no better time to join it.

Obama May Strike a Chord With Disaffected Republicans

David Iglesias is an evangelical, Hispanic Republican -- yes, that one, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico -- and he has positive things to say about Barack Obama.

I interviewed Iglesias the morning after Obama became the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party: "Obama represents all the promise of America, that a biracial man from a broken family can rise and have a strong shot of becoming our next president." Asked if he's endorsing Obama, Iglesias replied: "I'm not endorsing anybody. Our country has elected white males from northern European countries going back now 230-or-so years. This finally represents that the top position in American government is really open to everyone, and I think that's sending a powerful message not only to Americans, but throughout the world."

While Iglesias does not dislike John McCain, his own party's nominee, his comments bear directly on strategy for a campaign of Obama versus McCain. As the Puerto Rican primary results suggested, Obama still has to make major inroads into the Latino community. Iglesias' home state, New Mexico, is a "majority minority" state -- that is, people of color outnumber whites in the state (others include California, Texas and Hawaii).

Iglesias represents another population at play in this election: disaffected Republicans.

In his new book In Justice: Inside the Scandal That Rocked the Bush Administration, Iglesias paints a picture of a highly politicized U.S. Department of Justice, allegedly following Republican Party strategy to prosecute people accused of voter fraud in cases where voter registrations could be seen to help Democratic candidates. Iglesias was not prosecuting these alleged voter-fraud cases, which did not sit well with New Mexico Republicans. Al Gore won New Mexico in 2000 by a mere 366 votes, and George Bush edged out John Kerry there in 2004 by about 6,000 votes. New Mexico is definitely a swing state. Congresswoman Heather Wilson barely held on to her congressional office in 2006. Every vote counts in New Mexico, and the Republicans know it: All three House seats are up for grabs in November, along with the Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici. Wilson is giving up her House seat to run for his.

While the voter-fraud cases that riled the Republicans were not solid cases, Iglesias explained to me voter-suppression tactics that concern him, those that benefit Republican candidates. Chief among them is "vote caging," which Iglesias says "is when you send voter information to a group of people that you have reason to believe are no longer there, such as military personnel who are overseas, such as students at historically black colleges. When it comes back as undeliverable, the party uses that information to remove that person from the voter rolls, claiming they are no longer there. It is a reprehensible practice. I had never heard of it until after I left office."

Iglesias predicted that the Republican Party will be reined in as a result of the U.S. attorney firing scandal:

"I hope the media keeps shining the spotlight on groups like the American Center for Voting Rights, which has been engaging in this type of voter-suppression action, especially targeting the elderly people and minorities. If you are an American citizen who is not a felon, you have the right to vote. I would just hope that in swing states like Missouri, Wisconsin, New Mexico and a handful of other states, that the Democratic Party and the media really keep a lot of pressure on this."

David Iglesias' father is a Kuna Indian from Panama. David grew up in Panama, Oklahoma and New Mexico. This once rising star of the Republican Party has much to teach all parties in this crucial, volatile political season.

Musician and Activist Utah Phillips Has Left the Stage

"Utah" Phillips died this week at the age of 73. He was a musician, labor organizer, peace activist and co-founder of his local homeless shelter. He also was an archivist, a historian and a traveler, playing guitar and singing almost forgotten songs of the dispossessed and the downtrodden, and keeping alive the memory of labor heroes like Emma Goldman, Joe Hill and the Industrial Workers of the World, "the Wobblies," in a society that too soon forgets.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935, in Cleveland, by his midteens he was riding the rails. He told me of those days in an interview in 2004. By then, he was slowed down by congestive heart failure. His long, white beard flowed over his bow tie, plaid shirt and vest. We sat in a cramped attic of a pirate radio station that was frequently raided by federal authorities. In the early days, he met old-timers, "old, old alcoholics who could only shovel gravel. But they knew songs."

In 1956, he joined the Army and got sent to postwar Korea. What he saw there changed him forever: "Life amid the ruins. Children crying -- that's the memory of Korea. Devastation. I saw an elegant and ancient culture in a small Asian country devastated by the impact of cultural and economic imperialism. Well, that's when I cracked. I said: 'I can't do this anymore. You know, this is all wrong. It all has to change. And the change has to begin with me.'"

After three years in the Army, he went back to the state that earned him his nickname, Utah. There he met Ammon Hennacy, a radical pacifist, who had started the Joe Hill House in Salt Lake City, inspired by the Catholic Worker movement. Hennacy guided Utah Phillips toward pacifism. Utah recalled: "Ammon came to me one day and said, 'You've got to be a pacifist.' And I said, 'How's that?' He said, 'Well, you act out a lot. You use a lot of violent behavior.' And I was. You know, I was very angry. 'You're not just going to lay down guns and fists and knives and hard angry words. You're going to have to lay down the weapons of privilege and go into the world completely disarmed.' If there's one struggle that animates my life, it's probably that one."

Utah's pacifism drove him to run for the U.S. Senate in 1968 on the Peace and Freedom ticket, taking a leave of absence from his civil-service job: "I was a state archivist -- and ran a full campaign, 27 counties. We took 6,000 votes in Utah. But when it was over, my job would vanish, and I couldn't get work anymore in Utah."

Thus began his 40 years in "the trade," a traveling, working musician: "The trade is a fine, elegant, beautiful, very fruitful trade. In that trade, I can make a living and not a killing." He eschewed the commercial music industry, once telling Johnny Cash, who wanted to record a number of Utah's songs: "I don't want to contribute anything to that industry. I can't fault you for what you're doing. I admire what you do. But I can't feed that dragon ... think about dollars as bullets." He eventually partnered with one of the most successful independent musicians in the U.S., Ani DiFranco, who created her own label, Righteous Babe Records. Their collaborative work was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Utah Phillips was a living bridge, keeping the rich history of labor struggles alive. He told me: "The long memory is the most radical idea in America. That long memory has been taken away from us. You haven't gotten it in your schools. You're not getting it on your television. You're being leapfrogged from one crisis to the next. Mass media contributed to that by taking the great movements that we've been through and trivializing important events. No, our people's history is like one long river. It flows down from way over there. And everything that those people did and everything they lived flows down to me, and I can reach down and take out what I need, if I have the courage to go out and ask questions." On his radio show "Loafer's Glory," he once said, work on this planet has been to remember."

A week before he died, Utah Phillips wrote in a public letter to his family and friends: "The future? I don't know. Through all of it, up and down, it's the song. It's always been the song."

Presidential Race Ignores Arms Race

As the U.S. presidential race continues, so does the arms race worldwide. People -- civilians, children -- are being killed and maimed, on a daily basis, by unexploded cluster bombs and land mines. Thousands of nuclear missiles remain at hair-trigger alert. The U.S. government rattles its saber at Iran, alleging a nuclear-weapons program, while at the same time offering uranium to Saudi Arabia. And with the war in Iraq well into its sixth year, one of its architects, Douglas J. Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy under Donald Rumsfeld, has predictably penned a revisionist history of the war and the decisions behind it.

Feith said this week: "So while it was a terrible mistake for the administration to rely on the erroneous intelligence about WMD -- and, I mean, it was catastrophic to our credibility -- first of all, it was an honest error and not a lie. But even if you correct it for that error, what we found in Iraq was a serious WMD threat. Even though Saddam Hussein had chosen to not maintain the stockpiles, he had put himself in a position where he could have regenerated those stockpiles in three to five weeks."

In an interview I asked Hans Blix about Feith's comments. He was the United Nations' chief weapons inspector, in charge of the WMD search. Reflecting back five years, he said: "To prove that there is nothing is almost impossible. I think that if we had been in Iraq for a couple of months more, it would have been enough to make it extremely clear to everybody that the chances were real that there were no weapons of mass destruction." Instead of waiting for the inspections, the Pentagon was busy trying to discredit Blix. I asked him about the allegations that the U.S. was bugging his office and home. He said, "I wish to heaven that they had listened a little better to what I had to say, if they did listen."

Blix describes the current state of the world as a "Cold Peace": "It is hard to avoid the impression that -- almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War -- military calculations still dominate the long-term thinking about major global relations. Terrorism is formally made the chief enemy, but precautions are taken against the growing power of China and Russia." President Bush's nuclear-cooperation pact with India, Barack Obama's stated willingness to unilaterally strike nuclear-armed U.S. ally Pakistan, Hillary Clinton's promise to Iran to "totally obliterate" the nation of 70 million (should it attack Israel), and John McCain's hard-line position on Russia, including the deployment of a missile defense in eastern Europe, all point to a reliance on military solutions that Blix sees as a path to conflict and war.

In a remarkable demonstration of hypocrisy, the Bush administration has pledged to deliver enriched uranium to Saudi Arabia. Anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman said: "The idea of giving enriched uranium to the Saudis while threatening war with the Iranians for enriching uranium is astonishing. The idea that the Saudis are going to somehow lower the price of oil on the basis of possibly getting nuclear reactors in the future is just almost staggering to think about."

I asked Blix what is the single most important thing the U.S. could do to support world peace. Sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, he said: "Then I think it's very likely that the Chinese, who have not ratified, will follow. If China does it, maybe India does. If India does, Pakistan does, etc. And the treaty would enter into force. It would be a great thing if we outlawed any nuclear-weapons tests in the future."

Nuclear weapons are not the only weapons of mass destruction. As I spoke to Blix, hundreds of people were meeting in Dublin, Ireland, to craft an anti-cluster-bomb treaty, the cause Princess Diana championed in the last years of her life. The Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions is dedicated "to negotiate a new instrument of international humanitarian law banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians."

The conference in Dublin has 128 participating nations. Absent is the leading producer of cluster munitions, the United States. Russia and China are also not there.

From nuclear proliferation to the use of cluster bombs -- coverage of the presidential campaign should focus more on the arms race, less on the horse race.

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