It's not just the wealthy who are trying to find a way around campaign finance reform, but unions, environmentalists, and others seeking to turn Bush out of the White House. Organized labor, writes David Moberg in In These Times (August 25), is "helping to create new progressive constituency groups that will play much of the role that the Democratic Party filled--at least in theory--before campaign finance reform cut off the flow of soft money to political parties. For example, the AFL-CIO executive council in August authorized creation of Working America, a neighborhood-based membership organization of working people who do not belong to a union but want to work on political and legislative issues. On a larger scale, the federation and individual unions are putting millions into new organizations, regulated by Section 527 of the tax code. So-called 527 groups"--such as Partnership for America's Families, Voices for Working Families, and Grassroots Democrats--"can accept soft money for voter registration and grassroots organizing."
"The more central the doctrine, the less room there is for dissent," writes Notre Dame theologian Lawrence Cunningham in U.S. Catholic (July). "A person may deny the trinitarian nature of God, but one cannot make such a denial and be a Catholic." The case as he states it isn't so clear on less basic tenets, where beliefs can evolve. "There can be an advance in the church's moral understanding so that if one wishes to affirm the legitimacy of capital punishment today one is dissenting from the clear direction of Catholic moral thought, notwithstanding the fact that the Papal States employed an executioner well into the 19th century."
The Transportation Security Administration "has mastered the art of bureaucratic busywork," according to the online publication Reason Express (August 19). The agency has refused to remove from its "no fly" list people that the Department of Homeland Security knows are not threats. "If the TSA ran every circuit-breaker box in America, none of them would be labeled. Every time a circuit needed to be shut off, someone would go through every single one of the switches and never note which one is which. It would be incredibly inefficient--but there'd be no risk of any circuit being mislabeled."
"Conformists are often thought to be protective of social interests, keeping quiet for the sake of the group," writes University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein in his new book, Why Societies Need Dissent. "By contrast, dissenters tend to be seen as selfish individualists, embarking on projects of their own. But in an important sense, the opposite is closer to the truth. Much of the time, dissenters benefit others, while conformists benefit themselves. If people threaten to blow the whistle on wrongdoing or to disclose facts that contradict an emerging group consensus, they might well be punished." His point isn't that dissent guarantees virtue, but that "in many domains, we do not know whether we have converged on the right answer, and group influences [toward conformity] might reduce potentially productive disagreement."
Lest we forget. "More than 650 people remain held without charge or trial in the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba," writes Amnesty International in an August 19 report, "The Threat of a Bad Example: Undermining International Standards as 'War on Terror' Detentions Continue." "They...reportedly include nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Many of the detainees have been held in the base for well over a year. None has had access to any court, to a lawyer, or to family members....None was granted prisoner of war status or brought before a competent tribunal to determine this status as required by the Geneva Conventions."