Rob Lafferty

Joined November 2009

A Truly Independent Voter and semi-retired editor, reporter and National Affairs columnist for newspapers in Hawaii and Oregon. Currently living in the deep woods of Oregon's Coastal Range, working as a freelance editor, writer and print production manager. A life-long political junkie, he landed on a government watch list in 2003 for publishing editorials that accused the president of committing war crimes. His writing continues...

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20 percent is not a mandate in a democracy  

At the dawn of the 20th century, it was still possible to convince 70 percent of the voter-eligible population in America to embrace democracy and make their choices at the ballot box. We haven't been above that number since 1900 — in fact, from 1968 through 2000, less than 60 percent of all possible voters bothered to participate in eight consecutive presidential elections. During my 60 years on this planet, US presidential elections have averaged just 57.8 percent VEP turnout. The 2008 election that brought Barack Obama into the White House was praised in the media as a very good year for voter participation, but the actual number came in just under 62 percent. By comparison, South Africa just held an election that featured a 73 percent voter turnout. When it comes to midterm elections, the VEP turnout numbers look even worse. You have to go back a full century to find even half of the...
By on Nov 10, 2014

Weapons flow like water into the Arabian desert

Humanitarian aid, military advisers/trainers, air strikes and buckets of cash are all part of the international effort to deal with the extremists in southern Syria and northern Iraq who call themselves the Islamic State.  But that's not all that's coming in — countries around the world are sending arms and weapons to their favorite groups of freedom fighters, or just throwing surplus military equipment into the mix and allowing it to be distributed somewhere by somebody else. Justine Drennan writes an ongoing column in The Complex section of foreignpolicy.com that tracks contributions to the US-led coalition. The column includes a table that's updated frequently, and selected highlights from that data set make interesting reading. It's a rather obscure list of nations offering some odd weaponry — and of course, it pales in comparison to what the US has poured into the region over the pa...
By on Oct 31, 2014

Nobel laureates offer their advice on confronting our torturous past

Nobel laureates offer their advice on confronting our torturous past "There is no longer any doubt as to whether this administration has committed war crimes. The Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." – Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba in 2004 That was, indeed, the question 10 years ago at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Taguba made that statement after investigating the abuse of prisoners at that now-infamous rathole, but he wasn’t the first to speak of it. A full decade later the answer to Tagabu’s question remains clear — the architects of torture will never be tried for their crimes in an American court. Twelve remarkable people who earned a Nobel Prize for their lifelong commitment to working for peace have published an open letter to...
By on Oct 29, 2014

The pursuit of happiness  

We all want to be happy. Everyone has their own little happy place, and we have lots of ways of getting to that place. Most of the time, the things we do to get that happy feeling are good things. But not always – and that's where laws begin, and where the reality of being human trumps the idealism behind the idea of America. According to our nation's founding document, our pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right granted to all by the Creator. That claim is asserted early in the Declaration of Independence, in the second paragraph, linked directly and equally with life and liberty. Every word in that document was chosen with great care; it's no small thing that the concept of happiness was a high priority with those who wrote and approved one of the greatest political statements of all time. It's also interesting to note that it doesn't say we have an absolute right to happiness, no...
By on Oct 27, 2014

The best reason ever to stand up and vote

There's only one good reason you need to get off the couch this November, take a position in support of everything you believe a government should be, and vote in our national election. Here it is: You should vote because a lot of powerful people don't want you to. What more reason does anyone need? Here's a fine chance to thumb your nose at all the rich and well-connected elitists who believe that only their class of people should have the right to vote because, well, because they also believe their class owns the country. That's a wide generalization, sure, but a lot of those folks have actually said that out loud, in public. They don't want you to vote because they think you're ignorant. They think you're ignorant because you went to a public high school and maybe some college while they attended private prep schools and prestigious universities. They are very afraid of the masses and...
By on Oct 24, 2014

Not all beheadings are terrorist acts  

The extended royal family that controls the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia claims to have improved their country's legal system and made other modernizing reforms. Perhaps they have. It's still a kingdom that favors public beheadings as a crime deterrent and was lopping off heads at the rate of one per day last August, but it's been two years now since they last beheaded someone accused of witchcraft in a public square. Seriously. They do that kind of thing in private now, so that's progress, I suppose. But much of the legal system and its penalties openly violate several international human rights laws, including the use of secret courts that allow no defense by the accused. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a relatively new nation whose century-old borders encompass an ancient land — the birthplace of Islam, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, two of the most important locations in the Muslim f...
By on Oct 10, 2014

Making the world better, one investment fund at a time

In the heart of capitalism a quiet movement has been underway for several years now, a movement of money out of the past and into the future, a movement that's growing quickly and shows some potential for sparking a new American Revolution. It's being called the divestiture movement; its most newsworthy actions are corporate decisions to move investment capital out of petroleum, out of the coal and gas industries and into a wide range of emerging new energy systems. “We see this as having both a moral and economic dimension,” said trustee Steven Rockefeller when the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced a major move away from investing in fossil fuels. This latest change in the $860 million philanthropic organization's investment strategy comes after the fund has already shed its investments in coal production and tar sands oil production, putting much of that money into producers of alter...
By on Sep 30, 2014

Just shut up and eat it!

Up until a century ago, people usually had a pretty good idea what kind of food they were eating at meal times. If they lived on a farm, they produced most of their food right there, but even city folks lived closer to their food sources than most of us do today. People might not have known what naturally produced compounds were in their food, but they really didn't need to know because few or no artificial chemicals had been added. Most of the produce sold at markets in 1914 would probably qualify as organically grown by today's standards. Simple labels on packaged food were sufficien –sugar, milk, flour. Vegetables came seasonally fresh from local growers or were canned with minimal preservatives, and those jars and cans needed only one word – peaches, peas, carrots, beef – to describe their contents. Those days are long gone. We now have a smorgasbord laid out in our supermarkets ever...
By on Sep 27, 2014

Voter fraud is a 31-in-a-billion problem

Two recent controversial Supreme Court decisions legalized what rich folks and corporations have been doing, one way or another, for 200 years in America – spending all the money they want to buy political ads and in the process, essentially bribing politicians. Behind all the concern over what those legal decisions will do to democracy lies the assumption that carpet-bombing the citizenry with all the advertising money can buy is the most effective way to win elections. That’s a sad and cynical assumption, but it’s been true too often, especially during the past 30 years. This decidedly anti-democratic method of trying to gain public office or buy access to political power benefits from the stranglehold our two major political parties have on the electoral system, but it's not the worst problem our democracy faces. Voter fraud has been identified by numerous state legislatures over the ...
By on Sep 20, 2014

Even when the right is wrong, it guides us all

When it comes to crafting foreign policy, President Barack Obama should pay very close attention to what Dick Cheney says he should do. Then don't do any of that. If Obama is careful to avoid following Cheney's suggestions, we all can be certain that at least the country won't be on the wrong path. Cheney "My belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators," has been so wrong for so long it's hard to grasp why he would be invited onto any national news program, unless it's just to boost ratings. His track record is on a par with John Bolton, "The Iranian nuclear weapons effort is really very, very far along;” Robert Kagan, "Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction;" Bill Kristol, "Iraq has not descended into inter-religious and inter-ethnic violence;" and George Will, "You will see in the Middle East a happy domino effect.” Yet all of those fellows routinely get called upon to procl...
By on Sep 14, 2014