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Special interests will always be with us because each of us is special. So where do we draw the line? Quoting from a column by David Brooks of the New York Times writes:

"While sitting on the commerce and finance committees, John Kerry has seen many interests, and you could forgive him if he didn't think they were all special. But Kerry has raised more money from Washington lobbyists than any other senator. He's raised over $30 million over the past nine years, and you just ask the folks in the telecom industry if he doesn't make them feel special."

The perspective of course is that Mr. Bush will raise something like ten times as much in a few months. One can make a case for special interests being democratic and that is so. It is the heart and soul of the American variety where each citizen has a vote. But we must realize that even good things can be abused, especially where money is involved. In this case, the conclusion is inescapable: The more money the more special, and this is the driver of Plutocracy and Privilege.

This bane of democracy, special interests, also tends to spawn extremist views in proportion to the loss of hope felt by those oppressed in fact or in their perception. This is true whether extremists are Muslims, the homegrown variety such as Timothy Mc Veigh, or any other type.

Special interests abound, especially in America. Corporate chieftains robbing the tills of their companies are not different, morally, from the Sheiks siphoning off national oil revenues to their own families or clansor even from the mullahs preaching jihad. Politicians diverting soft money are no different.

And they are not alone: Fundamentalist religious groups all share the closed-mind thinking of special interests in that only they are the righteous; only they know the way. This is true whether they reside in Bombay, Mecca, Tel Aviv, or Washington DC.

Examples are:

    Wahhabi Islam and the Taliban, which embraces the Deobandi version of Wahhabi Islam, are the most fundamental and dangerous of the religion driven-terrorists.

    Then there are dictators and their equivalent, kings, still holding forth in much of the Third World. The House of Saud is notable for sponsoring Fundamentalism.

    Special interest groups cannot be safely trusted with Nuclear Weaponry. Already we have a junta in Pakistan and a dictator in North Korea with nuclear weapons. The Nuclear guru of Pakistan, Dr Khan, admitted supplying state nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya. After confessing, he was pardoned!

People have begun to organize in earnest.

    Moveon is a special site that came into being in part because of special interests. Additional sites concerned with special interests:

    Congress Watch -- "Congress Watch champions consumer interests before the U.S. Congress and serves as a government watchdog. We lobby to strengthen health, safety and environment protections; demand an end to corporate subsidies; fight to preserve citizen access to the courts to redress corporate wrongdoing; and seek to ensure a strong democracy by exposing the harmful impact of money in politics and advocating for comprehensive campaign finance reform."

From The New York Times:

    With General Musharraf in a precarious political position after two assassination attempts against him in December, and with American forces needing his cooperation in hunting down Al Qaeda terrorists, administration officials are reluctant to make the kinds of demands of Pakistan it has made of other nations.

    But in Vienna on Thursday, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Dr. Khan's confession was only "the tip of an iceberg." In contrast with the Bush administration's assessment, Dr. ElBaradei said that Dr. Khan's admission "raises more questions than it answers."

    "It's a supermarket," he said of the maze of clandestine nuclear buyers, shippers, middlemen and manufacturers in the network extending out from Pakistan that Dr. Khan fostered. "It's the most dangerous phenomena we've seen in the nonproliferation area for many years."

The power of the atom in the hands of either a rogue nation or terror group is a most frightening concept. But this too can yield to dialogue, and we have this opportunity. There is a grave urgency to get started.

In each of these cases, NOW is a "platinum" opportunity for dialogue. Dialogue opens the door for peaceful resolution directly with the threatening party. If that fails, dialogue can ensure that the rest of the world comes to one mind. This is especially important if that "one mind" entails use, or credible threat of use, of overwhelming force to neutralize a nuclear threat. Dialogue can enable subsequent peace. See Nuclear Threat for how that can work.


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