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News and Features
Shortly after September 11, Dan Rather--or "El Diablo" as he is known to
conservatives--appeared on Letterman and announced, "George Bush is the
President, he makes the decisions, and, you know
Thanks to corporate scandals, conservatives are finally on the
Senator Corzine speaks from knowledge when he calls for regulatory reform.
Sparks fly in the debate over the war on terror.
Let's start with Cynthia McKinney. Don't you think that if Arab-American
or African-American groups targeted an incumbent white, liberal, maybe
Jewish, congressperson, and shipped in money by the truckload to oust
the incumbent, the rafters would shake with bellows of outrage?
Yet when a torrent of money from out-of-state Jewish organizations
smashed Earl Hilliard, the first elected black Representative in Alabama
since Reconstruction, you could have heard a mouse cough. Hilliard had
made the fatal error of calling for some measure of evenhandedness in
the Middle East. So he was targeted by AIPAC and the others. Down he
went, defeated in the Democratic primary by Artur Davis, a black lawyer
who obediently sang for his supper on the topic of Israel.
At that particular moment the liberal watchdogs were barking furiously
in an entirely different direction. Ed McGaa, a Green candidate, has had
the effrontery to run in Minnesota for Paul Wellstone's Senate seat.
Such an uproar! Howls of fury from Marc Cooper and Harold Meyerson
lashing McGaa for his presumption. Even a pompous open letter from Steve
Cobble hassling the Minnesota Greens for endangering St. Paul. Any of
these guys think of writing to Artur Davis, telling him to back off, or
to denounce him as a cat's-paw of groups backing Sharon's terror against
Palestinians? You bet they did.
Then it was McKinney's turn. A terrific liberal black Congresswoman.
Like Hilliard, she wasn't cowed by the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby and
called for real debate on the Middle East. And she called for a real
examination of the lead-up to 9/11. So the sky has fallen in on her.
Torrents of American Jewish money shower her opponent, a black woman
judge called Denise Majette. Buckets of shit are poured over McKinney's
head in the Washington Post and the Atlanta
Here's how it's been working. McKinney sees what happened to Hilliard,
and that American Jewish money is pumping up Majette's challenge. So she
goes to Arab-American groups to try to raise money to fight back. This
allows Tom Edsall to attack her in the Post as being in receipt
of money from pro-terror Muslims. Lots of nasty-looking Arab/Muslim
names fill Edsall's stories.
Now just suppose someone looked at names in the pro-Israel groups
funding Majette, who by mid-August had raised twice as much money as
McKinney. Aren't they supporting the terror that has US-made F-16s
bombing kids in Gaza? What's the game here? It's a reiteration of the
message delivered to politicians down the years, as when Senator Charles
Percy and others went down: Put your head over the parapet on the topic
of Israel/Palestine, and we'll blow it off. And when blacks denounce the
role of outside Jewish money in the onslaughts on Hilliard and McKinney,
there'll be an avalanche of hysterical columns about the menace of black
anti-Semitism. Just you wait. It's a closed system.
Next sour thought: Yes, Katha, you did raise a little stink re McKinney,
in overly decorous but still commendable terms right here in The
Nation. Which reminds me, here's what I wrote to a fellow angered
over a piece by Ellen Johnson we'd run in CounterPunch,
criticizing you for saying Dennis Kucinich's position against abortion
rendered him ineligible as the progressives' future champion:
"Hi Matt, I'm forwarding yr note to Ellen, but allow me to say that I
think your reaction is too hasty. Ellen raised some very serious points
about the monoptic way NOW and leading feminists address the abortion
issue. I think it is right to emphasize that we should battle for social
conditions where abortion ceases to be regarded by many progressives as
a prime indicator of freedom and liberation for women.
"Surely you cannot regard the killing of fetuses as somehow an
intrinsically 'good thing.' The real friends of abortion are the
Malthusians who want to rid the world as much as possible of the
'over-breeding' and disruptive poor, particularly minorities....
"More generally, I think liberal women's groups gave Clinton the pass on
savage assaults on the poor because the Clintons unrelentingly preached
commitment to abortion.... we ran the piece because we think it's high
time to get beyond bunker liberalism, where progressives huddle in the
foxhole, holding on to 'choice' as their bottom-line issue, with a
sideline in telling black teen moms that they are socially
irresponsible. Best, Alex Cockburn"
More sourness: The ILWU? That's the West Coast longshoremen. Their
contract expired on July 1. The contract is being extended on a daily
basis. The employers are playing tough, well aware that the Bush high
command has told ILWU leaders that Bush will not hesitate to invoke
Taft-Hartley, bring in troops if necessary and destroy the ILWU as a
bargaining agent for the whole West Coast. Tom Ridge, calling in his
capacity as chief of Homeland Security, has done some heavy breathing in
the ear of ILWU leaders about the inadvisability of a strike at this
The ILWU's coastwide contract was won in the 1934 strike, along with the
hiring hall, which replaced the old shape-up system, in which the boss
could keep out organizers and anyone else. These are bedrock issues, for
which strikers fought and died that year in San Francisco and Seattle.
The West Coast longshoremen stand as a beacon of what union organizing
can do. Of course, the Bush White House yearns to destroy it, maybe
using the War on Terror as pretext. If ever there was a time for
solidarity, this is it.
Final sour thought, on Paul Krugman. Krugman? He has just conceded that
maybe neoliberal policies haven't worked too well in Latin America. Look
it up. It's in his New York Times column for August 9, "The Lost
Continent." He spent 184 words on the matter. "Why hasn't reform worked
as promised? That's a difficult and disturbing question."
Gee Paul, since you constitute the entirety of the Democratic Party's
opposition to Bush, I know you're busy as hell. But since your crowd
supervised a good deal of the economic destruction of Latin America, and
your economic faction offered the basic rationales for that devastation,
I sure hope you return to the problem. Maybe you won't be so snooty
about opponents of "free trade." Maybe you'll even have a quiet word
with Tom Friedman.
In the 39 states that elect appellate judges, politicization of the
bench is growing.
They want not just a US invasion of Iraq but "total war" against Arab
The former Labor Secretary is a top gubernatorial contender in Massachusetts.
After two decades of visiting political nightmares on the state--from
the infamous Prop 13 to the immigrant-bashing Prop 187--California's
notorious initiative and referendum system finally promises to deliver a
welcome gift this November. Enough signatures have been gathered to
qualify the Election Day Voter Registration initiative (EDR) for this
fall's ballot. The measure, which would allow citizens to both register
and vote on Election Day, is seen by many as the most significant
election reform possible at this time.
Since the 2000 presidential debacle in Florida, reformers have mostly
concentrated on improving the logistics of balloting. "But that isn't
the problem," says Cal Tech Professor Mike Alvarez, co-author of a new
report analyzing EDR. "The problem in American elections isn't voting
machines. The biggest problem is voter registration."
Voter participation both across the United States and within California
has plummeted steadily over the past three decades, constantly setting
new records of anemic turnout. "Worse, the higher your income and the
older you are, the more likely you are one of those left voting," says
former Connecticut Secretary of State Miles Rapoport, now the head of
the Demos organization, which commissioned Alvarez's study.
Supporters of EDR say it's the perfect prescription for reversing the
downward trend. In most states voters must register some weeks or even
months in advance of actual balloting, and the process is often
cumbersome and confusing. There are currently six states that have moved
to EDR, and the increase in turnout has been an immediate 3-6 percent.
Voting among young people and those who have moved in the previous six
months runs some 15 percent higher in states that have adopted EDR.
Similar reforms, like "motor voter," which allows registration at the
time of driver's-license renewal, have not been as effective.
Motor-voter does bring in a lot of registrations, but many of the new
potential voters don't show up on Election Day.
Perhaps the most dramatic use of EDR was in Minnesota's 1998
gubernatorial election. More than 330,000 last-minute, previously
unregistered voters were swept to the polls by the enthusiasm around
independent candidate Jesse Ventura and were the decisive margin in his
victory over the two traditional parties. EDR is also credited with
boosting liberal Senator Paul Wellstone into office during his first
run, in 1990.
Alvarez thinks that if EDR is adopted in California--where the
electorate has been disproportionately white, suburban and elderly--an
increase of up to 9 percent in turnout can be anticipated. "That's
something like 1.9 million additional voters in a presidential
election," he says. And that increase would contribute to greater
ethnic, class and age equity. Increases in voters aged 18-25 would
increase by a projected 12 percent, Latino voters by 11 percent and
African-American voters by 7 percent. A 10 percent increase could be
expected from those with a grade-school education or less, an equal
increase from those who have lived at their address for less than six
months and a 12 percent increase from new-citizen voters.
The measure is endorsed by a plethora of nonprofit activist groups and
has also gotten support from top moderate Republicans, including former
Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and former US Representative Tom
Campbell. No organized opposition to EDR has yet emerged, though
nativist groups are expected to charge that it opens the door to
fraudulent voting by undocumented aliens.
But backers of the measure are taking no chances. The gathering of about 700,000 signatures was financed with $1 million from California businessman and philanthropist Rob McKay,
whose McKay Foundation has an established track record in backing social
justice issues. And plans are to spend another $7 million to see the
initiative through to victory in November. During the 2001-02
legislative session, a dozen other states are expected to take up
"We have to lower the barriers to voting every way we can," says McKay.
"We are no longer dealing with just voter apathy. Now we are dealing
with outright voter alienation. With this measure we are trying to draw
the line in the sand."
Governer Davis may win re-election only because the GOP's Simon is such
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