Victor Navasky on failed punditry, Frida Berrigan on Bush’s Israeli pilgrimage, Esther Kaplan on activist nurses.



OK, the pollsters all got New Hampshire wrong. The reporters–claiming they were punctilious stenographers, accurately reporting what the pollsters said–got it wrong. The pundits, extrapolating, based on the polls, got it wrong. The candidates’ staffs–both of them–got it wrong. And the next day, what happened? Well, there was, of course, a tsunami of speculation on why the pollsters got it wrong. Was it

Hillary Clinton

‘s incipient tear? Or the independents who, assuming

Barack Obama

had it in the bag, went for

John McCain

? Was it older women? Or was it New Hampshire’s contrarian electoral DNA? Or was it all of the above? Whatever.

But simultaneously the press started citing new polls! By week’s end,

Tim Russert

was asking Clinton on Meet the Press what she thought about polls showing that most Democrats thought Obama was more electable than she. The following Monday, the subhead on the

New York Times

‘s lead story was “Poll Finds Economic Worries Now Top Issue.” Never has a reputation so universally besmirched been so quickly rehabilitated. Had the pollsters improved their methodology? Had they recalibrated (or at least restated) their “margin of error” (their original New Hampshire projections, off by 8 percent or more, were said to have a margin of error of 3 percent)? Or was somebody (everybody?) not paying attention? Beats me. Maybe we can take a poll and find out.   VICTOR NAVASKY


We mourn the passing of

Philip Agee

, the courageous former CIA officer who, in his 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary, exposed the agency’s subversion of democracy and its practices of torture and murder, naming hundreds of officers, agents and companies involved with the crimes. Agee was motivated, he said, by the CIA’s support for “the worst imaginable horrors” in Latin America.

Agee paid a high price for his courage. He became a permanent target of the US government, and his passport was revoked. Driven out of Britain, where his book was first published, he was denied a safe haven in many other Western European countries. He was issued a passport by the revolutionary government of Grenada; when that government was overthrown, the Nicaraguans stepped forward. After the Sandinistas lost power, he was granted a passport by Germany, where he lived with his wife,

Giselle Roberge Agee

, a ballerina. Agee co-edited (with

Louis Wolf

) a book further exposing undercover plots and agents–Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe. He collaborated closely with

Covert Action Information Bulletin

, a magazine devoted to stopping criminal CIA activities. That work ended publicly, at least in the United States, with the passage in 1982 of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act–aimed, as one Congressman said, at “the Philip Agees of the world.” Perhaps the best way to remember Agee is to support others who find the courage to expose criminal misconduct by their own governments.   MICHAEL RATNER



California Nurses Association

(CNA) is one of those rare unions that really make you believe in the future of organized labor. Its members conducted an extraordinary campaign in 1999 to pass a state ballot measure capping patient-to-nurse ratios. When

Arnold Schwarzenegger

tried to block its implementation, the union launched an all-out assault, hounding him into retreat. While some unions have welcomed a role for private insurers in healthcare reform, CNA has focused relentlessly on single-payer, launching


, a campaign arguing that every American deserves the kind of publicly funded health coverage that saved the veep’s life. In 2004 the union went national, which inevitably meant going head-to-head with SEIU, home to

Andy Stern

, whose own healthcare reform strategy has brought him into an alliance with Wal-Mart execs. After being independent for 100 years, CNA moved last May to affiliate with the AFL-CIO, an indication that the union was ready to play hardball.

This combination of radicalism and realpolitik won the union a big prize January 10, when a young, 5,100-member Pennsylvania nurses union (


) voted to join CNA. PASNAP president

Patricia Eakin

, a working RN, said CNA carried the day with its “push for higher nurse-to-patient ratios,” its “assertive, aggressive approach to organizing nurses” and its affiliation with the AFL-CIO, “because they support Medicare for all.” The Pennsylvania victory came just after CNA, now 80,000 strong, unionized hundreds of nurses in Whittier, California, and Reno, Nevada. CNA president

Zenei Cortez

, also a working nurse, said her union is now organizing in Ohio, Kentucky and Texas (where it will be in direct competition with SEIU). When asked whether SEIU had competed for the Pennsylvania nurses, she said, “There might have been some rumblings, but those nurses really wanted us. You can’t even compare us with SEIU. We’re the nurses at the bedside, not administrators, and we run our organization. We want to be the national voice for RNs, and we want to get everybody on the same page with universal, single-payer healthcare.”   ESTHER KAPLAN


Tears welled up in

George W. Bush

‘s eyes as he visited holy sites in Israel in January. But the President did more than walk in the footsteps of Jesus. While he spouted the rhetoric of peace on his tour of the Middle East, the Pentagon announced a new weapons sale to Saudi Arabia–part of the Administration’s push to contain and intimidate Iran. In the first phase of an arms package that could reach $20 billion, Bush finalized a deal to provide the Saudis with $123 million worth of

Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munitions

. Meanwhile, Israel’s concerns about the sale have been assuaged by Washington’s commitment to provide Jerusalem with $30 billion in military aid over the next ten years.

On the fifth day of his trip–while visiting Abu Dhabi, another major US arms client–Bush intoned that “America is using its influence to foster peace and reconciliation.” A few days later, battles between Israeli security forces and Hamas members killed eighteen Palestinians and a kibbutz worker, marring hopes for the newly started peace talks and serving as a reminder that the United States cannot pave the path to peace by selling weapons.   FRIDA BERRIGAN

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