If Ralph Nader can make it here in old New York–as he did at his October 13 Madison Square Garden rally, which pulled a full house of 15,000 paying supporters–he can make it anywhere, right? Young people were in evidence, among them Nation interns and staff; also a significant number of gays, women and minorities, to whom Nader reached out, criticizing the drug war, capital punishment and environmental racism. The singer Ani DiFranco confessed to intern Kristi Abrams that she had agonized about attending: “If you are poor, the difference between Gore and Bush could be life and death.” But after Nader called her the fourth time to urge her to come, she followed her instincts: “[Saying no] didn’t feel right to me. I need to be the voice. I need to follow my heart.”
The major media have paid very little attention to a story by Robert Rogers about George W. Bush’s apparent grounding by Air National Guard. Rogers, a former commercial and National Guard pilot and airline industry consultant, acquired Bush’s service records under a FOIA request. These show that, contrary to reports that he simply “gave up” flying in 1972, two years before the end of his six-year commitment, he was grounded because of “failure to accomplish annual medical examination.” Given Bush’s history of alcohol and drug use, Roberts theorizes that Bush may have either failed the drug test recently instituted by the Pentagon or chosen to avoid the physical. The truth lurks in service records not released under Rogers’s FOIA request. Rogers calls on Bush to open up all his file and end speculation about this curious event. The story was published on the web at www.democrats.com.
Karyn Rotker writes: Thanks in large part to Wisconsin’s Republican governor, the self-styled welfare reformer Tommy Thompson, the state has been lavished with national attention for its conservative social policy experiments. But nobody has taken much notice of an independent audit released this past summer showing that the private companies managing Wisconsin’s welfare program have misused public funds–jacking up administrative costs while slashing benefits for the poor. In particular, Maximus–a for-profit company also embroiled in welfare-contract scandals in New York–charged Wisconsin millions of dollars to pay for its national corporate operations. It billed the state for company social events. It poured welfare money into advertising, from public relations campaigns to fanny packs sporting the Maximus name. Meanwhile, another welfare contractor, Employment Solutions–a nonprofit created by Goodwill Industries, whose executive director is a former Thompson aide–reportedly billed the state for expenses incurred while attempting to get a welfare contract in Arizona. Perhaps most egregious, the private firms have shoddy records in providing services to clients. Maximus stands has violated federal law with its sex discrimination in job placement practices. The state refuses to impose educational requirements on caseworkers, and it gives private contractors a financial incentive to reduce welfare rolls. In Wisconsin, “corporate welfare” has taken on a whole new meaning.
Slipped into the spending authorization bill for intelligence agencies was a measure that makes it a felony to disclose classified information. Under the bill anyone who leaks such information, regardless of whether national security is harmed, could be prosecuted. The potential chilling effect on whistleblowers was clear to many Republicans and Democrats alike, who sounded alarms. Even flaky Representative Bob Barr called it an official secrets act.
NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW
Matthew Glavin, head of the Southeastern Legal Foundation–a right-wing group and self-appointed morals cop, which most recently brought suit to disbar President Clinton in Arkansas–pleaded guilty to a charge of public indecency. An undercover federal officer spotted him indulging in the sin of Onan al fresco, on a trail in the Chattahoochee National River Park near Atlanta. Glavin then made advances to the officer, who arrested him. No doubt pornography brought him to his low state–probably reading the steamier passages of the Starr report.