Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Vote for Peace

I’ve been advising like-minded citizens everywhere that there are no "safe states" and hence they should vote for Kerry for president, as the far lesser evil. But in New York I urge them also to the saintly pacifist David McReynoilds, for Senate. They can’t be called spoilers because there is no contest; the Republicans have named only a token candidate against Chuck Schumer, and indeed Mayor Bloomberg has publicly endorsed him for re-election.

Sadly, so has the so-called Working Families Party. So-called, because it is just a line on the ballot, controlled by a few nominally progressive trade-union officials who have worked for years to stave off efforts to build an effective labor party. Their interest is obvious: it is to continue to control their huge pension and welfare funds, which would shrink or vanish if we enacted universal single-payer health care and other reforms.

What is harder to figure is the stance of our leading left-liberal weekly, the Nation. By and large it agrees with McReynolds on the issues, but it has shown an inexplicable allergy toward the Greens, especially in New York. Under the influence, perhaps, of the "pragmatic liberal" Mark Green, it blackballed a Nation colleague running for governor. As a result, the Green party lost its line on the ballot by a few hundred votes, while the so-called Working Families Party squeaked by. Now it is too late for the Nation to endorse McReynolds -- assuming that it might like to. It is not too late, though, for it to re-examine its positions.

However the election turns out, the Nation will have achieved one obsessive goal; its final issue gets in one more poke at Ralph Nader. He wasted resources fighting to get on the ballot, and he never did face up to how much damage a Bush victory would bring. But he did keep his agenda alive. In states that are safe for Kerry, I’d recommend a vote for Nader -- but from where I sit, there are no safe states.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Mayor Bloomberg mailed $400 checks to a lot of residents to warm their hearts on the way to the polls. Actually, he raised their taxes by $1700, so this was only a partial refund, but he figures they should be grateful for small favors. On a Blumberg market program, an adviser was asked what stocks to buy if Bush is elected. He said military stocks, naturally, but pharmaceuticals, for sure. He wouldn’t sell either one if Kerry was elected -- just hold on to them -- which is a pretty good picture of what’s at stake on Tuesday.

The election is already under way -- and also, the anti-election. Who would believe that a truckload of absentee votes would vanish again in Florida-- that butterfly ballots, with arrows pointing the wrong way and punch cards with hanging chads would be handed out -- this time in Cincinnati? Who would imagine that thousands of touch-screen machines with no paper trail would be installed -- virtually all of them in minority districts. The Bush gang has gone all out to keep millions of citizens from having their votes counted.

Which brings up the question, what can we do about it? Time is running out. It’s all very well to call the big media and talk programs -- if they don’t charge for it - though one can get more mileage with blogs on the Internet. But the biggest influence each of us can have is to nag everyone we can in the neighborhood, on the job - in subways and buses. It’s a matter of overcoming apathy and despair. Let our enemies be desperate -- they know they could not win a fair election. We can stop them - this time.

(P.S. Note how after all the breast-beating and confessionals about slanting coverage, the Times reports that Columbia University is investigating a charge of anti-semitism by pro-Arab professors, only to conclude, on careful reading, that there isn’t a word of truth in it.)

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Double, double, toil and trouble. The hobgoblins are riding this Halloween. Bombs missing in Iraq -- ballots missing in Florida -- must we go through all that again?

The big news tonight is that Yasir Arafat has been carried off the stage. He will be missed. He was one of the scariest of the hobgoblins. Now it will gradually dawn on even simpletons that for all his faults -- and they were enormous -- he was never a master terrorist. So they’ll keep having to find new scarecrows.

One of the scariest has just popped up backstage: James Baker. He’s the former secretary of state -- a sort of foster father-figure to George Dubya. Baker moved into Florida to hijack the last election, but his net goes a lot wider than that. Naomi Klein of the Nation has just done some bang-up reporting on Baker’s long ties with the rulers of Saudi Arabia. He stands to pick up as much as a billion dollars in fees for one upcoming deal. His role helps explain why Pappy Bush held back from taking Baghdad in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, becauuse they figured they still needed Saddam.

It’s been thrown up to John Kerry that he voted against that war. It was in fact one of the better things that he did during his career. Not winning those medals -- he shouldn’t have - but leading Vietnam veterans against the war. As a Senator, he had an outstanding record investigating the dirty wars in Central America and the contras’ role in drug trafficking. A while ago, Ruth Conniff of the Progressive did a nifty analysis showing that Kerry’s voting record in the Senate was generally liberal for a term and a half, and then went bad -- like so many Democratic politicians led by Bill Clinton.

Well it does confirm my view that Kery can be pushed. It’s up to us to get those votes out and get them counted. Don’t let them steal it again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Denby Syndrome

There’s a new book called "American Sucker," by a guy who lost nearly all his savings in the stock market. Normally, I’d feel only sympathy for him. But I can’t think of David Denby without remembering how he trashed that great movie The China Syndrome.

The nuclear industry had put out a packet of propaganda saying that a meltdown was impossible and the filmmakers were trying to scare us, out of pure greed. And that’s exactly what Denby wrote in New York Magazine, and George Will in his column -- during the week of Three Mile Island.

I don’t believe either of them ever apologized or changed his ways.

Denby became movie critic at the New Yorker and according to his book went hog wild -- drinking, sleeping around, and playing the market all day long, following the advice of such ugly characters as George Gilder. Then the bubble burst. You'd think Denby would have learned his lesson, calling himself a sucker and mentioning the scandals in the market -- but no, he’s still gambling with what’s left, on some other system he’s glad to share with us. He also spices up his book with stuff about his former wife that I’d rather not know.

Ever since his assault on The China Syndrome, Denby has been symbolic of the moral standards of the gang that’s been dragging the world toward armageddon. But the movie was proved to be true, the brokers were proved to be crooks, the warmakers were proved to be liars and today -- their own polls have begun to find Bush running second to a Democrat. Of course he did that last time. Now we must make the verdict stick.

Monday, October 25, 2004

There Are No Safe States

Four years ago, many supporters of Ralph Nader recommended a switch to Al Gore -- the lesser evil -- in states where it might change the outcome. Elsewhere, they could vote their conscience. Well, that escape hatch has been closed.

There are no "safe states." If there were, how do you explain New York -- where Democrats far outnumber Republicans -- having a Republican governor and a Republican mayor? For this and other good reasons, many now feel obliged to vote for the lesser evil -- Kerry, with all his faults -- against Bush, the greatest evil ever to have occupied the White House.

New Yorkers are lucky, though. They will be able to vote for an old hero of the struggle for peace and justice, in the person of David McReynolds. He managed to scrape up enough petitions to get on the ballot as the Green candidate for Senate. He can’t be called a spoiler -- no way -- because the Republicans put up only a token candidate against Chuck Schumer, one of their very favorite Senators. So, Schumer can’t lose. That makes it a barf to hear him waffling like Kerry for the duration of this campaign. But it does confirm my point that these guys can be pushed around -- pushed either way. Right now, the crucial job is to get voters to the polls, and get their votes counted. Keep in mind -- there are no safe states.