Greens to Nader: Let's Do It

Ralph Nader claimed the Green Party nomination for President at the party's convention in Denver June 25 and promised to lead a populist challenge of the corrupting influence of corporations in American life and politics.

Green supporters already have put the party on the ballot in 21 states and they expect to qualify in at least 45 states. Nader and his running mate, Ojibwe Indian activist Winona LaDuke of Minnesota, hope to get a place in the debates scheduled for the two major party presidential candidates this fall.

Nader has raised more than $1 million and hopes to get $5 million, including matching federal funds, to talk about issues such as the need for universal health care, campaign finance reform, stronger labor laws and a rethinking of trade agreements such as of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. "Election 2000 just got hotter than high school love," said Jim Hightower, who introduced Nader as the only candidate "you don't have to hold your nose to go into the booth to vote for."

Although the conventional view is that he will drain votes from Democrat Al Gore, Nader hopes to build a broad base of support. "Don't conservatives, in contrast to corporationists, want movement toward a safe environment, toward ending corporate welfare and the commercialization of childhood?" Nader asked. "Let us not in this campaign prejudge any voters, for Green values are majoritarian values."

During a press conference, when asked if he would be a spoiler for Gore's campaign, he replied, "Most politicians hold their fingers to the wind, and if we win we'll be showing them a lot of wind."

Nader also is appealing to the 50 percent of voting-age Americans who likely would not show up to vote this fall if the choice is Bush and Gore. He asked the Greens to get involved in voter registration and added, "To the youth of America, I say, beware of being trivialized by the commercial culture that tempts you daily. I hear you saying often that you're not turned on by politics. The lessons of history are clear and portentous. If you do not turn onto politics, politics will turn on you."

If Nader and Pat Buchanan split more than 10 percent of the vote this year it would be the first time in US history that alternative parties had reached that level in three consecutive elections. He's been polling between 4 and 7 percent support in national surveys, outpacing Buchanan, the presumptive Reform candidate. Nader is particularly strong in California, as well as Washington state, Oregon, New Mexico and Connecticut.

Nader, who said he remains an independent but supports Green principles, has the potential to create a "blue-green coalition" with environmentalists and members of organized labor who are upset with Gore's support of free trade concessions demanded by multinational corporations.

Officials of the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers have praised his stand on trade. Nader met privately with the Teamsters' national board June 22, after which President James Hoffa said, "We agree wholeheartedly with what Mr. Nader has said." In May, after the House vote to normalize trade relations with China, UAW President Steve Yokich accused Gore of "holding hands with the profiteers of the world." Yokich added: "It's time to forget about party labels and instead focus on supporting candidates, such as Ralph Nader, who will take a stand based on what is right, not what big money dictates."

Nader got his first union endorsement June 14 from the California Nurses Association, the state's largest RN group with 31,000 members in over 100 hospitals, clinics and home health agencies. "At a time when nearly 45 million Americans are uninsured," CNA President Kay McVay said, "Ralph Nader is the only candidate for President to stand for universal health care, including a national health insurance plan that guarantees access to full health care services for every man, woman and child in the United States."

Nader also has the support of the American Reform Party, a group that split from the Reform Party in a dispute with the supporters of party founder Ross Perot even before Buchanan took over the party.

The Green convention drew approximately 320 delegates from 38 states and the District of Columbia. Delegates also worked to heal the split between the Association of State Green Parties, which is involved in political action and sponsored the convention, and Green Parties USA, which focuses on direct action.

Intervening with 'Shadow Conventions'

While Democratic and Republican officials make plans to remove actual deliberation as well as protests from the public face of their carefully scripted national conventions this summer, community activists and political leaders, comedians and celebrities plan alternative "shadow conventions," focusing on the issues that the "major" parties won't touch.

"The parties' addiction to massive doses of campaign cash has distorted our policy priorities and led to the neglect of critical issues," said Arianna Huffington, one of the conveners of the Shadow Conventions 2000 (and a columnist for The Progressive Populist). "The Shadow Conventions are a citizens' intervention to give voice to millions of Americans currently shut out of the national debate."

Held in Philadelphia and Los Angeles parallel to the party conventions, the Shadow Conventions will focus on three issues -- campaign finance reform, poverty and the wealth gap, and the failed war on drugs -- that are being ignored at both party's events, and will bring together some of the nation's leading thinkers on these issues.

Conveners include Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal, Scott Harshbarger of Common Cause, Ethan Nadelmann of The Lindesmith Center, Deepak Bhargava of National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, Ellen Miller of Public Campaign, Chuck Collins of United for a Fair Economy, and Huffington, who will all speak at the conventions. They will be joined by a broad range of activists, political leaders and celebrities. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is scheduled to speak at the opening Shadow session on Sunday, July 30, while Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), who has teamed with McCain to sponsor campaign finance reform legislation, and Sen. Paul Wellstone (DFL-Minn.) are scheduled to appear at the Los Angeles Shadow Convention two weeks later. Others scheduled to appear include Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM); Reps. Tony Hall (D-OH), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Lewis (D-GA), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Warren Beatty, Geoff Canada, John DiIulio, Al Franken, Jesse Jackson, Jonathan Kozol, Paul Krassner, Lewis Lapham, Skip Long, Bill Maher, Mary Nelson, Eugene Rivers, Harry Shearer, Ron Silver, and Diana Jones Wilson.

The Shadow Conventions will take place from July 30 through August 4 in Philadelphia, during the Republican party convention, and from August 13 through August 17 in Los Angeles, during the Democratic party convention. Debates and forums will be staged on each morning, preceding the party convention sessions in the afternoons and evenings. All Shadow Convention events will be free and open to the public and conveners hope to get them televised on C-SPAN. For more information see www.shadowconventions.com.

Veterans of the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., are planning to gather in Philadelphia and Los Angeles (for more information, see www.A16.org), while police and party officials are drawing up plans to keep them as far as possible from the festivities. In Philadelphia, plans call for marches for economic human rights and for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as a direct-action attempt at disrupting the GOP convention. A July 30 demonstration there has been endorsed by various unions, NOW, the NAACP, church groups, and gay rights advocates. In Los Angeles, the activists hope to mount a convention of homeless, a march on the opening day of the convention, and an anarchists' conference.

To cut down on protests, Los Angeles authorities have designated the vicinity of the Staples Center, where the Democratic convention will be held, to be a "secure zone" impassable to all but credentialed delegates, party officials and press. Demonstrators may take hourly turns in a designated protest center far from the convention center. City officials have yet to approve any marches, including the request for the Mumia Abu Jamal march that was submitted in March.

In Philadelphia, Republican officials have been granted the right of first refusal by city officials on all public venues in town, such as parks, where protesters might have gathered. Protesters will be confined to a zone across Broad Street from the convention center. Activists had to go to court to get a permit for a massive march on Sunday before the convention begins. A permit for another march on the first day of the convention was denied.

US RANKS 37TH IN HEALTH CARE. The US health care system is inferior to those of most other industrialized nations because it is the most expensive and yet fails to provide adequate care to the poor. The US ranked 37th of the 191 systems surveyed by the World Health Organization, behind Japan, most Western European countries, Scandinavia, Canada, and several Middle Eastern nations, the Boston Globe reported June 21.

''The US is really three Americas. The top 10 percent here are the healthiest in the world. The middle bulk does mediocre. But it's the bottom 5 or 10 percent, made up of Native Americans living on reservations, the inner city poor, rural blacks, and Appalachia that is a third America,'' Dr. Christopher Murray, WHO's director of global programs on evidence for health policy, was quoted in the Globe. ''They have health conditions as bad as those in sub-Saharan Africa.''

The United States, which spends a world-leading $3,700 per person on health care every year, ranks lower than its industrialized counterparts because, too often, its indisputably world-class medicine is not available to those without money. ''Given that the US outspends everybody by such a degree, the conclusion is that'' the health care system ''is very inefficient,'' said Murray.

Another study recently found that nearly one-half of the 1 million bankruptcies in the US last year were brought on by uninsured medical costs.

The WHO study examined the quality of care in each country, how well the care was distributed, and how much it cost. The authors conclude that countries with universally available care financed by broad taxes have the best health care.

PAPER: BUSH AWOL FROM GUARD IN '72-'73. News organizations managed to report without irony on May 30 that George W. Bush challenged the fitness of Vice President Al Gore to serve as the nation's commander in chief. This only a week after the Boston Globe reported on May 23 that Bush was unaccounted for during his final 18 months of military service with the Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973. For a full year, according to the Globe's Walter V. Robinson, there is no record that Bush showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen and William Turnipseed, the retired general who commanded the Alabama unit Bush was supposed to report to, told the Globe that Bush never appeared for duty there. When Bush returned to Houston, his two superior officers at Ellington Air Force Base could not perform his annual evaluation covering the year from May 1, 1972 to April 30, 1973 because, they wrote, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report.''

Bush, whose father was a congressman at the time, vaulted ahead of a waiting list of 500 for one of the highly coveted Guard assignments, has refused to say whether he used illegal drugs during that period, but Robinson noted that the period in 1972 and 1973 when Bush apparently sidestepped his military obligation coincides with a well-publicized incident during the 1972 Christmas holidays when Bush had a confrontation with his father after he took his younger brother, Marvin, out drinking and returned to the family's Washington home after knocking over some garbage cans on the ride home.

The London Sunday Times on June 18 also reported that Bush was grounded in August 1972 for failing to take a medical exam that included a drug test. He requested and received a discharge in October 1973, eight months before the end of his six-year term.

Gore enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam as a military journalist in 1971.

PROGRESSIVE COALITION PROPOSES MEDICARE DRUG PLAN. The House Progressive Caucus June 21 unveiled a Medicare prescription drug plan that offers more comprehensive coverage than the Republican and Democratic proposals at less cost to beneficiaries. By incorporating measures to lower the exorbitant prices Americans pay for prescription drugs, the Progressive Medicare drug benefit plan is able to provide a much stronger benefit, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said. Sanders and other Progressive members supported the Democratic concept of providing prescription drug benefits within Medicare, but criticized the Democratic proposal with its 50/50 cost share, as being "far too weak." Unlike the Democratic proposal which provides a 50/50 cost-share within Medicare, the Progressive plan would provide an 80/20 co-payment approach. Under the Republican proposal, Medicare beneficiaries would pay $1,575 as well as a deductible of the first $2000 in prescription drug costs. Under the Democratic plan, beneficiaries would pay $1,288 and no deductible. Under the Progressive proposal, beneficiaries would pay $688 and no deductible. "The bottom line is that we cannot seriously resolve the Medicare issue until we deal with the absurdity of a system where when an American pays $1 for a prescription drug, that same drug is sold in Germany for 60 cents, Sweden for 60 cents, the United Kingdom for 64 cents, France for 51 cents, and Italy for 49 cents. By addressing the pricing issue, our plan provides a stronger Medicare drug benefit that offers better coverage for beneficiaries, while also substantially lowering the overall cost of prescription drugs to all Americans."

CITIZEN GROUP DEMANDS WTO 'TURNAROUND'. The international "Seattle coalition" of groups that conducted the yearlong "WTO: No New Round, Turnaround" campaign, culminating in the breakdown of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle last year, is poised to launch a new initiative. The new effort comes as the House debates a resolution to withdraw from the WTO. "We accomplished half of our Seattle agenda of 'WTO: No New Round, Turnaround,' so now we will launch an initiative to turn around the WTO's corporate-managed trade rules, which serve special interests at the expense of the public interest," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. The WTO turnaround agenda will demand transformational changes to the WTO's procedures to allow decisions on non-trade matters to be shifted back to democratically elected domestic bodies. For more information, see Public Citizen's website at www.citizen.org.

EPA: DIOXIN IN FOOD NOT FARMERS FAULT. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that a minimum of 4,000 people in the US will get cancer from dioxin -- at least ten times more than previously expected. The primary human exposure to dioxin is through food. Dioxin enters the food supply when airborne emissions fall onto pastures or grazing land to be eaten by animals. It can also flow into water from pulp mills and accumulate in fish. Since dioxin builds up in fat, people get most of their dioxin exposure from eating foods that contain animal fat.

"Farmers have no role in producing dioxin, and they shouldn't have to put up with it drifting onto their land," says Jackie Hunt Christensen, Food Safety Project Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "At highest risk of human health effects are farmers who live near dioxin sources and eat their own meat and dairy products."

Dioxin is formed unintentionally when household trash or medical waste that contains chlorine is burned. It also forms during the chemical reactions that occur when chlorine compounds are used to make paper white or when pesticides or polyvinyl chloride. EPA recommends that consumers reduce their dioxin exposure by eating a low-fat diet that contains fruits and vegetables, but IATP and organizations in 23 states and the District of Columbia assert that the EPA recommendations will unfairly put the responsibility of the dioxin problem on consumers and food producers rather than where it belongs: with the polluters. For more information on the EPA's dioxin report and IATP's work to get dioxin out of the food supply see www.iatp.org/edrc

ETERNAL VIGILANCE FOR ORGANIC FOOD. Organic consumers should remain vigilant now that the USDA comment period on its second set of proposed federal regulations on National Organic Standards has ended. According to Reuters news agency, the USDA received over 24,000 comments, and looking at the USDA website (www.ams.usda.gov/nop) Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association said most of the comments seemed to basically correspond with the position of the OCA the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture that the proposed rules need to be tightened up, not loosened. The USDA expects to publish final regulations on organic foods sometime near the first of the year 2001. For more information see www.purefood.org or call the OCA, phone 218-226-4164.

NO FUNDS FOR DRUG TREATMENT. The Senate brushed aside US Sen. Paul Wellstone's amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that would transfer $225 million from aid earmarked for the Colombian military into US domestic drug treatment programs. Theamendment, which failed by a vote of 89-11, would have provided desperately needed funds for state and local community-based programs and for drug treatment programs within correctional facilities. It also would have left intact assistance for the Colombian government and civil society, alternative development programs, judicial reform and human rights, but sought to transfer the funds earmarked for the Colombian army's "Push into Southern Colombia." The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy acknowledges that more than half the adults in the US in immediate need of treatment -- more than 2 million -- cannot receive treatment. Funding for addiction treatment is cost-effective. A landmark Rand study of cocaine markets showed that, dollar for dollar, providing treatment to cocaine users is 10 times more effective than drug interdiction schemes, and 23 times more cost effective than eradicating coca at its source.

HOUSE COMMITTEE CUTS TRADE COMPLIANCE FUNDS. The House Appropriations Committee rejected $21.2 million requested by the White House to establish compliance by China with trade agreements. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., proposed the spending item in an appropriations bill funding the Justice, Commerce and State Departments. "This vote is a slap to family farmers and ranchers who, in exchange for their increased exposure to the effects of world market imports, were promised increased export opportunities and the chance to boost crisis-level farm incomes," said Leland Swenson, president of the National Farmers Union. "With China already dumping commodities on the world market, we need to be diligent in our efforts to ensure they live up to their part in this landmark trade pact."

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