Willie Brown is Not the Enemy

Steven Hill's story in your 2/1/00 issue ["S.F. shoots across the bow of globalization"] greatly troubled me.

First, to couple the San Francisco mayoral election with globalization is a major stretch of journalistic gymnastics. Be real, the election would have happened with or without Seattle or the WTO. The local political forces (of which Steven Hill is clearly a partisan operative) were lining up for years.

Second, to brand Willie Brown the "local incarnation of globalization" is preposterous. Willie Brown is a supremely competent politician who has been plying his trade for 30 or more years. Voters in my district sent him to the California Assembly for more than 20 years. Voters in the entire City and County of San Francisco elected him mayor four years ago. We apparently thought he was doing his job pretty well since we kept on reelecting him.

I know Tom Ammiano, and consider him a friend also. Organized labor campaigned hard for him in 1998 in parts of town where he had absolutely no traction. It's widely held that it was our efforts that got him in as the top vote getter among all supervisors in that election, and therefore president of the Board of Supervisors. However, there are those who view his "electrifying write-in campaign only three weeks before the November general election," as somewhat anti-democratic. Steven Hill says Tom championed honest government (who campaigns for dishonest government?), reform, empowerment, and compassion. I don't have any reason to doubt that, but Tom's write-in campaign also made him subject to no scrutiny and no debates, which some find troubling.

It's possible I'm completely wrong about everything I've said so far, but I know I'm correct when I object to what Hill said about organized labor in that mayoral election. Hill says "The leadership of organized labor caved in and endorsed Brown a full year and a half before the election, despite heated opposition from the rank-and-file." The truth is that our endorsement was done not by the Officers of the SF Labor Council or even by the Executive Committee of the Council. It was done by the rank-and-file delegates to the Council. The hall was packed, there was some opposition but the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing Willie Brown. I know, I was there. More significantly all through the campaign August to December there were literally hundreds and hundreds of rank-and-filers working the phone banks and walking precincts every Saturday through our Labor Neighbor program to reelect Mayor Brown. I know, I was there.

It may be that the Republican Party and downtown business feared Tom Ammiano, but not us. Unlike other political friends like Leland Yee who decided not to run, Tom forced us to choose. We legitimately decided that we liked Willie Brown's record of achievement for working people. That's our right, and it isn't globalization.

If Mr. Steven Hill wants to talk about "class-tinged politics", we can talk but he should talk to us before the talks about us. If Mr. Hill wants to do something about class based politics, he can climb down from his ivory tower at the Center for Voting and Politics, and we might even be able to find a precinct for him to walk instead of running around town putting up stickers that were not printed in union shops with a union bug.

The next time The Progressive Populist gets a story about San Francisco and/or San Francisco Bay Area Labor, give us a call to check out the facts. Thanks. I subscribe to and read the Progressive Populist because it's one of the few sources of information not controlled by and/or clearly in the service of the corporatized and trivialized mainstream culture. I'm overjoyed that I've never read anything in your paper about marrying millionaires. I'm equally happy to read about situations that I'm not particularly in touch with, such as the crisis in rural America.

R. J. BOILEAU, Vice President
San Francisco Labor Council

Rally for Peace

Recently references in the Progressive Populist have been made to our military budget, notably one item in the populist quiz (Editorial, 2/15/00 PP) and Howard Zinn's suggestions for progressive legislation (2/1/00 PP); in fact nearly half of Professor Zinn's recommendation concern weapons.

The time is long overdue for us to seriously confront a Federal Government which, just to mention a few facts:

1) Spends half of discretionary funding on military-related matters;

2) Uses 30 times more in military-related spending than the combined military budget ($15 billion) of seven countries claimed as potential enemies;

3) In the last 10 years provided weapons to 45 of the 50 nations engaged in armed conflict; and which

4) Fails to emphasize that more jobs can be had in almost every other sector of the economy compared with those in weapons production.

As a result of our misdirected national priorities, needed domestic programs and peaceful international activities are languishing for lack of essential funding siphoned off to inflate an already bloated military budget; candidates for Congress need to be questioned about this.

On Saturday, May 6, 1 pm EST/10 am PST, synchronized nationwide rallies and workshops are being planned to address this issue. Over 100 US peace and justice groups have been contacted. Readers are encouraged to coalesce with like-minded groups and individuals to organize events in their area.

For further questions please contact: Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (consisting of 40 groups, many of which are branches of national organizations) Military Budget Committee c/o Richard Laybourn, 7300 Bristol Village Dr. #309, Bloomington, MN 55438; phone 612-944-5722

Sincerely yours

Bloomington, Minn

Too Many Immigrants

Open border advocates Gonzales and Rodriquez are at it again in their 2/15/00 piece on Elian Gonzalez. Cleverly using Elian's plight, they seek to make us feel guilty because "our immigration laws brand the most honorable among us as criminals for the simple act of trying to feed their families". No matter that, in allowing nearly 1,000,000 immigrants per the year, the US is the most liberal of any country in the Western world in accepting immigrants.

Gonzales and Rodriquez suggest that the US views immigration "in the context of criminality and a moated society" and that the Elian Gonzales incident provides the opportunity to "examine our immigration policies" which would "prevent more tragedies that has produced the Elian spectacle" and "humanize our policies", again conveniently overlooking the fact that the US has allowed almost 1,000,000 legal immigrants per year, not counting the uncounted illegal aliens each year. And, of course, it is implied that anyone who would differ with Gonzales and Rodriquez simply hates Mexicans ... and Russians, and Chinese, and Canadians, etc. etc.

Then in their piece of 3/1/00, they breathlessly assert that all Mexicans apparently HAVE THE RIGHT TO MOVE TO THE US, based on their discovery of the "ancient connections between regions" and that the mythical homeland "Aztlan is everywhere I've ever walked". They further disparage Proposition 187, the California legislation which sought to bring welfare to immigrants under control, as another example of hate-filled anti-immigrant legislation. And again, needless to say, anyone who disagrees with Gonzales and Rodriquez is guilty of hating all Mexicans ... and Russians, and Chinese, and Canadians, etc. etc.

I would suggest that those readers of The Progressive Populist who believe that we have the right to control our own borders write their Congressmen and request that they support H.R. 41, the Immigration Reduction Act of 1999, which would put a moratorium on out-of-control immigration which has gone on for too long. I further suggest that we need not feel guilty for speaking out on the issue of the U. S. controlling it's borders. Every other developed country in the Western world tightly controls immigration. And let's not fall for the rhetoric of the open borders lobbyists who would accuse us of hating Mexicans ... and Russians, and Chinese, and Canadians, etc., etc. because we want to reassert control of our borders.

I further suggest that readers write The Progressive Populist editor James M. Cullen and demand that he publish articles presenting the opposing point of view to that of Gonzales and Rodriquez.

Anacortes, Washington

Matching Funds Facts

Your editorial on Ralph Nader ["The Green Choice," 3/15/00 PP] is excellent. There's this teensy little flaw, a flaw which much of the mainstream media also exhibits. That's the use of the term "matching federal funds" in your 3rd paragraph.

The only "matching" federal campaign funds are in the primary season. Individual candidates seeking the nomination of any political party may qualify for primary matching funds. The amount of money the candidate gets is "matched" to the amount they raise.

However, your editorial is not talking about primary matching funds. It is talking about general election campaign funds, which only is given to the presidential nominee of a party which polled 5% in the previous general election for president. Ralph Nader hopes to poll 5% and qualify the Green Party presidential nominee in 2004 for general election federal funding. This general election money has nothing to do with "matching". The amount of general election funding is determined by a calculation. The full amount (over $60,000,000) goes to parties which polled at least 25%. Parties which got over 5%, but under 25%, get a proportion of that $60,000,000 (the last nominee's share of the vote, divided by the average of the Dem & Rep nominee's percentages).

The proper term for the money Nader is talking about is "general election funding". The word "matching" should not be used to refer to that money.

Ballot Access News
San Francisco, Calif.

Cure for Spoilers

In the Nader endorsement ["The Green Choice," 3/15/00 PP], you mentioned that some progressive Democrats are worried that a Nader campaign would spoil the election for Al Gore, as the progressive populists would split their vote between the Green and Democratic nominees, allowing a Republican to potentially win with less than a majority vote. This fear is not unfounded: New Mexico Republican Heather Wilson owes her seat to such a Democrat-Green split vote.

Although your editorial mentioned the benefits to a Nader run for other progressive candidates, it did not mention the simple solution to the split vote syndrome: a runoff election. If Gore can't earn a majority of votes on his own (as Clinton never could), then there ought to be a runoff election between the top two candidates, so the third party supporters can vote for whom they really want in the general election to send a message, and then settle for Gore in the runoff election. This would energize a Nader effort, as the campaign could unabashedly "steal" votes from the Democrats -- the runoff election protects the left from fatally splitting their votes.

Even better, we ought to use the instant runoff, where voters rank the candidates ('1' to their favorite, '2' to their next) in anticipation of a runoff election. If their favorite candidate (marked with a '1') is eliminated in the instant runoff, then their vote transfers to their second-choice (marked with a '2'), just like a regular runoff election. We'd get all the benefits of a runoff election without the expense and hassle of trooping to the polls twice in one month. Please see http://www.instantrunoff.com for more.

Nader, and The Progressive Populist, ought to champion the instant runoff, as a ballot liberator: it lets us vote for whom we really want to!

Midwest Democracy Center
Chicago, Ill.

Too Many Spooks

Your cover story ["Watching Big Brother Watching Us," 3/1/00 PP], states that an investigative reporter figures that at "Echelon" around 95,000 people are employed.

I went to a large high school in the '50s, and the gymnasium held 5,000 people when a big basketball game was on.

This reporter tells me that it takes 19 gymnasiums full of workers to punch their computers and be their back-up workers at "Echelon." And how much is each worker being paid?

The perfect dumping ground to pay off someone for doing no work. A place for politicians to buy a quiet tongue with my tax dollars.

Please, Mr. Investigative Reporter, get me a dollar figure for what it's costing me.

Fryeburg, Maine

Editor's Note: The National Security Agency budget and other "intelligence" budgets are closely guarded secrets, so there's no way to know for sure how much featherbedding is going on, but in 1994 a Congressional subcommittee inadvertently revealed the highly classified "black budget" for US intelligence agencies that showed $3.1 billion spent on the CIA, $10.4 billion for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines special-operations units and $13.2 billion for the NSA/National Reconnaissance Office/Defense Intelligence Agency.

Organizing Southern Workers

There is a continuing struggle by organized labor trying to recruit new members in our southern states. Maybe we should realize that there is an inherent resentment by southerners (whether consciously or sub-consciously) to joining any organization that includes the word "union." You might find more success by offering them the opportunity to join a "confederation of industrial workers."

Davison, Michigan

Make Room for Dollars

Wayne O'Leary's thoughtful article ["Whose economy is it, anyhow?", 3/15/00 PP] prompts me to respond. The creation of money today is little understood, even by many bankers who create most of our money. Some 90 percent of our money is created through Fractional Reserve Banking which allows banks to loan most their deposits, keeping but a few percent in cash reserve, legal tender, as required by the Fed. This bank created money can be exchanged for cash by the Fed which has access to the US Mint where it is printed.

Deficit spending is the means by which legal tender is directly put into circulation by the government. Since the government is not allowed to simply print it and spend it the government "borrows" it from private banks like anybody else. But a government debt is redeemable at the Federal Reserve Bank for cash. When this happens the bank is made whole again while the government has put new money into the economy with its purchases. The Fed in effect loans money it gets from the US Treasury's Mint, to the government. Neat isn't it!

Our National Debt is the backing for our dollars. It can't be paid off with bank created dollars. Money creation through debt is a zero sum "game" in which the money created less the debt created hovers around zero. If all debt were paid off there would be no money! It need not be so if we adopt a method other than debt-money creation. Until then, viva la deficit!

retired physicist
Sun City, Arizona, and Longmont, Colo.

Christian Democrat

Just a note to say thanks to Mr. Randolph Holhut for his article ["Jesus C and George W on the
Campaign Trail," 2/15/00 PP]. It was about Bush and his Christian belief. I'm a Christian Democrat and have been fighting that theme for years.

I had been telling church people of Jerry Falwell's type about moral sin, or the sin that Mr. Holhut wrote about. They didn't believe me. I had it copied today to send to relatives and friends. Now in a little country church it may be posted. A neighbor copied it and he said he was going to post it in his church. He was part Republican -- I don't think any more.

Sincerely thanks

Grassy, Missouri

No Moral High Ground

Editor James M. Cullen recently ["GOP Primary Colors," 3/1/00 PP] proposed [that the] GOP's policies are closely aligned with the Austrian government's Freedom Party platform of "immigrant bashing, right wing social programs, and tax cuts."

A more compelling case may be made historically for the close alignment of some members of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party; not only in philosophy but actually supporting the policies of Stalin, a man responsible for killing more of his people than Hitler. In addition, many liberals have supported Fidel Castro, and the Sandinistas in Central America, not generally bastions of freedom and democracy. Conservatives have also supported thugs in Central America, so neither party can claim much moral high ground there.

"Immigrant bashing" appears to be generally applied to anyone opposing any restraints on immigration policies. Many Democrats and Republicans believe that it is in the vital interests of our nation to reduce legal immigration and eliminate illegal immigration as much as possible. The societal costs of education, welfare, increased population and accompanying urban sprawl with overwhelming negative environmental impact, incarceration costs, are all valid reasons for such concern.

Omaha Nebraska

Not Enough Lawyers

Although the conventional wisdom seems to be that the USA has too many lawyers, I beg to differ. Indeed, I believe that we don't have enough lawyers. Not nearly enough.

I ask you, who would benefit from a widely held belief that there are too many lawyers? Or from the fact that law is not taught in the public schools, much less at the undergraduate level in college?

People often complain that it's so hard to find a good lawyer. If there really were too many lawyers, then it shouldn't be all that hard to find an "excellent" lawyer!

End the legal monopoly: Teach law in the public schools.


Vero Beach, Fla.

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