While US Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., considers whether to follow up her re-election defeat in the Democratic primary with another try for Congress or a Senate race in 2004 or switch to the Green Party to run for president, Bruce A. Dixon, a former Chicago political activist who volunteered for her unsuccessful campaign, said blacks and progressives should stop making excuses for her defeat and get back to the basics of electioneering. He volunteered to help McKinney's campaign in suburban Atlanta during the last 10 days, he wrote for www.blackcommentator.com, "because she spoke truth to power." When the Right raised and bankrolled a "black puppet candidate," Dixon volunteered despite the fact that his home was 35 miles from her district. But he wrote, "The campaign operation I walked in on was heartbreakingly inept. There was no field operation whatsoever. The McKinney campaign had failed to conduct a voter registration drive in her district. They hadn't performed a pre-election voter canvass in any parts of heavily black south Dekalb, which should have been her base areas. These are the organizing basics, the ABCs of electoral success for black progressive candidates against opponents with more money and media. Her campaign ignored the basics and it cost her. And all of us." He said progressive candidates should take a lesson from McKinney's defeat.
Dixon quoted US Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who, when questioned on a radio show about McKinney's defeat, said: "It's not enough to take principled and courageous stands on the issues. Black and progressive elected officials have to know that when you speak truth to power ... powerful interests will target you, will mobilize their resources ... and come after you. We have to defend those correct and principled positions by hitting the street and organizing our own communities. ..." Dixon added, "This isn't new news. ... Maxine didn't invent it ... She learned it just like the rest of us. But since she said it so nicely let's call it 'Maxine's Rule.' You fight the Right by hitting the streets and organizing your base."
After the election McKinney supporters blamed the Republican crossover vote, outside money, white Democrats, the alliance of the hard Right and Zionists and a universally hostile media, all of which were important factors, Dixon said. When McKinney's dad, Billy, a 30-year Georgia state representative, lost in a runoff against a white opponent, a member of the Sons of the Confederacy, in a 60% black district, Dixon noted, the elder McKinney blamed black people who "just didn't come out" for him and his daughter.
"As analysis, this is unacceptable," Dixon said. "It's way time for organizers and activists to stop hiding behind the lame excuse that our people just don't come out to vote. They come out when we organize ourselves to register them and to turn them out. It ain't rocket science, and we should not blame the people when we do not do our own jobs." For more analysis of the Georgia 4th Congressional District race see www.bdixon.net/mckinney-analysis.html.
'CLEAN MONEY' DOMINATES ARIZONA, MAINE ELECTIONS. In a US political first, a majority of candidates for state offices in Arizona and Maine are financing their campaigns solely with public funds, reported Public Campaign (publicampaign.org), a group that promotes public financing of elections. In Maine, 62% of all candidates (231 out of 372) on the fall ballot are participating in that state's Clean Elections system, which offers candidates the option of receiving full public financing in exchange for limiting their spending and rejecting private donations. In Arizona, 53% of all the candidates (84 out of 158) are running "clean." These candidates include two of the three major candidates for governor of Arizona and 70% of all the contenders running for statewide offices. Candidates had to gather thousands of $5 contributions from voters in their district to qualify for public funding. More than 90,000 such contributions were made in Arizona, along with about 30,000 in Maine, a participation rate far exceeding the number of people who make private contributions. More than half the Maine House and as much as three-quarters of its Senate, along with 6 of 9 of Arizona's statewide offices, will likely be held by candidates who ran "clean."
R'S TARGET TRIAL LAWYERS. Republicans on Capitol Hill are planning to take direct aim at one of the Democratic Party's biggest benefactors -- trial lawyers -- by pushing legislation that would cap medical malpractice awards. In a closed-door meeting in September, House GOP leaders and business and healthcare industry lobbyists met to map out a joint strategy to promote "tort reform." According to National Journal's Congress Daily, lobbyists agreed to mount a "vigorous" campaign in favor of a malpractice bill, a form of which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee, which includes a cap on punitive damages of $250,000 and a provision limiting payment for attorneys.
Holly Bailey of the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) noted that the majority of trial lawyer money routinely goes to Democrats. In the 2002 election cycle, lawyers and law firms have contributed just over $50 million in soft money, PAC and individual contributions, 70% to Democrats. Arrayed against the lawyers (and their injured clients) are insurance companies and hospitals as well as the American Medical Association, which announced a $15 million campaign to cap malpractice costs.
"If the GOP is successful in making medical malpractice a major issue before Election Day, the debate could help to close what has been a growing rift between Republicans and the AMA," Bailey wrote. "When the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, the AMA quickly became one of the party's most loyal backers, annually sending more than two-thirds of its contributions to Republicans. But that changed during the 2000 election cycle, when doctors mostly sided with Democrats on the issue of managed care reform. Since then, the AMA largely has been on the fence when it comes to divvying up its political donations. Republicans hope tort reform will change that." See "The Blame Game" at www.opensecrets.org.
OIL GIANT LIABLE FOR FOREIGN GUARDS' ABUSES. In a landmark decision hailed by human rights and corporate accountability activists, the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 18 that oil giant Unocal can be sued for forced labor, rape, and murder committed by Burmese soldiers guarding a major gas pipeline project completed three years ago, Inter Press Service reported. The appeals court overturned a ruling by a federal judge two years ago that the victims of abuses committed by the military regime in Burma could not sue the California-based company although they produced evidence showing that Unocal knew about and benefited directly from the troops' conduct. The three-judge appeals panel ruled that ''Because Unocal knew the acts of violence would probably be committed, it became liable as an aider and abettor when such acts of violence -- specifically, murder and rape -- were in fact committed,'' said the court.
NO JEWISH GOP SURGE. Republican leaders hope that George W. Bush's strong pro-Israel positions and leadership in the war on terror will entice Jewish voters to vote GOP, but a new Gallup Poll splashes cold water on those hopes. According to the survey, which examines party identification by religion, "there was little meaningful change in the ways in which Americans of any religious leaning identified their basic political orientation after Sept. 11," Jewish Week reported Sept. 20. Republican Jewish voters remain below 20% despite a surge of news stories describing an impending shift to the GOP in response to Bush's strong support for Israel's campaign against suicide bombers and the growing pro-Israel zeal of congressional Republicans, while there was relative silence on Israel by congressional Democrats. A series of polls -- combined because individual surveys do not include enough Jewish respondents to be statistically reliable -- showed 50% of Jews surveyed claim Democratic affiliation, about one-third call themselves independents and only 17% identify as Republicans. In data through 2001, 73% of Jews described themselves as moderate or liberal, and only 23% as conservative, while 42% of Protestants and 34% of Catholics claimed they were conservative.
REFORM COMPLETES BUCHANAN PURGE. The Reform Party has ousted the last leaders tied to 2000 presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and hopes to restore the organization that scored an impressive third-party showing in the 1992 presidential election, when Ross Perot headed the party, the Washington Times reported Sept. 17. Members from about 25 states at a convention in Colorado ousted Gerald Moan, the national chairman, halfway through his two-year term and install a new chairman, Lou Anne Jones, to serve out the term. Jones said the Sept. 7 vote was the final step in clearing the party of Buchananite leadership; she said most of the rank-and-file Buchanan followers had already left the party. A power struggle in 2000 led to separate nominating conventions that produced two nominees, Buchanan and John Hagelin, each of whom claimed to be the party's nominee and wanted the $12.6 million in federal elections money. Buchanan won that legal battle, but got less than 1% in the election, costing the party the funds in 2004. As of the September convention, Reform Party officials had $400 in their treasury. But they hope some state organizations that disassociated themselves from the Buchananite national party will now come back. An immediate test will be in California, where the party needs 2% of the statewide vote in this November's elections or increase to 1% of registered voters to stay on the ballot.
GREENS, ADA DISPUTE OVER DEMOCRATS. The Green Party launched a website (www.therealdifference.com) in response to www.damnedbigdifference.org, a site hosted by Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). The ADA site criticizes the Green claim that the Democratic and Republican parties have largely converged on many major issues and notes differences on such issues as reproductive choice, environment, gay rights, gun control, health care, international affairs, school vouchers, Social Security, taxes, welfare, women's rights and workers' rights. The Green site highlights issues where there is a consensus between the two major parties, from "free trade" pacts, to national missile defense, to the USA PATRIOT Act, to the maintenance of corporate HMO and insurance control over health care.
The Southern California ADA chapter on September 9 authorized a letter to the national organization criticizing the ADA web site. "By posting such a site, the national ADA reveals its own hypocrisy and true allegiance -- to a Democratic Party that has largely abandoned the principles and positions ADA claims to support," said Donna Jo Warren, Green candidate for lieutenant governor and a board member of the Southern California ADA, which endorsed her candidacy. "When progressives ignore and provide cover for bad Democratic positions, it helps push the Democratic Party farther to the right ..."
NOBODY TOLD CONDOLEEZZA? National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was "either amazingly misinformed or baldly untruthful," Joe Conason wrote at Salon.com Sept. 19, when Rice declared last May that nobody "could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." Conason noted that evidence revealed by the limited congressional investigation into the intelligence failures "shows clearly that American intelligence agencies received several warnings, over a period of years, that al-Qaeda contemplated such an airborne attack." He noted that most newspaper accounts spared Rice any comparison between her excuses and the committee report's findings, but the embarrassing videotape of her May remarks aired on the networks.
As more Republicans joined Democrats on the joint House-Senate panel to ask the Senate to overrule Bush's claim of executive privilege if the White House continues to stonewall, the administration said Sept. 20 it would cooperate with an independent commission to probe the attacks -- as long as the inquiry did not examine the intelligence failures, a caveat that, the Washington Post noted, led some Sept. 11 victims' families to dismiss the move as meaningless. But Democrats said the decision to end months of opposition to an independent inquiry made it likely Bush would eventually endorse a probe that included intelligence failures.
CORN GROWERS NEED HELP. Keith Dittrich, a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb., and president of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) called on the US House to pass emergency legislation for farmers and ranchers hit hard by drought in 2001 and 2002. The USDA reported in August that net farm income in 2002 is expected to drop by 23% from the 2001 level. In constant dollars, Dittrich said, 2002 would be the third worst year for the farm economy in 68 years. A bipartisan drought disaster amendment passed the Senate 79-16 and Reps. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., and Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., are sponsoring a similar measure in the House but George W. Bush insists that the drought does not warrant emergency assistance. "Rural America doesn't have the time nor the luxury for a recess until this issue is resolved," Dittrich said. See www.acga.org.
FRANKENFOODS DEVASTATE US FARMERS. Genetically modified soy, corn and canola has cost the US economy at least $12 billion in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls, the British Soil Association reported. The Soil Association conducted the study to convince British farmers to avoid the mistakes made in the USA and Canada in accepting genetically modified crops. "This report is proof that North Dakota farmers need a moratorium on genetically modified wheat to protect us from further economic devastation," said Gail Wiley, a North Dakota farmer and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils. According to the report, from 1999-2001, the US paid an estimated $6 billion to $10 billion in farm subsidies for corn and soybeans as a result of low prices caused by the loss of trade due to genetically modified crops. Within a few years of the introduction of genetically modified corn, nearly the entire $300 million dollar annual US corn exports to the European Union disappeared. "This report is a heads up to Montana wheat farmers and the communities they support," said Helen Waller, a wheat farmer from Montana and member of WORC. "Montana's economy can expect the same kinds of losses if genetically engineered wheat is introduced into the state." See www.worc.org.
WHAT LIB BIAS? A study of ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News in 2001 conducted for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting shows that 92% of all US sources interviewed were white, 85% were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75% were Republican. Big business also was overrepresented as corporate representatives accounted for 7% of sources, about 35 times more frequent than did union representatives' 0.2%. See www.fair.org.
KICK OPEN COG. The Congressional Oversight Group (COG), comprised of House and Senate committee chairpersons and their ranking counterpart on trade-related committees, was an attempt to appease the fair trade movement's demand for public involvement and accountability on trade agreements. It is supposed to hold US trade negotiators accountable to the public and to making the process more transparent as talks proceed on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, the first meeting with US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick was closed to the public. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch urges calls to COG members via the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) to call for public meetings. For a list of COG members call Trade Watch at 202-454-5103 or see www.cispes.org.
PARTISAN CRIMINALS? With glee, Rush Limbaugh scored a typical cheap shot when he told his national radio talk show audience that at least five Yemeni-American members of the alleged al-Qaeda cell near Buffalo were registered Democrats (Limbaugh's web site announced, "Al-Qaeda Terrorists Urge: Vote Democrat!"), according to thesmokinggun.com. As other right-wing talk show hosts have piled onto the story, The Smoking Gun turned up the San Diego, Calif., voter registration card of David Westerfield, who, unlike the Buffalo guys, has actually been found guilty of something -- the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. "Now we're not sure what conclusions can be drawn from the fact that this pervert Westerfield is a Republican, but we're dying to hear Rush explain it all to us." Buzzflash.com noted that former Waterbury, Conn., Mayor Philip Giordano, the GOP's 2000 nominee for US Senate, is charged with sexual abuse of 9- and 10-year-old children, and wondered, "Why isn't FOX talking about this GOP creep?" Then Rack Jite of rackjite.com recalled that while Ted Bundy was on his murder spree, torturing and raping 33 women before killing them, he was not only a registered Republican and GOP activist, but was also a paid employee of the party (see www.crimelibrary.com). "In fact, a few of his first murders were done while traveling for the Republican Party," Jite noted, a political affiliation that was heretofore only a footnote in Bundy's grisly career. "Who compared serial killing to Republican politics? No one I can think of until TODAY."