(July 30, 2007)
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Heroic Ralph: Gilles d'Aymery's The Essential Significance Of Ralph Nader
To the Editor:
Kudos to you for this thoughtful piece, the likes of which are all too rare in comparison with the flood of tirades from Democratic activists and apologists. My one suggestion is that you should have dispensed with the Harold Stassen comparison -- which I've heard several times over the last few years, unfortunately -- by asking why the media don't instead make a Norman Thomas comparison, which is far more appropriate (and logical, given that Stassen was never a party's candidate in a general election and never commanded the following or press attention that Nader does). I've been fighting for third parties, ballot access reform, and the end of the two-party system for over thirty years and Ralph Nader is a hero to people like me.
Fairfax, Virginia, USA - July 16, 2007
Is the Kucinich Conundrum Pragmatism? Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #54
I appreciated your "Kucinich Conundrum" article very much, and the central concern/issue resonates very soundly. Tactics like this reveal the true wisdom of the Swift quote you selected to head the piece.
However, I do have to offer a correction on the notion that Kucinich himself might simply be a front to keep uppity base voters and activists in line (I actually feel the Dems have scored a coup for Hillary by finding both Obama and Edwards to do this work).
During the DNC in 2004, after the initial reaction by the press when Dennis "officially" declared his support for Sen. Kerry the day prior to the start of the convention, this action was immediately addressed.
The delegates and Congressman Kucinich met quickly after at Emmanuel College. Emmanuel College was essentially a HQ, where a majority of the volunteers and delegates found extremely reasonable lodging for 7 days - allowing them to attend pre convention events such as the Boston Social Forum, the Vietnam/Iraqi Vets Against the War Conference (at Faneuil Hall), the inaugural Progressive Democrats Of America convention (held in Roxbury), as well as a host of other activist oriented events sponsored by a wide variety of interests and concerns.
I was lucky to have been able to also get accommodations at the college, as I was covering the Convention, Social Forum, etc. as a freelancer representing radio as well as print and online publications.
As it happened, after an enjoyable afternoon capped off with a serenade by a literal choir of Lyndon LaRouche Youth supporters, I made it back to the college in time to witness the meeting between delegates and candidate. They weren't happy about the announcement made by Rep. Kucinich, and didn't hesitate to air their feelings, concerns, and grievances directly to him.
From my excellent vantage point, I witnessed that the more astute observers among the Kucinich delegates expressed the issue you specifically raise -- and they informed him that they were there not only because they wholeheartedly believed in the congressman's platform, but also they did not support John Kerry, that a number of them had been community political activists and representative of various "progressive" organizations, and enough of them had been around enough to see this kind of underhanded manoeuvering. They felt (rightfully, in any democracy) that Rep. Kucinich should have consulted them before.
As far as political engagements go, it was an extremely emotional event that included articulate expressions of frustration, and even rants and tears. And every delegate was given a chance to say what was on their minds.
Rep. Kucinich apologized, redressed these concerns, and advised them to vote their conscience and act on their convictions. And they did. Particularly the Colorado delegates who remained pledged to Kucinich as the state chair announced from the campaign floor. During the final convention day, other determined delegates who wished to buck the tightly choreographed media event-slash-party commerical that conventions have become, smuggled in signs and coloured bandanas, only to have them taken away by convention floor security.
Frustratingly, when I attempted to report the delegates-candidates meeting to media outlets I was representing, no one was biting. To the Kucinich campaign's credit, organizers printed a daily broadsheet of events, and included the meeting and redress on the front page -- including pictures. These Kucinich press updates were distributed each morning by volunteers at the various hotels where other delegates were staying.
I was fortunate enough to be (from what I saw) the only member of the press covering the convention present at this meeting between Kucinich and his delegates -- and as I took the long train ride home from Boston, it felt as though the press itself was complicit in perpetuating much of the message that emerged from that July weekend.
In retrospect, 2004 was an election year full of swing state strategizing and third-party message recommendations. I spoke to, interviewed, or heard speeches from no fewer than 10 people who wanted G. W. Bush out, and wanted the Democratic Party to hear their concerns too. Among them, Daniel Ellsberg, Ralph Nader, and the Green Party's Peter Camejo. All urged that in "safe" states, vote conscience or desire. However, in "swing" states, voting Democrat was the only way to ensure that "the madness of King George could not continue."
I think that Rep. Kucinich could be forgiven for a certain pragmatic aspect to his thinking when announcing support for Kerry. If one reviews much of the frustration with the "party system" as Kucinich himself has expressed, balanced with the even greater frustration over the Bush administration's misguided policies, then his decision to back Sen. Kerry seems entirely reasonable. I recall one forum in a church basement during the DNC, where Kucinich indicated that while the Democratic Party did need to get in to get Bush out, if it was elected, it better not rest on its laurels. He wanted to see it engage in the change the he sensed the public wanted. To further illustrate the gravity of concern about Republican policies, a member of the clergy (and former Republican) addressed the forum panel and produced an RNC mail-out he received with a questionnaire. On this questionnaire, the recipient was asked to rank what the extent of his support might be if the current administration's scope of preemption included countries "such as Iran."
It's now 4 years later, and Kucinich, angered with the Democrats' inability to act on the public's mandate, has introduced articles of impeachment (HR 333) that reasonably seeks to have VP Dick Cheney removed for "lying" to the press and public about Iraq's involvement with 9/11, and his concern that Cheney is again "beating the drum for war with Iran."
To his credit, Kucinich has not pushed this as a matter of partisan policy. Rather intelligently, I believe, it has left the door open for those members of Congress (and the Senate) to stand up and differentiate themselves from those who might view Impeachment proceedings as a crisis rather than a celebration about the merits of the Constitution, about holding elected members responsible rather than making sure that there are consequences for actions. I believe this might be an example of putting policy before party.
During the recent debates, with the exception of Sen. Mike Gravel, Kucinich has been there to tell voters that the Democrats have to accept as much responsibility for the war as the Republicans. He was the only one of the candidates to refuse to accept the presidential election results of the state of Ohio without further examination. The ensuing investigation showed that he and Conyers were correct in their suspicions. He was the one who "led the effort" to vote against the war, as well as the USA-PATRIOT Act. And he is happy to cite that the scope of his fundraising is proof that he cannot be put in the pocket of corporate interests. Of course, you are aware of this already.
Gilles, I am as cynical as you to accept that the Democratic Party posseses the capacity to subvert and engage in "neutering the opposition" and drop the dime on one's "followers to the big boys and gals." It feels like that's what Gov. Dean successfully did in 2004. In his role as a MacAuliffe-like Clinton bag man, I keep looking at the photos I took at the 2004 Progressive Democrats of America convention where Gov. Dean introduced Rep. Kucinich as "the only real candidate" representing the interests of the voters. And here is Gov. Dean in all his glory as the DLC rainmaker, apparently already meeting with the moneyed, "top tier" candidates in finding a way to whittle down the field of candidates so that the current "Holy Trinity" can get maximum exposure with minimum accountability from, well, anyone.
For all the cynicism and suspicion I share with you, I am willing to at least suspend the horrible conclusion on Kucinich. I am, of course, basing this temporary faith on my scrutiny of each of the party's candidates, as well as mistrust of the media and how it has happily accepted -- or purchased -- the position to "help" each party decide on the most "viable" candidate as they bounce around the states and allow "retail politics" measure a candidates worth.
"Follow the money" is as wise a recommendation as one could find in studying any sort of distribution of power. I'm almost surprised Aristotle missed that axiom in his The Politics. "After Downing Street" cofounder, in his recent piece in OpEdNews.com -- "Edwards' Fortress" -- reveals a donor list similar to that of any of the three Democratic frontrunners. It's no surprise that media (many of whom are divisions or interests of these larger companies) are salivating at the candidates potential cash on hand, and the projected election expenditure (read: advertising) runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. I think I truly understand what "retail politics" actually is. If Kucinich is actually successfully delivering unwilling idealists who "buy into the scheme," in essence he'd be worth as much as the frontrunners in any race -- and what a bargain!!
But I am hardwired to temper any faith I might have with reason. And as mentioned, my scrutiny of all candidates allows me to see America shuffle the deck once more with a candidate such as Kucinich. Voters should, of course, always be vigilant. And if, after the summer of 2008 (or earlier) it's business as usual and voters are lulled into the usual state of torpor, then all bets are off. If a candidate like Kucinich betrays the trust of independent and activist voters and woos them like so many lambs, then he'll have his hands soiled with as much blood as anyone in government. However, if he, as I have heard him say in the past, dispenses with the party based on its failures to maintain promises, then I hope you have a comfortable pair of shoes because we'll have a lot of work to do cutting a swath on the campaign trail!
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada - July 16, 2007
The Interpretation of Dreams: Charles Marowitz's Who Was Michael Chekhov?
To the Editor:
Charles Marowitz's point about Freud seeing infantile sexuality as the "be all" is inaccurate: Freud also gave importance to a dynamic unconscious that was personal and found its structure in terms of repression, libidinal and oedipal conflict. He also recognized the mythological and the archetypal and the role they played in the psychological life of mankind. If you compare the way Jungians and Freudians interpret dreams, the distinction is quite apparent.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - July 16, 2007
Beyond Petroleum! Jan Baughman's Surveillance Creep
To the Editor:
Jan Baughman is right. Straight news now raises more laughs than the professional satirists of outfits like The Onion. Take the Chicago Tribune item of July 15 entitled "BP gets break on dumping in lake." The joke builds up slowly: Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environment laws that will allow its refinery to release daily into Lake Michigan 54 percent more ammonia (1584 pounds) and 35 percent more heavy-metal sludge (4925 pounds). Now a giggle: BP "markets itself as environmentally friendly" and, moreover, "has commitments to environmental stewardship." But, sorry, "there isn't enough room at the 1,400 acre site to upgrade the refinery's water treatment plant." Kay Nelson "hailed the company's discussions with state and community leaders as a model for others to follow." No troublemaker Kay: she's environmental director of the Northwest Indiana Forum, an economic development organization that includes a BP executive among its board of directors. Wait for the punch line: By refining Canadian crude BP will decrease dependence on the Middle East (that'll fix those terrorists), create 80 new jobs (80, wow!) and, who knows, (why not?) reduce gasoline prices. Keep smiling.
Lecce, Italy - July 16, 2007
Best Storyteller: Charles Marowitz's Who Was Michael Chekhov?
To the Editor:
The "Hollywood adventure was brief and aggravating" for Brecht, according to Mr. Marowitz, who then goes on to list the four or five classic plays that Brecht wrote while in Hollywood. For a clue to the intensive and educative years that Brecht spent in Hollywood please see: James Lyon's Brecht's American Cicerone. A great book on Brecht's Hollywood years and on his screenwriter pal, Ferd Reyher, who John Huston called "the best storyteller I ever met."
Chicago, Illinois, USA - July 16, 2007
Ron Paul vs. Ralph Nader
To the Editor:
I'd like to respond to your Note from the Editors where you say: "And once again we are turning our hopes to Ralph Nader..."
Abandon all hope for Nader. I have volunteered, supported, and voted for Ralph Nader since 1996. It was Nader who told me to register Non-Partisan, AKA No Party, AKA independent in 1992, which I, and he, remain. In 2004, I witnessed the Green Party turn on Nader from a ringside seat in California, where Nader did not achieve ballot access, and Wyoming, where he did. I came to the conclusion after the '04 election that Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, who understands elections are a consumer issue, as they are bought. Every state has its own elections laws and flaws. To challenge an election, the federal government insists, one must be a presidential candidate on the ballot. Ralph Nader was not on the ballot in Ohio in 2004, and why he could not do his job, which includes challenging the vote, recounting results from electronic voting machines, or checking voter abuse or neglect. I continue to contribute to Nader's '04 campaign, helping him fight the 21 lawsuits from Democrats who blocked his ballot access in 17 states. This week, the state of Pennsylvania threatened to "freeze" Nader's bank accounts if he does not pay an unconstitutional judgment claiming he owes Democrats' lawyers $81,000.00. I wrote to Nader and told him I would help him to achieve ballot access because as an "independent" he has the RIGHT to be on the ballot, but I will not be voting for him this time. I fully intend on voting for Ron Paul for president, who also supported Nader's RIGHT to run as an independent, all those years Nader ran. Least you forget, many Libertarians (the only party I've ever belonged to) helped Nader in the past, because he has the RIGHT to be on the ballot. I'm one of those right-wingers who did more than give Nader money. Nader would be foolish to count on our votes in '08. We have RON PAUL, who's campaign motto is "Hope for America." I have more hope than ever.
Fort Bragg, California, USA - July 16, 2007
Please considerfinancially. Thank you.
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