Welcome back for the second portion of my interview with author and activist Harvey Wasserman. In the first part
of our interview, Wasserman told us how, in the '70s, he and his
cohorts thwarted a nuclear power plant planned almost literally in
their backyard. Can you tell our readers a little about exactly how you accomplished that? It might give modern-day concerned citizens some ideas for activism.
stop the nuke, we organized throughout our region on economic,
ecological and political grounds. In February, 1974, a member of our
commune named Sam Lovejoy toppled a weather tower at the site of the
nuke. it was a great protest, memorialized in the award-winning
"Lovejoy's Nuclear War" from Green Mountain Post Films (gmpfilms.org). When the cost of the nuke started to skyrocket, there were riots in
Connecticut against rate hikes meant to pay for the plant. Facing
increasingly stiff local and financial opposition, Northeast Utilities
canceled the plant.
Skyrocketing costs and fierce resistance led
to the cancellation of scores of reactors across the US in the 1970s
and '80s. Our demonstrations and interventions made a huge
difference. Had there been no resistance, no one would have heard a
word about Three Mile Island, which put a serious nail in the
industry's plans. However, with the attempted "renaissance" of this
murderous, suicidal technology, we will have to restart our movement.
I'm afraid you're right. You mentioned in "Obama's LBJ Moment"
that, instead of Afghanistan, this administration should be devoting
its energy to health care, among other things. What's your take on the
current health care debate?
the corporations are dominating this debate. Obama failed to start
things off with the single-payer option, which the corporations simply
cannot tolerate. There will be a health care bill, but it will be weak
and possibly even counter-productive, especially if it tries to require
individuals to get their own coverage. This is a terrible imposition
and will be hugely unpopular. We need a single-payer system and Obama
lacks the courage or conviction to fight for it.
problem in our government is corporate power, and with that, the huge
amount of resources and political power taken by the military. Until
we deal with those issues, we will go nowhere in this country on health
care, the environment, social justice or anything else of importance.
should now understand that while it's been monumentally important to
finally have an African-American as president, (a woman will come next)
it's now more important to have someone who is not a Republican or a
Democrat, and who is committed to the welfare of the public rather than
that of the corporations.
a concept. Switch hats for a moment, Harvey, if you will, and let's
talk about the importance of the recently announced ES&S/Diebold
merger. As a long-time chronicler of our troubled electoral history,
you're in a good position to do so.
ES&S purchase of Diebold is indicative of a larger problem. Right
now, between the two of them, they control 80% of the touchscreen
machines in the US. Both are corrupt GOP-dominated corporations. So,
the idea that just one of them will be in control doesn't matter that
much, although it has been a positive to see so much attention paid to
the situation. The real problem is the use of the machines in the
first place. All electronic voting machines, tabulators, etc. should
be banned. We need universal automatic voter registration, and
universal paper ballots that are hand-counted. Simple as that. Until
we get there, there is no reason to believe any election in this
country will be a reliable reflector of the popular will.
You and Bob Fitrakis wrote a great article about it: "Diebold and the Electronic Vote: The Rig is Up."
So, I'm asking you as an old-time activist, how do we make
authentically transparent and accurate elections happen? What are the
steps and how do we get there?
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going to have to continually and imaginatively campaign to get rid of
electronic voting. Maybe we should have a public demo where we smash a
touchscreen machine. That'd make a great YouTube. Shred some scantrons and smash a tabulator. Also, show how universal automatic registration would work.
first priority now needs to be to keep Obama from escalating in
Afghanistan. And we will be swamped if the Supreme Court allows
unlimited corporate campaign contributions. (Colbert has done a
terrific parody on this.) The answers are often simple: out of Afghanistan altogether. Single payer health system. No nuclear power, and a total shift away from fossil/nukes and to renewables and efficiency.
voting: universal automatic registration, hand-counted paper ballots.
We also need a national holiday for voting and for vote counting, to
give working people an equal opportunity to vote.
During the eight long years of the Bush administration, it was
painful to listen to the news. Many of us expected to feel a whole lot
better once W and his cronies were gone. But the bad news keeps coming.
And many of the 'bad guys' are still around and pulling strings. For
instance, it's customary for incoming presidents to replace all the
states' attorneys general. There was tremendous politicization of the
DoJ under Bush yet Obama has not taken this simple, elementary step.
Any idea about why?
simple explanation is that the government is owned and operated by
large corporations. No headline news there. Obama is clearly a
corporate creature. Bush's violations of the Constitution and basic
sanity were horrific. It's also great to have finally elected an
African-American to the White House. This is a big deal.
But getting down to the nitty-gritty on actual issues is much tougher.
Clearly, Obama is not going to take on the corporations. The issue is
no longer race or gender, it's corporate power.
Any good news on the horizon?
biggest news domestically will be Afghanistan. The administration did
cut back on the missile defense system in Europe. This indicates someone
up there has some degree of sanity. If a corner is turned on
Afghanistan it will be a huge deal. The fact that we're debating a
health care bill and a climate bill is also good. We can count on
mediocrity at best. But maybe it's a start. The improving economics
of renewables is also good. And, after all, we do have an
African-American in the White House. This is a monumental moment which
will not go away.
Corporate as he may be, Obama is not George W. Bush and he is an
African-American. So, that far we have progressed. The issue now is
the power of the corporations. It is the all-defining barrier to
meaningful change, the 800-pound gorilla. Let's hope we can punch some
holes in their power and move ahead. The real question is not whether
there will be female or men of color in the White House; the question
is when will we get a government that's no longer owned and operated by
the corporations, which are the most powerful institutions in the
history of humankind...
The fact that the administration is openly contemplating not sending
more troops is important. There's no place to hide now. This does not
mean I'm necessarily optimistic. But I do believe with the decision
made out in the open, we will have a greater chance to stop it.
Let's take a break. When we return for the conclusion of our interview, Harvey will
sum up where we find ourselves right now and what we can do about it. Please stay tuned.
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
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