Political Intelligence

GREEN VICTORY.

At press time, the Green Party of Texas was scheduled to turn in more than 60,000 signatures to the Texas Secretary of State, on the steps of the State Capitol May 30. The ballot access petitions, the product of a months-long massive grassroots effort by citizen activists, should secure the Green Party’s first ballot line in Texas for presumed presidential candidate Ralph Nader as well as candidates for the U.S. Senate, the Texas Railroad Commission, and the Texas Supreme Court. “This marks the beginning of a new era in Texas politics,” said Scott Haws, Ballot Access Coordinator for the Dallas County Green Party. “It was amazing to see so many people come together and pull this off in under seventy-five days.”

“We had until May 28 to get 38,000 signatures by registered voters in Texas who had not voted in the March primary,” said Cliff Pearson, spokesperson for the Dallas County Green Party. “We’ll be turning in over 60,000 signatures.” The Green Party of Texas also has chapters in the counties of Bexar, Denton, El Paso, Grayson, Harris, Lubbock, Tarrant, and Travis. Green Party candidates in the November election include: Ralph Nader, Stephen Gaskin, and Jello Biafra for U.S. President; Gary Dugger and Charlie Mauch for Texas Railroad Commission; Doug Sandage for U.S. Senate; and Ben Levy for Texas State Supreme Court.

The state convention of the Green Party (including delegate selection for the national nominating convention June 23-25 in Denver), will be held June 10 at the University of North Texas in Denton. Convention information: Monika Antonelli (940) 387-6247; [email protected]; www.txgreens.org.

THREE AND TWO.

Three Democrats and two Republicans in the state’s thirty-member House delegation voted against Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, which passed by a 237-197 vote in the U.S. House May 24. Democrats voting against abandoning the annual review of China’s trade status were Gene Green of Houston, Nick Lampson of Beaumont, and Ciro Rodríguez of San Antonio. For a time it looked like the Democrats would vote seventeen-to-Ciro, as the San Antonio Congressman was the only outspoken voice in the Texas Democratic House delegation. Green gets high marks from organized labor, after standing up to Clinton and corporate lobby pressure on NAFTA and China trade. Rodríguez was serving in the Texas State House at the time of the NAFTA vote, which occurred before Lampson (who represents the strongest organized labor district in the state) was elected to Congress. Republicans voting against the China trade bill were Joe Barton of Ennis and Ron Paul of Clute. Barton and Paul raised concerns about human rights issues and the lack of democracy in China.

The most unseemly attempt to cut a deal was El Paso Democrat Silvestre Reyes offering President Clinton a vote in favor of China trade, if the President would wave the Environmental Protection Agency off a thorough examination of the Longhorn Pipeline: a fifty-year-old crude-oil pipeline that connects Houston to El Paso. The pipeline’s owners want to convert it from a crude oil to a gasoline pipeline, despite concerns about transporting gasoline under Austin residential neighborhoods, over rivers, and through the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Reyes argues that the pipeline will lower gasoline prices in El Paso. But the price of gasoline in El Paso has little to do with China trade – except as Reyes attempted to leverage the China vote into approval of the pipeline. Environmentalists, the E.P.A., Austin’s Mayor Kirk Watson, and residents of the communities that lie above the pipeline have raised serious concerns about the safety of the aging pipeline if it is switched from oil to gasoline.

BAD INTENTIONS.

The era of the notorious “designated free speech zones” at national political conventions may be drawing to a close. In Philadelphia, where the Republicans will meet from July 31 to August 2, very few groups have signed up to use the designated zone across the street from the convention site at First Union Center. Instead, police in Philadelphia are gearing up for Seattle-style demonstrations. Activists may target the convention center, which will be heavily guarded by police, or (as they did with considerable success in Seattle) the hotels housing the convention delegates. Similar preparations are under way for the Democratic convention, to be held August 14-17 in Los Angeles. California Governor Gray Davis has asked the Legislature for $4.1 million to train the Highway Patrol in riot-control measures and to purchase anti-terrorist equipment.

Observers at the A-16 demonstration against the World Bank in D.C. noted the sporadic presence of Secret Service agents coordinating police activity in some areas. This time around, they’ll apparently be running the show, along with the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Virtually every resource that the F.B.I. has available will be put into play,” special-agent-in-charge Thomas Harrington told the Inquirer. “After the Atlanta Olympics it was bombings that were the main focus…. Now protestors have become more of a focus,” he said.

As for Seattle and D.C., e-mail listservs and websites (chiefly www.unity2000.com for Philly and www.d2kla.org for the Democratic convention in L.A.) have been the main organizing tools for convention protest planners. The F.B.I. has been monitoring the listservs, sites, and other web-based organizing in preparation for the conventions, agents told the Inquirer. “E-mails are like leads,” the F.B.I.’s Harrington said. “We’ve had a lot of experience with them, whether it’s stock fraud or child porn.”

Political organizing is not a crime, of course, which raises constitutional issues about surveillance, even of publicly available correspondence. But then the Constitution has taken a beating ever since the First Amendment got such a workout in Seattle. F.B.I. special agent Thomas Dowd seemed to capture the prevailing attitude among the new crowd-control specialists. Asked if authorities planned preemptive arrests before the protests, as occurred on a large scale in D.C., Dowd told the Inquirer, “It depended on whether officials thought that protestors intended to break a law.”

BUSH AWOL?

Questions persist about the military service record of presidential candidate and Star Wars advocate Governor Bush. Doubts were raised most recently in a May 23 report by Walter V. Robinson in the Boston Globe. According to Robinson, despite Houston Air National Guard plaudits and Bush’s own biographical recollections of his pilot training, “In his final eighteen months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all. And for much of that time, Bush was all but unaccounted for: For a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen.”

The Globe report notes that for most of 1972, Bush was in Alabama working in a U.S. Senate campaign, and was required to attend drills at an Air National Guard unit in Montgomery, “but there is no evidence in his record that he did so.” William Turnipseed, the retired general then in command at Montgomery, told the Globe that Bush “never appeared for duty there.”

A Bush spokesman said that Bush may have been returning periodically to Houston for training, but Houston records show that Bush received no 1973 yearly evaluation because he was not on duty there, either. According to Robinson, some of the Bush records have been declared off-limits by military administration, and several of his supervisors have since died or simply can’t recall the details of Bush’s service. But “officially,” reports Robinson, “the period between May 1972 and May 1973 remains unaccounted for. In November 1973, responding to a request from the headquarters of the Air National Guard for Bush’s annual evaluation for that year, the Ellington administrative officer wrote, ‘Report for this period not available for administrative reasons.'”

Bush has denied that he received any preferential treatment in his Guard service, but in 1968 young George, whose father was then a Houston Congressman, was abruptly placed at the top of a waiting list of 500. Ben Barnes, then speaker of the Texas House, testified in a civil lawsuit that he interceded with Guard officials for Bush at the request of a friend of Bush’s father.

DEATH WATCH.

At press time (May 31) there were twenty-two more executions scheduled (through November 8) for T.D.C.J.’s Ellis Unit in Huntsville, with two men (Robert Carter, May 31, and Ricky McGinn, June 1) likely to be dead by the time you read this. Seven executions are scheduled for June – most notorious, that of Gary Graham (now known as Shaka Shankofa), set for June 22. Graham is to be executed for the 1981 murder of Bobby Lambert, despite longtime insistence by his supporters that he is innocent and was convicted on the basis of mistaken identification by one witness. Graham was arrested in connection with other crimes, and was seventeen years old at the time of the Lambert murder.

In an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle May 28, Graham’s attorneys, Jack B. Zimmermann and Richard H. Burr, wrote that no physical evidence ties Graham to the Lambert murder, and that the single witness identifying him “saw a stranger’s face at night through an automobile windshield from a distance of thirty to forty feet for two seconds.” Also, the witness was shown a photo array in which she did not positively identify Graham, and then viewed a lineup in which he was the only person from the photos. “Experts say,” wrote the attorneys, “that the likelihood of a false identification under these circumstances is greatly increased.” Other witnesses who exonerated Graham have never testified in court.

Houston activists opposing Graham’s execution have called for a month of non-violent protests around the city, beginning with a May 31 rally at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. Protestors plan a letter-writing campaign to Governor Bush, mass demonstrations, prayer vigils, civil disobedience, town hall meetings, and a voters’ registration drive aimed at defeating Bush in the presidential election.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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