Letters

Readers respond to recent articles on the Gray Davis recall campaign, MoveOn.org's virtual vote, and the influence of Iranian dissident groups from abroad.


Salon Staff
June 26, 2003 3:06AM (UTC)

[Read "Gray Davis and the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy," by Tim Grieve.]

Tim Grieve calls it right, but one aspect of the mix he skipped over involves the maneuvering of California's most powerful GOP leaders in the legislature. Given the line in the sand that the Republican leadership has drawn regarding a state budget, it looks as if their latest scheme for gaining power combines the strategy of W.T. Sherman's Atlanta campaign with the playbook of the Ruckus Society. [Editor's note: The Ruckus Society is an Oakland-based activist group.]

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With all their previous electoral failures, it is not surprising that California Republicans have become intent on conducting a scorched-earth policy that will likely cost Californians billions, and that not only might bring down Governor Gray Davis could but also undermine the power base of California Democrats.

One wonders what other GOP members might be behind this summer's "sacking of California," and if they in fact believe that to save the Golden State they must first destroy it.

-- Tim O'Brien

Gov. Davis may not be popular, but he was legitimately elected by a majority of California voters. It is anti-democratic and terrifying, frankly, that a disgruntled group can challenge a legitimate election eight months after the fact.

I found the election of President Bush disheartening and I find his fiscal performance abysmal, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to upset the democratic process (although I have real questions about how democratic the process was in Bush's case). I'll do my best to ensure that neither he nor anyone like him serves a second term. Those championing recall should do the same with Davis instead of courting political anarchy.

-- Cindy Tobisman

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Could the Gray Davis recall effort actually be a replay of the Clinton impeachment proceedings? The point may be to mount a credible GOP threat that would be large enough to divert California Democratic resources from mounting an effective attack against Bush's reelection efforts. Or it may be about redistricting California to ensure that more Republicans get put in place in Washington D.C.

In either case, Darrell Issa certainly isn't intending to answer the question of how he would credibly solve the state's fiscal problems.

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-- Peter Wong

Grieve's article says: "So far, Gilliard says the White House has had no involvement in the recall campaign. That could change soon, and maybe it already has."

Are you serious? Of course the White House is involved. The media has all but ignored an obvious angle here: Gray Davis (who succeeded in shining the light of day on some of the worst abuses of consumers by energy companies) is still pursuing with FERC the reimbursement of California citizens for the millions upon millions swindled from them by energy companies with close ties to the Bush administration. With a Republican in the governor's office, that effort will most certainly wither and die. This is reason enough to do everything possible to keep Davis in Sacramento.

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-- Victoria Herd

[Read "Progressive Popularity Contest," by Michelle Goldberg.]

I imagine that Karl Rove was thrilled to hear about MoveOn.org's online primary. If it succeeds in giving a boost to one of MoveOn's preferred candidates on the left wing of the Democratic Party, it will push the entire Democratic primary process to the left.

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Net result? Either one of MoveOn's preferred candidates wins the primary, in which case Bush could nap during the general election campaign and still win easily; or the primary process forces a more centrist, electable Democratic candidate to shift left, again making it easier for Bush to coast to a second term.

MoveOn's membership shouldn't be asking themselves "Do we want Dean or Kerry," but rather, "Do we want Kerry or Bush?"

-- James Ratcliffe

Michelle Goldberg accepts MoveOn's (Wes Boyd's) assumption that "we expect any gaming of the process to be very marginal."

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This might be reasonable if they limited the vote to their own members, each of whom presumably pays real money to be a member. But for an open sign-up, detecting, tracking and undoing "gaming" could overwhelm any benefits of the system. At first it will probably be fairly clean, but it won't take long for gaming scripts to circulate to allow people to stuff the vote however they want.

At my domain name, I host primary e-mail for four people, and several e-mail addresses for specialized functions for myself. It takes me under a minute to set up another e-mail address, and I am allowed as many as I want. How could MoveOn distinguish my sock-puppet from a real friend whose e-mail I am hosting?

Just ask eBay how much of its programmer's time is spent fighting the scripters.

-- Greg Goss

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An extension to the MoveOn.org campaign would be to have a similar campaign for non-Americans -- Net-users all over the world who are specifically vetted and screened by an agreed-upon process. After all, the election of an American president is of vital interest to all of us non-Americans too. We are directly affected economically by the choices he or she makes, quite apart from the possibility of being bombed at an unspecified future date.

With such a vote, Americans could get a feel for what the world thinks directly. It might also serve to bypass many of the lobbies that foreign countries pay for to influence American policy.

-- Manish Ghosh

[Read "'To Have Freedom or to Die,'" by Mark Follman.]

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The interview with Aryo Pirouznia, an Iranian dissident leader, is astonishing, less for its analysis of the current situation in Iran than for its exaggeration of the influence of U.S.-based groups. For Pirouznia to claim that his group has "had a big part in creating what we call a secular political debate in Iran" is a serious misrepresentation.

The debate in Iran on secularism and democracy occurred many years before the 1999 student protests. And more importantly, these debates were started not by any opposition groups outside Iran, but by intellectuals and activists inside the country. Most of these debates happened on the pages of now closed newspapers there and remain public information for anyone interested in them.

To say, as Pirouznia does, that "reform was born dead," is mostly a case of revisionist history on the part of marginal groups who want little more than to matter. The short-term memory seen in current journalistic and activist writings outside Iran, with their focus on the role of satellite television stations based in the U.S., does a disservice to an important internal development in contemporary Iran. By the mid-1990s, many of those who were part of the 1979 revolution went through a reassessment of all that they had believed in and fought for in past decades. Whether the reform movement has failed or not is an issue up for debate, but to say a political movement that changed the language of debate within Iran is greatly shaped by organizations outside the country overlooks the men and women from Tehran -- not Dallas -- who have advocated for nonviolent, non-revolutionary change.

-- Naghmeh Sohrabi

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Salon Staff

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