Friday, November 7, 2008

Barack Obama costs Ralph Nader the election

I came across this because the San Francisco Examiner has a piece online ridiculing it. If anyone thinks the Examiner is correct in so doing, go ahead, just ask me why I think it's great...or look at my previous posts. In any case, this text is quoted from The Blog for Peace and Freedom (from a member of the Peace and Freedom Party whose nomination Ralph Nader received in California):

Obama Costs Nader the Election

By Bob Maschi

Election results are in and they clearly indicate that Democrat Barack Obama has cost Peace and Freedom’s candidate, Ralph Nader, the presidency. Simple math proves that had Obama not run, and had all of his support gone to Nader, that Nader would have easily won the majority of Electoral College votes and, therefore, the presidency.

A similar electoral flaw occurred in the 2000 presidential election when Al Gore cost Ralph Nader the presidency.

And I'll end with another reminder, regardless of who you voted for, if you want a better country, Obama and Congress won't do it on their own. Sign up to put the pressure on Congress here, and then go tell all your friends about it:


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The November 5th Movement

For this post, I'm just going to copy the e-mail I received from the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign earlier today encouraging you to sign up to pressure Congress after Nov 4 (

Shift Gears and Keep Going

NEWS FLASH: Ralph has a cameo appearance on Conan O'Brien tonight. Check the Late Night website or your local listings for air time information.

Now, the latest developments:

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
-- Yogi Berra

In this case, at the end of the road that is the presidential election, we do actually come to a fork. It's called Congress -- the House and the Senate. And we should follow Mr. Berra's famous advice and take that fork.

Whomever President-elect Obama chooses for his various cabinet posts, chief of staff, and so on, he is now pretty much out of reach of the American people. To sway a vote to Nader/Gonzalez, one could speculate on Obama's potential appointees, given his campaign contributors, and the thick phalanx of former Clinton advisers and hawkish military types around him. Now is the time to rapidly shift the focus to Congress.

Bringing our efforts to bear on Congress is the only way we can achieve a single-payer system of health care, a living wage comparable to that at the end of the 1960s -- $10 -- and a less belligerent foreign policy. In each Congressional district we need to start organizing ourselves -- and quickly. Ralph Nader showed how much could be done in just a single day in Massachusetts with the marathon he did there of 21 campaign stops in 24 hours. And that was done with the tough goal of trying to convince voters to support his candidacy, which was overwhelmingly ignored by the news media.

Imagine a campaign for results that a majority of Americans already support before you start campaigning! We figure that it will take about 60 days to solidify this new effort.

But, clearly, it won't be easy, and we don't want to underestimate the task. Here's the thing: with your generous donations to the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, you helped us design systems of organizing (that's how you get on 45 state ballots) that lend themselves perfectly toward the idea of organizing around Congress to pass the major laws that we want, laws that respond to people's needs.

Though some of us are now involved with the new effort at, it's not part of the Nader/Gonzalez campaign. Please visit that website and sign up today. Let your friends and family know about it. We're all shifting direction, and the faster we go about it the better.

Regrouping Fast to Continue Onward,

The Nader Team


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

After Nov. 4 -- Put the Pressure on Congress

[Since I published this post, I received an e-mail the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign sent out directing people interested in working on putting pressure on Congress after November 4th, to this website:]

Back at the beginning of the year, when Ralph Nader launched his presidential exploratory committee, he said he wanted to build from the campaign after November--to start Congressional Watchdog groups in each congressional district. (If you don't remember, I pasted their announcement in this post.) Well, now's the time to sign up to make it happen.

Here's an excerpt of a facebook message about it:

Here's the Nader blogspot. This is an easy place to sign up (or have your friends sign up) to form an ongoing citizen movement that will continue on past the election. We'll be keeping an eye on congress and the new president--no matter who is elected.

The campaign has this new video out about it as well:

As Ralph Nader says at the end of the video:

This is just the end of the beginning. The Nader/Gonzalez third political force is going to roar through November 4th and into 2009 to build a progressive politics in America that enlists the human values and the practical needs of the American people.

Whoever is elected, we're going to have to put pressure on Congress to stand for us and our rights instead of corporations, bailouts, and war. So sign up at the website above and at -- and get involved!


Monday, November 3, 2008

Ralph Nader -- Imagine Democracy

Tomorrow is Election Day... Don't Forget to Vote!

Vote for the Best Candidate. For months I have asked anyone to find me a candidate Better Than Nader but to no avail.

No one has even bothered trying to convince me otherwise. That's because Ralph Nader IS the best candidate in this presidential election.

I think I've already explained why it's important to vote for someone who will represent our interests rather than betray and oppose them, and why Ralph Nader is such a candidate, but if you think you've got someone better, I'm still willing to hear you--you have 24 hours. Until then, I feel confident in giving my endorsement to the man who's worked tirelessly on our behalf for several decades... Mr. Ralph Nader.

So get out there and Vote for Ralph Nader!

If you have questions about how or where to vote, check out the Voter Resources page on the website.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Harry Potter and the "Real World"

These days it sometimes seems as though to find a world with some order to it one has to escape to fiction.

There is the usual fiction of fairy tales and guaranteed happy endings. But that’s not what I’m referring to, I’m talking about the ones where we know there is order but we aren’t sure how things will turn out. An example, I think, is the successful Harry Potter series. Things don’t always work out for the best, there is a great deal of strife and struggle, and important and beloved characters die. Still, we know there is an order to this world, that when Harry Potter’s mother gave her life to save her baby it was not in vain but this beautiful act carried the powerful magic to protect Harry, that the evil in which Voldemort found his strength was his greatest weakness, and that the greatest magic of all always seemed to come about through the goodness and courage of Harry’s heart, a magic so powerful even the greatest villain would shrink in its wake.

The order we see in a fictional world is not about magic; it is about consequences. Sure it’s cool that Harry can fly on a broomstick or move an object with a twirl of his wand, but it’s beautiful that there is justice for characters’ good and evil acts alike, that what goes around comes around, that there are consequences.

In “the real world” it often seems that there are no consequences. After I heard about the passage of the $700 billion bailout bill, my representative being among those who changed his vote to pass it, I wondered: What am I supposed to learn from this? That those who terrorize our nation’s economy through greed, not only get away with it, but also win? That if I desire financial security I too should give up thoughts of altruism and put my intelligence and energies into a cutthroat world of lawlessness and malevolence? Sure, billions of others will suffer, but that’s the world we live in and at least I won’t be one of the ones suffering, at least I won’t see the consequences. That does seem to be the lesson learned by the Democratic Party leadership, trying to beat “the Republicans” at their own game of bowing to corporate interests.

When people say their only real option is to vote for the lesser of two evils (particularly those who admit that candidate is quite evil), when they say it’s never going to happen so why waste a vote on Nader, they are expressing a belief. It’s the “real world” everyone’s been telling us about since we were little kids. Accountability for elected officials is not something that happens in this world—even if they support taking our civil liberties away with the PATRIOT Act and FISA, even if they will continue a war that’s already ended the lives of well over a million people, even if with the economy in shambles they stubbornly refuse real regulation of those responsible, even if with tens of thousands of Americans dying each year they support a pay-or-die health care system, even if…a million more things, in this world they can get away with it. According to this view, the best we can hope for isn’t order and it’s most certainly not justice; it’s a slightly less total corruption.

When I was in elementary school learning about American history, the Constitution seemed sacred. I could never imagine that in my lifetime there might be an assault on the Bill of Rights or that my government would torture people (or whatever it’s being called these days). I knew there had been problems with racism, sexism, McCarthyism, and even internment camps but we had learned from that and if somehow something like that did happen again, surely, surely, there would be a huge uproar. Then it happened and the silence was deafening; not only did I not see much of an uproar, but many people seemed to have also fallen for the politics of fear, whether fear of outside threats or fear of “the Republicans” emphasizing those outside threats.

It manages to appear quite rational at times, but the problem with this rationality is it is just a rationalization. Just because in our present-day society our daily actions are often divorced from an immediate feeling of their impacts (take global warming or the effects of corporate deregulation on everything from our moral and family lives to our economy), doesn’t mean those consequences do not exist. It’s easy to imagine a world without consequences when we’re not the ones being spied on, detained or tortured, when we’re not the ones dying in a war on the other side of the planet, when we’re not part of the statistics of hundreds of thousands of Americans who die needlessly for health and safety reasons every year or the tens of millions of Americans who can’t afford to eat.

Sometimes the unexpected and unfathomable happens. If there’s anything social scientists can tell us for certain it is how incredibly interwoven everything in our social fabric is, which is why when social crises (good or bad) occur, societies stop and deal with their reverberations for survival. But when society refuses to do so, denying there was any occurrence that needs to be addressed, we have two choices: we can tell ourselves that this is how “the real world” is and it wasn’t a big deal after all, or we can open our eyes to our survivability.

The lesson to remember is that if the unimaginably horrible can occur (what we thought was just the stuff of history or story), so can the unimaginably wonderful, if we attend to real consequences and reverberations.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

I made a post a while back about Ralph Nader's impacts on each of our lives. This past weekend, I received an e-mail from a reader asking me for the link to this site:

As you can see from the screenshot above, the webpage has an image of a street, and when you move your cursor over different parts of the image, it shows how Ralph Nader made it better for you and me.

The reader who e-mailed me is one of the number who is still grateful for Mr. Nader's works on her behalf. She mentioned how his work had saved the polluted river in her childhood hometown.

It is truly amazing how little people know about the huge impact Mr. Nader has had on our lives. If any of the other candidates had done just one of those things we would be hearing about it to no end--but not only does Mr. Nader not get proper credit for the good he's done, he also ends up getting blamed for the bad things the other candidates have done!

Still waiting for anyone to find me a candidate Better Than Nader...


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Constitution Day Pledge

I'm keeping this one nice and short. Today is Constitution Day. And as this morning's post on says, "The Constitution is under siege. And Ralph Nader is its defender-in-chief."

Check out the video below and then go to:

There was a great comment on the video on its YouTube page, I thought I'd paste here. The comment was from Dutchoven08, who posts some great videos in support of the campaign.

Obama- is like High-Fructose Corn Syrup..
Seems super sweet, but is cheap, not nutritious and will eventually get you killed.

McSame- is like Hydrogenated Oil..
He started with a good ingredient, was altered beyond recognition, nearly impossible to digest and once in your system, he feels like he'll never pass.

Nader- is like Organic Wheat as he has sustenance that nourishes us all, doesn't rely on corporate manipulation, and is a corner stone for our entire healthy diet.

Demand Nader Debate!


Friday, September 12, 2008

The Democrats' Failing Strategy -- Obama Tastes own Medicine

At his recent press conference with Ron Paul, Ralph Nader described the mainstream media's obsessive coverage of "lipstick-gate" as "demeaning to theAmerican engage in increasing trivial focus on exchanges between candidates or gaffes or slip-ups of one form or another."

And he is, of course, right--we do deserve more substantive coverage of the campaigns, positions, records of the candidates for President of the United States of America--of ALL the candidates. The huge issues of critical importance to the majority of Americans are being ignored on any meaningful level. As I pointed out in my very first post, Obama only seems to care about the lack of substance in debate when he sees it to his advantage.

But I have managed to find something of interest in the coverage of "lipstick-gate," though I admit to having largely taken great pains to avoid having to hear all the "news" about it. The incident triggering this latest supposed "controversy" was a complaint by Obama about how McCain/Palin is co-opting his rhetoric about "hope" and "change." He used an expression involving pigs and lipstick to say that putting a nice face on something ugly doesn't make it nice.

As I hear Obama complaining about this (and the accompanying decrease in his poll numbers), I'm just waiting for somebody to point out that calling Obama's platform and record one of "hope" and "change" doesn't make it so either. The silence on this matter is deafening.

The fact is that for over a year, as Obama talks about "hope" and "change" and presents his as the anti-war candidacy that will distance us from the policies of President George W. Bush's administration, he refuses to commit to pulling out all the troops by the end of his first term, wants to leave over a hundred thousand mercenaries in Iraq, and worsen an already horrible conflict in Afghanistan. Not to mention his having voted to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, for telecom immunity and to fund the war and, of course, these are all just the tip of the iceberg.

And the fact is that Obama has made it easy to co-opt his supposedly "progressive" rhetoric, because he hasn't been willing to back it up with substance himself. If rhetoric is all you have behind your image of "change"--well, rhetoric is easy to spin for use by anyone.

Since he became the clear victor of his party's nomination, Obama has only moved closer to policies of despair and the status quo. Every four years the Democrats say their candidate has to move further in that direction in order to win, and yet, they keep losing. As Ralph Nader has pointed out time and again, this is a failing strategy. But even as he tastes his own medicine, Obama is stubborn in his refusal to recognize this fact.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Nader is Necessary [Guest Post by Crane]

[Guest Post by Crane]

When I leave my home and venture out into our societal labyrinth, I often find myself staring at my peers. It may be border-line rude of me to do so, but it's just part of my analytical nature. For the amateur anthropologist, every trip outside is an intimate encounter with our people, our country, and our world. I wonder if the faces I see at the store are feeling the same tension as me, the same subdued desperation. I wonder if they feel that their whole world is supported by nothing more than a foundation of carefully placed toothpicks. Do they feel helpless to stop the biggest challenges facing our human race? Do they lie awake at night worrying about war, pollution, money, jobs, education, and the health of themselves and their families? Are they mortified by the prospect of global disaster imposed upon us by corporate tyrants, who exploit the impoverished so that we westerners can indulge in frivolity?

If they are, they aren't showing it. And neither am I. We are either remarkably optimistic or deeply repressed. No one is talking to anyone about these issues. We smile, chit-chat, and move along with little acknowledgment of our mutual and universal feelings. As a result, our indignant dispositions are squelched... and things keep moving forward as planned. The entire mass-delusion is dependent on our silence and apathy. We are made to feel that we are alone with our troubles. That everyone else seems to be doing just fine, and perhaps "I" need to just suck it up, tighten my tie,
and climb the ladder. Nothing can be accomplished alone, and the ladder they would have you climb is as cyclical as a rats wheel. Also, even those with great intentions and liberal dispositions are often manipulated, and controlled by unseen powers. They are enchanted by flashy, well-funded campaigns that can afford the airtime to spread catchy slogans. So liberals are set against one another. They support candidates who use liberal rhetoric to justify or ignore corruption, candidates who are supported and funded by the very problems we face. A political candidate can not claim to stand for change unless they are willing to challenge the financial superpowers who dominate our world.

This is where Ralph Nader comes in. He is an anomaly, and to some he has become an incorruptible beacon atop a tower. To me he is a source of inspiration and an example of resilience. Myself and others can rest assured that he is out there fighting, day after day, not giving up. Even when the pie being thrown in his face left the realm of metaphor and crossed into reality*, discouragement seemed to be one of the few words in the dictionary Ralph never bothered to understand. He is consistent, consistently malleable, and dynamic. With the latter we encounter a certain degree of misunderstanding in the form of would-be and former supporters alike. I have heard many times, from many people, that they respect and revere the work of his past, yet scorn his present actions. The error of this argument lies in selective vision. To begin, it should be noted that the argument was created and distributed as a political tool designed to marginalize a life-long consumer advocate for continuing to do what he has always done. Mr. Nader has never changed at the fundamental level. He has the same sense of justice and the same drive to overcome injustice. The world, however has much changed since the mid-sixties, so a shift of approach is not only understandable but also inevitable and necessary. The enemy has become more sophisticated. They have made good ol' consumer advocacy nearly impossible. I understand the grievances of Michael Moore, The Nation Magazine, and other democratic leaders who have turned on Ralph, but I feel that their current decisions to snub him are rooted in fear. And to this I pose the question: Is that really a place we wish to come from? Does succumbing to our fears take precedent over facing our greatest hopes and dreams? Mr. Moore and his good intentioned peers have narrowed their vision and ignored the deeper issues at hand. They have scapegoated the one person who has never betrayed them. Nothing short of legitimate and substantial infrastructural change will be enough now to save our planet and its desperate population. Only one presidential candidate provides this vision.

Who else is running for our highest office? The names of these candidates are well known and nearly inconsequential. A political candidate is less a name than a tool employed to serve the public interest. By that definition, the two major candidates barely exist. They are rusty, dull, malfunctioning, and constantly hurting those who seek to use them to build a better society. We'd be better off using our bare hands. What should be known about the two major candidates is that they are not for single payer universal health-care. Instead they support a system in which the only way an insurance company can make a profit is by denying service. They support off-shore oil drilling. They are ardent supporters of the militant sect of Israel. They are open to all avenues in Iran. They have no wish to abolish NAFTA and WTO. They have no intention to repeal the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act. They are for wiretapping without a warrant. They really pose no threat whatsoever to the established power so deeply embedded in our world. Though, to be fair, it is not entirely their fault is it? There is no push from we the people. Democrats ask only that their candidate not be a Republican. Republicans ask the opposite. We Americans must surely be the least demanding, most forgiving democracy in the world. For some reason or another, we are not making these candidates speak about anything that really matters. Instead they have become greeting cards from the supermarket. They talk in vague promises of prosperity, change, tolerance, and strength. But Ralph Nader doesn't. He speaks factually about issues that the majority of Americans support, and given the chance he could demand a lot more of his fellow candidates as well as a lot more of us. His presence in the major debates would bring with it the presence of substance, sobriety, and truth. His absence from the debates would be an injustice to us all.

*Nader was subject to pie-ing in San Francisco in 2003 while there to support Peter Camejo's candidacy for governor.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Chump Change you can Believe in!"

I saw this new video of a short speech by Ashley Sanders on the votenader08 youtube channel (if you haven't subscribed and friended it, you should!), and I loved it so much, I decided to transcribe my favorite quotes--in which process, I ended up transcribing the whole thing. My favorite quotes are in bold. But if you want to watch the video you can see it here:

The best thing about it is how she helps emphasize what's at stake (something I've emphasized in posts before), and gives some perspective to how ridiculous the way we keep betraying our own interests is. And here's the transcript:

I wanted to tell you why I support Ralph Nader but to do that I'll have to tell a story first. A few months ago, I attended the "Take Back America" conference in Washington, D.C. And so, if you haven't been to it, it's a big shot gathering of all the best policy minds in D.C. and they were trying to solve all these problems through progressive democratic stances, so they were addressing globalization, global warming, immigration, health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I got there and I was really excited to hear about all these solutions, and as I went from panel to panel, I started noticing a disturbing trend.

At the beginning of every panel somebody would stand up and they would say, "We know that fill-in-the-blank is a huge problem, and we'd like to do blank to fix it," and then everybody would nod and would wait for the clincher and they'd say, "But of course, we can't fix it right now, so here's Plan B," and a guy would come up and show Plan B on a projector and we would clap. And after about five sessions of this I started getting a little bit disturbed and then I went to the health care session.

And everybody stood up and said, "We're fighting for single-payer, that's our goal, but since no candidate's offering single-payer right now, we're going to go with Plan B." Once again, there was an elaborate Plan B put up on the board. And the good thing they assured us about this elaborate Plan B was that it would eventually become Plan A, and the complicated chart we were all looking at would somehow evolve into health care for everyone. Finally, a guy at the back raised his hand, this is before Nader joined the race, and he said, "Excuse me, but I think Dennis Kucinich is backing a single-payer health care program, why don't you throw your collective weight behind him?" And everybody said, nothing, for a few minutes. And then a brave panelist said, "At this point we really have to go with the viable candidates sir." And the meeting went on.

And a panelist stood up and said, "You know, health care is all about votes, votes, votes--sixty in the Senate, we've gotta have it." And another panelist stood up and said, "Health care is all about politics, politics, politics--gotta know the right people, etc., etc." And then finally, the last woman stood up and she said, "The health care movement is the civil rights movement of our time." And I thought, well that makes sense, but the combination of statements was a little strange to me. Because basically, what the Democrats had done is they had gotten it backwards. They had decided that Congressional politics would jump start the single-payer movement and that sixty in the Senate would somehow produce people rioting in the streets, marching for justice and health care. In other words, they were silencing the movement, to get the votes, to put the movement forward. And they asked their constituents to "stick with us, have another 4 to 8 years of less than ideal health care, adopt a second-rate plan, and heaven forbid, do not vote for the single-payer guy. And if everybody does this, we'll have slowly, over time, single-payer health care for everyone."

And so, I left the conference wondering what history books these people had been reading, because I would like to know what movement has ever succeeded because people sit quiet and wait for Washington politicians to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Because the fact is that no politician, no matter how good, cannot push for real change unless he has a mandate from people like us, unless he's promised us something or else we are in the streets making him promise us something. And so, like I said, I left the conference that day with some kind of sinister realizations. First, that the Democratic Party has become the party of perpetual Plan B, and secondly that progressive voters are consequently in a strange position of perpetual contradiction--voting against the people who have the platforms that they stand for.

And it isn't just a matter of health care, I wish that it were, but everyday I meet union workers who would like fair organizing rights, and I meet peace activists who want to end the war, and I meet environmentalists who want a carbon tax, people who want to get their homes back in the mortgage crisis--and then I ask them who they're voting for and I think it's gonna be obvious, I think they're going to say, "Well I'm gonna vote for someone who stands for union rights, who has condemned the immorality of war, who has doggedly protected the environment, and who will take on predatory lenders and discipline Wall Street."

And that's what I expect, but what happens is quite different. I look around and I see unions endorsing Wal-Mart board members, peace activists voting for Iraq and escalated war in Afghanistan, environmentalists resigning themselves to capping and trading, and the new homeless cashing $500 checks and hoping for the best. And uh this apparently is our golden strategy, I can't quite understand it, but what it now means to be viable is apparently to vote for a candidate who can't give you what you want.

And these days I guess a viable candidate is someone who has impressed enough rich people that they can't help the poor, enough mercenaries that they've forgotten the civilians, and enough people with bad ideas that they've forgotten how to think. Obviously I don't think this is a very good plan.

So, it would be different if this had been the first time we'd been here, but the fact is we've been in this exact position before. In 1992, progressives voted for the change candidate and got 8 years of soft imperialism and a corporate dream economy--and the poor got poorer, surprise, surprise. In 2004, progressive Democrats again voted in droves for a candidate who did not even morally oppose the war, and who only promised to kill the bad guys faster and better than the next guy. And what did we get? Four more years of war.

To sum it up, what I'm saying is that, if after 5 years of bloody, needless and costly war we are once again ready to throw ourselves into another preemptive illegal war based on trumped up weapons charges, we really haven't learned that much about war and we certainly haven't learned enough about change. So we've been here before and we know where it got us and now we're being asked to sign up for 8 more years of it. And we're asked to do that believing that it can happen without challenging corporate campaign donations, without challenging Wall Street, without changing the old economic and military guard, and without basically doing much of anything structural. But the fact of the matter is that the only change we'll get from this kind of thing is chump change, from changing in the movement to buy the machine, which is hardly worth it.

And so, in my opinion this is the time to stay strong and to refuse contradictions, and to remember that politics--as we should remember every day--is not what politicians do, it's what people do. And if we'd been convinced otherwise, if we'd been convinced that bureaucracy is stronger than we are or that we need to put down our picket signs and fold our hands and wait for change--then we've been more bought than our politicians, and it's unacceptable.

And so, I know that maybe what you're thinking is that "this is the year that I can't vote for Nader because too much is at stake this year" and the Democrats and Conservatives like to say that a lot, "because this year the Democrats have to win." And I think this attitude in that statement reveals a very frightening notion of what the Democrats think is at stake. According to them what's at stake is the Democratic Party, and they believe this because they've been resigned to believe that their party is a strategic machine rather than the voice of the People. But I think that that is a very anemic notion of what is at stake in politics.

Because everybody here, without thinking hard, knows exactly what is at stake in politics. What's at stake is human beings. And what's at stake is whether or not another Iraqi soldier will return with a case of PTSD, and what's at stake is if another Iraqi family will have to bury another sister, brother, father or mother. And what's at stake is if somebody will sleep in a shelter tonight or sleep in their home. What's at stake is if we're going to protect our environment or continue to destroy it. What's at stake is real human things and real human beings that we care about, and that's what we should stand for in an election year.

So, I want to challenge all of you decide what your breaking point is, and what you will refuse to give up, and to stick with that no matter what happens, and to demand your democracy back. To decide what year you will stop voting for the least-worst, and what year you will decide that your government is your representative rather than your master. And I of course suggest you pick the year 2008 and start right now, and I certainly suggest you vote for a candidate who knows whose government this is and who has spent his life trying to give people like you the power that they need to live the political lives that they should, and I think it is time to vote for Ralph Nader. Thank you.

*I got the title for this post from a comment left on this video at youtube by a user called "Uber99"


Monday, August 18, 2008

Newspaper Takes BTN for a Fool

Sorry I haven't posted in a while; I'm trying to get back into it now. I just read this awful editorial online and I thought I would post the comment I wrote in response here:

I can't believe this pathetic attempt at an argument was published; even I could have made a better case against Nader and I think the guy is AWESOME (so I would've proceeded to tear that case apart of course).

Let me get this straight--the candidate who has worked tirelessly without a single vacation for close to 50 years and saved each and every one of our lives many times over is the narcissist? the guy who continues to risk his entire reputation and turns down millions in bribes (to keep him from running) in order to push issues and educate people about real solutions to problems like the many HUNDREDS of thousands of Americans who DIE needlessly each year and will continue to do so regardless of which corporate candidate is elected--that guy is the narcissist? What kind of fool do you people take me for?

Second, hundreds of millions of people voting (out of fear) does not mean that they are not disenchanted. Look at the approval ratings of the President and of Congress--or I should say their 'disapproval' ratings. At least about 15% of voters in polls aren't voting for either corporate candidate, and that doesn't include the unlikely voters.

You talk about his 'dwindling' support? He's polling at 6%. His poll numbers are better now than they were in 2000! People are sicker than ever of being exploited and having their lives destroyed by corporate control of this country.

Ego? How about the ego, hubris and nerve people like McCain and Obama have to ask for Americans' support let alone suggest they are the cure for our ills after they have been complicit in (if not the cause of) the deaths of millions around the world, the destruction of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the corporate corruption that has destroyed our economy and ruined the lives and futures of millions of Americans.

And you, you have the nerve to suggest that my vote will only count if I vote in support of their corruption and war mongering? You should be ashamed of yourselves!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nader Right Again...

So, it's not a very surprising headline is it ("Nader Right Again")? But it happened again last week. Actually, I'm sure it happened many times over last week, but here I'm speaking of the controversy surrounding the Sacramento Kings v. Los Angeles Lakers playoff basketball game several years back, that was all over the news recently, when a referee suggested the game had been refereed unfairly on purpose. At the time, of course, Ralph Nader wrote a letter asking the situation be investigated.

And so, I'd like to take this opportunity to further rub it in, as before, that our politicians and leaders have no excuse for not seeing things coming, not facing up to and dealing with our problems, when there are people like Ralph Nader talking about them years (or sometimes decades) in advance.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Independents' Suffrage--Still Yearning for the Right to Vote

Most people don't seem to realize that millions of Americans still don't have suffrage (the right to vote). At best, when they hear of a "suffrage" movement, they'll think we're talking about the women's suffrage movement which was not successful in getting women the right to vote until as late as 1920. Failing being removed from the voter rolls by Katherine Harris for having the same name as a felon (as happened so famously in 2000 in Florida), most people assume that if you're a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, you can vote. That couldn't be further from the truth.

More recently, Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News (check it out if you haven't yet), wrote about the three classes of American citizens who remain disenfranchised. Here is the brief quote:

There are three classes of legally competent adult U.S. citizens who are still denied full voting rights. They are (1) residents of U.S. territories; (2) felons in almost all states and ex-felons in some states; (3) members and supporters of minor parties and independent candidates. There are advocacy groups working to solve the problems of all three groups. It would be desirable if those who are concerned about each of these problems would recognize that all three groups have much in common. [1, bold emphasis added]

Yes, you read that right. When people refuse to sign my and others' ballot access petitions, they appear to justify it to themselves, allowing themselves to somehow believe at the same time that they can refuse to support Mr. Nader (or others') right to be on the ballot but still be proponents of democracy, that these are the rules and everyone has to follow them and they have every right not to sign. Yeah, tell me it's fair when you've had to spend hours in the hot sun, every free evening, just so that you might maybe get to vote for the candidate you and millions of others support. Bureaucracy does not democracy make.

Extremely harsh and unfair rules designed to prevent the expression of more voices are not the rules everyone has to follow--they certainly weren't the rules that the Bush/Cheney campaign had to follow in Illinois in 2004, when the Democratic legislature had to pass a special law to allow them on the ballot, since they didn't meet the requirements otherwise.[2]

They'll probably respond that I can write other candidates in. Actually, not all states allow write in votes. Some states even require that one register as a member of a political party, you can't even really be officially independent in those places. And even in places that do allow write-ins, most supporters of independent candidates don't usually realize that's an option, so they're either forced to vote for someone else or not vote at all. That is, of course, why the corporate parties believe it is to their advantage to keep other candidates off the ballot.

It stings every time someone refuses to sign my petition and still claims to support democracy. I've found it interesting, since I started petitioning in 2004, how many people could look me in the face and in effect tell me that I and millions of others who support independents and third parties don't deserve to be heard. I wasn't surprised, I know what the common ideas on this matter are...

...This is a country where a matter of decades ago it was commonly believed that women shouldn't vote because they were too frail, their influence was needed at the local (family) level, that women voting had only led to a mess where it had been tried, that the men were already doing a good enough job taking care of the country. (Replace 'women' with 'independents' and 'men' with 'Democrats' and the arguments start sounding painfully familiar.)

What never ceases to surprise me is the literal gagging feeling I get at the bottom of my throat. At least I know, though, that I am part of a huge class of millions of voters who are diverse in our ideas and political beliefs, but all agree: we want suffrage!

It's been a couple months since I issued the challenge in the header of this blog, but still no takers. Please, go ahead, find me someone Better Than Nader to vote for. But don't ask me to vote for corporate candidates who won't even accord me enough respect to allow me an equal right to expression, and in the electoral arena where we deserve to be heard most.



Thursday, June 5, 2008

How to Help Nader/Gonzalez '08

I don't generally write posts just to tell people to visit another website, but in this case I am making an exception. That's because I recently came across a webpage on the Swans Commentary site that is devoted to the simple ways you can help the Nader/Gonzalez campaign.

Among other ideas, the authors of that piece, Gilles d'Aymery & Jan Baughman, have listed the addresses and contact information of a number of important news programs/networks as well as the mailing address for Google. The idea is to spread the word that we need to write actual snail-mail letters to these places telling them we demand that they cover the Nader campaign and interview our candidates. These are our publicly owned airwaves, we have every right to have our voices heard over them.

The importance of writing Google though, is to demand that they include Nader/Gonzalez in their presidential debates this fall. Imagine it, a real forum to raise the real issues and real solutions!

So go check it out, and write those letters!


Monday, June 2, 2008

Having Your Cake and Eating it too--the Half-Hearted Wish for Change

Upon being faced with accepting what's really at stake in the election (not just the differences between the corporate candidates, but their differences from our interests), many Americans begin to want to have their cake and eat it too, they begin to ask questions like, "Why not run for lower office first? And work your way up? A senate office for instance?"

Well, luckily, Ralph Nader has provided an excellent answer to these questions. Here it is in a nutshell (he's given similar answers in different interviews, this one was aired on a C-Span 2 program talking with DC high school students recently, you can watch the full interview here):

[FRANK BOND:] Ralph, let me ask you something that--because your ability to get issues on the agenda, get the mainstream candidates talking about them is unparalleled--let me ask you what was asked of Jesse Jackson when he did the similar thing, and that is why not run for a lesser elective office and really establish a track record of giving the constituents the goods and then build from there rather than for the presidency...?

[RALPH NADER:] Because I'm a full-time citizen advocate. When the door is shut on citizen groups in Washington, women's rights groups, labor, civil rights groups, environmental groups, consumer groups, what are we going to do? We can't get hearings for the last 20 years in Congress on corporate crime, fraud and abuse which is reported by the press every day. We can't get the Food and Drug Administration to respond to our petitions to remove dangerous drugs or have higher food safety standards.

What are we going to do? Listen to Thomas Jefferson. What he said is, when you lose your government to the moneyed interests--to the big corporations who control every department and agency now, including the Department of Labor--you've got to go into the electoral arena. He used the word "revolution" [laugh]--I mean Thomas Jefferson was a tough guy. But you go into the electoral arena.

Now if you want to arouse the public on a national level, you don't run for senator. My goal is to awaken people, to inform people, to help galvanize people, and to have them ask one central question of everyone running for political office: How are you going to shift power from the few, who run this country, to the many, who are the people who work everyday and do all the things that have to be done to save this country?
There is too much power and wealth in too few hands in this country. Big corporations [have] taken over our government, they have no allegiance to our country anymore other than to control it or abandon it as they see fit, shipping industries and jobs to communist and fascist dictators. Always ask the question, how are you going to give me more power? To organize as tax payers, as consumers, as voters. To have our own media--why don't you have your own television station for young people?

Do you know that you and others own the public airwaves? Do you know that you and others own one-third of America, the public lands with all the timber and oil and gas and minerals et cetera? Do you know that you own the huge research and development that the US government funds, that goes to business free, like drugs that are developed by the National Institutes of Health, you give them to these companies free who sock it to you with very high prices? That's what we have to do. Always ask, simple question.

You can't believe the facial expressions on the politicians, when the politician says, "Hey kiddies"--that way they change their tone of voice to begin with--"Hey kiddies, what would you like to ask us?" And you look at them and you say, "How are you gonna give me more power, so I can take on the big guys?" "What?! Huh?" Well one way is public funding of public campaigns. And another way is to facilitate forming trade unions, facilitate forming powerful consumer groups. Another way is to allow you to go to court more often, instead of block[ing] the courtroom door under these terribly regressive drives called "tort reform" or forcing you into compulsory arbitration when you have a dispute with your credit card company or your bank. So always ask the question, how are you gonna give us more power so that we can run our own country? And remember, Senator, the Constitution begins with the phrase, "We the People" not "We the Corporations."

Then they say, "start a grassroots movement" first.
  • Again, if one wishes to reach, inform, waken, mobilize people nationwide, what better time than the only truly national election, the time when the most people are paying attention to political issues and questions?
  • Involvement in Mr. Nader's campaigns has sparked many a great local activist and inspired a number to run for local offices.
  • Plus, as I described in an earlier post, Mr. Nader is hoping to continue his campaign after November in the form of Congress Watchdog groups in each Congressional district.
  • Furthermore, when the problems and decay are coming from the top down, you go after the top to do something about them.
  • Finally, when so much is at stake, millions of lives whichever corporate candidate we inaugurate, why not do everything in our power to do something about it?

Then, having acknowledged what's really at stake and that the presidential elections are an important part of doing something about it, there are the people who say this is not the year. Amazingly, every four years they say this year is extra important (forgetting what's really at stake again)--step aside, fall into line, be quiet this time and next time go ahead and challenge the corporate takeover of our government and rampant corruption on Capitol Hill. But "next time" never comes.

Of course there is main argument against lesser-evil voting I've described before (and again here), that such voting makes candidates take our votes for granted and get worse and worse. If you're not already familiar with the argument, read those posts. But there's also another argument against the "not this time" stance, I quote Swans editor Gilles D'Aymery:

Which leads to the conclusion that America has to hit rock bottom (or finally realize it's close to there) for real political upheaval to be in demand. Let's wait until civil rights have disappeared, until foreign policy has subjugated and alienated every country of the world, until our parents are in the street for lack of health care and Social Security, until our children are in the street for lack of education, until democracy is officially replaced by theocracy, and then, maybe then, it will be "safe" to consider a third party candidate. Sure, and then we'll be in a real strong fighting position...

Allow me to let everyone in on a little secret: while Americans look for a way to have our cake and eat it too (but with much more severe consequences) because we're too intimidated, paralyzed or apathetic to take back our country, the corporations and the candidates they work everyday to keep beholden to their interests are laughing in our faces and hundreds of thousands of preventable American deaths continue to occur each year, for no good reason at all.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Signature Payload--Adventures Petitioning, Pt. 2

Okay, it wasn't actually a payload--as I happily told those who asked, "I'm not getting paid; I'm a volunteer." But I would like to take this moment to thank the cast, crew and advertisers of the new Indiana Jones movie that I have no intention of seeing for finally having a tangibly positive impact on my life. Well, them and the fact that my local movie theater uses the public sidewalk as a waiting area.

For days things had come up to keep me from petitioning and I wasted one evening at a local farmer's market getting--wait for it--three signatures, so I was in a very bad mood. But I thought I would give the opening night of Indiana Jones a shot. As I mentioned, my local movie theater uses the public sidewalk as a waiting area, so I don't even need to ask for permission to petition in front of their fine people-attracting (or was it distracting?) establishment.

I just showed up and started asking people to sign and to my great surprise--about 35 of them did in under 2 hours. I'm sure this is quite unimpressive to those great signature gatherers out there, but it's the best I've ever done in such a short time.

What they say is true: places with lots of people waiting in long lines (even better, on the public sidewalk) are great places to petition. Captive audience. Well, unless it's the Democratic National Convention, anyway. But generally, people seemed much more friendly when they were hanging out with no place to go.

One young man even tried to get his friends to sign, saying rightly that this was "Democracy in action." There were also, of course, the usual comments about 2000 as well as the guy who told me (before even hearing what I was petitioning for) that he worked for the Republican Party and so should I (no, he didn't sign). But I'm starting to wonder if maybe the biggest obstacle to getting past the two party duopoly isn't the 40-plus-hour work week and the great stress Americans are under for time.

Interestingly enough, there were a couple people who, though they refused to sign the petition themselves, commented that they respected my persistence, lack of intimidation, and bravery in petitioning. In retrospect, this is still bothersome in that it shouldn't take bravery to do something as basic to civic involvement as petitioning. But hey, at least they weren't mad at me. They appreciated that I was doing something I believe in.

This brings up another issue. There were more than a few people who were more willing to sign when they found out I was a volunteer. They commented that they didn't like or trust people who were getting paid. I understand where they're coming from, but the fact is that with such difficult and extreme ballot access requirements, it is often necessary (and in fact the common practice) to hire signature gatherers.

In the end, there wasn't much that could lift my spirits like collecting a whole bunch of signatures at once to get the best candidate on the ballot. But one thing that could beat it would be getting him into the debates or, better yet, the White House.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Lessons of History and the Myth of the "Powerless" Democrats

In the 2006 mid-term elections, many Americans, largely because they were fed up with the Iraq war, voted Democrats into Congress in districts with Republican incumbents. There was a widespread idea that the Democrats would end the war and hold the president and his administration accountable, if only they had a majority. Of course, it didn't quite work out that way. Once they had the majority, Speaker Pelosi (more recently reported to have known about US waterboarding and not objected) immediately took impeachment off the table and, among other things, the Democrats have voted to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and passed billions in war appropriations. The Democrats say that they do not have a large enough majority to end the war.

As Matt Gonzalez described, speaking about Senator Obama's website:

Now, this is an American senator who's telling you, even though we're in the majority party, we don't have the votes to end the war, and we need your help to get 16 Republicans either out of office or behind us. Well, what's wrong with this?

It is so fundamentally--shows such either duplicity or inexperience on his part, because you don't need a super majority, two-thirds of the senate, to end this war. You need two-thirds of the senate to override a veto by the president. But how do you stop a war? Well to fund a war you've gotta have war appropriations, if you don't want war appropriations, what do you do? You vote against the war appropriation, you are the majority party and vote it down.

Now if some of your Democratic colleagues, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe a handful of them don't want to do that, you know what you do? It's called filibustering. Because you, in other words, don't allow the measure to be voted on and then the president doesn't have money to spend on the war. How do you do that? How many votes do you think you need to filibuster? ...if the Democrats can put together 41 out of their 50 or 51 votes in the senate, guess what? Not a single war appropriation could be passed.[1, emphasis added]

The Democrats and Republicans seem to have quite a nice system worked out for themselves. I can't say that it was intentional, perhaps they just stumbled into it despite their incompetence--how to betray the interests of your constituents and get away with it without being held accountable? Blame it on the other guy--"He did it, but don't blame me, I just helped. And by the way, look how much worse he is than me, you don't want more of him, do you? So work with me." It's almost like a really awful Good Cop/Bad Cop routine.

Yesterday, someone refused to sign my Nader/Gonzalez ballot access petition because he was "too afraid it could result in McCain." I think it's been established that he is not alone in this view, and in a number of posts I've already addressed topics such as the myth of the "spoiler" and what's really at stake in this election. There are some things that need to be demanded regardless of how likely people think it is they will be achieved--I certainly don't hear anyone today faulting the 19th-century Liberty Party for pushing the anti-slavery issue by refusing to support the least-worst presidential candidate between the Whigs and Democrats.[2]

Many people defend their least-worst vote by saying that if it was not clear in 2000, it is now apparent that there is in fact a difference between the corporate candidates. I've mentioned before that they rarely discuss the differences between the corporate candidates and their own interests, but they also rarely stop to consider how such differences came about--are they different because the Democrats (for example) became better, or is it because while they've both become worse, the Republicans have even more so?

The fact is that both of them have become worse (read: more beholden to corporate interests with less regard for the well-being of Americans) and continue to do so. As Ralph Nader has pointed out in this video:

And guess what? Even Richard Nixon signed bill after bill that [we?] got through Congress: the EPA bill, the OSHA bill for job safety and health, he signed into law the great air and water pollution legislation, he signed into law the product safety commission bill--he didn't believe in any of these bills, but he had a flourishing statement of enthusiasm behind each bill and a ceremony at the White House. Now why did he sign bills he didn't believe in? Well, one answer is he was the last Republican president who was afraid of liberals. He signed these bills into law because he heard the rumble of the people from the 60s and he was afraid of the rumble of the people. And as the years passed the rumble of the people was reduced and became less and less audible. Half of democracy is showing up.[3, emphasis added]

So how is it that they aren't held accountable?

If you have a low expectation level of politicians, then they're going to oblige you. --Ralph Nader[4]

All they really need from us is our votes and then they're pretty free to do the corporations' bidding. Millions of Americans vote for one party over the other because they're the least-worst, sending candidates the message that our only demand in exchange for this and other votes is that they stay less horrible than the other guy. If the other guy becomes even more bad, they're free to become more bad too. Even though both of them get worse and worse with each election cycle, as long as the Republicans are more in-your-face about being horrible, the Democrats get away with being their accomplices.

How many times do they have to betray us, before we learn they are not an opposition party? How many times before we learn the lessons of history? The lesson that we won't get better unless we demand better.



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stories from the Streets--Adventures Petitioning, Pt. 1

This past weekend I started doing a bit of petitioning. First I watched this how to petition video from and then I decided to see how long it would take me to get my first ten signatures of 2008 (a little over an hour). I don't know how those people who get 300 signatures in a day do it--if you're out there, your tips are appreciated.

I didn't get nearly as much anger directed at me as in 2004, but it was still a frustrating experience. I know eventually the memories of frustration fade away, I've already forgotten many of the particularly mean things people in my community said to me when I petitioned four years ago.

One of the images that has stuck with me most from this first hour is of three young men who walked past me as I asked if any of them were registered voters in this state, one of them saying "No" in a very insincere tone and then looking back from a short distance and laughing with his friends, apparently finding hilarity in rejecting the possibility of an interaction that might mean something serious for the state of their country--as if apathy is cool.

I suppose I can't blame them, they probably thought I was trying to sell them something. But then, it's a sadly telling state of affairs when people imagine that anyone trying to talk to them on the streets is after their pocketbook.

Then there was the young woman who refused to sign, even after I had mentioned this was not an endorsement but a petition for ballot access, because "it doesn't make sense to sign" if she doesn't support Ralph Nader or want him to win. I'm sorry, I must be missing something, when exactly did Americans become opposed to democracy? You know, that system where everyone puts forth their ideas, proposals, candidates; gets educated about the arguments for/against them; tries to persuade others; and then votes? Like Matt Gonzalez said, other candidates should go out and earn the votes that would otherwise be cast for Nader/Gonzalez, not force people to vote one way. Nader voters aren't blind sheep that vote for Mr. Nader because he tells us to.

I can't help wondering, let's say she's just opposed to signing this one petition, is there anything, any issue she and others like her care enough about to be willing to petition for? What has to happen for her to say enough is enough? Clearly wars, PATRIOT Acts, indefinite detention without trial, compulsory arbitration and the gradual loss of trial by jury, poverty, hunger, and hundreds of thousands of preventable American deaths every year are not enough. These are all issues that it seems most Americans think "realistically" we have to "compromise" on because the "status quo" of everything getting worse and worse is better than whatever schemes the other corporate party has in mind.

Mostly, I kept reminding myself not to waste valuable petitioning time arguing. My mission was ballot access, not to persuade every last person who walks by me on the street to support democratic elections. And all in all, I didn't suffer any harassment in this first hour, other petitioners and I have taken much, much worse, and of course I found ten people who thought it would be great to have Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez's names on their ballot this November--nothing extraordinarily bad happened--except being faced, yet again, with the now ordinary idea that exercising my first amendment rights or wanting to allow for more voices in the election is insane, radical or both.

I thought of what Ralph Nader has said, about what your level of social indignation is and whether you have an outlet for that anger--well, lucky for me, I have one outlet in the form of this blog. (Another important outlet in this case is allowing the frustration to motivate me to work harder to collect signatures to get the best candidate on the ballot and oppose the unfair ballot access laws.)

If you've been petitioning and you'd like another outlet to share your thoughts on the first amendment, democracy, and your adventures, I welcome guest posts--contact me. Or maybe you think this is all an enormous waste of energy and the way towards a more democratic America is through supporting another candidate--if you think you've found someone Better Than Nader, I'd love to hear about it.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Looking Past November--Watchdogs and Other Canine Metaphors

[11-5-08 -- Update: Please see]

An as of yet much under-advertised aspect of the Nader 2008 campaign is the fact that it won't end in November. Mr. Nader wants to build on the energy and volunteers in the campaign to start Congressional Watchdog groups of 1000 people in each Congressional district to put pressure on our elected officials to, well, do their jobs (you know that thing we're paying them and giving them health insurance for).

I happened to be looking back through a list of interesting quotes I keep and came across one I hadn't thought of in a while. It's from a popular movie from the 90's, Wag the Dog. I don't remember the details of the film, but in case you haven't seen it, it's basically about a president who hires people to fake a war in order to divert attention from his own domestic scandals. In any event, I do remember the quote the title is based on, from the very beginning of the movie:

Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail.
If the tail was smarter, the tail would wag the dog. [1]

Now, I'm not sure I agree with the analysis that it's
entirely because of intelligence, but the quote and it's film context certainly inspire one to think about what is wagging whom in this country.

I just watched this video of the Nader campaign protest of the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) Mr. Nader helped start 40 years ago. They protested a "rule that will deny roof crush victims their rights to seek justice and compensation." [2] In Mr. Nader's words:

So what we're seeing here is a giant auto industry crackdown on the lives and safety of the American people, using the federal government as a weapon against the kind of safety technology that the engineers know how to put in the cars, doesn't cost them anything, and that 8 models already meet... [3, emphasis added]

Mr. Nader goes on to urge everyone to contact their senators about this issue before the June 4th senate hearing. But the point here is, this sounds like yet another example of the corporations "wagging" the American public. Corporations aren't even living beings, they are not capable of intelligence, having less intelligence than a dog's tail. But it would appear that if Americans do not act intelligently or work to put pressure on our representatives, money and entities that only exist on paper fill the void.

Here's hoping that people will volunteer for these Congressional Watchdog Groups! It's time the tail learned its place.

I'll end with the statement the Nader Exploratory Committee made on this topic a few months ago:

Maybe we’re wrong.

Maybe the Democrats and Republicans will nominate Presidential candidates this year who will stand up against the war profiteers, the nuclear industry, the credit card industry, the corporate criminals, big oil, and the drug and health insurance industries.

We doubt it.

But hope springs eternal.

In the meantime, take a few minutes and explore with us an idea.

The idea is this—1,000 citizens in every Congressional district.

Each and every one committed to challenging the corporate powers that have a hammerlock on our political and economic systems.

Organized citizen power facing off against corporate power.

In this election year – 2008.

Instead of spending this election year sitting back and watching the corporate candidates spin their vapid mantras – hope, experience, change.

Instead of spending the year complaining about inertia, exhaustion, and apathy.

Let us instead weigh the possibility of pulling together half a million dedicated citizens collectively rising up off our couches and organizing a ground force in every Congressional district in the country.

A ground force of citizens who are informed, committed, tenacious advocates for a just future.

This is what we are contemplating.

Something new.

Something big.

Something bold.

Something that works.

Something that will prod young and old alike.

To join in a mass push back against the corporate powers that are dictating our future.

No one person can get us there.

But one person is ideally suited to lead this grassroots force – if he chooses to do so and runs as the citizens’ candidate for President in 2008.

And that one person is Ralph Nader.

In the 1960s, Nader brought together a group of young people who challenged the corporate status quo.

The press dubbed those young people Nader’s Raiders.

And the rest – as they say – is history.

Here's the idea—1,000 active and informed citizens in each Congressional district ready to take on the corporate political structure in this 2008 election year.

Half a million citizens – mobilized, informed and powerful, organized for a common cause – facing off against corporate power and corporate control.



Monday, May 5, 2008

Seeing It Coming

I was listening to a news story on the radio about the food shortage and how it's been exacerbated because of the use of corn crops to create ethanol as fuel. The reporter asked the man he was interviewing about whether someone could have seen this coming. A good, albeit still laughable question.

Of course they should have seen it coming. This, and a lot of other issues that Ralph Nader's been warning people, our elected and government officials in particular, about for ages. You can find a column Ralph Nader wrote back in 2003 criticizing, among other things, the subsidies for corn ethanol programs here. Then again, it doesn't often take a genius to notice something you're being hit over the head with.

In case our elected officials are too blind to see things like how taxpayer subsidies for big agribusiness to grow corn for oil can lead to a food shortage, how our crumbling infrastructure can lead to problems like an incoming hurricane taking down New Orleans or an unsafe bridge crumbling in Minnesota (look here for info on James Ridgeway's stunning investigative work on what's behind this), how deregulating the greedy people on Wall Street and rewarding them with taxpayer monies every time they cause another huge disaster could lead to a subprime loan disaster and speculation bidding up gas prices, and on and on--in case they're too dumb to notice these problems it's their job to notice and find the obvious solutions it's their job to follow through with, there's Ralph Nader and others giving them the heads up right and left. Mr. Nader really makes their jobs easy for them. Alas, you can lead a politician to urgent answers but you can't make him use them to solve problems.

One thing's for sure, Ralph Nader's been no coward when it's come to speaking up and working on important issues. In a more recent column, "Fueling Food Shortages," from April 25, 2008, Mr. Nader wrote:

Don’t rely on the election year political debates to pay attention to destructive corn ethanol programs. For years I have been speaking out against this boondoggle, while championing the small farmer in America, but no one in positions of Congressional leadership has been listening.

I guess sometimes brains and foresight aren't enough--you need backbone, courage, compassion and principle to be President, characteristics sorely lacking in the corporate candidates especially.

Disagree? Show me who has them. Find me someone Better Than Nader.


Friday, May 2, 2008

What's at Stake?

Every four years, millions of people are opposed to independent and third party presidential candidacies because it's not the time and "there's too much at stake." Many say the "status quo" under one party is much preferable to the destruction of our country under the other. They focus on what differences there are between the two corporate candidates and downplay the differences between both candidates and anything resembling the interests of the American people. It's important to remember what's at stake in our elections and in our country. Ralph Nader recently described some of what I believe is at stake regardless of which corporate candidate wins, and by extension what people are saying they are willing to live with in supporting candidates who betray our interest.

This is excerpted from a 2008 speech at Princeton. You can view the whole speech here. Any emphases, etc. are mine. If you find any errors in my transcription, please let me know so I can correct them.

The only way we can improve our world is to face up to reality, is to face up to the torment that is affecting this world of ours, because we can always justify and rationalize our futility, can we not? By in effect saying, “oh, you know that’s, that’s beyond us, it’s too overwhelming.” And then we don’t analyze how it has come to be in order to motivate us toward the solutions or toward at least addressing these problems.

So when someone says to you, three billion out of the six billion people in this world are living on two or one dollars a day, is that too abstract? Well then somebody says, well you know the 350 richest people in the world have wealth equivalent to the combined wealth of the bottom three billion people in the world. How does that affect you? How does it affect you that in the year 2000 Bill Gates’ financial wealth was equivalent to the combined financial wealth of the bottom 115 million people in America who were essentially, in terms of their net worth, almost broke? How does that affect you?

How does it affect you to run through the following statistics that don’t have a human face? That because we don’t have universal health care in this country, we don’t have single payer, which is far more efficient and allows you free choice of doctor and hospital—this is essentially government insurance and private delivery of health care under competitive framework—that 18,000 people a year in this country die because they can’t afford health care according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, a pretty conservative figure, which means hundreds of thousands get sick or don’t get diagnosed in time every year. What does that do to you?

What does it do to you to know that 3,000 people died on 9/11, and that is essentially less than three weeks’ total of the number of Americans who die from workplace related disease and trauma in the United States, week after week after week, according to OSHA, estimate. What does it say to you to know that over 200,000 people in this country die because of hospital and medical negligence and because of side effects of drugs and hospital-induced infections, which is a terrible epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 200 to 250 people a day die from hospital-induced infections and there aren’t many antibiotics left that can deal with resistance [???]. Now, what does it mean to you to learn that 65,000 people according to EPA die from air pollution in this country?

What does it mean to you that under the Clinton-Gore Administration sanctions, economic sanctions were imposed on the people of Iraq—military sanctions is one thing, economic sanctions that damage civilian life is a crime under international law, and a distinguished task force of physicians estimated 500,000 children in Iraq died as a result of those embargos of critical material, including chlorine which of course is critical to drinking water purity, microbial control. What does it, what does it do to you?

What does it do to you to know that hundreds of thousands of students are being ripped off under the student loan rackets? Sallie Mae in particular. They basically—fundamental example of government-guaranteed capitalism, where they can rip you off with abandon, with fine-print contracts that even law schools don’t analyze to protect their law students taking such loans. And if you don’t pay and they can’t collect, they can go to Uncle Sam for a guarantee, government guaranteed capitalism. What does it say that universities and colleges, until very recently, were not alert to these deceptions and frauds that often track students decades after they graduate. They got into a debt spiral which they couldn’t get out of, and because they’re in a debt spiral their credit rating wasn’t very good and many of them couldn’t get certain jobs as a result, and where were the universities to basically say we’re not gonna take these freebies and these junkets in the financial aid offices from these student loan corporations.

What does it do to you to know that 13 million children in this country go to sleep hungry, everyday, in this country? What does it do to you to know that 45 million workers, one-third of the entire workforce, make under 10.50 an hour before deductions, many of them working fulltime and with side jobs and they don’t have health insurance? What does it do to you to know that the GDP in this country is at least 20 times per capita productivity greater than 1900? In 1900 there was poverty, but when you have an economy that has increased its productivity per worker 20 fold, why is there any poverty in this country? What is the disconnect between the relentless increase in paper wealth, in GDP and 80% of the workers of this country falling behind. Where we have an economy almost double the size of 1970 and yet, in inflation adjusted terms, the peak wage in this country was in 1973—it still is the peak wage in this country, 1973, adjusted for inflation—just barely, after all these years may be slightly surpassed, but with the home sub-prime mortgages it doesn’t look like it’s gonna be anytime soon.

What does it mean to you that the head of Wal-Mart, with his rubber stamp board of directors, made 11-12,000 dollars an hour, 8 hours a day last year, when he had the majority of the workers were making 6 ½, 7 ½, 8, 9, 9.50 an hour. Just think of that. Think of that. What does it mean to you that you’re likely to go into the pattern all too often of prior Princeton graduates and have your exquisite talents trivialized because it pays well, where you have exquisite talents but you’re not working on the major problems affecting the world? That’s one reason our Princeton Class of 1955 started Princeton Project ’55, ‘cause we didn’t want Princeton students who could get 20 job offers from Wall Street to Houston, we didn’t want them not to have an option to develop their civic skills on real serious problems of injustice in one city or community after another, during the summertime or for one year fellowships after this...

…Now, imagine if thousands of classes, 30 years out from graduation did something like Project ’55, how many opportunities there would be for you not to have your skills trivialized…how many opportunities there would be for you before the trajectory of your redundant bureaucratic, whether corporate or public, routine lives kicked into place. That you could use your 20s and not waste your 20s, often getting over personal hang-ups you should have taken care of when you were teenagers, that would use your twenties to break ground because your twenties are the most creative decade of your life, you’ll have more wisdom and judgment and experience later on, but it’s in your 20s that you’re gonna ask the impertinent questions, you’re gonna pioneer, you’re gonna see what level of courage you’re gonna have, to connect with your own professional skills. That’s what you have to look forward to. A society that does not allow its most talented people to work on its most serious problems, a society that has been commercialized, corporatized, merchandized, trivialized, into a caricature of itself. And if you open up the panorama of reality, you will see that never in the history of the world has a society piled up more wealth, not necessarily empirical wealth, look at our public works, and how they’re crumbling—a society that’s piled up more wealth than any society in history and has not transferred and distributed that wealth for the well-being of the majority of its people, and its income disparity and wealth disparity is getting worse and worse, where 1% of the richest people in this country have wealth equivalent to the bottom 95%. And so I’m giving you these broader statistical representations of reality without necessarily going into case studies which could be really heart wrenching, because I just want you to ask yourself, are you getting angry? What’s your level of social indignation? What happens when you do get angry? Do you have an outlet?


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Arm-Twisting Tactics in the Voting Booth

In his speech announcing his candidacy for Vice President as Ralph Nader's running mate, Matt Gonzalez stated the following:

Let me just emphasize this: There's nothing that we do that can force anybody to vote for us, but we very much want the opposite not to be true, that anybody that wants to vote for us should not be forced to vote for other candidates. If there is any candidate that fears what we're trying to do here, then I invite them to go out and earn the votes that would otherwise be cast for us. We are in a democracy, that's how it works. Candidates with different opinions put them forward and go compete for votes. Thank you.[1, bold emphasis added]

But that statement does not merely merely attempt to quiet the loud accusations of "spoiler" by pointing out (albeit very importantly) that Mr. Nader and Mr. Gonzalez's voters are not coerced but rather exercise our right to vote for whomever we please. What else, then, could he have been referring to?

By now much of the country is aware of the grave issue of election fraud and other practices that inhibit democratic elections in the USA, though most people remain ignorant of the extent to which it takes place. The more one knows and thinks about it, the more it can really make your blood boil.

A few sources with descriptions of examples of such practices include:

Unfortunately, when most Americans think about problems with our voting and election system (if they think about the most basic mechanisms of implementing democracy in our country at all), they usually only think about issues with making sure people are allowed to vote or how the votes are counted. These are important issues, of course. But coercion in the voting booth starts long before Election Day. If a candidate who is at least 35 years old and a naturalized US citizen can't get onto the ballot, it doesn't just restrict that candidate's rights, it deprives all voters of the right to be given a choice and be able to vote (or not vote) for that candidate. We have all sorts of choices when it comes to buying candy bars or shoes, but when it matters the most we're told we only have two choices for President.

And all too often, voters are forced to vote for someone they don't want to vote for, because they aren't able to vote for who they would like to vote for.
Regardless of who we plan to vote for, we all need to express that this is not acceptable, that we expect better in our country, that a threat to the rights of any voter is a threat to the rights of all voters. We can all protest this by lending our signatures to the ballot access petitions of candidates who are being discriminated against through unfair laws. Then, if you don't think they're the right people for the job, get out there and convince people to vote for someone else. But support their ballot access, support all our right to have our voices heard.

The Democracy Now! web archives also include an interview with the lawyer representing Ralph Nader and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed last year against the Democratic National Committee. I'll have more on the dirty tricks alleged in the lawsuit in an future post, if you're interested in the meantime you can find more information and link to the text of the lawsuit here.