Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who's up to the Challenge?

Well, it's been one week and counting--and still no one has found me a candidate Better Than Nader. Thus, Ralph Nader remains in the "Best 2008 Candidate to Date" spot!

I saw this quote on a youtube video someone made in support of the Nader campaign and it got me thinking:

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. --Ralph Nader

As great as Ralph Nader is, as much good as he's done for all of us, as wonderful a record as he has, one can't help wondering... Shouldn't America be able to do better?
Our country has shown itself capable of giving rise to a great lawyer, consumer advocate, and citizen--but why stop there? We are known for always wanting more, bigger, better. Always looking for the next improvement. This should extend into our politics.

Some people say wanting Ralph Nader for President is expecting too much. I say, it's expecting great, but too little. Why limit ourselves? We need to think about how we're going to top Ralph Nader. The challenge of doing Better Than Nader isn't just for those who are voting for someone else. It is for all of us. Ideas anyone? Maybe by imagining bigger, we can find a way closer to big.


Friday, April 25, 2008

The Golden Rule and the Myth of the "Spoiler"

Hopefully, most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you." It's a principle among people of a diverse array of belief systems and ideologies. Often, people interpret this statement as a reminder to do good, be kind, etc. Sometimes, though, we miss the deeper meanings of the Golden Rule, for example, that it is also about the role of individuals in a larger society, about complicity, about how to avoid inadvertent involvement in injustice.

Probably the biggest argument raised against Ralph Nader's candidacies is the idea that he is a "spoiler" or somehow responsible for Gore's loss to Bush in 2000. There are, of course, way too many counterarguments to cover here in one post. Some of them being that Gore won (see investigative journalist Greg Palast's work on this as just one example), the people who voted for Bush are responsible, Gore's pathetic excuse for a campaign is responsible (he couldn't win his home state which is pretty much unheard of, he couldn't get hundreds of thousands of Bush-voting Dems in Florida to vote for their own candidate, and some research has shown that Gore's polls went up when he took stances closer to Nader's), the people who prevented tons of African Americans from voting in Florida are responsible, the Supreme Court who shouldn't be in the business of deciding elections is responsible. There's a lot more where that list came from--and I haven't even started on the many benefits of Nader's campaign.

Really, the Democrats have no right to call anyone a spoiler. They are not entitled to anyone's vote. Furthermore, they have had every opportunity to advocate for and pass instant run-off (aka "rank choice") voting, but they don't want to. They seem to be more interested in making sure we only have two parties than they are in winning. Americans are supposed to sit down in silence with millions of lives at stake because the corporate Dems don't have the spine to do what we elected them to do or to run a real campaign for that matter? Absurd doesn't begin to describe it.

But basically what people are saying when they raise the "spoiler" argument, is that no one can vote for what they really want, because everyone believes that everyone else is going to vote their fears. The direct implication being that they would like everyone else to vote their hopes, and vote based on issues, but their lives and choices are being directly affected by how they believe (often correctly) others will vote.

Unfortunately, sometimes that Other Golden Rule can seem very compelling. I am referring to the idea that "The one who has the gold, makes the rules." With all the control the corporate moneyed interests have achieved over all aspects of our government and daily lives, it can be hard to resist this idea. But the only way peace and justice have ever been achieved is by doing just that.

These are the times when it's really important to remember the Golden Rule. We're not supposed to do unto others as we believe (often correctly) others will do unto us. We're supposed to do unto others as we would like others to do unto us.

I think my meaning is clear enough, so I'll leave it at that. Little doubt, there are people who will consider this a gross oversimplification of the facts. Once again, I invite them to find me a candidate Better Than Nader. Bring your arguments; let's debate.


Why People Talk Little About Nader--and the Myth of the "Egomaniac"

I've had to answer this question a million times, so what's once more? Especially in 2004, some thinking people started wondering about all the ridicule Ralph Nader was getting--if he could get in the press at all. "Why?" They asked. Here, in brief, is my answer. My question, though, is what do we do about it? I think it starts with indignation.

People don't talk about him because they've bought into the corporate media's rhetoric that mocks and ridicules him. Why does the corporate media do that?

They mock him not just because they don't want people to know the truth but because they don't want people to take the truth seriously. For example, it is not in the interests of corporations who donate huge sums of money to politicians' (of both parties) election campaigns to have more fair elections which might result in the election of candidates who are not beholden to their (corporate) interests. They can't attack his positions about fair elections because his positions are easy to defend and everyone supports democracy (plus this could encourage people to think about issues). They can't really attack his character because he has good character (particularly in comparison to the other candidates) and this is well known, though there have been attempts to spread lies about his character (starting with GM back in the 60s to the accusations of being a Repub operative in '04 which one writer suggests may have come from focus groups). So when they can't keep him out of the news, they mock him, they try to make him out to be an eccentric old man with illusions of grandeur, a well-intentioned egomaniac, a big joke--it's the best way left to get people to ignore what he's saying and doing.

Ralph Nader is running not because his goal in life is to be president and to have power, there is really no evidence to that effect, rather he ran to educate people and to push issues (and so, to help ordinary Americans), because his running in itself has made many Americans think about the real situation of the country, our real interests and real solutions and also to try to get other candidates to adopt some of his positions on issues like health care, a living wage, the war, education, the list goes on and on (if you're not already familiar with it there's plenty of information about his positions on in addition to And there are loads of evidence that suggest that he cares passionately about the welfare of the American people (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, seatbelts, Freedom of Information Act, and tons of citizen groups are just a few for starters). Devoting one's life, at great personal risk and sacrifice, to improve the health, safety and well-being of millions of others is about as far as one can get from the actions of an egomaniac.

But don't take my word for it. Watch the extras DVD of An Unreasonable Man and listen to the established psychologist who says it.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Has Ralph Nader Saved Your Life Today?

I mean the title literally. It's sad how little most people know about the impact Ralph Nader's work has had on all of our lives. So, I thought I'd post this piece that was on the website back in 2004. It gives examples of just some of the ways Ralph Nader has improved the quality of each of our lives.

Maybe you have a story about how Ralph Nader's work has saved your life or that of a loved one? Whether it's a friend whose life was saved by a seatbelt or you just realized that you're lucky you haven't died of water poisoning, I'd love to hear about it.


Another late night of unpaid overtime at work. You roll in after midnight, and bolt down cold leftovers. Against your better judgment, you flip on late night TV. Another political pundit on the upcoming elections…you almost turn it off, but then suddenly, he says something interesting.

"The pollsters ask us questions like, 'Which guy would you rather have a beer with?' But, what if they asked us something different…. Imagine if we chose our President based on how his career actions have impacted us, something that could be tracked down, quantified and analyzed. A sort of index of how each candidate's influence reaches into our lives on a daily basis. "

The host responds that, with that provocative idea, the interview is over. You stare blankly through a fast-talking car dealer and an ad for the most adjustable mattress ever made before snapping the set off.

Impact on my daily life—how 'bout that.

A few hours later the alarm insistently pulls you from the depths of sweet dreams. Your eyes open and you think about everything you've got to do before flying out of town in the afternoon. Shuffling down the hall to the kitchen, your thirst awakens. You fill a glass with water from the tap and sip it, bracing your free arm on the edge of the sink. Once again, you think of the pundit's suggestion and shrug. But Ralph Nader has already shaped this day of yours in a tiny, yet important way, the first of many ways his work of forty years touches your life every day. As the nation's top public citizen, Nader was one of the main driving forces in 1974 behind passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which mandates that local utilities protect the water you drink.1

Now with coffee cup in hand, you retrieve the newspaper. Below the fold, a headline reads, "Federal Government Covered Up More Radiation Poisoning." Another story of cancer in the southwest resulting from nuclear testing upwind of a community. Government officials apparently had decided that St. George, Utah was "expendable." You sit down slowly while reading, passing over some lines twice. How did the reporter uncover this stunning betrayal of citizens? This is an impressively researched article. The information really flows forth—the bare facts condemning trusted officials.2

You are troubled by the article, but shake that feeling off as the day's tasks begin to weigh on your mind. That pasta last night wasn't allowed by your new diet, but, hey, the book says that flexibility is important. Anyway, you've a taste for steak and eggs this morning, what with so many late nights beginning to catch up to you. Freeing the steak of its packaging and familiar labels, the satisfying sizzle and smell soon fill the air.3

Still chewing your breakfast, it's the usual rush back and forth for items forgotten—the cell phone, the extra key, the bill to be mailed—in your rush to the door. You climb into your new car, turn your head sharply and begin to back out of the driveway. The automobile handles well and you feel perfectly comfortable inside its friendly interior. Glancing at the fuel gauge, you are relieved to see that you have plenty of gas. It seems like days since you went to the pump. Though many of your neighbors drive gas-guzzling SUVs, your car is fuel-efficient, even though it is not a late model hybrid. 4

First stop is the bank. You hate these nuisance errands. In this case you have to correct an incorrect bill. After checking your watch repeatedly as the long line inched towards the lone teller (you figure the bank has a strange strategy of making their customers so frustrated that they use the web instead), at least the teller resolves the mistake with little effort. 5 Now to catch that plane.

You arrive at the airport only to be informed that your flight has been overbooked and that some passengers will surely have to take the next flight. The airlines ask for volunteers to take the next flight, offering them compensation in the form of a free ticket, and more than enough step forward. Thanks for that—you couldn't afford to miss this flight. 6 You step onto the airplane and find your seat. A woman sits in your row with her four year-old boy who starts to tap on the old cigarette tray next to your left elbow. At least the tray is now welded shut and the plane isn't filled with the haze of smoke spreading from the "smoking section." 7 Now the boy begins extracting his toys and parading them in wide arcs. Not much to really worry about. 8 Boys that age…You turn to the window.

Looking out, you see a big meandering river below. Surface water quality has come a long ways in the 35 years since the Cuyahoga River caught fire just southeast of Cleveland, OH. But further improvements in water quality seem long overdue. 9 Even the current EPA has reported widespread mercury contamination. Sure seems that Congress should act again. Don't hold your breath. There ahead are those cooling towers, two squat, flared concrete cylinders. You feel relieved that that nuclear power plant was shut down finally. Ever since the accident at Three-Mile Island, it made you nervous. The power wasn't cheap, either—especially considering taxpayer subsidies. 10

Craning your neck has made it stiff, so you recline and close your eyes. It's been a few months since you've seen your dad and you feel lucky that his accident wasn't as serious as it might have been. He was working for a McWane-owned cast iron pipe plant in Texas. In the hospital, one of his fellow workers told you that nine workers have been killed in McWane plants since 1995, according to OSHA inspectors. He said that several of those deaths were due to the company's deliberate violations of federal safety standards. 11 At least Dad didn't follow his father into the coal mines. Your cousin tells you that 80 miners die from fatal work injuries every year—though that hasn't stopped him from supporting his family underground. Yeah, it's a huge relief that the stressful time in the hospital is over.

But you worry about your mother. Last week she started taking some arthritis medicine, and if your sister, who is a doctor, hadn't checked up on the drug, Mom might have suffered some real harm. 12 You are pleased, though, reflecting on her happiness at work. That seems to keep her energetic and occupied. The rural food co-op she started with friends in the late 1970s brings together a great community of people for miles. It's become a real social hub. 13 Now the flight attendant's voice comes on announcing the descent.

After the slow, rocking walk out of the plane speeding up to a good clip through the terminal, the kids are running towards you with huge smiles on their faces. Their grandparents follow behind. You feel elated to see them all. Twilight settles around you as you walk to the waiting car and a sense of endless possibilities14 swells within you as you steer towards home.


  1. On all of the issues mentioned here, Ralph Nader was the main individual driving change. But many other people too numerous to chronicle fully here were crucial to these efforts. Nader assembled his first team of crusading students in 1968. The next year around 30,000 young people applied for 200 spots working as "Nader's Raiders" during summers. They did vast research and, in many cases, were deep into writing the legislation in question. In this case, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 mandated that the EPA (also a major Nader effort in 1970) protect the nation's drinking water by setting minimal standards for contaminants thought to be toxic. The Act was amended in 1986 and has helped reduce lead in drinking water, among other chemicals. But it could be far more effective than it is. In 1974, Nader and associates helped draft the bill and beat back the lobby of the cities that fought it. Nader sat in the audience and testified at hearings on the bill.
  2. In 1966, after years of leadership on the issue, Congressman John Moss pushed the first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) through the House. Every serious journalist in America now relies on FOIA requests in order to investigate issues somehow related to the federal government. In other words, a great many issues. All kinds of groups working for justice in the United States also rely on FOIA requests to obtain crucial information. In 1974, Ralph Nader and his Raiders were largely responsible for getting Congress to enormously broaden and strengthen Moss's Act and for testifying and pushing the Act through over President Ford's veto.
  3. In 1966, Nader and his associates worked to pass the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act, which mandated more federal meat inspections, stipulated penalties for violations, and generally gave the federal government more power to safeguard the nation's meat and poultry supply. Nader says that they tried to include fish, but, unfortunately, the fish processors lobby won out. Almost three decades later, implementation of meat inspection laws was severely weakened by the Clinton Administration.
  4. Perhaps Ralph Nader's single largest and most lasting legacy has been his impact on the safety of automobiles in the U.S. and around the world—as a result of U.S. federal standards. Nader, motivated by witnessing auto crashes while hitchhiking as a student and observing accidents suffered by friends, wrote one of the classic exposes of the 20th century: Unsafe At Any Speed. His research led to hearings and legislation establishing the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration in 1966. Nader's efforts also led to the design and implementation of collapsable steering columns (that no longer impaled drivers) and seatbelts. Since then, he helped pass tire safety legislation. In 1984, after many years trying to make the installation of airbags mandatory, Nader worked directly with the former director of the General Services Administration during Reagan's first term, Gerald Carmen, and convinced him to put out an order for 5,000 airbag-equipped cars for bid. Ford Motor Company took the order and the rest is history. Since Nader almost single-handedly brought about these changes in auto safety, over 1 million lives have been saved and tens of millions of injuries have been spared in the U.S. alone. Nader also actively pushed for fuel efficiency standards. In 1975, Congress set the "Corporate Average Fuel Economy" or "CAFE" standard at 27.5 miles per gallon for new passenger cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for light trucks -- new pickups, minivans and SUVs.
  5. "In the late 1960s and 1970s, Nader, his banking expert, Jonathan Brown, the Consumer Federation of America and others challenged these basic injustices and pushed Congress to enact a number of reforms. These included:
    • the Truth in Lending Act of 1968, which required all banks to quote the annual percentage rate to any consumers seeking loans;
    • the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, which gives consumers the right to know what is in their credit files;
    • the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974, which mandates procedures for consumers to challenge incorrect billings; and
    • the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 (and amended in 1976), which requires banks to extend credit purely on the basis of an applicant's ability to repay, not on any other extraneous factors. (Not until June 1977 were most married women legally entitled to establish their own credit histories.)
    Until the consumer movement agitated for change, banks and the industry's regulatory institutions (Office of Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, among others) did not seriously consider consumer interests in their policymaking. By the mid-1970s, however, they had at least begun to monitor unfair and deceptive banking practices and to generate more banking data of interest to consumers (such as loan application data necessary to detect discriminatory lending policies)." Nader and Brown continue to work on racist "redlining" bank loan policies.
    Source: CITIZEN ACTION AND OTHER BIG IDEAS, A History of Ralph Nader and the Modern Consumer Movement by David Bollier
  6. "One of [his] most celebrated fights occurred in 1972, one year after its founding, when Ralph Nader was bumped from a flight despite having a confirmed reservation. En route to a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, he was forced to fly instead to Boston and drive to Hartford. Nader…sued the airlines for fraudulent misrepresentation (the airline had not honored its promise of a confirmed seat), and won the legal issue of deception while losing their claim for monetary damages. The case triggered an outpouring of public outrage against the airlines, however, and sent the Civil Aviation Board scurrying to issue regulations that would protect consumers from the "last-at-the-gate, first-bumped" rule. Now, largely as a result of Nader's action, the airlines hold an "auction" among passengers to select volunteers to take the next flight out. Any passenger who is bumped, voluntarily or involuntarily, receives a cash benefit or free ticket as a reward."
    Source: CITIZEN ACTION AND OTHER BIG IDEAS, A History of Ralph Nader and the Modern Consumer Movement by David Bollier
  7. Nader also logged a major effort to ban smoking on commercial aircraft and other means of mass transportation with law professor John Banzhaf. In 1989, all smoking on flights within the U.S. was banned. Nader tells the story of one of the last flights on which smoking occurred. He got on the flight late and got stuck next to a smoker who, recognizing Nader, diabolically blew smoke towards him for the duration of the flight.
  8. Over 30 years ago, Ralph Nader was instrumental in passing legislation creating the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "The CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children. The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the 30 percent decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years."
    Source: CPSC website.
  9. On Oct. 18, 1972, Congress overrode a veto by President Nixon of amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The Clean Water Act, as the amendments were called, meant to maintain ''fishable, drinkable and swimmable'' waters, required industries and cities to clean up their sewage, and led to the establishment of an extensive water treatment program. The law protected the nation's wetlands and paved the way for broad regulations requiring a cleanup of the nation's rivers, lakes and coasts. Nader and his Raiders, especially David Zwick, were very involved in drafting the legislation. George W. Bush has signed legislation gutting key portions of the Act governing the filling of streams and wetlands.
  10. Ralph Nader became very active in the early 1970s in opposing nuclear power plants because of the massive risks they posed to the public's safety, among other issues. In 1974, Nader and his associates' huge Critical Mass activist training event drew thousands of people who went out into the country to campaign against nuclear power. Orginally, 1000 nuclear power plants had been planned for the U.S. Only about 125 were built, in large part because of the opposition stemming from Critical Mass and other events. The remaining plants continue to be shut down.
  11. "The official drive for better workplace protection began in January 1968 when President Johnson proposed a comprehensive occupational health and safety program. Much of the impetus for fulfilling this vision came from a tragic coal mine explosion in November 1968 that took 68 lives in Farmington, West Virginia. Nader, who had played a role in helping miners win compensation for black lung disease and better safety standards, seized the moment to help push through the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. The law helped fuel the movement for more sweeping workplace reforms, led by Nader, Congressman Philip Burton and other key legislators, and the steelworkers union and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union (but little support from the AFL-CIO). One influential document in the debate over the proposed new agency, the OSHA, was the Nader-sponsored report, Bitter Wages, by Joseph Page, a former Harvard Law classmate of Nader's and now a law professor at Georgetown Law Center. Like so many other Nader reports of that time, Page's book provided a concise history of corporate abuse, legal analysis, compelling anecdotes and a readable style. When the Occupational Safety and Health Act was finally enacted in 1970, over 14,000 workers were being killed and over two million disabled from industrial accidents each year."
    Source: CITIZEN ACTION AND OTHER BIG IDEAS, A History of Ralph Nader and the Modern Consumer Movement, by David Bollier
  12. With Dr. Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Ralph Nader began the Health Research Group to investigate the safety and efficacy of medicines. The HRG (part of Public Citizen) has caused numerous dangerous and often times fatal drugs to be recalled. In addition, The HRG publishes a reference volume carefully documenting both the dangers associated with many drugs, as well as the false claims made about them. Coming from the HRG, warnings about Reyes Syndrome (caused by giving children aspirin when they have viral respiratory infections) have greatly reduced the incidence of this serious medical problem.
  13. Nader and a coalition pushed legislation creating the National Cooperative Bank to a one vote victory in the House of Representatives in 1978. President Carter then signed the bill. The federally-chartered bank had $300 in seed money and made loans to new and existing housing, food, farm, and other co-ops. Though Ronald Reagan tried to destroy the bank, he only succeeded in semi-privatizing it. A good many co-ops would never have gotten off of the ground without the original institution.
  14. You get the point. Ralph Nader continues working to protect your right to have your day in court, your right to derive benefits from assets owned by you, the taxpayer, to help make drugs more affordable, to help fight the spread of infectious diseases, to help give you more rights when you sign canned contracts and many other issues. Now, consider how Nader's greatest legacy affects you: the thousands of people inspired by him to pursue justice for all. Yes, one person can make a difference. But rare are those who show us the dizzying heights that the impact of one remarkable individual can reach. One of Nader's favorite sayings is apt here: "There is no functional role for pessimism."*
*, accessed 9/15/2006


Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Pull a Party--the words of an insider

I'm keeping this post short and sweet with a quote from Lawrence O'Donnell:

If you want to pull the party--the major party that is closest to the way you're thinking--to what you're thinking, YOU MUST, YOU MUST show them that you're capable of not voting for them. If you don't show them you're capable of not voting for them, they don't have to listen to you. I promise you that. I worked within the Democratic Party. I didn't listen, or have to listen, to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party, because the left had nowhere to go.[1]

Mr. O'Donnell was "the Democratic Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance from 1993 through 1995. In 1992, he was Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works."[1]



Progressives for Obama: "It's Obama's whole package that can be confusing, not us."

I recently commented on a post at the Progressives for Obama blog. I explained my confusion about how they could describe Obama as a peace or anti-war candidate, given his record of voting for billions of dollars of war funding and refusal to commit to remove all the troops from Iraq by 2012 (he'd likely leave tens of thousands, wouldn't remove the huge mercenary force, and wants strike forces in the region that would likely not respect international law or the sovereignty of Middle Eastern nations in deciding to carry out military missions in their territories).

I was in luck--Carl Davidson from Progressives for Obama was kind enough to send me a quick response. He wrote:

It's Obama's whole package that can be confusing, not us.

If you'll read our initial call, as well as some of the critiques we've put out of Obama's positions on the war, you'll see we aren't satisfied with them, and may share some of your views.

Still, of the three, we say Obama's the 'best option,' for ending the war and other things, even if he doesn't take a clear-cut 'Out Now' position. There's many differences that make a difference between him and McCain, and if you can't see that, then we simply disagree in our assessment, and we're not on the same page regarding our options in this election.

Unlike either McCain or Hillary, Obama, in every recent speech across PA, asserts that he'll end the war in 2009, and gets standing ovations from working-class and youth audiences when he does. He's setting conditions for tremendous expectations of him to do so, and McCain is doing the opposite. No matter who is in the White House in 2009, we will have to mobilize from below to keep the heat on around 'Out Now.' We'd rather be doing it with Obama in the Oval Office than McCain. It's not rocket science.

We are independent of the campaign, even as we want to see Obama win. That means we don't have to defend every up and down of his positions, some of which I think are irrelevancies written up for Beltway wonks and pundits, and we don't. We let him know every way we can that the clearer line he takes on 'Out Now,' the more support he will get. That doesn't apply to every foreign policy issue, but it does to the Iraq war.[1]

Yet again, I remain fascinated by the willingness of Americans to not only vote for, but also support people with whom they are so unsatisfied. We are clearly a very forgiving people--except when it comes to Ralph Nader, of course.

Here is my reply:

Dear Mr. Davidson:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment. I agree that there are differences between Senator Obama and Senator McCain, their stated positions on the war in Iraq being one. However, that is not my concern. My concern is the great differences (not just in rhetoric but in deeds) between McCain, Clinton and Obama on the one hand, and anything remotely resembling the interests of the country & world on the other. What is important is what Obama does in office, not what people expect him to do or what they applaud him for talking about.

I also agree that regardless of who wins we need to press our elected representatives (of all political affiliations) to start standing up for us and end the war, but I do not see how backing down on this or other important issues now, when voters have the greatest potential to influence politicians and give them mandates, achieves anything but allowing them to continue representing corporate interests over Americans' interests.

I would very much like to understand how it is that you "let [Obama] know every way [you] can that the clearer line he takes on 'Out Now,' the more support he will get"--especially, at the same time as telling people to give him more support regardless. It is very true that Obama will get more support if he takes a clear stance on this (and some other) issues, but the only people I see who are letting him know that in a language politicians understand are the people who refuse to vote for him as long as he refuses to take on and fight for those stances. There is a great limit to the effectiveness of "urging" if it is only backed up with empty threats.

Finally, I hope I misunderstood your statement, but I am a little disturbed by the implication that if I do not agree on what our "options" are (the three corporate candidates?) then we'll just have to disagree--as if you are not interested in debate or hearing viewpoints you disagree with. It's bad enough that the 'major' candidates avoid substantive debate, we don't need that among voters as well. Again, I hope I misunderstood that statement.

Thanks again for your time and response.



A Few Words on the Title of This Blog...

In case it's not clear from the blog description, the main point of the title, "Better Than Nader," is that I believe I (and everyone else) should decide who to vote for based on who will make the best President, e.g. who's qualified, who has the best record, who will best represent the interests of the country--NOT based on who you think is going to win.

It's not a popularity contest, there are serious issues at stake. I am aware that there are people who do not share in this belief. Among other things, I hope to address responses to many of their arguments, and greatly welcome any counter-arguments. Maybe someone can raise a point I haven't thought about yet. Or maybe I'll raise one you hadn't considered.

So if you think you know of a better candidate than Ralph Nader, I'd love to know who and why. But you're going to have a very hard time convincing me to believe that it is of strategic importance to the world that I cave in on my most important principles and support a candidate beholden to corporate interests, or to consider that stifling dissent is a valid way to fight other people who stifle dissent.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Suddenly Obama Calls for Substantive Debates -- What Hypocrisy!

Last week, despite my better judgment, I found myself watching the beginning of the ABC presidential "debate" (or as Ralph Nader describes them, sleep-inducing "parallel interviews") with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. By now everyone's heard about the resulting "controversy."

Even during the debate Obama and Clinton were saying we need to talk more about the issues, Obama called for more substantive debate. Afterwards, petitions circulated online, thousands wrote to ABC upset supposedly because the debates should address important issues and inform voters. What a joke! Where have all these petition signers and letter writers been the last 20 years?!

The only reason they care now is because their candidate, Obama in particular, got trashed on national television this time. If only they cared about having more substance even when they didn't think it would help their guy, even when Obama is avoiding the issues. But that would be democracy, wouldn't it?

...That would mean being willing to talk about cracking down on corporate crime & welfare or discuss cutting (rather than increasing) the wasteful military budget. That would mean including more voices.

You want substance? Let Nader debate! If your guy is so good on the issues, what is there to be afraid of?

Some background:

In 1988, the League of Women Voters stopped sponsoring the presidential debates and wrote the following:

The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates ... because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.

Since then the debates have been run by a private entity, funded by corporate contributions[1], known as the Commission on Presidential Debates--co-chaired by past heads of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee[2]. Check out for more information and ideas on how to take back the debates.