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.