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Is Democracy a consumer's right?

Saturday, June 30, 2007 by Jeff

He's dropped "consumer protection" for the "citizen participation." He's flouted political propriety by campaigning for president. He's flung himself onto the machinery of U.S. politics. Now, Ralph Nader is, once again, considering a run for the presidency.

In 2000, he swayed nearly 3 million voters, and four years later that number dropped to fewer than 500,000. We've heard it so many times that it's virtually unquestioned today that Ralph was the "spoiler" that put King George into office. To question that interpretation, which is but one politically expedient reading of that election, has been to invite venomous attacks and vitriolic condescension from Democratic apologists.

My hat is off to Ralph Nader. I don't believe that the weight of Al Gore's loss rests on his shoulders, nor do I believe that we should write off Nader's foray into electoral politics so quickly. Despite the nauseatingly common whining about Ralph's "bloated ego," his campaign is a conscious and thoughtful one that goes beyond any single presidential race.

Nader's career as a consumer champion has revolved around politics for decades. His advocacy for automobile safety, clean air, whistleblowers, food labeling, and numerous other causes in the name of the "public interest" has sought new or improved legislation, regulation, and enforcement - all thoroughly depending on political channels. When General Motors sent spies to undermine his auto safety campaign, he was testifying before congressional committees about the need for seat belts. When the Reagan Revolution steamrolled through Washington, Ralph was on the streets to drum up public support. When the Democrats buckled under a Republican Congress, he recognized that the Left was losing its political voice in Washington. That's when he ran for President. 1996. 2000. 2004. Now, possibly 2008.

Did he expect to win? Of course not. But this is part of a campaign that dates back to the Nixon Administration. It has broadened from narrow consumer issues to fundamental questions of democracy. Nader's campaign today amounts to institutional civil disobedience - without breaking a single law (although, to hear the yelps of Democrats you'd never know it).

"What third parties can do is bring young people in, set standards on how to run a presidential election and keep the progressive agenda in front of the people," he said. "And maybe tweak a candidate here and there in the major parties." The narrowmindedness of liberal pundits has squeezed out any analysis that extends much beyond an election cycle.

When Nader's campaign ends - and who's to say when that will be? - we'll still have to wait another 20-30 years to be able to assess how successful it has been.

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all! - Mario Savio, Berkeley (1964)

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He said his name, BoRev, and he danced a lick across the cell

Sunday, June 17, 2007 by Jeff

I don't know how you people do it - blog three, four...seven times a week. Do you have family responsibilities, jobs? How about suntans (get outside!), or insomnia (get to bed!)? I simply can't keep up. In fact, the more I desire to keep up the less capable I feel.

In the spirit of reverence toward those with whom I can't keep up, I want to introduce you to BoRev.net, subtitled, "Dispatches from the Bolivarian Revolution." It's a political blog that drips with sarcasm and wit. It is unabashedly pro-Venezuelan and takes many incisive stabs at U.S. policies in the region and the media lapdog that follows it. It'll challenge any of you who think you know what's going on in Venezuela these days.

Here you can learn how our government supports a murderous Columbian regime; how Venezuelans are more satisfied with their democracy than are Americans; and how a pro-market media tells half-truths to mislead you about Venezuela.

Since its inception less than a year ago, BoRev.net has hit its stride. In recent months this blog has averaged 70 posts per month. Jee-zus! Mr. BoRev, Mr. BoRev, dance!

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Go, Dick! Go!

Friday, June 08, 2007 by Jeff

Be sure not to miss the story that Washington wants you to ignore.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator working under the auspices of the Council of Europe, just released his 72-page report [PDF], his second in a year [first one here: PDF], that confirms that the CIA - yes, that's our folks - ran secret prisons in Europe to detain and torture suspected terrorists, the BBC reports. The CIA program of so-called "extraordinary rendition" sweeps up suspects (often without charges, warrants, or other requirements of U.S. and international law) and shuttles them off to countries where torture is both known and expected to happen. Conveniently, this allows our government officials to distance themselves from whatever unpleasantness may occur there.

Several European countries too, the report insists, are complicit in their transport and illegal treatment.

[Romania and Poland] did host secret detention centres under a special CIA programme established by the American administration in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 to “kill, capture and detain” terrorist suspects deemed to be of “high value”.

Today also marks the beginning of a trial for 26 (suspected) American CIA operatives accused of kidnapping a Muslim imam on the streets of Milan in broad daylight 4 1/2 years ago. None of the Americans are attending the trial and the U.S. government refuses to turn them over.

The imam, Abu Omar, says he was flown to Germany and then to his native Egypt where he was tortured. He has reportedly lost "70 percent of his hearing in both ears, has a lesion on his spine and suffers depression as a result of the torture he endured."

Dick Marty wants you to know that the U.S. is writing its own rules in the "War on Terror," rules that defy it's own constitution and laws, as well as European laws and global declarations against human rights abuse. So much for all that bullshit Thomas Jefferson fed us about individual liberties and democracy. We're eating crow now.

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Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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