Ralph Nader: A Vote For Sanity

by Gilles d'Aymery

October 18, 2004   


"At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little."
—Eric Blair (a k a, George Orwell, 1984)
"We don't have to change humankind in order to survive. We only have to change a single culture."
—Daniel Quinn (The Story of B)

(Swans - October 18, 2004)   Somewhere in Northern California, in a hall of dreams...

Moderator: Please extend a warm welcome to our guest speaker, Gilles d'Aymery. Gilles came to the U.S. in 1982. He first worked in the oil & gas industry in New York City. He somehow decided that this was not the kind of endeavor he would be proud of when he retires. So, he chose to try his skills in the computer business, all the while observing the internecine workings of our political and economic system. From the East Coast to the West Coast, he has, like so many of us, been traveling the American journey. Welcome, Gilles!

Gilles d'Aymery: Thank you for this kind and short introduction (shoot, what's your name again?). Short is always better when a resume shines by its absence!

Hello, hello, hello all; thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about Ralph Nader and the reasons you ought to vote for the Nader-Camejo ticket on November 2, 2004. I'm particularly glad to be here, for no one, no organization, no church, wants to hear this kind of off-the-cuff, unprepared remarks. They have a good reason, I should add: see the clothespin on my nose...not a pretty sight, eh? I know, but it helps disguise my French accent by looking like a nasal Texan in Martian clothes... I have to resort to this little stratagem for security reason... See, of late, the French are sort of Persona Non Grata in this great country of ours -- can you believe it, the froggies want to have a veto right on our use of force and dare say that our great democracy is by no means a model for others? What Gallic gall!

Never mind that I've lived more than half of my life away from France and some 22 years here. Once a French, always a French, as the saying goes. I suppose that, after the Muslims and Arabs, the French are high on the FBI watch-list of potential terrorists...and imagine for a second what would happen if I were a "French" with dark skin who had converted to Islam... That'd be the equivalent of a free ticket to Guantánamo Bay, courtesy of the tax payers -- at least, for once, I'd get something in return for my taxes! Guantánamo, a model of democracy for the world to emulate, located in paradise, next to the Cuban concentration camp headed by Fidel Castro...kind of a Club Med ad for the unfortunate few (or many, if you are part of the few).

Anyway, thank you again, and enough of this bad-taste joking, let's get to the task at hand: Why is a vote for Ralph Nader a vote for sanity?

Friends, for as long as I can remember, America has been a beacon of free spirit, where we can invent the future; where the only fear we have to fear is fear itself; where we are prodded to look at what we can do for our country, not what our country can do for us; where there is no problem that cannot be tackled, no solution that cannot be found. America's the epitome of optimism and confidence. We look forward; we are a can-do, no-nonsense nation; and we are taught from kindergarten on that not only should we fix our mistakes, we should also avoid repeating them. That's the America in which we believe, right? An open, good-humored, generous nation, right?

Right. Then, if I may ask, why not acting according to our beliefs?

For instance, you do believe in your hearts and minds that the war in Iraq was unfounded and wrong, don't you? And let me tell you, you certainly are not members of these lunatic, extreme, sectarian fringes that keep telling us that America is the evil incarnated, because more than half of the American people believe like you...they can't be all radicals, can they? Many of you also believe that war without end as an instrument of international, "foreign" policies -- the continuation of politics by other means, as Clausewitz said -- is, to put it mildly, and if we want to bequest a living planet to our descendents, our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., an unacceptable way to look into the future, Right?

Right. Then why would you vote for either Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry? They are both pro-war candidates. They both will get us deeper and deeper into this Iraqi quagmire. Ralph Nader has consistently been against that war in the first place. He also has pledged to have our sons and daughters out of harm's way within six months; that is, to have the US military out of Iraq within six months after his January 2005 inauguration. So, why not vote according to your convictions?

You do believe, don't you, that we are spending much too much on defense expenditures, which are really war expenditures, that our military budget is out of whack, out of control? Right?

Right. Then why would you vote for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush? Both of them will keep feeding the military-industrial complex to the hilt. Even Howard Dean, who was so instrumental (with Dennis Kucinich) in dividing us, in a debate with Ralph Nader earlier this year, would not agree to cut the military budget -- he talked about reallocations. Ralph Nader is on the record, guaranteeing that he will cut these obscene expenditures. So, again, why not vote according to your convictions?

Many of you also believe that our single-minded and one-sided support of the state of Israel, or, to be very clear, the policies of the state of Israel in the Occupied Territories, is detrimental to achieving a just solution to the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, and ultimately harmful to Israel herself and her people, right?

Right. Then why would you vote for Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry? Both will carry on with the current policy. Ralph Nader has pledged that he will have a more balanced approach to this horrendous conflict and will change the prevailing policies, which are fueling the fire of hatred and fear, violence and discrimination. Should you not vote according to your convictions?

You all know, of course, that were it not for the hydrocarbonic riches of the Middle East, we would not be in Iraq today. You are also aware that we are fast approaching the era of "peak oil" and declining resources; and that we, Americans, with less that 5 percent of the world population consume 25 percent of these fast-approaching declining resources; and you finally know that the demand for these resources are increasing world wide, with ecological consequences so dire that we tend to keep our heads buried deep in the mud of our haplessness. But you do know that it simply does not compute. And so, if you vote for Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry, your vote will inevitably give a blank check for the very same policies that do not compute. More oil at home means more wars abroad, more military expenditures, more ecological destructions. Talk about a clear path to obliteration!

Ralph Nader offers concrete policies toward energy conservation, higher fuel mileage for our cars and SUVs (you know that we have more vehicles in the U.S. than inhabitants, right?) and development of alternative energies (wind, solar, etc.). If this makes more sense to you, then why don't you vote according to your good judgment?

You realize that globalization is a reality. But should globalization mean neo-liberalism with its unleashed raw Darwinism inherently attached to it? Should we, in the name of a "free-market" ideology -- some would say religion -- continue to pursue policies that are detrimental to three quarters of humanity? Should we keep destroying the agriculture of the entire world so that our agro-business behemoths can inundate the planet with their GM crops and foodstuff, with so many adverse consequences to the commonweal of the ecosystem? Should we keep destroying the entire Mexican corn production so that we can export our corn from the Midwest, where mass production all the while erodes our soil, depletes our water resources, and requires unfettered and ever expanding pesticides and chemical fertilizers (which come from oil, as you well know...another vicious circle...)? Is there any chance that Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush will revisit NAFTA, the WTO, the IMF, all instruments of worldwide subjugation to corporate interests? Of course not! So why vote for either one of them when Ralph Nader explicitly vows he will?

Now, I don't see poor, working-class people in this friendly assembly but this does not mean you are unaware that the minimum wage in the U.S. is $5.15 per hour, the lowest in decades and the lowest of any other industrial nation. Do you have any idea how one can survive with such a wage? I don't. Do you think Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry do? Ralph Nader calls upon a $10 per hour living wage. This will affect the lowest quintile of the US population -- they are our brothers and sisters too, right? Talking about quintiles, you are familiar with the fact that 80% of the tax cuts are going to the top 20% of the population -- hmm, I don't see many members of the top quintile here either! -- and that our corporations have seen their tax burden drop from 33% to 7.8% of all our taxes. Any wonder who picks up the tab? Any wonder who has a strong record of fighting corporate malfeasance? Why, then, not vote for the only candidate who has such an unblemished record, Ralph Nader?

Okay, let's have a show of hands. How many of you have health care coverage? Hmm, from what I see, I'd say just about 80%. Funny, no?, how much this 20% keeps popping up; but, actually it's just about how many people at any one time or another do not have health care...some 70 million, 45 million of them and counting don't have any basic coverage all the time. We have the worst health care system of the entire industrial world. Even Cuba covers its entire citizenry. Even Cuba has more physicians per capita than we do (almost twice as many)! And we spend more money on health care than any other country in the world. Here again, it does not compute. Are Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush in favor of a universal health care system? Is Ralph Nader? You know the answer, don't you? So, let me ask for another show of hands. How many of you would like to see a single-payer, universal health care system? Hmm, I don't see any hands down... So why not voting according to what you want?

Have you been to a demonstration in the past few years? Have you been able to march and exercise your constitutional right to free speech without any police interference? Have you seen these cages in Boston called "free-speech zones"? Have you noticed how many people were arrested in New York City during the Republican National Convention and the conditions under which they were detained? Even a judge took exception to this egregious mistreatment of peaceful demonstrators. Should you not feel concerned by news reports of people being arrested and detained without being charged and having access to an attorney? Don't you see the slow militarization of the country, the abandonment of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the proliferation of police personnel in our streets and along our roads -- have you noted that they are no longer called peace officers but law enforcement authorities? Don't you feel a sense of uneasiness by the number of times you are asked to show your ID?

I was joking about my accent in my introduction, but in fact the joke was on me. See, a few months ago, I was stopped by a Highway Patrol officer for the flimsiest of reasons and had that officer point his finger in my face after having asked where I was from -- when I answered, Menlo Park, he said no, no, where are you from, you have an accent...err, from France I said, slightly confused -- ...pointing his finger in my face and saying, ah, you're French, eh, you're French...and having his colleague laugh as he was shoving me a moment later under the eyes of four other cops enjoying the spectacle on the side of the road. Very funny indeed! Nice joke, hah, hah, hah. Remember you had a good laugh when I introduced myself. But me, I wonder what would have happened had I had dark skin... Now you may think that I exaggerate, that I am pushing the envelope too far. Perhaps, perhaps I do; but, see, French people for whatever reason fancy history. The study of history is an important part of the curriculum in schools, and history books sell well in France (at least that's my experience of 25 years ago...don't know how it is today). Anyway, what I observe today in America reminds me of what I learned about Europe in the 1930s...not a pleasant observation...

Evidently you've heard of this chilling acronym, the USA PATRIOT ACT, right? It was proposed by the Bush administration, right? And it was passed into law by Congress, right? Mr. Kerry voted for it, right? And so did Mr. Edwards, right? Have you heard the candidates of the duopoly talk about it, question it, during their "debates," and along the campaign trail? Have they proposed to amend it, to remove the most flagrant clauses targeting our cherished civil liberties (are they still cherished?)? Now you wait till PATRIOT II becomes the law of the land...and you watch silently as more Web sites are shut down, hard drives removed and confiscated, more people arrested... So, my question to you is: Don't you think it makes sense to vote for the candidate who will mothball this dreadful piece of legislation? And you know who this candidate is, don't you? (And, oh, if you still think that I'm paranoid, call the ACLU or visit their Web site and find out about their case load...)

Okay, friends, is it not about time we leave fear behind us and look to a hopeful future? Have you listened to Ralph Nader lately, during this campaign -- and over the years? I have many a time, all the way back to 1996... Whichever issue he talks on -- the bloated military budget, war and peace, the environment, labor, civil liberties, minorities, consumers, energy, campaign finance reform, corporate malfeasance, taxes, civil justice (living wage, universal health care system, public education), free speech, the separation of church and state (he certainly does not wear his religious beliefs on his sleeves, as Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush do), poverty at home and abroad, etc. etc. etc. -- the man simply makes sound and solid sense. He is a plain-spoken man with deep convictions, whose propositions are actually quite mainstream, relatively moderate in tone and substance. Mr. Nader is certainly not a "revolutionary." He does not advocate overturning the entire system -- does not call for socialism or, god help us all, the "dictature of the proletariat." He is a reformist at heart whose voice resonates with many, on all sides of the ideological, or political spectrum. He has a clear vision for this great country. He is indeed the very best candidate this country has had for a long time (think Wallace, think Debs...). Ralph Nader has consistently represented the core issues that affect the majority of the American people. Does multi-millionaire George W. Bush represent the middle/lower-class concerns? Does multi-millionaire John Kerry represent the middle/lower class concerns? You know the answer, no?

So, why would you not vote according to your convictions? Why would you not vote for him? Ralph Nader, after all, is extending the area of sanity little by little, indeed.

Thank you very much.

Q & A

Moderator: Let's give a big round of applause to Gilles, Ladies and Gentleman...

Okay, Gilles, looks like you are some kind of a heretic trying to make sense out of nonsense. So, before we send you back to your terrorist cave in the Boonville hills, and before we get to the buffet where you can talk about your forthcoming book, Laughing at it all, out of sadness, let's open the floor to a few questions. Please people make it short and sweet.

Question: Hi, I'm Bill from Oakland: Why didn't Nader run as a Green?

Answer: Ask him.

Moderator: Uh, oh, could you elaborate?

Gilles: Sure, I can. But before I do, allow me to not be dragged into the Cobb-Nader controversy. It's old news. Don't ask me who's best (Nader is); why they got at each other's throats (thank the friendly Dems, Dean, Kucinich and the like -- and a few other "friends and allies" -- who have been so hard at work to divide us all); or why they keep at excoriating each other's campaign -- there's long been an idiocy virus syndrome (IVS) that runs rampant in this country. No one is immune to it. There is still no vaccine to defeat the virus...actually, there is not even enough vaccine against the flu! Who knows, perhaps DARPA will look into this IVS, instead of TIA.

So far as I can understand it, Nader found himself in a catch-22 situation. He wanted to run a full-fledged, all states campaign. The Greens, whichever part of them, under huge pressure (the "spoiler" syndrome, etc.) took the position that they wanted to run a "safe-states" strategy. That part of them, by the way, had strong constituencies in the world of the rich and famous, as well as other dignitaries who've been blasting Nader for over two years (if you need names, check vote2stopbush.org). So Nader did not seek the Green nomination but hoped that the rank and file would vote for him at the Milwaukee convention (actually, I think -- but I am not a part of the Nader-Camejo inner sanctum, simply an observer -- that Nader knew all the way it would not happen. It's Peter Camejo, in my own estimation, who bet his shirt on the willful denouement. Nader is far beyond and above the altars of so-called left orthodoxy).

From then on, it does not take a physicist to understand the path taken by each camp, and the dreaded ramifications for us all. Sad? You betcha, but entirely predictable. When Chomsky and Eric Alterman, for example, are on the same barricades, you know intuitively that something is rotten in the "progressive" wing of the American "left."

Question: Don't you see the danger of a Bush election? Is it not the time to vote for a lesser evil?

Answer: I've heard this argument for close to 55 years. I expect to hear it for another 55 years. Fortunately, I won't be there, then. Your children and grandchildren will, though. If you want change, you won't get it by voting for more of the same or by playing it safe.

Question: Talking about safe play, what's your take on the safe-states strategy?

Answer: Err...let me put it this way: I have friends and colleagues who are going to vote for David Cobb. I value their friendship and their collaboration. That's all I can say. But certainly one cannot but regret the divisions that have taken place and can only hope that we will be able to glue the pieces back together.

Question: If you could choose your ideal president, who would he be?

Answer: How do you know it would be a he? Anyway, it happens he is a male. Without hesitation, Mr. Frank Wycoff. A man with his head on his shoulders, well-rounded, relatively intelligent and quite sensible. Not an ounce of envy in him; not a soupçon of violence in him; knows what it means to live with $20,000 a year; has run a business; has met payroll; has given to the community and his friends more than anyone I have ever encountered in my life; a people's man and a man of the people; a man I am honored to be his friend and brother...and he has never, ever voted for a Dem or a Rep for president... It's a no-brainer, really. Frank Wycoff! But since he has no intention of running, Ralph Nader will do just fine.

Question: I've glanced over your Swans publication. It looks like you have strong connections with Marxists and other un-American sentiments. Why should I trust your observations and your advice?

Answer: You should not. Think for yourself. Un-American sentiments, eh? Oh well... Look, it's a privilege to be associated with Marxists (though I'm not sure what a Marxist is -- there are as many definitions of Marxism as there are Marxists!). Right or wrong, they are a part of the American experience. Should I add that, for the most part, they are right? Stay away from the unimaginative drawers we all are led to open, organize and close according to the main line of thinking (or non-thinking). Lay out all your brain's belongings on the floor. You'll be amazed by what you find. Last question, please.

Question: You have very strong views. Do you discuss them with friends and relatives? Who's your closest confident?

Answer: My dog, Priam. He keeps me within the realm of sanity!

Thank you all very much. It was a delightful evening. Please follow your conscience. A vote for Nader is indeed a vote for sanity.

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Published October 18, 2004
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