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August 13, 2006

An odd thought concerning Ralph Nader
Posted by Teresa at 08:52 PM * 75 comments

It’s been a long time since Ralph Nader’s done more than inflict flesh wounds on the big corporations. He still Does Stuff, but he doesn’t really make them bleed.

More to the point, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen the big corporations go after Ralph Nader. Lately I’ve been writing about astroturf disinformation campaigns, a subject I’ve also written about in the past.

Corporate America has in some cases sponsored decades-long propaganda campaigns—for instance, the one that puts forward the false claim that Social Security is broken and there’ll be no money in it when you retire. They’ve funded that one for thirty-odd years. The grand campaign for “tort reform” (real purpose: to limit the ability of small non-corporate plaintiffs to bring suit for deaths, injuries, and other harms caused by corporate negligence) has not only run for decades, but has been pursued via scores of diverse and seemingly unrelated front organizations. That’s an expensive campaign conducted on a broad front.

Given the scope and attention to detail of other astroturf campaigns, Ralph Nader ought to be the focus of a significant amount of unwanted attention from that quarter. He may not currently be a big threat to corporate America, but he’s been one in the past. That should be enough to get the disinformation about him flowing. And yet—isn’t this odd?—I can’t remember seeing anything substantial or effective being promulgated in that vein.

We’re known by the company we keep, and by the enemies we make. We don’t know exactly who Nader hangs out with, but we do know his stock portfolio: literally, the companies he keeps. Names that pop up there include Occidental Petroleum, the Limited, the Gap, Wal-Mart, and Halliburton, plus various defense contractors, other oil companies, and a big ol’ hunk of Bristol-Myers Squibb.

As for the enemies Nader makes? A long, long time ago, he distressed the hell out of the auto industry; but I was a little kid when that happened, and now I’m a great-aunt three times over. The last major set of enemies I saw Nader make was the American left and center, and the Democrats as a whole, back in 2000. The corporations Nader personally invests in couldn’t have been happier with the results.

There’s only one area where I trust the big corporations: I trust they know where their own interests lie. If so, then one of the things they appear to know is that Ralph Nader is not their enemy.

Addendum: Avedon Carol, in The Sideshow, responds to my speculations with some speculations of her own, on a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: the ban on Cylert.

Comments on An odd thought concerning Ralph Nader:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 09:57 PM:

That's what I meant by calling him a Republican spoiler. I think he intended to do exactly what he did, and not for some filmy "it has to get worse before it gets better" bullshit reason, either. He wanted to get Bush elected.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 10:38 PM:

Hard not to conclude that was his intent. He had to have known what his candidacy and campaign would do.

#3 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Didn't know that about his stock port... Sure seems to explain a lot of his behavior the last decade or so... Fucking weasel. How depressing...

#4 ::: Jonathan Lundell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 11:34 PM:

Perhaps the big corporations are content to let the Democrats do their job for them. Why not expect service for payment?

#5 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:10 AM:

Probably someone who really knows will contribute Factual Data here, on this point, but what Avedon wrote has many earmarks of accuracy -- few big companies, nowadays, want to continue handling a product that returns only a small profit (much less none), and Cylert appears to have been in that category. The "can cause liver damage" bit seems a bogus excuse -- so can about half the medications I've been given during the past few years, which is why competent physicians schedule frequent liver-function tests.

#6 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:25 AM:

Ummm... you did catch the recent TPMuckraker piece on the funding of the Pennsylvania Green Party Senate race, yes? All donors aside from the candidate himself were contributors to the Santorum campaign as well, conservative activists, or both....

#7 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:03 AM:

This seems like nonsense to me. Would you accept this kind of smear on someone you liked? Say on Al Gore?

It looks to me like Nader acted in the 2000 campaign out of a combination of wanting to return to some past glory (in his glory years, I don't think he was especially careful to be right, but at least he got a lot of headlines) and genuine dislike of the compromises Democrats had made in the eight years of the Clinton administration.

I don't recall anyone predicting when Nader committed to the race that this was likely to be the deciding vote, though clearly, Republicans had to love seeing Gore losing some of his more liberal votes. When the race was in its last couple weeks, I think people started urging Nader to throw his support to Gore to keep Bush out of the white house. Now, I think the world would be a better place if that had happened, but if I'd been a Nader supporter and a green party member, I also think I'd have been really unhappy with that outcome. "Sure, I'll run for office on your ticket. But if it really comes down to deciding an election one way or another, I'll turn out not to really mean it."

Third party candidates do sometimes change election outcomes. Hopefully, this reminds the two big parties, who've mostly rigged the system to ensure that they remain in power forever, that they have to offer their voters something better than "well, at least we're not Republicans" or "well, at least we're not Democrats."

I'm not crazy about the outcome in this case, because Bush II looks to me like the worst president in my adult lifetime. On the other hand, many people argued that Bush I would have defeated Clinton in 92, if not for another third-party candidate, Ross Perot.

#8 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:20 AM:

I'm not so sure that the corporations have really thought out where their own interests lie. I'll accept that for oil companies who want to make maximum profits from the stuff that's still in the ground, putting your fingers in your ears and shouting "I can't hear you" may be a sensible response to global warming, but for others it doesn't seem so rational. A major reason that GM and Ford are now verging on bankruptcy is that they helped Repubs defeat Clinton's 1993 health care proposals, leaving themselves holding the bag for the costs of their union retirees. And then there's the billions invested establishing their brands in foreign markets that is now in danger because Bush is so hated that his unpopularity rubs off on anything American. It seems that for many corporations, if they really look closely, the GOP is starting to look like a bad bet.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:51 AM:

Alex, I'll agree that corporations frequently miss out on their positive, constructive interests; but they're pretty reliable about knowing what hurts them.

Albatross, it was evident earlier than you imagine that Nader could be in a position to tip the election. Any campaign technician could have spotted it. Nader undoubtedly knew it. His campaign schedules and strategies were aimed at that outcome, especially during the last weeks. He knew which direction he was throwing the election.

So he disliked some of the compromises of the Clinton years? Big deal! Compromise is a normal feature of normal American politics. It's how the system is supposed to work -- you know, democracy and all that. If the idea was to have an administration that doesn't compromise, then congratulations are due, because the one we have now is as uncompromising as any administration in our history.

Here's what really doesn't make sense: if Nader acted out of indignation over the direction of Clinton-era compromises, why would he throw the election ten miles further in that same direction? He knew he was lying when he claimed there was no difference between Bush and Gore. Predictably, Bush has ground to dust all the values that Nader claimed he stood for.

Furthermore, if he cared that much, why did he disappear from the national political scene as soon as the election was done? He emerged only to meddle with the 2004 election. Then he disappeared again. These are not the actions of a man who gives a damn about the issues.

#10 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:04 AM:

Yes, the funding of the Pennsylvania Green Party occurred to me too. In Pennsylvania, at any rate, the big corporations and far-right activists are quite clear about which political party is their reliable ally.

#11 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 03:33 AM:

[If] Nader acted out of indignation over the direction of Clinton-era compromises, why would he throw the election ten miles further in that same direction?

From Jacob Weisberg of Slate, on 31 October 2000, Ralph the Leninist:

[The] question shouldn't be the one liberals seem to be asking about why Nader is doing what he's doing. The question should be why anyone is surprised. For some time now, Nader has made it perfectly clear that his campaign isn't about trying to pull the Democrats back to the left. Rather, his strategy is the Leninist one of "heightening the contradictions." It's not just that Nader is willing to take a chance of being personally responsible for electing Bush. It's that he's actively trying to elect Bush because he thinks that social conditions in American need to get worse before they can better.

Hey Ralph, let us know when you think it's gotten bad enough, will you?

#12 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 04:25 AM:

Albatross: Yes, I would listen to this kind of criticism of someone I liked if it came with evidence and comparisons. In fact, I've done so in the past - I gave up on my previous political convictions as I realized just how thoroughly dishonest and compromised the movement's leadership had always been. Were a similar case to emerge about people whose views and information I'm now relying on, I'd do it again, with my lil' Diogenes hat on.

Mostly, of course, the people who end up discrediting themselves in my eyes are the ones making allegedly serious but actually bogus cases or trying to deflect attention away from solid cases with rhetorical questions and digressions.

#13 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 04:34 AM:

From Europe, I can only see people shooting themselves in the foot.

The day after what it will be remembered as The Great Connecticut Primary Insurgency, Kos posted a vicious attack on Nader titled "Lieberman=Nader". I mean, I understand the need to remind Dem voters not to repeat errors of the past, but still: Nader had endorsed Lamont from the beginning, well before the Emmanuels and Feingolds of the world, and there's very little risk that liberal activists leaning to Nader's positions could ever vote for a religious likudnik well-known for bashing Democrats from the right. It's not like liberal voters or even the (recently "republican-powered") Green Party didn't understand the lesson from 2000: in 2004, Nader almost didn't make the ballot and failed to make any impact whatsoever. You don't need to "keep people in line"; that was what Stalin used to do, and it doesn't work in the long run. What you really should do is to take Nader's power-base in, making them work for you.

Why all this viciousness about Nader, right out of the blue? (bad pun intended)

#14 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 05:26 AM:

Focusing on Nader obscures something much more important: the 2000 election was stolen, not won by Bush.

#15 ::: Gareth Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 07:07 AM:

"Corporate America has in some cases sponsored decades-long propaganda campaigns—for instance, the one that puts forward the false claim that Social Security is broken and there'll be no money in it when you retire."

That's an amazing propaganda campaign, capable of convincing President Jed Bartlet himself.
Well, OK, just the West Wing writers responsible for that particular episode. But that's still pretty impressive.

#16 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 08:16 AM:

Do you need disinformation to hate a shameless media whore like Nader?

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 08:24 AM:

Hmm. Major party funds small party to act as spoiler against potential threat from another major party.... Sounds like Mexico under the PRI.

#18 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:04 AM:

Albatross, if you read that Salon article you'll see that Nader did, in fact throw "this kind of smear" at Al Gore. That's the point of the article.

As to how Green supporters should have felt if Nader had dropped out and thrown his support to Gore, let's not for get that there was only one truly green candidate in that race, and his name was Al Gore. Moreover, Nader claimed to his supporters that he would not run in any state where it could affect the election, although he clearly lied.

Plenty of his supporters were damned furious about that, actually.

Giacomo, this is about Nader, not Lamont. (And I can easily see why Nader would support Lamont over Lieberman. Nader is one of the few major voices in our country who has not been an all-out supporter of Israel. And he's Lebanese.)

The one thing Nader has ever honestly claimed to care about, all those years ago, was consumers and anti-corporatism. He didn't stop hanging out with the corporatists and Grover Norquist when the 2000 election was over. He hasn't done anything pro-consumer or anti-corporate for a very long time, and then suddenly he emerges to kill a relatively safe drug that the pharmaceutical houses were happy to see killed. I want to know why.

#19 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:50 AM:

contributors to the Santorum campaign as well, conservative activists, or both....

Yes, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies too, or in this case, "the guy who takes votes from my enemy is my friend". These guys may have supported Nader simply because they knew he'd split some votes off the Dems, not because they supported Nader. I mean, I'm pretty sure everyone, including the people who voted for Nader knew Nader wouldn't get elected.

The question is whether Nader was (A) running under an idealistic agenda and if so can he be forgiven for ignoring the real-world negative impact he had on the election, or, (B) did he run specificically with the intention to steal votes from the Dems and let his Republican buddies win.

To be fair, if Nader did do it for idealistic intentions, and ignored the fact that any vote for him is to ignore "Strategic Voting" (given we don't have the Australian voting method here), then any punishment given to Nader for making a strategic error under idealistic principles should also be metted out to the folks who actually voted for him for altruistic reasons (or with cynical arguments like "both parties are exactly the same"), ignoring the real world outcomes such a vote would have.

Conceivably, one might ask if intent means anything and he should just be judged on his actions, in which case it doesn't matter if it's A or B because in the end he pooched* the election.

*that's a verb, not a typo.

#20 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 11:05 AM:

Martin:

Not that I disagree, but (as lots of folks, Michael Moore included, have pointed out), if Nader hadn't shot his torpedoes at the Dems, and if Gore hadn't run a campaign that was half-assed at best, Bush wouldn''t have been able to steal it (or, at the least, he would have had to work a lot harder for it).

#21 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 11:27 AM:

Gore's campaign was designed by DC-based 'consultants' who get paid whether they win or not, or so I've heard. And he had Lieberman, who I suspect was getting big egoboo from the GOP even then, if not a more tangible payoff.

#22 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 11:56 AM:

Please, at this late date, can we stop pretending Gore ran "a half-assed campaign"? I'm sick of these RNC talking points.

The press corps hated Clinton and took it out on Gore, Bush represented himself as a real moderate with many liberal goals (and the media let him get away with it), and Gore actually ran a strong campaign - I know; I watched.

Most people don't remember that the hammering Clinton took from the media meant Gore started his campaign trailing extraordinarily badly. By the time of the Democratic convention, his nomination speech had to make up a 15 point deficit - and it did. That is not the hallmark of a bad campaign.

Gore wiped the floor with Bush in the first debate - and the media spent the rest of the week talking about how Gore had screwed it up.

The media lied about Gore. They made up lies about how Gore supposedly made up lies. As a result, a substantial percentage of people who voted for Bush told exit pollsters it was because they thought Gore was dishonest, not because he ran a weak campaign.

Since then, the media has made up the lie that it was Gore's "half-assed campaign" that made the election "too close to call" - but that's not true. The media can take far more credit for having done that.

Gore certainly made a big mistake in not letting Jesse Jackson bring counter-demonstrators to Florida, but that was after Katherine Harris made sure that even a majority of votes would not give Gore the White House.

In spite of everything, Gore did win the election - he just didn't win in the media, the RNC-run Florida Secretary of State's office, and the Supreme Court.

#23 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Focusing on Nader obscures something much more important: the 2000 election was stolen, not won by Bush.

Of course Bush stole the election. Nader made it close enough for Bush to steal.

Focusing on anyone except Nader obscures something much more important: the lying shills who helped throw the 2000 election are still with us.

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:41 PM:

Greg...any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. Nader knew or should have known what the consequences of his running would be; therefore he's responsible for the outcome just as if he'd planned it with malice aforethought. Whether he actually did or not is for historians to figure out, and not a matter worth any discussion for those of us who are just trying to figure out what to do next.

#25 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:13 PM:

The whole impetus to put Nader at the forefront of any political movement is misplaced, in my opinion. I frequent sites that would (and do) pick up on articles he writes (like commondreams.org, truthout.org, and the Progressive Populist's Web site) and he just isn't out there shaping opinion or ideology, at least not that I can see, and certainly not as visibly as someone like Al Gore.

That is the major point I make when I respond to editorials and organizations trying to promote him as a worthy candidate. Where the hell is the guy between elections? He fades into the woodwork and says nothing against Bush, but we're supposed to drop everything and give him money when the campaigns start because he's got "integrity" and he's the opposition?

If Nader really wanted to be president, and spent time on the national stage showing who he is and what he stands for consistently between elections, he might be worth voting for -- but not on the strength of a 40-year-old reputation, nor on statements made during a campaign.

The segment of the population who voted for Bush did so on the strength of things he said, not what he'd done in the past.

#26 ::: jan ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:25 PM:

Perhaps some of this has to do with Ralph Nader's age? People do tend to slow down in their dotage.

#27 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:43 PM:

That is the major point I make when I respond to editorials and organizations trying to promote him as a worthy candidate. Where the hell is the guy between elections? He fades into the woodwork and says nothing against Bush, but we're supposed to drop everything and give him money when the campaigns start because he's got "integrity" and he's the opposition?

No, he's still around between elections. He spoke (and spoke, and spoke, and spoke-- I didn't make it to the end of the speech) on campus here last year. And he said plenty against Bush, and against everybody else.

He's just not seen as newsworthy when he's not acting as an electoral spoiler.

I hasten to add that I don't like Nader, and I think his "heighten the cotnradictions" strategy is deplorable. But what he's actually done is damning enough without inflating his list of crimes.

(I also don't think he's on the take, getting back to the original point of the post. The allure of respectability is enough to explain his behavior without invoking sinister corporate conspiracies. It's not as much fun, but it's more likely to be true...)

#28 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:45 PM:

There are two options: We can blame nader for being a jerk, something we have no shortage of, or we can look at what the problem is. A winner takes all system is one that inherently is vulnerable to such manipulation, and manipulators are not, and will never be, in short supply.

And of course, in assigning blame, don't just look at the candidate. It should still surprise no one that the fact that the Democratic party doesn't support it's candidates well, can't control their candidates (Leiberman) and can't foster any sort of unity in the party, leads to lost elections. Like it or not, the Republicans manage this stuff, and win more elections.

#29 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:47 PM:
contributors to the Santorum campaign as well, conservative activists, or both....

Yes, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies too, or in this case, "the guy who takes votes from my enemy is my friend". These guys may have supported Nader simply because they knew he'd split some votes off the Dems, not because they supported Nader.

Of course Republican contributors to the Greens don't "actually support" Green candidates, or their stated agenda. Did you think I was claiming otherwise?

The question is whether Nader was (A) running under an idealistic agenda and if so can he be forgiven for ignoring the real-world negative impact he had on the election, or, (B) did he run specificically with the intention to steal votes from the Dems and let his Republican buddies win.

To me, the primary question is whether the Greens have a reasonable strategy for advancing their (nominal) agenda, or not. If they don't, and if the foreseeable consequences of their activities actually work against what they claim to stand for, well, I'm not much readier to forgive them for that than I am to forgive, say, Paul Wolfowitz for the foreseeable consequences of his attempt to make democracy bloom in Iraq --- and while I'm quite prepared to believe that both Nader and Wolfowitz were sincere in their stated good intentions, I honestly find it a little hard, at this point, to care very much.

More concisely: the primary question about the Pennsylvania Greens is whether they are acting as an effective third-party force for change, or whether they are acting as a Republican dirty tricks operation. Well, they are funded like the latter --- the only donation they have from outside Republican circles is a token $30.00 from the candidate himself. And as to whether he's a knowing Republican operative, or a mere "useful idiot"... remind me again why I should care?

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:17 PM:

At least one report said the Pennsylvania Green Party made the first move to the GOP.

#31 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:21 PM:
any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice
Xopher, unless you got that from somebody else, I move that phrase be known from now on as "Xopher's Law."
#32 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Avedon:

Frankly, I watched the campaign too. And if Gore wasn't as bad as the Repubs say he is now, I watched him utterly blow it in the debates (which, for better or for worse, have a huge impact), appearing to go in with almost no coaching on how to actually talk and be likeable (something that, as recent movies have shown, he's more than capable of). Likewise, I watched him distance himself from Clinton at every opportunity, something that only served to reinforce the idea that Clinton had done anything wrong in the first place.

I'm not saying it's the only thing worth looking at in the 2000 election (in fact, my original comment was that there were multiple factors in Gore's loss), and it doesn't excuse what Bush and his cronies did. But it certainly does mean that Gore and his campaign team have to at least look at themselves in the mirror and recognize that they share some of the blame.

Using a sports analogy, it's like blaming Bill Buckner entirely for the Red Sox losing Game Six of the '86 World Series, and not crediting the earlier error by Dwight Evans or the "pitching" of Schiraldi.

#33 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:31 PM:

remind me again why I should care?

Maybe you can read my post again and note the lack of any assertions to the effect of your caring about anything. Basically, I broke it down into two possibilities: Nader acted with good intent and voters followed him with good intent. Or Nader acted as deciever and voters followed him with good intent.

In either case, Nader cannot be blamed for voters who consider Dems and Reps so alike and evil that they'd rather throw their vote away and vote for Nader in protest. Those voters knew they're vote wouldn't count, other than to take a vote away from the primary candidate. And if they're foolish enough to think it doesn't really matter, and foolish enough to think their vote is considered a "protest" by anyone, they're only fooling themselves as to how unimportant their non-vote is in making any real, POSITIVE difference.

You can blame Nader for his campaign, but you can't blame him for the people who were so naive to think that their vote for Nader was anything other than a vote taken from the two primary candidates.

Or, put another way, assuming you kill Nader's party, that doesn't prevent the Republicans from secretly funding another "independent" party that takes votes from Democratic candidates. Killing Nader's party only treats the symptom. The disease is people who can't vote strategically, and who think there is insufficient difference between dems and reps that they'll throw their vote away.

Unless you have a voting system with condercet voting, you have to vote stategically. To do otherwise is to vote in a non-reality-based mode.

#34 ::: Jonathan Lundell ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Avedon: Giacomo, this is about Nader, not Lamont. (And I can easily see why Nader would support Lamont over Lieberman. Nader is one of the few major voices in our country who has not been an all-out supporter of Israel. And he's Lebanese.)

If there's any daylight between Lieberman's and Lamont's positions on Israel, I can't see it.

(Nader's parents were Lebanese Christians; Ralph was born in CT.)

Giacomo's point remains valid, though. What do the Democrats possibly have to gain by demonizing Nader, aside from whatever momentary rush it might yield? It certainly tends to alienate his supporters, who under the right circumstances are likely to vote for Democrats.

As for 2000, Nader fought the Florida result harder than Gore did. Far more Florida Democrats voted for Bush than Greens (or anyone else) voted for Nader.

We can be grateful, though, that Clinton & Gore had eight years, including two with a Democratic Congress, to (for example) push through Kyoto and a significant CAFE increase. Think where we'd be without that....

#35 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 03:57 PM:

So the social security being broken thing is false? That's very interesting. Wonder if the equivalent claim is false over here too?

Of course, there's one sure way they could make sure there won't be enough money in the s/s pot when we retire, and that would be to take it out and spend it on something else...

Ah, The West Wing. I have fond memories of Josh Lyman trying to get John Hoynes to address the social security issue, or any issue, and trying, and trying. And trying. The writer(s) may have been wrong about some things, but I think they had the right approach.

#36 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Go, Avedon!

It was a good campaign, the man gave (and still gives) inspiring and dynamic speeches, and he's more honest than any six other politicians you care to name (with the exception of Bernie Saunders.)

I was amazed at the way people started parrotting the media after the first debate. It was truly scary. The idea that Bush, who stood there for 30 seconds or more at a time, looking confused, and answering questions in idiotic terms, was hailed as demonstrating his "down-home" charm, was ludicrous. Dunno about you, but down-home where I come from, most of the people are pretty smart. They don't bear much resemblance to Bush. As for Gore "not having good command of the issues" and "avoiding the hard questions" it would have been funny if it hadn't hurt so much.

The more I see of Gore, the more I like him, and the more bitterly I regret not fighting harder in 2000. It was too hard to take in, though. The election was stolen. Not fudged, not kinda corrupt here and there, but out and out stolen, in a way we've never seen before. Near as I can tell, even Gore couldn't believe it, which is why he gave up without a decent fight. Stupid, stupid, stupid, but understandable. Man's a gentleman.

Gore is my biggest regret. I don't know what could have been done about the media campaign, but it sure looked like it blind-sided everybody. They shouldn't have been. The Clinton impeachment was a warm-up for the 2000 election.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Sorry but:

An odd thought concerning Ralph Nader
Is: What made him become such a traitor,
And thus leave bereft
The concerned of the Left
To become another clone of Darth Vader?

Okay. Got that out of my system.

#38 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 05:14 PM:

I watched the debates, and I didn't think Gore won them, but I didn't think Bush won them, either. I thought Gore was stiff, uncomfortable, and unpleasant, and I was extremely unhappy because at that point it was clear to a certainty that George Bush had the brain power of a hoppy toad, and that the MSM had been bought with some currency I still haven't managed to figure out. Possibly the impeachment effort scrambled their minds. I do not know. Maybe they (the MSM) were never any good and I had been fooled into thinking well of them by my exposure to journalists like Sy Hersch, Bill Moyers, Dan Schorr and Walter Cronkite.

As for the folks who voted for Nader -- in which category are dear friends of mine -- they got played.

#39 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Lizzie, that's where Avedon's comments about the media are dead on. Bush's campaign managed the media brilliantly, getting them to paint a pre-debate image of Bush as being less intelligent than a chimp. This accomplished two things: first, it allowed them to then play their "media bias" card, as if the spoon-fed media (who dutifully reported the bias story) were ever in a position to even think for themselves. Second, once Bush spoke more intelligently than a chimp, it allowed them to play it as a "victory" for Bush, because he wasn't supposed to even be able to string complete sentences together.

There's a reason that Rove has replaced Ailes when we talk about Republican strategists who lack moral compasses.

#40 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Claude, it's been knocking around. I may have said it before I heard it, but given the times it's hardly unlikely that a lot of people came up with it independently!

#41 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 05:48 PM:

Social Security is NOT broken. It will be in the position of having to pay out more than it takes a few years down the road.

However, the simplest way to fix this is to remove the cap on wages. Currently, OASDI taxes are paid on income up to $92K. If you remove the cap, revenue increases sufficiently to take care of the problem.

Of course, that would be bad for Bush's rich friends, so it probably has a snowball's chance in hell of happening...

#42 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:25 PM:
Nader cannot be blamed for voters who consider Dems and Reps so alike and evil that they'd rather throw their vote away and vote for Nader in protest.

He certainly can, if he encouraged them to think like that, as he clearly and volubly did

#43 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Aaagh! I know you mean well, but it's important to recognize that Social Security not being broken means we really don't need any helpful suggestions on how to fix it. That gives the misimpression that Social Security is broken and the only issue is how best to fix it.

Not only is Social Security NOT broken, it is not necessary to remove the cap on wages. Social Security has already been collecting additional funds, based on the recommendations of the Greenspan Commission, for when the baby boomers retire. Those funds are in government bonds. All we need to do is keep the government from defaulting on its bonds. That probably will require undoing the Bush tax cuts, and maybe more, but it really should not require further increases in Social Security taxes. The federal government has a deficit. Social Security has a surplus. We need to fix the general account deficit, and soon, but we don't need to fix Social Security, and it's time to stop using the Social Security surplus to prop up the federal budget.

#44 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:41 PM:

It still makes sense to fix the cap, or at least index it to the cost of living. There are a lot of people making more than $92K a year these days, and some of them are the loudest screamers about it going broke.

#45 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:43 PM:

It might be that I don't fully appreciate things, not living in the US, but I can't help thinking that all the navel-gazing going on here is really not accomplishing anything much. Whatever Nader did or didn't do (and I have a certain sympathy with those who voted for him), whatever Gore or Bush did, that doesn't really matter now.

Remember - the election that matters is the next one. Not 2000, not 2004, but 2008. Make sure someone sensible wins that one. Same as we're going to try and make sure someone sensible takes over the UK at the next available opportunity. God help me, that may even involve voting for the Conservatives...

#46 ::: Nathan Williams ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:58 PM:

This form of "on the take" seems to involve being invested in the country's most popular mutual fund (Fidelity's Magellan fund), which (a) is huge and (b) owns shares in a lot of stuff. That's a remarkably low bar for being corrupt - I bet most of the readers/commenters here have some retirement money in similar funds.

Or is the claim a stronger one - that someone who made a reputation opposing (some) large corporations must maintain purity by carefully avoiding such in what are otherwise quite generic investments?

#47 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 07:07 PM:

once Bush spoke more intelligently than a chimp

No. He didn't. Not in my book. I have never, ever understood what folks see in him. He is not charming. He is not compassionate. He is not intelligent. I just do not get the thing that keeps people loyal to the man. I understand about charisma; I do. I am susceptible to it. But I do not think George Bush has it, not an ounce. I would not want to have a beer with him. I would not trust him to load a stapler. I would not follow him down a hallway, let alone into a war. I do not get it.

Social Security is not broken. But Medicare surely is...

#48 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Lizzy: yes, but you're not a Bush voter. (I'm guessing.) If you were susceptible to whatever charm people think he has, then you would be. It's kind of a self-selecting response, in a way. :)

#49 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:50 PM:

Xopher and Claude, I think you'll find this is the first appearance of the incompetence/malice formulation posted to the web.

In later posts on the same page, you'll see I did a little research in an attempt to source it.

#50 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Well, to me, this wasn't about elections, anyway, it was about whether Ralph's close relationship with corporatists (and not just his stock holdings) had anything to do with Common Cause's otherwise inexplicable action to get Cylert banned.

#51 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 10:47 PM:

I find myself going "Huh" on a lot of things in this discussion; the fact that Ralph Nader has a stock portfolio makes me a little queasy. I wasn't aware that pemoline had been entirely removed from the market (and I'm wondering about some young people whose mothers I got to know in the online ADHD communities, who were unable to use any other medication without having manic episodes, and how they are doing without it).

But I do know that Xopher's Law is a paraphrase of "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (and a darned good one, too) and I'm clinging to that as some evidence that my inability to read newspapers or even listen to NPR for almost two years (ending mid 2005) may not have harmed my social awareness beyond healing.

Appropos of nothing: my first response upon hearing of Bill Clinton's choice of Al Gore as his running mate was a sinking feeling that Gore's personal political career had just been fatally wounded.

(My, I am parenthetical today, aren't I?)

#52 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 08:21 AM:

Well, to me, this wasn't about elections, anyway, it was about whether Ralph's close relationship with corporatists (and not just his stock holdings) had anything to do with Common Cause's otherwise inexplicable action to get Cylert banned.

Satisfying though it may be to think that there's a dark conspiracy behind this, I really kind of doubt it.

Given the relatively small number of people who were taking it (as quoted in the original posts), I doubt the drug company was losing enough money on it to bother concocting a nefarious scheme to pay off Ralph Nader to get the drug banned. After all, you're talking about a scheme that, should it be discovered, would be a PR disaster for everybody involved. The reward just isn't worth the risk.

Common Cause's involvement is probably just a fluke-- they're an organization of busy-body do-gooders, and when Cylert came to their attention, they sprang into action, because that's what they do. The financial losses for the maker are ample explanation for them not fighting it (plus the good PR of agreeing to ban a "dangerous" drug), and that's that. No nefarious plots required.

I realize that, in these dark days, it's easy to become habituated to feeling like a nutbar conspiracy theorist (been there, done that, bought the T-shirt), but there's no need to revel in it.

#53 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 08:34 AM:

The Social Security thing is another example of politicians playing on the media'a innumerancy -- the Administration's proposals just don't add up. If we accept the SS commission's "high" estimates for economic growth (which are still much lower than historic rates), SS is good into the forseeable future. If we accept the "low" growth rate, there's no bleepin' way stock index funds can return enough to fund the Administratrion's "retirement accounts".

See what I get from reading Brad DeLong? (:-)

One of the most horrifying statements to come out of this Administration was the line about the SS trust fund being "nothing but scraps of paper". The US has never defaulted on its bonds. Never. Doing so would be a disaster; US bonds are regarded as the safest investment on the planet. Default, and *nobody* would want them. And who would fund our deficits?

#54 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 10:44 AM:

So, will it be nefarious when liberals help fund some right wing third-party that's going to take votes from McCain, Frist, or whoever runs as a Republican in 2008?

I agree that there are better ways to count votes (I like instant runoff voting), but given the system we've got, and the campaign finance laws, and the massive advantages of incumbancy, and the ballot access laws, the Democrats and Republicans will be the two parties who win essentially all elections in the forseeable future.

Organizing and voting for a third party is a way of countering this, by applying pressure to one or both big parties to move in your direction. This often does mean that the candidate closer to you can lose because of the votes you received, but that also means that the party who just lost that election gets a clear message, in language it can understand, that if it wants your votes, it's going to have to change its positions somewhat.

I wouldn't be surprised to see something like this from the right in the next few years, as open immigration, free trade, and foreign policy adventurism are all pretty unpopular among a big chunk of conservatives. There's this big bloc of voters who basically can't get anyone to take their position. Voting for a third party candidate is a fairly good way of sending the message that they're unhappy with what's going on.

No doubt, when that happens, we'll see people on the right making the same kinds of comments about throwing away the election and in the pay of the Democrats and all that. And probably, we'll see some liberals and liberal organizations quietly giving them money and support.

#55 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Raising the cap on OASDI does not mean raising taxes for anyone but those earning more than $92K. AFAIC there should never have been a cap.

As for those stupid retirement accounts, they would never work. As a timekeeper I have access to some payroll documentation -- and I know that most of the people in my organization who can contribute to our 401(k) equivalent are only doing the minimum amount required, which is 1% of their income.

All of my co-workers make more money than I do. (I contribute 15% of my income, the goverment kicks in a matching 5%.) And then they tell me, "I can't afford to increase my contribution."

Now, these contributions are not taxed, and to get full matching funding from the government you do have to contribute 10% of your income. But if you do that, it reduces your taxable income by 10%!

Now I'll admit that 60 to 80 employees is a very small sample, but it doesn't give me much hope for the rest of the country.

#56 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 10:59 AM:

It seems like the SS debate mirrors some of what's going on in the business world, with defined-benefit vs. defined-contribution retirement plans. Defined-benefit plans are much nicer for the retiree, in the sense that he can plan for how much he's going to get. Unfortunately, they're subject to mismanagement by the company that's managing them. This is supposed to be regulated, but as with many other things, the regulators (under both Democrats and Republicans, I'll note) didn't force the companies providing for their pension funds to keep back enough reserves.

The thing is, SS benefits pretty much have to be defined-benefit, because SS isn't really a retirement program. It's a don't-leave-old-people-sleeping-in-the-streets program. (Also many other people are covered by SS.) Outcomes that leave people, even people who invested badly or retired the year after a stock market crash and a five year down market, sleeping in the streets are just not acceptable.

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Lori, I've been kicking 10 percent into my 401k foryears, with no matching whatsoever. My current employer's default (reminds me, I have to get hold of *their* system and reset the thing) is 3 percent. Every time the politicians start talking about 'personal retirement accounts' I get the urge to grab them by the collar, shake them, and yell 'what the hell do you think IRAs and 401Ks are!' They really need to find out how the system works before they try to 'fix' it.

#58 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 12:17 PM:
I agree that there are better ways to count votes (I like instant runoff voting), but given the system we've got, and the campaign finance laws, and the massive advantages of incumbancy, and the ballot access laws, the Democrats and Republicans will be the two parties who win essentially all elections in the forseeable future.

Organizing and voting for a third party is a way of countering this, by applying pressure to one or both big parties to move in your direction. This often does mean that the candidate closer to you can lose because of the votes you received, but that also means that the party who just lost that election gets a clear message, in language it can understand, that if it wants your votes, it's going to have to change its positions somewhat.

Well, people have tried that on and off for most of the history of the republic. The last third party to succeed in actually becoming a major national force itself was the Republicans, in their original state as the "Party of Lincoln" before the Civil War. (Lincoln himself would probably be rather uncomfortable with the current version, given his documented views on corporate interests, but that's another rant). The last third party I'm aware of which succeeded in influencing the agenda of the major parties in a really significant way was the Progressives, though to be fair I'm not sure they looked a whole lot more influential at the time than the Greens do now.

Since then --- well, I admit I'm hardly a professional student of American political history, but it seems to me that for the past hundred years or so, the really influential political movements on both right and left were the ones that managed to build alliances within the major parties. (I'm thinking civil rights, the environmental movement, and labor on one "side" --- and more recently, the radical religious right, the anti-abortion movement, the NRA, and other forms of social conservatism on the other. NB I'm counting the Dixiecrats as a failed third party, that had better success with its goals when it starting working on the Republicans from within).

That's not to say that the third party strategy can't work, in any case --- but it does suggest, to me at least, that its advocates ought to have a reasonable account of where the other guys went wrong, and why their efforts will be different...

#59 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 12:38 PM:

P J Evans: Got it in one. John and Jane Q. Public are supposed have an IRA or participate in a 401(k) or have a Keogh if they're self-employed. Some folks have a combination of these.

(Notice I'm not mentioning pensions -- I think they are on their way to extinction.)

Social Security benefits were meant to supplement this income -- they are not, and were never intended to be the sole source of retirement income.

I have had a conversation with a friend who recently applied for his SS benefits (he's 65) and he asked how he could increase the amount he was receiving. It truly pained me to have to tell him that the only increases he will see are for cost-of-living and those only if Congress passes them. His benefits would be higher if he waited until age 70 to apply for them, but he can't afford to wait that long.

I know of another person who is planning to retire next year. The pension she will receive from her employer will just about cover her health insurance payments. She'll be depending on Social Security for the rest of her living expenses...

BTW, congrats on having the discipline to put away that 10%. There are too few folks doing it.

#60 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 01:29 PM:

There's a discussion in a book by Milton Friedman (_Free to Choose_, I think) where he points out that the Socialist party platform in the 1920s was almost entirely enacted by the 1970s. And I think the libertarian movement has influenced the Republicans and to some extent the Democrats, albeit with a lot less force than, say, the Christian Right. Part of that influence, I think, comes from having a third party that gets more or less votes depending on the positions of the major parties and such.

If the Green party forces the Democrats to move more towards its policies in order to recapture the votes that were going Green, it will have had a big influence. The worst case for a political movement is when you're a part of a major party coalition, but not important enough to influence policy that much, and with the other major party actively hostile to you. The only power you have in that case is to not show up at the polls on election day. If there's a third party with your position, you have another alternative, and it sends a much stronger signal--I cared enough to go to the polls, and I preferred voting for the Constitution Party to voting for the Republicans, say.

#61 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. I find that's still a reasonable guide to affairs. Even Lincoln and Roosevelt had their not-so-brilliant moments.

As far as third parties go, any third party that latches onto an issue that has the potential to attract large numbers of voters will influence, at most, one election. After that one or both of the major parties will pick up the issue and run with it, because it's a demonstrated vote-getter. And the people who want to actually get things done will move over into the big party tent because as part of that tent they can get what they want. The pure ideologues will be left chanting shrilly on the margin.

On the whole, this is a Good Thing, because it means that pure ideologues have trouble getting their hands on the levers of power, while popular things eventually get done. (Don't forget that one of the prime principles of the system as designed is "don't do things too hastily"; government is designed to be somewhat slow and unwieldy in making changes.)

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 01:52 PM:

Avedon, I was only concerned to disclaim credit for having made it up on the spot. I want all the credit that's rightfully mine, and none else.

And when I get a law named after me, it will be one about frat boys, beer, and bisexuality.

#63 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 08:32 PM:

Does anyone have any updates on Cylert/Pemoline? When Cylert was withdrawn I started taking Adderall and it is so inferior to Cylert. Adderall feels like the amphetamine that it is - increases anxiety and insomnia, and just feels jagged.

Has anyone tried anything better? How about a recipe for Cylert - is it that hard to make?

I started taking Cylert/Pemoline to balance the sedating effects of the Prozac I am taking for depression. It always worked beautifully for me and, of course, I had my liver tested every 3 months with never a problem in many years.

I recently saw a report that there have been 13 deaths reported from taking Cylert. Wouldn't the makers of Tylenol, for example, be thrilled if it had done so little damage? Yet no one is talking about withdrawing Tylenol, not to mention alcohol.

Argh!!!

Carol

#64 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:14 AM:

albatross: There's a discussion in a book by Milton Friedman (_Free to Choose_, I think) where he points out that the Socialist party platform in the 1920s was almost entirely enacted by the 1970s.

The problem with that cite is that Friedman is so far to the right that his assessment of what constitutes either the Socialists' platform or the comparability of current law to it has a very limited connection to reality.

#65 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:54 AM:

Got it in one. John and Jane Q. Public are supposed have an IRA or participate in a 401(k) or have a Keogh if they're self-employed. Some folks have a combination of these.

[cue bitter working-class laughter]

Some folks don't have any of them, and are never going to. I may know a couple of folks in meatspace with jobs that give them these sorts of bennies, but only a couple; most of the folks I know/work with/am related to are relying on Social Security to keep them in cat food and government cheese when they're too old to work anymore. Me, I figure the gasoline fumes will have finished me off before it's an issue; I'm just hoping I can stick it out long enough to get my kid a fighting chance.

#66 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:53 PM:

I love Ralph Nader!!!!!

But I dislike Bush (hate is a strong word) and I liked Al Gore.

Ralph Nader was cool, the Green Party was cool, too bad it didn't work out.

Although his stock selection sucks except for the Gap

;) half in jest

#67 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Ya know, you can talk about Nader stealing the election (or was that Buchanan?) for Bush. You can talk about his anti-corporate stance and how genuine it is, or not. You can talk about financial decisions.

But attacking him for putting money in a derivative of an aftermarket, and drawing some nice dividends, seems excessively PC. Are liberals only allowed to make poor investments because their ideology trumps their common sense?

For more, see Ralph Nader: Threat or Menace? on my blog.

#68 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Jon Baker -- But it should certainly be pointed out that Nader, who's so aggressively Green, has stock in Halliburton, of all things. I mean, this is just hypocrisy. There are socially conscious investment groups he could have put his money in -- they don't lose money, though with Halliburton and others getting such fat contracts these days they don't make as much as some.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Although his stock selection sucks except for the Gap ;) half in jest

I worked for the Gap for two years, Sarah. It sucked. It didn't help that my manager looked and acted like Colonel Klink.

#70 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 02:00 PM:

My thought is that there's no such thing as a clean dollar in a dirty system, so I don't know that this is a ground on which I'd criticize Nader--though Halliburton is maybe the exception that proves the rule (or some nearby variant of that rule).

#71 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Yes, my social investment fund balance has near doubled. But it's taken 20 years. (Maybe I should find another fund?)

#72 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2006, 09:51 PM:

Lisa: Maybe if he had stock in his own name in Halliburton, you might have a point. But most of the good stock funds hold many of the same stocks - you can find out the major holdings of mutual funds through the usual financial sites (http://finance.yahoo.com , for example).

To demand that his money be entirely clean would be to demand that he either be a financial genius and spend all his time in figuring out which investments are totall "green", or that he not invest his money at all.

I don't see that it's reasonable to ask someone to put himself at a financial disadvantage in the world, when he's not consciously and directly investing his money in "dirty" instruments.

Similarly, it's permissible for a kosher-keeping person to own stock in, say, McDonalds, as long as he isn't the majority shareholder. Even though benefitting from meat-milk combinations is forbidden by the Rabbis. See the writings of Rabbi Dr. Michael Broyde for more.

#73 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2006, 10:31 PM:

Jon -- I can only repeat that he might have put his money in socially conscious funds instead. And I don't know why he didn't, given the fact that he's a public figure and has to know his finances will be scrutinized.

adamsj -- there's no such thing as a clean dollar in a dirty system

I agree. But some dollars are dirtier (or oilier) than others. I can't imagine the thought processes of someone who runs on the Green Party ticket and then invests in oil companies.

#74 ::: janetl sees spam-like post? ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2014, 12:33 AM:

sabrina @ 74

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2014, 12:49 AM:

It's actually a relevant post, given the last sentence and what it links to. Spam-like, but apparently not spam.

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