Sunday, February 24, 2008

Running Along the Margins: Nader in 2008

Only in a political culture as moribund, dysfunctional, and undemocratic as America’s could Ralph Nader’s presidential bid be considered an evil among progressives and a Machiavellian treat for the Republicans. I have to confess, when Nader made his announcement this morning on “Meet the Press” I cringed. I feel that it is a kind of desperation; a very expensive way to actually get the press to discuss the issues that Clinton and Obama don’t seem to want to discuss.

(Busy as they are trying to find ways of scraping a few delegates away from the other on the road to an eventual anointing by a super-delegate. )

The press isn’t really interested in talking about how corporate influence corrupts the democratic process, or how deregulation has undermined trust public trust and – not incidentally, the economy. The cringe is really a recognition of how quickly Nader will be relegated to the margins after his “spike” of being on “Meet the Press.” He will be talked about briefly. Obama has already politely acknowledged Nader’s heroic status (Thus shoring up something like progressive bona fides) while Clinton almost instantly dismissed Nader’s run as a “passing fancy.” Tomorrow, Nader will be again sent to the back pages along with Ron Paul. There will be no debate invites forthcoming. No ruminations by pundits, and certainly no traction on the important issues he has always brought up. After all, if major party dissenters like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, or even John Edwards can’t sustain a conversation in the public forum, what chance does Nader have? His narrative has already been spun: the “spoiler,” The man responsible for Bush’s election in 2000.

(Yes, despite the fact that Gore won Florida and that the blame lies squarely with a corrupt Republican political machine in Florida and a Supreme Court who went on to make one of top five worst legal decisions in US history, somehow Nader and his puny 2.7% somehow destroyed America. It is almost like a variety of psychosis the way Americans seem unable to place the blame where it correctly lies. It is much easier to accuse the least powerful entities in our society for the ills of the world than it is to actually look squarely at those with actual power and influence. If the economy and the health care system are broken, then it MUST be illegal immigrants who are to blame. If Bush won Florida in 2000, then it must be Nader’s tiny presidential run which destroyed our dreams and sent us down this near-decade long path of darkness. But let’s put corruption and voter disenfranchisement aside for the moment. Let’s say Bush won Florida fair and square. What does that say about the Democrats that they could not beat this guy who, in 2000, seemed as hollow, vapid, and clich├ęd as he does today? And what’s their excuse for 2004?)

Nader is not running to win, and I don’t believe he ever has. He himself has said that if the Democrats can’t “landslide” the Republicans this November against a super-hawk war lover like McCain (he of the 100-year plan for Iraq) they really need to reconsider their place in the meager two-party plutocracy that is the American national political system. I don’t begrudge him his run, but I also don’t know what it is really going to do except spend money and send him to speak in front of college students or get interviewed on Amy Goodman’s show. \

What he says needs to be heard, of course. I just wish there was a smarter, more efficient way of getting that message out there other than running for elected office (has he ever considered running for a state office or the Senate?). This protest-run won’t really do what he wants it to, and it may further erode his ethos, which will further marginalize a man who was once (and, by all rights, should continue to be) a giant in our culture.

Any I don’t know if Nader is interested in sniffing around and asking other questions, such as why Israel’s bombing of Syria in the Summer of 2007 has essentially been unreported, or why we talk so tough about Cuba while we turn a blind eye to China’s continued abuse of human rights at home and in her dealings in Africa. Or, why have the Democrats (and the American people in general) allowed a unitary presidency to come into ascendancy?

I don’t know if Nader will go to these places, but I have never doubted his courage to make the trip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

America: You had me, then you lost me.

Super Tuesday did something that I didn’t think was possible anymore… filled me with something like pride in my country of birth. Specifically, the American people voted as though they were politically involved and curious. By all accounts they turned out in droves on the Democratic side (or “Democrat Side” if you are Bushish. The new Normalcy.) to vote for either the first woman or the first African American to run this joint. On the GOP side, citizens rode their John Deers and Hummers to the local Elk’s club to say “yes” to sunstroked McCain or “yes” to what-the-Huck and definite “no” to that Fuller Brushman, Romney. Actually – the voters on the Republicans side said “no” to the machine of the anointed.

But then Super-Tuesday gave way to “give me a cigarette” Wednesday, and then to possibly the most depressing day in recent memory – the day an American presidential administration said “yes” to torture. I suppose they thought that the shameful debate about the “nature” of water boarding (whether it is an “according-to-Hoyle,” Webster’s definition of torture) had gone on long enough and they said “fuck it. We’ve got eleven months. They already hate us. Why not own our evil?” But the surprising thing is how it’s not really an issue… even a few days later. No one seems to care that people are being tortured as a matter of course… as a matter of public policy.

Worst of all, that tired, anemic old “ticking bomb” canard has found legs in the debate. You know the one. Freshman writing teachers always roll it out for their students to chew on. “Well, if it’s the choice between torture and a bomb going off…” etc. The fact is, the moral argument is moot on that level. Think about it: the interrogator is the person who makes the choice between the guilt of inflicting torture and the guilt of having allowed a bomb off. He/she not going to consider policy in a situation like that. It is your typical strawman argument. The day-to-day needs of interrogators are more like “does this guy know of a training camp in Lahore?” or “does this guy know where Bin Laden is hiding out?” in other words, important strategic concerns. Bomb builders. Not bombs ticking.

Somehow forgotten in all this “debate” is the fact that we (the US of A) convicted and executed Japanese military representatives for using (wait for it!) WATER BOARDING on AMERICAN soldiers.

Friday, February 01, 2008


My Seinfeld Moment

Scene: A local grocery store chain in Los Angeles. No names, but they all have a bakery attached to them. I am shopping, buying some stuff. It’s coffee time. So I bebop over to the bakery for a coffee. But I don’t need a lot of coffee. My caffeine needs are minor. I need a hot, caffeinated beverage in a not-large container. Ok…

Attendant: Can I help you?
Me; Yes, a regular coffee of the day, please?
Attendant: What size?
Me: Small, please.
Attendant: We don’t have small. We have medium and large.
Me: uh…
[At this point, the Attendant is pointing to the demo cups.]
Attendant: [holding a small cup up] Medium… [holding the large cup up] Large…
Me: I’ll take the smaller of the two.
Attendant: [holding up the small cup] Medium?
Me: That’s the smaller cup. That’s the one I want.
[The attendant sets the small cup down and starts to ring me up.]
Me: Why do you call the small cup “medium?”
Attendant: That’s all we have. Medium and large.
Me: Yes, but medium only exists when there is a small and a large size to compare it to. It comes between large and small.
Attendant: [annoyed] This is all we have. Do you want this or not?
Me: I just want you to recognize that it is silly to have a medium size of something but not a small. It doesn’t make.
Attendant: I don’t need this…
[She storms off. I am standing waiting for someone to give my money to. Meantime, another customer comes up and asks another attendant for a small coffee. This other attendant agreeably serves the customer and completes the transaction without fuss. I then pay this understanding attendant.]
Me; Uh, so I’m paying for what?
Attendant 2: Small coffee?
Me: Yes, But why is it called “medium?”
Attendant 2: It’s actually called “regular.”