Did anybody notice how “godly” the Superbowl ended up being? The winners were all awash in their thanks to the almighty and how they could not have done it without his (her) help. I began to feel there was some secret cult message being delivered. And I don’t think it was targeting Buddhists, Hindus, Jews or Muslims. And oh my god, that gay-bashing horrible commercial from my favorite candy bar. Snickers will never be the same. I might have to protest that one for a while. The Mars family, owners of Snickers, the bestselling candy bar in the world (for good reason), is a major contributor to Republicans, champions of gay-bashing legislation throughout this country. Must they bring their dribble to a darn football game? Leave us alone, would ya. Dang, that was ugly.
The good news is: Ralph Nader is coming to town. Brentwood actually. He will be at Dutton’s to pitch his new book, Seventeen Traditions. Democratic partisans have conspired to ruin this man’s reputation, including passing scurrilous rumors that he caused the election of George W. Bush. I contend that Al Gore needed to win his home state of Tennessee to win the presidency. No candidate has ever won without winning his own home state. I also blame the Cuban Americans in South Florida who stormed voting offices to prevent recounts. And let us not forget the U.S. Supreme Court that chose to decide the race instead of allowing Florida a recount.
People have a right to vote their conscience and elect whom they want. The Democrats do not own anyone’s vote, including those Greens and other progressives who voted for Nader. The truth is, far- right candidate Pat Buchanan made the race even closer as he cost George Bush Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon. Had he not been in the race, Bush would have won handily.
Nader’s run for the presidency has kept the Democrats looking over their “left” shoulder. He has forced them to put corporate responsibility on the agenda. He has helped move the debate ever so slightly to a more progressive arena. He speaks on issues that are real and meaningful, not campaigning on “hope” or “centrism” or “experience.”
There is a new documentary out about Nader. It is called An Unreasonable Man about this very reasonable man. I heard an excerpt from the movie about how different his image would be if all air bags and shoulder or seat belts came with a sign that said, “Brought to you by Ralph Nader.” Air bags saved my life once, and I am forever thankful to him for that. But he also pushed for clean air and clean water acts and was active in the formation of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The man’s legislative accomplishments on topics benefiting all Americans pale any politician of this generation. It is difficult to count the number of lives he has saved through safety standards and through pushing corporations to do the right thing, like when he forced the General Motors plant in Van Nuys to stop using Benzene in their paint, as it was causing a respiratory epidemic in the surrounding neighborhoods.
When I first saw him speak at my college 35 years ago he immediately became one of my favorite people. He discussed how brutal pro football is on the participants, a topic only now coming to public view as players are dying early or have long-term degenerative diseases caused by the sport. He saw it clearly then and, more important, spoke out about it.
I recall his telling of the infamous General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which a consortium of General Motors, Standard Oil and others formed a front company, National City Lines, in order to buy the marvel of its time, the rapid transit Red Cars, shut them down, and replace them with buses. Nader claims it was the greatest criminal fraud case of all time, costing Los Angeles hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure costs and ultimately massive air pollution. GM was eventually forced to pay a small fine.
He also set in place one of the more accomplished political groupings of all time, PIRG, or Public Interest Research Group. California has one, New York has one and Massachusetts has one. Most states have these nonprofit, public interest organizations that inspire legislators to do better and government organizations to perform at high levels. For the good of all citizens. And many people have taken their original political training and experience from these organizations to higher levels of government office. Huzzah to Nader for setting these up and for those who participate in them.
Read his book and see this movie. Find out what a great American is really all about.
Michael Rosenthal, Publisher