Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ralph Nader: "Americans Need Moral Courage!"

By: William Hughes

Baltimore, MD - On Saturday afternoon, June 10, 2006, Ralph Nader, a 3rd Party candidate for the presidency in 2004, spoke at a political rally, held in a conference room at the U. of Baltimore’s Langsdale Library.

(1) The primary purpose of the affair was to boost the candidacy of Kevin Zeese, who is running as an Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. In 2004, Zeese served as Nader’s press secretary. (2)

Nader's message emphasized that Americans need a good dose of “moral courage” to take on the corporate controllers of this country. A vast majority of the people need to get over "their own sense of helplessness and powerlessness," he said. Once they get over that condition, he said, "start feeling sorry for Wall St., Washington, D.C. and the Congress...Moral courage is what is needed to address the problems of our neighborhoods, our community, our city, our state, our country, our world. It is a rare commodity." He railed against the fact that power in this country is exercised "by the few" over the many. The reason for that, he explained, is that "self-government isn’t just a slogan. People need to be in charge, but in order to do that, they need to show up!"

The long-time champion of citizens’ rights underscored how 46 million people in this country don’t have any health insurance at all and that “18,000 a year die because they can’t afford it.” He lamented the fact that we live in a society that says, “You either pay or you die.” He continued, that 48 million people in the U.S. make “less than $11 an hour” and that because the statistics are manipulated by the government, that, in reality, “half of the population lives in poverty in the richest country in the world.”

An activist’s activist, Nader, has led the way on so many different fronts, he’s hard to categorize. Trained in the law, he has for decades, championed the consumer, and the fragile environment, too, against the perpetual excesses of Corporate America. Nader’s book, “Unsafe at any Speed,” propelled his name into the public’s consciousness. Despite setbacks, he wrote that the essence of a citizen’s movement “is persistence.” Born in Winsted, Connecticut, in 1934, Nader’s parents were Lebanese immigrants. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton and with distinction from the Harvard School of Law. From “Public Citizen,” to “Pension Rights Centre,” the many organizations, which he has helped to form, and energize, have continue to be in the forefront of the struggle for social and economic justice. (3)

Zeese, who has recently won ringing endorsements for his bid for the U.S. Senate from the state’s growing Green and Libertarian Parties, also spoke. He is strongly anti-Iraq War and pro-environment, and he also opposes any U.S. attack on Iran. Zeese criticized one of his opponents, Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD), for telling the electorate that he’s for peace in Iraq, while he’s “voting for the war” in the U.S. Congress. Cardin, he added, is also against any “exit strategy.” Zeese was appalled, too, by the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) missile attack on a beach at the Gaza Strip, which killed 7 innocent Palestinians.

He said that our “lopsided” relationship with Israel means that “the U.S. taxpayer is complicit in what is going on there,” and that the Israeli-Palestine question “can’t be ignored any longer. It needs to be debated. It’s the root cause of our own security problems. And, the root cause of terrorism against the U.S.”

Getting back to Nader. He praised the popular “Dixie Chicks,” a country music group, for standing up against those who had abused and boycotted them for criticizing some of the insanities of the administration. (4) He said that they came back with an album that “stood tall and was one of defiance. They made no apologies. In their little hands, they had more courage then 150 members of the U.S. Congress.”

Voting against Bush
Nader also asked this question: “Why do people vote against their own interests? The clear example of that,” he said, “is the people who voted for George W. Bush.” He ripped into President Bush, too, for funding the Missile Defense Program (MDP) to the tune of $9.5 billion a year, while allowing AMTRAK “to crumble.” He labelled the MDP, “a boondoggle, that will never work. It is too easily decoyed.” Because of the huge deficits established by the present regime, Nader called Bush, “a taxer of grandchildren,” since they are the ones who will have to “pay it off,” assuming there is still an economy around for them to do so.

As part of the event, R.B. Jones, a journalist and poet, read three of his anti-Iraqi War poems, which attacked the criminality of the Bush-Cheney Gang. Musical entertainment at the rally was provided by Bilal Salaam, a lively jambe drummer and rapper.

Also speaking at the spirited affair, was the Green Party’s nominee for governor of Maryland, Ed Boyd. (5) He’s a U.S. Navy veteran. Boyd said, “Marylanders are being ‘Enroned’ by the corporations.” One of the main problems confronting the state’s voters is that the local utility, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), is planning to hike its rates a staggering 72% in July, 2006. Boyd strongly opposes such a draconian measure. He is also demanding that the incumbent GOP governor, Robert Ehrlich, a Newt Gingrich clone; and one of the Democratic challengers; Baltimore’s Mayor, Marty “Short Fuse” O’Malley; return the huge campaign contributions that they both have received from BGE’s parent company, Constellation Energy (CE). Ehrlich, who also grabbed a $16,000 contribution, in 2002, from the corrupt lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, took in $54,000 from CE; while the hypocritical O’Malley, who piously poses as a foe of Big Business, reined in $45,000. (6)

Summing up the presentation, Nader said: “The big secret in a democracy is that the people have the power. If they would realize it, exercise it, organize it and focus it, with a fraction of their free time.” If the people want a living wage, universal health care, their public works restored to a decent level, to stop the tax cuts for the rich, to have clean water to drink and clean air to breath, he said, “they need to get involved in the political process...get motivated.” If they don’t, Nader warned, they will get “more criminal wars, fabricated wars...bringing home our dead soldiers, sick soldiers, traumatized soldiers,” while continuing to devastate “more Iraqis...” (7) He continued, that in order to turn the present situation around, “the people need to believe in themselves, believe that they have the power...and then to take action.” He finished up his remarks by calling Zeese, “a great candidate for the U.S. Senate.”

In my opinion, Nader proved again today that he is one of America’s finest sons and an outstanding credit to his Arabic heritage.

1. This author proudly notes that he is a graduate of the U. of Baltimore and has an AA Degree (1961) and Juris Doctorate (1964) from that splendid institution.
7. Video: R.B. Jones Reading his Anti-Iraqi War Poems, can be found here: