Home > Uncategorized > Ralph Nader visits our university

Ralph Nader visits our university

April 15, 2008

imageRalph Nader visited our campus on 14 April, and I’d never heard him speak.  Here are my notes from his speech.  They’re in fragmentary, sound-bite form because I take notes on index cards.  This is the easiest way for me to share those notes with my friends.

  • Our country goes through long “cycles of justice interspersed with longer cycles of passivity”

  • Told story of how he was impressed by the gory wrecks he saw while hitchhiking hundreds of thousands of miles as a student.
  • Realized cars were being sold exclusively on power and style, and that people were dying because of it.  “They subjugated engineering integrity to stylistic pornography.”
  • 1966 hearings: GM hired private eye to follow him.
  • Reporter called his mom to ask; “What makes Ralph tick?”  She replied, “What makes you not tick?” 
  • Daniel Webster said “Justice is the great work of human beings on Earth!”  We should develop “A sense of injustice without which you will not know what Justice is.”  We need to know if corporations will be our servants or our masters.
  • One heuristic is to ask yourself; “Who is saying no to letting Americans get a fair shake in life?”  Answer is; ‘Giant corporations’.  Big corporations when they get in trouble, go to Washington.  Unlike small businesses, which are free to go bankrupt.  This is one of many double standards.
  • Ask yourself: “Who are you?  And who else are you?” “And who else?” After how many self-definitions do you reach; “I am a citizen”?
  • Schools have made study of civics taste like sawdust with no butter. Left Civics For Democracy book with library.  Also cracking the code by Thom Hartman. 
  • You think we have a capitalistic society?  We ration political parties, we ration debate, and oil prices, food prices, drug prices, are separated from supply and demand.  We gave Taxol to Bristol-Myers Squibb – developed with tax dolars – as a monopoly.  How did that happen?
  • What is it that gets you righteously angry?  What’s it going to take to provoke you to leadership?  A tragedy?  How about 53,000 dead each year from workplace accidents and illnesses?  65,000 dead each year from pollution?  100,000 dead each year from medical negligence?
  • Charity, bless it, ministers to people who need something right now.  Advocacy for justice goes to the roots of the problem, which is too much power in too few hands. 
  • Being a one-issue voter sets you up to be manipulated by politicians.  The more issues by which you measure a politician, the more power flows from them to you.
  • Are you angry about an ethnic slur, a gender slur, or a racial slur?  That’s what upsets students today.  But the conditions behind those slurs hardly affects them at all. 
  • Politicians can lose their jobs like *that* for the wrong words.  But they can dial for corporate dollars and let people be pounded into the sand, and not skip a beat.
  • How many leaders will come of our university?  Not just political leaders but scientific leaders for justice, and literary leaders for justice, and graphics leaders for justice.  What provocation do you need to become leaders?  “There’s a joy in justice”.
  • “Do not shy away from controversy or run to charity as an escape from the pursuit of justice.”

In the Q&A period, he called for a return of the draft, pointing out that children of FDR & Eisenhower went to war.  Not so much Bush’s daughters.  Said this would galvanize people to become engaged with war issues.
Also said that young people spend too much time listening to iPods and text-messenging, emailing, and talking on cell phones and should communicate with other people instead.

Photo from 8th row.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ted
    April 15, 2008 at 23:06 | #1

    Ralph is righteous.

    Still got that “just say no” sidebar after listening to him? Do Obama and Hillary say similarly inspirational things?

  2. Lucas
    April 15, 2008 at 23:33 | #2

    Regarding the draft: he is saying that the draft is right because it will cause people who don’t go to war to do the right thing.  Well maybe.  But that doesn’t make it right to force hundreds of thousands or millions of people into forced servitude.  Especially where there is the possibility of being required to kill other human beings.  For all his moralizing, he somehow misses the point that it is wrong to require by law that one man kill another.

  3. April 16, 2008 at 04:15 | #3

    Still got that “just say no” sidebar after listening to him? Do Obama and Hillary say similarly inspirational things?

    Yep, it’s still there.  The “say no” refers to his presidential candidacy. I agree we need more political parties and a better election system.  Damned if I know how to get there from here. We’re in real trouble and my highest priority politically is for the country to change direction now.

    And ‘bout that draft; yep.  All you have to do to get Americans engaged in the question of war is pay for wars in real time instead of with borrowed money.  No need to resort to the threat of bringing back conscription. 

    And I’m not keen on my tax money supporting war either = almost as bad though the blood is a short step removed from my hands by all the paperwork. Still worse is fighting a war with borrowed money so that future generations will be paying for a war that happened before they were born just so some politician could avoid facing the music now.

    Nader is inspirational though, I’ll hand him that.  He’s been doing this a lot longer than Obama has.

  4. April 16, 2008 at 07:37 | #4

    Just found your blog. Love it.

    Nader, a sad case of good intentions entombed in a nebbish.

  5. April 16, 2008 at 08:08 | #5

    I added you to my blogroll. Try to behave and don’t let it go to your head.

    As an aside, my manner of speech/write is what it is, and hopefully you won’t let it put you off at first blush.

  6. April 16, 2008 at 09:29 | #6

    Regarding the draft

    I can defend Ralph on this one. He never actually said he supported the draft. What he said was it would be one way to get people to pay attention to what war we are getting into. He didn’t actually talk much about the issue at all, skirted over it, and gave about 3 other better ideas.

    Do Obama and Hillary say similarly inspirational things?

    Have you heard Obama’s race speech? Actually, have you heard any famous speech given by Obama?

    Still got that “just say no” sidebar after listening to him? Do Obama and Hillary say similarly inspirational things?

    I have it up too because the future of our country and our planet is too important to throw away with a vote to Nader. I think Nader has some damn good things to say and most politically savvy people would be interested in all his political points. But voting for him is essentially a vote for McCain and this election is too important to throw away a vote.

    One thing Nader kept pounding into those in the audience was the importance of changing Congress. And how the effects of fixing Congress would be huge, immense, and quick. Well why the fuck don’t he run for Congress then? WTF good does he think he is doing running for President? There are plenty of Congressional districts he could literally sweep if he ran and the change he could instill would be immense.

    Then it hit me. He doesn’t really care if he wins the presidential bid. He’s a protester at heart. And so am I, so I will protest his bid for president.

  7. April 17, 2008 at 18:27 | #7

    If Nader were to work (really hard) between elections as he does every leap year I could take him seriously.

    No disrespect meant to anyone, but the reason third parties can’t work in the US is a “Well DUH!” thing.  You need a parliamentary form of government for multiple parties to work.  Vastly superior.

  8. April 17, 2008 at 18:38 | #8

    If Nader were to work (really hard) between elections as he does every leap year I could take him seriously.

    He does work really hard between elections – the man never stops, seldom rests.  He’s an absolute pain in the ass on capitol hill, which can certainly use one. Particularly active in skewering consumer fraud & predatory practices.

    And because he played a large role in the founding of the NHTSC, OSHA, and the EPA, he has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives.  Remember, people used to die in 15mph crashes. Today, not so much. 

    No disrespect meant to anyone, but the reason third parties can’t work in the US is a “Well DUH!” thing.  You need a parliamentary form of government for multiple parties to work.  Vastly superior.

    Aha!  So maybe instead of trying to wedge a third party into what will always be a two-party system, he should concentrate on educating Americans about the need to change that system so that multiple parties will work.  That is the bridge from where we are now to where we need to be.

    I do admire the man in many ways – he’s not perfect by any stretch – but he should stop running for president.

  9. April 17, 2008 at 18:50 | #9

    I should have said “work (really) hard to establish third party.”

  10. April 17, 2008 at 19:23 | #10

    Well, I think you identified how he should go about doing that.  You’re right we probably can’t have multiple parties with our present system so he should make it one of his foundation’s goals to educate people about the need for a parliamentary system.  Make the educational push during campaign season.

  11. Ted
    April 17, 2008 at 22:04 | #11

    But that doesn’t make it right to force hundreds of thousands or millions of people into forced servitude.

    I think it does, because there really is just too much optional behavior in the lives of GenX. You’se all need to pony up some selflessness because you’re collectively overindulged to the point of self parody.

    Forced servitude indeed.

    Besides, we’re a country of 300M people. Even if we had only an 18 month mandatory commitment it would create a tremendous military infrastructure to train, outfit and engage all these people going through the system on an annual basis. So to make things efficient, we’d need to construct a mechanism where the well off and the heeled would be able to opt out for education, or some sort of social service that’s supposed to be equivalent but alternate to military service. Something creative and suitable for people to smart to kill on government command.

  12. April 19, 2008 at 08:28 | #12

    There’s much to admire about Nader, but one thing I don’t admire is his folly in drawing votes away from Gore, Kerry, and probably now Obama.

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