Democracy rising in Boston

BY CLIFFORD GINN

Ralph Nader’s “People Have the Power” tour is coming to Boston this Saturday, November 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Orpheum Theater. The tour is sponsored partly by Democracy Rising, an organization that Nader founded earlier this year to “educate and empower citizens throughout the country.”

Nader’s speech will address such issues as racism, immigrant and minority rights, militarization, labor, the environment and corporate globalization. In an earlier speech in San Francisco, he gave particular attention to our response to the September 11 attack, as well as to the new dangers to security, democracy and social welfare that are rising in its aftermath. After noting the importance of open discussion and careful protection of civil liberties as prerequisites for an informed democratic response, he asked how we can best honor the memory of the heroes and victims from that fateful day. He called for bringing the responsible criminals to justice, and trying them as we did the Nazi war criminals in World War II. Second, he called for emphasis on human intelligence in intelligence reform. Third, he urged that we should neither sacrifice our cherished freedoms, endanger our future security through mistakes abroad, nor scuttle our commitments to domestic programs in such areas as health care, safety and the environment.

Nader then discussed the impact that U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine, as well as U.S. support for dictatorships in the middle east, has on attitudes toward our country. He also compared the emerging conditions in Afghanistan to the economic sanctions we currently enforce against Iraq, which lead to about 5,000 civilian deaths per month. He expressed skepticism about bombing “military” targets — during the Gulf War, he said, we knowingly bombed a shelter with 2,000 Iraqi civilians in it. We also destroyed Iraq’s water infrastructure, an act which, combined with our sanctions regime’s boycott against chlorine export, has led to an epidemic of cholera, typhoid, dysentary and other preventable diseases among Iraq’s children. According to the U.N., 7.5 million people in Afghanistan live on the verge of starvation. In a country like Afghanistan, knocking out the electricity means knocking out water purification, as we did in Iraq. The snacks we are dropping, many of them over the minefields of Hindu Kush, can hardly substitute for the U.N. food convoys that the bombing has halted.

Nader compared the U.S.’s Middle East policy dilemma with France’s decolonization of Algeria in the 1960s, which brought an end to riots in Algeria and bombings in Paris. He also approved of the restraint that we demonstrated with Germany and the Nazis after World War II, and that General MacArthur used in Japan. Nader compared this with the more retributive Treaty of Versailles, which sowed the seeds for Hitler’s rise to power.

Nader then discussed corporate America’s cynical efforts to cash in on the crisis, ranging from demands to open the Arctic refuge for oil drilling to the call for a capital gains tax cut. The airlines’ $15 billion aid package came on the tail of layoffs of some 85,000 workers (all of whom Congress and the president considered beneath their notice). Corporations are blaming bin Laden for everything imaginable in calling for bailouts, subsidies, deregulation and immunity from liability. And only two members of Congress, Republicans Chris Shays and Frank Wolfe, post their voting records on the Web.

As he has done all his life, Nader calls us to respond through civic engagement, which he considers a patriotic obligation. Democracy Rising seeks to advance a ten-point platform through local activism. These points include: broad electoral reforms, including public financing of campaigns; enactment of Living Wage laws and other protections for worker health, safety and collective bargaining rights; stronger environmental laws and emphasis on renewable energy; full Medicare coverage for all Americans, as well as disease- and trauma-prevention programs; a “war on poverty” modeled on those of other Western democracies; a foreign policy that prevents violence, disease and wasteful defense spending; democratization of NAFTA and GATT; elimination of the criminal justice system’s gross racial and economic discrimination; strengthening of the civil justice system and application of criminal laws to corporate crime; and an end to corporate welfare and political dominance.

Support for the rally also comes from the Campus Greens, a national organization of students who embrace the Green Party’s Ten Key Values: Community-Based Economics, Decentralization, Ecological Wisdom, Feminism, Future Focus, Grassroots Democracy, Nonviolence, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Social Justice. Patti Smith and others will be performing. Barry Crimmins will emcee, and speakers will include: Chuck Turner, a community activist and Boston City Councilman; Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now”; and Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts. The Rally will occur in conjunction with The Northeast Regional Conference Against War and Racism, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, at Boston University. Tickets to the rally are available at www.democracyrising.org.

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