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Ralph Nader talks at the Salisbury Forum

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Sun Mar 6th, 2016

Ralph Nader

 “We are seeing a mass stupefaction of the electorate because it’s profitable for the companies who sponsor material that caters to the huge proliferation of false statements which are called news channels,” said Ralph Nader at a lecture on March 4 at the Regional High School in Falls Village, CT.  

When asked about what he thought of the GOP candidates descending into crass speech during their debates he said: ” None of them is qualified even to be dog catcher. A society that thinks politics is a dirty word should not be surprised when they are overcome by dirty politics.”  He said that it is a poor commentary on our election process that citizens groups are totally left out of the debates.

Speaking to a packed auditorium with standing room only and people cramming the balcony, Nader drew the Forum’s largest crowd ever.

Nader described a few new projects that he has started which are off-shoots of his American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, CT. The museum “seeks to increase citizen understanding of Tort Law, the law of wrongful injury, and the role it plays in protecting personal freedom, health and safety of the American civil justice system.

Nader’s goal is to have community lawyers available in every town.  He has started an office of community lawyers in Winsted (see  “The community law office is a resource for citizens that work to strengthen their self-governing capacities, resources and institutions to promote good citizenship, teach about democratic tools and provide free legal and technical assistance for select community causes.”

He passed around two clipboards for people to sign who want to establish a community lawyer in Salisbury, CT (New Yorkers who attended also signed).  He introduced Charlene Lavoie, the community lawyer in Winsted and encouraged citizens to invite her to their towns to describe her role as a community lawyer.

Nader, who is in his eighties seems indefatigable.  Earlier he had spent the day at  Hotchkiss School where he had given a lecture. He believes it is easier than we think to change situations in our country.  He said that although individual citizens are often stymied by town halls, when citizens band together they can make change.  He described how a huge groundswell arose to demand the safety for the automobile industry which started with his efforts.

Nader said the negativity of the media that focuses on divisive issues between left and right is not helpful.  It should help build left/right alliances by focusing on issues they can agree on.   “The division between Republicans and Democrats has hardened to the point that proactive politicians worried about global warming have mostly become silent,” he says in Unstoppable, his 2014 book about “The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.”

Congress is another big bailiwick that Nader says needs addressing.  He said that there are far more bird watchers than Congress watchers.  He described how if 1% or less of the congressional districts could get together and agree to be congressional watchdogs that they would be have a much stronger voice in preventing congressional misbehavior.

He went on: There is no one auditing the expenditures of the Pentagon for redundant billing, fraud, not to mention an overpriced arsenal with too many unnecessary weapons.  We already have enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three hundred times.  He railed against the pharmaceutical industry and prices that are now soaring up to $1,000 a pill.   

Taxes, repealing unjust laws, the Patriots Act, Crony Capitalism, the Commons, gerrymandering districts, Nader’s list of intriguing ideas was long.  He likes to  start pilot projects, pointing to the enlightened billionaires who support grassroots efforts.

Nader encouraged the audience to become involved in changing the political process.   “We can help you start your own locally-staffed congressional watchdog group with a community lawyer. It is sad that the progressives, the justice seekers, the serious conservatives do not know each other in a community.  If they could get to know each other they could start to find commonalites rather than differences. You may think this is just Nader talking pie in the sky but as Daniel Webster said, ‘Justice is the great work of man on Earth.’”