Backtalk September/October

Nader Responds
Re: Nader Unrepentant

The Democratic Party, for more than 20 years, has turned its back on liberal-progressive agendas -- when it has not actively destroyed them. The more liberals and progressives lower their expectation levels to accommodate this decay, the more the Democratic Leadership Council that controls the party will further institutionalize its corporatization. As long as the Republicans are worse, the bad Democratic Party is to be forgiven all sorts of enduring surrenders to corporate-dominated, cash-register politics.

For seven years, many people, such as those described by Jon Margolis in "Nader Unrepentant" (July/August), would fill my ears with their bitter complaints about Clinton-Gore. "They have rejected the Peace Dividend." "They have given the auto industry a total holiday from upgrades in fuel efficiency and safety." "They are worse than the Republicans on corporate-welfare subsidies and giveaways." "They have turned their back on public investments to repair America." "They are owned by the biotech industry." "They've sold the small farmer down the river in favor of giant agribusiness." "Gore is pushing a bigger military budget than Bush!" "They're terrible on filing court cases to protect civil rights." "They're abysmal on civil liberties." "Rubin has let the Big Banks take over." "They don't really care about worker safety or labor-reform legislation." "They're double-talking on campaign-finance reform." "Their welfare reform is throwing poor mothers and children into the unknown." "They've frozen the regulatory agencies, and some are worse than they were under Reagan-Bush." "We're being shut out of our own government." "Do something." And on and on.

So Winona LaDuke and I run on the Green Party ticket to help nourish a progressive political movement. Gore bungles the campaign, doesn't defeat Bush in the debates, and loses Tennessee, Arkansas, and 13 times more Democratic votes in Florida to Bush than we received. Then Nader-LaDuke gets blamed. Well, if the frightened liberals want to engage in that selective "what if" game, credit the Greens for putting Maria Cantwell over the top in Washington, which set up the Democrats to take control of the Senate. Now they can stop any of Bush's proposals and nominees -- that's if they want to.

Ralph Nader
Washington, D.C.


 

Margolis fails to quote any Greens in his article. In fact, Ralph helped us break new ground and become the third-largest political party in the country. The "spoiler" accusation is a tired distraction from people who'd rather blame Ralph than confront the betrayal of the Democratic Party or the failure of the two-party system. It's easier to vilify third parties than win true democratic reforms, like instant runoff voting. Voters have confidence in us, which is why Greens have won a majority of races in which they've run since January. We now have 91 officeholders in 21 states. On a larger level, some 83 countries now have Green parties. We're the only global political party that confronts global concerns and demands global democracy. Whose side is your party on?

Annie Goeke
Association of State Green Parties
Washington, D.C.


 

I find it lamentable that those who consider themselves liberal and progressive thinkers have attacked Nader for building a new progressive party. Perhaps disgruntled Democrats should focus instead on ensuring fair elections and equal voting rights. I voted for Nader because he brings to the forefront issues that are ignored by mainstream political candidates; he is a true consumer advocate; and he stands up for justice. I too am unrepentant.

Whitney Schott
Linthicum, Maryland


 

It is time for the Democratic Party to take a good look in the mirror and see the truth behind the failure of the election. Considering the caliber of the Republican opposition, Gore should have won by a landslide. The fact that he couldn't muster half of the electoral votes does not mean that Ralph Nader stole the election from him; it means that Gore ran a pathetic campaign, preferring middle-of-the-road and right-of-center stances. By selling out his own constituency, Gore forced them to look elsewhere -- and they found Ralph Nader. As they prepare for 2002, Democrats need to reßect on what they really stand for, and then really stand for it. If they don't, the party will be indistinguishable from the Republicans -- and that will open the door for a third party to "lose the election for them" again.

Dinah Meron
Yorba Linda, California


 

The opportunity to have the man who wrote Earth in the Balance as president does not come along every day. Gore didn't press Bush on the environment more because he didn't need to -- everyone knew where Gore stood on that issue. To say more would have just given the Republicans another opportunity to label him as an "extremist." Like many of Nader's excuses, this one just doesn't work. Nader had no chance to win. He should have given a qualified endorsement to Al Gore, while continuing his work as an activist. Then, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to global warming, the world would be a better place.

Stan Brown
Victorville, California


 

Slaughterhouse Beefs

Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle was fiction. The same is true of significant parts of Eric Schlosser's article "The Chain Never Stops" (July/August). Contrary to the impression left by his exaggerated portrayal of the meat industry, we do care about our employees and do not want to see anyone hurt on the job. Most important, it is morally the right thing to do. It also makes economic sense from an employee-retention and workers' compensation standpoint. ibp works hard to make sure any injured employee receives proper medical treatment and the workers' compensation they deserve. Only a very small fraction of our workers' compensation cases are concluded through litigation.

Our safety and health efforts include ongoing training for employees, safety coordinators and medical case managers at each plant, and frequent plant audits. Employees are required to report every work-related injury, regardless of how minor they believe them to be, allowing the company to treat the condition and reduce any potential severity. ibp also places an extensive focus on ergonomics, with a corporate automation staff involved in the development of new technology designed to make jobs easier and less physically demanding.

Our efforts to make safety everyone's business in our plants have led to recognition of ibp's programs as a model for others. Even the AFL-CIO has noted the progress we have made. In a news release, the union said, "Many employers like...IBP...have recognized that ergonomic injuries and illnesses are a serious problem and have instituted comprehensive control measures to prevent them."

Gary Mickelson
Communications Manager, IBP
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota


 

"The Chain Never Stops" was a much-needed exposé of the horrors endured by slaughterhouse workers. Meatpacking corporations are maximizing their profits at the expense of their workers, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered so. The industry has done a fine job of releasing itself from responsibility. It claims "self-regulation," which really means "no regulation."

There are other victims not mentioned in the article. The slaughter line moves so fast that many animals are not stunned prior to processing. According to affidavits by plant workers, conscious animals are being skinned and dismembered, in violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Major reforms are needed. It is up to consumers to demand action from legislators -- and to not purchase the products of this brutal industry until then.

Cathy A. Liss
Annandale, Virginia


 

If meatpacking worker Raul Lopez lifted 300 hides an hour for more than two years before he was injured, he handled well over 500,000 slaughtered cows. And that is only a single worker in a single plant. We could not only stop this mass destruction but also prevent the horrible accidents you describe if America would only get over its outrageous appetite for meat. As your article makes clear, vegetarianism is not just about helping animals -- it can save human lives as well.

Annalisa Castaldo
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania


 

My father worked in a slaughterhouse in Minnesota for over 20 years, so I have personal knowledge of this disgusting industry and its terrible impact on workers. But what about the 9 billion animals tortured and killed in slaughterhouses last year? What about the devastation the meat industry does to Mother Earth, including deforestation, desertification, water pollution, and loss of habitat? What about the millions of humans who suffer illness and disease from the consumption of meat? What about all of us taxpayers who are forced to subsidize this evil business? If you care that the meat industry hurts workers, animals, the planet, and human health, become a vegetarian.

Patricia Wolf
Santa Fe, New Mexico


 

Soldiering On

In his article on Huntsville, Alabama, and its high-tech development ("Huntsville's Missile Payload," July/August), Ken Silverstein insinuates that I inßuenced the award of a contract to my current employer. I want to set the record straight. I removed myself from involvement with all government contract matters a full nine months before my retirement. After that date, all actions on the contract for the Missile and Space Intelligence Center were made at Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. I had no knowledge of the contracting actions nor inßuence on the outcome.

John Wigington
Madison, Alabama