Archive for the ‘Ralph Nader’ Category

The Price of Oil by Ralph Nader

November 7, 2007

The Price of Oil by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
Monday, November 5. 2007

Question of the day- who and what is determining the price of oil and your gasoline and home heating bills? Don’t ask Uncle Sam, because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are running a regime marinated in oil that does not issue reports which explain the real determinants of petroleum pricing beyond the conventional supply-demand curves.

First, let us create a historical framework to provide some background. In the good ‘ole oil days, before the producer-countries’ cartel in the Third World gained pricing power, there were seven giant oil companies called the ‘seven sisters’ led by Standard Oil (now Exxon) and Shell. As chronicled in Robert Engler’s classic book, The Brotherhood of Oil, they were able to affect pricing through extra-market means. Economists called them a tight oligopoly.

OPEC later took their place at the table in the mid to late Seventies and set the price of crude oil at highly publicized meetings of the various member countries representatives from the Middle East, South America and Africa. Adjusting, ‘seven sisters’ concentrated their pricing and supply power downstream at the refining, pipeline and marketing levels.

Pricing power was never total but it was always complex, occurring in the interstices of an industry few outsiders understood, and fewer regulators could affect. Besides, natural gas was de-regulated between 1978 and 1993, after which its prices really took off.

Today, a third party has moved to the table—the New York Mercantile Exchange, a similar operates in London and a new one in Dubai. There, boisterous traders buy and sell futures contracts on the delivery of oil. But as Ben Mezrich, the author of the new book Rigged said recently, the dollar amounts of these futures contracts are far far larger than the actual oil deliveries they represent as they turn over and over at the Mercantile Exchange.

So now the critical resource of oil is driven by speculation at ever higher abstract electronic levels of futures trading. Increasingly, the distance becomes greater and greater between this abstract trading (fueled by rumors of storms in the Gulf of Mexico, or some possible political turmoil in a region of the world, or some other frightful excuse for bidding up) and the physical supply and demand for oil and its refined products.

These oil gamblers in New York and London try to justify their frenetic daily bidding by saying that these futures markets provide liquidity, and a clear price for oil. Alright, but who benefits when, how and where?

Certainly, the strain between physical supply and demand in recent years does not explain such extreme volatility. With OPEC countries down to supplying only 40 percent of the world production, Chinese demand for oil growing fast, and the expansion of production by Saudi Arabia and others to meet this demand, crude oil supplies are not tight enough to explain such pricing behavior.

Old factors like inadequate oil company investment in refinery capacity, longer down times for repairs than some observers believe necessary, and the slumping dollar are factors that western governments, especially the Bush regime, have not wanted to investigate. After all, with consumers paying sky-high prices for these fuels, free market theorists are supposed to expect expanded supplies from recoverable reserves to grow. But, of course, the global market for oil is anything but a free market from the producers- both corporate and governmental- toward the downstream companies to the consumers.

In recent days, the price of crude oil escalated to over $90 a barrel, fluctuating up to a high of $96 a barrel. Yet the average price of gasoline in the United States—around $3.00 per gallon—is about what it was earlier this year when the price of crude oil was around $60 a barrel. Why the disconnect?

“It’s a big gambling hall,” The Washington Post quotes Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer. “This time it’s just speculation,” Peter C. Fusaro, chairman of Global Change Associates, told the Post, adding, “There’s a large bet out there that prices will continue to trend higher. But it’s detached from fundamentals because there’s no shortage of oil.”

Meanwhile, the government of Big Oil runs Washington, D.C. It thumbed its nose at pleas from then Chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) who asked the major companies, swimming in massive profits, to contribute some charitable dollars to help the poor pay for their winter home heating bills, and has smugly watched the major Presidential candidates avoid the subject in their debates and declarations.

Oil companies seem to spend more executive effort looking for oil by merging with other companies (note the unchallenged merger of Exxon and Mobil under the Clinton administration) than with developing efficient oil-producing and consuming technology or expanding their solar energy subsidiaries.

So long as the price of crude oil is set by speculators on trading floors, so long as the oil-indentured politicians are not challenged by new candidates standing tall for people and environments, so long as we do not protest for change and press ourselves to prevent wasteful habits and uses, get ready for higher oil prices.

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Ralph Nader Files Lawsuit Accusing Democratic Party of Conspiring to Block Presidential Run

November 1, 2007

Ralph Nader Files Lawsuit Accusing Democratic Party of Conspiring to Block Presidential Run


The lawsuit accuses the Democratic Party of “groundless and abusive litigation” to bankrupt Ralph Nader’s campaign and force him off the ballot in 18 states. We speak with Nader attorney Carl Mayer. [includes rush transcript]


Consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader sued the Democratic Party on Tuesday for conspiring to prevent him from running for president in 2004. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nader, his vice presidential running mate Peter Miguel Camejo and a group of voters from several states. It names as co-defendants the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the Service Employees International Union, private law firms, and organizations like the Ballot Project and America Coming Together that were created to promote voter turnout on behalf of the Democratic ticket. According to the lawsuit the defendants used “groundless and abusive litigation” to bankrupt Ralph Nader’s campaign and force him off the ballot in 18 states. We are joined in the firehouse studio here in New York by public interest attorney Carl Mayer, whom the New York Times has described as “a populist crusader and maverick lawyer.” We tried reaching the Democratic National Committee and some of the other defendants to invite them to the show but received no response.

Carl Mayer was part of the legal team that filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

  • Carl Mayer. Public interest attorney. He filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Democratic Party on behalf of former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

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AMY GOODMAN: Consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader sued the Democratic Party Tuesday for conspiring to prevent him from running for president in 2004. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nader, his vice presidential running mate Peter Camejo and a group of voters from several states. It names as co-defendants the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the Service Employees International Union, private law firms, organizations like the Ballot Project and America Coming Together that were created to promote voter turnout on behalf of the Democratic ticket. According to the lawsuit, the defendants used “groundless and abusive litigation” to bankrupt Ralph Nader’s campaign and force him off the ballot in eighteen states.

We’re joined now here in New York by public interest attorney Carl Mayer, whom the New York Times has described as “a populist crusader and maverick lawyer.” We tried reaching the Democratic National Committee and some of the other defendants to invite them to the show but received no response. Carl Mayer was part of the legal team that filed the lawsuit in D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Carl.

CARL MAYER: Thank you, Amy. Thank you for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you suing?

CARL MAYER: To defend democracy. That’s the title of the show — excuse me, is Democracy Now! And this was the most massive anti-democratic campaign to eliminate a third-party candidate from the ballot in — probably in recent American history. It is — not content with having all these laws and statutes on the book that make it difficult for third-party and independent candidates to run, the Democratic Party and their allies in over fifty-three law firms, with over ninety lawyers, were engaged in filing litigation in eighteen states. They were to remove Ralph Nader from the ballot. It was an organized, abusive litigation process.

The core of the lawsuit is that these lawyers, led by Toby Moffett and Elizabeth Holtzman, and something called the Ballot Project, which was a 527 organization, systematically went around the country and filed lawsuit after lawsuit, twenty-four in all, plus five FEC complaints, to try to completely remove the Nader campaign from the ballot and to, in effect, bankrupt the campaign, which they succeeded in doing. Not content with that, one of the defendants, Reed Smith, which is a large corporate law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they are now going after Ralph Nader’s personal bank account to make him pay some of the cost of this litigation.

And, understand, despite being outspent by the Democratic Party and its affiliated lawyers, the vast majority of these lawsuits were won by the Nader campaign, which was a largely volunteer effort. And these lawsuits were won across the country, despite this organized effort of intimidation and harassment. It’s basically abusive process and malicious prosecution. Those are common law torts. And it was very clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was using the legal system for an improper purpose. In fact, Toby Moffett, who’s a former congressman from Connecticut, said directly to The Guardian of London in an interview in December of 2004, this wasn’t about the law. “I’d be less than honest if I said” this was not about the law; this was about getting Ralph Nader off the ballot. And that’s what this effort was about. And it’s a shameful anti-democratic process by a party that claims to be a democratic party.

And on top of that, the Democratic Party, or its allies, filed five FEC complaints against the campaign, alleging improper —

AMY GOODMAN: Federal Election Commission.

CARL MAYER: The Federal Election Commission — alleging improper funding, improper finances, etc. They were all dismissed by the FEC.

Now, let me tell you how bad it got. There was an organized effort of harassment of petitioners who went around trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign in Ohio, in Oregon and in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, for example, lawyers were hired to call up petitioners and tell them that if they didn’t verify the signatures on the petition, they would be guilty of a felony. They were called at home by — and they were, in many cases, visited by private investigators and told — this is voter intimidation of the worst order.

In the state of Oregon, for example, there was a nominating convention, and you need a thousand signatures at the convention. We have emails from Democratic Party operatives stating, we want our people to go to this convention and then refuse to sign the petition at the convention so Nader will not get enough signatures at the convention to get on the ballot. And they accomplished their goal in Oregon. After the convention, there’s an alternative way of getting on the ballot, which is to collect signatures, and the Nader campaign went about doing that, and during the course of that there was further harassment and intimidation of petitioners by law firms, private investigators, calling up and threatening petitioners that they would be called before a court if they did not certify all the petitions.

AMY GOODMAN: How did the Service Employees International Union fit into this? Why are they being sued?

CARL MAYER: Well, the SEIU very clearly, in emails and on their website, the SEIU had a project, which was called ACT, or Americans Coming Together. There were several 527 groups; these are independent expenditure groups. And the SEIU was involved in them. The SEIU was involved in trying to keep Nader off the ballot by using its members, for example in Oregon, to go into the convention, but in other states — in other states, to try to actually void petitions by signing in the wrong place. The complaint — and this is all documented. It’s a seventy-three-page complaint, over 250 paragraphs, chapter and verse, about how, for example, the SEIU came up with the strategy of getting its members to go and write signatures in the wrong place on a petition, on Nader’s petitions, which would then invalidate the entire petition. So this was a coordinated anti-democratic activity, which in my view has little precedent in American history, and any third-party candidate of whatever stripe — leftwing, rightwing, populist, conservative — they should be outraged by what occurred in this case.

And we think we have a tremendous case before the D.C. Superior Court and other legal actions we will take, because this conspiracy was so — they were so adamant and vociferous about it, and the paper trail is very clear. And we’re not even into discovery. We can’t wait to take the depositions of the party activists, Toby Moffett, Terry McAuliffe, Elizabeth Holtzman, etc., who were at the center of this. In fact, the center of this effort was something called the Ballot Project, which was started by Robert Brandon, who’s one of the defendants, and he’s a consultant to the Democratic Party. And he held a meeting at the Democratic Convention in 2004 with Moffett, Holtzman and a group of other high-ranking Democrats, and they said, our purpose is to keep Nader off the ballot. And they went, and they proceeded to do it, spending millions of dollars.

AMY GOODMAN: What impact will all this have on Ralph Nader now? He has said that if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, he will run for president. It looks like she is the frontrunner right now.

CARL MAYER: Well, in terms of 2008, I can’t speak to 2008. And in politics, things can change quite quickly. I mean, it’s entirely possible that the actual progressive base of the Democratic Party will seek a nominee that reflects their views, which is that America should end this war in Iraq. It hasn’t been the history of the Democratic Party, but it’s way too early to talk about that.

But what this lawsuit will do, and the importance of it is, is to set a precedent so that the two-party monopoly system that shuts out minor parties in a way that other Western democracies never do, that this will set a precedent to prevent this type of intimidation and harassment. That’s the goal of the lawsuit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Ralph Nader or Michael Bloomberg or any other third-party candidate. The point is, we need as much competition in the political arena as we have in other areas of American life. And it’s time to stop rigging the game.

And what’s unbelievable is that the laws on the books already pose a tremendously high hurdle for third-party candidates. Tens of thousands of signatures, it takes, to get on the ballot in states like Texas and the Carolinas. And there’s no other country where it’s so difficult to get on the ballot. And those laws are passed by the Democrat and Republican Party to preserve their monopoly. So, “democracy now” — “democracy now” is not even close. We are not close to a state of democracy.

And recall also that in the history of the country, third parties were very important. In the nineteenth century, it was much easier to get on the ballot. The smaller third parties championed first important issues like ending slavery, women’s right to vote, Social Security; those were all first advocated by third parties. And if you exclude third parties from the ballot and from the debate, our democracy withers and atrophies. And it is not at all consistent with the vital democratic traditions of our country.

These third parties were around since the beginning of the Republic. The first third party was really the — well, in some respects, was the Anti-Federalist Party, but there was also something called the Anti-Freemason Party, which was started in 1800. From the beginning of the Republic, there were important third parties, which raised important issues. And we’re now snuffing that out. And unless we fight for this, this country will continue to have essentially a monopolistic position on every issue, from healthcare to the Iraq war to any of the important issues that so many people in this country care about.

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Mayer, we have to leave it there, but we will certainly continue to follow this lawsuit. Carl Mayer is one of the lead attorneys on this lawsuit against the Democratic Party and others who they say conspired to keep former presidential candidate Ralph Nader off of the ballot.

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Where are the lawyers of America? by Ralph Nader

October 10, 2007

Where are the lawyers of America? by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
Friday, October 5. 2007

The rogue regime of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney—so widely condemned for its unconstitutional, criminal Iraq war, its spying on Americans illegally, its repeated illegal torture practices, its arrests and imprisonment of thousands in this country without charges and its pathological secrecy and corporate corruption—still has not felt the heat of the 800,000 practicing lawyers and their many bar organizations.

Lawyer jokes aside, the first defense outside of government against the rejection of due process, probable cause and habeas corpus should come from the officers of the courts—the attorneys of America. With few exceptions, they have flunked, asleep at the switch or loaded with excuses.

The exceptions are a number of law professors such as David Cole (Georgetown University) and Jonathan Turley (George Washington University) and the magnificent one-year presidency of Michael Greco at the conservative American Bar Association.

Mr. Greco, appalled at the outlaw nature of the Bush White House, now wallowing in the pits of the public opinion polls, organized former counsel to the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI, among others, to produce detailed reports and resolutions assailing the Bush government for repeatedly violating the constitution in numerous ways. (http://www.abanet.org/)

Reports were sent to Mr. Bush personally. He did not even bother to acknowledge receipt. The ABA has over 400,000 members and is the largest bar association in the world. Not even a courtesy reply from George Bush, the American Caesar.

Unfortunately, the courage of Greco and his colleagues has not been contagious with hundreds of thousands of lawyers throughout America or the 50 state bar associations who might have taken some action or position to stand after the ABA stood tall in 2005-2006.

Mind you, the climate for lawyers defending the rule of law is quite enabling. Seventy percent of the American people want out of Iraq and nearly as many would like to see this Presidency end. A poll of soldiers in Iraq back in January 2006 registered 72% of them wanting the U.S. out of Iraq within six to twelve months.

In addition, scores of former Generals and high military officers, retired intelligence officials and diplomats have openly criticized the intransigence, incompetence and harm to the U.S. national security. These leaders include the national security advisers to Bush’s father, Brent Snowcroft, the anti-terrorism advisor to George W. Bush, Richard Clark, and many others who served in high government office.

With all this in mind, I have been asking lawyers why they do not become directly active in challenging what they themselves believe is a reckless above-the-law Presidency and its enormous concentration of unlawful power. Here are some examples of their replies.

–real estate attorney with a sterling civil liberties background says “I am just too busy.”

–numerous retired lawyers of considerable accomplishment simply say they are retired.

–mid-career business attorneys say they have too many clients who might object (too much wheeling and dealing to uphold the rule of law in Washington, D.C.).

–public interest lawyers say it is not within their declared mission—eg. environmental, consumer, poverty or law reform work.

–“Too controversial,” and “I’m not up to it,” announced a prominent trial lawyer.

–“I wouldn’t know where to start and I just need my leisure time,” replied a highly specialized estate and trusts attorney.

And so it goes. Too preoccupied, too many deals in the works, too controversial, too retired…

The Democratic leadership in the Congress has given Bush/Cheney a giant nod by taking a pass on holding them accountable through impeachment, through conditions in budget bills, through making them answer subpoenas by playing hardball on Bush’s nominees, such as his new choice for Attorney General.

It is up to the lawyers to rally for the Republic. This is deep patriotism, for without upholding our constitution, and the laws of the land, what will become of our country?

What will our children and their grandchildren inherit—a bankrupt government that contracts out more and more of its core functions to staggeringly expensive giant corporations seeking limitless profits, while they finance and corrupt politicians to turn their back on the peoples’ needs?

Lawyers are supposed to know how to apply law to raw power. They know how to use the courts, lobby (there are hundreds or thousands of attorneys in each of most Congressional Districts). They can cut through the arcane camouflage of legalese. They know when the laws are being violated and what the remedies are for the violators. They know how to draft legislation. They have contacts and money and are not supposed to be frightened of conflict. The super-lawyers invariably get their calls returned.

Where are the lawyers of America?

Two major terrorist strikes, with a messianic, compulsively-obsessed President, can do to America what 9 months of nightly bombing by the Nazis could not do to England—move us much closer to a police state.

Where are the stand-up lawyers of America?

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.