Today we have Ralph Nader's -- or at least his staff's -- answers to your questions. And, as a little bonus, one Slashdot reader's question we sent over to WebWhite&Blue (at their request) was answered by both Gore and Bush, neither of whom has yet seen fit to answer Slashdot questions directly.
This came out as a series of position papers rather than as direct answers to our questions. Reportedly, Mr. Nader "...wasn't going to answer any more questionnaires," so this is what we get. Note that not all questions were addressed. (Draw your own conclusions.)
1) War on Drugs
by Tim Doran
The War on Drugs has been a consistently neglected topic in discussions surrounding this federal election. My question is, do you believe the War on Drugs has been an unqualified success, and if not, what would you change about it if elected president?
"Nader said the current war on drugs is a colossal failure that is costing the taxpayers dearly and coming up pitifully short on results."
Read More: "Sept. 8. "Nader Urges New Strategy for the War on Drugs"
"The War on Drugs has failed. It has corrupted many law-enforcement institutions and officials, it's filled our prisons with nonviolent offenders at a cost of billions of dollars a year to the taxpayer. We've got to look at the drug situation in this country the way we look at alcoholism and nicotine addiction - as a health problem, as a prevention problem... Drug addicts represent a serious health problem, and they've got to be dealt with in a very humane and effective manner. You don't throw them in jail with hardened criminals and allow corporations to build more jails with more tax dollars." Read More: "Ralph Nader Hemp Raider" interview in the Sept. 2000 issue of High Times magazine
2) Minority Religions...
by Electric Angst
What will you do to protect the rights of atheists and those who hold minority faiths, such as Wicca, Santaria, Shinto, et al?
3) Why give a tax cut?
With the surplus, everyone has been saying "Let's have a tax cut, Let's have a tax cut." In the meantime, Alan Greenspan and friends are trying to keep inflation and the speed of the growing economy in check so it doesn't burst. Which they are doing by raising interest rates periodically. (6 times this year)
A tax cut flies in the face of what Greenspan is trying to do. A tax cut will inject more money into the economy and do what Greenspan is preventing.
Why is a tax cut so big? Wouldn't the money be better spent on the deficit so when worse times roll along, a tax cut can be easily given by not paying as much on the debt?
"I'd really put meat in the process of progressive taxation. The richer people are, the more the percentage you pay. After all, it's their influence that rigged the system to get them that rich to begin with. And, second, we should tax things we don't like. We should tax stock market speculation. We should tax pollution. We should tax activities that we don't like, like sprawl, in order to get a better planning system and better zoning system. And we should lighten the taxes on things we do like, like honest labor, like food."
Corporate Vs. Individual Taxation
Hey, Corporate America! Show Taxpayers Some
By Ralph Nader
February 23, 1999
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that April 15th of each year be designated Taxpayer Appreciation Day, a day when corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of corporate welfare can express their thanks to the citizens who provide them.
Though it may not be evident, quite a few industries - and the profits they generate -- can be traced back to taxpayer-financed programs whose fruits have been given away to (mostly) larger businesses.
Read More: Ralph Nader's "In The Public Interest" column, Feb. 23, 1999
Ralph Nader's "In The Public Interest" column, "Distribution of Wealth" June 12, 2000
4) electoral reform
Some people, especially those that favor '3-rd' party candidates, have called for the ending of the electoral college system to be replaced by a simple purely popular vote, or at least allowing for splitting the electoral votes by each state. The best recent example was the Bush-Clinton election. Clinton received 43% of the popular vote (but a sufficient majority of the electoral vote), whereas Perot got at least 10% of the popular vote but zero electoral votes. If memory serves, Vermont is the only state which does currently allow for its votes to be split; if someone wins 60% of the Vermont popular vote, they get 2 votes and the 40% candidate gets 1. This in contrast to California, where someone can get 51% of the popular vote, and therefore gets 53 (or whatever it is nowadays) electoral votes. What is your position on this issue?
Open up the two-party system: PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
The two major parties, thanks to their addiction to big money, are converging into one corporate party with two heads. This leaves voters who are longing for alternatives without any significant choice on the ballot. This must change.
Every one of us has to stop saying that we are going to surrender to a winner-take-all political system. In our country we need a discussion about proportional representation and we're going to get it. With proportional representation, more votes count. There is greater voter turnout and more citizen interests can participate in government.
5)How Do You Feel About Intellectual Property?
by Phil Gregory
In this age of the Internet, intellectual property has become a very important concept to many people. Many companies make their living on the artificial scarcity provided by intellectual property laws, selling information that they have either created or aggregated. Some others, mostly in the Free Software world, make their living seemingly in spite of these laws, selling their services based on information that is freely given.
Do you feel that out current system of intellectual property is a good one? Which parts of it (e.g. trademarks, patents, copyrights) do you feel are well suited to the world of the Internet and which do you think need to be changed (and, if changes are needed, what changes are needed)?
Then there is the Clinton/Gore policy on the scope of patents. The administration is embracing the policy of patenting "anything under the sun." This includes, for example, political campaigning on the Internet, picking stocks, accounting methods, uses of tax shelters and even golf swings. The administration is rushing through thousands of poorly conceived and unnecessary patents on business methods, including many which deal with e-commerce.
In the area of copyright protection, the administration has been extremely aggressive supporting legislation to reduce privacy and ban new technologies that could lead to unauthorized use of copyrighted materials. The theft of company trade secrets is now a federal crime.
Read More: Wired Debate, "Nader: Al Takes Too Much Credit"
In looking at the Internet, one might also ask what has the administration done to support the open-source movement, either through procurement policies (very little), funding for open-source software (not something the administration talks about) or protecting free software developers from software patents and anticompetitive practices targeted at the free-software movement?
In the area of corporate welfare, tax breaks and subsidies for big corporations, there is no end to what this administration will do for the e-commerce industry.
But when it comes to supporting an astonishing citizen movement that is protecting the Internet from Microsoft and other would-be monopolies and providing huge benefits to the economy, the administration is completely inarticulate.
During the government's antitrust investigation of Microsoft, Mr. Gore's daughter went to work for Microsoft. Could he at least respond to the repeated requests for the administration to talk about procurement and the free-software movement? Or find a way to use the federal acquisition regulations to fund the development of public-domain software?
And what can we expect from Mr. Gore on the issue of intellectual property rights? Right now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is pushing as hard as it can for the public to accept patents on business methods.
We have patents on methods of Internet auctions, patents on one-click shopping, patents on methods of picking stocks, patents on methods of avoiding taxes on credit card transactions, patents on methods of political campaigning on the Internet, and even patents on Internet Web standards.
Mastercard has foolishly sued me, claiming their trademark rights can stop my use of parody in political ads, including using the word "priceless" itself.
There are lawsuits over hypertext links in Web pages. The Girl Scouts are told to pay royalties on campfire songs. Trade-secret laws are now a federal criminal offense. Students have been thrown in jail for refusing to turn patents over to giant corporations who fund university facilities.
I am opposed to patents on software, and opposed to patents on business methods. I believe that parody should be protected in copyright and trademark, that copyright enforcement should not override privacy rights, and that use of patents, trademarks and copyrights should be limited by fair use, and when necessary, compulsory licenses.
The public domain should be protected, and public figures need to speak out against the ever-escalated march of corporate lobbying for expanding intellectual property rights.
There is finally the issue of the privatization of law and policy making on the Internet, and the easy way that Mr. Gore has pushed for the elimination of democratic institutions. The creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is at the center of the Clinton/Gore Internet strategy...
The next issue will be copyright, as ICANN considers corporate proposals to use the ICANN control over domain names and IP numbers, to become an ever-ambitious police for alleged intellectual property infringements. In the trademark areas, ICANN is already throwing concepts such as fair use or free speech out the window. Mostly, however, it is an issue of corporate privatization.
Read More: Wired Debate, "Nader: Al Isn't Net's Best Friend"
The entire Wired Debate can be viewed at: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,39293,00.html
Many tech people think that strong encryption is one of the best ways we have to protect freedom both now and for future generations. For example to preserve information that future not so friendly governments may think we don't need to have and to make sure that things we want to have remain private remain private. Given this what would you do to help preserve our right to privacy through the use of strong encryption? Also in a related question what are your thoughts and what do you plan to do about the fact that we can not export many forms of strong encryption?
7) Rising Political Protests
In the last year or so we have seen a tremendous escalation in the quantity and size of political protests against globalization and the rising power of corporate multi-nationals. Do you believe that these people have reason to be concerned? If you do believe that they have reason for concern, what steps would you take as president to deal with their concerns?
"Things have changed dramatically in the movement against corporate globalization in the last six months. However unlikely such large-scale protests against international financial institutions which cultivate secrecy might have seemed last year, they now appear to have emerged as a part of the political landscape.
The growing protest movement against the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organization -- and the even broader public disenchantment with these organizations -- in part reflects a demand for minimal accountability from public institutions...
Read More: "In the Public Interest" column, 4/18/00
- Also check out Ralph Nader's speech before the April 16 (A16) Protest against the International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC www.votenader.org/downloads/000416NaderSpeech.mp3
8) Asteroid Defenses
by Ethelred Unraed
Would you renew funding of programs to research and develop global defense systems against asteroids or other such threats from space?
9) The Future of the Country, and of Humanity
I'm very concerned with the future of the country, and about what our national mission seems to be. Looking back through American history, every period seems to have a defining popular mission - like the "manifest destiny" movement in the 19th century, the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. During these times, there would be one struggle or idea that captivated the attention of the nation, sort of providing a national mission.
I'm a little confused as I look around today. What is our mission? To me, it seems to be "to watch TV and use the Internet." What would you say the defining national mission of today is? What should it be? Furthermore, how would you show this in your activities as a lawmaker? (For instance, if our national mission is the pursuit of science, then would you increase funding for scientific pursuits in the budget?)
Over the past twenty years we have seen the unfortunate resurgence of big business influence, generating its unique brand of wreckage, propaganda and ultimatums on American labor, consumers, taxpayers and most generically, American voters. Big business has been colliding with American democracy and democracy has been losing. The results of this democracy gap are everywhere to be observed by those who suffer these results and by those who employ people's yardsticks to measure the quality of the economy, not corporate yardsticks and their frameworks. What we must collectively understand about the prevalent inequalities is important because so many of these conditions have been normalized in our country.
Read More: Acceptance Statement of Ralph Nader For the Association of State Green Parties Nomination