Letters to the Editor

"If our species was supposed to be vegetarian, we would have molars the size of shot glasses and jaw muscles the size of plates."

We received a large volume of letters in response to Philip Dawdy's cover story "Two Sides of Beef," Trevor Griffey's article "The Knock on Nader," and Knute Berger's Mossback column "Come Ride in My Corvair!" Below are many letters that did not run in this week's print edition.

What exactly was the point of Philip Dawdy's article on those "morally supe­ri­o­r" vegans and vegetarians ["Two Sides of Beef," Feb. 25]? To reinforce his manliness and insensitivity upon seeing animals dismembered before his eyes? How nice that he feels so satisfied about his dietary choices, but he blatantly ignored that most of the world eats far less animal products than Americans and that Americans suffer from disease and obesity directly resulting from all that meat and dairy. Did I mention the environmental degradation the animal industries impose on our planet? Other than Dawdy's charming account of the slaughterhouse tour, he hasn't done much research.

Diane Venberg

Seattle

First, I would like to thank Dawdy for taking the time to visit a slaughterhouse and a dairy farm as research. I find it unfortunate, however, that he only explores how some cows are treated. I realize that Dawdy had limitations on the length of his article, but to completely ignore pigs and barely mention chickens strikes me as a bit irresponsible.

I find it interesting that Dawdy quotes me as saying that I don't understand "people who know all the issues," when he seems to understand only one of the reasons people decide to stop eating animals. Pretty much every vegetarian and vegan I know decided to kick the meat habit for a different reason. Some do it for health reasons, some environmental, and some simply because they love animals. Many environmentalists don't eat meat because they know that the animal agriculture industry is the second largest source of pollution.

I am also not sure where Dawdy got the idea that vegetarians and vegans cut themselves off socially from meat-eaters. Many of my friends are meat-eaters. My entire family eats meat. I still sit down at the table with all of them.

I thank Dawdy for exploring the issue. I just wish he had done a more complete job of it. And by the way, I rode 3,960 miles on my ride (not the 3,600 cited by Dawdy).

Rachel Bjork

Outreach Coordinator, Northwest Animal Rights Network, Seattle

Philip Dawdy might have missed a few things about vegetarianism. I am a vegetarian and have been for 21 years, since I was 7. I stand 6 foot and am reasonably muscled and trim. I chose to become a vegetarian on my own accord. My innocent mind knew clearly that it was a morally wrong thing to eat animals as soon as I was told where "meat" comes from. I put the word "meat" in quotation marks because I believe that "meat"-eaters and especially the industry that supplies them practice denial. When a child is fed, how often does that child ask what this is and where did it come from? Almost never. At a very early age, people develop habits that will stay with them for a lifetime. I think this is especially true about eating habits. I've spoken to thousands of people about the animals that I don't eat, and, more often than not, when I speak about their food as what it is, people are disgusted and prefer to not think about where it comes from. Most of them would never actually kill an animal themselves. The whole thing is quite abstract for many. Blood is juice, flesh is meat, animals are food. This is all brainwashing on a subtle and societal scale.The reality is that meat is dead animals, people don't need to eat dead animals to be healthy ( in fact veg is quite obviously healthier), and vegetarian food is delicious and satisfying.

Yes, to be vegan is to eat delicious food and to feel satisfied. If the vegan meal Dawdy had was not that way, that is the fault of the cooks. I cook wonderful food and have for years. Tofu is not the only resource for protein. And as soon as your big, fat fat-lovin' body adjusts to less fat, then not only do you not miss the fat but it seems very undesirable to eat so much of it. A vegan body feels efficient and clean, and one is more energetic and looks better and feels better. Is cannibalism wrong? Is evolution fact? Are you eating distant evolutionary second cousins? All of the smartest people in history have been vegetarian. Einstein, Socrates, da Vinci, Ghandi, Van Gogh, the Buddha, Thoreau, Tolstoy, John, Paul, George, Ringo, Jefferson. . . . I am not a greasy, dreaded, Nader-lovin' douche bag. Most vegetarians aren't. Having compassion doesn't make one a hippie. A VW bus, a bong with a first name, and a huge collection of Phish shows on tape does.

Zachary B. Harjo

Seattle

I'm not a vegetarian, but I haven't eaten beef or pork since the early '90s and it's highly unlikely, if not impossible, that I'll ever eat beef or pork products again. In most cases, I choose to purchase poultry and dairy products wisely because I don't want to support unnecessary suffering of anything that I choose to eat.

Because we are the caretakers of this earth, I think it's our responsibility to take a stand in protecting our planet and our animals simply because they are not in a position to do it for themselves (like children and the elderly.)

While I appreciate those who choose to go vegan or vegetarian, I don't believe this is the solution to protecting our animals. I do need to give these folks the credit due, however, for the day-in and day-out activism that has brought the horrors of factory farming into the mainstream. These people indeed have taken action when I did not.

The fact remains, however, that people will always eat meat.

Factory farming is the worst and most critical case of animal abuse in this county. I'm shocked and appalled that it's legal. I'm so very disappointed in our fellow Americans that allow this process to continue.

While I support many of the local and national companion-animal-welfare organizations, either financially or by volunteering, the truth is that most of our companion animals are privileged enough to be handled and destroyed by our animal shelters across the county, without experiencing fear, horrible pain, and ongoing suffering. Destroying unwanted pets by euthanasia, as disgusting and heartbreaking as it is, is not abusive.

I don't understand why seemingly reasonable, good, and thoughtful people who have this information about the factory-farming processes and who know firsthand, what fear, suffering, and pain feel like (as we all do as humans), would allow another living thing to be subjected to suffering, if they could help it. Aren't we humans supposed to be the intellectually superior life form?

Thank you for this article. I'm so very relieved to know that the innocent animals slaughtered at Washington Beef don't appear to experience fear and suffering, which, in my opinion, is far worse than death itself. Not the case at Tyson, I suspect.

Jo Austin

Seattle

Self-righteous vegans are making me look bad and it pisses me off, dammit, almost as much as the Dick's wrappers that used to wind up on the curb of my former Wallingford home.

My eating is not a movement. I didn't wake up one morning and proclaim from the top of the Space Needle, "I'm becoming vegan, and if you have any conscience, you will join with me." I have had it with preachy vegans. Educating/spreading the word is one thing, ranting to anyone who comes near your dinner table is just bad taste.

For me, becoming vegan has been a slow, organic, highly personal evolution.

People frequently initiate conversations with me about my vegan ways. Some become defensive about their own eating habits, and I strive to find a way to broach the topic without people reacting that way.

For the record, I date omnivores and vegans alike. Currently I take great joy in kissing and going down on my meat eating, dairy drinking boyfriend. So to all you preachy vegans, I beg you to go on redirecting your aim at converting the world at large. "Be the change, baby"—all your yapping and holier-than-thou antics are making the rest of us look bad.

Danni Keller

Seattle

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Philip Dawdy's piece. What a great sense of humor. When I started reading it, I expected a big scare article about mad-cow disease and the chicken flu. An article trying to push everyone into being a vegetarian. I was quite surprised.

I grew up with a father who has been in the meat industry his entire life. I've been to slaughterhouses, I've smelled that smell. I will admit that after I first smelled that smell, I was a vegetarian for about 8 years. Let's just say my father was not happy. I'll never forget the day I told him I had a hamburger again.

I like the idea of the middle ground, of animal husbandry. I've gone to shopping at Whole Foods, buying uncaged hen eggs, soy milk, and organic produce. But I still eat meat. It is hard to stomach the high-tech care and slaughter of animals. I believe that, for my part, one of the things I can do is look for and buy meat from farmers who promote the old ways of farming. If people choose to support that type of farming, then maybe the whole industry could take a turn.

Traci Bixby

Seattle

As a participant (aka lab-vegan) in Dawdy's study, I feel obligated to point out a few things he missed (must have been those strong soy White Russians):

• At no point did any lab-vegan claim to have the "moral high ground." For better information about emerging thoughts on veganism, see www.veganoutreach.org.

• The four pages of easy and meat-eater-tested recipes were provided to him by yours truly, a vegan who, like most, loves delicious food.

• I and other lab-vegans raised their hands when asked who did read Animal Liberation in its entirety.

• "What's your point?" comes to mind with the previous point.

• His feelings on cows, and I paraphrase, were: I don't have any sympathy for cows. What type of animal would let you walk up to it and punch it? This viewpoint might have slightly influenced his slaughterhouse experience. It should be further noted that slaughterhouse employees admit they often "miss" the target and thus cause the cow excruciating pain.

• Life for food animals entails far more than their end (transport, feed lots, etc.).

• How friggin' EASY it is to be a vegan. In Seattle particularly, there are several restaurants that are entirely vegan. Check out www.vegseattle.com.

• Though "falling off of a cliff" sounds fun, becoming vegan does not involve falling from high places.

The coverage of the important topic of ethical eating is very appreciated. However, a well-balanced perspective is crucial to truly understand the issues.

Eleni Vlachos

Seattle

Philip Dawdy conveniently sidesteps two of the most important arguments for not consuming meat—health and the environment. The United States has the highest per-capita meat consumption in the world. As a result, the U.S. has the highest incidence of obesity, heart disease, cancer, arteriosclerosis, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes per capita in the world. This translates to a sick society that makes poor judgments and bad decisions from the workplace all the way to the White House. When your body is full of the dead flesh of animals whose lives amount to nothing more than corporate profit, you are being fed the blue pill that keeps you sleepwalking through life and work without ever questioning why.

Studies link high-meat-consuming societies to higher incidences of violence and war. The U.S. is the poster child for violence and death, which perpetuates more violence and death. PCB's, DDT, and dioxin are all toxic residues from manufacturing and factory farming, which are still routinely found in the tissues of humans and the flesh and dairy they eat. Eating high on the food chain ensures passing on of these toxins from one animal to the next. Eating low on the food chain, especially from local organic farms, is a break in the chain of the matrix that continues to pollute our water, food, and bodies.

If the health concerns don't light your fire, then maybe the environmental devastation will. Annually, the meat industry uses one-third of all U.S. oil consumption. Water resources used and ruined (as a result of tons of animal feces leaking into the ground water, river, and streams) are incredible. The acreage clear-cut for more grazing and pasture lands is alarming, especially in the jungles surrounding the Amazon, the world's largest supplier of oxygen. All of us have to eat every day in order to survive—some people on the planet don't even have a choice about it. But those that do can make a difference simply by choosing to eat something that supports life rather than something that destroys it.

Steve Davis

Seattle

For many of the vegans and vegetarians that I have met, the whole point is that we made a conscious, compassionate decision to not eat the flesh of dead creatures when there are ample alternatives. And I have found that I can make meals that taste similar to the meals that are meat-based, and they often taste a lot better.

To become a vegan is a concept that you either get or you don't. I don't think Dawdy has got it yet. I believe a world where humans and animals can live in harmony and peace is preferable to one where we slaughter the animals for food that contributes to our ill health, pollution of the planet, and an ignorant state of mind. Once you know that you do not want to eat animal products, you do not need to read every popular book about vegan or vegetarian diets and ideals; you just know that eating meat is wrong.

Brian Bothomley

Seattle

I was so excited to see the word "vegan" on the cover of your newspaper. But after reading the article, I am completely disappointed and a little hurt. I found Dawdy's tone to be snobbish and caustic. Perhaps the apparently limited scope of his research is to blame.

While I congratulate him for stepping out into the beef industry to see for himself what slaughter lines are like and also for accepting the invitation to enjoy some genuine, home-cooked vegan fare, I think the information he presents is incomplete. He paints vegans as fanatical devotees to all animal-rights causes and leaves the reader feeling as though vegan people are somewhat closed-minded. In fact, I have found that it is open-mindedness that allowed me to become vegan.

I was busily working at improving my health in November 2002 when a co-worker and I began discussing fitness and nutrition. This person introduced me to ideas about nutrition that I had never considered and turned me on to some recipes that were healthy, tasty, cost effective, and contained no animal products. After a couple weeks of eating this way, I found my health markedly improving: Work-outs were more effective, sleep patterns more consistent, and general alertness and energy on the rise. I have maintained a vegan diet ever since.

It was only after changing my nutritional habits out of concern for my own health that I began to become interested in easing the suffering of animals. This health benefit of a vegetarian lifestyle was almost completely overlooked in the article, and when it was mentioned, it was sort of discarded.

The problem of vegan food being boring and tasteless as Dawdy points out is not one I have encountered. Perhaps the meals he tried weren't the best examples of vegan cooking (sorry ladies, don't hurt me). I have found such a variety of easy, tasty, and nutritious foods to eat that I have to focus myself when shopping so as not to overspend. With that in mind, I'd like to challenge Dawdy to "Try Vegan" one more time. Let's pick a day, Phillip, and let me do the cooking. If you don't like what I fix, you don't have to take the leftovers (if there are any) home.

Geof Richie

Kirkland

I read your "news" article. As a report on the way meat and dairy products are brought to the consumer, animal rights and welfare philosophy, and vegetarian and vegan food and lifestyles, it could not have been more biased if it were written by the Washington State Beef Commission. The commission invited you to Washington Beef's "model" slaughterhouse. Did the commission also pay you to write this propaganda?

First, you seem to be opposed to factory farming presumably because of the extreme cruelty involved in it. You promote good animal husbandry as a "moderate" alternative. I honestly admire your compassion and consideration regarding the cruelty of factory farming, but I have a question: Can the U.S. population, 300 million people, afford meat at the prices required to sustain "good animal husbandry," "cruelty-free" production, and environmentally sound farming? I would like to see you adequately support a positive answer to that question.

Second, you claim to have "flirted" with veganism twice, yet you claim later on that "it is a very hard choice to go vegetarian or vegan." As a "flirter" or a dabbler or an interviewer of vegans, I fail to see your authority to claim that it is a difficult choice to go vegetarian or vegan. To me, it sounds like someone who talked to a few tennis players about tennis, played a couple of games, and concluded that it was a "difficult choice" to engage in tennis or that tennis is "difficult." If you are going to discredit something in a "news article," at least back it up with reliable experience or facts, not just "flirting" and one homemade dinner with vegans, who may or may not be good cooks. Personally, I find vegan food just as good as non-vegan food and much healthier. You just have to know what brands and combinations of food are good and which to avoid—no different from omnivore brands and combinations.

Third, you claim you have "done a lot of thinking and reading" and that you have "read Peter Singer." Have you read Tom Regan's The Case for Animal Rights or Gary Francione's Introduction to Animal Rights? Although I greatly admire Singer for his pioneering work in animal welfare, in my (and many others') opinion, Regan's philosophy is far more solid and rigorously supported than Singer's. Law professor Francione makes an excellent legal argument for animal rights. Either of these books is much better than Animal Liberation. I highly recommend these books to you and your readers.

Fourth, you say "we kill animals all the time" and "we've done it for many thousands of years." I would like to point out that we've done a lot of things over many thousands of years, like fight wars and own slaves. Does the fact that we have done these things for many thousands of years justify them? Does social and moral progress matter at all?

Fifth, you make vegans out to be hard-core punk anarchists who prove their coolness with tattoos, piercings, and veganism. Personally, I don't know any vegans who fit that description. On the contrary, most vegans I know are young professionals. I am a partner in a firm of certified public accountants with moderately short hair and no tattoos or piercings—hardly your image of a radical.

I am an animal-rights vegan, and I love it. Even if animal cruelty was not an issue, I would stay vegan because the food is both tasty and healthy. I found your article to be biased and disrespectful, to say the least. The next time you write an article for your paper, please attempt to be straightforward and unbiased in your reporting.

Dan Cudahy

Every time that an animal eats a plant or another animal, the conversion of food biomass into the consumer's biomass involves an efficiency of much less than 100 percent: typically around 10 percent. It takes around 10,000 pounds of corn to grow a 1,000-pound cow for your bored palate. One pound of that cow requires 5,200 gallons of water to produce—compared to only 25 gallons for a pound of wheat. Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all water used in these United States of Amnesia.

A vegetarian diet might require 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,200.

Help me make a little room for others on the only planet we know of that can host all of our species. Please have a few more veghead meals. Think about what U.S. taxpayers spend maintaining political stability and sustaining economic progress in low-resource countries. Think about the consequences if we don't.

W.F. Bloxom

Former Green Party organizer Trevor Griffey's Feb. 25 article, "The Knock on Nader," completely underestimates the historic impact of Nader's 2000 campaign for president. He dismisses the Seattle campaign, writing, "A Trotskyite group calling itself Socialist Alternative started its own Nader campaign, outside the Greens, as a means of promoting themselves. Months went by with grassroots enthusiasm for Nader spinning its wheels in senseless bickering, ineffective speculation, and uncoordinated activism."

Socialist Alternative proposed in writing in the spring of 2000 that Greens, socialists, and any progressive groups and individuals come together to establish a united, democratic Seattle Nader coalition. After urging Green Party Coordinating Council members to meet with Socialist Alternative representatives in person, which they finally did, the Green Party rejected our proposal even though socialists were offering to campaign for the Greens' own candidate. The Greens left Socialist Alternative little option but to launch the Seattle Nader Coalition, not "as a means of promoting ourselves," but to build the strongest challenge to the two corporate parties.

The Nader campaign did not spin "its wheels in senseless bickering." The Nader Coalition organized a caravan led by a flatbed truck with music and a microphone distributing Nader leaflets in many neighborhoods. We worked alongside Greens to distribute tons of Nader signs and promote Nader's three Seattle rallies, one of which was 10,000-strong.

Of course, any political party will promote what they see as effective solutions to society's problems during a campaign, but that natural aspect of politics shouldn't stop groups from working together for an immediate common goal.

Ramy Khalil

Founding Member, 2000 Seattle Nader Coalition;

Secretary, Seattle Socialist Alternative

In last week's diatribe "The Knock on Nader," Trevor Griffey does make some good points (I agree Nader should not run this time), but he states some facts incorrectly. His or anyone else's view that the Green Party should hold blame of any sort is ridiculous, for either Dubya's possible re-selection or for what Griffey declares has not led to significant movement building. He misstates some major facts:

In 2000 there was another Green seeking partisan office (myself, for 36th District representative), and every year since, a number of Greens have run for various offices. In fact, career politician Jim McDermott lost 20 percent of his votes to Green Joe Szwaja, and he stated on election night that he realized he'd better pay attention to Greens' opinions and ideas. After the 2000 elections, many Green Parties around the U.S. had a decline in active membership, but I'm sure the Democrats did, too. The GP of Seattle has been strong for several years, as have the GP of Spokane and many others in Washington. The Green Party of Washington State, new in 2000, has been affiliated with the Green Party of the United States for two and a half years, and has officers that are very active with national party politics. All relationships with the City Council have not been destroyed, as Griffey suggests. In 2002 (out of 559 GP candidates nationwide), Seattle Green Linde Knighton got a strong 21 percent in her race against 43rd District Representative Pat Thibaudeau.

Many of us Greens did stay active all this time. Yes, Mr. Griffey left, along with others. Perhaps if they had stuck it out to assist in building the party . . . 

All third parties have a difficult time in this system. Duh. But the Green Party (check us out nationally! www.gpus.org) has over 200 partisan and nonpartisan office holders around the U.S., including eight in Oregon and five in Washington. We're not, in fact, going away.

Kara Ceriello

Former Chair, Green Party of Washington State

As a longtime supporter of corporate-free politics, I was very disappointed with the tone of the Feb. 25 issue concerning Ralph Nader's 2004 presidential bid. What is the point of the two-party system if is produces candidates like John Kerry and George Bush? What kind of corporate-sponsored debate will they have this autumn? Who will stand up for repealing NAFTA or the WTO? Single-payer health care? Getting us out of Iraq? Campaign finance reform (real reform)? The ludicrous "Cold War" military budget? It won't be Kerry, and it certainly won't be Bush. Washington state blew its chance to send a real political message to the Democratic party by falling in line for Kerry and John Edwards instead of standing up for Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton, two candidates who actually stand for many of the things that liberals in Washington state stand for. The only channel for airing these issues in a national forum is left to third parties, and if it happens to be Ralph Nader, then be thankful that someone stepped forward and support him. Surely Knute Berger and Trevor Griffey can agree with Nader on many points concerning our corrupted political system and backward national priorities, so why are they both willing to sell out in order to replace a horrible regime with a really bad one? When you choose "Anyone but Bush," choose someone who stands up for your beliefs, not just anyone.

Ron Allen

Kirkland

After reading Knute Berger's editorial on Ralph Nader, I felt compelled to write. I found it pretty ironic that Nader would bring up the 2000 Senate race in which Maria Cantwell unseated incumbent Slade Gorten and take credit for the outcome. The truth is that the race was ultimately decided by a pip-squeak Libertarian lawyer named Jeff Jared who drained voters from Gorten's party and clenched the victory for Cantwell by a few hundred votes.

If the state of Washington ever had its own answer to Nader, Jared would be it. Maybe the two should get together and compare notes.

Mari Hauser

Seattle

Mossback seems to detest Ralph Nader as much as he does George Bush. His reflections are usually informative. This one is just a diatribe. Maybe the greater delusion is holding to the belief that Nader cost Al Gore the election. It's not that simple.

I keep hearing that Nader has a big ego. Tell me what candidate for president does not. As to Nader's word to those who are anyone-but-Bush folks, he has a strong point. You vote negative, and you open the doors to the anyone. Nader asks, "What mandate are you giving to anyone who then beats Bush?"

My problem with the Democrats is that it has been a long time since they have given me anything to vote for. Nader is right: Both parties get paid by the same boss—big corporations. Does Berger really believe that the "anyone Democrat" is going to change the system? Sure, Gore and John Kerry and John Edwards are all much kinder than Bush and would be better than Bush. But the bosses of both parties collude to shut out the Naders and Kuciniches and Deans, so we end up with such little difference that it takes the passion out of voting.

Nader has not said in my hearing that there is no difference among candidates. Rather the no difference has to do with the two parties. As long as we stay subservient to the present two-party system, we are going downhill. Bush just makes the slide faster and more repulsive. But, come on. Don't bash the few who dare to stand up and call it the way it is. The truth is that Gore got a lot of votes that would have gone to Nader if people had voted their conscience. In trying to shut up those who speak a more radical, albeit less popular, word, one gives George W. exactly what he wants—to deal with cosmetics rather than issues. Isn't it like publishing the Weekly when we already have the P-I and Times?

Mark Poole

Seattle

There seem to be fundamental misunderstandings about Ralph Nader's arguments claiming he was not at "fault" for Al Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election, many of which were furthered in Knute Berger's article "Come Ride in My Corvair!" Though Berger claims Nader's justifications were "warped," he in fact does the warping.

As Berger mentions, Nader is at most "partly responsible for Gore's defeat." But Berger adopts the tone of many who make the leap from "partly responsible" to "devil incarnate." While it is fair to argue Gore would have won if Nader hadn't run, it is as fair to argue Gore could have won by any number of small campaign changes. The only way to write Nader off as a "spoiler" is to assume Gore was entitled to the White House and was unfairly robbed. While this may be much easier for partisan Democrats to swallow (rather than accepting responsibility for a campaign and candidate that alienated its base), it is a shallow and self-defeating perspective.

Berger also brings up the assertion popularly attributed to Nader that there "was no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties." Nader himself never said that, but did point out major similarities between parties and the willingness of elected Democrats to capitulate to conservative principals when enough special-interest money or political pressure was applied. Nader continues to promote this belief today, not the bastardized oversimplification that Berger presents.

There's more mischaracterization when Berger mentions Nader's point about aiding the election of Democrats at local and state levels in 2000. Nader brought people to the polls who wound up casting votes for Democrats, as Greens were not on the ballot for most positions nationwide; his point in explaining this was not to argue that Democrats ain't so bad after all, just to counter the common claim that a vote for Nader was a vote for Republicans. This was not a secret admission that Nader truly believes there are mammoth differences between the two parties on all issues, just a reasonable argument against those claiming Nader's campaign ultimately helped only Republicans.

Despite Berger's claims that "his candidacy . . . seems to be about Ralph," Nader's runs for president seem less about ego or vanity than most other presidential candidates. Nader is aware that he personifies a political movement concerned with new ideas and Americans who have largely been marginalized by the major parties. Democrats who craft their campaigns to appeal to moderates need to know they can't have it both ways—no party should feel "owed" a voting block while eschewing an ideology aimed elsewhere. To claim that Nader is acting out of ego while major-party nominees are today grandstanding in support of their "principles"—based on political expediency and political tilt of their momentary audience—is intellectually dishonest and extremely demoralizing.

Partisan Democrats, and some sympathizers in the press, can and will continue to vilify Nader for their own ends, and in the short run it will probably be successful in gaining the support of the left to oust the purported menace of Four More Years. Mainstream pundits have long been successful in writing off different perspectives and their supporters as extreme or crazy, and their efforts to trade the oil king for the ketchup king will likely succeed. But in the long-term—the time frame Nader has always been considering—a liberal movement will embrace the ideas and motives he puts forth today.

Mark Zipkin

Somerville

Ralph Nader isn't basing his life on the Bush/Democrat feud. He is in the ring to get funding for a third political party, which would hopefully make for a more competitive political spectrum. He will push the Democrats to appeal to more people, and ultimately he will probably not be able to get on the ballot in most states, so he's no real competitor. So Knute Berger should relax. Can't Berger appreciate anyone trying to shake up our narrow political options?

Berger's reasoning sound like some backward frat boy–speak. He should correct his reactionary perspective and worry about his own ego. What exactly is accomplished by such an article?

Lara Kindergan

New York, NY

Knute Berger's article is one of innuendo and slander with no real argument for the exclusion of an independent alternative. As a registered Democrat who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, I find Berger's argument inherently undemocratic, arguing for the strengthening of our antiquated two-party system. Why is the independent candidacy of Nader an "act of public masturbation"? Unless I'm mistaken, alignment with the Republican or Democratic party is no prerequisite for running for the presidency.

This is an election where I will vote for the lesser of two evils, but I want the option to exercise my disgust with the prevailing parties. The crass conservatism of the Bush administration only allows the Democratic Party to lean farther right while still claiming to be liberal. The inclusion of Nader will keep the issues that I'm most concerned with in the debate.

Berger's argument for the exclusion of Nader is shortsighted. This may satisfy my great desire to see Bush removed from office, but what of the future? Is a two-party system in the best interest of a viable, strong, long-term democracy? How long can our way of life continue as the wealth remains in the hands of a minuscule minority? How long can we allow our government to be run by lobbies, special-interest groups, and corporations? This is not a government by the people and for the people. This is a government thrust onto the people, due to no alternatives—one that sacrifices the people to whims of corporations.

Farouk Khan

Hicksville, NY

Knute Berger's Feb. 25 article "Come Ride in My Corvair!" assumes that voting for Nader will only end up in another four years of Bush's policies. Like all corporate media, this ignores the fact that four years of a Democrat wouldn't be much different.

Democratic administrations started World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the war in Yugoslavia. Democrats dropped the atomic bomb on Japanese civilians twice. Bill Clinton and Al Gore implemented the economic sanctions that murdered approximately 1 million Iraqis, half of them children.

Clinton and Gore helped pave the way for Bush's Patriot Act and the post–9/11 secret detentions of 1,200 Arabs and Muslims with their 1996 "Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty" and "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility" acts. These laws allowed for suspects to be detained indefinitely, charged, and convicted on the grounds of secret testimony that the defendant's lawyer cannot challenge. Clinton and Gore presided over the greatest transfer of wealth from workers to corporate bosses since the 1930s.

John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential candidate, criticizes the Patriot Act and talks about "holding Bush accountable" for the Iraq war. Yet he voted for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.

Workers and young people should vote for Nader in 2004 to put a halt to wasting young people's lives and our hard-earned tax dollars in imperialist wars.

Tony Wilsdon

Founding Member of the 2000 Seattle Nader Coalition

Seattle

I find the furor that Ralph Nader's presidential candidature created very amusing. I picture the situation like this: the multibillion-dollar Democratic Party has cadre in every state house, town hall, corporate boardroom, major media outlet, the military, and even amongst the tops of the labor unions. Its messages instantly travel around the world and will be read by millions of people. Next to the Republicans, the Democrats have undoubtedly the most powerful party machine this planet has ever seen! And here comes one earthling, an elderly retiree. Nader has no party, no machine, and little money. And our world's most powerful party machine quivers and shakes in its foundations, spewing gal and venom. Out of fear of our hapless pensioner?

It seems obvious that the daily avalanche of corporate propaganda has not managed to neutralize all of the country's intelligence. The way I see it, every vote for Nader is a step toward more anticorporate and antiwar candidates around the country and eventually (we hope) a grassroots political organization of workers, youth, immigrants, environmentalists, people of color, women, LGBT people, completely outside corporate control—indeed a nightmare for the Democratic and Republican party moguls! For me, it is the reason I support Nader's campaign.

D.W. Affeln

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