When Cynicism Prevails, Hope Dies

When cynicism prevails, people turn away from hope. They conclude, reluctantly, that decency is an unaffordable virtue in today's world. Many people in the United States are employed but can barely put food on the table, get their kids educated or pay medical bills. George W. Bush offers some of these people a way to make ends meet: by reversing affirmative action.

The shield Bush carries is not simply that of his father and Cheney. It is also the shield of Reagan. The tradition of "non-interference" they established promises downwardly mobile white people, the largest voting bloc in America, full license to do what they will to improve their economic position relative to that of people of color. Affirmative action policies designed to reduce racial discriminations that forced people of color into inescapable poverty and crime are not simply made redundant in this new order, they have become ridiculed as absurd ideology. African Americans and Hispanic youth are marginalized and criminalized to a remarkable new degree in America. Inner cities are flooded with cocaine and heroin as the "War on Drugs" loses any pretense of validity. In Texas it already appears that soon every town will have its very own brand new prison, from which profits flow and where the almost entirely Hispanic and African American inmate population turns over rapidly -- into early graves. This new industry will spread all across America, under a Bush Administration. Don't read his lips. Read between the lines!

There is nothing new in the disenfranchisement of a sizeable population group to the advantage of another population group. People of color make up 20% of the population of the United States. The jobs they lose under a Bush administration will pay significant dollars to those who obtain them. The education they lose, as the Christian Right controls school district after school district, will provide significant job access to those who receive it. Moreover, a goodly percentage of impoverished people of color must be quite intelligent. They did not, after all, sink into poverty primarily as a result of weak intelligence or incompetence. The major force pushing down upon them was always the iron hand of discrimination. Many of this group are tough and resolved. Bush will guarantee that struggling white income seekers won't have to compete with them on a level playing field.

Cynicism need not prevail. Most people prefer to act decently -- but not as martyrs. Al Gore can easily elevate the relevance of decency, if he has the courage and the resolve to do so. He must, however, challenge corporate greed, indifference and incompetence. If he limits himself to a really serious focus on health care, he will win. But when cynicism does prevail, Bush's covert pitch sells -- as it did for Reagan.

This monstrous message must not be allowed to remain in shadows. Mainstream media's "unawareness" of it surprises no one. That it receives only the barest advertisement in the pages of liberal and progressive journals, however, more than disturbs. Even Mr. Nader utters no substantial breath about it. Is it because no one perceives how to respond with effective positive force, with feasible political strategy? If reluctance to expose ineffectuality is somehow plausible reasoning, it is nevertheless poor reasoning. It hushes awareness that a win for Bush creates hard choices for all in America who wish to look in the mirror and see a moral, white-skinned person looking back. Shall we identify with suffering peers of color, or enjoy the substantial benefits of being unstigmatized? Shall we, as others in history have done, find safety and profit in simply not seeing what in reality goes down?

Will courageous journalists -- or courageous politicians -- lose us if they tell the whole truth? Some of us, perhaps, but I think they have no moral or practical choice. Failing to shed light upon monstrosity, they play into a vicious strategy of "benign ignorance," of denial for gain and institutionalized cynicism. I, for one, shall vote for the candidate who demonstrably embraces decency as well as pragmatism. No other has a chance against Mr. Bush. When cynicism prevails -- he wins.


Austin, Texas

No Use for Truman

As a "politically progressive old timer," I bristle when I see any praise for President Harry Truman [as contained in recent columns by Wayne O'Leary]. No matter what few good things that he may have accomplished, nothing could exonerate him from his ordering the use of the atomic bomb on Japan or the involvement in the Korean War.

There must be something terribly wrong with a person who would dance a jig and say: "Now I've got old Joe where I want him." He was referring to Joe Stalin of the Soviet Union after using the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since that time a new word has come into existence -- omnicide -- world destruction.

Today's news is about the easement of the wartime relations between North and South Korea (where the US has over 40,000 troops yet). Harry Truman put the original ones there. Henry Wallace, who served as Secretary of Agriculture under Franklin Roosevelt, promoted the parity price, the granary program that cost the government nothing and brought parity prices to farmers and reasonable costs to consumers. When he formed the anti-war Progressive Party, I joined. It was an anti-war, parity price and anti-monopoly party. Truman took a large amount of the Progressive platform and all the media of the capitalist establishment and red-baited Wallace.

Did you know these things, Mr. Wayne O'Leary?


Davenport, Iowa

Testing Mania

As a longtime teacher and an activist against the current standards and testing mania besetting the schools, I appreciate John Buell's remarks on the politics of homework in the August 1/15 Progressive Populist. I offer a gloss on his observation that "leaders in business and politics now invoke educational reform as the way to ease the transition to a new global economy." The corporate-politico agenda is to lower expectations of a large segment of the population, so when there's nothing in "the new global economy" but minimum wage jobs for the kids who don't pass these impossible tests (which nobody is allowed to examine), these kids are told they have nobody to blame but themselves. After all, everybody has an equal opportunity to take algebra, calculus and prepare for a bright future in the high tech globalism these goons promise.

I am outspoken in my fight against the "one size fits all" high-stakes standards and tests. So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised last weekend when a Vermont State Trooper escorted two Georgia policemen to my home in rural Vermont. These police say they are investigating the fact that copies of a secret Georgia test of elementary children were mailed from Vermont to the media last spring. Standardistos, the Business Roundtable, governors, presidential candidates of both parties, have put all their eggs in the high stakes testing basket, so when security is breached they threaten dissenters with search warrants, felonies, extradition. The Standardistos are determined to keep the content of these tests secret at all costs. I wonder who got these laws passed that make photocopying a test purporting to measure the reading ability of young children a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine and five years in jail. I wonder who paid for two Georgia policemen to make a weekend jaunt to Vermont.


Charlotte, Vermont

author, One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards

Smash Middle Class Welfare

Your Mexico lobbyists, Rodriguez and Gonzales, make the deceitful claim that they are in solidarity with African Americans. In fact, office-cleaning jobs in Los Angeles used to be held by unionized African Americans. Now, due to the Mexican population explosion, those jobs are held by cheap-labor Latino immigrants.

And after a decade of dashed hope, it's clear that the US is never going to get national health insurance unless President Hightower gives it to us in 2012. We should be working instead to abolish Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security because middle-class retirees get $100,000 more from Medicare than they put in, while 700,000 Americans go homeless. If there's not going to be a safety net under the working poor, we should smash the middle-class welfare state.

Most sincerely,


Menasha, Wisc.

The Editor Replies: Mexican immigrants also are unionizing in Los Angeles and elsewhere, particularly when their immigration status is stabilized. As for smashing middle-class welfare, middle-income retirees may get back more than they put into Medicare and Social Security, but those programs are even better deals for lower-income retirees, while Medicaid is a health program for the lowest-income families.

Rall's SUV Hatred Cowardly

In response to Ted Rall's article in the 9/1/00 issue concerning his hatred of SUV's and the drivers of those vehicles:

I believe this sort of behavior qualifies for the adjective cowardly. He seems to be unwilling to face someone he is about to harm. Although he is certainly willing to take credit for an act of (in his mind) rage against the machine, is it only as long as he is not identified as the specific perpetrator? I didn't read a way to contact him, in case one of the people he hates might want to ask him about a certain banana peel.

I certainly would never advocate the drivers of SUV's cut the brake cables and derailleur cables of the bikes they may see chained to a light post or in front of a business. Why, you ask, would someone advocate poor treatment of a bike rider? (Anonymous acts of rage deserve other anonymous acts of rage, according to Ted Rall's way of thinking.)

Mr. Rall is displaying a type of personality that I identify as a bad trait of humanity, those not willing to take credit for the wrongs they commit and in their minds can justify anything. Hope things work out in court for him. I know, in my heart, he really wants to own up for the damages he's caused, or at least those he brags about. (Oops, I'm sorry, that's sarcasm.)


Colorado Springs, Colo.

PS: I live in Colorado Springs, the rightwing armpit of America and have never voted Republican and never will.

Are The Greens All There?

I am lucky to live in a congressional district represented by Maurice Hinchey, a progressive, populist Democrat. (He's even in favor of a single payer health plan.) Our New York State Senator is equally enlightened. Now I hear that the Greens are planning to run their own candidate against both of these liberal Democrats. When asked why, they respond "We have to build a party!." When someone points out that their candidate might just draw enough votes to elect a Republican, they respond, "We'll just have to take that chance." This does not make sense to me, and it would seem that Mr. Nader should discourage this type of action if he wants to retain the goodwill of Democrats. They could very well endorse these two liberal candidates and encourage people to vote the Green line, and build their party in that manner.

I have been suspicious of Mr. Nader since he told Jock Yablonsky that if he ran for the President of the United Mine Workers [in 1969] they wouldn't dare harm him. (They killed him.) He has been dangerously naive in the past and still is. On the other hand he is a revolutionary, not a reformer. That belief system says that the quickest way to bring about revolutionary change is to bring the issue to crisis.

As to Dubya, you may have seen seen this: The state of Texas, under the leadership of Governor George W. Bush, is ranked:

50th in spending for teachers' salaries

49th in spending on the environment

48th in per-capita funding for public health

47th in delivery of social services

42nd in child-support collections

41st in per-capita spending on public education And ...

5th in percentage of population living in poverty

1st in air pollution

1st in water pollution

1st in percentage of poor working parents without insurance

1st in percentage of children without health insurance

1st in executions (avg. 1 every 2 weeks for Bush's 5 years)

Just think of what Bush could do for the country if he were president!


Lake Hill, NY

Email jtaub@mindspring.com

Nader Can be Elected

Over and over, we have been told that people who are poor or near poor vastly outnumber those who are well off. Rich or poor, we all have only one vote. Those who won't vote for Nader are divided between:

1. Republicans

2. Democrats

3. Minor candidates

So ... if we can motivate even half of those who are poor, near poor or people of conscience to:

A. Get registered to vote, if not already.

B. Go to the polls on election day

C. Use absentee ballots if going to the polls is not practical.

We can pull off a Jesse Ventura for Ralph Nader, People Over Profits.


Minneapolis, Minn.

How We Can Elect Ralph Nader

Again we have a very lucky break. A very enthusiastic Nader supporter, Ralph Cole, will supply a video for $3 or 5, dependent on the length. You can order by phone at 213-747-6345 and order several. Then hold a video party inviting neighbors and friends to see it. They will be excited, both by the introduction and Nader's talk. Then describe how he can be elected by their showing the video to their neighbors and friends, and they in turn show it to their neighbors and friends, and so on. That way we get around the refusal to debate with Nader. Have voter registration forms. In the 1996 election only half of the registered people voted because of the widespread disgust with the two parties. And 38% didn't even bother to register. Clinton won by getting 24.1% of those registered. If we could get half of the unregistered to register, they would vote for Nader. Most of the half who were registered and didn't vote would vote for Nader. In short, Nader can and must win. ...


Corvallis, Ore.

Editor Notes: Cole offers a selection of Nader tapes, including a 2-hour video with speeches by Nader, Jim Hightower and Helen Caldicott as well as his controversial TV ad for $5 each; Nader's Acceptance Speech from the Denver Green convention with intros by Hightower and Ronnie Dugger for $5; a 6-hour video with 2 speeches by Winona LaDuke, plus the Seattle Debate on Globalization with Ralph Nader and others for $10; and two 8-hour videos of the Denver convention with dozens of speakers at $10 per tape. Bulk prices are $2-$5 per tape.

Oil's Well that Ends Well

Dick Cheney for Vice President? Apparently, one right-wing Texas oil company executive wasn't enough for the Republican Party! The GOP has just given us the first "All Oil Ticket" in American history. Well, isn't that special! At least Texaco will be pleased.

When George Bush Jr. (aka "Daddy's Little Trojan Horse) loses in November, who will the Republicans nominate in 2004? Jeb Bush? Neil Bush? George P. Bush? Any other Bush boys in the bullpen?

Just say no to gas gouging, environmental destruction, and the Republican aristocracy. Say yes to democracy! Lick Bush!


Eureka, Calif.

Feeling Guilty?

In this day of group guilt wherein all citizens are charged with the sins of their governments and with corporations formulating public policy and moral values, I have an idea: a world-wide moral register where a citizen of any country could admit to political impotency but publicly identify himself and post his moral opposition to specific government actions or policy. For example, in the US, disapproval of embargoes imposed against countries, capital punishment, WTO, Waco, Ruby Ridge, specific foreign/ domestic policies, etc.


Fallbrook, Calif.

Stockholders Like Big Business

The liberal election strategy that has attempted maintain their base by attacking "Big Business" is showing its age. The last statistic regarding ownership of "Big Business" showed that more than 50% of Americans now own stock in the securities markets. These stockholders might just resent the liberal diatribes against their companies and vote accordingly.

Another antiquated liberal technique that attempts to create division by an endless assault on the rich (acronym for whitie) is also falling flat. Thanks to the individual efforts of millions of African Americans and other minorities they are now part of the affluent middle class, and hold a large share in the stock market. They are tired of being associated with poverty, taken for granted, and might just reject the liberals at the polls.


Shreveport, La.

Editor Replies: According to the Economic Policy Institute, in the State of Working America 2000-2001, less than half of households hold stock in any form, including mutual funds and 401(k)&endash;style pension plans. The same data reveal that 64% of households have stock holdings worth $5,000 or less. Household debt is up dramatically, however.

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