In its 12/15/01 editorial, The Progressive Populist criticized Greens for mounting electoral challenges against seven Congressional Democrats (Hill of Indiana, Clement of Tennessee, Snyder of Arkansas, Dicks and Smith of Washington, and Kind and Kleczka of Wisconsin) contemplating supporting Fast Track legislation. The editorial argued that only one was on record as favoring it, that some have voting records that are more pro-labor and generally liberal than conservative, and that "this is a time when the left needs a united front to protect basic rights."
In fact, three of the seven -- Hill, Snyder and Dicks -- did vote for Fast Track; Clement supported Fast Track in the past. All seven supported Most Favored Nation trading status for China, two of the three who were in Congress in 1993 voted for NAFTA, and all but one voted for a similar "free trade" bill for Africa. NAFTA has cost American and Canadian workers hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that paid living wages and undermined both environmental protection and labor rights in all three countries under its jurisdiction. Other "free trade" legislation is having or will have similar negative effects elsewhere.
To consider Congressional Democrats part of "the left" or consistent protectors of basic rights is generally quite a stretch. For years, Democrats have conspired with Republicans to maintain a stranglehold on the political system. Few Democrats support comprehensive campaign finance or electoral reform. Most instead support or complacently accept draconian ballot access hurdles, statutes disenfranchising convicted felons, and the exclusion of third parties from candidate debates. Most Democrats seemed shockingly unconcerned as Katherine Harris and company relived the Jim Crow era and stole Florida (and thus the presidency) for Bush. Exhibiting an elephant-in-the-living-room syndrome rivaling that of the worst alcoholic-enabling families, many Democrats have exhibited amnesia about this theft of the election and instead blamed Nader for Gore's loss. Most have supported military aid to such human rights violators as Colombia and Israel, as well as the bombing of and sanctions against Iraq. Most Congressional Democrats, including six of the seven we have targeted, supported the air war against Yugoslavia. Some Democrats -- including Hill and Clement -- even voted for a bill banning gay adoptions! In general, Democratic support for conservative domestic policies, an unfair electoral system, violent and militaristic foreign policies, a bloated military budget, and economic policies designed to keep the majority of the worlds population impoverished has been widespread and consistent.
Things have worsened since Sept. 11. All but 16 House Democrats, including all seven of our "targets," voted for a 10% increase in the already $310 billion military budget. Most Democrats, including six of our seven targets, voted for the recent massive bailout of airline corporations, which provided no relief for laid-off airline workers. All of our targets except Hill, who was absent, voted (with the overwhelming majority of Democrats) for the "Patriot Act" that eviscerates the Bill of Rights in the name of fighting terrorism. And as we know, every member of Congress except Barbara Lee voted to give George Bush an unconstitutional blank check to wage war anywhere at any time without Congressional oversight.
It is a mistake to dismiss differences between Democrats and Republicans as trivial, as Ralph Nader often does. Even conservative Democrats like Al Gore or my opponent, Baron Hill, differ from right-wing Republicans in important ways, and voters' concerns about such differences should be respected. However, most Democrats are also similar to Republicans in many important respects. Millions of people find those similarities -- beholdenness to large corporations, warmongering, and support for "free trade" and globalization, to name a few -- disturbing. Such voters -- with whom fundamental Green values such as grassroots democracy, social justice, nonviolence, and ecological wisdom resonate deeply -- deserve to have choices on the ballot that represent their views.
Some people are angry with Greens for supposedly being "spoilers." But the mere fact that Green candidates are on the ballot does not cost Democrats a single vote. Reasonable voters can disagree on the merits of casting votes for third-party candidates versus lesser-evil Democrats, but ultimately it is voters' choice; no one is holding a gun to their heads and demanding that they vote any particular way. And isn't that the way it should be? Shouldn't voters have the opportunity to make that choice for themselves? Moreover, the spoiler argument presupposes that Green candidates for major offices have no real chance to win. But we need to remember that progressive values resonate deeply among people in our society. Once a sufficient number of voters recognizes what we stand for and starts to believe we have a strong chance to win, we will in fact have a strong chance to win. I firmly believe that will happen, perhaps quite soon.
[Jeff Melton is a Green Party candidate for Congress in Indiana's 9th District.]
Your periodical, which I subscribe to, is a font of information. Its outstanding feature though is James M. Cullen's excellent editorials, I commend your erudite rendition of events transpiring in this beleaguered nation as far seeing, insightful and fraught with frightening implications which, at the moment, seem insurmountable.
Curry County, Ore., is relatively small in terms of population, but like most coastal areas, feeling the thrust of growth. My bailiwick, Port Orford, in Curry hosts a thousand odd residents yet, has a city paper of long standing, the Port Orford News.
Small town papers usually feature mundane goings on. This banality irked me since our country is currently confronted with fundamental issues that challenge our very concept of government.
So I decided to alter the content of the Port Orford News and its parent paper the Curry County Reporter. The strategy was a bequest to the paper with the stipulation that henceforth they expand the scope of their format.
I joined the Port Orford Senior Center and formed a committee focusing primarily on Social Security. I was chosen chairman and liaison and instructed to write a weekly column on Social Security's present and future outlook. To my dismay, I discovered that seniors were totally unaware of what the Republicans in Congress were concocting, that if enacted into law would place their retirement benefits in dire jeopardy.
So I set out in a series of articles articulating on the perils of privatization via individual investment accounts. Since Senior Center by-laws prohibit political involvement, the committee had to resolve whether our retirement benefits were in the realm of politics and transgressed our charter. We concluded after lengthy deliberation that this involvement was non political since it was non-partisan; also it was determined that if either party's congressional members from the state of Oregon advocated privatization, they would lose our 150-member senior vote. And perhaps the senior vote of the City of Gold Beach and Brookings.
Our newspaper featured this perspective, along with new viewpoints on coastal growth, the initiative-referendum process which is under assault by the legislature, the purloined presidency and other relevant topics that are kept sequestered by the larger publications that service coastal communities. Evidently for ulterior motives.
We may be insignificant in our impact on the broader spectrum of news, but at least it's a breakthrough no matter how small. A flicker of fight must be kept alive in these trying times, not only for the seniors but our youth who appear oblivious to the fascist threat from within.
Port Orford, Ore.
Regarding those who will stand accused of participating in the terrible crimes of 9-11, why is the Bush administration so vehement in its insistence on creating secret military tribunals where no legal appeals are possible and only a two-thirds vote is required for conviction? Does the Bush administration actually believe that American juries would be sympathetic to the possible perpetrators? I think not. Are they really worried about the appeals process? No, of course not. What fictional American judge is going to reduce or overturn Osama Bin Laden's sentence?
The important part of this equation is that: the trials are held in secret; no press allowed.
Why? If our government has the goods and can prove these individuals' guilt to the world, why not release and display the evidence on live television for all to see? What possible political sense would it make to NOT make this proof public?
The problem for Bush is: if you make a considerable portion of the relevant information gathered by the "intelligence" services available for public consumption, the press and public will seek out the rest of the story. What is Bush trying to hide?
Could it be that the evidence trail leads back to a time before 9-11? Who knew what and when? And, if the Bush Administration did possess prior knowledge of the attacks, why did they fail (or choose not) to prevent them?
Robert Stinnett, in his 2000 book Day Of Deceit proved that the American government knew of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ahead of time, yet let it happen. Why? To get the United States into World War Two.
Could we be confronting a similar set of circumstances now? Or, if this was just some colossal blunder on the part of the CIA (of which Bush Sr. was director under Gerald Ford), why is the American corporate media allowing Bush Jr. the latitude to cover his cronies' bloody tracks?
If the Attorney General feels that the US courts are unable to convict terrorists in a fair trial (Dispatches, 12/15/01 PP), then he must believe our system of justice is terribly flawed.
Ignoring civil rights in order to wreak punishment on special individuals is a prime example of cutting off the nose to spite the face.
What is spite anyway? What is justice? They seem to be two sides of a coin presently on such an emotional spin that all of us at various times are having trouble seeing which side is showing. Out-of-control emotion is the biggest barrier to human evolution and peace. We should be taught to observe, understand, and control emotions, right along with learning to read and write. It's the next step to wisdom, which we sure are needing now.
As strange as it may seem there is at least one thing Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins and Harold Smith have in agreement with Bob Barr and Bob Novak: We all agree that restricting our freedom in the name of national security can be dangerous. In the October edition of Hightower Lowdown Jim quotes German Nobel prize winner Gunther Grass, "The first job of a a citizen is to keep your mouth open."
Jim also tells us: "Terrorists have no ability to destroy our democracy -- but we do simply by surrendering it, by keeping our mouths shut while it is dismantled by the authorities."
Patriotism is not blindly following the leader. In times like these we need the loyal opposition more than ever.
As I sit here watching in amazement the news that the US Senate has gone on vacation for a month without acting on an economic stimulus package I ask myself is there anyone out there willing to hold these politicians accountable for their actions! Never mind the fact that they found time to vote themselves a pay raise before they took the month off. The thing that should concern everyone is the fact that the Democrats' stimulus package would give the majority of the stimulus to the roughly 10% of the people who don't pay taxes anyway, and the Republican version gives the majority of the stimulus to big business or corporations who already have too many breaks or loopholes. Well here's a new concept: how about the roughly 80% of us who pay 40% to 60% of our incomes in taxes every year! You want to find a middle ground on a stimulus package why don't you start here?
While you senators are home over the holidays I hope you take some time to reflect on the fact that there are may people sitting home this holiday season not full of joy but instead wondering if they will lose their home or even have a job next year.
So while you senators are home over the next month heres a simple suggestion: Why don't you take time to read a few history books on the great leaders of this great nation who came before you that understood what the phrase by the people for the people really meant because the 80% of the people I spoke of earlier that are in the middle are getting really tired of the partisan politics!
And to you the great citizens of this great nation I say if anyone is listening, it's time to quit saying nothings going to change and instead say I'm going to do something to change the great bureaucracy that has a grip on us all.
So I ask again, IS ANYONE LISTENING?
Timothy M Barrows
Eric Rudolph is a fugitive who is wanted because his is suspected of having bombed a clinic and night club in Atlanta Georgia in 1997. Recently, Clayton Waagner was arrested following his escape from custody and his allegedly sending hoax anthrax letters to abortion clinics. Neither man has ever been called a terrorist in the popular media even though the actions of each clearly fit a reasonable working definition of terrorist. Additionally, Mr. Waagner believes he has a God assigned mission to kill physicians who perform abortions. I judge that a person can earn the media's terrorist label only if his cause is politically incorrect. The media's sharply restricted definition of terrorist hints at permissive values toward clinic bombers and murders of abortion doctors. President Bush's announcement that "all terrorism is wrong" is a fine beginning but the war against terrorism, qua terrorism, will be severely hampered should the country to stick to the popular media's politically correct definition of terrorism.
William A. Fortsch
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