Letters to the Editor

Don’t Diss Nader

Some people march to the drum of gold and power. Others devote their lives to the benefit of the common good. They think of patriotism as more than a word and waving a flag. The denigrating remarks of Preston P. Birenbaum in his letter “Hard to Believe,” in the 10/15/07 issue concerning Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan are undeserved.

Ralph Nader is one of the best-informed citizen activists. Without Nader’s civic activism, we would not have the Freedom of Information Act and any number of other consumer protection laws in auto safety, pollution and pillaging of resources. His historical contributions to progressive politics and in challenging the abuses of power, whether by corporations or by government, are unmatched by any other citizen. Why should this public-spirited citizen not continue to be concerned about these issues? Nader is a true patriot who remains concerned about the abuses to our Constitution and rights as citizens. In his 2004 election campaign, and it was his right to run, he tried to make the public aware of critical issues facing our nation and to offer valid solutions while other politicians look the other way.

Cindy Sheehan’s son lost his life in an illegal war, one that continues to take the lives of our soldiers and innocent civilians. It is a war that the Democratic members of Congress and the Senate continue to support with their votes on funding. Sheehan has more than earned her right to speak.

The two major political parties do not own our elected offices. Political parties are private enterprises organized to gain governmental control and to effect their desired legislation. The majority of our electorate no longer vote out of apathy or disgust and maybe they figure it doesn’t make much difference because the two major parties are virtual mirror images of each other. We desperately need new blood in our political offices who are more interested in the common good than getting reelected. The two major parties play musical chairs with our elected positions and pay little attention to the people’s needs. When true patriots like Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cindy Sheehan come along who are more interested in the common good than filling their personal pockets, they are marginalized by the establishment and their big buck buddies. The Democratic Party is moribund and spineless. If the Democrats and the Republicans do not put their houses in order and start representing the best interests of the people, a new party of the people shall arise in the land.

J. Glenn Evans
Seattle Wash.

Don’t Be Pejorative

I expect the opponents of health insurance reform to attach pejorative labels to the various plans put forth. However, I am continually dismayed that progressive writers so frequently suggest that universal health insurance will “socialize” the system. Two examples appear in the 9/15/07 issue of this journal: Gene Lyons identifies Medicare as “America’s socialized health insurance for the elderly” and Froma Harrop refers to “the socialized insurance scheme known as Medicare.” In no way does Medicaid, Medicare, single-payer or any other insurance plans being suggested qualify as “socialized medicine.”

Socialized medicine would require that the doctors and other health care providers actually work for the government. In such a system, the government usually owns and operates medical facilities, including clinics, hospitals, long-term care and rehabilitative centers. Insurance plans being proposed are mostly methods for collecting money and distributing the same to people and institutions that provide the needed health care.

There is one socialized medicine system in this country. That system is managed by the Veterans Administration, which does quite well for the most part.

Allan Schramm
Oneonta, N.Y.

Civilize Medicine

Re: G.M. Chandu’s “Try Socialized Medicine” letter [10/15/07 TPP], Actually, just after the British adopted socialized medicine in 1948, right-wing radical extremists in the US were opposing it. Michael Moore’s SiCKO documentary shows how it is superior to the US method. Private medical insurance in Missouri has an administrative expense of about 17% (Physicians for National Health Plan pegs this at 31% in your editorial). Medicare is less than 3%. Emergency room care costs are borne by the insured, driving premiums up.

Every civilized nation in the world seems to have a single-payer health-care system. The United States is stuck with horse-and-buggy medicine, except for Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration. We must pass HR 676 (Rep. John Conyers’ US National Health Insurance Act).

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.

Support Progressives

Your editorial of 8/15/07 [“Impeach Bush, Cheney”] sparked this letter. There is a progressive and populist candidate running for US Congress in the Fifth District of Iowa, in your home district. The incumbent is widely known as a politician who cannot even spend enough time in his district to tell the real people of the Fifth that he is against them. It is clear that he would rather spend his time parroting empty phrases on cable news networks like CSPAN or MSNBC, protecting the dog and cock-fighting industries, or comparing immigrants to “livestock” and union members as “economic weapons of mass destruction.” The incumbent’s primary position appears to be that the world will only be redeemed when everyone speaks English.

There has never been a better opportunity for a progressive populist to achieve success in this district since Rep. Berkley Bedell and Sen. Tom Harkin’s campaigns. During my travels throughout this great district and in my face-to-face meetings with its citizens, I have found that there are many progressive-thinking people here in the Fifth. ... They may not be populists, but they are reacting to their disappointment in the Democrat Congress, the gridlock between the Legislature and the President, and the threat to their individual liberties. Above all, the people I meet have a general but profound feeling of economic insecurity and the impression that government is acting more like their enemy than their friend.

I am running as hard as possible straight at Rep. [Steve] King, “to take the robe off the King.” ... Our campaign for US Congress has a strong chance to succeed, but only with enough support and funding. Right now, unfortunately, we have “the best government that money can buy.” I want to change that. The people of the Fifth District deserve nothing less. Watch this race.

Rob Hubler
Council Bluffs, Iowa

Dodd Respects Habeas

I recommend senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd’s recent book Letters From Nuremburg, which details the Nuremburg trials of Nazi War Criminals as seen by Chris’ father, former Sen. Thomas Dodd. One now understands why Senator Dodd is so passionate about habeas corpus as eliminated by the Bush administration, with the help of Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Thomas Latham (R-Iowa). Sen. Dodd is the only candidate who speaks out passionately, without being asked, about giving us back habeas corpus and the “rule of law” which his father and the American judges insisted upon even for the monstrous and odious Nazi War Criminals. I hope that Dodd will eventually be our president.

Bernard C. Gerstein
Ames, Iowa

Rock Beats Paper?

How fitting that you placed those two articles on rock as world “salvation” and on (the grossly overrated) Kerouac together on one page (10/1/07 issue). As if any pop music, especially the auditory junk food called rock’n’roll, could ever correct the mess we’ve made of planet Earth. A great composer such as Bach or Schubert might provide listeners some inspiration toward more mature behavior, but certainly not the Beatles or their even lesser ilk. What kind of guides could the Beat dopers be to a confused youth avid for trivia?

For decades there have been sage voices out there to consult, such as Wendell Berry, but methinks that’s not the sort of medicine Rob Patterson and Joyce Marcel prefer. Following fads like rock and the beats, regrettably resembling religious faiths, has merely reinforced stupidity, enslavement and the calamities we face; only individual awakening -- to familial and media/governmental conditioning -- on a widespread scale has any chance of rectifying our unprecedented fix. Meantime self-indulgent Western culture bent on getting “high” steams credulously onward in the Icy North Atlantic fog.

Rob MacLeod
Porthill, Idaho

Missile Crisis Hero

JFK saved the world from annihilation in the Cuban missile crisis? (“Experience, Experience, Who Has Experience?” by Wayne O’Leary, 10/15/07 TPP) That’s not the missile crisis I remember. Khruschev pulled back the Soviet ships heading for Cuba, preventing a clash over the US blockade and a possible nuclear war. There are reputable analysts who even say that, with US missiles threatening the USSR from Turkey, the Soviets had justification for building their missile bases in Cuba. It’s not my point of view but it’s arguable.

Jeanne Riha
Corvallis, Ore.

Honest Empire Wanted

Too bad the noble experiment our founding fathers laid out for future generations quickly degenerated into empire building and the corruption that goes along with it. At first the expansion of this empire was at least honestly purchased -- $15 million for the Louisiana purchase and I guess it was $25 million for “Seward’s Folly” (the Alaska Purchase).

Suppose subsequent empire expansion was accomplished in the same way, by putting our money where our mouthpieces are instead of where our military is? Wouldn’t that be better than turning our nation into the most hated country on Earth and marching our finest blindly into the line of fire?

There was a commentary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune some years ago that posed as a possibility the purchase of Southeast Siberia for 1 or 2 trillion dollars, the cost of 1 or 2 Iraq wars. The size of our nation would immediately more than double and we would become overnight the world’s second-largest oil producer. No war, no creating more enemies to pacify in the process. An honest empire. Is such a thing possible?

We are by far the richest nation on the planet. Why not expend our wealth accordingly without endangering our species survival?

As RFK once said: “Most people see things the way they are and ask ‘why?’ I see the way things never were and ask ‘why not?’” If we are doomed to empire, why not an honest empire?

Jim Reine
International Falls, Minn.

Re-Investigate 9/11

The investigation into the worst crime on American soil -- 9/11 -- is far from over. In fact, it has barely begun. Neither the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) nor the 9/11 Commission were independent. NIST reports to the secretary of Commerce, a Bush appointee. The 9/11 Commission staff reported to Philip Zelikow, a close friend of the Bush administration. Facts that didn’t fit the official narrative were simply ignored.

Unfortunately, those we depend upon to be the watchdogs of government have fallen down on the job. Kristina Borjesson, author of Into the Buzzsaw, says:

“Post 9/11, news executives got the message from the American public that it was time to rally around the president and that asking tough questions about 9/11 or the decision to go into Iraq would not play well and would result in lower ratings. Lower ratings mean lost revenue.”

Despite the media’s shunning of the topic, an increasing number of courageous Americans have come forward to question the 9/11 story and call for an independent investigation.

The editor of Fire Engineering magazine wrote in January 2002 that there is “good reason to believe that the ‘official investigation’ … is a half-baked farce that may already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure.”

On Aug. 27 a member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the National Medal of Science, Dr. Lynn Margulis, dismissed the official account of 9/11 as a “fraud.”

“We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us,” Thomas Kean, chair of the 9/11 commission, told the Washington Post. “It was just so far from the truth.”

Isn’t it time we made it a priority to find out exactly what happened on 9/11?

Sheila Casey
Reston, Va.

Missing Missiles

In 1998 Bill Clinton rained nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars’ worth of armament on two of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan and Sudan. Although the intended target, Osama bin Laden, was not there, the chemical weapons plant turned out to be a medicine factory.

What you may not know is the attacks did have other profound consequences. Several of the Tomahawk missiles failed to detonate and some fell short. According to Russian intelligence sources, bin Laden sold the unexploded missiles to China for more than $10 million dollars of much needed cash. Pakistan may have used some of the ones that fell short in their territory to design its own version of a cruise missile.

My reference is The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (Knopf, 2006). This is an amazing book, packed with detail that lives up to the hype on the back cover. It is a National Bestseller and a winner of a 2006 Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction. It is well worth $15.95 in paperback.

Dennis Gronquist
Stillwater, Okla.


In Letters to the Editor, 11/1/07 TPP, the letter “Vote Progressive,” was incorrectly attributed. It should have been attributed to Susan P. Hammond of N. Syracuse, N.Y.

In Dispatches, 11/1/07 TPP, “GOP Climb Gets Steeper,” we incorrectly stated that Sen. Dennis DeConcini had announced his retirement. In fact, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) announced his retirement. DeConcini (D-Ariz.) retired in 1995.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2007

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