Letters to the Editor

Give Dems a Break

I wish you wouldn’t start pounding on the Democrats right now [“How the Dems Blew It” by Gary Kamiya, 11/1/07 TPP]. You make it sound like it’s up to them to destroy the Republican Party. No, it’s up to the Democrats — or someone — to help this country get back to the Constitution. The Republicans are taking care of themselves. And this will take more than one election.

Also, please beware of falling into the Right-Wing trap of blaming the victim. “Anyone but them” is how you identify the victim, in this case.

The Republican Party has been behaving as it has for a long time now, pushing the same economic policies with the same goals: so that they can get and keep all the wealth and power. Democrats (i.e. “anybody but them”) are simply pointing out that they do have a responsibility to consider the rest of us who live on this planet. And to do that, they need all the help they can get — especially from all of us who are not them. And we do outnumber them — and they know it, even if they don’t want to admit it. (There are too many things they don’t want to admit. That’s their basic problem.)

If we give up after one election, they will have won. Then we will be in big trouble. So ease up a little.

It ain’t over until it’s over. And nobody’s singing yet.

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

At Least Dems Pretend

In the 11/1/07 lead article, Gary Kamiya castigates the Democrats for their failure to take meaningful action on the Iraq war, and rightfully so. He goes on to suggest that, as flawed as they are, Democrats would be better than Bush. I used to think so, too, and was all prepared to vote a straight Democratic ticket in 2008.

Like fifth graders, Congress caved to Bush’s order that they couldn’t go on vacation until they passed his undemocratic FISA bill. Did it ever occur to the Dems that they strip out the undemocratic aspects and let Bush deal with it? Hell, no!

Congress could stop the war by just not funding it. But they don’t. Are they still afraid of George Bush? Why should they be? His policy failures have reduced his status to that of an impotent weenie. Are they afraid of the American people? The very ones who voted for Democrats to stop the war? No, they are afraid the money will dry up from their corporate patrons, big oil, big pharmas, big military industrial complex, who have bought and paid for them and own them lock, stock and barrel, just like they own Republicans.

Congress whines that they just don’t have the power to make changes. Well, of course they don’t when at least 10 or 15 of them (sometimes all of them), routinely vote in lock step with the Republicans for George Bush’s fascist policies.

As for the three top Democrat presidential candidates, Gary says, “After eight years of Bush, a ventriloquist’s dummy ought to be able to beat whomever the GOP trots out.” This gives some comic relief as I picture Howdy Doody’s mug superimposed on the top of the faces of Hillary, Barack and John.

Is anybody else as underwhelmed as I am with their Band-Aid health care proposals that will just stick it to the needy without addressing problems of price gouging, fraud by insurance companies, a broken FDA, etc.? Or their promises to keep the Iraq war going throughout their term? And then some Democrats plan to stay in Iraq for 50 years (which just happens to be when the oil runs out, now isn’t that convenient?) Or their promises to nuke Iran, like two unwinnable wars (three if you count Afghanistan) will fix our broken democracy?

The only difference I can see between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans are hell-bent on destroying America as quickly as they can without any pretense that they value democracy, while Democrats still want to pretend that they believe in democracy and care about American citizens.

Barbara J. Lee
Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Elect Progressive Reps

Regarding Gary Kamiya’s 11/1/07 TPP cover story: “How the Dems Blew It: The Iraq debacle handed Democrats a golden opportunity to deal the GOP a mortal blow and change America’s flawed Mideast policies. They played it safe,” as of today, Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has not released a defense appropriation bill for consideration by Congress. Should none be approved by Congress, GIs may be home for Christmas. Hooray!

The R’s are filibustering almost every bill that is considered, so we just may have to wait until 2008 to get more progressives elected. And a progressive populist president. Presidential debates are just dog-and-pony shows to please plutocratic corporatists and the military-industrial-university sponsors. Funding comes from Congress. If we are to make America more progressive we must do it one congressional representative at a time. The executive and judicial branches of our federal government will follow.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.

Shun Bad Food

Because I have found Joan Retsina’s columns to be informative and to favor progress, I was reluctant to write this letter. However, I cannot be silent about her column of 10/15/07, “A Prescription for Good Health,” pertaining to the American diet. It’s a disservice to your readers. It is especially egregious because her specialty is health care. The column should be titled, “A Prescription for Bad Health.”

We don’t have to be Spartan in our eating habits. It’s all right to eat good-quality ice cream or other dessert on occasion. Rather than leave it at that, she minimizes the effect on health and weight from eating “bad” (her term) foods. An example would be trans-fat. Trans-fat is unhealthy and as someone who writes about health issues she should not be denying this.

She writes: “We Americans need somebody to blame. So we’ve demonized food. It is so much easier than blaming ourselves for our expanding girth.” This is a gross oversimplification. Unhealthy processed food, lacking nutritional value, full of chemicals, excessive fat, salt and sweeteners (especially corn syrup) overstimulate the appetite and cause even normally disciplined people to overeat and do harm to their health. It’s almost like being a drug addicts.

This is not rocket science. Eat nutritious food and you’ll have high energy, suffer less illness and decrease the chances of life-shortening disease. Eat bad foods and you’ll lack energy, be sick frequently and be susceptible to serious health conditions.

Charles McCarthy
Highland, N.Y.

What Are We Eating?

I will not buy my groceries at Wal-Mart. Why? Because they are the biggest importer of food from China! Think about it. A good 95% or more of this nation’s recalls have come from China. If they are so careless (and cost-effective) as to ship us pet food that killed many of our pets. tires that shredded all over our highways and tons and tons of lead-painted toys for our children, what makes us think the food they ship us is safe? That toothpaste sure wasn’t!

In 2002, the Country-Of-Origin Labeling (COOL) Act was passed. To date, we do not see what country shipped these groceries labeled on the packages. When Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was in town a few months ago, I actually got my question in: “Why are we not seeing these labels yet?” His answer, “Well we’re working on it.” It’s been over five years! My guess is that the businesses that left the USA for China and Mexico for cheap labor don’t want us to see these labels because sales would drop. And we all know how big business influences politicians. Sign up for free email alerts at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov). One more thing to consider: The next terrorist attack could be in your candy bar!

Maggie Smith
Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Populism Dissed Again

Sidney Blumenthal (“Schlesinger’s Playbill for American Century,” 11/15/2007 TPP) writes that Arthur Schlesinger, rightly “saw through the bullying of the jingo and the sentimentality of the populist.” Both of them are powerful tellers of the American story and, too often, champions of the powerful. They need to discredit populism.

Populism takes a lot of hits from liberals. In all the US history courses and texts I can recall from high school and college, populists were dismissed, after a nod or two for “some good ideas.” (This list, from a century ago, included federal income tax, food and drug laws, municipal ownership of utilities, bans on corporate financing of campaigns, direct election of senators, no to the Philippine war — pretty impressive!)

Do liberal historians and Americans not give populism its due because populists were racist? But then so were Democrats and their solid South. Because populists tend to religious and liberals secular? But then liberals had no problem with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man of God. Because populists are rural hicks and liberals are sophisticated urbanites who like their martinis? Maybe, to the extent it reflects an economic experience and perspective, because that, I’ve concluded, is the main reason populism isn’t allowed to be on the table as one of the respectable political options.

According to William Jennings Bryan biographer, Michael Kazin, Bryan [in the late 19th century] was the person most responsible for the Democrat’s economic stance. But today’s Democrats have moved dramatically away from the policies of FDR and LBJ.

Populists champion ordinary people, but most of today’s Democrats can vote for “free” trade, keeping the insurance companies in charge of health care and sending lower-income 19-year-olds to a war of empire in Iraq. All of these stands serve the economically powerful, so populism, a real alternative, is something the powerful and their allies need to keep dissing and dismissing

Judy Jensvold
Ithaca, N.Y.

McCain a Bully

I loved Arianna Huffington’s piece on John McCain [“Two Ways of Mixing Religion, Politics,” 11/1/07 TPP]. It was refreshing to have the old “war hero” exposed as a hypocrite who’s constantly shifting his depiction of his religious wonderfulness.

I’ve studied McCain closely for years, and I find him to be a swaggering bully and a deluded, self-righteous fool.

In 1998 he said, “When I was in Vietnam I enjoyed shooting guns and dropping bombs — nobody in his right mind would not enjoy that stuff.” He has long maintained that we should have nuked North Vietnam.

I read two books by the senator. It’s clear that he finds his father and grandfather (both naval admirals), and himself, more honest and courageous — simply finer — than we ordinary folks. He has clearly never doubted for a moment that our most moral humans are those who don uniforms, follow government orders and kill a lot of foreigners.

After Sen. Bob Kerrey was accused of shooting to pieces, at pointblank range, a village full of unarmed women and crying infants, McCain appeared on David Letterman’s show, and said, “I think Bob Kerrey is the finest kind of American hero.”

On another Letterman show, on Nov. 18, 2005, John McCain said, “President Bush is an honest man who cares a great deal about the men and women who are fighting and dying in Iraq. He’s a fine and decent man who loves his country dearly.”

I rest my case.

Larry Surber
Stoneville, N.C.

Voters Deserve a Choice

Re: Ralph Nader, 2000, 2,882,955 votes. Ralph Nader, 2004, 465,650 votes. Why are the delusional sore-heads in the Democratic/Republican swarm-herd-pack-bevy still belly-aching, “... if it hadn’t been for Nader, our candidate would have been elected. [11/1/07 Letters, “Don’t Give Up.”]

As a progressive populist elector who cast her ballot for Nader in both 2000 and 2004, allow me to simplify. My vote is my own, and for the past 50-plus years it has gone to the candidate who best represents me.

The prevailing presidential poll represents an auction rather than an election, the Oval Office is going to the highest bidder. While there are approximately 77 recognized political parties in the USA, the Dem/Rep combine holds a monopoly on election funding and maintains its PR canard that any vote not for their candidate is a wasted vote. Not so. My vote is my own. It goes to the candidate of my choice. It is not wasted. The election process has not been spoiled.

Here in Oregon, seven political parties appear on the ballot: Constitution, Democratic, Independent, Libertarian, Pacific Green, Republican, Working Families and Other, for write-ins. All of these parties draw votes, in the best democratic tradition.

Margaret Mansfield
Brookings, Ore.


Alex Koppelman’s “Christian Right Could Make Hillary President” in your 11/15/07 issue says Ralph Nader got less than 2% of the vote in November 2000. Actually, Nader got 2.74% in 2000. Nader received 2,882,955 votes out of 105,405,100 cast, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Richard Winger, Editor
Ballot Access News
San Francisco, Calif.

Whose Social Security Problem?

The item “Social Security Scaremongering” [Dispatches, 11/15/07 TPP] is incomplete. That “Social Security has built up a measurable surplus” is correct except the Congress has spent it all and issued to the Social Security system US government bonds to cover the borrowing. When the Social Security Administration needs actual cash to pay the retirees there will be no pile of cash available. The US Treasury will have to borrow more money, raise taxes, cut benefits or all three. So there is an actual cash problem coming.

Robert E. Grossman
Prescott, Ariz.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2007

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