Threats to Liberty

Towards the end of Bush’s term, many of our rights were taken away by allowing the FBI to have alarming powers. On Obama’s watch, the FBI’s newest guidelines allow “threat assessments,” which are deadly to our remaining democratic rights.

Some of the new powers the FBI and, in some areas the police have that you may not have heard about are: an “assessment” can be done on a “person of interest” without any information that this person has been involved in any criminal or terrorist activity; during the exploratory assessment of any citizen, domestic, religious or protest group, they are allowed to go through state and local law enforcement records; can search your Internet; can go through massive data held by aggregators such as LexisNexis or Acxiom.

Agents can misrepresent themselves to collect information; conduct physical surveillance; undercover agents can infiltrate any kind of meeting or gathering; they can snoop into individuals’ affairs without oversight by anyone.

The new rules allow agents to go through garbage — either to find information to hold over a citizen’s head to pressure them to spy on their neighbors, or to use what they find to start an assessment on that citizen.

They use National Security Letters to enable agents to access an enormous array of sensitive financial, phone, Internet records, etc. without a court order. They can enter your home, confiscate computers, phones, etc. During peaceful protests, they have beaten up peaceful people and arrested others, with no charge given for their arrest.

The following is what these “assessment guidelines” did to one protester in a group protesting the clear-cutting of forests. When this young man heard of the new rules, he requested Freedom of Information papers on himself and found that the FBI had listed him as a “domestic terrorist.” During an interview he said, “I was followed by five different FBI agents through nine states. There were always cars parked on my street that didn’t belong to my neighbors.

The FBI put up posters of me saying I had burned up police cars. I wouldn’t have known about the posters if my friends hadn’t seen them and recognized me. They tried to get me on tax evasion. One agent corrupted two of our former members into committing crimes, and they’re still in jail.

One of my good friends in the protest group turned out to be the last agent following me. Everything you can imagine to harass and frighten a person was done to me. In the end, after hiring a lawyer, they never found a single thing I’d done that was illegal.”

When Bush began giving the FBI excess powers, Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded in 2007 that, “In two years’ timespan, agents violated laws and government policies 3,000 times, collecting data on citizens.

It’s obvious this is another policy open to abuses, a money-wasting project by paranoid officials who are attempting to instill fear in the public, so they will not access their civil rights by protesting and speaking out. ...”

If there ever was a time to speak out, it’s now. We’re living between Orwell’s 1984 and Kafka’s The Trial.

Carol Burger
Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Ideologically Rigid

The debt ceiling debacle has finally blown the lid off the iron grip Grover Norquist has upon the “Fabled Party of Lincoln.” All six Republican appointees to the Budget Super Committee have signed the “No New Taxes” pledge to Mr. Norquist’s dubious organization. What is the quid pro quo here? That question aside, I find it most troubling that with very few exceptions, every Republican in Washington, D.C., has sworn such an oath to any special interest group. Thereby, have thumbed their noses at a large percentage of “We the People.” This blind, unquestioning allegiance is the exact thought process demonstrated by every cult member.

The very document these fanatics proclaim to honor, second only to the Bible (the US Constitution) prescribes the duty of all elected officials.

The third paragraph of Article VI states, and I quote, “... shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution ...” Nowhere in said document is any special interest group, save “We the People,” mentioned. So many Republicans live to vilify “special interest groups,” when ideologically opposed to their cause, how about showing some integrity in this instance? All I ask is that the same standards be applied ot all. How different a world that would be?

Lastly, I am truly disheartened that these self-righteous, self-proclaimed defenders of the US Constitution have forsaken their oath of office. It appears their “sacred honor” is for sale to the highest, most powerful bidder. Say it ain’t so, Joe? (Bobby Brady to Joe Namath).

Wayne C. Taylor
Bethlehem, Pa.

Economic Prescription

The USA economy is in bad shape because there is too much influence in D.C. by Big Business. If we want a strong USA we need to stop outsourcing our jobs, and subsidizing Big Business income with state funds, like food stamps and low-income homes, so Big Businesses don’t have to to pay better wages.

According to CNN, CEOs in the USA make up to 600 times their employees’ income. Put a cap at 200 times, not 600 times, their employees’ wages. CEOs would have to give their employees a raise or not get one themselves. But CEOs are greedy, so if they give the employees a raise they get one too!

When poor people make more money, there’s less need for state assistance to make ends meet.

To fix the USA’s economy, ban offshore bank accounts and corporate headquarters, and make USA businesses use USA money.

Make USA businesses do 35% of their business inside the 50 states. Let’s go back to the tax code of 1982!

Put back the spend-as-you-go law and the Glass-Steagall Law!

D.R. Means
Florence, Ore.

GOP Makes Us Yellow Dogs

I recently sent a letter which was truncated and so was misleading (“Draft Bernie Sanders,” 8/15/11 TPP). Though, like many of you, I have come to actively dislike Obama, I do NOT support voting against him or allowing the Republicans to win anything else, especially not the presidency.

Obama is bull-headed, wrong-headed, and incapable of standing up to bullies. Apparently, he is used to charming his way through life, and he has never learned that nothing short of a two-by-four up side of the head (figuratively speaking, of course) gets a bully’s attention.

After you establish your dominance, then you may get some respect, but not, unfortunately, before that unpleasant transaction. In the case of the president: he should have said “no” and “back the hell off” before they ever started in on him.

The situation, as I see it, is this. First of all, Sen. Sanders should have our complete support in being reelected, no longer a sure thing when voters seem to have lost their minds. The Democratic senators are at risk this election; we should be working actively to get 60 sure, filibuster-proof seats there. The Republicans also plan to pick off the Blue Dogs; as much as we might like to see them go, we can’t afford to lose them.

All this “shoulda, woulda, coulda” and name calling among the members of the left is not helping. If you are one of those who chose to pout rather than get active in electing leftie candidates in the last election, then part of this present debacle is on you, and doesn’t that make you just as spineless?

We have a great example of the type of grassroots movement we desperately need in what is happening in Wisconsin. Those people may have lost one election, but they are winning the war. Winners are those who, when they are knocked down, bounce back up slugging. They are fighting for freedom, which we, as Americans, have come to take for granted.

We have voters in Texas who call themselves Yellow Dogs.

They had rather vote for a yellow dog than let a Republican win. We all need to become Yellow Dogs now.

P. Ann White
Meridian, Texas

The Lame Excuse

Ellen Brown’s 8/15 TPP, just about says it all with regard to the free ride banks are getting, save for the excuse that the usurers offer for lounging on T-.notes.

Ask any banker why they’re hoarding money in this fashion, and just about every one of them will tell you that they’re overstocking their assets in anticipation of “the second wave.”

The first wave was, of course, the real estate foreclosures. The second wave which they predict is the Chapter 7 filings on credit card and small loan debt. Although there may be some merit to this fear of fear itself, the reasoning is truly circular. I have no less than three friends who have recently filed Chapter 7 to rid themselves of credit card debts which average about $70K.

They are all entrepreneurs who have confessed that they would have otherwise kept up with their payments except for the fact that they saw no light at the end of the tunnel in an economy which will never restart (as long as banks refuse to lend money?)

And round and round we go, boys and girls.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Montana County Gets Medicare

Lincoln County, Mont., is going to get Medicare for all the citizens of Lincoln County and they are going to get it from Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Yes, that is the man who rejected that same idea for the people of the United States. Remember, Vermont is going to get it [under a state program that needs a federal waiver].

But we the people of the United States are not good enough to merit it. No, we have to pay for it. And even though the citizens of Lincoln County merited it, the rest of Montana were not worthy of it and neither are we worthy of it. Well, I guess we can wait another bit longer.

S. Einhorn
Tampa, Fla.

CLARIFICATION: In “One Montana’s Medicare-for-All Coverage” (8/1/11 TPP), Kay Tillow reported the provision “covers the whole community, not just the former miners.” But the Social Security Administration notes that only those who are diagnosed with asbestos-related disease are covered. “Anyone who has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and was present in Lincoln County, Montana, for a total of at least six months during a period ending 10 years or more before the diagnosis” is eligible for Medicare (see ssa.gov/libby).

CORRECTION: The 9/1/11 TPP included an incorrect phone number for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). His campaign phone number is 802 862-1505.

Go Indy Too

In response to your 8/1/11 editorial (“Rebuild the Dream”) concerning Van Jones’ effort to restore the American Dream, I think he should take the advice of Bill Nerin in his letter to the editor in the same issue (“Go Indy”) and start an independent party that represents the views of the majority of Americans.

I believe that a serious independent movement would split both parties and would have an excellent chance for success in 2012.

Raymond Goggan
Hemphill, Texas

United We Stand Apart

Every time I see a bumper sticker proclaiming that “United We Stand”, the question arises how long it will take for folks to wake up from their corporate

mainstream media induced slumber.

We undoubtedly are the most polarized country in the western industrialized realm, where political hatred, bile and venom reigns supreme, resembling trench warfare. while the maldistribution of wealth has taken on banana republic proportions, i.e. the top 1% possesses and controls more of it than 155 million of our working class citizens combined.

Honest Abe’s proverbial Bible quote and caveat about “a house divided” comes to mind, which is even more pertinent these days, than it was 150 years ago.

So, the question remains: How soon will We the People see the light and conclude that by participating in the ongoing blame game and hate mongering, we have become our worst enemies and active contributors to our own demise?

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff, Calif.

Union Busting Capitalism

As long as the words “Labor Union” are associated with Socialism/Communism there will always be confrontation. There was close to [$40 million] spent in Wisconsin for the recall election just to maintain Republican majority in the state’s legislature and support their battle against unions. Such confrontation is not directed at the unions per se but at the (wrongly perceived) threat that unionism is antithesis to capitalism.

Most of our past wars, where thousands have been killed, were mainly to fight this enemy of capitalism — If USA did not directly participate in such wars we supported dictators who would be our proxy. (Suharto of Indonesia, Shah of Iran, Mubarak of Egypt, Marcos of Philippines and host of others). When we have gone to such extent (to preserve capitalism), union busting is but a child’s play.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

Zither and Yon

Will Durst’s cute little piece (“Congress skulks on debt ceiling,” 8/15/11 TPP) on our bumping our heads against the debt ceiling cites Greece’s “... pleasant distraction of all that melodious zither music.”

The Euro Zone has homogenized a lot of stuff, but I don’t think it has transported the zither to Greece.

The root may be Greek, but the word means “guitar.” Isn’t it Austrian?

Roués of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, not having much in the way of etchings to lure nubile young mädchens back to the pad, used the line “Come hither and listen to my zither” to great effect. ... The Greek musical instrument was named when a touchy female ensemble player hissed to a male counterpart: “Keep your filthy hands off my bouzouki!”

Peggy Corbin
Bend, Ore.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2011


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