Time Will Tell on Obama’s Populist Turn

Let’s hope President Obama is evolving into a populist, but it’s wiser to wait and see (“Time to Walk the Walk,” 1/1-15/12 TPP).

His earlier record didn’t offer much promise on civil liberties, habeas corpus, drones, whistle blowers, Palestine and a myriad of other indicators.

More recently the New York Times ran two page 1 stories (Dec. 10 and 17) that may or may not predict the future.

The first reported that, though the Obama administration had promised to crack down severely on fraudulent and inferior for-profit colleges, it backed down after a lobbying blitz by prominent figures — including some in the administration —and produced a much-weakened plan.

The second example involved the set of “essential health benefits” required of insurers in the new Obania health care plan. The administration said it would not define the benefits or even give details of what benefits must be provided within certain broad categories of services such as preventive care, prescriptive drugs, and hospital and doctor services.

The administration said it was trying to avoid bureaucratic rigidity and observe states’ rights.

But without federal oversight, who will feel comfortable with state and insurers deciding what benefits millions of new customers should get?

Jeanne Riha
Corvallis, Ore.

Obama Has Failed

In what alternate reality is Steve Kornacki [“President Obama: Evolution of a Populist,” 1/1-15/12 TPP] living? Does he really anticipate we have no choice other than a man who has, not only failed miserably to represent progressives, but voluntarily and needlessly caved on issues such as emissions standards, FEMA hurricane insurance payments, healthcare required services standards for states, medicare cuts, Constitutional rights, Supreme Court appointments. Thank goodness, you at least keep Hal Crowther, Ted Rall, and Alexander Cockburn buried in your pages to bring more reasoned voices.

Obama is now and always has been one of them. Work for a Democratic Congress, vote for a third candidate as President, and hope the Republicans get the Presidency this year. It is the only way to let them know we will no longer accept phony Democrats. Have the courage to right this sinking ship that will descend further should Obama get another term.

John Samore
Albuquerque, N.M

Where is Progressive Party?

Where is the passionate, people’s progressive party? While the plea of the preponderance of plodding Democratic politicians is for patience, progressives procrastinate. Power is has been preempted by plutocrats who are pitiless in their plunder of the populace. Prosperity should be an opportunity for all, not just the powerful.

With the “T” party, a small but militant faction of the radical right changed the direction of the Republican Party. What is stopping progressives? Patience is a virtue but paralysis is perilous. There is power in positive progressive participation in the political process. It is time for a new voice, the people’s voice. It is time for a REAL Progressive Party. Wisconsin is a start. Ohio is a start. Occupy movement is a start. Now is the time for Progress.

Jay F. Johnson
Redmond, Wash.

Try Socialism

It’s absolutely incredible and off-putting to me that the editors of a journal entitled “The Progressive Populist” (Jan. 1-15) can end an editorial by opining that for “a president that (cq — how about ‘who’?) is talking the populist talk, the new year offers an opportunity to walk the populist walk on restoring the American Dream.”

Why has it not occurred to you that The American Dream is the apotheosis of capitalism and is totally inimical to my dictionary’s definition of populist: “A believer in the rights, wisdom or virtues of the common people.”

That’s why I believe many readers of this publication need to move beyond populism which is closer to the hopeless, turncoat, sellout Democrats than to its time-honored definition above.

May I suggest you check out Workers International League (socialistappeal.org) as your next political home. Please contact our founder and leader, John Peterson, for further information: email laborpartyjp@gmail.com.

By his reprehensible actions in his first term, Pres. Obama — bailer-out of banks and billionaires, sycophant of and amanuensis to the rich — has sold out those who elected him, debased and besmirched whatever The American Dream once might have stood for and would be doing America a favor by declining to run for a second term as a Democrat but perhaps as a Republican where he would be welcomed with open arms and wallets.

Willard B. Shapira
Roseville, Minn.

Personhood Extremists

Hank Kalet discussed several ethical dilemmas concerning the Mississippi state constitutional amendment (Proposition 26) that defined “personhood” as beginning at conception, but which was defeated by the voters on Nov. 8 (“An Ethical Challenge,” 12/1/11 TPP). In addition to those ethical questions raised by Kalet, it could be argued that there are several legal issues to consider if a fetus is defined as a person (child) at time of conception. In some jurisdictions, it is illegal for a child under the age of 4 years to ride in the front seat of a car, but must be strapped in a child’s restraint seat in the car’s rear seat, so it could be ruled illegal for a pregnant woman to drive a car or even ride in the front seat. In Miss. a pregnant woman could not go into a bar, or a pool hall with a “child” under age 18; or, take a sip of wine, since she would be providing alcohol to a minor. An aggressive prosecutor could view those actions as child abuse, and attempt to place the child in protective custody of the Dept. of Human Services (DHS). Could that mean DHS would move the pregnant woman from her home into its facilities to safeguard the “child”? It could be argued a pregnant woman would be barred from watching an “R” rated movie, if this amendment had passed.

Although some of the above could be dismissed as frivolous, it does point out the importance of careful attention to the wording of constitutional amendments. I understand the authors of Proposition 26 have not given up, and plan to introduce such propositions in other states in 2012.

Johnny Taylor
Silver Creek, Miss.

Corporations Need First Amendment Rights

Over and over again, your regular columnist Jim Hightower has said that the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission established that "lifeless, soulless corporations are henceforth persons with human political rights."

This statement is utterly untrue. If it were true, let Mr. Hightower or any other contributor to The Progressive Populist quote where in the decision the Supreme Court said anything whatsoever about “corporate personhood.” They don't quote the decision because the decision did not say that.

Corporations do not need to be persons in order to have free speech rights. Corporations have had free speech rights for decades. In 1964 the US Supreme Court said corporations have free speech rights in New York Times v Sullivan. In 1978 the US Supreme Court said corporations have free speech rights in First National Bank v Bellotti.

All groups, as well as flesh-and-blood people, have free speech rights. The Progressive Populist is not a natural flesh person but The Progressive Populist has free speech rights.

Richard Winger
San Francisco, Calif.

The Lord’s Name in Vain

I truly enjoy Donald Kaul’s mordant wit and acute observations! If I had the power to implement a national slogan, it would be: “In Donald Kaul We Trust to Tell the Truth and to Entertain Us.” (In Greed We Trust,” TPP, Dec. 15, 2011).

Who can deny that most Americans are obsessed with religion? And that with each passing day, we see more politicians pandering to Christian voters to pay the rent? Yet, I wonder how many Americans know that Theodore Roosevelt, one of our most devout Christian presidents, opposed the slogan, “In God We Trust,” on our money?

This is what he said: “To put such a motto on coins or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm — and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege.”

How right he was! Legal tender currency is what winos use to buy their alcohol ....and what johns use to pay prostitutes ....and what addicted gamblers use to deprive their children of food ....and what drug peddlers demand from their victims ....and what gun merchants are paid with, so that (God forbid!), we won’t have a shortage of violence. The list is endless.

If I were the “Good Lord,” I’d feel offended to have my name printed on such a filthy, germ-infested, amoral thing as money.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Sharia Scare

It seems Mr. Gingrich will say anything to get the attention of the Christian voters who know only about Christianity and are completely unaware of other world religions. Unfortunately there are millions in this group and I do not blame Mr. Gingrich for politically exploiting this group — he fails to mention that the Muslim Americans are less than 1% of the population and a big percentage of this group are not evangelical Sharia law proponents.

One of the reasons I decided to migrate to USA was to escape the creeping Sharia laws that were being introduced in Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan in existence since 1947 did not feel the need for Sharia laws till very recently and it is still vehemently opposed by Pakistanis even to this date. The Talibans (students) pride themselves as being students of the Islamic Sharia, taught in Maddrasahs (religious schools), feel that they should punish the non-Sharia majority and hence the attacks.

Most Muslim Americans feel bewildered that Sharia laws, which are not uniformly followed (all over the Muslim world) and has not been formally coded, could be a threat and Americans needed to be warned. Come on Mr. Historian you should know better.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

Don’t Shoot the Programmer

Wayne O’Leary’s 1/1/12 TPP column, “Worshipping Steve Jobs,” reconfirms my longstanding belief that Stihl Inc. should have been assigned most of the liability for the Texas chainsaw massacres.

The joke, of course, is that this article demonstrates the need of some to fault the implements of wrongdoers rather than wrongdoers themselves.

O’Leary seems to blame computer makers like Jobs for the more recent screw-ups of the financial sector. For that matter, a better example would have been the ’87 market crash, when program trading computers blindly sold everything in sight.

Despite his alleged geekishness and control freakishness, Steve Jobs was most definitely not the father of stupidity. If asked, he would have gladly confirmed the fact that there are certain things (like nuclear arsenals) that are best left to human decision making. The bottom line is that computer manufacturers have no control over who uses their contraptions or for what automated purpose.

O’Leary is quite correct in stating that machines of automation eliminate jobs. Then again, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was credited with saving slavery in the South.

As far as his claim that e-books are the bane of paper books, he should go out and hug a tree. One of my pet peeves is that I can’t get this very journal on my Kindle.

Yes indeed, as this writer points out, mainstream media folk can be a lugubrious lot, with a small sense of individuality and a large instinct for bandwagons on the roll. But it’s not fair to blame this on the dead. Chances are if Steve were to cry out from the grave, it would be something like — “Will somebody please stop this funeral. I want to get off!

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Challenge Obama Now

Rod Smith’s letter (“Where are Democrats?” 12/1/11 TPP) was on point. Since he asks for suggestions, I’d like to oblige; How about moving up the time frame?

Why grit our teeth through the 2012 election trying to prepare ourselves psychologically for another, long, four years of Obamafrump? Why not envision Occupiers across the country bending our focus onto Obama’s miserable, blatant shortcomings and getting behind one of the hopefully more truly progressive alternative figures now?

And please: don’t carp about losing the thin Democratic majority in the Senate — what good has it done? Or what good would it do to strain for regaining a Democratic House majority? (I second Alton Eliason’s dissing of Nancy Pelosi). As Noam Chomsky and others have deftly pointed out, there really was nothing in Obama’s short Senate career that warranted hope. If only we’d paid attention to that instead of succumbing to Obama’s glorious rhetoric,

Oh, you say: no Democrat alive would mount a serious primary campaign against a sitting Democratic President. Maybe, but that’s where we were in 1968 with Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy, and we almost made it. Who knows? Maybe in such an event Obama, too, might decline to run for re-election.

The point, of course, is that we need a hefty gear reversal in 2012 not 2016.

Barry G. Parsons
Madison Fla.

Vote Paul for Peace

For the first time in 40 years of voting, I will be asking for a Republican ballot in a Massachusetts presidential primary. I look forward to voting for the only anti-war candidate (and opponent of the Patriot Act) on the national scene, Ron Paul. However objectionable most of his other positions are, it will be a opportunity to endorse an advocate of common sense in foreign policy and an opponent of war demagoguery.

As for November, you may or may not be ready to join with the BlueRepublican.org group; but let’s use the primaries to speak out for peace.

Allen Agnitti
Springfield, Mass.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2012


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