Proud to Pay Union Dues

I am proud to pay union dues, in my case to the National Federation of Federal Employees/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (NFFE/IAMAW). In addition to representation within the workplace, grievance and benefit negotiation, assurance of Weingarten rights, etc., unions are agents of social justice. For example, every year at their annual meeting, the IAMAW holds a fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America and for the Boy Scouts. As for the labor movement in general, consider the quote from the late Monsignor George Higgins, America’s Labor Priest:

“In my own lifetime I have seen how the labor movement lifted millions of working people into the middle class; how it won the minimum wage, the paid vacation, health coverage and pension plans; and how it widened the circle of human dignity beyond the skilled craft workers to industrial workers who were once consigned to a lifetime of low wages. And even more important, I saw how the labor movement pioneered and pushed for every advance in social justice in our times: for civil rights and women’s rights; for educational opportunities for the young and Social Security and Medicare for the old.”

Or the words of the late John Cardinal O’Connor of New York: “An awful lot of us enjoy a measure of dignity and decency and certain prosperity because of the union movement. We should not forget that.

“Were the right to collective bargaining to be abolished tomorrow, in my judgment, it would not be too many years before such conditions [widespread poverty and homelessness] would prevail again in many quarters.

“I am not sure everyone realizes that, as I am not sure everyone realizes that we still have grave economic and social problems in this country”.

I am not a multigenerational union member – my father was not in a union and did not extol the virtues of organized labor. My mother did infuse in me a sense of social justice and the daily struggle that is part and parcel of that struggle.

Growing up in Oklahoma, all I knew of unions was what I read in the newspaper, and that was not good. Today, however, things are changing. The Sooner State is doing the right thing by recognizing her native son, Woody Guthrie. Woody knew the good things that unions do, and I am proud to be a part of that. Join me, join us, join a union. If I am not my brother’s keeper, why am I here?

Gregory G. Guthrie
Alexandria, Va.

Don’t Shoot the Programmer

Wayne O’Leary’s 1/1-15/12 TPP column, “Worshipping Steve Jobs,” reconfirms my longstanding belief that Stihl Inc. should have been assigned most of the liability for the Texas chainsaw massacre.

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.

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.


Michael Lind lauds Obama for ”wisely bringing to a close the misguided bid for imperialism that led America astray into the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan” (“Obama Turns Focus from Iraq to Asia,” 2/15/12 TPP). This is complete baloney, and actually a defense of the new face of imperialism. He claims that Obama, instead of “fighting wars of nation-building and counterinsurgency” has “wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and is “focusing on balancing the power of rising states in East Asia (read China).” This is a great shift also from the “containment of communism.”

Of course, Obama “emphasized that that this country will maintain its position as the leading military power in the world,” but this isn’t because we want hegemony but because “no president, in this generation, could do otherwise.”

Isn’t the United States still in Iraq, with its gigantic Embassy and drone overflights, and didn’t Obama get out even that much, reluctantly? Didn’t he escalate in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and aren’t US and US mercenaries still there in large numbers?

Lind says that our balancing the power in East Asia is nothing like our presence in Europe after 1945, which was “to deter the red army.” But as with containment, Lind once again falls into the establishment propaganda mode.

The red army was not about to move into Western Europe in 1945, as John Foster Dulles himself openly admitted, any more than China is likely to make major moves across its borders. What kind of analysis of Obama’s foreign policy fails to mention the war on Libya, the growing US threat to Iran and Syria, the hostile moves on the border of Russia (rearming and encouraging Georgia, placing bases and missiles on the Russian border), the new troops in Uganda? Who is Obama “balancing” in these places?

Lind claims that this new softer Obama policy reflects the US public’s unwillingness to fund empire. But the public has had to be fear-driven to support the gigantic military budget and permanent war system for many years. They didn’t want Obama to escalate in Afghanistan, and even today, as in past years, polls show that the public wants a shift from military to civil spending. They don’t want the huge subsidization of Israel, they didn’t want the Iraq war, they don’t want an Iranian war (though Obama and his cadres are doing some real fear-mongering leading toward it), and they wouldn’t approve his pro-military (“defense”) priorities if they had any real say in policy-making.

As Lind does admit regarding the huge military budget, “no president in this generation could do otherwise.”

Is that because the public won’t allow him to do otherwise? Lind’s case for an Alice-in-Wonderland new look is laughably misleading, and, frankly, not very progressive or populist.

Edward S. Herman
Penn Valley, Pa.

Try ‘No Wars’ Strategy

If Michael Lind hopes to set the stage for revitalizing the 1950s and ’60s debates on war and semiwar strategy (“Obama Turns Attention from Iraq to Asia,” 2/15/12 TPP), count me out. We’ve been through all that: real politic, cold war, mutual assured destruction, nation building and counterinsurgency — and all the rest of the schemes to legitimize intervention and international conflict.

Lots of ambitious intellectuals made their reputations on these debates over the years, but many of us have had enough. Instead, let’s try Andrew Bacevich’s suggestions on curbing the military-industrial-congressional-executive-media lobby.

Jeanne Riha
Corvallis, Ore.


“Some men think the earth is round; others think it flat. It is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it?” The above was spoken by Sir Thomas More, the English statesman and Chancellor who was beheaded in the 1530s for not publicly declaring his support for King Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England.

Wise words from a wise man. And worth pondering these days as we see the US Congress considering a “personhood amendment” that would declare a fertilized egg to be a person, just like you and me. No man knows when the soul enters the body. We may believe what we want, and we may argue in our own behalf. But we cannot prove it.

The greatest philosophers, scientists and thinkers that have ever lived do not have the ability to prove when the soul and the body become joined as one.

If such an amendment were ever to become law, we would see chaos in certain parts of our society. The census taker would have to count an embryo as a member of the household and flip a coin to determine gender. Birthday cards, parties, and cakes would be replaced by Conception Day cards, etc. Taxpayers would have to be allowed to deduct fetuses on their 1040s — and if not, why not?

My own belief is much like that of the lady from Durham, N.C. (“Little Bit on Soul”, Letters, 2/15/12 TPP.) My belief is that the soul enters the body with the first breath of air at birth, and it departs the body with the last breath at death. Personally, I am not religious; but if there are any Bible readers out there, they might want to check out Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Lowell, Mass.

Postal Banking

In her article, “Postal Banking Creates Economic Mobility” [2/15/12 TPP], Ellen Brown tells us that, “Most money today originates as bank loans, and deposits are the magic pool from which this credit-money is generated.” Brown writes extensively about money and her book, The Web of Debt, is a highly readable classic on money.

Banks essentially print credit-money with a bookkeeping entry in a depositor’s checking account. According to the rules of banking, credit-money exists only as long as the originating loan is “performing” — interest is being paid. Credit-money also vanishes when originating loans are repaid. The US Treasury must provide new legal tender if credit-money is spent as cash.

The present world wide financial crisis reveals the inherent defect of generating “most money” with loans. In 2008 big banks faced insolvency as their loans failed. They were saved with injections of legal tender from the US Treasury. In the Eurozone private banks are being protected from insolvency by trying to force nations to continue paying interest on their national debts with more borrowed credit-money. The impossible success of such protection is being demonstrated at great social cost.

“Most money” must not be loaned into existence but spent debt free into existence by governments which alone have the power to create a nation’s legal tender.

Robert W. Zimmerer
Beaverton, Ore.

Thanks Ralph

During the crazy 2012 presidential campaign, many of us Americans fondly remember, long for, and voted for the presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader in 2000. We faithfully read his column, “In The Public Interest,” in TPP because, in true Nader form, he speaks the obvious truth. The following is dedicated to this smart, wise, socially rational, thriving man:

“If, if only, Ralph Nader had been elected president in 2000, the US might have become a sane nation. Instead, we are moving even more quickly to what a futurist on CNN in 2000 predicted: ‘By year 2015, the United States will be a “Third World” nation.’” (Athens, Ohio, Messenger, Dec. 30, 2011)

Post-9/11, would a President Nader have called for an unwinnable war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or would he instead have called for a world summit on peace? Would Nader have recounted our empirist actions in the Middle East since 1948 that eventually produced the Arab outrage that resulted in the 9/11 attack and now threaten jihadist WMD on our homeland? Would Nader have bailed out the Big Banks during our financial meltdown in 2008-2009? Or would he have let them to use the logical alternative: declare bankruptcy? Would a President Ralph Nader have ordered the auto industry to adopt fuel-saving technology that was publicly present during WW II?

And most importantly, a President Nader would have engineered America’s

transition to “green” technology to solve our unsustainable dependency on fossil fuels. One solution, of course, would still be to relegalize the cannabis plant, whose hemp oil is ready-to-use in machinery and one’s automobile.

Thank you, Ralph Nader, for still speaking out for the Peoples’ needs and interests today.

John R. Spofforth
Athens, Ohio

Stay Away from Dead Meat

Your “Big Meat” front page story misses the point entirely. It should have been titled “Dead Meat.” For the sake of the environment, for one's own health and most importantly to live a truly ethical and compassionate life, a true progressive should eschew a carnivorous diet entirely. It is really ridiculous to advocate for "safe meat" when the entire practice of killing sentient animals is so barbaric.

Carl Rosenstein
New York, N.Y.

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2012


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