Killing Fields USA

I understand that the Trayvon Martin killing is not necessarily a populist issue. Populism, in pure form, has more to do with workers and their rights. But I always remembered the Populist as a publication that stood up for the little guy.

In this case the little guy is the boatload of African American teens and families who live in (justified) fear of the police and of people who wrongly believe themselves to be some kind of neighbourhood protection (Zimmerman). The latest killing was of a 19 year old college student named Kendrec McDade.

He was shot and killed March 24 in Pasadena, Calif., by two police officers, who are now blaming a 911 caller because his words “set the minds of the officers,” according to the Associated Press. McDade was unarmed. Let me repeat that: Two adult police officers shot and killed an unarmed 19 year old college student. His name was Kendrec McDade. 

True, he fled from the police officers ... but wouldn’t you? True, it sounds like he stole from the 911 caller. But does the punishment (execution) fit the crime? It used to be the case that people were just arrested for “walking while black.” Now it seems we’ve upped the ante to “you get shot for being outside while black.” 

I understand that police officers have dangerous jobs. But they are trained to have enough situational awareness to know when deadly force is necessary. It is not necessary when a suspect is unarmed, boxed in by a patrol car, and fleeing. As for Martin, he was shot by someone who was not trained. Zimmerman’s victim was armed only with Iced Tea and skittles. Martin was also black. That seems to be the common thread here. 

This occurred to me while I was loitering outside of my house. Would I have done so if I were black or brown? Would I have done any of the stupid things I did in college? Nearly all of my white friends either own or want a firearm. None of my African American or Latino friends do. If we’re going to do us some good ol’ fashioned racial profiling, which group would you say is more dangerous? The group armed to the teeth, or the group that is almost always unarmed? 

This slaughter of young, dark skinned Americans has to stop. And the only way it’s going to stop is if we force the pale faces in the legislature and judiciary, both state and federal, to prevent “stand your ground” laws, and give police better access to non-lethal methods for subduing suspects. We have the guns, we have most of the government, and yet we still try to pretend that race is not a factor in these brutal acts. Let’s stop pretending.

Charles Cullen
Atlanta, Ga.

Hocus Pocus, Alakazam

Boy, do I love a good fantasy every now and then. Of course, my favorite being the delusional kind, like Bill Johnston’s fantasy of Barack Obama jumping into the nearest phone booth, changing to LBJ and then giving a mean-spirited in-your-face rap to Mitch McConnell about cooperation (“President needs to exercise power,” 3/15/12 TPP).

That’s right. We’re talking about the same Mitch McConnell who will be the next Senate majority leader if we Dems don’t drag ourselves out of fantasy land, soon.

What Bill obviously doesn’t understand is that LBJ’s power of persuasion (“the Johnson treatment”) came from just that very thing. Power. Real POWER!

Prior to becoming president, LBJ spent 26 years in Washington, starting out in the House under the approving gaze and guidance of FDR. He worked his way into the Senate in 1949 where he spent the last six of twelve years there as the youngest Democratic majority leader. By the time he became “Big Daddy” (backed by a solid 2/3rds Democratic Congress), he had accumulated enough power to give the entire nation the Johnson treatment with regard to civil rights.

Now, let’s have a look at our current president.

Here we have a black man sporting an untimely middle name who, almost out of nowhere, bypassed the House to become a US senator. Doesn’t that seem like magic? Then, having barely finished the first half of his first term, he suddenly leaped into the White House.

It’s magic! Real MAGIC! And from where did this magic come? It’s American magic! Here’s how it was performed.

With his great oratorical gift, Barack Obama said to America, “Hocus Pocus.” We in turn, responded to his invocation by saying “Alakazam.” Poof! Out of the Senate and into the White House he went. It’s as simple as that. But now, here’s what else Bill Johnston may not understand.

Now, rather than ask our magician to make silly, empty, powerless threats, thereby giving Mitch McConnell the opportunity to laugh in his face, we are going to move forward with our very next magical trick, which we will call “Abracadabra.” And what exactly is Abracadabra? Abracadabra is the word we must all say together this November which will win back a Democratic majority in the House.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Insurance Mandate is Not Health Care

How stupid must you be not to understand that health insurance is not health care? Apparently, an MIT professor named Jonathan Gruber, an expert in econometrics, managed to convince everyone, including the economists of the Obama administration, that the “mandate” to buy health insurance was necessary for universal health care to be successful.

Professor Gruber’s specialty, econometrics, involves mathematical and statistical analysis of economic data. However, mathematics is not economics. Statistics is not economics. Economics is a social science whose primary concern should be the interaction of people in a society in which we are all interdependent. Its goal is the welfare, health and happiness of everybody involved, not just the corporate stockholders. Without consideration of fairness, morality and public welfare, economics is just worthless garbage.

The “mandate” requiring everybody to buy insurance or pay a fine [up to $2,085 per family in 2016] is outrageous and should be declared unconstitutional. There are many countries with health-care systems better than that of the US, that do not even involve insurance companies! Apparently, the “math wizards” who convinced everybody we need a “mandate” did not even think of this. How stupid can you get.

Harry Stoneburner, M.A.
Brooklyn, N.Y.

No Fan of ‘Romneycare’

The article by Joan Retsinas in the 3/15/12 TPP makes “Romneycare” sound like a pretty good deal. As a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I wish to offer a few comments of my own.

The first thing people should understand about Romneycare is that its primary purpose was to relieve hospitals of the burden of having their emergency rooms overcrowded to the busting point with indigent, uninsured residents seeking health care. The hospitals were necessarily obliged to provide such health care services as needed, and they would then turn to the state to be reimbursed.

The rationale behind this mandatory health insurance has always been something of a marvel of Alice-in-Wonderland logic: Too many people don’t have health insurance, so we’ll pass a law that compels them to buy it.

It probably never occurred to Gov. Romney that a good many people might have loved to have health insurance, but they couldn’t afford it. Who else but an out-of-touch rich guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth would ever come up with such a brainstorm?

Of course, the logic could be applied to other social problems as well. If too many people are going hungry, we pass a law compelling them to buy food. If too many people are homeless, we force them to buy a house. Gosh! Why didn’t we think of this before?

You folks outside of Massachusetts ought to see the convoluted, invasive, Gestapo paperwork that we have to deal with on our state tax forms, to prove that we are in mandatory compliance — not to mention the fines, the penalties, and the double secret probation that is in store for us if we are not.

What a windfall this has been for insurance companies — private, for-profit insurance carriers. The entire population of a state is forced by law to turn to them and purchase their coverage. Is this a great country, or what?

Remember John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin — all native sons of Massachusetts? Remember what they risked and put on the line to lead the American colonies to break away from the British empire and become an independent nation?

I can’t help thinking that, if they ever came back today and saw Romneycare and all of its extraneous ramifications, they’d never stop throwing up.

J.F. Dacey
Lowell, Mass.

Give Up Your Ground

We must look into the circumstances which brought about the enactment of the “Stand Your Ground” law. Was it our nostalgia of the frontier days, jazzed-up by Hollywood, where settlers had no choice but to stand-up on their own to defend their family and cattle? Was it the gun manufacturers, who misconstrued the Second Amendment, and concluded that the demand for arms would continually increase? Were they also responsible for setting up a political arm, the National Rifle Association, entrusted to popularize the gun-culture? Was it some religious — yes religious — group, such as the Christian Reconstructionists (detailed in the Spring issue of Intelligence Report published by the Southern Poverty law Center)?

Whatever the reasons, such laws are fraught with danger, as we saw it in Sanford, Fla., recently, when a deluded person got overcarried with the notion of “standing his ground.”

This law needs to be repealed immediately as it is unsuitable for our “cowboy” thinking mentality and where there are some 1,018 listed hate groups (2011 survey). Tourists and visitors — do you still want to come here?

G.M. Chandu
Flushing. N.Y.

Divided Loyalties

If elected President, Rick Santorum would be required to take an oath upholding the US Constitution, a document distinctly at odds with the tenets of the two papal organizations, Opus Dei and Legionaires of Christ, which Santorum has so dramatically supported. So which will you choose, Mr. Santorum?

Our civil liberties hang in the balance. The US Constitution most certainly is NOT a majoritarian document.

Our civil liberties (e.g. freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, trial by jury, etc.) are subject to no vote. Were this formula to change, then overnight we go from a democracy to a theocracy.

Donald D. Meyer
Labadie, Mo.

Crowther Cracks the Case

I subscribe to as many progressive newspapers and magazines as I can afford. The Populist is my hands-down favorite, partly because of Hal Crowther’s great, pithy prose.

I can’t think of anyone who can rant as beautifully or skewer the deserving as mercilessly. The image of Newt’s Gingrich’s “doughy thorax” pinned to a specimen board — from the “Meaner and dumber than rats” essay in the 4/1/12 issue—cracked me up. Thank you.

Glenn Fieldman
Brisbane, Calif.

No More Bushes

Why does no one ever remind us that the Bush family (and their Saudi friends) is the biggest group of oil speculators ever? They have been running the US economy for 30 years. No more Bushes.

Marilyn Winton
Menomonie, Wis.

All the Risks, Few Benefits

We keep hearing that the USA needs more domestic sources of oil, hence more oil-drilling and exploration. The same sources never mention that oil, gasoline, and jet fuel are among the most exported commodities from the USA? So in the case of environmental depredations like the contemplated Keystone XL pipeline, the logic is that we are supposed to endanger our water supply so that oil producers can enrich themselves by exporting more of their product. And Canadian oil producers at that.

Richard F. Hardin
Lawrence, Kan.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2012


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