Protecting Democracy

The last few issues of TPP had several great articles performing autopsies on the Republican defeat in November. With the impending mega problems facing the economy and the survival of the poor and middle classes it is important to understand exactly what makes the ultra neocons tick!

There is a sensual comfort and security in methodically burying oneself in a doctrinaire form of conservative rhetoric — and the persistent power games that need to be played. The walls to protect that counterfeit security are ironclad and impenetrable. There is an arrogant pride in being so stalwart and hard core. These purists are authoritarian types as described in John Dean’s book, “Conservatives without Conscience.” They feel that their “superior” approach to constitutional interpretation gives them the power and right to judge and control people in all areas of public, private and institutional life. Anyone who has read Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, can see the anti-government sentiments that the free-marketeers use in order to gain favor with the rogues of capitalism (not all capitalists are rogues). The loads of money that are donated to campaigns is beyond disgusting.

Free market true believers are Ayn Rand groupies that have infiltrated the federal legislature and many state governments. We all know how they gerrymandered and used other questionable means to do so. Right-wing media are also a big part of it.

With a rapidly growing population, our democracy is extremely expensive, government-wise — with two long wars, tax breaks for the wealthy and natural disasters, it is a wonder that the national debt is not a great deal higher.

2013 can be a great deal for the US — providing that our huge melting pot country can continue producing a workable majority of free-thinking, intelligent, motivated participants in an ongoing democracy experiment. It has never been easy — nor will it ever be a finished product.

We will always be at war against the insanity of fascist-leaning politics and persist in studying the inner working of desperado enemies of our unique democracy. They must be exposed for what they really are: shallow-minded, self-serving opportunists who have no regards for humanitarian leadership and no insight into the natural order of evolving world events.

Helen McKinney
Sapphire, NC

Premature Triumphalism

The triumphalist articles (i.e. “Twilight of the Pale Patriarchs,” etc.) announcing the end of the demographic hegemony of white males over America’s political processes seems a bit over the top. I do not lament the possible end of Republican control of the political dialogue. The party of “big – almost universally wrong ideas” has thankfully almost run its course – maybe!

But what is to replace them? The Democratic Party of “small – mostly irrelevant ideas” has no solutions to the problems we and the rest of the world are facing. This paper espouses Progressive Populism but what is that other than an attempt to be a bit more rational and ethical in enacting the same “small ideas” of the Democratic Party.

So will America’s Democracy be better served by a coalition of African Americans, Latinos, gays, and women particularly since no one has any “good” ideas? Will economic and social justice be advanced by this “new” tribal coalition as opposed to the “old” tribal cohort of white men, or will we just have tribal politics?

The global dictatorship of capital is focused on the extraction of wealth from the peoples of the world, not on responsibly governing them. Tribalism and tribal conflicts are fracturing what could have been an era of worldwide economic growth, democracy and justice. Europe has run out of ideas: they rebuilt their economy, ended the cycles of warfare, opened their boarders, and unified their economies. Now Europe is re-fracturing along tribal fault lines.

Following World War II, this country fostered the growth of a large middle class and made a serious attempt to advance economic and social justice to all Americans regardless of color, gender, or sexual orientation. But those “grand” ideas are running aground on the rock of tribalism. So isn’t it a bit premature to trumpet the end of the hegemony of old white men when we don’t have any “grand” or even “good” ideas as to govern ourselves for a better and safer future?

Gilles Stockton
Grass Range, Mont.

Less Anger and Self-Righteousness

The lead article in the 2/1/13 TPP (“Twilight of the Pale Patriarchs” by Hal Crowther) is unbalanced in substance and unacceptable in tone:

It is, of course, quite true that black slavery, initiated by whites, was shameful and cruel but, it also true that the abolition movement was also initiated by whites and some slaves were first taken by their African “brothers” and re-sold. Similarly, Crowther’s concern for contemporary US women sounds almost condescendingly Victorian: with more females than males in both college programs and in the workplace, chivalry is now somewhat passé.

But these observations are not the main reason for this letter. To be blunt, Crowther crudely invokes both sexist and racist stereotypes in the tone of his screed. Yuk!

Rather than rail about the already-off-the-scene Mr. Helms, Mr. Crowther might have more profitably expressed his shame at not being able to carry his swing state of North Carolina, given it’s two advantages over other swing states – the research triangle and the Democratic convention which proceeded the election.

With Mr. Obama’s reelection we do not need any (more) pre-adolescent tainting and taunting of the opposition. What we do need – and what I hope will appear in TPP hereinafter – are passionate, reasoned invitations for moderates to become populists. Let us leave Mr. Crowther and his Tea Party opposite numbers to molder in their narrow worlds of anger and self-righteousness.

John Palmer
Charleston, W.V.

Mental Illness Still Catch-22?

In 2005, there were 3,000 severely mentally ill patients’ for every hospital bed. Today we have less than 100,000 mentally ill patients in state hospitals. This is a national problem; people with paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar illness, are the ones who desperately need long term hospital care but like so many it is just not available. Are some of these patients part of the rash of new violence plaguing us today? ...

When did we get on this track? The Supreme Court in 1975 restricted involuntary hospitalization for the case O’Connor v.Donaldson, and any treatment had to take place in the “least restrictive environment.” Afterwards, court decisions have prevented mandatory treatment except for emergencies. Once you are released from the hospital as severely mentally ill treated against their will, no one can force you to take medication once you are out. All these decisions are based on the fact that this is a lifestyle being mentally ill, and this lifestyle choice should not be interfered with unless you are in danger to yourself or others.

Another secret that should be worth mentioning: in prisons across the country there are at least 16% of the prison population that are mentally ill. Some are just waiting for a hospital bed. Also the economic cost for untreated mental illness is $100 billion each year in the US as quoted by NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). NAMI is a very helpful organization that has been helping families for decades. The social worker in my area, Joyce Benz, Dir. of NAMI in Union County, N.J., has been putting out fires and working around the system for a long time. Joyce is an unusual social worker who cares about the outcome not only dollars.

After being hospitalized against your will you are then put into the hands of the DSS (Department for Social Services). Social workers at the DSS, who are there to save money and care little about the patient. They told my sister they had no housing for her but to come back and they would give her a bus ticket to California without money and food. This is where her children are but they don’t speak to her. Across country, that is what Joyce Benz said is called in the business as a geographical cure.

We need to re- examine the American mental health care policy. Federal court decisions establishing rights to refuse treatment and restricting involuntary treatment should be reconsidered. We should replace “least restrictive environment” with “most therapeutic place to be,” which balances the interests of the patient with public safety. Those released from state hospitals must continue treatment as outpatient care even after the crisis is over. Our state hospitals need to be re-expanded with acceptance that patients may need real long-term care. This is not denying liberty to anybody.  We need fewer barriers on treating mentally ill or we, as a society, will continue to pay a high price and the violence that has become so much a part of our lives now may be repeated many more times than we even imagine.

Melinda Khan
Roselle Park, N.J.

Selective Obligations

Here’s an amazing footnote to John Buell’s‚ 2/01/13 TPP article concerning “imaginary monsters,” in which he discusses a subject which is poorly understood; the Social Security Trust Fund.

For the past decade, a popular refrain among the enemies of entitlements has been the notion that the Social Security Trust Fund “has been spent” because the money was “foolishly invested in IOUs” and therefore it is “part of the national debt which cannot be considered an asset.” Let’s examine this sophistry.

The need to start the Trust Fund was based on the unavoidable situation whereby retiring baby boomers would create a funding demand that the subsequent smaller workforce could not meet and that a kitty was needed to pick up the slack. Both legally and ethically, this kitty could only be kept in one form; stodgy, conservative, low interest bearing US Treasury notes, backed by the full faith and credit of the US government; the very foundation of our monetary system.

Consequently, we must perish this wrong-thinking that the Trust Fund is part of the profligate “national debt” (aka 1-percenters not paying taxes) and realize that it is actually a “national loan” (from the working class) with real value, rather than something that the entitled might best shun through some grand Chapter 7 filing. Once again, these are Treasury notes ($2.7 trillion worth) which for all intent and purpose are identical to the rest of the Treasury notes that cover the $16 trillion total debt of wealthy tax avoiders. That being said, here comes the amazing part.

Have you ever noticed how only these Treasury notes, which are supposed to save grandma from having to dine on cat food, have been called into question? Nothing negative has ever been said about the notes and bonds held by all the EE folks, the bailout-funded notes purchased by banks to save them from having to work for a living, the notes held by the Japanese ($1.1 trillion) and the notes purchased by dozens of other nations and millions of foreigners. It’s only these damned Trust Fund notes that seem to be so porous and flaky.

Hey! I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we call the Chinese today and tell them that the $1.2 trillion worth of US securities that they’ve purchased (to help prop up our currency) really have no value because the money has already been spent. Do you think they might overrun South Korea and Taiwan, TOMORROW?!

Hmm. I wonder.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Tax the Rich

According to Joan Walsh’s article in the 2/1/13 issue, President Obama is still open to cutting Medicare and Social Security that benefit all workers and the poor. Workers have paid into Social Security their entire working years. Through the years, Congress stole the entire SS surplus-amounting to more than $2 trillion. They should return this entire amount to the SS fund, which would make the fund solvent for years. Instead they want to raise the qualifying SS age to 70 years, when most laborers are on their last legs.

Since it was all right for Congress to latch onto these funds, stolen from all workers’ pockets, then why would it not be all tight for Congress to latch onto 2 trillion dollars from the pouches of the greed-ridden parasitic billionaire ruling class , who have gotten their vast wealth from plundering the entire planet of its natural resources, and its 25-cents-an-hour slave factories?

President Eisenhower taxed the super rich at more than 90% and there were no known billionaires at that time!

Alice Keiser Greth
Bend, Ore.

War Breeds Savagery

Connie Schultz is right when she says, “We Are Better Than This” (2/1/13 TPP).

Still, I am disappointed that at no time during this lengthy gun debate has any scholar, reporter or social observer made any mention of the connection between our interminable wars and gun violence here at home.

According to information gathered by the Southern Poverty Law Center, countless numbers of our young war veterans are being courted by hate groups such as the Aryan supremacists.

Those bitter and discouraged veterans, who are well trained in firearms, and now find themselves in the unemployment lines, are raw material for hate groups who espouse scapegoating and brutality. 

Once recruited, those veterans are easily indoctrinated into blaming Blacks, Latino immigrants and American Muslims for the nation’s social and economic ills.

No one can dispute the fact, I’m sure, that the savagery of war is the ideal environment in which to breed more savagery.

While our national leaders are working at the task of reforming our gun laws, I wish they’d also work at curbing our government’s eagerness to engage in endless wars.

Both the National Rifle Association and the industrial-military complex need to have their wings clipped. For too many years already, they have enjoyed far too much power over our body politic. We the People must stop them.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Cope with Global Warming

I believe in global warming. I do not believe men can do anything about it. There was global warming and cooling long before man was on this earth and the phenomena have continued through the centuries. Global warming and cooling will probably continue after man has become extinct. Rather than wasting our energies on a futile effort to stop global warming we should be concentrating on efforts to cope with or adjust to global warming.

Janis Church
Orland Park Ill.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2013



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