Freedom on a Leash

Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald have documented the next unaccountable assault on the US Constitution, predictably followed by top official’s seamless transition between adamant denials and adamant defenses worthy of the worst alcoholic in-laws. The NSA’s efforts to record every domestic and international telephone call, credit card purchase, e-mail, blog post, and internet search can be added to the imperfect face-recognition technology collecting our images from worldwide street cameras, satellites, and through walls using infrared vision. The public reality of the surveillance-state is no longer limited to Hollywood blockbusters and quaint references to “1984”.

A realistic expectation of privacy requires living in an underground bunker, communicating only in person, and being careful not to look up when outdoors. 24/7 surveillance is a quality of life previously limited to prisons, asylums, slavery, internment, and al-Qaeda. Those who dismiss it by proclaiming “nothing to hide,” foolishly ignore the devastating errors and the inevitable and unaccountable abuse that have already occurred against journalists, judges, legislators, mediators, activists, whistleblowers, candidates, attorneys, physicians, and others that comprise the thinning fabric of civil society.

Unbridled surveillance will join the failures of the Gestapo, Stazi, Strategic Hamlets, Bantustans and Israeli checkpoints in preventing terrorist attacks because terrorism and war are common responses to the excesses of imperialism. From ancient Egypt to the modern pyramids of Manhattan, we are merely the next “imperial civilization” to face officially sanctioned abuses of power on a scale never before known, inundating us with ancient propaganda that has evolved into the annual $1 billion advertising refrain: “This is a world of plenty for the deserving”.

If we “deserve plenty” from the violence of empire, then the victims of empire must also “deserve” their fate; this is the unchallenged assumption that has neutralized public opinion for millennium, even as the injustice and predation turn inward against our own families with job exports to children, austerity, poverty wages, usurious interest rates, looted home equity, looted treasuries, record homelessness, imprisonment, uninsured illnesses, and the profitable perfection of waste amid a collapsing environment, each threatens the unifying ritual of imperial societies: the torpor of consumption-based sensory overload. 50 million impoverished Americans are victims of empire with millions more on the way. They will eventually produce effective leadership to challenge the unprecedented centralization of power and wealth in the US ..., a challenge that typically becomes the primary focus of intervention by surveillance-states.

As long as the common realities of public life and the actual causes of terrorism are widely self-censored, criticism will remain paralyzed, and the imperial paradigm will endure … climate permitting.

George Clark
Eureka, Calif.

Truth Against Empire

I am an 82-year-old proletarian Liberal who voted for President Obama and President Eisenhower, the only president to warn the people about the Military-Industrial Complex. Today the Complex runs the American Empire with the largest war machine ever seen, with their 1,000-plus military bases and their Gestapoic NSA and CIA covert cowards, all to protect the upper 1% with their never-ending greed and plundering and 25-cent-an-hour slave factories all over the planet! Their perpetual profitable wars, invasions, bombings, dronings, black torture sites, and their propaganda media machines will only lead to the eventual extinction of all life, including their own! These cruel forces would even, today, declare Eisenhower treasonous and probably torture him for his Democratic views!

I support Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange for their splendid courage as TRUTH SAYERS about the corruption and crimes against all life on this small planet!

Alice Keiser Greth
Bend, Ore.

Not a Fan of ACA

For the poorest of Americans in several states, all GOP monopolies (Utah included), the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be a road into permanent debt and poverty. I agree 100% it should be discarded but not for the reasons these GOP Austerity Ghouls froth over, including my alleged Rep. Mike Lee. Those with income below the 100% of US Government established limits do not qualify for public subsidies to purchase mandated health insurance through ‘Insurance Exchange’ networks; that’s right, too poor for public assistance! Only in America can this make sense.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision allowing states to opt out of expanding Medicare to all citizens, even at no cost for several years, we low-income unfortunates living in such states are excluded from health care access, just like the poor in any Third World nation you can name. Several states have made it official while Utah is considering this gleeful cruelty. Adding insult to injury, those of us in this unfortunate group will likely be faced with paying fines annually, starting around $650 for the first year and climbing to $1000 and higher for following years for not purchasing insurance we can not afford ... [Editor’s Note: This is false. According to Healthcare.gov, the official ACA information site, uninsured people won’t pay a fee if they “would qualify under the new income limits for Medicaid, but their state has chosen not to expand Medicaid eligibility.” They also are not required to buy insurance if they “are determined to have very low income and coverage is considered unaffordable.” The fee for uninsured families above the poverty level in 2014 starts at $95 per person or 1% of annual income, whichever is higher, and increasing to $695 per person or 2.5% of income in 2016, but families making up to 400% of the poverty level — for example, $94,200 for a family of 4 — qualify for subsidies to help buy insurance.]

Had Obama been as determined to implement Single-Payer health care as he now is to bomb Syria this could have been avoided. Instead he secretly agreed with a few dozen insurance CEOs to exclude it, wasting the political leverage of the 70% of citizens supporting single payer or public options and double crossing the huge block of Americans that voted for him solely on his “I support Single Payer Health care” pledge.

So don’t expect those coffee cans with some sick or injured person’s picture and hard luck story on store counters to disappear any time soon because of Obama’s “Single Greatest Achievement.” Now the poor will need to beg for medical care AND, money to buy mandated insurance AND pay fines when they fall short. Thanks Barry! Thanks US Supreme Court! Thanks GOP and Blue Dog Democrats! Thanks insurance companies! Damn you all!

Paul Ames
Eureka, Utah

Role for Religions

“Things aren’t going well. What am I doing wrong? Whose fault is it? What should I be doing? What should I expect?” Questions like these seem to be the ones all people ask (rhetorically or otherwise) in the course of their lives.

At first we may think that we ourselves are the only ones who have ever wondered about these things. And we could go through life always believing that. But if one looks into books of mankind’s earliest writings, one will see that one is absolutely not alone. These questions/issues go with the “territory” of being human. I challenge anyone to come to this realization without seeing theology as being a basic concern, in one way or another, in all of mankind’s history.

It would be nice to be able to just write off all “religious problems” today by saying “everybody’s wrong, so forget religion entirely.” But that doesn’t end the questions we continue to want answers to. And if one person believes in Buddha and another Mohammed and another Green Toads, who’s to say who is wrong or crazy or misinformed? And must the one Toad Believer be as valid in his beliefs as the 6 billion non-Toad believers, so as to “honor” the “minority”? What about the believers who say they believe their scriptures which say “Thou shalt not kill” — and yet go on to kill anyway? Is the believer right or wrong? Or is the believer’s text? Who’s to hold whom to account?

Our beliefs are formed by so many things, not just Holy Texts. Our actions are motivated by so many things, not just our “beliefs.”

Religion is the problem? (“Et tu, Buddhist,” Donald Kaul, 9/15/13 TPP). How many times has religion been the solution? I can understand peoples’ frustration with religions, but what other answers totally replace them? Nation/states are relatively new phenomena. To build them, with the various “cards” each nation has been dealt, takes courage, patience, tolerance, imagination, will. To see the areas of mankind’s oldest civilizations striving to come to life today is to see, vividly, “religion” as well-being challenged for relevance. How ironic, but not unique.

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

Barney Fife Lives

Police departments spend a great deal of money on training for new hires. These police departments don’t like to spend this money training new hires who will become bored spending 90% of their time sitting at a speed trap and quit after 1 or 2 years.

As a result, when police departments test for I.Q., they eliminate the top 40% of applicants.

This situation creates the conditions necessary for the stories that make the news (and provide fodder for the late night talk shows) such as the various SWAT team raids reported in TPP by Radley Balko (“Texas Police Hit Organic Farm With A Massive SWAT Raid,” 9/15/13). The use of SWAT raids at an organic farm in Arlington, Texas, or to perform license inspections at barbershops in Orlando, Fla., lead to the belief that somewhere, Don Knotts is smiling; Barney Fife is alive and well in the USA.

Paul Schwietering
Cincinnati, Ohio

Respect the Environment

There comes a time when we understand that an industry or a product has detrimental effects on humans or the environment. This is one of those times.

We now understand the technology of confinements. We know the industrial poisons that are created by using this technology. And, we have medical and scientific studies which show harm to human health and the environment.

There is a history of industry fighting against change even when the dangers are known. Think of tobacco, DDT, PCBs, lead in gasoline, etc. Industrial ag proponents are no different. “This is just agriculture” is the spin mantra coming from corporate ag apologists. We now know why and how people and the environment are harmed by using this technology in agriculture. It is time to change.

Bob Watson
Decorah, Iowa

Fourth Amendment Rant

I’m a new subscriber and have voraciously devoured my first three issues of your fine paper. But I’m suffering a bit of indigestion right now over Gene Lyons’ 7/1-15/13 scold at “Fourth Amendment Purists Living in a Dream World.” In fact, his column has me wondering what he’s doing at The Progressive Populist; if I wanted a conservative drubbing for objecting to civil rights abuses, I’d subscribe to National Review!

It’s hard to figure what’s bothering me most: Lyons’ insinuation that NSA critics aren’t even “halfway serious” (since, he claims, Congress fixed all this years ago), that Snowden and Greenwald are lying about NSA activity and capability (according to a former NSA lawyer he quotes to that effect) in cynical self-promotion, or that access to our personal data is a small price to pay for “any chance to defeat mass casualty terror attacks”.

Since July, of course, we’ve learned that not only were Snowden and Greenwald telling the remarkably accurate truth, their revelations were merely the tip of the iceberg. Which would make Gene Lyons the 4th Amendment purist living in a dream world, wouldn’t it?

Alan Peters
Marblehead, Mass.

Labor and Capital

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.  Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” — Abraham Lincoln in his First Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861.

I believe the above should appear in every issue of the Populist. In time, I think the majority of the population will be aware of it. It flies in the face of the GOP philosophy that capital is superior and therefore mistreatment of labor is to be silently tolerated.

Peter Daniels
Polson, Mont.

Not Enough Family MDs

The Dispatches section of the 9/15/13 issue contains the following inaccurate statement: “In 2009, only 58% of US medical school graduates chose residencies in family medicine — but now more than 67% of first-year family medicine residents graduate from American medical schools.” Unfortunately, for many years fewer than 20% of graduates from American medical schools have entered family medicine residencies. Over the past 4 years, the percentage of first-year family medicine residents who graduated from American medical schools has increased from 58 to 67%. The recent trend of increasing interest in family medicine is encouraging, but we have a long way to go to meet the primary care needs in this country.

Robert Blake, MD
Emeritus Professor of Family and Community Medicine
University of Missouri
Columbia, Mo.

Oasis of Peace

Robert Scheer’s “A Statement of Peace, or an Epitaph,” (9/1/13 TPP) should awaken all self-satisfied Americans from their peaceful slumber — a result of the fabricated soporific of our nation’s saintliness administered to them by three quacks, namely: Our government, the mass media, and our faulty educational system.

Amidst the endless desert of our propaganda-infested mainstream media, TPP is, to me, an oasis of truth. TPP resuscitates my weary spirit from the heated atmosphere of war drums and the barbaric battle cries of militaristic “patriots,” who insist that their motives are noble.

Americans should ask God not only to bless our nation, but also to forgive us for having committed the worst act of terrorism in history which, 68 years ago, caused 140,000 deaths and untold suffering for countless thousands more.

My fondest wish is that the day will come when our government has the courage and the humility to declare a National Day of Contrition on each anniversary of its wanton mass killing of the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Bush Whacking

When President George W. Bush said “Bring it on” he did not anticipate that they would really BRING IT ON — costing thousands of lives and draining our economy. When Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed the “Stand your ground” law he also did not anticipate that some day a John Wayne wannabee would not “stand” his ground but walk about (nay chase) and take the law into his own hands and cause a national racial tension. Both the brothers earned an “F” on the subject of sound executive planning and some segment of our society continue to praise them!

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2013



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