Forget About It!

As they say in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, "here's what it is." I turn on the boob tube and scan through C-Span. I catch our elected (not by me) jokers debating campaign finance reform. Of course, who is debating this from all these "foundations" and "institutions" and dribble? Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Never a populist, Lord forbid. Of course, they always include a "constitutional expert" to judge whether what is proposed by these clowns is "within the framework of our constitution."

What a bunch of crap! First off, they never talk of what we, the people, the public, the "masters" of those "public servants," really wants. Do we really want more financial disclosuring and soft vs. hard money, and limits on this and limits on that and blah, blah, blah?

I'll tell you what I want. I want no money in politics. None! Nada! Zero! I want all the possibilities for corruption and fraud and buying influence right out the proverbial window. Put corruption out on the street and under the table where it belongs. Ya wanna play dirty, ya wanna buy influence -- go ahead. If ya get caught, it'll be illegal and that is that. No more politicians left to buy.

O.K. here comes the clinker. The first amendment chasers will come along and say "Buckley vs. Valeo, 1976, you can't do that, money is free speech." Fine and they're right. Ya wanna know what I say: Have a constitutional amendment and end that bunch of crap. Yeah, how many amendments do we already have, 20 something? Add one more! Just get the damn money out of politics!

Think about it. Free elections. We'd have free elections. Ya wanta run for office? Get enough signatures in your district and you're on the ballot. Every candidate gets equal time on the media -- every candidate gets equal funding. Now that's politics. And that's what scares the "suits" in office. (I say "suits", because all I see when I scan C-Span is how these jokers try to outdress each other -- they really do look like the last insurance salesman who came to my house -- or was it the last car salesman I met?) The Republicans and Democrats do not want true electoral democracy. They might lose an election if they really had to debate the real issues: medical insurance (or lack of), downsizing, corporate welfare, loss of jobs offshore, white flight, lack of true consumer protection, a mercenary U.S. military etc.

Then there are those of you resigned to the fact: Its too tough to get an amendment passed. And you're correct. It is too tough. However, we live in tough times, really tough times for working and poor people (and small business people). We gotta think tough. We gotta talk to our friends and neighbors who don't even realize that deep inside, they're populists. We need to energize and slowly mobilize our neighbors, our communities, to speak out and stop voting for these two-party phonies (or is it one party?). It takes time, but it takes anger too. Anger to make us say "enough is enough!"

Forget about it!

Indianapolis, Ind.

Fight 'Organic' Rules

As a small organic grower in northern California, I read all 271 pages of the USDA's National Organic Program proposed to supersede present regulations for the mostly small organic farmers of America. I can testify that the USDA doesn't have a clue what organic ag is. The USDA has proposed sewer sludge, irradiation and bio-engineered foods to be part of organic ag. These items are considered highly problematic even in conventional ag!

The high visibility of the Big Three items tend to hide many more line-by-line negations of organic standards and principles. Lawyers for California have already informally judged the document to be so badly written and vague that it would be unenforceable.

I believe it is naive to put this down to incompetence on the part of the USDA. In writing this egregious proposal, USDA consistently overrode the recommendations of their appointed expert panel. What they have done is deliberately degrade the meaning of organic to lessen its value to consumers. Why? For years, Big Agribusiness has been lobbying the USDA to define "organic" only as a standard of identity, not a mark of superior safety or nutrition. Their lobbying has obviously succeeded.

This proposal will gut the organic ag industry. If the proposal goes through, organic will mean "kind of organic."

The public needs to speak up to protect their food supply and their choice. Comment to Eileen Stommes, Deputy Administrator, USDA-AMS-TM-NOP, Room 7007-South, Ag SO275, P. O. Box 96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456. Fax 202-690-4632. Website is www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

Box 1237
Point Reyes, CA 94956
Email Pontacq@svn.net

Range Wars and Physics

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We should remember that this law applies to politics as well as physics. In the December issue, Charles Levendosky ("Grazing Bill Would Knock Public Off Of Public Lands") reported that efforts are underway in Congress that would limit the public's access to public lands. Mr. Levendosky points out that this bill (HR 2493) violates the long standing principal of multiple use. What the article does not state is that it was not the ranchers who first attacked the multiple use principal. Certain factions of the environmental movement have, for years, acrimoniously worked to displace ranchers from the multiple use circle.

To pick up a theme presented by Michael Moore in the same December issue ("Is The Left Nuts, Or Is It Me"), is it surprising that the ranching (and rural) community has shifted to the political right? It is, of course, not just public grazing issues that the rural community is reacting to. Wildlife, predators, wet-lands, stream access, timber harvesting, etc. all play into agriculture's disaffection with the environmental movement (which is for whatever reason associated with the political left). Granted, the nouveaux-fascists on the political right are masters of hypocrisy. Rural people will receive precious little benefit from this right wing infatuation. However, the political lines are drawn and the polarization plays handily to the interest's of the timber, mining, development and agri-business industries. And, Michael Moore pointed out that his friends in Flint, Michigan no longer bother to vote. They don't see the point. My neighbors vote -- all of them -- every election day.

Stockton Ranch
P.O. Box 182
Grass Range, Mt. 59032

Asbestos & Teenage Poverty

I thought I might forward this little story that happened to me when I was 16; it also goes to show the mercilessness business will go to to save a buck.

When I was 16, about 1982, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to make a few bucks helping unload a boxcar at a factory. Being of sound body and not too endowed in the pocketbook, ie., I was broke, I agreed. I asked my buddy what it was we were to unload. He told me it was 50-pound bags of asbestos, raw asbestos.

Now this being the early '80s I had just started to hear bad things about this stuff. For example, the school system had taken away the screens we used to use in science class because they contained it, but other then that I had no idea how harmful it might be. So I went on this little job which was arranged by the factory foreman -- by the way this factory made shingles for roofs. We began to unload the boxcar, which was completely stacked from floor to ceiling with these 50-pound bags of asbestos. The work was hard and more than one bag ended up spliting open and spilling its cotton-like contents all over me and other workers.

This job was to last only a day and a half, being Sat. and Sunday when the plant was closed and no workers were there. I came home Saturday night looking like a baker covered in flour, except I was covered in asbestos. I went back the next day to finish, despite the fever of 103 degrees I had developed Saturday night. Most of the other guys who had worked on Saturday did not return.

I worked all day Sunday but was unable to finish unloading the boxcar. The factory foreman asked if I would come back on Monday to finish; I agreed. I went back Monday, the factory was now back in production, and I found myself unloading this boxcar in shorts and tee shirt while all the regular workers were dressed for a biological attack. The regular employees were dressed in white coveralls from head to toe and equiped with full face respirators, rubber gloves up to their elbows, and rubber boots. I knew then that I was in trouble.

I made some excuse to leave, now being quite disturbed at having seen the regular employees, and left without finishing the job. I was paid $7.50 for every hour worked. I asked the foreman why the regular employees didn't unload the boxcars; he told me that it was cheaper for them to hire outside people, the regular employees wanted too much money to do that kind of labor in their decon suits.

As most people know now, asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen in minute amounts; companies make hundreds of thousands of dollars removing it from buildings. I figure I probably ingested an entire building's worth in two days. Luckily have not suffered any health damage as of yet, but it lurks in the back of my mind like a shadow, and that is damage enough.

Detroit, Mich.
Email WellnessMatters@worldnet.att.net

Eat Organic and Local

The most recent issue (Fall/Winter 1997-98) of Food and Water Journal, (RR1 Box 68D, Walden, Vt 05873; phone 1-800-EAT-SAFE) has an excellent bunch of articles on food irradiation proposals by the big meat packers and piercing the propaganda for it. Iowa's two Republicans [sic], Sen. [Tom] Harkin and Rep. [Greg] Ganske, are profiled and the Ames [Iowa] State University meat irradiation lab is listed.

Why not point out that Iowans can do as I do -- purchase all my meat from organic producers?

Food and Water also offers nice food coupon-sized cards to take to the grocery store managers saying "No Food Irradiation." Get some! And Missouri University's Bill Heffernan has nice four-page flyers on our monopoly meat producers who break market prices for our small independent farm growers of meat.

Join me! I had some yummy parity-priced Schafer Farms spare ribs for supper! Thanks, David and Alice!


44 E 53rd Terrace
Kansas City, MO 64112

P.S. Yes, I know Harkin calls himself a Democrat and a Progressive, but he ain't no sich thing!

Be accurate on irradiation

I always enjoy the Hightower column in the Progressive Populist, and agree with much of what he has to say. Recently, however, there was an article on the proposed irradiation of meat products. Although it would seem appalling that we need to resort to such extremes to assure a safe product, you had much information in the article that should be corrected.

First of all, none of us consumers would receive any radiation from the irradiated meat, any more than we get radiated from the dental chair itself, although it gets x-rayed many times a day. The radiation occurs only during the time that the x-ray generator is on, and no residual is left in any object. There is, as you stated, an effect on protein and chromosomes, damage that can have a lasting effect on living organisms. Most meat I eat is already dead, so what more could happen to it? Any breakdown in its protein is of little consequence, as we will continue to completely break down the protein if we consume the meat. It is called digestion. In fact, if you think that radiation is harmful to the meat protein, eat some and note the product after a couple of days.

In short, many of the concerns you raise are real. That is why it is important to be accurate. Otherwise crucial issues will be ignored by your readers as just some wild, misguided accusations.

CHARLES BENSON, radiologist
324 N 7th St.
Brainerd, MN 54401

No more birds

I'm having a nightmare, but I'm not dreaming; it's for real. They've cut down almost all the trees surrounding my apartment. No more barriers against the constant noise of traffic, sirens, shouting, stereos, horns and trains; no more shields against the unrelenting sun; no more perches for the birds to reach my feeders -- no more birdsong -- no more birds.

The tenants were never consulted. They started at night to forestall all comment and debate. On the Friday before Christmas, to underscore the irony. To amplify the bottom line.

Welcome to the corporate state; your feelings don't count, your voice won't be heard, your life doesn't matter. Another day, another death. Ah, well ... The heart yearns, the stomach churns and, all round you, Eden turns to clay.

This might have been such fun.

Lilburn, Ga.

We Need a Commission

Enjoyed the article by Molly Ivins on campaign finance reform. I only hope that by now she has discovered the answer: an independent commission similar to that which was essential for military base closures.

Congress is eminently unable to do the CFR job. They made the present mess which they enjoy, wallow and thrive in. Yes, just like a bunch of pigs. The only remaining question is: how do we establish such a commission and get on with it?

5115 40th NE
Seattle WA 98105
Email jeffd@u.washington.edu

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