Letters to the Editor

Go, Galloway!

It was very heartening to see someone [British member of Parliament George Galloway] finally stand up to all the war hawks in Washington who got creative with intelligence and logic and took us to war in Iraq. The sad thing is, precious few &emdash; if any &emdash; of our own politicians have the guts to do it.

Mr. Galloway's bluntness was quite refreshing, given all the mumbo-jumbo, doubletalk and political correctness that unfortunately we've become accustomed to from our so-called leaders. Week after week on Meet The Press we see our elected officials tap-dancing instead of giving direct answers to questions. It makes me wonder if doing so would make them melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West.

On top of that, what they do say usually amounts to slogans, or regurgitation of something another member of their party said. They seem to pass the mouthpiece around, don't they? One of them makes a remark like "stay the course," or "we can't cut and run," and before you know it, they all chant in unison.

Are they being mass-produced in some factory? Maybe the special-interest lobbyists and the wealthy string-pullers just fund the whole project using cheap foreign labor: the political robots are assembled in Mexico, then clothed in suits from China, then implanted with tape recorders from Japan and imported here. The wealthy and special interests that really run the country program the political robots to do whatever their masters want them to do, and off they go to D.C.

I almost would feel better if something like that was the case so we could stop the process, destroy the robots and start electing real leaders into office. Whether or not you agree with George Galloway's politics, you have to respect his cojones.

John Hoffert
Baltimore, Md.

Church Lousing Up USA

On June 4, 2004, Bush on the campaign trail stopped in Vatican City. Pope John Paul II gave Bush a public bawling out, big-time, for his war in Iraq. Bush then talked to the cardinals, complaining about the man running against him, who is a pro-choice Catholic who believes in abortion and gay marriage.

Cardinal Ratzinger from Germany, with approval of Pope John Paul II, sent a letter to all of the US bishops stating Catholics who are pro-choice on abortion are committing a "grave sin" and must be denied communion. He pointedly mentioned the case of a Catholic politician campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws &emdash; indubitably John Kerry, Democrat and Roman Catholic. ... Bush's action changed the Catholic vote in his favor from 46% in 2000 to 52% in 2004.

I doubt if Cardinal Ratzinger had any idea of Bush's thinking, actions, policies and lies.

From all this I can better understand Martin Luther leaving the Roman Catholic church.

(Mr.) Clare J. Crowley
Milwaukee, Wis.

Editor Replies: There were rumors that Pope John Paul II suspected Bush might be the Antichrist prophesized in the Revelations of the New Testament. Some Christians see parallels between W and the Beast of the Apocalypse. As for Ratzinger's letter to the US bishops, it also pointedly allowed Catholics to vote for pro-abortion politicians if they were voting for reasons other than abortion &emdash; a distinction that many bishops and priests failed to make in their denunciations of Kerry and other Democrats.

Religious Disbelief

I was a little surprised at your naive and uniformed response to reader S.K. Eleton [Letters, 5/15/051 TPP], on [religious belief]. You are right that roughly 84% of Americans have some kind of belief about supernatural things. But when you get down into the details almost all studies show that it gets very squishy down at about the 50th percentile.

Worse, and far more radically misstated, is your claim that "two-thirds go to church regularly." Even the strongest Christians don't contend that. They usually, based upon telephone polls, will say that about 40% of Protestants and 50% of Catholics go to church in any given week. For more than a decade now, these very high self-reported numbers have been placed in doubt by more careful studies. It appears, from what we know now, and from cumulating studies, that weekly church attendance in the US might be about 24%.

Apparently, where you live out there has led you to uncritical acceptance of some mainline claims that you ought to doubt. Don't get me wrong. I have lived about half my life in Indiana and Wisconsin. Educated people begin to become unduly diplomatic in such places.

To verify what I say, just Google something like "rates of church attendance in the US."

Dennis K. McDaniel
Washington DC

Editor replies: You can find just about any statistic on the Internet, (including claims that two-thirds of Christians go to church), but the claim that weekly church attendance in the US is only 24% is as much conjecture. The Gallup Poll in December 2003 found a third of Americans report they attend church or synagogue at least once a week, 14% attend almost every week and another 14% attend monthly. The Pew Research Center in November 2003 found that 81% of Americans say prayer is an important part of their daily lives and 87% agree with the statement: "I never doubt the existence of God." The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey of the City University of New York found 52% of the population was Protestant, 24.5% Catholic, 1.3% Jewish, eight other sects split 2%, 13.2% expressed no religion, agnostics and atheists split 0.9% and 5.4% refused to respond. Gallup polls in 2002 found that 10% of Americans were "secularists," or detached from religious processes, according to the Christian Post &emdash; and 69% of the secularists were registered to vote, compared with 83% who said they were religious. Our original point is that the US is a Christian-majority nation &emdash; secular rhetoric notwithstanding &emdash; and progressives cannot write off churchgoers.

Small Comfort

The religious right voted in a president mainly to keep women from making decisions about their bodies. But that's not surprising since the Bible they believe in is a man's book, written by men, in favor of men.

Of course it is not quite as violently against women as the Koran. Small comfort for females.

Everett L. Williams
Ingram, Texas

No Trust in Fund

Regarding James K. Galbraith's "Slip the Deficit Trap" piece [5/1/05 TPP], I was amazed to see the following claim: "It is impossible for 'savings' today to 'pay' for pensions 20 years from now. Proposals to 'fund' Social Security misunderstand the basic fact that putting 'funds' into the 'trust fund' is redundant." Nonsense! At least Mr. Gaibraith put quotes around "trust fund." The fact is, if the "trust fund" held real assets, those assets could be used to make good on the obligation represented by it, without having to dip into general revenue and essentially "rob Peter to pay Paul." As it stands, however, the "trust fund" is comprised of bonds held by the same entity that issued them, the federal government, and amounts to nothing more than a promise, i.e., internal government debt.

How different things would be if surplus payroll taxes had been used to purchase securities or foreign government bonds (then it would be their problem to come up with the funds 20 years from now). Sadly, when the Social Security program redeems the bonds, it is likely that, given the locus of power in our system, this obligation will be met by cuts to the food stamp program, to [Children's Health Insurance Program], to "Head Start", and other programs benefiting poor and working-class Americans. These are the same groups disproportionately affected by surplus payroll taxes &emdash; which have essentially been used to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans &emdash; in the first place.

I don't like Bush's Wall Street giveaway plan for Social Security any more than the next guy, but don't tell me that a "trust fund" with no assets is equivalent to a trust fund containing real assets, and please don't tell me that the handling of the Social Security surplus has been fair.

Jim Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

No Health for Congress

I find it extraordinary that the American taxpayer is forced to pay comprehensive health insurance policies for federal and state employees while 50 million of those taxpayers do not have access to affordable health insurance.

The simple answer to resolving this unfair problem is to pass federal and state laws stating that until all the American people have access to affordable health insurance no federal or state employee will be allowed to have health insurance paid for by the American taxpayers.

I believe that it wouldn't take to long after these laws are passed before the federal government and all state governments will come up with sensible, fair, affordable health insurance plans for all the American people.

Connie Frankowiak
Julian, Calif.

US Territory Was Invaded

Mr. Ted Rall's piece of 1/1-15/05 TPP, "Why Soldiers Fight and Die," falls short of truth re: WWII and the Japanese. He states that from 1846 to date, "no member of our military has fought or died while repelling an invader." And "There is no evidence that the Axis intended to invade the US." The fact is the Japanese invaded and occupied US territory during WWII and thousands of our military fought and died repelling them.

If one says that the attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on American soil, we must also allow that events in the Aleutian Islands were not merely an air raid on Dutch Harbor but an invasion and occupation of our soil. Japanese forces occupied three significant islands in the western Aleutians for more than a year during 1942-43. The US campaign to repel them involved no less than 144,000 members of US and Canadian military forces. US Army troops, trained in California to fight in North Africa, found the going tough in subarctic conditions. They suffered 3,929 casualties pushing the enemy out of Attu alone. 549 killed in action, 1,148 wounded, 1,200 suffered severe cold and frostbite and 932 died of various diseases and things like booby traps, "friendly fire" and freezing to death. In terms of casualties compared to the numbers of enemy involved, the Battle of Attu stands second only to bloody Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theatre.

While many Aleut Natives were evacuated to southeast Alaska (where many died of disease or starvation), 42 Attuans were removed to a prison camp in Japan. Two women died before reaching Japan, one buried at sea without ceremony. Forced to labor in very harsh conditions and poorly fed, by the time they were liberated, 16 others had died as well as four of five babies born in the camp. These people and other Aleutian Natives and residents were victims of war and deserve our remembrance.

We must not forget the Philippines and other Pacific Islands such as Guam and the Gilberts which, rightly or wrongly, were US territory at the time. Many thousands of our military forces were wounded or died repelling the invader from these places. Oh that the growing number of Americans killed in Iraq (over 1,550 now) and Afghanistan and the tens of thousands of wounded, not to mention the many thousands of innocents killed in those countries, should not be so easily forgotten.

One other little matter. Mr. Rall notes "balloon-borne bombs dropped without casualties on Oregon ..." I'm not sure that the families of Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and the five kids who died along with her when the kids tried to move one of those bombs while on a church outing near Bly, Oregon on May 5, 1945, would really appreciate that conclusion.

Mr. Rall is not alone, however. President Bush made the same mis-statement that our military had not had to repel an invader in the past 158 years in a speech before Congress.

When we speak of or write about history, it behooves us to get it right lest we leave our audience misinformed. "Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it."

Thomas Stumbaugh
Camino, Calif.

Hard Knocks

The whole Social Security reform issue is but a ruse to create a windfall for Wall Street. Let my situation serve as a caveat:

Upon retirement I entrusted all my funds (IRA and 401k) to one of the largest brokerage houses in the country. Eight years later I had lost 60% of my investment, as well as my house, and was forced to move into a mobile home park.

Beware of snake-oil salesmen and wolves in sheep's clothes.

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff, Calif.

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