I'm one reader hoping that Ted Rall ("Frontrunners by Default," 6/15/07 TPP) has acquired a true gift of prophecy. I don't know a single person of liberal/progressive convictions who feels he or she can vote for Hillary Clinton. These people I'm referring to are people who have always exercised their franchise, who are wondering, for the first time, if they can, in good conscience, cast a vote if their only choice is Hillary or the GOP. I think, if it comes to it, the Republican field is so deeply disturbing that, as usual, we'll all go out to cast our vote in the usual negative, feeling that the Democratic party has failed us again but that having a Republican in the White House is worse.
Hillary has already affirmed that she's a free-trader "like [her] husband," and her hawkish stance suggests that she's enamored of the idea of herself as "leader of the free world" and has no deep concern for the actual citizens of this country. This paternalistic attitude that we know what's best for everyone else in the world (and we'll enforce our opinion by any means necessary) is what makes us the nation everyone loves to hate. We don't need another Imperial Presidency, and Hillary sounds so much like George the Lesser that it terrifies me. What's worse, her "convictions" change from week to week and place to place, suggesting that she has none and will say whatever she has to to win the prize &emdash; first female president of the United States. Her huge, corporate-padded war chest speaks for itself. John Edwards falls short of what progressives yearn to see, but anyone who not only recognizes but openly ADMITS that the "War on Terror" is just a slogan and an excuse for imperialistic action abroad and seizing extraordinary and unconstitutional power at home definitely has the courage and clear vision to shift our foreign policy to a more mature and reasonable stance. At home, his concern with the yawning chasm between the rich and all the rest of us has been a deep, abiding conviction, not a convenient campaign position.
We all have our personal list of people we'd like to see in the White House, but among those who are actually out there running and getting enough support to have some potential as nominees, Clinton is the one Dem hopeful who is absolutely out of the question, and her continued placement as the frontrunner is appalling to every Dem I know. Of course, I live in Ithaca, N.Y., granola capital of the Northeast and final settling-down place of a lot of flaming radicals, so my local straw poll is probably a bit skewed to the left. Still, if only people would actually LISTEN to Clinton, it would become clear first, that she's no Dem, and second, that her candidacy is driven by personal ambition, not deep concern for the American people. We have great hopes for Ted Rall's crystal ball, since we have little hope that the Democratic party will field someone we can actually vote for.
As one who subscribes to nearly all of the so-called Progressive publications, I am in deep despair over the lack of meaningful influence we have on real life. The precipitous decline of our putative democracy is accelerating despite the plethora of well-written, brilliantly reasoned criticism being published these days. Demonstrations are essentially irrelevant. It is no exaggeration to compare our oppositional activity to participation in a baseball (or football) fantasy league &emdash; a certain amount of ego satisfaction, but no real world results. We are "out of the loop."
The list of grievances is virtually endless: spineless Democrats, a bonehead president, his treasonous regent (a.k.a. Vice-President Cheney), an unwinnable, seemingly endless war, a clueless Supreme Court that is hell-bent on reversing a half-century of legal precedent for the benefit of powerful interests at the expense of basic human rights, a morally and economically bankrupt Healthcare system; well, I could go on a lot longer, but we all know too much already about what has gone wrong with our beloved country.
Impeachment is off the table. Even the subpoenas being issued by a few insistent Congressional Democrats will wend their way interminably through our turgid legal system and are likely to be disallowed by this Supreme Court in any event. Bush's commutation of Libby's prison sentence makes it clear that even criminal convictions will be moot as long as he is in charge.
To make matters worse, except for Dennis Kucinich (who has no chance) and John Edwards (who has virtually no chance), the candidates for the 2008 presidential election (in both parties) have "business as usual" written all over them.
Again, I feel impelled to evoke Martin Luther King, who once observed: "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity comes along and asks the question, 'Is it popular?'" "But," King added, "Conscience comes along and asks the question, 'Is it right?'"
Do we really want to keep playing Fantasy Baseball, or are we finally ready to do something about the mess we are in? Just asking.
San Francisco, Calif.
In your 7/1-15/07 issue, Sidney Blumenthal ("America is not Bush") wrote about John Winthrop's quote, "A city upon a hill" being "... cited by Republican and Democratic presidents since." This usage began with President Reagan, who used the quote numerous times in boasting about our country, about our democratic form of government, honoring Winthrop's pride in his Mass Bay Colony.
We tend to view that moment in our history as the very beginning of democracy in America. But it certainly was not. Apparently none have researched Gov. Winthrop's original use of the phrase, and the meaning behind it. It certainly was not what Reagan and Blumenthal and others assumed it to mean.
Gov. Winthrop wrote, "If we should change from [an] aristocracy to a mere democracy, we should have no warrant in scripture for it ... a democracy is, amongst most civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government."
And John Cotton, a contemporary of Winthrop's, wrote, "Democracy, I do not conceive that God ever did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be the governed?"
Winthrop's "city upon a hill" statement has, falsely, become an icon, a treasured monument in American history, an article of uncritical devotion, which, I guess, makes me an iconoclast: one who attacks established beliefs.
Eliot J. Chandler
Presque Isle, Maine
I haven't had much time to read possible comment and follow-up regarding your article "The Private War of Chuck and Tom Hagel" [by Myra MacPherson, 6/1/07 TPP].
It has stuck in my craw that there was no mention of the senator's ownership of the voting machine company that won him the "surprise" victory in Nebraska's Senate race [in 1996].
I believe the senator denied any connection with the company until about six months after he was securely settled in his Senate seat.
Shortly after, the company name was changed to, I believe, ES&S ... This firm was most recently involved in the upset presidential race in Mexico.
C. Lee Hazer
Regarding Hank Kalet's column in the 7/1-15/07 issue, I heartily agree our system is in major need of repair &emdash; hell, let's get an overhaul.
Because of the money involved in politics, neither party will do the average American much good. They're really just two sides of the same, old coin that puts big business (be that war, oil, the medical insurance industry, or whatever) ahead of average Americans. Most people I know are concerned about getting out of Iraq, healthcare, jobs, the environment, growing corporate power/irresponsibility and security &emdash; the last being more about protecting personal freedoms and liberties than some external bogeyman/terrorist threat &emdash; sadly, one of the biggest threats is right here in our own government. Far more people in this country die because of pollution-related illnesses and poorly administered medical care than terrorist attacks. And neither party represents the will of the majority of people &emdash; and certainly not the people I know.
We need a viable third party (and probably a few more, too) that is not controlled by big money and corporate contributions. And no sappy or hyperbolic names &emdash; just call it The 3rd Party. One that is fiscally responsible along with being socially progressive. It will be a long, tough road ahead to gain prominence, but if it doesn't happen when there is no incumbent for the next presidential election, then when will it ever happen? There are numerous countries have many major parties &emdash; why should we be stuck with two non-responsive parties that keep chasing their tails and putting America and Americans further behind the proverbial eight-ball? Now's the time ...
Have you ever wondered why the stock market is doing so well despite the numerous layoffs, decline in the middle-class, and outsourcing of jobs? It is because we now have an economy based on war, which we euphemistically call "defense."
Huge portions of federal government services are now performed by corporations, including 70% of what we spend for war. Not only do we have 160,000 military in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are 180,000 private contractors &emdash; many of them private armies (Oops, security personnel) &emdash; leased to the Defense Department, the CIA, and other agencies on no-bid contracts. Our military spending is more than the rest of the world combined.
We have privatized many other federal services to corporations whose primary interest is the bottom line, not the services they contracted to perform. Taxes on large corporations and the very wealthy have been virtually eliminated. There is little control over these corporations and their performance because the administration and Congress have reduced the number of civil servants in contract compliance. They really don't care as long as their corporate friends and influential constituents get a piece of the action.
The private sector is hugely dependent on the public dole and we wonder why the federal government seems so incapable and incompetent? Now, some of our fearless leaders are pushing to attack Iran, others want to revive the 'Cold War,' still others view China as our big, bad adversary. Given the way we finance elections, will it ever end? What would happen to the economy if we had a real peace scare?
G. Ross Stephens
Who says nobody's benefitting from the Iraq War? Halliburton, Bechtel, Dyn Corp and other war profiteers are putting away billions of dollars. American oil companies now taking possession of the Iraq petroleum industry are ready to reap big-time returns.
Iraq's people have lost control of their country and their destiny. Ordinary Americans are losing valuable young people &emdash; and are gaining only a massive war-debt.
"War is just a racket," Gen. Smedley Butler said in 1935. The much-decorated Marine Corps general explained: "Only a small inside group knows what war is all about. It is conducted for the benefit of a very few at the expense of the masses."
The people responsible for the unnecessary war in Iraq are planning an attack on Iran, another oil-rich country. In both the Democratic and Republican parties, today's leading candidates for president originally made the mistake of supporting Bush in his scheme to invade Iraq &emdash; and now they seem ready to OK a war against Iran.
Are these politicians just slow-learners? Or are they hungry for contributions from rich people who are racketeers, who promote war as a sure-fire way to multiply and re-multiply their fortunes?
From reading your "Dems Blinked" (7/1-15/07 editorial) and David Sirota's "Kissing Up to K Street: Democrats Are Selling Out the Economic Populism that Got Them Elected in the First Place" in July's In These Times, I must demand that Rep. Rahm Emanuel be demoted from any positions of power in the Democratic Party. I just wrote this on a postcard to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
I am working gratis to elect and re-elect Democrats, as Belknap County Democratic Party Chair (New Hampshire). It takes much time and energy, but I feel devoted to ridding Washington of bad Republicans. Why would I then accept bad Democrats scamming the public trust?
You write "Progessive Democrats have been trying to make sense of the trade deal that House leaders struck with the White House," because its labor and environmental standards are not enforceable, as signed to. Read the In These Times article to have more detail on that. Totally repugnant that grassroots people like me and my fellow county Dems are working honestly while Rep. Emanuel enriches himself with anti-public-good deals. Kick the bum out.
Lynn Rudmin Chong
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From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2007
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