Engage in Your Democracy

Roger Bybee’s description of how GM has managed its responsibilities to the communities and working people of Wisconsin (“From Promised Land to Graveyard,” 9/1/08 TPP) mirrors how the oil industry has behaved in the region where I grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast—and in fact mirrors how multinationals are behaving everywhere as they push for globalized free markets.

I am reminded of 1993, when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA amid promises of its prosperity for all. What that economic agreement proved was that freeing up international markets for capital and goods while ignoring the impacts on labor (working people, communities) is a colossal mistake—unless you happen to own lots of capital and goods.

Simply put, capital and goods are easily transportable, while communities and the people in them are not; adopting a corporate approach to economic policy is a game rigged in favor of the rich and the political careerists—plenty of Democrats among them, in the US—who help rig the game.

What a relief it has been these past few years to live here in Europe where folks seem to understand that game and demand it be played differently—-certainly far from perfectly, but a bit more fairly. Here, that’s accomplished by a socio-political-economic model called democratic socialism, a term that US Americans have been carefully programmed to fear through the careful management of corporate media.

I pray that someday US Americans will educate themselves and become the fully engaged citizens they now pretend to be but are not.

Christopher Cook
Prague, Czech Republic

End of Empire

In 1980, the French historian Emmanuel Todd wrote The Final Fall, which accurately predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. In 2002, he wrote After the Empire, a bestseller in France and Germany, which predicts the imminent fall of the US. Todd says that the world was making the same mistake in late 2002 in reading the expanding military power and ambitions of the US as a sign of imperial power just as it had misread the power of the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

The signs are abundant that the US is a declining economic power. We have immense and ever-growing budget and trade deficits and have become the world’s leading debtor nation, by a wide margin after being the leading creditor nation during most of the 20th century. America has lost two-thirds of its manufacturing capacity, so it has to import most manufactured goods. It also imports millions of immigrants to do the jobs that our citizens can’t or won’t do. The future of our Social Security, Medicare and health-care systems are uncertain.

To mask its economic weakness, America has resorted to a series of wars against small countries — Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq with threats of more to come. Unable to control any sizable powers, it picks on military midgets like Iraq, which has been weakened by 10 years of embargoes and has one-twelfth our population.

For decades the US was a mighty force for peace and prosperity and could rightly be called the “indispensable nation.” Now it is a major factor in the world’s disorder, and its current wars have aggravated the global economic crisis. The US is steadily losing control throughout the world to the extent that world leaders are wondering if America’s leaders are abandoning the basic rules of capitalism.

Todd concludes that America’s menacing unilateral behavior has accelerated the integration of Europe and its rapprochement with Russia. As for Bush and his neocons, they will go down in history as the gravediggers of the American empire.

Hank Joerger
Davis, Calif.

Try Non-Violence

In his column, “Constitution a la Carte” (of 8/1/08 TPP), Ted Rall places his complete trust in Americans’ courage. Thus, he defends the right to bear arms so we can resist foreign invaders, or even tyranny by our own government if the need arises.

Yes, we Americans are brave—but we’re not reckless or suicidal. After shifting my imagination into high gear, I can’t see how ordinary people armed with rifles and handguns could possibly defend themselves against trained soldiers with tanks, helicopters, and other technological paraphernalia designed for killing. All I can see is death and destruction “from sea to shining sea.”

In my opinion, passive resistance is a better way to combat tyranny and injustice wherever it occurs. India, under the guidance of the venerable Mohandas Gandhi, humbled and defeated the British Empire without guns. And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers gained civil rights for black Americans without shedding blood.

Tyranny and injustice can be resisted without violence. All we need is an iron will and discipline—not firearms.

David Quintero
Temple City, Calif.

Tired of McCain

Recently, when a voter asked Barack Obama what one could do to alleviate the gasoline crisis, he responded that Americans could save a great deal of gasoline (oil) by properly inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups.

John McCain then launched a nasty, misleading attack ad on Barack Obama’s response. McCain ridiculed this idea, suggested it was the entire Obama energy program and then began offering Barack Obama tire gauges for $25 donations.

The truth is that the US Dept.of Energy estimates that just keeping tires properly inflated can help improve gas mileage by about 3.3%. If all Americans followed this advice, we could achieve a national savings of between 2-4 billion gallons of gas per year. That’s a very good start.

While Obama offers a clear, simple idea that would empower Americans to be part of the solution, McCain responds with mockery, lies and adolescent wise cracks.

Someone should use one of those $25 air gauges to inflate McCain’s tires and then use it to let the hot air out of his head.

Cliff Cleland
DeKalb, Ill.

Forget McCain

People should think again before they vote for McCain. He doesn’t want a timetable to get out of Iraq. He wants to win the war. That won’t happen.

He is a miltary man and doesn’t care if the war with Iraq will last for 100 years. This is not what the Anrican people want to hear. They want the troops to ca hate as soon as possible.

It was a mistake to make this unjust, illegal war. There was no reason for it.

Sen. McCain should just forget becoming president. He is 72 years old and would be the oldest president ever. He is not very intelligent and is a very bad speaker. He should forget politics, retire and go fishing.

Ann Fleming
Elmira, N.Y.

Launder Cuban Cane through Mexico

As Joe Conason observes (“One more good reason to lift Cuba embargo,” 8/15/08 TPP), the US can’t use Cuban sugar cane to make ethanol because we don’t have trade relations with Cuba. Nor are we likely to have them soon. But sugar cane gives 8 times as much energy as corn. Mexico has trade relations with Cuba. Let Mexico buy the Cuban sugar cane and take it to Vera Cruz. Then it becomes Mexican goods. Then Mexico can sell it to us with the appropriate markup, along with their own product. Or make ethanol from it and sell us ethanol.

Pearl Munak
Paso Robles, Calif.

Good Old Days

The street signs haven’t changed much, the old neighborhoods look much the same, except for the racial and cultural changes of the inhabitants; but when I was a young man back in the 1950s, I could deduct commuting gasoline tax from my income tax. College was free in New York City and at state-supported colleges if one qualified. People with incomes over a million dollars a year were taxed up to 90%. Gasoline producers weren’t subsidized with taxpayers’ money, but were charged with excess profit taxes if government decided they were milking the people (even though gasoline was about 30 to 35 cents a gallon). Even the most menial jobs paid enough (with guaranteed overtime pay) to rent living quarters, eat well of predominantly USA-grown food, have time and money for perhaps modest recreational activities and feel secure that if one was fired or quit for some reason, another job was almost immediately available.

Media were more locally owned and one could choose to read or listen to either “conservative” or “liberal” newscasting or both if so inclined. Voting in presidential and congressional elections was almost a sacred duty and not subject to massive fraud. Capitalism was not then a religion of “patriots” and people who disagreed with the president could complain to Congress with the expectation that it would have some collective effect. Big business and the war profiteers did manage to convince the majority that the Korean War was necessary to prevent the spread of Communism (although the real reason was that Korea apparently had rich tin mines that profiteers wanted control over). But at least crooked, virtually useless and extremely expensive cronies of the “President,” such as Haliburton, Blackwater etc., did not slurp up billions of taxpayers’ money. And war machines such as tanks and artillery were produced mainly in government-run factories. When I was a child in elementary school, I learned that we live in a “democracy.” Teachers were pretty smart in those days; perhaps they intuitively realized the direction our country was taking even then, under the developing drive for fascist control by Big Business, and I’m thinking that maybe I misheard my teacher when she said “hypocrisy.”

Phil Sullivan
Woodstock, N.Y.

Thought for Food

Think with me for a minute. What if the parks, public lands, canals, public buildings, schools and roads were lined with fruit and nut trees, interspersed with berries and grape vines?

What if the irrigated and sprinklered farmlands, fields, lawns and greens were lined with fruit and nut trees and vines of berries and grapes?

What if all the rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, swamps and irrigation ditches in the world were lined with fruits and nuts? Peaches, plums, apricots, walnuts, cherries, apples, pears, almonds, bananas, coconuts, guava, avocado, orange, lemon, tangerine, nectarine, mandarin, kiwi, filbert, lime, fig, olive, pecan, pistachio, cashew, pineapple, papaya ...?

What if your home landscaping or decor contained two more fruit or nut trees, planted in five-gallon buckets or planters, so that they could be transplanted?

Please join us by growing two fruit or nut trees in two, five-gallon buckets or planters; then, please ask two other people to do the same.

If you wish to join this effort, plant at least two trees; enlist two others; and please write to let us know: The Human Tree Project, 667 N. 550 E., Orem, UT 84097.

Donald Lewis
Utah State Prison
Draper, Utah

More Crowther

Having just read his latest piece in TPP (“Where’s the Beef, 8/1/08), may I offer the opinion that Hal Crowther is one of the most original, and best essayists now to be found in American journalism. I am somewhat familiar with his earlier work, having read the collection, Gather at the River.

What a travesty that Mr. Crowther’s work is not to be found on the pages of our national newspapers, who continue to publish the likes of William Kristol (has he been right on anything in the last 20 years?) and David (the so-called “Dean”) Broder.

Ron Zaudke
Prescott, Wis.

Indian Ink

I appreciate your running N. Gunasekaran’s pieces on South Asia. The author provides just the right depth of explanation for us who get so little information about this part of the world.

Alison P. Martinez
Santa Fe, N.M.

From The Progressive Populist, Sept. 15, 2008

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