Democracy Needed

I was delighted with the timing of Ralph Nader’s announcement that he will be running for president this year. I had just been reading some of the speculation about whether Democratic party “leaders” and superdelegates would be stupid enough to finagle a nomination for a candidate not chosen by the majority of the voters, a move which would certainly throw the election to the Republican candidate, as recently energized voters withdrew in disgust.

If the party were stupid enough to throw the election, progressives could have no qualms about voting for Nader if they liked him better than the other candidates. The boring whining about “spoiling” could be answered pretty briskly by comments about undemocratic interference in the electoral process.

So here is my personal warning for the DNC: if the Democratic candidate is selected democratically, I shall probably vote for that person, despite Nader’s superior positions on most issues. Otherwise, I shall certainly vote for Nader and urge others to join me.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

Run, Ralph, Run

Thankfully, Ralph Nader is running for president. No more dog and pony show from the Democrats or war-mongering nonsense from the Republicans for some of us. We can actually support someone who might actually solve some problems rather than create them.

David Tyler
Lafayette, La.

No to Nader

Rick Sheridan’s letter [“Stay Home, Ralph, 3/1/08 TPP] succinctly summarized why Ralph Nader should sit this one out. Your editorial response was baffling, not to say disingenuous: the Supreme Court “tipped the 2000 election to George W. Bush.”

That is true, of course, but had Nader’s votes gone instead to Gore, the election most likely would not have been close enough for Florida’s election officials and the Supreme Court to enact their shameful charade and install an illegitimate president.

Nader is, of course, entitled to run again, but should he do so with the same ghastly result, he should be subjected to sustained public obloquy. We simply cannot endure another Republican administration simply because Mr. Nader chooses to place his ego above the good of the country. There is more than a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties this time.

Dave Reddall
Wellfleet, Mass.

Open Letter to Nader

Your knowledge and abilities are now desperately needed to help fully take back control of both Houses of Congress. Regardless of who is elected as president, Obama, Hillary or McCain, we absolutely MUST have a sufficient majority in the House to get out the progressive legislation that is needed and, if necessary, to override a presidential veto by McCain. (Any Democrat as president will sign.) We absolutely MUST also have a sufficient majority in the Senate to block filibusters on progressive legislation.

Other than a “bully pulpit,” the president cannot make the needed legislation happen. We need you in the Senate as an independent (e.g., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.) or deployed to help win seats in both Houses for progressive candidates. Perhaps, a new version of “Nader’s Raiders” is needed? Your wealth of documented knowledge about our county’s myriad problems would provide excellent ammunition.

The real fight is for full control of the House and Senate. The time has not been more ripe for success since the bad times and outrages got FDR and a Democratic Congress elected in the ’30’s. It has to be a grassroots-based effort. We know the corporate media will be of no positive use. It is up to us.

Clayton Stouffer
Los Angeles, Calif.

Make What You Will

What is one to make of The Progressive Populist? What is the point of your endless critiques of the Democratic Party, its candidates and its Congressional leadership if at the end of the day all you have to advise your readers (as you do every four years) is: Don’t vote for Nader or any other third-party candidates. Vote for the same Democrats we have been lambasting for the past four years even though you know and we know they will not change. What is one to make of The Progressive Populist?

Shelly Wallman
New York, N.Y.

GOP Stops Progress

Regarding Jack Shannon’s “Congress Not Up to Big Decisions” column [3/1/08 TPP]: At the present time Republican filibustering keep from being accomplished the Democratic agenda of impeaching Vice President Richard Cheney and President George W. Bush, establishing a single-payer health care system, Medicare for all, restoration of 2000 Federal Income Tax levels; and getting out of Iraq pronto, ASAP, stat. More Democratic Congressmembers and senators and a Democratic president and vice president will change this considerably. The F-22 Raptor fighter plane and the V-22 Osprey persist in the Pentagon budget because, at least for the Osprey for sure, they are funded under Navy appropriations where unspent funds do not have to be returned to the US Treasury after two years. This is because it takes many years to build a ship. So Congress establishes blue-ribbon commissions to oversee work that would otherwise stop if they lost an election to someone opposing it, not unlike naval appropriations. Popularity is deceptive. The most popular radio talk show is The Randi Rhodes Show but it lost its St. Louis, Mo., affiliate just before the Feb. 5 primary and is now only available on streaming audio on the Internet. In every state where The Randi Rhodes Show had an affiliate in 2006 Democrats won the election.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.


The “Too Much Bipartisanship” tally from “Dispatches” [3/1/08 TPP] was more evidence, if any was needed, that the US is a one-party dictatorship. The consistent attachment of Democrat senatorial voting blocs to reactionary Republican repression does not bode well for “change” under a Democratic presidential victory.

The “victors” are challenged to junk the Patriot Act and abandon “commander-in-chief” Hillary’s doctrinal “coercive diplomacy.” After that they can scrap their bloody military and arrest the military industrial complex. Failing these “benchmarks,” it will be the same old shamocracy ad nauseam.

In fraud we trust,

E.G. Nassar
Detroit, Mich.

A Column I Could Miss

Donald Kaul’s knee-jerk “A Season We Shan’t Miss” [3/1/08 TPP] betrays a striking ignorance of what’s wrong with this country and provides a case in point as to why John Edwards’ presidential campaign never got any media traction.

Mr. Kaul asserts that it’s futile to tax the wealthy to pay for national healthcare, claiming “there aren’t that many rich people.” Well, duh, Mr. Kaul. Of course there aren’t that many of them, the term “rich” by definition including only a small slice of the population. However, these people are hoarding an extraordinary share of our national income and our national wealth. According to David Cay Johnston, if one includes income that the super-wealthy aren’t required to report as such to the IRS, the top 0.1% of “earners” haul in more income than the bottom 50%. This would be troubling enough if these people were actually earning their riches by taking risks, being more efficient, and building better mousetraps, but they aren’t. Really, what we have in this country is corporate socialism, with the few feeding off the many, impoverishing communities and governments all over this country, fueling cynicism and destroying hope for the future.

The Edwards campaign was all about taking power back from these vampires, and was very specific and straightforward about it. It’s absurd to lump Edwards’ calls for real change in with the vague promises to reign in the “special interests” coming from the Clinton/Obama campaigns. Heck, even Republicans talk of reigning in special interests.

I’ll take Edwards’ (“slick lawyer who can talk Southern” that he is) courage to take on corporate power any day over Obama’s soaring but vague orations.

I’m glad Mr. Kaul was able to enjoy a scenic vacation (albeit with a heavy carbon footprint) in Patagonia, an experience that would be out-of-reach for most Americans struggling in our reverse-Robin-Hood economy. Now that Donald Kaul is back home, he may want to do himself and his readers a favor by reading Mr. Johnston’s Free Lunch and Stacy Mitchell’s Big-Box Swindle.

Jim Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

Clinton Strategy

I am utterly revolted by the Clinton campaign, which seems to be saying clearly “If I don’t get it, we want it to go to the Republicans.” Winning is everything; never mind the consequences of what we are saying. The one lesson that might profitably have been learned from Reagan was “Don’t speak ill of any other Republican.” The hypocrisy of Hillary when she sits next to Obama and gushes “I am honored to sitting here with Barack” and “We were friends before this campaign started, and we will be friends after it is over,” approaches the sublime. As I have said before, the Democrats appear to have a death wish, never more clearly evidenced than in the Clinton campaign.

Burt Newby
Mesa, Ariz.

‘P’ is for Prejudice

“P” Word’ indeed! [Re: "Is Obama Guilty of the 'P' Word, 3/15/08 TPP:] What Is Gene Lyons getting at with his derogatory reference to Obama’s “longtime relationship with Columbia University professor (and onetime PLO adviser) Rashid Khalidi”?

What’s wrong with Khalidi? He is a respected Middle-East scholar who has written a number of books which offer the American public a factual perspective on the Middle East and the plight of the Palestinians. A lot of Jews criticize the violence and injustice wrought by Zionism. Has Mr. Lyons ever heard of Tikkun or Norman Finkelstein? But an Arab-American scholar “suspected” of being opposed to Zionist propaganda and injustice should be shunned?

Why, one paragraph later, does Lyons bother to tell us that indicted Chicago entrepreneur Rezko is (shudder, gasp) a Syrian American? And in the next paragraph, Lyons gives us strike three—Obama is connected to someone who “has been accused” of supporting something (ewwww, the big “I” word) Islamic.

The big bad “P” word that comes to mind when I read this column is Prejudice.

Dolores Forge|
Dublin, Ohio

Let’s Change

The enthusiasm with which Sen. Obama is embraced shows people are tired of the “Old Washington Song,” which brought us down to the level we are in today. There is a change needed to repair the ailments this country is suffering.

L. Zencoe
Lake Worth, Fla.

New Castro In Charge

The fact that Fidel Castro is in ill health and has chosen to turn the gavel over to his brother, seems to be an opportunity to have the elephant focus on the gnat once again ... undoubtedly a case of “prestige” totally misplaced since the ’60s.

The island, which once was totally under our control via the United Fruit Company and others, presided over by Fulgencio Batista—our stooge—certainly was the antithesis to the notion of democracy.

At the time the mood in our 48 states was that of piety. The word “pregnancy” was taboo and had to be replaced with “with child” and bedrooms could only be shown on TV featuring twin beds.

Simultaneously, a hop and a skip south, there was a “paradise” where all the restrictions were nullified and anything imaginable was allowed—I’ll spare you the details—relegating that poor country to the status of 49th-state “outhouse.”

How do I know? I served in the merchant marines of a number of countries and in the process happened to visit Cuba that way on more than one occasion, notably for a month in Havana harbor, when the revolution was under way and it took that long to load a cargo of brown sugar because of the unrest.

What transpired was not the end of a democracy, which never existed, but rather a switch from one dictatorship (ours) to a communist one.

While the Elite certainly lost out, I have the sneaky suspicion that the lower-rung working classes are faring better under Castro, featuring such things as free health care and affordable housing (the government does not charge more than 10% of a person’s income for rent).

Obviously, the citizens of the island have to listen to propaganda and communist b.s. but I am convinced they prefer that to the abject poverty and neglect which previously robbed them of any notion of freedom and liberty as well.

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff, Calif.

Talk is Good

According to the 3/1/08 edition of the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 64% of Israelis want the Israeli government to hold direct talks with the Hamas government. The Bush administration, however, continues to label Hamas as a terrorist organization, and refuses to include Hamas in peace talks. So missiles continue to fly in and out of Gaza, killing citizens.

There was a time, 20 years ago, when the US government would have nothing to do with Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland. It was only after President Clinton assigned priority to peace in Northern Ireland that Protestants and Catholics began talking about setting up a shared government. Ten year later, we now have Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness—formerly arch-enemies—serving respectively as First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a shared Northern Irish government.

The United States government is the key to peace between Palestinians and Israel.

Bill McGrath
Northfield, Minn.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2008

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