Dems Need to Teach Political History

The coming 2012 campaign must start with the Democrats campaigning on the history of the two parties. Sound bites do not educate the independents and the young people.

They don’t know the history of either party. Many of our middle-class benefits were fought for and achieved by the Democratic Party with great opposition from the Republican Party.

You can start with the following important Legislation for the Middle Class:

“The Women’s Suffrage Act,” “Securities & Exchange Act,” “Social Security Act,” “Unemployment Compensation,” “Rural Electrification Act,” “Federal Home Loan Program,” “The Right of Workers to form Labor Unions,” “40-Hour Work Week,” “Minimum Wage,” “Overtime Pay,” “OSHA for work place safety,” “The GI Bill,” “School Lunch Programs,” “Civil Rights Act,” “Medicare and Medicaid,” “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” “Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act” and now the “Health Insurance Reform.” Don’t call it “Health Care Reform.” It is Insurance Reform. Don’t let Republicans get away with the term “Obama Care.” Call it what it is: “Health Insurance Reform”!

Have the Republicans ever proposed anything so important for the middle class? Democrats seem to let Republicans call important legislation something other than what it is and Democrats let them get away with it. Why do we let them do it? All of the above were fought for and achieved by previous Democratic administrations for working Americans. Many of the above were opposed by the Republican Party and they are still trying to destroy some of these important previsions. These very important acts were to protect the middle class and those in poverty from the corporate powers that would treat the American people as slave labor.

The Democrats must start an education program to let the voters know what the Democratic Party stands for! Democrats must stand up for the middle class and low-income people. This country will no longer be a democracy should the wealthy and corporate powers control our government; it will become a plutocratic society controlled by 1% or 2% of the citizens. Some may question! Has it not happened already? The people must understand what the Republican Party stands for. The Republicans are the voice of the wealthy, for the wealthy. They have never had a plan that included the middle- and low-income Americans.

Bring out these facts of history in the debates. Don’t agree to debates of sound bites. Don’t campaign in sound bites. Campaign on the Political History.

Dale A. Pearson
Canton, Minn.

Bin Laden Blowback

The elation and euphoria over the violent death of Osama Bin Laden is understandable given his probable planning role in the greatest attack on US soil since the British burned down Washington, D.C. in 1814. However our celebrations and dancing in the streets needs to be tempered by some critically important realities that seems to have been airbrushed both from history and the national consciousness. First, Osama Bin Laden was a US CIA operative and “freedom fighter” for years. We created, organized and armed the monster to fight the Soviets in their ill-fated 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. I have done several major newspaper searches and our role in organizing bin Laden and his jolly crew has for all intents and purposes been removed from the historical canon. Second, and perhaps a point where human survival depends – there is no mention or analysis as to why Bin Laden and the Arab world views the United States with almost total contempt, fear, and loathing. Instead we are treated with self-reverential bromides from politicians who tell us that these evil terrorists hate us for “our freedoms” and never allow, mention or entertain the nation that perhaps our foreign policy and foreign entanglements and historical treatment of Arabs might be the casual factor that has left us with no credibility in the Arab world.

Americans would be wise to heed the words from the late Pakistan scholar Eqbal Ahmad who warned us about Osama Bin Laden and the impact of our quest for global hegemony well over a decade ago, “The United States has sowed in the middle east and in south Asia very poisonous seeds. These seeds are growing now. Some have ripened, others are ripening. An examination of why they were sown, what has grown, and how they should be reaped is needed. Missiles won’t solve the problem.”

As we continue to occupy the ruins of Iraq – as we continue to drop iron fragmentation bombs all over the middle east – as our drones continue to murder innocent Pakistani civilians – as we continue to kill Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis — as we continue to support a rapacious military juggernaut that is bankrupting the nation – we should pause and give serious thought to this dire and prescient warning by Eqbal Ahmad 12 years ago. If we are to have any success at deterring future Bin Laden’s we will need to address the legitimate Arab grievances that have been ignored for far too long. Failure to do so and failure to take a reasoned and objective look at our hegemonic quests in both the Middle East and the world will inevitably lead to blow back, retaliation, and destruction that will very likely eclipse the horror of 9/11.

Jim Sawyer
Edmonds, Wash.

Civil War Still Isn’t Over

I’m writing to you about Bill Johnston’s essay (“Enough Treason from South Carolina,” 5/1/11 TPP). The Civil War Bicentennial is barely underway and if this is the kind of writing your southern readers are going to have to put up with for the next four years it’s going to be a long one.

Making a case is one thing, but better that it should be done without the scorn, the self-righteousness, even the hatred, that comes through Johnston’s writing.

Historians of any period have found that it’s a good and fair idea to judge the past on its own terms.

In 1860, the question of the legitimacy of secession was still up in the air. Characterizing South Carolina and its people as treasonous, or the Confederacy as illegitimate, violates that rule. I don’t object on principle to judging the past in terms of the present, but if I did I would acknowledge to myself the basic dishonesty of it and would so warn my readers.

Differentiating fact from interpretation is important, but whose responsibility it is — reader or writer — I’m not sure. Anyway, the secessions of 1860-61 are facts. What caused them is interpretation. Slavery was certainly part of the mix. Remember, though, that slavery was a national, not just a southern, institution.

New England cotton mills and shippers and New York bankers profited from it as much or more than southern planters. If slavery was shameful, and people north and south felt it was, the shame was national, not regional.

The Civil War is a fact too. Northern war aims are open to interpretation. As a moral struggle to free slaves? Nonsense. When fighting started in the summer of 1861, Lincoln’s appeal for soldiers was based on preserving the union. When he issued his Emancipation Proclamation a year-and-a-half later in January 1863, it applied only in the Confederacy, not in the slave-holding border states. So did Johnston’s great-grandfathers really fight for “the rights and humanity of all Americans”? You’d have to ask them, but as far as northern war aims go the answer is somewhere between and “no” and “debatable.” What precipitated the hostilities is another matter of interpretation.

It could have been the firing on the ship Star of the West on Jan. 9, 1861, as Johnston says. I’ve never read that anywhere else and inasmuch as it was a civilian and not a naval vessel you can argue shooting at it was not an act of war. You could also claim, as most seem to do, that the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861 was the spark. Or how about the northern invasion of Virginia later in the summer that led to the First Battle of Bull Run? Take your pick.

Facts ought to be factual. Nothing undermines a historian’s credibility more than unfactual facts. Johnston said Robert E. Lee was “Commanding General of the Confederacy.” To my knowledge there was no such office or officer. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. And that army is the only thing he surrendered. Other military commands were surrendered separately. The Civil War had no official ending.

If you are interested in the Civil War, and you ought to be, but haven’t just a lot of time to read about it, these are the two books you should read: Bruce Catton, The Civil War (first published in 1960, reissued in 2004 by Mariner Books); and James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of the Civil War.

Bill Hairston
Sulligent, Ala.

Reform Voting Methods

While raising awareness on issues is vital, policy changes will not happen unless there are people in seats of power who will change the status quo. Democrats like Dennis Kucinich are well worth supporting. Others, like Obama and the Clintons, are not. Inevitably, when a true progressive third party or independent candidate such as Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader gets on the ballot, they face obstacles at every turn. Not the least of which is false blame for “taking votes from the Democrats.”

Our electoral system needs many reforms: Getting the money out of elections, granting free airtime to candidates, inclusive debates, auditable ballot trails, etc. One simple reform that progressives should advocate for is preferential/instant runoff voting (IRV).

The ability of voters to rank their first and second choices in general elections would eliminate the so-called “spoiler effect.” IRV does not belong in primaries as those are within the purview of the political parties. It is the general elections where IRV would matter. It would be technologically trivial to institute.

If IRV had been in effect, Cindy Sheehan would be in the Congress and Ben Manski would be in the Wisconsin legislature. Movement of the political reality to the left would have been set in motion.

How long will it be that many people are afraid to vote their consciences? Citizens need not be slaves to a two-party system that, at the top, is utterly corrupt. For all the vitriol that Democratic leaders, elected officials, and pundits have heaped on those courageous men and women offering us superior ballot choices, such critics have done absolutely nothing to promote IRV. Come election time, however, the criticisms and disdain for ballot choices are sure to emerge. It is well past time for these folks to put up or shut up.

The Republican and Democratic parties are in bipartisan agreement that they want no competition. For what reason would any thinking person oppose IRV as a basic pro-democratic, pro-electoral choice reform? It is but one critical step to see what support exists for the better candidates and to encourage empowerment of the people. As it is, many otherwise progressive commentators will continue to wring their hands over Obama and many other elected Democrats without taking the time to advocate for this obvious step in the right direction.

Our war-mongering, corporate dominated government continues to bring death and destruction. IRV is a critical step to achieving a change in course. Missing the ongoing opportunity to move on this will hold progressive change in chains. Fortuitously, this is a change that people across the political spectrum can support. The major parties not wanting competition is a truth that many people can accept. Let us advocate for this simple yet crucial change.

Bernard Dalsey
Whitewater, Wis.

Try ‘Chicago Way’

In the movie The Untouchables, police officer Malone (Sean Connery) tells Ness (Costner) how to deal with the mafia: “If they bring a knife to a fight you bring a gun. If they put one of yours in the hospital you put one of theirs in the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way!”

The wealthy and corporate America are using their knives to eviscerate the social safety net built over the last 100 years. Like Capone’s mafia they are using the politicians they buy to suck the blood out of we who are not rich or powerful. It’s time we bring out our guns — our votes — and hit them twice as hard as they are hitting us. We do it by recruiting and electing people who are responsive only to us and will carry out the following progressive (and fair) agenda:

1) Tax ALL so-called unearned income (dividends, interest, capital gains, etc.) at the earned income (wages) rates. There is no justification for lower rates on certain types of income.

2) Subject ALL income to the FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax, without any income caps. 100% of the wages of the average working American are subject to this tax. It should be the same for the rich.

3) Close the loophole that allows corporations to “park” huge profits in post office box entities in tax haven countries. When an individual does this it is considered tax evasion. Why should corporations be treated different?

4) Corporations run two sets of books; the profits they report to the IRS and the (higher) profits they report to their shareholders. Apply the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to the higher figure. It’s time for GE, Boeing and others to pay their share.

5) Apply the Estate Tax to ALL unrealized profit and earnings of the rich. The current law does not require this, and thus much of the profits passed to heirs has never been taxed even once.

If this “Chicago Way” agenda were enacted we would permanently fund Social Security and Medicare, eliminate America’s debt within a decade and finally make tax laws fair and equal.

Steve Metzger
Barnstead, NH

Crumbs for Education

Those in power who’ve decided to decimate our educational system to the level of an urchin begging for crumbs, have no sense of decency. (Jim Hightower’s column, “Sacrificing Teachers to Hoovernomics,” 5/1/11 TPP).

We’ve all heard it repeated, over and over again by our teachers, politicians, and the mainstream media, that ours is the greatest nation in the world.

But let’s reflect a moment, and ask a relevant question: Why is the greatest nation on earth spending close to two million dollars each minute of every day, fighting wars — and not even a fraction of that amount of educate our children?

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2011


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