Painful Episodes

Ray Learsy’s article on OPEC’s soaring prices, our impotent government and the silent press, “Lies and Epic Corruption Fuel the Pricing Of Oil” [10/1/11 TPP], is the familiar theme of someone who’s been left out of the kinky secret on this subject. Let’s see if we readers can enlighten him.

In November of 2007 at a Riyadh summit meeting, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged a total of $750 million into a program that “will finance research related to the future of energy, environment and climate change,” following a statement from OPEC stressing “the importance of developing technology that can help combat the problem of global warming.”

Apparently, these OPEC ministers were not only convinced, but willing to admit that their only natural resource (other than sand) is slowly poisoning our planet. Seeing how these allegedly greedy OPEC members were essentially badmouthing their one and only product in the global marketplace, and relative to the denial culture of global warming here in the US, such honesty may be hard to understand.

But now, here’s something that’s easy to understand. What is the one and only thing that will surely motivate Americans to finally address this most important environmental and economic issue of energy independence? How about pain? Sweet, sweet pain!

Think back to what introduced America to the four cylinder engine. It was the pain of the oil embargo and the pain of a gas price hike that never receded, even after the embargo ended. Then in the 1990s, Papa Bush and Slick Willy got their hands on the Kuwaiti spigot, OPEC’s barrel dropped to $25, all the pain went away and the V6 came roaring back with its corresponding drop in MPG.

Ray! Calm down, dude! OPEC, the government, the press, the Times, Krugman; they’ve got it all figured out. You‚re the only guy who can’t seem to get with the program. Don’t worry about who’s pocketing all the money. It’s not the money, it’s the pain that we’re after. So now, sit back, relax, be an American and feel the pain, because as we S&M fans love to say — “It hurts so good.”

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.


I was put off by Raymond Learsy’s sneering comments about what Paul Krugman thought of oil speculation in 2008, the tone of which implied “Obviously the fool was wrong.” Knowing that Krugman is not a fool, I went looking for more evidence about the role of speculation in oil prices at that time. I found an awful lot of assertions, but not an awful lot of data or sober analysis. Many people seemed to assume that because speculation was going on it was causing the price rise. This is like the elementary statistics example of the correlation between numbers of Baptist preachers and numbers of bars in Texas counties. If you didn’t have a professor to beat it into your head, let me try: the fact that two things are going on at the same time does not show that one of them is causing the other. You need more information.

One item I found useful was an article from late 2008 attempting to explain why speculation, even while operative, is seldom a major factor in commodity prices, which are notoriously volatile at the best of times (http://gregor.us/fossil-fuels/price-and-perception-in-oil). It closed with this statement:

“This is why economists like James Hamilton and Paul Krugman both asserted over the last year that there was no speculative bubble in oil. Wait, let me correct that. They asserted there was no quantifiable evidence that there was a speculative bubble in oil. Rather, they both asserted the much simpler explanation for oil’s price behavior–supply and spare capacity were tight in the face of very strong demand. Indeed, for any person who cares to look at the data, non-OPEC production was flat for nearly 6 years as oil rose from 30.00 to above 140.00. And aggregate global production started to flatten in early 2005. And still has not risen.”

Citizens need reliable information, not just rants that echo their own frustration and patch together unrelated facts. This country is in a major mess, in large part because those in charge have refused consistently to listen to analysis by people who have spent decades working to understand their subjects. We are not going to fix it by replacing one variety of ill-informed rant with another: we need rational well-informed citizens. Please be more thoughtful about what you choose to publish in TPP!

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

Choose Your Master

In his column, “Rick Perry Plays Christian, [9/15/11 TPP], James Moore accurately portrays Rick Perry as a pseudo-Christian. If Perry were a genuine Christian, he’d understand Jesus’ clear message in Matthew 6:24 that his followers cannot serve two masters.

Tertullian also wrote “Nothing is more foreign to us Christians than politics.” And Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Politics are not the task of a Christian.”

Doesn’t Rick Perry know that the United States is not a theocracy and that no elected official should promote public prayer, religious rituals, or any other theistic ceremonies?

Knowledgeable Christians are well aware that, by law, religion in this country belongs in private homes, in places of worship, and in people’s hearts — but never in the public square.

And they are also aware that our Founding Fathers, knowing all too well that the acrimonious business of politics would tarnish the purity of religion, legislated the separation of religion and politics.

Furthermore, if Perry were a true Christian he would know that, unlike himself, there’s no indication anywhere in the Gospels that Jesus rejected homosexuals.

Nor would he associate with those who hate Jews, such as the American Family Association, because he would have read what Jesus himself said about Jews in John 4:22:

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

Thus, since Perry obviously lacks knowledge about either the US Constitution or the Bible, he should bone up on both. Then he should decide which he wants to serve — politics or religion. Because then he would know that he can’t serve two masters.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Where’s My Million?

The Conservative Revolution really got started with Barry Goldwater in the late ‘50s and early ’60s. It came to true power with Ronald Reagan, and it has been in power since 1981, 30 years. President Clinton and Obama are at best Moderate Republicans. President Carter was the last “Yellow Dog Democrat” in the White House.

When he left office the US was the most powerful creditor nation on earth and the National Debt was around $900 billion. When President Reagan left office we were the largest debtor nation on earth with a national debt of around $3 trillion and now $15 trillion. Reaganomics and the trickle down effect said, basically, if we cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, reduce regulations on banks and big business and when the capitalist system is unrestrained, we would all be millionaires, so I checked my bank balance. They believed that by destroying the union movement with big business and the help of the union movement itself, and expanding the Military-Industrial Complex exponentially, then Corporate Capitalism would save the world. Every president since has marched by this drum beat to war, in Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq I, Yugoslavia, Iraq II, Afghanistan, Pakistan and our gun sites are on Iran sooner or later. We are now deep within the unending preemptive war on terror, that they hope will never end, even with the death of Osama Bin laden.

We also are at war with ourselves; we have our trade deals NAFTA, GATT, etc. that have decimated our manufacturing base. Our trade representatives have said “they didn’t care if we made computer chips or potato chips.”

Much of our exports have been shipping millions of good-paying jobs to Japan, China, India and Mexico, and we can’t wait to send more to poorer nations. We have opened the borders to allow 12 million illegal aliens to work and live here, who often pay little or no taxes.

We have let the multi-national corporations and too-big-to-fail banks buy Congress and write the tax code, such that, even though they don’t hardly pay taxes any more, they still want more tax cuts, except for the military, and us.

Now we have the Grassroots Tea Party financed by billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and their front groups and think-tanks who want to fix the system by destroying it.

These people believe in the freedom of death, that someone without health insurance should be allowed to die; they cheer executions; they boo vaccination to prevent cancer; they don’t believe in evolution, even with the human genome done; they don’t believe in global climate change while the Mississippi River Valley has the worst floods and next-door Texas has the worst drought and fires in a century and satellite photos show the polar icecaps melting into the sea. They are a mindless mob of babbling idiots who want to drown what’s left of the government in a bathtub.

We also have highly sophisticated propaganda news channels leading millions of them like lemmings into the sea. Not to fear because at last the President and the Congress are going to concentrate on creating jobs, but jobs for whom and where is the question; not here and not for us is the answer.

The Reagan Revolution and the conservative movement has accomplished most of what they wanted.

However they forgot one little fact, that they never could have imagined and they still cannot imagine today; they were and are totally wrong about every idea they ever had and in their zealotry to save the world they have nearly destroyed the country and the planet.

They are the mindless mob who’s only solution is to tar and feather the truth. It may seem like things look pretty dark, so I am highly optimistic that we are on the verge of a new dawn and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

The only question worth asking or answering is what rises up from the ashes.

Hal J. Ridley, Jr.
Bridge City, Texas

9/11 Case Not Closed

Regrettable it was to read Alexander Cockburn’s “September 11 Attacks Prompt Conspiracy Theorists” [10/1/11 TPP]. It took me several years to open my mind to the emotionally dark possibility that 9/11 was not as the official conspiracy theory states.

A good friend, a retired progressive professor of economics, along with my wife, convinced me to do some research that I was initially inclined to consider absurd. My conclusion is that 9/11 was an inside job. The otherwise lucid Alexander Cockburn demonstrated apparent intellectual arrogance, perhaps to buttress his credentials as a worthy commentator, perhaps a result of “just unwilling to go there.” May I merely point out that the collapse of 47-story WTC Building 7 into its own footprint at 5:20 in the afternoon, not hit by a plane or otherwise seriously damaged, was not even mentioned in the official 9/11 commission report. Odd indeed! The myth of “what they did to us” continues unabated to justify at a visceral level any amount of “retribution.” If this truth were known, it might just turn the generally morally indifferent public against our nation’s endless warmongering. As it is, the late great Howard Zinn aside, leaders of the progressive left have been monolithic in their disdain of an alternative examination of 9/11.

To look at the evidence, which is available, requires some intellectual curiosity and a lack of emotional attachment to things having to be as they have been presented. The organization “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth” has done impeccable research on this topic, as have researchers such as David Ray Griffin. Many former high ranking government officials have gone on record that the official conspiracy theory does not match the facts.

To name just three: Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, who was assistant secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration; Major Gen. Albert Stubblebine (ret), commanding general of US Army Intelligence and Security Command, 1981-1984; Dr. Robert Bowman, director of Advanced Space Programs Development for the Air Force in the Ford and Carter administrations. It is time that other voices on the subject are granted space in the discourse.

Bernard Dalsey
Whitewater, Wis.

Why We’re in the Mess We’re In

Politicians! How can we expect politicians to straighten out this economic mess when they gave us NAFTA and GATT? This opened the door to unequal free trade.

Then they gave business (big and small) tax breaks to modernize their plants. Modernization meant computers to eliminate jobs.

That was not good enough for them. They gave tax breaks to the rich and you wonder why we are in the mess we’re in?

Donald E. Stumpf
St Louis, Mo.


The editorial, “End the 9/11 War,” in the 10/1/11 TPP, stated: “But as American special forces and Afghanistan allies sought to close in on bin Laden in the mountain redoubt of Bora Bora ...” Jim Hansen of Toppenish, Wash., noted, “I think you mean Tora Bora. I doubt Osama was vacationing in French Polynesia!” The editor regrets the error.

Tax Holiday Trap

In your 9/1/11 editorial (“GOP Mission Accomplished”), you propose that payroll tax “holiday” be extended. The California Alliance for Retired Americans, which represents 250 organizations with a membership of 50 million members, strongly disagrees. It claims the proposal could significantly jeopardize the broad protections that Social Security provides for American working families.

It avers that relying on borrowed money could eventually force the Social Security program to compete with other federal programs for scarce dollars.

The government would then have to borrow $112 billion to make Social Security whole, leading to cuts.

Denise D’Anne
San Francisco, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2011


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