Say Nyet to NATO

Ted Rall has almost got it! In his “Four Horsemen of Journalism Apocalypse” essay, [4/01/14 TPP], he quite correctly points out that the Kremlin is apparently concerned with the well-being of ethnic Russians living in former Soviet states. However, contrary to his assertions of “the big picture,” this is a lesser worry than Moscow’s underlying chagrin.

What’s going on in Crimea is similar in many ways to the South Ossetia conflict of 2008. There again, ethnic strife was the ostensible cause of Russian involvement. Rall is quite correct in stating that most of American journalism is incapable of seeing beyond the smoke and mirrors. But Ted himself is obviously suffering from his own illusion of the big picture. And this, of course, is the silly, optimistic notion that the Cold War is over.

Since the end of the Korean War, the Cold War was mainly defined by two European alliances — NATO and The Warsaw Pact. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact gracefully bowed its way off the world stage. Primarily for this reason, western political geniuses from both ends of the spectrum have unilaterally decided that the Cold War has ended.

In truth, for about 15 years, starting in 1991, the Cold War simply recessed for a friendly soccer match while Russia was busy “Putin” its political house back in order. In the meanwhile, NATO not only continued, but actually expanded into Eastern Europe. Somehow, though, the silly optimistic notion continues to this day. Perhaps, it’s time to face some hard facts.

What does N-A-T-O stand for? It stands for one thing and one thing only — Nations-United-Against-Russia. (What? Some acronyms don’t work well!) Anyone who believes otherwise could never appreciate the Russian joke back in 1954 when the USSR requested to join NATO. In any case, from its inception to the present day, NATO has been nothing less than a bear cage and the Russians know it. Now, let’s look again at those last two former allies that got mauled.

Shortly before their luck changed, dominant political forces within Georgia and Ukraine became receptive to the idea of joining NATO. Yes, indeed, in the case of Ukraine, nervous ethnic Russians spoke large for the pretext. But for a nation which has always shown a low regard for the individual, spooking its expatriates offers less provocation to Russia than playing host to a bear-hunting convention.

Those who would really like to see an end to the Cold War must at least consider the possibility that peace is about trust, trust is about good intentions and the expansion of NATO is about none of the above.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Run a Populist for President

Much has been written over the years in TPP about the two-party system, third parties and the populist movement. What needs to be emphasized, however, is that neither the Constitutional Convention nor the Constitution stipulates anything about political parties. In fact to the Founding Fathers, the word “party” was to be avoided altogether for fear of politicians becoming more loyal to a party than to the country.

The drift into an ideologically ineffective two-party monopoly has resulted in citizens becoming disgusted with politics as usual and congressional approval ratings seemingly reaching an all time low. As evidenced by many reading the populace, including Jim Hightower, we finally may be ready for a genuine, trustworthy, populist, and independent presidential candidate; such a candidate is Bernie Sanders.

We could thumb our noses at the Koch brothers and the Sheldon Adelsons using an old-fashioned, grassroots, “whistle-stop” campaign, “unconventional” as Sen. Sanders himself suggests. Citizens United needs to be overturned with a constitutional amendment and public financing put on a fast track. Special efforts must also be made to oppose any attempts at restricting voters’ rights and ballot access.

It would be helpful to have Elizabeth Warren on board, perhaps as a V-P candidate (She has declined to run as a Democrat if Hillary Clinton decides to be a candidate.).

Needless to say, it will be an uphill battle to counter the current tendency toward a plutocratic oligarchy. But organizing in so any different ways is already underway throughout the country to turn the tide in favor of We the People.

Richard Laybourn
Bloomington, Minn.

Tax Excess Income

The time has come for an “excess income” tax of 45% on all incomes over $5 million.  I see several benefits:

First, the tax will send the unmistakeable message that the wealthy too are paying their fair share of the cost of running the government which benefits them the most.

Second, the wealthy will still get to keep more than half of their income over $5 million. It would be churlish indeed for a person who has the good fortune to make $15 million in a year to complain that the gets to take home only $10 million.

Third, there would be no exemptions or reductions for Carried Interest, dividend allowances, municipal interest or the loopholes that the wealthy now use to escape fair taxation. Mitt Romney and others fortunate enough to make $22 million will no longer get away with paying only 15% of their income in taxes.

Additional income would be generated for Defense and Domestic spending by the proposed tax. I don’t know whether it will be $100 million or $10 billion or some figure between or more or less that that. But the actual amount generated will be secondary to the fact that all citizens, even the wealthy, are paying their fair share of taxes.

For these reasons, I believe Congress should enact a 45% “excess income” tax on income over $5 million.

Frank L. Schneider
Chicago, Ill.

Health Care as a Right, Not a Profitable Business

For Republicans, helping the 99% to access health care is secondary to greater profits to the private corporate insurance companies and keeping the 1% in luxury. Over 50 bills have been passed by House Republicans to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act while ignoring bills which would scuttle “Obamacare” such as one which would open Medicare to all.

But Medicare is flawed and retains health care as a profit making business even though it may limit some costs. Profit making hospitals and exorbitant fees for specialists remain. Consider the morality and lack of compassion of profiting excessively from the unfortunate sick and injured. There is a functioning American  alternative which could open health care to all and considerably reduce costs, now the highest in the world, to a more reasonable level and achieve much improved results for the nation’s health and well being. Open and expand the VA to all residents. Nationalize hospitals and health clinics by federal purchase. If the feds can afford to bail out the financial and auto industries, and flush trillions of dollars down the toilet for militarism and wars which have been questionable benefit, we can do this by rearranging priorities. Sickness or injury are greater threats than terrorism or enemy attack. We can start by providing free training to qualified and committed medical students as they do in poor Cuba. This is needed to provide service without long waiting for medical services. It is likely that this reform will lower costs drastically while providing service we Americans, the richest nation in the world, deserve. Why should America be satisfied with less?

Arthur House
Franklin, W.V.

Read Krugman

The Paul Krugman John Buell belittles with soundbites taken out of context [“Why Academic Economics Matters,” 6/1/14 TPP] bears little resemblance to the Paul Krugman whose blog I read every day. It is more than a little silly for a non-economist to offer such patronizing criticism of someone whose work he certainly does not know well or understand deeply.

If you want to know what Krugman says, read Krugman. If, like me, you sometimes throw up your hands and admit you cannot follow the posts identified as wonkish, never mind. You will still know more after persevering over the course of months or years than if you had never tried to read his work at all, and you will, I think, gain respect for the intellectual integrity and human decency which are apparent to any long-time reader.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

Obama Ditched Wright Early

Contrary to what Ted Rall writes [“Working Classism at Work,” 6/1/14 TPP] President Obama did not find out about Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons attacking the USA in 2008. In February 2007, when President Obama was about to announce for the presidency, I read in the New York Times that Obama chose not to invite Wright to his announcement because he was too controversial. I looked at Wright`s web site and saw that he was anti-Semitic, hostile to Israel and said that US had it coming for 9/11. As a Hillary supporter I alerted the people in the media about Wright, but at that time nobody in the media cared because they supported Obama and defended Obama  by saying that who Obama associated with should not be judged as a reflection of his own beliefs.

Reba Shimansky
New York, N.Y.

McCutcheon Ruling a Blow to Democracy

The recent ruling of the Supreme Court regarding campaign election reforms was decided by the all-male “right wing zealots,” which I’m sure has former Justice Lewis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) rolling over in his grave right now over the extremism. Justice Brandeis, while on the bench, stated: “We may have democracy, we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few; but we can’t have both.

Their decision must assuredly be premised on their affection for Vladimir Putin and his Oligarchy along with today’s robber barons like the Koch brothers who don’t believe in “collectivism.” Collectivism (Oxford Dictionary) is the shared, common interests, allied, united, communal, hence in We the People inalienable rights.

In reflecting upon my 80 years of longevity and the multiple historical inroads made for a fairer, more just society, this court (its male justices) shall go down in history as the most radical, extreme, conservative cabal to ever be so antithetical to the very meaning of the word JUSTICE. In the past four plus decades the moneyed interest these justices shill for in their rulings shall be exposed and eventually over turned in some legislative way by the majority who hold out for belief in that Equalitarian Society promised, but not yet achieved.

Frank C. Rohrig
Milford, Conn.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2014


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