Letters to the Editor

Keep Out of the Fight

Along with Uncle Sam exercising his Divine Right to invade the other guy’s turf, we’ve also backed, with arms, troops and money, corrupt foreign governments and countries fractured by ethnic and religious violence. Any foreign government that appeals to America’s brand of imperialism is a shoe-in for state-of-the art killing armament .... all for free. Our tax dollars have supported and kept in power some of the most brutal dictators in recent history.

Data published by Wikipedia pegged US aid to 25 foreign countries at $48.4 billion in 2012. ($17.2 billion in military assistance, $31.2 billion in economic assistance.) It appears that these same dollar amounts apply for 2013. Twenty one of the these countries are in various stages of revolt and civil unrest - some even killing their own citizens. Not included in the above figures is $1.7 billion in aid to Syria or the $27 million gifted to Syrian rebels for armament. About a week after that endowment an article was published in USA Today announcing that the Assad government had won that war.

The Ukraine crisis tapped US taxpayers for $1 billion in loan guarantees, $70 million in direct aid and $100 million to promote political and economic reform in eastern and central Europe.

The Sunni-Shi’ite denominations are intensely opposed to one another — a religious rift that is 1600 years old and the root cause of the Syrian revolt. The cause of the Ukraine crisis is two political factions that cannot peacefully agree on their governments — another age-old issue.

For our government to exacerbate the violence in these two and other countries with our tax dollars and armament once again highlights the stupidity of our foreign policy.

Ed Hodge
Appleton, Wis.

Hard Times for Mideast Christians

My Coptic Christian neighbor, who recently became a naturalized US citizen, has been quite melancholy as he still thinks about the culture of Egypt — the land of his forefathers. Learning about what is going on between Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq and Syria he is finally reconciled that the decision to leave Egypt was right and timely. He wonders that when the Shiites, who have accepted Prophet Mohammed’s Monotheism and revere The Holy Koran, are now being called “apostates” (by the Sunnis of ISIS group) what are the chances of survival for the Christians living in that area. Sadly very little and fraught with danger.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

Focus on Killers, Not Mental Patients

As a mental health professional, I welcome Mary Sanchez's call for additional resources for the treatment of mental illness ["Mental Illness, Guns Have Created an Epidemic," 7/1-15/14 TPP], and, as a former employee of the Veterans Administration, I deplore the funding cuts that have kept our wounded veterans from obtaining prompt, effective care.  But it is a serious mistake to focus excessive attention on the intersection between mental illness and gun violence, as Ms. Sanchez's own statistics make clear.

Of the approximately 32,000 deaths from gun violence which occur in this country every year, a tiny fraction are the work of the seriously mentally ill, who comprise only about 10% of the population, and, who, as a group, are not more violent than the population at large. They are, however, more likely to commit high profile, mass shootings, which garner a disproportionate amount of press coverage, and give the public the impression that better background checks would reduce the epidemic of gun violence. The vast majority of gun deaths occur in much more mundane circumstances, such as domestic disputes, bar-room brawls, gang conflicts, and accidents; background checks would do nothing to reduce these numbers.  Rather than scapegoat the mentally ill, we should urge our politicians to gather the courage to confront the gun industry and its lobby, the NRA, and attack the epidemic of  the proliferation of guns.

In this way guns are no different from such public health scourges as tobacco and junk food. Measures to prevent the mentally ill from buying cigarettes and soft drinks would have no significant impact on rates of  lung cancer or obesity, for the simple reason that such measures would affect only a very small percentage of the population. The same holds true for guns.

Margaret Hornick
Great Barrington, Mass.

Racism Persists

Bob Burnett’s “Racism: What’s the Problem” [7/1-15/14 TPP] says “The persistence … of racism can be explained by three factors: The first is economic inequality.” This suggests a confusion of cause and effect. Racism is one cause of inequality, not vice versa. Some mainstream media have lately been carrying water for liberals by portraying racism as Ugly Americans: old, rich, white men or their political mercenaries who yell “N – word” insults. That risks ignoring the substrate of institutional racism, such as white flight and local property tax financing of schooling.

Most discussions of what is to be done to remediate the baleful effects of slavery and the whole miserable succession of Jim Crow, etc. seem to assume the cost will come from whites of today who had no responsibility for these terrible institutions. If so, I think Ted Rall “Reparations for Blacks?” [7/1-15/14 TPP] isn’t right to opt out of any say in answering the questions he proposes about reparations. Reparations would be a reasonable policy for an omniscient being. The problem today can be conceived differently. All whites today benefit from racism because racism enables us to compete unfairly against blacks for decent housing, government services, education and health care, bank credit, etc.

Perhaps thinking about the problem this way could suggest to some progressives how to fashion a remedy for this endless scourge. I’d like to see the idea explored. But I’m sure I have no idea what would remedy this.

Robert Cogan
Edinboro, Pa.

No Question About Safety of Genetic Engineering

While I admire Wenonah Hauter and support Food & Water Watch, I must take strong issue with Hauter’s assertion [“Probably Harmless Isn’t Good Enough,” 6/15/14 TPP] that the question of the safety of genetic engineering technology is a “red herring” that only serves to divert attention from other issues with the industry and its products. It seems to me, if the public knew more about the reality rather than the myth of GE, the shallow, weak opposition we see today would evolve into a deep, unshakeable resistance.

There appears to be a misperception among many, including otherwise well-informed opponents of the technology, that genetic engineering of food items involves careful “splicing” of the desired gene into the target genome. The image that arises is of micro-tweezers being wielded under a massive microscope. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Because eons of evolution have equipped living organisms with strong defenses against pollution of their genomes by foreign DNA, genetic engineers must resort to drastic methods. These include the use of gene cannons that literally blast the frankengene into the nucleus of the target, as well as the employment of various vectors, such as bacteria, viruses or plasmids, that are more subtle but nevertheless infiltrate the target in an uncontrolled manner.

The bottom line is that with the crude methods utilized in GE (in stark contrast to those employed in traditional selective breeding), the desired gene is inserted RANDOMLY into the target genome. This is important because the old theory that genomes contain one gene for each protein synthesized, with order irrelevant, has been proved false in recent decades. Order is crucial. When a gene is inserted randomly, unknown and unpredictable proteins will be synthesized by the organism. The FDA granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status to GE foods based on the old theory, with the assumption that the only change to the organism would be production of one specific protein needed to introduce the desired trait. Thus, the entire basis for claiming that GE foods are safe is false, and the biotech industry is literally playing roulette with the public’s health.

Every genetic engineer knows this inconvenient truth, yet the industry has managed to keep a lid on it.  Former Monsanto employee Kirk Azevedo, who understood the implications and  tried to raise awareness among colleagues, university affiliates and government regulators, to no avail, believes that Monsanto (and presumably its peers) buys their employees’ silence with generous pay packages. No doubt, the threat of losing their jobs if GE foods lose market share also helps zip their lips.

I believe that if we demolish the rickety foundation of GRAS status, the GE behemoths will be in a world of hurt. The details of the technology itself, rather than its products and shady business practices, may be the industry’s weakest link.

James D. Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

Why Cantor Ain’t Singin’

All my bagger friends have spent the past week floating on air. The House majority leader was trashed for his not so conservative politics, or so they foolishly believe. They also believe that the carnival party of corporate stooges is on its way back up. This is what they fail to see.

Eric Cantor didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration. He lost because of what may simply be called a form of political greed. As a congressman approaches the pinnacle of power within the House, an understandable effort is made to gerrymander his district so as to offer him tenure. It simply doesn’t make sense to risk losing a guy at the top to the vagaries of the troglodyte voters. Cantor is a primary (no pun) example of how this can backfire. It’s all about numbers like 85 and 51. Just like a uranium bomb, once you’ve finagled party solidarity to 85% purity, you have to start thinking about the possibility of 51% dissension in the ranks. As Cantor began to rise, his backstage crew did what they needed to do to insure that no Democrat could ever stand a chance in a general election. But what he failed to believe is that his own party might harm him, simply because it happened to be reaching critical mass.


Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Shining Success

Let history record that ex-bartender John Boehner. a little man with abbreviated skills and a warped sense of responsibility, reached, regrettably, a very high office, where he mainly basked in the glory of his station, achieved next to nothing, yet deemed himself a shining success.

Rolland Amos
Severn, Md.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2014


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