In Insurance Companies We Trust

While Wendell Potter knows of what he writes, having spent a good chunk of a career as an executive in the insurance biz, I appreciated his article [“Placing bad bets in Obamacare exchange casino,” 7/1-15/15 TPP], even if I didn’t understand much of it. He certainly asks the right questions that are on the minds of know nothings like myself. I do know that insurance companies make enough profits to build skyscrapers, and enlightened nations (that leaves out the USA) have health care. They deem it a fundamental right, failing which they would be overthrown and replaced by a government that was pro bono publico. How fundamental can it get that when in the course of human events, the government in power extorts the citizens by offering them a choice of bankruptcy or death? We will be celebrating revolution, with the local citizens lobbing quarter sticks of dynamite onto the roofs of houses in the neighborhood, or firing off sparklers that generate the heat of blow torches. I can’t wait.

Bernard J. Berg
Easton, Pa.

Don’t Force Vaccines

I’ve read several pro-vaccine letters in The Progressive Populist lately (just couldn’t bring myself to call your excellent publication the TPP), the most recent one calling for national legislation which would make vaccines mandatory for all children. Seriously? Is this where progressive populism is leading us? Yikes.

There is no question that vaccines have helped stop the spread of infectious diseases. Polio and smallpox are the most obvious and successful examples.

In 1971, American children just received the DPT, polio, smallpox and MMR vaccines. Today, 38 doses of 15 different vaccines are recommended just by age two! Might the profit motive have something to do with this? Just asking...

In 1986, the “National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act” was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. This law decrees that “no vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action lawsuit from damages arising from a vaccine related injury or death”. Too bad for the consumers who happen to experience severe side effects or death. But let’s just go ahead and make the vaccines mandatory anyway.

The pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars on vaccines and yet, because of this law, they are absolved of any liability if their products cause injury or death. No wonder they’ve lobbied hard to get the federal government to mandate the vaccines they produce! They have nothing to lose, huge profits to make and no accountability whatsoever. And there are lots more vaccines to come...

I hope the freedom to make one’s own health care decisions continues to be an important aspect of progressive populism. Thank you for a great paper.

Gardner Hathaway
Asheville, N.C.

Chutzpah on Supreme Court

Call it gall; call it chutzpah. The arrogance of Supreme Court Justice Roberts decrying the gay marriage decision as “five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law” diminishes all previous examples of hypocrisy.  This is the Supreme Court that appointed George W. Bush president by stopping the vote counting in Florida, which when unofficially completed actually tallied Gore the majority of votes, amounting to a half-million majority nationally.  With the Bush v Gore decision, the Supreme Court Justices really did undermine our democracy, and enabled a presidency that executed the worst foreign policy blunder in our history and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Justice Roberts expresses “serious concerns that the Court had extended its role from constitutional enforcer to activist” yet, he himself took the initiative to bring Citizens United to the bench.  That decision turned our electoral system into legalized bribery, and surely ranks in all-time hypocritical chutzpah as well.  Do these Justices even hear what they are saying?

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Calif.

Expelled Jews Were Lucky

Re “Spain Makes Amends, and So Should We” [7/1-15/15 TPP]: As a result of their ancestors’ ruthless deportation from Spain in 1492, the Sephardic Jews imposed an informal ban upon themselves that forbade them from ever again living in that country.

But now that Spain, in its quest to lighten the burden of its conscience, is offering full-fledged citizenship to descendants of Jews who were persecuted during the Inquisition, it’s not surprising that more than a few want to return to their roots in Spain.

Perhaps it was the Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel’s insightful observation that has lessened their bitterness: Heschel wrote that if the Jews who held powerful positions in that country hadn’t been expelled during the Spanish Inquisition, they surely would have participated in Spain’s later conquest of what is now Latin America.

Thus, they would have become accomplices to the crimes perpetrated against the natives as Spain expanded its empire.

Thus, Heschel’s commentary is enlightening: The suffering endured by Spanish Jews through their deportation became the proverbial blessing in disguise: By not having participated in the conquistadores’ exploitation of the New World, they were spared the burden of conscience for having done evil.

Nevertheless, the tragic irony of that story is that as soon as the Spaniards conquered the natives of the New World, they wasted no time in converting them to Catholicism and teaching them to hate Jews — who, of course, had nothing to do with the brutality visited upon them by their anti-Semitic Spanish masters.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Nothing Changes in Mideast

Recently President Obama was host to Saudi Crown Prince and Gulf Nations leaders to assure them that if Iran does develop nuclear weapons United States will protect them. It is strange that the same Arab nations did not need their ‘hands held’ when knowing very well that Israel already has nuclear weapons and had them for the last few years. Stranger still is the fact that Israeli citizens cannot enter or visit such Arab Countries whereas Iranians, being Muslims, could come and go freely, especially for Haj performance.

Maybe the Arabs are worried that if Iran goes nuclear they will impose their will and influence in the region (has Pakistan done so?). Or it could be the age old rivalry between Shia and Sunni that is being played out here and President Obama should not be drawn into this Shia/Sunni strife.

G.M. Chandu
Flushing, N.Y.

Ode to Our American Flag

To see America stand tall and proud must be the goal of each of us who cherish living in this great country of ours. With this thought in mind I look up to see our beautiful flag as she waves so proud and so free ...

Old Glory, she is called, and free as the winds that embrace her, she waves in majestic splendor. She is the reflection and spirit of a mighty nation — America. The home of the brave and the free. She holds three titles: Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes, and the American Flag. Indeed she is all three, but singular in power. She is above all, the beacon of hope, freedom and opportunity. She is the beacon that shines in a world turmoiled by tyranny and oppression.

God Bless Old Glory, may she wave forever from every flagpole in America. May we forget, never, that we were born with certain inalienable rights protected by the very constitution she so represents. I search for comfort within the shadows of her strength. Somehow, I feel she radiates that force of patriotism which must always kindle deep in our hearts.

May she never fall victim to the storms of disgrace nor be torn down by the winds of complacency. May she always fly proud and free, always responsive to the shifting winds of destiny.

Old Glory is the symbol of a united America that has stood the tyrannical tests of time. In all her splendor she has flown victorious in battle. In sadness, she has covered our fallen patriots with dignity and accompanied them to their graves. She remains as a living memory to those who gave their lives for their love of country and love of freedom.

Let us not become dormant nor complacent, but alive with a national spirit, and let express to the world that we are one Nation in spirit under God forever more.

Raynaldo Yrlas
Corpus Christi, Texas

Try Instant Runoff Voting

In terms of strategy to enact progressive change, instant runoff voting (IRV) in general elections is nearly as important as taking the money out of elections. Indeed, it would lead to election of representatives more motivated to take money out of the political equation.

By IRV I mean a simple marking of candidates for each ballot position in first and optional second choice. Candidates are eliminated from the bottom up based on the lowest number of first choice votes. There is no need for a follow-up election.

Any third party or independent candidate will never know their potential support as most people are unwilling to cast a vote that they know will not triumph in a winner-take-all system. Carrying out IRV is trivial. Its enactment is the hard part. Selling it to the public would not be so difficult, as people like choice and IRV can benefit independent thinkers anywhere on the political spectrum.

I’m sure any present or former third party or independent progressive candidate understands the power of this practical piece of the election puzzle.

My question to those who only see answers via the Democratic Party is: What do you have to lose with IRV? The answer is “the spoiler effect”. That should be a plus to those that have vilified Ralph Nader! But the Democratic Party leadership, like the Republicans, wants no other competition.

Difficult enough it is to convert peoples’ thinking. Harder yet when we strategically shoot ourselves in the foot.

Unless Bernie Sanders scores a surprise primary victory, the 2016 presidential contest will be another repetition of the corporate empire-supporting Democrat vs. the even worse Republican. This is an old and sad story. There is no pressure on the Democratic Party to move left. IRV is a vital piece of strategy for long-term progress.

Bernard Dalsey
Whitewater, Wis.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2015


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