US History Written on Dollar Bills

To understand our present financial/economic situation, one should read Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace (Oxford University Press, 1998) on how Wall Street and the banks got started. How the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. How none of this pattern has changed since 1791 with Wall Street’s first bust. Of course, there’s much more to the story of Wall Street in all of its 1,400 pages. The ones who got richest by “selling short.” The way workers without jobs were regarded as lazy. The way it was thought that giving to the poor would “hurt their souls,” “make them dependent,” would be wrong. The way the ones who caused the “crashes” were not held accountable. The way labor/laborers bore the brunt of the actions of the few, not just economically but also socially and politically and physically.

One cannot help but think that there’s something basically twisted about America, called democratic but really plutocratic. At the very least, it could be honest and recognize itself for what it is.

When the ones who labor to make the wealth don’t share in the wealth, who are then blamed for the poverty caused by those who gain the wealth! — and who seem to believe this absurd lie — what’s left to be done? Educate them? In schools run to the benefit of the ones who have the wealth and, of course, intend to keep it?

How has anything changed in the last 2,000 years — or forever? And how could it change if we don’t honestly talk about this? Will science and math be the vehicle? No arts, literature, history of civilization (not just American since 1776), even religion (at least acknowledge that it does exist!) and/or philosophy? Where will lawyers, judges, doctors ... professionals come from if all were mathematicians or scientists — or “entrepreneurs”? Not to mention being “mere” mothers and fathers raising children, the citizens all of each nation.

Get off the market mania, America. The real “resources” are our people, employed or not, “rich” or “poor.” Be creative. Use your imaginations. Life is more than making (or losing) money. Money is a means to an end, not an end. Laws are to help us live better, otherwise they’re worthless and should be changed. That’s why we have elections. If they aren’t part of the solution, they’re part (all?) of the problem.

Consider for example: If we were all armed, would the country be better or worse? If we had full disclosure for political contributions from everyone, why would that be bad? Are Republicans necessary? “States Rights” vs. “Federalism” are issues that started with this country’s founding. Slavery did, too. Outlawing slavery didn’t end slavery as a condition still occurring in other forms. Are we more free? Or less? Why or why not? What happens when necessary things are unaffordable?

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

Urge Warren to Run

A wonderful thing could happen, to us and for the world: the election of Elizabeth Warren as president of the United States. It would be the most exciting election in history, with our founding fathers cheering from their graves.

We live in a plutocratic republic, where plutocrats, not we, are represented in our legislative halls. Warren would change that.

On 1/11/15 The Economist pontificated: “As a matter of cold electoral math, she cannot win a nationwide contest.”

Wrong. (The Economist is part of a massive effort to keep her from running.) Our first woman-as-president would inspire tens of millions of despairing non-voters to vote. Why? Because of her political views and because she is a woman. She would become the most powerful person on earth, for all the right reasons.

With the political power of all these behind her, she would greatly expand the numbers of the middle classes and shrink the numbers of the poor. Without this, no nation can be great. The tyranny of too-big-to-fail corporations over the masses of people would be overcome. Such tyrannical power is more pervasive than the old European monarchies ever wielded.

At long last, The People here would give powerful support to The People (by the billions) all over the globe.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, do it — and you will, if enough of us rally around you.

Walter O. Jones
Lake Crystal, Minn.

Acceptable Levels of Torture

The recent Senate report based on 5 years of investigation into US sanctioned and endorsed torture inspired a multitude of responses. From the outset one must acknowledge that the Senate report did not showcase any information regarding the US' active role in torture that was not readily available for anyone doing even a cursory review. The US has a long and glorious history of supporting despots and dictators with unspeakable legacies of torture, slaughter, and unimaginable inhumanity. Let's not forget Sen. Alan Simpson advising our dear friend Saddam Hussein back in 1990 that American reporters were “bastards” for having the gall to document and showcase our great friend’s passion for torture and murder.

What is disturbing is recent polls that tell us that a concerning majority of Americans believe that our forays into torture and murder and other illicit activities is just fine and dandy and actually a useful tool in our now endless “war on terror.” From a purely pragmatic view point this position is, at best, ludicrous.

Citizens need to research the history on this subject, painstakingly documented by Alfred McCoy [author of A Question of Torture]. The jury is in. The widespread use of torture will not provide the torturers relevant and useful information. Torturing people will not give a nation the inside track on coveted or desired information regarding the evil plans of terrorists. What torture will do and has done is denigrate the US and eliminate any pretext that we are a just and law abiding nation.

We eclipse any and all limits on hypocrisy if we speak with reverence about our love of freedom and democracy while at the same time endorsing and giving tacit approval to torture and other forms of medieval barbarism. I recall one author talking about what occurred in Weimar Germany back in the 1930s — certain “doors” were opened that never should have seen the light of day. The end result there was one of the darkest periods in human history.

In recent years the United States empire has been opening a lot of “doors.” Citizens need to become acutely aware of the implications of our sudden departure from reason and morality. We need to readily acknowledge torturers not as heroic freedom fighters and valiant warriors striving to rid the world of evil but as what they are — the scum of the earth and the antithesis of everything that Americans should hold onto and cherish.

Jim Sawyer
Edmonds, Wash.

Economics is Hell

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [II Timothy, Ch. 3]

I think this pretty well sums up the Tea Party, or the “conservative” branch of the Republican Party!

Not far in advance of this outburst, the apostle Paul also remarks: “The laborer is worthy of his reward.” [I Timothy, 5:18] Yes, indeed, he (or she) is! This happens to be one of the most impertinent principles of economics, just about universally ignored by all perpetrators of the economics profession for their own covetous, selfish interest, with a few notable exceptions (Krugman, Stiglitz, Reich, Shiller, Sachs, et al.).

For something more than half the population of the Earth (3 or 4 billion people), their labor is the only asset they have to offer, to earn a living, to survive, feed, clothe and house their children and dependent elders. To take this from them, and not pay them justly or fairly for it, is probably the most monstrous crime against humanity that could possibly be committed; yet it happens routinely, every day, all over the word, not only in North and South America, but also all over Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa. And someone may wonder why there are wars of extermination? Why Hiroshima, or Dresden, or Frankfurt, or Berlin, or Sherman’s March through Georgia? Yes, the innocent suffered, but the guilty brought it onto themselves. “Unto the third and fourth generation.” Acquiescence is complicity!

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Wahhabi Blasphemy Rage

The attack in Paris on the staff of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo was to avenge the insults that they made of the Islamic Founder and it was considered a great blasphemy. The blasphemy laws were started by the European nations, but hardly any nation in Europe takes it seriously — they have a casual approach to the subject and hardly anyone resorts to murder and bombings. Not so in the Islamic world — thanks to Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of Wahhabism in what is now Saudi Arabia. This form of fundamentalism has spread all over the Islamic world. Pakistan is a prime example of such a law where mostly religious minorities are unjustly accused. The Governor of Punjab Province wanted to rectify this law and make sure innocent people did not get punished under this blasphemy law, which still remains encoded. Would you know that this governor was shot to death in 2011 and the shooter, who was one of his bodyguards, became an overnight hero? The political and social leaders all condemned this killing except one amongst them who abstained from doing so. Would you also know that he is the present day Prime Minister of Pakistan? Blasphemy is the tool in the hands of the fanatical followers of Wahhabism.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2015


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