Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Casualties of War

I'm not "endorsing" the following web column. I'm just wondering about it. It follows up on a column I sent out last week that speaks about a Department of Defense report that an independent web columnist, Brian Harring, says was leaked to him. He says he's going to "leak" it to foreign media so that it can be legally published here later without legal recourse being taken against him for making it public. He claims that the report will show that the 900 page report will show that about 7,000 soldiers
have been killed in Iraq and that the Pentagon is playing "card tricks" with the real numbers.

I'm not saying that he's on the up and up. I'm not asking you to believe this any more than I would ask you to trust what you read in your daily newspaper (or in the New York Times, for that matter). I am simply asking why the mainstream media hasn't picked this issue up and why they are not questioning the government about it? When will they? Next month? After the report is released elsewhere? Just before our next oil war? Tomorrow? Never?

Am I romanticizing the past to think that the American media of yesteryear would have been right on this, "dogging" the authorities, trying to find out the truth on behalf of the citizenry, our soldiers and their families? Probably. But, we know that this administration can not be trusted and that the media have worked with them, lying to us about pretty much every single issue surrounding this war, so far. Is it not entirely likely that they are also lying to us about American casualties, then? I haven't heard a peep from the mainstream media about this. Have you?

Some in the media may defend their silence about the government's lies saying that this DOD report and these allegations are "unsubstantiated" and that this is why the story hasn't yet seen the light of day. I can only respond by saying that, on any given day, almost anything you read in the paper is based on unsubstantiated information fed to reporters by the PR agencies that represent our "public servants". Why should we feel that this information is any more credible than anyone else's? If anything, the government has far clearer motive to lie about this war than an independent web author who will likely bring down upon himself the wrath of the entire U.S. government for telling the public what he believes to be true. Who's more suspect in this scenario?

Government sources are the very LAST people on earth that the media should trust. Yet, on a daily basis, these sources are frequently the only ones that they offer (especially when the advertisement (I mean journalistic piece) in question is being used to sell war to we, the masses.
WMD's, Saddam/Bin Laden/Iraq/Al Quaeda connections, terrorist cells working aggressively within the U.S. to commit further acts of "terror"? Where are all these things that the media told us were true based on unsubstantiated government sources? Why should we believe that the very government that loves war would want us to know any piece of information that might "weaken our resolve"? They lie to us every day.

Isn't it the press' job to dig out the truth and confront our government officials when it appears they have lied or that they are selling agenda based on false pretext? Isn't that what media is supposed to do? Whose side are they on, exactly? Thats definitely a rhetorical question. ;-)

Peace,
Matt

Matt Funiciello
mattfuniciello@earthlink.net
Two Political Parties = One Massive Corporation


Although Pentagon denies under reporting deaths, independent researcher says more than 7,000 GI's may have died in Iraqi combat.
June 26, 2005 By Greg Szymanski
Some war critics say trusting the military to report an accurate GI death toll in Iraqi is like asking a mafia boss how many people he "whacked’ this year. One number, however, not in dispute is that President Bush hasn’t attended a single military funeral, something even the most cold hearted street bosses do out of respect for the families.
Of course no one really knows how many gangster "hits" end up in New York’s East River, but there is growing speculation that Pentagon brass are taking a page out The Godfather Trilogy, using it as a quick refresher course on how to hide the bodies.
The Pentagon denies any foul play or under reporting, a military spokesman last week placing the GI death toll in Iraq at 1,725 and 193 in Afghanistan, a figure changing daily due to increased violence.
In fact, rarely a day goes by when at least one soldier isn’t killed. But the question remains exactly how many?
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said "every single death" is reported in the official figure if it is deemed to occur "in the theatre" and of a "hostile" nature. He added 366 deaths have not been added to the official list since they were considered accidental or non-hostile.
"If a soldier dies in the theatre of action and it is deemed hostile, then his or her death is reported," said Maj. Shavers, adding accidental and non –hostile deaths are not counted only if totally unrelated to combat. "It should be noted that if an individual dies as a result of an injury in the theatre deemed hostile within 120 days after the injury occurred, the death is counted in the official totals no matter where he dies.
"This means if he dies on the transport airplane or in the hospital afterwards, he or she is counted in the official death toll."
But Brian Harring, an independent researcher and author preparing a book on the subject, places the military’s figures and its method of tabulating deaths in serious question.
For months, Harring has been putting together a painstaking and exhaustive research project, complete with secret Department of Defense (DOD) documents, claiming the Pentagon has been "drastically under reporting deaths, injuries and desertions" in order to dispel war criticism.
"I have put together a comprehensive analysis of the Iraqi War from the planning stages before the war and then have broken down the actions during the war month by month. I show a chronology supported with documents…the actual death tolls are far in excess of the official ones posted by the DOD," said Harring.
Harring’s accusations starting circulating this week in an update of his work at tbrnews.org, claiming he has official DOD internal casualty lists not released which reveal the true number of Iraqi deaths, both military and civilian, as well as accurate casualty and desertion numbers.
Taking his lawyer’s advice, considering the present political climate and the passage of the Patriot Act, Harring decided it was safer not to publish the list in the U.S., opting to first release the damaging DOD documents overseas.
"Be assured that the .pdf (DOD internal) document is real, exactly as reported, but it is a huge 900-page file. As soon as it appears in the public domain overseas beyond the reach of US law, we may then legally reproduce it here in this country, and we will not hesitate to do so," said Harring about the legal complications he is encountering.
"When it is published, it will have a devastating effect on the political scene and will certainly reveal the total lack of credibility of anyone connected with the Bush administration."
Although his research is incomplete, Harring claims figures compiled to date reveal approximately 7,000 GI deaths, 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, 26,000 GI injuries and 5,500 desertions, all far in excess of official military reports released to the public.
"We have received copies of manifests from the MATS that show far more bodies shipped into Dover AFB than are reported official," said Harring. "When our research is complete, and watertight, we will publish the results along with the sources."
Harring is also soliciting public help for his project, asking families or friends who have lost loved ones in Iraq to check out tbrnews.org, a site that is also publishing the complete list of Iraqi dead as released by DOD.
" We have posted an official and alphabetized list of the official dead. We have asked readers to advise us of any names they might be aware of that are not on this list," added Harring.
"Since our first posting, we have received several such omitted names, seven in the first day, and to date, June 20, 2005, 38 total, and are compiling these, along with proofs of death from the DOD, which we will post when we collect a significant number - 100 or more - which cannot be dismissed by the DOD as an oversight."
However, it appears Harring’s basis for accusing the military of under reporting, at least regarding GI deaths, is in direct conflict with the official military categorization of a hostile versus non-hostile and accidental death.
Maj. Shavers said the military reports all deaths if they result from hostile injuries in the theatre if the death occurs within 120 days no matter if they die en route or in the hospital.
Harring contends otherwise, writing:
"There are many more deaths that have not appeared on the official lists because the DOD has taken to the tricky tactics of loading dying and probable fatalities onto aircraft and flying them out of Iraq to bases and hospitals outside of that country.
"So, if a GI is dying or has every expectation of dying, he or she is loaded on an aircraft and their subsequent deaths are not publicly reported as "combat deaths." Of course the families or survivors are certainly notified of the death but the public is not."

Friday, June 24, 2005

The "Highest" Court

It used to be that if you had a problem with the government or criminals or business interests (or most frequently, all three working together), you could take your case to the highest court in the land and ... justice would probably be served (sometimes) (maybe) (sort of). That proud record of (almost) (kind of) serving a higher public calling totally collapsed yesterday as the Supreme Court removed yet another of our (sort of)
precious civil rights.

You may already be aware of this story. It regards the use of eminent domain to steal property from private landowners. If so, please disregard the Salon story I've posted below. We have a similar problem, locally. There is a Burger King "restaurant" right smack in the center of downtown Glens Falls that public officials, criminals and business interests would just love to see forced out so that they can develop a convention center and hotel in its place.

Now, let me stress that I am no friend of Burger King. It is a terrible worthless blight on our landscape and an awful thing to have at the center of our downtown. Nonetheless, to paraphrase Nathan Hale, I would defend their right to own that land that they bought and pay taxes on even though I hate their business, do not patronize them and feel that they are major contributors in the dumbing-down of America's palate.

The "highest" court in our land has now set us all on an unbelievably frightening path regarding eminent domain with this case they have just decided in Connecticut. Now, apparently, we are going to allow any land-grabbing scum or air-salesman to take over any property they see fit for their own profit! The original language mandating "public use" was already questionable, at best. If the Supreme Court was, in fact, "high", I think it likely they may have decided this case differently (certainly in a less fascist manner). Their newest decision means that from here on in, private interests can steal any property they want simply by taking over local government. Now, wait a minute .... aren't pretty much all small town governments already under the thumb of real estate developers? What do you think happens next? Do you own property?

This is absolute proof that fascism is afoot in our nation, noble experiment aside. Please don't be the last person to wake to it.

Peace,
Matt


Supreme Court rules cities may seize homes
by Hope Yen

June 23, 2005 Washington -- A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling -- assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America -- was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Among those still pending for the court, which next meets on Monday, is one testing the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property.

Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote.

Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing -- David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class.

They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," Stevens wrote.
O'Connor argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."
At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.
Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, a former mayor and city council member who voted in favor of eminent domain, said the decision "means a lot for New London's future."

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

CON-servatives

The other day, I had quite a lengthy conversation with an acquaintance of mine. A self-professed "conservative", he wanted to share his philosophy of life with me, I think to reinforce his own, rather bizarre, world view. I, rightly, assumed, that he'd read about my activism, political and otherwise, and found it curious that I "think" so differently than he does. He hoped to "straighten me out" a little and enlighten me.

I could see through the course of our little "chat" that he's one of those not-so-rare conservatives for whom the word "Republican" actually means something. He honestly believes he is part of a team. His "team" values him as a player and is grateful for his meager input and
support. This reminded me of a guy I used to work with who would wear New York Yankees paraphrenalia everywhere he went. When the "Millionaires" lost a game he would talk about how "we lost" the game. He would be genuinely depressed as if he was the one who had struck out or made the errors. Talk about delusional!

Regardless, lets call the man I was talking with, "Con". Con drives an SUV with pro-war bumper stickers on it. He stops short of displaying
"W" and "God Bless America" stickers, but he's got two "Support Our Troops" ribbons and one "Power of Pride" bumper sticker. If you showed Con a "Power of Propaganda" bumper sticker, I think he would scratch his head and wonder what it was supposed to mean, exactly.

Con owns several pieces of real estate. He fixes them up and then rents out the apartments to tenants. Thats arguably good honest work. No harm done. Cleaning up, regentrifying, all that. Cool. I have no problem with people trying to make things better than they were before. He gets a gold star for that. However, he also jacks up the rent once the places are fixed up so as to maximize his profit and rid himself of "questionable" tenants. Of course, its those who complain about paying higher rents who are most often found to be "questionable".

Con seemed overwhemingly concerned about abstract concepts like the "moral fabric" of our country. He claimed to believe in the good old-fashioned American work ethic. His version of that ethic is a little different than mine, to be sure, but there was a mutual awareness that
intense labor by both slaves and immigrants built our country. Con
basically opined that anyone who doesn't just put his or her head down and "scrape and paint and clean" is not really a productive soul. He talked about how, in his view, there are really only two types of people; Those who DO and Those who WHINE. I said I thought that he should add at least two more groups to this somewhat narrow view; Those who are MADE TO DO and Those who choose to DO for OTHERS.

He couldn't see the margin in adding those other groups and continued
on about "survival of the fittest". I asked him if he thought that he, himself, could survive on the streets or in a desert or in a third-world country, if he had to. He said that our country was built specifically to prevent that from happening. It was built on the premise that if you work hard, you will be able to survive. Americans need deal with these extremes no longer. Con doesn't feel any need to worry about those in other countries. People who actually have to suffer through life in these extremes should get together to fight their plight but, either way, its simply not his concern. To think of our own homeless or those starving in the third world is an irrelevent thought to him. He simply can not empathize. "Survival of the fittest", he said again, as if to rationalize his lack of connectedness and intense callousness.

I think that this is just self-delusional propaganda white men tell each other to assuage the guilt they feel at their own greed and stupidity. I can only say that people like Con seem bizarrely deluded. They actually think that the machine (which is God, in their minds) has singled them out so as to shower them with preferential treatment. Others, apparently, aren't worthy.

Conservatives have conned themselves into believing that they "succeed" solely because they are worthy. They arrogantly believe that they are better and faster and stronger and smarter than the average human being. I, on the other hand, can make a list of all of the breaks I have had since day one. I know, in this era of globalization, that we are all two paychecks away from being totally destitute. I feel grateful for the luck and the blessings bestowed upon me and mine and feel it is my duty to share any "success" I may have had with those who have not been as blessed with luck, guidance, experience or opportunity. To me, financial success has little or nothing to do with worth or effort. I have known many workers who kill themselves just to survive. I have also known many in the "upper crust" who seem to spend an awful lot of time on the golf course for people so well-compensated for their meager efforts. I can only conclude form my life experience that worthiness rarely enters the equation.

Con, and those who share his worldview, want to keep it all to themselves. they rationalize their greed and self-love by repeating the mantra to themselves, "I am especially worthy. I am especially worthy."

No, you are not especially worthy. In fact, you are especially unworthy! You simply can not be a good human being and lack both compassion and humility. Its an unconscious and ignorant way to live. Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King are examples of good human beings. They didn't live in bubbles of arrogance and self-delusion. The problem with their worldview, admittedly, is that people have to actually see the benefit in having all human beings actually caring about each other. Con, and his ilk, apparently can't see the margin in thinking like an altruist.

I left our conversation wondering how such an empty, selfish man could possibly be satisfied to live such a small, meaningless life. Then, I looked around at the society that spawned him .... and it all made perfect sense.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Did Dean Pull the Wool Over Their Eyes?

The piece copied below, written by Harper's publisher, was sent to me by a good friend of mine. It is about Howard Dean's recent "conversion" from fake, anti-war activist and Kucinich-killer to Big Money Dem capitulator. The author says that the transition has been quite a sad one to watch in that it speaks volumes about how the Democratic Party functions and who its paymasters really are.

I think perhaps the saddest thing about Dean's candidacy is how so many people were convinced by this carnival barker that he was the "real deal". They all had their time wasted and he, apparently, didn't even feel a twinge of remorse at betraying them all. They all got sucked into the vacuum he created (seemingly to destroy the anti-war movement, not to represent it). They were then, unwittingly made part of the force that allowed Bush to vanquish their party in an election they could have won handily. One would have to see Dean's strange rise to the top DNC position as quite suspect given his supposedly "anti-establishment, outside the party" status, unless you believe, as I do, that he made the DNC deal with the party establishment long before the electioneering process even began, way back when the DNC was more scared of the very real peace candidate, Denis Kucinich. They needed a way to derail Kucinich and his supporters so that they could throw up their surefire-loser, pre-Hillary, sacrificial lamb candidate (John Kerry). Howard Dean was there to do their bidding and he used many progressives and well-intended, anti-war activist Democrats to make it happen. Shameless.

Dean is one of the main reasons why the Dems lost in this past election. He paved the way for total victory in the primaries by causing Kucinich to lose his base of support. I think we all knew that a phony establishment Dem like Kerry never stood a chance. To paraphrase Truman, "Run a fake Republican against a real Republican and the real Republican will win every time!" When Dean quit, under very bizarre, seemingly pre-planned circumstances, as well, he left the working class with no real choice. They took one look at John "Obviously Fake" Kerry and George "I'm Pretty Direct About My Imperialist Aspirations" Bush and decided to stick with the devil they knew. Given the "choice", I'm not sure I really blame them.

I've recently been listening to all the "brave" interviews and rhetoric and stances being thrown about by Alan "Anti-Third Party" Chartok (WAMC Public Radio) now that the election is over. I find this new "progressive" activity on Alan's part very interesting. To extol the virtues of Howard Zinn and Bill Moyers and Jason West now that there's no election forthcoming is questionable bravery, at best. For three years, he backs third parties and independents and progressives and gives them voice and then, in an election year, he vilifies and ignores them so that the checks keep flowing to fund his very lucrative "apple cart". Chartok and Dean are guilty of using exactly the same technique as corporate media to manipulate the public and effect corporate agenda. Raise a big fuss and say loud, semi-truthful things when you have very little to lose by doing so. When the power base takes notice and gets scared, allow them to woo you. Fully capitulate to them and curry favor until you get paid off. Become part of their machine. Disgusting, sick and sad.

Hopefully, the progressives and activists who fell prey to this simple con game last year will realize the full extent of Howard's betrayal and will work with alternative parties and independents in 2008. I won't hold out much hope as I think that only about seven people really get it (but without that hope where would any of us be?).

The way the Post-Star behaved during this past election as a perfect example of this phenomenon, as well. They cancelled Molly Ivins, virtually ignored all independent and third-party candidates, reduced the space devoted to public voice by over 30%, glorified and marketed the war through pro-war wire stories, published lots of pictures of flags and weaponry and ribbons and "Support Our Troops" rallies while never once showing us pictures of dead Iraqi children or marines. They did these things EVERY day, establishing a PATTERN of irresponsible (but totally purposeful) behavior which cumulatively molds public perception. Then, a few weeks before the election, in a safe state the Dems were sure to win no matter what a small upstate newspaper said or did, the Post Star "bravely" ENDORSED John Kerry for president! Now, when anyone dares accuse them of being a conservative rag (which, truth be told, they are), they can honestly respond with great indignation, "A conservative rag?! Can you be serious? The Post-Star!? We endorsed John Kerry, for Chrissakes! What are you talking about?!"

Dean manipulated his supporters and the anti-war movement on this same exact level. He completely betrayed all of his supporters. Ultimately, one can rightly accuse him of supporting the occupation of Iraq and the warmongers within the Democratic party. Dean will then look back at his campaign rhetoric with indignation and say, "CAPITULATE to the warmongers and the establishment!? I was the ANTI-WAR candidate for Chrissakes!" He can say it, but that doesn't make it true.

If you're a Deaniac, you probably know that I've never trusted "The Doctor" or liked him. If you know something I don't that can explain his bizarre actions or his rhetoric, please pass it along and I'll send it out to this same list. Please try to help me not loathe him for lying to you all and vilifying my honorable candidate, to boot.

Matt Funiciello



Dean's Democrats Remain Pathetic
By John R. MacArthur, AlterNet. Posted June 10, 2005.
The only thing worse than Dean's prepared platitudes is his virtual silence on the war in Iraq and the big-money corruption of electoral politics and congressional legislation.

Is there anything more depressing than watching the Democratic Party lie down in front of the Bush administration's public-relations and political steamroller? The latest cave-in -- giving Bush three far-right judges in exchange for the temporary preservation of the Senate's filibuster perogative -- was enough to make me violate Jefferson's dictum against despairing of the commonwealth.

My question, unfortunately, is rhetorical, for I witnessed something even more dispiriting two weeks ago, at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser and pep rally in New York. It was the sight of Howard Dean, erstwhile Democratic reformer and truth talker, talking nonsense on behalf of a party leadership that hates reform and despises the truth.
As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the lapsed physician now carries the stretcher for a party too sick even to diagnose its own organizational self-interest, much less defend the social and constitutional principles now under siege by the White House. The only thing worse than Dean's prepared platitudes, sometimes shouted, is his virtual silence on the two great issues that Democrats work so hard not to confront: the hideous, mendacious war in Iraq and the big-money corruption of electoral politics and congressional legislation.

Granted, the gathering at the Essex House ballroom, on Central Park South, wasn't an ordinary public event. The several hundred attendees were mostly hard-core party faithful, aparatchiks, office holders, and office seekers, led by New York State Chair Herman "Denny" Farrell and state Senate Minority Leader David Paterson. Nor was the Dean message for party regulars exactly the one he uses for a general audience, such as that of Meet the Press last month.

But it's not that different, either. And that message -- which Dean recites with numbing consistency -- is all about image, and almost not at all about substance: in short, the kind of empty phrases that Dean so effectively ridiculed during his ill-fated presidential campaign.
About all that remains of the old Dean is his "You have the power!" slogan, which sounded absurd in front of this crowd, partly made up of political hacks who already know they have the power -- the power, that is, to slate candidates selected from a pool of uncontroversial yes people, who have proven their loyalty to the Democratic Party. When Dean used to bellow his famous crowd pleaser, he meant quite specifically that his supporters had the power to reclaim the Democratic Party from the cynical Clinton-trained leadership that had voted for war in Iraq and is addicted to campaign cash from corporations, lobbyists, and plutocrats. For all Dean's up-from-the-bottom Internet rhetoric, in today's Democratic Party all cash is created equal, but some cash is still more equal than other cash.

It's significant that Andrew Tobias, picked as DNC treasurer in 1999 by Bill Clinton and his hotel manager, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, remains treasurer under Dean, and introduced his new boss at the Essex House. "The doctor is in!" whooped Tobias, and so was the cash register.

The doctor followed with a jumble of self-contradicting phrases, amplified with the old Dean lung power: "We are really not in the wilderness," because 48 percent of the people voted for John Kerry. (Maybe I'm naive, but I thought the election was a disaster for the Dems, given their losses in the House and Senate -- even despite Bush's scandalous inattention before 9/11 and equally scandalous lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons. And didn't Dean once call Kerry "another special-interest clone in Washington"? )

"People think we should have good jobs that stay in the U.S.," Dean declared. They disapprove of Bush's "borrow and spend" fiscal policy, and pine for the good old days of Clintonian fiduciary rectitude. (Didn't Clinton ram job-exporting and trade-deficit-ballooning NAFTA and China-trade normalization through Congress, over the objections of many in his party?)

"Maybe we can't win the presidency in Mississippi, [but] we have a moral obligation to win the governorship in Mississippi." (What's that mean? Why not a moral obligation to win the presidency in Mississippi, and why couldn't they win both? Wasn't Dean the guy who said, astutely, that Democrats should appeal to working-class Southerners with Confederate flags in their pickup-truck windows?)

But the most remarkable thing about Dean's speech was, literally, its thoughtlessness -- now a virtue in the Dean playbook. Democrats, he said, need to take seriously the fears of "moral Republicans," instead of saying "That's ridiculous" ("Clinton would have said, 'I feel your pain' "). Pointing to his head, Dean explained how to do it: "We have to stop talking from here anymore"; then, pointing to his heart, he said, "We have to speak to them from here."

As for delivering this heartfelt message, Dean said, "When we're talking to the television, we'll say it in ten seconds or less," just like the "good politician" Bush. (Wasn't the very thoughtful Dean famous for turning his campaign rallies into town meetings, with extensive question-and-answer periods? Can't a redneck tell he's being talked down to just as quickly as a New York intellectual? Does Bush's lying in 10-second sound bites make him a tactical role model for the Democrats?)

I could go on -- Dean did -- but it's too sad. I asked a prominent New York Democrat standing near me why DNC Chairman Dean never denounced the Iraq occupation/bloodbath, and the politician, an old acquaintance, seemed to flinch. I promised I wouldn't quote him by name, but his reaction was worth noting: "Maybe he [Dean] should talk about Iraq. Nine American soldiers died in Iraq in the last two days. If [Al] Gore were president, can you imagine the screams from the Republicans?"

All I heard from Dean was a squeak; "the mess in Iraq" was as far as he would go. Anyway, he had already thrown in the Iraq towel in April, in a speech in front of the Minnesota ACLU: "Now that we're there... we can't get out.... I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now."

Thus is the tribune of the anti-war movement reduced to realpolitik. Thus does the crusader from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" do the bidding of his natural enemies, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joseph Biden, and Evan Bayh -- each one pro-war and each an expert practitioner of the old-school dollars-for-favors fundraising racket.

I can't believe that Howard Dean feels very good about what he's doing. I can't believe that deep down he doesn't hear the hypocrisy when he exhorts his audience, "We've got to stop talking about programs and start talking about principles."

If he really means to pursue this unprincipled strategy in the name of Democratic "victory," he'd do more good back in Burlington practicing medicine.

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine. This article previously appeared in the Rhode Island Providence Journal.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Support Our Track Meet

I attended Field Day at an area elementary school recently. There were thirteen classes represented at the event and each one had a uniform unique to its “team”, alone.

Twelve of the classes had their teacher’s name and a team name paired together on their shirts. For example, there were “O’Hanlon’s Olympians”, “Rockwell’s Runners” and “Colone’s Crushers”. Each of the classes had designed their own cool logos and each had shirts that were of a distinct color so as to separate them from the others. I was stunned to see that one class was using “Support Our Troops” shirts in place of a uniform.

Why was I stunned? Imagine for a second that instead of “Support Our Troops”, the shirts had said “Parson’s Peacemakers” or “Allen’s Anti-Warriors” or “Don’t Support Unconstitutional Wars”.

Do you think that a responsible parent or administrator would ever allow children to be used as vehicles for jingoistic propaganda supporting war and militarism? I’m sure that, like most responsible parents, they would recognize that my hypothetical messages would be wholly inappropriate to tack on our children’s backs. I’m also sure that they would see the “pro-war” message inherent to the “Support Our troops” mantra as wholly inappropriate as well. What kind of a sick person wants to teach children to love war?

Supporting out troops would be to demand that our craven, seedy and disgusting public servants in Congress do their jobs and bring our troops home from Iraq immediately. Congress did not declare war and, therefore, has absolutely no business whatsoever sending our sons and daughters to Iraq in the first place. Allowing ANY educator to use a kid as a billboard to promote this pro-war message is tantamount to having kids wear shirts that say, “Support Unconstitutional Wars Against Civilian Populations”. Would that shirt be okay with everyone?

I find it disgusting enough that the false patriots and faux warriors among us would dare to disparage our soldiers’ true purpose (defense of constitution and country) by hiding behind the “Support Our Troops” propaganda. Why don’t these people just come out of the closet and admit that they love war and death and killing? Why don’t they just admit that they believe everything they’re being fed by our false leaders and the corporate media? They don’t need to pretend they’re on the “right” side. They’re on the “pro-war” side, that’s all. If they were honest, they would admit that they see war as a football game and that they’re simply cheering their “team” on to victory. They cannot see that their behavior is racist, evil, simplistic and most definitely against all of the basic tenets of Christianity (purported to be the preferred religion of their fearless leader and his band of merry warmongers).

Any truly “supportive” human being would not want to see ANYONE hurt or killed, regardless of their perceived “side”. Saying “Support Our Troops” literally means that “I ONLY support Americans. Other human beings can be killed senselessly. That’s OK with me.” In my view, that is not an attitude we should be teaching our children, especially not in a publicly-funded institution of education! It smacks of intolerance and bigotry. Hitler imbued his young charges with a very similar kind of nationalistic fervor. Look where it got him. We are better than that, aren’t we?

Allowing children to be dragged into this VERY political arena and having them unconsciously used in this manner is unconscionable. Misrepresenting to them what those shirts really mean is also totally reprehensible. I hope that those responsible understand how serious it is to have behaved in this manner.

Upon leaving the school, I was met with a poster on an easel at the main entrance that said, “Shh! We’re writing the Constitution”. Ironic, isn’t it? If modern schools actually taught pupils to value thought and analysis and the founding documents of our country, we wouldn’t even be in this asinine war because the “vigilant electorate” called for by Jefferson to maintain our “noble experiment” would actually exist and wouldn’t tolerate this kind of horseshit.

Shame on those who seek to dumb-down our kids and turn them into brown-shirts.There really are more than enough influences out there trying to accomplish that result already. We don't really need our schools joining forces with television and mass media, do we?