Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Upward Mobility

As soon as Democrats take over Congress they must begin to do something about the fact that millions of poor and working-class youth have been priced out of higher education. The first step would be to increase the value of federal Pell Grant programs. Pell Grants were designed to keep college affordable, but it’s been shamefully underfund. A first step would be to increase the value of federal Pell Grant programs.

Pell Grants can’t solve this crisis without policy changes made in the states. Public universities have been cutting off college access for the poor by shifting away from the traditional need-based aid formula to a “merit formula” that heavily favors affluent students. Consequently, many high-performing low-income students are unable to attend college.

Public universities were founded on the premise that they would provide broad access to college in exchange for taxpayer subsidies. However, state flagship campuses seem to view themselves as semiprivate colleges and have begun defining success, by how many applicants they turn away, and how many of their students achieve the highest SAT scores. The SAT test scores favor affluent teenagers who attend the best schools and have access to tutors.

State flagship schools compete for the high-income, high-achieving students who would otherwise attend private colleges and have been overlooking low-income students who are perfectly able to succeed at college, but have limited options.

Recently, aid to students whose families earn over $100,000 has more than quadrupled at public colleges and universities. The average institutional grant to students from high-income families is larger than the average grant to low and middle income families. Consequently, high performing students from low-income groups are much less likely to attend college and if they do often drop out for financial reasons.

A college degree is the key to becoming a member of the middle class and enables Americans to success in the new global economy. Unless the country reverses this trend, upward mobility through public higher education will come to a halt.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Darfur

John Edwards is asking us to contact the White House concerning Darfur, because the genocide has recently intensified. The conflict broke out in 2003 when small farmers took up arms to fight for a greater share of resources. The Sudanese government backed the Janjaweed militia group, which has brutally raped, tortured and killed 400,000 people and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. The bloodshed is spilling over into Chad and the Central African Republic.

America was respected and people around the globe looked to us for inspiration to make their lives better. Today, America is associated with the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

The tragedy of Darfur presents America with the opportunity to show the world that we are making changes and that we care about human rights. If US and NATO forces demonstrated moral leadership, they could end the conflict immediately. America must lead the way in getting NATO to cut off supplies to the brutal Janjaweed militias.

The African Union has 7,000 troops on the ground in Darfur to help end the violence and bring peace to the region. They are doing a heroic job, but they cannot succeed without support from the world community.

Sudan agreed to accept help from U.N. peacekeeping troops, but has still not agreed to the size of U.N. forces or the command structure it will accept. While the U.N. continues talks, the Janjaweed militias are burning down hundreds of rural villages, killing tens of thousands of people, and raping thousands of women and girls.

Our credibility and reputation has been tarnished over the past six years. The Bush Administration squandered our country's military strength and resources in a reckless war and turned its back on people around the world, who needed our help.

The U.S. military has airlift capabilities, logistical support and intelligence operations, which could be used to assist NATO peacekeeping in Darfur. It’s time to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Darfur and begin to restore our reputation in the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Marine Corps

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Conway warns that the war in Iraq and a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan is putting a critical strain on our forces. Some Marine units are headed back for their fourth tour of duty in Iraq, and that grind has prompted General Conway to warn that the burden on Marine families is too much.

Conway believes that we either send fewer Marines into Iraq or recruit more to increase the size of the Marine Corps. Currently, there are about 180,000 Marines on active duty, and they serve seven-month combat tours. They're supposed to get 14 months to recover, but the unrelenting violence in Iraq has prevented planned troop withdrawals.

The strain is not just a personal hardship. Recently, retired Marine Col. Thomas Hammes reported that we've got to get serious about providing our own forces with the equipment they need. He says that the Bush administration has made a fundamentally immoral decision not to provide equipment to save money. Furthermore, Hammes states that we have equipment backed up at repair depots, and repair depots have been told not to work overtime. So we have young men and women training to go into a fight with no equipment.

General Conway was a front-line commander in Iraq, and just before taking the job as Marine Corps commandant, he was on the joint staff planning for the war. At his confirmation hearing this summer, General Conway found an ally in Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who shares his concern that the supplemental funding has not kept pace with the Marine Corps needs as the war drags on and equipment is used up. Senator Levin a Democrat, will soon take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!”- Friedrich Nietsche

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unpatriotic and Servile

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public." - Theodore Roosevelt

On Veterans Day, Patt Svodoba began screaming at Peace Vigil participants in Margaretville. She lectured us concerning not having a permit; on being unwelcome outsiders in her village and our unpatriotic demonstration on Veterans Day. Ms. Svodoba disagreed with my sign “No more Blood for Oil”. I introduced myself as a veteran and Alan Kirby a disabled Vietnam veteran, who was standing next to me. Our group decided to turn away and faced the market across the street. Ms. Svodoba responded by recklessly driving across the street and resumed screaming at us. We didn’t respond and she eventually left.

Originally, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, because it celebrated peace at the end of WW I. I’m proud to have been one of the Peace Vigil participants on Veterans Day. The primary reason I traveled from Delhi to participate in the Peace Vigil was that it was Veterans Day.

The first amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Patt Svodoba’s disrespect for the first amendment is troubling. She suggests in a letter to the Catskill Mountain News, that freedom of speech, press and the right to peaceably assemble be abridged under certain circumstances, such as Veterans Day, Columbus Day or the Cauliflower Festival. In her letter, she took to task the newspaper for publishing pictures taken of peace vigil participants on the same day as the Cauliflower Festival and on Columbus Day.

Ms. Svodoba quoted Edmond Burke “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I’m not sure whether she is suggesting that the Peace Vigil participants or their actions deserve the label of evil. Peace Vigil participants could use this same quote to justify their actions.

I prefer to quote legendary Marine Corps officer Major General Smedley Butler, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In a 1933 speech, Butler asserted: “Only a small inside group knows what war is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses... I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”

Svodoba claims that Peace Vigil participants maligned the mission of democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people. Smedley Butler would be the first to inform her, that an independent, stable, and free Iraq was never the mission. Bush will not withdraw our troops until Iraq becomes a docile client state, run by a puppet regime for the benefit of international oil conglomerates.

Bush has acknowledged that he'd have gone to war knowing the intelligence was wrong. His reason was that Saddam Hussein was a "bad man". Americans would not have been willing to risk the lives of thousands of their sons and daughters to remove a "bad man". Since, Bush was determined to invade Iraq long before 9/11, he and his propagandist convinced many Americans and Congress with the threat of a mushroom cloud.

If Bush supporters want democracy for Iraq, they could begin by recognizing that; eighty percent of Iraqis resent the occupation of US forces for delivering death, destruction and destitution upon their shattered nation and seventy two percent want our troops out. Our occupation created and continues the terrorism upon the Iraqi people.

In anticipation of our Civil War, John Brown wrote on the day he was hung: “I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

We vainly flattered ourselves that our military will bring democracy and peace to Iraq. It would be wise to get out of Iraq in the next 6 months and allow them to purge their land with Iraqi blood.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Death and Revenge

The Iraqi government and the U.S. military in Baghdad keep insisting that the sectarian violence is not a civil war.

CNN correspondent Michael Ware says: “it's easy to deny that this is a civil war, when you live in the Green Zone, the most heavily fortified place in Iraq. However, for the people living on the streets of Iraqi, if this is not civil war, then they do not want to see what one really looks like.”

On Nov. 23rd over 200 Iraqis were killed when Sunni neighborhoods shelled Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelled back. Sunni communities have dug positions to protect their streets. Sunni extremists set off car bombs in heavily populated Shia marketplaces. The following night Sunni gunmen stormed two Shiite homes and killed 21 men from two families north of the Iraqi capital.

Institutionalized Shia death squads in legitimate police and national police commando uniforms are going to Sunni homes in the middle of the night and dragging them out. On average, 40 to 50 tortured, mutilated bodies are showing up on Baghdad streets every morning and thousands of dead bodies are mounting up every month. There is a growing list of those who have simply disappeared, because they have the wrong Sunni or Shia name. Parents cannot send their children to school, because they have to cross a sectarian line.

On Nov. 25th it was reported that Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left prayer services, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive, while Iraqi soldiers stood by and did nothing.

The situation is deteriorating rapidly. Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening to boycott the government of al-Maliki if he meets with President Bush. Prime Minister Maliki has no popular base and lacks an armed militia, which is the currency of political power in Iraq.

Our military is desperate to put any kind of reasonable face on this apparition, they call the Iraqi government. Retired Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor claims that it’s a power struggle, for who is going to run the “political fiction” called Iraq, and our military has been incidental to this process and will remain incidental. 

Friday, November 24, 2006

Universal Sacrifice

For the first time in history taxes have been cut instead of increased during a time of war. The only Americans that are making a sacrifice are those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congressman Charlie Rangel is calling for the reinstatement of the military draft and national service. Rangel suggests that having our young people commit themselves to a couple years of service for our country is best for them and for our country.

Rangel points out that most of the troops that are fighting in Iraq are coming from small-town America or from the inner city. The all-volunteer force is working, but the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have exhausted our National Guard, and we are in the process of exhausting our reserve. It’s time for everyone to universally share in this sacrifice.

Many of our youth are enlisting, because they don't have better options. It’s been called economic conscription. The fact is that our military doesn’t represent a broad spectrum of America.

The military has spend $4 billion setting up recruiting stations in the areas of the highest unemployment, offering up to $40,000 to enlist. In addition to that, they’ll pay $70,000 for future education costs, and since they still can't get enough recruits, they’ve increased the age, from 26 to 39. A draft doesn't take away from the patriotism of those that have enlisted. If this war is worth fighting, how can any patriotic American object to everyone making a sacrifice?

It’s time that we start talking about putting the children that come from affluent families, in harm's way. Those that insist on sending more troops to Iraq, and favor the invasion of Iran need to understand that it might be their child or grandchild, who could be doing the fighting and making the supreme sacrifice.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Vietnam Revisited

Although 35 years late, George W. Bush finally made it to Vietnam to attend an annual economic summit of Pacific rim nations.

The issue that will ultimately define Bush’s presidency is Iraq. When asked if Vietnam held lessons for the debate on Iraq, he answered yes. “One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world and the task in Iraq is going to take a while. We'll succeed, unless we quit.”

The nightmare of Vietnam still haunts America, because it took from July 1959 until March of 1973 to quit. In 1965, Under Secretary of State George Ball recommended that we cut our losses in Vietnam. Ball recognized that it was a quagmire, but LBJ considered it unacceptable, because our national honor was at stake and it didn’t offer “a good way out.” After, George Ball’s recommendation an additional 55,000 Americans died, while LBJ and Nixon sought to save “their” honor.

The draft lottery started in December of 1969. Six months later four students in the vicinity of an anti-war protest on the campus of Kent State University were killed by National Guardsmen. The killings sparked hundreds of protest against the war across college campuses.

Nixon began a token withdrawal in June of 1969, but the withdrawal of combat troops wasn’t completed until March of 1973. After quitting Vietnam we discovered that the dreaded domino theory was propaganda designed to frightened us into supporting the lucrative adventures of the military industrial complex.

Angered by the “atrocious conditions of V.A. hospitals” under Nixon; John Kerry said: “We are here to say that it is not patriotism to ask Americans to die for a mistake or that it is not patriotic to allow a president to talk about not being the first president to lose a war, using us as pawns in that game.”

The war in Iraq has taken longer than WW II. The invasion of Iraq was never a part of the war on terrorism, because it served to recruit more terrorist. This stubborn stupidity has got to stop. We’ll succeed, if we quit now!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Great Decider

On November 20th, Henry Kissinger said a military victory is no longer possible in Iraq. This has been obvious for nearly two years. Most Americans want something done about the quagmire in Iraq, but don’t expect our troops to be redeployed anytime soon.

The Baker-Hamilton Commission is trying to find a solution that “the great decider” will agree to. Hopefully, they will find a way to force the issue of redeploying our troops, which allows Bush and his congressional supporters to save face. Unfortunately, the only way they can save face is to stay in Iraq for another two years and then blame Democrats for losing the war.

General Abizaid testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and insisted that he doesn’t want timetables. Bush and General Abizaid continue to claim they’ve made progress, but that is an outright lie, because we haven’t made any progress. The fact is that we have 130,000 troops on the ground and during the last six months the violence has continued to increase. Under our occupation the country has broken into civil war and more than 160,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Sixty percent are unemployed and there are shortages of food. Most children are without schools and medical care. Oil production and electricity production are below pre-war levels. Christians are now in danger of being killed and thousands of Christian families have had to flee Iraq.

General Abizaid’s plan for Iraq is to speed up the hand-over from American to Iraqi troops. The problem is that Iraqi forces will never be up to the task. The only Iraqi combat units that can hold their own are from the Kurdish Peshmerga militia. The other Iraqi security forces answer more to their political and sectarian bosses than they do to their military commanders.

Entire national police brigades have been pulled off line under the suspicion of corruption and involvement in sectarian death squads. In other units there are more men on vacation than on duty. Men are on the rosters, but they don't actually exist. There are units which have been told to be deployed to other troublesome parts of the country, but they refused to leave their home bases.

The mission has deteriorated, our military has deteriorated, our strategic reserves have deteriorated, and the credibility of our country continues to deteriorated.  We’ve trained and equipped 300,000 troops and the time has come for them to solve this civil war for themselves. 

A strategic withdrawal of our troops from Iraq is long overdue. Kissinger is a year too late with his shrewd observation. Bush should have listened to John Murtha a year ago and started withdrawing our troops last November. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ethnocentricism

We find ourselves involved in a deadly and costly war in Iraq. Americans will again blame the politicians, for misleading them. In fact, it’s our own ethnic and religious prejudices that allowed us to be manipulated by the Bush regime. After 9/11, it didn’t matter that there was an absence of evidence linking the attack to Saddam Hussein, because Iraq presented an Arab target, which we were eager to bomb.

Richard Clarke commanded the White House situation room the morning of 9/11. He has testified that within hours of the attack, Donald Rumsfeld suggested Iraq, because it offered “better targets” than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan. Many Americans weren’t interested in evidence because they had been conditioned to hate all Arabs and Muslims.

As a child during W.W.II, our family was conditioned to hate all “Japs”, because two of my uncles, were fighting them in the Pacific. Our family supported Franklin Roosevelt incarceration of 100,000 innocent American men, women and children of Japanese descent at the start of World War II.

Likewise, we didn’t express concern about Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in which 214,000 Japanese died. It didn’t mattered, that most of the victims where innocent civilians.

For peace to become a reality in this world, people and nations will need to recognize their common humanity. Americas have a long and disturbing history of acting in fear and anger against other ethnic groups.

Today, our fear and anger has been directed towards Arabs, Muslims or illegal Mexican immigrants. In some cases that fear and anger has developed into irrational hatred, thereby dominating our ability to feel compassion and think critically.

After retiring from Congress, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican said that Bush and other administration officials were overreacting to the country's post-9/11 fears. It was as if they were gripped in a “he-man macho psychosis where they felt the need to go out and shoot somebody to show they're the tough guy on the block.”

Our mind determines our destiny, and presently America’s future doesn’t look very bright, because too many Americans favor going out and shooting somebody.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Family Values

Three months ago, illegal immigrant Elvira Arellano sought sanctuary in a Chicago Methodist church from deportation. She took refuge in order to remain in the United States to be with her 7 year old son Saul, who is an American citizen. Ms. Arellano claims there's no way she could feed her son in her Mexican homeland. She was convicted of using a phony Social Security number to get a job at O'Hare Airport and is now considered a criminal fugitive.

Supporters, have recently taken her 7 year old son to the White House gates, in order to plead his mother's case. Next, Saul appeared before Mexico's Congress and the lawmakers responded to the boy's pleas, by passing a resolution asking the United States not deport his mother.

Saul Arellano’s newest supporter, New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson wrote to President Bush pleading for leniency in the case. Richardson wrote, "The Arellano case puts a spotlight on the danger of not acting on a comprehensive immigration plan. Inaction puts our most vulnerable citizens, the estimated three million American citizen children of illegal immigrants, at risk."

Governor Richardson's letter requested that the President consider granting Elvira Arellano parole to remain in the United States so that Saul would continue to be raised as an American.

Last year, eighty-eight congressional Republicans co-sponsored a bill to deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. It died in committee, but the Arellano case has inspire renewed efforts to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal aliens.

Rev. Walter Coleman of the Adelanto Methodist Church is providing Ms. Arellano sanctuary. He says the U.S. and Mexican governments are responsible because they've essentially maintained an open border. Rev. Coleman insists that both countries have benefited economically, by the exploitation of illegal immigrants.

Our federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws and pushed the social cost onto the taxpayers of local government, schools and healthcare facilities, while the employers of illegal immigrants continue to benefit, from cheap labor, and get away with not paying their fair share of taxes.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they have no plans to enter the storefront church to apprehend Elvira Arellano. With nearly 600,000 immigration fugitives in living in this country, ICE has made it very clear that she is very low down on the list.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Affordable Higher Education

Every year more than one million students drop out of high school without a diploma. Furthermore, we are slipping further behind when it comes to access to higher education. These findings have serious implications for young people, the middle class and our nation.

Twenty years ago America had the most educated population in the world, but we’re no longer ranked number one. Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Norway and Sweden all have a higher percentage of it’s workforce educated than we do. Spain, France and Finland could surpass us in the next few years.

Education is directly related to salary level later in life. A recent study found the median income for workers with a high school degree was $32,000, with a four-year college degree $54,000 a year, and the median salary for those with a master's degree or higher was $72,000.

It's very important that we have a highly educated workforce, because everyone makes more money and are more productive. There is an exceptionally high college dropout rate in America, because of the expense of a college education.

A lack of federal funding, coupled with the higher tuition costs, are creating a financial gap. Hundreds of thousands of highly qualified students are giving up the idea of college, because they can’t afford it. Low-income students, as well as, middle-income students with good academic qualifications are increasingly having to leave school before completing their degrees. Those who stick it out in college are graduating with greater debt than ever before. The escalating cost of college tuition and the weakening of basic student aid such as Pell grants have led to a severe increase in debt for college loans.

Last year $12 billion was cut from student loan programs, and another $6 billion from Pell grants. By shortchanging opportunities to earn a degree, we’re shortchanging our nation’s future. 

The College Board estimates an average four-year public institution costs about $13,000 a year. The cost at a private institution is approaches about $30,000 a year.

The vast majority of students dependent upon student aid, after four years at a public institution, the average student owes the government close to $16,000. The average private school student owes more than $18,000.

Middle class American trying to pay for the skyrocketing costs of higher education usually have to borrow the money. The student loan programs works brilliantly for the banks, but not for the students. Higher education, the ticket to success for young students has become the ticket to debt. Sallie Mae has become the focal point of this problem.

Our government created Sallie Mae in 1972. It’s now an independent bank, which manages over $100 billion in loans. The bank's preferred rates begin just under seven percent, but when the government doesn't guarantee the student borrower, the rate goes much higher.

The incoming Democratic Congress is taking aim at those banks that are profiting enormously, while middle class students, their families, struggle with the debt. Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts finds it interesting that Sallie Mae, who provides the great bulk of student aid has seen their stock go from $3.17 a share nine years ago to over $50. a share today.

In 2005, "Fortune 500" listed Sallie Mae as the second most profitable corporation on its "Fortune 500" list. People are getting rich off the student loan system thanks to taxpayer support. Meanwhile, our middle class families are struggling with more debt that's harder to repay.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Withdrawl of Troops

The Muslim world suffered from several generations of European colonial misrule preceded by the cruel medieval crusades. Both Muslims and Jews understandably say "never again."

Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has criticized our approach to dealing with terrorism. Karzai believes the way to disarm terrorism is to stop their sources of money, training, equipment and motivation.

The Bush regime has stressed the military option as the most effective means to combat terrorism. At times military tactics have merit, but creating wars for revenge is clearly not the answer.

The invasion of Iraq was a perfect example of how not to deal with terrorism. The Bush regime has created the conditions for our eventual defeat in Iraq, and it’s all over, but the killing of more of our troops and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

This war has been and will continue to be an absolute disaster. Bush will not withdraw our troops, because that would be admitting “his” mistakes. This has been done by those, who continue to claim that Iraq is "vital" to our national security, but can’t commit the troops required to insure a military victory, without a draft.

The Bush regime and congressional Republicans do not stand alone in their opposition to troop redeployment. Some congressional Democrats believe it’s politically wise to resist those calling for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Strategically, it would be politically advantageous, because the Republican party might claim that our withdrawal from Iraq was a defeat engineered by Democrats. Some Democratic strategist insist that we must not give Republican propagandist an opening to claim it was the Democrats, who lost Iraq.

Young Americans continue to die, because of cynical politicians, who are only thinking of their own careers. They don’t have the integrity to admit they were wrong about Iraq and refuse to call for an immediate redeployment of our troops.

“Victory matters not to the dead, nor to the living who mourn. Only to those politicians who sit in their offices and proclaim ‘mission accomplished’ as some kind of mantra.”- Norman Greenfeld

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Little Rascal

In 1998, our son Sean urged his mother to buy a computer. It was “her” computer, because I wasn’t interested in learning how to use it.

In March of 2004, I was motivated by anger to respond to a letter in the Oneonta Daily Star. For the first time in my life, I wrote a letter to a newspaper. Since, I only knew how to hunt and peck , my wife, Karen typed the letter. She found making my numerous revisions rather frustrating.

Two days after the publication of that letter, I received an anonymous phone call. The caller questioned my credibility and became very angry, but certainly didn’t intimidate me from exercising my freedom of speech in the future.

The unintended consequence of that call was inspirational, because that first letter might have been my last. A couple of letters to the editor followed, before out of frustration my wife showed me how to use “our” computer and make my own revisions and corrections. At 69 years of age, I entered the amazing world of the computer and our son set me up with “hubristhynameisbush” blog site. Sean provided encouragement and soon gave me his slightly used computer. Six months later, he told me to pick a title for a domain website, which wouldn’t be obsolete by 2009 .

On my 71st. birthday, I called to thank Sean for the new site and asked him to post a robust picture of me in the spot provide. The little rascal said that he had one in mind. The next morning there we were in all our naked glory.

Starting that day in the swimming pool, Sean began to gain confidence in the water and eventually became an accomplished swimmer. Forty years later, he’s enabled me to serf the internet for information and post my opinions with confidence. I’ve been told that I believe that I’m always right. It’s true, otherwise I wouldn’t have the confidence to submit my writings to public scrutiny. Fortunately, my webmaster is still there with a lifeline, whenever I make factual errors.

Anger can motivate, but needs to be channeled by the intellect; to a productive endeavor. I’ve learned there's a vast difference between passing on a combative party line and a persuasive letter. Sometimes, it’s hard to tolerate the opinions of others and focus on concepts, rather than the person with whom I disagree. Everyone, that submits letters to an editor, deserves respect, because they’re involved in trying to influence our government. I become very annoyed, when I hear: “I don’t vote, because they’re all a bunch of crooks”. It’s hard not to sarcastically reply: “It’s the only game in town and the alternative is tyranny.”

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter- Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Empowerment of Adrienne

Adrienne Tomao is a senior at Walton Central School. Miss Tomao and other students have written letters to the editor as part of Gary Backus’ participation in government class. By encouraging his students to participate in our democratic process, Mr. Backus empowers his students to recognize that their opinions matter.

Adrienne wrote:
“As a senior in high school, I can honestly say that I haven’t really picked up a newspaper to read the articles about our local, state and national government, or even just the latest news about our county and others around us. It’s not that I don’t care, I just usually skim the front page and turn right to the sports section and leave it at that.

Every day in my government class we read the newspaper. We get time to ourselves to read what we want, but we also have to read certain articles that have to do with government and the world. When we read these articles, we write summaries on them and write about our feelings toward the article. In our class, we also analyze the political cartoons, write down what we think they mean and then discuss them.

By reading and discussing the news, I have learned so much about our government and our affairs with other countries. I feel more educated about what’s going on that I want to pick up the paper every day and read it. I feel it’s important for all students to read the paper every day to learn more about the government, their county and the world, in general.

The newspaper is a good source for people to learn and understand about important issues. I encourage all students to pick up the paper every day and take some time to read it.”

I hope that adults will follow Adrienne Tomao example and that more schools will offer participation in government classes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Opportunity Squandered

Despite the fact that Rhode Island moderate Senator Lincoln Chafee voted against the Iraq war resolution, he became a casualties of the anti-Bush voting that swept the country. He is well liked by many Democrats, but his reelection would have given the Republicans a majority in the Senate and they would have continued their unwavering support for Bush.

In December 2000, after one of the closest elections in our nation’s history, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney met with a small group of moderate Republicans on the eve of a session of Congress in which the Senate was evenly divided.

Chafee was surprised to hear Cheney dismiss suggestions of compromise and instead emphasize an aggressively partisan agenda that included significant tax cuts, the abandonment of international agreements and an aggressive unilateral foreign policy.

Chafee has written: “Instead of a new atmosphere of cooperation and civility which, after all, had been the promise of the Bush-Cheney campaign, we seemed ready to return to the poisonous partisanship that marked the Republican Congress during the Clinton White House years.”

Like many Americans, Chafee had believed one of the most popular refrains expressed by Governor Bush during the presidential campaign was, “I am a uniter, not a divider.” Moderate congressional Republicans believed they could help the new Bush administration develop a unifying agenda in Congress. They believed in maintaining discipline both in discretionary spending and in proposals for significant tax cuts. Republican moderates in Congress hoped to continue a period of relative prosperity and peace. Chafee foresaw an important opportunity for our country to stay on a firm pathway toward elimination of debt.

Early in 2001, there seemed to be areas of great promise for early bipartisan cooperation. Chafee believed progress on environmental issues could do much to enhance the Bush administration’s program. He had hoped that Bush would be open to proposals to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil through energy conservation and greater investments in mass transit.

Lincoln Chafee’s suggestions were not heeded. However, he continues to hope the new Congress and the Bush administration can find common ground for the common good.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shift of Power in the House

By winning New York’s 20th. district seat in the House of Representative, it was Kirsten Gillibrand, who officially shifted the balance of power and restored checks and balances to our democracy. My wife and I moved to Delaware County for over 40 years ago and this is the first time a Democrat has represented us in the House. Maurice Hinchey represents parts of Delaware County, but not the part we've lived in.

Mid-October polls showed Gillibrand down by double digits to Sweeney, but she ended up with 53% of our district’s voters supporting a vision for change.  Democrats and many disillusioned Republicans helped her win a district that the pundits said couldn’t be won. 
 
I was surprised to receive an e-mail from Gillibrand, which said that she was honored to be going to Washington to represent the families of the 20th. district. She would like to restore fiscal discipline, reduce the deficit, end our dependence on Middle East oil, lower healthcare costs, fix Medicare Part D, promote tax cuts for the middle class, make college tuition tax deductible, reform unfunded mandates, invest in education, ensure veterans receive the benefits they have earned, and focus on a new strategy for success in Iraq. 
 
Gillibrand concluded by saying: “Please stay in touch during the next year. Your support and encouragement have been incredibly valuable to me, and I am eternally grateful.”
 
She may regret the invitation to stay in touch, because I fully intend to have my voice heard by Rep. Gillibrand for the next two years.

I’m pleased to be represented in Congress by Mrs. Gillibrand However, I’m disappointed to learn that less than 39% of eligible voters participated in America’s mid-term elections.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shift of Power in the Senate

The newly elected Democratic Senator of Virginia, Jim Webb is a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. He served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy and is the only graduate of the Naval Academy to do so.

Webb decided to go back to the Democratic Party, because of his concern for the working people of this country. During his campaign, Webb expressed concern about the incredible transfer of great wealth to an elite few. Presently, we are at historically high levels of corporate profits as a percentage of our national wealth, but at the same time wages and salaries are at an all-time low.

Webb will be to taking a look at the many loopholes congressional leadership has built into a system, which allows this shift of wealth to perpetuate itself. He’s trying to bring fairness back to a broken system. Presently, we have corporate America reaping record profits, but paying only 13 percent of the taxes. This situation requires that 86 percent of taxes in this country be paid by individuals.

Webb points to a lack of conscience by corporate America. He’s very concerned by the sense of entitlement, which has accompanied this shifting of enormous wealth to the top one percent of Americans. These entitlements are dramatically obvious in military service.

Webb believes that equality is the cornerstone of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He expects to focus on equality of opportunity, equal rights, equality of educational opportunity and economic opportunity. He says that we’ve gotten away from a fundamental sense of fairness, that has been the essence of American society.

According to Webb, the measure a healthy society is not at its apex, but at the base. You can't measure the health of our society simply by what's happening with the stock market, because there's been such a tremendous migration of wealth toward a very small percentage of people who own stocks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Second in Line

The presumptive Speaker of the House of Representatives, will be Nancy Pelosi. As second in line to succeed the President, it will be the first time in our nations history that a woman has held such a powerful position. The day after the election, Pelosi expressed the hope that Bush will listen to the voices of the American people and look for a partnership to end the war in Iraq.

There has been more than 25 military deaths in Iraq this month. The Democratic leaderships highest priorities must be to work with the Bush administration to change our course in Iraq and end this continuing nightmare in our foreign policy.

The problem is that if Bush as Commander-in- Chief continues to pursue the current policy, of staying the course in Iraq there is little Democrats can do. Pelosi, who did not support the resolution to go to war in Iraq, insists Democrats will not withhold funding, while our troops are in harms way.

The present Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid has sent Bush a letter asking for a summit with congressional leaders on Iraq. The presumed Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ike Skelton, says they will re-examine U.S. policy in Iraq and institute better oversight of the Pentagon.

As the new Speaker of the House, Pelosi has an ambitious agenda for the first 100 hours of the new session. She will push to implement all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, get rid of corporate subsidies for oil companies, impose new restrictions on lobbyists, increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, and cut interest rates for student loans.

Senate Democrats hope to fix Medicare Part D, by ending the notorious "donut hole" that is trapping millions of seniors in excessive drug costs, and lower prescription drug prices for everyone.

Protecting Social Security, fixing our ailing education system and providing health care for every American may have to wait, because the cost of the war in Iraq is such an overwhelming burden.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Their Prerogative

State marriage laws remain discriminatory, because married people have certain rights that unmarried people do not. A significant number of people are not allowed to get married because they're gay or lesbians. Homosexuals are not fundamentally different than us except they are attracted to and fall in love with people of the same sex.

Evangelical Christian, Reverend Ted Haggard is sad example of how discrimination can affect people down to their very core. His religious beliefs, which were encouraged by a righteous society forced him to live a lie. Consequently, he was unable to openly accept himself as a homosexual. Homosexuals need validation and gay pride is about recognition and acceptance of their identity. This is truly a life a changing event for those, who have had to hide their sexual preference.

Intolerance, and prejudice can be defeated if people can learn to see their common humanity. We must figure out our personal bias and try to keep them from doing harm to others.

Righteous Christians worry that liberals will push a homosexual marriage agenda. They find the sexual preference of homosexuals offensive and consider homosexual behavior a sin. That is their prerogative.

Nevertheless, homosexuals should be afforded the same civil rights that we all enjoy. These civil rights should be bestowed upon homosexual couples in a civil union ceremony. The doctrine of separation of church and state makes it clear that the state must not infringe upon the Catholic Church’s authority to exclusively offer the sacrament of holy matrimony to faithful heterosexual couples. Likewise, other righteous congregations are protected by the Constitution to determine the scope of their matrimonial ceremony. If homosexuals wish to consider their civil union ceremony as being married. That is their prerogative.

If, enlightened religious congregations decide to open their matrimonial ceremony to same sex couples. That is their prerogative.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thank you Rush Limbaugh

Conservatives are concerned that their favorite TV and radio talk shows will be pushed off the air if liberals win back the House.

That won’t happen, because liberals value the right of freedom of speech for both flag burners and conservative talk show hosts. Besides Rush Limbaugh helped win the state of Missouri for the Democratic party by mocking Michael J. Fox.

The Christian right fears that, “intelligent design” would be considered religion instead of science and warns that it would be banned in public schools.

“Intelligent design” is not science, it’s repackaged creationism and religious beliefs, are best taught in the home, church, mosque, or synagogue.

Righteous Christians fear that liberal judges will be appointed, who will interpret laws only in their party’s favor because they couldn’t get them passed through the legislative process.

Liberal judges can not be appointed until Democrats take back the White House. The Bush regime has already stacked the Supreme Court with right wing conservative judges and have two more years to stack the federal judiciary. Federal judges appointed by Bush have already demonstrated they’re willing to interpret laws to favor the right-wing of the Republican party.

Conservatives predicts that flag burning will be permitted as freedom of speech.

Enlightened free speech enabled twelve year old, Charlotte Aldebron to write: “The American flag stands for the the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain. School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free from harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.”

The American flag stands for who we are. The good, the bad, and the ugliness, that has been and continues to be our heritage.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A plan for a better America

Honest Leadership & Open Government
We will end the Republican culture of corruption and restore a government as good as the people it serves.

Real Security & A New Direction in Iraq
We will protect Americans at home and lead the world by telling the truth to our troops, our citizens and our allies, and we will heed the advice of our commanders on the ground and force a change in the failed Republican strategy in Iraq.

Energy Independence & Lower Gas Prices
We will create a cleaner, greener and stronger America by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and developing energy alternatives.

More Jobs, Better Pay & College Access for Everyone
We will create jobs that stay in America, raise the minimum wage, and open the doors to college for every American.

Healthcare that Works for Everyone & Life-Saving Cures
We will join 36 other industrialized nations in making sure everyone has access to affordable health care, and we will make decisions to invest in stem cell and other medical research based on science, not politics.

Retirement Security
We will ensure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American, starting with protecting workers' pensions expanding saving incentives and preventing the privatization of social security.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Are you better off?

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan’s book, “Take This Job and Ship It” points out: “Moving jobs to China and running profits through the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes undermines American workers and threatens out future.”

The concentration of great wealth in the hands of a very few is evidenced by the fact that after adjusting for inflation, the median income for households in America has decreased by $1,345 from 1999 to 2005. During this same period, the Forbes 400 gained 100 billionaires. Changes to the tax structure has allowed these very wealthy individuals to pay less than their fair share, while everyone else picks up the slack.

Bush claims: “Productivity is high. People are better off. Things are working.” However, there is no relief for this country's struggling middle class. The Labor Department reports the economy added only 121,000 jobs in June, but of new jobs created, 31,000 were government jobs. Most of the new jobs require no skills and these new jobs don't pay enough to support a middle class family.

Most of the jobs that are being created are in the service sector areas, which often pay minimum wage or slightly above, and usually they have limited or no health benefits and pension plans.

The average hourly wage now stands at $16.70 an hour, but inflation is giving wages strong competition, because it is up 4.2 percent between May of 2005 and May of 2006. We have seen the wages of CEOs go through the roof over the last few years, but the wages of typical workers have not increased relative to inflation over the last five or six years. Although, workers' paychecks are larger, the cost of everything has gone up due to fuel costs.

Over the past five years, real wages for the people who work for a living have seen their wages declined. Job growth still lags behind historical norms of an economic recovery.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Political Fiction"

The British created Iraq back in the 1920’s. Since our invasion, we’ve been trying to re-create a country without a tyrant. All the Iraqis have ever known is tyranny, but most Americans vainly flattered themselves, into thinking that our military can create a Democratic Iraq that Iraqis will be willing to die for. 

Retired Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor doesn’t think there is much of a difference, between setting benchmarks and setting a timetable for the Iraqi government to take over the security situation in Iraq. He states that it’s irrelevant, because we’re losing and Iraq is starting to look more like Somalia than a nation-state. 

Trainor is reminded of Somalia, because of all the various factions that are fighting.  Since April, 2003, there has been a power struggle going on, for who is going to run the “political fiction” called Iraq. The United States has been incidental to this process and will remain incidental. 

Two major conflicts are occurring.  The first is Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chief of the feared Mahdi Army militia is going up against the established Shiite party of Prime Minister al-Maliki and other established parties. Next, the Sunnis and Shiites are fighting each other in an incredibly bloody conflict. Eventually, the Shiites will most likely retreat to areas south of Baghdad and may control the capital.  The Sunnis would control Anbar province and areas north and west of Tikrit. 

If the United States is going to have a presence in the region, it would be up in Iraqi Kurdistan in the north. Our presents would give the Kurds assurance that the Turks wouldn’t be invading, while giving the Turks assurance that the Kurds aren‘t going to break away and attempt to have their own country, which might eventually result in the Kurds in Turkey rebelling. This scenario would require a garrison, of 10,000 or 20,000 American troops, and could be more trouble than its worth. 

The Iraqi people want a clear, unambiguous statement about what Americans long-term intentions. Bush needs to make an unequivocal statement that there will not be permanent bases, at least south of the Kurdish line. 

Friday, November 03, 2006

John Kerry

I’m very upset with Senators Clinton and McCain for their remarks about John Kerry’s botched joke. Apparently, Kerry’s botched joke didn't have a fall out on election day. Although, Sen. Clinton received fewer votes than Eliot Spitzer.

Republican propagandist and ambitious politicians unfairly attacked Sen. Kerry for his comments. If you examine Kerry's comments objectively, it’s obvious that they were taken out of context and distorted for political advantage. He was clearly directing his criticism at Bush and not our troops.

The prepared text shows that Kerry omitted the word “us”. The text called for him to say: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting ‘us’ stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." Kerry insists the comment was a botched joke about the president not about the troops and said “they know that's what I was talking about."

John Kerry killed the enemy up close and personal, which very few in Congress have done. Congress has repeatedly demonstrated how much it cares about the military-industrial complex. However, nobody has over the course of a life time demonstrated greater compassion for those that have killed up close and personal than John Kerry.

A credible source of information about John Kerry’s service in Vietnam is “Tour of Duty” by Douglas Brinkley; professor of history at the University of New Orleans.

Kerry was assigned to the U.S.S. Gridley, and served in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. Upon returning to the U.S., Kerry requested service as a Swift boat commander. Swift boats, were heavily armed aluminum patrol boats, carrying a 5 man crew. While patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta, they often hit mines and came under rocket, mortar and machine gun fire. Kerry was responsible for transporting Navy Seals on counterinsurgency missions deep into the Viet Cong controlled jungles.

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt calculated sailors on Swift boats had a 75% chance of being killed or wounded while on duty. This explains how Kerry was able to earn a Silver Star, Bronze Star and 3 Purple Hearts in 4 months.

“Tour of Duty” describes Kerry’s gallantry in combat in detail. The third time Kerry was wounded occurred, when the boat hit a mine and an ambush ensued. Green Beret Lt. Jim Rassmann was blown overboard. Upon realizing Rassmann was missing he ordered the boat to turn around, went to the bow and although wounded, pulled Rassmann aboard.

An update to the event appeared in a Time magazine article entitled “The Character Test.” In 2003, Lt. Rassmann a Republican told a national TV audience at an Iowa caucus rally: “John came to the front under fire and pulled me over. Kerry could have been shot and killed at anytime, I figure I owe this man my life.” Lt. Rassmann recommended Kerry for the Bronze Star.

Colin Powell’s “My American Journey” reveals; “one of the darker chapters of American military history. A platoon headed by 1st Lt. Wm. Calley entered the hamlet of My Lai and herded 347 old men, women, children and even babies into a ditch and shot them.” The actual number of victims was over 500, but the Pentagon’s cover up continues. Powell goes on to express, “anger that so many sons of the powerful and well placed managed to wrangle slots in the Reserve and National Guard units.” Powell declares he could never forgive a leadership that said in effect: “the poorer less educated, less privileged (economic cannon fodder) are expendable, but the rest are too good to risk.” Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator from Nebraska stated the war in Iraq is being fought by the poor and middle class, not the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful.

HIstorian Brinkley’s “Tour of Duty” describes Kerry’s involvement with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In 1970, Kerry gained a prominent roll in V.V.A.W. with a speech. Angered by the “atrocious conditions of V.A. hospitals”; Kerry said: “We are here to say that it is not patriotism to ask Americans to die for a mistake or that it is not patriotic to allow a president to talk about not being the first president to lose a war, using us as pawns in that game.” In April 1971, Kerry organized a week long antiwar demonstration in which no acts of violence were committed. In November, Kerry resigned from the V.V.A.W. because it had grown too radical. Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey said: “People noted that I was a Medal of Honor winner. But there should have been medal winners for organizers of peaceful protests.”

Bush propagandist continue to criticize Kerry’s statement over 35 years ago that he and others had committed atrocities in Vietnam. The facts are found on Google Search: “Winter Soldiers Investigation”. The Winter Soldiers Investigation saw over 150 honorably discharged veterans voluntarily testify from personal experience that the My Lai massacre was not an aberration of what happened in Vietnam. Kerry attended the investigation, but did not testify.

On April 5, 1971 Senator Hatfield stated: "The moral sensitivity of the Nation has been aroused by the conviction of Lt. Wm. Calley. Several of the allegations made in testimony would place the United States in violation of the Geneva Convention. The testimony and allegations raised by the experiences of these veterans includes charges regarding the torture and murder of suspects and prisoners of war captured by Americans and South Vietnamese forces; the wanton killing of innocent, unarmed civilians; the brutalization and rape of women in the villages. I ask unanimous consent that the testimony presented by over 100 honorably discharged veterans in Detroit be placed in the Congressional Record."

Two weeks later; at Senator Fulbright request Kerry testify before the Senate, as a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Kerry testified: “These are not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day to day basis with full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit- the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men, who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do...We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our memories of that service; as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us.”

Recently, Kerry made certain that the widows of soldiers aren't kicked off of our military bases within a matter of months. He is working to get additional money for mental health care for soldiers who are coming back with post traumatic stress syndrome.

Senator Kerry believes that any soldier, who desires to serve his country by putting on the uniform and doing what the commander-in-chief asks of them is a patriot and that their sacrifice is best honored by giving them the kind of policy that is successful.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Trade Deficit

We have a $700 billion-a-year trade deficit. This is the amount that we import compared to the amount of goods we export.

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota has written, "Take This Job and Ship It," which enlighten Americans as to how corporate greed and politicians are selling out our country.

By exporting American jobs, we are mortgaging our country's fortune, our principles, and our way of life. Dorgan insists that we're selling a part of our country every single day. By shipping American jobs overseas, corporations are shrinking the middle class, reducing salaries and stripping away health insurance and pensions.

Some of the corporations keep their main offices in the United States, because they want to receive American protection if a foreign interest were to try to expropriate their assets overseas. Increasingly, corporations are doing the reverse by renouncing their American citizenship so they don’t pay taxes, and are moving their official office to Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.

In the Cayman Islands a five story house is home to 12,748 corporations. They're not all there; that's just their address. They use that address to avoid paying U.S. taxes, but they ship jobs overseas, run their income through the Cayman Islands, and sell their product in America.

Corporation are allowed to fire American workers, close their manufacturing plant, move jobs to China, and congressional Republicans continue to give them a tax cut. Senator Dorgan has tried to abolish the practice four times in the Senate and can't get it done, because these corporations that benefit from these tax breaks have a lot of money to spread around to their friends in Congress.

Senator Byron Dorgan is not in favor of protectionism, in fact, he is calling for expanded markets for U.S. exports. He writes that, as this global economy moves forward, there has to be some rules. You have to have rules to protect the standard of living that we've created in the last century. Voters need to take a critical look at what this country is doing to itself. We're permitting our politicians and our business establishment, to do this to us.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Appeal for Redress

In 1971, Vietnam veteran John Kerry asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “How do you ask a man to be the last to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”

Former counter terrorism chief, Richard Clarke in sworn public testimony before the 9/11 Commission stated that by invading Iraq, we created another generation of terrorists, which undermined our efforts to combat terrorism.

Civilians can question a president’s integrity during a time of war, because; it’s guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. Specifically, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” If we fail to question the judgment, competence and credibility of a president, we may as well cancel elections. A president could involve troops in war and with impunity from criticism, put the lives of our military in jeopardy for political gain.

Whenever, Americans are sent into combat, Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” comes to mind. His poetic words are timeless; “someone had blunder’d: Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.” It is increasingly evident that someone has blundered and far more than seven hundred have not returned from the Valley of Death.

Today, members of our military are encouraged “to reason why” and “to make reply”, by contacting members of Congress. I’m pleased to pass on Alan D. Kirby’s suggestion that those in the military should check out the website: www.appealforredress.org.

It states: As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.