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Friday, November 18, 2005

Apt Words

Date: November 18th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the New Yorker

George Packer (The Spanish Prisoner, New Yorker, October 31st, 2005: 84) quotes Dos Passos' 1927 lament "America our nation has been beaten by strangers who have turned our language inside out who have taken the clean words our fathers spoke and made them slimy and foul."
How apt those words are today. The strangers are us. We have allowed the administration to lure us into an unjust war. We have allowed the administration to evade accountability for flawed intelligence, for torture (and the torture memos), for inadequate armor for vehicles and people, and for the big lie, currently in progress, of attacking the Iraq war's critics.
We truly lament for the nation.

Shared Sacrifice

Date: November 16th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the Los Angeles Times

The president calls for shared sacrifice. Many commentators and letter writers have pointed out that only one group is sacrificing – members of the armed forces, their families, and, in the case of national guard members, their employers.

In the current Iraq war, America is sacrificing  three things: the lives of its young men and women, its money, and its honor.

Right now, the young are paying or potentially paying the cost of all three. The youth are those dying and maimed in Iraq. With deficit financing of the war, the young will have to pay for it in the next twenty years. Only the privates, specialists, and sergeants of Abu Ghraib have had their honor tarnished while Donald Rumsfeld continues as Secretary of Defense and John Yoo teaches at Berkeley Law.

This cannot to be allowed to continue.

As in all wars the young men and woman will have to continue to do the fighting.

We, the public, must take up the challenge of paying for the war now. It would be unconscionable to leave the financial payments to today's youth. We must devise a pay-as-you-go scheme. Inevitably this will mean raising taxes which will be anathema to the anti-tax Republican conservatives – but it is their war and our war and we and they must pay for it.

Finally, it is the administration that must pay the cost in dishonor. I think we are stuck with the President, a weak but charming fellow, who was at the mercy of his entourage. Vice-President Cheney who promulgated so many of the half truths that brought us to this war and who continues to press for CIA torture despite overwhelming evidence that torture is ineffective in eliciting accurate and timely information should do the honorable thing and resign. Resignation is also required of Secretary Rumsfeld who administered a Pentagon where with a wink and a nod torture of prisoners was countenanced, who planned an invasion with insufficient troops to stabilize a post-war Iraq, and who continues to mismanage the logistics of the war and its strategic goals. Secretary Rice who was unable to get the holidaying President to take notice of the 9/11 intelligence should also step aside.

This is what America needs, this is what our troops deserve: a shared sacrifice where the non-combatants pick up the cost and where the administration oligarchs pass out into the wilderness to help America restore its "sacred honor."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Petition Deadline

Date: November 16th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

Massachusetts stands at an important threshold: next Wednesday is the deadline for the submission of Petitions to Town Clerks across the Commonwealth. From the western marches of the State to downtown Boston, volunteers are busy planning hand-in routes, arranging drivers, sorting petitions by town, counting signatures, and estimating what the yield will be – that is how many of the signatures will be deemed valid by the Town Clerks of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
There are eleven petitions registered in Massachusetts but only ten of their sponsors are actively seeking signatures. They range from animal welfare, through family, healthcare, politics to the  the great issues of war and peace.
I have been working on the Common Cause (and allies) sponsored petition for Redistricting Reform. We have a network of volunteers all across the State. In Union halls across the state, signatures are being gathered. At Republican and Democratic district meetings, signatures are being gathered. At town or council meetings from Truro to Williamstown and from Salem to Fall River we are gathering signatures. At parades and Fall Fairs we are gathering signatures. In the valleys of the Berkshires and on the mudflats of th Essex marshes, we are gathering signatures. In the great shopping malls around Boston, signatures are being gathered. We even had signature gatherers at the opening to the New Ikea store at Stoughton!
We are down to the wire. At the Common Cause office on Temple Place in Boston there is anxiety masked with cautious optimism as we hope that  we'll get 100,000 signatures by the end of this coming weekend.
But we are not yet sure. We need every signature we can gather so, if you want to sign the petition and haven't done so yet, get in touch with Common Cause [617-426-9600;} and they will get you a petition in time for you to return it to the office by November 19th. And if you would like to gather additional signatures from your neighbors, that would be even better!
Time Sensitive. Must appear on or before Saturday, November, 19th. 2005.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Still Looting in Iraq

Date: November 13, 2005
Sent to but not published by the Washington Post

What poverty of imagination bedevils our leaders. Even today more than two years after the end of the Iraq war important archaeological sites are left unprotected (Looted Iraqi relics slow to surface, November 8, 2005, A01). Looters continue to despoil the world's heritage.

We have talked often about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis. What better way of showing our contempt for Iraq's history and demonstrating the uncultivated, unthinking preoccupations of the occupying forces than to ignore the country's cultural heritage.

What better way to show our concern for Iraq's history and its present welfare than to deploy a force of unarmed watchmen to all the Mesopotamia archaeological sites. With the high rates of unemployment in Iraq, I am sure that there would be many recruits for such positions; almost anyone would be hireable; and the sites would represent a beginning of law and order and of cultural appreciation in the region.

Alas our leaders did not have this insight, so  the insurgency grows and the looting continues.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Date: November 12, 2005
Sent to but not published by the Boston Globe

President Bush sometimes speaks the truth, but he rarely speaks the whole truth. Yesterday's Wilkes-Barre address (President steps up attack on war critics, Boston Globe, November 12th. 2005, A1, A12) was correct that early in the run up to the Iraq war everyone believed that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone was basing their beliefs on the same information.
But that "everyone knows" level of confidence was undermined by the reports of the UN Weapons inspectors between October 2002 and the first days of war. They reported finding no significant WMDs.
It is worthwhile examining the time line very carefully because it puts the Senate War resolution of October 2002 in a very different context than it is usually provided. On September 16th 2002, Iraq accepted the return of the inspectors; this followed by four days G. W. Bush's speech to the UN laying out the case for war. By September 30th, the Iraqis were dragging their feet and proposing unacceptable (to the US) conditions for the return of the inspectors including the exclusion of eight Presidential sites from their remit. On October 10th. The War Resolution passed Congress. In the weeks that followed, Iraqi recalcitrance collapsed and by November 18th. the inspectors were on their way to Iraq with no restrictions on their activities. The War resolution was just what was needed to get the inspectors into Iraq. As such it was a brilliant piece of realpolitik. Over the next four months, the inspectors did their work in Iraq. On February 14th., Hans Blix the chief inspector says that Iraq is in compliance with the disarmament agreement that ended the first Gulf War. March 20th. The War begins.
Yes, up until February, it was plausible to claim that we all knew that Iraq had WMDs; after February, no one could claim that position. The UN inspectors suggested that there was no causus belli. That should have been enough to derail the juggernaut. Alas it did not.
Men and women are dying in Iraq today because we failed to hold the administration accountable for the truth. We must not allow George W. Bush to continue with his misleading half-truths today.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Date: November 11, 2005
Sent to but not published by the New York Times

Mr Sam Hirsch and Mr Thomas E. Mann show their right wing ideological colors early in their piece (Op-Ed Nov 11, 2005, A25) when they say "to 'reform' the way in which ... districts are drawn" (quotes in original). They confirm this bias when in excoriating Ohio and California's desire to bring about a between census redistricting, they fail to mention the problems Texas had with between census redistricting that was engineered by the Republicans. I agree with them that redistricting should only take place after the census, but surely what is sauce for the Democratic goose is also sauce for the Republican gander. Hirsch and Mann let your readers down
Here in Massachusetts, the birthplace of gerrymandering, Common Cause and its allies are putting together a movement to take redistricting out of the direct control of the legislature and into the hands of an independent commission. This is supported by a bipartisan group of sponsors including the Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both Democratic Candidates for next year's gubernatorial election and a host of state senators and representative from both sides of the aisle. There is no expectation of a between census redistricting because the appropriately long winded procedures for Constitutional amendment will unroll over the next four years
PS Sorry to push my luck here but I think a correction is in order. Perhaps it belongs in the Correction or Ombudsman section of the paper.
Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Date: November 9th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the New York Times

Patricia Skalka (Letters, November 9th. 2005) asks what she should do to change the administration's course on the war in Iraq. First, she should be clear that she is not alone in wanting to bring about change. There are millions of us out there but we have to act.
E-mailing and petitioning is not enough (the right can wield the delete key as easily as the rest of us -- as was pointed out in an Op-Ed earlier this week in your sister publication, the Boston Globe; Victoria Bonney, November 7th, 2005).
The peace movement is alive and well. It lives all across this country in church basements and community centers. Perhaps because of the evident injustice of the current war the peace movement flourishes. Find your local peace groups and plan and undertake peaceful protest on the streets of AMerica.
Once this administration sees the swelling stream of protesters in every state, red, blue, and every shade in between, it will change course.
We have nothing to lose by action. Bush and his team have everything to lose by our actions. Bush only wins if we fail to act.

Peace Movement

Date: November 7th., 2005
Published in the New York Times

Your columnist Paul Krugman (Pride, Prejudice, Insurance, November 7th. 2005, page A 25) is correct in his appeal for single payer health care.

While employment changes are important drivers of this, the most compelling reason for moving quickly to a form of single-payer health insurance is the advancement of science.
Once genetic screening techniques are perfected, so that each individual's propensity for each and every disease is known from an early age, the only form of health insurance that makes sense will be the single-payer form. The private health insurance industry will go the way of the dodo, as no responsible U.S. Government will allow an unregulated market in which Insurance Companies can cherry pick for coverage those with a low propensity to get sick while excluding those from coverage who are likely to do so.
We had better start right away to develop a Health Care system that takes account of these evolving technologies.
See the on-line version in the New York Times.

Monday, November 7, 2005

At the Voting Station

Date: November 7, 2005
Sent to but not published by the Boston Globe

Thoughts on signature gathering.
As part of my commitment for Common Cause, I offered to do a couple of hours of duty gathering Petition signatures outside our local voting place –  the National Guard Armory on Concord Avenue.
I'd not been inside before though my wife had and she told me of the impressive interior – and it was. The Drill Hall had a highly polished parquet floor – I couldn't imagine raw recruits marching up or down on it in their hobnailed boots. But I could imagine the officers' ball with sleek dress blues on the men and some women and silk and satin on the ladies as they glided across the parquet to old show tunes of the 1940's. The piece de resistance was the roof: all wood and kind of arts and crafts curved rafters keeping the wood in place. Very impressive.
My wife and I went into the gym where 15 voting booths had been set up. She immediately went over to chat with a former co-worker who was acting as some kind of observer or official. I tried to follow, but an official by the door took one look at my Common Cause buttons attached to my macintosh and said "No buttons in here. Out you go!" I slunk out and waited in the Drill Hall until my wife had voted.
We then went out and I joined the group of candidate standard-wavers a full 150 feet from the entry to the building. There were a couple for Fittini, one for Sampson, and one for a school board member whose name I forget.
I was very apprehensive about gathering signatures. I am not one to accost people on the street and ask for their help – to my wife's despair when I get lost driving somewhere. However, asking for signatures on a political, albeit non-partisan issue, just outside a voting place seemed more appropriate than setting up in Harvard Square to ask people for their support. So I was able to screw up my courage and ask people for their help – often I could barely get the words out of my mouth before they swept by, but others did stop and listen to my script.
There were four of us there: a big fellow with one of the Fittini signs and the school board candidate's sign; a grey haired older man with the other Fittini sign, and a young woman with a Dorothea Sampson sign. They were all chatting and after a couple of my attempts to get interest or signatures from folks walking in to vote were rebuffed, I joined the conversation. I started by asking for their signatures. The young woman had already signed; the grey haired man allowed that he didn't see much wrong with a little gerrymandering but he did agree to take an information sheet. The big fellow had stuck his sign in the fence and had wandered off with a couple of his friends who had come by and I did not see him again during my stint at the Armory.
After chatting for a bit, it turned out that the other two knew each other. The older man was a 70-year old retired Cambridge cop who lived near Tory Row - a very tony neighborhood. He had bought his house there for $27,000 in 1964 and sat there watching the neighborhood change from one housing cops and firefighters to a neighborhood filled with professors and architects -- just like our street thirty years later.
During my time on the line, about 15 people walked by – a lot more drove to the voting station and were inaccessible to me as the parking lot was off limits to be-buttoned folk and they entered the voting station at the back instead of coming round to the front door where I could have buttonholed them. A couple of people brushed me off on their way into vote, but on the way out asked what the petition was about and readily agreed to sign. For one of the people who signed, I puzzled over his attire. He was wearing a Harvard bow tie, but the little "Veritas" crests woven into the fabric were upside down. Did that signal that he was a chronic liar, or was it a distress signal (as is the case with national flags), or had he merely been inattentive when he dressed that morning. I didn't dare ask.
My other companion on the line turned out to be Dorothea Sampson's daughter. If the parent is like the daughter, she'd be a good candidate. I was glad to hear later that my wife had placed her among the eight candidates that she had voted for. Cambridge has a bizarre form of Proportional Representation, probably devised in the 1940's by a Harvard political scientist and an MIT mathematician. It is much too complex to describe (you can read about it here:; but I guess it gets the job done.
During my couple of hours on the line, SUV's came by from three or four candidates. Each were loaded with coffee, sodas and muffins. Supplies were handed out indiscriminately, you didn't have to have a Fittini sign to eat at the Fittini wagon. That was a nice sign of cooperation between the rivals. My favorite candidate came by in his wackily decorated car but didn't have any goodies to hand out! A big mistake.
A couple of footnotes:
        - Crossing Harvard Yard this afternoon I ran across people selling T-Shirts that said "You don't have to be smart to go to Yale" followed by a picture of GWB, Class of ‘68. I (Ph.D., Yale, 1968) felt badly until I remembered that he learned his managerial skills at the Harvard Business School.
        - In Harvard Square near the subway I saw a girl with six clipboards that looked like they contained petitions. I wondered whether she was gathering signatures for one campaign and had six clipboards for different towns or whether she was a signature collector for six different petitions. Again, I did not ask.
And a final point
        - Common Cause is sponsoring a petition to reform redistricting by taking the responsbility out of the hands of the legislators and giving it to an independent Commission (albeit with members selected by politicians). If you have not signed this, please do so by contacting Common Cause:

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Selective Memory of David Brooks

Date: November 5th., 2005
Sent to but not published by NewsHour

Comment on Brooks and Shields, November 3rd. 2005
Your commentator, David Brooks, did us all a disservice in his, almost hysterical, diatribe against Democrats for their insistence that Bush led us into a war under false pretences. He said that everybody -- former President Clinton, the French, the Germans, etc --knew that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
That was true in September-October 2002 when negotiations for the return of Weapons Inspectors to Iraq were under way. The Iraqis were stalling and proposing unacceptable exceptions to the reach of the inspectors until the passage of the War Resolution by Congress on October 10th 2002. That gave the President the leverage he (and the United Nations) needed. Within six weeks the inspectors were in Iraq on the ground with no restrictions on their movements. By February 2003, the inspectors reported that they had found no evidence of a large scale WMD program. The causus belli was shattered.
That did not impede the Bush administration's inexorable rush towards war and hostilities began on March 20th.
Mr. Brooks failed to mention this complex exercise of realpolitik. Nor did Mr. Lehrer or Mr. Shields point out this omission. They should have.
The American (and British) mistake was not to call for a second Congressional (Parliamentary) resolution about Iraq once it became clear from the weapons inspectors that the initial intelligence was probably incorrect.
NewsHour owes us an amplification.