Thursday, 30 June 2005

Three Huge Challenges

Power imbalances in human society have always existed and will never go away.

Realizing that truth is no excuse for ignoring the resultant injustices or not working to fix them.

The extent of those power imbalances certainly has seen substantial fluctuation over history and across geographies, but the work of those who have sought to rectify injustice through non-violent means has ushered in the periods of greatest stability and prosperity. When violence has been the source of rectifying imbalances, more often than not the resultant power shift has not resulted in a levelling of power, but simply the supplanting of one powerful minority with another.

The American experiment in Democracy was unique it seems, in that there was an effort after a violent revolution to establish a system of checks and balances as a protection against any one faction from gaining too much power and hence abusing that power. The system was far from perfect, and did not stop the genocide of the native peoples which was going on, nor the horrific enslavement of humans from another continent. But in time the system accommodated progressive modifications which did eliminate slavery (sadly not without a great deal of bloodshed), and brought stepwise improvements in the lot and political voice of minorities, women, laborers and others who faced oppression and obstacles to self-realization.

When Americans are stirred to emotional patriotism, it isn't usually checks & balances which they are thinking of. But those checks and balances are the mechanisms that lie at the heart of our having been able to sustain, and indeed improve on, the ideals of freedom, dignity, opportunity, representation, and participation for all, which we like to see as the heart of our republic.

Egalitarianism, while a nice concept, should not be the goal here. Hierarchies, which by their nature enforce some power imbalance, can be very effective at helping organizations, large and small, function more efficiently. Robert Fuller in Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank (which arrived mysteriously in our mailbox a few months ago) writes:
Greater efficiency and productivity follow when we get the right person into the right job. To remain successful, an organization must appraise personnel continuously and accurately. Selectivity is predicated on ranking; without it, choice would simply be random. Within each niche where it has been earned, rank has proven utility, legitimacy, and deserves our respect.
and:
The problem isn't that rank counts. When it signifies excellence, rank should count and it does. The trouble is that rank counts twice. No sooner is rank assigned than holders of higher rank can use their newfound power to aggrandize themselves at the expense of those of lower ranks. Although some exercise their rank properly -- within their area of competence and in a way that respects the dignity of those under their authority -- others do not.
Clearly the greater the imbalance of power any system establishes, whether between individuals or between larger entities, the more likely that power will be abused, and abused terribly. Fuller refers to the overarching problem as rankism, subsuming the many other isms such as racism and sexism, and rather than seeing egalitarianism as the goal, calls for a dignitarian movement, in which we insist that all our fellow humans be accorded the dignity that they deserve.

Affronts to dignity, it can be argued, are at the core of much of the violence and abuse we see in the world today. The most powerful are usually shielded from the worst behavior, as their status allows them to behave civilly in a seeming civilized environment, reinforcing their belief that they are worthy of their status, while the awful behavior reported in the underclasses or in other less well-to-do nations shows that others are not. But gross power imbalances are a cancer on organizations and society as status protects itself, and merit becomes less and less important in determining that status. Deserving individuals are denied the opportunity to contribute and may behave destructively out of frustration, instead of contributing their talents for the good of their communities.

America's attempt at meritocracy, complete with governmental checks and balances which have functioned to limit gross power imbalances, is the foundation of her success at innovation and invention, as opportunity has been afforded to far more individuals than would otherwise have been the case, and the whole of society -- including those at the top -- and indeed much of the rest of the world has benefited. No nation, however, is immune from threats to its own system of checks and balances, and vigilance is required, both to retain those balancing factors which are already in place, and to identify new sources of power imbalance which may call for new systems of checks and balances to be created.

There will always be resistance to any new restraints on power, but remembering that the restraints need not level the playing field, but simply circumscribe the power to keep it in check, reasonable people can be convinced of its necessity, and violence should not be necessary. For our government, the task is primarily to keep the checks and balances in place. It is for this reason that an arcane device, such as the filibuster, which seems odd in its own right, is worth protecting when we edge toward one-party rule. While I am certainly concerned about what is happening politically here as the Republicans attempt to consolidate their power, it concerns me less than three other power imbalances currently operating which do not have as much built in checks and balances to counter them.

Multinational corporations are accruing phenomenal power and influence, which I believe calls for new measures to keep that power in check so that they can serve rather than exploit the rest of humanity. This is one of the largest tasks that the world needs to take on in the coming century, and the answers are far from obvious to me. What does seem clear to me is that free market forces are not sufficient to circumscribe that power, and that a Marxist solution is even worse, as it simply transfers that power to the guardians of the revolution, where it is even more concentrated.

Globalization also forces upon us the ill consequences of gross power inequities in other nations, where despotism drains resources, spreads disease, and leads to unspeakable human suffering which should draw our attention in its own right. Creating a humane mechanism for non-military regime changes in which despots are forced out of power without the ravages of war should be a paramount goal. This is not easy, but there are surely steps that can be taken. Refusing to harbor the assets of the despots, such as in Swiss bank accounts, might be a good place to begin.

Finally, America should not be surprised if the rest of the world wants to take steps to circumscribe her power, which unfortunately has come to depend to too large an extent on the exploitation of people and resources in foreign lands. People will wrongly question my patriotism for saying so, but we should welcome checks on our own power and wealth, because without them the terror threat from others will only grow. We cannot indefinitely continue to drain the world's resources to feed our appetites, without expecting violent reactions from abroad. We can live more simply while leveraging technology to continue to live comfortable lives and provide more comfort to those in the developing world, and we may find our lives more rewarding in the process. There will still be terrorists in any case, but we can guarantee that their numbers will explode if we do not take an active role in solving sustainability for the whole planet, which with China's demands exploding, must happen fast. This I believe is our great opportunity, and can yet be our salvation, but it will require a bold new humility, combining technological innovation with sacrifice, but as Jimmy Carter could testify, it will be a mighty tough sell with the American people.

Monday, 27 June 2005

Music & Politics; Disillusionment & Dissent

The Shona music of Zimbabwe is anything but dissonant. It was the early eighties when I was first infected. My Seattle housemate coaxed me into tagging along for an evening of music and dance at a local community hall where Dumi and the Maraire Marimba Ensemble was performing. Previously unaware of the charismatic Dumi Maraire who had single-handedly spawned many a marimba band from Vancouver, BC to Eugene, Oregon, it took hardly a minute for me to be lost in the infectious rhythms and melodies which seemed to overtake one's motor functions while transporting the soul to a place of pure joy. Dumi soon left for Zimbabwe, but his influence remained as the infection spread from musician to musician in the Northwest United States.

Fast forward twenty plus years, and my son is playing in his grade school marimba ensemble, Rufaro!, one of Maraire's many compositions to which I sweated with great joy in Seattle community halls way back then. Though clearly not as accomplished as the adult bands which I remembered, these 5th and 6th graders quite compellingly bring the power and joy of this wonderful music to the present day.

Maraire, especially renowned for his mastery on the mbira (thumb piano), moved back and forth between Seattle and Zimbabwe in the eighties. I recall once being told he was returning to become a minister of culture in Robert Mugabe's government there. Recent web searches have revealed that he actually returned to "develop an ethnomusicology program at the University of Zimbabwe", but I recall feeling a bit of shock at the news at the time, for though I had once
naively believed Mugabe to be a benevolent liberator of Zimbabwe from oppressive white rule, I had learned enough in the meantime to realize that he had proved to be a tyrant far worse to his enemies than Ian Smith had ever been. I wonder how it all played out, but have discovered that as Mugabe's tyranny has heightened, his censorship of any expressions of dissent against his government in this music -- that had once been an inspiration to idealists fighting against minority rule in former Rhodesia -- is now utterly complete and chilling.
It appears that only outside of Zimbabwe, are ex-patriot musicians like Thomas Mapfumo able to marry a meaningful message of dissent with this joyful music which once carried the dreams of a younger generation, such as young Mai Chi Nemarundwe (later Dumi's second wife) longing for political independence and freedom, with Mugabe as their charismatic leader. Inside Zimbabwe, dissent within the musical community has been muted or squashed, with Dumi's own daughter kowtowing to Mugabe's propoganda machine.
Sadly both Dumi and his wife died in the late nineties, but Mapfumo, still quietly respected within Zimbabwe, must now live in exile for his artistic expression to remain free. I'll have to look for some of his music where the spirit of chimurenga (struggle) must still live. Perhaps my son will be playing it someday.

Saturday, 25 June 2005

New Name

Choosing titles for my posts has never been my strength. My wife is the namer in the family. My blog's name has always felt just a bit off too. It was "Walker's Musings" for a few days, then "Well, Duh" for a few months, before I settled on the more positive "Delivering Hope".

On the plane trip back from Chicago, I finally finished Jim Wallis'

God's Politics, and he has quite a bit to say about hope.

Prophetic faith does not see the primary battle as the struggle between belief and secularism. It understands that the real battle, the big struggle of our times, is the fundamental choice between cynicism and hope. ...

First, let's be fair to the cynics. Cynicism is the place of retreat for the smart, critical, dissenting, and formerly idealistic people who are now trying to protect themselves. They are not naive. ...

Ultimately, cynicism protects you from commitment. If things are not really going to change, why try so hard to make a difference? Why become and stay so involved? Why take the risks, make the sacrifices, open yourself to the vulnerabilities? ...

Perhaps the only people who view the world realistically are the cynics and the saints. Everybody else may be living in some kind of denial about what is really going on and how things really are. And the only difference between the cynics and the saints is the presence, power, and possibility of hope. And that, indeed, is a spiritual and religious issue. More than just a moral issue, hope is a spiritual and even religious choice. Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision for hope is based on what you believe at the deepest levels--what your most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds--all based on your faith. You choose hope, not as a naive wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world.
And so it is that I came to the conclusion that hope is not mine to deliver, but rather ours to choose.

Friday, 24 June 2005

A Slice of America

With far flung relatives and in-laws, cross-country trips are at least an annual feature for my family. This year, though, was the first time in my son's life to make the journey by car. I've driven cross-country seven times now and always love it in spite of the downsides. I wish I had a vehicle that didn't depend on fossil fuels, but still I love it.

This trip featured the University of Montana, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, the site of Custer's last stand, Devil's Tower in NE Wyoming, the Black Hills & Mt Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, a stay at the Hotel Julien in downtown Dubuque, and a lot of beautiful country in between. I love it all, from the majestic mountains, to the geologically weird arid wastelands, to the flat fertile farmlands, and the American kitcsh along the way.

On my previous pass through the Black Hills in 1977, my sister and I passed on the chance to see Mt Rushmore. We grew up not that far from Stone Mountain, Georgia, and weren't so enamored of human efforts to "improve" on nature's majesty. Of course my boy wanted to see it, and I found that I wasn't offended by the carvings. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln may not have wanted to be honored in that way, but seeing them there, did move me to "talk to" George and thank him for his resistance to an imperial role, and to "assure him" that many of us continue to treasure the principles on which our nation was founded and will fight against modern day imperialistic tendencies promoted by the current George's administration.

Watching the film there, I learned that the designer, Gutzon Borglum, was instrumental in steering the project toward a more appropriate tribute than that which had been previously considered. He chose the less spectacular Rushmore over the Cathedral Spires, and determined that any such huge carvings should be of the most significant figures in forming our country, not Wild Bill Hickock or Buffalo Bill Cody. Doing a web search, though, was disillusioning, as I just found out that Borglum was a Klansman himself.

I flew back from Chicago, and will later return and rejoin my family for the return voyage back west a little later this summer.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Recommended Reading

A while back I paid lip (finger tip?) service to "Getting Local", but pretty soon I was back onto national affairs and a conceptual emphasis. If you want local (Washington State) emphasis though, there are excellent places to go. Washblog recently posted a wonderful letter from precinct committee officer Noemie Maxwell, who encourages good ordinary people who are NOT angry or "partisan" to participate respectfully in party politics.
If everyone who believes in respectful behavior refrains from political involvement, we abandon some of the most powerful institutions we have to the control of the "angry rhetoric crowd."
Tim Eyman's demagoguery actually had some positive effects in spawning the entertaining efforts of David Goldstein and the youthful activism of Andrew Villeneuve and his Pacific NW Portal, where you can link to many more local progressively tilted web logs, though last I checked he still has missed the very fine offering from Mick Horan.

One of the better reflections on Howard Dean's unwanted attention was passed to me by friend and local blogger Mike Houser.

Saturday, 11 June 2005

One Year Ago

Well, there's still 2006, though the logic I used a year ago doesn't bode well for Democratic pickups in 2006. Then I wasn't anticipating the turnout on the other side generated by anti-gay initiatives. It all depends on the extent to which the various constituencies fall off in the non-presidential year, and whether there is any movement based on intervening public exposure to the corruption of DeLay and his ilk. The sooner the GOP cuts loose DeLay, not just from Leadership but from Congress entirely, the less that corruption hurts them. That's why my bet is that Tom won't be a congressman at the end of this calendar year.

Friday, 10 June 2005

Immoral Tax "Adjustments"

Thanks to American Pundit for this truth-telling table:

Income BracketIncome RangePopulation% Tax Cut / Bush*
Top 1%$383,500 - $87,000,000+1.4 million12%
95% - 99%$162,000 - $383,5005.8 million8%
80% - 95%$79,500 - $162,00021.2 million8%
60% - 80%$44,500 - $79,50029 million7%
40% - 60%$26,000 - $44,50029 million7%
20% - 40%$13,500 - $26,00030 million7%
Lowest 20%$0 - $13,50028 million3%

[Update:
*This originally read Tax Cut As % of Income, but when friend Amit referenced it at his group blog, Zoo Station, he bothered to grab the table from the original report, and that called my attention to the fact that this is the percentage tax deduction, not the reduction as a percentage of income. The original table contains more information, but does not change the thrust of the "reverse Robin-Hoodism" which is going on.]


And for these facts:
  • The Iraq war has cost about $200 billion. By 2010, Bush's tax cuts that disproportionately favor the rich will have cost us $2 trillion. We could have ten Iraq wars for that price!
  • The top one percent elite alone will get a half-trillion dollars in Bush tax cuts - enough for two Iraq wars and a second Korean war!
  • The Department of Homeland Defense budget for the last three years totaled $93.2 billion - a mere 5% of the Bush tax cuts that disproportionately favor the wealthy.
This post is unabashed thievery of American Pundit's post, kinda like Bush's tax policies are for the wealthy. I will gladly remove it if that is AP's preference. I'm still waiting for Bush to ask everyone who makes less than $80,000 in this country if it's OK for the wealthiest 1/10th of 1% to keep their money.

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Debunking Linearity - Again

Periodically, I post something here which pretty much makes the same point about the fallacy of trying to evaluate issues and policy based on a linear notion of political ideology from left to right or right to left. I keep coming back to it, because I see that fallacy at the heart of so much misunderstanding and rancor. In spite of common ground in the motives of decent people on both sides of the political gulf, we face paralysis in bridging the gap even in cases where there are solutions which should appeal to both sides. It is easy to see how both sides get trapped in this linear wrong thinking, because in spite of being one to harp about it, I get trapped there myself more often than I'd like to admit. The whole language of left and right is a powerful reinforcer of this faulty notion.

Here's an example of how self-identified liberals, like myself, often err in today's America:
I look at my President and his policies, and what he says and does are just outrageous! It offends me that he is acceptable to so many people! I also know that I am moderate in my views [and here they think of the ways that they are obviously moderate - whatever that might happen to be], so if I'm moderate, this administration and Congress are clearly way out of the mainstream and must be far right wingers, and anyone who supports them or is farther to the right must also have an unworthy, outrageous, and extreme ideology.
And here is a comparable example of how self-identified conservatives get it wrong:
I see the people on the left getting all riled up and angry about my President. But I listen to him speak, and though he sometimes stumbles over his words, he often takes positions that seem very moderate to me. In fact many times I don't think Bush is conservative enough. Those lefties talk about us like we are all awful, greedy, filthy rich pigs. But I know that I'm a decent caring person who volunteers to help out others, so those people who hate me must either be extreme left wingers or else fooled by their leaders.
Now I can hear some of my liberal friends objecting, saying but they really ARE way far to the right, and they can bring up plenty of examples I wouldn't particularly defend as moderate. Folks who think of themselves as conservative would no doubt bring up their particulars to argue the opposite.

But my point stands.

In each of the forgoing passages there is a leap with faulty logic, which is due specifically to the framing of all politics in a linear fashion. I agree with the stipulation that Bush's policies are outrageous, and in my view immoral, and in many instances I find them unacceptably extreme, but what makes them outrageous is not their mythic position along some linear continuum, but the extent to which they cause hurt or worse to real human beings, damage our democracy, lower our credibility, ignore established science, and extend the divide between rich and poor. My argument has always been that it is not how far right Bush is, but how far wrong he is.

The dialogue about national policy needs many voices at the table. The human community thrives on diversity of skills and abilities, and to succeed in building our relational systems, no less do we need a diversity of perspectives.

The conservative errs in equating outrage to extremism as the liberal errs in equating acceptance to extremism. Perhaps we all err in seeing extremism as the enemy. Meanness is the enemy. Sometimes extreme perspectives, even those we adamantly disagree with, can help sharpen our focus and bring clearer relief to the picture. It is when extremism is accompanied by disregard for our fellow humans on this planet that it becomes unacceptable and condemnable. In fact, such disregard can occur without extremism. As imperfect humans we all are guilty of it at some time.

Maybe I'm wrong to so condemn this administration. But I am quite capable of listening to contrary perspectives without condemning all those who espouse them. I've recently discovered RedState.Org, and am quite impressed with their community - one which has a very different take on the current administration than I do. I read in their comments genuine concern about the state of our nation and a desire to be part of making it better. Quite unlike the tenor at Free Republic, which I will not grace with a link, they value discourse over sound bites, civility over rancor, and welcome interaction with liberal perspectives which are offered respectfully. Frankly, based on what I've seen so far, I'd say they do a better job than DailyKos of keeping the level of discourse high, even though I'd still agree more frequently with opinions expressed at Kos.

There are liberals I know, who by most linear measures are less liberal than I am, who would dismiss RedState.Org with smug contempt. They've fallen for the linear trap. There are conservatives, who upon finding out that I am "more liberal than someone else who dismisses them with smug contempt", would dismiss me as not worth even talking to. They've fallen for the linear trap.

I guess I beat this concept into the ground, but I do so because I find that it is so difficult NOT to fall for the linear trap. Much hope resides in those who do not fall for this trap, and there are many who do not, and quite a few of them are United States Senators. Now maybe it's just practical politics, but look at Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch. One is reviled by the right the other reviled by the left. And yet on multiple occasions they have cosponsored legislation, once quite recently to reach a compromise on embryonic stem cell research. Maybe it's practical politics, but maybe they have forged a relationship and recognize the humanity in the other in spite of the invective most of their own supporters would have for the other. I don't know, but it is entirely possible, because it is not necessary to be smug and dismissive of someone who has a radically different world view than oneself.

I'm not so naive to be blind to the pressures of partisanship in reinforcing linear divisiveness, but if Hatch and Kennedy can forge agreements, certainly there is hope that citizens can recognize humanity across ideological differences and forge bonds which help to heal our wounds. But it takes some vision beyond the talking points your party gives you.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

Cox Appointment Solidifies Corporatocracy

With the resignation of William Donaldson, the reform minded insider who Bush was shamed into appointing as head of the SEC in 2002 by the Harvey Pitt embarrassment, this administration will waste no time in filling the vacancy with an ideologue who answers first to corporate America. Christopher Cox will of course talk the talk of continuing reform, but his record is there for anyone to see. He played a major role in the mid-nineties in shielding corporations such as Enron from investor lawsuits. The resulting Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 was dubbed by Ralph Nader as the "Swindlers & Crooks Protection Act."

While this appointment has not gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere, there is a good article at Bloomberg about it, which quotes former Republican Congressman Vin Weber as saying,
I've known Chris Cox since he was elected to Congress in 1988 and I will be shocked if he's anything other than a very strong deregulator.
Donaldson is being rightly hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike as having been an effective reformer. A Republican himself, it was only because he frequently sided with the two Democrats at the SEC that many of those reforms came to pass. I think it's a pretty good bet that many of those same corporatocrats who are publicly praising Donaldson, are privately elated that his departure gives Bush this opening to shift the balance back to business as usual. Then they'll express surprise six years hence when a new round of Enron / WorldCom / Adelphia type scandals plague us anew.

Any Democratic opposition to Cox will be labeled as strictly ideological, and won't likely have any political legs, but the appointment will stand as yet another pillar in the corporatocracy that is further overtaking our government at an alarming rate. Cynicism that corporations own both parties anyway is quite understandable in these times, but the fact that Donaldson and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have forced real reforms even in the Bush era, which have ameliorated real ill effects of corporate greed cause me to insist that exposing that greed at every opportunity to every possible audience remains our best weapon in fighting it.

I can't be bothered with strategizing about losing ground to create the necessary outrage to "bring on the revolution"; revolutions are messy and undesirable; we still have the machinery to bring about peaceful reform. It may take a few years now, but think about the mountains that Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Dr. King, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela stood at the foot of, and tell me we should either give up and submit to the will of the multi-nationals, or see violent revolution as the only solution. The corporations' money and power may be daunting, but corporate executives are still human beings, and I'm convinced that many want reforms that they are just not willing to publicly admit they want.

One more reflection seems relevant here. When Bush jokes, as he did on at least three occasions in his first term that a dictatorship would be easier, he is acknowledging that he is still subject to political considerations, so it's incumbent on both Democrats and more moderate Republicans to enforce those political conditions. Donaldson's tenure at the SEC and moderate Republican Christine Todd Whitman's tenure at the EPA are two examples of that reality keeping corporatism slightly in check. John Biggs almost appointment to lead the oversight board to check corporate abuses, though it did not happen is another example that Bush can be pushed to less than radical choices, even when corporate pressure succeeds in reversing them. These are small things, but they remain significant because even lip service to having checks and balances keep that conversation alive. We must keep that conversation alive. That conversation and many others.

Thursday, 2 June 2005

Hunger and Poverty

Reading Jim Wallis' God's Politics, reminds me again and again that it's OK to state the obvious, as Reverend Wallis is unafraid to do:

Wallis reminds us that hunger and poverty and economic injustice are moral issues, and hiding behind an ideological devotion to the free market system does not exonerate us from our responsibility to act to right the wrongs in this world.

I've added a link to a domestic group working toward "making poverty history" on my sidebar. You may want to check out their partners page, or the affiliated group in the UK or elsewhere.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Downing Street Memo...Who Cares?

Guest Column Today from John F:

So we have the notes from a meeting with the Prime Minister of Great Britain (our closest ally) before the invasion of Iraq stating that they were informed by Bush team members that the invasion of Iraq was inevitable and that the Bushies would"fix" the intelligence needed to support a unilateral first strike. So what!

We've known this to be the case for quite some time. Who cares?

a.. Not our allies. The Coalition of the Willing knew the intelligence was questionable yet chose not to go public with it. That should speak to their integrity.

b.. Not the media. (not much in the US, anyway) The press has known for some time that the Bush Administration "massaged" the intelligence en route to war. Don't forget the press failed to carry out it's obligations as the fourth estate by neglecting to thoroughly vet the Bush Administration's reasons for wanting to invade Iraq. They were too afraid of being unpatriotic in the post 9-11 frenzy. And they are still too afraid to dig into this issue.

c.. Not Congress. (with maybe 90 exceptions?) Congress knew about "fixed" intelligence, confirmed as much in hearings and still didn't have the backbone to condemn the actions of the President. Additonally, Congress failed the people they represent by not insisting on better intelligence before the invasion.

d.. And finally, not the people of the United States. Let's face it folks, most of us are intellectually lazy and would rather have someone tell us what to think as opposed to doing a little research and coming up with our own opinion. Those who choose to get their information via Rush Limbaugh, Fox News or politically extreme radio don't care that the Bushies lied to them. They're patriots!

So why should this memo be news-worthy? Because it's more evidence that the people in power believe they are above the law, can do anything they like and the citizenry is too weak and stupid to do anything about it. You know what? They are right. As long as our voting population suffers from apathy, ignorance and short-sightedness (e.g., supporting only the local levies and legislation that benefit them personally, failing to learn about the politicians they support and neglecting to do their research on political issues) we will further contribute to the decay of our public education system, weaken our Constitutional rights, accumulate debt, allow more jobs to be shipped overseas and speed the demise of this once great nation. Is this what our veterans fought for?

Regards,
John

PS. As of Saturday the toll for American Casualties in Iraq:
Since invasion: 1657
Since "Mission Accomplished": 1520
Since Capture of Saddam: 1190
Since Iraqi Elections: 225
Coalition Troop Casualties: 180
Wounded American Military: 12350
Iraqi Civilian Casualties: > 20,000

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/
http://www.downingstreetmemo.com
http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0517/dailyUpdate.html