Thursday, January 18, 2007


On Shared National Sacrifice
Just don’t Watch The Evening News?
Cody Lyon


During an interview this week with PBS’s “Newshour” journalist Jim Lehrer, United States President George Bush was asked if the struggle in Iraq is so “important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as President of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?”

Lehrer, himself a former US marine, noted that the only Americans actually sacrificing anything at this point were voluntary military members and their families.

The President responded that he thought Americans “sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night, I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.”

True, much of the sadness Americans feel about Iraq is based on what we read, see or hear in the media. But, our bout with the blues is a minor inconvenience when compared to the pain and sacrifice of American military families.

Face it, Americans can choose to tune in, or out and avoid news about the war if we want to. For many, Iraq is viewed as just another current event that may or may not spark political passions.

Keeping us safely on the sidelines is that word “volunteer” which appears to absolve many politicians of real guilt, responsibility and an understanding of the gravity of what war is, especially when these things are in the planning stages.

In further response to Lehrer’s question, the President was quick to defend tax cuts, saying that raising them was not an option.

That means the one percent of Americans who earn 16.9% of all income in the United States will continue to enjoy peace of mind if they don’t watch the news. These are the same individuals who, according to the Economic Policy Institute, control 42.2% of all net financial assets in America. Apparently the President believes that asking these individuals for financial sacrifice through higher taxes, might “hurt” our growing economy.

But, the real tearjerker is the fact that we are sending the financial sacrifice to our children. Our current national debt is $8.6 trillion a figure that tacks on another estimated $200 billion in war costs each year.

Could it be time for a little soul searching when it comes to spreading the pain of this national debacle?

Is it moral to ask military families to make the tremendous sacrifices they are making, while not asking wealthy Americans to make financial sacrifices during a time of war?

During the PBS interview, of our national psychology the President told Lehrer he wanted to make sure people feel like “life’s moving on, that they’re able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table.”

Compare this to the collective psychology surrounding World War Two and the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, with his dramatic, what today might be called radical 1942 “Call for Sacrifice” said, “indeed in these days when every affordable dollar should go to the war effort, I do not think any American citizen should have a net income in excess of $25 thousand per year after taxes, which translates into about $313 thousand in the inflation adjusted dollars of 2005.

That would surely send shivers down the spine of Student Loan Company Sallie Mae (SLM) CEO Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, who earned $39 million in 2006.

But, that leads back to Jim Lehrer’s simple question. If the struggle in Iraq is so important, why have all Americans not been asked to sacrifice something?

While no one can measure an entire nation’s psychology with any real degree of certainty, if all Americans, regardless of wealth, were required to “sacrifice” say for instance, a year or so of their lives to public service, rest assured, the collective level of engagement would rise when it comes to issues that lead to military actions. And, that’s nothing to say, of the positive shared experiences and connectivity.

As for now, according to the President, the shared sacrifice is occurring during the evening news. My how we’ve changed.

Roosevelt said in 1942, the price of civilization must be paid in hard work, sorrow and blood.

Apparently, Roosevelt and his generation believed that war is fought through the real and tangible sacrifice of all its citizens, including the wealthy. And, Roosevelt, along with his generation, understood that war is a last resort.

Our current President appears to be more concerned with the impact of powerful images, that this rash of negative public relations and journalism coming from Iraq is our shared sacrifice. He continues his arrogant spin, to try and spook us with false threats, in order to justify the images, the stories, the truth, a truth that is America’s biggest foreign policy mistake in decades.

So, in this, what has become a time of crisis, where is the call for shared national sacrifice Mr. President. Why have you not asked all of us, as another President did some 20 years after Roosevelt, to ask ourselves, what we can do for our country?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


_Twenty Minutes for Twenty Thousand more troops

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Anyone who has spent time on a casino floor has probably witnessed a black jack or roulette junkie on a losing streak. But, he keep’s on gambling, saying to his wife or friends, all I need is one more chance, I’m hot, I can feel it this time, I know I can still win. Eventually, if he’s lucky, his friends drag him out of the casino, cutting his losses. Compare that to the President of the world’s most powerful nation, who is pushing for permission to gamble with 21 thousand more of his own people’s lives. This, despite cautious expert tea-leaves provided by a bi partisan Iraq Study Group, the President claims he’s hot. But, sobering words like those of Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel warning that the President’s plan would be the “most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam ” are sending sobering messages that will hopefully result in an efficient, none to soon exit. Ultimately, it will be up to leaders in the Congress, to decide who plays the next hand in what has turned out to be one our nation’s most horrific mistakes, Iraq.

The President’s “twenty minutes for twenty thousand” speech was a controversial, frustrating but extremely important moment in American history. We knew what President Bush was going to say in advance, so pundits were left to critique his delivery style and discuss reactions from Senators and other leaders who issued statements for, or against the plan. It would appear, many Americans are allowing themselves to honestly contemplate what the likely effects of President Bush’s proposed course of action would turn out to be. But, the groundswell of opinion appears to be not only against any upsurge of troops, but a growing number are saying pull them all out as quickly as possible. Regardless, it is worth asking, will the additional manpower in Iraq make us safer here at home? Will the knocking on thousands of doors in Baghdad result in the rounding up of insurgents and other militants in what is clearly an urban, guerilla civil war that has passions going back hundreds of years, somehow result in a more stable Iraq? Will this “surge” or escalation simply add 20 thousand new American targets to an unfamiliar terrain that many argue we should have never invaded in the first place? If the past four years are any indication of what’s to come, this President needs to be quickly and firmly escorted out of the casino.

Republican Senator John McCain said that if you cut funding, then you assume the consequences of failure. But, does that mean, if you continue to fund and sacrifice human lives, and yet you still fail, you absolve yourself of responsibility of what was clearly un-wise policy and direction? According to the National Priorities Project, Congressional appropriations for the Iraq effort will reach around $348 billion dollars this March. The price increases by about $200 million each day. But, that’s just the cash. The ultimate price being the human toll, which in American lives, is now over the number killed on 9/11. And, who can put a price on Cindy Burn’s pain, who sat crying at Ft Benning Georgia during a BBC interview, as her husband prepares for another tour of duty in Iraq? Of the troop increase she asks whose victory, his (The President) or ours? And, there’s the under reported Iraqi human toll which is almost too painful to contemplate. Estimates say between 50 to 150 thousand human beings have died since the invasion. Some put that number much higher. In addition, Iraq is seeing a massive brain pool hemorrhage as intellectuals and those with the means, exit the country in massive numbers. In fact, 3.5 million Iraqi citizens have fled their homes since the war began, with an additional 50 thousand fleeing daily. Truly, it is hard to imagine things becoming any worse in Iraq. The inheritance of failed consequences appears to be here now, with most Iraqi’s begging for the simple things in life, like days without fear and violence, even a steady source of power and food. While all Americans have the utmost faith in our armed forces, the very idea that 20 thousand more troops will turn this disaster around is foolish.

Why have this President and his team, chosen to ignore one of the most important recommendations of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group? That recommendation involves a Diplomatic Offensive that would reach out to big players in the region, Iran and Syria? The President’s new policy smells of arrogance and stubborn certitude that ignore the complicated web of regional sectarian interests and cultures that are at play in Iraq and the surrounding lands. And, with that arrogance, it snubs a nose at our nation’s most fundamentally important issue, our national security.

With his Texas swagger checked, the President delivered a somber speech to the nation on Wednesday night arguing that he now had the assurances of full cooperation from the Malaki government as well as a new strategy for establishing order in Baghdad. But, President Malaki can’t even conduct a professional hanging, how is he going to assure the cooperation of thousands of his soldiers in a larger operation with our troops? Sadly, this course of action, if carried out, threatens to further prolong clearly un-wise, poorly planned policy, leaving the next President to inherit the current’s losses. In his speech, the President called the Iraqi elections of 2005 a stunning achievement. But, there were stunning elections in 2006 right here in the United States that some say sent a clear message to this White House. One can only wait and see, if this President will soon be escorted out of the casino.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why Tuesday is the Best Night For Television


Tuesday Evenings from 9 until 11 pm EST offers two hours of wickedly smart, informative and entertaining television, yes TV. The first hour is filled with something that is sorely lacking in most television news programming. Unfortunately, most TV news, especially cable, long ago went the way of flashy graphics, loud music and catchy headlines that oftens asks lazy or reactionary questions that fail to go the much needed extra step. Along with those flashy extras, we’ve gotten hooked on stories that focus on individuals who disappear in the woods or celebrities who adopt kids in foreign lands verses well researched evidence that explains corruption and finds hidden facts that could reveal a truth that affects us all. But, thanks to the PBS series FRONTLINE, there is still a source of meticulous reporting and connected dots that tell intelligent and compelling stories which reveal deeper truths behind public policy or society itself.

Fortunately, FRONTLINE earns viewers from both sides of the American political fence by striving for objectivity, but always digging deeper on a lead. If a viewer misses an episode of FRONTLINE at the 9 o clock hour, PBS.ORG offers most episodes free with a click of the keyboard. Another reason most networks and cable avoid the sort of reporting that FRONTLINE engages in, is that each episode takes time and tremendous effort to produce, waters that commercial networks sometimes, but rarely tread in.

If anyone doubts FRONTLINE’s commitment to a story, this past week’s (1/9) episode, which also ran this past October, demonstrates that dedication.

FRONTLINE’s “Return of the Taliban” is a revealing and graphic investigation of Taliban and Al Queda members who escaped from Afghanistan into Pakistan, away from American troop’s reach. The report also reveals a disturbing money trail to Al Queda, a bit of news that will chill the souls of anyone watching. The story is filled with remarkable footage including work from contributing reporter Hayat Ullah Khan. Unfortunately, after Khan took photographs showing that a U.S. missile had been used to kill an Al Qaeda operative which contradicted the Pakistani military's official account of the operative’s death, Khan disappeared, and was later found dead.

This film like much of the carefully reported work from FRONTLINE, provides important insight into a world that has been sadly underreported by most news outlets. It’s worth viewing online. In fact, one could argue that the work FRONTLINE is doing is important to all Americans, especially now.

But, Tuesdays are also home to a new adult TV series that is a way over the top and certainly not in the same ship as FRONTLINE, but still sharp as blades and completely entertaining. DIRT the new FX series created by fellow Birmingham native Courtney Cox and her husband David Arquette is providing a much needed gush of provocative entertainment that might even cause some tabloid readers and publishers to question, what they consider important and what the American people find interesting.

In this week’s episode, DIRT MAGAZINE Editor Lucy, played by Cox, confronts her publisher and basically asks whether or not he realizes the power his magazines have over American culture.

The publisher, as he holds a copy of the magazine replies sure, but is this what we want for our culture? On the cover of that magazine was a picture of a celebrity who had overdosed on drugs, in her casket. The ironic message, intended or not, of "what sells" in journalism was intense.

Regardless, one thing is certain, Tuesday nights are a night when time is “well spent” watching television, yes TV.