The Rocket's Red Glare May Be Chinese

by Walter Brasch

    Wearing a pith helmet and brandishing a blunderbuss, Marshbaum burst into my office and ordered me to the floor. I looked at my faux friend and media foil, about to ask him what his latest scheme was. With Marshbaum, who was fed "Honeymooners" episodes by IV when he was a child, everything is a scheme to make money. But, in the fraction of time I had before he yelled for me to get under my desk and cover my head, I quickly determined he was serious.

    "We're at war!" he shouted, hyper-kinetically upset.

    "Of course we're at war," I said. "Bush diverted resources from Afghanistan to invade Iraq. Been at war five years."

    "Not that war," said Marshbaum. "This is bigger. China invaded our homeland. We're under attack. And thanks to a 5-4 decision by the Supremes, me and Ole Betsy will defend my home from the Commie invaders."

    "You been watching too many recycled Cold War films?" I asked. "China is our trading partner. They loaned us billions to reduce our exorbitant unbalanced budget. Their factories are producing goods for the American consumer almost as fast as Washington politicians have been producing verbal diarrhea."

     "The Chinese have launched rockets at us. We don't have much time."

     "I didn't see anything on the 24/7 news channels about an invasion."

    "Of course not," said Marshbaum, "they're too busy tracking celebrity weddings, break-ups, and drunk driving arrests."

    "Even the worst journalist would pick up on an invasion of the U.S," I said.

    "Yeah," he replied sarcastically, "like they picked up on the PATRIOT Act violating a half-dozen constitutional amendments? Like they figured out the Bush-Cheney Oil and Screw Corp. lied to them about Iraq, the environment, the housing crisis, the economy, and how to make barbecued burritos?"

    "But war with China?" I asked skeptically.

    "China!" he said authoritatively. "Largest Communist country in the world. More than a billion people. Largest Army in the world. While the politicians focused on being nasty to Cuba, which has only 11 million people and hardly any weapons, the Chinese have been getting ready to invade us. It's been a sneak attack that started years ago. Some of the best students in American colleges are Chinese. They're the cadre for the take-over, and it's less than a week away!"

    "I assume you have evidence," I asked, playing along with Marshbaum. After all, I had no idea how deadly a blunderbuss could be, especially if I was in the same room with one.

    "Tents," said Marshbaum. "Thousands of tents have been set up the past two weeks on every major road in America. They're ammunition depots. Come July Fourth, the Chinese students will stop getting perfect scores on their SATs, join their comrades from all the Chinese buffets, go to the tents, activate the weapons and blow us all sky high with Roman Candles and Multi-break Shells. Dahlias, Willows, and Rings. An arsenal of destruction!"

    "They're fireworks!" I told my naive friend. "Fireworks! Jefferson, Madison, and the patriots started the revolution so we could eat hotdogs and potato salad, then shoot off a color spectacular and get a three-day weekend."

    "For a journalist, you're even denser than I thought." And so he walked me through his logic. "Ninety-Eight percent of all fireworks we use for July Fourth are made in China."

    "I see no evidence of war here," I said. "The Chinese also supply most of our toys and just about anything that winds up at the Dollar Store."

    "Do you think the largest army in the world would be content to stay in Asia and eat sushi all day?" I disregarded the anomaly that sushi is a Japanese dish, but when Marshbaum is on a roll it's hard to divert him with logic. "Come July Fourth, they're going to shock and awe us with their fireworks, play a Tchaikovsky overture, and then take over the rest of America."

    "The Olympics are only about five weeks away," I reminded him, "why would the Chinese attack us when it's hosting the leading display for unity and peace?"

    "Because they need more emaciated squeaky-voiced gymnasts," he said, "and we'll be so grateful to get rid of them and those snooty equestrians as well that we'll wave flags to honor China."

    "Americans are going to wave Chinese flags? That's ridiculous!"

    "American flags," said Marshbaum. "Most flags and flag pins--you know the ones the semi-patriotic American politicians always wear--are made in China." Marshbaum thought a moment. "Maybe their Army won't need to invade us. They've already defeated us."

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning syndicated columnist, is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.]

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Squabbling Over the Pigeon Bill: Pennsylvania Legislature In Battle Over Pigeons

by Walter Brasch

    Dave Comroe stepped to the firing line, raised his 12-gauge Browning over and under shotgun, aimed and fired. Before him, a pigeon fell, moments after being released from a box less than 20 yards away. About 25 times that day Comroe fired, hitting about three-fourths of the birds. He was 16 at the time.

    "It's not easy to shoot them," he says, explaining, "there's some talent involved. When a live pigeon is released, you have no idea where it's going."

    Where it's going is usually no more than five to ten feet from its cage. Many are shot on the ground or while standing on top of the cages, stunned by the noise, unable to fly because of being malnourished, dehydrated, and confined to a small space for hours, often days.

    Nevertheless, even with "expert" shooters on the line, only about one-fifth of the pigeons are killed outright, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States. About a tenth of the birds usually escape. But about two-thirds are wounded.

    "There really isn't much you can do for a wounded pigeon except put it out of its misery," says Comroe. Prior to an order in 2002 by the Court of Common Pleas in Berks County, most of the wounded were picked up by trapper boys and girls, some as young as eight years old, who killed the birds by stomping on their bodies, hitting them against structures, stuffing them into sacks, and dumping them, some still breathing, into large barrels. Some also wrung the birds' necks or ripped them from their bodies. Since that order, the "trappers" are at least 18 years old and have gone "high-tech"; they now use garden shears to sever a bird's head.

    Trappers can't get all of the birds. Hundreds at a large shoot will fly to surrounding areas and remain untreated as long as several days to die a painful death, says Johnna Seeton, Humane Society police officer. Pigeon shoot organizers do their best to keep observers from the scene, and don't allow volunteers to pick up and treat wounded birds unless they fly off the property, even if there's no shooting at the time. "We have only been able to rescue a few birds," says Seeton.

    Dave Comroe, now 32 years old, had begun hunting when he was 12 years old. That first year he killed his only deer. Although he has been deer hunting many times, he says he has "only taken a shot once." He has gone pheasant and dove hunting about a half dozen times.

    "Fathers take their sons out," he says, noting that hunting is "a "bonding experience." That "bonding" continued through his teens and early 20s when he went to pigeon shoots. "I went as a spectator," he says, "and to hang out with my friends." He was 14 when he attended his first pigeon shoot, and remembers he didn't compete until a year or two later. Comroe says he competed in five shoots, "but attended 10 or 12 overall," including two or three at Hegins.

    That shoot, at one time the largest and most controversial in the nation, brought as many as 250 shooters and as many as 10,000 spectators, from animal rights activists to neo-Nazis and skinheads, to the community park every Labor Day. The organizers claimed they only wanted to raise money for the town park. But they refused an offer by the Fund for Animals, which later merged into the Humane Society, to buy traps, clay pigeons, and ammunition for a non-violent event.

    Confrontational protests, begun in 1991 under the direction of the Fund for Animals, were abandoned two years later in favor of a large-scale animal rescue operation. Each Labor Day, more than 5,000 birds were killed and thrown away.

    The organizers of the Hegins shoot finally cancelled the contests in 1999, 66 years after they began. It had nothing to do with a realization that killing domesticated pigeons is cruel. It had everything to do with a unanimous ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that humane society officers could arrest participants and organizers under state anti-cruelty charges.  

    Comroe, a Syracuse graduate and instruction technology specialist, is pleasant, soft-spoken, and definitely not violent. Some who attend pigeon shoots aren't. Heidi Prescott, who has been to more than 50 shoots, has seen "Children ripping the heads off live birds or throwing them into the air like footballs, adults cheering and laughing when crippled birds flop up and down in pain, and spectators parading around the park with pigeons' heads mounted on plastic forks."

    It's hard to reconcile the compassion seen in Comroe's eyes with the reality that he calls pigeon shooting a sport. "There's no pretense about it," says Comroe, "It isn't hunting. It's a sport." Pigeon shoots, claims the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, "are a traditional and international shooting sport." But, killing trapped pigeons isn't a sport, according to the International Olympic Committee which banned pigeon shooting after its only appearance in the 1900 Olympics. The reason why pigeon shooting isn't recognized as a sport was best explained by the IOC. "It's cruelty," it said after thinking about the Olympics' only bloody "sport."

    Sensitive to the public outrage, almost every shooter and the organizers of the gun clubs that sponsor the events refuse to talk to the public or the press. But, in private, the shooters claim not only are they sportsmen, but they hold a high moral code. The NRA claims the participants "are law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts, hunters, and sportsmen." However, there appears to be a different morality for pigeon shooters than allowed under state and federal laws. Like dog fights and cock fights, participants and spectators make money not from the prizes, which are usually belt buckles, trophies, and purses that average $20-$100 per event, but from an extensive underground in gambling. Comroe acknowledges "a lot of money trades hands" at pigeon shoots. In addition to tax fraud, money is also made by the illegal capture, interstate transportation, and sale of pigeons, also a violation of federal laws.

    Pennsylvania is the only state where people openly kill live pigeons in organized contests. Every other state, with the exception of Tennessee, which has no law against it but also no shoots, has either banned the practice by law or by court action, or it is covered under the state anti-cruelty statues. The actions of pigeon shoot organizers "is clearly animal cruelty, and the Pennsylvania legislature needs to finally address it," says Johnna Seeton. Several bills have failed to gather majority support in either house of the Pennsylvania legislature.

    Current bills in the state legislature not only ban shooting any captive bird at a trap or block shoot, they extends to a little-known practice of tying turkeys to hay bales and then shooting them, often with arrows. In the Senate, SB 1150, introduced by Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh Co.), has languished in committee since November. The Senate Judiciary committee was scheduled to vote on the bill in March, but pulled it to deal with an equally controversial gay marriage amendment. The pigeon shoot bill has not come up for a vote since.

    The history in the House of Representatives to enact legislation has been more contentious. In 1994, the year after State Police arrested 114 persons at the Hegins pigeon shoot, the House of Representatives voted 99-93 to ban all pigeon shoots. Supporters, however, needed 102 votes, a majority, for passage. Subsequent bills have been blocked by the Republican leadership, aided by Democrats from the more rural parts of the state.

    In the House, HB 2130, introduced by Rep. Frank Shimkus (D-Lackawanna), is also stalled in the Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Pallone (D-Armstrong), chair of the subcommittee on crime and corrections, said in February he would "convene hearings [on the bill] at the earliest convenience." There have been no hearings. Pallone says he just doesn't think a law is necessary, "because we do have animal laws relative to domestic and wild animals." Heidi Prescott disagrees.

    "Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rightfully termed these shoots `cruel and moronic' and allowed humane officers to prosecute participants for animal cruelty, this narrow procedural ruling did not stop live pigeon shoots," says Prescott. The Humane Society, she says, "has tried in court to apply the cruelty law to shoots, but without success so far."

    Pallone says the bill, now with 51 co-sponsors, one-fourth of the House membership, an abnormally large number of co-sponsors for any piece of legislation, "is not a legislative priority." Rep. William DeWeese (D-Waynesburg), majority floor leader, sets the legislative priority. According to insiders in the House, DeWeese, like Pallone, vigorously opposes legislation to ban the state's pigeon shoots. Pallone claims that "it couldn't be any further from the truth" that DeWeese is blocking the bill from coming to the floor and has influenced the subcommittee. DeWeese, who has been in the House 32 years, twice before voted against bills that would ban pigeon shoots.

    Records filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State reveal that DeWeese's campaign committees have accepted significant political contributions from organizations that oppose the ban on pigeon shooting. State records reveal that his committee has received $750 from the Flyers Victory Fund, the political action arm of the Pennsylvania Flyers Association, an organization of about 300 members who are dedicated to promoting live pigeon shoots. His campaign committees the past four years, according to Department of State records, have also received $6,500 in contributions from the NRA Political Victory Fund.

    When Sen. Roy Afflerbach first introduced an amendment in 1998 to ban pigeon shooting, only about five senators supported it but, says Afllerbach, "the Senate has come a long way since then." A poll of Senate committee members, conducted in February and March, revealed a majority of committee members, including both the committee chair and minority chair, support the bill. An informal and confidential poll of House committee members in March revealed that 14 of the 29-member House committee would probably vote for the bill; nine were undecided and only six were firmly opposed.

    "It does not require any courage to shoot a pigeon launched from a box, and it shouldn't require much more for a legislator to decree that it is wrong to do so," says Prescott, who is acknowledged even by opponents as one of the most effective lobbyists in the state capitol. But, Prescott is facing a formidable opponent.

    "Banning pigeon shoots would be a first step in advancing [the] agenda [of animal rights activists], and they won't stop there," wails an alarmist message on the NRA website. "It's the first step in an agenda that would prohibit all hunting," NRA spokesperson Rachel Parsons told the Pittsburgh City Paper in February.

    "That's a ridiculous argument, and nothing less than a scare tactic," says Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Roy Afflerbach, who grew up on a farm, says he hunted "from the time I was old enough to walk into the field." He says, "We grew up with a reverence for life, and never shot anything that we couldn't eat, that gave us sustenance for life." Opposing pigeon shoots "is not a firearms or hunting issue, but an issue of violence and animal cruelty, the mass killing of animals and birds solely to award prizes," says Afflerbach, now president of the Afflerbach Group after serving four years in the state House of Representatives, 12 years as a senator, and as Allentown mayor.

    "Only the most extremist hunters would defend launching, shooting, and then dumping animals into a trash bag as hunting or as a sport," says Heidi Prescott. Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, agrees. Pigeon shoots, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting." Rep. Shimkus told the Scranton Times-Tribune, "I do not support gun control," and vowed to "never allow this bill to go forward if it had to do with gun control." The bill specifically excludes legitimate hunting activities.
    Karel Minor says his organization became involved "because reasonable hunters," including those on his board of directors, "deem pigeon shooting is so far out of the mainstream." Reasonable hunters, he says, realize that "it's cruelty in order to make money from shooting animals that are catapulted."

    If Pennsylvania hunters are really worried, says Heidi Prescott, "they can look at other big hunting states--like New York, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, and Michigan." These states, says Prescott, "have outlawed captive bird shooting, but hunting continues unaffected."

    While the NRA is expending considerable time and resources to block the bills, most of the state's sportsmen's organizations, says Afflerbach, "recognize that this `sport' is indefensible." The 4,000-member Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (USP) has not devoted resources to trying to quash the bills; only a one-line notice in a list of bills USP opposes indicates that organization opposes the ban on pigeon shoots.

    There were about two dozen shoots during the past year at the Pikeville Gun Club, Strausstown Gun Club and Wing Pointe in Berks County, as well as one at Valley View in Schuylkill County and Erdman in Dauphin County. At each shoot, more than 1,000 pigeons are killed and thrown away.

    Dave Comroe no longer goes to pigeon shoots. "It's not too exciting for me," he says. "It's not something I'm interested in. It's not my thing," he says. His "thing" is competitive trapshooting. Comroe now kills inanimate clay pigeons made of tar and pitch, hitting about 96 percent from the 16 yard line, occasionally busting a perfect 100 to earn championships.

    Heidi Prescott and the 11.6 million members of the Humane Society, about 7.3 million more than the NRA, wish the few hundred Pennsylvanians who are active pigeon shooters would follow Comroe's example and stop participating in the cruelty of pigeon shoots--either voluntarily or by force of law.

    [Dr. Brasch attended and reported on five pigeon shoots. An award-winning syndicated columnist, he is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.]

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George W. Bush's Convenient Truth

by Walter Brasch

    The man whom the people elected in 2000 to be president was in the temporary residence of the man whom the Supreme Court anointed.

    President George W. Bush hosted former Vice-President Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and five other Nobel laureates, Nov. 26. This annual handshake photo-op has been an American tradition.

    The Nobel committee had cited Gore, Oct. 12 , as "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted" to reduce global warming. Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN network of about 2,000 scientists, who have shown that global warming isn't a liberal conspiracy theory.  

    Believing that it is some kind of liberal conspiracy theory are the fringe right-wing who dominate Talk Radio and Pundit TV.  The day after the announcement, Steve Doocy, co-anchor of FOX's morning show, set the tone for the rabid-dog attacks. He produced a chart of past Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including "that crazy Jimmy Carter," and claimed the award is nothing more than an "anti-Bush" trophy. On CNN, guest commentator Marlo Lewis, who was identified as a global warming expert, called Gore's writings manipulative, misleading, and exaggerated. Jay Richards of the National Review claimed the Peace prize is "politicized." Rush Limbaugh, who had a front group nominate him for the Peace Prize only to learn that the Landmark Legal Foundation had no standing to nominate anyone, was furious that Gore, not he, received the honor. With the microphone of more than 600 radio stations that carry his talk show, Limbaugh claimed his lawyers--the ones at the Landmark group--"are looking into the possibility of filing an objection with the Nobel Committee over the unethical tampering for this award that Al Gore is engaging in." He claimed, "This is clearly above and beyond the pale. I mean, this might happen in high school class president elections and so forth, but this is shameless."

    Bloggers chattered almost endlessly that not only didn't Gore deserve the award but also that global warming is a myth. The Nobel committee, blogged William Teach of Pirate's Cove, "has basically surrendered to hysterics, mass exaggerators, and liars."

    Also doubting global warming, and volumes of scientific evidence, is Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, and recipient of one of the largest cumulative campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. Inhofe has claimed that there is "compelling evidence" that global warming not only is a hoax, but that it is "the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people."

    George H.W. Bush, during his failed re-election campaign in 1992, called Gore "Ozone Man," and claimed the vice-presidential candidate was "so far out in the environmental extreme we'll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American."

    As for the current President Bush, he delegated the "congratulations" to a deputy press secretary. Tony Fratto told the media that Bush is not only "happy for Vice President Gore," but also happy for the UN scientists who co-shared the award. "Obviously, it's an important recognition, and we're sure the vice president is thrilled," said Fratto, dripping with insincerity.

    The Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, one of the nation's most conservative newspapers, claimed, "The Nobel Peace Prize is worse than a joke. It's a fraud," and called the prize a "useless medal." The Wall Street Journal didn't even mention Gore in its editorial the day the Nobel committee made its announcement, but listed several others who should be considered for the award. The Journal's unscientific poll of its largely conservative upper middle-class and upper class readers that day revealed that 54 percent didn't think Al Gore deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. One reader, reflecting the opinion of about 13,000 who disagreed with the award, called it "a joke and it encourages the pursuit of junk science for political gain." Another reader believed, "The fear being installed from man made global warming is now officially a communist plot to control behavior." However, among the 11,250 who believed the award was justified was one reader who believed that Al Gore, the former journalist, "did what the National Academy of Sciences could not do--explain the issue in a way that non-scientists can understand."

    For more than three decades, Al Gore has been one of the nation's strongest voices for the protection of the environment. His first book, Earth in the Balance (1992), had pushed protection of the environment onto the national political agenda; as vice-president, he became the Clinton Administration's primary advocate to protect the environment and the nation's natural resources.

    During the past seven years, Gore co-founded a major TV cable network (Current TV), which was honored with an Emmy in 2007; wrote the best-selling book about the effects of global warming, An Inconvenient Truth (2006), which was turned into a box office hit that won an Oscar for the best documentary; wrote a best-seller, The Assault on Reason (2007), which received the Quill Award for history/current events/politics; and increased his public appearances to speak out about a number of social issues, including environmental protection.

    During the past seven years, George W. Bush spun a nation not only into a war that has destroyed the environment and natural resources of Iraq, but had also begun a war in America that is leading to a destruction of its environment and natural resources. President Bush consistently ignored the evidence of global warming, and suppressed the views of government scientists. He allowed Enron and other energy companies to direct the nation's energy policy. With a cabinet that includes persons who either were employed by large oil and coal companies or were paid lobbyists against environmental protections, he reduced federal environmental rules. He believes that most of the 250 million acres under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management should be available so private industry can strip the resources for their own economic gain. He has allowed extensive off-shore drilling, increased the incursion by mining companies, and allowed logging companies to devastate federal lands. He is a leading advocate for allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, claiming it's for "national security," but completely oblivious to the reality that such intrusion would severely alter the balance of nature, while yielding little gas and oil for the American people. He has permitted gas-spewing recreational vehicles to tear up federal parks and permanently disturb the wildlife. He reversed himself on a campaign pledge to reduce acceptable levels of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and determined that higher levels of arsenic and other toxins in drinking water was acceptable. He reduced the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency, preferring companies to undergo "voluntary compliance," and eliminated the tax upon the oil and chemical industries that paid for the clean up of SuperFund toxic waste sites. It's now the taxpayers not polluters who are paying for clean-up operations.

    Within months of his first inaugural, Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol that called for global environmental protection by stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. With Australia about to sign the Protocol, 173 nations will have signed the agreement; the U.S. is now the only industrialized nation not to sign.

    And now, on a Monday evening after Thanksgiving, President George W. Bush was meeting with five American Nobel laureates, including Al Gore. By all accounts, a 40-minute private meeting with Mr. Gore was "cordial." The President, after snubbing the former vice-president when the Nobel committee made its announcement, could now be cordial. He had personally called Gore to make sure the former vice-president was available, and was willing to rearrange the White House schedule to accommodate Mr. Gore. At the post-Thanksgiving ceremony, Bush could smile and backslap. After all, George W. Bush was president, and nothing that Al Gore was doing to protect the environment would ever be enough to erase this president's political ability to alter the environment to benefit corporate interests.

    [Walter M. Brasch is professor of mass communications/journalism at Bloomsburg University. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through Amazon.com. You may reach Dr. Brasch at www.walterbrasch.com]

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All we are Asking--Is Give War a Chance

WANDERINGS, with Walter Brasch
For release: after Jan. 29, 2007
Contact: brasch@bloomu.edu

Give War a Chance
by Walter Brasch

           From the tumbleweed towns of Texas to urban Houston and Galveston, from the Rust Belt to the Bible Belt, Americans have taken to the streets to protest.
            Waving oversized Chinese-made American flags, wearing T-shirts with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld, and holding banners proclaiming, "Destroy Iraq, Save Civilization," they demand that America accept the "augmentation" of troops in Iraq.
            "How can you call for continued war?" I asked one of their leaders.
            "Because if we leave Iraq," said Thelma Lou Hodgkins of Whelping Falls, Mo., "we'll have stood down and the terrorists will win because we can't stand the Iraqis, so they'll either stand up or down. Or maybe sit. Or maybe they'd be lying down on the streets." Mercifully, I cut her off.
            "Most Americans now say they were lied to by the Administration, that the war was wrong, that it has been poorly planned and abysmally executed."
            "That's only the ones who have never been in Iraq. Or went to Iraq. Or knew someone who went to Iraq. The rest of us know better."
            "More than 3,000 Americans and as many as 100,000 Iraqis, most of them innocent civilians, have died in this war. At least 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded, some crippled for life."
            "So what's your point?" she asked.            "Besides, we just can't cut and run like the defeatists want. There's still a war to win, and money to be taken by Halliburton and Exxon."
            "The war profiteers have indeed gotten richer because of this war," I said, hoping she'd see my point.
            "And that's how we keep the economy as good as it's been. More profit means more jobs and the right of every family to be able to shop at Wal-Mart."
            "It also means more deaths."
            "There you go with that death thing again," she said. "At least 5,000 soldiers haven't yet had any opportunity to win a medal?"
            "Even if the medals are Purple Hearts?"
            "Wounded. Dead. Helps their career. They get promoted. Makes for better survivor benefits."
            "You're aware that only about 28 percent of all Americans even believe in this war?"
            "That makes us a minority, and we have rights!"
            "A year ago, you were in the majority, and you said the minority were unpatriotic traitors. Said they should be shot for treason."
            "And we were right then, too." She paused a moment, reflecting upon what had happened in the past year. "Besides, we'd still be in the majority if all those cowardly politicians who supported us didn't turn tail and try to get re-elected. At least Thomas Jefferson is on our side."
            "I doubt Jefferson would have said that supporting war is the best course of action in any dispute."
            "Maybe it was Washington. Or Cornwallis. I get all them Founding Fathers mixed up. But, someone said that no one has the right to protest the government. That's downright unAmerican!"
            "None of our Founding Fathers said that silencing opposition was acceptable. That's why they gave us the First Amendment."
            "Don't you ever watch FOX News?" she demanded. "Our glorious leader, Bill O'Reilly, has declared that in order for Americans to be safe from camels overtaking taxis in New York, we must outshout all opposing views and suspend the Constitution. Except for the Second Amendment, of course. No one messes with the right to lock and load!"
            "How long do you intend to stay on the streets?" I asked.
            "Until the last soldier is killed dying for this country. That's when we'll know the war is over."
            "Don't you feel any shame?" I asked.
            "All we are asking," she said, "is give war a chance."
            When last I saw the protestors, they were holding hands and singing, "Okie from Muskogee."

[Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights; `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina; and Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture. They are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com.]

 

There's more...

All we are Asking--Is Give War a Chance

WANDERINGS, with Walter Brasch
For release: after Jan. 29, 2007
Contact: brasch@bloomu.edu

Give War a Chance
by Walter Brasch

           From the tumbleweed towns of Texas to urban Houston and Galveston, from the Rust Belt to the Bible Belt, Americans have taken to the streets to protest.
            Waving oversized Chinese-made American flags, wearing T-shirts with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld, and holding banners proclaiming, "Destroy Iraq, Save Civilization," they demand that America accept the "augmentation" of troops in Iraq.
            "How can you call for continued war?" I asked one of their leaders.
            "Because if we leave Iraq," said Thelma Lou Hodgkins of Whelping Falls, Mo., "we'll have stood down and the terrorists will win because we can't stand the Iraqis, so they'll either stand up or down. Or maybe sit. Or maybe they'd be lying down on the streets." Mercifully, I cut her off.
            "Most Americans now say they were lied to by the Administration, that the war was wrong, that it has been poorly planned and abysmally executed."
            "That's only the ones who have never been in Iraq. Or went to Iraq. Or knew someone who went to Iraq. The rest of us know better."
            "More than 3,000 Americans and as many as 100,000 Iraqis, most of them innocent civilians, have died in this war. At least 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded, some crippled for life."
            "So what's your point?" she asked.            "Besides, we just can't cut and run like the defeatists want. There's still a war to win, and money to be taken by Halliburton and Exxon."
            "The war profiteers have indeed gotten richer because of this war," I said, hoping she'd see my point.
            "And that's how we keep the economy as good as it's been. More profit means more jobs and the right of every family to be able to shop at Wal-Mart."
            "It also means more deaths."
            "There you go with that death thing again," she said. "At least 5,000 soldiers haven't yet had any opportunity to win a medal?"
            "Even if the medals are Purple Hearts?"
            "Wounded. Dead. Helps their career. They get promoted. Makes for better survivor benefits."
            "You're aware that only about 28 percent of all Americans even believe in this war?"
            "That makes us a minority, and we have rights!"
            "A year ago, you were in the majority, and you said the minority were unpatriotic traitors. Said they should be shot for treason."
            "And we were right then, too." She paused a moment, reflecting upon what had happened in the past year. "Besides, we'd still be in the majority if all those cowardly politicians who supported us didn't turn tail and try to get re-elected. At least Thomas Jefferson is on our side."
            "I doubt Jefferson would have said that supporting war is the best course of action in any dispute."
            "Maybe it was Washington. Or Cornwallis. I get all them Founding Fathers mixed up. But, someone said that no one has the right to protest the government. That's downright unAmerican!"
            "None of our Founding Fathers said that silencing opposition was acceptable. That's why they gave us the First Amendment."
            "Don't you ever watch FOX News?" she demanded. "Our glorious leader, Bill O'Reilly, has declared that in order for Americans to be safe from camels overtaking taxis in New York, we must outshout all opposing views and suspend the Constitution. Except for the Second Amendment, of course. No one messes with the right to lock and load!"
            "How long do you intend to stay on the streets?" I asked.
            "Until the last soldier is killed dying for this country. That's when we'll know the war is over."
            "Don't you feel any shame?" I asked.
            "All we are asking," she said, "is give war a chance."
            When last I saw the protestors, they were holding hands and singing, "Okie from Muskogee."

[Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights; `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina; and Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture. They are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com.]

 

There's more...

Sex, Lies, and Family Values

by Walter Brasch

           The parents of a 16-year-old Congressional page contacted their congressman, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.).
            Alexander says he contacted both Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) who oversees the page program.
            Reps. Shimkus, Reynolds, and House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) admit they knew about it in 2005.
            Kirk Fordham, Reynolds' former chief of staff, told the Associated Press that three years ago, he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives to intervene."
            Reynolds and Boehner say they told Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), speaker of the house.
            Hastert says Reynolds may have told him about it, but he doesn't remember.
            At no time, did anyone contact police or the FBI. Their concerns for justice were shallow; their fears that a scandal would affect their re-elections were deep.            The conservative Washington Times and several major conservative columnists have called for Hastert to resign.
            For his part, President George W. Bush says he supports Hastert, doesn't want him to resign, and called him a "father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country." Almost as an afterthought, he said he was "dismayed and shocked."
            What President Bush was "dismayed and shocked" about were the actions of Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida. The President apparently wasn't dismayed or shocked about the cover-up the Republican leadership undertook to keep the information from the public, the contacts with Foley to warn him about his conduct, and their failure to discipline one of their members.
            The story broke in early September when a relatively new blog, Stop Sex Predators (www.stopsexpredators.blogspot.com), reported that Foley, a six-term congressman who was co-chair of Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had sent sexually explicit e-mails and text messages to the 16-year old male Congressional page. Within two weeks, ABC-TV's Brian Ross, and then the rest of the nation's major media, picked up the story. The day after Ross's first report, Foley resigned. Subsequent reporting revealed that Foley may have had other inappropriate contacts, dating back to at least 2003.
            Trying to spin his own actions, Foley said when he was a teenager he had been abused by a member of the clergy; he now admits he's gay, and has checked himself into an alcoholic rehabilitation facility. As for Reps. Alexander, Shimkus, Reynolds, Boehner, and Hastert, and dozens of other Republicans who knew of the problem, they shuffled and wobbled, but never acknowledged why they didn't take immediate action at least six months earlier.
            Spinning and diverting, Hastert is blaming liberals for their reporting of the scandal; others have dug through the archives to find that 23 years earlier a Democratic congressman was censured for having sex with a 17-year-old page. (On the other side of the aisle, and not reported by the Republicans, a Republican congressman that year had sex with a 17-year-old female page.) Many screeched out about former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and a rendezvous he had in 1988 with a woman on a boat called "Monkey Business," and of Ted Kennedy, MaryJo Kopechne, and the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969, hoping to cloud the blame for their own problems.
            Conservative Republicans devoutly proclaim themselves the party of "Family Values." They want the people to believe they have been anointed with divine wisdom, sacred trust, and the key to the Holy Morality. Democrats and liberals, they decree, are sin-spewing heathens.  But, truth is not on their side.
            Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.), homophobic founder of Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union, and a darling of the Christian Coalition, lost his House seat in 1980 after disclosures that he solicited sex with a 16-year-old gay male; Bauman two years later acknowledged he was gay. Donald Lukens (R-Ohio) was sentenced to jail for having sex with a minor. The list of local and state Republican officials who were arrested and convicted of pedophilia or other sex crimes would choke even the most forgiving defense attorney. But, let's just look at the family values of some of the Republicans recently elected or re-elected to federal office.
            The list of "family values" Republicans who committed adultery, but continued to preach a doctrine of morality in government, would fill the telephone book of a small city. Among them are Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who were leaders of the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton; former presidential candidate Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.),  whom the Republicans planned to vote into office in 1999 as Gingrich's successor, but whose career came unraveled by his admission of "marital infidelities"; Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), who had a five-year extramarital affair with a woman 35 years his junior and who later accused him of repeated assaults; and former Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that God pardoned her sins.
            Chenoweth was a "two-fer," committing both sexual and legal sins. While her campaign strategy was loaded with rhetoric about family values and morals, she accepted illegal campaign contributions and then failed to disclose receipt of more than $50,000 for her 1994 campaign. She served three terms before deciding not to run for a fourth term in 2000. Rep. Randall (Duke) Cunningham (R-Calif.), a seven-term Congressman, who accepted $2.4 million in bribes, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), an 11-term congressman, was first forced to resign as House majority leader after being indicted on charges he conspired to violate Texas state election laws; amid growing evidence of financial and ethical irregularities over several years, DeLay resigned from the House in April 2006.  
            The Republicans, whose "big tent" campaign rhetoric apparently still doesn't include many minorities, is represented by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Lott resigned as Senate majority leader in December 2002 after praising segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), suggesting that if Thurmond had been elected president on the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years." Lott--who opposed the Voting Right Act and voted against creating Martin Luther King Day--recently asked, "Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."
            The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal touched mostly Republicans, with one White House official charged with obstructing a federal investigation.
            And there's George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and John Ashcroft/Ambrose Gonzales, whose six year reign is pepper-shot with lies and violations of even the most basic codes of ethics. They are the cabal that had nodded off prior to the al-Qaeda attack upon the United States, and then lied to the people prior to launching an invasion of Iraq, which had no ties to the 9/11 plot, no ties to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, and no weapons of mass destruction.
             The Administration has also diverted, according to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, about $700 million from the war in Afghanistan and the search for Osama bin Laden to prepare for the invasion of Iraq. They awarded a no-bid $7 billion contract to Halliburton, which is now accused of war profiteering, diversion of funds, and numerous other questionable, illegal, or immoral practices. Billions of other taxpayer-funded dollars went to other companies that are major contributors to Republican candidates.
            On domestic issues, the Bush-Cheney Administration has violated the environment, and disregarded health care and the working class, while holding the pursuit of obscene profits to be their personal god. They have encouraged the use of torture to gain information from even the remotest of suspects, and have refused to give suspects a fair trial. They have created fake news releases, bribed journalists, released secret information about a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband speaking out against Bush's war in Iraq, illegally hacked into confidential Democrat strategy files, illegally spied upon both American citizens and the United Nations, invaded innumerable Constitutionally-protected personal rights of privacy, suppressed freedom of expression, and instilled fear as justification for its actions. Perhaps they should no longer be called "neocons," but Vegomatic Republicans since they believe they have a divine right to slice, dice, and chop the Bill of Rights.
            Sanctimoniously proclaiming themselves piously religious and patriotic, they have forsaken both the Bible and the Constitution. George W. Bush, when asked if he had consulted his father prior to the invasion of Iraq, devoutly declared that he had spoken to his "higher father." His actions prove that he has abandoned both his heavenly father and this nation's forefathers. So much for honoring thy father.
            The salacious "family values" Republicans have become the party of right-wing righteous indignation. But the closest any of them will come to righteousness is their fervent prayers for something tumultuous to happen so the media and the public forget these latest elephant-sized transgressions.

           [Assisting on this column was Rosemary Brasch. Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu]

 

There's more...

Bush's Magic Mystery Political Capital TGour


by Walter Brasch

    Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and the rest of the gang that thinks they're a war cabinet supporting the man who thinks he's a war president used the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to tell the world how great they are.
    In speech after speech, all meant to boost their neocon candidates' chances for re-election in two months, they dominated the news media to proclaim that under their watch there have been no more attacks on American soil. They looked directly into the cameras and told us that because Americans are fighting in Iraq, the terrorists aren't in New York City. For their part, the establishment media willingly disseminated the PR.
    What wasn't stated in the rah-rah political boosterism was that the massive babbling was nothing more than sleight-of-hand distortion. The sleeping Bush-Cheney administration before 9/11 had begun to reduce the effectiveness of FEMA, cut back funding for the FBI counterterrorism operations, failed to act upon a number of FBI warnings about potential terrorists already in the United States, and disregarded substantial and significant warnings of the impending attack. Even one month before 9/11, President Bush apparently didn't do much with a Presidential Daily Brief that was entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S.," and then stood flat-footed when first told about the 9/11 attacks. But then his advisory council, largely composed of his father's advisors, regrouped and led him into at least the appearance of being presidential.
    To strike the terrorist base camps, Bush ordered troops into Afghanistan to tear down the Taliban regime that protected the al-Qaeda terrorists, and vowed to capture Osama bin Laden. Five years later, the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the "Big Ear" NSA have admitted that the trail to bin Laden is cold. But, there are about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, which under American control again leads the world in growing opium.
    In Iraq are about 150,000 American troops because the war president and his war cabinet wanted to invade Iraq, and lied to the American people. Even knowing substantial evidence to the contrary, they blatantly told us that Saddam Hussein had ties to 9/11 and al-Qaeda. They said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The establishment media unquestioningly channeled the message.
    The non-combatant "White House Warriors" who planned to "shock and awe" the world with a swift military strike, claimed American troops would be welcomed by the Iraqis who would give them joyful praise and even flowers, much like the liberated French gave conquering Americans in World War II. They claimed the war, which has now cost Americans about than $440 billion, would be financed by oil revenue. What they didn't tell Americans is that there are no oil revenues, and that American oil-based corporations have had massive windfall profits to be added to millions of taxpayer-provided dollars that have either been misplaced, unaccounted for, or can't be traced.
    Because of diversion of funds, equipment, and supplies into the Iraq war, combined with the placement of the National Guard and their materiel in Iraq, America is less protected against hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters.
    For his part, Donald Rumsfeld refused to allow the military to plan for a post-war occupation. "In his own mind, he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out," Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, who was in charge of the Logistics War Plans Division, told Orin Kerr of the Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press this month. Rumsfeld "said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war," and threatened to fire anyone who argued for post-war planning, said Gen. Scheid.
    The military weren't the only ones threatened. In Bush Speak, enhanced by almost every talk-show mouth and right-wing politician, and led by the draft-dodging Dick Cheney, refusal to buy into the Bush-Cheney propaganda was equated with refusal to "Support the Troops." Those who questioned the Bush-Cheney administration were branded "cut and run cowards"; they were called unpatriotic, even treasonous, accused of "aiding the enemy."
    It was those "unpatriotic traitors" who questioned why the Bush-Cheney administration was methodically shredding the Constitution. They opposed the excesses of the USA PATRIOT Act, opposed renditions, opposed torture of prisoners, challenged the suppression of First Amendment rights of free speech, spoke out against the Administration's quashing of Fourth Amendment rights of privacy, and the Fifth and Sixth amendment rights of due process, and the eighth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
    The war in Iraq has now cost more than 3,000 American lives, caused more than 20,000 injuries, thousands of them permanent. At least 41,600 civilians and others in the combat zones have been killed, according to the nonpartisan estimates of Iraq Body Count, which keeps detailed data on all deaths in Iraq.
    To continue to instill fear into Americans, the Bush-Cheney Administration has used the fifth year anniversary of 9/11 to tout the $20 billion spent on airport security, but hasn't acknowledged the vulnerability of the nation's ports, railway or bus systems. While praising the new multimillion dollar counterterrorism building and all the agencies working within it, it hasn't acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security has become a bungling bureaucratic nightmare. And, underneath all of the blustering and braggadocio is still a domestic reality--health care, the environment, and protection of all Americans against workforce exploitation and poverty is of secondary importance to this Administration.
    Two days after his election in 2004, George W. Bush told America he "earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." He said, "That's what happened in the--after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election--and I'm going to spend it."
    For several months after 9/11, Americans were united in their grief. Almost the entire world, including countries with a majority of its population Muslim, was America's ally. President Bush and his war cabinet squandered that good will by their arrogant jingoistic deceitfulness and stupidity, and are now on a nationwide tour to invoke the memory of 9/11 and try to hammer-lock the nation into believing that they needed to give up some Constitutional and fundamental rights in order to be safe. The President has spent all of his political capital and has put America into debt.
    America is divided, more so than during the Vietnam War. The Bush-Cheney legacy won't be that they stopped terrorism, but that they played upon fear to promote a political agenda that fractured a country almost as much as the Civil War ever did.

[Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu]

There's more...

Canned Hunts: Sports Afoul

by Walter Brasch

           Ralph A. Saggiomo is an affable sort of fellow, one you probably wouldn't mind having a couple of beers with, swap a few tales, and discuss just about anything.

           He grew up in one of the most rural, most remote parts of the country, and considers himself to have the same values as the Colonials who lived in Pennsylvania more than two centuries earlier. But, he's also lived in urban America. He was a Philadelphia firefighter for 33 years, the last few in command positions.

           After retirement, he moved back to his 75-acre family farm in Sayre, Pa., and continued his work in local civic organizations, becoming president of both the Greater Valley Emergency Medical Services and the Sayre Business Association. He's a member of the Pennsylvania Governor's Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing & Conservation; and was president of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, an association that claims about 20,000 members.

           For 60 years, Ralph A. Saggiomo has proudly been killing fish and game, both small and large. Name a domestic species, and he's probably shot at it, wounded it, or killed it.

           He says he was told one of his more recent kills was a Dall Sheep; more likely, it was a Texas Dall ram, a lucrative target because of its thick curly horns. The rams, a hybrid of Corsican and Mouflon sheep, are primarily bred to look like the Dall Sheep, native to the mountainous regions of Alaska and the northwest part of Canada. Dall sheep are a challenge to hunters because of their adept ability to escape into the steep mountainous slopes. Domesticated Texas Dall rams pose no such problems.

           Whatever he killed--"dispatched" and "harvested" are the terms hunters euphemistically prefer--Saggiomo didn't have to go more than 3,000 miles to the subarctic mountains, he only had to go about 50 miles from his home to the Tioga Boar Hunting Preserve. Saggiomo's day of killing, a gift from his family, was in a fenced-in area.

           "It was a wonderful experience," Saggiomo told the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee, which was holding a hearing in equally remote Towanda, an hour's drive east of Tioga, away from the major media and in an area not likely to bring many protestors. The Committee was in Towanda to hear testimony about a bill to ban what has become known as a "canned hunt." For a few thousand dollars, Great White Hunters--complete with rented guides, dogs, and guns or bows--can go into a fenced-in area and shoot an exotic species. In most canned hunts, the animals have been bred to be killed, have little fear of humans, and are often lured to a feeding station or herded toward the hunter to allow a close-range kill. In some of the preserves--Tioga denies it ever used these techniques--animals are drugged or tied to stakes. Some of the "big cats," recorded in investigative undercover videos by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fund for Animals were declawed, placed in cages, and then released; the terrified and non-aggressive animals were then killed within a few yards of their prisons; some were killed while in their cages.

           Canned hunts attract not only ethics-challenged pretend-hunters, but ethics-challenged celebrities as well. Among celebrities who have participated in canned hunts, and who mistakenly believe they are hunters and not cold-blooded killers, are Vice-President Dick Cheney, who has been on several hunts in which the kill was assured; and Troy Gentry of the country-rock duo, Montgomery Gentry.

           In December 2003, Cheney and nine of his friends--including former Naval Academy and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), and some Texas high-roller Republican party donors--went to the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pa., about an hour's drive east of Pittsburgh. The owners of the country club, being the good hosts they were, released 500 domesticated and penned-up ring-necked pheasants in the morning. Bird Dog and Retriever News reports that about 40 percent of all domesticated pheasants, if not shot by pretend-hunters, either starve or are killed by predators within the first week of their release; about 75 percent die within a month.

           At Ligonier, starvation wasn't a problem. A game keeper told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Cheney alone killed about 70 of the 417 killed that day. In the afternoon, having hardly raised a bead of sweat, the good ole boys slaughtered dozens, perhaps hundreds, of equally tame mallards that had been hand-raised and shoved in front of waiting shotguns for the massacre. No one kept score, but by the time Cheney flew out of the area, the mallards were plucked and vacuum-packed, according to the Post-Gazette, ready for flight aboard the taxpayer-funded Air Force 2. The pheasants the hunting party didn't keep, according to the Dallas (Texas) Morning News, were donated to a local food bank. However, no one involved indicated which food bank, nor did they acknowledge that preparing pheasant is cumbersome, and that such a donation, if it did occur, was probably more of a public relations ploy or a tax-deduction to justify their killing orgy than community service. Nor does any "donation" alleviate the reality that people in these non-challenging fenced-in grounds kill because they like the excitement of killing a live animal, often mixed with the sheer joy of watching their prey die. After awhile, the animals are seen only as things to be blasted, essentially living clay pigeons; it is an attitude that true sportsmen abhor.

           The owners of the country club didn't say how much, if anything, the Cheney Pot-Shot Safari paid, but others who go to the exclusive country club/canned preserve pay for each bird or duck killed. It's in the financial interest of the owners to make sure there's easy prey.

           Even easier prey was a black bear named Cubby. In October 2004, Troy Gentry, who had paid about $4,650 for the tame bear, killed it on a private "preserve" in Sandstone, Minn., and then tagged it as if the bear was killed in the wild. There was even an edited videotape of the "stalking" and killing by the singer who envisions himself to be an expert archer. There is no law against the murder of animals if done on private property. But, in August 2006, Gentry was in federal court to defend himself against a violation of the Lacey Act, which forbids the false tagging of any animal.

           Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), with 10 co-sponsors, introduced a bill (S. 304) in February 2005 to ban the interstate transport of exotic animals for the purpose of them being killed on private preserves. "There is nothing sportsmanlike or skillful about shooting an animal that cannot escape," said Lautenberg at the time he introduced the bill, and emphasized, "In an era when we are seeking to curb violence in our culture, canned hunts are certainly one form of gratuitous brutality that does not belong in our society." That bill is buried in the Senate's Subcommittee on the Judiciary. A companion bill (HR 1688), introduced in the House of Representatives by Sam Farr (D-Calif.), with 39 co-sponsors, is buried in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Under the Republican-controlled Congress, neither bill is likely to emerge from committee.

           For his part, President Bush wants to amend the Endangered Species Act to allow trophy-hunting Americans who kill endangered species in other countries to import them into the U.S. The proposal has roots in the Safari Club International; its political action committee has given about $800,000 in campaign contributions, mostly to Republican candidates, since 2000, according to an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. The plan has the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose former deputy director was chief lobbyist for the Safari Club before his appointment by Bush. He is now with the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

           Many of the animals on canned hunts are surplus animals bought from dealers who buy cast-off animals from zoos and circuses; the animals sold to the preserves are often aged and arthritic. Dozens of preserves have bought black bears, zebras, giraffes, lions, boars, and just about any species of animal the client could want, solely to be killed, photographed, and then skinned, stuffed, and mounted. Ralph Saggiomo's sheep may have come from a breeder in Missouri. The proprietors at Tioga, said Saggiomo, "were gracious, humane and helpful."

           Those "humane" proprietors are the Gee family, which believes their "preserve" is really a private farm. Like ones that grow alfalfa and corn. A 1,550 acre private farm--with a fenced-in area of about 150 acres to make that "sure shot" more probable. And, while people "from all over the world" are killing animals at Tioga, the "farm" operation provides significant "economic benefits" to the community, according to Michael Gee. There are 14 Pennsylvania farms and about 1,000 in the nation that the proprietors believe are the poster children for the Chambers of Commerce and, most certainly, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

           This particular "farm," according to its website, "features high success rate hunting, youth hunts, hunts with dogs, guided hunts, trophy hunts, Sunday hunting . . .  virtually any type of big game hunt you can imagine." Whatever "you can image" costs $70 a day for food and lodging, plus a kill fee and supplementary costs for skinning and mounting. Pay $595 and you can kill a Texas Dall ram, rocky mountain ram, or Corsican ram. Buffalo are at least $1,250. Elk bulls come for $2,000. And, just in case you have trouble killing one of the nation's 30 million white-tailed deer--1.6 million of them in Pennsylvania alone--during the bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, rifle, or shotgun seasons, just come to Tioga. For $1,000 "and up," you can get that elusive buck, with a 10-point rack suitable for mounting in your very own trophy room in suburban America. Tioga's rates are at the lower end of the scale. At other preserves, prices for white-tailed deer, with trophy-sized racks, can be more than $5,000. The costs for some of the exotic "trophy"-class animals, usually found only in sub-Saharan Africa, are well over $15,000.

           Tioga, like most preserves, guarantees a kill. The clients are told they "may hunt as long as you wish until you get what you wish." No hunting licenses are required, there are no limits, Sunday hunting is permitted, and "kills are usually made from 25 to 100 yards." This "farm" even tells prospective clients, "Wild goat and sheep with large horns are numerous. Hunting them is great sport for the hunter." The rocky mountain ram, with "their big, sweeping, curled horns make a great trophy," the Gee family tells prospective clients. Of course, there are some restrictions. No one under the age of 10 is allowed to shoot.

           Heidi Prescott, undoubtedly feeling like a peace activist in a convention of Army recruiters, was the only one at the House committee hearing who didn't fish, hunt, or had close ties to the hunting industry. Prescott is senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has a membership of 9.5 million, more than three times that of the National Rifle Association. Prescott showed members of the committee news stories and a separate undercover videotape of canned hunts. Before the hearing, Michael Gee had told a local newspaper that animal rights groups "just try to bring up extreme cases to prove their point," and use it as a "stepping stone" to ban hunting. "If she says anything in that video is from Tioga, that's a lie," Pete Gee, Michael's father, retorted to the undercover investigation by Emmy-winning investigative reporter Melanie Alnwick of WTTG-TV (Fox News), Washington, D.C. The news story--but not the videotape of the brutal killing of a boar, probably at another game preserve in Pennsylvania--was filmed in early May 2006 at Tioga, according to Aaron Wische, WTTG's executive producer for special projects.

           Most "kills" on the "farms" are from animals bleeding out. Animals suffer minutes to hours, says Prescott. Canned hunting, says Prescott, "is about as sporting as shooting a puppy in pet store window." Most sportsmen agree with her. The concept of the "fair chase" is embedded into hunter culture. The Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club (bowhunters), two of the three primary organizations that rate trophy kills, refuse to accept applications from persons who bagged their "trophy" on a canned hunt. The Safari Club does allow persons to seek recognition, but only under limitations that most preserves can't meet.

           Members of the committee weren't convinced that canned hunts need to be banned. Rep. Tina Puckett (R-Towanda) told a reporter before the hearing she believed banning the canned hunt "could be the beginning of an attempt to say `no preserve hunting,' which then leads to no hunting." She said she wouldn't favor the bill "because of those down-the-road concerns." Rep. Thomas Corrigan (D-Bucks County) says he submitted the bill, which carries 38 cosponsors, for consideration because canned hunts are "unsporting, cruel, and tarnish the image of all hunters."

           The House committee kept throwing pointed questions to Prescott; she adeptly batted them back.

           The bill that prohibits canned hunting would also be the first step to eliminating all hunting. Not so, said Prescott. Of the 22 states that already ban such practices, "the hunting culture is still strong." She pointed to Montana, which has one of the nation's strongest hunting cultures. In 2000, following a hunter-led initiative, it became the first state to ban canned hunts, reinforcing the values that true sportsmen believe in fair chase.

           The state's 900 deer and elk farms would be banned. The bill specifically excludes deer, elk, and all other cervidae.

           The bill would prohibit farmers or butchers from killing livestock for food. "No judge in his right mind would interpret it that way," retorted Prescott, who said the Humane Society "would be happy to work with representatives to amend it if members were truly concerned about it."

           Ralph Saggiomo, according to his official biography published by the Governor's Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing & Conservation, has a "love for the outdoors," and has "spent the greater part of his life enjoying the outdoors and has been able to pass his passion on to all of his children, who have become successful hunters, fishermen, and trappers. His grandchildren are now carrying on the tradition, which his father and grandfather passed on to him." Although still active in the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, if Saggiomo was a sportsman, he wouldn't have shot a domesticated animal that was lured into his sights and had no way to escape. If he truly understood the beauty and grandeur of the outdoors, he would have allowed animals to live their lives without the intrusion of people who kill not for food or clothing but because their hormones are infused with the ecstasy they get from the kill and the resultant "trophy," which he says now hangs in his den.

           [Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com. Readers may also wish to order Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rights Pioneer, by Julie Hoffman Marshall.]

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Part-Time Principles: The Rhetoric of the Bush Administration

by Walter Brasch

    George W. Bush says he believes in up-or-down votes. He proclaimed it shortly after his first inaugural, and included that belief in his 2005 State of the Union address, when he demanded that "every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote."

    A one-vote majority, says the President, should decide nominations and issues. He constantly talked about up-or-down votes in the Senate for the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N., for bills to ban gay marriages, to make it illegal to burn the flag, and almost every bill his administration proposed. His words were echoed by the Congressional leadership and by the evangelical fundamental Christian base.

    He disagrees with Senate rules, which require 60 votes to override a filibuster. The reason President Bush believes in the "up-or-down" theory of governance is because for most of his Administration he has had a Republican Congress willing to do whatever it takes to advance a neoconservative political and social agenda.

    Since President Bush believes in one-vote majorities, it shouldn't have been a problem for him to accept a 238-194 vote in the House and a 63-37 vote in the Senate to allow medical researchers to use stem cells from embryos, with their donors' consent, that would have been discarded by fertility clinics. About 400,000 frozen embryos are in clinics; a few will be "adopted" by mothers who have them implanted in their uteruses; most embryos will be thrown away.

    Embryonic stem cells are the basic building blocks of life, cells that will develop into any cell in the body, and are the key to learning more about life itself. Stem cell research could lead to cures for Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, numerous cancers, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. Nancy Reagan, whose husband's last years were spent in the fog of Alzheimer's, is a strong proponent of stem cell research.

    Almost seven months after his first inauguration, President Bush declared that the federal government would fund research only on stem cell lines that had already been developed, and not for any new ones. He equated the medical use of stem cells with murder, and threatened to veto any new legislation to expand stem cell research. His veto threats had worked on 141 other bills over a five and a half year period, as the Republican-controlled Congress meekly revised bills or eliminated them.

    This time, Congress--faced by the political reality that about 70 percent of Americans supported expanded stem cell research--didn't buckle. Fifty House Republicans broke from the White House legislative controls; in the Senate, nineteen Republicans and all but one Democrat voted for the bill. The President renewed his veto threat.
    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) had asked the President, "not to make the first veto of your presidency one that turns America backward on the party of scientific progress and limits the promise of medical miracles for generations to come." Bill Frist--heart surgeon, Senate majority leader, and one of the most active voices in pushing the Bush-Cheney agenda--also opposed the veto. "Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available," Dr. Frist said.

    But the president did veto the bill, and neither the House nor the Senate had the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto. The President's veto, said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is a "shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy, and ignorance." Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said he thought the President was "captured by his own ideology and taking his ideology to an extreme." Research, said Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) "will now continue in the private sector with insufficient funding and a lack of government oversight, all while millions of people wait for cures to devastating diseases.

    President Bush said in April 2002, "We have a moral imperative to protect the sanctity of life," and continued to throw "sanctity of life" in almost every speech or comment about stem cell research. At the time he explained his veto, he declared the bill--approved by significantly more than an "up-or-down" vote--"crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect."

    If the President honestly believed in a "moral boundary" and the "sanctity of life," he would not have exploited a couple of dozen "snowflake babies"--children born from implanted embryos--by using them as props in the East Room when he explained why he vetoed the bill.
    If George W. Bush understood moral boundaries and the sanctity of life, he would not have lied about the non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or the weapons of mass destruction he claimed were in Iraq in order to launch an invasion that has cost more than 2,500 American lives and caused injuries, many life-threatening, to another 18,000, in addition to 50,000-70,000 civilian deaths. He would not have decided that the Geneva Accords didn't apply to thousands of prisoners that his Administration confined in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and other prisons. If he had any kind of a "moral compass," he would have allowed prisoners to have due process, to be treated humanely, and not be subjected to "renditions," the transfer to secret prisons in countries that use torture.

    If this former non-combatant National Guard officer had any concern for humanity, he would not have ordered severe cuts in combat pay and family benefits for active duty military, proposed a $1.3 billion cut in veterans' benefits, and an increase in health care costs, while also pushing for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

    If he believed in a moral administration, he would not have allowed Halliburton, the financial empire once run by Dick Cheney, to continue to get several multi-million dollar no-bid contracts in New Orleans and Iraq after being exposed for price gouging and fraudulent business practices.

    If George W. Bush understood the meaning of the "sanctity of life," he would not have spent several minutes at a photo-op in Florida where he read "My Pet Goat" to children after being notified that the first plane had hit the Twin Towers. He would not have been embarrassingly slow and seemingly unconcerned to respond following the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake/tsunami in Southeast Asia or after Hurricane Katrina hit America's Gulf Coast.

    He would not have disregarded the ubiquitous warnings from the scientific community about global warming and the multitudinous pleas to preserve and defend the environment and all of its life. He would not have diverted funds for disaster relief, and cut back on health and welfare needs. He would not have placed political cronies into senior administrative positions in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and then cut that agency's funding for disaster response.

    If he believed in "morals," he would have cut all ties with his good buddy, "Kenny Boy" Lay, whose company cheated thousands of employees out of their pensions, while the executives were living in luxury.

    If the President of the United States was concerned about "morals" and the "sanctity of life," he would have condemned hunting and the gun lobby that was one of the primary contributors to his political campaigns. He would have condemned the spurious and vicious attacks upon Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2000 primary contest, and the Swift Boat attacks upon Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 general election.

    There is a lot that George W. Bush, who campaigned on promises to bring morality to the White House, could do to prove he is a moral leader, one who believes in the sanctity of life. But, his record, not his rhetoric, shows otherwise.

    [Walter Brasch's current books are America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and `Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu]

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