Hints for Helpful Holly

Driving along the residential road that leads to my small town Wisconsin house the other day, I saw that someone had put an American flag at every corner. They were small flags, about two feet high, and at the base of each was a piece of paper. So, being a curious sort of person, I stopped and took one of the little postcard-sized papers and had a look at it.

"Support Our Troops," it read in blurry red letters. Below it, in blue, were the details of the departure of Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, presumably to Iraq, later this month. The note requests that we come to the university clock tower at 8 a.m. and "bring signs, banners or flags as a way to show our appreciation and to say 'thank you for your service to our country.'"

On the reverse side, under the words "compliments of," is stapled the business card of a real estate agent named Holly Wagner of Miller Real Estate and the words, "How can I help you?"

This is an open letter to Holly Wagner, to tell her how she can help me.

Dear Holly:

Thanks for your offer of help. We need a lot of help just now. Here's a list of some things that would be helpful.

First of all, Holly, I would find it helpful if you would not use the American flag to advertise your business. The flag means something serious to many of us, and using it for private profit is inappropriate. (Perkins Restaurants, please note.)

Second, it would help if you would stop trying to make a buck out of the war. I know that Halliburton and lots of other big companies are making billions on Iraq, so it must seem harsh that I'd complain about you trying to get a commission or two out of it. If I could talk to Halliburton about it, I would. The thing is, people get suspicious about your motives when you do something like that. Do you care more about the troops or about getting listings? As mentioned, you are not the only one with this problem.

Third, it would help our troops if you would be specific about what supporting them means. The Bush administration has cut VA funding, tried to cut combat pay, made Iraq troops on leave pay their own way home, even tried to cut combat death payments -- all this to finance tax cuts for his rich supporters. Yet most of the "support our troops" people seem to be Bush supporters who really mean "be in favor of the war." Make it clear, Holly, if you would, that the main person who needs to hear the words "support our troops" is George W. Bush.

Fourth, waving flags and banners as our troops go off to a pointless war is probably a bad idea. I wish them well. I hope they all come home safely. But I worry that flag-waving on the occasion of their departure would be interpreted as supporting, not the troops, but this completely misguided war and its utterly incompetent instigators in Washington. I would find it helpful, Holly, if you would organize a solemn sendoff that would impress on the people who, as they see the families of the soldiers in tears, understand what a sad mess Bush and his administration have gotten us into.

This is my answer to your question. I'm glad you want to help.


Bill O'Neill
Menomonie, Wis.

NBA Finals Lessons

What I Learned from the NBA Finals (Detroit 4-1 over L.A.): • That "little" people who get in shape, hustle and persevere can win;

• That blue-collar workers playing pristine ball can upset spoiled rich prima donnas;

• That reality can outshine glitter, despite all the PR to the contrary;

• That dynasties can fail and storied empires fall;

• That radical restructuring can occur at a moment's notice;

• That hard work, courage and initiative can create windows of opportunity;

• That, if we play cohesively as a team and contest every single possession, we can dominate;

• That, given the above, domestic regime change is inevitable.

PS: That Phil Jackson can now move on to his next incarnation, running in 2006 and becoming a US senator from Montana.

Paul Richards
Boulder, Mont.

(Richards is a former Montana legislator who now serves as a media consultant. See www.prmediaconsultants.com.)

TIF Tough on Taxpayers

To further explain the fraud in the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program in Missouri, discussed by Margot Ford McMillen ["Time for New Resolutions," 5/15/04 TPP]: It was sold as a means of redeveloping parts of North St. Louis that look like a war zone. It has been used to rebuild upscale shopping centers to make them more upscale. When the owners of the "Victor Roberts Building" in North St. Louis applied for a TIF to develop a shopping center around his building, he was turned down. They had to finance the development with their own money. (The banks turned them down also.) "Big Box" users of TIFs will occupy the land until the TIF runs out, then pick up and move to a new location with a new TIF. Thus they never pay property taxes and Missouri's schools and health care services get the short end of the stick.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.


Long ago I ceased to be astonished by human behavior, no matter how depraved. However, I must confess some surprise at the attack on John Kerry's war record. Dick Cheney made a particularly virulent speech at Westminster College labeling Kerry as anti-American among other things. Other sources have implied that there is something spurious about Kerry's wounds.

Logically, one would assume the administration would ignore this topic. After all, most of them managed to avoid military combat when it was their turn to serve. Cheney obtained five or six deferments and told the Washington Post, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service." Wolfowitz and Rove avoided the draft and Ashcroft obtained a teaching deferment. Through the auspices of wealthy and important patrons, George W. Bush was accepted by the Texas Air National Guard and never left stateside. While in the Guard, he disobeyed a direct order, normally a court martial offense, and [apparently] was absent without leave for some months, a federal crime.

These men not only willfully failed to do their duty then but are now shamelessly consigning young Americans to death and dismemberment while they pretend to be noble leaders in a war they initiated. The attack on Sen. Kerry is just one of many examples of their arrogance and contempt for the intelligence of the American people.

Shirley Neiman
Clinton, Iowa

Fix Voting

The 6/14/04 Business Week's series of articles on "Does Your Vote Matter" makes clear the need to fix our broken voting system now, before Nov. 2. Our democratic form of government is at stake! The recent Republican redistricting of congressional election districts in state legislatures is the culprit. (See page 66, "Pushing the envelope.") Please read the entire set of articles.

I am writing to alert you ... to advocate action now, this year. We have 4-1/2 months before Nov. 2 to restore the original [congressional] election districts of 2000. Challenge Tom DeLay in the state and federal courts. Make him accountable.

The 10-year redistricting rule must be made into law. It must not be undermined. It is an orderly process made to protect our state legislators, by securing their terms of office, to maintain stability in the legislature.

If the Republicans get away with their recent redistricting efforts this year, unchallenged by the Democrats and the public, they will intensify and consolidate their usurpt powers, win the presidential election and make the problem of reform more difficult to correct in the future.

It is better to act now than to have blood in the streets!

Florence Zander
Guilford Conn.

Make Outrage Last

Living with outrage over the torture at Abu Ghraib has put a strain on the psyche, but for some it was a culmination of perpetual outrage felt since President George W. took office. However we manage to cope with our outrage, we need to remember Abu Ghraib.

The focus on humiliation incurred by the assault on Iraqis' cultural prohibitions against nudity and homosexuality has distracted us from reports of physical harm to prisoners, as well as deaths and "disappearances" that occurred.

A photo in the 5/17/04 New Yorker shows Army dogs being held by American military dog handlers, threatening a naked prisoner; he is reportedly appearing in subsequent photos bleeding from wounds on his thigh and leg.

In the 5/31/04 New Yorker article, "Among the Settlers: Will They Destroy Israel?" by Jeff Goldberg, he reports visiting an organization called Jewish Legion, which is "training dogs to guard settlements in case of an Israeli Army pullout." The director of the program says, "The Arabs are very scared of dogs. Muslims think they're unclean." This was surely known by whoever ordered the use of dogs to torture Iraqis.

Jews remember the Holocaust; Vietnamese remember My Lai; Japanese remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Germans remember Dresden. Iraqis will remember Abu Ghraib. We, too, must remember it.

Byrna Weir
Rochester, N.Y.

US Needs Progressive Plan

After reading your editorial, "Dems Need a Plan" [6/15/04 TPP], I have what seems an obvious question. All of the points raised in your editorial are and have been addressed by presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich. Nader and Kucinich are the only candidates that are expressing the progressive agenda. Ralph and Dennis speak for me and millions of other progressives.

If you are looking for a progressive Democratic candidate why not Dennis Kucinich, the progressive Democratic candidate for president in 2004? ...

Kerry is a good man but he is another Corporate Democrat with a corporate agenda. I am not interested in voting for a "kinder, gentler" George W. Bush!

Why isn't your paper more responsive to the campaigns of these two heroic leaders, Nader and Kucinich? We need to support the candidates that most closely voice our views. This "beat Bush at any cost" is simply a way to silence our collective progressive voice.

Regis McCann, Green
West Hurley, N.Y.

Dems Not Progressive

I believe it is wrong to spread the illusions of Arianna Huffington et al that Democrats are a progressive alternative to the reactionary policies of the Republicans. Haven't we learned from the debacles of Mondale, Dukakis, Humphrey and other weasels that people like them and Kerry are incapable of a progressive agenda while accepting corporate bribes masked as contributions? Give it up, already.

John Briggs
Eagle River, Wis.

Editor Replies: We endorsed Kucinich in the Democratic primary, but noted that Kerry would be an acceptable alternative. Democratic voters pretty clearly made their choice. We wish Kerry would come out more forcefully for withdrawal from Iraq, as we wish Democrats would be more progressive and populist, but in a race against Bush, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist our choice is clear. This is not a year for protest votes.

Show Some Vision

Maybe I was spoiled by Howard Dean, who used his head but spoke from the gut. Over and over I am seeing people mourning that Kerry's campaign is lackluster and I have to agree. He needs to show some ideas that distinguish him from the W (stands for "whodunit?").

When Guantanamo was in the news, we needed him to say that these people should have legal recourse -- the American way, after all.

Now that we're coming up on June 30, we need him to offer an actual solution to Iraq -- divide it into the three lands that the European colonialists threw together in one border. I am sure that the people of Kurdistan, Sunni Iraq and Shiastan could work out their security and policies much better than them foreigners.

As far as the gas prices -- don't suggest we use our strategic reserves that are for an emergency. How about let's start making our own Prius and other gas-efficient cars, like Kerry once rode to a rally in. How about tax breaks for those companies and owners as an incentive to beat Bush and his oil cronies!

We need somebody to beat Bush who has ideas and shows it, who clearly shows it to the American people. Stop worrying about losing votes and start worrying about getting some. Don't be the negative bad guy, but be the positive hero and leader that we all need instead.

John Baringer
Tucson, Ariz.

Stop Profiteering

The high price of gasoline hasn't yet changed my driving habits or plans, but it has already changed my other discretionary spending -- and it has definitely changed my attitude toward our elected officials, despite the fact that escalating fuel costs, driven by OPEC supply-manipulation and profiteering and price gouging by unscrupulous oil companies and refineries, are the primary inflation-drivers that will soon stifle our consumer-driven economic recovery. President Bush and his puppet congressional leadership have stubbornly refused to help consumers in their urgent time of need. Corporate pirates gouge us because they can, because congressional oversight is blind. ... Unfair pricing of energy and prescription drugs are the cruelest possible "tax" to impose on seniors. There's nothing "compassionate" about gouging the elderly.

Tom Austin
Cleveland, Ohio

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