Friday, August 11, 2006

What It Means To Be An American

Today I want to talk about caring. We are bombarded by magnetic ribbons and bumper stickers that assert cutesy answers about what a "real' American is. Most commonly we are told to "Support our Troops" and that usually means "Keep your Mouth Shut", "Don't criticize the President", and "Eat Propaganda and Die".

As a critic of the Bush administration I get the message and let's be honest, those are the subliminal messages involved. But I see my responsibility as a public servant to include ensuring the system of democracy, opportunity, and rights works.

And I have to say that I'm ashamed of politicians like Joe Lieberman and Rob Simmons who serve on Armed Forces Congressional committees. They claim to care and have superior insider knowledge about military affairs and the power to ensure that the funds allocated are appropriated dispersed and expended.

Many years ago, mothers protesting the lack of funding for public education would advocate cutting the military budget and they chanted, "Let the Navy hold a bakesale for their next naval vessel like we have to do to supply our schools!"

Well, military budgets have never been higher. The amount of fraud involved just in the private sectors of these budgets is conservatively estimated at four billion dollars per year and reports of military contractors using bundles of hundred dollar bills to play football with in Iraq have a veracity.

And Tuesday, I had a conversation with a legislative aid who asked the same question I've been asking, "If Lieberman and Simmons sit on the very committees that regulate the armed services then why do they act surprised when the Groton Sub Base was targeted for extinction, when our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are being supplied with inferior equipment, and so on?"

To add insult to injury, Homeland Security funds are being used to accumulate data about potential terrorist targets. As Frank Rich and others have observed there is not a whit of common sense applied to this data. The Daily show visited a Roller Skating rink in Indiana deemed to be an equivalent terrorist target as the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact such accounting allowed Indiana to reap a lion's share of Homeland Security funding to protect petting zoos, roller skating rinks, and tag sales while big cities are starved to protect national monuments and infrastructure.

To come full circle, thanks to the insipid stupidity of our House and Congressional leaders, military families have been reduced to holding bake sales to adequately arm their sons and daughters. That's where this link will take you.

My thought is that instead of buying another magnetic ribbon you might want to order a pastry. These days schools aren't the only institution that begs for reform and funding.

Tags: funding, Rob Simmons, Lieberman, culture, education

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