This Thing Called Courage

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Bush Cover-Ups

THIS STORY HAS BEEN GETTING MORE AND MORE ATTENTION lately, and deservedly so. Just what happened to Pat Tillman, the former NFL star who, with his brother, signed up to go fight in Vietnam? Duid the fact that he erad Norm Chomsky and allegedly have an appointment with him have anything to do with his death? More importantly, WHY is president Bush claiming 'Executive Privelege' in refusing to release the truth? Can we impeach yet?

This appeared originally on the Huffington Post, and is written by a veteran. Some comments from readers appear after Mr. Stolz' article.

The Huffington Post

Time for President to Come Clean on TillmanPosted July 28, 2007 | 11:09 AM (EST)


Read More: Breaking Politics News, Pat Tillman, White House, Noam Chomsky

The worst way you can further exacerbate the pain survivors of a fallen soldier feel, is to keep them wondering why and how their loved one died. Now past three years since former NFL star Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan, his mother, Mary Tillman, and her family do not have answers. Unfortunately, documents meant to put the investigation into his death to rest are only bringing up more painful questions, rather than calming them. What's worse is that the case could start to have serious repercussions with internal confidence in the Armed Forces.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that among the files on the case that the news agency obtained were details of Army medical examiners being unable to convince the military to look into whether Tillman was intentionally killed. According to the documents, the wounds they found were inconsistent with the government's original official story that Tillman was cut down by Afghan fighters and looked more like he was killed by an American M-16 just a mere 10 yards away.

After an investigation, the government changed the story -- that Tillman was a victim of friendly fire, an honest mistake, because he was mistaken for the enemy. The recent revelations now cast this conclusion into serious doubt. You don't mistake someone from 10 yards away. But, was it murder or negligence? Was this a deliberate homicide?

President Bush is not helping at all. With these new details, and his decision to invoke executive privilege in the Tillman investigation, the president is certainly sending the signal that he has something to hide.

It is inevitable, then, that unless the president comes clean, rumors about Tillman's death will take hold. By stonewalling, there is no way to stop people from wondering, "Was the man the White House used to promote the war ordered to be killed because he was becoming increasingly critical of the war in Iraq?" It was well known that Tillman was critical of the decision to go to war, and had often read and quoted Noam Chomsky. I don't personally believe such a conspiracy to be the case, but until the president comes clean, rumors like that will continue to grow. Every officer knows that if a soldier in their command is killed they must write the family and tell them the truth, for exactly that reason. Why can't the man who sent Pat Tillman to war, and used his death for political gain, have the courage to tell a family what happened to their son?

Ultimately, besides causing unfair pain to the Tillman family, the president is perilously close to doing severe damage to the military with his bullheadedness. If America looks at the Tillman case and concludes that the military cannot be trusted to tell the truth and take care of its own, and that the White House is an enabler of that behavior, public confidence in our fine military will wane.

Recruiters rely on the family members like mothers and fathers to allow their 18-year olds to sign up. The longer this festers and the longer questions linger, these families and our young people will lose their will to serve our country. Who gives their child to country that doesn't honor their sacrifice? We don't need new hurdles to recruiting like that, at a time when we desperately need to increase the size of our active duty component. Additionally, those already in the military will lose faith that the leadership actually gives a damn about them, as the Tillman case becomes a hot topic in chow halls. Morale and confidence in the institution will crumble.

In the Army, we have a saying: Good units have problems, but great units fix them. In other words, we're largely judged in the military by how we are able to step up, accept responsibility, and correct problems, because problems that are allowed to fester are unacceptable. Unfortunately, the Tillman case just extends the pattern from this president of being unwilling or unable to step up and fix problems.

In that sense, this president, everyday, firms up his legacy as the worst Commander-in-Chief this nation has ever seen.

(Crossposted at ThinkProgress)

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wolf58 (See profile | I'm a fan of wolf58)
You are asking a man with no honor, no sense of duty to country to come clean. We know that wont happen, everything and everybody is to blame in Bush land all except Bush. This man uses the military when ever he feels the need for a photo op, the American public don't know that military who attend his speaches are ordered too nor do most know they can't say anything about the commander in chief because he is part of their chain of command. Tillman's family may never know the truth about their son but one thing is for sure with Bush claiming once again executive privilege the rummors will fly and fingers will be pointed. Our leader (king Bush)is a fool and we as Americans are bigger fools by keeping him in office. A veteran
Log in | posted 11:27 am on 07/28/2007
dadw5boys (See profile | I'm a fan of dadw5boys)
Bush clean?
You couldn't get Bush clean with a sandblaster!
Let BUSH and CHENY take Tillman place with that same SQUAD and see if they survive!
Log in | Parent | posted 04:25 pm on 07/28/2007
CaseyBabes (See profile | I'm a fan of CaseyBabes)
How easy it is to take every problem faced in this world and turn it around to blame President Bush. An honorable man was killed in Afghanistan and the circumstances came into dispute. Then the dispute was clouded by various bad decisions and indecisiveness. What eventually became a settled case has again been raised. Nowhere in this chain has President Bush been directly involved, maybe back channel to try to get a bona fide settlement. Now we read that it is all President Bush's fault and that his failed leadership endangers the entire military. What has happened to the fiber of this country that a learned individual can forcefully intend to influence others with such cockamany? What is hard to accept is the realization there is a willing dem following of diseased minds clinging to every venomous passage. Indeed, President Bush must be responsible for protecting this country against a shadowy enemy while at the same time resisting the strong undermining of his efforts from the very dangerous and out of control democrat party.
Log in | Parent | posted 04:40 pm on 07/28/2007
Independent_voter (See profile | I'm a fan of Independent_voter)
Bush could defuse this entire issue by releasing the documents relating to Tillman's loss. But fearless leader would rather hide under the cloak of darkness than have the American People know the truth.

If it is the case that the truth will set you free, and all we get out of the whitehouse is BushShit and obfuscation; then where are we? It is time to demand accountablity.

Bush makes Nixon look like an honorable man.

Log in | Parent | posted 05:38 pm on 07/28/2007
cato12345678 (See profile | I'm a fan of cato12345678)

My spirit told me long ago that Tillman was murdered. The author of this article, Jon Soltez, may not be willing to believe Tillman was murdered but of course he is voicing the unspoken thoughts of even the Congressman who are currently investigating Tillman’s death.

C'mon, the group of soldiers are ordered into a barrel like canyon, via radio by an officer that is not with the group; despite the commander on the ground request that they turn back because one of their vehicles conveniently dies and it leaves the group unprotected; the Tillman brothers are then separated I believe Tillman's younger brother's group stayed with the vehicle and later followed behind so that left Tillman at the mercy of whomever was gunning for him.

When Tillman’s unit began getting fired upon from the top of the canyon and Tillman and an Afghan interpreter (who was also killed) had some how made their way further up the canyon away from their unit, then they were fired upon by their own unit according to CNN. Tillman yelled and was heard by other soldiers, including one inside the tank that was firing on him, and that soldier tried to stop the gunner on top of the tank but the gunner ignored the solider inside of the tank and of course killed both Tillman and their Afghan interpreter.

Then the cover-up begins with even Tillman's diary being destroyed and that’s where Noam Chomsky comes in because supposedly some of Tillman’s thoughts and plans to meet Noam Chomsky were recorded in that diary, and for some reason the soldiers felt compelled to burn that diary along with Tillman’s body.

As long as President Bush keeps covering things up, then yes, he's responsible for Tillman's death.
Log in | Parent | posted 07:05 pm on 07/28/2007
simpleshepard (See profile | I'm a fan of simpleshepard)
You sir are simply deluded to believe that Bush does not know exactly what happened to Pat Tillman. The only party that has been dangerous and out of control has been the Republican party that has dragged us into Iraq turned it's back on constitutional accountability and given the likes of you and your blood-thirsty counterparts a free hand to wreck havoc and destruction on a country that had nothing at all to do with terrorism. Osama Bin Laden is still at large. We have nearly 200,000 mercenaries at work in Iraq who are also accountable to no one. When the Democrats go out of control they end up taking care of too many poor people and overdoing it on cleaning up pollution and maybe stopping a real ethnic cleansing like Serbia. When the Republicans loose control we have Katrina, The Iraq War, an insane right wingnut stacked Superior Court, rampant abuse of the Judicial system, LIes, Lies and more Lies, Cronyism, neglect of true national security in the way of not following any of the recommendations made by the 911 commission, selling off of public land, Halliburton stealing from the American people, more Lies, obfuscation and secretism from the White House, hundreds of thousands of people dead, and people like you walking around and saying anyone who calls you out on your Bushshit is unpatriotic. I'll take a Democrat over one of your type of Rethuglicans any day of the week. You guys are over. Your out of shape we can kick your asses in any sport, we are smarter than you and we get laid a lot more than you without ever having to pay for it. You guys are just a bunch of BBQ loving, gun guzzling, sore losers, whinners and baby-men. If Bush and you guys weren't to blame than everybody wouldn't be blaming you.
Log in | Parent | posted 08:41 pm on 07/28/2007
baylaw73 (See profile | I'm a fan of baylaw73)
"What is hard to accept is the realization there is a willing dem following of diseased minds clinging to every venomous passage."
Whatever truth may be in the point you are trying to make, this kind of wild accusation and vitriolic language is as much a part of the problem as anything. Accusing the Democrats of undermining Bush is just foolish. It reeks of paranoia, and I'm sure if you had valid points and facts to back them up, you could find a less destructive way of expressing yourself. The fact that we cannot acheive consensus that Bush is a terrible, TERRIBLE President is itself a shame. Policy argumetns are not the same as arguing the implementation of the policy, and it is beyond reasonable argument that Bush's implementation has been a disaster. Unless one is willing to ignore the truth.
Log in | Parent | posted 01:56 pm on 07/29/2007

AnotherunhappyDemocrat (See profile | I'm a fan of AnotherunhappyDemocrat)
"Why can't the man who sent Pat Tillman to war, and used his death for political gain, have the courage to tell a family what happened to their son?"

Because your commander-in-chief is a coward! Pure and simple! Bush is a coward! And anyone who believes that Bush, Cheney and the rest of these cowards care about the men and women dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a fool.

Impeachment now!
Log in | posted 11:38 am on 07/28/2007
AsaNisMasa (See profile | I'm a fan of AsaNisMasa)
you know what? i don't want to sound like a conspiracy nut...but this has the makings and just feels like a murder/coverup to shutup a dissident and use him for propoganda purposes.

first you have to ask yourself, is this something that COULD be ordered the DoD under Rumsfeld or even higher up? is it plausible to make the leap from accident to murder with what we know about the powers that be? I don't think its a stretch at all to come to that conclusion.

Furthermore, its not as if this kind of thing is unheard of from our own government. From the Tuskeegee expirements to supporting coups, assassinations of foreign leaders (South Vietnam during the war, anyone?) Agent Orange, etc.

Log in | posted 11:54 am on 07/28/2007
kellygrrrl (See profile | I'm a fan of kellygrrrl)
I've already made the leap from accident to murder and am just shy of the leap to conspiracy. This gives me chills!
Log in | Parent | posted 02:28 pm on 07/28/2007
foghornleghorny (See profile | I'm a fan of foghornleghorny)
This administration would conspire to disenfranchise just one voter or to discredit just one democratic politician.
It's what they do all day - conspire to find ways to maintain the illusion of governance through lies, stonewalling, and cronyism.
Who's going to rat on this administration when they are begin promoted and/or given fat contracts?
Log in | Parent | posted 03:07 pm on 07/28/2007
Independent_voter (See profile | I'm a fan of Independent_voter)
You only have to look at Operation Northwoods to see what the pentagon is truly capable of.
Log in | Parent | posted 05:40 pm on 07/28/2007
MetalCanuck (See profile | I'm a fan of MetalCanuck)
You are right, people like to ignore reality as you can see by cons and libs.
Log in | Parent | posted 07:30 pm on 07/28/2007
illinoisan (See profile | I'm a fan of illinoisan)
I don't go in for conspiracy theories normally but the link in paragraph 4 to for the "decision to invoke executive privilege for the Tillman investigation" is broken.

How convenient.
Log in | Parent | posted 06:32 pm on 07/28/2007
Colmore (See profile | I'm a fan of Colmore)
Tillman was famous. Imagine if he had been a working class family's son. They would have had to accept the original report, with no protest or investigation. I have had two husbands who were in the military, one awarded the Purple Heart. He wanted to send it back to Washington, having lost faith in this country's "leaders" When military men such as Colin Powell "go along to get along" and do not have the courage to step up to the plate, refusing to do the right thing, the country is doomed. Powell read his speech to the UN, threw it down said "This is bulls--t" but was convinced to go read it anyway, only with Tenet along. Where are the courageous leaders the country used to have? Does this administration blackmail people? It seems to be the only explanation for what is going on.
Log in | posted 12:08 pm on 07/28/2007
raptor (See profile | I'm a fan of raptor)
If you see any statesmen (no, not politicians) on the skyline, call out and let off a flare.
Log in | Parent | posted 02:54 pm on 07/28/2007
Danny (See profile | I'm a fan of Danny)
"Does this administration blackmail people? It seems to be the only explanation for what's going on". To me, also IT SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY EXPLANATION FOR WHAT'S GOING ON.
Log in | Parent | posted 05:30 pm on 07/28/2007
ebbtide (See profile | I'm a fan of ebbtide)
Recruiters rely on the family members like mothers and fathers to allow their 18-year olds to sign up. The longer this festers and the longer questions linger, these families and our young people will lose their will to serve our country. Who gives their child to country that doesn't honor their sacrifice? We don't need new hurdles to recruiting like that, at a time when we desperately need to increase the size of our active duty component.

I agree with most of your statement, except the above. Parents need to learn to NOT turn over their precious child to serve a country which is actively fascist and is now defending it's "empire", not the United States. This aggressiveness led us to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 1 with it's own lies and now this f **ck up where our troops, being brave and noble, have killed, either from the air or on the ground, hundreds of thousands of damn innocent people on LIES Do you really think parents who are the least bit interested should turn over their child to this type of empire seeking? And call it something like "patriotic" or "noble" ?
Log in | posted 12:16 pm on 07/28/2007
dryfactoidobotanoid (See profile | I'm a fan of dryfactoidobotanoid)

the hitmen shot him in the leg and the hand first, then walked up to him and "fragged" him in the forehead. definitely an execution, assassination, murder, whatever you want to call it.

and it's ridiculous what some people are saying, that he was killed out of "jealousy" (wtf?), or talking jive or whatever, like that's not part of military culture.
Log in | posted 12:22 pm on 07/28/2007
Soulsurfer (See profile | I'm a fan of Soulsurfer)
Thanx for the YouTube link, I knew I had seen that report somewhere the last week or so.....MSM just doesn't get it. Check out all of Greg Palast's reports in the BBC, Guardian and Observer over the years, that nary a whisper finds its way to the American press. Once I started traveling extensively, and reading foreign press and news services, it really opened my eyes. No wonder Americans are so ignorant about what their government does in their name. How do you combat ignorance on this kind of a scale, especially from people who don't want to know if their country is screwing foreign people and governments?
Log in | Parent | posted 01:29 pm on 07/28/2007
fetchezlavache (See profile | I'm a fan of fetchezlavache)
The Bushies are forever exhorting us to Support Our Troops. Let us support them, and the military as a whole, by demanding the truth of this tragedy. There is NO reason for Bush to claim executive privilege in this matter unless he is covering up something very, very serious. And any parent who encourages his or her child to enlist at the present time is just not paying attention to the way our brave and patriotic enlistees have been treated. The military is one of the most honorable vocations; wait to join up until it is treated as such by our national "leaders".
Log in | posted 12:24 pm on 07/28/2007
Joeseo (See profile | I'm a fan of Joeseo)
Looks like murder to me. Executive privilege? My God! This liar hasn't any integrity.

Tillman was a REAL American. A real American would scare the living shit out of fascists like Bush/Cheney and the so called "leaders" of the Pentagon. It sure looks like these guys turned to cowardice and lies in response to a genuine American.
Log in | posted 12:43 pm on 07/28/2007
lisakaz (See profile | I'm a fan of lisakaz)
This president have courage?! Are you kidding? He's a bully and he doesn't recognize truth nor honor it. Secrecy is everything to him.

You're right that it is the duty of this administration to tell a mother why her son died and to say so truthfully. What you need to add is that by not honoring this sacred trust, Bu$h looks like either a conspirator after-the-fact or the perp who ordered a "hit." We don't know which one he is yet but I hope Congress can shine the full light of day on this. The Tillmans and all of America deserve to know and any guilty parties deserve to be exposed and severely punished. One demotion just doesn't cut it.
Log in | posted 01:05 pm on 07/28/2007
ReasonIsMyReligion (See profile | I'm a fan of ReasonIsMyReligion)
Per recently released Army coroner info:

No evidence of enemy fire on US equipment or other men.

Three shots to the forehead, similar to what a high rate-of-fire assualt weapon would do AT CLOSE RANGE.

Log in | posted 01:14 pm on 07/28/2007
doneflyin (See profile | I'm a fan of doneflyin)
This guy was fragged, pure and simple.
For propaganda purposes, because he was going public with his opposition to the war, because they could, who knows.
His family stated that he had corresponded with Chomsky and the NeoCons hate Chomsky.

He was taken out. Don't put anything, I mean anything past these thugs who want to rule America.
Pelosi said awhile back that we only know about 10% of what they have been up to.
What is known is only the tip of a very large iceburg.
Log in | posted 01:25 pm on 07/28/2007
jimmyaj (See profile | I'm a fan of jimmyaj)
Bush will never come clean on anything. That's why we need impeachment, to bring all this stuff out.
Log in | posted 01:31 pm on 07/28/2007
Soulsurfer (See profile | I'm a fan of Soulsurfer)
The doctor was suspicious of the closeness of the 3 bullet holes in his head, fired from close proximity. HMMMMMMM, yes, since they were M-16 rounds, that could be termed as suspicious.
Log in | posted 01:32 pm on 07/28/2007
SheepleShepherd (See profile | I'm a fan of SheepleShepherd)
Log in | posted 01:32 pm on 07/28/2007
jmpurser (See profile | I'm a fan of jmpurser)
That's the problem of having a president in favor of torture "when it's for a good cause". Apparently Bush decided that lying to the Tillmans was "for a good cause" therefore torturing them over their son's death is all part of the game.
Log in | posted 01:36 pm on 07/28/2007
bullypulpit (See profile | I'm a fan of bullypulpit)
Tillman was a gung ho type who pissed off his fellow soldiers, so one or more of them fragged him. Same stuff took place in Vietnam. His death was no accident.
Log in | posted 01:37 pm on 07/28/2007
Danny (See profile | I'm a fan of Danny)
An investigation revealed that Pat Tillman was well-liked, respected and admired by his fellow soldiers. Go away, you BullyPulpit hate mongerer.
Log in | Parent | posted 05:33 pm on 07/28/2007
ReasonIsMyReligion (See profile | I'm a fan of ReasonIsMyReligion)
Lying and dying.
Lying and dying.
Lying and dying.

At the current rate, 1500 - 2000 more Americans will die in Iraq by the end of El Busho's reign.

*** Support the Troops -- Impeachment NOW ***
Log in | posted 01:53 pm on 07/28/2007
BuckBurris (See profile | I'm a fan of BuckBurris)
Lying and dying, OK.
But the ones lying aren't dying,
and the ones dying aren't lying.
Those lying aren't even crying.
And some are laughing all the way to the bank.
Halliburton, anyone?
Record oil profits. And our favorite friend is happy.
Are you some kind of anti-American that you object?

Log in | Parent | posted 06:49 pm on 07/29/2007
sheila (See profile | I'm a fan of sheila)
no disrespect, but hunh?

good lord, darlin', your loyalty is commendable, i guess, but ain't it time the blinders come off?

you and your compatriots have been consistently lied to about the reasons for "war"; denied the manpower and equipment required to survive an illegal misguided war, waged only to enrich bush's cronies (including the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia who coincidentally is spending $20 billion of its hard-earned-market-manipulated oil dollars with US arms dealers, in order to arm the insurgents murdering your friends); had most of the money that could have gone into protecting you flow to mercenaries who earn 3 times your salary with no accountability; been abused and neglected by the VA system; been exploited as a symbol of this despicable conflict, by linking support for troops with support for the Imperial Presidency and its killing/profit machine; been assassinated when your agenda does not suit that of Halliburton/Exxon/etc.; been grossly endangered by the lowering of recruitment standards, over-extended deployments and pathetically inadequate training given new recruits, not to mention the lack of assistance for those among you human enough to suffer PTSD; been asked to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians against the will of the American people, purely for the profits and power-trips of the looney draft-dodgers in the white house; i mean, need i go on?

we hardly need more "confidence" in recruitment or in the military industrial complex, which recently has only fought to enrich America's elite, harming real Americans. at what point does our military stand up for what is right and just and everything that is good about America and say "enough already! you are not a commander-in chief, you are a draft-dodging, war-profiteering traitor who should be put on trial for war crimes and racketeering. the military exists solely to protect America from her enemies, and you, sir are Enemy Number One."

or has Pat Tillman's assassination succeeded in silencing the thinking folks in the military, lest they be shot in the back, too?
Log in | posted 01:53 pm on 07/28/2007
LaC (See profile | I'm a fan of LaC)
Fact check. Tillman was shot 3 times by a 223 in the head and NOT IN THE BACK.
Log in | Parent | posted 03:26 pm on 07/28/2007
sheila (See profile | I'm a fan of sheila)
uh, gee, that really contributes to the conversation. it was metaphorical for the cowardly, back-stabbing nature of the shooting. it wasn't meant to be a forensics report.
Log in | Parent | posted 06:41 pm on 07/28/2007
jashu51 (See profile | I'm a fan of jashu51)
This murder theory is really not out of the question. After all, Tillman kept a diary (maybe should call it a journal, diary might be considered "girly") and that journal was never supposedly found and returned to the family as it should have been. Where did it go---especially if it was critical of the war?
Log in | posted 01:54 pm on 07/28/2007
brotherjonah (See profile | I'm a fan of brotherjonah)
Neither Diaries nor Journals are permitted in war zones, since World War 2. If he did, it would be considered illegal.

There's a reason for it, if your diary is taken off your dead body, and you have descriptions of all the places you've been recently (like in the previous year or two) then you also have a nice chronological list of where your DIVISION has been.

But, yeah, it still gets done, a good question on that issue would be: with Tillman being shot like that, and Dr Laura Schlesinger's son posting what he did to YouTube and MySpace, would that be the REAL reason YouTube and MySpace are off the menu on the .mil servers?

Because Dr. Laura's son has been one of the "poster child" icons for the far right as well.

Also these things were what broke the Haditha story.
Log in | Parent | posted 04:34 pm on 07/28/2007
gwr72 (See profile | I'm a fan of gwr72)
Isn't it time for some for men and women of honor from both sides of the congress to finally say enough is enough. We have allowed this adminstration to lie, cheat and steal from the American people. Party loyality be damn, we are dangerously close to destroying America and even the world. Nothing this stupid, arrogant president proposes or does surprises.
Log in | posted 02:09 pm on 07/28/2007
MasterPierpont (See profile | I'm a fan of MasterPierpont)
Log in | posted 02:19 pm on 07/28/2007
KeysDan (See profile | I'm a fan of KeysDan)
It seems that many are concerned with being labeled a conspiracy nut, but from the little we do know there is a conspiracy of silence (a secret agreement to keep silent about a situation to protect self-interests). The changing of stories, the medical report, the immediate burning of the uniform, the stonewalling by the military and the Bush administration, infer a conspiracy. The depths and reasons for this conspiration are what remains to be discovered. Let's not give "conspiracy" a bad name, but rather, let's seek to determine the underlying wrongful acts perpetrated by many in secret agreement.
Log in | posted 02:19 pm on 07/28/2007
waiguoren (See profile | I'm a fan of waiguoren)
Why must you who comment on all these atrocities always feel compelled to make certain you get in a phrase such as "our fine military" or somesuch?
Ae you afraid you'll not be considered properly patriotic if you fail to do so?

Log in | posted 02:27 pm on 07/28/2007
PapaJim (See profile | I'm a fan of PapaJim)
There most certainly is a conspiracy regarding the death of Pat Tillman. What is not yet known to his family and the general public is just how ugly the conspiracy is and how far up the chain of command it goes.

Yes, people do comment on the quality of our military. And yes, sometimes it is to avoid being labeled unpatriotic. More often though it is to draw a clear distinction between the war and the warrior.

One can be very supportive of the troops fighting and dying in our name and still be completely against the war. Your questions demonstrate your inability to comprehend the concept.

Log in | Parent | posted 04:36 pm on 07/28/2007
waiguoren (See profile | I'm a fan of waiguoren)
Here's a concept for you:
So long as you buy into the absurdity that the "troops" are "fighting and dying in our name," that's exactly how long you remain quite the deceived young whippersnapper, deluded into imagining he can indeed tell the dancer from the dance.
Log in | Parent | posted 05:41 pm on 07/28/2007
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Scanning/Interesting Pics

I'VE BEEN PLAYING WITH THE SCANNER AGAIN. I try to do a few every week out of the hundreds of pics hanging around. There are three here, one of Fionn (this was actually a pic taken with my phone, but I really like the Camera Obscura effect of it. As usual, Fionn was moving, so it's somewhat blurred-- how is it that abstract art really does abstract the meaning of something? There's something about Fionn in this photo that captures a part of his personality that I don't think would come out in straight representation. His sensitivity and vulnerability, perhaps, his yearning to be utterly loved and with his people at all times-- a side of him few others see, in his exuberance at meeting new people or seeing old friends.)

The second is an artsy photo of myself, taken down in Florida a couple of years ago.

The third is a picture of Precious Angel Biscuit (his official name), who always kept a good eye on me while I was gardening, as he is doing in this photo from a few years back. It's still amazing to me how varied dogs' personalities are, one from the other. It's like there is one great personality in the universe, and everything ever born is a small piece of that greater 'everything-ness.' Biscuit was so multi-faceted-- an old soul one moment, a frisky puppy the next, despite his age (he came to me when he was 8 or 9 or 10, they estimated, after a very abusive past in New York City, where he was found wandering the streets of Manhattan, and subsequently rescued at the eleventh hour from the Center for Animal Care and Control, a kill shelter for dogs picked off the streets of Gotham. My feeling is that Biscuit was very well taken care of for a good part of his life, and then he somehow became separated from his human-- either through death or getting lost or something. Quite placid and stoic at times, at others he absolutely refused to budge when one crossed some inner line-- for example, when we tried to put him in a crate for the ride home from the shelter on the first day I got him. It got so bad he was injuring himself inside the crate, going absolutely balistic. Other times (when my step-father John picked him up once from the Vet's) he walked right into a crate-- as he did overnight in Maine when Bobby and Missy were minding him and their dogs went to bed in their crates at night. In trying to mail Biscuit down wigth mere words, I feel like Karen Blixen writing about Finch-Hutton ("I am writing about him last, because he was the hardest, the most difficult, to understand...") in that there was so much to Biscuit. He was my fourth dog, but the first one who really made me appreciate his existence as a separate being, another nation of being, separate and utterly unknowable, and yet connected utterly connected to my own-- for a time. And yet, I still dream about him, at least once a week. There was more to him, and more to our relationship, than I could ever express. I feel I could write about him forever, and yet never hit the mark. He was a piece of God, a piece of the universe, and blind me gropping out with my hands to touch him, to know him, and yet never really knowing the all of him-- only loving him, and missing him still. It's not quite like that with Fionn-- though I love Fionn no less. Biscuit was deeper somehow, as if he'd been here many times before, and knew things I could never hope to. Despite his affection for me, there was an aloofness that only the wild creatures have-- how he had that, I don't know. Perhaps it was somehting he developed in his time on the streets.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rockport Part II

SO WE WENT TO UNCLE MARTIN'S GALLERY in Rockport, which is called An Artful Hand, and they have some really lovely things there, including these great windmill statues for the garden (very unusual) and pottery and jewelry and, of course, art (see pic of one of Uncle Martin's watercolors above, of a castle in Ireland-- he used to go to Ireland a few times a year to paint and give lessons.) Martin's daughter Margaret wasn't there yesterday, but a very nice gentleman named Donald Stroud was, manning the place. We ended up having a great chat and he wanted to know about my books, so I told him, and he is going to get them. My Mom got some earrings there. Then we mosied back down the street and treated ourselves to home-made ice cream, and hung out at the ice cream shop's outdoor cafe tables. Then we hit a store called 'Provence,' a delightful little emporium selling things Francais-- soap, dishes, linens, music, prints, etc. I got some lavender soap for Mom and had a nice chat with the nice lady there.

Before we had started yesterday morning, I got on the net and researched interesting things to do in the Rockport area, and a few places had mentioned the Halibut Point State Park. The coast is exceptionally rocky up that way (hence the name)and apparently there were some quarries where the state park is now, filled with water and looking like post-modern sculpture. Really beautiful! Mom stayed in the car while I explored. After a long, tunnel-like trail through very still and quiet woods, one comes to the quarries, and watch your step or you'll be dropping down into them forty or fifty feet. The view here is staggering-- the quarries, then the ocean beyond that, then these rather impressive hills and mountains which must be in New Hampshire, I presume. Someone else thought so as well, a woman painting. She paid me no mind as I walked by, but then I hollered over my shoulder, "En pleine aire, oui?" and suddenly she was my new best friend, throwing more French at me in a minute than I could comprehendez-vous in an hour. But we still had a lovely chat. Beyond the quarries, more trails twisted through slabs of boulders and thick bushy growth, much of it poison ivy and beach roses, until finally I came to the ocean. There was no beach, just slabs and accumulations of stones and boulders, and the waves smacking in every few seconds. Very beautiful. On the way out of there we drove through town again and I spotted a plaque on an old house, saying it was the Ebenzer Gott homestead, and he had fought at Bunker Hill. I thought immediately of my dear friend Dave Gott of Benson Place blueberry farm Burnt Hill fame, and wondered if there was some connection way back when. All in all, a delightful day, and I will definitely be going back to Rockport, to An Artful Hand, and to Halibut Point State Park, where perhaps I shall do a little en pleine aire-ing myself.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rockport Part I

I HAVEN'T POSTED IN A WHILE because my mom is up from Florida for a good part of the summer, and she's been with me for a while. When she arrived last week I told her there were three things I needed her assistance with: the new thingys for the stove-top; identifying and figuring out how to work some kind of food prcessor/cuisinart thing I discovered in my attic; and rearranging the towels on the bathroom shelf so they would all fit (she has this neat way of folding them that's beyond me.)I asked her what she wanted to do this morning and she said how about rearranging the towels, but it was far too nice a day for that (and I can't imagine a day inclement enough for such an activity.) I suggested instead a trip to Cape Ann for the day, specifically Rockport, Massachusetts, on the "stern, storm-bound coast of New England." She readily agreed, and we were off.

Well, it wasn't quite as simple as that. Getting-there-is-half-the-fun department, she refused to ride in 'that death trap' (my car) and so I suggested instead we rent something. The fact that the a/c doesn't work in my car weighed heavily on her decision, I think, as did the fact that she borrowed my car yesterday to have lunch with Aunt Mary and, she said, it took both her feet on the brake to stop the damn thing. This necessitated a trip to the car rental place(she had a coupon, of course) whcih, alas, was in the Heart of Darkness, a place I avoid like a cholera ward, i.e., the Mishawaum Road/Cummings Park section of Woburn, where the hellish practice of anything-goes-suburban-sprawl has been raised to a fine art. I would imagine the legislative bodies responsible for the nightmare of concreate, asphalt, and big box stores that thrive here were either: a. as utterly inept in their responsibilities as the Bush Administration; or b. as open to bribery as the members of the Bush Admintsration. It's like that 'Pleasure Island' in Pinnochio, except instead of getting to smoke cigars and gamble, that environmentally-fatal creature, the American Consumer, gets to buy their little heart out: you want Lowe's? We got it! Home Depot? We got it! Car dealerships? We got 400 of'em! Kohls? Pier 1 Imports? Staples? Comp USA? Got them too! And of course all these consuming people have to frequently Consume as well, so the area is riddled with those nasty chains that evoke happier days that never were, where eating is FUN FUN FUN! and, if you're lucky, and living large and wild and dangerously, you MIGHT get to buy that cute new girl in accounting a margharita!: TGIF's, Fudruckers, Applebee's, Friendly's, etc etc ad nauseum. There are traffic lights every ten feet, but this only exacerbates the utter chaos and gridlock that grips this tree-less, sterile blast furnance of a place; one longs for Dante to adequately describe how heinous this area is. But, as the accomodating host....

The car rental people (all unnervingly polite and yet pushy at the same time and energetic Morman-looking young men with white shirts and black pants and striped ties) wanted to give us one of those nasty little things that look like a gangster's car from the 1930's that, in a cartoon, fell into a puddle and shrunk, and came out ashamed and chagrined and raced away with high-pitched squeaks. "Don't you have anything bigger?" Mother asked. Well hey, as a matter of fact they did. For only a few more pesos, one could get a 2008 Cadillac DeVille!!! Mother looked at me. "What do you think?" she asked. "Oh, what the heck," I said. "When in Rome...let's go for the Ho' Wagon." Thus it was that we arrived in Rockport some time later (Mother was starving so we had to stop for infinite-shelf-life cheese and cracker packets at a gas station) one hour later in a very classy, classy style. Fortunately none of my eco-feminist tree-hugging friends saw me. I kept looking-- dubiously- at the gas gauge and was astonished that it didn't seem to be moving at all. "My GOD, still half a tank!" I kept exclaiming. Then I realized I was looking at the temperature gauge instead...oops. Along the way, we passed through many beautiful, sea-girt places, and the names invited further exploration, for which we didn't have time: Annisquam, Bass Rock Road, Grapevine Street, Manchester By the Sea, Bear Skin Neck, etc.

At any rate, Rockport was as lovely as always, and truly has the best house architecture of any place in America I know (a very simple example of this being the house with the purple door, above). It combines three of my favorite things-- water, stone, and charm-- in such a beautiful and unique way. We were starving when we arrived so we decamped to the first restaurant we came to, the Blacksmith House which, yes, was actually a smithy going back to 1820. Until recently they used the old forge to cook their meats, they said. It was right on Rockport Harbor, and the view from our window seat was lovely (see other pic above). We both opted for the haddock dinner, which was exceptional. The waitress was a bit of a North Shore hippy, none the better for the heat (the place was not air conditioned) and mother kept her running I can assure you. I took out my notebook and began jotting things down. When I told Mother I was noting things for my blog, she said, "Don't forget to tell them about the..." and now, alas! I have forgotten! Maybe in part two I will recall this admonition.

At any rate she kept asking the waitress for information about Martin Ahearn, who used to be president of the Rockport Art Association. He is my mother's cousin (or something-- his father, 'Uncle Martin,' was my great grandmother's youngest brother.) Uncle Martin's wife, my mother added, Aunty Bride, was "very tight" and mother unraveled two anecdotes to back up her claim. It helps to be Irish to understand such stories, and the cast of Cecille B. DeMille thousands involved, but here they are as best as I can translate: there was a family wedding way back when when our family consisted of only my parents and my older sisters Peggy and Maureen. My mother (who made her own dress, which came out so nicely, she said, someone tried to pick her up at the bar) had had enough and wanted to go home, so she did-- my father (of course) wanted to go back to the house to continue partying. When he got there Aunty Bride (mother of the bride) had things all laid out and accounted for, including sandwiches, which my father began to scoff up. Aunty Bride was horrified when he ate more than his share, and she put out the word and had one of her sons try to escort my father from the premises as a result of his screwing up her system of exact and precise alotment. That made bad blood. The second story involved another Ahearn brother who never mnarried and when he got sick, he landed at Mae O'Brien's house (another relative) down in Somerville. Mae took care of him until he died and when he did, he left his money to Mae, NOT to his sister-in-law Aunty Bride or her husband, his brother Uncle Martin (the artist Martin's father, if you're still with me on this) and Aunty Bride called up my grandmother (who really had nothing to do with it but was very close to Mae, being her first cousin) and blasted her over the phone. My grandmother was VERY reticent and did not quarrel, or ever raise her voice, but Someone Who Was There reported after the phone call that my grandmother's face was "beet red."

"But the real bad blood started," mother added, "when Mary Keating (Aunty Bride's daughter) called the police on you and Tiger Miller Christmas Eve. I NEVER forgave her for that."

"Moi?" I inquired. "She called the police on moi? I have no recollection of what you're talking about. And I think you mean Chipper Miller."

"Yes, Chipper, of course. Isn't that what I said?"


"Well anyway, she called the police on you and Tiger and I had to go down to the police station to get you. They put us in a room and allegedly left us alone, and I said to you, 'Now, Joey, tell the truth.' Course I knew they were secretly listening, that's why I said it."

"But what did we do that she called the police on us?" I asked.

"You and Tiger--"


"Yes, you and Chipper had been throwing pumpkins against Mary's house, riding by in your car and throwing pumpkins against Mary's house as you rode by, over and over again."

"Ah," I said. Alas, this was beginning to sound vaguely familiar. "But wherever did we get pumpkins on Christmas Eve?"

"You had a secret stash, no doubt. You used to love to go out in the country and steal pumpkins every fall. You and all your friends."

Just then the waitress returned with theatrical timing to report that she had Martin's ('Junior,' as the family called him, though it seems strange to call someone that when they're 89) home address and phone number, and mother placed the call immediately. "Do you wanna visit if we get the invite?" she sotto-voced to me, one hand over the mouthpiece.

"Sure," I said.

Well, we didn't get the invite, as Martin said he was in a wheelchair now and "at home," but he told us to visit his gallery in downtown Rockport, which was now run by his daughter (also named Margaret, like my mother and great-aunt and great-grandmother) and his business partner, another painter. After dinner we did, and I will save that story for the next entry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Inhumane and Disgusting

PLEASE JOIN ME in calling on the NFL to indefinitely suspend Michael Vick. (Story below, from the Humane Society). It is unthinkable that a professional sports player, a role model for children, would engage in such degrading, criminal activities and still be allowed to represent the NFL. Here's the story:

July 18, 2007

Tell the NFL to Suspend Michael Vick!

Dear Joe,

This dog was one of 52 pit bulls seized from Michael Vick's property. ©The HSUS
Late yesterday, a federal grand jury indicted NFL star quarterback Michael Vick and three cohorts on felony dogfighting charges. It’s the latest disturbing news in a case that The Humane Society of the United States has assisted with since the alleged cruelties came to light in Virginia last April.

I hope you will take action today to urge the NFL to suspend Michael Vick indefinitely.

The abuses described in the 19-page indictment are almost beyond belief:

In or about March of 2003, PEACE [one of Vick’s co-defendants], after consulting with VICK about the losing female pit bull's condition, executed the losing dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal.

In or about April 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in "testing" various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

The NFL expressed “disappointment” and said yesterday that “we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts.”

Well, that’s just not good enough. These acts were not petty or harmless; they were nothing short of gruesome and barbaric. And there is precedent for a suspension: Other NFL players, such as Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, have been suspended while they awaited trial and before they were convicted. Please contact the NFL today and urge the league to suspend Michael Vick.

For details about the case and The HSUS’s role in assisting federal prosecutors with the investigation and the care of 52 pit bulls taken from Vick’s property, click here. And if you are able, please make a special donation today to help us care for those animals while the case is being pursued by federal authorities.

Thank you for all you do for animals.


Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

Copyright © 2007 The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). All Rights Reserved.
The Humane Society of the United States | 2100 L Street, NW | Washington, DC 20037 | 202-452-1100 |

Sending Things

ONE OF THE NICEST THINGS about the writing is hearing from people all over the world. This morning I received an email from a wonderful man down in Atlanta who has written several great reviews of my books. He wrote today to tell me that a therapist friend of his uses my first book in his practice with his clients, as a springboard to address their own issues with coming out.

Several people that have read my books are artists and have sent me their own work inspired by my writing. The pic above is a scan of something that the very talented Boston artist Russ Gilfoy sent me after he read A Map of the Harbor Islands. It shows Danny and Petey at the end of the book, out in the islands, watching the moon rise. It's really beautiful and, like the best art, stops me in my tracks and uplifts me every time I see it. I reallyc an't think of a better tribute than this.

I also wanted to report that the wild blueberries I picked in Happy Land the other evening made the best blueberry muffins I've ever had in my life (I found a whole wheat blueberry muffin recipe on the web) and I just made a second batch last night and half of them are gone already. Fionn likes them too! George (and maybe Bob)want to go out looking for some more some time this week, and we may try to do that. We're going to the farmers market today in Arlington, which is wonderful. Everything's coming on now, and any time now we should start to see the first corn and the first tomatoes. My own tomoatoes are coming by the hundred, but are still green.

And speaking of blueberries, this came in the other day from Dave Gott, proprietor of blueberries par excellance at Benson Place in Heath, Massachusetts. If you want to go picking blueberries, this is the place to go!

Dear friends and loyal customers,

This year’s lowbush blueberry harvest is close at hand. Our second annual spring visit from blueberry sawfly larvae, which chomp blueberry foliage, necessitated a thoughtful and coordinated response from us and our lessors. We have maintained as much of the crop as we could in an organic manner. Feel free to ask us more about this as you pick and order your berries. Meeting the growing demand for the healthy little blueberry is not easy, but between ours and two neighboring farms, we hope to provide as many of you as possible with fruit.

Upcoming Season:
We are now accepting berry orders for the upcoming season, which we expect to begin somewhere between July 26th and 30th. If you have not already done so, feel free call us at (413)337-5340 or email us at to make plans. While we don’t require an appointment for PYO, any large parties or large appetites would do well to check in with us in advance. Also, please mark your calendars for our 6th annual Blueberry Jubilee. It is scheduled for 2-8 pm on August 4, rain or shine, and advance reduced price dessert tickets are available at Green Fields Market in Greenfield. Chuck Roberts of The Bluesberry Brothers will be strumming the guitar again, and Bill Byrne of the MA Division of Fish and Wildlife will offer a visual presentation on one of our esteemed competitors in the blueberry fields, the black bear.

Farm Transfer:
Farm transfer is still very much on our agenda, and we welcome your interest. Specifically, we are seeking to facilitate a transfer of farm ownership to a party or collaboration of parties who share our community, conservation, and agricultural goals. We hope to preserve the productive and ecologically unique land, offer an affordable farming opportunity, welcome visitors, and preserve unique historical features. Further information is available on our website at Please feel free to contact us with questions and ideas or to offer assistance. There may be a job waiting for you! Email Anne at if wishing to help.

Hoping to see you here soon,

Dave Gott
Mark Benjamin
Anne Conger
Louise Legouis

Friends of The Benson Place
Box 89, 182 Flagg Hill Road
Heath, MA 01346

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Camera Obscura

DOES NAYONE REMEMBER that episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery? I don't, as I'm not sure I ever saw it, but my brother Bob was a big fan of that show and I can remember him sometimes saying, "Camera Obscura," with one raised eyebrow and an arch tone in his voice. At any rate today I received via FedEx (people are always sending me things, which I love) a pinhole camera from my dear friend Chris in California (now in Virginia). Astonishingly it is made of paper, and came from a kit. It's amazingly intricate, with bellows and everything (see pic). When I asked Chris how long it took to assemble it and put it together (first he had to create all the various parts from paper, then put them all together) he said several years. Oi! He said after that, "It was kind of fun, actually." He certainly has more patience than I do. After he put it together he didn't really use it, and I've always wanted a pinhole camera, having been fascinated by them for years, so he sent it to me. I will show off my new pix here after I take a few. There isn't a lens in a pinhole camera, only a tiny hole that lets in light and shines it against film or photographic paper. It doesn't focus so essentailly everything is in focus; the effects can be varied and almost ghostly. Can't wait to try it.

Speaking of pics, I was down Nahant last night to visit Mike, Carol, and Will, with my Mom and sister Peggy. We had a great time, fabulous dinner, and wonderful walk, during which Peggy and I met the delightful Irving Rusk of Scotland, who now lives in one of the massive houses on the water on a bit of a promontory. He had dropped his car keys between the seat and the console and couldn't reach them, so we hooked him up. A delightful man. The point is, I took some nice pictures of Will, and here's one of them.

The Presidential Manual on Curtailing Free Speech

THIS IS FROM THE PROGRESSIVE. The ironic part is, it's not demonstrators that need controlling,its Bush and his murderous cabal. Did everyone remember to "fire the Grid' this morning???

The White House Has a Manual for Silencing Protesters and Demonstrations
By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

So the truth comes out.

After a myriad of stories about people being excluded from events where the President is speaking, now we know that the White House had a policy manual on just how to do so.

Called the "Presidential Advance Manual," this 103-page document from the Office of Presidential Advance lays out the parameters for how to handle protesters at events.

"Always be prepared for demonstrators," says the document, which is dated October 2002 and which the ACLU released as part of a new lawsuit.

In a section entitled "Preventing Demonstrators," the document says: "All Presidential events must be ticketed or accessed by a name list. This is the best method for preventing demonstrators. People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform. ... It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs they may be carrying, and if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing."

In another section, entitled "Preparing for Demonstrators," the document makes clear that the intention is to deprive protesters of the right to be seen or heard by the President: "As always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route."

The document also recommends drowning out protesters or blocking their signs by using what it calls "rally squads." It states: "These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

The document offered advice on how to recruit members for such squads: "The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities."

The document does contain a warning in bold, however: "Remember -- avoid physical contact with demonstrators." It also advises to make sure that whatever action is taken to drown out the demonstrators does not "cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone."

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Katrina Aftermath: Another Chance for the Bush Adminstration to Reward its Corrupt Corporate Friends at Citizens' Expense

THIS IS FROM today's AlterNet.

In the Lawless Post-Katrina Cleanup, Construction Companies Are Preying on Workers
By Brian Beutler, Media Consortium
Posted on July 16, 2007, Printed on July 16, 2007
After Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, tens of billions of dollars in federal and private contracts, the largest of which went to companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, and its then-subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root, were dispatched to New Orleans. The alleged goal was to fund a clean-up effort President Bush said would require "a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens." That, of course, never came to pass.

Thanks to its initial disastrous rescue effort, today, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) receives most of the blame for chaos in New Orleans. But it wasn't just FEMA. The anatomy of the failed reconstruction is complicated, but understanding what went wrong requires examining the Department of Labor (DOL).

The DOL has been in decline for a generation, suffering from long-term decreases in funding even as the number of people whose livelihoods it is supposed to protect has grown. Those problems have been exacerbated through the six and a half years of the Bush administration. But the consequences have never been more appalling than in New Orleans, where the failure of high-level DOL officials to require proactive oversight of reconstruction employers led to an endless string of abuses. After Katrina, employers, unfettered by rules, became less concerned with the task at hand than with profiting at the expense of workers without protection. They became predators in a lawless environment.

In the two years since the disaster, there have been thousands of testimonials -- issued to both government officials and private advocates -- about a wide taxonomy of abuses.The most frequent complaint workers cite is withheld wages, but almost as numerous are accusations of employee intimidation, toxic and hazardous working conditions, immigrant abuse, trafficking, exploitation and monetary extortion.

On June 26, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, convened a hearing to investigate the origins of the abuses perpetrated by subcontractors and other employers against those working to clean up New Orleans. The subcommittee heard testimony from advocates, attorneys, organizers, DOL officials, and a man named Jeffrey Steele.

Now 49-years-old, Steele says he traveled from Georgia to New Orleans in the first weeks after the hurricane out of both a sense of duty and the hope that he could earn enough money to cover debts and, perhaps, collect some savings at the same time. A subcontractor he identified as the Reverend Carroll Harrison Braddy had recruited Steele and others in Georgia, promising $10 per hour, free food and lodging. Soon after he arrived, in a van full of similarly minded men, he learned that none of his employers were willing to pay him the full wage, or provide him with the sanitary living conditions, he had been promised.

Steele worked for more than a week before his first employer belatedly provided him the vaccines he needed to avoid illnesses like tetanus and hepatitis B that were idling in the toxic stew fermenting throughout much of the city. Most nights he slept on floors in houses and hotels with about seven other men, sharing a bathroom and scrounging for Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) that the National Guard had trucked in for workers and residents. After his first two weeks on the job -- 12 hour shifts, seven days a week -- he was owed $1,400, not including overtime. He was paid $230.

Steele's story was hardly uncommon. Forty-four year-old Tyrone Wilson, known as "Coach" to his friends, worked for Phoenix & Global, a company subcontracted by a different company called ECC, which was paid in turn by the Army Corps of Engineers to help clean up debris. This sort of subcontracting chain could be of any length and often ran many companies deep, with each additional tier masking more potential fraud and making lost pay harder to reclaim.

Wilson's job with Phoenix & Global entailed removing heavy trash -- refrigerators and other appliances -- from city grounds. The employers of his "foul smelling" job, he said, "would hold pay a week back on us. I worked three weeks and nothing was paid. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week, for three weeks. I got paid less than half of what I deserved. Mexicans got even less. I think they got paid three- or four-hundred dollars." On December 30, 2005, Wilson received $865 in pay for the 94 hours of work he did from November 20, through Dec 7. For a similar stretch between January 5 and January 18, he was paid only $206.10. In each case, he should have been paid about $1,500.

Yet Wilson and Steele are, in some ways, the lucky ones. Unlike many others, they, at least, had jobs. Because the Bush administration suspended affirmative action and immigrant-worker documentation requirements and at the same time stopped requiring employers to pay regionally standard rates (prevailing wages), many local black workers and the out-of-town poor found themselves underbid by foreign workers. These immigrants came from countries as close as Mexico and as far off as Thailand, and were either unaware of standard pay-scales or susceptible to deportation if they complained too loudly.

Saket Soni is a 29-year-old organizer with the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice. He points out that many of the policies the administration adopted vis-à-vis workers were mutually contradictory. Immigration is a perfect example of this. While the federal government did not require employers to demand documentation from their workers, they also, at the request of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), sent hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents into town with the authority to deport anybody working without proper papers.

The result was astounding. On payday, subcontractors, faced with undocumented workers seeking cash, often called ICE to report their own operations, causing frightened workers to either scatter or face deportation to their home countries without pay. This, Soni says, was routine practice. His group -- one of several -- fielded at least a dozen such reports.

Likewise, employee recruiters, dispatched by subcontractors to foreign countries, would offer often-destitute men and women the promise of good work and fair wages at any number of reconstruction jobs in New Orleans. Enticed by that promise, the workers would pay the recruiters a flat fee, cover the costs of their own transportation, and then arrive in a city where they were at best exploited, and at worst left abandoned without lodging or jobs.

One female recruiter, according to Soni, approached members of the White Mountain Apache Nation of Arizona, promising jobs to about 20 poor, able-bodied male members of the tribe. "The tribal government raised money to pay her," Soni said, "and sent a lot of young men with her. They paid a flat fee for getting them jobs and another for transportation. When they arrived [in New Orleans] in vans, there was no sign of the recruiter. The jobs she promised either didn't exist or had vanished, so the van dumped them in front of a FEMA office. FEMA directed them to a local church where a pastor sent them to City Park. They lived in the park, in toxic conditions, paying subcontractors a rate of $300 per month per tent, four people sharing each tent."

In an environment where so many labor standards had been sacrificed, it becomes unclear whether practices like this were against the law. In New Orleans, after Katrina, there were almost no legal standards by which to judge employer behavior or almost anything else.

Certainly, some companies, contractors, and individuals did make sure that their workers were documented. But many of them also took advantage of the temporary (H2B) visa program for the purposes of selling the services of their employees for large sums of money. One case involved an agency that brought Bolivian workers into the country and handed them to an American subcontractor who had been approved for H2B visas. The company promptly leased the immigrants to other contractors instead of providing them with the jobs they had been promised. It was a situation that landed middle-aged women -- women who expected to be working as receptionists in hotels or offices -- in factory jobs intended for 18- to 25-year-old men.

At the Congressional hearing, Kucinich disclosed that another man named Matt Redd, "filed with the Department of Labor to sponsor guest workers from countries such as Mexico. But he apparently lied when he stated that these 'H2B' workers had jobs waiting for them. Rather, he was a human trafficker, and he rented those unfortunate migrant workers out to garbage collection companies and restaurants at an hourly wage."

These were what the abuses looked like. They are what occur when the option of instilling a regulatory order is eschewed in favor of implementing a favorable climate for business interests. Which is why we must take a look at the failures of the federal agency responsible for regulating and overseeing those businesses in order to understand why this all happened.

By contrast, the worker abuses grew out of two preventable -- and intertwined -- circumstances. Many of the incidents resulted directly from policies written at the highest levels of government. Most others stemmed from the reckless milieu that those policies created.

That's not to suggest that pre-Katrina labor standards were flawless, or even decent. Louisiana, like many other Southern states, had unusually weak state-level protections long before its biggest city was destroyed. But even small adjustments in priorities at the federal level could have forestalled employer abuse.

"There was a significant way it could have been mitigated," said Catherine Ruckelshaus, who directs litigation at the National Employment Law Project in New York City. "When large amounts of federal dollars are put in a region, they come attached with pretty basic standards: environmental standards, labor standards, community-impact standards. In New Orleans there just weren't any."

Famously, that's not what the federal government did. Instead, it upended many of the most sweeping federal and state worker protection laws, in some cases by fiat. The administration fully suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires almost all federally funded public works projects -- whether administered by government entities or private firms -- to pay its workers the prevailing wage. (If the DOL disagreed with this suspension, it didn't voice its dissent publicly.) The DOL chose not to enforce Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protections.

Six months after the hurricane, Davis-Bacon was restored. And yet all employers whose contracts were awarded before that date -- the vast majority -- were allowed to continue to ignore the wage requirement as if the restoration had never happened.

Understanding why the nation's highest labor-advocacy organization stood by while policies like these were implemented -- or in some cases encouraged them -- requires understanding the Department of Labor as an agency in both long- and short-term decline, currently headed by managers with a history of subverting labor protections.

A 2003 study by Annette Bernhardt and Siobhán McGrath of New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found that the budget for the DOL's Wage and Hour investigators -- the officials who are tasked with protecting workers from exploitation -- decreased by 14 percent between 1975 and 2004. Over the same period of time, enforcement actions decreased by 36 percent. At the same time, the number of workers and establishments covered by provisions that fall within the Wage and Hour oversight increased 55 percent and 112 percent respectively. Under President Bush, the decline has become more pronounced. This year, the DOL's Wage and Hour enforcement budget is 6.1 percent less than it was before Bush took office in 2001.

On June 26, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, convened a hearing to investigate the origins of the abuses perpetrated by subcontractors and other employers against those working to clean up New Orleans.

One of the men who testified at the Kucinich hearings was Paul DeCamp. When Katrina struck, DeCamp, then a senior policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards, became one of the architects of the DOL response. Last summer, DeCamp became administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. While in the private sector, he worked as an attorney with Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, where he co-authored a white paper that suggested a variety of ways in which employers could legally mitigate the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) -- a fundamental worker and wage protection law which is one of the strongest on the books.

Today, he is the chief enforcer of that act, but in 2002, he wrote, "The FLSA presents unique challenges to employers. From the standpoint of compliance, the only risk-free way to manage exemption decisions is to designate all employees as non-exempt and to pay them on an hourly basis, but that option is inconsistent with sound business practices." In other words, complying with the law is bad for business.

The DOL's office in New Orleans was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. According to Jennifer Rosenbaum of the Southern Poverty Law Center, its five-person staff shut down for nearly four months, even as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and non-profit groups had fully staffed operations up and running in the city by October 2005.

When the Wage and Hour division finally resuscitated its operation in late 2005, it focused more on employer compliance assistance than on proactive oversight like targeting high-risk industries and performing unannounced inspections.

At the hearing, Kucinich noted that "the number of DOL investigations in New Orleans decreased from 70 in the year before Katrina to 44 in the year after Katrina, a 37 percent decrease." Workers and advocates said that many workers -- men and women seeking to file claims -- never met a single DOL enforcement officer in the field, never heard back from the officials with whom they made their claims by phone, and found that their claims had been lost or inexplicably delayed. These hurdles have consequences. With a two-year statute of limitations on the claims over which Wage and Hour has jurisdiction, a great bulk of the infractions will have become permanent injustices by 2008.

And yet, going forward, the DOL is retaining its focus. Though its Wage and Hour division is capable of debarring the general contractors when their subsidiaries fail to pay their workers, they do not make it a standard practice. In response to a question from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) during DeCamp's confirmation hearing to become Wage and Hour administrator, DeCamp said, "My understanding is that several are in process, where the remedy is being considered. And I believe it's at least two or three." None of the advocates asked about this could name a single example.

Today, the DOL's FY 2006-2011 Strategic Plan for enforcing workers rights laws relies more heavily on passive measures than on proactive ones, and, like so many Bush-era reports, speaks overwhelmingly of goals instead of strategies. In the lone paragraph of this 100-plus page plan that is devoted to ensuring that workers receive the wages due to them, it states that, "the Department will continue its outreach and education efforts to increase awareness of employment laws among employers, employees and other stakeholders. Other strategies include using quantitative and qualitative performance indicators and targets to increase performance, conducting independent reviews of the program to identify opportunities for improvements, and improving data collection processes, especially those related to wage determination."

By comparison, a 1999 plan released by the Clinton-era DOL Wage and Hour division laid out an approach that included hiring dozens of additional investigators and targeting high-risk industries with preventive inspections, noting that inspections based solely around worker complaints "are not effective in securing widespread substantial compliance within an industry as a whole."

The debacle in New Orleans has sunk well below the point at which minor changes at the federal level could redress even a small percentage of the worker grievances of the last two years. It serves as a reminder, though, that an unprepared or unmotivated federal government can have serious consequences for the citizens that rely upon it. According to Ruckelshaus, in the case of the DOL, many of the necessary changes are practically revenue-neutral.

"The federal DOL has had community outreach arms before," she says. "They don't require huge staffs. What we need first is more strategic uses of existing resources." Only when the department revamps its approach will workers, in both the United States and from abroad, be able to trust that their rebuilding efforts in disaster zones will be met with just rewards.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Someone Worth Killing Once is Worth Killing Twice"

What is it about wickedness and evil that make them so contagious? How can this administration's copious amounts of those qualities have such far-reaching, global consequences?

After reading the story below, I was reminded of the late, great William Sloane Coffin's words regarding this national shame, this Iraq War. "We have not asked our young men and women to die for their country," he said. "We have asked them to kill for our country. I can think of no less patriotic thing than that." How true, too. Coffin knew the cost to a person's soul once they have been exposed to the madness of war. The story below is from the AP and should shock and shame us all.

Marine: Beating of Iraqis became routine

A Marine corporal testifying in a court-martial said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to "crank up the violence level."

Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo testified Saturday at the murder trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.

"We were told to crank up the violence level," said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.

When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: "We beat people, sir."

Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.

Lopezromo said the suspected insurgent was known to his neighbors as the "prince of jihad," and had been arrested several times and later released by the Iraqi legal system.

Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony.

Four Marines and the corpsman, initially charged with murder in the April 2006 killing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and been given jail sentences ranging from 10 months to eight years. Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial.

Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did.

"I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge. "I see it as killing the enemy."

He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.

Lopezromo and two other Marines were charged in August with assaulting an Iraqi two weeks before the killing that led to charges against Thomas and the others. Charges against all three were later dropped.

Thomas' attorneys have said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from his combat duty in Fallouja in 2004. They have argued that Thomas believed he was following a lawful order to get tougher with suspected insurgents.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Thomas shot the 52-year-old man at point-blank range after he had already been shot by other Marines and was lying on the ground.

Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead, he testified.

"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice," he said.

The jury is composed of three officers and six enlisted personnel, all of whom have served in Iraq. The trial was set to resume Monday.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Allen Young's New Book

I HASTEN TO ADD that the previous entry's last item, the article on bears in the North Quabbin region, is taken from Allen Young's next book. That piece and 30 others will be in Allen's new book, "Make Hay While the Sun Shines: Farms,
Forests and People of the North Quabbin," by Allen Young, published by
iUniverse, due out in August. Copyright 2007. Printed by permission of the
author. Thanks Allen for permission to use this!

Okay, I promised a few pics of my garden, and here they are. Everthing's starting to bust out now. The pictures don't do it justice. There are some less than beautiful spots along Main Street, which along this stretch is a four-lane state highway. Some of the beautiful, old, gracious homes have fallen into the hands of slum landlords, and are lived in by transients who aren't really invested in the town. The natives recently voted down an override for the second time in two years, and as a result art and music and sports have been cut in the schools. It's hard to imagine how people can be so penny wise and pound foolish, and not realize the best investment they can make is in the education of their youth. As above, so below: youth programs are cut, delinquincy and subtance abuse rise, a smaller percentage of the young in town go on to college, and the downward spiral begins.

On the other hand, the override lost by only 200 votes this time around, as opposed to a few thousand last time. We have the unrivalled beauty of the Middlesex Fells (Happy Land) occupying over 1/3 of the town's square mileage, a great new playhouse theatre and troupe, a few new funky restaurants, a cutting edge health food store, etc. It feels like the town is at a crossroads. At any rate my garden out front is my small attempt to bring a little beauty and refinement to the town-- to a not particularly pretty part of the town at that. And maybe the people roaring by in their SUVs will go a little bit slower for beauty. The pix show the garden looking north; the garden looking south; and one of my echinacea, this one a rare white called 'Fragrant Angel,' about to open. Echinacea are especially attractive to butterflies. Native to North America, echinaceas are mostly found on the praries, though a few species exist east of there-- in fact there has been one single plant growing for the past few years in an upland meadow of Happy Land, though I haven't seen it there this year. I also have some milkweed that I've raised from seed, doing quite well (hopefully they will flower next year, their third) some daylilies and true lilies, purple petunias (which associate so well with light green and white) green zinnias (also raised from seed)butterfly bush, bee balm, etc. More pix to follow.

Bear Trouble

THIS IS FROM TODAY'S BOSTON GLOBE. There is a fondness in my heart for Athol since my trip there this spring where I did a reading at Bruce's Browser, the wonderful bookstore at 1497 Main Street in the 'Uptown' section, owned by Diane Lincoln, a good friend of Allen Young, who hosted us for lunch at his beautiful and utterly unique 'Octagon House' in Royalston, Massachusetts. (Allen is the author of the wonderful book 'North of Quabbin' and the recently updated version of that, 'North of Quabbin Revisted,' which explores the nine town area north of Quabbin.

Bear shot, then euthanized after tranquilizers fail to slow it
July 13, 2007

ATHOL, Mass. --Police concerned with the safety of a crowd that gathered in downtown Athol to see a bear that had wandered into the area shot the animal after several efforts to tranquilize it failed.

The bear, weighing an estimated 500 to 600 pounds, was eventually euthanized by state environmental police.

"The Athol Police Department truly regrets the incident had to end in the manner that it did with the destruction of this truly awe-inspiring and amazing wild creature," Chief Timothy Anderson said in a statement.

The bear first showed up early in the afternoon, police Sgt. Christopher Casella said.

Local police surrounded the bear until environmental police responded to the scene and shot it twice with tranquilizer darts so it could be relocated to an unpopulated area.

But the drugs barely slowed the animal, which resisted several more efforts at tranquilization and forced police to tell onlookers to back up on several occasions.

The bear eventually forced its way into an enclosed area surrounding a warehouse, and after another effort at tranquilization, was shot as it charged a gate in an attempt to escape.

Athol, a community with roughly 11,500 residents, is about 70 miles west of Boston.


Allen sent this out (below) this am. It's an article he wrote in 1982 for his book, with a 2007 update. Really interesting. I was fascinated to learn that a bear can easily outrun a horse!!!

People Problem, Not BearBy Allen Young.

The ³trouble bear² that caused a stir recently in Athol -- now
presumably enjoying life undisturbed in northern New Hampshire woods -- did
not wander in-to the Athol area on its own but had been captured earlier by
researchers in the western part of the state and brought to the Birch Hill
Wildlife Management Area, according to Richard Cronin, chief of the state¹s
Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Kenneth Elowe of Whately, a graduate student at the University of
Massachusetts and a member of a research team studying bears in the state,
said that a week before the bear was sighted in Athol, it had been bothering
a woman¹s beehives in Southampton. Following complaints of residents there,
the animal was tranquilized and transported to Birch Hill land in Winchendon
by the research team.
Elowe explained that the state has ³no set policy on nuisance animals,²
and one of the purposes in bringing the bear to Birch Hill was to see if it
would make contact with humans again. It did -- being first sighted in the
Chestnut Hill Avenue area of Athol and then observed damaging beehives on
Old Keene Road.
The bear was brought to Birch Hill, which includes land in Royalston,
with the permission of state officials, according to Cronin, although he
said in a telephone interview he was ³a little upset² that he had not been
apprised personally of the situation. Later, when the bear came back into
the public eye in Athol, Cronin was notified and participated in the
decision to remove the animal.
Although this particular bear was brought into the area by scientists,
it could well have come in on its own. The animals are moving from the area
west of the Connecticut River into Central Massachusetts as the black bear
population in the state grows.
That assessment was offered recently by George T. Taylor of Russell,
who, aided by his hounds, helped track down and capture the bear in
Royalston after a five-hour chase from the Old Keene Road area.
The bear was tranquilized by Elowe and taken ³as far away from
civilization as possible,² according to Taylor, who is a cooperator with a
statewide research project involving the Massachusetts fish and wildlife
division and the U.S. Department of Interior¹s fish and game division -- the
same project Elowe is involved with.
New Hampshire¹s Fish and Game Department should be credited with saving
this particular bear¹s life. Cronin said he told the researchers that if
they could not get New Hampshire to assent to the bear being moved there,
the animal should get an overdose of tranquilizer and thus be killed. ³If we
bring it in to an area,² Cronin explained, ³we have responsibilities, and
doing away with it would have been the only alternative.²
The bear was taken to the sparsely populated area around the towns of
Errol and Pittsburgh, north of the White Mountains toward the Canadian
border. However, Taylor predicts it will come into contact with humans
again, even there. ³Once they have become habituated to be involved with
man, they usually continue,² he said.
The whole question of how to deal with bears, as the population grows,
is relatively new and without clear answers. Elowe said, ³When it comes
right down to it, the bear should not have been moved in the first place,²
and he said even if the bear were left in Athol it probably would not have
done any harm.
Elowe said it was ³more a people problem² than anything else. He said a
program of public education is needed, especially for beekeepers and
farmers. He said beekeepers with hives at the edge of woods should surround
them with electric fence. Farmers with cornfields should do what they can to
not attract bears -- for example, refrain from dumping dead cows at the edge
of a field, for this attracts bears.
Taylor estimates the bear population in Massachusetts at approximately
600. Most of them are located west of the Connecticut, he said, but the
animals are just beginning to spread eastward.
Since the bear has no natural predators, woodland areas -- and Central
Massachusetts has lots of woods -- are ³perfect bear habitats.²
Taylor owns 41 specially-bred hounds used to track and hunt bears. He
brought five of them to Athol when he was contacted by game wardens in
regard to the ³trouble bear² that had been raiding beehives. Elowe and Dr.
Wendell Dodge, researchers affiliated with the University of Massachusetts,
also were here, along with state game wardens Daniel Lemerise and Denis
Taylor, who is 43 and an insurance agent by profession, says his
interest in bears and bear hunting is linked to his love of nature and the
outdoors. His work with the research team is on a volunteer basis.
The hounds he owns -- which he also breeds, raises and trains - are used
in his part-time guide service for black bear and cat hunts in New Hampshire
(where he is a licensed guide) and for the tracking and research work he
does in Massachusetts.
The breeds of dogs originally come from Germany and England, and have
been bred in the U.S. for more than 200 years. Taylor raises Plott hounds, a
German breed known as bear and wild boar hounds, and Walker hounds,
originally developed in England for hunting foxes.
As a young boy, Taylor helped his father, George Taylor Sr. of Barre,
raise similar hounds. Taylor said he has seen bears in Barre and was not
surprised to hear of a bear in Athol. ³Bears are found in areas far more
populous than that,² he said.
³Bears lead very secretive lives,² Taylor explained, and often escape
the detection of human beings. They are omnivorous. Their diet includes
rodents -- they will dig mice out of their burrows. But they are also
grazers, and in the springtime they eat grasses, which may bring them out of
the woods into open areas. Summertime bear favorites are berries. In the
fall, they like acorns and beech nuts. They also eat ant eggs and bee
larvae, thus explaining their attraction to hives at this time of year.
However, according to Taylor, ³Relatively few bears get into beehives.²
They are ³opportunistic² when it comes to food, Taylor said, but to the
extent that the bear can be described as a meat-eater, it is ³the most
efficient carnivore, and certainly the largest carnivore in the northeast.²
Taylor said the team that has been researching the movement, feeding and
denning patterns of the black bear in Massachusetts hopes that ³trouble
bears² ---those who make themselves visible in inhabited areas -- will not
hurt human beings or end up being shot themselves as a result of
In general, human beings don¹t understand bears, he said, maintaining
that the animals are ³extremely unpredictable.² He said, ³Most people have a
Walt Disney vision of what bears are like, thinking of them as slow,
lethargic creatures; but that is a misconception. Actually, a bear can
easily outrun a horse. They have tremendous speed and strength.² Elowe
expressed concern about the tendency for rumors to fly when a bear is seen.
He said when he first received a report on the bear in Athol, he was told it
had killed calves. This turned out not to be the case.
Taylor explained the procedure for tracking a bear, which begins with a
striker hound which is trained to sit on the hood of his car as it slowly
goes through the area until the hound catches the scent of the bear. The
hound is trained to respond only to the bear¹s scent, so that when the dog
barks, the tracking team knows the bear is nearby. Once it is established
that the bear is in the immediate area, other hounds are used to begin the
chase which can last anywhere from a few minutes to an entire day.
When the hounds have chased the bear up a tree, they are tied up. Then,
nets are spread out. The bear is tranquilized so that it can be tagged and
weighed. The biologist also extracts a molar so that the age of the bear can
be determined with the help of an electron microscope. This procedure is so
accurate, according to Taylor, that the bear¹s age can be determined to
within a few months.
The bear is fitted with a telemetric collar so that its path can be
tracked after it has been relocated and set free.
This is the procedure that was used by the team after the bear was treed
in Royalston, north of Route 68, after a circuitous chase from Athol across
Lawrence Brook and through the Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area.
The black bear research project, now in its third year, has also
examined how bear family relationships operate. Taylor said the image of the
³mama bear, papa bear and baby bears² is far from the reality.
The individual tranquilized and captured in Royalston ³is not what you¹d
call a family man,² he said. Large males such as this one -- who weighed 240
pounds and measured more than six feet -- -are predominately ³loners² and
may ³service 12-20 females,² he said. They sometimes even run down young
male cubs and kill them.
Taylor has studied bear lore dating back to the days of the Native
American inhabitants of the state. He said the Mohawks and other Indians
believed bears were ³super human beings² of the highest order. They would
not kill bears because they believed a bear was a reincarnation of a human
being who had led a particularly successful life. If they found a dead bear,
they used the hides for clothing and the teeth and skull for religious
purposes, he said.
Taylor describes himself as a ³sportsman² and he wants people to know
that his work as a hunting guide does not mean he is ³out to kill every
bear.² He said his hunting parties are not permitted to kill females or
One reason he is involved in the research program, Taylor said, is to
prevent unfortunate incidents in which people take action against bears
unnecessarily, such as shooting them -- which he described as ³sickening.²
His desire is to see the bear population grow but remain managed so that
hunting can continue and the species endure. Only two bears were killed in
Massachusetts during the 1981 season, according to Taylor, who said a
greater number were killed by cars on highways.
One of Taylor¹s current concerns is federal budget-cutting that will
drastically curtail the funding for the cooperative unit working in
Massachusetts. ³Now is the time for people to do something,² Taylor said,
and he recommended that people supportive of this work with bears write to
President Ronald Reagan and to Sens. Edward Kennedy and Paul Tsongas and
Rep. Silvio Conte.
Originally published in the Athol Daily News, May 22, 1982.
2007 Update: Hunting bears with dogs was made illegal in 1996. The bear
population in Massachusetts continues to grow, primarily west of the
Connecticut River, but the animals have become well-established in the North
Quabbin Region, too, with fairly frequent sightings. In 2006, 148 bears were
killed by licensed hunters in the state, about half of them in Berkshire
County. There were 32 taken in Franklin County and five in Worcester County.
Ken Elowe now serves as Director of Resource Management for the Maine
Departent of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. I was unable to obtain any current
information about George T. Taylor and his hounds. MassWildlife has
published pamphlets and placed material on its website,, to inform residents, especially farmers and
beekeepers, about what they can do to co-exist happily with bears.