The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Kumbier Letter 8/25/04

Dear Editors:

The letter from Claudia Walker, printed under the heading “Kerry’s records” (Joplin Globe, 8/25/04) accuses “liberal Democrats” of limited tolerance for viewpoints other than their own and, more pointedly, a double standard regarding disclosure of President Bush’s military and financial records, on one hand, and those of John Kerry on the other. Walker criticizes Kerry and “liberal Democrats” for demanding disclosures of these records by President Bush while refusing to make such disclosures themselves. Walker also takes aim at Teresa Heinz Kerry for not disclosing financial records that, as Walker believes, would show that she is “a billionaire supporter of radical causes worldwide.”
Walker’s letter misleads readers and obscures the issues in several respects. First, she neglects to name sources for any of the allegations she makes. Where did she hear or read that John Kerry or Teresa Heinz Kerry refused to make the financial disclosures she says they have not made? Curious to discover whether I could quickly find out something about Kerry’s income and assets, I went to the website of the non-partisan, non-profit Center for Public Integrity (http://www.publicintegrity.org/) and found, admittedly, not copies of either Teresa or John Kerry’s tax returns but very helpful and illuminating estimates of the candidate’s income and assets, based on Kerry’s own public disclosures. Kerry’s total income valuation, it may come as no surprise, is considerably lower than Bush’s, reported on the same site, though both men, as everyone knows, are exceedingly wealthy. The site also lists sources of income, if anyone is interested.
As for Walker’s unquestioning, incidental mention of the rumor that Teresa Heinz Kerry’s money has funded “radical causes worldwide,” an unfounded allegation that has spread like wildfire through an insidious internet “whispering campaign,” Globe readers need only check the useful website, again a reliable, non-partisan one, of the Annenberg Fact Check organization (http://www.factcheck.org/) to learn in detail exactly how these allegations are false, and in how many ways. Yet Walker seems to expect us to accept her characterization of Teresa Heinz Kerry without any documentation.
On the issue of military records, I admit that I do not know which records have been disclosed and which have not, but I do know that the disclosure of their military records is not entirely up to Kerry or Bush—other agencies and authorities have a say in what will be made available under the Freedom of Information Act. Interestingly, the military (Navy) records that have surfaced in the “Swift boat” tempest so far have called into question the testimonies of some of those who are challenging Kerry: see the August 19 Washington Post account. Thus far, it does not appear that Kerry has anything to hide. On the other hand, though some of President Bush’s military records indeed have been made public, there is still considerable uncertainty about what he actually did while in the National Guard.
Walker’s letter rides on the assumption that Kerry and “liberal Democrats” have frustrated free speech and resisted and refused disclosure when it suits them. Since she does not back up that claim with references to her sources, we as careful and critical readers have to seek them out. When we do, we find her words have little weight.

Bill Kumbier, Joplin

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