In a recent letter (01/26/2006, letters, “Know-nothing Democrats”), Joyce Altaffer of Simi Valley condemned a contributor as “another know-nothing Democrat” for stating that Congressman Elton Gallegly and the Republican Congress have cut veteran benefits despite a $20 billion increase in the Veterans Administration budget over the past five years. 

First, I’d like to point out to Ms. Altaffer that the Veterans Administration budget and the portion of that budget allocated to Veterans’ benefits are not the same things. Next, I\’d like her to consider that an “increase” in the benefits budget is only meaningful in terms of the change in relevant costs to provide similar benefits to all veterans who require them over a given period of time (please note: during the period in question, we entered a war, hence, more veterans, and more veterans requiring benefits).

Finally, I’d like Ms. Altaffer to brace herself for the following dose of \’know-nothing/know-something\” reality: In October of 2004, the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes polled Democrats and Republicans with regard to critical facts influencing their vote in the last Presidential Election. The degree to which Democrats were better informed than Republicans was extreme: Approximately 75 percent of the Republicans polled held false beliefs about issues concerning Iraq, al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein, as compared to approximately 25 percent of the Democrats polled. Republicans, it seemed, believed the messages that both they and Democrats heard coming from the White House — messages which turned out to be false. As a consequence of our ignorance, we went to war with a country that did not provoke us and had no means to harm us. And, in doing so, we increased the number of people in line for veteran’s disability benefits over the past three years by 16,548 (and the war may be young, depending on the outcome of the upcoming election). All in all, our ignorance has led to the death of 2,245 U.S. soldiers and between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqis, most of them innocent citizens. 

The 2006 Congressional elections are looming before. Please join with me in committing to becoming an informed citizen instead of a blindly loyal Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party member, etc. That means learning how to think rather than assuming that we know how to think (the PIPA data cited above suggests that at least 50 percent of us, including at least 12.5 percent Democrats, are failing at it). Excellent resources can be found at your local library, as well as on the Web (for starters,

see www.criticalthinking.org, www.sonoma.edu/cthin/ or www.austhink.org). Our arrogance isn’t only embarrassing us; our ignorance is killing us, and others.

Peggy La Cerra, Ojai

Impeachy

Whether you are conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Christian or secular, or a somewhere-in-between moderate like the majority of Americans, there comes a time when the illegal, immoral actions of our leaders — and the threats those actions pose to our Constitution and our democracy — cannot be ignored. In short, there comes a time when everyone has a duty to set partisanship aside and look with clear eyes at whether or not our leaders are abusing the power with which we have entrusted them. It can no longer be denied that President Bush and his administration have done just this in flagrant and destructive fashion.

With the release of the newest White House memos to Downing Street, in which the president, among other offenses, blatantly states his desperation to provoke a war with Iraq by baiting Saddam Hussein to fire on a disguised U2 spy plane, we see again that everything the Bush administration has done to \”safeguard national security\” has been built on a foundation of cynicism, political opportunism and outright lies.

Add this to the litany of crimes already on the books — domestic spying, Plamegate, torture, the PATRIOT Act, likely ties to Jack Abramoff, the bungled Katrina response, the Big Pharma-enriching Medicare debacle — and only one conclusion is possible: This administration is the greatest threat to the future of this nation. It is time to talk seriously about Congressional investigations to determine if President Bush should be impeached.

No matter your political affiliation, the good of the nation must trump party loyalty, or you do not belong in office. I strongly urge all members of the news media to give this latest story about the White House memos to Tony Blair the wide, deep coverage it deserves and finally call this president to account for his actions.

Tim Vandehey, Ventura