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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

August 22, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 97




global perspective The cost-of-war clock is ticking

by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large

As I write this, the tax bite on Los Angelenos to pay for the Iraq war to date ($580 million) would have provided 200,000 local children with health care for a year.

The cost-of-war clock ( is ticking toward $70 billion for a national total, and churning faster than a California gas station. For that kind of money, seven million American children could attend Head Start for a year. Or one million new schoolteachers could be hired for 12 months. Or 700,000 new public housing units built.

Meanwhile, what are the gains in Iraq? Democracy when we leave? Chewing on that thought will choke you.

The childish, mindless, lying hubris of the current U.S. administration looks like a remake of Francoism, with the American poor, the environment, the working class, education, health care, the Bill of Rights and the social compact as the enemy. Corporate-world leaders (who’ve edged out the mafia for the Corruption Triple Crown) are the only heroes, with the military as the oil patch’s aide-de-camp.

Does this sound like a rant? You’re right.

Thank heavens, therefore, for anti-war activist Elias Vlanton, 52, in Takoma Park, Md., and anti-war MIT graduate Niko Matsakis, 24, a computer programmer in Boston, who gave us the cost-of-war clock.

Vlanton is Matsakis’ godfather. The clock, he told me, came out of a gripe session they were having. Vlanton, in reply to my e-mail, said he remembered from Vietnam War days seeing “little mimeographed flyers with things like ‘for the cost of one bomber we could send 50,000 kids to college,’ or, ‘Instead of dropping 1,000 bombs we could buy 10,000 children breakfast for a month.’”

Matsakis suggested the running counter. “We agreed on what kinds of information would be useful. Niko and I consider ourselves citizen-journalists. Neither of us works for a foundation, institute, university, etc. We didn’t use web designers or consultants.” Vlanton said he locates the numbers in public source documents. The Web site was launched when each of them sent 30 e-mails to friends.

And, boy, you should see it now. In a recent August two-week period, the site had 100,000 hits – and with luck, the number of hits will begin to rival the counter on the cost-clock for speed.

Well-done, team.

       Arthur’s Daily Ditty

       We all deplore the costs of war,
       We rightly fight the mighty Right,
       We know the fray Bush will array,
       We know the Ashcroft-Rumsfeld play.
       We don’t know how to wake the nation’s the right creation,
       While Bushites eye the oil of Persia
       Our job at home’s to zap inertia


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