Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saving the World, One Writer’s Workshop At A Time

I wish I was prettier, a little younger, a tad smarter,
a bit more charming, the old dude said. But it’s not to be.
So, absent the fairy who gives such gifts,
I’ll earn my weekly bread
with a bit of advice.

Not much is expected of a writer, he said, very little is required.
But if as a writer it comes to writing, you may need a plan.
And, in the passage of time, you might execute your plan.
That’s it. Leave your spare change at the door on your
way out. But there were objections and muttering,

which didn’t seem to bother the old dude much. I paid
for this, grumbled some. I don’t get paid enough,
he said, to listen to you whine. But it pays
the bills, so here’s more. Write to
exercise your demons.

They need the work. Write to recycle your trash.
Write to stir a few inches of soil. Write to
aerate the ground in which you propose
growing roots. Write to flower
for the honeybees around.

Writing is not driving, is not clear-cutting forests, is not beating
dogs or neglecting children. Writing is not gorging on fiberless
snacks. Writing is not salinating the land, is not acidifying
mountain lakes. As a rule, writing is not rudeness.
Writing is not sleeping through armaggedon.

When one writes, one does not go to war, does not arrest potheads,
does not commit hate crimes, does not tap phone lines. Writing is
celebration, is mining deep, is throwing one’s voice, is wandering
far, is back to Africa, is apologies to tribes, is bottomless pools.
While they write, while accepting gifts, writers do not borrow

money. Writing is now. Like all habits, it takes a few months to acquire.
It is almost entirely non-polluting and potentially harmless to all
but the most powerful. That’s it. No questions, please. And, as
I mentioned earlier, leave your change at the door as you

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kill, Kill, Kill the Boeing Tanker Project

Letter to the Washington Post, #12

My first letter to the Post in almost three months. Do you think it’ll see print?

Your story, “Pentagon Reopens Tanker Bidding (July 10)” was incomplete. It should have referred to the re-reopening of the bidding for aerial refueling tankers. After all, the first $100 billion award--to Boeing--was cancelled when collusion between a Pentagon purchasing officer and Boeing was exposed. People went to prison for corrupt practices committed during that first bidding process.

The second contract, awarded to a Northrop Grumman/Airbus consortium, was cancelled after a political uproar during which the consortium and Boeing spent millions on dueling ad campaigns, and various elected officials and the General Accounting Office entered the fray.

Now, after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on engineering, planning, advertising, bidding, administering, collaborating, corrupting, investigating, prosecuting and incarcerating, we’re going to do it all again. And do it for a Pentagon project that is a relic of a Cold War strategy.

We no longer need a whole fleet of aerial refueling tankers because, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we no longer need to keep bombers and fighters airborne 24/7 in order to assure a counter-strike capacity against a massive nuclear first strike.

It therefore seems obvious that ordinary Americans should not be reassured by the notion that the Pentagon will get it right this time. Getting it right would mean not issuing the contract in the first place. $100 billion and change could then be spent on health care, education and mass transit. How much more reassuring would that be?

Jeff Epton
807 Taylor St., NE
Washington, DC 20017

202 506-7470