This is an archived issue - see current issue at

Harvard Square Commentary


A political, social, literary journal,


Ernest Cassara, Editor, with Contributing Editors

 John R. Turner & Larry Hamby


16 January 2006


In this issue



From Liberty Street: “Terror in Vermont.” By John R. Turner

The Harvard Square Observer: “Alito on the Bench.” / Potpourri: “Our Generous Public Officials” / “Pill Popping America”

“Pentagon Expands Payoffs to Middle East Reporters.” By Sherwood Ross

“The Dream of Martin Luther King Jr.” Delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Books of Our Editors on Sale

“1914.” By Wilfred Owen

Wisdom from Polonius

The Harvard Square Commentary Archives

Dedication to Elijah Parish Lovejoy



From Liberty Street



By John R. Turner



Terror in Vermont

The TV pundit Bill O’Reilly has announced that he intends to take over my home state of Vermont. I guess I should be shaking in my slippers.


Not only has O'Reilly decreed that state judge Edward Cashman be kicked out of his job, he has also said that the Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives should resign her position.

The incident which has raised this furor was Judge Cashman’s imposing a life sentence on a man who had molested a child, but suspending all but sixty days of it.

There are quite a few features of the case Mr. O’Reilly has neglected to emphasize. First, the offender Mark Huelett is so limited in intellect he cannot reasonably be considered an adult. He has an IQ of 80 and the maturity of a twelve year old.


Second, according to Republican state representative Michael Kainen of Hartford, if one reads Judge Cashman’s sentence carefully, he will see that there’s very little chance that Huelett will be held in jail for only sixty days. The judge included an extensive list of conditions for Huelett’s release which are unlikely to be quickly met.


Third, Judge Cashman made his decision because he had become extremely frustrated by the way the criminal justice system deals with people like Huelett. Based on his experience of twenty-five years on the bench, he had concluded that simply locking up a defendant of that sort did no good. “I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value. It doesn’t make anything better,” Judge Cashman said.


One may well disagree with his method of bringing the issue to public attention. But, it doesn’t seem to me that his actions were so bad the state should be surrendered to the orders of a national television personality, and, particularly , not to one whose reputation for reasoned judgment is less than exalted.


The problem of TV sensationalism is getting ever more bothersome in America. O’Reilly touts himself as a great defender of American youth. But what he’s really out to defend are his own ratings. If he cared about kids he would use his publicity machine to expose the conditions which harm the greatest number of children in America — inadequate health care, for example. But O’Reilly never deals with anything like that. Instead, he plucks out cases he can slather with yellow sheet journalism and fulminates incessantly about his outrage. Last Friday night on his TV show he denounced the fuzzy thinking that has “permeated” Vermont and declared that he’s not going to put up with it. I’m sure there is fuzzy thinking in Vermont, like there is anywhere else. But what O’Reilly knows about it wouldn’t cover the bottom of a thimble. And, in any case, nothing I’ve heard in Vermont over my long residence here approaches in sloppiness O’Reilly’s own lucubration. If we can believe he actually means what he says, then his own brain is in need of treatment just as much as Mr. Huelett’s is.


O’Reilly, though, is not really the issue. He’s just a shallow-minded publicity hound. And there will always be people like him in the entertainment business. What we need to ask ourselves is why men of his ilk are listened to and are allowed, in some cases, to direct the agenda of public debate. Are we really so addicted to simplistic thinking we have to make the unusual actions of judge into a black/white melodrama fit only for cheap TV shows? Obviously, when an experienced judge becomes so fed up with the system he is forced to deliver people into that he imposes an unusual sentence in order to draw attention to the conditions within it, our response ought to be debate and investigation rather than the crazed howling of a mob.


My advice to Governor Douglas and to the leaders of the Vermont House, the Vermont Senate, and the Vermont judiciary is not to deliver the state over to the O’Reillys of the world, but rather to use this incident to work on the problems that afflict our criminal justice system. I don’t think it’s either as dysfunctional or as cruel as the systems of many other states, but it’s certainly a long way from perfect. And if Judge Cashmen helps us to realize that, he deserves our thanks rather than being handed over to mob justice.


For more commentaries by John R. Turner, visit the website:




The Harvard Square Observer



Alito on the Bench



Things to look for when Samuel Alito sits on the Supreme Court Bench: Did he mean it when he listed items that he admitted were settled law, and unlikely to be tampered with because of stare decisis:


¶ One man, one vote. During his confirmation hearings, we learned that it and other actions of the Warren Court are what inspired him to consider studying for a career in the law. (He was opposed to this ruling!)


¶ Brown v. the Board of Education. It is inconceivable that the U.S. would return to the days of segregated schools.


But, on the other hand, Alito weaseled out of committing himself on the subject of Roe v. Wade. It was in the probing of his view on that subject that the keen observer could see that he was becoming irritated — especially, by Senator Schumer of New York — not, however, to the extent of losing his cool and snapping back. Had he been honest, of course, he would have waved his hand in the direction of the Republican majority on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and said, “Well, should I concede stare decisis in that case, that crowd will keep me off the bench. So, Democrats, I cannot oblige you. Of course, I don’t want to anyway, for, as I recommended when working in the Reagan Justice Department, it is easier to chip away at women’s rights to control their own bodies than to overturn Roe outright.”


These thoughts were, no doubt, going through his mind.


Other things to look for when he is on the bench:


The assertion of the “Unitary” view of presidential power. That is, that the Chief Executive has control over the “independent” agencies, thus depriving them of their independence. Actually, we have seen some attempts by President Bush to control a certain “independent” agency. You recall the dispute over whether the FDA will allow the sale of the “morning after pill” over the counter. Interference by political appointees has overridden decisions by the scientific staff of the agency.


The proverbial man from Mars might consider it odd that the Bush administration supports sex education that promotes abstinence, and doesn’t want to pay for abortions when that plan fails. Of course, it is against abortion under any circumstances. So, consider the possibilities: A young girl must carry to term a pregnancy that results from incest. (So, her old man could, also, be the father of her child! Consider the other possibilities within the family!) The so-called “pro-life crowd” is not concerned with the life of the prospective mother, doing away, if it could, with abortions to save the life of the mother. And, so on.


Although the hearings are, thankfully!, behind us, one other comment: Several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee pointed out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was approved for accession to the court, even though she had been the chief legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. These Republicans, apparently, do not approve of an organization whose sole purpose is to protect the liberties of Americans. Strange!


Aside from the question of abortion, Judge Alito was troubled, also, by the accusation that he had been a member of CAP — Concerned Alumni of Princeton — which strove to keep women and Blacks out of Princeton. The organization published material, which Judge Alito claimed he had never seen; he claimed he had never joined; he claimed that he was appalled to be suspected of racism and being against women. Of course, he did list membership in CAP when he was applying for a job in the Reagan administration. At the time, he must have considered such attitudes welcome among the Reaganites!






Never realized our public officials are so generous. Of late, they have contributed an astronomical amount to their favorite charities. Of course, technically, it is the dough that the Super Lobbyist Jack Abramoff stuffed into their pockets, no doubt when their minds were on higher things!


By the way, clever that Abramoff owns a fancy restaurant in D.C., where he is able to provide sumptuous meals to our public servants. The ethics rules limit the lobbyist to treating our elected official to just 50 bucks for food. No mention of drink. So, presumably, they can booze it up till the wee hours without ethical concerns!



In the course of a couple of hours staring at television, the proverbial man from Mars would conclude that we are a drug soused society. Sort of difficult to preach to kids (not to mention adults) that they should avoid certain (illegal) drugs, when the society seems to believe that life can be improved so much by popping pills. Let’s see, pills for: stomach acid; cholesterol; particularly difficult headaches; osteoporosis; high blood pressure; menopause; elbow pain (bad for tennis); and, new to me: restless leg syndrome. (New to me, I say, but hearing me grouse about the abundance of maladies paraded before us on TV, My Better Half informed me that she remembered a time when my restless legs caused her to move from the connubial bed to the sofa!)



Pentagon Expands Payoffs to Middle East Reporters


By Sherwood Ross


Middle Eastern journalists are the target of a multi-million dollar Pentagon campaign to get them to write favorable articles about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. By some estimates, $300-million has been earmarked for the scheme.



The journalists may expect to be contacted by any of three U.S. public relations (PR) firms picked for this delicate assignment: the Washington-based Lincoln Group; San Diego-based Science Application International Corp., and SYColeman, Inc., of Arlington, Virginia.


The three firms appear to be relatively new operators, not known for previous PR chores, but are linked to the Pentagon. Some of their assignments appear to have been obtained without competitive bidding.


President Bush’s attempts to influence foreign journalists first surfaced in 2002, when the Pentagon announced an Office of Strategic Influence(OSI) to spread “rumors and untruths.” A storm of protest sidetracked the scheme.


Now it’s back in a new guise. The Pentagon awarded five-year contracts last June to the above-cited firms to create slogans, ads, newspaper articles, radio spots, and TV shows to plug U.S. policies overseas, USA Today reported.

The New York Times (Jan. 2nd,) said Lincoln has “paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by American soldiers (and) has also been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda work, according to current and former employees.”


If Middle Eastern readers find their reporters pocket Pentagon money funneled through PR firms, it could undermine their trust in the free press, critics of the Pentagon initiative say.


America’s founders strongly believed government should keep its hands off the press. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, wrote, “The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”


However, there is substantial international precedent for despotic governments’ bribing reporters. In the 1930s, according to historian John Weitz, (Hitler's Diplomat), Nazi propaganda boss Dr. Joseph Goebbels “made strenuous efforts to assure good reports in the foreign press. Certain British free-lance journalists were paid to write enthusiastic articles.”


Soviet dictator Josef Stalin also rewarded editors who parroted the Kremlin line with fat salaries, dachas, and the pleasure of his company. And Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is known to have bribed Mexican journalists.


The U.S. has paid off Muslim clergy before. After President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, according to Politics Today magazine, he put a stop to the CIA practice of slipping money to Iranian mullahs and ayatollahs.


It was also revealed the CIA was making “a worldwide pattern of payments to key figures, in a system of institutionalized bribery circling the globe,” author Darrell Garwood wrote in Under Cover: Thirty-Five Years of CIA Deception. (Grove Press).


The U.S. is already in trouble with the Middle East press corps. A US Air Force fighter plane in April, 2003, targeted and killed Al Jazeera reporter Tariq Ayoub on the roof of his Baghdad office. About the same time, the U.S. military also killed Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and Josê Couso of Spanish TV network Telecinco, according to The Nation magazine.


These hostile actions apparently have been a factor in the slide of America’s image as free press booster. United Press International reported the U.S. has plunged to 44th place on the list of 167 nations in terms of press freedom.


At home, President Bush’s regime has been blasted for paying off American reporters. TV show host Armstrong Williams got $240,000 to plug a Bush educational scheme. After it was learned in January, 2005, that columnist Maggie Gallagher got $21,500, Bush said the payoffs would stop because “our (domestic) agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.”


Since the payoffs to foreign reporters will continue, does this mean the Iraq war can’t stand on its own two feet? If so, maybe somebody should tell the Pentagon good PR flows from good policies. Shooting unfriendly reporters and bribing friendly ones don’t fit in that category.


(Sherwood Ross has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, as an executive in the civil rights movement, as a columnist for a global wire service and as a PR consultant to scores of magazines from The Harvard Business Review and Business Week to The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Contact him at




The Dream of Martin Luther King Jr.



Delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.


I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.


Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.


But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.


In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”


But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.


We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.


It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.


But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.


The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.


We cannot walk alone.


And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.


We cannot turn back.


There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.


And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”


I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.


I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


I have a dream today!


I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.


I have a dream today!


I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”


This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.


With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.


And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:


My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!


And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.


And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:


Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!




Books of Our Editors on Sale



By John R. Turner: Letters To Dalton: Higher Education and the Degree Salesmen not only explains, in detail, why the managers of most American colleges care almost nothing about education, but presents an argument about what it would mean to care.


Special offer to readers of the Harvard Square Commentary: $4.00 per copy, which includes shipping & handling. Order by e-mail from:

Or, if you prefer the postal service, from John R. Turner, 45 Liberty Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. An invoice will be sent with the book(s).



Ernest Cassara: The Enlightenment in America. The development of modern science led to the 18th-century Enlightenment, on both sides of the Atlantic. Cassara tells the story of the profound changes that occurred in the American colonies and the new nation. Chapters include: The Life Style of the Enlightened American; The Pursuit of Science; The Rights of Man; The Science of Government; The Religion of Humanity; The Diffusion of Knowledge. Illustrated, with a Chronology.


By special arrangement with the publisher, the book is available at the reduced rate of $12.00, which includes shipping & handling. Order by e-mail:


Order by regular mail: Cambridge Cornerstone Press, P.O. Box 400351, Cambridge, MA 02140. An invoice will be sent with the book(s).






By Wilfred Owen


War broke: and now the Winter of the world

With perishing great darkness closes in.

The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,

Is over all the width of Europe whirled,

Rending the sails of progress. Rent or furled

Are all Art’s ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin

Famines of thought and feeling. Love’s wine’s thin.

The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.


For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,

And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,

An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,

A slow grand age, and rich with all increase.

But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need

Of sowings for new Spring, and blood for seed.







“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! He, between whom and thee there was enmity will become as though he was a bosom friend.”—The Koran



“Whoever destroys a single soul, it is as if that person destroyed a complete world; and whoever preserves a single soul, it is as if that person preserved a complete world.”—Mishna Sandedrin



“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”—Mohandas K. Gandhi




The Harvard Square Commentary Archives


Click on the date of the issue you desire to access:




From Liberty Street: “Trilogy of Evil.” By John R. Turner

The Harvard Square Observer: “Whittling Away at Our Liberty.” / Potpourri

The Fifth Humor: “ID is Really Funny.” By Larry Hamby

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois, from Project Gutenberg

Letters to the Editor

Websites of Our Contributors




From Liberty Street: “Time and Its Uses.” By John R. Turner

The Harvard Square Observer: “Civics 101” / Potpourri

Essay: “Any Man who Hates Dogs and Children Can’t Be All Bad. The Career of W. C. Fields.” By Larry Hamby

“Our History of Violence.” By James K. A. Smith

“The Wit and Wisdom of Tom DeLay

Jesus on Prayer at Football Games, Graduations, etc.

Letters to the Editor

Invictus.” By William Ernest Henley

Wisdom from Polonius

Websites of Our Contributors




This was a double issue, 19 & 26 December 2005:


From Liberty Street: “Apathy.” By John R. Turner

The Harvard Square Observer: “The President Obfuscates” / Potpourri

“Tyrannosaurus Americanus.” By Sherwood Ross

The Fifth Humor: “Christmas.” By Larry Hamby

Essay: “Any Man who Hates Dogs and Children Can’t Be All Bad. The Career of W. C. Fields.” By Larry Hamby

“Art, Truth and Politics.” The Nobel Lecture by Harold Pinter

Bishop Spong on Pat Robertson

The Speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Sierra Club Summit

Letters to the Editor

Websites of Our Contributors




From Liberty Street: “Intellectual Cowardice.” By John R. Turner

The Harvard Square Observer: “Bush and Jesus.” / Potpourri

“The Price is Wrong.” By Jerome Richard

Essay: “The Psychological Impact of War and Militarism in Modern America.” By John R. Turner

“Sonnet.” By William Shakespeare

Wisdom from Polonius



Hero of a Free Press


When we decided to establish this site, we were sorely tempted to name it in honor of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a native of Maine and graduate of the Waterville College (Colby College), who was killed in 1837, defending his abolitionist press against a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois.


Read about him here:




This is an archived issue - see current issue at