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Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2004

 

More Ernest Partridge Blogs:

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
 


April 26, 2004

A tribute to, and mild disagreement with, Walter Cronkite.
Reflections on the abuse of language by the right-wing "regressives."
A hopeful trend on CSPAN's "Washington Journal."


A Straw in the Wind from CSPAN?

As an occasional viewer of CSPAN's "Washington Journal," I may have detected a trend that is worthy of note.

Until several months ago, "Washington Journal" would post two and sometimes three separate numbers during an interview: one for the "Republican Line," another for "The Democratic Line," and occasionally a third "Independents" or "Other" line.

But then, calls started coming in on the "Republican Line" from individuals who would announce, "I'm a Republican, but I'm not voting for Bush." While I heard several such calls, I can't recall hearing, conversely, "I'm a Democrat, but I'm for Bush" though surely there must have been some.

Now take another look. Today you will find numbers listed for, "Supporting the President" and "Opposing the President."

Anyone out there who's also noticed this? Could be indicative of something hopeful.
 


We Love you, Uncle Walter, but....

Walter Cronkite is mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore. And so, the man once described as "the most trusted voice in America," is writing a series of columns, bluntly criticizing the Bush Administration. Well, good for him -- and for us!

We applaud Cronkite's enlistment into the fight, and agree with almost everything he writes. However, one recent and widely cited column, "Dear Senator Kerry," provokes our respectful disagreement.

In that column, Cronkite writes:

"[Your] denial that you are a liberal is almost impossible to reconcile.

"When the National Journal said your Senate record makes you one of the most liberal members of the Senate, you called that 'a laughable characterization" and "the most ridiculous think I've ever seen in my life." Wow! Liberals, who make up a substantial portion of the Democratic Party and a significant portion of the independent vote, are entitled to ask, "What gives?"

Well this, in our humble opinion, is "What Gives." The radical right and the corporate media have managed, over the past few decades, to turn the word "liberal" into a political hate-word. Thus, for example, Ann Coulter virtually equates liberalism with treason, and Sean Hannity, with a neat trick of guilt by association, titles his best-selling book: "Deliver Us from Evil : Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism." And need only hear the likes of Bob Novak utter the word "liberal" to feel the chill of pure hatred behind the utterance.

So, if John Kerry's political enemies have concocted a semantic poison pill out of the word "liberal," then the Senator should not be obliged to swallow it. This is why many "liberals" have chosen to adopt the word "progressive" instead. If your foes have soiled your suit, better change to a clean suit than to stubbornly wear the old one.

After all, "liberalism" is just a word. And as Thomas Hobbes wisely noted, "words are wise men's counters -- they are the money of fools."

Interestingly, as numerous public opinion surveys have confirmed, a sizeable majority of the public endorses the established "liberal" program even as they shun the word "liberal." Ask the ordinary citizen if s/he endorses Social Security, Medicare, racial and gender equality, environmental protection, regulation of markets, progressive taxation, and non-aggressive foreign relations, and you will find that most will support these liberal programs. Then ask the same person if s/he would accept the label of "liberal," and they would emphatically deny it.

And that, when you think of it, is a hopeful trend. Decades of costly and persistent propaganda have damaged a mere word, while leaving public support of the program essentially intact.

If Kerry chooses to avoid the besmirched word, that's just political astuteness. How does he stand with the liberal program? Quite well, it seems, as we explain in our essay of the week, week,
"More than a Dime's Worth of Difference."

 


Confucius Say -- Rectify the Names:

And speaking semantic muddles, long ago Confucius recognized the importance of language to both social order and disorder. In The Analects, we read:

Tsu-lu said: "the prince of Wei is awaiting you, Sir, to take control of his administration. What will you undertake first, sir" The Master replied: "The one thing needed is the rectification of names.

The Chinese scholar, Hu Shih elaborates:

The Rectification of Names consists in making real relationships and duties and institutions conform as far as possible to their ideal meanings... .When this intellectual reorganization is at last effected, the ideal social order will come as night follows day - a social order where, just as a circle is a circle and a square a square, so every prince is princely [and] every official is faithful...

We begin, of course, by refusing to go along with the right-wing's appropriation of the honorable word, "conservatism." The Right is anything but "conservative," since it has set out to destroy our most cherished and valuable endowments from the past: our Constitutionally protected rights, science and scholarship, and even the Christian ethics of pacifism, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.

So, instead, we should choose another name for the radical right. Someone suggested "Regressivism" which strikes us as just right. It immediately indicates, correctly, the opposite of "progressive."

And what shall we name ourselves? Our choice is "progressive." "Liberal" has been severely injured by decades of "regressive" abuse, and is due for a leave of absence and a prolonged convalescence. Again, it's just a word. It's the idea and the program that matter.

"The rectification of names" in our political discourse must be an arduous and prolonged exercise, involving the rehabilitation of such words as "clear" (as in "clear skies"), "health" (as in "healthy forests") and, of course, "compassion" (as in "compassionate conservatism").

This is because progressives have an entirely different approach to language than the "regressives." Progressives are the true conservatives, since they treat language as a priceless endowment of our forbearers, while regressives treat it as a malignant tool to further their agenda. As we wrote in our chapter in the forthcoming "Big Bush Lies" (edited by Jerry Barrret, RiverWood Books):

A well-ordered and well-integrated society rests upon a foundation of shared meanings a language with a rich vocabulary, capable of expressing novelties, relatively constant, but at the same time evolving through ordinary use, rather than political manipulation. Put simply, language functions best as a conservative institution.

However, as Orwell so clearly pointed out, political propaganda is destructive of this "conservative" function of language. Heedless of the cost in social disorder, right wing propaganda deliberately and willfully distorts language to serve the purposes of the party, of the faction, of the sponsor. This is no secret. In his GOPAC memo of 1994, Newt Gingrich candidly identified language as "a key mechanism of control."

Propagandistic manipulation and distortion of political discourse is subversive of democratic government whether or not it is successful. If the "Newspeak" of the controlling party is uncritically accepted by the public, it becomes an instrument of control by that government. If it is rejected, because the public thus becomes suspicious of language, the institutions of government and the rule of law are likewise rejected, and anarchy ensues.

Furthermore, a degraded political language can cause havoc in the society as it undermines clarity of ordinary discourse and with it the capacity of ordinary citizens to communicate, to trust each other, and thus participate in and sustain a democratic government. Civil society then dissolves as individuals retreat into themselves and are reduced from citizens to self-seeking consumers, and society is reduced to a mere marketplace -- if that.

It is thus the urgent duty of the opposing party, civic organizations an educational institutions to restore to political discourse the clarity and order of a natural language what Confucius called a "rectification of names" which is pre-requisite for open, intelligent and productive political debate.

For still more about "rectification" versus "corruption" of names, see my Newspeak lives!

 


April 28, 2004

Anatomy of a Spin.

In my essay of this week, "Bush v. Kerry: More than a Dime's Worth of Difference,"  I offered the following evidence of Kerry's liberal credentials from his senate voting record:

The liberal Americans for Democratic Action posts for Kerry a lifetime "Liberal Quotient" of 92 out of 100. By way of comparison: Edward Kennedy - 90, Bill Frist - 3, Al Gore - 65, Paul Wellstone - 99. The League of Conservation voters gave Kerry a score of 92 for the 107th Congress (2001-2) and 94 for the 106th Congress (1999-2000). Edward Kennedy's scores were, respectively, 84 and 81. GOP Majority leader Bill Frist registered a cold zero. (Unlike the ADA, the LCV does not list lifetime scores, or the scores of former members).

In an article titled "When Kerry was Liberal," The Progressive's  Ruth Conniff, joining the throng of "progressives" apparently determined to cripple the candidacy of Bush's opponent, had a radically different take on Kerry's record:

The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action put Kerry at number twenty-five among Senate liberals in 2003. (Ted Kennedy ranked number five). Nor does Kerry Make the ADA's lifetime top-ten list of Senate liberals, headed by the late Paul Wellstone at number one.

I was aware of Conniff's article when I wrote mine, and thus was inclined to give it a citation or even an end note. I declined, feeling it would be a distraction and, more significantly, because I discovered on close examination of the source, that it was profoundly misleading. Here is why:

1. Both Conniff and I are correct on the numbers. Kerry's ADA score for the 106th and 107th Congresses are exactly as I reported: 94 and 92. However for 2003, the first half of the 108th Congress, Kerry's ADA score is 85. (Actually twenty-fourth among Democrats).

But take a closer look. The ADA score is based upon votes on twenty key bills. In addition, the ADA scores an absence as a minus -- the same as an ADA "wrong" vote. As we all know, Kerry spent much of 2003 away from the Senate and on the campaign trail. Now here is Kerry's tally on those twenty votes: seventeen "ADA correct", and three absent . If the ADA had instead based its tally on votes cast, Kerry would have scored 100.

2. The ADA lifetime scores are for both present and former senators. How many, I don't know, though I find listings for long-departed senators such as Humphrey (MN) and Javitts (NY). So there must be hundreds of names listed in the ADA lifetime scores. Of these hundreds, Kerry somehow fails to rank in the top ten.

BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL!

You can find these ADA voting records at the ADA site -- lifetime, and for 2003.

So that's the spin. A masterpiece! Karl Rove couldn't have done it any better.


Those Fershlugginer Polls!

"Polls show that Bush has retaken the lead" our "librul media" tell us.

Oh Yeah?

Well, some polls do -- that's for sure. But how many?

To find out, we looked at PollingReport.com -- and suggest you do the same.

Of the eighteen most recent (mid-April) polls, Kerry led in eleven and Bush in seven.

Round and round the spinning goes, where it stops, nobody knows -- only that it won't likely stop before November 2.

 


 

May 3, 2004

The Mailbag

To Ted Koppel, ABC News:

Thank you, Ted Koppel, for your principled determination to read the names of the fallen in Iraq. You are (almost) forgiven for your performance the December Candidates' debate.

Where, or where, is an Ed Morrow or a Walter Cronkite with the courage to stand up and protest this outrage in Iraq, and resist the Ministry of Truth that is corporate media "news."

Are you prepared to fill those shoes?

America has rewarded you lavishly for your work and your talents. Now it's payback time.

No need to answer propaganda with counter-propaganda. When more than half the population persists in believing Administration-serving falsehoods (cf. the PIPA studies), just the simple truth will suffice.

A few weeks ago, we saw a debate on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," regarding the integrity of touch-screen voting. To our astonishment and chagrin, these infernal machines were vigorously defended by the Executive Director of Common Cause of Georgia (the location of likely computer-voting fraud in 2002).

So when the annual Common Cause renewal notice arrived at our mailbox, we fired back an angry letter, in effect: "not another dime from me until Common Cause joins the fight against e-voting."

Mr. Alex Camarta, Executive Assistant to the President of Common Cause, was kind enough to reply. In part:

Common Cause is indeed in agreement with the concerns you express about the need for an auditable voting process... It is the position of Common Cause to support voting which can be audited; however, we do not believe that time allows for total institution of this process by the time of the presidential election.

We replied:

I’m sorry, but I cannot accept the assumption that there is insufficient time to decertify all non-auditable voting machines before the November election. Rep. Rush Holt and 150 House co-sponsors of his bill apparently disagree. So too our California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelly who has just decertified all such machines in California.

In a just country, non-auditable voting would be illegal – especially so when the software codes are proprietary, and the machines built by a company whose senior officers publicly endorse and financially support one of the candidates. On its face, this setup stinks. Any election that results from such an arrangement must be suspect.

It is not too late to build a few thousand ballot boxes and print paper ballots. It’s the oldest system, and to date the most secure. Canada manages this, so why can’t we?

If the non-auditable machines are widely used in November, I fear that the outcome is pre-determined, and American democracy is lost.

We recently sent the following to some friends in Russia and a similar message to other friends abroad:

The political situation in the US is terrible. Whether or not it gets much worse hangs on the election -- which, for all we know, may be "fixed" to ensure a Bush victory. This election may be our last chance to save, or perhaps I should say "restore," American democracy.

One of the primary problems we face is a corporate media which both effectively "owns," and is owned by, the Bush regime and the Republicans. Our media is scarcely less supportive and apologetic of the government than yours during the Soviet era. In this regard, you Russians have an advantage over us. You knew and appreciated that the media lied to you; Americans are not accustomed to this, and so are inclined to believe what they see and hear in the media.

For example, a recent poll reports that 57% of our public believes that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis were involved in the attacks of 9/11 (it was previously as high as 70%), despite the fact that there is no evidence whatever of this, and very good reason not to believe it. But the lie about the Saddam-9/11 connection is told so often by the Bush regime, and repeated by the captive press, that most of the public still believes it. Those who refuse to believe this official lie are solidly opposed to Bush.

The last refuge of a free press in the US is the internet, our "Samizdat." At The Crisis Papers, we are doing our small part to get essential news to the public.

Little by little, as new books are published and news of the lies, greed, hypocrisy and incompetence of the Bush administration leaks out, the opposition grows and we keep hope alive.

And so we struggle on.

I am sadly aware that the world opinion of Americans has declined dramatically. So please remind your friends and anyone who will listen, that a majority of us Americans voted against Bush in 2000, and that he holds his office through fraud and judicial malfeasance. Moreover, many of us oppose Bush's terrible war in Iraq and are determined to end it, and to end his reign of error and incompetence.

A friend in St. Petersburg, an officer in a citizen environmental organization, asked permission to distribute the letter to his associates. We agreed, of course.

This exchange reminds us to urge all of you with friends and associates abroad, to remind them, repeatedly, that Bush, Inc., does not represent the United States, that a majority of Americans voted against Bush, and that there is an active and determined opposition to Bush and all that he represents.

 


Historical Analogies

How could the neo-cons have got it so wrong? Where did they ever get the idea that the troop of the "coalition" would be greeted with flowers and sweets?

Think of Paris in 1944, the neo-cons said.

Well, not quite the same. In the first place, the first Allied troops to enter Paris were the Free French, led by Charles de Gaulle. (That name, by the way, is roughly equivalent to "Johnny America"). In addition, the French were fully confident that their cheese industry would not be taken over by Kraft Foods, nor their wine industry by Ernest and Julio Gallo. And finally, there was not doubt that the enemy of both Americans and French were the Nazis.

On the other hand, when we were attacked by al Qaeda, we proceeded to invade al Qaeda's sworn enemy, Iraq. As several astute individuals have put it, it was as if, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, we promptly invaded Mexico.

No, the Paris-Baghdad analogy just won't do.

On the other hand, here's another historical analogy:

When I was an undergraduate, my Sociology professor told of the time he was visiting in Germany in the mid-thirties. One day he decided to watch a Hitler motorcade, which he did with academic attachment as the crowd around him cheered enthusiastically at Der Fuhrer. In an instant he found himself on the ground, bleeding. A Gestapo officer, noticing that he was not cheering, delivered the blow. "Don't you realize that this is the greatest man in the world passing by?" he said. "You must show your respect." Quite probably, his American citizenship saved him from a far worse fate.

I've thought of that incident, as I have watched the cable TV run-up to the Iraq war, and have heard the network anchors, and even many leaders of the Democratic Party, promise to "follow the Commander in Chief" when the war starts. Because we are "at war," Ari Fleischer sternly reminded us, we must "watch what we say."

In short: "we must destroy our democracy in order to save it."

Fortunately, more and more Americans, and even a few key members of the media, have grown some spine of late. In particular, note the sharp questioning at Bush's notorious news conference, Ted Koppel's aforementioned "roster of the fallen," and CBS's 60 Minutes interviews with Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, and Bob Woodward, in addition to its disclosure last week of the Iraq torturing scandal.

They deserve our encouragement and support. Have you sent a letter of appreciation to any of the above?

 


Earning Their Parachutes

A few brave souls are putting their careers, and possibly their very lives, on the line, in the struggle to restore peace in the world and democracy at home. Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, Sibel Edmonds and Katherine Gun come immediately to mind. In addition, there are several war-resisting soldiers, some seeking asylum in Canada, and others remaining the United States to face desertion charges. No doubt, there are many more in the wings, ready to step forward.

And after they have taken their stand, what then? The thought came to my mind as I watched and heard Sibel Edmonds interviewed on "Democracy Now." This eloquent and courageous woman sacrificed her job as an FBI translator when she reported to the public that prior to 9/11, there were abundant warnings of the pending attacks.

So what follows for Mrs. Edmonds, Katherine Gun in Great Britain, and others like her?

These individuals have earned the support of wealthy private businessmen and progressive foundations, who should promptly hire them to work at positions of responsibility and at salaries comparable to those they have lost. In addition, they should be offered free legal support, should that become necessary.

In short, if the costs to actual and potential whistleblowers due to loss of income and legal expenses are mitigated, then still more information damaging to the Bush regime will come out.

George Soros, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, et al, are you listening? You too, Center for American Progress.



And speaking of parachutes, we close with a story.

George Bush, a priest and a boy scout are aboard a private corporate jet. The aircraft suddenly loses power over a mountain range -- no hope of a safe landing. The pilot, a libertarian devotee of Ayn Rand, looks after No. 1. and promptly bails out.

There are only two parachutes for the remaining three passengers. Bush grabs a pack, snaps it onto his back, and announces, "I am God's chosen leader of the free world, and God tells me that I must survive to vanquish the evil-doers." And then he bails out.

The priest then tells the boy scout, "son, I've lived a full and blessed life, and you have your life before you. So you must take this parachute."

"Cool it pops," said the lad, "God's chosen leader of the free world just stole my backpack."

 


May 10, 2004

Holy War, Anyone?

In response to my recent essay, "Bush v. Kerry, More than a Dime's Worth of Difference," a Crisis Papers reader writes:

Islamic Radicals ... have been around for well over 1000 years - Islam itself is a dogmatic, gutter religion for people still stuck in the 10th century. There have been thousands of "radical" leaders for ages and millions willing to follow. Never fool yourself into thinking Islam is a peaceful religion. Any president who thinks Islam is a peaceful religion is thinking foolishly and dangerously.

Debates over public issues generally excite my interest and invite my enthusiastic participation. Rarely do they provoke my anger and disgust. This comment, and similar comments by the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, falls into that latter category.

In a sense that the reader would likely reject, I fully agree that "there have been thousands of 'radical' leaders for ages and millions willing to follow." Truly there have been such leaders and followers of all religions, and of no religion. Islam is no exception. For Islam is no more an exclusively peaceful nor an exclusively war-like religion than Christianity. The history and scriptures of both religions portray both pacifism and warfare, both mercy and cruelty. (I argue this point at some length in my my "Warriors of the Lord").

In fact, there is solid historical evidence that Islam has been the most tolerant of the Abrahamic religions. Moslems regard both Moses and Jesus as holy prophets. Christians and Jews do not accord the same honor to Mohammed. As "religions of the book," Christianity and Judaism have traditionally been tolerated by the Moslems -- unless, as with the Crusades and the establishment of the state of Israel, Christians and Jews have attempted to uproot Moslems from their homes and their land.

When the Moslems arrived in Egypt, they encountered the Coptic Christians, a sect of Christianity as ancient as Roman Catholicism. The Copts have flourished in Egypt ever since, to this day. When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem and Damascus from the Crusaders, Christian churches and Jewish Synagogues remained intact, alongside the Mosques. When the Spanish Inquisition expelled the Jews, they found refuge in the Islamic Middle East.

On the other hand, there are Islamic extremists such as Osama bin Laden, and they are dangerous. So too are the orthodox Jewish settlers on Palestinian land, the "end-of-times" evangelical Christians, and bigots who refer to the faith of over one billion of our fellow humans as a "gutter religion."

Consider the legacy of this "gutter religion."

When my European ancestors were groveling in the ignorance and superstition of the Dark Ages, the Arabic scholars of Baghdad, Damascus and Cordoba were translating and preserving the philosophy and literature of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They developed the number system and invented algebra, which were to become the foundation of our mathematics and physical sciences. Their universities advanced the sciences of medicine and biology, and they built architectural masterpieces that stand today: the Alhambra palace in Granada, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the shrine of the Kaaba at Mecca.

As a philosophical secularist, I am equally outside of Judaism, traditional Christianity and Islam, yet I find much to admire in each of these great world religions. There are resources in each for accommodation and mutual respect -- as the Moslems have shown us in the past. There is also a potential for a "clash of civilizations." The choice is ours

Struggles such as "the war on terror" proclaimed by George Bush, polarize whole populations and turn common moral ground into a depopulated no-mans-land. "You are either for us or against us." Thus the post-9/11 pogrom by the INS and the Justice Department against Moslems within our borders, followed by Guantánamo, and now Abu Ghraib prison.

In that direction lies misery, poverty, and carnage.

The urgent question before is now, is whether, instead, we can emulate the tolerance and accommodation of Saladin toward "the religions of the book," following his triumph over the Crusaders.
 


Kooks Need Not Apply

In his book, The New Pearl Harbor, David Ray Griffin of the faculty of the Claremont School of Theology, makes numerous serious accusations against the Bush administration, some plausible and others "far out." Consider just one of the latter: "The physical evidence contradicts ... the official account, that the Pentagon was hit by a Boeing 757 -- Flight 77, that is." He then goes on to argue that the Pentagon was hit by a missile.  (Santa Barbara Independent, April 1, 2004).

Trouble is, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of eye-witnesses to the event, as the plane flew over a crowded freeway adjacent to the Pentagon. Moreover, the impact was recorded on Pentagon surveillance cameras -- images that I have seen myself on TV. (See John Judge: "Not all Conspiracies are Created equal" and Carol Lovett:  "Eyewitnesses Describe Pentagon Attack,  the latter published September 11, 2001).

Then there is the obvious question: If Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon, where is that plane and all the crew and passengers (including, by the way, Barbara Olson, the wife of the Solicitor General, Ted Olson)? Griffin seems uninterested: "I have no idea what happened to Flight 77."

Now imagine that a commercial flight took off last week and then disappeared along with a couple hundred passengers on board -- one of them the wife of (say) a Justice of the Supreme Court. Would the press, the FAA and law enforcement just shrug it off? "Get over it -- now how about them Yankees!"

In sum, Griffin's charges (in this case at least) are absurd on their face.

In an essay that Prof. Griffin surely has read, philosopher David Hume wrote: "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish." (An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X, "On Miracles").

The "missile theory" of the Pentagon attack must presume some kind of mass hallucination afflicting hundreds of eye-witnesses in Northern Virginia on the morning of September 11, 2001. It must further assume that a commercial airliner, with all its crew and passengers, disappeared without a trace -- conveniently at the same time that the alleged missile hit the Pentagon.

My vote goes to David Hume. It would be far more "miraculous" for Griffin's "missile theory" to be true, than for it to be a concoction of his imagination.

The case against the Bush administration is overwhelming: election fraud in Florida, demonstrably false grounds for initiating a war, the "purchase" of federal offices and public legislation by campaign contributors, and on and on. All this cries for removal of the Busheviks from office at least, and more appropriately for criminal prosecution.

This case must be proclaimed persistently and vehemently. But the case is not served by wild and demonstrably false fantasies. The Bushistas, and their media camp-followers, are desperately looking for means to divert public attention from the crimes of this administration. Wild accusations such as those put forward by Griffin, by inviting a smear of the opposition with the tar of "kookery," can only give aid and comfort to "the enemy."
 


Where are they Now?

Sometime between Bush's May 1 "Mission Accomplished" celebration and the outbreak of the Iraq insurrection, the satellite station "Link TV" (Dish Network 9410) broadcasted a global link conversation between a group of college-age students in New York and another group in Baghdad.

Link TV is vanishingly obscure, and I happened on this program quite by accident. Yet it haunts me today more than anything I have seen on TV this past year.

Through this chance encounter, I got to meet some "real" Iraqis, "up close and personal." And these half-dozen or so young people were extraordinarily intelligent, articulate, attractive, and courageous. "Articulate" in English, of course, which most of them spoke almost flawlessly. (No doubt, this was a primary reason that they were selected for the program).

During the program, the camera crew was invited into some of the Baghdad homes, where we were introduced to the family members of the participants. Some of their friends and relatives had been injured by the war, but none, to my recollection, had been killed. The homes were also damaged and the utilities were sporadic at best. A visit to the University displayed the total ruin of one of the student's former classroom buildings.

The middle-class parents of one of the young women were out of work, and she was providing the family income as a translator -- a task for which she was obviously supremely well suited.

Clearly, the war, and the Saddam regime and the economic embargo before it, had caused these people great hardship. Yet they were hopeful that the "liberation" would soon improve their condition. There were scenes of pleasant conversation with the US "coalition" troops.

I came to admire these people immensely, as did the New York group -- a multi-racial collection, including a Hispanic, an Asian and a black. The trans-oceanic rapport was immediate and profound.

That was then. What about now?

We are told that translators are now the targets of resistance fighters. Has that young woman quit in fear of her life? In fact, how many of those splendid young people are still alive? If they have survived this "liberation," what are they doing now? Have they joined the resistance? Has all communication with the US forces ceased? What are their prospects? What can they hope and work for?

How did these apparently hopeful beginnings collapse into the chaos that is Baghdad and Iraq today?

What kind of arrogance, greed and stupidity in Washington has betrayed these magnificent people and has led us to this horrible state of affairs?

I grieve, I am angry, and I feel so helpless!
 


And Finally, This from Baghdad:

Each week, at The Crisis Papers, we pick out about a dozen of the best selections of the week, and put them in our "Editors' Choice" page. There is no "Choice of the Choices," but if there were, "Dear Occupiers -- Take your Torturers and Just Go," by the pseudononymous Iraqi writer, "River," would surely qualify. This masterful outpouring of pure, justifiable rage strips bare the nakedness of our national culpability. The article closes:

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.

Stop whatever you are doing, follow this link, and read this now! Then weep for your country and theirs.

And redouble your resolve and your effort to cleanse our nation of the scoundrels in Washington who have brought this shame upon us all.

 


May 21, 2004

MR. NOVAK'S FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

It is a fundamental rule of law, and of practical morality, that no precept is absolute -- one can, in principle, imagine exceptions to every rule.

Thus Justice Holmes' famous observed that freedom of speech does not include the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. Moreover, "thou shalt not kill" allows for killing in self-defense, and one is permitted -- indeed, morally required -- to lie to a hired killer in order to prevent the murder of an innocent victim.

The reason that every moral and legal rule has exceptions is quite simple: as soon as one adopts two or more rules of conduct, it becomes possible for practical situations to arise whereby obedience to one rule necessitates the violation of another. True believers tell us that The Lord gave not two but Ten Commandments to Moses. And to those familiar with the Bible, those ten are scarcely the end of it.

The law recognizes that particular laws may, under extraordinary circumstances, be justifiably violated. This is called "the defense of necessity." Violation of traffic laws in order to get a critically injured person to a hospital is a case in point.

The only escape from moral conflicts, then, is to live by only one precept. And one who does so is not a moralist, s/he is a fanatic.

Accordingly, a moral life, of necessity, must involve the violation of some moral rules in order to obey other rules.

The right-wing moralists call this "situation ethics" and "moral relativism," and it causes them fits. These are the excuses of "wicked liberals," they say. Yet surely these moralists would readily lie to save an innocent life, and kill a threatening guilty culprit to spare the lives of several innocents. In fact, today it seems that a great many religious-right moralists, solidly supporting their "born again" President and his Iraq War, are quite willing to sacrifice innocent Iraq lives to bring about the greater good of --- well, forgive me, but I haven't quite figured that part out.

Which brings us to Robert Novak.

There is a well-established and morally compelling principle that "freedom of the press" does not extend to the right to report the departure of troopships into submarine infested seas, nor to disclose the time and place of invasions. The reporter who does so is justly convicted of treason.

Nor should one be permitted to disclose information that will put the lives of covert operatives at risk, and that will shut down an operation vital to the national interest -- which precisely describes Valerie Plame's CIA work in discovering and thwarting the distribution of weapons of mass destruction.

Of such disclosure, one former President said: "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." (George H. W. Bush, April 16, 1999).

They have not yet found and indicted the scoundrel who "outed" Valerie Plame. When they do, if our laws still have any meaning, s/he will serve time in a Federal Prison.

But that mischief would never have "gone afoot," had no one agreed to publicize Ms.Plame's covert activities. Five of six reporters, we are told, declined. Mr. Novak did not.

Which leads one to wonder: Why is Robert Novak a free man today?


ESCAPING A SEMANTIC TRAP. A PROPOSAL.

Few of our fellow progressives seem to be aware that whenever they apply the label of "conservative" to the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, DeLay, Falwell, and especially George Bush, they are needlessly conceding ground to these opponents.

These right-wingers are very pleased to be called "conservatives," and indeed they never tire of applying that label to themselves. But is it an appropriate name for these individuals?

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (Second Edition) defines "conservatism" as "The practice of preserving what is established; disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods."

Does this correctly describe those individuals who are determined to tear down the wall of separation between Church and State? Who violate laws and treaties at will, most especially our Constitution and Bill of Rights? Who stifle the free expression of diverse opinions? Who rule under a veil of secrecy and who sequester historical documents from public and scholarly scrutiny? Who over-rule and disregard at convenience, the accumulated knowledge of the sciences? Who distort language and use it as a political tool, rather than respect language as a common endowment and the fundamental institution of social cohesion?

Clearly, these are not "conservatives." So why do we persist in calling them "conservatives"? Just because they insist upon this false appellation, does not oblige us to go along.

It is past time to take the initiative and to adopt a term of our own choosing to apply to our political adversaries.

I've considered several, but at last have settled on "regressive." It immediately and correctly places our adversaries in direct opposition to our "progressivism." "Regressive" vs. "Progressive" is a splendid delineation of our present contest.

Why "regressive"? Because far from "preserving what is established," these right-wingers are clearly disposed "to oppose change in established institutions and methods." (Webster's) As Paul Weyrich states, quite directly: "We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of the country."

Nor are the right wingers looking forward. On the contrary, they are casting nostalgic eyes back beyond the New Deal to The Gilded Age of the Nineteenth Century. As William Grieder aptly puts it:

The movement's grand ambition... is to roll back the twentieth century, quite literally. That is, defenestrate the federal government and reduce its scale and powers to a level well below what it was before the New Deal's centralization. With that accomplished, movement conservatives envision a restored society in which the prevailing values and power relationships resemble the America that existed around 1900, when William McKinley was President.

So "regressive" it is. Still more, for the immediate future, make that "right-wing regressive." Because we are attempting to introduce a new term into the political mix, our term requires a semantic boost. To be sure, "right-wing regressive" is a redundancy (after all the "right wing" is regressive). But that redundancy serves to alert the public to the intended meaning of "regressive." If the term catches on, then we can drop the "training wheels" of "right wing."

So c'mon, troops. Let's get with it. Introducing a new term into the language is far more than a single obscure writer can accomplish. But if the neologism serves a compelling public need -- be it social, political, economic, or scientific -- and if a deliberate effort is made by a few, and then by more and more, it just might catch on. Surely the right-wing regressives have proven as much.

And it is surely long past time that we deprived the right wing of their thoroughly inappropriate self-description of "conservative."

(For much more about this proposal, see my my "Conscience of a Conservative" and "Newspeak Lives!").

 

May 25, 2004

SLOGANS FOR A NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Give the Republicans this much: They sure know how to come up with killer slogans for their candidates.

Who can forget: "Compassionate Conservative," "A Uniter not a divider," "A Reformer with Results"? Once heard, no one can forget. And that's just the point. Now it's "Steady leadership in times of change."

Democrats are above such cheap stunts. Instead, they explain their policy positions at length, complete with evidence and structured arguments. Which is why they lose.

Time for the Democrats to give us some slogans. God knows, they have the issues on their side.

The Kerry campaign has offered us "Let America be America Again." Well, yes. But somehow it strikes us as decidedly zing-less. Don't think it would get past Karl Rove, were he working for the Dems.

So we have some suggestions of our own:

--- Only Americans can restore the honor of America. Vote for Kerry.

--- Is this the kind of country that you want -- for yourself and for your children?

--- How long can this orgy go on?

--- Let's give our government back to the grownups!

--- (To the Republicans): Where is your ultimate loyalty? To your party or to your country?

--- John Kerry: He can think and eat pretzels at the same time.

And then, we seem to recall this one:

--- How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?


Any slogan ideas out there? Send them to us at crisispapers@comcast.net  . We'll post the winners.


MICHAEL MOORE v. MIKKI MAUS HAUS: NO CONTEST

So Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" has won the Cannes Film Festival's "Palme d'Or" award. And if the New York Times' Frank Rich is  to be believed, "he's detonating dynamite here."

But not in the USA, if the Disney Corporation has its way. For as you surely must know by now, Disney has ordered its subsidiary, Mirimax FIlms, not to release the film

Too little, too late. "Farhenheit 911" is totally out of the control of the Busheviks and their corporate whore, the Disney Corporation.

Like The Voice of America during the Soviet era.

Anyone remember when "banned in Boston" was top-grade promotion material for a book? Similarly, the more right-wing regressives try to squelch this film, the more attractive it will be and the more determined the public will be to see it.

Frantic attempts at censorship only prove that the establishment has something to hide. And traditionally, censorship does not sit well with the American public.

Suppose they manage to keep it out of theaters. So what? It will be out in DVD, copied, and pirated versions put on the internet, possibly on offshore websites.

If so, it may cost Michael Moore a lot of bucks, but I suspect that he won't mind all that much.

Just like the Shah, when cassette recordings of the Ayatollah were passed around before the Iranian revolution. Like Brezhnev and the Commissars, when Samizdat manuscripts were written and distributed by the Soviet dissidents. Now its Bush and Rumseld, who just might be overthrown by "the information age."

Just recall Rummie's unguarded outburst about the distribution of the digital images of the Abu Ghraib tortures. "Digital cameras! Who could have guessed?" Answer: anyone even remotely aware of the political implications of the new info-technologies.

If the election were next week or even next month, the Bushistas might squeak through. But they can't keep the lid on for five months.

Not even the mighty GOP Media Wurlitzer can drown out the uproar that is beginning to erupt.

"Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again." (William Cullen Bryant).

There remains the problem of the GOP paperless voting machines. Kerry must win big. The public outcry against the brutal and criminal regime that has captured our government must be so loud, persistent and overwhelming that a fraudulent and unverifiable election "win" becomes instantly, universally and totally unsustainable.

With the constant stream of anti-Bush books, the crumbling solidarity of the corporate media (e.g. 60 Minutes), and now Fahrenheit 911, it's just beginning to appear that this may be possible after all.

¡Si se puede!


WHEN IGNORANCE IS BLISS, YOU ARE PROBABLY A REPUBLICAN.

On Sunday (May 23) The Smirking Chimp posted Tom Brazaitis' article, 'History profs rate Bush a disaster'. The article reported:

Responding to a national survey by George Mason University's History News Network, 81 percent of the 415 historians who expressed a view of the Bush presidency so far classified it as a failure and 12 percent see it as the worst presidency in American history.

At least eight of the 77 historians who expressed a belief that Bush's presidency has been a success so far seemed to be pulling our leg. Seven said Bush's presidency is only the best since that of Bill Clinton, his immediate predecessor, and one said the country hasn't seen a president of Bush's caliber since Millard Fillmore (1850-53) who filled the remaining term of Gen. Zachary Taylor after Taylor's death.

This launched an enthusiastic string of responses (32 at last count) on the sorry state of American public education and the resulting ignorance of the American public. The prize, in the opinion of your humble blogster, goes to an anonymous "Chimpster" who uses the handle "SnoopDopeyDogg."

The problem [of public ignorance and gullibility] depends on your perspective. If you approach the problem from the perspective of a right-wing corporate shill propagandist, such as from one the propaganda branches of Corporate Amerika known as PR firms, THEN education IS the problem, for troublemakers ... keep throwing out facts to the lambs that the PR firms have worked so hard to prepare for the slaughter.

On the other hand, if you approach the problem from the perspective of the truth, regardless of what it is or where it leads you, then the public education system, made creaking and near defunct by Republican efforts to starve it to death by lack of funding (picture money as oxygen and Repubs as shutting the garage door and revving the engine), is one of the last holdouts against the onslaught of corporate propaganda. Don't think so? Conservative backing of various schemes to keep poor and minority kids undereducated and grist for the blue-collar wage-slave/prison/military mills, from various "voucher" conspiracies to home-brainwashing (I mean "schooling") schemes, provide the proof. If public education were doing its proper job of brainwashing kids in the tenets of conservative corporatism, then you would see GOPers funding the school system like it were a subsidiary of Halliburton.

We (Americans) are brainwashed 24/7 by the media and the corporate culture. Brainwashing consists as much of what is excluded and implied as it does what it teaches. I know a old veteran who was subjected to brainwashing by the North Koreans. He said it consisted almost entirely of negative FACTS about American history, not torture or some "Manchurian Candidate" hypno-pharmacology CIA stuff, facts which they knew the POWs would check out, much to their ultimate dissatisfaction, when and if they returned stateside.

Teachers ... are the Weapons of Mass Deprogramming feared more than any other, right up there with librarians, by fascists. Hence things such as mass book-burnings and similar acts of totalitarian control and censorship, always carrying doublespeak terms such as the "Patriot Act" and "The Charter of Labor". One was Nazi's Germany law that banned unions and enslaved employees to their corporate masters, the other an act aimed at destroying American patriots by destroying the root of their power: facts, ideas, and the sometimes painful truth. One nice thing about Nazis is that their words can be used as an accurate reverse-barometer. They always mean and do exactly the opposite of what they say, unless they know that you are on to them, at which point they simply up the deception ante a notch or two, or three.

ONE public school history teacher undid years of Bonanza and Gunsmoke episodes, hundreds of hours of John Wayne movies, and thousands of dollars of propaganda invested in me when he covered the "Robber Barons." It seems that the Old West wasn't the way Big Business said it was. He didn't require blind adherence to his statements, and would have been ignored had he done so, but rather used verifiable facts, the scourge of all Nazis, to drive home his points and positions.

History professors are far more damaging to the Bush Reich than all the Al-Zarqawis, Saddam Husseins, and Howard Deans combined, and the Reich knows it. Bush may be dumb but the neo Nazi cabal isn't stupid.

Like rats and cockroaches in your garbage, corporate propagandists function best under the cloak of darkness, but never mistake their silence as weakness, for as any doctor will tell you, the silent killers are always the deadliest.

You don't have to believe a confused liberal such as myself. Take it from the uber-public relationist, the grandaddy of them all whose firms are still alive and lying today:

“The conscious & intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” -Edward Bernays (Sigmund Freud’s nephew and corporate public relations founder)

Mulder was (is) right. The truth is out there. Just not out here in Corporate Amerika.

Clearly "Snoop" is not "Dopey."


Here is my contribution to The Smirking Chimp's post-fest:

Fourteen years ago, while on the faculty of one of the California State Universities, I perceived that some of our scientific-historical-cultural allusions were being met with perplexed expressions or blank stares among my students. So I prepared and distributed a "General Information and Opinion Questionnaire" to gain a sense of the students' general cultural knowledge.

The results were startling, to say the least. Of the forty-eight students responding:

Seven identified the Secretary of State

Six Identified the Secretary of Defense

None Identified the Attorney General

None Identified the UN Secretary General

Thirteen identified both California Senators

Eight identified the nine US Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt

Less than half identified the "Big Three" allied powers, and the Axis powers in World War II.

Twelve correctly placed the date of the Civil War within the "window" of 1855-1870.

Less than three (in a Philosophy class) were able to identify: Bertrand Russell, Alfred N. Whitehead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stephen Hawking, or Michael Faraday.

I neglected to ask the students to identify the rock stars heading the charts at the time.

Of course, I would have flunked that test.

And yet, in view of what our colleges and universities receive from the public schools, what they accomplish in four years is nothing short of miraculous.

Several years ago, 60 Minutes aired a disgraceful "profile" of American Universities, with a focus on the University of Arizona and featuring, favorably, Prof. Keith Lehrer of the UA Philosophy Department. The primary complaint was that students were being short-changed because the professors were spending too much time on research, too little on teaching, and were turning their teaching duties over to ill-prepared teaching assistants. (But don't get me started on that. I wrote an unanswered letter of complaint to the reporter, Leslie Stahl. You can find it here).

Later, in a personal conversation, Keith Lehrer pointed out that those university faculties -- including the awkward teaching assistants -- routinely accomplish a small miracle. As we know too well, the reading, writing and computational skills of our high school graduates are a national disgrace. Yet in four years these research-distracted institutions somehow manage to raise the knowledge and skills of these students to a level sufficient for them to qualify for graduate schools, where they successfully compete with the same foreign students that so thoroughly outclassed them just four years earlier. And why are so many foreign students at our graduate schools? Because they recognize these institutions to be the finest in the world.

Or at least they were in California, until first Ronald Reagan, and now The Governator, got hold of them.
 



May 31, 2004


Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

From The Baltimore Sun, May 27:

Colin Powell:

If it weren't for the current security problems, "People would have thrown awards at us" for toppling Hussein.


Message passing around the Internet

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a light bulb?

The Answer is SEVEN:

One to deny that a light bulb needs to be replaced

One to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the light bulb,

One to blame the previous administration for the need of a new light bulb,

One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs,

One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a light bulb,

One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the light bulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag,

And, finally, one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.


Who Can You Believe?

For most of last week our "Best of the Week" page was headed by an article from the Daytona Beach News Journal: "Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical,"  by Bill Hill. The story has been circulating around the progressive internet.

Here was our excerpt-blurb:

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics... In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel. A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy. The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job. Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal... But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year. The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.

Wow! Powerful stuff, this!

Turns out there might be another side to this story.

"The Agonist" website reports that one of its readers e-mailed the school system, and got this reply (in part):

Recently, the Daytona Beach News-Journal published an editorial highly critical of Rio Rancho High School and some of its staff members. It was written by Bill Hill, a columnist for the paper and, he states, a friend of Bill Nevins, an untenured teacher whose contract was not renewed at the end of the 2002-03 school year. Mr. Nevins is currently engaged in a legal action against the Rio Rancho Public Schools.

While we recognize the right of newspapers to engage in fair criticism, such criticism should be grounded in the facts. We are disturbed that neither the writer nor the Daytona Beach News-Journal contacted the school district for information or comment. This editorial, simply put, is rife with inaccuracies, misinformation, and outright untruths. Its publication constitutes a reckless disregard for the truth to such a degree that Rio Rancho Public Schools has asked its lawyers to review and evaluate what legal recourse may be available.

The school officials then denied many of the allegations in the Bill Hill article. As for the rest, they were constrained, they said, by the fact that the case was in litigation.

The student in question, "Courtney," added her bit with a letter to the editor of the local paper, which read, in part:

When I asked the administration why Mr. Nevins was put on administrative leave, I was told that the reasons would not be discussed with me, but that they had absolutely nothing to do with me or my poem. I accept that. The administration at RRHS has been nothing but supportive of my poetry endeavors and continue to encourage my writing, even in light of all this nonsense.

She closed with a complaint against the media that had "bombarded" her and her family, and begged to be left alone at last. Fair enough.

What are we to make of this? Not too much I hope, at least not yet. These were spectacular accusations by Mr. Nevins and his friend (?) Mr. Hill, and for that reason the story may have got out of hand. While Mr. Nevins' version may be totally accurate, this story has the appearance of a seed of truth that grew uncontrolled into a weed of exaggerated rumor. All too often, when we read something that is "too good (or in this case, too bad) to be true," we discover at length that it is just that.

Fortunately, the accusation has elements that can readily be confirmed or refuted -- the firings, the involvement of the ACLU. Apparently it is now up to the courts to sort this out.

Suspension of belief is an uncommon virtue, and often difficult to bear. But it is surely called for here. And skepticism is more difficult when directed toward allegations that support one's deepest convictions and commitments. But the capacity for suspended belief and skepticism are traits that starkly set progressives apart from right-wing regressives. We should practice and display these traits proudly.

In this regard, it is worth noting that in his Air America Radio show, Al Franken has a "corrections" feature (complete with theme music). How often do Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and the rest admit their mistakes on the air? And we all know about George Bush's total inabillity to admit error.

I'll bet we'll be hearing more about the Nevins case. Stay tuned.


We've Heard this Song Before!

CNN's "Capital Gang" last Saturday turned their attention to Al Gore's MoveOn.org speech.  The progressive press and internet that we read was greatly impressed, as were we.

But not so, "The Capital Gang." After denouncing MoveOn (that "left-wing radical group"), they focused almost their entire attention on theatrics and imagery, with disparaging remarks about Gore's animated presentation and the volume of his voice. Except for Gore's calling for the resignation of Bush's top advisors, scarcely a word was said about the content of Gore's speech. No words in defense of Gore -- not by the token "liberals" Margaret Carlson, AL Hunt and Mark Shields. Shameful!

But there was worse to come.  David Brock's Media Matters, collected these tid-bits of armchair psychiatry : 

Dennis Miller: "I think he's lost his mind."
Mark Levin: [Al Gore is] a mental patient."
Michael Savage: "He has definitely pulled his raft across the river of sanity."
John Podhoretz: "It is now clear that Al Gore is insane."
Oliver North: "They should check Gore's medications."
Sean Hannity: "He's really nuts."
Charles Krauthammer: "It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again."

Krautammer, it is worth noting, is a one-time psychiatrist. Why is the American Psychiatric Association silent in the face of this abuse of the profession?

Never a word from this gang about the psychopathology of one George W. Bush. (One might well wonder about such issues as unconstrained lying, dislexia, sociopathy, religious megalomania, etc.).

The regressive pundits will keep up this despicable character assassination until they are shamed into silence. And as things look right now, that desirable consummation is nowhere in sight.


Barking Up the Wrong Tree:


About a year ago, we happened upon a CSPAN coverage of a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Conference. At that meeting, DLC Chair AL Fromm favored us with a PowerPoint dissection of public opinion -- group dissection on the Y-Axis (whites, blacks, hispanics, men, women, young, old, etc.) and issue dissection on the X Axis (taxes, education, environment, defense, etc.).

That sort of thing. You've all seen it.

All in all, things were looking upbeat for the Democrats -- "the people," by and large, were with the Democrats on the issues!

Ho hum! Big Deal!

Fromm may have earned himself an A in statistics, but he flunked history.

Have we forgotten? Candidates Carter, Dukakis, Mondale and Gore each clobbered their GOP opponents "on the issues." And they all lost their elections -- correction, all but Gore, but that's another story.

And on matters of substance Gore sliced and diced Bush in the debates. But then the media spin doctors got to work, asked their phony "focus groups" who was more "likable." Advantage Bush.

And its happening again. Almost half of our fellow citizens are smiling at Bush as he lies to them, picks their pockets, sends their sons off to die in Iraq, and robs them of their Social Security and Medicare. And yet they will vote for Bush in November.

And so we ask again: "When will the Democrats learn from their mistakes?"

Those of you old enough to remember, consider this: In 1980, the prominent "image issues" included (a) the honor of military service, (b) religion (as always), and (c) family life.

Now let's profile the candidates.

Ronald Reagan: Dodged combat in World War II by narrating propaganda films in Hollywood, never attended church while at the White House, divorced his first wife, and conceived the first child of his second wife out of wedlock. And Reagan notoriously failed to recognize his own grandchildren.

Jimmy Carter: Graduated with honors from Annapolis and served as an officer in the submarine corps (longer military service than any 20th Century President except Eisenhower), taught Sunday School while in the White House!, and stood by his often eccentric family members in spite of the political costs. (Remember brother Billy and mother Lillian?)

So which candidate benefited more from these issues? Shucks, you all know the answer. (When asked that same question, Carter wryly commented, "the question has crossed my mind").

Yes, the issues count for something, but probably not much. What counts is "image," "likeability, and sound-bite slogans. Also, an ineffable quality that show-biz people call "presence" -- which is akin to "authenticity." And finally, an air of control and competent authority which engenders charisma.

Look over that list, and you might sense that Kerry is in pretty good shape. Bush is ahead in "likeability," but that's just about all he has. His attempts at imagery have backfired, "big time." (Think "Mission Accomplished"). His record of mendacity is bound to catch up with him and undercut any claim to "authenticity." Next, how can a candidate who dares not speak without a teleprompter that serves up the words of others acquire "presence" and personal contact? As for authority, Bush's campaign is reaching desperately with the unconvincing slogan, "Steady leadership in a time of change." But who really believes it?

And charisma?  Kerry has plenty, as his Massachusetts constituents well know, still more the string of GOP opponents he has defeated.  Most of the public believes that Kerry suffers from a severe charisma deficit, but that's only because the media have told them so.  (Remember how authentically honest Al Gore was believed by most to be a chronic liar?  Totally a media-generated myth). 

The GOP knows all this, and so, rather than build up their candidate, they are devoting their major effort and funds to the task of diminishing Kerry.

I think he can survive it. And the more the public gets to know Kerry, the more apparent will be the contrast between Kerry and Bush in moral and intellectual quality, and in leadership capacity.

The overarching question is whether the media will allow the public to get to know Kerry.

 


June 7, 2004

An Apology

For the past two weeks I have been at work attending to a woefully neglected debt -- research and writing that I owe the National Science Foundation. The NSF awarded me a research grant, for which I promised published papers and a book. My concern about the emerging political crisis, and my resulting work with The Crisis Papers, has distracted me from the NSF project. The Project Director at NSF has been extraordinarily patient with me, but now I simply must supply evidence of good-faith continuing effort on the project.

Work on that evidence, a scholarly paper, is now well advanced, and the end of this week, I expect to post it on my personal website, The Online Gadfly.

With that, I will again put aside the research project until November -- the Presidential Election -- after which I will resume work on the NSF project.

Whatever the outcome of that election, I expect that the The Crisis Papers will continue, but with diminished intensity. My entire working life will be then devoted to research and writing in my areas of scholarly interest -- environmental ethics, moral philosophy, and their implications for public policy. Because that work is directed both to the scholarly community and the general public, The Crisis Papers will be an important part of my activity. I trust that I will still have much to say to those of you who have expressed interest in my writing.

The week after next, I must travel to Utah for family business. Even so, I will be able to devote some time and attention that week to The Crisis Papers.

From Monday, June 21, on through the election I anticipate no further distractions, and intend to devote my full attention to The Crisis Papers.

To my profoundest regret, I realize that I may have lived long enough to see the end of the American Republic. I am dedicating the full measure of my time, my mind, and my energy to prevent this terrible national tragedy.


Media Notes

When we first encountered Bill Moyers' PBS program, "NOW," we were both amazed and delighted at the boldness and bluntness of its critique of the Bush Administration and its "sponsoring" corporate establishment.

"How can they get away with this," we wondered. "Surely it can't last!"

And apparently, it won't.

We learned this week that "NOW" will be cut from one hour to a half-hour, and we strongly suspect that this is the first stage of a two-stage process of elimination.

In the meantime, PBS will be introducing shows hosted by right-wing celebrities Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal.

Public Broadcasting, it seems, has taken a sharp turn to the right.

And if you don't believe it, consider the unchallenged comment by a member of Friday's PBS "Washington Week" panel: "This has been a good week for the President." WHAT?!?! Reflect back on the past week, then ask yourself: what planet are these "reporters" covering?

Why am I not surprised?

For more, see Chellie Pingree's "Public Broadcasting Veers to the Right".

Then tell PBS, or the parent company Corporation for Public Broadcasting, what you think of these developments. 

Public Broadcasting System
901 E Str., NW, FL. 3.
Washington, DC 20004
www.pbs.org/

Kevin Dando, PBS Media Relations,  kdando@pbs.org


But not all news from the corporate media is grim.

CBS' 60 Minutes has recovered some of its former moxie, and is offering a platform for many dissident voices: Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Bob Woodward, John Dean, JosephWilson, several dissenting CIA veterans, and many more. They also have interviewed Bush supporters, like Condi Rice -- who, as it turned out, was no help whatever to her cause.

As we've said many times before, we progressives do not need, or particularly want, a mirror-left image of FOX or Rush-bo. Just an authentically "fair and balanced" presentation of news and opinion. Responsible journalism will do quite nicely.

Because, as we surely know by now, George Bush and his gang "can't handle the truth!"

Let 60 Minutes know that you appreciate and support their public service.

They are at:  www.cbs.news (Select "Contact Us"). Or:

60 Minutes
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019


Is it time for the Dems to do unto Bush as he has done unto them?

In the June 4 "Capitol Hill Blue," Doug Thompson reports that George Bush may be buckling under the pressure.

"Going besmirk," as a late uncle used to put it.

Thompson writes:

President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.”

In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.

So now he's making up an "enemies list." Has he started talking to the Presidential portraits in the White House?

We've read this sort of thing about the Bush "bonkers-factor" nowhere else. It's the stuff of maverick journalists like the denizens of "Capitol Hill Blue." The corporate media won't touch it -- at least not yet.

And yet, it rings true. Thompson is simply describing the sort of behavior reported earlier by such ex-insiders as John DiIulio, Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke. Indeed, it is the behavior we occasionally see during Bush's unguarded public moments, such as the Tim Russert interview and his last ("can't think of any mistakes") press conference.

What Thompson is portraying here is a super-annuated adolescent who is way over his head. Heretofore, whenever Bush has found himself in trouble, which was quite often, his Daddy has bailed him out. This time the doo-doo is so deep that even Poppy Bush can't rescue him -- and that ugly fact is finally beginning to dawn on Dubya.

I picture "jet pilot" George being called to the cockpit of Air Force One, after the entire crew is rendered unconscious, and being asked to fly the contraption.  No can do. Total panic.

So now he's hired a personal lawyer, and the Plame case is closing in. More firings and resignations are likely, to be followed by inside info getting out. And, at long last, his solid media support is collapsing.

If the Dems are smart and crafty, they will probe, provoke and nurture this madness until it breaks into the open, discredits the whole rotten bunch before the public, and brings an end to our national nightmare.

But they must be careful: the injured beast is most dangerous when cornered.

"Ruthless" you say?

Think Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

And Tip O'Neill, who reminded us that "Politics ain't beanbag."


Why not the best?

When I was a youngster in grade school, I was told that "anybody can grow up to be President."

Ronald Reagan and now George Bush have proven this beyond a doubt.

There was a time in the memory of many of us, when the Presidency of the United States, the supreme executive office of the land, was regarded as the most important and most demanding job in the world, worthy of only the most qualified citizen among us -- a citizen in whom we were to entrust "our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor."

And so, appropriately, we sought out the best.

In our prospective candidates, we assessed the knowledge, experience (preferably executive), and that ineffable quality "wisdom," which could only be validated by an established record of public service. We demanded moral probity, empathy and compassion. We also demanded a loyalty to the political traditions of the country and a sense of responsibility toward all citizens, including political opponents. As John F. Kennedy replied when his supporters complained that he was neglecting their interests, "I was elected President of all the people."

But now an additional trait has been added to the mix, rising to the top of the priority list: "likeability."

After Gore decisively trounced Bush on substantial issues in the debates, the media spin-merchants hammered on the "likeability" issue until Gore's advantage was neutralized.

And it continues to this day, as John Kerry -- whose courage has been proven on the battlefield, who has twenty-two years of continuous experience in the United States Senate, who has acquired one of the highest ratings with the liberal American for Democratic Action and with the the League of Conservation Voters -- this same John Kerry, we are told, is unqualified for the Presidency because he "looks" and speaks French, and because he pays too much for his haircuts.

Instead, as we approach another Presidential election, shouldn't we be asking Jimmy Carter's question: "Why not the best?" Why should we settle for less?

In less than two hundred years, the leadership of the Roman Empire evolved from Cato and Cicero to Caligula and Nero.

In approximately the same time, our leadership has evolved from Washington, Jefferson, and Madison to Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Is this the best that we can do?


Rather than close by speaking ill of the dead, here is a kind word for the late Ronald Reagan.

Reagan had the good sense to appreciate the changes that were afoot in the Soviet Union, and to make a correct assessment of the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. This, at a time when the hawks in his administration were convinced that Soviet Communism was forever -- when George Will, for example, was characterizing Gorbachev as "Brezhnev with a tailored suit and a thin wife."

Reagan ignored all that, and thus facilitated the difficult dismantling of the Soviet Empire.

But he did not, as the right wing insists, "win the Cold War." For this, Gorbachev deserves equal if not more credit. But when the question is posed, "who won the Cold War?," the greatest heroes of all are usually left out of the equation. These are the people of Eastern Europe, and of Russia and the other Soviet Republics. "Solidarity" in Poland, "the Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia, the throngs of ordinary citizens who filled the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania. And the Muscovite citizens who stood fast in front of the tanks and thwarted the counter-revolution against Gorbachev in August, 1991.

But for the will of the people, communism and the Soviet Union would likely have survived to this day.

Something to think about, when the will of the people may be the only force capable of saving the American Republic from becoming a theocratic oligarchy.


June 14, 2004

"The Wheels are coming off the Bush Administration!"

How often have we heard that expression in the media -- and often from pundits and reporters that are not particularly unfriendly to Bush and the GOP?

There is a sense in the media, and presumably among the public, that events are spinning out of control, and that the Busheviks simply haven't the smarts to put things back together.

And there's a lot of grief coming their way -- that we know about. The Plame investigation is moving into the final act, while the "buck" in "torture-gate" goes higher and higher.  Ashcroft has thoroughly pissed-off the Senate -- including Republicans, etc., etc. And here's something you might not have heard about: in a couple of weeks, the Supreme Court is due to rule on the Guantánamo and Padilla cases, and Ashcroft's legal team appears convinced that they are going to lose -- which means that the Constitution will win.

Now that's a blockbuster!

As Juan Cole astutely observes  (in a blog cited today by Bernie Weiner), a sense that the leader is in control -- let's call it "the charisma of confidence" -- is essential to political success. FDR had it, Eisenhower had it, Kennedy had it. Carter and Ford did not. But note this: LBJ and Nixon had it early on, and then lost it: LBJ to Viet Nam, and Nixon to Watergate. Progressives and astute observers of the federal government are well aware that Dubya is way over his head, and has been from the get-go. Now its beginning to dawn on some Congressional Republicans. If that realization begins to spread among the populace -- and if it starts, all of Karl Rove's millions won't stop it -- then you can stick a fork in The Shrub. He's done.

All this reminds me of Garison Keilor's story of the truck parked on the ice in middle of Lake Wobegon as spring is coming on. Sooner or later -- it's just a matter of time.


And Speaking of Public Relations Genius:

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to watch CNN's "Capitol Gang," as they played old footage of "the Gang" within a week after the "Mission Accomplished" stunt on the carrier deck. Everyone on that panel, covering the political spectrum from center, center-right to far-out la la right, saw Bush's performance as a "political coup," a master stroke by the wizardly Karl Rove.

Little did they suspect just how much that dramatic production would backfire.

They did, however, get one thing half-right: "we'll be seeing a lot of that footage in the 2004 Campaign." They just misjudged which side would be using it.

Keep this in mind whenever you yield to despair at the thought that Bush's campaign gurus are miracle-workers.


Where are the Christians?

What do you call someone who launches aggressive war, takes money from the poor and gives to the rich, impoverishes the next generation and the one to follow, mocks prisoners that he has condemned to death, takes poses of piety to attract votes, and lies without scruple.

A "Christian?"
C'mon!

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor (Matt 19:21-2)

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

How in God's name (literally!) does such behavior reportedly attract 80% support from evangelical Christians? Let me say that again: "Christians"?

This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from me. (Mark 7:6)

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)

Christian clergymen and scholars throughout the realm see through this charade, and are outraged. Unfortunately, for the most part, they are silently outraged.

Why aren't they in the political mix, appealing to the authentic Christian consciences of the public? Why have they abandoned the political arena to the fanatics and the hypocrites?

Where's the outrage!

Jesus wept. (John 12:35).


I'm Back -- Mostly.

At my blog last Monday, I notified our readers that I would be distracted from my editorial chores at The Crisis Papers for another week, because of an overdue obligation to the National Science Foundation.

I am pleased to report that I've kept to my schedule and have finished the assignment on time, and now can return to my Crisis Papers work -- almost.

For the next week, I will be traveling to Utah on family business, but with laptop in tow so that I can still carry on Crisis Papers business. When I return, my total effort and attention will be on The Crisis Papers, on through election day.

By the way, for those that might be interested, that NSF assignment will be uploaded tonight and can be seen at www.igc.org/gadfly/ecology/nature.htm  .


All the while that I was working on the NSF project (regarding the problem of assigning value to ecosystems), I was obsessed with the thought, "what will any of this matter if Bushism prevails into another term and beyond?" Even today, scientific research into global warming, pollution control, reproductive health, etc., is being pushed aside as fundamentalist Christians and the corporate interests of GOP sponsors exercise veto power over scientific research. (See the report of the Union of Concerned Scientists and our topic page on Science). Due to Bush's restriction on stem cell research, the leading edge of bio-medical research is moving overseas. Our research universities are attracting ever fewer graduate students from abroad. The era of American pre-eminence in science may be in its twilight.

So why bother? Well, I did. But if more than a few scholars and scientists share this sentiment, and it affects their work, or even provokes them to resettle in more hospitable countries, then we Americans will be in deep, deep, trouble.


June 25, 2004


"Equal Justice Under Law?"

That principle -- "Equal Justice Under Law" -- is carved in stone over the entrance of the Supreme Court building.

One wonders of the justices ever bother to look up as they enter that building.

Case in point: Jones v. Clinton. Remember that case?

The American Spectator, a right-wing rag supported by Richard Mellon Scaife, located and identified Paula Jones as a "victim" of an alleged indecent act by Gov. Bill Clinton (an event never proved in a court of law).

This, Ms. Jones charged, publicly defamed her. So she sued. And who was the defendant? The American Spectator, which identified and thus defamed her? Of course not. She sued Clinton.

Go figure.

When the lawyers of then President Clinton filed for a postponement, on the grounds that the case was distracting him from the duties of his office, the Supreme Court refused relief, stating that this Jones business need not be a significant distraction.

And now this: Today, the Supreme Court announced that, with regard to the suit demanding that Veep Cheney disclose the details of his energy task force, a lower court should spend more time (conveniently past the November election) clarifying its ruling.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that there is "a paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation that might distract it from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties."

Clearly, this "paramount necessity" applies to Republicans and not to Democrats.

Equal Justice under Law?

Fagettaboutit!


Who Sez John Kerry is Vague, Evasive and Apathetic?

Last week, I wandered into a conversation among some friends, good union members all, sharing their disgust with Bush and their eagerness to see him tossed out of the White House.

This was an "anybody but Bush" sentiment. Their endorsement of John Kerry was tepid at best.

"What is Kerry's platform?" asked one.

"Why doesn't he speak out?" said another.

"Where's his passion -- his indignation" I heard.

So I butted in with another question: "Where did you get the idea that Kerry isn't speaking out, has no proposals, and lacks 'fire in the belly'?"

"Well," I was told, "we just don't hear of his proposals, and we've seen no evidence of his concern about the issues, or about the crimes of the Bush gang."

"And where do you get this information and these impressions of John Kerry."

"Well, from the TV, the radio, the newspapers and magazines, I suppose."

"You mean the corporate media, right? The same media that told you that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and that he was a serial liar. The same media that in 2000, gave Bush a free pass -- no reporting of his business failures, his AWOL from the Guard, etc."

Strange to say, my friends shared my distrust of and contempt for the corporate media. And yet, when their guard was down, they were absorbing the media's characterization of Kerry.

So I advised them to search the internet for an alternative assessment of Kerry -- the portrait that the mainstream media will not give them. Better still, if they wanted to hear from Kerry himself -- his position papers, his speeches, etc. -- they should visit his web site: www.johnkerry.com .

But don't expect the whore media to offer a fair and accurate portrayal of Kerry -- any more than it did for Gore, four years ago.


The Constitution as Scripture.

How often have we heard, "the expression 'separation of church and state' is not in the Constitution."

Well, it happens to be true. It's not in the Constitution.

But so what? What you will find in the Constitution is the First Amendment, which begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

That means "separation of church and state." The phrase itself, "separation of church and state," is found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and numerous successors.

The claim that "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution, betrays a bewitchment with language that is typical of religious fundamentalists and right-wing ideologues. (See our "Newspeak Lives"). To people of such a mind, its the words that matter, and not that to which the words refer. And if the exact words, "separation of church and state," are not in the Constitution, it is no matter that their meaning, in different words, are in the First Amendment.

Apparently, we are asked to believe that if the magic words, "separation of church and state," are not in the Constitution, then Presidents like George Bush are free to tear down the wall between church and state, and set up a theocracy.

The same sort of "word magic" is evident in the Right's use of the words "liberal" and "commie" as weapons against their adversaries -- "thought-stoppers" which short-circuit the thinking processes of citizens who would be far better served by thinking past the words, to examine and assess the particular ideas of their opponents, and the evidence and arguments presented in their support.

The Curse of the Monolingual:

I've often wondered if the typical American susceptibility to "word magic" might be due, in part, to the fact that the vast majority of us speak and read only one language -- English, of course.

A few years ago, while attending a conference in Germany, a friend told me a joke which, I understand, is well known abroad:

"What do you call someone who speaks three languages?"
"Tri-lingual."
"And two languages?"
"Bi-lingual"
"And what do you call someone who speaks only one language?"
"An American."

Of course, he told it to me in English. In German, I would not have understood him.

In order to earn my doctorate, I was required to acquire a minimal reading capacity in two languages: French and Spanish, as it happened. And I have acquired sufficient Russian to direct a Moscow taxi driver to the correct address. But that's about it. Because I will never think, or even carry on a conversation, in another language, I am just another monolingual American. And I am ashamed of it. It is embarrassing to travel abroad, and to expect others to always bear the burden of speaking to you in your language. Unfortunately, some traveling Americans who aren't embarrassed, tend to be arrogant instead.

Someone who fluently speaks two or more languages, can understand and appreciate the separation of words from the things or concepts that they are intended to refer to. That person is well aware that there is no one-to-one correspondence between two languages -- that there are words that are difficult or even impossible to translate into a corresponding word or brief phrase.

In short, a multilingual person is more likely to agree, with Thomas Hobbes, that "words are wise men's counters; they are the money of fools."

There is an urgent need for the public schools to re-introduce foreign language instruction, and to begin it at an early age.

But there is little political will. After all, why should politicians want to relinquish the advantages gained from addressing a public that is susceptible to word-magic?
 


July 2, 2004

Black Hole

As many of our regular visitors know, I was incommunicado a week ago for about five days. A day into my week-long trip to Utah, I discovered that my notebook computer had suffered a fatal infection from the Sasser virus. Thus for the remainder of the week, I was unable to access the internet, and my only contact with "news" was through the TV, radio and local newspapers.

As far as significant news was concerned, I might just as well have been on the opposite side of the moon. However, I had the opportunity to learn far more than I ever wanted to know about Kobe, Laci, and Brittney. And in remote Moab, Utah I was needlessly reminded by the local news that there are robberies and auto accidents even in small towns.

About the economic and political disaster that is now unfolding in our country, with dire implications for the lives and futures of every American citizen -- Nada, Nichivo.

So it seems that to acquire reliable news and intelligent commentary on the ongoing crises in our own country, we must turn to foreign correspondents assigned to Washington, New York, and elsewhere within our borders, and to the internet volunteers who are filling the void of facts, investigation, and critical analysis, left by the departure of so-called "journalists" of the corporate media.

Once again, thanks to a computer virus, I was reminded of what my Russian friends had to put up with during the Soviet era, when Pravda, Izvestiya and Gostelradio were worse than worthless, and when, for news, one had to listen furtively to the BBC and the Voice of America.

The Russians, for the most part, knew better than to trust their "official" media. Most of the American public, with fresh memories of a time when the media were moderately free and independent, still clings to the belief that they are still getting the "straight scoop."

Even so, the small voice of independent progressive news and opinion is getting louder, thanks to the internet and the launching of Air America Radio. And now, despite determined "establishment" efforts to prevent its release, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" has broken free, and is spreading its message of dissent and defiance to huge audiences throughout the land.

"Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again."


A Question of Loyalty.

Before our very eyes, we seem to be seeing the dissolution of the Bush regime.

  • The 9/11 Commission concludes that there was no alliance between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda -- no involvement by Saddam in the 9/11 attacks, nor any other terrorist activities. Even so, Bush and Cheney insist that there was an alliance, and that through it, Saddam posed a significant threat to the United States.
     

  • John Ashcroft refuses, for no legitimate reason, to release to the Senate Judiciary Committee, a document that is readily available on the internet. The memo states, quite explicitly, that with regard to national defense, the President is above the law.  The Geneva Conventions do not apply, if the President decides that they don't.
     

  • At long last, the Supreme Court tells the Administration that regarding due process and the  rights of the accused and detained "unlawful combatants," the Constitution means what it says.
     

  • The CIA Director, George Tenet, resigns "to spend more time with my family." Nobody believes him, or should.
     

  • One after another former member of Bush's Administration publishes a damaging account of a ruthless, manipulative and clueless White House: Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson.
     

  • Twenty-Six distinguished retired diplomats and military officers, most of whom are either Republicans or have served Republican administrations, issue a statement urging the defeat of George Bush in the election. This despite a long-standing tradition that diplomats and the military should be independent of domestic politics.
     

  • And now, "Imperial Hubris," a book anonymously authored by a serving senior officer of the CIA, is about to be published. The essential message is in the subtitle: "Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism."

What motivates individuals such as these to abandon their careers, or in the case of anonymous "leakers," to endanger their careers?

Are these acts of disloyalty? On the contrary, these acts may display loyalty, not to a failing and arguably illegitimate "leader" and not to a party, but to moral principles and to the political institutions of our country. These individuals, and many more, are at last beginning to appreciate that there are more important issues at stake in the coming election than careers and party affiliation.

Whether Democrat or Republican, left or right:

  • No one wants the United States to lose the "war on terrorism."
     

  • No one wants the American economy to collapse, or their children and grandchildren to be permanently impoverished.
     

  • No one wants the United States to be hated abroad and isolated from the international community.
     

  • No one, apart from a few religious fundamentalists, want the United States to lose its leadership in science and technology.
     

  • No one wants to live to see the end of the Constitutional Republic of the United States.

Until recently, few Americans could imagine that the economy, reputation, scientific and technological leadership, and Constitution of the United States could possibly be in any kind of danger.

Today it is becoming apparent to more and more of our compatriots that we are facing these very dangers. A few heretofore politically neutral individuals and organizations are sounding the alarm -- the aforementioned diplomats and military leaders, and such organizations as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But what of the elite writers and artists, journalists, leaders of industry and commerce? They too have an enormous stake in the outcome of the election. Why haven't more of them stepped forward and spoken out?

This might very well be the most important election in our history.

And time is running out.


July 6, 2004

MICHAEL MOORE'S CRITICS:

Often the merit of a creative work is indicated by the quality of the attacks upon it. Clearly this is the case with Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.

As I have read and heard numerous reviews of Moore's film, two modes of criticism appear to be especially prominent: personal attacks on Moore (ad hominem), and "refutations" of assertions falsely attributed to Moore and his work ("straw man fallacy").

As an example of the personal attack, consider this from Christopher Hitchens:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

One can almost imagine steam coming out of Hitchens' ears has he threw these words on to the page. (And they say that the Brits have a fondness for understatement). This is pure spleen, undiluted by any reference to confirmable fact in Hitchens' favor, or confirmable error on the part of Moore.

Moore's claim to have subjected his script to scrupulous fact-checking is borne out by Hitchens' failure to catch Moore in any serious errors of fact. Not that this failure inhibits Hitchens from making the broad charge that "a film that bases itself on a big lie and a big misrepresentation can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims."

What "big lie"? What "serious errors of fact"? Moore freely admits that one might dispute his interpretations and inferences, which Hitchens does at length. But hard
facts? We search in vain in Hitchens' diatribe for explicit citations of factual errors on Moore's film.

Hitchens' attempt to disarm the impact of the devastating Florida schoolroom fiasco is especially weak. But I suppose he felt he had to give it his best shot:

More interesting is the moment where Bush is shown frozen on his chair at the infant school in Florida, looking stunned and useless for seven whole minutes after the news of the second plane on 9/11. Many are those who say that he should have leaped from his stool, adopted a Russell Crowe stance, and gone to work. I could even wish that myself. But if he had done any such thing then (as he did with his "Let's roll" and "dead or alive" remarks a month later), half the Michael Moore community would now be calling him a man who went to war on a hectic, crazed impulse.

Aw, c'mon Chris, is that the best you can do? An infinite array of options is reduced, in Hitchens' imagination, to just two: the "Russell Crowe moment," noted above, and the catatonic immobility that Moore displayed on the screen. Of course, a poised, intelligent, commanding leader would do neither. He would immediately and calmly excuse himself with a remark, "now children, I must do what a President does and leave to take care of some business." He could have been out of that room within a minute after hearing the dreadful news from Andy Card. Perhaps a prompt call to the Air Defense Command might have foiled the attack on the Pentagon. We cannot say.

What we can say, is that those seven minutes brutally displayed the incapacity and unfitness of this little man for the office to which he was appointed by his political allies on the Supreme Court. Hitchen's attempt to explain this away is simply pathetic.

A careful rebuttal of Hitchens' six-page bombast might easily extend to three times the length of its target. And I have other fish to fry in this piece. So let's move on.

Al Franken quoted a critic (I can't recall who it was), who said that if Michael Moore thinks that no son of a member of Congress in serving in the military in Iraq, he should talk to Sen. Tim Johnson (D. SD) who's son is in Iraq this very day. Now watch the film carefully, and you will find that Moore said "only one member of Congress..."  In addition, several critics have pointed out that Moore falsely charged that the Saudi nationals flew out of the country when all commercial airliners were grounded. In fact, this has been widely reported. But not by Michael Moore. Again, check the script.

These are just two examples of the "straw man" fallacy -- attacking claims NOT made by Moore. (Compare these with the infamous and false charge that Al Gore claimed to have "invented the internet.") When critics have to concoct false targets of their attacks, one can only assume that they cannot find genuine targets.

Finally, there is the criticism that "Fahrenheit 911" tells us nothing that we don't already know. This was the line of attack by Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, on Laura Flanders' "Air America Radio" program of June 26.

First of all, not everyone who sees the film is as well-informed as a full-time journalist in a major newspaper. But much more significantly, Lawson completely fails to recognize the distinction between "knowing" something and "appreciating" the significance of what they "know." We know that six million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. The significance of this "known" fact is totally beyond human comprehension. We know that innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq, and that our occupation has provoked a great deal of hatred toward American troops. It is quite another matter to have the mutilation, suffering and destruction displayed on the screen in all its horror, and to hear the anger of from the mouths of those that we are told we came to "liberate."

Most Americans, we may assume, know that George Bush was visiting a Florida elementary school when he received word of the attacks on the World Trade Center. But the media have, for the most part, spared the Bush Administration the embarrassment of reporting Bush's behavior that morning. But now, millions of Americans have been stunned by the image of their paralyzed President reading about a pet goat as the towers burned.

Yet Mr. Lawson of the Detroit Free Press tells us that "we've learned nothing new" from the film. But even those who "knew it all" when they entered the theater, must have exited with a transformed perspective on the events presented and a transformed judgment of the leadership that has been foisted upon our unfortunate nation.

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" last Thursday, after reading numerous accounts and reviews of the film beforehand. I was not disappointed: it is a stunning piece of work, expertly scripted and edited. Propaganda, to be sure. But rather than a distortion, it is a compensatory balance to the war promotion that has been relentlessly pushed at the American public by a shameless and servile media, acting in behalf of the Bushista junta.

Michael Moore has freely admitted that he hopes that "Fahrenheit 9/11" will arouse the American public and contribute significantly to the defeat of George Bush and the Republicans next November.

Judging from the extraordinary response this past week, he just might pull it off.


A PROCLAMATION FROM THE "SOVEREIGN" GOVERNMENT OF IRAQ.


The American public has been told that we have relinquished "full sovereignty" to the new Allawi government in Baghdad.

If so, then the following hypothetical proposal is not only a possibility -- it is arguably, a necessity. Yet, we somehow suspect that we will not see it soon -- if ever.


From: The Government of Iraq:
To: President Bush and the American People.

Subject: A Resolution, adopted by a majority of the Iraqi Legislature:

We, the representatives of the people of Iraq, express our gratitude to the United States and its Armed Forces for liberating our country from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.

We are also grateful to the United States for its timely transfer of power and full sovereignty to this government, acting in behalf of the Iraqi people.

As the government of a sovereign nation, and in accordance with international law, we hereby declare that all decrees and contracts imposed upon the nation of Iraq by the occupying military of the United States are null and void. In particular, the ninety-three decrees ordered by the departing "viceroy," Paul Bremer, having not been approved by a legitimate legislative body of the Iraqi government, are not binding on this government or the Iraqi people.

Furthermore, the mineral, natural and capital resources within the country of Iraq belong to the Iraqi people. Stock ownership of these resources by foreign corporations and individuals are allowable only if these assets are purchased by competitive bidding or sales in open markets. And in such cases, they owners of these resources must be in full compliance with Iraqi laws.

The American military, having alienated a large majority of the Iraqi people, is hereby asked to leave the country with all deliberate haste. If foreign troops are needed to help restore law and order within our borders, they will enter our country only with the express invitation of this government. Assistance of the United Nations in helping restoring order is welcome. Presence of troops from Islamic and Arab member of the UN would be especially helpful in this regard.

So-called "permanent" US military bases, now under construction, will likely provoke the hostility of Arab nations (Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) and non-Arab Islamic nations (Turkey and Iran) which border our country. We therefore order the immediate cessation of construction, the closing of these bases, and the return of the land in use by these bases to the Iraqi people.


Immediately before the outbreak of the war, Tom Brokaw of NBC said we would soon "own" Iraq. The hypothetical resolution above, says "no way -- its our country, and its time for you to leave."

Now try to imagine the response of the Bush government to such a resolution. If such a resolution were adopted by the new Iraqi government, we'd soon discover just how "sovereign" that government might be.

Not very "sovereign," I suspect.

Does the Allawi government dare to try such a stunt? I doubt it. But one never knows.


July 9, 2004

"The Goat Thing"

If the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry-Edwards campaign had fraction of the propaganda smarts of the Repugs, they'd glom on to the goat image like hungry dogs on a fresh steak.

The goat in question is, of course, "My Pet Goat" -- as read to Bush by the Florida school children, while the World Trade Center towers were burning. (Bush, let us recall, doesn't read books himself)

The goat image could, and should, be attached to Bush like a fly to fly-paper. If it were, it would surely do more damage to Bush than the sweater did to Jimmy Carter, the tank to Dukakis, the blue dress to Clinton, or the alleged "invention of the internet" to Al Gore.

The goat, as a reminder of the Florida fiasco, could become the metaphor of Bush's frozen catatonic panic in the face of an emergency, and his inability at a such a moment to display intelligent and decisive leadership.

In addition, the "goat" is a sports metaphor for the athlete that screws up -- the outfielder who drops a ball, a pitcher who serves up a home-run ("gopher"), the halfback who runs in the wrong direction, etc. Thus the image might register with the ESPN crowd and the "NASCAR dads."

At his website, Michael Moore  has taken the lead by adding a goat to his home page header-image, and with it a daily quote from "My Pet Goat."

For the goat-image to "take," it must be repeated -- over and over and over again. Like the Clinton-Lewinsky hug at the rope line. Count on it, if it were Kerry sitting in that school room for seven minutes, the "librul media" would relentlessly pound that image into the public consciousness.

Well, of course, the media will do no such thing to Prince George. So its up to us in the progressive internet, and, if the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry-Edwards campaign are smart, they will follow our lead.

We at The Crisis Papers will do our part. We are looking for a good goat image -- a photo or a cartoon. Send it to us at crisispapers@comcast.net . Then spread the idea far and wide -- to progressive websites, publications, organizations, whatever.


More about Lila Lipscomb:

Do you remember the scene in "Fahrenheit 911" when Lila Lipscomb, the woman who lost her son in Iraq, was accosted in front of the White House by a stranger who shouted "this is all staged!"

Lipscomb answered: "My son is not a stage. He was killed in Karbala, April 2. It is not a stage. My son is dead."

In an Air America Radio interview with Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher (June 30), Lila Lipscomb elaborated that this scene was followed by a moment of shock and remorse by the unidentified woman:

Shortly after that she came up and apologized to me. When I walked over to the White House and was talking about people and their ignorance -- right after that, she actually came up and hugged me.

Was it, perhaps, a mistake for Moore not to include that scene as well?  It's not enough to know that there are a great many insensitive self-described "patriots" amongst us who blindly support this war. We know all that. Should we not be reminded that many can be moved, perhaps even to change their minds, when confronted face to face with the human costs of this war?


Did anyone notice? The Lipscomb family was notified of the son's death by telephone.

In World War II, when a quarter million men were killed in action, an officer and a chaplain were dispatched to visit each of the homes of the bereaved relatives. (Remember the opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan"?).

Now its by telephone. Presumably another cost-saving measure by the "compassionate" Bush Administration.


The Dog Eats Bush's Homework.

Bush Service Records "inadvertently destroyed" -- (Yea, Sure!).


In Today's New York Times, Ralph Blumenthal writes:

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

And I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

So, is the case now closed? No way to find out about Dubya's (alleged) "service"?

Hardly.

A determined "Special Prosecutor" who like Ken Starr, is given a $50 million budget, could find more than enough evidence to nail Bush's cowardly hide to the wall. Hell, he could do it with $50,000.

As I pointed out in my "The Coverup that's Worse than the Crime,"  in the US military, there's no such thing as a "single copy."  Bush's service record, no doubt, exists in distinct copies in several locations -- most notably, in microfiche in Colorado, along with the forty year old service record of Ernest Partridge, HM3, USNR and the records of millions of other veterans.

And suppose, somehow (per impossible), that each and every copy of that service record were "inadvertently destroyed," we could still recover the most sensitive documents in that record: Bush's medical records in the files of the Air Force Medical Department, and his officer fitness reports with the records of the Commanding officers under which 1st Lt. G. W. Bush served.

Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard is not a forever-unknowable mystery.

It could be recovered by a diligent prosecutor or investigative journalist.

If the Defense Department or the media wanted the public to know.

Which, of course, they do not.
 

"Those who control the past, control the future.
"Those who control the present, control the past."

George Orwell, 1984


July 13, 2004

Right-Wing Idiocy of the week:

"There's an arrogance in the scientific community that they know better than the average American."

Andrea Lafferty, Traditional Values Coalition.


This seems to suggest that scientific research and several years of post-graduate scientific education are of no value whatever.

The following scene comes to mind:

Doctor: "Our laboratory tests show that your cholesterol level is at 250. We strongly advise that you change your diet and bring that number down to a safe level."

Patient: "How arrogant of you and your lab to pretend that you know better than me. After all, I am an average American"!

Sorry, Ms. Lafferty, but scientists do in fact know more than the average American, concerning matters of their professional competence.  That's simple common sense.

About matters outside their specialty -- that's another matter.  As Mark Twain once said: "we are all ignorant, but about different things."

The arrogant ones, are those who allow their "hunches" and their dogmas to over-rule scientific expertise.


"Kerry to reach out to 'people on the right,'"

Matea Gold and Mark Barabak thus title their July 11 Los Angeles Times article.

They write:

"Sen. John F. Kerry plans to aggressively court more conservative voters with a message that emphasizes traditional values of service, faith and family... Kerry's strategy is not without risks. By wooing moderates and conservatives, he could offend liberals in an election that could hinge on which side best galvanizes its base. And casting his values as conservative, despite his liberal voting record in the Senate, could reinforce Republican criticism that Kerry lacks convictions."

Oh, now I get it!  Liberals are against families, faith and service. So by "emphasizing" these "values," Kerry may offend his "liberal base."

What pure, unadulterated hogwash!

Has the right-wing propaganda been so spectacularly successful that "liberalism" is now regarded as anti-family, anti-religion, and anti-service?

Tell that to the liberals who teach in the public schools, who serve in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. And tell it to the liberals who love their spouses and children, and who even attend church now and then.

But no, we are told, to find authentic "values" in action, it seems, we must look to the "compassionate" conservatives. Their "compassion" includes the enthusiastic promotion of foreign wars, deficit spending that will put enormous burdens on their children and grandchildren, slashing appropriations to aid veterans, children, the aged, an impoverishment of public education and a tax structure that speeds the flow of national wealth from those who produce that wealth, to those who own and control the wealth.

There is no shortage of "values" among the liberals -- surely not in comparison with the right-wing.

There is, instead, a shortage amongst the liberals of a resolve to defend themselves against the slanders of the right.

So by all means, John Kerry, "emphasize traditional values of service, faith and family."

There are precious few liberals who will be offended.


To the Affluent -- George Bush's "base:" Is the the kind of country you want?

Matthew Yglesias writes in The American Prospect:

It is hard to see ..., how the creation of an unhealthy, ill-educated workforce could possibly serve the interests of corporate America in the long term. Nevertheless, this is precisely the direction in which the Bush agenda points. Most broadly, fiscal policy à la Bush has produced tremendous budget deficits at the very moment when the looming retirement of the baby boomers makes such deficits unsustainable. Were the nation to continue down the road to bankruptcy, the resulting political and economic instability would harm all Americans, but do the rich not have more interest than the rest of us in maintaining the current order? The real beneficiaries of a fiscal crisis would be none other than America's enemies abroad.

What the regressives fail to appreciate is that by dismantling the cooperative economic order and the social contract that has been painstakingly crafted and refined throughout the history of our Republic, they are sowing the seeds of their own ruin. They are telling the rest of us -- those who toil and produce their wealth -- "tough luck, suckers!, your end of our common boat is sinking.!"

There is no need for progressives to appeal to the sympathy or the compassion of their political opponents. Enlightened self-interest will serve quite well enough.

For if the regressives "win," they will lose along with the rest of us.

And that is the message which must be told, again and again.


July 16, 2004

Mon Dieu!  -- Still Another Right-Wing (Regressive) Idiocy of the Week:

"The French have no word for entrepreneur."   (George Bush to Tony Blair)


Dubya is only following an honored GOP tradition.

Ronald Reagan repeatedly asserted that the Russians had no word for "freedom."

Ronnie was not inclined to fact check.  And yet, at any time that he was in the Oval Office, he could have picked up the phone, called the Russian desk at the State Department, and asked if this were so.

He would surely have been told, "Mr. President, the Russians do in fact have a word for "freedom" -- it's "свобода" (svoboda)."

But then, why let a brute fact get in the way of a good story.

After all, its the secret to the success of right-wing talk radio.


And speaking of right-wing talk radio --

Time once again to blow the whistle on Rush-bo.

About ten years ago, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) put out a booklet, "The Way Things Aren't" -- a fact-check of just a few of Rush Limbaugh's "instant facts and statistics." False statements, as Al Franken indelicately puts it, "taken from Rush's butt." (The title was a reversal of the title of Limbaugh's book: "The Way Things Are").

Isn't it time -- way past time -- for an update. How 'bout it FAIR? Or maybe David Brock's mediamatters.com  will take it on. Or maybe even a broader project, including Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.


Ken Lay does his part.

A couple of days ago, we listened to Air America Radio's "Unfiltered" gang speculate with relish, what Ken Lay might tell the prosecutors, now that he's finally been indicted.

Sorry, folks, it just ain't gonna happen. Kenny Boy wasn't busted in order break open the Enron scandal, and to follow it all the way to the White House.

No, sadly, it is much more likely that he's following a script that Karl Rove designed to assist Dubya's campaign.

For consider: An indictment is not a conviction.

Ever since the collapse of Enron, we've heard the complaint, "there is no justice in Bush's America, so long as Ken Lay remains a free man."

Now that Lay is under indictment, the critics are muffled.

Post-election, Lay will be acquitted or, failing that, pardoned by his pal in the White House. You can take it to the bank.

Win-Win. A Win for Dubya and a win for Kenny Boy.

So call off the celebrations. In all likelihood, we've been had once again.


Bad Advice from Michael Moore.

Recently, Michael Moore was reported to have said that he had no problem with people downloading and distributing pirated copies of Fahrenheit 911 -- provided they don't charge for these copies. Of course, the motion-picture and recording industries cried bloody murder.

I've also heard that the commercial DVD of the film will be released in late September.

I strongly recommend that we wait and buy the legitimate copies, Michael's generous offer to the contrary, notwithstanding.

Throughout the country, teenagers, and even a few pre-teens, are being nabbed and charged for downloading pirated music and movies. If, like the co-editors of The Crisis Papers, you are actively engaged in the effort to legally overthrow (i.e., by the ballot) the Bushevik regime, it would be foolish to put yourself in a legally vulnerable position. You won't be busted for a US version of what the Soviets called "slandering the Soviet State" (i.e., political dissent) -- at least not quite yet. But the powers-that-be devoutly wish that you would just "shut up!" (Bill O'Reilly's all-purpose rebuttal). A bust for copyright violation will do the trick.

Come to think of it, better not spit on the sidewalk or jay-walk. And be sure to use your super-duper-pooper-scooper whilst walking your dog.


The sins of the corporate media -- more of omission than of commission:

Surely, most readers of this website and this blog agree that the (in fact) non-librul media has shamelessly distorted and slanted the news in favor of the Bushevik regime.

But probably, the most serious distortion arises, not through falsehood, but by omission and neglect. Conversely, the media will crowd out important news with trivia (Jon-Benet, OJ, Laci, Jacko, Kobe, etc., ad nauseum).

About ten years ago, I hosted a Russian friend -- an historian of science at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He stayed with me for several weeks, and when it came time for him to return to Moscow, his foremost impression of the US (this was not his first visit) was "all this talk about Whitewater -- it's all I hear about on the news."

By that time, the Clinton's failed investment was (or should have been) old news, and the media were reduced to telling us: "There's nothing new about Whitewater today -- we have two reports, after this. Stay with us."

Eventually, as we all know, Whitewater was a journalistic dry-hole. There was no there, there. Yet that dead horse was flogged for more than six years.

Now, almost four years into the Bush term, there have been dozens of authentic scandals, any one of which, had they been committed by Clinton or another Democrat, would have brought the President up on impeachment charges, or would have forced a resignation.

Election fraud, bribery, "outing" a CIA agent, lying to Congress, denial of civil rights of citizens, deliberate violation of most of the articles of the Bill of Rights, abrogation of treaties (which have the force of law), illegal withholding of information, and on and on.

Crisis Papers readers know about all this, and more, but you are not typical American citizens. You get our information from "the underground" -- the internet, the few remaining independent presses, foreign journalists.

Most of our compatriots -- the vast majority of those who are eligible to vote -- get their news from TV, talk radio, Letterman and Leno, and occasionally, newspapers. And the aforementioned crimes and misdemeanors, which, in a country under the rule of law should decisively end a presidency, might be reported one day, only to be gone and forgotten within a week.

To repeat: the scandal of the corporate media is less its distortion and slanting, and more its failure to investigate and report significant events and issues, and to keep this news in the forefront of public attention.

In the Soviet Union, astute citizens knew they were being lied to, and so they looked elsewhere for news -- The Voice of America, the BBC, smuggled copies of foreign publications. And they organized, at great personal peril, an underground media -- Samizdat.

In the United States, we are used to be being well-served by the news media -- as we were, not too long ago. All too many Americans have yet to realize that the media have betrayed them.

But when we do, we have an advantage over the people of the Soviet Union and other despotic regimes. To the editors of Pravda and Izvestia, it didn't matter if these enterprises operated at a loss. Propaganda, not profit was not their objective. The same might be said of some right-wing journals, like Rev. Moon's Washington Times, and Murdock's National Journal, and worst of all, FOX (alleged) "News".

These exceptions aside, corporate media by and large cares very much about the bottom line -- which is to say, circulation and Nielsen ratings which are, in turn, tied to advertising revenues. Shutting off the tube, canceling subscriptions, and boycotting sponsors, by even a small but measurable minority, this will get their attention. That attention will be further alerted as this small but significant population turns to alternative sources -- independent media, foreign sources, the internet.

So let's, each of us, boycott the corporate media and their sponsors, and spread the word.

Let them know,
"WE'RE MAD AS HELL, AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!"


July 19, 2004

Dump on Joe Wilson Week.

And now, as if on cue -- (whadayamean, "as if"?) -- the thundering right-wing punditocracy has gone after Joseph Wilson. Remember? He's the ex-ambassador, much admired and praised by Poppy Bush, who betrayed Dubya by telling the truth about the non-existent Saddam-African Uranium deal.

Did the Busheviks answer with a well-reasoned rebuttal? Not quite. They committed treason by "outing" Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Well, you know about all that.

But now, they are after Joe Wilson again. With new information to refute Wilson's report re: the non-existence of Niger uranium?

Don't be silly!

No, they are attempting to discredit Wilson by contending that Wilson was "set up" for the African trip by none other than his wife, Valerie Plame.

Wow! What a posh assignment! A couple of weeks in the Saharan desert, away from his wife and young twins, for no compensation whatever. Now who wouldn't be tempted with such a junket?

Bottom Line: If, however unlikely, all the attacks aimed at Wilson last week by the pundits and the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee are true, none of this has any bearing whatever on the undisputed facts that he reported back from his African trip. Nor do these attacks in any way mitigate the crime of exposing a CIA operative, engaged in thwarting the sale and transfer of nuclear materials.

That the Bushistas and their Congressional and "journalistic" (sneer quotes) toadies would let loose this smokescreen of irrelevance, testifies both to their desperation and the indefensibility of their behavior.

The Wilsons -- Joseph and Valerie -- are national heroes. May they flourish and prevail.


EVEN PROFESSORS CAN SAY THE SILLIEST THINGS.

An old high school chum, sends me the following.

"At about the time our original 13 states adopted their new constitution in 1787, a Scottish history professor by the name of Professor Alexander Tyler had this to say about "The Fall of the Athenian Republic" over 2,000 years previous to that date.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship." "The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence. From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back into bondage."

"Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law, St.Paul, Minnesota, wrote this about the 2000 election:

Population of counties won by Gore 127 million, won by Bush 143 million. Sq.miles of country won by Gore 580,000, won by Bush 2,427,000. States won by Gore 19, by Bush 29. Murder per 100,000 residents in counties won by Gore 13.2 by Bush 2.1 (not a typo).

"Professor Olson adds, 'The map of the territory Bush won was (mostly) the land owned by the people of this great country. Not the citizens living in cities in tenements owned by the government and living off the government....'

"Professor Olson thinks the US is now between the apathy and complacency phase of democracy although he believes that 40 percent of the nation's population has already reached the dependency phase."


Surely, you didn't think I'd let this pass without comment! Well, I won't disappoint you.

I replied:

I wonder what country the good Prof. Olson is describing. Surely not the United States that I live in!

It is true that "the land is owned by the people of this great country" -- a VERY few of those people. In fact, today 40% of the national wealth is owned by 1% of the population. A quarter century ago, that was 20%.

Moreover, a quarter century ago, the average Fortune 500 CEO earned about forty times what his median worker earned. Today, that number is 500 -- meaning that CEO earns in half a day, what the average guy earns in a year -- if he is fortunate enough to have a job.

With the abolition of the estate and dividend taxes, and the reduction of capital gains taxes, that disparity between the very rich 1% and the rest of us is accelerating.

You will find all these statistics, and more, validated at the website of  United for a Fair Economy . See also "The Deserving Rich?.

There are, in fact, authenticated cases in "blue states" (e.g., California) of people owning their own land (e.g., myself). Indeed, it is even possible that there are more than a few folks in the blue states who do not live in tenements. Furthermore, you can be sure that almost all of those unfortunates who do live in tenements, have private, not government, landlords.

As for this matter of "dependency," there is a great deal of wildly inaccurate information at large, affecting, it seems, even Hamline Univervsity law professors. In 1995, the late Hobart Rowen wrote:

“A survey sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health ... revealed that when asked to list the largest federal programs, 27 percent put down foreign aid and 19 percent listed welfare as the biggest program... This perception is sensationally out of tune with the facts. Welfare and foreign aid are among the smallest, not the largest spending programs in the federal budget. The foreign aid budget ... was less than 1 percent of the federal budget.... The basic welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children ... [was] just over 1 percent of the budget.” (Washington Post, January 16, 1995)

Yes, there is a "dependency" class. It includes the aforementioned top 1% oligarchs, who have acquired and who maintain their wealth, thanks to the education and labor of those who work for them. As L.T.Hobhouse, a nineteenth century English sociologist wrote:

The organizer of industry who thinks he has 'made' himself and his business has found a whole social system ready to his hand in skilled workers, machinery, a market, peace and order -- a vast apparatus and a pervasive atmosphere, the joint creation of millions of men and scores of generations. Take away the whole social factor, and we have not Robinson Crusoe with his salvage from the wreck and his acquired knowledge, but the native savage living on roots, berries and vermin.

And now, in their wisdom, our Supreme Court selected "leaders" have decided to roast the golden goose rather than feed it. They are drying up the wellspring of all economic prosperity in industrialized civilization: the educated work force.

Due to the state budget crisis, the freshman class at the University of California has been cut by a third. (And no, this is not Gray Davis' fault -- 46 of the 50 states have severe budget shortfalls). The public universities of Virginia are now producing half the graduates needed for the work force. And these are just two indicators of the nation-wide decline in education due to a withdrawal of public investment. In general, state deficits are causing sharp increases in tuition costs, which are closing the doors of higher education to the talented poor -- Jefferson's "natural aristocracy of virtue and talent."

Meanwhile, the public infrastructure of the US (highways, bridges, water supply, power grids, sewages systems, etc.) are in a condition that would embarrass a third-world country. (American Society of Civil Engineers).

Yes, professor, there are worse things than paying taxes for the public services that sustain us all.

As for "voting themselves largesse from the public treasury," look no further than Mr. Cheney and his pals at Haliburton.

In less than a century, the leadership of Rome evolved from that of Cato and Cicero to that of Caligula and Nero. We began with the likes of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. And now? You finish the rest.

For still more subversive, socialist claptrap, visit The Crisis Papers'  page on "Economic Justice."

PostScript: The Scottish Prof. Tyler merely repeats an observation made by Plato of old:

How does despotism arise? That it comes out of democracy is fairly clear... Perhaps the insatiable desire for [liberty] to the neglect of everything else may transform a democracy and lead to a demand for despotism. (The Republic viii).

I believe that Plato meant "liberty" for self at the cost of liberty for others, and also "liberty" unconstrained by wisdom and temperance. (Cf. The Republic, ii-iv).

Have a nice Decline and Fall.


July 26, 2004

A STRING OF PEARLS:

Much of the content of this blog emerges from notes that I jot down, as fleeting thoughts surface now and then while I am at work. Most of these notes amount to nothing, while others develop into the "mini-essays" of the blog.

In the stack before me, there's some good stuff that I'm reluctant to toss out, and now that Crisis Papers has discontinued the "Short Takes," this blog is the last chance for them to see the light of day.

Besides, who set a minimum-size rule for blogging? No one!

This is my blog, dammit, and I get to set the rules!

So, for your enjoyment, here are some tid-bit odds and ends -- a "string of pearls."


LOGIC SLIPS A COG

Let's see if I have this straight:

9/11 proved that a terrorist attack boosts Bush's approval ratings.
Thus another attack might assure his (not re-)election.
Tom Ridge warns us that Osama Bin Laden is planning a pre-election attack.
The GOP tells us that OBL wants Kerry to win.

Am I missing something here?


LOGIC IN GEAR:

"I don't do nuance." George W. Bush
The real world is nuanced.
Ergo: George W. Bush does not deal with the real world.
 


COME BACK, "HORSE," WE MISS YOU AND WE NEED YOU!

Sometime last winter, "media whores online" (a.k.a. "media horse") became inactive. Those who visit the site today will find the message: "Out to Pasture." No indication of when, or if, "the horse" will ever be saddled up again.

It's a damned shame! For several years, this elegantly designed and sharply written website has served us well as a watchdog over the wayward corporate media -- exposing errors, damned lies, and shameless spinning.

Now, as the election approaches and it is needed more than ever, "the horse" remains "out to pasture."

Will "media whores" revive? If so, we are entitled to an announcement of the date of activation. If not, we are entitled to that information also, and the site should then shut down.

We sincerely hope that media whores online will return and join the fight, and soon. It's now or never!


THE DAILY SHOW -- REDUX:

Somehow, day after day, we forget to tune into Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

No matter, its available online at www.comedycentral.com. Even better, there are no commercials and you can pick the segment you want to watch, at your convenience.

Our top picks are the interview with Wolf Blitzer, wherein "the Wolf" is mercilessly "blitzed" by Jon Stewart, and deservedly so. Also, don't miss "Conventional Wisdom," which features video clips of talking GOP heads, clearly reading from the same script. If you ever doubted the Goebbels rule -- "tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth" -- you can now see the method at work.

Chilling.


AN URBAN MYTH GOES DOWN IN FLAMES

Among the reader comments in The Smirking Chimp today, I found the following:

NEWSWEEK reports that President Bush, appearing before a right-to-life rally in Tampa, Florida on June 17, stated: "We must always remember that all human beings begin life as a feces. A feces is a living being in the eyes of God, who has endowed that feces with all of the rights and God-given blessings of any other human being." The audience listened in disbelief as the President repeated his error at least a dozen times, before realizing that he had used the word 'feces" when he meant to say "fetus."

I want ya to know that this was my highlight of the day! Until I read some of the sub-posts.

Turns out, it's an "urban legend" -- Bush never said it.

Bummer!

The website urbanlegends.about.com  reports:

False. President Bush has been known to commit verbal gaffes on occasion, but nothing on the order of mistaking the word "feces" for "fetus" a dozen times in a row in a single speech. I'm not sure it's even humanly possible.

As it happens, Bush was in Tampa, Florida on June 16, 2004, the day before this event supposedly took place, but according to the White House press log he gave no speeches in Tampa on June 17.

No such news item appeared in Newsweek, nor any other venue, for that matter.

When the hoax was exposed, that was the end of the matter for visitors to The Smirking Chimp.

And here, I submit, is a fundamental difference between progressives and right-wing "regressives": progressives have a "reality principle," and thus when a belief is proven false, they promptly drop it. Regressives will repeat falsehoods and lies, long after they have been confronted with irrefutable proof that they are they are doing so.

For example, how often did we hear that Al Gore had claimed that he invented the internet and discovered Love Canal? That Bill Clinton was dealing drugs while Governor of Arkansas? That John Kerry faked his injuries in order to get his purple hearts in Viet Nam? That Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was in cahoots with Bin Laden?  That George W. Bush is competent to function as President?  And so on.

It seems that the GOP, Faux News, Coulter, Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly and the other right-wing gasbags all adhere religiously to the rule: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

And speaking of "regressives" ...


MEMO TO THE DNC:  SHADDUP, AND PAY ATTENTION TO PROF. LAKOFF.

We've seen it happen so often: some brilliant liberal intellectuals come up with effective prescriptions for defeating GOP campaign tactics, and these proposals are then ignored by the Democratic Party "pros" who proceed to repeat the same tactics that led to defeat in the past.

Case in point, linguistics professor George Lakoff. He has the goods on the Repubs -- he will tell all who will listen how the GOP has crafted political language and framed public debate to their advantage. (See the interview with Lakoff  on PBS's NOW with Bill Moyers).

But will the Democratic PooBahs listen? Naw! The poor saps will continue to innocently talk in GOP-speak and play in the GOP's conceptual ball park according to GOP ground-rules. As long as they do so, they are bound to lose.

The left is equally entitled to come up with its own labels, and to put them to good use. Why, for example, should the Democrats consent to the terms "trial lawyers" or "healthy forest initiative"? Lakoff proposes instead, "public protection attorneys" and "leave no tree behind".

And why do the Dems allow the right-wingers to demean the good word "liberal," while the right boldly adopts for itself the name "conservative." The right, which attacks our Constitution, the institution of science, and the integrity of our language, as it attempts to roll-back political-economic progress to the 19th Century, is anything but "conservative." (See my "Conscience of a Conservative").  So why do we continue to allow them to use that word, without protest.

And so, I have this proposal: let's give "liberal" a rest for awhile, and instead adopt the word "progressive." As for the "return-to-the-gilded-age" right wing, lets call them "regressives" -- but never "conservatives." The word simply does not apply.

That will be the policy of this writer. But I can't do it alone. Adopt the "progressive"/"regressive" polarity in your own discourse and writing, and pass it along.  Maybe, just maybe, it will catch on.


'TRUTH CRUSHED TO EARTH WILL RISE AGAIN."

Amazing, isn't it? The corporate media have effectively shut down meaningful left-right political debate, and have become, in effect, shills for the GOP. Even so, the progressive message is getting through, and at times quite effectively so.

(Yeah, yeah, I've heard about "the liberal media" jazz. But check out www.mediamatters.com, www.FAIR.com, and Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?" Examine the hard facts presented therein. Then check these against what you see and hear in the media).

So, in the face of right-wing regressive dominance of the commercial media, does bold and challenging progressive criticism of the political establishment simply disappear from the attention and awareness of the public at large?

Not at all. It simply finds a new outlet -- a new medium.

That emerging medium, it appears, is the documentary film. Of course, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" comes immediately to mind. Attempts to keep it out of the commercial movie theaters backfired spectacularly. And now "Outfoxed" follows, with still more to come.

All this, of course, follows upon the growth of the progressive internet. And finally, with "Air America Radio," the liberals are struggling to regain a foothold on the radio.

If, somehow, these avenues of dissent are blocked, others will be found and utilized. It happened during the American revolution with Tom Paine and other "pamphleteers." It happened in the Soviet Union with Samidzat.

It it will happen here, so long as there are (authentically "conservative") patriots determined to defend their Constitution and their liberties, and to restore a just society.

You can count on it.


July 29, 2004

TRUE LIES:

In addition to the traditional tripartite division of lies -- white lies, damned lies, and statistics -- one should not lose sight of a fourth: "true lies."

"True lies" are statements which, while strictly true, are intended to convey falsehoods. They are the stock-in-trade of lawyers and of cagey witnesses under oath, hard-pressed to put out false information while evading perjury.

The most notorious recent example is Bill Clinton's denial: "I did not have sex with that woman." According to Clinton's definition (intercourse), the statement is literally true. But that's not what he meant for us to believe.

My favorite example of a "true lie," now completely forgotten, was by the late California Senator, S. I. Hayakawa, a man I much admired as a scholar, and admired much less after he turned to politics. Hayakawa was a steadfast proponent of the adoption of English as an official national language which, of course, would have worked to the great detriment of immigrants -- in particular, Hispanic immigrants to California.

"Why shouldn't immigrants be required to make full adjustments to American language and culture," he insisted. "After all, I did."

Seeing Hayakawa's Japanese face and reflecting on his Japanese name, and then hearing these words in perfect non-accented, idiomatic American English, you just had to admire his total assimilation into our language and culture.

And yes, he was in fact an immigrant. Samuel I. Hayakawa migrated to the United States all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, where he was born in 1906. His linguistic assimilation consisted of little more than substituting "out" for "oot."

But that was not the point he wished to put across by offering himself as an example of a successfully assimilated immigrant.

Now lets turn to the Bush Administration.

Bush's tax cuts, we are told, average more than a thousand dollars per taxpayer. And guess what: he's right! The lucky top one-percent get cuts into five and six figures. The median (middle) taxpayer is lucky if he gets as much as two hundred dollars. (And of course, that much is taken back by rising state and local taxes -- but that's another story). But the average is still over a thousand dollars.

How does that work? Well, picture this: Bill Gates walks into a homeless shelter with sixty impoverished wretches. As he does, the average net worth of each individual in the room is a billion dollars.

Far better to ask, what is the median tax break -- the tax reduction to the middle ranked individual? That's the statistic that the Bushistas would rather you didn't know about.

Finally, there's Al Franken's favorite example of a Bush campaign-2000 lie: "The vast majority of  my tax cuts go to those at the bottom."

Sorry, Al -- he was telling the truth. If, that is, he was referring to the number of tax cuts, not the amount of the tax cuts. Almost everyone is getting a tax cut, and there are a lot more people at "the bottom" than there are Fat Cats. But, of course, that's not the message that Bush intended to convey.

So was Bush lying? Depends on the meaning of "lying."

And was Clinton lying?  Depends on what the meaning of "is" ... -- no, sorry, the meaning of "sex."


"LOOSE CANNON OR CRAZY LIKE A FOX?"

That was the title of the Newsweek cover story about Teresa Heinz Kerry.

OK, now that you have seen the lady on TV, which is it? Loose cannon or crazy like a fox?

This, folks, is what us unreconstructed philosophy professors call a "false dilemma." And if you somehow suppose that you've got to choose one or the other, then, as George Lakoff might put it, you've been "framed" -- led to accept uncritically the point of view of the writer.

After watching Teresa Heinz Kerry's convention address, I'd say "neither of the above." She is an extraordinarily intelligent, cultured, and articulate woman. We would be fortunate, and should be proud, if she were to become the First Lady next January.

Personally, I found her address to be brilliant, compelling and convincing, an opinion that was shared by numerous observers whose columns were featured in the progressive internet sites.

Then there was Newsweek's Howard Kurtz on CNN, who felt the speech was self-indulgent and failed to achieve its purpose of introducing and "selling" the candidate, her husband, to the public.

No doubt, Howie had still more to say, but by then I'd found the remote and had shut him off. I don't need Kurtz to tell me how to think. Besides, I was getting dizzy with the spin.

Grab the Dramamine -- there's going to be a lot more spinning in the next three months.


MORE ABOUT "THE LIBRUL MEDIA."

How can anyone still believe that the mainstream media ha