Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2004
More Ernest Partridge Blogs:
April 26, 2004
A tribute to, and mild disagreement with, Walter Cronkite.
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
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,
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
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
For still more about "rectification" versus "corruption" of names,
April 28, 2004
Anatomy of a Spin.
In my essay of this week,
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 --
and for 2003.
So that's the spin. A masterpiece! Karl Rove couldn't have done it any
Those Fershlugginer Polls!
"Polls show that Bush has retaken the lead" our "librul media" tell us.
Well, some polls do -- that's for sure. But how many?
To find out, we looked at
PollingReport.com -- and suggest you do the
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
that it won't likely stop before November 2.
May 3, 2004
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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
In sum, Griffin's charges (in this case at least) are absurd on their
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
--- 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
. 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
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
Frantic attempts at censorship only prove that the establishment has
something to hide. And traditionally, censorship does not sit well with the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Less than three (in a Philosophy class) were able to identify: Bertrand
Russell, Alfred N. Whitehead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stephen Hawking, or
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
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
The Baltimore Sun, May 27:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
From Monday, June 21, on through the election I anticipate no further
distractions, and intend to devote my full attention to The Crisis
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.
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
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
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
Kevin Dando, PBS Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.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
Let 60 Minutes know that you appreciate and support their public service.
They are at: www.cbs.news (Select
"Contact Us"). Or:
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,"
reports that George Bush
may be buckling under the pressure.
"Going besmirk," as a late uncle used to put it.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Equal Justice under Law?
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
"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:
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
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
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?"
"And two languages?"
"And what do you call someone who speaks only one language?"
Of course, he told it to me in English. In German, I would not have
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Then spread the idea far and wide -- to progressive websites, publications,
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
Did anyone notice? The Lipscomb family was notified of the son's death by
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" --
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)
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
Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard is not a forever-unknowable
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."
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
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.
"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
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
There are precious few liberals who will be offended.
To the Affluent -- George Bush's "base:"
Is the the kind of country you want?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 --
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
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
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
"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
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,
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'
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
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
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?
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
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.
AN URBAN MYTH GOES DOWN IN FLAMES
Among the reader comments in
The Smirking Chimp today, I found the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
(Yeah, yeah, I've heard about "the liberal media" jazz. But check out
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
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
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
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
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
MORE ABOUT "THE LIBRUL MEDIA."
How can anyone still believe that the mainstream media ha