Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Before 2004

I offer below, random musings, reflections, correspondence, scraps of work-in-progress, and other such miscellany, perchance worth sharing but not ready for the prime time of formal publication.  

Much of this material  has been adapted from personal e-mail correspondence. While I am perfectly free to use, revise and expand on my side of these exchanges, use of the "incoming" correspondence is problematic. I have neither the right nor the inclination to include the words of my correspondents if they can be identified either by name or description.

If I am confident that the correspondents can not be identified and if their part of the exchange is essential to the exchange, then I might quote them directly. Otherwise, their ideas will be briefly paraphrased, only to supply context to my part of these conversations. In no case will I identify the correspondents by name.

On the other hand, signed letters to The Crisis Papers and The Online Gadfly are fair game as are other comments published in the internet. They were submitted with the clear understanding that they, and their signatories, might be made public.

Incoming correspondence will be identified by italics. My contributions will be in plain text.


May 10, 2004

Kooks Need Not Apply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 21, 2004


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 25, 2004


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly "Snoop" is not "Dopey."

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

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

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

Seven identified the Secretary of State

Six Identified the Secretary of Defense

None Identified the Attorney General

None Identified the UN Secretary General

Thirteen identified both California Senators

Eight identified the nine US Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

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

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

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

Of course, I would have flunked that test.

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

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

Later, in a personal conversation, Keith Lehrer pointed out to me 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

We've Heard this Song Before!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barking Up the Wrong Tree:

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

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

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

Ho hum! Big Deal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let's profile the candidates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 25, 2004

"Equal Justice Under Law?"

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure.

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

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

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

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

Equal Justice under Law?


The Constitution as Scripture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Curse of the Monolingual:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2, 2004

Black Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 6, 2004


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2004


An old high school chum, sends me the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a nice Decline and Fall.

July 26, 2004


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can count on it.

July 29, 2004


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

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

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

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

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

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

And yes, he was telling the lilly-white truth!  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."


How can anyone still believe that the mainstream media has a "liberal bias" -- anyone, that is, except those who believe it because the media or the right-wing hacks like Horowitz and Coulter tell them so?

About the only "evidence" for liberal bias is the apparent fact there are more working reporters who describe themselves as "liberal" than those who identify themselves as "conservative." However, when one surveys the "bosses," we find startlingly different statistics. The current issue of FAIR's "Extra" reports:

Among national news executives -- the people whose job descriptions involve setting policy at media outlets -- only 16 percent describe themselves as "liberal." Sixty percent call themselves "moderate," and 19 percent "Conservative." [Pew Research Center]. With 84 percent of media bosses not identifying as "liberal," what happens to the myth of the liberal media?

Of course, media bias issues, not from reporters, but from executives -- who, it should be added, hire and review the work of the editorial writers and columnists: the designated "opinionators."

But the proof is in the publishing: for example, the editorial endorsements of candidates, and the right-left ratio of opinions in the editorial and columns.

Perhaps the most insidious bias is in the selection of "stories" given prominent attention.

For example:

  • Compare the six-year run of front-page attention to "Whitewater" -- a land deal that ended in a loss for the Clintons and, after a $50 million investigation, no evidence of wrong-doing -- with Bush's Harken Oil scam, whereby he unloaded stock, apparently illegally on insider information, and his Daddy blocked an investigation by the SEC.


  • Compare the thousands of Nexis-Lexis "hits" on Clinton's perfectly legal "draft dodging" with the mere dozens of stories on Bush's AWOL from the Air National Guard. To this day, the press insists on downplaying this potentially explosive story.


  • "Flash polls" immediately after the three Presidential debates in 2000 disclosed that the public had judged Al Gore to be the winner. Polls taken after the networks and cable stations broadcast the "spins" and the phony "focus groups" showed a reversal of public opinion.


  • A Wall Street Journal poll just prior to the election asked "Which candidate is more honest and straightforward?" 45% said Bush, and 29% said Gore. Bush's record of prevarication is known to any willing to face the evidence. Gore's reputation as a "liar" was itself based upon lies -- i.e., that he had claimed to have invented the internet, etc. (See my "The Hijacked Election").


  • On CNN's Crossfire, Paul Begala reported the following results from a Lexus-Nexus search:

    "There were exactly 704 stories in the campaign about this flap of Gore inventing the Internet. There were only 13 stories about Bush failing to show up for his National Guard duty for a year. There were well over 1,000 stories -- Nexus stopped at 1,000 -- about Gore and the Buddhist temple. Only 12 about Bush being accused of insider trading at Harken Energy. There were 347 about Al Gore wearing earth tones, but only 10 about the fact that Dick Cheney did business with Iran and Iraq and Libya."

If the mainstream media is so biased toward the right, why would the same media perpetrate a myth of "the liberal media"?

The advantages of this myth to the right should be apparent on reflection. News items and opinions that reflect poorly on Republicans or favorably on Democrats are discounted. "Can't believe that -- it's just the bias of the liberal media." Conversely, news items and opinions that reflect poorly on Democrats or favorably on Republicans are credited. "It must be true, even the liberal media can't deny it."

And so it will continue, until the public finally "wises up" and turns to alternative sources for information and balanced opinion. There is encouraging evidence that such a shift might be in the making, as the most egregious failings of the mainstream press become too apparent to be denied. For example, there was the near unanimous press acceptance and praise of Colin Powell's February, 2003 address to the United Nations. "proving" Saddam Hussein's possessions of WMDs -- now thoroughly debunked. Even the reporting of the most prestigious of newspapers have been seriously compromised. Witness the New York Times' fruitless investigation of the Whitewater story, and of atomic physicist Wen Ho Lee.  Consider too the false reports by the New York Times' Judith Miller of Saddam's "weapons programs."

For more about the myth of the liberal media, and how to deal with it, see Eric Alterman's "Myth of the Liberal Media," FAIR (www.fair.org), and my
Don't Give Up on the  Media, The Dragon at the Gate: The Media Problem, and Following the Light

September 21, 2004


If the English teachers’ Committee on Doublespeak were still around, they would surely award their George Orwell Prize to George Bush, for the following gem, offered recently in a Time Magazine interview:

"Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success –– being so successful, so fast, that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in, escaped and lived to fight another day,"

A thousand of our soldiers dead in the field, and an uncounted more dying in hospital of their wounds. An additional unreported thousands Americans wounded. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead. At a cost of more than $200 billion, and counting.

And he dares to call this a “success”!

Bush expresses surprise that the Iraqi Army did not stand and fight against the invading “coalition,” but that they instead “escaped and lived to fight another day.” What is truly surprising is that anyone could imagine a different course of events.

The Saddam Hussein’s military budget was about one billion dollars – one four-hundredth of that of the United States. Furthermore, his military was crippled by the loss of the Gulf war.

And so, if Bush and his neo-con warriors had an iota of capacity to see through the eyes of their adversary (an essential component of any competent military strategy), they could have predicted the present and ongoing “catastrophic success” in Iraq.

As I wrote for The Crisis Papers a year ago (“Now We are the Redcoats”):

Faced with an imminent invasion by the United States military (sorry, “Coalition”), would Saddam, with a military budget one four-hundredth that of the United States, prepare his pitiful army for a conventional showdown on the Iraqi deserts with American tanks, jet fighters, cruise missiles, etc.? If so, he would be a fool.

Or might he, like [the North Vietnamese] General Vo Nguyen Giap, concede the first inning, and prepare for the guerilla war to follow? Say what you will about Saddam: he was a tyrant, a brute, and a mass murderer. Granted. But he was not a fool.

Saddam Hussein clearly understood that Phase One would soon end with the American occupation of Iraq. So his army gave token resistance, fell back, then shed its uniforms, blended into the civilian population, and prepared for Phase Two, which is now in progress.

From the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln, George Bush proclaimed “mission accomplished” –– that with the “capture” of Baghdad, we had “won the war,” just as General Howe proclaimed the end of the American rebellion with the capture of New York in 1776.

Sadly, the war continues, and the prospects for our side are grim...

In Iraq today, friend and foe look alike. If the American soldier hesitates, the fedayeen will take the first shot, and another American casualty will be added to the list. But if he shoots first, his target may be a twelve-year old boy on the roof, a photographer lifting his camera, or a family rushing to get home before the curfew. More dead innocent Iraqis. More rage against the invaders. All to the advantage of the resistance.

This is how an entire population is redefined by the occupying army from “the gratefully liberated,” strewing flowers before their “valiant liberators,” to a pervasive threat, whereby each individual must be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

To be sure, among the so-called “insurgents” are many criminals, thugs, die-hard Saddamists, and newly-imported jihadists. But do not doubt that many are ordinary Iraqi citizens, some of whom have lost friends and family members to their “enemy.” And they are doing exactly what the bravest of our own citizens might do in a similar situation: they are taking up arms against the foreign invaders and occupiers. They want their country back. They wish it to be an independent and a sovereign country, and not a resource colony and military base for a foreign power that does not share their culture and religion, and that has little regard for the welfare of the conquered.

Why couldn’t the Bush gang foresee this “catastrophe”? And why not those in the media, the punditocracy, and the general public, somehow persist in supporting him today?

Just as Saddam could not possibly win a conventional war against the United States and “coalition” military, the United States is quite unlikely to win against the Iraqi resistance.

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, Brad Knickerbocker quotes Ivan Eland:

Guerrilla warfare is the most underrated and the most successful form of warfare in human history... It is a defensive type of war against a foreign invader. If the guerrillas don't lose, they win. The objective is to wait out your opponent until he goes home.

Accordingly, the only wise course is for our military to leave, the sooner the better.

September 30, 2004


Regarding John Kerry, Nicolle Devenish, Bush’s Campaign Communications Director said:

“Someone who blinks when things get hard is not the right person to win the war on terror. They are preaching retreat and defeat in the face of real challenges from an enemy bent on our destruction. I think that’s bad for the troops, it’s bad for allies, and it’s bad for our country.”

Someone who blinks when things get hard?

Think:  “The Pet Goat” and seven catatonic minutes.
Think:  Bronze Star: Pulling Jim Sassman out of the Mekong River, under enemy fire.

Retreat and defeat in the face of real challenges?

Think: 9/11. Air Force One. Down the rabbit hole at SAC, Omaha.
Think: Silver Star: Turning the Swift boat and charging the enemy.

You really don’t want to go there, Nicolle.


Since taking office as Vice President, Dick Cheney has received over half a million dollars of “deferred compensation” from Halliburton. Also, his wealth is directly tied to the stock value of that company. As surely everyone knows by now, Halliburton, and its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root, have overcharged the US government and have wasted several billions of dollars.

Dick Cheney was renominated without opposition for a second term as Vice President.

In 1958, Sherman Adams, President Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had accepted a gift from a Boston business man, Bernard Goldfine.

The gift?

An overcoat.


If you want a glimpse of what Bush-Cheney and the radical right has in store for us, take a look at Russia in the 1990s, and Iraq today. Russia was, and Iraq is, an experiment in Milton Friedman utopianism: minimal government and free-market absolutism.

In Russia, the Soviet state industrial wealth, distributed “evenly” to each Russian citizen, ended up in the hands of a very few super-rich oligarchs.

In an extraordinarily important Harper’s Magazine article, “Baghdad Year Zero,”  Naomi Klein details how right-wing market dogma crashed and burned in Iraq when confronted with brute reality. Here are a few opening and closing paragraphs. Be sure to read all of this astonishing article as soon as you get the chance.

Iraq, [John McCain] said, is "a huge pot of honey that's attracting a lot of flies." The flies McCain was referring to were the Halliburtons and Bechtels, as well as the venture capitalists who flocked to Iraq in the path cleared by Bradley Fighting Vehicles and laser-guided bombs. The honey that drew them was not just no-bid contracts and Iraq's famed oil wealth but the myriad investment opportunities offered by a country that had just been cracked wide open after decades of being sealed off, first by the nationalist economic policies of Saddam Hussein, then by asphyxiating United Nations sanctions.

* * *

The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war's ideological architects: that greed is good. Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush's Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.

* * *

The free market will no doubt come to Iraq, but the neoconservative dream of transforming the country into a free-market utopia has already died, a casualty of a greater dream--a second term for George W. Bush.

The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer's reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded. These dangers are so great that in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now. For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.

Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts. One would think that the bloody results of this experiment would inspire a crisis of faith: in the country where they had absolute free reign, where there was no local government to blame, where economic reforms were introduced at their most shocking and most perfect, they created, instead of a model free market, a failed state no right-thinking investor would touch. And yet the Green Zone neocons and their masters in Washington are no more likely to reexamine their core beliefs than the Taliban mullahs were inclined to search their souls when their Islamic state slid into a debauched Hades of opium and sex slavery. When facts threaten true believers, they simply close their eyes and pray harder.

Don’t think for a moment that we aren’t due for a similar fate if the American voters give George Bush a second term, and Grover Norquist realizes his dream of “drowning government in the bathtub.”

October 5, 2004


Fox News’ Carl Cameron posted and then withdrew an article in which he quotes John Kerry as saying: “women should like me! I do manicures." There were other unflattering alleged quotes, but I won’t repeat them, since it is apparent now that Cameron made them up.

But here’s a surprise for you: I know with near certainty that John Kerry does his own manicure, almost daily.

Reflection upon his masculinity? Absolute zero.

You see, Kerry is reputed to be an accomplished classic guitarist. If this is so, then while he is actively practicing and playing his guitar, he simply must give constant attention to the fingernails of his right hand.

This is as “effeminate” as a champion skier’s meticulous attention to the waxing and edging of his skis, a hockey player’s concern for the edges of his skates, or a sax player’s personal shaping of his reed.

I know. For over thirty years, I was a performing classic guitarist, and I can testify that the length and shape of the right-hand fingernails, within a tolerance of a fraction of a millimeter, is essential to top performance on that most challenging of instruments. (The optimum length, by the way, appears quite normal: approximately 1mm beyond the tip of the finger).

And no one – absolutely no one – is better qualified to file and to shape those nails than the guitarist himself. I assure you that no serious classic guitarist will ever tell you otherwise.

So there may be a germ of truth to that ridiculous Fox News story about Kerry’s manicures.

The great guitarist, Andres Segovia, once said that more people around the world play the guitar than any other instrument, and that fewer people around the world play it well than any other instrument.

If John Kerry is among the latter group, he has my profound respect. I know, I’ve been there.

November 8, 2004


Every now and then, someone makes a simple remark that puts things into clear perspective – that pushes the “Aha!” button – that turns on the cognitive light bulb.

Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer did just that on Al Franken’s radio show a couple of weeks ago, when he said:

To the right-wing “conservative,” “evil” is a noun.
To a liberal, “evil” is an adjective.

Wow! What in insight!

To the regressive, then, “evil” is an independent force, like gravity or electricity – a “thing.” Thus it is something that one can “go to war” against.

To the progressive, “evil” is a quality that is found found in particulars – “evil” persons, “evil” doctrines, “evil” governments, “evil” policies.

Which conception of “evil” is best conceived to engender practical and effective policies to improve the human condition?

Don’t ask me! Far better that you think it over yourselves.

(I don’t call myself “The Gadfly” for nothin’).

November 9, 2004


You may have heard, as I have several times, that in last week’s election, the exit polls conducted in areas with paper or otherwise auditable ballots gave very accurate predictions of the final tallies. (Exit polls are generally reputed to be very accurate). However, exit polls in areas with paperless touch-screen voting machines gave projections that on average showed Kerry totals about 5% above the final tallies – i.e., that these machines gave Bush 5% more votes than projected by the exit polls.

Those findings, if sufficiently widespread, consistent and authenticated, would give overwhelming support to the accusation that this election was rigged.

The reports that I have seen are widespread and consistent. What I have not found is authentication. Time after time, these reports fail to cite sources and documentation, without which they might as well have as much credence as one of Rush Limbaugh’s “instant statistics” (“from Rush’s butt,” as Al Franken inelegantly puts it).

Now, I’m not saying that “the 5% factor” is undocumented. Only that I have not seen the documentation. If anyone can supply it, I will be grateful. In the meantime, I will continue to search for this documentation.

But now I may have found what amounts to “smoking gun” evidence that the Florida election was sufficiently rigged to have thrown that state to George Bush, and with it the Presidential election.

From a website called “TheSquanderer.com” we have the following charts, comparing the returns from Florida counties with touch-screen machines, and those with optical scan machines. It turns out that the much-suspected “e-vote” machines were in fact reliable and accurate. However, the optical scan machines went wildly askew in favor of George Bush.

"E-Touch" Voters


Approx. 3.86 million total voters
in these counties

Kerry's Base: about 1.57 million votes*

Bush's Base: about 1.44 million votes*

Kerry's final tally: about 1.98 million votes
26.5% more than his given base

Bush's final tally: about 1.85 million votes
28.6% more than his given base

Close race, as expected,
unaffiliated voters nearly evenly split
between the two candidates

* - based on the number of registered Democrats or Republicans,
adjusted for turnout

"Optical Scan" Voters


Approx. 3.42 million total voters
in these counties

Kerry's Base: about 1.43 million votes*

Bush's Base: about 1.34 million votes*

Kerry's final tally: about 1.45 million votes
Less than 1% more than his given base

Bush's final tally: about 1.95 million votes
45.8% more than his given base

Virtually every unaffilated voter
would have had to have gone for Bush!
What are the odds??

* - based on the number of registered Democrats or Republicans,
adjusted for turnout

The e-voting machines, then, serve as a “control” against which the deviations of the optical scan machines may be compared.

I have no idea who or what “the squanderer” is. But it may not matter. These figures are obtained from the official Florida election returns, then compiled with simple grade-school arithmetic. (The official Florida state returns may be found here, and listing by party affiliation found here). If the numbers on the table above can be replicated from the official state records, it proves with a near statistical certainty that the returns from the optical scan machines were altered to “rob” John Kerry of half a million votes.

Bush/Cheney carried Florida by 381,290 votes. The optical scan irregularity cost Kerry half a million votes.

Ergo: An accurate count would have given Kerry the state of Florida, and the Presidential election.

Game, Set, Match!

Of course, there were many other irregularities in Florida. However, virtually all of them favored the Bush/Cheney ticket.

The issue could be settled conclusively if the paper optical scan ballot were counted by hand. But the Florida Secretary of State, Glenda Hood (appointed by Jeb Bush), refuses to release the ballots for inspection.

Why am I not surprised?

I’ve seen the official totals by county and party affiliation, and you can too if you follow the links above. However, I haven’t taken the time to check the sums reported by “The Squanderer.” Even so, with the all the necessary official documentation clearly at hand it is highly unlikely that the figures on the table have been “fudged.” I am confident that we can accept them..

If so, that’s about as close to a “smoking gun” as you can ask for.

A final note: Those half million votes are about one-seventh of Bush’s national popular vote lead. Florida recorded 7.5 million of the 114 million votes cast nationwide.

For more, see

Kathy Dopp’s research at the site: “Surprising Pattern of Florida's Election Results. Several important links are included.

See also Thom Hartman: “Evidence mounts that vote was hacked.”

Sam Parry: Bush’s “incredible” vote tallies.

The Crisis Paper’s page: "Was Election 2004 a Fraud?”


On October 21, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland released a report, “The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters.”  The report concluded that the Kerry supporters were in general, correctly apprized of the facts about the Iraq War, and that the Bush supporters were not. Put bluntly, that the Kerry supporters were oriented to the real world and that the Bush supporters (like their candidate) were living in a fantasy world.

Let’s focus our attention on the Bush supporters:

Is it your impression that experts mostly agree that before the war, Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction?

Experts Mostly Agree: 56%
Experts Divided: 18%

(Most experts agree that Iraq had no WMDs).

As you may know, Charles Duelfer, the chief weapons inspector selected by the Bush administration to investigate whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, has just presented his final report to Congress. Is it your impression he concluded that, just before the war, Iraq had:

Weapons of Mass Destruction: 19%
Major WMD Weapons Programs: 38%

(The Duelfer Report stated that Iraq had neither WMDs or major WMD programs)

Is it your impression that Iraq:

Was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks? 20%
Gave Al Qaeda substantial support: 55%

(There is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks or gave substantial support to Al Qaeda)

And now the payoff:

If, before the war, US intelligence services had concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda do you think the US:

Should not have gone to war: 58%
Should still have gone to war for other reasons: 37%.

It clearly follows that if the American public, and the Bush supporters in particular, had been aware of the facts about Iraq, far fewer of the identified Bush supporters would have voted for him. In other words, Bush owes his “victory” to the ignorance of his supporters. Of course, the Bush campaign and the right-wing media echo chamber did their best to perpetuate these myths.

These statistics reveal the delinquency of the news media. In more enlightened times, the primary allegiance of the media was to neither party nor to any candidate – its allegiance was to the facts. It was not a journalist’s concern how the facts might damage one party or the other, and it was not a journalist’s responsibility either to cause or avoid damage to candidates or parties. As Sgt. Friday famously said: “Just the facts, M’am.”

By failing to discharge that responsibility, the corporate media were, in effect, collaborators with the Bush/Cheney campaign.

But you knew all that already, didn’t you?

November 24, 2004


The following is statistical analysis of the Georgia Senatorial and Gubernatorial elections of 2002, as promised in my current CP essay: “Why We Must Not 'Get Over It'”. My very limited study of statistics was way, way, back in my undergraduate days. No doubt the statistical. pros will find much to criticize here. However, I am confident that a fine statistical analysis will come to roughly the same conclusion: namely, that the GOP “victories” in the Georgia 2002 election were extremely improbable, and that my conclusions are correct within an order of magnitude. “Close enough for gummint work”

The “lead in” which follows, is a shameless auto-plagiarism from that essay.

There is abundant statistical evidence that e-voting manipulation and fraud were at work in the 2002 mid-term elections. Within days of the 2002 election, the New Zealand website Scoop  compared the final polls and the actual results of 19 contests (five Governor, four House, ten Senate). The results:

  • “14 races showed a post opinion poll swing towards the Republican Party (by between 3 and 16 points)

  • “2 races showed a post opinion poll swing towards the Democratic Party (by 2 and 4 points)

  • “In three races the pollsters were close to correct

  • “The largest post opinion poll vote swings occurred in Minnesota and Georgia...

  • “All the post polling swings in favour of the democratic party were within the margin of error.

  • “Several of the post polling swings in favour of the republican party were well outside the margin of error.”

The Georgia races are particularly interesting, not only because they had the largest post-poll swings, but also because most of the state used paperless Diebold DRE machines. In the senate race, Max Cleland led Saxby Chamblis by 2 to 5 points in the polls. Cleland lost, by 7 points – a swing of 9 to 12 points. In the Gubernatorial race, Democrat Roy Barnes led Republican Sunny Perdue by nine points, only to lose by seven points – an incredible shift of 16 points.

In the interval between the final polling and the election, there were no startling events that could explain these discrepancies. That being the case, the statistical probability of a random deviation of twelve points (Cleland/Chamblis) and sixteen points (Barnes/Perdue) ranges from one in several ten-thousands to one in several hundred thousands.

The “margin of error” in polls with large samples is
approximately the same as what statisticians call “standard deviation.”

Assume the following:

  • an equivalence between margin of error and standard deviation.

  • the probabilities of polling error are in accordance with normal distributions (i.e., the so-called “bell curve”).

  • the margin of error of the Georgia polls was four points.

This means that “shift” in the Cleland/Chamblis race was from two-plus to three standard deviations. In the Barnes/Perdue race, the “shift” was four standard deviations.

In a normal (“bell curve”) distribution:

The probability of exceeding two standard deviations: Two percent. (.02)
The probability of exceeding three standard deviations: three-tenths of a percent. (.003)
The probability of exceeding four standard deviations: three-thousands of a percent. (.00003).

The probability of a deliberate “fix” in the secret (“proprietary”) Diebold software:

 Diebold’s assurance of the accuracy of their equipment: “Trust us!”


In his Village Voice article, "It's the Wealth, Stupid!"  Rick Perlstein gives strong evidence that the "values" issue and the evangelicals did NOT deliver the election to Bush. He then proposes that Bush owes his election to the "haves" and "have mores" -- "people making over 100 grand."

His first point is compelling. His second is plain balderdash -- as can be readily appreciated by a casual examination of his numbers.

If "the Jesus vote" and "the have/have-more vote" do not account for that eight million, and no other identifiable voting group seems to do the trick, then one is strongly drawn to the conclusion that those extra eight million came, not from the ballots of qualified voters, but rather out of the "proprietary" software of Diebold & brothers. In a word, the election was stolen.

Perlstein thus dismisses the significance of "the Jesus vote:"

On his blog Polysigh, my favorite political scientist, Phil Klinkner, ran a simple exercise. Multiplying the turnout among a certain group by the percent who went for Bush yields a number electoral statisticians call "performance." Among heavy churchgoers, Bush's performance last time was 25 percent (turnout, 42 percent; percentage of vote, 59 percent). This time out it was also 25 percent—no change. Slightly lower turnout (41 percent), slightly higher rate of vote (61 percent).

He then asks,

Where did the lion's share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? "Two of those points," Klinkner said when reached by phone, "came solely from people making over a 100 grand." The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare.

Perlstein continues:

Their portion of the electorate went from 15 percent in 2000 to 18 percent this year. Support for Bush among them went from 54 percent to 58 percent. "It made me think about that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11," says Klinkner, the one where Bush joked at a white-tie gala about the "haves" and the "have-mores": "Some people call you the elite," Bush said. "I call you my base."

Time to take out the pocket calculator.

The total 2004 vote was just over 114 million. The 3% increase in "wealth votes" comes to 3.42 million. Of these, Bush increased his support by 4%. That comes to a mere 136,800 votes.

And we're asked to believe that Bush owes his election to "the haves and have mores"? Not even close.

So where did those extra eight million votes come from, if not from the Jesus-folks?. Where else but from "cyber-votes."

I await (so far in vain) for a more plausible explanation.

November 28, 2004

Which Exit Polls? Earlier or Later?

On this question, perhaps more than any other, the statistical case for election fraud may turn.

The early CNN/Mitofsky exit polls indicated a Kerry victory in Florida, Ohio, and enough additional states to give Kerry a winning 300+ Electoral College total. The popular vote was projected to be a Kerry win with an exact reversal of Bush's "official" margin: 51%-48%. (Steven Freeman,  and Parry and New York Times). These projections almost exactly duplicated the final Zogby poll.  It is noteworthy that Zogby's 2000 poll proved to be the most accurate.

The later "adjusted" exit polls showed a Bush Victory in Florida and Ohio, and in the Electoral College totals. The national projection for the popular vote matched the official outcome: 51%-48% for Bush.

Steven Freeman's  statistical argument employs the early poll numbers, as does the Scoop.co.nz  of the "red shift" (toward Bush) between the exit polls and the final results.

The mainstream media, by assuming the final results to be valid, pose the question: "why did those early exit polls go wrong?"  Dissenting critics, such as Dr. Freeman, assume the accuracy of the early exit polls, which then casts suspicion on the final tally.

My inclination is to trust the early polls. Attempts to dismiss these strike me as unconvincing after-the-fact rationalizations. One explanation, for example, is that the morning voters were disproportionately female and thus biased toward Kerry.  But as Jonathan Simon points out this hypothesis does not hold up to closer scrutiny. Moreover, the gender-bias and other conjectures fail to explain why the early polls accurately predicted the final tallies in the "safe" states and in states with auditable ballots, and yet were wildly off-target (and consistently in Kerry's favor) in the crucial "battleground states" such as Florida and Ohio.

The later polls were contaminated with incoming data from the actual tallies. Thus they were analogous to placing bets on the Super Bowl, late in the fourth quarter. Las Vegas casinos won't stand for that, and neither should we. More specifically, the use of the later polls to validate the election results constitutes a circular argument. As Steven Freeman puts it, a citation of the later exit polls "[uses] data in which the count is assumed correct to prove that the count is correct."

Clearly, there is an urgent need for some very careful and scrupulous analyses of both the early and the late poll numbers. Unfortunately, the polling firms, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, refuse to release the raw data from the early polls. My Google search has failed to locate much evidence of a critical assessment of the comparative validity of the early and later exit polls.  Given the crucial importance of this question, that neglect is very unfortunate.


The Christian Fundamentalists, who tell us that every word in the Bible is the literal Word of God, believe that our laws should follow strict Biblical principles.  The following item that has been circulating in the internet, raises some intriguing questions for the theocrats.

Drs. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones -- can you help us out here?

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for a daughter?

3. I know that a man is allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness--Leviticus 15:19-24. The problem is, most women take offense when they're asked if they're unclean.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord--Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Leviticus 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination or are Christian Conservatives excepted?

7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Leviticus 24:10-16). Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, as we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Leviticus 20:14)?

(1/1/2005   It is now apparent that the author of the first seven questions is J. Kent Ashcraft.  The final three were added later.  For more clarification, follow this link).


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .