We 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.
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
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
May 21, 2004
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
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
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
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 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?
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."
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
July 19, 2004
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.
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
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
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."
MORE ABOUT "THE LIBRUL MEDIA."
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
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
Perhaps the most insidious bias is in the selection of "stories" given
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
On CNN's Crossfire, Paul Begala reported the following results from a
"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),
Don't Give Up on the Media,
The Dragon at the Gate: The Media
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
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
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
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS:
Regarding John Kerry, Nicolle Devenish, Bush’s Campaign Communications
“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.
BY WAY OF COMPARISON:
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
Dick Cheney was renominated without opposition for a second term as Vice
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.
ABOUT NAOMI KLEIN’S “BAGHDAD YEAR ZERO”
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
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
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
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
PUTTING THE FINGER ON THE KERRY-MANICURE STORY.
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?
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
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
THE PROFESSOR HITS THE BULLS-EYE.
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”
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
IS THIS THE SMOKING GUN THAT PROVES THE ELECTION WAS STOLEN?
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
of Florida's Election Results. Several important links are included.
See also Thom Hartman:
that vote was hacked.”
“incredible” vote tallies.
The Crisis Paper’s page:
Election 2004 a Fraud?”
THE ESSENTIAL MESSAGE OF THE PIPA STUDY
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
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 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,
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 IMPROBABILITY OF THE DEMOCRATIC DEFEATS
IN THE 2002 GEORGIA ELECTIONS.
The following is statistical analysis of the Georgia Senatorial and
Gubernatorial elections of 2002, as promised in my current CP essay:
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).
“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
“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
In a normal (“bell
The probability of exceeding two standard deviations: Two percent. (.02)
The probability of exceeding three standard deviations: three-tenths of a
The probability of exceeding four standard deviations: three-thousands of a
The probability of a deliberate “fix” in the secret (“proprietary”) Diebold
Diebold’s assurance of the accuracy of their equipment: “Trust us!”
THE FUNDIES FALL SHORT
Village Voice article,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
LIFE IN THE FUNDIES' THEOCRACY
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
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,