THE GADFLY'S BLOG
Gadfly Blogs for
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.
February 7, 2006
A Letter to my Russian Friends
At the beginning of each year, I send a holiday package of gifts to my
friends in Russia -- each of whom is a professional scientist, an NGO
activist, or a
university professor. That package included this message, which I now
share with my readers.
Seasons Greetings from a very troubled United States of America.
It is customary for annual holiday messages to be optimistic. However, in
these times it is difficult for me to write you a positive letter. Perhaps
the best news that I can send you is that the American public may at last
be waking up, however slowly, from its slumber of ignorance of and
indifference to the political disaster that has befallen our country since
the aborted election of November 2000. Perhaps we are beginning to see the
vindication of Abraham Lincoln's observation: "You can fool some of the
people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the
time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Those of us
actively opposed to George Bush and his regime are sustained by the hope
that Lincoln was right, and that truth and our American traditions of
liberty and democracy will at last prevail.
As I continue my work of active opposition to the Bush regime, I am
encouraged by the example of Russia, and of the people of the former
Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The political subjugation of our
once-free media rivals that of Soviet era: Pravda, Izvestiya,
and Gostelradio. But the Soviet people withdrew their trust in
these media, and the dissidents established, at their grave personal
peril, Samizdat. I have repeatedly cited the Samizdat phenomenon in my
political writing. Now our own Samizdat is emerging in the final free
medium: the internet, as the public is becoming ever more skeptical of the
so-called "mainstream media."
The Russian counter-revolution of August, 1991, demonstrated to the world
that the flame of liberty can not be extinguished even by seventy years of
despotism. (Had I remained in Russia for only one additional week, I would
have been witness to that great event). We Americans knew freedom and
prosperity a mere five years ago. One day of terror, September 11, 2001,
and five years of relentless propaganda, can not erase our collective
memory. We can overcome this nightmare, for you have shown us that a
determined people can prevail over a more firmly entrenched dictatorship.
In the meantime, public opinion polls show that Bush's approval is now
below 40% and continues to decline. Solid majorities of Americans
disapprove of the Iraq War and of Bush's economic policies. What is truly
astonishing is that as many a 40% continue to approve of Bush, but bear in
mind that our public is immersed in a soup of propaganda. Investigation of
the greatest political scandal of all, the almost-certain Republican theft
of the 2004 election, is totally absent from the mainstream media, as the
Republicans and their media allies strive desperately to keep this scandal
hidden and under control. Meanwhile, the internet and a few remaining
independent publishers are keeping the issue of election fraud alive.
My part in the resistance is my writing, which originates at my websites,
The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org) and The Online Gadfly
(www.igc.org/gadfly), and is re-published in numerous progressive
websites. I am also at work on a book,
"Conscience of a
Progressive" which is about 80% completed. Now retired from teaching,
I am devoting full-time effort to these projects, which I intend to
sustain until either liberty and democracy are restored to the United
States, or until I am silenced by the government.
I long to revisit Russia, as I did seven times from 1989 to 1999. I have
come to greatly admire your land and your people, as I cherish our
continuing friendship. But I fear that the deteriorating political and
economic conditions may make another visit impossible. Sadly, my work has
distracted me from a more active involvement with the Russian
environmental movement, which is further complicated by President Putin's
discouragement of NGO activity and foreign cooperation. Paradoxically, it
seems to me that the most appropriate work that I might do in behalf of
the international environmental movement is precisely the work that I am
doing, for the government of the United States will be of little value to
our common environmental concerns for as long as the Bush regime and his
right-wing allies remain in power. Thus our first priority must be to
remove this regime from power.
Twice in the past century, the United States -- "the New World" -- came to
the rescue of "the Old World." We may soon see the time in this new
century, when "the Old World" will return the favor, and come to our
defense. Far better if we Americans can lead ourselves out of this crisis.
For only the American people can restore the honor of their country.
Please remember this above all: George Bush and his regime are not
America. He was not elected in 2000, and when the evidence finally comes
forth, it may eventually be proven that he was not legally re-elected in
2004. Bush and all that he represents is a malignant aberration that has
achieved and sustained political power on the strength of money,
corruption, media control, election fraud, and public fear caused by the
attacks of September 11, 2001. And now, seeking absolute power, he is
beginning to turn on those of us who actively dissent. The outcome is
uncertain, but ever more Americans are resisting. Those who despise the
cruelty and arrogance of Bushite imperialism, must not forget that many,
and probably a majority, of Americans agree. We struggle on with the hope
and expectation that we will finally defeat this political atrocity in
Washington. We must do so, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of
our common planet which is facing unspeakable environmental emergencies.
For the past week, an avalanche of e-mails have fallen into our Crisis
Papers mailbox from numerous activists in the election reform movement.
Selecting and editing these would be a worthy task, but it would consume far
more time than I have at the moment. Maybe later.
After I had read several dozen of these, through to the very last in
the In-Box, I wrote the following general reply:
I've read this glut of messages with varying degrees of interest -- at
worst, with much impatience, at best, acute interest and admiration. Now
that I've come to the end of them, here's my take:
1. If Karl Rove or one of his coterie of scoundrels is reading this
collection, all this side talk about female and minority "balance" must be
giving him (or her!) chills of excitement. For a golden opportunity is
staring them in the face: divide and conquer. Fer Gawd's sake, people,
recruit all the citizens you can, and don't be distracted by the gender,
racial and ethnic distribution of those who answer the call!
2. Election fraud is the "keystone" which, if taken out, will cause the
collapse of Bushism, and the Busheviks well know it. We have the evidence,
they have the media and the smoke machines. But there are intimations of
defection by a few Republicans, libertarians, and authentic conservatives.
More and more corporate and financial poobahs are beginning to awake to
the notion that where Bush is leading, they don't want to go: economic
collapse, and global retaliation is bad for business. So we must get the
message out: This is not a GOP v. Dems issue; this is our Constitution and
our liberty v. despotism. Given present conditions, the GOP is a lead-pipe
cinch in 2006 and 2008. It is a near certainty that present conditions
will not continue throughout this year. Which leads to:
3. Screw your predictions! They are based upon a constant assumption:
"provided conditions remain as they are." Well, here's my prediction:
things will not remain as they are. All revolutions begin as hopeless
causes. All proceed on a course that encounters surprises and
unanticipated opportunities, and the most successful revolutions create
these opportunities and skillfully deal with surprises. "Impossible"
winners: Washington, Gandhi, Mandella, King, Sakharov -- and you can
extend the list as well as I can. Bush, with his voting fraud, is less
secure today than were LBJ and Nixon on election day 1964 and 1972.
Meanwhile the pressure of discontent mounts and the ratings fall. The mask
is falling off the simpering idiot "Preznint," ever faster the more he
tries to put it back. The time may arrive when a critical mass of the
public will ask aloud, "why on earth did we elect these guys." They will
then be receptive to the message, "we didn't! Those damned machines
elected them." That will be the day that The Bastille falls.
4. Jonathan Simon may be right (brilliant post, by the way): 99.9% of the
time, we're talking to each other, but I am more inclined to agree with
Brad -- we've got a lot more support out there than we might think. 90+%
of the population (including Bushophiles) prefer to live in a democracy
where their votes are counted. And 100% of the population does not like
being taken for suckers. I read somewhere that a year ago, 20% of the
population believed that the 2004 election was stolen. The entire Bushevik
empire depends upon keeping the curtain intact between the public and the
Wizard. Where's Toto when we need him?
5. Make the next fraud exorbitantly risky. Support the polls. If Mitofsky
sits out the next election, set up alternative exit polling. Raise the
expectations of GOP defeat so high that when the next theft is attempted,
all hell breaks loose. They fooled the public once, they fooled them twice
(2002), and then again in 2004. It is not at all that certain that they
can bring it off one more time.
6. I'm afraid that Lynn Landes (bless her!) will loose with the Supremes,
though I devoutly hope that she will not. But that "loss," if it happens,
can be used to advantage -- as a further erosion in the credibility and
legitimacy of SCUSA, which isn't all that hot right now.
7. Where is our media? Why can't George Soros, Warren Buffett, etc. get
together and buy a cable channel? We have a lot of talent out there.
Retired and very pissed-off celebs: Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Ted
Koppel (maybe). Then there are the heroically fired: Bill Moyers, Phil
Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield (remember Ashleigh?). It's just not fair to ask
Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart to carry all the burden. Get these
worthies together, and they will blow FOX, CNN and MSNBC away.
8. Election theft is a national crime carried out on a state and local
level. Therein lies an opportunity, for legal action on state or local
level might crack the election fraud case. Did the "black box voting"
industry make the tactical error of operating in some state with a
democratic governor and/or attorney general and/or secretary of state?
Then it's past time for that state government to get crackin'. Election
fraud is a felony that can and should be subject to criminal
investigation. Such investigations could also be conducted at a local
level by an aggressive District Attorney. Are any such investigations now
under way? If not, why not?
9. Finally, where is our leadership? Reading all these messages can only
remind one that we are a bunch of passionate, dedicated, and
well-intentioned individuals, running about randomly, craving organization
and marching orders from Command Central. Leadership and organizational
discipline is the key to GOP success, as lack of same spell doom for the
Dems. And when I speak of leadership, I don't mean Hollywood or Show Biz
Celebs, though we welcome their participation, endorsements, and charisma.
So bring in the pros. Since his Constitution Hall speech, Al Gore is once
again eligible. Russ Feingold has certainly earned a nomination. Perhaps
you have better candidates in mind. If so, I'll listen. But once we find
our Washington, Gandhi, Mandella or Sakharov, let's get organized and keep
our eyes on the prize.
November 14, 2006
What Would Jesus Do? Take up the sword?
A friend writes: "In your essay
"What Would Jesus Do?"
you haven't dealt with one of Jesus' most contradictory/puzzling sayings:
Matthew 10:34. "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Why did you leave
that out? Don't you think you should also deal with that one!"
How should I reply? It depends upon to whom I am addressing the answer. Is
my audience secular and open to scholarly interpretations, or are they
Here's my reply to the secularists:
I suppose that verse would present a problem if I regarded the Bible
(specifically Matthew) to be authentic scripture -- "the word of God," or
even as the moderate Christians have it, "the Word of God as far as it is
But, of course, I don't. The four gospels were written long after the events
that they report. (Mark, the earliest, was apparently written around 70 AD,
possibly by the "secretary" to the disciple Peter). Furthermore, the four
gospels are inconsistent (e.g., concerning the Nativity). So there is no
compelling reason to believe that Jesus ever said "I come not to send peace,
but a sword." Or that he spoke the Beatitudes, for that matter.
But even if he did, he did not call upon his followers to take up the sword.
Instead, he was saying (correctly as it turns out) that there were difficult
times ahead for his disciples.
I cannot claim to know anything at all about Jesus of Nazareth, except that
he probably existed and taught a moral message similar to that conveyed by
much or most of the gospels. Nor, I contend, can anyone know much more than
this -- an opinion which greatly discomforts my many Christian friends.
Furthermore, that moral message is not entirely consistent, indicating
faulty memory and "ax grinding" by later writers, commentators and
"I come not to send peace, but a sword," strikes my as inconsistent with the
with the message of love, pacifism, and forgiveness, that is found
throughout the gospels. But it is something that one might expect to come
out of the context of persecution that the early Christians faced at the
time the gospels were written.
If the gospels are regarded as primarily works of fiction, like Khalil
Gibran's "The Prophet," they are still valuable as statements of a worthy
moral philosophy. Their accuracy regarding the life and words of Jesus is
unknown and unknowable, and perhaps of secondary importance -- at least to
secular heathens like myself.
However, a vast majority of our fellow Americans believe that The Bible is
The Word of God -- or at least approximately so. "What would Jesus Do?" is
directed at them. And they should come to terms with the clear fact that
many (most?) of these "Christians," and the "Christian" leaders that they
support, are, morally speaking, "anti-Christians." Jesus is reported to have
said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Clearly, these
so-called "Christians" do not. They are not peacemakers, they do not
care for the poor, they are not humble ("meek"), tolerant, or forgiving.
And that's the point I wanted to make in "What Would Jesus
So how would I address a fundamentalist?
After all, many (self-identified) "Christians" have used
that passage to justify the slaughter that stains the history of
Christendom. How would I respond to a "Christian" who used that verse
-- "I came not to send peace, but a sword." -- as proof that Jesus called
upon his followers to "take up the sword."
To begin, let us acknowledge that it is a virtually futile enterprise to try
to convince a fundie of anything contrary to his/her religious convictions.
But one never knows.
Second, the fundie's enthusiasm for war is most likely based, not on the
gospels, but on the Old Testament: e.g., Joshua (Ch. 10), Deuteronomy
(2:33-4 and 20:16), and Numbers (31:17-18), wherein The Lord orders, or at
least sanctions, the slaughter of entire cities. Today we call this
"genocide." (See my "Warriors of the
Even so, if given the daunting task of trying to "convert" a militant
(so-called) "Christian" to the pacifism of Jesus, here is how I might go
I would ask if s/he could cite any verse in the Gospels where Jesus called
upon his disciples to "take up the sword."
Then s/he might cite Matthew 10:34. I would reply that the verse does not
call upon disciples to take up the sword, rather it prophesies the coming of
turmoil and bloodshed which, as it turns out, was quite accurate. Aside from
that, I believe that s/he would find no call for violence in the Gospels --
not, at least, from the presumed words of Jesus.
I would further point out that when a Peter drew his sword in Jesus' defense
at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked him. (Matthew 26: 51-52, and John
18: 10-11). "Put up again thy sword into its place, for they that take the
sword shall perish with the sword."
Then I might cite Jesus' instruction to "resist not evil," "turn the other
cheek," and "love thy enemies." And finally, as a capper, Matthew 5:9:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
I would then ask if s/he truly believes that the cryptic verse about sending
"not peace but the sword" nullifies all that Jesus is reported to have said
about peacemaking, forgiveness and tolerance?
My guess is that the typical fundie would be unmoved by all this. But a few
might, and more importantly, the much "moderate" Christians,
inclined to support right-wing militancy, might be receptive.
On Proving a Negative.
A Crisis Paper reader writes:
[In] your essay,
Gulliberal Problem. [you ask]: "Can you prove that the
elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004 were not stolen?"
I'm familiar with the arguments and evidence that it was. However, as an
academician, you surely know within logic you cannot prove a negative. For
example, you cannot prove the non-existence of, say, Santa Claus, or God,
I welcome the question, since it gives me the opportunity to deal with a
persistent and mischievous popular myth; namely, that "you cannot prove a
negative." Of course you can prove negative assertions, as surely as
you can prove positive assertions. Both deductively and inductively.
The rule "you cannot prove a negative" may have its origin in a quite
distinct rule, fundamental to science and rational inquiry: "The burden of
proof rests with the affirmative, not the negative." Put simply: "failure to
prove the falsehood of an assertion does not constitute proof of the
assertion." (It's called the "ad ignorantum" fallacy). In law, this
rule is exemplified in the presumption of innocence of the accused. (I
explain this rule in my
Is Science Just Another Dogma?
Find: "burden" near the end of the essay).
"The burden of proof" rule applies equivalently to affirmative and negative
assertions. First of all, note the simple grammatical fact that any
positive assertion can be restated as a negative assertion. Thus if you can
prove a positive assertion, you can equally prove it's equivalent negative
I could go on and on about the nature of scientific inquiry --
falsifiability, hypothetico-deductive confirmation, confirmation of
universal v. particular propositions, and all that (see Karl Popper, The
Logic of Scientific Discovery). But this isn't the place for that.
Suffice to say that for an assertion to be empirically meaningful, it must
be falsifiable in principle, which means (as David Hume argued) that no
empirical assertion can be 100% proven "in principle," though of course many
are, for all practical purposes, certain. E.g., that Newton's laws of motion
are true, that Abraham Lincoln is dead (neg: "is not alive"), that the earth
is round (neg: "is not flat"), that Germany invaded Poland in 1939 (neg: not
1950), that George Bush is an incompetent idiot.
Santa Claus? Define Santa Claus, and the rest is easy. If you
describe him as, among other things, a fat adult male who navigates up and
down chimneys, who rides a sleigh driven by reindeer treading on thin air,
and who simultaneously at midnight visits millions of homes, then I think we
can say, with practical certainty, that there is no Santa Claus. If you
define Santa Claus as "the sentiment of love and giving," then, "Yes,
Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
Alchemy? Describe alchemy in such a way that it yields observable and
falsifiable implications. Then I will be prepared to prove it true or false.
Ditto astrology. As both are generally understood, both can be proven false,
as they have been many times.
God? Let's not get into that, I 'm trying to be brief.
(But if you are up to it, see David Hume's "Dialogue Concerning Natural
But putting all this scholarly Choctaw aside, here are three negative
statements that I submit that I can prove:
(a) There is no 800 pound gorilla standing next to me in my study as I write
(b) A nuclear submarine is not, at this moment, parked in my driveway.
(c) Laura Bush was not devoured today by an escaped T-Rex.
If this isn't "proving a negative," then I don't know what is.
Getting back to your original point: proving that an election was not
1. I can prove that [Canadian elections are] not stolen, because they use
paper ballots that are counted and validated by three individual election
officers. (How I envy the Canadians!)
2. I can not prove directly that paperless touch-screen machines cheated in
2000 and 2004, simply because they were ingeniously designed to prevent
verification (e.g., they use secret software). For precisely the same
reasons, the "winners" cannot prove that the the elections were not stolen.
However, the indirect evidence of fraud is overwhelming and, I submit, for
all practical purposes conclusive. (But not absolutely proven since, qua
empirical and scientifically meaningful, it is falsifiable -- ditto Newton's
laws, historical events, the shape of the earth, etc.).
Finally, a worthy and troublesome excerpt from a
Science Magazine Editorial:
"More than 50% of new faculty appointed in U.S research universities are
In ignorance or defiance of the global reality of modern scientific
research and the transient nature of its leading edge, the United States
is embarked on a path to further its national security by enacting
policies that will inevitably degrade its scientific strength.... New U.S.
policies could restrict ... the base of scientists who fuel the technical
engine here at home. Government-imposed limits on the publication of
research results, in the name of homeland security, would inhibit the
international collaboration hat in turn fertilizes the global community
and advances our own programs. In short, the international character of
the scientific enterprise is in danger, and, if lost, the U.S
technology edge will go with it.
David J. Galas and Henry Riggs.
Science, 20 June, 2003. p. 1847