Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
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An Open Letter to My Friends Abroad

Ernest Partridge

October, 2001

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism the ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling private power.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt


On behalf of myself and millions of my fellow citizens of the United States, I wish to assure you: Our "accidental President" does not speak for us, or represent our values and aspirations.

In fact, we did not even select him as our leader. A majority of US voters did not cast their ballots for George W. Bush. In an honest election, Al Gore would have won the deciding state, Florida, and thus the Presidency. In fact, Gore would have probably won Florida in that flawed election, if Bush's allies on the Supreme Court had not halted the recount of the ballots.

Not only does Bush hold his office illegitimately, it is clear that among the US Presidents of the past century, he is personally the least qualified to hold that office. Bush was a mediocre student in college, a failure as a businessman, and an unexceptional governor of the state of Texas a weak office that he gained only through his unearned good fortune of being the son of a former President. Bush appears to be completely bereft of intellectual curiosity, and has displayed no evidence whatever of a capacity for critical or original thought. And after fifty-five years of life in the United States, he has failed to gain command of his native English language.

This is the man who represents the American people to the leaders and peoples of the world. Leaders, press and the populace abroad are appalled at what they see. Here at home, we are acutely embarrassed.

Bush's policies, both foreign and domestic, are a disaster, issuing not from thoughtful reflection or scientific evidence, but from political dogma and from the narrow interests of his corporate sponsors. 

While proudly proclaiming that Ronald Reagan "won the Cold War," Bush surrounds himself with old cold-warriors such as Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who seem unaware that the Cold War is over, or else appear determined to renew it. Thus, not content to expand NATO up to the borders of the former Soviet Union, now they want to humiliate their former adversaries by including the former Baltic republics of the Soviet Union. And if the Bush team has its way the hard-won Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will be scrapped to make way for a provocative missile defense system, which independent scientists assure us will never work. The arguments in favor of this "defense system" are specious to say the best of it. (See "Strategic Defense, It's BAAACK"). US scientific and public opinion are unconvinced. But never mind. Bush has a debt to pay to the aerospace industry.

Then there is "global warming" and the Kyoto Treaty. Bush tells us that the case for the "greenhouse effect" is based on "unsound science." This despite the fact that the scientific evidence of the threat of global warming was expressed with unequivocal force and clarity in January by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Unconvinced, Bush then asked the National Academy of Sciences to review the IPCC report, whereupon the Academy essentially confirmed IPCC. Even so, Bush still refuses to support the Kyoto accords, and his energy plan calls for increased consumption of fossil fuels and reduced funds for research in alternative energy sources. This policy is not supported by the scientific community or the American public, which prefer conservation and alternative energy. But no matter. Bush has a debt to pay to his friends and supporters in the coal and petroleum industries.

Thanks to the unprecedented prosperity during the Clinton Administration, the US Federal budget has an outstanding opportunity to retire the enormous national debt, most of which was incurred under Ronald Reagan and Bush's father. Also there could be funds available for investment in educational reform and the transition to the post-fossil fuel economy. Instead, Bush has pushed through a huge tax cut, most of which will be returned to the wealthiest 2% of the US population. Thus he continues to transfer national wealth from the population at large to the very wealthy. (A quarter century ago, the wealthiest one percent of the US population owned twenty percent of the national wealth. Now that figure is forty percent. See  "The Deserving Rich?").

Because of these policies, and more, the United States has been branded a "rogue state" by critics both internally and abroad.

How did this happen? How could such an unqualified individual achieve the highest office in the US government, and how can he advocate policies so out of touch with domestic and world scientific and public opinion?

There is a long history to this corrosion of American politics. The most recent acceleration of corruption can be traced back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. This smooth-talking front for right-wing corporate interests convinced the public and the Congress that "government is not the solution, government is the problem." And so, government regulations were dismantled along with restrictions on media market conglomeration. And so, where there were once thousands of independent press voices in the United States, today half of the US daily newspapers are owned by just six conglomerates, most of which are also involved in the broadcast media the average American citizen's primary source of political "news" and opinion. Furthermore, five corporations now control eighty percent of the book publishing industry. These media mega-corporations (such as Rupert Murdoch's enterprises and AOL-Time-Warner) control broadcast and print media, publishing, the movie industry, and more. All are dedicated to the continuing corporate domination of politics (through campaign financing) and public opinion. (For more about this, see my "Post Modern Politics").

This is not to say that dissenting and progressive opinions are suppressed in the United States. The American public with its tradition of free expression would not tolerate the active suppression of political opinion. Thus I write this piece and many other denunciations of Bush and his collaborators without fear of retaliation. But suppression is hardly necessary, for dissenting views, while not suppressed, are overwhelmed by the flood of sycophant "reporting" and political commentary in the corporate mass media still worse, by endless reports on such distracting trivia as the sex lives of politicians and entertainers. 

And so, in the 2000 election, the massive corporate media machine went into action in behalf of George W. Bush. Al Gore was slandered with outright demonstrable lies and caricatured as a stiff, unfeeling prevaricator. Bush, on the other hand, was portrayed as an amiable "compassionate conservative," as his manifest weaknesses were papered over. In the three Presidential debates, when Gore demolished Bush on matters of substance, public attention was redirected by partisan "spin doctors" and media pundits to "atmospherics" and to concocted and unsubstantial trivia. (See my "The Hijacked Election").

Even so, despite this avalanche of Pro-Bush and Anti-Gore propaganda, Gore received more votes than Bush. Only a determined post-election effort in Florida by the Republican legal and media machine, aided by the Bush's brother the Florida governor, and finally sealed by five conniving Supreme Court justices, gave the office to Bush.

I repeat: George W. Bush holds his office illegitimately, and he does not represent the will or the consensus of the American public. Clearly, the United States, for all its military power and economic prosperity, has come upon very difficult political times. Now it must now fall upon the American people to reclaim their government and to renew their democracy. And they must do so with an allegiance to their political ideals and Constitutional structures that is conspicuously absent among those who gave the Presidency to Bush and who maintain him in his office.

Let me be perfectly clear about this: I am not a revolutionary. I am an American patriot who swears full allegiance to the founding principles of this Republic, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution documents which I devoutly believe to contain the highest expression of political enlightenment . It is the betrayal of those principles that constitute the tragedy of contemporary American politics. The best remedy, both ideally and practically, to the manifest abuses of the Bush regime is through the Constitution and the legal institutions founded therein. That remedy begins with the ballot and with free expression of protest however much these have been diminished by mega-media control. 

The restoration and renewal of American democracy will be a difficult endeavor but not impossible. Here are some reasons for optimism:

  • Despite their immersion in the establishment media, a large portion of the American public can sense when they are being lied to. Most immediately, assurances from Bush's spokesmen of "continuing prosperity" ring hollow when ordinary citizens find their neighbors out of work, and themselves increasingly unable to pay their bills. In this respect, Americans are similar to ordinary Russians during the Soviet era who clearly understood that there was little "truth" to be found in "Pravda."

  • The counter-revolution against Bush is now well under way, most notably with the defection of one Republican Senator, James Jeffords of Vermont, which turned control of the Senate over to the Democrats. With that chamber now in control of the opposing party, a Constitutional instrument is now at hand to obstruct the Bush program. Democratic control of the other chamber, the House of Representatives, in a year and a half is quite probable.

  • A commanding majority of the American public supports effective reform of campaign financing. The present system, which amounts to the legalized bribery of politicians, has led to the present corruption of American politics whereby members of Congress represent, not their constituents, but rather their corporate contributors. The Senate recently passed a campaign finance reform bill, which was effectively defeated this past week in the House. While technically a defeat, this event has further alienated the members of Congress from the public, which has the final word in the next election November, 2002. 

  • Much of the mischief afoot in American politics today was brought about by the extraordinary public-relations skills of a retired Hollywood actor and his political handlers. But the new "front man," George Bush, is no Ronald Reagan, to say the least of it. Bush diligently avoids any unscripted public appearances, and breaks out in a cold sweat when separated from a teleprompter. Even so, both his scripted and his rare spontaneous utterances are usually both pathetic and comical. Thus, unlike Reagan, Bush neither projects command nor instills confidence. Bush's pose as "just an ordinary guy like the rest of you" is beginning to wear out. The American people expect much more from their President.

  • Despite these manifest shortcomings, the Bush team is extraordinarily arrogant. Even though Bush received a minority vote and stole the election, Bush's team acts as if they achieved office in a landslide. Thus they are quite capable of "over-reaching" in fact, they have done so several times in the few months they have been in office. As they serve their corporate clients, Republican politicians have a habit of disregarding the interests and opinion of the citizens which, in fact, elect them. "Pride goeth before the fall." It happened with Bush's father. It may well happen to the son.

  • "The Bush Agenda" is a tissue of lies, evasions, and contradictions which enriches the wealthy few at the expense of the vast majority of the population, which has violated and debased the democratic principles upon which this Republic was founded, which impoverishes the public treasury and mortgages the future, which destabilizes the international security regime by abrogating treaties at whim, and which threatens the very future of the planet with an outrageous disregard of the scientifically validated threat of global warming. The American public is susceptible to a slick public relations campaign: Reagan proved that. And that public is slow to anger and action. But while changes in public opinion can be glacially slow, they can also become glacially irresistible, as Richard Nixon was to find out when he went outside the law to destroy his "enemies," and as Lyndon Johnson was to discover as he pursued an immoral war in Viet Nam. 

 

The opponents of this illegitimate President are scattered and disorganized, but their cause is just and they are determined. They will, I am convinced, work within the Constitutional structures: they will deprive Bush of his Congress in 2002, and of his office in 2004. In the meantime, determined opposition both within and outside the United States can derail the most obnoxious aspects of the Bush Agenda: his opposition to effective action on global warming and his missile defense scheme. His domestic "successes" tax relief for the wealthy and opposition to campaign reform can only serve as effective ammunition in the struggle to bring him down in the next election.

And so, to my friends abroad, I would say again: We are united by much more than that which separates you from the policies of our Usurper President. The debasement of the American democracy in the November 2000 is both a national and an international tragedy. We are joined in a common cause to contain and then to repair the damage.

Because this misfortune has fallen most immediately upon the American public, it is our primary responsibility to effect remedies. Indeed, due to nationalistic sentiments, direct international support of American efforts to repair our body politic can be counter-productive (as would American interventions into your own domestic politics).

Even so, there is much that our friends abroad might do to contain the Bush menace.

  • Support international efforts, both within and outside of your governments, to present concerted opposition to the Bush policies on global warming and missile defense. A consortium of industrialized nations should take the initiative in addressing the climate problem (as it has with the IPCC reports). Demolish the American conceit that "nothing significant happens internationally without American participation, or even leadership."

  • Increase communication within international NGOs, with joint conferences and publications, etc. Emphasize and publicize participation by American representatives who dissent from Bush Administration policies. Let your compatriots and the world know that Bush does not speak for a large body of scientifically and ecologically informed American citizens.

  • Encourage your industries and governments to engage in massive and aggressive research in alternative energies. Regardless of action that may or may not be taken with regard to global warming, the petroleum age is likely to come to an end during this coming century. Unless research on a transition to a solar and hydrogen world economy is undertaken immediately and a new energy infrastructure put in place, the eventual depletion of available petroleum will cause a collapse of industrialized agriculture and global famine most severely in the industrialized nations. Bush's answer is to increase petroleum consumption while cutting research in alternative energy, thus bringing that day of reckoning ever closer. It therefore falls upon scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and governments abroad to take up the urgent task of leading the industrial world into the post-petroleum economy. It is altogether likely that such an enterprise would receive generous support from progressive American investors. If benign technology abroad succeeds and leads, then American industry will follow, as it did when Germany and Japan took the lead in automotive and electronics technology.

In general, be relentless in your criticism of the Bush policies, and in your protests against his corporate sponsors. But criticize calmly, non-violently, and rationally. Do your homework and base your protests and actions upon sound science. 

Together, we can get through this emergency and together, we will prevail.

 


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