I offer below,
random musings, reflections, correspondence, scraps of
work-in-progress, and other such miscellany, perchance worth sharing
but not ready for the prime time of formal publication.
Much of this
material has been adapted from personal e-mail
correspondence. While I am perfectly free to use, revise and expand
on my side of these exchanges, use of the "incoming" correspondence
is problematic. I have neither the right nor the inclination to
include the words of my correspondents if they can be identified
either by name or description.
If I am confident that the correspondents can not be identified and
if their part of the exchange is essential to the exchange, then I
might quote them. Otherwise, their ideas be briefly paraphrased,
only to supply context to my part of these conversations. In no case
will I identify the correspondents by name.
On the other hand, signed letters to The Crisis Papers and The
Online Gadfly are fair game as are other comments published in the
internet. They were submitted with the clear understanding that
they, and their signatories, might be made public.
Incoming correspondence will be identified by italics. My
contributions will be in plain text.
February 1, 2005
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS!
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew, 5:9)
So, shouldn’t faithful Christians be reluctant to endorse and be involved in
Not at all, says Rev. Jerry Falwell. In fact, “God is Pro-War.”
The good Reverend instructs us:
Christians have struggled with the issue of war for centuries. Before
Jesus arrived on he scene, all good people wrestled with war and the
existence of evil. Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on the subject...
Many present-day pacifists hold Jesus as their example for unvarying
peace. But they ignore the full revelation concerning Jesus pictured in
the book of Revelation 19, where He is depicted bearing a “sharp sword”
and smiting nations, ruling them with “a rod of iron.”
Moreover, the Song of Victory in Exodus15 hails God as a God of war: “...
The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.” And, as the verses [in
Ecclesiastes] that open this column indicate, there is indeed a time for
God actually strengthened individuals for war, including Moses, Joshua and
many of the Old Testament judges who demonstrated great faith in battle.
And God destroyed many armies challenging the Israelites. I Chronicles
14:15 describes God striking down the Philistines.
In support of the “warrior
God,” Falwell cites the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. There is
no citation from the Gospels, or from the Epistles that follow. Small
wonder. I doubt that there is a single word in these texts attributed to Jesus
that sanctions war. (In Matthew 10:34, Jesus says “I came not to send peace,
but a sword.” But this is a prophecy of hard times ahead – not a call for
his followers to lift up their swords). Quite the contrary, Jesus instructs
us to “love our enemies,” (Matthew 5:44), to “turn the other cheek” and to
“resist not evil.” (Matthew 5:39).
The Old Testament is quite another story, for it is soaked with the blood of
the unfortunate tribes -- the citizens of Jericho, the Philistines and the
Midianites -- that stood in the way of the conquering “armies of The Lord.”
As for the book of Revelations – the ravings of the madman of Patmos –
Falwell and his Rapturite brethren interpret that book as a prophecy that
The Lord, in his infinite love and mercy, will soon cast into eternal
damnation and torment, every human soul who ever lived, except those very
few who happen to share Jerry Falwell’s religious convictions.
To Falwell and his literalist ilk, there is One God, of one mind, who wrote
(through various prophets) every inerrant word of the Bible. So if we have
trouble reconciling a God who sanctions the parental execution of
disobedient children (Deut. 21:18), the stoning non-virginal brides (Deut.
22:13), or those who work on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:2) – a God who also
commands the genocidal slaughter of whole cities and tribes – with the
loving and forgiving God described in the Gospels, well that merely proves,
as St. Paul counsels, that “the wisdom of God” appears as foolishness to us
mere mortals. (I Cor. 1:21).
There is another view of The Bible, shared by most historians and biblical
scholars (all of whom are, of course, condemned to be thrown into the fiery
pit of Hell). According to this perspective, The Bible is not, strictly
speaking “a book” – it is an anthology of books written over the span of
about 800 years, by unknown or little-known authors, and distorted by
numerous translations and editings. Instead of giving us a unified code of
morality, these books portray a maturation of morality, through historical
ages, from a savage tribalism and constraining legalism of the Old
Testament, evolving, among the minor prophets late in the Old Testament and
into the New Testament, into an ethic of pacifism, humility, compassion and
universal inclusiveness. Jesus of Nazareth spoke of this moral maturation
when, as in The Sermon on the Mount, he repeatedly said: “It hath been
said...., but I say unto you....” (See for yourself: its in Matthew, Ch. 5).
That moral evolution as depicted through the books of The Bible is itself an
inspiring moral lesson, though not of the sort that the fundamentalists
recognize and endorse. But because these books contain a wide spectrum of
moral messages, those who regard each verse as equally infallible, while
unperturbed by flat-out inconsistency, can find therein “scriptural
justification” for all sorts of abominable beliefs – for example, the belief
that “God is pro-war.”
Though I am confident that Rev. Falwell would have no inclination to follow
the advice of this sinner and agnostic, I would still urge him, and those
persuaded by his worship of a "warrior God," to contemplate two passages of
scripture, one from the Old Testament, and the other from the New Testament.
He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong
nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and
their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against
nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and
none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath
For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will
walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”
Note above: “... every one in the name of his god,” and the
implied message of religious toleration.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed
of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world.
For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me
drink: I was a stranger, and yet took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in
prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an
hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you,
inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have
done it unto me.
Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed,
into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave
me no drink.
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not:
sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying Lord, when saw we thee an
hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and
did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily say unto you, Inasmuch as ye
did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous
into life eternal.
If, as the fundamentalists believe (and I do not), each soul in the
hereafter must appeal for its salvation before the throne of the Almighty,
I’d venture that the Reverends Falwell, Robertson, Sheldon, and their kind
will be quite amazed and horrified when they are directed to “the left hand”
and reminded: “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye
did it not to me.”
PostScript: Quoth the Reverend Falwell:
Some reading this column will surely ask, “Doesn’t the sixth
commandment say, ‘Thou shalt not kill?’”
Actually, no; it says: “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
Sorry, Rev., but my Bible says “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13).
(Same with the King James and the Revised Standard translations). Falwell
reputedly preaches that every word in the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
Is he “improving upon” God’s “inerrant word” here?
For more about the "inerrancy" of the Bible, see my "Through a Glass
Still more about "I came not
to bring peace, but the sword."
Are Cut-Throat Competitors, Cutting Their Own Throats?
A disproportionate number of
gasoline companies, consumer electronics chains, hotels and restaurants
contribute heavily to the Republicans. [Links to original citations
have been lost].
What are they thinking? Don’t they realize that by supporting Bush
and his policies, they’ve booked passage on the Titanic?
Here’s why. As we well know, Bushenomics is “reverse Robin-Hoodism:”
it takes from the poor (and the middle class) and gives to the rich.
For example, over the past four years, the median family income has dropped
by some $1500, as the costs of medical care, insurance, gasoline, and other
basic necessities have risen. At the same time, consumer debt has also
This can’t go on. Sooner or later, and most likely sooner, consumer debt
will “max out,” and as disposable cash moves out of the pockets of the
masses and into the portfolios and offshore accounts of the super-rich, the
economy must slow down – and quite possible cascade down into a depression.
As payments for necessities – food, shelter, clothing, heating, health care
– must be met, luxuries will be foregone. Families will “wait one more year”
before buying another car, and that car may have to be purchased from a
used-car lot. Vacations will be cancelled or downgraded. There will be fewer
“nights out” and fewer purchases of electronic gadgets. (See my
The problem is compounded by the falling value of the dollar, brought on by
Bush’s massive federal deficits. As the dollar drops, the cost of imported
goods (which means most electronic and computer components) rises.
And so, the first industries to be effected by an economic slowdown, will be
those aforementioned gasoline, consumer electronic, hotel, entertainment and
Somehow, in their short-sighted greed for still more tax breaks for the
wealthy or their craving for de-regulation (or whatever else may have
motivated their contributions to the Republicans), these GOP fat-cats seem
to have forgotten a simple but inescapable economic law: there can be no
sales without buyers. And a public with increasing debt and decreasing
disposable income is less able to purchase "dispensable" good and services.
Is all that too complicated for these business geniuses to understand?
If all this theory will not persuade, history repeatedly teaches us that
short sighted class warfare of the rich against the masses works to the
disadvantage of all. Under Clinton, stock prices tripled, as the federal
budget eventually produced surpluses and the dollar held its value. Under
Bush stock prices have been stagnant, federal deficits have soared, and the
dollar is falling.
Arthur Blaustein asks, "are Republicans better economic managers than
Democrats?" The answer:
Guess which president since World War II did best on these eight most
generally accepted measures of good management of the nation's economy.
You can choose among six Republicans — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M.
Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bushes 41 and 43 — and five Democrats —
Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and
Clinton. Which president produced:
1. The highest growth in the gross domestic product?
2. The highest growth in jobs?
3. The biggest increase in personal disposable income after taxes?
4. The highest growth in industrial production?
5. The highest growth in hourly wages?
6. The lowest misery index (inflation plus unemployment)?
7. The lowest inflation?
8. The largest reduction in the deficit?
The answers are:
1-Truman; 2-Clinton; 3-Johnson; 4-Kennedy; 5-Johnson; 6-Truman;
7-Truman; 8-Clinton. In other words, Democratic presidents trounced
Republicans eight out of eight. If this isn't enough to destroy the
perception that the economy has performed better under Republicans, then
let's include stock market performance under Democrats. The Dow Jones
Industrial Average during the 20th century rose an average of 7.3% a year
under Republican presidents. Under Democrats, it jumped 10.3%, a whopping
41% gain for investors. During George W. Bush's first three years as
president, the stock market declined 4%."
Michael Kinsley concurs:
"It turns out that Democratic presidents have a much better [economic]
record than Republicans. They win a head-to-head comparison in almost
every category. Real growth averaged 4.09 percent in Democratic years,
2.75 percent in Republican years. Unemployment was 6.44 percent on average
under Republican presidents and 5.33 percent under Democrats. The federal
government spent more under Republicans than Democrats (20.87 percent of
gross domestic product, compared with 19.58 percent), and that remains
true even if you exclude defense (13.76 for the Democrats; 14.97 for the
Republicans). What else? Inflation was lower under Democratic presidents
(3.81 percent on average, compared with 4.85 percent). And annual deficits
took more than twice as much of GDP under Republicans as under Democrats
(2.74 percent versus 1.21 percent)." (See also Mark Hulbert:
Pop quiz on
the markets: Which is better, GOP or Democrats?, CBS.MarketWatch.com, November 13, 2002).
[Kinsley link lost]
Why is this? Put simply, it appears that the Democrats’ policy is to feed
the golden goose. The Republicans, on the other hand, prefer to cook it. In
other words, the Democrats, by looking after the needs and interest of the
producers of wealth – workers, educators, researchers -- nourish the
economy. Republicans starve the economy by exploiting it.
Even if, as the progressives complain, the Republicans and The Right are
deaf to appeals to compassion and economic justice, one would suppose that
they might be moved by appeals to their self interest, and that they would
support the party which, as history confirms, best serves that
But then, the Bush team no longer claims to be “reality based.”
A postscript to my reprised essay,
"Creationism" and the Devolution of the Intellect:
The persistent fundamentalist opposition to the Theory of Evolution, despite
overwhelming evidence and the universal acceptance by all life scientists,
reminds me of similar dogmatic resistance to Galileo’s scientific advances.
In his monumental History of Western Philosophy, W. T. Jones
describes Galileo’s encounter with his colleagues at the University of
When invited by Galileo to look through the newly invented telescope
and see for themselves the satellites of Jupiter, they refused. They knew
that Jupiter could not have satellites; hence what Galileo reported that
we saw could only be witchcraft or sleight of hand. After all, the whole
universe demonstrated again and again the importance that God has assigned
the number seven. It was therefore sacrilegious and against all reason to
suppose that there could be more than seven heavenly bodies.
The Paduan Philosophers’ thus argued:
There are seven windows given to animals in the domicile of the
head.... From this and many other similarities in nature, such as the
seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the
number of planets is necessarily seven. Moreover, these [alleged]
satellites of Jupiter are invisible to the naked eye, and therefore can
exercise no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and
therefore do not exist. Besides, [from the earliest times, men] have
adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them
after the seven planets. Now, if we increase the number of the planets,
this whole and beautiful system falls to the ground.
Plus ça change, plus la même chose!
(W. T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy, Second Edition, Vol. 3,
Harcourt Brace and World, 1969, p. 101).
Some Enduring Wisdom from Will Pitt. (No, not that
In November 18, 1777, William Pitt wrote the following letter to the
House of Lords. It was titled, “An English Plea For Peace With The American
My Lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act
with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the
strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of Majesty from
the delusions which surround it. You cannot, I venture to say, you CANNOT
conquer America. What is your present situation there? We do not know the
worst; but we know that in three campaigns we have done nothing and
suffered much. You may swell every expense, and strain every effort, still
more extravagantly; accumulate every assistance you can beg or borrow;
traffic and barter with every pitiful German Prince, that sells and sends
his subjects to the shambles of a foreign country: your efforts are
forever vain and impotent-doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you
rely; for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your
enemies, to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and of plunder,
devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty!
If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was
landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms! Never! Never! Never!
Are the Iraqi “insurgents” all that different from our patriot forebears?
(Thanks to Allen L. Roland for bringing this quotation to our attention).
February 17, 2005
A Warning from Easter Island
UCLA Geographer, Jared Diamond, is the author of the best selling book
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In a lecture
last month at the San Diego Natural History Museum, Dr. Diamond explained
how the Polynesian society on Easter Island collapsed when all the trees on
that once-heavily forested island were cut down.
Diamond then asked: "what do you think the Easter Islander ... said as
he was chopping down that last tree? ... I wonder if he said, 'never fear,
technology will solve our problems, we'll find a substitute for wood.' Or
perhaps he said, 'your environmental models are untested, we need more
research. Action would be premature. You are fear mongers.' Or perhaps he
said, 'this is my tree and this is my land, and I'll do with it as I please
I'm here to maximize a profit. Get the big government of the chiefs off my
"Maybe it was one of those three things [that caused] the collapse of Easter
Petroleum is the primary energy source upon which industrialized society
depends. It now appears nearly certain that sometime in the next decade,
world oil production will "peak," after which the price of oil, and hence
almost all other commodities, will rise sharply. When the energy required to
extract the oil approaches the amount of energy contained in the oil,
industrial civilization will collapse, resulting in the death of billions of
human beings. (See my
Unless the industrialized nations embark immediately upon a massive and
sustained effort to reduce oil consumption and to develop the "next" source
This is not the policy of those Texas "oil-men," Bush and Cheney. Instead,
their "solution" is to invade foreign countries and to seize their oil.
If successful, it can only postpone the inevitable catastrophe. And
there is every indication that the Bush-Cheney "solution" will not succeed.
And why won't they face the hard facts and respond appropriately to the
catastrophic threat immediately before us?
Listen closely, and you may find that they are sounding very much like
Prof. Diamond's Easter Islander, hacking away at that last tree.
February 17, 2005
"Scandal?" What "Scandal?"
In an excellent article severely critical of the Bush
administration and the media, Paul
Craig Roberts writes:
The conservative media will never
recover from its role as Chief Sycophant for the Bush administration.
Journalists who demanded that Clinton be held accountable for a minor
sex scandal (Monica Lewinsky) and
a minor financial scandal (Whitewater) now
serve as apologists and propagandists for the Bush administration's
major war scandals. (EP italics)
Kennedy Jr. falls into the
trap: "Sleazy scoundrels ... make the endlessly broadcast Clinton-Whitewater
scandal look like a
Sunday-school romp, yet they are invisible in the press."
And on and on. How often do you, dear reader, encounter the coupling of
"whitewater" and "scandal"? I can tell you that I flinch every time that I
see it -- all too often, as it happens.
So once again, let's set this straight (and everyone repeat after me): There
Was No "Whitewater Scandal!"
After eight years, over 50 million dollars, and the labor of an army of
lawyers and investigators, Ken Starr and his minions could find no
wrongdoing whatever in Bill and Hillary Clinton's losing Whitewater
And yet today, the press, including friends and supporters of the Clintons,
just can't get that exoneration into their heads. "Whitewater scandal" has
become a "meme" -- a mind-virus that just cannot be dispatched, no matter
how much light is shed on it.
And that's just one of a myriad of political word-tricks at large in the
public discourse that cloud our judgment.
Now don't get me started on "compassionate
The California Purge.
Three years ago, California Governor Gray Davis was hot on
the trail of The Great Enron Robbery, that cost California electric
rate-payers billions of dollars.
And we all know what happened to Gray Davis. And the Enron suit?
Disappeared without a trace.
California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley, led the successful effort to
decertify the paperless Diebold voting machines in California, and in
addition instructed the Attorney General to
file civil and criminal charges against
the Diebold Corporation.
A week ago (February 5), Shelley
resigned, amidst charges of
"misconduct," none serious enough to merit a criminal indictment. Governor
Schwartznegger appointed Republican Assemblyman Bruce McPherson to succeed
No further word of the charges against Diebold or the future of e-voting in
We report, you decide.
Kristin Breitweiser for Congress!
On December 7, 1993, Dennis McCarthy boarded the Long Island
Railroad in lower Manhattan for his usual commute to his home in Mineola
This time, he didn't make it. He was murdered along with five
others by a crazed gunman, Colin Ferguson. McCarthy's son, Kevin, was
severely wounded in the shooting.
McCarthy's wife, Carolyn, was not a typical grieving widow. She was angry,
and determined to act. A lifelong Republican, she announced in 1996 that she
would run as a Democrat against Daniel Frisa, an opponent to the assault
She won the election in 1996, and every election since.
Carolyn McCarthy's story inevitably brings to mind Kristen Breitweiser, the
articulate and indomitable 9/11 widow who, along with the other "Jersey
Girls," has been a major force behind the investigations of the World Trade
Center attack, much to the irritation and chagrin of the Bush regime.
Last week I learned that Ms. Breitweiser also happens to own a law degree
from Seton Hall University.
This splendid lady must not now fade from public life. Surely she should
follow the lead of Carolyn McCarthy and run for Congress as a Democrat even,
perhaps, for the Senate, should Frank Lautenberg (as is likely) choose not
to run again in 2008.
At the time of the WTC attack, Ms. Breitweiser was a Republican. But
what the Hell, nobody's perfect! Besides,
there is ample reason to suppose, in view of her recent encounter with
Republicans, that she has re-evaluated her politics.
Kristin Breitweiser for Congress!
Provided, of course, they don't use the Diebold, ES&S or
Sequoia paperless e-voting machines in New Jersey. For if they do, Ms.
Breitweiser would be wasting her time by running for Congress.
February 26, 2005
The Darkening “Gray Lady”
The editors of The New York Times complain that bloggers, lacking
the experience, traditions and professional integrity of legitimate
journalists, should refrain from “muddying the waters” and leave the
reporting and interpreting to the pros.
My reply to the New York Times can be stated in a very few words:
Wen Ho Lee
Headline: “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices
Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote” (November 12, 2001)
Judith Miller, Ahmed Chalabi,
Aluminum Tubes, and the WMDs
Phoney-baloney, in each and every case.
Even more significant, perhaps, is the “Legitimate Press” as the watchdog
that didn’t bark.
For example, what has The New York Times told us about:
Bush’s AWOL from the Texan Air National Guard
Bush’s insider- trading of Harken stocks,
Bush’s business dealings with the Bin Laden family?
Bush’s drug use, and the Texas court’s judgment of “community service”?
The falsehood of the smears against Al Gore (“Inventing the internet,”
The lies of Colin Powell before the UN Security Council, February, 2002
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
The listening device worn by Bush during the 2004 debates.
All this from “the flagship of American Journalism.”
Even so, “Truth crushed to earth, will rise again.”
As it did in the “Committees of Correspondence” during the American
Revolution, and in the Soviet Union in “Samizdat.”
And so today, finding no other outlet, Truth must apparently “rise” out of
the internet – amidst, admittedly and regretfully, tons of trash.
PS: This blog note predates my later
critiques of The New York Times:
All The News that Fits the Bush Agenda
The Decline of The New York Times.
An All-Star Staff for "The Anti-FOX:" Progressive News TV.
Let’s face it: the progressive counter-revolution is going
nowhere unless and until it gains a conspicuous presence on TV. Cable TV
will do quite well, at least for a start.
Earlier, many of us had hoped that Al Gore would be the catalyst.
Unfortunately, but his not-quite-ready IndTV (due
to debut this summer) looks to be only marginally political.
But don’t despair; there may soon be some spectacular breakouts. There is a
rumor about on the progressive internet that George Soros and Warren Buffet,
along with a few other liberal tycoons, might be about to launch a
progressive cable channel. After reading the enthusiastic speculation
recently posted atThe
Democratic Underground, one
can only hope that it is true.
If so, then the debut of the Anti-FOX simply can’t be too
Just think of the line-up of celebrities and talent available for such an
enterprise! Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield, Peter Arnett, Eason Jordon, and
many more who were all fired for the unforgivable offense of truth-telling.
Then there are others, still at work at mainstream TV, but standing on
thinning ice. Keith Olberman comes immediately to mind. And finally, there
are noteworthy individuals who are personae
non gratae on the networks
and cable: Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Dan Rather, Al Gore, Bill Clinton
and Jimmy Carter (what the hell, the last two are the ex POTUSes). And we’ve
not even mentioned all those progressive show-biz celebs.
Perhaps one of the most important consequences of the progressive Anti-FOX
channel would be the emergence of a “safety net” for the muzzled staffs of
the uniformly-right-wing channels. As Donahue, Banfield, Arnett and Jordan
can testify, when one is tossed out of one of these organizations (e.g., CNN
and MSNBC) one is effectively tossed out of the profession. But suppose that
these and other “punished” talents were hired by the Anti-FOX channel. This
would mitigate the threat to the personnel at the other channels, who might
then be willing to exercise more journalistic integrity and independence.
So please, Mr. Soros et al, get with it and put the Anti-FOX on the air, the
sooner the better. There is no weapon for the progressive counter-revolution
that is more urgently needed in the struggle to restore our democracy, and
to reinstate the good name of our republic before the community of nations.
Defend Liberalism, not “Liberalism.”
As anticipated, some visitors to The Smirking Chimp took exception to my
proposal that progressives “shed the soiled garment” of the word
“liberalism,” while steadfastly defending the political program heretofore
referred to by that label.
Two typical complaints:
I don't think that liberals should apologize for being liberals. I also
don't think that it would be very difficult to redeem the term if liberals
made any effort to do so.
Hey, I totally do my part to reclaim the word ''liberal''. When
someone calls me one, I say, ''Yes, that's right. I'm an admirer of FDR
and Harry Truman and JFK and George McGovern, and I don't have to hang my
head when I say it.''
With due respect to my critics, it appears that they have fallen victim
to “word-magic” – as have we all, more or less. One of the primary
objectives of critical thinking is to minimize that victimization as much as
possible. In the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein, to “battle against the
bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”
We begin by understanding that the association of words with their
referents is arbitrary. Quoting Juliet once again, “a rose by any other name
would smell as sweet.” Accordingly, on the one hand there is the word
“liberal,” and on the other there is a body of political convictions, liberalism, that has heretofore been referred to by that word “liberal.”
But now, due to a relentless campaign by The Right, the word “liberalism”
has been unjustly stained with connotations of “bleeding heart,” “elitism,”
and even “treason.” And every time someone proudly announces to the world,
“I am a liberal and proud of it!” those connotations accompany the label.
Perhaps this is why Bernie Sanders, the admirable Independent Congressman,
recently told his Vermont constituent Thom Hartmann, “I am not a liberal, I
am a progressive.” If so, it was a wise decision.
Face it: to the average citizen today, “Liberalism” no longer means what it
once meant. Yet the body of beliefs and policies once referred to when FDR,
Adlai Stevenson, JFK, and others called themselves “liberals” – these
beliefs and policies are as valid and urgently relevant as ever. So lets
protect them by awarding them a new name: “progressivism.” Be assured that
if we do so, “liberalism” (in the original sense) will “smell as sweet.”
And so, to reply to my critic, I too don't think that liberals should
apologize for being liberals. But they should discard a label that causes
them much more harm than benefit.
“Words,” as Thomas Hobbes noted, “are wise mens’ counters; they are the
money of fools.”
The "Count Every Vote Act." Good, but Not Good Enough.
Senators Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton have introduced
the “Count Every Vote Act of 2005.” Prospects of passage are slim.
The chief features of the act are the following:
The voting system shall produce an
individual voter-verifiable paper record of the vote that shall be made
available for inspection and verification by the voter before the vote
The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct
any error made by the system in the voter-verifiable paper records
before the permanent voter-verified paper record is preserved...
Very good! – a giant step in the right direction.
But even if this is enacted, we’re not yet safe at home.
For in addition (a) there must be safeguards in place in the compilation of
votes (e.g., statewide level). In the 2004 election, 80% of votes were
compiled by Diebold and ES&S, and it is here, I strongly suspect, that
Election 2004 was, for the most part, stolen.
(b) It is not enough to require paper record of each vote. There must also
be assured access to this paper record in the event a contested election or
a recount. Consider, for example, the case of the optical scan ballots in
Florida in the past election. If, as appears likely, the Florida optical
scan totals were rigged, this could be determined by a manual counting of
those ballots. But Glenda Wood, Jeb Bush's Secretary of State, will not
allow access to those ballots.
(c) The very notion of a privatized voting system is anathema to democracy.
It should be abolished. Also, the involvement of voting administrators (e.g.
Kathryn Harris and Ken Blackwell) in partisan politics should be forbidden.
(d) Violations of voting laws (e.g., the Voting Rights Act) should be
vigorously prosecuted. If they had been in 2000, 2002 and 2004, Harris,
Blackwell, and numerous Diebold employees would now be in prison or under
(f) There must be less hesitation to void corrupted elections and order new
elections, under scrupulous supervision. Were this done in the past three
elections, there is no doubt that Gore would have taken the Presidency in
2000, the Democrats the Congress in 2002, and that a Democrat would now be
President (presumably a re-elected Al Gore).
March 8, 2005
The Indispensable "Big Gummint"
Right-wing regressives who demand endlessly that we “get government off
our backs,” too easily forget how much they cling to the back of government
– how much, that is to say, they benefit from the assistance of government
In a recent article,
“Dearth of a
Nation,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells makes the point supremely well:
The pharmaceutical, financial, and airline industries blossomed thanks
to the creation of the FDA, SEC, and FAA, which gave customers some
assurance of safety when they popped pills, traded stocks, or boarded
flights. The G.I. Bill provided a generation of veterans with the college
educations they needed to build the post-war middle class. The creation of
the federally-guaranteed 30-year mortgage proved the decisive tool in the
growth of the post-war American suburb. [Broken link]
These investments and regulatory changes aren't merely tools of the past;
it is impossible to imagine the '90s boom emerging without them. Early
investment from the Pentagon helped nurture the internet. The algorithm
that powered Google was developed when co-founder Larry Page, then a
Stanford graduate student, won a federal grant to write a more efficient
sorting and search engine for libraries. The innovative new medicines that
have driven the expansion of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries
arose from university research largely financed by the National Institutes
Of course, private initiative and enterprise are essential to a thriving
As the fall of Soviet communism proves, government can’t do it all.
Neither the computer with which I am writing this blog nor the internet
through which you are reading it would ever have been developed entirely
through government bureaucracies. Government is simply too risk-averse and
too intolerant of maverick geniuses.
But that’s just half of the story. The regressive-right chooses to ignore
the other half – the contribution of government agencies and investment to
While it is true that the transistor was invented by Bardeen, Brittain and
Shockley in1947 at the corporate Bell Laboratories, the development of
microcircuitry was funded by NASA when the reduction of payload weight
became a critical concern in the space program. And the internet had its
origin in the government network, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects
Our competitors in Europe, Japan, and Korea are well aware of the necessity
of cooperation between government and private industry in the advancement of
technology. The scientific and technological leadership of the United States
in the second half of the twentieth century proves the necessity of this
However, that lesson apparently has not been learned by the Bush
administration, which has cut funding for the National Institutes of Health
and the National Science Foundation. If the Bush budget cut is approved, NSF
will be awarding 1,000 fewer research grants.
Private enterprise, they are convinced, can do it all. No need for help from
the government – apart from tax relief, of course.
Once again, dogma triumphs over experience.
March 24, 2005
"Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961) Demands a Judgment Today.
A couple of weeks ago, while laboring past midnight into the early
morning hours, I quite accidentally noticed a listing on the satellite TV of
the 1961 movie, "Judgment at Nuremberg," a film that I had not seen in over
forty years. Intrigued, I popped a cassette into the VCR for later viewing,
and went back to my work.
When I sat down to watch the movie the next day, I was stunned. The
screenplay spoke to us today with an impact that producer/director Stanley
Kramer, and writer Abby Mann, could not have imagined. The fictional trial
takes place in 1948, as the cold war is emerging. The movie was released
during the first year of John Kennedy's presidency and a year before the
Cuban missile crisis. The disarming and deflation of Senator Joe McCarthy at
the hands of Joseph Welch and Edward R. Murrow had occurred a mere six years
earlier. (See the PostScript below). So "Judgment at Nuremberg" was timely
when released. But unfortunately for all of us, it is much more relevant
The first of two dramatic "peaks" of the movie takes place when one of the
defendants, the indicted judge Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) asks to be
heard by the court. The second is the verdict, delivered by the tribunal
judge, Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy).
Here is a transcription that I made from the DVD of the movie. Read it and
ask yourself: are the two judges -- the guilt-stricken German defendant, and
the presiding American -- warning us today? If so, who is listening?
Ernst Janning addresses the tribunal:
There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of
We had a democracy, yes. But it was torn by elements within. Above all,
there was fear; fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors,
and fear of ourselves.
Only when you understand that, can you understand what Hitler meant to us.
Because he said to us: "Lift your heads. Be proud to be Germans. There are
devils among us: Communists, liberals, Jews, Gypsies. Once these devils
will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed."
It was the old old story of the sacrificial lamb.
What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies,
and worse than lies?
Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country.
What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their
rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their
rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going
through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be
discarded sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of
the shadows. We will go forward. "Forward" is the great password.
history tells how well we succeeded, your Honor. We succeeded beyond our
wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that
mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world.
We found ourselves with sudden, powerful allies. Things that had been
denied to us as a democracy were open to us now.
The world said, "Go ahead, take it."
Take it! Take the Sudetenland, take the Rhineland, remilitarize it.
Take all of Austria. Take it.!
And then one day, we looked around and found that we were in an even more
terrible danger. The ritual that began in this courtroom swept over the
land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a passing phase,
had become the way of life.
Your Honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content
to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name.
Until I realized, that in order to save it, he would have to raise the
specter again. You have seen him do it. He has done it here in this
courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of
the people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the
Once more, it is being done, for love of country.
It is not easy to tell the truth. But if there is to be any salvation for
Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it. Whatever the pain and
My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration
Not aware! Where were we?
Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag?
Where were we when our neighbors were being dragged out in the middle of
the night to Dachau?
Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where
cattle cars were filled with children being carried of to their
extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were
we deaf? Dumb? Blind? ...
My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He
would give you the excuse, we were only aware of the extermination of the
hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?
Maybe we didn't know the details. But if we didn't know, it was because we
didn't want to know.
Judge Haywood delivers the verdict.
The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is
The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in
common: any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who
furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime any, person who
is an accessory to the crime, is guilty...
[The Defense Counsel asserts that] the defendant Janning was an
extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of
his country.... Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he
loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his
soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions
by the government of which he was a part.
Janning's record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that
has emerged from this trial. If he and all of the other defendants had
been degraded perverts, if all the leaders of the Third Reich had been
sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral
significance than an earthquake or any other natural catastrophe.
But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary, even able
and extraordinary men, can delude themselves into the commission of crimes
so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat
through the trial can ever forget them. Men sterilized because of
political belief. A mockery made of friendship and faith. The murder of
children. How easily it can happen.
There are those in our own country, too who today speak of the protection
of country, of survival. A decision must be made in the life of every
nation, at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat.
Then it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the
enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way.
The answer to that is: survival as what?
A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it
stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the
Before the people of the world, let it now be noted, that here in our
decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a
single human being.
Where are our political leaders willing to take a stand today against our
country's descent into despotism? Very few come to mind: Russ Feingold, the
only Senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act, Barbara Boxer, the only
Senator to protest the Ohio election fiasco, Congressional Black Caucus
members, John Conyers, Sheila Jackson Lee, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.
As for the rest, the intimidated and silent Democrats, the moderate
Republicans whose party has been stolen from them, the "journalists" who are
reduced to service as stenographers to Karl Rove's "Ministry of Truth" --
are they all willing to be passive accomplices to the theft of our
Don't they know what is happening to our Republic? Or is it simply the case,
as Ernst Janning warned, that they don't know because they don't want to
They simply have to know. For the compelling facts are inescapably before
them and before us all:
American citizens are incarcerated indefinitely, without charge,
without access to counsel, with no prospect of trial, all this in direct
violation of five of the ten articles of the Bill of Rights.
Most of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo are probably
innocent, yet they are still held, some at Guantánamo for over three
years, with no prospect of appeal or release.
The Geneva conventions against torture are violated, and the Bush
regime unilaterally withdraws the US from the International Court of
Justice provisions on consular relations, so that US death sentences
against foreign nationals can not be appealed.
The original justifications for the Iraq War have all proven to be
Over 1500 US soldiers have died in the Iraq war, and reportedly over
100,000 Iraqis, including women and children.
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do
nothing ." (Attr. to Edmund Burke).
This is a movie that you must see. The DVD of Judgment at Nuremberg is
available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other online vendors for a mere
ten dollars. Buy it. Show it. Lend it and urge others to buy it.
*This is a direct quote from Justice Robert Jackson's opening
statement at the Nuremberg Tribunals, November, 1945.
PostScript: Edward R. Murrow's closing remarks from his CBS "See it Now"
program on Senator Joseph McCarthy, March, 1954:
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear
into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine;
and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who
feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were
for the moment unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator
McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny
our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the
result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his
responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a
tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of
freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend
freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator
from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and
given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not
really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited
it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus,
is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
May 3, 2005
May 3, 2005
Chicago Tribune Debunks Election
Skeptics -- Partridge Replies
Don Wycliff, the "Public Editor" of the Chicago Tribune,
When winning isn't everything
Published April 28, 2005
If someone had told me 30 years ago that I would one day invoke Richard
M. Nixon as a moral example, I'd have said the person was nuts. But
that's what I'm about to do.
Legend has it that after the 1960 presidential election, an aide
informed Nixon that there was enough evidence of irregularities in the
results of the balloting in Illinois that a strong challenge to John F.
Kennedy's victory here could be mounted.
To his credit, Nixon is said to have rejected a challenge as not worth
putting the country through. In other words, winning wasn't the sole end
That Nixon legend came to mind this week as I opened what seemed the
1,000th e-mail in which the writer declared that the results of the 2004
presidential election are suspect and suggested that, instead of
pursuing evidence of election theft and corruption, the Tribune and the
rest of the "corporate media" are intent on ignoring the facts.
The most recent of this correspondence commends to the attention of the
newspaper's editors a column, "The Silent Scream of Numbers," written by
a fellow Tribune Co. employee, Bob Koehler.
Koehler is an editor at Tribune Media Services, the company's
syndication arm, and also writes a syndicated column. He wrote The
Silent Scream of Numbers, after attending what was dubbed the National
Election Reform Conference earlier this month in Nashville. It was, he
wrote, "an extraordinary pulling together of disparate voting-rights
activists--30 states were represented, 15 red and 15 blue--sponsored by
a Nashville group called Gathering to Save Our Democracy. It had the
feel of 1775; citizen patriots taking matters into their own hands to
reclaim the republic."
That's one way of looking at it. Another is as a convocation of
conspiracy theorists, unable to come to terms with the fact that their
guy lost and that, as in sports, it's not the pre-game prognostication
and expert opinions that count, but the numbers on the scoreboard after
the contest has actually been played.
Koehler is sensitive to the "conspiracy nut" charge and attempted in his
"silent scream" column to blunt it by avoiding the question whether the
2004 election was "stolen."
Instead, he posed questions like "why the lines were so long and the
voting machines were so few in Columbus and Cleveland and inner-city and
college precincts across the country"; "why so many PhD-level
mathematicians and computer programmers and other numbers-savvy
scientists are saying that the numbers don't make sense"; and what about
"those exit polls, which in years past were extraordinarily accurate but
last November went haywire, predicting [John] Kerry by roughly the
margin by which he ultimately lost to [President] Bush."
I'm not sure that all of Koehler's questions could ever be answered. But
because so many of them seem to involve the conduct of the election in
Ohio, I decided to ask the most reliable authority I know: Tribune
national correspondent Tim Jones.
An Ohio native, Jones spent a great deal of time in the state last year,
including the last two weeks before the election. On Election Day he was
in the Columbus area, visiting polling places that ranged from
silk-stocking suburban to poverty-ridden inner city. At the latter, he
said, "I talked to people who waited in line four hours and were
determined to vote."
Jones pointed out that in Columbus and Cleveland--where Koehler
says"lines were so long and the voting machines were so few"--final
decisions on where to place the available voting machines belonged to
local election officials, who in each case were Democrats.
It's always possible that these Democrats were secretly working for
Bush's re-election, but not likely. What's more likely is that they
based their decisions on placement of people and equipment on earlier
elections, when turnout in inner-city and college precincts lagged that
in other areas.
Jones said he has talked at length with people in Ohio whose credentials
as non-partisan and unbiased are beyond question, and they, he said,
"found no irregularities."
Koehler and those who have been boosting his "silent scream" column make
one very powerful point: It is the duty of the news media, as watchdogs
of our democracy, to study, identify and shine a spotlight on weaknesses
and abuses in our most fundamental democratic activity--elections.
But if the real agenda of the election reformers is to call into
question the legitimacy of the 2004 election, they would be better
advised to follow the example of Richard Nixon. Winning isn't the sole
end of politics.
Don Wycliff is the Tribune's public
editor. He listens to readers' concerns and questions about the paper's
coverage and writes weekly about current issues in journalism. His
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are his own.
Don Wycliff, Public Editor
The Chicago Tribune
RE: Your column of April 28.
Dear Mr. Wycliff,
It's "defenses" such as yours that further convince me that the 2004
election was fraudulent. If this is the best that you, or anyone, can
come up with in defense of the legitimacy of the election, then the
integrity of our democracy is seriously in question.
Of course, there is no positive proof of that integrity -- the
Republican partisans who build and operate the touch-screen machines and
the central compiling computers have seen to that. The source codes are
secret and there is no independent audit trail. Moreover, as a myriad of
computer professionals have proven, and as Howard Dean and Bev Harris
demonstrated to the public on CNBC, vote totals can be readily altered
without leaving a trace of the hacking.
Your citation of Nixon's alleged acceptance of the 1960 results
(probably an urban myth), is totally irrelevant. Nixon's behavior in
1960 has not the slightest bearing on the issue of the validity of the
2004 election. Meanwhile, you offer not a shred of rebuttal to the
strongest evidence of fraud -- the patterns of exit poll discrepancies
and the statistical analyses of these patterns.
As for the Ohio election, there is a record of sworn testimony before
the Conyers Committee, along with voluminous reports and documents
collected by the Ohio Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections and the
Columbus Free Press. In rebuttal you offer us hearsay remarks by
The integrity of our ballot is at the heart of our democracy. Without
it, there is no democracy. Accordingly this issue surely deserves
thorough investigation by our media. If, as you claim, the election was
honest, then answer the critics with something more than irrelevancies
and ad hominem insults
(e.g., "conspiracy theorists"). If your position has merit and the
support of solid evidence (which I doubt), then at last the issue might
be put to rest.
Instead, The Chicago
Tribune, and regretfully all of the mainstream media, has elected to
ignore the question of whether or not we now have a legitimate
government in Washington.
The silence is deafening.
But I assure you, the issue will not go away -- not while the compelling
evidence of fraud accumulates and goes unanswered.
Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.
May 19, 2005
Another letter to a Christian/Republican Friend. This one is
Last August I wrote and circulated
Letter to a Republican Friend.
It was a faux letter to an imaginary friend (albeit a composite of many
actual acquaintances). As it happens, a real-live Christian/Republican friend, who I
have known since we were both in high school, sent me a thoughtful letter
which, after an inexcusable delay, I answered at length. As my reply will
reveal, my old friend had some strange, but alas typical, ideas about "what
But rather than get into all that, let's go directly to the letter, most of
which appears below.
You will be surprised to learn that we disagree much less, politically, than
you might imagine. Philosophically there is much distance between us, but
much more in the area of theology than ethics.
A lot of opportunistic politicians have attempted to divide individuals of
our respective views and, sadly, they have been successful -- as I hope to
Let's begin with religion. I have much love and respect for authentic
Christians, and much distain for what I call "professional Christians."
Among the former, I include Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther
King. Among the latter I include Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and George
Bush. My complaint against the latter group is that these "Christians" are
insufficiently Christian. It surpasses my understanding how anyone who has
read and claims to adhere to the Beatitudes can launch or support a war
against an unthreatening nation resulting in the slaughter of tens of
thousands of innocent men, women and children, or can enact policies of
"reverse Robin-Hoodism" that take from the poor and give to the rich,
dismantle the public schools, and raid the Social Security fund . (Today,
the average Fortune 500 CEO earns in half a day, what his median worker
earns in a year. Twenty years ago, it took the CEO a week to earn his
worker's annual salary). "Blessed are the poor?" Not to these folks!
Jesus' greatest rebuke was to the hypocrites. I find very little inclination
among the "professional Christians" to "go and sell that thou hast, and give
to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow
me." (Matt. 19:21) I suspect that they would have great difficulty passing
through that eye of the needle. (Matt. 19:23) These, I contend, are the
Pharisees and Sadducees of our day, who would be the first in line to nail
Jesus to the cross. (Dosteyevsky had it right in "The Grand Inquisitor") .
Yes, I read the Bible. Most recently, the gospels two years ago. You can
read the result at my essay,
What Would Jesus Do?
While I admit that I don't believe that Jesus was the son of God
(except in the sense that we are all children of God), I believe that the surviving record
of his life conveys a supreme ethic. It is an ethic that is shared by the
noblest of men and women of all ages and all creeds: Moslem, Hindu,
Confucian, Taoist, Shinto and even atheists. Thus I am repelled by the dogma
of salvation through faith, not works. Am I to believe that the scoundrel's
deathbed confession of faith will give him a ticket to paradise, while the
entire life of an honest, compassionate, just and courageous unbeliever will
not spare him damnation? If heaven is to be populated by the likes of Falwell and Robertson, and hell by non-believers such as Socrates,
Jefferson, Gandhi, Rousseau, Mandella and Sakharov, then quite frankly I am
content to go to Hell. I would much prefer the company. But of course, I
can't conceive how one who truly believes in a just God, can believe that He
would condemn billions to eternal damnation, and "save" ("rapture") a few
hundred thousand believers. I think that the prophet Micah had it right:
"what more doth the lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8).
On to politics. I too endorse free enterprise. Which is why I also endorse
government regulation. History shows that unregulated free enterprise is
self-defeating, and leads to monopolies -- the death of free enterprise.
Hence the anti-trust laws (enforced, gasp!, by government). Just because
some criminals go free, and some destructive fires destroy property, it
doesn't follow that we must abolish the police and the fire departments.
Instead, we should improve them. So too with government. The remedy for bad
government is better government, not no government. The founders of our
republic tried that with the Articles of Confederation, and soon repented
and drew the Constitution with a strong central government (Read the
We share an abiding concern for the condition of the environment.
Libertarians believe that the environment can best be preserved by
privatization of all environmental resources, unconstrained by government.
In a published essay, I have crafted a careful refutation of that claim. You
want to protect the environment? Then if you think it through, you must also
endorse government protection.
Government is good, or government is despotic and evil. It depends on the
government, and the people who sustain it or, in worst cases, tolerate it.
But government, in the civilized condition, is indispensable. If you
disagree, then you disagree, not just with me, but with Jefferson and the
Founders: "... to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
We both deplore pornography and smut, and I would add to that the depiction
of violence in the media. But please note that this is the result of
unregulated "free-enterprise" in action. The Government doesn't promote
these evils. Quite the contrary. Thus I note, with some amusement, the
current Congressional response to Janet Jackson and "boob-gate." "Bring on
the regulation!" And the so-called "conservatives" are leading the charge.
I must tell you that this 2nd Amendment business really ruffles my
(Partridge) feathers! Again, not because we disagree, but because we agree
-- and some scoundrels have taken great political and financial advantage
over a concocted but essentially bogus issue.
You say, "private ownership of fire arms is viewed as politically
By whom, pray tell? I have known hundreds of "liberals," and not one of them
believes in the confiscation of private firearms. Sure, there are fringe
nut-cases who advocate total abolition of guns. But they are universally so
regarded -- as kooks. But the opposite fringe, I maintain, holds that there
should be absolutely no restriction or regulation of weapons -- be they
bazookas, TOW missiles, cop-killer bullets, assault weapons. Even the NRA
endorses regulation and restriction of gun ownership by felons. Somewhere in
the middle between these extremes, honorable citizens of good will can
disagree, and should debate their differences calmly and rationally. For
myself, I see little harm and much benefit in the registration of deadly
weapons -- all guns should be identified by serial number and ballistic
"fingerprints." This, for the advantage of law enforcement. We register
vehicles, so why not firearms? Beats me. But if anyone wishes to offer a
calm, well reasoned rebuttal, I will respectfully listen and deliberate.
So we agree: private citizens have a constitutional right to own firearms.
And I suspect that some 98% of the population (liberals included) also
agree. Those who contend that "the liberals are out to take away your guns"
are up to political mischief.
Liberal press? Consider: Paul Begala did a Nexus-Lexus search of news
stories during the 2000 campaign, and came up with this:
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."
And of course, Gore, in fact never claimed to have "invented the internet,"
and the Buddhist temple event was entirely innocent.
I rest my case. And if you are still unconvinced, read Eric Alterman's "What
To sum up, I confess that I am thoroughly confounded by political rhetoric
today. Most self-described "conservatives" aren't conservative at all --
they are radical anarchists, out to tear up our Constitution and undo the
social progress of the past century. Witness the "Patriot Act," "First
Amendment zones," and the Bush budget. Progressives ("liberals" if you
prefer) such as myself, are struggling to preserve our liberties, our
received rule of law, and the Founders' checks and balances -- in short, we
are the authentic "conservatives."
No need to go on, since I've written and published about all this at length.
But if you can stand a further dose of my political rantings, see my
of a Conservative (that's me!) ...
I close as I began: we agree much more than may have suspected. And our
agreements, as friends and as citizens, are far more important than our
differences. I think you may agree that our differences are best dealt with
in the context of a well-ordered and civil political arena, based upon
"conservative" principles of justice and tolerance, envisioned by the
Founders of our republic, and of late banished in the corrosive political
diatribe of the present day. I trust that we are united in our desire to
restore the civility in the body politic that we knew and respected in our
Your enduring friend,
"Habemus Papem" -- and perhaps a rough road ahead for us heathens.
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, William Cole
of the Associated Press reported the following:
On Monday, Ratzinger, who was the powerful dean of the College of Cardinals,
used his homily at the Mass dedicated to electing the next pope to warn the
faithful about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects,
ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism -
the ideology that there are no absolute truths.
"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled
today as a fundamentalism," he said, speaking in Italian. "Whereas
relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every
wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's
standards." [Broken link]
If "liberalism" is now anathema to faithful Catholics, may we now expect a
mass excommunication of Catholic liberals? A tiny Baptist Church in South
Carolina appears to be leading the way. I had heard that Popes John XXIII
and John-Paul II were "liberals." Will they now be declared "Anti-Popes"?
(Better put a hold on that fast-track beatification of JP-2).
To be fair, the new Pope delivered that homily in Italian, and perhaps there
is some nuance to the word that was translated as "liberalism." So we'll
await some clarification.
The Pope's condemnation of "relativism" has struck a responsive note amongst
the (largely protestant) religious right in the US. However, "relativism"
has numerous interpretations, not explicated by the Pope in that homily. I'm
working on an essay that will spell these out, which I will share with you
when it is done. The working title, "In Praise of Relativism" may suggest
where I stand.
Finally, Max Blumenthal has excavated
this remarkable quotation by (then)
Cardinal Ratzinger in 1990:
At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than
Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just.
No doubt, this gives great comfort to the embattled "Intelligent Design"
crowd in Kansas and elsewhere.
Modus Operandi of Right Wing Talk Radio.
For a glance at how right-wing
operates, note my transcription of Bill
O'Reilly's broadcast of 12/1/03. [Sorrly, the link is lost] . The guests are Katrina Vanden Heuval,
Editor of the progressive The Nation, and Tammy Bruce, FOX "contributor" and
"fake democrat." (Note: Be warned of false labeling -- Bob Novak also claims
to be a Democrat).
Here's a "snippet:"
KVH: The tax cut that George Bush rammed...
OR: No, no, no...
KVH: ...down this country's throat.
OR: ...look, they do a poll, Ms. Van Heuvel...
KVH: Not what Americans wanted. If they wanted health care, they wanted
education for their kids.
OR: Look, okay, speeches are fine.
KVH: Let us hope President Bush...
OR: You're a journalist. You deal in facts.
KVH: ...is unseated in 2004 because America will be a better place for it.
OR: Okay, good. Yes.
KVH: But more important...
OR: I'm going to stop you...
KVH: ...as someone who believes in democracy...
OR: ...Ms. Vanden Heuvel, I'm going to stop you now because your speech is
lost on this audience. They know you're an ideologue. We don't care that you
have a speech prepared.
KVH: You don't like to hear from anyone who disagrees with you.
OR: No, I don't disagree with you at all.
KVH: Mr. O'Reilly, don't you believe in the marketplace of ideas?
OR: You won't answer the question.
KVH: This country is better and more democratic.
OR: Ms. Vanden Heuvel...
Heuvel is rarely able to complete a sentence without interruption. Bruce
completes whole paragraphs without interruption. If this appears to be
"cherry picking" of an extreme example, just tape and examine other
"cross-fire" between a liberal and a regressive on (e.g.) Rush Limbaugh's,
Sean Hannity's or other such programs.
Advice to progressives invited to appear on FOX. Don't accept without a firm
agreement that you will be allowed to complete your sentences. Cite that
agreement at the beginning of the interview. If no agreement, don't accept.
If FOX agrees, then breaks the pledge on the air, get up and leave.
Some Mind-Benders, quoted without comment:
"There is no greater power than the power to define. If you can determine
how people use language, you really are able to determine how they think. If
you can fill the word "liberal" with the meaning that you want it to have,
which nowadays is weak, feminine, cowardly, so much so that even liberal
want to run away from it, the you've won an enormous battle for control."
Steven J. Ducat, Buzzflash Interview.
"There is actually more long term profit for business in a society based on
justice, fairness, equality, mercy, learning, tolerance, openness and the
active, meaningful participation of engaged citizens in ordering the life of
the nation. There's more stability in such a society, more security, more
freedom for innovation and invigoration in every aspect of life. But our
ruling cliques -- epitomized by the Bushists -- are afflicted with
third-rate minds, stunted imaginations, lizard-brain yearnings for immediate
gratification, the short-term money. They will ultimately destroy the
community that sustains them. They will end up devouring their own entrails
-- after they've despoiled the nation, and the world, with their blind,
brute greed." Chris Floyd
"God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler's success
infusing racial dogma with Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful
element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized he moral perils
of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was
the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his
success, notably in Protestant areas."
Fritz Stern, "Lessons from German History"
Foreign Affairs (May-June, 2005)
May 31, 2005
May 31, 2005
“BIBLICAL INERRANCY” AND THE SIXTH
Last January I
posted in my blog the
following clip from Rev. Jerry Falwell’s column:
Some reading this column will surely
ask, “Doesn’t the sixth commandment say, ‘Thou shalt not kill?’”
Actually, no; it says: “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
Sorry, Rev., but my Bible says “Thou
shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13). (Same with the King James and the
Revised Standard translations). Falwell reputedly preaches that every
word in the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Is he “improving upon”
God’s “inerrant word” here?
Last week, I received a letter with a putative “correction:”
“You take Jerry Falwell to task for saying the 6th Commandment says "thou
shalt not murder," and you point out correctly that in the King James ... it
says "thou shalt not kill." However, in the original Hebrew it does say,
No, as a matter of fact, the Hebrew version does not say “murder” (not a
Hebrew word), it says: “ratsach” which some versions translate as “kill” and
others as “murder.” As for “the original Hebrew,” that source is lost
forever – there are no original documents available. We only have copies of
copies of copies.... etc.
However, either translation – as “kill” and as “murder” – pose huge
First: “Thou Shalt Not
Murder” is not a commandment, it is a tautology – an empty
Let me explain: (Scholarship
alert! Rough Ride Ahead) .
Presumably we take the “Thou Shalt Nots” to be statements of (allegedly)
God’s commandments as to what conduct is, or is not, morally justifiable in
The Lord’s eyes. Thus “Thou Shalt Not...” means “it is forbidden” or “it is
Now “murder” is surely defined as “unjustified killing” – i.e., not in
self-defense, or in a just war, or by God’s command.
Hence “Thou Shalt Not Murder” parses out as: “Unjustified Killing is
Unjustified.” Gee, thanks!
Begin to spell out the meaning of “justification,” and you are returning to
the realm of moral guidance.
Now to “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
Surely this commandment is universally violated, and moreover, well it
should be. As noted, self-defense and just warfare are legitimate
exceptions. Still worse, those who believe the words of the Old Testament
must come to terms with the fact that therein God commands the Israelites to
kill, for example the inhabitants of Jericho and the Midianites – every last
man, woman and child of them. (See my Warriors
of the Lord). Also, the same book of Exodus that
commands “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” specifies capital punishment for a variety
of offenses. (Among them, adultery, a child’s disobedience, working on the
So the Bible itself teaches that the Sixth Commandment must read, “Thou
Shalt Not Kill, except when...” What exceptions? Volumes upon volumes of
Talmud have been written in an attempt to spell out the answer.
"Interpretations," ergo disputes, ergo not "inerrant."
Returning to the question of “the correct translation.”
When the fundamentalists claim that the Bible is “inerrant” – literally true
from back to front – which Bible are they talking about? If they mean the
English translations, then there is no point going back to original Hebrew,
Aramaic, or Greek texts to dig out the “correct meaning.” It’s there in
plain English. The Lord God apparently guided the hands of King James’
scholars, through every word. Or if not those scholars, then those who
translated a different Bible into English.
But which? If God won’t tell us, then to the degree that those many Bibles
differ, to that degree they are “errant” – subject to error.
So instead, like my correspondent, we look to the sources, for the
“original” words and meanings. But again, which sources?
It gets worse. No one
fully understands ancient languages. The best experts on the meaning of
ancient Hebrew or classical Greek and Latin were those who spoke it and
wrote it as their first languages – and they are all dead, of course. (For
that matter, “living” natural languages are inherently vague and ambiguous
to some degree – but let’s not get into that. To get some idea of what I
mean, one should read the late works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and I wouldn’t
wish that on anyone).
So modern scholars do the best they can by reading ancient texts as they try
to “get into the heads” of those who wrote them. And, of course, those
scholars disagree with each other – even if one or another of them
entertains the colossal conceit that they are reading, and understanding,
the “inerrant word of God.”
So who will tell which of these worthies really has a grip on “God’s Words.”
Is it just possible that none of them has that grip?
The Mormons’ eighth “Article of Faith” reads, in part: “We believe the Bible
to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly...” This is
presumably the position taken by most Christians who believe the Bible to be
The kicker is that “translated correctly” bit. Who is to decide whether a
translation is “correct” or not. On this, God is silent. So when the
preacher pounds his Bible and says "THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD (assuming, of
course, it is translated correctly, which we can't know for sure)" he can
not claim to be speaking God's “inerrant” truth.
It comes to this: If there is no “inerrant” way to determine which
translation or interpretation of text is the one, singular, “inerrant” Holy
Truth of the Bible, then there is no “inerrant”Biblical truth. Once you add
the qualifier, “as far as it is translated correctly,” you have given away
Some logicians call this “the bottleneck problem,” but it might better be
called “the weakest link in the chain problem.”
Here’s another example. According to Catholic doctrine, the Pope speaks “the
infallible truth” when he speaks “ex cathedra” – from his “office” --
on matters of faith and morals.
Let’s assume he does so. (Of course I don’t, but let’s be hypothetical
here). But do we know, infallibly, when the Pope is speaking infallibly (ex
cathedra)? If not, then nothing the Pope says is infallible. The
“fallible” ex cathedra criterion
is the weak link in the chain.
To sum up: Let’s suppose that when the Pentateuch (the first five books) was
written (presumably in Mesopotamia during the Babylonian Captivity in the
sixth century BC) The Lord God Himself was in the room dictating inerrant
Holy Truth to the scribes. He did so in a language half forgotten today, and
on a manuscript that is long lost. The “chain of custody” – copies of
copies, translations of translations – is long and replete with uncounted
“weak links.” This is equally the case with New Testament texts.
Because the “weak links” in this “chain of custody” are fallible (“errant”),
so too is the received text that we have today – no matter how perfectly and
“inerrantly” true the original message might be.
So when some preacher tells you that he is speaking the inerrant word of
God, hold fast to your critical intellect, and to your wallet.
“Henry Drummond” (patterned after Clarence Darrow) said it well in the play
and movie, “Inherit the Wind:” “The
Bible is a Book. A good Book. But it’s not the only book.”
June 28, 2005
Who Are You Going to Believe,
Prof. Griffin or Your Own Lyin' Eyes?
[Time has deprived us of
several links. Broken links below will be indicated by "(xx)"
EP, April, 2017]
Prof. David Ray Griffin, Author of The New Pearl Harbor, would
have us believe that the World Trade Center was brought down
The accusation has recently been seconded by
Morgan Reynolds (xx), a former economist in the administration of Bush the
As with Prof. Griffin’s accusation that the Pentagon was hit by a missile on
9/11, this hypothesis is too much for me to swallow,
but if you insist, here is the evidence.
If, in fact, the professor is right, then the WTC caper was an amazing feat
of timing and coordination. I dare say an unbelievable feat.
1. No one doubts that the towers were hit by commercial airliners. There
were hundreds of eyewitnesses, and the impacts were recorded on tape, which
we all have seen many times.
2. It is also certain that the planes were taken over by “Arab-looking” and
Arabic-speaking hijackers. This was observed and reported by the flight crew
and passengers on the doomed airliners.
3. As we have all seen many times, the collapse of both towers began at the
points of impact. The south tower, you may recall, tilted at that
point as it began to fall --
as you can see here.
Given all this, this must be the scenario that Prof. Griffin would have us
1. The caper involved ultra-right conspirators (The CIA? Neo-Cons?
Busheviks? Who knows?) allied with a bunch of Arabs who were somehow
persuaded to sacrifice their lives for some unidentified (and scarcely
imaginable) purpose in concert with the domestic conspirators.
2. The demolition charges were set to go off at the moment of impact, which
means that the conspiracy involved the convergence of two separate chains of
3. Those who set the charges had the uncanny knowledge beforehand of exactly
where the planes would hit the towers, and placed the explosives at those
locations. (Otherwise, the towers would not have begun to collapse at the
points of impact). Furthermore, the charges would have to survive the
impacts and the conflagration of jet fuel before they were set off.
Furthermore, Prof. must explain these troubling anomalies:
4. If, as claimed by "eyewitnesses," demolition charges were set at
the basement and/or ground floor, they were duds. As we have all seen
on TV, planned demolitions with charges set at the ground floor, collapse
from the ground up. Not so with the WTC. All photographic
evidence shows the towers collapsing from the points of impact, down.
(Show me authentic footage of the towers collapsing at the ground, and I
5. There is no photographic evidence whatever of explosions other than the
fuel fireballs seen at the moments of impact.
Sorry, but it’s just too much. This time "the official version" makes
complete sense. The supporting structure of the WTC towers was along
the outside walls, not, as usual with skyscrapers, at the center.
Thus, when the side was taken out by the impact, and the remaining sides
were weakened by the intense heat, the collapse of the buildings due to the
overhead weight was inevitable.
Equally implausible is Griffin's
theory that the Pentagon was hit by a missile, notwithstanding
photographic and eyewitness evidence that an airliner was involved,
possessions of the victims and airliner parts found among the
rubble, and a failure to explain where Flight 77 Might have gone if the
missile theory were correct. (But that’s another story).
Maybe I’m missing something, and to be honest, I haven’t read Griffin’s book
– deterred by the prima facie implausibility of his claims. And quite
frankly, I would hate to be proven wrong should this case ever be “broken.”
So I’ll hear him out and read further, but I will do so mindful that he has
a huge burden of common sense objections to overcome.
To repeat my concluding comments about Griffin’s Pentagon/Missile
The case against the Bush administration is overwhelming: election
fraud in Florida [and in Ohio], 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
Seems to me that this is, if anything, more true today than it was when I
wrote it more than a year ago.
A Postscript -- July 26, 2005.
The Crisis Papers received numerous letters critical of this analysis,
which is unusual for a blog. The following is my reply to many of
those letters posted in the July 5 CP update (no longer available, due to
our "Three Week Rule"):
Those who have read my work will know that I have
no particular motivation to defend Bush and his cohorts and no
inclination to accept uncritically an "official version" of
anything issuing from Bush's Administration.
My reflections on the Pentagon and WTC attacks are based on nothing
more than what appears to be abundant evidence and common sense.
Because I can't respond to these replies point by point, instead I
will recapitulate what strikes me as the most compelling reasons to
disbelieve (a) the missile attack on the Pentagon, and (b) the
controlled demolition of the WTC.
1. The eyewitness problem. Google "pentagon september-11
eyewitnesses" and you will get 17,200 hits.
Here you will find eyewitness
accounts by dozens of named individuals, testifying that they saw a
plane hit the Pentagon. Many more accounts if you surf the Google
Finally, read the debunking from
the indispensable "Snopes" site.
Now am I asked to believe that hundreds of eyewitnesses, many of them
commuters on the freeways, were either hallucinating or all part of a
gigantic cover-up plot? Were the conspirators so thorough that they
arrived on the scene and scattered thousands of airplane parts, along
with personal effects and body parts of the passengers of Flight 77 just to
cover-up the missile attack? Gimme a break!
2. The missing airliner and passengers. Prof. Griffin shrugs
off this little anomaly with the remark, "I have no idea what happened
to Flight 77." It's a bit like a defense attorney saying at trial, "I
have no explanation as to why my client was found at the scene of the
crime with a smoking gun in his hand, but never mind all that."
Or like a prosecutor saying to the jury, "I will stipulate that at
the time of the murder the defendant was at a class reunion, and one
hundred of his friends will testify, but never mind that. I
have a theory." So we
are asked to believe that, simultaneously with the Pentagon attack, a
commercial airliner disappeared "somewhere," along with the crew and
passengers, and no trace has yet been found of the aircraft or any of its
passengers. No missile theory can be credible without some explanation
offered as to the (allegedly alternative) fate of Flight 77. I
have read no such explanation.
3. The collapsing at point of impact at the WTC. Once again, the collapse of both
towers began at the points of impact. Its on video tape and film, and
we've all seen it time and again. And if that's not good enough,
see it again
here. The "controlled demolition theory" requires
that the collapses begin where the charges were set. How remarkable
that those who set the charges and those who aimed the planes all knew
beforehand at just what floor in each tower, the planes would hit. As
for the other alleged demolition charges, show me the photographic evidence. And falling
debris does not cut it.
As for the demands that I read Griffin's book, I reply with a emphatic
"maybe." I will also continue to read still more essay-sized accounts
of the conspiracy theories. Life is short, and I have a website to run
and a book to write. Because some hard choices must be made, not all
"leads" can be followed, and not all suspicions have an equal claim on
my time and attention.
Several years ago, I happened to notice at the grocery check-out
stand, a tabloid headline that shouted: "Twelve US Senators are Space
Aliens." Somehow, in that case I felt no obligation to "read further."
But, as Dennis Miller says, "that's just my
opinion, and I may be wrong." But if so, kindly show me the
evidence and explain the anomalies. If have no evidence, then
please do not waste my time.
IRAQ TO US: THANK YOU, NOW GO HOME!
Almost by accident, I learned that a sizeable portion of the
Iraqi Parliament has requested that the occupying American forces leave
their country, post haste.
Iraqi lawmakers from across the
political spectrum called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from
their country in a letter released to the media June 19....
Eighty-two Shiite, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Christian and communist deputies
made the call in a letter sent by Falah Hassan Shanshal of the United
Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest group in parliament, to speaker Hajem
In the letter, Shanshal said the 275-member parliament was the Iraqi
people’s legitimate representative and guardian of their interests.
”We have asked in several sessions for occupation troops to withdraw,”
the letter said. “Our request was ignored.” ...
”Therefore we must reject the occupation’s legitimacy and renew our
demand for these forces to withdraw,” the letter added.
And where did I find this bit of conceivably significant
news? In Agence
France Presse (xx) (Paris), June 24.
In the American mainstream media? Nada.
So I guess it never really happened.
Just like the Downing Street Memos.
October 19, 2005
THE SORRY STATE OF THE AMERICAN MEDIA
A student in the Netherlands requested an online "interview" about the
Let's start with the summary I sent you
last week, just to give you a general perspective on the media situation in
the United States.
"The ruling elites in the US -- primarily
large corporations -- have advanced our country well toward an oligarchy:
most of the wealth in the hands of the very few, and the remainder of the
population as virtual serfs. Something like Central America. These corporate
elites have at the top of their agenda, the dismantling of "the welfare
state" -- abolishing government regulation of commerce and industries,
shrinking social services (retirement, medical assistance, public education,
etc.), huge investment in the military to support imperialism abroad
(controlling foreign resources -- e.g. Iraq), and drastically cutting taxes.
Past attempts to accomplish all these were pushed back by an aggressive and
independent media. The media played a crucial role in ending the Vietnam
war, and but for the media, Richard Nixon would have remained in office.
"So it became inescapably evident to the
elites that if they were to triumph, they would have to take control of the
media. And so they did, resulting in the essential silencing of the
mainstream media as a voice of dissent and a critic of the elites. Thirty
years ago (approximately) the majority of the media (printed press and
broadcast) was owned by over fifty corporations (I have to return to my
sources to get the exact figures). Today, virtually all mainstream media are
owned by just six "mega-corporations." All of these are under the control of
the same elites that virtually "own" the White House and the Congress.
"It is not all that different from what
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union controlled.
And yet, as with the Soviet Union, the
voice of dissent has not been silenced. A few independent progressive
publications still exist, a new liberal radio network, "Air America Radio"
has appeared and is growing. And, of course, there is the internet. But
there is no assurance that the elites might not find a way to shut down the
progressive internet. We are very worried about that."
Now to your questions:
1 In your essay Access, to what?, you
write: "When members of the Washington press corps are asked why they are
giving Bush, Inc. a free pass, we are told that if a reporter criticizes the
Bush Administration, that individual faces the loss of access to White House
news sources." How is it possible that Bush can get away with such an
obvious obstruction of press freedom? Can’t he be ‘punished’ for that?
2 What means does Bush use to exercise
power over the Mainstream media, other than denying critical reporters
access to the White house or Pentagon press rooms?
Keep in mind that the control of the press
does not reside solely in the hands of the Bush Administration. The media
owners (solidly Republican and in support of Bush), and through them the
editors, exert pressure on the reporters. Those reporters and media
personalities who display independence are "pulled back" into line, or else
fired. MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield gave a speech at a University (Kansas I
believe), criticizing the media’s blind support of Bush’s policies. She was
fired. Phil Donahue’s liberal TV talk show had the highest ratings on the
network, yet it was cancelled when Donahue invited anti-war and anti-Bush
guests on his show.
Bush’s press secretary controls the White
House press room. Independent reporters, such as Helen Thomas, who dare to
confront the White House press secretary with probing questions, are
banished to the back of the room and are not recognized. Conversely,
reporters and columnists who support the Administration and its policies are
recognized and promoted by their editors and publishers.
There are, of course, honorable exceptions
who defy the "conservative" control and bias of the media – exceptions much
more in the print than the broadcast media. Among them: the New York Times’
Paul Krugman, Maureen Down, Frank Rich and Bob Herbert; the Washington
Post’s E.J. Dionne, the Boston Globe’s Tom Oliphant. But they don’t cover
the White House.
So to answer your question: Bush could,
theoretically, be "punished" by the press corps, but the reporters are kept
in line by an alliance of Bushites and media owners, and through that
alliance, a concern for their careers. I believe this answer also addresses
your second question.
3 In Fool me Twice, you wrote: ‘at long
last, the public is beginning to wake from its dogmatic slumbers’. Why has
it taken so long for people to realise they were being, ‘suckered’ by the
Remember the fable of the boy who cried
"wolf!"? Or the old saying: "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice,
shame on me." Well it seems that the American public has gradually become
fed-up with the Bushevik lies. The media, which has been a conduit of the
Bush lies, has likewise lost much credibility with the public. Accordingly,
the press has become less subservient to the "establishment" and more
aggressive, as it faces the dilemma: stay "on the Bush reservation" and lose
audience and circulation, or start to act like journalists and face the
wrath of the right wing.
I’d also like to believe that the
internet, the independent press, and the foreign press (via the internet)
have had an important role in releasing the public from its passive
acceptance of the Administration line. Right after the attacks on September
11, 2001, it was generally regarded as "unpatriotic" to criticize "the
commander in chief (i.e., Bush). That assumption has eroded steadily since
9/11. Now, with the Republican and Bush Administration scandals becoming too
outrageous to ignore, public support of Bush and the Republicans has,
according to the public opinion polls, dropped to a new low.
4 Shortly after the Katrina disaster,
there was a large amount of critique on the Bush Administration, what is it
that made the MSM suddenly willing to openly critizise the government?
The stark, inescapable, undeniable horror
of the catastrophe could not be hidden or ignored. Nor could the failure of
the Bush administration to deal with it. Bushite and right-wing dogma
declare that the federal government has no useful role in society that "privatism"
and that the free market can managed emergencies better than government.
Katrina refuted this dogma, tragically and dramatically. The failure of the
federal agency (FEMA), administered by political amateurs rather than
professionals, to deal with the emergency, and Bush’s behavior before and
during the catastrophe, were simply too dreadful not to be noticed and
5 In Fool me Twice, you mention a
Bush.Cheney/Rove/GOP propaganda machine, and you compare Bush’s political
allies to the Bolsjeviks, in what way is the contemporary American
government’s use of the media actually different from that in a true
There is still an independent media in the
United States, however unsupported by the corporations that control the MSM.
So the difference between the US and the Soviet Union is a matter of degree.
Soviet control of dissent was ruthless and widespread, and so all that was
left to the dissidents was news from the "outside" (Radio Free Europe and
the Voice of America), and "Samizdat" – "underground" publication of
dissenting views. (See my "The American Samizdat" [link]). We have not
arrived at that stage of repression, though we have been moving in that
direction. However, dramatic events breaking this week, or soon thereafter
(pending criminal indictments), bring promise that the right-wing coalition
is breaking up and that the grip of the Bush-media coalition on the public
may have peaked and is now in decline. On the other hand, these threats to
the right-wing/Bush regime could trigger still more repressions. (See my
6 It is by now widely known that Bush has
lied to the public on regular basis, how can he get away with that? Why are
Bush his ‘failures’ different from other scandals in history, that were
properly covered by the MSM?
I believe I have largely answered this
question. The difference between the Bush/media control of information and
opinion and previous attempts, is more a matter of degree, rather than of
kind. The right has become much more sophisticated about the use of language
as a device to "manufacture consent" (to borrow Noam Chomsky’s phrase). As I
noted in the introductory remarks, in the past, the media were genuinely
independent. This time, The Right has correctly recognized the need to
control the media, and they have largely, though fortunately not completely,
7. You wrote that in order to achieve
media reform, the public should ignore the mainstream media and boycott its
sponsors, support independent and responsible news sources and then allow
the market to come to the aid of media reform." But isn’t the market also
held in Bush’s strong grip? How do you vision it helping to establish media
Actually, the market is independent of
Bush’s control. The market, after all, is determined by the separate
decisions of millions of individuals – and individual consumer choices
cannot be forced, although of course they can be influenced by aggressive
sales promotion and advertising. But if a large segment of the public
decides to ignore media and boycott advertisers, there is little that the
Bush regime can do about it. And with decreased audience, circulation and
thus advertising revenues, the corporate stockholders will complain and/or
sell the stock, the value of which will decline.
Consider the case of Sinclair
Broadcasting, a right-wing owner of numerous TV stations. In 2004, Sinclair
scheduled an anti-Kerry smear shortly before the election. Public outrage
was so intense that Sinclair cancelled the program – not out of civic
responsibility but due to a drop in stock value and the resulting pressure
from the stockholders.
When state-owned media in the Soviet Union
lost its audience due to its lies and propaganda, it didn’t lead to reform,
simply because it didn’t matter to the Communist regime that the media was
unprofitable. It was a state monopoly whose function was to convey official
propaganda, not to earn a profit. Even so, discerning Soviet citizens looked
elsewhere for reliable news: foreign broadcasts and publications, and
"Samizdat" – unauthorized underground publication.
Similarly, more and more Americans are
abandoning the mainstream media and looking to foreign and independent
sources of news and commentary, and of course to the internet – "the
American Samizdat" [link].
8 I read the article by Peter Coyote, Mass
Media in ‘Lock Down’ Not to Cover Vote Fraud; In this Article, Coyote writes
that journalists are worried they will lose their jobs if they ‘speak the
truth’. Who do you believe are the ones making them so afraid? Could the
journalists possibly be threatened by their editors? And if so, how do you
think these editors are being controlled?
See the answers to questions #1 and #2,
9 You give a clear suggestion of what the
public can do to force the media to reform. For the Journalists, however,
there is a lot at stake. There appears to be a constant conflict between
their journalstic integrity and the risk of losing their job; what can, or
should they do in your opinion?
In fact, many journalists have recently
been showing more independence and expressing more criticism of the Bush
regime – as Bush’s public approval ratings have dropped, and the threat of
Bushist and corporate retaliation has apparently diminished. Also, the news
of Bush Administration failures and corruption (Iraq, Katrina, criminal
indictments) has been so compelling, and the lies so obvious, that it has
been impossible to keep all this hidden from the general public.
Nonetheless, the MSM still has a strong Bush/Republican bias.
What should honest journalists do? Many
have simply quit the profession, leaving the media whores to continue to do
the dirty work. A better solution would be the emergence of an alternative
progressive media. The right-wing monopoly in AM talk radio was broken a
year and a half ago with the appearance of the liberal "Air America Radio,"
which has a solid and growing list of affiliate radio stations, and which
can be accessed by satellite and computer. [link]. There is no comparable
liberal source on TV – neither broadcast or cable – and it is long overdue.
If such a liberal broadcast media is established, there is an abundance of
excellent journalistic talent available to it.
10 Do you believe the media could ever be
truly reformed and free from Bush’s censorship in the future? Furthermore,
what I am afraid of, is that the Bush Administrations ‘policy’ of media
censorship might be a precedent for future presidents. What is you opinion
Yes, the media could conceivably be
reformed. Whether it will be is impossible to predict.
Today, more than ever during the
five-years of the Bush regime, political and economic conditions are
converging and leading to a crisis for Bush, the Republicans, and the
American public. The only significant public institution not under right
wing control – the criminal justice system – has put the Busheviks and the
Republicans in great peril. Republican leaders in the Congress (e.g. Tom
DeLay in the House and Bill Frist in the Senate) are either under indictment
or in peril. Scandals are reaching far into the White House, and as early as
tomorrow indictments of prominent members of Bush’s staff may be announced.
As noted, public approval of Bush, in the 80% range immediately after the
9/11 attacks, is now in the mid-thirties and is falling. The economy is
vulnerable to collapse at any time, and the public is slowly becoming aware
that it has been essentially robbed by Bush and the Republicans. Under
circumstances such as this, corrupt regimes fall, or on the other hand,
these regimes seize dictatorial power. As many liberal commentators have
remarked, "the injured and cornered beast is most vulnerable, and most
One remaining factor could, if
investigated and exposed, demolish the Bush regime. This is the issue of
voting fraud. I am convinced, along with an impressive array of
statisticians, political scientists and independent journalists, that the
2000 and 2004 presidential elections were stolen by the Republicans along
with several key Congressional seats. Bush and the republicans owe their
offices, not to the will of the voters, but to fraud. [Loo] As Bush’s
difficulties increase and the economy sours, the public will become ever
more receptive to the idea that they are governed by an illegitimate regime.
And election fraud is just one of many "bombs in the basement" [that] that
could either bring down the Busheviks, or conversely precipitate despotic
While my replies to your excellent
questions may appear long, it would take a great many more words to approach
an adequate response. So I must urge you to continue to search the
progressive internet, and our website The Crisis Papers in particular, to
remain informed of political and economic conditions in the US. Events are
accelerating, and some startling developments are certain to appear in the
At The Crisis Papers, we are constantly
interested in observations and comments from abroad – indications about how
we Americans and our government appear to those "outside" of all this
turmoil. We would welcome your reflections along these lines, which we would
be pleased to include among our "Guest Essays."
October 26, 2005
After a hiatus of four months, it is long past time to revive
This neglect is due to a book in progress, and the plain fact that the
management and maintenance of The
Crisis Papers is simply too
much for three people, however dedicated. The blog is something I do when
all else is done and some spare time is available. Well, I rarely get that
far down the priority list.
But now, clearly, the pace of history is accelerating, and momentous events
are afoot. So the blog returns.
THOUGHTS ON FITZMAS EVE.
In the Chinese language, "crisis"
is written by combining the characters designating "danger" and
It is likely that in a few hours -- quite possibly before you
read this -- Patrick Fitzgerald's indictments (if any) will be announced.
Last chance for anticipatory comments.
As usual, the mainstream media continues to treat the Bush regime as if it
were a legitimate government -- fairly elected and constrained by the rule
of law -- instead of the
crime syndicate that it is. Thus we are expected to assume that
Fitzgerald is an independent prosecutor, free to follow the evidence where
Few appreciate that if he and his grand jury hand down indictments that
reach into the White House, this will be an act of extraordinary courage,
perhaps too much courage to expect of ordinary mortals. For this prosecutor
is no fool, and he is well aware of the fate of Paul Wellstone and Mel
Carnahan, and of the still unsolved anthrax attacks on Tom Daschle and
Patrick Leahy. Perhaps coincidences -- but can he, and we, be certain of
this? Is the Bushevik regime really capable of pre-meditated murder? Ask the
parents, wives and children of 2000 lost soldiers, and the tens of thousands
of bereaved Iraqi families.
We too easily forget just how much is at stake in this investigation.
Billions of dollars have been looted from the public treasury and put in the
hands of the super-wealthy individuals and the corporations that "sponsor"
the Bush regime, as the nation's wealth flows ever-faster from those workers
who create the wealth into the hands of those who own and control the
wealth. And these very few privileged individuals fully intend to keep their
ill-gotten gains, no matter what the cost. Federal and international laws
have been openly violated by the Busheviks, far beyond those investigated by
Fitzgerald and his grand jury: an aggressive war, torture, deliberate lies
to Congress and the American people, graft, obstruction of justice, voting
fraud, open violation of civil liberties clearly specified in the Bill of
Rights. The felons responsible for all this are well aware that if they are
undone by the enforcement of the law and lose control of the federal
government, they face, not comfortable retirement, but imprisonment.
Do you really suppose that they are now dumb-frozen, like shackled
defendants at trial, passively awaiting the judgment of the law and
incapable of resistance and retaliation? The media would have you believe
In fact, if the prosecutor and the grand jury indict, they will do so at
great personal peril.
And yet, they might nonetheless follow the law and their sworn duty, in what
might be the last chance to restore our republic to the people -- to "the
consent of the governed."
I desperately hope that in the next day or so, they will do just that -- and
that, at last, the media and the American people, of all political
persuasions, will stand behind them and in defiance of the oligarchs who
have all but stolen our country from us.
If those indictments are handed down tomorrow or the following day, it will
not be an ending, it will be the beginning of a deadly and prolonged
This gathering storm in the life of our republic reminds me of Costas-Gravas'
1969 movie, "Z," which depicts the revolution in Greece. As the reformers
are at the brink of victory and a restoration of democratic government, a
leader of the reform is assassinated, the military takes brutal control, and
a dark night of tyranny descends.
Consider too the brief moment and the fate of the reformist Kerensky
government following the Russian revolution of 1917.
Can it happen here?
The beast is wounded and cornered, and thus very dangerous.
Yet we cannot abandon the field -- not if Patrick Fitzpatrick and the grand
jury hand down indictments, and with them an opportunity for the American
people to take back their government and their country.
AN OMINOUS ALERT FROM THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL
Philosophers on a number of public and private university campuses have
become targets of a nationally funded and well-organized campaign to achieve
what is seen as political balance and the reduction of liberal bias.
Supporters propose the establishment of government oversight of curricula,
teaching, hiring, and promotion, through Academic Bill of Rights legislation
introduced in several states and the U.S. Congress. The APA Committee for
the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers is also concerned about
recent incidents that have employed harassment and defamation of character
to express opposition to the alleged political views of professors of
philosophy and other professors. Such incidents include students' disrupting
instruction (e.g., by posting unauthorized "class cancelled" signs) and
publicly labeling faculty members "communists" or "terrorist sympathizers."
Because such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom, they have
been reported to the committee, which urges all APA members to inform
themselves about such egregious actions. It also urges them to study the
implications of the "Academic Bill of Rights" campaign for the exercise of
APA Committee for the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers.
October 28, 2005
The Mountain Has Labored and Brought Forth a Mouse
"Fitzmas" has arrived, and the American people have been
given a lump of coal for their stockings.
At least, that's how it appears to this observer, a scant few hours after
Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- and
no one else.
To be sure, there are hints that Fitzgerald's investigations will continue
with a new grand jury, and that Karl Rove remains legally vulnerable. We can
always hope, but prepare yourselves for a disappointment. In the meantime,
as Rove, Cheney and Dubya apparently dodge these legal bullets, the
right-wing screech merchants on AM radio and the camp-following pundits will
make the most of this: "move on folks, nothing to see here" and "just
another failed attempt by the villainous librul media to smear our Commander
in Chief." Its gonna be hard to bear, so brace yourselves.
And Scooter Libby, the designated fall-guy, will never see a day in the
slammer, nor will he even have his day in court -- you can count on it.
(Bush/Cheney can't allow any of their guys, and least of all themselves, to
testify under oath in open court). The Bush team will find a compliant
appeals judge to throw out the indictment (cf. Oliver North) or Bush, like
his daddy, will issue a pre-emptive pardon (cf. Cap Weinberger).
The premature and ultimately unwarranted elevation of Patrick Fitzgerald to
super-hero status by the ever-hopeful progressive blogosphere was a sight to
behold. And sadly understandable, since the left today is in desperate need
of heroes who can make a difference in this desolate political landscape.
And so, it has been legally determined that a Bushevik lied under oath. Gee,
what a surprise! Meanwhile,
the myriad crimes of this administration continue to be legally unrecognized
and unpunished: lying to Congress, forged documents, torture, denial of
civil rights, contempt of (the Supreme) Court, election fraud, waging an
aggressive war, and much more. All of these more grave than consensual oral
The failure of the Congress and the criminal justice system to recognize,
investigate and charge these crimes, gives the whore media and our more
gullible compatriots the encouragement to believe that they are not crimes
Perhaps my lamentations will eventually be seen to be unfounded. Perhaps, as
many die-hard progressive blogsters are telling us, this is not over.
Perhaps Fitzgerald has hoarded his strong cards and is yet to play his
winning hand. Perhaps.
Hope springs eternal, and I am ever-willing to be pleasantly surprised.
And bear in mind that the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate, while it has survived
the Fitzpatrick assault with less damage than expected, has nonetheless been
injured and diminished. The public disapproval of Bush, his regime, and his
war will continue to rise as, ever so slowly, the truth comes out. The
crediblity of the Busheviks and their captive media continues to plummet.
For the vast majority of us, the economy continues to sour, as the
inevitable bushenomic collapse looms.
In the meantime, the crimes are real, and brutal reality, the Busheviks'
greatest enemy, persists and will prevail, despite the best efforts of the
propagandists and spinners of the regressive right.
Who among us will, in the face of this setback, quit the struggle?
"The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot, will in this crisis, shrink
from the service of his country. But he that stands it now, deserves the
love and thanks of men and women." (Thomas
Paine, The Crisis).
November 9, 2005
“The Americans will always do the right thing” Winston Churchill once
remarked, “after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”
For five years, the Karl Rove's output of smoke and mirrors has worked
spectacularly well. A majority of the public was falsely persuaded that
Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction, was somehow behind the 9/11
attacks and was an active agent of al Qaeda. At the same time, the skeletons
of Bush’s past were all kept hidden in the closet. A package of lies about
Al Gore was concocted to “prove,” ironically, that Gore was a “serial liar.”
John Kerry, an authentic war hero, was successfully portrayed as a coward
and a fake.
Thus did the Bush message machine vanquish the Democratic opposition and
reduce it to pathetic impotence. However, there was one adversary that Bush,
Inc. could not defeat: reality. And at long last, reality is retaliating and
the public is taking notice.
Ever so gradually, public opinion has shifted and now the critics and
skeptics are in the majority, as Bush's approval ratings sink to the
mid-thirties. No longer can dissenters be successfully branded as traitors
who “hate America.” More and more of us are remembering that America was
born out of resistance to tyranny and has flourished through dissent and
open debate. Protest is once again becoming fashionable, and there is a
whiff of possible success in the air. The message to the media? “Lead,
follow, or step out of the way. You have made yourselves irrelevant.”
Can we, the American people, restore our Constitution, and win back our
country? There are no guarantees, and the Bush regime, though injured, still
has formidable weapons at its disposal.
However, for the first time since the Supreme Court handed the presidency to
George Bush, in 2000 this malignant regime is vulnerable. At this moment of
opportunity, resignation and apathy are inexcusable.
Always remember: only we the people of the United States can restore the
honor of our country.
The Sleeping Giant Stirs