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Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2005


January 2, 2005


BUMPER STICKER: “Better ten thousands die, than George Bush admit a mistake.”


A SYLLOGISM

a. “Democratic countries do not wage aggressive wars.” (George W. Bush)
b. The US is waging an aggressive war in Iraq.
_________________________________________________________

c. Ergo: The US is not a democracy.



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 a warfare?

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 war.

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.

Read the column  and you will find that 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 recorded word from the mouth of 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 spoken it.

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.”

Micah, 4:3-5

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 thee?

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.

Matthew, 25:34-46

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?



The Furriners Get it Right
 

Jim Lobe reports:

The latest [global Market Insite] poll found that more than two thirds of European and Canadian consumers have had a negative change in their view of the United States as a result of U.S. foreign policy over the last three years. Nearly half believe that the war in Iraq was motivated by a desire to control oil supplies, while only 15 percent believed it was related to terrorism.

Nearly two thirds of European and Canadian consumers also said they believe U.S. foreign policy is guided primarily by self-interest and empire-building, while only 17 percent believe that the defense of freedom and democracy is its guiding principle.

Half of the entire sample said they distrusted U.S. companies, at least in part because of the U.S. foreign policy. Seventy-nine percent said they distrusted the U.S. government for the same reason, while 39 percent said they distrusted the American public.
 



Are Cut-Throat Competitors, Cutting Their Own Throats?
 

Those of you who have seen the “Buy Blue” lists, (e.g., at “Donkey Rising”) may have noticed that a disproportionate number of gasoline companies, consumer electronics chains, hotels and restaurants contribute heavily to the Republicans.

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 risen.

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 “Flunking Economics 101").

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 restaurant industries.

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.

More generally, 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).

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 self-interest.

Apparently not.

But then, the Bush team no longer claims to be “reality based.”
 


February 1, 2005

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 Padua.

Jones writes:

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 Will Pitt).
 

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 Colonies.”

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 back'

"Maybe it was one of those three things [that caused] the collapse of Easter Island society."

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 "The Oil Trap").

Unless the industrialized nations embark immediately upon a massive and sustained effort to reduce oil consumption and to develop the "next" source of energy.

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.


The Judicial Conundrum

There is a great deal of concern that after the Bush-Cheney regime leaves office, their legacy will include a Supreme Court and a Federal Judiciary that are overwhelmingly right-wing-regressive. (I refuse to call them "conservative").

Will there be no remedy for this?

Here's a thought: Just suppose that, at long last, it is proven that the Presidency and the Congress were "stolen" in 2000, 2002, and 2004, by voting fraud, accomplished through the secret ("proprietary") source codes and the paperless e-voting machines, owned and programmed by GOP supporters.

Might not a "counter-revolutionary" Congress and administration then enact and enforce legislation that would decree that the Bush-Cheney administration was illegitimate, and thus the judicial appointments of that administration null and void?

The courts, of course, would attempt to over-rule such legislation, after which all Hell would break loose.

Admittedly, this sounds like a fantasy. But consider: who could have imagined just four years ago that we would be experiencing the political nightmare that we find today. And today's conditions are just a snapshot along a road that will probably lead to still worse horrors ahead.

In any case, we're in for a rough ride!


"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)

Similarly, Peter Dizikes writes:  "Here are 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency -- every one of them worse than Whitewater."

Even Robert 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 investment.

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 conservatism."


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 Shelley.

No further word of the charges against Diebold or the future of e-voting in California elections.

Coincidences?

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 Long Island.

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 weapons ban.

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
 

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 at The Democratic Underground, one can only hope that it is true. 

If so, then the debut of the Anti-FOX simply can’t be too soon.

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.


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:

Whitewater
Wen Ho Lee
Headline: “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices
Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote” (November 12, 2001)
Jason Blair
Judith Miller, Ahmed Chalabi 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,” etc.).
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.
Gannon/Geckert

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.


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 is cast.

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 indictment.

(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 services.

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.

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 Health.


Of course, private initiative and enterprise are essential to a thriving industrial economy.

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 industrial innovation.

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 Agency).

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 symbiosis.

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 today.

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 hunger.

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.

And 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 country...

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 humiliation...

My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps.

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 civilization...*

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 most difficult.

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 democracy?

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 know?

They know!

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 false.
     

  • 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

Chicago Tribune Debunks Election Skeptics -- Partridge Replies

Don Wycliff, the "Public Editor" of the Chicago Tribune, writes:

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 of politics.

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 dwycliff@tribune.com. The views expressed are his own.

My Reply:

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 unidentifiable individuals.

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.

Sincerely,

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.
 


May 19, 2005

Another letter to a Christian/Republican Friend. This one is for real.

Last August I wrote and circulated A 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 liberals think."

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 explain shortly....

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 Preamble).

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 incorrect."

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 Liberal Media?"

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 "Conscience 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 youth.

Your enduring friend,

Ernie


"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."

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, go to this transcript of Bill O'Reilly's broadcast of 12/1/03. 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...

Don't even bother to read the whole transcript. Just notice this: Vanden 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

“BIBLICAL INERRANCY” AND THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

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.”

I replied:

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, "murder".

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 difficulties.

First: “Thou Shalt Not Murder” is not a commandment, it is a tautology – an empty “truth-by-definition.”

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 not justifiable.”

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 Sabbath, etc.).

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 truly “Holy.”

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 the game.

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?


Prof. David Ray Griffin, Author of  The New Pearl Harbor, would have us believe that the World Trade Center was brought down by planted demolition charges. (See also these reviews of The New Pearl Harbor in “Interlink”  and Amazon.com).

The accusation has recently been seconded by Morgan Reynolds, a former economist in the administration of Bush the Elder.

As with Prof. Griffin’s accusation that the Pentagon was hit by a missile on 9/11 (see my blog of May, 2004), this hypothesis is too much for me to swallow.

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.

Consider:

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 believe.

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 events.

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 will reconsider).

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. About which, see my April, 2004 blog).

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 hypothesis:

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 "the enemy."

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 and 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 list. Still more physical evidence, including photos of airplane parts at the scene, can be found here.  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." 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.

 


How the Democrats Might “Select” Our Next President.


It’s complicated and very unlikely, but still conceivable and completely legal.

As we well know, those of us who are eager to see Dubya impeached and removed from office, hesitate at the thought that he would be succeeded by Dick Cheney.

Not to worry. The Veep can be impeached along with the President, and God knows there are more than adequate grounds to toss out Cheney along with The Smirk.

The next in line would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947).

Clearly, Bush/Cheney could only be impeached if the Democrats took the House in January, 2007, following the November 2006 election. In that case, there would be a new Democratic Speaker.

If both Bush and Cheney were impeached by the House, and subsequently removed by a vote of two-thirds of the Senate, the Speaker would become President.

Now it gets interesting. As the vote on conviction and removal approaches, the Democratic Party might leaders deliberate as to who would be the ideal President – perhaps Al Gore, perhaps John Kerry, perhaps someone else. The Democratic Speaker volunteers to be a "conduit" to this succession.

Bush and Cheney are then removed, and the Speaker becomes President.  In accordance with the 25th Amendment (1967), the new President then nominates the Democrat’s choice as Vice President, who is then confirmed by the Congress, whereupon the “interim President” resigns. The selected Vice President then becomes the President.

Hail to the Chief!


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.

To wit:

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 al-Hassani....

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  (Paris), June 24.

In the American mainstream media? Nada. Nichivo.

So I guess it never really happened.

Just like the Downing Street Memos.


October 26, 2005

After a hiatus of four months, it is long past time to revive this blog.

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 "opportunity."

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 it leads.

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 so.

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 struggle.

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 ASSOCIATION

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 academic freedom.

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 sex.

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 at all.

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"

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


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances