From early November, 2005, to early February, 2006, it was my honor and pleasure to give brief
commentaries for Steve Conners' radio program at KDBD in Reno, Nevada.
The texts of those remarks follow below. Unfortunately, KDBD has
Those familiar with some of my Crisis Papers essays will find that many
of these commentaries are adapted from those essays, or from my book in
Conscience of a Progressive.
The sources will be noted and linked.
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"
November 16, 2005
Many citizens who, like myself, believe that the 2004 election was stolen,
are acutely discouraged by the refusal of the mainstream media to even
mention the issue of ballot integrity, much less investigate it. Even so, it
is possible that election reform could soon become the dominant domestic
To begin, Bush is beginning to lose the support of the business sector, as
smart business types are coming to realize that Bushenomics is bad for
business -- except, of course, for the oil and defense industries. First of
all, Bush's unpopularity abroad is seriously affecting the sales of American
products. And furthermore, as Bush's policies move ever more cash from the
middle and poor classes up to the super-rich, consumer cash flow is bound to
decrease, leading to a likely collapse in the economy. In a depression,
Add to this the non-economic disasters that Bush, Inc., has brought about:
the Iraq War, the torture scandals, the loss of civil liberties, the decline
of social services and public education, etc. Finally, as the polls report,
more and more of the public is losing confidence and trust in the Bush
Things can only continue to get worse for Bush -- trust that is lost can
never be recovered. With Tom DeLay and Scooter Libby indicted and Dick
Cheney discredited, added to the recent election returns, Bush is losing
control of the Congress and the Republican party.
How does this impact electoral reform? As political and economic conditions
deteriorate, the public will be looking ever more desperately for a way out
-- a way to throw out this whole sorry excuse of a government. As this
happens, the very idea that they took office and now hold power
illegitimately will become ever-more attractive. The media will likely
continue to resist and ignore the issue, but as public outrage and lack of
confidence in the ballot grows, the media will face the choice: lead,
follow, or step aside and get out of the way.
"The truth is out there," the evidence of voting fraud is compelling, and
yet, until now, the public has been in denial. Once election fraud becomes
thinkable, we may reach a tipping point wherein election fraud becomes THE
number one issue. Then media silence and the debunking from the right-wing
pundits will no longer matter.
Let us hope. Still better, let's do our best to bring it about. Let's take
back our government!
November 23, 2005
History provides an unending chronicle of the ruthless suppression of
so-called “human error” in behalf of "God's truth" (the latter in exclusive
possession of "me and my faction"). "My way" (which is to say, God's way)
"or no way!" We see this today in Northern Ireland, Kosovo,
Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan under the Taliban, and Saudi Arabia.. And we
are beginning to see this in the United States, as leaders of the religious
right demand that the ten commandments be codified as the foundation of our
laws, and furthermore that our government officially proclaim that ours is a
Far better that we follow the good advice of the founders of our republic
who wrote and ratified in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
An escape from civil and international strife is as simple as it is
unlikely. It consists of the acceptance by a "critical mass" of the public
and its leaders of just two elements:
First, acknowledge that someone, somewhere, has a contrary religious or
philosophical belief, which he or she embraces with a fervor and certainty
equal to, or possibly even greater than, our own. (In fact, such individuals
number in the billions, and they are everywhere).
And then entertain a possibility, however difficult to believe, that this
other individual just might be right and we just might be wrong – or even
that all of us frail mortals are mistaken in at least some small degree
about our fundamental religious convictions.
That much accomplished, then we can proceed with our lives, firm in our
convictions, but tolerant of others and willing in principle to alter our
beliefs in the face of superior evidence and argument.
An enduring aspect of Judeo-Christian morality calls this "humility," and
regards it a virtue.
Scientists call this "the falsifiability principle." It is a firm foundation
both for scientific investigation and for the "domestic tranquility" aspired
to in our Constitution. And it should suffice for enlightened religious
Conscience of a Progressive, Chapter 14,
November 30, 2005
In the play and movie, “A Man for all Seasons,” Robert Bolt dramatizes the
life and martyrdom of Thomas More. When More’s son-in-law suggests that he
defy the law, More replies:
"[Would you] cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you,
where would you hide.., the laws all being flat? This country is planted
thick with laws from coast to coast..., and if you cut them down... do you
really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake."
Thomas More, a legal scholar, believed that so long as he remained
silent, the law would protect him, even from the sovereign, Henry VIII. But
when that law became subordinate to and a political weapon of that
sovereign, Thomas More's fate was sealed.
The founders of our Republic resolved that the inalienable rights of every
citizen would be protected by the equal application of the rule of law. They
understood that in a just state the rule of law is above politics; the law
sets the rules and defines the constraints of acceptable political activity.
The blindfolded Lady Justice makes no distinctions: all are to be protected
equally by the law. And when the blindfold is torn off and the scales of
justice are weighted in favor of the rich and powerful, and against the
opposing parties and dissenting citizens, then the lowliest citizen is not
safe. Worse still, when that citizen comes to appreciate this fact, he will
no longer look to the law for justice and protection. Law, for the citizen,
will then have ceased to be his protector, and will instead have become his
oppressor - a political tool of a sovereign that has thus forfeited his
right to govern. "When in the course of human events" such misfortune
befalls a public, the time has come to replace the government -- peacefully
if possible, but forcibly if necessary.
If you disagree, then your argument is not with me, it is with all the
signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Conscience of a Progressive, Chapter 18,
December 6, 2005
This was an important day in the life of Congressman Bob Ney, the newly
appointed Majority leader of the House of Representatives. He had to catch
an early flight from Ohio to Washington, in time to lead the fight in
Congress to protect us all against the encroachment of "Big Government" in
our personal lives.
And so, upon awaking to his clock-radio, he learned from the US Weather
Service that the flying weather was ideal. He then enjoyed a hearty
breakfast of ham and eggs, certified Grade A by the US Department of
Agriculture, and dutifully took his daily prescriptions, pronounced safe and
effective by the Food and Drug Administration. While at the table, he
checked the stock quotes in the morning paper, assured by the Securities and
Exchange Commission that he had not been swindled. On the way to the
airport, he stopped at the bank to take out some pocket money, and was not
at all surprised to find that his account was intact, as guaranteed by The
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation .
His flight took off on time and without incident, after the aircraft had
been certified as safe, and his flight cleared for take-off, by personnel of
the Federal Aviation Agency.
Three hours later, Congressman Ney arrived at "Reagan National Airport"
safe, healthy and financially secure, thanks to all the above "big
government bureaucracies" and still others too numerous to mention.
Firm in his determination to relieve his fellow citizens of the burdens of
big government, Bob Ney then led the successful fight to return fifty
billion dollars of federal taxes "to the people" (more than half of it to
the wealthiest two-percent of "the people.")
In his second debate with Al Gore in 2000, George Bush said: "I think you
can spend your money more wisely than the federal government can.”
Sometimes? Of course. Always? No way! I am not prepared to devote the time
and expense, or to gain the expertise, to set up a laboratory in my basement
to determine if my food and drugs are safe and effective. Nor can I run off
to Wall Street and carry out a private investigation to find out if my
investments are safe from violations of the securities laws, nor am I
qualified to check the innards of a passenger jet to see if it is
flight-worthy, and I have no idea how to direct air traffic.
In all these cases, and countless more, I will readily concede that I am
less qualified than the appropriate government agencies to "spend my tax
"Mr. DeLay Goes to Washington"
January 11, 2006
Twenty-one hundred of our fighting men dead. Over ten thousand wounded.
An estimated one hundred thousand Iraqis killed.
What cause could be worth this dreadful price?
As I ponder this question, I recall the scene in Shakespeare’s play Henry
the Fifth, wherein Henry the King walks through the camp of his ragged and
vastly outnumbered army on the night before the Battle of Agincourt.
The king, disguised by a cloak of one of his officers, sits at a campfire,
and hears the following reflection by Will, a common soldier:
If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to
make; when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle,
shall join together at the latter day, and cry all 'We died at such a
place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives
left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left. I am afraid there are few die well that die in a
battle: for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is
their argument! Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black
matter for the king that led them to it.
In the Iraq war, the official “cause” changes with the season: first, the
threat of weapons of mass destruction, then the overthrow of a despot, then
fighting terrorism, then bringing democracy. And next? Who can say?
“But if the cause be not good, the
king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make...”
Was George Bush, like King Henry, burdened by the weight of his decision to
go to war? Did he reflect upon the American and Iraqi lives that would be
lost -- "some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives
left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left?" Did he think of the bodies about to be horribly and
permanently disabled and disfigured?
Did George Bush, like Henry at Agincourt and like Dwight Eisenhower on June
5, 1944, the eve of D-Day, walk among and look into the eyes of the troops
he was about to send into battle, and in all too many instances, to their
Was he willing to face the consequences of this sorry business by honoring
with his official presence, the coffins (called "transfer tubes") as they
arrived at Dover Air Force Base? Or by attending a funeral of a young
soldier killed as a result of Bush's decision to go to war?
I trust we all know the answers to these questions. They are in the public
“Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the
king that led them to it.”
"Henry and George"
If you hand a building inspector an envelope with $10,000 in it and ask
him to please overlook the code violations in your apartment building, you
are breaking the law, and if the inspector turns that envelope over to an
honest DA, you are likely headed for the slammer.
And the same result may await you if you hand a Senator ten grand in
exchange for his vote on a housing bill.
But if, instead, you hand that cash over to the same Senator's campaign
committee, with the same express purpose of "purchasing" influence and
legislation, you are exercising your "First Amendment Right" to free speech.
That is how the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 in Buckley v. Valeo: "cash is
speech." But if so, then one's "speech" (which is to say, one's influence
with the Congress) is proportional to one's wealth.
Should we apportion political clout with wealth? If so, then it follows
that the CEO of a major corporation who earns 400 times as much in a year as
the ordinary worker, is entitled to 400 votes, to the single vote of us
That suggestion is outrageous on its face: Our political traditions and
morality forbid such inequality. Fundamental to that tradition is the belief
that each citizen counts for one, and no citizen counts for more than one.
It is written over the entrance to the Supreme Court: "Equal Justice Under
Why, then, are some citizens and numerous corporations (legally
recognized as "persons") permitted to purchase disproportionate access to
and influence on our legislators? Must we concede that some citizens are
"more equal than others"?
The "free speech" arguments against campaign finance reform are spurious.
The right to free speech is not absolute, since all would agree that "the
right to free speech" does not allow for slander or for malicious mischief
(as with the celebrated example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater).
Why then should it allow for bribery? Why should a ruling that "cash as
speech" be permitted to effectively confine access to elected officials to
the wealthy and to special interests?
Private and corporate financing of election campaigns lies at the root of
the corruption of the United States Congress, typified by the shenanigans of
The remedy is simple and straightforward: public financing of political
campaigns -- a practice routinely in force in most countries with free and
contested elections. Cash handed over to a politician, either elected or
seeking office, for whatever purpose, should be recognized for what it is:
bribery. Cash to a congressman in exchange for his vote is illegal. Cash
to a congressman's campaign fund in exchange for his vote is not illegal.
But both are bribes.
As Michael Kinsley wisely said, "the real scandal is not what is illegal
but rather what is legal."
A Bribe by Any Other Name
February 8, 2006
What is a "patriot"?
Washington, Jefferson, Paine, those who pledged their lives, fortunes and
sacred honor by signing the Declaration of Independence – all these come to
mind. But what about Colonel Klaus von Stauffenberg, whose failed attempt on
Adolf Hitler's life cost the Colonel his life? Or Andrei Sakharov in the
Soviet Union. More recently, how would we characterize John Dean during the
Watergate affair, or Daniel Ellsberg during the Vietnam war? How would we
characterize Joseph Wilson and Richard Clarke today?
The dominant meaning of "patriotism" today seems to be "support of our
nation's leadership during this time of peril." By implication, criticism of
our leaders amounts to virtual treason.
By this account, Washington, Jefferson, von Stauffenberg, Sakharov,
Ellsberg, Dean, and Wilson were traitors, for they all rebelled against
"constituted national leadership," i.e., King George III, Adolf Hitler, the
Brezhnev regime, and Richard Nixon, respectively.
Clearly, unconditional allegiance to a leader will not do as a criterion of
"patriotism." "I am the state!" was a concept against which our forefathers
successfully fought a revolution. In our political tradition, it seems,
"patriotism" implies a different object of loyalty than whosoever might, at
the moment, be our leader.
The "patriotism" exemplified by the founders of the American republic
consists in an allegiance, not to persons or offices, but rather to
political and moral ideals as codified in the law. Such ideals as
self-determination, the social contract, inalienable human rights, and
additional ideals such as those enumerated in the Declaration of
Independence and the Bill of Rights.
And yet, if polls and the pundits are to be believed, the American public is
willing to accept without dissent and in the name of "patriotism," a
curtailment of our liberties as enumerated in the First, Fourth, Fifth and
Sixth Amendments, which means our right to privacy, to habeas corpus, due
process and competent counsel. In addition, the public appears willing to
allow the President, at his own discretion, to set aside acts of Congress,
such as the Freedom of Information Act, the prohibition against torture,
international treaties, and even the Bill of Rights – in direct violation of
the separation of powers stipulated by the Constitution. There is a word for
a regime in which the leader is above the law: it is called "dictatorship."
If by "patriotism" we mean allegiance to shared political ideals, embodied
in the rule of law, then a President and his Administration must earn the
support of the public by exemplifying these ideals and by submitting to the
constraints of the law and our national charter, The Constitution. Every
President, in his very first act in office, takes an oath that he "will to
the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of
the United States."
The President who fails to abide by this oath relinquishes his right to hold
his office, and it becomes the patriotic duty of the legislature, the
judiciary, and the citizenry to separate that President from his office.
Loyalty to the master is the ethic of the slave. Loyalty to principle is the
ethic of the free citizen.