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Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2006

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January 11, 2006

After almost a three month hiatus, this blog resumes with texts of my commentaries on Steve Conners' talk show, "The Voice of Reason," on KDBD, Reno, Nevada.

This collection has grown to sufficient length to merit this separate page.

All these commentaries are brief excerpts of Crisis Papers essays.  The links to the essays follow the commentaries.

The first commentary, from November 9, 2005, follows below.

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"

More Commentaries Here


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 deaths?

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 record.

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 ordinary peons.

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 Law."

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 Jack Abramoff.

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.

"On Patriotism"

February 7, 2006

At the beginning of each year, I send a holiday package of gifts to my friends in Russia -- each of whom is a professional scientist, an NGO activist, or a university professor.  That package included this message, which I now share with my readers.

Seasons Greetings from a very troubled United States of America.

It is customary for annual holiday messages to be optimistic. However, in these times it is difficult for me to write you a positive letter. Perhaps the best news that I can send you is that the American public may at last be waking up, however slowly, from its slumber of ignorance of and indifference to the political disaster that has befallen our country since the aborted election of November 2000. Perhaps we are beginning to see the vindication of Abraham Lincoln's observation: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Those of us actively opposed to George Bush and his regime are sustained by the hope that Lincoln was right, and that truth and our American traditions of liberty and democracy will at last prevail.

As I continue my work of active opposition to the Bush regime, I am encouraged by the example of Russia, and of the people of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The political subjugation of our once-free media rivals that of Soviet era: Pravda, Izvestiya, and Gostelradio. But the Soviet people withdrew their trust in these media, and the dissidents established, at their grave personal peril, Samizdat. I have repeatedly cited the Samizdat phenomenon in my political writing. Now our own Samizdat is emerging in the final free medium: the internet, as the public is becoming ever more skeptical of the so-called "mainstream media."

The Russian counter-revolution of August, 1991, demonstrated to the world that the flame of liberty can not be extinguished even by seventy years of despotism. (Had I remained in Russia for only one additional week, I would have been witness to that great event). We Americans knew freedom and prosperity a mere five years ago. One day of terror, September 11, 2001, and five years of relentless propaganda, can not erase our collective memory. We can overcome this nightmare, for you have shown us that a determined people can prevail over a more firmly entrenched dictatorship.

In the meantime, public opinion polls show that Bush's approval is now below 40% and continues to decline. Solid majorities of Americans disapprove of the Iraq War and of Bush's economic policies. What is truly astonishing is that as many a 40% continue to approve of Bush, but bear in mind that our public is immersed in a soup of propaganda. Investigation of the greatest political scandal of all, the almost-certain Republican theft of the 2004 election, is totally absent from the mainstream media, as the Republicans and their media allies strive desperately to keep this scandal hidden and under control. Meanwhile, the internet and a few remaining independent publishers are keeping the issue of election fraud alive.

My part in the resistance is my writing, which originates at my websites, The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org) and The Online Gadfly (www.igc.org/gadfly), and is re-published in numerous progressive websites. I am also at work on a book, "Conscience of a Progressive" which is about 80% completed. Now retired from teaching, I am devoting full-time effort to these projects, which I intend to sustain until either liberty and democracy are restored to the United States, or until I am silenced by the government.

I long to revisit Russia, as I did seven times from 1989 to 1999. I have come to greatly admire your land and your people, as I cherish our continuing friendship. But I fear that the deteriorating political and economic conditions may make another visit impossible. Sadly, my work has distracted me from a more active involvement with the Russian environmental movement, which is further complicated by President Putin's discouragement of NGO activity and foreign cooperation. Paradoxically, it seems to me that the most appropriate work that I might do in behalf of the international environmental movement is precisely the work that I am doing, for the government of the United States will be of little value to our common environmental concerns for as long as the Bush regime and his right-wing allies remain in power. Thus our first priority must be to remove this regime from power.

Twice in the past century, the United States -- "the New World" -- came to the rescue of "the Old World." We may soon see the time in this new century, when "the Old World" will return the favor, and come to our defense. Far better if we Americans can lead ourselves out of this crisis. For only the American people can restore the honor of their country.

Please remember this above all: George Bush and his regime are not America. He was not elected in 2000, and when the evidence finally comes forth, it may eventually be proven that he was not legally re-elected in 2004. Bush and all that he represents is a malignant aberration that has achieved and sustained political power on the strength of money, corruption, media control, election fraud, and public fear caused by the attacks of September 11, 2001. And now, seeking absolute power, he is beginning to turn on those of us who actively dissent. The outcome is uncertain, but ever more Americans are resisting. Those who despise the cruelty and arrogance of Bushite imperialism, must not forget that many, and probably a majority, of Americans agree. We struggle on with the hope and expectation that we will finally defeat this political atrocity in Washington. We must do so, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of our common planet which is facing unspeakable environmental emergencies.

For the past week, an avalanche of e-mails have fallen into our Crisis Papers mailbox from numerous activists in the election reform movement.  Selecting and editing these would be a worthy task, but it would consume far more time than I have at the moment.  Maybe later.

After I had read several dozen of these, through to the very last in the In-Box, I wrote the following general reply:

Hello All!

I've read this glut of messages with varying degrees of interest -- at worst, with much impatience, at best, acute interest and admiration. Now that I've come to the end of them, here's my take:

1. If Karl Rove or one of his coterie of scoundrels is reading this collection, all this side talk about female and minority "balance" must be giving him (or her!) chills of excitement. For a golden opportunity is staring them in the face: divide and conquer. Fer Gawd's sake, people, recruit all the citizens you can, and don't be distracted by the gender, racial and ethnic distribution of those who answer the call!

2. Election fraud is the "keystone" which, if taken out, will cause the collapse of Bushism, and the Busheviks well know it. We have the evidence, they have the media and the smoke machines. But there are intimations of defection by a few Republicans, libertarians, and authentic conservatives. More and more corporate and financial poobahs are beginning to awake to the notion that where Bush is leading, they don't want to go: economic collapse, and global retaliation is bad for business. So we must get the message out: This is not a GOP v. Dems issue; this is our Constitution and our liberty v. despotism. Given present conditions, the GOP is a lead-pipe cinch in 2006 and 2008. It is a near certainty that present conditions will not continue throughout this year. Which leads to:

3. Screw your predictions! They are based upon a constant assumption: "provided conditions remain as they are." Well, here's my prediction: things will not remain as they are. All revolutions begin as hopeless causes. All proceed on a course that encounters surprises and unanticipated opportunities, and the most successful revolutions create these opportunities and skillfully deal with surprises. "Impossible" winners: Washington, Gandhi, Mandella, King, Sakharov -- and you can extend the list as well as I can. Bush, with his voting fraud, is less secure today than were LBJ and Nixon on election day 1964 and 1972. Meanwhile the pressure of discontent mounts and the ratings fall. The mask is falling off the simpering idiot "Preznint," ever faster the more he tries to put it back. The time may arrive when a critical mass of the public will ask aloud, "why on earth did we elect these guys." They will then be receptive to the message, "we didn't! Those damned machines elected them." That will be the day that The Bastille falls.

4. Jonathan Simon may be right (brilliant post, by the way): 99.9% of the time, we're talking to each other, but I am more inclined to agree with Brad -- we've got a lot more support out there than we might think. 90+% of the population (including Bushophiles) prefer to live in a democracy where their votes are counted. And 100% of the population does not like being taken for suckers. I read somewhere that a year ago, 20% of the population believed that the 2004 election was stolen. The entire Bushevik empire depends upon keeping the curtain intact between the public and the Wizard. Where's Toto when we need him?

5. Make the next fraud exorbitantly risky. Support the polls. If Mitofsky sits out the next election, set up alternative exit polling. Raise the expectations of GOP defeat so high that when the next theft is attempted, all hell breaks loose. They fooled the public once, they fooled them twice (2002), and then again in 2004. It is not at all that certain that they can bring it off one more time.

6. I'm afraid that Lynn Landes (bless her!) will loose with the Supremes, though I devoutly hope that she will not. But that "loss," if it happens, can be used to advantage -- as a further erosion in the credibility and legitimacy of SCUSA, which isn't all that hot right now.

7. Where is our media? Why can't George Soros, Warren Buffett, etc. get together and buy a cable channel? We have a lot of talent out there. Retired and very pissed-off celebs: Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel (maybe). Then there are the heroically fired: Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield (remember Ashleigh?). It's just not fair to ask Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart to carry all the burden. Get these worthies together, and they will blow FOX, CNN and MSNBC away.

8. Election theft is a national crime carried out on a state and local level. Therein lies an opportunity, for legal action on state or local level might crack the election fraud case. Did the "black box voting" industry make the tactical error of operating in some state with a democratic governor and/or attorney general and/or secretary of state? Then it's past time for that state government to get crackin'. Election fraud is a felony that can and should be subject to criminal investigation. Such investigations could also be conducted at a local level by an aggressive District Attorney. Are any such investigations now under way? If not, why not?

9. Finally, where is our leadership? Reading all these messages can only remind one that we are a bunch of passionate, dedicated, and well-intentioned individuals, running about randomly, craving organization and marching orders from Command Central. Leadership and organizational discipline is the key to GOP success, as lack of same spell doom for the Dems. And when I speak of leadership, I don't mean Hollywood or Show Biz Celebs, though we welcome their participation, endorsements, and charisma. So bring in the pros. Since his Constitution Hall speech, Al Gore is once again eligible. Russ Feingold has certainly earned a nomination. Perhaps you have better candidates in mind. If so, I'll listen. But once we find our Washington, Gandhi, Mandella or Sakharov, let's get organized and keep our eyes on the prize.

November 14, 2006

A More Hopeful, and Accurate, Prophecy.

In my latest essay, And Now What?,  I admit to being a very poor prophet, since I had earlier predicted that the GOP would likely attempt and succeed in stealing the 2006 election.

Thus I was please to locate, in my June, 2006 letter to Mark Crispin Miller (and his vast network), this more hopeful, and as it turned out, more accurate prediction concerning the recent election.

There are four factors which, together, might tip the balance [for the Democrats in the 2006 election]:

1. Bush/Cheney have pissed-off the New York Times, which has heretofore been a Bush enabler. Will more of the print media follow? To the Busheviks, it is not enough that the media be net-asset supporters, their obedience must be total. Now the high-voltage Bushevik charges of "treason" over the NYT's disclosure of the latest Bushevik outrage may pull the Times back into line, or it might be the final straw that chases the Times off the reservation. If so, where the Times leads others (e.g. the Boston Globe) will follow.

2. The solid front in the mainstream broadcast media is beginning to break, as heretofore Bush supporters are beginning to stray, most notably Joe Scarborough and Lou Dobbs. Dobbs especially is raising holy hell about election security. In addition, aggrieved "victims" can become formidable opponents: cf. Dan Rather. [This was before Keith Olbermann's magnificent "breakout." EP]

3. I sense that at last some significant Wall Street movers-and-shakers are finally beginning to appreciate that where the Busheviks lead, they should not want to follow. They appreciate this, not out of any loyalty to the Constitution or our political institutions, nor for any pangs of conscience over economic injustice. Their concern is rooted in those most significant Wall Street motives: greed and self-interest. They understand that in the economic Armageddon toward which Bush is leading the economy, there will be no winners.

4. The public is waking up at last. A sizeable minority has always suspected that the elections were fraudulent. But that minority appears to be growing, and equally important, the salience of the election fraud issue is growing -- from "yeah, so what?" toward "omigawd, we've been screwed!" If the economy continues to sour, that increase in public outrage will accelerate.

As we learned from the era of Joe McCarthy, and also from the fall of the Soviet Union, a regime based on fear and intimidation, however formidable it may appear (hence its effectiveness), can be very fragile. No one wants to face the beast alone, but when a few step forward, say an Ed Murrow or an Andrei Sakharov,  hordes of the reluctant and the intimidated join in, and the regime collapses like a breached levee.

I'm not saying that this will happen. But it could, as it has so many times in history. And in this case (unlike Dubya's "faith-based reality"), believing can make it so.
Si se puede!

What Would Jesus Do?  Take up the sword?

A friend writes: "In your essay "What Would Jesus Do?" you haven't dealt with one of Jesus' most contradictory/puzzling sayings: Matthew 10:34. "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Why did you leave that out? Don't you think you should also deal with that one!"

How should I reply? It depends upon to whom I am addressing the answer. Is my audience secular and open to scholarly interpretations, or are they Christian fundamentalists?

Here's my reply to the secularists:

I suppose that verse would present a problem if I regarded the Bible (specifically Matthew) to be authentic scripture -- "the word of God," or even as the moderate Christians have it, "the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

But, of course, I don't. The four gospels were written long after the events that they report. (Mark, the earliest, was apparently written around 70 AD, possibly by the "secretary" to the disciple Peter). Furthermore, the four gospels are inconsistent (e.g., concerning the Nativity). So there is no compelling reason to believe that Jesus ever said "I come not to send peace, but a sword." Or that he spoke the Beatitudes, for that matter.

But even if he did, he did not call upon his followers to take up the sword. Instead, he was saying (correctly as it turns out) that there were difficult times ahead for his disciples.

I cannot claim to know anything at all about Jesus of Nazareth, except that he probably existed and taught a moral message similar to that conveyed by much or most of the gospels. Nor, I contend, can anyone know much more than this -- an opinion which greatly discomforts my many Christian friends.

Furthermore, that moral message is not entirely consistent, indicating faulty memory and "ax grinding" by later writers, commentators and translators.

"I come not to send peace, but a sword," strikes my as inconsistent with the with the message of love, pacifism, and forgiveness, that is found throughout the gospels. But it is something that one might expect to come out of the context of persecution that the early Christians faced at the time the gospels were written.

If the gospels are regarded as primarily works of fiction, like Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet," they are still valuable as statements of a worthy moral philosophy. Their accuracy regarding the life and words of Jesus is unknown and unknowable, and perhaps of secondary importance -- at least to secular heathens like myself.

However, a vast majority of our fellow Americans believe that The Bible is The Word of God -- or at least approximately so. "What would Jesus Do?" is directed at them. And they should come to terms with the clear fact that many (most?) of these "Christians," and the "Christian" leaders that they support, are, morally speaking, "anti-Christians." Jesus is reported to have said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  Clearly, these so-called "Christians" do not.  They are not peacemakers, they do not care for the poor, they are not humble ("meek"), tolerant, or forgiving.

And that's the point I wanted to make in "What Would Jesus Do?"

So how would I address a fundamentalist?

After all, many (self-identified) "Christians" have used that passage to justify the slaughter that stains the history of Christendom.  How would I respond to a "Christian" who used that verse -- "I came not to send peace, but a sword." -- as proof that Jesus called upon his followers to "take up the sword."

To begin, let us acknowledge that it is a virtually futile enterprise to try to convince a fundie of anything contrary to his/her religious convictions. But one never knows.

Second, the fundie's enthusiasm for war is most likely based, not on the gospels, but on the Old Testament: e.g., Joshua (Ch. 10), Deuteronomy (2:33-4 and 20:16), and Numbers (31:17-18), wherein The Lord orders, or at least sanctions, the slaughter of entire cities. Today we call this "genocide." (See my "Warriors of the Lord").

Even so, if given the daunting task of trying to "convert" a militant (so-called) "Christian" to the pacifism of Jesus, here is how I might go about it.

I would ask if s/he could cite any verse in the Gospels where Jesus called upon his disciples to "take up the sword."

Then s/he might cite Matthew 10:34. I would reply that the verse does not call upon disciples to take up the sword, rather it prophesies the coming of turmoil and bloodshed which, as it turns out, was quite accurate. Aside from that, I believe that s/he would find no call for violence in the Gospels -- not, at least, from the presumed words of Jesus.

I would further point out that when a Peter drew his sword in Jesus' defense at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked him. (Matthew 26: 51-52, and John 18: 10-11). "Put up again thy sword into its place, for they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Then I might cite Jesus' instruction to "resist not evil," "turn the other cheek," and "love thy enemies." And finally, as a capper, Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

I would then ask if s/he truly believes that the cryptic verse about sending "not peace but the sword" nullifies all that Jesus is reported to have said about peacemaking, forgiveness and tolerance?

My guess is that the typical fundie would be unmoved by all this. But a few might, and more importantly, the much "moderate" Christians, inclined to support right-wing militancy, might be receptive.

On Proving a Negative.

A Crisis Paper reader writes:

[In] your essay, The Gulliberal Problem. [you ask]: "Can you prove that the elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004 were not stolen?"

I'm familiar with the arguments and evidence that it was. However, as an academician, you surely know within logic you cannot prove a negative. For example, you cannot prove the non-existence of, say, Santa Claus, or God, or alchemy.

My Reply:

I welcome the question, since it gives me the opportunity to deal with a persistent and mischievous popular myth; namely, that "you cannot prove a negative."  Of course you can prove negative assertions, as surely as you can prove positive assertions. Both deductively and inductively.

The rule "you cannot prove a negative" may have its origin in a quite distinct rule, fundamental to science and rational inquiry: "The burden of proof rests with the affirmative, not the negative." Put simply: "failure to prove the falsehood of an assertion does not constitute proof of the assertion." (It's called the "ad ignorantum" fallacy). In law, this rule is exemplified in the presumption of innocence of the accused. (I explain this rule in my Is Science Just Another Dogma?  Find: "burden"  near the end of the essay).

"The burden of proof" rule applies equivalently to affirmative and negative assertions.  First of all, note the simple grammatical fact that any positive assertion can be restated as a negative assertion. Thus if you can prove a positive assertion, you can equally prove it's equivalent negative formulation.

I could go on and on about the nature of scientific inquiry -- falsifiability, hypothetico-deductive confirmation, confirmation of universal v. particular propositions, and all that (see Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery). But this isn't the place for that. Suffice to say that for an assertion to be empirically meaningful, it must be falsifiable in principle, which means (as David Hume argued) that no empirical assertion can be 100% proven "in principle," though of course many are, for all practical purposes, certain. E.g., that Newton's laws of motion are true, that Abraham Lincoln is dead (neg: "is not alive"), that the earth is round (neg: "is not flat"), that Germany invaded Poland in 1939 (neg: not 1950), that George Bush is an incompetent idiot.

Santa Claus? Define Santa Claus, and the rest is easy. If you describe him as, among other things, a fat adult male who navigates up and down chimneys, who rides a sleigh driven by reindeer treading on thin air, and who simultaneously at midnight visits millions of homes, then I think we can say, with practical certainty, that there is no Santa Claus. If you define Santa Claus as "the sentiment of love and giving," then, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

Alchemy? Describe alchemy in such a way that it yields observable and falsifiable implications. Then I will be prepared to prove it true or false. Ditto astrology. As both are generally understood, both can be proven false, as they have been many times.

God?  Let's not get into that, I 'm trying to be brief.  (But if you are up to it, see David Hume's "Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion").

But putting all this scholarly Choctaw aside, here are three negative statements that I submit that I can prove:

(a) There is no 800 pound gorilla standing next to me in my study as I write this.

(b) A nuclear submarine is not, at this moment, parked in my driveway.

(c) Laura Bush was not devoured today by an escaped T-Rex.

If this isn't "proving a negative," then I don't know what is.

Getting back to your original point: proving that an election was not stolen.

1. I can prove that [Canadian elections are] not stolen, because they use paper ballots that are counted and validated by three individual election officers. (How I envy the Canadians!)

2. I can not prove directly that paperless touch-screen machines cheated in 2000 and 2004, simply because they were ingeniously designed to prevent verification (e.g., they use secret software). For precisely the same reasons, the "winners" cannot prove that the the elections were not stolen. However, the indirect evidence of fraud is overwhelming and, I submit, for all practical purposes conclusive. (But not absolutely proven since, qua empirical and scientifically meaningful, it is falsifiable -- ditto Newton's laws, historical events, the shape of the earth, etc.).

(February, 2006)

Finally, a worthy and troublesome excerpt from a Science Magazine Editorial:

"More than 50% of new faculty appointed in U.S research universities are foreign born.

In ignorance or defiance of the global reality of modern scientific research and the transient nature of its leading edge, the United States is embarked on a path to further its national security by enacting policies that will inevitably degrade its scientific strength.... New U.S. policies could restrict ... the base of scientists who fuel the technical engine here at home. Government-imposed limits on the publication of research results, in the name of homeland security, would inhibit the international collaboration hat in turn fertilizes the global community and advances our own programs. In short, the international character of the scientific enterprise is in danger, and, if lost, the U.S  technology edge will go with it.

David J. Galas and Henry Riggs.
Science, 20 June, 2003. p. 1847

Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)

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