Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Friday, January 30, 2004


Actually, i posted an excerpt of this exchange yesterday, but i found the full text of the interview and it's fucking priceless.

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Nothin' Fancy Cafe
Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q An answer.

Q Can we buy some questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.

END 11:29 A.M. MST

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Selective Memory and a Dishonest Doctrine

by Noam Chomsky

December 22, 2003 | All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal.

An indictment of Saddam's atrocities would include not only his slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially, his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in 1991.

At the time, Washington and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression," reported Alan Cowell in the New York Times.

Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam.

With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and Washington's reaction overlooked that support.

Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally — a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff."

The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages: It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening before our eyes.

For example, the Bush administration's original reason for going to war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes that now, not even Bush's speech writers.

The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East.

Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches the level of rapturous acclaim.

Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as "the most idealistic war in modern times" — fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and the region.

Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, "the Bush administration's idealist in chief," whom he described as a genuine intellectual who "bleeds for (the Arab world's) oppression and dreams of liberating it."

Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz's career — like his strong support for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century's worst mass murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that country under Ronald Reagan.

As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.

All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change of course.

So, yes, Wolfowitz's heart bleeds for the victims of oppression — and if the record shows the opposite, it's just that boring old stuff that we want to forget about.

One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.

Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.

The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz's "Determination and Findings" on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are countries where the government dared to take the same position as the vast majority of the population.

Wolfowitz's alleged grounds are "security interests," which are non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss — along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will be free to "compete" with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies.

What's revealing and important to the future is that Washington's display of contempt for democracy went side by side with a chorus of adulation about its yearning for democracy.

To be able to carry that off is an impressive achievement, hard to mimic even in a totalitarian state.

Iraqis have some insight into this process of conquerors and conquered.

The British created Iraq for their own interests. When they ran that part of the world, they discussed how to set up what they called Arab facades — weak, pliable governments, parliamentary if possible, so long as the British effectively ruled.

Who would expect that the United States would ever permit an independent Iraqi government to exist? Especially now that Washington has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there, in the heart of the world's greatest oil-producing region, and has imposed an economic regime that no sovereign country would accept, putting the country's fate in the hands of Western corporations.

Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent — and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence.

An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."

Political activist and author Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His new book is "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project)"

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited


I actually posted this back in July of last year, but given the latest attempt to cut Dean off at the knees by a coalition of political leaders and media pundits before he becomes powerful enough to really clean house in Washington, i thought we ought to remember what Howard Dean was saying back when John Kerry was appeasing the Republican party.

DEAN CHALLENGES SHRUB TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF (from www.deanforamerica.com)

Des Moines, IA -- Democratic presidential candidate Governor
Howard Dean delivered these remarks on July 18th at a press
conference in Des Moines, Iowa:

As the Niger uranium story has unfolded, what has become increasingly obvious is that there are many questions that must be answered about the way the Bush Administration led us to war, managed the conflict in Iraq, and failed to foresee the continuing resistance that our military is now confronting.

We must be clear: decisions regarding war and peace are the most serious and solemn that a Commander-in-Chief is called upon to make. There are now fundamental questions about President Bush's leadership in taking us to war with Iraq.

There has been much discussion about the 16 words included in the State of the Union address. Today I call on the President to answer these sixteen questions to ensure that the American people can retain their trust in their government and to help ensure that the United States can retain its credibility as a moral force in the world.

1.Mr. President, beyond the NSC and CIA officials who have been identified, we need to know who else at the White House was involved in the decision to include the
discredited uranium evidence in your speech, and, if they knew it was false, why did they permit it to be included in the speech?

2.Mr. President, we need to know why anyone in your Administration would have
contemplated using the evidence in the State of the Union after George Tenet
personally intervened in October 2002, to have the same evidence removed from the
President's October 7th speech. (The Washington Post, Walter Pincus and Mike Allen,

3.Mr. President, we need to know why you claimed this very week that the CIA objected to the Niger uranium sentence "subsequent" to the State of the Union address, contradicting everything else we have heard from your administration and the intelligence community on the matter. (The Washington Post, Priest, Dana and Dana Milbank, 7/15/2003)

4.Mr. President, we urgently need an explanation about the very serious charge that
senior officials in your Administration may have retaliated against Ambassador Joseph
Wilson by illegally disclosing that his wife is an undercover CIA officer. (The Nation,
Corn, David, 7/16/2003)

5.Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration persisted in using the
intercepted aluminum tubes to show that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear program and why your National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, claimed categorically that the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," when in fact our own
government experts flatly rejected such claims. (CNN, 9/08/2002, Knight Ridder News
Service, 10/04/2002)

6.Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Rumsfeld created a secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon that selectively identified questionable intelligence to support the case for war including the supposed link to al-Qaeda while ignoring, burying or rejecting any evidence to the contrary. (New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, 5/12/03)

7.Mr. President, we need to know what the basis was for Secretary Rumsfeld's assertion that the US had bulletproof evidence linking Al Qaeda to Iraq, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence analysts have consistently agreed that Saddam did not have a "meaningful connection" to Al Qaeda. (NY Times, Schmitt, Eric, 9/28/2002, NY Times, Krugman, Paul, 7/15/2003)

8.Mr. President, we need to know why Vice President Cheney claimed last September to have "irrefutable evidence" that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, an assertion he repeated in March, on the eve of war. (AP, 9/20/2002, NBC 3/16/2003)

9.Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Powell claimed with confidence and
virtual certainty in February before the UN Security Council that, "Iraq today has a
stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough
agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets." (UN Address, 2/05/2003)

10.Mr. President, we need to know why Secretary Rumsfeld claimed on March 30th in
reference to weapons of mass destruction, "We know where they are. They're in the
area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." (The
Guardian, Whitaker, Brian and Rory McCarthy, 5/30/2003)

11.Mr. President, we need an explanation of the unconfirmed report that your
Administration is dishonoring the life of a soldier who died in Iraq as a result of hostile
action by misclassifying his death as an accident. (Time, Gibbs, Nancy and Mark
Thompson, 7/13/2003)

12.Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration has never told the truth about the costs and long-term commitment of the war, has consistently downplayed what those would be, and now continues to try to keep the projected costs hidden from the American people.

13.Mr. President, we need to know why you said on May 1, 2003 , that the war was over, when US troops have fought and one or two have died nearly every day since then and your generals have admitted that we are fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq. (Abizaid, Gen. John, 7/16/2003)

14.Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration had no plan to build the peace in post-war Iraq and seems to be resisting calls to include NATO, the United Nations and our allies in the stabilization and reconstruction effort.

15.Mr. President, we need to know what you were referring to in Poland on May 30, 2003, when you said, "For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them." (The Washington Post, Mike Allen, 5/31/2003)

16.Mr. President, we need to know why you incorrectly claimed this very week that the war began because Iraq would not admit UN inspectors, when in fact Iraq had admitted the inspectors and you opposed extending their work. (The Washington Post, Priest, Dana and Dana Milbank, 7/15/2003)

If you can't or won't answer these 16 questions, Mr. President, I call on the Republicans in Congress to stop blocking efforts to create an independent, bipartisan committee to investigate what is a matter of the highest importance: whether your decision to go to war was sound and just.

The American public deserves answers to all of these questions. I urge you to lead with the honor and integrity that you promised as a candidate.


Remember the way that media reports were edited to fit the most recent rhetoric of the party in Orwell's 1984? This is the way the White House has regarded the justification for going to war against a threat it described as so heinous, so unscrupulous and so armed to the teeth with agents of mass death that New York could explode in forty-five minutes unless Saddam was removed from power. Now, however, the iron curtain that stands between executive policy makers and the agents of public oversight is beginning to erode. Bush has been caught in a lie. The following two reports from Misleader.org - separated by only one week - reveal the untenability of the Bush rhetoric. The only argument strong enough to pass muster for international law has evaporated.

Notice how the President's desperation to reassure the Congress, the American people and the international community that he was in the right betrays his own interests. If there were no WMDs, ultimately the fault for breaking the law on false pretexts belongs to the Bush administration, because the intelligence agencies work for the cabinet leaders themselves. No "humanitarian" intentions justify waging pre-emptive war against an enemy that poses no immanent threat.

But before reading the articles, I want to point out that this is a problem that critical political observers already recognized over a year ago. I myself spent many a night ranting about this last summer right here, and I can't say how pleased i am to see that the problem could not be suppressed indefinitely. This may be just the beginning of a long process of well-deserved comeuppance for this autocracy based on crony capitalism and Reaganesque cold-war ideology. When the story of falsified documents showing Iraq having purchased yellow cake from Niger burst, the political handlers of the media prevented THE MOST SALIENT QUESTION from surfacing, namely that regardless of the fact that Tenet had ordered the bogus intelligence removed from the President's speech, not only did someone order the information put back in, but someone forged the documents for a reason. Who had the yellow cake story reinserted? Who did the forging? Who was responsible for Cheyney's claim that Iraq had reconstituted nuclear weapons, or Rumsfeld's claim that mobile WMD factories were being driven around all over creation? David Kay's unilateral condemnation of the intelligence community doesn't make sense, given that this is an international, well-connected system of communication. It is not possible for there to be structural failures in the CIA without some measure of political responsibility. If this is just an indirect failure to double check on the accuracy of intelligence against that of the international community, the Bush administration is negligent and too incompetent to manage this new, unprecendented war against global terror. If the failure is more direct, if the Bush administration actually crafted the intelligence to fit the policy, they have committed a high crime as described in the the second article of the US Constitution: impeach them.

BUSH CHANGES HIS WMD CLAIMS (full text from Misleader.org 1/22/04)

Ignoring his previous definitive statements, President Bush this week sought
to change the justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Before the war, the president said there was "no doubt the Iraqi regime
continues to possess the most lethal weapons ever devised," while Vice
President Cheney said, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has
weapons of mass destruction...to use against our friends, against our
allies, and against us."

This week, however, in the absence of any evidence of weapons of mass
destruction, Bush said the war was justified not because Iraq had WMD, but
because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."
When asked last month about the shift from asserting Iraq "possessed" WMD,
to Iraq merely exploring "WMD-related-program-activities," Bush replied,
"What's the difference?"

Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney made their definitive pre-war
statements repeatedly, using specific language. On chemical weapons, Bush
said before the war, "the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical
agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas" - a claim
since debunked by Bush's own chief weapons inspector, David Kay, who said,
"Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons
program after 1991."

On biological weapons, Bush said before the war that "Iraq has at least
seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents - equipment
mounted on trucks and rails to evade discovery." However, Mr. Kay reported,
"We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile
biological weapons production effort." The president also claimed that "Iraq
has a growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to
disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." But the
Washington Post later reported that the vehicles Bush cited "were never
meant to spread toxins" - a fact the U.S. Air Force intelligence service had
shared with the administration.

On nuclear weapons, Bush said before the war that "Iraq could have a nuclear
weapon in less than a year." More famously, in last year's State of the
Union, the president said Iraq "sought significant quantities of uranium
from Africa," and told Americans to fear "a mushroom cloud." Similarly, Vice
President Cheney said "Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
But Mr. Kay reported in August, "We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq
undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or
produce fissile material."

BUSH'S WMD MISLEADING CONTINUES TO ESCALATE (full text from Misleader.org 1/29/04)

Faced with evidence that no WMD existed in Iraq before the war, President
Bush is citing different rationales for going to war. He said this week that
the war was justified because "the world is a better place without Saddam
Hussein." The president's recent statements, however, are belied by what he's
said in the past. A look at the historical record shows President Bush
justified an invasion of Iraq by making unequivocal statements that Saddam
Hussein possessed WMD that threatened all Americans, even claiming that
inspectors had found WMD when they had not.

On November 23, 2002, President Bush said a war was justified because there
was "an urgent threat posed by Iraq whose dictator has already used weapons
of mass destruction to kill thousands." In early January 2003, President
Bush said, "The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American. They not only have
weapons of mass destruction, they used weapons of mass destruction...That's
why I say Iraq is a threat, a real threat." And in his speech announcing the
invasion, President Bush said the war was justified because Americans were
"living at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with
weapons of mass murder." None of these assertions have since been

The president and his advisers had been warned repeatedly in the fall of
2002 by the intelligence community, including the CIA and Defense
Intelligence Agency, that the WMD case was weak. However, ten days after the
war began, Secretary Rumsfeld asserted the U.S had pinpointed the location
of WMD, saying, "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit
and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." Less than two months
later, President Bush went on television to claim that WMD had been found,
saying, "we found the weapons of mass destruction" - an assertion that was
false. Asked a follow-up question, the president again contended they'd been
found, saying, "For those who say we haven't found [them], they're wrong, we
found them." The statement has not been repeated since by the Administration
or supported by the Iraq Survey Group's months-long search for WMD.

Independent observers are speaking out about the administration's pre-war
assertions on Iraq versus the reality that's emerging. The respected
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote that the administration
"systematically misrepresented the threat" from Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction. The Army War College called the war "unnecessary," and the
President's own Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board believes the White House
was so desperate "to grab onto something affirmative" to demonstrate Iraq's
weapons that it ignored intelligence reports undermining that claim.


George Bush doesn't despise the media simply because his administration has absolutely no regard for the role of public oversight over the executive branch. He doesn't despise the media solely for its right to demand that he explain himself. He doesn't even despise the media for exposing his remedial intellect and his regressive frat-boy machismo. No, the problem with the media is that they are clogging up the economy and putting up roadblocks to the defense of the Homeland.

You see, reporters make a lot of money, and instead of spending that money, they ask questions of people whose job is to keep us safe and who keep the prosperous cycle of business alive.

I wouldn't be surprised if reporters have secret ties to Al-Quaeda.

Here is an excerpt of a confrontation between the President and these threats to national security and domestic stability on a recent photo-op trip to a military base in Roswell, of all goddamn places.

Bush gives reporters a ribbing (original story)
23/01/2004 09:45 - (SA)

Roswell, New Mexico - US President George W Bush on Thursday made clear during a surprise visit to a restaurant here that answers to reporters' questions on the economy would not be on the menu.

"I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs," Bush said, his arm draped over the shoulders of a waitress at the Nothin' Fancy Cafe during an election-year stop in Roswell, New Mexico.

Asked about his national security agenda, the president told reporters: "My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do."

"But I'm here to take somebody's order," he quickly added. "You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows."

"Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: Are you going to buy some food?" said Bush.

When a reporter asked for his opinion of the opposition Democrats vying for a shot a replacing him in the November 2 elections, Bush joked: "See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks.

Pushed for an answer, Bush said: "Obviously these people make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money."


Bobbio's books have been resources for my dissertation. Quite often I recoiled at the portrait he painted of liberal democracy as a capitalist state, but he helped me begin to clarify why that theory is compromised by its own development. This is nothing like losing John Rawls, but it is always bittersweet to say goodbye to political philosophers.

Norberto Bobbio

Key Italian political philosopher whose vigilance and clarity helped guide his country's postwar democracy

Richard Bellamy
Tuesday January 13, 2004
The Guardian

Norberto Bobbio, who has died aged 94, was Italy's leading legal and political philosopher, and one of the most authoritative figures in his country's politics. His status was marked by the Italian president's immediate departure for Turin to be among the first mourners, and an extensive discussion of his writing in the media.

Bobbio's life and work were conditioned by the vicissitudes of his country's democracy in the 20th century. The experience of fascism, the ideological divisions of the cold war, and the transformation of Italian society during the 1960s and 1970s - which he described so evocatively in his Ideological Profile Of Italy In The Twentieth Century (1969) - prompted and enriched his passionate defence of the constitutional "rules of the game" against those who denied their relevance or would overturn them for reasons of pragmatic convenience.

Bobbio was born into a relatively wealthy, middle-class Turin family. He has characterised their sympathies as "filo-fascist", regarding fascism as a necessary evil against the supposedly greater danger of Bolshevism. At school and university, however, he became acquainted with many of the leading lights of the largely antifascist Turin intelligentsia.

These included the novelists Cesare Pavese and Carlo Levi, his future publisher Giulio Einaudi, the critic Leone Ginsburg and the radical politician Vittorio Foa. He never met the two best-known martyrs of Turin's antifascist movement - Antonio Gramsci and the revolutionary liberal Pietro Gobetti - though he became director of the centre dedicated to the latter's memory, and his own papers have been housed there with Gobetti's.

Although Bobbio was not active in resistance, he was led to a position of passive, yet profound, intellectual opposition. In his autobiography (1997), he described this first half of his life as belonging to his prehistory. However, his stress on the importance of civil and political liberties derived much of its power from his having lived his formative years under a government that had suppressed them - even forcing him to pledge allegiance to the regime to save his job, an action he later deeply regretted.

The fall of Mussolini in September 1943 catapulted Bobbio, along with so many of his generation, from total exclusion from political life into active involvement with it. Since the late 1930s, he had been associated with the liberal socialist movement, which became part of the Party of Action, the main non-communist resistance grouping. He played a minor role, but did engage in some clandestine activity against the German occupation, and was briefly imprisoned from 1943 to 1944.

Although intellectually influential, the azionisti lacked a popular base. Thus, Bobbio stood unsuccessfully in the 1946 constituent assembly elections, but then returned to academic life. However, the party's slogan, "Justice and liberty", captures the central theme of much of his subsequent work - how to unite the liberties beloved of liberals with the socialist demand for social and economic justice. It was this commitment to these twin ideals that made him the perfect critical interlocutor between the Communist party (CPI) and the various governmental parties gathered around the Christian Democrats, and gave him such influence within political life.

Bobbio had taken degrees in jurisprudence and philosophy at Turin. His first book, The Phenomenological Turn In Social And Legal Philosophy (1934), had been followed by a monograph on The Use Of Analogy In Legal Logic (1938) and, in 1944, by a critical study of existentialism, and the first of his books to be translated into English, The Philosophy Of Decadence. He taught jurisprudence at the University of Camerino, then at Siena, and was appointed to a chair at Padua in 1940.

In 1948, he replaced his teacher, Gioele Solari, as professor of legal philosophy at Turin, where he remained until 1972. During this period, he gradually dissociated himself from the broadly idealist approach to philosophy then dominant in Italian universities. He was friendly with the philosopher of science Ludovico Geymonat (also based at Turin) and, with him, helped set up the interdisciplinary centre for methodological studies.

He now set himself the task of elaborating a general theory of the practice and validity of law, breaking with the attempts of most contemporary Italian philosophers to offer a speculative philosophy of the idea and morality of law.

In elaborating his version of legal positivism, Bobbio drew on the writings of Hans Kelsen, whose work he had come across as early as 1932. This research ultimately bore fruit in a number of books based on his Turin lectures, of which the most important are A Theory Of Judicial Norms (1958) and A Theory Of The Legal Order (1960), and studies of Locke, Kant and legal positivism. Between 1955 and 1970, he also published three collections of essays. These writings had a similar place in Italian academic legal circles to the work of HLA Hart, the late Oxford professor of jurisprudence, and both men, at different times, expressed their mutual esteem for each other to me.

Bobbio's legal studies fed into his political writings. Influenced again by Kelsen, he adopted a procedural view of democracy as consisting of certain minimal "rules of the game", such as regular elections, free competition between parties, equal votes and majority rule.

His theory was enriched by a strong, realist current, deriving partly from Hobbes and partly from the Italian pioneers of political science, such as Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto (whose reputation he did much to resurrect). He had produced the first Italian edition of Hobbes's De Cive in 1948, and later dedicated numerous studies to the English philosopher, a collection of which were published in 1989 (and appeared in English a couple of years later). He drew on Hobbes to modify what he now saw as unsatisfactory elements of his earlier Kelsenism.

Bobbio regarded Kelsen as caught uncomfortably between a purely formal account of law and a substantive position grounded in what he called the "basic norm" underlying all law. The missing dimension was the institutional context of law-making, and its relationship to the exercise of power. Unlike earlier legal positivists, such as John Austin, Bobbio did not thereby equate law with the commands of the sovereign; his point was rather that law and rights were best conceived as a historical achievement belonging to a particular form of state.

Bobbio's shift from a pure theory of law to a concern with its political embodiment was marked by his moving to a chair in the newly created faculty of political science in Turin in 1972, where he remained until the then statutory retirement age of 75 in 1984. The essays from this period were later collected as The Future Of Democracy: A Defence Of The Rules Of The Game (1984) - to my mind, the most original of his books - State, Government And Society (1985) and The Age Of Rights (1990), all of which appeared in English.

Bobbio's linking of the rule of law and rights to the distribution of power produced by liberal democracy informs his contributions to the political debates of the period. His prime concerns, from the 1950s onwards, were to enter into dialogue with the PCI and build a social democratic opposition in Italy. Indeed, the latter could only be achieved if the PCI, the country's largest grouping on the left, could be weaned away from the Soviet Union and converted to liberalism.

It is no accident that Bobbio published the first (and, for some years, the only) Italian study of Karl Popper's The Open Society And Its Enemies as early as 1946, in a journal appropriately entitled Il Ponte (The Bridge); he was a founding member of the European Society of Culture, which had this critical dialogue as a goal. His first book of political essays, Politics And Culture (1955), consisted largely of a debate with the Marxist philosopher Galvano della Volpe, and over whether socialist legality could be based on anything other than the traditional liberal rights - discussion that ultimately prompted the intervention of PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti.

This theme resurfaced in Bobbio's next major foray into politics, in the 1970s. The spur this time came from the historic compromise between the PCI and the Christian Democrats, whereby the PCI, which had a strong foothold in local government and was the main opposition party, was given access to state positions while being denied participation in central government.

PCI leaders were worried that terrorist violence, some of it certainly promoted by the security services, might be used as an excuse for a rightwing coup should they appear to be too strong - a fear reinforced by the fate of Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government in Chile. They sought to make themselves non-threatening to the status quo, while strengthening their position within the Italian political system - a tactic they associated with Gramsci.

Bobbio's interventions challenged the coherence of this Eurocommunist strategy of a third way between liberalism and Soviet communism. In a series of essays, published as Which Socialism? (1976), he criticised Marxism for lacking a theory of the state or democracy, and implicitly urged the PCI to become a social democratic party.

He was an equally harsh critic of the corruption of Italian politics, and of the role of the non-communist Socialist party, under Bettino Craxi, in upholding that system and taking it to new depths. His first article following the collapse of the Soviet bloc was not be a piece of liberal triumphalism, but a reminder that the cause of social justice, which had inspired communism, remained as pressing as ever, and that liberals could not afford to ignore it. He later reiterated this thesis in his long essay Left And Right (1994), which entered the Italian bestseller lists, in which he argued that the search for a reconciliation between claims of liberty and equality still provided the key issue of modern politics, and the main dividing line between political parties.

Bobbio was also closely associated with the peace movement, another concern which bears a direct relation to his academic work. His view of the political character of law led him to recognise the need for a political theory of international relations. In a series of pathbreaking essays, he explored the possibility for global forms of democracy to give meaning to international law.

He was a passionate critic of nuclear weapons, which he saw as making war intrinsically unjust, and a member of the Bertrand Russell Foundation. His writings on this issue were collected in the volumes The Problem Of War And The Roads To Peace (1979) and The Absent Third (1989). He was not a pacifist, though many were surprised when he supported the first Gulf war - a position he defended in his book, A Just War? (1991), but later went back on.

An esteemed political commentator, who wrote regularly for the Turin-based daily La Stampa, Bobbio kept aloof from direct involvement in party politics, and refused invitations to stand as a senator. He took his teaching duties extremely seriously, and sympathised with that element of the 1960s student movement (of which his eldest son was a leader) that complained about the large numbers of Italian academics who engaged in extra-curricular activities to the detriment of their university responsibilities.

In the year of his retirement, however, he was nominated by the Italian president to one of the five life senatorships, and sat in the upper house as an independent socialist. Indeed, in 1992, he came close to being elected president as a compromise candiate. But he confessed to finding decision-making difficult; his talent was always spotting problems rather than solutions, and he was relieved that the bid failed. At the same time, he was deeply disappointed by the failure of the centre-left to establish its hold on Italian politics.

He became an outspoken critic of the current prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, lamenting in 2001 how the second Italian republic appeared to lack any of the idealism of the first. Significantly, in his essays In Praise Of Meekness (1994), he turned his attentions to the non-political virtues and the issue of how to respond to evil in a corrupt world.

Bobbio's wife of 58 years, Valeria, died suddenly in 2001, though three sons survive him. He himself died as he had lived, with great dignity, instructing his doctors not to intervene when he was taken into hospital soon after Christmas. To his credit, he founded no school, while influencing many.

Noberto Bobbio, political philosopher, born October 18 1909; died January 9 2004
Hell, i'm back

What a fucked up world. I have had no internet connection for nearly three weeks because my ex failed to pay the bill and then failed to tell me. Mucho shitola happening in the world right now, so now that i'm back i'll get to work asap.

Friday, January 23, 2004

CBS Refuses to Air MoveOn ad during Superbowl
From MediaReform.net:

"CBS (owned by Viacom) recently thwarted efforts by the MoveOn Voter Fund to air a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl criticizing the Bush Administration's economic policies. Censorship of political debate represents one of the greatest threats to democracy.

"And censor they can: Viacom and a handful of other giant media corporations control most of what you see and hear, narrowing the range of debate, focusing on celebrity over policy, reducing elections to horse races, and barraging us with advertising."

Monday, January 19, 2004

From today's New York Times:

A Single Conscience v. the State

Published: January 19, 2004

"Katharine Gun has a much better grasp of the true spirit of democracy than Tony Blair. So, naturally, it's Katharine Gun who's being punished.

"Ms. Gun, 29, was working at Britain's top-secret Government Communications Headquarters last year when she learned of an American plan to spy on at least a half-dozen U.N. delegations as part of the U.S. effort to win Security Council support for an invasion of Iraq.

"The plans, which included e-mail surveillance and taps on home and office telephones, was outlined in a highly classified National Security Agency memo. The agency, which was seeking British assistance in the project, was interested in 'the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals.'"

Read the entire essay here.
(Requires a free, one-time registration.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Aaaaaaand your humble Montana cohost rates as the following:

You are Michel Foucault! You wrote groundbreaking
histories of prisons, hospitals, asylums, and
sex. Interestingly, you thought basically the
same thing about all of them. Your historical
accuracy is a bit dodgy, but that was never
really the point. You were very obsessed with
power roles - so obsessed that you frequented
gay S&M clubs, and died of AIDS in 1984.

What 20th Century Theorist are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(from Misleader.org)

When it was first reported that a "senior Bush Administration official" had
leaked the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, President Bush
dutifully pledged his full cooperation and assistance with the
investigation. He said, "I'd like to know who leaked, and if anybody has got
any information inside our government or outside our government who leaked,
you ought to take it to the Justice Department so we can find out the
leaker. I have told my staff, I want full cooperation with the Justice

But with the Justice Department now asking White House staff to sign forms
that could definitively expose the leaker, the President appears unwilling
to uphold that commitment. Specifically, the Washington Post now reports
that the White House "declined to say Monday whether President Bush thinks
his aides should sign the forms that would release reporters from any
pledges of confidentiality" - and thus allow reporters to identify the White
House leaker. (Time magazine reported that Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser,
was one of a number of top White House staff that has been sent the form by

When asked about the President's stonewalling, White House spokesman Scott
McClellan dismissed any inquiries, saying, "That's asking a specific
question about matters that should be directed to the career officials at
the Department of Justice." It was a sharp contrast to his previous comments
attempting to specifically absolve Rove, the Vice President's Chief of
Staff, Scooter Libby, and National Security Council official, Eliot Abrams,
from any responsibility. McClellan also said that "no one wants to get to
the bottom of this more than the President does." But three months ago, Bush
refused to ask his staff to sign the same release form to minimize the
investigation's cost and potential damage to national security. His
apparent reticence to fully support the Justice Department's efforts to
expose the leaker is now raising additional questions.


The next time someone says to you, "We need to get off this rock" - tell them to go screw themselves, they have no idea what this would mean nor how it would be possible. This is particularly irresponsible given the latest 'opportunity' for getting off this rock offered by the Bush administration.

By now we've heard Bush aspire for a permanent moon outpost and a manned mission to Mars within the next few decades, but where does this desire spring from? Moreover, what are its consequences for international law and domestic policy? I can't get into all of THAT right now, but i will begin by reminding everyone that the UN charter prohibits the militarization of space - period, paragraph.

The defense department, however, sees great possibility in the idea of expanding the sphere of US military domination to the starts - quite literally. The report (written in the late 1990's) can be viewed in PDF format here.

The debate has already started regarding the implementation of this program within the context of America's new unilateral world-posture. To illustrate, I have posted an article from Canada's "Centre for Research on Globalization" (http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/VAL206A.html) published in summer of 2002 by John Valleau below, full text. When Bush speaks of Mars exploration and colonies on the moon, it means more than just pressing the boundaries of human knowledge and control, it means the militarization of space. The best source of funding is the military budget, which fails to be audited every year due to its apparent 'complexity' - and the unwillingness to allow public oversight into discretionary channelling of public funds by the pentagon into avenues which are less than noble.

Still, only part of the problem concerns how this is a violation of international law, and how it represents the aggressive aspirations of the neo-con movement. It is also problem of fiscal rationality. The conservative economic thinking tank, the Brookings Institute, held a forum yesterday in which several panelists spoke to the long term economic consequences of such ventures. We are a debtor nation with an economy that exhibits all the features of long-term crisis, and unless there is a serious effort to raise revenue through taxation and cut bloated federal budgets, we will see the collapse of a first-world market the likes of which we have never witnessed before. In the words of one Brookings Institute economist, it will be a horror beyond all imagination.

John Valleau

VISION for 2020 is a mission statement of the U.S. Space Command which was published in 1997.1 Since 1997, it has been joined by further documents fleshing out more details of the plan, such as a "Long Range Plan". (Note the date, 2020, which gives a time scale for our concerns.)

Vision for 2020 sees outer space under the unilateral control of the United States and filled with weapons able to maintain this control and also able to attack the earth below. The stated purpose is "dominating space" to "protect U.S. interests and investment" (perhaps not so very lofty). This involves "control of space", meaning "access to space, freedom of operations within space, and an ability to deny others the use of space", and also "global engagement", which is "the application of precision force from, to, and through space" as "an active warfighter" with "space-based earth strike weapons". Apparently, then, we are all meant to live not only under constant U.S. surveillance, but under constant threat of violence from a blanket of space weapons — most of us would consider this an indignity too great to be supported.

To what end? The purpose already quoted makes that quite clear: namely, the forceful control of the first whole-world commercial empire. This is driven home by what Vision for 2020 calls an "historic perspective", which states that "military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments" and "during the rise of sea commerce, nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests. During the westward expansion of the continental United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged (sic) to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads", and so on. It goes on to say "the emergence of space power follows . . . these models" (i.e. of former empires and of genocide).

This is only to confirm, in a surprisingly frank way, what has become the common worldwide understanding of the intense U.S. pressure to impose the neo-liberal agenda and structural adjustment on third-world nations (and us), namely to facilitate the classic imperial aim of seizing the resources and exploiting the labour of less developed countries, where possible with the help of puppet governments. The otherwise curious pattern of often heartless U.S. interventions, overt and covert, is also most plausibly interpreted in this way, as is the refusal to countenance the rule of law in international matters, and the rejection of cooperation in confronting ecological imperatives. No surprises here, just a reminder that the ‘globalisation’ fights, the environmental concerns, the civil rights dismay and the present focus on the military threat are really all part of a single apprehension of threatened tyranny — tyranny threatened, one has reason to hope, not by most people of the U.S.A., but by a corrupt ruling class acting on behalf of a corporate and financial elite which is able to ‘buy’ political power.

Note the problem of controlling such an empire when one colony or another is restive. Nuclear weapons are of limited value, because they are too powerful for most occasions. Their actual use will be too disruptive of the Empire (and will probably have adverse collateral effects on current ‘friends’ and maybe even the homeland). And bodybags quickly become unacceptable to a citizenry not fully identified with the imperial aims.

But imagine space with a blanket of orbiting surveillance equipment and space weapons such as particle-beam and laser devices, rocket and missile launchers, devices to disable electromagnetic equipment or to control the weather locally, and so on. With this, it would be possible to apply force locally and instantly, to choose just that level of pain deemed appropriate, and to do so with impunity. It would mark the end of local sovereignty and much of human dignity.

The role of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) project can be seen, in this light, primarily as a stalking horse: a relatively benign-sounding excuse (after all, ‘defensive’, and anyway certain to be ineffective) for abrogating an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that would otherwise stand in the way of the bigger plans.

All is not lost yet. There seems, at last, to be a growing awareness among U.S. citizens of what has been going ahead in their name. One sign of this is the current bill HR3616 presented to Congress by Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), which would prevent the U.S. Administration from proceeding to develop or put in place space weapons; other U.S. NGOs are pushing for a new international treaty banning all weapons from space. Although the events of September 11 helped the Bush Administration to forward its space agenda initially, the travesty of the Afghan "anti-terrorism war" is making people start to question the direction of U.S. policy. There will certainly also be worldwide opposition to the imposition of U.S. military domination of space, as the intention becomes widely recognized.

Canada has a vital role to play. For many years Canada has worked toward banning all weapons from space, playing a leading part in the General Assembly resolution on the subject (November 1999) and repeatedly proposing in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) the convening of negotiations to add such a codicil to the Outer Space Treaty (1967) (which forbids only weapons of mass destruction). Thus our credentials are good, and our partnership in NORAD and NATO must give us some weight. Now is the time for our country to be more vocal. Also adaptable: if the project is being derailed at the CD, then the campaign has to become more public. The Canadian public will give full support, and there may be nothing else so important for the future of Canada and the world as such an initiative.

It is the right time to speak out for a civil world order and reject the threat of techno-tyranny.


I enjoyed reading Althusser as part of one of my Marxism courses, and my deepest regret is perhaps that i did not do enough to trace out the points of contention between his structuralism and Lukacs, whose essay "What is Orthodox Marxism?" is one of the most brilliant pieces of Hegelian Marxism ever written, and a perennial source of inspiration.

You are Louis Althusser! You tried to bring
together structuralism, Marxism, and Lacanian
psychoanalysis. Your brilliant analysis of
ideology and the state is still widely
influential. You murdered your wife, were put
in a sanitarium, and lived the last decade of
your life alone before dying in 1990.

What 20th Century Theorist are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, January 12, 2004

From The DemocraticNewsGroup:

"A scathing new report published by the Army War College calls the war in Iraq not only unneccessary, but points out that Iraq posed no direct or imminent threat to the United States, and was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al-Qaeda.

"The following is a two prargraph excerpt and a few sentences about the dollar cost of the war and puplic support for that cost from the report to the Army War College entitled Bounding the Global War on Terrorism, by Dr. Jeffrey Record, who joined the Strategic Studies
Institute in August 2003 as Visiting Research Professor. He is a professor in the Department of Strategy and International Security at the US Air Force's Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. He also has extensive Capitol Hill experience, serving as Legislative Assistant for National Security Affairs to Senators Sam Nunn and
Lloyd Bentsen, and later as a Professional Staff Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dr. Record received his Doctorate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies."

The full report may be viewed at:

and an article in the Washington Post may be view at:

"In conflating Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda,
the administration unnecessarily expanded the GWOT [Global War on
Terrorism] by launching a preventive war against a state that was not
at war with the United States and that posed no direct or imminent
threat to the United States at the expense of continued attention and
effort to protect the United States from a terrorist organization
with which the United States was at war. Opponents of preventive war
against Iraq, including former national security advisers Brent
Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski and former secretary of state
Madeleine Albright, made a clear distinction between the character,
aims, and vulnerabilities of al-Qaeda and Iraq, correctly arguing
that the al-Qaeda threat was much more immediate, dangerous, and
difficult to defeat. They feared that a war of choice against Iraq
would weaken a war of necessity against al-Qaeda by distracting
America's strategic attention to Iraq, by consuming money and
resources much better applied to homeland defense, and, because an
American war on Iraq was so profoundly unpopular around the world,
especially among Muslims, by weakening the willingness of key
countries to share intelligence information so vital to winning the
war on al-Qaeda.

"Strategically, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was not part of the GWOT;
rather, it was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity
against al-Qaeda. Indeed, it will be much more than a distraction if
the United States fails to establish order and competent governance
in post-Saddam Iraq. Terrorism expert Jessica Stern in August 2003
warned that the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was "the
latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a
terrorist threat and turned it into one." How ironic it would be that
a war initiated in the name of the GWOT ended up creating "precisely
the situation the administration has described as a breeding ground
for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for
its citizens' rudimentary needs." Former Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) director of counterterrorism operations and analysis, Vincent
Cannistraro, agrees: "There was no substantive intelligence
information linking Saddam to international terrorism before the war.
Now we've created the conditions that have made Iraq the place to
come to attack Americans.""

* * *

"The dollar cost of maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq is currently
running at $4 billion per month,. . .."

* * *

"[In late summer 2003,] Sixty percent of those polled said that the
estimated occupation cost of $1 billion per week was too high and
believed it should be reduced."

* * *

"A late October, Washington Post-ABC poll revealed, for the first
time, that a majority--51%--of Americans disapproved of the way the
administration was handling Iraq."

Friday, January 09, 2004


1. To cultivate my manic intensity to the level of an art form

2. To stop being annoyed by watered-down "leftist hippies" who complain about politics but don't bother to acquire the intellectual framework for analysis and critique

3. To pay more attention to being on time, and less attention to the time i agonize over having wasted

4. To finish two more chapters of my dissertation before the end of the academic year

5. To learn to share my personal space

6. To return my body to its Zena-esque proportions via weightlifting

7. To keep an unflinching eye on the evils of neo-conservatism

8. To learn to regard the Philosophy department as a community i can be a part of

9. To keep in closer contact with those i love so dearly

10. To be the best moral agent i can be


This is from TomPaine.com - a favorite place of mine.

Media AWOL

Bill Berkowitz is a long time political observer and columnist.

With nary a WMD to show for its work, the 400-member team searching for military equipment in Iraq has packed up and gone home. Although more than 1,000 member of the Iraq Survey Group remain on the hunt, it now appears the Bush administration's weapons of mass destruction mantra was propaganda for mass deception. How much attention will the mainstream media now devote to investigating the unfolding of the WMD affair and who in the administration should be held accountable for perpetuating this monumental fabrication?

Hans Blix, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector, believes the Bush administration may "have given up on [finding] the weapons." Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair still claims the WMD exist and insists that they'll be found, and in a television interview, President Bush claims that there's no difference between weapons of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction "programs."

An early-January story in The Washington Post and a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace confirms what all but administration true believers have suspected to be true for some time; Iraq had no functioning weapons of mass destruction programs that could immediately threaten the United States.

In a long piece dated January 7, The Washington Post's Barton Gellman wrote: "Investigators have found no support for the two main fears expressed in London and Washington before the war: that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advanced programs for new ones."

The Carnegie report, entitled "WMD in IRAQ: Evidence and Implications," concludes that Bush administration "officials misrepresented [the] threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missiles programs over and above intelligence findings." The findings in the Carnegie report were the result of more than six months of work, and were based on hundreds of documents and dozens of interviews with specialists, former weapons inspectors and current and former US officials.

Exaggerating The Iraq Threat

President Bush trucked out WMD-speak at key moments before the invasion. In a June 2003 article published at FindLaw.com John Dean, former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, compiled a collection of the president's comments regarding Iraq's weapons off mass destruction:

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."—United Nations Address, September 12, 2002
"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."—Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003

Media Follow White House Script
After the United States invaded Iraq, reports of WMD sightings starting flowing. As media analyst Seth Ackerman meticulously recorded last year in Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's EXTRA! ("The Great WMD Hunt: The media knew they were there—but where are they?"), the administration cast and the media swallowed hook, line and sinker nearly every one of its claims that chemical factories or biological weapon facilities had been discovered.

Ackerman asks: "So how had the media come to be so convinced of the weapons' existence? And could they have seen past the White House spin had they chosen to?" Journalists trusted the expertise of "'independent' weapons experts who repeated the mantra of Iraq concealment over and over—[and] used these experts as outside sources who could independently evaluate the administration's claims. "Often" Ackerman notes, "these 'experts' were simply repeating what they heard from U.S. officials, forming an endless loop of self-reinforcing scare mongering."

"In short," Ackerman added, "the longstanding 'consensus' in official circles that Iraq must have been harboring illegal arms has always had somewhat murky origins. Behind the thundering allegations issued at heavily publicized official press conferences, a careful observer might have noticed quiet signs of dissent: the "senior intelligence analyst" who anonymously told The Washington Post four days before the war started that one reason U.N. inspectors didn't find any weapons stockpiles "is because there may not be much of a stockpile."

But that was then, and this is nearly 10 months after the U.S. invasion, and the media has basically bailed on the important issue beyond the fact of missing WMD: Who was responsible for the lies? Are they too busy dealing with weightier matters, such as the Michael Jackson or Kobe Bryant sex cases? Are they overwhelmed by a bouillabaisse of homeland security stories dished out by Secretary Ridge's Department of Homeland Security? Or is it possible that "Bush Lied about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction" is a headline that would be too darned hot to handle?

Danny Schecter, the executive editor of MediaChannel.org, points out in his new book Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception that, "The TV networks...considered their non-stop around-the-clock coverage their finest hour, pointing to the use of embedded journalists and new technologies that permitted viewers to see a war up close for the first time." Will they devote even a fraction of those resources to uncovering the genesis of Bush's WMD lies?

Will The Media Pay Attention Now?

John Dean speculated that not finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction could be a scandal of greater proportion than Watergate: "...if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be 'a high crime' under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony 'to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.'"

If there's any scandal brewing at this point, it's that the mainstream media has not held the Bush administration accountable for its misinformation and disinformation campaign about Iraq's WMD stockpiles.

Upon the publication of the Carnegie Endowment's report, Joseph Cirincione called for the creation of an independent commission to further investigate the study's findings. In December, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that there might be public hearings on the Bush administration's weapons of mass destruction claims, beginning sometime in February. With the Post's story and the Carnegie report under their belts, the committee should have a lot more to work with. Will the mainstream media come along for the ride?

The Hipster Intellecticus: call himself what he will (beatnik, philosophy major, liberal arts student), he's still hip and he still digs on Kerouac.
You're the Hipster Intellecticus. Call yourself
what you will (beatnik, philosophy major,
liberal arts student), you're still hip and you
still dig Kerouac.

What Kind of Hipster Are You?
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Friday, January 02, 2004

More Reasons Why Montana Sucks Ass (as if that were necessary)

The local paper here, a daily encomium to idiocy that surely is unrivaled anywhere, has seen an explosion of hateful letters-to-the-editor and "editorials" that cry out for some sort of editor's intervention on the basis of common civility. But, no, common civility is the product of evil big city liberals, and that sort of thing is not welcome here, bucko. The paper, to which I shall evermore refer as The Chronic Bozo, just lost one of its few fair-minded (and, yes, generally liberal) editorialists. I'm going to include below three things: 1.) my letter to the editor of a few weeks ago; 2.) the now-ex editorialist's resignation essay; 3.) and a letter of response the paper printed by the fantastically named Charles Bugger. I'm putting this stuff on the blog today because I'm home not even one hour, and already I can't wait to leave (and because in my mail I also received anti-gay leaflets from brave and unnamed sources). To wit:

My letter to the editor of three weeks ago--

Let us make an effort to elevate our dialogue

What is happening at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle? Is there no editorial policy regarding the publication of hate mail? I understand the desire to publish letters that reflect the thoughts and opinions of the greater Bozeman community, but in the past week I have read an unprecedented barrage of angry, hateful letters to the editor spewing bilious, unsubstantiated claims at various members of our own community, our state, and our country.

When I first moved to Bozeman in August 2002, I was surprised to see in the local newspaper so many mean-spirited, illogical, and ignorant columns and letters espousing bent interpretations of both liberalism and conservatism. I feared I had moved to a very unfriendly place, and I did not want my friends and relatives to read such things and conclude I had somehow joined the ranks of the xenophobic, homophobic, one-religion right of lore. As I continued to read the paper I realized, over time, that those columns and letters that so troubled me were the repeated products of but a few people, the same names cropping up again and again. My daily interactions with most of the people in this city have shown me that there is far more to Bozeman than the misinterpreted patriotisms of the few citizens who fear "outsiders," who simplify the world around them to Biblical absolutes, and who would have you believe that only certain types of people should be allowed to live and vote in this city I now call home.

I would like to make a plea with the citizens of Bozeman to think back to what their English teachers told them about logical fallacies in argumentation -- ad hominem attacks, bandwagon arguments, hasty generalizations, faulty cause and effect (post hoc), reductive reasoning, false analogies, begging the question, circular reasoning, equivocation, and non sequiturs. And if any of these terms remain unfamiliar to you, ask a teacher or professor! Intellectualism, reason and logic are not partisan spheres, despite what a handful of shrill columnists and letter-writers might suggest to you. Let us make an effort to elevate our dialogues at least to the levels of common civility. You never know who might be reading your paper.

Editorialist Todd Wilkinson's final essay for the Bozo:

A better community? Let it start with the Chronicle

"This is it, reader friends, the end of another year, and my last column for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not discontinuing these Monday interludes for any scandalous reason, nor has the newspaper's editorial establishment given me the boot.

"I'm taking a break because the well is running dry, and I need to fill it up. Before I go, I have a few modest observations to share, based on the last half decade we've spent together.

"Some folks have asked me: 'Todd, do you get flak for the columns you've written?' The inquiry usually brings a wry grin to my face.

"Oh, I hear from people, sure, though surprising to some of you, perhaps, is that most of the numerous letters and phone calls I've received have been thoughtful, well-articulated responses, whether readers have agreed with me or not.

"Save for the searing letters to the editor that pour in to the Chronicle from the usual suspects, I have to say the column's greatest reward has been the ongoing conversations (and friendships) it spawned.

"It's unfortunate that a few readers erroneously equate the newspaper columnist's universal mandate of being provocative with a misperception the columnist is attempting to be continuously 'controversial.'

"The fact is, most of the things I've written about wouldn't elicit a hobo's yawn if Bozeman were in a major metropolitan area and the Chronicle existed as a significant national newspaper. (To put it in perspective, both of my 'What Would Jesus Do?' columns that have appeared here also ran in other newspapers and attracted little controversy in those communities).

"What does this say about Chronicle readers? I don't know.

"When I'm not pursuing my normal day job of chasing stories for national magazines and serving as a western correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, I have discovered that in the provinces it doesn't take much to get readers overheated, particularly those who have had little exposure to other papers.

"However you sum up this bundle of newsprint arriving on your doorstep every morning, this IS all we've got when it comes to a community bulletin board.

"Indeed, we in southwest Montana are a passionate, feisty bunch who are not afraid to let letters fly. That's not bad. It's great, from my point of view. Democracy thrives on nothing less.

"What's disconcerting, however, is the meanness of spirit which dominates the Chronicle's editorial page AND the support lended to it by the newspaper itself. Am I advocating censorship? Far from it.

"After all, celebrating divergent opinions among the citizenry is healthy. Expressing them is essential. But so is having civil discourse. You want examples? How about these:

"If a person desires to protect natural quiet on a national forest by demanding that all-terrain vehicle traffic be restricted, does that make the proponent an 'eco-wacko,' an 'environmental extremist' or an 'eco-terrorist'?

"If a citizen raises concerns about the impact of sprawl and the direction development is taking in the valley, does that make one an anti-capitalist, anti-free enterprise, anti-business, Soviet-style-socialist?

"Get real. The Chronicle knows better. Still, it allows such accusations to fly from letter writers without demanding they tone down the yelling or at least provide proof their targets are indeed terrorists and socialists. (Yes, those on the Left are as guilty of slinging it as those on the Right).

"Nurturing this language of hate serves only a single purpose -- to divide communities and stifle the kind of discussions that need to take place.

"In the Gallatin Valley, we must do a better job of talking with each other about our common future. We can do it through town hall meetings; by promoting better cooperation between city and country governments; and by holding forums that show how business and quality of life issues are intertwined, not mutually exclusive.

"The leadership necessary to make such forums happen needs a sponsor, and there is no better candidate than the community newspaper.

"So, it's the start of another year. Let the Bozeman Daily Chronicle become a real force in building our community rather than tearing it apart. There's no better place to start than right here on the editorial page.

"Thanks for sharing your Mondays."

Link to the essay here.

And now for The Best Of Bozeman:

Civil discourse

"In the interest of 'civil discourse' (translation: disguising free speech with political correctness), I just wanted to say to Todd Wilkinson (column, Dec. 29) I agree with you wholeheartedly that your 'well is running dry.' It is perhaps time for you to write for one of those 'major metropolitan areas' (translation: the blue states with liberal newspapers where disagreements aren't even acknowledged let alone published).

"Todd, did you ever stop to think that maybe the 'searing letters to the editor' simply trumped your 'universal mandate to be provocative'? To answer your question, 'What does this say about Chronicle readers?' It says that we don't blindly swallow the self-appointed elitists' drivel of the day. It says we realize there are absolutes, right and wrong, black and white, good and evil. It says we realize the difference between 'peace' and the lack of war. It says we can plainly see God's world (translation for you: 'the environment') works perfectly as designed. I realize this is 'mean-spirited' or 'intolerant' (translation: buzz words for conservative), but I don't confuse facts with opinions nor do I 'tolerate' thinly disguised contempt for what I feel strongly about.

"There is no disgrace in passionately expressing what you are passionate about. The danger comes in seeking middle ground in order not to offend anyone. 'WWJ/GD'? "' wish you were hot or cold but since you are only lukewarm I'll spit you out.'

Charles Bugger

127 E. Main St.
Bozeman, MT 59715

Available here.

Isn't that just precious?
Now me, see, I am a proud elitist. I love being an elitist. Yessiree. I welcome anybody else into my elitist club if they're willing to do the intellectual work that Bugger et al simply can't seem to hack. Sadly, Bozeman (or Montana, for that matter) is not the sole spot for our more simple-minded friends (although I must say it seems like it to me most of the time); they're all over the place, and they just cannot be told. Sigh. If I am ever so lucky as to see and/or meet this Charles Bugger, I think I shall give him a kiss on the lips. With tongue. If he wants.
Oh, 2004, so shiny and new . . .
Spike, Did You See That!?

I'm just back in snow-covered Bozeman after ten days or so in sunny southern Arizona (sigh). I saw the movie Mystic River that so many critics are swearing up and down is just so monumentally moving . . . and I was not moved. Yes, many of the performances are very good (not Larry Fishburn's, though--how does this man keep getting work?), but the writing is crap, and, AND . . . --I can't believe I haven't read any critics who've noticed this-- the climax is a 100% rip off of Spike Lee's [superior] Summer of Sam. I nearly walked out. Plus (spoiler here), never include a mute character in your mystery; they're always involved in the killing.

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