The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But 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 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 afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, 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; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Lautenberg rebukes DeLay over Schiavo remarks

Sen. Lautenberg rebukes DeLay over Schiavo remarks


Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has issued a strongly-worded letter to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) over his recent remarks threatening those involved with the Schiavo case, which Lautenberg takes to mean federal judges, RAW STORY has learned.


The letter leaked to RAW STORY follows, first in text form, then in a scanned format.


April 1, 2005

Tom DeLay
Majority Leader
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader DeLay,

I was stunned to read the threatening comments you made yesterday against Federal judges and our nation’s courts of law in general. In reference to certain Federal judges, you stated: “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

As you are surely aware, the family of Federal Judge Joan H. Lefkow of Illinois was recently murdered in their home. And at the state level, Judge Rowland W. Barnes and others in his courtroom were gunned down in Georgia.

Our nation’s judges must be concerned for their safety and security when they are asked to make difficult decisions every day. That’s why comments like those you made are not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, is it appropriate to make threats directed at specific Federal and state judges?

You should be aware that your comments yesterday may violate a Federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §115 (a)(1)(B). That law states:

“Whoever threatens to assault…. or murder, a United States judge… with intent to retaliate against such… judge…. on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison]”

Threats against specific Federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress. In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice. Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.

Federal judges, as well as state and local judges in our nation, are honorable public servants who make difficult decisions every day. You owe them – and all Americans – an apology for your reckless statements.


Frank R. Lautenberg

Seymour Hersch -- Bush is "Unreachable"

Bush is "Unreachable"
Gloria R. Lalumia – March 31, 2005

Seymour Hersh visited New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) on Tuesday, March 29 as part of his speaking tour for his newest book, “Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” He opened his presentation by announcing that he intended to discuss “what’s on my mind” and “where we think we are.” The first thing on his mind was a chilling assessment of George W. Bush.

“The President,” Hersh sighed. “Bush is as absolutely convinced he’s doing the right thing,” just as journalists are who think of themselves as white knights think they are doing the right thing. “Even if we have another thousand body bags, it won’t deter him.”

“This is where he is. He believes he won’t be measured by today, but in 5 or 10 years” in terms of the Mideast. With regard to Iraq, “he thinks it’s going well.” Iran, according to Hersh’s contacts, is “teed up.” “This is his mission,” he continued. “What does it mean?”

And then he delivered the most chilling comments of the evening. “Nothing I write” is likely to influence Bush, he said. “He is unreachable. I can’t reach him. He’s got his own world. This is really unusual and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”

From this point on, Hersh offered a compendium of the Bush policy failures, misjudgments, and out-of-touch convictions that have fueled his fears.


First, Hersh brought the audience of nearly 2,000 up to date on conditions in Iraq. He torpedoed Bush’s rosy assessment of the recent elections. “Everything came to a stop for this election. Satellites were moved over the country. All assets were dragged over. In Afghanistan, where we really have a war going on…those guys stood down for three weeks because the drones which pick up signals were all dragged to Iraq. Nobody knew who they were voting for. If this had happened in Russia during the Cold War, it would have been laughed at.”

Assessing the current situation, Hersh remarked that the Iraqis “can’t agree on what language to speak--it’s zoo time. We’re nowhere, we’re probably not going to win the war; probably, it will be a Balkanized country. The Turks want Kirkuk, the city with oil, and they may invade, they may not. Here it’s spin city. In the European and Mideastern press, there’s a reality that you don’t get over here.”

Hersh described how he thought Bush treats Americans by retelling an old Richard Pryor story in which a man comes home to find his wife in bed with another man. “What you’re seeing isn’t happening,” the husband is told. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

Hersh charged that the American people are not getting a true picture of the status of the war. He reflected on the fact that “there are no embedded reporters now and the bombing continues” even though there are no air defenses. “We don’t know how many sorties are being flown or the tonnage involved because there are no reporters. We do know that Navy pilots are doing most of the flying.” Hersh made a point of saying that many in the military, FBI, and CIA have as much integrity as most academics, and within these institutions “there are people who respect the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody.” The Marine Corps personnel are the most skeptical even as they continue to do most of the heavy lifting. Hersh reports that many are very bitter, but they are loyal to the principle of civilian control and are continuing to do their job, but “they are going through hard times now.”

The bombing of Fallujah, according to Hersh, marked a major escalation of the “very careful urban bombing” campaign. Fallujah is “an incredibly important city in Iraq. It led the resistance against the British, it has mosques, it is a fabled place.” When Fallujah was bombed, an urban bombing planner told Hersh, “Welcome to Stalingrad, we took it block by block.” Hersh said that it was amazing that Fallujah was largely not on the table in America for discussion.”

“The Thinness of the Fabric of Democracy”

How have we as a nation gotten to where we are today? Since the ‘80’s Wolfowitz, Feith, Gingrich and others have been pushing the neo-con idea that by spreading democracy, we can make the world safer for US interests. “It’s as if we’ve been taken over by a cult of 8 or 9 people who decided the road to stop international terrorism led to Baghdad,” according to Hersh. Hersh recalled how General Shinseki, who testified in February 2003 that we would need upwards of 250,000 troops to control Iraq, was denounced by Wolfowitz, because Shinseki’s answers didn’t conform to the neo-con mantra.

“That 8 or 9 people can change so much...Where was the military, the Congress, the press? What has happened raises the question about the thinness of the fabric of democracy.”

These days, said Hersh, we hear about the “insurgency” when in truth, “we’re fighting the Ba’athists, the Sunni, the tribal people. They decided to let us have Baghdad and fight the war on their terms. It’s not an insurgency—that implies that we’ve put in a government and they’re fighting against that government. We haven’t accomplished our objective on that score,” according to Hersh.

The US is fighting cells of 10-15 people and can’t find them because it has no intelligence. So the goal now is to make the people who protect the resistance more afraid of US/Iraqi forces than they are of the resistance so they will turn and provide information. Fallujah had too much press coverage, so now everything is being done “off camera.” Hersh describes the situation once one leaves Baghdad as “cowboys and Indians” since “we control very little.” Hersh noted that Shia cleric Sistani did nothing as Shia Iraqi Guards and Americans took down the Sunni in Fallujah. The same thing is now going on in Ramadi. This long-standing enmity between Shia and Sunni is why, Hersh believes, civil war is probably in Iraq’s future.

“The Chronology”

Hersh then launched into his chronology of how we went from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. Post-9/11, there were voices in the U.S. government that were not pushing the policy of “payback” since some Taliban had been dealing with U.S. oil companies, were largely mercantile and many were not happy with bin Laden. These voices in the government wanted a more nuanced approach. There was also disagreement with Bush’s plans to go into Iraq, but these people were deemed “traitors.” He described how the Bush Administration pressured people to come around to their view. Basically, they exploited human nature. People with experience who disagreed noticed that junior officials supporting the White House got the face time with the President, the meetings, and the big end of the year bonuses. So it was only a matter of time before those who did not favor Bush’s policies, people with kids and mortgages, decided they had to “join the team” to survive. (See the section on the Q & A below for more insights on what people in the government and military have been thinking.)

Bush elected to rout the Taliban, but pulled out the most elite units in early 2002 for redeployment to the Mideast for the coming war in Iraq. Although Bush says we’ve “won” in Afghanistan, “the ‘bad guys’ are still there, the elections have been delayed for a second time, crime is up, they are the largest producers of heroin in the world, and at one point, 700 kids were dying of hypothermia and malnutrition every day” during the hard winter.

Following Bush’s victory show on the carrier in May 2003, the reality of Iraq became clearer. During the invasion, “6,000-12,000 people disappeared overnight. Most elite units had been ready to fight; sandbags and armed soldiers were on every corner.” All the people who ran the bureaucracy of running the country were gone...the people who ran the water, oil ministry and hospitals. Some of the looting was done randomly by Shiites, but most of the government records—real estate, marriage licenses, etc.—were looted and burned systematically. Saddam’s plan was to dismantle the operating units of government and to fight later. To this day, according to Hersh, the “people who didn’t fight are now fighting.”

The August 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters and the subsequent attack on the Jordanian Embassy, which Hersh describes as the psyops center for CIA and other espionage, sent a key message: “that the resistance was hitting facilities that would take out other facilities”—in other words, the hitting of key facilities would create a ripple effect, undermining other functions down the line.

At this point, about a year before the Presidential election, Karl Rove got involved. With a desperate need for intelligence, the push was on to squeeze prisoners for information. Hersh said that most of the prisoners “had nothing to do with anything.” Most were caught at roadblocks or any male under 30 was grabbed if he was in the area after an ambush.

At Abu Ghraib, many of the guards were simply traffic police who had been give two weeks of training before being sent to the prison. In September 2003 the abuse of prisoners had begun. The attempts to gain intelligence were based on what Hersh called a “most acute form of torture,” the shaming of prisoners by using pictures of frontal nudity of males and posing prisoners as if they were performing homosexual acts, knowing that if photographs were shown in their communities, this would be death for them. This threat of distribution didn’t get very far because the situation we have today is that we still have no intelligence from inside the resistance or as Hersh puts it, “We don’t know jack.”

From September to December 2003, torture was going on at night and all the top generals were coming in and out of Abu Ghraib. With the release of the Darby CD in January 2004, Rumsfeld appeared before Congress admitting things were “bad” but the extent of the abuse was still secret until Hersh and CBS broke the story open.

“How does Abu Ghraib play out in the real world?”

For the first and only time during his talk, Hersh raised his voice and boomed this question into the mike: “The President, what did he do between January and May? They prosecuted a few low-level kids when these pictures came out. These pictures were a shock to their (Arab) culture, they viewed America as being sexually perverse. When it hits the paper, Bush says ‘I’m against torture.’” But instead of a real investigation, Hersh says all we got were hearings and inquiries about “rules and regulations.” Hersh, in talking to a lot of GIs involved in the abuse, has concluded that soldiers were told “Just don’t kill ‘em, do what you want.”

Hersh recalled how after the My Lai incident in Viet Nam, the mother of a soldier who took part in the massacre told him that “I gave them a good boy, they sent me back a murderer.” Hersh believes the military has a responsibility to the young people they send off to war. He is concerned about the psychic damage of our troops and told one story about a woman back from Iraq who is getting big black tattoos everywhere on her body. Her mother believes that she wants to be in someone else’s skin. Hersh believes that when this is all over, we’ll be hearing things about the war that we won’t want to hear.

Touching on the situation at Guantanamo Bay, Hersh said that of the 600 people there, about half have had nothing to do with terrorism. But, he warns, if they aren’t Al-Qaeda already, they will be. And the government now faces the difficulty that many detainees can’t even be released because they’ve now become more of a threat as a result of their imprisonment than they were before they were sent to Gitmo.

According to his contacts in military/intelligence circles, the debate over whether 9/11 was part of a deep-seated Al-Qaeda presence in the US or was the equivalent of a “pick-up team” has been largely resolved. Most experts have come down on the side of the latter. So, the US will have to come to terms with what we’ve done eventually, and in Hersh’s view, “there’s no good news in this, folks.”

Q & A: Oil and How Our Military/Government Feels about Bush’s Policies

Most of the Q & A was spent on oil and what people in our military and government are thinking about Bush’s policies.

1) A question about oil as Bush’s real reason for the Iraq war was raised:

Hersh said that his best guess is that oil was not “the real thing he wanted to do.” The neo-con mantra, ‘all roads lead to Baghdad’ and ‘democratization,’ the latter concept which goes all the way back to Jean Kirkpatrick, were the major ideas behind the war. Bush couldn’t have sold “democratization” on it’s own, so WMD’s were used as the reason. “If we had known there was no WMD, there would have been no vote.”

Hersh warned that when the price of oil reaches $68-$69 a barrel, this will be the crunch point in terms of real economic decline. If Bush wants to move against Iran, which is pumping about 3.9 barrels a day, he’s heading for trouble. According to Hersh, Iran will scuttle every ship in the Straights of Hormuz and the Malaca Straits in Indonesia. It will take months of dredging and salvaging to approach normalcy.

If oil is Bush’s top priority, “Bush is just not behaving as someone who is managing an oil crisis” and has already been “mismanaging oil in Iraq.”

Hersh passed along a comment he had picked up that illustrates the level of Bush’s awareness. “You could call Wolfowitz a ‘Trotskyite,’ a permanent revolutionary. Wolfowitz would know what you are talking about. But Bush wouldn’t.”

2) A couple of questions touched on opinions in the military/government toward Bush’s policies:

According to Hersh, elite intel groups are troubled by the missions they are being ordered to carry out and they are questioning what they are doing. Hersh said that he is not a “pacifist” because there are people want to hurt us and we need to be able to protect ourselves. But, in Afghanistan, things could have been done differently. Hersh said he wants us to know that those who know the Constitution are very concerned. In particular, Navy Seals are suffering “massive resignations over disillusionment” over Bush’s policies. “Our President chose not to do things in ways that could have avoided this...he had other options available.” Hersh concluded by reiterating that “vast parts of government didn’t believe there were WMD’s” and that Bush’s neo-con policies are “a product of paranoid thinking and the Cold War.”

America by the numbers

The America by the numbers
Michael Ventura – The Austin Chronicle March 3, 2005

No concept lies more firmly embedded in our national character than the notion that the USA is "No. 1," "the greatest." Our broadcast media are, in essence, continuous advertisements for the brand name "America Is No. 1." Any office seeker saying otherwise would be committing political suicide. In fact, anyone saying otherwise will be labeled "un-American." We're an "empire," ain't we? Sure we are. An empire without a manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is ineradicable. We're No. 1. Well...this is the country you really live in:

· The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).

· The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

· Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).

· "The International Adult Literacy Survey...found that Americans with less than nine years of education 'score worse than virtually all of the other countries'" (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).

· Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!

· "The European Union leads the U.S. in...the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).

· "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).

· Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).

· Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28 percent last year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China. Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56 percent, Indians 51 percent, South Koreans 28 percent (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). We're not the place to be anymore.

· The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]...37th." In the fairness of health care, we're 54th. "The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.

· "The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens" (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that's the company we're keeping.

· Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)

· "U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet it's the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood poverty.

· Twelve million American families--more than 10 percent of all U.S. households--"continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).

· The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).

· Women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).

· The leading cause of death of pregnant women in this country is murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).

· "Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in the 1980s.... In the 1990s, the U.S. average compensation growth rate grew only slightly, at an annual rate of about 0.1 percent" (The European Dream, p.39). Yet Americans work longer hours per year than any other industrialized country, and get less vacation time.

· "Sixty-one of the 140 biggest companies on the Global Fortune 500 rankings are European, while only 50 are U.S. companies" (The European Dream, p.66). "In a recent survey of the world's 50 best companies, conducted by Global Finance, all but one were European" (The European Dream, p.69).

· "Fourteen of the 20 largest commercial banks in the world today are European.... In the chemical industry, the European company BASF is the world's leader, and three of the top six players are European. In engineering and construction, three of the top five companies are European.... The two others are Japanese. Not a single American engineering and construction company is included among the world's top nine competitors. In food and consumer products, Nestlé and Unilever, two European giants, rank first and second, respectively, in the world. In the food and drugstore retail trade, two European companies...are first and second, and European companies make up five of the top ten. Only four U.S. companies are on the list" (The European Dream, p.68).

· The United States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last decade (CNN, Jan. 12, 2005).

· U.S. employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The Week, Jan. 14, 2005).

· Three million six hundred thousand Americans ran out of unemployment insurance last year; 1.8 million--one in five--unemployed workers are jobless for more than six months (NYT, Jan. 9, 2005).

· Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40 percent of our government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) "By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom" (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.

· Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as the world's largest agricultural producer. Brazil is now the world's largest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee, and tobacco. Last year, Brazil passed the U.S. as the world's largest beef producer. (Hear that, you poor deluded cowboys?) As a result, while we bear record trade deficits, Brazil boasts a $30 billion trade surplus (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

· As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

· Bush: 62,027,582 votes. Kerry: 59,026,003 votes. Number of eligible voters who didn't show up: 79,279,000 (NYT, Dec. 26, 2004). That's more than a third. Way more. If more than a third of Iraqis don't show for their election, no country in the world will think that election legitimate.

· One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10, 2004).

· "Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined" (The European Dream, p.28).

· "Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what they want is acceptable" (The European Dream, p.32).

· Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).

· "Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for which such data are available" (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004).

· "The International Association of Chiefs of Police said that cuts by the [Bush] administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever" (USA Today, Nov. 17, 2004).

No. 1? In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10 anymore. Not even close.

The USA is "No. 1" in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt, and delusion.

Reprinted from the Austin Chronicle.

Okay, We Give Up -- by the editors of Scientific American

Okay, We Give Up -- by the editors of Scientific American

There's no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don't mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there's no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.

In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of socalled evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it.

Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.

Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details.

Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.

Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can't work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and imperil national security, you won't hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration's antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that's not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either—so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools' Day.

Okay, We Give Up


Godel’s lost proof – authoritarian government in America?

Posted by Langdon Winner at

Godel’s lost proof – authoritarian government in America?

A wonderful essay, “Time Bandits” by Jim Holt in a recent New Yorker, describes the friendship of Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel. Both men had fled Nazi Germany and in the 1940s had taken positions in Princeton University’s Center for Advanced Study. Godel was a logician and mathematician famous for his “incompleteness theorem.” His mind was especially good at ferreting out the deeper structural implications of abstract symbol systems. An amusing use of of this talent came when he decided to become an American citizen and turned his logical gaze to the U.S. Constitution. As Holt tells the story....

"So naïve and otherworldly was the great logician that Einstein felt obliged to help look after the practical aspects of his life. One much retailed story concerns Gödel’s decision after the war to become an American citizen. The character witnesses at his hearing were to be Einstein and Oskar Morgenstern, one of the founders of game theory. Gödel took the matter of citizenship with great solemnity, preparing for the exam by making a close study of the United States Constitution. On the eve of the hearing, he called Morgenstern in an agitated state, saying he had found an “inconsistency” in the Constitution, one that could allow a dictatorship to arise. Morgenstern was amused, but he realized that Gödel was serious and urged him not to mention it to the judge, fearing that it would jeopardize Gödel’s citizenship bid. On the short drive to Trenton the next day, with Morgenstern serving as chauffeur, Einstein tried to distract Gödel with jokes. When they arrived at the courthouse, the judge was impressed by Gödel’s eminent witnesses, and he invited the trio into his chambers. After some small talk, he said to Gödel, “Up to now you have held German citizenship.”

No, Gödel corrected, Austrian.

“In any case, it was under an evil dictatorship,” the judge continued. “Fortunately that’s not possible in America.”

“On the contrary, I can prove it is possible!” Gödel exclaimed, and he began describing the constitutional loophole he had descried. But the judge told the examinee that “he needn’t go into that,” and Einstein and Morgenstern succeeded in quieting him down. A few months later, Gödel took his oath of citizenship."

* * * * * * * * * * *

What was the "loophole" that Godel detected? I do not know and Holt's article does not say. One can surmise that Godel noticed what we are now living through, the consequences that befall the republic when all three branches of government are controlled by one political party. If Godel expected that this flaw in the Constitution might foster an authoritarian government with features similar to those of Nazi Germany, his insight was prophetic.

1999 Washington Post Article: Richard Mellon Scaife: Funding Father of the Right

Scaife: Funding Father of the Right

By Robert G. Kaiser and Ira Chinoy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 2, 1999; Page A1

One August day in 1994, while gossiping about politics over lunch on Nantucket, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh billionaire and patron of conservative causes, made a prediction. "We're going to get Clinton," Joan Bingham, a New York publisher present at the lunch, remembers him saying. "And you'll be much happier," he said to Bingham and another Democrat at the table, "because Al Gore will be president."

Bingham was startled at the time, but in the years since – as Clinton has struggled with an onslaught from political enemies – Scaife's assertion came to seem less and less far-fetched.

Scaife did get involved in numerous anti-Clinton activities. He gave $2.3 million to the American Spectator magazine to dig up dirt on Clinton and supported other conservative groups that harassed the president and his administration. The White House and its allies responded by fingering Scaife as the central figure in "a vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president," as Hillary Rodham Clinton described it. James Carville, Clinton's former campaign aide and rabid defender, called Scaife "the archconservative godfather in [a] heavily funded war against the president."

But people who know him well say that although Scaife is fond of conspiracy theories of many kinds, he is incapable of managing any sort of grand conspiracy himself. And months of reporting produced no evidence of his orchestrating any effort to "get" Clinton beyond his financial support. Indeed, focusing on his role in the crusade against Clinton can obscure the 66-year-old philanthropist's real importance, which is not based on his opposition or support for any individual politicians (though he once gave Richard M. Nixon $1 million). His biggest contribution has been to help fund the creation of the modern conservative movement in America.

By compiling a computerized record of nearly all his contributions over the last four decades, The Washington Post found that Scaife and his family's charitable entities have given at least $340 million to conservative causes and institutions – about $620 million in current dollars, adjusted for inflation. The total of Scaife's giving – to conservatives as well as many other beneficiaries – exceeds $600 million, or $1.4 billion in current dollars, much more than any previous estimate.

In the world of big-time philanthropy, there are many bigger givers. The Ford Foundation gave away $491 million in 1998 alone. But by concentrating his giving on a specific ideological objective for nearly 40 years, and making most of his grants with no strings attached, Scaife's philanthropy has had a disproportionate impact on the rise of the right, perhaps the biggest story in American politics in the last quarter of the 20th century.

His money has established or sustained activist think tanks that have created and marketed conservative ideas from welfare reform to enhanced missile defense; public interest law firms that have won important court cases on affirmative action, property rights and how to conduct the national census; organizations and publications that have nurtured conservatism on American campuses; academic institutions that have employed and promoted the work of conservative intellectuals; watchdog groups that have critiqued and harassed media organizations, and many more.

Together these groups constitute a conservative intellectual infrastructure that provided ideas and human talent that helped Ronald Reagan initiate a new Republican era in 1980, and helped Newt Gingrich initiate another one in 1994. Conservative ideas once dismissed as flaky or extreme moved into the mainstream, and as the liberal National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy concluded in a recent report, "The long-standing conservative crusade to discredit government as a vehicle for societal progress has come to fruition as never before."

The ideas behind this success did not come from Scaife. Even the conservative activists who know him best say he rarely offers his own ideas or opinions, and most of those who get money from him have no personal relations with him or don't know him at all.

"I don't see anything resembling a grand strategy about the man," said James Whelan, who was editor of the Sacramento Union when Scaife owned it and later became editor of the Washington Times. "In general he sees certain villains in American life and society and thinks he should do everything he can to attack them and bring them down."

Scaife declined to be interviewed for this story, but in written answers to questions about his motivation, he said: "Our funding is based on our support of ideas like limited government, individual rights and a strong defense."

As for himself, he added: "I am not a politician, although like most Americans I have some political views. Basically I am a private individual who has concerns about his country and who has resources that give me the privilege – and responsibility – to do something to help my country if I can."

If Scaife's explanations seem vague, his achievement is not. Besides acting on his own visceral reactions, Scaife has backed people he admired and institutions he favored with lots of money, without ever telling them what to do. He has done this consistently, patiently, over four decades.

Frank Shakespeare, director of the U.S. Information Agency in the first Nixon administration and Scaife's colleague for years on the board of the Heritage Foundation, summarized the accomplishment: "Dick Scaife has made a real difference in his country – and has had an impact on the larger world."

A Philanthropic Heir Embraces 'the War of Ideas'
To make his mark on history, Scaife had to overcome long odds. In his youth he seemed star-crossed, even to many of his friends. He grew up in a household dominated by his mother's alcoholism, in a family whose members specialized in "making each other totally miserable," in the rueful words of his sister, Cordelia Scaife May.

At 9 he spent a year in bed after his skull was fractured by a horse. Yale University suspended him for drunken pranks, then kicked him out entirely before he could complete his freshman year. At 22 he caused a car accident that almost killed him and injured five members of one family, who won a large legal settlement. He had a drinking problem most of his adult life, finally getting on the wagon in the early 1990s. He has feuded bitterly with friends, employees and relatives. He has no relations with his daughter, and hasn't spoken to his sister for 25 years.

Scaife inherited his philanthropic role from his mother. She had established trusts and foundations whose earnings, under the tax law, had to be given away. She began encouraging her son to participate in family philanthropy after his father died suddenly in 1958.

Sarah Scaife's causes were family planning, the poor and the disabled, hospitals, environmental causes and various good works in and around Pittsburgh. Her most famous gifts, in the late 1940s, were to the University of Pittsburgh – $35,000 to equip a virus research lab. In that lab, Jonas Salk discovered his polio vaccine.

The available recorded history of Scaife's donations to conservative causes in the database assembled by The Post begins in 1962 with small grants of $25,000 or less to groups with educational missions on conservative themes – the American Bar Association's Fund for Public Education for "education against communism," for example.

Over the next two years he ventured a little further into the conservative world, making donations to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University and the brand-new Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies. In 1963 he began supporting the American Enterprise Institute.

The events of 1964 were a turning point for Scaife, and for American conservatives. Scaife was an alternate to the Republican Convention that chose Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater as the party's presidential nominee, and he became an active contributor and supporter. He escorted Goldwater on the Scaife family airplane to California in July 1964 to attend the Bohemian Grove retreat, a boozy and confidential gathering of conservative, mostly wealthy men.

Confounded by Goldwater's devastating defeat that November, many conservatives concluded that they could only win an election in the future by matching their enemy's firepower. It was time, as a Scaife associate of that era put it, to wage "the war of ideas." Scaife enthusiastically adopted this view.

"We saw what the Democrats were doing and decided to do the mirror image, but do it better," this Scaife associate said. "In those days [the early 1970s] you had the American Civil Liberties Union, the government-supported legal corporations [neighborhood legal services programs], a strong Democratic Party with strong labor support, the Brookings Institution, the New York Times and Washington Post and all these other people on the left – and nobody on the right." The idea was to correct that imbalance. "And the first idea was to copy what works."

This sort of thinking went far beyond Scaife's office in Pittsburgh. He was riding a wave at the same time he contributed to it. Former congressman Vin Weber, an early and active member of the "movement conservative" Republican faction on Capitol Hill, recalled that "people on the right were absolutely convinced that there was a vast, left-wing conspiracy" that had to be mimicked and countered with new conservative organizations that were "philosophically sound, technologically proficient and movement-oriented." This became a mantra for the new conservative activists.

Sarah Scaife died in 1965, and her son then had a freer hand to reorient the family giving. By 1976, the year Jimmy Carter was elected president, Scaife's conservative interests had come to dominate the foundations' giving. Just more than half of the $18 million in grants that year went to conservative recipients. By 1980, the year Ronald Reagan defeated Carter, conservative groups were awarded $13 million of about $18 million in Scaife grants. Conservative interests have continued to predominate in Scaife's philanthropy ever since.

While Scaife's money supported individual institutions, his office in Pittsburgh encouraged the evolution of a new community of activists on the right. One longtime recipient of Scaife's support recalled a meeting convened in California in 1973 by Richard M. Larry, Scaife's longtime chief aide, where his beneficiaries could meet one another. A person who attended the California meeting said he was delighted to find people there he'd never heard of – a new peer group on the right.

The Heritage Foundation became an important part of the right's community-building efforts. Scaife first contributed to Heritage in 1974. Soon afterward, using money from Scaife, Heritage established its resource bank, a compilation of conservative organizations, which from 1982 was published in the Directory of Public Policy Organizations, a guide to the new right-wing establishment. The current edition lists 300 groups; 111 have received grants from Scaife, 76 of them in 1998.

Heritage, organized by former staff assistants to Republican lawmakers whose goal was to influence both Congress and the news media with a stream of brief, meaty position papers on issues of the day, became Scaife's favorite beneficiary. When it began to make a mark in the mid-1970s, Joseph Coors, the beer magnate, was commonly credited as its chief financial patron. Coors did put up the first $250,000. But within two years, according to Heritage officials, Scaife had given more than twice as much, and he has kept on giving ever since – more than $23 million in all, or about $34 million in inflation-adjusted, current dollars. At Heritage the joke was, "Coors gives six-packs; Scaife gives cases."

With Scaife's early contributions, Heritage could thrive. In 1976, Heritage's third year of operation, Scaife gave $420,000, or 42 percent of the foundation's total income of $1,008,557. This early support was "absolutely critical," said the president of the foundation, Edwin J. Feulner Jr.

Scaife continues to give generously to Heritage – $1.3 million in 1998. But Heritage took in $43 million last year, so his gift represented just 3 percent of its income.

Scaife's money was probably most important to the cause in the '70s and '80s, when conservatives enjoyed the exhilarating reversal of what they had seen as their traditional, inconsequential status in American life. Scaife gave about $200 million to conservative causes from 1974 (his first gift to the Heritage Foundation) through the end of the Bush administration in 1992.

As soul mates in what they considered a war over American values, the groups to which he gave shared a core set of conservative beliefs evident in the way they described their missions.

For example, the Foundation for Economic Education promotes "individual freedom, private property, limited government, free trade." The Pacific Legal Foundation works "for less government and the preservation of free enterprise, private property rights and individual liberties." The Reason Foundation advocates "public policies based upon individual liberty and responsibility and a free-market approach." Lower taxes and fewer regulations are also part of the broadly shared program.

In the realm of national security, Scaife-supported groups have a similarly shared view of the need for a bristling national defense and vigilance against communism and terrorism.

There are disagreements, of course, particularly on emotional issues such as abortion, free trade and immigration. Scaife has long favored abortion rights, to the chagrin of many of those he has supported. In the first years of his philanthropy he stuck to a pattern set by his mother and sister and gave millions to Planned Parenthood and other population control groups, though most such giving stopped in the 1970s. He also has favored stricter controls on immigration and trade, though many Scaife-supported groups do not.

By concentrating his philanthropy on a relatively small number of beneficiaries, Scaife maximized his impact.

Over four decades he has nurtured enduring institutions, not just short-lived crusades. Nineteen percent of his conservative giving went to Heritage, the Hoover Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), four of the biggest think tanks in America.

This list is revealing for its political coloration. Heritage is the most aggressively conservative of the four, but it is hardly extremist. Hoover and AEI are plainly conservative institutions also, but CSIS, now run by former senator Sam Nunn and Robert Zoellick, a protege of former secretary of state James A. Baker III, is more centrist.

Much of Scaife's philanthropy has gone to recipients that made no lasting mark; many have gone out of business. For example, the Capital Legal Foundation, which represented Gen. William C. Westmoreland in his unsuccessful 1984 libel suit against CBS, was granted at least $1.7 million from Scaife sources between 1977 and 1987, then folded.

On some occasions Scaife has given money to an individual project just because it struck his fancy. One was a book project proposed in the early '90s by Elliott Abrams, a Reagan State Department official at the time of the Iran-contra affair and a foreign policy specialist for the Hudson Institute when he decided he wanted to write a book about American Jews.

Leslie Lenkowsky, then the president of Hudson, suggested they ask Scaife to help fund the project. He and Abrams went to Pittsburgh, where they had lunch at the Duquesne Club with Scaife, his son David and Richard Larry. Abrams said he found Scaife fascinated by his subject. "He couldn't figure out the American Jewish community. He wondered why it seemed to be so liberal politically," Abrams recalled.

Scaife gave a $175,000 grant for the project, with one string attached: that it be funded also by some Jewish donor or group. It was. "Faith or Fear" was published in 1997. It argued that "liberal politics" had become for many Jews "the heart of their Jewish identity," often replacing the Jewish religion, and gravely jeopardizing the future of Judaism in America. It sold 6,190 copies.

From Quiet Benefactor to 'the Arkansas Project'
Today it is difficult to find an important organization that depends on Scaife's money. The pattern of his giving hasn't changed much, but more and more individuals, corporations and foundations have become contributors to Scaife's causes. The Olin Foundation (assets of $103 million at the beginning of 1998) and the Bradley Foundation (assets of $545 million) have become particularly important. The success of the conservative movement has made Scaife a less significant player.

In many Scaife-supported organizations, the founders have been supplanted by successors unfamiliar with his role. Robert K. Best, president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, oldest and perhaps most influential of the conservative public interest law firms, was surprised to learn that Scaife contributions had constituted at least half the group's budget in its early years.

It is tempting to speculate that the routinization of Scaife's role might have prompted him – or his key aide, Larry – to get involved in more adventuresome anti-Clinton activities. Their involvement in what became known as "the Arkansas Project" – an aggressive and ultimately fruitless attempt to discredit a sitting president – marked a clear departure from years of relatively anonymous philanthropy, and Scaife could not have foreseen the consequences: He became a celebrity.

The full realization of the trouble he had made for himself probably came one day last September when he appeared, under subpoena, before a federal grand jury in Fort Smith, Ark., that was investigating possible tampering with a federal witness. On that day, Scaife could have felt he was being treated like a suspect – not the status a Mellon from Pittsburgh worth perhaps a billion dollars expects. According to several associates, Scaife was furious.

The Arkansas Project was apparently cooked up largely by Larry, 63, who has worked for Scaife for 30 years. A former Marine with a deeply ideological view of the world, Larry had developed a powerful dislike for Clinton. "I noticed a change in Dick Larry – at the mention of Clinton he became almost hyperthyroid," said one prominent figure in the conservative world who knows Larry well. A second prominent conservative close to him said: "I never saw Dick Larry do anything like this before. The only thing I can figure is that Larry dislikes Clinton intensely."

As the chief administrative officer of Scaife's philanthropies for many years and the main contact for anyone seeking a grant, Larry has long been a controversial figure among conservatives. They discuss him with the same reluctance to go on the record that many demonstrate when Scaife is the subject. "Sometimes [Larry] makes you wonder if it is the Richard Scaife foundations, or the Richard Larry foundations," said one source who worked with both men.

In his written answers to questions from The Post, Scaife attributed his support for the project to his doubts that "The Washington Post and other major newspapers would fully investigate the disturbing scandals of the Clinton White House." He explained those doubts: "I am not alone in feeling that the press has a bias in favor of Democratic administrations." That is why, he continued, "I provided some money to independent journalists investigating these scandals."

The Arkansas Project itself relied on several private detectives, a former Arkansas state police officer and other unlikely schemers, including a bait shop owner in Hot Springs, Ark. The two men running the project were a lawyer and a public relations man. Scaife's role became the subject of a special federal investigation because of accusations that the money he donated ended up in the pocket of David Hale, a former Clinton associate and convicted defrauder of the Small Business Administration who had become a witness for Starr's investigation of the president.

Sources at the American Spectator say it was Larry who played an instrumental role in the project. But there is no doubt that Clinton had gotten under Scaife's skin.

Scaife's penchant for conspiracy theories – a bent of mind he has been drawn to for years, according to many associates – was stimulated by the death of Vincent W. Foster Jr., Hillary Clinton's former law partner and a deputy White House counsel. He has repeatedly called Foster's death "the Rosetta stone to the Clinton administration" (a reference to the stone found in Egypt that allowed scholars to decipher ancient hieroglyphics).

Last fall Scaife told John F. Kennedy Jr. of George magazine, "Once you solve that one mystery, you'll know everything that's going on or went on – I think there's been a massive coverup about what Bill Clinton's administration has been doing, and what he was doing when he was governor of Arkansas." And he had ominous specifics in mind: "Listen, [Clinton] can order people done away with at his will. He's got the entire federal government behind him." And: "God, there must be 60 people [associated with Bill Clinton] – who have died mysteriously."

Even before the Arkansas Project had gotten underway, Scaife personally hired a former New York Post reporter named Christopher Ruddy to write about Foster's death for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the daily newspaper Scaife has owned since 1969. Ruddy's stories about Foster's death – most of them challenging the suicide theory, without offering an alternative explanation – began to appear in January 1995.

Scaife has funded other Clinton efforts as well: Two zealous and resourceful (and rival) public interest law firms that have pursued Clinton and his administration relentlessly, the Landmark Legal Foundation and Judicial Watch, have received more than $4 million from Scaife. Judicial Watch, which is aggressively suing several branches of the government and has questioned numerous White House officials under oath, has received $1.35 million from Scaife sources in the last two years, a large fraction of its budget.

The Fund for Living American Government (FLAG), a one-man philanthropy run by William Lehrfeld, a Washington tax lawyer who has represented Scaife in the past, gave $59,000 to Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit against Clinton. FLAG has received at least $160,000 in Scaife donations. And lawyers who belong to the conservative Federalist Society, which has enjoyed Scaife support for 15 years (at least $1.5 million), were members of a secretive group who provided important legal advice to Paula Jones and who may have pulled off the key legal maneuver in the Clinton case by connecting the Jones suit and the Starr investigation.

Officers of the Scaife-supported Independent Women's Forum have appeared on many television programs as Clinton critics. William J. Bennett, author of "Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals," is on the board of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and has received Scaife support as a fellow of the Heritage Foundation and other enterprises.

One of the most publicized allegations of a tie between Scaife and Clinton's enemies was the suggestion that Scaife was trying to set up independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in a posh deanship at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. Starr briefly toyed with accepting the job early in 1997.

Scaife has been a generous supporter of Pepperdine, donating more than $13 million since 1962 (in personal gifts as well as foundation grants), according to the school. But Scaife and the current president of Pepperdine, David Davenport, both have said that Scaife played no role whatsoever in the offer to Starr. Scaife and Starr have said they don't know each other, and have never met.

Only the Arkansas Project has caused Scaife serious trouble. The possibility that money from the project had tainted Hale, a federal witness, led to the appointment of Michael J. Shaheen, a former senior Justice Department official, as a special investigator. It was Shaheen who summoned Scaife to the Fort Smith grand jury.

Shaheen's investigation apparently is complete. Lawyers involved said they don't expect any indictments.

One result of the enterprise was to strain Scaife's relationship with Larry almost to the breaking point. "He almost fired Larry," said one friend.

The other result has been the emergence of Scaife as a public figure and punching bag for liberals.

"I'm a very private person – I think I'm essentially shy," Scaife told Kennedy last fall. But now, he acknowledged, he is recognized by passersby on the street – "thanks to CNN."

Monday: Burdens of wealth

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Kevin Mattson -- Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That
From our April issue: The spirit of '68 still lives on in some quarters of the left. Too bad -- there are much more effective ways to be an opposition party than by reliving the past.

By Kevin Mattson
Web Exclusive: 03.28.05

With conservatism dominant in every branch of government, it is clear that liberals are an opposition party. We have to think, act, and strategize like an opposition party. That means figuring out ways to articulate what we stand for while not alienating those who may disagree with us but can be persuaded to see things our way. That’s a difficult balancing act. Of course, the postwar left has been in opposition before, and that’s a historical fact that can be turned to advantage -- there’s a track record to examine and think through, and a set of political styles and strategies for change to reflect upon. Examining this history can mean recycling good ideas and tactics. But what if it means recycling bad ones?

No doubt, some progressives will be drawn to the protest movements of the 1960s to inspire opposition today. There are good reasons for this. The world that existed before the ’60s is one that no one wants to go back to. The decade witnessed enormous victories for African Americans, women, and the poor. The civil-rights movement -- with its pioneering use of nonviolent and grass-roots “direct action” -- prompted these advances. It also gave birth to a new form of politics that championed the energy of ordinary citizens and that carried on within the peace movement’s struggle against the Vietnam War. College students, through the teach-in movement, learned how to connect their learning to political engagement. The decade seemed a golden age of political idealism.

Remembering the ’60s as a time of heroic activism -- when ordinary citizens changed the terms of politics -- suggests we might be able to recycle those protest styles today. Younger activists are doing that as they march on Washington, against the Iraq War or in favor of abortion rights. The left is often identified, in the press and in popular imagination, as a series of marches. Protest has become an easy way to express dissent. It’s often highly visible and focused in terms of time and resources. When people mass in the streets -- as they were known to during the 1960s -- it appears something is wrong in the country that demands attention. And because protest activists are the most vocal element of the left, they attract the energy of young idealists yearning for a way to express their political disaffection. Take it from someone who’s marched a lot in his life: There’s an emotional appeal to massing with others you share solidarity with.

But there’s also a limit to protest. With its emphasis on criticizing rather than building, it nurtures a narrow conception of opposition. Of course we need to criticize, especially with this administration in power. But for the long term, it’s far more important at this historical moment that we build. The left needs to think about long-term and broader ideas of change. Protest doesn’t help here; it’s too fleeting and spasmodic.

To romanticize protest and the decade of the 1960s cuts us off from rethinking -- with a cold, analytical eye -- the decade’s lessons. The spirit of the ’60s has something to teach us, for sure, but it’s a mixed message, one that lives on in the activist wing of today’s left in troubling ways. We need to search out styles, dispositions, and ideas that can inform our present sense of being an opposition party -- and we need to widen what we choose from. We also need to recognize how the past’s influence precludes more productive strategies for the present, how what might have worked in a previous context no longer works today. To get a sense of this, we need to travel back to 1968, to a time when the decade’s meaning crystallized, a time that seems far gone at first but whose images and memories live on in disturbing ways today. Remembering the past critically allows us to be a more effective opposition in the present.

Protest and Confrontation as Politics
Both internationally and in the United States, 1968 remains one of the most evocative years in the history of the left. The spirit lives through images of protesters massing in the streets and Molotov cocktails zinging through the air. Protest and anger aren’t the only tendencies from the time, but they are certainly the most evocative. Mark Kurlansky, in his book 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, explains the allure: “People under twenty-five do not have much influence in the world. But it is amazing what they can do if they are ready to march.” Breaking from the limitations of the sidewalk into the streets now conjures a feeling of exhilaration and radical accomplishment.

No occasion in American history symbolizes this more than Chicago’s Democratic convention during the summer of 1968. Memories of Chicago come easy due to its highly charged political theater. Abbie Hoffman’s organization, the Youth International Party (Yippies), planned to protest the Democratic convention with a “Festival of Life” that would nominate a pig picked up from a local farm for president. Protesters were refused permits but insisted on marching, while Richard Daley, the mayor of Chicago, did all he could to spark a fight. Chicago became a pressure cooker, a leading Yippie calling it “a revolutionary wet dream come true.” When the riots occurred and the police clubs started swinging, protesters chanted, infamously, “The whole world is watching.” Unfortunately for the protesters, America watched, all right -- and cheered for the working-class cops of Chicago, for the “man” sticking it to the longhairs in the streets. Protest, confrontation, and outrage didn’t elicit the intended sympathetic response. Anger killed strategy.

It may be easy to overstate the resonance of such tactics today, but a romanticism about them does exist among those who still believe in street protests. When Rick Perlstein interviewed organizers of the 2004 protests at the Republican convention, he found them championing direct action and confrontation as a tactic. Check out the A31 (August 31) Action Coalition, an organization based in Brooklyn that was angry at New York City’s permitting system that confined protesters to certain areas. A31’s leaders hoped to “transform the streets of NYC into stages of resistance ... .” They called for people to “sit down and refuse to move,” and to ignore the limitations of “protest pens” set up by police. To make the connection to 1968 crystal clear, they posted a recent op-ed by Tom Hayden on their Web site -- no surprise, as Hayden had argued in 1968 that Chicago symbolized a move toward “direct action and organization outside the parliamentary process,” language remarkably similar to that used by A31.

This was not the only organization that recycled protest styles of 1968. There was and the old peace movement organization, The War Resisters’ League (WRL), both celebrating action in the streets, no matter the consequence. A leader of the WRL told Perlstein, “We need to do what we think is right to do, and not so much worry about, ah, ‘Well, what if this? What if that?’ I think we need to do what our conscience tells us is important to do … .” When Perlstein asked if this might alienate the wrong people, the organizers shrugged. These activists seemed in the clutches of 1968, transported back to Chicago and prepared for the worst. Fortunately, this time, the “whole world” wasn’t watching.

It’s remarkable how much these protesters live in another era. Over and over, they use Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to justify their actions. They especially like the following quote (seen on numerous Web sites) from “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail” (1963): “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create … a crisis and establish such creative tension so that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” Plucked out of context, the quote suggests thoughtful political strategy. After all, these activists are appropriating America’s best political thinker on nonviolence and democratic change.

But in plucking the quote, these activists ignore its context. Go to the rest of the document and you find much more. King was explaining how a minority, African Americans, could struggle to make a moral appeal to a majority. He believed black Americans had to highlight “the best in the American dream” in order to be heard. And civil-rights protesters had to rule out other options before embracing the challenging ethic of nonviolent direct action. You had to have moral merit on your side -- what Reinhold Niebuhr called a “spiritual discipline against resentment” -- before rushing into the streets.

Today’s protesters ignore King’s reflections on his own historical context. Consider that John F. Kennedy was president when King wrote his letter, and that King was one of Kennedy’s most astute critics. King believed in 1960 that candidate Kennedy “had the intelligence and the skill and the moral fervor to give the leadership” the civil-rights movement had “been waiting for.” Soon, though, King realized Kennedy had “the political skill” but not “the moral passion.” Nonviolent direct action, with its intention of creating conflict to expose tension, was precisely the tool to jump-start that moral passion. King saw an opening that the movement could prod, and this got him the legislation he desired: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The year 1963 was its own time, distinct from 1968 and certainly 2004. George W. Bush is no John F. Kennedy, and today’s Republican leadership in Congress is a far cry from the Congress of 1963–64. The chance that Bush and congressional Republicans would be prodded into some kind of action by such protests is zero (unless, indeed, protest moves them to act more forcefully in the other direction). The protesters at the Republican convention of 2004 might have imagined themselves as working in the tradition of King. But the context had shifted so drastically that their actions fell on -- quite literally -- deaf ears. It wasn’t even clear what they hoped to accomplish. And when the goals aren’t clear, protest means little more than expressing rage. That’s why it often takes the form of political theater, which too often encapsulates those who make it in their own hermetic world; it replaces explanation of political ideas and policies with in-jokes and references that confirm pre-existing opinions. If you know a pig stands for a white guy with power, you get it; if not, you don’t.

There’s a recent, evocative documentary, The Yes Men, that focuses on two activists inspired by the French Situationists (intellectual forerunners to 1968 France) and the Diggers (politically minded hippies before Hoffman). They pose as representatives of the World Trade Organization and attend business gatherings exhibiting a television monitor that polices workers and pops up like a phallus in a blow-up suit. They get applause in rooms of 30 people, although it’s not clear why. The movie winds up showing these “activists” as all-knowing lefties snickering at their opposition. The climactic scene involves their presentation to a college classroom, where students protest their idea of turning human feces into McDonald’s hamburgers sold to citizens of the Third World.

Unlike political humor that entertains, political theater has a pretense of changing public life. The Yes Men think of themselves as activists, but the tendency to laugh at their opposition rather than engage it betrays their project’s limitation. Asked about the “mind-set of the corporate man” who might resist their jokes, these activists call them “ready to goosestep.” Generally, people are “easy prey for the ideas of the corporate decision-makers.” The Yes Men characterize their opposition as “dumb asses” who wouldn’t “listen anyhow.” “Criticizing those in power with a smile and a middle finger” is what they intend. Expression trumps strategy.

Expressive Anti-Politics
Indeed, guerilla theater and protest as outrage suggest another legacy of 1968: expressive anti-politics. This element of political style draws from pop existentialism and participatory democracy. Once again, it crystallized in Chicago, and specifically in Tom Hayden. By 1968, Hayden was disenchanted with electoral politics and supported urban riots and Third World guerilla fighters. Chicago ratified his break from electoral politics, especially when Eugene McCarthy’s supporters spilled out of the convention and into the streets. The left had literally split -- those inside the hotel symbolizing electoral politics (the fogies), and those outside practicing direct democracy in the streets (the youth). Here can be found the essence of expressive anti-politics and its long legacy of liberal powerlessness.

The impulsive nature of direct action -- its immediacy -- is precisely its major appeal for today’s activist left. L.A. Kauffman, an organizer involved with United for Peace and Justice (a leading anti-war organization that formed in the last few years), explains, “Direct actionists devote little if any energy to lobbying or passing legislation; if they interact with the government, it’s almost always by raising a ruckus.” Here’s a curious embrace of protest over power -- the bizarre idea that a presence in the streets can substitute for a presence in the halls of government, or that reacting to government action is morally superior to initiating it. The sentiment is echoed in the ideas of, an organization that was created for protests at the Republican convention of 2004 and a clear inheritor of the spirit of ’68. As its Web site explains, the organization embraces “the power of direct action” and “direct democracy as a viable alternative to representation.” This is the political theory of street action or, put more positively, “participatory democracy.”

The idea’s salience arises from its respectable lineage in American political thought, which stretches back to Thomas Jefferson and John Dewey. Dewey believed democracy required a home in the local neighborhood where discussion and association took place. When members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) gathered in Michigan in 1962 to write the famous “Port Huron Statement,” they outlined the demands of participatory democracy and invoked Dewey’s ideals. But they also invoked a jargon of authenticity taken from existentialist philosophy. While embracing “a democracy of individual participation,” they hoped to find “a meaning in life that is personally authentic.”

But there’s a problem with proclaiming both of those as goals: Authenticity of the self and actually living in a democratic community with other citizens who hold varying opinions are two very different -- if not, in fact, irreconcilable -- demands. In Chicago, the two ideals clashed, and authenticity won out. Protesters pitted themselves against the inauthentic masses -- the police, those who believed in the Vietnam War, the “pigs.” When this occurred, participatory democracy no longer supplemented representative democracy but replaced it; authenticity displaced the challenge of deliberating with other citizens who might disagree. To be authentic meant to give direct expression to desire rather than to work through a longer process of changing representative institutions. It focused on what George Cotkin, the historian of American existentialism, called “catharsis.”

Critics noticed the dangers at the time. As Christopher Lasch wrote soon after the Chicago convention, “The search for personal integrity could lead only to a politics in which ‘authenticity’ was equated with the degree of one’s alienation, the degree of one’s willingness to undertake existential acts of defiance.” Bayard Rustin agreed, arguing that the participatory ethic of protest threatened the importance of doing actual politics, which required coalition-building and compromise, and wound up pitting leftists against liberals in a dangerous internecine warfare and mutual alienation. But clear as this might have been to some back then, the idea’s appeal lives on in the activist left’s disposition to political action combined with a lack of realism -- a disposition apparent today when expression trumps effectiveness. Go back and read the statements of Naderites in 2000, or the shriller ones from 2004. You can hear moral fervor trumping political responsibility -- the idea that voting is about expressing conscience rather than influencing policy. When The Progressive interviewed the few remaining Naderites working in the swing state of Wisconsin in 2004, the publication confronted purist sentiment. Supporters explained that they were “principled” while those supporting the Democrats were “muted.” One went so far as to say, “It’s not important who’s sitting in the White House, it’s who’s sitting in.”

This is the ugly legacy of 1968: the authenticity of conscience pitted against the requirements of a pluralistic and conflicted society, the ethic of expression winning out against all other aims, including practicality. “Direct nonviolent action” no longer means what King believed it meant; it now means remaining pure by turning “Your Back on Bush,” as recent protesters did at the inauguration, even if the result wasn’t anything more than making them feel better. Expressive anti-politics is the last refuge of the powerless. Impulsive, it bursts like a flame and then burns out, to be felt only in the heart of the participant while the ruling class, unperturbed, goes on its merry way.

The Right(’s) Lessons from the ’60s
Burnout is a constant theme of 1968. We’ve heard the refrain about “tired radicals,” and the one about Yippies turning into yuppies. Even while appreciating the social movements from this time, Paul Berman (who was a part of it all) admits, “The uprisings proved amazingly unproductive in regard to conventional political or economic change.” The historian Alan Brinkley comments, “The new radicals” of 1968 “never developed the organizational or institutional skills necessary for building an enduring movement.”

Meanwhile, of course, an enduring movement was being built during the ’60s -- but it was on the right. Historians of the decade used to focus on left-wing organizations, writing books about sds, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, typically culminating in the tumult of 1968 and thus telling a story of factionalism and decline. Today, however, historians are growing more interested in documenting the right and telling a tale not of decline but of ascendance. James Miller, who wrote a marvelous book about sds, explained to the magazine Lingua Franca a few years back that “in terms of the political history of this country, the New Left just isn’t an important story.” Focusing on the left, he explained with a certain irony about his own historical work, evades “the extraordinary success of the forces that first supported [Barry] Goldwater, then [Ronald] Reagan as governor of California, and then [George] Wallace. I can’t help but see that absence in the historiography as integral to the mythologization of the Sixties.” Miller echoes the argument of M. Stanton Evans, a leading conservative intellectual and popular writer, who wrote, “Historians may well record the decade of the 1960s as the era in which conservatism, as a viable political force, finally came into its own.”

When Evans wrote that line he was discussing an organization that still grabs the attention of young historians today: Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). YAF’s membership was always more stable and often larger than SDS’s, but more importantly, the group created a longer-lasting infrastructure. It engaged young people philosophically, through a ringing endorsement of liberty and individualism; but it also engaged them with well-organized chapters on campuses that cultivated long-lasting skills for activists (Richard Viguerie, for instance, pioneered his direct-mail tactics through YAF). YAF worked with the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists to coordinate lectures of right-wing thinkers and circulate conservative books to students. It linked up with Goldwater and Reagan, supplying an army of young volunteers for their campaigns. Did it engage in protest? Certainly not. During its “heyday in the early ’60s,” Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin point out, YAF members went to “the lectern and the party caucus more than into the streets.”

The networks of YAF were replicated for adults in places like Orange County, California. Here, there were chapters of the John Birch Society that supported local school-board candidates and institutions like the Orange County School of Anti-Communism, where conservatives could fraternize, learn about boycotts of corporations selling products to communist countries, and hear Reagan speak before he even considered a run for governor. There were also barbecues, coffee klatches, and discussion groups that congealed a conservative animosity toward the federal government and liberalism. Churches and right-wing bookstores helped provide “movement centers,” and the infrastructure was especially impressive considering the decentralized, suburban setting.

These networks explain the passion and long-lasting influence behind Goldwater’s run for the presidency in 1964. Traditionally, the campaign was seen as a right-wing disaster. Goldwater’s convention speech in favor of “extremism” still sounds scary. But now, more remarkable is the infrastructure that stood behind Goldwater. A strong network of activists worked hard to push the Republican Party toward the right, away from centrists like Nelson Rockefeller. It wasn’t enough to win the presidency in 1964, but that same infrastructure -- YAF, John Birch Society chapters, and general right-wing networks -- helped Reagan become governor of California in 1966. As Isserman and Kazin explain, conservatives “sustained morale and kept expanding their numbers for years after the young radicals had splintered in various directions.”

We can link this scholarship about conservative grass-roots activism to something already well-known: that throughout the 1960s, the right was developing ideas that would come to fruition much later. Leading this initiative was the well-known (now at least) American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Though founded in 1943, it changed form during the 1960s. Its leader, William Baroody, believed it should not just reflect the right’s primary “special interest” -- corporations -- but develop bigger ideas. Baroody “understood,” as Sidney Blumenthal explained in The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, “that without conservative theory there could be no conservative movement.” Baroody forged alliances with the Goldwater campaign quietly, behind the scenes. He focused on long-term goals so that, when the excesses of the ’60s erupted, there was a place neoconservative intellectuals could go to develop their ideas during the ’70s. The AEI articulated both particular public policies and a broader philosophy of the free market -- something that undergirds conservative political action today. And, of course, it provided a model for other conservative think tanks during the ’70s.

The power of YAF, grass-roots networks, and think tanks like the AEI show that the right focused its energy on infrastructure and ideas during a time when the left focused on protest. The right’s tactics weren’t loud or theatrical. Its activists operated under the radar to lay the groundwork. They worked almost entirely within the system, changing the Republican Party from moderate to conservative precinct by precinct. And their story challenges the left-wing narrative of idealism during the decade. That’s precisely why it should inform the way liberals think about the future. To win real power, liberals need to think about infrastructure, institutions, and ideas. And they’re not going to get these if they look to the late ’60s for inspiration.

The Spirit of 1948: New Ideas in the Old
This is especially true for ideas. Who now reads left-wing books from 1968? Just try Hoffman’s Revolution for the Hell of It or Woodstock Nation. Or try Theodore Roszak’s The Making of a Counter Culture, a puff piece about the “non-intellective” exploration of “visionary splendor” and “human communion.” Or read the prognostication of “revolution” of “consciousness” in Charles Reich’s The Greening of America. Read even the otherwise smart Susan Sontag, who praises the worst elements of Third World revolutions in Styles of Radical Will (she later stood down from many of those positions). All of these books reflect a utopian hallucination not dissimilar from the style of protests on the streets of Chicago in 1968.

Younger thinkers today are going further back than the ’60s to rediscover good ideas. It’s been the Cold War liberalism of the ’40s and ’50s that has garnered the most interest. Books like Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s The Vital Center or Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History or John Kenneth Galbraith’s American Capitalism seem much more interesting than The Making of a Counter Culture. There’s good reason for this, because though we might feel closer to the ’60s chronologically, our own age is much more parallel to the ’40s. Then, as now, liberals faced an international enemy -- Niebuhr’s “children of darkness” -- willing to murder for salvation. Then, as now, liberals confronted conservatives who entertained dangerous ideas of launching preemptive wars abroad while slashing social programs at home. And, if we take the ’48ers up to 1952 and the election of JFK in 1960, then, as now, liberals were often an opposition party.

The ’48ers knew they had to articulate a public philosophy, the way conservatives would later. They sketched out broad principles that transcended liberal interest groups. Those principles grew out of their faith in the American nation as a community of citizens sharing mutual obligations to one another -- the sort that they saw during World War II and that they hoped could live on afterward. The ideas of national greatness and patriotism grounded their political thought. They upheld a public purpose that highlighted the weaknesses of the libertarian right and led them to criticize the “social imbalance” of a society enamored of consumerism and markets, and not America’s civic fabric. Politically, they supported the idea of a “pluralist” government with many voices participating, not just those of business and privilege. They wanted influence on the inside, not protest from the outside. In The Vital Center, Schlesinger wrote, “Our democratic tradition has been at its best an activist tradition. It has found its fulfillment, not in complaint or in escapism, but in responsibility and decision.”

The ’48ers, so far as I know, never marched against American actions abroad. What they did do was construct a framework for a liberal foreign policy, a robust alternative to conservative emphasis on military action and “rolling back” the enemy. The idea of containment was not simply a doctrine of realism but a moral disposition toward the demands of national power. America certainly had a strong role to play abroad, the ’48ers argued, but it had to do so with a sense of “humility.” So, for instance, Niebuhr, drawing upon Christian ethics (not yet the sole property of the right), argued against “preventive war.” Those who articulated such an idea “assume a prescience about the future which no man or nation possesses.” He went on to explain, “We would, I think, have a better chance of success in our struggle against a fanatical foe if we were less sure of our purity and virtue.” Learning this lesson required America to work with others to “reconstruct” poorer economies as much as engage with military power. This was to be a war of ideas as well as guns.

These thinkers didn’t just think; they put ideas into action. They attended international conferences of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, where they argued that America stood for more than a prosperous consumer economy. (Richard Nixon had made this assertion to Nikita Khrushchev in 1959, displaying a gleaming American kitchen to the Soviet leader at an exhibition fair; Galbraith chided Nixon’s equation of democracy with consumer triumph as a “simple-minded and mechanical view of man and his liberties.”) The ’48ers also befriended politicians. Unlike our own age, when politicians hire overpaid consultants with few ideas, during the ’50s, politicians turned to intellectuals. In 1953, Galbraith formed the Finletter Group, which collected papers on topics by scholars and writers, crafted speeches, and found ways to have ideas inform public debate. Most famously, Americans for Democratic Action became an organizational forum where intellectuals and politicians could formulate foreign and domestic policy together. In this and other ways, they found outlets for ideas that could become a source of opposition as well as inspiration.

These strengths shouldn’t allow us to ignore their limitations. These thinkers took things for granted, including their privileged status as white, highly educated men. They sometimes had a hard time accepting the activism of the ’60s, and they were slow to see how their own anti-communism, legitimate though it was, could descend ineluctably into the disaster of Vietnam. Their experience of the staid 1950s, when bureaucratic corporations accustomed themselves to the welfare state, made them take Keynesian policies for granted. In going back to these thinkers, we need not romanticize them. Indeed, one of their central weaknesses, taking the welfare state for granted, should inspire our thinking today.

The Past’s Lessons for the Future
This quick tour through postwar history gets us closer to what it means to be an opposition party today. First, we need to question the legacy of protest politics and political theater, which makes activists feel good but alienates and confuses others. We need to build a grass-roots infrastructure, like that developed by the right. We should also start reconstructing liberalism by going deeper into the past, while recognizing the limits any set of ideas from the past naturally have. These are some good first steps to take, but obviously they are just the beginning, and mostly about looking backward, not forward.

If we take these lessons seriously, our biggest challenge moving ahead is how to articulate our opposition to the right’s well-developed agenda while simultaneously developing a public philosophy like that of the ’48ers. The need for this became abundantly clear in the last presidential election. John Kerry lost because Americans didn’t understand what he stood for. They understood him as an opposition candidate but not as someone who had “values” that could be articulated and explained. This wasn’t just Kerry’s problem; it is the problem of liberalism generally. The public perceives liberalism negatively, due to the long war the right waged against it from the 1960s onward. Unlike the ’48ers, we cannot assume that our ideas resonate; we need to make them resonate.

To rearticulate liberal ideals while acting in opposition is not as hard as first appears. Take Social Security. Clearly, Bush is surprised by the backlash against privatization, as he scrambles around the country garnering support. This appears a dream come true for progressives, but it’s much more. It’s a challenge to articulate not just opposition but a public philosophy that can explain what liberals stand for. We shouldn’t defend a program inherited from the New Deal in a rearguard fashion but should reiterate the idea of a shared national purpose based on collective sacrifice.

Nor should we turn this into a demographic issue and bank on the elderly supporting Democrats; that’s interest-group politics, not a long-range public philosophy. We need to explain what Social Security teaches the nation about deeper principles. Why do Americans react against the term “privatize”? Because there is still a sense of shared obligation to one another, and it’s up to liberals to articulate that public philosophy while they oppose the president. We can show how the president’s proposal reflects the “social imbalance” the ’48ers perceived, the elevation of the self’s interest above the common good. None of this requires protest. It requires public argument. The time for protest may come, but it will undoubtedly rely on a change of leadership first and serious thinking about strategy later.

The same needs to be done on foreign policy. It’s not good enough to protest the Iraq War. Occasionally, Kerry articulated an alternative, albeit muted, to Bush’s foreign policy that embraced the ’48er idea of national humility and a critique of hubris. Today, we need to articulate this liberal foreign policy more forcefully. Its central message should be that American responsibility abroad shouldn’t rely on guns alone or a sense of superior moral virtue. Liberals should argue for nurturing civil society and democratic institutions throughout the world, envisioning an equivalent of the Marshall Plan for the Middle East and elsewhere. Liberals need to emphasize that the war against terrorism is a war of ideas as much as a war of military power and intelligence. Like the ’48ers, liberal intellectuals should define America abroad as more than just its well-known Hollywood films. We need not allow Bush to expropriate the rhetoric of democracy and freedom; we need to reshape these ideas in a more responsible and meaningful manner.

Liberals must also talk about shared sacrifice during wartime. This shouldn’t be about getting the military vote, even if that wouldn’t hurt. The tradition of national greatness expects shared sacrifice from all members of our society. As JFK quipped, “Ask what you can do for your country.” Only liberals will make it clear that the wealthiest elements of society should provide for the common good, so that we have enough to pay veterans’ benefits and provide other services. None of this will come from protest marches against the war, which to date have accomplished little more -- as unfair as this might seem -- than to permit the partisans of the right to raise questions about the left’s patriotism.

The problem with what I outline here is the lack of places to build articulate ideas and have them inform the thinking of Democratic politicians. Now is certainly the time for progressives to invest in building an infrastructure -- the only alternative to spasmodic protests in the streets. The term “progressive infrastructure” seems to spark interest among some funders today, especially considering how the quickie infrastructure built in 2004 -- notably America Coming Together -- didn’t quite do the trick. It’s time for institutions that can approximate what Americans for Democratic Action did during the Cold War -- provide a space where thinkers and politicians meet -- and build local networks. Of course, this requires that Democratic politicians stop relying so heavily on overpaid consultants, and that wealthier progressives pony up money for institutions without immediate impact.

This leaves open the question of how to relate to the “actually existing” protest left today. The ’48er spirit was recently invoked to call for a purge of the protest wing of the left today. Writing in The New Republic, Peter Beinart suggested that MoveOn should be pushed out of a more responsible left. While I think MoveOn deserves criticism for its pacifism and teaming up with hard-left dinosaurs like ANSWER, it doesn’t merit a purge (purge from what, exactly?). What MoveOn needs is an articulation of the principle of “responsibility” that Schlesinger set out against the spirit of alienated protest. There’s reason for hope on this front. After all, Mother Jones described MoveOn’s young leader, Eli Pariser, as a “scruffy indie-rock fan who not long ago was chanting anti-globalization slogans and confronting riot police at World Bank meetings.” At one anti–International Monetary Fund protest, though, he talked with police and, in his own words, “realized that the scripted confrontation of attacking and antagonizing them wasn’t going to get us anywhere. It changed the way I was thinking, tactically.” This idea of laying groundwork for an infrastructure also came out in MoveOn’s work during the last election; it didn’t succeed, but with a little help from a stronger intellectual infrastructure in the future, it might.

My tempered hope about this comes from a sense of urgency about the Bush administration. Such a sense threatens to degenerate into protest theatrics and expressive anti-politics. Instead of embracing those styles from the past, liberals should take their lessons from the right during the 1960s. Liberals will never be as powerful as the right. That’s not just because the right is richer but because the liberal faith is, by definition, weaker. Unlike evangelical Christianity, liberalism can never provide absolute zeal or commitment. We can draw some inspiration from the “fighting faith” of the ’48ers’ liberalism, but we also face challenges that they never faced, especially the infrastructure the right has built over the last few decades. With this said, liberals don’t need to be as weak as they are now. We need not recycle protest and alienation from the past. Liberals have been in the opposition before, and they’ve managed to win back political power. But it took care and precision and some serious thinking about strategy. That’s our charge today.

Kevin Mattson teaches American history at Ohio University and is the author, most recently, of When America Was Great: The Fighting Faith of Postwar Liberalism.
Copyright © 2005 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Kevin Mattson, "Goodbye to All That", The American Prospect Online, Mar 28, 2005. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to

Origin of the word "Pundit"

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A pandit or pundit(पन्दित् in Devanagari) is a Hindu Brahmin who has memorized a substantial portion of the Vedas, along with the proper rhythms and melodies for chanting or singing them.

Pandits are hired to chant Vedic verses at yagyas and other public and private events. The chanting is meant to be listened to with a quiet mind for the purpose of spiritual development of the listener and enlivening of the atmosphere at the event.

In India today, pandit is a term of great respect, and is given to Indian classical musicians (usually Hindu) if they are acknowledged to be masters, such as Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Pran Nath, or Pandit Ravi Shankar. In this latter sense, it is analogous to Ustad.

The word "pundit" has been assimilated, into English, as a reference to someone who is very knowledgeable on a particular subject, usually in the social sciences. In the English-speaking west, the pundits are those who are the presiding experts on a subject; and write signed articles in newspapers or appear on radio or television to opine on current events. Television pundits are sometimes called talking heads. By extension, the term pundit is also used to refer to individuals that express opinions in the media without necessarily being a recognized expert on a particular subject matter. Pundits are often accused of being politically biased and for using informal logic in fallacious ways; in this sense, the term is also used as a term of disparagement. For a partial listing of pundits in the print media in North America, see the article newspaper columnists.

In the second half of the 19th century, the term was used to denote native surveillors who explored regions to the north of India for the British.

One of the greatest projects of nineteenth century geography was the Great Trigonometric Survey of India. The English also wanted geographical information on the lands further north. This was not just out of scientific curiosity: The Russians were expanding their empire into Central Asia, and the English feared that they might have set their eyes on India. Thus, the Russians and the English both tried to extend their influence in Asia. Knowledge of geography of the region was of course of utmost importance in this so-called 'Great Game'.

However, in some regions these surveys seemed impossible. Some of the Indian border countries, in particular Tibet, would not allow westerners to enter their country, let alone a British surveying team. In the 1860s, Thomas G. Montgomerie, a captain in the survey, realised that the solution to this problem would be to train natives from Indian border states such as Sikkim to be surveyors, and have them explore the region. These would raise less suspicion than Europeans, and might be able to make observations disguised as a trader or a lama (holy man). These native surveyors are called pundits.

A number of tricks were developed to enable the pundits to make their observations without being found out. They were trained to make exactly 2,000 paces to the mile. To count them, they used what looked like a Buddhist rosary, called a mala, but instead of the usual 108 beads had 100, every tenth being slightly larger. Every 100 paces a bead was dropped. A prayer wheel did not hold the usual buddhist prayer om mani padni hom, but maps and notes. Pundit Nain Singh also found that these could be used to ward off curious co-travellers: Each time someone came too near, he would start whirling the wheel around and thus pretend to be in religious contemplation. Usually this would be enough to stop others from addressing him. Another way of keeping their observation was to turn them into a poem, and recite that during their travels.

The pundits were given extensive training in surveying: They learned to use the sextant, determine height by measuring the temperature of boiling water, and make astronomical observations. They also received medical training. Despite the precautions and tricks, some of them were sent back, tortured or even executed. But with their travels they managed to map the Himalaya, Tibet and surrounding areas with remarkable precision.