Life Imitating Art Redux?

In a yet another instance of life imitating art, Michael Connell, a top Republican internet strategist who was set to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio, has died in a plane crash, according to a report on the Democracy Now website.

How empty would be the screenwriters idea bag without this old chestnut?  The key witness in the RICO trial of Mafia boss or corrupt politician goes missing just before testifying before the grand jury/Congressional hearing, only to turn up later thanks to the efforts of the brilliant detective/attorney/forensic scientist, as a decomposing body in a dumpster/landfill/at the bottom of New York’s East River or, yes, in a crashed private plane.

But it is such a frequent occurance in the so-called “real” world, that perhaps rather than life imitating art, this might be better called “copy-cat murder.”  Something surely stinks here.  The last time I had this strong a reaction was at the reporting on the death of Senator Paul Wellstone.  Well, no, that was not the last time.  There were the innumerable white-washes of Bush administration officials in the run-up to the Iraq War, and more recently the unquestioning acceptance of the “necessity” to bail out Wall Street banks with the national treasure.  Each instance made me angry, first at those directly responsible, and second, at the refusal by Establishment media to look beyond the official version.

In the Wellstone case, in particular, there are still many unanswered questions.  Unless, you believe, like Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post (see my last post, “Death of Logic?”, that the best way to prevent recurrences of “mistakes” like political murders is to let the perpetrators go free “because they meant well,” you will at least want to consider the probability of alternatives like those suggested by Jackson Thoreau in an article originally posted on OpEdNews.

Of course, the notion that the odd set of circumstances surrounding Connell’s death point toward some sinister intent by those who would stand to gain by his demise, will be dismissed by the usual suspects as “another conspiracy theory.”  And so, that the wheels of the U.S. Justice System may continue to grind at their usual glacial pace, cooler heads are already calling for an investigation into this case.  Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University. interviewed in the same report, stated, “that the circumstances are so suspicious and so convenient for Rove and the White House that I think we’re obliged to investigate this thing very, very thoroughly.”

Death of Logic?

When an established journalist (Ruth Marcus) reporting for one of the most frequently quoted newspapers in the country The Washington Post, can utter the most glaring of non-sequiturs on public radio without the least audible signs of embarassment, one must wonder if there is still a place for reasoned inquiry in public discourse.

The general topic under discussion was the significance of the death of Mark Felt, legendary Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat” and #2 man in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Felt was pardoned by Reagan amid considerable controversy 24 hours after conviction for his part in the Watergate break-in. Reagan’s flawed reasoning in granting the pardon, itself a classic in ad hominem argument, serves as precedent both for the Washington establishment who would like to see a similar free pass for Bush officials under current investigation for alleged abuses of power.

The utterance in question, made during an interview on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point Friday, is repeated in essence in her Washington Post column Saturday:

Yet I’m coming to the conclusion that what’s most crucial here is ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated. In the end, that may be more important than punishing those who acted wrongly in pursuit of what they thought was right.

Oh, puh-leeze! Just how are we to ensure that comparable mistakes are not repeated in a nation governed by Law, if we do not sanction those making those mistakes and place them outside the protection of Law? I would argue that a law without enforcement provisions is no law at all. And that intent is only one factor among many that ought to be considered in passing sentence. The seriousness of the offense, the number of injured parties, the public interest in deterring future offenses, the past history of the accused, all of these surely ought to weigh in the balance. Try using the “I meant well, officer, my wife is always so upset if I’m late for dinner” argument the next time you are stopped for speeding on your way home from work.

For a complementary perspective, see this article by Glenn Greenwald on


I realized upon rereading the original post that perhaps the title was misleading.  While it’s certainly true that the Marcus quote contains faulty reasoning, beyond my appeal to common sense in the final paragraph, I did not really show how it fails as a logical valid argument.  I think it fails logically on at least two fronts.  Here is how I would argue that failure:

•  Proposition 1: Those who act with good intent should never be punished

•  Proposition 2: Felt acted with good intent

•  Conclusion: Felt should not be punished

I think it is clear that both Propositions 1 is not universally true, and that Proposition 2 is uncertain, at best. Thus the syllogism fails the validity test because the major premise is false.

But here is the second failure:

•   Proposition 3: It is important that violations of law (“mistakes”) are not repeated

•   (Unstated) Proposition 4: Repeated violations of law (“mistakes”) are preventable in the absence of punishment

•   Conclusion: Repeat violations won’t occur if only we don’t punish the perpetrators.  I.e., Punishing violators is optional.

Again, I think is is clear that one of the premises of the argument is far from universally valid.  Beyond that, it is probably wishful thinking.

Again, I would recommend the Greenwald article linked above for additional substantive refutation of Marcus’s statement.

Now Hear This!

I wanted to be sure to include the following to video clips in my first post, but ran out of gas before I got them inserted.

The first is an extraordinary effort, 10 years in the making I heard, a cross-cultural, multi-continent, mix, that is seamless, and very skillfully executed, and . . . well, you tell me!

Stand by Me

The next one I listened to again late at night, the same evening described in “First Post.” At 2 o’clock in the morning it brought tears to my eyes. For all you piano lovers out there, this one rocks!

Baby Grand

Some Notes from Tuesday Night

Ralph Nader made an interesting observation in a Dec 5th online interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. One reason the automakers are meeting such heavy resistance now in Congress is that the current hearings are being conducted in public. Whereas, the earlier bailout talks for the financial “industry” were conducted on “weekends, in secret.”

Same show, Wendy Thompson former President of UAW local 235, Wendy Thompson is helping to organize a UAW caravan to Washington to represent American workers at the table during the bailout hearings. She mentioned the following website for anyone interested in that effort:

Then, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and Global Exchange encouraged progressives to attend or host anyone of the local policy house parties happening this coming weekend in local areas around the country. Consensus recommendations to be forwarded to the Obama Transition Team. Find one near you at:

Finally, a new book by Antony Lowenstein, I believe, The Blogging Revolution looks interesting to me, as a nascent blogger with a modest history of political activism.

First Post

When I got home from work today, I walked into a rant by my dear wife about banks and the U.S. abject dependency upon credit. Apparently, all that feelgood stuff we’d been sharing over my cellphone on the drive back from Medford was just a warmup for what was really on her mind. The “I’ve been missing you, today,” and the “I was just standing here in the kitchen making a salad for your dinner” part was mere fluff to be replaced by, “I crashed your computer this afternoon trying to find out about the small print on the Discover card user agreement.”

This was important to us because the whole point of obtaining and using the Discover card instead of cash for our normal, everyday purchases, was for all the “cash back” we were gonna get at the end of the year. But it’s in the fine print where you learn about the various gotchas that modify your simpleton’s view of how the game is played. It’s a lot like reading your auto or health-care policy after an accident. That’s, of course, assuming that your lucky enough not to be one of the 40,000,000 or so Americans who have no health-care insurance policy. But don’t get me started.

You can probably tell from the preceding that I’ve got sort of a short fuse when it comes to the games corporations play. So, when my dear wife began to discribe the difficulty she had convincing a customer service representative at a Washington Mutual branch office that she wanted to close her savings account there because she was tired of talking to a robot on the 800 number, I naturally assumed that what she really wanted to talk about was my clarification of the way things really are in the world of finance. This is a carefully reasoned, fairly comprehensive, highly insightful, and always scathing, indictment of the stupidity of corporate CEOs, legislators, bank presidents, which also takes into account the inherent flaws of a capitalist system based on making a virtue out of greed, yadayadayada. . .

Ordinarily, I don’t get very far into my diatribe as my wife hates to listen to it, largely, I believe, because we are usually in the kitchen, and she is either washing the dishes, or preparing food during my launch. “You should write a letter to the Editor,” or “Why are you telling me this?” is the usual way it goes. But tonight, I was gratified to find her unusually attentive. How could this be? I was immediately suspicious, but undeterred, rolled on, gradually losing steam, until it became apparent that continuing would unnecessarily delay dinner.

This would be self-defeating, so I quieted down, sat down to eat, and resolved to upload an abbreviated version of my economic policy proposals to the Obama Economic Transition Team feedback link. You can do this to0. I’ll probably have more to say about this unprecedented development in a subsequent post.