Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Musings: Not Adding Up

The days are stretching, especially on the evening end, which I noticed when I was at the beach yesterday and it was still quite light at 6 p.m. The wind was blowing and the air was chill, but the water was not.

Ran into a friend of mine there, and as the albatross and iwa drifted on the air currents overhead, we chatted about healing prayers, extraterrestrials, his new I-phone (the first time I’d seen one) and the Superferry.

I got two calls on the latter subject yesterday, one from a man in the San Francisco Bay Area who has been following the story, and by his reckoning, the company’s $6.5 million escrow fund should be exhausted by now.

As he figured it, Hawaii Superferry has to pay $4 million in interest only payments annually and another $2.3 million to the state in harbor fees. And that doesn’t cover advertising or operating expenses during start up. So since they aren’t making any money with their tiny passenger loads and days stuck in the harbor, that fund should be pau already.

The other call came from a friend who was recollecting how HSF, when pressing for the quick go-ahead at the special session, kept threatening to take the boat elsewhere, saying they couldn’t hang around for more than six or eight weeks, with no revenue coming in and costs of $650,000 a week even while idled at the dock.

Yet here the boat is, still around, well beyond that six or eight weeks, even though it’s barely bringing in any revenue and its expenses, now that the fuel costs of running to Maui — when it’s not idled by rough seas or repairs — are added in, have got to be more than $650,000 a week.

As my friend at the beach noted, the company’s business plan has never made sense.

Still HSF officials say they’re in it for the long haul, with strong backing from their investors. I wonder. The only entities I know with such deep pockets and a willingness to throw good money after bad are governments.

Speaking of governments, LightLine today distributed an AP article about a federal judge’s ruling that President Bush cannot exempt the Navy from earlier court rulings limiting its use of sonar that may harm whales.

While the sonar issue is being legally challenged in California, it has implications for Hawaii, where the Navy likes to use sonar during its training exercises.

Those exercises are just some of the expenses covered under Bush’s new $515 billion military budget.

However, the figure does not include supplemental funding for nuclear weapons or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has already topped $600 billion, Democracy Now! reports. "The Pentagon budget proposal marks a seven-percent increase over last year and the 11th consecutive year it’s gone up. It comes just days after the Bush administration announced plans to seek deep cuts to Medicare and a freeze on new Medicaid spending. Overall the White House is trying to slash $208 billion from federal health programs over the next five years. The Bush administration has increased military spending by 30% since taking office.”

Even though he's poured billions into military spending, Bush has actually made the world less safe, not more. And yet he's asking Congress to keep joining him in this folly, at the expense of health care and other social problems.

It doesn't add up — unless you're a defense contractor.


Andy Parx said...

HSf seems to be hell bent on losing money. But it goes beyond the general lack of customers.

They not only started out losing money on each passenger and vehicle through their “introductory” fares but recently compounded the losses by not charging the fuel surcharge” that doubled the price and drove passengers away (and made them feel ripped-off) when they got to the point of purchase.

Has the number of users changed since they re-slashed their prices and swallowed the ever-increasing oil prices? Seems not from the observed counts we are getting. That means that people are staying away in droves no matter what the price.

So what will Mr. Garibaldi’s next challenge to rationality and business sense be? Would the passenger loads change even if they were giving away seats? Given the undependability, the many hours of travel, the lack of same day return and prospect of losing the use of your car for weeks on end- not to mention the barf-factor- they might just have to pay people to take the ferry.... Then all they have to get past is all the people who have said “they couldn’t pay me to take that thing”.

They certainly don’t have enough money to pay many to travel the Pukerferry. There probably isn’t enough money....

Anonymous said...

this just seems to be more of the same profiteering that eisenhower warned against. our children's children deserve a world not corrupted by global empires that create conflict to be settled by mental midgets with excessive military budgets

Larry said...

Well, will Bush get his military budget? Of course. I'd love to be wrong.

Will the rest of us lose medical benefits? Probably. Let's see what happens.

If this were France, people would be taking action to make their voices heard. What's wrong with us?

Anonymous said...

life is good! costco, walmart, still get gas, food on the table. war use to mean sacrafice- collectively and individually. now it only means individuals who sacrafice are dead soldiers and thier families.

Anonymous said...

To answer Larry's question:

Let's remember that hundreds of thousands of people have indeed taken to the streets since the days before the war officially began. However, it has been to little avail. Current internal debate within the US left has questioned the efficacy of the current, hegemonic "march and hold signs" approach to confronting the state.

It appears that we must go beyond symbolic action.

The recent direct actions at Port Olympia - directly blockading the mechanisms of militarism - is one example of the direction we need to go, in my opinion...

Effective action will involve abandoning what Ward Churchill calls "the politics of the comfort zone."


Anonymous said...

The rabble is being roused....

Ward Churchill....if you need him as a figurehead, you're already in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Gadfly refers to a 2001 essay in which Churchill claimed that people killed in the World Trade Center attacks were involved in provoking the attack.[1] In 2005 the University of Colorado began investigating allegations that Churchill had engaged in research misconduct; it reported in June 2006 that he had done so.Churchill was fired in 2007. He truly is a
****ing idiot

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ward Churchill did indeed write an essay which examined the role of US imperialism in fomenting violent rage against the United States - a more nuanced and intelligent examination by any measure than "they hate us for our freedom."

You don't have to agree with his analysis, but I hope you respect his right to publish it without losing his job as a tenured professor.

That is what he was targeted for, but the violation of the First Amendment was too obvious, so instead his opponents went after him for plagiarism. ANY academic can be charged with plagiarism, and given the chances that some of one's ideas have most likely been very similar to others' ideas, it is not hard to make a plagiarism case if one is determined to do so.

It is one thing to disagree with Churchill's ideas if you have actually read his work. I have read careful and well-thought-out critiques of his ideas which have added to my growing understanding of the world.

It is another thing entirely to base your opinion of him or his ideas on something you read in Newsweek or USA Today, which may indeed leave you with the impression that this noted radical intellectual is an "idiot."


Anonymous said...

Although I don't disagree with the "f****** idiot" tag, "f****** radical" applies with equal ease for me.

I'm more a "kill 'em all and let God sort it out" kinda guy.

Q: "How can you shoot women and children from a helecopter?"

A: "Just don't lead 'em as much!"

Anonymous said...

Actually, Churchill was fired for much more than plagiarism. Namely: falsifying information, two counts of fabricating information, two counts of plagiarizing the works of others, improperly reporting the results of studies, and failing to "comply with established standards regarding author names on publications." In addition, the committee found him "disrespectful of Indian oral traditions."

The charges came about after other academics complained that Churchill had falsely used them as sources for "facts" Churchill had actually made up.

For instance, the widely believed falsehood that the US army used to hand out smallpox infected blankets is a product of Churchill's falsifications. (There is letter evidence that a British commander discussed doing so with one of his subordinates. Churchill created the American army myth from that).

Anonymous said...

However, I very much doubt that his tenured position would have been seriously challenged had he not published "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens."

There was a public outcry to remove him specifically for saying something unpopular after 9/11. The state of Colorado and the University did whatever they could to get rid of him.

That has a chilling effect on all of us, not just Churchill.

And THAT is the problem.


Anonymous said...

The only thing it chills is lying in ones scholarship. He was blatent and obvious and, actually, heat was already building on him from the academics who were complaining that he was misrepresenting their scholarship.

He was fired for very real, very serious academic fraud. He should have been fired long, long before the public outcry over his political statements. And very likely he would have been eventually.

His firing offenses are separate from his political activities. Nobody suggests his offenses are somehow not firing offenses. Calling him a victim of a political witch hunt, as some suggest, is like claiming that a bankrobber who was incendentally discovered at a political demonstration was only prosecuted for his political activities.

Anonymous said...

In would add one thing that I'm sure Charley would agree with given his posts. The integrity of research and information from the academic world must be preserved at all costs. The reason, in this writers opinion, is because of the rumors, legends, and general misinformation reported in the media, on the internet, and in blogs. Don't misunderstand, I believe the good uses of these communication forms far outweigh the bad. However, the academic world is fast becoming the last bastion of reliably objective, nonpartisan, and nonhysterical, research and information. These standards are protected by the rules Churchill broke along many other rules and regulations designed to promote critical thinking and the accurate establishment of fact. Some may already believe that Cal vs. Stanford is like Fox News vs. Moveon.org; but, they are wrong. We are not there yet.
Regards, Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

I'd add to what Pete says that the body of scholarship is already loaded with lame, stupid, shoddy work. That's bad enough, though, due to the huge rate of production, inevitable. For credibility's sake you can't just stand by while academics make up facts, invent historical events, and lie about other peoples' research.

I'm actually blown away by the small handful of academics and the political progressives who still rise to his defense. To the extent his dishonesty harms the credibility of both groups they ought to be furious with him.

Anonymous said...

To think that the powers that be would not look to remove a prof for saying something wildly stupid is itself naive at best.

What if he said that the Holocost was a myth?

To assume that there are no consequences to such behavior, or should be no consequences, is very far from the real world, which will not change.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure. Can someone name a case in which a public university has successfully fired or otherwise punished a tenured professor for saying something either stupid or controversial in public about an issue of public concern?

My understanding is faculty speech on matters of public concern even when outside the context of teaching and scholarship is broadly protected against employer retaliation by the First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Charley..."remove" was too strong a statement. However, there would be "consequences", "pressures", etc applied. Possibly a prof not receiving tenure or promotion...possibly being "legally pushed" out of a job. Or more than the usual scrutiny applied to his work.

Just as in corporate life, there are ways to deal with "tainted" people which bypass legal recourse.

Not that it applies directly to Chirchill since his real problems were already on the burner, but for others, it could lead to a fine-tooth comb analysis of his/her past to find a smoking gun.

And that's the way it should be....one must anticipate the consequences of one's actions, even if he's doing something "within his rights".

Anonymous said...

It should be protected. That's the point of tenure.

The way you fire a tenured professor for unpopular speech is by finding a pretext for firing him or her.

It's no surprise that generally people who are alarmed by the firing of Ward Churchill are leftists. I realize that's a big turn-off to some, just as the right wing is to me. However, if you can stand to read an article from CounterPunch which provides details of the charges against him and the context of his termination, you might learn something to round out a conservative perspective:



Anonymous said...

You should probably read the actual report of the investigative committee.

If we're going to disagree, it might as well be over the actual document instead of what some left wingers or some right wingers say is in the document.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, here's a link to the report.

Also, I'm not at all turned off by writing, or people, just because they are left or right wing. That is a completely foreign concept to me. Gawd, if everybody I hung out with was just like me and if I only read stuff I agreed with, I'd shoot myself out of boredom.

Anonymous said...

Also, we wouldn't necesarily be "rounding out a conservative perspective." Several proponents in these postings are from the middle; a middle that sometimes leans left, sometimes right, and sometimes neither. A middle that critiques both ends and itself.
Regards, Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

Then again, I hear there's nothing in the middle of the road but "yellow lines and dead armadillos." Sounds dull to me.

(Thanks for the link to the committee's report. But equally important to my mind is the political context in which that committee worked, which is discussed in the CounterPunch piece, as well as in the "open Letter" from aademics linked in that piece.)

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that criticism of - and an honest recognition of -Churchill's dishonesty, while gleefully trumpeted by many on the right, is in no way inherently partisan. I have heard left wingers express disgust and anger with him.

Miniminizing or denying Churchill's dishonesty by a few on the left is like a right winger denying Rush Limbaugh had an OxyContin problem or saying coverage of it was all politically motivated.

Anonymous said...

He did it to himself. If he's so damn smart as a tenured prof, he should have realized he had a skeleton in his closet and that if he made too much of an ass of himself, people would be inclined to look for it.

If he honestly thought tenure was some sort of "get out of jail free" card or "my actions no longer have significant consequences" halo, he has now learned his lesson.

Dumb ass. Him...not any of you fine upstanding folks, of course.
This time.

Take it easy, but take it.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that you can't cry if you're hiding professional malpractice and your self-promoting hyperbole gets you more attention than you banked on.

The truly hilarious thing about Churchill's case is that when the "Little Eichmans" kerfuffle erupted, Churchill bombastically challenged anyone to find fault with his scholarship.

This was too much for academics such as John LaVelle, Thomas Brown, R.G. Robertson, Russell Thornton, and Guenter Lewy who had already been pointing out bogus claims in his work and in the case of two of them, that Churchill had blithely misrepresented their work to support his bogus claims.

So they went to town on him. Basically, he dared people who were already annoyed by him and had proof of his fraudulent scholarship to bring the proof. And they did.

I had actually heard of the guy before his Roosters bit because of controversy about his smallpox blankets claims. Scholars had discovered the falsity of that claim before he ever thought of saying "Little Eichmans."

It's simply inaccurate to claim, as Katy's Counterpunch piece does, that there was never any issue with Churchill's scholarship before his Roosting Chickens piece.

Anonymous said...

There are very few people - in academia or out - who could survive a fine-tooth-comb examination of their entire careers.

I am not defending Churchill's errors, but I do believe that the level of eminence required to withstand such scrutiny should not be a condition precedent to speaking out on controversial questions.

If it were, we could no longer claim to enjoy free-speech rights.
Any time such a litmus test is used, our rights to dissent are endangered and eroded.

I believe that this is what is happening in the Churchill situation. I don't agree with all of his opinions, of course, but I want to live in a world where such radical views can be expressed by people without the threat of losing their jobs or going to jail or worse.


Anonymous said...

Katy, anyone COULD have withstood Churchill's inquest EXCEPT for the tiny minority of academics who have knowingly and intentionally and obviously falsified information, fabricated information, stolen the works of others, and misrepresented the results of studies.

Everybody else - the vast majority of academics who have not committed academic fraud would have come out fine.

That's the trouble with one-sided information. Counterpunch would have us believe he got hounded out of academia on the pretext of a couple of misplaced citations.

In fact, almost any of Churchill's collegues in academia could easily have survived the inquest that brought him down. Unless academia is in a lot worse shape than I thought.

Anonymous said...

Katy should give John Hightower his due for the armadillo/yellow lines quote since it was the title of his book and because he's a rare progressive commentator from Texas; but, most of all, you don't want to go around plagiarizing like Churchill.
Seriously, the very wide middle, in which I include moderates from both sides, is where all the work gets done and that's exciting. While we're getting the work done, the extremes, who can't or won't compromise, are busy calling each other names and fighting with those on their own side. No thanks.
Regards, Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

They don't call the radical right or left "fringe elements" for nothing.

Anyone remember stories about Henry Ford and the cowpie he stepped in when he talked up antisemitism?

Although his rep was tarnished, it still stood up, as did his company.

You know what they say about people in glass houses....too bad Churchill's hubris impelled him to throw stones...or maybe it was good since he's now otta there.

The human condition and social "rules" being what they are and always have been, any contraversial speech will always invite scrutiny of the speaker.

"What should be" is not at issue...only "what is and always will be". The real world is that inwhich we live...even the fringe element, however hard it is to accept and embrace that.

Smart people know this going in. Even Clinton survived Monica.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how we've jacked this "musing" and morphed it into "why we love/hate Ward Churchill" and "why people should be allowed to say anything without consequences".

Not to mention the fringes vs the broad middle of the road.

ps - I wanted to be the 30th post anyway! I bet it broke a record!

We can only hope that Churchill comes out with his opinion of the monkeypod trees or HSF...I hope the comment counter goes over 99.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know about anyone else. To me it's not about "loving" or "hating" Churchill, or even his opinions.

It's about the value of dissident speech to our society and the belief that among the consequences we should NOT face in our society is the loss of livelihood, liberty or physical safety for expressing our views.

I am perfectly willing to accept hate mail, hurt feelings, dirty looks and damaged relationships as a consequence of dissident speech. But I don't believe that as a result of my speech, an inquiry into my professional or personal behavior should be instigated for political reasons.

On a side note, I have noticed that conservatives are fond of decrying the "leftist bias" of academia. I've always thought that was silly, since in my observation, conservatives just tend to be more likely to flee academia in search of more lucrative positions in the business world, leaving the task of higher education to liberals and leftists, who tend to make choices based more upon higher ideals than economic greed.

Just an example of conservatives refusing to "take responsibilty" for their own actions.


Anonymous said...

The operative mythology is that Churchill was fired for expressing his views. If you were one of the academics whose work he misrepresented or stole, or an academic who works in his field and witnessed with horror as his dishonest scholarship seeped into the body of research, you would have a different view.

The assertion that Churchill was punished for his political remarks is a mistake of logic. It confuses being found out due to one's notoriety with being punished for one's notoriety.

Look, if a person is a bankrobber and is also an outspoken political dissident, and if his bankrobbing is discovered and punished because of the attention his political outspokenness brings on him, it would make no logical sense to say that he was punished because of his political views. (Although I have no doubt whatsoever that that is precisely what some people WOULD say. In fact, that is what is being said about Churchill).

The idea of defending someone guilty of malfeasance simply because I approve of their politics is absolutely bizarre to me.

Which brings me to the "middle of the road" thing. I really don't see myself as middle of the road at all. Rather I refuse to cede my critical faculties over to the service of any cause or personality. It's not a matter of being moderate. Rather it's being independent-minded, skeptical, and unwilling to drink anyone's Kool-Aid, no matter what the flavor.

Anonymous said...

And I agree with Katy that it has nothing to do with loving or hating Churchill or about his opinions.

What it has to do with is confusing the being found out because of one's notoriety with being punished for one's notoriety.

Under that logic any person who has committed discoverable malfeasance ought to make some hyperbolic public comment. Then, when a public uproar ensues, the person should noisily challenge anyone to impunge his integrity. Then, when people inevitably take up the challenge and discover the malfeasance, the person can cry that the whole thing is an assault on dissident speech. Feh.

Anonymous said...

Under your logic, if you have anything at all to hide you should shut up and tow the line out of fear of disovery.

So only people with absolutely flawless histories should be able to risk speaking out and drawing attention to themselves.

I don't believe that political speech is a SHIELD for investigation of wrongdoing - I'm arguing that it should never be an IMPETUS for that investigation.

The timing and other peripheral incidents to the Churchill investigation indicate that it was motivated by politics. Now your justification for that is that it was his fault that he drew attention to himself.

My closet isn't free of skeletons, and I'd imagine yours isn't either, if you're human. Should the threat of an investigation hang over our heads and influence our decisions to speak our minds? I hope not!


Anonymous said...

Presumably the skeletons in your closet do not include intentional fraud. If they do, I'm certainly not going to feel sorry for you if you are outed because someone pissed off at something you said started poking around in your past.

It way overstates it to say "only people with absolutely flawless histories should be able to risk speaking out." No, not at all. People put themselves out in the pubic debate all the time and are thoroughly scrutinized by their ideological counterparts. Don't pretend that Ward Churchill's example is going to in any way chill public debate.

You know why? because almost nobody is hiding fireable offenses, or intentional fraud in their closets. Most of us might have things in our past we'd rather not discuss publicly, but very few of us are hiding something serious enough to get us fired.

And if we are, then yes, we would be very stupid to call attention to ourselves.

To test the logic of what you are suggesting, imagine that the scrutiny Churchill attracted turned up not evidence of academic fraud but of rape. Say he raped someone in the past and because of the attention resulting from his saying the victims of 9-11 deserved what they got, evidence of that rape was discovered and he was prosecuted and convicted.

Now the abslute absurdity of complaining that "if you have anything at all to hide you should shut up and tow the line out of fear of disovery," becomes manifestly obvious.

Anonymous said...

Not really. I would not want someone to be investigated for rape for political reasons.

Perhaps I have not committed intentional fraud. But what if I speak out in an unpopular way and I am targeted for a tax audit? Sure, if it's coincidental, who cares? But what if that tax audit came in the wake of a concerted campaign by government officials to silence me? After all, that was the context for the Churchill investigation. (The Governor of Colorado was calling for his resignation and the Colorado House of Representatives adopted a resolution condemning him NOT for his scholarship but explicitly for statements he published regarding the World Trade Towers disaster. The scholarship investigation ensued after a university-appointed committee ruled that these resolutions violated Churchill's First Amendment rights.)

Wouldn't that have a chilling effect on people who are familiar with my speech?

The commission that investigated the Churchill case used another analogy:

If someone with gets pulled over for speeding and is given a ticket instead of a warning because the cop doesn't like the bumpersticker on the car, is the ticket still valid? Well, yes, in a legalistic way it is. The comission seemed to imply that they agree.

However, it seems to me that although legally defensible, it is unjust, and an example of penalizing someone for their speech.

Churchill, from what I understand, is not the only radical in academia facing this kind of politically-motivated scrutiny, and so I do believe it is intended to have a chilling effect.

I agree that proper and legitimate scholarship is vitally important. But it is equally important that academia be preserved as a place of unfettered free speech and inquiry.

I believe that this is largely a question of the balance between freedom and security. I tend to agree with with Ben Franklin that "those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither."

I think we're at an impasse here, though I appreciate the dialogue. It comes down to a basic disagreement about whether or not the impetus for the investigation was political and whether or not his "drawing attention to himself" justifies it. I believe that it was, and that it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

We are at an impasse. I do believe it is just to punish (or try to) someone for their speech. It will happen in the past, present and future.

In Germany, it is downright illegal to speak against the Holocost. And they are a democracy.

If Dr, Mengele of Nazi fame were to have discovered the cure for cancer as part of his grisly experiments in prisoners, should he be invited to speak at various public forums? Be given the Nobel Prize, etc?

If a recently-former neo-Nazi skinhead (now with some hair) or KKK puke were to run for public office, should the inevitable digging into his past not shout to the world why this person should not be given any soapbox, let alone an office?

All speach may be free from legal consequence (homeland security excepted) in this country, but all speach is not free from consequences.

I am not opposed to wiretaps, internet automatic searches for key words, etc. Think before you speak/write. Don't say/write anything you wouldn't want read in open court (or the court of opinion for those who have a say in your employment, etc)

Let the speaker beware and be willing to pay the price and not complain when it comes due.

Anonymous said...

I'll move a step closer to you, Katy, and acknowledge that it is troubling whenever the government focuses attention on an individual. So to the extent that the investigation of him originated from complaints emanating from within the government as opposed to from people outside the government bringing credible evidence of malfeasance (understanding that the governmental attention on him resulted from his unpopular speech and not an investigation justified in its own right), I'll join you in being troubled.

However, to the extent the investigation originated or was driven by complaints from other academics offended by Churchill’s malfeasance, I reject the notion that he has any complaint whatsoever of unfairness.

The fact of an apparent mix of government and citizen complaints about him, coupled with his actual malfeasance and fraud, prevents Churchill from being the ideal victim-poster child for this particular cause.

Anonymous said...

Well, this horse has been beaten to death.

But...just imagine what kind of governmental lock-down would happen if there is another significant act of terrorism in this country.

Massive step-ups in profiling, wiretaping, Hoover-era amassing of files on individuals, suspending (to some extent, anyway) of unreasonable search and seasure laws, internet usage analysis of individuals without pre-existing "just cause", "checkpoints" in public places where airport-like searches would take place, etc.

And the majority of people would not object. I would not object. But then, my politics are just to the right of Attila the Hun.

This alledged government plot against Churchill is nothing compared to our likely future.