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The Final Edition of

June 2013

Current Affairs | Literary

Selected by the Library Journal as one of the 10 Best New Magazines of 2012



feature | Title

An international literary and current affairs magazine with the openness and pioneering spirit of the Pacific Northwest, Empirical aspires for truth by boldly introducing thought-provoking points of view and new paradigms. A forum for discourse on contemporary issues, the magazine is “radically empirical� in considering the broad range of human experience. Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Tara Grover Smith Publisher/Managing Editor/ designer Olav Bryant Smith

ISSN 2167-7727 (online)

Empirical is a publication of Cool Waters Media, Inc. Cool Waters Media, Inc. | The views expressed and materials presented in this magazine reflect the views of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Empirical and its editorial staff. Neither Empirical nor any of its writers were paid by any company to endorse the products reviewed. Letters to the editor can be written to Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Rick |Cooper 2 photo: EMPIRICAL JUNE 2013

Lake Tahoe

Title feature table of |contents


16 I democracy: inequal-

ity and giant corporations

by Gar Alperovitz 34 I ethics and


by Hugh Mercer Curtler 48 I the media's court of

public opinion: reflections on the trial of casey anthony by Keith Long




68 I A lesson learned by Gina McGalliard 78 I satori by Bruce Holland Rogers 84 I all that glitters by Brian Ross 88 I bullet 142 by Brian Ross


92 I remembering

christopher hitchens: an interview with richard seymour by Emanuel Stoakes





116 I places in the heart:

an interview with iris dement by Jaime O'Neil


47 I Tharros and the last call by Abriana Jette 66 I keening for eve by J.C. Elkin 79 I contemplating caffeine by Barbara Ellen Baldwin 87 I elysian fields by Douglas Cole 91 I communion by Shannon Rooney


108 I pilgrims by nature by Ismana Carney

FRONT Cover PHOTO (La Paz):

Szeke 4 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013



empirical contributors

gar alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author, most recently, of America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, Our Democracy, and (with Lew Daly) Unjust Deserts. Connect with him at http:// Gar is a frequent contributor to Empirical.



hugh mercer curtler is a retired

professor from Charlottesville, Virginia who taught philosophy and humanities (Great Books) for 41 years in three different universities, including thirty-seven years at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. During that time he also published ten books and numerous articles and reviews in professional journals. His successful coaching career led to induction in university and conference Halls of Fame, and in 2006 he became Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Southwest. Hugh is a frequent contributor to Empirical.

keith long is recognized for his cutting edge and insightful analysis of contemporary issues facing diverse communities in the information age. He has been invited by editors at Prima Books (Random House) to write a book on the genesis of web 2.0, the interactive social media central to our contemporary culture. His book won endorsements from major opinion leaders in the field. He later wrote Op-Eds for the Financial Times newspaper (London) and works currently as a writer for Dr. Amy Singer, a prominent trial and jury consultant based in Florida.

gina mcgalliard is a full-time San

Diego-based freelance writer, and has numerous credits in national, online, and local publications, among them Wine Enthusiast, Photo Technique, @UCSD, Career World, Dance Studio Life, Sport Diver, Spotlight on Recovery, Liguorian, Bitch, San Diego City Beat, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. She is also a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.



empirical contributors

bruce holland rogers has taught

creative writing in Hungary and Finland on a Fulbright, and he is heading to Japan later this year to do story research under a Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellowship. His stories have been translated into over two dozen languages and have won two World Fantasy Awards, two Micro Awards, two Nebula Awards, and a Pushcart Prize. He is on the permanent MFA faculty at the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts. More stories at www.



brian ross is a thirty-something

Australian, based in Scotland. He has over one hundred publications – from humour (Defenestration) to horror (Shadowed Realms), mystery (FMAM) to mainstream (Underground Voices), and everything in between. His work also appears in several paperback anthologies, including the Read by Dawn series, The One That Got Away, and Damnation & Dames. You can follow him at www.

emanuel stoakes is a freelance

journalist based in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. He has produced multiple pieces for Empirical, The Daily Telegraph, Mondoweiss, The New Statesman, Online Opinion, The Palestine Chronicle, The Huffington Post, and The Independent, among other publications. Emanuel has written extensively about human rights and recently broke an important story in The Daily Telegraph about Sri Lanka’s civil war.

ismana carney'S work is deeply grounded in Jungian approaches to dream analysis, archetypal psychology, and cultivating the soul via earth-centered rituals and transpersonal therapeutic practices. She holds a doctorate in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has taught community college and university courses for over a decade in comparative world religions with special emphasis on indigenous spirituality and mystical traditions, and a range of courses in world history. She has practiced Sufism for many years and has deeply immersed herself in the Zen traditions of Buddhism. JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


empirical contributors

jaime O'neill is a retired English teacher and working freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Crab Creek Review, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas, and dozens of other national and regional publications. His essays have been anthologized in several college writing texts. He lives in Magalia, California where he is no longer working on his resume, though he continues with efforts to pad his obit.



abriana jette is a poet, essayist,

and educator from Brooklyn, New York. She is in the final stages of completing her first manuscript, a collection of poetry titled Pink Houses. She has taught courses at Boston University, the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and the College of Staten Island.

J.C. Elkin is a native New Englander residing on the Chesapeake Bay. A Renaissance woman, she works as a linguist, theater critic, liturgical singer, handwriting analyst, and founder of The Broadneck Writers’ Workshop in Annapolis, Maryland. Her award-winning poetry, fiction and essays appear in such publications as Kansas City Voices, Kestrel, Off the Coast, Crucible, Ducts, Snowy Egret and The Harvard Book Store anthology Paige Leaves. To learn more about her and her work, visit www.

barbara ellen baldwin Baldwin is a literary reviewer, and vets submissions online for finelycrafted print journals. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications. Barbara also teaches privately and is studying ASL with signing coaches, as time allows.



empirical contributors

douglas cole lives in Seattle and

teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College, where he is also the advisor for the literary journal, Corridors. Douglas's work has recently appeared in Red Rock Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He has work available online in The Adirondack Review, Salt River Review, and Avatar Review, among others, and has recorded a story for Bound Off. His novella, The Ghost, was published as a chapbook in the Overtime series of Workers Write Journal. He is a recipient of the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry, a Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House, and First Prize in a poetry contest by Tattoo Highway. 12


shannon rooney teaches writing for Butte College and is a freelance writer, editor, tutor, writing workshop presenter, and social media consultant. She’s had poems published in college journals, literary reviews, and other publications, including Empirical. Her days revolve around two poodles, Violet and Blue, and she loves to hike, canoe, walk through forests, and sit next to alpine lakes.

Big Sur, California

photo: Bryant13Smith JUNE 2013 |Olav EMPIRICAL

feature | Title Ahto Twickanen is a young man struggling to find his place in a world split between the traditions of his Sami/Finnish ancestors and the realities of modern American culture–a culture which too often, in his experience, discounts or ignores the ancestral wisdom of the old world. As Ahto grows toward maturity, confronted with family tragedy, physical altercations, self-doubt and torn loyalties, he is guided by the insights of the one person in whom he can trust and confide, his great uncle Jaakko–a small man with bright eyes and a checkered past, who mysteriously appears every year, at midnight, on Christmas Eve. But when a dejected and confused seventeen year-old Ahto needs him most, Jaakko fails to appear. Horrified by a vision of impending catastrophe, Ahto’s life is transformed as he and his once-estranged father travel north to Canada’s Yukon Territory in the midst of a chilling, bone-cracking winter quest to discover the fate of his missing great uncle. But Ahto’s journey leads him into more than he could have ever imagined when he discovers that he is successor to an ancient family linage of noaide–shamans of the Sami people, and the inheritor of an instrument of immense power that has been passed down from master to apprentice since the last ice age. 14


shadows in winter

by F. Jay Fuller

“F. Jay Fuller’s first novel Shadows in Winter is a breathtaking adventure. I fell deeply in love with Ahto and Jaakko and never wanted to leave the environment Fuller created—mysterious, primal, magical. This novel satisfied in me a deep desire for connection: to people, to spirit, and to the ancestors.” Tara Grover Smith Editor-in-Chief Empirical Magazine

On Amazon, Kindle, and wherever books are sold. JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

Walmart Headquarters 16


BY gar alperovitz

photo: Walmart


A new line of attack on what many now call the “democratic deficit” zeroes in on the multiple ways the organization of the larger economy impacts democratic life. One form of the question focuses on the challenge economic inequality poses to democratic practice—and the degree to which different institutions do or do not foster equality. “[I]f income, wealth, and economic position are also political resources, and if they are distributed unequally, then how can citizens be political equals?” asks political scientist Robert Dahl. “And if citizens cannot be political equals, how is democracy to exist?” The superior ability of the rich to participate politically is not limited to buying influence via donations and lobbyists (and television ads); they also have superior education, more time, more developed skills, greater personal security, and far greater access and experience in managing politics and government. A recent study found that 81 percent of individuals who donate at least $200 to congressional campaigns make over $100,000 per year; 46 percent make at least $250,000. Those among the bottom fifth vote less, attempt to speak to or influence public officials less, participate in organized groups less, and indeed, are only one-tenth as likely to make any form of campaign contribution as those in the top decile. Michael Lind’s formulation of the antidemocratic reJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

If meaningful democracy requires greater equality among the citizenry, and if, as we have seen, existing economic arrangements simply do not permit “after-the-fact” strategies to significantly alter inequality, what then? Either nothing can be done, or clearly a rather different longterm arrangement of economic institutions is necessary, at least in principle.

US Capitol Rotunda

photo: Mith


sult is succinct: “From its fortified command post in the large organizations of the private sector, protected by the concentric moats of alumni preference, college tuition, professional licensing and pro-managerial state laws, the white overclass dominates U.S. politics.” If meaningful democracy requires greater equality among the citizenry, and if, as we have seen, existing economic arrangements simply do not permit “after-thefact” strategies to significantly alter inequality, what then? Either nothing can be done, or clearly a rather different long-term arrangement of economic institutions is necessary, at least in principle. Strikingly, the emerging theory—beginning now from the question of democracy—converges with the emerging theory illuminated by my previous examination of the problem of equality on its own terms. (And, as we have seen, the logic that flows from such considerations points ultimately in the 18


direction of asset-based strategies and alternative wealth-holding institutions.) The same question—though rarely stated openly—is also implicit in discussions of campaign finance reform. There is not much disagreement about the extraordinary importance of money in modern political campaigning. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates total spending for and by congressional candidates, presidential candidates, and the parties in 1999 to 2000 at over $2.5 billion—plus roughly another $200 million dollars for “issue” advocacy campaigns. “Only those who have accumulated lots of money are free to play in this version of democracy,” observes William Greider. “Only those with a strong, immediate financial stake in the political outcomes can afford to invest.” A “soft-money” campaign finance bill was approved by Congress in 2002. So-

phisticated Washington insiders recognized immediately, however, that even if the law was not reversed by the Supreme Court,* big contributors could easily find alternatives to channel money to special-interest front groups and to exert influence in other ways. Trying to get money out of politics, Senator Mitch McConnell comments, is “like putting a rock on Jell-O. You can squeeze it down, but it just goes in other directions.” (This reality has not escaped the average voter: a 2002 Gallup poll found that two-thirds of respondents believe that “no matter what new laws are passed, special interests will always find a way to maintain their power in Washington.”) The deeper issue is thus profoundly challenging: even the most far-reaching reforms are unlikely to succeed, it appears, given the underlying pattern of inequality. Put another way: until the foundationJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

From Aristotle on, it has been obvious that democracy becomes meaningless if people do not have time to participate. Barber, concerned that a third of the workforce works more than forty-five hours a week, emphasizes that democracy requires “time to be educated into civil society, time to participate in deliberation, time to serve on juries, occupy municipal magistracies, volunteer for civic activities.” al question of whether some other way to reduce inequality is confronted and resolved, it is unlikely that the democratic question of how to curb the influence of money in politics can be effectively dealt with. And given the failure of traditional approaches, for better or worse this again brings the problem of democratic renewal back to asset-based strategies and new institutional approaches to altering wealth ownership. Intimately related to economic inequality is the matter of time—in this case as it concerns democracy as well as liberty. From Aristotle on, it has been obvious that democracy becomes meaningless if people do not have time to participate. Barber, concerned that a third of the workforce works more than forty-five hours a week, emphasizes that democracy requires “time to be educated into civil society, time to participate in deliberation, time to serve on juries, 20


occupy municipal magistracies, volunteer for civic activities.” Various ways to reduce the workweek, as we have seen, have begun to be put forward. However, most of these in turn require some way to distribute income more equitably— hence, also wealth—so that time itself can be more equitably distributed. The implications different economic arrangements have for democratic practice are also obvious in connection with the political influence of large corporations. As we have noted, Thomas Jefferson, Louis Brandeis, and such theorists as Henry C. Simons (along with many traditional conservatives), to say nothing of Karl Marx, all held large corporations to be incompatible in various ways with democratic practice. Although their alternative systemic solutions—entrepreneurial and smaller-scale capitalism, on the one hand, socialism, on the other—no longer appear viable, the un-

Prague Astronomical Clock

photo: Moyan


derlying question has not gone away. We are here at the very heart of the system problem. The key question: Is there any way to achieve democratic control in the face of the self-evident power of giant enterprises? Are there any viable longer-term alternatives? A host of studies have documented some of the most obvious realities. The large corporation regularly 1. Influences legislation and agenda setting through lobbying 2. Influences regulatory behavior through direct and indirect pressure 3. Influences elections via large-scale campaign contributions 4. Influences public attitudes through massive media campaigns 5. Influences local government choices through all of the above—and adds the implicit or explicit threat of withdrawing its plants, equipment, and jobs from JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

The classic twentieth-century strategies aimed at making corporations more accountable centered, first, on antitrust efforts; second, on various forms of public regulation. Such strategies do not attempt to move beyond the corporation as an institution; they essentially hope to use publically backed efforts to constrain its activities.

Theodore Roosevelt

photo: National

Park Service

specific locations 6. Influences choices at all levels by virtue of the simple fact that in the absence of an alternative, the economy as a whole depends on the viability and success of its most important economic actor—a reality that commonly forces citizen and politician alike to respond to corporate demands. One of the main “countervailing” forces checking the political powers of the corporation has been organized labor. With the steady decline of labor union membership, however, there has also been a weakening of labor’s direct and indirect capacity to constrain corporate influence. Corporations now commonly account for three out of every four political donations in congressional elections—outnumbering labor contributions almost 14 to 1. Robert Kaplan is blunt: “[T]he influence that corporations wield over govern22


ment and the economy is so vast and obvious that the point needs no elaboration. . . . Democratic governance, at the federal, state, and local levels, goes on. But its ability to affect our lives is limited.” A former president of the American Political Science Association, Charles Lindblom, concludes his prizewinning book Politics and Markets with this judgment: “The large private corporation fits oddly into democratic theory and vision. Indeed, it does not fit.” The classic twentieth-century strategies aimed at making corporations more accountable centered, first, on antitrust efforts; second, on various forms of public regulation. Such strategies do not attempt to move beyond the corporation as an institution; they essentially hope to use publically backed efforts to constrain its activities. With antitrust now of marginal importance both economically and in terms of its original “demo-

cratic power” applications, regulation is the main remaining traditional alternative. But it is also increasingly clear that the effectiveness of regulatory strategies is extremely limited in many areas, and under attack in several others. During the final decades of the twentieth century, deregulation occurred in connection with trucking, airlines, railroads, telecommunications, energy transmission, and large sectors of the financial services and banking industry. Corporations also have been able to develop powerful lobbying and other tactics to influence federal agencies and commissions established to oversee their functioning. Although the Enron, WorldCom, and other scandals forced its hand in certain areas, the administration of George W. Bush has been particularly aggressive in challenging traditional regulatory strategies. In its first years in office the adminJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

photo: SenRockefeller

Sen. Jay Rockefeller holding FCC Oversight Hearings (2012)

istration froze and ultimately weakened regulations covering workplace ergonomic rules, medical privacy standards, preferences for union labor in federal contracts, and rules covering the disqualification of companies with poor workplace, environmental, and other compliance records from new government contracts. The Bush administration has also attempted to weaken appliance efficiency standards for items 24


such as air conditioners and refrigerators, abandoned a campaign pledge to limit carbon dioxide emissions, and quickly settled the Microsoft antitrust case. It weakened protections for wetlands, eased mining laws, and simply sidestepped the Kyoto accord on global warming. In June 2003 Bush’s Federal Communications Commission appointees relaxed media ownership rules permitting a single corporation

to own multiple major outlets in one city (allowing, in the biggest cities, one company to directly control three television stations, eight radio stations, and a newspaper). Scholarly analyses have illuminated the foundational logic that commonly reduces the impact of traditional regulatory strategies. One large body of research provides detailed studies of the systematic and regular processes through which “iron triangles” of corporate and other pressures hedge in and co-opt regulatory systems—allowing just enough reform to buy off critics without seriously challenging basic corporate priorities. Quite regularly, political scientist Marver Bernstein observes, “faced with the organized opposition . . . a commission finds its

Nobel laureate George Stigler demonstrated early on that regulation often is actually sought by leading firms in an industry as a way to maintain dominance. Even when it is thrust upon the industry, regulation commonly “is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.” survival as a regulating body dependent heavily on its facility in reaching a modus operandi with the regulated groups.” Nobel laureate George Stigler demonstrated early on that regulation often is actually sought by leading firms in an industry as a way to maintain dominance. Even when it is thrust upon the industry, regulation commonly “is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.” The result is what another respected conservative, James Q. Wilson, calls “a government of cartels and clients.” (Ralph Nader characterizes the same implicit collusion as “corporate socialism, a condition of federal

statecraft wherein public agencies control much of the private economy on behalf of a designated corporate clientele.”) As the comments of conservatives like Stigler and Wilson suggest, these are not simply liberal or academic concerns. Nor do they relate only to the policies of the Bush administration. We have noted the experience of William Simon, Richard Nixon’s secretary of the Treasury—and his “incredulity as businessmen ran to the government in every crisis, whining for handouts or protection.” David Stockman, the architect of the so-called Reagan Revolution, came to the conclusion that the

political power of “strong clients” like Boeing, Lockheed, General Electric, and Westinghouse was simply overwhelming. They “know how to make themselves heard. The problem is, unorganized groups can’t play in this game.” The “Chicago school” conservative economist Henry C. Simons analyzed the underlying logic of power and came to the conclusion that “regulatory strategies” involved the worst of all solutions. Even public ownership was better, he felt—even from the perspective of free-market economic theory. At least it provided for public disclosure of information and open JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

Part of the answer clearly involves the extent to which an engaged citizenry has the experience, time, and money to force regulatory agencies to hold corporations to publicly determined standards. But this in turn brings the question back, again, to issues of citizen democratic experience, on the one hand, and inequality, on the other. oversight. The state, Si- approach. Many gains mons proposed, “should have been achieved in face the necessity of actu- connection with the enally taking over, owning, vironment and other matand managing directly . . ters. A central question . industries in which it is is, under what conditions impossible to maintain can regulation be made to effectively competitive work effectively and efficonditions.” Likely candi- ciently? dates included railroads, Part of the answer “utilities, oil extraction, clearly involves the exlife insurance, etc.” For tent to which an engaged citizenry has the experisimilar Salinas, reasons California Simons photo: USDA suggested that it might ence, time, and money make sense for metropoli- to force regulatory agentan governments to “ac- cies to hold corporations quire much or most of the to publicly determined standards. But this in turn land in their areas.” Although the problem brings the question back, of “regulatory capture” again, to issues of citizen is real, it does not follow democratic experience, that there is no role for on the one hand, and inregulatory strategies in a equality, on the other. longer-term foundational Both also drive the ques26


tion back, once more, to the institutional foundations—particularly economic—that are required to nurture a truly democratic citizenry. At this stage of the reassessment process, no fully comprehensive proposal has as yet been put forward that even in theory fully confronts the challenge to democratic practice presented by the power of the large corporation. Various thinkers have, however, begun to offer a number of suggestions that move in the direction of a comprehensive approach that might one day plausibly be combined with other emerging ideas to produce an

integrated strategy. These proposed partial solutions center on the legal status of the corporation; the role of public and quasipublic “stakeholders”; the degree to which the corporation can be democratized from within; and the leverage that public or quasi-public ownership of corporate stock can confer. The large for-profit corporation is a creation of society. It has no independent right to exist absent a public charter that spells out its rights and obligations. For much of the nineteenth century, significant scale corporations in the main were authorized only to undertake specific public or quasipublic projects—for example, the construction of waterways and canals. Large, independent, limited-liability corporations

photo: AFGE

EPA Katrina Rally (2005)

evolved slowly, gaining real economic purchase only after the Civil War. A number of writers have urged replacing or supplementing current state chartering of corporations with federal chartering to avoid states “racing to the bottom” to set minimum chartering requirements (a reform also urged by Henry C. Simons years earlier). Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt,

among others, have proposed related legislation to establish “R corporations” that would receive preferential tax treatment if they agreed to a stipulated code of conduct. Sociologist Charles Derber has proposed that corporate charters define an explicit public purpose and include social, environmental, and accountability requirements. More fundamentally, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, suggests a “Social Responsibility JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

More fundamentally, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, suggests a “Social Responsibility Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution that would require each corporation to renew its charter every twenty years.

Erie Canal

photo: James

E. Bates

Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution that would require each corporation to renew its charter every twenty years. If a corporation could not prove that it serves the common good, its charter would be revoked and its assets distributed to another community group that could better meet important social goals. A second line of strategy centers on proposals by another group of analysts that employee, community, and other stakeholders be granted seats on corporate boards so they can directly represent their interests. Ralph Estes of the Stakeholder Alliance suggests that corporations also be required to provide the Securities and Exchange Commission with an extensive array of information on social and environmental performance—and that such information be made available to workers, to consumers, to suppliers, and to the communities corporations serve through mandated “Corporate Reports.” In addition, “stakeholder councils” with limited powers would be established to provide oversight for the enterprise. The challenge confronting proposals to redefine the legal status of the corporation is obviously similar to that facing regulatory strategies. Although changes in 28


citizen capacities might one day alter the underlying relationships, currently the corporation clearly has sufficient independence to avoid or severely limit the proposed constraints. Similarly, while stakeholder representation also offers the possibility of greater accountability, it has done little so far to alter the fundamental power relationships in U.S. companies where it has been tried, or in countries such as Germany where a related approach—“codetermination”— has been attempted.* Indeed, many observers feel that unless bolstered by much more fundamental reforms, such participation can all too easily lead to the “co-optation” of labor representatives and other stakeholders. The third line of proposed strategies emphasizes internal corporate democratization: Columbia University professor Seymour Melman theorizes that workplace democracy might ultimately “encompass every major aspect of activity necessary to production, and thereby construct an alternative to the

hierarchical systems of both business and government—an alternative to state capitalism.” A comprehensive system of self-governing employee-owned enterprises, Robert Dahl holds, “would tend to . . . give all citizens a more nearly equal stake in maintaining political equality and democratic institutions in the government of the state.” David Ellerman, the former adviser to the chief economist of the World Bank, proposes that all corporations be restructured as partnerships, with all workers included as partners with ownership and governance rights. The thrust of such democratization proposals is in line with a trend among sophisticated corporate managers that emphasizes the efficiency gains greater employee empowerment can produce.25 It is also in line with the developing thrust of worker-ownership proposals for small- and medium size locally based firms. However, there are obvious limits to this approach as well. Critically, most of the ideas for internal democratization JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

The third line of proposed strategies emphasizes internal corporate democratization: Columbia University professor Seymour Melman theorizes that workplace democracy might ultimately “encompass every major aspect of activity necessary to production, and thereby construct an alternative to the hierarchical systems of both business and government—an alternative to state capitalism.” simply do not confront the external political and power dynamics of the very large-scale firms that are of central concern. Even democratized corporations have reasons to exercise their inherent political power when their particular interests are at stake. A final line of developing strategies involves significantly greater institutional change. This focuses on the large blocks of stock held by public and private pension funds. In the 1970s Peter Drucker coined the phrase “pension fund socialism” to underscore the potential leverage that large-scale capital accumulations might give major pension funds. A few years later the activist-writers Jeremy Rifkin and Randy Barber suggested that pension funds be required to finance a Midwest regional “rust-belt” reinvestment plan centered on worker and community-based firms; a more recent treatise by sociologist Robin Blackburn 30


has offered detailed analyses and recommendations for a comprehensive longterm strategy. Blackburn and others also have urged unions and public authorities to shift their current pension investment priorities to achieve other public goals—and a number have invested successfully in housing, on the one hand, and businesses that provide jobs in certain states, on the other. The broader corporate-accountability and democracy possibilities that an extension of public pension fund strategies might ultimately offer is suggested by recent developments in California. CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System), the state employee pension fund, is the second-largest U.S. pension fund and third-largest in the world. It has long used its financial power to encourage corporate governance reforms, recently divesting itself of tobacco stock and rejecting investments

Columbia University, New York City

photo: Beraldo


in companies fleeing the country for offshore tax relief. CalPERS’ leadership also helped organize a national coalition of state treasurers who oversee combined portfolios of more than a trillion dollars to force investment banks to reassess conflicts of interest. Beyond this, CalPERS requires companies seeking investment support to follow a specified code of conduct in their international investment practices: firms from emerging market nations are judged according to their governments’ records on human rights, labor rights, corruption, and investor protections. “Show me a company locating offshore in Bermuda or polluting the environment and I’ll show you a company that’s going to screw its shareholders,” declared Phil Angelides, then the California Treasurer. “Transparency, democracy, labor rights, these are all issues that should be part of fund managers’ due diligence.” Though the financial interests of the public pension fund as shareholder can someJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Democracy: Inequality and Giant Corporations

“Show me a company locating offshore in Bermuda or polluting the environment and I’ll show you a company that’s going to screw its shareholders,” declared Phil Angelides, then the California Treasurer. “Transparency, democracy, labor rights, these are all issues that should be part of fund managers’ due diligence.”

Phil Angelides

times be in tension with other issues of public and employee concern, the evolving experience of CalPERS and other pension funds suggests that a growing body of “democratic accountability” experience vis-à-vis the corporation is steadily being developed by such efforts. There are also some obvious structural parallels—and potential connections to be made—between the new strategies and some of the strategies emerging in connection with equality: In the August 2012 issue of Empirical (Chapter 1 of America Beyond Capitialism), we have previously reviewed wealth-related proposals by Roemer, Meade, and Kelso that involve large32


photo: Dan


scale publicly backed stock ownership aimed at producing a supplemental income stream for citizens. Those of Roemer and Meade also require some form of public authority—very similar to the agencies that manage public pension funds—to oversee the investment of stock on behalf of the citizenry. The developing trajectory of public pension fund practice, on the one hand, and the proposed publicly backed income inequality producing strategies, on the other—taken together—point logically in the direction of a systemwide wealth-ownership approach that, at least in theory, might one day offer ways to achieve both greater democratic

accountability and greater equality. Standing back from the steadily evolving reassessment process, the historically interesting questions are the pace at which each of the emerging strategies for dealing with the power of the corporation might continue to develop and be refined—and whether key aspects of each might be integrated with other emerging approaches to one day achieve a fully comprehensive democracy-enhancing approach. We shall return to these questions shortly. [This article is a reprint of Chapter 4 in America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy, 2nd Edition (2011) by Gar Alpervitz; published by Democracy Collaborative Press and Dollars and Sense. If you have enjoyed this article, and want to see this article with complete footnotes and endnotes, please purchase a copy of this book through Dollars and Sense.]




Drones on the USS Tortuga 34



US Navy/SP2 Katerine Noll

BY Hugh Mercer curtler Most historians give Jimmy Carter poor grades as a president. Whether or not one agrees, one would have to admit he has subsequently shown himself to be an outspoken defender of human rights and a man determined to leave his world a better place than he found it. Indeed, he has shown himself to be the best of men in an age when there are very few we can point to with pride and say with conviction, “he (or she) is a good person.” But the latest step he has taken shows not only his exceptional concern for human rights–all humans and not just American citizens–but also the courage to criticize a standing president from within his own political party. Carter wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times toward the end of 2012 in which he took President Obama to task for violating human rights in ordering the killing of suspected terrorists by unmanned aircraft, known as “drones.” These weapons have taken not only the lives of terrorists, but of a number of innocent victims as well, including the 16 year-old American son of a terrorist suspect who was in the country looking for his father and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Carter also faults Obama for failing to act on his promise to close the prison holding terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, though to be fair, the President ran into considerable opposition from the Congress (and many American JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror

We might have expected this hawkishness from Obama’s predecessor, but we had hoped that this President, the President of “Change,” would bring a new moral order to the White House, if not a new political order–that he would take the moral high ground, as Martin Luther King would have it.

USS Lassen


US Navy/CT1 Cryptologic Technician 1st Class Carl T. Jacobson

citizens) when he attempted that closure early in his presidency. In any event, Carter’s charges contain the following disturbing information: Instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends. . .While the total number of attacks from unmanned aircraft, or drones, and the resulting casualties are murky, the New America Foundation estimates that in Pakistan alone 265 drone strikes have been executed since January 2009. Those strikes have killed at least 1,488 people, . . . 1,343 of them considered militants, the foundation estimates based on news reports and other sources. This would mean that by the end of last year it is estimated that 145 non-militants have been killed in those strikes, though more recent estimates suggest that the number is closer to 880–including 176 children. Furthermore, only 2% of those 36


killed can now be said with any confidence to have been militant leaders. These charges, together with the figures cited, are alarming and deeply disturbing. We might have expected this hawkishness from Obama’s predecessor, but we had hoped that this President, the President of “Change,” would bring a new moral order to the White House, if not a new political order–that he would take the moral high ground, as Martin Luther King would have it. Instead, he has disappointed those of us who expected (hoped?) for better. In fact, Carter’s case was strengthened recently when the United Nations decided to investigate the drone attacks and their civilian toll to determine whether or not the attacks constitute war crimes. As reported in the Manchester Guardian in January of 2013, “Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, who monitors counter-terrorism for the UN, called for effective investigations into drone attacks. Some US drone strikes in Pakistan may amount to war crimes, Emmerson warned.” Emerson then went on to point out: The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” he said. “It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations. The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US. The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone programme of JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror

Drone Protest in Washington, DC

targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia …” We have no way of knowing how that investigation will turn out, but it is worthy of note that the United Nations thought it necessary to investigate and that President Obama has been reluctant to cooperate with the U. N. But however it turns out, it behooves us as concerned citizens of the country that has perpetrated these attacks 38



Debra Sweet

to think about them and try to determine whether or not we can condone the steps the government has taken in our name to protect us from terror. Let us examine the morality of the drone attacks with some care by taking a step back to get a better perspective. In an episode of “Inspector Lewis” on the BBC, Dame Grace Orde has written an autobiography of her years with MI-5 that promised to reveal all (some?) of

the dirty little secrets of that organization. During a presentation prior to a book signing, she told her audience that “it is sometimes necessary to set aside ethics when it is a matter of national interest.” That, of course, is right out of Machiavelli’s Prince. Or, if you prefer, John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism where he insists that the right thing to do is that action that produces “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” In a word, the end justifies the means. In the real world of dirty tricks this is a given and while I have a problem with giving more weight to “our” people than we do to “their” people, I have less trouble with it as an abstract principle than I do with it as a concrete action or set of actions

“it is sometimes necessary to set aside ethics when it is a matter of national interest.” That, of course, is right out of Machiavelli’s Prince. Or, if you prefer, John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism where he insists that the right thing to do is that action that produces “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” In a word, the end justifies the means. where it is used to “justify” such things as drone attacks, enforced incarceration, and torture. The really hard question is: who decides what is in the “national interest,” or what action or actions will produce the “greatest good”? Apparently in the case of drone strikes, it is “high-level administration officials,” according to Michael Isikoff of NBC News who revealed in February of this year that the Obama administration believes that these officials–not just the president–may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force “even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.” The Justice Department insisted that “a lawful killing in selfdefense is not an assassination.” A White House white paper on the legality of drone attacks made available to Isikoff also stated that the U.S. would be able to kill a U.S. citizen overseas when “an informed, high-level official

of the U.S. government” determines the target is an imminent threat, when capture would be infeasible, and when the operation is “conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles.” This license to kill American citizens is, of course, post facto, as noted above and it applies to American citizens anywhere in the world, other than in the United States. I will ignore the question of whether or not this policy involves an illicit extension of executive power–a constitutional issue that will bear careful scrutiny by constitutional lawyers and politicians from the opposing Party, though Eric Holder in a recent speech at Northwestern University suggested that there may, in fact, exist no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations. I am more interested in the moral issue, as we all should be. After all, ours is a democracy that was a signatory to the JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror


Tjebbe van Tijen

Geneva Conventions placing “humane” restraints on modern warfare. Those restraints were found wanting by our employment of waterboarding and other torture techniques, and also by the incarceration of suspected terrorists without the benefit of due process in Guantanamo Bay. But this policy on drone strikes loosens those restraints even further. 40


The issue here is not so much that this policy allows for the killing of American citizens, but that it condones the killing of suspected terrorists in crowded areas where, regardless of nationality, innocent people will also die. The notion that we– that is to say, this country–routinely send drones into crowded urban areas with the intention to “take out” an alleged leader of al-Qaeda “even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.” on the grounds that this is “consistent with applicable law of war principles” is morally reprehensible. What, precisely, are those principles? And how do we determine which ones are “applicable”? Are we to allow anything under the sun in the name of “the national interest”? The point is that the principle advanced by Dame Grace Orde, or anyone else, may have the appearance of respectability when put forward by an actress on the TV screen or even when found in the pages of books by philosophers like John Stuart Mill or in Machiavelli’s Prince. But when push comes to shove, it translates into unmitigated evil and the argument that this is simply the way the world works will not pass muster. And attempting to hide that fact

when push comes to shove, it translates into unmitigated evil and the argument that this is simply the way the world works will not pass muster. And attempting to hide that fact under the pile of jargon that is bandied about in international politics will not pass muster, either. under the pile of jargon that is bandied about in international politics will not pass muster, either. In this regard, the Washington Post reported in October of last year that the Obama administration is developing a “disposition matrix” for its next-generation terrorist assassination program. (The adjective “Orwellian” is over-used, but it is undeniably apt for a kill list being euphemistically reworked as a “disposition matrix”). Generally speaking, it is a very weak moral system that weighs costs against benefits. But it is done in business routinely–which simply tells us how the business model has permeated this culture, for better or worse. Such a calculation results in questionable ethical conclusions even in business, such as the continued production of the Pinto automobile after it has gone up in flames killing or maiming a number of drivers in rear-end collisions. And it seeks to “justify” drone killing in the name of the “national interest” and the

death of suspected terrorists in the name of a “disposition matrix.” Weighing alternatives and hiding behind verbiage may be realpolitik, but it is bad morality: it ignores the victims–like the estimated 145 “non-militants” mentioned above– all of whom became part of the “residual effect” of drone killings in Pakistan. It has been said, and rightly so, that the President has to make tough decisions and we are not privy to the information available to him through his various secret agencies. All too true. But we like to think that America takes the moral high ground whenever possible and every citizen with a brain and a conscience should join in asking with Walter Shapiro “when will this end?” Let’s face it, it’s terrorism in the name of defending ourselves against terrorism. It is wrong and it is not clear that it is even in the national interest when there are other ways to deal effectively with terrorism and it undermines confidence at home and abroad and strikes fear in JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror the hearts of our allies as well as our enemies. And it promotes the image of America as the Big Bully on the block who is out to knock over anyone in his way. If the drones were used against presumed terrorists in the streets of Los Angles or New York by our enemies we would assuredly not recognize this as “lawful killing.” What we would not allow to have done to our own citizens in this country–or anywhere else–we should not regard as morally acceptable when done by our own leaders to

Let’s face it, it’s terrorism in the name of defending ourselves against terrorism. It is wrong and it is not clear that it is even in the national interest when there are other ways to deal effectively with terrorism and it undermines confidence at home and abroad and strikes fear in the hearts of our allies as well as our enemies. And it promotes the image of America as the Big Bully on the block who is out to knock over anyone in his way. 42


suspected terrorists, no matter how “high” the level of the “official of the United States” who makes this dreadful decision. Again, no moral compass I am aware of allows us to consider our people any more valuable than their people. Human rights apply to all humans, not just Americans. These killings are in no way “lawful.” What laws could possibly apply in this case?–certainly not international laws. And certainly not moral laws as we can see from the fact that a neutral observer reading about such a “lawful killing” would never agree that it is not an assassination. Given the concern in the United Nations about these attacks, we can readily imagine what people in other countries must think of this nation when our leaders reason this way. Would we ourselves agree that it is not an assassination if “a lawful killing” targeted, say, the Secretary of Defense, or one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and killed a number of innocent bystanders in the process? We would be outraged, and we should be. This having been said, we must wonder about the mindset of the sitting President, otherwise quite liberal in his

One wonders about the inconsistency not to mention the apparent contradiction between this man’s political views as they regard domestic as contrasted with international affairs. Is it possible that President Obama is cowed by the impressive uniforms laden with medals coupled with the commanding presence of military leaders who surround him when he sits down with the Joint Chiefs of Staff? politics, who seems to be the most ferocious of hawks–some would say at least as hawkish as his predecessor in that office. One wonders about the inconsistency not to mention the apparent contradiction between this man’s political views as they regard domestic as contrasted with international affairs. Is it possible that President Obama is cowed by the impressive uniforms laden with medals coupled with the

Drone protest in Washington, DC


Debra Sweet JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror

I recall the words of former President Dwight Eisenhower who said “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” and more recently West Point graduate and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in an article in the New Yorker (January 8, 2013) noted that “we have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers....”

President Obama's first trip to the Pentagon (2009) photo: US Army/SPC1 Chad J. McNeely

commanding presence of military leaders who surround him when he sits down with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ? I do wonder. Don’t get me wrong: I am not being “judgmental” about the President as we love to say. It’s not my place to judge the man, since in his shoes I would probably be just as cowed by the presence of those uniforms and those medals. But I recall the words of former President Dwight Eisenhower who said “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” and more recently West Point graduate and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in an article in the New Yorker ( January 8, 2013) noted that “we have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers....” This man knows whereof he speaks and he comes to the problem from the perspective of a military man who exhibits the same caution about the military that Eisenhower exhibited after he left the fold. These are words we need to take to heart. 44


It is reasonable to suppose that Barack Obama, like anyone else who has never worn a uniform or fought in a battle, would be awed by those who wear the uniform proudly and is told repeatedly (as we all are) that these men and women are all heroes to whom we owe our freedoms. And Obama is not alone in this. As an Associated Press wire service story picked up by Yahoo News on February 9, 2013 points out, many of the Democrats in Congress share Obama’s hawkishness: This past week’s confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee to lead the CIA showed just how much Washington–Democrats especially–has come to accept the same counterterrorism policies that drew such furor in the first years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Is it possible that we are giving up our freedoms to the very people who are pledged to defend those freedoms with their lives? Is this the way we really want to go? I don’t think we should see President Obama’s hawkishness as a sign of weakness on the part of a man adept at the political game and otherwise liberal in his thinking. Rather, I see him as a microcosm of the rest of this society which seems ready to hand over the reins of power to those who wear uniforms–especially since those military men and women have the backing of the wealthy in this country who are also doubtless in awe of the uniform and transfixed by the military mystique. It is a subject worth pondering–especially since not only Dwight Eisenhower and Andrew Bacevich but also military men like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton long ago warned us to maintain civilian rule over the military. But, given distance in time and space and in the setting of a quiet room, ethical JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


feature | Ethics and Counter-Terror issues always seem clearer. I can conclude with some confidence that the morality of this issue is clear: drone strikes are wrong because they violate every moral precept known to both ethics and religion. But in the “real world” where terrorism is a fact of life, it will be alleged that things differ. As Dame Grace says, it is sometimes necessary to set ethics aside. This means two things: (1) we acknowledge that these things are wrong, and (2) we will do them anyway. But at what point do we insist that the “real world” must attempt, at least, to approximate the ideal world we can see so clearly from the comfort of our own studies, especially if our part of that world regards itself as a champion of human rights? At what point do we say “that may be the way others do things, but we are better than that”? It does seem that this country has decided to take the low road in the battle against terrorism and it would also seem that we thereby become no better than the folks we call our “enemies.”

Tharros & the Lost Call BY abriana jette Wind never hits this spot on the Peninsula di Sinis the brochure reads, when my brother calls to say he has filed for divorce. I think of our father, hovering over his only son for ten years, wanting so badly to buy him a beer, promise the promises impossible to know. In my stomach an ache solid as a peach’s pit. Seagulls caw towards the water, ripples stop before the rocks, not a gust or breeze or wisp to cool off, the grey hum of lines breaking up.




Lina Smith JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


The Media's Court of Public Opinion

Reflections on the Trial of Casey Anthony by keith long

photo: DB




The Casey Anthony trial became the most sensational news story of 2011. The Orlando, Florida court where the trial took place issued 600 press credentials, and Time magazine dubbed it the first social media trial of the century. The 22-year-old single mom was charged with three felonies including first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and manslaughter. When pictures surfaced on the internet showing her at a nightclub in June, 2008, shortly after her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, went missing, the media and public went ballistic. Thirty-one days passed after Caylee’s death before police were notified and then it was not mother Casey but her family that called police and they were pointing fingers at her. More time passed as thousands all over the country searched for the missing toddler. Finally, in December of that year, the remains of the angelic Caylee were found in woods, just blocks from the young mother’s home. During that time, images of the young mother partying and her videotaped jailhouse interviews  with parents consumed mainstream news and the social media blogosphere. Casey appeared concerned only about herself. None of the streaming images showed Casey Anthony JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

The Casey Anthony trial was a public spectacle that came close in many respects to resembling the days of the Roman Colosseum, where the public thirsted to see lions devour the captured prisoner in their arena. Social media transformed her three month courtroom trial into an arena of its own, and Casey Anthony was the captured prisoner.

Roman Colliseum

photo: Doc


with any apparent remorse or grief. Today, her name remains synonymous with, “got away with murder,” and it engenders animosity that is just as venomous today as it was during the investigation and trial. She was named the most unpopular person in America in 2011. Another poll in 2012 reinforced the public’s collective disdain for her. The Casey Anthony trial was a public spectacle that came close in many respects to resembling the days of the Roman Colosseum, where the public thirsted to see lions devour the captured prisoner in their arena. Social media transformed her three month courtroom trial into an arena of its own, and Casey Anthony was the captured prisoner. The trial’s 50


streaming videos and interactive blogs induced a frenzy that left the public demanding to see an embodiment of Caesar give his final “thumbs down” against their prize. Time magazine, one of many mainstream media publications that fed the court of public opinion during the trial said, “Virtually no one doubts that Anthony was involved in her child’s death,” then added, “but if you see murder in Casey Anthony’s big brown eyes during a live feed of her trial, you can tell all the world how delectable you will find her execution.” Blogs exploded with conversations and opinions; cable news commentary announced “breaking news alerts” all blaming the mother, Casey Anthony, for the little girl’s disappearance and death. Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, was interviewed by CBS news before the trial even started: “The evidence is overwhelming. No one else in the world except Casey Anthony could have done this.” The Chicago Tribune reported, “Just when you think Casey Anthony cannot nauseate you anymore, try this: she wants

more children.” It was quite literally impossible to find a single reporter or media commentator, before and now even after her trial, who would say they thought this woman could be innocent. We did find twelve jurors, however, who reached that conclusion. The jury was not sympathetic to the defendant. Many jurors cried as they voted to acquit. The prosecution’s evidence was so thin that they deliberated only eleven hours before finding her not guilty. So this sets up a very interesting difference of opinion. The jury was sequestered by order of the trial court and reached its decision based on evidence heard within the four walls of the courtroom. The public, on the other hand, had an information environment dominated by one point of view on this case. The media’s court of public opinion was sustained by a carnival of pictures, videos, and opinion transmitted through blogs all over the internet. During the hour when the verdict was announced, 325,000 Tweets shouted 140-character screams of increJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

The defendant’s lead defense attorney, Jose Baez, characterized the reporting as “media assassination.” Kurtz added, “Let’s be honest with ourselves: this is the exploitation of tragedy until it becomes entertainment. And that’s why the situation is even worse than the indictment by Anthony’s lawyer would suggest.” dulity. A bare one per cent supported her acquittal. Tweets like this were the rule: “The jury was inept and lazy. That’s why we have a baby killer being set free.” I am an investigative journalist who has become quite familiar with the Casey Anthony case. I can report an important part of my research has been focused on reaching an understanding of the public’s perception of this story. I take every opportunity to sample reactions and opinions from waitresses, store clerks, professionals, and especially mothers. The mere mention of this former accused murderer’s name stops conversations, interrupts tasks, and always evokes an immediate, visceral, and remarkably consistent reaction from virtually everyone I talk to. Eyes roll; “Oh, that woman, I hate her;” “She got away with murder, no one would ignore her baby’s disappearance for 31 days like she did.” As I said, the opinions are virtually unanimous that Casey Anthony is a horrid person. I inquire of reactions from people I casually meet for a 52


simple reason: my research into the facts of the case has resolved itself into a conviction that the true story of Casey Anthony has yet to be told. The public has no clue what the real Casey Anthony story is about. Of course, she has barely breathed a word on her own behalf since her release, nearly two years ago. So that is understandable. Soon after the jury’s “not guilty” verdict was announced, I had a conversation with Barry Sussman, the Washington Post’s former Watergate editor for Woodward and Bernstein. He was now editor for Harvard’s Media Watchdog program and he wanted my opinion on what the verdict would have been if the jury had not been sequestered. He described the reporting of this case as a media carnival. Barry invited me to write a centerpiece article for Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism in November, 2011, only a few months after the verdict. My article broke records for reader response on the Harvard website. Besides Barry, there were two other notable jour-

nalists who called out the pack journalism mindset that characterizes coverage of the story to this day. Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources joined CNN’s senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, in criticizing the media’s coverage. Kurtz said, “I refused to join the media frenzy after two-year-old Caylee was killed.” Kurtz added that what troubled him most was how the media turned the trial into entertainment. “It was great in terms of ratings, {but} I thought it was appalling in terms of the way it just seemed to take over the

Howard Kurtz

photo: David


American media. The tone of the coverage was Casey Anthony must be guilty.” The defendant’s lead defense attorney, Jose Baez, characterized the reporting as “media assassination.” Kurtz added, “Let’s be honest with ourselves: this is the exploitation of tragedy until it becomes entertainment. And that’s why the situation is even worse than the indictment by Anthony’s lawyer would suggest.” Kurtz admitted that he winced at the onslaught of lawyers and psychologists on cable news channels and in blogs pontificating about the case: “There are legal loudmouths who have gone on TV to convict Casey Anthony ... forgetting there is a difference between someone appearing guilty and the requirement that prosecutors prove guilt in a courtroom. Television has feasted off this case for three years.” Kurtz shared his personal feelings admitting at one point he became so angry it made his blood boil. He was asked about his own Reliable Sources program coverage on CNN: “I stayed away from this.” Kurtz refused to cover the story on his very popular CNN Sunday media discussion show. Kurtz’s colleague at CNN, Jeff Toobin, shared his opinions in his usual, deadpan fashion: “”Most of the coverage has been very JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

I see what everyone sees in this story. A young mother who knew early on that her daughter had disappeared. She lied to her parents, saying Caylee is with a nanny whom she named “Zanny.” Then 31 days later, after her own mother called police to arrest her, Casey lied to police, saying “Zanny the nanny” told her she had taken Caylee to teach Casey a lesson. . . . Prosecutors characterized her as a party girl, who was seeking “the beautiful life,” someone who wanted to be free from the responsibilities of being a mother to her daughter Caylee. In the court of public opinion it was all over: case closed! hostile to Casey Anthony. The news media was very unfair to Casey Anthony.” These two highly regarded journalists, and Harvard’s editor, Barry Sussman, are standard bearers who feel a responsibility to call for a return to a quality of journalism that originally inspired them to become journalists. They in turn, have inspired me to look beyond what we all see at the surface in this story. They inspired me to look beneath the surface and to find facts. I determined not to be persuaded by the media carnival we were all witness to, and many of us were part of. Let me say at the outset, as a reporter, I see what everyone sees in this story. A young mother who knew early on that her daughter had disappeared. She lied to her parents, saying Caylee is with a nanny whom she named “Zanny.” Then 31 days later, after her own mother called police 54


to arrest her, Casey lied to police, saying “Zanny the nanny” told her she had taken Caylee to teach Casey a lesson. Casey then lied about where the nanny lived, and even where Casey herself worked for the past two years. Police quickly discovered Casey hadn’t held a job since shortly after her nearly three-year-old daughter, Caylee, was born. Investigators went to the apartment where Casey told them Zanny the nanny lived, and found it had been vacant for over six months; no one there ever heard of Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, the fantasy “Zanny.” Casey went to parties on weekends during the time Caylee was “missing.” She got a tattoo on her shoulder, “bella vita.” Prosecutors characterized her as a party girl, who was seeking “the beautiful life,” someone who wanted to be free from the responsibilities of being a mother to her daughter

Orlando, Florida

photo: Greg


Caylee. In the court of public opinion it was all over: case closed! In post trial analysis, I committed myself to follow the lead from those few journalists who called out the media coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. Jeff Toobin advised, “The media‘s coverage is something we should all discuss.” So I now suggest the public and media need to take a breath. The time has come to have that conversation Jeff Toobin, Howard Kurtz and Barry Sussman ask for. I have researched trial evidence, statements of dozens of witnesses, and the family dynamic of the Anthonys living in the little home on Hopespring Drive in Orlando. What I come away with is the personal story of Casey Anthony, outlined here for the first time. My questions for the media, and its court of public opinion are these: Did police arrest the wrong person? Was the jury right when they said Casey Anthony was “not guilty”? Was Casey’s mother, Cindy, involved in a coverup of a crime against her own granddaughter? If she was, who was Cindy protecting–Casey or Cindy’s husband, George? I have the JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

Sculpture at Boston Library photo: David Paul Ohmer

answers to these questions: yes, yes, yes, and George! The first step to reach an understanding of who Casey Anthony is was obvious to me. I started with a fundamental question: What kind of a mother to Caylee was Casey Anthony? The answer came quickly and it left no doubt whatsoever. The top missing persons detective in the Orange County sheriff ’s department led 56


the investigation of Caylee’s disappearance. His name was Yuri Melich. He also testified as a primary witness for the prosecution during her trial. Melich and other detectives interviewed all of Casey’s friends who knew her from the fourth grade until the day she was arrested. Melich focused on what her friends could say about Casey’s behavior after Caylee was born, August 9, 2005. When the news broke of Casey’s arrest, Casey’s former friends abandoned her and distanced themselves from her. No one wanted to be associated with their former friend, Casey Anthony. So I looked at the multiple police interviews of these friends as an important source of information to confirm the kind of mother Casey was with Caylee. After all, none of her old friends wanted to defend this person who had been arrested and who was suddenly the prime suspect in the murder of her own daughter. Her friends were not immune to the community pressure blaming Casey. They were also aware that Casey was making headlines on news broadcasts, cable commentaries, and blogs all over the country. So I found it something more than surprising, and at the same time significant, that all of her friends described Casey as an ideal mother.

All of the many police interviews of Casey’s friends, associates, people she worked with, and her relatives, strongly reinforced Melina’s statement to police: Casey was an ideal mother. No one could criticize or diminish Casey as a mother to Caylee. Detective Melich’s interview of Casey’s friend, Melina Calabrese, was typical. As a close friend of Casey, Melina knew her well. She worked with Casey at Universal Studios and was close to her constantly from the first day Caylee was born. Melich asked Melina what kind of mother she knew Casey to be. Melich said, “Casey’s relationship with Caylee from the time that you remember, how would you describe that relationship?” Melina: “I had hoped for it to be mine. She and Caylee were adorable. I almost hoped for it you know because she was very good with Caylee. She gave Caylee almost everything a little girl could want. You know, Casey was very good with her. She just never raised her voice. Always you know, I never saw her touch her in a negative way. To this day, I hope my own mother-daughter bond is going to be like that. And it almost seemed easy.” All of the many police interviews of Casey’s friends, associates, people she worked with, and her relatives, strongly reinforced Melina’s statement to police:

Casey was an ideal mother. No one could criticize or diminish Casey as a mother to Caylee. So it occurred to me, the criticisms of Casey’s behavior as a mother to Caylee all centered around her behavior after Caylee died and especially the absence of grief Casey displayed after her daughter’s death. How could a loving and doting mother not show and share her grief for the death of her beloved child? For an investigative journalist, that begs the next important question: could Casey’s bizarre behavior, lies, imaginary characters, and her inability to grieve, actually provide the missing insight into the mystery behind this young woman’s story? That intriguing possibility led me to the next phase of my reporting. I began with a belief that whatever Casey’s involvement may have been, the death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, was a traumatic experience. A consistent description from all her friends was that Casey and Caylee were literally inseparable. Casey cared for her constantly and loved her deeply. Her former fiance’s faJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion psychiatry and studied case histories. I needed to know if Casey’s behavior fit psychiatric models of post traumatic stress. I talked to experts in child trauma and family abuse. My research was always strictly anonymous. I was careful to not introduce polarization {or bias} into any discussion by mentioning her name, “Casey Anthony” into my conversations. I talked to PhDs– both psychologists and psychiatrists–in order to get basic, generic answers to my questions. I described for them behavior similar to Caseys without mentioning her name. I wanted to test Casey Anthony’s version of the events surrounding Caylee’s death.

photo: Robert


ther and a minister, Richard Grund, said it was obvious that Caylee gave Casey meaning in her life. So Caylee’s death had to play a significant role in Casey’s behavior. I believed the mystery of Caylee’s death could be solved by understanding 58


why Casey Anthony lied to police, why she made up a story about a fictitious “Zanny the nanny?” Also, I wanted to be able to report, how did Caylee die? To answer these questions definitively, I sought out authorities in forensic

Casey talked extensively with these forensic experts about what happened the day Caylee died. She said her father woke her up from sleep holding Caylee’s lifeless body, dripping wet from the backyard swimming pool and blaming her for the death. George ordered her to not say anything to her mother, Cindy. George then took Caylee’s lifeless body away, telling Casey, “Daddy will take care of things.”

Casey Anthony laid out a detailed record of what she says happened the day Caylee died in interviews with three independent, court appointed experts– two psychologists and one forensic psychiatrist–all specialists in trauma and stress induced behavior. The record from two of these interviews was published after the trial at the order of the judge, Belvin Perry. The prosecution closely deposed both experts. During these intimate interviews, Casey talked extensively with these forensic experts about what happened the day Caylee died. She said her father woke her up from sleep holding Caylee’s lifeless body, dripping wet from the backyard swimming pool and blaming her for the death. George ordered her to not say anything to her mother, Cindy. George then took Caylee’s lifeless body away, telling Casey, “Daddy will take care of things.” After reviewing and researching these depositions, I needed to know the answer to a simple, and seemingly incongruous question. Does Casey’s inability to grieve, denial of her child’s death, and need to protect her father who was responsible for her daughter’s death ever occur in other women who experience the traumatic, sudden death of their JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

“In a trauma bond, the child is attached to the abusive, neglectful, abandoning parent because of her need for love and her subconscious belief that she will get love from her parent (father, in this case). Subconsciously, the young woman you describe is hoping for the love she never got–or only got on a minimal level.” young child? Has bizarre behavior like Casey’s, such as denial, lack of grief, and lying ever been observed in the experience of these trauma specialists? I asked psychologists and psychiatrists to describe reactions of a “hypothetical” young mother who was living in a severely dysfunctional home environment with her parents, and who then experiences the sudden, accidental death of her child, at the hands of her father. I asked them to consider such behavior assuming the father denies involvement in the death of her child, and tells the mother of the dead child to not say anything about it. I included post trauma behavior such as denial, lying, and inability to grieve. I wanted to know what kind of behavior forensic specialists would expect from a mother whose child died traumatically at the hands of her father, assuming she was raised in a severely dysfunctional family environment. The consensus reply was summarized by one well known PhD psychologist, Dr. William DeFoore, 60


who has 30 years’ experience in counseling victims of trauma. He said, “In such a case as you describe, I would say that the young woman is caught in a trauma bond with her father. He went on to say that he would expect the daughter to deny the father’s role in her daughter’s death. I asked him to explain what he meant by this term "trauma bond." He said, “In a trauma bond, the child is attached to the abusive, neglectful, abandoning parent because of her need for love and her subconscious belief that she will get love from her parent (father, in this case). Subconsciously, the young woman you describe is hoping for the love she never got–or only got on a minimal level.” At this point, I measured the psychologist’s description of “trauma bond” against Casey Anthony’s behavior. Casey greeted her father in jail during his visits lovingly, saying, “you are the greatest father and grandfather in the world.” Yet we know George had a seriously dysfunctional and dishonest relationship

with Casey. We also know that Casey alleged George molested her beginning at age 8. So this explanation of a “trauma bond” could authoritatively explain the behavior of Casey, “after” Caylee’s death. It is quite obvious that not every woman whose child dies suddenly and traumatically at the hands of their father would go on to deny the death and protect their father by inventing imaginary nannies and false explanations for the daughter’s disappearance. The presumption in these remarks by the psychologist is that a young woman who behaves pathologically must at some level be living in a pathological and dysfunctional family environment prior to the loss of her child. In other words, such reactions can occur when the young mother was already severely traumatized by her family environment, such as through incest and molestation by a close family member, like her father. I then introduced the abuse element of Casey’s version to the psychologist, again, without mentioning names. I said, suppose the woman we have been talking about grew up in a relationship where incest and abuse occurred at a young age. Then at age 19, the abused woman had her own child. Consider a scenario where her child accidentally

died because of some action by the father. But the father denied both his abuse of his daughter and his role in her baby’s death; I asked, how would you expect that woman to react? Dr. DeFoore said something remarkable. “To acknowledge that her father not only abused her but is also responsible for the death of her child would destroy the possibility of her getting the love she wants. She has created a fantasy father so that she can go on loving him. Her illusion of a fantasy father would be destroyed if she faced

Casey Anthony photo: Orange County, FL Police Dept.



FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

“To acknowledge that her father not only abused her but is also responsible for the death of her child would destroy the possibility of her getting the love she wants. She has created a fantasy father so that she can go on loving him. Her illusion of a fantasy father would be destroyed if she faced who he really is and what he has done.”

Postcard c. 1930=1945

illustration: Boston

Public Library

who he really is and what he has done.” The thousand pound gorilla in the room, throughout the entire backdrop of the Casey Anthony story of course, is the Anthonys dysfunctional family environment in their home on Hopespring Drive. The media blamed everything on Casey. The absence of grief, her lies, her imaginary job, all of her behavior created the denial and dysfunction so apparent in Cindy and George Anthony’s behavior. However, now it was beginning to appear that once again the court of public opinion has it backwards. There is expert opinion that George and Cindy could have been responsible for the dysfunctional behavior that Casey suffered from and not the other way around. In fact, I found all of this is well established in the psychiatric literature that abusive family environments can generate bizarre behavior in children who experience trauma such as the death of a child. 62


Cindy Anthony was a registered RN who held a $1000 week management job at healthcare giant, Gentiva. She trained as a pediatric nurse. Yet, with Casey seven months pregnant, sporting a huge baby bump and a belly button turned inside out, Cindy denied to everyone her daughter Casey was pregnant. Cindy, though a professional nurse, never let Casey go for an OB/GYN exam at any time in her life. Casey’s brother Lee asked his mother, “What is going on with Casey?” Cindy said to her 23-yearold son, “Let it go, Lee.” Cindy’s brother Rick said to her, “What gives, Cindy? You are a nurse for gosh sakes. Everyone can see she is pregnant.” Cindy told her brother he was wrong, “Casey is not pregnant.” Cindy’s colleagues at Gentiva saw Casey come by to see Cindy at work often and they asked Cindy about it. Cindy always denied her daughter’s pregnancy to them. Finally, just a few weeks before Caylee was born, Cindy admitted Casey was about to deliver.

Cindy was in the delivery room and arranged to have the nurses hand Caylee to Cindy first, before Casey held her. At delivery, George curiously positioned himself at the foot of his daughter’s bed, almost, it seemed, as a voyeur. The question occurs often in my research: did Cindy and George worry that George was Caylee’s father? I have answered that question in the affirmative. George of course, brought serious baggage to his marriage with Cindy. His first wife, told Dr. Drew, the TV psychiatrist, that she found George to be a “genetic liar.” George’s anger management issues surfaced shortly after his marriage to Cindy when he threw his own father through a plate glass window, nearly killing him. George secretly stole $30,000 from Cindy’s Gentiva retirement account, and then lost it all gambling. Of course he lied to Cindy (and the FBI) claiming for a while that he had been scammed by an email ruse. Even the prosecutor, Jeff Ashton, described George’s bizarre statements as JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


FEATURE | The Media's Court of Public Opinion

photo: AngieD.

“George just being George.” George had an affair with a search volunteer while Caylee was still missing, and he confessed to his involvement in Caylee’s death during a private moment with her. George was by all accounts, a horrible father to Casey. Hours after Caylee’s body was discovered, George was called in for questioning by police. His first words to police were, “I am not changing my story.” Police immediately searched the Anthony home again. George was frightened. He tried to commit suicide. In his suicide note, left just after Caylee was found, George apologized to wife Cindy and 64


son Lee for his mistakes, but he could not bring himself to say anything to Casey. All of the denial and dysfunction by the parents in the Anthony family, has been written off by the media and blogs as, without a doubt, Casey’s fault. One blogger said, “Casey Anthony represents the epitome of heartbreak that parenting adult children can bring. Herein lies one of the biggest problems I see for parents of adult children: They refuse to see the truth about their children.” My reporting disputes the media’s court of public opinion on this critical point of who should be considered responsible for the dysfunctional family environment Casey grew up in. There is no doubt, the abusive Anthony parents produced the behavior we witnessed in Casey Anthony. The classic family dynamic for families with a father who molests one of their own children is well known. If the abuse is not reported and the victim does not receive support to face these crimes against her, both the abuser (father) and the non-abusing parent (mother) typically deny the abuse ever happened; they blame the victim. The abused child cannot talk about her abuse. That is a description of the Anthony family dynamic in spades. Additionally, I could not find

a single case history where an abused daughter grows up to have a child of her own, and then suffers the traumatic death of that beautiful child at the hands of her abusive father. If this is what happened, the combination of such horrible experiences suffered by Casey Anthony, would be unprecedented. The behavior of Casey Anthony, once the family dynamics are no longer denied and ignored, emerges as a textbook case history for a victim’s reaction to unimaginable and horrible events at the hands of her own father, whom she was trying to love. In the event, the media’s court of public opinion has committed a serious injustice to this young woman. CNN’s Jeff Toobin is right, “The news media owes an apology to Casey Anthony.”



feature | Title

Keening for Eve by J.c. elkin Over one in a thousand every day succumb to maternal mortality, women who labor too long, too hard, too poor to see it through. Over half a million women a year, all colors, in every locality. But none understand like the Africans, Asians, Afghanis the childbed fatality. One in sixteen in the Sub-Sahara – five hundred times our due. Over one in a thousand every day succumb to maternal mortality. When Alice Roosevelt died giving birth, she was one percent her nationality, back when laudanum, ether and booze were the only help women knew. Still, half a million women a year, all colors, in every locality are glad that caesarians, once even odds, have become almost a formality, and forceps will soon be passé as whippings and midwives’ magic taboo. Progress is one in a thousand a day succumbing to birth-bed mortality if progress can ever describe modern deaths as acceptable third world reality. Caesar, Robespierre, Frankenstein’s Shelley lost mothers. Stonewall Jackson, too. And half a million mothers this year will die in every locality. Mumtaz Mahal (of the Taj) and Oliver Twist’s mum knew the finality that touches each bloodline at some point in time. There must be more we can do. Over one in a thousand every day succumb to maternal mortality. Over half a million women a year, all colors, in every locality.





feature | Title

a lesson learned

by gina mcGalliard

photo: Bart




Eight-year-old Scott eagerly bounded into his bedroom to retrieve his baseball bat, ball, and catching mitt. He scrambled down the stairs and into the living room, where his dad was parked in front of the giant-sized television with his shoeless feet up on a footstool. The father stared straight ahead at the football game that was blaring away, the dress clothes he had worn for that morning’s Sunday church service slightly rumpled. “Dad, can we go to the park and play today? I want to practice playing ball.” The man casually looked over at his small son, who had changed out of his own church clothes and was now wearing long shorts with a T-shirt and sneakers, complete with a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the local major league baseball team. On his chubby freckled face was a wide-eyed earnest and hopeful expression. Both his hands clutched the end of the baseball bat, the other end of which was dragging on the floor. Tucked under his arm were the ball and catching mitt.  “Not now, kiddo, the football game is on. Maybe some other time.” “But Da-ad! You said we could practice hitting and catching the ball at the park. I want to practice.” “I’m sorry, kiddo, okay? It’s football JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


fiction | A Lesson Learned

photo: Yi


season and there’s usually a game on Sunday. Ask me on a Saturday sometime, alright?” Scott sighed and gave up. Clearly there was nothing he could do. Hanging his head, he trudged upstairs to his room, where he dejectedly put his bat, ball, and mitt, along with the baseball cap, back in the toy chest. Out of the closet he pulled the brand-new scooter he had recently received for his birthday. It was gleaming silver and had bright blue han70


dlebars, Scott’s favorite color. If his dad wasn’t going to play with him, he would just have to entertain himself for the afternoon. He wheeled the scooter downstairs and informed his father he was going to the park on his scooter, went out the door and took off down the street. It was a bright and sunny day in late autumn, and the cloudless sky was a clear neon shade of blue. The air, which moved only slightly with the occasional breeze, was crisp and warm. Weekends

allowed Scott to recapture, at least for a little while, the blissfully carefree days he had enjoyed over the summer. He quickly zipped down to the neighborhood park, located a few short blocks away from his split-level house. When he arrived at the park, the play equipment stood empty, save for the occasional chirping bird or two. Scott swung on the swings for awhile, slid down the slide, rolled down a steep grassy hill and inhaled the scent of the warm sun on the freshly cut grass, and then after running out of ways to amuse himself, became quite bored. After moseying aimlessly around the park for a few more minutes, kicking up rocks and making designs in the sand with his sneakers, the crunchy sounds piercing the silence of the park, he picked up his scooter and set out for someplace more adventurous, though he didn’t know where he would find it.  Scott rode his scooter down a road in the opposite direction of the one leading back to his house. He soon found himself riding down the sidewalk of a busy street, one of the town’s main thoroughfares, with cars whizzing loudly by on his left side and leafy trees with autumn colors of red and gold passing him

by on the right. The street, which he recognized, was so much longer and bigger and wider than when he remembered riding along it by car. He soon came upon a small shopping mall, at the center of which stood a large grocery store. Scott wheeled his scooter past a bank, a jewelry store, a tennis shop, and an Italian restaurant before deciding to go into the grocery store, because it seemed to be the only place he could go exploring without being noticed. He parked his scooter behind some tall plants on display outside the storefront, where he hoped it would not be seen and stolen by anyone else, and went on inside. Scott felt very grown up and slightly apprehensive: this was the very first time he had gone into a store all by himself. The fresh-smelling refrigerated air felt good on Scott’s hot, sweaty skin. Around him adults were milling about, occupying their own little worlds, either chatting on cell phones or on a mission to complete shopping lists. He made an effort not to attract the attention of the grown-ups towering above him by trying to walk purposeful and businesslike, not simply wandering about. Scott elected to march himself around the perimeter of the store, starting with the produce JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


fiction | A Lesson Learned department near the entrance. After a few moments standing around and looking over the brightly-colored displays of fruits and vegetables, he noticed a few older women giving him quizzical looks. He’d better get a move on before anyone could ask him who he belonged to. He walked past the meat and seafood department, noting its fishy smell, and then, to his horror, he noticed a lady who lived on his street leisurely pushing her shopping cart past the dairy section. Not wanting to be asked what he was doing unaccompanied, he quickly disappeared into the nearest aisle.  By dumb luck Scott found himself surrounded by shelves stocked with every kind of candy or sweet imaginable from the floor to high above his head. There were kingsized candy bars of every brand in their colorful wrappings, along with sacks of funsized bars. There were bags of peppermints and spearmints with their red and green swirls. There were sacks of gummy bears and sugar-covered gumdrops of every color of the rainbow, and red and black licorice twists. He saw lollipops and hard can-

photo: David




dies, and boxes of fine imported chocolates bars, ones of pure chocolate and ones stuffed with almonds or walnuts or peanut butter or marshmallows. He saw mints and bubblegum and brightly colored blue, pink, and red gumballs. There were candy sticks and packages of bitesized cookies. Scott had been to the candy aisle before while accompanying his mother on errands, but had never taken it all in, knowing his mother would only buy him treats on special occasions. Suddenly he remembered his allowance for this week was at home, stuffed in a wallet in a drawer in his nightstand by his bed. He dug his hands in his pockets and wiggled them around. A quick swivel of his head to each side told him there was no one else in the aisle. Scott slowly lifted up the lid on a container attached to the wall containing loose candy people were supposed to scoop up and put in a bag. He deftly dipped his hand in and took out one handful of M&M’s and put them into his pocket. He helped himself to another handful, gleefully watching the blue, red, yellow, orange, green and brown pellets roll off his hand and drop into his side pocket. 

He quietly shut the lid. He wiped his sweaty hand, now streaked with M&M colors, on his shorts and started to walk at a moderate pace toward the door. While his earlier intention had been to remain unseen by walking briskly, he now tried to seem cool and nonchalant. Reaching the end of the aisle, he saw there was only a short distance separating him from the automatic glass doors. About ten more paces. He walked slowly, his heart starting to speed up a bit. One foot in front of the other. Five more paces. He was almost there. “Not so fast, young man,” a voice high above him said suddenly.  Scott froze in mid step and looked up as his mouth rounded in surprise. An elderly woman wearing a white pantsuit and carrying a matching white leather purse, arms crossed, was staring him down through her glasses with a stern disapproving glare on her wrinkled face. Next to her was a young male store employee, decked out in the store’s customary uniform of navy blue slacks, gray cotton shirt, and blue apron. He stood with his hands on his hips and frowned harshly at the little boy.  “Are you trying to take something you didn’t pay for, kid?” the employee JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


fiction | A Lesson Learned

photo: Westside


asked in a bossy tone. Scott was still too stunned to respond. A few moments of silence elapsed, during which the line of cashiers at the checkout and various customers in the vicinity had turned their heads to watch the drama unfold. The young man took Scott by the arm. “C’mon, kid, you’re coming with me.”  He let himself be taken by the arm and looked around in fascination at the grown-ups surrounding him who 74


were either looking at him or craning their necks to get a better view. Scott couldn’t help but find it funny that only seconds ago his goal had been not to attract any notice at all, and now he had the attention of everyone in sight. As he was hoisted along, the women customers paused their shopping to look at him in wonderment, and the men looked at him with disdain or simply stared in blank interest. One frightened-looking little girl a couple years younger than he

clasped the hand of her mother. Scott found himself being led somewhere quicker than he would have liked, his little sneaker-clad feet barely scraping the floor in hurried steps as the employee practically carried him to a small room hidden away at the edge of the store. Here sat an older man, seated at a desk typing on a computer. From his dress shirt and tie he was probably a boss of some sort, Scott guessed.  “Well, what have we here?” he asked, glancing disapprovingly at Scott, already having guessed the reason for the boy’s visit.  “He was stealing candy, sir. He was in here by himself and another customer told me she saw him put candy in his pocket, and then he tried to leave the store,” responded the employee. Now that the door was shut he had, to Scott’s relief, let go of his arm.  “Mm-hm,” said the manager. He removed his glasses. “Well, let’s have a look at what you tried to steal, son.” After a moment’s hesitation, Scott scooped the multicolored candies out of his pocket and held it out for the man to see. The candy was starting to melt from the heat of his hands, the hard shells cracking and oozing brown chocolate. If he had

to take something he probably should have picked something with a wrapping, he thought. The manager wrinkled his nose in disgust and held out a trash can for the candy to be tossed in. “Young man, stealing is against the law,” he said gravely, putting the trash can back in its place. “You could go to jail for that sort of thing.” To jail? Scott thought. Was he really going to be taken to jail? He hadn’t bothered to think that far. He abruptly imagined himself on one of the real-life cop shows his father sometimes watched in the evenings–complete with wailing sirens and dramatic music–and being handcuffed and whisked away in the back of a squad car. But Scott stayed silent, not wanting to ask his captors what they intended to do with him. Should he make a run for it? No, that would only make things worse. And it wouldn’t work, anyhow.  “What are your parents’ names?” the manager asked him. Scott considered for a second. His father had not wanted his Sunday football game interrupted to practice baseball in the park, and he certainly wouldn’t want it interrupted because his son had just gotten caught stealing candy from the JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


fiction | A Lesson Learned

photo: H.

Michael Karshis

grocery store. No, Scott reasoned, it would be better for him to get out of this mess on his own somehow. “I don’t have parents,” he heard himself say. The man’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, come now, son, of course you have parents. What, did you come out from under a rock?” “Maybe I did,” said the little boy with a slightly more grandiose attitude than intended. His chest tightened as he realized he may have just said the wrong thing. Still, he said nothing more, unwilling to budge. Scott bit his lower lip. The room seemed to grow hazy and very hot all of the sudden.  The store manager and employee exchanged exasperated looks. The older man turned back to carefully study the child. Most of the miniature shoplifters he en76


countered on the job, if they were by themselves, cried or at least flushed red with shame when caught and reprimanded. But this little fellow did neither. He only stood there blinking, waiting to see what would happen next. He was otherwise the picture of innocence with his matted brown hair and freckles sprayed across his pudgy cheeks. Yet here he was being so audacious as to deny he even had parents. But no matter. The manager opened a lower drawer from his desk and pulled out a digital point-and-shoot camera. “Stand against the wall and look at the camera,” he instructed Scott.  Scott did as he was told, not knowing why he was getting his picture taken. As the man raised the camera up to his eyes for the shot, Scott had his usual automatic instinct to smile as you were supposed to when you posed for a snapshot. And so when the manager looked through the camera he saw a round little face grinning back at him in what what seemed to him an expression of complete indolence.  The manager jerked the camera down from his eyes, thunder on his face. “Kid, you just got caught committing a crime. Do you know what a serious matter that

is? I could have your butt hauled out of here by the police if I felt like it. Would you like that? And you have the gall to stand there and grin at me like you’re at a parade!” Scott’s mouth fell open in shock. He had always been told to smile for pictures, and he couldn’t understand for the life of him why someone would be angry when he did. What a strange old man, thought Scott. At the mention of police, thoughts of sirens and scary music returned to his head. He noticed the younger store employee, who was standing behind the manager with his hands on his hips, looking at him with an aghast expression of confusion.  Scott bit his lower lip again, balled his hands into fists and pushed up against the wall, waiting to see if he was going to get a pair of handcuffs slapped on him anytime soon. A few long moments passed before the manager finally snapped a picture.  The store employee escorted Scott to the door and out of the store, though this time not by the arm. He would not have needed to anyhow–Scott was moving plenty quickly of his own accord, eager to get out of there. As soon as he did, the breeze felt cool on his skin, marking JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


fiction | A Lesson Learned the passage of the warm summer season into the cooler chill of fall. “Don’t ever come back to the store again, okay?” the employee said as soon as they got outside. “And remember, it’s wrong to steal. You could go to jail for that sort of thing,” he said adamantly, parroting his boss’s message. He quickly disappeared behind the automatic glass doors.  What a stupid thing to say, thought Scott as he retrieved his scooter from behind the plants and started to head home. He had tried shoplifting once. He did not need to do it again. Maybe next weekend he would try riding over to another grocery store, this time with his wallet, and buy himself some candy. On his own. 

Contemplating Caffeine by BARBARA ELLEN BALDWIN There’s something about coffee That calls for something sweet A roll with jam A maple bar A bit of chocolate On the side Don’t you just love Grim grey days When the sky is Prison break bleak Someone brings you A fresh-brewed cup A little church In your hands Right then you want To pour that heat Way down in your shoes

photo: Pauline







by bruce holland rogers Even with her bad heart Vica managed nearly every day to walk from her flat to Martyrs Square where she sat to commune with the statue. In winter, she and the Prime Minister often had the square to themselves, but come spring and summer there were always tourists. Sometimes they asked her with gestures to take their pictures while they posed. She refused. To them, Nagy was just a bronze man standing on a bronze bridge. One time, a man with a strong accent said to her, “Who is that? Is that Nagy?” She started to give him a full answer but saw by his blank look that he wasn’t understanding most of her words. So she gave him the simplified answer: “Yes, that’s Nagy. Our hero. Kádár had him killed. Kádár, the Communist bastard.” Then she made the sound of spitting, in case the man hadn’t understood the last word. As a young woman, Vica had volunImre statue, Budapest, Hungary 80 Nagy EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

photo: Jeremy




fiction | Satori

photo: Dave


teered in a hospital during the uprising. She tore sheets into bandages. She held the hands of the wounded men. She held the hand of a woman her own age, a woman who was dead the next morning. Making bandages and holding hands was nothing compared to standing in the street against the Soviet tanks. Vica knew it was nothing, but it was as much as she could bring her82


self to do. She never spoke her shame aloud, neither this shame nor the other. One winter day when Vica felt especially weary and weak, she stepped slowly along the icy pavements to the square, brushed snow from her bench, and sat down. It was a gray day, and suddenly became much more gray, then black. She opened her eyes to find the bronze statue brushing off the other end of the bench to sit down next to her. The metal bridge was empty. “I wish you a good day,” he said, tipping his hat. “You’ve been to visit me many times. Something on your mind?” “I must be dead,” she said, “or dreaming.” “One or the other.” He didn’t need to ask again if something was on her mind. She said, “Did you really spy for the Soviets?” “Sometimes, after you make a choice, you are compromised for every choice thereafter.” “So the answer is yes,” she said. “You were with them before you were against them. But then you died standing up to them.” “We die anyway” he said. “I had a bad heart.”

“Yes,” she said, thinking about bad hearts. She remembered the German soldiers taking away her neighbors: the Jew, the man who had been hiding the Jew, and the man’s whole family. Vica had been twelve, and informing on those who would hide Jews had been the duty of every citizen. “I’ve long had a bad heart.” “It’s never too late,” he said, “until it is too late.” He nodded at her body on the bench.

She turned and saw it, too. The worst thing that can happen, the thing that always happens for everyone, had finally happened for her. “No,” she said, refusing. “One thing I have kept from the old system is materialism. I don’t believe in another world. We can’t be having this conversation.” “No, we can’t,” he agreed. With that, she woke up. photo: Christine







photo: Nick


I stand tall on the rostrum. To my left and right are bronze and silver. They applaud me, gracious in their tainted defeats. It is a long way down from up here. I replay the race over and over in my mind – from the moment the gun releases me from my blocks, to the instant I cross the line, arms held aloft. The surge of the crowd has carried me home, but my jubilation–captured on the big screen for all to see–is a temporary and bitter high. They will say I am the perfect role model. They will say I am the pride of a nation: the face of a generation. They will say that thousands of little boys all around the world want to grow up to be just like me. But I too, am just a little boy. I am frightened and confused, and I want to run away. And soon they will not say any of those things JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


flash fiction | All That Glitters anymore. I am playing the hero, but the clothes do not fit my shoulders as they should. I am hiding in the darkest corner of myself, curled into a ball, where nobody will think to look. Where even guilt cannot be found. But out here, I am a beacon of light. A female member of the International Olympic Committee approaches me, with flowers and a medal, neither of which I deserve. I do not recognise her face, nor do I wish to remember it after this is done. I smile, because that is what I am expected to do, and bow to receive the gold. She puts it over my head and around my neck, and the weight of it almost drags me down to my knees. My heart is thumping in my chest. I wonder if she can hear it above the roar of the crowd: if she knows it is anxiety– not adrenaline–that swells it so. With shameful tears in my eyes, the National Anthem rises up from the belly of the stadium, and fifty-thousand partisan supporters join me in a triumphant chorus I have learned especially for this double-edged memory. The music soon subsides and, as I raise my arms in the air, I drag the 86


crowd to their feet. I am the puppeteer. Finally, after years of training, my status as champion is confirmed. How I have arrived here is–at that very moment–immaterial. I know that soon enough the gold around my neck may be cuffs around my wrists, but until then, the glory belongs to me. I stay on the rostrum as long as I can, and I milk every last drop of approval that comes my way. Because down there, I am fodder. Up here, I am untouchable.

Elysian Fields by douglas cole You enter a Zen garden with a blue pool steaming the mist rising through the limbs of a red leaf maple rocks shape-shifting from an old man gazing through his monocle to an old owl flying free from a stone peak the hand of the artist now touching the fingertip of god at the end of a fern leaf bowed with one clear drop of rain and yellow grass like eyelashes draped over a waterfall and then you look up and see framed by the fence the rooftop and the trees waves of geese passing like a dream

photo: Ari




feature | Title

BULLET 412 by Brian ross

by frank scozzari

Great Salt Lake in Utah 88


photo: Jay


The world was blurred beyond the acrylic glass. Rock formations blasted past at a blistering pace. Jacques’ hands were strapped to the wheel to stop him letting go, because at this speed, he wouldn’t have the luxury of making even the smallest of mistakes twice. It sounded like coffee percolating, but Jacques knew it was actually the fuel beginning to boil. He had prepared for this–they all had–but it still prickled the hairs on the back of his neck when he heard it for the first time. His foot was hard against the floor, but the needle on the speedometer only just straddled seven hundred, and seven hundred was merely a footnote. It wasn’t nearly fast enough to mark his place in history–to become history–but neither man nor machine had much left in the tank. In his earpiece, his team’s disappointment circled the static. They had already thrown in the towel. They were telling him to slow down, to abort. There just wasn’t enough straight left to get the speed they needed. Sorry kid. Let’s pull her in. You did well. We’ll get it next year. Maybe they were right. But Jacques’ whole life had been building to this very moment. He didn’t want to wait another year. He didn’t want to wait another day. Because then JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


flash fiction | Bullet 412

Communion by shannon rooney Hiking above thick layers of winter gloom I chanced an upward gaze-or did something pull my eye? photo: Mark


there would be too many people asking too many questions. He had already told the whole world he could and he would, so what were they going to say when they discovered he hadn’t? That actually, he couldn’t? The warning light on the display blinked red, and now that coffee was bubbling over, but if he deployed the drogue now–like he was supposed to; like they had told him to–in thirteen seconds he would be sitting all alone in this dry lake bed, waiting for the dust to settle and his crew to find him. Some would find his hand and shake it. Others would hug him and say they were glad he was still alive. They would 90


tell him that he had almost made it: it was a valiant effort. Maybe he had– maybe it was–but ultimately, he would be just another guy who had tried and failed. And Jacques didn’t want that. One way or another, his legacy was going to be written right here in the salt flats. So he smiled, closed his eyes, and held on for death or glory. Whichever came first.

As I tilted my head back, piously looking to the heavens, the Sky God, that blue and benevolent priest, handed me this visual wafer: Hawk, flying so close above me I could see her elegant under-belly, the marvelous “beneath” of her— the stomach plump, no doubt, from dinners of many mice, the bottoms of her wings an aeronautical feat. This was the body which I took upon my mind’s tongue

and swallowed as I observed the almost unbelievable architecture, the perfect white and downy feathers— soft as I wished us to be with each other. Accepting this wafer, I allowed my mind’s mouth to drink the honey-wine of my longing-and through this transfiguration, love was all that remained. photo: andyspictures



Remembering Christopher Hitchens

A personal reflection, and an interview with Richard Seymour, author of UnHitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens The late Christopher Hitchens was one of the most talented, thought-provoking and profoundly divisive American journalists of the past few decades. His celebrated wit, resourcefulness of language and thrilling rhetoric made him a writer who commanded both visceral appeal and an army of admirers. It is undeniable that “The Hitch” (as he was known to his friends) wrote fine, fierce prose that outshone many of his peers in terms of pure originality and persuasiveness; his capacity for eloquence and quick-thinking as a public speaker was likewise considerable, eliciting jealousy and adulation from many quarters. Yet for all his formidable talent, Hitchens was bitterly disliked by many, particularly in his later yearsand not without reason. He was especially resented by those on the radical

by emanuel stoakes



photo: Juan


left for his perceived betrayals (having been more-or-less counted as one of them until his final decade), not least represented by his aggressive character assassinations of former friends, in one ugly example, even as they lay dying (Edward Said, the target in this case). His high-profile, hyper-aggressive defense of the controversial invasion of Iraq, which was almost uniformly opposed by his old comrades, was considered an even greater stain against his name. On the other hand, given Hitchens’ star-appeal as an incendiary intellectual voice, the avowed non-believer developed a following of uncritical worshippers, many of whom still petulantly refuse to accept that their paladin had his shortcomings. Infatuated disciples of this kind still conspicuously throng in the comments sections of JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens his mistakes less so; indeed, now may be an apt moment to attempt an unmasking of the famous iconoclast- it being around the tenth anniversary of the launching of the disastrous war that he so volubly and passionately defended. With this in mind, I have conducted an extended interview with Richard Seymour, a British political writer whose new book “Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens” is highly critical of its subject. It is perhaps the most the most high profile attack on Hitchens in book form to date. The interview can be read below. Iraq

photo: Staff

virtually any prominent online article that mentions his name, attempting to channel his style and argument in painfully derivative prose. It seems that criticisms are unwelcome when someone is an idol to so many. Yet, the man who famously did brutal hatchet jobs in print on Mother Theresa, Gandhi, not to mention former friends, once advised his followers to seek out disputation for its own sake and appeared to revel in argument. He 94


Sgt. Jason T. Bailey, U.S. Air Force

once declared: “The progress that’s made ... in any argument or in any discussion is by confrontation. That’s a dialectical fact. People say “oh let’s have less heat and more light,” fatuously. There’s only one source of light. It happens to be heat.” So why not attend to- or rather, confront- the shortcomings of this muchmissed, but perhaps over-heroized individual? His gifts were obvious enough, and are broadly recognized,

Personal views But first some of my own thoughts. On Hitchens the person I am neutral; I never knew him, which is surely my loss. Friends and acquaintances who did, some of whom I contacted in preparation for this article, shared remarkably similar impressions: he was frequently described as “charming”, “generous” and “warm” in personal accounts, even by those that fell out with him irretrievably later in life. On the Hitchens the polemicist I am intrigued. While I certainly won’t be

found faulting his passionate opposition to totalizing ideologies or tyrannical regimes, it is hard not to notice a tendency in his later work to articulate compellingly argued but rigidly selfaffirming views. This is particularly visible in his pro-war on terror material, in which his arguments are made with infectious passion, but conspicuously lack the rigorous construction of careful intellectual inquiry. But this is no surprise. The atrocities of 9/11 catalyzed Hitchens’ gradual movement away from the radical left into being a vocal partisan for the war on terror; accordingly, during the last decade of his life, his writing was characterized by an intense acuity of focus on the threat to the societies of west and east of what he called “fascism with an Islamic face” (a saying that he reworked from Susan Sontag’s apt description of Stalinist Communism as “fascism with a human face”). Nothing wrong with that per se, but during this period, having taking such a position, varying shades of tendentiousness and oversimplification crept into Hitchens’ treatment of many aspects to the war- and, at times, his zealotry for the cause would take on a sinJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens

photo: Jake


isterly bellicose quality. For example, once when speaking to a crowd in Madison, Wisconsin he made the following statement about Iran in response to a question: “As for that benighted country, I wouldn’t shed a tear if it was wiped off the face of this earth.” The eliminationist cultural supremacism implicit in the comment echoes arguments he made in The Nation on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas. “1492” he 96


wrote was “a very good year”, as it laid the way for “a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation”. He averred that “to complain about [what this progress entailed- i.e. genocide of the natives] is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift.” But these were not the only moments in which Hitchens could embed troubling or mistaken views in the drift of his elegant demagogy. Reviewing his columns during the War on Terror period, one comes across various questionable claims. For example, at certain junctures, he implicitly appears to see Iraqi opposition to the occupation as driven chiefly by theocratic forces of reaction rather than popular broadbased sentiment, united around nearuniversal resentment of the conduct of the occupiers; even worse, at some points he appears to support many of the discredited Bush administration claims about Saddam-era Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda and the existence of WMD. He did this long after a virtual consensus emerged over the pernicious falsehood of these allegations and their deployment as a part of the casus belli. To say that Hitchens became, to

quote Edward Said’s apt description of Princeton Orientalist Bernard Lewis as “ an generalist and an ideologue” when it came to the war on terror and religion, is only partly true. Consistent with his complex personality, Hitchens-the-Polemicist was always capable of nuance and intelligence when it suited him, and emotionally potent oversimplification, even crass boorishness, when the mood took him. Being a past master at presenting his arguments with apparently unanswerable rhetorical force, few people bothered to check his claims or the veracity of his arguments given his singular power to persuade in the moment. This ability, of course, made him an asset to the pro-war contingent- especially when he appeared on television; coincidentally or not, Hitchens became a highly visible figure during the war on terror years- more than ever before in his career, in fact. Despite all this, on the core points of his arguments during his late period, Hitchens undoubtedly was compelling and clear-headed: he was right to remind people to have no illusions about the moral depravity of the Islamist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and their

associates; he was also right to argue that Saddam Hussein was a monstrous psychopath and that leaving Iraq under his rule was unconscionable. However, these were virtual truisms to most people of a humanitarian persuasion. The immediate question that follows from such an acknowledgement is: was the neoconservative “war on terror” project the only way, or indeed the right way, to have tackled terrorism and to have helped to emancipate the tortured population of Iraq? The answer appears to be no, on both counts, not least because Bush White House policy beyond regime change was largely self-serving and incompatible with what Iraqis wanted for themselves; while, in terms of “fighting” terror, given the enormous human and material costs, the outcomes have been unjustifiably poor. According to a careful study by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, referencing data from the establishment RAND corporation, the invasion of Iraq elicited a sevenfold increase in terror worldwide, while, according to other serious investigations, global “security” likewise took a nosedive. What’s more, as was predicted beJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens


photo: Staff

forehand, the invasion of Iraq allowed the very Islamist groups that Hitchens so despised to gain a stronghold in that country, seeping in from neighboring Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. As a result, life was made catastrophically worse, albeit temporarily, for Iraqis: according to journalist Chris Pepus, an “Iraqi was 3.6 times more likely to die in 2006 [than in the previous decade]– and the cause of death was 120 times more likely to be violence.” 98


Sgt. Jason T. Bailey, U.S. Air Force

In his highly respected book on radical Islam, “Al Qaeda”, investigative journalist and terrorism expert Jason Burke concludes that support for Islamist militants increased massively in the aftermath of Clinton’s 1998 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory (an act that may have destroyed scores of thousands of lives) and further skyrocketed during the recent Bush era. Many in the affected region who previously shared no sympathy with,

or even disliked, radical Jihadi movements were mobilized to support them in their role as perceived defenders of Islam against hostile western aggression. This status was often enhanced by the way that Islamist groups offered various kinds of relief to traumatized communities, by contrast to the western governments which had- as all Arabs remember even if we don’t–pursued its own self-serving agendas in the Muslim world over the last few centuries, with disastrous effects. “A first line of defence” therefore, Burke reflectively writes, “is to understand and act on the root causes of terrorism to reduce drastically the receptivity of potential recruits to the message and methods of terror-sponsoring organizations, mostly through political, economic, and social programs…The basis of community support for organizations that sponsor terrorism needs to be the prime longterm focus of US foreign policymakers and others who are interested in combating the threat such organizations pose.” Hitchens and his new co-thinkers expressed contempt for such arguments, despite their cogency. Those who con-

demned Islamist crimes, but nonetheless proffered such considered views, were labeled as apologists and capitulators, or worse. But the arguments remain legitimate, as does the necessity to approach complex foreign policy issues with a determination to adhere to wisdom in seeking noble ends, not creating hell in the name of ideologicallyrooted intransigence. The above is an all-too-brief treatment of a man who, like his politics, resists easy categorization. Human beings are messy creatures, and gifted intellectuals of the caliber of Hitchens are often even more so. No-one can sum-up a life in a couple of paragraphs, nor even a whole dedicated library. I have only touched on some of his recorded opinions and late proclivities and, due to the confinements of wordcount, have been unable to fully express my qualified appreciation of this much-missed, inimitable and fascinatingly multi-faceted public figure. The criticisms above, are leveled with a deep respect for the things that Hitchens, in my view, “got right”- balanced against the need to take engage honestly with the faults of a too-idolized public intellectual. JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL


interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens movement. The other, Chris Hitchens, cannot be seen to have made any significant difference at all, except in the lives of his friends and enemies, and in literary and political disputation that has little meaning for most people.” The criticism may go a little too far, but the point made remains penetrating, nonetheless. Interview with Richard Seymour Emanuel: Thanks for your time, RichRichard Seymour photo: Wikipedia ard. The obvious question that I want With this in mind, I would like to to ask you first is what motivated you add this: while praise for the man is to write the book? easy to come across, perhaps the most acute criticisms have come from ordi- Richard: In his final years, Hitchnary people making simple, but devas- ens achieved matchless celebrity, tating points. I came across an example his books selling better than ever, of this in the letters page of the Guard- and his fan base incorporating an ian newspaper in Britain around the uncritical mass of worshippers. time of his passing. The letter-writer Since his death, the cult of his personprotested the liberal daily’s fixation ality seems to have taken off in some with the deceased to the neglect of quarters. His fans in the media have other recently-departed notables, stat- had the running as far as commentary on his work and its meaning is coning poignantly: “Two major international figures cerned. The British Humanist Associahave just died. One, Vic Finkelstein, tion even got into a controversy with made a difference in the lives of un- Camden council because they wanted told thousands through the pioneering to erect a statue of him in Red Lion role he played in the disabled people’s Square [London, UK]. The irony for 100 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

me is that he is celebrated most for that period in his writing and public speaking when he was least persuasive, least scrupulous intellectually, and least serious in his handling of complex arguments. It was when he was a belligerent warmonger, a bilious baiter of Islam– the extent of being racist at times–and a traducer of anyone that seriously stood up to the Bush administration. He had become a propagandist for Paul Wolfowitz and Ahmed Chalabi [Iraqi exile later accused of huge fraud]. And he had written a book about religion that was essentially a bar room rant, consisting of myriad inaccuracies and crude reductionism. I think it is culturally and politically very interesting that this was the period in which he was taken up as a twenty first century Samuel Johnson. In a symbolic way, he condensed a whole series of arguments, about religion and Islam, about America, the Left, and about humanitarian intervention - and for many people he obviously still does. And I thought that since these debates will go on, and continue to be resonant, it was worth getting a measure of the man, his complex political personality and its shifting elements, and the sometimes subtle

and sometimes jarring contrasts in his writings. He is also an interesting example of that twentieth century mainstay, the apostate leftist. Unique though he was in some ways, so much of what he did was typical of the breed. If we want to understand this, we have to do better than just rehearse the old line that Hitchens was just a drunk, or a lifelong careerist. There is more to it than that. Finally, he is thus far his own only biographer of any length. Even the magazine pieces about his life rely on his recollections by and large. But his recollections are not, as I discovered, reliable. So, although this book is not a biography, it does present a certain amount of biographical information that might otherwise be buried under his own assiduously cultivated mythologies. If nothing else, it’s important that Hitchens’s more critical readers and opponents are armed with the sort of information and analysis that is capable of puncturing the personality cult, and allowing a more discriminating reading to come to the fore. Emanuel: In what ways do you regard Christopher Hitchens as being right JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 101

interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens

Saddam Hussein photo: Iraqi

State Television

on Iraq, if at all? Richard: It’s important to distinguish between two phases of Hitchens here. In 1991, he was an outspoken antiimperialist. In 2003, he was for Jeffersonian empire. (Unlike many writers, he didn’t shy away from using the language of empire.) The focus in each case appears to be different. In 1991, he spoke mainly of the Machiavellian strategies of the US gov102 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

ernment, its various power-balancing ‘tilts’, and the consequences for its victims and even temporary clients. He was what one would call a ‘left realist’, in that he accepted that the world order was inherently characterised by anarchic violence and hierarchy, but still felt that that one could make a moral critique of that system and what he described as American imperialism. In 2003, he focused mainly on the threat to world order ostensibly posed by jihadis and ‘rogue states’, the benefits of imperial power being wielded. I think he remained fundamentally committed to the same global concepts. What changed is his sense of the direction of history. In 1991, he thought the US was still a reactionary force, and that the revival of leftist movements would allow it to be challenged. By 2003, he was convinced that the American Revolution (by which he meant American capitalism) was the only revolution left standing. It was the progressive force in a world otherwise riven by competing forms of reaction. If there had to be great powers, their power could at least be used as a lever in historical progress–and he drew explicit parallels with the historically progressive role

he believed the British played in India. Thus, he thought that by backing the war on Iraq, he was backing historical progress. He thought that the US, being on the right side of history, could not lose. He thought Iraq would be a basis for the liberation of the whole Middle East along liberal democratic lines. And of course he really believed that all of the scaremongering stories that he contributed to, regarding WMDs and Saddam’s links with terrorism, would be proven correct. On all of this, I think he was comprehensively wrong. It was no big thing, and quite easy, to be right about the fundamentally oppressive nature of the Hussein regime. But no one disagreed about that. It was his wider historical perspective, and the claims he used to support that narrative, that was at fault. Moreover, it is important that he had joined the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and become friends with Paul Wolfowitz, at the point that he backed a US war. Many of the claims that he made, including particularly the link he made between Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab alZarqawi (falsely alleged at that point to be an ‘Al Qaeda’ operative), seem

to have come straight from the Bush administration. Worse still, when he was shown to be wrong, he had to explain how the promised liberation had turned so sour. Rather than revisit his earlier conclusions, he claimed that the whole Iraqi insurgency was a coalition between Ba’athists and Al Qaeda, and began to fall back on Islam-baiting. Increasingly, he argued that the problem was Islam, that it was deeply rooted in reaction, that it was incapable of change, and that the only good Muslims were those who broke the faith. And on this basis, he continued to repeat long disproven claims about the fundamental complicity between Iraqi Ba’ath nationalism, and jihadism. So, not only was he wrong about the war, he was wrong in hindsight. Emanuel: Do you think he was willfully blind about the Bush administration’s realpolitik in the war? Richard: I think from the moment he began to shift toward a war-footing after 9/11, and embrace American nationalism, he dropped any serious criticism of the administration. In fact, JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 103

interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens he became its most vocal polemical defender, taking on all the critics he could find. He didn’t, in my opinion, scruple to lie about them either, and viciously - as Cindy Sheehan and Naomi Klein discovered. It seems to have been in late 2002, when he was still wavering about Iraq, that he really formed a bond with Wolfowitz, and became effectively an auxiliary of the regime. Even when he was eventually willing to criticize the Bush administration in its lame duck phase after 2006, he remained committed to the idea that it could have been a sort of global revolutionary leadership and that it had essentially been derelict. He also continued to defend leading figures such as Wolfowitz after the latter’s corruption in the World Bank had been exposed. He was also astoundingly loyal to Ahmed Chalabi, as detail after detail of his crookedness was disclosed. This is intriguing, because Hitchens sought to model himself on George Orwell, his ego-ideal in many ways. Orwell thought his gift was a power of looking difficult facts in the face. Hitchens’s gift, as it turned out, was being able to ignore them entirely. This was at great cost to his probity, but it came with 104 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

compensating benefits: more publicity, money, accolades and notoriety than he had ever before achieved. Emanuel: What do you think accounts for his tendency to fall out with old comrades and to change his opinions? Richard: The two are obviously related. There is no single reason why Hitchens changed his opinions over time. He broke with his old party, the International Socialists (today’s British Socialist Workers Party), over their transition to a form of Leninism, and particularly over their support for the far left in the Portuguese revolution. But he didn’t cut off relations entirely at first, and indeed could be found giving talks at their events right up until circa 2000. He changed his mind over supporting war in Yugoslavia, both in Bosnia and Kosovo, without offering any explicit account of his change. He was then a bit more explicitly critical of the US Left, especially his fellow Nation writers. He changed his mind shortly after 9/11 without really explaining how his earlier criticisms of US policy fitted into his new ultra-

belligerent, ultra-patriotic mode. He certainly changed his position on Israel-Palestine, though in a more low-key fashion. Each shift had a slightly different logic. But I can identify two points where a change of his position and a break with close friends followed the same pattern. First, there is the break with [Sidney] Blumenthal. This coincided with his emerging alliance with neoconservatives. I think he’d found them more congenial in their support for intervention in Yugoslavia, and quite possibly he was beginning to suspect that they had a lot more dynamism and historical possibilities than he had hinted at in his earlier essay, ‘How Neoconservatives Perish’. Blumenthal was very close to Hitchens, who called him ‘cousin’ on account of their assumed shared heritage [Hitchens had a relative with that surname]. But he was also a fairly mundane loyalist of the Clinton White House, while Hitchens was staking out his terrain as its most bilious opponent. So, I think shopping Blumenthal to Congress [he testified against him in a hearing] was a signal that he was shifting his allegiances, from leading Democrats to the Ameri-

can Right. Second, there was the break with Edward Said, evidently a much more enduring friendship and far more emotionally important to Hitchens. I think this really tormented him. He wrote an article, filled with crude mis-readings of Said’s positions, while Said was, as it were, ‘on his deathbed’. In Hitch-22, he made an unconvincing attempt to


interview | Remembering Christopher Hitchens represent this as a principled response to some things that Said had written, but which he did not choose to quote or cite. What I think you can see is that after this, he never again defended Palestine in the way that he had. And I think the break with Said was partly a deliberate signal that he wouldn’t be doing so. This shouldn’t be interpreted as reducing these decisions to career moves. I think that was always a factor with Hitchens, but he remained on the left well past the time when it would have been profitable for him to do so. The politics of these friendships was just as important.

For Betty


San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

2013photo: Ingrid 107 Taylar JUNE | EMPIRICAL

feature | Title

Pilgrims by nature

For some of us, to take journeys inwardly or outwardly is as essential to life as is breathing. Traveling the world becomes a soul-pursuit; a regional road trip points the way to freeing the spirit for a while; to giving oneself over to spontaneity, and to the wonder of synchronous moments and the unexpected. I share here a magical moment in Mexico.

BY ismana carney

A Journal Fragment , June 24, 1999, Zihuatenejo, Mexico It’s mid-afternoon, on a marina beach, owned by a sleepy Mexicano fishing village, befriended by tropical climes, and I’ve fallen in love with this gorgeous, small bay filled with sea foods fit enough for the most ancient of gods: Toltecan Mayan Aztecan Tarrascan Huichol Tara Humara all put together are poetry in motion if time is motion 108 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

photo: Matthew



spirit | Pilgrims By Nature

Zihuatenejo, Mexico photo: Ankarino

and the past no matter how ancient still lives Here on the beach, I watch the morning business enliven the local marina. Old and new motorized panga boats crisscross each other over the narrow strip of water leading out to the wider bay. But my heart-felt pleasure in this exotic, colorful, picture-postcard scene is deeply conflicted as the early morning marina waters, so calm and clear 110 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

at dawn, become by mid-morning a churning brown sludge, laced with a thick layer of goop as an armada of fishing boats, and jet skis spew gasoline dregs by the gallon into the same water where children fish and play. Stretched out on a white wooden chaise under the shade of a beautifully thatched palapa, I gaze at my surroundings and am stunned by the thought of how golden these once-pristine sands must have been in days gone by. Now they are dull brown, with generations of human clutter, deeply layered multicolored shattered glass, and aluminum cans shredded into a thousand or more silvered shards. Yet in a beautiful and mysterious irony, all of this culminates in a myriad glistening across the sand, beautifully incorporated into a woven carpet of crushed abalone, oyster and mussel shells reflecting, in one vast chorus of light, the rays of a glorious yellow Mexican sun. Equally present, and much more distressing, in gullies along roadsides, outside businesses and homes, is the plastic refuse. A testament to the dire consequences, both aesthetic and ecological, of the human addiction to the fast life, thus the necessity of conve-

nience at all costs! But here and now, before me, where the waves meet the sand, plays a small brown boy. He is not beautiful in any ordinary sense of the word. His ribs show through his worn-out, tattered and very dirty t-shirt, as do his bony knees, through the tears in his trousers. He has a shock of long straight black hair, and his chocolate-colored skin is blemished and scarred. But he is beautiful! I will remain marked by the presence of his memory forever. As he plays a powerful game of solitaire with the ocean, sand, tropical breezes, and his own imagination, I am enchanted. I watch him intently as he translates into the outer world a huge adventure unfolding in his own interior world via the magic of daydreaming. In one moment he is strewn, arms and legs splayed all over the sand, as a wave tumbles over him. The next moment he rises, his tiny face overshadowed by a pair of wide dark eyes filled with rage as he battles with an imaginary foe. He is vicious, and intent on the kill as he pounds his fist into the sand, ferociously pummeling his invisible enemy, until he finally slits his throat with rapid slashing movements.

Zihuatenejo, Mexico

photo: Ankarino

Another wave slams into him and now, the boy decides to play the victim whose throat he has just cut. He writhes in the sand which streams out from under his small fragile body toward the ocean in a million tinkling sounds, and clutches his throat, gasping for air. Then, in a last desperate move, he frantically scoops up handfuls of sand and presses them tightly against the imaginary wound on his neck. But to no avail, and with a long gasp, he rolls his eyes and his body, over and over in the waves, letting them take his thin torso deep into the undertow, and then, spitting him back out onto the shimmering sand. He lies motionless for a minute or two, deathly still, until the next wave comes crashing down on him. He’s instantly up and howling! Now he is a JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 111

spirit | Pilgrims By Nature

Zihuatenejo, Mexico

photo: Ankarino

human crab, walking sideways on all fours. He digs furiously in the sand, all four limbs working rapidly, and shovels fistfuls of sand into his mouth, then sputters it all out as the salt water from the next wave pours over him. Then he starts foraging again. Within a few minutes he is covered with sand, hoarding cupfuls in every crevice of his body, and still he rolls in it, around and around, as the waves roar over him. Suddenly a group of imaginary friends arrive on the scene, and he begins a furious, hilarious, and complicated set of conversations with them, individually and collectively. He stops and listens to one of them intently, nodding his head, shaking his head now laughing, now serious. Suddenly, the conversation takes a sudden turn, an argument erupts and he has a lot to say, as do his friends, which I assume, by the long moments of active listening that he exhibits. But are they now friends or enemies? 112 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

At last, a huge battle ensues. The little warrior takes on his opponents from all sides. All the while, he is being pulled out, helter-skelter into the ever-increasing undertow, then hauled back and spat out by now frighteningly large waves. Invisible weapons are unsheathed, knives, sticks, and guns and he is using them all! He is a miniature Mexican Bruce Lee, a tiny red hot ninja, legs, fists, head, full body contact. And he’s completely alone on a beach filled with groups of other little children playing, families spreading abundant picnics, lovers strolling arm-in-arm, and visitors from another world like myself, sipping a diluted, over-priced tourista pina colada, and falling headover-heels in love with this beautiful boy, in love with his own imagination, and perfectly at ease, like myself, with his own solitude. At long last he’s done. He rinses himself off in a final wave, turns his back to the ocean and walks towards me with eyes once again seeing in this world. He flashes me a brilliant smile, his eyes like two obsidian orbs, lit from within by a mutually recognized god-sourced kind of light, and then, he is gone. It’s evening now, the sun has shed its

last golden rays across the restaurant patio where I’m seated waiting for appetizers, wine, and my sweetheart to return from a late afternoon swim. As for myself, I am overcome with gratitude for being able to retrieve at will, from some ancient memory bank, this sort of unbounded imagination I have just witnessed. I know it well and keep it hidden for safekeeping. It’s about an unbridled way of seeing at a deeper level, freer than the rational mind–a mind that must acquiesce to this imperative if it is to serve the human soul with any measure of relevance. Here, with this description of a marvelous, passionate little boy, surrendered totally to his own imaginal power, I have marked him forever in the deepest part of my psyche. Because I permitted my own imaginal world to unite and empathize with his, I was able to suspend reason which would have limited my “seeing” only to what was “actually” happening, instead I was able “see” as “real”, or “actual”–all the “presences” that the young boy was inter-acting with. But most of us are taught from the very beginning, and in no uncertain terms, that the personas, emotions, inJUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 113

spirit | Pilgrims By Nature

Zihuatenejo, Mexico

formation and perceptions that exist in our imaginal worlds are figments, non-existent in fact because the world of the imagination is assumed unreal. The creative imagination as an inherent talent or skill, an authentic source of knowledge and deeper comprehension, and a uniquely human resource of immeasurable value is, at the very least, suspect and, at the very most, ir114 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

photo: Ankarino

relevant in the face of the reasoning mind. This is where the tragedy lies, for it is precisely in our imaginal selves that we are the most unrestrained, the most intuitively truthful, and the most courageous. We were closest to this state of mind when we were children prior to the social conditioning we all endure. It is a small, closed, and cowardly mind that

Zihuatenejo, Mexico

photo: Ankarino

brushes off intuitive wisdom, or the perceptions obtained in a dream, or through communication with a “sensed” or “felt” presence, voices, feelings, instincts. For these are authentic sources of the kind of profound inspirations without which philosophy, metaphysics, religion, art, love, self-sacrifice, heroism, history, invention, genius, and rock and roll would not exist. We have all consciously or unconsciously agreed by a strange conspiracy of silence to permit the replacement of the creative imagination with the rational mind’s proclivity toward materialism, i.e. reductionism, or the machine. Yet, as some of us are aware, the machine is unable to tolerate for too long the presence of soul; the outcome often ends in tragic consequences. JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 115

Places In the Heart Iris DeMent and the Heart of Heart of the Country

BY Jaime O'NeilL


  Some people don’t like Iris DeMent’s voice, but I’m not one of them. When she sings, there is something in the timbre of her voice that reaches very deep, that sweeps me away to emotions and incidents I knew as a child, but can’t quite recall to full memory. Whenever I listen to just about any of her songs, I’m inevitably transported back in time and space to Bolton, Illinois, a little crossroads out in the middle of rolling farmland west of Chicago near the Wisconsin border. I have only to hear Iris begin to sing and I can once again smell the dry dust of chicken feed and the crisp cotton of the feed sacks. In those days, feed sacks were decorated in bright patterns and designs, marketed to the frugal young farm wives who still held grim memories of depression-era deprivation. Their husbands had to buy feed, of course, and seed, too, but those trips their spouses made to the feed store became much more enticing to the wives who would accompany them eagerly to pick out the patterns on the sacks soon to be made up into Sunday dresses or shirts for school. It might stretch the metaphor a bit, but Iris DeMent does much the same thing with her past, taking all the memories the past comes wrapped in, then stitching those memories into songs. I think the first time I felt the pangs of love was in that Bolton feed store. The daughter of the man who ran the store was about my age. Just as Iris does, she had photo: Pieta Brown 116 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013


ARTS | Places in the Heart

photo: Pieta Brown

an unusual voice, that little girl, and she wore dresses sewn up from the feed sacks her daddy sold there, gingham or plaid or paisley. So, in the tangle of things that make us who we are, it may be that part of the reason I resonate to Iris DeMent’s voice goes all the way back to those first stirrings of boy-girl love I felt when I was five or six years old. But there are other reasons, too, and I can find their sources in that feed store, too–the squeak of the screen door as it opened and closed on a summer’s day, the uneven wooden floor of the place, and the odors it had absorbed for so many decades, of roll yer own tobacco and pipe smoke, and tracked-in manure, and beads of sweat that fell and dried there on hot and humid days. On the phone, Iris DeMent doesn’t 118 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

sound the way she does when she sings. Some of that deep twang is missing, and so is much of the Arky/Missouri accent. That disappoints me just a little, but it doesn’t take long before I know I’m talking to the Iris DeMent who sang me through some sorrows, or who expressed some of the same angers I feel about the drift the country’s been taking for so long. So I started my interview by asking if she had any explanation for the disconnect between the “heart” that’s in the heart of the country, and the apparent heartlessness of red state attitudes. “I think our money-centered culture is at the heart of the problem,” she said. “People are no different in various parts of the country, but we are all victimized by the money.” Yes, I agreed, but why doesn’t that same money buy as many people in the blue states as in the state where she lives? Why doesn’t the Koch brothers’ cash work as persuasively with the voters in New York or Washington State as it does in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, or Louisiana? She didn’t know. She had a few faint guesses, but they were darts thrown at the board of our collective unknowing,

the mysteries we live with, whether we’re troubadours, or any of the rest of us who have sought answers from musicians in the absence of knowing where else to look. So I changed the subject, quoted a line from her new album, a metaphor about her mother’s outspoken way of relating to the world. “When it came to her feelings,” the song says, “there was no back burner on her stove.” It’s a song that puts Iris DeMent’s own feelings on the front burner, and I wondered if Iris has a back burner on her own stove. “My husband would say no,” she told me, laughing at herself. “I share that with my mother, at least when I’m at home. I wish I had a back burner.” As her fans know, her husband is Greg Brown, a singer/songwriter cut from the same cloth as she is–deeply rooted saltof-the earth poets, explorers of memory, navigators of the human heart. In those moments when the soul needs restoration, you could do worse than spend an hour listening to either of them. I asked her why, in an industry that always gussies up female singers with album covers that are selling more than songs, her latest album features a photo in which she is utterly unadorned, sans

photo: Pieta Brown

alluring poses. Is she free of vanity? “I wouldn’t say I’m free of vanity,” she said, “but I just chose to be who I am and where I am for that cover. And that felt good. I think women are really pressured in our culture to keep up with some standard that doesn’t exist. When I think of the women I loved the most, those who gave me everything I have, they were real gals, they were a little on the heavy side, their arms were soft, but my sense of being comforted and protected in the world came from those women. My inclination seems to be to embrace what I got from those women, from my mom JUNE 2013 | EMPIRICAL 119

ARTS | Places in the Heart

photo: Pieta Brown

and my aunt, so I think that’s what you see in that album cover. For better or worse, that’s what I look like.” Well, I replied, lots of performers cover up what they look like on the covers of their albums. And she said: “We’re encouraged to cover up how we really look, women in particular. I guess I’m just choosing to resist those pressures.” And then she broke into a chuckle. “But,” she added, “I won’t put away my lipstick.” 120 EMPIRICAL | JUNE 2013

I told her about my daughter who lives in France, also a woman who sings and writes songs, one who shares my appreciation for the Iris DeMent oeuvre and who wanted me to share her opinion that there’s a new dimension or new confidence to be heard on the new album. Was my kid imagining that? “I’m older,” Iris responded. “I found older. That’s all I hear that’s different. My voice naturally changed some, maybe, deepened a little. Hopefully, everything kinda deepens, and I feel like that’s in my voice and in my writing, and I hope that’ll continue to be the case as I continue to get older.” My daughter also had wondered if Iris DeMent thought the ability to touch people as deeply as Iris touches her audience was innate, or something that could be worked on. “I work at what I do,” she said, “but whatever it is that speaks to people is a big mystery.” She paused, then added, “but I sure feel blessed that it’s been given to me. That I can offer something to people is a blessing.” One of her songs–“Let the Mystery Be”–ranks among my favorites, but I like the way her husband sings it even better than the way she does.

“I do, too,” she replied, with enthusiasm, sounding relieved that the conversation had turned away from the imponderables. “I told him so, but he doesn’t believe me. I think for the time and the age I was then, that was the way I chose to sing it and deliver. Greg sings it slower. Now that I’m a little older, I think I’d slow it down a little.” There’s a song on the new album bearing the title “Before the Colors Fade,” a song about her mother, and about the passage of time with a “make haste to live” sentiment. I think of that song, think of a little girl in a feed store more than a half century ago, her feed sack dresses gone to dust, her hair now gray, though I see her as I saw her then, with clear blue Illinois skies overhead and the blush of childhood on her cheeks. I think of Iris, too, on a cell phone a half a continent away, about to set out on another tour. I asked her if she were on a long train trip sitting across from a stranger, would she be likely to be first to break the silence? And she said, “Hhmmmm.” And then she said, “I’m sure that would be possible. I tend to do a lot more watching than talking, but I’ve been known to

photo: Pieta Brown

talk to strangers.” But, I think, when people are as authentically human as Iris DeMent is when she writes and when she sings, it must be hard for her to find a stranger anywhere.


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