The right wing relies on simplistic, invariably deceitful rhetoric to hammer their point (and its hidden agenda) home to the "average Joe and Jill." Why does the left - the side with the lion's share of wit and creativity - allow them to get away with it? A modern day Thoreau offers ideas for fighting rhetoric with better rhetoric. Meanwhile, excerpts from a 1935 book by his father, a famed economist contain a warning that has obviously gone unheeded by ExxonMobil, Carlyle, et al. The latest food for thought from Cheryl Seal's column.

The Rhetoric of Global Warming; War and the Private Investor

by Cheryl Seal
with help from Tom and Eugene Staley

Here's a letter from my old friend - and intellectual sparring partner- Tom Staley, who still lives in Maine (where I lived for many years). He makes his home in a rustic (no exaggeration here!) cabin in the woods and has only recently discovered the joys of the Internet. Like Thoreau, after winning a degree from Harvard (two actually), he dropped out and escaped to a simpler life in the woods. Unlike Thoreau, he he has been there many years beyond the two H.D.T felt were his limit at Walden. Tom now devotes himself to art and philosophy and engaging in lively rhetorical arguments whenever he can initate one (in between occasional trips to India).

Thoughts on the Rhetoric of Global Warming and other Points of Left-Right Contention

I read the whole global warming set of three articles ("The Assault on Science and the Environment by the Corporate Propaganda Machine"* See end of article)by you — first rate. (I especially appreciate your point contrasting the neutral tone of real science versus the passion of the phonies — a thing that is sometimes annoying though, too, to our side, because you want those neutral scientist guys to put on another hat now and then and become passionate on the right side. They really hate to do it though, because it reduces their credibility in the scientific arena. My feeling is more of them should be taking off the badge at this point in the problem.

I can confirm your comments about payouts to some scientists (as paid "experts" for industry"). I know a geologist at UMO, Yale trained, who gets 30 grand a year in "research contracts" for himself from the oil industry. He writes occasional, ridiculous, bad op-ed articles for the "Bangor Daily News" (ME.). His wife told me lots of his colleagues get similar money. He's intellectually dishonest in face to face arguments (but I pulverize him anyway — I love flat out debates when I know the facts and feel strongly). Here's a thought: How about a web site devoted frankly, and only, to the best or most effective rhetorical answers to the right's most common arguments (jobs, security, etc..). A site devoted to developing the most powerful (to the average guy) one-liners in reply to the right's rhetoric. Why should they be better at it than us?

Here's a good device for global warming. First, you say "I believe in science as an institution — I don't like it, but I believe in its power and truth... thanks to science I can get on airplanes and fly, cars start, etc.

"Second, you observe, "Science says 'Global warming is real.' " And for the last, you could mention just one intimidating and convincing citation — For ex., "The U.N. sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says such and such — and 99 per cent of climate scientists agree." The technique here is to refuse to ever get in a supposed science debate — just a frank straight appeal to the CONSENSUS science view: We believe in science (like it or not).

Why should the right have better simplified rhetoric than we do? I think it is really a matter of taking the time to investigate and develop very good, strong, appealing and even conclusive simple arguments both in answer to their rhetorical gems on their favorite topics. Your site is obviously directed to the converted--it informs them of more outrages — what would a site look like that would draw a moderate person in? A different enterprise, but maybe as important — you don't want to make someone accept more than is necessary to get them to vote right. For ex, sort of, in the all-important issue of global warming: I would not connect the issue with other environmental issues — as you do once or twice — if I were addressing people I wanted to "convert." It is I think a logically separate issue from pollution, etc. The solution, really, is fairly easy: raise the price of gas and oil. Individual actions (not driving as much) don't count here — it's political action that matters. You don't want people to have to accept more reasoning/argument/morality than is really necessary to get them convinced on the one issue of global warming — they don't have to agree about war, style, or other right left issues.

As Paul Newman said: we want blue collar macho types on our side — what is more macho than defending your wife and family, standing in front of the cabin with a gun, or (similarly) writing letters to fellow citizens about the threat of global warming to all our cabins? We want blue collar macho types on our side, and our rhetoric on critical issue of global warming should be specific and convincing and limited enough to bring them to our side on this issue, where they belong! Every gum-chewing American should be the target of reasoning and rhetoric on this issue, where sarcasm and shotgun rhetoric don't help.

We could call this "alternative website" something like "Basic Rhetoric for John Q"

Your friend,


Hi, Tom,

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts on global warming. I think the rhetoric idea is great! Especially since all the real creativity and wit floating around out there tends to be mostly left of center! We could "rhetoricize" circles around the likes of an Ari Fliescher (who comes up with one half-baked phrase about once every month and beats it into the ground like a railroad tie in a track to nowhere!).

Now, here below, I'm gonna pull out some of your family archives for show and tell and embarrass the heck out of you (what are good friends for?!)!

Best always,


P.S. Have a cup of coffee and a good philosophical argument at the Bagel Shop for me!

War and the Private Investor

Here are some excerpts from "War and the Private Investor," a classic of economic analysis written by Tom's Dad, Eugene Staley. I bet Tom didn't know I actually read some of this weighty tome!! But I did this week and was stunned at how very accurately it assesses the present day situation with corporate monsters prowling the globe looking for trouble.

"Private investments seeking purely business advantage (i.e., unmotivated by political expansionism, balance of power strategy, military considerations, or other reasons of state) have rarely of themselves brought great powers into serious political clashes. It is where an aura of political ambitions has attached to the investments, and especially where the investments have been pushed in for political reasons from the start, that most of the dangerous investment frictions between great states have occurred."

In Chapt. 13. Mr. Staley presents what he calls a "recipe" for conflict caused by international private investment (think ExxonMobil, Carlyle Group...) Staley says this conflict would be most likely to occur if business ventures were pushed forward:

"(1) By citizens of a great power

(2) In a non-industrialized country with a weak and unstable government, or in a partly industrialized or even an advanced country about to experience a social revolution or in a region of disputed sovereignty."
[sounds like every country the U.S. has economically exploited for 75 years!)

3) Under conditions which bring migration of management and entrepreneurship as well as migration of capital, especially in connection with special concessions or franchises rather than under the general laws of the capital-receiving country.(hmm - like the oil company carpetbaggers in South America, Africa, Afghanistan, etc etc?)

(4) With the object, in addition to profit-making, of serving the strategic political and military purposes of the investing country, as expressed by its government in the form of subsidies or some less direct stimulus to investments deemed of national value
(again, this sounds just about every nation we've "helped" in the past 75 years)

(5) In projects connected with the development of transportation and communication routes [or pipelines?] especially those having great strategic value from both the political and economic standpoint, or in the extractive industries [this means oil and mining] associated with the early stages of industrial exploitation in non-industrialized countries.
Pretty darn prophetic....considering, especially, it was written in 1935!

* Corporate propaganda expose mentioned by Tom Staley

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