Sunday, September 18, 2005

Are You As Shocked As Me That This Stuff Is News, Mr. Rich?

This is how things have been working since before Day 1 of the George W. Bush presidency.

Few things are more frustrating than iterating and reiterating to an otherwise apparently rational, responsible person that something is the case and then, on the umpteenth time he or she is given a new syntactical version of the same story, the light bulbs finally begin to sputter to life. Oh well, I'm no more perfect than anyone else, and it is better to learn a lesson late than it is to never learn it. Of course people make mistakes, that's why we evolved enough to think to put erasers on pencils...

On the other hand, or perhaps I should say furthermore, many times incompetence is ignored, overlooked, or even embraced by people until it becomes the source of a problem for those previously blissful enough to let it slide. Therefore, millions of people are suddenly painfully aware that the deer-in-the-floodlights stance of Bush and others in his executive branc fraternity was not the steely determination and steadfastness they wished it were courtesy of yet another train jumping the tracks. On the bright side, some of the damage of the Bush administration's failure seems to be sticking this time.

But steadfastness? Resolve? To a fault, such that the steadfast Luntzian focus groups and resolutely Rovian smearology have suddenly started hitting the faberge eggs of American lives with the same hammer of message-control and dog-wagging they use on most everyone impertinent enough to call a spade a spade. These Americans affected by Katrina have suddenly discovered what it is like to be on the receiving end of choosing one's leaders from politically in-bred stock who choose subordinates for their personality, business relations, and/or past friendship rather than the way one would choose other people to put in other positions of responsibility. If the management at the DMV handed out driver's licenses to people out of sheer friendship or NASA awarded engineering contracts based on the fact that a person was their best pal on the rowing team it would be no less criminal than the clinic of political hackery perpetrated on us and the rest of the world by a spoiled Ivy League legacy of a chump who's all name and no game.

But this is hardly anything different than what the Bush administration has done all along. When has any acting member stood up and shown integrity rather than mealy-mouthed newspeak (e.g., Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rove), tired cliches and emotionally manipulative sophistry (Bush's speechwriters, Cheney, the entire cabinet, neocons foremost), or outright sanctimonious arrogance (e.g., Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush himself). Moreover, to reference parenthetically, when was the last time a president's words were so tortuously gamy? Perhaps Reagan or George H. W. Bush, and Clinton on occasion, but George W. Bush is off the charts for standing up before millions of people, time and time again, and almost uniformly reading someone else's words as if, well, they were someone else's baroque dime-store bunting rather than the actual thoughts of a person deserving of the immense responsibility inherent in the presidency.

George W. Bush never has been a leader. He was a screw-up, alcoholic, and all-purpose failure who fit neatly into an all-is-forgiven niche within the community of most zealous support among the new pushers of the line between a democratic republic and a quasi-fascist plutocracy. If you don't know what a Christian Dominionist is or what the deal is with the National Prayer Breakfast and the so-called Family, well...that's not news any more than that George Bush is the darling of the redneck who always wanted to play gold with the rich kids at the country club, the coward who always wanted to be associated with courage without having to risk earning it, and the wild-eyed televangelists' milkin' cows.

It's historical fact that George W. Bush was not and is not competent to lead the United States of America and that, on his watch, a college roommate or resume filled with PR and marketing coups (i.e., convincing people to believe in something that in the final analysis they do only at their own peril) has proven a ticket to the big time; for the past five years professionalism, integrity, and genuine concern for one's fellow man has been practically nonexistent when the chips were down in this country's highest executive office. Unfortunately, the majority of American citizens are only just now squeegeeing the tickertape and confetti from their damned eyes. Welcome to, at the very least, the next three years, if not longer...try to pay attention this time, thanks.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fascism is dead? Think again, my fellow Americans...

Well, it seems to me that most Americans think that fascism is akin to baseball players shilling for tobacco cabals, the overwhelming majority of the populace being sexually repressed, and leaded gasoline.

But wait! You too can enjoy the unbridled shrieking and automatonic me-tooism of the fascist societies of yesteryear! Just run right down to your nearest evangelical dominionist church, military defense contractor, or neoconservative think tank and sign up! Don't be alarmed if they recoil in horror when you say you want fascism too; just tell them you like to follow, don't believe your own eyes and ears, and are so intellectually lazy that you have next to no real idea for whom you have voted, why you voted for them, or what they actually stood for when the votes came down, despite rhetorical sleight-of-hand. It's okay; many of them have no idea that they are enabling fascism either. Some of you may still have doubts. Never voted? Even better! Rather watch sports, listen to fake news and spew it out as if you had a thought in your own head, badmouth labor unions while making eight bucks an hour at WalMart, or make racist comments to your fellows while sharing neighboring and ever-more equivalent bits of squalor with those to whom you falsely believe you are superior based on an arbitrary and essentially accidental evolutionary roll of the dice? You're just the mindless tool they're looking for...and you can even continue not believing in evolutionary biology just because you don't understand it!

Okay, now that I got my giggles out...

The following list is originally from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2, and is attributable to the political scientist Lawrence Britt. It and the "Perfect Storm" bit that follows it are excerpted from "Living Under Fascism," a sermon by Davidson Loehr originally delivered November 7, 2004. Shame on me for not finding a way to share it sooner, but I think the powers that be will understand and forgive me in the long run.

In any event, it is a distillation of the agendas that fascist regimes have shared. Don't read it before you go to bed or it will give you nightmares and don't read it before, during, or after watching Fox "News," doing anything regarding Sean Hannity, or even thinking about Rush Limbaugh, as it makes clear that they are hardly idiosyncratic nobs; rather, they are the template for the future as some very wealthy, very powerful, very vocally Christian, very vocally patriotic people hope it is...

Remember what Orwell told us and the Roves, Limbaughs, and Luntzes of the world are trying to make new all over again:


Common Facets of Fascist Regimes

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, and so on.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic, or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, and so forth.
4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes are almost always governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

The Perfect Storm
Our current descent into fascism came about through a kind of "Perfect Storm," a confluence of three unrelated but mutually supportive schools of thought.
1. The first stream of thought was the imperialistic dream of the Project for the New American Century. I don't believe anyone can understand the past four years without reading the Project for the New American Century, published in September 2000 and authored by many who have been prominent players in the Bush administrations, including Cheney, Rumsfleid, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Donald Kagan to name only a few. This report saw the fall of Communism as a call for America to become the military rulers of the world, to establish a new worldwide empire. They spelled out the military enhancements we would need, then noted, sadly, that these wonderful plans would take a long time, unless there could be a catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor that would let the leaders turn America into a military and militarist country. There was no clear interest in religion in this report, and no clear concern with local economic policies.

2. A second powerful stream must be credited to Pat Robertson and his Christian Reconstructionists, or Dominionists. Long dismissed by most of us as a screwball, the Dominionist style of Christianity which he has been preaching since the early 1980s is now the most powerful religious voice in the Bush administration. Katherine Yurica, who transcribed over 1300 pages of interviews from Pat Robertson's "700 Club" shows in the 1980s, has shown how Robertson and his chosen guests consistently, openly and passionately argued that America must become a theocracy under the control of Christian Dominionists. Robertson is on record saying democracy is a terrible form of government unless it is run by his kind of Christians. He also rails constantly against taxing the rich, against public education, social programs and welfare - and prefers Deuteronomy 28 over the teachings of Jesus. He is clear that women must remain homebound as obedient servants of men, and that abortions, like homosexuals, should not be allowed. Robertson has also been clear that other kinds of Christians, including Episcopalians and Presbyterians, are enemies of Christ. (The Yurica Report. Search under this name, or for "Despoiling America" by Katherine Yurica on the Internet.)

3. The third major component of this Perfect Storm has been the desire of very wealthy Americans and corporate CEOs for a plutocracy that will favor profits by the very rich and disempowerment of the vast majority of American workers, the destruction of workers' unions, and the alliance of government to help achieve these greedy goals. It is a condition some have called socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor, and which others recognize as a reincarnation of Social Darwinism. This strain of thought has been present throughout American history. Seventy years ago, they tried to finance a military coup to replace Franlkin Delano Roosevelt and establish General Smedley Butler as a fascist dictator in 1934. Fortunately, the picked a general who really was a patriot; he refused, reported the scheme, and spoke and wrote about it. As Canadian law professor Joel Bakan wrote in the book and movie "The Corporation," they have now achieved their coup without firing a shot. Our plutocrats have had no particular interest in religion. Their global interests are with an imperialist empire, and their domestic goals are in undoing all the New Deal reforms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that enabled the rise of America's middle class after WWII. Another ill wind in this Perfect Storm is more important than its crudity might suggest: it was President Clinton's sleazy sex with a young but eager intern in the White House. This incident, and Clinton's equally sleazy lying about it, focused the certainties of conservatives on the fact that "liberals" had neither moral compass nor moral concern, and therefore represented a dangerous threat to the moral fiber of America. While the effects of this may be hard to quantify, I think they were profound. These "storm" components have no necessary connection, and come from different groups of thinkers, many of whom wouldn't even like one another. But together, they form a nearly complete web of command and control, which has finally gained control of America and, they hope, of the world.