The Watering Hole; Thursday March 5 2015; Of ‘Demagogues and Stooges’

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“If we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt ‘two’ party system, our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland.” ~Cindy Sheehan; May 28, 2007

Earlier this week I happened across a New York Times Op-Ed on the subject of American Fascism, a topic which, when blended with the myriad press releases recently emerged from the annual CPAC event in Washington DC, can quickly capture one’s attention. Below are selected excerpts from the Times article which, even though they represent only about a third of the original document, do nevertheless convey an incredibly clear message that describes precisely what we in this country are now witnessing each and every day upon our corporate and political stage.

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

[. . .]

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others.. . . The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

[. . .]

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. . . . They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. . . .

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. . . .

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy . . . to conceal their own selfish imperialism. . . .

. . . Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

[. . .]

Democracy to crush fascism internally must . . . develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as . . . this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

[ . . .]

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction.

Granted, the author did not name names; he did not identify any particular “on the air and in the press” . . . “perversion of truth and fact” events or examples, he simply pointed to ALL those who exhibit that “insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives.” He didn’t mention Fox News, or Rupert Murdoch, or the Wall Street Journal, or Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or George Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Pat Robertson, or Ted Cruz, or Lindsey Graham, or the Koch Brothers, or Sheldon Adelson, or the Tea Party, or Steve King, or Sarah Palin, or Rick Perry, or Newt Gingrich, or John Boehner, or Mitch McConnell, or Scott Walker, or . . . the list of every political voice and/or corporate entity that puts money and power ahead of human beings is as interminable as it is familiar.

There is, however, another reason why none of those names familiar to us were mentioned in the referenced article — it was published by the New York Times on April 9, 1944. It was written by then Vice President Henry A. Wallace at the request of the Times who asked him to, as Wallace noted, write a piece that answered the questions “What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?” I first ran across word of the Wallace essay in a 2004 Common Dreams article by Thom Hartmann. A google or two later, I located the complete essay entitled The Danger of American Fascism from which the excerpts above were chosen.

In Wallace’s day, the consummate fascist models were Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and their respective fascist regimes in Italy and in Germany. Ironically, Wallace’s essay was published just short of one full year prior to European fascism’s final collapse. It also seems ironic that today, just short of SEVENTY YEARS beyond European Fascism’s final collapse, “We the people of the United States” sit smugly and/or blindly back as we allow the rise and institutionalization of American Fascism. We listen as its agenda is shouted regularly and loudly by its professional adherents, by its candidates, and by the media — and all with nary an informative grunt from any official opposing voice to be heard. One can only wonder, where is a Henry Wallace voice when we really need one? More importantly, where is the mass media? Why the silence? When will come the moment for everyone to finally hear the truth — out loud and with CLARITY — that the American GOP has sufficiently morphed itself to become today’s AMERICAN FASCIST MOVEMENT?

In a true and genuine Democracy such as America pretends herself to be, there would be no problem; the free voice of Truth would be loud and clear, shouted from the rooftops and broadcast via media outlets everywhere. Such is clearly NOT the case, however, and for the obvious reason that when corporate media monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity are faced with the truth vs. propaganda option, it’s no secret their choice will be to poison the channels of public information..

In any case and for whatever reason, this year’s CPAC ‘revelations’ in combination with detailed analyses of reality (such as Wallace’s, above) also reminded me of the quote William Shirer used to preface his historical treatise, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” — the George Santayana line that reads:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Wake up, America. Call out your demagogues and stooges.  If you dare. If you care.

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The Watering Hole, Wednesday, 3/4/15: War of Words

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Yesterday saw Boehner playing presidential vis-a-vis Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, at Boehner’s invitation. You see, the Constitution, ya know, that document that conservatives love to waive around when it comes to original intent and proving we’re a Christian Nation, says that the President has the power to make treaties, not the Speaker of the House.

The Executive Branch, not Congress, takes the lead on foreign relations. Netanyahu just gave the Jewish stamp of approval to Congress going behind the President’s back. The phrase “be careful of what you wish for” comes to mind.

For Article Two of the Constitution also gives the President the power to convene both Houses of Congress, or either of them. It’s high time the President exercised his power to keep Congress in session until they pass legislation to help we, the people, instead of catering to the wishes of the 1%. It’s time for Congress to give up its spring breaks, holidays, vacations and campaign season until we have full employment, tuition-free college, universal health care, equal pay for women, marriage equality, etc., etc., etc.

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The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 3, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

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Last week’s post was such a downer. Let’s look for some good environmental news.

Three good stories:

1. There are more tigers in Nepal.

2.There are more pandas in China.

3. Norwegian Pension funds divest of unsustainable entities (mining, deforestation, etc…).

 

Think clean and beautiful.

 

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 2, 2015: How The Right Gets Net Neutrality Wrong

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This past Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to change the way the nation’s internet service providers are regulated. After their proposed regulation, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, is published on the federal register in a few weeks, it will take effect sixty days later. This has some prominent right wing luminaries upset, even though it’s apparent they have absolutely no understanding of what net neutrality is. All it means is that all internet content must be treated equally by the internet service providers (ISPs). Comcast can’t slow down your Netflix streaming video just because they would prefer you use their subsidiary company’s product, Hulu. The ISPs aren’t happy, but you should be overjoyed. Don’t listen to these people.

People like Pat Robertson. Like many Conservatives, Robertson calls the new FCC regulations a “takeover” of the internet, and he adds that this is all part of a socialist agenda to take control of everything. As with most things Pat Robertson says, nothing could be further from the truth. The government is not taking over the internet which it created (and which Al Gore helped bring into the civilian world.) The government is simply making sure no private corporation can take over the internet and deprive you of content that might come from a competitor, or charge you extra to get higher speed internet for some content, and slower speeds for content like the blog you’re reading right now.

Robertson says the government wants to regulate the internet using a law written in 1934. That is false. They are using a law written in 1996 which updated the law written in 1934. He’s also wrong about the PP/ACA being a takeover of the healthcare industry. Conservatives frequently mischaracterize things in order to scare you into thinking something is happening which isn’t. And the goal of the fear mongering is the fear itself. People who are afraid often make bad decisions, and one of those bad decisions is voting for Conservatives.

Don’t listen to people like Rush Limbaugh, either. Limbaugh also thinks the government is trying to take over the internet it once created, but for a completely different reason. He thinks the government wants to ban bullets. I know it just flows so logically. You see, Rush is afraid of ISIS, and he’s afraid because they’re recruiting from all over the United States and Rush says “the government must have control of the Internet if we are to be safe.” (Projection.) Rush thinks the government is going to resort to extraordinary measures to fight ISIS, and that will include the banning of bullets. Except the government is not trying to ban bullets, they are trying to regulate armor-piercing bullets. And they won’t ban the ones that are “primarily” used for sporting purposes, so if a bunch of sovereign citizens decide today is the day the government is coming for their guns, they’ll still be able to shoot them with armor-piercing bullets.

And don’t listen to people like Ted Cruz, either. (It could result in brain damage. For you, not Ted. He’s already gone.) Somehow, Ted has it in his tiny little mind that regulating the internet will deprive you of your freedom.

“We do that fundamentally by standing with the people and not with Washington.”

For all their talk about Freedom, Conservatives still do not understand the concept that our federal government IS “We the People.” Then again, they never liked that from the beginning. It was Conservatives, those heavy on the “States’ Rights” idea (even though the Articles of Confederation proved the concept unworkable), who objected to the first three words of the Constitution. They felt it should have read “We the States.” And they haven’t given up that fight since.

“Washington wants Obamacare. The people want liberty.”

Here, and in the subsequent sentences, Cruz is using the term “The people” to refer only to Conservative Americans, and “Washington” to refer to everyone else. Conservatives do not view non-Conservatives as being “true Americans.” In fact, they see us as the Enemy, much as they did in 1776 when Liberals decided they wanted to explore the freedom of not being British citizens. Conservatives wrongly believe the individual mandate is both unprecedented and unconstitutional. (This despite the fact that President John Adams wrote a law requiring all mariners to buy health insurance, and despite the fact that SCOTUS ruled the law constitutional.) They don’t like it precisely because it does bring us incrementally closer to having Single Payer which, in their minds, equates to a total loss of freedom for everyone. Completely untrue, of course. It would only deny corporations the right to cheat you out of your life savings. But since corporations are not really poeple, that shouldn’t matter.

“Washington wants amnesty. The people want rule of law.”

This is a reference to the president’s immigration policy, announced in the wake of House Republicans refusing to do anything (like pass the bill the Senate did.) It’s not an amnesty program, like the one announced under President Reagan, no matter how many times they say it is. And even if it was, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional because the president has the constitutional authority to grant amnesty. And it’s not illegal, which they’ll learn when the SCOTUS upholds it. They just hate seeing anyone get help from the government. They don’t believe government exists to serve the people of which it’s comprised.

“Washington wants power over the internet. The people want freedom online.”

Conservatives have a hard time believing that anyone in government would want to do something that protects people from unscrupulous corporations. That’s because they believe the purpose of government is to protect unscrupulous corporations from the people. They want ISPs to be able to set up a multi-tier system of various speed options. They want it to be possible for ISPs to block content that competes with their own. The only possible way one could interpret net neutrality as taking away your freedoms is if you think corporations are people with the same rights as people. But to believe that, you would have to believe that corporations should have the right to terminate the existence of a subsidiary corporation still in the process of being created without government interference. IOW, to have an abortion.

This our daily open thread. Thanks to Obama’s FCC, you’ll still have access to this blog at the same speed as the big name corporations get. Use it wisely, and talk about anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 28th, 2015: Geek Grins & Groaners

A friend ‘from at work’, as we say in our families, provided the topic for today’s thread – which was particularly nice and thoughtful of her, as she was home recovering from surgery. As she put it, “Thought you might find these entertaining. Or I just found them funnier then normal because they gave me the good drugs!”

So today we present: GEEK JOKES, or, more properly titled, “26 Jokes That Only Intellectuals Will Get.” Here’s a couple of my favorites:

HOW MANY SURREALISTS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB?   A FISH.

and,

SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, BATMAN!

or how about,

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU PUT ROOT BEER IN A SQUARE GLASS?   BEER.

Okay, so they’re mostly groaners, but I found them amusing. Enjoy!

This is our daily Open Thread. Go ahead and grin, groan, grimace, gripe, or, sadly, grieve.

Rest In Peace, Leonard Nimoy. Now that your soul has “slipped the surly bonds of Earth”, may it travel among the stars and galaxies unencumbered, your immortality ensured.

The Watering Hole; Friday February 27 2015; “Conservascism”

Back in September of 2007 John W. Dean posted a FindLaw.com article entitled Why Authoritarians Now Control the Republican Party: The Rise of Authoritarian Conservatism, Part Two in a Three-Part Series. In it, he wrote,

“. . . I prepared a list of the additional traits that [people] . . . who test high as right-wing authoritarians often evidence: highly religious, moderate to little education, trust untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions other than their own), mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical toward their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent and contradictory, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarian, severely punitive, demands loyalty and returns it, little self-awareness, usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.”

That same month, Jonathan Chait, in a New Republic article entitled “How economic crackpots devoured American politics; Feast of the Wingnuts” (sorry, the link I have is no longer valid) noted that,

“American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane. The scope of their triumph is breathtaking. Over the course of the last three decades, they have moved from the right-wing fringe to the commanding heights of the national agenda. Notions that would have been laughed at a generation ago — that cutting taxes for the very rich is the best response to any and every economic circumstance or that it is perfectly appropriate to turn the most rapacious and self-interested elements of the business lobby into essentially an arm of the federal government — are now so pervasive, they barely attract any notice. The result has been a slow- motion disaster … Government is no smaller — it is simply more debt-ridden and more beholden to wealthy elites.”

Ah yes, government is “more beholden to wealthy elites.” September 2007 was almost eight years ago and yet both Dean’s and Chait’s descriptions are as precise and as accurate today as they were the day they were written. And today, the ‘conservatives’ have since retaken the majority in both congressional houses and are preparing each and every day to lay claim to 2016’s presidential election as well — with a list of candidates that each and all fulfill that “more beholden to wealthy elites” requirement more effectively than at any point in this country’s history.

Question of the day/week/month/year/decade is a simple one: WHY is this former democratic republic so absolutely willing to sacrifice each and every quality it was born with and instead WILLINGLY turn itself over to the billionaires, the corporate goliaths, and the bigoted fascist power-mongers?

Today, the Republican party’s principle agendas are (1) to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline in spite of Obama’s veto; (2) to overturn Obama’s Executive Orders on immigration; (3) to overturn the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision. Why? Because they’re CONSERVASCISTS (read: Conservatives-fascists) and their owners demand it.

I have only two questions remaining: Whereto from here, America? -and- Do you still exist, and if so, why?

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