Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I heard Jon Stewart say something and it got me thinking. Larry King asked who fascinated him most in the current administration. Stewart answered “the people”. Stewart credited their seemingly inexhaustible patience in spite of a seemingly totally indifferent government.

Now I must admit I think Jon Stewart is one of the more gifted political observers. But I’m not sure he’s right. I’m not totally sold that the American people are so patient. I fear they may be apathetic.

In my home state of Ohio we have a governor who has been convicted. Tom Noe, a prominent Republican fundraiser, has been indicted on 53 felony counts stemming from an investigation of his handling of 50 million of the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation money. An audit finds 13.5 million of that money missing. So are the people up in arms and ready to shoot anything closely resembling a Republican? I wish. Instead the reaction has been very blasé. Apathy reigns here. People seem to expect the worst from politicians.

That’s sad.

It’s really sad because it’s our fault. We expect so little from them and make our voices heard so infrequently that they don’t care. Without the constant pressure of high expectations and the oversight of the voters our government officials act like spoiled children. It’s all about winning and political capital. Unless of course they’re campaigning, then all the feel good warm and fuzzy “let’s help the poor” stuff comes out. Trust me, they don’t man a word of it.

I, like Jon Stewart, am fed up with both parties. I’ve said that before though so I won’t belabor the point. But I will belabor this it’s really not their fault we’re in the mess we’re in. It’s ours. Our condition will not improve until the rightful leaders of this nation, the American people, take their country back.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In my latest post I talked a bit about fascism and the rather creepy similarities between it and out current state of affairs. Now I’m going to comment about the 14 characteristics common to fascist states. In the interest of full disclosure I am going to use the list of Laurence Britt. There are other lists, which vary slightly. But more or less they all state the same thing. I will however pull two things off of another list because I think they bear some discussion.

The Laurence Britt list and some fairly extensive documentation can be found here.

All three lists and very good essay on the subject are here.

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: When does patriotism go too far? I tend to regard it in a similar vane to how I regard faith. Faith is in and of itself a fine thing. But when someone has blind faith is when things start going bad in a hurry.

It’s perfectly fine to love one’s country. But when that love becomes spite for other nations is when trouble starts. When there is no respect for other cultures or ideologies and there is assumed superiority is when patriotism morphs into nationalism or jingoism or even worse xenophobia. It’s fine to love one’s country but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily superior to the rest of the world.

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Let’s see where ever do I start? Let’s just list some. Guantanamo, the black ops prisons in Eastern Europe, warrantless wire-tapping, Abu Ghraib, consistently stonewalling investigations, leaking a CIA covert operatives name and leaving tens of thousands of people to suffer in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina while the President played guitar and ate cake with John McCain. Do I need to mention any more?

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The United States has always had a bit of a superhero complex. In that, we have always needed a villain to fight. We’ve always had communists, terrorists, blacks, gays, Indians and liberals to lay the blame on. It seems as if America isn’t happy unless it has someone to fight or at least blame for its problems. The problem here is that a doctrine based solely on fear. Fear is no way to run a country or a religion or a family.

Supremacy of the Military: Our military budget is sacred. Any attempt of slash military spending is seen as an attempt to make America less safe. Even attempts to cut programs that are largely money pits like the F-22 fighter are met with much resistance. The United States spends over four times as much on its defense as the next two closest nations, China and Russia. Since I doubt we’ll be at war with either China or Russia any time soon this is borderline criminal.

Rampant Sexism: Gender roles aren’t as rigid as in past times. But then again that’s mostly because most families need two incomes to survive. Prejudice against gays remains high however. The whole non-issue of gay marriage from the 2004 elections still sits wrong with me. Not only because it took time away from real issues like poverty but also because gays were portrayed as less than human.

Controlled Mass Media: Voltaire has a great quote, “God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh.” If you substitute “The Media” for “God” in that quote and you have my feelings on most media. Hours spent on non-issues (e.g. Natalee Holloway or Terri Shiavo) and celebrity gossip makes it seem as important as real news. This is complete violation of the trust they should have with the public to keep them informed and aware. The government still doesn’t have the media in its death grip yet. But its odd they go ballistic with Cheney accidentally shoots a guy but stay quiet when it was revealed Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. That’s a little suspicious.

Obsession with National Security: Do you want to be a speechwriter for George Bush? Here’s all you have to do. When you write a speech just mention 9/11 and terrorism every other word. Also feel free to throw in how you’re working to keep them safe and sound. Remember there are enemies everywhere and your rights are meaningless. So just let big brother wiretap whomever he wants and all will go well.
“Mother America is brandishing her weapons.
She keeps me safe and warm by threats and misconceptions.”
“Fly Me Courageous”
Drivin’ n Cryin’

Religion and Government are Intertwined: I remember during his acceptance speech at the RNC, George Bush said he was on a mission from beyond the stars. At first I was nervous because I thought aliens might have abducted him. But then I realized that this was just more of Curious George’s brand of Jesus juice. I know all politicians throw Jesus’ name around so much He should get an endorsement fee. That’s kind of ironic because Jesus’ teachings and our current state of affairs are almost completely contradictory. Go forth and read the Sermon on the Mount people. Anyway, remember one of my previous rants. Religion is based on faith, which is fine. Politics however should be based on facts. You should never have faith in a politician. You should always demand facts. So keeping the two separated is only logical.

Corporate Power is Protected: I just want you to remember one thing I picked up from my time in business classes. Corporations are imaginary. They aren’t real like say people. So you should always support people over corporations. It’s only logical.

Labor Power is Suppressed: Unions have been largely neutered in the USA. The NY transit workers go on strike and all I hear is how it’s illegal. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers that went on strike. People actually believe it’s the union’s fault that jobs don’t stay in America. Remember that last point I made about corporate power? It applies here as well.

Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: George Washington once said, “Knowledge is in every country the surest basis on public happiness.” Ronald Reagan said’ “Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?” Need I go on?

Obsession with Crime and Punishment: We are a country of zero tolerance and the guilty must be punished. What does this solve? Is there any research that shows punishment deters crime? I’d love to see it.

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: This is book waiting to be written. Do the names Michael Brown and Jack Abramoff ring any bells?

Fraudulent Elections: There’s nothing quite like disenfranchising and entire block of voters to make an election look bad. The lines to vote in Ohio in 2004 were heart breaking. The hanging chad nonsense in Florida was pathetic. Of course there have been other elections that have stunk to high Heaven, such as the 1960 Presidential race. Until there are national standards and transparency in our elections they will probably always stink.

OK that’s all for Laurence Britt’s list here’s some more things from the other lists.

Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak: All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. I substitute taught for over a year. In the school district I was in not every child had a book for the class they were in. The budget was blamed. Most kids want job training and not an education. If our schools are not giving the children the skills necessary to make decisions based on reasoned thinking. Then what shall they do when the democracy is theirs?

Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake: Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. We now have laws in Colorado and Florida that allow people whom feel threatened to use lethal force. There is some lobbying being done to see these laws instituted in other states. My state of Ohio has a concealed weapons law. As Benjamin Franklin rather succinctly put it once, “Force shites upon the back of reason.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some days I wish I were one of those bloggers that wrote about how their dog always poops on the new furniture. But I get to reading and watching and listening and ideas strike. Some are far better than others. But I usually at least make a go of them. If you saw all my unfinished blog entries you’d be shocked. I’ve left a good many ideas unfinished because I just couldn’t find the words and ideas to finish them.

But enough about my lack of writing skills, I have an idea. I’ve been reading and listening and watching and hearing a lot about how America is in some ways resembling a fascist state. Now I’m not going to attempt to convince you that the good ole US of A is letting her democratic government slide into the pit of fascism. But there are some things that have given me pause. I think it’s always good to remember that democracy is not forged steel but rather delicate china. It can be easily broken if the citizens are not careful to protect it.

For those of you not well versed in politics I shall now offer a definition of fascism. Please note however there are many definitions of fascism. So I picked one straight from the source, Benito Mussolini. The following is from his book, The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism.

"Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the 19th century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State."

Now what did we learn there? We learned that fascism favors the state over the individual. Mussolini also stated that fascism could also very well be called corporatism. Because fascism is government in which both corporations and the government act as one.

Now what does an Italian fascist have to do with modern American politics you may ask? Well there are some unsettling similarities between fascism and current US policy. I want you to go to the following link and read something. It’s an article by Henry Wallace from 1944. Wallace was the Vice-President under FDR. He preceded Harry Truman. Fascism Column.

OK now that you’ve digested that fine bit of writing let me comment on a few points.

First this fine quote, “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.”

Does what this administration has done with the tragedy of September 11th sound eerily similar to this? Every time this administration gets into trouble they seem to play the 9/11 card. They have used this war to evade Congressional oversight. The powers they claim being at war gives them to stonewall investigations.

Now this, “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. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. 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.”

War profiteers used to be considered evil. Now corporations like Halliburton make billion s in the war effort and no one says a word.

This administration has consistently put corporations and power ahead of people. Just look at the state of affairs in Iraq or New Orleans.

OK I’ve given you enough to chew on for now. But there is a lot more to come soon. Included will be the 14 points common to fascist governments and how the current state of our own country compares.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

By now I’m rather sure that you’ve heard that Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, has bought a British company that controls six major US ports. I hope you’ve been made aware of the following facts.

1. The United Arab Emirates has ties to Al Qaeda. Their banking system was one of the one used to by the terrorist organization to fund the attacks on the United States. When the US wanted to trace the money trail of Al Qaeda the United Arab Emirates blocked those efforts. Also, two of the nineteen hijackers on those four hijacked plans were from the United Arab Emirates.
2. The United Arab Emirates is one of only three governments on the planet who still recognize the Taliban as the rightful government of Afghanistan.
3. The United Arab Emirates sold equipment necessary to have a nuclear program to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
4. The United Arab Emirates is also a prime mover in the international drug trade.

Allowing the United Arab Emirates control of our ports would be the equivalent of allowing Fascist Italy control of our ports during World War II. The fact that we have so much foreign control of our ports is troubling enough. But, to allow a country with such strong terrorist ties to have control is downright scary.

George Bush has threatened to veto any attempts by Congress to block this sale. Hopefully Congress will have the resolve to override the veto. Congress can do these things you know.

Why is Bush so adamant about this sale? I’ll admit I’m only speculating here but my guess is he’s just following form. His usual MO is to put corporate interests ahead of those of the people. He’s doing that here like a champ. Two of Bush’s aides have ties to Dubai Ports World, Treasury Secretary Jack Snow and the nominee to head the US Maritime Administration David Sanborn. You can read more about them here.

I must admit I find something almost poetically ironic here. National security is the issue that has carried George Bush to two terms in the White House and has given the Republican Party firm control over Congress. Now with this firestorm of controversy it could be the issue that hobbles both the President and the GOP. The notion of selling our ports to a country with ties to the most brutal terrorist attack ever on American soil will not sit well with Middle America.

I hope ultimately Congress blocks this sale and we can put this issue to rest. But if by some chance it goes through I fear for the safety of the cities where those ports are.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Our fearless leader Dick Cheney shot a guy a couple days ago. I could make a lot of jokes about his five deferments that kept him from serving in the military or how he lived in a cave for about 6 months after 9/11. It was awfully nice of him to wait about 21 hours before letting the rest of the world know. Yeesh!

Anyway I have a question. It’s been bothering me and maybe one of you will be good enough to help me out here. I’ve been watching a good deal of programming about the President’s wiretapping sans warrant. You know, that brazen violation of the 4th Amendment. But anyway, I’ve been watching and reading about it and something has struck me. Politicians are making the argument that since this wiretapping program has been outed. They are trying to claim that the program is now ineffective. How does this work? Are they trying to say that terrorists aren’t smart enough to realize their every move may be recorded? Of course they realize they’re being wiretapped and taped every second of their lives. How does having public knowledge of our Constitution being violated by the man sworn to uphold damage our intelligence gathering capability?

If anyone can help a brother out. I’d certainly appreciate it.

I will not accept the “we are at war” argument either. It’s crap. It’s crap on a stick. It’s all fear and no reason. Remember what Benjamin Franklin has taught us. “Those who would sacrifice liberty for order will lose both and deserve neither.”

If you don’t believe it’s illegal. You’ve been tricked. Here read the 4th Amendment and tell me how it’s not being violated. Remember the Constitution is ultimate law of the land. It has final say in all federal laws.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Also the fact they are monitoring foreign calls coming into the country is irrelevant. If one party is on American soil they’re under Constitutional protection.

Some days I worry.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I know I mention Bill Hicks here all the time. But, please humor me on this one. He used to have this routine about the show COPS. Where he would talk about some of the more interesting domestic disputes that they would show. It always seemed that no matter how bad the situation was the woman would defend her man. She would invariably extol the virtues of this letch, no matter how bad the beating was. “Oh he’s a good man,” she’d say over and over again.

What does this have to do with anything you ask? Well I swear the American people act just like this towards their government and corporations. No matter how bad the people are getting screwed over they just lie there and take it. The American people have clearly learned to love the abuse.

Oh how are government is keeping us safe. So don’t you worry your pointy little head about those unimportant civil rights.

Please don’t lose any sleep about the softening job market and the steady decline in real wages. It’s gay marriage that you ought be out in the streets protesting.

Forget the 38 million people in the United States who don’t have enough to eat. Worry about one brain dead women in a Florida hospice or maybe a missing teenager in Aruba.

Don’t even bother yourself with the 45 million or so Americans who have zero health insurance. Instead why not worry about a celebrity’s sex life.

Most American’s are so unwilling to stand up to authority it’s troubling. We act like we elect not a representative government but some horde of despots who demand absolute loyalty. It always helps to remember this, rebels founded America. We rebelled against Britain when we didn’t like the taxes. People took to the streets to free slaves and give women the right to vote and demand equal rights for all citizens.

Stop being so docile people! Demand information. Never just completely trust the government I don’t care who’s in charge. The people are getting screwed every day and they do nothing. It’s disheartening. Educate yourself and get on your representative’s butt. Never let them forget who’s boss. Don’t just sit there and take what they feed you. The government will always do what makes the government happy until the people raise a stink. So it’s time to stink the place up people.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hey kids!

I’m starting to think that I watch a bit too much cable news. Then again it’s the only decent thing on in the afternoon while I’m eating lunch. So I guess I see a fair amount. So as usual when I see a bit much of something I tend to find things that bother me.

So today I’m watching the bits and pieces of the funeral for Coretta Scott King. During this fine memorial President Bush, who was in attendance, took some heat from the speakers. What’s the first thing the talking heads on MSNBC start yapping about? How being at this funeral will help Bush politically. It will also be beneficial to Hillary Clinton as well. You know what? I DON’T CARE! The networks never do any real fact checking or call anyone on their mistakes. Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of National Intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency, couldn’t even correctly quote the 4th Amendment the other day. For the most part the media said nothing! Instead of giving the public what they need, the truth. They instead tell us how they think it will alter America’s opinion. They need to stop this nonsense. The media’s job is to give us the truth, no more no less. Why they stopped doing this, with a few exceptions, is beyond me.

If I hear one more right-wing polemic utter the phrase, “The military protects your freedom” or “The military gave you those freedoms” or any similar nonsense I will begin slapping people. The military has only a scant few times really protected our freedom or gave us new freedoms, like say the Revolutionary War or World War II. Every other time a freedom has been protected it has been by the citizens. They protested or sued or took some other action that prevented the government from infringing on their rights. Every time a right has been granted it has been of the people as well. Movements like the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage and the Labor Movement had nothing to do with the military. It is that most wonderful of documents, The US Constitution and the actions of the citizens that has expanded and preserved our freedom not the military.

Yesterday I was reading my morning newspaper, The Toledo Blade, and I read an article about members of Al Qaeda escaping from a prison in Yemen. Most of these prisoners were tied to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. So I eagerly turn on the cable news networks to get some new information about this troubling story. So what do I hear? I hear nothing. They were silent on the issue. Why? Shouldn’t this be a major story? Shouldn’t all those 24 hour news networks had reporters all over this story? I guess not. Why though? Could it be so we don’t really know how well or poorly the war on terror is really going? Just give me some truth people that’s all I ask.

Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General, said recently and I quote, “President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.” Write your own joke. This is almost as pathetic as the fact that he was not under oath for his testimony. It’s nice to see that politics trumps the truth in Washington these days.

OK rant mode is disengaged for now. I don’t want it to seem like I want anyone to avoid the news, because nothing could be more false. But you need to watch it with a sharp mind and ask lots of questions. Though I’m starting to doubt the media will answer them anymore.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Some of you may have felt my commentary on the State of the Union Address was a bit harsh. I’ll grant you I did write in a bit of an irritated mood. Then again every time I listen to Bush speak I get irritated anymore. But ole George did say one thing that was rather amusing. During his appeal to outlaw cloning he brought up the issue of animal-human hybrids. Yes, I’m serious. When did this become an issue? Does George know something we don’t? Was some terrorist or despot out to make an army of mants to attack us? Did Laura read George an H.P. Lovecraft story before bed that week? Do you remember during the whole gay marriage stink when some yahoos were saying that gay marriage would lead to man and dog marriages? Maybe George just got that confused. Maybe he’s fallen off of his bike too much. I guess we’ll never know.

Speaking of man and animal confusion. I was watching TV the other day when a commercial for some pet supply place came on. Normally I don’t care one way or another about stores I don’t use (I have no pets). But this one grabbed me. It used the phrase “pet parents” when referring to pets owners. Am I the only one who finds this a bit on the mentally ill side?

Some people take their pets far too seriously. People buy sweaters and booties for their pets. There are pets in this country that eat better than a good many children. That’s wrong on so many levels. Now I understand why people like their pets so much. Hell, I cried when my dog Scooter died. But as much as liked Scooter he was just an animal. I moved on rather quickly. His death affected nowhere near as much as my father’s or any of the other loved ones I’ve lost. I think it’s best to remember something I learned in elementary school. You love people and people only. You like objects and things, like animals.

While I’m talking about annoying commercials, let me get this in. Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday. Millions of people will gather around their televisions and watch the game and if MSNBC is correct about two out of five will be watching for the commercials. So about two out of five Americans now have their obedient consumer lobotomies. I personally will use the commercials as God intended, for bathroom breaks and channel surfing if the game sucks. I’ve never seen a commercial that was so good that I wanted to sit through a four-hour program just to see it. A commercial has never inspired me to buy a damn thing. I think in this case it’s good to remember what Bill Hicks has taught us. If manufacturers could make the commercials they wanted they would look like this. There would be a picture a beautiful woman’s face. The camera would back up and reveal that she was topless. The camera would move back farther and show that she was totally nude. Then above her would appear a sign that says “Drink Coke”.