Thursday, August 28, 2008

1944? 1954? 1984.

Recently I asked a question of a prolific right-wing blogger and active member of ScaifeNet. In his normal Orwellian way, Mitch Berg attempted to turn the world 180 degrees upside down and declare truth to be lies, and lies to be truth.

I asked, "What would you categorize Rush Limbaugh as, who claims Naziism to be a liberal/leftist movement, because (to quote) “after all, it has Socialism in the name.”? This was in reply to Berg's complaint that others, including those on the left, compare right-wing extremism to fascism - and he doesn't like it.

His reply was, "It’s an oversimplification, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Hitler admired the way Lenin seized control of society, and used many of Lenin’s methods. He saw the need to totally subsume society in his ideology"

And my reaction is this; No, there's damned little truth in it outside the fact that each was a totalitarian - Stalin would be closer to Hitler anyway, than Lenin. Such an analogy, however, is extraodinarily simplistic and immature. It is wilfully changing the discussion to Totalitarianism, and then saying liberalism is passingly familiar with socialism so therefore, as Lenin was a communist - and could be calledd a socialist, and communism is totalitarian, ipso facto, liberalism is facism. Utter, commplete, nonsense. First, Lenin was far more committed to communism than socialims, meaning, while he embraced (kinda) the idea of egalitarian economics, he FAR MORE embraced (and Stalin even moreso) the ideals of extremist power grabbing, there is NO relationshp between THAT and liberalism OR socialims. Both of those economic/ethical ideals embrace the ideal of NOT ACCEPTING TOTALITARIANISM - unlike right wing extremism, which mouths equality, but supports the suspension of rights like habeaus corpus.

Further, all totalitarians use scape-goats and half-truths to assume power, and nearly always come out of near anarchy as a precedent (including civil war), but that doesn't make Hitler a Socialist, and certainly doesn't make him a liberal, an ideology which sometimes gets so bound up in tolerance of competing ideals that it stagnates and becomes incapable of action. Hitler was hardly stagnant, he began his programs of extermination and persecution within weeks of taking over as German Chancellor.

He went on " Lenin did; he adapted Lenin’s tactics heavily to German society (Russia was a preliterate peasant society with no liberal tradition; Germany, while historically authoritarian, was industrial, educated and somewhat cosmopolitan, and needed a different approach to totalitarianism).

I’d suggest you read Modern Times, by Paul Johnson, which has an excellent account of Hitler’s intellectual relationship with Lenin."

My counter would be to suggest reading about Joe McCarthy, a right-wing extremist red-baiter who had more in common with Hitler than either Lenin or Stalin did with Hitler. Hitler's intellectual relationship to Lenin extends to each's desire to gain power and use that power to deceive and distort issues. Lenin and Hitler are hardly equivilant people. I'd look at the book, but if it attempts to blur the difference between Facism and Communism, then it's silly.

The real point of course was this: This question wasn't abougt Hitler - and the reply was an attempt to confuse the issue that while Righties complain abougt Hilter comparisons, they love to make ludicrous comparisons of Nazism - which was founded on the political/economic philosphies of facism - with liberalism. The two ideologies could hardly be more different. So, the question wasn't about Hitler, it was about Facism, and was ignored. Mitch conveniently ignored the economic model employed by Communism and Nazism (and of course, liberalism), the political positions taken by each system and for that matter, each leader (Lenin and Hitler). One was clearly pro-worker, the other exterminated labor leaders, socialists, social democrats, trade unionist, labor unionists. If Hitler were such a liberal, I'd like to see examples of where liberals engaged in programatic extermination of a race, ethnicity, or religion? I'd also like someone to explain Hitler's extermination of 350,000 or so Social Democrats and Communits? (not to mention starving to death about 3,000,000 Soviet/Slav POW's).

So, I clarified the question:

Do you think Facism is a left wing movement?

The obfuscating reply was, "I think that “right” and “left” are an overused metaphor, (I actually prefer a two-dimensional view based on views of personal and economic liberty), and that “fascism” has been used to imprecisely...that it’s lost most of its meaning."

NO, facism has a very clear meaning for anyone desiring to understand it. Mitch instead desired to specifically NOT address the fact that it represents control of the government by corporate hegemony - collaberation with that government to enhance the position of the elite, and along with all of it, the dimunition of the middle class by scape-goat politics to pursue their subjegation to enhance a hyper-nationalistic, hyper-militaristic state. He ignored it all, despite knowing it, because it would have indicted Limbaugh as a gasbag, perpetrating deliberate falsehood. There is nearly zero relationship between liberalism and Facism, except when some chuckle-head of a liberal promotes totalitarianism in some form, and THEN it's a relationship with Totalitarianism, not Hitler and certainly not Facims.

He then laid out this whopper, "However, in fact Mussolini was by any rational definition a leftist (REALLY??? So EVERY Social Scientist who has classified Facism as rightwing extremism had it wrong??!! AND, weren't rational besides.. you see, apparently right wing extremism isn't extreme, it doesn't exist.. that's the upshot of this BS argument - they don't seek control, they don't use politics and power as a bludgeon, they don't squelch debate with hate-filled rhetoric, they don't invent excuses to invade countries just because they want to. Nope, hyper-militaristic, xenophobia, it's a complete invention of the left to say that applies to righties.. OMG)

Berg justifies this whopper with nonsesnes, "(he (Mussolin) nationalized industries, created a large complex entitlement state and controlled the media), albeit not a totalitarian (he didn’t use the state to supplant religion, the family

FAT LOAD OF CRAP - those are also halmarks of Facism, and as for control of the media, what would you call Fox News, and all of the right wing radio stations - Open Discussion forums??? Mussolini (and Spear) nationalized industries they needed to for their military programs only as a last resort, but by and large worked hand in glove with those industries instead to provide them a. slave labor b. massive profits, and c. (most importantly) busted unions (including murdering union leaders) to ensure vast profits for those corporations. This is the most gauling of Berg's numerous fictions - to say that Mussolin was some sort of leftist when he openly advocated for violence against those on the left is assinine in the extreme - and advocated for it not because he was a leftist (and to thereby take power) but to payback his corporate partners.

He also propped up and worked closesly with other industrial leaders to make them fabulously wealthy. So Mitch, in one breath talks about liking an analogy of free/totalitarian, and then goes back on the comment to try to peg right-wing hyper-miltarism and corporate/government cooperation, on leftists.. ludicrous.

Also, Mussolini's 'large and complex entitlement state' was anything but large or complex, certainly not as compared to the New Deal. To be sure, he had a few such programs, but they were mostly sops to get control - he believed in the Corporate state, and as the inventor of 'Facism' in fact, he said, Facism is 'Corporati Il Stati' as memory serves, or translated "The Corporate State."

He went on to say, " and every other facet of society). He added to that intense nationalism and a “fascist” personality cult. I do believe many leftists are intellectual thugs, yes"

See, there it is again, conflating nationalism with leftist - since when? Further, Facism - at it's core is pro-corporate conduct, not anti, finally, personality cult - like perhaps as in oh, say the blind acceptance of WMD lies? Intellectual thugs come in lots of varieties, including those who claim that 'If you aren't for us you're against us" (like Joe McCarthy and George Bush) - as well as those who claim that anyone who questions the leader is a traitor- aiding and abetting the enemy (like Joseph Geobells and John Kline and one Mitch Berg).

But yes, some leftists step over the line and engage in the same sort of smear idiocy that people like Sarah Palin do when they (falsely claim they were the victim of sexism) - and become intellectual thugs. Whereas folks like Mussolini and Hitler, were ACTUAL thugs - using juvenile and underhanded tactics to demean their opposition until such time as they had the power to simply kill them.

Intellectual thuggery takes a lot of forms, including distorting the truth, attempting to squelch all debeate by simply attacking the messenger when your message fails, and ... attempting to claim that the thing the people should fear, is freedom of thought -- like questioning the base motives of right wing (or left wing) extremism, where it comes from, and what it truly is. It's better, it appears, to claim there is no such thing, and to blame a scapegoat (like liberalism)for those things which in fact you embrace wholeheartedly.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


One thing we can be certain of, no matter who Barack Obama picked as a running mate, the Republicans would have attacked him or her. They had a canned commercial all setup and ready to air first thing Saturday for Biden. As Biden was the least likely of four or five possibilities, it's easy to conclude really ANYONE chosen would have been attacked.

For Hilary - too liberal, too bitchy, too much like Bill
Tom Kaine - too inexperienced
Biden - too experienced
Bill Richardson - too much of an outsider, too inexperienced, too liberal

It would have happened no matter what, and that's why Tim Pawlenty's criticisms of Obama and Biden are nothing more than political theatre. Biden represented a reasonable, though unexpected, balancing of the ticket, in the same way that Dukakis selected Lloyd Bentsen, or for that matter, Dubbya chose Cheney.

I don't love the selection of Biden, I don't see him adding much in terms of diversity, I would have rather had Clinton, as I think she represents (for some unknowable reason) an olive branch to blue-collar Democrats and Independents, but then again, so does Biden. It's just I suppose with Biden, Obama avoids the acrimony which built up between he and Clinton, and he avoids Bill's commanding presence at the White House.

But of one thing I am truly certain, the Republicans will SAY ANYTHING at any time, such as the doctoring of climate change data, birth and health statistics, invention of intelligence about Uranium, blaming of North Korea for the acts of Pakistan and Dubai, (this list is endless btw), to them, politics trumps truth, the ends justifies the means, and making a hollow claim (Pawlenty) which is absolutely and easily applicable to their own President, is just fine as long as it gets air time.

And get airtime it will, thanks to Faux News, another certainty - like taxes used to make the rich richer, a certainty you can bet the house on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Speaking Francly

Today there was a story of 10 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.

The Taliban, of course, are the hostile, ultra-conservative, ultra-orthodox Mujahadeen descendants of the 1980's Afghani resistance against the Soviet occupation. They eventually embraced the similarly virulent and hostile Wahabis of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, a movement which grew into the leadership of Al Qaeda. The Taliban offered safe harbor for Al Qaeda, and of course, Al Qaeda's leadership was living in Afghanistan, on Septemember 11, 2001, and trained and launched those attacks from bases in Afghanistan provided by the Taliban. Fighting the Taliban is nearly equivilant to fighting Al Qaeda, with the sole exception that it is likely the Taliban can be claimed to be legitimate resistance fighters INSIDE Afghanistan.

The French have repeatedly stood by our side when trouble came. They stood by our side in relation to Vietnam and the Viet Minh in the fight against the 'Domino Theory' ludicrousness. They stood by our side in our own Revolution, in the war of 1812, in our own Civil War for that matter. We've fought by their side in WWI, WWII, in Korea, in Desert Storm I, and in Aghanistan. They've, in fact, put more boots on the ground in support of the US than ANY OTHER NATION, bar none, in raw numbers of troops. They lost more troops in WWII, despite fighting less time, than the US, but we forget that. They fought valiantly to liberate Paris, to support the D-Day landings, taking horrific losses among their freedom fighters, but we forget that.

Yesterday 10 more French fighters were killed fighting Terrorism, in a war WE decided needed to be broader than just getting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, ignoring the advice of our allies, including the French and British (who had extensive experience fighting in the Punjab and Kashmiri regions of Pakistan/Afghanistan)- to keep our 'eye on the ball'. They stood by while our troops inadequately attempted to deal with a resurging Taliban.

And yesterday, 10 more Frenchman died. The French have NEVER threatened to pull their troops from Afghanistan.

I wonder how many conservatives today will choose to call them "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys?" Arrogance is not only a sin, it's ugly and it's vulgar, as well as just plain ignorant and stupid.

My response is "Viv Le France!, Merci Beaucoup"

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Theft of Thought

If I were to write a book on politics in my adult life, this title, "The Theft of Thought", would get real consideration.

Since the 1981 Reagan Revolution, discussion of policy, especially civil consideration of the best course of action, has become increasingly rare.

Bill Bradley was on Bill Maher's show recently - and said something I've felt for a while - namely that the inherent qualities which draw people to the Republican or Democratic party are not irreconciliable, they're not even opposed, but we've made them so.

Bradley postulates the primary ethic of Republicans is self-reliance, or even more clearly, personal responsibility.

He said he feels the primary ethic of Democrats is decency and concern for 'your fellow man.

I think both are correct and fair, and yet, like Bradley, I see that the politically active members of both parties show real contempt for the politically active members of the other party. This didn't use to be so, in fact, in the 60's (or 50's) there was vastly more civil discourse, and work toward effective comprimise, than there has been in the 90's and certainly more than today. Paul Krugman feels this is because during that period, the parties were not far apart on policy, so there was little need for the kind of invective and venom we see today. He's right of course that there was less divergence on policy, and he's also right that the Republicans have shifted FAR right from then, while Democrats, if anything, have become more moderate as compared to the days of the New Deal or the Great Society.

Yet, I don't feel that's the full explanation. Krugman's explanation seems to say, because John became more radical in his political position, John and Jane treat each other contemptuously. I think that the contempt was part and parcel of the radical shift, in fact, I think it caused and was the genesis of the shift, not the other way around.

Political discourse in this country became highly beligerent starting in 1964 with the Goldwater campaign. The rhetoric of Barry Goldwater - which even he felt was over the top later in life - was belicose, was full of the kinds of finger pointing and red-baiting that only McCarthy had really used since the 1930's.

Then, in 1976, and gaining ground in 1980, 1994, 2000 and 2004, a series of political attack apparatus and persons appeared, nearly all of them on the right, whcih instead of talking about policies, talked about 'character', and not in a nice way - started saying things like 'aiding and abbetting' the enemy - when someone dissented - and the chilling effect it had on the press, and on Democrats as well, was palpable. Democrats became defensive and beligerent in response, but now, to very little less degree, than Republican extremists, and it's repulsive.

Does anyone truly think someone like John Kerry (or John McCain) truly would willingly do something to jeapordize the national security interests of the country? If so, why? What inconceivably foolish notion other than animosity could drive such hatred? George Bush didn't blow up the World Trade Center - and Barack Obama isn't going to trade Israel away to terrorists.

However, rational, clear debate is the nemesis of the radicals. Because rational debate debunks the mythology about the opposition they've built up in recruiting followers. Try suggesting sometime to a staunch party loyalist, that a moderate from the other party is preferable to radical from your own and see what you get. Try to discuss, for example, whether our approach in how to secure Iraq was well planned, and you'll either get called a traitor (by the reactionary extremist Republicans) or a warmonger (by rabid anti-war radical Democrats). Even the terms which used to mean the more centrist elements of the parties 'conservative' and 'liberal' have supplanted the terms for the extremists (of radical and reactionary).

No, no longer do we have clear, reasoned debate. Instead it's sound-bites like "he's a celebrity", or "the One", which the right (and now the left) hammer home like some high-school bully, completely uninterested in the actual facts, any debate or discussion. The message apparently is, we want victory, not skillful policy or diplomacy. We are here to blugeon you - to belittle you personally, to create contempt, even hatred for you.

Thoughtful purpose, development of sound fiscal policy, for example, or even just a sound discussion of fair tax policy, that's for only an internal crowd. Thought, it seems is dead, is in fact, even outlawed. It has been stolen away, stolen by zealots who care less about finding a solution that benefits all, except in that they are convinced the ends justifies the means, and thus, anything in the middle is fair game until the end is achieved. It is reminscent of the Soviet communist theory, totalitarianism until the utopian state arises.

The only problem of course, in this Benthamite ethcial world, is that the state never arises, and of course, no one group of people has EVER had the right answer for everyone else - without including everyone else's wisdom in the decision.

So instead it's down with thought, the death of the American experiment soon to follow.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's called buying votes

One of the themes you'll hear from time to time about the 'better days' of American politics, is a reference to record voter participation during the 1880's and 90's. The idea, or so the story goes, is that the American electorate was more erudite, more engaged, more committed.

Well, that's the theory - in reality of course, there are some glaring holes - namely, people worked enormous hours, had little free time to become aware - and less access to information that they do today, certainly.

No, instead the truth is a bit more seedy - voters and pricinct organizers were often paid to vote and recruit voters - vote buying was big business and business was good. Paul Krugman's book "Concience of a Liberal" outlines some specifics, but suffice to say - there was a lot more store bought voting, and a lot less true interest - than has been the mantra from teachers or from the right-wing of today which looks back fondly on those days of yore where their financial largesse was easily translated directly into votes.

And so today's story is very troubling - -

Here's the thing, people can be paid for LOTS of things, but getting paid to essentially 'make up your mind' about McCain (in a positive way) and then go proselitize about McCain's virtues and Obama's sins, is nothing short of vote buying through an oblique measure. For example, let's say you're on the fence, and someone OFFERS to pay you to support their candidate - oh, online sure, only online - well, you might just very well take up that offer... I mean heck, you're getting PAID!, right?

It's also a direct violation of the idea of full disclosre of purchased advertising, as, since it's 'rewards' where the activity isn't fully tracked, it skirts the requirement to disclose campaign media purchases, both dollars committed, and location/method of delivery. McCain's camp certainly could never track the number of places a person might post - certainly not in any way easily verifiable - and as it's a contest, there's little sure way to know the value of funds given, which, um I'm guessing, they may just undercount dollars committed - just because it makes it look LESS like they're buying votes the smaller the number of dollars involved.

It's damned shady, and decidedly unethical, buying votes, obliquely is no better than buying them directly. Using clandestine moles to plant messages is shall we say, somewhat reminiscent of when BushCo put commercials out there made to look like news, but which were really push advertising for their programs, oh, and then there's the times they paid political pundits to push their agenda. You may remember those - the one's that ruined the careers of a couple of pundits because their veneer of objectivity was destroyed. Well this is just the exact same kind of thing writ large, and it's shameful, it's also sure as hell further evidence old "Straight Talk" is anything but straight, willing to use whatever shady trick he can get away with - including having paid poseuers on websites pretending to be the genuine article, deliverign unscripted and independently developed opinion.

It's also in a word, pathetic. If you can't attract votes and supporters to your idea because they are good ideas, and instead need to pay them to support you, perhaps it's not just your 'straight talk' approach that's the problem, it's your ideas.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dollar Meal

"Would you like fries with that, because that's extra?," says the polite young lady across the order counter at McDonald's, after I've ordered from the McDonald's dollar menu. I ordered the Big Mac - the special one we're getting on the menu this fall.

I'll bet you didn't know you are getting a Dollar Meal with a Big Mac, but you are.

Here's the thing - Big Mac (McCain) offers no change, none, just like ordering from the Dollar Meal menu - you get NOTHING, no change for your dollar. Big Mac is a carbon copy on policy to Bush - fiscal restraint is even LESS likely, if that's possible, under McCain, and THAT's the only thing the Republicans can point to as change at all.

So instead, they have to smear Obama, calling him a 'celebrity' because he's far more eloquent and informed than their candidate, or 'The Messiah' because he generates real enthusiasm and hope, unlike their candidate.

So my response is this, the Republicans are running the Dollar Meal - A Big Mac, with no change for your dollar. It's unhealthy, fattening as hell, and the kind of meaningless fast-food quick fix soundbite baloney that defined the Bush administration. And, much like the real Big Mac (no offense McDonald's) you like Big Mac a little at first, when you first taste them, but then, an hour or two later, when you think about the costs, the calories, etc.. you feel bloated and sick, and wish you'd never tried it.

The Republicans are stuck in amber, running the same sorry, failed and distorted policies which make corporate giants rich, but the middle-class and poor even poorer, as they have since the days the Big Mac really WAS $1.00 (and no change).