September 23, 2006

What Drives the Know-Nothing 33% of Americans

Here are two disturbing facts to ponder, and taken together, they lead me to an understanding of how Bush has a solid one-third, unwavering support for his Iraq war.

Fact # 1 --
As reported by the Associated Press on September 22, 2006, the number of Americans killed in Iraq now outnumbers the number killed on 9/11. This does not count the tens of thousands of wounded, maimed, emotionally and mentally wounded, and those poisoned by the huge amount of depleted uranium our troops have been exposed to. Nor does it count the 6,599 violent deaths among Iraqis reported in July and August alone. Nor does it count the estimated 40,000 to 100,00 plus Iraqis who have died as a result of the US invasion in 2003.

But then again, who important enough is really counting?

Fact #2 --
According to a New York Times/CBS poll, one in three Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11 -- proof positive of how well the Bush administration's repeated lies have worked. Imagine it. Thirty-three (33%) percent of Americans believe what is a bald faced lie about why our American men and women are dying in Iraq. These are the dittohead Americans, those whose heads bobble in unthinking, uncritical belief.

In light of these two facts, I can understand how this 33% (one-third) of Americans can justify to themselves all of the deaths in Iraq, American and otherwise. It is a righteous war against a man that attacked us, he had it coming, and the terrible price is worth it. Because Saddam attacked us on 9/11, this war is just.

If you believe a lie, you can justify almost anything.

September 17, 2006

W is Not for Wobble, Indeed.

Rich Lowry of the National Review has some interesting takes on George W. in his face-to-face interview with him.

"He has a restless energy when he sits in a chair..."
"He exudes an easy self-confidence."
(He) "... asks what the correct expression is..."
(He) "...makes fun of himself."
"Bush’s confidence goes well beyond comfort in his own skin."
"He exhibits a sincere, passionate, and uncompromising conviction in his principles."
"He is arguably losing a war in Iraq that could destroy his hopes for the Middle East and sink his party’s hope in the midterm elections." (Did Lowry wink when he wrote this line?)
"But there’s no wobble in Bush. If anything, the opposite."

And there it is, in a nutshell -- Bush's unshakeable, what-me-worry, head-in-the-sand, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts, everything-is-black-and-white mindset and Lowry's unswerving admiration for it. It's as if Bush's boyish pluck and obstinacy was some kind of virtue, an icon of American patriotic fervor worthy of a kind of Republican mythology of manhood and doing the right thing.

Here is Bush in his own words:

“Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions. I firmly believe — I’m oftentimes asked about, well, you’re stubborn and all this. If you believe in a strategy, in Washington, D.C. you’ve got to stick to that strategy, see. People want you to change. It’s tactics that shift, but the strategic vision has not, and will not, shift.”

Lowry emphasizes it by repeating and italicizing never more convinced. Lowry then reports that Bush memorializes his obdurate thinking by claiming that it is "essential to meaningful governance." Lowry suggest that it is this kind of thinking that "drives Bush's critics batty." No kidding.

Lowry's National Review piece goes on to emphasize that when Bush talks about "principles" these days, he really is talking about THE WAR ON TERROR. Lowry has that right. That's about all Bush is thinking about these days -- THE WAR ON TERROR. 9/11 was Bush's saving grace, and he has exploited it to his every partisan advantage. It energized his presidency in ways he could only dream about before. Had it not happened, he likely would have been a one-term President, having accomplished nothing other than cutting taxes for his wealthy friends.

But it is THE WAR ON TERROR that has concretized his thinking about things in his your-with-us-or-with-the-terrorists' bunker mentality. It consumes him in ways most Americans can't imagine. And as Bush's legacy has fallen apart, it eats at him even more. He can do nothing else other than sink deeper and deeper into his one-track world where there are no grays, no complicated issues, no compromises, and no ifs, ands, or buts.

Rich Lowry merely helps reinforce Bush's simplicity and reaction with his puffery.

Crocodile Tears for Ford Motor Company

The name, the Ford Motor Company, conjures up the historic American automotive pioneering spirit and a proud heritage. But is anyone feeling the slightest bit of sympathy for Ford Motor Company these days? Who can sympathize with corporate decision-makers who have brought this once proud company to this level of incompetence, bad planning, poor design and thoughtless forecasting? Why have they not resigned or been fired long ago? Whatever happens to them, you can be sure they all have their golden parachutes.

To be sure, it is the Ford workers who will suffer the most. It is their jobs that are being eliminated. Eventually, it will probably be their pensions and benefits that will be reduced or lost entirely. It's particularly insidious how the trade union jobs are the main target. How does the reasoning go? Well, we wouldn't be in this trouble if it weren't for all those overpaid union workers. See how easy it is to blame someone else? Especially union employees?

Watching C-SPAN this morning, I was struck by the vast majority of people calling up telling how shoddy their Ford vehicles are, and how they would never buy another one. I pass by my local Ford dealers and what do I see? Their parking lots are filled with huge SUVs and F-350s, F-250s, and F-150 pickup trucks. I saw a local TV ad pushing the Ford Expedition, a 9 seater, 14 miles per gallon (the reality is probably less), over two-and-a-half ton tank, as a family car. This is the insanity that has been governing the American automobile industry for years.

American car companies have been the walking dead for years and they are only just discovering it. They will soon be sitting on the biggest pile of automotive scrap metal and plastic in history and will maintain it wasn't their fault.

September 11, 2006

Republican Fascism Revealed

Thom Hartmann, writing at Common Dreams, helps us understand through the words of Henry Wallace, among others, how we have come to the Republican fascism of 2006.

Read this essay.

Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism?
by Thom Hartmann

In the years since George W. Bush first used 9/11 as his own "Reichstag fire" to gut the Constitution and enhance the power and wealth of his corporate cronies, many across the political spectrum have accused him and his Republican support group of being fascists.
On the right,The John Birch Society's website editor recently opined of the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program: "This is to say that from the administration's perspective, the president is, in effect, our living constitution. This is, in a specific and unmistakable sense, fascist."
On the left, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. specifically indicts the Bush administration for fascistic behavior in his book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy."
Genuine American fascists are on the run, and part of their survival strategy is to redefine the term "fascism" so it can't be applied to them any more. Most recently, George W. Bush said: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."
In fact, the Islamic fundamentalists who apparently perpetrated 9/11 and other crimes in Spain and the United Kingdom are advocating a fundamentalist theocracy, not fascism.
But theocracy - the merging of religion and government - is also on the plate for the new American fascists (just as it was for Hitler, who based the Nazi death cult on a "new Christianity" that would bring "a thousand years of peace"), so they don't want to use that term, either.
While the Republicans promote the term "Islamo-fascism," the rest of the world is pushing back, as the BBC noted in an article by Richard Allen Greene ("Bush's Language Angers US Muslims" - 12 August 2006):
"Security expert Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that the term [Islamic fascists] was meaningless.
"'There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,' he said. 'This is an epithet, a way of arousing strong emotion and tarnishing one's opponent, but it doesn't tell us anything about the content of their beliefs.'"
Their beliefs are, quite simply, that governments of the world should be subservient to religion, a view shared by a small but significant part of today's Republican party. But that is not fascism - the fascists in the US want to exploit the fundamentalist theocrats to achieve their own fascistic goals.
Vice President of the United States Henry Wallace was the first to clearly and accurately point out who the real American fascists are, and what they're up to.
In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"
Vice President Wallace's answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. 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."
In this, Vice President Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." (The US dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations.)
Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government." But not a government of, by, and for We The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.
In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like John Boehner and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.
Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out his concern about the same happening here in America in his 1944 Times article:
" 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."
Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. The real problem would come, he believed, when the media was concentrated in only a few hands:
"American fascism will not be really dangerous," he added in the next paragraph, "until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information..."
Noting that, "Fascism is a worldwide disease," Wallace further suggested that fascism's "greatest threat to the United States will come after the war" and will manifest "within the United States itself."
In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated "conservative" radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President. As Lewis noted in his novel:
"The President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."
Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book "It Can't Happen Here." And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace's thinking when he wrote in The New York Times:
"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. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."
Thus, the rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, giant corporate behemoths wipe out small and middle sized businesses, and a corporate iron fist is seizing control of our government itself. As I detail in my new book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class," the primary beneficiaries of this new fascism are the corporatists, while the once-outspoken middle class of the 1950s-1980s is systematically being replaced by a silent serf-class of the working poor.
As Wallace wrote, some in big business "are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage." He added, "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 [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself."
But American fascists who would want former CEOs as President, Vice President, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a "them" to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.
In a comment prescient of George W. Bush's recent suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays or Muslims, Wallace continued:
" 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. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."
But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation's largest corporations - who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media - they could promote their lies with ease.
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote. "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."
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:
"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
Finally, Wallace said, "The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. ... 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."
This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of "Trust Buster" Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).
As Wallace's President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia:
"...Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."
Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:
"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power."
But, he thundered in that speech:
"Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"
In 2006, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism," and "the free market" in a "flat" world. The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said:
"In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace's warnings have come full circle. Thus it's now critical that we reclaim the word "fascist" to describe current-day Republican policies, support progressive websites that spread the good word, and join together this November at the ballot box to stop fascist election fraud and this most recent incarnation of Republican-fascism from seizing complete and irretrievable control of our nation.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius. His most recent book, just released, is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It." Other books include: "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," and "What Would Jefferson Do?"

September 06, 2006

Bush National Security Policy Failures Abound

In spite of all their macho talk, in spite of their claims to be the only men the American people can trust to fight global terrorism and radical Islam, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triad has actually failed when it comes to defending America. The Third Way National Security Project has just released a detailed study of the policies of the Bush regime and its national security failures. Here is a summary from the study:

• Iraq: The numbers show that the security situation is deteriorating rapidly – a chart shows that the number of average weekly attacks has risen steadily since the invasion, and the estimated number of insurgents in the country has gone from 5,000 in 2003 to more than 20,000 in April 2006. The report also compares the cost of Operation Desert Storm to the estimated costs of the Iraq War ($61.1 billion in 1991, compared to $549 billion-$1.27 trillion today). And the data show that indices of Iraqi quality of life have plummeted and our alliances have suffered significantly under the Bush Iraq policies.
• Terrorism: Despite the Bush claim that his administration had “arrested or otherwise dealt with” much of al Qaeda’s command structure, the estimated number of al Qaeda members has jumped from 20,000 in 2001 to 50,000 today, worldwide attacks are up sharply, and 86% of national security experts believe that the world is more dangerous for Americans today.
• Afghanistan: The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly – the data in the report show that number of Taliban attacks rose from 22 in 2001-2003 to 251 in 2004-2006, and the numbers continue to rise. Moreover, as recent news reports confirm, the unrest and Taliban resurgence have helped the country’s opium production to hit all-time highs.
• Iran: The data show that Iran’s nuclear program has made significant progress during Bush’s terms in office.
• North Korea: Similarly, the data show that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have skyrocketed – they may have had one nuclear weapon in 2001, but experts are fairly certain they have between 3 and 9 today (and the ability to make many more), combined with a rapidly moving missile production system.
• The US Military: The data show that the Bush stewardship of the military and the Iraq War have had serious dilatory effects on readiness and the overall state of the military, especially the Army, National Guard and Reserves.
• China: While Bush has been focused on Iraq and elsewhere, China has become a powerful regional broker, our largest creditor and an ally of some of our most serious enemies.

The Republican strategy for this November's mid-term elections is a "robust" defense of the status quo policies of an administration whose policies have failed. There can be no other strategy for them, because any other would be an admission of failure, something this President will never allow.

September 04, 2006

What's Wrong With America

This horrible story from the Chicago Tribune about the deaths of six children in a fire caused by a candle is just one small example of what's wrong with America. Here we have an immigrant family that has had no electricity since May, much less smoke detectors, in one of our richest cities having to provide light by candle. This family is only one of so many in this country which don't have their basic needs met.

Think how much help we could have provided to our own people in America over the past several years with the hundreds of billions of dollars we have wasted in Iraq, so little of which has gone to the Iraqi people, so much of which has gone to the military-industrial complex.

What's wrong with America? All you have to do is examine the lives these six children were living, without basic needs, to find the answer.

Bush's phony war on terror in Iraq has amounted to a war on America.

Afghanistan Ignored

Some of you may wonder why I have not been active on my blog. To put it simply, I have been involved in a new business startup and have had no time at all to even think about it. But I hope to spend some more time now

[Here is a brilliant piece by Rep. Barney Frank on Afghanistan and Iraq, and how wrong the Bush administration has gotten the war on terrorism.]

August 30, 2006, By Barney Frank (Boston Globe)

A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been sorely distorted as a consequence.
The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
During the years after World War II, academics popularized the concept of the ``big lie." This is a technique successfully used by some European regimes to manipulate the public perception of reality. It turned out that if enough people in official positions simply repeated things that were not true, and found elements in the media ready to reinforce them, lies would be believed and truths forgotten.
This approach surfaced in Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, largely but not entirely because of his support for the Iraq war, demonstrated that Democrats were unwilling to use appropriate force against terrorism. The theme has been a constant in this campaign season, repeatedly asserted by the administration and its congressional allies, and elaborated on by media figures. Their argument is that the refusal of many Democrats to support the war in Iraq shows that President Bush's opposition is unwilling to use force against terrorism.
There is, of course, one factual refutation of this partisan distortion. Every Democratic senator and representative but one voted for the war in Afghanistan. It is this war that represented America's reaction to the murders of thousands of Americans on Sept. 11 . It was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that was sheltering Osama bin Laden. The reaction of the overall majority of Americans, including virtually all Democrats, was to support the Afghan war as a necessary act of self-defense.
But the fact that the Bush-Cheney claims that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks have been totally repudiated does not stop the administration and its allies from equating willingness to combat terror with support for the war in Iraq.
Not only does support for the Afghan struggle demonstrate our willingness to resort to war in self-defense, but one of the reasons why the Iraq war does America so much harm is that it has diverted attention, resources, and support from Afghanistan. Violence is rising there, along with the drug trade, and support is eroding for what we had hoped to establish as a democratic regime.
I feel particularly strongly about this effort to obliterate the Afghan war from the national debate because I sat in a church in Raynham early last month and watched a family grieve over the death of a brave young man who had been killed there. I do not regret voting for the war in Afghanistan. But I very much regret the necessity of having to do so. The fact that I voted for the war in which that young man was killed weighs heavily on me as a reminder that while war is sometimes necessary, it is an instrument to use only with strong justification, and when alternatives are not available.
Whether or not one subscribes to the geopolitical aims that motivated the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq, it is clearly invalid to assert that support for that war is the indispensable badge of one's willingness to confront terrorism. Only by adopting the techniques of the big lie can the vice president make his case that those opposed to the Iraqi war fail to understand the importance of a firm response to terrorists. In fact, given the deleterious effect it has had on our effort in Afghanistan, and the enormous boost it has given to anti-American forces around the world, the big truth is that the Iraq war has damaged our ability to fight terrorism.
Americans were united in their response to the mass murders of 9/11. The war in Iraq has weakened the United States internationally and divided it domestically, while draining needed resources. It is precisely because the Iraq war is not defensible on any other terms that the Bush/Cheney approach uses the big lie to defend the war in Iraq on grounds that in fact describe the war in Afghanistan.

US Representative Barney Frank serves in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.