23 June 2012

It's About Damn Time...

[And no, this has nothing to do with Akronic/Clevelandia's ex-favorite son's quote.]

This item caught my attention: Public Officials in Maine and Miami Take Steps Against the Zombie Apocalypse.

We're getting ready here on the East Coast. What about you?

19 June 2012

Spam Sushi

Stuff in my yard:
Blue Hydrangea Blossom
Niobe and Hydrangeas w/ Butterfly Bush and Variegated Ivy
Some kinda' weird mushroom fungi thing. If you know what it is please alert me in the Comments.

More of the same popping out of the mulch. Pretty suggestive, huh?
Trampoliniensus Jimbus Jumpus next to Lady Banks' Rose Arbor. I'll give it to you if you take it down and haul it away
Cats and Dogs:

Sasha and Lily: The Peaceable Kitchen
Sasha's Spay Scar. Note that her skin is Snow Leopard spotted. This came as a revelation to me. Ever seen anything like this before?
Other random pics:

Transit of Venus on the ceiling of Fernbank Planet-arium
Just when my bubblegum lost its flavor. Bonanza! Take your pick!
Hanging by the Keg
Wisdomie—who is now a bona fide Scuba Instructor in Hawaii—informs me that Spam is the favorite dish of our 50th State. This is the Spam shelf in my local gro. The section at his gro is at least 10x this size. The locals' favorite is Spam sushi. You heard that right: Spam Sushi.

13 June 2012

Clearinghouse on American Fascism

The following statement has been misattributed to American writer Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." More likely a similar statement comes from a talk by John Waterman Wise, Jr. in which he called William Randolph Hearst (the FoxNews/Rupert Murdoch of his day) and Charles Coughlin (the Rush Limbaugh/Glen Beck) "the two chief exponents of fascism in America. If fascism comes, he added, it will not be identified with any 'shirt' movement, nor with an 'insignia,' but it will probably be 'wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution." The Christian Century, vol. 53, 2/5/1936 (245).

George Orwell, in The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) wrote:
"But what then is Fascism?
"Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and — this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism — generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.
"But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations. Eminent Nazi professors have “proved” over and over again that only Nordic man is fully human, have even mooted the idea that non-Nordic peoples (such as ourselves) can interbreed with gorillas! Therefore, while a species of war-Socialism exists within the German state, its attitude towards conquered nations is frankly that of an exploiter. The function of the Czechs, Poles, French, etc is simply to produce such goods as Germany may need, and get in return just as little as will keep them from open rebellion. If we are conquered, our job will probably be to manufacture weapons for Hitler’s forthcoming wars with Russia and America. The Nazis aim, in effect, at setting up a kind of caste system, with four main castes corresponding rather closely to those of the Hindu religion. At the top comes the Nazi party, second come the mass of the German people, third come the conquered European populations. Fourth and last are to come the colored peoples, the “semi-apes” as Hitler calls them, who are to be reduced quite openly to slavery."
Based on his analysis of a number of identifiably fascist regimes, Laurence W. Britt has compiled what he calls the 14 basic characteristics of fascism:
  • Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
  • Disdain for the importance of human rights
  • Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
  • The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
  • Rampant sexism
  • A controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and ruling elite tied together
  • Power of corporations protected
  • Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
  • Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
  • Obsession with crime and punishment
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections
In an April 9, 1944, article in The New York Times, "Democracy Reborn," former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1941-45) identified the form a specifically American brand of fascism might take:
"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 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.
... [A]n American fascist [is] one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings. ... 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.
... 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.
... 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 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."
Strictly speaking, fascism was a particularly 20th Century form of authoritarian totalitarianism. One thinks of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, etc. (By the same token, our representative democracy, our republicanism, if you will, is a particularly 18th Century form of liberal [anti-royalist] government, one which was co-opted in the early 20th Century by the authoritarian totalitarianism of Stalin and Mao among others. Yet, remarkably, it withstood both those challenges.)

Historically, fascism has taken many forms. Contemporary writer, Umberto Eco, identifies the elements of what he calls "Ur-Fascism" in his Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt (1995):
  1. The cult of tradition, or syncretism of opinion
  2. The rejection of modernism, or irrationalism
  3. Action for action's sake, taken without reflection or debate: Culture is suspect
  4. Disagreement is treason; the critical spirit is degenerate, emasculate
  5. Fear of difference; disagreement is a sign of unwelcome diversity
  6. Ur-fascism derives from individual or social frustration, or the cult of victimhood
  7. Nationalism, xenophobia
  8. Feeling of humiliation by the wealth, size, and force of the enemy
  9. Life is permanent warfare, the ongoing struggle; the Armageddon complex
  10. Contempt for the weak; Elitism of the military, the celebrity, the athlete
  11. The cult of heroism; willingness to send others to death for principles
  12. Machismo; sexism; homophobia; idealization of chastity, purity
  13. Selective populism; the Leader pretends to act for all
  14. Newspeak; elementary syntax, impoverished vocabulary
If you're interested, here's a fairly sober look at the progress and regress of the fascist current in contemporary American political affairs.

My suspicion—no, my worry—is that we are heading toward a much softer version of authoritarianism. Call it authoritarianism by consent. It won't be just like the fascism of the mid- to late 1900s, so that any attempts to saddle it with that label will be laughed out of the common discourse.

I don't know quite what form it might take, but I do believe it will involve corporate control over government: plutocrats buying Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the Presidency and, more importantly, the regulatory apparatus surrounding it; all, I might add, for the purpose of creating inequities in the system which will accrue in greater and greater proportions to those at the top.

It will likewise entail private militaries as well as public and will include all the services and industries (intelligence, weapons, etc.) surrounding them—let's call it the National Security apparatus; all of whom, I might add, require ever increasing portions of the treasury (both public and private) to sustain them. Thus creating an intensely symbiotic relation with the corporatist faction.

I don't think we're there quite yet, and I have some sympathy with Sara Robinson's point above, to wit: the 2000s saw the pendulum swing more toward the fascist side of our polity, and the 2010s have seen us moving—however incrementally and incompletely—back from that extreme. This may simply turn out to have been a hiccup in the inexorable march of democratic societies to some form of authoritarian totalitarianism, something toward which much of our Western political history—from the ancient Greeks and Romans on—has trended. That, of course, remains to be seen, and is dependent on the strength of our democratic institutions to withstand the corruptions of corporatism and our will to maintain an open and relatively equitable society over against the creeping militarism.

It is our job to keep our eyes open and call it out when we see it.
If you disagree and feel our society's corporatist militarism is heading us irretrievably in the direction of fascism, download and print a hard copy of Gene Sharp's cookbook for democratic revolutionaries before they take your internets away: From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation:
"When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks:
  • One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;
  • One must strengthen the independent social groups and in- stitutions of the oppressed people;
  • One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and
  • One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully." (7-8)

01 June 2012


Change, unless it is revolutionary and often entailing violence, happens incrementally.

Today the stock market dropped 274 points on bad employment news. The unemployment rate ticked up a tenth and new hires were down.

Believe it or not, that could actually be a piece of good news. Why, you might well ask? Good question. You, my readers, are very bright people (and not corporations).

The answer requires you to think back to the early go-go G.W. Bush years—and even before. During that time, when unemployment rose, the stock market rose. When hiring went up, it fell. Month after month there was this disconnect.

When Bush took over after Clinton, there was, essentially, full employment. The stock market bubble of the Bush years was built on the back of the employment market. Unemployment rose, and the market skyrocketed. However, this bubble was, as we saw, unsustainable.

It represented a schism between productivity and profit-making, on the one hand, and employment, on the other: productivity and profits rose while employment foundered. Higher unemployment meant, in that bubblicious economic moment, greater profitability for the corporate owners and, Bush's ultimate constituency, the management class.

Workers' higher productivity was not being rewarded; wages fell and unemployment rose. Instead, profits went to corporations—which to this day still have remarkable stores of cash sitting on the sidelines and are still refusing to hire. Rising stock prices resulted. It was the mechanism of the great redistribution of wealth from the working and middle and lower upper classes to the rentiers at the top of the economy.

Today's higher unemployment news created a bad moment for the economy—this drop wasn't about Europe or China. This is significant. It is different from the trend of the 'aughts.

The question now becomes: Is this a tipping point away from the 'supply-side' mythology of trickle down economics wrought by the laughable Laffer curve of Reagonomics? Does this represent a real, though probably politically imperceptible, change? Are we moving to a more Keynesian, demand-driven, egalitarian economy where increases in productivity by workers are rewarded by higher wages and not siphoned off for executive pay and outsized profits? I don't know. I'm no economist. But it does look definitely different.

This sort of trend—if it is one—is worth paying attention to going forward. Guys like this and this, who are economists, might be able to tell us.