On Wednesday, October 17th, 2006, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. This last minute legislation approved by both houses of Congress in their rush to get back to the business of their own political careers may be viewed as a very dark day in American history. Just as the U.S.A. Patriot Act heralded a new era of police state powers, this new law heralds the arrival of an American Fifth Reich of fascism and dictatorship. I think no one cares because, like the Congress, we all live in the 1984Matrix of our own short-sighted and selfish realm of personal daily concerns.
Also, I totally understand why the majority of people might outrightly dismiss any historical comparisons between the current world in which we think we live in the United States and WWII-era dictatorships, notoriously lead by Mussolini or Hitler. First of all, we look upon history as a neatly described narrative by whatever author we read, or video we watch. Second, we feel we are smarter, better and more sophisticated than our grandparents, so that kind of craziness couldn't possibly happen to us -- as it happened to the German population of the 1930s. Third, not only are we better than that now, but also we Americans have always felt the soothing self-satisfaction of our own history as being good, and right, and moral, and magnaminous to our fellow human beings. We liberate and free oppressed people, right? We wear the white cowboy hats. We're the good guys.
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.
According to Wikipedia, Fascism is defined as "a radical political ideology that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism." Follow the link to read the entry. It also notes that there are no self-described fascist political parties or movements in the world today because it is used as a political slur since the end of WWII.
The reason I chose to quote Henry Wallace above is that I found it ironic in the context of president Bush signing the law to protect America from whom he labels as the Islamofascists and the date of the cited article. Two years earlier, in 1942, president Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, had assets seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. After the end of WWII, those assets were returned to the Bush family which was then bankrolled into the Texas oil and banking fortunes of today.
Labelling the threat to the U.S. as Islamofascists is pure propaganda and convenient politics. It's for campaign bumber sticker sloganry and sound bytes. That why the war in Iraq is often confuzzled with the war on terror.
That's how you create a moving threat to good Christians and U.S. Democracy from CIA operative Osama bin Laden, to (our 1980's ally) Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Venezualan president Hugo Chavez. Well, time will tell about my inclusion of the last two poster boys.
Honestly, we average Americans are fucked between Iraq and a hard place at the moment.
In one corner, you have your scary, evil, bearded terrorist. In the other corner you have your billionaire capitalist who shreds the constitution because it keeps him in power. By the way, this recent law signed by BushCo reaches back almost 900 years to erase your individual rights against the government. In the middle of this right are Americans being brainwashed by corporate media, misled by our politicians, and increasingly made anxious by the slightest thing. There is no long term view. There is no careful analysis. There are no widespread voices of dissention from the status quo.
The media gives you soundbytes from authority less than 10 seconds long. The government propagandizes fear for their own retention of power. You listen to radio on your frenzied commute to work to some low-paying job and hear how some guy, or that group, or that whole country is your enemy and wants to kill you.*
Holy crap, you exclaim! All of those bastards want to kill my country and even my god! Then, your mind turns to the more immediate decision of waiting in the line formed up in the drive-thru lanes at McDonald's or Burger King for some breakfast.
Remember this: just as fast food for your stomach can be mass-produced by the millions, so too can fast food for your mind, opinion, and vote be mass-produced and manipulated by your appetite. It is a regular feature of fascist method of operation, historically documented. The state or the corporate interest justifies the means in the face civilian collateral damage, no matter what the legacy of those corporate projects may leave behind.
I'm not advocating anything here except the anti-sheeple idea that the United States should be an active, participatory democracy as set out in our constitution. As most regular readers may know, I am a Libertarian. You must strive to be an honestly informed participant in the shaping of the government that rules you.
* This is an actual TV commercial produced by a GOP front group called Progress For America currently running in some media markets in midwest America for the upcoming election.
Do you know who Johnny "The Brush" Bolton is? I know it's hard to seperate one talking head from another on your television sometimes, but I just want to point out that John Bolton is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. His job is to be our diplomatic voice to the world. Some people are worried about that. I haven't decided whether or not Johnny "the brush" Bolton is good or bad for the United States, yet. He has some problems, to be sure. Take a few minutes to read his biography on wikipedia.
First of all, John Bolton was put into the job by George Bush without any Senate approval, much like George Bush was put in office by the Supreme Court. People get edgy when that shit happens.
One Republican senator was nearly brought to tears considering the fate of his grandchildren, if John Bolton was confirmed to be our ambassador. Right-wing nutbag Dubya-defenders had the temerity to make fun of him and call him disloyal and a traitor. These people need to be dragged from suburban Kansas and dropped from a helicopter into Sudan.
You can read about the history of that on stopbolton.org ... I do remember watching one Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on C-Span during which an anti-war protestor was dragged out screaming.
Bolton is a hardliner neocon. That's why Bush tapped him for the job. The reason I said I personally haven't formed an opinion about the value of him being at the U.N.yet is that we may be able to play good cop-bad cop with some international problems, like the ongoing North Korea situation.
The problem I fear the most is the Bush incompetency factor. The left hand of BushCo rarely knows what the right hand is doing. For now, since the problem has been shoved into the Bush/Cheney inbox marked "urgent." It's comforting to know that a nuclear explosion on the planet might actually pull George Bush off of the Republican campaign trail for a day. The state department is acting in a co-ordinated way. Rice is the good cop and Bolton is the bad cop.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration has been schizophrenic about international relations and foreign policy. I like that Bush has hopefully realized that the U.S. can not deal with this alone, unilaterally or pre-emptively, but they still undermine collective or multilateral negotiations with their own unilateral actions. This is likely because while the Bush administration talks peace, it is really working for regime change in North Korean. Rice says, "The U.S. doesn't hold all of the carrots or all of the sticks."
The situation with the DPRK is fairly complicated. Its history, its current state of affairs, and the way forward are not easily explainable in one blog entry, or one Sunday talk show, or one sound byte.
For some fun and total distraction: Click here to listen to Lewis Black and Don Imus talking about the recent plane/condo accident in NYC, Las Vegas, Rehab, and the movie starring Robin Williams "Man of the year."
I was completely dumbfounded to hear the public responses of President Bush and General Casey concerning the Lancet publication of the study of Iraqi civilian death toll numbers. President Bush first dismisses the 650,000 death toll number as not being credible and then applauds the Iraqi people for tolerating the violence. He then says the study's "methodology has been pretty well discredited" -- when in fact -- the study used the same polling methodology that the U.S. government and the U.N. officially uses. He then says, "you know, I talk to people like General Casey ..."
What does General Casey say? General Casey says he saw a 50,000 civilian death toll somewhere, but can't remember where he saw it. Watch the video or read the transcript, I'm not making this stuff up. I can not believe a military general played the I'm just a dumb private game.
I can only guess that if you don't want to hear the bad news, you don't look for it in the first place. If someone else tells you the bad news and you don't like what you hear, you dismiss it as being a lie. Now, I can't wait to hear Donald Rumsfeld tell someone that the civilian death toll estimate is just al-Qaeda propaganda. Dick Cheney will probably blame it on Nancy Pelosi or George Soros.
In other denial and disconnect news: the toll on our U.S. military. Apparently, the Veteran's Administration sat on a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University to release the numbers of U.S. servicemen applying for medical disability. When the reports were finally given to GWU, it showed that one in four veterans that have served in the Global War on Terror during the last five years are now disabled.
It's no wonder the Veterans Administration was reluctant to release the bad news, as Sullivan describes:
What it means is, in terms of how much money the Iraq and Afghanistan war will cost taxpayers, the war will cost billions per year well out into the future. And here's why. There are two types of costs at the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The first is for veterans to actually be treated by a doctor. That's medical care. And as I mentioned, VA last year was short $3 billion for their healthcare budget, and they needed emergency funding in order to take care of the veterans.
The VA also pays monthly disability checks. It's called disability compensation or pension. And those checks show up in the mail or direct deposit into veterans' accounts due to their disabilities incurred or aggravated by military service. What's happened is, with this flood of disability claims coming into VA, VA may be paying out billions of dollars per year for 30 or 40 years due to the disabilities -- you know, missing arms, legs, psychiatric problems -- from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Now if the neocon warmongers in the Bush Administration didn't even plan for what happens after we invade Iraq, do you think they even bothered to think of the 150,000+ military veterans that will require life-long care and assistance? Do we add another 30,000 each year to the disabled rolls?
Is it any surprise that the only iconic anti-Bush, or anti-war voices are on two barely-watched cable channels? Look. I like the fact that Keith Olbermann has the balls to rail against the Bush administration from time to time, but do you think MSNBC would even allow him that 10 minutes to rant in their 24/7 daily programming, if Bush's popularity ratings weren't as low, as say, getting a case of herpes? When everyone was waving the flag for regime change in Iraq, MSNBC cancelled the only one hour show that questioned the war, Donahue, despite its huge ratings.
The other outspoken voices that point out the blantant hypocrisy and propaganda coming from our own federal government, Stewart and Colbert, are on Comedy Central. And, god-dammit, if you don't think the average American is more ignorant now because they aren't being told the WHOLE truth about everything from immigration to Iraq, you deserve to live in the new Fascist States of America.
Obviously, my cussing stresses the fact that I think this is a vitally important issue, and I do think so. First, I share the opinion of Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! when she said that the American media is one of most important exports to the rest of the world. Not only does it entertain us, but also it is how the rest of the world sees us. It is our defacto public relations that shapes how the world views America.
The media consolidation of late has created huge multi-national coporations raking in billions of dollars each month, and yet, being the profit monsters they are, they want more opportunity to gobble up more media. Just two guys on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), were able to convince the five-member board to hold some hearings concerning further homogenization of the media.
You want reality TV? I watched two 3-hour-long public hearings recently held in two venues in California on C-Span. If those videos become available, I'll try to link them here. For now, I encourage you to EDUCATE yourself about this issue by simply listening to the many voices giving their testimony in 2 and 5 minute speeches.
Do the math. 6 hours of public hearings. 2 and 5 minute long commentaries. That's a lot of people expressing their concern about the FCC considering more media consolidation. Both hearings were held in the Los Angeles area, so much of the testimony did focus on the impact of people working in media. Also, however, broader issues of diversity, democracy, and an informed electorate were constantly raised.
Go ahead and multi-task. Start the audio and clean up your desk, do the dishes, or feed the goldfish. Even though the public hearing was announced to take place only several days before it took place, I can testify from the videos I watched that hundreds of very concerned people showed up at both hearings.
Again. Kudos to the two FCC commissioners that got the public hearings held in the first place. It's much better than deals made with lobbyists behind closed doors, and shredding reports that your corporate pimps don't like -- as was done in the past by the former FCC chairman, Uday Powell.