Last Updated Thursday February 07, 2013
- In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution.
- Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr.,
11th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- def. Fascism — A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
- American Heritage Dictionary
There was a time, not so long ago, when an informed individual could feel relatively content in the knowledge that fascism had been safely discarded in the dust bin of history. Like the malignant virus it is however, such a sense turns out to have been unfortunately optimistic. A vial of the pestilent germ having been preserved in some cold and dangerous place only to be reanimated at a time and place where it was most likely to do the greatest harm — the public having grown complacent, the vaccines decayed and impotent.
In his article “Fascism Anyone?”, Laurence Britt analyzes seven modern fascist regimes to arrive at a rather startling list of fourteen “common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power.” Sitting here at the beginning of President George W. Bush’s final four years in office, it is a list worth reviewing.
Now the question of whether our nation has utterly and inescapably given itself over to fascism is hardly certain. It is not however, a question that is as far beyond debate as we might all like. Where our government’s loyalties lie is a question that is none too easily dismissed or resolved.
In the particular case of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party by which it rules, the preference for the protection of investment and corporate power over the welfare of the electorate and the long-term stability of society, is readily apparent. Whether in their arrogant dismantling of America’s moral standing in the world, their systematic destruction of our environmental protections, or their fleecing of the nation’s Treasury, it is awfully hard to ascribe to this President any desire to further the causes of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” among the citizenry.
As he begins his second term, I can only hope that the last four years have left him a better a man, a stronger leader. I can only hope that they have tempered his arrogance, increased his understanding, and humbled his certitude. But I doubt it.
Buckle your seat belts. He’s got 1,461 days left.
And so here I again find myself, facing the waning hours of a twelve-month cycle, the tyranny of the calendar demanding of me a contemplative look back at the preceding 351 days. Turning the last page on my 2004 calendar, the temptation to talk of disappointment, lost opportunities, and dangerous portents is obviously great. I am loath to pursue such a path however, if for no other reason than that it seems to futile.
Instead, I prefer to reflect for a moment, on a lesson I fear we have failed to learn: the importance of the printed word. Not the written word, not the spoked word, not the Web-enabled-easily-searchable-quickly-scannable-readily-repeatable-online-word: the printed word.
Somewhere in the middle of the past twelve months, just as the blogosphere was crowding its way into the public debate, I quietly re-discovered books. And owing to that re-discovery I can tell you this: you’re not going to learn anything reading the blogosphere — or at least you’re not going to learn very much.
Now I realize that’s a rather incongruous statement coming as it is from the keeper of a blog, but the simple reality is this: books are to the blogosphere as a five-course meal is to a can of Pringles. And while that’s not to say that some great harm will attend the occasional can of Pringles, even the most nutritionally ignorant must be aware of the deleterious consequences of eating too many fried, potato-chip-like things.
And so, as I exit the year that was 2004, I am happy to have consumed, along with a few dozen magazines and a few thousand Web pages, the following real-live, nothing but words, hardbound books — some of which, obviously merit further commentary. Roughly clustered by subject, they are:
- American Sucker
- — David Denby
- Bobby Fischer Goes to War : How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time
- — David Edmonds, John Eidinow
Bushwhacked : Life in George W. Bush’s America
- — Molly Ivins, Lou Dubose
- The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century
- — Paul Krugman
- The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
- — Fareed Zakaria
- Reason : Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
- — Robert Reich
- Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
- — Peter G. Peterson
- The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
- — T.R. Reid
- Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy
- — Lewis Lapham
- The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, And the Future of Reason
- — Sam Harris
- The Heat Is on: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription
- — Ross Gelbspan
- Crimes Against Nature : How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy
- — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Blogging & Writing
More from the accumulated clippings of the past twelve months. Perhaps the most powerful opening sentence of any op-ed piece I read all year — and I read a LOT of op-ed pieces this past year.
- The central sickness of human history is the notion that the ends justify the means, and it has disastrously gripped political movements from left to right and from the secular to the religious. It is axiomatic that immoral means will inevitably corrupt the noblest of ends, as has been displayed from the fatal hubris of the Roman Empire down through the genocidal policies of the last century’s nationalists, communists and colonialists and on through the suicide bombers of today.
Yet this profoundly immoral posture has been embraced by President Bush in justifying his preemptive war against Iraq, even when the much-touted Iraqi threat proved at best to be based on inexcusable ignorance and at worst to be impeachable fraud. The undemocratic means employed by Bush — misinforming the public, Congress and the United Nations — are now somehow to be justified by the ends of “building democracy” in Iraq. This is a daunting challenge that the American people never signed on for and which seems as elusive a goal today as a year ago.
- Robert Scheer
The lies that bind
Salon.com :: Feb 4, 2004
Trying to clear out some of the accumulation of the past year and came across these. Individually engaging, collectively powerful, I encourage you to consider them in-total.
- Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle…Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
- Frederick Douglas
Letter to an abolitionist, 1853
- Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy — which entails disagreement, which promotes candor — has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
- Susan Sontag
The New Yorker, Sept 24, 2001
- The failure of Democratic politicians and public thinkers to respond to popular discontents…allowed a resurgent conservatism to convert public concern and hostility into a crusade to resurrect social Darwinism as a moral philosophy, multinational corporations as a governing class, and the theology of markets as a transcendental belief system….Their stated and open aim is to change how America is governed � to strip from government all its functions except those that reward the rich and privileged benefactors….It is the most radical assault on the notion of one nation, indivisible, that has occurred in our lifetime. I�ll be frank with you: I simply don�t understand it � or the malice in which it is steeped….And I don�t know how to reconfigure democratic politics to fit into an age of sound bites and polling dominated by a media oligarchy whose corporate journalists are neutered and whose right-wing publicists have no shame.
- Bill Moyers
speaking at the Take Back America Conference
Washington D.C. June 4, 2003
- A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt… If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.
- Thomas Jefferson, from a letter he sent in 1798
after the passage of the Sedition Act
- …the larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide…the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre… The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people… On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron.
- H.L. Mencken, writing in
The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920
Many things for which to be thankful: friends, family, and fine weather to name but a few. Even aside from all that however, for those of us tasked with the unenviable task of entertaining the conflicting culinary demands of small children and aging parents, part of what makes Thanksgiving so special is the simple relief that comes from knowing that on this one day, for at least this one meal, we can all finally agree on what’s for dinner.
Eat up folks. The bird’s a wastin’.
Happy Thanksgiving Y2K+4.