I have started a new blog that deals primarily with political issues that affect our democracy. Please join me at ARE WE STILL A DEMOCRACY.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Kawai K8 Sings

Farrell Johnson was here today, ripped into the guts of the Kawai,

and now it is as it should be.

Alma Rose

First pictures of the newest member of our family, my niece Johanna's, little girl.

Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis

Hanging with the pundits in DC sounds like fun.

Fake Penis Afficionados Rejoice: Your Time Is Now

Actor Tom Sizemore Fails Drug Test with Fake Penis

Fri Feb 11, 6:33 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Tom Sizemore has been jailed for violating his probation by failing a drug test after he was caught trying to use a prosthetic penis to fake the results, a Los Angeles County prosecutor said on Friday.

Sizemore, 43, who played a battle-hardened sergeant in the war movie "Saving Private Ryan," was placed in custody on Thursday. He was ordered to remain behind bars until a hearing on Feb. 24, unless he posts $25,000 bond, Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said.

Last month, Judge Antonio Baretto had agreed to allow Sizemore to travel to Cambodia to shoot a new film on condition that he pass a drug test every day prior to his departure.

Carney said the actor's failed attempt to fake his drug test results came on the first day of the new requirement.

The actor is required to undergo random drug tests as a condition of probation for his convictions on separate charges of methamphetamine possession and beating his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

During Thursday's proceedings, prosecutors told Judge Baretto that Sizemore failed three drug tests in three days, the first after he was caught using a fake penis sewn into his boxer shorts and filled with a clean urine sample kept warm by a heating pack.

Carney said the ruse was revealed when the temperature of the sample proved too cool to have come from Sizemore's body, and he was asked to remove his pants.

According to prosecutors, Sizemore had been caught once before trying to use a similar device, sold over the Internet under the brand name the Whizzinator, and had failed drug tests on at least five occasions.

Carney said two drug tests on the days following the fake penis incident showed Sizemore had methamphetamine in his system.

During the hearing, Sizemore's lawyer told the court that his client was destitute, living in a garage in Whittier, California, and that he was an expectant father, Carney told Reuters.

But Baretto told Sizemore that his drug use was "out of control," adding, "I had hoped and wanted to see a positive performance."

Strange But True

My fingernails appear to be growing at preternatural speed. Does this mean I am evolving into some kind of New Human?

Friday, February 11, 2005

We Got A New Piano

It is a 1964 Kawai K8. It plays beautifully (except for the G above middle C, which, hopefully will be corrected tomorrow).

It has only been here a few hours, but already it seems like an old friend.

Why Amy Goodman Is So Cool

From Melissa:

When Amy was at Harvard her mentor was---The Lauranader.

The answers really are in the details.

How the Right Wing Works


The Baddest Man in D.C.

Harry who? GOP will tell you.

February 11, 2005

At this very moment, there are millions of conservatives across the land who, unbeknown to them, will soon develop an intense personal loathing for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. The process, inevitable as the changing of the seasons, began on Monday night when the Republican National Committee distributed a 15-page memo accusing Reid, the chief Senate Democrat, of various transgressions.

It's working. Conservative talking heads have already begun expounding upon Reid's treacherous ways. Though many rank-and-file Republicans may have no strong feelings about Reid today, and some have never even heard of him, it won't be long before the very mention of the words "Harry Reid" will send GOP partisans into paroxysms of rage.

The need for the campaign against Reid is clear enough. Unlike the icy Hillary Rodham Clinton or the hotheaded Howard Dean, Harry Reid does not easily lend himself to hostile caricature. He is anti-abortion and anti-gun control. As the New York Times reported, Reid "is appearing more often on national television, where strategists in both parties say he comes off as reasonable and evenhanded."

Republicans carried out a nearly identical operation to drive up antagonism against Tom Daschle, the previous Democratic Senate leader, who was also inconveniently mild-mannered. Republicans sent out talking points, and in short order conservatives everywhere found themselves deeply vexed by the previously inoffensive, low-profile South Dakota senator. Rush Limbaugh, taking the demonization campaign a tad too literally, began calling Daschle "El Diablo." Perhaps now, with the devil himself already having been used, Limbaugh is thumbing through "Paradise Lost" looking for lesser satanic figures after which to name Reid. (My money's on "Beelzebub.")

It's entirely natural that Republicans would have no love for a leading Democrat. And there's nothing wrong with hating a particularly loathsome member of the other party, or even of your own party. I've done plenty of both myself. The trouble is that this particular campaign is highly dishonest.

A headline on the RNC document, for instance, calls Reid the "Chief Democrat Obstructionist." Now, "obstructionist" has a very specific meaning. An obstructionist doesn't merely try to stop legislation he disagrees with. If that were the case, every minority leader in a legislative body would be guilty of obstructionism. Obstructionists try to stop any legislation from passing, good or bad, merely to prevent the majority party from claiming credit. During the first two years of the Clinton administration, Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole kept setting his preconditions higher and higher until eventually he renounced his own healthcare bill. Now that's obstructionism.

What act of actual obstructionism has Reid committed? The charges center on his current opposition to privatizing Social Security. To suggest he has flip-flopped, the RNC quotes Reid as saying in 1999 "most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector." Fox News apparatchiks Brit Hume and Sean Hannity have trumpeted this as evidence that Reid has reversed himself out of expediency.

But the plan Reid praised, which Clinton floated five years ago, was not privatization. It called for the government to invest a portion of the Social Security trust fund in stocks. Unlike President Bush's plan, it wouldn't have exposed individuals to any greater risk. Nearly all privatization advocates opposed the Clinton plan, and nearly all advocates of the Clinton plan oppose privatization.

The RNC also notes that in 1999 Reid took a trip to Chile to examine its privatized pension system. In fact, the high-minded explanation for Reid's trip is that he wanted to learn about privatization, but he wasn't persuaded that it would work in the United States. The low-minded explanation is that he wanted a free junket to Chile. Either way, there's no evidence he's changed his stance, let alone that he's done so for partisan reasons.

The real reason Republicans object to Reid is that he's a Democrat who disagrees with key points of Bush's agenda. Of course, you can't very well whip the Fox News audience into a lather by pointing at Reid and shouting: "He's a Democrat, and he's voting against us! The nerve!" Hence the need for insults like "obstructionist" and "partisan" — another favorite term of abuse against both Reid and Daschle — which are merely ways of making membership in the other party sound like some kind of affront.

This kind of transparent propaganda is, sadly, a normal function of political parties. But if you get gulled into believing it, or repeating it, you're either a dupe or a partisan hack.

Writers and Progressive Publications to Launch Alternative Press Association


Contact: Larisa Alexandrovna | Associate News Editor the Raw Story
http://www.rawstory.com | laraw@gmail.com

February 10, 2005 the Raw Story editors, along with several other independent progressive journalists and publications, will be launching the Open Source Press Association (OSPA) as an alternative to media agencies such as the Associated Press.

The OSPA will function on four levels: ethics in journalism, alternative press membership, networking and projects, resources, anti-smear council, and resources and distribution.

The Ethics in Journalism Board will vet journalists, publications, freelance writers and organizations for free membership, monitor unethical reporting, and present annual excellence in writing, reporting and publication awards. The board will be made up of founding publications, journalists, blogs, and organizational representatives that run the gamut of progressive press.

The alternative press, including publications, journalists, writers, and organizations, will allow for members to share resources, funding and act as a more inclusive fourth estate. This body will not be a corporate; it will not be beholden to anyone to report on certain topics. The ethics board will provide stringent reporting standards for journalists, publication, etc., and various other standards to be followed by other writers writing in different sub-genres of journalism.

The Networking and Projects arm will allow for a collaborative, safe, environment for publications to post projects in need of writers and for writers to post work in need of publication. The collaboration will be Web-enabled or function through an office.

The Fairness in Journalism Council arm of the OSPA will function as a safety for members who are attacked, threatened, smeared or discredited unfairly for reporting the truth.

The arm of Resources and Distribution will allow members to share legal council, have free access to knowledge bases; including a proprietary OSPA knowledge base, provide a single RSS feed of information, syndication and aid in distribution. Members will have access to publishing, agents and educational resources as well.

The OSPA is designed to bypass the sometimes inaccurate and unquestioning reporting of the mainstream press. It

is designed so that journalists like the late Gary Webb are able to find work; so that publications working hard to get the truth out are not silenced by financial burdens or smear campaigns. It is designed to allow for the true fourth estate – the media – to be reborn in truth and founded in ethical principles, not corporate bottom lines.

Journalists, publications, and reporting organizations are welcome to submit statements of interest. OSPA hopes to begin credentialing membership organizations soon.

Contact Larisa Alexandrovna at laraw@gmail.com to express interest. The group will be setting up an autonomous website soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

So, What's New?

Karl Rove brings his unique brand of Dirty Tricks to US Foreign Policy.

The ringer that Bush brought to lob him softballs during press conferences turns out to be either a male prostitute or a pimp (or both).

The Medicare Drug giveaway will cost almost twice what the white house originally claimed (even greater than the amount they know about but suppressed at the time of the vote).

As the vote count in the Iraqi "elections" appears to favor Islamic theocrats, the results have mysteriously been delayed for an undetermined amount of time.

Hints abound that the administration will default on SS trust fund bonds.

The 911 commission report that the administration first opposed, and then suppressed until after the elections, claims that the FAA know about threats of suicide highjackings and alerted the Nation Security Advisor.

40 people reported killed in Iraq today.

North Korea has nuclear weapons which it claims it needs to defend itself from an increasingly belligerent US.

That's all.


Don't You Feel Foolish Now...

Reading all kinds of looney left wing conspiracy nonsense into why women won't be voting in the Saudi elections. It turns out there is a perfectly rational reason:

"The Saudis... claimed that they didn't have enough voting booths for women."

Something Is Happening Here, and You Don't Know What It Is...

I am finding correspondence in my mailbox addressed to M. Lobster from Steve Moore and the Club For Growth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Maybe It's Not The Dem's Fault

Melissa Has An Interesting Take On The Democrats Famous "Spinelessness".

Plutocrats Rejoice: It Is Your Time Now

And those 20% of you Americans that believe you are in the top 1%, you can celebrate also:

BP and ExxonMobil have just announced RECORD profits.

London - British energy giant BP on Tuesday reported a 26-percent rise in pro-forma net annual profit to $16.21 billion (R100.8 billion) in the wake of record high oil prices and strong demand.

Alongside its results, BP said it would return up to $23 billion in excess cash to investors in 2005 and 2006 via share buybacks and dividends.

The group is the latest energy company after Royal Dutch/Shell and ExxonMobil to announce record profits this month in the wake of soaring oil prices, which reached an all-time high above $55 in New York trading last October.

BP said its fourth-quarter pro-forma profit rose by 26.3 percent to $3.65 billion from the same period in 2003.

Fanatics Rejoice: It is Your Time Now

(but it will be my time after a while) -- Buddy Guy (paraphrase)

From Guns, Germs, and Steel, pps. 281-282. Discussing reasons for the rise of states over earlier bands, tribes, and chiefdoms:
"...Second, the official religions and patriotic fervor of many states make their troops willing to fight suicidally. [this] willingness is one so strongly programmed into us citizens of modern states, by our schools and churches and government, that we forget what a radical break it marks with previous human history. Every state has its slogan urging its citizens to be prepared to die if necessary for the state. ... Such sentiments are unthinkable in bands and tribes. ...Fanaticism in war, of the type that drove recorded Christian and Islamic conquests, was probably unknown on Earth until chiefdoms and especially states emerged within the last 6,000 years."

M. Lobster and I went to Terrace Park

This is a quiet neighborhood park on the border of Albany and North Berkeley. It has two older tennis courts set under enormous Fir trees, and the court fences are overgrown with ivy. M. Lobster evidently likes this venue: He was hot; he was on a roll; he was in the zone. Hitting corners, firing drives up the alleys, backspin, topspin, sidespin, kickspin. And the whole time talking shit. Things like "Be careful of your rickety old man bones". Uncalled for stuff like that. I don't know.

He has also developed a smirk.

Bush Increases Freedom At Home For Young and Old Alike

Young people, the true measure of your freedom to engorge the coffers of drug companies was made public today. And this meshes nicely with my expanded freedom to have dwindling access to prescription drugs.

Taken together these individual freedoms support one of the core tenets of the Ownership Society regarding the middle class: We have the freedom not to grow old.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

And In the Sports World

(from The Ironic Times)


Super Bowl Halftime
Show Shocks Again
Women performing oral sex on donkeys "was not planned, I can assure you," says red-faced network spokesman.

NFL Owners Approve
Expansion Team
Won't play any games, just threaten to move unless new stadium is built.

Spring Training: Pitchers,
Catchers Report Feb. 15
Infielders, outfielders, agents report Feb. 20.

Rove Really is Running the Country Now

From Americablog:

by Joe in DC - 2/8/2005 01:34:53 PM

Reuters reports "Rove Gets Bigger Role at White House." What bigger role could he have?

According to the article:

Rove, who was Bush's top political strategist during his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, will become a deputy White House chief of staff in charge of coordinating policy between the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council.

Rove will continue to oversee White House strategy to advance Bush's agenda and will "make sure we have an open and fair process for the development of policy and to make sure the policy is complementary and consistent with the various councils," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"He is one of the president's most trusted advisers who has played an integral role in strategy and policy development for a long time," McClellan said.
Apparently, Rove is going to run domestic and foreign policy. So, basically, he is running the country.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Yet It Doesn't Matter What Bush Says If It Becomes Illegal To Criticize Him

(From Matthew Ygleias)

Putinization Watch

Yet another in a depressing continuing series. Josh Marshall notes that the Republican National Committee is now threatening legal action against media outlets and independent advocacy groups who criticize the president. The RNC, as I trust I needn't point out, is, at this point, rather intimately connected to the state apparatus of this fine nation of ours. Now to be fair, in Russia they prefer to silence critics with legal action unrelated to the substance of the criticism. Trying to make use of libel and slander laws to shield political leaders from criticism is more the sort of thing you see in Singapore or Jordan. Still, the basic point should, I think, be clear. But libertarians need no longer worry about President Bush -- after all, all of this is being done for the sake of gutting Social Security!

Bush Explains Social Security (Warning! This is not a joke)

President Discusses Strengthening Social Security in Florida
Tampa Convention Center
Tampa, Florida

4:07 P.M. EST
...THE PRESIDENT: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

The Nightmare Continues.

And What The Non-Intellectual Right Is Thinking

The Forgotten War

By Joe Murray
February 7, 2005

(AgapePress) - On January 20th of this year, John Wayne would have been proud of his President. In true Texas fashion, George W. Bush, with his head held high and his sense of moral determination even higher, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue in a fashion fit for True Grit. With a re-election under his belt, and his second term almost under way, it was clear that the Sheriff that roped in Saddam was on the prowl once again.

"There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom," stated a triumphant Bush. With freedom as his sidearm and liberty as his lasso, Bush posted this most-wanted poster to the rest of the world:

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

Thus, after the utterance of a few frostbitten sentences on a bitter January afternoon, the Bush Doctrine that birthed the Iraqi War had been given a dose of presidential steroids.

In his zeal to fight the monsters that reside abroad, George W. Bush appears to have forgotten the very monsters that have set up camp in his own presidential backyard. Abortion, euthanasia, explicit obscenity, and homosexual marriage all encompass a cultural war in which this President was drafted to fight. Columnist John Leo, in analyzing the Bush mandate, correctly points out that "exit polls showed that at 22 percent, 'moral values' was the biggest issue on the minds of voters, and four-fifths of the 22 percent had voted for Bush." Thus, in an election that parodied that of 1960 and 2000, it was the conservative cadets that pushed Bush over the top.

But with 4,000 unborn children perishing daily, Jack Kevorkian knocking on the doors of countless elderly persons, and the celebration of the sexuality explicit on the airwaves of our nation, this question must be posed: where is the Commander in Chief whom this country elected to fight the cultural war? He, my friends, is in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now potentially Iran and North Korea. In a quest for a global hegemony unwanted by the rest of the world, this President has abdicated his post to fight the cultural ills that afflict a weary populace at home, and, even further, may be violating the very doctrine he now espouses.

A few years back Mother Theresa traveled to the United States to take part in a National Prayer Breakfast which was hosted by President Clinton. The wise woman from Calcutta stated "[w]hat is taking place in America, is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" In a statement that cut to the very core of human dignity, Mother Theresa explained that "[a]ny country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to live, but to use any violence to get what it wants." Well, that surely puts Bush in a pickle.

In his 2004 renewal of the preemptive strike-laden Bush Doctrine, the President firmly informed the world that "America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

How can such statements have any true meaning coming from a President who is presiding over a nation that has seen over 40 million innocent children sacrificed on the alter of personal choice? Furthermore, if the President holds his administration up to the standard which he has crafted, is not his passive stance on abortion violative of the human dignity rights he is seeking to enforce? Has not Bush, in sitting on the cultural sidelines, run afoul of his own doctrine by blinding permitting a tyranny against the unborn? If Bush considers the unborn "a person" that possesses human dignity, the answer is yes.

Does the President have power to nullify Roe v. Wade? Yes. Will this President use it? Don't bet on it.

When Chief Justice John Marshall tried to force a national bank upon President Andrew Jackson, Jackson responded, "Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." When the Supreme Court tried to undercut FDR's New Deal, Roosevelt scared the little black robes off the Justices by threatening to pack the Court. The same authority rests with George W. Bush.

Bush, however, has proclaimed that America is not ready for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, thus while we wait, thousands more die. While President Bush chastises other nations about their human rights violations, it would do him some good to turn his eyes from the deserts of Iraq and place them squarely on the sonograms of the unborn.

In his inaugural address, Bush quotes Abraham Lincoln, another President who dared to defy the dictates of the Supreme Court. Lincoln stated, "[t]hose who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it." Americans are left to conclude that Bush does not consider the unborn within the scope of the term "others."

Joe Murray (jrm1835@gmail.com) is a constitutional attorney practicing in Tupelo, Mississippi. Murray also served as National Director of Correspondence for Patrick J. Buchanan's 2000 presidential campaign.

© 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

What the Intellectual Right is Thinking

February 14, 2005 Issue
Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative

Hunger for Dictatorship

War to export democracy may wreck our own.

by Scott McConnell

Students of history inevitably think in terms of periods: the New Deal, McCarthyism, “the Sixties” (1964-1973), the NEP, the purge trials—all have their dates. Weimar, whose cultural excesses made effective propaganda for the Nazis, now seems like the antechamber to Nazism, though surely no Weimar figures perceived their time that way as they were living it. We may pretend to know what lies ahead, feigning certainty to score polemical points, but we never do.

Nonetheless, there are foreshadowings well worth noting. The last weeks of 2004 saw several explicit warnings from the antiwar Right about the coming of an American fascism. Paul Craig Roberts in these pages wrote of the “brownshirting” of American conservatism—a word that might not have surprised had it come from Michael Moore or Michael Lerner. But from a Hoover Institution senior fellow, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and one-time Wall Street Journal editor, it was striking.

Several weeks later, Justin Raimondo, editor of the popular Antiwar.com website, wrote a column headlined, “Today’s Conservatives are Fascists.” Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of “fascism with a democratic face.” His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called “The Reality of Red State Fascism,” which claimed that “the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.”

I would argue that Rockwell—who makes the most systematic argument of the three—overstates the libertarian component of the 1994 Republican victory, which could just as readily be credited to heartland rejection of the ’60s cultural liberalism that came into office with the Clintons. And it is difficult to imagine any scenario, after 9/11, that would not lead to some expansion of federal power. The United States was suddenly at war, mobilizing to strike at a Taliban government on the other side of the world. The emergence of terrorism as the central security issue had to lead, at the very least, to increased domestic surveillance—of Muslim immigrants especially. War is the health of the state, as the libertarians helpfully remind us, but it doesn’t mean that war leads to fascism.

But Rockwell (and Roberts and Raimondo) is correct in drawing attention to a mood among some conservatives that is at least latently fascist. Rockwell describes a populist Right website that originally rallied for the impeachment of Bill Clinton as “hate-filled ... advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now.” One of the biggest right-wing talk-radio hosts regularly calls for the mass destruction of Arab cities. Letters that come to this magazine from the pro-war Right leave no doubt that their writers would welcome the jailing of dissidents. And of course it’s not just us. When USA Today founder Al Neuharth wrote a column suggesting that American troops be brought home sooner rather than later, he was blown away by letters comparing him to Tokyo Rose and demanding that he be tried as a traitor. That mood, Rockwell notes, dwarfs anything that existed during the Cold War. “It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state. The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth—not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself.”

The warnings from these three writers would have been significant even if they had not been complemented by what for me was the most striking straw in the wind. Earlier this month the New York Times published a profile of Fritz Stern, the now retired but still very active professor of history at Columbia University and one of my first and most significant mentors. I met Stern as an undergraduate in the spring of 1974. His lecture course on 20th-century Europe combined intellectual lucidity and passion in a way I had never imagined possible. It led me to graduate school, and if I later became diverted from academia into journalism, it was no fault of his. In grad school, I took his seminars and he sat on my orals and dissertation committee. As was likely the case for many of Stern’s students, I read sections of his books The Politics of Cultural Despair and The Failure of Illiberalism again and again in my early twenties, their phraseology becoming imbedded in my own consciousness.

Stern had emigrated from Germany as a child in 1938 and spent a career exploring how what may have been Europe’s most civilized country could have turned to barbarism. Central to his work was the notion that the readiness to abandon democracy has deep cultural roots in German soil and that many Europeans, not only Germans, yearned for the safeties and certainties of something like fascism well before the emergence of fascist parties. One could not come away from his classes without a sense of the fragility of democratic systems, a deep gratitude for their success in the Anglo-American world, and a wary belief that even here human nature and political circumstance could bring something else to the fore.

He is not a man of the Left. He would have been on the Right side of the spectrum of the Ivy League professoriat—seriously anticommunist, and an open and courageous opponent of university concessions to the “revolutionary students” of 1968. He might have described himself as a conservative social democrat, of the sort that might plausibly gravitate toward neoconservatism. An essay of his in Commentary in the mid-1970s drew my attention to the magazine for the first time.

But he did not go further in that direction, perhaps understanding something about the neocons that I missed at the time. One afternoon in the early 1980s, during a period when I was reading Commentary regularly and was beginning to write for it, he told me, clearly enjoying the pun, that my views had apparently “Kristolized.”

It is impossible to overstate my pleasure at being on the same side of the barricades with him today. That side is, of course, that of the antiwar movement; the side of a conservatism (or liberalism) that finds Bush’s policies reckless and absurd and the neoconservatives who inspire and implement them deluded and dangerous. In the past year, I had seen Stern’s letters to the editor in the Times (“Now the word ‘freedom’ has become a newly invoked justification for the occupation of a country that did not attack us, whose people have not greeted our soldiers as liberators. … The world knows that all manner of traditional rights associated with freedom are threatened in our own country. ... The essential element of a democratic society—trust—has been weakened, as secrecy, mendacity and intimidation have become the hallmarks of this administration. ... Now ‘freedom’ is being emptied of meaning and reduced to a slogan. But one doesn’t demean the concept without injuring the substance.”) In the profile of him in the Times, he sounds an alarm of the very phenomenon Roberts, Raimondo, and Rockwell are speaking about openly.

To an audience at the Leo Baeck Institute, on the occasion of receiving a prize from Germany’s foreign minister, Stern noted that Hitler had seen himself as “the instrument of providence” and fused his “racial dogma with Germanic Christianity.” This “pseudo–religious transfiguration of politics … largely ensured his success.” The Times’ Chris Hedges asked Stern about the parallels between Germany then and America now. He spoke of national mood—drawing on a lifetime of scholarship that saw fascism coming from below as much as imposed by elites above. “There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented... for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although significant differences.”

This is characteristic Stern—measured and precise—but signals to me that the warning from the libertarians ought not be simply dismissed as rhetorical excess. I don’t think there are yet real fascists in the administration, but there is certainly now a constituency for them —hungry to bomb foreigners and smash those Americans who might object. And when there are constituencies, leaders may not be far behind. They could be propelled into power by a populace ever more frustrated that the imperialist war it has supported—generally for the most banal of patriotic reasons—cannot possibly end in victory. And so scapegoats are sought, and if we can’t bomb Arabs into submission, or the French, domestic critics of Bush will serve.

Stern points to the religious (and more explicitly Protestant) component in the rise of Nazism—but I don’t think the proto-fascist mood is strongest among the so-called Christian Right. The critical letters this magazine receives from self-identified evangelical Christians are almost always civil in tone; those from Christian Zionists may quote Scripture about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in ways that are maddeningly nonrational and indisputably pre-Enlightenment—but these are not the letters foaming with a hatred for those with the presumption to oppose George W. Bush’s wars for freedom and democracy. The genuinely devout are perhaps less inclined to see the United States as “God marching on earth.”

Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish between a sudden proliferation of fascist tendencies and an imminent danger. There may be, among some neocons and some more populist right-wingers, unmistakable antidemocratic tendencies. But America hasn’t yet experienced organized street violence against dissenters or a state that is willing—in an unambiguous fashion—to jail its critics. The administration certainly has its far Right ideologues—the Washington Post’s recent profile of Alberto Gonzales, whose memos are literally written for him by Cheney aide David Addington, provides striking evidence. But the Bush administration still seems more embarrassed than proud of its most authoritarian aspects. Gonzales takes some pains to present himself as an opponent of torture; hypocrisy in this realm is perhaps preferable to open contempt for international law and the Bill of Rights.

And yet the very fact that the f-word can be seriously raised in an American context is evidence enough that we have moved into a new period. The invasion of Iraq has put the possibility of the end to American democracy on the table and has empowered groups on the Right that would acquiesce to and in some cases welcome the suppression of core American freedoms. That would be the titanic irony of course, the mother of them all—that a war initiated under the pretense of spreading democracy would lead to its destruction in one of its very birthplaces. But as historians know, history is full of ironies.   

How Things Work: The First Gulf War

Melissa brought this paper to my attention. It is assigned reading in Laura Nader's Anthropology 139 Controlling Processes. It is by Kathleen Wilusz and is called The Destruction Will Not be Televised. The link takes you to a Berkeley site where you have to agree to photo copy rules and then to the paper in PDF format. It is long (about 30 pages). Please read this paper.

Birth of a Salesman: Pitching Social Security


In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."

"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems "uniquely American" and "fantastic." He asks her if she gets any sleep.

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