Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Month in Wingnuttery

You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.
-George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
It seems like just a couple of years ago that there was an election in the US to distract the public from the problems at hand. What's that you say? There was. Right, I forgot that part of a system more and more coming to resemble a perfect machine to enrich a plutocracy until its cataclysmic implosion was the perpetual election cycle with its two-party false left-right paradigm to shift blame from one to the other giving the public the illusion of choice. In case you missed it, the mid-term elections are fast approaching in the United States of America, so this month a special edition of wingnuttery devoted to the ten wingnuttiest candidates put forward by the two-party tagteam that ensures nothing ever gets done. Blame ping-pong is a tool in the doublethink toolkit where left is right and right is left as neoliberals and neocons are mortal enemies that have the same agenda. Remember, it was a Republican president named Nixon whose first act as commander-in-chief was to sign the act that created the Environmental Protection Agency and a Democrat with a foreign sounding name who was going to close Guantanamo and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Clinton who oversaw the final implementation of the financial industry's takeover of the economy while it was Reagan who raised taxes four times, including the largest corporate increase in history.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that certain concepts cannot be understood by those who use another language was a low point in science. Scholars took the hypothesis as valid without any evidence to support the claims and made fantastic assertions, from linking certain Native American languages with an intuitive understanding of Einstein's concept of time as a fourth dimension to the tense system of ancient Hebrew determining the nature of Judaism. Another bullet was added to the scientific disbeliever arsenal and research on the topic was abandoned for decades falling to the domain of science fiction. Yet much like the work of those writers, truth can be found in the theory; words may not prevent us from having certain thoughts but they do oblige us to think about space, time, colours, objects and people a certain way. Our language effects how we construe events, reason about causality, count, perceive and experience emotion, choose to take risks, and even the way we choose our spouses and professions.

Oh, and who to vote for in elections. So let's look at some of the choices Americans will have November 2nd with a little help from some language from Orwell's 1984 as the words chosen will have a bigger impact on the decision making process than any silly issues. It's a diverse crew but veins of Orwellian commonality can be mined, mostly doublethink and newspeak that seeps into the flow of media bobblehead chatter. Law is important to most, but unfortunately the Biblical kind has more influence on their thinking and actions than the scientific or, you know, legal ones. Many want to abolish the federal department of education, even going so far as calling for the end of public schools altogether as they are "socialism in education" and see universal health care as an Obamanation for introducing more socialism into the equation. Simalakama is an Indonesian word which seems to mean a situation which forces someone to make a decision where each possible option leads to a negative outcome, more or less the idea of Catch-22 given to us by Joseph Heller in the book of the same name. American democracy promises choice and freedom but seems to only give us the discretion to choose the least bad option.

Christine O'Donnell GOP candidate for the Senate in Delaware. In the interest of brevity (ha!) it's easiest to start with Christine as she not only checks all the right-wingnut candidate boxes this year - Palin endorsed, Tea Party supported white female (yes, female) Christian - but also wouldn't be the least bit out of place in science fiction, from JRR Tolkien to JK Rowling. She wouldn't have lied to protect Anne Frank from the Nazis because god would have provided a way for her not to practice deception. One moment she's denouncing erudition as elitism, the next she's lying about her Oxford education. Sometimes she wants us to forget her youthful fascination with incantation and Buddhism repudiation or even how her Italian indoctrination saved her from becoming a Hare Krishna thanks to meatball glorification. She sides with creation over evolution, finds taxation an unnecessary complication, thinks spending money on AIDS research and teaching kids about safe sex is a funding misallocation and even claims the spread of the disease is thanks to condom distribution. Her lack of comprehension of anything requiring the slightest bit of cognition was highlighted by her warning about the scientific creation of "mice with fully functioning human brains". Yet her lasting contribution to the Orwellian dystopia will be her promotion of a further than right wingnut view of goodsex, where the only sex considered acceptable is married heterosexual sex for the exclusive purpose of procreation without any other lustful waste such as masturbation.

Her selection in the GOP primary caused a rare breaking of the ranks in the Republican/Tea Party coalition, that is between Sith lord Rove and Queen Palin, as the former knew her selection in the GOP primary will cost the Republicans a majority in the senate as she was made into a mini-me remake by the latter. O'Donnell nails the character's ignorance on Supreme Court rulings and Christian fundamentalist beliefs which seem to cause Constitutional 1st Amendment memory loss. Their anti-elite-educationism is the bridge to nowhere as the GOP has predictably taken over what was believed to be a grassroots movement but is simply another in a long line of right-wingnut reactionary groups that have formed over time when the true elite have felt their grip on power challenged. Reading from a "poor man’s teleprompter", their hysterical voices are a siren song to those who "proudly cling to [their] guns and [their] religion". When Palin's amazing lack of knowledge about geography or history is pointed out, she simply dismisses it as another attack from the 'lamestream' media and  ignored by Faux News and the rest of the right wing echo chamber. Maybe the blood just flows too quickly from one head to another, a typical reaction: "I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile ... it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.". This is a convenient state in which to avoid facts and it helps to have already submitted yourself completely to a belief in an omniscient higher power, something many heathen liberal types don't quite get. Neither the attractiveness of Palin nor willful ignorance, but in the right-wingnut reality, ignorance is strength. Maybe Christine’s not a witch but thanks to the transitive property of O'Donnell, her beliefs use a hocus pocus that can even equate masturbating with being gay. Sorry Christine O'Donnell, not only are you not Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan, you're definitely not me.

Next up is Sharron Angle, Republican candidate in Nevada, hoping to beat out current senate majority leader Harry Reid. If she walks like a duck and talks like a duck, speaking without thinking, well, she must be fluent in duckspeak. Running in a high profile race, even when her statements are slammed for being ungood, they become good as her wacky proclamations are like duck calls to the press, so even once she goes back on a claim they have the tendency to push the envelope of possibilities. In the kakotopian future she's helping bring about, Flip-flop Angle can be thanked for her one-time belief in privatizing Veterans Affairs, dismantling Social Security (here then here) and dismissing unemployment benefits as welfare. She's a doubleplusgood duckspeaker when trying to whip up Oceania's hate for Eurasia and Eastasia, America's hatred of socialism and Islam. Entitlements are turning government into god violating the first commandment. She responded to a question about "Muslims wanting to take over the United States" by decrying the fact that Dearborn, Michigan and Frankford, Texas were governed under Sharia Law. Um, not only is this not true but Frankford went out of existence in 1975! Her ads blatantly play on fear of Mexicans crossing the border then tries to deflect criticism by saying that Hispanics look like Asians to her and that she's far more concerned about the Canadian border. She wants to take the US out of the UN, shut down the IRS, ban alcohol and if she doesn't get her way she believes the people should "secure the blessings of liberty" using 2nd amendment remedies. Sounds like this lame duck is nothing but a quack:

Rand Paul, Tea Party driven upset Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky. Featured here a few weeks back thanks to his propensity for giving speeches with anecdotes from the days of the Weimar Republic in Germany that preceded Hitler's Third Reich. Stories about workers pushing wheelbarrows of cash home from work as they were paid twice a day in a vain attempt to keep up with hyperinflation serve as his warning for the American workers' future if she continues down her current path. The first round of quantitative easing (QE - lovely newspeak for oldspeak printing money) was a reckless attempt to jump start the economy by pumping banks full of money which many feared would cause a Weimar repeat. Didn't happen, the hyperinflation or the jump start, so it seems we'll have QE2 in both finance and on the seas. Remember that the Tea Party movement may have begun from the floor or the NYSE a month after Obama’s inauguration when CNBC’s Rick Santelli directed his rant at the ordinary American "losers" defaulting on their mortgages, and at those in Washington who proposed bailing the losers out. Funny how he never mentioned the bank bailouts were Bush-initiated, a two for one of false blame, Democrats and the poor.

Newspeak, doublethink and outright lies are used by those who would have us believe poor people who couldn't afford houses are to blame for the recession instead of the banks who are still being given all the support from the Obama administration. Orwell's Miniplenty in today's economy is the financial industry, not the false flag accusation of Obama's socialist regime. Making up lies about the stimulus package, which possibly saved the economy, and pejoratively labeling it the bailout stimulus to conflate the negatively viewed bank bailout in people's minds distracts us from the real problems of a debt based economy. Bailouts cause moral hazard and are doomed to make matters worse and fail, period. They enabled an industry of rent-seeking parasites to bet on and profit from its own crash. Even today as we learn the banks were cheating on the paper work, losing others then hiring folks off the street to become robo-signers in order to repossess homes more quickly (even taking some from people who never had a mortgage) the pyramid scheme is being supported by the government to prevent crash and panic.

If only there were an option besides voting for a party who has been in control of the executive and legislative branches of government for the last couple of years as this has been going on or one dedicated to making it even worse. Instead we have a false choice seen as freedom that makes us slaves to pick between bad and evil. Rand out Rands Ayn Rand, to whom he's devoted, in his hatred of government, except when they're paying his bills. The doublethink required to be a (Ayn) Randian Christian allows him to be a libertarian unless you're the wrong religion, railing against unfounded claims of foreign money being used to build cultural centers but having no problem when it's used for election spending by the Chamber of Commerce. Instead of teaching the lesson from the financial crisis that our freedom is slavery to the debt-based consumer society, Rand rants about an administration whose spending is somehow suddenly out of control instead of taking the time to explain that we, just as he has, have been praying to false idols of false belief.

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All of which makes it hard for even good politicians to maintain their seats when there are candidates like Ron Johnson, again Senate, again Tea Party powered (TPP?) Republican, this time in the land of Cheeseheads, Wisconsin. Johnson doesn't really set himself apart from at least a few dozen other candidates for this list in that he hasn't had to publicly defend himself against dabbling in blood rites or dressing up like a Nazi. Johnson makes the list because he doesn't seem to know anything outside of the plastic business while his opponent seems to be a semi-decent representative of his electors but will be voted out of office because he's from the gubmint. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold voted against confirming Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary, citing Mr. Geithner’s personal tax issues. He cast unpopular votes against popular spending programs such as the prescription-drug benefit for seniors. He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, the war against Iraq, deregulating banks and, nine years later, bailing them out. Personal liberty? He was the only senator who voted against the misguided Patriot Act in 2001. To add to what should be a near spotless Tea Party resume, he even supported gun rights. Yet, his opponent is ahead because he proudly proclaims that he doesn’t "think this election is about details". Johnson seems to be counting on the voters going with bellyfeel, just like he does with climate change, blindly enthusiastically going with sunspots.

Joe Miller Republican Senate candidate in Alaska. In a huge surprise, the Alaskan political scene is messed up and it's not all Sarah Palin's fault. No, in a state where 40% of the economy comes from government aid and residents get paid by the government to live there, the people are mad as hell at...the government. "Unemployment has never been lower; there is no housing crisis; banks are solvent. We just got Permanent Fund Checks — and, boy, are we pissed off!" Their rage has been translated into a unique opportunity to choose from three candidates with party support, a Democrat, a Republican and a Tea Bagger. Well, to be clear, it's a choice between a name with a D beside it, Scott McAdams, an R, the Tea Party powered Republican nominee Joe Miller, or they'll have to write in Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent who was beaten in the primary. The biggest obstacle pundits are predicting for Murkowski is that voters who want to choose her will have to come close to spelling her name correctly, enough to show intent, and, well, many Americans aren't all that bright. Ever try to read comment threads anywhere? You know the commentator is American when 'lose' becomes 'loose'.

Yet Joe is just a typical teabagger. His favourite word is 'unconstitutional', a label he slaps on child labour laws, social security, medicare, unemployment (except when it benefits him) and the minimum wage even though he doesn't seem to understand the document. While wrapping himself in the constitution he had hired goons, his Thinkpol, handcuff a reporter asking questions at a public event. Taken together with Joe's admiration of the former East Germany's border security Big Brother Is Watching You posters can't be far behind. Truth is teabaggers have unwittingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by a bunch of carpetbaggers. The Koch brothers, Glenn Beck and Carl Rove will sit back and reap the rewards of a supposed grassroots movement that is set to establish a sizeable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate. Just as their father was a founding member of the John Birch Society, the Kochs were instrumental in funding this astroturf backlash against what they see as a liberal government threatening their right to destroy the planet for profit. Beck has been given a Faux News platform to sow fear through lessons in rewritten history to enrich himself by fleecing the ignorant. The shadow of Carl Rove is spreading like a cancer due to the Citizen United decision metastasizing as prognosticated with a flood of untraceable money; a modern day Minitrue falsifying the past to manufacture truth, disseminating propaganda to spoon feed the semi-literate under a cloak of invisibility. This repressed movement primarily composed of Medicare recipients who object to "government-run healthcare" are being led under the banner of libertarianism to back some of the most anti-choice politicians ever to run for such major office. On issues such as phosphate bans they've been manipulated to believe they don't need to know the actual facts behind an issue because they can simply substitute their paranoid hostility towards liberals for understanding. By giving up any sense of shared responsibility as citizens towards the common good, many have been duped into choosing the freedom of slavery to the richest tenth of one percent.

Alvin Greene Democrat for the senate South Carolina. This guy came from so far out of right field that for a while it was believed his primary victory had to be a Republican plot. Greene makes the list because like most of the others here he has no actual campaign policies to advocate but unlike them he is unemployed, lives in his dad's basement (so of course no campaign office), did no fundraising or campaigning to gain his parties nomination in the primary and is facing a felony obscenity charge. Maybe Big Brother is right and we should fear ownlife as this basement dweller allegedly walked into a computer lab on the University of South Carolina campus, sat down next to a student and asked her to look at his screen, which showed a pornographic website. When told it was offensive, Camille McCoy, a 19-year-old rising sophomore, claims Greene simply laughed and said "Let's go to your room now".

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Only in South Carolina could Jim Demint who is running for his second term against Greene be the less worse candidate. Demint played Tea party kingmaker and lent Republican incumbents conservative street cred for much of the primary season. His theocon views would have Big Brother in your bedroom as he reasserted his belief that gays and unmarried, sexually active women should not be allowed to teach. Just women mind you, yee-haw! Remember, this is the state where Nikki Haley is trying to replace Mark Sanford in the governor's house. She had to deny an affair with a blogger to make her electable in the eyes of voters who voted for a man who told everyone, including his wife, he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he was in South America. Somehow he wasn't impeached, I guess it's because he paid back the $3,300 he took to visit his mistress in Argentina. But that would be admitting you..., well, others were fired, so I guess censure's enough!?!

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'Crazy' Carl Paladino, gubernatorial candidate for New Jersey, er, I mean New York. Easy to make the mistake as Carl seems more the Jersey mob boss type, actually, more an enforcer, as he opened up his campaign threatening to "clean out Albany with a baseball bat". He wants to send welfare recipients to prisons for joycamp where they can take lessons in "personal hygiene". Yet another in a line of holier-than-thou right wingnut hypocrites when it comes to sex, he made an issue of pornographers and perverts but sent dozens of porn filled emails that included some chick on horse bestiality mixed in with African tribal rituals captioned "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal". Crazy was at the center of what were the strangest political attacks of the season until the Aqua Buddha story was dug up. He had charged that his rival Andrew Cuomo had multiple "paramours" that were being ignored by the press, forgetting that he was the unfaithful candidate. His memory was somehow triggered by a NY Post editor questioning Crazy's source which caused him to threaten to "take [the reporter] out" if he didn't stop stalking his illegitimate ten-year old daughter. To clean up that mess, Crazy figured it was a good idea to tell the voters that his rival's "prowess is legendary". In an odd twist, Carl later claimed that Cuomo didn't have the cajones to face him in an open debate. Er, um, I'm assuming he knows you need them to have legendary sexual prowess, right?

Yet I would pity poor Paladino if it weren't for the danger he represents. He was a broken man onstage during the governor's debate surrounded by a loony squad. He seems to have been a sacrificial lamb in the radical right's cause, a political loss-leader to expand the frontiers of acceptable dialogue. Carl just isn't politically polished enough to get away with expressing his neanderthal thinking on what he doesn't understand. Right-wingnuts see progressive attitudes towards other religions and lifestyles as a liberal plot to make hatred a form of crimethink patrolled by a politically correct thought police. Their anger is usually aimed at 'government' in general, whatever the location or officials in charge but more likely to claim minorities like gays, Latinos and Muslims as collateral damage. The mad-as-hell crowd in America, still not seeing any solid economic recovery on the horizon, will lash out at any convenient scapegoat. In order to wipe the slate clean for endorsing comments comparing an Orthodox Jew political rival, to "Hitler" or an "Antichrist", Crazy gave a speech to a group of Orthodox Jews in which he said he didn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option -- it isn't." Having stepped in it again, Paladino figured he'd go on the Today show in order to register his disgust with gay pride parades only to wake to morning headlines that read "Carl Rages Against Guys in Speedos, Gay Grinding". D'Oh!

Linda McMahon is running as a Republican for senate in Connecticut, yes Vince McMahon's wife. Yes, the WWF's, er, sorry panda bears, I mean WWE ringleader. Tea party reasoning says, why not? She successfully ran a business that entertained white, gun-toting, NASCAR before Faux News watching, gap-toothed, anti-intellectual, get the gubmint's hands off everything except a woman's body types. Seeing as she is light on policy but must be electable because she's a business woman, let's look at the business of hillbilly mesmerizing a little closer. WWE's choice to manufacture most of its licensed products in China and Pakistan is blamed on America's corporate tax, but what can she blame on having so many of her Stateside workers die before 50 in the last ten years? World Wrestling Entertainment, an empire built killing wrestlers and working rednecks into a froth, then expanded to bring teenagers to a different froth through programming with prestigious partners such as the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise, has allowed the McMahon family to achieve the American dream, including a self-financed Senate campaign and a yacht named Sexy Bitch. In a recessionary environment where she had to lay off workers, McMahon took home $46 million which was lucky as she's spent $22 million of it in the primary alone and said she would spend "what it would take" to be elected. Of course she has tried to spin this spending as a good thing, not having to take money from special interest, though she has spent hundreds of thousands lobbying for millions in tax breaks.

The $50 million price tag on a government seat was made peddling violence and misogyny to kids as well as the South while helping enable steroid abuse to kill her employees. Orwell's Prolesec couldn't have devised of a less mentally nutritious prolefeed, one that leaves the addict hungrier than before, seeking ever greater spectacles of gore and violence, panem and circenses run amok. In a world of iPads and Blackberries competing for our attention by feeding us an ever thicker stream of information we are paradoxically able to digest less and less. Lacking effective strategies to deal with the onslaught, it's easy to become distracted and unfocused, an easy target for those who would tell us how to think. Yet the exercise of freedom requires focus and attention which is constantly being divided by tweets, texts and tits. From Facebook updates to Glee Gone Wild this information candy has caused a hypoglycemic fit for which the insulin seems to be fear and hate. Huh, in such a world, seems the perfect senator's own daughter would describe her this way:

Carly Fiorina's Republican primary victory in California promised wackiness judging by her primary campaign ads that featured possessed sheep. The lady who personally almost took down Hewlett Packard is trying to take Barbara Boxer's senate seat. Her tenure as CEO at HP saw her fire 28,000 people while the stock price fell 50% before rebounding 10% the day her firing was announced. For her failure, she was given a $21 million golden parachute which is financing her campaign. Of course, if there is a state where someone like Fiorina might appeal to voters, it would be California - look ma, still no budget. A place where billionaire gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman responded to Nanny-gate accusations (hiring an illegal immigrant housekeeper) by blaming her opponent Jerry Brown, her husband, Gloria Allred, the Democratic party, her staff - basically everyone besides herself. Better to spin than to admit fault. Seems she had picked up the spinning habit years earlier, paying off employees to duck battery charges as well as getting in early on Goldman Sachs offerings as an investor (yes, known as spinning) thanks to her position as corporate director giving her both insider stock deals and now campaign donations. If California chooses Meg, maybe the governator really will be back:

Carly and Meg are the elite who Palin and Gingrich should be warning against but instead they serve Miniluv to help inflict misery, fear, suffering, and torture in war, business and politics on brown people, the poor and liberals. We idolize the rich for making the rest poor in a world where class composition is strikingly similar to Orwell's Oceania, where 2% of the population were part of the inner party, today's gilded class, sitting above the outer party and us proles. We are kept safe by being told to be afraid and that our freedom is better protected by giving up a little in exchange. Minipax has convinced us that war is peace so ending a decade long war with no other purpose than killing brown people wasn't even a possibility that the commander-in-chief could even consider. Iraq isn't even an issue anymore and the war in Afghanistan is just an afterthought rebranded as Af/Pak. The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post all refuse to use the word "torture" to describe waterboarding, beatings, and sleep deprivation of prisoners, adopting instead the government-approved phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques".

It's a world of doublespeak in which escalation in war is a 'surge', prisoners are 'detainees', assassinations are 'targeted killings', health care leads to 'death panels' while 'death taxes' replace estate taxes and somehow a 60,000 barrel-a-day undersea oil eruption is nothing but a 'leak'. We fight a war on drugs in order to further marginalize minorities while ignoring the fact that three times more veterans under 35 died back home in California than in the theatres of war in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2008. Seems Fiorina shares more than a love of outsourcing and cutting jobs with the Koch brothers, they are also working in support of Proposition 23 part of their war against progressivism; in this fight misinformation is a weapon of mass destruction. Here she is in friendly territory, yep, Faux News, does she answer a question? Try to get the 4:13 point at least:

West Virginia’s Republican candidate for the Senate is lucky politics isn't baseball or he'd have struck out long ago. John Raese lost to Jay Rockefeller back in 1984 during the Reagan Republican landslide, then lost the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1988 to scandal plagued Arch Moore and then lost when he ran for the senate again in 2006, this time by almost 30 points despite spending $2.2 million of his own money. Well, Raese is back for another kick at the can, running against popular Governor Joe Manchin in a special election to fill the last two years of the term of the late Jim Byrd who had held it for over 50 years. Raese is the face of the Republican Tea party that wants to take America back further than FDR's New Deal and Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal, all the way to the heady days before there were laws on wages and hours, environmental concerns and debilitating economic concentration. His electoral success, and states future, hinges on how successfully Minitrue has rewritten the past and whether the public has been dumbed down enough to swallow his blackwhite platform hook, line and sinker.

Cognitive dissonance has been disabled by years of fear, indoctrination and repression of critical thinking which allows many to not only believe that black is white but to know it to be so. Evidence contradicting the fairy tale of  Horatio Alger rags to riches stories is ignored by the lottery ticket buying faithful enabling Raese to proclaim "I made money the old-fashioned way. I inherited it. I think that’s a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country, which is a key part of my program". Permanently repealing a tax that is only applied to estates worth over $3.5 million only helps the Raeses of the world, keeping the ultra-rich, rich, while the 99.7% of estates who would pay no taxes at all deal with the consequences of lower government revenues. As far back as 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt stated that "the man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government." But heck, Raese wants us to go even further and bring back 19th century labour laws. See you later minimum wage because wages would be higher without it, which explains why no one hires illegal workers for less money I guess. It was a better time for his family as they could even send children down into their mines, people knew their place and it didn't matter if you couldn't pronounce anyone's name properly, especially if they were foreign sounding. For the record, it's pronounce Race-ee, even if he's a racist.

Minitrue's done a great job in West Virginia, even giving Governor Manchin amnesia when it comes to the need for coal mine safety. Meanwhile, Miniplenty has kept people poor enough that they'll believe anything that will help them get a job, no matter how deadly. Instead of trying to protect our environment, the EPA (curse you Nixon!) is trying to sow uncertainty and dry up job creating investment by giving notice a permit could be revoked for a project that "would bury more than seven miles of the Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch streams under 110 million cubic yards of spoil, killing everything in them and sending downstream a flood of contaminants, toxic substances and life-choking algae." Of course the irony is that Republican obstructionism is what has caused this uncertainty. Lucky we don't trust those elitists who know better than us, like the 97% of climatologists who believe in man-made climate change so we can continue practices like mountaintop mining. No, Raese is probably right, it's just volcanoes. With this kind of healthy job creation it's no wonder so many West Virginians would elect a representative whose family resides in Palm Beach, the one in Florida, which in turn explains why Palin endorsed Raese for the race in Pennsylvania. Folks like this are lucky the past is constantly rewritten so we won't remember who to blame or that there was a Republican president almost 30 years ago who, like Raese, wanted to create a Star Wars program. Hmm, I'll bet thousands of orbiting lasers wouldn't cost too much.

Sadly, pathetically, impossibly, this list just scratches at the surface of the rot that is democracy in the US, the home of the brave and land of the free to choose between bad and evil every couple of years. Many of these wingnuts ballot foes more than fit the bad bill; Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senatorial candidate running against McMahon in Connecticut, repeatedly implied in public speeches that he had fought in the Vietnam War, though he’d served only stateside. In this iniquitous two-party world, however, the thought of voting for a third party candidate, even when clearly the superior choice, is dismissed out of hand by most as a sure way to hand the most hated choice victory. We didn't even get to the House of Representatives where the likes of Outlaw Motorbike Club fan Allen West, batshit crazy Michelle Bachmann, SS-loving Rich Iott and Pornosec provider Ben Quayle (yes, son of Dan) are running under the GOP banner as are senate candidates such as Marco Rubio and Ken Buck and gubernatorial hopeful, bike-fearing Dan Maes.

The ancient Greeks ignored Aristophanes warnings of the tyrannical assault on democracy as their civilization was crumbling around them just as America will ignore the obvious warning signs and bring about a repeat of 1994 bringing them, and us in their wake, closer to Nineteen Eight-Four. In this age of a fantastic proliferation of information, instead of being empowered we've been enslaved by a corpocracy whose power has somehow been reinforced by the crisis they brought about as a self-censoring media has stood impotently by or worse, done their dirty work. Facts are dismissed as bias attacks or ignored altogether as intelligence is elitist and asininity is divinity in a warped real world version of high school. Google and entire elections are for sale to the highest bidder as inconvenient facts simply disappear down the memory hole as a modern day Syme sits at his keyboard working on a new edition of the newspeak dictionary. Welcome to Room 101, or not...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Coming to a Consensus

Way back in time, before there was Twitter, before the perpetual recession had come, in 2007 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had a mere $2 billion in lending commitments on its books. Two billion. Avatar made that in seven weeks. That's the monthly increase in the cost of the Afghanistan war this year. From its inception at Bretton Woods in 1945, the fund had been transformed from an instrument to promote and facilitate trade between its member nations into an object of hate, letters spoken together with derision from Bangkok to Buenos Aires. Well, here we are in a world of two billion tweets a month with much of it stuck in near economic depression where the IMF has $195 billion in loans on its books. This week central bankers and finance ministers from around the world are gathering at IMF headquarters in Washington DC for the IMF and World Bank annual meeting and they'll be on their best behaviour. You see, with about $900 billion at its disposal, the IMF has been charged with saving liberal capitalism.

It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world as we stumble headlong into the second decade of the 21st century but what I'm finding hardest to swallow is the rejuvenation of the IMF's image. There was a reason it only had a couple of billion in loans a few years back; it had lost its legitimacy in the international community. It had morphed from a cold war tool to support dictatorships in South America into a neo-colonial boot across the throat of Africa before becoming a purveyor and destroyer of capitalist dreams beyond the Berlin Wall and finally the instigator of global economic turmoil even further east. By first denying credit to elected governments led by 'left leaning' types such as Allende, Goulart or Ortega who may not have followed Washington's orders then supplying it to dictators that overthrew them, the likes of Pinochet, Branco and Samosa, the IMF was a good soldier in the fight against the Red Menace. Countries such as Senegal have found they are better off following the Beijing Consensus to Washington's nasty version. Privatization and market liberalization that was gonna make everyone rich following the collapse of the commie regime was unleashed without the proper legal framework (read: government institutions, is that irony?) bringing the world Russian billionaire oligarchs, some of whom managed to move to London to buy football teams before the Putin authoritarian backlash. Others languish in prison. The last bit of credibility seemed to evaporate with the steam from hot money that poured into the opening of financial and capital markets ordered by the IMF as a remedy to East Asia's downturn in 1997 transforming a hiccup into worldwide crisis.

It's no coincidence that the three biggest debts on the IMF's books as of August 2010 belong to Romania, the Ukraine and Hungary each owing over $11.7 billion, almost six times the total of outstanding loans three years ago. October 3rd saw the 20th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany which heralded the triumph of capitalism over communism, good over evil, opportunity over captivity. Some 8% of the world's population that had lived under the Soviet Communist system traded in one form of enslavement for another as IMF experts marched in to preach the gospel of a new religion, market fundamentalism, as a substitute for the old, Marxism (Well, a twisted Leninism/Stalinism/Gorbachevism?). For the western powers (ie. the banksters) the sudden opening of an untapped, unregulated market was a once in a lifetime opportunity as it lacked the most fundamental building blocks of efficient markets such as anti-trust laws or property rights. This lack of government regulation allowed those who knew which vodka to buy Yeltsin (answer: any) to prosper as most of the population suffered. Americans saw shock therapy through the lens of Reagan's victory putting a McDonald's on Red Square while the reality was the percentage of Russians living in poverty using the $2 standard skyrocketed from 2% in 1989 to 23.8% less than a decade later. The IMF brought Mercedes traffic jams to Moscow but 40% of the country now had to live on less than $4 a day.

The IMF was created to smooth financial crisis when they occur yet seems to have been the cause of political and economic disease as often as the cure. Yes, Virgina, there have been other crises before this latest one and they are coming ever more frequently, powerfully and lingery. That's not a word, but they tend to drag on, with recoveries marked with ever less, and painfully slow, job creation. Our hopes for recovery are resting on the drug dealer of debt that turned many of us into junkies in the first place as much of the world is relying on the IMF pit bosses to keep the casino open. The next crisis is already written into the loopholes lobbied into the financial regulation bill in the US. The last not yet complete judging by ever widening bond spreads in Europe which highlight the uselessness of trying to save the euro by propping up PIGS with more debt and occasionally issuing reports on their progress to soothe jittery markets. An optimist will say the protests in Seattle in 1999 or the street battle in 2001 in Genoa may have lit the fire under the IMF to change its ways. But it seems just the names have changed in this truly grim fairy tale where only the banks get paid as we double down on SDRs instead of structural adjustment loans and implement austerity programs in place of job cuts.

Not being able to know who the bad guy really is helps keep us interested in the story and allows the cycle of crisis to continue. The Greeks, banks, Irish, Al-Qaeda and the government all played a role in putting us in a situation where cuts are going to be necessary along with tax hikes but the biggest baddie in the financial press these days seems to be China. Sure, China's on board, what with the G20 and now a Special Advisor to the Managing Director at the IMF, their cash is needed, but the boss is still European and Canada has a bigger vote than Russia, or Brazil and Mexico combined. The US still has a veto power with over 16% of the vote, as major policy decisions require a supermajority of 85%. For these past 20 years much of the world has gone along with what the IMF prescribed, often having no choice, accept or perish, but there has been growing evidence that there might be another path to choose and many are taking it.

About ten before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1978 the Chinese government began making economic reforms that have brought in a hitherto unknown combination of mixed ownership, basic property rights, and heavy government intervention. On the surface, what distinguished this new capitalism seemed to be the level of government intervention. While this is true, what surprisingly sets Washington and Beijing apart is flexibility. While America opts for nostalgia and ideology instead of pragmatism and progress, the winning model of capitalism is being made in China, like so much else in the world these days. A two-party political system is no better, in fact worse, than a one-party state when both parties are under the control of lobbyists and one of them is bought and paid for by a major media outlet. Whereas the neoliberals and neocons invade nations financially and militarily through loans and bombs in order to exploit their resources, the Beijing Consensus simply builds them infrastructure in exchange for their riches. Roads and hospitals for copper and rare earth metals. Risk capital instead of lives. Seeing the game slipping away, the west, America in particular, is trying to find a scapegoat, blaming the winner for playing the game better.

So we'll continue hearing a lot about the yuan (renminbi? still don't understand the difference) being undervalued while not criticizing too directly as we're still offering the open hand of the G20. After all, it'll be good to spread the blame when things fall apart. The Chinese understand that it wasn't American style management skills that made the US the global economic leader for the past century but a combination of luck and directing the resources of the country in a productive manner. Think of the big money makers of the past century and their connection with government. From the direct to the indirect in the big picture and in the details. Militarily not only conquering markets that needed to be rebuilt after winning world wars or friendly invasions but also directly employing and educating soldiers along with buying and selling all those weapons of war. Boeing, General Electric and Haliburton anyone? All this spending and the hydrogen bomb gave a head start to the computing industry and even gave us the internet. Detroit wouldn't have had the run it did if an interstate system hadn't been built to handle all those cars criss-crossing the continent. There's no secret to China's success, it's much the same recipe America used when it understood that since market forces cannot even do something as simple as finance home mortgages it shouldn't be trusted to restore and maintain full employment, reduce global imbalances or prevent the destruction of the environment while preparing for a future without fossil fuels. China's doing it while somehow being both more overt and less conspicuous. Not wasting energy pretending to be what it's not at home and forcing their ideas on others abroad.

The success of the Chinese approach to modernization has struck the developing world as attractive and the developed as amazing. As the calls to control deficits grow louder and governments are told to cut more jobs, raise retirement ages and lower subsidies while bailing out banks, the Chinese will keep building the things we need and using the proceeds to fund the debt the IMF has ensured we're addicted to. While Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's in person offer of support to Greece (obviously in exchange for market access) was being gratefully accepted, the head of the IMF issued ominous warnings of a currency war being waged by those Chinese. In Europe the cracks are growing as "You can't have a monetary union without a reasonably coordinated fiscal policy" - Orwellian for a true supergovernment from that same IMF director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It gets worse in America where most of the public has been convinced that all things government or intellectual are bad - insert your own Palin 2012 vice presidential nominee here and imagine the outcome. Richard Nixon is attributed Milton Friedman's misquote that "We are all Keynesians now" after breaking the gold standard and reluctantly accepting John Maynard's economic ideas. The IMF was built upon that economist's ideas but I get the feeling that the next great shift in economics will have most of us saying "We are all Chinese now".

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ranting Like Rand Paul or Proving Godwin's Law?

Xenophobia. Sweden. Two words you probably wouldn't put together in normal conversation. How about these two: Intolerance. Holland. Probably not. Let's try again: Atheism. Nazism. Hmmm, getting warmer I suppose if you listened to the pope in England last month. Last one: Uncertainty. Extremism. Yeah, I know, both terms are a little more vague and therefore easier to associate, but what are you gonna do? Random thoughts while I ease into post-vacation life back here in Poland where holocaust deniers take people on their vacations. As I get caught up on the happenings around the world those last two words, uncertainty and extremism that is, seem to pretty much sum up what's been going on as we sit around waiting for something bad to happen.

It seems the UK elections in May, resulting in a hung parliament with no party taking half the vote, foreshadowed the ballot counting to be done for the rest of the summer. People just don't seem to know what to do or who to blame. They have an inkling deep down that the neoliberal, free market movement spearheaded by Reagan and Thatcher 30 years ago is responsible for many of the problems facing the world today but at the same time don't trust the left wing to fix things after watching their governments around the world throw good money after bad into a bottomless pit of technocratic waste. The extreme right UKIP may have siphoned off just enough of the Conservative vote to force them to seek a coalition with the Lib Dems. Pity Nick Clegg as he's forced to apologize for all the coming cuts after betraying his base by joining Cameron's party in government, not. A twisted good cop-bad cop routine. The Polish presidential election had a resurrected duck almost snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat as the eastern rural vote almost swept another Kaczynski into power after he had already conceded defeat. The left of centre label on President Komorowski's forehead (like a Washington state apple with a Kiwi sticker?) means he'll smile for the cameras with Merkel while supporting bailouts to pay back banks who enabled Greece's profligacy that we can just blame on the unions.

In Australia, where there is a compulsory Alternative Vote system to deliver decisive results(?!), voters were forced to choose who they disliked the least: a  power hungry, unmarried, atheist living with her boyfriend without plans to have a family or a Jesus saves budget creationist. Both were anathema to voters as Julia Gillard's Labor party and Tony Abbot's Liberal/National coalition failed to secure half the seats, each getting 72 seats out of a possible 150. The biggest ballot winner was the informal vote - being forced to vote, this is the best way not to do it down under - doodling and blanking one in twenty ballots . Not even tasty pork promises were enough to help the right as the green and independents joined Labor to form a government for awhile. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats both suffered ringing defeats in recent local elections. Um, yeah, who wants to keep the Euro afloat forever? The Democratic Party of Japan won an historic election victory in September last year but promptly lost its majority in Japan’s upper house of Parliament and barely avoided naming their third prime minister in the past year as perpetual deflation sparked the non-shooting currency war. The world is still in an economic rut that will get worse before getting better and voters are throwing darts trying to pin the blame.

You can't really blame folks for being so unsure of what to do in the current economic climate but really, Sweden? The Netherlands? It can't be a good thing when two of the countries that first come to my mind when thinking of paradigms of coexistence and tolerance have the election results they did. No, I'm not despairing over the fact that the Social Democrats, the party most responsible for building Sweden's society having governed for 65 of the last 78 years, suffered their worst electoral defeat in 90 years thus handing the conservative alliance their first consecutive electoral victory. No, it gets worse as the parliamentary door has been opened to the extreme right. The Sweden Democrats (SD), a far-right, anti-immigrant party that emerged from neo-Nazi groupings in the 1980s, overcame the minimum electoral barrier of 4% to gain access to the governing process. They received 5.7% of the vote, meaning they will occupy 20 of the 349 seats in Parliament. Oh, the uncertainty? Well, the alliance failed to secure a majority and though they along with all the major parties ruled out working with the SDs, to form a government, they seem to be the alliances only 'natural' ally.

Perhaps this wouldn't seem so bad in isolation but one has to look no further than neighbouring Denmark to see the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party has virtually dictated immigration policy since 2001. April elections in Hungary, where the crisis hit so hard the IMF had to step in (cue evil Darth Vader music) the ultranationalist, explicitly anti-Semitic Jobbik party took 17% of the vote, capturing a quarter of the 18 to 29 vote. Things are even worse in Holland. I'm not talking about the red light district closing or the smoking ban's effect on coffee houses, no, unfortunately it's even worse - another whack job taking advantage of people's fears. The June 9th national election results saw no party attain a majority like everywhere else. No party received over 2 million votes yet 7 parties got over half a million each. The Christian Democrats tumbled from power to fourth, the Muslim vote propelled a party led by a Jew into second picking up one less seat than a party committed to repeating all the same free market economic liberalization mistakes of the past 30 years. That People's Party for Freedom and Democracy 'won' taking 31 of a possible 150 seats simply by recycling the neoliberal economic policies of the past 30 years. Meanwhile a one-issue candidate devoted to hate managed to garner the third highest total of seats. That one-issue candidate's name is Geert Wilders.

Wilders Freedom Party (what a great propaganda name!) grew from nine seats to 24 of the 150 possible. While this amazing growth is due in part to the neglect of the traditional parties towards the issues of immigration and the future of the welfare state, the true roots of the appeal of his racist hate lie with Pim Fortuyn. A proud, openly gay politician, he had energized Dutch politics by convincing a significant portion of the electorate that the conservative values brought by Islamic immigrants weren't compatible with traditional Dutch values. Well, after turning tolerance into intolerance by 'unmasking' the others hate of their society's openness, he was killed in 2002 by a radical leftist animal-rights activist. While we'll never know if he would have become the first openly gay prime minister, he was voted greatest Dutchman of all-time two years later. His death was followed by the murder of film maker Theo Van Gogh after making Submission, a film critical of the treatment of women in Islam. Not only did the Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri shoot Van Gogh in the head eight times as he cycled to work, he also tried to decapitate him, leaving the blade along with another stuck into the body with a five page Jihad manifesto attached. These kinds of things tend to leave a mark on society.

There is a lot wrong with the immigration systems everywhere, not just Europe and Holland. Canada is grappling with Australia's 'boat people' dilemma by hoping that everyone forgets there have been 500 Tamils sitting in a dock for a month and a half; scream 'terrorists' while mothers give birth in custody. Never mind they were victims on the losing side of a genocidal civil war; it's more important to brand losers terrorists than condemn the victors, even if their president decides to give himself dictatorial powers. In Arizona you better be carrying your papers if your foreign looking, 70% of voters had had enough of Mexicans and supported the bill that forces law enforcement officers to check ID if they sense foreign blood. Racial profiling isn't a good thing when a Gallup poll revealed that 39 percent of Americans supported requiring Muslims in the country, including US citizens, to carry special identification. Maybe a green crescent moon instead of a yellow star?

Switzerland voted in a national referendum to ban the construction of minarets due to the obvious threat posed by the four found in the whole country. Belgium has passed a law banning the burqa, a garment estimated to be worn there by at least a hundred women. In Italy a woman was fined €500 for wearing a veil on her way to a mosque. The European backlash is almost understandable as newly arriving immigrants are simply herded through friend or family connections into established neighbourhoods, breeding pockets of life where non-Muslim women feel intimidated walking next to burka clad Fatima on her way home to be beaten. Classrooms where 3/4 of the students are from immigrant families, often without command of the language of instruction and going home to a world where forced marriages and honour killings are part of life. Neighborhoods such as Berlin's Kreuzberg are run by Arab and Albanian family clans that control crime syndicates and receive welfare benefits. Populism and xenophobic backlash is to be expected in times of economic uncertainty and blaming the other is the easiest and quickest way to win a vote. Here in Poland the first presidential election campaign following the IMF takeover from communism was influenced by a "secret Jew" whispering campaign against Prime Minister Mazowiecki that played along next to Lech Walesa's promises to "sweep the Jewish cabal out of the Warsaw Government". The uncertainty of the time allowed a populist movement to power an unknown 42-year-old Polish emigre holding Peruvian and Canadian citizenship into second place. With Polish troops having taken part in Iraq and now stationed in Afghanistan it's more in vogue to scream in protest against mosques than whisper about Jews.

I just wish there was some way to tie the events in Europe with those happening in the US of A. If only there were a group of people looking to exploit the current environment of uncertainty for some kind of political gain. Well, I guess this clip of the above mentioned Geert Wilders speaking at a 9/11 remembrance event organized by Ayn Rand disciple (motto: the only good poor person/Muslim/liberal is a dead one) Pamela Geller in New York to protest the building of an Islamic cultural centre will just have to do:

You see, America also has its own tradition of intolerance and hate to build on. While it's Muslims today who are the main target due to their inability to integrate and accept democracy, the same arguments were leveled in the 19th century by the Know Nothing movement who spread lies of  “the Catholic menace”. There's always been Glenn Becks to stir up hatred against the Irish, Germans, Italians or Chinese. Fear of the other seems to be a genetic legacy from caveman days which may make it easier to understand but doesn't lessen the danger that led folks to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

A perpetual war on terror, the economic crisis, Faux News and the Internet have combined in a perfect storm to incite racism and hatred of the other to greater levels than those in the immediate aftermath of the horrific events of September 11th, 2001. Amazingly, Dubya was more level-headed then than Joe six-pack is today declaring, "The Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion". Seems George just wanted to love them to death through invasion and occupation to even the score and grab their oil. Yet, here we are nearly a decade into invasions and occupations and we're still being bombarded almost daily with stories of pending terrorist attacks. A once proud and confident superpower sits around and watches as their country crumbles around them while resources needed to cover the cracks are siphoned overseas. Sending troops to die in faraway lands to kill or be killed creates pressure to believe that the lives of brown people in those lands are somehow less valued. See General William Westmoreland's infamous statement in the 1974 documentary "Hearts and Minds" that "the oriental doesn't put the same high price on human life as does the westerner." (It's at about 1:35 in the video.) After eight years of fighting a war without a frame of reference to judge victory it becomes ever more difficult to justify killing if you think the others' lives are as valuable as our own. In order to resolve any doubts we may have about the value of human life it's almost natural to want to degrade the value of that other.

After a 30 year binge celebrating the individualistic consumer spirit we woke with a vicious hangover in 2008 that made the millenium headache seem quaint. An economic crisis that seemed to require a collective response coming when it did, after a generation had been drilled to believe that less government equaled greater opportunities for growth, created cognitive dissonance. It seems incongruous to put our well being in the hands of a government that had seen every president since Carter run an election campaign against Washington, only to watch over as committees grew more numerous, more specialized and less reflective of the public. Seeing as successive governments proved to be increasingly incompetent at fixing problems while corporations flourished, we decided to hitch our carts to the express train to riches by electing those officials who could get us there quicker. Economic shocks may have been coming at shorter and more powerful intervals but who cared? Then, an economic catastrophe that no one yet fully understands forced governments that we no longer trust to intervene and prevent a worldwide collapse. But after 30 years of being told we could deal with things better as individuals, from health care to retirement savings and our children's education, this isn't what people wanted to hear. It must be someone's fault. The Mexicans picking vegetables in Arizona for way less than American citizens would was fine when everyone was on the gravy train of the real estate bubble. Now they're under attack, right-wingnut TV impersonators are forced to defend them in Congress because no one else will, which is a problem apparently as it takes time away from more important things, like Lindsey Lohan. A joke many sadly don't seem to get. Economic uncertainty may be even stronger than fear of attack. Super Sarkozy suddenly has to bribe Roma to get on planes to go home (so they can come back a month later) to appease the clamouring of the far right elements of society. Um, yeah, those communities are burning because there's no jobs for dark-skinned people with an accent.

Faux News has been the bullhorn of hate. The most watched news channel in America is a round-the-clock loudspeaker to deliver the wacky stuff dreamed up in the proliferation of "research institutes" that feed the press their trial balloons. The 24/7 consistency of both ideology and story selection more than amplifies the conservative message; it builds momentum for a story by hammering it over and over for days or weeks until the mainstream media finally feels compelled to discuss it, from birthers to truthers and all points in between. In a world where getting information has become part of a contest between iPads and Blackberries to deliver it faster and sleeker along with Facebook updates, it's no wonder our 140 character attention spans don't even notice the slander and revisionism. It slides by mostly unnoticed that Harvard gives awards to magazine editors who write "frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims". Evangelical ministers tell us the seed of Islam was passed to Obama through his father while once respected magazines run front page stories claiming Obama is fulfilling the dream of his Muslim, socialist, anti-colonial drunken Kenyan father. The scary part is that 52 percent of Republicans believe that it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world”. Bill O'Reilly is considered calm and moderate now that we have Glenn Beck.

It's no coincidence that all those Tea Party types have a thing for dressing up in retro garb screaming about socialism, authoritarian movements often pretend to be grassroots movements. Their words would have a lot more meaning if they had voiced them while the Bush administration launched two wars and a new entitlement, Medicare prescription drugs, while cutting taxes on the economic side all the while allowing Osama bin Laden to really win by destroying America's civil liberties. Now, suddenly, they're mad as hell about the deficit and won’t take it anymore from what they see as a foreign born capitalist hating Muslim? By the time Obama ran for president, "Muslim" was a slur, an accusation about his faith he felt compelled to deny. Racism is the only way to understand many of the attacks that have come out of the right-wingnut fear factory.

The public being fed so much garbage masks the real problems. Note that the Obama administration has undone not one of the powers that Bush arrogated to himself and is adding more all the while. The fact that Guantanamo is still open, US troops are still running Iraq and Afghanistan continues to spin further out of control costs more than just lives. State secret claims are being invoked to cover up plans to hunt and kill citizens. The magnet of hate that gave us Abu Ghraib and messed with people's ethical compass on the subject of torture, now has some questioning if Muslims even deserve First Amendment protection. Oh, Heretz isn't the only one spewing this hate and if you try to defend their freedom of religion you'll be attacked for being an apologist. Governors can invent stories about decapitated bodies in the desert to justify racist laws while others invent new racial epithets like "anchor babies" to justify repealing the 14th amendment, birthright citizenship. Could bin Laden, in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos?

None of these political movements represent a danger in isolation, but when taken together with the global economic situation and the meh attitude of the populace it strikes fear into the heart that once we notice how far we've fallen, it's usually too late. Rand Paul, he of the Kentucky primary Tea Party win, likes to whip up fear of the coming rise of the next Hitler with stories of people carrying money in wheelbarrows. He's right, there are parallels, but it's not wheelbarrows that scare me so much as, say, a Glenn Beck joking about poisoning the speaker of the house or talking about choking the life out of a filmmaker or fantasizing about beating a congressman “to death with a shovel” (Nancy Pelosi, Michael Moore and Charles Rangel, respectively). Chanting about death panels while spitting on and intimidating legislators doesn't bode well either. Mandatory vaccinations, anyone? Or a new war of aggression (after a false flag attack of some sort, c'mon Iran!). More government intrusions of the most intimate and controlling nature, internet, hello. Or arresting people without warrants. In America the best way to control the people is to get on the TeeVee and the best way to get on the TeeVee is to threaten to burn the Koran to protest a community center being built a few blocks from ground zero.

Mussolini said that "Fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merger of state and corporate power". Smoot-Hawley was no more of a beggar-thy-neigbbour policy than today's currency war that will pull any recovery chances into a protectionist pit. Privately owned militias such as Blackwater, or should I say Xe, may not wear brownshirts but they are bringing the same freedom that the 1920s Freedom Party brought Germany. Setting off club in hand in search of scapegoats may soothe our caveman urges but it keeps us occupied when we could be trying to solve the problems facing us. Once promising progressive presidents seem to be expanding wars, trying to assassinate American citizens, targeting peace activists, spying on Americans, dismantling public education; it almost makes one long for the good old days of George W. Bush. In some mosques, imams are encouraging the faithful to engage in Islamist terror while praising past attacks. Fanatics try to decapitate filmmakers fanning the flames of hatred in a perverse merry-go-round of one upmanship while banks are bailed out with taxpayer money which forces governments to cut back while people are thrown out of homes and jobs as they're not as important to the economy as those banks. It's no surprise we don't know who to vote for anymore. If only this were 19th century Salem and all we had to worry about were angry mobs burning witches.