Saturday, November 22, 2003

From the "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" Department:

A Dose of Reality



Compare the baseline projections if the Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2005 with the various other possible scenarios if Bu$hCo gets its way. The former scenario offers at least some hope that the Federal Government will, by the end of the decade, be out of the red. The alternative scenarios offer a bleak picture of continued and possibly worsening budget deficits over the next decade.



JFK Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party Nomination

From Sept. 14, 1960.



But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."



...I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.



...Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.



There's such a stark contrast between the current President and John Kennedy. When one looks generally at Kennedy's speeches and his efforts in domestic and foreign policy, there is a tremendously forward-thinking, optimistic, positive mentality. His words fit in quite nicely with FDR's credo that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. What's Bush done? Emphasize and play on our fears rather than our hopes and aspirations. Especially since 9-11, we've received a nearly daily dose of the theme "the world is a dangerous place"; "be afraid"; "you're either with us or against us"; ad nauseum. All the lofty talk about being a uniter rather than a divider, or bringing dignity back to the White House, of being a compassionate conservative have in the intervening years since 2000 proven to be merely so many empty words. The actions of this President speak, no...SCREAM quite the opposite.



Maybe part of the reason I'm drawn to Howard Dean is precisely that he "gets it" when it comes to the "vision thing." Get past the angry tone to his speeches, one finds Dr. Dean's message is essentially one of hope. Rather than the nationalism dressed up as patriotism, in Dean there is the patriotism inherent in focusing on rebuilding our nation's infrastructure and rebuilding our relations with allies that will put us in the long haul in a far stronger position than we are now. In Dean I see the hopefulness that characterized FDR and JFK, and the fire of Harry Truman and perhaps Teddy Roosevelt (from back in the day when Republicans had reformists in their midst).



Let's remember Kennedy, and then remind ourselves that there are leaders available who will gladly bring his legacy into the 21st Century.

40 Years Ago: The Kennedy Assassination

DJ tries to revive yodeling

Interesting article found in Al Jazeera



Writer and radio DJ Bart Plantenga sets out the answer in his book "The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World" which will be published early next month.



This cat not only looks at yodeling as it's been practiced in Swiss and German cultures & in US Country music, but also looks at other yodeling traditions such as those in Mexico and Central Africa. Should make for an interesting read. Of course the late legendary jazz vocalist Leon Thomas was well-known for his yodeling skills (most famously documented on the Pharoah Sanders tune, "The Creator Has A Master Plan"). I've heard samples of Pygmie yodels in various pop (e.g. Deep Forest) and jazz (e.g. Franklin Kiermyer) recordings, and they make for a stunning listen. Then again I also dig Tuvan throat singers and Tibetan chants, which are vocally kindred spirits to yodeling. As my younger friends would say, "it's all good."



Here's an earlier article that Bart Plantenga published in 1997: Will There Be Yodeling in Heaven?.

Handling the Bullies

Since I tend to equate political right-wing tactics with those used by common school-yard bullies, I thought this article is quite appropriate. To succeed against bullies, one must stand up to them, and one must neutralize them (ideally by refusing to play into their strengths, and assertively setting one's own course during the conflict). Something to think about.



Note: the Progressive Review has this amusing quote from a favorite comedian:



I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering. - Steven Wright

Bleak Outlook for U.S. in Iraq Says Blix

The gist: "I told you so."



Look to a new book out by Blix sometime next year perhaps.

John Bolton's Naked Lunch Moment

Add to the growing catalog of right-wing name-calling. And one wonders why I don't respect these people.



Then when the interview ended, Bolton, as he stood up and removed the microphone, asked Pilger, "Are you a Labour Party member?" As if that explained Pilger's questions about dead and injured civilians in Iraq. Clearly, Bolton had not been briefed. Pilger is an investigative reporter specializing in national security matters who has long been seen as a left-of-center crusader. A critic of his recently dubbed Pilger "the Eeyore of the left." One wonders who at the State Department let Pilger get this close to Bolton? (By the way, when Pilger interviewed Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, a Pentagon media official ordered Pilger to shut off his camera once Pilger began questioning Feith about civilian casualties.)



Replying to Bolton's jab, Pilger explained to him the current politics of Britain: "Well, Labour Party--they're the conservatives." Pilger meant "conservative" as in supporting Prime Minister Tony Blair's embrace of the war in Iraq.



By now Bolton was walking away from Pilger, looking like he much desired a fast separation. With a mischievous (or, some might say, wicked) smile on his face, Bolton shot back, "You're a Communist Party member?"



That was the Kodak moment, and it was captured by Pilger's camera operator. On Planet Bolton, if you inquire too forcefully about civilian casualties, you must be a commie. The Cold War might be over. But at least one senior Bush aide is keeping its spirit alive.


Shorter General Tommy Franks

Constitution, schmonstitution.:

Friday, November 21, 2003

Radiohead Frontman Protests Bush Visit

So much for future airplay on any Clear Channel stations.

Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About England

10. "Clocks are five hours fast"



9. "Everybody's speaking some crazy foreign language"



8. "Harry Potter won't return phone calls"



7. "So touchy about minor things...like going to war under false pretenses"



6. "They don't know where Saddam is either"



5. "Queen Elizabeth not half as funny as 'King of Queens'"



4. "Disappointed to learn 'Big Ben' is just a giant clock"



3. "Pack a gum costs 2 pounds -- who carries two pounds of money?!"



2. "I've been here for 36 hours and Prince Charles hasn't made a single move on me"



1. "Driving on the left reminds me of my drinking days"




I knew I liked David Letterman. This is just one example of why.

200,000 Protesters in London

As estimated by organizers. Scotland yard puts their estimate at 70,000. The truth is probably somewhere between those two figures. Regardless, this was apparently one of the biggest mid-week protests in London's history. Impressive.







Here's some more photos:















Urban Legend?

Spit and Polish: Conscience, memory and the roots of war



I've seen this floating around blogtopia a bit lately. A sociologist (who coincidentally is also a Vietnam vet) has apparently been doing some archival research and his findings contradict the general widely-held belief that anti-war protesters during the Vietnam era were spitting on veterans when they returned from their tour of duty. Apparently, he scoured news reports, police records, and so on, and found nothing.



I want to reserve judgment until I get a chance to read Jerry Lembcke's research directly (and yes, his book is now on my short list of books to get a hold of and read). That said, I do think it's worth pointing out the psychology behind urban legends.



Probably a large number of us have at one time or another heard some plausible-enough sounding story and accepted it as true, only to find out later that there is absolutely no truth-value to the story whatsoever. These stories, or urban legends, are effective because of several quirks of our cognitive capacities, limitations, and language capability. We are quite adept at processing information rapidly, and our brains enable us to store new information in practically limitless quantities. However, we are not necessarily that effective at retrieving memories, nor are we able to process more than a few pieces of information (such as memories) at one time. Also, as social psychologist Dan Gilbert has noted, we tend to be Spinozans in our approach to new messages: we generally accept others' messages as true, and once accepted, it can take considerable effort to shake our faith in those messages' truthfulness.



So how does the urban legend fit? Someone tells a story. Typically the story is rather vivid, detailed, and emotionally charged, and it seems to be reasonably truthful on the surface. One of my favorites is the legend of the McDonalds burgers made out of worms. Fast food joints can be pretty shoddy operations, and let's face it, McDonalds burger meat does taste kind of strange. Thing is, it was all made up. However, even after the message is debunked, the message can take a life of its own. Researchers who study attitudes and persuasion point to a phenomenon called the "sleeper effect." Even when we dismiss the source as not credible, over time we tend to forget the source (humans are notoriously bad at remembering names) but remember the gist of the story (especially if it's vivid, emotionally charged and so forth). So we end up concluding that "yeah, I don't remember where I heard this, but it sure seems believable enough."



In the case of protesters spitting on soldiers and veterans, we can look at how emotionally charged the Vietnam era was. Anti-war activists were especially angry during this time, and in my opinion quite justifiably so. No doubt many soldiers felt rather uncomfortable during this period when they encountered protesters. It is easy to imagine a scenario where someone might spit at someone in a military uniform given the context. Probably the original story began circulating in oral form during the 1970s in the aftermath of Vietnam, and over time became accepted as fact. Today, the legend is used by hawks to sell controversial military ventures and to portray dissidents as intolerant, disrespectful, unpatriotic. That there is no evidence to support this apparent legend is probably of little importance to those who are true believers or who have some stake in people continuing to believe the myth.



One thing to note, although Lembcke and other social scientists have found no evidence of anti-war protesters spitting on soldiers, they have found an abundance of evidence that troops have spat upon anti-war protesters, as well as harrassed anti-war protesters (such as name calling, e.g., "commies" "traitors" "cowards").



It's a good idea to remind ourselves that just because a message seems plausible on the surface does not ncessarily mean it's true.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

In Today's "Shock and Awe" Department:

Perle openly admits that the invasion of Iraq was illegal.



Nothing new, really. Hell, that's what critics were saying during the run-up to the war. Still, that someone at Bu$hCo just comes out and says something truthful is jaw-dropping.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Scaife Attack: The Mainstream Churches

This from Orcinus' excellent blog. I have some thoughts of my own to add, and think I will add over the next several days. I think I will start with a bit of my personal history. My religious background has always been a bit mixed. My mom is a devout Southern Baptist. My dad is an atheist, though his own family background fits nicely within the Anglican tradition (we also have some Seventh Day Adventists from his side of the family). Suffice it to say, I got some mixed messages fairly early in life. Much of what I experienced from Church services, bible school, and so on was that God was one deity you didn't want to irritate. The message was namely one of fear: fear of damnation, of sin, of those who might be different. Not exactly attractive stuff for a young mind. My dad was pretty open about his own skepticism, and ultimately I ended up turning away from the Baptist scene and by my late teens considered myself an atheist.

Part of what I was seeing in my teens was this rather negative authoritarian message from various church leaders. Remember this was the early 1980s, when the Moral Majority and The Religious Roundtable were rearing their ugly heads. The impression I got was that to be a Christian meant being a Republican, being fearful, intolerant. I already pretty much considered the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s and the non-authoritarian skepticism of mainstream science as my intellectual and ideological touchstones. The increasingly fundamentalist Baptist crowd, and fundamentalism generally, were truly not for me.

Over the past couple decades, I've continued to read, ponder, and reflect. Several people have re-opened my eyes and my mind to Christianity during this period. A close friend of mine from my undergrad days was instrumental in convincing me that it was indeed possible to be a devoted Christian, politically progressive or even radical, non-conformist, and skeptical of organized religion. This cat lived it every day. If for some twist of fate he ever catches this blog, he has my undying thanks for opening my mind up. My wife, Madame (as she shall be known here), has been another key contributor. At one point she was considering becoming a Methodist minister. Ultimately she chose Social Work as her academic path, and currently is choosing being a home-maker as her career path. She gently nudged me into going to some Methodist church services, and over the years I have come to feel quite at home with the Methodist crew that I at least informally consider myself a kindred spirit.

So where am I at? I'm not 100% sure. I do know this much: that I'm willing to at least accept that there is some cosmic "force for unity in life" to quote the late great John Coltrane. My best guess is that this ultimate force is something along the lines of the Tao as characterized by Lao Tzu and various Zen writers. Somehow I read the various gospels of Christ's life and get the impression that he was at least aware of and influenced by various Eastern ideas that were in the air at the time in the Middle East where he would have lived and traveled. I've also come to see his message as one that was essentially egalitarian and progressive in tone.

What I was reacting to in my youth was an authoritarian vibe that seemed at odds with Christ's teachings: one that seemed more at home with the Pharisees and would-be Caesars. What I am increasingly embracing as middle-age approaches is more of the progressive, unifying, tolerant vibe. As it turns out, within the mainline denominations, I'm not alone.

As I said, there's more to be written. For now, this is a start.

Today's Tunes

I seemed to be in the mood for some of Mtume's early solo work. Most people probably remember Mtume as a R&B artist and producer who was at his commercial peak during the end of the 1970s through about the mid 1980s. Others may know him as a progressive community leader & activist. However, he started out as a jazz percussionist who made significant contributions to Miles Davis' sound during the early to mid 1970s, and who was in demand as a sessions musician on various jazz recordings during the late 1960s through the 1970s.



Today while spending time with my daughter (she's about a year and a half), I put on Kawaida. It's essentially a Mtume solo album in all but name. Usually the album gets attributed to Herbie Hancock on those rare occasions where it is in print. Mtume contributes the lion's share of the compositions and his vision of black unity and freedom is evident throughout the recording. Obviously some great drumming and percussion (for those of us who dig rhythm sections), and the line-up is truly all-star (Herbie's there on piano, Bennie Maupin on reeds, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, etc.). It's one of those hard to classify albums -- elements of bop, free jazz, African, and Turkish musics appear to varying degrees through out the album, which ends with a very strident and inspired spoken-word piece. If you can find it, well-worth checking out.



Now, as I sit in my office, I've got Alkebu-lan, an early 1970s album from a live gig that is simply mind-blowing. The album starts with a strident and positive spoken-word intro, and then the rather large ensemble lays into some heavy-duty purcussion-laden free improv, complete with vocals, chanting, and brass & woodwind sounds that truly take improvised music (jazz or whatever you want to call it) to the next level. The music is accoustic, but if you put this album side by side with the stuff with Mtume's contributions to Miles Davis' electric work from the same period, you'll hear the connection. Thank goodness for the internet, as I was able to find someone who had transferred his lp to cd. It's hard to find, but again, to get a feel for the state of avant-garde jazz and the state of the civil rights movement this is the chronic.

Chasing Bush

Check out the website. If you're in the UK and reading this blog, do what you can to make his visit to the UK as uncomfortable as possible.

Liberals Fight Back; Pundits Are Shocked

A commentary on the apparent belief among many commentators and talking heads that the normally docile liberal and progressives have taken on the theme "Liberals Gone Wild." As should be clear from my prior posts on this issue, I say it's about damn time! To have the courage of one's convictions means standing up and being counted. Unilaterally disarming ourselves of the best weapon we have -- our words, our ideas -- is political suicide. We know it. Certainly those on the other side of the political fence know it (which is why they want us to relinquish our words). Bullies thrive on power. When that perception of power is forcefully challenged, bullies tend to get more bellicose. Bullies also tend to use a double standard: it's okay for them to be forceful, but if their victims start fighting back, well there must be something "wrong" with the victims. The lessons learned on the schoolyards of our youth need to be revisited. Ignoring or caving into schoolyard bullies never works. The one sure fire way to neutralize them is to hit them where it hurts as forcefully as possible.



Keep the faith. The struggle continues...

Fascism Watch Time

Here's Wednesday's NYT editorial regarding the "enemy combatant" b.s.:



November 19, 2003

'Enemy Combatant' Sham



he Bush administration insists that it can hold American citizens in secret as long as it wants, without access to lawyers, simply by calling them "enemy combatants." A New York federal appeals court heard a challenge to that policy this week by the so-called dirty bomber, Jose Padilla. The administration's position makes a mockery of the Constitution and puts every American's liberty at risk. It is important that the court strike it down, and give Mr. Padilla the rights he has been denied.



Mr. Padilla is an American citizen who was taken into custody in Chicago in May 2002. The government suspects him of being part of a "dirty bomb" plot by Al Qaeda, but it has not charged him. Instead, it has labeled him an enemy combatant and locked him up in a naval brig in South Carolina. He has been held there nearly 18 months, with no indication of when he will be tried or released. He has not been allowed to meet with a lawyer, despite a lower court ruling that he should be.



Of all the post-Sept. 11 denials of civil liberties, the enemy combatant doctrine is among the worst. It gives the president untrammeled authority to lock up Americans merely by asserting that they are part of a terrorist plot. In its argument to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit this week, the government insisted that military-style rules like the enemy combatant doctrine now apply to American citizens, even on American soil, because Al Qaeda has "made the battlefield the United States."



Governments are always tempted to detain perceived enemies without charges, hold them incommunicado and deny them counsel. But the framers of the Constitution knew that if the government was allowed to act on those impulses, the result would be tyranny. That is why they built into this nation's founding document the very rights the Bush administration is intent on taking away.



Fortunately, it appears from this week's argument that the appeals court panel saw through the administration's spurious justifications. "As terrible as 9/11 was,"` Judge Rosemary Pooler observed, "it didn't repeal the Constitution."

Bush Bars Compensation For Tortured U.S. POWs

One more thing that gets me really irate



At this point, this is pretty old news. It's been hashed out in blogtopia, in the newspapers, internet news sources, and so on. But still, the fact that POWs from the first Gulf War of 1991 won their day in court and were awarded money from Saddam's regime and are now being denied that compensation is inexcusable. Whatever one's thoughts about war (I'm generally anti-war, and I thought the first Gulf War was a mistake), this much to me is certain: our veterans deserve our respect and that includes the respect of our elected officials. Bush talks a good game regarding our soldiers and veterans, but he consistently fails to walk the walk. The POWs deserve their award. While no amount of money will truly compensate for the damage done while imprisoned in Iraq, the award does have symbolic and tangible benefits. Sure beats sending those funds to feed Haliburton's coffers, and heck, I'd be willing to wager that with those settlement checks, those POWs will be putting some of that money into our own economy. Now there's a concept. In any event, Bu$hCo is once again proving to be beyond the pale.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Remind Us:

Why Did the United States Government Invade and Destabilize Iraq?



Why did the Bush Administration send 150,000 of our husbands wives sons and daughters to die in Iraq?



How many US solidiers killed? Over 400. How many Iraqis killed? In the thousands. How many WMD found? 0. That's right: zero, zip, zilch, nada.



Interesting flash presentation, using the very words of Bush and other players in the President's inner circle. The way the American people and the global community have been played by Bu$hCo makes me angry. There are plenty of constructive outlets to make that anger heard. Let's get it together and make some noise.

And in the "Oh, the Irony" Department:

Feast your eyes on this headline:



U.S.'s 'Iron Hammer' Code Name 1st Used by Nazis

The Vanishing Case For War

Want a synopsis of the Bush White House claims regarding Hussein's alleged WMDs and the supposed Hussein-Osama connection? Here the myths are debunked one by one. The article also points to the dangers of groupthink. The group in question (Bush and his inner circle) shrouded their decision-making in secrecy and shielded themselves from evidence against the dominant opinions of the inner circle. The author also points to a systemic problem with the relationship between the President and the CIA. The CIA has but one client: the President. CIA directors wishing to maintain a good working relationship with that President deliver what he wants. If he wants a serious candid account, the CIA delivers. If he wants his own beliefs confirmed and nothing else, the CIA delivers. Apparently that is what happened here. How to fix that systemic problem? I'm not sure what the easy answer is beyond making CIA directors more independent of the White House: take the hiring and firing of these individuals out of the hands of the White House, and perhaps put the initiative for such decisions into the hands of the Senate? Just a thought.

Jessica Lynch: From Hero, to Whistle-Blower, to Celebrity

Here's a story the Bushies wish would go away. Once upon a time she was looked upon as an acquaintance of mine once put it "a symbol of what we are fighting for." She's a symbol all right: her story is really quite symbolic of the comedy of errors and deception that's characterized the Iraq invasion and occupation since the beginning when the war was little more than a neocon's wet dream.



Of course now that she's proving to have the courage of her convictions and is refusing to play along with the charade, her celebrity status is destined to fade fairly abruptly. Her 15 minutes are nearly up. Something tells me she probably won't mind.

'Damn right we're angry! And that's how we'll win'

The gist: anger is good. It's an emotion that tells us that something is dreadfully wrong in our environment. It motivates us into action. Or to take a lyric from a now obscuroid early 1980s hard rock tune (by one-hit wonder the B'zz): "get up, get angry.."

Monday, November 17, 2003

What Goes Around Comes Around

Impose steel tariffs to bolster your election chances, and find yourself facing a trade war affecting several swing states instead. This is getting interesting.

A couple gems from Antiwar.com

The Neocons are Losing. The gist: the hardliners are unhappy with the apparent change in strategy for Iraq. It's fun to see the neocons get their knickers in a knot.



Hold the Neocons Accountable. The gist: there are plenty of people with good reason to be ticked off at the neocon hardliners. Now's as good a time as any to hold their feet to the fire.

The Prez in Topless Tabloid

A quote from the Washington Post:



After coming to office with a vow to restore dignity to the White House, the president yesterday took a brief sabbatical from that effort: He granted an exclusive interview to a British tabloid that features daily photographs of nude women and articles akin to those found in our own National Enquirer.





Note that the above link will get you to The Sun. The paper's main draw, though, is Page 3, which features numerous pictures of topless young ladies. Quite amusing, to be sure, but more than a bit hypocritical for someone who promised to bring dignity back to the White House.

DU SCOOP! (must read) $28 Million to get DRAFT READY BY JUNE 15, 2005!!

Read this official budget carefully and you will see that Bush is gearing up the draft--there is no longer any doubt about it. Selective Service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005, that the system is ready for activation within 75 days. So on June 15, 2005, expect the announcement that the first draft lottery since Vietnam will be held for 20 year-olds.



And indeed the Selective Service System is gearing up by trying to fill vacancies in long-dormant draft boards.



A vote for Bush in 2004 is a vote to reinstate the draft in 2005? Something to think about.



Bush Really Earns His Chickenhawk Wings

Apparently he's cancelled his speech to the Parliament due to fear of being heckled by MPs. Granted, the UK Parliament can be a fairly rough and tumble sort of environment. But still, for the presumable leader of the most powerful nation, the same leader who was taunting Iraqi insurgents this summer, to avoid Parliament because someone might heckle him...that's just plain cowardly. Oh well, Bush has been running away from his troubles all his life. What's new?



update: Earlier this year, Bush pulled out of a European Union Parliament speech when the EU leaders refused to guarantee a standing ovation. Bush apparently also wanted no protesters or hecklers present then too. What could Bush possibly be afraid of?



Updated UpdateCheck out Spadehammer's blog for a nice compendium of articles surrounding Dubya's impending visit. Scroll down to the post entitled BUSH VISIT TO GO OVER LIKE F.R.T. IN CHURCH. It all makes for some entertaining reading.



I certainly hope the Brits give Bush hell.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

The One Document that Bu$hCo Does Not Want You to Read

The United States Constitution

A brief compendium of articles on fascism

When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History by Thom Hartmann

Drifting Toward Fascism by David Rozelle

Early Signs of Fascism: an interview with Professor Richard Falk

Is America Becoming Fascist? by Anis Shivani

Fascism Anyone? by Laurence W. Britt

War: Everyone Wants It (Except Smart People and the U.N.)

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis in pdf or html format by David Niewert

And while you're at it, here's a quick summary of Neoconservatism, which is ideologically the American variant of fascism.

Plenty of food for thought. Dive in.

HR 3077

also known as "political correctness neocon-style"



The gist: Big Brother wants to stifle academic discourse when it comes to mideast policy.



While the legislation has no direct bearing on my own research interests, it is still disquiting and I think those of us in academe must fight this kind of legislation if for no other reason than that our strength in the academic community has been in our relatively free and uninhibited exchange of ideas, theories, and data. Note that this bill was passed unanymously in the House of Representatives. Next stop: the Senate.

The Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party

A must-read post over at the Daily Kos. It hits the nail right on the head. Read for yourself. 'Nuff said.

So Is the Mass Media in the US Merely Existing to Serve The Republican Party?

In the aftermath of the cancellation of the Reagans mini-series and the fanciful portrayal of Jessica Lynch's rescue that aired recently on national television, the question is increasingly legitimate and increasingly urgent. Two columnists tackle this question and come to fairly similar conclusions. The gist of George Ochenski's latest column is that today's media moguls would much rather feed the public sanitized accounts of the Iraq war via embedded reporters and minimal coverage of the grim details of the war and occupation, Jessica Lynch's capture and rescue in an amazing tale littered with half-truths and damn lies, and the cancellation of the Reagans mini-series (probably a pretty mediocre mini-series) for daring to portray his administration as corrupt and Reagan himself as incompetent. Michael Ventura's column explores the parallels between the mass-media of contemporary America and that of early 1930s Germany as the Nazis took power. Surely we have reach an historic first in the US, in which mass media outlets are directly serving the political powers-that-be. For the first time a political party dictates what is on this country's airwaves. A quote from Ventura: What happens if corporations, in order to achieve their agenda of profit and dominance, take on the cultural agenda of the far right in order to please Republicans? Until now only Rupert Murdoch's Fox empire has openly taken sides in our culture wars. If this becomes standard corporate practice ("the price of doing business," as they say) our atmosphere could resemble Germany's in the early 1930s, when, one by one, the major cultural venues gradually kowtowed to the Nazi Party, allowing no other visions to reach mass circulation. Then think of the far right's cultural agenda: a fundamentalist Christian state; the rights of women, gays, and nonwhites severely curtailed and controlled; creationism taught as fact in public schools; history, science, and art subject to ideological whims. What if that also becomes the corporate agenda? Most people in America, after all, work directly or indirectly for corporations that demand economic obedience; what happens if they begin also to demand right-wing ideological purity, in order to curry favor with the dominant party?



I know there are plenty of people who will say "it can't happen here." Truth is, people in Germany during the Weimar Republic's waning days seemed to have a similar mindset, and seemed to react with disbelief as the Nazis continued their assault on civil liberties and consolidation of power. Within a matter of years, a thriving press had been reduced to parroting the propaganda of the Nazi regime. Could that be happening here? It would be overly simplistic to say that Bush is the second-coming of Hitler. It is considerably more accurate to note that the psychological characteristics of Bush, Hitler, Stalin, and other despots and their loyalists are remarkably similar. American fascism has its own unique quirks, but is cut from similar cloth as other fascist movements: a low tolerance for ambiguity, a need to marginalize and if necessary silence dissent, a rigidly hierarchical and regimentation of the political and social lives of the citizenry including demands of ideological purity, the use of fear as a means of control, and a state of perpetual war against some ambiguous enemy. It goes without saying that the US is at a cross-roads. The struggle continues.