" /> I write: July 2008
Curmudgeonalia
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July 30, 2008

Culture and Conflict in the Middle East

Philip Carl Salzman – ISBN – 9781591025870

This two-hundred page tome is worth far more its thirty-five dollar price. A Mideast scholar said it was one of the most important books of the last four decades. It is an easily read disquisition because of the author’s crisp style and avoidance of trivia which commonly bury the casual reader. Most of us know that something is wrong with Islam; he circumspectly explains what . . . and why.

Salzman is an anthropologist, but the text embraces history and psychology along with culture, and he contextualizes all of this as he outlines his unique explanation of Islam’s problems. It is Islam he discusses . . . in ways consistent with the facts as he emphasizes that he is not being judgmental. Rather, he delivers information as he interprets it, as did Bernard Lewis in What Went Wrong. The bibliography is long, and includes myriad expert tracts.

His section on the Rise of Islam (fewer than 50 pages) is stunning. Amongst the things he dispels forever is the much-touted maxim that Islam is a religion of peace. It is not, never has been . . . and he persuasively documents it using Muslim sources. During their conquests from the 7th to the 11th century, millions were slaughtered, more millions enslaved, and the survivors of their holocaust were reduced to dhimmitude: expropriated, suppressed and degraded. The hallmark of Arab Empires was the enslavement of conquered peoples—except for those murdered, of course. Even men who converted to Islam were stripped of their belongings, their wives and their children. In the era of Muslim dominance most of the world functioned the same way, but they were exceptional in that they were more cruel.

“We have repeatedly been told of the tolerance that existed in the Muslim world, and of the flourishing of minorities under the enlightened guidance of Islamic law and Muslim rulers. But the historical evidence for a darker picture is overwhelming and irrefutable.”

His critical observation is that Arabic—and therefore Islamic—culture is composed of balanced opposition between like groups, which served their early culture optimally. It established “a substantial degree of order and security” necessary for survival in their desert environment. Balanced opposition results in individual and group independence, encourages freedom and courage along with equality and responsibility, but it also lends itself to bellicosity and friction. It breeds specific loyalties and a rigid honor culture. We’ve all heard this described as my kin against yours, our tribe against others, Sunni against Shia, and all Muslims against the world (especially religions other than Islam.)

At each level of affiliation there is an enemy. For each act the relevant question is: who acted and who is closest to me? All parties agree about what they are against, but never upon what they are for. This negativity and rigid honor (see below) precludes the development of a state as the West understands it; one of law and order, objectified by things upon which we all agree and delegate to government. Thus we concede to the state those things which we cannot do, or do so well alone. They do not. They move thru a chain of affiliations seeking resolution. There is no law, per se, except that prescribed in the Koran . . . or by the sword (now the Kalashnikov or the homicide bomber.)

Huntington (in The Clash of Civilizations) observed that neither “rule of law” nor “constitutionalism” have ever existed in the Arab Mideast because of this commitment to the group. There is no recognizance of abstract, universally applicable rules, and law has never been a factor in political order. The ultimate goal is winning, not acceding to a rule.

In their world, state authorities have always used the peasantry to provide income. For 4,000 years of history the tax collectors, police and the army have been tools of population control. There is no beneficence. Urban areas produce little or nothing, as they depend on the hinterlands for those materials necessary for consumption and trade.

Remote tribes have always had the power to avoid many state sanctions, and have often warred against it. They war for independence and/or the purpose of becoming the state, so that their tribe controls the largess. There is the potential for a war of all against all, which is controlled in some measure by intra-family or tribal balance. This provides space to live with a level of security, predictability, and understanding.

One is honor bound to provide whatever is needed by the balanced group to which he belongs. In turn he lives with the assurance that if in need he will be assisted. Honor thus becomes all. It is earned by victory and lost in defeat. Victims are despised, not celebrated. Honor is more important than any measurable form of success; even life itself. Notwithstanding, success is sought and measured by how much chattel or territory is controlled. It is honorable to do whatever is necessary to prevail. “Winner-take-all” is the only rule: might makes right. Right and wrong are questions never considered. Morality demands that one strive, always, to advantage one’s own group and disadvantage the adversary. Nothing is more common in the history of tribes than battles between them over territory, livestock, watering holes and women. Even marriages arranged for the purpose of retaining asset control, and women, as chattel, are traded and assigned as such.

In the U.S. it has been sarcastically noted that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” We use that maxim in sports, but they honor it in all parameters at all times. They regularly lie, cheat and steal; they fight to the death rather than surrender, despite overwhelming odds. Islam teaches that surrender isn’t an option. Recall that before “Charlie Wilson’s War” Afghans fought Hind Helicopters with Enfield rifles while children threw rocks. A truce is allowable if it serves a purpose: recovery from battle, rearming, or reconnoitering, but resumption of conflict is required victory is assured. It is dishonorable and verboten to leave the field. Hence there is unending conflict, and this has prohibited progress in their societies for centuries. They are constantly at war with someone.

• In the world of the past half century or so, two-thirds of global conflicts involve Islamic countries, either against other Islamic countries or the rest of the world. Eighty 80 percent of those conflicts are violent, and half are full scale wars. Quietude exists only when it is imposed by a dominant regime (e.g. Hussein, Mubarak, or the Saudis)
• Illiteracy in the Muslim world is nearly 50%, and most of the educated are taught in the West. When they return home they seldom find employment outside government since there is no industry. Average output of the Arab world per million inhabitants is 2% of that in industrialized nations.
• The GNP of the entire Muslim Mideast is about equal to that of South Korea, and most of that is derived from oil, found by the West, processed by Western technology, and used in large measure by the West, with Western supervision. The incredible sums taken in by the sale of oil are used by the state to suppress the peasantry, reward the brethren, and make war on each other and the world.
• Rather than study and correct the problems, they seek someone to blame; usually the West.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not over land! Muslims believe Allah has ordained Islamic rule, and it is the duty of Muslims to enforce that principle. A secular, pragmatic solution has no appeal; similarly so with the rest of the world.

There have, indeed, been periods of European imperial disruption, but these have come and gone without displacing tribal society and its balanced opposition. “It is to the [culture] that we must look to understand the current circumstances and difficulties of the Arab Middle East. The lesson is that in the Arab world, [as everywhere else], culture matters” . . . multiculturalist beliefs notwithstanding.

I could go on, but ‘twould be more rewarding and informative if you just read the book. Highly recommended!

Posted by respeto at 12:13 PM

July 28, 2008

Good Night, Mr. Tom

Michelle Magorian – ISBN 9780064401746

This is not my usual fare. I stumbled on to it in random reading, and present it only because it is a wonderful book for adolescents, and interesting for adults. Published in 1982 by a “one book” author, it won a children’s book award in England. It is a classic of sorts, and still in print. Also a movie available from NetFlix.

The plot line is that of early WW II in England, and children were being evacuated to the countryside for their safety. Mr. Tom, a widower of many years, condescends to take in a young refugee—Willie—from the slums of London. Willie is a shy, abused, mousy little creature afraid of everything and convinced that he is worthless, friendless and irredeemable. Mr. Tom changes all of that, with a wonderful assist from the villagers of remote L’il Weirwold.

Willie becomes Will, has friends and a future, though he experiences a number of calamities along the way, including a brief return to his abusive mother.

The horrors of Will’s life are overwhelmed by the loving care of Mr. Tom and the Weirwoldians. Along the way Will learns many things about the world outside of the slums, and teaches many life lessons applicable to all young readers, as it reminds us old codgers of their continued importance.

This would be a wonderful gift for adolescent grandkids. Cheap, too.


Posted by respeto at 11:42 AM

July 25, 2008

Cod

A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
Mark Kurlansky – ISBN – 9780140275018

As usual, this elegantly crafted little treatise--on a very important fish--is readable, entertaining, and chock-a-block full of information and interesting asides, all of which are Kurlansky hallmarks. It marries the politics and economics of the subject, and is one of his earliest offerings (1998); likely the book which “put him on the map.” He has become one of my favorite writers. I’m working my way thru all of his books--having already reviewed on this site Salt, The Big Oyster, 1968. You may soon hear about some of t’others.

As with the narratives on salt and oysters, he travels the world to explain the importance of life altering/sustaining products. Into this maritime history he weaves facts about feeding Caribbean slaves, and the Yankee trading of their salted fish for the Caribbean molasses, from which New Englanders brewed the preferred drink of the era: rum. He slips in an aside about how George Washington, in his earliest campaign for the House of Burgesses, supplied gallons of rum and rum punch to a mere handful of voters. Along with this factoid he emphasizes that the hectoring by the British Crown--by forbidding the trade in molasses--one might conclude that the Brits were intentionally “trying to rally Massachusetts around its radicals.” The revolution wasn’t over just the Tea Tax, of which we were taught in grammar school (at least those of us who were actually educated in our government schools.)

He discloses the little known fact that Basque fishermen were fishing their own secret sea (off-shore Canada) for over 400 years before Columbus “found” America, suggesting that Columbus may have known more about where he was going than is commonly supposed. He elaborates on the dangers of fishing, leaning heavily on the history of Gloucester, MA (not incidentally the subject of his recent book, The Last Fish Tale, as previously he wrote The Basque History of the World.

Discussions of the technology of fishing are comprehensive, as he explains that these “improvements” have resulted in the disaster which over-fishing has become in the 20th century. Despite “expert” determinations that nature’s bounty could not be overcome, we’ve succeeded. While we wish to see nature and evolution as separate from human activities, the natural world encompasses all.

Brits have determined that 70% of species in their waters are over-fished. American Cod are all but extinct (at least in commercial quantities) and “substitute” species are now being harvested with abandon. We are encouraging a host of not-so-great, but more adaptable, species as nature “doggedly searches for something which works; but as the cockroach demonstrates, what works best in nature does not always appeal to us.”

As well, we are approaching a time when there will be little “natural food” available for consumption. Much of the fish we now consume is farmed as, increasingly, are shellfish. Cow hunting became ranching, as ranching evolved into feed-lot production for cattle, as well as pork and fowl.

“There is a big difference” he observes, “between living in a society that hunts whales, and living in one that views them. Nature is being reduced to precious demonstrations for entertainment and education. . . . Are we headed for a world where nothing is left of nature but parks?” Having over hunted mammals, we preserve wild ones as best we can, as we farm our food. While it is harder to kill off fish than mammals, after a millennium of hunting the Atlantic cod, we’ve done it.

Beyond the environmental issues, the book is a wonderful read from the standpoint of history and adventure. As he always does, Kurlansky the gourmand provides us with numerous recipes, historic and modern, for this tasty fish . . . should you be able to find one to cook.

Posted by respeto at 12:05 PM

July 21, 2008

A Rant on Tony Snow's Death

I’ve debated for some time now whether or not to write on this subject, but with his demise I find it compelling. I’ve never been anguished over the illness and death of a man I don’t even know. It is his familial history which bothers me, and for those who just might happen into this essay I’d like to clarify the situation. Having spent my life practicing gastroenterology, I did learn more than a few things about it.

This is a rant on the medical profession and the management of his illness, which represents hubris on stilts! While I never had the privilege of meeting—never mind examining—him, his disease clearly was familial colonic polyposis. This is not the common problem many face with a family history of polyps, requiring periodic colonoscopy for removal of same, ideally beginning at age 40. Instead, it is a hereditary situation wherein thousands of polyps literally smother the colon, from which some die of colon cancer before age 30, making serial colonoscopies a practical impossibility and making death from colon cancer a virtual certainty. These polyps are so numerous that some may be overlooked, and the cancers often begin in microscopic polyps which cannot be identified at all.

Clearly Tony was caused to believe that routine colonoscopies, with attendant polypectomies, would be sufficient. They are not! His case proves this. Removal of the entire colon is the only answer in such situations, preferably before age 30, and ideally when the diagnosis is confirmed. This requires the construction of a stoma, or abdominal exit for the bowel waste, which in turn requires the constant use of a bag to collect the effluent: an ileostomy. I have seen many situations wherein this was necessary, for familial polyposis, ulcerative colitis, and more rarely Crohn’s Disease.

The problem with all is that the ileostomy creates a nuisance which all attempt to avoid except where absolutely necessary, as ileostomies are much more trouble to manage than colostomies.

Recall that Tony’s mother died of colon cancer when she was young . . . as was he. Herein lays the problem. With all but absolute certainty I will state that Tony was reassured that “that was then, and this is now,” and that ritual colonoscopies are all that is necessary, today, to prevent death from colon cancer. Either that, or colectomy was recommended, but not insisted upon, which allowed him to believe that he had a choice. I believe the former to be the case, which is why I have described it as hubris on stilts.

The arrogance of modern physicians is frightening to me, but it reflects the generational attitudes of the 60’s; those who trivialized the wisdom of age and judgment, and chose to believe that there was little reason to trust anyone over 30 (until, that is, they reached 30 themselves). Confident that Tony needn’t live with an ileostomy, they assured that he would die of colon cancer. He could have lived a normal life to a normal age, even died of old age! He certainly would have lived to see his children grow up.

More than occasionally I had to counsel, sometimes even frighten patients into accepting, that there was no alternative to a given course of therapy, based upon my training, experience and reading of contemporary literature. They might find another physician who disagreed, but it would not alter my opinion, forcefully held by years of experience—not all of it good. As many sages have observed in the past, some things are simply true, whether or not you like it. This is/was such a situation.

For those who have, specifically, familial polyposis, removal of the colon is the only way to absolutely prevent colon cancer. Period! An ileostomy is nowhere as bad as an early death, especially when accompanied by the agony of repeated surgeries, chemotherapy and all the rest.

Posted by respeto at 2:38 PM

July 20, 2008

Thank You For Smoking

Christopher Buckley – ISBN – 9780812976526

This novel is a hoot . . . especially for those who enjoy witty, intelligent writing, absent gore with only peripheral references to sex.

The plot revolves around Washington lobbyists for lethal vices: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The principal protagonist and his two friends meet regularly for lunch, which meetings are for commiseration and brainstorming. They identify themselves as the MOD squad (Merchants of Death), and admit that what they do is morally obtuse; still, do it well and take peculiar pride in their achievements.

The serpingenous plot carries the reader thru numerous, often humorous, uncommonly well crafted and usually deceitful activities which the principals use to hawk and defend their products, which activities are not occasionally used against them. All can identify the disingenuity of the tobacco lobbyists who, to this day, deny the relationship of smoking to disease. Nick Naylor, chief lobbyist for the “Academy of Tobacco Studies” (as it is cunningly named), is the main character of the story. He is brilliant at what he does, and parries the most severe challenges with astute, devastatingly distracting arguments when confronted with facts.

For instance, a senator from Vermont has proposed a law to require the placement of a skull and cross-bones on cigarette packages. At a scheduled committee hearing the senator sears him with health facts from thousands of studies about the deleterious effects of tobacco. Nick simply turns the tables by commenting that many of the “so-called facts” are just that. In riposte he emphasizes that there is no disagreement that cholesterol is unchallengeably awful, and that Vermont cheddar cheeses are loaded with it. Unprepared, the senator is crushed by the deviation from his planned attack and is immediately put on the defensive.

Nick is thereafter treated like royalty by the MOD squad and the captains of the industries they represent, while most of congress, the media and HHS are apoplectic. (HSS, you’ll remember, is Health and Human Services, though the MODs refer to it Helpless, Hopeless and Stupid.)

In that context the author comments that “Nick graciously thanked Chairman [and the Senator] Finisterre for the opportunity to present his views before such a distinguished committee. How proud the founders would have been of the [committee’s] senators: over two thousand bounced checks between them, a seducer of underage Senate pages, three DUIs, one income-tax evader, a wife beater whose only defense was that she’d beat him up first, and a case of plagiarism, from, of all sources, a campaign speech of Benito Mussolini. . . . [He then] paused in his recitation long enough to reflect that it’s a sorry state when seducers of teenagers and Mussolini-quoters feel morally superior to [him].” This construction is exemplary of the writing skills of Buckley, who sent me to the dictionary several times over unfamiliar words (due in some measure to the fact that Chris is the son of William F.)

In a variety of situationally relevant asides, Buckley touches upon interesting ancient and contemporary historic factoids. King James, he notes, “was offended by Indians” brought from the Virginia colonies to demonstrate the “newfangled thing called smoking.” Offended, that is, until he reflected upon the tax revenues generated by the product. How very different from today, eh? I have no idea if these factoids are true, and no interest in pursuing them, but they are at least clever—and, I’d wager, accurate.

Eventually Naylor is kidnapped by “tobacco terrorists,” plastered with nicotine patches and left to die—which he nearly did. After a horrendous ordeal and recovery he is both hero and marked man, which Buckley blends into the final set-piece involving sophisticated revenge and, ultimately, Nick’s redemption.

The plot is a little zany, but always dazzling, and the “killer” ending is wonderfully wrought.

Posted by respeto at 11:44 AM

July 12, 2008

Adopted Son

Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution
David A. Clary – ISBN – 9780553383454

In reading this book I came to fully realize the difference between history written for historians and that read for the generally interested public—never mind the casually inclined. This is a thoroughgoing explication of a truly fascinating relationship which I had never undertaken to study. While engaging, it includes extravagant discussions of minutiae which are not necessarily unimportant, but are much more pointedly directed at the thoroughgoing academic. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it, though I admit that I skimmed a lot of the middle of the book; even skipped pages from time to time. Too much detail for me.

Even so, the information supplied by Clary explores the enormous importance of Lafayette to Washington, and thus to all of us who benefited from his/their endeavor. As well it points up how very much Lafayette actually did for the Revolutionary War; things I had never realized, which further enhance the value of reading such a tome. He was truly a remarkable man and extremely important to our freedom.

Being one of the richest and most important French aristocrats, his very participation and influence were crucial to his country’s critical support of the Revolution. Further, Lafayette bankrupted himself paying his army’s expenses, and loaning our government money which he was never repaid. While the debt was eventually settled decades later thru land grants in the U.S., he went home almost pauperized.

The book deals with many of the battles and the details involved therein, and is especially clear on how important Lafayette—in command of his own army—was to final victory at Yorktown. It is, nonetheless, primarily about the relationship, communications, and deep emotional attachment which cemented the two principals throughout the war and subsequent presidency, and continued up until Washington’s death. Lafayette strove to pattern his life around Washington’s, which was critical to his impact on the French Revolution.

The book ends as the author explores how Lafayette shaped the French Revolution. He was imprisoned, and nearly executed by the Jacobins, which was likewise newsworthy to this reviewer. It makes the sad adventure of the French Revolution a more easily understood event, and sheds a little light on the current conundrum in the middle-east.

I recommend the book with those caveats. I believe my time to have been well spent, but cannot recommend it to the “casually interested.”

Posted by respeto at 2:17 PM

July 7, 2008

Fleeced

(about government, media, corporations, lobbyists and others scamming us)
Dick Morris – ISBN – 9780061547751

Close on the heels of Outrage comes a new offering, which is vaguely Naderesque, except that Morris--unlike Ralph Nader--is not a loose cannon with “tweaked” information and vendetta in mind.

The authors outline endemic corruption, elaborating upon the related issues and possible solutions. These are thoroughly researched, carefully thought thru, simply presented and on the mark. You may not agree with their corrective suggestions, but the expose is damning. As is common recently, he takes a few well deserved shots at the Clintons, which he painstakingly documents.

In the introduction, he reinforces that in our democracy one cannot make all people equal, but government should strain mightily to eliminate artificial inequalities. They explain by whom, and why, it is not being done.

Hedge fund managers are some of the wealthiest amongst us. They manipulate the system to pay only capital gains taxes on their labors (as opposed to their investments), while the rest of us pay ordinary income taxes on such earnings. Congress refuses to close this loophole because these folks donate huge sums of money to campaigns, especially to Democrats. The top 25 fund director’s incomes totaled $14 billion dollars last year, upon which they paid 15% taxes. Had they been properly taxed they would have paid more than twice that amount--for the mathematically challenged, that amounts to almost $300 million in tax savings for just 25 people!

He documents that Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) raised $2 million from such executives in 2007. In turn, legislation to change the rules was sabotaged . . . by Schumer and associates.

Lobbying firms are multiplying like rats, influencing the legislature mightily, directing multi-billion dollar contracts to their clients and altering legislation in their favor. He names many and elaborates on their activities.

Recently, a $40-100 billion contract went to Airbus—a European company—instead of Boeing, thus sending jobs overseas along with our money. Since the contract is for refueling tankers for our military aircraft, we are outsourcing national security as well. Boeing was previously caught amidst corrupt practices, but the guilty have been punished and they’ve cleaned up their act. Need they suffer more? And why do we have to forgo jobs, send tax money to Europe, and risk national security? Because a few sanctimonious senators and a handful of lobbyists says so.

Numerous American companies work for/with Iran—declared a terrorist nation by our government—yet congress will do nothing to reproach these companies. (Morris recommends that all American investors divest themselves of stock, which will severely impact their stock prices. This was done with South Africa to force the end of apartheid, and it worked. Why not now?) Further, the World Bank, funded heavily by the U.S., continues to lend Iran enormous sums with no strings . . . our tax money going to a terrorist nation some feel we will attack soon, but nothing is done to pressure the bank to cease; at the U.N. it’s no different.

Foreign nationals and governments routinely employ “retired” high level U.S. government officials to plead their cases for special treatment from our government. Why do we permit lobbyists to represent foreign interests? Why do we allow former insiders to represent them in the halls of the bureaucracy with which they are so familiar? This revolving door policy has been discussed for decades, but nothing is ever done, because it involves people who feather their nests after their elected service is over. No one in Washington is going to interfere because it is their retirement plan as well . . . it’s something financially rewarding to do, to screw the public after their careers in government . . . screwing the public.

Being the cynic that I am, I’d suggest that many run for office primarily to get their pension on their way to becoming lobbyists. While President Truman retired to his rocker on a modest pension, Clinton has “earned” over $100 million he has acknowledged. But he has myriad irons in the fire around the globe, some of which activities Morris explores in depth, and a lot of it is sleazy and/or corrupt. Who’s surprised?

Colombia, Morris notes, employs Clinton-linked lobbyists, no doubt picked randomly from the yellow pages.?! After his recent visit to Taiwan they changed lobbyists . . . from Dole-linked to Clinton-linked. Happy accident, that? Note that both linkages relate to former high government officials. The incest is wide-spread, bipartisan, damaging, malicious and rampant.

Customer pillage by credit card companies comes in for special derision from Morris, who notes that despite verbiage to the contrary, nothing is ever done because of huge contributions to our legislators from these banks. Members of the House Financial Services Committee, alone, receive over $12 million annually. Of course there is no quid pro quo! They deny it, and why would you suggest such a thing?

Government subsidized flood insurance repeatedly pays out huge amounts for shorefront losses from predictable hurricanes, and in places with recurring floods. Those who benefit are frequently wealthy, since average folk rarely live in the high-rent districts. Why do middling taxpayers subsidize trophy house replacements on barrier islands and in flood plains? Because the government permits it. Then again, remember that many in government own these McMansions—most of them second homes--and they don’t want to pay the full freight to insure their properties. Better that we do it. It’s another benefit of making the rules.

Government is supposed to reward whistle-blowers who point out corrupt practices and wasteful spending . . . Right? Instead it demotes, hounds, replaces, and even prosecutes them. Why? And why are cinema and T.V.—even child oriented, G. and P.G. genre shows--presenting smokers again, after years in which smoking in film was discouraged? He explains.

These and many more areas are dissected, and I can assure you will be royally p-ss-d off as you read. But devour it; you should! It’s time for changes, and only public indignation will produce it.

Posted by respeto at 11:20 AM

July 3, 2008

Liberal Fascism

The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
Jonah Goldberg – ISBN – 9780385511841

It is insufficient to say this incredible tome deserves to be read by people of all political persuasions. The title will offend Liberals, who should read it for historic information. Conservatives will be enamored by the title, but Goldberg will deflate them as well as he notes that while American fascism is best represented by liberal doctrine and practice, conservatives tolerate and often cooperate with its nostrums because they don’t fully consider what they mean. No one is spared. This inadequate review intends only to encourage you to read it . . . before the election this fall. As well, I’d recommend—and will review very soon—Dick Morris’ new book Fleeced. Though the choice is dismal, there is a choice. A very important one!

The book is so full of information that it is difficult to represent even a fraction of the content. It would be well for people to understand just who “progressives” really are in order to choose between the two lesser on the ballot.

The first revolution of a fascistic nature was authored by Rousseau and the French Jacobins. It wholly undercut the ancien regime and destroyed the country, ending with its principals dead and the Europe shattering folly of Napoleon. All totalitarianisms promise to create a new society from scratch, burying all that is past. In these societies one is promised achievement of life’s deepest meaning and destiny simply by living in them. It cannot be done, and were it possible it would be tyranny, however benign. It doesn’t work, because it can’t. Goldberg reminds that American founding documents touted the pursuit of happiness. We’ve evolved. We no longer pursue it, Goldberg observes. We expect it to be delivered, along with the pizza.

He begins by not equating fascism with “Hitlerism,” per se. While the 1000 Year Reich was indeed fascist, it was but one uniquely appalling permutation. Mussolini and Italy embraced fascism. Much of Europe was infatuated with the idea as the follow-on to capitalism, which all saw as a failure (which amongst other things had produced the depression.) Even the U.S. had its own variation known as The New Deal. Contrary to what you may think, fascism was the dominant inspiration of the world at the time, having begun with Otto von Bismarck in 1870’s Germany. It was Hitler’s Reich with its death-camps which so offended the world that the term has now become a synonym for the ultimate, failed, deteriorate state--a bastardized term that is now a simple pejorative signifying “something not desirable” (think Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.) In fact the term can be defined, and encompasses a host of characteristics, including environmental, cultural, societal, governmental, economic, attitudinal and moral.

Goldberg doesn’t describe fascism in order to fit the left, but defines it as it was understood at its inception. It was and remains “progressivism.” Many of Wilson’s and Roosevelt’s advisors were proud to embrace fascism--even calling it by its name--before Hitler altered perceptions. Recall that Mussolini was popular with American intellectuals. He had the answer for the ages, and not a few traveled to Italy to see for themselves how it worked (just as they did on subsequent trips to Moscow.)

Corporatism gives progressive government control of the economy and the nation, and is the operational theory of fascism. Goldberg demonstrates that its premises are derived from liberal, progressive concepts, and not from the right. (I’d mention that Lincoln initiated and/or represented not a few proto-fascistic activities.) He bolsters his arguments with myriad facts, recounting progressive eugenics, progressive attitudes toward education, multiculturalism, campus speech codes, muscular environmentalism, progressivism as religion, etc. are typical of Liberal Fascism. He refutes the notion that true conservatives—who have always fought against such ideas—were its authors.

Goldberg includes an elaborate discussion of large corporate business colluding with government by emphasizing that the American version was favored and pushed by F.D.R. and the New Deal. This culminated in a wholly organized industrial society which proved necessary for the promulgation of WW II, (though desired by the left) and has remained with us since. He also observes that it actually began with Wilson in WW I. Again, I’d remind that Teddy Roosevelt—not really a man of the right--was America’s original progressive, his trust-busting notwithstanding.

“If the collusion of big business and government is right wing, then FDR was a right-winger. If corporatism and propagandistic militarism are fascist, then Woodrow Wilson was a fascist as were the New Dealers. If you [properly] understand the right-wing or conservative position to be that of those who argue for free markets, competition, property rights, and the other political values inscribed in the original intent of the American founding fathers, then big business in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the New Deal America was not right-wing; it was left-wing, and it was fascistic. What’s more, it still is.” His quarrel with the right is over the [properly] I inserted above.

Modern American fascism is manifest in part by corporate jockeying for advantage thru myriad lobbyists, who have proliferated like wharf rats in recent decades. Microsoft and Wal-Mart first decided that the race could do with fewer rats, but are now amongst the largest and most effective lobbying corporations in the country. Why? Because survival required it; competitors who lobbied against them for advantage had to be answered in kind.

Camille Paglia, a progressive proponent and admitted atheist, has written on progressivism often and in depth. She has observed that “progressives must start recognizing the spiritual poverty of contemporary secular humanism and reexamine the way that liberalism, too often now, automatically defines human aspiration and human happiness in reductively economic terms. Without compromise, we are heading for a soulless future” (fascism has neither soul, nor heart.) In today’s world of corporate internationalism it isn’t surprising that our government is in bed with our corporations, nor is it surprising that the Democratic Party is receiving huge corporate contributions. Democrats tout that only Republicans get such donations. Don’t believe it! In his new book Morris reports that Democrats receive two-thirds of the political contributions from hedge-fund managers. They used to split 50/50 to cover themselves, except, of course, for George Soros who has been in bed with Democrates since forever!

Obama is invigorating the electorate by promising hope and change. I earnestly hope that changes--many necessary and appropriate--will not be those he proposes. This may be the most important election since 1860. We are required to reconsider where we are, who we are, and how we want to proceed. We will decide to follow our current path, seek an altered one, or resurrect the edited best of the past.

I’d remind that a revolution can be seen as a return to the beginning. Most of us can agree that where we started was a much better place than where we are (outdoor privies, cold water, and horse dung in the streets excepted.) Very little is wrong with what was intended by our founders. Refinement is clearly necessary, but progress toward fascism should not to be in the equation. There is nothing noteworthy or sophisticated about it, and it’s proven not to work, however bucolic and beneficent it sounds.

Read the book!

Posted by respeto at 1:24 PM