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Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring up, as it does, marching jack boots in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy's Mussolini or Spain's Franco and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.

It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War II---not in news stories from present day America.

And yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.

Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this "F word" whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.

One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years accelerated by the erosion of democracy, writing:

"It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here."

Wolf feared Americans couldn't see the warning signs:

"Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have."

Now, those bells are now being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right wing policies and politicians.

"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," he told the "New York Observer." "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

Reports "New York's Observer," "The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims.

Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."

Many in mainstream politics who understand that big money can dominate elections although not in every case share Hall's fears. In California, two well-known female candidates from the corporate world raised millions but still went down in defeat.

So money alone is not the be all and end all of a shift towards a red white and blue brand of fascism. Other ingredients are needed and some may be on the way--like an economic collapse, defeat in foreign wars, rise in domestic terrorism and the emergence of a right-wing populist movement that puts order before justice


If I were Jesus or Harry Potter, we'd have peace in this world.

Yesterday I went down to Thrift Town in San Leandro and bought my three-year-old granddaughter Mena a used Fisher-Price three-story parking garage and three bags full of recycled Matchbox cars, broken Transformers, miniature horses and a dinosaur. And when we got back home, Mena immediately set to work creating her own little world.

I was so impressed with the world that Mena had created that I decided to create my own little world too.

If you had the power of Jesus or Harry Potter to create any world that you wanted, what kind of world would you create? Here's what I would do:

First, I would make every man on this planet impotent. Yes, that's I-M-P-O-T-E-N-T, you heard me right. Sorry, guys, but not even Viagra will help you here. "But why?" you might ask. Why? So that after ten years' time with no children being born, human beings might actually finally wake up and start appreciating the true wonder of children again and stop starving them, beating them and dropping bombs on their heads.

Second, I'd destroy every single nuclear weapon in the world. It would be as if the Manhattan Project had never existed. Sorry, J. Robert Oppenheimer, but no more glory days for you. And Julius and Ethel Rosenberg will have gotten on with their lives instead of being electrocuted and there would have been no Hiroshima, no Chernobyl and no DU babies born without arms, legs and heads in Kosovo and Fallugah.

Third, I'd wave my magic wand over Wall Street and the Pentagon. Poof. Southern Manhattan would now have a new Central Park


Just about anything that could be said about the murders in Tucson has been said.

We know that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was holding a "Congress on the Corner" meeting outside a Safeway grocery store.

We know that a 22-year-old named Jared Lee Loughner is in FBI custody, and has been charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States. We know that six people are dead, that 14 were wounded, several of whom were in grave or critical condition. We know there will be additional state charges filed against Loughner.

We know that among the dead are John Roll, a Republican and the senior federal judge in Arizona, who had come by the rally to support his friend, the Democratic representative; and Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who was born on 9/11, and died on another day of violence. We have heard the names of George Morris, one of those shot, who tried to protect his wife, Dorothy, who didn't survive; of Dorwin Stoddard, 76, who was killed while trying to protect his wife, Mary; of Phyllis Schneck, a 79-year-old widow who lived in  Tucson eight months a year to avoid the snows of her native New Jersey; and of Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' outreach director.

We know that Loughner was rejected by the Army, withdrew from a community college prior to being suspended, became more abusive the past year, and that many, even before the shootings, have called him mentally unstable.

We know the shooter used a Glock 19 9-mm. semi-automatic weapon, with a 33-bullet magazine, which he purchased legally. We know that Congress did not renew the assault weapons ban, which allowed civilians to own pistols but with only a 10-bullet magazine capacity. And, we also know that sales of Glock pistols following the murders, in a nation steeped in a gun culture, increased by 60 percent in Arizona and 5 percent nationally.

We know that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a conservative in his 30th year in office, called Arizona a "mecca of prejudice and bigotry," and condemned the "the kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh," whom he called "irresponsible" and who bases his talk show upon partial and wrong information to inflame his listeners. Three months earlier, the sheriff, possibly the most respected law enforcement officer in Arizona, said the Tea Party "brings out the worst in America," and implied that the atmosphere of hate was partially responsible for the resulting murders.

While most Tea Partiers are White, middle-aged or senior citizens who are angry but not violent, whenever there is violence, whenever there is racism, discrimination, or homophobia, there are Tea Party sympathizers present.

We know that armed citizens, some carrying signs that advocate violence, attend Tea Party rallies, and speak of the overthrow of government.

We know that numerous members of Congress, including Rep. Giffords, had received death threats after they voted for health care reform. We know that some Tea Party leaders openly urged their followers to throw bricks through the windows of those who supported health care reform, and that several offices were vandalized.

We know that during the 2010 mid-term elections, Sarah Palin had targeted 20 Democratic representatives, including Rep, Giffords, by placing cross-hairs targets


In the wake of the Tucson massacre, President Obama has called for a new era of political civility. If we really want this reform, we need to understand something about the roots of inflammatory discourse.

Many partisans, particularly on the Right, are not interested in any resolution of political issues. The real purpose for the venom they direct at the Left is to cover up their own unresolved negativity and to discharge that negativity on to us.

Nikolas Kozloff for BuzzFlash at Truthout

As more and more Wikileaks cables are released, a true cloak and dagger picture of U.S. foreign policy is emerging.  Take, for example, recent documents pertaining to Central America, where the Bush administration sought to bolster its regional allies in an effort to counteract the political influence of Venezuela.  Alarmed by rising star Hugo Chávez, who was fast making ideological inroads within Washington's traditional sphere of influence, diplomats promised to collaborate on sensitive intelligence gathering in an effort to halt the region's dangerous shift to the left.

One cable dates to November, 2004 when the region's so-called "Pink Tide" was just getting underway.  For five years, Chávez had been in power but in Central America the Bush administration could count on the support of a host of friendly client governments.  Indeed, it would not be until several years later that leftists Daniel Ortega, Mauricio Funes and Manuel Zelaya would win the presidencies of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, respectively.  Nevertheless, judging from the cables regional governments were already extremely wary of Chávez.

The tiny Central American nation of Costa Rica has long prided itself on its political independence and long-term stability.  The country has no standing army, and during the height of U.S. counter-insurgency involvement in the region some twenty five years ago the San José government played a key role in drawing up a Central American peace plan.  More often than not, however, Costa Rica has proven to be a willing partner in Washington's wider geopolitical designs.  Indeed, the 2004 cable


What's going to be fascinating to watch in the weeks and months ahead is how the Right adjusts to the new "kinder, gentler" rhetorical environment everyone - but them - is demanding.

If you have been a student of the new Right you understand that the gains they've made in American politics have come in direct proportion to a rising level of anger. Some of that anger was there just waiting for affirmation, but much more of it has been ginned up by rightwing talkers like Limbaugh, Beck and FOX News.

The anti-government mantra now hammered home 24/7/365 by these demagogic forces provided both cover and opportunity for rightwing politicians in Congress. It did so by rounding up the lower-common denominator types at the grassroots level by affirming their unease and distrust of a changing nation and world they simply cannot understand, much less accept.

Money and votes followed; money from corporate sources that always fund efforts to neuter government regulations and regulators, and votes from a class of voters only Barnum and Bailey could appreciate.


While I was in Tucson in April, 2010 Governor Jan Brewer was in charge of Arizona's statehouse. Her name was not well-known at the time because she had only ascended to that position after the previous governor, Janet Napolitano, was tapped to become Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security. When she announced her intention to run for the state's top spot she found a diamond in the rough - a chance to bash Hispanics and feed into the simmering bigotry being fomented by the likes of J.D. Hayworth (who was challenging John McCain for the Senate) and the subversive, flame-throwing belligerents in the Tea Party.

The diamond in the rough turned out to be the one of the biggest wedge issues in America - Senate Bill 1070, or what I believe it should aptly be called, "The Driving, Walking, And/Or Standing While Brown Bill." Governor Brewer signed the bill into state law on April 23 with the supplication to pray for her election which she won in a landslide on November 2, 2010.

Thursday, 13 January 2011 05:44

The Second Amendment Demands Gun Control


The Second Amendment supports those of us who would control guns - and thus prevent the insane slaughter that compromises our security. 

James Madison and the Founders of this nation would be enraged to see the Second Amendment being used to put guns in the hands of the Tucson shooter and so many others like him. 

The debate over the violent hate-speak of Sarah "Lock & Load" Palin and her Foxist ilk is long overdue. 

But so is a careful national reawakening to what the Second Amendment actually says: 

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." 

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 08:39

The Paradox of Disarmament


Will there be copycats?

Will parents let their children attend political rallies anymore? Will Congress ever come to our corner again?

We witness another impromptu festival of American violence, this one in front of a Tucson Safeway. One more place that used to be safe and ordinary, suitable for children, is suddenly, for one random moment, a free-fire zone. A 9-year-old girl who wanted to learn how government works is among the half dozen dead. Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head, fights for her life.

What do we do now, other than shrug, shudder, grieve?

A few days later, one priority - one - remains standing in the wreckage. How in God's name do we disarm?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 07:14

Handgun Deaths: How Many Children Will It Take?


Christina Taylor Green is a message spirit. She arrived on Earth on September 11, 2001, a day when terrorists armed with no more than boxcutters turned jet airliners into guided missiles and slaughtered almost 3,000 people, mostly civilians. Indeed, she was one of the babies featured in a book, Faces of Hope, that looked at one baby from each of the United States born on that day. The third-grader had been elected to her Mesa Verde elementary school student council and was at the meet-up for congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with a neighbor adult, Susan Hileman. The two were holding hands when gunfire erupted on January 8.

For me, this child's death engenders the question, How many children will it take?

How many children will it take before the Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins stand down from violent imagery and rhetoric? Would it be so hard for them to find language that doesn't evoke killing, shooting and crosshairs? How debilitating to their effectiveness could it be? Do they believe they would lose followers if they honored the spirit of this child and abjured such language? Do they need the kind of followers who only respond to that imagery?

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