Saturday, March 25, 2006

Book review of revisionist history

I was searching for another book to read about Woodrow Wilson and I stumbled over a book review of a Cato Institute crony about Wilson titled Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II. Catchy title, hungh? What a load. The review is as follows:

"'Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II

Kirkus Reviews
If Woodrow Wilson hadn't entangled the US in WWI, there wouldn't have been a Hitler. Hitler, of course, said that the humiliation at Versailles-mostly at the hands of France and England-made it necessary for him to come to power, but he didn't stop to single out Wilson personally. Never mind: for Cato Institute denizen Powell (The Triumph of Liberty, 2000, etc.), Wilson was the architect of the 20th-century's worst political disasters, and therefore "surely ranks as the worst president in American history." By Powell's account, this is not merely because Wilson dragged America into WWI (as, the right wing once sniffed, FDR dragged America into WWII) for his own selfish and misguided reasons, but also because-that most mortal of sins among libertarians-he turned away from laissez-faire policies, which means more government and more tax. And why? Because Wilson "had dreams of glory, telling other people what to do at the peace settlement." And to get a place at the peace table, Wilson had to get us into the war: ergo Versailles, and thence Hitler, and Lenin, eased into power because Wilson "utterly misunderstood what was going on in Russia," and Stalin, because without Lenin there could be no Stalin, and so on. Of course, Waterloo would have turned out differently if Napoleon had only had a few helicopters: this is a book in which post hoc is definitely propter hoc, and never mind the factual niceties, and in which history hinges on single men rather than-as most historians would suggest-a combination of social and economic forces and people in the right place. The upshot is up-to-the-minute: lest we create a few more Stalins down the line, Powell insists, the US must become isolationist rather than interventionist ("American blood and treasure should be reserved for safeguarding Americans"), and thus lessen the reach of that pesky thing, government. Powell uses up a lot of vitriol, supported by mere assertion, to get to that payoff. None of it is convincing. "

I thought it would be nice to provide a sample of how the conservative demagogues who have proven the past 10 years how unworthy they are to ever hold high office, if any, in America, are fighting hard to revise American history to craft their own special destruction of our democratic republic. They've been trying to discredit and destroy New Deal inspired programs since the Depression, when conservative government in the U.S. fiddled while America starved until FDR radically changed the response to the devastating economic cataclysm of 1929 when Democratic nominee FDR routed Hoover in 1932. In fact, the same author of this particular hatchet-job on Wilson, utilizing the shakiest rationale I've ever encountered, wrote a fine revisionist piece on FDR's New Deal legacy. America was suffering an economic emergency the likes of which had never been encountered since English colonists landed on these shores and began their conquest of North America. Hoover saved the children of Belgium from starving in the aftermath of WW I and helped aid poor black Mississippi River valley inhabitants who were flooded from their homes in 1927, but didn't do a damned thing to help his fellow Americans survive their desperate conditions. Perhaps it takes hard lessons for Americans to remember the harsh essence of Republican rule's effect on the nation.

Right-wing populism represses liberty, in the name of moral principle or rescuing Americans from themselves, leading to socially disastrous results or reactions to their heavy-handed imposition of self-righteous moral practice on other Americans. Not to forget their jingoistic propagandic drag on Americans to needlessly send troops into harm's way. The Iraq War is a needless war, particularly since the war no one disagrees with, the Afghan War, is incomplete and the nation-building may never be completed since most of our military assets are in use in Iraq, a nation that had no involvement in the 9-11 attacks and had no stockpiles of WMD. The Europeans must succeed where Americans have failed. The latest nut-job call by fundamentalists in Afghanistan to murder a man who converted to Christianity because sharia demands it is proof that we have no idea how maniacally primitive these cultures are and now we have an involvement in a middle eastern powderkeg which grows in intensity by the hour.

Sure one could argue that Americans should never have intervened on behalf of two democratic nations in WW I who had become cozy American allies after a bloody history fighting for European and global hegemony. Germany wanted to expand its empire and to succeed it had to defeat the two current European players who controlled the seas and important African and Asian outposts, in addition to America's latest attempt at building empire which was forced by a Republican administration with the help of a jingoistic, powerful press, led by Hearst, a jingoistic, conservative enterprise determined to use American military power for all the wrong reasons with little evidence for the necessity of the conflict with the two target nations, the Spanish Empire and Iraq. Hearst's nationalistic itch for American service in combat is certainly a predecessor of Fox News' recent revival of the "yellow press." I cannot blame Wilson for secretly providing financing and war materiel prior to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916, which precipitated our involvement in the war. What conservative wouldn't deliver aid to their favored participant in a conflict or attack a nation which sank a ship with Americans aboard as Wilson declared war on Germany for having killed Americans traveling as "tourists" to merry old England with some secret stash of artillery shells in the cargo hold, etc, etc. ? Granted, this author is a libertarian, but they've since merged with the GOP, so he's certainly to be lumped in with Bush's supporters.

More fallacious reason by Republicans and their sympathizers.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lindsley Smith announces for reelection to AR Legislature

Lindsley Smith (D, Fayetteville) has announced her candidacy for reelection to the AR Legislature representing House District 92. She was unopposed in her last election bid. Her list of accomplishments and more information about her are available at her campaign website. Let's wish Lindsley the best and, if you have time, offer to help her campaign for a voice of reason in the Legislature. Our Legislature is a bit heavy with right-wing jackasses, so any dissenting voice is a desperate requirement.

Henry A. Wallace: The Danger of American Fascism

In an age of "hyper-security" and the remonopolization of American business and a decidely weighted climate in favor of business interests, Henry A. Wallace had a few reflections concerning fascism in a 1944 guest column for the NY Times. The usurpation of the American government by "conservative" elements is cause for alarm. It hasn't been too many years ago since conservatism was a dirty word, particularly its effect on 19th century European (thus, global) political affairs and its cause of WW I, WW II, and the Cold War. The conservative reaction to American liberalism(the original founding of the U.S. was NO CONSERVATIVE movement folks, it ousted a crowned head---a radical development in the eyes of most European governments at the time, though one of the most conservative crowned heads of Europe helped the Americans in their war with Britain to gain an edge on their rival during a global conflict that had sporadically taken place for the entire 18th century) and French radicalism that led to a continental conflict that changed the face of warfare forever(which means it became MORE deadly--tough to fathom with the 30 years war's impact on European life). The conservative reaction(Concert of Europe) to the French Revolution turned out to be far worse than Napoleon's destructive ramble across Europe.

The following essay by Wallace resonates more by the day in this nation. Let's hope his fears don't fall on deaf ears.

The Danger of American Fascism
Henry A. Wallace
An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.
"On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
What is a fascist?
How many fascists have we?
How dangerous are they?
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.
The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.
The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.
American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.
The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.
Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.
Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after "the present unpleasantness" ceases:
The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler's game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.
It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.
Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to "make the trains run on time." It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.
The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:
Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.
Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.
The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.
Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.
It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and "with malice toward none and charity for all" go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail. "

Saturday, March 04, 2006

AR Dem Gaz addresses Helena Blues fest

Nice editorial about the change of name of the former King Biscuit Blues Fest of Helena(-W. Helena) in the DemGaz. The festival has been renamed the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival and the annual festival may be in jeopardy of folding. The owners of the King Biscuit Flour name decided to request $20,000 from festival organizers. The festival is free to the public and many folks I know from all corners of AR attend the fest because of it. The town where the festival is held is in the AR Delta and has the economy to reflect it, thus all the folks they draw to town are relied upon for a yearly economic jolt. My view is that the fest should be named the Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Festival and the art of harmonica should be showcased, since Sonny Boy played the harmonica brilliantly. The casino across the bridge in Lula, MS has been a salvation for the fest by its sponsorship. Too bad the King Biscuit name has been moved to touristy Beale Street in Memphis. Each year, a competition and recording opportunity should be afforded the new harmonica contest winner in honor of Sonny Boy.

Hopefully, the battered, bruised, embarassed town can salvage some of what's been good for the community in light of recent political and school district disasters there. Certainly, the KBBF didn't attract the greatest names in Blues(though many of the greats of Blues whose names aren't as recognizable to most folks who claim an interest and love for Blues, but really don't know anything about the history and the less-known greats), but it's a free festival and the likes of B.B. King, Etta James, Robert Cray, and other headliners just cannot be attracted. It's a pity those folks haven't felt compelled to appear at least once in the past 20 years to pay homage to Helena's role in the history of the Blues and their ode to one of the great legends of the Blues. It's not like there are that many places of historic interest in the story of the Blues. Let's see, um, Memphis, Chicago, New Orleans, Greenville, MS, and Helena, AR seem to be must-visit sites for Blues enthusiasts.

Time for those who have benefited from their performance of the Blues to step up and raise some money to keep the festival alive and perhaps recover the King Biscuit name for the fest. Not going to happen, I suspect. The festival is worthy of preservation, like many old homes and buildings in the dying town. The entire state of AR who actually understand the importance of the uniquely American artform should rise to save this festival from possible death.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cheney's economic "pep talk"

From the AR Dem Gazette: "Cheney to Americans: Save for future WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney urged Americans on Thursday to do a better job of saving and challenged policymakers to strengthen pensions and Social Security to help Americans heading toward retirement. “The American dream begins with saving money and that should begin on the very first day of work,” Cheney told a conference in Washington exploring how to encourage people to boost savings and be better prepared for retirement. Too often, workers are living paycheck to paycheck and are not saving sufficiently, Cheney said. Last year, Americans’ personal savings rate dropped to its lowest point since the Great Depression. The dismal state of savings comes as a big wave of baby boomers will soon start retiring, straining Social Security as fewer workers are available to help bankroll the retirement program. The vice president also called on Congress to complete action on legislation that would strengthen the nation’s troubled pension system. Separate House and Senate bills are aimed at shoring up traditional, employer-based defined-benefit pension plans, which are underfunded by a collective $450 billion. "

It's great to know that Cheney now has reached an understanding that Americans aren't doing so well in the savings race. Our economy is spiraling into uncharted waters with the ancient conservative governance by the Bush/Cheney hydra controlling the agenda, there will be no end to the loss of high-paying jobs that were so vital to the health of the nation's economy in times past and their pension and insurance benefits. Americans are "living paycheck to paycheck and not saving sufficiently," says the Power Beneath the Waves(Cheney--courtesy Joseph Campbell) of discontent that is boiling over among the general population with the worst administration ever to hold the title of President continuing to extoll the "virtue" of "outsourcing" American jobs to India and Bush's encouragement of the practice. When fewer Americans have a degree of security, as have been enjoyed by millions of Americans after the post-WW II economic boom, fueled to a large degree by defense spending during the ensuing Cold War with the Soviet Union, what future do we Americans have before our ways of life all change for the worst forever? It seems our future is murky at best if the electorate don't wake up and demand accountability from the government, which happens to be infected by a GOP majority, we are all in grave danger, unless you're one of the lucky ones who will always be adequately employed and covered by a health plan(at least until retirement, no certainty that retirement to grave healthcare will be around when you retire) and increasingly more companies are dumping pensions from their offerings for employees.

As the postmortem on the causes of the American Revolution reveals, i.e., the idea that the French and Indian War of the late 1750s and early 1760s precipitated the Revolution because the last serious external threat from the likes of a continental European power had been precluded from further conquest in North America, so the stage was set to throw off the imperial head of their colonies and avoid control by any force and set up a strictly North American government. The loss of our great enemy of the 20th century from 1917 to 1991, the U.S.S.R, has allowed the hawkish members of the military/industrial elite to promote a war which should never have reached this conclusion, at least not based on the downside of removing a dictator, not quite as bad as Saddam was Tito of Yugoslavia who kept a lid on age-old racial, religious, and ethnic tensions by ruling rather harshly(just like Saddam, but maybe not quite as brutal of sadistic). Who is to say after the history of the Balkans post-Cold War that Tito's regime wasn't the best possible arrangement to avoid tragic chaos. The Serbs dominated the military establishment, though the "nation" Yugoslavia was a hodge-podge of various groups. The Austro-Hungarian empire had existed ruling a much larger territory than Tito, so imagine their difficulties and possible reasons for why the old empire was so weak.

It's nice to see Cheney admit that things are not working out so well among the general population of Americans. People are living "paycheck to paycheck," as Cheney observed because income has taken a dive and what income is earned is choked by the rising costs of living in our nation. The voodoo economists of the Bush administration suffer the same insensitivity of the elder Bush, who didn't "get it", as the sloganeers emblazoned on the brain of the voting public, because he didn't relate to the ordinary American (his background precludes that possibility) and really didn't seem to care about the spiraling economy during his adminstration of the U.S. government and its negative effect on ordinary Americans. And to slap us all in the face and tell us all that "outsourcing" formerly high-paying, adequate employment opportunities to India is "GOOD" for Americans; the Bushie hegemons have some nerve.

Again: "Last year, Americans’ personal savings rate dropped to its lowest point since the Great Depression." The GREAT DEPRESSION?! If this Bush cartel doesn't espouse the pre-Depression values of the GOP, I have no idea how to describe them. Hoover was a brilliant man, unlike Bush, but he was old-line GOP and they aspire to the conservatism that pushed the world into the global catastrophe remembered as WW-I. Conservatism was a dirty concept because they largely were monarchial forces pledged to join in alliance militarily to oust any government in Europe which had it's monarchial head overthrown, as the French Revolution had achieved. The crowned heads felt much safer keeping their aristocratic cousins(usually literally) on their respective thrones and drown all talk of another mimic of the American Revolution(though, thankfully, the good ol' American people didn't have many aristocrats to behead, as our French allies from the American revolution). Needless to say, monarchial squabbles turned into nationalistic warfare, which has been largely responsible for some of the worst mass bloodshed in human history. I don't want to repeat such cavalier incompetence, thus I eschew all conservative values because I don't think rank and file Americans who view themselves as conservative Republicans had that kind of conservatism in mind when they voted for the most incompetent president in recent memory.

Time to end the GOP majority over this nation; hopefully 2006 is the year to rid the American polity of their bumbling administration of the government. I believe the American people can survive nicely without any more encouragement from Cheney's soulless void described as a human person. Americans can't possibly believe they are better off than 5 years ago when Dubya ascended to the throne his father promised him. For moderates like me, this nation is getting to be a rather ugly place, which isn't quite so foreign to most Americans with the evils and our nation's history during the 20th century. I fear a repeat of the political climate of the 60s which might tear us all apart irreconcilably this time around. Why do Americans always have to learn their lessons the hard way? Dogma is the blinding force responsible and when dogma enters political discourse, nothing but trouble can possibly ensue. Beware of dogma!(stolen from a paraplegic cartoonist, forgot his name).