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Category Archives: US Politics

The thing is, Democracy will end.

At some point the current dominant expression of Democracy – Universal Franchise with mass political parties and redistributive taxation – will fail to deliver solutions to urgent problems: Climate; Migration;War; National Sovereignty – and it will be discarded for something else.

And so begins David Runciman’s thesis How Democracy Ends  which I picked up from Episiode #71 of his Podcast Talking Politics broadcast December 2017.

Like I said before, you must subscribe to Talking Politics. Its contemporary Political analysis in the best traditions of British academia – very high quality but accessible to the layman and easy on the ear.

Trump Is…

En Passant, Runciman offers the observation that Trump is neither Hitler, nor Mussolini, but Berlusconi. To which I must differ. Trump is Nero. Trump, like Nero, would burn down Washington merely to build himself a larger Villa topped by a 35 metre tall Bronze Statue of himself, and would indeed overturn by decree any decision that he had come 2nd in any competition whatsoever and declare himself the winner as apparently Nero once did in an Olympic Rowing event in the Ancient Games – my source is Horrible Histories Series 4 Episode 8.

How Democracy Ends

What follows is my notes and interspersed commentary from Runciman’s talk. Apologies in advance to David for any errors of misinterpretation of his presentation.

Democracy has failed before – and though it has recovered,  its collapsings have led to some terrible expressions of murderous, even genocidal, authoritarianism.  When speaking of a crisis of Democracy, people commonly refer to how German Weimar Republic was thrown aside by the Nazis in the 1930’s, but there have been other awful usurpations inclusing a spate in the 1970’s when Spain, Portugal, Greece and Chile plus many nations in Africa and Asia reverted to Military or Authoritarian rule.

But Democracy can fail in other ways other than to be usurped by Fascists – Democracy could simply stagnate where the dominant forms of Democratic expression – voting, Parliament, competing Parties – endure, but they become ineffective at solving problems or providing representation.

Democracy can reach a stagnated state where dominant paradigms control the mind of the polity – e.g. Market Forces are the only legitimate way to adjudicate the best course of action – or where the forms of Democracy have been hollowed out or stripped of vitality – e.g by propaganda or partisan or Fake News dominating the media with a subsequent polarisation and hardening of positions, which can also be caused by individuals only consuming “news” or viewpoints which confirm their own biases. This last of course is the current problem beseiging our media through personalised and targeted news feeds such as through Facebook, Cambridge Analytica or by intentional consumer choice.

Runciman hypothesises that Democracies such as those of the Anglosphere or Japan could stagnate for a century or more in this hollowed-out or ineffective state while urgent problems remain unaddressed and the polity remains hypnotised and anaesthetised by a religious belief in Democratic forms and by propaganda, even of the type intentionally chosen by the power of Confirmation Bias

Runciman also observes that Democracy could be hollowed-out by being taken over by an Authoritarian or Demagogue. Military Dictatorships frequently hijack the power of Government while leaving the institutions of Democracy in place as a facade. These kinds of populist or authoritarian figures lead coups or popular seizures of power stating that it is necessary for them to take over to cleanse and renew the institutions of government and protect and restore true democracy on behalf of the people.

In this vein, Trump’s promise to ‘Drain The Swamp’ carries the rallying call of the Demagogue as he usurps the Democratic institutions of America, hollowing them out, rendering them as ineffective as possible, and seeking to run the nation as a Mafia Boss with the assistance of Concilliars appointed from his personal circle. For this allusion – Trump as Mafia Boss with Concilliars – I thank Sarah Churchwell from Talking Politics #123 – ‘America First’

Why We Will Not Repeat The 1930’s

Runciman spent the majority of his talk explaining why he believes that the Anglosphere and similar Democracies will not be superceded by Authoritarianism, Military Dictatorship or Religious or Racist Populism.

His basic point, which I found interesting though not totally persuasive, is that the societies of the modern Anglosphere and Europe are highly dissimilar in Demographic, Socio-Economic, and Crime and Violence-related metrics.

Simply put – we are different societies and are therefore far less suscptible to Fascism.

How Modern Western Democracies Differ From 1930’s Democracies

Runciman measures modern Democracies against the European Democracies of the 1930’s which succumbed to, or nearly (including the USA) succumbed to Fascism -again Sarah Churchwell is brilliant on this point – and finds that modern Democracies are much richer, much older and much less violent than our counterparts of the 1930’s. He marshalls convincing statistics and research to show how poverty and youth are linked to Fascism and also notes that 1930’s USA and Germany carried levels of Political Violence which are simply not seen in today’s democracies.

Runciman extrapolates from those statistics and demographic factors to conclude that current democracies are unlikely to fall prey to Fascism in the way that 1930’s Europe did.

Runciman brings a convincing case study in Greece, which has not fallen into Fascism in recent times despite huge falls in GDP, an economic depression deeper and longer than the Great Depression, and critically high levels of unemployment and the presence of a large, well-funded and alert Armed Forces (on alert against Turkey) and despite a recent history of Military Dictatorship in the 1960’s.

Runciman ascribes the survival of democracy in Greece, or more exactly the failure of Fascism to ignite in Greece, to the fact that Greece is demographically old. The foot-soldiers of Fascism are always young men. And Greece is full of older men. The Weimar Republic had a high population of young men who were also traumatised by the recent experience of World War 1. These became the muscle of the Nazi movement.

How Will Our Democracies End ?

Based on the above analysis and noting our Wealth, Age and low levels of political violence, Runciman argues that our Democracies, even though they may fail, are unlikely to fall prey to Fascism and is more likely to exhaust into ineffectiveness, unable to solve pressing problems such as Climate Change,  simply rotating our governments and ruling parties in a futile grasping for a government that will finally have the answers.

Interestingly, Runciman feels that we are unlikely to lapse into War either, as the costs of a putative World War 3 are too great to contemplate, with Nuclear Holocaust being a likely outcome.

For What Its Worth

I think that Demagoguery is very likely in the USA and the other democracies of the Anglosphere. Personalities like Trump and Boris Johnson are pushing the USA and the UK in this direction and conservative political parties in the UK, USA and Australia are inciting public contempt for the courts, parliament, science and fact-based debate. Futhermore, conservative parties continue to accommodate the viewpoints of racist and anti-immigrant groups as they seek to extend their voter base.

In addition, Social Media and targeted news feeds are polarising debate even while debasing it with Fake News. Political paries are supporting this trend.

In the meantime Climate Change and the associated Migration Crisis is applying pressure to Western Societies which is both unrelenting and increasing.

The demand for solutions will accompany economic disruption, water shortages and an intolerable climate.

Its an open field for the Demagogues.

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Lee Harvey Oswald, by his own admission, played a crucial part in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Oswald may or may not have taken a rifle into the Texas School Book Depository, though he never fired it. It wasn’t Oswald’s role to shoot the President. That was the job of others. Soon after the assassination, Oswald briskly left the environs of the Book Depository and returned to his Dallas rooms where he was alerted by members of the Dallas Police Department that his escape rendezvous was ready to proceed. So Oswald was in cahoots with the assassination machinery

Oswald then decamped to the Texas Theatre cinema where he was more or less immediately arrested. After a day or two in custody of the Dallas Police, Oswald was then escorted to the Police Basement where Oswald played his crucial role – which was to be shot point-blank on national television, the squadrons of Dallas Police surrounding him apparently powerless to protect the most wanted man in the USA.

Oswald Was The Patsy. 

Oswald was the one left holding the blame for the assassination and was himself assassinated by his co-conspirators as thanks for assisting in their act of national decapitation. Public anger at him for plunging the nation into chaos,  an assessment of wickedness of character and a perpetually soiled reputation was all his .

Oswald was The Patsy  
… and therefore expendable.

And this is exactly the role that Peter Dutton played in the downfall of Malcolm Turnbull.

As a Patsy in the service of others.


As in the JFK assassination, a central motive in the assassination of Malcolm Turnbull was revenge.

Tony Abbott hated Turnbull for stripping the Prime Ministership away from him in 2015 and from the moment that event occurred has never ceased plotting how to destroy Turnbull in return.


Again, as in the JFK assassination, the direction of government policy was at stake in the Turnbull assassination. For JFK, his intervention in the CIA  Bay Of Pigs Black Operation, causing it to fail, signalled a change in the tenor and execution of Foreign Policy unacceptable to US Reactionary interests just as unacceptable as Turnbull’s accommodation of Climate Change considerations within Energy Policy and Gender Equality considerations within Marriage Policy.

But Policy does not begin to describe what was at stake for Reactionary interests in both scenarios. What was at stake in both the JFK presidency and the Turnbull Prime Ministership was the soul of the nation.

As David Marr put it,

[the assassination of Malcolm Turnbull is] an audacious gambit by a political faction that knows it is losing traction in the community.

Terrible polling figures for policies dear to their hearts does not dissuade but compels them to act.

The rule is this: when you face losing control of the country, you must take control of the party. Otherwise you are done for.


JFK’s Camelot signalled the death of the old order and the commencement of a new way. Reactionary interests were being sidelined. The Military-Industrial Complex, the CIA shadow government and the Monied interests that controlled and parasitically fed on both were outraged. Their grip on the soul of America, their gravy train was coming to an end under the upstart, wealthy, Catholic President. JFK didn’t need them. He had his own means. He was not dependent; no-one’s protege. And to the Reactionaries, JFK was the wrong man in the wrong place. A Catholic ! As President !


And so too was Malcolm Turnbull the wrong man in the wrong job. Socially progressive, yet a Liberal Party Prime Minister. Independently wealthy, he does need Murdoch’s financial backing or anyone else’s. Possessed of his own vision. A Republican !  A supporter of Marriage Equality ! And – lethally –  clear-minded on Climate Change and the role of Fossil Fuels.

The Monied interests of  The Liberal Party and the media organisations they controlled could not abide Turnbull. Under Turnbull the Liberal Party would drift from Reactionary views and come to accept Science-based Climate policy and progressive social currents. No Coal ! The wealth, status and prestige of the Old Order was under challenge.

Malcolm Turnbull , the Member for Wentworth, was an existential threat to the Old Order. He had to be eliminated.


The main players in Turnbull’s downfall were Abbott, sick with the need for revenge, Eric Abetz, insane by reason of mental obsession with his own importance; and Kevin Andrews a crusted Reactionary of instinctive hatred towards progressives.

Abetz, Abbott and Andrews: AAA, Triple A.

But none of these could challenge in their own right. Abbott is a failed and unmissed Prime Minister, described by some of his own colleagues as electoral hemlock. Abetz and Andrews are yesterdays men, politically alive only by the artificial respiration provided by long service to Coal, Tobacco and other Liberal Party donors. Neither could be the suitable face of a renewed or modern Liberal Party. Hemlock the lot of them.

No. They needed a Patsy.


Peter Dutton, member for Dickson, Minister for the hugely popular  Border Protection portfolio. Beloved by right-wing media across the country for his unswervable commitment to allowing immigrant children to die in detention, for the humour he finds in the devestating consequences of Climate Change, for walking out on the national apology to the Stolen Generation; for his championing of the plight of White people; for his contempt for Civil Liberties and Refugee Advocacy groups.

This is Dutts, as he’s fondly known to right-wing talkback hosts and their audiences. No wonder One Nation did not stand a candidate against Dutton in the last election.

Praised every week on Sky TV, on 2GB, by average Aussies everywhere. You’d have to be made of stone to be immune to such unrelenting flattery

Dutts is a Queenslander. Marginal seats in Queensland will be crucial to the outcome of the next Federal election.

The Longman by-election came up. Sky and 2GB were confident. The Liberals would win it. The first time a Government would win a By-Election in 90 years.  But instead, out-campaigned by the ALP  the LNP vote went backwards.  That wasn’t expected. Blimey ! We could really lose this.

Phone calls from Triple A. Dutts – we need you. You’re the man. You can save the government. Save The Party. Save The Nation. Dutts is an ex-copper. Grounded. But human. He came to believe it.

The Assassination 

So, Triple A roll Turnbull on Energy Policy. Turnbull looked weak, vulnerable. Longman lost. Energy Policy lost. Now’s the time, Dutts ! So he goes for it. Malcolm is assassinated.

But Dutts loses. Someone else gets the job.

Triple A don’t care. Turnbull is eliminated and the Climate Change elements of the Energy Policy are gone. Basically Triple A and the Reactionary interests have got what they want.

The Patsy

But in the process it has become clear that most of the Liberal Party and most of the nation don’t want Dutton. Most find him unreasonably harsh and possessing xenophobic views outside the comfort zone of the mainstream. Plus the general public has been alienated by the self-evidently selfish and callow nature of the whole Assassination.  We can all see this whole affair is just a vehicle of Abbott to satisfy his blood lust.

Dutton is the face of all this. He will lose his seat at the next election. He drank the Hemlock.

Dutts is expendable.

A Patsy.

Tripe A ? They live on. As do the systemic forces that nurture them.

Why Triple A Couldn’t Lose

Kevin Andrews holds the blue ribbon seat of Menzies on a 2PP vote of 60.6%
Tony Abbott holds the seat of blue ribbon Warringah on a 2PP vote of 61.6%
Eric Abetz holds the No. 1 Senate Spot for the Liberals in Tasmania. His seat in unloseable.

These Reactionaries will be in Parliament until the end of time distantly watching the comings and goings of the less fortunate from the glorious viewpoint afforded by their Ivory Towers in blue-ribbon seats.

Their chosen servant is not so fortunate:

Peter Dutton holds the marginal seat of Dickson on a 2PP vote of 51.6%

Win Lose or Draw in whatever stoush AAA find themselves fomenting, they can never lose. Their seats are too safe.

Dutton, doing their bidding,  is a marginal-seat holder. Any moderate swing would unseat him. Being held responsible for disintegrating the Parliament and knifing a popular PM will be fatal to him.

Abetz, Abbot and Andrews could care less. They’re untouchable, despaching others to do their dirty work.

Cowards really.

A Little Bit Afraid

The vote in the Dutton v. Turnbull leadership spill was 35-48. Triple A only count for three. But thirty-five of the eighty-three Liberal Party MPs voted in favour of Dutton for PM. That’s 42%.

Forty-two per cent of Liberal Party MPs think that Dutts would be a suitable Prime Minister. Given Dutt’s  alarming lack of concern for everything except White people I find it amazing that such a high percentage of Liberal MPs think this way.

Worse than this, we didn’t count the National Party MPs yet. With notable exceptions, such as Darren Chester, National MPs are even more reactionary than Libs. There are 22 National Party MPs in the current parliament. Let’s say that 18 of them are Dutts-friendly. That would mean that the majority LNP Government Caucus thinks like Dutts, 53-52.

Let’s remind ourselves of the Dutton manifesto:

Peter Dutton, member for Dickson, Minister for the hugely popular  Border Protection portfolio. Beloved by right-wing media across the country for his unswervable commitment to allowing immigrant children to die in detention, for the humour he finds in the devestating consequences of Climate Change, for walking out on the national apology to the Stolen Generation; for his championing of the plight of White people; for his contempt for Civil Liberties and Refugee Advocacy groups.

Suddenly I feel a bit afraid of the LNP.

Republicanism and Santamaria

Background for this section is obtained from David Marr’s Quarterly Essay on Abbott, Political Animal, QE #47

Even before his first day as leader, Malcolm Turnbull was held in deep distrust by the LNP for the many reasons described above.

For Abbott, the prime motive was revenge, but he also sincerely believes that Turnbull is unsuited to national leadership by reason of his Republicanism. This may seem strange to many that Republicanism should be an automatic reason to consider someone unfit for office, but Abbott really believes this.

Abbott is an amoral political operator; a stone-cold liar primary among his many character flaws, but Abbott considers himself to be a man of values. Foundational to those values are his belief in the indispensible utility and goodness of certain long-standing Western institutions: namely the Papacy, The Monarchy, The Enlightenment, Constitutional Liberal Democracy and the traditional moral code associated with them.

In Abbott’s world, allegiance to those institutions and philosophies automatically make a person good and mark them as a suitable for office. Failure to embrace them invalidates a person for leadership and makes them morally suspect.

Turnbull is a Republican, not a Monarchist. In Abbott’s thinking that disqualifies Turnbull from office. Simple as that

Abbott’s starry-eyed admiration for the values of Western civilisation, the Papacy, the Monarchy and the Enlightenment are a romantic fiction that Abbott tells himself about himself, as he relives the ‘Prince Hal’ [QE #47 p.1] Ladybird books of his childhood,.

Abbott’s heart beats faster at the excitement of imaging himself a new Crusader King, a new reforming Priest or a defender of Western values. As a University student, Abbott, discipled by the famous Catholic anti-Communist warrior Bob Santamaria, spent day after day expunging ideological and moral evil from the campus.

While Abbott was motivated purely by revenge, he is able to delude himself that his assassination of Turnbull was a morally significant act for the betterment of Western civilisation. That’s why, after the result of the leadership spill was announced by the Whips, among the very first to speak to the media was Tony Abbott who said:

As we have been reminding ourselves, we are the custodians of great logical traditions.

“The Liberal tradition of smaller government, greater freedom, lower taxes, the conservative traditional support for families, small business and values and institutions that have stood the rich test of time, 

Values and Institutions that have stood the rich test of time – the evil Republican is dead: Thank me.

So, let’s look at Abbott’s values as he actually lives them:

Following the spill, Oliver Murray of quoted two former colleagues of Abbott:

Former Liberal frontbencher Amanda Vanstone told ABC: “All I can tell you is my own experience of Abbott is whatever you do with him, unless he gets his way he’ll be disruptive.

“That’s my own experience of him. My personal view is putting him in any ministerial position doesn’t mean he’ll be a team player unless he gets what he wants.

It’s up to them to decide whether they can cope with that or not. That’s their decision, not mine.”

It was something backed up by former Liberal leader John Hewson.

“He’s got one goal, which is to get back to the Prime Ministership even though he’s made some smooth sort of statements coming out of the room today, it sounds pretty much like, ‘I won’t snipe, I won’t undermine’, the sort of commitment he’s made once before,” he told ABC.

Murray goes on to say: A minister’s position seems a crazy reward for someone who has had a major role in bringing his party to its knees.


Though quite different from each other,  The Byrds / Lou Reed / Otis Spann / Human League and indeed the entire civilsed world view the JFK Assassination in much the same way:

A tragedy. A loss. An immense and incomprehensible crime. An act of evil.

But GW Bush thinks its funny. Why ?


Bush’s sickly appeasing grin as he states that JFK was assassinated by ‘a [single] deluded gunman’ is highly reminicent of Bill Clinton’s infamous smirk as he shamefacedly lied about his relationship with a female intern.

Both that grin and that smirk betray guilt and deceit.

GW Bush is as surely / involved / with the JFK assassination as Clinton was with the intern, that abuse of power subsequently leading to his impeachment.

Got 14 minutes 1 second to think about it ?

Or here, in one hour, learn the whole story.

As long as I think the work is fun, I won’t slack off.*

  • Authentic student’s comment on feedback form submitted on first day of my Year 7 History class


Since my student has so adeptly encapsulated The Art Of The Deal, I thought I would segue into First Dog On The Moon’s beautifully deranged take on Donald Trump’s State Of The Uniom Address.


And Somewhat of the same genre:

Mrs. Chicken


This Is A Complaint About Bed Time

Five Things To Know About Me

I Feel Like Having You As A Pet

I like to know a story about you – your feeling your mouth your heart your way of looking at it

Why Did The USA Sign The Nuclear Deal With Iran ?

The USA has allowed an Iranian nuclear program to continue and will allow $100bn in embargoed oil revenues to return once compliance is established (approx. 1 year).

So what does the USA get ?

Normally I would follow the money, but US corporations and trade do not benefit under this deal. Most, if not all, trade and commercial relations with Iran by US interests and subsidiaries are still prohibited.

But the deal is still about preserving US/Israeli regional hegemony. Iran, however, held the upper hand and so got the lions share of the short-term benefit.

In short, Iran has successfully developed a semi-clandestine nuclear program to the point where it could start producing a nuclear weapons within three months if it rushed to production.

The deal stipulates the decommissioning of 2/3rds of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, the export (and therefore loss to Iran) of 98% of Iran’s enriched uranium and places a cap on the level to which Iran may enrich Uranium in the future.

In other words, the deal is designed to prevent Iran producing nuclear weapons in the short and medium term.

The deal has a sunset of 15 years. After that time all nuclear sanctions and limitations are lifted.

The USA is just trying to buy some time.

In the meantime the deal preserves Israel as the only nuclear state in the Middle East, thus preserving US/Israeli hegemony.

Just on ‘buying time’, the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program only increase the difficulty in making a nuclear weapon by a small quantum.

Under pre-deal conditions Iran could rush to weaponisation in three months. Under post-deal conditions it will still take only one year. The US hasn’t bought much time for its $100bn – but OTOH it may be sufficient time.

Also, US satellite coverage of Iran is complete. If Iran attempted to even move a nuclear warhead to a missile base, that action would be detected instantly and the entire country destroyed within 60 seconds.

Some say that the $100bn in returned oil revenue and lifting of economic embargo buys the US military support for Iran against ISIS.

My view is that the USA actually supports ISIS in Syria as it wants to evict the Russia and their proxy Assad (whereas Iran is opposed to ISIS in Syria)

But the USA is truly opposed to ISIS in Iraq, as is Iran.

I think the USA is actually playing dead in Syria with limited bombing campaigns as a public relations exercise. It is hoping that ISIS/Turkey can evict Russia/Assad/Iran from Syria. The determination of Russia to hold Syria has been a game-changer and put ISIS on the back foot.

On a personal note it is interesting to note that the alliances in Syria are aligning extremely well with the scenario described in the Gog and Magog invasion of Ezekiel 38 as a precursor to Biblical End Times.

So the USA will oppose Iran in Syria, but support it in Iraq, where their interests are aligned.

I think it likely that the Nuclear Deal has been brokered partly on this shared geo-political basis.

So, if the USA-Iran Nuclear deal supports US/Israeli hegemony, why do The Republican Party and Israel oppose it ?

My guess is that probably The Republicans simply reject diplomacy a priori as a political strategy, They wish to entrench Military Bombardment as the single and only US posture in International Relations, seeing this as a more secure long-term guarantor of hegemony.

Possibly Israel has a similar view of itself vis-a-vis Middle Eastern relations.

To put it in a nutshell, Iran had the USA by the throat in regard to the strength of its negotiation position. Iran was on the very threshold of producing nuclear weapons: literally a matter of weeks. The USA had no choice but to offer Iran gigantic bribes to unplug its nuclear weapons program.

I suspect though that the deal will not prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. Look, they basically managed to do it already under full embargo. I don’t think they will abandon the regional power that comes from being a nuclear power.

I would say that Obama is already dudded.

Further Reading

Here’s a good analysis of the relative risks of options open to the USA in relation to Iran’s Nuclear program: Do Nothing, Bomb, Return To Sanctions or Diplomatic Compromise (as recently concluded by Obama in this deal).

Here’s an article in The Guardian, War With Iran Is Back On The Table, which recaps smy argument above with some additional information and includes a reference to a book devoted to the subject of the US-Iran Nuclear deal

Conservative Christian friends of mine alerted me to a statement by Barack Obama that he would supposedly stand with Muslims if the political tide turned ugly. This statement alarmed my friends who felt that it displayed a partisan bias toward Muslims by Obama. As they put it why not stand with everyone else too ?

I asked if they would forward me the statement, which they duly did from the Conservative Crusader website. Here’s what CC has to say:

Note what B. Hussein Obama says in his own words. In “Audacity of Hope” he writes: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” The quote comes from page 261 of the paperback edition of “The Audacity of Hope.”

Unfortunately for Conservative Crusader, the statement attributed to Obama is not accurate. It is a misquote made with the intention of slurring Obama as a secret Muslim.

This particular piece of error has been dealt with by the website Truth Or Fiction.

The statement said to be Obama’s own words is actually a paraphrase of a quote from Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope. It is from a section that talks about the concerns of immigrants who are American citizens.

In context, Obama is saying that he would defend American Muslims against racist persecution such as that experienced by American Japanese during WW2. And he is saying that he would do the same for any immigrant community.

Here is the accurate and more complete quote:

Of course, not all my conversations in immigrant communities follow this easy pattern. In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific assurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.

By the same standard of proof proffered by Conservative Crusader it can be (erroneously) shown that George W. Bush is also a secret Muslim.

I found GW Bush’s comments on Islam delivered (GASP!) from within a Mosque on Sept. 17, 2001 just days after the 9/11 attacks.

In it Bush says much the same thing as Obama:
That Muslims are entitled to be free from racist persecution and that he would defend Muslims from such ugliness. The article summarizes Bush’s sentiments like so “Bush: U.S. Muslims should feel safe”.

Bush said:

“I’ve been told that some [Muslims] fear to leave [their homes]; some don’t want to go shopping for their families; some don’t want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they’re afraid they’ll be intimidated. That should not and that will not stand in America.”

Bush, revealing his Islamic sympathies, also said that Muslims are the friends of America, that Muslims are our brothers and sisters, that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the 9/11 attacks are not Islamic. He also quoted from the Koran and supported the Islamic view that the Koran can only be properly understood in Arabic.

Well, look, its obvious nonsense isn’t it ? Turning the target on its head makes that plain.

The political strategy employed by Obama’s enemies to discredit him was to say that he was a terrorist.

They used three main ways to do this:

  • Tie him to the radical leftist group The Weathermen, and say he was a radical Communist
  • Highlight inflammatory remarks made by his Christian Pastor of twenty years, Jeremiah Wright (who married the Obamas) and say he was a Radical Black Panther-type Christian
  • Highlight his Kenyan ancestry and childhood and his name Hussein to imply he was a radical Muslim

So, Obama, landing a seriously arcane quadrella is simultaneously a Communist, a Christian, a Black Panther and a Muslim.

In fact all of the accusations dwell as congenially as oil and water in the credulous article from Conservative Crusader, linked above

Plainly, Obama is no more a Muslim than George Bush.

Newt Gingrich confirmed the tendency of the United States toward Palengentic Corporatist Ultranationalistic Populism by bluntly stating that he would arrest US Judges that gave rulings sympathetic to a secularist ideal or which encroached upon the discretionary powers of the US President acting as Commander-In-Chief.

Newt said he would take action against

“steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a non-religious country.”

and, of course, that he was defending “traditional American values.”

Says the blog Digital Journal

Michael Mukasey [an Attorney-General under GW Bush] said to Fox News that Gingrich’s proposals were “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall, and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle”.

Now, Newt is not stating that he would immediately imprison Judges with whom he disagrees. He just wants to haul them before a Commission Of Inquiry to explain their treachery thinking i.e. he just wants to intimidate the judges, not imprison them…yet.

Crocodile Tears For Checks And Balances

Newt’s assertive proposal for the defence of the US government against unconstitutional judical activism is spelt out in his election year manifesto “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution”

This document presents as the call of a concerned citizen for the US Constitution to be interpereted according to the precepts of ‘Originalism’ and for proper constitutional observation of the limits of power of each of the governmental branches of the US (Congress, President, Judiciary).

However, Gingrich’s call for the proper seperation of powers is a mere smokescreen for his desire to see an effectively unlimited presidency as insofar as this concerns Presidential discretionary powers when acting as Commander-In-Chief.

Gingrich concentrates his attention and warnings on what he sees as the creeping aggregation of perogative by the Courts and for them to be put under proper restraint through Congress and the President using their Constitutional rights to question, discipline and/or dismiss activist Judges and Courts.

Gingrich does not, however, caution against the President over-reaching his Constitutional privileges or sound any warning that the Presidency is undermining the proper seperation of powers via the over use of Presidential Executive Orders. In fact, Gingrich is seeking to strengthen the Predidents ability to act unilaterally by recommending that Courts and Judges be disciplined or struck down for ruling on limitations to Presidential power.

Gingrich, while not a Tea Partyer himself, is opportunistically attempting to leverage the powerful ‘Constitutionalist’ sentiment (see also here) generated by the Tea Party movement in order to expand the unilateral perogatives of the Presidency.

Gingrich’s immediate aim is to entrench in the Presidency the unilateral right to declare war whenever the President so decides. This is why he especially wishes to cordon off the President’s role of Commander-In-Chief from question or review by the Courts, whom he properly recognises as the most likely source of constraint on the President.

In this, Gingrich appears to share common ground with and exceed John McCain who, during the last US Federal Election, when asked what US Policy should be toward Iran simply sang ‘Bomb, Bomb, Bomb / Bomb Bomb Iran’ to the tune of the famous 60’s pop tune ‘Barbara Ann’.

Face Value

Gingrich’s document “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution” presents well as a case for Originalism and provides good examples of judicial activism which would warrant Congressional inquiry.

The most topical is the astounding (though legally consistent) assertion by Judge Biery, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas someone that he would order the arrest of any school official who permitted a person to lead a group of persons of mixed or non-belief in prayer during a high school graduation speech or merely say the words “amen” or “prayer” during the ceremony.

From Judge Biery’s injunction

These students, and all other persons scheduled to speak during the graduation ceremony, shall be instructed not to present a prayer, to wit, they shall be instructed that they may not ask audience
members to “stand,” “join in prayer,” or “bow their heads,” they may not end their remarks with “amen” or “in [a deity’s name] we pray,” and they shall not otherwise deliver a message that would commonly be understood to be a prayer, nor use the word “prayer” unless it is used in the student’s expression of the student’s personal belief, as opposed to encouraging others who may not believe in the concept of prayer to join in and believe the same concept.

this injunctive order shall be effective immediately and shall be enforced by incarceration or other sanctions for contempt of Court if not obeyed by District official and their agents.

Gingrich adduces his document with many supporting statements from the US Founding Fathers (e.g Madison, Hamilton), supplies fair examples of where he feels that the US Supreme Court has exceeded the Constitution and makes a reasoned argument against judicial activism as he sees it. I found it an enjoyable and stimulating read.

But Gingrich is deceiving the electorate. He is not at all concerned with Constitutional balance between the arms of government, merely with aggrandaising the office of President by giving it irrevocable powers when acting as Commander-In-Chief.

Furthermore, Gingrich uses the rulings of Judge Biery above to generate outrage to distract attention from his agenda to aggrandaise the Presidency. In short, his entire conduct in this matter is as a calculated power grab under the dishonest pretence to be a defender of Constitutional balance.

While expressing outrage at judicial activism and subversion of the Constitution, Gingrich ignores Presidential activism and subversion of the kind openly acknowledged by aides to President Clinton

Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool.”
Paul Begala, former Clinton advisor, The New York Times, July 5, 1998

“We’ve switched the rules of the game. We’re not trying to do anything legislatively.”
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, The Washington Times, June 14, 1999

Presidential Activism

As the website describes in its article, ‘What Is An Executive Order’ ‘Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress’ and also notes that the US involvement in the 1999 Balkans war against Serbia under Clinton was authorised by Executive Order.

This attempt by Gingrich to concentrate more unilateral power in the office of President, to legitimize such concentration, protect it from criticism and to limit the most effective brake on that power shows Gingrich as possessing active Fascist impulses. This is unfortunately too well in line with the general and growing Fascist orientation of the Tea Party and Republican Party in general.

The Palingenic content of his statement lies in the call to defend ‘Traditional American Values’. As my linked article above explains, Fascist movements are Palengenic meaning they seek a rebirth from some corrupted or dead state and Reactionary in that they respond to a supposed existential threat of some kind. Gingrich has here identified the Judiciary as that existential threat to traditional values.


Gingrich’s assertion of traditional American Biblical values in conjuction with the call for unlimited war-making powers in the Presidency is a clear validation of the prediction that when Fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. The conjuction of the two aspects is, in my view, significant.

The particularly nasty part about Gingrich’s comments are that he deceptively asserts a desire to balance the powers of government while actually attempting to minimize one (the courts) and aggrandaise another (the Presidency). His manifesto nowhere mentions the dangers of an unlimited Presidency. Only the courts are criticized.

By seeking to constrain the courts, Gingrich is attempting to remove constraints on single-person Presidential power which is law by decree, a hallmark of Fascism.

I will re-state: Should the USA suffer a major economic depression or lose control of Middle East Oil, it will quickly descend into Fascism. This danger will be present until significant political actors, such as Gingrich, no longer feel comfortable in voicing proto-Fascist proposals, a precondition for which is that the Tea Party Movement will have ceased to exist.

How did the Libyan NFZ proposal succeed in the Security Council ?

My short answer, following Chomsky: The West must periodically dump its favourite dictators when their crimes become obvious to the the general population of Western democracies.

Marcos, described by GH Bush as ‘pledged to democracy’ adding that ‘[the US] love[s] your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes’ was dumped for Aquino due to mass public protest. Others, including Mubarrak, have met the same fate. Now its Gaddaffi’s turn.

The average Western voter, unaware of Gaddaffi’s general working relationship with the US thinks of Gaddaffi as an anti-Western psycho-tyrant. This is a left-over from his ‘official enemy of civilisation’ status earnt around the time of the Lockerbie bombing. For the westerner in the street, Gaddaffi’s ‘official enemy’ status has never been revised or rescinded despite his aforesaid working relationship with the US and the West. The eruption of civil war in Libya including air-force strikes on civilians and rebels rightly disgusts Norm and Noreen Everage who expect the innocent to be protected. So there is domestic political expectation in the West, grounded in basic decency, that our governments will enact a NFZ.

But governments, naturally, approach the situation based on realpolitik and self-interest.

The crucial political factor which allowed the NFZ proposal to succeed is the alliance of common interest between Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations with the US.

While significant chunks of the grass roots Arab citizenry may hate the US, their governments rather enjoy selling the US oil and receiving Megatons of military equipment as part of various perverse aid and friendship packages. The Americans base the bulk of their Persian Gulf fleet in Bahrain , to name just one important aspect of this relationship.

The Arab League does not wish to succour the highly energetic and successful protest movements swelling under their feet, so to provide a precedent of supporting a rebel movement in Libya must have stuck in their craw and contributed to a great deal of hesitation in their agreement with the UN/NATO.

The Arab League is a Sunni organisation. Iran is not a member. This makes the Arab League easier to deal with for the US/West than the Organisation Of The Islamic Conference, of which Iran, a trenchant opponent if the USA is a member. I think this is why the US/NATO sought agreement with the Arab League rather than the OIC. Iran would have it harder for the Saudis to make a deal which was predicated partly on the basis of Shiites being massacred in Bahrain.

As to why Saudi planes (or the Arab League generally) are not doing the bombing runs, well, they have to save face with their own population. Its not great internal press to openly bomb other Muslims. If the Brits do it then that may just distract the rebel movements a little into an anti-Western lacuna.

But the Saudis wlll happily massacre as many Shiite Bahranis as they have bullets, or Apache helicopters.

The typical Western voter, unaware of the basic alliance between Arab and Western governments, and with no pre-existing mental image of Bahraini royalty except a vague negative Arab/Muslim sterotype will consider the Bahraini massacres an internal Arab matter and will not expect Western intervention. Besides which, war with Saudi Arabia is beyond the comfort level of most of the sane.

But in regard to Libya, the West needed the NFZ deal to save face with its own populace – particularly the British, whose royalty are friends with Gaddaffi’s son and whose famous London School Of Economics received bequests from the psycho-tyrant himself.

So I would guess the essence of the deal with the Arab League would be “Let us do a NFZ in Libya and we’ll look the other way while you massacre as many as you want elsewhere, starting with Bahrain and Yemen’

How China and Russia were talked into abstaining, I don’t know, but it would have cost the West a barrel of favours that would make even a FIFA junket look trivial.

So, the NFZ is not a specific imperialialist gambit or lunge for Libyan oil, but rather an unfortunate turn of events where popular protest has forced the West to abandon one of its murderous clients.

This happens regularly and is very distressing because revolution is more unpredicatable than Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates and who the West gets to deal with next will have to be cultivated/managed/bombed or bribed into compliance which is costly, time-consuming and has no guarantee of success.

I was chasing up the connection between Climate Change Denialism, DDT and the Tobacco Industry when I serendipitously came across a very useful essay on the topic of ‘What Is Fascism ?’ at Orcinus.

The essay is called Rush, Newspeak and Fascism, written by Daniel Neiwert in the midst of the G W Bush era. Neiwert’s special interest is the conspiracist US Patriot/Militia movements, their involvement in domestic terrorism and the way they admire and are accommodated by the Republican Party.

Neiwert canvasses some important essays on Fascism including Umberto Eco’s essay on Ur-Fascism before settling on Oxford University’s Roger Griffin’s definition of ‘Palingenetic Ultranationalist Populism’ as the animating principles of Fascism. Palingenetic means ‘rising from the ashes, as the Phoenix’

Neiwert then notes some important additional factors: the hand-in-glove relationship of Fascism to Big Business (what he terms ‘Corporatism’), the valourisation of violence and the need of Fascist’s to regard themselves as reacting against Victimisation, persecution or repression (what I classify as the reactionary element of Fascism).

The purpose of Neiwert’s essay is to clearly define Fascism so that it may be recognised in nascent forms as well as its full-blown ‘mature’ form.

As Neiwert notes, the term ‘Fascist’ is grossly abused, mostly by the Left, and is usually delivered as an insult meaning nothing more than ‘authoritarian’. The destructive power and disease of Fascism is too deadly to allowed to obscured by lazy usage. Like ‘Genocide’, the appellation of ‘Fascism’ is too important to be misused. It’s a definition that needs to be kept sharp to remain useful.

Having defined Fascism and castigated the Left for misuse of the term Neiwert then spends the remainder of the essay discussing to what extent right-wing extremist groups in the USA have been accommodated by the Repunlican Party and to what extent the rhetoric and beliefs of the extreme right find everyday expression in Republican mainstream discourse. Its an interesting exploration.

That’s Enough About Him

I see Fascism as an opportunistic movement arising from crisis or flux. The pre-conditions have to be right for Fascism to erupt in the public imagination. A charismatic/redemptive leader is crucial.

The United States, in my opinion, has a greater potential to slide into Fascism than Australia, for a number of reasons:

• Their national image as a ‘nation of destiny’
• Their national image as an example to all nations, a leader of the world community,
a youthful, vigorous, vanguard, revolutionary nation free of the corrupting
accretions of senile cynical European leadership. (Old Europe v. New Europe)
• Highly patriotic and jingoistic
Great love of patriotic symbols such as the National Flag.
My country right or wrong. American pride: America must ‘walk tall’ cannot be in second place, cannot lower the flag (e.g at Olympics)
• Their belief in a transcendent American spirit and American values –
Values worth rediscovering/recovering/fighting )literally) for.
• Their national birth through revolution; hence national rebirth obtainable by revolution on the same principles.
• Unilateral. – Rejects United Nations, International Criminal Court
Approves of Torture as a means of achieving national goals.

• A Martial nation – Highly militaristic and militarized: which nation has military bases in 150 nations
around the world ?
• Presidential system with propensity to degenerate into a personality cult. Round the clock PR machine polishing/aggrandaisin the image.
• Significant racist undercurrent including White Supremacist groups
– a hangover from the Slave Trade and The South
• Big Business and Political classes are the same people (Corporatist) and integrated
to an extent far more openly than other Western nations.
• Highly inflammatory/irresponsible political rhetoric typified by Sarah Palin
• Domestic terrorist groups (Militias)

In a wry twist, the term ‘Palingenetic’ perfectly describes the overt aims of the GOP-derived ‘Tea Party’ movement, now identified with Sarah Palin, whose website and speech making contain highly distasteful and culpable affirmations of violent and forceful action against a corrupt political culture, perfectly synchronous with a Fasist template.

But, as Neiwert says, the GOP/Big Business are more interested in Money and Power than racism and fascism and neither the GOP nor Sarah Palin is not Fascist.

The accommodation of racist and/or extremist thinking, like the accommodation of Christian fundamentalist thinking in the GOP is a means to an end, not and end in itself. When/if Racism/warped Christian Fundmentalism (really pseudo-Christian white totalitarianism) becomes the end in itself, then the United States would have taken a stride toward Fascism.

So, in my view, many of the necessary elements for Fascism are present above mere trace levels in the USA.

They sorely need to regain a civilised political rhetoric in order to rein in some of the factors noted above.

Rhetoric vs. Reality

A colleague of mine made a very valid point about distinguishing between rhetoric and action. Even if the GOP is willing to trade in some of the rhetoric of the outer right it does not mean that the GOP is actually going to implement the policies of the outer right.

For example, Christian Fundamentalists began to desert the Republicans in the Obama election because they felt betrayed by the GOP. The GOP despite their rhetoric were not delivering on their (implicit) undertakings.

John Cain never talked about faith and seemed to be spiritually apathetic. Obama, OTOH seemed to be a real believer. So the Fundies began to drift toward the Democrats.

That was one reason why Palin was drafted in as Vice-Presidential nominee: she’s a bona-fide Christian Fundamentalist. She was bought in to stop that drift.

So, the question is, has there really been a rightward shift in American Politics even if one should happen to agree that there has been a rightward shift in rhetoric.

Well can a person clutch fire to their chest and not be burned ?

The Southern Strategy

The first rightward lunge by the GOP occurred under the Southern Strategy, of the 1960’s, developed by Nixon to appeal to white racists. That strategy resulted in a number of policies designed to appeal to racist sentiment; for example, ‘Forced Busing’ (to achieve racial desegregation) was dropped, ‘Law And Order’(meaning oppose Civil Rights Protest), and anti-welfare (meaning stop whites having to pay for Black welfare) policies were implemented.

The electioneering phrase for these programs taken together was ‘States Rights’ which harked back to the 1948 formation of the States Rights Democratic Party, formed by Southern Democrats to oppose the Civil Rights movement. Reagan resurrected ‘States Rights’ rhetoric in 1980, announcing his support for ‘States Rights’ in a township famous for the murder of three Civil Rights activists in 1964.

The success of The Southern Strategy inverted the racial orientation of American politics making the GOP, formerly the ‘Party Of Lincoln’ (i.e. racial emancipation) the racist-friendly party, forcing the formerly racist Democrats to a non-racist stance since they needed some Black Vote.

Reagan regenerated the Sothern Strategy, introducing a range of anti-welfare and taxation policies which he knew would be perceived as anti-black in the South. Here’s how his campaign advisor Lee Atwater,
later chairman of the Republican National Committee described it

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to […]the racist side of the Wallace [i.e. Southern] voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. […]We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger

Reagan also gave racist private Universities access to certain tax exemptions which had been previously denied to them on the basis of discriminatory behaviour and opposed affirmative action and quotas. TV adverts showed a white hand crumpling a job rejection notice talking about quotas. In short, anti-welfare equals anti-Black to a Southern audience. Its a dogwhistle. The inclusion of States Rights delivers the code words infallibly.

As Atwater put it, The GOP is happy to be viewed as implementing economic measures to hurt blacks to appeal to whites.

The confluence of Reagan’s ideological anti-welfare leanings with his desire to appeal to white racists provides fig leaf cover for an argument that the appeal to racism is merely fortunate, a mere by-product of good economics. Though the disproportional effect on Blacks is recognised it is not intentional, in fact it is good or them, breaking the welfare cycle (and there is some truth in that).

In a similar vein one might say that the location of the ‘States Rights’ speech was merely fortunate, even planned, but not driven by any particular racist motivation.

Maybe so.

But Atwater admits to fostering the racist sentiment by choosing ‘States Rights’ as the vehicle by which to deliver these policies, which means that the GOP is happy to trade in racism in order to win office. They’re happy for racism to be associated with political leadership.

Which is reprehensible.

And dangerous.

Performance Artist Laurie Anderson describes the process of getting her voice synthesizers and experimental electronic musical instruments through Customs at the typical US airport:

“ (Anderson:) I was carrying a lot of electronics so I had to keep unpacking everything and plugging it in and demonstrating how it all worked, and I guess I did seem a little fishy — a lot of this stuff wakes up displaying LED program readouts that have names like Atom Smasher, and so it took a while to convince them that they weren’t some kind of espionage system.

So I’ve done quite a few of these sort of impromptu new music concerts for small groups of detectives and customs agents and I’d have to keep setting all this stuff up and they’d listen for a while

and they’d say: So uh, what’s this?
And I’d pull out something like this filter, and say,

now this is what I like to think of as the Voice Of Authority. And it would take me a while to tell them how I used it for songs that were, you know, about various forms of control, and they would say, now why would you want to talk like that?

And I’d look around at the SWAT teams, and the undercover agents, and the dogs, and the radio in the corner, tuned to the Super Bowl coverage of the war.

And I’d say, take a wild guess.