Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Gradual Transformation of American Society

    Before you read this, I think it'd be helpful for you to go read at least the first half of this article. I have a few issues with the way she presented some things later on, but during the first half she's quoting a book They Thought They Were Free:The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer, which is an account of the Nazi takeover by a German citizen of the time. It discusses how life in Germany transformed from what it was to the Nazi Germany that we are all so familiar with. And I think it sheds some light on the dangerous situation we face here in the United States.

    For those of you who didn't read it, the article talks about how the changes in Germany happened so slowly, so imperceptibly. The change occurred with each step not being too radical from the position previously held, so that there was never that one event which was so outrageous that the German people would be shocked and put an end to it. The situation is actually very similar now.

    Sure, to you everything seems pretty much as usual. The Super Bowl is going to be on this Sunday, your local pizzeria still makes that great pizza that you love, your son won his soccer game this week, work is going well, and people on the streets seem like they're happy. Things, to you, appear "good". Certainly no mass graves anywhere, so what is their to be so upset about?

    The thing is, while you may have not noticed, things have changed dramatically. Those smiling faces you see on the street now have quite a few new ideas in their head that they either agree with or accept as normal. They think that it's important for the government to be able to torture, to spy on American citizens, to give huge tax breaks to the rich while we're fighting a war and running a huge deficit. They think that those who are against the war are simply "America-haters" and "blame America firsters" Unless they think it's a liberal lie, they believe that corruption is prevalent on both sides of the spectrum and are beginning to simply accept that as normal. They think that Alito's views are nothing to be upset about, certainly nothing to warrant a filibuster. To want peace is to betray your country and let the terrorists win. To bring up the issue that companies with political ties shouldn't receive no-bid contracts is also unpatriotic. The media is liberal, and they must shift the news to the right if they want to get the truth. And so on.

    Point is, things have changed. One tiny issue at a time. The torture issue came up and the media pundits "debated" it for a few days. None of the guests on the show were outraged, and all of them were smiling. Must not be that big of a deal then, thinks the average American. Next issue, same story. The nature of society is changed continually, but only by little amounts at a time. Mayer writes

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, regretted,” that . . . one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. . . . You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. . . .

But the one great shocking occasion . . . never comes. . . . That'’s the difficulty.

    Often I think that as long as America doesn't have concentration camps where we're gassing Jews, most Americans will be completely unable to see the similarities between a fascist society and that which America is starting to create. And so they will remain silient, as ideas of what is right and wrong, true and untrue are distorted to drastic proportions. Their foods, favorite sports, and daily life remain "normal", so they don't worry about it. And besides, aren't Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie having a baby?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Man Lied to Oprah!

    I don't know if you all are as torn up about this story as I am, but it was just on 4 different news stations when I turned on the TV. Apparently this man lied to Oprah about some things in a book that he wrote! The media is really tearing him apart. Can you imagine what they'd do if one of our elected leaders lied about something (everything) and continued to cover it up with lies (and start a war)?

Friday, January 20, 2006

An Educational Time Killer

    If anyone's looking to kill some time, there's a pretty elaborate anti-Bush game here. The game also has educational portions which discuss things such as the budget, taxes, the environment, employment, religion, and terrorism.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Illusion of Democratic Resistance

    I was watching the Alito confirmation hearings today on C-SPAN and saw something that really bothered me. Senator Joe Biden decided to ask Alito about his views on executive power, specifically whether or not the President had the right to declare war without congressional authorization. Now we're not talking about responding to an imminent threat in which an urgent response is necessary for protection, we're talking about large-scale, prolonged war. And if Alito had come right out and said that he believed the President had this authority I wouldn't have been shocked at all. After all, the right has been pushing these ideas for awhile now and in some sense I understand the position. I mean, in a fascist theocracy of course the Leader should be able to commit the poor to die without consulting the Congress. And let's be honest, most of the elected politicians serve the same masters as the President does, so it's probably just a waste of time to go through the formalities.

    Later on Biden said the following
BIDEN: The administration argues we could pass a resolution saying that, "You have no authority to invade Iran," and the president could the next day invade Iran. Our only recourse would be to cut off appropriations.

But, as you know, there's no way to cut off specific appropriations. You have to cut off appropriations for the entire military, which means it's a totally useless tool for the Congress in today's world. You know?

You can't say, well, I'm going to cut off only the money for the oil that allows the steaming of the ships to get from the East Coast to the Mediterranean sea and/or to the Persian Gulf.

So it's really kind of important, whether or not you think the president does not need the authority of the United States Congress to wage a war where there's not an imminent threat against the United States. And that's my question.

ALITO: And, Senator, if I'm confirmed and if this comes before me -- or perhaps it could come before me on the Court of Appeals -- the first issue would be the political question doctrine that I've described.

But if we were to get beyond that, what I can tell you is that I have not studied these authorities and it is not my practice to just express an opinion on a constitutional question...


ALITO: ... Including particularly one that is as momentous as this. I've set out my understanding of what the Constitution does in allocating powers relating to war between the executive and Congress, and some of what some of the leading authorities have said on this question. But beyond that -- and I haven't read Professor Yoo's book or anything that he's written on this issue -- I would have to study the question.

BIDEN: I thank you.

    So now Biden has asked him about the scenario when the Congress would preemptively tell the President "no, you may not invade this country" and the President still does. Alito does what he's done on all issues (to be fair, all recent SC nominees do this) and simply refused to answer the question in any meaningful way. He would have to "study the question". As absurd as I think this is, I think the biggest problem is Biden's response. "OK". WHAT? He just said that it's not obvious to him that if the elected representatives of the people tell the president beforehand that he can't declare war on a certain country, that the president might still be able to! And all you've got is OK? Maybe it's just me, but this seems like something that Biden could have pursued harder. to say the least. This is something that I think a decent fraction of the American people would respond to if it were mentioned on the news. And there's no way in hell it's going to be mentioned if Biden doesn't make a big deal about it. But hey, I understand, you're running for President in 2008. Better keep your eyes on the prize. Once you've got that maybe you'll worry about defending the people.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Frank Zappa Predicts the Future on Crossfire-1986

    Frank Zappa, for those like me who aren't old enough to know, was a very popular composer and musician until his death in 1993. The guy could also apparently tell the future. He appeared on this Crossfire interview in 1986 and debated over censorship. Despite being extremely blunt and clear about the problems of government censorship, he also recognized the path that America was then headed on when he said "The biggest threat to America today is not communism; it's moving America towards a fascist theocracy and everything that has happened during the Reagan administration. It's steering us right down that pipe". Most of those who probably saw that thought he was being a stupid musician who didn't know what the hell he was talking about, so it's interesting to see his opinion coming true now. I wonder what Britney Spears thinks about politics today.....