Sunday, August 31, 2008

Campaign Poster Of The Day: McCain/Palin 08

"As for that VP talk all the time, I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me 'What is it exactly that the VP does every day?' I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in the administration. We want to make sure that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position."

-Sarah Palin ( John McCain's Vice Presidential Nominee & Alaska Governor-2006-Present, Interview on CNBC's Kudlow & Co. news broadcast, 7.31.2008. Image: -Cathy Cooper, Palin & McCain Campaign Poster,, 2008).

Friday, August 29, 2008

On American Fascism: Divine & Rapturous Violence

“Recently a disturbing book came to my attention, and as I read it, it became clear to me that perhaps the most significant development in what we may call “illuminated politics” in the twenty-first century is happening now in the United States. The fact that Americans will soon be electing a new president only adds a certain urgency and immediacy to this concern. Some believe that with the end of the Bush administration, the influence of the Christian Right on American politics will wane. Yet the Nazis dropped below the radar after Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923; a decade later they were in power.

If I’m beating a dead horse here, I ask the reader’s indulgence. The book in question is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. In it, Chris Hedges, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, paints a troubling picture of the rise of what he argues may be a form of American-Christian fascism. This isn’t the kind of neo-Nazi “white power” sensibility that has been on the fringes of American society for some time. There are no swastikas, no Hitler salutes, no armbands or kitschy brown shirts associated with this group, although its appeal to an increasingly disenfranchised sector of American society is similar to the appeal National Socialism had to disenfranchised Germans in the early 1930s. The “American fascists” Hedges speaks of belong to a huge, well-organized, well-funded, and disturbingly politically well-placed movement dedicated to dismantling the secular state and replacing it with a kind of authoritarian theocracy, based on a numbingly literal reading (or misreading) of the Bible. Through schools, the media, pressure groups, and lobbyists, and through its growing presence in the American halls of political power, the Christian Right, Hedges argues, is gearing up to fundamentally (the pun would be inexcusable if the concern wasn’t so real) alter the American way of life, and through this, ultimately, the way of life for the rest of the world as well.

Like many encountered in this book, Hedges’ American fascists are unhappy with the modern world, especially the American modern world, which they see as decadent, depraved, and heading for disaster. Sexual license, homosexuality, feminism, liberalism, popular culture, the welfare state, foreigners, and a host of other ills are pulling what was once, in their eyes, a Christian nation down the tube. Although I hesitate to point out the parallels too strongly, as in the years leading up to National Socialism in Germany, there is among the followers of this belief a sense of some impending doom, some unavoidable cataclysm. Historians have argued that works like Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West and others of a similar tone, which appeared in Germany in the years following World War I, helped prime the German psyche to accept the idea of some vast, irrevocable alteration in the shape of things and the need for strong leaders to find a way through the chaos. Hedges argues that the horror of September 11 created a similar sensibility in many Americans, and that the Christian Right is playing on the understandable fears that it and other terrorist attacks have generated. That the minds behind September 1l and other terrorist attacks, in the United States and elsewhere, are as narrow, fanatical, and oblivious to human suffering as those informing the Christian Right (at least according to Hedges) only adds to the sense that the affairs of the West in the early twenty-first century have reached, or are about to reach, a crisis point.

I will leave readers of Hedges’ book to discover—if they are not already aware of it—the worryingly sophisticated network of media, educational, social, and political control that his American fascists already have in place and which, in the event of another September 1l or similar catastrophe, they will speedily use to offer and assume a beneficent leadership of the nation. But these “illuminated” totalitarians aren’t dependent on a terrorist attack, economic meltdown, or increasingly likely natural disaster (probably stemming from global warming) in order to come forth and take their rightful place as rulers of the land, although the downturn in the U.S. economy at the time of writing is the sort of thing they’re banking on. The central myth motivating their actions is the imminent end of the world as we know it, a version of the last days patched together from a selective reading of the Book of Revelation. At the heart of this is what they call the Rapture, when Jesus returns to earth and all his “true believers” are whisked up to heaven, while the rest of humanity is “left behind” to face an unimaginable ordeal of bloodcurdling torture and horror, the “time of tribulation.”

I say “unimaginable,” but this is incorrect, as a series of Christian Right bestsellers, collected under the title Left Behind, goes to some lengths to do just that. Reading the descriptions of the righteous violence meted out to those who refuse to let Jesus “into their hearts,” or to those who are not quite Christian enough, with bodies bursting, heads exploding, torsos slashed in two—all in very graphic detail—I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was a form of religious or apocalyptic pornography, a kind of sick spiritual sadism. Children have a front row seat in heaven while they watch their parents, who didn’t make the grade, receive the swift retribution of the Lord. Even Dante in his worst moments didn’t depict the punishments of hell with such obscene relish, but then Dante is a much better writer than the authors of these holy gore fests.

I point out popular culture is often a better indication of a society’s beliefs than its “official” sources. If this is true, then a substantial segment of the American consciousness is anticipating an imminent holy crusade against all those that it believes are not “one of us.” Candidates for this bill are the usual suspects: homosexuals, feminists, Jews, “people of color,” liberals, socialists, Muslims (adherents of a “Satanic” religion), and so on. That America is currently not right with God is the Christian Right’s complaint, but come the Rapture, that will change. The belief in the “cleansing” power of religious violence as a means of political action, as if some holy “white tornado” will come and blow away all the social “dirt,” has recurred throughout Western civilization. Sadly, it’s an option that many, confronted with the complexities of modern life, find attractive. If the sales of the Left Behind fantasies are any indication, millions of Americans do. Violence as a means of ushering in some putative new age is, of course, not limited to the right. Marx fantasized about the bourgeoisie hanging from lampposts. But I don’t think an imminent Marxist upheaval is on the books just now.”

-Gary Lachman,(Excerpt:” An American Fascism?,”, 8.12.08 Image: Ary Scheffer (Dordrecht, 1795 - Argenteuil, 1858), "Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent à Dante et à Virgile", Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier -M. Bard Paris, 1855).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Orwell & Strauss: The Labyrinth Of Doublethink...

George Orwell, in his novel “1984,” described Oceania, a society in which the prime motivating force for controlling the populace was fear, both fear of its own government and its enemies. He wrote of continual war, of enemies so horrendous that the public was constrained to rigid compliance with its rulers in order to demonstrate its patriotism. Much of Orwell’s description is found again in the teachings of University of Chicago Professor Leo Strauss, who died in 1973.

Strauss’s political philosophy contains many subtle and not-so-subtle effects evident in the Bush administration’s activities since Sept. 11. And remarkably, taken as a whole, they resemble the fictional world of Oceania. For instance, there’s the perpetual political deception between rulers and ruled, a necessity according to Strauss. There’s the obsession with secrecy and the Machiavellian conviction that stability among the populace requires an external threat, that if no such threat exists one must be manufactured. John Foster Dulles fully understood this when he recommended that, “In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to psychology. There must be the portrayal of external menace. This involves the development of a nation-hero, nation-villain ideology and the arousing of the population to a sense of sacrifice.”

Strauss and today’s neocons believe that our nation must maintain the appearance of continuous war. As Vice President Dick Cheney said, “This war may last for the rest of our lives.” The government can thus sustain a continued state of war hysteria to keep the population motivated. Through this creation and control of mass paranoia they can maintain an intense nationalism with complete loyalty and TOTAL SUBSERVIENCE to the “national interest.”

Orwell described a “labyrinthine world of doublethink …” for instance, “to believe that democracy was impossible, and that the party was the guardian of democracy.”

Americans believe very deeply in the ideals that America stands for, will sacrifice their lives and those of their children when necessary to defend them. Yet at the same time, the neocons have convinced the public to believe that these ideals are impractical in dealing with the complexities of today’s world. To burden the federal government with our revered Constitution and its checks and balances would cripple it in its difficult fight against terrorism. We must, they say, "sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve them."

The neocons, who have controlled the White House for the past seven years, have utilized Strauss and Orwell’s observations to provide a society much like that described in Orwell’s novel.

Oceania had an archenemy which the population was encouraged to fear and hate. In the novel this demonic figure was of Jewish heritage, but today’s “hated” figure is an Iranian leader named Ahmadinejad.

Our government and news media must keep painting him as a terrible threat, not only to Israel, but also to world peace. Our administration has distorted many of Ahmadinejad’s talks into violent threats, and the media has repeated them endlessly, making them seem truthful, just as Orwell described in his novel.

For instance, in a talk by our president in March 2006, “the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That’s a threat, a serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace.”

Yet Ahmadinejad was actually calling for a regime change in Israel and the U.S. He was not threatening to physically “wipe Israel off the map.” His goal was to end the terrible oppression of the Palestinians. Common sense must reveal that, should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, bombing Israel would also destroy the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. And it would mean certain suicide for Iran.

This fostering of fear and hate among Americans is necessary in order to prepare our nation to go to war. It was carefully crafted prior to the invasion of Iraq and is now being used to stir up the blood of Americans for invading another country. This is the “continuous war” predicted by Orwell.

When will we ever learn?

-Eliot J. Chandler ("Behind Politics, A Philosophy of Fear," Bangor Maine Daily News, 8.15.08. Image: Front page headlines signaling end of WWI: "War Is Over, War Is Peace," Chicago Herald & Examiner, 11.11.1918).

VioletPlanet Says: When the oil runs out!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

History's Hangover: King Alcohol & The Prime Minister...

"For centuries, our ancestors unleashed the dogs of war under the influence of a fog of booze

The conspiracy theorists were right all along – well, nearly. There was a single entity behind the course of Western history, a single force which has controlled the people and influenced the leaders and decision-makers for the past 12,000 years. This entity wasn’t a mysterious secret group – no Illuminati, no Knights Templar, and not even David Icke’s lizards get a look in.

It was alcohol.

Before the 19th century and the beginnings of a reliable and clean water supply, the Western world made its water safe by turning it into alcoholic drinks. The addition of ethyl alcohol to water kills many of the pathogens and thus, through the brewing and vintner industries, a clean and reliable source of liquid refreshment could be obtained.

Beer was almost certainly a staple of man’s diet before the arrival of bread, being produced for at least the last 12,000 years. It is usually noted that the beer or wine drunk on a day-to-day basis was generally much weaker than the beer or wine we drink today, although recipes exist for stronger ales. These have been recreated and found to have the strength of modern wine. This strong beer was not drunk on a day-to-day basis, primarily due to economic factors – it takes twice as much grain to produce the same amount of the stronger beer.

However, the fact that the daily liquid diet contained a regular supply of beer or wine does suggest that, before the 19th century, Western society spent much of its time in an alcoholic haze.

What effect would this have had on the development of that society? In particular, how could this affect the decision-making abilities of its leaders? After all, the economic constraints on producing stronger brews would not have applied to the wealthy and powerful. Why would a nobleman, king or emperor drink the same beer as the local peasants? He would certainly have been more likely to drink the higher quality, higher alcohol versions.

It’s interesting to note that China, along with other regions of the Far East, made their water safe by boiling it and making tea. Could the differences in the development of Chinese as opposed to Western European culture be due to the lack of alcohol in the diet of the Chinese? China, after all, has remained politically unified since 221BC. Contrast this to the constant state of political flux encountered in Western Europe over the last 2,200 years.

Whilst alcohol was discovered in China, and a certain, limited amount of drinking did take place, the Chinese did not actually have a choice in the matter. Half of the population lack the enzyme necessary for alcohol metabolism and therefore alcoholic drinks could never take their place as the safe alternative to water. Just as the development of Western culture could be rooted in the mind-altering affects of alcohol, so the insular development of China, which so puzzled Jared Diamond in his classic Guns, Germs and Steel, could be rooted in tea drinking.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Western society were fuelling their day-to-day lives with copious amounts of high-strength alcoholic drinks. In a curious reversal of current fortune, the Tennent’s Super and Special Brew brigade were once the men in charge!

Thankfully, the introduction of tea, coffee and cocoa in the 17th century allowed a shift away from alcohol as the primary source of safe water. Allied with later concerns over the health issues of drinking alcohol and a steady supply of safe drinking water, the powers that be were able to wean themselves from their daily fix.

Once we accept that the Western world was in the hands of alcoholics, it becomes easier to explain much of the behavior of our most famous leaders. It cannot be denied that our history is littered with selfish, violent, arrogant, stubborn, libidinous, unsteady, unpredictable and over-confident rulers. It is surely no coincidence that these character failings are the same ones as those manifested by people when drunk. The historians of Western civilization can no longer gloss over the simple fact that alcohol controlled all the decision-makers. Its grip on the current world is often considered dangerous, but this pales into insignificance when we look at the control it exerted over our ancestors. It’s high time history’s secret hangover was exposed."

- Paul Gilham,("The Hangover of History," ForteanTimes, August 2003. Image: -John Warner Barber, Engraving, "King Alcohol & The Prime Minister,"Library of Congress, 1800s).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Patanjali: Conquering Sexual Indulgence In 8 Easy Steps...

"Simply abstaining from sex will not bring about "continence". For this state to be achieved, the following 8 forms of sexual indulgence must be conquered":









-Patanjali ("Yogi Sutras." Scholars estimate that Patanjali lived some time between 400 B.C. and 200 A.D., though they are in disagreement about these dates. While the scholars debate the actual dates of Patanjali, oral tradition accounts for the apparent time differences by explaining that the name Patanjali is a surname, and is the name of a lineage and school of teachers, students, and sages, rather than being only one person. However, for convenience sake, Patanjali is spoken of as a single person, who might have been founder of the lineage. Although Patanjali is a surname of the lineage, there have also been several individuals with the name Patanjali, which may or may not have been related with the lineage relating to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Oral tradition: In addition, the Yoga traditions are historically oral traditions, and some say the Yoga Sutras were not written down for at least a couple hundred years after they were systematized by Patanjali. During that period it was the custom for the entirety of the Yoga Sutras to be memorized as a part of the practice. This type of learning is still done today by a few teachers and students, though many of them now do this as an intellectual study of Sanskrit, rather than as an aid to practice and direct experience. -"Pandit Usharbudh Arya, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vol. I, 1986. Image: Jane Russell, "The Outlaw,"1943 ).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Don Draper Calling...

"I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting..."

- Frank O' Hara ("Meditations In An Emergency," N. Y., Grove Press, 1957. Image: Business Card: Sterling Cooper Advertising, New York, NY 1960).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Meditation On Bloviators: The Unholy Three...

Hate-mongering against alleged “leftist 1960s terrorists” now fills the days of anti-Obama rage for the Rovian bloviator battalion. Bill Ayers and the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, Baby Boom professors, social workers , etc, are front and center for the hateful blatherings of the usual GOP flunkies all cowering at the prospect of an African-American president.

But there were, indeed, three 1960s terrorists whose murderous, planet-killing rampage continues to poison this nation. They tower above all others. Their names: William Westmoreland, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

This unholy trinity killed outright more than 55,000 Americans and several million southeast Asians—most of them innocent civilians—while bombing, strafing and spewing horrific toxic chemicals onto countless of square miles of previously pristine jungle. Their Agent Orange caused tens of thousands of deaths and deformities that still carry through the generations.

No single terror act in the history of the United States even remotely compares to the lethal psychosis that created and was then furthered by the Vietnam War. As Commander In Chief of US forces in Southeast Asia, Westmoreland dragged the US into the Vietnam quagmire. He repeatedly assured Lyndon Johnson that Vietnam’s north-south civil war was “winnable”.

In the 1980s I debated Westmoreland on two campuses (the University of Florida and Juneata College) and heard him tell me directly that “we never lost the war in Vietnam.” According to the man who lit the fuse, the US spent all those lives and dollars “successfully protecting” Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines from Communist dictatorships. Never mind that Suharto (Indonesia), Lee Kwan Yew (Singapore), and Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines) were among history’s most violent and authoritarian kleptocrats. In Westmoreland’s world, all that death, destruction and expenditure were worth it to keep these torturers in office while they stacked billions of public dollars in their private bank accounts.

Lyndon Johnson bought Westmoreland’s lies. With Defense Secretary Robert McNamara explaining the war in terms of “kill ratios,” Johnson used a fake non-attack by alleged North Vietnamese gunboats to get a blank check from Congress and impose wholesale slaughter on both the US and Vietnam.’

Johnson’s March, 1965, decision to escalate the war is arguably the turning point from which America’s moral standing and quality of life took their definitive downward plunge. While he crumbled from the psychological and spiritual strain, LBJ sent 550,000 Americans to Vietnam to perpetrate a human and ecological slaughter on a scale unique in the modern annals of gratuitous terror.

Richard Nixon followed with still more. After winning the presidency based on a “Secret Plan” to end the war, he escalated air attacks on an innocent nation that exceeded all the explosive tonnage dropped during World War II. Nixon illegally expanded the war into Cambodia, where three million civilians eventually died in wholesale slaughter.

At home, Nixon’s close friend, Governor James A. Rhodes, furnished the Ohio National Guard with the live ammunition they used to kill four unarmed students. Two more died soon thereafter in an official attack on a college dormitory at Mississippi’s Jackson State.

A clearly deranged psychotic, Nixon’s resignation journey should have taken him straight to prison, rather than to a presidential retreat alongside the Pacific.

None of these horrific terrorists was ever prosecuted or imprisoned. But their ungodly assault drove America’s economy, currency, health care and educational systems, moral and military standing, and much, much more, into a deep decline from which we have yet to recover.

None of those bilious corporate bloviators ever mention these highest-ranking terrorists in their rants against all things sixties. But when it comes to an American axis of evil perpetrating useless, gratuitous and totally unredeemed mass destruction of people and the planet, this is the 1960s trio that overshadows all others.

- Harvey Wasserman ("The Real 1960s Terrorists Were Named Westmoreland, Johnson and Nixon," FreePress.Org, 8.4.08, Image: -Harald Damsleth, Nazi propaganda poster: "LIBERATORS." Published by the Dutch SS-Storm magazine that then belonged to a radical SS wing of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands, 1944).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

François La Rochefoucauld: A Sinner's Rêverie...

"A woman often thinks she regrets the lover, when she only regrets the love”

- François La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680: "François VI, also called le Prince de Marcillac, Duc de la Rochefoucauld. French classical author best known for his maximes, epigrams expressing a harsh or paradoxical truth in the briefest manner possible. La Rochefoucauld was a cynical observer of Louis XIV's court, who mostly saw selfishness, hypocrisy, and weakness in general in human behavior. In his pessimism La Rochefoucauld was very democratic - everybody is a sinner. His insights have influenced amongst others Lord Chesterfield, Thomas Hardy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stendhal, and André Gide. Source: Image: Jean-Jacques Henner: 1829-1905, "Rêverie " Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, 1904-05).