Looking Forward, Looking Back
President Obama's made it abundantly clear — this country's busted up.
by Brian Howard
Published: Jan 21, 2009
I know this puts me in the minority, but I just didn't get as fired up for the inauguration as, like, everybody else in the entire world. Don't get me wrong. It's not that it wasn't all great, from Aretha Franklin's colossal bow-hat, to Saddlebacker Rick Warren's "Sssssashahhhhh," to Biden's Frankenstein-y oath-taking, to the new chief's excellent, no-bull speech. (I could have done without the poetry, but I'm verse-averse.)
I was excited for the Obama presidency to finally start. And really stoked to see finally-not-President Bush hand over the keys. And I certainly hadn't grown tired of the Bush-era montages, packed with so much "food on your families," "don't recall remembering"s, "slam dunk"s and "mis-underestimation"s. It's just that, well, election night was exciting. Tense. Suspenseful.
I get that defeating McCain was simply a metaphor for replacing Bush, and actually replacing Bush removes the step with the metaphor. But I found Tuesday kind of anticlimatic. (Lest you feared a president with an approval rating in the 20s might attempt some kind of military coup.) It's nice to hear Barack Obama give speeches — and his speech on Tuesday hit exactly the right tone. But I think we all, President Obama included, are long past ready — now that the cabinet's in place and the White House cleaning staff's hard at work ridding the place of the stench of blood money — for him to get down to the business of fixing this country. Because as the big guy made abundantly clear, this country's busted up.
Whether you want to blame George W. Bush directly or not, over the last eight years the United States has hemorrhaged money, power and influence, and we're already hearing the familiar chimes of not my fault. "I inherited a recession, I'm ending on a recession," said Bush in his Jan. 12 press conference. Ignoring the difference in scope of those two recessions, what Bush didn't say is this: He inherited a budget surplus projected at $5.6 trillion over 10 years, and turned it into a 10-year projected deficit of $6 trillion. That's an $11.6 trillion swing. And whether or not you buy into Dick Cheney's Reaganomical stance that deficits don't matter, that's still jaw-dropping.
Yes, I think we're all anxious to move on. But there seems to be a groundswell of opinion (at least, by conservatives responding to the critiques we've written of now-former President Bush) that we should "stop picking on Bush because 'we've' won, 'we've' got our messiah, etc." But that's not how it should work. It's great, yes, to have rid the highest office in the land of someone with so little respect for its founding principles. But leave him alone? After the shit-canning the U.S. Constitution has received over the last two presidential terms? After the emotional manipulation that's been waged? After the disrespect, not just for America's reputation but for Americans themselves?
I know I'm behind the curve here, but I've been taking a crash course in Naomi Wolf's The End of America, wherein Wolf outlines 10 "steps" fascists have historically taken to shut down a democracy. My first suspicion was that Wolf was cherry-picking the worst traits of the Bush regime and making tenuous connections to the likes of Stalin, Goebbels and Pinochet. But when your worst actions evoke names like those above, there's a chance you could be a totalitarian fascist attempting to subvert the principles of a nation.
I know that there's a lot of healing to be done, a lot of fences to be mended, and that Obama has, before ever taking the reins, made great strides to not only reach across the aisle, but to short-circuit the channels for inter- and intra-party rancor.
But as we continue to celebrate, I think it's a mistake to let the outgoing administration simply ride off into the sunset, their corporations and their friends' corporations bloated with war spoils. If ever there were a time for an independent counsel, isn't this it?
AlterNet. Posted December 27, 2008.
2008 was a banner year for progressive media: we helped to boot conservatives from power and elect a President running on a promise of change. AlterNet played its part, with groundbreaking political and cultural stories -- some culled from the best progressive sources on the web and many more produced in-house.
Below, we've assembled the 10 most popular stories of the year; the articles you read, emailed, and sent flying around the Internet. They cover topics ranging from the scary -- and hilarious -- revelations about VP candidate Sarah Palin, to troop deployments in the U.S., to the ten worst moments of the Bush Presidency.
Here are AlterNet's 10 most popular stories of the year.
10. Don't Eat Anything That Doesn't Rot
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
Consumers are getting duped by the food industry, paying the price with their health.
9. Top Ten Most Disturbing Facts and Impressions of Sarah Palin
By AlterNet Staff, AlterNet
It's not hard to stir up negative publicity when you advocate gunning down wolves from airplanes and deny the human causes of climate change.
8. Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out "Crowd Control"
By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet
Members of Congress were told they could face martial law if they didn't pass the bailout bill. This will not be the last time.
7. An Atheist Goes Undercover to Join the Flock of Mad Pastor John Hagee
By Matt Taibbi, RollingStone.com
In this excerpt from his new book, Matt Taibbi shares his experiences at a Hagee's boot camp for new converts.
6. What a Choice! Sex With a Sleaze for $100,000 or Writing for Peanuts
By Nicole McClelland, Mother Jones
Sites like SugarDaddy.com lure young women by offering them far more money than they could get in most professions. What's wrong with this picture?
5. The 10 Most Awesomely Bad Moments of the Bush Presidency
By Brad Reed, AlterNet
A shorter version of our long national nightmare.
4. Sleeping Around Craigslist
By Anna Reed, Lily Penza, East Bay Express
Two middle-aged women discover that casual sex can be anything but casual.
3. At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office
By Emily Feder, AlterNet
I was recently stopped by Homeland Security as I was returning from a trip to Syria. What I saw in the hours that followed shocked and disturbed me.
2. This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House
By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
A who's who guide to the people poised to shape Obama's foreign policy.
1. 8 More Shocking Revelations About Sarah Palin
By Isaac Fitzgerald, Tana Ganeva, AlterNet
More skeletons come out of Palin's closet.
The End of America? Naomi Wolf Thinks It Could Happen
By Don Hazen, AlterNet. Posted November 21, 2007.
If you think we are living in scary times, your worst fears may be confirmed by reading Naomi Wolf's newest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. In it, Wolf proves the old axiom that history does repeat itself. Or more accurately, history occurs in patterns, and in order to understand where our country is today and where it is headed, we need to read the history books.
Wolf began by diving into the early years leading up to fascist regimes, like the ones led by Hitler and Mussolini. And the patterns that she found in those, and others all over the world, made her hair stand on end. In "The End of America," she lays out the 10 steps that dictators (or aspiring dictators) take in order to shut down an open society. "Each of those ten steps is now under way in the United States today," she writes.
If we want an open society, she warns, we must pay attention and we must fight to protect democracy.
I met with Wolf to discuss what she learned while researching this book, how the American public has received her warnings, and what we can do to squelch the fascist narratives we are fed in this country each day.
To read the full interview, click here.
They Thought They Were Free
The Germans, 1933-45
Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" First published in 1955
By Milton Mayer
But Then It Was Too Late
"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn't make people close to their government to be told that this is a people's government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
To read more, please click here.
State of Emergency, by Rachel Hills
It is hard not to be cynical about a book titled as audaciously as Naomi Wolf's The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. Throughout the Bush years, "America has gone to the dogs"¯ titles have proliferated to the point they almost warrant their own section at the book store. Whatever their veracity, the cumulative effect of such books has been less to stir citizens to action than to dull them to arguments. In part, this is a result of the natural resistance most of us feel towards anything that sniffs of hyperbole -- something conservative commentators like William Kristol (and, in Australia, Gerard Henderson) have run with, positioning those who complain of stifled dissent as members of a hysterical far Left. In part, it's because the idea of a country as synonymous with liberty as the US shifting away from democracy is so foreign that we can't fully conceive it.
What makes The End of America remarkable is that Wolf manages to overcome these natural cynicisms, painting a picture of the US that is chilling without being overstated. The book is premised on the idea that the US is undergoing a "fascist shift". Few would feel comfortable comparing the behaviour of the Bush Administration, however condemnable, to Hitler's National Socialists -- but Wolf says her use of such terms is not "heated or even rhetorical"¯ but "technical"¯.
To read more please download the PDF.
The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
With the urgency of Thomas Paine's revolutionary pamphlets, Naomi Wolf issues a warning to a young patriot that democracy is fragile. That the democracy he expects to inherit is in the process of being altered forever. Wolf identifies the ten steps that must be taken to shut down democracy. She shows how those steps were implemented in dictatorships around the world and where America is in the process of meeting each of those steps. We take our liberty for granted. We think it eternal, unchanging. But our founders would be shocked, they would think us naive. They knew the abuses of the Crown. They knew how easily freedom could be lost.
To read more please click here.
WHO'S afraid of Naomi Wolf? If her latest book keeps rising through the US bestseller lists, then the Bush administration should not just be afraid, but very afraid.
Wolf is calling for American citizens to rise up in a bloggers' revolution to push back what she calls "a fascist shift" in her homeland. She compares the present situation in the US with the early days of Mussolini, Stalin and, if you're still not convinced, Hitler.
To read more please click here.
Daring to utter the F-word
From The Sydney Morning Herald
October 6, 2007
Naomi Wolf doesn't apologise for comparing the Bush Administration with fascism. And she certainly rejects suggestions of paranoia.
There is a convention on the internet called Godwin's Law. It states that, during an online discussion, the first person to draw an analogy with Nazi Germany automatically loses the argument.
It's a rule that exists in academia, journalism and even politics. Comparing your opponent to a Nazi is a sure way not just to lose an argument but to suffer the indignity of having to apologise later. After all, it's hard to justify a comparison to a regime which started World War II and killed 6 million Jews.
So perhaps it's surprising that Naomi Wolf, a feminist icon and the author of The Beauty Myth, has written a book which compares the Bush Administration with Nazi Germany.
Not just in a passing reference, mind you.
Wolf hasn't just ignored the taboo; in fact, she has taken an axe to it, arguing that the situation is so grave it is blinding us to an urgent danger. The entire book is devoted to a comparison between the Bush Administration's response to the threat of Islamic terrorism and the methods the Nazis used to turn Germany into a fascist state.
To read more please click here.
The End of America: The Police State is Right Here, Right Now
Carolyn Baker's Weblog: Speaking Truth To Power
September 20th, 2007
As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air—however slight—lest we become unwilling victims of the darkness. ~Justice William O. Douglas~
In April, 2007 I was pleasantly surprised to find Naomi Wolf's article, "Fascist America, In 10 Easy Steps"¯ posted in several places online. I have been a fan of Wolf for many years, greatly appreciating her works and especially her 1991 book, The Beauty Myth. I had been looking for a list—or more specifically, an encyclopedia of the losses of civil liberties in the United States that might clarify for my history students the extent to which America has become a fascist empire. Wolf's "10 Easy Steps"¯ was perfect, but her just-published book, The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot, from which the 10 easy steps was compiled, offers an even fuller picture—a succinct and engaging explanation of how our civil liberties have been hijacked in the past decade. It is the most poignant, powerful, genuinely patriotic piece of literature I have encountered since Thomas Paine's Common Sense. No wonder then, that the book's cover greatly resembles that 46-page tract by Paine written in 1775—as well it should.
To read more, please click here.