Saturday, December 3, 2005

REPORTS FROM THE ROAD--A Jarhead's Journey to Washington begins!

Good morning, America! It's Friday morning, December 2nd, 2005, and I'm in Phoenix at the Democratic National Committee fall meetings. This morning I had the privilege of meeting with Gov. Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC. I asked if I could get a photo with him and he said "You know they'll try to use it against you, don't you?"

This comment illustrates what I think is a serious problem in America today. We are more divided today than at any time I can remember in my lifetime. We have been divided by fear and hate to the point that we can't even remember all the things we have in common anymore. The Bush administration has used fear to divide us at every turn, and Tom Tancredo has used hate to do the same!

This morning Gov. Dean said something that really resonated with me. He said that Americans want to be united again--we desperately want to be one again. I agree with that sentiment more than I can even say!

That's why this campaign is going to be about the things we have in common--the things that should unite us and NOTthe things used to divide us!

And the very first thing we all have in common is that we are all Americans! We all live in the same neighborhoods! Our kids go to the same schools. We all salute the same flag!

The second thing we all have in common is our humanity! We all care about our families, our children, our friends, and our neighbors. We all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. And we all have fears and anxieties and concerns!

Jesus said that we should leave our gifts at the altar and go make peace with our brother before we dared to approach God for anything. I believe we have to apply that order to America as well. That is why this campaign will seek to unify Americans so that we can find real solutions to our problems, and not be dominated and divided by hate and fear!

I'm not a professional politician. I'm just a kid from Colorado who wants to serve my Country and my home. In every way that matters I'm just like YOU! Won't you stand with me and take back America? Go to and join us!

Bill Winter

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Paul Hackett on the Ed Schultz Show

Michael "Raygun" called for Howard Dean to be hung for treason, I wonder if he feels the same about Paul Hackett. The level of incompetence of this administration runs deep, even the idiot they chose to command the invasion, Tommy Franks is a cannon cocker, no problem there except I have seen powder socks with more on the ball. The military really is broken, dazed and confused. The equipmment worn out and stretched thin. All the capable generals, Shinseki, etc. were put out to pasture and the military has opened the door to category 4 recruits, it can only get worse. With the history of the United States in the middle east all the way back to the Shah of Iran, our supply of chemical weapons to Saddam and the use of same against Iran, does anyone believe that we could ever be percieved as the "good guys"?

Paul Hackett on the Ed Schultz program:

Transcribed from an interview on the Ed Schultz show, taped live at a rally in Columbus, Ohio on October 28.

Schultz: You were in Iraq when?

Hackett: I was in Iraq from mid-August '04 to March of this year. As a matter of fact, a year ago today (October 28, 2005) I just took over my little forward operating base outside of Fallujah.

Schultz: In your opinion, has it gotten better?

Hackett: No, not at all.

Schultz: Not at all...even with the constitutional vote?

Hackett: Yeah, I mean, hey, that's a success. But my question is, is that what the American people signed up to spend their tax dollars for, and is that what we wanted to spend 2000 lives for on the theory that we're going to spread democracy on the business end of an M16? I don't think so--I didn't. (Applause). So, if you look at what's gone on in Iraq for the past 2 1/2 years, and you look at it nonemotionally and objectively and try to ferret out the successes, the security situation today is not as good as it was six months ago, a year ago, two years ago. And the infrastructure is not as good as it was six months ago, a year ago, or two years ago, and the reason we aren't having success in fixing the infrastructure is because the security situation is so bad. And the security situation is so bad because this administration ignored the generals and their advice on what it would take to secure that country after we toppled Saddam Hussein, so we're back to where we got started.

Schultz: These guys were telling Wendy and I the other night at dinner that the intensity, the sophistication, and the organization of thes insurgents, these road side bombs that are going off, it is phenomenal how sophisticated they've gotten.

Hackett: These guys are not rookies.

Schultz: We've trained them. This event has trained them and given them a lot of knowledge, and they're only getting better at it.

Hackett: To diminish the smarts, skill, and tenacity of the insurgents that we're fighting over there is to not face reality. These folks--and they're bad SOBs--but they're good fighters and they're smart, and it doesn't do anybody any service to sort of downplay them and say silly things like "They're in their death throes" and their about defeated, it's silly. I suppose they appear to be in their death throes from the White House, but I'm not drinkin' that Kool-Aid. I was there. (Applause)

Schultz: Okay, Paul, you're on the Senate floor--what would you advocate America should do right now in Iraq?

Hackett: Here's what the president of the United States has to do. He has to face the fact that--and I'll say it this way, we as a nation made a mistake in going into Iraq, and he's got to face the fact that he's got to withdraw from Iraq, and the way he accomplishes that is to rely on the military expertise and task the generals to extricate us from Iraq...

Schultz: Starting now?

Hackett: Yeah. This is not something that's going to happen overnight, but the planning has to start now and the retrograde has to start now. Because make no mistake, whether we leave a year from now, five years from now or ten years from now, that place ain't gettin' better, and whenever we leave, that place is going to spiral out of control before it improves on its own. What has been accomplished over there to this date is as good as it's gonna get. And it's time to turn it over to the Iraqis. They want their freedom, they want their independence, it's time for them to pick up the ball and run with it and take care of themselves.

Schultz: Do you agree with that, folks? (Applause)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Winter arrives early in the 6th Congressional District

The Colorado Statesman Dec. 9, 2005

The race for Colorado's 6th Congressional District in 2006 may be a tad tighter than in past elections where Democratic challengers have been traditionally trounced.

Bill Winter, a 41 year-old local attorney, recently declared his candidacy against incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo. And while the suburban district is still comprised mostly of Republicans and Unaffiliateds - with only 23.2 percent officially registered as Democrats as of last month - Winter is hoping his candidacy will catch fire.

"I want to reach out to everyone - Republicans and Unaffiliateds included, not just Democrats," Winter said this week. "I believe it is time that we all stopped saluting donkeys and elephants, and began to salute the American flag."

Tancredo, who was first elected as congressman in the district back in 1998, received 67 percent of the vote in 2004.

"I know the odds say we can't do it," Winter said about his ambitious plans for next year, "but I don't worry about the odds too much... you've got a mission, you go out and find a way to accomplish it."

If the rhetoric sounds a little military-like with its call for action, it might be because Winter is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy.

In fact, Winter is one of 31 veterans nationwide who are running for Congress as Democrats against Republican incumbents. These so-called "underdogs" will gather in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 20 to begin organizing a full conference of strategy and support that will convene on Jan. 18 and 19 next year.

While Winter's veteran status may earn him support in a district where military service is generally lauded, he may have to distance himself from some of his other ties if he hopes to appeal to the political troops in the 6th CD.

Winter is the former president of Be the Change, USA, a grassroots organization that promotes progressive ideals. The organization evolved from Mike Miles' 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, and continues to support "progressive political issues and work to increase grassroots involvement and influence."

That brand of politics is generally not embraced by 6th CD voters, who now number 45.8 percent registered Republican and 30.7 Unaffiliated.

But Winter is undaunted.

He says his campaign "belongs to the people," and he will use a grassroots effort to "give CD 6 back" to its residents.

"CD 6 is not represented in Congress right now, period," insists Winter, who promises that when he is elected he will be back in Colorado every weekend talking to the voters. According to Winter, that's something Tancredo does not do, and says that for all intents and purposes, Tancredo is running for president.

In a recent radio interview on AM760's Jay Marvin show, Winter chastised Tancredo for being "in the bottom 10 [districts out of 435]... in terms of what he brings back to his district."

As for Tancredo's national immigration crusade, Winter believes that the Congressman has "no real solution for it."

While Winter has not detailed any specific solutions to the problem himself, he believes it is a very serious issue for America and that "the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed."

Winter is concerned with the disaffected and uninvolved voters in his district and nationwide. "Why does one half of the electorate (in the United States) not get involved?" he asks rhetorically. Winter would like to work with them on how to improve participation. He believes it is a national issue that needs to be addressed and one that he will work on while in Congress.

Winter favors the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and regards the current deficit as a crime and "an immoral debt" being passed on to our children. He believes that the current tax system and tax cuts need reform. Other issues that he thinks are important for CD 6 include healthcare, education, jobs, and transportation.

While Winter believes that his best qualification for being a representative is actually "being one of the people," he does have some experience with politics in Washington, D.C. While attending law school at The Catholic University of America, he worked for the Dept. of Justice and on Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) Commerce Committee, as well as McCain's presidential campaign in 2000.

Asked why he worked for a Republican candidate who held different ideals on important issues, such as abortion, the attorney replied, "because I believed in John as a person and what he was trying to do." Winter was impressed by the fact that McCain sincerely listened to people.

Winter has no real estimate of how much the race will cost, and says he won't use any of his own personal funds for the campaign.

Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, described Winter as a "good strong candidate" for the district, but was reluctant to comment further at this time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Selling out his country

Yes, Randy "Duke" Cunningham was both the first U.S. ace -- a combat pilot who shoots down five enemy aircraft -- of the Vietnam war and a "Top Gun" Navy pilot. Those credentials helped him in 1990 to win election from San Diego to the Congress, where according to his official bio, he was "recognized by several law enforcement agencies for his tough-on-crime position." And where he spoke often and emotionally of his commitment to and "passion for national security."

If hypocrisy were an Olympic event, Rep. Cunningham, R-California, would win both the gold and silver medals.

The Bush-Cheney campaign used Cunningham as a designated hit man in 2004. He went on national TV to attack Democrat John Kerry -- "We do not need a 'Jane Fonda' as commander in chief" -- and as someone who "would depreciate our military and our intelligence services in a time of war."

This was no aberration. In 1992, Cunningham branded Democratic nominee Bill Clinton a "traitor" for his anti-Vietnam War activities and said of all Vietnam War protesters, "I would have no hesitation about lining them up and shooting them."

If you still needed a character reference for this political thug, simply listen as House majority leader-emeritus, Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, this summer declared: "Duke Cunningham is a hero. He is an honorable man of high integrity."

This week, the "heroic" Duke Cunningham tearfully confessed that he had "demanded, sought and received at least $2.4 million in illicit payments" to steer from his influential positions on the House committees for defense appropriations and intelligence Pentagon contracts to the defense contractors whose bribes he had solicited.

The "Top Gun" traveled first class. His graft, according to the prosecutors, came in many forms: "cash, checks, meals, travel, lodging, furnishings, antiques, rugs, yacht club fees, boat repairs and improvements, moving expenses, cars and boats."

For the betrayal of his office and his oath, and his serial criminal acts, Cunningham faces up to 10 years in prison. That could be interesting, because his new colleagues behind bars may be interested to learn that Duke's stated legislative priority -- in addition to his impassioned crusade for a constitutional amendment to outlaw the continuing national epidemic of flag-burning -- was passage of a "no frills" prison act "to prevent luxurious conditions in prisons," such as unmonitored phone calls or training equipment for any bodybuilding, or working less than 40 hours a week.

But in the final analysis, it is not Cunningham's staggering greed that is the real offense. It is his confession that he steered defense contracts because of the bribe money he took and not because the work of his criminal collaborator "was in the best interest of the country" -- the country the California Republican professed to love, the country he sought to protect from John Kerry.

Cunningham's motive was not obtaining the best intelligence gathering or analysis, the specialty of one of his co-conspirator contractors, to protect and defend American troops at risk. No, it was to make a buck even if his corrupt accomplice corporation failed to protect those troops Cunningham insisted were his "passion."

One of the contractors with which Cunningham colluded had as its task to develop better protection for U.S. Marines and soldiers in Iraq from the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along the roadside that insurgents use to blow up U.S. vehicles and kill or cripple those aboard. Cunningham's intervention from his powerful committee positions may well have steered a contract to one of his undeserving crony-criminal corporations and away from a more deserving company that might have been able to combat the IEDs and save American lives.

Could this former Vietnam hero have been so blinded by greed and avarice that, more than any indelible stain on his record, we might find the blood and bones of today's American heroes on his hands? That dreadful possibility demands a thorough, truly bipartisan investigation immediately.


My Take on Tancredo

I saw Tancredo for the first time in person at a town hall meeting on veterans issues down in the Highlands Ranch area a few months back. He opened the meeting with a prayer and mentioned in that prayer, the war, asked God for victory, mentioned the terrorists several times and asked God for blessings.

A town hall meeting as I am familiar with them, usually has the speaker talk about the topic specified, then opens it up for questions and answers. Tancredo didn't do that, he kept on talking about war, terrorists and the heat he was getting regarding his "nuke Mecca" statement. This town hall was different for Tancredo as well, about 20 Vietnam veterans showed up wearing black hats as well as many Democratic constituents. When the neocons in the crowd cheered regarding his stance on nuking Mecca, they were almost matched by boos and hisses. Needless to say Tancredo is not used to speaking or preaching to anything other than the choir. He proceeded to tell a lie about how bad the Veterans Administration was and how that agency had more lawyers than ANY federal agency. He even quoted a number, later the expert from the VA legal department he brought along from Washington, got up and gave a totally different number. He also said he was a veteran and that the VA was the best health care system in the world. Tancredo did not bother to field questions, but turned the floor over to said VA lawyer. He gave a long winded speech, contradicted several "facts" Tancredo's and well known facts and then took questions. My question was the first, "You say the VA health care is the best in the world, you are a veteran, do you use the system?" He said no, he used Bethesda Naval, my follow up was to be, 'if the VA is the best in the world, why would you and the president not use the VA?' Needless to say, my question not being a softball, was not conducive to a follow up question.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fascism Then. Fascism Now?

When people think of fascism, they imagine Rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don't see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare.

by Paul Bigioni

Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favors the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity.

These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. "Yes," he replied, "but we will call it anti-fascism."

By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect us from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the same, North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course.

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939:

"Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."
Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association:

"Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935, cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else."
I suspect that to most readers, Arnold's words are bewildering. People today are quite certain that they know what fascism is. When I ask people to define it, they typically tell me what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. Most people associate fascism with concentration camps and rows of storm troopers, yet they know nothing of the political and economic processes that led to these horrible end results.

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government.

This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamored for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920s, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command and control" economy that replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of Adam Smith's famous dictum: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I.G. Farben industrial trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests. Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business.

Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labor by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labor policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.

Compulsory (slave) labor was the crowning achievement of Nazi labor relations. Along with millions of people, organized labor died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's Untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labor to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza. In another bitter irony, the gates over many of the camps bore a sign that read Arbeit Macht Frei — "Work shall set you free." I do not know if this was black humour or propaganda, but it is emblematic of the deception that lies at the heart of fascism.

The same economic reality existed in Italy between the two world wars. In that country, nearly all industrial activity was owned or controlled by a few corporate giants, Fiat and the Ansaldo shipping concern being the chief examples of this.

Land ownership in Italy was also highly concentrated and jealously guarded. Vast tracts of farmland were owned by a few latifundisti. The actual farming was carried out by a landless peasantry who were locked into a role essentially the same as that of the sharecropper of the U.S. Deep South.

As in Germany, the few owners of the nation's capital assets had immense influence over government. As a young man, Mussolini had been a strident socialist, and he, like Hitler, used socialist language to lure the people to fascism. Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry specific corporazioni, bodies composed of both labor and management representatives. The corporazioni would resolve all labor/management disputes; if they failed to do so, the fascist state would intervene.

Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni, to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian laborer to the status of peasant.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favored the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy

Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact that Hitler called his party the "National Socialist Party" did not change the reactionary nature of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious to the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.

It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history. It is particularly perilous to forget about the economic origins of fascism in our modern era of deregulation. Most Western liberal democracies are currently in the thrall of what some call market fundamentalism. Few nowadays question the flawed assumption that state intervention in the marketplace is inherently bad.

As in Italy and Germany in the '20s and '30s, business associations clamour for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period.

U.S. census data from 1997 shows that the largest four companies in the food, motor vehicle and aerospace industries control 53.4, 87.3 and 55.6 per cent of their respective markets. Over 20 per cent of commercial banking in the U.S. is controlled by the four largest financial institutions, with the largest 50 controlling over 60 per cent. Even these numbers underestimate the scope of concentration, since they do not account for the myriad interconnections between firms by means of debt instruments and multiple directorships, which further reduce the extent of competition.

Actual levels of U.S. commercial concentration have been difficult to measure since the 1970s, when strong corporate opposition put an end to the Federal Trade Commission's efforts to collect the necessary information.

Fewer, larger competitors dominate all economic activity, and their political will is expressed with the millions of dollars they spend lobbying politicians and funding policy formulation in the many right-wing institutes that now limit public discourse to the question of how best to serve the interests of business.

The consolidation of the economy and the resulting perversion of public policy are themselves fascistic. I am certain, however, that former president Bill Clinton was not worried about fascism when he repealed federal antitrust laws that had been enacted in the 1930s.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is similarly unworried about fascism as it lobbies the Canadian government to water down proposed amendments to our federal Competition Act. (The Competition Act, last amended in 1986, regulates monopolies, among other things, and itself represents a watering down of Canada's previous antitrust laws. It was essentially rewritten by industry and handed to the Mulroney government to be enacted.)

At present, monopolies are regulated on purely economic grounds to ensure the efficient allocation of goods.

If we are to protect ourselves from the growing political influence of big business, then our antitrust laws must be reconceived in a way that recognizes the political danger of monopolistic conditions.

Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.

It might be argued that North America's democratic political systems are so entrenched that we needn't fear fascism's return. The democracies of Italy and Germany in the 1920s were in many respects fledgling and weak. Our systems will surely react at the first whiff of dictatorship.

Or will they? This argument denies the reality that the fascist dictatorships were preceded by years of reactionary politics, the kind of politics that are playing out today. Further, it is based on the conceit that whatever our own governments do is democracy. Canada still clings to a quaint, 19th-century "first past the post" electoral system in which a minority of the popular vote can and has resulted in majority control of Parliament.

In the U.S., millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative. Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is also lacking today.

Our collective forgetfulness about the economic nature of fascism is also dangerous at a philosophical level. As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because of the flawed notion of freedom that held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the early 20th century.

It was the liberals of that era who clamoured for unfettered personal and economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society. Such untrammelled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle. In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom that is inherently violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery that will be suffered by others as a result. The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the early 20th century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism. Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.

In the post-war period, this flawed notion of freedom has been perpetuated by the neo-liberal school of thought. The neo-liberals denounce any regulation of the marketplace. In so doing, they mimic the posture of big business in the pre-fascist period. Under the sway of neo-liberalism, Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney and George W. Bush have decimated labor and exalted capital. (At present, only 7.8 per cent of workers in the U.S. private sector are unionized — about the same percentage as in the early 1900s.)

Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts, which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favor the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the end, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget he is being ripped off. Hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and Jews.

Neo-liberal intellectuals often recognize the need for violence to protect what they regard as freedom. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has written enthusiastically that "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist," and that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15." As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals advocate the use of the state's military force for the sake of private gain. Their view of the state's role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power. Neo-liberalism is thus fertile soil for fascism to grow again into an outright threat to our democracy.

Having said that fascism is the result of a flawed notion of freedom, we need to re-examine what we mean when we throw around the word. We must conceive of freedom in a more enlightened way.

Indeed, it was the thinkers of the Enlightenment who imagined a balanced and civilized freedom that did not impinge upon the freedom of one's neighbor Put in the simplest terms, my right to life means that you must give up your freedom to kill me. This may seem terribly obvious to decent people. Unfortunately, in our neo-liberal era, this civilized sense of freedom has, like the dangers of fascism, been all but forgotten.

Paul Bigioni is a lawyer practicing in Markham. This article is drawn from his work on a book about the persistence of fascism.

© 2005 Toronto Star

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tancredo Supports the Troops??????

Tancredo and supporting veterans. For those not aware, when you get wounded and you are unable to return to duty, the Department of Defense releases you to the Veterans Administration. In essence, supporting the troops means supporting the VA and issues important to the Disabled American Veterans. He started out pretty good, then realized that no one really cares for veterans, when it started getting expensive because of Iraq casualties (49,000) well the following spells it out. Did you know that 30% of homeless men are veterans?

2004 Representative Tancredo supported the interests of the Disabled American Veterans 0 percent in 2004.

2004 On the votes that the The Retired Enlisted Association considered to be the most important in 2004, Representative Tancredo voted their preferred position 33 percent of the time.

2003-2004 Representative Tancredo supported the interests of the Vietnam Veterans of America 38 percent in 2003-2004.

2003 On the votes that the Disabled American Veterans - House considered to be the most important in 2003, Representative Tancredo voted their preferred position 50 percent of the time.

2003 Representative Tancredo supported the interests of the American Veterans 100 percent in 2003.

2001 On the votes that the Disabled American Veterans considered to be the most important in 2001, Representative Tancredo voted their preferred position 100 percent of the time.