Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category


(We ran two earlier, considerably shorter versions of this post in years past under the title “Nazi Germany and the U.S.A.” As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit lately, hence this update.)

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REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right-wing, phony-populist ideology and political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, government use of media as a propaganda instrument, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. But since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the following comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

 

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: See Deutschland Uber Alles, Triumph of the WillLebensraum, etc., etc.
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” “Make America Great Again,” etc., etc. From ideological justification for invasions, territorial annexations, and military interventions to everyday trivialities (Nazi armbands in Deutschland, flag worship in “the land of the free”), America gives Nazi Germany a run for its money as regards nationalism.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuels industry (e.g., Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies.

Of late, Trump’s slavishness to the interests of the big corporations has become blindingly obvious with his dismantling of clean air and water regulations (which safeguard public health while impeding corporate profits), his attempts to open millions of acres of federal lands (including national monuments) to desecration by mining and fossil fuels corporations, his (and other Republicans’) attempts to restrict access to Medicaid, to allow the insurance industry to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, and his refusal to do anything about the obscene price of prescription drugs and the obscene profits of the drug companies. (Trump’s “plan” to reduce drug costs was complete bullshit designed only to string along the gullible while providing cover for the continued gouging of the public by big pharma. The fact that pharma stocks spiked immediately after Trump released the details of his “plan” tells you all you need to know about it.)

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: Last year, U.S. military spending accounted for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending, and the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas. With the aid of his accomplices in Congress, Trump just boosted the “defense” budget to approximately $700 billion, not including the tens of billions in the “black budget.” The figures aren’t final yet, but it’s a good bet that current U.S. military spending not only considerably outstrips any other nation’s (China’s is hard to judge because of secrecy, but may be as high as $250 billion), but could quite possibly now account for a full half of the world’s military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!”

Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum” — you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half-century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare. Then there’s the matter of proxy aggression enabled via logistical and intelligence support by the U.S. The most horrific current example is the brutal Saudi intervention in the Yemeni civil war.

Misuse and Misrepresentation of Science

  • The Nazis suppressed “Jewish science,” financially supported and sponsored fringe pseudoscience (into the supposed superiority of Aryans, among other things), and based government policy (including the Holocaust)  on that fringe pseudoscience. They mutilated science to force it to fit into the procrustean bed of their ideology, and millions died as a result.
  • U.S.: Here, the misleading “science” is supplied by the major corporations and their bought-and-paid-for “scientists,” who denigrate real science while promoting corporate-sponsored studies that promote corporate interests. Prominent examples include the efforts of the tobacco, pesticide, and sugar industries to present their deadly products as safe while vilifying scientists whose research demonstrated the actual effects of their products. Tens of millions have almost certainly died as a result.

Currently, the most serious such assault on science is corporate-funded climate change denial. It’s been obvious for decades that climate change is real and a deadly threat, and over 95% of climate scientists agree — and have agreed for decades — that it is. Yet the fossil fuels corporations have funded and promoted the work of a very few contrarians (whose work doesn’t, upon examination, hold up) to cast doubt on climate change science so that they can wring every last dollar from coal, oil, and natural gas.

Now, official U.S. policy is based on climate change denial pseudoscience. Trump has filled his administration with science deniers, especially climate change deniers, notably Scott Pruitt at the EPA, who are busy undoing clean air and water regulations, are doing their best to promote use of dirty fossil fuels, and are discouraging the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Trump has even proposed public subsidies for money-losing coal-fired power plants that utilities are planning to close.

As in Nazi Germany, government policy is based on willful ignorance of science. Millions upon millions will almost certainly die as a result, unless the government drastically reverses its course and implements evidence-based policies based on the work of climate scientists.

(For more on all this, see Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science [revised & expanded], by John Grant. Full disclosure: See Sharp Press published Corrupted Science.)

Incarceration and Slave Labor

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for almost everyone else.

Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible. Prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; it’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics who can’t afford bail and good legal representation; at the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize.  Of late, the Supremes have further crippled the unions by outlawing the collection of fees from nonmembers who the unions represent in collective bargaining. (Admittedly, the sell-out, hierarchical, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. The Obama and Trump administrations have viciously gone after whistleblowers and reporters who have exposed their wrongdoing — Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, Reality Winner, et al.

Trump routinely attacks journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies. Of late, he’s upped the ante by attacking the press as the “enemy of the American people” in a transparent attempt to intimidate the press and provoke the anger of his worshippers.

As well, Trump routinely lies about damn near everything, great and small — Politifact clasifies 69% of his statements as being “mostly false” or worse — counting on the fact that the press (e.g., New York Times) is reluctant to label his lies as lies, allowing Trump to muddy the waters and mislead the public.

Fortunately, Trump doesn’t have complete control of the media. But he does have the sycophantic tools at Fox “News,” Breitbart, InfoWars, and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber. Almost worse, 67% of Americans get at least some of their news from social media sites such as Facebook, with an unknown percentage getting all of their news from these platforms (predominantly Facebook). What makes this dangerous is that Facebook feeds them news reports that, based on their previous “likes” and other use, reinforces their existing beliefs and prejudices.

Add that to Trump’s denigration of the free press and you end up with a significant part of the population that’s woefully misinformed.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Wall Street Movement nationwide in 2011/2012 is the latest large-scale example.

Spying Upon Citizens

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA — and let’s not forget Facebook — make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire and billionaire representatives (over half of Congress at last count, plus the president) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, science-denying theofascists, the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. As well, the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics.

As well, the Republican Party’s longtime “southern strategy” — and its largely successful attempts to disenfranchise black voters — was and still is designed to appeal to racists.

Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans and other hispanics is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Victimhood

  • Nazi Germany: Hitler and the Nazis whined constantly about the German people being victims of the Jews (under 1% of the population at the time) and the supposedly vast Jewish conspiracy permeating all facets of social and economic life, even depicting Jewish people in propaganda films as vermin: rats. In short, Hitler stirred up hatred of a powerless minority by presenting them as victimizers rather than victims.
  • U.S.: Trump whines constantly about an “invasion” of Latin American immigrants — fleeing horrific violence and political and social repression — who he portrays as rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and gang members endangering the nation through a supposed crime wave. (In reality, per capita criminal activity by Latin American immigrants is lower than that of Americans as a whole.)  In short, Trump stirs up hatred of a powerless minority by presenting them as victimizers rather than victims.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of viciousness, hypocrisy, and narcissism as the means to their theofascist ends. And Trump encourages such sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting last year in which cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Last July presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.” All hail the Glorious Leader.

 

Yes, there still are significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S.A.  But they grow smaller with every passing day.


(Note: I’m doing this translation on the fly — just sitting here reading and typing away. Don’t expect a great translation: I’m wiped and am posting this without revising it. For those interested and who can read Spanish, the original is included at the end of this translation.)

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by Rafael Uzcategui

The rhetoric of Chavismo [refers to the personality cult of Hugo Chávez and his followers, especially now-dictator Nicolás Maduro], replete with the standard pet phrases of the Latin American left, created for many years expectations among those who searched for a more humane and just alternative [to the capitalist hell of U.S. subservience and exploitation].

Despite the degradation of the army to the Chavista state, and the obvious evidence of the general impoverishment of the population and the regimentation of daily life of Venezuelans, the phantasm [of “Bolivarian” revolution] hasn’t yet totally evaporated.

The unsuspecting, innocents, and political operatives of all stripes, but without the drive they had in the days of the Supreme Commander, continue to defend the regime of Nicolás Maduro repeating the empty phrases “economic war” and citing the Constituent Assembly [the illegal body created by Maduro to supplant the elected congress].

Every time we have to explain the Venezuelan situation outside of our borders, we need to overcome the echos of authoritarian propaganda [sanctifying Chávez and Maduro]. To neutralize the views of those who live in other lands, but who consider themselves better informed than those of us living here, I’ll cite personal histories, personal histories of those of us living here in Venezuela.

I’ll begin with the story of Juan Pedro Lares.

Juan Pedro is a young man of 23, who on the 30th of June, the date of the election for Maduro’s [illegal] constituent assembly, was arrested in his home in the municipality of Campo Elías in the state of Mérida by SEBIN [Servicio Boliviariano de Inteligencia Nacional — the state intelligence service]. They were looking for his father, Omar Lares, the town’s mayor. Most of the family fled through the rear, but uniformed cops arrested Juan Pedro.

There was no arrest warrant for him and he was committing no crime — the two reasons under the law that would permit arrest. But they arrested him anyway.

Meanwhile, his father fled to Colombia to avoid being arrested in the wave of repression directed against [opposition] mayors. And his mother Ramona went to Caracas to try to find out what happened to Juan Pablo.

Despite going several times to the Helicoide prison, the authorities denied repeatedly that he was there. He was.

Both Juan Pedro and his mother Ramona are Colombian citizens, and thanks to the Colombian embassy she was able to visit him in Helicoide, the headquarter of SEBIN, four times over the coming months.

The illegal detention, the violation of due process, and the negation of the rights due any prisoner — visits by family and access to attorneys — weren’t the only violations of Juan Pedro’s rights. He was never brought before a judge during the first 48 hours to be informed of the charges brought against him. He was never brought before a judge during the first six months of his captivity.

We repeat: No state attorney has accused the young man of committing a crime. Therefore, his detention consists of, nothing more and nothing less, a kidnapping by the state. In this manner, the Maduro government, with the complicity of the human rights figures [within it, apparently — I don’t know enough about the matter to extrapolate from the context]  Tarek William Saab and Alfredo Ruiz to blackmail Juan Pedro’s father to return from exile and be imprisoned.

What do you call the type of government that would do such a thing?

The case of Juan Pedro discredits ever more the international mouthpieces of Chavismo [presently, Madurismo]. If the governments of Macri (Argentina) or Piñera (Chile) had violated due process and incarcerated someone for political purposes, there would be a regional campaign against this on social networks. But no.

The case of Juan Pedro Lares is not unique.

We’ll continue, while we still have a voice, to continue to paint such portraits of infamy.

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El discurso del chavismo, repleto de lugares comunes y las muletillas de la izquierda latinoamericana, generó durante mucho tiempo expectativas entre quienes buscaban una alternativa, más humana y justa, para la humanidad. A pesar de la degradación del ejercicio de poder bolivariano y todas las evidencias sobre el empobrecimiento general de la población y la estatización de la vida cotidiana de los venezolanos, dicho espejismo no se ha evaporado del todo. Incautos, ingenios y operadores políticos de todo pelaje, con menos empuje que en los días en vida del Comandante Supremo, siguen defendiendo la gestión de Nicolás Maduro, repitiendo los desiertos de la “guerra económica” y la Constituyente.

Cada vez que hemos tenido que explicar la situación venezolana fuera de sus fronteras, tenemos que vencer los ecos de la propaganda del autoritarismo. Para neutralizar auditorios que a pesar de no vivir en el país creen estar mejor informados que tú, he recurrido a la estrategia de contar historias que, dramáticamente, hablen por sí solas. Cuando he querido neutralizar las intervenciones de quienes desean refutar que entre nosotros existe una dictadura, empiezo mi intervención relatando la historia de Juan Pedro Lares.

Juan Pedro es un adolescente de 23 años que el pasado 30 de julio, fecha de las elecciones a la Asamblea Constituyente madurista, fue detenido en su domicilio ubicado en el Municipio Campo Elías del estado Mérida. Un comando del SEBIN y la policía fueron a buscar a su padre, Omar Lares, que en ese momento ejercía el cargo de Alcalde de Ejido. La familia huye por el patio trasero, pero Juan Pedro queda atrás y es capturado por los uniformados. No había ninguna orden de aprehensión en su contra y no estaba cometiendo en ese momento delito alguno, los dos causales, que según la ley, permiten la privación de libertad. Inmediatamente fue trasladado a Caracas. Mientras su padre huía a Colombia, para evitar ser parte de los alcaldes detenidos ilegalmente, su madre Ramona comienza la peregrinación en la capital para conocer el paradero de su hijo. A pesar de haber ido varias veces a El Helicoide, las autoridades negaban que se encontrara ahí. Tanto Ramona como Juan Pedro tienen nacionalidad colombiana, por lo que fue por intermediación de la Cancillería que, semanas después, corroboraron que se encontraba en la sede del Sebin y le permitieron una primera visita, que hasta el día de hoy sólo suman 4. La detención ilegal y la negación de los derechos de cualquier preso (ser visitado por abogados y familiares de manera periódica) no son la única violación del debido proceso. La más escandalosa es que durante los 6 meses que Juan Pedro ha estado recluido en El Helicoide en ningún momento, ni en las 48 horas que dice la ley ni después, ha sido trasladado a tribunales para que un juez sea formalmente informado de los delitos que se le imputan. Repetimos: Ningún fiscal ha acusado al joven de haber cometido acto fuera de la ley, por lo que su detención constituye, nada más y nada menos, que un secuestro por parte del Estado. De esta manera el gobierno madurista, con la complicidad de los próceres de los DDHH Tarek William Saab y Alfredo Ruiz, intenta obligar a Omar Lares a entregarse. ¿Cómo se llama un gobierno que actúa de esta manera?

El relato sobre el caso Juan Pedro Lares enmudece a los, cada vez menos, altavoces internacionales del chavismo. Si el gobierno de Macri o de Piñera, por decir dos nombres, violara el debido proceso de una sola persona encarcelada por razones políticas, tendríamos a la progresía regional haciendo movilizaciones y campañas por redes sociales. Pero el caso Lares no es el único. Debemos continuar, mientras tengamos voz, relatando sus historias para continuar dibujando el rostro de la ignominia. @fanzinero (Publicado en Tal Cual)


Alt-country player Al Perry’s song and video, “Jukebox Jihad,” has evidently fallen victim to the PC police — outraged by, what else?, “islamophobia” — and has been taken down by Youtube. (We put “censored” in quotes in the headline, because it’s within Youtube’s rights to only host what they want; but the political intent, the desire to restrict political speech, is obvious.)

Here’s the takedown notice:

If you haven’t heard the song, “Jukebox Jihad” is a rockabilly tune, light, funny mockery (admittedly in questionable taste) of the murderous religious fanatics who have slaughtered and enslaved tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of people, most of whom were/are their fellow Muslims.

We loathe attacks on free speech. We loathe anything smacking of censorship. And we loathe those who think they know what others should be allowed to see and hear.

So, we’ve just put up the “Jukebox Jihad” video on the See Sharp Press web site. I spoke with Al earlier this evening, and he encourages others to download “Jukebox Jihad” and put it up on their own sites.

Without further ado, here’s the link to “Jukebox Jihad.”


Over the last week, we’ve seen several violent clashes between Nazis and counterprotesters. (Nazis might call themselves “alt-right,” “white separatists,” etc. Rather than give any credence to such rebranding, we’re calling them what they are: Nazis.)

It’s necessary to resist these losers, these tools of the powers that be. Violent defense of self and others is perfectly justified to repel physical attack.

But physically attacking people who are merely exercising free speech, no matter how loathsome, is never justified.

Last night, I saw a video of antifa protesters physically attacking Nazi organizer Richard Spencer, who was standing before microphones answering reporters’ questions. I was horrified on several counts:

  • Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. The principle of free speech applies to even the most loathsome speech — especially to the most loathsome speech. Once you start making exceptions for speech you really hate, it’s a very slippery slope to banning speech that anyone really hates, in which case freedom of speech vanishes. (“Anyone” here applies to any individual, group, or organization with the physical power to intimidate or beat others into silence.)

Another antifa protestor provided exactly the justification you’d expect for the assault on free speech, labeling it “violent speech,” saying that it was too “dangerous” to be allowed. (Speech is speech. Violence — physical attack on people or animals — is violence. These two wildly different things are not the same, and mere conflation of the two is not a convincing argument that they are.)

This is a broken record, the same rationale cited by every thug and bully since time immemorial who wants to deny others the right to free speech.

To bolster their position, one half expects antifas to begin citing the ancient half-witticism by authoritarian jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. concerning “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” (Again, political speech is political speech; yelling fire isn’t — short of transubstantiation, it’s impossible to make the two identical.)

  • The antifa protestors physically attacking Spencer do not understand the most basic anarchist principle: The ends do not justify the means; rather, means determine ends. If you employ violent, authoritarian means, you’ll achieve violent authoritarian ends. In this case, the attacking antifas abrogated to themselves the right to determine what others can say. This is straight up authoritarianism.

Beyond that, there’s the simple matter of optics.

  • The video of the attack was shocking and repulsive. How in hell did those guilty of the assault expect people who witnessed the assault to react to it? “Good for you! A group of you beat up an unarmed man to prevent him from speaking! What a display of principles!”

As others have pointed out, such assaults give the moral high ground to the Nazis — the only moral high ground they can claim. Those who attacked Spencer achieved the near impossible: making a Nazi appear sympathetic.

In a related matter, I saw an interview with an antifa protestor blithely talking about deliberate property destruction during demonstrations. Yes, yes, yes, property is just property, vandalism and sabotage are not violence because they’re directed against things, not people or animals. Agreed.

But again, don’t they understand the optics?

When people see protesters smashing in the windows of, for instance, a Starbucks, it’s a fair bet that a good majority of them won’t say to themselves, “Another inspiring blow against global capitalism!” It seems more likely that they’ll say, “Why the tantrum? Why don’t they just grow up?”

An important matter here that no one seems to be talking about is that such property destruction is not a sign of strength; not a sign of good planning; not a sign of the organization necessary to the free, egalitarian reorganization of society.

Rather, wanton property destruction is a sign of weakness.

Real revolutionary change involves taking over existing structures (including physical structures) and transforming them, not wantonly trashing them — which is a sign that you’re letting off steam because you have no idea of how to get from here to there, no idea of how to get from this authoritarian, racist, sexist, exploitative society to the the society that you say you want.

Again — and it shouldn’t be necessary to say this — defending yourself and others from violent assault from fascists is completely justified.

But don’t confuse that with suppressing free speech.

Please realize that the ends do not justify the means. Means determine ends.


(We ran an earlier, considerably shorter version of this post in September 2013. As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit since then.)

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REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. As well, since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: Deutschland Uber Alles
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” etc.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuel industries (Rex Tillerson, et al.) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies’ boys, etc.

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis  constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: U.S. military spending currently accounts for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending; the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas; and Trump wants to increase military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!” Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum”–you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare.

Incarceration Rates

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also a three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for everyone else. It’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics. At the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites. Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible; prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; and the Obama Administration (and now the Trump Administration) viciously goes after whistleblowers and reporters, who have exposed its wrongdoing–Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, et al.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize. (Admittedly, the sell-out, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. Obama’s war on whistleblowers and reporters — and now Trump’s — is only the latest example. Of late, Trump has upped the ante, routinely attacking journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Movement nationwide is the latest large-scale example.

Government Spying

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire representatives (over half of congress at last count) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, crazy theofascists (yes, they meet the definition), the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. It’s also pertinent that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of hypocrisy and narcissism as the means to their vicious ends. And Trump encourages sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting a couple of months ago in which the cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Yesterday, presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.”

Yes, there are very significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S. But they seem to grow smaller with every passing day.


(With the 72nd anniversary of the Hiroshima atrocity fast approaching, and with U.S. military spending at an all time high — nearly half of world military spending — please consider what Keith McHenry has to say about how America treats its poorest and most helpless citizens, and about a fitting way to commemorate the Hiroshima civilian massacre.)

San Jose bans free meals in St. James Park. We’ll protest by providing a free vegan meal on Hiroshima Day, August 6

by Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs

Please consider helping us distribute free food without a permit — a possible misdemeanor — at St. James Park in San Jose at 2:00 PM on August 6, the 72nd anniversary of America’s nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

Food Not Bombs has been sharing free vegan meals at the park for more than 15 years, and is just one of many groups that have been sharing meals there with the hungry.

“We believe that it’s a church’s right to be able to feed the poor,” said Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Ministries, which has been sharing meals with the hungry in St James Park for 20 years. “That’s an extension of our religious freedom, and the bottom line is we’ll fight for this.”

Matt Cano, assistant parks and recreation director, in an attempt to justify the ban, told the San Jose Mercury News that “Everybody is really focused on making sure that the daily experience of everybody using the park, whether it’s a resident who lives near there or someone doing business near there, is a great experience. We are trying to reactivate the park, with things like yoga, movies at night, running clubs. We all need great open spaces.”

Councilman Raul Peralez wrote a letter to homeless advocates — again attempting to justify the ban — saying, “Feeding our homeless must be done in a manner that is consistent and combined with the other wrap-around services that our homeless neighbors need to get back on their feet.”

Councilman Peralez is advancing the failed theory that “street feeding” enables the homeless to stay homeless[!] and that they would have access to recovery programs and jobs if they where unable to get meals on the streets and were forced to eat indoors at “established” programs.

Why are they doing this now? Participants in the social networking site Nextdoor generated e-mails to city officials urging them to stop the sharing of meals at St. James Park. This e-mail campaign might not have reflected the true feelings of many in the community and may have been inspired by the police and business interests. [Editors’ Note: Nextdoor is largely populated by the type of busybodies who infest neighborhood associations.]

Fortune magazine reported in July 2014 that “Nextdoor had formed more than 170 partnerships with police departments and agencies, add[ing] new cities at a much faster clip, potentially leading to a new phase of growth for the site.”

“I view Nextdoor as neighborhood watch for the 21st century,” says Lt. Chris Bolton of the Oakland Police Department, who helped pilot his department’s partnership with Nextdoor in April 2014.

So, that’s in part where the impetus for the new law came from.

Over 70 American cities have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of free food outside in public spaces. So far in the first seven months of this year, authorities arrested Food Not Bombs volunteers in Tampa, told Miami Food Not Bombs volunteers they couldn’t share food, and have introduced a new ordinance against sharing meals outside in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Police told Food Not Bombs they had to stop sharing meals in Buffalo, New York, Eureka, California, and sent health department officials to interfere with Food Not Bombs in Champaign Urbana, Illinois. The struggle for the right of Food Not Bombs to share meals outside in Houston, Texas is also heating up, and anti-homeless advocates in Santa Cruz, California continue their attempts to close the twice weekly Food Not Bombs meal.

Public outcry against these efforts to stop people from providing free food for with the hungry has inspired the creation of the myth mentioned above about the dangers of “street feeding,” claiming meals shared on the streets “enable the homeless” and discourage them from seeking recovery services. This theory is being adopted by cities all across the United States as justification for laws banning free meals.

Robert Marbut, a consultant hired by cities to address homelessness, is likely the most prominent advocate of this theory, and has been hired as a highly paid consultant by several cities.

NPR’s Rachel Martin interviewed Marbut in 2014 after the City of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida generated headlines about the arrest of 90-year-old Arnold Abbott and Food Not Bombs volunteers for sharing food outside the downtown library. Said Marbut, “[I]f you give food on the street, you end up in a very convoluted way, but still an important way, you end up preventing people from going into 24/7 programming.”

Marbut’s “The Seven Guiding Principles of Homeless Transformation — Moving from Enablement to Engagement” states, in principle 6, “Street feeding programs without comprehensive services actually increase and promote homelessness.”

[Editor’s Note: Yes, it’s not sky-high rents and lack of decent-paying jobs that drive people into homelessness, it’s the yummy free food.]

Marbut’s model program is the 37-acre Haven for Hope campus that opened in the summer of 2010 in his home town of San Antonio, Texas. Local media welcomed the opening: “Comprehensive services like those provided at Haven For Hope are typically only available in state prisons.” The campus has 550 closed-circuit television cameras and a staff of 40 security guards.

The San Antonio Express published an article in 2015 titled “Street feeding causing headaches” It read in part: “When Haven opened in 2010, the city made street feeding of the homeless illegal, unless it’s done by licensed kitchens.” The only high profile enforcement of this law was against a licensed kitchen. Chef Joan Cheever, owner of Chow Train, was cited and threatened with a $2,000 fine for sharing food with the hungry at Maverick Park in April of 2015.

But sending people to Haven For Hope, and the law against sharing food with the hungry on the streets, has failed to force the homeless out of sight. Sixteen years after outlawing “street feeding” in San Antonio, the Rivard Report reported on the Department of Public Works and Haven For Hope’s program of periodic cleanups of homeless camps: “Dozens of homeless camps are hiding in plain sight throughout downtown San Antonio.”

San Antonio is not the only city to witness the failure of programs based on Marbut’s theory. Fort Smith, Arkansas, Placer County and Fresno, California, Daytona Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Pensacola, Florida are among the cities that tried Marbut’s program only to find hundreds of people still forced to live in the streets.

St Petersburg, Florida hired Marbut, and at his suggestion opened The Pinellas Safe Harbor facility in the old county jail. According to sheriff’s department data collected from 2011 through 2013, just 7% of those leaving the facility found permanent housing, while 3% went to another shelter or to a friend or relative. Most returned to the streets within a month.

The effort to make it more difficult for people to have access to food (“street feeding” — as if they were animals) comes at time when the federal government is drafting legislation that would cut food stamps, Meals on Wheels, and other aid to the poorest Americans, while redirecting those tax dollars to an increase in military spending and tax breaks for corporations and the 1%.

Trump’s 2018 budget asks for $192 billion in cuts to food stamps over the next decade. He intends to cut funding for after-school programs that help provide food to 1.6 million children, and he is asking for changes that would cut millions of dollars from Meals on Wheels.

Over 13% of the American population currently receive SNAP food stamp benefits, including low income families, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those who have recently lost their job. They receive an average of about $4.17 per day or $1.39 per meal. Nearly half of SNAP recipients are children. That’s 20 million kids or 1 in 4 Americans under the age of 18.

The US Congress just passed a huge increase in military spending exceeding Trump’s proposed “defense” budget request by $18.5 billion. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would spend $696 billion on the military in fiscal year 2018, beyond President Trump’s requested budget — a budget the White House boosted as a “historic increase in defense spending.” The NDAA received bipartisan support, with 117 House Democrats and all but eight Republicans voting in favor.

There has never been a more important time to support more food and fewer bombs. If you cannot join Food Not Bombs in San Jose on August 6th, please consider organizing a solidarity meal that weekend in your own community. Make a sign or banner supporting San Jose Food Not Bombs and share photos of your action with menu@foodnotbombs.net. Invite local media to report on your solidarity meal.

You can also write San Jose’s mayor Sam Liccardo at mayoremail@sanjoseca.gov and council member Raul Peralez at district3@sanjoseca.gov and tell them to support the right to share meals with the hungry at St James Park.

Food Not Bombs, and the hungry people we serve, would appreciate it.


(For the last few months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. This one is from 2013. We’ll be posting more blasts from the past for the next several months, and will intersperse them with new material.)

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Yesterday I was talking with a friend, one of my band mates, and mentioned that the (Tucson) cops had beaten my neighbor across the street, arrested him, and charged him with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. (Why, yes, how did you guess? I don’t live in a gated community.)

My friend then mentioned that Tucson cops had beaten one of his coworkers so badly a few weeks ago that the guy ended up with traumatic brain injury and a speech impediment. (And, yes, now that you ask, the coworker is Mexican.)

He lived in an apartment on the south side, and heard his next door neighbor beating his girlfriend. He intervened and got in a fight with the neighbor. At that point, the cops arrived, and the beaten neighbor woman claimed my friend’s coworker had assaulted her and her boyfriend. This enraged my friend’s coworker, he went verbally ballistic, and out came the truncheons. Following the beating the cops gave him, they charged him with assaulting an officer (no cops were injured, of course) and resisting arrest.

Because of the brain injury he sustained, my pal’s beaten coworker is now suing the police and the city. This incident could cost the city (meaning the city’s taxpayers) hundreds of thousands and perhaps over a million bucks.

But this is nothing new. Back in the 1970s, eight Tucson cops beat a political-activist friend of mine and charged him with — ta-da — assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault. (None of the cops were injured, of course, and the only evidence was the testimony of the cops.) The county attorney brought the case to trial, and all of the cops perjured themselves. Fortunately, the victim had a good attorney who picked apart the cops’ testimony revealing numerous irreconcilable inconsistencies, and he was acquitted. The victim never received any compensation, and none of the cops were ever charged with perjury or conspiracy.

While I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s, a friend of mine who was carrying her one-year-old baby encountered two SF cops beating a guy, who was down on the ground, with truncheons near the entrance to the 24th Street BART station. She yelled at them to stop, and they maced her and the baby. You can guess what they charged her with.

In the same city in 1992, another friend of mine–Keith McHenry, a well known activist, who was under surveillance by the cops–was beaten so badly at a demonstration that he needed reconstructive facial surgery. Again, it’s not hard to guess who got charged–my friend or the cop who smashed in his face–and with what.

How do cops get away with such brutal crap? There are several reasons. The first is that they have all the resources of the state behind them, while their victims are usually poor. The second is that the cops are normally buddy-buddy with prosecutors. The third is that witnesses are often afraid of the cops and reluctant to come forward. (Here in Tucson, some witnesses and victims are undocumented immigrants, who for good reason rarely come forward.) The fourth reason is related to the third–that the only witnesses to beating incidents who testify are very often only the cops themselves. A fifth reason is that police routinely perjure themselves. (Nobody has less respect for the law than cops. Even “good cops” routinely perjure themselves to protect their brutal colleagues, because of peer pressure.) And a sixth reason is that juries tend to skew toward older white people — in other words, people who are likely to believe cops and are not likely to be sympathetic to black, brown, or poor white beating victims — and the state’s attorneys always do their best to get such juries. As a defense attorney once told a friend, prosecutors always try to get “Mormons and morons” seated on juries in police beating cases–people gullible enough to believe the testimony of cops.

Because of all this, it’s very difficult for victims to win police brutality cases. A few years ago an attorney who sometimes handles such cases showed me a large blow-up photo he had used in court. It showed the swollen, battered face of one of his clients. The police had beaten him with a long (D-cell) metal flashlight so badly that they caved in one of the victim’s eye sockets and then charged him with (Do I even need to mention this?) assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. The victim lost the brutality case.

I’ve seen proposals recently that cops wear helmet cameras to record everything they do. This is being sold as a crime-fighting move. It’s a good idea, but I doubt that it will have any effect on crime other than  reducing crime committed by the cops themselves. And then only if there’s no way for the cops to turn the cameras off. But even if supposedly constant-recording helmet cams become standard, how much do you want to bet that they won’t many, many times “malfunction” in assaulting-an-officer / resisting-arrest cases?