Sunday, January 29, 2006

Are the Republicans really Nazis?

I was recently having an on-line debate with a friend over whether or not I should be as concerned as I am over this Alito thing.

I mentioned my now familiar thread on similarities between the Bush exploitation of 9-11 and Hitler's exploitation of the Reichstag fire to move rapidly from democracy to an authoritarian state. My friend dismissed my argument as hyperbolic and told me that I had attained the perfection of Godwin's Law (that the first person to make a comparison to the Nazis in order to win an argument automatically loses it) -- and since I'd made it in my opening salvo, I'd pre-empted my own argument before any actual arguing began, thus the "perfection" of the law.

You will hear conservatives frequently cite this, along with a huffing rebuke of whomever has used the comparison--Senator Byrd, for example--as being hysterical and trying to exploit the Nazis for their own nefarious political agenda. Never mind that people like Rush Limbaugh have been comparing Democrats and feminists to Nazis for years without the slightest pang of concience over it.

Unfortunately, Godwin's law provides an excellent cloak of protection to anyone who is actually advancing an ideology similar to the Nazis. They've been told that they can just stop listening as soon as they hear that buzz word, and that they can automatically "win" an argument they have not actually engaged in.

For me, anyone who agrees about history teaching lessons that ought not to be forgotten and who doesn't want the abuses of the past to return would do themselves a favor to examine the Wiemar period and how power was consolidated from a democratic republic into the hands of an increasingly powerful central authority.

While it's true that facile references to the Nazis always fly a little too glibly from the lips of liberals, it is also true that many facets of Dubyisti tactics since 9/11 are substantively reminiscent of the Nazi dismantling of Weimar democracy.

Case in point: I feel the Reichstag Fire Decree -- issued on the German equivalent of 9/12 -- genuinely parallels the programmatic intrusions the Bush Administration has dishonestly used 9/11 to impose or attempt to impose on the US Constitution:


Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

ยง 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Empire are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [i.e., habeas corpus], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.


Does this mean that I think Bush, Cheney, et al actually are Nazis? No.

Does it mean I think they have certain important and dangerous qualities in common with the Nazis? Yes.

I strongly recommend that anyone who's interested in looking more closely at those similarities read Defying Hitler: A Memoir, by Sebastian Haffner.

Haffner, a prominent German historian and journalist during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, wrote the memoir in 1939, after fleeing Germany for England; but it wasn't published until the unfinished manuscript was discovered by Haffner's son after his death. His story of a largely apolitical young attorney watching as his country is led in small steps from democracy to fascism in the months following 9/11, and the familiarity of Haffner's descriptions to observations being made about our current situation is chilling.

Further Reading:

Thanks to my good friend JT for his input on this. Together, we've often comprised a whole brain.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"If the President does it, it's not illegal."

That's what Nixon said and we tore him a new one. Even Republicans wouldn't stand for a President who so clearly flouted the law, disregarded the Constitution he was sworn to protect. America rejected an imperial presidency then.

Why now? If you wouldn't take it from Nixon, why are you willing to take it from a president who'd have to stand on his mother's shoulders just to kiss Nixon's butt?

What happened to America? What happened to the Republican Party? It used to stand for more than big business, but the preferential treatment we've given businesses since the Reagan years have finally made the multi-nationals so huge that they own everything...and if I hear one more time about the liberal media bias when most of the "mainstream media" is owned by multi-nationals or defense contractors, I'm going to bust a gasket.

When George Bush gets applauded for a largely incoherent press conference where he actually admits that he was advised that the newly named "terrorist surveillance program" was illegal but he decided he could disregard that law (not "circumvent", that's a bad word) because it was 28 years old and wouldn't let him do what he wanted to do...America, we got ourselves a problem. The Constitution is a lot older than 1978, does that mean it too is as irrelevant as the United Nations? When George W. says he's got the Constitution behind him, he means he's wiping his butt with it.

If we blamed the Germans for allowing the Nazi's to take power, we've got no one to blame but ourselves if we allow Alito and the Neo Cons to create a presidency with powers that the founding fathers specifically set out to protect us from.

And these bastards are going to finally give the so-called "America Haters" an America we won't be able to help but hate.

Today, there is still ample reason to love this country...after Tuesday? I'm not so sure.

Defend your country, defend your constitution, defend the America you love...because she has never been in greater danger.

Please contact key senators who can provide critical support to the filibuster effort! We need to act now if we are going to save the seperation of powers, along with the checks and balances which made the United States of America unique among nations. Be a modern patriot, and save your country.

Sign the Filibuster Petition:

If you can't even bother to sign an on-line petition to protect your rights and freedoms, you deserve what you get.

I mean that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alito's Defenders Speak With Forked Tongue

Ok, this is a short post...because I have to go run and bind my head in an Ace Bandage before it explodes...All I want to do is ask the "good" senators on the Judiciary Committee (like Sen. Graham, for example) how they can point a finger at Democrats and accuse them of playing "party politics" with this nomination, with destroying the fabric of civility, with dragging the nomination process to new lows by using it to prepare for the NEXT election....and in the SAME speech also admonish the Democrats for being surprised by Alito's nomination when the President had promised in his presidential campaign to nominate judges exactly like Alito to the Supreme Court.


The Democrats are politicizing the process and playing election politics over Alito but a conservative, right leaning, Executive powers supporting nomination like Alito was a CAMPAIGN PROMISE?

What are you people smoking?

Have you forgotten how back in October it was CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS who kept Harriet Myers from even HAVING HEARINGS because you felt that she did not represent a fulfilment of your PRESIDENT'S PROMISE? And you have the unmitigated gall to accuse DEMOCRATS of playing politics with this process?

The PRESIDENT ran on CHANGING THE COURT. If you want to admonish someone for playing politics with the nomination process, start there.

You want judges who won't be activists and yet you owe your golden child in office to the activism of conservative Justices who decided the outcome of the 2000 election. You don't want activist judges but you will do whatever you can get get someone on the Supreme Court who will limit freedoms, disregard precedent, and invest unprecedented power in the Executive Branch.

And Arlen are a coward. I watched you throughout this process, and I've seen your grave concerns about this nomination. I know in your heart that you understand that you are chairing a process which will fundamentally and forever change what America is, and what it can ever be. This is your legacy, Senator. You, more than any other person in this country are responsible for this sea change.

It was the Supreme Court, and the Rhenquist Five who began this process, and you have codified it. It is no good to, like Pilate, wash your hands and send it to the Senate to vote on it. You could have stopped it here, and you did not.

Sen. Feinstein stated today that the world, and our nation, is different than it was when Justice Ginsberg was confirmed. She was roundly criticized for saying that. How many times have Republicans claimed that September 11th changed everything, and that nothing in the pre-September 11th world continued to apply?

While not invoking the Republican's favorite justification for extreme changes to the very fabric of our nation, September 11th, that is a very real truth here. September 11th and the unending War on Terror will be a very large part of cases which will appear on the Supreme Court's docket.

The President says that the terrorists hate us because of our freedoms, our rights, and our way of life. How can the Republicans claim to defend those rights and freedoms, that way of life, while working far more effectively than the terrorists to remove them?

They can't...unless they lie...and that's the truth.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Love America Because.....

Well, it looks like January is Drama Month here at This is What I Think. I've been swamped with the start of the semester and trying to figure out how to deal with all the students I have who are recording my lectures and turning over their notes for money paid by conservative alumni groups. Wouldn't it have been nice if that story had broken while Alito was being questioned about Concerned Alumni of Princeton? I mentioned to my identical cousin my concerns about where America seems to be headed and how the people who scream the loudest about how much they love America seem to be doing everything in their power to make America unrecognizable. I also talked at length about how even Hitler was elected and everything the Nazis did in Germany was done strictly according to law...and when what they wanted to do was illegal, they just changed the laws.

Well, he wrote a little play for his No Shame Theatre thing. He stopped short of the Hitler reference....but the rest is pretty good. He'd probably say so himself, but I'm saying it for him.

I Love America Because....
By Todd Wm. Ristau

(Lights up on two men sitting at a table. One is a LIBERAL, the other is a CONSERVATIVE.)

LIBERAL: I love America because we are a democracy.


LIBERAL: (turning to CONSERVATIVE) Then how come you are so supportive of an administration which actively sought to keep us from having a balloting system where votes could be counted, verified, and that ensures the principle of one man one vote is protected. Instead your president's party engaged in massive voter fraud, intimidation, gerrymandering, and took large campaign contributions from the Diebold company--which makes voting machines without paper trails, are not 100% safe from tampering, and whose CEO promised that he would deliver the state of Ohio to the President.

CONSERVATIVE: I love America because of our Freedoms and Liberty.

LIBERAL: Me too. (LIBERAL smiles, then looks nervous, and turns to CONSERVATIVE) Which freedoms do you mean?

CONSERVATIVE: Are you stupid? (counting on his fingers as he recites the following) Freedom of worship...

LIBERAL: Then how come you are constantly trying to impose a specific brand of conservative Christian ideology on the 15% of Americans who are not Christian and the 85% who are?

CONSERVATIVE: (ignoring him) Freedom of association...

LIBERAL: Then how come you are supportive of infiltrating groups which are critical of your president and actively seek to limit the ability of homosexuals to marry or publically express their sexuality?

CONSERVATIVE: Freedom of speech...

LIBERAL: Then how come your president only speaks before military or hand picked supportive crowds and dissenters are relegated to "Free Speech Zones"? And how come conservative alumni groups are paying conservative students to spy on and report their instructors at Universities if the teachers speak out against their government or the President in their classrooms? Or pressuring corporations with boycots if they advertise in gay magazines or express an idea that you don't agree with? Or applaud conservative corporations who fire employees for having bumper stickers which express ideas or candidates they oppose? Or that guy who got banned from a mall for wearing an anti-war t-shirt that he bought at that mall?

CONSERVATIVE: Freedom of the press....

LIBERAL: Then how come you're always screaming about the bias of mainstream media, happy about pressuring media through corporate advertising not to run stories critical of the administration or the war, and don't seem to care that your president gave more White House access to a gay male prostitute than he does to legitimate journalists? And why do you like that he actively threatens to cut off access to journalists who ask probing, difficult questions which might embarrass the President? Or that any difficult line of questioning immediately gets cut short by calling it a threat to national security and then accuse the press of giving comfort and aid to the enemy when their investigations uncover wrong doing or deception by this President and his administration?

CONSERVATIVE: Freedom from an oppressive authoritarian state....

LIBERAL: Then how come you are supportive of a president who is actively taking measures to create a legal precedent for the head of state being above the law, and who can spy on every aspect of your private life and communication including web searches, faxes, and telephone calls? Or who, as a result of presumed "War Powers" in a war which by definition has no identifiable measure of when it will be concluded, is able to arrest and detain any American citizen without charge or notification of their families for as long as they choose? Or that this President is surrounding himself with those who agree that he has the authority and the responsibility to order that detainees be tortured, if not by us then by sub-contractors in nations where torture is legal?

CONSERVATIVE: Freedom from the abuses that come from monarchies or dictatorships....I love how our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances to the power of government....That we have a two party system.....

LIBERAL: Then how come you are working to lable any opposition as treasonous, and to give the executive office powers over the other branches of government which the Constitution specifically prohibits?

CONSERVATIVE: I love America because we believe in equality, that any American regardless of race, creed, or economic background can rise to become the President, and that we are a nation devoted to representing the interests of the little guy against the powerful. I love that we are a nation who have a clear, fair, and impartial system of justice and dedicated to the principles of Law.

LIBERAL: (stunned into silence and staring at CONSERVATIVE for a moment in slack jawed disbelief) Come on...What do you really love about America?

CONSERVATIVE: I love that we're strong enough to kick any other nation's ass if they don't do what we want.

LIBERAL: (pause while this is digested) At least you're being honest. That's refreshing.

CONSERVATIVE: Thank you. (pause) Do you believe in Jesus?

LIBERAL: (pause, suspicious) Yes.

CONSERVATIVE: What do you love most about Jesus?

LIBERAL: I love his devotion to the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law. I love his doctrine of forgiveness instead of retribution, his advocting for generosity instead of greed, and his gospel of love instead of hate. (pause) What do you love most about Jesus?

CONSERVATIVE: (excited) That I'm forgiven because he loves me, and come Judgement Day, he's gonna kick the ass of everyone who doesn't love Him back and then toss every single motherhumper that ever lived, who isn't just exactly like me, into a lake of fire where they can snap, crackle and pop for all eternity while I sit back and cool my heels in Heaven singing Hallelujah.


(LIBERAL looks very sad and becomes quiet)

CONSERVATIVE: What? (agitated pause) What?

LIBERAL: So, basically, you like an America and a Church that make you feel superior to everybody else and will punish people who aren't like you.

CONSERVATIVE: See, that's exactly what I hate about you're all anti-America and anti-Christian. (stands in a rage) Stop persecuting me, asshole. We're taking names and kicking ass. You're gonna be sorry, just wait and see.

(CONSERVATIVE gets up and storms off the stage)

LIBERAL: I'm already as sorry as I can get........I hope.

(Lights slowly fade)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fighting Evil Can Be Complicated

This is another little play that my identical cousin, Todd, sent me. I post it here for your enjoyment. I've changed the names -- with permission--so that even the least sensitive reader can understand the metaphor

You Failed Your Saving Throw
by Todd Wm. Ristau

(Lights up on GEORGE, PAUL, and DICK seated at a long table. On the table are dice and some lead miniature figures. At the head of the table sits DUNGEON MASTER, behind a Dungeon Master's screen.)

GEORGE: What does it look like?

DUNGEON MASTER: It is a gold amulet.

GEORGE: There's no design on it or anything?


PAUL: No design. That could be significant.

GEORGE: Like how?

PAUL: Or, it could mean nothing.

(GEORGE stands there indecisively for a long beat.)

DICK: Shouldn't there be some kind of timer between moves, like in Scrabble?

DUNGEON MASTER: It's not really a turn based game like that.

PAUL: Does Scrabble have a timer? I think that's Yahtzee.


GEORGE: OK, OK....I touch it.

DUNGEON MASTER: The amulet immediately transforms into the Holy Symbol of your diety.

PAUL: Ah, that is significant.

GEORGE: Ok. Shit. What do I do?

PAUL: Well, ordinarily I wouldn't trust something that makes itself look more attractive to me when I touch it.

DICK: What would happen if I touch it?

GEORGE: It's MY holy symbol, nobody touches it but ME.

DICK: I want to do something.

DUNGEON MASTER: You just helped wipe out a whole cave full of goblins.

DICK: I want to do something now.

GEORGE: Why would goblins have a holy symbol of my god?

PAUL: Maybe they ate the priest who wore it here.

DUNGEON MASTER: What are you doing?

GEORGE: I'm putting it on.

DUNGEON MASTER: Ok, it starts choking you.

GEORGE: What???

PAUL: We probably should have identified it first.

GEORGE: You can do that???

PAUL: Sure. I'm a magic-user.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) You take another 4 points of choking damage.

GEORGE: Shit!!! Get it off me!

DUNGEON MASTER: Technically you can't say that, you're choking.

(GEORGE mimes choking and with red face and sputters indicates he wants something cut off his neck.)

PAUL: I look through my spell book for an appropriate action.

DICK: I take out my serrated dirk and start to saw off his head.

(GEORGE backs away and, still miming his being choked by an invisible amulet, glares angrily at DICK.)

DICK: What? I want to do something.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) You take another 4 points of choking damage.

GEORGE: Gmbdt ibt duff fuhhhck offfdddt mmmmeeeee!

PAUL: I'm going to identify it now.

GEORGE: Gmbdt ibt duff fuhhhck offfdddt mmmmeeeee!

DUNGEON MASTER: The gnome identifies the the obect choking the priest as an Amulet of Holy Might currently attuned to the diety Tyr, God of Justice in the Forgotten Realms.

GEORGE: (no longer choking) Then why the fuck is it choking me?

DUNGEON MASTER: You can't ask that, you're choking. (rolls dice) Another 2 points, by the way.

GEORGE: I'm asking you, not my character.

PAUL: You must have had an alignment shift or something.

GEORGE: I'm evil now?


PAUL: Loot the bodies of the goblins.

DICK: I did that already.

GEORGE: Why am I evil?

DUNGEON MASTER: Why do you think you're evil?

GEORGE: This isn't therapy, its a god damned game.

PAUL: Maybe you're evil because you use profanity. God's don't like that.

GEORGE: I'm using profanity because there's no way in hell my goddam character turned evil. I was good this morning, Mighty Tyr granted me my prayers, didn't he?

PAUL: That's right, your priest spells were instrumental in allowing us to surprise the goblins and wipe them out.

DICK: I try to rob the priest while he's chocking.

DUNGEON MASTER: OK, but you'll have to take a penalty, because he's thrashing while he chokes.

DICK: I'll just wait, how close is he to dead?

GEORGE: (making the time out sign) Pause! How am I evil?

DUNGEON MASTER: (with great patience) You're evil because you used your power to sneak up on this goblin tribe and wipe them out without provocation or allowing them the chance to defend themselves.

PAUL: Did my fireballs at the goblin children change my alignment?

DUNGEON MASTER: You were already evil...Which was also a strike against the priest, because his Lawful Good diety didn't like his associating with evil characters.

GEORGE: I don't fucking believe this.

DUNGEON MASTER: Oh, that reminds me, your prayers won't be answered until you atone...

PAUL: He could pray to an evil god.

DICK: Who can I pray to for something to do????

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls the dice) 3 more points of choking damage.

GEORGE: No! Goblins are evil creatures. They are inherently evil, they live in evil little caves and they do evil little things and the Forgotten Realms is better off whenever an evil creature gets destroyed so that it can no longer do any evil!

DUNGEON MASTER: So, you agree the world is going to be better off when you choke to death?

PAUL: That's right, the amulet agrees with you, so it is eliminating evil by destroying you.

GEORGE: If the amulet agrees with me, then it shouldn't be punishing me.

PAUL: Wow. Good point.

DUNGEON MASTER: It doesn't matter if the amulet agrees with you, it matters if your God agrees with you.

GEORGE: I killed these goblins in the name of my god!

DUNGEON MASTER: But Tyr didn't like that.

GEORGE: Says who?


GEORGE: You aren't the god of me.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) 4 more points of choking damage.


DUNGEON MASTER: You have two choices. You can atone or convert to an evil religion.

PAUL: If he doesn't die.

GEORGE: This sucks. I thought I was doing the right thing. That should count for something. Why should I give the goblins a chance? They're EVIL for freak's sake. They wouldn't have given me a chance, they'd have snuck up on us and slit our throats if they could.

DUNGEON MASTER: Right, because they are evil. That would be an evil thing to do.

PAUL: Technically...Yes. Smart, but probably evil.

GEORGE: Isn't it good to protect the party, the villages, the other good creatures of the world by eliminating the threat of evil whereever you find it?

DUNGEON MASTER: Is it worth becoming evil yourself in the process?

PAUL: Who Watches the Watchmen...


DICK: (brightly) Do we still have the prisoner?

DUNGEON MASTER: The one who told you where the goblin cave was?

DICK: (sarcastic) Do we have more than one prisoner?


DICK: Then, that one.

DUNGEON MASTER: You still have the prisoner.

DICK: I start to torture it.

GEORGE: Why are you torturing it?

DICK: Because I'm BORED!

GEORGE: (shocked) But...that's evil!

DICK: (mocking him) Why is it evil to torture an evil creature? It'd torture me if the situation were reversed.

PAUL: Uh-huh. And then it would eat you.

DICK: Besides, I'm already evil anyway. I should do some evil stuff, or I'll turn good.

GEORGE: (sputtering) You're evil too? Everybody I was with was evil but me?

PAUL: (cheerfully) But now we have achieved balance and party unity, because you're evil too!

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolling dice) No, now he's dead.

(Everyone looks at DUNGEON MASTER, lights fade to black.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Something to hum while you wait for my next post

First week of classes, overwhelmed.

Have XM radio and listening to C-Span instead of Rush. Makes my blood pressure lower but I haven't been driven to a rage inspired rant.

In the mean time, please click on this link and memorize the song.

It is very happy making: