Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Scam in the High Castle

Reportage from a country that never was.*

Once upon a time in 1962, a writer named Phillip K. Dick published arguably his most influential novel: The Man in the High Castle. The compelling story of an alternate history of the United States that parts company from our own when:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933 by Giuseppe Zangara. He was succeeded by Vice President John Nance Garner, who was subsequently replaced by John W. Bricker. Neither man was able to surmount the Great Depression, and both clung to an isolationist policy regarding the approaching war. This meant that the United States lacked sufficient military capabilities to assist Great Britain and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, or itself when the Japanese Empire entered the war in 1941 in this world.

By 1948, Allied forces had surrendered to Axis control. The Eastern Seaboard fell under German control, while California, Washington, Oregon, and parts of Nevada were ceded to Japanese rule. The Rocky Mountain States, the Midwest and much of the South West remained as a buffer between the Axis powers. The South was resurrected as a quasi-Nazi puppet state, much like Vichy France. The German Reich and Japanese Empire became the chief superpowers, and entered a Cold War of their own as a result.
In other words, in addition to being a helluva fine book, the alternate history it details strongly resembles the Right’s vision of Heaven on Earth, and diverges from actual history at exactly the same point that the Right argues that everything went to Hell: The Roosevelt Administration during the depths of the Great Depression.

Well we chased the Wingnut Eater’s of Worlds off again, for a little while. We ran them back off into the angry Confederate mud. Back into the gnawing belly of hate radio. Back into the Armageddonist wet dreams of their Christopath spider holes and morally deformed gospels.

And that’s a good thing.

But ignorance and bigotry are never gone, so facing humiliating defeats on all fronts, Conservatives right down the line are uniting to fight on by frantically trying to shift the battlespace of their Forever-War-on-Reality away from every engagement they are losing (a list including but not limited to domestic policy, foreign policy, culture, medicine, art, literature, economics, manufacturing, trade policy, the environment, hermeneutics, snark, porn, snarkporn, the Constitution, causality, all science since Aristotle including meteorology, semeiotics, education, epistemology, fashion and arithmetic) …
… and into the 4th dimension.

Given how utterly bankrupt their ideology has proven to be and how fresh the stink from their bloody failures is in the public square, they're temporarily downsizing their efforts to continue to fuck up the here-and-now to a skeleton crew, while the bulk of their forces attempts to create a fake history of the United States the collective trajectory of which would be much hospitable to their corporate feudalist vision of of the future.

At one end of the timeline they furiously pen economic hagiographies of their Middle Class Crushing hero -- Ronald Reagan -- that are as worthless and toxic as a sackfull of depleted uranium Icelandic krona.

From Will Bunch (via Best Liberal Blogger Finalist Blue Gal)
The reality is that Reagan's "legacy of small government" took America from a creditor nation to the world's biggest debtor nation during his eight red-ink-ridden years in the White House. You can very easy straight line from the era of Reagan in the 1980s, from "greed is good" insider trading on Wall Street and his steep tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires -- to our 2008 of sub-prime mortgages, credit default swaps and CEOs with their runaway pay and their golden parachutes and their bailout-seeking jaunts on corporate jets.

And so what is the lesson that our chief fiscal steward, Henry Paulson, has gleamed from that?
In his speech, Paulson struck a Reagan-esque theme, warning of the risks of imposing too-strict regulations as a knee-jerk response to the near-term financial crisis.

Proceeds from the annual Reagan Lecture, which about 900 people paid $75 to attend, will be plowed back into the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library's programs, which promote education about Reagan's history and ideas, Giller said.
If backwards history like Paulson's speech is the "education about Reagan's history and ideas" that Americans are getting -- and it is -- then we're all in big trouble. It was willy-nilly deregulation that spurred on the global fiscal crisis, and even now, more than a trillion dollars in the hole, our Treasury Secretary and bailout czar is still clutching his Reagan rosary.
While at the other end of that timeline they manufacture bogeyman stories about how a 60-foot-tall FDR

tried to destroy the free market system by beating Henry Ford to death with Thomas Edison.

Or something.

From Media Matters:
Asserting FDR "waged ... a jihad against private enterprise," Hume falsely claimed "everybody agrees ... that the New Deal failed"

Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume joined the ranks of conservative media figures attacking President Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression as a failure that worsened the economic crisis of the 1930s, asserting on the January 7 edition of Fox News' Your World that "the New Deal -- everybody agrees, I think, on both sides of the spectrum now, that the New Deal failed. The debate is over why it failed." He later asserted that "President Roosevelt waged what could only be called a jihad against private enterprise." However, Hume's assertion that "the New Deal failed" has been flatly rejected by some prominent economists, including Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who has said that Roosevelt did not go far enough to end the crisis and that his attempts to balance the budget hindered recovery.

In a November 10, 2008, New York Times column, Krugman wrote that Roosevelt's policies included "long-run achievements" that "remain the bedrock of our nation's economic stability" and that Roosevelt's short-term successes were constrained because "his economic policies were too cautious."

Krugman further wrote:
Now, there's a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it's important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The New Deal brought real relief to most Americans.
F.D.R. wasn't just reluctant to pursue an all-out fiscal expansion -- he was eager to return to conservative budget principles. That eagerness almost destroyed his legacy. After winning a smashing election victory in 1936, the Roosevelt administration cut spending and raised taxes, precipitating an economic relapse that drove the unemployment rate back into double digits and led to a major defeat in the 1938 midterm elections.
And if all of this sounds eerily familiar, remember it was just three short years ago when the same liars were mounting the same campaign against the same targets, but along a different angle of attack:

This blog, three years ago:

The Long March of the Social Security Liars.

You remember the Social Security debacle right?

Wherein video poker slot jockey, bigot and notorious liar Bill Bennett declared, on February 3, 2005 that:
"Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time. Private investment would be the way to really carry this thing through."
After which notorious liar and Bush Family Suppository, Brit Hume, declared that:
In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, quote, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

(Both via Media Matters)

That was, of course, patently untrue.

Hume carved up FDR’s original words like Hannibal Lechter doing a guest shot on “Nip/Tuck” and inverted their intent in order to advance the House of Bush’s crusade to destroy the legacy of the New Deal.

He did it deliberately and maliciously. He did it under the color of being a journalist simply reporting the truth, and in the shadow of Dan Rather being run out of the anchor chair merely for making a foolish error in the context of a truthful story.

He remained while Rather was ousted, for the same reason that Clinton was flogged in the Congressional stocks for trivia while the Congress shrugs off and ignores Bush’s serial High Criminality.

Because Modern Republicans do not care about this country.

They care about power, and the amassing of power. Sometimes high dudgeon is the means they use. High flown rhetoric. Pious moralizing. The shedding of public tears and the enraged rending of public garments are useful tools, but only – ONLY -- when the beast in the cross-hairs is a Democrat.

When it’s Rostenkowski and stamps, or Clinton and fellatio, it’s “Pay any price and bear any burden” time, and let the Heaven’s fall…because at that moment outrage and moralizing are the most efficient means of aggregating power.

When its DeLay and Abramoff and Reed leading a vast, criminal enterprise, extortion, gutting the Constitution of Texas and the House Ethics committee…fuggedaboutit.

When it’s Bush and lying about war and peace, torture and spying…who gives a shit?

Because anyone who has survived the moral winnowing process of the last five years and has stayed Republican does not care about this country.

They care only about power, and the amassing of power, because only in that morally degenerate context does the fact that they still lionize DeLay and Abramoff and Bush and Cheney as Gods make any sense sitting chockablock with all of their Righteous Clinton-era Rhetoric about holding public officials to account for any offense against the commonweal, no matter how small.

What some of us forget sometimes – what still never fails to shock me, even though I know better – is that when cornered, these fuckers are in no way subtle or slick.
They just lie and lie and lie. They lie loudly and with a straight face.

Rather than simply living up to their own slogans, rather than standing up like men when caught and taking personal responsibility for their crimes, this party of Personal Responsibility will always and unhesitatingly use blunt, screaming lies like a battering ram to bash their way out of the corner into which they have painted themselves.

And being weak, lazy and spineless, the Mainstream Media will always aid and abet them.

They’ll lie like Nixon whenever it suits them because being a Modern Republican means always putting power and Party ahead of country, and never telling the truth when a lie will do.
If I read the blueprints right, these revisionist time-tunneling projects are scheduled to meet up in 1974, when, on the verge of saving Christian 'Murrica forever and precipitating the return of Sweet Baby Jebus Hisself, a Noble and Righteous Richard Nixon is driven cruelly from office by pernicious cabal of America-hating fanatics led by Woody Allen, Jane Fonda, Muhammad Ali, Dick Cavett and Fidel Castro.

After which this portion of Gerald Ford’s remarks on taking the Presidential oath:
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

"Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

"As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.”
Will be seamlessly substituted with…
Gerald Ford: Oh my God, they killed Nixon!

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger: You bastards!
So now we have to chase the wingnuts through time.

We have to chase them and beat them because they are on the verge of having everything they believe in -- their entire, globally-destructive boondoggle of plutocrats and pissy sociopaths –- bookended in history for all time as a transient, tragic spasm of cultural psychosis between New Deal Classic and New Deal 2.0, which makes them more desperate than ever.

Because outside of our hopeful little, wavering campfire circle, darkness is always waiting. Always busy, circling, sniffing, hunting for a way back in.

And if we leave the agents and emissaries of darkness alone back there in the American time-line, unchallenged, rewriting our past, salting our history with their lies, then sooner that you'd believe possible they'll be back.

Raging back, skulls stuffed full of manufactured legends and synthetic grievances, hearts steeped in ignorant fury, with Limbaugh cranking at enough decibels to drown out every other sound in the Universe.

Raging back to snuff out freedom and tolerance and the hated Middle Class once and for all.

*(Graphic is a rendering of Hitler's architectural model for the never-built Great Hall of Germania, with a “lived in” touch or two added by me.)


Blue Gal said...

if we leave the agents and emissaries of darkness alone back there in the American timeline, unchallenged, rewriting our past, salting our history with their lies, then sooner that you'd believe possible they'll be be back.

Why. We. Blog.

Thanks for the linky love. It is an honor to serve along side you, Citizen.

darkblack said...

'...darkness is always waiting. Always busy, circling, sniffing, hunting for a way back in.'


'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.'


blader said...

there is such a thing as 'snarkporn'?

how'd I miss that?

driftglass said...

Sorry, that should have been snarkporn (pat pend)

Rehctaw said...

*(Graphic is a rendering of Hitler's architectural model for the never-built Great Hall of Germania, with a “lived in” touch or two added by me.)

It's your touches that propel your clarity.

The constant struggle of opposing forces. Those of building, sharing, planning, inclusion and dreaming and those of owning and controling and using and exclusion and POWER.

The latter harnesses the talents of the former with treaties, deals and agreements to which they have no intention of adhering. When goals are reached or exceeded they claim the result as their rightful prize and the process begins again.

The past 40 years have been marked by their greatest success in the claim game.

They will attempt to own and control snarkporn as well. Further, they will insist it was always theirs because they are the engine of everything.

Anonymous said...

Very good post!
I wrote the following in the comments at Alternate Brain and add it here:
As the supposed end of the Bush Presidency drags near, please remember all the bureaucratic positions held by loyal (if silent) Bush supporters. He had eight years to staff government positions with his people and the brief hissy fit in the media about last minute permanent appointments doesn't begin to illustrate the problem. It will take several years of serious, focused effort to remove those Bush supporters from the government jobs they now hold. They will be continuing the policies/positions of the Bush "give it to the rich" administration as long as they get their government paychecks.
In other words, the fucking of American working folk won't end on January 20th, 2009.

Anonymous said...

I really think this is one of yer best. Evah. N not just cuz ya wove PKDick around it, either (brilliant!). *G*

Our hope at PE Obama taking over and maybe DOING something positive once in a while can NOT take us away from our primary tool for survival.

And that tool is the ugly stick we beat the mofo Neo/Publican/Fundie with over, and over, and over again. Until they stop revising our past, our present, and our future.

Beat them with the ugly stick until not even the 23% base will think they are their friends. Beat them until the entire world realizes they should be sent to Devil's Island, and THEN have their supplies cut off till they gnaw each other to extinction.

I've shared it hither and yon, yer post . . . with cries and pleas to clicky to you for Weblog, too.

Anchoress my ass, may the weight of her matters drag her to the bottom of the sea to bleach her bones in eternity. Metaphorically speakin, of course.

Aside from that, carry on, hoss, yer doin fine. Damn I love this town . . *G*

Duncan said...

Interesting post. I won't give you props on the Nazi Fox News flag however. I would have expected a much more defined swastika for 'X' than the one chosen.


I find it humorous that both the right, which I consider myself to be, and the left, both think that the others beliefs and positions are "bankrupt". I believe that we can trace the roots to a large portion of our economic woes to the Community Reinvestment Act, and the environment of "free credit to all, even if you can't afford it" that was spawned. Yet an acquaintance of mine believes that the CRA was all but perfect and that it is the BushCheneyHalliburtonWarforOilGitmo™ cabal and that evil system of capitalism that was to blame. Just find it interesting 'sall..

Gay Veteran said...

Duncan, it would help if you could provide ANY evidence whatsoever that "...we can trace the roots to a large portion of our economic woes to the Community Reinvestment Act...."

Sorry but "poor coloreds" did not cause the incredible mess we're in.

As for whether your positions are bankrupt, well, just look around you.

Angel Of Mercy said...

Hey, Gay Vet:

The first rule is NEVER confuse wingnuts with the facts. Their alternate reality does not permit the "Party of Personal Responsibility" to accept responsibility for their corrosive policies. Not ever. It helps to consider what Yashwata says:

"There isn’t a choice between conservative and liberal philosophies. This is because conservatism is not a philosophy. Let me explain.

Liberalism is a philosophy. Liberalism defines the general welfare—Bentham’s “greatest happiness for the greatest number”—as the center and purpose of all decision-making; and proceeds from there to consider how best to organize and govern the society.

Conservatism is not a philosophy. It is a pattern of behavior. The conservative works toward wealth and power for himself and his friends. All decisions are made on this basis. But when speaking about his decisions, he describes them in liberal terms. He claims to be motivated by concern for the general public. He claims to be working for the general good. Asked to describe the difference between himself and a liberal, he will say that very broadly they have similar goals; their differences come down to how they propose to get there. But this is not true. Conservative decisions are not designed to benefit the general public, only the plutocrats and power-brokers. Conservatism is not a different technique for serving the public; it is a technique for fleecing the public.

Therefore, public servants cannot and do not choose to adopt either a liberal or a conservative philosophy. They choose either to care about their community or to only pretend to care. They choose to tell the truth, or to lie.

So-called “conservatives” are liars. They pretend that there is a conservative approach to solving community problems, which can be contrasted with the liberal approach. But the conservative approach to helping the community does not exist. Conservative methods do not help the community, because they are not intended to. The conservative approach is not to care about community problems. Therefore, as soon as a conservative starts telling you how he’s going to help you, he’s already lied to you twice. The second time was when he said that he thought his plan would help you—he doesn’t think so. The first time was just before that, when he said that he wants to help you. He doesn’t."

(And heartiest Kong-gratulations--that's king-sized congrats--to Mr. D. Glass, Esq. for pulling into a decisive lead coming around the clubhouse turn of the 2008 Weblog Awards voting! Go, man, go!!)

Franklin Raines said...

Your assessment is as partisan as it is flawed. At the non-partisan Tax History Project, the true effects of the New Deal are summarized as follows:

Lesson #1: Progressive taxation can be its own worst enemy. Roosevelt's support for a steep nominal rate structure eventually undermined the apparent fairness of the tax system. The bipartisan tax consensus that followed World War II proved unstable. Tax preferences drew scrutiny from influential lawmakers, and voters began to suspect that some taxpayers were getting a better deal than others. By the mid-1970s, confidence in the fairness of the tax system had eroded. By the 1990s, it had all but vanished. If proposals to scrap the income tax, including its progressive rate structure, ever succeed, a good share of the blame will belong to FDR.

Steep rates may have advanced the cause of progressive tax reform in the 1930s; they almost certainly ensured that wartime taxes were more broadly progressive than they otherwise would have been. But the Roosevelt rates had a pernicious effect in the out years. Sustainable taxation is moderate taxation -- something New Deal economists understood -- but New Deal lawyers did not.

Lesson #2: Sometimes regressive taxation can be an element of progressive reform. Roosevelt's tolerance for excise taxation was almost certainly unwise; by almost any calculation, the 1932 revenue act slowed recovery at the worst possible moment. But Roosevelt understood that regressive taxes had a role to play. In the early years of the New Deal, he accepted them as a fiscal necessity. Later he chose them deliberately to finance the New Deal's most important innovation: Social Security.

That being said, Roosevelt also managed to poison the well against other forms of consumption taxation -- forms that might have financed an even more ambitious welfare state. His vigorous opposition to a general sales tax made it hard for the United States to consider other forms of broad-based consumption taxation (like a VAT), even while the rest of the world was discovering their utility.

Lesson #3: If you want progressive tax reform, talk a lot about tax avoidance. FDR sometimes frankly made the case for the redistribution of wealth (although he usually framed it as an attempt to thwart the concentration of wealth -- a subtle but crucial difference). More often, however, he focused instead on the evils of tax avoidance. Americans respond well to the suggestion that everyone should pay their fair share. Demonstrate that some people are not, and voters will rally to your cause.

But don't let any of the facts get in the way of your diatribes. Data and Democrats don't mix well.

Angel Of Mercy said...

Mr. Glass, with your new-found fame has come the Plague of the Rightwad Robots. No, I don't think they'll be around long, given your content...but you'd better lay in a supply of industrial-strength Lysol to get the maggot-gagging stench out of the place after they depart...