“The Greatest Swindle Ever Sold”, by Andy Kroll in The Nation

There is a discussion in progress in the comments to Are we citizens? Or peasants?, asking if America is a tyranny?  If so, Americans requires astonishingly little oppression.  Ignorant and apathetic — don’t know and don’t care — the government needs no secret police, no concentration camps, no limits on free speech, and no limits on free assembly.

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odessey (1997)

Sheep are easy to fleece.  That’s what makes us sheep, as described in “The Greatest Swindle Ever Sold“, Andy Kroll, The Nation, 26 May 2009.  I recommend reading it in full.  At the end are links to other articles about this outrage.  Excerpt:

On October 3, as the spreading economic meltdown threatened to topple financial behemoths like American International Group (AIG) and Bank of America and plunged global markets into freefall, the US government responded with the largest bailout in American history. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, better known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), authorized the use of $700 billion to stabilize the nation’s failing financial systems and restore the flow of credit in the economy.

That $700 billion bailout has since grown into a more than $12 trillion commitment by the US government and the Federal Reserve. About $1.1 trillionof that is taxpayer money–the TARP money and an additional $400 billion rescue of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The TARP now includes twelve separate programs, and recipients range from megabanks like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase to automakers Chrysler and General Motors.

Seven months in, the bailout’s impact is unclear. … What cannot be disputed, however, is the financial bailout’s biggest loser: the American taxpayer.

The US government, led by the Treasury Department, has done little, if anything, to maximize returns on its trillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded investment. So far, the bailout has favored rescued financial institutions by subsidizing their losses to the tune of $356 billion, shying away from much-needed management changes and–with the exception of the automakers–letting companies take taxpayer money without a coherent plan for how they might return to viability.

The bailout’s perks have been no less favorable for private investors who are now picking over the economy’s still-smoking rubble at the taxpayers’ expense. The newer bailout programs rolled out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner give private equity firms, hedge funds and other private investors significant leverage to buy “toxic” or distressed assets, while leaving taxpayers stuck with the lion’s share of the risk and potential losses.

Given the lack of transparency and accountability, don’t expect taxpayers to be able to object too much. After all, remarkably little is known about how TARP recipients have used the government aid received. Nonetheless, recent government reports, Congressional testimony and commentaries offer those patient enough to pore over hundreds of pages of material glimpses of just how Wall Street friendly the bailout actually is.

Here, then, based on the most definitive data and analyses available, are six of the most blatant and alarming ways taxpayers have been scammed by the government’s $1.1-trillion, publicly funded bailout. …

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).  Posts over 250 words will have a fold inserted (putting a “more” button in the comment), so make the opening text an interesting summary of your comment.

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts about theft pretending to be solutions

  1. Slowly a few voices are raised about the pending theft of taxpayer money, 21 September 2008
  2. The Paulson Plan will buy assets cheap, just as all good cons offer easy money to the marks, 30 September 2008
  3. A reminder – the TARP program is just theft, 24 November 2008
  4. A solution to our financial problems: steal wealth from other nations, 2 February 2009
  5. Stand by for action – more theft of our money being planned in Washington, 4 February 2009
  6. Update: yes, the Paulson Plan was just theft, 14 February 2009
  7. Now is the time for America to get angry, 24 March 2009
  8. America on its way from superpower to banana republic, 28 March 2009
  9. Bush’s bailout plan is now Obama’s. His quiet eloquence guides the sheep into the pen, 30 March 2009

16 thoughts on ““The Greatest Swindle Ever Sold”, by Andy Kroll in The Nation

  1. bc

    The definition of an asshole is a guy who rips a five hundred dollar stereo out of your dashboard, and sells it for five bucks. That’s how I feel when I see how little it took to buy Chris Dodd. Apparently he traded a sweet deal on a mortgage for lap dog status at Countrywide. Put in a rich guy, and he comes pre-corrupted by the “Old Boy” network. Put in a poorer guy and they can buy him off with chump change. I see no answer to this problem.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That is one of the wonderful aspects of America; everyone can aspire to gather the wealth to buy a congresscritter. They’re cheap (see Abscam and the Keating Five for more examples), and usually deliver the goods — the best investment available in America (payments of under $50 thousand can yield millions).

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  2. Reynardine

    Given the phase of life in which I find myself, I am not sure if it is in my interest to feel outrage about my government’s policy of giving away huge sums of money. After all, I soon hope to be the beneficiary of that same government’s largesse. Perhaps I should cheer them on, in hopes of receiving larger Social Security checks, once I cease being productive, and hold out my own palm to my benevolent government. I have given, surely I will receive—abundantly, even.

    What’s this rumor I hear? The money is running short just as I’m about to get my share? Sorry, I didn’t hear that. I do hear a dull roar of rage…and perhaps a faint clicking, as though thousands of magazines were being loaded. No, my dear government, there is one thing I and my generation do not want to hear…we do not want hear from you, the government who gave away trillions to your friends on Wall Street, that you have run out of money. Or should I say…we had better not hear it?

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  3. senecal

    The other characteristic of sheep, after not knowing and not caring, is not having the power to do anything about it. What’s always missing in FM’s harping on us to DO SOMETHING is is a recognition of how difficult EFFECTIVE action has become.

    We don’t accuse the Russian people of not speaking up under Stalin. We think of Claus Van Stauffenberg as somewhat of a romantic fool for plotting to eliminate Hitler. No, America is not yet Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, but it is not the ideal democracy of our high school history books either.

    There are considerable obstacles in the way of ordinary citizens having an impact on their government — the two-party system, for example, a corrupt monopoly of the political process which excludes independent candidates. There are many more, which we all know — corporate power, corporate “personhood”, the revolving door, the military, the media.

    Michael Neumann, Canadian professor of philosophy, made an important point a few years ago — the first step for any serious protest movement is to recognize how little power it has, then to recognize who does have power, and finally to devise means of attacking power at the source. This is not an easy task; how do you attack Citibank? At least, let’s recognize that it’s not going to happen by petioning Congress, since Congress and the Executive are already controlled by power.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: We hold elections every two years. If we are so easily influenced — like sheep — to be unable to use this tool than perhaps self-government is beyond our capabilities. As for what to do, I have discussed this at length in many posts.

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  4. Weary G

    “— the government needs no secret police, no concentration camps, no limits on free speech, and no limits on free assembly.”

    Well, to be fair, don’t we actually have some aspects of this already, albeit in a milder form than say the Stasi, but plenty insidious? Take free speech. It IS limited in the United States.

    One example are laws on the books like Campaign finance, which under the guise of preventing corruption serves to insulate politicians and policies from criticism. Even now they are openly discussing things like the “Fairness Doctrine” and “Net Neutrality”.

    Political Correctness is another, which is more than an obnoxious annoyance, but can carry the weight and sanction of authority to penalize improper thoughts. From speech codes on campuses, to villifying anyone who speaks unpleasant truths as an “-ist” to shut down the debate rather than engage the argument. Being labled a racist or homophobe can have disasterous consequences for a person professionally and legally, and too often they are terms wielded for political expediency to silence others.

    In regards to secret police, one can take note how often government agencies like the IRS have been used to put pressure on political opponents.

    Another would be how many of our fellow citizens act like brown-shirts nowadays, interfering with political speech they don’t agree with regularly, attacking political opponents (with water balloons and cream-pies today, what’s next,) and destroying their property, viewing themselves completely justified in doing so in the name of the orthodoxy.

    It ain’t the Gestapo or NKVD yet, not nearly, but there are elements in place that if they follow the trajectory, seem to be going that way. Many people look not only at what can happen to you if you contest the orthodoxy, but how many others don’t seem to care or even sanction it, and they figure it is not worth it.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: No society on Earth, now or past, had unlimited rights. Today we have some limitations on speech (e.g., campaign finance), but censorship of movies and literature is gone. Net that is a shift, not an increase (whether a good or bad shift depends on your values.

    As for government violence against dissidents, that is a staple of US history. As in the Palmer Raids of 1919-21. Or the use of armed force by police and military against unions.

    “Another would be how many of our fellow citizens act like brown-shirts nowadays”

    That’s a nutty comparison, like most “you guys are like NAZI’s” statements. I suggest you read about the actual deeds of the NAZI brown shirts before saying such foolish things.

    This illustrates my belief that too many Americans have adopted utopian views, ignoring the flaws of the past when stating things are getting worse — comparing the fallen world of Earth with Heaven. We’ll never have a society that meets such standards.

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  5. Tom Grey

    Americans aren’t quite sheep — they DID vote for Mr. Change. Or for Mr. Same (like me). But FM, while you may think you’ve discussed what to do at length, you haven’t convinced all your readers that your recommended steps are correct. That’s one of the difficulties in a rational democracy — agreement on what positive steps to take.

    The Tea Party Protests are likely to agree on what to oppose — higher taxes, and higher bailouts. Similarly the Bush-haters were able to agree … anybody but Bush. (So on foreign issues, they got Bush III).

    After briefly supporting a limited bailout, as I realized the deeper issues, I began to oppose it. What, instead of a bailout? Better bankruptcy roll-up of insolvent BIG companies. “off with their heads!”.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: They voted for Mr. Promise of Change, like sheep following a new Shepard. The Tea Parties oppose taxes to pay for the spending (and some of the latest round of spending), but not the secular deficits that are the core problem. As such they are a manifestation of the problem, like folks who enjoy fine dining but refuse to pay the bill. When we have protests of spending on THEM, we will see a sea change. Seniors voting to means-test social security. Farmers against crop supports. Everybody against excess defense spending (a DoD budget the size of total spending by potential enemies, not total spending of the world).

    As for what to do, our disagree is more profound than what solutions to implement. We disagree as to how to rouse Americans. My recommendations — everybody’s recommendations, IMO — are clearly inadequate. I am writing a post about this.

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  6. Greg L

    I would like to believe the ballot box can change things, but, here in Dupage, it does so only on the local level, and, even then, not very much. Here in Illville, we have one former governor in jail and his successor looks destined to join him. You would think that would spur reform, but there is no talk of it. One of our neighbors is a Merril Lynch lifer. Last fall, he said he was in survival mode. Now, after TARP, he says things are looking better. The rest of the neighbors seem to be able to pay for their $800k homes and SUV’s and still take the kids to exotic places. At a recent family gathering, not a word was said about the bailout or TARP or any related subject. In Chicago, the biggest complaint seems to be about parking meters not working.

    In short, there is just too much fat, dumb, and happy going on here for people to complain. I don’t think it will hit home until prices start to rise from all that liquidity being pumped into the economy.

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  7. Pete Peterson

    Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” is back in print– I just checked. Its opening sentence: “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be.”

    It tells how an organization can exert power far out of proportion to its actual numbers. “Always remember the first rule of power tactics: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy believes you have.” (does any of this sound familiar to those here who are reading about 4GW?)

    Oh yes. Our current President studied under people who had worked under Alinsky. Our Secretary of State did her senior thesis about him.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks for introducing this! A great advantage of the Left is their inheritance from Lenin, a proven formula to allow a small number seize control of large organizations or even whole societies. It’s been done countless times in America, infiltrating and eventually controling many types of non-profits — changing their focus (often 180 degrees).

    The Right has lost their similar inheritance from the Founders (the Left-Right analogy breaks down that far back, but is Right-ish in the sense of lead by the property-owning class). The Goldwater-Reagan revolution was not only a tepid flashback, but will IMO be seen as ultimately unsuccessful. A footnote in the history books, accomplishing little.

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  8. senecal

    Just for illustration, let’s talk about the anti-war movement over the past six years.
    * There was unprecedented national sentiment opposed to the Iraq war.
    * There was voluminous writing on the web against it.
    * Several national organizations mobilized major protests against it.
    * Individuals like Cindy Sheehan put their personal lives on the line to oppose it.
    * Many people were arrested trying to bring attention to it in Congress.
    * A few anti-war representatives may have been elected over that time; many more certainly lost in primary attempts to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

    Did any of this have any effect in ending the war? In 2006, when public opinion had finally moved sufficiently to the left on this issue and Democrats could finally achieve a majority in Congress, Rahm Emanuel, through his control of funding, virtually dictated which Democratic candidates could run, and thus insured that the eventual Congress would be safely centrist and pro-war, though anti-Bush.

    And the final result, the election of a Democratic President, has only confirmed the impregnable grip of a bi-partisan war party on US foreign policy. So what would you have us have done differently, Consul Maximus?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a brilliant analysis! This thread has convinced me that my analysis was not just incomplete (which I knew), but grossly inadequate. I am writing another post to try again!

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  9. weary_g

    “That’s a nutty comparison, like most “you guys are like NAZI’s” statements. I suggest you read about the actual deeds of the NAZI brown shirts before saying such foolish things.”

    Really? You think? Nutty? Actually, I HAVE read about the actual deeds of the brown shirts running around pre-war Germany, including Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. (Thanks for assuming what I have or have not read. You may be bright, but you don’t know what I have read, obviously. Funny you would assume so.)

    HAVING READ about them, you will find that one of the favorite early tactics of the brown shirts was to show up at venues where opponents of their views were speaking, and disrupt them. No shootings or stabbings needed, just disruptions to keep the person from making his speech and thus his point. Of course, as time went on, more…direct methods were used.

    We HAVE seen leftists take to the streets, burning down and vandalizing businesses, assault voting places of the opposition, slash tires and damage automobiles of those in favor of the opposing party, etc.

    “All opposition must be stamped into the ground” was one of the Brown Shirts’ axioms.

    That sound AT ALL like some people on campuses you aware of Fabius? People who WILL NOT ACCEPT any diversion from the established orthodoxy. How about some of our politicians, who would like to NOT have to hear things broadcast that criticize them, and put it into law?

    What I find strange here is a disconnect with you I have noticed in my limited reading of your blog. In your own Mission Statement, you declare the following:

    “We live in exciting times, when many things that have long remain fixed become unstuck. America is changing. The post-WWII geopolitical and financial regimes are ending. The era of cheap energy is ending. And *none can foretell what comes next*. Here we seek a perspective from which to better see events and trends — *things on the edge of our available information, on the edge of known theory*.”

    Now, in a previous post, you have felt comfortable postulating your theory of the emergence of US Ex-military members as insurgents in America: Blowback – could our military become a threat to America?

    Quite a leap, don’t you think? Yet, I managed to post there without describing your theory as nutty? I, however, postulate that certain fascistic tendencies within established institutions and organizations, and actions mimicking early fascist tactics might presage full bore fascism, and I am a nut?

    If you recall, BTW, I corrected you in another post regarding the conditions of Japanese internment camps in the US. You were expounding on how terrible we had become in 21st century America compared to that era, and yet you did not know some basic facts about those camps that would have contradicted your theories in the matter.

    Funny, then, that you should write this:

    “This illustrates my belief that too many Americans have adopted utopian views, ignoring the flaws of the past when stating things are getting worse — comparing the fallen world of Earth with Heaven. We’ll never have a society that meets such standards.”

    Now, WHO does THAT sound like when it comes to your analysis in “So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?”

    You are a very bright person, Fabius, of that there is no doubt. But you have a serious intellectual blindspot that I can’t quite figure out as of yet. My worry is that it may not be entirely subconscience on your part, but I hope that it is only arrogance and not something worse.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This dances around my primary point, which is that the Brown Shirts committed acts far beyond anything seen in modern America. This is the reason for Godwin’s Law, that comparisons of today with the NAZI’s are absurd due to the vastly differing scale. Such as comparing campus leftists’ hooting down speakers (or, more rarely, pro-Palistinian demonstrators intimidating opponents) with Brown Shirt’s breaking heads.

    As for the post about the military, I gave specific examples from the news — and suggested that these could increase in scale to become a problem. Nothing without precedent in American history (i.e., after the Civil War).

    I do not understand your last quotation. Utopian thinking is a commonplace in western history, often leading to unfortunate results. Like Prohibition.

    “some basic facts about those camps that would have contradicted your theories”

    I admitted your were correct. Still, these little-known details about the WWII camps are a different order of fact from the massive violence of the NAZI party, don’t you think?

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  10. weary_g

    Correction:

    “All opposition must be stamped into the ground” was one of the Brown Shirt axioms, I should have written.

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  11. weary_g

    FM: “This dances around my primary point which is that the Brown Shirts committed acts far beyond anything seen in modern America.

    You seem to have done a nice pirouette around mine. I made clear, twice, in my earlier post that I was citing actions which I viewed as precursors to fascism. Yes, there are no open street battles filled with blood, mob beatings and assassinations yet taking place.

    However, my point was that the brown shirts in Nazi Germany did not start off with murder and outright violent mayhem, but began by attempting to shut down ANY speech that did not agree with their platform. This gradually grew more and more violent over time as they became emboldened, more organized and others became intimidated. Thus, the ‘hooting down’ with which the brown shirts started then became ‘beat-downs’ and then ‘gun-downs’ as it became apparent it worked and the authorities would not intervene or even APPROVED.

    I then pointed out the modern cases where similar ‘hoot-downs’ are frequently used by the left, on campus no less, which are supposed to be about the exchange of ideas. I also mentioned where it became more than mere disruption, but actual physical intimidation and assaults on persons (cream-pies or not) and on property of a more destructive nature like arson in the wider world. Thus, I was not claiming that such people had reached the full crescendo of brown-shirt, jackboot activity, but that they were showing numerous worrying tendencies in that direction that might be escalating. For this, I was labeled ‘nutty’.

    Yet, in your post about the possible American military insurgency, you wrote:

    “Yes, it can happen to us. Slight indications of early symptoms are already in the news. We can look forward to more articles like these. And even more if (when) we demobilize from our Middle East wars.”

    *Slight* indications of *early* symptoms? Gee, that *kind* of sounds like what I was saying in my posts regarding proto-fascism in America; ie, it ain’t here yet, but maybe we need to pay a little more attention to the threat? Yet, I am nutty for suggesting that as a possibility, while on the strength of 3-4 articles you are making the case for a possible American insurgency down the road. I find that inconsistent. I also have to point out that you wrote this:

    “I have long worried that Hitler might prove not to be so much “wrong as early”. That fascism was not bombed out of existance was moved back to an incubation stage. Germany was a center of western civilization, among the most advanced in the arts and sciences. That it so quickly fell into NAZI barbarism suggests a dark aspect to the heart of western civilization. It could re-awaken in America, with our current combination of weakness (esp economic, as described at length on this site and elsewhere), paranoia (seen in the extreme reaction to Islamic fundamentalism), and hubris (seen on this threat, a belief that we are exempt from the rules we imposed on others). While calling people racists, fascists, and NAZI’s has become a substitute for thought in our society, that does not mean that these things are not real and to be feared. None of them appear ex nihilo. I believe that on this thread we see evidence of an dormant but endemic virus in our culture, one that is to be feared.”

    Now, we can agree with economic weakness as a possible catalyst, but let’s replace the paranoid fear of Islamic fundamentalism with, say, excessive fear of Global Warming, Bush/Cheney, Israel, Right Wing Terrorism, Globalization, Capitalism, etc. and add the hubris of people who believe they are absolutely right about everything to the point that they feel those that argue are “deniers”, or mentally deficient, and should have their views suppressed by law and intimidation.

    So, explain to me how your fear of homegrown insurgents is incisive and rational, while mine of home-grown fascists is the product of apparent mental illness?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This has grown quite a bit from the original two-line exchange. As you describe it this all makes sense. However, here was the orignal exchange.

    “Another would be how many of our fellow citizens act like brown-shirts nowadays”
    That’s a nutty comparison, like most ‘you guys are like NAZI’s’ statements. I suggest you read about the actual deeds of the NAZI brown shirts before saying such foolish things.

    I see no mention of the distinctions you mention here, just a specific comparison of people’s behavior (in the present tense) to that of well-known NAZI’s. When folks said that Bush was like Hitler, I doubt they referred to Hitler’s early days a corporal or painter. I don’t know why your statement about the Brown Shirts should be interpreted differently.

    (3) “I am nutty for suggesting that as a possibility … the product of apparent mental illness”

    That looks pretty overheated to me. I said the comparison was nutty, not the person saying it. Everybody I know says nutty things now and then — me, Mom, everybody.

    (4) “I was not claiming that such people had reached the full crescendo of brown-shirt, jackboot activity, but that they were showing numerous worrying tendencies in that direction that might be escalating. For this, I was labeled ‘nutty’.”

    This is sequentially incorrect. You made the intial comment, to which I replied (“nutty”). Your explanations followed, which I did not label as “nutty”.

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  12. Reynardine

    A historical note seems necessary, upon reading some of the preceding comments. Hitler did not seize power by means of the “Brown Shirts” (S.A.—Sturmabteilung). After his pathetic aborted coup of 1923, (the Beer hall putsch), he thought things over in jail, wrote a boring book, and decided that the best way to take over a democracy is to get elected. That is precisely what he did. The S.A. did play a role in disrupting opposition speeches and providing security against same for N.S.D.A.P. speeches (his opponents— especially the Communist Party—availed themselves of the same tactics). But the S.A. in no way brought Hitler to power by means of force. The S.A. just saw to it that he remained in play while his was just another gang on the street.

    Once his party gained a foothold in the German parliament (Reichstag), Hitler used the existing constitutional machinery (or better, he used its weaknesses), to seize control of the German state. Part of the price he paid for this was to personally order the execution of the leadership of the S.A. (to obtain the passive cooperation of the Army). Far from playing a leading role in the German government, the S.A. as of this point ceased to exist as a politically significant organization. Far from leading a government imposed by fear and force, Hitler enjoyed enormous popularity. Those crowds at the Nürenberg and other Party rallies were not Hollywood extras. Had he bothered to hold another election, he would probably have won in a landslide. So great was this popularity, that the German people followed him into the jaws of an all too literal Hell. In this sense, Hitler was the most successful—and most disastrous—democrat of all time.

    So if you are going to pretend to have a debate based on historical precedents, at least get your facts right. Whatever danger there is today does not come from imaginary nazis, nor from equally imaginary commies. I’d say that we are neck-deep in problems, and that some very difficult times lie ahead. But real danger/em> will only come if someone comes forward who promises to cure all our ailments for us. Beware of the man who promises change—and actually has the will and genius to deliver it.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for the historical summary. But who on this thread said “Hitler seized power by means of the ‘Brown Shirts’.” It was an element in the mix, but I have seen nobody say it was the whole or even the key element.

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  13. Weary_G

    FM: “That looks pretty overheated to me. I said the comparison was nutty, not the person saying it. Everybody I know says nutty things now and then — me, Mom, everybody.”

    If my response was overheated, then it was because yours was inflammatory. Definition of ‘nutty’:

    “3. Slang Crazy; idiotic: a nutty idea.” (source)
    “3: eccentric, silly ; also : mentally unbalanced” (source)

    You also followed that up in the next sentence with the declaration that I knew absolutely nothing about what I was talking about. Now, whether or not you indeed tell your mother she is crazy, idiotic and mentally unbalanced and knows nothing about what she is talking about, I don’t know, although I am sure Thanksgiving is an interesting time to say the least. I would buy tickets to that, no doubt.

    That does not change the fact that your response was arrogant, dismissive and rude. If that is how you want to run your site, great. You are paying for the bandwith and I am all for freedom of speech and ownership rights.. However, I find it to be a little false advertising when you declare this a place of open discussion of ideas on “on the edge of our available information, on the edge of known theory”. I think what you apparently mean to say is “all the theories I personally believe in, and I will set the criteria for that on a case to case basis.”

    Again, I brought up the Japanese Internment discussion because here was a case where you were expounding at length on a subject, drawing conclusions, but apparently had key pieces of information missing from your analysis, information that was readily available from Wiki, a source you apparently draw from frequently. However, having shown this to you, I also managed to not throw it in your face and declare that you did not know what you were talking about.

    I think rather than describing my post as ‘nutty’ and ‘foolish’ and ill-informed, you *might* have said something along the lines of: “You I think are greatly overstating the case, and I do not think current events support the idea at all.” I don’t know, maybe even a discussion would have followed, but you seem selective about which ‘on the edge’ theories are worthy discussing, and which are not.

    To Reynardine,

    I am not sure exactly what you wrote in any conflicts with what I did, although I notice the same pattern of declaring that the other person does not know what they are talking about. Arrogance can be contagious.

    I am well aware of the ultimate fate of the SA. That is not the point. The fact is, and you concede it yourself, that the SA was part of the early machinery of the Nazi’s rise to power. The fact that Hitler eventually cut them off at the knees when it suited his purposes does not somehow invalidate the idea that they assisted in that rise, and that the rise of a similar type organization in the States could thus be also similarly dangerous.

    To both you and FM, my original post was responding to Fabius’ apparent assertion that Americans were completely passive and did not require any oppression to be taken over by tyranny. All I was trying to say was that I found that to not be entirely true; that I thought FM was overstating HIS case.

    I contended that I thought there were a number of ways, and a myriad of mechanisms in place, that restricted Americans in having a full-on, open debate and voice over the issues that threaten to destroy us, from political correctness to censorship to bully-boy tactics that were resembling some of the tactics used to crush dissent and opposition in earlier eras. It was not completely cutting off our airways yet, but like a python, it was slowly constricting, incrementally limiting our freedom of movement, or of opposition in this case.

    Fabius strangely waves away campaign finance laws as insignificant: “Today we have some limitations on speech (e.g., campaign finance), but censorship of movies and literature is gone. Net that is a shift, not an increase (whether a good or bad shift depends on your values.”

    Well, censorship in Germany was much less than before Hitler’s rise to power, and then it became absolute, so how are we to take comfort in this? Even now the government has been arguing the banning of books under the guise of Campaign Finance law:

    “Even Justice David H. Souter, who tends to support government regulation of campaign spending, looked and sounded stunned when Stewart argued that the government would have power to forbid a labor union to use its own funds to pay an author to write a campaign biography that would later be published in book form by Random House.” (source)

    So here is the slow creep, here is the precedent for preventing the publication of a book under Campaign Finance. But, but, this only applied to books dealing with campaigns or politicians? Right, and if one wanted to write a book and publish about a Hitler-esque politician, right or left, running for President of the United States in order to expose him, you are now prevented from doing so under the guise of “cleaner elections”. Yep, no danger here, move along.

    All fantasy? Well not any more so than the idea of an American insurgency. All I a doing is picking up various pieces, examining them, and seeing how they fit into a larger whole in the future as FM does. I thought that in large part the point of the blog, but maybe I missed it. I don’t assume I am perfect. I’m done.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As I said in my previous reply, much of this makes sense. Still, it seems to ignore my previous two replies. No point in repeating them.

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  14. arms merchant

    Here’s an interesting perspective from a Pravda editorial writer. His diagnosis of why we are incapable of self-government is It’s the Culture, Stupid. The Russians should be in a position to know, having suffered through their own experiment with Marxism.

    American capitalism gone with a whimper“, Stanislav Mishin, op-ed in Pravda, 27 April 2009.

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  15. Reynardine

    Sometimes referring to historical events can anchor a conversation that seems to have slipped its moorings. I am, to be sure, not completely certain what you and weary_g are arguing about. When he says, in comment 11:

    “However, my point was that the brown shirts in Nazi Germany did not start off with murder and outright violent mayhem, but began by attempting to shut down ANY speech that did not agree with their platform. This gradually grew more and more violent over time as they became emboldened, more organized and others became intimidated. Thus, the ‘hooting down’ with which the brown shirts started then became ‘beat-downs’ and then ‘gun-downs’ as it became apparent it worked and the authorities would not intervene or even APPROVED.”

    One could, charitably, assume that he has a point, and that the point is that “political correctness” represents a sort of nascent Brown Shirt movement. In other words, his point refers to a historical precedent. I sought to nudge the conversation into inquiring just how this historical parallel is applicable. (I think that it isn’t, that the Nazis are overworked in today’s political discourse, and that we should be looking for new evils, not old ones risen from the grave. But those were points I was hoping others might examine…)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I have no idea what weary_g is arguing about. I made a specific comment about one line in his first post, which set off a long series of heated-posts. The historical analogy has merit, in the sense that any mildly-violent movement (which is almost all movements) could evolve to become NAZI’s. It’s a pedestrian point, telling us nothing useful about individual movements. Which is why so many people believe that “just like NAZIs” comparisons should be avoided, as they tend to send discussions into the negative zone.

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  16. Reynardine

    I just noticed this little jewel (8):

    Just for illustration, let’s talk about the anti-war movement over the past six years.

    Surely you’re joking. Cindy Sheehan is the best you can offer as a leading figure of the anti-war movement? There has been no anti-war movement as such in the United States since Vietnam. More precisely, there has been no massive outpouring of popular sentiment, no significantly disruptive demonstrations, no street battles, and not a single death during the entire period of our involvement in Gulf Wars I and II, as wel as Afpakistan. Again I say…what movement?

    Look, I fought…er I mean studied at Berkeley (66-70). I at least know what a movement looks like. Yes, the abolition of the draft has been a factor. But fear of the draft was not the sole, nor even the greatest motivator, for the peace movement of the 60s. Above all, the movement was powered by a sense of moral outrage engendered by an unnecessary war. Where is that outrage today?

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