Saturday, November 12, 2016


“Long ago Bertram Gross warned of the dangers of “friendly fascism” coming to America – “a slow and powerful drift toward greater concentration of power and wealth in a repressive Big Business-Big Government partnership.” It is now arriving – and may not be friendly. It must be confronted and challenged. But unless we are able to offer real alternatives based on shared community and new economic institutions to challenge the nightmares of fear, hatred, and isolation that have seized our politics, we will not succeed.”  (From the Next System Project) 

This is from Berkeley prof Charles Henry’s blog:  “Donald Trump’s entrance into the presidential sweepstakes and substantial lead in the polls reminds me of the warnings issued 35 years ago in Bertram Gross’s widely read Friendly Fascism. Gross was concerned that the ever-closer integration of Big Business and Big Government could well lead to a new, kinder, gentler form of fascism — a fascism that promised citizens cheap and plentiful material goods in exchange for civil and political rights.

“Gross’s warning extended well beyond Eisenhower’s concern about the rising military-industrial complex to include the nuclear power complex, the technology-science complex, the energy-auto-highway complex, the banking-investment-housing complex, the city-planning-development-land-speculation complex, the agribusiness complex, the communications complex, and the enormous tangle of public bureaucracies and universities whose overt and secret services provide the foregoing with financial sustenance and a nurturing environment. Coming from a social scientist deeply involved the the New Deal, Gross’s warnings bear attention.”

I love this list of complexes and would add quite a few: the police-prison-judiciary complex, the professor-adjunct-publishing-research complex, the denomination-seminary-congregation complex for starters.  Follow the money.

But, ironically enough, the two main political parties are no longer coherent, are former complexes and coalitions that are now blasted apart into internal warfare.  The question is whether a third party should begin to form, or whether the two could be “parted out” like old jalopies and recombined to create something functional.  Or maybe we should really go deep to the ultimate question:  what is a “party” and why have one?  Isn’t it just a lot of hoopla and unnecessary expense in campaigns?

The world has changed drastically.  We’ve been talking about the possibility of dumping the electoral college and going directly to individual votes, maybe from home by computers.  Very nice.  Eliminate the possibility of votes from all those people sleeping in the streets.  (You can’t vote without an address anyway.)  Get rid of computer illiterates.  How many of them vote anyway?  (This is sarcasm — I find I have to label it or be misunderstood.)  

A Missoula electoral college representative is already pledging to vote according to the popular vote.  We don’t have to wait for the next election.  The next major move may be to eliminate more “middle men,” intermediaries, translators.  Of course, that means that Facebook will be drilling down into who you are and keeping you from access to what you might want to know.

Why not just announce that money can be pledged to whatever political/tribal ends (grouped according to assumptions about the right thing to do) or those new ends (some group based on different assumptions) and the group that will pay out the most money wins.  The Supreme Court has somehow approved that idea, and even approved of outsiders (we used to call them carpet-baggers) coming in with their checkbooks and wire transfers from lenient island countries.  (Why are we worried about the Supreme Court selling out, when that’s already done and dusted?)

Going back to my preoccupation with the town of Valier, we’re finding that the biggest expenses are not the ones arising from practicalities like the 100-year old water and sewer pipes disintegrating or even the fact that our tax rolls keep shrinking, but rather the requirements imposed by state and federal rules about what we must do, usually involving very well-paid engineering companies.  For instance, we’re now told that our outflow sludge build-up must be removed at an estimated cost of $100,000.  And we have an employee who was caught in a trench collapse after the council refused to buy a trench box, a protection.  Aside from what OSHA thinks, it sounds like a juicy case for a lawyer.  The box purchase had been turned down because it was too expensive.  I don’t recall any public discussion.  I hear vengeful glee that this man was hurt, as though he denied his own safety.

Car insurance is now obligatory, like seat belts.  More and more things become obligatory or else penalty-taxed into oblivion, even trivialities like smoking or drinking pop.  It’s beyond “nudge.”  We go by the aggregated cost to society, which we want to avoid, but the individuals who wish to be soothed and sweetened don’t receive any aggregated national cost nor benefit either — they just get sick and die, whether or not they get insurance.  The tax money doesn’t go to hospital bills.  

But this is only in America.  Must I move away to a Third World country to assume my own risks?  Or will I get there just in time to discover that the US has decided to force something on THAT government and is sending predator drones next door to make it happen.  I’ve never forgotten MOVE in Philadelphia.

High school level thinkers have the idea that they can control people by writing laws and regulations, even though there are always high school people who refuse to do what they’re told.  Meanwhile the population ignores the laws or doesn’t even know they exist.  It takes money to enforce laws by hiring monitors and punishers; even then people go right on ignoring them.  If you try to control poor people by imposing fines, they just get poorer and more defiant.  Then if they are thrown into jail, they become a cost and teach each other have to evade laws.  Confined in significant numbers, they develop a culture of their own, maybe more effective and eventually powerful than the law-makers.  They are pretty much undetectable and not necessarily criminal, but sometimes — like now — they break through, becoming visible.  Some are welcome; some are not.  Most are about money, the kitty.

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