Archive for June, 2005


Characteristics of Fascism

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos (Land of the Free), slogans (Axis of Evil), symbols (yellow ribbons), songs (usually sung by Toby Keith), and other paraphernalia (bumperstickers). Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays. Putting a flag on your car is literally the least you can do. What exactly does it accomplish? Is a blind show of support really a good idea? Shouldn’t we be posting questions on our cars instead?

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. We’re already pretty aware of the Abu Grab prison scandal and what’s going on down at Guantanamo Bay. We’ve discussed the Patriot Act. Why are we allowing these things to happen without discussion or complaint? What else do you think is coming? Are there things we don’t know about yet?

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. We’ve declared a War on Terror even though we know it’s impossible to defeat all of the terrorists. We’re choosing villains like Saddam Hussein even though they may not be a threat. We’re ignoring other possible enemies for no apparent reason. Liberals are seen as irrational because they disagree.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized. In the beginning of the war extra funding was given to the military and veteran services. Even with that funding, it still wasn’t enough to get armored vehicles for the troops. Domestic issues have been largely ignored, though there are slogans to support them. Funding is lacking for education, health care, and social security. Soldiers like Jessica Lynch are glorified.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution. The government is still male-dominated. Gender-roles are pretty rigid though we tend to pretend they’re not. The First Lady has stepped out of the forefront and disappeared behind her husband. Legislation against homosexuals has been threatened, though it hasn’t gone through yet. Women’s rights are compromised and people who have abortions are vilified.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common. Reports have been shown on National TV that have been written and produced by the government, yet there were no disclaimers on the report. All media outlets are owned by a few companies or individuals which limits content. Superficial stories like the Runaway Bride are shown rather than important world events. Uproars are created over what people think should be censored, especially language expression.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses. Constant and vague security alerts promote fear, as does the reminded that Osama bin Laden is still at large. (When we have him, what is the point of being in Afghanistan?) A color-coded security check has been implemented and over-used. Reports abound about the unsafe conditions of trains and chemical plants. TV shows like 24 are shown that revolved around terrorism. Silly security measures are taken at airports, such as a ban on certain objects and not others.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions. The current President makes mention of religion and religious issues more than others. Faith-Based initiatives are put in motion. The President interferes in legislation on the behalf of religious issues. Non-Christians grow weary of persecution and seek to remove religious symbols from government. Social issues and debate hinge on religious doctrine.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite. Environmental protections are lifted in the interest of helping corporations. There are ax-protections for the wealthy. Corporate leaders are prosecuted and sometimes convicted but serve light sentences, certainly not befitting their crime. The President and Vice-President have obvious it’s with large corporations and favor them in the bidding process for government jobs.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. Teacher’s unions in some states are non-existent, a Wal-Mart closed its doors because an employee tried to unionize. Working-class people are shown little respect and are often the most burdened with taxes, health care costs, tuition charges, and gas prices.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked. Censorship has arisen in the media. Intelligent people are attacked for disagreeing with the government. In fact, some officials state in no uncertain terms that the arguments of people who disagree aren’t valid because, “they just don’t like us.” Teachers are mistreated, education funding is cut, and arts programs are almost non-existent. The importance of discussion and debate are minimalized.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations. The Department of Homeland Security has almost unlimited power. For the rest, see #3.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. President Bush has surrounded himself with people who agree. Those that changed their minds between administrations are fired, publicly humiliated, and discredited.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. We don’t know the full extent of this yet, and maybe we never will, but elections in Florida the first time around were obviously fraudulent. Only President Bush knows what happened with Ohio this time. Groups supporting the President put out advertisements shredding competitors, even if what is said is incorrect.


Boycott Microsoft and All Things Chinese

For a while I really liked Bill Gates. He started a crusade for education that hasn’t gotten a lot of press, or enough money, for that matter. Recently he had some problems with his policies on homosexuals and their rights. I hoped he’d do the right thing on this China deal. I thought, this man, who has changed the modern age with his work and made it possible for millions of people to express themselves, can’t possibly intentionally limit the free speech of others just to add to his already obscene pile of money. My hopes were dashed and alas, the almighty dollar won again. He sold his product to the Chinese, filters and all, to the collective sigh of a billion voices that had hoped to be heard. So now we come to the greater question: Why would Bill Gates do a thing like that? More importantly, why are we still trading with China? Could it be that it would cost American corporations billions of dollars to close down factories and build new ones in other third-world countries? Or, worse yet, what if they had to re-open in America and pay proper wages? Just a theory.


Standing Alone

There are a thousand things wrong with the Patriot Act. Being patted down by complete strangers at airport security is one of them. Do we really live in a society that is so unsafe that we need to be felt-up in order to get on a plane? Even more importantly, when these kinds of things happen, why do we just “lube up and bend over” as some would say? I know that’s a little crass, but this Law is an obscene violation of our Civil Rights and no one is saying a word. Why are we allowing this to happen? The President has been petitioning Congress to renew the Patriot Act. Why, in a country of free Americans, are we not protesting? There is no rally in the streets like there is in other countries when so many people disagree. Do we feel above all that? Are we pretending that we our leaders are more than human and do not need our guidance? Have we forgotten that our country is “for, of, and by the people”? WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? Our complacency is going to kill us eventually, and most of us are just sitting back and watching it happen.

It is the fault of the average American that we have a corrupt and immobile government because we allow it to exist. We overlook the indiscretion of politicians. We expect our news media to be contextually accurate and non-biased. Many Americans feel they are not represented and they are not wrong, but without more involvement by average Americans we cannot expect a higher standard of government.

The Majority Rule system is not working but those in power see no reason to change it. They’re paid well whether the system works or not. More and more people are choosing to ignore their government. This will allow the system to get worse until someone cries “REVOLUTION”, and then we’ll all be damned. Rules, both spoken and unspoken are being imposed on those who disagree with our government. The definition of freedom has been twisted and redefined by lesser men than our Forefathers had hoped.

We cannot give up control. More importantly, we cannot allow ourselves to become the tyranny we escaped when our Forefathers wrote the Declaration of independence. We must take a stand, any stand, and fight, before our countrymen start fleeing America for a place where they can remember their dreams.


Teaching Them To Fish

The One Campaign is currently undertaking the education of children in Africa. This organization is stressing the important role of education in allowing people to rise out of poverty and into hope. A child in Africa can be educated for as little as $20 dollars a year with the help of this organization. Educated students in these nations will provide opportunities and advances their family members never dreamed of. How can anyone in their right mind not see that education is the key to alleviating the suffering in the poorest of nations?

The Mission Statement of The One Campaign
“WE BELIEVE that in the best American tradition of helping others help themselves, now is the time to join with other countries in a historic pact for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty.

WE RECOGNIZE that a pact including such measures as fair trade, debt relief, fighting corruption and directing additional resources for basic needs – education, health, clean water, food, and care for orphans – would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the poorest countries, at a cost equal to just one percent more of the US budget.

WE COMMIT ourselves – one person, one voice, one vote at a time – to make a better, safer world for all.”


And the Supreme Court Rides Again

I have a friend with Multiple Sclerosis. She is an incredible teacher and an amazing person. Unfortunately, she is in constant pain. She wakes up three hours before she has to every day because it takes her that long to get her body moving. She has tried every pharmaceutical pain killer and none of them worked more than once. She does everything she should, eats the right foods, drinks lots of water, and exercises every day. Still, the pain is unbearable. Finally, her doctor said, “Friend, I know it’s illegal and could get you into trouble, but I really think you should try smoking a joint in the morning. The effects of the marijuana will take away your pain, but still leave you fully functional. Plus, it’s most likely less harmful to your body than cigarettes or alcohol. Nothing else works for you. What do you have to lose?”

My poor friend, in serious pain and with nothing else to do, found a connection and got herself some pot. Curious about how she was doing and worried that she could lose her teaching license, I called her and said, “Friend, how are you?”

With a pep in her voice I hadn’t heard in months, she said, “You wouldn’t believe it. After about half a joint, the pain started to melt away. I can feel it in my joints and in my muscles. I can move more easily.”

I said, “Friend, aren’t you worried.? You could be arrested. You could lose your teaching certificate. You could be put in jail, ridiculed, and sued by parents claiming that you were high while teaching (certainly not the case). That doesn’t scare you?”

And she said, “I feel better than I have in years. Today, I sat on the floor and played with Gracie. I did my own laundry. I opened a bottle without Phil’s help. I don’t care if I get caught. If I do, I’ll fight. I’m an adult, well aware of the effects things can have on my body. Why shouldn’t I be in complete control of what goes in and out of it? I’m not hurting anyone. And for the first time in three years, I am not in pain. If my government thinks that’s wrong, they are inhumane.”

So I said, “Let’s go to Amsterdam!”


And In Their Own Words

This young man should be commended for standing up for himself and his fellow students against a system he feels is unfair. He made sure he started his protest from a position of power, as he is ranked 6th in his class. All of our seniors should be as thoughtful and well-spoken as he. I couldn’t have said it better.

Reader’s Forum: Here are the reasons why I didn’t graduate from Federal Hocking last weekend
By John Wood

Sunday was my high-school graduation. However, despite being ranked sixth in my class, I did not cross the stage or receive a diploma. I did not drop out at the last minute and I was not expelled. I didn’t graduate because I refused to take the Ohio Proficiency Tests.

I did this because I believe these high-stakes tests (which are required for graduation) are biased, irrelevant and unnecessary.

The bias of these tests is demonstrated by Ohio’s own statistics. They show consistently that schools with high numbers of low-income and/or minority students score lower on state tests. It is argued (in defense of testing) that this is not the test’s fault, that the scores are only a reflection of the deeper social economic injustices. This is very likely true. What makes the test biased is the fact that the state does little or nothing to compensate for the differences that the students experience outside the classroom.

In fact, the state only worsens the situation with its funding system. Ohio’s archaic school-funding system underfunds schools in poorer areas because it is based on property taxes. The way we fund our schools has been declared unconstitutional four times, and yet the state Legislature refuses to fix the problem.

The irrelevance of these tests is also demonstrated by state statistics — in this case, the lack of them. In 13 years of testing, Ohio has failed to conduct any studies linking scores on the proficiency test to college acceptance rates, college grades, income levels, incarceration rates, dropout rates, scores on military recruiting tests, or any other similar statistic.

State officials have stated that it would be too difficult or costly to keep track of their students after high school but I find this hard to believe. My high school is tracking my class for five years with help from the Coalition of Essential Schools. Certainly, the state, with all its bureaucrats, could do the same.

Both of these factors, the test’s biases and irrelevance, contribute to making it unnecessary. This system is so flawed it should not be used to determine whether or not students should graduate. More importantly, a system already exists for determining when students are ready to graduate.

The ongoing assessment by teachers who spend hours with the students is more than sufficient for determining when they are ready to graduate. However this assessment is being undermined by a focus on test preparation that has eliminated many advanced courses and enrichment experiences. Additionally, since the tests do not and cannot measure things such as critical thinking, the ability to work with others, public speaking, and other characteristics of democratic citizenship, these things are pushed aside while we spend more time memorizing for tests.

After almost a decade and a half of testing, many people cannot imagine what could be done in place of high-stakes testing, but here in southeast Ohio, alternative assessments are alive and kicking. At my school, Federal Hocking High School, every senior has to complete a senior project (I built a kayak), compile a graduation portfolio, and defend his or her work in front of a panel of teachers in order to graduate. These types of performance assessments are much more individualized and authentic, and are certainly difficult, something I can attest to, having completed them myself.

There may be a place for standardized testing in public education, but it should not be used to determine graduation.

Because of these reasons, I decided to take a stand against the Ohio Proficiency Tests, even though it would cost me my graduation and diploma. But why such a drastic measure? The reason is simple; someone has to say no. Education is the key to maintaining our democracy, and I have become disgusted by the indifference displayed by lawmakers who make statements about the value of public education while continuing to fail to fairly and adequately fund it or commit to performance-based assessments.

I have written a number of state senators and representatives from both parties recommending the state allow districts to set alternatives to high-stakes tests for graduation. Having done everything required for graduation but take the tests, I thought I would provide them an opportunity to rethink testing. Sadly, I have not received a response from any of them, even after personally approaching and rewriting them.

What this has taught me is that one voice is not enough, and to make a difference in our democracy, the people must speak with a unified voice. I encourage everyone concerned about the damage being done by high-stakes testing and inadequate funding of public education to speak out. Join me in just saying no to high-stakes testing.

Editor’s note: John Wood is a non-graduate of Federal Hocking High School in Stewart. He will be attending Warren Wilson College in Ashville, N.C.

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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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