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Czar Gazing

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Democracy, as a way to govern nation-states, is on the decline. With the help of Russia, politically four centuries behind the West, the U.S. could be headed for czarist rule. The Russian word czar comes from "caesar" and was the title first assumed by Ivan the Awesome (or the more popular pejorative, "the Terrible").

If our political regression stays in step with our fall back through the growth of civilization to agrarianism, we could see an autocrat in power in a decade or so. Czar Barron has a certain ring to it.
Czar Donald sounds cartoonish, but since we don't execute traitors anymore, Junior may be first in line to inherit the throne after the patriarch croaks. He might want to change that to "The Don" to give it more of a fear factor and to divert attention from the history of his ascent at the behest of Russian propagandists. Oh, wait... the Don is a Russian river.

Aww. Who cares what people think? Junior might be found guilty of conspiring …

Pulling Threads

Reading Joe Scarborough's opinion column today about Blowhard's base sticking through thick and thin, and then finding an analysis of personalist rule that well describes how this is becoming more commonplace in authoritarian states, I went back through the lead-in summaries on Amy Siskind's weekly authoritarianism tracker to tease out the threads that have emerged as themes under our dictator-in-the-making.
This consolidated chronology, in which themes are identified by color, is a value add to the presentation on Medium which doesn't tell you much until you click on a given week. If you start at the bottom of this post, you can track the train wreck from inauguration day to this month. Go to Amy's Medium page to drill down into the gory details, or Aaron Dietz' tableau tool, if you have the geek chops for it. I hope you find my exercise in curation to be enlightening.

September 23, 2017
As Mueller zeroes in on Manafort and Flynn, almost every Trump campaigner …

America's Approaching Storm

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Most people think that fascism is a political concept that emerged in 20th century Europe, but the first use of that label in a political context appeared five centuries ago when Gustavus Eriksson (popularly known as Vasa, from the Latin fascis, meaning "bundle") unified Swedish rebel mobs to overthrow their Danish colonial overlords.  The image evoked is that of a bundle of straight sticks held tightly together, thereby forming an unbreakable pole.

Today's use of the word "fascist" carries the same meaning, modernized by recent historical occurrence under Mussolini and his ilk. Fascism places unity above everything else, including individual liberty. It demands a mindset of ruthless efficiency, leading to acts of inhumane expediency. It is extremely undemocratic, i.e. tending to totalitarianism, relying on conformity at all levels of society. The most obvious example of a fascist government today is North Korea.

North Korea's fascism can be understood by t…

The Long War Ahead

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Old Blowhard may say he doesn't subscribe to theories of climate change, but he sure is prepping like a true believer. Following the widespread disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey, his most substantive response was to re-establish the 1033 Program that allows local law enforcement access to excess military equipment. Four million internally displaced, dripping, and dispossessed persons must look pretty scary to a man who only loves a crowd when they are cheering for him. Unfortunately for him, the extra military gear probably won't be on hand in time for other states to guard the elites in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.


How unwittingly we drift into totalitarianism. Instead of taking a more humane counterinsurgency approach, our military-industrial complex overproduced lethal weapons and profuse national security apparati in a panicked reaction against Islamic terrorism. We are left with so many military "goods" that we can't help but put them to some use - eve…

How Budgets Get Balanced in a Crisis

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Civil asset forfeiture is nothing new (we've had it in some form since the colonial days), but it is now more likely with Jeff Sessions in charge of Justice. The colonials had the practice handed down to them from the royals of England, with the starkest example being the replenishment of Henry VIII's coffers from church assets by Thomas Cromwell beginning in 1536. After collecting a litany of accusations through "visitors" sent to look into the foibles of England's 600 monasteries and 130 nunneries, Cromwell brought his "Black Book" before a kangaroo Parliament, which agreed to shut down these politically wayward establishments and turn their assets over to the crown. The precedent made it easier for the guilds to be similarly plundered less than a decade later.

"Civil asset forfeiture" is the euphemistic description of the government seizing personal property, often before guilt can be determined by trial. There have been cases where police …

Five Centuries Ago: Henry VIII. Today: Donald the Deplorable.

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The Maryland Renaissance Festival begins this month and, if you think a 500 year reset is too far from present reality, then you haven't kept up on your English history. While reading through Will Durant's agonizing rendition of how the West was spun, The Story of Civilization: The Reformation, the reign of Henry VIII of England takes the pathos prize, so far. The calamitous king had so much in common with America's current head of state that the parallels kept popping into my consciousness while mourning over every page. The Renaissance Festival may have had no intention of shining a light on our current political fiasco when it selected a storyline that brings the old ogre and his court back in the flesh, but let's hope the audience doesn't miss the irony.

Historians recognized the pattern much earlier than I, and published those observations in Newsweek, Foreign Policy, and The Economist, as well as this e-zine and another, Pajiba. In case you missed those, let …

Hiatus

Thanks for checking on my latest meanderings. I'm currently meandering around the country with my wife and dog. The posts should resume after we return, which may be soon.