Saturday, December 3, 2016

Confirmation of the Biff Complex

Dear Doctor, I am writing to inform you that during my five years of participation/observer on the social media site Facebook I have been able to confirm your hypothesis about the existence of the Biff Complex. My participation/ observations over the last several years have been able to replicate your study and confirm its conclusions, namely, that many right wingers, particularly the descendants of Gerald Smith and his anti-Semitic and anti-commie ideologies and the John Birch Society, the group that once preached the gospel that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist stooge, who have taken over the Republican party, do indeed have the malady identified by you in the 1980s and to which you gave the name the Biff Complex or Disorder.

This Complex, as you know, has several components to it. First, those who suffer from the Biff Complex suffer from an irrational fear of empirical facts. Second, those who suffer from it confuse and conflate right wing fantasies and delusions with empirical reality. Third, those who suffer from it mistake authoritarian fifth grade bully boy behavior for a reasoned and empirical argument. Finally, those who suffer from the Biff Complex live in a lala world of their own and are impervious to anything but the fantastic and delusional discourse of right wing demagogues.

Conclusions? To paraphrase Giles the earth is doomed.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings on the Old Old Right, the Old Right, the Old New Right, and the New New Right

Generally speaking, historians and other social scientists have delineated three broad forms of American conservatism in the post-WWII period. Type one: the intellectual variant of conservatism symbolised by Willam Buckley, National Review, and the various sects that came out of National Review. Type two: the "new" Christian right. Type three: libertarianism. Often forgotten in this polite typology is the paranoid right represented by the John Birch Society and the so-called alt right.

Are these four types of Ebenezer Scrooge liberalism really new? Nor treally. National Review style neoliberalism has roots in the negative reaction to the French Revolution in the late 17th and 18th century, The new Christian Right with its authoritarianism, apocalypticism, anti-communism, god gave us capitalism, anti-Semitism, and beware of the big government mentality, has roots in the old Christian Right of the New Deal era. Libertarianism has roots in Hobbes and the Austrian libertarians. The paranoid right has roots that go back to the Book of Revelation.

Are their similarities betwen these four groups? I think there are. Bill Buckley, seems to be exemplary here. While presenting an intellectually sophisticated image to the public Gore Vidal showed in 1968 that beneath Buckley's calm and "intellectual" exterior lurked a paranoid Christian conservative with a host of phobias, homophobia and commiephobia amongst them. And let's not forget that Buckley was one of the key apologists for that most paranoid of post-WWII neoliberals, Joseph McCarthy. Needless to say, Donald Trump with his universalisation of capitalism, his paranoias about Muslims and Mexicans, his Norman Vincent Peale Christianism, and his fifth grade bully mentality, seems to me to be a Bill Buckley for the 21st century. Trump just doesn't hide his bully boy, authoritarian, and phobic interior behind a pleasing public veneer. As the French say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Death of Hope

Obama told us, when he first ran for president in 2008, to hope. You have to, however, give people more than hope. You have to give people more than hope that after they get an affordable community college or college education they will have a real job with real living wages and with real benefits they can afford. You have to give people more than hope that Americans will be able to get a living wage job with real benefits not only in the information sector of the economy but also in the service sector of the economy. You have to give people more than hope that they too will be able to get reasonably priced health insurance that they can pay for on their real wages. You have to give people more than the hope that they will be able to enjoy the good things of life, including the ability to relax and have fun, on their real wages. You have to give people more than hope that they too, like the elite politicians typically pander will be treated fairly and will be treated with and given respect. Donald Trump has given a lot of his supporters hope, hope that they will no longer feel ignored. I will say here and now that I don't expect him to live up to his promises anymore than Barack Obama did. The political and economic realities of America and the world argue and augur against it.

The Wacky World of the American Right in the Age of Trump

There is a lingload or shitload of false logic here, which is not surprising, given the broader cultural and ideological contexts in the US.

First, virtually every American, some libertarians and anarchists along with right and left freedom of speechers perhaps excepted, engage in so called political correctness. When right wingers, for example, censor textbooks, that is, political correctness as well as a violation of freedom of speech. Whenever the religious right pushes for public rather than individual silent prayer in schools that is political correctness and a violation of freedom of speech and freedom from religious theocracy. Ironically, a lot of those pushing for the dominance of the role of Christianity in the public sphere are often those most critical of Islamic theocratism.

Second, isn't it ironic that those who proclaim that their freedom of speech is being violated demand, proclaim, in the next breath, that flag burning, which the Supreme Court has ruled is freedom of speech, must be eliminated? Obviously, those who want flag burning, which isn't numerically speaking all that prevalent by any political group, are engaging in political correctness and are undermining guarantees in the Constitution they claim to be devoted to?

Third, banning SOME types of assault rifles and some types of bullets is NOT banning ALL guns or ALL bullets. That is simple logic.

Fourth, Christians are individually free to do anything that doesn't violate the law including pray to their imaginary gods in their public school. The law we have in the US is, when it comes to the public square, freedom from religious domination. The Founding Fathers did not like theocracy, which they saw in action, which is why they wrote separation into the laws of the land. Again, ironies abound here. What is the irony that abounds? Those who proclaim devotion to the Constitution out of one side of their mouth, proclaim their willingness to destroy it out of the other side of their mouth. I suggest to those of you who don't like the separation of religion and state guaranteed in the US Constitution move to a place where they don't have it such as Saudi Arabia. Love it or leave it dudes and dudettes.

Fifth, Republicans AND Democrats both supported deindustrialisation and trade deals, two things that sent jobs overseas. Bush the first negotiated NAFTA. Clinton got it passed. The reason they did it is because of their ties to economic elites who like cheap labour because it allows them to line their pockets even more than they already do. The fact that many of those who blame one party or one political ideology or another can't see the obvious, that both parties work for Wall Street, shows how ideologically blind they are.

Sixth, the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans has fluctuated over the 20th century. It was high during WWI and declined afterwards. It was in the 90% range under Eisenhower, fell to 70 some percent under Kennedy, and fell to 50 some percent under Nixon. The neoliberals, Republican or Democrat, those compassionate neoliberals, brought down tax rates on the rich during their years of dominance and have essentially and effectively undermined the progressive nature of American taxation since the 19801s. Taxation, by the way, varies cross culturally. The Scandinavian countries have, generally speaking, higher tax rates on the wealthy than the US. We must also be cognisant of the fact that official tax rates are not, for a variety of reasons, the real tax rates on the rich. The rich, like Trump, in reality, have gotten away with paying zero taxes for a variety of reasons. Tell Trump to do the same for you if you have the balls or ovaries and see what you get in response.

Seventh, single payer health care makes more economic and moral sense than that labyrinthian piece of legislation which the Democrats gave us. I know, in the age of runaway narcissism it is hard to think of anyone else but yourselves. By the way, the fact that the Democrats didn't, when they controlled the federal executive and legislative branches, give us the most economically and morally--greatest good for the greatest number--forgrounds how weak as water Democrats are.

Eighth, dudes are not being emasculated though I sometimes think we should cut off the cocks of rapists. Transformations in the economy are transforming gender and work. More women are working because they have to to help their families make it in a world dominated by the shit paying and little benefits service sector. By the way, Trump, for all his bluster, will not be able to bring manufacturing back to the US unless wages decline to levels similar to that in poor semi-peripheral countries and poorer peripheral countries where wages are low. But I know, as Barnum said people will swallow anything.

A last obvious fact: If you help destroy the planet you are killing yourselves and those who come after you including your children and grandchildren.

Let me close this missive by bemoaning that it is a pity that so many on all sides of the political spectrum prefer stereotypes and caricatures to simple humanity. Many liberals and leftists did not support Clinton. I didn't. I did not vote for either major party candidate. Many of them offered real critiques of Clinton as opposed to demonisation of Clinton. But I know, generally people prefer simplistic and naive either/ors to reality.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Clinton and the Constructed Either/Or Mind

It is endlessly fascinating if also rather tragic and farcical to observe how the socially and culturally constructed human mind generally works. One can clearly see how the mind generally works in those years when, for example, one of those great rituals of "democracy" is taking place, elections. For fans of Hillary Clinton, for instance, any criticism of their object of devotion, valid criticisms about how she and her husband made their millions, valid criticisms about the potential conflicts at the heart of the Clinton Foundation symbolised by Huma Adebin, and valid criticisms about Clinton's problematic and possibly stupid use of a private server for some of her governmental emails, can only be made, most Clinton devotees knee jerkingly assume, by a devotee of Clinton's evil binary other, Donald Trump. More nuanced responses from most of the Clinton faithful are, generally speaking, missing in binary action. There may be cognitive dissonance in Clinton's devotees but in the vast majority of these cases such cognitive dissonance leads to even more polemical defences of their object of devotion rather than to analytical analysis. Welcome to the ideology creates reality world.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Musings on The Wire at Midpoint...

I have been watching David Simon's The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008) for the first time over the last several months. I have been watching it with a friend and we are half way through the third season. Given that it is an election year here in the US, it is hard not to think of the show in the context of that political election.

Nothing is better than The Wire, in my opinion, in showing us how compassionate neoliberalism really operates. Tommy Carcetti, the man who mirrors neoliberals like Clinton male and female, Bloomberg, O'Malley, and Schwarzenegger, will do anything to get elected. Carcetti gives off the appearance of a family man with a family right out of a Norman Rockwell painting but behind his wife's back he carries out at least one extramarital affair. One imagines that he is carrying on more. He practises patented compassionate neoliberal macchiavelianism when he manipulates a close Black politician to run for mayor against the incumbent Black mayor in order to assure that the Black vote splits giving him the election victory.

The dominant reform that compassionate neoliberals seem to offer in The Wire is gentrification through rehabilitating old homes or building new upscale apartments and condos. This may increase monies brought in through taxes but it leads to, to pick a few obvious examples, the displacement of those who really need the government to do something for them, the poor, it leads to a decline in other housing stock, it leads to increased black market activities, it leads to resignation, and it leads to increased corruption.

The real hero of The Wire is the precinct commander Howard "Bunny" Colvin, who creates "hamsterdams", zones where drugs can be sold relatively freely. The sell your drugs here zones have their downsides but they also lead to decreased crime in other parts of Baltimore. To his credit, Carcetti jumps on board this scheme. When he is told that his support of the free drug selling zones will hurt his chances to be elected mayor of Baltimore, however, he follows the tried and true compassionate neoliberal path, he bails.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

RIP Bloomingfoods?

The coop ideal of the 1960s and 1970s died as I wrote in an earlier blog on this site, the day worker coops became "consumer coops". On top of that there has been, for years, a "conspiracy", both conscious and ideological, between national coop organisations, including the National Cooperative Grocers Association and CDS Consulting, both of which provide "expert advice" to coops and the managerial class, which is predominately neoliberal, which now run coops. The NCGA, by the way, conducted an audit of Bloomingfoods after public administration academic bureaucrat Keith Taylor urged them to take this action. But back to my main point: The actors in this national conspiracy to turn coops into mirrors of its competitors use fear--we have to stay competitive with Whole Foods--and lies--member labour is illegal--to get their way. What is their way? They want to take power from members and give it to a Board of "elected" neoliberal types. They want to do this by manipulating by-laws (anyone who knows Weber and Foucault knows what is going on here) and they want to turn coops into Whole Foods Junior, Trader Joe's Junior, and Lucky's Junior which is, by the way, not a particularly good survival strategy. They have succeeded with their fear tactics and lies at a number of coops across the country but not in Albany, NY where members provided factual material detailing the lies and fear tactics of national coop advisory groups. It looks like Bloomingfoods is about to be the next hybrid coop and corporation to fall. In this case the picture above foreshadows the story to come. The picture above of the only Bloomingfoods I knew when I was a worker member in the late 1970s, was abandoned by the powers that be just like they abandoned coop principles earlier. These same powers that be, by the way, have apparently arranged that the upcoming member meeting, Board election, and by-laws vote is jigged in their favour. The jigging, and the elimination of dissident voices from the Facebook site, reflects standard national coop expert advice operating procedure as those of us who saw similar things attempted at Honest Weight know all to well. Rest not in peace Bloomingfoods.