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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Moronicity on the March: Demagoguery and the Alt-Right

I have recently accidentally discovered that self proclaimed messiah of the all new and improved alt-right, Milo Yiannopoulos. The alt-right that Yiannopoulos wants to be a high priest of is hardly novel. Many of its obsessions are the obsessions of contemporary right wing radio demagogues, and have been the obsessions of National Review Demagogues, John Birch Society demagogues, and anti-Communist demagogues before it. Nor are the hyper or uber exaggerations or the lack of intellectual sophistication of the alt-right and its self proclaimed demagogic high (pun intended) priest novel. Christian apologists and polemicists have been blasting Islam, for example, since the First Crusade. The problem with all of this fear laden Islamophobic demagoguery, Islamophobic because the new old right and the alt right cherry pick their evils, is that the problem is not Islam. The problem is monotheism. Monotheism, Jewish monotheism, Christian monotheism, and Islamic monotheism, all of which were born out of the narrow minded Mediterranean world, with its ethnocentrism, its theocratic tendencies, its homophobia, and its misogynies, has shown itself again and again to be hazardous to human health throughout Western history. Apparently demagogues like Yiannopoulos don't recognise this or can't recognise because it would throw a monkey wrench into his pied piper Machiavellian machinations. The solution to theocratic monotheism, by the way, a solution alt-right demagogues never seem to have recognised or refuse to recognise, is secularisation, again as Western history shows.

Something else that isn't novel about the alt right is its use of exaggeration and fear. Recently in Facebook post Yiannapoulos criticised a group of vegan feminists who, according to him, linked male misogny and the maltreatment of animals, two of the central symbols, apparently, in the demonology of the alt right as it was in the old new right. Just like other apologetic and polemical demagogues Yiannapoulos uses exaggeration and fear as a form of manipulation in order to gain power and financial resources (which he apparently doesn't use to pay employees). What alt right demagogues and all demagogues never give you is the facts but I will. According to Gallup in 2012 5% of Americans were vegetarian. This percentage has remained pretty much constant over the last ten years. 6% of Americans were vegetarians in 1999 and 2001. 5% of 18 to 29 year olds were vegetarian in 2012. 4% of 30 to 49s were vegetarian in 2012. Only 2% of Americans said they were vegans in 2012. Why don't apologetic and polemical demagogues give the people the facts, such as the number of vegans, vegetarians, and radical feminists who link veganism and feminism are small and have been so for some time? Because all demagogues know that nothing comes close to the use of exaggeration and fear when it comes to manipulating the masses. They are, after all, the pied pipers.

Another thing the alt right won't tell you is who they really are. The alt right may have come up with a nice little catchphrase to describe themselves and to distinguish themselves from the old right and the old new right. In the final analysis, however, the alt right is the same as the old right and the old new right. They are theocrats. They are authoritarians. They want people to behave and to speak like they think they should behave and speak. They are not libertarians with a live and let live ideology, in other words. And to top it all off they appear to be blissfully unaware of the irony here, namely that they, who are decrying political correctness constantly, are pushing their own version of political correctness. Ob la di ob la da.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tweedledee and Tweedledum...

Here is what I learned from watching the PBS Frontline report on the two "major" candidates for president of the United States this year, "The Choice" (PBS, 27 September 2016). Donald Trump is a typical fin de siecle capitalist. He commodifies everything, especially pretty girls, and loves to engage in conspicuous consumption which he sees as a measure of his capitalist "success". Like most capitalists he is a bully boy who is used to getting his own way and he is, as all capitalists are on some level, a narcissist. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, despite her supposed feminist convictions changed her hair, dissed the glasses, lost weight, and put on different clothes to help Bubba get elected. She calls it pragmatism. I call it Machiavellianism. Money, lots of it, to her, is the medium that allows her to achieve her political ambitions.