Monthly Archives: September 2010

Wealth Inequality and The American Voter

American politics and the thinking of American voters always flusters me.  The flustering starts from the basic of all political thoughts, class.  Where I approach politics from class consciousness, most Americans approach economics from issue based and personal, or I should say personality perspective.  Hence the common statement:  ” I vote for the man, not the party.”

This election is particularly frustrating, to the point, that I cannot listen to any discussions about the elections.  It’s some strange disconnection from political and economic reality fueled by the media vortex of manufactured outrage.

The idea that we have a party system is ludicrous.  Sure stalwarts who vote along party lines, like myself,  cling to the idea that parties should hold elected officials accountable.  Now 38% of the voters are independent.     Once elected, the politician has no debt to the party, the only debt is to the people who gave him money to get the independent voter.  Since Americans do not vote along class, or political lines, what then is their power as a block of voter?

The non aligned Independent voter, gets frustrated, or uninspired  by yet another dud politician, all that the wealth holders have to do, is package another one who will pander to the whims of the “Independent voter”.  A new brand of emotionalism, a new re- constituted lie that will warm the cockles of the Independents heart.

Of course, it is considered anathema to challenge the independent voter for their political ignorance and the muddle that has been created by their petulant voting.  They will  point out how the parties are not to be trusted and his/ her independence keeps them honest.  Really?  You think this new system is working?  Every two years we change our minds and end up with wild swings where no real policy has time to be implemented.  Obama for me was the perfect construct of the Independent voter, he did everything he told them he would do, and now they don’t like it cause their silly ideas don’t work:  “bipartisanship”, half ass stimulus, half ass health care, militarism, and idiotic tax policies.

( why?  cause you all did not like unions and you thought the bosses would take care of you)

So, as incomes did not increase, actually decreased since 1964, wealth inequality is right now at an all time high.  Yet, this does not seem to be an issue in the elections, instead, we we dicker around with the misconceptions and miss information that is churned out. Somehow, a tax cut, something that we kept doing since the 1980’s, will cure this wage and wealth disparity.  But, tax cut sounds good and like a Pavlovian manipulator, the politicians uses the word and the Independent voter buys the lie.

Look and listen at wealth inequality in the video below from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality.  Yet, Americans, in a recent study at Duke University, first do not understand the proportions of wealth inequality,  and if they had a choice, 92% would prefer the Swedish model.  But, they continue to vote for politicians who do everything in their power to redistribute the wealth and wages of this nation to the top 1% and do very little for the rest.  Matter of fact, they get distracted by the people in the bottom and accuse them of redistributing the wealth.

Is it ignorance?  Is it extreme optimism?  When and how will this cycle of not understanding the economic context by the of the American voter ever change?  The mere mention of this topic brings the accusation of class war .  Rather ironic since we have been in a class war all the time and the lower and middle classes  lost.


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Burqa Thoughts

The modern day practitioner of enlightenment is confounded by the following contradiction in thinking.

  • I am enlightened and believe in freedom of the individual.
  • I believe in freedom of religion.
  • But, if your religion and your choices as an individual, do not make you like me and my countrymen ( or the people who occupied this place for a long time), I will make enlightened laws to stop you from doing the things that make you different.

Yes, we are open, multicultural and enlightened, but for Christ’s sake, don’t do it here, you are upsetting us and worrying us that you will dominate our culture and then we will not be enlightened anymore.

So, we have confounded ourselves and we cannot figure out how to get out of our predicament.  Our leaders of course, engage in our fears cause they want to keep power.  Yes, and the voice of my fellow feminists is loud and clear:  “we are concerned for our sisters”.

If you are concerned about Muslim women, think about the regimes our western nation support?    Think about our love affair with the Saudi culture of oppression, but are you willing to give up your SUV and your lifestyle to save the women of Saudi Arabia?  Nope.  What if all the women in the great western countries wanted to stop the oppression of Muslim women and decided to not consume any petroleum based products?  Why that would involve real political action and not chit chat and a voice in the vortex of outrage, facile outrage that is.

How much is it about women and how much is the rise of political expediency by the European governments who are pandering to the xenophobic rise of their right wing flanks?  Just like the American politicians who join in the Islamophobic vortex, here is what the Euros are facing (from a Danish study on the Burqa) :

  • Apparently only 367  women wear the Burqa in France, when the census was redone, they increased it to 2,000.  Turns out in Denmark, half of the women who wear the Burqa, are European women who converted.
  • The Burqa and Islam:

CAIRO — A leading cleric at Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar Mosque on Wednesday applauded France’s ban on the face veil worn by some devout Muslim women, saying the niqab harmed Islam’s image.Abdel Muti al-Bayyumi, a member of an influential council of clerics at al-Azhar, said the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening for the eyes, “has no basis in Islamic law and there is nothing in the Koran or Sunna that supports it.”“I personally support (the ban) and many of my brothers in the Islamic Research Academy support it. My position against the niqab is actually older than France’s,” said Bayyumi, who has authored a book against the practice. ( From Agence France)

  • Even the Saudis clerics are giving women who live in France a Burqa exemption, no, you don’t have to wear it if it’s forbidden.  Why, see, we can still deal with the Saudis, they get it.

So, forgive me sisters and fellow enlightened people if I don’t join in your “Burqa” vortex of outrage,  nor your Mosque outrage.

I will be outraged about the women, all the women, who are struggling  against all forms of oppression by patriarchical social, economic, political and religious systems of all types.

Heh, by the way, read Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian woman who was in prison for her politics, read a real Arab/Muslim woman on the topic, Memoirs From The Women’s Prison.


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Petraus On Koran Burning

Sometimes cartoons say it all.

From Harper’s Magazine.

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The Modern Day Idiot

An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private–as opposed to public–affairs.[1] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[1] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary).

9/11 anniversaries have become a playground where we  elevate all personal experience, just the fact of being alive on 9/11, to the same level of suffering and pain of the families and the people involved in the tragedy that was 9/11.  We trivialize the real suffering.  Time for a media blackout if you want to mourn and think about 9/11 and the outcomes of 9/11.

How dare you allow your hang nails and spats interfere with the memory of the people who were the direct hit of the airplanes?  The families who are still in pain?  The many who were wounded and their lives scarred for ever with your personal narrative?  The magnitude of the outcomes after 9/11 are all diminished to the point of a farce.

In our desire to join the world of sufferers and victims, we abscond with other people’s suffering and we elevate our minor discomfort into a false equivalence with the people who did experience the pain.   We bask in the empathy and sympathy that they should have.  We turn away from the bitter outcomes of 9/11:  wars, civil rights and human rights issues, jingoism, economic collapse, just some of the larger outcomes, into a competition of how we were “hurt”.

This is all part of the cultural sport of achieving moral high ground through the narrative of personal suffering.  All human discomfort and experience is not the same.   Not understanding the political and global implications of 9/11 through the suffering of the true victims, we dilute all the lessons that we should have learned.  Each time we reduce such matters to ourselves and our lives, we march closer to being idiots and not understanding our political responsibility as citizens of a democracy.

Enjoy the media enhanced carnival of idiocy.


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Preachers, Clerics, Imams and Rabbis: Oh My.

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...

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In the churning urn of burning funk we call news, there is always some imam, cleric, preacher,  or other holy man who is given public recognition.   Typically, they are minor players, representing some fringe element of the religion.   In the same way that fashion models are the freaks, sorry about that, the outliers of how we look.  How many women are six feet tall and weigh 115 pounds, we all know the average woman is about 145 pounds and about 5’4″.

Yet, the average woman, the average preacher, cleric, imam or rabbi, are not fun.  It’s the freak who issues a fatwa about unrelated men must be suckled by women if they are to be in mixed company; the rabbi who says that musicians should be lashed for playing in mixed groups; and now we have the southern preacher who will burn the Koran. Oh, this game is not just played by us, this is a global game.  If there is one thing that is truly global, it’s taking the freak and making him the symbol of the other.  And here I thought globalization and the world wide web would humanize us.  Pffft.

Why was he given so much attention?  Why was he given such importance?  Well, toxic populism needs to make enemies.  What better arena than the demonization of other religions, of symbolic acts like burning?  Now, somehow this act of vengeance and idiocy is being twisted into an expression of free speech. So, this nimrod will burn the Koran, what satisfaction will he gain?  Does he get power over other nimrods who strap on a vest of dynamite cause a nimrod in Florida burned the Koran.

The Generals, the Secretaries of State and Presidents now want moderation and to quell the preacher cause his act will bring doom upon America.  How naive do people think the world is?  You think the preacher is the cause?  Think Iraq, think the settlements, think Gaza, think not helping the Pakistani flood victims.

As the politicians and their cohorts, the media, churn the images of the sideline freaks, we move into a collective hysteria that ignores the real crimes against humanity.  We focus on medieval acts of symbolism, slight and insult, while the real issues get obscured by the daily freak show of imams, clerics, preachers and rabbis of the grotesque manifestation of their religions.

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Aggressive Consumer

the Really Really Free Market, Mayday weekend ...

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Modern capitalist democracies have given their populace two  illusory powers: citizenship and membership in free market enterprise.  We all know that our power as citizen is reduced to the vote, a system that is manipulated and gives us little power beyond the lever. Our free market role is given a mythic power, that we choose how the market functions through our purchasing choices.  The customer illusion is not limited to every two years, it is a daily exercise that seems to involve choice and power.  No wonder we talk about it more often.

Just as citizenship has its romantic flourishes so does free marketism, we are labeled customer and we have convinced ourselves  that we “are always right”.   This romantic vestige of our power as customer now is only exercised in some kabuki theater where think we have power.  The only places we get to “act out as customers” is through some low paid  service employee, the euphemistic customer service side of the enterprise.   We all have stories of encounters with airline, banking, insurance and retailers; stories that have a common frustration and shared sigh.   In truth what we are usually sharing is  just a temper tantrum of delusional entitlement.  The entitlement that was never and will never be delivered.

We have confused individual assertiveness with line staff as some kind of power over the bureaucratic juggernaut of capitalism.  A juggernaut that rolls over its workers and over its paying customers.   In our attempts at being assertive, we end up being aggressive.   The size of the system cannot stand the chance that we will not consume, that we may make free choices.  Free choice and the power of choosing with where we spend our dollars is well managed, the system has invested a great deal to rely on our whims of free market choice.

His appetites have to be constantly whetted, tastes have to be manipulated, managed and made “predictable”.  Man is transformed into the “consumer”, the eternal suckling, whose one wish is to consume more and “better” things. (Erich Fromm, On Disobedience)

But, still I read the daily rant against the “stupid help”, the “ignorant line staff”, the” bad service”, the inability of “them” to see the value of “me” the customer and finally the lament of better times, when service was “better”.  I cannot help but notice the futility of such acts of ill placed rebellion.   A demand of servility and obedience from the poor dolts that serve us, the front lines, the ones with the least power.  Then you have entire virtual arenas, such as Yelp, where people will express their anger at a wait person, or manicurist.  They will berate that person, often times destroy a small business, because the “service” was not up to a standard.  We have transferred our anger towards the system, to the low grade badly trained employee.

You say, but if we do not have demands or expectations, how will we make it better?  Well, maybe it will not be better cause the corporate bureaucrats don’t give a damn.  They are insulated from your aggression.   The long time fear of American society of the bureaucratic managed society,  materialized in the trappings of capitalism, with lovely Orwellian names such as:  Sales Associate, for clerk; customer care for the collections office; technical support for the complaint department; customer feedback form, for the suggestion box.

So, we end up with the nasty customer beating up on some hapless employee via telephone, or in person and the corporate bosses are insulated by layers of systems, procedures, policies and legal requirements.   I say admit that you are cog.  When speaking to another cog, or interacting with another cog, humanize the other cog.  Break down the set up and make it pleasant for you and for them.  You are set up for conflict, I say, fight the set up.  Go around it, cheer up the cog, give them a kind word.  If they do not reciprocate, take it on the chin, try again next time.   Keep doing it, till we all stop the warfare among ourselves and we can start breaking down the charade.


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“Steel in Our Ship of State”

Obama and the Military Industrial Complex

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Our troops are the steel in our ship of state. And though our nation may be traveling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.

President Obama’s speech, August 31st, 2010.

How many fantasies and collective national delusions did Obama perpetuate in his last paragraph?  Will the right-wing now be satisfied with such 19th century imagery?  Does this satisfy their manly desires of the warriors being the core of our national identity?

The troops give us confidence?  The young men and women we tattered for years and then we brought them back home broken and discarded.  We used them at their best, then we abandoned them to physical and mental disabilities.  An economy that cannot employ them and give their families a glimmer of a life their grandfathers enjoyed after WWII.

The difference is that the “steel” he talks of is used, spent.  Our troops are a mirror of how we use our citizenry and then discard them into a pile of used materials– like the iron scrap heaps of broken cars that we ship off to China we see on the highways.

Where are the better days?  1.2 Trillion of our treasure thrown at a mistake.  Something this President opposed and now he sits with the flag and the pictures of his children creating the imagery that his opponents want to hear.  They want the old imagery of heroism, steel and ships in rough waters supported by warriors.

This paragraph establishes  the chilling  Eisenhower warning about  the military industrial complex as reality.   Maybe these words are used to give a people being tossed around in rough seas some glimmer of dignity.  But it’s a  false dignity that is used to just satisfy the machine of militarism.   The troops are just a ploy to give the monster a human face.

In truth, our steel lies in many other places and in this day in age, what holds society is not 19th century anachronism, steel.    And yes, the speech writers can produce this imagery for those who are pining for American exceptionalism.   What did we learn as a nation? Many things, but history, politics and interests will mask what we learned.  Sugar coat it in sweet language.

We come home defeated and wrong, but yet we engage in flowery language and continue the political fanfare that put us into this war.  What did we prove?  We can win wars in no time.  But, we can never win an occupation.  We destroyed all civil society of Iraq. We destabilized the region, Iran, is now more powerful.  But, we lie to ourselves.

We allowed a group of extremists , the Neo-Conservatives , to carry out their theories.  Our elected politicians stood by and let it happen.  We as a nation let it happen.  Our media did not ask questions.  And now we make ourselves better cause we will turn the page.

Who will pay for this mistake?  The young men and women who came home with broken bodies and souls.  The Iraqi people who lost their lives, homes and all their way of life.  Yet, our President uses the flowery language to paint a picture of collective national delusion based on 19th century imagery.

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