Friday, December 23, 2016

Dark Money: A Review

Dark Money
P. Schultz

            Jane Mayer’s latest book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, is of course an exposé. And while I love such books, it must be said that its usefulness is limited and it is, ultimately, unable to do what Mayer would like it to do – disempower or defeat the billionaires whom she says have funded what she calls “the radical right.”

            Exposes work with such phenomena as, say, child slavery, impure food and drugs, or environmental pollution. To expose such phenomena is to defeat or to pave the way for the defeat of them. Why? Because there is no justification for such practices.

            Exposes don’t work, are insufficient with regard to the phenomena Mayer is addressing in Dark Money because those she is exposing are convinced – and have convinced others – of the justice of their politics. As Aristotle pointed out, a very long time ago, oligarchs appeal to justice to legitimate their claim to rule. And their appeals are not simply baseless or merely a cover for their self-interest, although they serve in that capacity. The claims of the wealthy few that they deserve to rule are, of course, controversial, that is to say, partial or incomplete. But so too are the claims of the democrats to rule. Ala’ Aristotle, all claims to rule, either by the one, the few, or the many, are and remain controversial precisely because they are all partial or incomplete.

            So, to expose some people as oligarchs who are seeking to rule will not accomplish much, will not lead to their defeat in the political arena, as should be clear by now in the U.S. And showing, as Mayer does extensively, that they use deceit, deception, or secrecy to achieve their goals does not delegitimize their activities. To undermine our oligarchs, our billionaires of the radical right, as Mayer has it, requires showing how oligarchy is unjust, how oligarchs practice injustice rather than justice.

            This is where Mayer comes up short, which is why her expose’ becomes repetitive rather than enlightening. Again and again, Mayer exposes the doings of the her billionaires of the radical right, as if people did not know that our political order today was screwing them over. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing and we don’t actually need an expose’ to know that we, the many, are being screwed over by our government. What we need is a politics that revolves around questions of justice, not around questions of increasing the nation’s wealth and power. For the pursuit of wealth and power, as the most important political goals, legitimates oligarchy and the rule of oligarchs, while marginalizing the pursuit of justice, especially where the many are concerned.  A politics of justice, not a politics of wealth and power or a politics of greatness, is what is most needed now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Elections and Voting

Elections and Voting
P. Schultz

            There is a strange kind of logic going around reflected by the question: Did those who voted for third parties cost Clinton the election? That this is strange logic can be seen by asking instead: How or why did Clinton cost the Democratic Party the election?

            The second question, which is from a party standpoint the appropriate one, is underlined by the fact that many, in fact, very many Democratic voters chose to stay home, chose not to vote for Clinton. And this represents many more voters than those who chose to vote for third parties. Clinton, quite obviously, did not appeal to a great number of Democratic voters, and especially did not appeal to Democratic voters in states where the election was close and Trump won by a relatively slim margin, e.g., Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

            The onus, given these numbers on non-voters, does or should fall on Clinton and the Democrats to understand why they failed and why they lost the election. To say that it was those who chose to vote for third party candidates is to imply that they bear the burden of Clinton’s and Democratic Party’s loss, which is, to put it bluntly, absurd. Clinton and the Democratic Party lost the election and, hence, they should bear the burden of their loss, not those who either chose to vote for third party candidates or chose not to vote at all.

            It is all pretty simple. Political parties are, or allegedly are, in the business of winning elections. When they lose, when they don’t win elections, that failure, that loss is on the party, not on those who chose not to vote for its ticket. The Democratic ticket in 2016 ended up a losing ticket, plain and simple. It was the Democratic Party that created that ticket. Ergo, the Democratic Party and its ticket are responsible for losing the election. It really is that simple.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dick Cheney: A Bust?

Dick Cheney: A Bust?
P. Schultz

            Mr. Bush joined Republican congressional leaders, veterans of his administration and hundreds of others on Thursday to pay tribute to Mr. Cheney as his official bust was unveiled at the Capitol.”

            As reported in the NY Times and elsewhere, a marble bust of Dick Cheney was unveiled on December 8th  in the U.S. Senate, as is the customary practice with those who have served as vice president. The Times also noted that “No mention was made of Mr. Cheney’s controversial positions on waterboarding and the Iraq war.” He was praised by former President George W. Bush and by the current vice president, Joe Biden.

            And what if this honoring is correct? That is, what if we have created a political order and practice a kind of politics that requires that our nation and its officials torture other human beings, even those who are innocent and even to the point of death? I mean, many people not only oppose torturing other human beings but also find it despicable. And while it is true that torture is despicable, what if the success of our kind of politics requires that we do it and, more generally, do despicable things? If that were the case, then our officials ought to be despicable people, ought they not? After all, despicable people have few or no qualms about doing despicable deeds, “dastardly deeds” they might be called.

            If this makes any sense, then it helps us understand the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, not to mention other presidents like Nixon, LBJ, or Bill Clinton. A politics that requires for its success the commission of despicable acts should be controlled by, governed by despicable people. And, of course, because most human beings have been unable to “learn not to be good,” as Machiavelli put it, or of approving those who have “learned not to be good,” it is best to honor the despicable by labeling them, as George W. Bush did Dick Cheney, “good [men] who love [their] country and really love [their] famil[ies].” It is in this way that success becomes the measure by which we judge public measures and persons and, perhaps, private measures and persons as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Bipartisan Darkness

The Bipartisan Darkness
P. Schultz

            “Bipartisan darkness descends on the public realm [in 1980], preparation for the rule of the Right.” [Liberty Under Siege, Walter Karp, 139]

            Or in preparation for the rule of Trump.

            It is quite amazing how quickly in the face of a threat like the one Trump was alleged to be that bipartisanship emerges. Obama saying, in essence, to give Trump a chance and Joe Biden saying he will work with Vice President elect Pence. The signs are there for those who care to see them. And it is important to understand why this happens. So what was the threat? What is it?

            The threat previously was Trump, that is, before he won. But now the danger is that the forces that brought Trump to the presidency will not be stilled or pacified, thereby threatening the status quo and it protectors who reign in Washington. For there are “forces” abroad in the land that threaten the status quo, e.g., the growing popularity of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. That this is a significant threat to the status quo is not appreciated by most people because they do not appreciate the importance of “the war on drugs” for maintaining the prevailing establishment. That war, which is usually presented as a somewhat marginal policy that needs some tweaking to be made more rational, is actually as important as “the war on terror” for maintaining “the rule of the Right.” So, to allow the war on drugs to be undermined, especially to be undermined for the sake of individual liberty, is dangerous, even as dangerous as legitimizing “sexual preferences” – as if one’s sexual practices were “preferences” like one’s taste in ice cream – for the sake of personal liberty.  Such “allowances” create cracks in what is called “civilization,” cracks that imply that “civilization” – or as Huck Finn put it, “sivilization” – is more about repressing than elevating or liberating human kind.

            This is dangerous stuff in a regime that embraces or is built on the idea that without a powerfully pervasive national government anarchy will prevail and human kind will descend into darkness. So, such cracks must be sealed up as best they can be, e.g., by legitimating “same sex marriage” so unwed gays and lesbians, those who espouse “the gay life style,” can be viewed with suspicion. Respecting marijuana, then, expect the emergence of “scientific” claims about the dangers of marijuana, followed by attempts by “the Feds” to reassert control over the use of this “drug.”

            And expect too, more broadly, that “the rule of the Right” under Trump will reinforce those aspects of our allegedly capitalistic society that discipline “the many,” that is, we ordinary people. For example, by elevating the very wealthy to positions of power while emphasizing their wealth, Trump reminds the many of their unfitness, that they are “the many” because they do not have the innate or inbred discipline to be among “the few,” and, therefore, need to disciplined by our pervasively powerful government and its controllers. Such people, the many, should not be allowed to use marijuana or other drugs recreationally because they lack the inbred discipline of “the few,” discipline in this case to be provided by the nation’s policy of mass incarceration. These are among the means to still or pacify a people, especially a people grown restless with deference to its “superiors.”

            So “the bipartisan darkness” that is descending – once again – “on the public realm” is the darkness of a “civilization” – actually a regime – that is constantly threatened by the conviction that human beings were “created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And as Lincoln put it, these words are ”a stumbling block to those who . . . might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism,” a barrier to any potential tyrant or tyrants who would, in the name of “civilization,” make human kind unfree and rule them without their consent.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump, the Democrats, and the Republicans

Trump, the Democrats and the Republicans
P. Schultz

            “The grass-roots political activity of the citizenry and its inseparable adjunct, the entry into political life of nonorganizational politicians, is a constant threat to party organizations. It sparks political ambitions outside their control. It opens new avenues to public renown. It encourages outsiders to enter primaries and gives them a chance to win. It opens to officeholders themselves the opportunity it win public support on their own and thus render themselves independent of the organization. It is therefore the perpetual endeavor of party organizations to discourage and even squash grass-roots movements.” [Walter Karp, Indispensable Enemies, 26]

            Make no mistake: The Republican and the Democratic parties have the same agenda when it comes to Donald Trump, viz., controlling him or rendering him as powerless as they can. That is, they will try to either “mainstream” him or they will sabotage his administration. And this agenda is not the product of malevolence. It is merely the result of self-interest.

            Have you not wondered by Obama and the Democrats have not said that they will take the tact taken by the Republicans vis-à-vis Obama, i.e., rigid, unbending opposition? It’s because such a strategy would inflame, aggravate those who are actively protesting Trump’s presidency, thereby strengthening those groups and their grass-roots political activity, activity that the party might not be able to control. Such grass-roots activity must be “discouraged” or “squashed” in order for the Democratic Party establishment to maintain its control of the party, control that is, as Bernie Sanders’ candidacy indicated, is tenuous at best.

            And for similar reasons the mainstream Republicans are doing their best to “play ball with Trump,” and they will do so as long as the ball game is being played on their field according to their rules. Should Trump try to change the game, as it were, then mainstream Republicans will, by means both fair and foul, place obstacles in Trump’s way. As we all know by now, congressional inactivity, legislative stalemate, is anything but uncommon. Trump will learn that the political arena is not like the business arena at all. As Harry Truman said of Eisenhower: “Ike will say ‘do this’ or ‘do that,’ expecting it to be done, but nothing will happen.” So too Trump will discover that our politicians are most interested in preserving the status quo and, therewith, their own power.

            “A party organization is not like a building which, once erected, requires no further human effort. Keeping a party organization intact requires constant and unremitting effort in the face of perpetual and unremitting peril…. From the point of view of a party organization, every elected official is a potential menace.” [Karp, 22-23]

            This is especially true with the likes of Donald Trump, i.e., an elected official whose debt to a party organization is miniscule. Trump won the election, but that is all he won so far. And given our party organizations, that does not amount to very much.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Electoral College v. Direct Popular Election

Electoral College v. Direct Popular Election
P. Schultz

            The 2016 election provides a good example for debating the differences between a direct popular election for president and using the Electoral College. Trump won the vote in the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by, as present count, about 600,000 votes. That is a lot of votes, surpassing the 500,000 vote majority Al Gore got in 2000 when he ran against George Bush. And why shouldn’t the popular vote decide presidential elections? What could go wrong?

            The 2016 popular vote count illustrates one feature of a direct popular election that doesn’t get too much attention, viz., the fact that such a scheme rewards candidates for president for amassing votes wherever they can. So, for example, Clinton got 2.7 million more popular votes in California than did Trump, and she got 1.5 million more popular votes in New York than Trump got. Under the Electoral College scheme, the size of Clinton’s win in these states is meaningless, whereas with a direct popular election makes such majorities quite meaningful. And given that frequently our presidential elections have been decided by much fewer than 4.2 million votes, it is possible that the election in these two states, given such large majorities, would decide the election nationwide. In the 34 elections since 1824, in 17 of these elections did the winner prevail by more than 4.2 million votes.

            But the question is not only what has happened but what might happen when the electoral scheme is changed to a direct popular election. For example, where would Clinton have better spent her time and effort under a direct popular vote scheme, California or North Carolina? It would have to be the former because winning a close election in North Carolina would not be as important as amassing as many popular votes in California or New York. Votes in closely contested states cancel each other out as it were, while votes in one party states are worth more insofar as they contribute more heavily to a candidate’s popular vote total vis-à-vis that candidate’s opponent.

            Would this be a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t really know but I do know it would be different. Maybe it would be worth a try but what is certain is that mouthing phrases like “Let’s democratize our presidential elections” won’t answer these questions, which it seems it would be prudent to answer before making the change.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

McGovern, Carter, Trump and the Republic

McGovern, Carter, Trump, and the Republic
P. Schultz

            George McGovern in 1972 won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president despite the opposition of the party’s establishment types. He could do this thanks to reforms the Democrats made after the riots in Chicago during their national convention that nominated Hubert Humphrey for president even though Humphrey had avoided the Democratic primaries. Then, thanks to the same reforms and post-Watergate, Jimmy Carter won the party’ nomination for president in 1976, again against the wishes of the party’s establishment. And, of course, this year Donald Trump won the Republican Party’s nomination for president against the wishes of the party’s establishment, while Hillary Clinton won her party’s nomination largely because of that party’s “super delegates,” who were not elected and were intended to serve the wishes of the party’s establishment, as they faithfully did.

            One of the most interesting and important facets of Carter’s nomination and election in 1976 is that it was not hailed by our intelligentsia as “democratic,” “popular,” or “republican.” Newsweek wrote that “Americans [are] sunk in malaise,” while the NY Times predicted the gloomiest of times as the nation lacked a “cause…to quicken [the people’s] energies and national pride…as though the national compass had been lost.”

            As one author put it: “The democratic awakening [was] a spiritual disease.” Barbara Tuchman, eminent historian, wrote that “the idea of democracy survives in disenchantment…battered and whipped.” Daniel Bell, eminent social scientist, feared that popular participation in politics was a threat to “constitutional democracy.” Henry Kissinger was said to be depressed, while President Ford was deeply distressed because there was, he said, a “crisis of authority.” As our author put it: “When millions of Americans have a voice in the choice of a candidate, the result is elitist. When a handful of party potentates do the choosing…democracy in America thrives.”

            Trust me: The same phenomenon will follow, has followed Trump’s victory in our latest presidential election. And it will follow because “the shaken political establishment has no wish to praise the awakened democracy; it expects to bury it at the first opportunity.” According to our intelligentsia, once the political establishment is weakened, it is fair to say that the people have become a mob and must be denied. And because Trump lost the popular vote, this campaign will pretend to be democratically driven, as did the opposition to Carter and McGovern, even though its goal is to re-legitimize what is clearly a de-legitimized elite. And this is evidenced by the fact that no one who supports democratizing the electoral college has a word to say against how Hillary Clinton won the nomination. This is important because, as with the old adage, “I care not who makes the laws so long as I can interpret them,” so too it may be said that “I care not how the people elect a president so long as I can control who gets nominated to run.”

            So, if the past is any indication, prepare for a reaction against democratic or popular government or political processes, just as happened in the 70’s and led to the election of – and bipartisan embrace of – Ronald Reagan, which embrace became apparent when, unlike the response to Nixon’s lawlessness, Reagan’s lawlessness was covered up, covered over so the “Gipper” would not be impeached and removed from office and his “movie” would end happily as he faded, both mentally and physically, from the scene.  Some will find such a prospect reassuring, but the Trump phenomenon is the promise that has always been endemic to the “Reagan Reaction,” as both Trump and Reagan were committed to “making America great again.” McGovern and Carter offered us and even won some degree of popular approval for a different kind of politics, but our establishment, both Republicans and Democrats, rejected and sabotaged it, and did so with great success.

            So the question might be: Where do we go from here? The establishment will seek to undermine Trump but has nothing substantive to offer in its place except more of the same. It merely wants its power back. “Order” and “civility” will be restored while our republic will, once again, become an oligarchy where the few will prosper while the many will not. It is a story as old as the Constitution itself.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Plato's Cave

Plato’s Cave
P. Schultz

            Some rather interesting passages from the novel, In and Out, by Barry Eisler, who is a former CIA officer.

            “Come on, Hurt, Republicans and Democrats . . . . they hate each other, right? There’s competition.”

            “Hurt laughed. ‘That’s not competition. It’s supposed to look that way, so people think their interests are being looked after, that they have a choice, that they can make a difference, that they’re in charge. But they don’t.’”

            “That doesn’t make sense.”

            “I’m afraid it does. You see, there’s more money to be made in cooperation than in competition. It’s the same dynamic that leads to cartels. You can argue that cartels should be competing. But they don’t see it that way. Their profit motive enables them to rise above the urge to compete. In the service of the greater good, naturally. People who think there is actual friction, and real competition, between Democrats and Republicans or between the press and politicians, or between the corporations and their supposed overseers, they’re like primitives looking at shadows on the wall and believing the shadows are the substance.”

            Of course, the reference here to shadows on the wall is to Plato’s Republic and his allegory of the cave. In that allegory, Socrates represents life for human beings as like life in a cave, where there is a fire behind the many humans and other humans who project images or shadows onto a wall that the many humans take to be real. The philosopher is the one who climbs out the cave, sees the sun lit world, and realizes that what most humans believe to be real are merely shadows on a wall.

            It is necessary to make one emendation to what Hurt says, namely, that Plato knew that this phenomenon of mistaking shadows for reality was not a “primitive” phenomenon. In fact, one could speculate that those we label “primitives” would be less likely to mistake shadows for reality than those who we label “civilized” for the simple reason that such behavior would be far more dangerous in primitive than in civilized conditions. Those who chase or react to shadows would be more likely to overlook real and immediate dangers, “clear and present dangers” as some like to say.

            In fact, “civilization” could be one of those shadows on the wall, something that is more evident to the likes of a Huck Finn than the likes of a Tom Sawyer. Tom pursues and achieves what we call “success,” that is, wealth, fame, and the best looking girl in town, while Huck ultimately has “to light out for the territories” in order to be content. Huck won’t be “sivilized,” as he puts it, because that means wearing shoes, not smoking, attending church, and abiding by the likes of Aunt Polly.  It’s just not for him. And we can ask: Who is pursuing a shadow, Huck or Tom?

            Of course, the more relevant aspect to these passages concerns our political order. Is our alleged two party system a shadow on the wall or is it real? And if it is merely a shadow on the wall, what is the reality that that shadow covers over? It could be something like the cartels that Hurt talks about or it could be the collusion that some have noticed in the behavior of our “two” parties. And it doesn’t seem unimportant to figure this out.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Trump and Infantile Politics, USA

Trump and Infantile Politics, USA
P. Schultz

            The fear of a Donald Trump presidency illustrates as well as anything can the infantile character of American politics these days. It is to act like infants to think that our political order is incapable of “handling” Trump when it handled LBJ, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and even Ronald Reagan, not to mention Woodrow Wilson.

            It is also infantile to appeal to Hillary Clinton as an alternative to Trump: “Oh mother, oh mother, please protect us from that big, bad bully, Donald Trump.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ghettoside: How to Preserve the Status Quo

Ghettoside: How to Preserve the Status Quo
P. Schultz

This is an email exchange with a former colleague and friend that seemed interesting to me. 

Paul wrote: >
> Hey, what are you up to? Campaigning for Trump down in that swing state; maybe you are throwing your weight behind Clinton. It strikes me that there are two Presidential candidates that you would love.
 My freshman honors seminar is in revolt right now because I give open-book vocab quizzes on the assigned reading. If you look up a word, write down the definition in the margin or on paper, then you can use it for the quiz. The find this very nerve wracking. No joke.
> All the best, Paul

I wrote:
On Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 1:37 AM, Peter Schultz wrote:
To my favorite former Assumption College philosophy professor:

I have already voted via absentee ballot cause I know the Republicans in N.C. will do all they can to make voting in person a miserable time.  But it doesn’t matter one whit as Trump is merely around to re-legitimize the establishment, which is about as inane and delusional as it is possible to be. It’s really funny how “Trump hysteria” has even made some people say, “Bush II looks good now.” And Obama? What a lie he has turned out to be.

We are presently in Montana and will be doing Yellowstone and Glacier National park for the next week. Retire, or as I like to say, “QUIT!”, as soon as you can. "Work if for suckers," as a good friend likes to put it. Spent two weeks in July with friends in Ireland playing links golf. Wonderful. Since then, I have had one round in the 80’s and the rest in the 70’s. A few months ago, I shot my age, a 69, one under par at Tanglewood. There is nothing like year round golf. And reading whatever I want. I only wish I had discovered some of this stuff while at Assumption as I could have really made Mahoney - and probably Gallager - nuts!

Yeah, our young, like the rest of us, are quite unable to cope with anything that jolts their/our comfortable lives. It struck me some time ago how our young, whom we so much like to disparage, are really little more than reflections of ourselves.

I use to get revolts in class whenever I proposed mandatory national service, military or civilian, their choice, after high school for a year or two. I loved it. And in this too they, the young, are just like the rest of us. Stand for our national anathema? Required. Serve your country? Optional. And I would love to witness the response of many parents of the young now if they were confronted with a draft. “What? You want my child to defend the republic against those jihadis? Are you insane?” You can’t make this stuff up.

But I am not worried because after our second Clingon presidency, all will be well with the world! Believe it! The bitch will nail those oh so evil Muslims and corral the greed on Wall Street. But I shouldn’t be so hard on those supporting Clingon II: After all, it makes perfect sense for well off white people to vote for her. It’s only the people in Kansas who are confused, I guess.

Let the games begin.


Paul wrote:

I had a retirement assessment done recently--maybe when I am 65, but likely 70.

Read Ghettoland by Jill Leovy. It really nails the dynamics of race and police without the blame game. Best read I've had in years. --Paul

p.s. I will be teaching an Ethics course--if everything goes right--at MCI Framingham, a medium-security women's prison, next semester. 

I wrote:

For “Ghettoside”: NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews

 Well, if all of these mainstream media organs loved it, it has to be filled with conventional wisdom to the brim. I will be sure to read it when I can. I am sure it will be as enlightening as I find the NY Times and Washington Post and Boston Globe these days. 😈

Paul wrote:

Don't let the populraity fool you. It seems the height of conventionality to reject something because certain people or groups accept or reject it. You can read the Introduction to REBEL NATION (don't read the entire book; it is overwritten--an article turned into a book) in order to get the American fascination with "being different from the mainstream" or "thinking outside the box" or being "unconventional" Indeed being unconventional is the most conventional of American conceits.

Leovy's book is filled with questions not answers. I am sure the Globe can isolate what they want, but the book is superb. --P

I wrote:

Thank you so much for educating me as to the meaning being unconventional, but I have thought it had something to do with what one was actually thinking, not whether one was “thinking outside the box,” to use a phrase that is meant to marginalize those who are being unconventional. I mean to describe Nietzsche as thinking “outside the box' seems an excellent way of dismissing Nietzsche rather than taking him seriously. “How quaint! Friedrich was ’thinking outside the box.’ Now that I understand that I don’t have to worry about what he thought.” Again, to say that Malcolm X was “thinking outside the box” is a way of marginalizing his thought. Which leads me to ask: If unconventional thinking is so “American,” how come so many who were or are unconventional are marginalized as they are, e.g., by being described as “thinking outside the box?” 

Such a description is merely a way of dismissing someone, not engaging with them, which in my experience in academe is how an awful lot of academics respond to those who don’t accept their arguments. 

But to remind you of what I actually said, not what you say I said: I said I would read “Ghettoside” when I can but was not expecting it to be anymore enlightening than the media that has endorsed it, ala’ the NY Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, all of which are “big house newspapers” that merely serve to underwrite the status quo. Nor do I expect much from a book that may be accurately described as “not playing the blame game,” as you put it. How any one can confront "the dynamics of race and police” without blame seems incomprehensible to me. Just that phrase, “the dynamics of race and police” has all the makings of an obfuscation that serves to perpetuate the status quo, that is, the racism that pervades our society and our establishment, from left to right. 

“When violent people are permitted to operate with impunity, they get their way,” Leovy tells us. “That’s what the criminal justice system is for.” Who is she writing about here? The police or blacks? My bet, she is writing about blacks. Nice example of “dog whistle” racism embedded in the phrase, “violent people.” What if those “violent people” were described as those “oppressed people?” Hmmm, that’s a different phenomenon altogether, isn’t it? 

Again, from the Washington Post review: "It [the book] should show why making policing more effective — while, yes, doing far less collateral damage — is an absolute necessity for helping those neighborhoods find safety and justice. When, to take one extreme, the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison, Wis., calls for the police to withdraw from the community and says that the method of interaction they want with the police is “no interaction,” we should see both why that is understandable and why it is deeply, deeply wrong.” 

I love how the reviewer throws in, almost as an afterthought “while, yes, doing far less collateral damage,” a phrase that is used to justify the killing of innocents both here and broad. Perhaps the damage isn’t “collateral,” but endemic to our racist society. 

And, ah yes: without the police, black neighborhoods are terrible places - hence, almost any collateral damage is or will be acceptable. Of course, with the police, they are or resemble occupied, apartheid spaces. I’m with the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition in Madison on this one. As Hedges pointed out, the police killings will not stop even when the “professionalization” of the police has taken place because that violence is endemic to our racist society and embraced by our establishment, both “left” and “right,” ala’ the mass incarceration facilitated by Bill Clinton, et. al.

But, boy, it sure must feel good to have good things to say about a book lays bare, allegedly, life in “the ghetto” - another “dog whistle” phrase - and yet ends endorsing more of the same. And this is oh so comfortable: Life in “the ghetto” isn’t our -  that is, middle, upper middle, upper class people - problem after all. The police will deal with it and we can go on with our comfortable lives. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hillary's "Deplorables"

Hillary’s “Deplorables”
P. Schultz

            Hillary has claimed she “misspoke” when she asserted that half of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables,” They are “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” But she only misspoke if we ignore how her characterization of some of Trump’s supporters is quite consistent with  - and thereby reminds us of – the origins of what is called “Progressivism.”

            The Progressive movement began as an effort to “cleanse” or “purify” American society, an effort that required regulating, managing, and even sterilizing those people(s) who were threatening the “healthy” people(s), viz., white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The threat was two-fold: First, the healthy people were in danger of committing was called “race suicide,” and they should, as Teddy Roosevelt asserted, “Work, fight, breed!” Second, the unhealthy people had to be controlled as they threatened to overwhelm the healthy people by winning the “battle of the cradle.” And to win that battle, many Progressives were led to support eugenics, including Margaret Sanger, the feminist, who proposed sterilizing entire “disugenic” populations in order to prevent the birth of “hordes of defectives,” as Teddy Roosevelt’s advisor on “inferior races” put it. Such thinking culminated in the Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell, where Justice Holmes, in upholding Virginia’s compulsory sterilization law, claimed “It is better for the world if. . . .society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind….Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

            The “defectives” included Jews, Catholics, blacks, the Chinese, etc., etc., etc. As Roosevelt’s advisor on “inferior races” put it: “You can’t make boy scouts out of the Jews.” And a Baptist missionary manual claimed that the lower classes and races were characterized by “Low living, low intelligence, low morality, low capacity, low everything.” And as one well-known zoologist put it: “the mixture of two races reverts to the lower type [so] the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro, a white man and a Hindi is a Hindi, and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.” [All quotes are from Hellfire Nation, by James A. Morone.]

            There is a dark side to progressivism, a racist, xenophobic, and sexist side, and Hillary’s use of the word “deplorables,” just like her use of the words “super predator” to describe “inner city male youths,” should remind us of this fact. Our national policy of mass incarceration, which received quite a boost from Bill Clinton, is not an aberration. Rather, it is a policy quite consistent with a “progressive frame of mind,” one that does not and cannot inoculate its bearers from racist, xenophobic, or sexist policies because it is, ultimately, “the other” who threatens us, creating a politics of fear that in turn facilitates hatred, a hatred that breeds oppression and justifies inhuman policies like torture, the killing of innocents labeled “collateral damage,” and endless wars. Remember Roosevelt’s admonition: “Work, fight, breed!”

            The bottom line? It is not enough for Hillary to say she “misspoke.” She needs to repudiate her assertion and explain why. But this she will not and cannot do because it would mean repudiating her progressive politics, and she has no idea why she or anyone needs to do that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trump and Hillary: Rival Claims of Superiority

Trump and Hillary: Rival Claims of Superiority
P.  Schultz

            Trump and Hillary are sounding more and more alike, with the latter of late sounding a lot like Trump in claiming that half of Trump’s supporters are “deplorables,” implying of course that Trump himself is “deplorable.” And, of course, Trump has long talked about Hillary’s supporters and others in similar ways.  But why should this concern us? After all, isn’t this just “business or politics as usual?”

            It is useful to distinguish between claims of “merit” and claims of “superiority.” Politicians may claim that they “merit” an office, here, the presidency; or they can claim that they are “superior” to their opponents. And this is not a difference without a distinction. And, currently, it is the latter claim of being superior that is being made by both Trump and Clinton. Each is claiming his or her superiority to the other and not claiming that she or he merits being president. So when Clinton claims that Trump is “unfit” to be president or that his supporters are “deplorable,” her implicit claim is that “I, Hillary, am superior to Trump and my supporters are superior to his supporters.” And Trump makes the same, implicit claims.

            Now, such claims make the candidates’ rhetoric and campaign more intense, more personal than these would be were the candidates to claim that they merited the presidency. “Proving” or demonstrating one’s superiority to another requires that this other be shown to be inferior; that is, shown to be an inferior human being, a human being who is not entitled to the equality that comes from a recognition of commonality, a recognition of sameness. That “half” of Trump’s supporters who are “deplorable” should not be entitled to participate in our politics, just as the “47%” of Obama’s supporters that Mitt Romney called out in 2012 should not have been entitled to such participation. Conversely, though, debating one’s merits does not require the superior/inferior paradigm. My merits may be judged independently of your merits, whereas my claimed superiority requires your inferiority. “I am fit but you are unfit!”

            This distinction is crucial in a republic founded on the claim that all are created equal. Basing one’s claim to rule or govern on merit is consistent with such republicanism, while basing one’s claim to rule or govern on superiority is not. For if officials think that they govern because they are superior to those being governed, then they can claim to govern independently of “the consent of the governed.” Their superiority justifies severing the link between them and that consent, which is of course the basis of all legitimate government power. And, further, without consent, there is no politics. There is only administration or bureaucracy and the disempowerment of “we the people.”

            Insofar as Trump and Clinton are claiming the right to govern us because they are superior, just so far they are claiming the right to govern without regard to “the consent of the governed.” They might take this consent into account but they do so only as a matter of accommodation, not as the essence of republican or popular government. Conversely, were they to base their claim to govern on their merits, they could do so only with our consent because claims to govern based on merit do not subvert the kind of commonality between the governing and the governed that lies at the core of republican or popular government. Claims to govern based on superiority do subvert both the commonality and the equality needed by and aspired to in republican societies. And insofar as Trump and Clinton makes such claims based on their superiority, just so far each of them has embraced an elitism that is unalloyed by a recognition of the human sameness and it accompaniment, the affection or caring that should characterize republican citizens and their governors.

            In the “corporate world,” a world populated by managers who seek to manipulate others so as to increase the corporation’s and their own power, such caring, such affection is or seems simply “idealistic.” But in the political world, at least in a republican political world, such affection is not only indispensable but is or should be the very essence of citizenship.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Funny How Falling Feels Like Flying

Funny How Falling Feels Like Flying
P. Schultz

            “The past isn’t dead. In fact, the past isn’t even the past.” Thanks to William Faulkner. The future is a mystery to us because it is unknowable. But so too is the present mysterious because we cannot know the future or how the present will play out.

            So, we have to ask: What is our present? What might it augur for the future? Many are saying that this presidential election is crucial, that it will determine the nation’s fate for some time to come. This is, of course, conjecture and a conjecture based on the assumption that we are faced with a choice between two competing, even incompatible options, with one those options representing “progress” and the other representing “reaction.”

            Leaving aside the personal qualities – or lack thereof – of the two major parties’ candidates, this assessment assumes that our nation is “on the rise,” that it is getting stronger, more secure, and freer; not that it is actually getting weaker, less secure, and less free. If the latter is a more accurate picture of our nation’s status and prospects, as most Americans seem to think, than the idea that we are confronting a choice between “progress” and “reaction” obscures the most important or what should be the most important issue: How do we restore the nation’s health? To pose the choice as, “How do we continue our progress?” when we are not and have not been progressing is to court, even to guarantee, further failures. Or if we mistake superficialities – such as electing the first black president or the first female president – for real progress, we also facilitate or guarantee further failures.

            One of my favorite songs, from the soundtrack of the movie Crazy Heart, contains the line, “Funny how falling feels like flying – for a little while.” While the argument that this presidential election is crucial because our allegedly healthy political order faces a reactionary threat is a comfortable argument to make, it is more likely that we are in danger of thinking that we are flying when, in fact, we are falling. And if this is the case, then once again the slogan, “Yes We Can!” will morph into the slogan “No We Can’t!” Looking back to 2008 confirms that “falling feels like flying.” It is also confirms that it feels that way only “for a little while.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Stepping Out

Stepping Out
P. Schultz

            It is frustrating dealing with so many people, usually the “respectable,” who feel or think that it is not “respectable” or “prudent” to vote for those they consider marginal candidates, those like the nominees of the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, those who have no chance to win. So, it is concluded, better to vote for one of the candidates put forward by our two “major” parties, even though that means voting for someone who is “the lesser of two evils.”

            As “respectable” and “prudent” as this strategy appears to be, it overlooks a singular fact of political or communal life, viz., that change, significant change, only comes after people, especially people in groups or in large numbers, step out. Stepping out, that is, rejecting in one way or another the established order, even in what seems like and what are presently losing causes, is the key to fomenting significant political, social, or economic change. And without this stepping out, the status quo, no matter how unsatisfactory it might be, not only continues but is fortified. That lesser evil becomes a greater evil.

            Think about it. The conservatives in the Republican party stepped out in the 60’s, by nominating Barry Goldwater who was then defeated in a landslide by LBJ. Yet, in 1980, Ronald Reagan, who first came to the nation’s attention by means of his speech supporting Goldwater at the 1964 Republican convention, was elected president in 1980. Al Smith in 1928, a “wet” Catholic and a New Yorker to boot, after being nominated by the Democrats, went down to a landslide defeat to Herbert Hoover, only to help prepare the way for the election of FDR in 1932.

            Stepping out, African Americans in the 60’s lit a blaze that became the civil rights revolution of the 60’s, which included the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of the same year. Stepping out, women banned their bras, took the pill, and generally reclaimed their bodies, their selves at about the same time. Stepping out or “coming out,” gays and lesbians chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’d like to hello!” And now gay and lesbian marriage is the law of the land and no longer can gays and lesbians be punished criminally for who they are or what they do.

            This is why the supporters of Bernie Sanders were right to feel betrayed or “burned” when Sanders, unlike them, refused to step out against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment. No stepping out, no change; just more of the same kind of politics we have had to live with since at least the presidential election of 1992, a politics that has enriched the wealthiest Americans and impoverished the middle and lower classes, while keeping us involved in what have been endless wars. No stepping out, no change. It’s just a fact of political or communal life.

            Every vote not for Clinton or Trump represents a stepping out and, as such, each such vote undermines the status quo. So, show some smarts. Step out in November. As was once said, you have nothing to lose but your chains.