Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bullshit Jargon

Bullshit Jargon
P. Schultz

            Recently, I was chided by one of my Facebook “friends” for making arguments that were not, as he put it, “well-balanced and solution-focused,” which led to my arguments lacking “credibility.” OK. Fair enough. But what exactly does this jargon, “well-balanced,” “solution-focused,” or “credibility” mean? It sounds to me like some phrases that would be heard at one of the thousands upon thousands of meetings of administrators that take place in the country all the time. So, let me offer my objections to such “bullshit jargon,” as I like to call it.

            Let’s start with “well-balanced,” merely taking note in passing of what I take to be the redundancy of the phrase itself. “Balanced” would work as well as “well-balanced,” or so it seems to me. But what about the idea that arguments should be “well-balanced,” that is, taking account of all aspects of a particular phenomenon, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak, and doing so by speaking in what is called a “civil manner?”

            As far as this criterion goes, in rebuttal I would point people to Frederick Douglass’ address on the 4th of July, 1841, when he said:

This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!”

Is this “well-balanced?” I think not as it accuses these people of “inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony,” while promising Americans that “the Almighty” will bury them and their “nation in irrecoverable ruin!” And Douglass not only knows his argument is not “well-balanced;” he argued that it shouldn’t be:

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would, to day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Note well: For Douglass this was the time for “a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke.” No “well-balanced” bullshit for Douglass. He intended to summon all of his ability to remind Americans of their sins, of their injustices, of their inhumanity to their slaves. And isn’t Douglass’ speech a more accurate portrayal of the situation than any “well-balanced” portrayal would or could be? Of course it was…..and is.

            Passing on to the phrase “solution-focused,” a phrase that made me squirm the first time I read it. “Hey, Schultz, you must be ‘solution-focused’ or you won’t be credible.” Well, what this bullshit jargon means to me is: “Hey, Schultz, play the game according our rules. Work for change within those rules, even gradually or incrementally.”

            As you should be able to see, this means that any criticism of “the rules,” of the game as it is currently played, is illegitimate. To be “solution-focused” is to allow oneself to co-opted by the powers that be; revolutions are out, but incremental change is in. For example, would those who were in favor of abolishing slavery be considered “solution-focused?” Were those in the 60s who advocated pulling out of Vietnam “solution-focused?” No, because each of these groups was considered “radical” and correctly so because they were advocating not a “solution” to a “problem,” but rather were advocating revolution or radical change.  And, of course, “well-balanced and solution-focused” people want nothing to do with radical change.

            And, finally, what about being “credible?” What is a “credible” argument? I mean when that man, Jesus from Nazareth, claimed to be the “son of God” was he being “credible?” Was Abraham Lincoln being “credible” when he said at Gettysburg:

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Being “credible” is for those with something to hide, like adulterers or lying politicians. “Credible” arguments are those that can be “sold,” which is the reason that most politicians seek “credibility.” They are salesmen and saleswomen, selling us policies like advertisers sell us soap or some religious sell us religion.

            Bullshit jargon is powerful stuff, making its users feel like they know something, which knowledge entitles them to govern the rest of us. It is also powerful stuff in that it constructs our public discourse in a way that makes it almost impossible to create radical change. Once you buy into it, you have bought into so much more. In fact, you have bought into your own imprisonment.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"I Prefer a Dangerous Freedom to Peaceful Slavery"

“I Prefer a Dangerous Freedom to Peaceful Slavery”
P. Schultz

I saw this quote on the back window of a pick up truck: "I prefer a dangerous freedom to a peaceful slavery." And I thought: "That's interesting." Meaning: I am open to the argument that increasingly in the US, we offered a kind of "slavery," say, to consumerism, low paying, insecure, servile jobs, and an apartheid society. But I would ask this person: "Do you actually think our condition, whether you call it 'slavery' or 'prosperity,' is 'peaceful' when it is built on and inconceivable without violence of all kinds: sexual, a militaristic imperialism characterized by 'endless war,' a vast 'prison' system or 'gulag' similar to what existed the USSR, and an incomplete health care system that allows about 40,000 people to die each year for want of insurance?" For me, unless you notice, at least every so often, just how violence undergirds our way of living, even our most valued accomplishments, like great wealth and power, then you are living in a dream world and need some disillusionment, some philosophy ala' Socrates et. al.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Oh, Thank The Gods: It's Only Trump!"

“Oh, Thank The Gods: It’s Only Trump!”
P. Schultz

            In the midst of their apparent hysteria over the presidency of Donald Trump, you can almost hear the American people releasing a sigh of relief, expressing something like the following”

            “Oh, thank the gods. It’s not our undemocratic political system, it’s not our phony ‘two party’ system, it’s not our increasingly oligarchic class system, or our deeply embedded racism, sexism, or homophobia, or our massively populated prisons and jails, or our bloated ‘defense budgets,’ or our militaristic and imperialistic foreign policies that explain our social, political, and economic anxieties and fears. No! It is only Donald Trump! Thank the gods for that!”

            So, it follows: Get rid of Trump and all will be well again. Sure. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Hmmmm…….I wonder……

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Anti-Trump Resistance and the Constitution

Anti-Trump Resistance and the Constitution
P. Schultz

Here is a piece from Counterpunch which is, I think, quite good. I have noted my supplement below.


Excellent piece with one exception. The author fails to note how our national institutions are constructed to help ensure that what he calls “mass movements” fail. It is no accident that the successes he cites are all local phenomena. Leaving aside institutions like the Senate, which is hardly democratic in any way, shape, or form, it is relatively easy for the national governmental institutions, like the FBI under Hoover vis-a-vis the Black Panthers [as noted in the article], to demonize insurgent groups. It is much easier for these groups to be demonized at the national level than at the state or local level, e.g., the demonization of the wackos in Waco, under the leadership of David Koresh, a group that was being managed quite well and peacefully by the Texas authorities. Once the Feds got involved, the Branch Davidians were demonized by the Clinton administration, leading to their fiery annihilation, including the deaths of some 20 children.

So, yes, the anti-Trump “resistance” will peter out, with the help of mainstream politicians like Hillary Clinton, who is claiming to be a “resister.” If this weren’t serious, I couldn’t think of anything much funnier than Hillary claiming to be part of “the resistance.” This is the equivalent of Bill Clinton claiming to be a faithful husband.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Redistributing Our Nation's Wealth

Redistributing Our Nation’s Wealth
P. Schultz

After posting an article on how the nation’s wealth was being redistributed in favor of the wealthy, a friend asked how I would redistribute the nation’s wealth to favor the less wealthy. This is my response.

“I misread your comment. Sorry about that. First, I would get rid of those Democrats and Republicans who control those parties. I would also institute term limits, limiting Representatives to two terms, Senators to one term of six years [and having the entire Senate up for election every 6 years] and Presidents to one term of 6 years. I would also donate the White House to the homeless or turn it into a museum and force presidents to buy houses in the D.C. area, while providing them with an office building to do their work in. They would also have to stop for red lights once again and, preferably, drive themselves. Air Force would, of course, have to be mothballed. I would compromise by allowing presidents to have their own jet but nothing as elaborate as Air Force One. Oh yeah, and no presidential, legislative, or bureaucratic pensions of any kind. I would also limit Supreme Court Justices to terms of, say, 8 years, at most.

“These are steps that would, I think, undermine the oligarchic character of our governmental institutions, thereby entrusting more power to those who understand what it means to live "in the real world," where people have to balance budgets, fly coach, stop for red lights, get stuck in traffic, and be told when they are being assholes! Those who seek wealth or perks or social status would be less likely to do so by seeking public office. Second, I would reform our tax laws to make them, once again, less regressive; for example, like the highly regressive social security tax. The home mortgage credit should also be killed. Third, I would stop our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and probably in Iran [covertly], as well as in Africa, while also ending our "war on terror." I would also cut the "defense budget" by 50%, at least. And, finally, I would rechristen the president our "caretaker in chief," rather than our "commander in chief."

“If these recommendations seem absurd, that would be logical because, as I see it, our most important issues are systemic; that is, it is not just this or that particular policy that facilitates the wealthy prevailing but, rather, it is the very structure of government that does that. As Ben Franklin said at the constitutional convention in 1787, when you create offices that appeal to the greedy and the ambitious, you are in for trouble. And, indeed, that is what we today, offices that people seek to gain wealth and status.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hillary's "Loss" Was Hillary's "Gain?"

Hillary’s “Loss” Was Hillary’s “Gain?”
P. Schultz

There is a link to an interesting article, linked below, from The Hill, on why Hillary lost. It is quite good but I have some thoughts about it.

First off, Hillary only lost in the Electoral College. She overwhelmingly won the popular vote. But I will come back to that below.

Then, after a few paragraphs summarizing Hillary’s speech, The Hill gets down to it. "The larger and most important reason Clinton lost was that she was thoroughly out of touch with the temper of our times, the mood of the nation and the desire for change. She ran almost like an incumbent; a candidate of the status quo when Americans hungered for change."

This is quite good, I think, but is open to an important change: Hillary did not run “almost like an incumbent," but exactly like an incumbent. And here's my question: Is Hillary so stupid that she didn't realize she was running as an incumbent? While I don't like her much, I do know she isn't stupid. So, she must not have been all that concerned she might lose, and neither were the Democrats, because both are vested in the status quo. And what better way to make the status quo look good than to put Trump in office? Isn't that a great way to "cure" the people of their "desire for change?" Makes sense to me and makes sense of the apparently never-ending campaign to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency.

And this helps to “make sense” of the fact that Trump did not win the popular vote, but only won by virtue of the electoral college. This too is a way to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency. He is president only by virtue of the undemocratic character of the electoral college, making the legitimacy of his tenure quite superficial.

And now that Trump seems insistent on “being Trump,” both Hillary and the Democrats, and anyone else vested in the status quo, are looking quite good, thereby making it seem that the American people’s “mood . . . and [their] desire for change” was inappropriate. Hillary’s real message in her speech was something like this: “OK, folks, now you see that the status quo, which I represented, wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it was. Now, folks, it is time to ‘man-up’ and get back to the business of governing.”

Sounds like a “conspiracy theory,” doesn’t it? Well, perhaps it is but then as Machiavelli knew, modern government – which he invented – itself is nothing but a conspiracy or series of conspiracies. And, besides, the only thing you have to put aside to see that the above speculation might be accurate is the myth that each of the two parties is always trying to win each and every election. And that this is a myth is almost too easy to demolish by reading some history. I will leave that up to you.