I Told You So: Towards a Different Future Post the 2012 Election

I told you so.

It’s not a hospitable way to begin this piece and draw your attention, but I just had to say it . I told you so.

In “Nothing Will Change: the 2012 Presidential Election,” written June 23, 2011, I said that, “the state and the corporation are the main sponsors and coordinators of an ‘unprecedented combination of powers distinguished by their totalitarian tendencies, powers that not only challenge established boundaries — political, moral, intellectual, and economic — but whose nature it is to challenge those boundaries continually, even to challenge the limits of the earth itself,’ says Sheldon S. Wolin in Democracy Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Here we are again, debating tax reform, taxation of the rich and entitlements. Mitch McConnell is still obstructing by any means necessary. Paul Ryan is still showing his colors, suggesting that they lost the election because “too many Blacks voted.” Too many? And Mitt Romney, acutely blind to what happened, before, during and now after the election, insists, speaking to the LA Times, that Obama won the election because he gave Big Gifts to Latinos and Blacks.

The rest of us, meanwhile, exhausted, are looking optimistically for a compromise. Sound familiar? Have we been here before?

In Obama we’ve chosen a kind of struggle that will work only be degrees, slowly, gradually — yet not alter the state of affairs at all. Romney wanted to drastically change everything and place a perverse oligarchy at the helm. With Obama, we’ll fix a tire here, a spark plug there, a belt, a carburetor — but the fact that the system is fundamentally flawed is not going to be addressed. Remember: I told you so. And I’m telling you now.

On January 28, 2012, looking at this system keen on manufacturing illusion as its primary feature, I wrote “Vero Beach, Florida and the Manufacturing of Consciousness: How the GOP Will Give Obama a Victory in 2012“, and said :

Vero Beach is the American Paradox: the extraordinary cost of creating and maintaining such lavishness and the economic drain of a lifestyle that is characterized by total mechanization, as the pudgy elderly try to stave off the inevitable by walking and biking, their lives well kept by Latinos and some, very few, African Americans usually found behind counters at Publix markets, gas stations and sanitation trucks. The divide is the evolution of manifest destiny that has assumed a contemporary look and feel.

We can hear Karl Rove’s grandiosity; we can also see the denial of the changing face of the American electorate: younger, bolder, Latino, women, the LGBT community, and African Americans that are now looking for Obama, their president, to address their ills in more concrete ways then he did his first go ’round. Privilege is indeed blinding. The GOP never saw it coming.

But things have changed. And we have to help things change even further.

Robert Wolf, Obama’s top Wall Street ally, says that the rich can tolerate tax hikes. As reported by Andrew Rosenthal, in The New York Times, Bill Kristol, the stalwart conservative of the Weekly Standard, has endorsed raising taxes.

So immediately following the election — and the devastation from Sandy that brought so many together in a dramatic tableau of self-reliance — we have reason to, well, hope for change. But don’t get carried away. As Chris Hedges tells us in Empire of Illusion, our best and the brightest are educated, by our elite instutions, to be mechanics, not change agents — fix this or that, never changing the system; the status quo is accepted. It’s how we roll in America — and why we’re fat, too.

What do we have wrong? What do we have to change?

For me, this can only be done through education, a creative struggle with ideas, difficult ideas, challenging ideas that are, if they’re to be effective, questioning the status quo and offering alternatives. We need to work to transgress. We have to re-examine what we mean by “progress” and, likewise, we have to conflate our sense of it with what we “value”; in the journey, we have to look back and try to also define “virtue” and “virtuous action,” the keys to any foundation that is looking to move to new and better ways of living. These are the road to happiness.

Handmaking America

So let’s turn to our socioeconomic challenges, first, since these are on everyone’s mind. Please run to your local bookstore and, whether you’re on the right or the left or somewhere in-between, pick up a copy of Bill Ivey’s Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy. Read it. Then let’s have an educated discussion about who we want to be.

But if we’re going to do this, as Ivey says, we have to first accept that our values have been corrupted by consumption; this is why the constant affirmation of growth has lead us to a precipice — the so called fiscal cliff. (I can already hear the claims of “socialist”! from folks I know.) Here, listen:

Americans have been converted; we’ve internalized market values. We experience consuming as a liberating activity, strong enough to at times present the illusion of social rebellion. ‘Freedom’ is no longer a condition defined by the absence of debt and envy. Instead, modern-day advertising has transformed freedom into a central tenet of consumerist ideology.

This is called “Freedomism,” says Ivey: “the sentiment that allows buyers to somehow believe that the purchase of a new SUV is a ticket to the great outdoors, when the real effect is a hefty installment loan and the inevitable truth that to service the debt, one must work more hours, inside, at a desk.” Thus, “the transformation of every facet of human activity into marketable product in the end conflates money and meaning.”

We got to this place because we’ve been blind to the idiocy of growth, the notion that if we just expand, buy more, create more stuff, we’ll somehow buy our way out of our socioeconomic woes. In this world the Corporation is viewed as a positive “fixture of America’s democracy,” says Ivey. It happened gradually, but we accept the Corporate Ideological Apparatus and its insistence on the illusion of growth.

Grow where, though? How?

Look around: the earth’s resources are dwindling; we are being lead to believe that because we’ll be drilling our own fossil fuels, becoming less reliant on the Middle East for production, we’ll be better off. But here’s another I told you so: if you think that somehow this is going to change anything — price at the pump, price of heating oil, nurse the environment — you’re dreaming because, in the end, whether we drill, baby, here or there, this fossil resource is dwindling, too. It’s scarce any way we cut it. The costs, I tell you, will be higher. Watch.

The way to turn this around is in yet another source: Bill McKibben, my colleague and

Deep Economy

friend, in his Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future argues that More does not necessarily mean better. There are three fundamental challenges to the notion of growth, says Bill (it’s worth citing all):

One is political: growth, at least as we now create it, is producing more inequality than prosperity, more insecurity than progress. This is both the most common and the least fundamental objection to our present economy … By contrast, the second argument draws on physics and chemistry as much as on economics; it is the basic projection that we do not have the energy needed to keep the magic going, and can we deal with the pollution it creates? The third argument is both less obvious and even more basic: growth is no longer making us happy. These three objections mesh with each other in important ways; taken together, they suggest that we’ll no longer be able to act wisely, either in our individual lives or in public life, simply by asking which choice will produce More.

I dare say that this is, in fact, true, particularly if we go back and look at what I said, above, and examine the relationships between “progress,””value,” and “virtuous action” and Happiness. In this exercise, it’s incumbent upon us, as civilized humans, to examine Happiness for all, not just for the few. How can we work to create environments of Happiness, which could, in turn, be very different for different people?

To answer this question, we have to turn to another source, Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. In Nixon’s words,

Slow Violence

…we can recognize that the structural violence embodied by a neoliberal order of austerity measures, structural adjustment, rampant deregulation, corporate megamergers, and a widening gulf between rich and poor is a form of covert violence in its own right that is often a catalyst for more recognizably overt violence…[an] insistence that the systematic burdens of national debt to the IMF and World Bank borne by many so-called developing nations constitute a major impediment to environmental sustainability…To talk about violence, then, is to engage directly with our contemporary politics of speed.

If we then conflate our “contemporary politics of speed” with the illusion of growth, we have our perfect storm, our current state of affairs that, following Ivey, McKibben, and now Nixon, create vast disparities between us, exciting an air of negative competition that seeks to outdo someone else — the Other — for my selfish benefit only.

But, finally, there is an answer — missed by the GOP during the election, noticed by the Obama campaign, but, yet, it’s still living in a kind of fog, just out there at our fingertips, waiting to be noticed and appreciated for its, yes, mathematical accuracy: DIVERSITY. Not growth, but diversity will give us the future.

We thus turn to Scott E. Page’s The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. (Here is Page speaking on leveraging diversity.) Page tells us that, “Progress depends as much on our collective differences as it does on our individual IQ scores.” This is a challenge for a society that “prizes individual talent and achievement”:

Diversity is a property of a collection of people — a basket with many kinds of fruit. Diversity and ability to complement one another: the better the individual fruits, the better the fruit basket, and the better the other fruit, the better the apple … We should encourage people to think differently. Markets create incentives to be different as well as to be able, but perhaps not to the appropriate level. We have to do more.

Page goes on to prove his thesis mathematically and logically; it’s undeniable — except to the GOP that lead Romney to defeat and continues to deny the very real diversity evident in our election results. Notice, too, that critical interdisciplinary work is an essential  component that will excite market-driven diversity, since we’ll need people who are not necessarily smarter then you and me, but rather, people who actually can address a problem by thinking differently. Mathematically, Page shows us that a group of diverse thinkers in a room can actually solve problems more efficiently, faster and more creatively.

What does this mean?

The challenge for politics, for instance, is that the same people are always in the room: corporate spokespersons parading as senators and congress people; we impose, on the poor, for instance, how they should live, rather then asking them, at the seminar table, what solutions they see; we impose on teachers standardization, across the board, without asking teachers to contribute to their profession; and, likewise, we impose, then, structural imperatives on students without asking students how they learn, how they go to school, what challenges they face in this community or that community.

In other words, the challenge today is far more complex — and subtle; it’s about understanding our diversity, acknowledging that what we may be doing in the name of growth isn’t better — and it hurts many, many people.

In this long piece (sorry), I am compelled to leave you with a shocking, 1991 confidential World Bank memo, written by the esteemed Lawrence Summers, and found in Nixon’s Slow Violence, that actually demonstrates all I’ve said; it’s the ultimate I told you so :

I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country impeccable and we should face up to that … I’ve always thought that countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles … Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the Least Developed Countries?

Don’t be shocked by this, not if you’ve read Empire of Illusion. Summers served as the 71st US Secretary of the Treasury, from 1999-2001, under Bill Clinton; he was Director of the White House US National Economic Council for President Barack Obama; he is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and, he’s the recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal for his work in several fields of economics. Summers also served as the 27th President of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006 (he resigned after a vote of “no-confidence.”) And he received his S.B. from MIT in 1975 and his PhD, from Harvard, in 1982.

I mention all this, even though I link to it, because, if you’re reading this and got this this point, you have to ask yourself: What are we breeding in our institutions? And, how is it that thinking like Summers’ lands a man a job at the right had of the President of the USA, in this case, two Democratic Presidents?

See, I told you so. How do you want to live? How well are we doing in our pursuit of Happiness?

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The New Oligarchy: the Carpetbagger Mitt and the Future on a Plantation Called America

I’m feeling a bit depressed coming into the final weeks of the election — then I saw Barry Blitt’s incredible New Yorker cover in the October 29 & November 5, 2012 issue and I went over the edge. I’m feeling as if a dark, ominous cloud is over my head, a weighty thing. Something heavy is in my soul.

In Blitt’s cartoon we see an overwhelming Romney, eyes shut, complascent, sitting erect. His left arm is being tattooed. All his major issues are being crossed over: Pro-Choice, Tax Cuts, Immigration, Stem Cells, 47%, Romney Care, Outsourcing.

Barry Blitt, The New Yorker, 10/29 & 11/5, 2012

Framing this rather ironic scene are a clipper ship, Caymen or Bust!; a top hat fat with dollar bills; a SEVERLY CONSERVATIVE GOP elephant; a heart: ANN, but of course; hands shaking on the $10,000 BET; CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE; BINDERS OF BABES; the infamous 5 -POINT PLAN to nowhere; and, of course, with his head cut off at the upper right-hand corner, DADDY, SIR! — an anxiety, much as W had for HIS DADDY.

The cover depressed me because it signifies a recipe for a dangerous freefall into old fashioned oligarchy and tyranny manufactured by the Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Ayn Rand myth-making machinery hell-bent on destroying how this country came about through gradual growth and social protective legislation, once understanding that we are all bound together in this democratic — and humane — experiment. This is what we mean by community and moderation. Growth is moderate.

Blitt portrays a slithery Romney — immoral, elitist, self-righteous, and willing to sacrifice anyone, particularly the young, the poor and the old and the infirmed, the white workers who follow him though Romney’s career shows he’s always taken their work away in order to promote himself. Romney has profitted from others’ suffering. This history is crystal clear. Let’s be hard on China while he’s made over 13 million dollars by selling US jobs to the Chinese. To the victor belongs the spoils — and they’re in the Cayman Islands. That’s what we want? A carpetbagger

What does Romney stand for, asks Blitt? How do we perceive him? What’s he done?

The best answer came in another Blitt cartoon, this one in The New Yorker’s October 1, 2012 issue.  An elegant and indifferent Romney, sitting on a great white stallion, is driven, by his stately groomsman, to the edges of Washington, D.C. — the disconnected elites, that 1%, are encroaching without a care in the world. They will continue on their journey — million dollar dressage horses and an aloofness spray painted by a lack of empathy for anyone that’s not like them. This is why Tagg Romney wanted to punch President Obama after the final Presidential debate. These people respect no one.

Barry Blitt, The New Yorker, Oct 1, 2012

Where are we? What kind of a country do we have?

I’ve come to see that we are in an age of transition where old forms of thinking and living are slowly and reluctantly giving way to more humane ways. This movement is happening everywhere around the world. But what is most depressing — and quite obvious — is that in the US, a reluctance to accept this change means hostility and anger and what is quickly emerging is the legacy of Slavery — Romney – Ryan as plantation owners.

The Plantation Economic Model lives on. First, as I said above, there’s Tagg’s incredibly disrespectful desire to punch the president; second, there’s Donald Trump’s calling for Obama’s college record; and, third, there’s the most flagrant comment made by John Sununu on CNN: “When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.” Isn’t that racial profiling? Sununu doesn’t leave it there: “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, “My party if full of racists.” The GOP, with Romney-Ryan-Rand at the helm, is completely racist.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Powell and Wilkerson are soldiers, having taken an oath to fall on their swords, as Powell did for Bush – Cheney when, before the UN, said that we had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, clearly and, even by then, when he made that statement, we knew that this was not true. Powell is loyal. He fell on his sword. These guys tell it like it is.

Many around Obama, particularly those that are close to him, don’t want to go here and deflect the race question. But isn’t that the point, the central issue of the election if we follow Tag’s disrespect, Trump’s clear rascism, wanting to have more evidence of his president’s authenticity, and Sununu: the most powerful office in the world is held by a man of mixed race?

It’s as if Obama had suddenly risen to be the first mixed race owner of an NFL franchise — this one called America. It’s unacceptable. Field hands, even those earning 40 Million Dollars, stay on the field.

Obama, I’d argue, to his detriment, has not done well in addressing Race in America. He’s paying the price now, especially in Florida where the Republican lead legislature has cut early voting days, which benefitted Obama in the last election, from 14 days to 8 days. Similar legislation — and obfuscation — abounds in other states. It’s an all out attempt to make it difficult for African-Americans, Latinos and the disenfranchised to vote.

Where does this come from, if not from ye olde grand days of southern plantation owner supremacy?

Now, to fully get depressed, place on top of the race problem the continued Romney support of Tea Party-backed Republican Richard Murdock who declared that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because it’s a “gift from God”; Joe Walsh, another Tea Party – backed Republican Representative of Illinois, who opposed abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, saying, “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would not survive without abortion, though doctors and researchers have agressively come out against this statement; and, all this in the wake of Representative Todd Aikin, Senate hopeful of Missouri, who said that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” is rare because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down”: what do you have?

We have one racist, anti inalienable rights, hostile to self-reliance and social justice — and social mobility — GOP.

I’m totally depressed because many Americans are choosing to vote for a slick carpetbagger, an opportunist on the grandest scale, forgetting that US History tells us that our progress and work towards Democracy is slow, arduous, full of potholes, which is why we need social protective legislation that helps us, together, help each other. That’s Obama’s Forward, looking back to a poignant history — and not Romney’s future, an America ruled by oligarchs.

The 2nd Presidential Debate and the Return of West Side Story: Obama’s Sharks 1, Romney’s Jets 1 and the American People –1

Many times during last night’s second presidential debate, from Hempstead, Long Island, NY, I found myself laughing. I realized that I’d seen this before — been there, done that. When some guy would come up to me and say something I didn’t like, blow up his chest, push up against me, there we went, bare knuckled, toe-to-toe. These testosterone years traveled foggy memories last night.

Whether at the schoolyard or the athletic field, boys are asked to never back down, push up against someone else and have it out. This was last night’s second debate. Short on substance, long on cockfighting, and the American public is still left wondering what the next four years will look like.

Last night’s debate reminded me of West Side Story. Romney’s Jet persona trying to counter Obama’s Shark attack.

There wasn’t much more besides entertainment. Obama spent his time aggresively defending his territory — his record — and pushing Romney into corners — “That’s not the truth.”

Romney spent his 90 minutes in campaign slogan- land, sound bites reminiscent of graffiti on a wall. No substance, just smoke and mirrors. Romney is vulnerable on foreign policy, education and health care, the environment — drill baby drill — and, most of all, he’s vulnerable in the area he says he’s the strongest, the economy. He’s a Jet running for cover because he can’t explain why his plan won’t drive the debt even higher; his reluctance to explain, in detail, what cuts he’ll make to grow the economy, something he repeats constantly, suggests two things: (1) the loopholes will be far greater for the 1%, who will keep more of their income, while payment for this Reaganesque travesty will be paid for by (2) cutting all sorts of programs, from early childhood education, social welfare programs that are, already, barely keeping people afloat, and the dismantling of public education. Thus, Romney’s plan is to be carried by the middle and lower classes in America — beautiful.

What was laughable, last night, was that as both men played the Jets and the Sharks facing off, we still remain in the dark with no clear understanding of where we’re going.

Romney is slippery: he’ll say anything to appease anyone so as to be able to be on top. Is this how he’ll handle the Tea Party? He lies, this is obvious; nothing makes sense because he’s unsure who he needs to appease. Obama, likewise, doesn’t supply us with much, other then we need to stay the course; however, he doesn’t tell us how he’ll try to address congressional gridlock, for starters, a condition that will be twice as problematic should he win again and the layout of congress remains the same.

Obama has been weak on immigration, we know that; he’s been weak on addressing the needs of the poor, particularly poor Blacks who are reluctant to put his feet to the fire, though he continues to depend heavily on them. Obama’s race problem began early on in his administration, as chronicled by Naomi Klein in Minority Death Match: Jews, Blacks, and the “Post-Racial” Presidency, covering the Durban II conference, in Geneva, that focused on reparations for American Blacks:

If Obama traced the Wall Street collapse back to the policies of redlining and Jim Crow, all the way to the betrayed promise of forty acres and a mule for freed slaves, a broad sector of the American public might well be convinced that finally eliminating the structural barriers to full equality is in the interests not just of minorities but of everyone who wants a more stable economy.

This has not been Obama’s interest and poor communities of color continue to decline; this, too, is evident in education that, while Romney wants to fast track privatization, Obama’s Race to the Top merely wants to go at the same thing quietly, slowly.

Education and health care are one issue, not two; they’re inextricably linked. Without equal access to each, for everyone, we continue to exist in a bifurcated society where some win and some lose. The most significant example of this was last night’s West Side Story face-off in Hempstead, L.I., where, outside of the tight Hofstra University luxury, Blacks continue to spiral downward and the streets are held by central American gangs, the El Sal Salvador MS-13. It’s West Side Story all over again.

It’s a circus alright. Only we’re the clowns being taken for a mysterious journey into unknown — but divided — territory. What will the U.S. look like in four years? Where will we be, given that we have such daunting challenges, nationally and internationally? Romney’s Jets live on slogans and Obama’s Sharks attack the same and provide no middle ground, thus no vision.

I’m laughing because I can’t cry anymore.

The Illegitimate Dismantling of Decency, Humanity and Inalienable Rights: The GOP’s Dark Soul of Indifference

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), the largest anti-sexual violence organization: 44% of sexual abuse victims are under the age of 18; 80% are under the age of 30; every 2 minutes in the United States someone is sexually assaulted; each year there are 213,000 sexual assault victims in the United States; 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 15 out of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail; 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 38% of rapists are a friend or an acquaintance.

Tod Aikin and Paul Ryan are legislating to ensure the RAINN numbers remain the same — or increase.

When Aikin used the term “legitimate,” we got a glimpse into the dark soul of the extreme right of the GOP.  In their minds, rape is a legitimate tool — for war, for pornography and its increasing violence against women, as a way to tilt Roe v Wade.

The party that argues for less government interference wants to enter our lives even deeper. They want to legislate us out of everything — Medicare, Medicaid, Roe v Wade, education. And the list goes on.  The GOP wants to deny our propensity for self-actualization.

Might it not be more relevant to turn around those 15 out 16 rapists that never spend a day in jail? Might it not be more relevant to examine why and how, as a society, those we know most intimately are the ones — 38% — committing rape? Who are we? Why can’t we answer the question?

We have been fixated on Aikin’s ridiculous assertion that women can somehow will the rapist’s sperm out of creating a life. But the key word we should be talking about is “legitimate,” which later Aikin said was the wrong word. He meant to say “forcible” — as if then there’s a difference.

Legitimate: being exactly as proposed; accordant with law or with established legal forms and requirements; conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards

Rape, by definition, is forcible.  Aikin’s use of “forcible” merely reiterates his deeply held believes — and those of others in the Republican party — that there is a “legitimate” form of rape; that rape conforms to the needs of the larger world, society.  Aikin and followers — including some women — acknowledge the cultural acceptance of rape as a weapon for control, through violence and fear, and an instrument for perverse excitement that’s directly linked to money and profits, via Mastercard, Visa and American Express.

Why?

In Pornography and Silence, Susan Griffin tells us that the prostitute and pornography remake the image of the feminine, placing knowledge of the body beyond man’s emotional reach at the same time that experience of the objectified female body satisfies sexual desire. Aikin’s use of “legitimate” has everything to do with how some experience their bodies and sexual desire — total fear. This is why the insistence on negating women’s LEGITIMATE right to govern themselves, especially their bodies.

What Aikin, et al, want to do is to “murder the natural feminine,” says Griffin: “…feeling is sacrificed to an image of the self as invulnerable,” a reason to rape, and a reason to deny women control over their bodies. The only recourse for the male — Aikin’s “legitimate” — is to punish “that which he imagines holds him and entraps him: he punishes the female body.” This is peculiar, of course, when you throw in women such as Bachmann and Palin. Interestingly, though, Condoleeza Rice is pro – choice, and denounced by right to life groups.

Aikin, Ryan, et al, want to segregate women, the vulnerable and poor, people of color — you name it. The want to do this by entering every aspect of our lives — education, social welfare, health care, even our consciousness. While the Republican party argues that they are for inclusion, as Aikin’s statement is being pushed about in popular media and social networks, the GOP convention is drafting a platform that is hostile to women’s rights.  Inclusion? Tolerance?

We are being shown that the GOP is intolerant of anyone that is not male, white and upper-middle class.

In “Rape — Does it have a Historical Meaning?,” Roy Porter posits that, “Rape generally leaves its stain on the historical record only if it comes to trial, and the analogy of today’s experience suggests that only a fraction (but how small a fraction?) even reached court in the past; and even those cases, the evidence that survives is far from the whole story.”

The rest of the story, I’m afraid, must be carried by the victim alone, and it’s ongoing, a notion lost on Aikin, Ryan, Romney and the GOP platform. They are fixated on the other end of the deal: controlling a woman’s reproductive rights, controlling our moral lives, controlling our inalienable rights.  It’s medieval.

But more importantly, we’re not dealing with the larger issue, which is people such as Aikin and the hostility shown by right to life folks, including Ryan — and Catholicism — want to legitimize a subservient role for women. Why? There’s something in Susan Griffin that speaks to this, of course.

In A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion, by Randy Tornhill and Craig T. Palmer, a study not without its problems, mind you, we do find the following useful bit of data:

In one study, 13 percent of the surveyed American women of ages 18 and older reported having been the victim of at least one completed rape — rape having been defined as ‘an event that occurred without the woman’s consent, involved the use of force or threat of force, and involved sexual penetration of the victim’s vagina, mouth or rectum.’ Other surveys using slightly different definitions or different data-collection procedures have found high rates too, especially when the survey procedures have given researchers access to victims of alleged rapes not reported to poilce…Of women who had experienced a rape involving penile-vaginal intercourse, from 37 to 57 percent experienced post-traumatic stress syndrome afterward — a frequency higher than that associated with any other crime against women, including aggravated assault, burglary, and robbery.

Okay, let’s see: in the recent past few months we’ve seen brutal attacks in a movie theatre; an increase in gun-related violence in some cities such as Chicago; increases in gang violence and now this nearly impossible to understand statement by Akin;  devastating draught and a continued denial of climate change; and we also see that Romney and Ryan — and the GOP — want Aikin to remove himself from his senate race, but we have to wonder why since he’s speaking the truth about his party, what they actually believe (Ryan and Aikin worked side-by-side to address issues of abortion, an attack on Roe v Wade — this is history, it’s verifiable).

Given what we actually do know, the data around rape and the victimization of the victims of rape, the silence imposed on victims by harsh policies, might not we do a lot better considering why we believe “legitimate” to be viable? Why we turn from Aikin’s use of “legitimate,” which means he and others believe that it’s culturally acceptable to “murder the natural female,” to use Griffin’s prophetic words here?

Tornhill and Palmer say that “most people don’t know much about why humans have the desires, emotions, and values they have, including those that cause rape. This is because most people lack any understanding of the ultimate (that is, evolutionary) causes of why humans are the way they are.”

We don’t know, for instance, why the throw money at tobacco, always weepy Boehner, does, indeed, always cry at the drop of the hat, but particularly when things don’t go his way, in-between anxiously chain smoking; we don’t know why Cantor is more willing to genuflect to defense, big oil, the destruction of the environment, and lay blame for this mess on those most needy in our society; we don’t know why Mitch McConnell’s only job is to destroy the Obama presidency rather then addressing the needs of the people of the United States. We don’t know any of this.  We don’t know anything.

If we find that we’re in a surreal space, look no further then the people we’ve elected — and the rather dangerous, nasty people that are running for office, not least of which is the ugly Paul Ryan bent on destruction as a way to a future that only he can imagine, and doesn’t include us.

Instead, before we go over the edge into the abyss, might not we spend some quality time on these ideas, these issues and shed the soulless nature of the dark GOP’s center?

Can Obama be Obama

Guantanamo is still open for business, following the Bush-Cheney doctrine.  Iraq is on a tighrope.  Afghanistan is a quagmire — confusing and violent with no end in sight, corruption at every turn and the Taliban negotiating a come back with their tribal leader, Karzai (he brought them in to begin with).  Unemployment is a plague upon our house.  The economy is stagnant, for the lack of a better or more optimistic word — nothing new or promising in the not so distant future.  Wall Street is totally out of touch with the rest of the country, mired in its hubris, having drawn up the bridge, leaving the illusion they helped create on our side to work through.  Health care — what can we say about health care, the single most significant sign of how unbelievably short sided we are in government?  And government, the crux of the problem, cowardly and ignorant, lacking any sense of an imaginative approach to a future that already is here, pushing us further down as if a great weight is upon us.

Obama showed promise during his campaign.  Many of us voted for Obama because of the promises — change, yes we can.  Well, no, apparently not, we can’t.  Obama is stuck in age old partisan politics complicated by special interests that circulate about him like sharks looking for prey.  Obama can’t function and live up to his potential, preferring a professorial approach that, as a professor myself, know to be a way to conceal the truth of things, the passion that’s not to interfere with the reasoned sense of reality, the illusion of objectivity that students — the citizens — know quite well does not exist, not even in the sciences.  Thus, Obama can’t be Obama — he’s become something else.

The problem with Obama not being Obama is not the upcoming mid-term elections; the dilemma is that we will all be so dissolutioned by the time the next presidential election that we will be hard pressed to vote for him again, leaving the presidency wide open for the fascist-like remains, the crumbs left in the wake of  Bush-Cheney — the racist Tea Party contingency that’s followed by the ignorant bliss of Sarah Palin.  The picture gets uglier and uglier as we look further and further.

Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio has come over to the Obama Health Care Senate plan — what’s left of the original and approved by the Senate — because he feels that this legislation is so important that it could literally be the first of the blocks taken from underneath the Obama Presidency and topple it.

It’s not the merits of the plan that warrant Kucinich’s vote, but rather, saving the Presidency from the extraordinarily negative and bigoted sharks nibbling at the President’s ankles that inspired his allegiance.

This is a mark of our decline, not a gesture of progress and creativty.  While the world clamors for diversity and difference to solve problems, our government — and those that want to run our government — aspire to homogeneity, sameness, the status quo. This will kill us completely.

Visualizing the Future: America’s Future After a McCain Victory

When we cast a vote, we are in fact saying that, based on what candidates have said during the campaign, we believe a particular vision for the country. I took it upon myself, then, to try and imagine this vision based on positions and policy statements made by John McCain and Barack Obama. If one or the other candidate were to be elected–a sure thing–what would America look like in the coming years? What are we facing?

Below is my first prognostication, a John McCain victory. In the coming week or so, I will do the same for Barack Obama.

In each case, I had no pre-conceived notion of what I would say–or should. I am an independent voter, beholding to no political group. I don’t join political action groups or lobby for one person or another. I do, however, take positions based on my understanding of the issues, the concerns of my family, community and students, and my sense of where America should be in the not so distant future. I read a lot, study the issues, and think. The cause or issue I feel strongest about is education. And I can say unequivocally that neither candidate is even remotely close to understanding what’s happening in our schools. Of course, this issue is secondary to the devastation our move into Iraq and our disregard for Afghanistan has cost thousands upon thousands of people here and there.

As a theme, I took it upon myself to try and see how each candidate is going to try and move us away from the politics of destruction. This is the outcome.


America’s Future After a McCain Victory: Descent Into Darkness

Disorder and uncertainty are the guiding principles of our world today. This is what gets John McCain elected by a narrow margin. Somehow he convinces the electorate–including the intellectual class–that the sense of being adrift can be pushed back with his approach to the future, a conservatism based on letting market forces dictate everything from the welfare of veterans to the running of schools to the environment, and the continuation of a Machiavellian foreign policy.

Energy Policy:

Moments after his inaugural address, oil drilling in Alaska begins–as does a huge transformation in the area, socially, politically and environmentally.

Contradicting his promise during the summer campaign, McCain continues (quietly) filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). And since oil consumption in America dropped as Americans reacted accordingly to the high cost of their consumption, and gasoline prices at the pump leveled at just below $4 a gallon, McCain sees this as a sign of change, a sign that we have somehow turned the corner on our reliance on oil and we’re moving in the right direction. America is changing for the better, assumes McCain.

So John McCain proposes A National Strategy For Energy Security. But this does not include any incentives for alternative energy development, putting him at odds with Al Gore and the science of global warming. (see also What is Global Warming?)

John McCain is a proven conservative, and his strategy will not rely on subsidies, rifle-shot tax breaks, line-items for lobbyists, or big-government debacles. It will rely on the genius and technological prowess of American industry and science. McCain thus relies on outdated rhetoric that will continue to effectively build on the policies of the previous administration. But since gasoline prices dropped, the complacent (unconscious?) electorate believes him and goes along with his plan since it’s no strain on Americans–not for now, the immediate.

McCain appeals to American’s propensity to think short term.

The oil industry, in the quarter following McCain’s election, reports even greater profits than the year before. The Bush-Cheney presidency, therefore, is defined as extremely successful by the oil company CEOs–as well as by conservative think tanks–because the mantel has been effectively handed over to “the right person,” John McCain. He will continue the Bush-Cheney agenda in energy and the environment.

And just to make sure, McCain promises that should Americans be worried about the upcoming summer fun, since disorder and uncertainty are of primary concern, he will once again ask Congress to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2009.

Americans flock back to their vehicles, some to their outdated S.U.V.’s, but others to new hybrids and more efficient models. Consumption increases and McCain points to this as positive because there is an increase in revenues for rebuilding the highways and bridges across America–a sign of hope, a sign that America is back to where it once was. We’re rebuilding America! America is moving again!

But suddenly, before the first one hundred days are up, the stock market, which has been fluctuating up and down, eventually declines and oil prices tick upward again and reach unprecedented levels.

Terrorism affects diversification strategies in the market. Political volatility in the Middle East keeps energy traders on edge. Climate chaos, including weather swings, increasingly becomes a major element in evaluating the outlook for everything from agricultural crops to energy use, and even to energy production in offshore oil rigs (puts a damper on drilling in Alaska, which becomes more costly than anticipated and doesn’t affect the price Americans pay at the pump or for fuel for their homes–a tragic irony!) and refineries located by seaports. Matters darken. Nature’s whims affect financial markets, the ups and downs of our understanding of wealth. No stability is apparent. The poor in the cold regions of the United States suffer in unprecedented ways.

Our collective belief is that we are vulnerable, more so now then ever before in history. At one hundred days, McCain’s approval ratings are way down. Congress, dominated by the Democrats, is in a frenzy. Stalemate. Nothing is moving forward.

A slow but definitive brain drain, for the first time in American history, is noticeable: those Americans who can afford it, leave the U.S. for other lands–some for Europe, others for developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, believing that the future is elsewhere and since globalization is built on the “knowledge industry” coupled to technology, their work–engineering, science and medicine, the arts and education–can be done from anywhere, and at lower human and environmental costs.

Education and Healthcare:

Education: John McCain issues his premise that Excellence, Choice, and Competition in American Education is what’s necessary to stop the increase in drop out rates, particularly among minorities, and make American children more competitive in the future. To accomplish this, McCain says that public support for a child’s education should follow that child throughout the education chosen by the parents.

On the one hand, McCain increases the demands placed on schools by No Child Left Behind and, on the other, he manages to get through Congress a bill supporting the movement of children from the less competitive schools to the more flexible, student-centered schools, free of violence and that are focused on character-building. The education double bind that spells disaster for learning is strengthened.

The poorest of American neighborhoods become even poorer, their schools even more deplorable. Those that can afford to leave for better schools do, for others, much like school busing in the ’60s, going to another school means tremendous sacrifice. Drop out rates increase, as does crime among kids 11 to 21.

John McCain persists and says that the cultural problems in our education system – is a system that still seeks to avoid genuine accountability and responsibility for producing well-educated children. He blames the administrators and teachers, and the parents for lack of involvement, failing to understand the socioeconomic-familial make up of the communities he’s addressing. The promises of education are now a distant, unreachable dream for many–the unreality of many poor.

Advocates of education criticize McCain for being totally out of touch with the poor in urban centers whose unemployment is 6 to 8% higher than in other parts of the country

Educationally, the gap between the haves and the have nots widens. Some of the most challenged urban centers in America deteriorate further. On the other end of the spectrum, competition for elite colleges and universities increases, particularly given the new financial aid policies of these schools, enabling them to pick from the cream of the crop. The rest are left for the second and third tier schools.

There is an increase in online schooling; likewise, some students learn that Europe offers a competitive higher education model and go there where they are welcomed with open arms.

A more stringent–and obvious–demarcation between the classes ensues. Status reigns supreme; it is the calling card. Class, not race (though this is still the unspoken problem in America, especially after the election), becomes the central issue separating Americans.

John McCain argues for standards based education on a massive scale and points to his success in getting Congress to approve the “let the money follow the child ” model of competition in education  as beginning to move children–and America–in the right direction.

Mayors from urban centers gather and complain even more forcefully that the Federal Government has totally forgotten them. Governors of states with large urban centers follow suit. Cities have lost Federal grants for infrastructure needs, the money being channeled to Iraq and the chaos in Afghanistan.

Healthcare: Healthcare and Education run side-by-side. The way of healthcare is the way of education.

John McCain pursues a policy that is similar to his education policy–let competition settle the problem. This is seen as the right direction by the pharmaceuticals since they are really the managers of America’s healthcare system.

Since 2000, the number of Americans without healthcare has increased by almost 9 million–16% of the population without healthcare. Given the economy, the loss of jobs and the increase in unemployment, coupled to the gutting of inner city neighborhoods, under McCain’s watch, the number of uninsured rises.

Following this “competitive model”, even those who are employed lose healthcare coverage. In 2006, 37.7 million workers were uninsured because not all businesses offer health benefits, not all workers qualify for coverage and many employees cannot afford their share of the health insurance premium even when coverage is at their fingertips. By the start of 2010, McCain’s second year in office, this number increases by 2.5 million workers.

Americans that can afford it seek healthcare services abroad, where it’s cheaper and increasingly just as good. Why put up with expensive, run-of-the-mill health care at home when you can be treated just as well abroad?

McCain’s healthcare policies exacerbate America’s brain drain, on the one hand, and more so than ever before, globalization begins to affect the cash flow in the U.S.: investors place their money in foreign companies in developing countries. More investment capital leaves the U.S..

Veterans hospitals across the country suffer along with large teaching hospitals because external competition means a loss of patients. Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, still increasing, are forced to seek help from non-governmental sources, even non-American sources, because the U.S. medical system’s infrastructure is chaotic, at best, and inadequate for their complex needs.

John McCain insists on pursuing this approach to healthcare since it’s the method he promised to follow during his campaign for office. In two years, the American medical system is the shame of the industrialized world.

Foreign Policy:

In difficult times, Americans chose John McCain for what he said was his “foreign policy expertise.”

But increasingly, Americans realize that McCain’s understanding of foreign policy is merely the continuation of Machiavellian policies as old as the conquest of the Americas. Americans see that McCain’s foreign policy is based on the fundamental themes of conquest, retaining the strength and vitality of the causes of “savage injustice” for those who fail to go along with America.

For John McCain, putting America first, we learn, defines a predatory foreign policy that in reality puts America at further risk, alienating us from the rest of the world that seeks a more hospitable future.

McCain goes against the wisdom outlined by experts and journalists from the left and the right, suggesting that unbridled Bush-style aggression is perceived by adversaries as a justification to wield weapons of terror. Thus McCain calls for the transformation of the military to a more pliable machine and argues for the first use of nuclear weapons and the right for unilateral use of military power, particularly against Iran. American aggression increases.

Iraq is at odds with McCain because he extends pull-out dates into a nebulous future, which is consistent with Bush-style aggression designed to ensure the U.S. maintain military bases in the Middle East. (US Military Facilities in Iraq)

Afghanistan further deteriorates, particularly since U.S. Special Forces increase clandestine operations into Iran. Brutal violence and devastation increases in Afghanistan because McCain follows the Bush-Cheney model of not going after Osama bin Laden. McCain does not heed the advise given to Bush by senior CIA analyst Michael Scheurer, responsible for tracking bin Laden, that “US forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result…it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally”(qtd in Failed States, 23). Indeed.

Afghanistan is in chaos after Karzai loses the election. Attacks by the Taliban on all foreigners, whether military or non-governmental workers, increase.

Pakistan, too, is in chaos, pursuing the Musharraf impeachment. McCain maintains that the military dictator Musharraf is an ally of the U.S. and that he’s been honorable in his pursuit of terrorism; however, Al Qaeda gains unprecedented influence over the Pakistani parliament, finally infiltrating it with political forces sympathetic to their radicalization of Islam.

India gets nervous because Al Qaeda control of Pakistani politics is a threat to their sovereignty. McCain, of course, sees this as a common pattern and he calls forth an alert of strained American military forces.

Israel practices bombing Iran over Iraqui airspace further escalating tensions throughout the Middle East. McCain, like Bush before him, backs Israel’s plans to bomb Iran, though publicly he asks Israel to “cool” their mock military maneuvers.

Throughout the Middle East, even among American supporting moneyed Muslims, there is dismay, an outcry condemning U.S. force , labeling it imperialism.

Europe supports the Middle Eastern outcry and backs away from the U.S.. Even the European wanna be cowboy, Sarkozy, finally pulls French troops from Afghanistan saying that his country had suffered too many causalities amidst NATO chaos.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, an alliance–Chile, Mexico, Columbia and Brazil–manage to isolate Chavez. They pull in the new leftist leader, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay. Likewise, these same countries increase their investments in Cuba while the U.S. maintains its current anti-Cuba policies, though countless Americans travel to the Caribbean country via Canada and Mexico.

In Africa, the U.S. builds more military bases while China and the EU make huge monetary investments. Throughout Africa, the attitude is to turn from the U.S. and towards a future that promises creative engagement with those partners willing to invest in infrastructure building, education and science.

Russia laughs at the U.S., extending its control over oil and gas meant for Europe; in a sense, tension rises because the Russian bear is seen as aggressive as the U.S. There is nothing the U.S. can do since it needs Russia.

China grows, increasing its military strength as well; the country’s demands for natural resources are extensive, compelling it to move wide and far across the globe, becoming partner to many regimes, good and bad.

Within two years, McCain’s America is effectively isolated.

Summary:

I had no idea I would come up with these conclusions; however, following what the senator has been saying, laying out a grid of potential results, leads me to these conclusions. History tells us so; we have no reason to believe otherwise since, as McCain tells us as often as possible, he has experience. This is his experience. Facts are facts.

A McCain victory is a descent into darkness. America finds itself in a state more confusing then it is now.

McCain is not an independent person at all, but someone who is deeply entrenched in vituperative politics. How can he be independent when he is beholding to oil barons, the military and military providers, big business–and the list is endless. John McCain is the extreme opposite; he is a product of the elite system that first pushed him into Annapolis, since he was inadequate intellectually (the same as Bush at Yale), and then enabled his rise through the political structure that rewards those of similar make-up.* McCain is just like everyone else; he’s the same product we’ve had for 8 years.

What is most frightening is that the press doesn’t pick up on this, nor follow the obvious. Mainstream media covers only process, highlighting the “ad” tendencies of each candidate, rather than being responsible–and doing what democracy asks–and putting the candidates’ feet to the fire, asking them relevant questions about how to solve America’s challenges.

Essentially, a McCain victory will lead to a further disenfranchisement of America from the rest of the world. McCain’s narrow vision–held together only by aggression and a shallow open market idealism–leaves America vulnerable to those that are ideologically opposed to this, while then enabling narrow self-interest to manage our affairs of state.

I therefore predict, as I said earlier, the beginnings of an American brain drain. Why stay where reason, humanitarian interests and creativity are not wanted? In a global economy, even Americans can work and study anywhere.