Posts Tagged 'Rick Santorum'

Loonies On The Path ….

Remember the Pink Floyd tune, “Brain Damage”?

“And everyday the paperboy brings more.

  • Grant wealthy individuals more votes than the rest of us.
  • Tax the working poor at a higher rate than billionaires.
  • Put undocumented workers in jail for using public toilets.
  • Privatize Social Security, indeed, do away with all social safety nets.
  • Make teachers responsible for failing students.
  • Do away with health care.
  • Permit guns everywhere. South Carolina residents may now carry guns into restaurants. Wait for first shoot-out at a salad bar.

The lunatics are in my hall.”

  • In Chicago a Republican candidate for office told her base autism is punishment by the “almighty” for support of abortion and marriage equality.
  • In Texas, Republican Joe Barton, explained, as wind power is a “finite resource”, harnessing it “would slow the winds down” causing temperatures to go up.  You can’t make up stuff like this.
  • In Georgia a legislator equated women to cows and pigs when it comes to childbirth.

… if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes …”

  • Rick Santorum (Remember him?) declared that only “God” can mandate health care.
  • Republican governors led by none other than Mr. “Ooops” himself, Rick Perry, refused to implement Medicaid. As Rick put it, “I will not be a party to socialize health care.” It’s all about him isn’t it?
  • In Wisconsin a Catholic US Congressman criticized the Pope for speaking out against barbaric treatment of the poor and the “idolatry” of money.

 

The lunatic is on the grass.”

Day after day the news reports one outrageous assault after another against the social contract. Social body blows from politicians, billionaires, and the bankers who bankrupted thousands of small investors and savers with impunity. One of those bankers was recently rewarded with a multi-million dollar raise. Our Citizens United Supreme Court happily awarded a presidential election to the Republican candidate (They knew his Daddy.) and have granted political organizations status as human beings. The Court also decided that it’s perfectly OK for the police to strip search you for jay-walking. Drop your shorts America. Again – this stuff cannot be made up – it has happened, it is happening, and we are living with it. Let’s not even discuss Florida where it seems to be legal open season on black kids.

The lunatic is in my head.”

In light of all this it seems to me reasonable to ask what motivates people to act barbarically. Many of the politicians are self-identified “Christians” whom it is presumed are supposed to integrate the teachings of their deity into their own lives and actions. On evidence, however, nothing could be further from the truth. So, what’s going on here? Why would Paul Ryan object to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance? What moral authority informs his imagination?

Got to keep the loonies on the path.”

Human society has always oscillated between physical and moral challenges; between civilization and barbarity. This cycle has determined the course and ultimately, the fate of all societies. The entire thrust of social evolution we always hope has been about making a more secure, more equitable, and healthier world for more and more people. If that be the case, why the relentless assault on civilization and civilized behavior? Should we not be past that? Well, it seems obvious the barbarians have not gone away, they have not been truly assimilated, humanized, or integrated into the mainstream of human consciousness. The barbarians are still with us, it’s just that they now wear suits not animal skins.

James Davidson Hunter in, The Death of Character, said this: “History and philosophy both suggest to us that the flourishing of character rooted in elevated virtues is essential to justice in human affairs; its absence, a measure of corruption and a portent of social and political collapse, especially in a democracy. … Character matters, we believe, because without it, trust, justice, freedom, community, and stability are probably impossible.” Where lies the character of politicians who would deny school lunches to children? Many “great” societies have come and gone throughout history and when there have been great inequalities in the goods of life as Hunter has indicated, social collapse inevitably follows. What loyalty to the economic and social contract is expected when employees are reduced to poverty wages because entrepreneurs prefer to maximize profit? When employers prefer to provide information about welfare instead of paying a living wage, what are the possibilities?

Both Aristotle (Politics) and Plato (Laws) warned that too great a disparity in the goods of life lead to disruption of societies. We live in a time of unequal justice when people of color are still singled out for police abuse, when profit motives exceed any sense of economic justice defined as living wages, when the jobless are blamed for their joblessness by elected officials unconscionably neglecting to acknowledge that American jobs and industries have been relocated offshore to countries where a living wage is a fraction of what it is here. Can we escape this defection from civility? Probably not. So, everyday, when the paperboy or internet brings more news of lay-offs, food stamp cuts, denial of medical care and welfare for the disabled, disenfranchised, and the unemployed will “the dam break open many years too soon”? We’ll see.

The lunatics aren’t just on the grass – they’re in high places making decisions that determine the path and, ultimately, the fate of the country – our embattled democracy, our society. If Michelle Bachmann is correct declaring we are at the “end days” perhaps none of this matters. Perhaps the band was right, there’s someone in our heads, but it’s not us.

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

The American Taliban

The recent news story (7/9/12) about the Taliban executing a young Afghan woman was revolting. The woman was shown in the accompanying video seated on the ground as the executioner fired his Kalashnikov nine times into her back. Aside from the abject cowardliness of the executioner and his colleagues, there was a crowd of about 100 villagers sitting on a nearby hillside cheering. No matter what her offense, it was a brutal event. A person’s life was taken in a direct and brutish manner, a despicable violation of human decency and civilized behavior.

In the US we don’t drag people into the streets and shoot them (yet). What we do is deny them health care, unemployment benefits, food stamps, living wages, and access to the political process on an equal footing with the wealthy via the Citizens United decision.

In the state of mind that is the State of Texas there are some 6.2 million people without health insurance. The Republican governor, Rick Perry, has rejected expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a health care insurance exchange. Consider that those 6.2 million people represent nearly a quarter of the population of Texas. This brings to mind the cheering at a Republican primary debate last year when a candidate explained that an ill person with no health insurance could die. Brutish, inhumane, and uncivilized behavior? You bet it is.

Texas Republicans recently revealed a key plank of their platform for the upcoming elections, their opposition to teaching critical thinking skills in public schools. This is unsurprising of course when your purpose is to create a stupidized general population that will go along with denying health care to poor people and other similar dehumanizing policies. What we have here is a Republican Tea Party agenda to de-legitimize the idea of community—to undermine and ultimately destroy the civil society. Following the Texas model, they want to create a gun-toting, everyone-for-themselves, don’t-tread-on-me world. They, like the Taliban, are anti-social, un-American, and they are dangerous sociopaths.

While philosophers like Max Weber and Marcel Gauchet thought that religion was the main influence on the development of Western social contracts, that influence is now distorted and deformed; it has become a weapon. The new religious influences on the social contract are exemplified by popular Christian preachers with national audiences, one of whom, in the solemn presence of Republican Presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, screamed that all immigrants should be sent back to where they came from. The other called for a national policy to create internment camps for homosexuals. Catholic bishops have been stiffed by US Congressmen professing the same faith as theirs because bishops forfeited their moral authority covering for child-abusing priests. Religion is no longer the humanizing influence it once was and has become, more than ever, polarizing, compartmentalizing, and more importantly, hypocritical.

Women are also under attack. Georgia Republican state legislator, Terry England, supported a bill to force women to carry a still-born or dying fetus to term because cows and pigs do, he said, so why not women. Tea Party activists cheering at the death of the elderly and the infirm, represent the new social contract. The Republican conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court that defines corporations as people with equal rights as human beings rends the fabric of rationality as well as the social contract. Money talks in America, and if you don’t have it you are mute, and your constitutional rights, just like your mortgage, have been foreclosed by big money. If you are not rich you exist to provide votes for whichever party can scare you the most about your fellow Americans. Capitalist cannibalism and nihilism are the new social contract replacing community, shared values, and common interest. Trade unions are being marginalized by politicians, business interests and their own inability to see a bigger picture than their internecine politics. In the mid-1950s close to 40 percent of American workers were covered by union contracts; today only 12 percent are. In the recent gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin union members voted against the union-endorsed candidate.

Public-sector unions are being attacked and eviscerated, not just by Republican governors but by Democrats as well. Eleven Democrat governors are blaming public-sector unions for budget deficits, demanding wage and benefit concessions. In all of that, neither the governors nor the affected unions have effectively pointed out the predatory role of big banks and the recession they caused. At this moment in time, corporate profits are at an all-time high and wages, calculated as a percent of the economy, are at an all-time low.

In Colorado Springs, the location of recent wildfires, public employees had been laid off or their jobs eliminated by elected officials who took Grover Norquist’s no new taxes pledge and rejected property tax increases. With the ranks of firefighters and police reduced, the city had 39 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer policemen to face the crisis. A few years ago the city even had to turn off a third of the town’s street lights. Many homes that weren’t consumed by the fire were looted or vandalized and dozens of automobiles broken into. The classic irony is that in the aftermath the city has shamelessly applied for Federal grants and aid. Where’s Grover? Maybe he has some ideas on how to reconcile this contradiction.

In the past few days it was revealed that traders at JPMorgan-Chase lost approximately $5.8 billion in bad gambles. How many firemen, cops, teachers, health clinics, and other more humane possibilities would that bundle have paid for? In the meantime the Republican Taliban, with public support, are going after the poor and disadvantaged; they are rampant and smelling victory.

This post first appeared at: http://www.grass-roots-press.com/

It Is Class Warfare

No matter how you slice it what is going on in the United States today is in fact class warfare. I recalled recently a paper I wrote as a graduate student in the 1970s titled “A Few Drops of Phenomenology”. Never mind that there are books piled on top of books written on the subject by, among others, some of the most eminent philosophers of the 20th century I wasn’t then attempting to one-up those guys nor am I now. What I was trying to do then, as now, was to explain to myself the bewildering array of perceptions and actions centered on the same phenomenon, the same object, the same event, the same body of knowledge. It seemed at the time, and probably because I had never much thought about it before then, that nothing could be the same for everyone. Yet so much of what passes for discourse and the daily stream of events assumes such; something along the lines of normative agreement. We are all in this together, all men are created equal, common goals and values, all for one and one for all, united we stand, and all of that sort of social organizing  which is little more than normalizing propaganda; these are the socializing mantras to which we are all subjected from childhood. These form the basis of the belief system we call the social contract.

I recently watched a video of a preacher, a Christian preacher in Louisiana, demean and demonize just about everyone who wasn’t present and who wasn’t like him and his congregation. He wanted everyone else, he shouted at the top of his lungs for all non-Christians to “Get Out!”. He meant out of the country, by the way. I’ve seen a few period newsreel films of Adolf Hitler addressing crowds during his rise to power in Germany and the Reverend Dennis Terry’s rhetorical style is identical. In the preacher’s audience was Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum who stood up and  roundly applauded the hatred spewed by the so-called “preacher”. Of course, when the speech and Santorum’s presence was posted on the internet the candidate, who was shown being blessed in a laying on of hands by the “preacher”, backed away. Beep, beep, beep, beep!

Such pandering has become a style of politics and is reminiscent of George Wallace and his four presidential campaigns.  Here’s what Wallace had to say after his first unsuccessful run for governor of Alabama in 1958. “After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, “Seymore, you know why I lost that governor’s race?… I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.’” Here we are 54 years later and the same dynamic, the same corrosive rhetoric with cleaned-up language is being used across the board by candidates and their supporters. This time it is Muslims, and  “foreigners” (read – Hispanics), gay rights, non-believers of whatever religion is at hand, people on welfare (Remember Ronald Reagan and his “welfare queens”?), health care, women’s health, birth control, gun control – the list goes on and on and on. And let’s not forget Georgia state Representative Terry England’s  comparison of women needing to abort a stillborn or dying fetus to pregnant cows and pigs. The hot button issues of our national disaffection, dysfunction, disillusionment, and disintegration as a society never mind community.

Another example, as if we really need more, of social dysfunction is reflected in how certain cities, certain mayors, and certain police departments respond to the #occupy movement. Class warfare is when billionaire mayors such as Michael Bloomberg’s allow their police department to brutalize not only demonstrators but even the press. Another billionaire, Jamie Dimon, chairman, president and chief executive of J.P. Morgan Chase donated $4.6 million to the NYC police department during last year’s #occupy demonstrations. Is it reasonable to ask what he got for his money? Between 2001 and 2011, Dimon’s company, J.P. Morgan, paid 4 billion – 877 million dollars in fines and penalties to various governmental authorities here and abroad for illicit financial activities. During the dust-up over the collapse of banks and the rise of #occupywallstreet, The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, himself a millionaire with a net worth said to be around $2.1 million dollars, criticized President Obama’s plans to reduce the deficit and charmingly characterized populist activity as creating class-warfare in the United States where, according to him, no such thing exists.

Which brings us to the pernicious American delusion of equality. Here is an excerpt  from an interview with Princeton Professor Julian Zelizer on the topic of class warfare:

ZELIZER: Americans often and historically like to think of themselves as a classless society. There were even polls during the height of the Great Depression which famously showed that many Americans thought of themselves as being in the middle class, even those who were struggling with unemployment and who had nothing to subsist on.

There is a belief in this country that someone who doesn’t have a lot of money, one day, has the opportunity to have a lot of money. And because of this, it’s often been very hard for those on the left to use the notion of class conflict as a rallying cry as a way to organize social protest.

Here you have the belief system on which the American social contract is based and woe be unto those who would challenge this delusion with phrases such as “class warfare”. The haves, including the millionaire members (a majority) of the US Congress object. A protester’s sign during the #occupywallstreet summarized the argument: “They only call it class war when we fight back.”

Classlessness is the salving  delusion for the American middle-class. Even though they don’t really belong to a middle-class they maintain the delusion with reinforcement from the mass media and politicians. In their own minds they live upwardly-mobile in a classless society a contradiction which constitutes a necessary delusion – the glue of the American social contract that binds us together as a society. This is the normative agreement which keeps things from getting out of hand and, at the same time, keeps them from getting better.

This essay first appeared at: http://www.thelightofnewmexico.com/


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