Blog #123 – The Funny Hearings, Seriously


THE FUNNY HEARINGS, SERIOUSLY

The Kavanaugh senate hearing was efficient and conclusive.
It gave Kavanaugh a chance to show how abusive
A Supreme Court Judge-in-Waiting could be without ever saying “sorry.”
It simply had to make it sure that her story would end up as his story
Its conclusions were firm without time wasted on thinking and worry.
.
So what really happened in that really irrelevant past?
(We all know youthful characteristics don’t last)
She knows, but don’t believe her, just a teen, and he’s now a very honorable judge,
You can believe she’d have dreams, but such an honorable man wouldn’t fudge.

If only we knew who from behind pushed her in,
We’d know if he committed the original sin.
Maybe it was an immigrant hiding in that hall
Oh, if only they’d let us build up that wall!
After all, maybe it was only a prank,
Just blame it on one too many he drank
And he never got her clothes off and went all the way,
So just tell him how much he has to pay
That satisfied each of the others Trump had had
And they never complained or showed they were sad.
After all, didn’t the man drive his daughter to her classes?
So what if he took a little time out to make a few passes.
And “nothing really happened,” said our worldly Rep, boys will be boys,
And if a future Supreme Court judge doesn’t want to answer questions,
Why upset him by asking for confessions.
And girls should be pleased that they could be their toys.
If everyone knows, a the end of the line,
What the result will be, we’re just wasting our time.
His concern for justice can wait till he’s on the bench,
By then we’ll have forgotten there was a bit of a stench.
It’s time to stop this demeaning charade
And get on with his inaugural parade.
Donald Trump has told us whom to believe in these cases.
With his personal experience he knows what a man such as this faces.
Don’t call in the over-burdened FBI
Why expect them to tell the truth from a lie.
Our leaders can do that much better themselves, they tell us,
And get the job done without anymore fuss.

We’ve spent too much time on this already. Not a single day more.
After all, finding the truth would just be a bore.
—————
Now they’ve got to wait a whole week for a “limited” FBI report
Which won’t have a firm conclusion of any useful sort
Then they’ll draw their own conclusions, from this fact or that fact ,
And move on, greatly relieved, as it’s in their sole power to do, to act
Never mind if the facts show they were right or were wrong,
They’ll do as they’ve wanted to do all along.

And then the voters will finally have their say,
And we’ll thank the strong women who’ve shown us the way!

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Blog # 117a – Boss Trump and the Uses of Humiliation


Blog # 117a – Boss Trump and the Uses of Humiliation

The manipulation of emotions and their consequences plays a major role in the politics of power i n America today. The emotion of humiliation is a weapon in the hands of Boss Trump, strengthening is power by undermining the resistance to it. Their victims in the broader society litter the landscape of political action. The search for dignity, which may be seen as the opposite of humiliation, is partly in response to humiliation by its direct and indirect victims.  The causes and consequences of humiliation need to be understood by those opposing its human cost.

Calling Michael Cohen “incompetent” as a lawyer is an obvious example, meant to denigrate him and undercut anything he might say. It’s become  standard practice for Boss Trump to let loose twitters aimed at humiliating critics of any of his policies or positions by name. It leaves his victims with a choice between an ongoing contest with someone with a wide audience and a sharp tongue, or endure the humiliation in a silence that is in itself humiliating in its necessity, the choice that Attorney General Sessions seems to be making.  And humiliating his critics directly has a wider benefit for Trump: those witnessing his humiliation of his critics themselves become intimidated by what they see, and restrain any inclination to join in. That they feel thus constrained is itself internally humiliating, and a further defensive reaction can be to accept Trump’s side of the story and persuading oneself of its correctness, a many seem to be doing vociferously at Trump rallies and in interviews. They thus justify a potentially humiliating exchange with an apparent show of support, joining Trump’s reputed hard core loyal base.

But humiliation plays a broader societal role, a role of which Trump is a beneficiary but not a principal cause. It often produces the clichéd “white working class,” response of those who may be active in the work force but still feel insecure, underpaid, working below their capacity or deserts. It can be expressed as a claim to a lost dignity, a feeling of helplessness in conceding to bosses’ power, a feeling that has often fueled labor unrest, but that can also lead to a form of inhibition in its expression by an attribution of the result by defenders of the status quo to lack of ability,  lack of education, laziness, the victim’s own conduct, own fault. That can be a humiliating perception, and because so widely accepted and so insistently reinforced by those in power like but not limited to Donald Trump and his direct entourage, it is also likely to lead to humilitation inhibiting fighting back.

uch self-blaming, such created humiliation and the inhibition to which it may lead is often reinforced by well-meaning critics of the reality it reflects. When Hilary Clinton spoke of “the deplorables,” when the Harvard grads or the lucky investors or those in securely positioned armchairs who view the passing parade and “don’t understand how anyone can swallow Donald Trump’s lies or condone his behavior,” they can easily be perceived as looking down on their fellows, as being members of an elite not recognizing the lived experience of the less fortunate. If many of the “white working class” are emotionally humiliated in the social structure of society as they experience it, so are many of “the elite” inhibited from questioning those social structures that have produced their own advantages for fear of having to face some humiliating causes.  The elite may find it hard to accord to others less well stationed than themselves the dignity that those others feel they also have a right to demand.

Humiliation can also lead to a variety of emotional responses. Opioid addiction, gang membership, street violence, domestic abuse, can  all be read as distorted reflections of a search for a dignity which prevailing relationships do not provide for their  victims.  An unconscious and inhibited identification with the boss can play a role, a desire to be oneself a boss, to have all that freedom which the real bosses have and which they are often faulted for exercising. Such responses often create difficulties of understanding in well-meaning efforts to address their causes

Conclusion: If humiliation is a widespread and debilitating emotion, its existence is not an inherent aspect of human nature. If there is humiliation, there are humilitationees and humilitationors.

When Trump humiliates anyone, what he is doing can be explicitly labeled and condemn as such, without long arguments about who’s right and who’s right in the dispute. Boss Trump can be challenged for simply acting like a bad boss, and who likes a bad boss, even if they’re right every now and then. And if those who are being deprived of their dignity by a bad boss or his lackeys, what is going on can be pointed out without reinforcing it by another form of humiliation in how it is pointed out as a necessary lesson the more well-off need to teach their less understanding others. .

  My thanks to Don Bushnell and Thomas Scheff for the provocation that lead to these thoughts                                                                .          They should not be blamed for the result.

Blog #121 – Immigration and Foreign Policy


Immigration Policy

Letters from the August 13-20, 2018, Issue

Written July 19, 2018 [minor elisions, insertions]

Re The Nation’s July 16/23 special issue, “Needed: A New Foreign Policy”: Truer words were never written. But there’s a puzzling aspect here as well. The one issue that has mobilized Americans politically today—immigration reform—appears only as a minor point [in of foreign policy]. The growing inequality among nations, which is the ultimate cause of the immigration problem, is presented as an aspect of economic growth, or as a blot on our humanitarian values, and it’s both. [Local and national level reforms are urgent, But the causes [of immigration] are international. Shouldn’t it be front and center [a foreign policy issue also?] Only international measures can ultimately deal with it. Yet Trump is strikingly oblivious to its causes.
Peter Marcuse
santa barbara, calif.

The above appeared as a letter to the editor of The Nation. But, apart from the omission of consideration o the relationship between home immigration /emigration issues and foreign policies, there are   a number of other concerns that should be highlighted in any serious reconsideration of foreign policy for the United States. I list only a few briefly here, and hope they will be developed further shortly in the Nation’s 4-part series, which  is still incomplete as I write this,  and elsewhere.

——————————–

What are the practical and political implications of this analysis?

Only to mention a few:[1]

An International Fair Labor Standards Agreement, whose agenda could include wage, working conditions, protection of rights toorganizx, transparency. Possibly integrated into tariff considerations? Environmental standards for goods in international commerce?

An international enforcement agency, with provision for fines for violation as financing?International labor code or standards, and reqilrement for posting on products and disclosure

Tariff policy on goods where code compliance not transparently posted?

International support for right to organize as human right

Spelling out local legal status of rights provisions of international law?

International standards for fair elections, with international  non-recognition of results of non-complying designation of holders of key political offices ?

Major economic development assistance (Marshall Plan (for hight emigration countries)?

An International Fair Labor Agenda?

With an  enforcement agency, and recipient of fines for violation as financing?

International labor code or standards, and reqilrement for posting on products and disclosure?

Tariff policy on goods where code compliance not transparently posted?

International support for right to organize as human right?

Clear, comprehensive, and legally enforceable provisions for prevention of discrimination against members of any group defined by ethnicity, color, gender, or culture.

Minimum standards for public education, with coordinated international assistance?S

Economic development assistance for high emigration countries?

All seen as legitimate agenda items for foreign policy debates and international agreements.

——————————

Clearly pie n the sky, in terms of actual formal implementation. But perhaps useful as a statement of goals and basis for a vision of what an international democratic and humane world order might look like?

To put up against the vision of an international world order led by an “again great America,” whose leadership is voluntarily accepted by the rest of the world, despite its own internal failure to adopt such proclaimed standards or act as an active and open-minded model for others on the world stage?

Not “Americans to make America Great for Americans Again,”  but

But “All Together to Help Make the World Freer, More Equal, and More Democratic for All. Now.”

[1] A number of more detailed and thought-throug of veersions of such a list, intheform of social movement and political and religious and humanistic groups, and deserve coordinated and serious study.

Blog #118 – Explaining “President” Donald Trump’s Behaviour.


Blog #118 – Explaining “President” Donald Trump’s Behaviour.

Recent efforts to explain Donald Trump’s behavior in clinical psychiatric terms are provocative,[1] but may be unnecessary. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu is proposing a bill that would require the White House to have a psychiatrist on staff.[2] A petition at Change.org, accusing Trump of mental illness and asking for his removal from office, has been signed by nearly 25,000 health professionals. The New Republic published a story this week speculating that Trump may have an untreated sexually transmitted disease that has led to a condition called “neurosyphilis,” characterized by “irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity.”

And on Tuesday, the New York Times published a letter signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers accusing the president of “grave emotional instability” that makes him “incapable of serving safely as president.” Though it is considered a breach of ethics to evaluate or diagnose public figures, they wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” Allen Frances, a former chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Duke University School of Medicine. disagreed, calling it “an insult people who have mental illness.”

“President” Trump has simply not been able to overcome his insecurity about “winning” an election in which he received 2,868,686 fewer votes than Hilary Clinton did,[3] in a low-turnout election in which he ended up with less than half of all eligible voters voting for him.[4] And this despite all of his name calling, lying, and not so ethical efforts to undermine Hillary’s campaign, even with the apparent help of his Russian counterpart. Having to face the legitimacy of his election and being labeled “President” Trump may be much more unnerving for him than being called “crooked” Clinton ever was for her. Everyday child psychology may be a simple enough explanation for the conduct a person with such an outsize self-image; a more medically-based approaches may not be needed. Think of the expected behavior of the bully in the sand box when his braggadocio no longer intimidates those subject to it. Perhaps Trump should be treated in the pediatric ward rather than the psychiatric? If not in both?

 

Peter Marcuse

August 2, 2018

[1] California Journal, Robin Acarian, “Talking Trump and mental health,” http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=93f3dcf0-698d-42a3-9cdc-bb5070205776

[2] https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/15/rep_ted_lieu_to_introduce_bill

[3] By Gregory Krieg. CNN December 22, 2016. It’s official: Clinton swamps Trump in popular vote – CNNPolitics https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/…trump-hillary-clinton…vote-final final-count/index.html

[4] Why is voter turnout so low in the U.S.? Politics Nov 6, 2016 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/voter-turnout-united-states

Blog #116 – Robert Mueller’s Report Song to Congress


The Robert Mueller song, as he presents his final Report to Congress.

 

To the Tune of the Chiquita Banana commercial:

I’m Chiquita Banana, and I’ve come to say

Bananas must ripen in a certain way….”[1]

——————–

My name is Robert Mueller and I’ve come to say,

Investigations must be undertaken in a certain way.

You can’t just claim that what so and so did was wrong

You have to have evidence that is clear and is strong.

You have to say what this man or woman did on a certain day

Violated a certain law at a certain place in a certain way.

This is what he did, and this is the person that saw him do it,

This is what he said he did, and this is why it’s obvious his story blew it.

These are the penalties that can be applied  that the law prescribes,

Only made more severe if you try to evade them with lies.

 

So here is my report:  I know that it’s 430 pages long

But what it describes was also very wrong wrong wrong.It’s the Congress that determines what’s wrong and what’s right.

My job is only to see how the facts fit what Congress set out, and how tight.

Now what happens, when, and to whom is up to the courts to determine

Whether those who did it were well-intentioned or were vermin.

I’ve finished the job I was hired to do,

Now it’s up to those that hired me to see the matter through.

 

If I can be of any more help, please do let me know,

Otherwise, I admit, I’m very happy to go.

Good bye, and best wishes.

Robert Mueller.

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFDOI24RRAE    It was a United Fruit commerciaI. If you have trouble finding it, it’s from 1940 and the oldest a google search for Chiquita Banana commercial produces; ‘ll try to get the exact url for it shortly. It;s great on its own.

Blog #115 – Facing the Causes of Immigration Problems


Facing the Causes of the Problems with Immigration

The ultimate causes of the emigration producing immigration crises in the U.S. and elsewhere are the gross inequalities among and within nation in resources and power. The only real solution to the crisis is to move to equalization and sharing among nations, through agreements and institutions at the international level. It is the opposite of the direction in which Trump is moving U.S. policy.

The issue of separating children from their parents within the process of dealing with immigration should be beyond the pale of reasonable disagreement, and the basic answer should be non-controversial: very simple, DON’T DO IT! Indeed, the details need working out, but that is no excuse for not dealing with the causes of the immigration problem as such. Looking at causes seems almost taboo today. Either it is too complicated, and we have no time to think about causes, or, if we do, the remedies seem so farfetched as to be utopian and not worth even thinking about.

But the cause of the immigration problem is in fact very simple. The need to emigrate from one country to another arises out of the gross inequality among countries of the world: inequalities in income and wealth, inequalities in power, unequal levels of security and dignity afforded their residents. And at least the first step dealing with these fundamental causes of emigration might seem to be equally clear: they can ultimately, but the sooner the better, be dealt with at the international level, what we newly call the global level. After the end of the First World War, there was a brief flurry of interest for collective international action at that level. The nations of the world went so far as to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose language is on a par in its nobility with the language of the United States Declaration of Independence, and deserves to be as familiar:

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. “

It is the foundation on which any quest for the solution to the problem s of immigration should rest.

That sounds fine, but totally theoretical. One might start with the briefly discussed but ill-fated efforts to agree on national quotas, which at least reflected an incipient belief in an international approach to the problem. Agreement might be sought, perhaps, for international standards at some absolutely minimal level, e.g., no separation of children from parents, some guarantee of due process. Some international standards actually already exist, for instance in the definitions agreed upon in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees for concepts such as fear of persecution and justifications for seeking asylum. Or agreements against the use of poison gas and chemical weapons in warfare, etc. Why not international standards for the treatment of those seeking to emigrate out of similarly defined urgent need?

There are also already a variety of national and inter-national limited agreements for immediate remedial measures. Germany finances aid to Turkey to promote its measures reducing flight from that country. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel briefly signed an agreement, unfortunately sort-lived, helped by the High Commissioner for Refugees, to support financially measures in Eritrea and Sudan to staunch the flow of refugees from those countries to Israel, and to cooperate with other western countries to accept refugees emigrating from them.1.  Other ideas have surely been advanced along similar lines, and deserve study attention,

And could one not at least envision further principled moves to support universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions for financing? Wasn’t there once a broad Marshall Plan in which victorious countries aided devastated ones after the Second World War? Wouldn’t such be aspirations at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns?  Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?

As further steps, could one not at least envision universal free education through grades 12 with an international fund and matching local contributions as financing? Wouldn’t that be an aspiration at least to put on the table in international conferences, and even in our own election campaigns?  Wouldn’t positive relations with our allies and neighbors, not a route the Trump administration seems interested in taking, be enhanced by such discussions?

Might even  Donald Trump find some value in such a direction, as relieving him, all alone, from having to face problems that  he clearly is not on the way to  solving by himself ? Cynically, perhaps, but usefully, kicking the can of immigration reform upstairs?

1.See Michael Stard,The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Batle for Human Rights, review by David Shulman, New York Review of Books, June 28, 2018.

 

 

 

Blog 106 – “winning” tax reform


TAX REFORM – WHERE WINNING IS FOR LOSERS

(Re: “The biggest winner in the tax code rewrite…” New York Times, December 6, 2017, p. 1 and A34)

Winning is for losers, in the case of tax reform, if principles or rationally defensible policy is the measure. Winning on tax reform is what you boast about when you’ve failed abysmally to produce anything of merit, and all you can claim is that you’ve defeated any alternative in a fight for something – whatever it is. You already have the support of the wealthy, who support you because your proposals are to their very material benefit; but you want to get the votes of a wider constituency.

With the outrageous process of drafting a bill that could at least be called “tax reform,” the Republicans have come up with a monster whose only virtue is that it cobbles together legislation that would garner one more vote over the bare minimum needed to pass something – anything whatsoever, anything, whatever its content, that could let the Party claim “victory,” and proclaim that they are “winners,” when in fact they have lost any claim to have accomplished anything worth doing.

Having failed to do anything that meets the meaning of the words “tax reform” in ordinary English, rather than admit failure, the Republicans are left with the hollow title of “winners” when in fact they have surrendered any objective that deserves use of the words. if you look at the content, not the form, of what they have actually accomplished, and judge by the standard of service to the common good, the Republicans are the real losers in the battle for true tax reform.

“Winning,” in fact, is a mischievous word. As Donald Trump or the Republicans or often some meila use it, it in fact means conquering, and “losers” are meant to surrender. But it can also mean being successful in a competition to solve a problem to achieve a noteworthy result, as in most sports competitions, where some do better than others, but one’s success does not negate what others have scored. Fair competition can leave the losers intact, to continue to strive; unfair competition, winner take all,  is aimed at eliminating “losers” entirely from the competition.