O’Reilly Incident Exemplifies The Difference That Makes Today’s Politics So Toxic

By now everyone who pays attention has heard about Bill O’Reilly’s quick mea culpa on his blustery condemnation of the MOW 50th anniversary events not inviting Republicans to speak. Of course they were invited to speak, lots of them. They all declined. O’Reilly, as usual spoke, loudly, without doing research. The apology was unusual, but good on him for that. Bad on him for not immediately guessing the truth and trying to use a lie to condemn the wrong side.

Hosts of Republican leaders and the lone black Republican in the Senate, Tim Scott (R-SC) were invited and none attended. They saw the entire commemoration as a Democratic event, which says all you need to know about their attitudes towards minorities, civil rights, and how the parties have evolved since 1963. This was sadly typical of recent years where Republicans have made declining invitations to join Democrats on social or symbolic occasions a regular thing. Republican officials and citizens have turned down invites to the White House to have dinner or watch movies or even to be honored there in the case of members of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins football team. Who does that? Turning down WH invites over political differences? When did that start?

When the Obamas held a reception for new members of Congress in January 2011, after the “shellacking” Democrats took in the 2010 election, 37 Republicans showed up. More than two-thirds of the freshman senators and House members swept in with the GOP tide stayed away.

It’s emblematic of how the GOP rolls today to note these behaviors. It’s not about political differences that can be discussed and compromised anymore. For the new GOP it’s personal, not political. Three decades plus of anti-Democratic, anti-liberal, anti-progressive propaganda has devolved the arguments from nuanced political stances into black and white, good and evil dichotomies.

We’re not just on differing sides of an argument today (who could agree on other days), no. The other side isn’t just wrong, they’re evil, possibly satanically inspired, and trying to destroy our civilization for shits and giggles.

Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t want to have cocktails with that creature either.

When the GOP was taken over by fundamentalists who have internalized all that anti-liberal propaganda and see every issue as “you’re either with us or against us” manichean arguments, this abdication of reason and comity was inevitable.

P.S. Cynthia Tucker’s piece explains what that means for the GOP’s internal politics. The Grand Old Party of Nihilists and Cranks

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Cliteracy

Fact: Did you know that until an Australian urologist examined the clitoris of corpses donated for research in 1998, nobody had ever done so for the purposes of a medical journal? That year again was 1998! Every damn other organ had been examined, charted, studied and put in jars all over the world, but not the clitoris.

Despite the plethora of pornography and sex advice available 24/7, more people are spectacularly ignorant of the clitoris than virtually anything else in the world that there are that many of (over 4 billion not very well served). 

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Huff Po helps to get the word out about artist Sophia Wallace’s Cliteracy effort through her installation for the Museum of Sex in NY to help demystify and educate about the clitoris.  

“I wanted to talk about female genitals in a way that I felt wasn’t really being talked about,” Wallace said. “For me, this word ‘cliteracy’ perfectly breaks down the idea of the project. It’s this pithy, wonderful little word that encapsulates so much so quickly and so simply. It illuminates this idea of total illiteracy and incompetence when it comes to the female body.”

Wallace created Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws as part of her Cliteracy Project. Phrases like:

  • “The Clitoris is not a button it is an iceberg”
  • “A Man would never be expected to get off through sex acts that ignored his primary sexual organ”
  • “Freedom in society can be measured by the distribution of orgasms””

Check out Ms Wallace’s Tumblr for more enlightening clitoral fun.

Where are the Ideas?

Where are the ideas to bring back fairness, equality and a vibrant middle class? This question came up at a dinner party recently and the answer is not all that inspiring but it’s true – the ideas are the ones that were dominant from the beginning of the New Deal until the election of Reagan. They’re not new ideas. They’re the old ideas that worked and still would.

They’re the ideas that were quietly reviled by the malefactors of great wealth who organized over decades, under the radar, to erode the practice of those ideas. They openly propagandized against the ideas and when these corporatist forces had the strength to do so, they legislated them out of existence.

Part of the propaganda campaign is to say ideas like progressive taxation, minimum wages, unions, and public spending on infrastructure and education were created for a different world and can’t work anymore. They urge you to discard those ideas (which is their overall goal) and then they create a strawman by demanding new ideas from the left, when they are not necessary.

It occurs to me that there are even more ideas that are so long discarded, so antithetical to the 1%, that nobody even considers them anymore. But they once were considered essential and effective in guarding against the inequality we now suffer from.

From the beginnings of state commercial codes through the mid 20th century many states had laws either prohibiting chain stores (limiting how many stores one person or family could own performing a similar service) or taxing them more than independent stores. You may not have had a WalMart or McDonalds under these laws and there was a good solid economic reason to discourage them. 

Imagine that every new WalMart built displaces an average of 50 small businesses. 50 families have their middle class income, derived from ownership, transferred to that 1 family in Bentonville, AR. Multiply that over 1,000 stores and 50,000 families have funneled their modest wealth to 1 fabulously wealthy family in Arkansas!

Consider that today the most accepted way to get rich other than through winning the American Idol or NBA draft lottery is to franchise an idea. It’s not about the one or handful of stores that can make you a good living, it’s about instant wealth by having hundreds or thousands of stores. Many of the early lawmakers saw that as a means of taking wealth out of communities and creating large interests when small local interests were thought best.

When did it become a better idea to maximize the wealth for an individual at the cost of what was best for a community? On its face it’s clear, it never did become a better idea. But it sure became acceptable morally and ethically, and in fact, it became a legal matter that those laws that safeguarded the local community were sloughed off as old fashioned and anti-business.

But it wasn’t even so long ago really. At the turn of the 20th century there were about 50 chains in retailing.  Today there are about 50,000.  This editorial by the National Association of Retail Druggists Journal appeared in a 1936 volume: 

The selfishness of those who would control the money power of the nation, if their greed is allowed to develop unchecked . . . [would leave] masses of Americans wholly at the mercy of the despotic power of a monopolistic class.—National Association of Retail Druggists Journal

Paul Ingram of Columbia University and Hayagreeva Rao of Northwestern reprinted this editorial in Store Wars: the Enactment and Repeal of Anti-Chain-Store Legislation in America.  They write:

Before the chains, the independent retailer was a deeply institutionalized element of American economic and social life, ingrained in the prevailing concept of community, and a key link in the opportunity structure that was then seen as a foundation of American democracy.

Chains rose after WWI, multiplying in the 20s like never before. From the Corporate Research Project:

At the start of that decade, the 20 leading chains had fewer than 10,000 stores. By the end of the decade, they had more than 37,000. A&P, the leader in the grocery segment, jumped from about 4,500 to more than 15,000. In apparel, J.C. Penney went from about 300 to more than 1,400. And in the drugstore sector, Walgreen’s leaped from 23 to 440. The impact in market share terms was most dramatic in groceries. By 1929, A&P and competitors such as Kroger and Safeway had captured nearly 40 percent of the market.

In this light, there was a clamor for anti-chain store legislation. Much like today’s anti-WalMart activists, independent retailers and community activists urged people to keep money in the community by not shopping at chain stores. Many states enacted taxes on chain stores to discourage them. a form of “protectionism” for the local independent retailer. 

But the deeper pockets of the pro-chain store forces fought back and reversed the laws.

If the people of the United States like our stores so little that they are willing to tax us out of business, that is their affair. We will shut up shop.—president of the Atlantic & Pacific Stores, the largest chain  in the U.S. in 1939

Sounds familiar, huh? If we don’t get our way we’ll close up and take the jobs with us. They formed lobbies of their own including the National Chain Store Association, tasked with spreading good chain store public relations.  A&P alone bought extensive space in newspapers and sent speakers to civic organizations to proselytize on their behalf. 

Obviously, we know who ultimately won this battle. 1937 was the high point of anti-chain store legislation and popular opinion. The protectionists lost to the free traders of unfettered capitalism. The question remains though: should they have? Would we have been better off if we’d taken a stand in the 20s and 30s so that WalMart and its ilk would have never grown into the wealth siphoning malignancies they are today?

Can we take up the idea of incentivizing small business in real economic terms?

Five Reasons for Optimism for Unions this Labor Day

You knew Labor Day was about workers and unions didn’t ya? Not just barbecuing, bargains on unclaimed airline luggage, mattress sales and the Jerry Lewis Telethon (starring Ryan Seacrest)?  John Logan of San Francisco State University notes reasons for optimism in The Hill including positive trends on overall popularity and the recent actions by workers at WalMart and fast food outlets. Also, for the first time in years an actually functioning National Labor Relations Board.

Finally, Logan writes:

Finally, as demonstrated by next week’s “open convention,” the AFL-CIO and its affiliates are more flexible, imaginative, and inclusive than ever before. They have embraced the struggles of domestic workers, carwash workers, Wal-Mart workers, fast food workers and others. They have formed deep alliances with the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Sierra Club, religious organizations, and other groups that support basic justice for American workers. And they have played a key role in lobbying for federal legislation that benefits all workers – healthcare reform, equal pay legislation, immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave.

Unions have recognized that they need public relations remediation and allies, and have sought to find common ground with other organizations to join forces against the GOP and Chamber of Commerce. 

It can never be said enough: the middle class built America and unions built the middle class. Policies that benefit union membership, benefit the overall economy by increasing wages and demand.

Haters Gonna Hate – scientifically proven some people just like to hate

Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog took the tongue in cheek approach to a study by researchers from the Univ. of Illinois and Univ. of Pennsylvania printed in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (I love their swimsuit issue) called Evidence for a Dispositional Attitude, its Measurement, and its Consequences in which the researchers tried to determine if some people are just more inclined to hate things, anything. 

They wanted to figure out if people tended to like or dislike things in general. This was dubbed the individual’s dispositional attitude or, more simply put, checked for whether they were a hater who pretty much hates on everything that comes across their path.

Haven’t we all met people like that? People that are just negative. We joke about someone being negative by calling them the “Russian judge” harking back to the Olympics and the Russian tendency to downgrade the performance of anybody not Russian (to be fair, they did at least like Russians). Saying someone has a “dispositional attitude” is the proper way of calling them the “Russian judge” or more commonly, “a disagreeable fuckwit.” The stereotype is the sour old person, or in other words – the Tea Party. But I’ve met young people too that are just difficult and negative (often depressive too, but that’s a different, although not unrelated thing). I don’t think it’s really surprising that the study showed that yeah, some people tend to be more likely to like and some to dislike. That they’re not objective about it, literally, whatever they’re being asked to judge, they tend to be Russian about it.

The study comprised asking groups of people their feelings about different unrelated things, including made up stuff.

To test out this theory, a team of psychologists asked study participants how they felt about a number of mundane and unrelated subjects that included (but was not limited to) architecture, health care, crossword puzzles, taxidermy and Japan.

With the hater test verified and known haters identified, researchers asked their participants to read about the “Monahan LPI-800 Compact 2/3-Cubic-Foot 700-Watt Microwave Oven.” This not a real microwave but one dreamt up by researchers to test how much people would hate it.

The haters, perhaps unsurprisingly, were much less enthused than those who had more positive attitudes about camping, Japan and the like. This was also true in a question about vaccines, where the likers were more likely to have a positive opinion about getting vaccine shots then the haters.

The concluding remarks of the study: 

The present research introduced the concept of the dispositional attitude – an individual’s general tendency to like versus dislike stimuli. A corollary of dispositional attitudes is that an individual’s attitudes toward independent, ostensibly unrelated stimuli will be positively related. This pattern is surprising to the extent that prevailing attitude theories emphasize attitudes being determined by properties of the stimuli under evaluation and not the properties of the people evaluating the stimuli. The present research demonstrated that some people tend to like things, whereas others tend to dislike things, and a more thorough understanding of this tendency will lead to a more thorough understanding of the psychology of attitudes.

Isn’t it called prejudice? Some people are just prejudiced against, whatever – other people, things, ideas. If the prevailing understanding in psychological research is that people are fair and judge things fairly, based on objectivity, with an open mind and are just as likely to to like or dislike based on the stimuli, I could have saved them the grant money. 

Some people are just difficult fuckwits, and they tend to be your parents.

It’s Friday ya bastards!

Just some thoughts that made me go hmmmm:

The same people who decry food stamps, welfare and unemployment and think everyone’s abusing these programs in an effort to keep from working also don’t want to increase the minimum wage, which would be an incentive to work. (I guess that’s how you know they’re full of shit.)

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NSA workers, presumed to be working in good faith, violated the privacy of American citizens 2,776 times. That’s 2,776 OOPS! when they were trying to be good. What if they weren’t trying to be good?

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A very young America enacted tariffs in order to protect its new industries against the British manufacturing behemoth. Which made sense in order to get young industries off the ground. Theoretically, when those industries mature and can compete, you then drop tariffs and advocate free trade.

But because of the power of those industries in D.C., even when American industry started to dominate the world, the tariffs never went away and the resulting trade imbalance in our favor helped to cause the 1929 crash.

The last 30 years, as Walmart and other purchasers bought Chinese products and Made in the USA became a sad, pathetic cry for help, we should have enacted tariffs and protected American manufactures. But again, powerful business lobbies made “protectionism” a curse word and now virtually nothing is made here and a huge trade imbalance helped bring about the 2008 melt down.

When are we gonna get this right?

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“The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it … I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1936

 

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