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Power in the USA: political string theory in US politics

Puppet_Master
How are power relations shaping the U.S. political sphere? From the primary campaign to the tea parties and the raucous healthcare forums, Americans are out in force. Regardless of their political stripe, are their actions in their own best interest or are they being played? What influences are determining how people perceive the issues, what aspects of the issues are open to debate, and what aspects are not open for consideration? Whom is mobilizing whom and for what?

Steven Lukes, in his classic “Power: A Radical View” offers a framework for analyzing the types of power relations that shape policy and society within democratically-oriented nations. The overly simplified summary that follows is intended as a tool to direct our discussion.

Power, oversimplified, is the capacity of individual or collective agents to achieve their intended outcomes by getting others to act for these outcomes, even when these outcomes are against their own best interests. In achieving these outcomes the three dimensions of power tend to function in a complimentary fashion.

The first dimension of power is the capacity to realize one’s aims in decision-making situations. This is the capacity to acquire a representative majority, whatever form that may take, be it a simple plurality or a Presidential veto. For example, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency because they acquired a representative majority in all of these areas in the last election.

The second dimension of power is the capacity to determine the agenda, that is, the scope of decision-making situations. This is the capacity to contain and direct deliberation within parameters wherein first dimension power can be exercised to achieve one’s aims while concurrently foreclosing considerations that could undermine one’s first dimension power. An example of the second dimension of power at work is that President Obama and many ranking Democrats, even with their filibuster-proof majority, have effectively excluded single-payer from the healthcare reform options.

The third dimension of power is the capacity to secure prior consent to these decisions by manipulating how people perceive their parameters of choice. In harnessing their choices, one either harnesses their actions, the choices and/or actions of others they have power over, or both. In this way, according to Amartya Sen, the ‘most blatant forms of inequalities and exploitations survive in the world through making allies out of the deprived and the exploited.’

Propaganda, i.e. political spin and sloganeering, for example, exists to seep, and/or be ground into, people’s consciousness to influence their decision making, as Goebbels noted. “Government should not interfere with business“, “Socialism (or capitalism) is evil”, “Free trade brings freedom”, and “Healthcare forum disrupters are all astroturfed Republicans” are examples of such sloganeering propagandizing and Rove and Axelrod practise propaganda architectonics.

Social signs of third dimension power relations include overtly inequitable distributions of natural and cultural social goods within a community; a relative acceptance of these social relations among those disadvantaged by these relationships; and evidence of mechanisms in play that have prevented the disadvantaged from perceiving their circumstances as potentially otherwise. From the perspective of a single payer advocate, for example, I perceive the clusters of people who are making statements about keeping the government out of Medicare as being in the same boat as those who are pushing for Obama’s bait-and-switch private insurance debacle while thinking they are getting a publicly-funded cost effective model. Both groups are actively working against their own interests.

Assuming that the three dimensions of power are alive, well, and very much involved in the continuing mass transference of wealth from the middle class to the elite, what can be done to reverse this trend? As bloggers, and blog participants, what can and should we do?

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Fashion Model Sues Google to Learn Identity of Cyberstalker

modelslasherbig Samir Dervisevic, a doorman at the Hudson Hotel in New York City, smashed this woman, Liskula Cohen, a Canadian-born fashion model, across the face with a bottle of vodka in January of 2007. Now I know our many lurking trolls are thinking, “the b**ch was probably asking for it.” Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. Here’s what happened. Cohen, who has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle as well as modeling for Versace and Giorgio Armani, was sitting with friends at Ultra, when Dervisevic and his friend walked by. Dervisevic’s friend grabbed a bottle of vodka off Cohen’s table and poured himself a drink. When Cohen objected,

…she said Dervisevic – a doorman at an Upper East Side building who was born in New York to immigrants from the former Yugoslavia – exploded and threw a drink in her face.

“He called me the c-word and he started yelling at me, and then the bouncer told him to go away. He didn’t,” Cohen said. She then threw her drink on him, and he grabbed the bottle.

“He hit me with a bottle on my left cheek. The glass smashed. I went into shock,” she said.

Bouncers ushered Dervisevic away, and Cohen saw her white knit Ralph Lauren minidress was covered in blood. Continue reading

I wonder if Jon “the Groper” Favreau wrote this?

Charlie Pierce of the Boston Globe (who is known around town for drinking heavily and seldom bathing) writes:

Ever wonder who helps President-elect Barack Obama sound so uplifting, so eloquent? North Reading’s Jon Favreau, all of 27, tops the list.

So uplifting, so eloquent…

h/t to Hillbuzz for the video

Facebook Bans Breastfeeding Photos

36_breastfeeding

From the New York Daily News:

A minirevolt is underway at Facebook after photos of mothers nursing their babies were removed from their personal pages.

More than 58,000 people have joined a Facebook group called “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” to complain about the censorship.

Organizers will conduct a cyberprotest Saturday, asking every supporter to change his or her profile picture to an image of breast-feeding.

“We need to take our bodies back,” said mom Stephanie Muir, one of the group’s administrators.

Facebook is very concerned about *The Children.*

A Facebook spokesman said it removes photos only if the entire breast is exposed.

“These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children [over the age of 13] who use the site,” said Barry Schnitt.

I share the outrage these women feel, but where was the mass protest when Jon Favreau and friend groped a lifesize cutout of Senator Hillary Clinton and posted it on Facebook? In fact, the disgusting Jon Favreau group grope photo is still posted on Obama’s favorite speechwriter’s fan site. Why no *concern* from Barry Schnitt about that?

So, according to Facebook, children must be protected from seeing women nursing their infants, but the President’s speechwriter groping the future Secretary of State is just fine?

By the way, why hasn’t Jon Favreau been fired yet? And even more outrageous, why has Jon Favreau been named one of the six “Bostonians of the Year?”

Finally Some Outrage is Building–But Not From the National Organization for Women

Republican Andrew Breitbart, writing at Real Clear Politics:

At the exact moment Jon Favreau is receiving high praise in pre-inaugural media puff pieces, the 27-year-old chief speechwriter for President-elect Barack Obama (not Jon Favreau, the Hollywood actor/ director) finds himself in a minor mess over a photo from a recent private party showing him groping the breast of a cardboard cutout of Hillary Rodham Clinton as an unnamed pal wearing an “Obama staff” T-shirt kisses and feeds her beer.

If you haven’t seen it, imagine the early stages of the barroom rape scene of “The Accused” with Jodie Foster. Or think prosecutor Mike Nifong’s graphic (though false) descriptions of the Duke lacrosse party. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson danced to a similar tune at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Fraternities have been closed for less.

Breitbart cannot understand why there isn’t a “groundswell of feminist outrage” yet. Concerned, he contacted the National Organization for women for a reaction.

The National Organization for Women, which last struck issuing news releases on why Sarah Palin isn’t a real woman, refused to comment on the Obama speechwriter incident.

When NOW’s press secretary Mai Shiozaki was reached Friday, she first claimed not to have seen the Favreau photograph. But when called later, she offered two reasons for not weighing in: “I haven’t looked into it” and “I have a 5 p.m. deadline. … I am already late.”

Continue reading

Tsk Tsk Tsk! Is This Really the Next Junior Senator from New York?

How do you like this photo, Barack?*

How do you like this photo, Barack?

Note: Thanks to Katiebird for the photo(shop).

This is an open thread.

Update: Obama thought this one was really hilarious (h/t Sugar, posted in comments yesterday).

I wonder if he’ll like the one Murphy posted?

Tuesday: Ohm’s law- how will you resist?

Two of our most passionate resistors, Patsy and Sugar, have been resisting since Clinton was still in the race.  These two African-American women have taken a lot of $#&@ for their principled stance against Obama.

Patsy and Sugar have a blogtalkradio show called Our View on Thursday evening’s at 9:00PM EST on NQR.  Highly recommended.  In the most recent segment, they talk about how they see Obama as passing as black and adopting habits that identify himself with African American culture to the point of being absurd.  They had a good laugh over Obama’s preferred cigarettes, Newports in a box.  It sounds like he’s trying too hard.  Patsy relates a story about being stuck in a conversation with two middle aged African American ladies who assumed she was an Obama supporter and read her the riot act before she had a chance to respond.  There is trouble in paradise for Obama, it seems.  Resistance is starting to build in the African American bloc as well.

What’s maddening about many of Obama’s African American supporters  is that they can’t seem to get beyond the glamour of him breaking through the color barrier to see that Obama and his buddy, Donna Brazile, have already thrown them under the bus.  African Americans are part of the “old coalition’ of the Democratic party.  Just like the elderly, the poor, women and the GBLT community, the ‘old coalition’ still needs the support of government for either protection of their basic civil rights to making sure Social Security and Medicare is still solvent.  The Whole Foods Nation can climb higher on Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs on their way to self-actualization.  The rest of us still have to work extra hard to meet our basic needs.  Obama is sitting pretty near the top of the pyramid, which is why Patsy and Sugar see his attempts to look more black as laughable.

Patsy and Sugar have made some amazing videos.  Patsy explained it all a couple of weeks ago and said all that any former Clintonista had to say about why she wasn’t supporting Obama.  It doesn’t get much clearer.  And yesterday, Sugar posted this video on her blog Sugarnspice from a brother who tells us why there won’t be rioting in the street:

I think he might be slightly off on this one.  There may well be rioting in those communities that have broken out in the past, like in certain portions of LA.  But for the vast majority of African Americans, they’re busy.  They’ve got jobs an families and can’t be bothered with all the destruction that follows a riot.  But for the Obama campaign to start a whisper campaign spreading that rumor, well, that would be offensive to me as an African American.  Why wouldn’t the African American community behave in the same way that women behaved after the suppression of Clinton’s votes?  Why wouldn’t it be just as effective for them to organize, do online protesting, make plans for reform of the party and other acts of non-violent civil disobedience?  We’ve had African American leaders of real stature, such as Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson, who have been inspirational for many people who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  You can get things done without ripping up your neighborhood and looting from your neighbors.

Maybe Obama would know that if he actually spent some time getting to know his most loyal constituents instead of just exploiting them.

And here is a new poll:

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