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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 4, 2022 by Tony Wikrent   Professional Management Class war on workers Railroading workers [Popular Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-29-2022] “The dispute boils down to one issue: paid sick leave. … Railroad companies have adamantly refused to include any short-term paid leave. That means rail wor […]
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Can you reason with an anti-choice religious person on abortion or reproductive rights?

I’m listening to Emily Bazelon on Political Gabfest’s new episode about why evangelicals are so angry and I can hear both exasperation and panic in her voice about whether Missouri’s new legislation preventing women seeking abortions from leaving the state is constitutional. You may be surprised to find that legal scholars differ on that. This would set up a truly dystopian Handmaid’s Tale scenario where women who don’t want to be mothers are hunted down, apprehended and returned to their owners (parents, husband, state) to wait out their pregnancies and then relinquish the infant at birth. Or they could be coerced to take responsibility for their immorality even if that means giving up all expectations of a better life for themselves and future children. They must be punished.

Honestly, I’m so fed up with the extremist religious right trying to force women to be mothers that I don’t really care what they’re thinking. But I have observed the species in the wild so I can give you my observations on their behavior.

You are dealing with people who are very rigid, inflexible, controlling and legalistic in their thought patterns. If you were to ask them what their favorite book of the Bible is, it would probably be Leviticus. That book is very straightforward. It’s eye for an eye, eat this, don’t eat that, 10 easy to understand not nuanced commandments. They are in every way your typical authoritarian with a twist. Your typical authoritarian focusses their ire on poor people or gay people or black/Hispanic/non-white people. Religious authoritarians focus with laser like intensity on women.

Have you seen the Duggars? You know, the high control family from Arkansas with 19 kids? That family is the anti-choicer’s role model. Forget about the number of children they have for a moment. Those kids are monitored to an inch of their lives. The only difference between the way those Duggar girls are raised and the way I was raised by a strict Jehovah’s Witness is that I went to a public school and could wear jeans and shorts. In every other way, it was identical.

A Duggar girl is not allowed to express any emotions or wants or desires of her own. Their lives are scripted by their parents and the most valuable characteristic of a daughter to a religious authoritarian is O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E. Do what you’re told, don’t express an opinion, never get angry. Their clothes are selected for them, of a prescribed length, their belongings are selected for them, their sleeping arrangements in the house, the chores they do, their friends, the music they’re allowed to listen to, their activities or lack thereof. Everything. They have zero agency about anything. In my case, it was made clear to me that education beyond high school was strictly prohibited. Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly discourage college. (I got one anyway but it meant leaving home early)

The primary extracurricular activity that is allowed for the Duggar girl is tending to children, either their own siblings or some other family’s kids. Their whole lives are ordered by babysitting chores regardless of what is going on in their age group. This was my life as well. I got paid for all the babysitting I did for friends of my parents but I watched people my age get to do things on the weekends that I wasn’t allowed to do because I was spending it with toddlers. I feel for those Duggar girls because the toddlers never stopped coming.

For a religious authoritarian parent, it’s their way or the highway and resistance is useless. And it doesn’t stop when they’re adults. The Duggar girls are given to their husbands in a very literal sense. At no time in their lives do they have any decision making ability unless it is to turn down an arranged marriage to someone their father has selected. Some of those Duggar girls married more reasonable men. A few of the oldest have started wearing jeans, gotten their noses pierced and have an occasional glass of wine. To Jim Bob Duggar, this is unacceptable behavior of a jezebel. Jill Duggar, kid number 4/19, has gotten so upset at having to subject herself to this kind of control from her father even though she’s married and no longer has to report to him, that she’s had to go to therapy to be able to learn to establish boundaries that she was never allowed to erect when she was a child.

Here’s an indication of how important it is to reinforce the chastity and subjugation of women to the religious authoritarian: Jim Bob Duggar gives his son Josh, who is currently facing sentencing for conviction oh child pornography charges, moral support, money, excuses and presumption of innocence. He’s right by that scumbag’s side through the trial. Josh deserves second chances, third chances, a get out of jail free card. But if his daughters come home to visit wearing nose rings, they’re lectured and told not to return because they are a bad influence on their younger siblings.

You can’t make this stuff up.

And this brings us to the thing other than complete and total O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E that is a feature of the religious authoritarian households and that personal privacy is not allowed. They will go through your things looking for signs of defiance or anything you want to keep to yourself. You are constantly under surveillance. In my case, instructions were delivered to my teachers to make sure I didn’t do anything than what I was explicitly allowed. I have a report card from second grade where my teacher made a note that I was a nervous wreck. That sounds about right since it’s at about the age of 7 that you’re told that your salvation is completely on you. You know the difference between right and wrong and if you step out of line even a little, god will kill you. This was the message that was delivered to me personally right after my seventh birthday.

It tends to make a kid anxious.

The religious authoritarian is absolutely obsessed with the idea of pre-marital sex. It’s like the worst thing you can do. It’s worse than murder. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how independent you are or any of the accomplishments you experience in life, pre-marital sex never loses its shamefulness to them. Absolutely nothing else in your character or success or kindness or courage is as important as violating the proscription against pre-marital sex. Your whole being is reduced to the area between your legs. Nothing else matters. Pre-marital sex freaks them out.

It’s ok if you’re married. But then, the particular sect you’re in could spell out exactly what is and isn’t sinful sexual behavior. There are certain things that you can’t do with your spouse. It could cost you your salvation.

It sounds crazy but if you’re brought up this way, it seeps into your consciousness and can distort where you end and where your elders begin to the point where confession of even the smallest infraction is the only way to achieve some kind of peace of mind. I’ve known engaged couples who went too far, felt overwhelming shame, confessed to their elders, were disciplined, disfellowshipped and had to change their wedding plans because of it.

These are the people who want to ban abortion, keep you from traveling and will prosecute you for homicide. They’re not f}#^ing around. They don’t see women as independent beings and their minds have not evolved out of the Bronze Age.

I honestly don’t care why they’re angry. I’ve seen it up close and personal and it never did make a lick of sense once birth control became widely available and parents had reason to have pride in their daughters’ academic and professional achievements rather than if they were having sex. But that sex thing never gets old with them. In the vast universe with the billions and billions of stars and myriad of possibly inhabitable planets and wars, atrocities, man’s inhumanity to man, famine and disease, the thing they have chosen to guide their lives is preventing women from enjoying their bodies and especially outside of marriage.

Their world is small, their concerns are small, their god is small and their control is paramount.

I keep saying that the right is wired differently. The religious authoritarian is even farther along on the spectrum. It’s hard wiring that is very resistant. It’s because any control they get is like a rat hitting a bar for that extra hit of cocaine. It’s very pleasurable to them to make sure women are walking a very straight and narrows path. They are the equivalent of the Iranian committee for the enforcement of Vice and virtue who beat women walking around without their chadors on the streets of Tehran. It gives them purpose in life and that purpose seems to be that god wants women to be confined within an inch of their lives to being wives and mothers who will submit to having other people do their thinking for them.

Good luck trying to reason with that. I spent the majority of my life trying and it never worked. It was a waste of energy.

As far as I can see, we are asking the wrong question about reproductive rights in this country. The vagueries of when life begins depending on faith or cultural traditions are like counting the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin.

The question should be: do you really want to hand the country’s enforcement agency over to these people. Be prepared. It’s going to be the cultural equivalent of Ukraine breaking away from Russia. Women thought they were free already and now they find themselves fighting all over again to be taken seriously as free and equal human beings. I will not be surprised if the religious authoritarians commit atrocities. There is nothing they will let stand in their way of getting the women of America to shut up, go home and stop making demands.

We’re going to have to fight back with all our might because they’re never going to stop and living under their thumbs is a nightmare. I’ve been there.

“The Corporate-Totalitarian Complex”

Adam Schiff notes that since the weekend, oil prices have dropped by 10%, but gas prices have hit an all-time high.

In the Washington Monthly, Rob Shapiro writes an article outlining how Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised gas prices; and how Saudi Arabia, in what he calls “an authoritarian tax,” has kept a very tight hold on oil supply, much as was done in the 1970’s. It has been speculated that MBS is doing this as revenge for the Biden Administration not aiding in the cover-up of the Saudis’ murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which it is obvious that Trump callously ignored, paving the way for the two billion dollars the Saudis gifted to Jared Kushner.

These conspiracy theories are always depressing, because we are given further glimpses into a world where infinitely corrupt people control things to such an extent that they seem to always get their way. But it is better to try to unearth them than to ignore them; or even worse, let them get the results they want, which in this case is a big Republican victory in the midterms, which will get rid of any possibility of legislation moving us to clean energy.

I don’t remember every detail of how this went down in the 1970’s, but I do know that President Carter, who was far from my ideal president, was admirably foresighted with regard to the need to move America toward clean energy. And somehow OPEC restrained oil supply so much, that there was a major gas shortage. We all remember those few weeks of two-hour lines at the pump, siphoning of people’s gas tanks, gas prices shooting up.

And that caused high inflation, which combined with Iran deliberately refusing to release American hostages until Reagan could get elected, caused the defeat of Carter, the victory of Reagan, and the “greed is good” era where big oil and every other industry could do what it wanted, at incalculable cost to the health and safety of our planet.

This seems to be repeating. We can be sure that the oil companies have no intent to lower gas prices before the election; they want American families to suffer, people to get angry, and to vote Republicans into power. That is how they operate; the only thing that matters to them is profits.

Now, the Republicans, and those in the media whom they own, or who are just abysmally ignorant so-called journalists, just keep repeating that “inflation is skyrocketing, bad for Biden, good for Republicans.” They rarely point out that the largest part of the inflation is gas prices. They also do not note that because of the Ukraine War, inflation is very high in Europe. And they deliberately or ignorantly completely buy into the Republicans narrative that Biden is responsible for inflation, because he has proposed and signed bills which spent money.

The Republicans have ridiculously argued for decades, that Democratic spending causes inflation. Government spending can cause inflationary pressures, but with great rewards. Look at a chart of employment numbers and GDP under Democratic and Republican administrations, and it is astounding. Republican administrations have paltry GDP, no job growth, and no wage growth, and it goes on for many years. People have to work as hard as they can, and often take two or three jobs, just to stay even.

Right now, GDP has risen about 5.5%, and wages are up around 5% under Biden. Inflation of 8% year over year, is outpacing that, which is not good, though inflation in some areas is starting to come down. But what are the causes? We all see reports of record profits for corporations; this is due to them hiding behind inflation to greatly raise prices. But they get a double benefit from this: the record profits, which keep being used for stock buybacks; and the damage it does to Democrats, anticipatedly leading to Republican control of Congress; leading to no rise whatsoever in corporate taxes, and no restraints on monopolies and corporate tax evasion.

It is a collusion between Republicans, corporations, and authoritarian leaders who very much want Republicans to be in power. If Trump had won, or destroyed democracy to stay in power, they would have cheered and profited. There is only one democracy in the Middle East, and it is not any of the Arab countries which have gamed the oil market for many decades.

And sad to say, the owners of American corporations are all vulture capitalists who will put profits ahead of everything else, including democracy. Or that is their concept of “the greatness of America”: a land where they can plunder the soil and pollute the air and water to their wallets’ content, with no impediments able to be put up by Democrats with regard to their profits, ways of doing business, price gouging, and control of the political system.

There are still books written by brave and enterprising people about this, but they are not read by too many people, not those who react the way that the corporations and the totalitarians want them to react. Here is where good broadcast journalism might inform the populace, but it almost never does. As far as the limited amount I watch MSNBC, which is the best cable news network, the broadcasters almost never delve into any of this, they just credulously keep saying, “Inflation! Bad for Biden! Polls bad for Democrats! Oh, and abortion rights will be gone.”

If Republicans gain total power, the oil companies will lower gas prices a bit, the way that “Big Brother” in “1984” raised the chocolate ration, to about 30% of what it was before they reduced it. The corporations were thrilled with Trump’s “victory” in 2016, which they had donated literally billions of dollars toward. Their reward was reduction of corporate taxes; removal of environmental safety laws; the allowing of more drilling in wildlife preserves; a tax code which actually raised taxes on middle class people, while allowing even more tax dodges for the very rich.

Remember that when the massive tax cut for millionaires bill was being brought to vote, lobbyists were running in and out of Congress, writing in new changes, new dodges, new ways to make the middle class pay for the greed and indulgences of the very rich?

That is what we will see more of. That is what they were so angry about having to pause–until they managed to find a way to raise prices to far more than costs, which is the only mathematical reality which accounts for record profits, while consumers are trying to find ways to save money, and the Republicans are yelling “inflation!,” while laughing all the way to the bank.

Eisenhower famously spoke of the danger of the “Military-Industrial Complex,” in his Farewell Address. That, coming from the Allied Commander in WWII, and the person whom Republicans begged to run as head of their party, so that they could try to stop the twenty years of Democratic control, and all the pro-labor, pro-working people laws that Democrats had passed; and which Republicans tried to counteract by claiming that Democrats were “soft on Communism,” and anti-military, did give people pause.

Now we can expand his warning to include a cabal of the corporations, the news media, and fascists both here and abroad. I am not saying that everything that Biden or Democrats in Congress do, is perfect, or not subject to being fodder for questioning. I am saying that the America that this cabal envisions, and spends every hour of every day trying to create, is one where the rich have everything, and everyone else has bare subsistence, with no hope of anything better; living in a land where the air, water, and land is destroyed by the oil barons who do not care, as long as they can escape to their aeries for a few decades. This is what the battle is about, and we desperately need many more people to understand this.