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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 20, 2019
      This post is by Tony Wikrent I have been looking at the work of Cornell University law professor Robert Hockett, who is serving as an economics adviser to Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. I have been delighted to find that Hockett has been working the same angle I have: applying the classical republicanism that informed the creation of […]
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Mather does not Cotton to the Pseudo-Puritanism of O’Keefe and Giles

jesus_mary_magdalene
O’Keefe and Giles, in their portrayal of pimp and prostitute, reek of puerile classism. Were it not for the overwhelmingly noxious fumes emanating from the handful of ACORN employees who were apparently willing to enable a child prostitution ring exploiting illegal immigrants, the stink of the ill-informed moral superiority of O’Keefe and Giles would drive evolutionarily advanced members of our species to avoid contact.

Let’s cut to the chase. The child prostitution enablement shown in the videos is beyond the pale. It is wholly unacceptable. Giles and O’Keefe deserve credit for exposing this potential for promoting abuse with ACORN’s structure.

For ACORN to continue doing the good they do for the community, they must clean their house. This said, many houses and streets in the U.S. are in need of a good cleaning.

Credit granted where it is due, I am discomforted by the prurient form of Puritanism implicit in the method O’Keefe and Giles chose to expose ACORN’s illness. Their sting starts with a young female sex worker trying to buy a home, before it lures the ACORN workers into the ugliness of underage sexual exploitation. My issue with O’Keefe and Giles is that they appear to believe that people engaged in the sex trade should not be able to have normal life dreams.

Life in the Sex Trade

Life circumstances lead some people to prostitution. In our culture, it is rarely a profession of choice. This is something our political class should be well aware of, given the large number of personally undertaken, hobby social science, in-depth probes they have engaged in over the years.

There are volumes of research on the various factors and dynamics that create the participants in the world’s oldest profession. In our culture, an experience of sexual abuse and economic vulnerability are common themes in the dynamic of becoming a prostitute.

Should being a sex worker be a barrier to living as other citizens live?

If a sex worker wants to buy a home, and she meets all of the relevant requirements for obtaining a mortgage, other than that she cannot state her profession on the mortgage application because her form of employ is illegal, what is she to do, other than lie? If that sex worker wants to do the proper thing as a citizen and pay her taxes as a self-employed person, what is she to do, other than lie?

The simple answer is that citizens who want to pay taxes and buy homes should not choose to live the lifestyle of a prostitute. This is the type of answer one expects from those who are ignorant of the dynamics that create prostitution, especially in the underage realm. For example, leaving is often not merely a personal decision and few pimps are as non-threatening as the one portrayed by James O’Keefe. Accordingly, it fits that such an answer would come from those who choose to disregard how the practice of their political philosophy enhances the conditions that create the sex trade.

In this regard, Ms. Giles words to Sean Hannity on how she conceived the project:

It’s amazing what girls think about when they are jogging. And that was just something that popped into my head. I had never seen an ACORN office, I really didn’t even know that they existed and I jogged into the wrong part of town, saw some homeless people and street ladies and I put two and two together when I turned around to get back into a safe neighborhood. And it’s like — what if these people went into ACORN — a prostitute and what would come from that? No bills, no nothing — would they get a house? Could they start a business? So we put it to the test.

It is telling that Giles was interested in whether or not ACORN would help a street lady buy a home and, apparently, not so interested in what caused the women to become street ladies. Then again, perhaps that’s simply a feature of rarely running into the “wrong part of town?” Regardless, Giles began her project with two targets, ACORN and street ladies who wanted to buy a home.

For O’Keefe and Giles, having to live with the danger, and adopt the stigma, attached to selling sexual services does not seem to be enough punishment. They appear to think there is something improper about a prostitute wanting to own a home, which, if she worked there, would also be a brothel. They seem unable to see that owning a home might serve as a base upon which to leave the sex trade. Thankfully, many ACORN employees are not afflicted by the anti-New Testament immorality that informs that type of thinking.

ACORN: The Bad and the Good

ACORN has problems at a variety of levels. It is reasonable to call for a proper audit of the organization, given their government funding. A good time for the audit might be immediately after a full accounting of every dollar of TARP funding is released to the public.

Notwithstanding ACORN’s many problems, it provides valuable community services. ACORN employees work to bring a better life to many citizens and many of these citizens reside in the underclass. Working with people in the underclass requires empathy for their circumstance and a pragmatic attitude that involves working with limited resources to bring about optimal results, which will necessarily be modest at best. To me, it is entirely appropriate for an ACORN accountant to bend a category to find a way for a sex worker to pay her taxes so she can buy a home. (Perhaps the idea of a citizen wanting to pay taxes is outside the worldview of the young Republican film makers?)

O’Keefe and Giles have done a community service by exposing rot in the structure of ACORN. Unfortunately, their methodology lacks the discipline of the precautionary principle. As a tool for the healing of the body politic, therefore, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is flawed, because they are willing to worsen the lives of sex workers to achieve their aim of disarming ACORN. Accordingly, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is unethical because it causes a wholly unnecessary amputation, where a good anti-biotic would have done the job. For this reason, I reject the pseudo-Puritanism implicit in their methodology for its lack of empathy and wisdom.

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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Cycle of Corruption

MarkTwain_arts Mark Twain, in “Cannibalism in the Cars,” suggested that cannibalism of the body politic is a logical outcome of the practice of the political values of the elected representatives of the United States, in dire circumstances. What would occur, if such dire circumstances did not require a natural disaster, but became a systemic feature of the political landscape?

doncamp

The current economic crisis and America’s abject failure to provide economically-efficient, affordable healthcare are two examples of dire circumstances that are systemic features of America’s political landscape. Both crises are the results of bad governance. Both circumstances are direct products of the growth of influence of en-corporated political interests (encorps) in the system of governance of the United States. Bad governance, in both cases, involves a betrayal of the public trust that is manifested in not regulating the encorps in a way that protects the public’s interests, especially with respect to not meaningfully regulating the encorps ability to influence government officials.

The United States was born wary of the power of vested interests to influence public policy. Alexander Hamilton’s comments in the Federalist Papers are an example of this concern. .

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.

Unfortunately, keeping the vested interests out is not a simple matter. How can it be when parties themselves are collective expressions of a set of weighted interests? Frankly, it is sensible for people of like purpose to strive together to achieve their aims, and there is nothing necessarily insidious about the practise. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of Democracy and civil society.

It is also, however, the entry way for corruption because the crux of the matter is not that people have differing and competing interests: it’s that they differ so greatly in terms of their power to realize those interests. When the power to realize those interests is used to unjustly deny the interests of less powerful, but equally or more deserving citizens, through a donation that is traded for a piece of unjust legislation, then it can be said that a positive feedback loop of corruption has been initiated.
The overly simple analysis that follows attempts to describe the basic workings of this system.
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A Tale of Two Parties: Myths, Realities and Strategies in the General Election

What Happened?
What Happened?

Now that the shock and disbelief of Election Night have passed (and I must admit, I feel no small relief to finally have the matter decided), I find myself more able to analyze what happened on Tuesday. And unsurprisingly, it isn’t the tale the media told us.

We are all supposed to believe that the Democratic turnout was enormous and unprecedented. The youths and the AA’s came out in droves. It was an outpouring never seen before for the most Unifying and Post-Partisan Candidate Ever! We are also supposed to believe that Obama’s electoral strategy of expanding the map into the South and West through that turnout was successful, and that his Holy Awesomeness was recognized throughout the land. Yea, verily, he is the President of All The People! (Yes, I heard a pundit on MSNObama actually say words to that effect on Election Night.)

Yet, in fact, none of these things are actually true. All the assumptions above are based on nothing but pretty stories – indeed, I might say, with a hat tip to Bill Clinton, “fairy tales.”

Commenter Cognitive Dissonance mentioned this yesterday, but I had already seen bloggers State of Disbelief and Edgeoforever mentioning it on PUMA sites during the day. From EOF’s site, let’s take a look at the actual turnout numbers this year, compared to the numbers in 2004, the election between the Worst President Ever and Senator John Kerry, a man for whom I gladly voted.

2004
62,040,606-Bush
59,028,109-Kerry
411,304 Nader

2008
63,507,800 – Obama
56,151,859 – McCain

Youth voters only ^ 1%
AA voters ^ 2%

So, this enormous and unprecedented turnout for Obama was only unprecedented for a Democrat. It amounted to 4.5 million more votes than John Kerry, and only 1.5 million more than Bush. The PUMA factor is being estimated at between 2.7 million and 2.9 million, and we must not forget the role of the much-investigated ACORN in registering all those new voters, some as many as 72 times each. As usual, stories of election fraud will be suppressed by the corporate media, since their favored candidate has won once again; but I suspect that ACORN contributed greatly to those surprising numbers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In any case, the PUMA numbers were very close to matching the “massive turnout” numbers for Obama.

One myth down.

The second myth is that Obama could win without PUMAs because he was going to “expand the electoral map.” He felt he even had a chance in deep red states like Kansas, but counted on states like North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and Virginia to make up for his possible losses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Obama’s map held up, and even improved in the General Election (although many of the red states Obama thought he would win stayed red).

However, in the primaries Hillary Clinton disputed that map, and so did we. The numbers were simply not there for Obama. But we didn’t realize that he would have a lot of help – not just from ACORN, but from…Republicans.

As we know, Barack Obama is the most scandal-ridden Democratic Party nominee in recent memory. He is our Rudy Giuliani, whose mob ties, failures of judgment on 9/11 (putting the emergency response center in the World Trade Center so he could see it from his bachelor pad) and inveterate and classless womanizing caused him to self-destruct in the primaries. Yet where were the 527 ads against Barack Obama this year? They wouldn’t even have had to lie this time, the way they shamefully did in 2004 about John Kerry’s military service.  Obama repeatedly insulted working-class voters, cementing his elitist creds in a way Al Gore and John Kerry never did or could. Obama really DOES hang out with domestic terrorists. Obama’s pastor, mentor and friend of 20 years is an unrepentant, America-hating misogynist and racist, who is close friends with renowned anti-Semite and whackjob Louis Farrakhan. Obama’s associates in Illinois are being investigated and indicted. His birth, his education and most of his life are shrouded in mystery. The slightest bit of investigation uncovers a mountain of dirt and doubt. In addition, his choice for Vice President made Dubya look well-spoken. So why did the Republicans not do what they do best, and destroy the opposition?

There is nothing else to conclude other than this: the Party hung McCain and Palin out to dry. They threw the election. Influential conservative commentators pulled their punches, and some even backed Obama openly. KKKarl Rove was on the teevee saying that an Obama win was inevitable. The media leaked stories of chaos within the campaign regarding McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Republican Party allowed Governor Palin to be savaged in the press (and it is still happening), despite the brave statements of a few Republican women when she was first introduced to the public. Senior Republicans snarled that she was not ready, inexperienced, an embarrassment. Key Bush figures like Colin Powell and Scott McClellan endorsed Obama. The evangelical base never supported McCain, despite the addition of a Christian conservative to the ticket. This behavior was a shocking departure from the Party of the past, which had always followed Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment.

The effect of all of this undermining was undeniable: 56 million voters came out for McCain, and 62 million voters came out for Bush.

We don’t know what the PUMA factor was, since a lot of PUMAs voted third party, left the top of the ticket blank, or wrote in Hillary. Some even stayed home in protest. Those PUMA votes would neither have gone to McCain nor Obama. However, if we assume for theoretical purposes that about a third of PUMAs voted McCain, that means that at least 7 million fewer Republicans voted for McCain than Bush.

The short-sightedness of these voters astonishes me, for John McCain and Sarah Palin were the only shot the Party had at redemption. They were rebranding the Party as the Party of feminism, tolerance, government oversight and responsible spending. That brand is now lost to the Republicans. The Democrats will never regain that brand either, because they trashed the person who exemplified it, Bill Clinton, in order to gain Barack Obama. The Republican Party Leaders found themselves a Democratic George Bush, and they did everything in their power to help him win.

Some well-meaning Republicans think they can rebuild the Party by going “back” to conservative principles. Sorry, but wow! Get a clue, guys: Republicans never govern the way they say they will. George W. Bush was beloved by the base, and he was completely anti-conservative. The government grew huge under his Administration; spending was out of control; and he all but destroyed the Constitution with his faith-based initiatives and unprecedented seizing of executive power in the name of “National Security.” Of course, he “kept us safe” too; that is, if you forget that 9/11 happened on his watch and so did the anthrax attacks, and that he created thousands of NEW terrorists by instigating two invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Well, if Bush is what you love, oh Republican voters, have no fear: Barack Obama seems poised to continue smoothly in the tracks laid so deeply by George W. Bush. There will be no oversight of anything, with a one-Party government in power; out-of-control spending will certainly continue; and faith-based initiatives and warrantless wiretapping are both enthusiastically supported by the Senator from Illinois. Oh, and Joe Biden promises us death and destruction within six months, so you may get your terrorist attack too. Well-done, folks! And I feel so lucky, living in New York! Golly gee, I sure hope I live through Obama’s first term, unlike 3,000 of my compatriots in Bush’s first term, and so many, many thousands more in his second. But hey, what does it matter as long as you all get what you want?

Poor John McCain and Sarah Palin. Poor Bill and Hillary Clinton. They are career politicians without a Party. Both Democratic and Republican Party Leaders teamed up with the media to elect Barack Obama this year. No one else ever had a chance.

I am sure that within a few months of Barack Obama’s inauguration, we will know a lot more about what he intends to do to, er, for, America. One thing we know for certain is that the media never, EVER likes the candidate that is good for our country. They liked Reagan. They liked Bush. How’d those guys work out for us?

As I said before, I understand the joy that so many Americans are feeling. But if you look at the reality of what happened on Tuesday, you will see that it was a very ominous sign. Yesterday, Russia felt emboldened to announce a very aggressive move that they had been threatening to make for months. The stock market fluctuated wildly yesterday, but ended up down 145.44 points – an extremely unusual event on the day after an election – and today, it is plummeting further. I fear that things are going to get worse for Americans before they get better.

I do have faith that our democracy will survive, however; but only if enough of us are willing to discard our party loyalty and work together to make it happen. I invite everyone of all political stripes to join us in the effort to become more than hopeless pawns of the corporations that run our media and our political parties. I will have an updated blogroll soon, which will provide more information about things you can do to help.

In the meantime, while we organize and focus, stay strong, my fellow Americans, and remember this quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead
US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 – 1978)

PUMA POWER!!!