the republican electoral schtick

Are you out of work? Are you a jackass?
There’s a world of well-paying, high-status jobs for you, if you’ll just consent to be a conduit for the neocon party line.
How to show you’ve got the credentials?

Consider, the only democratic mechanism we have in the US is infrequent voting opportunities, in which system popular voting is strictly curtailed and funneled, via the mercentilist founding fathers’ design. So let’s look at what right wing folks have to do to control the masses, within a framework ideal for controlling the masses.

Worldwide, folks tend to vote on two dimensions: economic interests (based on labor market position) and cultural capital (education + cultural involvement) (Houtman 2003).

In the US, the two parties both represent capitalists’ economic interests. No one represents the working class. So in the democratic institution of voting, that leaves cultural capital as the decisive factor.

In a country like the US, where culture is commodified and there has been no real, significant-scale labor movement, the only major opportunities to acquire cultural capital are through the education system and the market-based culture industry. So more so than in many other countries, being from the working class means you are not likely to have cultural capital in the States.

Not having cultural capital makes people unfamiliar with cultural variation and unable to understand culture as such. They feel that things are the way they are, and that this is the best and only of all possible worlds, because the order is given by an incomprehensible power outside of human society. For authoritarian subjects, there is no culture. There is just The Way, and deviance (AKA evil). All authoritarians’ anger and energies are devoted to assailing deviance. The order is given through authorities, whom you know by their ability to control people.

So the Republicans’ gag is this: Control the population by convincing them to vote only along cultural lines, which for cultural capital-impoverished authoritarians isn’t even recognizable as cultural. They’re voting for the big Daddy-O in the sky, and they have completely forgotten that thing about their economic interests. But they do know that the deviants who need to be punished in authoritarian fashion are the nonbelievers, what we understand as the folks with cultural capital.

The Republican script for the masses is: The educated are the enemy class. (Ignore the capitalists.) It doesn’t matter if the Republicans in charge are educated at Ivy League Schools. The Republicans are the Daddies on Earth, and so like God their workings are also beyond comprehension. The mantra is to be repeated to the working class (which is never to be referred to as the working class): The educated are the exploiter class. Now, here “exploiter” doesn’t mean anything. But that’s the beauty of working with a population that can only recognize a narrow band of meaning. You can just slip all sorts of BS by them. It still makes sense to them if they think they’re fightin for the Big Daddy-O.

The Democrats are doomed and there is no way out. The US finally has to recognize that its strict two party system is down to one totalitarian party. The Republicans can single-handedly represent and coordinate the interests of the capitalist class, and provide thrilling, authoritarian show projects for the working folks.

The Dems were always the alternative capitalist party, and now they don’t even have a cohesive regional base like they did when they were the party of slavers. The Dems are going nowhere because they cannot become a party of the working class’ economic interests and help people to engage in politics on the basis of their vulnerable labor market position. The Dems are capitalists. All they can do is represent the interests of capital (which the Republicans do anyway) and those well-educated people who vote only on an anti-authoritarian cultural basis. And this is what they offer politically while inequality surges every day. It is a dying party.

Huzzah to the totalitarian, right-wing USA of today…and tomorrow.

elite education & class immobility

The NYTimes article “The college dropout boom,” discusses one of the largest and fastest growing groups of young people in America–college nongraduates, most of whom plan on returning to get degrees, few of whom do.

In the 1960s one in five people in their twenties fell in the category of people who had some college education, but no degree. The percentage has risen to one in three.

Most of the nongraduates are from the working class. Only 41% of people from low-income backgrounds graduate college within five years, while 66% of high income students do. While going to college has become the norm, even for the working class, graduating from college remains the province of the privileged minority.

Dropouts cite what they see as the daunting length of schooling (4 years), low grades, feeling alienated from college students, and comfort with non-college friends in their decision to leave college. Working class people say they “just want more control” over their lives, not new lives.

Other factors in the working class college dropout rate include: many highschools do a poor job preparing (across disciplines) and advising teenagers for college; colleges where working class students enroll have fewer resources; colleges where working class students enroll have fewer majors–students can get alienated; and privatization and tuition rates have ballooned–leaving massive debt the only recourse to degree. College is nonetheless still cloaked in a mystifying shroud of meritocracy–“The system makes a false promise to students,” says John Casteen, President of the University of Virginia.

Some dropouts come from “towns where the factory work ethic, to get working as soon as possible, remains strong” (NYTimes May 24, 2005: A18). Although a higher percentage of college dropouts than college graduates consider college important, “once students ‘take a break’–the phrase many use instead of ‘drop out’,” it is a “tug of war between living in the present and sacrificing for the future”–a tug of war in which the present wins out (New York Times 5/24/05: A19). Finally, the working classes consider the higher-ranked colleges to be simply out of consideration, even when they have small but generous recruitment programs.

Some colleges are weighing the burdens of taking class into account. “If we are blind to the educational disadvantages associated with need, we will simply replicate these disadvantages while appearing to make decisions based on merit,” said Anthony Marx, president of Amherst College. With several populous states banning race-based affirmative action, and the Supreme Court suggesting it may outlaw such race-based programs in future decades, polls consistently show wide support for affirmative action based on class. Currently, high-income students get more financial aid from colleges than low-income students do, on average–partly because American elite schools, geared for the world’s wealthiest classes, are now so expensive as to be out of the financial range of the upper middle class families that send their super-prepared, high achievers to them.

Post-highschool educational institutions that working class students have more access to and that are easier transitions, are also traps. While to some extent intended as feeders to degree-granting colleges, “over all, community colleges tend to be places where dreams are put on hold.” 75% of students attending community college say they intend to get their bachelor’s degree. Only 17% of community college students even continue on to a BA-granting school.

Bolivian Workers Defeating Multinational Capital

For 5 years Bolivians workers have been protesting neoliberal globalization, to good effect. They have increasingly discouraged the predatory advancements of international “investment.” Indigenous and labor groups want the government to nationalize the multinationals’ assets without compensation. Usually capital is granted national assets for free to scandalously cheap under liberalizing regimes. “They believe multinationals have beeen plundering Bolivia’s riches for years,” and they want it to end (New York Times. 2005. “Foreign gas companies in Bolivia face sharply higher taxes.” May 17, 2005: A 10.)

The President Carlos Mesa has tried to engineer compromises between the organized working class and multinational capital, including allowing a bill to increase taxes on foreign oil companies to proceed in Congress. Foreign capital is outraged, but working Bolivians are extremely well organized, and they have gradually elected governments that do not unleash the military on them.

Dionisio Nunex, a congressman with Movement to Socialism, said that “the marches have to continue because in Congress, not all the senators and deputies defend the people. Sometimes they defend the multinationals.”

Mother of All Smokescreens

George Galloway, MP in the British House of Commons, and consistent critic of the Anglo-American war on Iraq, blasted the US Senate on Wednesday May 17, in its Oil-For-Food campaign against Russian, French, and British political opponents of the neocon war, calling the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ campaign the “Mother of All Smokescreens.” The real issue, Galloway maintained, was the “pack of lies” that was behind the invasion of Iraq.

The accomplished orator left Committee Chair Norm Coleman (R), political weasel from New Jersey via Minnesota, gaping like a fat fish, holding a thick stack of questionable documents. Galloway suggested that the documents were forgeries, since their authenticity was confirmed by officials about to be tried for war crimes by “Iraq’s American puppet government.”

“I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought on, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf,” Galloway said. “The real sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians,” he continued, but “your own companies with the connivance of your own government.”

The Committee confronted Galloway with the accusation that a man who ran Galloway’s cancer charity and contributed to Galloway’s campaign financing had paid a surcharge to Hussein’s government on some oil allocations. “But the committee has produced no documents that show that Mr. Galloway or his charity actually received money” (New York Times. 2005. “British Lawmaker Scolds Senators on Iraq.” Wednesday, May 18: A9).

Both Democrats and Republicans were flustered by Galloway’s refusal to accede to U.S. realpolitik. The U.S. press was further scandalized by Galloway’s dismissal of reporters from “neocon” publications.

telesur

In Venezuela, the war for the hearts and minds of its citizens is now in full swing. With the imminent launching of the government-sponsored Televisora del Sur (Telesur), network control of the country’s existing media, including Univisión and CNN en Español, might sorely be put to the test. According to plans, the network will start transmitting in late June or early July and will offer news and opinion programming 24 hours a day. For journalists now being recruited by Telesur, the creation of the network is long overdue. “Telesur’s reason for being is the need to see Latin America with Latin American eyes,” said Aram Aharonian, its new director. “It’s our right to have our own vision of what happens in Latin America, and not what Europeans or Americans, or whoever, tell us about how we are, who we are.”

It is hardly surprising that this new project is being launched by the Hugo Chávez administration. The Venezuelan leader has been particularly concerned with increasing his country’s political and cultural independence from Washington.

French workers hold on to their lives

The right-wing French government attempted to reduce French workers’ holidays, and the French resisted.

Until now, the French have enjoyed 11 national holidays. Right-wing Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin suggested that the government abolish the Monday holiday after Pentecost. The right-wing government claims that the free work hours French workers involuntarily donated that day will be dedicated toward paying 35% of the $7.5 billion needed to improve health care for the elderly annually. However, it is always the goal of capital to remove workers’ control over working hours. Disengenuously appropriating a term from the left, the right-wing government called the holiday abolition a “day of solidarity.”

Many sectors of society objected to this regressive form of improving health care. Half the country stayed home Monday, May 16, 2005. France’s main unions urged workers to strike. 35% of postal workers went on strike that day. Many of the country’s town halls were closed. In Bordeaux, thousands of people marched behind banners declaring, “No to Free Work.” Dozens of cities and towns including Lille, Strasbour, and Bordeaux went without most public transportation. Principals and teachers decided whether schools remained open. The main federation of parents urged keeping children home from school. 90% of students stayed home. France’s communist-backed labor federation the CGT called on the government to work on a more equitable way to care for the country’s elderly. The French Confederation of Christian Workers called Monday a day of “forced labor.”

Reported unsympathetically in the New York Times 5/17/05: A4.

professionalism/propaganda

According to an article by Charles McGrath (“The reporter who put Monica on the map.” New York Times 5/17/05: A16), communications professionals (or “reporters”) view submitting stories to the Pentagon for approval to be the definition of “professionalism.”

Michael Isikoff, a reporter who works for Newsweek, wrote a piece on the desecration of the Koran by American guards at the Guantanamo concentration camp. Although Isikoff submitted it, per “professional” standards to the Pentagon for approval, the Pentagon failed to censor the article. It was published in Newsweek. After Islamists protested the desecration, the White House criticized the article for hurting the U.S.’s image, and Newsweek retracted the report.

However, the problem was not with the communications professional’s professionalism.

“Neither Newsweek nor the Pentagon foresaw that a reference to the desecration of the Koran was going to create the kind of response it did,” Isikoff explained. “The Pentagon saw the item before it ran, and then they didn’t move us off it for 11 days afterward. They were as caught off guard by the furor as we were.”

Mark Whitaker, the editor of Newsweek, said in an interview yesterday, “Everybody behaved professionally and by the book in this case.”

Isikoff first achieved fame by investigating former President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. After Isikoff’s then-employer The Washington Post expressed reluctance to print the scandal, Newsweek offered Isikoff a job. The scandal provided a rationale for the Republicans’ attempt to impeach the Democratic President.

Newsweek should probably be classified as private-state cooperative propaganda. However, we probably have to assume that it is such private-state cooperative propaganda that sets the professional standards of the “news” business.