YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 25, 2014

Reflections on the Ferguson aftermath

mike-brown-protesters-fergusonHaving lived through the 1960s, later chronically the rise of the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements on Pacifica radio, then going to graduate school in history at UCLA where I studied 19th and 20th century social movements and how they were taught by UCLA’s radical faculty, I have thoughts on the violent response to the Ferguson Missouri’s  grand jury’s decision not to indict policeman Darren Wilson, which was met by lumpen mayhem and/or “protest” in the streets, not only in Missouri, but in other cities, such as Oakland, Philadelphia, and New York City with large radicalized minority populations and sympathetic “liberal” white grownups of a certain age.

In response to the looting and burning, conservative pundit Andrea Tantaros suggested on the Fox show Outnumbered that families should sit down and talk to their (adolescent) kids, presumably to keep them on the straight and narrow. This is an understandable wish, but hopelessly naïve. Why?

As most parents know, puberty and adolescence are harrowing times, for youngsters, with or without the discipline of fathers, are rejecting parents for peer groups, and often indulge in ritual rebellions (as in their preference for the “romanticism,” drugs, fast cars, and the defiance of rock and roll). Add to this that the current population of American kids have been instructed by 1960s-70s veterans of social movements that were often New Left in orientation, hence undisciplined and attracted to anarchy and chaos, unlike the comparatively disciplined pre-war 1930s communist activists to whom they are often linked by populist conservatives.

Jimmystewartfather

Indeed, academics sometimes link the New Left spirit to that of the Jazz Age in the 1920s. There is the same primitivism and the same fantasy that pre-capitalist or “Third World” societies are closer to Nature, are uncorrupted by technology, and hence are instinctually liberated. It is imagined, incorrectly, that there are no rules about sex or aggression amongst, say, South Sea Islanders. (I have written about this misunderstanding ad nauseum. See for instance http://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “Rappers, primitivism, and ritual rebellion.” Or try this more recent blog on Robert Redford’s movie The Company You Keep, with its fantasy of a reconstructed happy family close to Nature: http://clarespark.com/2013/11/17/rehabilitating-the-weathermen/. Or, compare Marx to Lenin: http://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/,

I have left out one crucial cause of the looting, burning, and general protest, and it involves American communist politics in the 1960s. The Old Left should have known better, but having supported a Black Belt in the Southern US in the 1930s, later communists rejected the peaceful,  integrationist, pro-American strategy of Martin Luther King Jr. for what should be described as contemporary fascism or proto-fascism: the separatism and anti-“Euro-centricity” of the law-and-order West. It too found supporters in disaffected youth, herded together in ghettoes dominated by the Democratic machine.  (I chronicled this partly here: http://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.) The Right has correctly pointed out the power of the Democratic machines in opposing school choice, but fails to understand child development, while overestimating the power of the “strong Father,” whose authoritarianism may incite revolt in the children.

It would be better for liberals, moderates and conservatives alike to pay attention to this recent history, which remains alive today. Historians of fascism as disparate as George L. Mosse and Robert O. Paxton similarly agree that European fascism was partially sparked by youth revolt, participants in the disillusion and brutality of the masses that were traumatized and ready to rumble after the horrors of the Great War–a cataclysm whose after effects still haunt us.

The action faction, sadly, is not dead.

redblackprotester

November 21, 2014

Love Stories: the curious case of CASABLANCA

casacastI just finished reading the script for Casablanca (1942), and realized that the real love story is between “Rick” (Bogart) and “Renault” (Claude Rains) who, at the last minute stroll off together to join the Free French. It is all about sacrifice, this movie, so perfect for both the military and the home front.

This blog is about the fascination that “love stories” have over politics, including what we think of war and other matters of social policy. I ask, what role do television and movies play in our willingness to fight for our Constitutional rights, or, alternatively, to escape into fantastic realms, whether these are apocalypses, various forms of utopian politics (on either Left or Right), sports, or trashy diversions such as soft porn television shows?

First, let’s delve into the politics of one of the most praised movies of all time, Casablanca, set in French Morocco, December of 1941. What I remembered from this movie was the love story, not the spin it put on French resistance since the shocking Fall of France in June 1940. I began to suspect its sub-text after I read historian Robert O. Paxton’s revisionist Vichy France (first published in 1972). Read Paxton’s various introductions to later editions of his books here, and you will get the gist of his argument, which decodes the movie under discussion, revealing it to be communist propaganda:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ciM0KTvWTV0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Paxton%2BVichy%2B2001+edition+introduction&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sEhuVPapFoKgoQTSkoKQCg&ved=0CC8QuwUwAA#v=onepage&q=Paxton%2BVichy%2B2001%20edition%20introduction&f=false . Then read the script for the movie, which is also easily found online. Note that one of the chief writers was screenwriter Howard Koch (later blacklisted in the 1950s), who went on to write the script for the notoriously Stalinist Mission to Moscow (1943).

But first Paxton: he reveals that resistance to German occupation was not only weak, but that the majority of Frenchmen favored “neutrality” during the early 1940s, adjusting to the new world order which would be controlled by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain; long gone were the days of the Popular Front of 1936; much of French conduct during the Occupation and Vichy is explicable owing to anti-Communism. Moreover, most French feared the notion of a second front, for they were already subjected to bombing by England, their traditional enemies and imperial rivals. The depiction of “Renault” is improbable (he is a somewhat enigmatic policeman in the movie, who is suddenly willing to join with “Rick”—a café owner, who was previously an activist who went straight from opposing Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia to defending the Spanish Republic). Yet, in the movie, Rick is tough, cynical, and apparently unaffiliated, seemingly oblivious to persecutions visited upon Europeans on the lam from Hitler seeking exit visas to Lisbon.

Cherchez la femme to explain Rick’s apparent hard-heartedness. In Paris, Rick had a brief but torrid affair with “Ilse” (played by the Swedish Ingrid Bergman), who inexplicably left him. (We find out later that she was married to “Victor Laszlo”, the leader of the Czech resistance, played by the nobly represented Paul Henreid.) Later, Ilse, a bit “pneumatic” (as Aldous Huxley would have said) will yield to passion once again, but Rick, returned to his preference of politics over romance, will sacrifice his temporary happiness so that both Ilse and Victor can escape Nazi-infested Casablanca. Reverting to type, he will kill a Nazi (Strasser). (For the depoliticized plot see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casablanca_(film).)

Even more improbably than the budding alliance between Rick and Renault (who may be gay), the clientele of Rick’s café rise up and sing the Marseillaise, thus linking Victor, France and Rick’s customers to Jacobin France, a favorite Communist tic. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Marseillaise. In fact, as Paxton insists, leftist Frenchmen were comparatively weak after 1848; it is preposterous that the customers would, by singing, so openly defy the German military who have entered Rick’s café.)

Marseillaise

The romantic plot is not so devoid of complications either; strong Rick purifies weak Ilse of her impulse to stay with him in Casablanca by lying to Victor about their sexual encounter the night before; Ilse came to him solely to pick up the exit visas, he lies. “We’ll always have Paris,” the freedom fighter, restored to the correct posture, declares. And as part of the film’s subtext, the Free French have no communists, just adherents of the nationalist and superpatriot Charles de Gaulle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_nationalism).

I began this blog by complaining about the ubiquity of “romance” over politics, real history, and realism in the mass media. It is amazing to me that film critics are incapable of seeing through this escape mechanism. But perhaps not. Audiences would prefer to believe that [obsessive] love conquers all, even though mature persons of either sex understand that [adolescent] passion fades, to be replaced by friendship, responsible parenthood, or conversely, multiple affairs or divorce. As long as populist progressives control movies and television, Amor Vincit Omnia wins every time, along with self-sacrifice for the sake of “the People”–a different kind of love, but even more intense. Romantic love, by itself, is way too subversive.

Buyers beware.

Renault with Strasser

Renault with Strasser

For the source material, also probably written by [leftists?] Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, see Everybody Comes to Rick’s (also online, note that the heroine is an American named Joan Meredith, not a Scandinavian). It was sold to Warner Brothers for only $20,000.

November 16, 2014

Progressive uplift vs. “New Left” nihilism

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:16 pm

clarelspark:

Reblogging because immigration reform is on the table, and many conservatives do not appreciate the degree to which assimilation was nothing more than anticommunism. Today the correlation of forces is different. Communism is not a threat, but the condition of unemployed labor should concern us all.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

Bill Ayers, Weatherman

Several writers on the Right have been selling books with the premise that the Progressive movement in early 20th century America was protofascist, or fascist and racist. Their aim is to mobilize their constituencies to vote for organic conservatives like themselves in the hopes of halting “the nanny state.”  Similarly, they dwell on the President’s links to racist extremists in the period before he ran for office as a uniter, not a divider.

In this blog, I argue that it is an error to link in any way whatsoever the Progressive uplifters and more recent advocates of violence and anarchy. For uplift was an orderly process, an expression of the “moderate” strategies of the chief publicists of progressivism. It was also, at its core, defined against “revolutionary radicalism” as evidenced in the I.W.W. or anarchism in the labor movement. Here is a juicy example of their…

View original 1,368 more words

November 13, 2014

The Anatomy of Fascism: Robert Paxton’s analysis

Layout 1Columbia University Professor Emeritus Robert Paxton has had a controversial career. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Paxton. Although the Wikipedia profile is accurate in its summation of Paxton’s thesis on generic fascism (Knopf, 2004), I will blog about it anyway, for it serves to correct misconceptions about Italian Fascism and Nazism that I have found in my reading, and in random comments on Facebook. The Wiki summary is a mostly adequate description of Paxton’s book, so I will not repeat its bullet points. But I will fill in the gaps left by the brief Wikipedia summary.

First, it is important to understand what a leap forward Paxton’s work has achieved compared to the initial response in newspapers and other media following the end of World War 2 and through the 1950s. For instance, Hitler was initially portrayed as a madman, often with bulging eyes, whose cult of the Leader led the German masses (especially the lower middle class) astray as they fell for his bizarre propaganda. By focusing on a political history that takes in economic stressors and the total institutional picture, including continuities with prior regimes, Paxton punctures the Fuehrer myth, but also challenges the primacy of propaganda in contradiction to the “Frankfurt School” critical theorists (including George L. Mosse, specifically mentioned by Paxton) who emphasized the overwhelming influence of the new mass media in creating the fascist hordes, and who are now blamed for spreading communist ideas in America at the expense of Christianity (see http://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/).

marxiantalmud

Second, many pundits on the conservative Right continue to deploy the term “totalitarianism” to describe the policies of their enemies on “the Left,” including liberal anticommunists like Paxton. While citing the importance of Hannah Arendt’s much admired first big book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Paxton takes care to distinguish between fascist movements/regimes and communist ones; i.e., he historicizes the term “totalitarian” and rejects it by demonstrating that fascists were 1. entirely anticommunist, though there was some working class participation in both Nazism and Italian Fascism; and 2. fascists never achieved the total control that they desired, being balked by already existent institutions such as families, churches, and voluntary organizations, not to speak of the conflicting personalities and agencies that fought with each other instead of obeying Hitler’s will. [He falters a bit when he mentions Arendt’s notorious mass media-created “mob society” (a variant of Durkheim’s “anomie”) to explain the radicalization of Nazism and Italian Fascism after their attempts at expansion (Italy in the Ethiopian adventure and Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union and its declaration of war against the US).]

Those rightists who are confident that fascists in Europe were leftist in orientation will be disappointed. Moreover he makes careful distinctions between fascist dictatorships, military dictatorships, and authoritarian dictatorships, both during the interwar period and after 1945.

Third, he is adamant about identifying the necessity of coalitions with already existent elites as opposed to the “seizure of power” myth disseminated by many other historians. Not all historians and political scientists are so careful to identify the German conservatives who appointed Hitler Chancellor, imagining that the upstart would do their dirty work by destroying communism in Germany and the Soviet Union. (Note that European conservatives bear little resemblance to American conservatives, including the Tea Party and libertarians: European conservatives were not averse to Big Government. See http://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/.)

In sum, Paxton lines up with other “functionalists” in history and political science, who have emphasized conflict between powerful persons and institutions that almost inadvertently radicalized their regimes (this applies not to Italy, but to Germany; Italy devolved into an authoritarian dictatorship in his typology, while Hitler’s underlings guessed at what Hitler really wanted, seizing upon his obsession with world Jewry as the agents of both finance capital and communism to perpetrate the Holocaust. For the views of the “intentionalists” see http://clarespark.com/2009/07/29/the-centrality-of-the-holocaust-to-nazi-war-aims/.)

In sum, Paxton’s is the voice of the liberal anticommunist establishment at its revisionist best. But the book also demonstrates the influence of what I have called the Conservative Enlightenment, in its effort to combat “essentialist” definitions of fascism, but still seeking a scientistic approach to defining “fascism.” There is no escape from the double bind, or is there?

Lipschitz, 1927 "Pierrot escaping"

Lipschitz, 1927 “Pierrot escaping”

November 7, 2014

‘Cultural Marxism’ blogs and immigration reform

racialsuicide

[Update 11-11-14: The illustration that heads this blog is horrid racist propaganda, which I do not endorse. I posted it because it embodies the fear of miscegenation that dominates all ideologies that fear racial mixing.]

This is only a partial index on the subject that has dominated this website. I have been disturbed by those Facebook postings that blame a group of refugee [assimilated, “Marxist-Freudian”] Jews fleeing Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s (sometimes known as the critical theorists) for what is perceived as “identity politics” (“multiculturalism”) and/or “political correctness”. These men (plus Hannah Arendt) include T. W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Leo Lowenthal: each of these prolific social critics found sponsorship in already existing social psychology and cultural anthropology as emboldened by FDR’s New Deal.

By focusing on these “critical theorists,” the older revolutions in the West, that of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, have been conveniently ignored by conservatives and liberal Republicans alike, yet the fights between and within Protestantism and Catholicism are among the most portentous events in world history, encompassing a policy that remains current and hotly contested: immigration reform that would presumably increase the number of Catholics likely to support the Democratic Party. [E.g, the nasty aspects of capitalism and “Social Darwinism” are generally attributed to [Hebraic, puritanical] Protestantism, while social democracy, “compassionate conservatism,”  and even some aspects of communist ideology echo much of Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891). This is not to ignore the liberal Protestants and secularists who supported the Social Gospel, and now the Democratic Party.]

Journalism, so-called “progressivism,” and even the writing of history could be drastically modified were Barack Obama’s plans to massively increase the Catholic population adopted.

totalitarianism_01

Here is my index that 1. Highlights the stakes for writing about social movements and “change” in ignoring the Reformation; and 2. Clears up the misidentification of the Frankfurters as the initiators of PC, identity politics, and the culture wars. The Frankfurt School focus was restricted to “fascism” and Nazism, which they generally blamed on mass media and demagogue-loving popular culture (with its elevation of “social imperialism,” consumerism, bad taste, the Leader principle and celebrities in general). I.e., the supposedly revolutionary working class had been bought off with vanities and luxuries of every type. Such as Erich Fromm located the source of Hitler’s appeal, not in the racial state and the elimination of ‘Jewish domination,’ but in “working class authoritarianism.”

In other words, the critical theorists were bohemian philosphers and, upon closer examination, organic conservatives beholden to German Idealism who disliked the impetus that the Enlightenment brought to the self-confidence of ordinary “puritanical” naifs who pretended to understand “things as they are.” With such a stance, the refugees from Hitler’s Germany were welcomed and promoted by the liberal “progressive” establishment in the most prestigious American schools.

http://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/

http://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/

http://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/

http://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/

http://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/

http://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/

http://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/

http://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/

http://clarespark.com/2014/06/04/did-bureaucratic-rationality-cause-the-holocaust/

http://clarespark.com/2014/09/20/taking-responsibility-for-ourselves-and-society/

"Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy"

“Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy”

November 2, 2014

“The Affair” and the Country versus the City

the-affairShowtime has a new drama series about two married persons living in Montauk (one is vacationing there) that I would thought would be no more than the usual soft porn directed at a middle class cable audience, but it is more interesting than that.

Here are the features that I find indicative of current politics:

First, the hero (“Noah Solloway,” played by Dominic West), a writer with one published work of fiction to his name, has married above his socio-economic class and must cope with bourgeois, success-driven in-laws, an intelligent wife (Maura Tierney) and four children. His successful father-in-law is also a writer, but a best seller author who taunts him. His mother-in-law, also outspoken and nasty, calls him a [loony] “idealist” in front of the protagonist’s family.

dominicwest

Second, the anti-hero has a meeting with his wife’s father’s agent (arranged by dad), in which he telegraphs the theme of the series: it will about the decline of “the American pastoral” and the struggle to preserve small town values in the face of modernization and urbanization. In the end, the married protagonist will kill his small-town lover. That alone interests the agent.

Third, there is a mystery: the female lover’s boss wants to put a bowling alley next to his diner; “Cole” (played by Joshua Jackson) the husband of the Ruth Wilson character (“Alison Lockhart,” a bereaved parent whose son has recently died, perhaps of cancer), makes a substantial speech at a town meeting that is considering the over-commercialization of Montauk and the subsequent loss of “community.” At this point, we suspect that someone has murdered Cole (probably the upwardly mobile avatar of “progress”), for the two lovers are being interrogated by a detective, and a male murder victim is mentioned. Since Alison is present, and mentions missing “him” the suspense does not lie in who killed whom.

ruthwilson

Fourth, each episode is divided in half. The first half describes events mostly from “Noah’s recollection, while the second half is told from the woman’s perspective. They are drastically different, with Noah recalling the sexual aggressiveness of his partner in deception, while Alison has much more on her mind, namely politics and her grief. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Affair_(TV_series).

Clearly, Showtime is run by progressives, who demonstrate their postmodern, hip commitments by criticizing the intact heterosexual family and showing the subjectivity of “perspectivism.” In addition to class and gender struggle, some nudity and forbidden sex, we have the critique of progress. Indeed, one of the characters sneers at the thought of Montauk turning into Easthampton.

And are not these identical themes being played out in our current political struggle for the US Senate? And it will be the redneck diner owner (“Oscar” played by Darren Goldstein) who probably did the dirty deed: how dare he strive for “development?”

October 24, 2014

Rescuing the black family: Harvard points the way

Orlando Patterson, Harvard sociologist

Orlando Patterson, Harvard sociologist

The Harvard Magazine cover story on Orlando Patterson (November-December 2014) lauds Patterson’s glorious predecessors in sociology, social psychology, and progressive social nostrums (e.g., Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, David Riesman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan), and Patterson’s journey from Jamaican novelist to Harvard superstar professor and “the Caribbean Zola.”* (On his achievements see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando_Patterson.)

Dwelling upon the baleful effects of slavery on black family structure, the author of the long alumni magazine essay, Craig Lambert (deputy editor and a Harvard Ph.D.) drops such loaded terms as “freedom” (an attribute only of non-slave whites), “belonging/beloved”ness (the non plus ultra of social well-being: missing in slavery and the ostensibly non-existent slave family), “culture” and even more vaguely, “dynamic” “interaction” between “culture” and “structures,” lest Talcott Parsons’ fictional emphasis on structures and functions cast doubt on Patterson’s contributions to social peace.

[On Parsons and his cohort in sociology and social psychology see http://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/. On Harvard and the turn toward “cultural history” see http://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. Or see http://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/.%5D

Harvard, like other elite institutions, is worried about anomie or “atomization” in our society, and resorts to the time-tested clichés and Great Society programs of progressivism, which are abstract enough to please a diverse body of graduates, all of whom are adjured to seek belongingness in multiple, overlapping interest groups. Moreover Harvard can brag about the quality of its professors, especially those of color that underline the success of “diversity.” And in recent years, the “neo-Marxist” or “New Left” affiliations of its versatile professors (e.g. OP) are not a cause for heartburn. Indeed, Patterson’s life and work are appropriated to puff black supremacy, affirmative action, rap and reggae, Barbados democracy, and “democratic socialist revolution.” Yet he is portrayed as a maverick and an artist, having defended Clarence Thomas while under attack from Anita Hill (Hill did not note the changing context of CT’s language from ten years ago, Patterson wrote: see http://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/20/opinion/op-ed-race-gender-and-liberal-fallacies.html).

But there is a missing context to this cover story that includes 1. The upcoming midterm elections that will be a referendum on a black president’s social policies, and 2. The bipartisan fight over how to rescue inner city children from poverty. Here is the US Census report (2012) that would have to alarm pro-capitalist circles concerned with upward mobility in the multicultural society pushed by the white liberal establishment: “Black children (55 percent) and Hispanic children (31 percent) were more likely to live with one parent than non-Hispanic White children (21 percent) or Asian children (13 percent).”
And here is one conservative think tank’s solution to diminished prospects for minority inner-city children: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/09/marriage-americas-greatest-weapon-against-child-poverty.)

Despite one failed marriage, Patterson is presented as a happily married father: both wives (apparently) were or are white academics, which situates Patterson in a reassuringly integrated setting, though his sociology tilts toward the mandatory Harvard progressive line that emphasizes the lingering effects of slavery, justifying all kinds of reparations. By focusing on Orlando Patterson’s climb to fame and professional approbation despite his Jamaican “cultural heritage” of slavery (and in one sentence, linking Patterson to Obama), Harvard can avoid such practical problems as massive black unemployment, labor competition, or union domination of public education, defeating parental choice and lowering our expectations of the curriculum.

Illustration by Gary Kelley

Illustration by Gary Kelley

* Note the comparison of Patterson the novelist to Emile Zola, whose “realistic” novels won leftist and anti-imperialist support for their depictions of social forces and the lower depths of society in turn of the century France.

October 21, 2014

The Klinghoffer protest and the problem of ‘realism’

KlinghofferprotestA rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and America has alarmed Jews, Israelis, and their supporters, hence the furor over the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer. Many of those protesting have focused on “moral equivalence” between Jews and Palestinians as the opera’s chief sin, and indeed, many journalists and critics in the mass media have fed into this impression. To my knowledge, only Phyllis Chesler has given a more detailed account of the pro-jihadist content of the opera, as she did last night: http://www.phyllis-chesler.com/1377/israel-hatred-has-scaled-the-wall-of-high-culture. I assume that Chesler would not risk her reputation by making up the details that support her allegations of Jew-hatred. She saw the opera, while I have not. (For an even tougher essay by Alan Dershowitz see http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4808/klinghoffer-opera.)

This blog, however, has a different take on the problem of the opera’s presentation in this polarized environment (with current ultra-liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio supporting “free speech,” while the more conservative ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani supported the protesters). I will not address the politicization of “art” for I believe that all art of any genre is ideological, and that no artist in any medium can escape ideology reinforced by patronage, institutional context, and family or personal history. In this era of formalist criticism (at best—we should be so lucky to get even that in this ignorant period), I dare not hope to find broad agreement with my assumptions. Nor do I believe with politicians of either left or right that “speech” is ever “free.”

What is neglected in the current excitement is the problem of “realism” and what I write here is more about what we expect from art: do we hope for an enlargement of our imagining past, present and future, or an affirmation of our religion and politics (as in Nazi or Soviet glorification of labor and sacrifice (“socialist realism”), or do we latch onto the Enlightenment project of demystification—i.e., the tearing away of all veils to get at something either absolutely truthful or, if not that foolishly (?) ambitious, the unpacking of symbol and myth? [Readers of my blogs will not be surprised that I prefer the latter, but not without the recognition of opportunism, ambiguity, or unconscious errors of interpretation on my part or of those critics I admire.]

We would like to think that our favorite artists (usually those that affirm our belief systems) are beyond anything so tawdry as prejudice or hitching their stars to fashion and publicity; similarly, we like to believe that family photographs are not simply a posed or candid moment in time, but convey the essence of family bonds, not bondage to sadists and masochists.

Take the case of depicting a Palestinian terrorist, for instance the murderer of Leon Klinghoffer. How would a librettist or musician convey what drives such an individual or social movement to barbarism? How would we, in the brief period, s/he is onstage, grasp all the factors which drove him or her to murder? Michael Walsh, for instance, is defending great depictions of villains, but he does not interrogate the history of melodrama, and why we take its vocabulary of heroes, villains, and victims to be pure representations of real people and real events, persons and events which are beyond the ability of even the greatest geniuses to fully decode. See for instance http://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/. With melodrama we enter a dream world only.

We may imagine that there is something called art for art’s sake that is purely aesthetic, beyond cavil. It is the same with the writing of history. The 60s and 70s generation was fond of studying history painting in order to point out its ideological content. But in many cases, that led them into hatred of all art as propaganda. No less than the heroes they demystified, these critics are the victims of melodrama and its myth-laden vocabulary.

As an art lover myself, I cannot join these New Leftists in their tearing down of all cultural artifacts as fatally tainted by politics and myth. I like gripping ‘art’ of all genres. Nor can I join rightists in their call to “take back the culture” (at the expense of a more accurate history, psychoanalysis, and science).
What then is the solution to the Klinghoffer fracas? I have nothing to offer but the marketplace of ideas, and suspicion of our own motives in crossing out that art, culture, or political argument that makes us squirm. We need all the insightful criticism that we can get, including criticism that takes down the elevation of value-free art and commentary. “I am not so innocent.”

klinghoffer2

October 16, 2014

Ebola, the CDC, and Government Ineptitude

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 12:59 am
Tags: , , , ,
James Pagano, MD

James Pagano, MD

This is a guest blog by James Pagano, M.D., and author of two novels

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, appeared in a taped interview last evening on Megyn Kelly’s program. His intention was to answer some of the questions regarding his handling of the Ebola problem, to explain why the things he is or isn’t doing are correct, and to reassure the audience that all would be well.  He failed miserably.

The CDC and Dr. Frieden are likening Ebola to hepatitis or HIV. Like Ebola, both are diseases caused by viruses, and both require contact with infected body fluids for transmission from one individual to another.  Neither, though, is anywhere near as infectious.  In the case of HIV, a healthcare worker who experiences a needle stick injury from a needle contaminated with an HIV patient’s blood has about a 0.3% chance of being infected.  By comparison, it appears Ebola can be transmitted by coming into contact with minute amounts of fluid, such as that which could be on the exterior surface of a protective gown.

Pagano's first novel

Pagano’s first novel

A disease that infectious, with a mortality rate of over 70% in Africa and at least 50% if contracted and treated here should be taken seriously. Everything that can be done to prevent its spread in this country should be done.  Unfortunately that is not how it is being handled.

The only effective way to stop an outbreak of a lethal illness for which there is no specific treatment is by isolating those who already have the disease and preventing its spread to other areas of the globe. This requires travel restrictions and quarantine.  While we are still able to identify West Africa as the danger zone such restrictions would be relatively easy to impose.  Anyone wanting to come to this country from West Africa and anyone who has been in that area would need to wait 21 days before being allowed to come.  It would require checking passports and keeping people with stamps from countries in which the disease is epidemic off planes until they are cleared.

Dr. Frieden disagrees. He believes that such restrictions would somehow make the outbreak harder to fight in Africa and put us in greater risk here.  He cites difficulty getting healthcare workers and others joining the fight into and out of the area as one of his major concerns.  This is absurd.  His logic is so convoluted it causes one to question everything else he has to say.  It is possible he’s parroting the party line.  If so, he should admit it, say what he really believes, and offer to step down if it displeases his boss.  The stakes here are far too high for political correctness, or politics at all.

He then goes on to say much is known about Ebola, how it is transmitted, how it can be stopped. Given his rationale for not limiting travel one wonders.  It is true that Ebola requires contact with infected body fluid to pass from one person to the next.  In that way it is similar to HIV and hepatitis.  How much body fluid is required is unknown.  During the height of the AIDS epidemic I ran an emergency department in a hospital with an HIV ward.  The disease at that time was a death sentence for those who contracted it.  Still, it was our understanding that it could not be transmitted by casual contact.  The only time we put on gloves, gown and mask was if we were drawing blood or performing some invasive procedure.  Very few healthcare workers were infected by patients, and those who were had exposures to large amounts of infected material or had been accidentally stuck with a hollow needle previously in the vein of the patient.

By contrast healthcare workers treating Ebola patients are dying by the hundreds despite wearing haz-mat suits.  This is a different disease.  There are even studies in animals that suggest certain types of Ebola can be transmitted through the lungs.  People from endemic areas should stay put until they’ve been quarantined for the full length of the incubation period, 21 days.

Another of the CDC’s proclamations is that any hospital with an isolation room can safely handle an Ebola patient. This is also nonsense.  Meticulous care must be taken with barrier protection to maximize safety.  It is nearly impossible to remove the booties, gowns, mask, goggles and gloves without at some point touching the exposed surfaces with either your bare hands or your clothing.  It requires a lot of practice.  Community hospitals that may see one potential case will not have sufficient experience to treat the patient safely.  And this doesn’t address the risk to other hospital personnel, such as phlebotomists, lab techs, and housekeeping.

Saying the CDC will offer training to thousands of doctors and nurses is not only absurd, but pointless. To receive the best care, these patients should be treated in designated centers by dedicated teams of physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff.  The role of community hospitals should be that of recognition, isolation, notification of health officials, and transfer to a designated center.  This can be done by the ER staff.  Instead of trying to train everyone in every hospital, training the ER staff is something that is actually feasible.

Emergency departments across the country are experiencing increased patient volumes due in large part to the ACA. The one at which I am the medical director is busier by more than 20% year over year.  We are on the verge of the winter flu season which typically brings an addition flood of patients to the ER.  This is a bad time to add Ebola to the mix.  Travel restrictions to minimize the chance of an infected person entering the country would go far to protect both the healthcare workforce and other citizens from this disease.  Coordinated care at specialized centers will give those infected the best chance of survival while at the same time minimizing the spread of Ebola.

It makes no sense to assume everything will be all right until we’ve done everything possible to ensure the best results. So far the CDC, and its leader, have not convinced me they have done so.

[Update 10-17-14, from private communication to Clare Spark: “Whether we have a large outbreak in this country or a small one, the disruption of the healthcare delivery system will be devastating. For the past two weeks we have been running drills on how to safely don and remove the various pieces of barrier protection we’ve been advised to wear when dealing with a potential Ebola patient. These drills have been almost slapstick. The gowns, etc., are inadequate and it is practically impossible to remove everything after the patient encounter without contaminating yourself. I am certain hospitals across the country are experiencing the same difficulties. The early Obama claim that ‘any hospital with isolation capability can care for an Ebola patient effectively and safely’ belies a complete failure to understand what we are facing. Interesting that the most recent cases have been transferred to designated treatment centers.

We are about to enter flu season. Thousands of people with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache will be presenting to ER’s. These are the same symptoms someone in the early stages of Ebola will exhibit. If we have 20-30 confirmed cases around the country and no travel restrictions ER personnel will be forced to approach every patient with these symptoms as a possible Ebola patient. A crowded ER, and ER waiting room, are not ideal places for a number of these patients to be boarded. The amount of time the ER staff will need to care for them will increase exponentially because of the isolation and gowning precautions. The system will experience huge delays, patients will be placed in danger, and the ER staff will be overwhelmed.” [End Pagano update.] Dr. Pagano also points out that nine physicians have died in Africa treating Ebola. No time to be sanguine about Democrat management of this crisis.

Frieden as educator

Frieden as educator

October 8, 2014

Index to blogs on “totalitarianism”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:10 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

girltotalitarianReflecting on why this word is so popular, while rejected by many serious scholars: Who historically has been deemed to be after total control of the world? Both “the Jews” a.k.a. “the money power” bent on world domination and 19th century mothers, “expanding their empire over the family.” Is Woman the Jew of the Home?

http://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/

http://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/  [Talmon on nationalism and pageantry]

http://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/  [Especially good for its quote from Jacob Talmon]

http://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/

newworldorder

http://clarespark.com/2014/04/17/totalitarianism/

http://clarespark.com/2014/04/19/totalitarianism-2/

Illuminati_by_Cajmerek

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