Post Trump Stress Disorder — 11/9; not 9/11

unnamed We are all suffering from some form of Trump-induced PTSD. Emergency-room visits were up the day after 11/9, as a creative-writing friend of mine pointed out this perverse inversion of 9/11 after the presidential election of 2016.  I have friends and colleagues in all disciplines — Spanish literature, comparative political thought, literary theory, interdisciplinary pedagogy taught in Dutch and international English, let alone American politics, law and society, American political development (APD), and American (or better yet, comparative) political thought (APT & CPT). We would all laugh at the buffoon if he were not so scary. When you’re terrified, you can only titter.

So, what now? I, for one, am going back in both time and thought. Like many of my friends, I have to put my head into history for a time.  My sabbatical is being spent writing about American tribalism, which references merging APT/APD and CPT, though there is no CPD, since APD is CPD.  Huh?  Really, what I’m doing is streamlining inter- and intradisciplinary research on comparative political thought and politics and history broadly cast over eras and epochs.  How do you get to comparisons that are global, given our now-embarrassing global American empire?  Easy: We must go abroad and note the other perspectives, even if we don’t put them in more than our footnotes or register the comparisons with European Union nations, particularly the Netherlands.

The Dutch, after all, had more legitimacy and authority in the colonies that became the United States over 150 years later. Dutch-Anglo, not Anglo-Dutch, thought is more persuasive when you think of the founding canon in American political thought. It’s just that the English, in 1661, knocked those pesky merchants’ republican ideas out of enlightenment and post-enlightenment Anglo-American political thought. The Dutch not only predated the English, but also the English, Scottish and French Enlightenments.

This is all academese, I know, that will be explained later. For now, I must explore the history of the texts, Baruch Spinoza and heretical thought. Indeed, I saw the first book in Heretical Thought — Assembly, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri — in a radical bookshop, or boekhandel, near Spinoza’s likeness where he lived in Amsterdam.  My college-age son and I are not the only fans of Assembly.  According to Rebecca Goldstein, it took 200 years before any scholar could comfortably cite his heretical thought.

Comparing history of thought or schools of thought — not just heretical thought or Dutch-Anglo-American political thought, where Hugo Grotius is possibly more important than William Blackstone — could be considered heresy — or not.* There are many academic and public historians, from Joyce Goodfriend to Russell Shorto, who show how the British rewrote American colonial political thought.  

* The references here, I admit, are academic and yet not obscure if you follow the train of hyperlinks or references to the plethora of different or multiple schools of thought and political traditions.


Trump’s Wars + Math of APSA Male Presidency Culture

Sad, mad, eating glass. Like we didn’t know this was what was going to happen?  I mean, really, Trump reveres nothing.  Take a quick peek at that video of Ivanka on his knee if you don’t mind feeling the creeps, again.

Okay, we knew, and that’s why so many voters tried to make sure he didn’t get elected.  Then again, many SLAMs wanted to make sure she didn’t get elected.

I guess my point is: What do you expect in a two-party system nestled in a misogynistic culture?  Call it rape culture if you want to be crude, not blunt.

This is what folks outside (e.g. experts from European or international arenas with their own patriarchal cultures) don’t get about the United States.  Why do we put up with this?  Why not pass another constitutional amendment?  Have we stopped amending the Constitution?

Let’s start first with changing our culture: Equal Rights Amendment, please.  If that’s too ambitious, how about resurrecting the Violence Against Women Act, and if that’s too tough, where are we?  We should start with the study of American politics, no?

Now that we have a president who should not be impeached but goes so much further, and we’ve had a female candidate for president who lost not once (i.e. Democratic nomination, then general election) but twice, why is the actual study of the presidency — like math — still controlled by men?  Why should American politics, particularly the study of the presidency (which is less revered by the sports/math/music statistics crowd, like Nate Silver), be dominated by men?  Why is there a gender gap in citations?

Political science as a major is not filled with men.  Women, too, study politics.  And they study more than  “women and politics” — a parochial course, not by choice but by . . . you fill in the blank.

So let’s go back to who controls the American-politics curriculum in the United States?  It’s the chairs of political-science and government departments, and whoever they select to run their curriculum committees.  The chairs happen to be 87 percent male, so it’s math culture, no less.  At least my institution asked me to reapply for a research in the classroom grant about this very question.  Yay CUNY.

Professors Need Ethics, but New York Times Editors Do Not? Propagating Parental Prejudice

merlin_132362976_3c3de7b3-5c62-4db7-a267-a602a88f8eaa-master768.jpg  Having just passed the new Institutional Review Board (IRB) test got me wondering: Why don’t journalists have to do this, let alone their editors (who, after all, set the agenda, “alt” or not)?

The idea that experimental subjects have rights was started by the United Nations and promoted by human-rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt (who didn’t like the United States using information from Holocaust victims, no less).

Ethical training is especially needed by the New York Times, the “paper of record,” which, at least in this one article, was practicing “alt” ethics (promoting parents who teach their young how to discriminate against vulnerable people while they’re still in single digits).

This one even comes with a photo of this so-called nurturing mom, and then publishes some “alt” rubbish (that later contradicts it) articulating the absurd argument that providing elevators to mass transit can be considered unsafe in these terrorist-provoking Trump times.

Why does the NYT feature this overt parental prejudice, and publish the vulnerable child’s photo too? The only fact in the piece is how this is bunk (duh!) and that NYC mass transit is worse than that in other cities (another duh).  So what’s new or news?


Why does WNYC/PBS in NYC think all public intellectual interviewers are men? — Don’t pledge until we all hear more diverse voices



Top 10, Top 20, Top 100 — you find your list.  Or even rely on Richard Posner‘s pre-9/11 list, and public intellectuals who are not SLAMs or SCAMs (and not fiction writers) are not women.  They are the default identity: straight liberal Anglo men or straight conservative men — the defaults or the embodiments of the “norms,” the 5 percenters.

I’ve been teaching this in Writing Politics for so many years it gets boring, old, trite, frustrating, maddening . . . oops, now I sound like a w/b-itch . . . something not nice, I suppose.  The first repair is please, please, please let’s forget Charlie Rose and Leonard Lopate and John Hockenberry and start filling the NYC airwaves with women public-intellectual interviewers.

The second repair — stop featuring how difficult it is to spot sexual harassment.  The definition is very, very clear, and the difference between civil and criminal law is VERY basic, yet even Brian Lehrer seem to have a problem with this.

The first thing is that you can’t say you didn’t know it was happening (male or female bosses either).  Indeed, the only reason sexual harassment — not pay inequity, nor paycheck discrimination — has had any impact since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that the federal courts (including the Supremes) put their employers/managers/co-workers on the hook.  The whole head-in-the-sand approach doesn’t work — in CIVIL law (not criminal law, needless to say; criminal law carries a higher burden).

Aren’t we in the Anita Hill moment for public television and public radio, meaning her bravery despite Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas taking a seat was worth it?  Without her, NOW would not have increased and sexual harassment would have remained obscure (even though the press still can’t get a definition of it . . . or explain the difference between sexual crimes and civil crimes).

Here’s an exercise.  Compare the Forbes 400 with any top list of PUBLIC intellectuals and you might well find yourself on a stick, a broom, etc.  You get the idea.

Now, I get it for Roger Ailes/Rupert Murdoch’s baby Fox News(?), but public radio and public television, particularly in New York City, being conducted or run by mainly men?

To be sure, Terry Gross could don a cool cape and fly from station to station, but she’s only one person. . .

Here’s my challenge — don’t submit your pledge until we’ve heard bell hooks, Melissa Harris-Perry, or anyone but Doris Kearns Goodwin* absolutely refuse to interview for these openings.  This could be a call-in or petition campaign we might actually win!

* (who signed more than one settlement for more than one case of plagiarism — or one of the ultimate public intellectual civil crimes — unconscionable in my book 🙂 )

Too Tired, Too Many Global Golf Course Fries Trump

President Trump’s doctor says he may be eating too many fries at his global golf courses His so-called physician never named what food or when, naturally. Still, Trump’s clearly winning at Davos given double digit growth for double digit wealthy nations who have global leaders who are saying my how we’ve grown.
Well this is a surprise (not!)
Review Boardwalk Empire’s portrayal of 1-buck-Andy — Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon — if you don’t have the time and/or patience to read about him or his salary or compare Trump to Tricky Dick (Nixon) and his attempted firings and more.

Forthcoming Fall Heretical Thought Book Rottenberg, The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism

forthcoming Fall 2018


Preface Sneak Preview (Ruth O’Brien, Series Editor)

In recent years, feminism has seen a resurgence in the popular media, with celebrities proudly declaring themselves feminists and best-sellers teaching women how to shatter the glass ceiling without neglecting their families. In this book, however, Catherine Rottenberg shows us how such “neoliberal feminism” forsakes the vitally important goals of emancipation and social justice, substitutes positive affect for genuine change, and adopts the theory and often the very language of neoliberalism—which, in turn, needs feminism in order to resolve its own internal contradictions. With passion and rigor, Rottenberg reveals that neoliberal feminism is not a philosophy but rather a self-help program for upper-middle-class women, one that leaves behind those who do not fit the template of a privileged professional.

She begins by mercilessly dismantling neoliberal feminism’s preoccupation with maintaining “balance” between family and career. Rottenberg shows how this focus on the self dovetails with neoliberal rationality, particularly in its emphasis on the individual’s “cost-benefit calculus” of personal fulfillment (which relies on low-paid, outsourced care work to make the numbers come out right). Instead of benefiting all women, neoliberal feminism divides women into aspirational and non-aspirational cohorts, with different roles and expectations for the two groups.

Rottenberg carries this provocative analysis further with her counterintuitive exposure of the way neoliberalism needs feminism. In neoliberal rationalism, people are “human capital” consisting of ungendered productive units—yet for the neoliberal system to be sustainable, women must also play a reproductive role by creating future workers. To resolve this contradiction, neoliberalism embraces “a new ‘technology of the self’ structured through ‘futurity,’” which encourages women to postpone maternity (notably by freezing eggs) until a time when it will interfere less with their productive capacity. The popularity of neoliberal-feminist books by women from across the political spectrum shows how widespread approval of this brand of feminism is.

In detailing the deficiencies of neoliberal feminism, and the fissures within the feminist movement that its rise has accentuated, Rottenberg eschews any calls for unification based on compromise, accommodation, or commonly agreed-upon goals. Instead she advocates “alternative feminist visions [that] not only challenge but also constitute a profound threat to our contemporary neoliberal order. Indeed, given our grim and frightening reality, it is precisely such a threatening feminism that we need to cultivate, encourage and ceaselessly espouse.” She concludes by invoking Judith Butler’s concept of “precarity” as a unifying factor—not only for women, but for all who are marginalized or who struggle for social justice. With the times ripe for converting neoliberal feminism into a more vigorous and inclusive ideology, women can turn around the unfortunate “mutual entanglement of neoliberalism with feminism”—and subvert neoliberalism by killing it from within.

Like all works that challenge convenient untruths, this book will disturb some readers and ruffle some feathers. By disputing a widespread notion of what feminism is; by elucidating the insidious ubiquity of neoliberal thought; by demanding that we pay attention to the oppressed and marginalized; and by paradoxically finding hope in the current dark times, Catherine Rottenberg gives us the hard truth, takes us to the edge of a cliff, and then maps the way back. For all these reasons, her book makes an outstanding addition to the Heretical Thought series.#

The Big Omm

download  My son is spending his junior year abroad, in one of those strong social-welfare states where they not only take care of everybody, but they care about the world (and put their national dollars toward it), even if it is an insufferably smug nation with a “golden” past.

Now we’ve got our own chance (finally), and we won’t ever be considered smug. It’s the Big O or Omm — Oprah — for president, and “Big” has everything to do with vision, not meditation. There is no “omm” here.  O is for openness — inclusivity — intersectional issues that will resonate and reverberate as we navigate the long, long recovery of our nation’s character, its integrity, its soul.

Oprah will be a social-movement president writ large. FYI, these are the best kind, or at least that’s what I discovered in Workers’ Paradox and the Republican Origins of  the New Deal Labor Policy and Out of Many One, Obama and the Third American Political Tradition, and numerous articles.

We should elect Oprah Winfrey as a person who turns everything she does into gold — or is impeccable in knowing her limits, and of course knowing how to delegate with dignity, let alone authority and impact. Rather than spending any time disabusing anyone of the obvious, she’s not a TV star but rather an international, global phenomenon of Rupert Murdoch proportions in terms of impact — impact that counts more, impact that can affect all of us (Americans) and “them” more or all the people we other in a shameful way.

It’s as simple as 1-2-3. Trump set her up. She’s the backlash president to the backlash president (i.e. Trump to Obama)  — though not a one-issue president, given that she’s a restore-the-social-welfare-state president, all while she’s going to resuscitate our international reputation. And she’s that charismatic president who not only knows how to bargain but has vision, presence or what Max Weber would be proud to call a classic charismatic leader.  (And charisma, btw, is something you can’t learn.)

It’s not just for the U.S. — think of us and them, though please consider yourself a them given we live in less than courageous times despite the Millenials.  That’s what we are now to those in all nation-states: a “them.” You could argue that Trump was our comeuppance. I for one would rather forget about this and move on to elect the Big O, all the while saying “omm” to ensure my own peace and tranquility.