Friday, October 6, 2017

Walking away from Iran treaty is enormous foreign policy mistake. It only helps Saudis & Benjamin Netanyahu

By Marc Jampole
The sheer stupidity of “decertifying” the nuclear—or should I say “antinuclear”—treaty between the United States, five other nations and Iran beggars the imagination. That an ignorant bully with no experience and a history of failure should propose such an idea is not noteworthy, not if the ignorant bully is Donald Trump. That supposedly patriotic, educated and experienced cabinet officers and advisors are unable to squelch this move in any way possible makes me shudder for the future of this country—and the entire human population.
The decision is bad in every way. It destabilizes the entire world every time another nation gets nuclear weapons, because the entire world would suffer from any nuclear war. The more nations have weapons, the more likely one is going to slip into the hands of a nutcase who might push the big red button. Of course, that seems to have already happened.
The decision also sets back the peace process between Iran and the West, specifically the United States. Why would we want to be enemies with a country with such an educated population and unrivalled natural resources among mid-sized countries and whose thousands of years of history has been one of the major influencers of the European culture upon which America is built? Let’s also remember that Iran wields a lot of influence with insurgent movements around the world. Coming to a lasting, all-inclusive peace with Iran would ease tensions throughout the Muslim world.
Think, too, of the lost opportunity to reduce the need for armed forces. A rapprochement with Iran would enable us to dedicate money a large portion of the billions of dollars now spent on armed forces and counter-terrorism to fixing our infrastructure of mass transit, sewers, roads and bridges and investing in alternative energy.
The key moment in the history of American-Persian relations is a stupid mistake that the United States made in 1953. We were allies and big supporters of Iran in 1953 when the CIA engineered an overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was a secularist who wanted Iran to follow the model of American and European societies. Of course, he did nationalize oil industries, which was the secret reason the United States installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran. Yes, that’s right. Shah! King. Royalty. A dictator who rules by divine right. The system we fought a revolution to change. The United States of America overthrew a democracy to install a dictator not to protect our oil supply, but to protect the interests of certain oil companies. We continued to support the Shah of Iran as opposition to his rule grew and grew through the years until his overthrow in 1979 by ultra-right religious fanatics in what was a relatively bloodless revolution. It was in the immediate aftermath of the revolution that Iranian students took 52 Americans hostages and held them for 444 days.
The hostage crisis wounded America’s pride, leading to the current situation—decades of enmity between the two countries, during which we have embraced Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that oppresses its people and is the home to most of the 9/11 hijackers and the mastermind behind 9/11 and Al Qaeda. We’ve essentially taken sides in a regional religious dispute and selected a side less in tune with our values, all because the other side slapped us around a little after we had helped bludgeon it for 26 years.
The absurdity of not taking a road to pace with Iran will come into stark view if we consider that we have now had an adversarial relationship with it for 38 years, which is 10 years longer than Germany was our enemy in the middle of the 20th century. We essentially forgave Germany for all the death and misery it caused and immediate embraced it after WW II. Of course we beat their asses and they were Christians. When we deal with Iran across the peace negotiating table, we have to treat them as equals.
Usually when an Administration does something that hurts most people, the answer as to why can be found by following the money: who benefits. In this case, it’s primarily the Saudi Arabians and whichever governments, insurgent movements, terrorist groups and oil companies it is supporting. Also benefitting is the government of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Note I write the Israeli government, not the Israel people, who stand to benefit more than anyone else from peace with Iran. But Bibby needs another external enemy. We know Trump is buddy-buddy with both the Saudis and Bibby. It wouldn’t be the first time that crony capitalism has led America to make a bad foreign policy decision.
But in the case of Trump, I have to wonder. Media reports suggest that virtually all White House advisors are telling Trump not to do it and that he is digging in his heels. Why? Is he that much in the pockets of the Saudis?
Or could it be that Trump’s main motivation is to destroy everything done by that black man out of a sense of revenge for being the butt of a few jokes? For a while, I’ve heard and scoffed at the utterly Shakespearean theory that Trump’s hatred of Obama overwhelms all other thoughts and emotions when it comes to government. Trump as Iago or Lady Macbeth. An interesting and theatrical idea, but how could it be? Destabilize global politics? Throw 800,000 people with jobs or going to college out of the country? Walk away from our first real shot at addressing human-caused global warming? All because you dislike some uppity guy because he doesn’t know his place (although I imagine that instead of “black man” and “uppity guy,” Trump uses a different word when thinking about President Obama). Impossible, I thought. But maybe not.
Not that it will help, but we should all be jamming the phone lines and Internet bandwidth with pleas to Trump not to walk away from the Iranian deal and demands to our Senators and Congressional representatives that they announce they will support impeachments proceedings if Trump goes ahead with his plan to “decertify.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

Hugh Hefner was a sexist pig—intellectual, liberal, stylish, all true. But nonetheless—a pig!!

By Marc Jampole
As part of his glorification and ascent to the Valhalla of dead celebrities, Hugh Hefner has received far too much credit for the positive impact he had on American society and far too little condemnation for the negative.
True, he advocated for abortion and took other liberal and progressive stands, typically from the standpoint of libertarianism, which is not such a good political ideology in many areas. He did popularize a number of important non-mainstream ideas in philosophy, psychology, politics and cultural studies. He did help to loosen up the entertainment mores of the strait-laced post-war mass culture.
And yes, Hefner did popularize important ideas about sexual freedom. But his version of sexual freedom posed the existence of woman as solely for the convenience of men, for their sexual pleasure and as a signifier of male social and financial success. He twisted the sexual revolution into a new version of the same old female subservience to male domination. Feminism would have proceeded without him—birth control pills and college-educated Baby Boom women were going to make sure of that. Hefner wasn’t needed to support the causes for which he is now getting praise.
The basic message of the sexual revolution that Hefner helped to promote was fine: it’s okay for two or more consenting adults to have sex, and anything goes, as long as everyone is fine with it. I might add that there’s no need ever to feel guilty about what you do or did in bed, or with whom you did it. People change, grow, mature, slow down, and so do their sexual needs, desires and feelings. It’s all okay, as long as nobody is hurt. Of course, in Hefner’s version, the man dominated, and coercion and transgression were often subtexts to the action.
There are five ways in which Hefner’s Playboy philosophy and empire of magazines, videos and clubs harmed American society:
  1. The infantilization of men
The playboy remains a feckless boy, immature, irresponsible, narcissistic, as younger men often are. The focus of remaining a child for the playboy is not having any responsibility in relationships with women. Playboy thus marks one of the earliest instances of the mass media attempting to keep adults acting—and thinking—like children.
2. An unattainable and false ideal of sexuality
Playboy photographers and designers used airbrushes, filters and lights to erase the flaws that particularize a woman’s beauty, homogenizing her real flesh into a rarely attainable ideal. Elective plastic surgery and cosmetics further sculpted the reality off Playboy models and bunnies. In Playboy’s universe, all women had large breasts, unreal proportions, flawless skin, no body fat, high cheek bones and eternal youthfulness. Hefner took an extremely narrow band on the very broad spectrum of female beauty—a far narrower band than in Hollywood movies or television—and promoted that as the only ideal of beauty for the successful, accomplished, “cool” man. Heterosexual men who bought into the Playboy ideal had to feel at least some dissatisfaction with their regular sexual partner(s). Of course, dissatisfaction is what advertisers want consumers to feel, because in America, satisfying a need—real or fabricated—involves buying something. Which brings us to…
  1. The commodification of sex
Hefner’s enterprises turned sex and sexual experience into commodities that you buy into a number of ways. First and foremost, Playboy made women into both commodities and a reason to purchase other commodities. The playboy doesn’t pay for sex (although the later, cruder laddie boy will), but he does shell out a lot of money wining, dining, transporting and gifting her as a precondition of sex. But beyond the transactional element implicit in the playboy’s relationship with any woman is the position women hold in his universe, the entirety of which is overrun by gadgets, gee-gaws, fads and new services. The woman is another commodity that can be replaced, not a person demanding interaction.
  1. The objectification of women
Perhaps because I’m male, I don’t see anything wrong with thinking about individuals of the sex one desires as sex objects, as long as you treat them as a full human being with equal rights: keep that secret lust to yourself and work as hard and as smart as you can for your female boss. In the Playboy world, however, everything a woman does is an extension or manifestation of her sexuality. For example, whenever referencing a centerfold’s achievements, profession or hobbies, Playboy invariably added a double entendre with a sexual connotation, a sly joke that reminded everyone that her Fulbright grant, award-winning work as a photographer or interest in African art were less than icing on the cake, perhaps akin to the little diamond-studded pin she wears on the dress you take off her—or command her to take off—when you’re getting ready to help her fulfill her true purpose in life, to be a man’s sexual toy.
  1. The domination of men
In Hefner’s world, men dominate women. Women may have access to birth control, abortions and professions, but in Hefner’s fantasyland they still lack control over their lives. Men still set the mores and decide what to value. They still control the relationship.
That’s a lot of harm that Playboy and Hefner have inflicted on American for more than sixty years.
On a personal level, I never had much use for Playboy. I never sought it out, and when I occasionally happened to see a pile of old issues, e.g., while waiting for a friend to get ready, I would flip through the pages for the cartoons and read the page of jokes always on the last page of the centerfold section. Child of the 60’s, the photos never stimulated me: I have always preferred women who don’t look like Barbie dolls and my idea of beauty in a woman encompasses a very wide range of sizes, shapes and colors.
As far as the articles go, by the time I saw Playboy for the first time, I was already a cover-to-cover reader of The New York Review of BooksNation, Dissent, Harpers and Ramparts. I was not impressed by the “great” articles, as I read so much thought-provocative material in these respected publications of the intelligentsia. Furthermore, I recognized the difference between true intellectualism and an intellectual patina gilding old-fashioned sexism.
Maybe I hang around with the right crowd, but every woman I have ever admired, liked, loved or desired (except for those I’ve just seen passing in the street whose thoughts I can’t read) wouldn’t be caught dead in the Playboy world; even the most tolerant of them would think less of me if she thought I was a regular reader.
That’s okay. I would think less of me, too.