Games of Unknowledging – Part II

Robert Browning

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In Part I the various forms of ignorance raised five studied categories with applicable questions. For example, when does knowledge create ignorance? Ignorance for whom? Against whom? Selection and suppression are key factors influencing rise, stagnation, or fall among civilizations, organizations, or families. Recognizing how certain tactics impact you and those people goes a long way toward composing, testing, and restructuring the best available actions and reactions benefitting, as best as possible, the greater good. As A.B. Hill elaborates:

“All scientific work is incomplete — whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone actions that it appears to demand at a given time.

Who knows, asked Robert Browning… [truthfully], but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.”

These are the wonderful rewards of living and working within a free open-system of inquiry, probabilities, plausibilities, and collective consensus! There is typically more — more accuracy in knowledge, more progress, and more accountability. As a slight apology, I realize this Part II post reached over 5,100 words. On the contrary, its content is so critical, so vastly unknown today by the general American public that I just could not reduce its word-count anymore than I have. I hope you’ll understand why when finished reading.

As I mentioned in Part I, in this post I am stepping extensively into manufactured uncertainty and ignorance, as well as into some women’s social and political issues, their implied status now and treatment throughout history with regard to learned forms of ignorance. However, I will do my best to allow women like Dr. Nancy Tuana and other highly credible female experts to do the talking as much as possible. Experience has taught me in the arena of Feminism, as a bumbling male at times, this is a wise and healthier approach. 😀

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Manufacturing Uncertainty

In the world of athletic sporting events such as the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup — both held only every four years — during the ensuing three years between, excitement and anticipation build to a fever pitch. In American sports in 2016 the three major pro leagues of football, baseball, and basketball raked in a mind-boggling $27.3-billion in revenues. Viewing the HowMuch.net infographic below it is easy to see just how much in dollars and socioeconomic values professional sports and their fans impact the entire globe.

sports-leagues-by-revenue-July2016

In those stadiums and arenas of competition, both in the front and back offices, locker rooms, television broadcasting and sponsorships, in sports pubs and bars, and family homes, with that much annual revenues and profits flowing, how well do you think it would go over (to everyone in sports concerned) if none of these leagues, franchises, owners, players, and administrative offices had any sort of referees, umpires, or league policies and procedures? Zero. Would it upset some fans? To remain successful and winning, how would players and owners react to no enforcement of any league or game rules? Would parity exist? For how long might it exist?

Whether on the field of competitive sports or in the daily market-place, unchecked, all the worst human faults and ugly behaviors would run wild. Dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest as they say… or rather the smartest, quickest, and most cunning would soon dominate. Those born disadvantaged would have dreadful, bleak, survival odds. Like it or not, the world and each of us NEED referees and umpires of integrity to keep the playing field equal and fair not just for survival, but for the innate right of livelihood for all.

Consequences of Deregulation or No Regulation
The effects and impact of regulation, deregulation, or no regulation are never more central than in protecting the domains of public health and its environment where our health resides. This is more crucial for those who are disadvantaged and gullible, for unique reasons, and therefore are susceptible to acts of diversion and deceit. Following are five historical cases Dr. David Michaels, PhD, published concerning manufactured uncertainty and sustained ignorance.

Tobacco, Disease, and Doubt — in the early 1950’s as health researchers were discovering and publishing the negative effects of smoking, the tobacco industry launched major campaigns of counter-measures. “Doubt is our product” was one primary rallying cry directed to The Tobacco Institute, the industry’s voice or bullhorn defense against medical science as instructed via memorandum from Hill & Knowlton, Inc., one of the industry’s major public relations firms. With millions of dollars invested from large and small tobacco companies into these doubt campaigns, the success set the precedent for future successes against other scientific communities and their protection of public health and the environment, such as the effects of climate change.

VIOXX — and Merck. Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. “On Friday, a Texas jury found Merck liable for the death of Robert C. Ernst, who died in May 2001 after taking Vioxx” reported the New York Times journalist. During the case it was found that Merck executives knew of the increased cardiac risks, but intentionally mislead physicians and the FDA in numerous documented company communications.

Beryllium — is a rare element in our universe produced by cosmic ray collisions. It increases the yield of nuclear explosions and thus has been highly valued in the U.S. production of weapons systems throughout the Cold War. As is corroborated by InvestorIntel.com, U.S. weapons manufacturers today dominate the beryllium market at more than 87% share of the world output. The revenues and profits are naturally a guiding economic force and investor’s criteria. The downside to beryllium manufacturing is exposure and lung disease, known as Chronic Beryllium Disease. Once again because of precedents set, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the DOE (Department of Energy) were constantly misinformed by the Department of Defense and funding-PR work by Brush-Wellman (now Materion Corp) the leading U.S. producer of beryllium products, that CBD-exposure was below hazard-standards and sporadic. Floor supervisors at Brush-Wellman were told by executives that when asked about CBD-exposure answer news reporters with more questions and uncertainty. This tactic leads us to another well-funded doubt campaign: PPA.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) — this particular case with PPA manufacturers and the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is a glaring use of well-funded misdirection and selling doubt. In the early 1970’s young females began suffering from hemorrhagic strokes when taking PPA. When these strokes were reported to the Mayo Clinic, only 20-years later did the FDA begin looking into the safety of the drug. Why 20-years? The manufacturers of PPA — organized together as the NDMA — were denying it was their drug causing the hemorrhagic strokes. They had hired and funded Yale University School of Medicine to study the effects of PPA. They also constructed the study to be approved by the FDA. In October 1999 when the results were finalized, the Yale study confirmed the link between PPA and hemorrhagic strokes. Did the NDMA remove the drug from pharmacy shelves? No. Instead they hired the Weinberg Group to attack the Yale study and science. The annual sales of PPA were well over $500-million despite over 200-500 men and women suffering strokes between ages 18 and 49 using the drug. These tactics stalled the removal of PPA from the market long enough (in 2000) to redesign them for a ready-made replacement that kept the flow of profits going — at the expense of crippled or deceased consumers. On their company website the Weinberg Group gloated* about their success for the NDMA.

The Funding Effect that $500-million in sales for an industry can elicit against protective science is a modern corporate tactic never to be ignored or taken lightly.

Funding Effect & BPA — When there is a close correlation between the desired results of a study by a study’s funders and the reported results of that study, it is called the funding effect. Dr. Richard Smith, M.D., a member of CBE and former editor of the British Medical Journal explains:

“Why are pharmaceutical companies getting the results they want? … The companies seem to get the results they want not by fiddling the results, which would be far too crude and possibly detectable by peer review, but rather by asking the “right” questions — and there are many ways to do this [see list below] … There are many ways to hugely increase the chance of producing favourable results, and there are many hired guns who will think up new ways and stay one jump ahead of peer reviewers.”
— Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, by Dr. Richard Smith, May 2005

With regard to BPA, an environmental estrogen used in polycarbonate plastic found in canned foods and dental sealants, exposure to low doses of the poly-plastic was found to alter human endocrine functions. At the time there were many conflicting reports. In response to the negative reports, the American Plastics Council employed the services of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to dispute the reports and found that the effects of BPA exposure were inconclusive. A separate group of scientists felt the HCRA study was too small given the number of studies already done. When reexamining the some 115 separate assessments of BPA exposure conducted in addition to the much smaller samples by the HCRA, the conclusions were drastically different! What was found to be more disturbing was…

“90% (94 of 104) of the studies paid for with government funds reported an effect associated with BPA exposure; not a single one of the 11 corporate funded studies found an effect.”
— Protecting Public Health in the Age of Contested Science and Product Defense, David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, pp. 156-157

A New Regulatory Paradigm
The debates, controversies surrounding corporate funding-effects versus independent science, the millions-to-billions of dollars involved, and the risks posed to public health and our environment has created another industry niche that could be termed as Product Manufacturing Defense. In recent years these law and consulting firms have popped up to oppose independent science panels they label as “Private Surgeon Generals.” Here is one such lucrative strategy the firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York, NY advertises and utilizes:

“Private Surgeons General seek to force manufacturers and retailers of food, consumer and household products to post Surgeon General-like warnings, change package labels and advertising and refund hundreds of millions of dollars to unharmed and otherwise perfectly happy consumers who purchased perfectly healthful and untainted products. Why? Because a substance shown in the ingredient list is claimed to be dangerous or a statement in the product advertising or label is claimed to be misleading.”

In the fight to return and maintain the scientific integrity in federal policymaking, the Union of Concerned Scientists published their January 2017 report detailing why more transparency is needed due to past conduct between manufacturers, agencies, science, and their possible bias. No records of gross misconduct are greater, writes the UCS, than what took place during George W. Bush’s administration:

“Bush administration officials manipulated, misrepresented, and suppressed inconvenient data and censored experts. They systematically chose science advisors based on ideology rather than scientific credentials, they prevented federal scientists from sharing their research and expertise, and they rewrote scientific reports to help justify predetermined policy decisions.

The evidence is clear: when policymakers undermine science, the public is left with laws and regulations that leave them exposed to unnecessary danger.”

It is very apparent that some/many industry-related research is not published, or distorted, or delayed until financially-covering alternatives are in place at the expense of health and/or environmental risks and consequences, some irreversible. Government laws and regulations — our referees and umpires of the highest integrity — must be in place for pure independent research and results to be readily accessible. More importantly, to offer the public and our environment parity-protection from well-funded Congressional lobbyists and biased product defense firms, our federal agencies such as OSHA and the EPA must have the best impartial, scientific information available! A two-way street of the funding for the science and possible conflicts of interest encourages transparency and integrity for these agencies to make informed regulatory policy-decisions.

*  If their website no longer has the page up, their exact verbage can be read here: “Adverse event linked to OTC product” pp. 155-156.

Women’s Issues and Rights

In many ways Western civilization has only just departed the Dark Ages concerning women’s necessary place in all of society. The lethargy belongs squarely on two agents: Men and ignorance. For over a millenia, going back to ancient Greece, any mental or emotional “peculiarities” of a woman’s behavior would be diagnosed as hysteria by doctors; and all doctors were male. It was believed the hysteria was caused by a disorderly wandering uterus. This irregular behavior, as the story goes, led to the invention of the vaginal vibrators as treatment! Until the 21st century some of Emily Dickinson’s passionate works were little known, suppressed by men in positions of power:

Female-PMS_Steve-Hanks

Steve Hanks watercolor

“Wild nights — Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!”

Her publisher was horrified and distraught over whether to publish those first four lines due to “social norms” of 1860’s patriarchal puritan America.

By the 1800’s male doctors noticed the time-correlation between “hysteria” and PMS. By the 1900’s male doctors and medical societies were linking menstrual insanity with tuberculosis and sexual molestation. Fortunately, modern medical science has greatly dispelled the myths concerning women’s bodies, but there is a long bumpy road still ahead with respect to eliminating all the ignorance.

Dr. Nancy Tuana reasons that what a group or person knows cannot fully be appreciated unless the unknowns are equally appreciated and who the knowledge or ignorance benefits or handicaps. It is an area that Dr. Tuana says:

“Female sexuality is a particularly fertile area for tracking the intersections of power/knowledge-ignorance. Scientific and commonsense knowledge of female orgasm has a history that provides a rich lens for understanding the importance of explicitly including epistemologies of ignorance alongside our theories of knowledge.”

Dr. Tuana closely examines seven subjects concerning women’s bodies and pleasures for a contemporary understanding:  Epistemologies of Orgasms, Unveiling the Clitoris, Fingering Truth, The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and finally Bodies and Pleasures. As mentioned before, I will let Dr. Tuana do most of the speaking and attempt to single out her key points within the first three areas.

Epistemologies of Orgasms
The 19th century constructed and taught that sex, and women’s bodies and pleasures were a “problem of truth.” Dr. Tuana goes on…

“Can my investigations of the power dimensions of ignorance concerning women’s orgasms not fall prey to a constructed desire for the “truth of sex”?

…The bodies of my attention are those of women; the pleasures those of orgasm. But bodies and pleasures are not outside the history and deployment of sex-desire. Bodies and pleasures will not remove me, the epistemic subject, from the practice of desiring truth. Bodies and pleasures, as [Michel] Foucault well knew, have histories. Indeed the bodies that I trace are material-semiotic interactions of organisms/environments/cultures. Bodies and their pleasures are not natural givens, not even deep down. Nor do I believe in a true female sexuality hidden deep beneath the layers of oppressive socialization. But women’s bodies and pleasures provide a fertile lens for understanding the workings of power/knowledge-ignorance in which we can trace who desires what knowledge; that is, we can glimpse the construction of desire (or lack thereof) for knowledge of women’s sexuality. I also believe that women’s bodies and pleasures can, at this historical moment, be a wellspring for resisting sexual normalization.”

Hence, Dr. Tuana begins with the clitoris.

Unveiling the Clitoris
Remarkably most adults in America, including university campuses, know more about the penis than they do about women’s genitalia and pleasures. In her many years of teaching at Penn State University, when Dr. Tuana has asked her students to sketch a drawing (from memory) of a woman’s internal and external sexual organs they are vague and typically exclude the clitoris.

“This pattern of knowledge-ignorance mirrors a similar pattern in scientific representations of female and male genitalia. Although the role of the clitoris in female sexual satisfaction is scientifically acknowledged, and well-known by most of us, the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris, particularly its beginnings and ends, is still a contested terrain. A brief history of representations of the clitoris provides an interesting initial entry into the epistemology of ignorance.

As I and many other theorists have argued, until the nineteenth century, men’s bodies were believed to be the true form of human biology and the standard against which female structures — bones, brains, and genitalia alike — were to be compared. The clitoris fared no differently. Medical science held the male genitals to be the true form, of which women’s genitals were a colder, interior version.

Even after the “two-sex” model became dominant in the nineteenth century, with its view of the female not as an underdeveloped male but as a second gender with distinctive gender differences, the clitoris got short shrift. It was often rendered a simple nub, which though carefully labeled, was seldom fleshed out or made a focus of attention.”

Not until the 1980’s did women’s health take another grand step forward in medical science. “…the clitoris expanded in size and configuration to include three structures:  the shaft, the glans, and the crura.” Yet, this new expansion still fell short.

“But none of these [medical] texts focuses attention on coming to understand the sexual response patterns of these and other bits. Feminist imagery diverges significantly from nonfeminist in providing us far more detailed views of the impact of sexual stimulation on the glans and crura of the clitoris, as well as the labia majora and the bulbs of the vestibule, the latter of which possess a very extensive blood vessel system that becomes very engorged during arousal, doubling, even tripling in size, we are told, during sexual arousal… The always-found illustrations of male erections… are now accompanied by an illustration of female erections, …something absent in nonfeminist texts. Feminist texts also lovingly detail the other bits that are part of our seat of delight. Reminding us that the clitoris, impressive though it be, is not our only sensitive bit, feminists also provide us with images of the urethral sponge that lies between the front wall of the vagina and the urethra, which expands with blood during sexual arousal… It was this structure that was allegedly “discovered” with Columbus-like gusto (Christopher, this time, not Renaldus) by Ernst Graffenburg and popularized as the “G-spot.” Although a few nonfeminist anatomical illustrations, post-Graffenburg, provide us glimpses of this pleasurable sponge, apparently neither they nor Graffenburg have gotten the hang of the feminist speculum, for they continue to overlook feminist presentations of the other sponge, the perineal sponge located between the vagina and the rectum, which also engorged when a woman is sexually aroused… Pressure on any of these engorged structures can result in pleasure and orgasm.”

Thus, clearly the clitoris and her compliments are far more than a simple nub.

Fingering Truth
How has the clitoris historically and socially remained as a mere nub? Dr. Tuana explains:

“Despite fifteen years of clear illustrations of this [modern] view of clitoral structures, our impact has been surprisingly minimal, at least so far. A review of anatomical illustrations in standard college human sexuality textbooks reveals a surprising lack of attention to the functions and structures of the clitoris. No surprise, then, that my students have, at best, a passing knowledge of the depths and complexity of its structures.

There is a politics of ignorance at work here, one that is linked to the politics of sex and reproduction… There has been little dispute from the Greeks to the present of the importance of male pleasure and ejaculation for conception. In contrast, the question of female seed and the link between it and female pleasure was always a point of controversy… Women’s sexual pleasure came to be seen as inessential to reproduction, although many scholars admitted that it might be useful in promoting the desire for intercourse.

Female2_Steve-Hanks

by Steve Hanks

Now to this view of the functions (or lack thereof) of female erotic pleasure add the politics of sex, namely the view that the only or at least the main function of sex is reproduction. To this view add the politics of female sexuality, namely the tenet common in scientific and popular accounts well into the nineteenth century that women were more lustful than men and that their sexuality was a danger to men, and a path is cleared to an understanding of why clitoral structures get lost in the process. The logic becomes quite clear:  (a) There is not good reason to pay attention to the clitoris, given that it allegedly plays no role in reproduction and that sex is to be studied (only) in order to understand reproduction. (b) Worse, there is good reason to not pay attention to the clitoris lest we stir up a hornet’s nest of stinging desire. From Pandora on, and well into the nineteenth century, women’s stinging desire and limb-gnawing passion had been branded the cause of the fall of mankind. What better reason to construct and maintain an epistemology of ignorance? What better way to disqualify and perhaps even control women’s sexual satisfaction? 

Leaving Sigmund Freud aside for the moment, genitals came under scrutiny during the end of the nineteenth century as science constructed the category of the “invert,” namely, those who mixed with members of their own sex. Evolutionary theory linked the newly “uncovered” sexual identity of the homosexual to degeneracy, and widespread societal fears of the degeneration of the race (that is, the white race) led to broadened support for eugenics movements… Belief in the degeneration of the race led many to believe that so-called inverts were proliferating. Anxiety led to a desire to be able to track such undesirables and an equally strong desire to believe their perversity and devolution would be clearly marked on their bodies… Although through images to be kept only for the eyes of professionals, whose objectivity and dispassionate nature would protect them from corruption, science began to turn its gaze on the structures of the clitoris to seek out and control deviancy.”

From 1935 — 1941 sexual deviancy outside the accepted binary norms was conducted to ‘learn the physical marks‘ of such behavior in order to stop contamination of the white race by other races (see p. 211 here).

“The point here is that this epistemology is not about truth. …What is missing or only sketchily attended to in nonfeminist anatomies, at least when the focus is on the “normal” rather than the “deviant,” is the desire to map the geographies and functions of the clitoris and our other pleasurable bits.

…What I am arguing is that the history of our knowledge-ignorances of the clitoris — indeed, our lived experiences of its beginnings and ends — is part of an embodied discourse and history of bodies and pleasures.”

For the sake of length and my time-constraints, and probably yours too, I am leaving out the next four sections — The Issue of Pleasure, The Either/Or of Women’s Orgasms, Sisterhood Is Powerful, and Bodies and Pleasures — all four of which are well worth the read! If you are interested, here’s the complete version: Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance.

Abortifacients and the Making of More Ignorance

It is as easy as sipping a cup of Pride of Barbados herbal tea and washing herself with the same herb/flower in a morning bath. Doing this shortly after intercourse, according to secret ancient medicine in the Caribbean islands, prevents conception safely and comfortably. In fact, a woman could do this repeatedly two or three days after intercourse accomplishing more assured results. Why has this profound medical knowledge NOT been circulated around the world, especially in European civilizations? That is literally the million-dollar question.

Age of Discovery? 1500 — 1899 
Advances in European maritime navigation and ship-building saw an unprecedented extent of exploration far beyond the continent’s seas between the 1500’s and 1900’s. Empires such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain were economic competitors and often bitter enemies when the riches of the New Worlds were discovered and calculated. The magnitude of historical influence on the world by just these four maritime empires cannot be overstated — three of the world’s most widely spoken languages today are Spanish, English, and Portuguese. During the Age of Discovery and Exploration humanity witnessed and experienced at the time what might be described as the biggest economic boom in recorded history, for European nobility particularly, followed by a new age of scientific breakthroughs. But not all breakthroughs found in the New Worlds made it back to European headlines. Why?

Women in the Age of Discovery and After

Pride of Barbados flower

Pride of Barbados

Dr. Londa Schiebinger pinpoints a few different reasons:

“…in the eighteenth century, both European science and societies were structured to cultivate certain types of knowledge over others. Funding priorities, global strategies, national policies, structures of scientific institutions, trade patterns, configuration of technologies all pushed investigation toward certain parts of nature and away from others.”

Centuries of European gender politics and mercantile profits were the undercurrents of this knowledge-ignorance. Following were two basic distortions in 18th century botany. Taxonomists like John Ray asked:  What is the uniformity of plants and flora across various continents? It was postulated that Caribbean flowers and plants were brought to the islands by the Tainos of South America and afterwards by the Dutch, Spanish, and English. What botanists failed to observe was crates and sacks of produce awaiting transport in harbors inadvertently collected soil and seeds of other weedy species. Thus, trade routes/winds, their imports/exports, and human mixing/influence caused taxonomists to wrongly conclude that “uniformity” in tropical flora was global rather than diverse according to regions and climates.

Two centuries later famed English botanist, William T. Stearn, along with earlier recorded scientific excursions from several other renown 18th century European botanists corrected this faulty science. Where 17th century science was in favor of profitable trade and commerce, Stearn also noticed European taxonomists then were not as interested or invested in the notion of boring, all the same, un-lucrative uniformity. Highly novel filled the pockets of East and West Indies shipping and commerce.

The second distortion in 18th century botany which fueled cultural ignorance was technology and transcontinental movements. Not until the early 1800’s did European botany more accurately know and understand taxonomies of the New World’s resources as opposed to their own. Voyagers crossing the oceans preferred succulents and bulbs over heavy stones and minerals simply because they’d survive the journey back to Europe; they weighed much less and cost less to transport. These trade conditions didn’t change until ships became larger and faster. However, New World abortifacients like the Pride of Barbados or the peacock flower, was not embraced in Europe even though the knowledge of its use had been known for centuries in indeginous cultures and in select scientific disciplines.

woman-in-bath

Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German-born Naturalist and botany-entymologist illustrator, documented that both Amerindians and African slave-women used the abortifacient flower almost exclusively because they did not want their child born into the slave-trade for life. There are several possibilities of the origin of the Pride of Barbados (peacock flower) and its use, but Dr. Schiebinger feels the more likely origin-knowledge is South America:

“The historical record of the peacock flower used as an abortive from Surinam up through the French Antilles to Jamaica suggests that the plant was known to the forebears of the Tainos, the Saladoid peoples, and followed their migration out of South America into the [Caribbean] islands. …While it is possible that displaced Africans taught the Tainos the use of the peacock flower, I find it more likely that the Tainos and Arawaks taught its uses to the newly arrived Africans.”

Despite the fact that so much Amerindian, African, and Caribbean resources and knowledge entered Europe during the Age of Discovery, their knowledge of abortifacients like the peacock flower did not. Again, why? What induced this European ignorance? Dr. Schiebinger explains pre-19th century social-moral legalities:

“Throughout the early modern period, the general consensus was that for legal purposes a woman was not pregnant — not truly with child — until “quickening” or “ensoulment” took place, usually considered to occur near the midpoint of gestation, late in the fourth or early in the fifth month of pregnancy (or according to Aristotle, forty days after conception for a male child and ninety days for a female child). …Even though abortion was legal in this period, it was never undertaken lightly:  moral trepidation and physical danger argued against it.

Cultivating knowledge of West Indian abortifacients in Europe was discouraged by the fact that European colonial enterprises were largely male. The majority of Caribbean planters and slaves were men, as were colonial administrators, naturalists, and physicians. Colonial governors, such as Hendrick van Reede and Philippe de Lonvilliers, chevalier de Poincy (for whom the Poinciana pulcherrima was named), were most interested in medicines to protect traders, planters, and trading company troops, among whom few women were found.

Developing abortifacients or any drugs used predominantly to control fertility also worked directly against the interests of mercantilist states. Mercantilist governments sought to augment the wealth of nations by PRODUCING growing and healthy populations.”

There is simply no other more pleasant way of putting it. Women, in the Age of Discovery, were breeders, meant to bolster the wealth and resources of male nations. For European states and their foreign colonies, abundant population — both slave and citizen — was to increase production of crops and goods. Domestically large populations filled the armies and navies. It generated workers who would pay substantial taxes and rents. In the empire’s colonies it grew negroes that would push and pad the empire’s wealth. The moral issues surrounding abortifacients were just as centered around a company’s and nation’s wealth-accumulation as it was (or less so) seen in God’s eyes and prosperity for “true believers.”

And so the simple, safe, and comfortable remedy for a possible (objectionable? shameful?) conception — drinking an herbal tea of peacock flower and bathing in a warm “peacock floral” bath — went disinterested and/or suppressed throughout an apparently ‘advanced’ European people. How much has changed today in our knowledge-ignorance of safe, simple, ancient and Renaissance abortifacients?

For further information about women’s bodies and pleasure:
OMGYes.com — “See What Science Says About Women’s Pleasure”

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In Part III of Games of Unknowledging, I want to cover the art of Fabricating Facts, the Revelations of Indigenous Fossils and their knowledge-ignorance, as well as gaining a better understanding of the benefits and advantages of thorough Historical-Interdisplinary Hindsight. I hope you’ll join me there with your thoughts and comments.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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A Collective Imperative

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If a free society cannot help the many that are poor,
it cannot save the few who are
rich.
— John F. Kennedy

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[This is the fourth and final segment of a series continuing from part 3 – Unveiling Incentive-Opportunity Fallacies] (paragraph separation)

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What is excessiveness?  The dictionary defines it this way:  exceeding a normal, usual, reasonable, or proper limit.  Historians have sometimes defined it as out Herod Herod.  Lord Salisbury in Shakespeare’s King John perhaps described it better as painting the lily:

Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess.

Every single human being requires a handful of necessities:  water, food, climate-control, and shelter.  To what extent or elaboration those four basic needs are fulfilled, can be averaged at any location, and thus a global standard can be determined.  One and perhaps a minimum of two of these basic life-needs are in finite supply and crisis on our planet.

Fair warning for those who are sensitive to or bothered by grim facts of nature, our planet, and other human groups, self-discretion should be considered.  What follows, in my opinion, needs to be at least made aware and considered by everyone on Earth.

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What do you think would happen if when you turned open your faucet and nothing came out?  How long could you survive without water?  Now, what do you think would happen if your entire city was without water or operating sewage?  What would happen if a nation lost its water and sewage?  There is no water to feed crops or gardens; no clean water to drink.  Are you getting the picture?  If not, let’s hear the alarming projections some scientists, scholars, and professional experts are reporting.  Sorry this alarming documentary is an hour-and-a-half long, but it needs to be shared:

If you still feel this is not a problem for you and your children and grandchildren, you should have your ears examined.  If you feel resource conservation is a form of socialism or communism, then you are in delusional denial.

Excessive opulence or resource hoarding is no different a global footprint than spending or consuming recklessly; they both accomplish the same singularity:  proportionate risk.  The more excessive, the more risk; the more risk, the more excessiveness to avoid it.  As a species, if not as Americans, we need to…no, we must greatly refine our life-ambitions and the education of those ambitions and their purpose.

But let’s pause a moment and analyze where most Americans have headed since 1870 and are currently heading.

1870 – 1900:  The Gilded Age
Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Much pride and boasting has been made of America’s age of industrialization, that it was the catalyst that put the nation in the same discussion of the world’s greatest empires.  Yet of our nation’s 12-million families then, 11-million earned less than $1,200 per year; of this group the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line.  In today’s CPI dollars (the purchasing power of goods and services produced in the 1890 economy) that is $9,890 per year per household.  In his book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, Mark Twain wrote of the day’s barons and tycoons, What is the chief end of man?—to get rich.  In what way?—dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.

Though pre-1920 U.S. economic reports are less comprehensive as post-1920, Benjamin Schwarz of the World Policy Institute and Executive Editor of World Policy Journal writes in his 1995 New York Times article By 1890, the richest 12-percent of households owned about 86-percent of the country’s wealth.

1890 – 1920:  Progressive Era
The Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties

In 1910 the average annual household income was $574 per year.  In today’s CPI dollars that is $14,300 per year per household.  During this era America’s top 1-percent owned about 40-50 percent of the nation’s wealth and the top 10-percent fluctuated around 70-percent until President Theodore Roosevelt began his anti-trust legislation and wealth redistribution via progressive taxation.

1920 – 1929:  The Roaring Twenties

The average annual household income was $1,407 per year in 1920.  In today’s CPI dollars that is $16,100 per year per household.  In 1922 America’s top 1-percent owned 37% of the nation’s wealth; a slight change in years following Teddy Roosevelt’s administration.  America’s middle-class indeed experienced a relative age of prosperity during the Roaring Twenties due to the automobile industry which fed industries such as oil, road-construction, tourism, manufacturing, and electric-power.

1929 – 1941:  The Great Depression

the-great-depressionThe average annual household income in 1930 was $1,388.  By 1940 it had dropped to $1,315.  In today’s CPI dollars that is $19,100 and $21,500 per year per household respectively.  America’s top 1-percent in 1933 owned 33% of the nation’s wealth and 36.4% in 1939 demonstrated the upper-upper class comfortably rode out the stock market crash of ‘29.  Unemployment for the nation’s middle class was at 25% and especially higher in heavy industries such as lumbering and agricultural exports in cotton, wheat, and tobacco.  Fortunately, from a purely economic standpoint, another world war was on the horizon ready to put Americans, particularly women, back to work on a road to bigger prosperity than the Roaring Twenties.

1945 – 1973:  Postwar Prosperity – The Golden Era

The average annual household income was $3,180 in 1950 ($30,300 in 2012 CPI) and $4,816 in 1960 ($37,300 in 2012 CPI), a significant increase in just 10-years.  Middle-class Americans also enjoyed a bigger piece of the nation’s wealth:  70.2% in 1945 and 73% in 1949 while America’s top 1-percent saw their portion drop again to 29.8% and 27% respectively.  Yet, it is this Golden Era that firmly placed the United States as a world power and dominant economy.  As more and more Americans gained more wealth and more income, the nation experienced its most prolific prosperity to-date.  How it happened will be examined shortly.

The American Dream

The American Dream

When Dwight Eisenhower took office (1953-1961) the nation was going through another recession post-Korean War causing a decline in the nation’s GDP.  This resulted in middle-America having less of the nation’s wealth over a 16-year period down to 65%, while America’s top 1-percent relished in increases back up to 34.4% of the nation’s total wealth in 1965.

By 1970 the average annual household income was $7,494 or about $44,300 in today’s CPI dollars; another notable increase in 10-years.  As the Golden Era drew to a close and the Cold War and Vietnam festered, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs increased lower and middle-America’s wealth to 71% while America’s top 1-percent saw theirs fall to 29% of the nation’s wealth.  However, hard times were just around the corner for most Americans.

1970 – 1976:  Age of Stagflation
Image Time Warner

Image Time Warner

In 1973 the average annual household income was $9,037 or approximately $46,700 per household in today’s CPI dollars.  The nineteen-seventies became known economically as the Age of Stagflation.  The 25-year U.S. economic growth post-WW2 had stagnated to a crawl, and prices in goods and services rose annually in the double-digits from 10% in 1973 to 18% in 1979.  Due to poor performances on Wall Street, America’s top 1-percent saw their share of the nation’s wealth drop to the lowest in history:  19.9%.  Yet, middle-America enjoyed the highest ever share of the country’s wealth at 80%.

The eras of suburbanization in the 50’s and 60’s, however, had significant consequences in the 70’s.  The migration of tens of millions of middle-Americans (most of them White), moving to newly developing suburban towns meant getting to work in cities went from public transit to private vehicles.  This in turn caused America to become heavily dependent on foreign oil.  The long-term varied ripple effect of suburbanization cannot be overemphasized, one of which is our bigger footprint on environmental and global issues.

Wolff Table 1 Wealth

1976 – 1992:  Gilded Age Returns and Reaganomics
Reagan addresses Congress 1981 (Wikipedia)

Reagan addresses Congress 1981 (Wikipedia)

From 1976 to 1988 the average annual household income was $11,080 or about $44,700 in 2012 CPI dollars – yes, a $2,000 drop from the previous 3-years – to $25,167 or about $48,800 in 2012 CPI dollars; just above break-even from 1976.  To combat the stagflation of the 70’s, government deregulation along with personal and business tax cuts gained popularity.  As it turned out most of the tax breaks, along with deregulating helped America’s upper-classes.

Additionally, defeats of labor unions – unions made possible by Teddy Roosevelt reforms with long histories of keeping big-businesses from corruption and abuse of workers – also fattened the pockets of America’s top 1-percent by going from 19.9% ownership of the nation’s wealth to having 35.7% by 1989.  By 1992 the AAHI (average annual household income) was $28,870 or about $47,200 in 2012 CPI dollars; another drop from 1988.  While middle-America struggled, the top 1-percent in America owned a rising 37.2% of the nation’s total wealth.

Beginning in 1983 economist Edward Wolff has tracked America’s net wealth and financial (non-home) wealth distributions.  As Table 1 above and Figure 1 below show, it is an increasingly bleak outlook for the majority of Americans.

Figure 1 Net & Financial Dist

Click image for larger view

1990 – Present:  Globalization and World Superpower

The 1990’s will be compared to the prosperity of the 1920’s and the 1960’s.  But as a whole is that what the data reveals?  The AAHI was $32,558 in 1995 or about $49,000 in 2012 CPI dollars and America’s top 1-percent enjoyed another increase in the owned wealth of the nation at 38.5%.  For six brief years (1994-2000) the economy saw rises in the national debt, the stock market, and the GDP while inflation plateaued and unemployment dropped below 5% because of the Dot-com Boom.  Economist and civilians alike agree that the growth explosion was mostly a result of workplace computerization.  But the good times would come to an end in 2001.

Map of the world wide web

Map of the world wide web

A constant influx of immigrants seeking the American Dream, an American economy becoming one of the major players in a growing global economy, a false sense of security in the housing market, and numerous corporate scandals in the energy and finance sectors due to previous government deregulating, all contributed to the tipping-point by 2007.  The AAHI in 2000 was at $40,418 or $53,900 in 2012 CPI dollars and the top 1-percent in America saw their portion in the nation’s wealth drop to 33.4% due to a sharp declining stock market worsened by the attacks of 9/11.  There is another set of globalization dynamics that added to the plight of middle-America.

With the exodus of American jobs like cheaper electronics, fashion, shoes, and toys moving to developing nations, middle-Americans watched as their job and salary-leveraging also weakened with fewer lateral or upper employment positions.  Then jobs in TV, auto, steel, and home-furnishing manufacturing followed.  With those positions gone abroad, the American job-market went from high-paying management positions to simple service-industry low-paying positions which certainly need no college degree.  This move marked the boom of trade-school certifications for a growing electronic blue-collar job-market.

manufacturing_mexico

Why Mexico is becoming a global manufacturing power – Bloomberg Businessweek article

The domino-effect of American digitization, the snowballing Internet, and high-speed networks spreading to all corners of the globe have combined to gorge the growing socio-economic gap wider and deeper.  In 2007 the AAHI was $48,332 ($53,500 in 2012 CPI dollars) eaten-up by inflation and the cost-of-living.  Meanwhile, the top 1-percent owned a steady 34.6% of the nation’s wealth.  The lap of luxury doesn’t stop there.  With the creation of a connected more global economy today, along with new multiple global opportunities and substantially lower-wages to foreign workers, it should come as no surprise what sector of the American population currently enjoys the fruits-of-foreign-labor.

The World’s 200 Richest People(s):

The most industrialized developed countries in the world by population-size are in Europe according to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Report.  Of the top 10 nations with the highest Human Development Index (HDI), six of them are in Europe (see Report).  One might infer from that list then that many of the world’s wealthiest people reside in those countries or at least in Europe.  You would be wrong.

Of the 200 richest people in the world as of 2012, 61 of them (or 31%) are citizens of the United States.  What is perhaps unexpected is where the second richest group of people call home.  Of the next 139, 20 of them (or 10%) are Russian, ironically a former part of the old communist U.S.S.R.  The next 26 richest people come from Germany (13) and Brazil (13) at 7% and 6.5% respectively.  To see the world’s wealth and what portion of it is owned by the wealthiest 200, see the pie-chart below.  For the most current world ranking of the world’s wealthiest as ranked by Bloomberg click here.

Wealthiest 200 pie-chart

As the largest population of one of the most modern industrialized nations – currently 314 million and growing – the United States has the largest percentage of the population with the smallest percentage of the nation’s wealth.  Since 1983, as seen in Wolff’s two Tables above, it has decreased every single year.  To put this disparity succinctly, in terms of financial eggs-in-a-basket the top 1-percent own 35% of all privately held stock, 62.4% of all business equity, and 64.4% of financial securities in America.  Is it any wonder why middle-American taxpayers were held for ransom in 2008 to bailout our own mega-banks and financial firms, mega-auto companies, and integral government-sponsored entities?  The top 1 and 10-percent held the nation by the balls.  Sit down, it get’s more alarming.

largeextremeinequalitychartThe top 10-percent own 81% to 94% of all American bonds, trust funds, stocks, and business equity, and nearly 80% of all commercial real estate.  The real value of financial wealth is determined by control of income-producing assets; assets that can absorb recessions or devastating irreparable depressions.  Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that 10% of Americans own the United States.  Talk about utter investment stupidity in placing the nation’s “eggs” in one or two baskets!  There is no way to sugar-coat it.  Perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address should be rewritten to reflect today’s socio-economic times:  Government of the 10-percent, by the 10-percent, for the 10-percent.

Land of the Few, Home of the Lavish

Listed at $190-million, Copper Beech Farm in Greenwich, Connecticut is the most expensive home in America.  Built in 1896 and previously owned by the Greenway family of U.S. Steel with Andrew Carnegie as well as timber tycoon John Rudey, it has over 13,000 square feet on 50 waterfront acres with spectacular views of Long Island Sound.  As a French Renaissance style home with 12 bedrooms, wine cellar, a 75-foot outdoor pool, a grass tennis court, a large formal arboretum, two greenhouses, and private apple orchard, accessible by a 1,800-foot private driveway.  Oh, and the property includes two offshore islands.

Copper Beech - Greenwich, CT

Copper Beech – Greenwich, CT

Copper Beech Farm is simply one home of over 100 homes priced above $10-million.  From 2005 through 2012 Greenwich, CT has been ranked as the best wealthiest place to live in the U.S., the “Biggest Earner” per household in the U.S., and #1 wealthiest residents per capita in the nation.  Many of the residents are Wall Street hedge fund managers, writes Nina Munk of Vanity Faire Magazine, and “of the $1.2 trillion currently invested worldwide, approximately one-tenth, or $120-billion, is now managed out of Greenwich alone, according to Hedge Fund Research, Inc.”  Munk also reports that four of the richest 400 Americans live in Greenwich and three of those are hedge fund managers.  One Greenwich real-estate broker reported these four residents will drop five to eight-million dollars without a second thought.  Some even a lot more.

Almost As Big as the Taj Mahal –
To judge by the number of swollen, over ambitious mansions rising from lots in Greenwich these days, you’d almost think we were back in the 1910’s and 20’s – except that this time round the lots are small, and the houses are almost on top of one another.  “Years ago, wealthy houses were hidden in the rear of properties after long driveways…and no one ever built to the maximum allowable square footage,” remarked Diane Fox, long time director of Greenwich’s Planning and Zoning Department, in an e-mail to me.  “Today all big houses want to be seen from the road.””

Munk’s article of Greenwich’s rich and lavish also mentions that one interior designer installed broadloom carpet at $74,000 for one bedroom, and drapes and curtains at $20,000 to $25,000 for one bedroom.  You read it right, one bedroom.

Why is this level of wealth and excessive opulence worth mentioning?

Because today American legislation, political campaigns, and economic policies resemble little of what they did six decades ago.  In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed American corporations, including those owned by the top 1 and 10-percent of the nation, the opportunity of donating vast financial resources for political candidates and their election campaigns; “resources” with millions of dollars beyond what any individual voters could organize.  Remember, 80 to 90 percent of Americans hold or own just 4.7% of the nation’s financial wealth.  The political phrase in the 1940’s and 50’s “one person, one vote” means today “one dollar, one vote.”  That 2010 decision sets the stage for a class of super-wealthy political campaigners to push (as if a majority of individual voters) their one-dimensional political-economic interests:  enhancing their profits and revenues.

A Communal America is Imperative

This four-part series has not been about political, economic, or social envy.  It seems the bottom 99% or 90% are for the most part not jealous of America’s gazillionaires or their social contributions and hard-earned incomes.  What this four-part series has been about though is political fairness, representation, and efficiency.  As discussed in part two Productive Inequality, rent-seeking moves wages and wealth from the bottom and middle classes to the top 10 and 1-percent while distorting the “free market” in favor of some and to the detriment of most.  More “efficient” policies of the market matter for a more equitable distribution of national wealth.  Improper policies (e.g. of the last 32-years) lead to a less efficient economy and a growing divide between socio-economic classes.

Strength in lots of Einsteins!

Strength in lots of Einsteins!

It is a fairly simple overall concept.  When our society is sufficiently (even abundantly) funded in infrastructure, education, research, and technology, these vital areas of a thriving economy offer hope and security to ordinary citizens.  The majority of Americans, the bottom 90%, will actually SEE and experience for themselves what the U.S. Constitution, the Statue of Liberty, and all other symbols of democracy, equality and fairness are really made of… not just “promised” or rhetorically talked about on TV.  Those principles would be available to a vast number in society in an efficient dynamic economy.  Even the top 1-percent would benefit when the capabilities of so many quality workers and citizens are not wasted but fully utilized.  It’s a concept of not just strength in numbers, but strength in well-educated, ingenious, motivated Einstein numbers!  There is a huge difference between the two.  The difference is not just inclusive, but very alien to exclusive.

In his superb book The Price of Inequality:  How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz gives a superbly educated agenda on exactly how American government and her 314-million citizens can avoid falling into the same death-trap history’s great empires and their leaders fell into.  If you would like to read an outline of his proposed extensive agenda, click here.

My own meek semi-educated ideas of how not to follow, for instance, the Roman Empire’s demise or the former Soviet Union’s, or the more recent countries of Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria… are this:

What is the reading on your/our Collective-Goodness-Gauge?  What is the health of your/our common welfare, our passion for civic responsibility and the well-being of the persons near us?

These are NOT just social questions!  More importantly they are political and economic questions too.  As the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noticed about the nature of American society in 1835, freedom (or individualism) can be a tricky balancing act within democracy.  Some “individualized” Americans independent of a majority often have the pragmatic realization that looking after the welfare of others is not only good for the soul, but is equally good for business and wealth.  Stiglitz elaborates on this truth wonderfully:

“The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought:  an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.  Throughout history, this has been something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn.  Often, however, they learn it too late.”

Americans together

…no matter class or status

The Roman Empire, Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria are just four examples to what Stiglitz refers.  The former Soviet Union is an example of no individualism when no single “part” is allowed to reach its full brilliance and potential for the benefit of the whole; the other extreme.  Both ends of the economic-socio-political spectrum REQUIRE resource investments and management from every single citizen.  The stable “middle” if you will, has a steady balanced, efficient, fair, and equal flow of civic investment.  Any one mechanism cannot efficiently coexist without the other efficient mechanisms.  So…

If the United States wishes to return as one of the best symbols of freedom, liberty, democracy, and equality for all, then reaching that efficient balanced middle is an imperative collaborative, collective return to a well-managed, well-governed, wealth-balanced cause.

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Further information —

Inside Job

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