Monday, February 13, 2017

Sleepers Wake

Optional soundtrack:

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times does me and others one better with our rationalizations that at least Donald Trump has provided the silver lining of spawning the biggest mass protest movement since the Vietnam War. In a nod to his Versailles lifestyle, she describes his flailing fascistic antics as a lining of pure solid gold.

As I wrote in my published response to her Sunday column, Trump has indeed made millions of "Sleepers Wake!" in his own unique, Bach-wards, Antichrist sort of way.

"I hope the protests last," I wrote, "and that Trump's recent canoodlings with the border patrol, the sheriffs' association, the military brass, and the Intelligence (sic) Community aren't signs of of the suppression to come. If a squelching of dissent is what he has in mind, the "norms" are certainly in place for him -- the Homeland Security fusion centers, the Patriot Act, the FISA Court, etc. He's already supplementing those wonderful executive powers bequeathed to him with his own undemocratic brand of capitalistic crack - while the bored, compliant Congress critters are stoned into a stupor when they're not frantically buck-raking."

There is method to Trump's madness of insulting the entire judicial system and making a big show of rounding up immigrants. His real aim is to round up the half of the country that abhors the very ground he plods upon by pulling an "I told you so" the minute another blowback of a massacre occurs on our soil. He aims to scare people into getting off the streets and going home to stay obediently riveted to CNN, a/k/a the Terror Channel.

When I read recently that the new president is an obsessive-compulsive watcher of this military-industrial complex-sponsored cable outfit, it all started to make perfect sickening sense to me. Donald Trump and his band of Nazi White House advisers have been as brainwashed into their xenophobia as millions of other viewers. The manufacture of fear into the huddled masses is the primary weapon of capitalism gone wild. It's all they have left to control us.

 Meanwhile, the Vichy Congress continues its own bipartisan grift, plotting cuts to the social safety net as the price we have to pay for our precious "freedoms."

The Democratic Party is a lost cause.  During their recent and aptly named "retreats" in Baltimore and Houston, they were still bickering about procedures and catchy slogans, as opposed to an actual platform and programs that would benefit the refugees of the middle class, the working poor and the perpetual underclass. 

Another Sunday Times columnist, Frank Bruni, thought that the slogans left a lot to be desired: 
In one of many recent forums for the politicians vying to lead the Democratic National Committee — and, ideally, the party — out of the wilderness and into better times, the candidates were asked to distill the importance of fighting Donald Trump to 10 words or less.
I heard clich├ęs: “Power to the people.” I heard fancy words: “Anathema.”
I heard answers over 15 and 20 and even 25 words.
Only one of the seven candidates onstage at this particular event — which took place in Washington just two days before Trump’s inauguration — came in under the limit, with a reply that was more upbeat than downbeat and more assertive than reactive.
“Freedom, fairness, families, future,” said Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., using four words. “I got six left?”
Trump, correctly observes Bruni, has become the only reference point for every Democratic Party utterance. As a result, more voters are familiar with Steve Bannon, Trump's fascist guru, than they are with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of Wall Street, who famously shed crocodile tears as he co-opted the airport protests a couple of weekends ago. He became instant fodder for ridicule by Trump -- who knows his fellow plutocrat-serving New Yorker only too well.

But Bruni ultimately can't help but join the Democrats in their own losing game: tamping down the "re-litigation" of 2016, and decrying the disunity between the party's centrist corporate faction, and its populist progressive faction. Bruni, who with his Times colleagues went out of his way to both negatively boost Trump, and to alternately ignore and denigrate Bernie Sanders throughout the primaries, is still at it. He ends his column with yet another dig at Sanders, who has had the nerve to call for a major, disunifying party restructuring. 

My published response:
Mr. Bruni rightly criticizes the shallow intra-party nitpicking and the futile anti-Trump outrage.

But then he seems to suggest that all Democrats need do to win is to get rid of the wizened old fogies and put forth some young, photogenic (let's "groom" them!) and hip (in sync emotionally!) candidates who can be "ruthlessly pragmatic" enough to whip the electorate into a frenzy.

That is just sad.

Surmising that most people are shallow enough to be bored stiff with substance over style, all they can think about is a better "process." Cosmetic appeal, maps, narratives, diction and personality have become more important than, say, supporting single payer health care, a living wage, public unions, and a job for anybody who wants one.

 A cynical strategy that aims to fool enough of the people enough of the time just to get themselves back into power is a deservedly losing strategy.

Most of us aren't interested in who's the cutest, smartest liberal running for office. According to polls, younger voters lean toward socialism - which is absolute anathema to the party as it currently exists, in such thrall to Wall Street. Nancy Pelosi just last week condescendingly scoffed at a young man at a town hall who dared to question capitalism.

Younger people didn't rally around Bernie because of his looks, grooming and personality. There's a good reason that membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (not even a party, per se) doubled in 2016.

It's still the economy, stupid.


Jamie said...

This article is very misleading:

"There is method to Trump's madness of insulting the entire judicial system and making a big show of rounding up immigrants."

Yes, and Obama said nothing and quietly deported more people than any president in history. I predicted before the election that Trump will never reach his numbers, since liberals are against any deportations not performed by a Democrat.

" Donald Trump and his band of Nazi White House advisers have been as brainwashed into their xenophobia as millions of other viewers."

This is knee-jerk liberalism. Be more intellectually adroit and seek to actually describe the Trump administration in a way a third-grader couldn't. The whole Nazi thing is hypocritical since Obama armed Nazi Battalions in the Ukraine and had to fight congress to arm and train them after the coup. As a Marxist I like to call Obama a running dog imperialist and a lapdog of financial capital. For Trump, I reserve the most classic Marxist pejorative: Capitalist Pig.

"He's already supplementing those wonderful executive powers bequeathed to him with his own undemocratic brand of capitalistic crack"

Please now, Obama used Homeland Security and the fusion centers to crush the OWS movement. Most of the snowflakes in the movement are too in love with Obama to admit it, even today. OWS become the battered wife of Obama and the DNC.

"Bruni ultimately can't help but join the Democrats in their own losing game"

I think this article joins in the game with its phraseology, by lazily repeating DNC talking points that Trump is a Nazi, or that somehow he is the deporter in chief -- titles that, at this point in his administration, are materially and factually best suited for Obama.

"more voters are familiar with Steve Bannon, Trump's fascist guru."

Another case of 'joing the Democrats in their losing game' -- it is such utter cognitive dissonance to call Bannon a fascist. We have just had a president that has claimed the legal right to kill or capture anyone without judicial oversight. Liberals don't like Bannon because he is a right-wing race-baiter; they only tolerate race-baiting from the left.

I think the author needs to read all three volumes of Das Kapital. Marx freely read and quoted thinkers from both the left and right. Liberals are different; if you even say you read Brietbart like I do each day, you become a shunned fascist. Luckily Glenn Greenwald does not fall into this acute epistemic closure of liberals:

"Breitbart has been very vocal in being very critical, even of the candidate with whom they’re most closely associated with, which is Trump — which is integrity and a sort of editorial independence that I think most media outlets on both the left and the establishment right utterly lack."

Karen Garcia said...


I've spent the past six years in these pages discussing the "friendly" fascism of Barack Obama. I didn't feel any need to go into it in this particular post, but trust me, I am sure I'll bring it up again. And again. Because this guy doesn't plan on going away. I've criticized his deportations, his drone assassinations, his allegiance to finance capital, etc more times than I can even count. I've noted that Obama got away with it because it was either done secretly, or he broadcast in neoliberal double-speak, or it was simply glossed over by the media and party base, on the strength of his own charming charismatic personality.

I must confess that I have never read all three volumes of Das Kapital. I have read the entire Origins of Totalitarianism by Arendt, however. I also recently finished "Hitler:Ascent" by Volker Ullrich. Although I do think that comparisons to Trump are overblown (Trump is not nearly as intelligent and ideological, for starters, plus he is too much of a conspicuous consumer) there are similarities among his fanatical underlings and national security advisors. I hadn't heard about Stephen Miller, for instance, until recently.

Hitler came to power during the Weimar era - a time of economic depression, unemployment, war weariness and forced austerity on the working class by the ruling democratic coalition of right-wingers and moderates. The seeds of authoritarianism were there then and they're here now. When I read about how the reasonable "centrists" of that era squelched all socialistic voices in newspapers, even barred socialist candidates from running for office, a chill went right up my spine. Hitler did not become a dictator overnight, it happened by increments. Contrary to popular myth, he never had a true majority of Germans on his ideological side -- he controlled them mainly through fear and fear alone.

I also just started reading Victor Klemperer's Hitler-era diary, "I Will Bear Witness," because Ullrich quoted it so liberally (sorry!) in his own outstanding work. Nobody thought Nazism would ever last because it was just too crazy to last.

If Trump succeeds, for example, in building a high speed rail system as he hopes to do with Japan's help, I think that benefit will supplement the fear and paranoia and also might help chip away at the ongoing resistance.

I think it is a good idea to keep our eyes and minds wide open. My argument is we should fight Trump but also ensure that his cabal isn't simply replaced with the same kind of neoliberal thought collective that spawaned him in the first place.

Jamie said...


Of course you are a very accomplished writer and left-thinker and never gave Obama a pass, but if we are going to trash Trump, let's not use the faux-left's phraseology or their grievance that he is doing exactly what Obama did, in terms of bolstering the unitary executive.

I think Trump is a clown. But I am fascinated by what he represents, a serious division within the ruling class. The acute outer divisions of the partys and the corporate media, reflect this deeper divide -- a divide between global financial capital, represented by Obama and Hillary vs. the dying brick and mortar capitalists and traditional exploiters of labor.

As to our responsibility to protest, I am leery of an angry revolutionary movement catalyzed by the loss of a racketeering war-criminal, one whom they would be at total peace with if she had won. The only thing missing from these Soros funded 'color revolutions' are the sharpshooters on the roofs shooting at both protesters and cops -- like what the US arranged for during the Ukrainian Coup.

I have imagined a liberal revolt overthrowing Trump -- and all I can come up with is Pelosi, Schumer and Pence ruling in a 'temporary' juanta.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Jamie

It's good to have someone on board who has given Marx a careful reading. You picked up valuable ideas from him and have opted to follow his analysis quite closely. Good; teach us in a generous spirit, once in a while. Alas, it appears you have become a missionary. I worry that you won't be content with others––others who over the years have developed their views thanks to other thinkers of note, different life experiences and their own reflection––until they too follow as closely as you do the Marxist critique along with his exacting terminology.

I have no intent to pigeonhole Karen's writing under one school of thought or another, but I'm quite sure she is not a "liberal" of the kind Chris Hedges denounces regularly, many of whom continue to orbit the Democratic Party, which explains much about that party. If you take the time to sample Karen's posts going back through the Obama years, you will see she really doesn't deserve the impatience you displayed over her post of today. Her critique of the Clintons was equally severe and well deserved; check the Sardonicky archive.

The trouble with so many of us on the left is that we are incapable of forming coalitions––I beat my own breast as I say this. It would help if we true believers rising up on our haunches after long preparation in various schools of thought became more tolerant of each others analyses and lingo, so long as we all held firmly to the core principles of fair play. The bedrock of the left, or any group that deserves attention, must be honesty, justice and compassion. The rest is trivial, an accident of time, place or taste––I mean whose philosophy you embrace, what terminology is preferred, and which emphases are special to that philosophy.

The world is too big for one religion or one philosophy. Let's limit our sharp criticism to the falsehoods of our real enemies and the ignorant, not the many truths of our allies.

annenigma said...

Isn't it a relief that that a lie can finally be called a lie now, thanks to the media crackdown on Trump?

Trump may tell more lies than Obama, but he's a petty, childish, obvious liar while Obama, being a lawyer, is a great liar, professionally trained, who lies for important reasons such as wars, his legacy, and America's exceptional goodness and greatness. But Trump happens to have the advantage that he also blurts out more truths. He's probably told more truths during his brief political career than Obama has in 8 years, or maybe during his whole fairy tale life. Frankly, Trump's tendency to tell the truth about anything in D.C. should qualify him as having a mental illness, not lying. Lying is normal there. The media should see their folly. The public does.

Trump's recent ham-handed executive order is a tightening of Obama's immigration policy per the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act which Obama signed in 2015. That restricts waivers for anyone who applies for visas after visiting Libya, Syria, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq within the past 5 years. Since Trump is left with the likely blowback from Obama's expanded wars that no one dares talk about, he needs to get tougher with the vetting which makes him the boogieman, as if Obama didn't contribute to instability in the region. So why isn't it mentioned that Obama is the one who expanded military action by drone bombs and special ops and contributed to the refugee problem?

Because Obama repeatedly lied to Americans that those wars ended and the establishment is perpetuating that lie. Most Americans don't know we're still at war in at least 7 different countries because of the media. I can't count the number of times I've heard that Obama got us out of wars and kept us out of new ones. Talk about 'alternative facts'.

Obama also repeatedly lied about not having boots on the ground every time he put more boots on the ground, then twisted himself into a pretzel changing the definition of war and boots. In 2016, he dropped over 26,000 bombs, even more than in 2015, and most of those were in Iraq and Syria but it's Trump who's suddenly Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin rolled into one,

Why is this so important? Because when all voters hear are lies from politicians year after year, the power of a rare truth hits home and causes awakening and excitement. The value of even one important truth spoken openly can wipe out the memory of a thousand trivial lies (which are already common in DC) because they're put into perspective. The politicians might not know the difference, but the public does. It's like hitting the electoral jackpot when someone dares break that PC barrier. Trump did it and he won. Poor Bernie could have beat him easily if he had had the courage of his convictions, yet he did awaken people and get them excited by telling so much truth.

I too see the DNC written all over the Resistance. I think it's going to backfire because the face of it is the same gleeful crowd beating up Trump as before - the media, movie stars, and the elite who helped Trump get elected by causing the public to be shamed into silence about supporting him, but support him they did. So why don't the Dems just try telling some inconvenient truths like Bernie and Trump did? Because lying Hillary is waiting in the wings for her comeback and vindication, and lying Obama and his signature ACA corporate gift must be protected at all costs. Trump might be a liar, but he isn't even good at it compared to them, and the people know it.

Pearl said...

Jay: A very fine analysis. However if you followed the criticism of the last 2 paragraphs you might have given Bernie a chance and we might not have been saddled with the Trump.

As for reading Marx you don't have to necessarily follow his suggestions. Just read his warnings about what is now happening in the U.S. Eerie accuracies.

Elizabeth-Marysville said...

"Bach-wards","buckraking", "churnalists"...boy do I love your use of the language!

I also love the insightful comments by Jay and Annenigma. I don't understand the attacks/complaints on the content/quality of this blog, and Jay's response was so kind and thoughtful.

I went to a local Indivisible meeting Saturday. It was my first meeting, but the second the group had had. Approximately 50 people were there, all but two of them were white. Most seemed to be above 50 years old, and women were the majority. The guidelines included the group's not being party-related, as well as not "divisible" by things such as race. There was a fair amount of Trump bashing in the breakout groups.

There are many former Bernie delegates who reversed their #Demexit to #Dementer and are trying to change the Party from "take it back" take this "vehicle" that is already up and running and well funded. I am not going to undermine them, especially since they are actively doing something and have had some success.

I think the idea of political parties, which has been ingrained into our culture, is something the elite have used to their advantage. We see how we are divided by skin color, sex, class, etc. But enforced party affiliation is also one. We need to shift the paradigm completely. I do not know how successful Indivisible will be, but I hope the mindset of seeing our fellow human beings without their "party clothes" is something that takes.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Elizabeth

Thanks for the heads up on Indivisible. I had no idea of its existence but have since clicked around on Google for more background. The New Yorker and the NY Times, recently provided positive descriptions, the Times version including a key link to Indivisible's founding document on purpose and tactics. Ah, but I have reason to be leery about the political leanings of those two publications. Why are they so sweet on the apparently ragtag Indivisible?

Indivisible's grassroots organizing effort aims to do to Trump what the Tea Party did to Obama and the few Republican middleroaders: that is, just say NO to everything that, to Tea Party's taste, smacked of Democratic socialism and occasional Republican compromises with the welfare state. Only now, Indivisible would gather people mostly from the left to force those NOs on Trump and his administration, and to a lesser extent on Democrats on the local, state and federal level. Elsewhere, they say they want to take over the Democratic Party and make it faithful to its roots.

I would like to hear Indivisible declare that they want to replace the Clinton/Schumer/Pelosi leadership with something better. Forgive me for wondering whether mushrooming chapters of Indivisible all around the country are the real thing or just the new look of the same old sheepdog masquerading this time around as a mongrel pup to keep naive progressives inside the Democratic fold.

Let's keep an eye on Indivisible in the months ahead. It may grow up to be a good dog, after all. Much depends on the people who join up on the local level making it clear they reject both right wings of the Duopoly.

Carol S. said...

This may sound off kilter and odd, given the context of this topic, but I’d like to express that as a political source, I have yet to disagree with anything I’ve heard or read from Glenn Greenwald. And he discusses the Palestinian/Israeli situation; in my opinion, a profound element in the global crisis.

That said, I must go back to music as a way of making sense of the world, so thank you, Karen, for the Bach reference.

I have listened to, played and loved classical music since I was small; my children grew up with it. I conclude Johann Sebastian Bach to be the supreme music creator, more even than Beethoven and Mozart.

After becoming acquainted with Belgian conductor, Philippe Herreweghe and also John Elliot Gardiner in their interpretations of the Bach cantatas, masses and passions, I spent years of my life listening to these 220 plus surviving choral masterpieces. Their ethereal quality is a departure from what most people think of as Bach.

I used to feel sorry for everyone who had lived and died, never to have heard them.

Having shared them with many, I found that not everyone hears music the way I do. For those that might and have never heard them, here are a few of Mr. Herreweghe's that you can find online.

Johann Sebastian Bach. Aus der Tiefen rufe ich.Herr, zu dir BWV 131
Johann Sebastian Bach. Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen. BWV 12