Sunday, January 29, 2017

American Intifada

Intifada: from the Dictionary of Modern Arabic; a "tremor, shudder, or a shiver." Derived from the Arabic root nafada, which means to shake, shake out, dust off, to shake off one's laziness, to have reached the end of, to be finished, to rid oneself of something, to refuse to have anything to do with something, to break with someone." 

There's a whole lot of shaking going on these days. Judging from the mass protests erupting in the first post-inaugural week, millions of people are refusing to have anything to do with the new president. They want to break up with Donald Trump, and with good reason.

Of course, if Barack Obama had instituted a temporary ban on immigration from five out of the seven countries that he's bombed over the past eight years, there probably would have been very few grumblings from liberals. I doubt that protesters in the thousands would have stormed the airports on Saturday, bearing handwritten signs condemning the presidential decree and putting out their own welcome mat for Muslims. I can almost guarantee that this never would have happened, given the liberal apathy over his eight years of both open and secret war on countries with predominately Muslim populations.

For one thing, influential Islamophobic liberal comedian Bill Maher would not have tolerated it. He would have praised Obama for his pragmatism. Elected Democrats would have soothed that it's unfortunately sometimes necessary for scapegoated Others to give up some of their human rights in order that we Americans may feel safe and secure. For another thing, the calculating and nuanced Obama brain trust would have ensured that any protests would be immediately squelched by Homeland Security and local police forces operating out of the same Fusion Centers which tore down the Occupy camps and kept all manner of protests against NATO, corporate party conventions, police brutality and oil pipelines kettled or otherwise contained.

That thousands of people did storm the airports on Saturday in reaction to Donald Trump's now partially stayed draconian travel ban for Muslim refugees, students, workers and immigrants is testament to his own congenital inability to hide his bigotry. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Trump might be just the catalyst we need to start all kinds of protests against wars and presidential drone kill lists. His subtlety, planning skills and propaganda leave a lot to be desired. He doesn't do his atrocious thing behind closed doors, as previous administrations have done with their Friday night news dumps, their secret legal opinions and their secret FISA Court rubber stamps. He doesn't deliver glib, silver-tongued platitudinous speeches. Trump can do nothing but brag and bray about his perfidy, even inviting the media that he purports to loathe into his inner sanctum for atrocity photo-ops. How idiotically proud he looked holding up his executive order banning human beings from entering the US based solely upon their religious beliefs. His signature is as super-sized as his ego.

Trump is not original or smart enough to have to have issued his unconstitutional order right out of the clear blue sky. His action is only the most extreme outcome of decades of cruel American foreign policy toward countries with majority Muslim populations.

Ironically, though, Trump does seem intelligent enough to give credence to the theory of "blowback." By banning travelers from seven countries which the United States has both physically and economically terrorized in recent years, he tacitly admits that their citizens might be feeling a bit irate, especially if one of Obama's predator drones or bombs had vaporized one of their family members - simply because they were acceptable collateral damage, or belonged to Obama's invisible "Disposition Matrix." 

As a matter of fact, Trump was drawing directly upon the Obama Administration's own selection of the countries to be subject to travel restrictions. In 2015, the former president signed into law the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which required more stringent vetting of travelers from the same seven countries now being singled out by Trump: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.

Denigrating the Muslim faith has been an American media tradition for many, many decades. As Edward Said noted in Covering Islam, when Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh, a lapsed Catholic, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Muslim terrorism was immediately seized upon by TV networks and newspapers as the likely culprit. 

McVeigh himself had perfected his pathological violence four years earlier, when he'd helped massacre a group of trapped Iraqi soldiers, and taken photographs of their corpses for his own personal collecting pleasure.

After September 11, of course, Muslims became even fairer game. Few people objected when George W. Bush invaded Iraq based not only on the false reports of weapons of mass destruction, but on the widespread false belief that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks on our soil. But neither had people objected when, pre-9/11, Bill Clinton bombed a baby formula factory in Somalia and Madeline Albright crowed that 500,000 Iraqi children dying as result of American sanctions was "worth it."

Islamophobia has been drilled into Donald Trump's skull by the media he now pretends to despise every bit as effectively as it has been drilled into the heads of much of the Western news-consuming public. We have been taught to believe that Islam is one all-encompassing culture which regulates every nation in which it is the predominate faith. But just as there is no such thing as a Christian country, there is no such thing a "Muslim country." 

Edward Said wrote of media coverage:
Looming over their work is the slippery concept, to which they constantly allude, of "fundamentalism," a word that has come to be associated almost automatically with Islam, although it has a flourishing, usually elided, relationship with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. The deliberately created associations between Islam and fundamentalism ensure that the average reader comes to see Islam and fundamentalism as essentially the same thing.
Rarely is "radical Islam" ever even defined in media accounts. If few people realize that Wahhabism is the most right-wing form of Islam, can it be any surprise that a voracious news consumer like Donald Trump would also be so unaware? Can it be any surprise that oil-rich American trading partner and arms purchaser Saudi Arabia, which harbors the largest concentration of Wahhabists, was not on Trump's banned list? After all, Obama brokered the sale of $115 billion worth of arms and training to the Saudis, who are now using them to slaughter those newly-banned and impoverished Yemeni immigrants and refugees. Obama completed 42 separate deals with murderous Saudi autocrats. And suddenly, newly-enraged liberals are out there protesting our new autocratic deal-maker of a president. It's a miracle.

 As far as Trump and many millions of Americans are concerned, Islam is a perfectly acceptable and natural enemy when it resides in Middle East locales which are either lacking in oil resources or are not willing to deal with or kowtow to American power. Islam became the go-to scapegoat and new casus belli for the money-hungry military-industrial complex once the Soviet Union collapsed -- ironically enough, because of its occupation of Afghanistan and the ensuing campaign by CIA-backed jihadists in what non-church-going Ronald Reagan himself called a "holy war."

As chronicled by Karen Armstrong in Fields of Blood, Reagan told a conference of evangelical Christians in 1983 that the Soviet Union was the evil empire, and that Osama bin Laden's mujahadin fighters were the good guys.

Fast forward a decade, post-Soviet collapse, and as Edward Said wrote,"Small surprise that the Sunday New York Times 'Week in Review" headlined January 21, 1996 issue with 'The Red Menace is Gone. Here's Islam.'"

Fast forward two more decades, and the Obama administration began its open secret of an assassination-by-drone crusade against Muslims. It was all done secretly, surgically and politically correctly, because Obama nobly refused to stoop to Trump's level and utter the words "Islamic extremism."

Meanwhile, relentless and unconstitutional police surveillance of Muslims in Trump's Real Estate Empire (the New York metropolitan area) was being staunchly defended by the some of the same liberals who now decry Trump's racist executive order.  Long before Trump goose-stepped into the White House, the FBI was entrapping innocent people of Middle Eastern descent and accusing them, without evidence or with planted evidence, of Islamic terroristic plots.

Obama didn't need to sign an executive order banning a religion. He merely selectively obliterated some of that religion's adherents, with a lot of collaterally-damaged dead women and children on the side. And after he so  graciously bequeathed his killing powers to Trump, the damned orange-haired psychopath had to go and ruin it all with a stupid decree making the longstanding war on Muslims an official act of utter hatred and depravity.

And as Purdue University anthropologist Suad Abdal Khabeer insightfully writes in an Al-Jazeera op-ed, Trump rolled out his anti-Muslim ban to keep his supporters on board while he screws them economically, as well as to scapegoat his predecessors, and to hypocritically deflect attention from his own serial misogyny and the fact that one out of every 20 American women is a victim of domestic partner abuse. Right-wing fundamentalist politicians like Vice President Mike Pence have long opposed the Violence Against Women Act. So Trump dutifully doubled down on the myth of the Arab male as sexual predator:
 Violence against women, honour killings in particular, is cited two times in the draft as something from which the US government is obliged to protect Americans. This specific practice of violence against women has been sutured to Arabs and Muslims in popular conversation. It builds on a broader narrative that Muslim women are oppressed by the men in their lives, their families and the religion they follow, and they need saving - by the US.
So much hypocrisy in Exceptional America. It runs the entire gamut from Democrat to Republican, all the Dorothy Parker-ish way from A to B.
Now that American citizens have gotten shaken up and developed a taste for protesting Trump's illegal banning of refugees among other horrors, and are so incensed at Trump's sexism, maybe they can join the resistance movement at the hideously-named Family Detention Centers. The Obama administration, which  deported far more people than in all previous administrations combined, also began locking migrants up in privatized prisons. More than a score of mother and child refugees from Central America remain illegally detained at one substandard private facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, despite their court-ordered release. Immigration officials recently threatened hunger-striking mothers with removal of their children if they persisted in their own protest. 

They need our help, but most of all they need our solidarity. 

Civil dissent must go far beyond the person of Donald Trump and far beyond one political party, if our democracy has even a chance of survival. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Poetry As Resistance

Let's face it, we're not all as limber as the Greenpeace activists who are protesting the Trump administration's war on the planet by climbing up a crane in Washington, D.C. Many of us have neither the time, nor the strength, nor even enough spare cash, to travel from march to protest to sit-in.

Resistance can be boisterous, and it can also be quiet and quietly shared. Since knowledge is power, and reading is the ammunition of that knowledge, what better time than now to just say no to Trumpian "ignorance is strength" and pick up a good book to read for both inspiration and pleasure?

And that brings me to my friend Nan Socolow, a frequent New York Times commentator and also a sometime guest blogger here at Sardonicky.  Her collection of poems, some of which have previously appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, New Republic and  Washingtonian Magazine, has just been published by Pisgah Press in Asheville, N.C.

Nan Socolow (back jacket cover, Invasive Procedures)

Invasive Procedures, the title of the volume, is an apt one. Her subject matter is as penetrating as her Times commentary, running the gamut from marriage, separation, motherhood, growing old, and intimations of mortality, to the fragility and beauty of our endangered planet and its varied life-forms. She finds humor and meaning even in such mundane tasks as changing the sheets and pondering the patterns in dirty dish water; in short, she takes everyday life and infuses it with unique and insight -- and plenty of startlingly piquant neologisms.

Biting the Bullet

When we reach
the overtime stage of life,
over 70, not the golden years,
there is no bible to tell us
what to expect.

And what to do about
the startling aches and pains
that befall our elderly
wellderly illderly bodies.
So we bite the bullet.

and tough it out
to avoid
the undertaker's
waiting room

Pulling 14
to 16 hour days
was de rigeur
in our thirties
and forties.

And now
in our overtime
we pay for the
crazy dancing
of those days.

In this vale of tears
weltschmerz and 
sporadic joys
are the coins
of our realm.

 Nan Socolow describes her literary sculpting methods in the introduction to her collection: "A poem is like a chunk of raw marble. I chip away and chip away at the chunk, and it takes form and becomes far smaller and when nothing further can be chipped away--when only the finest essence of a marble scrap is left--that is my poem."

An ardent environmentalist, her love and concern for our planet shine right through the suffocating murk of Donald Trump's unprecedented war on climate science and, as is becoming all too scarily apparent, life itself.
Bodies of Water

Aeons past
before the plates
became continents
when this Earth
was young
bodies of water

Now our
blue planet
is a dying zone
a waking
pillaged and
its watery
places ravaged
by mankind.

Detritus dumped
debris dreck
bottles jars
and enough
plastic to gyre and
gimble and
strangle the 
Pacific wabe.

Bizarre fish
Asian snakehead carps
sea lamprey eels  
with round sucking mouths
and razor sharp
teeth encroach
in the freshwater
Great Lakes and
mighty Mississippi.

from the Indian
and South
Pacific oceans
loosed from 
American aquaria
gauzily dressed
to kill in
fetching saris
swirl en masse
in the Caribbean Sea.  

Pythons, boas
gators lurk in the
marshy sawgrass
of the Everglades,
eyes aslit for innocent
to squeeze
and swallow.

The five continents
that were once one
Pangaea, connected
jigsaw puzzle pieces
like the carapace on a
hawksbill's shell
are now apart
and prisoned by
waste waters.

Billions of people
dying for a taste of their birthright
of potable water.
Global warming
climate change
inconvenient truths
of our lives on Earth,
truths denied by
some who buy
and chugalug
clean, birthright water
in billions of little
plastic bottles
that will remain
on Earth
long after
we've gone. 


Invasive Procedures is available for purchase from and also directly from the publisher, Pisgah Press.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bring on the Noise, Bring on the Contempt

Frank Bruni's Sunday New York Times column went right to the heart of what probably peeves the Establishment the most about Donald Trump. It's his utter lack of style and his dark vision. They still haven't recovered from his utterance of the word "carnage" on such a lofty occasion. In their world, the blood and gore of the forever wars and the opioid epidemic and rising death rates are realities which must not be named during official ceremonies touting American exceptionalism. We haven't been allowed to see the returning body bags at Joint Base Andrews for the past decade and a half for a very good reason. It might make us anti-war.

 All politicians are narcissists, Bruni went on, but at least they have the decency to put on a public display of humility on solemn occasions. And they never fail to pay homage to members of their own bipartisan political cohort. In his own inaugural address, though, Trump not only committed the mortal sin of not groveling to these people, he shockingly blamed them for all the human misery in America. It was especially irksome to Bruni that Trump didn't drool all over Hillary Clinton during his victory speech.

Bruni finishes his column with a centrist cri de coeur:
A humbler man would doubt himself, extend an olive branch to his enemies, contemplate a middle ground. But then a humbler man wouldn’t have come down that escalator at Trump Tower and proceed to say what Trump said and do what he did. As I watched him flourish, I watched humility die. On Friday, our 45th president said its last rites.
Of course, Bruni failed to mention the other 'umble VIPs sitting on the stage directly behind Trump. So in my published Times comment, I did the honors: 
 Of course Trump's populism is a fraud. Just look at all the oligarchs sitting on the stage behind him - his cabinet and billionaire donors. He rushed to shake Sheldon Adelson's hand right after the obligatory wallowing in his own gene pool.

His speech was such a big lie that it must have made the ghost of Goebbels writhe in envious ecstasy. "We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon," Trump lied.

He didn't dare speak the truth and blame American multinationals, the Forbes 400... and of course, himself. The top .01% - of which he is such a greedy, loudmouthed part - is what sucked up more than 90% of all the wealth regained since the 2008 meltdown.

And there was billionaire Betsy DeVos, right in the front row, fresh from vowing to ravage public education funding during her Senate confirmation hearing. And there was Trump, outlandishly braying “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs."

Just days earlier, he'd praised oil magnate Rex Tillerson for just such thievery: "He's led this charmed life. He goes into a country, take the oil, goes into another country. It’s tough dealing with these politicians, right? He’s going to be so incredible, and I’m very proud of him."

The one silver lining is that unlike most sociopaths, Trump is a very bad liar. Truth will out, in spite of his spiteful self.
Trump is getting a lot of credit from both the left and the right for immediately  jamming the stake into the Trans-Pacific Partnership's predatory heart. But as Public Citizen's Laurie Wallach warns, whether this means that Trump will actually create any new jobs as a result is still up in the air. And his own cabinet of tycoons will be right there alongside him, doing their damnedest to ensure that their economic class will come out on top regardless. Trump, unlike his predecessors, seems to have gone out of his way not to pick sycophantic yes-men.

Wallach writes:
If President Trump intends to replace our failed trade policy, a first step must be to end negotiations now underway for more deals based on the damaging NAFTA/TPP model so its notable that today’s announcement did not end talks to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty – all of which would replicate and expand the TPP/NAFTA model Trump says he is ending.
President Trump also repeatedly has said he would launch NAFTA renegotiations immediately and withdraw from NAFTA if he cannot make it “a lot better” for working people. NAFTA renegotiation could be an opportunity to create a new trade model that benefits more people, but if done wrong, it could increase job offshoring, push down wages and expand the protections NAFTA provides to the corporate interests that shaped the original deal.
Meanwhile, Trump has craftily moved to the left of the previous administration by inviting union bosses as well as rank-and-file members into the Oval Office for a macho chit-chat. Could there be a smidgen of sincerity in his professed concern for the working stiff? Or, as his slick friend Bill Clinton did before him, is he merely triangulating? No matter what is lurking in his mind, nobody can deny that he is doing an admirable job of keeping everybody guessing and keeping everybody off-balance.

Trump is slyly getting in front of the corporate Democrats by publicly embracing and flattering organized labor (token Clinton supporters) before the party gets a chance to regroup and make another stab at seducing organized labor. It's kind of a mirror image of what Barack Obama admitted doing after his 2010 mid-term "shellacking" by Republicans. He tried to get out in front of Republicans by going whole hog for austerity for the struggling working class while extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He put an immediate and cruel freeze on federal wages.  For his part, Trump just performed his own triangulating, plutocrat-serving austere duty by imposing a new federal hiring freeze. (private worker pitted against public worker.) Both men gallantly exempted the military from this gratuitous pain for the sake of pain. Armed forces must always be at the ready to protect wealthy interests, which are bipartisan by their very control-freakish nature.

For someone with no traditional political experience, Trump is actually showing himself to be a skilled politician. While the media blares headlines about his incompetence and his penchant for lying for the sheer enjoyment of it, Trump gleans ever more popular support by exposing the media as a cadre of self-serving, thin-skinned careerists who just can't quit his twittering animal magnetism despite their tender sensibilities. They still haven't quite managed to modify their job description from power access-seekers to afflicters and critics of power in all its myriad forms.

So far anyway, Trump is doing the colorful in-your-face Huey Long routine with all the camera-ready panache at his never-ending disposal. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in his scathing polemic against a slightly more refined Huey clone named Bill Clinton, "Kingfish had a primal understanding of the essence of American politics. This essence, when distilled, consists of the manipulation of populism by elitism. That elite is most successful which can claim the heartiest allegiance of the fickle crowd; can present itself as most 'in touch' with popular; can anticipate the tides and pulses of opinion; can, in short, be the least apparently 'elitist.'"

It's an interesting reality show we're watching. Don't they get that "alternate reality" is already a popular genre on TV? Don't they get that people are really into escaping their lives these days?

It's telling that despite the millions of ordinary people who joined the anti-Trump marches and protests this weekend, the media chose to give outsize coverage to the wealthy camera-ready celebrities taking part. Only time will tell whether this becomes a real movement and a permanent struggle and doesn't devolve into a Democratic Party veal pen brand named Resistance, Incorporated.

What gives me hope that it won't is that it is a worldwide movement, with simultaneous protests erupting wherever right-wing extremism is rearing its ugly head. Just as all politics is local, so is all politics getting to be increasingly global. Forget the neo-fascist "America First" xenophobia spewed by Trump. The sooner we embrace the fact that we are all citizens of one world who must unite to survive, the better.

Financial globalization and wars and forced migrations and climate change and years of imposed austerity are combining to bite end-stage capitalism in the ass. And this is scaring the very serious important people at Davos, the IMF, the World Bank and wherever plutocratic thought leaders gather to ponder their navels.

Take another "style"-type piece in this week's New York Times, about how Trump is ruining civil discourse. The  "tone police" are walking the beat with a vengeance and sadly wearing out their Birkenstocks in the process. Georgetown University philosophy professor Karen Stohr urges liberals to immunize themselves against that nasty Trump bug that's been going around. She doesn't say so in her op-ed, but I suspect that she got inundated by many thousands of ladies loudly screaming the F-word while wearing their pink pussy hats at all the weekend rallies.

Stohr preaches with all the virtue-signalling passion that a credentialed expert can muster:
The better strategy for those who are already disempowered is to reject contempt on its face. Returning contempt for contempt legitimizes its presence in the public sphere. The only ones who benefit from this legitimacy are the people powerful enough to use contempt to draw the boundaries of the political community as they see fit. Socially vulnerable people cannot win the battle for respect by using contempt as a way to demand it. In an environment where contempt is an acceptable language of communication, those who already lack social power stand to lose the most by being its targets. The only real defense against contempt is the consistent, strong and loud insistence that each one of us be regarded as a full participant in our shared political life, entitled to hold all others accountable for how we are treated.
My published response:
 There are varieties of contemptuous experience just as there are varieties of religious experience. Getting down in the gutter with Trump to trade insults is just one of the more primitive ones.

As Molly Ivins pointed out, words are the only weapons that the powerless have against the powerful. Trump shows his contempt by punching down. We must show ours by punching up.

Of course, it's smarter to be more contemptuous of Trump's agenda than of his dyed comb-over and mannerisms. Stooping to his low level of mocking (of physical appearance, to name just one) only adds to his own persecution complex and that of the bigots who, in my opinion, comprise just one subset of those who voted for him.

I've heard a lot of people say that they voted for him not because of his depravity but in spite of it. All they wanted was to upend the system. And they have a point. Were it not for the rise of Trump, millions of protesting people would have stayed home this weekend. So maybe we should thank his misguided fans for, intentionally or not, lighting the fuse that brought us out of the doldrums of passive consumerism into a resurgence of active, bottom-up democracy. People joining together in solidarity is the last thing in the world the ruling class duopoly wants. The elites prefer to keep us isolated, marginalized and electronically entertained. They prefer that we remain oblivious to our own innate power. They deserve our contempt in all the creative varieties at our disposal.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Assimilate In the O-Borg

Mere Mortals of the World, Unite!

For all you citizen-consumers already waxing nostalgic for the enlightened Obama years, please don't despair.

Because even before landing in Palm Springs for a well-deserved time of peace and quiet after his eight non-stop years of war, soaring high above all the vicious carnage-stopping unleashed by Donald Trump, Barack sent out an email blast to his most loyal constituents. It was his very First Contact as a Private Citizen! He wants them to define their priorities -- and of course, to send a generous donation to Obama.Org.

The stellar product he is selling is a neoliberal, market-based citizenship initiative.  Vaunted literary man that he is, Obama writes:
The Obama Foundation is a living, working start-up for citizenship — an ongoing project for us to shape, together, what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century. The Foundation is based on the South Side of Chicago, and we will have projects all over the city, the country, and the world.
To help us get started, we would love to hear from you. Send us your ideas, your hopes, your dreams about what we can achieve together. Tell us about the people who inspire you and the organizations whose work you admire.
This will be your Foundation just as much as it is ours.
Full disclosure: I signed up for his post-presidency endeavor just when the fund-raising for his foundation was first getting started, simply to keep sardonic tabs on things. I'd become absolutely intrigued when I read about all the careful post-presidency planning going on at the White House well over a year before he left office. I wanted to be a part of the franchise!

It's because the real purpose of Obama's start-up for citizenship is kick-starting the spread of the Obama Legend. As the New York Times described the private planning in the public People's House:
In their conversations with Mr. Obama and his advisers, people from Silicon Valley and Hollywood are pressing for a heavy reliance on cutting-edge technology in the library that would help spread the story of Mr. Obama’s presidency across the globe. Ideally, one adviser said, a person in Kenya could put on a pair of virtual reality goggles and be transported to Mr. Obama’s 2008 speech on race in Philadelphia.

But more about Obama.Org - the good news is that there is no written requirement that you actually send Obama any cash money in order to pour out all your hopey dreaminess to him. Therefore, to do my part for the Trump Resistance Movement, I suggested to Obama that he use the majority of his time agitating not just to protect Obamacare, but to expand it with a real single payer, Medicare for All program. I told him that the groups I most admire are Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and National Nurses United and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) I am sure that he will take my suggestion and nominations under very serious consideration, even though they were accompanied by a contribution of exactly Zero Dollars. 

After all, now that he no longer has the Republican Congress to thwart his every hope and dream and initiative, he will finally enjoy the freedom to be the progressive he has always been at his deepest core. Right? So I would strongly encourage you to join me and mightily blast out your own inspirational priorities on the form he has so thoughtfully provided for his wealthy donors you.

What with the stellar board of directors he has assimilated in the O-Borg I think we can be very confident that the former president will finally gin up the courage to go after Wall Street malfeasance and be a true champion of public labor unions.

But as his Democratic apologists always chide us unicorn-lovers, you can't expect him to bring a knife to a gunfight. Therefore, he has loaded down his Org Board with a panoply of mostly male hedge fund honchos, charter school advocates, investment bankers, corporate CEOs, private equity moguls -- and just a couple of NGO women of color to give his endeavor just that right identitarian tone. And to give it just the right egalitarian tone, he's actually made a Poorman the president of his foundation. J. Kevin Poorman, that is. Poorman is already a very busy guy, what with acting as CEO of the real estate empire of Obama's billionaire Commerce Secretary and sugar mommy, Miss MoneyPenny Pritzker.

And if all you earth-bound Obama fans are fretting that Barack might be going into predator drone withdrawal out there in Palm Springs, please take heart. Another Orgboard member is his good golfing buddy Robert Wolf, formerly of UBS. Wolf now runs an enterprise called Measure-Drone. Coincidentally, Wolf got exclusive FAA approval to run the country's largest private drone fleet just one year before his good buddy left office. His new hires coincidentally also include veterans of Obama's Kill List drone ops. So, this skid-greasing should give Wolf plenty of time to continue his other gig as a paid contributor to Fox News and the neoliberal Fox Business Channel.

All in all, some pretty good deals for the guy whose bank avoided criminal prosecution for helping wealthy Americans dodge taxes at the same time that the Obama Justice Department ensured that the whistle-blower of the fraud got sentenced to 40 months in prison.

To show his appreciation to his good buddy, perhaps Robert Wolf can even elevate the runner-up entry in Obama's architectural shrine contest to first place. It would certainly be very good advertising for his new business. And it fits right in with the original Star Trek/Wikipedia definition of Borg: "a collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones in a hive mind called 'the Collective' or 'the Hive'. The Borg use a process called assimilation to force other species into the Collective by injecting microscopic machines called nanoprobes, as well as with surgically adding cybernetic parts. The Borg are driven by a need for 'perfection', and assimilate other races to further that goal."

What, and whom,and where do we sign up to resist first? So much bipartisan crony capitalism, so little time.

Donald J. Trump is no anomaly. He is simply the most vocal, disgusting, in-your-face, TV-ready villainous manifestation of the corrupt global plutonomy in all of American history.

But never mind all that. Because the big buzzing controversy that the corporate media hive is choosing to nanoprobe today is all about the bickering over who got the bigger inaugural crowds - Dear Leader Trump, or Dear Leader Obama?

  We are dying to be informed, day in and day out, that Trump is a corporate media-certified and enabled big fat liar about even the stupidest things. People are literally dying out here.  

 "We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."-- Star Trek, First Contact.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Swearing (In) Day

Happy Inauguration Day. Or, as the wags inform us, welcome to the Worst Day in Infamy Since Pearl Harbor.  Swear your hearts out at the Swearing-In as Teflon Don desecrates Honest Abe's Bible with his short nuclear-itchy fingers.

That swearing is good for you has long been one of the indispensable truths of folk wisdom. And according to yet another earth-shattering study, dropping the F-bomb on a regular basis also proves that you are an honest butthead as well as a damned healthy one.

Despite all the elite angst over
Donald Trump's lack of respect for "norms," and his propensity to loosen his tongue and uncontrollably tap out his tweets, one group of scientists shockingly concludes that at least he is way more honest than your average slimy politician speaking with glib forked tongue.

Then again, say another group of scientists, his habitual use of foul language is also an indication of the "dark triad of personality traits" --  psychopathy,  narcissism and Machiavellianism.

Therefore, he has the best of both theories: he is an honest, healthy and dangerous sonuvabitch all wrapped up into one package. It's the winning political triad in this age of terminal capitalism and societal collapse.

Trump exhibits two specific levels of danger: one is directed toward the ruling class, and the other is directed toward the rest of us. His danger to the ruling class is healthy for the rest of us, and his danger to the rest of us is healthy for the ruling class. This has proven to be very successful political strategy for him,  as he effectively cancels out his two constituencies and rewards himself and his family empire with what promises to be a record windfall.

Here's just one recent example of the extreme danger that Honest Don presents to the ruling class. From his pre-inaugural speech to a group of Washington bigwigs this week:
"Rex Tillerson—and these lights are bright, but he’s around here someplace. Where’s our Rex? Wow. What a job. And, Renda, thank you very much. Thanks, Rex. I think it’s tougher than he thought. Again, he’s led this charmed life. He goes into a country, takes the oil, goes into another country. It’s tough dealing with these politicians, right? He’s going to be so incredible, and I’m very proud of him."
Trump is brutally honest in publicly admitting that the Secretary of State-designate is a rich asshole and unabashed plunderer who invades other countries and steals their natural resources by bribing corrupt leaders. In one fell swoop, Honest Don has let the cat out of the bag about the true purpose of American diplomacy. And that purpose is greasing the skids for multinational corporations. Rather than do the usual presidential theater of praising American exceptionalism for bringing peace and joy and democracy to the rest of the suffering world, Trump only brays that greed is good. He has just exposed the oligarchy in all its pathological greediness and ignominy. He has sent a warning to the rest of the world at the same time that he has made a full and honest confession to all the victims of the world. Sleepers awake, and let the protests begin!

And then there's the flip side, the danger that Donald Trump presents to the rest of us. This danger is not so much exhibited in his words, but in his deeds. And his only deeds thus far have been the cabinet appointments of people who can only be described as economic terrorists. Through the nominations of such miscreants as Tom Price, Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin, Trump telegraphs his utter disdain for the health and welfare and education of the public and the environment and the world at large. He symbolically rubs our noses in the biggest steaming pile of oligarchic shit ever excreted in American history. (Writing that feels so beneficial to my health!)

And so for as long as he lasts in office, he will continue just being his own honest, psychopathic self. We'll cheer in spite of ourselves whenever he embarrasses and exposes his own rich cohort, and we'll hate him when his rich cohort inevitably robs all of us.

But now that millions of people are finally taking to the streets in unified protests, Honest Don might end up being a gift to democracy in spite of his own spiteful self. Stay tuned. And don't forget to swear up a storm as you try to maintain both your physical and mental health!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Exonerate Ethel Rosenberg

* 1/20, updated below.

What with the Russian flu raging within corporate journalistic circles, you probably haven't heard too much lately about the movement to clear Ethel Rosenberg's name.

Ethel and her husband Julius were executed by the United States government on June 19, 1953, three years after their conviction for conspiracy to commit espionage. Contrary to myth, they were neither charged nor convicted of treason or even actual espionage; conspiracy was considered easier to prove by zealous prosecutors. Although Julius did pass on certain documents to the Soviets (not, as legend also still has it, secrets of the atomic bomb) Ethel herself was never part of any spy ring. She was, however, an avowed Communist just when the Cold War was heating up. The government used her as leverage in an attempt to get Julius to crumble and confess and name names. She remained staunchly silent until the very end, when she was electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York shortly after her husband.  

The Rosenbergs left behind two orphaned sons, Michael and Robert, just six and ten years old at the time of their parents' executions. 

Not only was Ethel Rosenberg not a spy, her conviction was based on false testimony of witnesses including her own brother, who finally recanted decades later as he neared death. Prosecuting the case was future Joe McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn - who ironically enough, later became a mentor to Donald Trump. Ironic, given how Trump is now himself being accused of Russian stoogedom by Democratic leaders and their partners in the corporate media.

The Red Scare was so intense that Harry Truman passed on commuting the sentence despite overwhelming evidence of prosecutorial overreach presented to him. He, President Eisenhower and even the presiding judge went so far as to directly blame Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for the Korean War. Eisenhower also turned down numerous petitions for clemency and refused to stay their executions. And on the day that both were strapped into the electric chair, his aides actually had to dissuade him from hitting the links to play his favorite sport. Optics were a "thing" even back in the Red Scare 50s.

Robert Meeropol (formerly Rosenberg -- the names of the two boys were changed by their adoptive parents to protect their privacy) has appealed to President Obama to exonerate his mother. Senator Elizabeth Warren and others also joined the cause when results of an investigation by Seton Hall University Law School, released just last month, show just how depraved the government's actions were in bringing her to trial. A long-suppressed FBI memo from June 1950 categorically states that evidence against Ethel was insufficient to bring any charges against her. She was merely a pawn.

US government propaganda disseminated throughout the mainstream media over the several years that the "crime of the century" case played out ensured that the American public was sanguine about putting the Rosenbergs to death. When carefully polled, the vast majority proclaimed themselves fully behind the official callousness. By then, the Rosenbergs had been convicted not only of conspiracy -- in the court of public opinion they were considered guilty of outright treason. Plus, it really helped that most people liked Ike and his carefully crafted avuncular image very, very much.

(As a very young child, I myself was convinced for quite some time that Eisenhower was my grandpa. How could he not be, with that kindly smiling Kansas face looking and talking directly at me from the TV set?)

  But as Lori Clune outlines in her book Executing the Rosenbergs, this was not the case elsewhere. Worldwide, massive and sometimes violent protests against US government persecution of the couple were carefully kept out of American media accounts.

 The State Department kept deliberately hidden a cache of international press reports, appeals for mercy from foreign dignitaries, and cables from panicked American diplomats seeking guidance on the case.  Clune accidentally came upon clues to their existence during the course of her unrelated investigation into high-profile security cases involving Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson and J. Robert Oppenheimer. The massive dossier of over 900 State Department documents she uncovered proves that, despite continuing propaganda to the contrary from our current leaders in the media-political complex, damage to America's reputation abroad hardly started with the election of Donald Trump. "American Psychosis" was also the unanimous official diagnosis from much of the rest of the world during our first Cold War more than 65 years ago.

"They (the documents) show that protests extended from Argentina to Australia, from Iceland to India, and from Switzerland to South Africa," writes Clune. "On a dozen separate occasions the American ambassador to France himself wrote to complain about the government's handling of the Rosenberg case. We may never know why the State Department hid these sources.... Whoever was responsible decided in this case that the need for secrecy trumped any desire for government transparency."

Plus ca change, etc. 

The Rosenberg Fund for Children is running an online petition asking President Obama to formally exonerate Ethel before he leaves office. We should know his decision, or lack thereof, by noon tomorrow at the very latest.


Statement of Robert and Michael Meeropol, sons of Ethel Rosenberg

January 20, 2017

In August 2015, The New York Times published our Op-Ed calling on President Obama to exonerate our mother, Ethel Rosenberg. It was a response to the release of government material a month before, showing the prime trial witness against our mother – her brother David Greenglass – repeatedly and adamantly stated under oath before the Grand Jury that he never spoke to our mother about espionage. That testimony, coupled with the enormous body of other independent evidence, made it clear that the government manipulated witnesses and created a false case against our mother, to put pressure on our father to cooperate in the politically motivated investigation of his actions.
The outpouring of support we received from our Times essay spurred us to forge ahead with an exoneration campaign. Its aim was to move the President to publicly declare that our mother’s conviction was unjust and her execution was wrongful, while also educating the public about the dangers of unchecked government power, especially in times of heightened concern about national security. Although we didn’t achieve the first goal, we were extremely successful with the second.
Some 60,000 concerned individuals added their names to our petition asking President Obama to act. Artists, activists, public intellectuals and elected officials were among the many, high profile people who supported our effort. A class of eighth graders in West Virginia championed the effort by gathering petition signatures and producing a video aimed at the President, about the parallels they saw between the play The Crucible and Ethel’s case.
The exoneration campaign was covered extensively and favorably by many of the most respected and far-reaching media outlets around the U.S. and internationally. These included 60 Minutes, NPR’s Morning Edition and Here and Now, and The Boston Globe.
With even Fox News publishing a report highlighting the grave miscarriage of justice in our mother’s case, it’s clear we succeeded in moving the needle on the public’s understanding of how the government wronged our mother, and why, dramatically.
We received thousands of moving and poignant communications from people who supported the effort. Many who contacted us have first-hand memories of our parents’ trial and execution. They described how their lives were forever affected by our parents’ case. They also recalled the fear and outrage they felt at that time, and are experiencing once again in our current political climate.
From the 90-year-olds who sent us shaky, handwritten letters, to the middle schoolers who posted about the campaign on social media, everyone who supported this effort demonstrated a deep commitment to holding our leaders accountable that we found inspiring. In their final letter to us just hours before their execution, our parents wrote that they, “were comforted in the sure knowledge that others would carry on after us.”

The campaign to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg has proved our parents correct in their belief that after they were gone, others would continue to resist repression and fight for justice. We consider that a victory.