Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

The Surreal Real: Coming to Terms With President Trump

November 12, 2016

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Three days later and I’m still reeling. Three days of numerous stunted conversations with both friends and strangers, all replete with pauses and head shaking and holding up of hands, all ending with words neither illuminating nor comforting. The fact, like the sudden death of a friend, is too brutal for either. The unspeakable has been spoken. Loudly. Across the nation and the world. By tens of millions of my fellow citizens. It brings a sense of profound dislocation, a shattering of one’s sense of reality, a confirmation of one’s worst fears about our own nation. A FDNY friend calls and tells me he has not felt this sense of loss since 9/11 when scores of fellow firemen perished beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers. Another, older friend compares his feelings to those he felt on and after November 22, 1963.
Suddenly, overnight, the horribly surreal is all too horribly real and will remain real for years.

I find myself asking, where the hell am I? Is this the country of my birth? Yes, it is. And most resoundingly, no, it is not. Something has changed. Something primal and riddled with inchoate rage and violence, something that has been growing for many a year, has been revealed. And no event in my life has made that revelation more horribly obvious than the stunning election of Donald J. Trump, a man who has never lifted a finger for anyone other than himself, a man who embodies all that is debased, degenerate, degrading and dangerous in American culture, to nothing less than the presidency of the United States. And this at a hour when, due to the machinations of G.W. Bush and the connivance of Barack Obama, the powers of the presidency have been expanded and enlarged more than any time in American history. The event is singular in its indictment of both the American people and the American political system, particularly the Democratic Party , that pushed such people to such desperate measures.
I never watch TV news and I find myself obsessed with watching TV news, as if I somehow need visual verification that this event has actually happened and I am not, in fact, hallucinating. And there it is: Donald Trump, the same man who spoke of grabbing pussy and banning Muslims and building a wall to keep out Mexicans, is sitting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama preparing to take it over. There is Donald Trump, the same man who cheered on spectators attacking protesters at his rallies and bragged about not paying taxes, being led by Speaker Paul Ryan to the spot at the Capital where in 70 days he will take the oath of office. Meanwhile, the talking heads speak of Trump’s cabinet, naming Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, all of whom four days ago were punch lines.

Reeling.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that this obscene and sickening narcissist, a man who has never spent five minutes in public service, this scamming, hustling, Reality TV personality, will be leading my nation, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and I cannot.
And yet I must.
More, as significant as the political aftermath are the cultural effects, which for many supporters of the president –elect means instant legitimization of the basest of human impulses: racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti LGBTQ,, anti any and all progressive movements. Indeed, as reports of high school students chanting “white power” and “Build the wall” filter in, such horror has already begun. Certainly, white supremacists, who loudly made their presence felt at his rallies across the nation, are rejoicing in the ascension of this grotesque man.

Still, as with any violent and traumatic attack on one’s sense of reality, the mind in time fights back because it must fight back. It would be absurd to look for silver linings in this darkness but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps with enough work there will be opportunities, which are a very different thing.

Perhaps there will at last be widespread recognition of the immense political betrayal of working class Americans by the Democratic party, especially under Clinton: NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the laws that led directly to the mass incarceration of millions, mostly African Americans, and above all, the political apotheosis of Wall Street. All of this continued unabated under Bush and Obama, all of it that has led directly to the greatest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands in modern times and the simultaneous immiseration of millions of Americans, now so crazed and hopeless that enough of them seek salvation in the absurd and vicious promises of a billionaire con man with no political experience or knowledge of governance whatsoever.

I have in my travels over the past few years met and spoken with some of these people, formerly working class and now called the “precariat “ as their lives have become so precarious. Former members of the Democratic party, one and all, formerly well employed, now forgotten and seething in their hollowed out cites and towns which no killer app can save for the simple reason that no killer app was meant to. I have felt their volcanic anger and their completely justified sense of primal betrayal and it was frightening. Yet I did not see this coming.

What to do ? What to do ?

I do not know.

What I believe is this: The election of Trump is an unprecedented political and cultural disaster demanding unprecedented political and cultural responses — chief among the latter, solidarity and decency and kindness which in an age of casual cruelty take on radical proportions. Protests have begun. May they continue and grow and grow and grow. Mass civil disobedience on a scale never before seen in America may be our only hope. There is nothing that would please the powers that be more than violence as it would be instantly and indefinitely used to justify massive police oppression.
Whatever we do may we have the wisdom to do it right.

Bloomberg’s Appearance at the DNC Makes a Mock of Bill Clinton’s Ode To Hillary

July 27, 2016

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For those who were moved by Bill Clinton’s touching if highly sanitized and edited
paean to his wife last night – the man is very, very good at this kind of thing – you would do well to note today’s key note speaker: former NYC Mayor, multi billionaire, union busting and super neo-liberal Michael R Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s political beliefs were most clearly articulated when, through a combination of ruthless employment of the machinery of state, his own immense fortune and an ever expanding host of non-profit organizations serving as mercenaries of the super rich, he purchased a one time only third term as Mayor by corrupting a spineless City Council into allowing him to do so. And this despite two referendums against third terms.

At this point, Bloomberg’s appearance is strange by any normal standards in so far as, like Donald Trump, the man has shown zero allegiance to any political party, moving from Democrat to Republican to Independent depending on how such affiliations benefit Mike Bloomberg at any given moment. And it is particularly note worthy in light of Bill Clinton’s repeated and highly dubious characterization of Hillary Clinton’s history and career as a “builder from the bottom up” and the like.

Bloomberg epitomizes the oligarchic America which Sanders railed against and which Hillary skillfully avoids acknowledging. As NYC mayor, Bloomberg spent 12 long, miserable years expending enormous amounts of energy and money while doing his very best to simultaneously destroy the United Federation of Teachers and privatize the public school system. He failed in both attempts, but the damage he inflicted on students and teachers is immeasurable and still very much present.
Bloomberg spent 12 years doing all he could to remake New York in his image, a desire he shares with his fellow billionaire and would be president Donald Trump. Indeed, Bloomberg is, in many ways, like Trump if only with more cunning, less public vulgarity and with a complete absence of Trump’s phony populism.

I will admit that I was shocked to read of Bloomberg’s appearance at the DNC, even as I am fully aware of what a sham and a fraud the whole circus truly is. Still…Michael Bloomberg? And yet, the more I think of it the more it makes perfect sense. If nothing else, Bloomberg’s appearance reaffirms how ever so close and ever so horrific our two parties have become and will remain until a real alternative is forged.

Cuomo Channels Milton Friedman

October 28, 2014

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There is no living politician I dislike and distrust more than Andrew Cuomo – even if Mike Bloomberg, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama come disturbingly close. That said, even as Clinton and Obama have pushed the Democratic Party further and further to the right, systemically eviscerating whatever paltry buffer America has ever allowed against the savagery of unregulated capital, neither ever drifted so right as to refer to a sacred trust such as public education as “ a public monopoly, “as did Andrew Cuomo to the editorial board of the New York Daily News.

We must listen very hard to this kind of language. And we must understand very clearly that this is not merely not the language of the traditional Democratic Party. It is not even the traditional language of the Republican Party. It is, in fact, the language of the Milton Friedman wing of the Republican Party which, until the advent of Ronald Reagan (blessed be his name!) and George W. Bush, was justifiably considered the party’s lunatic wing and rightly kept more or less under wraps. It is the language of the defunct John Birch Society. It is the language of union busting. It is the language of a quantum leap into outright corporate fascism.

See Chile under Pinochet to see where this road leads.

And yet here we have the Democratic governor of the state of New York proudly mouthing this vicious, suicidal madness concerning what is arguably the most important public institution in our history. Make no mistake about it: This should be read as nothing less than a declaration of war against the enfeebled remains of the social contract itself.

One would have to be out of one’s mind to vote for this monstrous, driven man who, with his reptilian eyes on the presidency, will do anything to anyone to endear himself to his oligarchic masters.

Addendum: I’m casting my vote for Hawkins/ Jones and urge you to do the same.

The Slower of Two Evils: Why I Cannot Vote For Barack Obama

November 6, 2012

The Slower of Two Evils

I was raised in a large working class family sustained by the wages my father earned as a member of  a union ( and  later as a union leader)  in an industry that  has  all but gone the way of the pterodactyl.  So it goes. But at the time, on his modest salary, he was able to keep eleven of  us  not only clothed and fed, but enrolled in Catholic schools and eventually living in our own house.  All this on a single salary.  All this utterly unthinkable in our day.  Why ?  What happened ?  Ours was a home in which the ghosts of Governor Al Smith, FDR and the Kennedy brothers were almost corporeal beings and the Democratic Party, as imperfect as any human organization, was the unambiguous and proud champion of our class, the working class. In the world in which I grew up, if you were not rich, you would have been thought mentally ill to vote for the Republican Party.

And I do not recall ever hearing talk of “the lesser of two evils” and you can rest assured,  I was listening.

This, of course, was before the advent of the worst aspects of American liberalism, the endless divisiveness  of identity politics, the astounding   and abiding success  of political hucksters like Bill Clinton,  the passing of NAFTA, the off-shoring of the American manufacturing base, the relentless undermining  of unions, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the advent of financialization: all of these which collectively comprised the wholesale betrayal of the American working class.  All of which were aided and abetted,  when not outright championed,  by the Democratic Party.

I write this not as an exercise in useless nostalgia but as a context for my refusal to insult myself by casting a vote for a party that has  not merely long ago ceased to represent the likes of myself  (in point of fact, outside of corporations I do not know exactly who  the Democratic Party does represent )  but has, in many ways,  degenerated into an active enemy.  This is most true in the Democratic stand on labor.  It has left  millions and millions stranded.  Which  is exactly where they want us to be.  Their tacit question:  Where are you going to go ?  To the Republicans ?  To the Tea Party ? And this pathetic trap   has  been set largely   by the successful exploitation of the  politics of fear and playing the card of the lesser of two evils again and again and again.

So here it is, Election Day and I’m facing the same hand  I’ve been dealt   for virtually my entire adult life.  But today there is a difference, a logical and inevitable difference: as the corporate state has consolidated itself within both parties and, outside of “trigger”  issues such as gay marriage and abortion,  the two parties major political positions have become more and more alike, the lesser of two evils has in many cases become merely the slower of two evils. This is the only way I can view the choice of Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.

I have not the time to discuss my disgust with President Obama’s policy of murder by drone, his refusal to prosecute either the people who brought the world economy to the brink of disaster or the war criminals of the Bush  administrations, his failure to close Guantanamo or his belief that he has the right to order the assassination  of anyone on earth, among other things.  Nor have I any doubt that Mitt Romney would be as bad or worse on any of the above.  Rather I wish to argue that both men wish to lead the nation to the same end using slightly different means.  And that end is the complete domination of  the corporate state.

Consider  that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traffic exclusively in platitudes, are complete and committed corporatists and are, as such, owned, lock, stock and barrel.    Which is not to say there are not differences between the two.  Romney is far more obvious and forthright about his allegiance.  When Romney  declared that    “Corporations are people too, my friends”,   he meant it and he doesn’t  seem to care who knows it.

Obama, meanwhile, is infinitely more of a stealth promoter of the corporate state: he wants it in there before you notice and seems very concerned with establishing some similitude of public consent and, short of that, someone else’s fingerprints, preferably yours, on his schemes. Obama wants you to like him as he debases your existence and tries to enlist you in your debasement.  In other words, he wants political cover and some version of plausible deniability — even when he is in complete agreement with what he is ostensibly opposing.

Romney, on the other hand, seems content  just to smile his howdy doody smile and talk about how wonderful Americans are by virtue of their  being American. God, you understand, loves us more than other people.  And who can blame him ?

Howdy Doody

Consider Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s approach to education, the issue that ,as one of 3.2. million public school teachers and a father of a public school student, is nearest and dearest  to my heart.

Both Obama and Romney  are tireless champions  of  what is euphemistically called “education reform”; what is, in fact, a relentless bi-partisan billionaire backed  campaign to privatize the public school system while busting or rendering ornamental the teachers’ union, the last large union standing in our country. And note well that neither candidate would allow their own children anywhere near a school implementing their reforms. And  for excellent reason.

Romney’s plan is as simple and transparent as Romney himself:  eradicate the federal Department of Education and give vouchers to every family in the continental USA.  And smile idiotically while doing so.

Presto!  The hidden hand of the magical free market will be eradicating “the achievement gap ” and  passing out diplomas  before you can say  “Wall Street!”    The same (even more) hidden hand will also  be handing out pink slips to most if not all of the 3.2 million teachers who will in turn implode their union.

Bingo! Two birds with one stone !

Now think about  Obama’s signature educational initiative, Race To the Top.  The name alone billboards Obama’s complete alignment with corporate ideology.  Races, as you know, have winners and losers.  Public institutions should not. That goes double for schools.  In point of fact, despite the incoherent, indefensible claims of both American Federation of Teacher’s president Randi Weingarten and National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel that Obama is somehow a pro-public education president, RTTT is designed to simultaneously undermine both the public school system and the teachers unions and usher in the complete privatization of the public school system on a national level. Slowly.  And with political cover.  You see, they will  claim, we tried.  Public schools simply don’t work and so we must let corporations run them. Sorry.

Whereas Romney   wishes to do away with public schools with a couple of  swift death blows, the kinder gentler Obama wishes to asphyxiate  it over time with a number of objectively unfair and unscientific schemes, all having to do with standardized tests, all products of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, those deeply concerned private citizens who make public policy for your child and mine.   Obama  wants teachers and teachers unions to assist him by committing slow collective suicide while perhaps allowing a few here and there to maintain their  jobs.

Fours years into the works RTTT is incrementally succeeding at all of these goals accompanied by the   startling spectacle of union teachers praising the president and rallying for the reelection of the man who is actively and consciously destroying their workplaces,  threatening their livelihoods and force feeding a lousy  paint-by-numbers pseudo education on the nation’s children but not Obama’s and his friends.

Many teachers are doing this because the other guy, Romney, is even worse.   This is undoubtedly true.  Romney  is a nightmare. But so is Obama.   And so is this scenario.  And so is this country.  These are the choices of caged animals, not free human beings.  And this nightmare  will remain and, in fact, grow more so if we do not cease accepting the pathetic and grotesque  choices we are given, do not cease accepting the cynical trap that has been set for us  do not cease accepting that this is just the way it is.

Education  is one issue, to be sure.  But to be just as sure, it is emblematic of how the man and the Democratic party now operate. Look at them.  Andrew Cuomo is  a Democrat.  Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat.  Bill Gates is a Democrat. So is every member of the hedge fund gang who created and bankroll Democrats For  Education Reform. They are also, like our beloved president, insidious union busters.

So welcome to your plutocracy. Welcome to the almost completed corporate state. Welcome to the ever-shrinking farce of political choice. Welcome to the lesser of two evils where inevitably  there is  more and more evil all the time.  How can there not  be ?  What and who is there to stop it ?   You will forgive me or you won’t for my outright refusal to vote for a president who has made no secret of his outright contempt for working people, labor unions, the poor,  due process of the law and habeas corpus because he knows he can get away with it because he know you know his opponent is even a greater a danger than he.

This is not the position of a free people. To accept this   is to abdicate one’s intellectual, spiritual and civic responsibility. It is to surrender one rights.  It is to accept and legitimize powerlessness as  call such powerlessness  freedom.

I am a human being who believes, body and soul,  in participatory  democracy,  attempting to be as free as I can be.   Therefore I am voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party.

Ms. Jill Stein

George McGovern: “The Most Decent Man in the Unites States Senate.”

October 22, 2012

Of George McGovern Senator Robert Kennedy once said, “ He is the most decent man in the United States Senate.  Perhaps the only decent man in the United States Senate.”   After his disastrous 1972 presidential campaign such decency helped propel McGovern into a political punch line for decades but the joke, ultimately was on us:  instead of a man who would have ended the Vietnam war in a week, we got Nixon who prolonged it for years resulting in the pointless slaughter of thousands  more  American  soldiers and many more thousands of Vietnamese men, women and children.   Instead of intelligent liberalism, we got Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Bush  father and son culminating in a steady  Right ward  drift so pronounced  that Richard Nixon would be to the Left of   both Obama and Romney on almost all major issues. And Nixon was no liberal.  Indeed, after McGovern’s run we slowly slipped into such a state of  political and intellectual depravity  that the very words  “liberal”  and “liberalism”   — words that describe the very political tradition and foundation on which the nation was formed — became,   in many circles, the worst kind of put down — a political trajectory that has led many a former blue collar liberal down the suicidal yellow brick road of the Tea Party.

But not for George McGovern who knew of what he spoke and cared about what he saw happening to his country and his compatriots.

Until and unless men and women of the integrity and decency of McGovern  can not merely obtain office but hold real sway in the American political landscape – seemingly impossible in an age of oligarchy and corporate domination of everything – we are doomed to shills like Romney and Obama ever deepening oligarchy and corporate domination of everything.  And we doom ourselves.

Rest in peace, Senator McGovern.  You did your bit and you did it nobly and fearlessly.   You kept the flame in a time of ever deepening darkness. You fought the good fight.

Now it is our turn.