Rage Into The Machine

An overlooked irony in the 2008 US presidential race was that armed-struggler turned professor, Bill Ayers, was now a cog in the same Chicago political machine that empowered his former arch-nemesis (and friend of his father), Richard M.Daley with goons to chase and beat Ayers and the other dissenters outside of the 1968 DNC. This fact was not relevant to the McCain campaign, and would likely been unhealthy for the red-baiting of Obama which was pretty much all the GOP had to run on, after eight years of sloppy, sloppy power.

I’m writing from Pittsburgh and the Chicago machine is scary to me and that should tell you something. Didn’t the governor try to sell a congressional seat on ebay or something?

I hadn’t considered it at the time but all the criticisms of a “reasonable”, corporate friendly, Chicago power politician as a “socialist”, “radical black-liberation theologian” ,”Marxist”  who wanted to “redistribute wealth” etc. weren’t just amusing, but dangerous, as they caused oppressed people and leftists to rally around him yet, gave Obama many opportunities to prove that he could keep the “rabble in check,” and that his loyalty to power was greater than to the masses.

I’ve never been too impressed with 1960s US student radicals, partly because I saw where many of them ended up, and partly because the shit happening in the rest of the world was so much more awesome. I’m sure it also has something to do with the anti-intellectualism that was so prevalent in working-class neighborhoods and families. Higher education was a “waste of time” when steel jobs paid more than many jobs which required a degree.

It’s often remarked that half of the Weatherman Underground are in prison and the other half are college professors. An exception is another “Days of Rage” participant turned registered lobbyist and Obama fundraiser, Marylin Katz, who is also a flack-catcher for various Chicago agencies, including their storied police department‘s community policing initiative as well as about a dozen other agencies.

I’m not sure what role Ms. Katz had in managing the rest of the irrelevant aging new lefties, who spun Obama’s candidacy to legitimacy amongst those who profess to have radical politics. Long-time sycophant Tom Hayden continues to enrich himself promoting the progressive personality du jour. I guess the Democrats finally noticed the successful GOP strategy of the past 25 years that involves appealing to the ideological base to win the center. What remains to be seen is whether the Dems will continue their policy of screwing their base or will they actually make some concessions? The business unions have continued to unconditionally support the Dems despite their horrible track record on labor issues.

What lesson can modern radicals take from all of this? If you’re selling out, make sure you’re compensated for it and a system that can recuperate (sub)urban guerrillas can find a place for anyone who is interested. Still, I wonder what Shortshanks would think of his former opponents’ places at his table?

“Joe the Plumber” & The American (Pipe) Dream

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
-Jay Gould, Robber Baron

The 15 minutes of fame awarded to republican mascot, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber”, confirms what I have long considered to be the single greatest psychological problem afflicting working people in the US. Not the taste for mass-produced,  country “music” that is pumped from Nashville into large motor vehicles and  suburban and rural homes like sewage, but that steady journey to a mirage of an oasis, in this social desert. Mr. Wurzelbacher embodies the economic Stockholm syndrome of working people confusing their desires with those of the elites.

A lesser evil was the form that some of the corporate media/liberal blogger attacks against Mr. Wurzelbacher took. Not having internet access, at the time, I missed out on some of the more entertaining, but sadly untrue rumors such as the ones where his dad was Charles Keating’s (of McCain’s “pre-maverick” days) son-in-law. There’s no way I wouldn’t have bitten on that one. I fully comprehend that he volunteered to be a partisan combatant and should not have been surprised when bureaucrats in Ohio and elsewhere ran his numbers. The media focus on his back taxes and inability to complete a specialized training program and obtain professional licensing, portrayed being working poor as a moral failing, since millions of us have been in those kinds of situations. The liberal strategy of combating phony populism with genuine elitism seems somewhat misguided.

Why such a “great american”  who is connected to an astrofturf pseudo-union would choose to lie and associate himself with something as “marxist” as trade union (on myspace and facebook) is beyond me, especially when said trade union had given the member dues to the opposition candidate. Personally,  I’d no sooner pretend to be a member of plumbers union than a motorcycle “club”.

Like many people in the US, Wurzelbacher suffers from the delusion of cross-class mobility. Some people are willing to suffer any indignity, not just higher taxes in the here-and-now and allow the wealthy to get away with anything, in anticipation of a massive rise in personal income, like lottery winners and Bill Gates and Michael Jordan and Metallica and they can’t bear the thought of their dream wedding, hypothetical fortune being overtaxed. It’s Stockholm syndrome. How many people toil their lives away under the mistaken impression that they will one day buy the business they work for? I have about the same chance of buying that plumbing company as he does. Is it just another version of “being rewarded in heaven” or an economic Rapture? If a corporate entity is large enough, even the working poor who toil for it can buy stock in the company they work for. It is regarded as great privilege to possess a speck of a symbolic representation of the means of production. You become a gambler, although a less than insignificant one, and your low wages and paltry benefits and even your layoff, should it be deemed necessary, are all fixes implemented to benefit and improve the odds, for you, the shareholder. Your 401(k) depends on large groups of other workers and the planet itself being done even worse than you are.

Even in the US, these market fundamentalist, folk traditions often exact an even higher toll than mere degradation and wholesale boredom and they are not without their martyrs. Some people work themselves to death much faster than others in pursuit of the “American (sic) Dream”.

Brand USA Chooses New Spokesmodel…Jesse Wept

While we can’t deny the historical signifigance of Obama’s presidency, we remain unconvinced of the need for presidents. The YT received a copy of press release which is circulating today.

November 5th, 2008, Washington DC-Brand USA-Brand USA, freedom exporter, is pleased to announce the hiring of Illinois senator, Barack Obama, as their new spokesmodel. Mr. Obama is set to make his debut at the US presidential inaguration,  January 20th, 2009 in Washington, DC.

“Mr. Obama is a uniquely qualified to represent Brand USA in today’s global market envrionment, and his ethnic background should make trade negotiations with emerging economies a breeze.”, said Becky Smith, VP of Sales and Marketing for Brand USA, “We also needed to add a new product to our line of impossible dreams for African-Americans. US President will be a good fit to join our already successful family of products featuring such big sellers as “professional athlete”, “lottery winner”, and “rap mogul”.

The choice of Mr. Obama will also allow Brand USA to finally put to rest the notion of “institutional racism”, which could not possibly exist in a nation with an African-American president. After five years of non-stop criticism of current spokesmodel, G. W. Bush, Brand USA looks forward to branding ungrateful critics of our new face as ‘racists’, the way we called them ‘traitors’ in the first few years after the 9/11 attacks.

Anticipate large gains in the right-wing pundit sector of the US economy, despite their lack of direct access to the white house.

The swing of the political pendulum from right to center, and back again, must occur every so often as a safety valve to prevent Brand USA residents from taking up arms and seizing control of their own lives.

It was inspiring to see reports of throngs of various sizes swarming into the streets, feeling empowered.  I wish Bill Ayers really was pulling his strings and that he was the out and out commie that the right-wing noise machine alleges him to be. Obama seems like a decent enough guy, but I wonder if the US machine even has the kind of functions that will benefit the populace. People in my neighborhood seem elated today and I’m at a stage in the life cycle when everyone I know seem to be dropping cubs at an alarming rate, so incremental reforms aren’t quite as appaling to me as they once were.

Blind Obedience Can End “The War”?

January 17, 2008 will mark 17 years of open US hostilities against Iraq, although (maybe misreading of Baudrillard?) liberals disregard the Clinton years, since bombings and sanctions are not acts of aggression, unless Cuba is on the receiving end. The left wing of the US war party is as fixated on the Bush dynasty, as the right wing is with Clinton’s reproductive organ. The misguided souls who vote are too hung up on the stylistic differences to notice that US policy doesn’t change from administration to administration, except in very superficial ways, and so all sorts of kooky, hypothetical electoral and moral fantasies to “end The War” are being bandied about, as if “peace” is merely the absence of “war”.

For some unknown reason, perhaps it is the notorious US weakness in geography, many people appear to be delusional enough believe that the US intends to leave Iraq, and a politician or two can accomplish this. Maybe these people have never heard of Germany, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Guam, or any of the other places the US has indefinitely occupied? The hipsters are more likely to withdraw from Brooklyn and the Brits are more likely to leave the North of Ireland (a situation closer to Iraq than the ahistorical Vietnam comparisons) than the US giving up on expanding consumer markets, laundering tax dollars, and controlling energy supplies in the Mid-East.

Some of the political fantasies bouncing around out there are so absurd, that it seems their proponents must be aware of the impossibility of the situation, or getting some really potent weed. One of the most entertaining pieces of fan fiction regarding the 2008 US elections was recently posted on the website of the Lefty newsletter, Counterpunch.

In Welcome to the Revolution, Donna J. Volatile adds another voice to the cyber kool-aid chorus, that much like the religious Right believes that a Saint Paul is the only route to salvation, although they mean the Texas one, not the Tarsus one. Volatile beseeches liberals and progressives to set aside whatever principles they may have, and to ignore Paul’s positions on everything but Iraq, since they are only “wrapping paper” on the “gift” of Ron Paul.

Even Dennis Kucinich seems to think so, there is so much buzz in cyberspace about the possibility of a Dennis Kucinich/Ron Paul ticket, it is stunning. Dennis has even raised the prospect himself as has his wife Elisabeth. Who ever thought we’d see the day?!

There is a larger point to be made here and perhaps the most important one and that is there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the wants, needs and desires of the anti-war traditional conservatives and the anti-war leftists and progressives. We just all need to get over ourselves. If Dennis Kucinich would consider Ron Paul as a running mate isn’t it time for the anti-war movement to dig a little deeper to see what is going on here?…

Sounds like Larouche/Nader, but if Dennis Kucinich (proof that the ‘one good politician’ can’t change policy or politics) says he’s OK…

(I have always supported Dennis Kucinich, whenever possible but after the 2004 Convention and his failure to stand up at the Convention against the war and support the peace activists who were hauled off the convention floor, with their anti-war signs, and given his inability to run a strong campaign, I can no longer back him. I do respect his positions on many issues.)

Volatile can’t overlook Kucinich’s failure to rescue people who wanted to get arrested from being arrested, but Paul’s cryptofacism is A-OK. Here’s a gem from a recent GOP candidate forum, where St. Paul discusses the importance of imaginary lines over human lives:

I see the immigration problem as a consequence of our welfare state. We encourage people not to work here, but the welfare we offer the people who come–they get free medical care. They get free education. They bankrupt our hospitals. Our hospitals are closing. And it shouldn’t be rewarded. That means you don’t give them citizenship. You can’t solve this problem until you get rid of the welfare state, because in a healthy economy, immigrants wouldn’t be a threat to us.

It’s no accident that Paul has the support of neo-nazis.

Volatile wonders:

Are we to forever be held back by issues, such as abortion or even National Health Care, an issue that never gets delivered in the first place (we are no closer now than we were way back when) ? These issues are by design. Abortion keeps us divided. National Health care lends us false hope.

Damn pesky, non-Iraq issues. I like my reformists to seek reforms, not dismantle them.

Some of the masochists who think that getting arrested on purpose (not to be confused with repression of dissent and resistance) is a viable strategy to affect change in a nation with 7 million individuals “in the system”, 2.2 million of them in prison, almost half of them non-violent drug offenders, have released a year-end report on the handful in handcuffs. The willingness to be handcuffed and processed for crossing an imaginary line is eerily reminiscent of the border-fixated crowd’s desire to arrest and/or bring harm to people who cross those imaginary lines. Except the activists call the cops on themselves (and each other).

These Lefties, who consider themselves to be more politically advanced or whatever it’s called, than their beloved working class, who in their eyes “just don’t get it” and need to be guided or saved, alienate their coveted “masses” with voluntary arrest. In my own experience, the average working person seems to recognize that this isn’t MLK or Gandhi’s world anymore, probably a result of day-to-day life. Making reservations to spend a day or two at a county lockup won’t do much to encourage the teeming masses to “join your movement”. To many people, getting arrested on purpose is something homeless people do when winter temperatures become deadly, and need shelter for a few days.

The possession of illegal drugs can also be viewed as a form of civil disobedience, and can sometimes amount to de facto being arrested on purpose, but the drug war isn’t going anywhere, so I’m unsure how a few thousand arrests for summary offenses (glorified traffic tickets) will result in “peace” for the people of Iraq. It’s a mystery how the identity politicians have failed to notice that raising bail in advance, then being taken into State custody on purpose, and then whining about your maltreatment is anything but an obnoxious display of privilege, and correctly seen as a waste of time and money to those with little of either. How can participation in State violence end State violence?

Voting and intentional arrest have a poor track record in ending the bosses’ wars, but even the Franco-Prussian War had to be put on hold for the Paris Commune. Participation in electoral politics and courts of law, serve to legitimize the State’s monopoly on violence and facilitate the internal and external projection of force. Greeting the politicians and police as “liberators” will not make you free.

Three Stooges Coming to Pittsburgh

stooges.jpgPittsburgh’s panhandling ordinance will be put to the test in the coming weeks, according to the P-G

Jesus Christ himself, I mean Barack Obama, man of the People, will be dining on $500 stuffed chicken breast with his friends at the choice hangout for salt of the earth types, The Rivers Club, located in humble, quaint Oxford Center, June 20th. My apologies to downtown workers whose lunch break will be spent waiting for motorcades to pass while crossing the street and being freaked out by the SS men on the roofs with binoculars.

Hillary (not Duff, sadly) is expected to be in ‘tahn before the end of the month, for a fundraiser, as well as a well-deserved day off from whatever it is senators do at work. Keep your cash in your shoe.

Last but not least, art theorist, devoted family man, and “America’s Mayor” (would you take credit for that?), Rudy Giulliani will stand tall on his platform made from the ashes of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks, at the Duquesne Club. Expect gentle, angry liberal protests, and a brutal drinking game if you drink every time he says ‘terror’.