Teachable Moments — But Where’s the Teacher-in-Chief?

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Written by Robert Kuttner. Originally posted on The Huffington Post (purchase books by Robert Kuttner)

This has been a providential month for teachable moments. They have included the details of the government’s civil fraud case against Goldman Sachs; the gruesome and needless corporate murder of miners in West Virginia; the BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico; and then to complete the circle, the stock market going berserk because a technical error caused a domino effect of computerized automatic selling.

What do these events have in common? Every one of them demonstrates why the private profit motive cannot be relied upon without some steering or harnessing mechanism by government. A president committed to rallying public opinion to the cause of a more balanced economy would be all over these teachable moments, connecting the dots, rebuilding the ideology of managed capitalism, making the case for tougher government action in the public interest, and rallying the citizenry to his cause.

Let’s review how President Obama has actually done. He gave a pretty good speech in New York April 22, on the Wall Street origins of the crisis. Reform efforts in the Senate are moving in a constructive direction, mostly thanks not to the White House but to the leadership of a couple of dozen progressive senators and the fact that Wall Street is so unpopular that even some Republicans have voted for strengthening amendments.
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Robbie Conal and Shepard Fairey: Art, Politics and Public Space

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From BraveNewChats
Best known for his unapologetic in-your-face style of political street art, Robbie Conal is ready to take us on a new journey with his new book Not Your Typical Political Animal. But that doesn’t mean his ideas of creating art anywhere and everywhere have changed. In this chat with fellow artist and long time fan Shepard Fairey, he discusses the use of public space for art and challenges us all to take action.


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No One Cares

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Originally posted on TruthDig. Written by Chris Hedges

We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically. We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective, suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Green Party and Code Pink, is dead. No one cares.

The roots of mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals, whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals. We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families.
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33 Billion Dishonest Excuses for War

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Originally posted at AfterDowningStreet by David Swanson

If you were to call your congress member’s office at 202-224-3121 and ask them to vote against spending $33 billion to escalate the war in Afghanistan, they would give you one of several common excuses.

If they refuse to tell you what they plan to do, you can let them know that they work for you and that you are going to vote against them in November unless they commit to opposing the funding of this escalation now. Sure, their opponent could be worse, but not much, and decent representation will only be possible if representatives fear the public more than they fear the funders, media, and parties. Ultimately, this is the only thing you can tell them that they might care about. Still, it helps for them to know that you understand the issue and will not be easily swayed. So . . .

If they tell you (as Rep. Delahunt told me) that they like the attention that comes from remaining undecided, ask them how they think that sounds to the loved ones of those killed. Let them know they could get even more attention by tattooing “Loser” on their forehead.

If they tell you they want to vote for aid to Haiti or some other lipstick included in the bill, or they want to wait and see what sweet-smelling things are packaged into the bill, tell them those things can pass separately and constitute no excuse. You want a commitment now to vote No no matter what. This is life and death. They need to be trying to block the bill, not just considering the possibility of individually voting No if it looks like no one will mind.
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Can You Hear Me Now?

by Dennis Trainor, Jr ♦ acronym 2010

The following is the opening scene from the play I Coulda Been A Kennedy, by Dennis Trainor, Jr.  For more about the play, see the bottom of this post.

The play takes place on one plot of land, shifting back and forth between 1970, 1987, and 2004. The O’Reilly’s owned the land in 1970 and 1987; the Greco’s in 2004.

The Greco home (2004) should be inspired by the design of Adam Kalkin (imagine something from DWELL magazine), while the O’Reilly home should be inspired by the Leisurama homes built in Montauk during the 1960’s (imagine something from SALT WATER TAFFY QUARTERLY). It is important that the design accommodate quick changes from one scene to the next, from one era to the next.


The buzzing of the cicadas fills the theatre. As house lights go to black, the buzzing gets louder. In darkness, the following projections play out as the buzzing gets louder still.


JUNE 20, 2004


The buzzing, now unbearably loud, cuts out abruptly just as the lights bump up on FRANCIS, MARY (both in their early 60s) with their daughter HOLLY (33) in the middle of an animated conversation.

HOLLY: But what if we did kill President Bush?

MARY: Holly please with that. Did you see the wisteria that we planted by the oak out back?

FRANCIS: Article in the paper said don’t plant anything. Cicadas coming.

MARY: We’ll spray. The party.

FRANCIS: Right. The party the party. We’ll spray.

HOLLY: I’m not sayin’ we form a militia or anything like that. But what if he were killed?

MARY: Oh, Frank honey, remind me to call the Williams about the-

FRANCIS: Why don’t you volunteer for the campaign? You don’t want to work,  you seem to have plenty of time on your hands- you want to get Bush out of office-

HOLLY: I work Dad-

MARY: We don’t need to get into that again. Tonight.

FRANCIS: I know some people, some young people I read they are going to Ohio, Florida, working for Kerry-

MARY: Just because your boyfriend wants to kill the president-

HOLLY: Do you like him? Devin? He’s very interesting, isn’t he?

MARY: Is he okay, anyway? He’s been in the bathroom for-

FRANCIS: Holly, Holly. This is a boyfriend? This is his title already?

HOLLY: It was just a hypothetical… A topic of conversation… He likes to debate. He’s a thinker you know. He doesn’t want to kill anybody. He’s not pierced. No tattoos.

FRANCIS: He’s not a very good golfer-

HOLLY: Do you like him?

DEVIN O’REILLY (34) emerges from the bathroom.

DEVIN: This is a beautiful home you have.

FRANCIS: Building.

MARY: Home.

FRANCIS: Building, we call it a- Thank you, Devin. Nice of you to keep saying so.

DEVIN: There is a painting, a print I guess, in your bathroom-

MARY: Oh my God Frank- I told you we should just toss that thing in the garbage. Oh Devin just ignore that monstrosity in there. Oh Frank, we have had the building for- what?


MARY: Seventeen years this fall and well-

FRANCIS: Used the place as a summer rental thing. Paid for Holly’s college.

MARY: The previous owners left a lot of stuff behind- we never cared- a summer rental you see- Place rented itself. Anyway. It was Frank’s idea-

FRANCIS: Every room in this building kept one design element from the last house-

MARY: Right. We knocked down the last house-

FRANCIS: Cheap little saltbox of a ranch house- moldy.

MARY: Frank is a stickler for the germs-

FRANCIS: I’m a stickler for the germs.

HOLLY: Jesus you two. Do you remember the question?

DEVIN: The bathroom. I was just struck by the painting-

MARY: Yes. Yes. Yes. The Artful Dodger. Looks like the kind of print one would have bought in Macy’s or something-

FRANCIS: Buy this love seat, get painting free-

MARY: Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s definitely what it must have been-

FRANCIS: So long story short. The bathroom kept the Artful Dodger.

MARY: No matter how odious-

FRANCIS: Well you kept the Irish blessing thing. Irish poetry on a serving dish- talk about-

MARY: Oh- I like that. May the road rise to meet you-

FRANCIS: Yea. Well. You see, Devin, the design of a new home-

MARY: Building, we call it a-

FRANCIS: – Building. – just like marriage, is a constant process of negotiation.

MARY: Capitulation.

FRANCIS: Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary. Negotiation.

DEVIN: Yeah. I actually like the painting. Print. Whatever.

HOLLY: Dad thinks I should volunteer for the campaign. Kerry.

FRANCIS: It’s not as dramatic as killing the president, but it is still working for change.

Tension. Pause. More tension.

MARY: Frank remind me to call the exterminator in the morning-

HOLLY: The cicadas are harmless, Mom. You don’t need to-  When do they emerge, anyway?

DEVIN: I’m not advocating…Are we still on this topic? Of course if it were my child, or perhaps should I say it’s hard to justify the continued- And okay I’m glad I’m not charged with coming up with all of the answers- Sixty four degrees. When the ground is sixty four degrees, they come out. Cicadas. Kind of a strange passion of mine. Cicadas. The next emergence in seventeen years. But Bush, Bush is advocating preemptive attacks to secure a peaceful future. What are we to say to Russia when they- or more to the point- if you were about to bring a child into this world- could it not be argued, I mean if Bush were eliminated, I mean- Seventeen years from now, what will they be asking? Seventeen years ago, what were they thinking? What were you thinking?

MARY: Who wants coffee?

DEVIN: I’m sorry. How is… Mr. Greco, how is work?

FRANCIS: I’m retired Devin.

DEVIN: Right. Umm… What line of work were you in then?

MARY: I picked up a chocolate chip cheesecake from the-

MARY goes to retrieve dessert.

FRANCIS: Finance. I worked for Cantor- Fitzgerald for some twenty five years. Made a few lucky moves in the market. I was able to get out a little early-

MARY: (off) And we have the brownies from last night leftover.

DEVIN: So you were- Cantor Fitzgerald? So you were… Were you there when-?

FRANCIS: Yes. Yes. Next topic.

MARY: (off) Oh I know! I have a new recipe that you should try-

HOLLY: Dad went back to work for a while and then-

FRANCIS: Holly. Enough.

MARY: (returning with a plate of chocolate covered something) We just downsized down to the basics. Probably been coming for a long time- hard to put a finger on the impulse…After that whole thing… It just brought us together, you know. We cut back, but we’re comfortable. We’re new money Devin.

HOLLY: Reagan rich, right Dad? Trickle down democrats.

MARY: If you kill Bush-

FRANCIS: He becomes a martyr, more popular in death, and we get Cheney as president.

HOLLY: Like Kennedy? We benefit because Kennedy was killed? A liberal agenda moves forward? I don’t think so.

DEVIN: He wins a few popularity contests in death-

FRANCIS: You want Dick Cheney to be the president?

HOLLY: We could blow up an election booth or two on election day-

DEVIN: I mean lets just say that Bush isn’t the enemy. Something bigger- the system or something-

FRANCIS: Shipping containers. This house is made entirely from five large shipping containers, a steel beams. We put a solar panel up there. We’re living simple. Pairing down.

HOLLY: And no, we decided nothing, you, you decided to table it.

DEVIN: I mean no disrespect- but even a trickle down democrat cannot deny that the pageantry paid Ronnie Reagan-

FRANCIS: We’re talking about Reagan now?

HOLLY: You voted for Reagan. Right Dad?

MARY: Oh stop it-

HOLLY: The pageantry paid to Reagan is fitting for a man whose economic policies served as the first domino of your cascading good fortune which, good and decent people as we are, do not deserve.

FRANCIS: That trickle down paid for the college education that comes out of your mouth in these deliciously packaged sound bites every time you have a few drinks.

MARY: We don’t deserve this? Francis honey give the house back. You didn’t earn your money.

DEVIN: Well, apologies for the armchair socioeconomic bibble babble, but that is how the system works-

HOLLY: I haven’t been drinking-

MARY: We are hardly rich.

DEVIN: New money, Mary. You said it yourself.

FRANCIS: Easy pal-o-mine pal pal-

HOLLY: OK Daddy-, easy. We are just having a discussion here-

DEVIN: No. It’s OK. I apologize. Right is right.

FRANCIS: This coming from the actor whose claim to fame is that he was almost the “can you hear me now” guy.

DEVIN: I stressed the “hear.” In the callback. Can you hear me now? I thought the ad campaign was trying to tap into some kind of generational angst. Can you hear me now? Too edgy. And I’m not a beer salesman. Commercials free me up to do some real work.

HOLLY: I love how you say that with a straight face.

FRANCIS: Shipping containers. Five in all, a few steel beams. Whala. A home. Solar panels up there, completely wireless and internet ready and yet progressively off the grid. Three bedroom, two baths of feng shui genius.

HOLLY: You’re hosting a fund-raising dinner for John Kerry July 4th. That’s kind of on the grid.

DEVIN: That was one hell of an approach shot on seventeen, Mr. Greco. Holly, you should have seen the shot your father hit into the seventeenth green.

FRANCIS: I had laid up on my second shot, played it a little safe, so I had a good look at getting my third close to the pin.

DEVIN bites into chocolate. HOLLY is now eating them as well.

DEVIN: But a very, I mean, no, really very difficult pin placement. Pear shaped green, water on the two front sides-

MARY: You’re eating chocolate covered cicadas.

FRANCIS: She could not wait to try this recipe!!! Brilliant Mary Mary, there is no way they would have eaten that if you told them what it was-

DEVIN: The bug? The The The insect? Chocolate?

FRANCIS: It is all part of the new order. Our new order. Back to nature. Big risks. Eating exotic foods.

HOLLY: Cicadas? Really mom. Cicadas. Were they cooked?

MARY: Injected them with sugar water and then dipped them in hot fudge. Ghiradelli. My garden club refused to try them. So whatcha think, can I serve them at the party?

DEVIN: Unreal.

FRANCIS: Martha is out of the picture Mary, the whole party planning super Matriarch position is open.

MARY: I always said I would have a second career.

FRANCIS: Full of surprises, my Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary.

DEVIN: Okay right sorry in advance but here it is: What if we, again, not we and I would like to discuss this cicada thing momentarily beautiful creatures but please indulge me for only a moment for reasons that may soon become clear I’m a Libra run on sentences are part of my make up astrologically predetermined but again to the point what if not we personally but some cultural slash political force or some group of men trained in seventeen different types of kung fu and languages and a broader global agenda- a peaceful global agenda- what if they, okay not we they, what if they- without our permission or consent- what if they killed Bush?  A preemptive strike?

HOLLY: Preemption would have been a diaphragm shoved up Barbara’s bush a long time-

MARY: Holly. Really. My god.

HOLLY: Thank you. You’re a great crowd. I am here all week.

DEVIN: Again, not us personally. In the same way that I could not slaughter a lamb but slap it down in front of me medium rare, a little rosemary sprig and a decent Pinot Noir- the South Africans are doing nice things with Pinot nowadays- I’m eating that lamb. Wouldn’t we be better off? Now? In a generation? ‘Cause Bush Ashcroft Cheney Powell- I mean what if your generation did not fail- not you individually, but your wealth built on the backs of the poor and karma the boomerang-but to be articulate even if just for a moment not beat around the bush as it were, no pun: you personally did not fail. Sake of argument and politeness: you personally are not culpable for the mess we are in. You say BEAT BUSH! But that is so short term. A quick fix. A stolen election. Patriot Act. Freedom Fries.

HOLLY: Our children.

DEVIN: Our children’s children.

FRANCIS: Whose children?

HOLLY: Another generation. Things have gotten so far out of balance… Something drastic has to happen. Kerry is-

DEVIN: The point is: What if the Hippie movement slash progressive movement, whatever you call it, wasn’t co-opted and beheaded?

MARY: I wasn’t a hippie. Francis wasn’t a-

FRANCIS: Couldn’t grow a beard. Never really connected on the side. Didn’t really look right.

DEVIN: What if Kennedy, King, Malcolm, and Kennedy again were not assassinated under a cloud of almost certain conspiracy. Even if it was not an agenda being pursued, even if the CIA or elements therein didn’t act like an independent terrorist sleeper cell acting for a greater good- what is the difference? The results are the same. So with that in mind-

FRANCIS: I’m not sure who you think you are. But this was a simple get to know you dinner that went a little too far.

HOLLY: Wouldn’t you consider the possibility that some greater chain of events than electing John Kerry needs to be set off? That he is not the first domino for our future?

MARY: Every building should have a pussy or intra oracular organ. All stunned. Embarrassed. Silent.

FRANCIS: I love it when you talk dirty my Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary.

HOLLY: Mom. Really. My God.

FRANCIS: It is a main architectural principal of the designer. The extra oracular thing.

DEVIN : I know-and you know that the next generation of us, of our family, will be much better off if Bush were gone.

FRANCIS: Come again. The future of my family?

MARY: Oh, go ahead and kill Bush- just don’t come back to my home for sanctuary.

HOLLY: Your pussy you mean. As an abstract design concept.

MARY: God-damn it Holly, whenever you get your drink on you become so disrespectfully belligerent.

HOLLY: When I get my drink on? (pause) I told you before. I have not had a single drink all night.

HOLLY and MARY exchange a look.
HOLLY looks at DEVIN.
MARY understands.

MARY: Oh. My. Holly Holly sweet Holly Holly. How far along?

FRANCIS looks at HOLLY, then at DEVIN.
DEVIN gets down on one knee in front of HOLLY, revealing a ring box.

DEVIN: Can you hear me now?


ABOUT THE PLAY: I Coulda Been A Kennedy was developed in workshops with the New York based Rude Mechanical Theatre Company under the guidance of director Danny Goldstein and with the help of TONY Award winner Blair Brown, TONY nominee Omar Metwally among many others.. The Rude Mechanicals mounted a full production of the play off-off Broadway in the summer of 2006.

TIME OUT NEW YORK called the production:“…An ambitious yawp of a play, surreal and boisterous and full of political choler…. In a time when political plays typically devolve into name-calling, Trainor actually manages to discover an apposite metaphor for governance”. While THE VILLAGE VOICE said:  “smart, suspenseful tale explores the dark side of the American dream” and NYCONSTAGE.Org said: “The triumph of the evening belongs to author Trainor, Jr. however. The thrust of the piece is exhilarating with just enough period details to keep one on their toes (Vietnam, Iran-Contra, the Bush/Kerry race). The dialogue has a clever, edgy quality….I Coulda… could become a major contender.”

Producers, publishers and other interested parties who wish to peruse the full script should contact DennisTrainorjr {at} gmail {dot} com

Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama

by Chris Hedges (this originally appeared on TruthDig) acronym ♦ march 2010

We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives.

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq, close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has happened.

He is shoving a health care bill down our throats that would give hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the private health insurance industry in the form of subsidies, and force millions of uninsured Americans to buy insurers’ defective products. These policies would come with ever-rising co-pays, deductibles and premiums and see most of the seriously ill left bankrupt and unable to afford medical care. Obama did nothing to halt the collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference, after promising meaningful environmental reform, and has left us at the mercy of corporations such as ExxonMobil. He empowers Israel’s brutal apartheid state. He has expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of civilians, including entire families, have been slaughtered by sophisticated weapons systems such as the Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of victims’ lungs. And he is delivering war and death to Yemen, Somalia and perhaps Iran.

The illegal wars and occupations, the largest transference of wealth upward in American history and the egregious assault on civil liberties, all begun under George W. Bush, raise only a flicker of tepid protest from liberals when propagated by the Democrats. Liberals, unlike the right wing, are emotionally disabled. They appear not to feel. The tea-party protesters, the myopic supporters of Sarah Palin, the veterans signing up for Oath Keepers and the myriad of armed patriot groups have swept into their ranks legions of disenfranchised workers, angry libertarians, John Birchers and many who, until now, were never politically active. They articulate a legitimate rage. Yet liberals continue to speak in the bloodless language of issues and policies, and leave emotion and anger to the protofascists. Take a look at the 3,000-word suicide note left by Joe Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee last month into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring dozens. He was not alone in his rage.

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?” Stack wrote. “Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political ‘representatives’ (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the ‘terrible health care problem’. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.”

The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement, one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers. We are, even more than Glenn Beck or tea-party protesters, responsible for the gusts fanning the flames of right-wing revolt because we have failed to articulate a credible alternative.

A shift to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader, along with genuine grass-roots movements, will not be a quick fix. It will require years in the wilderness. We will again be told by the Democrats that the least-worse candidate they select for office is better than the Republican troll trotted out as an alternative. We will be bombarded with slick commercials about hope and change and spoken to in a cloying feel-your-pain language. We will be made afraid. But if we again acquiesce we will be reduced to sad and pathetic footnotes in our accelerating transformation from a democracy to a totalitarian corporate state. Isolation and ridicule—ask Nader or McKinney—is the cost of defying power, speaking truth and building movements. Anger at injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of love. And it is vital that this anger become our own. We have historical precedents to fall back upon.

“Here in the United States, at the beginning of the twentieth century, before there was a Soviet Union to spoil it, you see, socialism had a good name,” the late historian and activist Howard Zinn said in a lecture a year ago at Binghamton University. “Millions of people in the United States read socialist newspapers. They elected socialist members of Congress and socialist members of state legislatures. You know, there were like fourteen socialist chapters in Oklahoma. Really. I mean, you know, socialism—who stood for socialism? Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair. Yeah, socialism had a good name. It needs to be restored.”

Social change does not come through voting. It is delivered through activism, organizing and mobilization that empower groups to confront the hegemony of the corporate state and the power elite. The longer socialism is identified with the corporatist policies of the Democratic Party, the longer we allow the right wing to tag Obama as a socialist, the more absurd and ineffectual we become. The right-wing mantra of “Obama the socialist,” repeated a few days ago to a room full of Georgia Republicans, by Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. speaker of the House, is discrediting socialism itself. Gingrich, who looks set to run for president, called Obama the “most radical president” the country had seen in decades. “By any standard of government control of the economy, he is a socialist,” Gingrich said. If only the critique were true.

The hypocrisy and ineptitude of the Democrats become, in the eyes of the wider public, the hypocrisy and ineptitude of the liberal class. We can continue to tie our own hands and bind our own feet or we can break free, endure the inevitable opprobrium, and fight back. This means refusing to support the Democrats. It means undertaking the laborious work of building a viable socialist movement. It is the only alternative left to save our embattled open society. We can begin by sending a message to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader. Let them know they are no longer alone.

Homicidal Beggars Will Ride (an obituary)

by Davis Fleetwood ♦ acronym ♦  march 2010

The only time I ever really considered killing myself was after an afternoon reading from front to back Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. It was 1997 and I had just been married to a woman named Sunflower in Las Vegas and I was beginning to suspect that she was not entirely whom I thought she was. Turns out her real name was Sheila Brandacott.

Sunflower was a character that Shelia was playing on a TV show– a reality TV show that I was starring in. You see, she was sent on to the show by the producers who thought the show was boring and wanted to make it more interesting. Her job was to “glean what afflicted me” and use that information to make the show more interesting. She failed. The show never aired. Sunflower ceased to exist.

So it goes.

Among the many stylistic devices that Vonnegut employed was the use of an alter ego. Kilgore Trout appeared in several of Vonnegut’s books. Alter egos are created by writers to say things they normally wouldn’t say; do things they normally couldn’t do.

Vonnegut had said of his alter ego, “Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being.” My creator might say the same thing about me if he were the kind of person that inspired journalists to write down the things that he said. Vonnegut’s Trout was a prolific writer, even more so than his creator.

Listen: Trout was a pessimist. He had no faith in the human race. He thought that the human race would do itself in because it had no immunity to bad ideas. Kurt Vonnegut bravely faced down bouts of depression and overcame a family history of suicides. Kilgore Trout killed himself in 1981.

So it goes.

According to Trout: “Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity; their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies in order to express enmity. The ideas earthlings held didn’t matter for hundreds of thousands of years. Since they couldn’t do much about them anyway, ideas might as well be badges saying anything. They even had a saying about the futility of ideas: ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’

And then earthlings discovered tools. Suddenly agreeing with friends could be a form of suicide– or worse. But agreements went on. Not for the sake of common sense or decency or self-preservation but for friendliness. Earthlings went on being friendly when they should have been thinking instead. And even when they built some computers to do thinking for them, they designed them not so much for wisdom as they did for friendliness. So they were doomed. Homicidal beggars could ride.”

So it goes.

Be careful what you pretend to be, because you are what you pretend to be.


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