Kyrie Irving, meet Carlos Boozer, another Duke “man”

kyrieearthisflatCarlos Boozer’s sorry ass is the only thing standing between Lebron James and a 9th or 10th consecutive ring next year. Coach K’s slave plantation curriculum that’s supposed to turn Kyrie Irving into a Duke “man” (just like Carlos!) after 11 full games (we’ll get back to that) apparently not only failed to include the Earth being round, but also any sense of basketball history, including the team that would draft him Number One to replace Lebron James, which is why Kyrie’s number is 2. This ignorance will mean Kyrie Irving is on that Utah Road to Nothingville, sadly.

Kyrie is not the first moron to think he was better, somehow, than Lebron James. The entire NBA went through the “maybe Lebron ain’t all that” routine from Darko Mlicic, to DWade, to Carmelo, even, at one point, Gilbert Arenas, before Carlos Boozer convinced himself, yep, that was him. Then, he ruined every Clevelander’s 2004 summer with this same, pathetic routine. I remember it vividly.

I vividly remember hearing the news on the radio, as I drove off the Shoreway and onto the access road to Whiskey Island for some beach volleyball on a glorious summer night in 2004. The Cavs failed to pick up Carlos Boozer’s extension, trusting Boozer would sign a longer new contract.

The haze began. I remember making the turn from the off ramp to Whiskey Island Drive in silence, turning the volume up on the radio. Nothing. The pause in the newscaster’s voice was so audible, I could hear my own mind race through the litany of Cleveland sports woe in a nanosecond and conclude, before I even got past the marina, Boozer would be gone the next day, which he was. That is how important Carlos Boozer thought he was, how much better he could do without Lebron James.

About those 11, count em, eleven games at Duke. That is why no one discovered that Kyrie Irving is made of glass, and injures predictably, if he is Mr. Big. As he did at Duke after 11 games. This lathered, rinsed, repeated in Cleveland for two seasons before Lebron James returned, took the load off Mr. Big, and transformed Kyrie into the player he was always meant to be. Kyrie’s game puts stress on human anatomy that the human body simply cannot sustain for an 82 game season as Mr. Big. He even broke down in the 2015 Finals. You’d think Lord of All Dukies Coach K woulda noticed that.

So, instead of staying one of the greatest players in the NBA in 2017-18 (as Carlos Boozer was in 2003-2004), Kyrie will join a bunch of scrubs on a rebuild, be injured by December, and eventually sell toothpicks at a baseball card convention in Salt Lake City with Carlos, because that will sell tickets. I’d buy one!

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Jeremy Corbyn lost, just ask the White Stripes

Like a footballer returning to Wembley with the World Cup, Jeremy Corbyn entered Parliament Tuesday, after losing an election, to the strains of stadium style chanting of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”, chanting his name. For the record, the White Stripes are the last real rock and roll band to chart anything, let alone seize popular music across the Atlantic in a way that would land that one tune into every stadium in the world. Jezza’s an Arsenal fan.

The Rolling Stone, rock and roll’s magazine of record, has a headline today reading “Goodbye, and Good Riddance, to Centrism”, but somehow misses the White Stripes angle. Matt Taibi, heir to Hunter S. Thompson, nonetheless is precise.

Our media priesthood reacted with near-universal horror at the election in Britain. We panned the result in which Labour, led by the despised Corbyn, took 261 seats and won 40 percent of the vote, Labour’s largest share since hallowed third-way icon Tony Blair won 40.7 percent in 2001.

Blair never had a football chant, let alone the White Stripes. He had Mr. D:Ream. Things can only get better. What better rock and roll writers might later categorize as the latest in “beige” brit pop, Blair’s victory song was a kind of pointless dance floor number that felt good at a rally. It all felt so real.

I never actually met Jeremy Corbyn. In three general elections, I met Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, some other pretty hard core Old Labour grandees, but Corbyn never crossed my New Democrat Clintonian Third Way Blairite clique. We’d “hear” of Corbyn’s latest escapade, somewhere out at some protest with Ken Livingstone & George Galloway, list your favorite lefty caricature. Especially during Iraq.

Corbyn was not in the garden at Number 10 for the East Midlands Labour Party’s reception after the commons Iraq vote, at which I shook Tony Blair’s hand and said, “as the one American here, I want to say thank you.” Tony said “Thank you,” back, very sincerely. Jeremy Corbyn was never at the Strangers bar in the House of Commons yucking it up with the back benchers. Jeremy was the back of the backest bench.

Now, Jezza gets the best of all worlds. Doesn’t have to govern, has chants descend upon him, an army on the march singing the whole way, and can sit tight, to watch the Tories consume themselves. This, after two years of hand to hand trench warfare within the Labour Party descended upon Corbyn out of nowhere in spring, 2015. Before his name even was floated, I observed New Labour make its last fatal grasp at the neoliberal straws Taibi’s headline celebrates as over. Now, Corbyn has a White Stripes chant, in the House of Commons, and I suspect the Strangers Bar has a new regular. That’s where losers get a pint.

 

 

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UK election for Yanks; key seat Broxtowe

attenborough-church

Broxtowe constituency is where I worked each time I traveled to England for New Labour (1997, 2001, 2005). The East Midlands Labour Party office is in the village of Attenborough, right across the motorway from my favorite chippy, George’s Tradition, in Ilkeston. My office was just upstairs from Nick Palmer’s campaign office, Labour’s candidate for Broxtowe all three of my visits. In 1997, a 10,000 vote Tory majority flipped to a 6,000 Labour majority to put Nick into Parliament. Big swings happen in Broxtowe, which is why it is a key seat (targeted) every general election.

Nick’s big issue is animal rights. Nick may not agree, but I always found him to be at least as left as Jeremy Corbyn, but Broxtowe voters didn’t seem to care. Nick worked the seat door to door doggedly for decades in one way or another, and was very popular locally.  Thus, Nick held onto his big 1997 Labour majority in 2001. Alas, Labour’s Broxtowe majority shrank in 2005 to about 2,000, as Tory voters who switched to Labour in 1997 began to peel off over Iraq. By 2010, New Labour had lost every ounce of its credibility over Iraq. Tory Anna Soubry barely beat Nick by 400 votes in 2010. Soubry increased her majority (again beating Nick Palmer) in 2015 to a 4,287, which she defends Thursday.

Tory switchers

Who are these voters; these Tory “switchers”? Broxtowe is suburban Nottingham, very like any Ohio county (Lake?) that also happens to be a targeted bellwether congressional seat. A mix of upperclass, middle and lower class voters, Broxtowe’s boundaries make it a very English place. There is a nature preserve near my office, with swans. In a pond. Near a churchyard with a spire (that pic up there). I always made the tea at my office. Pardon my residual Englishness.

Anyway, if the past month’s Tory collapse is real, and Labour has any shot at a parliamentary majority, Broxtowe will be won in 2017 by Greg Marshall, who took the baton from Nick Palmer’s able hands this spring. Big swings being standard in Broxtowe, one would certainly expect national polls showing Corbyn surging to manifest in Broxtowe. A 4,200 vote swing in Broxtowe would be well in line with historic patterns.

Broxtowe’s switchers would be switching, I think, over leadership. Theresa May has been awful as a candidate, and the Tory manifesto has been an un-costed chaotic series of U-turns. More annoyingly to Broxtowe’s switchers, she foisted this election onto them. No one wants more politics, certainly not an English key seat’s voters who have been bombarded with politics for seven solid years; Thursday will be the fourth national election in Britain since 2010, when Soubry first got to Parliament.

Is Broxtowe enough?

Meanwhile, Corbyn is the picture of strength. To see him on national television as Labour leader is simply astonishing, given the trench warfare the movement behind Corbyn had to endure the last two years. Corbyn is clearly a survivor, who will fight when challenged. Voters like that, not just British ones. In contrast to Theresa May, Corbyn has surged, taking on the Bernie Sanders feel of a historic moment, led by a historic movement.

My bet is the Tories lost Broxtowe when Theresa May refused to debate Corbyn; you called this election, for your own purposes, and you can’t even be bothered to turn up at a debate? British voters like to punish political parties; New Labour for Iraq, Major’s Tories for scandal, and now, perhaps, May’s Tories for cowardice.

Broxtowe might not be enough. Labour’s majorities have relied on winning seats in Scotland, which appears to be a pipe dream in 2017. The rise of Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) has nearly wiped out both the Tories and Labour in Scotland. It is unlikely Scottish voters will switch tactically from SNP to Labour in numbers big enough to give Labour at least a handful of seats in Scotland, from only one. The days of Broxtowe deciding matters nationally, may thus be over.

Labour still need to win it. So do the Tories.

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Corbyn’s Labour has a shot

CorbynWinningA 20-30 point Tory lead is now cut in half, some polls showing single digits, since Theresa May called a snap general election for June 8 on April 18. Like clockwork, American press sucked down trans-Atlantic Tory landslide spin (likely from Jim Messina, an Obama/Clinton veteran now working for the Tories). The Washington Post, no doubt on Messina’s speed dial, took comical leaps of conclusion so ridiculous it had to have been pitched to them.

No one elected Theresa May British Prime Minister. She is only PM because David Cameron resigned in 2016, after caving in 2015 to the hard right of the Conservative Party’s decades old demand for a referendum on the EU, which barely passed as Brexit in 2016. Cameron’s pathetic resignation from a hopelessly split Tory Party gave Theresa May the shifting sand on which she claims to stand “strong and stable”.

May is a sitting duck. A terrible national candidate, she runs and hides behind control freakery worthy of a Clinton. May has been around long enough to make enemies in every Tory corner, as any pro-EU Tory hack had to in order to survive on the government dole for 20 years. Her only solace in the recent Tory polling collapse is that UKIP, the fringe hard right of Brexit godfather Nigel Farrage, went back home to the Tories. UKIP as a political force was always the Tory base, much as the Tea Party has always been the Republican base. UKIP got its long awaited result, Brexit, thus, back to the Tories! Will they turnout? That’s the biggest question that will decide June 8th.

TheresaMayForwardTogether

Conversely, Corbyn was plucked from nowhere then thrust into the teeth of a dying New Labour gnawing its death throes. Then beat New Labour, twice. Amidst constant treachery and coup attempts, Corbyn survived then thrived, and now stands on a movement-built machine inspired to march. Labour under Corbyn is a political party, not an accident of incompetence, as May’s Tories are.

Corbyn’s Labour movement vs. a Tory Potemkin Village is the story here, not an imminent landslide. Media either cannot see this tide from the left, or have been trying to stem it. To date, media have largely characterized the rise of anti-establishment radicalism as only from the right; Trump, Brexit, LePen. Not even Bernie Sanders’ Corbynesque leap from nothing to the precipice of the presidency has taught the landed punditocracy that a positive left radicalism can gain momentum, even power. Corbyn is thus invisible to them. But not for long.

Predictably, May’s campaign has been the spitting image of Hillary Clinton’s, perhaps Messina packed it in his luggage. Forward Together! Strong & Stable! Now, the fear. After LePen went down in flames in France, Messina speed dialed every neoliberal pundit on American TV, to pile onto the May Train triumphantly, to cement that there is no difference between right wing radicalism and left wing socialism. Capital has a funny way of mirroring every threat against each other.

DavidFrumNextCorbyn’s test now is to survive a trans-Atlantic onslaught upon him that will dwarf anything Trump, Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders had to endure, for 18 days. Showing his strength, Corbyn has pledged not to step down as Labour Leader no matter the result June 8. If the Tories survive by single digits, there is no reason for Labour to ditch Corbyn, given Corbyn is already outperforming Ed Milliband’s 2015 result. If Corbyn wins, the British left will have proven that radical movement politics can win power from the left with a positive message inspiring the working class.

 

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How Labour unites to make Jeremy Corbyn UK Prime Minister

It's happening...

In 1997, Labour brought this Clintonista turnout expert across the pond to the East Midlands, because Labour had a turnout problem. A Trotsky bust staring me in the face at the Luton Labour Club concentrated the mind.

East Midlands Labour Party Regional Director Roy Kennedy wanted to show me the remnants of Old Labour that New Labour had just defeated, and Luton Labour Club was a stop on my museum tour. Bookshelves filled with Marxist-Leninist volumes floor to ceiling. Dust aroma. Piles of unread treatises. The works. (A nice preview to my next stop in 1997 right after the election, Armenia, but that’s another story…). New Labour derided the likes of Luton Labour Club as “the Trots”, and there was really nothing to rebut that slur in their musty attic.

Labour had a key seat to win in Luton North in 1997, which we did, where Kelvin Hopkins still sits. Luton North is now a safe Labour seat, which Hopkins will win again this June, twenty years later. Hopkins was one of the barely achieved 35 votes that first placed Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot in 2015 to be Labour Leader. Hopkins is now one of Corbyn’s closest allies. Kelvin Hopkins also campaigned for Brexit. For this political moment, it’s hard to find a better Labour candidate than Kelvin Hopkins, who first arrived at Westminster in 1997 because Luton’s “Trots” stayed on side, and voted New Labour.

Trots staying home was the only way Tony Blair could fail to win Downing Street in 1997. Today, New Labour staying home is starting to feel like the most shameful way Jeremy Corbyn fails to win Number 10. History may have passed them by, but “Trots” certainly knew New Labour was Thatcherism’s greatest achievement, and the disaster that would ensue. Old Labour voted New Labour anyway, because even a neoliberal surrendering to the market like Tony Blair in 1997 was better than a Tory.

Jeremy Corbyn was one of those “Trots” in 1997, and in 2017 has survived two vicious leadership elections to seize Labour by both landslides. When New Labour stood this victorious over Old Labour in 1997, the “Trots” came along. Reluctantly, yes. Many of them today say “I told you so,” very loudly.

labourleadsthewaylordsWhat is New Labour doing now? They must seize this moment and make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister. In these anti-establishment times, there is no one on earth more loathed by the establishment than Corbyn, except perhaps Bernie Sanders. Trump, Brexit, LePen, are the negative sides of the current movement. Corbyn, as Labour Leader, can prove there’s a positive side to the world’s frisky mood. Britain, for the next 5 weeks, is now the tip of that anti-establishment wave. Will it crest and fall the way Hunter S. Thompson saw the 60’s roll back from his Las Vegas hotel room? Or will it roll on? That is New Labour’s decision.

Despite the Tory press (which now apparently includes even the Guardian) painting him uncompromising, Corbyn has indeed compromised toward New Labour, just as Blair did toward the Trots. John McDonnell announced he would “come friendly” to the City of London, which Clement Attlee himself promised to abolish in a Labour manifesto not too long ago. New Labour came to the City a bit too friendly, we’ve now learned, but it appears Corbyn and McDonnell (and probably Kelvin Hopkins) have decided the City can be more useful alive rather than dead. The tax haven driven systemic financial risk the City erupts on the world like Vesuvius every decade or so, like clockwork, should be eliminated. Corbyn’s manifesto will let the City live, probably to use the City’s unique power against its own tax havens. Thus, New Labour can keep their Worshipful Company of Twats parading about in their fuzzy hats, just as Luton Labour Club got to keep its Trotsky bust to show off to a visiting Yank.

Theresa May is a sitting Tory duck. This appears to have concentrated minds. A lot of water is under these 20 year old bridges, but signs are emerging New Labour is starting to make nice with Old Labour once more. The polls have already begun tightening, as the contrast sharpens between Corbyn himself and the establishment’s dowager Queen Her Majesty of the Vampire Squid. Uniting Labour against this establishment, at this moment, should go smoothly, not least since the younger generation’s movement that put Corbyn in this position has built a massive machine ready to march. They’ve even got a good meme game.

Win or lose in June, Corbyn’s Labour is the farthest the anti-establishment left has gotten against power. Labour now stands in its moment. The future of this movement is in Labour’s hands, both Old and New. I’m glad to see Kelvin Hopkins right there in front.

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What I learned in my masters program

FDRHatCigOne month left! Instead of dying of despair like record numbers of my demographic lately (came close!), I overcame to graduate this May 13 from CSU’s Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program. What did I learn?

Well, as the most non-traditional of students, I had time to watch a lot of TCM, and last week I finally saw a film that captured what I learned in the MAGI program in a non-academic consumable nugget. Hot Stuff, a 1971 animated short by Zlatko Grgic, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is sort of a Smokey Bear warning cartoon from Canadian firefighters to kids.

“This tongue-in-cheek animated short serves as a cautionary tale against the hazards of fire. Early humans were given the gift of fire, but warned against the dangers, warnings that eventually fell by the wayside.”

Fire!

In the MAGI program, I learned that capitalism is a fire which behaves exactly as Hot Stuff depicts. Awesome, necessary power, with constant risk of explosion. Unless it’s in a furnace, capitalism, like fire, will engulf all around it in flame. Needs to be a pretty strong furnace, too.

HotStuffPosterI also learned FDR’s New Deal was that furnace, the size of a country, designed to funnel the power of capitalism for the most good, to all; just as fire is captured, stored, transformed, and harnessed in Hot Stuff. Pipes in the New Deal furnace have been springing leaks since it first roared to life, with vandals (neoliberals to be exact) taking bits of pipe in order to unleash the fire for more than 80 years.

As a young Clintonista, I bought the con that making the New Deal’s furnace pipe less thick and certain would all work out just fine. Another analogy I often use is the Eye of Sauron, and The Ring. We as Americans are particularly vulnerable to this…er…Dark Side Precious. (for geeks, see Gramsci.) My paper on the City of London best captures my MAGI journey from Clintonista to Bernie Sanders/Jeremy Corbyn leftism. It’s a crime story. A known racket (the City) took a crowbar to a key New Deal pipe and lopped it off…in 1953. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis at CSU deserves many thanks for including the City in the syllabus. It helped me write a very personal term paper on my own role in helping keep the New Deal gushing one of its first, most damaging, furnace leaks.

So, off we DLC-Third Way-Centrist-New-Labour buffoons went for a few decades, removing valves, shoving in more fuel to the fire, overloading the pipes of a weaker New Deal furnace…all vividly animated in Hot Stuff. The first 6 inch thick walls of the New Deal furnace to crack were organized labor laws. From the moment the Wagner Act, a crown jewel of FDR’s first term, took effect in 1935, capitalism has been torching its way through unions, continuing without cessation today. Just like fire in Hot Stuff.

So you watched a lot of TCM?

NRAMovieScreenGrabA great movement will be required to reconstitute a 21st century New Deal furnace for capitalism, or luck. Probably both. Herbert Hoover spent the bulk of his presidency making things worse after the October crash in his first year, 1929. On a Trump timeline, that’s this fall. Bernie Sanders probably could have staved off the next, completely predictable, financial crisis. Trump can’t even see it. Eye of Sauron, and whatnot.

Mostly what I learned during the MAGI program is that Americans need to be reminded how Americanly awesome the New Deal was. We once controlled capitalism, not the other way around. And that furnace, which we dismantled ourselves, built the American Dream, which today is a fantasy. America used to be so very proud of the New Deal. TCM helped me visualize this pride during the last three years. For example, classic movies of Hollywood’s New Deal era were unabashedly supportive of every aspect of FDR’s program. Even in opening credits, like this one from Claude Raines’ first big hit The Invisible Man in 1933, celebrating the National Recovery Act (the first, better, NRA).

My MAGI exit project studied the internet as a powerful global non-state actor, currently subjecting this debate on our generational insecurity to its own never ending, constant churn of ideas. Thanks to TCM, I guess I’ll toss some Canadian animation into that buzzing stew. In Hot Stuff, it’s easy to see Trump, Brexit, and LePen sparks fly from overloaded sockets as busy, distracted humans ignore the warnings and multiply the risk, oblivious to fire breaking free of its human control. If you’d like to see more incredible Canadian animation, check out the NFB website. Some pieces of the furnace still work.

 

 

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On Trump and Russia; Putin’s masterpiece

Imagining a TV series

Imagining a TV series

Post card from St. Petersburg

Vladimir Putin has had his sights set on interfering with American democracy since at least his rise to power in late 1999, during which period I opened the National Democratic Institute’s first, and only, short lived office in St. Petersburg. We were there at the invitation of the Yeltsin government to help build capacity of political parties and civic institutions in Russia. Our training seminars focused on local government in St. Petersburg; party building, message delivery, campaign training, fundraising etc. In a developing democracy, such training is standard and welcome. In an authoritarian dictatorship, as Russia became almost overnight in 1999, trained political actors are a direct threat to power.

When Putin took power, NDI’s welcome in St. Pete was revoked rapidly and visibly. Russia’s government immediately stopped being a democracy interested in building such institutions. Thanks to Donald Trump, the gory, salacious details of the attack on NDI in St. Pete are familiar now, and one day may be a movie script I write. But in those 4 months from July to November, 1999, NDI came under sustained, aggressive attack from Russia’s security services (the FSB, formerly KGB), and we were gone by December. The DNC hack, the swarming of the Trump campaign, the legitimization of ethnic nationalist political forces, are all logical extensions of a policy begun since Putin’s rise in 1999.

In a sense, Trump is payback for what NDI (and many other western NGO’s) were doing in Russia and the entire former Warsaw Pact in the 1990’s. Democracy building in former communist states was a hundreds of millions of dollars project by US administrations of both parties, funded by a Congress eager to embed democratic forces at every level of post-soviet societies as a check against the rise of dictators. Putin’s counter attack, of which Trump is the crowning glory, will have been at least as heavily funded, and at least as long planned.

Collapse of The New Deal’s Post World War II Order Gave Putin His Opening

Over the following 18 years, America accelerated its capitalist victory lap over communism, taking precisely the wrong lesson from the Cold War. America won the Cold War with a deliberate mix of socialism and capitalism, not pure capitalism. The West mistakenly assumed we won the Cold War with capitalism alone. Thus, our die was cast. As average Americans continue to believe the late 20th century fiction that capital is always good, and the state always bad, the essential mix of capitalism and socialism is gone now, with the New Deal dismantled by our own hands (especially Bill Clinton’s), the EU nothing more than a green light to capital, and average folks at the mercy of it all.

Let us also not forget; Putin is a trained Marxist. Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, all fulfill a very basic Marxist analysis of white middle class decline (those with the most to lose from the collapse of the New Deal). This gutted white middle class is now on the hunt for anyone to blame other than themselves, a gaze which always falls on minorities. With capital now triumphant and unchained, Western public institutions now lay vulnerable to the same forces which gave rise to both 1920’s style oligarchy and the ethnic nationalism of the Great Depression 1930’s. Marxists know capitalism better than capitalists do, it turns out.

Putin will thus have seen Trump coming from a mile away, since at least the 2012 GOP primary, during which it became clear one of America’s political parties was uniquely vulnerable to an ethnic nationalist. If I were an FSB agent in the US in 2012 pitching to Putin a 4-year operation designed to destabilize half of America’s political system, Trump would be a no brainer; just as training the West’s Russia darling Yabloko was to Congress in the 1990’s. Putin will have begun surrounding Trump with unknowing dupes (the comical likes of Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort), elevating them via a series of contracts, payments, VIP treatment, knowing the impact would at the very least poison a GOP descending for at least a decade into ethnic nationalism and fealty to capital.

Now what?

Trump actually winning? Putin cannot believe his luck, although if Putin really does still believe in Marxism, he won’t be that surprised. Public institutions under such sustained attack from the interests of capital, for decades now, are no match for ethnic nationalism. Both capital and racism tear away at the fabric of pluralistic public goods and the pillars that support them, especially voter turnout. Voters predictably disengage from a system which no longer delivers anything except to the interests of capital, leaving democracy an empty field for capital and racism to trample. The risk for Putin was always that Trump would refuse to run.

Compounding Putin’s luck, Trump himself also appears to be an internet addict. Internet addiction is the same as any other clinical addiction; the patient receives a high from the interaction similar to any drug. Each successive high requires more dosage, and the cycle continues. As a 70 year old man suffering internet addiction, Trump is trapped in his own mind. He is impenetrable to the outside world. As a racist’s heir whose fortune was handed to him the day he was born, Trump is particularly vulnerable to internet addiction, or any other addiction. All of which will have been in any FSB personality profile supporting the pitch to Putin years ago.

In all, Trump is Putin’s masterpiece. We in the West are blind to it, because by and large, Western societies still buy the con that we’re all just temporarily embarrassed millionaires, if only the state would just get out of our way. Meanwhile, the white middle class boils with rage that the payoff never comes, and never will. We have unlearned the lessons of the New Deal, while Putin has mastered them.

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No Nancy Pelosi, my grandma wasn’t a capitalist

Last night, just after capitalism’s wet dream Donald Trump nominated another capitalist wet dream to the US Supreme Court, on CNN Nancy Pelosi paraded herself before a live town hall and declared, “We’re capitalist, that’s just the way it is.” She went on to praise Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”, like she was Milton Friedman from the grave.

TREVOR HILL: I wonder if there’s anywhere you feel that the Democrats could move farther left to a more populist message, the way the alt-right has sort of captured this populist strain on the right wing, if you think we could make a more stark contrast to right-wing economics?

PELOSI: Well, I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we’re capitalist. That’s just the way it is. [lengthy prostration before capital] I don’t think we have to change from capitalism. We’re a capitalist system. The free market is — is a place that can do good things. Actually, Adam Smith, “Wealth of Nations,” the invisible hand, he was more compassionate. He wrote two books. His other book was about our responsibilities to each another, as well as “Wealth of Nations.” I wish he had written one book where he incorporated all of it together. 

No, Ms. Pelosi, when my grandmother was saving lengths of string for decades in a drawer she wouldn’t let me into when I was little, she was not a capitalist. She learned why she needed to save lengths of string because of capitalism, that is true. But Grandma was just a descendant of Polish immigrants who worked very hard, saved every nickel, and never once risked a red cent. Frugal. That’s who Americans are, Mrs. Pelosi. They do not risk their money. Very few Americans are comfortable risking their money for a stupid lottery ticket, let alone some fancy pants cockamamey idea they think will make them rich. Remember hearing that from the old timers? Didn’t matter how great your big idea was, you couldn’t squeeze a god damned nickel out of my uncles, or aunts, or grandparents, or great grandparents, or anyone before them.

Grandma Krakowski circa 1950

Grandma Krakowski circa 1950

Americans who risk their money for ideas to become wealthy, i.e. capitalists, are rare, they are not “just the way it is.” We celebrate them when they succeed. America relies on them, so yes, we need these, repeat, rare risk taking American capitalists. The quite vast majority of Americans, however, are simple, tough people who just want to work hard, and get paid for it. The toughest ones start saving lengths of string to boot, to put their kids in a house, feed them, and maybe someday send them off to school. They have never heard of the “invisible hand” except to feel it crush them.

This Democratic Party fetish of “entrepreneurism” is yet another residue of the Clinton surrender to the dismantling of the New Deal. FDR knew who Americans were. Nancy Pelosi is obviously still a zombie undead sleep walking in her “I’m worth hundreds of millions of dollars” dreamworld. If this is who leads the Democratic Party in 2017, someone who will slurp Adam Smith on live television, then the Democratic Party is pointless. It is what cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 presidential election. America is onto your racket, Nancy, especially your own political party, and no amount of waving your invisible hand around on live TV is going to change that.

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Graduating in May from CSU’s MAGI program

I plan to walk at graduation in May, 2017. You’re all invited to see me take my masters degree from CSU President Ronald Berkman, who himself successfully prevented me from entering the program in 2013 because of my 2002 conviction, as follows.

In the case of Mr. Russo, the committee determined that he was not an acceptable candidate for the MAGI program or Cleveland State University. Based on the careful consideration of the matter provided by the committee, I do not believe the decision should be disturbed. Ronald M. Berkman, Ph.D. President

I proceeded to further “disturb” Dr. Berkman’s decision after my run for county executive in spring, 2014, in which I placed 3rd out of 6 candidates, beating soundly both a former county sheriff and a former mayor. I cashed those votes in to re-apply to the MAGI program, gaining acceptance to CSU over Dr. Berkman’s 2013 objection. Thank you to the nearly 10,000 voters across Cuyahoga County for helping.

As I promised, I did not let my voters down. I’m currently sitting on a perfect 4.0 GPA. One of the perks of returning to school after so long is being reminded how long it takes to grade law exams, thus, as of this post, I’m still waiting on a grade for the fall semester international law class. Good chance it’s an A, so I will enter my final semester in the CSU Master of Arts in Global Interaction program with a 4.0, pending one more class this spring semester.

It’s been both strange and wonderful to be back on campus for the last 3 years. Since my first degree in 1989, much has changed, much hasn’t. There are many more international students, many of whom have become friends. The campus itself is a far more welcoming physical space than the mausoleum it used to be. Winter at CSU is still brutal; they haven’t yet figured out a way to stop the wind tunnels.

Being the rabble rouser I am, I had a tangle or two on campus, specifically, over the MAGI internship. Because I gained admission based on my voters, however, I avoided every other fight. I could have been in constant combat from day one. Very quickly, I learned that the vast majority of the lip service CSU pays to the plights of ex-offenders is just that; lip service. I often felt barely tolerated, instead of welcome; which I guess is to be expected. If I could pick one thing I’m most proud of during the MAGI program, it is my banishment of New York Times buffoon Tom Friedman from having his nonsense made assigned reading. Friedman appeared in several classes, and after a while, I had had enough. It didn’t take much; the slightest pin prick of oversight is usually enough to expose a preening Davos Man court jester of oligarchy. If Tom Friedman ever again shows up in a MAGI syllabus, it ain’t my fault.

Through it all, I’ve given no one any reason to think Dr. Berkman’s 2013 rejection was proper, quite the opposite. As an experienced international relations practitioner, and an attorney, I took it upon myself to help my fellow students as much as possible. An extra professor in the room, so to speak. I don’t (and couldn’t) know how much my fellow students learned about me and my journey. I just assumed everyone would eventually Google me, which meant it was on me to try to set a good example to other students, to challenge ideas presented as fact, to dig deeper, never to take anything at face value, and always stand up for yourself.

My MAGI experience has often felt like a long, desperately needed rest at a magical oasis after crossing a decade wide desert under constant incoming fire. Now, I enter the job market again. My phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook, but I’m still hopeful. The Russo Reclamation Project has a capstone now, thanks almost entirely to the political process. My work with the Bernie Sanders campaign this year has featured a lot of disillusionment with that process. I hope I’ve proven that even as American democracy decays all around us, it can still be accessed to accomplish your goals, no matter how hopeless it all seems. Happy New Year, everyone.

 

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George Michael and me

freedom90closetUnbeknownst to me at the time, when he was forced out of the closet by law enforcement in April, 1998, George Michael became my destiny, just three years later. How could I know we would both be forced out of the closet by law enforcement?

I learned of George Michael’s bathroom sting when I was in Armenia, chasing a career to ever more obscure corners of loneliness. Court ordered therapy after my 2001 arrest taught me all my adventures abroad, all the by-design short term political gigs here at home, were really just me running from myself. When my therapist challenged all my career choices in this way, I exploded at her with anger. How dare she diminish my professional decisions by making them nothing but cowardly, subconsciously built-in good-byes, lest someone ever get too close and “find out”? By snapping at her, I proved her point.

The closet of the 80’s closed in most sharply during darkened dance hall days in the high school cafeteria, the club, the basement parties, frat house debauchery on campus visits to friends. Of course, I put a punctuation on it publicly, making Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” my big moment on the dance floor, entering the circle to cut that rug to shreds to the roar of the crowd.

Then nothing. Always, nothing. I made a habit of not just dancing alone, but with my eyes closed or sunglasses on, so I wouldn’t see anyone potentially checking me out, and no one, boy or girl, would see me checking them out. George Michael’s arrest in 1998 should have been the wake up call for me to get the fuck out of that trap, now. But The Closet isn’t so easily unlocked, and instead, became more hermetically sealed than ever.

sinatratogeorgemichaelBy his 1998 arrest, George had spent years throwing thinly veiled haymakers at that closet. Freedom 90 came the closest to breaking through mine. It was perhaps the last great music video of the MTV era. The lip-synched supermodel androgyny always drew blood with my heart; bisexual catnip. Thus, Freedom 90 was always hard to hear, dance to, hard to sing along, without cracking. When Frank Sinatra himself responded to Freedom 90 with his “man up” screed at the reluctant stardom of a closeted genius, you could hear Closet doors slam up tight.

Success always comes easy to straight males unhindered by living a life split in two. Toxic masculinity wasn’t yet a term, but here in Frank’s letter you hear its poison dripping down, Sinatra presuming to know what he never could. I’ve learned Frank Sinatra also couldn’t know the damage he was doing, just as my buddies’ making fag jokes all around me in high school had no idea what they were doing. Just the tragic circle of life requiring an endurance we either possess or do not.

Weariness from a constant struggle with themselves isn’t ever going to be a listed cause of death. This year, as so many of my youth’s icons of queer ambiguity have gone way before their time, maybe that weariness can be accounted for, somehow. In the meantime, I’ll just have to continue trying, over and over, to show Frank Sinatra how to buck up and be a man as below.

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