Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.
Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.
CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.
The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.
Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683
Thank you for your support,
Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel
CounterPunch PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558
Behind the Political Curtain
Philip Levine has just been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate. How should we interpret that? Did President Obama, who’s been a profound disappointment to organized labor, believe he could partially redeem himself in labor’s eyes by naming Levine, long celebrated as America’s “working class poet” (Levine once belonged to the UAW and worked in Detroit’s auto plants) to the prestigious post?
No one’s suggesting that move this rises to the level of a national security concern or is part of a sinister conspiracy cloaked in intrigue, but it is fair to ask if old-fashioned “identity” politics played a part in it. Alas, even to the non-cynical, the appointment wreaks of calculation.
For the record, it’s not the president who appoints the Poet Laureate; technically, it’s the Library of Congress. Still, a hands-on, media-hip president is going to be calling the shots. Nor is this accusation in any way meant to demean the character or body of work of Philip Levine. Indeed, if anyone deserves being named to the post, it is he. I’ve read Levine’s verse for years, and have always admired him. His “What Work Is” is one of my favorite poems.
Unless we’re badly misreading this, the motivation behind the appointment seems clear. A president doesn’t do anything without a plan. He doesn’t give a speech, return a phone call, visit a city, or answer a policy question without a full work-up and without his advisors’ approval. There is precious little spontaneity in the Oval Office. Accordingly, there’s no way Obama is going to let the Poet Laureate position go to some pilgrim who can’t help him in any way, even if it is only symbolically.
Let’s not forget that this is the same savvy, image-minded president whomade a splashy public display of inviting key Republican leaders to the White House in February, 2009, to watch the Super Bowl with him, believing that this generous display of camaraderie and fraternalism would usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation. (So how’d that work out for you, Mr. President?)
As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has repeatedly noted, if President Obama truly wanted to get labor in his corner and keep it there, he would go on television and talk about nothing except jobs—creating jobs, maintaining jobs, expanding jobs. Jobs are the one thing working people genuinely care about. If the president truly wanted to reach the average American, he would have made his message personal and direct.
But instead of making it personal and direct, he chose to make it abstract and fuzzy. Instead of dominating the conversation with talk of jobs, jobs and more jobs, Obama has allowed the Republicans to seize control and shift the national conversation to the topic of deficit reduction, something about which most of us know little and care even less.
If Obama honestly believes he can kiss up to the unions—that he can get organized labor to embrace him after all the betrayals, sleights of hand, and false promises—by elevating an acknowledged “working class” figure to Poet Laureate, he’s even more out of touch than anyone previously thought.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org