Survive and Revolt

Yankee Doodle, by Archibald MacNeal Willard.

“I Don’t Take Responsibility at All”

Millions of U.S. -Americans are no doubt aghast over the Supremely Dangerous Asshole (SDA) Donald Trump’s statement about the coronavirus crisis in the country: “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all…”

None. Zero. Nada. No accountability. At all.

Remember Harry Truman’s little much beloved line, “the buck stops here”? Trump is having none of that. Which is hilarious, in a darkly sick way. As Peter Wehner recently explained in The Atlantic:

“The president and his administration are responsible for grave, costly errors, most especially the epic manufacturing failures in diagnostic testing, the decision to test too few people, the delay in expanding testing to labs outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and problems in the supply chain. These mistakes have left us blind and badly behind the curve, and, for a few crucial weeks, they created a false sense of security….the coronavirus silently spread for several weeks, without us being aware of it and while we were doing nothing to stop it. Containment and mitigation efforts could have significantly slowed its spread at an early, critical point, but we frittered away that opportunity.”

“…the avalanche of false information from the president has been most alarming of all. It’s been one rockslide after another, the likes of which we have never seen. Day after day after day he brazenly denied reality, in an effort to blunt the economic and political harm he faced.”

“Trump falsely blamed the Obama administration for impeding coronavirus testing. He stated that the coronavirus first hit the United States later than it actually did. (He said that it was three weeks prior to the point at which he spoke; the actual figure was twice that.) The president claimed that the number of cases in Italy was getting ‘much better’ when it was getting much worse. And in one of the more stunning statements an American president has ever made, Trump admitted that his preference was to keep a cruise ship off the California coast rather than allowing it to dock, because he wanted to keep the number of reported cases of the coronavirus artificially low.”

“….the president delivered an Oval Office address that was meant to reassure the nation and the markets but instead shook both. The president’s delivery was awkward and stilted; worse, at several points, the president, who decided to ad-lib the teleprompter speech, misstated his administration’s own policies, which the administration had to correct. Stock futures plunged even as the president was still delivering his speech. In his address, the president called for Americans to ‘unify together as one nation and one family,’ despite having referred to Washington Governor Jay Inslee as a ‘snake’ days before the speech and attacking Democrats the morning after it.”

“Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious….The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander ‘as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,’ in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.”


The failures go back to well before the virus emerged. As the global health expert Laurie Garrett noted at Foreign Policy six weeks ago:

“Trump Has Sabotaged America’s Coronavirus Response… the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion…”

“Large and small, America’s localities rely in times of public health crisis on the federal government. Bureaucracy matters. Without it, there’s nothing to coherently manage an alphabet soup of agencies housed in departments ranging from Defense to Commerce, Homeland Security to Health and Human Services (HHS). But that’s all gone now. In the spring of 2018, the White House pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs, proposing to eliminate $252 million in previously committed resources for rebuilding health systems in Ebola-ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Under fire from both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump dropped the proposal to eliminate Ebola funds a month later. But other White House efforts included reducing $15 billion in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. And the government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated.”

The SDA wiped out the Center for Disease Control Pandemic Task Force, for God’s sake. Three cheers for Steve Bannon’s “Leninist” war on “the administrative state”!

Because Big Brother

Last Monday, the SDA gave himself a “10” on a scale of 1 to 10 in his response to the COVID-19 crisis. But, of course: because Big Brother.

The following day, the Chosen One swore that he had never underestimated or underappreciated the seriousness of the new coronavirus. “I’ve always known,” Trump said. “this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

How Orwellian (more on that in the next section) was that? Consider the following list of statements compiled by Politico’s Dan Goldberg:

+ On January 22, the Criminal Orange, Orwellian, and Vicious Idiot (COOVid-45) said this: “we have it totally under control. …It’s going to be just fine.”

+ On January 30th, the COOVid-45 said this: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”

+ On February 24th, the COOVid-45 said this: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me.”

+ On February 25th, the COOVid-45 said this: “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job.

+ On February 26th, the COOVid-45 said this: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

+ COOVid-45 on February 28th: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

+COOvid-45 on March 2nd: “We had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies and they’re going to have vaccines, I think relatively soon.”

+COOVid-45 on March 6th: “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful” and [holding rallies] “doesn’t bother me at all.”

+COOVid-45 on March 9th: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”

+COOVid-45 on March 10: “we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

+COOvid-45 on March 12th: “It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.”

The Real Orwellian Attack Has Come from the Right

Trump’s false claim to have always understood that COVID-19 was a grave pandemic is a perfect illustration of the meaning of the “memory hole” in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. As that venerable source of deep wisdom rightly explains:

“The primary purpose of the memory hole [in 1984] is to dispose of all unwanted documents. Now, if you’re a top-tier member of the ruling Inner Party and you want to keep the masses docile and oppressed without actually realizing they’re oppressed, what’s one thing you’ll want to do? That’s right – dispose of any evidence that makes you or Big Brother look less all-knowing than you want people to think you are. And that’s where the memory holes come in.”

Orwell, as Alex Carey tried to tell us decades ago, missed the mark by considering the main “totalitarian” threat to reside in officially Marxist regimes. As Carey wrote:

“I believe that George Orwell’s warnings about future threats to liberal democracies were largely, even dangerously misconceived. Influenced by Orwell…. popular consciousness has been drilled in the expectation that the subversive Left, supported by influences from ‘outside’ the country, is about to control public and individual thinking. (This is the corporate sponsored narrative which provides the justification needed for managing democracy in the interests of business.) Meantime, the real attack…has come…, from the Respectable Right. but this actual threat is more or less ignored by the community, for it is vastly sophisticated, appears uncoercive yet is dedicated to corporate interests.”

“Whatever Orwell’s intentions, his work has been exploited so as to misdirect and confuse the public into looking in the wrong places for the ‘brainwashing’ instinctively felt by many. Ever since World War I this circumstance has so blinded or intimidated the public that few writers and social scientists have attempted to see our world clearly or see it whole in its political-economic dimensions. [Fifty] years after Orwell wrote 1984 no writer has attempted to update it so as to make clear the seriousness of Orwell’s misguidance for democratic societies. Worse still, in the name of free enterprise and anti-communism, a great number of social scientists, sponsored by corporations, are willingly engaged in advancing Orwell’s thesis by way of a corporate-managed democracy.”

Why aren’t Wehner, Garrett, Baker, Haberman, Goldberg or anyone else in the liberal intelligentsia calling for the implementation of the 25th Amendment and the immediate end of the Trump-Pence regime (Pence included because he’s an evangelical Christian Fascist who pines for apocalypse and rapture)? The SDA/COOVid-45 is obviously too crippled by malignant narcissism and right-wing “anti-government” politics and ideology to perform his duties and serve the General Welfare. But I suspect that the “liberal” political and intellectual class (really just the not-so leftmost wing of Carey’s “respectable right”) is too crippled and compromised by (among other things) doctrinal disbelief in the possibility of authoritarian rule – “It Can’t Happen Here” – in the supposedly democratic United States to call for what needs to be done.

American as Andrew Jackson and Apple Pie

I’ve never been one to “drive all blames into Trump.” The idiotic, ecocidal, and tangerine-tinted instinctual fascist Trump (who Noam Chomsky rightly describes as “the most dangerous criminal in human history”) is a product of American history and society. The SDA is a deadly outcome of richly bipartisan capitalist class rule, racial oppression, patriarchy, and the authoritarian corporate and military state. He’s as American as Apple Pie, Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Charles Lindbergh, and David Duke. The corporate and imperialist Democrats’ efforts to paint him out as a product of Russian interference is a great diversion from their own responsibility for his presence in the White House among other things

That said, the SDA’s presence in the White House is a grave menace to humanity on numerous levels. His ridiculous mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis is just the latest and perhaps most graphically obvious example. He needs to be removed now, as soon as humanly possible, not after eight months in which the “Chosen One” can inflict yet more harm on America and the world. It is so bad that many of us acquainted with Roman history let ourselves dream that the Ides of March might see history repeat itself last weekend.

We Were Right to Shut Down I-80

I was right to join a hundred or so mostly young people in responding to the SDA’s election by shutting down Interstate 80 north of Iowa City. No, no lasting movement of any sort emerged from that curious and spontaneous November 2016 act of “primitive rebellion,” led by a dingy bearded felon who looked like a character out of a novel about the Wobblies. Halting the eastbound flow of traffic on I-80 was no revolutionary act. Still, we short-lived Interstate highway monkey-wrenchers were on to something. Our instinctive direct action emerged extemporaneously from an awareness that something profoundly dangerous had just occurred – the ascendancy of a demented fascistic oligarch to the world’s most powerful job.

We knew, in however crude and elemental a way, that the menace of an SDA presidency was too great to be met with the standard business-rule-as-usual means of supposedly democratic citizen input: voting, writing letters to the editor, calling your Congressperson, signing petitions, and the like. We sensed correctly months before the SDA’s inauguration that he would have to be met with mass disruption – by a politics of the streets, so to speak, beneath and beyond the quadrennial big money-major party- big media candidate-centered quadrennial electoral extravaganzas that are sold to U.S.-Americans as “that’s politics” – the only politics that matters.

The SDA’s sick victory, delivered largely by the neoliberal nothingness of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and their Inauthentic Opposition party, knocked students into an intuitive grasp of the wisdom of young Mario Savio’s eloquent statement during the University of California-Berkeley’s 1965 Free Speech Movement:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all! …One thousand people sitting down some place, not letting anybody by, not [letting] anything happen, can stop any machine, including this machine!”

We were right to try to send a signal of desperation and of the need for direct action beneath and beyond the quadrennial big money big media major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as “that’s politics” – the only politics that matters.

The title of the Atlantic report I quoted at great length above is “The Trump Presidency is Over.” The article contains good reporting on the SDA’s predictably coronavirus failures, but what was The Atlantic thinking with that title? Assuming the Democrats can beat him and that he will leave office after a defeat in the Electoral College, the SDA has 308 days left in office under the normal constitutional schedule. Each one of those days is one day too many: we are talking about “the most dangerous criminal in human history” here.

Why assume that the Democrats will beat him? When I posted the Atlantic piece on “social media” three days ago, a comrade wrote the following: “I think it [‘s title] is wishful thinking. He has a solid base of zombies who rebuff any attempt at reason, rationality or science. And the inauthentic opposition party is poised to run someone who is in cognitive decline as well as hostile to M4A, student loan forgiveness, banning fracking etc…”

Hey Joe: Don’t Say 2 + 2 = 5

Those are my sentiments, exactly. The dismal, dollar-drenched Fake Resistance Democrats put the SDA in office with the horrid neoliberal performance of Obama and the miserable Hillary Clinton campaign. They and their many media allies are doing everything they can to give him four more years by running a demented right-wing corporate-imperialist clown and serial liar named Joe Corn Pop Biden for the White House. Biden is so stupid, vile, right-wing, and disingenuous that it is simply impossible for me and countless others on the left to seriously imagine ourselves voting for him even if we correctly understand that the SDA is in fact what Biden calls him: “an existential threat.” Do we really want to just trade in one serial oligarchic fabricator (the SDA) for another one (Biden) whose presidency would be so sanctimoniously awful and elitist as to hatch a right-wing candidate and president who would make people nostalgic for the SDA? In his CNN debate with Sanders last Sunday night, Biden told one lie after about his record as an attempt to falsely portray himself as in accord with the nation’s majority left-leaning environmentalist and social-democratic sentiments. A Tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the encounter was on-point:

“Don’t say you support a fracking ban when you don’t. Don’t say you didn’t write the bankruptcy will when you were one of its biggest champions. Don’s say you supported ending the [anti-abortion] Hyde [Amendment] a long time ago when you were just pressured into it last year. This is base. The truth matters.”

One could say a lot more, of course, like:

+ Don’t claim that you never supported cutting Social Security and Medicare when there is abundant evidence including full on real-time video clips showing that you did precisely that on numerous occasions.

+ Don’t claim George W. Bush tricked you into supporting the Iraq invasion when everyone with any brains and decency knew that Bush was lying about his pretexts for the war and you were on the leading Democratic Senators helping legitimize Bush’s lies.

+ Don’t say you support universal health coverage when you are a dedicated enemy of national health insurance and have even vowed to veto Medicare For All if you were president.

+ Don’t pose as a champion of Black people when you championed the racist mass-incarceration three strikes crime bill and boast of your history working in partnership with southern white racial terrorists.

+ Don’t pose as a friend of the American working class when you championed the globalist investor rights North American Free Trade Agreement.

+ Don’t pretend to understand that climate change is the leading threat to humanity today and to therefore back a Green New Deal when you are fundamentally opposed to implementing a Green New Deal.

These are reminders that Trump and his party have no monopoly on American political Orwellianism.

Bourgeois Borger to Bernie: “Go Away”

The only things more depressing than Biden’s dissembling debate performance were the liberal CNN moderators’ predictable insistence on continuing the ridiculous neo-McCarthyite Red-baiting of Sanders (for having dared to accurately observe that Fidel Castro undertook a remarkable mass literacy campaign after the Cuban Revolution) and the CNN’s talking heads’ amazingly brief and biased post-game analysis.

Anyone who watched the actual debate saw Sanders all-too-politely eviscerate his “good friend” Liar Joe, exposing Biden’s fake-progressivism and corporate-imperial political and policy inadequacy on one point after another. It wasn’t even close. The progressive-populist Sanders out-scored Biden in every round, even if he refused to land a knockout punch.

But so what? By the CNN referee’s scorecard, of course, Biden was the clear winner. They gave him big points for speaking in complete sentences and showing his – I am not kidding” – “humanity” and “empathy.”

The despicable chattering CNN skull Gloria Borger said that Biden made a mistake by “taking the bait” and responding to Sanders’ criticism of his right-wing record and positions. Borger thought Biden should have just told Sanders to “go away.”

Yes, “go away.” I’m not making that up. Bourgeois Borger’s stunning comment merited a nod of approval from CNN bloviator David Axelrod, who poses as some kind of outside expert when he is fact neoliberal president Barack Obama’s former top political advisor and a good Obama friend involved in rigging the media-politics game against Sanders.

Orwell, again.

Beyond American Exceptionalism

After we get out of the current capitalogenic coronavirus crisis, fellow U.S.-American workers and citizens, it’s time we got beyond American Exceptionalism in a number of ways, including these two:

+ Abandon the notion that we are somehow exempt from authoritarian and even fascistic rule – that is, drop our sense of “It Can’t Happen Here.”

+ Embrace a politics of mass movements and direct action beyond hopelessly compromised ruling-class-dominated bourgeois elections systems.

Beyond Capitalism

I guess I’m not supposed to say that global recessions reduce global carbon emissions. I’m sorry but they do. “But,” someone objects, “millions will suffer under recessions.” To which I say, indeed, which is (a) why we need to introduce an unconditional universal basic income ASAP and (b) we need to abolish capitalism, which has always thrown people out of work when it is no longer profitable to employ them. We should do both (a) and (b). Meanwhile, like it or not, when growth-addicted capitalism goes into recession, carbon emissions are reduced. Not enough, but they do tend to fall.

Capitalism is literally wired to wipe out humanity. This is just a plain historical fact. If and when we get out of this many-sided crisis, let’s wipe out capitalism. We can have (1) the profits system or (2) a decent human civilization and future. We can’t have both. We have to choose.

First, of course we must survive. And that means social-distancing for all, no matter their age. Anyone who tells you that the coronavirus is just a threat to “grandma and grandpa” is badly off-base, whatever their intentions.

On the other side, however, revolution is an existential necessity. As Istvan Meszaros wrote 19 years ago, “it’s socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky.”

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).