Category Archives: New York

How Andrew Cuomo Helped Destroy Public Housing

During a sunny Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, reporters gathered anxiously outside of the monolithic Taft Houses in East Harlem waiting for the day’s main attraction: Governor Andrew Cuomo. When he finally arrived, in grand fashion with a posse of local politicians behind him, reporters were treated to an exclusive tour of some of the decaying apartments in the enormous complex. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been in a state of crisis over the past year dealing with a massive budget deficit of $286.6 million as well as being rocked by a lead paint scandal that saw the firing of top officials. Responding to the crisis, Cuomo has positioned himself as NYCHA’s savior in chief.

During the tour with reporters, the governor examined the plethora of problems plaguing the nearly 600,000 residents who depend on public housing in an ever more unaffordable city. From pealing paint, water leaks, vermin infestation and broken appliances the governor was given a firsthand look at the inhuman conditions many New Yorkers are forced to endure.

“There is no one who will see what I saw and allow it to continue”, the Governor said.  Later he said that the state of the disrepair was utterly “disgusting”.

After the tour Cuomo gave an impassioned speech and held a press conference with residents who were oddly wearing orange hats reading in bold print “TENANTS UNITED”, an obvious jab at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat. In his speech Cuomo vowed to take action by pledging an additional $250 million on top of the $300 million he already promised to invest in New York’s public housing stock. He made sure to remind reporters even though “the state has no financial responsibility” to fund NYCHA, he was going to fight to secure the funds anyway.

Refusing to take any responsibility for the crisis, Cuomo blasted the mayor for his inaction and challenged President Trump to put his money where his mouth is

“If he really wants to make America great again he should show the people more money,” Cuomo said.

The whole event seemed to be an elaborate photo op with the intention of portraying the governor as the great white hope for the majority color NYCHA residents.  It was an attempt of heroic posturing by an opportunist politician with presidential ambitions. His speech came across as self-serving and pompous. He also absolved himself of any blame for the crisis and acted as if he were surprised by the decay he saw even though he played a role in that decay.

“At one time, NYCHA was the model of public housing, and now conditions are at the worst they’ve ever been” he said. “Tenants living in these intolerable, inhumane conditions need help now – not in four years, and this administration is taking action to ensure a brighter future for New Yorkers,”

Cuomo’s allusions to the heyday of public housing and its prospects for a “brighter future” is rather ironic given the significant role Cuomo played in the federal divestment and dismantling of public housing across the country. The governor failed to mention that as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Cuomo oversaw the wholesale destruction of public housing in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia. During the Clinton Administration Cuomo served as Secretary of HUD from 1997-2001. Before that he served as the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development from 1993-1997. During his tenure, HUD underwent major policy shifts in accordance with the rise of the post-Cold War national neoliberal agenda that saw the decline in union membership, cuts to social safety nets, deregulation of the financial sector and the privatization of the public sector. Clinton’s HUD was no longer in the business of building public housing nor its upkeep. Making this perfectly clear during his campaign for president in 1992, Clinton portrayed himself as “a new Democratic” who was tough on crime and was keen to “end welfare as we have come to know it”. His White House began pushing major right wing “reforms” that made Ronald Regan look like FDR. One of Clinton’s most damaging attacks on poor and working-class Americans was the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA) that ended “welfare as we know it” and effectively make poverty a crime.

It was this pathological attitude towards the working-class and the poor that governed the policies that Cuomo actively supported as Secretary of HUD. As Assistant Secretary and then Secretary Cuomo oversaw the destruction of over 100,000 public housing units across the nation. Out of all the cities impacted Chicago was hit the hardest. In Chicago alone 60,000 people lost their housing along with their sense of community. HOPE VI, first implemented in phases back in 1992, was the federal program that incentivized cities to privatize their public housing by subsidizing mixed income developments. The policy became law in 1998 with the passage of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act, leading to the accelerated demolition of public housing.

Another consequence of HOPE VI was the criminalization of public housing residents. Clinton promoted the false idea that public housing was infested with criminal gangs that were terrorizing helpless residents. He insisted upon a “One strike, you’re out” policy that would evict any public housing resident convicted of a crime. Six months after the passage of HOPE VI into law 3,847 people were evicted from public housing. Housing developments across the country saw a dramatic 84% increase in the number of evictions. HOPE VI left thousands of mostly black and Latino Americans hopelessly wondering why yet again their government was at war with them. It was not the first time urban America was displaced because of federal policy. Back in the 1960’s the federal government implemented the controversial Urban Renewal policies that reshaped the landscape of American cities. Local governments with federal approval sized land through eminent domain under the guise of slum clearance. Civil Rights activists were appalled at the hundreds of thousands of forced evictions and the destruction of historical black communities.

“Most Northern cities now are engaged in something called urban renewal, which means moving the Negroes out.” Author James Baldwin eloquently said. “It means Negro removal, that is what it means. The federal government is an accomplice to this fact.” HOPE VI is the modern equivalent.

As the public face of HUD, Cuomo’s role was to sell Americans on “negro removal” in a palatable way. The language used to justify HOPE VI was never overtly racist. In fact, HOPE VI was marketed as the best way to undo the mistakes made by previous HUD policies. Increasingly public housing was viewed, and still is viewed, as an antiquated policy disaster that increasingly concentrated poor people in isolated housing blocks. The problems of public housing had nothing to do, according to HUD, with underfunding and neglect. The blame fell on the design of the buildings and the concentration of poverty. Academics such as William Julius Wilson and Douglas S. Massey provided the research backing up the claims that the concentration of the poor lead to the supposed failure of public housing. If that were true, then the solution seemed simple: break up public housing. However, many academics have called concentrated poverty a myth that hurts the poor

“The theory of concentrated poverty is based on a faulty theoretical premise—namely, that concentrated poverty can be severed from its root causes and projected as the focal point of social policy” Distinguished Professor Stephen Steinberg at Queens College said. “It’s rather like diagnosing a melanoma as a blemish and treating it with a palliative.”

Still poverty as pathology served as the ideological impetus that justified the neoliberal destruction of public housing. Its outcome saw a large-scale land grab that transferred public land serving the public good into private hands for corporate profits. All of which was administered by the now governor Andrew Cuomo.  To this day Cuomo believes the myth of concentrated poverty and its supposed key role in the “failure” of public housing. In his book All Things Possible Cuomo said that “the projects are an example of good government gone bad. The people the government is trying to help are actually going to be hurt, and when it fails, it will destroy the surrounding neighborhood.”

In the speech he gave outside of the Taft Houses, Cuomo said that public housing was “really a home-to-prison pipeline.” And that crime starts “in the neighborhood. It starts in the housing complex, and it starts many times in public housing.”

Cuomo’s disdain for government-funded public housing was reflected in the polices he enacted while he was secretary of HUD. Instead of advocating for the construction of more public housing Cuomo was an avid cheerleader in its destruction. It’s their place. He publicly endorsed privately run mixed income developments that didn’t nearly begin to replace the housing that was lost. He promoted free market solutions to addressing urban decay with such schemes as the expansion of the Empowerment Zone Program (EZ). In a nutshell EZ’s incentivized business to locate to predominately black and Latino intercity communities by providing corporate income tax credits, property tax abatements, and other tax exemptions with the idea of spurring economic growth and providing poor people with jobs. It also allocated funds to non-profit social service agencies. Cities such as Baltimore were desperate for federal assistance and enthusiastically joined the program with mixed results. One study found that the program actually cost city governments $2.5 billion in tax revenue. Some Baltimore residents found the program to be undemocratic and failed to address or take into account the real needs in the community.

“The process must reflect a true perception of neighborhood needs from those who live there,” Baltimore native Leonard Jackson said.

In a 2001 study Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center found that EZ’s programs were complete failures “Our findings suggest the EZ program has fallen far short of its stated goals” they said. “In fact, little changed in any of the cities or Zones with regard to the major goals set forth in the legislation and the regulations outlined by HUD.”

Besides Empowerment Zones there is some evidence to suggest that Cuomo’s polices at HUD may have contributed to the 2008 subprime mortgage bubble. Senator Jon Corzine believed that HUD’s policy goals throughout the 1990’s was focused on “integrating lower-income communities into the free market and creating renewal initiatives that spur private sector investment in both urban and rural communities.”

He goes on to say that “HUD has also helped America reach its highest homeownership rate ever–67.7%–and in the process helped African-American and Latino households attain record levels of homeownership.”

HUD achieved that homeownership rate by making a deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase the number of loans purchased by low-income borrowers. By greatly inflating the numbers Cuomo’s shortsighted tactics contributed in part to the Great Recession as well as the loss of the overall net worth for black families. From the years 2007-10 black wealth declined by 30% as a result of the economic crisis. After 2009 black median wealth fell from $12,124 a year to $5,677 a year. By comparison white median wealth fell from $134,992 annually to $113,149. Clearly Cuomo’s plan for “integrating lower-income communities into the free market” ended up becoming a nightmare for low-income black Americans.

All this to say for a man who now wants to make himself the avenger of public housing. Cuomo’s track record alone should make public housing residents run from his very presence at their door steps. None of this even takes into account the damage he has done as Governor of New York. Alarmingly at his press conferences over the past few weeks Cuomo has hinted and threatened to have the state directly take over NYCHA. Giving Cuomo more power over NYCHA is like making the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Who is to say what plans the governor might have to fix public housing. It would be easy for him to begin full scale privatization efforts under the guise of city mismanagement of the crisis. A crisis that could have been averted back in 2015 when Mayor De Blasio requested that the state provide $100 million in emergency funding for roof repair. Cuomo refused to fork over the cash unless the money was used for cosmetic upgrades such as landscaping and playground equipment. Now, three years later the governor wants to swoop in to NYCHA’s rescue? It would be wise for New Yorkers to be suspicious of the governor’s intentions. Public housing should not be used as a pawn in a political game for power. If Cuomo wants to truly help New Yorkers living in public housing, he would fully invest in a public housing Marshall Plan not more back door privatization.

Ethical Stardom: Pursuing Dreams in Cities Under The Shadow Of Gentrification

As cities become increasingly difficult to afford for middle-income Americans, how do we reframe the concept of ethical consumption to fit the requirement for creative people to move to a major cultural center to succeed?

Banksy, Follow your Dreams

The idea of moving to New York to pursue your dreams or a better life has a history dating back centuries. There are chefs from around the world who wanted to open a restaurant sharing their hometown cuisine with American audiences. There are artists, writers, and musicians from the Midwest who wanted to be in the biggest city in the country for the most opportunities.

It’s a romantic story that’s no less interesting and unique because it’s so common. While native New Yorkers rightly show off their stripes, go back a generation or two and you’ll find most of their families were based somewhere else.

This narrative continues as people arrive by bus, train, and plane every day. However, this is a different era with different conditions.

I’m not talking about immigrants seeking refuge or people who’ve bravely fled war-torn countries for survival. I’m talking about people who choose New York purposely, because of its cultural capital.

Where once this was a city to arrive in with a dollar and a dream, it’s now a city that requires you to save for months or years in advance to land on your feet.

Moving to New York, or most American cities, to pursue your dreams has become both a privilege and a requirement in many fields, especially the arts and humanities.

But with city populations ballooning and real estate prices skyrocketing, cities already have a great pool of talent vying for every position.  There are kids growing up in the Bronx struggling to get the change together to take a train downtown for an art or music camp their parents saved up to bring them to.

It takes a charming arrogance to presume that as a small kid from Minnesota, you could be better than every other dancer or poet living in New York. It makes for a great origin story. Sometimes it works out and it’s hard not to identify with that underdog story.

The only problem is that type of success is starting to look a lot less like luck and a lot more like a victory lap.

It’s not always a victory lap for the young person who hasn’t made it. Not everyone who moves to a city comes from wealth and comfort. But often in pursuit of the familiar, a transplant fuels a system that’s in motion to suburbanize the city.

This system aims to make New York and every other major city a safe and familiar tourist attraction. People come to New York to eat at the Applebee’s in Times Square, to shop the Disney Store or visit the Nike store—all things they could find in their own nearby malls.

They don’t come here for the now-closed shows, luncheonettes, and hat shops. There’s a closed commercial loop between the box stores in suburban malls and the businesses that now populate the tourist capital of New York City. There’s a responsibility that’s fallen on the city in maintaining a welcome environment for small businesses rather than trying to offer family friendly entertainment to tourists. In failing this, they’ve driven small business to the margins of the city, where tourist dollars are needed, but where they’re never directed to go.

Jeremiah Moss writes:

… Combined with a record-high population of 8.5 million, the city is being destroyed by its own so-called success […] Locals avoid the city’s art museums because they’re jammed with tourists clamoring to take selfies with the masterpieces. […] The green-jeweled oasis of Central Park is “being trampled to death,” as former parks commissioner Adrian Benepe told the Times in 2016. And still City Hall wants more. The latest goal is 67 million tourists per year by 2021.

Young, enterprising, low-income New Yorkers need to pursue alternative paths to pay for their dreams. Without credit, assets, or property, they might have to take out pricier loan options, making the whole enterprise of following their dreams a higher stake venture than it is for large established businesses.

This is not to discourage anyone outside of a major city from following their dreams. But if you achieved your dream in someone else’s hometown, you have a responsibility to your community to try to make room for two of you.

If your neighbors speak a language you don’t know, learn their language. Buy groceries from their shops. Sincerely love the neighborhood you live in, or don’t move there. If you choose a neighborhood because it’s got cheap rent, realize your role in harvesting the fruit of someone else’s life and work.

You need to ensure that local public schools can offer the opportunities you had. You need to make sure that a single parent can do what you’ve done without having to struggle and sacrifice in ways you’ve never had to.

The garment district is moving to Brooklyn. The art world has moved from SoHo, to Chelsea, to Chinatown. Long Island City is starting to look like Dubai.

While other cities like Detroit and Philadelphia have tried to attract more of this cultural capital that once went exclusively to New York and LA, it’s important not to just repeat the same mistakes in a new environment.

I implore other aspiring artists to bring their talents wherever they feel they’re needed. But if it looks like the boat is full, why not check with the passengers before you jump on. There will always be another boat.

Photo: Move NY

A Story of Two Blockades

On December 11, in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, more than 50 concerned people, including representatives of various peace, justice and human rights organizations and communities, gathered in New York City’s Ralph Bunche Park, across First Avenue from the United Nations. Our message, which was communicated on signs and banners and by speakers addressing the rally, was simple and direct: end the war crimes being committed by the military of the United States along with Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners abetted by the US and end the blockade of Yemeni ports.

For more than two years, Saudi/US bombing has targeted civilian infrastructure: Hospitals, schools, factories, markets, funerals, sea ports, electrical power stations and water treatment facilities. US drones strikes and incursions by US Special Forces into Yemen have killed civilians as well. Armed conflict has directly taken the lives of some 12,000 people, but that tragic number is greatly exceeded by the number of those who are dying from a combination of malnutrition and otherwise easily preventable ailments and diseases like respiratory infections, measles, and cholera, including more than 1,000 children each week. 20 million of Yemen’s population of 28 million people are food insecure and few have access to clean drinking water. More than half of the hospitals in the country are not functioning.

Early in November, the already onerous blockade of Yemen’s ports was made practically total, prompting the United Nations Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs to warn that, unless the blockade of Yemen was fully lifted, “… there will be a famine in Yemen… It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.”

On November 27, limited exceptions to the blockade were made for humanitarian aid shipments alone. The resulting tightly controlled deliveries have been decried as an empty and vastly insufficient gesture by humanitarian aid groups, who are calling for the ports to be opened to all humanitarian and commercial shipments. Under this pressure, President Trump issued a very brief statement calling upon the Saudis to “completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.” Trump’s uncharacteristically polite request was not backed by anything much at all, much less by a freezing of US arms sales to the Saudis, nor did it address the practice of the US Air Force refueling Saudi fighter jets in mid-air or the US’ own drone strikes in Yemen.

Clearly, the times demand that more be done to counter this dire threat and some voices are being raised. Along with robust diplomatic efforts, there are legislative attempts to curtail arms sales to the Saudis. There have also been fasts, vigils and protests such as occurred in New York and other cities on December 11.

Marching up First Avenue (Photo by Joanne Kennedy)

After speeches, songs and a powerful minute of silence, the rally moved up First Avenue to both the US and the Saudi Permanent Missions to the United Nations, led by banner reading “STOP US-SAUDI WAR CRIMES” and “LIFT THE BLOCKADE”, followed closely by officers of the New York City Police Department. Some of us felt compelled by conscience to stand in the doorway of the US Mission and after a short time, we were arrested for violating the “obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic” provision of the New York Penal Law regarding disorderly conduct. 15 of us, carrying photos of Yemeni child victims, were taken into custody and transported to the cells of the 7th Precinct on the city’s Lower East Side.

Blocking the door, US mission to UN (Photo by Joanne Kennedy)

I could not help but wonder as we were handcuffed and loaded into vans, how those police officers could listen so impassively to the denunciations of crimes against humanity being committed and to the disclosures of a blockade that threatens the lives of millions, orchestrated from the buildings we stood before. How could these officers, then, after hearing our pleas and the stories of starving children without reaction, move so decisively to remove our nonviolent obstruction to the perpetrators of those crimes? Did they not wonder if they were arresting the wrong people?

The blockade of Yemen is an atrocious crime of the highest category, a violation of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international pacts. The US participation in the war on Yemen is a violation of the war powers provisions of the United States Constitution, at the very least. The imposition of our modest “blockade” of the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in contrast, threatened no one. No one got sick or died because we stood in that doorway. In New York State, disorderly conduct is a violation, not even considered a crime at all. Still, the NYPD choose to ignore murder committed on its beat and to expend its prodigious resources to arrest and to prosecute law abiding citizens who demand an end to the crimes against Yemen.

The author, photo courtesy of the NYPD

Our protest began in Ralph Bunche Park, named after one of the founders of the United Nations and the first black American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Carved into the stone pavement there are these words from Mr. Bunche that speak to the present crisis in Yemen and to the many conflicts in the world today: “Peace, to have meaning for many who have known only suffering in both peace and war, must be translated into bread or rice, shelter, health, and education, as well as freedom and human dignity – a steadily better life. If peace is to be secure, long-suffering and long-starved, forgotten peoples of the world, the underprivileged and the undernourished, must begin to realize without delay the promise of a new day and a new life.”

A Lethal Gift: The Halloween Attack, Trump and Immigration

It could not have been scripted better for the demagogues and security hysterics.  With the country still grieving in confusion in the aftermath of the Las Vegas slayings, inflicted by an individual who resisted the classification of terrorist at the hands of the Nevada authorities, in came Sayfullo Saipov. Saipov, who fit the fanatic’s bill, the ideologue’s cut, and popular lack of imagination.

He was a profiler’s cartoon inspired dream: menacing beard, smouldering eyes, determined and pious.  He came from Uzbekistan, a place many Americans would struggle finding on a map (which “stan” might that be?), but that hardly mattered.  He supplied the authorities exactly what they wanted: a speedy, even relieved confession, an expression of unswerving belief, and a sense that he had been planning his attack in New York City for some time.

That attack, it is said, manifested in a form that has become something of a murderous tradition. A space occupied by citizens becomes a death strip for a vehicle speeding and manoeuvring with lethal success. It has also become mandatory for such reports to suggest that things could always have been much worse.

That caveat is always necessary to suggest flaws, chinks in the plan or the means of attack. Saipov, in the aftermath of the Halloween assault, has been portrayed as a fanatic-in-preparation, carrying out trial runs with a rental truck in October, and wondering if he might have used Islamic State flags on the truck while going about his murderous work. (He was not evidently that dazed to think that the gesture might attract attention.)

Nor was Saipov a virgin behind the big wheel: he had been doing tens of thousands of miles from Denver to Detroit, and Canton, Mass. to Salt Lake City on his semi-truck. The New York Times documented the journey of an immigrant rootless and dejected, finding doors to the hotel business closed, and windows shuttered.  Anger crept in; tempers grew.

More and more, it started to look as if Islamic State was a convenient conduit, an instructive, and ultimately destructive escape.  The BBC suggests that he was “inspired by 90 graphic and violent propaganda videos found on his phone – in particular, one in which IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asks what Muslims are doing to avenge deaths in Iraq.”

By the time he had finished with his rented Home Depot truck on a bike lane in lower Manhattan, six had been killed at the scene, with two dying in hospital.  Of the twelve injured, four remained in a critical condition. And, claimed an imam in Florida, he “did not learn religion properly.  That’s the main disease in the Muslim community.”

If the authorities were delighted by the stereotypical ease in reading the event, and its suspect, President Donald J. Trump was overwhelmed.  With a “told you so” pouty menace, he rode over any criticism or perspective that might have qualified any rush to assessments.

From the lowly summit of Twitter came the message that will make any defence lawyer cringe: “NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room.  He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY.”

Trump has also stormily attacked the diversity lottery programme, one which Saipov availed himself of in entering the country.  For all its curious administrative perversions, the programme supplies a perfect point of difference for those who see the violence inflicted by a bad egg who chooses the US, as opposed to the rotten number born in the land of the free.

The lottery has certainly attracted trenchant critics, among them David Frum.  “Good and bad qualities are randomly distributed in the human population, and randomly is how the diversity lottery distributes its rewards.”  It also followed, given such a random distribution, that “one member of the class of ’09 proved to be a mass murdering terrorist.” (It is worth noting that such randomness also afflicts local gun-toting fanatics.)

The diversity lottery programme was meant to be a fix, an effort to cope with the effects of the immigration laws adopted in 1965 and the corrective Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986.  The latter was notable for legalising some 3 million undocumented immigrants in the US, mostly from Mexico.

Others, including Irish Americans, were pegged back in this immigration reform, inspiring then Representative Chuck Schumer and Senator Edward Kennedy to pitch for the lottery as a solution. The beneficiaries, fascinatingly enough, have not followed historical logic, and applications now stem from poor continents, notably Africa.

While Saipov has been appointed standard-bearer for the programme’s problems, Trump’s broader goal is simpler and unrefined.  One is to avoid addressing the classic dysfunction of the US psyche in evaluating violence: when done by unhinged locals, a stars and stripes exemption (it’s merely criminal) is granted.  If inflicted by the foreign element, terrorism is presumed.

This is clothed in the act of abandoning paralysing political correctness.  Focus, he urged his cabinet members, on more aggressive vetting and winding back the lottery.  Immigrants are dangerous, even if they are, as Jim Dwyer explains, “no more an existential threat to New York than bicycle paths.”

Two or Three Things I Know About Capitalism

A number of recent, press articles, including an over 8000 word feature piece in the New York Times have asked, to quote the The NYT’s headline, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Although the question was proffered, the reporters and editors responsible for the articles remain resolutely obtuse to the obvious: The bughouse crazy environment of late stage capitalist culture evokes classic flight or flight responses attendant to episodes of severe anxiety and panic attacks.

The word panic has its derivation in reference to the Greek god of wilderness and wildness, of pastural repose, of the animal body encoded within human beings and its attendant animalistic imperatives, Pan. To wit, deracinate an animal from its natural habitat and it will evince, on an instinctual basis, a flight or flight response. If caged, the unfortunate creature will pace the confines of its imprisonment, chew and tear at its fur and flesh, become irritable, enervated, languish and even die from the deprivation of the environment it was born to inhabit. A caged animal, even if the unfortunate creature endures captivity, is not the entity nature conceived; the living being has been reduced to A Thing That Waits For Lunch.

Human beings, animals that we are, respond in a similar fashion. Experiencing anxiety is among the ways our innate animal spirits react to the capitalist cage. Inundate a teenager with the soul-defying criteria of the corporate/consumer state, with its overbearing, pre-careerist pressures, its paucity of communal eros, its demands, overt and implicit, to conform to a shallow, manic, nebulously defined yet oppressive societal order, and insist that those who cannot adapt, much less excel, are losers who are fated to become “basement dwellers” in their parent’s homes or, for those who lack the privilege, be cast into homelessness then the minds of the young or old alike are apt to be inundated with feelings of angst and dread.

Worse, if teenagers are culturally conditioned to believe said feelings and responses are exclusively experienced by weaklings, parasites, and losers then their suffering might fester to the point of emotional paralysis and suicidal inclinations.

What does the capitalist state offer as remedy? Obscenely profitable, corporately manufactured and widely prescribed psychoactive medications. Treatment, which, at best, merely masks symptoms and bestows the illusion of recovery.

As R. D. Laing observed: “What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being.”

In short, it is insanity to be expected to adapt to socially acceptable insanity. Yet we are pressured to adapt to, thus internalise odious, groupthink concepts and tenets. To cite one example, homelessness is natural to the human condition and is a communally acceptable situation.

Closer to fact: The problem of homelessness is the result of a societal-wide perception problem — the phenomenon is the very emblem of the scrambling, twisting, dissociating, and displacing of perception that capitalist propagandists specialize in. Homelessness would be considered a relic of a barbaric past if this very simple principle was applied: Having access to permanent shelter is a human right and not a privilege.

What kind of a vile, vicious people would deny the simple proposition? Those conditioned by a lingering Puritan/Calvinist mindset to believe: Punishment for resisting the usurpation of the fleeting hours of one’s finite life must be severe. If the overclass can no longer get away with, as was once common practice in the Puritan/Calvinist tradition, public floggings to whip the labor force into line, then those who will not or cannot comply will be cast onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of a soulless cityscape.

It comes down to this: societies that are ridden with vast wealth inequity, due to the machinations of a rapacious overclass, create the obscenity known as homelessness. Moreover, the situation is only one of the numerous obscenities inherent to state capitalism. Obscenities that include, events that are dominating the present news cycle; e.g., the predations of a lecherous movie mogul, to the sub-cretinous doings and pronouncements of a Chief of State who is a bloated, bloviating, two legged toxic waste dump.

How is it then, liberals fail to grasp the fact the Trump presidency is not an aberration; rather, his ascension to power should be regarded as being among the high probability variables of late stage capitalism and empire building? The psychopathic, tangerine-tinged clown Trump is the embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a development that is concomitant to over-expanded empires. Thus he will continue to flounce deeper into the quagmire of crash-engendering, economic legerdemain and perpetual war.

Empires are death cults, and death cults, on a subliminal bases, long for their own demise. Paradoxically, the collective mindset of imperium, even as it thrusts across the expanse of the world, renders itself insular, cut off from culturally enhancing novelty, as all the while, the homeland descends into a psychical swamp of churning madness.

A draining of the swamp of the collective mind cannot come to pass, for the swamp and citizenry are one. Withal, the likes of leaders such as Trump rise from and are made manifest by the morass of the culture itself. In a swamp, the gospel of rebirth and redemption is heard in the song of humus. New life rises from its compost.

In the presence of Trump’s debased mind and tumefied carcass, one is privy to arias of rot. While Hillary Clinton’s monotonous tempo was the dirge of a taxidermist — cold, desiccated of heart, and devoid of life’s numinous spark — Trump’s voice carries the depraved cacophony of a Célinean fool’s parade…its trajectory trudging towards the end of empire.

As liberals new BFFL George W. Bush might ask, “Is our liberals learning?”

In a word, no. For example, the collective psyche of US culture as been enflamed by the revelations that actresses were coerced into sexual encounters with a movie mogul whose power in the industry was only matched, even enhanced, by his sadistic nature. The staff of his company assisted, were complicit in, or remained silent about his lechery, as did the whole of the movie industry and the entertainment press. All as NFL athletes are being threatened with expulsion from the League if they kneel during the national anthem.

Yet the great unspoken remains: The enabling of and submission to the degradation, exploitation and tyranny, and the lack of resistance thereof share a common and singular factor: The careerism of all concerned. The cultural milieu concomitant to capitalism is at the rotten root and noxious blossoming of the situation.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967, cinematic barnburner 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her should be required viewing for those unaware or in denial of the acuity of the film’s theme; i.e., becoming enmeshed within the psychical landscape of dominance, degradation, and submission inherent to and inseparable from capitalist/consumer culture will cause one to become party to societal sanctioned prostitution. When life is negotiated within a collective value system that devalues and deadens the individual’s inner life thus warps every human transaction, anomie descends, the worst among a people ascend to positions of power.

Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.

— William S. Burroughs, from Ghost of Chance

When friends visited me in New York, where I lived for decades, I would take them on walking tours through the city. We would cross the Westside Highway and stroll the pedestrian walk along the Hudson River, or cross the East River by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The effect of these excursions on people was often profound…the combined elements of the elemental beauty of the rivers and vastness of the city’s architecture and scope, clamour, and the dense interweaving of traditional ethnic customs and ad hoc social codes of New Yorkers often would heighten the visitors’ senses and open them to larger, more intricate awareness of themselves and extant reality…the freeways of the contemporary mind (conditioned to be constantly engaged in manic motion, with one’s mind either frenzied by an obsession with performing (ultimately futile) manoeuvres directed to saving time — or stalled at a frustration inducing standstill) were replaced by the exigencies of life at street level; i.e., novel situations that had to be apprehended and negotiated.

The possibilities of life seemed greater. The crimped eros of insular suburban thought became loosened before the city’s intricacies and expansiveness. Although: Not all, or even a scant few, New Yorkers can maintain the state of being. Few of us can live by Rilke’s resolve to “make every moment holy.” Life, in the city, becomes grotesquely distorted…High rents, inflicted by hyper-gentrification, in combination with the deification of success and its cult of careerism overwhelm one’s psyche…There is so far to fall.

Angst (the word originally can be traced to the ancient Greek deity Ananke, the immovable by prayer and offering bitch Goddess of Necessity and the root word of anxiety) clamps down one’s sense of awareness. Ananke dominates the lives of the non-privileged citizenry while Narcissus, Trump’s, the Clinton’s et al and their financial and cultural elitists’ patron God rules the day. The pantheon of possibility has been decimated, a cultural cleansing has been perpetrated, by the egoist caprice of the beneficiaries of the late capitalist dictatorship of money.

Hence, we arrive at the primal wisdom tacitly conveyed by anxiety-borne states of fight or flight. Due to the reality that capitalism, on both an individual and collective basis, drives individuals into madness, all as the system destroys forest and field, ocean and sea and the soulscape of all who live under its rapacious dominion, our plight comes down to this: We either struggle and strive, by and any and all means, to end the system — or it will end us.

Love, Western Nihilism and Revolutionary Optimism

How dreadfully depressing life has become in almost all of the Western cities! How awful and sad.

It is not that these cities are not rich; they are. Of course, things are deteriorating there, the infrastructure is crumbling and there are signs of social inequality, even misery, at every corner. But if compared to almost all other parts of the world, the wealth of the Western cities still appears to be shocking, almost grotesque.

The affluence does not guarantee contentment, happiness or optimism. Spend an entire day strolling through London or Paris, and pay close attention to people. You will repeatedly stumble over passive aggressive behavior, over frustration and desperate downcast glances, over omnipresent sadness.

In all those once great [imperialist] cities, what is missing is life. Euphoria, warmth, poetry and yes – love – are all in extremely short supply there.

Wherever you walk, all around, the buildings are monumental, and boutiques are overflowing with elegant merchandize. At night, bright lights shine brilliantly. Yet the faces of people are gray. Even when forming couples, even when in groups, human beings appear to be thoroughly atomized, like the sculptures of Giacometti.

Talk to people, and you’ll most likely encounter confusion, depression, and uncertainty. ‘Refined’ sarcasm, and sometimes a bogus urban politeness are like thin bandages that are trying to conceal the most horrifying anxieties and thoroughly unbearable loneliness of those ‘lost’ human souls.

Purposelessness is intertwined with passivity. In the West, it is increasingly hard to find someone that is truly committed: politically, intellectually or even emotionally. Big feelings are now seen as frightening; both men and women reject them. Grand gestures are increasingly looked down upon, or even ridiculed. Dreams are becoming tiny, shy and always ‘down to earth’, and even those are lately extremely well concealed. Even to daydream is seen as something ‘irrational’ and outdated.

*****

To a stranger who comes from afar, it appears to be a sad, unnatural, brutally restrained and, to a great extent, a pitiful world.

Tens of millions of adult men and women, some well educated, ‘do not know what to do with their lives’. They take courses or go ‘back to school’ in order to fill the void, and to ‘discover what they want to do’ with their lives. It is all self-serving, as there appear to be no greater aspirations. Most of the efforts begin and end with each particular individual.

Nobody sacrifices himself or herself for others, for society, for humanity, for the cause, or even for the ‘other half’, anymore. In fact, even the concept of the ‘other half’ is disappearing. Relationships are increasingly ‘distant’, each person searching for his or her ‘space’, demanding independence even in togetherness. There are no ‘two halves’; instead there are ‘two fully independent individuals’, co-existing in a relative proximity, sometimes physically touching, sometimes not, but mostly on their own.

In the Western capitals, the egocentricity, even total obsession with one’s personal needs, is brought to a surreal extreme.

Psychologically, it can only be described as a twisted and pathological world.

Surrounded by this bizarre pseudo reality, many otherwise healthy individuals eventually feel, or even become, mentally ill. Then, paradoxically, they embark on seeking ‘professional help’, so they can re-join the ranks of the ‘normal’, read ‘thoroughly subdued’ citizens. In most cases, instead of continuously rebelling, instead of waging personal wars against the state of things, the individuals who are still at least to some extent different, get so frightened by being in the minority that they give up, surrender voluntarily, and identify themselves as ‘abnormal’.

Short sparks of freedom experienced by those who are still capable of at least some imagination, of dreaming about a true and natural world, get rapidly extinguished.

Then, in a short instant, everything gets irreversibly lost. It may appear as some horror film, but it is not. It is the true reality of life in the West.

I cannot function in such an environment for more than a few days. If forced, I could last in London or Paris for two weeks at most, but only while operating on some ‘emergency mode’, unable to write, to create and to function ‘normally’. I cannot imagine ‘being in love’ in a place like that. I cannot imagine writing a revolutionary essay there. I cannot imagine laughing, loudly, happily, freely.

While briefly working in London, Paris or New York, the coldness, purposelessness, and chronic lack of passion and of all basic human emotions, is having a tremendously exhausting effect on me, derailing my creativity and drowning me in useless, pathetic existentialist dilemmas.

After one week there, I’m simply beginning to get influenced by that terrible environment: I’m starting to think about myself excessively, ‘listening to my feelings’, instead of considering the feelings of the others. My duties towards humanity get neglected. I put on hold everything that I otherwise consider essential. My revolutionary edge loses its sharpness. My optimism begins to evaporate. My determination to struggle for a better world begins to weaken.

This is when I know: it is time to run, to run away. Fast, very fast! It is time to pull myself from the stale emotional swamp, to slam the door behind the intellectual bordello, and to escape from the terrifying meaninglessness that is dotted with injured, even wasted lives.

I cannot fight for those people from within, only from outside. Our way of thinking and feeling do not match. When they get out and visit ‘my universe’, they bring with them resilient prejudices: they do not register what they see and hear, they stick to what they were indoctrinated with, for years and decades.

For me personally there are not many significant things that I can do in Western cities. Periodically I come to sign one or two book contracts, to open my films, or to speak briefly at some university, but I don’t see any point of doing much more. In the West, it is hard to find any meaningful struggle. Most struggles there are not internationalist; instead they are selfish, West-oriented in nature. Almost no true courage, no ability to love, no passion, and no rebellion remain. On closer examination, there is actually no life there; no life as we human beings used to perceive it, and as we still understand it in many other parts of the world.

*****

Nihilism rules. Was this mental state, this collective illness something that has been inflicted on purpose by the regime? I don’t know. I cannot yet answer this question. But it is essential to ask, and to try to understand.

Whatever it is, it is extremely effective – negatively effective but effective nevertheless.

Carl Gustav Jung, a renowned Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, diagnosed Western culture as ‘pathological’, right after WWII. But instead of trying to comprehend its own abysmal condition, instead of trying to get better, even well, Western culture is actually made to expand, to rapidly spread to many other parts of the world, dangerously contaminating healthy societies and nations.

It has to be stopped. I say it because I do love this life, the life, which still exists outside the Western realm; I’m intoxicated with it, obsessed with it. I live it to the fullest, with great delight, enjoying every moment of it.

I know the world, from the ‘Southern Cone’ of South America, to Oceania, the Middle East, to the most god-forsaken corners of Africa and Asia. It is a truly tremendous world, full of beauty and diversity, and hope.

The more I see and know, the more I realize that I absolutely cannot exist without a struggle, without a good fight, without great passions and love, and without purpose; basically without all that the West is trying to reduce to nothing, to make irrelevant, obsolete and ridiculous.

My entire being is rebelling against the awful nihilism and dark pessimism that is being injected almost everywhere by Western culture. I’m violently allergic to it. I refuse to accept it. I refuse to succumb to it.

I see people, good people, talented people, wonderful people, getting contaminated, having their lives ruined. I see them abandoning great battles, abandoning their great loves. I see them choosing selfishness and their ‘space’ and ‘personal feelings’ over deep affection and inseparability, opting for meaningless careers over great adventures of epic battles for humanity and a better world.

Lives are being ruined one by one, and by millions, every moment and every day. Lives that could have been full of beauty, full of joy, of love, full of adventure, of creativity and uniqueness, of meaning and purpose, but instead are reduced to emptiness, to nothingness, in brief: to thorough meaninglessness. People living such lives are performing tasks and jobs by inertia, respecting without questioning all behavior patterns ordered by the regime, and obeying countless grotesque laws and regulations.

They cannot walk on their own feet anymore. They have been made fully submissive. It is over for them.

That is because the courage of the people in the West has been broken. It is because they have been reduced to a crowd of obedient subjects, submissive to the destructive and morally defunct Empire.

They have lost the ability to think for themselves. They have lost courage to feel.

As a result, because the West has such an enormous influence on the rest of the world, the entire humanity is in grave danger, is suffering, and is losing its natural bearing.

*****

In such a society, a person overflowing with passion, a person fully committed and true to his or her cause can never be taken seriously. It is because in a society like this, only deep nihilism and cynicism are accepted and respected.

In such a society, a revolution or a rebellion could hardly go beyond the pub or a living room couch.

A person, who is still capable of loving in such an emotionally constipating and twisted environment, is usually seen as a buffoon, even as a ‘suspicious and sinister element’. It is common for him or for her to be ridiculed and rejected.

Obedient and cowardly masses hate those who are different. They distrust people who stand tall and who are still capable of fighting, people who know perfectly well what their goals are, people who do and not just talk, and those who find it easy to throw their entire life, without the slightest hesitation, at the feet of a beloved person or an honorable cause.

Such individuals terrify and irritate those suave, submissive and shallow crowds in Western capitals. As a punishment, they get deserted and divorced, ostracized, socially exiled and demonized. Some end up getting attacked, even thoroughly destroyed.

The result is: there is no culture, anywhere on Earth, so banal and so obedient as that which is now regulating the West. Lately, nothing of revolutionary intellectual significance is flowing from Europe and North America, as there are hardly any detectable unorthodox ways of thinking or perceptions of the world there.

The dialogues and debates are flowing only through fully anticipated and well-regulated channels, and needless to say they fluctuate only marginally and through the fully ‘pre-approved’ frequencies.

*****

What is on the other side of the barricade?

I don’t want to glorify our revolutionary countries and movements.

I don’t even want to write that we are the “exact opposite” of that entire nightmare that has been created by the West. We are not. And we are far from being perfect.

But we are alive if not always well. We are standing, trying to advance this wonderful ‘project’ called humanity, attempting to save our planet from Western imperialism, its nihilist gloom, as well as absolute environmental disaster.

We are considering many different ways forward. We have never rejected socialism and Communism, and we are studying various moderate and controlled forms of capitalism. The advantages and disadvantages of the so-called ‘mixed economy’ are being discussed and evaluated.

We fight, but because we are much less brutal, orthodox and dogmatic than the West, we often lose, as we recently (and hopefully only temporarily) lost in Brazil and Argentina. We also win, again and again. As this essay goes to print, we are celebrating in Ecuador and El Salvador.

Unlike in the West, in such places like China, Russia and Latin America, our debates about the political and economic future are vibrant, even stormy. Our art is engaged, helping to search for the best humanist concepts. Our thinkers are alert, compassionate and innovative, and our songs and poems are great, full of passion and fire, overflowing with love and longing.

Our countries do not steal from anyone; they don’t overthrow governments in the opposite parts of the world, they do not undertake massive military invasions. What we have is ours; it is what we have created, produced and sown with our own hands. It is not always much, but we are proud of it, because no one had to die for it, and no one had to be enslaved.

Our hearts are purer. They are not always absolutely pure, but purer than those in the West are. We do not abandon those whom we love, even if they fall, get injured, or cannot walk any longer. Our women do not abandon their men, especially those who are in the middle of fighting for a better world. Our men do not abandon their women, even when they are in deep pain or despair. We know whom and what we love, and we know whom and what we hate: in this we rarely get ‘confused’.

We are much simpler than those living in the West. In many ways, we are also much deeper.

We respect hard work, especially work that helps to improve the lives of millions, not just our own lives, or the lives of our families.

We try to keep our promises. We don’t always succeed in keeping them, as we are only humans, but we are trying, and most of the times we are managing to.

Things are not always exactly like this, but often they are. And when “things are like this”, it means that there is at least some hope and optimism and often even great joy.

Optimism is essential for any progress. No revolution could succeed without tremendous enthusiasm, as no love could. No revolution and no love could be built on depression and defeatism.

Even in the middle of the ashes to which imperialism has reduced our world, a true revolutionary and a true poet can always at least find some hope. It will not be easy, not easy at all, but definitely not impossible. Nothing is ever lost in this life for as long as our hearts are beating.

*****

The state in which our world is right now is dreadful. It often feels that one more step in a wrong direction, another false turn, and everything will finally collapse, irreversibly. It is easy, extremely easy, to give up, to throw everything up into the air, and to land on a couch with a six-pack of beer, or to simply declare “there is nothing that can be done”, and then resume one’s meaningless life routine.

Western nihilism has already done its devastating work: it has landed tens of millions of thinking beings on their proverbial couches of defeatism. It has spread pessimism and gloom, and a general belief that things can never improve anymore. It has maneuvered people into refusing to ‘accept labels’, into rejecting progressive ideologies, and into a pathological distrust of any power. The “all politicians are the same” slogan could be translated clearly into: “We all know that our Western rulers are gangsters, but do not expect anything else from those in other parts of the world.” “All people are the same” reads: “The West has been plundering and murdering hundreds of millions, but don’t expect anything better from Asians, Latin Americans or Africans”.

This irrational, cynical negativism already domesticated in virtually all countries of the West, has successfully been exported to many colonies, even to such places as Afghanistan, where people have been suffering incessantly from crimes committed by the West.

Its goal is evident: to prevent people from taking action and to convince them that any rebellion is futile. Such attitudes are brutally choking all hopes.

In the meantime, collateral damage is mounting. Metastases of the passivity and nihilistic cancers which are being spread by the Western regime are already attacking even that very human ability to love, to commit to a person or to a cause, and to stand by one’s pledges and obligations.

In the West and in its colonies, courage has lost its entire luster. The Empire has managed to reverse the whole scale of human values, which was firmly and naturally in place on all the continents and in all cultures, for centuries and millennia. All of a sudden, submission and obedience have come to vogue.

It often feels that if the trend is not reversed soon, people will increasingly start to live like mice: constantly scared, neurotic, unreliable, depressed, passive, unable to identify true greatness, and unwilling to join those who are still pulling our world and humanity forward.

Billions of lives will get wasted. Billions of lives are already being wasted.

Some of us write about invasions, coups and dictatorships imposed by the Empire. However, almost nothing is being written about this tremendous and silent genocide that is breaking the human spirit and optimism, throwing entire nations into a dark depression and gloom. But it is taking place, even as these lines are being penned. It is happening everywhere, even in such places as London, Paris and New York, or more precisely, especially there.

In those unfortunate places, fear of great emotions has already been deeply rooted. Originality, courage and determination are now evoking fear. Great love, great gestures and unorthodox dreams are all observed with panic and mistrust.

But no progress, no evolution is possible without entirely unconventional ways of thinking, without the revolutionary spirit, without great sacrifices and discipline, without commitment, and without that most powerful and most daring set of emotions, which is called love.

The demagogues and propagandists of the Empire want us to believe that ‘something ended’; they want us to accept defeat.

Why should we? There is no defeat anywhere on the horizon.

There are only two separate realities, two universes, into which our world had been shattered into: one of Western nihilism, another of revolutionary optimism.

I have already described the nihilism, but what do I imagine when I dream about that better, different world?

Do I envision red flags and people forming closed ranks, charging against some lavish palaces and stock exchanges? Do I hear loud revolutionary songs blasted from loudspeakers?

I actually do not. What comes to my mind is essentially very quiet and natural, human and warm.

There is a park near the old train station in the city of Granada, Nicaragua. I visited it some time ago. There, several old trees are throwing fantastic shadows on the ground, providing a desirable shade. Into a few big metal columns are engraved the most beautiful poems ever written in this country, while in between those columns stand simple but solid park benches. I sat on one of them. Not far from me, a couple of ageing lovers was holding hands, reading cheek to cheek from an open book. They were so close that they appeared to be forming a simple and totally self-sufficient universe. Above them were the shining verses written by Ernesto Cardenal, one of my favorite Latin American poets.

I also recall two Cuban doctors, sitting on a very different bench, thousands of miles away, chatting and laughing next to two goodhearted and corpulent nurses, after performing a complex surgery in Kiribati, an island nation ‘lost’ in the middle of South Pacific.

I remember many things, but they are never monumental, only human. Because that is what revolution really is, I think: a couple of ageing peasants in a beautiful public park, both of them in love, holding hands, reading poetry to each other. Or two doctors travelling to the end of the world, just in order to save lives, far from the spotlight and fame.

And I always remember my dear friend, Eduardo Galeano, one of the greatest revolutionary writers of Latin America, telling me in Montevideo, about his eternal love for his wonderful lady called “Reality”.

Then I think: no, we cannot lose. We are not going to lose. The enemy is mighty and many people are weak and scared, but we will not allow the world to be converted into a mental asylum. We’ll fight for each and every person who has been affected, and drowned in gloom.

We’ll expose the abnormality and perversity of Western nihilism. We’ll fight it with our revolutionary enthusiasm and optimism, and we will use the greatest weapons, such as poetry and love.

Trump, the Enigma

Oddly, with Trump having come out against non-Anglo Saxons, Muslims, immigrants, people on welfare, foreign aid, government support of the Arts, environmentalists, ACA, media, civil rights groups, anti-nuke protesters, Meryl Streep, the progressive income tax, and Thomas Friedman, the neoliberals’ performing flea, he hasn’t attacked one of the Republicans’ favorite and time-worn whipping boys:  organized labor.

Unless I missed it (while campaigning for Jill Stein), other than a couple of backhanded swipes at the AFL-CIO, an almost pitifully inviting punching bag, Trump has refrained from showering his crude invectives on America’s unions. And given Trump’s proclivity for indulging in the “blame game,” that’s surprising, as organized labor has always made such an easy target.

Of course, one could argue that there’s no need for an all-out assault.  There’s no need to attack the so-called “labor movement” because it’s already lying dead in the weeds, awaiting something resembling a prehistoric bird to come swooping down and remove its carcass.

In short, why waste your energy attacking something that no longer represents a genuine threat?  It would be analogous to closing ranks and marshaling all of one’s resources in order to take on the grassroots drive to have the U.S. adopt the metric system.  A laughable waste of time.

On the other hand, Trump’s early history is tantalizingly ambiguous. First of all, he’s from New York, the state with the highest union density in the country.  No state has a greater percentage of union workers than New York.  The top five:  New York, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California. [Fun fact: South Carolina has the lowest percentage.]

This high density means that, at the very least, labor unions aren’t alien to him.  Young Donald (whom “Spy” magazine was to later christen “a short-fingered vulgarian”) grew up in a union environment, surrounded by union members of every stripe.  Cops, firemen, transit workers, trash collectors, builders, civil servants.  While this in no way makes him “pro-union,” it does make him “union fluent.”

Second, according to people who knew Donald Trump back when he was an aggressive, duplicitous and wildly insecure real estate mogul, he “admired” the swagger, dictatorial panache, and tough guy image of New York’s most (dare we say?) “corrupt” unions.

Without painting everyone with the same brush, we’re referring to those union locals affiliated mainly with construction trades and waste management.  If these locals have subsequently cleaned up their act—if they have shed their Mob ties and embraced democratic leadership—we sincerely apologize.

Question:  So why did the privileged and high-born Donald harbor a deep-seated respect and admiration for these tough-guy union bosses who ran roughshod over their little fiefdoms?  Answer:  Because he’s always seen himself as a tough guy.  Not as an intellectual, not as a conciliator, not as a numbers-cruncher, not as a smooth Ivy Leaguer—but as a tough, shrewd guy with balls and ambition, whose first impulse is to come in hard and intimidate people.

Of course, it goes without saying that this “affection” for labor is extremely fragile.  Indeed, if Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO (or the mealy-mouthed, uber-political Doug McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters), were to suddenly begin hurling public insults at the White House, organized labor would instantly find itself in the president’s crosshairs.

Trump would scurry to his Twitter account and begin transmitting semi-coherent Tweets referring to the AFL-CIO as an “overrated” labor federation, and its record as “sad.”  Par for the course.  On the bright side, none of these invectives will be capable of hurting organized labor. That’s because it has already been laid low.  Arguably, it can’t sink any further.