Thursday, November 30, 2017

GOP Saves the NEH -- to Attack America

Today's Washington Times ran an op-ed by Professor Allen C. Guelzo  urging the GOP to save the National Endowment for the Humanities, despite the agency's proven track record of enabling anti-American "scholarship" over the years. I was so outraged that I commented on their website:

Absurd self-serving piffle from a self-interested beneficiary of a corrupt system. Thanks to the work of NEH councils ("Soviet" is the Russian word for council, Professor) people in the USA respect our history so much they are now tearing down historical monuments, banning the Confederate battle flag, removing George Washington's plaque from his church, and kneeling for the Star Spangled Banner. "Heck of a job, Guelzo," as Pres. George W. Bush might have said. Somehow before the crypto-Communists and fellow travelers of the NEH took over, Americans respected our history, honored our flag, and learned patriotism instead of anti-Americanism in schools. I think the Princeton History Department worked pretty well teaching history prior to 1965, something Professor Guelzo apparently doesn't know--another indictment of the baneful influence of this corrupt and corrupting Great Society program.

This is the second pro-Endowment lobbying item I've seen the supposedly Conservative/Republican Washington Times, the first being a pro-National Endowment for the Arts oped by Governor Mike Huckabee, father of President Trump's spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders!

With GOP outlets running commentary like this, one wonders how President Trump will be able to make any serious changes in Washington. Eliminating the NEA and NEH are not only no-brainers--they would deprive the left of cash used to pay anti-GOP--and anti-American--operatives.

Hello, Republicans! How about taking your assailants off your payroll, for starters?

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Filmstruck Now Streaming "Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?"

Glad to see that Filmstruck is now streaming my 1981 documentary, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? with a nice introduction by Columbia University Professor Annette here to watch:

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Pamela Geller's new documentary, CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT THIS? THE ISLAMIC JIHAD AGAINST FREE SPEECH couldn't come at a more appropriate moment, as Americans are experiencing the silencing not only of dissent on college campuses, but also the decline of the "public's right to know"as evidenced by the scarcity of public information about the recent massacre in Las Vegas. 

Instead of talking about the attack, its targets, the possible motivations of the gunman, or the glee with which ISIS and leftists have greeted the bloody deed, the media and political leadership have focused laser-like on the issue of gun-control...which, if this were a terrorist attack, would be supremely irrelevant as terrorists have used every weapon imaginable: guns, bombs, cars, trucks, knives, acid, and sabotage. And they have used these weapons to terrorize Western societies precisely in order to prevent discussion of...Islamic terror!

Geller's superb documentary shows how the inability to talk about Islamic terror since 9/11 has guaranteed defeat in the "war of ideas" currently taking place between the West and the Islamic world. For while Islamic terrorists spread their ideas with "propaganda of the deed," the West doesn't talk about its own ideas in response. It is a form of unilateral intellectual disarmament in a global ideological struggle...

In fact, as the film shows, Western authorities attempt to suppress Western ideas in the face of a Leftist-Islamic alliance against them, attacking critics of Islamic terror like Geller and her all-star cast of witnesses: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders, Mark Steyn, Douglas Murray, Ezra Levant, Lars Vilks, Robert Spencer, Garland Muhammad cartoon contest winner Bosch Fawstin, and Geller herself.

This is reminiscent of nothing so much as the Establishment's response to Communism following the Kennedy assassination. Until JFK's murder in Dallas by Communist assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, American media, colleges, schools, and publications were free to discuss Communist aggression against the West. Afterwards, supposedly Cold-War liberals changed sides, and mention of Communism became taboo in respectable society. Those who worried about the "Red Menace" were mocked, ostracized, and shunned...portrayed as crazy, paranoid, delusional believers in "Reds under the bed" or advocates of "McCarthyism."

Until Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States and defeated the Soviet Union, the collapse of which opened Russian archives that revealed the Comintern had indeed been active to promote worldwide Revolution, the Rosenbergs had been spies, Alger Hiss had been a Russian Agent, and that the USSR had been active in Vietnam and Central America...just as the "crazy" anti-Communists had charged. 

Reagan had succeeded because he refused to adopt the Establishment consensus and avoid the issue of Communism. Rather he called the USSR an "Evil Empire" and confronted it head-on.

Yet, after the fall of Communism, a messianic age of peace and love and understanding did not arrive, despite Clinton administration promotion promotion of Francis Fukuyama's fatuous "The End of History." Rather, what took place was what Fukuyama's teacher, Samuel Huntington, described in his own book, "The Clash of Civilizations." Instead of a "unipolar world," ancient tensions that had been subsumed under the East-West conflict once again bubbled to the surface--a "return of the repressed."

Chief among these was the rise of Islam as a competitive and adversarial ideology opposed to bourgeoise Western democracy, most dramatically in the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th, 2001. As damaging as the Kennedy assassination had been to the US, apparently nothing had been learned. Once again, ideological underpinnings were willfully ignored. Just as it had become a career-ender to call someone a Communist in the latter half of the 20th Century, it became a career-ender to call someone an Islamist in the first half of the 21st.

And just as in the Post-Vietnam era, the West began to lose its mojo. Afghanistan and Iraq became costly, futile quagmires instead of quick, decisive victories. Americans saw the social fabric fray under domestic attacks reminiscent of the 1960s.

All this is either discussed or implied in Geller's brilliant film. The West defeated Communism only when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan allied to directly confront it ideologically as well as military and economically.

The takeaway from CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT THIS? is perfectly clear: Until Americans are free to confront Islamic terror directly, it cannot be defeated. To silence criticism of Islam is to surrender to the enemies of America and Western Civilization.

The next step to Making America Great Again is to talk openly about Islam. And the best way to do that, in my opinion, would be for President Trump to broadcast CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT THIS? on Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America, and PBS--just as President Reagan sponsored the broadcast of LET POLAND BE POLAND, a film that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Evil Empire.

Broadcasting Pamela Geller's film on US-Government sponsored channels as soon as possible would be a signal to the world that the Islamic fundamentalists and their supporters no longer had America running scared.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Milo Announces Berkeley Free Speech Week Speakers

Sept. 24: “Feminism Awareness Day”
  • Miss Elaine
  • Lucian Wintrich
  • Lisa DePasquale
  • Chadwick Moore
  • Milo Yiannopoulos
Sept. 25: “Zuck 2020”
  • Heather Mac Donald
  • Monica Crowley
  • SABO
  • Professor Jordan Peterson
  • James Damore
Sept. 26: “Islamic Peace and Tolerance Day”
  • Michael Malice
  • Raheem Kassam
  • Katie Hopkins
  • Erik Prince
  • Pamela Geller
  • David Horowitz
  • Milo Yiannopoulos
Sept. 27: “Mario Savio is Dead”
  • Mike Cernovich
  • Charles Murray
  • Ariana Rowlands
  • Stelion Onufrei
  • Alex Marlow
  • Milo Yiannopoulos
  • Steve Bannon
  • Ann Coulter

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Political Limitations of the Private Sector

 Kenneth Frazier, CEO, Merck; Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel; Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour
resigned from Pres. Trump's Manufacturing Council in protest.

Recent news reports about Silicon Valley mega-corporations such as Pay Pal, Google, Facebook and Twitter banning conservatives from their services should give pause to GOP "thought leaders" who have argued that privatization is a panacea.

In fact, in the Trump Era, the time has come for a change of course by those fighting Political Correctness, to recognize that "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people" cannot be permitted to fall under the control of one political party indefinitely--and that GOP policies which enabled Democratic hegemony over the "permanent government" may have contributed to the current crisis of legitimacy.

If 50% of the population is not represented in the government workforce, then it cannot be said to be a representative government. Indeed, it is by definition unrepresentative--no matter that the elected officials sitting on top of the pyramid may differ. When Democratic Party civil servants openly announce their intention to "resist," then a constitutional crisis is inevitable.

Quite simply, no country can afford to have a political party which has been defeated at the ballot box in a position to determine the allocation of government goods and services to its opponents. It is not only undemocratic, it is a recipe for political corruption, chaos and abuses of the highest order.

However, in order to effectively combat this dangerous situation, the GOP must abandon its fetishistic commitment to "privatization" as the sole tool in their toolkit to deal with government issues.

It is quite clear that the Democratic party has corrupted a willing private sector to the point where American businesses now are more than happy to sacrifice markets, customers, and profits for Political Correctness--whether Merck, Intel, UnderArmour, Target, Apple, Google, Facebook, or Camping World, or dozens of others. 

This represents a fundamental and problematic change in prior business norms.

In the recent past--I taught in a business school for some 15 years--it was axiomatic that businesses should steer clear of politics to the maximum extent possible.

While individual business people were free to be political in their private lives, companies should try avoid political controversy--on the understanding that large numbers of customers disagreed about politics, so why risk losing sales?

However, this prior consensus obviously no longer applies.

Today, companies seemingly go out of their way to adopt controversial positions which alienate and even insult considerable segments of their customer base, with ostentatious "grandstanding" such as Merck's resignation from the President's Manufacturing Council, or Apple's $1 million donation to the SPLC. 

One should note that Steve Jobs did not believe in making any charitable donations, so Tim Cook's action is in direct contradiction to the business legacy of the company's founder, which I discussed in Corporate Social Responsibility and Its Discontents: Contradictions in ISO 26000: 2010 (August 15, 2014).

 1.   Steve Jobs & Apple—an anti-­‐CSR CEO of an anti-­‐CSR company. 

Walter Isaacson’s magisterial biography of Steve Jobs (2011) does not contain a single entry in the index under “Charity,” “CSR,” “Corporate Social Responsibility,” “Social,” or “Responsibility.” This is not surprising. Jobs did not believe in spending company money on charity. He was so Scrooge-­like that he did not pay dividends to stockholders. Job’s control-­freak style of management at Apple, and what Isaacson characterizes as his “nasty” and “mean” personality, enabled him take the company from one-­twentieth the value of Microsoft in 2000, to parity in 2010, to being worth 70% more than Microsoft in 2011—a year in which Mac’s market share grew by 28% as Microsoft’s shrank 1%. Yet no one can deny that Apple products have in fact added value to society.

Their user-­friendly, easy-­to-­use, and simple design made computing accessible to a wide range of people alienated by Microsoft’s difficult interface…and helped move computing from the corporate office to the individual home and pocket. This, in turn revived an endangered American electronics industry through the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and MacBook computers. Indeed, Isaacson called Jobs “the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now." 

One reason for Jobs’ success at Apple, is that rather than diverting attention and resources to CSR initiatives, Apple remained focused on its core business, and in Jobs’ own words, put “humanity into innovation.” Isaacson concluded Jobs’ focus was “to a create a company to last, not just to make money.” 

In putting his company first—above employees, customers, or society—Jobs exemplified [Milton] Friedman’s theory of the responsibility of the business executive. Did it lead to a successful business? Yes.

In other words, as Steve Jobs knew but Tim Cook does not, the proper business of business.

That said, it would be remarkable if one could rely upon business to counter a determined political movement, especially as many of America's CEOs currently seem to follow the Chinese model, with the Democratic Party as the Communist Party, as explained in Bruce Dickson's Wealth into Power: The Communist Party's Embrace of China's Private Sector.

This would indicate that the traditional model that the GOP represents the private sector while the Democratic Party the public sector is in need of revision.

Indeed, with the government sector (federal, state & local) accounting for more than half of all jobs in the USA--more if one includes contracts and grants--the time has come for the Trump Administration to force pushback in the public sector.

Quite simply, the principle of representation and diversity must be expanded to promote inclusion of Republicans and Independents on the public payroll in proportion to the American population. What would that mean?

It would mean that the government workforce profile should be adjusted through goals, timetables and affirmative action programs to match Gallup survey results on political affiliation of the American public, the latest presented below:

In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?

2017 Aug 2-6284128

Some things to note: (1) survey results do not match Congressional or Senate ratios, due to the systematic exclusion of independents from the political process; (2) Independents are the largest political group in the United States; (3) Pres. Trump owes his victory to Independents, many of them former Democrats; (4) the GOP does not have sufficient public support to govern without Independents--however, for the past 16 years they have been in a coalition with the Democrats instead, marginalizing the largest voting block in the country.

The explanation for this is probably simple greed. Making deals with Democrats--political opposites--allows for a roughly 50-50 split of the spoils, and permits a "coalition of the extremes against the middle" with a maximum return of investment. Were the GOP to ally with the middle-class ordinary American Independents, they would be a minority partner in the business.

This dynamic may explain establishment GOP politicians like Cong. Ryan's and Sen. McConnell's strange support for Antifa and other Democratic interests. One can assume that Pres. Trump is aware of his middle-class backing, but to share the wealth with Trump supporters, the GOP would have to become a junior partner to the more numerous Americans who support the President.

In other words, two minority parties--Democrats and the GOP--can rule over a larger population of Independents simply by horse-trading with one another and ignoring the excluded middle-class.

This could be countered by President Trump, if he manages to reduce popular support for both the establishment GOP and Democrats by 5% each in the next few years.

Such a strategy could call for running a large number of 3rd-party candidates in selected liberal districts, as well as primarying "Never Trumpers" in GOP strongholds. The goal would be to either bring the Independents into the GOP as "Trump Republicans" (like "Reagan Democrats"), making the party more representative, or laying the groundwork for a Third Party such as the one which replaced the Whigs, or Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party.

At a minimum, this means that the current GOP marriage to the private sector--especially now openly hostile corporate CEOs--must be dissolved and replaced with a marriage with the broad majority of American people, a marriage which would include government jobs as part of the pre-nup...something Pres. Trump could probably negotiate.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Two, Three, Many Galileos...

Aug. 10, 2017 UPDATE: James Damore was indeed fired by the Google Inquisition, subsequent to publication of this post on August 7th:

  I could recount what I have seen and heard in other Countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannizes; when I have sat among their lernedmen, for that honor I had, and bin counted happy to be born in such a place of Philosophic freedom, as they suppos'd England was, while themselvs did nothing but bemoan the servil condition into which lerning amongst them was brought; that this was it which had dampt the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had bin there writt'n now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo grown old, a prisnerto the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise then the Franciscan and Dominican licencers thought. And though I knew that England then was groaning loudest under the Prelaticall yoakneverthelesse I took it as a pledge of future happines, that other Nations were so perswaded of her liberty. 
                                                            --Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
Recently, I saw a production of James Reston, Jr.'s play Galileo's Torch at late Maestro Lorin Maazel's Castleton Theatre, directed by Maazel's widow, Dietelinde. 

In writing his earlier biography of the Italian astronomer and physicist persecuted by the Inquisition, Reston had discovered actual Vatican Library transcripts of Galileo's interrogation by the Grand Inquisitor. These documents were so powerful that the playwright, son of the namesake New York Times columnist and Washington Bureau Chief, felt compelled to dramatize the confrontation between reason and faith on stage.  

Reston's play has been performed sporadically since its premiere in 2014, and although not quite Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo, it offers much food for thought today, as Political Correctness has come to dominate so much of contemporary institutional discourse in the arts, humanities, and sciences.  A new Inquisition can be found among diversity and compliance officers ready to sanction the slightest offense against the Catechism of Diversity, which has come to dominate, destroy, and suppress free inquiry much as the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which also was central to Brecht's 1943 play.  

This is the dilemma at the heart of both dramas: What happens when a person makes a discovery that undermines the established order? 

Does he persist, confront authority, and possibly perish...or does he recant, apologize, and survive?  

Reston's play brought to mind some contemporary high-profile heresy cases, where to be fair the issue was losing a job rather than losing a life, but still shocking--such as the firing of Lawrence Summers from his post as Harvard University President, for saying that women have lower math scores than men; the ousting of Nobel-prize winning scientist Tim Hunt, for making a joke about women in the lab (he had married one); the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, after he was outed for opposition to same-sex marriage, among others. Not to mention violent riots on American campuses when outspoken outsiders like Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, or Milo Yiannopolous attempt to speak.

Reston's play seemed old-fashioned in its commitment to the rights of the truth-teller, rather than the duties of the Inquisitor.

Life imitating art came the case of James Damore, a Google employee who sent out an anonymous memo--headlined "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" and known as #GoogleManifesto among opponents, or #googlememo among defenders--questioning the rationale for diversity hires in the high-tech company, arguing that group sex differences in engineering aptitude were primarily due to biology and so impervious to social remediation. The resulting firestorm was immediate.

Damore was denounced by the company's Diversity and Compliance officer, he was outed although he wished to remain anonymous (itself damning evidence of a climate of fear within the company), and online commenters inside and outside the company not only called for firing, but also for physical violence to be perpetrated against him.

It turned out that the author of the Google Memo is a scientist who knows a great deal about biology, because studied for a Ph.D. at Harvard University and has published scientific research papers in his field. By any normal standard, that alone would entitle his stated position to respectful consideration and discussion--especially in a company of scientists and engineers, dedicated to "Search," where the company motto still is "Don't Be Evil."

Instead, the response has been positively medieval. Google VP Danielle Brown officially condemned Damore's expression of his views, in a memo quoting another Google VP, Ari Balogh. The statement essentially declares company policy to be Holy Writ not subject to doubt or refutation (by definition an unscientific position under Karl Popper's "falsifiability" hypothesis, as stated in Science and Falsification): 

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.”

Thus, an official statement of Google puts the issue of Diversity beyond the scope of scientific inquiry--which makes it into religious dogma, in a philosophical sense. So has a company founded by skeptical scientists and engineers, heirs to Galileo, been converted into a Church of Political Correctness by a corporate commitment to unscientific concepts such as "Diversity and inclusion."

Whether James Damore will eventually lose his job and fall victim to Danielle Brown's Google Inquisition has yet to be determined. But it is obvious from the Google Memo affair that today's corporate management is no less evil than the Grand Inquisitor was in the time of Galileo, suppressing scientific truth to preserve religious dogma...for, as Brecht and Reston show, the Catholic Church, like Google management, also thought God was on their side.

Friday, July 28, 2017


Just had to share this review with my readers...

MARK TAPSON,, July 28, 2017

Six months into the Trump presidency, it seems safe to say that America has never had a political experience like the one he has brought to the White House. He has sparked a stark raving mad #resistance from the left that makes Bush Derangement Syndrome look fair and balanced. The news media hang on his every tweet. Hollywood is practically self-combusting in panic and disbelief. Climate change Cassandras are melting down. Illegal aliens are feeling the heat as well. He has even thrown his own party into turmoil. All of this hysterical disarray has resulted from the impact not of a movement or a Party, but of one man, Donald Trump.
Now a new documentary offers some thoughtful commentary on President Trump’s agitating arrival on the political scene. Produced, directed and edited by Agustin Blazquez, The Trump Effect: Deprogramming the American Mind features author and filmmaker Laurence Jarvik musing upon the rise of Trump and how this iconoclastic President is changing the way Americans think about ourselves and the world. Over the course of an hour of discussion, Jarvik’s primary thesis is that Trump is dismantling the politically correct ideology that has dominated American political discourse since 9/11, which will lead the way to a newfound freedom and unification of a country on its way to becoming great again....

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I'm interviewed in Agustin Blazquez's new unauthorized feature documentary about President Donald J. Trump...

Watch THE TRUMP EFFECT: Deprogramming the American Mind, A Film by Agustin Blazquez on YouTube. Click here for full movie:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Today's "Piss Christ" is the Assassination of Donald Trump in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"

UPDATE: July 24, 2017--I forgot that I published this article about PBS attacking Steve Bannon earlier, shameful of GOP to reward PBS for doing it, imho:

UPDATE: July 21, 2017--Incredibly, House & Senate Republicans apparently are not significantly cutting NEA  appropriations after NEA-funded venues agitated for assassination of President Trump, among other things, according to today's press reports. Makes no sense as prior Congresses passed big cuts and felt no penalty at the ballot box. In addition, in my opinion every penny given to NEA, NEH, PBS, NPR & Pacifica is used to oppose, defeat, undermine, and discredit the GOP. Why would a political party in its right mind fund its own opposition? Have Republican Senators & Congressmen never heard the saying: "The Pen is Mightier than the Sword?" Finally, it depresses support from those who see politicians breaking an easy to fulfill, no-brainer, low-cost campaign promise--VERY BAD LEGISLATION!

"Yes, I was a card-carrying Communist. I was a member of the party until Peggy and I got married, and she convinced me that it was stupid to belong any longer."
"...and in 1958 he was hauled before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, where he denied being a Communist after 1955. (He refused to discuss his activities before that time.)"

It cannot come as a surprise that the latest controversy over artistic politics has taken place at New York's Delacorte Theater, where a Shakespeare in the Park production recently featured a Donald Trump look-alike being graphically stabbed to death.  For Shakespeare in the Park is produced by New York's Public Theater, which was founded by Joseph Papp,  who never abandoned his political commitment to Leftist politics, a theatrical tradition continued by current artistic director Oskar Eustis.

Thus, a published statement about the controversy rings as hollow as a speech by Polonius, especially since the company had audience member Laura Loomer arrested for expressing her dissent in truly Shakespearean fashion, by heckling a performance, long a tradition in theatre, as The Guardian has noted:
Prior to the 19th century, though, heckling was as much part of the theatregoing experience as it is in standup comedy today. Audiences in Shakespeare's day would have been vocal in their pleasure (and displeasure), while Drury Lane audiences in the 18th century were perfectly capable of hissing actors they didn't like off the stage. Despite the regular complaints of disruptive mobile phones and audiences who text or talk their through shows, no 21st-century British theatre audience would boo for 10 minutes, as people did after the premiere of Noël Coward's Sirocco in 1927.

And heckling was a normal part of theater-going in Elizabethan London, according to experts:
Shakespeare's audience was far more boisterous than are patrons of the theatre today. They were loud and hot-tempered and as interested in the happenings off stage as on. One of Shakespeare's contemporaries noted that "you will see such heaving and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by the women, such care for their garments that they be not trod on . . . such toying, such smiling, such winking, such manning them home ... that it is a right comedy to mark their behaviour" (Stephen Gosson, The School of Abuse, 1579). The nasty hecklers and gangs of riffraff would come from seedy parts in and around London like Tower-hill and Limehouse and Shakespeare made sure to point them out:
These are the youths that thunder at a playhouse,
and fight for bitten apples; that no audience, but
the Tribulation of Tower-hill, or the Limbs of
Limehouse, their dear brothers, are able to endure.
(Henry VIII, 5.4) 
However, instead of incorporating Loomer's heckling into the performance and making it part of the discourse, perhaps responding with theatrical ad-libs, Eustis brought the "discussion" to an end in a decidedly Stalinist manner, by having Loomer arrested and taken to the Central Park Jail.

Somehow, that doesn't seem in keeping with Hamlet's own instructions to his players:
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing...
(Hamlet, 3.2) 
Yet, like Stalin himself assuring Westerners that all was well in the former Soviet Union, Eustis claimed to welcome discussion rhetorically, while simultaneously suppressing it by his actions:
Our production of JULIUS CAESAR in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare's play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.  
The Public Theater stands completely behind our production of JULIUS CAESAR.  We understand and respect the right of our sponsors and supporters to allocate their funding in line with their own values.  We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. 
Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy. 
His transparently agitprop production exposed for the incitment it was, director Oskar Eustis brazenly quoted Hamlet about "holding a mirror up to nature" (while signaling his Leftist politics by apologizing for "use of the male pronoun") in a YouTube video also on the website: 

Just as one doesn't need to be a Weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, one doesn't need to be a theatre critic in order to recognize a Politically Correct production, especially since director Eustis also produced Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton at the Public Theater, comparing him to Shakespeare: 

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton cast heckled the audience, when they hectored and bullied Vice President Mike Pence from the stage when he was sitting quietly in his seat, with an actor delivering a Soviet-style denunciation of a Politically Incorrect member of the public who dared to attend the show: 

Like Eustis said, "those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save." In time, perhaps Eustis may come to regret his bloody dispatch of the theatrical Trump in his Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar. As the Bard prophesied:
Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end. (Richard III, 4.4)
Shakespearean struggles have taken a toll on cultural institutions before, in New York City, in Manhattan, on Astor Place, once upon a time site of the fabled Astor Place Opera House--now gone forever as a result of the Astor Place Riot of May 10, 1849.

That conflict over the politics of Shakespeare left some 25 dead and over 100 wounded, and led to the closing of what became known the "Massacre Opera House" on "DisAstor Place"--the street Oskar Eustis's Public Theater now calls home.

In conclusion, Eustis might note that The Corcoran Gallery of Art is no more, perhaps because of the undemocratic way it handled the1990s controversy over Robert Mapplethorpe's photos and Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." The Corcoran was dissolved in 2014, although its building was worth some $200 million and its art collection valued at $2 billion.  If Eustis, Shakespeare in the Park, and the cast of Hamilton continue their efforts to undo the election results of 2016, New York's Public Theater might share the same fate as The Corcoran. For, as Shakespeare pointed out,:
What's past is prologue(The Tempest, 2.1)


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

David Garrow's RISING STAR: The Making of Barack Obama is a Great Political Biography

David J. Garrow's Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (William Morrow, 2017) is a fascinating book. Although exceedingly long, over 1000 pages of text plus hundreds of pages of footnotes, filled with numerous details of names, places and events, I never felt that the author had provided TMI (Too Much Information). After reading Rising Star, for the first time, I felt that I finally understood how and why Barack Obama became President of the United States, who he was, and why things subsequently turned out the way that they did.

Although in some respects the biography reads like a phone book, it is a fascinating phone book--full of the kind of details that had been pretty much denied to all but the closest insiders in the Obama Administration.

It seemed strange, living in Washington, that one read so little about President Obama's inner circle, while he was in power. Garrow makes clear that this was by design, that the construction and preservation of "The Narrative" by Obama and his team was of the utmost importance. The messy details of Obama's life would not help in his quest to become the first African-American President of the United States of America, and so would be replaced by a Parson Weems-like story that seemed too good to be true--because it was. This was the "fairy-tale" to which President William Jefferson Clinton referred in 2008...a dream which came true because Americans wanted to believe in the angels of  our better nature.

In the end, Rising Star is a deeply reassuring book. Running as an outsider, indeed striking many of the same themes Trump used in 2016, Barack Obama claimed to want to bring American's together, to heal divisions, to oppose tribalism and racial strife, thereby to patriotically lead the country to "a more perfect Union" because there were no "red states, or blue states" just the United States of America. He claimed to want to bring back jobs, to have been against the war in Iraq, to disarm Iran, even to support a united Jerusalem under Israeli control.

If these seem to be the road not taken in the end, other concerns dating from his first run for Illinois State Senate made their way with him to the White House--support for universal health care became law as Obamacare; drug penalties were reduced; police were reined in (Obama had received a number of speeding tickets and was particularly sensitive to the issue of "Driving While Black"); attempts at gun control were made; troops were withdrawn from Iraq; and money flowed to non-profit organizations such as the ones which launched his political career.

Most importantly, Obama's sense of destiny was clearly fulfilled in his behavior as a husband and father while serving as U.S. President. Unlike Bill Clinton, he did nothing in his marriage to publicly embarrass his wife, children, or the nation. Garrow's book makes it perfectly clear that this was in reaction to his own father's lack of personal responsibility and also to serve as a conscious role model for other African-Americans. If nothing else, one can say that President Obama succeeded as a family  man in ways that Bill Clinton could not.

Perhaps most striking is Garrow's contention that Obama chose to self-identify as Black when he could have chosen another path due to his elite status and multi-racial heritage. On one level, Garrow seems to argue that this was a matter of political calculation--concluding that had Obama married his Asian-American girlfriend, he could not have been elected President, because African-American voters would have disapproved of the marriage. Although hypothetical, thus impossible to prove or disprove, it is clear from Garrow's biography that Michelle Obama was perhaps even more popular than Barack, although he continually states that she hated politics and just wanted him to take a high-paying job. Michelle also had strong personal ties to Chicago's African-American community, and at one point Garrow says she "almost grew up in Jesse Jackson's house."

There are so many intricate details in the book that one really has to read it for oneself, but among the many explanations, the map of African-American Chicago politics is particularly compelling...especially the focus on what many felt was Obama's betrayal of Alice Palmer, a move which began Obama's rise through the ranks. Like a character in Shakespearean drama, that first act of treachery demonstrated that Obama possessed the ruthlessness and determination which would take him to the White House, leaving others in his dust.

Garrow's depiction of the world of Cong. Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Rev. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Carol Moseley Braun, and Mayor Harold Washington, among others, is perhaps the definitive portrait of Chicago's African-American Establishment.  I had no idea that Tony Rezko was in business with Rev. Farrakhan until reading this book. All that one can say is: "So, that's how it works!"

Springfield, Illinois is in fact as dreary as Garrow says. I've been there.

Likewise, he illuminates Chicago Hyde Park progressives and a complementary universe centered around the dinner table of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, where Barack and Michelle oft supped and plotted. The Bard of Avon himself could not dream up the world of intrigue surrounding the  non-profit foundations, charities, universities involved in what come across as self-dealing schemes of personal enrichment and power concentration involving moguls, millionaires, corporations and foundations.  Particularly compelling are Garrow's discussion of Obama's partnership with Ayers in a $49 million Annenberg Foundation grant to improve education which produced no measurable results, as well as an attempted $25 million Waste Management Incorporated scheme to pave the way for a toxic waste dump that grew so complicated that it fell apart from its own intrigue. In addition, Garrow details how Obama's experience with Project VOTE informed the use of voter registration regulations as a technique to eliminate opponents such as Alice Palmer.

He puts the lie to right-wing sneers that Obama had done nothing as a community organizer that would prepare him for the Presidency. Rather, Garrow shows that Obama's experience among the non-profiteers, beginning as a PIRG organizer at the City University of New York, was central to his ability to win the White House--because the money and personnel in the world of NGOs fueled his career as much as Boss Pendergast's Kansas City Machine did Harry S. Truman's.

Which brings us to Mayor Daley. I had forgotten that Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod both worked for Mayor Daley... The Daley Machine, according to Garrow, early on feared that Obama was so formidable that he might run for Mayor. So, Daley encouraged him to run for Senate and eventually President--to get him out of town... So connected is Obama to the machine that no Illinois Republican would run against him for US Senate after Jack Ryan dropped out following release of embarrassing divorce documents. The Illinois GOP brought in Alan Keyes from out-of-state, a carpetbagger candidate who had lost twice running in Maryland. Keyes then lost a bitter and personal campaign to Obama, getting into a shouting match at an Indian-American parade ("No-Drama Obama" completely lost his cool according to Garrow), then bitterly refused to concede on election night.

In addition, Garrow's discussion of Harvard Law School is just fascinating. After reading about the Harvard Law Review, one gets the impression that there is no law at Harvard. He quotes Obama, as editor, telling his subordinates not to worry about the articles, because "nobody reads it." The internal struggles over affirmative action are shocking to read about, and one eventually comes to the conclusion that conservatives have become just another special-interest group looking for a minority set-aside on the Law Review. There is almost no discussion of legal substance, at least reported by Garrow. I almost laughed out loud at Garrow's account of Lawrence Tribe's article on the physics of law (at least I think that was his topic). The great legal minds of Harvard look like mental midgets after Garrow gets through with them. Rather than providing a legal education, Garrow's Harvard teaches mafia tactics of self-advancement. Surely there is more to it than that, but anyone wondering about the identity politics destroying universities, if not the country, today can find plenty of the same at the Harvard Law Review during Obama's tenure as editor in Garrow's account.

What's past was truly prologue...

I used to live on W. 110th Street, one block from Obama's New York City apartment on W. 109th Street, so enjoyed Garrow's description of life in the neighborhood of Columbia University. Most notable was the jet-set lifestyle Obama seemed to enjoy, flying to Hawaii, Europe, and Pakistan among other places. Garrow's point is that Obama could have continued in this vein, becoming an international type working at the UN or similar organization...but he made a choice, a choice to move to Chicago and the African-American experience.

In exchange, he gave up his girlfriends, his lifestyle, and his literary pretentions--Garrow says the young Obama said he wanted to be a "writer." The road not taken would have been a very different one, though Garrow's Obama is so driven that there can be no doubt that he would succeed at anything he tried. But to become Ta-Nahesi Coates was not Barack Obama's destiny.

Strikingly, despite a critical attitude towards Obama's ruthlessness, Garrow makes clear that Obama had a keen sense of destiny from an early age. To illustrate this, he focuses on Obama's breakup with Sheila Miyoshi Jager, his girlfriend before he married Michelle Robinson. In contrast to what he describes as an almost arranged marriage with Michelle, Garrow portrays Obama's relationship with Jager as a passionate and tempestuous romance, in defiance of both his and her families. She even followed him to Harvard Law School. But Obama chose his deeply felt destiny over the pleasures of romantic love, at least in Garrow's version, and so dropped her.

In conclusion, I was struck by some parallels to Trump. Like Trump, Obama took on the party favorite, Hillary Clinton, and won the Presidency. Like Trump, he ran as an outsider. Like Trump, he promised to change the way Washington worked. But unlike Trump, Obama received support from the Establishment at every step of the way. From the Punahou School to Columbia to Harvard to the University of Chicago to the Board of the Woods Foundation to the Illinois Senate to the US Senate to the White House, Obama played an "inside-outside" game dependent on the support of the powers-that-be. In the end, Obama is a surfer who rode the waves of history to achieve his destiny.

Rising Star makes clear that Obama never had a serious opponent in any political race until he ran for President, because he knew how to work the system to his advantage. Hillary and Obama were two Establishmentarians, one fresh-faced and the other old and tired. Youth won the day.

In fact, like his predecessor George W. Bush, Barack Obama was a Legacy admission to an Ivy League School -- he told his friends at the time he applied that he would go to Harvard Law School despite scholarship offers from Northwestern because his father went to Harvard. He was editor of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago. He was a published author. He served on boards and was a member of Harvard's Suguaro Seminar (apparently some sort of domestic Son of the Trilateral Commission to develop leaders).

After reading Garrow's account, the meaning of President Obama's July 13th, 2012 campaign speech became crystal clear--he was talking about himself, and describing the arc of his career:

...look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business – you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
David J. Garrow's Rising Star tells us the names of the somebodies who made it happen for Barack Obama, how and why they did it, and what was in it for them.  So, add Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama to the list of great political biographies, alongside works like Robert Caro's The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York-- according to Garrow, one of President Obama's favorite books.