Frida Kahlo’s secret revenge affair with Leon Trotsky

To get back at her much older husband for his most recent infidelity, Frida Kahlo’s odd choice of a lover was their new housemate, the even older and also married Leon Trotsky. It is a plot out of a French farce, soap opera, proper high-brow opera, or an episode of The Jerry Springer Show if he had Marxist Revolutionary Week.

The exiled 58-year-old Leon Trotsky and his second wife Natalia Sedova arrived in Tampico, Mexico on a heavily guarded Norwegian oil tanker on January 9, 1937. The muralist and dedicated Trotskyite Diego Rivera had lobbied the Mexican government to offer Trotsky political asylum. Diego, ill and hospitalized, could not be at the port to meet the Trotskys. Instead his young wife, surrealist artist Frida Kahlo, was at the dock with journalists, Communist Party members, and government officials. She accompanied the couple back to Coyoacán and the home she shared with Diego, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), where the Trotskys lived heavily protected and catered to for two years.

Still angry and hurt from discovering Diego’s affair with her beautiful younger sister Cristina, Frida lost no time in openly flirting with Trotsky, who must have been flattered as hell at the attention. That spring their emotional affair grew into a physical one. Some of Frida and Trotsky’s clandestine meetings took place at Cristina’s house, which Diego had probably bought for her, along with a suite of red leather furniture. Frida and and Trotsky spoke English in front of their spouses, whose grasp of the language was paltry to non-existent, in Natalia’s case. He sneaked love letters to Frida between the pages of books he loaned to her.

Rivera was, by all accounts, an unrepentant philanderer with the hypocritical tendency to randomly fly into jealous rage when Frida behaved similarly with other men during their stormy marriage. (Her affairs with women, like Josephine Baker, didn’t bother him.) Stephanie Mencimer wrote in Washington Monthly, “Legend has it that for American women traveling to Mexico, having sex with Rivera was considered as essential as visiting Tenochtitlan.”

Diego and Natalia eventually discovered the dalliance, which seems to have been over by July 1937. Surprisingly he allowed Trotsky to continue to live at La Casa Azul instead of coming after him with a gun. There was enough of a political falling-out between the two men, not over infidelity but over Trotskyism, to prompt the revolutionary and his wife to move out of La Casa Azul and into a nearby house on Avenida Viena in early 1939. He left behind the self-portrait she had dedicated to him, “Between the Curtains.” In the painting she is holding a document that says, “To Trotsky with great affection, I dedicate this painting November 7, 1937. Frida Kahlo, in San Angel, Mexico.” November 7th was Trotsky’s birthday as well as the Gregorian calendar anniversary of the October Revolution.

Frida and Trostky remained friends until his assassination by Ramón Mercader on Stalin’s orders the following year. She was a suspect in the murder and held by police for questioning for two days.

No passionate missives between the unlikely lovers survive. According to biographer Bertrande M. Patenaude, author of Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary, at the end of their brief relationship Trotsky asked Frida to return all his love letters so he could burn them.
Frida & Diego & Natalia & Leon: Rare home movie footage from 1938 of the two couples in Coyocoán, Mexico:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin debating the future of America in 1986

Watching this debate between Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin from 1986, I was struck by how little has really changed since the late 80s despite the fact that, to Rubin’s way of thinking, we’ve had two “yuppie” Presidents in the White House. Hoffman’s vision seems more prophetic in light of the Occupy Movement, but I see the truth to be somewhere in the middle of their opposing points of view.

Despite his emphasis on maintaining a healthy body, no amount of good health helped Rubin. Ironically, the law-abiding straight-lace yuppie was killed in 1994 while fucking the system, run over by a car in L.A. as he was jaywalking. Hoffman gave up the good fight and committed suicide in 1989. The future they speak so passionately about in this debate was not theirs to further impact, though both had done their fair share starting in the Sixties. From founding the yippies, mobilizing the march on the Pentagon, leading the charge in Chicago in 1968 to inspiring John and Yoko’s sleep-in, there’s no question both Hoffman and Rubin managed to change the world we live in. Abbie’s style of guerrilla theater, activism and peaceful dissent was very much alive in the past few years on the streets of American cities like New York and in Europe, Turkey and during the Arab Spring movement. Rubin’s concept of revolution from within the system is less vivid and harder to measure. I don’t think it works for the most part but I’m still voting.

The debate took place in Canada. Rubin and Hoffman make their points with lots of energy and Hoffman is of course quite funny. The first couple of minutes has an appropriate musical intro,  “I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
‘Bubbafication’:  When rich Republicans get all redneck

“Bubbafication” is a term referring to the affectation of redneckishness by a refined, cosmopolitan, wealthy, or otherwise privileged person. Why would you do such a thing? Well, endearing oneself to the reactionary, white working class can pay off big.

For example, George W. Bush, born into a millionaire family (with an alleged “pork rinds” fan for a patriarch) went to Harvard and Yale. That didn’t stop him from buying a ranch and playing cowboy, an act he conveniently trotted out most frequently during election season. And here we have Morton Downey Jr., son of a famous singer, already quite rich and famous in his own right as the king of trash TV, singing a Merle Haggard song about the supposed decline of America, a subject he gleefully monetized with his every utterance.

I won’t go so far as to say I’m sympathetic with Merle Haggard, but I will say I understand his particular brand of resentment and disaffection. Those are the people I come from—not “Okies from Muskogee” per se—but a rural, southern, culturally insular, god-fearing folk. Many of them manage to be conned by wealthiest of the wealthy politicians, over and over again, so that no matter what happens in their shitty lives, they always manage to blame immigrants or black people or feminists or the decline of religion or god knows what else.

Check out some of the lyrics to Haggard’s “Are The Good Times Really Over”

I wish a buck was still silver
It was back when the country was strong
Back before Elvis
Before the Vietnam war came along

Before The Beatles and ‘Yesterday’
When a man could still work, still would
The best of the free life behind us now
And are the good times really over for good?

Are we rolling down hill
Like a snowball headed for Hell?
With no kind of chance
For the Flag or the Liberty Bell

Wish a Ford and a Chevy
Could still last ten years, like they should
Is the best of the free life behind us now?
Are the good times really over for good?

I wish Coke was still Cola
And a joint was a bad place to be
It was back before Nixon lied to us all on TV

Before microwave ovens
When a girl could still cook and still would
The best of the free life behind us now
Are the good times really over for good?

It’s all been downhill since Elvis? Ah, that bullshit nostalgia for those non-existent “good ole days!” It’s the very zeitgeist of the Republican base! What’s earnestly ignorant in Merle Haggard is ambitious and unctuously detestable in Morton Downey Jr, but man if it doesn’t work, over and over again. You know damned well there must be dozens of Republican pols kissing the asses of the Duck Dynasty and Hillbilly Handfishin’ casts, even as I type this.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Capitalism, Communism and dishwashers: Nixon and Khrushchev argue in ‘The Kitchen Debate’

 Nixon and Khrushchev
Nice body language, Dick. Photo credit: Elliot Erwitt.
In 1959, Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev met in Moscow in a highly publicized diplomatic event. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the American National Exhibition, a sort of cultural exchange fair where the US could showcase all the amenities afforded to its citizens by capitalism. The US public relations strategy was to get the world to associate us with modern conveniences and easy living. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately for Nixon, Khrushchev decided to dispense with the formalities and staged a delightfully bitchy political debate with the then Vice President over the exhibit displaying a “typical” California kitchen. Below is the transcript and a partial video excerpt from the famous Kitchen Debate, wherein a flustered Nixon attempts to gracefully field criticism with a little slick diplomacy (it doesn’t quite work). The entire exchange is done through translators, but there’s not much a gentler tone could do to ease the tension—not that Khrushchev had any intention of doing so. Some things translate loud and clear.

Over three million Russians actually ended up attending the fair, and the crowds often echoed Khrushchev’s particularly volatile brand of interrogation. Audiences would ask personal questions of the tour guides, often berating them with leading questions about American racism, our lack of universal health care, and social security. Of course the guides were instructed to politely admit that the U.S. wasn’t perfect, but a dynamic work in progress, nonetheless. 

The entire premise of the exhibit was just a show of Cold War dick-measuring, and the Kitchen Debate was the big finish. By the end, both men believed they had “won,” and the two shook hands, agreeing to broadcast the entire conversation in their respective countries.The U.S. went off half-cocked and aired the segment on three networks, which angered the Soviets, who had assumed they would coordinate simultaneous broadcasts. The Soviets then threatened not to show it at all, but after a few days it was aired, though with Nixon’s words only partially translated.

[Both men enter kitchen in the American exhibit.]

Nixon: I want to show you this kitchen. It is like those of our houses in California.

[Nixon points to dishwasher.]

Khrushchev: We have such things.

Nixon: This is our newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…

Khrushchev: Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under Communism.

Nixon: I think that this attitude towards women is universal. What we want to do, is make life more easy for our housewives…..
 Nixon and Khrushchev
Photo credit: Associated Press
Nixon: This house can be bought for $14,000, and most American [veterans from World War II] can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. Let me give you an example that you can appreciate. Our steel workers as you know, are now on strike. But any steel worker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.

Khrushchev: We have steel workers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.

Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after twenty years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time….The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.

Khrushchev: This theory does not hold water. Some things never get out of date–houses,for instance, and furniture, furnishings–perhaps–but not houses. I have read much about America and American houses, and I do not think that this is exhibit and what you say is strictly accurate.

Nixon: Well, um…

Khrushchev: I hope I have not insulted you.

Nixon: I have been insulted by experts. Everything we say [on the other hand] is in good humor. Always speak frankly.

Khrushchev: The Americans have created their own image of the Soviet man. But he is not as you think. You think the Russian people will be dumbfounded to see these things, but the fact is that newly built Russian houses have all this equipment right now.

Nixon: Yes, but…

Khrushchev: In Russia, all you have to do to get a house is to be born in the Soviet Union. You are entitled to housing…In America, if you don’t have a dollar you have a right to choose between sleeping in a house or on the pavement. Yet you say we are the slave to Communism.

Nixon: I appreciate that you are very articulate and energetic…

Khrushchev: Energetic is not the same thing as wise.

Nixon: If you were in the Senate, we would call you a filibusterer! You–[Khrushchev interrupts]–do all the talking and don’t let anyone else talk. This exhibit was not designed to astound but to interest. Diversity, the right to choose, the fact that we have 1,000 builders building 1,000 different houses is the most important thing. We don’t have one decision made at the top by one government official. This is the difference.

Khrushchev: On politics, we will never agree with you. For instance, Mikoyan likes very peppery soup. I do not. But this does not mean that we do not get along.

Nixon : You can learn from us, and we can learn from you. There must be a free exchange. Let the people choose the kind of house, the kind of soup, the kind of ideas that they want.

[Translation lost as both men enter the television recording studio.]

Khrushchev: [In jest] You look very angry, as if you want to fight me. Are you still angry?

Nixon: [in jest] That’s right!

Khrushchev:…and Nixon was once a lawyer? Now he’s nervous.

Nixon: Oh yes, [Nixon chuckling] he still is [a lawyer].

Other Russian speaker: Tell us, please, what are your general impressions of the exhibit?

Khrushchev: It’s clear to me that the construction workers didn’t manage to finish their work and the exhibit still is not put in order…This is what America is capable of, and how long has she existed? 300 years? 150 years of independence and this is her level. We haven’t quite reached 42 years, and in another 7 years, we’ll be at the level of America, and after that we’ll go farther. As we pass you by, we’ll wave “hi” to you, and then if you want, we’ll stop and say, “please come along behind us.” …If you want to live under capitalism, go ahead, that’s your question, an internal matter, it doesn’t concern us. We can feel sorry for you, but really, you wouldn’t understand. We’ve already seen how you understand things.

Other U.S speaker: Mr. Vice President, from what you have seen of our exhibition, how do you think it’s going to impress the people of the Soviet Union?

Nixon: It’s a very effective exhibit, and it’s one that will cause a great deal of interest. I might say that this morning I, very early in the morning, went down to visit a market, where the farmers from various outskirts of the city bring in their items to sell. I can only say that there was a great deal of interest among these people, who were workers and farmers, etc… I would imagine that the exhibition from that standpoint would, therefore, be a considerable success. As far as Mr Khrushchev’s comments just now, they are in the tradition we learned to expect from him of speaking extemporaneously and frankly whenever he has an opportunity. I can only say that if this competition which you have described so effectively, in which you plan to outstrip us, particularly in the production of consumer goods…If this competition is to do the best for both of our peoples and for people everywhere, there must be a free exchange of ideas. There are some instances where you may be ahead of us–for example in the development of the thrust of your rockets for the investigation of outer space. There may be some instances, for example, color television, where we’re ahead of you. But in order for both of us benefit…

Khrushchev: [interrupting] No, in rockets we’ve passed you by, and in the technology…

Nixon: [continuing to talk] You see, you never concede anything.

Khrushchev: We always knew that Americans were smart people. Stupid people could not have risen to the economic level that they’ve reached. But as you know, “we don’t beat flies with our nostrils!” In 42 years we’ve made progress.

Nixon: You must not be afraid of ideas.

Khrushchev: We’re saying it is you who must not be afraid of ideas. We’re not afraid of anything….

Nixon: Well, then, let’s have more exchange of them. We all agree on that, right?

Khrushchev: Good. [Khrushchev turns to translator and asks:] Now, what did I agree on?

Nixon: [interrupts] Now, let’s go look at our pictures.

Khrushchev: Yes, I agree. But first I want to clarify what I’m agreeing on. Don’t I have that right? I know that I’m dealing with a very good lawyer. Therefore, I want to be unwavering in my miner’s girth, so our miners will say, “He’s ours and he doesn’t give in!”

Nixon: No question about that.

Khrushchev: You’re a lawyer of Capitalism, I’m a lawyer for Communism. Let’s kiss.

Nixon: All that I can say, from the way you talk and the way you dominate the conversation, you would have made a good lawyer yourself. What I mean is this: Here you can see the type of tape which will transmit this very conversation immediately, and this indicates the possibilities of increasing communication. And this increase in communication, will teach us some things, and you some things, too. Because, after all, you don’t know everything.

Khrushchev: If I don’t know everything, then you know absolutely nothing about Communism, except for fear! But now the dispute will be on an unequal basis. The apparatus is yours, and you speak English, while I speak Russian. Your words are taped and will be shown and heard. What I say to you about science won’t be translated, and so your people won’t hear it. These aren’t equal conditions.

Nixon: There isn’t a day that goes by in the United States when we can’t read everything that you say in the Soviet Union…And, I can assure you, never make a statement here that you don’t think we read in the United States.

Khrushchev: If that’s the way it is, I’m holding you to it. Give me your word…I want you, the Vice President, to give me your word that my speech will also be taped in English. Will it be?

Nixon: Certainly it will be. And by the same token, everything that I say will be recorded and translated and will be carried all over the Soviet Union. That’s a fair bargain.

The Kitchen Debate. One of the first uses of color videotape, which was provided by the Ampex corporation. The impromptu international game of Soviet vs. Yank one-upmanship was shot at the Ampex booth at the fair.

Via Teaching American History

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Hey Russell Brand: ‘Read some f*cking Orwell!’

With their recent Russell Brand-edited issue, The New Statesman probably got the most bang for their buck ever in the entire 100 year history of the venerable socialist journal. Brand is obviously a controversial figure and he pulled no punches during the—I thought totally amazing—interview he gave to BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman to promote the issue. Seen all over the world, I can’t think of a better advertisement for what the New Statesman is selling or radical ideas in general.

It was a worldwide mass media coup and Brand’s comments penetrated the normal noise. That people were talking about socialism, the capitalist oligarchy and the survival of the human species, well, great work for a comic. Even Fox Business News dipshit Neil Cavuto inadvertently opened the door to a brief discussion of socialism on his show in a segment critical of Brand’s comments. Anyone curious enough to follow up got exposed to something they’d never normally see on Fox.

Brand concluded his own epic “letter from the editor” exhorting his readers NOT to vote as it only lends legitimacy to politicians and the capitalist system, something which has now led comic actor Robert Webb, the self-described “other one” on the brilliant Peep Show series (watch it on Netflix, Americans) to respond to Brand in the pages of, where else, The New Statesman.

From Webb’s “Russell, choosing to vote is the most British kind of revolution there is”:

... I thought you might want to hear from someone who a) really likes your work, b) takes you seriously as a thoughtful person and c) thinks you’re willfully talking through your arse about something very important.

It’s about influence and engagement. You have a theoretical 7.1 million (mostly young) followers on Twitter. They will have their own opinions about everything and I have no intention of patronising them. But what I will say is that when I was 15, if Stephen Fry had advised me to trim my eyebrows with a Flymo, I would have given it serious consideration. I don’t think it’s your job to tell young people that they should engage with the political process. But I do think that when you end a piece about politics with the injunction “I will never vote and I don’t think you should either”, then you’re actively telling a lot of people that engagement with our democracy is a bad idea. That just gives politicians the green light to neglect the concerns of young people because they’ve been relieved of the responsibility of courting their vote.

Why do pensioners (many of whom are not poor old grannies huddled round a kerosene lamp for warmth but bloated ex-hippie baby boomers who did very well out of the Thatcher/Lawson years) get so much attention from politicians? Because they vote.

Webb, of course has a very good point here, but I can see where Brand is coming from as well. I used to think voting was futile myself, because no matter who I voted for, the government was always getting elected. In my defense, I was in my 20s and there was a thimble-full of difference between between Democrats and Republicans during the Clinton era. Now I vote, it’s insane not to until the Tea partiers die off en masse.

He continues:

You’re a wonderful talker but on the page you sometimes let your style get ahead of what you actually think. In putting the words “aesthetically” and “disruption” in the same sentence, you come perilously close to saying that violence can be beautiful. Do keep an eye on that. Ambiguity around ambiguity is forgivable in an unpublished poet and expected of an arts student on the pull: for a professional comedian demoting himself to the role of “thinker,” with stadiums full of young people hanging on his every word, it won’t really do.

That’s one way to look at it—mature, nuanced, something a Cambridge grad might argue—but as much as I respect what Webb has written, I don’t think his open letter will sway the adressee much one way or the other. If you look at the some of the other articles in Russell Brand’s New Statesman issue, it’s pretty clear where he’s coming from and it’s not a timid place. He might not be coming out and directly calling for a violent revolution—although he surely hints at it—but some of the pieces he selected for publication most certainly do a lot more than beat about that bush, notably Naomi Klein’s essay which asks aloud what a lot of people—including many scientists—have been wondering: Is waging revolution against the unsustainable capitalist Leviathan the unambiguous answer to climate change and survival of the human species?

Webb feels the most British form of revolution is precisely the one waged at the voting booth:

What were the chances, in the course of human history, that you and I should be born into an advanced liberal democracy? That we don’t die aged 27 because we can’t eat because nobody has invented fluoride toothpaste? That we can say what we like, read what we like, love whom we want; that nobody is going to kick the door down in the middle of the night and take us or our children away to be tortured? The odds were vanishingly small. Do I wake up every day and thank God that I live in 21st-century Britain? Of course not. But from time to time I recognise it as an unfathomable privilege. On Remembrance Sunday, for a start. And again when I read an intelligent fellow citizen ready to toss away the hard-won liberties of his brothers and sisters because he’s bored.

I understand your ache for the luminous, for a connection beyond yourself. Russell, we all feel like that. Some find it in music or literature, some in the wonders of science and others in religion. But it isn’t available any more in revolution. We tried that again and again, and we know that it ends in death camps, gulags, repression and murder. In brief, and I say this with the greatest respect, please read some fucking Orwell


Left-of-center types not voting out of protest will only cede the government to the reichwingers, Webb’s right about that, but seriously dude, death camps and gulags are NOT the obvious consequences of a revolution against capitalism either. I winced when I read that. Reading a little Orwell can never be a bad thing, though.

What about voting AND some direct action so they know we’re fucking serious?

I think where both Robert Webb and Russell Brand might agree is that things seem to be coming to a head.

Billy Bragg posted the following to his Facebook page today:

Have to admire Robert Webb’s pro-active response to Russell Brand but it has also made me wonder, in a week when I’ve been protesting on the streets of London with Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey, why is it comedians who are willing to take a stand these days rather than musicians?

Below, a classic clip from That Mitchell and Webb Look:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Russell Brand on The Revolution: ‘We no longer have the luxury of tradition’
07:55 am

Class War

Russell Brand

Shepard Fairey’s New Statesman cover

[TL;DR takeaway? Watch the video. Just watch it. Watch it all the way to the end because it builds towards an amazing climax in the final minute.]

Admittedly, upon my first exposure to British comedian Russell Brand, he did not win me over. He was a panelist on Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive sitcom, a Larry Sanders-esque pisstake of UK panel shows like Mock the Week or Nevermind the Buzzcocks. I asked a Scottish friend of mine who the arrogant prick with the long hair and the large vocabulary was and he told me that Brand was a “human punchline” who had something to do with Big Brother. Tabloid tales of his drug and sex exploits were a bore to me. And a comic who looks like a member of The Libertines? Not for sir.

But over the intervening seven years, I’ve grown from a grudging respect for Brand to something resembling outright admiration for the articulate way he expresses his disdain—even hatred—for the world’s ruling elites. He’s a bit of a sleazy dude, sure—that’s part of his smarmy charm—but he’s got a first rate mind and he’s fucking fearless, as only a man who has emerged from the very depths of drug addiction (and fucking one—if not actually several—of the world’s most desirable women) could be. I don’t think he’s a guy who ever thought he’d be living in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, let’s just say.

This morning everyone is talking about the absolutely smoking hot interview Brand gave to veteran BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman promoting the issue he guest-edited of The New Statesman, Britain’s long-running socialist journal. Paxman, a formidable man who has been the public undoing of many a politician, is nearly helpless at the barrage of words that Russell Brand sprays him with. It’s a riveting piece of television and everyone seems to be freaking out about it on Facebook this morning. It’s well worth your time, trust me.

And so is the Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman, which features contributions from Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Judd Apatow, Graham Hancock, Noel Gallagher, Alec Baldwin, Rupert Everett, David Lynch and many others (you can buy a pdf of the issue at The New Statesman website)

Here’s an excerpt from Brand’s long, but beautifully composed letter from the editor:

I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.

Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot. Is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Buckminster Fuller said humanity now faces a choice: oblivion or utopia. We’re inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?

The letter is a rambling thing of gorgeous beauty and power. Read the entire thing at The News Statesman.

Below, the full Paxman-Brand dust-up… it’s riveting television

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
American democracy dies, murderers caught on video (or The Republicans pull a REALLY creepy move)

If you haven’t seen the video yet of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on the floor of the House asking for a clarification on the rules of the shutdown, believe me, it’s well worth watching.

There’s a compelling reason it’s been garnering hundreds of thousands of YouTube plays the past few days: Very simply it shows—beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt—that the Republicans not only planned the government shutdown in advance, but that they made damned good and sure that when their neanderthal putsch started, there would be new rules in place to prevent it from being voted on.

It’s astonishing. It’s not like I expect that this clip will be discussed on Fox News anytime soon, but a Republican with even a modicum of intelligence, honesty and decency would be obliged to see exactly same thing that the rest of us see when we watch this clip.

If you’re unclear of exactly what’s happening, under normal circumstances any Congressperson can call for a vote on any bill at any time.

Not anymore! Prior to the shutdown, the Republicans very quietly passed H.R. 368, a measure that only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can call for an end to the shutdown.

That’s right Eric Cantor and ONLY Eric Cantor—not even Speaker of the House John Boehner or any other ranking Republican—unless Cantor gives his express permission for a designee to do it. Via Talking Points Memo:

So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t.

“I’ve never seen this rule used. I’m not even sure they were certain we would have found it,” a House Democratic aide told TPM. “This was an overabundance of caution on their part. ‘We’ve got to find every single crack in the dam that water can get through and plug it.’”

Congressional historians agreed that it was highly unusual for the House to reserve such power solely for the leadership.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.

“It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders,” Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. “That’s not typically how the rules are written.”

The rule change was made to prevent a majority vote from becoming even a possibility without the expressed consent of ONE MAN! Fewer than 25% of Americans support the GOP’s shutdown and yet here we are

This is democracy? It’s thisclose to being fascism. The dummies are in charge. Minority moron rule. Joseph Stalin or Il Duce would laugh at what America has become. The whole thing is worth watching—and infuriating—but by around the 5:00 mark, the cat’s out of the bag thanks to Congressman Van Hollen.

Judging from the rapidly escalating number of YouTube views, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going back in again. Please share with everyone, even, make that especially, your Uncle Ronnie the Teabagger. He’s never going to hear about this from Rush or see it on the Fox News, but Uncle Ronnie really needs to know about this…

And then there is this, an earlier, less dramatic, but in no way less revelatory confrontation that took place two weeks ago when Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) noticed something seemed fishy and asked some uncomfortable questions of the Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), who flat out admits that she’s right!

“That’s what I’m saying. We took that away.”

Sessions tells her of GOP “resolve” in the debt ceiling battle. Here’s her response:

“Oh, Mercy. It just gets deeper and deeper. I want to tell you the resolve that I think you’ve got. And despite the fact that every one of you said, over and over ad nauseam, that you didn’t want to shut the government down, we spent some time down in my office watching so many of your members — right after they were elected in 2010 — saying how much they would like to shut down the House to great applause.”

“I think it is really shortsighted, I think it is an atrocity to the Rules of the House. And I think you’re putting the whole country through this angst and this aggravation that we did not need to go. This one we could have done without.”

“And I must tell you that I’m more and more angry now that I understand what you have done is take away our ability is to really make a motion for that Senate vote.”

Guess what? The Tea party-led government shutdown came THE VERY NEXT DAY!

Go right to 1:20 and start from there. If this isn’t an admission of guilt, I don’t know what would be…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Slavoj Žižek: Ayn Rand’s ‘John Galts’ are the idiots who crashed the economy & they’ll do it again

I had to laugh at the way Slavoj Žižek so masterfully ended his Guardian op ed piece, “Who is responsible for the US shutdown? The same idiots responsible for the 2008 meltdown.”

Žižek’s subtitle is “In opposing Obamacare, the radical-populist right exposes its own twisted ideology” and in the essay, he poses a provocative question that I’ve been wondering about a lot myself recently: “Barack Obama is accused of dividing the American people instead of bringing them together. But what if this, precisely, is what is good about Obama?”

I’d like to read Žižek—or Jonathan Chait, Brian Beutler, Alex Pareene, Michael Tomasky, Charles Hugh Smith, Frank Rich or the great Charles P. Pierce—taking on this topic in further detail once the dust has cleared.

The conclusion Žižek draws at the close, though, is simply sublime:

One of the weird consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown and the measures taken to counteract it (enormous sums of money to help banks) was the revival of the work of Ayn Rand, the closest one can get to an ideologist of the “greed is good” radical capitalism. The sales of her opus Atlas Shrugged exploded. According to some reports, there are already signs that the scenario described in Atlas Shrugged – the creative capitalists themselves going on strike – is coming to pass in the form of a populist right. However, this misreads the situation: what is effectively taking place today is almost the exact opposite. Most of the bailout money is going precisely to the Randian “titans”, the bankers who failed in their “creative” schemes and thereby brought about the financial meltdown. It is not the “creative geniuses” who are now helping ordinary people, it is the ordinary people who are helping the failed “creative geniuses.”

John Galt, the central character in Atlas Shrugged, is not named until near the end of the novel. Before his identity is revealed, the question is repeatedly asked, “Who is John Galt?” Now we know precisely who he is: John Galt is the idiot responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown, and for the ongoing federal government shutdown in the US.

Standing ovation!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Oh Jesus: ‘Left Behind’ author’s group behind apocalyptic Tea party shutdown?

For those of you either too young to remember them—or perhaps not raised in the Bible Belt—among the very top best-selling books of the 1970s were Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and its sequel Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. These books are literalist readings of the Book of Revelation, presenting a fanciful, goofy paranoiac eschatology comparing vaguely worded end-time prophecies written over 2000 years ago (and reworded an unknown number of times since) with (then) current events. They’re about as intellectually serious as Chick tracts.

Nevertheless, The Late, Great Planet Earth was marketed as non-fiction Bible prophecy predicting and decoding last days milestones—the USSR invading Israel, the coming of the Anti-Christ who would rule over the European Union, famine, plagues, etc, etc, etc—before the Rapture and the subsequent return of Jesus. One of Lindsey’s main themes was that Jesus would come back “one generation” after the state of Israel was established, so by the 1970s, this was a very hot topic in what we now refer to as red states. (If you have ever wondered WHY Southern evangelical Christians are so obsessed with Israel, wonder no more, Hal Lindsey’s books were—and still would be, although I think people forget this—a huge, huge part of this strain of American Christianity. It was there already, but he brought it to prime-time, so to speak and amplified it culturally.)

Hal Lindsey’s books (co-authored by Carole C. Carlson) rivaled the sales of titles like Jaws, The Godfather and The Exorcist as the books most likely to be read by people who didn’t read very much. These books were staples of nearly every garage sale back then. Apparently over 28 million copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth were sold.

Among the known fans of Lindsey’s books in the 1970s was California Governor Ronald Reagan.

In December 6, 1983, during an Oval Office interview, Reagan informed two stunned reporters from People magazine:

“There were times in the past when we thought the end of the world was coming, but never anything like this.”

Tea party nitwit Pat Boone was one of Reagan’s closest friends. He said of the President:

“I believe that Ronald Reagan would make no decision that would run counter to his understanding of God’s direction and what God says is going to happen and what God says he wants to happen.”

(Reagan said this of Boone to a group of evangelicals at the kickoff of his reelection campaign: “And Pat Boone stood up, and in speaking to this crowd, he said, in talking of communism, that he had daughters, they were little girls then, and he said, ‘I love them more than anything on earth.’ And he said, (and I thought, ‘I know what he is going to say,’ and ‘Oh, you must not say that,’ and yet I had underestimated him). He said, “I would rather that they die now believing in God than live to grow up under communism and die one day no longer believing in God.” Big round of applause for Pat Boone, father of the (20th) century…)

Among Reagan’s cabinet members were men known to be to some degree influenced by Christian millennialist beliefs that we were living in the end times. Reagan’s notably asinine Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt didn’t believe in ecological conservation because Jesus was coming back. It is known that General John Vesse, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Naval Operations, James Watkins, would meet regularly inside the Pentagon with Herbert Ellingwood, deputy Counsel to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III to discuss their common faith. I think it’s safe to assume that talk of Bible prophecy and a nuclear end of the world was on the menu at such meetings!

Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, an Episcopalian, told students at Harvard:

“I have read the Book of Revelation, and, yes, I believe the world is going to end - by an act of God, I hope - and every day I think that time is running out.”

Yep, these were the folks who had their mitts on the fuckin’ nukes. This was our side! (It should be noted that the Soviets were atheists! WHAT must the KGB have thought of these guys???)

When the great Texas progressive muckraker Ronnie Dugger penned the article “Does Reagan Expect Armageddon?” for the Washington Post in 1984, the frightening prospects of the crazy Americans bringing an end to the human race became a cause for alarm all across Europe. I lived in London then and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment at the time. I can vividly recall being quizzed about HOW?!?!? HOW?!?!?! could these (or did they say “you”?) idiot Americans believe in this stupid shit from three exasperated French guys and a perplexed English punk rock couple at a party once. I tried to explain it as best I could, but I don’t think my shoulder-shrugging “Look, that’s just the way it is over there, what can I tell you?” rationale for “my peeps” was in the least comforting to them!

Something I read this morning made me think back to those halcyon Cold War days of the almost quaint-seeming batshit crazy Republican Christianists of the 1980s: According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, one of the principal reichwing pressure groups architecting and advocating for the current Tea party-led GOP government shutdown was founded by none other than Tim LaHaye, the author of this current last generation’s mega, mega apocalyptic best-sellers, the “Left Behind” series. Tim LaHaye is basically today’s Hal Lindsey.

Lee Fang writes at The Nation:

The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.

Guess who else has his fingerprints all over this shutdown mess? Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III...

The Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project and Ed Meese himself know all too well that racial—not to mention religious—demographic trends in the US mean that there is a very strong likelihood there “their type” will probably never get their hands anywhere near the nukes again, but not content to merely fantasize, sidelined, about the end of the world (and their own perceived ROLES in this cosmic battle between good and evil, like the Reaganites who actually carried the nuclear football for eight fuckin’ years), this cabal of numbskull, dumbshit apocalypse-obsessed morons want to bring it on by destroying the world economy!

You have to give these Teahadist types some credit, they know how to fight dirty. These Republican economic suicide bombers are willing to shred the Constitution to bits to “save” the country from majority rule, aren’t they?

Yo’ dawg, they’ll end the world to save it. It makes perfect sense. TO THEM. Because Jeebus is on their side, of course!

This latest news introduces a whole new level of apocalyptic weirdness into the mix. I encourage you to read “Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown” by Lee Fang at The Nation. The implications of what he’s written there are fairly staggering if you ask me.

This is a battle between good and evil. It is if at least one side sees it that way. The Tea party jihadis want a Christian theocracy and they don’t really care if they have to force it on everyone else. In this way, how is the Christian Right in any way different from the Muslim Brotherhood they fear so much? Their brain-damaged beatific vision of a theocratic America, a country cleansed of gays, Muslims, liberals, illegal immigrants, science and where non-white people don’t get to vote will never, ever come to pass absent a massive genocide occurring in North America, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon. The concept of “the American Taliban” is becoming more real with every passing day and the rest of the world (especially the business community and China) is starting to notice it, too. And they are alarmed at what they see. Even the Taliban are brutally mocking us for being stupid!

Holy shit. Literally.

“I reveal my innermost self, to God.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
BRUTAL Time magazine cover eloquently states the obvious about the Republican shutdown

If at first you don’t succeed—or the first 42 times, whatever—burn the entire country down, eh GOP?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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