Late January 2017

The Women’s March



These women climbed out of windows up on the top (8th or 9th) floor of Oakland City Hall and descended via ropes, dancing to beautiful music sung by someone I couldn’t see. They  used gravity as a positive force that let them bounce gently out from the vertical wall and perform flips and somersaults and make pyramids as they slowly descended. The crowd was simply awed.

This was part of the rally at the end of the Saturday, January 21 Women’s March. Joe and I had front row seats on the Plaza because I’m still walking with sticks, and they had a special entrance for the disabled.


We joined the march at about this point, near Lake Merritt. It had been raining for the last week so the sun was welcome. The mood was gentle but serious. Many, many of the people were young women. Some were with mothers and grandmothers. There were men, too, of course, but it felt like a women’s march. All the signs I saw were home made. I heard that nowhere in any of the 600 plus marches across the US was there any violence — no violence at all.

And somehow I had thought that young women had no idea what the women’s movement had achieved. Trump has certainly created a teaching moment — now they know, if they didn’t before.

This was the sign that Joe and I wore. We cut them out of a curtain and pinned them back and front. “Life is not a rich man’s sick joke.”


After the march, which was huge (60,000 plus) I felt better. Lots of people said that watching Trump get inaugurated felt like knife stabbing in the gut. Like something you’re ashamed to even look at. Watching him try to dance (it’s available on YouTube) at the ball that Friday night was equally heartsickening. A President should not be disgusting to look at. A president should have some grace and dignity. (Look up Barack and Michelle dancing, in 2008, also on YouTube). The cab driver who took us back from the march, a Chinese man, was railing at Trump for making grotesque thumbs-up “Hey lookit me!” gestures to the crowd while dancing.

But before Obama finished, he had pardoned Chelsea Manning and the Puerto Rican independence leader (I’ll get his name). That made me weep with relief. Why not Leonard Peltier?

A look back at Trumps’ first press conference, January 11; before he was inaugurated

The networks couldn’t say no to broadcasting Trump pre-election appearances because they were chasing ratings. He was a celebrity. It was money. People would tune in to be astonished. TV show hosts had to jolly him for the same reason. Even now he’s apparently collecting a $168,000 a year pension from his work as a celebrity, in fact.

But now he goes on TV and it’s not a reality show, it’s a White House Press Conference. Some reviews of his press conference on January 10 called it “rough.” I watched segments of it on various websites. It was an appalling performance of bluster, name-calling, evasion and bullying.

The National Memo, which is a cover-your-ass pseudo-liberal but really right wing channel, excerpted Trump’s interaction with a reporter, Jim Acosta, from CNN. I tried to write down the actual words as they were spoken.

Jim Acosta, who was sitting in the front row center, asked Trump about an early morning tweet in which Trump said the release of certain information by US intelligence agencies was something that would have happened in Nazi Germany.

CNN: ….what were you driving at?

 T: I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful, that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake, out, think it’s a disgrace. I say that. I say that, it was something Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it’s a disgrace. That information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public – as far as Buzzfeed – which is a failing pile of garbage – writing it? I think they’re going to suffer the consequences, they already are – and as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up and by the way, we just found out, I was coming down – Michael Cohen he’s a very talented good lawyer in my firm, it was just reported that it wasn’t this Michael Cohen, so all night long, it’s Michael Cohen, Michael Cohen, I say I want to see your passport, he brings his passport to my office, I say hey, wait a minute, he didn’t leave the country, he wasn’t out of the country, they had, “Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague.” It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen, it’s a disgrace what took place, it’s a disgrace, and I think they ought to apologize to start with Michael Cohen.

CNN: Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question –

T: No, go ahead, (pointing at Breitbart reporter) no, not you (waving off the CNN reporter)

 CNN: Can you give us a question?

T: Go ahead, she’s asking a question, don’t be rude.

 CNN: Since you’re attacking our news organization. Mr. President Elect, can you give us a chance to ask a question – (other reporters start applauding)

T: No no, not you, your organization’s’ terrible –

 CNN: Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question –

 T: No

CNN: Mr. President elect, can you give us a question

T: Don’t be rude. Don’t. Be Rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake too.

More scattered applause.

 CNN: Can you state categorically that nobody –

 T: No, no –

 CNN: Mr. President elect, that’s not appropriate –

 T: Quiet, quiet – don’t be rude, don’t-be-rude- I’m not going to give you a question –

 CNN and Trump are going back and forth like badminton shuttlecocks, speaking over each other, and reporters in the room are applauding lightly, nervously, in support of CNN. Acosta is holding on, pushing Trump to see how far he will go. When he makes his point, he stops.

It’s hard to actually write down how this goes. Trump doesn’t speak in sentences. He huffs in one-liners, phrases, expletives (“terrible, disgusting, fake”). He likes to mimic other people’s voices (as Meryl Street pointed out). Anecdotes are his one rhetorical form — he knows where he’s going if it’s a 3 or 4 sentence story. Expository language, stuff that explains something – like, who is Michael Cohen?  — is not his way. He talks like an old yenta with a breathing problem, haranguing gossip about family.

Rough? Ragged. This was not a press conference. This was a display of personality. How long will these displays of personality last? As reality TV, people kept tuning in. But as our president? The press corps seems to have understood that this was not going to be a press conference. They pushed him toward the display of personality, to get it over with and warn us what we can expect.

I’ll bet that the deep staters could care less what Trump does as long as they can move their pieces into place. Six hearings are going on at once on Capitol Hill right now. I always thought that the main thing the Republicans wanted was stability, so that capitalism could grind along accumulating capital. How are they going to make a Trump presidency stable? I guess that by keeping him in the foreground they can swamp the media so that we don’t notice what they’re doing in the real world (not on reality TV). Then they’ll stand back and let an impeachment process go forward. They’ll sacrifice him and let Pence, who is a serious politician and, according to many people, much more dangerous, take over. Trump is dangerous because he’s a loose cannon with bad ideas. Pence is a serious guy.

The Future of the Media

Either they’ll cave, get wiped out (like in Russia) or they’ll do their job.

Buzzfeed, apparently has made $25,000 selling online swag such as plastic garbage cans labeled “failing pile of garbage” and has donated the money to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. Meryl Streep urged us to support that organization.

City College Wins: The Long Haul

San Francisco City College received its full accreditation for the next 7 years. This is a total win. Telling the story of how we did this would be a good way to answer the question people always ask us, “How are unions doing these days?” It’s a long story. It’s a story that involves every level of government from the college up through the city and the state and into the federal Department of Education. It involves hundreds of people, to say nothing of the thousands who were students and who participated in demonstrations. It is the story of millions of dollars getting thrown around. The story of the role of the union in this victory would be a good story to tell in order to explain to someone why unions are critical players in anything that holds back the rush of money into the top 1%. We started to tell this story to Emmy and Brian, who dropped by last night with Anna and Rosie and some other friends while out for a walk. Emmy suggested trying to get people to collaborate on a book about this struggle. That would make a huge job less formidable. But as Joe says, “Another book project!!!”

Joe has joined Democratic Socialists of America and went to a meeting where they elected local leadership. He said it was a very good meeting, lots of young people; still not diverse enough, however. Maybe I’l join, too.

Finally: Why “labor” doesn’t count

Trump plays the building trades. There’s an old joke: These are the guys who would be happy to build crematoria.

Building Trades Allow Themselves to Be Played Like Fools

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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