There’s so much complaining about unions, especially our own! But our radio program on the Communications Workers of America revealed some very positive aspects of the American union movement.

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My co-host, Bonnie Mathias is an outspoken member of two CWA locals, including the Dallas dominating CWA 6215. Our guests were from CWA 6171, headquartered in Krum, Texas. Travis Pirotte is the elected president, and Tony Schaeffer is the professional representative from CWA District 6, a five-state region. Tony is the big guy on your left in the photo.

Right now, CWA 6171 is negotiating a new contract with Frontier. A couple of callers wanted to know if they were expecting the company to want big pay cuts. They also wanted to know if the union was doing anything about the national problem of companies’ outsourcing work from union members to low-paid subcontractors. Another caller wanted to know if their union was trying to organize any of the many low-paid, no-benefits workers in the “gig” economy. These were really good questions.

Tony is the expert on negotiations. He said that the company had not made any economic proposals yet. Unions negotiate “economic” and “non-economic” issues separately, with the non-economics usually first, he said. As for the sub-contractors stealing work from the union, Tony said that the CWA has been fighting this nationwide all along.

The Good Part

For me, the good part was when Bonnie and our guests started talking about all the socially responsible things that their union is doing. I knew that Herb Keener from CWA 6215 speaks up for the Blue/Green Alliance between labor and environmentalists. I also know that Claude Cummings, District 6 leader, is a major figure in civil rights activities — whether they concern union members or not. It was good to hear the guests confirm these things.

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–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

I normally listen to NPR while I do my morning yoga, stretches, and calisthenics. Six days a week it’s news, but sometimes on Sundays I catch some motivation program named something like “Humankind.” They interview various “spiritual advisers” and “life coaches” who use a lot of elusive terms like “inner voices” and “true destiny.” They want us to meditate and to “settle with ourselves,” or to “achieve calm within.”

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When I add up everything they say, it totals nothing. But I can see how they manage to get clients to pony up money to listen to them. A lot of Americans, especially those from the more-or-less affluent middle class, think they really need someone help them “find meaning.”

I think rich people don’t subscribe to spiritualism because they think they already have a purpose: getting richer. Poor people don’t seek “meaning” because they don’t have time. But it’s not hard to see why those in the middle would feel this need. They feel a genuine lack, something they should have that they have possibly lost.

Actually, they’re right.

We start losing our natural sense of purpose as soon as we enter modern society. That’s because our purpose is to help one another, and society in America as we know it is dead set against that purpose. Our society sets us against one another. It tells us to look out, to compete, and to vanquish the very people that we would have cared about if we weren’t twisted away as we are.

alienation

If anyone needed an example, look at our education. From kindergarten through graduate school, we compete for grades. The only way to be top of the class is to have everyone else beneath. We may never acknowledge it, but it’s how the system works. It’s not just the schools. It’s our jobs, too. We compete with everybody else for promotions, for raises, and for the best assignments.

At the grocery, we compete for the best products, the lowest prices, and the fastest check-out lines. On the streets, we have to make time by getting ahead of other drivers. It’s a rat race everywhere, and we’re the rats.

Once we’re aware of our forced alienation, we begin to find ways to fight back against it. It’s not like we have discovered a purpose; we always had one but we were purposefully driven away from it. To get back to caring for one another, as evolution created us to do, we have to fight.

We have to figure out how to fight alienation for ourselves. Life coaches won’t tell us.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

At a rally in Dallas on the first day of early voting, congressional candidate Colin Allred said “We have two weeks to save democracy!”

allred-cwa-earlyvote

Soon afterward, the election in Brazil sharpened world concern for democracy’s future. Jair Bolsonaro openly welcomes a return to military dictatorship. He threatens all his political opponents with using the military and government sanctions militias to carry out “a cleansing never before seen.” Women, gays, landless peasants, and the homeless are targets named in a New York Times article.

Almost immediately after the election, military units began raiding student organizations to confiscate any “anti-fascist” or “pro-democracy” materials, according to @castriotar on Twitter.

It’s not just Brazil. The Week news service says, “Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

What’s “Populism?”

In American history, the populists were always considered the representatives of the downtrodden, primarily farmers and sharecroppers who were being squeezed out by urbanization. Populism was associated with being pro-democracy, according to Wikipedia.

Today, newspersons and pundits use the term to mean anybody who claims to oppose the status quo. They’ve invented the term “right-wing populism” to include politicians who are virulently against democracy. Others just call them fascists.

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

On the democracy scale, “left” is usually associated with more democracy while “right” is associated with less. The meaning of both terms is so thoroughly distorted as to make them generally useless. “Pro-democratic” or “anti’” is more accurate.

President Trump’s recent claim that he can overturn the American constitution’s birthright guarantee by executive order is a good example of anti-democratic activity.

What’s “Democracy?”

Historically, we associate democracy with the ancient Greeks. The idea was government by the will of the people. Through the ages, we have never seen anything close to a complete democracy. The Greeks, of course, excluded their slaves. In America, democracy has grown a lot since slavery days but has never included the people’s control over basic economic nor foreign policy.

Of especial importance is the people’s lack of control over the machinery of elections. We may get to vote, but we have never controlled the elections.

During economic or military emergencies, democracy is always diminished. Wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were often called dictators.

Socialists have held out the promise of great extensions of democracy, but have never completely delivered because of the extreme tactics of capitalist opposition. The best that socialists have been able to deliver was “wartime democracy” similar to what Lincoln and Roosevelt practiced.

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

Commentators are scrambling to explain the anti-democratic global changes. They ask why people have been voting away their own democratic powers. The answer is that we aren’t.

Our democracy, even American democracy, is not complete and never was. The struggle between the poor and the rich, the 1% and the 99%, the employees and the employers, the workers and the owners, is being played out in elections that are ignored by many on our side. The elections are  being manipulated by the rich and distorted by incredible rivers of dark ugly money.

As a world crisis of international competition shrinks their opportunities, the wealthy are increasingly choosing to give up all pretense of government by the people. They are throwing their considerable wealth and power behind reactionary anti-democracy politicians who are willing to carry us all down an obvious path of total destruction.

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Notes:

Ny times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-profile.html

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said as a congressman — made him so polarizing that he struggled to find a running mate until early August. Traditional parties and politicians considered him too extreme.

President Trump called on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, following up with a tweet on Monday morning that said, “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

In 1993, he delivered a fiery speech before the lower house of Congress urging its demise, calling the emerging version of democracy in Brazil a lost cause.

“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro thundered. “We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

More than 20 Brazilian universities were invaded by the military police in the past 2 days. They confiscated material on the history of fascism, interrupted classes due to ‘ideological content’, removed anti-fascist banners and posters claiming that it was electoral propaganda.

@castriotar

Many other student movements and organizations reported military police forces inside classrooms, student units, academic directories, confiscating any sort of materials with ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘pro-democracy’ content.

“It will be a cleansing never before seen in Brazilian history.” [referring directly to “reds,” to Workers Party leader Lula Da Silva, and to his present electoral opponent. He said they will “rot in jail.” He directly threatens to use the armed forces and civilian militias with legal sanction against enemies such as the landless peasants movement and the homeless movement.

April article From Independent about Hungary: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/victor-orban-hungary-migrant-refugees-george-soros-ngo-far-right-a8297441.html

Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist party has vowed to would crack down on organisations helping migrants and refugees, in an announcement made just a day after it won an overwhelming election victory.

The autocratic prime minister portrayed himself as the saviour of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with more than 2.5 million voters.”

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds super majority in the country’s parliament, which would allow it and its small ally, the Christian democrats, to push through changes to constitutional laws.

**

From Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/27/polands-right-wing-government-is-rewriting-history-with-itself-as-hero/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ef44090bd99

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

Poland is in the midst of a pitched battle over its collective memory. The ruling party has recently stirred an international controversy by passing a bill criminalizing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” But in many ways, those international rifts are just collateral damage. The real battle is at home and is over what counts as legitimate political authority, and who can wield it.

Poland’s government is suggesting that the present-day cosmopolitan liberals who want to acknowledge Polish collaborators in crimes against Jews are traitors, like the Communists, willing to sell the nation to the highest international bidder. And such national mythmaking has more real-world power than many understand.

From The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/its-the-right-wings-italy-now/562256/  June 6

“A new populist government came to power in Italy this week, and the right is calling the shots. It swept in on a wave of anxiety about immigration and the economy. On the economy, certain European rules could prevent Italy from going totally off the rails. When it comes to immigration, things could get rough—at least in rhetoric. In 88 days of coalition talks, Salvini, known for his strident attacks on immigrants as a threat to Italian safety, grew emboldened by the League’s rising popularity in the polls, and in the 11th-hour negotiations to forge a government, he appears to have outmaneuvered Luigi di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which won twice as many votes as the League in Italy’s March 4 elections

From The Week: https://theweek.com/articles/804453/why-are-rightwing-populists-winning-everywhere

“Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

“What is the commonality in contemporary conditions, around the world, that has made people in so many countries susceptible to both emotional impulses at once, and powered the global rise of the populist right?

That’s the question that liberal democrats need to answer before they are completely swept away.”

I have never been sure whether Donald J Trump was restoring a world of hatred and nationalist paranoia because it’s just what he wants to do, or if he was simply reflecting a change in world relations whose time had come.

diplomacy-cartoon

Fraternalization among nations is ending.

One could say that international fraternalization started during World War II, or after it, or during the Nixon Administration when he visited China. One could say that it began with the fall of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Or one could say it began with the formation of the European Economic Community, or with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or with the Organization of American States, or with all of that. However it started, it’s ending now. Nations are pulling apart.

Case in point: The European Union is strongly criticizing the governments of Italy and Poland. Even bigger case in point: Donald J Trump is pulling out of environmental accords and, lately, even out of nuclear proliferation accords. Plus, he seems intent on offending almost all traditional American allies. Nations are pulling apart.

Should we ask why?

Or should we look at it the other way around and ask why nations had been seeking cooperation with one another prior to the Trump election?

The period just ending, in which America dominated and forced every other nation to cooperate, is not new in history. In the centuries of British domination, roughly 1700 to 1900, they did the same thing. They even used the same rubric: “free trade.”

As British domination fell apart, the separate nations experienced their first World War. As that war began, V.I. Lenin wrote “Imperialism.” In it, he compared the world’s national leaders to gangs of criminals who might, for short periods, cooperate, but were likely to launch a new “turf war” almost any time. The inference from the pamphlet was that the capitalists running the largest industrialized nations would never cooperate for long. For economic reasons, it’s just not in their nature.

The United States dominated the world economically from World War II to the present, but that domination is being severely tested today. Our cars aren’t the only cars, our steel industry is about gone, even our electronics industry has disappeared. If other nations decided to stop using U.S. dollars as their reserve currency, our economy would fall to pieces. And that could happen. Almost any time. Trump is pushing them in that direction, too.

What we called “globalization,” or fraternalization among nations was really a set of circumstances in which the United States was unchallenged in its world domination. Every other nation actually had to cooperate, or to seem to cooperate. That seems to be ending now. I don’t think Trump caused it in 2016, just as I don’t think Hitler caused it in 1931, or if the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire caused it by dying in 1914. It’s part of the system we live under. It had to end.

The question really is: what are we going  to do about it?

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

Movie Review:

The Old Man and the Gun, Directed by David Lowery, 93 minutes

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It’s a Robert Redford movie beginning to end, but Sissy Spacek has a single close-up that is worth the entire movie. I guess I had always thought that the way she beams off the screen had something to do with her unfailing youth, but now I know it wasn’t that. Whatever it was, she was great then and she’s great now!

The movie is an old-style semi-documentary gangster movie overlaid with the Robert Redford charm. The dates of events are given to make it more “authentic,” and indeed there really was an old gentleman bandit that was captured around the Dallas area, and he really did have a dramatic back story.

You know it’s a pretty good movie because Redford doesn’t make any bad ones. I’d like to say that there are some eternal themes or important messages, maybe about aging gracefully, to take home with you, but that’s probably not true. This is a movie for people who are crazy about Robert Redford, have been for decades and always will be.

And Sissy Spacek, too.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 Central Time every Saturday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

We are living in a time of great contradiction.

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The more we learn, the stranger is our political world.

People have never been so enlightened. Knowledge, long ago, was accessible to only a privileged few. Most human beings, lacking any real understanding, were guided by dark superstitions and easily herded about by those in power.

We’ve only had public education in America for 150 years or so. Printed words for 600 years, telegraph for maybe 200, radios for 150, movies for 120, TV for 75, and the internet for about 40. It gets harder and harder to herd people around when they are figuring things out for themselves. That’s a tremendous and growing contradiction.

People of my generation can remember when segregation ruled. We can remember that people laughed when Desi spanked Lucy on the world’s most popular TV program. We can remember poll taxes, white primaries, and English-only ballots. We remember when little children were spanked for speaking Spanish. We may have a long way to go, but we have come a long way, too!

If one thinks of human enlightenment as human progress, one sees a continuum of gains that has never completely stopped and is not likely to ever stop. Remember the apelike creatures in the movie “2001?” They huddled in the darkness while predators roamed around them. Then they began to learn. We are learning still, but at an accelerating pace.

The other side of the contradiction is that we are still being herded around by the people in power. They pretend that their arguments are “equal” or “the other side,” but they aren’t. They aren’t “alternative facts,” they are just lies.

Their rulers’ methods of superstition, divisiveness, chauvinism, and general backwardness are less and less effective. Something will have to give eventually, and it has to be them.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program on 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check our my personal web site

 

Movie Review:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal site

 

Movie Review

“The Sisters Brothers,” Directed by Jacques Audiard. 121 minutes

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There’s some really terrific shooting scenes in this movie. It takes place in 1851, and the two cold-blooded professional murderers who are the heroes of this film do not have the traditional movie gun, the Colt 45 Peacemaker. The ones they have throw sparks and nasty sounds as well as lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better shootout scenes.

There’s a Dallas Angle: La Réunion

Another good thing about the movie, something that makes it more authentic to me, is the central idea of something that was going on in Dallas, Texas, during the period. One guy, and only one guy because everybody else in the movie is a cold blooded murderer, has a dream of going to Dallas and joining a socialist colony there. What makes it so authentic is that there really was a socialist colony forming right outside Dallas in the early 1850s. Wikipedia tells the story very well, even though they are a little too definitive about the dates when it started and when it ended.

The one man with his socialistic dream gives contrast to some of the characters and, to a small extent, tends to humanize others.

More Good Things

One could not ask for better actors than Joaquin Phonenix and John C. Reilly. One could not ask for more interesting scenes of horses running across rough western terrain. Some of the dialogue was outstanding.

On the Downside

We appreciated the effort to make an authentic western, but my movie buddy and I didn’t really like “The Sisters Brothers.” I think the problem was explained in a radio interview where the main star, John C. Reilly, explains that it was a labor of love. Apparently, they loved every scrap of film so much that they couldn’t cut anything out. They left everything in — every unrelated, going nowhere, irrelevant detail.

The result is a meandering movie with plot lines and asides going higher and thither. If they had tightened it up and put it into focus, it might have been a horse opera of worth.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON 89.3 FM “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site