“It had nothing to do with the wall!” Kenneth Williams explained the recent 35-day government shutdown to the Dallas Chapter of Texas Alliance for Retired Americans meeting on February 6. Williams is a political activist from Rowlett, near Dallas. President George Nolan put Williams on the agenda first.




Kenneth Williams
explained the shutdown

The tipoff, Williams explained, was that Mr Trump had two years in which his party controlled both houses of Congress, yet he didn’t take such drastic action to get his wall. He didn’t do it until the Democrats won the House of Representatives. Williams asked, “If they really wanted money for the wall, why didn’t they do it when they had control of Congress?”

The real reason that Trump provoked the shutdown was to usurp power from Congress. Williams said that Trump was thinking, “We must do something to put them in their place.” But, Williams said, “They underestimated the unity of the Democrats in opposing them.”

Another lesson we learned from the shutdown is that so-called “middle income” job holders don’t have money in reserve. They live paycheck-to-paycheck. The shutdown put a terrible hardship on government employees and contractors. The contractors may never recover.

Will Trump provoke another shutdown? Williams thinks not, because the entire Republican party is not crazy. They know that they lost power and influence and they don’t want any more of it. Williams said, “The Republican Senators are terrified of going through this again.”

One of the activists asked, “How is Trump going to get out of this corner?” Kenneth Williams answered, “He is not going to get out of the corner… he will make up some facts.”

Other retiree activists at the meeting agreed with Williams. Some of them had even stronger statements.

Retiree Meetings Aren’t Just Social Events

The two-hour meeting covered a lot of analysis of the situation confronting retirees followed by recommendations as to how to fight back. Fernando Rojas gave announcements from Senior Source, the local dispenser of government help for retirees. Alliance Field Organizer Judy Bryant went over pending state and federal legislation affecting how retirees live.

Bryant then went on to organize delegations to local congresspersons, voter registration, and other ways that retirees may influence decision makers.

Our masters rule us because we are confused. They want it that way. That’s the main reason for it.





What is your aim?

The process of improving our human condition, the only process worth living for, benefits as confusion diminishes. But how can we diminish it?

We often find ourselves unable to distinguish between the many choices offered. This may particularly be felt during elections when we are trying to choose candidates. But it also true, more generally, when we try to distinguish between organizations that seem progressive. Which of them will actually set things right?

There are no good answers to the question, but that is not a reflection on the possible answers. It’s the question that was wrong.

Ask the right question

If our goal is to improve the human condition, then it should be obvious that none of the candidates in an election will be able to bring about a great transformation. It should also be obvious, in a more general sense, that none of the various organizations seeking our time and money can, by themselves, create a better world.

Great changes come about because of great mass movements. The biggest lie repeated on the internet, and repeated so often that people think it is true, is that individuals or small groups cause historical changes.

When we ask which candidate to work for or which organization should get our donations, we should be asking how they will affect that great mass movement of working families that will, eventually, bring the change we want.

Demagogues and sectarian organizations will end up on the bottom of our list. Those who promote progress and working class unity will rise to the top.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 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

Movie Review:

“Capernaum,” Directed by Nadine Labaki, 121 minutes






Tough guy

The hero is a tough, profane, street-smart guy. But he’s not from New York’s Lower East Side as in our usual gangster films. He’s not from Capernaum either. It was an ancient city where Jesus and several of his disciples once lived. Jesus put a curse on it when he left, and that’s probably why the film maker chose the name for this story that takes place in the dusty slums of Beirut.

The tough guy says he might be 12 years old, but he looks 8. He’s already stabbed a bad guy and is serving a five-year prison sentence when he first begins to explain his story. The story is about someone so tough that he bears the worst of betrayals and deprivation. He even makes the horrible lives of refugees and other underground non-persons better than they would have been.

The villains are the tough guy’s parents, the human traffickers, the system of misery, and most of the people he meets. One of the most heart-rending lines in the entire movie is when he expresses his surprise to another child, “Your mother is even worse than mine!”

The star of the movie is the genuine article. He’s a Syrian refugee named Zain Al Rafeea.  His resolute little angel face tells most of the story. He and the film are winning international awards.

We had seen one other Nadine Labaki film. “Caramel” was about a beauty salon operator with relationship problems, not about misery and poverty. Both films, though, have a certain inventiveness that makes me think that Labaki is a trailblazer. She’s a young woman. According to the credits, her face is the first one you see in this film, so watch for it if you’re curious.

I think Labaki had some sympathy with movie audiences when she started writing this screenplay. I think she smoothed off some of the edges to make it a happier, or less miserable, viewing experience. The truth about the world’s children is almost certainly worse.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 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

Film Review: “Who Will Write Our History,” Written, produced and directed by Roberta Grossman. Based on the book by Samuel Kassow

For Holocaust Remembrance Day in Dallas, people from all over the city gathered at the historic Texas Theater to see this documentary about the Warsaw ghetto and the small group of historians who risked their lives to document the tragedy.

They wrote down everything they could, and they saved photos, drawings, and printed (by the German occupation) materials. Then they wrapped it the best they could and buried it. The resulting account was dug up after World War II and constitutes a day-by-day account of the horrors they bore. The film says that the complete Warsaw Archives were buried in three separate parts of the ghetto, and that only two of these treasures have been found so far.

The documentary film has a lot of the footage that the occupiers shot, still shots of some of the archives, plus testimony and narration. It is interspersed with docu-drama film to make a seamless presentation that makes sense. Or rather, it makes as much sense as anything concerning the holocaust does.

We must cry when we remember, but remember we must. The film was shown all over the world on January 27. Its tour continues.

–Gene Lantz

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

Theater Review: “Sweat” Written by Lynn Nottage and Directed at the Dallas Theater Center by Tim Bond. Run ends Feb 10

When jobs disappear, do we disappear too?

My theater buddy and I couldn’t stop talking about “Sweat” after we saw it. The play covers a handful of workers who socialized together through the period 2000-2008. If you’re old enough to remember, those were hard times for factory workers who had made a decent living previously.

The background is layoffs. For these workers, and for millions of Americans, the layoffs and cutbacks seemed as meaningless as they were devastating. Lots of people were hit, hardly anybody knew why. Usually, we talk about these things with statistics and graphs, but this play talks about it in terms of people.

Layoffs and cutoffs created desperation, and desperation brought alienation. Alienation created hate. Many of us have seen it up close. It takes many forms such as: wife abuse, jealousy, divorce, estrangement, substance abuse, and all the ugly forms of chauvinism.

With a handful of friends, “Sweat” demonstrates several of the tragedies. Multiply it by millions and you’ll have America’s working class.

–Gene Lantz

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

book review:

Harrigan, Stephen, “The Gates of the Alamo.” Penguin Books, New York, 2000

The Alamo is the #1 tourist attraction in Texas. It’s a shrine!

Historical fiction about the Texan rebellion against Mexico. I really grew to hate Mister Harrigan with the craven envy peculiar only to cowards. He writes and researches better than I ever will. This book sounds so immediately true, right down to the color of the local flora, that one tends to accept everything in this account as true. But it is fiction after all, as he reminds us in the afterward.

Unlike other Texas fiction, and unlike most Texas “History,” which is also fiction, Harrigan tells both sides with considerable compassion. If I hadn’t already been convinced of the accuracy of this account, I would have been won over just by two phrases on page 575, just two pages short of the ending. Santa Ana, long after the rebellion, is sitting in a New York restaurant and remembering, “…the rapacity of the United States as evidenced by its invasion of Mexico; the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians by the so-called Texas Rangers…”

Santa Ana, during the time of the rebellion, is painted as a very bad guy. He insisted on executing all the Texas fighting men, no matter how they may have surrendered. But Harrigan is quick to remind us, near the end, that he also fought against French imperialism. And, he was largely responsible for the commercialization of chewing gum.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site. I have 4 of my own novels there. They aren’t as good as Harrigan, but they’re shorter!

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” — Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, responding to why they overthrew the government in Chile in 1973

Meeting Venezuelans during their 2006 election

The United States has recognized the opposition leader in Venezuela as their rightful President. They are calling for an overthrow. They say that the elected president was illegally elected and that he disqualified some of his opposition. They have pulled their closest allies in with them.

Right in the middle of the crisis over whether or not Donald Trump can dictate his wishes to the American people, Trump is calling somebody else “a dictator!”

The fascist president of Brazil, who imprisoned his opposition and then “won” his election, is one of the happy club now calling for the overthrow of Venezuela. The U.S. efforts to take over Venezuela’s government and its oil didn’t start yesterday, it started when the great majority of Venezuelans elected, and then defended, an anti-imperialist president.

The pattern was set in Chile when the great majority of Chileans elected the mildly anti-imperialist Salvadore Allende. First they undermined the economy, then they organized the right-wing forces, then they permeated the military. Then they bombed the presidential palace, killed Allende, and installed a fascist government that murdered the remaining oppositionists.

Anyone not already familiar with what happened might just browse for “Chile Allende” on Youtube. There are dozens of videos. https://youtu.be/9h8deIN-OoU is one.

An earlier attempt to overthrow Venezuela is also available on Youtube. https://youtu.be/Id–ZFtjR5c.

Here in America, the silence is deafening. Mr Trump and his gang get to make their accusations every day on every information source. The “honest reporters” reach beyond the Trump Administration to interview leaders and experts from previous administrations, all of whom share the same imperialist views. I wish I could say that the only imperialists in America are Republicans, but you’d know better.

The Venezuelans get some criticism from the so-called “left” as well as from the outspoken imperialists. Certain leftists blame the Venezuelan (and the Chilean) leaders for being social democrats instead of real working-class advocates. In other words, they didn’t deal directly with the local capitalists who were bound to conspire with the United States against them and; consequently, should have known they’d be overthrown sooner or later.

Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. We in America aren’t responsible for decisions in other countries, but in our own. We might love the Venezuelans or hate them, but it isn’t up to us to overthrow their government.

I like the position taken by the World Federation of Trade Unions and its spokepersons in “Labor Today” here:

“The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 95 million workers of the five continents as well as the world class-oriented labor movement, strongly rejects the attempted coup d’état against the legitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

‘This interference, orchestrated by the US government, NATO and the EU and executed by the representatives of the transnationals and monopolies in the country, constitutes a flagrant violation of the most elementary rules of international law and of the Venezuela’s sovereignty. For the WFTU, it is an inalienable right of each people to decide for themselves, without outside interventions, on their present and future.

‘At the same time, the WFTU reaffirms, as it has already done on several occasions, its solidarity with the Venezuelan people, with the working class and our affiliated organizations in the country in front of this imperialist threat. In addition, we call on the Venezuelan people to reject the maneuvers of the imperialists and their lackeys in the region, to condemn the plans of the murderers of the peoples. We will continue to support the Venezuelan working class, for the deepening of the Bolivarian process, until the abolition of man by man exploitation, towards a new world, without wars and imperialist barbarism. This is the only way forward to repel the plans of the imperialists.

‘Long live internationalist solidarity!”

–Gene Lantz

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