Book Review

Sanders, Bernie, “Where We Go from Here. Two Years in the Resistance.” Thomas ‘Dunne Books, St Martin’s Press, New York, 2018

Bernie’s second blockbuster book takes up where the last one left off, right after Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016. Bernie catches us up on what he’s done since then, which is an amazing list of progressive activities. The best value of the book, like the first book, is the way he explains what’s wrong in America and what has to happen for any kind of good outcome.

It begins, “…I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution. I stressed that real change never occurs from the top down. It always happens from the bottom up.” In other words, even though the book is ostensibly about Sanders’ campaigns for the presidency, it’s really about something much greater.

Sanders’ election campaigns are only a component of a larger plan to develop a mass movement capable of making real change. That’s why his supporters are moving America forward. A few may have thought that their contributions in 2016 went for nought, but they are mistaken. Even when Bernie loses, he wins. The movement gets stronger, and the movement is everything. The election is, well, not so much!

My Favorite Parts

Everything about this book is encouraging. I picked out some of my favorite parts. On page 45 Sanders explains that Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices as the Veterans’ Administration does: “In fact, the VA pays about 24 percent less for drugs than most government agencies and about 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.”

Here’s a lesson for activists on page 75: “…we have since made social media central to the efforts of our office.”

If one word explains what is wrong in the world, the word is inequality. Sanders (page 78) says that 52% of all new income goes to the top 1% of Americans. He also says that 3 American billionaires now have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the population!

Sanders knows a lot more about foreign policy than he is given credit for. I was surprised, and pleased, to read on page 90 that he is not a pacifist. So his opposition to the Iraq invasion was a practical matter, not an abstract or religious commitment. On page 183 he points out that “…the Department of Defense remains the only  major government agency not to have undertaken a comprehensive audit?”

As a radio talk show host, I was particularly pleased to see that Sanders views the corporate media clearly. On page 124 he says, “Corporate media is not ‘objective’; they are not the ‘referees’ trying to provide ‘all sides of the story.’ Corporate media are profit-making entities owned and controlled by the ruling class and some of the wealthiest people in the country. And, like all private corporations, they have an agenda.”

I also greatly appreciate his insights into our criminal “injustice” system. On page 125 and elsewhere, Sanders bemoans the fact that the United States has “more people in jail than any other nation.” Sanders has never received due credit for his commitment to equal rights for all. On page 191 he agrees with Dr King that “the inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice.”

Don’t Look In the Wrong Place

A lot of American voters are trying to sort through the 20-odd Democratic Party presidential candidates. They are misled. They are looking at the wrong thing. None of those candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, even elected to the presidency, can make the fundamental change that is necessary today. It’s going to take a giant mass movement.

As Sanders says on page 179: “My view is, and has always been, that campaigns are not just about the candidate.”

–Gene Lantz

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

Congress is raising a hullabaloo about what they are now calling “Big Tech” – by which they mean Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. They are threatening to break out the old anti-trust laws and scatter each company into smaller ones. Their argument is that it would be more democratic to have smaller, less powerful, tech companies.

Here are my arguments against it.

Us old people saw this before when they broke up Bell Telephone. Does anybody remember their phone bills going down and their phone service improving? Nope. Nobody remembers it because it never happened. If anything, phone service costs went up and landline phone service became, well, what it is today.

Consider China

While American legislators are trying to tear successful enterprises apart, the Chinese are trying to build theirs up. One ought to think about the reasons for this difference, especially because the Chinese have clearly been operating the most successful economy in the world. Do you remember the phrase, “A Chinaman’s chance?” It used to mean no chance at all. In my lifetime, they’ve come from the least respected to the most feared economic machine.

I think that the Chinese want the obvious efficiency of giant enterprises, as almost anybody would. Apparently, the government over there thinks they can control them. Our government over here likes to pretend that they don’t interfere much in the economy. They say “let the market take care of itself,” unless, of course, their wealthy backers want another handout such as the giant tax break they just ripped off.

The pretense that the American economy can get back to some kind of individualistic entrepreneurial spirit is just that, a pretense. A capitalist economy develops the way it does because of its fundamental nature. The big ones eat the small ones. There’s no going back, and there’s actually no reason to go back anyway.

The Chinese government and the American government, both of them, can regulate big business. In fact, they can regulate big business better than they can regulate multiple smaller businesses for the simple reason that there are fewer people to watch and fewer books to audit.

Innovation?

Who can do research and development better than the government? Look at the pharmaceutical industry, for example. The problem with big pharma is not that they don’t take advantage of government research. The problem is that government doesn’t regulate them. Their cadres of lobbyists practically run the government instead of the other way around!

Consider the Postal Service

I’m afraid that the same people who want to break up Google are the same ones who want to break up the Post Office. We used to have the best postal service in the world, and it provided some of the best jobs we could get. Now, the good jobs are mostly gone and “privatization” is in every other paragraph. The same thing is true of what used to be the best school system in the world.

What Kind of Future?

We may daydream about a future that looks like our past. Young entrepreneurs wearing buckskins building up cattle empires on Native-Americans lands? Is that the model? Not likely. In my own sci-fi speculations about the future, revolutionaries try to build on the great accomplishments of capitalism, not tear them down. That’s for hippies.

The American government could regulate giant corporations on behalf of the people. They just don’t.

–Gene Lantz

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

None of the candidates in the 2020 presidential race are going to put things right. Not even Bernie.

My idea is not original. I got it from Bernie Sanders. In every speech and message, Sanders tells us that fundamental change will only come from a great united movement. Not from any candidate.

A good example was Mr Obama. He was elected on a slogan of “change,” and I think he sincerely meant it. As president, I think he did about as well as could be done. Working people certainly benefited.

But my old friend George Meyers was completely correct when he taught me that every victory for working people has to be won over and over as long as the employers are in charge. No matter what we win, they can, and will, always take it away.

So none of the candidates, not even Bernie, can fix what’s wrong.

Learn from history

I think that voters knew that in 2016. I think that some of Bernie’s voters crossed over to Trump in their desperation for anything other than business as usual. If the Democrats nominate another humdrum establishment politician, Trump is likely to win again.

A vote for Trump in 2020 is a vote for fascism, but don’t forget that Hitler was also elected by a population that was desperate for something different.

What needs fixing?

There are two major problems underlying our crisis: 1) America’s waning economic power and 2) Unrestricted capitalism which, by necessity, piles up the wealth for a diminishing few while exploiting the many. In order to continue unrestricted capitalism under these circumstances, the employers find it necessary to erode and, eventually, destroy democracy.

Mr Trump is certainly not going to fix either one of these problems. In fact, by exploiting them for personal power, he’s making them much worse. It may be true that “anybody but Trump” is the right election choice for 2020, but elections are only one part of power politics.

How do we fix them?

Major social changes are not and never have been made by well intentioned individuals or small groups. It takes a united mass movement. That’s what Mr Bernie Sanders is working toward. His presidential campaigns are only a part of building that movement. Even if he loses again in 2020, support for him and his movement is still the right course. In fact, it’s the only positive course.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book Review: Woodward, Bob, “Fear. Trump in the White House.” Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018

Most of the people who can read already have a low opinion of Donald J Trump. What they find in Woodward’s careful documentation of White House conversations is not likely to change many opinions. It will confirm, and strongly confirm, those with the opinion that the President of the United States is a lazy, prevaricating, egomaniacal, loose pistol with one finger on his Twitter feed and the other on nuclear war.

The book extensively explains that Trump believes that power is fear. But I don’t think that’s the reason for the book’s title. I think Woodward is talking about the world’s fear for its own safety.

If one wanted to take Trump’s view of things, or if one yearned for the vacuous “neutrality” nonsense to which most journalists pretend, then one could credit Trump with being loyal to his original plan. In other words, he really is against free trade, globalization, immigrants, and foreign entanglements. If those ideas are twisted and spun well, a lot of Americans would agree with him on those fundamentals. In fact, a lot of Americans voted for him and will vote for him again.

The popular idea that any Democrat could beat Trump in 2020 is just as unreliable a belief as the 2016 national conviction, supported by scientific polling, that he didn’t stand a chance against Hillary Clinton. Nobody believed that Trump would take power, even though they had the clear precedent from Nazi Germany.

Understanding Is Needed

It is not enough to dislike Donald J Trump as we prepare for 2020. It is not enough to quote Bob Woodward from this book to convince people to look elsewhere for a president in 2020. If we are to make progress in the 2020 elections, we need to carefully explain what is happening and what must be done.

Certain truths need to be faced and understood. Begin with the clear fact that we are reaching the end of America’s economic dominance. The reasons for that dominance grew out of World War I and World War II. Those reasons are long gone. American continues to dominate the world militarily, but not economically. Donald Trump did not make that happen. He exploits it, but he didn’t make it happen.

Springing directly from America’s waning economic domination and continuing military domination is the growth of immigration numbers. After all, if the United States hadn’t created the Syrian military crisis, millions of people would have stayed home. In other countries, it may take two sentences instead of one to explain why families leave home, but the military and economic factors, both springing largely from the United States, are the root cause. Donald Trump exploits that situation, but he didn’t create it.

Hitler exploited the 25% unemployment rate in Germany and the failure of the social democrats to reform society. He didn’t create the misery, but he exploited it.

Speaking of Hitler and Trump, it is especially important to note that they had a lot more power afterward than they did when they were first elected. Hitler was eventually able to do away with the German legislature entirely. Trump hasn’t gone that far, but Trump and the Trump supporters have eroded the power of the legislative branch. Their control over the judiciary is even more obvious and more scary.

The Solution Goes Far Beyond Personalities

As 2020 draws near, progressive voters are asking, “Which Democrat has the best chance of beating Trump?” That question barely scratches the surface of what is needed. No one person, even a president, will change the underlying problems we face. The president that we elect, and all the down-ballot politicians that we elect, are going to have to contribute to actual solutions: organizing for fundamental change.

Gene Lantz

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

Why am I still smiling?

In Dallas, the “business elite,” a euphemism for “unscrupulous greedy rich people,” won the June runoff elections for City Council and School Board. Turnout was among the lowest in the nation.

Elections are absolutely critical, but we always find that the winners we support (think Obama) can’t really save us from everything and the ones we worked against (think Trump) can’t really do as much damage as we feared. So elections are not entirely completely totally about who won and who lost.

To understand politics, we have to look beyond candidates and try to understand trends. For example, the Dallas election turnout was 33% higher than the last comparable election. The runoff election, which should have had a much lower turnout than the first round because there were far fewer candidates, was the same as the first round!

What does it mean? It means that we may have a very low level of political consciousness in Dallas, but that it’s dramatically improving! That’s one thing to smile about!

Another trend worth noting is the humongous amounts of money that rich people are paying to win elections. Positions that they used to buy for a few thousands are now costing them millions! Money still wins elections, but it takes more of it!

Another very good trend sounds like a bad trend: the political stooges of the rich-and-greedy are trying every possible way to end democracy, especialy as it applies to elections. Voter suppression is obvious in many state legislatures, especially ours. If they weren’t running scared, would they be publicly shaming themselves so?

The rule of the rich-and-greedy is becoming precarious, and they know it!

Some other good things are evident in Dallas’ local elections. In the past, it was difficult to pick the candidates to vote for. Nowadays, the Dallas AFL-CIO has perfected the most comprehensive screening process ever available for working families. Many Dallasites haven’t realized it yet, but the information is there for future elections.

And, speaking of information, the Dallas AFL-CIO is steadily improving its ability to inform and activate the progressive population. In the last week of the runoff election, we were finally able to establish a Digital Organizing Committee that will be the beginning of a progressive information network. Our goal is to organize everybody, and, thanks to the farsighted National AFL-CIO leadership, we have the tools to do it!

Thanks for reading this. You’re proving my point! If you share it around, you’ll prove it even more!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’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

Artificial intelligence has a lot of people scared, but they’re looking the wrong way.

Humans is good TV

I love the way good futuristic science fiction can be used to illustrate current problems. Normally, they take just one trend in our current lives and push it to extremes. In the terrific TV series “Humans,” almost all middle-income Americans have at least one humanoid-looking robot doing all their grunt work. Virtually all basic industry uses them. But they discover a handful of them who have their own consciousness that matches, and excels, that of the humans.

Should we be scared? Well, most of the humans in the TV series are terrified. A lot of working people, in the TV series, didn’t like the robots to begin with because robots could do their jobs better and cheaper than they could. They really, super don’t like the ones that aren’t anybody’s slaves!

The series is really entertaining and thought provoking. But should we really be afraid of robots and artificial intelligence? I just found a nice article by Cori Crider, she wrote “The Big Picture, the World According to AI. She founded an organization called Foxglove that aims to make tech accountable. The article was Artificial Intelligence Reinforces Power and Privilege.”

I would guess that Crider is one of the people who want to break up Google and Facebook with anti-trust laws. It’s similar to the solution posed in the TV series: “kill the robots!”

Robots, or artificial intelligence, or automation, has been with us for a long time, and it’s true that lots of people fear it and would like to smash it like the Luddites of old. The trend isn’t going to lessen, it’s going to get stronger so that, more and more, the futuristic sci-fi on TV won’t seem so far away.

But it isn’t the machines that take our jobs. It isn’t the machines that want to replace us. Machines don’t have stomachs demanding food nor hormones demanding sex partners. Our problem is the the same one we’ve always had, it’s the bosses!

Even if we had humanoid robot servants with superior mental abilities, they would not threaten us. If we were in control, we’d just cut our working hours drastically and enjoy the better life that the robot servants could provide.

The problem is that we’re not in control. That’s the problem.

–Gene Lantz

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

Before we start bombing, we might want to check around.

Looking for an Enemy

I’ve said for sometime that Mr Trump would like to be considered a “wartime president.” A wartime president wouldn’t be bothered with subpoenas, investigations, and possibly even the 2020 election. The fires on the oil tankers are now being twisted into just the excuse he needs.

But Americans could be a little skeptical about the new excuse for war. The wars we waged since 1945, for example all of them, were started under very questionable circumstances.

On the BBC this morning, an Iranian spokesman said that if his country wanted to block the Strait of Hormuz they would just block it. The video of their sailors removing a defunct mine from one of the tankers only proved that they had removed it, not that they had put it there. Pompeo said they had kidnapped the tanker crew that they rescued!

A good source on Middle-East developments is the Qatar news service, Al Jazeera. They’re so good that they suffer powerful attacks from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Here’s some of what they have posted:

*https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/holds-iran-responsible-reported-gulf-attacks-tankers-190613183053625.html

*US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of being behind the reported attacks that damaged two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, offering, however, no concrete evidence in a statement that came hours after Tehran called the incidents “suspicious”….

*A Saudi-led military coalition, which is battling the Houthi rebels in Yemen, described Thursday’s events as a “major escalation” and linked them to July 2018 attacks on two Saudi oil tankers in the Red Sea.

*Riyadh had blamed the attack on the Houthis, which it alleges receives arms from Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

*Russia, one of Iran’s main allies, was quick to urge caution on Thursday, saying no one should rush to conclusions about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran.

*Qatar, meanwhile, called for an international investigation and a de-escalation of tensions. In a statement, the Qatari foreign ministry condemned what it called acts of destruction “regardless of who is behind them”.

We haven’t heard the last of this. The Trump Administration will either get a war started or go out of business. I’m hoping the latter comes before the former.

–Gene Lantz

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