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

I had to agree with just about everything that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Facebook Live on June 12. I especially liked his opening remarks.

Sanders said that our nation and the world are facing a choice of two different paths. One goes toward authoritarianism and oligarchy, the other toward socialism. Worse yet, our nation and the world are being forced to choose one or the other. “This is that time,” Sanders said.

Rampant inequality is causing the crisis. In our nation, three families control more wealth than the bottom 160 million. Worldwide, a mere 26 billionaires have more than half the planet’s population. It gets worse every time statistics are discovered.

Sanders correctly compares today’s situation with the one we faced in the 1930s. Europe ended up with the bad path, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt took America on the good path. Sanders says that our task today is to continue Roosevelt’s plan, not Hitler’s.

How? You may properly ask. Sanders says, “The only way we can achieve these goals is through a political revolution.” I agreed with that, too.

When Sanders’ plan gets shaky is when he says that his revolution will be accomplished with no more effort than good electioneering and voting. I’d certainly like to agree with that, but it’s actually going to be considerably harder. After all, F.D. Roosevelt was elected four times and permanent progress still eluded us.

Getting organized with the Bernie Sanders campaign may turn out to be only a first good step, but no one could deny that it’s a darned good first step.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s http://knon.org/workers-beat “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: “Red Joan,” Directed by Trevor Nunn, 1 hour, 50 Minutes

What a relief it was to see “Red Joan” during its third, and probably last, week at the Magnolia in Dallas! So many movies lately are just blather! We had endured “A Long Days Journey Into Night,” then endured only the first few minutes of “Booksmart” and “Wine Country” — both exercises in idiocy, so my movie buddy and I were starting to feel that the movies are becoming hopeless.

Then we were rescued by Dame Judi Dench and her new movie about an 80-something woman in England who was arrested for having been a spy when she was a 20-something. An actress new to us, Sophie Cookson, gets most of the movie as the conflicted younger woman.

The title character makes it clear that pre-war England was quite different from modern times, and that’s one of the main strengths of the movie. As the younger character goes through a complicated love life, changing politics, and a role in the creation of the atomic bomb, the audience really does get an opportunity to stop and think.

One gets a chance to speculate on the personalities involved. One gets a chance to learn something and to be affected by something. Thank goodness!

–Gene Lantz

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

TV review: “The Society,” Created by Christopher Keyser and streaming on Netflix

In Sci-Fi Drama, Young Women Run Things

We like “The Society” and hope it gets a 2nd season. You can recap season one on the Netflix Web Site. In a nutshell, the senior class of an affluent high school finds itself living in a new world with no parents, no anybody else, and no way out of their little town. How can they survive?

How Could It Be?

There is very little point in worrying about how this magic could possibly have happened. Sci-Fi TV series’ sometimes drag out the explanation over many seasons, and some of them never come up with it. I’ll propose my own just for the purpose of telling why I think the program is worthwhile.

I think that benign aliens from a superior planet have deliberately displaced this group just to see what they will do. The aliens might be trying to decide whether or not to help the earthlings, or maybe they are evaluating annihilation. Anyway, it’s an experiment.

That’s not a really unusual explanation. In “2001, a Space Odyssey,” for example, (the book, not the movie, heaven knows what the movie means) aliens are leading the earthlings forward over centuries of development. In “Star Trek,” the Vulcans have evaluated us and decided to help. In “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the aliens are just giving us one last chance.

Watch and Learn

That brings me to why I think the series is worthwhile: we, you and I, are the aliens.We’re watching these yuppie teen-agers to see what humans will do when they collectively have to find a way to survive. Will they create Shangri-La or will they degenerate like the boys in “Lord of the Flies?” I love the former and hate the latter, just so you’ll know where I’m coming from.

It doesn’t take the more serious youngsters long to realize that they need some kind of governance. They inventory the non-perishable food available, they take note of their lack of medicines and medical expertise, they run head on into a number of social problems. Almost everybody is in love. Somebody gets pregnant, somebody else is a psychopath. I especially like that they added a psychopath into the mix, because no matter what positive steps the rest of them may take, he will never go along.

It is worthwhile to speculate about the very nature of humanity. Can we possibly put aside our more basic urges to strive for a real solution? Are we intelligent enough to recognize the need for collectivity? Will they survive like the English colonists at Jamestown, or disappear like the earlier ones at Roanoke?

So far, three potential teen leaders have come forward. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that all of them are female. Nothing else would make sense.

–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 as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

May 17, 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil visited Dallas. Activists here were able to mobilize a hundred or so protesters and get major statements from political and labor leaders against the visit.

What Is Fascism? What Do We Do About it?

Afterward, the conversations are turning toward really important topics such as “What Is Fascism?,” “How Does It Take Hold?,” and “What Do We Do About it?”

“What is fascism but capitalism in its death agony?” —The Journal of Albion Moonlight

To begin with, fascism is not an economic system nor a stage of economic development. It’s not a religion nor an anti-religion. It isn’t cultural tastes or outlook. It is a form of rule.

Do We Have Fascism in America?

The form of rule that we have in America is limited democracy. It is not as limited as it was before, say, the Civil War, nor even as limited as it was before Roe V Wade or Brown V Board of Education. One might notice that it’s more limited now than it was before the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United. But democracy in America is limited and always has been. We may have fascists in America, but we don’t have fascism. They haven’t taken over. At least not yet.

Democracy Opposes Fascism

When limited democracy just isn’t working well for the people in charge, they are left with fascism as their next option. The only other option would be to stop being the people in charge. In other words, fascism is a choice that desperate rulers make.

From their point of view, fascism is not as efficient as limited democracy because their workers in general willingly support them, but, from the the rulers’ point of view, it’s a lot better than giving up power.

If the corporate rulers of America decide that limited democracy isn’t working well for them any more, they will try to institute fascist rule.

Hitler Made a Deal

In Germany after World War I, the limited democracy imposed by the victors was called the Weimar Republic. It had so much debt and so many problems that it was weak. The communists and socialists, on the other hand, were on a roll. Hitler and his Nazis offered the German ruling class a way to maintain power by killing off the activists and destroying the democratic forces. In desperation, the rulers bought it.

The great powers of the day — United States, England, and France — liked the idea well enough because they had their own problems with socialists and communists. They allowed Hitler to take power, re-arm, and, just for practice, destroy the Spanish Republic.

Bolsonaro Made a Deal

Recently in Brazil, forces based on the trade union movement brought a flourishing democracy to replace the military dictatorship. It was working out great for the working people, but not so well for the capitalists. Using their control over the judiciary, they were able to jail the leaders of the democratic movement and put Jair Bolsonaro into power. Like fascists before him, he spews a lot of very divisive hatred.

They call him the Tropical Trump, and he’s a special friend of the White House here.

What’s All the Confusion?

The confusion about fascism is deliberate.

Ronald Reagan said that liberals were fascists. In one of the greatest examples of doublespeak of all time, Winston Churchill said that anti-fascists are fascists!

The Underlying Reason for Fascism

Capitalists do not prefer fascism. They prefer the efficiency of limited democracy for their rule. But they are doing something that they cannot help doing — piling up wealth for themselves at the expense of working people. Since the end of the Vietnam War, rich capitalists have taken an astonishing percentage of the world’s wealth. This year, 24 capitalists own more wealth than half the people on the planet!

It should be obvious that they can’t count on the cooperation of the people on the losing end. If we aren’t cooperating with them, then limited democracy isn’t working. The capitalists see that even better than we do.

Incipient Fascism At Home

A lot of really nasty people with billions of dark dollars are already working to establish fascism in the United States. Like their co-thinkers in Europe, they have seized on immigrants as their “threat from the other,” just the same way that Hitler and Mussolini used Jews.

In order to keep the democratic forces divided, they also throw in a lot of homophobia, religious intolerance, nationalism, and racism. The institutions of democracy such as freedom of information and the right to organize are their special targets. It worked for Hitler and it works for them. Since 1980, when the capitalists recognized that their hold was slipping, they have made a lot of progress. Mr. Trump makes a fairly good figurehead for them.

How Close Are We to Facism?

As this is written, the fascist forces have already provoked a phony constitutional crisis by refusing to recognize American law and democracy. In our ignorance, a lot of Americans support them. What they need now is the same thing that Hitler and Mussolini needed to smash democracy and establish fascist rule — a war.

Iranians are being demonized. There is an aircraft carrier task force in the Persian Gulf….

-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.