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Monthly Archives: December 2018

Today I posted a prologue and Chapter One of “Commissioner Torres and the New Government” on http://lilleskole.us, my personal web site. It’s actually my 4th book-length effort. One of them is autobiographical and covers just about everything I’ve learned so far.

What would your revolution look like?

The other three are speculative fiction about a guy named Leo Torres who gets involved with revolutionaries just when the old order of things has fallen apart. Leo gets in on the revolution from the ground floor.

Why?

You may wonder why I write and post these things. Obviously, I’m not going to make any money. They aren’t even copyrighted. It’s not because of the silly old shibboleth “Writers write because they have to.”

I’m one of many people who would like to see a better world, but I’m one of the very few who have tried to describe it. For decades I’ve dodged the question the same way almost every activist does by saying, “I don’t know what the world I’m fighting for would look like, because it’s up to those people living in that world to decide for themselves.” It may be true, but it’s still a dodge.

If we’re fighting for a better world, we ought to be able to describe it. Or at least we ought to try.

I decided on speculative fiction as my way of initiating a discussion on what might happen and what we might do about it. After all, does anybody think that we’ll just wake up one day in a better world?

Nearly all of our sci-fi is dystopian. Just about the only exception is the Star Trek series. They didn’t even have a revolution to get into their wonderful world. They just listened to the Vulcans. In one episode, Mister Spock hints that the Vulcans had to go through some very trying times before they became so civil, but he doesn’t tell us much about it. So we actually have no pattern to follow.

For a long time, American activists tried to copy the Russian revolution. When it imploded, a lot of them were disgusted and demoralized. Some others have tried to follow Chairman Mao. Some followed Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh, and some followed Castro. I think we could learn from all of them, but we couldn’t learn enough. We have to do a lot of our own thinking.

So, we speculate.

The World I Made

Looking toward the future, especially in the Donald Trump era, one can see disaster ahead. It’s not a matter of whether or not the planet will become inhabitable and wealth inequality will make economic life impossible. It’s only a matter of when.

But I have great faith in myself and other people. Sooner or later we will give up on the people who are destroying the economy and the ecology. We will embrace new leaders and new ways of running things. In the world I create in my sci-fi novels, people have just recently done that. Following the advice of revolutionaries, civilized people have disbanded their armies and their police. They formed local militias to keep order while respected and capable leaders are elected to make economic and social decisions.

The revolutionaries at the center help coordinate activities and continue to advise the localities. As you might imagine, there is very little continuity between one locality and another. There are a tremendous number of problems to be resolved. What will people eat? How will they get it? How will trade continue? How will people get from one place to the next?

Because the air and water are almost undrinkable and unbreathable, something drastic has to be done about the burning of fossil fuels. Because all systems are down, there is no electricity. Without electricity and transportation, there is no long-distance communication. Without transportation, people will not be able to get the goods and services they need to stay alive. What would you do about those things?

The first two novels take the easy way out. They only deal with some of the smaller questions.

My first novel deals with whether or not revolution is possible and worthwhile. It’s common to hear it said that humanity isn’t worth saving, that people will never learn to live without war, that people are essentially greedy and incapable of cooperation, and that every revolution has failed because people are basically just no damned good!

My second novel is more specific. It tries to deal with the fact that certain sectors of the population will not cooperate in building a better world. Hardened drug addicts, for example, are unlikely to cooperate in civil society. What would you do with them?

The third novel is by far the most ambitious. It recognizes that government is necessary and begins to discuss the ins and outs of setting up and running such a government. Is democracy the answer? If so, what would be the machinery of democracy? Here’s a really thorny question, “How could a society avoid the tyranny of the majority?”

I don’t know if you can answer these questions, but I know that I can’t. But I’m inviting you to join me in trying to find out.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Call in 972-647-1893 with your ideas. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site at http://lilleskole.us

Texans are forever taking their children to see the Alamo, and a lot of them go to the San Jacinto Battlefield. But if they really care about Texas history, they should make a pilgrimage to Crystal City, where ordinary working people made a lot of history.

Crystal City was the site of the biggest concentration camp of World War II. Japanese families were there from 1943 through the end of the war. A few Italians and Germans were also sent there from other parts of the U.S. and Latin America. The United States traded them for our own prisoners of war.

Crystal is also a great civil rights site. The Chicano movement that terrified Anglos in the 1970s began in Crystal City. The struggles of some of the most desperate working families in America took place in Crystal City. For a while there, they won!

I think it was in 1963 that five very courageous Latinos took city government power from the dominant Anglos. With only 10% of the population, Anglos had always dominated everything. Then in 1969, Juan Campeon and Jose Angel Gutierrez convened La Raza Unida Party at Salon Campestre just outside the city limits and on the banks of the Nueces River.

La Raza Unida soon took over government in all of Zavala County and in surrounding counties. Inspired by La Raza, other Chicanos throughout America began to form their own fighting civil rights organizations.

Today, only the cement steps of the old Salon Campestre remain. There are no historical markers for La Raza Unida. They hold no government offices, but Mexican American Democrats and other organizations owe their initial inspiration to the courageous workers of Crystal City. There’s a great play about it. It’s named “Crystal.”

About 8,000 people, nearly all Mexican Americans, live in Crystal. A branch of the historic Nueces river runs (when there is enough water) just outside the city limits. There are no unions in existence, even though the CIO tried in the 1940s and the Teamsters tried in the 1960s to organize the cannery workers.

There are no museums in Crystal City. The library is closed. There are several statues of Popeye the Sailor Man and some claims to be the Spinach Capital of the World, but the great contributions and sacrifices of working families are noted only in the minds of certain Chicanos and a handful of amateur historians like us, who care about real history.

–Gene Lantz

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

Movie Review: “Vice,” Directed by Adam McKay, 2 hours 12 minutes.

As the young Dick Cheney and the old, Christian Bale was heavy
Christian Bale was skinny in “The Machinist”

Even if you lived through the Bush-Cheney years and don’t think you need a refresher course, you will benefit from seeing “Vice.” It concretizes our understanding of the many things that are wrong today. Dick Cheney was not the first nor the last Republican to warp our laws in the service of dark money, but he is certainly in the running for the worst.

The movie credits him with paving the way for dishonest network television, tax giveaways, fraudulent wars, distortion of justice, and torture, among other things.

So many are the chronicles of Cheney’s crimes that the movie, despite its length, has little time for drama. It is almost a documentary. The time-saving method of using a narrator to hurry us through events has to be employed. Even within that hurried framework, though, the actors are magnificent. Christian Bale again shows his dedication and ability by being both the wastrel Young Dick and the overweight criminal old Dick. Amy Adams, as Dick’s Lady MacBeth, is outstanding. Several headliners take minor roles, or even cameos, to get the historical drama on the screen.

It was not completely amazing to see that Brad Pitt headed a list of film producers, especially if one also went across the movieplex to see the outstanding civil rights film, “It Happened on Beale Street,” where Pitt is again the lead producer. Pitt apparently is committed to progressive filming.

There are a lot of surreal moments in the film. They’re extremely humorous in a macabre sort of way. Some of the critics have blasted McKay for taking short breaks from serious treatment, but I think he did it the way it had to be done. When listing the crimes of Cheney, we have to laugh to keep from screaming.

–Gene Lantz

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

I need somebody to explain the machinery of democracy to me, because I’m writing a sci-fi novel about a better world.

A lot of people are now claiming to be revolutionaries. An even larger number would at least say that they want a better world than the one we live in. I think they’d agree that we want to maximize democracy.

What do you want?
How would you get it?

But does anybody know how?

Even if all the present election reformers got their way, even if the current House Resolution # 1 should pass on January 3rd, we would still an imperfect democracy, because we have no way to overcome the “tyranny of the majority.” No matter what Utopian election machinery we may advocate, minorities would still be at the mercy of the majority of voters.

In a better democracy, one’s vote should be directly proportional to their personal consequences from that vote. If a proposal affects you more than somebody else, why should your votes have equal weight? I didn’t think this up, I got it from Ivan Illich in 1972. He said everyone’s vote should be proportional to the effect that it would have on them. He didn’t explain how that could be done.

Obviously, one way is to have a bunch of small local governments. They could regulate things at the local level. A larger government, however, would have to have larger control over what they do, because whatever people do in society will have at least some effect on others.

What About This?

Here’s the best I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Legislative proposals are encouraged from the lowest levels. Proposals should not only substantiate what they intend to do, but should also designate the relative weights of different voters.
  2. The proposal would have to be passed by majority vote, but it wouldn’t be implemented at that point.
  3. If the legislation passed the majority vote, then the majority would also have agreed to the relative weight of different voters.
  4. Thus, before implementation, the vote would have to be re-weighed with some voters getting more weight than others. That result would be the one implemented.

Here’s an example. Suppose somebody proposed that free abortion on demand become the law everywhere. The original proposal might allocate extra votes for women, as women would be affected more than men. If everybody thought that was fair, then the proposal would pass by majority vote. Then the votes would be recounted on the second round, with extra weight for each female vote. If the proposal still passed, it would become law.

Another example: Suppose we had a proposal to provide funding for medical care for coal miners suffering from silicosis (lots of them are). Coal miners would obviously get a bigger percentage of the total potential vote.

Give Me Criticisms & Suggestions

There are very few examples of a better future in American sci-fi. Nearly every speculation is dystopian. The exception is Star Trek, where humanity does indeed achieve a better, more fair, world. But Star Trek never explains how it happened or how it works. All we know is that they learned it from the Vulcans.

–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: “Roma,” Written, directed, and filmed by Alfonso Cuarón. 135 minutes

“When I was little, we had this wonderful servant…”

Nearly all movies are about rich people. The women wear low-cut gowns and the men spiffy tuxedos. Every now and then, somebody walks on stage to bring them tea or take their hat. Every now and again, the servant gets one line which is often a wisecrack. They’re only props in the movie.

“Roma” begins with a servant. As soon as I saw her, I hoped the movie was going to be about her and not about the affluent people who command her every thought and motion. For once, my hope was realized!

Her peers call her “Manita,” but the employers call her “Cleo.” She has to overcome difficulties that are just as bad, probably worse, than theirs. She depends on them completely. My favorite line in the movie was “Are you going to fire me?”

When I was young, I once sat in a booth at the Hamburger King with four high school girls. They were dissing a girlfriend whose family servant had yelled at them for some bad behavior. “I’ll never forget her name,” said one of the girls that I didn’t know very well. Then she spat the name with disgust: “Evelyn!”

The one girl I did know well, who knew me, and was looking directly at me, said, “Good thing it wasn’t Gladys, wasn’t it Gene?” My mother was a scrub woman who had worked for that family. Nobody ever made a movie about her.

But, thank goodness, somebody made a movie about Cleo and it’s getting rave reviews everywhere. The few criticisms note that the story isn’t really told from Cleo’s point of view, but from that of one of the children she served. She doesn’t get to say a lot, and she doesn’t really explain anything. She endures. From the bosses’ perspective, that’s what servants do.

We loved the movie. I’m especially grateful for it. Oddly, subscribers to Netflix can watch it at home even while it’s sweeping up awards in theaters.

–Gene Lantz

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

It’s not about religion, nor about lack of religion

The Netflix Cowboy Epic, “Godless,” is spectacularly awful. The spectacular part is the truly wonderful scenes of horses and raw nature. The costumes are excellent. The blood and gore is spectacular. There may be more dead bodies created on-screen than in any movie I’ve seen. There are at least 100 murders and maybe another 50 combat deaths, all committed with gleeful abandon. 

The awful part is the stereotyped characters. Believe it or not they actually present a whore with a heart of gold and a gunfighter of great repute who wants to hang up his pistols. There’s a straight-shooting widow woman, there’s a charming child (who, believe it or not, idolizes the gunman), a sheriff trying to overcome a reputation for cowardice, a Bible-spouting unscrupulous villain, an amoral newspaperman, a native sidekick — just about every stereotype I’ve ever seen in decades of watching Westerns. Just to make sure you know that they will stoop to everything, they sprinkle it with unrelated nudity.

After the ultimately predictable carnage near the end of the series, I began to get even more uneasy with the plot. “Please God,” I remember saying, ‘Don’t let him ride off into the sunset!”

The advertisements give the impression that there’s going to be at least a nod toward feminism. After all, it’s supposed to take place in a town without men. No such luck! It’s a male-dominated shoot-em-up, just like all the others. It’s a spectacular one, though!

–Gene Lantz

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

This isn’t the only place I post. I also do several Facebook Pages, two Twitter accounts, and several web sites. Every week, I write the labor newsletter for the Dallas AFL-CIO. An example is below. The photos are almost always mine. Nearly all of my time is volunteer. I sometimes make as much as $43.64/week from my communications efforts. Never more than that.

Publishing is not as hard for me as it might be for some because I’ve had considerable practice with photos, I type really well, and I’ve been doing volunteer journalism most of the time since I was a sophomore in High School. That would be 1955, 63 years ago.

So, why do I do it?

I’m going to answer in a roundabout way. First of all, I like myself pretty well, or at least I excuse my faults as just run-of-the-mill human errors. Secondly, I know I’m nothing special, I’m about the same as everybody else. That means then, that I must esteem everybody else about as much as I do myself. So, then, I should try to treat everybody pretty well just as I like being treated. It’s not the “golden rule” in the abstract, it’s totally selfish. I like you because I like me. That’s the only reason.

So I try to do what I can for myself, and, by extension, for you, too. That doesn’t mean I’m devoting myself to charity. In my opinion, charity is just a lubricant for a mercilessly inhuman machine that is grinding us up. The System.

If I want to curtail misery and human suffering, then, I need to do whatever I can to change The System. That means getting organized around a program that can actually make a difference. That program is simple: organizing working families. So that’s what I espouse, on paper and all over the internet. I intend to keep it up until I die.

–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

Dallas Labor Unites Us!

If you are part of a working family, the Dallas AFL-CIO is on your side. None of us are illegal; none of us are outsiders. The Dallas AFL-CIO joins Alliance/AFT in a special program to benefit union members who want to apply for citizenship. Volunteers and applicants are encouraged to attend a forum at 11AM tomorrow, December 15, at 334 Centre in Oak Cliff. The road to obtaining citizenship is not an easy one, but your labor movement will assist.

Citizenship Committee Meets

Sherlyn May Need Help

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338 is assisting Sherlyn Samuel to get back her job with DART. Samuel received the Texas award for outstanding woman trade unionist. She heads our civil rights affiliate, A. Philip Randolph Institute. She stands up for the Dallas Transit Riders. We cannot afford to let managers victimize our top activists.

Sherlynn accepts award from Louis Malfaro

DART management will hold a hearing in the near future, and we may be needed. To get on the Dallas AFL-CIO’s rapid text alert, text “@laborrel” to the phone number 81010.

Get Ready, Texas Legislature Is Coming

If working families are united, we can support progressive Texas legislation or fight reactionaries when the legislature begins on January 8th. The first step is to know what is going on. Write to ed@texasaflcio.org to get on Communications Director Ed Sills’ email list. He also recommends going to http://texasaflcio.org and entering your email and zip code.

It is not too early to establish relationships with your state senators and representatives. Some of them will be organizing buses of supporters to go to the Texas Capitol in Austin for the beginning of the session.

Texas 104 electee Jessica Gonzalez graciously accepted an invitation to speak to UAW 848’s retirees on December 13. She agreed that seniors should be protected against rising property taxes. Supporting public education will be her main priority.

District 104 winner Jessica Gonzalez with retiree Oritize Young

The victor in Texas 102, Ana Maria Ramos, will be speaking and answering questions on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM tomorrow, December 15. Tune in on-line at knon.org or on radio at 89.3 FM. The call-in number is 972-647-1893

More Actions Coming Up

Dec 15, 9A: State Rep electee Ana Maria Ramos on KNON.org and 89.3FM.

Dec 15, 10A: KNON radio’s annual toy drive and music fest at 11311 N Central Expressway

Dec 15, 11A: Citizenship Campaign Forum at Alliance/AFT, 334 Centre in Oak Cliff

Dec 15, 5-10P: Benefit for Brother Corey Hallmark at Theo’s Bar & Grill, 107 NW 8th, Grand Prairie

Dec 20, 7:30P Dallas AFL-CIO meeting for all affiliated members at Independent Bar, 2712 Main St. Followed by annual labor Christmas Party. Call 214-826-4808 for more info

Jan 8: Texas Legislature’s 86th session begins.

Jan 19, 10A: Gather at Dallas City Hall to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 20, 10A: Gather at Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 E Weatherford in Ft Worth, to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 31: Postmark deadline for applications to be sent to Texas AFL-CIO for college scholarships for union members families