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“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