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democracy

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.

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

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

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.