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democracy

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

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

Is there an honest history of the Middle East since World War I? Wikipedia gives it a good shot and includes the names of various rulers, parties, movements, and nationalities. But where’s the “why” of it all?

As this is written, most of the regimes in the area are reactionary. Women and children especially suffer the lack of basic civil rights. Religious fanaticism wields great power. Poverty is common, but some of the richest men the world have ever known live in the Middle East.

Currently, the United States is prominent in creating untold suffering in Venezuela, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Other countries are in various stages of negotiations as to how much misery they are to get in exchange for their oil. The people  get the misery and U.S. corporations get the oil. How did we come to this?

As I understand it, the “modern” states of the Middle East were largely carved apart as a result of England’s victory in World War I. As it was the first truly mechanized war, oil resources became closely identified with military power. England had that power but lost its worldwide grip by the end of World War II. By then, the United States was the dominant economic and military force on Earth. Key parts of their domain were the oil-producing countries. Keeping them in line has led the United States government to the wildest extremes of dishonesty and murder on a national scale. For example, the Dallas paper recently revealed that over 75,000 Yemeni children had died from starvation so far. That’s just from starvation and doesn’t include the children shot or blown to pieces.

What’s Wrong With Qatar?

Little Qatar, with population smaller than the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where I live, is making headlines because of their defiance. Last year, the Saudi government put together a group to boycott Qatar and try to cut them off from their oil customers. Why? I have a notion that the main reason is their state-sponsored news service, Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera has the second largest world network of news agencies, after England’s BBC. They report what’s going on, especially in the Middle East. For a while there, their news service was (barely) available in the United States on cable TV. A movie was made about the attempts to suppress them. Despite all efforts to destroy Al-Jazeera, one can still get actual news from their English-language web site. I don’t know if I would recommend it as gospel truth, but I will say it’s a reliable as, say, the BBC — and much better than what we’re likely to get from sources in the United States, where oil companies buy advertisers.

Qatar, like Mexico, suffers from its geographic location. It’s squeezed in between Saudi Arabia — Donald Trump’s favorite ally — and Iran — Donald Trump’s main enemy. I think they even share a great oil field with Iran. If Qatar faces one direction, they’ll be punished by the other.

Solving the Mystery

Even though we are talking about millions of dead, maimed, and displaced Middle Easterners, and we are not talking about a single murder case in a cheap novel, informed people know how to figure out who is responsible. Just ask, “Who profits?”

–Gene Lantz

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

Important as they are, elections are just battles within a much greater war. With the mid-terms over, we now have opportunities to organize working families.

Here in Dallas, for example, there’s an action against Trump’s proxy war in Yemen on Monday. There will be more. Christmas and New Years’ are great times for social organizing. The nationwide coalition watching the Mueller investigations may be calling more street actions any day now. The MLK birthday falls on a Tuesday next year. The event with the most potential is the Women’s March set for Saturday, January 19.

January 19, 2016, was the biggest day of protest in American history. Women set the pace, but all kinds of issues were included in the giant marches all over the nation. None of those issues has been resolved. In fact, the outlook has generally worsened; consequently, one might expect January 19, 2019, to surpass the 2016 events.

Here are two more good reasons for expecting an even bigger protest in 2019:

  1. The worldwide situation is causing unprecedented demonstrations in other parts of the world. Americans are learning from them
  2. Success inspires more success, and the number of women elected to Congress in 2018 set a new record.

Starting now, let’s add a third reason for a big turnout on January 19: you and I are already started working on it!

–Gene Lantz

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

 

Worldwide disaster is nearing. Pick your disaster trend:

  1. War is more possible than when Trump took office
  2. The environment is getting worse and Trump policies are making it worse
  3. World economies are interlaced, but out of kilter; a serious crisis anywhere could lead to a worldwide nightmare
  4. Democracy is being eroded

It’s not an exhaustive list. I kept it to four because it makes a good metaphor with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Google any of the four topics and you will find plenty of expert opinion on looming disaster.

Rising nationalism is the most problematic, because it means less international cooperation, and international cooperation is the only way to lessen the danger from any of the horsemen listed. The new nationalism in America and some other countries such as Poland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Brazil means that nations have stopped trying to cooperate. England’s Brexit goes in that same direction, too.

Why worry?

Not everybody is trying to solve these problems. Here are some of their arguments.

Why worry when there’s nothing we can do about it?

Certain religious people actually believe that Armageddon is ordained by God and will happen whether we do anything or not, so why try? It’s a convenient excuse

When things get bad enough, people will take action, so let them get worse!

There is no historical basis for this idea. People begin to act, in fact, when they experience victories, not when they experience defeats. The great strike upsurge in America during 1946 is a good example. When unions were winning, everybody wanted to join one.

The coming fascism is only one way to administer capitalism, and capitalism itself is doomed, so just wait it out!

Fascism may be able to remain in power for a long time. It could create untold suffereing and, at the end, not bring us any closer to any solution than we are now

The Democrats just made some headway against Trump in 2018 and are poised to remove or neutralize him in 2020

We had an argument like that about George Bush, and many of us thought that the Obama Administration would be able to right all wrongs. Obama made some progress, but the underlying problems did not go away and they created the conditions that got Trump elected. Going back a little bit, we thought that same thing about Clinton during the Reagan/DaddyBush days. They thought it about Roosevelt when Hoover was President, and about Wilson when Coolidge ruled.  Our problem is not about individuals, but about systems.

Radicals are forever prophesying disaster, yet humanity goes on

They did so in 1859 before the American Civil War, they did so in 1914 before World War I, in 1929 before the Great Depression, in 1933 when Hitler consolidated his power, and in 1947 when the American government turned anti-worker. They were right, of course, and great disasters followed, but people kept trudging onward anyway. So why get upset about the current threats to human existence? Here are some reasons to worry more today:

  1. They didn’t have nuclear weapons before
  2. Plutonium, one of the most poisonous materials in the world, hadn’t even been refined
  3. The world economy has never been as integrated as it is today
  4. Climate change was never so drastic
  5. We never even had such a large world population, and they were never packed, as we are now, into cities
  6. We never had so many displaced people wondering the planet. I’m not just talking about the half-million sleeping in America doorways, but also the millions trying to escape from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.

If you think it through, you will see disaster(s) on the horizon. If you think it further, you will begin to take action.

–Gene Lantz

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

Are these recent news articles related?

  • American Chief Justice John Roberts publicly strikes back against President Trump
  • Poland is forced to re-seat judges who had been forced out
  • Top political leaders of Brazil are forced out by judiciary

On the front page of the Dallas newspaper, Roberts is quoted: “We do not have ‘Obama Judges’ or ‘Trump Judges’ or ‘Bush Judges’ or ‘Clinton Judges.'” Trump insists that we do. Two main points take up the rest of the article:

  1. Trump has consistently vilified Roberts and any other judge who disagrees with him
  2. It is completely unprecedented for a Supreme Court Justice to fight back

Over on page 16, under the headline, “Poland: Judges Will be Reinstated,” we learn that the reactionary government of Poland has been forced to bring back their nation’s top judges after pressure from the European Union.  A couple of weeks ago, we learned that an outright dictatorial fascist had been elected President of Brazil after their judiciary put his two most important political adversaries into prison. It’s more complicated, but it’s going on in Argentina, too.

Democracies Use Checks and Balances

The judiciary reviews the acts of other government branches. That’s what we’re used to in our 250 or-so years of limited American democracy. It’s no secret in America that much of our judiciary, including the Supreme Court, has been taken over by dark money so that they can hand power and wealth to billionaires. At the same time, Americans, including many of the judges, still believe that we have an impartial judiciary overseeing a fair democracy. Apparently, Chief Justice Roberts is one of those.

Whether we agree with him or just have some intellectual equivocating position, we need to back Roberts against Trump as part of our worldwide fight to save every scrap of democracy!

–Gene Lantz

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

At a rally in Dallas on the first day of early voting, congressional candidate Colin Allred said “We have two weeks to save democracy!”

allred-cwa-earlyvote

Soon afterward, the election in Brazil sharpened world concern for democracy’s future. Jair Bolsonaro openly welcomes a return to military dictatorship. He threatens all his political opponents with using the military and government sanctions militias to carry out “a cleansing never before seen.” Women, gays, landless peasants, and the homeless are targets named in a New York Times article.

Almost immediately after the election, military units began raiding student organizations to confiscate any “anti-fascist” or “pro-democracy” materials, according to @castriotar on Twitter.

It’s not just Brazil. The Week news service says, “Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

What’s “Populism?”

In American history, the populists were always considered the representatives of the downtrodden, primarily farmers and sharecroppers who were being squeezed out by urbanization. Populism was associated with being pro-democracy, according to Wikipedia.

Today, newspersons and pundits use the term to mean anybody who claims to oppose the status quo. They’ve invented the term “right-wing populism” to include politicians who are virulently against democracy. Others just call them fascists.

What’s “Left,” What’s “Right?”

On the democracy scale, “left” is usually associated with more democracy while “right” is associated with less. The meaning of both terms is so thoroughly distorted as to make them generally useless. “Pro-democratic” or “anti’” is more accurate.

President Trump’s recent claim that he can overturn the American constitution’s birthright guarantee by executive order is a good example of anti-democratic activity.

What’s “Democracy?”

Historically, we associate democracy with the ancient Greeks. The idea was government by the will of the people. Through the ages, we have never seen anything close to a complete democracy. The Greeks, of course, excluded their slaves. In America, democracy has grown a lot since slavery days but has never included the people’s control over basic economic nor foreign policy.

Of especial importance is the people’s lack of control over the machinery of elections. We may get to vote, but we have never controlled the elections.

During economic or military emergencies, democracy is always diminished. Wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were often called dictators.

Socialists have held out the promise of great extensions of democracy, but have never completely delivered because of the extreme tactics of capitalist opposition. The best that socialists have been able to deliver was “wartime democracy” similar to what Lincoln and Roosevelt practiced.

Who Is “Shifting to the Right?”

Commentators are scrambling to explain the anti-democratic global changes. They ask why people have been voting away their own democratic powers. The answer is that we aren’t.

Our democracy, even American democracy, is not complete and never was. The struggle between the poor and the rich, the 1% and the 99%, the employees and the employers, the workers and the owners, is being played out in elections that are ignored by many on our side. The elections are  being manipulated by the rich and distorted by incredible rivers of dark ugly money.

As a world crisis of international competition shrinks their opportunities, the wealthy are increasingly choosing to give up all pretense of government by the people. They are throwing their considerable wealth and power behind reactionary anti-democracy politicians who are willing to carry us all down an obvious path of total destruction.

Only our side can save democracy.

-Gene Lantz

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

Notes:

Ny times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-profile.html

Brazil Election: How Jair Bolsonaro Turned Crisis Into Opportunity

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said as a congressman — made him so polarizing that he struggled to find a running mate until early August. Traditional parties and politicians considered him too extreme.

President Trump called on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, following up with a tweet on Monday morning that said, “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

In 1993, he delivered a fiery speech before the lower house of Congress urging its demise, calling the emerging version of democracy in Brazil a lost cause.

“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro thundered. “We will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

rc‏ @castriotar Oct 26

rc Retweeted Folha de S.Paulo

More than 20 Brazilian universities were invaded by the military police in the past 2 days. They confiscated material on the history of fascism, interrupted classes due to ‘ideological content’, removed anti-fascist banners and posters claiming that it was electoral propaganda.

@castriotar

Many other student movements and organizations reported military police forces inside classrooms, student units, academic directories, confiscating any sort of materials with ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘pro-democracy’ content.

“It will be a cleansing never before seen in Brazilian history.” [referring directly to “reds,” to Workers Party leader Lula Da Silva, and to his present electoral opponent. He said they will “rot in jail.” He directly threatens to use the armed forces and civilian militias with legal sanction against enemies such as the landless peasants movement and the homeless movement.

April article From Independent about Hungary: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/victor-orban-hungary-migrant-refugees-george-soros-ngo-far-right-a8297441.html

Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist party has vowed to would crack down on organisations helping migrants and refugees, in an announcement made just a day after it won an overwhelming election victory.

The autocratic prime minister portrayed himself as the saviour of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with more than 2.5 million voters.”

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds super majority in the country’s parliament, which would allow it and its small ally, the Christian democrats, to push through changes to constitutional laws.

**

From Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/27/polands-right-wing-government-is-rewriting-history-with-itself-as-hero/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ef44090bd99

By Mateusz Mazzini February 27

Poland is in the midst of a pitched battle over its collective memory. The ruling party has recently stirred an international controversy by passing a bill criminalizing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” But in many ways, those international rifts are just collateral damage. The real battle is at home and is over what counts as legitimate political authority, and who can wield it.

Poland’s government is suggesting that the present-day cosmopolitan liberals who want to acknowledge Polish collaborators in crimes against Jews are traitors, like the Communists, willing to sell the nation to the highest international bidder. And such national mythmaking has more real-world power than many understand.

From The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/its-the-right-wings-italy-now/562256/  June 6

“A new populist government came to power in Italy this week, and the right is calling the shots. It swept in on a wave of anxiety about immigration and the economy. On the economy, certain European rules could prevent Italy from going totally off the rails. When it comes to immigration, things could get rough—at least in rhetoric. In 88 days of coalition talks, Salvini, known for his strident attacks on immigrants as a threat to Italian safety, grew emboldened by the League’s rising popularity in the polls, and in the 11th-hour negotiations to forge a government, he appears to have outmaneuvered Luigi di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which won twice as many votes as the League in Italy’s March 4 elections

From The Week: https://theweek.com/articles/804453/why-are-rightwing-populists-winning-everywhere

“Right-wing populist and nationalist governments are in power in Russia, Turkey, India, Israel, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, and they share power with left-wing populists in Italy. Established right-wing parties in Britain, Canada, and Australia are busily adapting to the populist trend. Japan’s Shinzo Abe has taken his conservative Liberal Party in a notably nationalist direction. And with Angela Merkel announcing her intention not to run for re-election, and her party anxiously watching the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany, it’s likely her conservative coalition will also begin sounding right-wing populist themes.”

“What is the commonality in contemporary conditions, around the world, that has made people in so many countries susceptible to both emotional impulses at once, and powered the global rise of the populist right?

That’s the question that liberal democrats need to answer before they are completely swept away.”