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Movie Review: “Leave No Trace,” Directed by Debra Granik, 119 minutes

leave-no-trace

A man and his daughter live in the national forest. Occasionally, they go into Portland, Oregon, to visit the veterans hospital and buy a few groceries. But then they go back into hiding in the woods. It takes a criminal-sniffing police dog to find them.

It’s the girl’s story. She gets most of the camera’s attention and nearly all the lines. She’s the one undergoing changes. Her silently suffering father mostly just endures. It takes real acting to do that. There are a few other people in the cast, but they have small roles with little effect on the audience — even though they clearly affect the girl.

I saw the film with a friend who backpacks. He was carefully watching all of the camping gear and at-home-with-nature operations that the daughter and father carried out. He approved. “Leave no trace,” he explained, is a slogan that campers and backpackers use to mean that they clean up after themselves. In this movie, it means a lot more.

I didn’t realize until afterward that director Granek had also given us “Winters Bone,” the  excellent film that launched the career of young Jennifer Lawrence. There are a lot of similarities. Both are really worthwhile films.

Just to top it off, there were three — count ’em three — different union logos in the last frame: Teamsters, IATSE, and Sag-Aftra.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM central time every Saturday.  They podcast two weeks under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

President Trump is the champion of fair trade for American workers. Or is he destroying the hopes of all workers for a peaceful and beneficial world? Or does he even know what he’s doing?

me-nonafta

A lot of working families were won over by Trump’s promise to renegotiate so-called “trade” agreements and restore American jobs. People, including a lot of union people, are still hoping he will. Yesterday, he poked his finger into the eyes of several world leaders at the G7 meeting in Canada. He said he was representing American workers.

What’s “Fair,” What’s “Free?”

For decades, since the Clinton Administration at least, American unions have been campaigning on the slogan “Fair trade, not free trade.” We always say “We’re not against trade — we just want it fair.” But it’s been very hard for union leaders to resist xenophobia and isolationism, because those “isms,” — right along with nationalism and racism — are also against the trade deals that America negotiated since Clinton.

The people that knew what they were talking about presented the argument that the so-called “free trade” deals were only “free” for big transnational corporations — not for the working families in America or any other country. Big corporations received “freedom” to pay low wages and pollute, nobody else got anything. That’s why we opposed NAFTA and all the others leading up to the “Trans Pacific Partnership” that was still an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The people that knew what they were talking about actually favored trade deals if they included wage and environmental protection. But not everybody is so sophisticated. They hate the trade deals anyway. That’s why so many of them voted for Trump.

There’s a History to “Free Trade”

I recently read a complete history of Britain and found an interesting reference. When Britain “ruled the waves” and ruled the world, their slogan was “free trade.” From the time they defeated Napolean until World War I, the English favored what they called “free trade.” They didn’t , at least not immediately, necessarily open their own markets, but they wanted everybody else, especially their many colonies in Asia and Africa, to open theirs.

In other words, “free trade” meant, then and now, the “freedom” of one country’s corporate rulers to exploit everybody else. Another word for it is modern imperialism.

After World War I, and especially after World War II, when the United States took over world trade, corporations wanted “free trade” for the exact same reasons. But the “freedom” was always for the exploiters and never for the exploited, then and now.

Everything Ends

There are different ways to look at the Trump program on trade issues. Economists and pundits are arguing that he’s destroying the world and setting us back centuries. Trump and his supporters say he is restoring fairness. Xenophobes and racists are rooting for him, as they have all along.

But there’s another, more interesting way to look at Trump’s trade wars. American economic domination is coming to an end. It actually ended in the 1970s, according to some. Since then, international leaders have simply agreed to keep the system in place even though the United States is living on credit and has been for decades. The post-war system put in place by the United States after WWII has actually fallen apart. Donald Trump is just an opportunist trying to turn the situation to his own benefit.

A Real Solution to the Trade Wars

Modern nations were created by capitalism. Each nation is run by and for the bosses. Their economic and political decisions are made for the benefit of the dominant class — the capitalist class. That includes much more than trade deals and treaties. It also includes global pollution, war and genocide.

It is theoretically possible that the various governments, as presently constituted, could cooperate on trade in a way that would benefit the inhabitants of the various nations. But that’s only in theory. It has never worked that way because the inhabitants, us, were never in charge. We still aren’t, and there will be no solution until we are.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. The “events” tab on the web site leads to recent podcasts. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

 

About 25 people from all over Texas and three guys from Australia protested Exxon/Mobil’s shareholder meeting in Dallas on May 30.

exxon-australia

The sometime biggest, and sometime second biggest, corporation in the world has its headquarters right outside Dallas. They hold their annual shareholders’ meetings in the luxurious Meyerson Symphony Hall downtown. Across the street, labor and environmental activists revealed corporate crimes to newspersons and the world at large.

The surprise group came from Victoria’s Gippsland Basin, Australia, where Exxon has 23 offshore installations. Their spokesperson, Troy Carter, spoke on Facebook Live for seven minutes. He said that 230 members of the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union were terminated 343 days earlier. The next day, they were offered their jobs with a 40% pay cut! They have been protesting every day since.

The Australian’s printed materials were meant to explain to Exxon stockholders that the corporation was spending a lot more on union busting than it would have cost them to keep their well-trained workforce. But the corporation would not let them into the symphony hall; consequently they had to disseminate their message broadly.

In the United States, the Australian’s tour is being helped by the United Steelworkers of America. The Australians plan to meet with Dallas AFL-CIO leader Mark York before heading to Austin to talk with Texas AFL-CIO leaders. Their Texas tour will end in Houston, where there are many petrochemical workers.

Speakers talked about the danger to our planet from fossil fuels. A woman from Corpus Christi, on the Texas coast, said that her organization was trying to stop Exxon from building the biggest plastics factory in the world. “Do you want more plastic in your oceans?” “Do you want more plastic in your air?” “Do you want more plastic in your bodies?” she asked.

A man from Waco, in Central Texas, talked about special environmental problems caused by Exxon in his hometown.

Herb Keener of Communications Workers 6215 and Gene Lantz of United Auto Workers Local 848 spoke for the “blue” section of the “blue/green” (labor/environmental) alliance. Keener’s talk was captured on Facebook Live. He mentioned that he expected Exxon to follow other major corporations in spending their windfall from last December’s giant tax giveaway by purchasing their own stock. These financial maneuvers enrich stockholders without any benefit to employees nor to the general economy.

The protest had a long list of sponsors: 350 Dallas, Society of Native Nations, Dallas Peace and Justice Center, CodePink Dallas, Communications Workers of America/CWA Local 6215, Dallas Sierra Club, Downwinders At Risk, Dallas Palestine Coalition, Pax Christi Dallas, Our Revolution North Texas, Texas Drought Project, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Solidarity Texas – Dallas Chapter, System Change Not Climate Change, Veterans For Peace North Texas, Waco Friends of Peace and Climate, Texas Coalition for Environmental Awareness, and more.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab on the site. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

2018 stretches before us like a blank canvas. Economists and Republican politicians are painting a gorgeous festival on it. Democrats are using only one color: black.

fat-famine

Predictions Take the Safe Road

Nearly all predictions are just linear projections of trends currently underway. For example, American production has been rising slightly so the prediction is that it will rise even more. Unemployment has been low, so the prediction is that it will stay low. I saw one prediction saying that wages will go up in 2018, even though they have been going down since the 1970s.

For A Few, Everything Looks Great!

The disastrous “Tax and Jobs Bill” that just passed the Congress shows what is intended. It is a gigantic giveaway to the rich at the long-term expense of the poor.  This is not a new trend. It has been going on clearly since American domination of the world began to diminish in the late 1970s. It is reasonable safe, therefore, to predict that the rich will continue to get much richer and the poor much poorer in 2018. Inequality will worsen.

Using the same linear projection approach, one would have to conclude that democracy will continue to ebb and the environment will get even less hospitable.

Politics May Get Messy

The last poll before the Republicans passed their big giveaway, conducted by NBC News, said that only 24% of the American people supported the legislation. Republicans say that people will start liking it as soon as they see tiny improvements in their paychecks beginning in January. Democrats say that support for “trickle down” will fall even further as people see what was actually in the bill.

As 2018 begins, Republicans and their only legislative accomplishment are extremely unpopular. President Trump has the lowest ratings in history. Does that mean that they are going to take a mighty hit in the November elections? Are the Democrats going to take charge and bring back the rosy Obama days?

We should be skeptical. Republicans are backed by an awful lot of money, and money wins elections. Also, they hold state power. Who is to say how they might use their money and their power before November?

They might, for example, start another war. They’ve been talking up war with North Korea for months and they have the ability to start such a war just at the time when they consider it most propitious for their election prospects. It worked for both Bush Presidents, who had low ratings before invading Iraq and high ratings afterward. Sure, lots of people would die, but Republicans might well benefit at the polls!

Before deciding that the Democrats will surely make a comeback in November, remember that they have problems of their own. They robbed Bernie Sanders of the 2016 presidential nomination and, by now, everybody knows it. Deputy Democratic Party  Chairman Keith Ellison is touring America right now to try to bring all the Bernies back into the fold, but it’s safe to say that some of them won’t come. The Democrats would have to be really sloppy to not make some gains in 2018, but will they actually turn things around?

In summary, the safe set of expectations for 2018 is that it will be great for the great, but not for us.

What to Hope For

A lot of really good  things could happen in 2018. Low unemployment and high consciousness are requisites for an organizing boom. If unions and the other types of organizations presently underway aggressively take advantage of the situation, we could see some real organizational strength develop for working people. Then (and only then) we might expect to see a reversal in the steady decline in our American wages, benefits, and living standards.

There must be half a dozen organizations expecting to take over the Democratic Party, end all corruption, end its dedication to capitalism, and make it a workers’ party. There are others who believe they can create a workers party — perhaps from the Greens or from the Working Families Party — or from scratch. Conditions for a workers party have never been better because of the high educational levels and consciousness of the American people.

The progressive movement is a giant in America. The Women’s March on the day after Trump took power put more people on the streets than ever before in American history. They are planning another one in January 2018.

Even though very few Americans even know what a political strike is, they are becoming common in other parts of the world. With modern communications and the high level of consciousness among people, especially among young people, we may see major changes in America that come from outside the electoral system.

Expect the worst. Hope for and work for the best!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio, 89.3FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.us

 

 

Like a lot of unionists, like all materialists, I’m not really so crazy about the Democrats nor the Republicans. So why not vote Green Party?

exxon-me-nytimes

After all, they’re a progressive party on environmental issues and environmental issues really matter. Since I don’t know much of anything about their candidates, I don’t know anything bad — and the 2016 campaign is smearing both of the major party candidates terribly.

It’s not because, not exactly because, the Green Party took enough votes away from Al Gore in Florida to make George Bush president. It’s not exactly because Texas Greens took half a million dollars under the table from the  Republicans in 2010. By the way, I ran across a good old friend the other day who didn’t even believe it, or maybe he couldn’t remember back that far, so I had to look up a bunch of references for him. I’ll put them down below.

So What’s My Problem?

More than anything else, my whole purpose in doing this blog is to get people to think through their strategy for progressive change. What’s your theory?

My theory is that the entire progressive battle can be boiled down to employers against employees. The employers are what’s holding us back, and the employees are what’s impelling us forward. It’s a matter of choosing sides and sticking with it.

Voting for the Green Party in 2016 is not going to help the employee side. If it means anything at all in this awful two-party system we’re straddled with, it means some help for the wrong side.

People are confused because they don’t know the difference between the American two-party (ugh) system and the parliamentary systems of Europe and other countries. In those other countries. one votes for the party that one loves, and that party gets offices roughly in proportion to the votes they get. In the American system, that isn’t what happens. One of the two parties takes power; the other loses out. Everybody that votes their heart (or their stomach or their endocrine glands) instead of their brain has, at best, wasted their time and everybody else’s. Actually, it’s worse than that.

You’re a leader, even when you don’t want to be. Please realize that whatever you decide is going to affect others. We’re all listening to one another. People are listening to you.So — think!

 

  1. We’re in a two party system
  2. One, just one, of those two parties is going to take the critical offices
  3. Other people are watching what you do and are influenced by it
  4. Therefore, the right vote is the vote that will advance your theory of progressive change

As I’ve said before in this blog, it isn’t the candidates and it isn’t the parties that matter. It’s the progressive movement. It’s the workers.

–Gene Lantz

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Some old articles about how the Republicans financed the Greens in Texas

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20100610-Texas-Democrats-take-Green-Party-to-8824.ece

Texas Democrats take Green Party to court over ballot funding

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20100625-Judge-blocks-Green-Party-candidates-from-4442.ece

Judge blocks Green Party candidates from Texas ballot

  • By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News

Published: 25 June 2010 06:33 AM

Updated: 26 November 2010 02:41 PM

A state judge blocked Green Party candidates from Texas’ general election ballot Thursday, ruling that illegal corporate money was used in a Republican attempt to put them there to benefit Gov. Rick Perry.

District Judge John Dietz said he expected his injunction would be stayed by a higher court.

He issued the injunction after a day of testimony in Austin that implicated a former top Perry aide in efforts to field Green Party candidates in November.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Party_of_Texas

The Green Party’s efforts to get its candidates on the ballot for the 2010 elections was challenged when it was revealed that the Green Party’s petition drive had been funded by corporate interests linked to Republican operatives.[1] Republican operatives linked to the reelection campaign of Governor Rick Perry helped to fund the signature drive for ballot access.[2][3] A court challenge resulted in the Green Party candidates being allowed to remain on the ballot, and the near 92,000 signatures gathered in support of the Green Party from registered Texas voters were validated.[4][5]

GOP ties bind Green Party candidates in Texas case

GARY SCHARRER , AUSTIN BUREAU

Published 5:30 am, Tuesday, June 29, 2010

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/GOP-ties-bind-Green-Party-candidates-in-Texas-case-1702618.php 

AUSTIN — Even if allegations about an illegal petition drive are true, knocking Green Party candidates off the November general election ballot before they can be proven imposes “a death penalty,” lawyers for the party argued Monday in a written appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

The party has until Friday to certify its candidates for the fall election, but a judge last Friday ordered it not to proceed because of an “unauthorized illegal contribution” by a corporation with Republican links.

“This case matters because voters should have an alternative to entrenched career politicians. Despite the signatures of over 90,000 Texans, entrenched career politicians and their lawyers want to deny voters the right to choose in November,” said David Rogers, one of the Green Party lawyers.

A GOP front group — with help from Texas Republicans — raised $532,500 in anonymous contributions to help the Green Party get enough signatures to make the ballot. Democrats assume the liberal Green Party gubernatorial candidate, Deb Shafto, would siphon votes from Democrat Bill White and help GOP incumbent Rick Perry.

 

During the fight against NAFTA and every trade deal ever created, we like to say, “We’re not against ‘free trade,’ but we want ‘fair trade.'” It’s true, too, but there are good reasons why our government will never negotiate a fair trade treaty.

tpp-TARA

The current unfair trade proposal is the “Trans Pacific Partnership” — TPP

It’s fairly easy to see why a certain amount of confusion would be generated. Xenophobia, a paranoid fear of people in other countries, characterizes a lot of our campaigns. Xenophobia disguises itself as patriotism. Racism isn’t far behind it.

It’s confusing because we characterize the people negotiating the treaties as misguided rather than malevolent. It’s hard to believe that big corporations could be as rotten and crazy mean as they really are.

It’s confusing because some of our not-so-bad political leaders support these rotten trade deals. NAFTA could never have been passed without President Bill Clinton, and good old President Obama is currently pushing hard for TPP.

THE TRADE SITUATION IS ACTUALLY QUITE CLEAR

A fair treaty would be one that gives decent treatment to the workers in all the signing countries. But all of the trade treaties so far have been negotiated in secret by a few political representatives from the different countries and an absolute horde of corporate lobbyists.

Corporations don’t want fair treatment for workers. It would cost them money. Corporations don’t want to preserve the environment. It would cost them money. NAFTA, TPP, and all the treaties in between were bad news for workers and for the environment. Corporations have virtually all of the money, way more than enough to buy out the political representatives, up to and including the President.

CORPORATIONS MUST CUT EXPENSES ON WAGES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Globalization (I call it “gobblelization”) today is characterized by intense competition between major capitalist countries. One of the main purposes of the TPP, mentioned often by President Obama, is to give U.S. corporations advantages over the growing Chinese economy. The companies compete primarily by holding down labor costs and not spending any money on environmental protection.

As long as we live under a system dominated by big corporations, as ours is now, every trade deal will be bad for workers and the environment. There is not and there will not be a “fair trade” deal!

–Gene Lantz

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The whole point of this blog is to help people work out our strategies for a better world. In any battle against any enemy, it’s wise to try to figure out how things look from their point of view.

me-realjobsrealwages

Suppose you were a wealthy capitalist intent on hanging on to your vast wealth and adding to it.What problems would you see and how would you over come them?

Here are some problems for big capital:

  • Other nations are under-selling our products and pushing us out of markets
  • Some of the under-developed countries are slipping out from under our domination
  • Environmentalists are gaining the initiative in proposals that might cost us money
  • Another financial crisis would really undermine people’s confidence in us
  • More and more, people seem eager to organize, and they are finding new ways to do it
  • There’s a growing level of activism among the people
  • The internet has improve communications among individual people & groups
  • There is a trend toward growing international solidarity
  • A number of our secret methods are being exposed to the people
  • There’s a real danger that our political system could be reformed

Whatever shall we rich people do?

Our biggest problem, new since the 1970s, is that other industrial nations are competing with us more and more successfully. More of our “free trade” agreements would put us in a better competitive position. Also, they would help us tighten the screws on the underdeveloped world. We can spare no resources to make sure that these bills get through Congress.

Print money

Being able to print money and make sure it stays in our own hands is a big help. The people are starting to catch on, but so far they haven’t figured out anything they can do about it. Most of them still think that some of the wealth is going to trickle down to them, and we have to do everything we can to keep them thinking that way.

Stop the unions

Unionization is not compatible with good business practices. We have to keep up the pressure on all political and legal entities under our control to discredit and ruin American unions before they cause us some real damage!

Tame the internet

We have to extend our grip over the internet. “Net neutrality” has to be overcome with a strong campaign claiming that it’s un-American. Maybe we can get some of our religious spokespersons to come out against it.

Invade, baby, invade!

The only sure thing that works when our underdeveloped markets begin to rebel against us is invasion. We overcame a lot of the domestic opposition to our wars by switching to a professional army with maximum use of substitute soldiers and deadly machinery, but more and more propaganda is needed to convince the people to allow us to continue. We already have troops on extended missions in three countries, but there will likely be need for more in the near future.

Control information

We can continue beating the environmentalists with our control over the information sources. We can continue characterizing them as kooks and malcontents as long as we keep the “high ground” with our purchased army of intellectuals and professional spin doctors. Even at that, it may be necessary before long to take the gloves off and start some serious repression.

Divide and conquer

Our biggest domestic problem is the minorities. They won’t stay sidelined and they won’t remain isolated. Isolating them and discrediting them is our best defense, only we need a lot more of it. Our efforts to undermine democracy have only had modest success, and a backlash is already underway. Unfettered police and military forces may be needed.

–Gene Lantz

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