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politics

Dark money from the U.S. is supporting truck riots in Canada. Can you see why?

Can you see why Republicans block legislation that would benefit their districts? Some Republicans even try to take credit for beneficial legislation that they voted and campaigned AGAINST! Why? Why did the Republican National Convention condone the January 6 insurrectionists? Why are Republican think tanks supplying scripts for crazies who disrupt school board meetings? Why are apparently sane Republicans who get vaccinated arguing that other people shouldn’t? Why take the side of disease over good health? Why underwrite chaos?

The reason that normal Americans can’t understand today’s political events is that nothing like this has ever happened in our country before. It is outside our experience. The only historical precedents are from other countries like, say, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Spain, and Germany. In those countries, chaos was used to help bring down participatory government to benefit autocrats. Possibly the best example for us, because a number of us are old enough to remember it, and because we know more about it, is Chile in 1973.

If you think about it, you might see that, for certain politicians, chaos is a good thing. It worked for the CIA and General Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1973. Truckers were involved then, too, as some of them are now. Google “Trucks AND Chile.” Read the New York Times article from August 18, 1973, “Chile Calls Truck Strike ‘Catastrophic.'”

It says that a 23-day trucker’s strike has had “catastrophic’ repercussions on Chile’s already ailing economy.

“This is a political strike aimed at overthrowing the Government, with the help of imperialism,” said Gonzalo Martner, Minister of National Planning and one of the chief policy makers for President Salvador Allende Gossens’s socialist government.

I’m not sure how reliable the Times’ account is, because they were probably in on it. But it is well known now that the chaos in Chile was designed and abetted by the CIA, United States of America! For would-be dictators, chaos has its uses, then and now!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. My podcast, “Workers Beat Extra” is posted on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Tioga is 50 miles north of Dallas. Politically, it may be in another world.

When we made our little road trip, the first thing we noticed were the big campaign signs for Don Huffines hanging on barbed wire fences. He seems to think that Governor Abbott is a liberal. HIs main slogan for getting votes in rural areas, based on an outright lie, seems to be “Stop Giving Our Money to Illegals!”

Our second clue came when we arrived at Tioga and stopped for barbecue. By the way, we liked the food, and apparently lots of other people like it, because the crowd was pretty good for a town with population 803. While we were scarfing it down, though, we noticed that we hadn’t seen a mask anywhere on the trip. Pandemic or not, they just don’t wear them up around Tioga!

Tioga is the birthplace of the great singing cowboy

After the restaurant, we tried to fit in by taking off our masks for our walking tour. We went right down Gene Autry street. We thought there might be some kind of statue, plaque, or other tribute to the great singing cowboy who is, among many other things, who I’m probably named after. The tribute is probably there, because being the birthplace of Gene Autry is Tioga’s only claim to fame, but we couldn’t find it. Right next to the street sign where we paused for a photo, a sign hung from a tree: “Trump: Make America Great!”

By then, we city people had begun to get a little uneasy. A couple of blocks further, we saw our first “Trump 2024” yard sign of this political year. By the time we got to Race Street and saw a certain house, we were downright nervous.

Stars and Bars flies in Tioga

When we saw the confederate flag and the posted threat of violence, we decided that it might be good to get back to the car before anybody noticed my “Bernie” bumper sticker. As soon as we got back to City Hall, where we had parked, we checked the car for possible painted swastikas. Then we got out of Tioga.

Does anybody remember when Adolf and Barack made a joint statement?

On the way home, we wondered if there were any dark-skinned people in Tioga. More importantly, we wondered why people in the rural areas of Texas seem committed to the Republican Party despite all facts and information. We think it might be racism.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. KNON posts my weekly blog “Workers Beat Extra” Wednesdays on http://soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Book review:

Erik Loomis “A History of America in Ten Strikes,”  The New Press, New York, 2018, 301 pages

I got my Kindle copy free through the Dallas library. People might think it’s just a blow-by-blow account of ten very interesting and dramatic strikes, but it’s more than that. Each strike is put in its economic, political and historical context. One couldn’t, for example, understand the Bread and Roses textile strike without knowing, first, that New England farmers were so desperate that they were willing to give up their daughters. One couldn’t understand the success of the Flint Sit-Down without knowing, first, that labor’s political efforts had paid off beforehand.

Every history has a framework. Usually, they are based on the idea of “great men” who “made” history. This book’s framework is much more realistic. Its ribs are certain especially interesting contests between working people and their bosses. Its spine is the class struggle in America. It’s a very good way to make history understandable.

Since the book was submitted for publication, we have seen a nascent strike wave in America. People who never could organize before are joining unions. That includes techies, retail workers, and even Starbucks employees. At the same time, a recent (2022) poll said that we have lost another half-percent of the total workforce. I assume that brings us down to around 10.4% as we descend down a ladder of destruction that began in 1947 when we had about 35%.

One could argue that I am being completely subjective, but I don’t agree with the book’s conclusions. The author seems to think that the future for American labor lies in organizing in the service sector, whereas I cling to the older idea that basic industry and transportation are primary. The difference has to do with how one thinks change might come about.

Most activists today, whether they would admit it or not, believe that labor’s role is to strengthen progressive electoral efforts. The more people that join unions, the stronger our voting power. Once we have enough voting power, we will win elections and depose the bosses. I think that major union leaders share that view, but I don’t.

Labor’s strength goes far beyond electoral statistics and is, in fact, a matter of confrontation. Service workers have never been able to confront the bosses fundamentally and never will. I’d love to have more of them in the union movement, and I’d love to win elections, but only basic industry and transportation can shut the bosses down.

Strikes include:

Lowell Mill Girls Strike (Massachusetts, 1830–40)

Slaves on Strike (The Confederacy, 1861–65)

The Eight-Hour Day Strikes (Chicago, 1886)

The Anthracite Strike (Pennsylvania, 1902)

The Bread and Roses Strike (Massachusetts, 1912)

The Flint Sit-Down Strike (Michigan, 1937)

The Oakland General Strike (California, 1946)

Lordstown (Ohio, 1972)

Air Traffic Controllers (1981)

Justice for Janitors (Los Angeles, 1990)

Here’s a good way to study a bunch of strikes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_strikes Each strike has a link to its story.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. KNON publishes my “Workers Beat Extra” blog Wednesdays on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site where I put my life’s lessons.

Every New Years, I’ve tried to get people to make predictions. Hardly any of them will. The best I have received so far is a stock broker who called KNON. After I prodded him, he responded, “The rich will get richer.” That’s about the safest prediction I ever heard.

My 2022 Predictions:

  • Massive evictions will put millions into the ‘homeless’ category.
  • Vigilantes and illegal militias will flourish.
  • Political violence will become commonplace.
  • Police will tend to allow the anti-worker outrages to flame, while suppressing any activity of pro-worker forces. This was the precedent set in Germany in the 1920s and has generally held.
  • Poverty and hunger will grow, especially among children.
  • The formal educational system will continue to deteriorate as Republicans undermine them with schemes like “charter” schools and assaults on officials. More and more parents will begin to seek out internet solutions.
  • Big corporations will try to privatize the internet and everything else, including all utilities and municipal services.
  • Persistent inflation will force the federal reserve to cut back on “quantitative easing” and near-zero interest rates. Stocks and bonds will crumble but the “real economy” won’t be hit so hard.
  • Little if anything will get done about the environmental crisis. Freak weather disasters will increase and worsen.
  • As world economies teeter, governments will advocate new wars.
  • Omicron will hit early and hard. After it peaks early in the year, a solid majority of Americans will have some immunity from vaccination or from having already suffered through COVID. By late summer, it will no longer be the top of every news story
  • The democratic party will continue unraveling while the Republican Party will grow more homogeneous and harder.
  • Independent movements, particularly the women’s movement, will grow. We will see a revival of unemployed and homeless advocacy groups similar to those of the 1930s.
  • These independent movements will be larger, better informed, and better integrated than anything we have ever seen in history. This is because people are better informed and have infinitely better communications.
  • Unions will not initially lead these powerful independent movements. Unions will be drawn into the larger movement. They will play an important role in guiding and financing the movement.
  • The 2022 elections will show people voting increasingly for 3rd or 4th parties, Greens, Working Family, Democrats, and Independents.
  • One thing that the strong progressive organizations will agree on is this: vote for no Republican!
  • Americans will begin to experiment with the kind of political strikes that have been known in other countries.
  • And slowly, the way forward will begin to show itself.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. The program and a supplemental “Workers Beat Extra” are podcast on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. My January 5 podcast includes these predictions. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Reviews:

Two books on MacArthur and Truman

H.W. Brands, The General vs the President. MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. Doubleday, New York, 2016

William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 1978

Readers who want to know how the Cold War was fine-tuned will find good discussions in these two books. However, both books are based on questionable assumptions that undermine their historical value. Also on the downside, much of the information in the 2016 book seems to have been taken directly from the 1978 book, or from the same sources. I think that both MacArthur and Truman wrote autobiographies that provided much of the original information, but, of course, without a critical eye.

I recommend getting some familiarity with the Korean War before reading these books. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War.

The two authors do not really explain the war. Even worse, they buy uncritically into the U.S. State Department version of what happened. The Americans were heroes, the South Koreans were incompetent, the North Koreans and the Chinese were evil and aggressive imperialists.

The differences explored in these books were not the differences between the U.S. and North Korea, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and the U.N. nor the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The only differences explored are the minor differences between committed anticommunists, especially Truman and MacArthur.

MacArthur, everyone in the book and the authors agree, was a brilliant military strategist. He was also an arrogant gloryhog who wanted to be President. Truman was an outstanding politician. Various other generals and politicians exalted MacArthur, but eventually came around to Truman’s side. The difference between the two main protagonists had to do with the conduct of the Cold War. Basically, MacArthur was ready to risk everything for a military victory against all communists; Truman wanted military containment of the communists while draining them economically. Truman’s version is the one we lived with, but he had to fire one of the most popular military leaders in modern history to establish his program.

MacArthur wanted to destroy the Chinese Army. Truman and his cohorts thought that a long-term effort to destroy the Soviet Union was preferable. The American people were divided, as we are now.

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on soundcloud.com on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Kroeger, Brooke, “Nellie Bly, Daredevil. Reporter. Feminist” Times Books, New York, 1994

These are 510 astonishing pages from the life of a person of excess. Whether or not one likes and appreciates everything about Nellie Bly, they would have to agree that she did more and went further than any woman of her time. From around 1890 until her death in 1922, the nation and much of the world followed her from one incredible adventure into another one even more drastic.

Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochrane was re-named Nellie Bly when editors were assigning her to find out about scandalous treatment of patients in a mental institution. To investigate, she went crazy and let everybody know about it. While she was undergoing “treatment,” she interviewed and observed patients and staff, then lowered the boom on the entire operation. That was just a beginning.

Before she was through, she had been filthy rich and desperately poor, despised and applauded, deceived and honored. When she began, hardly any women had regular jobs in the news industry. The few women employed at all were assigned gossip columns and society news only. When she passed, one of her eulogists called her simply “the best reporter in America.”

Bly served a time as an industrialist with 1,500 employees in her factory. She invented, and held the patent, for steel barrels. To her credit, she took a utopian attitude toward the treatment of her employees. At another time, she championed the Seamen’s Union. Toward the end of her life, she was especially well known for helping poor widows and orphans.

On the negative side, she supported the aristocracy of Austria all through World War I and afterward. She greatly admired Kaiser Wilhelm. She went out of her way to oppose the Russian Revolution and encouraged President Wilson to help combat “Bolshevists.” Her no-holds-barred approach to business, and everything else, must have made many enemies. In this book, though, any rough edges that Bly may have had could be excused by the anti-woman kind of world she lived in. She would never have succeeded at anything without being tough!

The book is good for explaining the historical setting that Bly had to contend with. It especially clarifies the early days of women’s battle for a place in the world of news. A few other newswomen succeeded during Bly’s life, but no one smashed the glass ceiling as thoroughly as Nellie Bly.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM. KNON podcasts it and my “Workers Bet Extra” on Soundcloud.com on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Book Review: Marion Merriman and Warren Lerude, “American Commander in Spain. Robert Hale Merriman and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” University of Nevada Press, 1986

Major Merriman went missing in Spain in early 1938, but his young widow could not bring herself to write about him until she reached the age of 70. Then she sought out a prize-winning co-writer to help her.

Generalissimo Franco and his German & Italian fascists prevailed

The book is extremely personal and could double as a love story as well as a history. I read it for the history. Here’s the best line in it on page 195. She was speaking about her husband’s and hers experiences in defending Spain. In this speech, she was talking to the Rotary Club in Reno, Nevada.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you don’t help the Spanish people and take your stand against fascism in Spain, your sons will die in Germany. I promise you that! There will be nothing you can do to stop a world war from starting if you do not help the Spanish Republic now.”

I don’t think that many Americans today know much about the overthrow of the Spanish Republic by fascists. Even those with some inkling probably think it was freedom versus communism, because that’s how things have been distorted worldwide. In fact, the people of Spain were hardly communists. The Communist Party of Spain was a very small group. The nation just wanted to keep the government that they had elected.

The fascists wanted to take over. Generalissimo Franco organized his foreign legionairres from Africa to invade Spain. He received a lot of help from the Catholic Church and his fascist friends Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. For the Germans and Italians, this was a great opportunity to test out their new weaponry. The so-called “great powers,” including the United States, put their hands in their pockets and looked the other way. If they hadn’t, there would have been no World War II! It would profit everyone to muse on why the “great powers” allowed World War II to develop and take place the way they did, but that would be another blog for another time.

In Spain in the mid 1930s, thousands of good young men from all over the world, including from the United States, volunteered to save democracy by going to battle. The Merrimans were among them.

This is a first hand and personal account. Mrs Merriman doesn’t dissect the political forces of the place and time. Her commitment was to follow and to support her husband. Her passions for the cause came later. Neither she nor her husband were communists, she says, but many of the International Brigadistas were, because communist parties across the world organized support for the Spanish Republic. The Republic wasn’t communist, either. It was just a republic.

One gets to know a lot of the people. Many of them, like Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemmingway, were far more famous than Robert Hale Merriman. Everybody admire Merriman. He was an intellectual economist originally from Nevada, but he went to school in Berkeley and studied for his doctorate in the USSR before deciding, on a personal level, that he had to go and fight in Spain.

In a way, he lives on, because he was one of the models for Hemmingway’s hero in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” One can read a lot about the American brigadistas in ALBA magazine. I get it monthly. There are a few history books with widely varying points of view, like this one. One fact is consistent in all the coverage: the international volunteers were incredibly brave!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it on Wednesdays along with my special “Workers Beat Extra” commentary. If you want to know what I really think, you might look at my personal web site.

Book Review: Krugman, Paul, “Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future.” Kindle Edition, 2020

Nobel economist Paul Krugman writes columns for the NY Times. He collected a bunch of them from around 2004 to 2020 and ordered them, more or less, by topic, then published it as a book. It’s a chance to learn something about contemporary economics while examining political developments.

As I have written before, the separation of political economy into two separate “disciplines” was a terrible blow to knowledge in general. Consequently, while Krugman does not deliberately try to overcome the gaps of separation, he tends to ameliorate the problem by examining political developments from an economics perspective. The “zombies” in the title are economic theories that have already been discounted, but just won’t go away. Principal among them are the monetary theories popularized by Republican zealots such as drip-down prosperity.

In the introduction, Krugman writes, “The administration of George W Bush was dishonest to a degree never before seen in U.S. politics (though now surpassed by the Trumpists), and it was obviously, it seemed t ome, taking us to war o false pretenseses. Yet nobody else with a columnin a major newspaper seemed willing to point this out. As  result, I felt I had to do the job.”

Krugman’s treatments are candid and clear. He doesn’t mind exposing and naming some of the partisan sellouts who pretend that economic theory underlines outright class warfare. Krugman declares himself a modern Keynesian and argues for government spending throughout the period 2004-2020. Krugman’s co-thinkers can be pretty smug about his recommendations, both those that were applied and those that weren’t, because history is the best proof.

In my opinion, Krugman doesn’t go far enough in his analysis of modern economics. He doesn’t say outright that the liars with zombie theories are really puppets of the ruling class. He isn’t as absolute and clear as Thomas Piketty. When Krugman talks about Piketty, he seems to try to fit him in with all capitalist economists who are trying to make the system work, like Krugman himself. I don’t believe that Piketty is trying to make capitalism work.

On July 21, I wrote that I had just read Paul Krugman’s review of Piketty’s new book “Capital and Ideology.” Krugman thinks that Piketty’s work is epic, but that his conclusions are suspect. Here’s where I disagree with Krugman: “And his [Picketty’s] clear implication is that social democracy can be revived by refocusing on populist economic policies, and winning back the working class.” I don’t think that Piketty has any intention of reviving social democracy.

I haven’t read the new book, but the Piketty tome I read did not mention, anywhere, about reviving social democracy. Like any good Marxist, Picketty does not expect social democracy to be revived. Even if it was, Picketty and I would say that it was only temporary. Capitalism, all Marxists agree, is doomed. For decades now, economists have helped a ruthless and wealthy gang maintain their stranglehold to the detriment of the rest of us. In that sense, all their theories are zombies.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio show every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. The talk show and “Workers Beat Extra” podcast are put on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. I don’t mind saying what I think and I even made a personal web site that may interest you.

Book Review:

Prashad, Vijay, “Washington Bullets.” Leftward Books, New Delhi, 2020. Preface by Evo Morales Ayma, former President of Bolivia.

I bought the book through Amazon. I believe that it contributes to a trend, especially among younger people, toward a greater awareness of the seamy side of our nation’s role in the world. Some of the ugliest chapters are generally known among the technologically advanced. The CIA’s overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala, their bloody work in substituting dictators for democracy in Indonesia and most of Latin America, the murder of Patrice Lumumba in Africa, and all the assassination attempts against Fidel Castro in Cuba are common parlance among younger folk. This book attempts to enlarge the scope of understanding and fill in a lot of historical blanks.

The facts are in the book, but this long-running list of condemnations doesn’t follow an understandable pattern and isn’t as clear as other books on the same subject such as “The Jakarta Method.” The problem is probably that other books take up only a few of the bloodstained chapters of American interventionism, while Prashad tries to cover it all. The sheer scope of imperialism’s history, running from the massacres and enslavements of darker-skinned peoples at the very beginnings of colonial America through the current efforts to starve Iran and Venezuela into submission, might be better explained in a series of books explaining interventions in different continents, different eras, or different trends.

Another problem with trying to cover the entire range of international crimes is that American laws protect the documentation from scrutiny for decades before any admissions are made. We are only just now getting official documents about the murder of a million Indonesians in the 1960s, and we don’t know much of anything about NATO’s current slide eastward.

One obvious truth that emerges from Prashad’s effort is that domestic public opinion is always thoroughly prepared before imperialism makes a move. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, known today as a total sham, prepared public opinion for the invading armies in Vietnam. The invasion of Iraq was preceded by months of repeated nonsense about “weapons of mass destruction.” The U.S. is accused of recently engineering the overthrow of the government in Bolivia, but it’s barely mentioned here. Today, we’re getting spoon fed demonization of Iran, Venezuela, and, especially, China in preparation for whatever they are planning, and we won’t get official release of documents for decades to come.

But communication technology has a way of abrading its way through the sheaths of secrecy. As this is written, Americans are beginning to lose all hope for victory in America’s longest war, Afghanistan. Public opinion already gave up on Libya and Syria.  I have never seen an assessment of the effect of ending the draft on imperialism’s designs, and I have no way of knowing whether or not Americans are willing to support the inevitable next intervention. But Prashad’s book contributes to a healthy trend toward truth and understanding.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk radio show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and another called “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my aging personal web site.