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An April 5th article from Associated Press asks “What do we do with the bodies?” It seems that big-city morgues and funeral homes are already overwhelmed even before the pandemic hits its peak. 1,000 bodies per day are expected soon.

coffins piling up
Expect a lot more cadavers

The pandemic is forcing us to re-think a lot of our customs. Cadaver disposal is certainly one of them. The highly-lucrative funeral home industry won’t like it, but we need another solution.

The Old Way

Currently, grief stricken families pay out thousands of dollars and untold misery while disposing of their cadavers. Even cremation, which sounds cheap and simple, costs a lot. I understand that the Islamists use cremation, but I wonder if it’s simpler or cheaper than what the Christians do. Jews skip the crazier aspects and hurry their cadavers into the ground, but there’s still a lot of ceremony.

I have wondered how much useful real estate is being taken up by graveyards. I don’t know how much it is, but I know it’s growing and I’m pretty sure it’s useless.

Once the authorities finish all their paperwork, they release the corpse to the funeral home. There, the Christian thing to do is to suck out the guts and internal organs and substitute filler and chemicals. Then the cosmetologist pretties up the ugly remains so people will say, “he looks so peaceful” as they parade past.

Usually, a preacher gets his chance to say almost anything over the remains. Some of it may be true, but, in some cases, the preacher didn’t even know the dead person. One thing for sure, the preacher will take advantage of the occasion to proselytize for his particular set of beliefs.

A growing trend is toward “green funerals.” The grief-stricken get their cadaver back into the environment, usually in the form of compost. I imagine it is difficult for them to fight off the religious relatives who will insist on church involvement anyway. If the person died of Covid-19, nobody is going to want them in their compost.

Just about the only way to get around the funeral and religion industries is to donate one’s personal cadaver to a medical school. I did that decades ago, but I have a feeling that they wouldn’t take a body festering with Covid-19 germs, so the medical school escape route is probably closed.

Not everybody disposes of their cadavers the way we do in America. I understand there are still some Zoroastrians in the Middle East. They encourage buzzards and other scavengers to carry off as much as they will eat. But I’ll bet they wouldn’t do that with a Covid-19 victim! Diseased buzzard poo might end up in their vegetable garden!

If American bodies continue piling up from the pandemic, neither the Christians, the medical schools, nor the Zoroastrians have a practical solution for disposing of all these germy bodies. Fortunately, I do.

CHOP THEM UP AND POUR THEM

I thought of this before I saw the movie “Fargo.” We could adapt wood chippers to atomize cadavers. Most of the result would be liquid, so it could be poured into a hole. Probably 4-5 feet deep and 10 inches in diameter would hold a body.

Then we could sprinkle on some tree seeds and cover with our the dirt we just dug up. Just so we’d remember who went where, we could put a little brass plate on top. Then we could move a few feet over and start on another corpse. It probably wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and $100 to get rid of the remains, and we would be planting some nice trees where, someday after the pandemic, the relatives could remember the deceased in a nice shady spot.

Problem solved

I’m well aware that mortuaries and religious fanatics are not going to like my suggestion for what to do with hundreds of thousands of virus victims. I encourage them to come forward with theirs.

–gene lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, please check out my personal web site

Go Digital!

As physical meetings become too risky, the progressive movement must rely on electronic communications. If you want to help, or if you want to learn how to help, please sign up for our Digital Organizing Committee by clicking here. After you sign up, forward the link to others.

We need much better communications, but we have made some progress:

The Dallas AFL-CIO Web Site includes the latest labor news from our nation, our state, and our Central Labor Council. It also has sections that can be used to educate and activate us.

The Dallas AFL-CIO Facebook page is our main day-to-day, hour-to-hour outreach. We currently have almost 2,000 “likes.” You can help strengthen this platform by going to the page, clicking on the three dots ***, and then clicking on “invite friends.”

Labor is also active on Twitter and Instagram.

Our radio show just won an award “Best Radio Show” from the Texas State Teachers Association:

We have a regular monthly column in the “Union Craftsman” newspaper. We try to get “earned media” by publicizing labor events to newspersons, but we have had very little success. We could develop a systematic effort to get letters-to-the-editors published.

Great improvements could be made by our network of digital progressive activists!

–Gene Lantz

Almost all of our relationships are adversarial. As school children, we compete for grades. As workers, we compete for promotions. We’re pushed into being adversaries in all our relations, but the only way to solve today’s problems is as partners.

Today’s pandemic, today’s worldwide economic crisis, today’s immigrant crisis, today’s environmental crisis, and today’s war crisis, whether we think of them as separate or linked, can only be solved through international cooperation. But several governments, including ours, are moving in the opposite direction. Just when international cooperation is critical, the government of the United States brays, “Me first!”

This week, President Trump unilaterally banned European travelers. He didn’t even give them a courtesy call. He has consistently broken every kind of international agreement that would have made us healthier and safer. Today’s pandemic is bringing it all into focus, but it’s been going on for some years.

People are not naturally competitive. Humans would not have survived in the wild if we hadn’t learned to cooperate. As hunter/gatherers we cooperated within our own clan. In City-States we cooperated within our own limited area. As nations, we cooperated over a much broader area. But, so far, we have never been allowed to practice cooperation across the planet.

Our better thinkers have known about the necessity of cooperation at least since World War I. At war’s end, they set up the League of Nations. It was weak and didn’t stop the “me first” people from creating World War II. At the end of the Second World War, our better thinkers set up the United Nations. Our worst thinkers have been trying to tear it apart, and they have damaged it considerably, but it still exists. It’s largely ignored in America, but it still exists.

The “me first” people have to be overcome. We have to demand international cooperation. It’s the only way out of the messes we’re in!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio KNON’s prize-winning “Workers Beat” program at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I support Bernie Sanders for President. I downloaded the BERN app, I send money, and I’ll certainly vote for him. Bernie Sanders has personally advanced American political thinking more than anybody in history since, at least, Eugene Victor Debs.

I don’t think he will be elected President, though. Even if he did, I don’t think he could implement his progressive program. Even if he got elected and carried both houses of Congress, he couldn’t.

I also support Our Revolution and the rest of the Bernie movement. Bernie himself says that the movement is more important than he. Bernie never claimed that he could implement all his progressive ideas by getting elected. He says it would take a gigantic mass movement, and it would.

Those who think they are going to get Bernie elected and that he is going to solve America’s problems are ignoring the class nature of American society and everything we have learned about class struggle.

Changing America is not just a question of getting people to start voting, or even about getting people to be smarter about their voting. Changing America is a matter of overcoming the people who run America now. Before those people would relinquish power, they would maneuver the election system into uselessness. They have already weakened democracy considerably. If they thought it was necessary, they would try to cancel elections. If they thought it was necessary, they would try to cancel democracy altogether. Don’t forget, it’s been done!

The ruling rich have to be confronted and overcome. That’s how change will come to America. It’s the only possible way.

Who Can Do It?

The only class of people who can successfully fight the bosses is their employees. We have shown, in battle after battle, that organized workers can defeat powerful corporations. Informing and organizing America’s workers is the way to success.

How?

The Bernie campaign is certainly an asset. People are learning a lot from Bernie, and we are also learning a lot about Bernie’s unscrupulous enemies. At least one major union has come over to the Bernie side already, and more will follow. Giving the Bernie movement a chance to recognize labor’s leadership is a great step in the right direction.

Let’s keep building the progressive movement and, as much as we can, show it that the working class must take the lead.

Electing Bernie sounds easy. Informing and organizing America’s working class sounds difficult. But it’s the only thing that will work.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site. Contact me.

A former auto worker named Thomas Adams printed part of his dissertation in the Monthly Review. https://mronline.org/2019/08/19/a-tale-of-corruption-by-the-united-auto-workers-and-the-big-three-american-automakers/ . He calls it “A tale of corruption…”

I have to point out that, regardless of his intentions, Mr Adams’ piece has to be seen as part of the overall political and economic assault against the auto workers. It’s no coincidence that so much juicy scandal about UAW leaders reached its peak just as the contract expired and 49,000 workers were forced out on strike.

Nor is it a coincidence that the strike is starting its second week. The last one, in 2007, lasted only two days. General Motors is not giving the UAW leadership anything that they can take back to the membership with any hope of contract acceptance. it is entirely possible that they won’t.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the government and General Motors, and probably Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, are out to finally destroy the union that they have so carefully weakened over the last 4 decades.

Before all that, the auto workers union was the pride of the union movement. They were the first major success of the Coalition for Industrial Organizing that was begun in 1935 specifically to organize a different industry (steel).

They were the biggest union to break through divisive color and gender lines. Even after 1947, when the most progressive elements were kicked out, the UAW continued generally as the progressive end of the American union continuum. Their newspaper editor opposed the war in Vietnam. Their president marched with Dr. King. They stood against South African apartheid.

I am not saying that Thomas Adams’ criticisms aren’t true. For a lot of it, I was there, and I can vouch for some of the events he reveals. Certainly, the union made a gigantic mistake in joining management under the mistaken assumption that the main enemy of American workers was foreign workers.

The enemy then and now is and was corporate management and their stooges in government. That’s who we have to fight, not each other.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really believe, check out my personal web site

Before we start bombing, we might want to check around.

Looking for an Enemy

I’ve said for sometime that Mr Trump would like to be considered a “wartime president.” A wartime president wouldn’t be bothered with subpoenas, investigations, and possibly even the 2020 election. The fires on the oil tankers are now being twisted into just the excuse he needs.

But Americans could be a little skeptical about the new excuse for war. The wars we waged since 1945, for example all of them, were started under very questionable circumstances.

On the BBC this morning, an Iranian spokesman said that if his country wanted to block the Strait of Hormuz they would just block it. The video of their sailors removing a defunct mine from one of the tankers only proved that they had removed it, not that they had put it there. Pompeo said they had kidnapped the tanker crew that they rescued!

A good source on Middle-East developments is the Qatar news service, Al Jazeera. They’re so good that they suffer powerful attacks from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Here’s some of what they have posted:

*https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/holds-iran-responsible-reported-gulf-attacks-tankers-190613183053625.html

*US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of being behind the reported attacks that damaged two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, offering, however, no concrete evidence in a statement that came hours after Tehran called the incidents “suspicious”….

*A Saudi-led military coalition, which is battling the Houthi rebels in Yemen, described Thursday’s events as a “major escalation” and linked them to July 2018 attacks on two Saudi oil tankers in the Red Sea.

*Riyadh had blamed the attack on the Houthis, which it alleges receives arms from Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

*Russia, one of Iran’s main allies, was quick to urge caution on Thursday, saying no one should rush to conclusions about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran.

*Qatar, meanwhile, called for an international investigation and a de-escalation of tensions. In a statement, the Qatari foreign ministry condemned what it called acts of destruction “regardless of who is behind them”.

We haven’t heard the last of this. The Trump Administration will either get a war started or go out of business. I’m hoping the latter comes before the former.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book review: Marcus, Ben, “The Flame Alphabet.” Vintage Books, New York, 2012




Treasures or Terrors?

Is raising children the most fulfilling thing we can do? Or is it the biggest disappointment? Do we love our children like crazy every minute, or do we just hang on because we feel guilty? Are our families draining away our will to live?

Ben Marcus wrote a book in which the downside of families tips the scale down far enough to call it a horror novel. Or you could call it sci-fi, or maybe fantasy, or maybe just stream-of-consciousness rumination on how the American family, once the pillar of stability, is becoming a madhouse of anguish.

In some stereotypes, we hear mothers, sometimes with the backs of their fingers on their foreheads, tell their children, “You con’t know how you hurt me when you talk like that.” But in Marcus’ book, the words of children literally kill their parents. All language is toxic. Only children can bear to talk at all. Adults die from language. All communication is cut off and only hermits, and then only the hermits who never think out loud, have any future.

And yet, people still want to be with each other, and with their children, even though it is sure death. There is a whole book about this. It’s all agony. To me, even reading it was agony. Marcus lambaste’s the very idea of language, but he uses some of the best writing I’ve ever endured to criticize language. If everybody in the world he creates is suffering, he makes sure the reader feels it, too.

Art is art because we interact with it and it changes us. It doesn’t owe us any pleasantries. I recommend this book because I can confirm it’s art, but certainly not because it’s going to make anybody feel good.

As I endured my way through the pages of examination of contemporary family life, I also wondered how well it would fit with the changing nature of all things. After all, the United States was primarily an agricultural country until World War II. Families were different then.

I also wondered if Marcus’ view would fit even today with all classes of people. I think his view was primarily a middle-class view. Rich people probably don’t suffer such total ambiguity toward their children. They know how to groom their assets and minimize their liabilities. Many working families nowadays don’t even have time to raise their children, let alone anguish over them.

Nevertheless, Marcus’ book treats an important contemporary development in the way modern people survive. Read “The Flame Alphabet” at your peril, but read it anyway!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9AM every Saturday Central Time. If you may be curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Almost all of the good news in American contract negotiations has been brought to us lately by school employees. Can you think of a strike victory to match what the Oakland teachers just did? How about Denver? The trail of stunning victories goes back through West Virginia (two big recent victories) and to the Chicago teachers a couple years back.

I hope you agree with me that America’s school employees are leading the labor movement. But why?

Our Texas teachers are having their lobby day Monday, March 11 in Austin. Affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are putting aside all differences and joining together to send buses from all over the state. Bonnie Mathias and I had Delna Bryan on the “Workers Beat” radio program this Saturday at 9 AM Central Time.




Gene Lantz, Delna Bryan, Bonnie Mathis at KNON on 3/9/19

I asked Delna how she accounts for the leading role of school employees and she responded that teachers make good tacticians because they are resolute. I’m not buying that. Lots of working people are resolute.

Long ago, I belonged to a sectarian radical group that owed most of its membership to the student movement. But when they saw an opportunity, they correctly started getting union jobs. At first they were convinced that the Steelworkers were the place to be. Then they changed to the Autoworkers. Last time I saw them, they were all changing to the Meatcutters. I don’t think anybody ever imagined the school employees would be taking the lead. Heck, I was a schoolteacher when all this “turn to industry” business started.

Here’s a couple of good reasons

I’ll give you two good reasons for the leading role of school employees, but not THE reason. First, school employees tend to be better educated and, consequently, better communicators than other workers. Heck, most of the factory workers I worked with couldn’t even use a keyboard. I believe I wrote the first computer program ever used in a union struggle in Texas, and that was at a time when my local didn’t know the first thing about data management or advanced communications. They had to borrow a guy from another big local just to lay out their leaflets. The other good reason, whether you agree or not, is that school employees are largely women. American women are more organizable and more organized than men. I said it and I’ll stick to it whether you agree or not. Now, here’s the REAL reason school employees are showing the way.

Here’s THE Answer

School employees are part of their communities. They no sooner start a strike or any kind of concerted action than they start getting parents’ auxiliaries, student auxiliaries, church auxiliaries, civil rights supporters, and community supporters. They do not fight alone.

During the spontaneous West Virginia school strike of last year, I interviewed on KNON the guy who set up their fund raising and raised tens of thousands of dollars and nationwide support. He wasn’t even a school employee. He was just a parent!

The Lesson for the Rest of Us

Organizing unions by workplace has been on a long downhill statistical slide since we peaked in 1957 with 30% of the workforce. Actually, the slide probably began in 1947 with the Taft-Hartley union busting law and the opportunistic union movement’s subsequent accommodation to it.

Even the wonderful new AFL-CIO leadership that began in 1995 hasn’t been able to completely staunch the outward flow of membership. and our failure to win new replacement union members.

What the new leadership did, though, has great potential payoff. They adopted Jobs with Justice and started pushing their state and local federations, along with union locals, to reach out for allies. Many of us at the state and local level haven’t learned the lesson yet, and even today we don’t do a lot of outreach beyond our own members. Some do it better than others, but nobody so far has developed the kind of outside support that the school employees get.

Making friends outside our immediate union organization is the key to winning. That’s what we must learn from the teachers, and we’d better learn it fast!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, try my personal web site

book review:

Harrigan, Stephen, “The Gates of the Alamo.” Penguin Books, New York, 2000

The Alamo is the #1 tourist attraction in Texas. It’s a shrine!

Historical fiction about the Texan rebellion against Mexico. I really grew to hate Mister Harrigan with the craven envy peculiar only to cowards. He writes and researches better than I ever will. This book sounds so immediately true, right down to the color of the local flora, that one tends to accept everything in this account as true. But it is fiction after all, as he reminds us in the afterward.

Unlike other Texas fiction, and unlike most Texas “History,” which is also fiction, Harrigan tells both sides with considerable compassion. If I hadn’t already been convinced of the accuracy of this account, I would have been won over just by two phrases on page 575, just two pages short of the ending. Santa Ana, long after the rebellion, is sitting in a New York restaurant and remembering, “…the rapacity of the United States as evidenced by its invasion of Mexico; the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians by the so-called Texas Rangers…”

Santa Ana, during the time of the rebellion, is painted as a very bad guy. He insisted on executing all the Texas fighting men, no matter how they may have surrendered. But Harrigan is quick to remind us, near the end, that he also fought against French imperialism. And, he was largely responsible for the commercialization of chewing gum.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. They podcast it on Itunes. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site. I have 4 of my own novels there. They aren’t as good as Harrigan, but they’re shorter!