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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!

The car accident was not the fault of old Glen Lang. Somebody left the handbrake off their delivery truck, and it rolled down Nob Hill, across the stop sign, and right at the driver’s side of Glen’s little auto. He saw it coming, and the first thing that crossed Glen’s careful mind was not his own safety. He thought, instead, of whether or not he was to blame, which of course he wasn’t, but he didn’t have time to resolve that before his car was lifted in the air and whisked to safety on the other side of the intersection.

And, before Glen even had time to realize that he had been saved, Wonder Woman jumped into his car! “Let’s go,” she said, and Glen obediently eased the car slowly forward. This was going to take a few minutes to assimilate.

gadot-face

Eventually, though, Glen had the presence of mind to peep hesitantly over at the strangely clad but very real woman in the front seat of his car. She was, indeed, Wonder Woman, complete with the red boots, the boomerang tiara, and the glowing magic lasso at her side. Or, he decided, she might not be the real Wonder Woman, but she was certainly Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who played Wonder Woman in movies.

Gal Gadot, Glen had realized in the movie theater, was perfection. She didn’t just look like Wonder Woman, she looked like the best woman that God ever made. She was the penultimate wish of every man, perfection. What she would be doing in an old man’s ancient automobile was more than he could figure out.

It crossed his mind, of course, to ask her. But years of cautious living had taught Glen that questioning a good thing was unlikely to help anything and might hurt. So he just drove.

“I was on my way home,” he said tentatively.

Gadot smiled broadly and looked right at him, right at Glen!

He must have blushed. He hoped he hadn’t, but he knew he probably had. He examined the road ahead scrupulously, paid full attention to his driving, kept his face toward the road, and kept driving.

What should he do next? He tried to keep his thoughts concealed while he figured out the next course of action. But what was it?

The thought of politely asking Wonder Woman where she wanted to be dropped off was, of course, the first idea. But on further consideration, he thought it might sound foolish. After all, if she was Wonder Woman she could call her invisible aircraft any time and go anywhere she wanted, so why would she need Glen for a chauffeur? If she wasn’t really Wonder Woman, but was actually Gal Gadot, then she could surely have a limousine pick her up anywhere. So asking her where she wanted to be dropped off was surely superfluous and might only make him, Glen, look like a silly chatterbox, just talking to hear himself talk.

As he had already told Gal Gadot that he was driving home, and as she had not given him further direct instructions, that’s where he drove.

As he pulled into the driveway, he wondered what protocol was in order next. Should he run around to open the door for her — surely a silly thing to do for a woman who could not only open a door but lift an entire car — or should he just sit there and wait for instructions — “and look dumb,” he thought. Besides, do younger people open doors for each other? It also occurred to him to just sit there in the driveway, which would, also, he thought, look dumb.

No other course of action availing itself, Glen decided to just get out of the car. By then, she had already solved all the protocol problems by opening her own door and getting out of the car first. Then she waited, again smiling magnificently and looking right directly at old Glen Lang.

Anybody else, Glen realized, might have lost their cool. But he was resolved. He walked to the door and held it open for whoever it was, either the most beautiful actress ever in a movie or an actual goddess. She walked right in.

Like anybody else, Glen then glanced around to see if there was anything amiss in his little place. Of course there wasn’t. He wasn’t rich, but he wasn’t a slob, either. At the same time, the little house was, he admitted, rather humble for such a guest. He wondered if it smelled like old people?

Nothing seemed to bother Gal Gadot about the place. “I’ve gotta get these boots off,” she smiled, “Do you mind?” And before Glen had the presence of mind to answer, she was sitting on his little sofa and pulling her wondrous boots off her wondrous feet.

“Would you care for a-a, a glass of water?” he asked. He hated that he had stammered, and he was embarrassed to realize that he was almost positive that he was blushing again.

“Not just yet,” she said as she stood up on her incredible bare feet and then — completely to Glen’s shock — placed her hand on his forearm. “Why don’t you show me around first?” Her irresistible smile weakened Glen’s knees. He tried to not, but he looked down at her hand. He had never seen such a beautiful hand. He had never noticed such perfectly manicured nails. Such skin coloring, such  smoothness, such a lack of pores or unsightly hair! How much time had passed?

And, it seemed to Glen, that she was standing closer than any woman had stood near Glen in decades. He thought he could smell her and even feel the radiation of her body heat. He strained his hopes that he wasn’t going to embarrass himself in front of her, but he was almost positive that he would. And then something even worse began to present itself to the squirming self-consciousness of Glen Lang.

He felt a stirring in his pants.

“Uh,” Glen’s voice seemed to have dropped a couple of octaves and was almost a grunt when he finally responded, “Yes.”

He led Gal Gadot through the narrow kitchen. He pointed out the bathroom with just the slightest hope that a rest stop was what the goddess might want — but she didn’t respond — and then found himself hesitating in front of the open bedroom door. Then he entirely ran out of the ability to think, and just stood there immobile.

The gorgeous hand of Wonder Woman herself pushed Glen Lang gently inside. Then it slithered down his back and, to his utter disbelief, slightly squeezed his buttock! For the first time, Glen stopped worrying that he would faint and started hoping that he would!

Wonder Woman then took over completely. First she undressed Glen, then herself. The breastplate came off and revealed, as he would have thought if he could have thought at all, that Gal Gadot was even more perfect without her costume than with it. Glen cowered. Gadot glowed!

Glen Lang was amazed with Gal Gadot, but he was also amazed with himself. He hadn’t had a stiff erection in at least a decade, and he was sure that, no matter what this beautiful goddess might want, he would not be able to provide it.

But he had that same worry in intimate situations when he was younger, and somehow had provided himself with an adequate erection when the occasion demanded it. So, as he had done when he was much younger, he waited silently and hoped. Sure enough, and to his complete amazement, the long-missing erection was developing!

Not only did Glen Lang get an erection, but he found himself perfectly capable as the Goddess slid beneath him on the top of his tiny bed. Before it was over, Glen had even begun to remember some small part of his old technique.

Afterward, he at last said said one of the awkward things that he had hoped he wouldn’t say, “I can’t believe I did that,” he gasped.

“It was good,” beamed the naked goddess.

“I haven’t been able to do that for years. Not for years and years,” Glen protested

“Well,” Gal Gadot said, “I may deserve some of the credit.”

“Certainly, certainly,” Glen said, and realized that it was perfectly true. How could any man not respond sexually to Wonder Woman or Gal Gadot?

He lay quietly, in fear that he might again say something out of place.

Finally, she broke the long silence, “You OK?”

“Better than that,” he smiled and turned on his side toward her. In fact, he was aware, he was beginning to feel just the slightest stirring around his penis again. “I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven.”

She smiled and snuggled close.

“I feel like I have died and gone to Heaven,” Glen repeated. No response.

“Have I?” he finally asked. “Did that truck hit my car? Have I died and gone to Heaven?”

“Yes,” softly reassured the beautiful goddess. “How do you like it so far?”

–Gene Lantz

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

Sad to say, a rift is under way in the progressive movement.

tariff-definition

The AFL-CIO, main federation of the American labor movement, favors Trump’s tariffs. Our allies in the Democratic party, desperate to win in November, are pretty much united in the belief that Trump can do no right.

On July 12, the AFL-CIO conducted a webinar led by Celeste Drake, their trade specialist. Even though there were a lot of “we don’t mean this” and “we don’t mean that,” the essence of the discussion was that labor thinks tariffs on steel and aluminum are good policy and should have been done decades ago.

Why?

I’ve tried to make this clear several times: labor unions represent our members. It’s the best and the worst thing you can say about us. We do not represent other people’s members, and we do not represent humankind, we do not represent abstract ideals. We represent our members, and our members want job security. Some of them, most notably the Steelworkers, think they can get it, or get more of it, with Trump’s tariffs.

Unions lamented the fact that many unionists in the “rust belt” voted for Trump. This is why.

So, the AFL-CIO position is sure to alienate some of our Democrat friends. It’s going to alienate some unionists, too. For example, the autoworkers probably don’t like tariffs on steel because it means that autos produced in America will cost more and be at a disadvantage in world markets. Aerospace workers won’t like tariffs on aluminum for the same reason.

But, here’s the irony of it, if Trump carries out his threat to put tariffs on foreign-made automobiles, the auto workers will probably be doing handsprings. If he put tariffs on foreign-made aircraft, the aircraft workers would be glad. That’s the way it works.

But Will It Work?

I think the AFL-CIO has taken a wrong turn. I think it’s possible, maybe even likely, that they will reconsider before very long. My opinion doesn’t come because I love Democrats, or even because I hate to see controversy and divisions within the working class. The fact is that the government of the United States does not function on behalf of working people.

We’ve seen that in all of the so-called “free trade” and “globalization” deals over the past few decades. Those deals, as the AFL-CIO is first to say, were for the big transnational corporations and at the expense of working people and the environment. We fought them at every turn. We said we weren’t isolationists, we weren’t for protectionism, we didn’t want to alienate other countries, but we knew we had to fight the transnationals. That made sense.

So why would anybody think that Donald Trump’s stance on “America first” is going to benefit American workers? I guarantee that, whatever comes of Trump’s international policies, including his trade policies, it will not benefit American workers.

What drives the big corporations today is international competition. American corporations try to out-sell, for example, Chinese producers. The main way they compete is to drive down their production costs. That’s us. Workers. We are their main production costs. That didn’t change when Trump got elected.

What’s the Answer?

Ultimately, American workers need international solidarity. Within our unions, we often say that we aren’t trying to bring everybody down to a common level, but we are trying to bring everybody up to the highest level. Why shouldn’t we apply that to foreign workers as well?

We need to work with foreign workers against our common enemy — transnational corporations and their stooges in government. It won’t be easy, but it’s the only way to win.

The old Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO), before it capitulated to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was more internationalist. They formed an international organization for trade unionists — the World Federation of Trade Unionists — at the end of World War II. In my reading of history, it sounds like they were seriously trying to bring all workers together and fight the corporations that are our common enemy.

The right-turn of 1947 changed all that. Anticommunism became the new union religion, and anti-internationalism is part of anticommunism. The CIO joined the AFL in 1955 and both of them joined the CIA.  The great progressive turn of 1995 started putting the American labor movement back on a good solid progressive course. Since 1995, the AFL-CIO has hardly made a single decision that didn’t inspire me to join their cheering squad.

Until this one. I hope it doesn’t last long.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on radio KNON at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Two weeks’ worth of podcasts can be found under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

On January 19, the Republican Party of Dallas filed a lawsuit to have 128 Democrats removed from the county ballot! Taken by itself, it’s almost a joke, because what they are calling legal grounds is laughable. Fascist_OK

What makes the Democrats uneasy is the way the Trump Administration and Congressional approvals are filling the entire judicial system with reactionaries.

We’ve already seen many terrible court decisions since the Supreme Court first put George Bush II into office. Citizens United encourages corporations to take over our election processes. Another decision gutted the Voting Rights Act. Many smaller decisions have occurred or are in process today. Even if the Trump term of office were very short, as most of us hope, it will take decades to get over his effect on the judiciary!

People think that the Republicans hate democracy because of their judges, redistricting and voter suppression laws.

Actually, that’s not true

Here’s what’s really going on: the capitalists are robbing the working class. It’s “business as usual” for them because they have to beat their competitors through lower costs and we, the workers, are their costs! Our health care, food stamps, and retirement benefits are also part of their costs because they have to pay taxes.

If you’re going to rob somebody, you’d better make sure they aren’t armed. Right now, Americans are armed with a certain amount of limited democracy. We can still “vote the bastards out.” We can still organize and protest. We still have unions and some legal rights.

They intend to go on robbing us because they have to. They intend to go on disarming us so they can rob us. Eventually, they will want to drop all pretense of democracy and implement fascism. That’s how this system works, or doesn’t work, and everybody needs to understand it so we can start working together to create a better system.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on http://knon.org/workers-beat/ at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I actually think, check out http://lilleskole.us