Archive

Uncategorized

Book Review:

Walter, Jess, “The Cold Millions.” Big Text,Inc, Harper, New York, 2020

There is a rave review from the Washington Post.

Jess Walter lives in Spokane, Washington. The book is about his town during 1909-10, the time of the great free speech fight of the Industrial Workers of the World. It’s fiction, but everything seems to fit. The point of view changes with each chapter, but the central character, by right of survival since his final chapter is the end of the book, is a teenager named Ryan Dolan. Dolan and his older brother are what we would today call migrant workers, but in their day were simply tramps.

The Spokane Free Speech fight is well noted in labor history, but nobody imagined what it may have been actually like in those days until this book. For example, we know that the IWW members were arrested after mounting soap boxes, one by one, and attempting to exercise their constitutional right to speak out. Many of them, just for irony’s sake, were arrested for having tried to read the Declaration of Independence.  In all, over 500 workers were incarcerated in Spokane and suffered terribly.

The IWW’s strategy was to fill the jails until the public, especially taxpayers, demanded their release and respect for constitutional rights. It was nonviolent resistance long before Gandhi and Martin Luther King popularized the term. The greatest hero of the Spokane fight was IWW organizer Frank Little, but he barely appears in this book because he spent the entire period in jail. The Dolan brothers were in and out.

Fortunately for the readers, the other giant labor figure from Spokane is prominent in Walter’s depiction. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the “Rebel Girl” orator from the IWW, may well be credited with having originated the “fill the jails” strategy earlier in Missoula, Montana. She and Frank Little were successful there. Little carried the strategy forward several times in several western cities for some of the most romantic chapters in American labor history.

If you know your history, you know that Flynn was there and that the publicity she generated was largely responsible for the success in Spokane. You might not know, though, that she was nineteen years old and far-gone pregnant when she did it!

I have always imagined the IWW workers mounting their soapboxes in a more or less orderly fashion, then being handcuffed and led off by the police. That’s how civil disobedience is carried out in our day. But Walters makes it clear that it couldn’t have been orderly at all. He describes it as shrieking bedlam, and, when you think about it, you realize that it must have been as he says.

The whole book is like that. History alive and real.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk who every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. On Wednesdays, they podcast it along with “Workers Beat Extra.” If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I don’t know what happened to the little dog before she sashayed across Sixth Street at Beckley in Dallas 12 years ago. There, in that intersection, is where we met. I know she didn’t have a collar or any sign that she belonged to anybody. I learned later that she was a chewer, like many young dogs; consequently, I have assumed that somebody tethered her outside somewhere in the Western Oak Cliff section of town. If they did, she would certainly have chewed her way to freedom.

I also learned, later on, that she was about six months old and that she had worms. I learned that she was at least part Cocker Spaniel, but that her peculiar “underbite” (her lower teeth projected past her upper teeth—making her just as ugly as she was cute when you didn’t notice her underbite) made her no good for breeding. This “no good for breeding” argument was used by the vet to convince me to have her spayed.

Noting that the dog could really be ugly at some angles, I wanted to name her “Golem.” But Elaine wouldn’t hear of it.

Within a couple of weeks, the little dog we named “Precious” had eaten Elaine’s glasses and ripped the wiring from the back of her computer. Damages in the hundreds of dollars. That wasn’t nearly the most expensive bad habit she had. She also killed our other dog.

Or at least, that was my version of what happened, although Elaine always gave Precious the benefit of the doubt. When the little dog came into our lives, we already had a handsome German Shepherd. He was an extremely good dog, even in his old age. He was tolerant of the new puppy who jumped around on him and constantly invited him to play. Old Buck’s heart gave out a few days after Precious appeared, and I always blamed her, but it was just to tease Elaine.

Rambunctious is an insufficient word for Precious. In those days, our furniture was just what we could afford and mostly from the Salvation Army. Precious could start in the dining room with one big jump, then she would hit the Elaine’s chair, then mine, and then spring, one jump each,  onto the couch. Then she’d gambol her way back to the dining room and start again. Like children, she was fun to watch but hard on the furniture.

Precious would eat anything. I started telling people, when they asked about her pedigree, that she was part Cocker Spaniel and part goat. The pest control people had assured us that no pets had ever been known to eat their rat poison since time began. But Precious got right into it as soon as she found some.

There went $1,500 for a complete blood transfusion and a couple of weeks of rehabilitation at the vets. I made a video when we visited her, “The little dog will live.” I’m sure I put it on YouTube, but now I can’t find it. Precious went on during her long career of costing us more and more until she became, today, probably the most expensive pet that ever lived!

To think, on that first day together, I considered her a free dog!

Getting back to the first day and the street corner where we met, I was just starting my long walk around Lake Cliff Park. I didn’t touch the little dog, but I talked to her, and she followed. Well, she didn’t exactly follow, she was usually ahead of me, but she kept looking back and she stayed near me while I went twice around the 1-mile course and then home. When we got home, I asked Elaine if we could keep her and she said yes. Then I touched the little fuzzy dog for the first time. Before that, I didn’t know she was a female.

As I said, Precious was horribly ugly when one looked directly into her teeth. But from the side, she seemed to have a perpetual smile, almost an audible laugh. Her little stub was always wagging. Elaine and I habitually gave her anything we imagined she might want. When one of us would look askance, the other would give the universal explanation for giving in to the little dog, “She gave me puppy eyes.”

We developed a lot of running jokes about our our little dog. Nothing malicious. For example, we used to say that we were very disappointed that she hadn’t learned to read. Elaine tried to get her to count about two (the number of plates she cleaned after mealtimes), but it was no go.

After 2014, when I had my heart attack, I told Precious that she should have her medical license revoked. We had always heard that people who had dogs had less chance of heart attack. So I pretended to blame Precious for mine. Elaine said that Precious was still batting .500, because only one of us had a heart attack under the dog’s watch.

I always tease Elaine about being too soft on the dog. She says I’m worse.

Not that Precious didn’t have any bad personality flaws. She is intolerant of other dogs, but she never gives them any indication until they get really close. She doesn’t growl at them or posture the way other dogs do. She ignores other dogs until they are close enough for her to bite.

Her other really serious characteristic is intense hatred for the U.S. Post Office. No mailman is safe from Precious if she can get at them. We often worried about getting smacked with a major lawsuit, but mostly we were able to keep her away from them. To her credit, though, we can state today that no mailman has ever successfully smashed their way into our house nor molested either Elaine or me. Not one in 12 years.

Even today, she barks hysterically whenever she thinks the mail might be coming. As she has lost her hearing, she doesn’t really know when they come, but her imagination is working fine.

Precious went everywhere with me unless it was too hot for her to be in the car. That is, she went everywhere with me until about a year ago. That’s when Precious seemed to give up on exercise. She didn’t want to leave the house. She slept almost all the time. About two weeks ago, she even curbed her voracious appetite. The vet (for $641) said she had congestive heart failure and sold us some pills.

She perked up some and even went, once, on a short walk with us. Then about a week ago, Precious started to fall down. She would have spasms on the floor and would be unable to rise. She would just lie there and look directly at us with her big brown Cocker Spaniel eyes. Eventually, she’d get up and act as if nothing had happened. But sooner or later, she’d fall again. The vet calls it “syncope” or something like that. It means that she passes out. She is in the “intermediate” stages of heart failure.

She also started peeing in the house. To be fair, some of her heart medicine is diuretic. It’s the first time in 12 years. My office chair is sitting on a wet floor even as I write this. Fortunately, my sense of smell isn’t any better than my dog’s.

Day after tomorrow, I have been asked to accompany Precious and Elaine to the vet. Elaine says we have to make some decisions. The vet, I’m sure, will (for a price) give us some kind of formulaic outline for whether Precious should live or die. Or the vet will give us some kind of timetable as to when we have to make a decision.

-Gene Lantz

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

As Joe Biden’s victory sinks into the American consciousness, the AFL-CIO is calling for moving forward together. But what does it mean?

We can be sure what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean continuing slogging along with our age-old organizing efforts in one workplace at a time. Nothing exposes organizing failure more than the continuing decline of union density. It doesn’t mean hesitating at the threshold of solidarity with our natural allies. It doesn’t mean putting our entire political faith and trust in the Democratic Party.

The AFL-CIO has made terrific progress since the leadership election of 1995. They staunched the bleeding that brought our labor movement from 35% density to 11%. But they are going to have to do more, and some of that “more” may seem drastic. The obvious steps are these:

Organize nationwide:

Unlike the old CIO, the AFL and the AFL-CIO never had an effective organizing department. They need one. The new forward-thinking Organizing Department could set the goal of organizing every worker by adding an on-line strategy. It would be easy to do, since the AFL-CIO already has Working America as a separate department. Working America could replicate the nationwide success model pioneered by Move On. From a giant data base of on-line supporters, some traditional union locals could be formed. The members who can’t be formed into traditional unions can still be supportive of labor’s campaigns.

Go all the way with solidarity:

America has many progressive organizations from giants like the NAACP down to the smallest non-profit working from a one-year grant. Most, if not all of them could be induced to cooperate in nationwide campaigns led by labor. To be sure, the AFL-CIO leadership has improved tremendously since the days that the Central Intelligence Agency was their main partner. But much remains to be done. In the Summer of 2020, the labor movement held terrific May Day events. They made positive statements in support of Black Lives Matter, even though at the same time they clung to police unions – the very antithesis of the movement. We can go much further with simple solidarity!

Initiate a Workers Party:

We didn’t need the awful shock therapy of Donald Trump’s election to realize that American voters are done with business-as-usual politics. It was apparent in 2008 when the first Black President swept to power. By 2020, when a run-of-the-mill Democrat named Biden was elected with the shortest coat tails in history, everyone knew that American voters want something different. Trump’s 2016 election showed that they were ready for ANYTHING different.

What If we don’t?:

If American labor and rest of the progressive movement do not come together affirmatively, we can expect continued chaos and stagnation. No one with an idea of the problems we face thinks Joe Biden will solve them. The union movement’s slow “death of a thousand cuts” will continue. The progressive movement will continue to mill around and compete for funding without a program. The Democrats will lose more ground in the 2022 mid-term elections. More oddball candidates will win elections, not because they represent anything better, but because they represent ANYTHING different! The ultimate “something different,” fascism, will continue its rise in America.

–Gene Lantz

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

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