I had to agree with just about everything that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Facebook Live on June 12. I especially liked his opening remarks.

Sanders said that our nation and the world are facing a choice of two different paths. One goes toward authoritarianism and oligarchy, the other toward socialism. Worse yet, our nation and the world are being forced to choose one or the other. “This is that time,” Sanders said.

Rampant inequality is causing the crisis. In our nation, three families control more wealth than the bottom 160 million. Worldwide, a mere 26 billionaires have more than half the planet’s population. It gets worse every time statistics are discovered.

Sanders correctly compares today’s situation with the one we faced in the 1930s. Europe ended up with the bad path, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt took America on the good path. Sanders says that our task today is to continue Roosevelt’s plan, not Hitler’s.

How? You may properly ask. Sanders says, “The only way we can achieve these goals is through a political revolution.” I agreed with that, too.

When Sanders’ plan gets shaky is when he says that his revolution will be accomplished with no more effort than good electioneering and voting. I’d certainly like to agree with that, but it’s actually going to be considerably harder. After all, F.D. Roosevelt was elected four times and permanent progress still eluded us.

Getting organized with the Bernie Sanders campaign may turn out to be only a first good step, but no one could deny that it’s a darned good first step.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s http://knon.org/workers-beat “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review: “Red Joan,” Directed by Trevor Nunn, 1 hour, 50 Minutes

What a relief it was to see “Red Joan” during its third, and probably last, week at the Magnolia in Dallas! So many movies lately are just blather! We had endured “A Long Days Journey Into Night,” then endured only the first few minutes of “Booksmart” and “Wine Country” — both exercises in idiocy, so my movie buddy and I were starting to feel that the movies are becoming hopeless.

Then we were rescued by Dame Judi Dench and her new movie about an 80-something woman in England who was arrested for having been a spy when she was a 20-something. An actress new to us, Sophie Cookson, gets most of the movie as the conflicted younger woman.

The title character makes it clear that pre-war England was quite different from modern times, and that’s one of the main strengths of the movie. As the younger character goes through a complicated love life, changing politics, and a role in the creation of the atomic bomb, the audience really does get an opportunity to stop and think.

One gets a chance to speculate on the personalities involved. One gets a chance to learn something and to be affected by something. Thank goodness!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program, 89.3FM in Dallas, every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, see my personal web site.

TV review: “The Society,” Created by Christopher Keyser and streaming on Netflix

In Sci-Fi Drama, Young Women Run Things

We like “The Society” and hope it gets a 2nd season. You can recap season one on the Netflix Web Site. In a nutshell, the senior class of an affluent high school finds itself living in a new world with no parents, no anybody else, and no way out of their little town. How can they survive?

How Could It Be?

There is very little point in worrying about how this magic could possibly have happened. Sci-Fi TV series’ sometimes drag out the explanation over many seasons, and some of them never come up with it. I’ll propose my own just for the purpose of telling why I think the program is worthwhile.

I think that benign aliens from a superior planet have deliberately displaced this group just to see what they will do. The aliens might be trying to decide whether or not to help the earthlings, or maybe they are evaluating annihilation. Anyway, it’s an experiment.

That’s not a really unusual explanation. In “2001, a Space Odyssey,” for example, (the book, not the movie, heaven knows what the movie means) aliens are leading the earthlings forward over centuries of development. In “Star Trek,” the Vulcans have evaluated us and decided to help. In “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the aliens are just giving us one last chance.

Watch and Learn

That brings me to why I think the series is worthwhile: we, you and I, are the aliens.We’re watching these yuppie teen-agers to see what humans will do when they collectively have to find a way to survive. Will they create Shangri-La or will they degenerate like the boys in “Lord of the Flies?” I love the former and hate the latter, just so you’ll know where I’m coming from.

It doesn’t take the more serious youngsters long to realize that they need some kind of governance. They inventory the non-perishable food available, they take note of their lack of medicines and medical expertise, they run head on into a number of social problems. Almost everybody is in love. Somebody gets pregnant, somebody else is a psychopath. I especially like that they added a psychopath into the mix, because no matter what positive steps the rest of them may take, he will never go along.

It is worthwhile to speculate about the very nature of humanity. Can we possibly put aside our more basic urges to strive for a real solution? Are we intelligent enough to recognize the need for collectivity? Will they survive like the English colonists at Jamestown, or disappear like the earlier ones at Roanoke?

So far, three potential teen leaders have come forward. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that all of them are female. Nothing else would make sense.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

May 17, 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil visited Dallas. Activists here were able to mobilize a hundred or so protesters and get major statements from political and labor leaders against the visit.

What Is Fascism? What Do We Do About it?

Afterward, the conversations are turning toward really important topics such as “What Is Fascism?,” “How Does It Take Hold?,” and “What Do We Do About it?”

“What is fascism but capitalism in its death agony?” —The Journal of Albion Moonlight

To begin with, fascism is not an economic system nor a stage of economic development. It’s not a religion nor an anti-religion. It isn’t cultural tastes or outlook. It is a form of rule.

Do We Have Fascism in America?

The form of rule that we have in America is limited democracy. It is not as limited as it was before, say, the Civil War, nor even as limited as it was before Roe V Wade or Brown V Board of Education. One might notice that it’s more limited now than it was before the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United. But democracy in America is limited and always has been. We may have fascists in America, but we don’t have fascism. They haven’t taken over. At least not yet.

Democracy Opposes Fascism

When limited democracy just isn’t working well for the people in charge, they are left with fascism as their next option. The only other option would be to stop being the people in charge. In other words, fascism is a choice that desperate rulers make.

From their point of view, fascism is not as efficient as limited democracy because their workers in general willingly support them, but, from the the rulers’ point of view, it’s a lot better than giving up power.

If the corporate rulers of America decide that limited democracy isn’t working well for them any more, they will try to institute fascist rule.

Hitler Made a Deal

In Germany after World War I, the limited democracy imposed by the victors was called the Weimar Republic. It had so much debt and so many problems that it was weak. The communists and socialists, on the other hand, were on a roll. Hitler and his Nazis offered the German ruling class a way to maintain power by killing off the activists and destroying the democratic forces. In desperation, the rulers bought it.

The great powers of the day — United States, England, and France — liked the idea well enough because they had their own problems with socialists and communists. They allowed Hitler to take power, re-arm, and, just for practice, destroy the Spanish Republic.

Bolsonaro Made a Deal

Recently in Brazil, forces based on the trade union movement brought a flourishing democracy to replace the military dictatorship. It was working out great for the working people, but not so well for the capitalists. Using their control over the judiciary, they were able to jail the leaders of the democratic movement and put Jair Bolsonaro into power. Like fascists before him, he spews a lot of very divisive hatred.

They call him the Tropical Trump, and he’s a special friend of the White House here.

What’s All the Confusion?

The confusion about fascism is deliberate.

Ronald Reagan said that liberals were fascists. In one of the greatest examples of doublespeak of all time, Winston Churchill said that anti-fascists are fascists!

The Underlying Reason for Fascism

Capitalists do not prefer fascism. They prefer the efficiency of limited democracy for their rule. But they are doing something that they cannot help doing — piling up wealth for themselves at the expense of working people. Since the end of the Vietnam War, rich capitalists have taken an astonishing percentage of the world’s wealth. This year, 24 capitalists own more wealth than half the people on the planet!

It should be obvious that they can’t count on the cooperation of the people on the losing end. If we aren’t cooperating with them, then limited democracy isn’t working. The capitalists see that even better than we do.

Incipient Fascism At Home

A lot of really nasty people with billions of dark dollars are already working to establish fascism in the United States. Like their co-thinkers in Europe, they have seized on immigrants as their “threat from the other,” just the same way that Hitler and Mussolini used Jews.

In order to keep the democratic forces divided, they also throw in a lot of homophobia, religious intolerance, nationalism, and racism. The institutions of democracy such as freedom of information and the right to organize are their special targets. It worked for Hitler and it works for them. Since 1980, when the capitalists recognized that their hold was slipping, they have made a lot of progress. Mr. Trump makes a fairly good figurehead for them.

How Close Are We to Facism?

As this is written, the fascist forces have already provoked a phony constitutional crisis by refusing to recognize American law and democracy. In our ignorance, a lot of Americans support them. What they need now is the same thing that Hitler and Mussolini needed to smash democracy and establish fascist rule — a war.

Iranians are being demonized. There is an aircraft carrier task force in the Persian Gulf….

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Brazil has jailed its most popular leader. Lula is a prolitical prisoner.

Having been run out of New York by its mayor, the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is supposed to be welcomed to Dallas on May 15, 2019. Articles from New York and in the Dallas Voice indicate he will be welcomed by Mayor Rawlings and will receive a “Person of the Year” award from the World Affairs Council.

On line, activists are asking them to not. If Bolsonaro does indeed show up, protests are certain to happen. People are contacting the Dallas World Affairs Council, 325 N St Paul in downtown Dallas, at 214-965-8400 and asking them to cancel. People are also contacting Mayor Rawlings.

The Problem with Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on his admiration for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil before the Workers Party under Ignacio Da Silva, known as “Lula,” established one of the world’s most enviable democracies. Lula and his successor were both thrown into prison as a prelude to fascism’s triumph. There is an international “Free Lula” movement that explains what happened.

Lula is popular in the United States and in the world.

On May 2, the American Association of Jurists issued on Thursday (2) an official statement in which it recognizes Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a political prisoner. The AAJ, which is a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council, had already reported the persecution against Lula during the General Assembly of the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, last year. However, this is the first time the organization officially declares that Lula is a political prisoner. The statement points out that Lula ended his second term with an approval rate of over 80% and that, last year, he was not only prevented from running for the presidency but also forbidden to give interviews or express his views publicly.

“Free Lula” is chanted the world over!

As President, Bolsonaro immediately began taking away native lands, persecuting homosexuals, subverting democracy, cutting education funds, and hamstringing unions. A May 3rd article indicates that he has even asked students to provide evidence against any teacher who speaks against him or his ideology!

Bolsonaro quickly earned the friendship of President Donald Trump and helped side with him against other more democratic nations.

On the same day that Bolsonaro is supposed to arrive in Dallas, May 15, Brazilian educators have called for a national one-day strike. Local actions will be in solidarity.

When we contemplate the last big upsurge of fascism in Nazi Germany, Americans invariably ask “What were they thinking?” How could anybody stand by and allow such a horror to develop? We may have never successfully answered the question about Germany, but now we have to ask it about ourselves.

–Gene Lantz

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

Considering the number of churches and mosques burnt or bombed lately, the number of worshipers of different faiths murdered by those of some other faith, and the rise in persecutions carried out in the name of religion abroad and at home; it’s time to try to understand what is wrong.

The one thing that all these atrocities have in common is obvious: religion itself.

The Problem is Religion

I make no secret of the fact that I am afraid of all religious people. I may respect them, I may even esteem some of them for their courage or for their compassion or for their oratorical ability or for the breadth of their knowledge. But I’m still afraid of them.

I’m afraid of them because they can be convinced of anything. It may be harmless that some of them think they can fly, or walk on water, or live forever, but religious people can also be convinced to put on an exploding vest and murder a crowd of people they don’t know. They can be convinced to burn people alive. They can be convinced to carry out great wars that slaughter millions.

“On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” –Thomas Jefferson

Who’s Responsible?

Right now in 2019, a lot of people are blaming President Trump for the upsurge in religious hatred and violence. He’s certainly guilty and deserves blame.

Trump may be the least religious president in history, but he knows how to stir up the nastiest people to carry out the nastiest program. But Trump isn’t the crux of the problem. If religion were not such a handy tool, politicians like Trump wouldn’t use it. Religion itself is the problem.

Religion may be promulgated by very intelligent and capable people, but its true province is among the ignorant and easily misled. Religion is the enemy of reason, the enemy of knowledge, the enemy of understanding, and the enemy of fairness to all.

What Are You Gonna Do?

In general, one cannot argue people out of religion. They don’t believe in facts or evidence. You can’t convince them emotionally either. Even religious people can’t convince other religious people of anything.

“When has one religion triumphed over another by debate, experiment and observation?” – Isaac Asimov

“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.”  — Voltaire

One cannot persecute people out of their religion. Historically, they have thrived on persecution.

The antidote for ignorance is knowledge. The antidote for superstition is science. If we promote science and knowledge, we are helping relieve our brothers and sisters of the burden of religion. The process may be painfully slow, but it’s the only way forward to a better future for all.

–Gene Lantz

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

RANDOM NOTES:

When I was in the military, there was a chaplain on every warship. It might have cannons, fighter planes, torpedoes or missiles, but it also had a chaplain!

Bertrand Russell: “The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

(William Penn, Quaker leader) “To help mend this world is true religion.”

“Woe to him who makes neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages.” Jeremiah 22:13

You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

Marx: “Religious suffering is at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” (1844. Quoted in Dallas Morning News 10/12/08 by Gregory Rodriguez making the point that Marx was against oppression, not against religion which is only a symptom of oppression)

Edwards, David: “The suggestion seems to emerge that man’s maturity coincides with his abandonment of religion.”

Patiently explain.

Book Review:

Mallaby, Sebastian, “MORE MONEY THAN GOD. Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite.” Illustrated. 482 pp. A Council on Foreign Relations Book/The Penguin Press, 2010. Downloadable from the Dallas Library

Financiers, and especially financial speculators, are among the darkest and most hated figures of today’s capitalism. This is a good book even for the great majority of Americans for whom “hedge fund manager” and “Satan” are perceived as close. It could be argued that Mitt Romney lost the presidency in 2012 mostly because he was associated with hedge funds.

The first question we may ask is, “Does anybody like them?” The answer is yes. Other obscenely rich people like them.

Journalist Sebastian Mallaby likes them, too. He provides a really good historical review of “hedged funds” from the 1940s to the great recession. There are lots of insights into the best-known figures of financial history and insights into how they operate(d). They piled up billions of dollars at one time or another, but several of them also went broke. Instead of being disgusting parasites, though, Mallaby sees hedge fund managers as beneficial.

One reason that they are so good for society is that they are not greatly regulated. They answer to no elected oversight group. That’s what makes them agile and strong, and it’s what makes them good at providing money liquidity in extreme situations. Regulation, Mallaby says, would be destructive to the world financial system.

Hedge fund managers are not the major players in high finance. That would be investment bankers. Mallaby shows that they’re the ones who caused the Great Recession, not hedge fund managers.

What Are They?

As I understand it, hedge fund speculators are characterized by the way they hedge their bets. In general, they buy and sell similar things at the same time. They may go “long” on a stock, a bond, a currency, an option, a derivative, etc while at the same time selling “short” on something similar. Their success depends on picking something profitable to buy and something risky to sell. Once they decide on their “long” and “short” positions, then they borrow a lot of money to do both. The borrowed money is called “leverage.”

If a hedge fund manager is really good at choosing, they make a little or a lot on each transaction. Either way, it quickly adds up. In case after case explained in this book, hedge fund managers started with a few million dollars and soon started managing billions. As the word of their success got around, thousands of new hedge funds were created, some by inspired entrepreneurs and some within the larger banks and financial institutions.

How Do They Do It?

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t tell us how to make a billion dollars overnight. It only tells us how others did it in the past. Some of them started out as stock or bond traders. Some of them were economists who could analyze long and short-term trends. More recently, some of them were simply mathematicians who could safely ignore markets and economics while simply looking for mathematical changes that, using advanced computer technology, could pay off a little or a lot.

What Does It Mean?

The book goes from one successful gambler to the next. Some of them made their biggest piles of money during market downturns; consequently, the historical context is not immediately evident. But for me, the historical context is the most important part because understanding what happened is the basis for figuring out what may happen next.

The entire period covered by the hedge fund phenomenon was one of United States domination of world finance. The entire period was one in which increasingly the most astounding wealth went to people who didn’t manufacture anything and provided no service that anyone could immediately request or even understand.

We live in a world of financialization.  The magnates of industry no longer control the governments of the world; their bankers do.

–Gene Lantz

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