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Movie Review:

“Green Book,” Directed by Peter Farrelly, 2 hours, 10 minutes

The Green Book is an important part of American history. It was used to help African-American motorists locate the few places where they might rest. I think that one reason that “Green Book” has continued to sell tickets over several weeks is that people are slow in finding out what it’s about.

There are a lot more good reasons to see the film. Acting by the two main characters is outstanding. Viggo Mortensen plays a street smart nightclub bouncer from New York, while Mahershala Ali plays a delicate Leningrad-trained classical musician. Both are up for Golden Globes awards. The movie is up for best picture, and Oscar-buzz has already begun. The 1960s music is wonderful. The pacing is so good that viewers go beyond ignoring the extra length and wish it could go on longer. There are four, count ’em four, union logos in the final frame!

Few movies can claim so much authenticity. It seems to be strung together by family stories from Mortensen’s character, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Someone named Nick Vallelonga gets some of the screenplay and producer credit.

Tony Lip apparently drove a sensitive Black musician through a tour of the Deep South in 1962. His main qualification for the job came from his experience as a tough guy. Tony was required to stay in all-white motels, while his employer had to use the Green Book. It isn’t hard to imagine some of the problems they encountered, but you have to see the movie to realize how well this period, these problems, and these two wonderful characters can be brought to life! If your tastes run toward American history, civil rights, or just great film-making, you don’t want to miss Green Book.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM 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:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’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 site

 

Reverend L. Charles Stovall needed a ride home from the Dallas Labor Day Breakfast, and I was happy to get to spend time with him.

Stovall and Hickman at the Labor Day Breakfast in 2011

Almost as soon as he got in the car, he called Reverend Holsey Hickman to tell him that the annual breakfast is getting better and better. I wholeheartedly agreed.

The hard data showed that ticket sales were way over the 500 mark that we strived for over the last decade. Participation from labor, political, religious, and community leaders was far better. The three of us could remember when area unions had to scramble to even find even one religious leader to open the ceremonies. There were no community groups. Civil rights and immigrant rights weren’t mentioned.

National Unions Are Watching Dallas

This year, we had two national union leaders speaking: UFCW International President Marc Perrone and ATU International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens. Perrone told the crowd, “We are the labor movement. We are the last and only hope for America.” He also said, “The fight for justice will go on forever as long as there are greedy bastards out there!” My favorite quote was one word repeated three times, “Organize! Organize! Organize!”

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy was in the audience and trying to listen while admirers hustled him into one photo opportunity after another. Louis Malfaro, leader of Texas’ biggest union, the Federation of Teachers, presented the Linda Bridges award for outstanding union women to the Dallas AFL-CIO Political Director, Lorraine Montemayor. The applause showed how much everyone agreed with the choice. Montemayor said, “You are the backbone of this country!” Then, true to form, she began outlining some of the hard work planned for this election season.

The award for “Hero of Labor” deservedly went to DJ Garza of the UAW. As an organizer for the Workers’ Defense Project, Garza has made a difference in winning rights for Dallas workers. The “Community Champion” award went to Faith in Texas. They turned out many volunteers for the recent petitioning campaign to win paid sick time.

Political Leaders Know the Value of Union Support

I don’t know if Mark York, principal officer of the Dallas AFL-CIO and emcee for the breakfast, was able to mention every office holder and candidate in the audience. It seemed to me that they were all there. Texas governor candidate Lupe Valdez put it this way: “I work with unions because we want to do the right thing for every working Texan.”

Colin Allred, candidate for Congress in District 32 — one of the most closely watched races in America — wowed the crowd. Like many candidates this year, he is also a union member. Also on the dais were Congresspersons Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey. The Texas Democratic Party Chair, Gilberto Hinojosa, came to speak, as did  Senator Royce West, State Rep Victoria Neave, County Judge Clay Jenkins, Commissioner John Wiley Price, and Councilman Scott Griggs. Out in the audience, there were many more.

Look Back, Look Forward!

Us old timers can remember when the annual breakfast petered out for a couple of years. It was expensive back in the 1990s, and sometimes it just didn’t seem like it was worth the trouble. During those two years without the annual AFL-CIO breakfast, our little Jobs with Justice group seized the opportunity. We didn’t have the money for a banquet, so we fell back on time-tested labor tactics. We did car caravans to labor’s “hot spots” around North Texas. News reporters liked it, and we more than kept up the Labor Day tradition.

When the breakfast started again, Jobs with Justice worked to get faith leaders, especially Stovall and Hickman — because they were also major civil rights leaders — to come. We had to raise the money, but we soon had a table of ten religious and community leaders. Stovall and Hickman reflected the new, broader and more inclusive AFL-CIO that would extend its influence throughout the progressive movement.

This trend is extending. In 1999, the AFL-CIO began to reach out to undocumented workers for the first time in its history. Today, there are no barriers between the Dallas AFL-CIO and every aspect of the progressive movement. The Labor Day breakfast showed that we have made tremendous progress, and it points the way toward a future in which the progressive movement is truly focused on working families. In that future, nothing can stop us!

–Gene Lantz

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

I received a mailing to help me promote “School Choice Week” on the air.

At KNON radio studios, I receive  a lot of right-wing mail. I think it’s because my program is called “Workers Beat” and conservatives can’t conceive of a radio show that is actually for workers. When one says “workers” they assume you mean management, I guess, because all the other radio programs are either written by the bosses or approved by them. I throw away a lot of free books about how to get more work out of workers.

The School Choice mailing came from a post office box in some town in California. It says that there are 32,240 American events to promote “school choice” during January 21-27.  It says that 6.7 million students and supporters will be participating. It says there are 54 events in my town. It says I should promote them on KNON radio and it offers me materials to broadcast.

I assume they sent this to every radio station in America at considerable cost. It’s part of a national effort to destroy the public schools. If you aren’t worried, you should be.

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A Little History on Schooling

America, more than most countries, advanced free public education. It’s one of the reasons that America shot ahead of the rest of the world in the 20th century. But there was always resistance. It took a Civil War to offer free public education to African American children, for example, and even then their public schooling was inferior to that offered to the Master Race of American Anglos. It still is.

The Brown Vs Topeka Supreme Court case in 1954 signaled a renewed fight for fair education. Whites were encouraged to fight against fairness in a number of interesting ways. One way was to move to white suburbs. One way was to create “magnet schools.” These “magnets” drew off the most outspoken activist parents and gave them what they wanted — decent education for their own kids — while leaving the rest of the kids, largely those with parents who had to work, behind.

They loosened the restraints on home schooling for the parents who didn’t have to work. Another way was to push for school vouchers so that tax money could be used for private schools. Yet another way was to push for “charter schools” to use tax money in ways that were out of the control of the people.

It’s the same fight that we were having during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in different forms.

Who Wants to Destroy Public Education?

The people with the most money want to stop paying taxes. A lot of federal money, and the largest part of any state budget, goes to education. That’s tax money that rich people would rather not pay. After all, their kids don’t even need the public schools. They have always had better schools, before the Civil War and after.

In this regard, wealthy people’s desire to stop paying taxes, the effort to undermine public schooling fits into the larger explanation of what’s wrong in American politics today. In order to maintain their profits and beat their international competitors, wealthy Americans are trying to contain their costs. We are their costs. Public school children are their costs, in their view.

Public schools retain all their traditional enemies, too. Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular head the list. They think they can get public money to promote their superstitions. In the short run, they can, because the very wealthy welcome any help they can get to destroy public education. Look at poor Louisiana!

In the long run, the very wealthy don’t want to pay for Catholic schools, either, so their little cabal won’t endure very far beyond the collapse of public education. The Catholics will be left at the altar once their usefulness is over.

Just to be Clear

State legislatures have been cutting public education funding for some time. It is especially true in states where right-wing Republicans have seized control. First they drain away all the resources, then they impose crazy unreasonable rules, then they piously claim that the schools are “failing.” Then they cut some more and pass some more rules.

One doesn’t have to be smart to figure out that they intend to rob American children of their right to a decent education.

Public education

Fight Back

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the main unions, are forming coalitions with community groups to clarify the issues and direct the fightback. I’m proud that the main labor federation, AFL-CIO, backs them.

As usual, our enemies have many ways to divide us. They say that they are magnanimously seeking ways to overcome school “failures.” They say they are promoting “innovation,” and “school choice.” They are spending a lot of money to buy politicians and do direct advertising.

That’s why I got the stupid mailing about “school choice week.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9AM central time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

 

Book Review: Kersten, Andrew E, and Lang, Clarence, Editors: “Reframing Randolph. Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph.” New York University Press, 2015.

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I got this book from Oak Cliff Branch of Dallas Public Library.

Asa Philip Randolph is glorified and criticized in the essays collected here. Whether they appreciated him or not, all the writers agreed that he had a profound effect on American civil rights.

I started a sort of timeline:

  • 1898: born
  • 1920s: Street corner orator and co-editor of “The Messenger”
  • 1925: Newly organized Pullman Porters ask him to take over as President. Black Sleeping Car Porters and Maids formed
  • 1935 or so: finally gets a contract from Pullman. Drops “and maids” and joins the American Federation of Labor (AFL) Within it, he argues for anti-discrimination policies until the end of his career
  • 1941: With threat of March on Washington Movement (MOWM), gets Executive Order 8088 (? Forgot the number) outlawing racial discrimination in war industries. Not nearly as much as was demanded, but Randolph calls off the march and is covered with glory for having “forced” the President of the United States to acknowledge the federal government’s role in overcoming racial discrimination. Federal Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) is formed and the MOWM people try to enforce it with marches and pickets throughout the war.
  • 1936: Formation of National Negro Congress. He serves 1 term as president and then resigns as he feels the organization is communist dominated
  • 1960 or so: He is President of the National African Labor Congress NALC
  • 1963: he and Bayard Rustin organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They cooperated with MLK on it. Of course, MLK stole the show.
  • 1965: he is honored with formation of A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). Chapters are formed in every Central Labor Council and endure today
  • 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict between community oriented school board and the United Federation of Teachers. Randolph sided with labor leader Al Shanker and took heat for it
  • 1972: Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) formed as NALC fades away
  • 1974: African American women from Randolph movements start the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

I was left with the impression that Randolph successfully, eventually, got the AFL to be less racist. The CIO, of course, probably had a bigger effect. Randolph got the federal government on the right track. I think he was a consistent social – democrat, even though the various writers seem to think he wavered this way and that. I think any wavering he did came from trying to fit the civil rights movement into the AFL. Like the social-democrats of today, Randolph looked at the working class. He analyzed it and pushed for its success. Like the social-democrats of today, he did not analyze the obstructionist class and devise ways of overcoming them once and for all.

On the downside, the book accuses him of outright sexism in dealing with women’s politics. They also criticize his rabid anti-communism as unnecessarily divisive. If he read the book today and were asked to comment, I’m sure he would say that those who cannot compromise aren’t going to get anything done in contemporary politics.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. Click here if you want to know what I really think!

If you are courageous and tenacious about your cause, whatever it is, you will eventually,  it may take a while, reach the same conclusions as the rest of us.

giantsquid

I think of it as battling one tentacle of a monster. Darned thing will just about strangle you if you don’t fight it off. But, if you stay with it long enough, you’ll find that your tentacle leads to a monster with many other tentacles. Various other people are fighting one tentacle or another. If they don’t give up, they’ll all find the many-armed monster.

I didn’t start out with a radical world view. I started with only one cause: corporal punishment in the schools. I wanted school personnel to stop beating on the kids. I think it took me more than a year to realize that many of the school torturers were being encouraged by the kids’ parents. Then I started arguing against all kinds of aversive control of children.

One thing led to another. I no sooner quit criticizing teachers and parents than I started criticizing school administrators, then school boards, then the entire educational system. I even started a special non-aversive school and tried to get people to emulate it.

Then one day I realized that if the schools weren’t the way they are, then young men and women would stop volunteering to join the military to fight and die for someone else’s peace and happiness. Something was wrong, I figured, and it wasn’t just the schools. That thinking process took me several years. I went on from there.

Doesn’t Matter Where You Start

I was reading a long e-mail from a group that calls itself, I think, “Women’s March for Freedom.” They were passing on their revelation that women’s oppression isn’t the only kind of oppression. They listed homophobia and a couple of other forms of chauvinism. They had realized this since they organized the biggest protests in American history on January 21, 2017.

They started with the women’s oppression tentacle, the one they were feeling the most, and then generalized to a broader definition of chauvinist oppression. If they keep at it, don’t get discouraged, and keep on thinking it through, they’ll find the monster.

I think one of the problems in America is that people are too afraid to go on fighting. Many a young radical becomes a frightened, inactive, middle-ager. Maybe most of them.

Follow the Money

On the streetcar this morning, a young man drinking chocolate milk pointed out a motorcycle cop hiding behind a fence. He gestured with his bottle: “Where does he get his authority?” the guy asked me. “I think you already know,” I told him, but apparently he didn’t because he rephrased and asked the same question.

“Police, like anybody else,” I suggested, “work for whoever signs their paycheck.” I thought that was erudite enough, but it didn’t satisfy the young fellow. “And where do THEY get their authority?” he asked me. By then I had decided I was the victim of some long-range Socratic argument and didn’t really want to go on. But there was nobody else in the streetcar to talk to, so I resigned myself to being sucked in and told him, “Whoever signs the policeman’s paycheck works for whoever signs his, and then the next level and the next level until you finally get to very rich people, the 1% so to speak, who are using their money to keep this system running for their own profit.”

Following the money is like following the tentacle. It leads to the same monster.

It sure would have been cool if he had said, “Oh, I get it,” but he just glanced at the ceiling of the streetcar and resumed drinking his chocolate milk. I like to think that he might have pondered my words later, but he probably didn’t. For all I know, there might have been something pretty raunchy in his chocolate milk.

Read a Good Biography

Malcolm X started out in prison. He figured out, or was taught, that white people oppressed Black people through their Christian religion. So he became a very effective Islamist fund raiser. He didn’t stop there, and was a much broader kind of revolutionary before they killed him.

Eugene Victor Debs was just a very good trade unionist when he started bucking the system. He tried to bring the railroad unions together and nearly succeeded. They put him in jail for it, and he came out a much broader, much more capable kind of revolutionary before they put him in jail again.

Almost all of us are familiar with aspects of the life of the good Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. His cause was racial discrimination on public transportation, when he started. Then he went on to lead the entire struggle against racism, and didn’t stop there, even for a minute. He linked up with the union cause quite a lot. Lots of people, including a lot of his devoted followers, were shocked when he denounced imperialist war before they shot him.

Just from those three, you can see the two most important aspects of my exposition: 1) courageous and consistent struggle will reveal the monster and 2) Lots of people don’t keep up the “courageous and consistent struggle” because they are afraid of what they will learn, or rather, they are afraid of the thing about which they will learn, i.e. the monster. BTW, I’m not saying people should be afraid, or not any more afraid than they already are, but I do recommend being careful.

The Monster Isn’t A Person

There are nice rich people and there are lousy rich people. I think the widow Joan Kroc, who gave away the Ray Kroc McDonald’s fortune, was probably a nice rich person. I got a book against nuclear war from her once. I think she had bought thousands of them to give away.

The monster isn’t a person, it’s a system being run by several persons. Fight your tentacle long enough and you’ll find it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3FM and http://knon.org at 9AM Central Time every Saturday.

Progressives need a program, guidelines, to go forward. One element needed is acknowledgement of history, not only all the bad things that have happened and all the bad situations we face today, but also the positive developments.

tenayucca1938We can build on the good things that happened and are happening. There are lots of them. Just yesterday’s Dallas newspaper, for example, included an article announcing that the Texas African American History Memorial had gone up on the Texas Capitol grounds.

Many of us, especially me, have been complaining for decades about the Confederate monuments in and around the Capitol. Yesterday’s new monument is a partial response and a very positive development.

Also in yesterday’s paper, and again in today’s, the Texas Railroad Commission is taken to task for being a superficial front for the oil industry. They’ve been denying that the recent upsurge in earthquakes are associated with oil industry shenanigans. It’s great to see somebody point out corruption, but it’s even better to see a major newspaper that has some regard for the truth!

Why So Much Negativity?

Most of the “Programs For Action” I’ve seen from individuals and organizations are all negative. It’s certainly fair to point out that we are facing the possibility of fascism in America and that chauvinism has leaped forward. It’s honest to complain about poverty levels and inequality and unfairness. But it’s not a good way to approach writing a useful program of action if it doesn’t acknowledge the progress we’ve made since our days of savagery and slavery.

Labor Is Improving

The recent changes in the American labor movement shouldn’t be ignored. Since 1995, the top leaders of the AFL-CIO have been adjusting their overall program to suit the demands that used to be made only by progressive fringe groups. A good example is Jobs with Justice, which started out in 1987 as virtually an outlaw organization with support from only 5 big unions. Today, it works hand-in-hand with all labor leaders. I wrote a short history of the North Texas Chapter.

Capitalism Was A Step Forward!

In the longer sense, thinking people and organizations are rightfully down on capitalism. It’s terrible in the way it creates poverty, divides people, starts wars, lies, cheats, steals, and generally oppresses us. But it’s completely wrong to ignore its historical value. Capitalism freed the slaves! It organized the workers! It’s productive power was far superior to any of the other economic systems that it replaced. One might even argue that capitalism has been more productive, even, than any of the attempts at planned economy so far!

A Good Program Acknowledges the Good

I’m 100% in favor of a program for progressive change and I intend to continue writing about it. Certainly such a program should point out the many shortcomings of today’s society and the need for decisive action. But our history and our present situation aren’t all bad. There’s a lot of progress to build on!

–Gene Lantz

Listen to “Workers Beat” at 9 CST every Saturday morning on 89.3FM and http://knon.org

If you want to know what I really think, look at my life’s lessons site