Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good News, Love On A Picket Line, Trolls

It's good to be back home in New Mexico after spending time up in Michigan helping Mom out and celebrating her 91st birthday with brothers and sisters, their kids and kids' kids and some close family friends. Below is a picture of Mom, Agnes May (Stull) Conway, with brothers Bob, Bill and Frank behind her and flanked by sisters Jackie Poff and Sandra Mortenson. The pretty brunette next to me is artist Kathy Goldstein of Jackson, MI, a good fiend of the family who I got to come down and surprise Mom.




Hometown New Buffalo is on the lake in the state's southwest corner and was once a big port town. It was named by its founder, Buffalo, New York merchant marine captain Wessell Whittaker, who turned developer in not long after he shipwrecked in 1834 on what is now New Buffalo's beach. The main street, which Whittaker named for himself, ends at Lake Michigan, next to the mouth of a beautiful, lush estuary that winds through the wooded sand dunes where I romped and tromped and sometimes hunted and fished as I went through that process where everything becomes less and less certain that we know of as growing up. 

Properties on and near the lake sell for more than a million dollars. Those are the "Chicago people." The working class of New Buffalo, including some in my family, do the Chicago peoples' carpentry, remodeling, painting and wallpapering, mow their yards, do their plumbing, electrical work and lay their carpeting. While I was home I spent a few days helping Bill paint a house a few miles up the lake in Bridgman.

The picture below is of a little creek that runs through Mom's seven acres, which is across the New York Central passenger tracks from the lake. You might be able to pick out the gravel embankment of the C&O freight switching yard. I grew up to the rumbling of switch engines and the banging of rail cars as they were shunted off to different tracks, but the yard isn't used any more. Michigan has been de-industrialized by Capitalism and its Democrat and Republican handmaids.






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The above picture shows where the estuary I mentioned empties into Lake Michigan at a nice little US Army Corps of Engineers built taxpayer funded harbor. One river bend away from there is the beginning of a lush duneland ecosystem supported by a marsh populated with deer, ducks, geese, herons, foxes, cougars and all kinds of birds and critters.


Photo by Kevin Dooley - flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/




Love On A Picket Line

One of the long conversations I had with Mom during my visit led to her telling the tale of how she and Dad met. I'd never heard before and am very glad to have now. It goes like this: One morning in 1944 she was on her way to work in the office at the big Oliver Farm Equipment company in South Bend, IN, and there was a picket line in front of the plant. Mom did the "foreign billing." Lots of farm equipment was being sold to Cuba.

There was a man  in a suit and tie there who represented the International -- union headquarters in Washington -- and who also operated a steam powered crane in the plant's foundry, my dad, Maurice Conway. She asked him what she should do and he said she should go down to the union hall and have a doughnut and coffee.

What he meant was, 'Don't cross the picket line.' This is something you don't do in union country. My Mom knew about such things. Her family had fled the potato famine that followed the Revolution of 1848 along with millions of other Germans who helped build the American Labor Movement and who spread prairie populism through US farm country, built Grange halls, formed grain and milk cooperatives and burned their crops and dumped their milk on the ground in fights with the big distributors. She went down to the union hall and he came down later, sat across from her, they started chatting, one thing led to another.

The union my Dad was a member of, Mom said, the United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers Of America, would soon be disbanded by the government because it's leaders were Communists, and after that the workers were represented by the United Autoworkers Union.

I searched for more details about that and they weren't readily available, but I did come across a web site that talked about the Farm Equipment union becoming the subject "raids" by the United Auto Workers and the UAW forcing the Farm Equipment union out of some workplaces.

Both stories are in keeping with the history of the major industrial union leaders' collaboration with the US and state governments in their McCarthyite witch hunts for Communists and their suppression of Socialism in the Labor Movement. Most of the big unions at the time conducted well publicized purges of their Communist members. Recall also that the then president of the actor's union, the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, was giving the names of friends and colleagues who he suspected of being Communists to the FBI, leading to them being blackballed and usually ending of their careers.



And Not Even A Trot Line Was Thrown Out

A retired male nurse trolls my blog and leaves comments that I delete without even reading because they never vary in tone or content. He concocts arguments against me by saying I said this or that when I never said this or that and is seemingly obsessed with getting his version of what I said into print. At one point he tried commenting anonymously using a John Wayne-like alter ego he slips into now and then.

He wanted Hillary Clinton to be president and like many people simply can't wrap his head around the fact that her and her brand of conservative, corporate friendly Democrat, who completely control the party apparatus,  have been nothing but one big disaster for the American working class, even worse for working people in other countries.

People really do need to get a grip. For all the horror and panic about Donald Trump you hear he's accomplished nothing and his prospects for getting anything accomplished diminish every day and with each gaffe, overreach, tweet and ignorant misstep his bumbling administration takes the opposition to him grows, enabled by massive working class resistance to everything Trump tries to do that affects working peoples' bottom line.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, there would be no resistance. Government would be working smoothly and relentlessly on behalf of corporations and the wealthy and no one would even notice because the media would be going about business as usual, willfully oblivious as Clinton and her $250,000 per paid speech Wall Street benefactors further eviscerated American living standards and murdered countless innocent brown skinned people abroad with complete impunity.

No one makes an argument against that. There isn't one. The argument people use is that they can't believe anyone would ever want Donald Trump to be president and not Hillary and they stew in childish anger until they find an object for it that they can lash out at.








Sunday, May 14, 2017

Propaganda As We Like It

Quartz, another new online media outlet that's making a go of it, in the first installment of a series on propaganda, offers a pretty good explanation of how we arrived at this Trump-Brexit-Alternative-Facts world we now live in. (Gideon Lichfield's article starts just below the introduction to the series and it's not that long of an article.)

Lichfield draws on sources like Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World and the work of the contemporary cognitive linguist George Lakoff to explain why these weird things are happening, and why conservatism is consistently beating liberalism on the electoral battlefield. A lot of it, according to Lakoff, has to do with what liberals and conservatives tend to study in college:

"If you’re a conservative going into politics, there’s a good chance you’ll study cognitive science, that is, how people really think and how to market things by advertising. So they know people think using frames and metaphors and narratives and images and emotions and so on…
Now, if instead you are a progressive…you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on… What you’ll learn in those courses is what is called Enlightenment reason, from 1650, from Descartes. And here’s what that reasoning says:… [I]f we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year."


You've no doubt noticed that many writers have been taking a stab at answering the question of "What happened?" Of how we arrived at this Trump-Brexit-Alternative-Facts world we now live in. The series introduction gives what I think is a pretty good short answer:


The standard answer is that many things had gone wrong. The global financial crisis. Jobs lost to globalization and automation. Widening inequality. Terrorist attacks. Refugees. And complacent, technocratic elites who spoke self-assuredly of growth and progress while failing to notice how many people saw little of either.

"Technocratic elites" includes mainstream Democrats, especially the type we have in New Mexico who never talk about the economic reality of the working class and never offer any legislation that would improve it, ever. Don't take my word for it. Go to their social media feeds and their senate and house web sites where you'll find nothing but mindless pablum that delights the hearts of the wealthy. On the state level my representatives don't even put out anything. Nothing. They have no web sites, they send out no newsletters, nothing. Unless you're a political insider or you made a concerted effort to find out, you'd never even know who they were.

Think about that, think about what your elected representative puts out, as you read Litchfield's article about propaganda. And keep in mind that in the end, its on us. If anyone can figure out how to reach the masses, it's us.





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Forever Wars

The Taliban again control a large part of Afghanistan 16 years after the US government's invasion and the Trump Administration will soon begin sending more troops there, according to the Wall Street Journal which published this map as part of an article updating the war.








The web site National Priorities has a running tally that puts that particular war's cost to you and me at $771 billion and counting, but free lance journalist Ken Klipperstein says it's $1 trillion. The Taliban have become very rich in the poppy/opium trade and now in an expanding array of enterprises. Mining is their number two income source, the Journal says.

The US has ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. For awhile it looked like Donald Trump might wind down some of this insane imperialism but he's turned over conduct of the wars to the generals including the mad dog he named defense secretary, the US Marine general who's actually called Mad Dog Mathis.

Tom Bacevich has a good article at Tom Dispatch that lists 24 questions the media should be asking but isn't and number one is why doesn't our military, on which we spend multiples of billions more than any other country, ever win anything any more?

Bacevich asks some really excellent questions. Number seven:

7. The war formerly known as the “Global War on Terrorism”: What precisely is Washington’s present strategy for defeating violent jihadism?  What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case?  How is it that the absence of strategy -- not to mention an agreed upon definition of “success” -- doesn’t even qualify for discussion here?








Friday, May 5, 2017

Protect Yourself From White Collar Crime







The New Inquiry has put together a delightful tool that tracks where white collar crime occurs and eventually will be able to predict where it occurs and by whom -- just like the computerized geographic modeling law enforcement uses for blue collar crime. An accompanying white paper tells how they do it.

At first take it's hard to imagine its usefulness and you might even think they're being tongue in cheek, but it's very serious, and it's usefulness lies primarily in that it gets you to think outside the constraints of your conditioning.

When we think of "crime" we usually think about the crimes the working class is arrested for and convicted of -- blue collar crime. We don't even include white collar crime in our considerations and that's deleterious in a number of ways. One, white collar crime is more costly to society and not just monetarily. For some of its caustic effects check out an insightful article by Glen Greenwald about what he calls elite immunity.

Our dual way of perceiving criminality -- where working class/blue collar crime is one thing and white collar/ruling class is something else-- also serves as a means of social control. When there are two sets of rules, when one class can move the goal posts around arbitrarily so that they're always the winners, we're on some level perpetually trying to gain but never obtaining upper class sanction. And think of the effects it's had on society to have vastly different penalties and consequences for, and law enforcement's prioritizing of, the two commonly used forms of cocaine -- powder, the choice of the ruling class, and crack, used mostly by the working class.

That New Media I'm Always Promoting Sometimes

The New Inquiry is one of a number of refreshing new publications that are filling the void created by the collapse of traditional information gatekeepers -- newspapers, journals, magazines, etc. -- by taking advantage of low cost web publishing and the lack of publishing opportunities for people who have something to say but can't get published, because of the collapse of traditional media, and who, in many cases never would have been published because their views, unlike everything that appears in the mainstream media, haven't received official pre-approval. Several of them are mentioned in a The Guardian article including another I've referred to, the Socialist online magazine Jacobin.






Saturday, April 29, 2017

May Day Comes To America

Monday, May Day, International Workers Day, 1 de Mayo, is the Marxist labor day, the day of celebrating the idea of the working class, and it's always been the biggest holiday of the year in Socialist countries. Here in tightly Capitalist controlled, conservative United States, it's been quietly observed by the small cadre of perennial Leftists and you might have seen a small march here and there, but this year there are going to be more celebrations, parades, protests and calls for general strikes taking place, by far, than in any other year in my lifetime.

May Day 2016 in Havana, Cuba - Workers World photo
May Day actually originated right here in the USA. As the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) web site explains, it was started in the late 1800s by workers who were agitating for things like the eight hour day, the struggles that began the great upsurge of the American Labor Movement that reached its peak in the middle of the 20th Century and brought you the standard of living you enjoy today.

People of Latin American background have celebrated May Day in the US for years without it being visible to the general Anglo public. Many of the May Day posters you'll see this year are in both English and Spanish or in Spanish only, an indication of the fact that, like the previous wave of American labor activity this one is being fueled by immigrants. And now, in the wake of the rapid growth of Socialist and Communist organizations and parties in the US, May Day celebrations are exploding also.

Not all of this May Day's actions are entirely or specifically about labor. This is a reflection of how splintered the American working class has become with the Democratic Party having played the role of co-opting, dividing and diverting working class energy and with the rise of identity politics associated with that, which is why the rise of a Socialist movement, and in opposition to the Democratic Party, is so important.

Marxism has the capacity to unite workers of all ethnicities, genders and nationalities under a common anti Imperialist, pro worker, economic critique of Capitalism, in a struggle that will liberate all workers at once. When that unity comes about the amount of power that movement will have will easily dwarf that of the Capitalist state, which may be able to rely on the loyalty of some of the police, but no American politician living today has the guts to order the mighty US military to attack Americans, even if it's conceivable that members of today's military would obey an order to attack their own mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and and children. Perhaps in some 1950s type era of blind nationalism, aka patriotism, but not, I don't believe, today. The military is peopled by too many people who don't buy into the founding Pilgrim narrative or who haven't shared in the country's material wealth and who know very well why not.

Following are a few of the posters different groups have made for their May Day actions. Some of these are on the May1.org web site that lists many of the actions taking place around the country and some from Telesur, the CNN (i. e. state propaganda news service) of Venezuela, which seldom misses an opportunity to remind the Gringo Imperialist state of its weaknesses.















































Friday, April 28, 2017

Socialism Is Taking Over The United States Daily Update

Of the Socialist parties and organizations undergoing rapid growth the Democratic Socialists of America is experiencing the most. This is from their social media postings tonight.





Notice that more than half of these new chapters are in the South.






Thursday, April 27, 2017

Socialism Will Save Us Update

Just as Socialists immigrants from Europe and Latin America started the American Labor Movement that gave American workers the buying power that propelled the US economy to its preeminent position in the world, and just as their Socialists ideas created the working class that compelled our inherently conservative political system to enact Social Security, Medicare, Workmens Comp, the WPA, REA, EPA and everything else that's good and progressive about America, Socialism is rising again to save the county from the inevitable consequences of Capitalism.

Over past weeks I've been pointing out examples of Socialism's rising popularity as manifested by the rapid growth of Socialist organizations and parties, even the Communist Part, and we all know about the success of the presidential campaign of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders campaign. This week The Nation, the longtime voice of the left wing of the Democratic Party, has an article saying that members of the Democratic Socialists of America have won 12 recent local elections and not only in places like the union town of Rock Island, IL, but also in places like deep red state Georgia. And twelve doesn't sound like much except when you consider that a year ago there was no measurable Socialist movement in this country.



Socialism's rising popularity comes more at the expense of Democrats than Republicans and yet Democrats show no signs of correcting their course or even that they're aware they need to. Just take a look at the just the first few seconds of these two video clips of Bernie Sanders being interviewed alongside Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez. First, Perez passes on an invitation to endorse Medicare for all and then he says that Sanders' calling out of the ruling class, for things like amassing mountains of wealth at the expense of workers, is a "false choice." That is the language of class warfare from above, which is of course what the Neoliberal economic policies Democrats have adapted are all about, but it's hard for me to imagine someone being more blatantly dismissive of worker's interests or policy preferences.




















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vive La

Today's French elections are being watched much more closely than usual. It's that after Brexit, and Trump, everybody's wondering, now what? What's next? Will we finally  start tracking back toward what we think of in hindsight as normalcy or continue spinning out of control.....

Ah, control of what and of whom? I say let's go.

But anyway, most news accounts refer to what's going on in France in a cursory manner if at all. Diana Johnstone lays out the main issue in Counterpunch and how the candidates relate to it.

Many in the US still can't comprehend what's going on here, or grasp the political sea change that's taken place with the Democrats' utter abandonment of the working class and Republicans becoming the populists with the Tea Party and now the fer-crissakes-Trump. It's easy to be misled by all the references to nazism and racism and all that which gets thrown up by the people in the media who are vainly trying to make sense of it themselves, but who have no reference for any of it and can only reference each other. Perhaps by looking at the French case you can see more readily what's happening here.





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

No Outrage Or Cruise Missile Attacks When US Backed "Rebels" Kill Children

This is a seven minute compilation of video clips from the car bombing in Rashideen, Syria on Friday of a group of buses that were picking up civilians being evacuated from two towns near Aleppo that are surrounded by US backed Sunni "rebels" that killed 155 people, mostly children. In one clip the US backed "rebels" celebrate killing the "Shia pigs" on behalf of God, according to the English translated subtitles.






Multiple witnesses have said the suicide bombers lured children from the waiting buses by passing out bags of potato chips.

The buses were parked in the same place as evacuation buses sent by the Syrian government were parked in December that were also blown up. In that attack the evacuees had not yet arrived and most of the victims were bus drivers. I wrote a blog post about it.

There's been no outpouring of outrage or grief from President Trumo or his daughter Ivanka who reportedly was so upset by an alleged Sarin gas attack she got her father to bomb Syria.

Likewise the US media and political class have expressed no concern for these children's murders. President Trump, citing children that were killed in an alleged Sarin gas attack in Idlib, Syria on April 4, ordered a massive cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base three days later and before any investigation was conducted to determine who carried out the attack, which bore many of the hallmarks of earlier gas attacks carried out by the US backed "rebels" and blamed on the Syrian government by US media and ruling elites. Those gas attacks take place when US support for the "rebels" appears to be waning. Trump's cruise missile attack effectively salvaged his fedgling presidency as the media and congressional Democrats, who have long advocated for war with Syria and its ally Russia, quickly dropped their resistance to Trump and lined up behind him.

Some 36 people were killed in that attack, according to "rebel" connected groups. The Rashideen bombing killed at least 80 children and 155 total. In one of the clips a witness to the bombing voices her support for Syrian president Bashar al Assad. An article I wrote about yesterday that summarizes the situation in the Middle East explains that Assad enjoys widespread support in large part because the US backed "rebels" are much worse. American media and ruling elites call the jihadist militias they back the "moderate rebels" but virtually all are either al Qaeda or Islamic fundamentalists with the same ideology. They install Sharia law in areas they control and have committed multiple atrocities against civilians including beheading children and massacring civilians who were taking advantage of escape corridors set up by agreement between the warring parties. Syria under Assad is a "secular" state meaning people are free to follow the religion of their choice or not follow any.