Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Four dead at Kent State, Ohio, May 4, 1970

 It was May 4, 1970, that then President Richard Nixon sent troops into Cambodia to stop Viet Cong from using the Eastern part of that country for a trail to go from the North to the South. Student where outraged. There were Demonstrations at Kent State in Ohio. The Governor called out the National Guard to deal with the protests. The guards opened fire and four students where shot dead. -Steve Otto




Saturday, May 01, 2021

May Day is celebrated by DSA, here in Wichita

 By Steve Otto

Today members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) had a barbeque and get together to honor the First of May, International Workers Day (for more information on May 1 and its significance, see The Brief Origins of May Day—From IWW), here in Wichita Kansas.

The event was held at Chisholm Creek Park. While most May Day celebrations include parades or protests, it is perfectly acceptable to have some kind of memorial event to celebrate this important day. There was plenty of political discussions about the future of socialism in the US.

Here are some photos:










Journals of a lumpen-proletariat—The Stokely-Van Camp Strike in 1980

By Steve Otto

Not long ago on Facebook, I had the usual Capitalism vs. Socialism debate and there was the usual argument by right-wingers that poor people here are much better off than poor  people in other countries, especially Cuba. It is for that reason that I am reposting some stories I wrote some time ago about the years I lived in poverty. I called these stories "Journals of a Lumpen-proletariat." I basically wrote what it was like living as a poor Lumpen-proletariat, right here in the USA. And what is a lumpen-proletariat? It represents a sub-class of poor people who may work, full or part-time or may not work at all. They are below the actual proletariat and they often use criminal activities to survive.

So for my fist article, I am reposting this story on the strike we had at the The Stokely-Van Camp Strike of 1980

 

This is part of the series "Journals of a lumpen-proletariat."  The idea is to relate real working class experiences for the benefit of leftists who are studying the theories, but may not be familiar with the actual people these theories were intended to improve the lives of. Most of my 20s I spent as a member of the lumpen-proletariat class. I worked full or part-time jobs that paid only minimum wage. I tried to sell drugs to help stretch my money and to get drugs cheap or free. One year I landed a job working at the Stokely-Van Camp’s pork and bean factory in Lawrence, KS. It was one of the few times when I actually earned enough money to live comfortable. For that one half a year I was a member of the actual proletariat. (Real names are not used here and some details may be fuzzy as I am writing this from memory, mostly.)

I also joined the Teamsters Union while I was at the plant and it gave me an opportunity to experience actual class struggle through union activities.  By December of 1979, the Union and its members were tired of their contract coming up for approval right before Christmas. There was an issue of pay, but every union member agreed that the main reason talks broke down between the union and the company was a union demand for changing the negotiation date.

“No one wants to go on strike before Christmas,” a tall elderly man said at a union meeting I attended. “The company knows we can’t afford to go on strike before then and they use it as leverage to keep us from pushing our demands on them.”

There was real anger among the union members of the plant. The local newspaper, the Lawrence Journal World said the strike was divisive to the town. At one point a woman in the union complained that company official’s referred to us as monkeys. For people as myself it was a real eye opener to see these corporate rulers exposed as the creeps they are.

One thing that is probably not the usual for such a strike was the Marxist workers in the factory who came there because Lawrence is college town and the new communist movement was moving into the University of Kansas, as it did universities across the country. The Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party occasionally made their appearance at KU. Also the Socialist Workers Party showed up a few times a month. There were local groups that dealt with a lot of foreign policy issues such as the North American Club, which I belong to. It was an umbrella group for Latin American issues. Many of those in the group were pro-Castro. There were also the Friends of the Iranian People, of which I was also a member. The last group was aligned with the Iranian Student Association, which was made up mostly of Maoist Iranians.

Most of these groups took part in the various university activities related to the Stokely Strike. Movies were shown and panel discussions were held. Some people involved in the strike attended these activities and one was a labor organizer called Sam.  

Sam was involved with the new communist groups and activities. He was a tall blond man who wore a red earring. I heard him arguing against the draft and US actions against the USSR for its involvement in Afghanistan.

“I don’t have anything against the Afghanistan people and their government,” I once heard him say.

The strike was a good opportunity for the both of us to get involved in class struggle right here in the USA. Sam used the opportunity to take a leadership role in the strike. One day I was discussing politics with Sam and he realized I had a lot of political experience.

As we talked, we both realized we were getting a unique experience that some Marxists never get. And later I would realize I might never get such a chance again.

Some of the tactics being used my certain union members and leaders involved vandalism. A thin red haired girl name Betty said she needed the money too bad and crossed the picket line. Her and some other scabs were parking their cars at a cab company and using cabs to get to work. Some union people found out and slashed their tires at the cab parking lot. Betty went as far as walking down railroad tracks, though a wooded area, to go to the plant in the back way so no one would see here. It didn’t help. When she returned to her car, her tires were slashed.

This one foreman was an old nasty redneck who tried to run the picketers over when he crossed in to work each day. He drove a big red pickup truck. It was brand new. One night some union people put grease and oil all over the inside of his pickup cab, making it impossible for him to drive to work the next morning. I thought that was funny at the time, especially since he was such a right-wing ass hole—Hell!—I still think it was funny. There were some people who didn’t approve of such tactics. Both Sam and I had no problem with them.

“Should we really use tactics like that?” asked a 20 something union man.

“If someone broke in and raped you mom, would you fight them?” he asked. “We are fighting to save our jobs. It is the same things.”

As the strike ground on, the union decided to spread the strike to two other plants. The plan would really hit the company in their bankrolls. Sam invited me to go with him to another plant in another state to help spreading the strike. Since I was taking a class at KU at the time I couldn’t go.

Stokely had been relying on union busting layers to try and break the union. When we spread the strike they flipped out. Sam told me their representatives were clearly pissed. They finally made an offer for a very tiny raise and they moved the negotiation date. The raise was a tiny fraction of what we asked for.

I had learned a lot from the experience. As the strike drug on, I went to a dog food company and told the guy I needed the money and would quit at the other place if he would hire me at his plant. I was wearing down and living on the strike benefits of $40 a week. It was getting hard for me to get by all this time.

“I can’t do that,” the balding old bastard told me. “If you’re lying then I would be helping another company to break a strike and I can’t have that. What if we had a strike here? We all have to work together to prevent strikes.”

So there it was. The guy had taught me that businesses know how to stick together and crush working people, while we had a hard time convincing some workers that sticking together was the only way to defend our rights as workers.

Right before the end of the strike I got a call from someone at Stokely’s asking me to come back to work. I told them I would not go back until the strike was over. They were polite, but when the strike ended, they didn’t hire me back.

I had a friend named Boz who worked with me at Stokely. I had known him before the strike. He lived as a lumpen-proletariat, just as I had been. He was biker and a vet and was a fanatic about bicker wear and customs as some bikers are. He was short and dressed kind of plain and was proud of his long-black scraggly hair.

Boz was on the grave yard shift cleaning tanks. He liked working on the grave yard shift so he could sit in bars all night and go to work about the time the bars began to close. He had it timed just right.

No one ever complained about his drinking until after the strike. He had been a solid union member and spent time on the picket line. So they fired him for drinking right after he went back to work.

Sam also got fired after another employee started a fight with him.

Another union member I knew was Barb, a young woman about my age who had long dark hair. She was the one who got me on at Stokely’s. We dated briefly but stayed friends. One day Boz and I were at her home visiting. Another friend of hers, a young man, came over and he said;

“I heard that Stokely has been firing all the people who were hard core supporters of the union.”

“You’re in a room full of them,” Boz said.

Today the plant is closed down. I moved to Wichita shortly after that. But I haven’t forgotten the days of that strike. It was a great learning experience. 


Some time ago I published this article: Journals of a lumpen-Proletariat—Homelessness here on this site.




Two versions of a song about Joe Hill.


Being a Marxist-Leninist of any kind, here in the US, is not an easy task for a high profile political activist

  .....Such as Angela Davis

By Steven Otto

Just recently I had a run in with some so called "friends" on my Facebook page that reminded me how much opposition goes along with the United States of America's corporate and imperialist propaganda mindset that many of our citizens have to deal with, in this country. Those of us who are  Communists know this well. For example, one woman, who I refuse to identify here, compared my views on Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. She said:

 

"What makes you think I'm "buying into" pro-capitalist pundits? I'm a critical theorist with a great respect for Marx's works, and I abhor authoritarianism in any shape. Even if what you believe was true, Mao oversaw political attacks on his opposition, imprisoning and murdering them. He was a mass murderer. I'm going to believe those who survived his dictatorship, not those who seem to welcome it. I'm also going to believe survivors of Castro's regime, so many of whom are not pro-Batista. And survivors of Lenin's and Stalin's regimes. Dictatorships aren't to be celebrated.

They may have liked the theory, but they never lived by it. They fomented anger, ordered mass executions, committed ethnic cleansing and genocide, and they deserve no more love than Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Theory is hardly ever reality."

 

I had another gentleman who insisted, as did she, that both Mao and Staling were mass murderers. This is not uncommon. I get that from the right-wingers all the time, who like to rattle off the summation that Mao was intentionally more murderous than Hitler or Stalin. That off course, has been a common pronouncement by revisionist historians of the US right-wing. But they are not alone in this. This view is also held by many Democrats. When it comes to opposing imperialism, the Marxists left is often attacked by liberals as well as people on the right. Until the addition of Ilhan Omar to the House of Representatives, US foreign policy has never been questioned by either party, since the Ronald Reagan years.

In addition to all the accusations of human rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela much of US imperialism tries to justification of the subjection and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a policy supported by both Republicans and MOST of the Democratic Party as well.

Both Republicans and Democrats refuse to normalize relations with Venezuela and the US recognizes a right-wing stooge, opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has never been elected and yet this country only recognizes that person as the president of Venezuela. Omar has been just about the only congress person to question that position.

I do try to hold discussions and debate with any of my so called friends who make an honest attempt to discuss my positions on Maoism or Chinese history. But when a friend tells me that they respect the Cuban gusanos (worms is what they are called by the Cuban who have stayed behind) who have left Cuba to try and help overthrow that system, and when that person equates, not just Stalin and Mao, but VI Lenin and other leftist leaders with Hitler, Mussolini and Francisco Franco of Spain, then there is no common ground left and I unfriended that person.  

At times it is really difficult to be a Marxist, because the history of China's communist movement did make its share of mistakes. At times, certain actions have lead to people's deaths and at times there have been some excessive actions taken against those who have been critical to the communist government. Not all of the excesses are justifiable. But that does not mean that the revolution in China has no redeeming values, or that the population was "terrified by Mao." Some of these people are on the left, but they have accepted what they have read about China and they have believed those who left that part of the world in favor of a capitalist lifestyle. One of the tricks for me is to determine whether a person is seriously trying to debate a position or is so anti-communist that there is absolutely no common ground to work with. When there is no common ground, there is no point in keeping a relationship going with that person.

That said, it is difficult to be any kind of Marxist-Leninist in the US. Today I worked at the local Wichita School System today. While I was there, I was looking at the black heroes this teacher had put up on the wall, probably to celebrate black history month, which was last month, February. There was quite a contrast of various different people and leaders, and a plethora of different political ideas, from Barack Obama, to Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Judge Ruth Ginsburg and last but not least was a picture of Angela Davis along with a quote of hers: "In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist."

The amazing thing about Angela Davis is that she is a Marxist-Leninist and her picture and quote is on the school wall. To become a famous civil rights leader as a Marxist-Leninist is no easy feat. There was a lot of prejudice against her. She had been fired from her job at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) over her political views:

"Because Davis was a member of the Communist Party, the UC Board of Regents, at the urging of then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, tried to fire her before she even taught her first class. But enraged UCLA faculty, staff and students protested in support of Davis, citing academic freedom. A lawsuit also was later filed in Davis’ defense."

At one point the government tried to include her in a murder case.

"On August 7th, 1970, seventeen year old Jonathan Jackson kidnapped Superior Court Judge Harold Haley from the Marin County Civic Center in San RafaelCalifornia. The kidnapping was meant as a tool to negotiate the freedom of the Soledad Brothers, a trio of African-American inmates (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette) who were charged with the murder of a prison guard at Soledad Prison in California. George Jackson also happened to be the real brother of Jonathan Jackson.

Jackson, heavily armed, took over the courtroom in Marin County, arming the defendants and taking Judge Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors hostage. In a firefight that broke out as they attempted to leave the scene, Judge Haley, the defendants, and Jonathan Jackson were killed. In the ensuing investigation, it was discovered that the shotgun used to kill Judge Haley had been purchased by Angela Davis a few days prior to the event. Furthermore, it was discovered that Davis was in collusion with one of the Soledad Brothers."

At one point she was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list as a dangerous criminal. All of this over the fact that she had become a member of the Communist Party USA. That party used to be the pro-Soviet party—a party which many of us on the left, considered to be revisionist. But I don't think that matters today. She had to go against the same prejudices that any Marxist ends up going through, just by being here in the US. Just as I had to confront those who believe that Mao was a mass murderer, at times Davis had to go through the same kinds of accusations, mostly because she supported the Soviet Union and its so called "satellites." 

An example of the kinds of smears she was subjected to include these comments recorded by Wikipedia: 

"Davis was an honorary co-chair of the January 21, 2017, Women's March on Washington, which occurred the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. The organizers' decision to make her a featured speaker was criticized from the right by Humberto Fontova and National Review. Libertarian journalist Cathy Young wrote that Davis's "long record of support for political violence in the United States and the worst of human rights abusers abroad" undermined the march."

So, as with myself, she had to defend a position of support for a country, along with other countries, that even US liberals had attacked. In fact some leftist Marxists and Maoists also attacked those governments.

Some of her past positions have been condemned by the established politicians, yet there are supporters for what she believes in today. For example: 


"......"Davis supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel." And that is a position that has gained a lot of ground as more and more political activist are taking up.

 

At the same time as all this was going on, Davis was an intellectual and a scholar"

"Education

Growing up, Angela attended black-only schools. She and her family were forced to ride in the back of buses, and were only able to enter the back door of different establishments in the community. This made her angry early on. Angela entered high school just as the civil rights movement was beginning. She left Birmingham at the age of 15 and traveled to New York City. There, she attended high school and began to learn about the Communist Party. After high school, Angela attended Brandeis University on a full scholarship, where she was one of only three African American first-year students. As a college student, Davis continued to pursue her interest in communist activities and to learn about different cultures. She came to realize that there were many barriers that needed to be overcome with regard to language and diversity.

During her junior year, Davis studied French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. Upon returning to the states she was able to fulfill her interest in philosophy, studying with the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. She later received a scholarship to study philosophy in FrankfurtGermany, where she delved into the philosophies of Karl Marx, Georg Hegel and Immanuel Kant.

An Outspoken Activist

During college, Angela became interested in the Black Panther Party. She learned that this party had been formed in order to protect the African American community from experiencing brutality from the police. Angela was very interested in this movement and wanted to participate. Her work with the Black Panther party brought her further discrimination from males involved in the movement. They considered the work Angela was doing to be 'men's work'. Davis would encounter this type of discrimination in many of her future roles as well.

In 1969, Davis was hired as an assistant professor at the University of California Los Angeles. By this time, she had become a member of the Communist Party and participated in activities with them, including a trip to CubaDavis worked with the Cuban people and realized that there was very little discrimination there under the Socialist system. For her participation in this trip, she received much criticism and hate mail when returning to the United States and was also not rehired as a professor the next year."

She was vary smart. However, she was forced to confront both racism and prejudice of her communist beliefs. Being a communist in the US has always had its dangers. Consider the Hollywood 10 and their treatment during the 1950s, during the Joseph McCarthy (Known as McCarthyism) years:

"Hollywood Ten, in U.S. history, 10 motion-picture producers, directors, and screenwriters who appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in October 1947, refused to answer questions regarding their possible communist affiliations, and, after spending time in prison for contempt of Congress, were mostly blacklisted by the Hollywood studios. The 10 were Alvah BessieHerbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward DmytrykRing Lardner, Jr., John Howard LawsonAlbert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo."

 

So I'm not surprised to see a lot of prejudice beliefs against those of us who have chosen any type of Marxist-Leninism. At times those governments were not always fair or democratic. But they have been an alternative to the horrible governments of the US and Europe that have allowed a hand full of rich people to become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and at the expense of the rest of us.

As I have told people here in the US, I have been to Cuba. It is a country that lacks the constant advertising and attempts to make money off of us, as here in the US. It was pleasant to get away from that. I met some prostitutes and other people, while I walked around the streets of Cuba, by myself. Yes in this foreign country I walked through working class neighborhoods, I walked into working class bars, I walked all over the various neighborhoods of Cuba and I would love to go back. 

Cuba was a wonderful place and nothing like the horror show that I have read about here in the US. Anyone who thinks they can learn more from a gusano than by a person like me, who took the time to walk around and actually meet Cubans, does not need me for a friend. If fact, I would never trust anyone like that.

So I will continue on and try and produce an important blog that brings people real and believable news of the world around us. I get nearly 800 to 1000 hits a month on that blog. I'd say we are doing something right. 



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A gathering for May Day- by DSA






 


Wichita Democratic Socialists Of America (DSA) will have a May Day celebration this Saturday, at 4pm at the At Chisholm Creek Park.Come and join in this day of international day of support for working people. 


The Brief Origins of May Day (From IWW)

By Eric Chase - 1993.
Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.
At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers' lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.
A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were "taken over" by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.
For the rest click here.

https://archive.iww.org/history/library/misc/origins_of_mayday/

The Pretty Reckless - And So It Went

 I like to support musicians when they play music with progressive themes. This song sounds interesting. I'm not sure what it really means, but sounds like a good song. -Steve Otto


[Tom Morello] (Official Lyric Video)

Sunday, April 25, 2021

First 100 days "Sleepy Joe" is not so sleepy

 

By Steve Otto

Today on TV I heard some announcer bring up the fact that President Joe Biden has passed his first 100 days in office. His approval rating is 52 percent. The annou8ne said that one reason he doesn’t have more support is that the country is more polarized and most Republicans the Biden. That isn’t all that surprising. But for many of us on the left, we didn’t expect much from ol’ Sleepy Joe. Speaking of sleepy Joe, I called him that on a Facebook comment and some woman called me on it. She accused me of using Trump type insults. I explained that the comment was mostly meant for irony rather than an insult. Still the name seems kind of funny today, because Biden is anything other than “sleepy.”

Biden ran as a centrist in the election against Trump. So I didn’t expect much from him. But there have been a few good surprises. He announced that he will pull all the troops out of Afghanistan. That needed to be done. It should have been done years ago. There are the usual talking heads, mostly military and conservative political hacks in Congress, who wine and wail about all the terrorist that will strike us once we take the troops out of Afghanistan. The real losers are the imperialist who want to zap that country and the whole middle east of its resources, especially oil. Oil and US needs are the real reason the US gets hit by terrorist.

Another surprise was when Biden called the Genocide against Armenians, conducted by the Turkish government during World War I, Genocide. Past US presidents wouldn’t do that because they just love having Turkey as an ally. That won’t change, of course. The change is purely symbolic. A few years ago the Recep Erdoǧan government of Turkey had stripped away democracy for the Turkish legislature. When President Nicolás Maduro did that, the US tried to use a coup to remove him from office. So what did the US do when Erdoǧan did the same thing—nothing! Absolutely nothing! This country should have done something. But it didn’t. So this is better late then never.

On the issue of climate change, Biden has set out some goals. That is a big change from Donald Trump who didn’t believe in climate change. So there is a noticeable change already. How ever we now have to wait and see if Biden can reach any of his new goals. We have the next four years to find out.

Of course there are the usual disappointments. Biden still supports Juan Guaidó rather than Maduro. So much of our imperialist foreign policy remains. But as I said, I didn’t expect much from the centrist Biden. He is a centrist and most centrist sit on their buts and do nothing. So if he does anything at all, it is a refreshing change.    



Pix by Sack cartoon: Sleepy Joe | Star Tribune



City prosecutor find women they accuse of being "angry" guilty of illegal protesting

 By Steve Otto

Wichita has always been a town which lacks real respect for freedom of speech. It is also a town that has always been under control of the Republican Party. I can’t help remembering that quote by Hunter S. Thompson:

 

"I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth."

 

But for what ever reason, Wichita has always been hard on those who test freedom of speech. For example, just about a week ago two women were found guilty of misdemeanor charges of illegal protesting. The protest took place last summer. Gabrielle Griffie and Marissa Gonzales were charged with using the actual streets for their protests. There were actually some motorists who testified against the women who said they were “scared” by the protesters.

I have to wonder how “scared’ a motorist could really be here in this town. Here in Kansas, almost every conservative person carries a gun. Most protesters know this. In fact motorists have not been too “scared” to try and run protesters over. More likely the motorists where conservatives who just don’t like it when people protest against police violence. And they also don’t like the Black Lives Matter organization, which took part in these protests.

According to The Wichita Eagle:

 

" During the trials, prosecutor Maria Schrock described the women as angry and aggressive when they interacted with lawful drivers on Wichita streets. Wheeler argued that his clients were defending themselves against drivers who went through crowds and called protesters names."

It doesn’t take long to see the same old grumblings we have heard since all of these protest began. And the protesting has largely gone one because of unjustified police killings of black people. To this day we still have more and more police killings, usually against un-armed black people.

The women will appeal their convictions.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Foo Fighters - Waiting On A War


 

Is there more to this than that?

I didn’t celebrate Earth Day—here is why:

 By Steve Otto

Yesterday was Earth Day. I usually post something on this day. I often attend event put on for this day. But, probably because of the pandemic, I was not aware of any events. Of course, there may have been some events I didn’t know about. It really doesn’t matter, I just can’t seem to find much to celebrate on Earth Day. Some people are very conscious about the environment. But more people just don’t seem to care.

One example is paper bags. The plastic bags at the grocery store never really break down. They are filling up our trash places and will not really ever break down. I often do my shopping at Target or Dillons. In both stores I can use, and I do use paper bags. Usually I am the only shopper who does. At Target, I often have to ask for paper bags, as they are not always out in the open where I can get to them. Of all the times I shopped at Target (and that has been a lot) I have only seen one other person use a paper bag, a nine year old girl. And the girl’s mom used plastic. I guess the store is set up as if everyone uses plastic bags. They are small and don’t hold near as much stuff as the paper bags. So, it takes a whole lot of plastic bags to carry all the groceries. And a person almost has to consciously ask for paper. I can remember when it was a choice—paper or plastic? But now they just assume we want plastic. That is because plastic is way cheaper. But somewhere in the ocean there is a nearly 100 mile stretch of plastic, that is mostly powder and it will never break down. Today I read this from the Center for Biological Diversity:


It's time to get at the root of this ocean crisis. The Center (for Biological Diversity) has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulating plastics as a pollutant and is working to stop plastic pollution at the source, before it ever has a chance to reach the ocean.

 

And:

The problem is growing into a crisis. The fossil fuel industry plans to increase plastic production by 40 percent over the next decade. These oil giants are rapidly building petrochemical plants across the United States to turn fracked gas into plastic. This means more toxic air pollution and plastic in our oceans.

We need urgent action to address the global plastic pollution epidemic.

They are just NOW taking action?! This is something that should have been addressed years, even decades ago. And what do I see every time I shop? Those white plastic bags. They are cheap. But they are helping destroy our oceans. And from what I can tell—NO ONE CARES!

That is just one of many environmental problems. For years I have complained about the constant expansion consisting of building new homes, which takes up natural lands as well as farmland. I have written about the need for a “no-growth”[1] economy that I posted years ago. When I talk to people around the Wichita area, concerning a no growth economy, they look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. Constantly using growth to boost for a healthy economy means constantly using up more resources at a faster rate each time there is growth. That means we need more land, more fuels, more food, everything people need to survive gets used up. And many of our resources, such as gasoline, are non replaceable.

And that leads to population growth. Again, this is a touchy subject. Many people think it is their moral obligation (often due to religious beliefs) to have LOTS of children. If a couple has more than two children, they are adding to over population. But many people see it as their right/ and, or moral obligation to reproduce.   

Plastics, growth economy and over population all works against the environment. Much of what needs to be done should have been started by now. It is like global warming. It is already started and simply doing nothing will add to a problem that has already happened. It will take a lot to reverse global warming, but we haven’t really started on it yet. That is the way it is with most of these problems. There has been talk for a few years now of banning plastic bags—which is a no brainer. Of course, we need to stop the production of plastic trash. But it has not happened yet.

So, on this Earth Day I simply don’t think most people take it seriously. For many people it is no more than a joke. Unfortunately, I’m not laughing.

Maybe next year will be different. But this year I see little to nothing to celebrate.

Pix from No little green men—but maybe life in our Solar System




[1] We need to adopt a “no growth”economy for future survival.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Vigil was held here in Wichita Kansas for victims of police brutality

 

By Steve Otto

A few dozen people met at Riverside Park yesterday for a vigil to honor those who have died from police killings. The crowd was mostly young people under 50, yet there were a few older folks, such as myself,[1] there. 

The weather was fine, with plenty of sun shine, although, just a little chilly. The event was mostly conducted by Aisha Duggins and Haley Simon. The only TV station I saw there was KAKE TV. Some of the information I used for this story come from KAKE TV.

One of the two MCs read a list of names of people who have died at the hands of police.

They include George Floyd, the subject of a court case against Police Officer Derek Chauvin,[2] some of the more recent victims such as Daunte Wright. The Chauvin—Floyd court case begins wrapping up today.

“I just really wanted to show that I care about the lives that are being destroyed in front of us,” Haley Simon told a KAKE TV reporter.

There were plenty of candles handed out to make sure everyone in attendance had one. While this event was the only one in the Wichita Kansas area, other such vigils were held across the country. In Hollywood California Hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil, Saturday, to demand justice for two people shot and killed by police in recent weeks: 20-year-old Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

A similar vigil was held in New Haven Connecticut to honor the victims of police brutality and violence. And not long ago in Belchertown Massachusetts, Black Lives Matter vigil was held.

So the Sunday Evening event was part of a nation wide effort by people, black, white and other colors, who are sick and tired of police shooting and killing unarmed people.

_______________________________________________________

[1] As the weather clears up and the Covid virus scare wanes, I plan to make a lot more of these events. More of them are sure to be held has the factors mention before subside. As a political activist and writer, it is my duty to get out and report on what is happening in this area, as well as taking part in these political events.

[2] This case will go to the jury within days. If Chauvin is exonerated of allcharges, we can expect major protests, rioting and just plain outrage over such a miscarriage of justice. While the evidence of unnecessary brutality is overwhelming, a lot of adults are afraid to charge police with any wrong doing. There are a lot of white people, especially old white people, who seem to believe the police can never do any wrong. Proof of this fear is present in recent Grand Jury cases where juries have exonerated cops who are obviously guilty of murder, such as Eric Garner's case.



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Facebook sets up a new censorship board—so that corporate America can continue to run our lives and keep us in line

 

By Steve Otto

I'm watching TV and suddenly a news story comes on about the new "oversight board" board that Facebook has just put together. What it really is: a censorship board to decide what content it's users and followers can follow. Here is what their board does according to CNBC:

 

"The oversight board will govern appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself, although it admitted it will have to pick and choose which content moderation cases to take due to the sheer volume of them.

The board will receive cases through a content management system that is linked to Facebook’s own platforms. They will then discuss the case as a group before issuing a final decision on whether the content should be allowed to stay up or not."

One thing they always bring up, and they did while talking to a conservative unhappy with Facebook censorship, is that Facebook is a private company. And that is a magic word, here in US capital land. They are not controlled or beholden to anyone. They are not controlled by or responsive to the public. They can't be held accountable. They are a mega corporation run by a faction of the 1 percent who own the United States and they own the people to a large degree. In other words a bunch of corporate fat cats now try to run our lives for us. They decide what we can and can not discourse in the public discourse. All this, thanks to their corporate watchdog, Facebook.

An example of their corporate dominance are my two blogs. One is for Democratic Socialist and the other a Marxist blog. Both are prohibited from posting any links to any articles. The reason is that they violate community standards. And what does that mean? They won't say. I have asked them and they won't respond to me. I've complained about this and they won't discuss it with me. There is no place to dispute their decisions. They are in fact, "GOD of the internet."

Facebook is one of the greatest dictatorships to develop since Nazi Germany. Anyone who thinks this is going to remain a free forum of ideas is fooling themselves. US capitalism is not, and never has been a bastion of free speech. Facebook is just the latest example. We have it for a while, then someone has to clamp down on it to make sure nothing happens that will disturb the system.

Take for example, January 6 of this year. Many liberals, especially Democrats are unhappy that conservative groups were able to use Facebook to organize against the capital, based on the lie that President Donald Trump actually did not lose the election. For example Democrats made the following accusations about Facebook according to CNBC:

 

"House Democrats are demanding answers from Facebook on how it targeted ads for gun accessories next to misinformation about the election and news about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In a letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, 23 lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked how Facebook makes sure weapons-related ads are not targeted in ways that could harm public safety. The lawmakers also asked whether companies who advertise on Facebook are notified when their ads are placed next to misinformation or violent content."

 

These Democrats are all hypocrites. Not long ago they all rallied in support of people doing similar things to the government of Hong Kong. Those protest have been violent, destructive and people have been hurt. Now that we have the same kind of protest here in the US, our leaders want to shut it down. "We don't want that kind of democracy in our own country." This country is all for democracy: WHEN IT IS IN SOME ELSE'S COUNTRY.

Facebook has some actual "human rights activists" on their censorship board:

 

"The members are a globally diverse group with lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates and other academics. Between them, they are said to have expertise in areas such as digital rights, religious freedom, conflicts between rights, content moderation, internet censorship and civil rights."

Any real human rights activist would never serve on such a board. The same goes for journalists. It is a board to curb people's rights. What kind of activist or journalist would really do that? The answer is "phony ones."

Facebook, the main media monopoly, will now control US debate. It will control it absolutely and all powerfully. No power in this country can debate against the great media monopoly Facebook. We will now get a taste of REAL US democracy—just enough free speech to convince people they are free—then they clamp down on anyone who tries to rock the boat or change anything. It is as phony as a $3 bill.



Friday, April 02, 2021

The debate over choosing how we treat our own bodies continues with "People Are Going ‘California Sober"

By Steve Otto

Once again I am writing about those who reject the one size fits all approach of the 12 step programs and other outfits that simply refuse to recognize the short comings of some programs for those who want to stop drinking. 

One major problem I have with the 12 step programs is that we are not supposed to use "any mind altering drugs." To do that would be to temp the patient with what they call "triggers," that is, various things that tempt a person back into alcohol. Below is an article that discusses what people are calling " “California Sober,” that is people who are giving up booze, but not all drugs. The patients are supposed to stay away from everything that might get them high, including marijuana and psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms. To use these may give a person the call back to using alcohol. That may be the case with some people. But for those of us who are rejecting that rigid doctrine, we want to decide for ourselves what other drugs/chemicals we want to use in place of alcohol. And yes, some of us want to use other drugs/ herbs rather than the heavily destructive alcohol.

As stated by Demi Lovato, in her newly released documentary called “Dancing With The Devil,” : 

 

"I think the term that I best identify with is 'California sober'. I really don't feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people, cause I don't want them to look at my parameters of safety and think that's what works for them because it might not."

For some of us, there are drugs that are far more safe than the use of alcohol. Few drugs cause the problems of alcohol. I have had liver problems and have been told that alcohol is terrible for my health, especially since I used to have hepatitis C. So there are concoctions I have developed, some are legal, such as kratom and others are not legal. And while Kratom is legal, the moral crusaders (here from the Mayo Clinic) are as adamant against this herb as those who run 12 step programs:  

 

" Kratom: Unsafe and ineffective

Users swear by kratom for mood enhancement and fatigue reduction, but safety issues and questions about its effectiveness abound.

Side effects and safety concerns

Although people who take kratom believe in its value, researchers who have studied kratom think its side effects and safety problems more than offset any potential benefits. Poison control centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving use of kratom from 2011 through 2017, including reports of death. About half of these exposures resulted in serious negative outcomes such as seizures and high blood pressure. Five of the seven infants who were reported to have been exposed to kratom went through withdrawal."

 

It  would be very surprising if the Mayo Clinic or any other "official health site" would endorse this product. And I am not surprised at all that health sites try to discourage Kratom's use:

 

" If you read health news or visit vitamin stores, you may have heard about kratom, a supplement that is sold as an energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever and antidote for opioid withdrawal. However, the truth about kratom is more complicated, and the safety problems related to its use are concerning."

 

We live in a country were those who advise us on health simply can't stand the idea that people can use mind altering chemicals without serious problems. As with the 12 step programs, the goal is sobriety and supporting life-style changes that push people into life long sobriety. The problem is that it is not what everyone else wants. I do occasionally use drugs that are supposed to be terrible and problematic no matter how they are used. My brother and I often discuss the fact that we are both elderly. I'm 66 years old and he is seven years younger than I. We both feel that our lives are our own and the practices we have regarding herbs, legal and non, are our affair and no one else's. If something works for me, it is really no one else's business.

As my younger brother said about using marijuana, "I refuse to cower and grovel over my use of pot, if I'm caught and prosecuted. I am an older man and I deserve some dignity." I totally agree with him.

We should not have to hide like little children because we have decided to use herbs that our government simply doesn't approve of. It is time that older people as myself are given the right to decide how we will live our lives.

Those who feel they are helped by 12 step programs are perfectly free to use those programs. If they work, fine. But don't force the rest of us to use those them if they don't work for us.    

Again, according to Lovato's article: 

 

"According to Urban Dictionary, when someone is “California Sober” the only drugs they use are marijuana and sometimes psychedelics. It’s becoming a growing trend for folks who want to drink less but still want to use other substances that may not give them the negative side effects of boozeCBD, medical, and recreational marijuana use is on the rise as more states pass laws that legalize its use. Folks tend to appreciate the benefits without the hangover effects of harder drugs and alcohol.

A semi-sober person from Colorado told Real Simple, “When I drink, even if it’s just a glass of wine or two with dinner, I definitely notice that my quality of sleep goes down. If I skip the booze and take a few hits of my cannabis vape pen instead, I sleep like a baby and wake up feeling refreshed.”

 

And of course there are those die hard alcoholic/ drug abolitionists who refuse to recognize a persons right to try partial sobriety:

 

"This is why people argue that you can’t call yourself sober if you are still drinking and drugging. As an alcoholic who has been in recovery for four years, I would agree. Attaching the word sober to anything other than, well, sober feels false.

Patrick Cronin, addiction specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, says that this lifestyle could be detrimental to Lovato’s and anyone’s sobriety if they are in recovery. Cronin told Distractify that when addicts choose to be California Sober, “they are absolutely risking relapsing on their drug of choice.” I understand this and see the risk, but I don’t completely agree with this statement for every person."

 

Over all, we need more articles like this one. This is a debate whose time has come and we have needed it for a long time. It is overdue. So let's hope this is not the last article on our right to "choose" partial sobriety or selective sobriety over the rigid 12 step programs ban on ALL versions of drug use. Some of us are using various drugs for self medication. For example, kratom and other herbs can be used to prevent deep physical depression. I'm talking about the kind of depression that is entirely caused by chemicals in the person's body. It is not the kind of depression that can be talked out of. A person can no more be talked out of physical depression than a person with cancer can be "talked out of it." So we may chose to use substances that seem to work and that has value for us in itself. I have tried a lot of the chemicals that are prescribed for depression from psychiatrists and they simply don't work. So let me use something I know will work. 


John Otto contributed to this.

People Are Going ‘California Sober’

By Amber Leventry

Demi Lovato recently discussed her sexuality (she’s “really queer” y’all and so am I so we are pretty much besties now) and plenty of other truths in her newly released documentary called “Dancing With The Devil,” which was released on YouTube on March 23rd. And because she’s amazing and famous, folks are now offering their opinions on what she shared and how she lives her life. Lovato has been open about her addictions, overdoses, and efforts to get and stay sober; she’s been an inspiration to many people. But when she recently described herself as “California Sober,” folks weren’t comfortable with the term or her use of it for her recovery plan.

For the rest   click here.