Saturday, March 17, 2018

Today is St. Patrick's Day- a day full of Irish tradition

By SJ Otto
Today is St. Patrick's Day. While the tradition is that this is a Catholic holiday honouring a saint, many of us use this day to honour the culture and history of Ireland. The country has a long history of political rebellion. Here is a song to honour the country's culture.

Livin' In America - Black 47

And don't forget to drink an Irish Car Bomb.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sedgwick County Commissioners Unruh and Ranzau tell community's atheists to "go to hell"

By SJ Otto

Once again conservative Christians in Sedgwick County want to let atheists know that they are not welcome in this communities they call home. I have lived in Sedgwick County most of my life. I consider myself an Epicurian. It is not really a religion but a set of beliefs that I use rather than a religion. I don't believe in God or the afterlife. Why should I or others like me, be treated any different than any other citizen just because we don't believe in God. I don't go around disrespecting other Christians or other religions. For that I deserve to be told to "go to hell" by two elected officials, Sedgwick County Commissioners Dave Unruh and Richard Ranzau? According to The Wichita Eagle:

 "In response to a demand that an atheist be allowed to give the invocation at a Sedgwick County meeting, Commissioner Dave Unruh says they can go to hell. Commissioner Richard Ranzau agrees.

-Sedgwick County Candi Bolden"

Ranzau has been a very un-Christian leader. After all, were in the Bible does it instruct Christians to discriminate against Hispanic people, poor people, or immigrants. Ranzau and his fellow conservatives sent back money the Federal government gave them to help fund the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program, known as WIC program, just a few years ago. This action was clearly taken to disrespect both poor people and Hispanic immigrants. Ranzau and his fellow bigots were determined that immigrants would not make us of that program. Ranzau's contempt for Hispanic people is fairly obvious. A few years ago he refused to answer questions from a local bilingual television reporter – but agreed to speak with a reporter from the English-language side of the same news organization, using the excuse that he thought the Spanish-born reporter was an advocate for illegal immigrants. The simple truth is that Ranzau is a bigot.

The saddest part of all of this is that there are people in this town that help elect these bigots and they would probably vote for them again. It is really hard for an atheist to get any respect in this town. Conservative Christians can be quite nasty to those who do not share their beliefs. They are constantly given air time, from the local news media, for their repugnant beliefs. If Ranzau and Unruh had any decency to them, they would apologize to this community's atheists and resign. They do little to the benefit of this community anyway.

Pix from KMUW

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Student walk outs take place here in Wichita

By SJ Otto
There were about 3,000 student walkouts planned for today. Several hundred students walked out of High School North to protest gun violence and call on legislators to pass more restrictions on guns. Althought school officials cooperated with and tollerated this walk out, USD 259 School officals did not OK the walk out.

"What we do not want is (for) kids to be walking out of a building unsupervised, because . . . that is not a safe way to be able to get their voices heard," said Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita schools, said just days ago.
So these studunts took some chances.

This is an example of young people taking their lives and future in their own hands. According to KAKE TV, in Wichita:   
From Maine to Hawaii, students planned to walk out of school Wednesday to protest gun violence in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged in response to last month's massacre of 17 people at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In nearly 3,000 protests nationwide, students from the elementary to college level are taking up the call in a variety of ways. Some planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. Others were to hold demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Georgia and Ohio, students said they'll head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations.
For the rest click here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

We need to support the students and their walkout March 14

By សតិវ ​អតុ[1]
This Wednesday I will be working at my job as a substitute teacher for the USD 259 School system. I don't know which actual high school I will be at, but I will be somewhere on the school grounds and I fully support the student's desires to walk out on March 14 at 10 in the morning to take part in a nation-wide student walkout to demand that something be done about the availability of guns in this country, especially by minors and it will also be a demand for safer schools. I think what I like best about this is that students today are using a form of civil disobedience to make a political statement. It is my hope they will learn that this country has a long tradition of such civil disobedience.
The students are learning to directly confront authority. They are learning that it takes powerful action to force the stodgy leadership of this country, including our moronic president and his inept congress allies. It takes direct action to get any results. The students may not get exactly what they want, but by taking such a bold move, they may actually make a difference. Not everyone agrees with me. According to The Wichita Eagle:

"What we do not want is (for) kids to be walking out of a building unsupervised, because . . . that is not a safe way to be able to get their voices heard," said Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita schools.....
....Thompson said Wichita high schools will allow student-led rallies during the lunch hour or before or after school, supervised by staff."

She is not alone. There is considerable resistance to the walkout as it is planned. Also according to The Wichita Eagle:

"The Women’s March EMPOWER branch, a group dedicated to youth-led advocacy, is encouraging students, teachers and others to take part in “#ENOUGH, a school walkout on March 14 at 10 a.m.
The goal is for students and school staff to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes that morning – one minute for each of the fatalities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – to urge Congress to “take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation,” the organization said in a statement."

I hope these students will stand up for their rights and walk out at their expected time. This is an opportunity for these students to learn how to develop an understanding of student activism to empower themselves. It is a great opportunity and every adult staff member needs to support the students and their action. I know there will be many staff members who try and control the students, but those of us who are concerned that students learn from this experience need to lend their support. I will fully support these students and their actions.
Image result for clenched fist

[1] Yes, I have chosen to hide my real name, because I don't want to lose my job. I do have to work. Any one who really wants to know who I am can find that out if they want to. I have nearly lost my job in the past for criticizing the school system.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Celebrating International Women's Day

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting

Cam Gentry and Kathy Williams were drinking beer at Hoppy Gnome, Wichita Kansas, for International Women's Day. Hoppy Gnome plans to donate some of their proceeds to the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. Many other people came to drink and donate.

Wichita DSA will have meet with nearby state chapters at Eisenhower State Park in May

By SJ Otto

The Wichita Chapter of Democratic Socialist of America discussed their roll in a Camp out May 18-20, at their monthly meeting last Sunday. The campout will be at Eisenhower State Park. There will be chapters invited from Oklahoma, Springfield, Missouri and Nebraska. There will be leaders from the national office and there will be some training as well as time to get to know other DSA members.
In other business DSA will have elections in April for about six positions that will open up.
For this year’s Juneteenth celebration DSA will try to have a booth or information table. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. 
DSA will be organizing an event for May Day.
DSA will take part in a science march April 14.
They will also be taking part in PRIDE Day. 
Image result for Wichita DSA

Monday, March 05, 2018

8 Ways America Was Better Off During the Cold War

I have found other writers besides me who also see the same government abuses run wild since the end of and because of the cold war. Jon Wiener and Tom Dispatch have written
8 Ways America Was Better Off During the Cold War. Instead of We won the Cold War” and “communism as an ideology is dead,” They write about the abuses US civilian and military leaders commit today that they would not commit today. They also write about US abuse of unions.
-SJ Otto

From Alternet:
At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.”  His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years.  She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.
For the rest click here.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

"The Post" movie is a reminder—our leaders lie to us about war

By SJ Otto
Remember a time when our elected leaders lied to us about the war? Remember when the pentagon just ignored common sense and let our you men and women die for no real reason. Sure that happens now, but back in the 1970s the news media actually covered those things and let us know about them from time to time.
Tonight I watched the movie The Post and it was a breath of fresh air and badly needed. The movie shows us what it was like before The Washington Post decided to publish the Pentagon Papers. I remember that time well. Suddenly a whole edition of that paper let the American people know that our leaders, going back for decades, knew the Vietnam war was unwinnable and yet kept it going. They lied about the war. As I watched the movie, it appears these revelations almost never made it to print. There were legal battles that could have ended with reporters going to jail. There were threats from government officialsKatharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, had concerns that The Washington Post would lose its financial backers and go out of business if it printed the Pentagon Papers. Many of the newspapers editorial staff tried to talk her out of it. But in the end, these papers, about 4,000 pages, made it into the news and it affected the Vietnam War.
What I like most about this movie is its timing. Right now there is virtually no opposition to the wars this nation is fighting in, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. The press is not covering the details of our military actions, and the popular culture just glamorizes the war with such TV shows as Seal Team, Valor and The Brave. Stores and sporting events also promote the military without any questioning. Polls show a lot of young people are pro-military. So this is a good time to remind people that military leaders and presidents lie to us about the wars we fight.
That was true in the 1970s and it is true today. Let's hope this film reminds people of that.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Actions against The Sunflower, WSU’s newspaper, leave the staff “DUMBFOUNDED”

By SJ Otto
There are several issues being raised by The Sunflower, the official newspaper for Wichita State University, over the leadership of the school and how they treat the students. That includes whether or not school officials have the right to conduct discussions over how WSU will spend student fees in closed meetings. (See the article below.) Their continues to be a number of other issues including a proposed cut to The Sunflower’s budget, which is most likely punishment for printing investigating issues that WSU leaders don’t want made public.
In the last few years the Koch brothers, David and Charles, have spent money trying to take over a large part of WSU. They are trying and succeeding to privatize parts of the university. The brothers don’t take well to criticism so it is not surprising that the newspaper’s funding has been cut. It will not surprise us if there are other forms of punishment dished out against the newspaper and possibly even changing the editorials staff. It will also not surprise us if they change the name of the school to Koch University.   
The Koch brothers are like a pair of wolves who want to piss all over the place to mark their territory. Instead of actual pee, they use their money to get their name on everything, from scholarships to buildings. And the leadership of WSU, including John Bardo, have taken money in trade for all kinds of favors. Bardo and his fellow supporters are hardly any different from common prostitutes. And they trade just about anything they get from the students for the money they get from the Kochs. This is just the first installment of articles, mostly from The Sunflower, that show the new levels of corruption we and the newspaper staff are seeing at WSU.

The committee formed to deliberate how Wichita State will spend $9.53 to $9.82 million in student fees closed the door on reporters Friday, claiming the meeting was not subject open meetings laws that require public business to be discussed in public and not behind closed doors.
The Sunflower presented its student fees request to the student fees committee Friday morning from about 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. At noon, the committee was supposed to begin deliberations on the Educational Opportunity Fund and Student Service Fees recommendations it would give to student government, who would then vote on the budget. That’s when Teri Hall, Wichita State’s vice president for student affairs, closed the doors to reporters and the public.
“These deliberations have always been closed,” Hall told reporters from The Wichita Eagle and The Sunflower when they tried to re-enter the meeting room for deliberations.

For the rest click here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Are we really better since the end of the Cold War? Part 2

By  SJ Otto
In the area of foreign affairs we can really see the effects of the end of the Soviet Union. The US is now the main superpower and there is no real opposition to it. The US acts as a superpower on steroids, with troops all over the world, fighting multiple wars on almost every major continent, accept Antarctica and Australia. Two countries are now occupied by the US, Afghanistan and Iraq. Just recently the US military is building up a presence in Africa.
Islamic revolt has been the major challenge to the US superiority and imperialism. The US has made the destruction of Islamic movements such as ISIS (Islamic State), a major priority. There are several organizations the US has targeted, such as al Qaeda and various local versions of that group throughout the Middle East and Africa. There are also the independent Islamic groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Many Marxist anti-imperialist groups have had to adjust to the fact that there are no more Marxist superpowers to support them. Right now they just don’t have the numbers of people and support networks of the Islamic groups. ISIS was the one group that had the audacity to take land that the US had conquered when it took over Iraq. President Barack Obama decided to go after ISIS and destroy them as a country. When President Donald Trump took over he followed the same plan to first destroy the country that ISIS had set up and then carried on the extermination campaign to wipe that group off of the face of the Earth, along with all its people and supporters. No attempt was ever made to negotiate an end to the war against ISIS. The US was intent on destroying that movement completely. In Europe and the US, those who are recruited to join ISIS are considered mentally ill. After all who would oppose US democracy and the system we all love so well? Any opinion in favor of ISIS in any way is viewed as a crime in the US and Europe.
And the new modern American Army takes no prisoners. There is no reason to expand Guantanamo because the US has allowed the Iraqi Army to kill all prisoners right after they are caught. Some prisoners have been thrown off the tops of buildings to save on bullets. This country has made it clear there is no tolerance for those who dare rebel against the US Empire. The barbarity of today’s military far surpasses the kinds of war crimes committed during World War II, at least on the ally’s side. And while the US continues to commit all kinds of war crimes, the troops are constantly hailed as heroes here at home. And the constant lie that gets repeated over and over—“they are fighting to keep us free.” They are fighting to maintain an empire. 
That brings us to the issues of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The alliance was supposedly needed to keep out the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. So the Soviet Union fell and the Warsaw Pact faded away. But not NATO. It has expanded. Now many Warsaw Pact nations belong to NATO. So what does NATO really do? It is a major tool of the empire.
The pro-NATO argument is that it keeps the peace in Europe and allows the West to efficiently cooperate on counter-terrorism and humanitarian military operations…… 
According to Vox, “Everything you need to know about the military alliance that's freaking out Russia:”

“The positive spin is that NATO has adapted to the post-Cold War world, and now helps prevent wars, protect weak states and peoples, and promote democracy.”

The negative spin is that NATO allows the wealthiest and most powerful nations to bully the weaker ones. While it prevents war, it also prevents any kind of change. Revolution is nearly impossible since an attack on any NATO country is considered an attack on all. That part of the alliance has allowed the US to pull NATO allies into wars it started, such as the war in Afghanistan. The US had demanded and got NATO troops and support from the other NATO nations. It gives the false illusion that the war in Afghanistan is a war that the entire world, or most of it, is behind. And how democratic is it to force nations into a war they never had a chance to debate? While the main enemy of the Afghanistan puppet regime is the Taliban, there are others in that country who have opposed the US presence and they have also taken military action.
NATO and the European Union are control mechanism to prevent internal changes in European countries. The best example of how it works can be seen in Greece. By 2010 the Greek government was in trouble and in debt. In order to pay off its debts the government put in place severe austerity measures. The people fought the measures on every front. But the one thing they put a lot of faith in was elections. They voted in a leftist party known as Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς, (Translated:  Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás), mostly known by the abbreviation SYRIZA. Voters rejected the Eurozone creditors' bailout terms in a voting referendum, in 2015, only for  Alexis Tsipras, the elected leader, to endorse even tougher terms for a third bailout agreed the following month. Despite having popular support for turning back the austerity plans, the European Union was able to force the party and the nation to keep the austerity measures in place.
The people of Greece and SYRIZA had to decide if it was more important to overturn the austerity or to stay in the European Union. They stayed in the European Union and now the leadership of that body has more control over Greece than their own political leaders.
For examples of NATO being used to interfere in a European nation we only have to look to Ukraine. Nearly every minor superpower (such as Russia) is interfering in Ukraine and its civil war. Ukraine is actually considering joining NATO. If it does it will be joining an organization that has lead to constant meddling in that nation's internal affairs.
All of this shows us that it is not the Soviet Union that is interfering in the internal affairs of individual European nations, but it is NATO and the European Union. It could be argued that Eastern European countries were more controlled and lacked more autonomy than countries in the West, back when there was a Warsaw Pact. But today it is the West (The US and major European powers) that puts more control over the vary countries that NATO was originally supposed to defend.  
For third world countries, they are now so dependent on Western powers the fall of the Soviet Union has been a major disaster. Marxist-Leninists are nearly gone from Africa. Political experiments in Nicaragua, Mozambique and Angola were among the many nations where newer, more democratic examples of Marxism were being tried. For those of us on the left, these nations held out great promise. Thanks to the constant meddling of President Ronald Reagan and then the actual collapse of the Soviet Union all such experiments have been scrapped. The Sandinistas, FRELIMO and other Marxist parties changed their alliances to the Democratic Socialists of Europe[1] to get development aid. There was nowhere else to get it. China has been no help to such countries and no other nation, other than the US and European nations, have the kind of development aid such nations need.
Such nations used to be able to bargain with one of the two super powers to get a good deal on aid and weapons. Now they have only one superpower and there is no bargaining. Many nations have learned the hard way as did when Yemen the leaders there refused to back former President George H. W. Bush in his war against Saddam Hussein (صدام حسين), in the first Iraq war, in 1991. Yemen was punished for not supporting the only super power left in the world.
For now we live in a stagnant world where one US empire does what it dam well pleases. Foreign people in the less wealthy countries are little better off than slaves. There is absolutely nothing to counter the belligerent US military, a force that acts drunk with power. When they wiped ISIS off the map they wanted to let other groups and national leaders know they won't tolerate dissent. We are supposed to support the US because they tolerate a diversity of views, a trait that is championed as a cultural bastion of the West. But that is a bold face lie. Until someone can stand up to the US military machine we are all just the victims of a massive world-wide bully.

[1] The European Socialist Network, is what is left of Europe's democratic socialist movement. It originally supported actual socialism in its earlier days, since the days of François Mitterrand, starting in 1981, the party drifted right and is now just a liberal party much like the US Democratic Party.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Athletic Department’s decision could wipe out college tradition

Once again the Wichita State University Administration is messing with the student body:
-SJ Otto

From the WSU The Sunflower:

I’ve been told time and time again college is the best years of your life.
College is the time when you’re supposed to experience new things and have fun. On its own, college isn’t inherently fun unless you get out and push yourself to experience the once-in-a-lifetime moments you can only do in your 20s.
I’ll admit, I haven’t exactly experienced all of the fun moments in college. I attended community college for two years where the “experience” of college was a distant reality. Now, as a fifth-year college student, I’m at a point where I want to be involved all of the fun, one-of-a-kind college experiences.
One of these can’t miss experiences I’ve been looking forward to is in jeopardy of losing its significance.
Marshallville, a WSU student organization, is currently putting together plans for their fifth-annual campout. As per tradition, students in Marshallville arrange a campout — welcome to all students — for the last game of the year.....

.....It’s rumored the athletic department is considering backing out on their promise to Marshallville directors that ensured the Black Cards would be distributed during the campout, and instead will distribute Black Cards for the game against Cincinnati at Wednesday’s men’s game against Tulane, and then again at the women’s game against Tulane on Saturday.
The Black Card system was developed with the intent to increase student attendance at WSU sporting events, like women’s basketball, that oftentimes don’t get the same student attendance numbers. That’s largely the reason the athletic department is considering rewarding students who show their support to the women on Saturday. 

For the rest click here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Are we really better since the end of the Cold War? Part 1

By  SJ Otto
Before the end of the cold war, 1991 or maybe 1992, there were lots of communist and socialist parties all over the world. They fell into two categories; those that were pro-Soviet Union and those that were anti-Soviet Union. That might seem simple enough, but the anti-Soviet Union parties seemed endless. There were lots of them. But in the eyes of the US press there was just one "Communist Party." In almost all news magazines and newspapers there was just that one "Communist Party." It was pro-Soviet Union. If people only read mainstream newspapers they would never know there were other communist parties in the United States of America.
We can also say that communism in general was almost always treated as if it were Soviet Union communism. For a while there was a "Red China," an evil menace that was just as bad as the evil Soviet Union. And by the end of the 1970s China became the "good communist country." They were OK.
It is hard to say when the Cold War actually ended. Did it end when the Berlin Wall came down? Did it end when Boris Yeltsin (Борис Ельцин) stood down a pro-communist coup? All we can really say for sure is that it ended.
This article looks at two things. The fist is how the end of the cold war effected other communist and socialist movements that were not directly supported or supportive of Soviet Communism. The other is how the fall of the Soviet Union affected workers everywhere.
There have been many democratic socialist parties, such as Socialist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America. There were also many Marxist-Leninist parties opposed to the Soviet Union. We can safely say they were all against the Soviet Union and most other communist parties.
Marxist-Leninist division took place in almost every country where ML parties existed. For example, in Iran Peykar  was a Maoist party that resembled the US Revolutionary Communist Party. Their pro-Soviet party was called the Tudeh Party.  
Then there was the actual Communist Party USA. That was the official Soviet Union supported and supportive communist party. That was the communist party that news organizations all referred to anytime someone wanted to speak of the pro-Soviet communist party. The US mainstream press was not interested in covering or even acknowledging the existence of other communist parties or tendencies. They all wanted the American public to believe that there was only one kind of communism and that communism was exemplified by the Soviet Union, which was often simply referred to as Russia.
Gus Hall was the leader of Communist Party USA. When he died The New York Times described him this way:

Gus Hall, the zealous lifelong Communist who led the American branch of the party from the cold war through political oblivion in the post-Soviet era, died on Friday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. He was 90 and lived in Yonkers.
The son of an impoverished Minnesota miner, Mr. Hall became radicalized early, beginning a career as a union and Communist Party organizer during the Depression. J. Edgar Hoover once described him as ''a powerful, deceitful, dangerous foe of Americanism.''
He served eight years in prison for his political views, ran for president four times and never apologized for or wavered from the increasingly marginalized ideology he championed.
By the end of his life he had become a lonely Communist stalwart in a post-Communist world. Those who sought him out for interviews at party headquarters on West 23rd Street in Manhattan found a genial white-haired man presiding over ''a museum of history,'' as he put it. Pictures of his family shared space with a portrait of Lenin (a gift from Leonid I. Brezhnev); a wood sculpture from Fidel Castro and a tapestry of Karl Marx, courtesy of Erich Honecker, the former leader of East Germany......
........Mr. Hall was first elected general secretary of the Communist Party, U.S.A., in 1959, when the federal government considered the organization an outpost of the Kremlin and all its members potentially dangerous subversives.

And from the Los Angeles Times we see what most Americans saw when Hall Died:

Gus Hall, the lumberjack, iron miner, steelworker and union organizer whose name became synonymous with the American Communist Party, which he led for 40 years, has died at the age of 90.

The L.A. Times don't even give the full name of his party and most news outlets didn't do that either. None of these sources hint that there are any other communist people or groups besides Communist Party USA.
There were a lot of communists here in the US, as myself, who did not like a lot of the baggage the Soviet Union had. We didn't like the lack of democracy, the lack of freedom of speech and the general lack of political liberties that the Soviet Union just didn't seem to have. There were other problems, mainly with imperialism. The Soviet Union tried to oppose US imperialism, but its own actions were imperialistic. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and sent troops to other parts of its alleged empire. The Soviet Union tried to put nuclear missiles in Cuba. It gave extensive military hardware to many nations in Africa and it had military bases in such countries as Ethiopia. The Soviet Union directly controlled the affairs of many Easter European nations and sent in troops when its orders seemed to be slipping. It is easy to see much of these actions as imperialism.
At first it appears that many communists and socialists are in agreement with the US mainstream politicians who constantly complain about Soviet expansionism and the lack of freedom in the Soviet Union.[1] It would be easy to mistakenly believe that these two political positions are either the same or similar. That belief is wrong. All we have to do is look at such leaders as Francisco Franco or Spain, Augusto Pinochet of Chile or the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah of Iran (حمدرضا پهلوی‎,), to see that political liberty is not the main goal of the US. The  main goal is capitalism. Each of these leaders defended the free-enterprise system and the US empire. Each of these leaders replaced democratically elected leaders. Curtailment of freedom was perfectly acceptable to the US and long as these leaders supported the US and its interests abroad. That interest always included free enterprise and the international capitalist class. Support of such leaders goes back for more than a century. Today the US sheds crocodile tears for the people who are denied freedoms in North (Democratic People's Republic) Korea and Syria. And yet the US is fine supporting the undemocratic regime of Saudi Arabia.
Since the fall of the Cold War
That brings us to modern times. The Soviet Union is gone. There are still a lot of Marxist-Leninist amd socialist groups. There are Trotskyists all over Facebook. But are we better off without the Soviet Union? Is there more democracy in the world? Is there more freedom in the world under the single leadership of the US than having two competing empires? The answer to all of that is NO!
Today the top 1 percent, or those $billionaires who own most of the country’s wealth, are acting as if they suddenly have a green light to go after all laws that support workers. Worker’s rights are under attack. What we have to consider is that capitalism was threatened by the idea of a communist revolution where workers would get everything and the ruling class would cease to exist. But with the Soviet Union gone, the attitude seems to be that the whole idea of communism is dead. The capitalist act and talk as if communism and all possibilities of communist revolution are dead. That means the capitalists can do what they want. There are no constraints. For example the $billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, are out to destroy unions. They want to defang workers and leave them completely at the mercy of their employers. Elisabeth Garber-Paul, of Rolling Stone reports:

"Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don't have the resources to fight," says Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity – a group heavily funded by the Kochs – in a damning clip from the film. And it seems to sum up the Kochs' approach to unions: Americans for Prosperity were integral to the 2011 union-busting fight in Wisconsin, and American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC, which works closely with the brothers) has drafted the model anti-union legislation used to slash collective bargaining rights for workers in 36 states. "They do not want to have safety regulations," says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in the film. "They do not want workers to be able to negotiate wages and benefits."

And we only have to look as far as our President Donald Trump, to see this attitude in action. In the past presidents have been professional politicians that represent members of the ruling class. Now we have a president who got rid of the  middle man, an actual $billionaire, a man who is actually part of the 1 percent, is now running the country. And it is like seeing a child take over the candy store. Regulations to protect workers and consumers are being plundered to let the capitalist class do what it wants, getting everything it wants at the expense of the common worker. Just recently Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney to the Consumer Protection Agency.  Mulvaney has made it clear he plans to get rid of as many rules as he can. This is a man who watches out for corporations, not the consumer. For Trump and Mulvaney consumer protection is obsolete. They will do what is best for the big banks and corporations—once again at the consumer’s and working classes’ expense.
The results of all of this are fairly obvious. According to Premilla Nadasen, of the Washington Post:

“But since the 1970s, the safety net has been diminished considerably. Labor regulations protecting workers have been rolled back, and funding for education and public programs has declined. The poor have been the hardest hit. With welfare reform in 1996, poor single parents with children now have a lifetime limit of five years of assistance and mandatory work requirements. Some states require fingerprinting or drug testing of applicants, which effectively criminalizes them without cause. The obstacles to getting on welfare are formidable, the benefits meager. The number of families on welfare declined from 4.6 million in 1996 to 1.1 million this year. The decline of the welfare rolls has not meant a decline in poverty, however.
Instead, the shredding of the safety net led to a rise in poverty. Forty million Americans live in poverty, nearly half in deep poverty — which U.N. investigators defined as people reporting income less than one-half of the poverty threshold. The United States has the highest child poverty rates — 25 percent — in the developed world. Then there are the extremely poor who live on less than $2 per day per person and don’t have access to basic human services such as sanitation, shelter, education and health care. These are people who cannot find work, who have used up their five-year lifetime limit on assistance, who do not qualify for any other programs or who may live in remote areas. They are disconnected from both the safety net and the job market.
In addition to the reduction of public assistance and social services, the rise in extreme poverty can also be attributed to growing inequality. To quote the U.N. report: “The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the U.S. … now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.” In 1981, the top 1 percent of adults earned on average 27 times more than the bottom 50 percent of adults. Today the top 1 percent earn 81 times more than the bottom 50 percent.”
As to how much the end of the cold war affects the actions of $billionaires and the rest of the 1 percent is questionable. It can’t be proven that the end of fear of a worker’s revolution has caused the greed and oppression of America’s ruling class today. But they do act as if there is now NO DANGER in pulling out all the stops to make America a paradise for them and near slavery for those at the bottom.
But there are those who believe the cold war did affect the way the US treated its citizens. For example from Shad's Blog:

Not all aspects of the cultural conflicts of the Cold War were negative. One of the worst blemishes on American culture of the time was racial inequality. Despite being freed from slavery approximately 80 years before the end of WWII, blacks were still second class citizens in the South and discrimination was common in varying forms almost everywhere. While change for blacks and other minorities came slowly, it did eventually come. President Truman “noted that if the United States were to offer the ‘peoples of the world’ a ‘choice of freedom or enslavement’ it must ‘correct the remaining imperfections in our practice of democracy” (Foner 857). Beginning in the early 1950s states began establishing fair employment commissions, they passed laws banning discrimination, and black voter registration began to rise….

……..President Johnson not only disliked injustice, he understood the international repercussions that came along with America’s perceived hypocrisy. In turn, he helped pass The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in public and many private accommodations. While it would not be accurate to say the civil rights movement happened because of the Cold War, the backdrop of the Cold War helped people to realize that aspects of American society were in contrast to the values we were professing to stand for and changes were needed. While cultural effects of the Cold War were primarily domestic, political battles between the Soviet Union and the United States were mostly fought on an international stage.

And it is no surprise that the Koch brothers have worked to reverse these advances, made in response to the cold war. Again from Rolling Stone:

During the 2012 election, an organization called True the Vote called itself a "citizen-led effort to ensure free and fair elections." Their tactic? Placing mostly white "poll-watchers" in polling places, many of them in minority areas, which led to complaints of voter intimidation. The funding came from Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. What's worse, ALEC, which counts roughly 20 percent of all state legislators as members, also drafted a model Voter ID bill and used its ranks to disseminate it across the country. Now, 41 states have introduced more than 180 such bills, which could mean that over 21 million people could be denied their most basic right as a citizen. "The reason that you target somebody's voting rights," Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, says… "is it makes it easier to take away the rest of their rights.

So today we have rampant inequality, corruption at the top and just plain greed at levels never seen since the 1930s. Most Americans, over the last century, bought all the cold war fear mongering of “commies trying to take away their freedom and democracy.” What they didn’t notice was the fear their leaders had of a society where people are equal. That terrified the ruling class way more than any loss of freedom or democracy. Today such leaders behave as if there is nothing to fear at all. And that isn’t so good for the rest of us. 

To be Continued=>

[1] There are massive amounts of anti-communist propaganda and literature that describes the extreme fear of US Politicians and pundits. For just one example see: How should the United States Confront Soviet Communist Expansionism?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Will a complete ass hole—Kris Kobach—really be our next governor?

By SJ Otto

My own political scale goes left to right. That’s not unusual. But I have several categories of right-wing labels that go "conservative- very conservative- ultra-right conservative" and then "ass hole." At some point a politician just doesn't deserve a simple far-far-far far to the right conservative label. I like to call them as I see them.
We do have the Nazis, real Fascists and Ku Klux Klan. And they are in the "ass hole" position of my label system. But there are those who are not members of such fascist oriented groups and they are so reprehensible that they may as well be members of the aforementioned groups. They are the people who are against the common welfare of at least some segment of people in our society. Our former Governor Sam Brownback viciously attacked poor people and the programs they relied on. He denied them access to health care. He treated them about a good as Hitler treated Jews. Today The Wichita Eagle [1] had an editorial piece by Mark Peterson that explains how Secretary of State Kris Kobach could easily win the upcoming gubernatorial election to be our next governor. Peterson admits that Kobach is strongly disliked. And yet he may win. I can understand how that would happen. First there is a primary for both Democrats and Republicans. While there are many candidates to choose from on the Republican ticket, Kobach is the best known Republican running. While there are a lot of middle of the road Republicans who would never vote for such an obnoxious candidate as Kobach, the more repulsive "ass hole" Republicans will turn out in high numbers to put their candidate over the top. Most Kansas are too intelligent to vote for such a narrow minded "ass hole" as Kobach. But only Republicans can vote in the primary and that gives the "ass holes" a great advantage.
The next big advantage is Greg Orman who is running as an independent. This is how, as Peterson explained it, "that Bizarro World outcome could unfold." Orman is probably a fairly progressive candidate, at least compared to Kobach. But he is running against a Democrat. We don't know who that will be yet. But whoever wins the Democratic primary they are likely to be way more liberal or progressive than Kobach. Kansas is a Republican state but at times people here elect Democrat governors. As Peterson wrote: "electing an independent to the governor’s office has a July in Kansas blizzard's chance." What he is likely to do is split the vote. For a Democrat to win in Kansas, they have to win over a large section of Republicans —the kinds of Republicans that are able to evaluate the actual issues and not just continuously vote for Republicans for the sake of Republicans. And then there are the "ass holes" who willingly vote for the worst and most despicable people running.
There are the xenophobes who enjoy seeing all those anti-immigrant policies that Kobach has enacted. Then there are the racist (who are usually also) xenophobes who like the way Kobach has knocked these people off the voter rolls. And there are those who loved a governor who followed his right-wing ideology despite bringing the state closer to
ruination. And most racist people also hate poorer people and just about any other groups of minorities who are different from them.
I have to admit that calling a mainstream politician an “ass hole” is not very professional. It shows a lack of respect for the institution of journalism. But then again, I’m not a real professional politician or journalist. Blog writing is a kind of entertainment pass time where an unprofessional journalist can call them like he/she sees them.
I see a mean spirited ass hole who has shown a complete lack of professional behavior and an attitude of “if it works do it, even if it is just plain unfair.” Fair play and a sense of common decency is missing. So I just call them like I see them.

[1] Mark Peterson, "How Kobach survives his way to gubernatorial top," The Wichita Eagle, February 18, 2018, p. 4B

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Once again we have the insanity of the NRA

By SJ Otto
Once again we have a school shooting. We had 17 known students killed by a former high school student who got mad and decided to "shoot up the school."
People will wring their hands and complain that we should pass some kind of gun laws. Maybe we need better background checks? Maybe stop guns from being around a school? Maybe put restrictions on what kind of guns people can buy?
But we all know that any new gun laws are "dead on arrival." The NRA (National Riffle Association or as I put it, National Republican Association since this group almost always supports Republicans) will oppose any new gun laws and no politician will dare to oppose what they say. Oh sure... a few Democrats will bravely stand up and propose new gun restrictions, but the NRA will win in the final count and nothing will change. For example, just look at all the other school shooting that have taken place in the last 20 years. There was quite a bit. Or worse yet, let's look at the school shootings in the last year. There have been 18 school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018. That seems like a lot.
So what does the NRA and their finely tuned leadership say about these shootings? "Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns," According to such right-wing jerks as Todd Rokita, Member of the US House of Representatives from Indiana's 4th district. We hear that refrain over and over again from both the NRA and Republican politicians.
I don't want a lot of restrictions on guns. I oppose gun control in general. But the NRA and the Republicans have supported gun rights and the right to conceal and carry to the point where they have gotten ridiculous. Should we change the law to the point where 18 year olds, rather than being 21 years of age, are allowed to carry guns? Such changes have been in the works and the NRA supports that. Is there an age where people are just too immature to own dangerous hand guns or assault riffles? According to the NRA the answer is no. Any one of any age should be able to buy a hand gun or any kind of gun.
There is a way to defend the right of adults to own guns and there are common sense ideas as to keeping such weapons from children. If the NRA gets their way, their new motto will be "good children with guns (hand guns or assault riffles) can stop bad children who have guns. The NRA support insanity and the rest of the country needs to wake up and stop this ridiculous organization.   

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. reduced to pedaling trucks—Super Bowl Ad

By SJ Otto
I hate commercials. They annoy me. At times they try to pretend they are entertainment. Other times they pretend to be news updates. But their aim is always to try and get us to buy something. Larry King says he likes to connect people with things that work. He is simply trying to sell us clam oil pills to stop pain. If I could get rid of commercials I would.
This year, as with many years past, the Super Bowl ads are now looked forward to as if they were real entertainment. I see news people showing us the most interesting and anticipated ads for the Super Bowl. But now the ads have hit an all-time low as Dodge uses part of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech to sell us their trucks.

“Amid the commercial miasma swirling around Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast, one advertisement actually stood out as something of a cultural and social event. It was an ad for Dodge Ram trucks, featuring the uplifting words of none other than Martin Luther King Jr.
The ad provoked immediate comment on social media – none of it, as far as we can tell, positive. It was seen as a landmark in crassness. That was true not least because in the speech excerpted for the ad, a 1968 sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct,” King spends some considerable time excoriating the advertiser-driven quest for material acquisitions, including cars.
“We are so often taken by advertisers,” he declared. “They have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying…. You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford.” Those words weren’t in the script for the Ram truck company (which is owned by, yes, Fiat Chrysler). The ad just stuck to King’s exhortation to become great by serving others.”

Apparently the King family gave permission for Dodge to use this speech. So what were the King family members thinking when they allowed a speech by one of our most beloved social commentators of the 20th century? I can only guess— $$MONEY$$!
This ad takes a speech that was meant to inspire people to think about the meaning of our lives and our relationship towards others and gave it a new meaning—to buy our trucks. The seriousness of such a speech is lost on the crass commercialism and materialism that has soaked in to every fiber of our collective being. The message is simple—buy lots of stuff, whether you need it or not, and contribute to the economy. Such crass commercialism seems to be a form of cultural pollution. Ads are everywhere we go—TV radio, our computers. They are in every public place imaginable. The message is always to buy something. As a culture I would like to think that Americans have more to say about life than buy something and try to find happiness through the ownership of material things.