Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Cosmic Tapestry Instead

"The Big Bang Never Happened,” by Eric J Lerner, 1992

Once a theory becomes the title of a long-running comedy TV show and also a Hollywood movie called ‘The Theory of Everything,” you know it’s doomed.  Lerner shows you why.  Lerner is a plasma cosmologist who, from his somewhat dated vantage point in the 1980s, disassembles the weak scientific evidence of the Big Bang cosmology and suggests a more provable and simple replacement.  In doing so, he also traces the history of philosophic, religious and scientific thought starting in Greece, and shows how Platonic idealism and mysticism have made a comeback through the theory of the Big Bang.   Lerner is a science writer, so the text is mostly understandable to a layman, and when its not, it normally doesn’t matter ‘too’ much.

Spiral Galaxy - spacey power generator!
The book collects the work of many different scientists working against the scientific ‘establishment,’ which protects its pet theory with vehemence.  Lerner even questions the ‘peer review’ process, which blocked publication of his plasma articles in astronomy journals because of the power of leading astronomers.  Lerner sees the Big Bang theory as a re-creation of Augustine’s ‘ex nihilo’ Christianity circa 400 A.D., reflecting a current stagnation of science and (bourgeois) thought.  But this is not yet the dominant view among cosmologists.  He points out that most of the people in the field use math-based, not empirically-based methods, reflecting the recurring influence of idealism. 

Lerner even identifies the Greek abhorrence of labor as key to understanding the origins of the anti-empirical outlook. Most in cosmology don’t want to get their hands dirty in a lab, as 95% of papers in 1980 were math-based, seeking 'beautiful' formulas.  He indicates how science is affected by social attitudes.  As part of this he suggests that the idea of ‘pure reason’ originated from money earned through slavery and the consequent abstract accounting generated by that practice.  Lerner links the historical triumph of science with the triumph of free labor after the middle ages. (Or as a Marxist might also put it, the triumph of wage slavery…)

The foremost thinker in this book is Hannes Alven, who pioneered a new way of looking at the formation of planets, the solar system, stars, galaxies, and super-clusters of galaxies.  Alven thinks they are created mostly by massive electro-magnetic forces.  Alven and Lerner see the universe as an infinite electro-magnetic energy grid that has always existed, and is changing all the time.  Gravity itself plays a complementary but limited role in this universe.  Lerner points out that gravity alone (the ‘rock’ upon which general relativity and the Big Bang rests) does not have enough power to account for the mass, shape, age, size and energy in the universe, or the supposed original ‘expansion.’ 

Alven first began to foment a different theory by looking at the aurora borealis, common in his home country of Sweden.  The aurora borealis is caused by electro-magnetic solar prominences on the sun sending out charged particles that interact with the earth's magnetic field.  It forms characteristic colorful plasma filaments – something  Alven later noticed was common to galaxies too. What is remarkable is how ‘scalable’ the tiny shapes produced in lab experiments with electro-magnetism are – cells, filaments, ribbons, helixes, whirlwinds, vortices and spirals.  They are very similar to the structure of massive galaxies and super-clusters – and Alven thinks they reflect a common energy source.  The structure of giant galaxy clusters has been called the ‘cosmic tapestry’ and looks like an electrical-magnetic force field, not the result of an explosion from one point.   

Some of the books’ high points:

  1. Lerner shows the evidence for ‘black holes’ is thin – a favorite topic of Hawking.  He thinks they are much more likely some sort of electro-magnetic quasar.  Spinning galaxies create a massive current that spirals towards the center of a galaxy - some ‘ten billion-trillion amperes’ – ending in a massive outpouring of energy at the center.  Note:  Even Hawking is now backing off on black holes, given the myriad problems associated with the theory, such as some energy leakage. 
  2. The Big Bang predicts certain quantities of elements like helium that do not actually exist in the quantities required of the Big Bang.  Experiments have shown that stars generate helium normally, so you don’t need a Big Bang to explain its presence in the universe.
  3. Dark matter is another unlocated companion to the Big Bang theory – still to be found.  It is necessary because the amount of matter in the universe is too little for the Big Bang theory, (100 times less!) so they had to make it up.
  4. Super-strings?  A purely mathematical invention, never located either.
  5. The universe is ‘clumpy’ and un-homogeneous, not uniform or homogeneous, as assumed by Einstein.  Later cosmologists expected smoothness and consistency in the universe, given the conditions of the ‘birth’ of the universe - an explosion from one source.  However, the observable universe is not like that.
  6. Ancient super-cluster star galaxies are many billions of years older than predicted by the Big Bang.  Similar to the Greenstone rocks found in Ely, Minnesota, which are 4.3 billion years old, older than the time indicated in the Bible.  It’s the same problem, but here these clusters are around 60 billion years old, not 10-20, the age of the Big Bang.
  7. According to Lerner, the Hubble red shift, which is a key piece of evidence for the Big Bang, is still an open question – the only really open question.  There are several theories - perhaps it is a reflection of changes in our part of the universe.  Alven thinks the red shift is caused by matter/anti-matter collisions.  These two forces generally are kept apart, but sometimes the barriers between them (the “Leidenfrost” layer) are not sufficient.
  8. Experiments have shown there is something faster than light. 
  9. Galaxies and galaxy clusters have a structure related to each other - almost like a ladder - not a spray from a central location.
  10. The too smooth cosmic micro-wave background radiation is not a reflection of the Big Bang.  It was first theorized as some sort of background echo of that event, but has been shown to be produced normally in the present.
  11. Einstein’s theory of a closed universe, with gravity bending everything back in upon itself, is based on a level of gravity that is not in existence.
  12.  The growing variety of particles theorists use to populate the universe – neutrinos, axions, WIMPS, the many quarks, leptons, gluons, muons, pions, baryons etc. - might exist in a lab – but most do not. 
  13.  Infinity is supposedly the property of God, according to religious Catholics.  Hence they believe that nature or the universe cannot be infinite or unending.  Otherwise, ‘nature’ is God - and that’s paganism or pantheism. If you think the sun is really the most important thing in our little corner of the Milky Way galaxy, you’d be a bit of a pantheist and not a good orthodox Christian. 
  14. Lerner thinks that order comes out of ostensible chaos.  The theories of the ‘heat death’ of the universe or the final triumph of the ‘second law of thermodynamics’ – entropy - over every other process is simply wrong.  The development of the universe, of planets, of life shows that complexity grows out of simplicity, that change usually leads towards some kind of overall development or progress.  Thermonuclear fusion in stars is an example of growing complexity, not deterioration.  Lerner tops off his theory with the development of humans.  He is somewhat of a positivist. 
  15. Time goes in one direction.  Einstein considered time to be just another dimension, when actually it is the context in which the other dimensions exist.  Time does not reverse and there is no proof that it does.  To abandon time and history is to abandon experimentation, as nearly all science is based on measurement by time.  Going back in time is a fiction trope.
  1. Lerner connects scientific ideas with their social context.  For example, quantum physicists like Heisenberg and Bohr were brought up in Germany and Denmark during fascist times, when they worked on the Nazi nuclear program.  During this period they interpreted quantum theory in a mystical way, reflecting the dominant ideas of fascism.  They believed that logic doesn’t apply to the quantum world and that particles had ‘free will’ and could appear randomly.  Einstein opposed them in their dismissal of causality.    
  2.  A ‘theory of everything’ is impossible because the universe is infinite.
18.  Cosmic rays are not a product of the Big Bang, but of forces in the present universe.
  1.  Protons do not decay.  Proton decay was predicted by the ‘grand unified theory,’ a cousin to the ‘theory of everything,’ but this decay has not been discovered. 
  2.  Baby or multiple universes don’t exist, as posited by Hawking.  Again, no proof.
Lerner provides an explanation of plasma cosmology as an alternative to the Big Bang. Plasma cosmology relies on basic physics, violates no rules of science, is testable and observable, and has been shown to be accurate from small scales to large.  It is based on the force of electro-magnetism, produced by rotating bodies conducted through space gases – the plasma.  Electro-magnetism and quantum phenomena may even be linked by microscopic hydrodynamics on the micro level.  As Lerner puts it, “The result of this gravitational-electro-magnetic stage of evolution is the production of a complex and ordered system of entities, ranging from stars to galaxies to super-clusters, each pouring out concentrated electrical energy.”  Lerner thinks fusion is the ultimate source for carbonless power, yet present science has not been able to get around standard cosmology to focus on it.  

If you are interested in this topic, this book is a good addition to your library.

Other commentaries and books on this topic below:  Mike Gimbel’s talk at Mayday Books (video), my commentary and his pamphlet on the issue, “Dialectics and the New Physics,” reviews of the books “Reason in Revolt,“ and the “Ten Assumptions of Science.”  Use blog search box, upper left.  Other reviews on the relationship of science to dialectics, like "Ubiquity,' are also below.

And I bought it in the excellent used section at Mayday Books for $1

Red Frog
March 29, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jury of the Spotless Minds

THREE DAYS in the JURY POOL

March 14, Monday.  First day of this jury pool.  100 people in jury waiting room in basement of courthouse.  We are told there are about 300 hearings a day upstairs, many being trials.  Maybe 3 black people, 1 Latino in the whole pool from what I can tell.  2 panels were called on Monday – 18-24 people a piece.  I was not called.  The majority left sat and dozed, worked, read, cruised the internet or just stared.  One woman started a puzzle.

Dogs Deliberate our Fate
Tuesday, March 15, 3 panels were requested and I was called on one. As you go up to the courtrooms, they actually scan you like an airport, as if someone would plan to kill someone by accidentally getting called on a jury for their case!  It is a ‘criminal’ matter.  The Hennepin county attorney is there, representing the ‘Government v Hassan’ or some caption like that.  Charges are 5th degree assault and ‘disturbing the peace.’  4 police officers are the witnesses – the only witnesses.  A black Somali man is the defendant.  In voir dire (the process of asking questions of jurors to choose a jury), they wanted to know if anyone was related to police. 3 people were. Lord.

The panel was asked if they could be impartial about police.  This question was put to an all white panel, with no Somalis.  No real peers for the defendant!  I told the judge I was a supporter of Black Lives Matter and did not believe cops told the truth, even under oath.  I was dismissed.  No one else said no, and perhaps they lie to themselves.  The setup is familiar - a black man before a white jury, brought up on bullshit charges, with cop witnesses.  5th degree assault and ‘disorderly conduct’ probably mean he breathed heavily on a cop and 'disorderly conduct' meant he called him a name.  Hennepin County is wasting our time and money – represented by a wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor who is probably carrying out the will of the police.  The all white panel was youngish, with two psychologists - boy and girl scouts eager to do right.  You know that bad feeling you get when something looks like a trap or a setup?  

 Wednesday, March 16, I was called again in the first pool.  This time a civil insurance case – ‘State Farm v some appliance repair business,’ over costs to flooded home. In voir dire again.  State Farm did not want to cover the flood, of course.  Insurance is about making profits, not insuring people.  They rejected an unemployed black man who said he had been upset that he was called to serve on a jury.  Also a fat white Burger King worker, a working-class guy that said he had a bad experience with State Farm and some girl who assembled catheters.  I was also rejected, as I had a bad experience with State Farm too and said I didn’t like insurance companies.

They actually ask questions like, “Will your opinion of insurance companies allow you to make a fair decision in this matter?”  To answer these questions without lying would require most people to be born yesterday or to be completely ignorant.  They actually asked how you felt about being in the jury pool – like it’s some kind of great event.  You are supposed to be ‘interested,’ ‘no problem,’ ‘excited,’ etc.  You are supposed to believe justice will be done.

Rest of Wednesday, sitting with other rejects from other panels.  Now the proportion of black people is still about the same - 3 out of 20.  Looking at this group, my gut feeling is that they are filtering out lower working-class people, mostly black but also white ones.  Then they let us rejects go, and everyone cheered. 

What would you do if you were on a jury about some bullshit marijuana charge?  Prostitution?  Loitering?  Sodomy?  Or all the other things that are illegal that shouldn’t be?  Or the plaintiff was some rich corporation or person?  One theory is you lie, risk contempt of court, get on the jury and vote innocent or guilty depending on your politics.  I chose not to go that route.

To get on many of these juries, it seems you have to have no opinion about much of anything in society.  Or at least not be honest about it.  You must have a ‘spotless mind.’ And have the presence of a clean-cut, obedient Eagle Scout. Yet even these very-filtered juries are an exception to the rule of justice in the U.S.   Nearly all criminal defendants, without adequate defense counsel or funds, are forced to plead guilty to lesser charges.  Most civil cases settle, at least in Hennepin County.  As you can see here, few juries, many trials.  Justice grinds on, but, like raising and slaughtering animals for meat, you don’t want to see the sausage-making.  

Red Frog
March 25, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Old & New Conquistadors

“The Open Veins of Latin America – Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,’ by Eduardo Galeano, 1973-1979. 

Galeano makes the supposedly dry phrases of Marxist and political economy come leaping to life.  Primitive accumulation, sub-imperialist, international division of labor, agro-export and resource-export economies, mono-cropping, sub-proletariat, debt and wage slavery, international ‘credit’ and national debt, capital imports, cultural neo-colonialism, reserve army of the unemployed, horizontal and vertical monopolies, oligopoly, latifundia, disequilibrium, under-development, disinvestment, internal imbalances, unequal exchange, denationalization, profit repatriation, lack of internal markets, ‘free’ trade, national & comprador bourgeoisie, imperialism, colonialism, slavery – all take on powerful resonances through his lyrical prose.  He intended to write a history that was not boring.  He has succeeded.
  
Romantic Conquistadors meet Colorful Aztecs - 1519
Galeano tours Latin American history the way a novelist might.  He concentrates on the various economic periods of Latin America’s history, not on its emotional crises or its artistic heritage or its magical mirrors.  Starting from the cruel consequences of Columbus’ landing in Hispaniola up to Latin American’s role as a cheap labor and resource colony for American and European manufacturers, the ‘open veins’ are those relished by vampiric economic systems.  Looting, rape and pillage are polite words to describe the results. Though this book mostly ends in 1973 on the eve of the coup against Allende, basically it still results in heaps of bodies and economic blood-letting, as colonialism and imperialism have distorted Latin America to this day.

Galeano makes clear that the ‘national bourgeoisies’ of Latin America did not even fulfill the role of consolidating an independent ‘national’ economy in their various countries, let alone uniting in a real common market or country as happened in most of North America and Europe.  The seaports to elsewhere are the centers of these countries, not the roads to each other.  Unity was the dream of Bolivar and his followers and the many revolutions against outside control, most of which failed.  History will see if the present state of Latin America, which is attempting to move away from the dictatorships of local thugs and imperial capital will actually create independent countries or a united hemisphere.  Cuba was the only one that completely broke with the imperial system, and that was because it took a working-class path.  It would seem that only the working-class can even accomplish national tasks.  Given recent events in the BRICS and their South American subsidiaries like Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, the outcome is not at all clear.  The age of market & finance imperialism mitigates against real independence.

Galeano describes the relations of production between the ‘horseman and the horse.’  The initial extraction of silver and gold over the bodies of indigenous slaves in places like Potosi’s Cerro Rico (8 million lives!) and Ouro Prieto, exported through Spain to the bankers in England, the Netherlands, France & Italy.  This made European industrialization possible.   The creation of agro-export economies producing sugar, indigo, cotton, rubber, tobacco, coffee, cacao, meat – leaving less food in the stomachs of the campesinos than in the stomachs of the Europeans and later, the Americans.  This agricultural economy spurred African slavery in the islands, in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.  Then the removal of resources - first guano, then nitrates, oil, natural gas, copper, iron ore, tin, bauxite, nickel, manganese, saltpeter, diamonds on a mass scale.  These processes destroyed the soil and left wastelands of poverty when the rushes were over. As time went on, the weak and parasitic comprador bourgeoisies were bribed to sacrifice local ‘light’ industrial development to imports.  Later heavy industry invaded owned by foreign corporations using local cheap labor and resources, their profits expatriated to build skyscrapers in New York.  Import prices rose while raw materials’ prices went down like a broken teeter-totter.   Lastly, debt through colonial and imperial banks and later entities like the World Bank become the biggest national import while crippling interest one of the largest exports.  Will the paralytics even be provided a wheelchair? asks Galeano. 

White Devil God of Potosi, Bolivia
In the process, the Latin American ‘rebellions of the hanged,’ as the Old Gringo B. Traven might put it, are enumerated.  The crushing of Montezuma.  The war led by Tupac Amaru in Peru that got rid of slavery and forced labor, and who was later tortured to death in the central plaza of Cuzco.  The longest black slave rebellion in history, in Palmares in northeast Bahia Brazil, which eliminated money and created a free republic.  It was portrayed in the book “The War at the End of the World” by Mario Vargas Lhosa.  The bloody dismemberment of Paraguay in the “War of the Triple Alliance” by ‘neighbors’ at the behest of British money.  This event was denounced by left populist Huey Long as a war benefitting the criminals at Standard Oil of New Jersey.  Capital yawned.   

The repeated efforts of nationalist, anti-imperial leaders to break from outside control – Zapata and Cardenas in Mexico, Sandino and his later followers in Nicaragua, Varela & Rosas in Argentina, Arbenz in Guatemala, Gaitan in Columbia, Lechin in Bolivia, Artigas in Uruguay, Alvardo in Peru, Jagan in Guyana, Vargas and Goulart in Brazil, Francia and Lopez in Paraguay and Balmaceda & Allende in Chile.  The Cuban revolution which overthrew the slavish Batista kleptocracy was the only long-running but isolated break.  And now that too is under threat.

The titles of chapters alone are indicative:  “The Dimensions of Industrial Infanticide;” “Development is a Voyage with more Shipwrecks than Navigators.” “Cheap Hands for Coffee,”  “…the Importance of Not Being Born Important,” “Technocrats are Better Hold-Up Artists than Marines” “The Contemporary Structure of Plunder,” “The Goddess Technology Doesn’t Speak Spanish,” and so on.

Clearly U.S. attempts to undermine Latin America independence and wealth continue to this day.  The undercover support for the coup and dictators in Honduras (with Clinton leading the pack) is only the latest example.  The TPP is still on track and the IMF and World Bank still salivate over their loans.  The backing of the corrupt president and ruling stratum in Mexico, the U.S.’ nearest neighbor, is another example that impacts the U.S. every day. The U.S. is also backing middle & upper-class demonstrations in Brazil and Venezuela. 

Galeano ends thus:  “The task lies in the hands of the humiliated, the dispossessed, the accursed.  The Latin American cause is above all a social cause:  the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country.” 

Related reviews below:  An Anthology of the Writings of J.C. Maritequi,” “The Daminficados,” “The Diary of Che Guevara,  Secret History of the American Empire,” “The Shock Doctrine,”

And I bought it at Mayday Books!

Red Frog

March 18, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Domestic Northern Ireland, The Local Falklands, The Enemy Within

“Class Against Class – The Miners’ Strike, 1984-1985,” Edited by Sean Matgamna, 2015, reprinted from 1985

The year-long British miner’s strike of 1984-85 was the largest labor upheaval in Britain since the 1920s.  It marked the beginning of full-blooded neo-liberalism in Britain and a decisive defeat for the labor movement of that country.  This brutal struggle at one point pitted 160,000 workers, 80% of the miner’s union, the NUM, against the capitalist state’s plan to close the majority of mines.  They faced militarized police, hostile courts, a government intent on destroying the union and a hysterical media.  Interestingly, the National Coal Board leader planning to close the majority of British coal pits, Ian McGregor, was also involved in the 1970s Harlan County coal wars in the U.S. Thatcher eventually called the NUM ‘the enemy within.”  It was truly class against class.

The Battle of Orgreave
 Their internal enemies were hostile or passive labor leaders and a minority of non-striking miners who worked as scabs.  These ‘labor leaders’ were really the first stirrings of “New” Labour in the party.  The miners’ allies were sections of the organized working class in steel, transport and on the docks, the ranks of the Labour Party, along with the broad sympathy of other union workers, unorganized workers, some community organizations and the women of the mining villages.  

Matgamna is a long-time Trotskyist activist in Britain, a former docker and now leader of a Schactmanite grouping that advocates for Trotskyist unity, though fails at it.  This book saw the strike as possibly successful, unlike some more cynical tendencies in the British left. As he quotes Rosa Luxembourg: “The socialist revolution is the only form of war … in which the ultimate victory can be prepared only by a series of defeats.”  Which is putting a nice spin on it, indeed.

Matgamna includes a time-line of the key events in the strike. He praises the involvement of miner’s wives, who first started food kitchens and raised funds, then joined the roving pickets, made speeches, formed an organization WAPC and grew as a social force.  WAPC hinted at a different kind of feminism – proletarian feminism.  He mentions the efforts of the left-led organization ‘Gays & Lesbians Support the Miners’ (‘GLSM’), which was also at the center of a film about the strike.  There are no in-depth depictions of the constant violence between police and strikers but 2 miners were killed and many were injured by a militarized police that occupied mining towns like they were Northern Ireland or any occupied country.   NUM leader Arthur Scargill himself was injured and hospitalized during the battle of Orgreave, which saw days of fighting between roving mass pickets and violent police.  7 years later the courts decided that the police had acted illegally.  However, that decision came a bit too late. 

Reading about this strike is to understand the potential weaknesses of the class when it goes into full-scale battle, or even a small one.  This is all familiar, but this post-mortem heightens them. One is the attitude of the Labor Party leadership and the Trades Union Congress (“TUC”). Both were divided on the strike, amazingly enough.  Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labor Party, inveighed against ‘violence’ by the strikers and wanted a ‘democratic’ vote of the NUM to make the strike legitimate – as if the overwhelming majority of miners fighting the threat of shutting down most of the coal pits was not legitimate. These positions mirrored those of Thatcher’s Tory government and the capitalist law courts. 

The courts ruled the strike illegal and later attempted to seize union funds based on NUM bylaws, not actual public laws.  The timeline shows constant interventions by the courts, which once again shows courts are not neutral bodies, unlike their rosy image in story and song. Breaking unjust laws and engaging in physical defense are essential to any significant labor struggle, and the labor leadership forgot this too.  Mass pickets were basically outlawed.  Massive fines were levied on unions and receivers appointed to control them.  Secondary boycotts, honoring picket lines and sympathy strikes were also made illegal.  Yelling ‘scab’ or standing in a road or sidewalk became arrestable. Roadblocks and home invasions became legitimate. Police violence was allowed.  12,000 arrests were made of miners and their supporters and 20,000 injuries were inflicted.  Scotland Yard coordinated the whole process.  Every weapon in labor’s arsenal was made illegal through the new Tory laws.  The labor movement was essentially criminalized. 

A section of miners in Nottinghamshire kept on working, so the whole NUM was not on strike.  So any attempt to spread this strike – which was the only way to succeed against the government – started with the ranks of the miners themselves.  This in the face of Nottinghamshire being turned into a scab-herding mini-police state.  The strike only spread intermittently to steel workers, to dockers, to auto workers, to transport & rail workers, to engineers.  So there was no real ‘second front,’ as advocated by Scargill.  The TUC or LP never seriously followed up on ‘hot cargoing’ coal, coke or oil, or shutting down the power plants, nor did it make a move to a 24-hour general strike or a longer one.  Mind you, this in the context of the most severe class war in 60 years!  If England had gone dark, it would have forced the government to call in troops – and then the class struggle would have become perhaps more than even Thatcher could handle – a struggle between two poles of power. 

Most glaringly of all, the “Communist” Polish government, at the time under General Jarulzelski, began shipping tons of coal to England which undermined the strike.  That was the role of the military bureaucrats in Warsaw – scabbing for Thatcher.  The U.S. and Australia sent the most, which shows the miner’s unions in the U.S. were not paying attention either.

Matgamna looks at the weakness of the strike in Nottinghamshire. Nottinghamshire NUM had not agreed to the national NUM’s call for a strike.  The production there kept enough English coal coming to keep the lights on.  It functioned as a scab organizing center, a demoralizing and disorganizing force and a hypocritical argument for Thatcher on the need for a ‘democratic’ vote on the strike. Thatcher never put the mine closures or police violence to a vote, certainly! Matgamna contends that district would have never voted to go out, given their conservative and vacillating history, but the national ballot would have helped make the strike look better. As it is, Notts only observed an overtime ban, in spite of efforts by a rank-and-file Strike Committee in Nottinghamshire to close pits there.  Solidarity failed even within the NUM.

What else could have won?  Certainly, if the whole UK labor movement had gone out as one.  Scargill, Tony Benn, Ken Livingston and others called for a general strike, even a 24-hour one. 

Matgamna reckons with the climate change aspect of coal in a minor way, but in 1984 this was not so prominent.  What is known is that capital never has an organized plan for transferring workers to other sectors of the economy.  They use this disorganized strategy to retain useless or dangerous work, like advertising, coal-mining or military manufacture – claiming jobs will be lost!  This is really due to capital’s chaotic approach to economic life.  Even analyses of the coal board’s ‘profitability’ regarding coal mining were skewed, as the studies did not take into account dole costs, lost tax revenues, shut-down costs, lost jobs and incomes for surrounding businesses.  Not to mention the military costs – 4.667 billion pounds!  Or the human and health costs.  Like the environment, humans and collateral damage are invisible and not priced by capitalist economists.

So what happened to the coal fields after the strike?  41,000 jobs had been lost prior to the strike. During the strike, the NUM discovered that 70,000 more layoffs and 141 pits were to be closed.  After the strike, the closures were instituted.  Tens of thousands of miners lost their jobs. Many villages and towns were decimated.  The NUM is a specter of its former self.  This happened later even in the conservative scab area of Nottinghamshire where 10 of 13 pits were shut by 1992, while some highly-automated collieries remain that employ few miners. 

This harsh strike showed that capital has no interest in the welfare of the working class, but are only ‘users.’  If you didn’t know that already, there it is. 

Related material: “Pride,” film centered on GLSM support for the miners.  Jimmy’s Hall,” about the Irish freedom struggle against the U.K..  Also “Chavs” and “Football Factory,” both about non-political working-class culture in Britain.

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
March 15, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Dutchman Suffers a Concussion while Working Dead

Lefty 'Entertainment 'Round-Up
What’s that about “bread & roses?”  Or was that ‘bread & circuses’?  I guess it depends on what you pay attention to.  Some meditations on current cultural offerings that might mean something more than entertainment.

“The Dutchman” and “The Owl Answers”, by Leroi Jones / Amiri Baraka & Adrienne Kennedy

These two plays are on stage right now at the Penumbra Theater, one of two African American theaters in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Penumbra has been helmed by Lou Bellamy for years, who made a specialty of putting on August Wilson’s excellent play cycles.  Now his daughter has stepped in to help, and perhaps putting up “Dutchman” is a result of that. 

Things Happen on Subways
‘Dutchman’ is essentially a play about white people killing black people and getting away with it, written in 1963 - and still topical 53 years later.  The play happens on a subway train, perhaps in New Jersey, where a beautiful white woman seduces an intelligent black man.  This eventually enrages him, and his reaction ultimately serves her real purposes.  Then she finds another black man on the train and the process starts again.  The sexual politics of white women infatuated with black men – and the reverse - serves as a subterranean force in the play.    The acting by the white woman is powerfully obnoxious.  ‘Dutchman’ has rarely been staged in the Twin Cities, so go see it.

The second one-act play on the bill,   ‘The Owl Answers,’ is far more problematic.  It was written in 1965 about the dilemma of ‘mulattoes’ – mixed ethnicity people – who have mixed-ethnicity parents but are always treated as ‘black.’  It portrays the dilemma of a daughter who’s father was a rich white man in North Carolina, and who had sex with his black cook.  The daughter attempts to embrace her European heritage, only to be attacked at every turn, and apparently ends up dead in a Harlem hotel room.  The play is a confusing interior monologue writ large - of masks, repeated trance-like dialog, a giant bird cage and whirling set and a death bed.  I do not think it works well.

“Concussion,” directed by Peter Landesman, lead played by Will Smith

This is the film that made Will Smith sit out the Oscars. American NFL “football” (which is really not played with the feet) is the target here.  Smith does a great job of playing a straight-arrow Nigerian doctor who first discovers and identifies traumatic head injuries resulting from the beating ‘football’ players take in high school, college and NFL games.  This happens after he autopsies several Pittsburgh Steelers' players.  The film is hard on the stone-walling and corrupt NFL hierarchy.  The U.S. government, in the shape of the FBI, allies with the NFL by arresting his supportive boss.  The sports media demonizes him, while some doctors suck up to the League and fans cheer or are unaware of the brutality.  But then it includes paeans to ‘football’s’ athletic ‘beauty’ – attempting to mitigate a sport that in its physical consequences for players is not that much different from boxing.  

I’m glad I dropped out of ‘football’ in 7th grade.  Mothers, don’t let her babies grow up to be football players.  That is what the NFL is afraid of.

“The Working Dead,” staged at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop, Minneapolis

Dudley Riggs is a comedy skit company.  If you can get by the over-loud music, the drink-pushing, the high price, the somewhat light legacy of Dudley Riggs, than this show will contain some nuggets for any drone who works in cubelandEssentially they took many aspects of working in an office – the smokers outside, the sick co-worker, e-mailing, fridge food, office romance, obnoxious office restructurings; ‘wellness' programs, the paperless office, the ‘happy’ HR person full of cliches, internet use, corporate jargon, software malfunctions, the threat of termination, lovable supervisors and one bad boss – and made a skit about each one.  Fingerhut, a failed company known to Minnesotans, even comes in for slams.

Unfortunately in Dudley Riggs' world, class conflict has been replaced by stupidity.  Workers are comical or stupid or lazy.  Only one arrogant boss – who has forced the whole office into a tiny space to save money, to enlarge his own office – appears.  We are truly the ‘working dead’ – great title – but unfortunately being a zombie for profit is just a hoot and not much else.  Yet paying attention to work itself – for the first time I think – exhibits an awareness by Dudley Riggs of what most do most of our days.  And that means something might be in the wind, and not just comedic hot air.

RF
March 10, 2016



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dembots Fail

A Night at the Caucuses

Rarely do I visit a Democratic Party ("DP") caucus, but it’s instructive if you do.  The details are telling.  March 1 in Minnesota, in my small precinct – 63A, 12-2 or something – hundreds of people were trying to get into a children’s classroom that might hold 50 people max, most having to stand.  The night was cold, but inside everyone’s heavy coats were hot.  Lines stretched down the hallways, down the interior steps and out the building, as 2 other precincts were also voting in the elementary school upstairs.  At 7:30 pm – a half hour after the caucuses were supposed to ‘convene’ – the line was still outside the building.   Voting was supposed to end at 8:00 PM. 

People wait in the cold to vote in the Minnesota Caucuses
The DP ‘conveners’ had not shown up on time.  Doors were still closed in 2 precinct rooms when I got there at around 6:30 – the time that people were told to show up.  Our quiet convener – who had been doing this for 20 years – was overwhelmed by the crowd, and could barely make himself heard.  Someone had to tell him where to stand so he could be heard.  (Really?)  They first had a tiny Folger’s coffee can –seriously – to hold the ballots, then figured out that might be too small and got a paper box from Cub.  They ran out of ballots and ‘registration’ forms.  They started using the school teacher’s paper…tearing  it into bits … for ballots and registrations.   Really.

I could have voted several times, as the ballot box was untended and not connected to the registration.  There was no clear indication how or ‘who’ would do the vote counting, as I left before finding out.  

Reports from around Minneapolis and St. Paul confirmed the same situation at other caucuses.  Now at first this is all farcical, but then you realize the DP people are not na├»ve.  They remember the flood in 2008, and should have been expecting the same.  Nope.  So was this incompetence or voter suppression or something else?  After all, they might be hoping that people would just turn around and go home. Sort of like the Minnesota version of those perpetually broken or limited voting machines in Florida or Ohio in black or college areas. It didn’t look or feel good, and people will not forget. 

After all, almost the whole Minnesota Democratic Party hierarchy – Governor Dayton, Senators Al Franken & Amy Klobuchar – endorsed Clinton.  These are the ‘super-delegates.’  The appointed Party apparatchiks.  Millionaire tee-totaler Mark Dayton; fake middle-class funny man Al Franken; war-monger Amy Klobuchar – all signed on to more full-blast neo-liberalism.   They might have known that Sanders would take Minnesota.   Representative Keith Ellison was the only one that broke ranks.  

After the voting, delegates for each candidate were to be chosen and toothless resolutions were to be passed – for those who could spend the next 2 hours crammed in a small room.  You see, those with iron butts are elected delegates to the next stage of the ‘process.’  I left before this, but pro-Clinton union people and pro-Sanders Socialist Alternative people were in the room, along with a majority of neighbors supporting Sander’s.  The older women sitting at tables were somewhat startled by the crowd.  I say toothless resolutions (in a sandbox caucus) because at the District and then State meetings, these resolutions are dumped or filtered out unless they correspond to what the hierarchy wants.  As DP Chair Wasserman pointed out, the ‘grassroots’ needs to be controlled.

So is the Democratic Party really ‘democratic’?  No.  The DP is not a membership organization.  It does not have regular meetings.  It is obviously disorganized.  Unions, socialist organizations and actual Labor Parties – like the Canadian NDP or the British LP –have regular meetings, membership, pay dues, have officers at meetings, generally follow Roberts Rules of Order, take minutes, vote on issues at meetings, etc.  Nearly all directly elect their leaderships – except the Stalinist-derived ones of course.  The working-class knows how to function.  The DP doesn’t have these actual democratic structures or methods.  The DP is party of elected officials.  It is run by a cabal of powerful pro-capitalist politicians, basically un-elected to their posts in the DP, instead chosen by each other.  The wealthy corporate funders of the DP, as every study has pointed out, have all the weight over crucial issues. It’s not the voting cattle, who have almost none.  Much as they wish to believe otherwise.

The DP is a top-down organization that, after the McGovern candidacy, will never let the ‘grassroots’ take over.  So ideas about building a ‘left’ in the DP have been a path to destruction for everyone who has tried it.  Just ask the DSA or the CP.  Sort of like going into a tunnel you will never come out of.  Goodbye!

As these ‘meetings’ showed, the DP is a hollow shell occasionally flooded by people who will later be ignored.   Thanks for your vote!  It is not a living organization on any working-class level.  It is made up of money and media and those who hold power.  And ‘power’ attracts – sometimes absolutely.  Which is why most present union and civil rights ‘leaderships’ still aligned with the DP leadership have sold their souls to power, not change.

No matter this mess at the caucuses, because evidently enough people did not turn around and go home.  Paraphrasing a certain vicious speech about Libya by the former Secretary of State – a country now destroyed - ‘she came, she saw, she died politically’ - at least in Minnesota. 

Red Frog
March 5, 2016