Thursday, February 2, 2023

Another Lost Cause

Monument – the Untold Story of Stone Mountain,” documentary by Kristian Weatherspoon, Producer

If you approach Stone Mountain from its back slope, it is a pleasant, airy, 30 degree hike with a great view. It was a former meeting place of the Creek and Cherokee. Stone Mountain is now a Georgia State Park with a golf course, a train ride, a meeting center, dinosaurs, a sky ride, hiking trails – its basically a weird amusement park around a granite dome. If you approach Stone Mountain from the front however, it has a big 'memorial' lawn and picnic area. Looming over that is a monstrous granite cliff face, with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and 'Stonwall' Jackson chiseled into its surface. It is the largest Confederate monument in the world, 3 acres large, bigger than a football field.

Davis was the slave-owner president of the Confederacy; Lee its failed general and Jackson, one of its best generals, killed by friendly fire. They are all on horseback, riding across some mythical battlefield that might still exist.

THE DOCUMENTARY

I attended the Athens, Georgia premier of a recent documentary on Stone Mountain's 'sculpture' called Monument, with an audience of older, academic, light-skinned folks. It tells the story of the existence of this memorial as an enduring monument to the 'lost cause' and the Confederacy. The mild-mannered documentary was peopled by academics, who called the issue 'complex' and 'complicated.' It isn't. It's pretty fucking obvious. Instead they asked for dialog and discussion, without calling for its removal, though they implied it. Like I said, mild-mannered and typical of Southern liberals. In the documentary one former Georgia governor said that the memorial was objectionable only to black people. Hell, its objectionable to way more than that.

You might think this monstrosity was created right after the Civil War, but you'd be wrong. The first attempt to carve the mountain was started in the 1920s, including an attempt by Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mount Rushmore. This was during a rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan used it as a meeting place in 1915 to re-invigorate their organization, as it had originally formed right after the Civil War. That year they inaugurated their rebirth by a Bible reading and the burning of a Christian cross at the summit of the mountain. After that the Klan had yearly meetings at Stone Mountain for decades, until 1962. 1915 was also the release of the racist Confederate film Birth of a Nation, which was originally called The Clansman. However, the first attempts at carving the mountain failed by 1928.

Then during the stirrings of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, another attempt was made. The segregationist Georgia state government bought Stone Mountain in 1952 for $2M and created a private organization to create the bas relief. Georgia enshrined in their legal code a statement that these carvings could never be removed. (O.C.G.A. § 50-3-1, et. Seq). The law states that it was to remember the 'cause' for which these men fought. It wasn't until 1970 that the sculptures were inaugurated, and fully completed in 1972. Today Stone Mountain is a state park overseen by the legislature. Georgia removed the Confederate battle flag from its state flag in 2001 but the Rebs still have this defaced monolith.

As can be seen by the timing, the monument was prompted by a massive wave of KKK terror and Jim Crowism in the South; and then as a response to the African-American civil rights movement. These were both made possible by the violent and political defeat of Reconstruction in the 1870s. In a sense, while the Confederacy lost the open military struggle, it 'won' the peace with guerrilla tactics, leading to 90 years of fascistic 'black codes' and Jim Crow. In fact, it is still trying to win that peace after the setbacks of the 1960s. One older interviewee recalls that he thought the South had won the Civil War, given its treatment in his local school. The carvings are not really about the Civil War, they are about continuing white supremacy, racism and some kind of nationalistic southern sentiment, all to benefit the corporate rulers of the region.

DIFFERING MONUMENTS

In one of the small towns in Minnesota stands a monument to the Union war dead in the town square. That town, Northfield, also celebrates the defeat of the James-Younger gang during a botched bank raid there. They were shot up by former Union soldiers after stealing around $27. They were a bunch of killers who fought with the vicious Quantrill's Raiders in the Civil War, a Confederate unit based in Missouri. Some have called this one of the last battles of that war. The reason is the bank they tried to rob held assets of the former Reconstruction governor of Mississippi, Adelbert Ames, who owned the Ames flour mill in town. It was a revenge robbery. Yet the seemingly neo-Confederate 'Mississipi Encyclopedia' on-line site calls Ames a “carpetbagger.”

On the other hand in Georgia, at a time when Confederate monuments are coming down from New Orleans to Richmond to U.S. military bases, they stand dotted across the state in small town squares, standing guard in front of courthouses. The Georgia Statehouse lawn hosts a statue of General Gordon, a Confederate general who ably fought in the Eastern campaigns, then became a “staunch anti-Reconstruction” politician. Stone Mountain Park in 2021 made a small concession to include verbiage about the mountain's link to slavery and the Klan in its museum. This is how things are done in the South. But still no dynamite.

Link to documentary:  https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/monument/

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “The Civil War in the U.S.” (Marx/Engels); “Why the South Lost the Civil War," "Lincoln" (Spielberg / Kushner); "Struggle & Progress," "The Neo-Confederate States," "Blockaders, Refugees and Contrabands," "The Bloody Shirt," "Guerillas, Unionists and Violence on the Confederate Home Front," "The Free State of Jones," "Andersonville Prison," "James-Younger Gang," "Southern Cultural Nationalism," "The Civil War in Florida," "A Blaze of Glory," "The State of Jones," "White Trash," "Drivin' Dixie Down" or use the words “Civil War” or “slavery."

The Cultural Marxist

February 2, 2023


Monday, January 30, 2023

"Tierra y Libertad"

 “Bad Mexicans – Race, Empire & Revolution in the Borderlands,” by Kelly Hernandez, 2022

This is the history of the Magonistas, a group Hernandez asserts were the radical spark that started the Mexican Revolution against the dictator Porfirio Diaz due to their militant activities on the U.S. and Mexican borderlands. This review cannot do justice to the books extensive detail and fascinating story, but it will trace the main lines.

The Magonistas are named after their main leader, Ricardo Flores Magón, who started opposing the Diaz dictatorship in Mexico City, then fled across the border into the U.S. in 1904. Magón read Kropotkin, worked with the IWW and was an anarchist intellectual. In the U.S. his group gathered arms, volunteers and made propaganda, hunted by the forerunner of the FBI. This was because of their proletarian politics and numerous raids into Mexican territory.

The U.S. opposed the Magonistas because they threatened the mines, oil, land and railroads U.S. businesses owned in Mexico – its first large-scale imperial investing adventure, around $500M in 1907. The U.S. was in a tight relationship with Diaz, who had given U.S. capitalists carte blanche. They both wanted the Magonistas gone, as did the southern U.S. segregationists, who had initiated “Juan Crow” laws and lynchings of Mexicans.

DIAZ DICTATORSHIP

Hernandez' describes the long rule of Diaz, who controlled Mexico from 1876 to 1911. A hero of the battle of Puebla and a 'modernizer' from the Liberal Party, he challenged Catholic theocracy and the Mexican color 'casta' system of Euro-Mexicans. Diaz used murder by the rurales, censorship, electoral fraud and patronage as his methods. His modernizing involved liquidating bandits, getting loans to build railroads to the U.S., privatizing land and allowing robber baron capital to flow into rubber, steel and oil. Mexican capitalists also participated in the land grab and became fabulously wealthy too.

Against this formidable array, Magón and his two brothers began agitating, writing for a newspaper in Mexico City called “Regeneración.” After they took direct aim at the dictatorship, their printing presses were destroyed and they were sent to Belem Prison several times. Eventually all the dissident press was outlawed. In 1904 the group understood that writing was not possible in Mexico and some headed to Laredo, Texas, to begin another phase of the struggle.

BROWN BELT

The borderlands' 'brown belt' was a haven for various anti-Diaz activists, including indigenous Yaqui and Apache. The U.S. side is where Mexican labor built the U.S. economy. Magón quarreled with some over anarchism versus socialism or bourgeois democracy, and with others against radical lesbianism. The group finally got money to restart Regeneración from the wealthy Francisco Madero. The Magonistas were hounded from Laredo to San Antonio to St. Louis and finally to Montreal by U.S. police and Diaz agents. In the process they formed the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) and established 'focos' among supporters in Mexico and the U.S.

The crunch came in 1906 in Cananea, 40 miles south of the border, at a copper mine owned by an opportunist gringo. The PLM inspired a strike against a severe wage cut, toxic air, a company store and poor housing. The miners were met with refusals to negotiate, then fire hoses, then guns – over 40 were killed in cold blood, along with two white mine supervisors. This 'race' war was really a class war and Diaz sent his most feared Colonel to deal with it. A large group of Arizona Rangers headed south too, ignoring a government order that U.S. troops not enter Mexico unless asked. The strike was put down, its leaders sentenced to 15 years, but the incident was the first crack in the wall. This foreign gringo invasion in favor of a massacre started to turn the tide against Diaz.

The PLM and Magón issued a radical 52 Pt. Program for Mexico, though it was not an anarchist one re Church, state or property. One of its key demands was to return land to campesinos and the indigenous. It was distributed across Mexico, including to a new Regeneración subscriber in Morelos named Emiliano Zapata. PLM military units were formed, mostly of miners, campesinos and migrant laborers. Magón's anarchist style was “prepared spontaneity.” He assumed that armed attacks would then spread throughout Mexico. They did not.

THE UPRISINGS

At a signal from Magón, uprisings began in September, 1906. The town of Jimenez was raided and the mayor and police locked up, while city funds were seized. That success was temporary and attacks on 5 other border towns failed. Some PLM fighters were caught and deported back to Mexican 'justice' – a first U.S. use of deportation outside the Chinese. Attempts at extradition failed due to the political nature of their actions. Another raid on Cuidad Juarez in October 1906 failed due to informers.

Private detectives hired by Diaz penetrated the U.S. Post Office and began reading coded and ciphered Magonista mail. This led to arrests of key figures in Mexico and attempts at rendition, kidnappings and people going underground. Magón was now always on the run. He was finally jailed in 1907 in Los Angeles after a crowd of Mexican workers prevented his kidnapping. In trial he and 2 others were defended by a Socialist defense counsel, but jailed for 3 years for violating the Neutrality Act for planning attacks.

Magonistas in Baja, 1911

In June 1908, the PLM led a successful attack on Viesca, near Torreon, deep in Mexico, then fled. There was a bloody attack on Las Vacas across from El Paso, torpedoed by informers, and another failed foray into the small border town of Palomas. The new U.S. “Bureau of Investigation” arrested Magonistas who had participated in the raids based on seized letters. Yet by 1910 the PLM had established more focos throughout the border. In late December 1910 Magoninstas launched their last actions – a failed attack on the small town of Janos and the successful seizing of Mexicali, Tijuana and a few other small towns in Baja with the help of the IWW. Hernandez pictures this latter as somewhat absurd, as they declared an anarchist commune under the slogan "Land and Liberty."  It was dominated by IWW anarchists with little support from the locals, and held on for some months in a chaotic fashion.

THE END

In 1908 Diaz, in a fit of incipient nationalism, began giving oil concessions to European capitalists, started taxing U.S. mining operations and in 1910 the State began buying up some railroads. This angered U.S. capitalists and the U.S. government and eventually ended their support for Diaz. A magazine series came out about labor slavery in Yucatan and turned many U.S. civilians against Diaz too. The burning of a Mexican worker in Texas by racists enraged all of Mexico. Madero had 'lost' the 1910 election and went to the U.S. and formed a new organization. He collected guns and eventually launched an attack on Casas Grandes, then Cuidad Juarez with the help of Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco. This successful battle, along with the mobilization of Zapata's forces south of Mexico City, led to the resignation of Diaz.

Magón refused to give up his extreme anarchist politics, pushed many former allies away, was jailed a number of times and finally died in Leavenworth Penitentiary. His body was eventually returned to Mexico City in the “Rotunda of Distinguished Persons,” a hero of the first phase of the Mexican Revolution.

The involvement of left-wing gringos in the Mexican revolts was used by the liberal Madero to attack the PLM as unpatriotic. The Magonistas – and this book covers many of them individually - were internationalists, even though many Mexicans viewed all gringos with suspicion. Generally laborers across Mexico and in the U.S. supported the PLM.  Although their rebellion was somewhat inept, mostly defeated and early, all of insurgent Mexico, including Madero's forces, were inspired by their audacity and politics.  Like the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, they foretold the future - a military defeat but a political victory.  

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “Drug War Capitalism,” “NAFTA 2” or “USMCA,” “The Latino Question,” “Frida Kahlo,” “Viva Zapata,” “The Dawn of Everything,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Lacuna” (Kingsolver); “Tropic of Chaos” (Parenti); “Juan Crow,” “In Dubious Battle” (Steinbeck), “Mayans MC,” “Pancho Villa Underground Railroad,” "Easter Rising."

And I bought it at May Day Books!

Red Frog

January 30, 2023

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The State Goes Deep

 "American Exception – Empire and the Deep State,” by Aaron Good, 2022

This is a left sociological look at what Good calls 'the deep state.' He considers it part of a 'tripartite' state – the public political one we all know, the security state (CIA, FBI, NSA, military, justice system) we also are aware of, and a secretive 'deep state' developed after WWII. This latter involves the planning and control groups of a permanent elite. This 'state' exists and continues its policies no matter what happens in Congress, the Presidency or the Supreme Court. It is uncontrolled by the population, law or 'democracy' and in fact undermines them. It is the creation of a ruling class that seeks to control the world financially. It is a post-war creation of 'hegemonic imperialism' according to Good.

Good spends time arguing or agreeing with dozens of sociological theorists – real politik 'realists;' neo-cons, liberals, neo-liberals; 'new left' or historical materialists and post-modern cultural leftists. The book meditates on the nature of the state, going back to Plato, Hobbes and Locke. He oddly cites a reduction in nationalism as one of the crimes of the international ruling elites, which is certainly not leftist, and perhaps shows he leans to social democracy. The other crimes are the failure to follow international and national laws, the encouragement of anti-democratic forces and their buttressing of severe inequality. He calls their ignoring of national and international legal norms 'exceptionism,' not exceptionalism.

This seems to be the project of the whole capital system. Marxists understand 'the state' to have all these component parts, though the parts evolve through the development of capital and technology. That state is dominated by a monied ruling class. It's really very simple. Good thinks Marxist explanations are 'economist' and so wants to dress them up, or hide them.

THE DEEP STATE

Good is instead inspired by C.Wright Mills' analysis of the state, which opposed the idea of a 'dualistic state' with only political and security sides. Mills saw it as also containing the dominant role of the capitalist class, the elite, the overworld, whatever you want to call them - but don't call them the ruling class! Good finally defines his idea of the 'deep state' – and its not Rothschild bankers, Jews, Masons, QAnon conspiracies, George Soros, aliens, NSA surveillance or assassination programs. The 'deep state' is the constellation of non-official political bodies like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Safari Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, the Atlantic Council, the Pinay Circle, the World Anti-Communist League, key law firms like Sullivan & Cromwell or 'consulting' firms like McKinsey & Booz Allen. He doesn't mention more international bodies. These are all made up of top members of the U.S. capitalist class, cultural elite, military and political strata. They have an international orientation, as capital is global. They hold the real political power, far above changes in Congress or President.

Their existence explains why U.S. policy has stayed relatively unchanged since the late 1970s, why laws mean little to the uber-class, why democracy has decreased and inequality increased. These powerful deliberative bodies could also be called a “deep political system,” which seems more accurate and doesn't borrow a phrase from the Trumpists.  Trumpists identify the 'deep state' as the NSA/CIA/FBI etc. This fleshes out a Marxist understanding, which Mills was doing too. Marx called the state “the executive committee of the ruling class.

ITS DEVELOPMENT

Good tracks the very familiar history of the Cold War and McCarthyism, the arms race and war economy, assassinations and coups, Vietnam and Watergate as the 'deep state' developed. Of note were the state assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK, and the continuing cover-ups. These killings have been called a 'security state' coup which reversed Kennedy's peace plans, putting cold warrior LBJ in charge. Kennedy's administration was full of enemies, some from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. His Treasury Secretary Dillion, a Rockefeller ally, was an advocate of assassinating people like Lumumba. However Good has no proof as to the involvement of capitalist advisory groups in this domestic coup and cover-up – only the FBI and CIA.

Good considers Watergate to be a deep-state attempt to remove the last New Dealer and détente advocate – the Republican Richard Nixon. Good has evidence of the U.S.' secret sponsoring of oil price hikes in the 1970s in order for petrodollars to flow back into U.S. treasuries, a decision made behind closed doors. Carter was backed by the Rockefeller-controlled Trilateral Commission and was the first to institute neo-liberalism in the Democratic Party. But Rockefeller turned against Carter due to his human rights verbiage, so his henchmen made sure the Iranian hostages were not released before the election.(Note: The Saudis have just announced they might accept currencies other than dollars for oil. Iraq, Libya and Syria suggested this before. China and Russia agree.)

ITS CONSOLIDATION

Good claims the Reagan Administration was the consolidation of the now well-organized 'deep state.' He says the 'Volcker shock' of the early 1980s to raise interest rates to an insane level was a 'deep state' operation. Volcker was Rockefeller-backed and a member of the Group of 30, Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission. After the CIA was partially discredited, secret funding for projects was run through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which is still a corrupt conduit for private CIA actions, and included funding the Safari Club, a group of Middle Eastern security agencies led by the Saudis and used by the CIA against progressives and nationalists.

KEY EVENTS

Good focuses on the 1. Kennedy assassinations, 2. the Watergate affair, 3. the timing of the Iranian hostage release, 4. Iran-Contra and 5. 9/11/01 - all conspiratorial events that determined and changed political control of the U.S. He terms these “structural deep events.” However his text seem to tie them more to the 'security state' than any deep-state of civilian organizations. Re Watergate, Nixon's recognition of China and withdrawal from Vietnam angered the militarist 'Prussians.' This accounts for the aggressive methods used against Nixon, including what can only be termed an intentionally botched burglary. Key players against Nixon over Watergate were connected to the CIA, who also played a role in the Kennedy assassinations. Nixon knew this and after the burglary, threatened to reveal it, which might have sealed his fate. Even his 'war on drugs' irritated the CIA, which associated with organized crime and used drugs as currency.

Good goes into the long and tight relationship between the CIA, drug runners, certain dirty banks, mobsters and their counter-revolutionary plans – conditions which led to the Iran-Contra scandal. BCCI, Wachovia and HSBC all handled CIA drug and arms money in the 1980s, along with Saudi Arabia, using the money for the Contras, the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and other Salafist forces fighting nationalists and socialists. The Iranian hostage drama put Reagan in office, capping 'deep' state control. 9/11 allowed a massive increase in domestic surveillance and illegal wars, occupations, sanctions and bombing campaigns. None of this is new information.

Good believes the continuing “Doomsday Project/Continuity of Government” plan guides the U.S. deep state, especially during key moments. It dictates what the government will do in times of any kind of emergency. He claims the plan has significant ties to private ruling class groups - but most of his facts go back to the influence of security state actors, though I assume some have ties to these groups.

NOW?

So the present question is, what are these hidden uber-reactionary actors doing right now? Re Trump? Re the liberal Democrats? Re Ukraine? Re inflation? Re oil or the dollar? Re the environment? Good's book might help people identify the present work of these 'invisible' and not so invisible hands. And doing so without falling into conspiracy-land, where everything is a conspiracy, planned or Kabuki theater as the simple-minded claim.

The book shows the political establishment is riven by factionalism at certain points, which some leftists can't believe. Noam Chomsky is the poster-child for this. Good called these breaks an “establishment civil war” between “militarist neoconservatives and commercially-minded neoliberals.” There are certainly other breaks, like the present one between those who want authoritarianism and those who want to preserve the appearance of democracy, though not the fact.

A good, if repetitive look at recent U.S. history since WWII that does not quite make its case that a 'deep political system' embodied in organizations is behind certain events, as what they do IS mostly secret. If Good had focused on key examples, the book might have been more useful, at least for people already familiar with the general history. But his goal seems to have been to academically challenge 'dualism,' in line with Mills.

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “Giants – the Global Power Elite” (Phillips) “The Capitalists of the 21st Century,” “The Devil's Chessboard” (Talbot); “They Killed Our President” (Ventura); “Orders To Kill” (Pepper); “War With Russia?” (Cohen); “Why the U.S. Will Never Be a Social Democracy,” “The Democrats: A Critical History” (Selfa); “Strategy of Deception,” “After the Fact – the Truth About Fake News.”

And I got it at May Day Books!

Red Frog

January 26, 2023

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Police State

 “Detective Story” by Imre Kertész, 1977

Kertész is the 2002 Noble Prize winning author of Fatelessness about the Hungarian Holocaust. It was partly semi-autobiographical, as he himself was sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a 14 year old, then lied about his age to survive. This book is set in an unknown Latin American 'Homeland' after a police coup, perhaps Argentina. It is narrated by a cop in 'the Corps' named Antonio who worked to root out revolutionaries and stop an Uprising.   However, he himself has now been arrested by a new government for being a criminal. He sits in jail, reading the diary of Enrique, a young man he arrested, tortured and had shot. He remembers surveillance audio tapes of Enrique too.

Enrique writes in his diary of thoughts of suicide, his friend Ramon, a love affair, his bourgeois family. One long section is an argument he had with his father about 'acting' – translated as perhaps becoming an urban guerrilla. He eventually doesn't.

The regime cops Antonio worked with hated Jews, practiced torture and dragged innocent people into their web. As 'the new boy' he gradually did too. They believed in the police state as the ideal state. They worked for the Colonel, the Homeland and General Vargas. They worked outside the law.

They take Enrique and his father into custody after surveillance reveals some kind of surreptitious activity – which turns out to be benign but they don't believe it. And so the security machine proceeds.

Kertész' style is unadorned, simple, plain. He's a less dramatic Hemingway. At first you are not sure why he wrote this story. And after all, who likes torturers?  Is it a vague reflection on another authoritarian country? Is it trying to resonate like a Kafkaesque miasma? The standard line is that Kertész' writing reflects individuals caught in political and historic events much bigger than themselves. I'd say that is a little obtuse. He's no oblivious observer of 'objective' history, he takes a side.  

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “Argentina 1985,” “The Six Pointed Star,” “Revolutionary Rehearsals,” “The Long Revolution of the Global South” (Amin); “Democracy Incorporated” (Wolin); “Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety,” or the words 'fascism” or 'Kertesz.'

And I got it at May Day's excellent used/cut out section!

Red Frog

January 23, 2023

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Off Ramp Christian Soldiers

 “Nonverts – the Making of Ex-Christian America” by Stephen Bullivant, 2022

'Nonverts' should perhaps be explained – it means people converted to being 'nones' from being formerly religious or brought up in a religious home. It would be clearer written as 'None-converts' but there it is. Bullivant's contribution is showing the growth of secularism among the population - though certainly not among the power structure.  This is not kids whose parents had little to no religion, but those formerly immersed in Christian traditions – Mormonism, Protestantism, and Catholicism – who rejected them. Anyone who goes on YouTube can find people escaping various cults – Jehovah's Witnesses, Nxivm, Christian Science, Mormonism, Scientology, Haredi and Hasidic Jews, Moonies, various fundamentalist, Evangelical and Hindu cults – and now religion itself.

THE FIGURES

According to Bullivant's research in 2018 figures, 59 million U.S. citizens were 'nones' – listed as having no religion, atheists or agnostics – far larger than the fawned-over Jewish or Muslim communities. More than 70% used to be religious according to his figures, with between 20 % to 30% of the total U.S. population now a self-described 'none.' He discusses the methodology and problems of 'check-mark' religion surveys and the diversity of Nones, using a range of surveys to get a number of 23% that he is happy with. What is very clear is that this line has been steeply rising since 1992 from all religious groups, fueled by the non-belief of the young. Bullivant doesn't see this trend changing.

Why is this important? Because it connects to politics … generally the less religious a person is, the more tolerant, liberal, factual or socialistic they are.  Of course there are obnoxious Libertarians, but they are a minority.  Religion has been combined with GOP politics in Christian nationalism. In the many interviews in this book, issues like gay rights, abortion, women's rights, racism and scientific common-sense drive people away. The brutal absurdities of the Bible also play a role. According to Bullivant, 8 million African-Americans, 3 million Latinos and 1 million other ethnicities are non-religious, showing Nones spread across the population in somewhat similar proportions, not just within European-Americans. There are almost as many women as men Nones. Bullivant has no figures on class (which is typical), but prior surveys have shown the lower your class standing, the less religion you have.

On the other hand his research and interviews show that 'cradle nones' were more likely to not believe in god than none-converts. This is an example of an aftermath of U.S. church religiosity among Nones, which he details. Some call this 'somethingism.' Residual beliefs in various magical ideas still persist – ghosts, astrology, heaven and hell, gods, etc. even among Nones. This seems to be a product of the anti-theoretical wash of American culture, where intellectual consistency has never been a priority. It's a sort of 'pick and choose' thinking.

THE CHURCHES

In 2018 12% of the U.S. population was Protestant, and 3% of them actually got to church! Bullivant tracks how 'mainline' Protestant church membership has collapsed as it attempted to adapt to modern times from its previous position as the dominant default. The Mormon Church, which provides an intense and all-encompassing environment for its parishioners, is also losing members. The Catholic Church, the same. Even Evangelicals like Southern Baptists are taking a hit – now called 'exVangelicals.' The extreme conservatism of Pentecostal / Evangelical churches that shunned Christmas, pushed an impossible 'purity' on teenagers and limited internet use, produced a backlash according to interviewees. The claustrophobic embrace of conservative LDS Mormon's magical thinking and practice pushed others away. The hypocrisy of Catholic moralists and their backward sexual thinking and pedophilia did it for 'lapsed' Catholics.

Emptier Churches - Nuns and Nones

THE CAUSE

What caused this collapse? Bullivant's statistics and interviewees tell the story.  The rise of the Nones from 1-2% of the population started in 1968, accelerated in 1992 and is still going up. Bullivant says it is caused by a combination of things – the backward, reactionary nature of so much U.S. Christianity, especially around women and gay rights; the Catholic pedophilia scandals; the drop in the long national crusade against 'godless communism' and the rise of violent Islamic fundamentalism, which exposed the flaws of religion in a visceral way.

Yet in his research the most important event is the existence of the internet and social media. Many young people who'd never met anyone who was agnostic or heard of atheism, scientific approaches, gay rights, women's rights or secularist and socialist ideas were suddenly able to find out about them. They discovered they were not alone, perhaps through an internet interest group. Eventually, the increase in Nones made it easier to be one. Peer and social pressure is high for most people and it had less of an effect as numbers increased.

Bullivant is a somewhat goofy, reasonable sociologist and his dated but easy to understand research indicates that the biggest indicator of religiosity among youth is the intensity of their parents commitment. This creates a reaction among youth, who have to deal with their devout parents. The real hope of religion is propagandizing and controlling the young, as elderly believers are always dying off. Given the huge number of present Nones and their future babies, religion in the U.S. will begin to look more like Europe than, lets say Mexico.

P.S. - Guardian covers closing churches  1/22/23:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jan/22/us-churches-closing-religion-covid-christianity

P.P.S. - Video on various people escaping 8 different religious groupings to become atheists.  Very enlightening:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKKpN4dDTHo

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “The Rise of the Nones,” FGM,” “Abortion,” “God is Not Great” (Hitchens); “Violence” (Zizek), “Libertarian Atheism and Liberal Religionism,” “Annihilation of Caste” (Ambedkar); “Jude the Obscure” (Hardy); “Spiritual Snake Oil” "The Dark Side of Christian History,” “Islamophobia,” “The Great Evil” (Nunpa); “Godless – 150 Years of Unbelief” and “Astrology – (both by Bufe); American Theocracy” (Phillips);“The God Market,” “Religulous” (Maher); “Go Tell It On The Mountain” (Baldwin); “The Da Vinci Code” (Brown); “To Serve God and Walmart,” “Marx and Human Nature,” "The Jesus Comics."

And I got it at the Library!

Red Frog

January 19, 2023

Monday, January 16, 2023

Never Again

 "Argentina 1985”film directed by Santiago Mitre, 2022

This is a rare look at the aftermath of the long string of Argentine dictatorships, especially the bloody anti-communist juntas of 1976 to 1983 that took power after a coup. It is the trial of 9 members of the high Argentinian military by the new civilian government of President Raul Alfonsin. It involves two courageous civil prosecutors who manage to successfully indict and convict 5 of the 9, including 2 for life sentences, Generals Videla and Massera. (Black-haired Videla wears a big Hitler mustache throughout the film.)

"The Defense has asked for you to remove your scarves."

The prosecution faced many obstacles – the threat of assassination; a very short time period of 5 months in which to build the case; the reluctance of almost every seasoned lawyer to help; pressure from the government itself; and most of all pressure from the military, which was threatening a coup if their members were found guilty. It was also reluctantly led by a non-political head prosecutor, Julio Strassera, who did not want the job. Due to the lack of experienced help except from two friends, he is forced to use a new deputy prosecutor and a bunch of young law employees from the Department of Justice.

The energetic 'kids' come through. The deputy, Luis Ocampo, is excellent. They dig up 709 testimonies of those kidnapped, tortured, jailed, beaten, abused and relatives of the missing. (Though in an interview, Ocampo said they had 2,000 testimonies.) This was done with help from the famous Madres de Plaza de Mayo. A key testimony at trial was that of an innocent young woman kept almost naked, hand-cuffed behind her back, forced to give birth in the back of a car without help, watched by laughing soldiers. The baby slipped onto the floor-boards after being born. The 1985 trial ends with a magnificent speech by Strassera that leads to a standing ovation in the courtroom, ending in the very familiar phrase “never again.”

ISSUES

The legal tactic was to show that every region of the country was affected by the tens of thousands of arrests, disappearances and deaths, with detention centers run by every military branch, including the worst, the Navy. This might have been because many bodies were dumped at sea. It was clear to the civilian judges who heard the case that this could not have happened without the highest level of coordination from the top. The defense had argued that the crimes were only the acts of rouge subordinates.

The second main thrust was to show that the defenses' ideas that they were fighting a 'war' (called 'the dirty war') against leftist urban guerrillas – the Monteneros, socialists and left-wing Peronists – was a lie. The film ignores the politics of the guerrillas, making them invisible, though they are the hidden protagonists here.

Even in a war, rules are supposed to be followed. In Argentina, there were none but the fascist one – do anything you want. Wars are not supposed to involve lack of due process, arbitrary arrest, torture, attacks on civilians, arbitrary executions, kidnappings, rapes and rampant brutality against innocents. This one did, and it was done within a society, not by some foreign enemy. After the verdict, lower level military figures – 1,000+ - were also indicted and put on trial. In a way, this trial channeled Nuremberg - though many lower-level Nazis remained in Germany, were exported to the U.S. or escaped to countries like … Argentina.

Under Detention

THE HISTORY & OMISSIONS

Between 9 and 30 thousand were disappeared or were executed. The whole left was actually the target – trade unionists, journalists, Peronist and socialist activists, leftist students, relatives, children, militants of any kind. This is also unmentioned in the film, which attempts to focus only on process. No mention is made of the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance either, a right-wing death squad that assisted the military and were led by one government minister.

This trial was an exception, as most capitalist dictatorships face, at best, 'truth and reconciliation' but not punishment. This trial was a poster-child for the success of the state's court system – one of those rare exceptions where the upper-class guilty, the political criminals, the military murderers, actually paid, and the civil apparatus of President and judges actually carried through. It is a notable exception to the general rule of the double/triple class system of justice, as is apparent in the U.S. and many other countries. This is probably the political reason why the film won a Golden Globe for best foreign picture.

Ocampo, who is still alive, went on to become the first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court from 2003 to 2012. However, neither the U.S. and now Russia recognize its jurisdiction, which figures.

The most glaring omission here is the role of the U.S. government. Through war criminal Henry Kissinger, it backed the juntas unconditionally in Operation Condor, as Argentina was just another front in the 'Cold' War in Latin and Central America. Evidently Jimmy Carter later condemned the junta, though I'd call this an example of democracy-washing ... similar to the occasional U.S. memos about opposing new Israeli settlements on the West Bank while never taking real action to prevent them. Examples of this kind of empty U.S. 'democracy' talk could be multiplied.

A low-key, personal and human film that nevertheless deals with momentous events. It reveals a history young Argentinians might not know and reminds the rest of the world of one way to handle fascist and military thugs. Perhaps this film will lead to Bolsonaro being thrown out of Orlando, as he no longer has diplomatic immunity. He could be sent back to Brazil to face justice for his role in the Jan. 8 invasion of government buildings in Brasilia, among other things. Or a bit of insight into the recent U.S. backed coup and blooshed in Peru.  But don't bet on it!

Prior reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “Revolutionary Rehearsals in the NeoLiberal Age,” “The Shock Doctrine” (Klein); “Open Veins of Latin America” (Galeano); “Washington Bullets” (Prashad); “The Long Revolution of the Global South” (Amin); “The Diary of Che Guevara,” “The Secret History of the American Empire” and “Economic Hit Men” (both by Perkins); “With Liberty and Justice For Some” (Greenwald); “The Divide” (Taibbi).

The Kultur Kommissar

January 16, 2023

Happy MLK Day!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Lanchester's Paradox

 “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” by Adreas Malm, 2021

This book by a direct-action environmentalist is reacting to the impotence of present attempts to fight or limit the carbon industries, of which there are many. Since 1995 and COP1, emissions have only gone up, while no government, international body or industry has really done what is necessary to stop runaway global warming except talk. Malm knows this is because the carbon capitalists are voluntarily allowed to get away with whatever they want in a 'free' market system.

His theory is that pacifism and mass civil disobedience is only one tactic in any revolutionary struggle, which is what this is. Malm constructs the book as a polemic against the false 350.org / McKibben or Extinction Rebellion (XR) methods that posit peaceful struggle only. His main targets are pacifist authors Chenoweth and Stephan backed by those organizations. He calls their theory 'strategic pacifism,' which ignores the real history of how social change is made – in India, in the southern U.S. re Jim Crow, in Nazi Germany, in Iran or Egypt, in the struggle against slavery and apartheid, in Vietnam Their official 'histories' of the virtues of complete pacifism white-out the actual facts. Oddly, Naomi Klein also did this in her book This Changes Everything, but has a positive blurb on Malm's book jacket.

In the process, heroes of pacifism like Gandhi are put under the microscope. Gandhi himself supported the English and offered to recruit Indians for WWI, the Boer War and the Zulu wars. Gandhi threatened the English that if they didn't make a deal with him, more radical elements would prevail. MLK had weapons for personal self-defense, while SNCC and the SCLC used armed defense guards. Slavery was defeated by a civil war. The Left in Germany had fighting groups that opposed fascist street fighters. Nazi Germany was eventually crushed by armed action, not 'turning the other cheek' as recommended by Gandhi. In Egypt, the victory over Mubarak was achieved after 15 days of mass fighting against police, where many police stations were burned. In Iran the overthrow of the Shah was done by mass, violent insurrection. In South Africa, cuddly Mandela advocated both mass peaceful protest and sabotage and guerrilla warfare. Even recently, the George Floyd protests would have been ignored - until the 3rd Precinct police station in Minneapolis burned down.

Pacifism is a tactic, not a strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes just up to a point. Most overthrows happen peacefully at first, until they run up against the brutality of the state. Sometimes it is accompanied by the threat and actuality of great violence, as was clear in the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Malm wants this method applied to the environmental movement too. His weakness here is that he ignores political or labor struggle, as he was disappointed by the actions of the Greens and Social Democrats in relation to brown coal. He finally focuses on the middle-class character of 350.org and XR, moralistic outfits 'above' politics. He does not suggest the overthrow of capitalism. Let's see what he wants to do.

  1. Damage or destroy new carbon-emitting devices.

  2. Deactivate old carbon-emitting devices. Assets and carbon will be 'stranded' or written off.

What would this look like in practice? Tiny bands of saboteurs or mass actions that would hide the sabotage. Point #2 especially is problematic, as who is going to want the gas feeding their furnace cut off in the winter? Or electricity to their air conditioner killed in the hot summer? This is because global warming requires a complete 'rewiring' of the infrastructure, one capital is not capable of doing presently. In fact thieves and reactionaries are targeting electric transformers even now. How does Malm square this?

German activists stop brown coal train

Malm would be selective and minimal, attacking 'coal wharfs' and 'steam yachts.'(?) And perhaps executive jets. He hopes these pinpricks will stimulate “the states' to begin limiting or decommissioning across the board, as he says only 'the state' is really capable of this. Addressing the title of this book, Malm (and the industry) know pipelines are vulnerable. This has been shown in many countries like Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa, Yemen and India, where the MEND, PFLP, ANC and the Houthis wrecked them, while the Naxalites destroyed coal infrastructure.

He recommends 'quiet' sabotage in Europe like deflating SUV tires in affluent neighborhoods. He reasons that the consumption of the rich is one of the bigger problems, citing many statistics. It is the difference between luxury and subsistence emissions. As a result, he advocates attacks on 'luxury emitting devices' held by the bourgeois and bureaucratic enemies - cars, yachts, houses, planes, etc. There is a class angle to global warming, not just between societies but within societies.

Malm goes on to discuss tree squatting, anti-development encampments and occupations, burning carbon construction vehicles and warehouses, poking holes in pipelines, invading brown coal plants and other forms of accurate and focused “righteous property destruction.” Property is not sacrosanct. He is against righteous violence aimed at guilty people however. He addresses the issue of 'terrorism' – which cannot be applied to property destruction, but is now being thrown at environmental activists by corporations and the state. He engages in a polemic with 'climate fatalists' like Roy Scranton and anti-political, middle-class author Jonathan Franzen, calling their fatalism a 'bourgeois luxury.' Climate fatalism means all is lost, so why do anything?  He discusses the clear usefulness of individual acts of carbon reduction; opposes deep ecology's hostility to any kind of 'industrial' civilization and their plans of destroying it with tiny groups; and reminds us 'monkey-wrenching' achieved almost nothing.

Malm advocates a plurality of tactics. This will engender debate, but that is the actual nature of real movements. Given he has ignored several quite important 'tactics' I'd say his quiver is not yet full. He's mostly ignored the political and labor realms, the issue of war, has not advocated eco-socialism, has a very narrow focus on coal/oil/gas and seems to think capital can be changed. He's widening the environmental action debate from its dominant parade format, which is good, but that is it.

By the way, what is Lanchester's Paradox? It is why the wider environmental movement has not yet resorted to sabotage and other forms of property violence, given the scale of the problem.  And yes, the book title is a come-on of sorts...

P.S. - Class gap within countries on carbon emissions greater than between countries:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/31/emissions-divide-now-greater-within-countries-than-between-them-study

Prior blog reviews of this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “How Non-Violence Protects the State” (Gelderloos); “This Changes Everything” (Klein); “Rally Against Enbridge and Line 3,” “Climate Emergency,” “Levers of Power,” “Red State Rebels” (St. Clair); “Native Tongue,” “Hayduke Lives!” (Abbey); “The Coming Insurrection,” “Red Gas” or the words 'global warming' or 'pacifism.'

And I bought it at May Day Books!

Red Frog

January 13, 2023

Monday, January 9, 2023

Devil's Bathtub

 Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver, 2022

This is a fictional story set in the Appalachian region of mountainous western Virginia, full of benighted and knighted people. Abusive stepfathers and husbands, druggies, kind neighbors, a cute DSS caseworker, dirty or cheap foster fathers, an imprisoned mom, a generous football coach, missing and dead fathers, Oxycontin, meth and a crew of kids trying to survive it all. Especially one, Damon Fields / Woodall, nicknamed Demon Copperhead for his red hair. He's quick and sees it as it is, even though he's trapped. It is somewhat of a stereotype of 'hillbilly' life that J.D. Vance would like, even though the residents make fun of the hillbilly insult as way off the mark.

Damon loves to draw superheroes and cartoons, and he sees his best friend and foster friends as superheroes too. This one has kindness as a superpower; this one climbing; this one a born leader; this one a real neighbor and friend, even though he might be gay. Damon is working up to challenging his cruel step-father and his weak, pill-poppin' pregnant mom. He's growing tall and big. His stepfather is a stereotype – a mechanic, wears sleeveless T's when he wears a shirt; fills the single-wide's living room with weights; rides a Harley and drives a pickup; drinks too much and is abusive to his new wife and 'son.' He even has a vicious black dog called Satan. Yeah, that guy. The most backasswards worker, though he really owns his own mobile repair truck, so... not really a worker with a boss. He's an “entrepreneur.”  There's a stint on a foster farm, where he and other boys are slaves to hay and tobacco, or with a family, sorting garbage for cash. 

That's the setup and it gets worse, better, than worse, then ... like a roller-coaster. Kingsolver lives around Asheville, NC, so her last books reflect that area. Its a detailed story of semi-poverty, junkies, instability and human grit, with Demon's jokes and insights thrown in hard. Like him hearing his stepfather say the family was going to be run like the military – even though he'd never been in the military. “He'd just seen the movie...”

So you're wondering how this 10 / 11 year old growing boy Damon is going to handle the misery when he becomes a full-grown teenager, then adult? He's growing up fast, child labor, hating school, seeing the dark side of town, dealing everywhere, but still with a rescue grand-mammaw / fairy god-mother, or maybe an art teacher. The story is in the first person eye of this worldly-wise kid – a kid who just wants to see the ocean. So is he going to become a real demon? That is the draw of the book. At bottom, its a familiar book about class – the lowest level at this point. As a reader, you're stuck there in his life, along for the ride wherever it goes.

Some political nuggets from the book: 1. Demon has a rare black teacher, who mentions that the hill people of Virginia proper never voted to secede in the Civil War and many backed the Union, resisting the idea of fighting for the low-land plantation slavers. 2. Demon is part 'Melungeon' – an insult word for 'mixed' parentage, which might mean Portuguese, Cherokee or African American or … It was used to get around race laws. Melungeon might have descended from indentured servants or slaves. 3. Given coal has been mechanized, played out or gone to mountain-top removal, what was left for jobs involved recruiters for the Army and Navy. They set up shop in the high schools. 4. Purdue Pharma and other drug companies sends reps to the mountain clinics with the most pain patients, to sell them more toxic painkillers. 5. And yes, hill people were later called 'rednecks' because at the massive Battle of Blair Mountain they wore red kerchiefs around their necks while shooting it out with the mining magnates' thugs and soldiers. (Something taught in the early 1970s...but many have not learned even yet.) 6. The local schools are purposely kept lousy so that local businesses can get cheap labor. 7. Hell, there's a clever insertion of Marx's theory of 'enclosing the common land' and turning everyone into wage slaves, and even class war. But she's afraid to come out and say it.

Is Demon Copperhead a play on David Copperfield, Dickens' orphan reject? Is this modern Dickensian writing? There is a sly reference to Dickens and orphans in the text, then she openly admits the debt in the Acknowledgments. And does that tell us something about how capitalism 'changes' and yet doesn't? Or is it current Southern Gothic? A question for you literary analysts. Demon Copperhead is an enjoyable, engrossing and mordant book that will teach you more about modern Appalachia and this part of the South than reading its history. It challenges many of the stereotypes of toothless hicks. That is one of the virtues of 'fiction.' And Kingsolver is one of the best fiction writers in the U.S., so there's that too.

Prior reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive using these terms: “White Trash,” “Hillbilly Elegy” (Vance); “Gray Mountain” (Grisham); “Suttree” and “Child of God” (both by McCarthy); “The Lacuna” (Kingsolver); “U.S. Cities With Lowest Life Expectancy,” “American Rust,” “The Hunger Games” “Red Baker.”

And I bought it at May Day's excellent fiction section!

Red Frog

January 9, 2023

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Tattooed Chiefs...

 “The Bear” Season One, created by Christopher Storer, 2022

Most ‘workplace’ dramas are about idiotic offices that no one has ever worked in, like “The Office;’ jokey fake clerks in a pretend superstore; or high-end dramas in the A-suite full of intolerable monsters, as in Succession. That latter is the most common. Rare is one that includes more realistic working-class people. Television is not going so far as to look at the hidden and ‘boring’ precincts of a factory, but in ‘The Bear’ they look at cooks working in a sandwich shop called “The Original Beef of Chicagoland.”

Controlled chaos in the kitchen

This is one stressed-out place, full of frenzy, fighting and confusion, located on the near north side of downtown Chicago. It is based on a real restaurant in that area, “Mr. Beef” on Orleans, known to the creator. The plot centers on the new owner Carmy (Carmen), who used to work as a chef at high-end restaurants. He finds himself the owner of this dive café through inheritance, as his brother Mike committed suicide and left it to him. His cousin Richie works there too. Mike’s story haunts his friends and relatives for the whole Season. Per usual, death provides some kind of emotional gravitas.

Richie is an obnoxious, loudmouth who wants the café to stay exactly the same, while Carmy wants it to serve better food and keep it clean. Carmy’s ally is Sydney, a newly-trained chef who wants to learn under a true skills-master, along with a young black cook who creates special donuts. Richie has allies in the staff too, one of whom sabotages some dishes. It is sort of like if Gordon Ramsay bought one of the failing dumps he counsels in Kitchen Nightmares, and some of the staff kept pushing back at him for 6-7 episodes – with the screaming done by one of the staff members instead of the foul-mouthed Ramsay. Even the depressed, quiet Carmy loses it at one point.

The series might remind one of All Screwed Up, Lina Wertmueller’s excellent 1974 film about a large, frantic Italian restaurant in Milan. It is supposed to show the audience believable proletarian exhaustion, pace, perfectionism and conflict. It somewhat succeeds. Carmy attends Al Anon meetings due to his time dealing with his dead brother Mike’s addiction. Alcoholism is frequent in the ‘service industry,’ though that is not hinted at here. We see a back-story about an abusive head chef in New York screaming at Carmy. We see Carmy staring at rafts of unpaid bills and a sorry, confusing ledger - all piled on an old worn desk at the back of the cafe. There are huge payments to a mysterious entity too…

MISSING in ACTION

Several things seemed unreal. One, in Carmy’s fights with Richie he never mentions that this small joint is $300K in debt, so the ‘old ways’ of crappy spaghetti, broken equipment and geeks playing vintage video games aren’t working, even financially. Why Carmy won’t mention this to the loudmouth in their arguments is questionable. After confronting the debt, the loudmouth pooh-poohs it. It is owed to a family friend in Wilmette named Cicero. (Note the city juxtaposition, Chicago folks…)

Two, Carmy, the head chef, and Sydney, the sous chef, institute a French ‘brigade’ system where each worker is responsible for one area – meat, bread, vegetables, potatoes, cakes, etc. The staff all get blue aprons to look professional and are called ‘chef.’ They are told to clean their areas, even with a toothbrush. They have to learn new methods. What is unsaid here is that it seems more work is being loaded on the staff, but no extra money is being offered, nor a serious discussion of finances and the future. The ‘money’ question again disappears.

The third thing is why doesn’t Carmy (The Bear) fire Richie, who is the main problem? Is it because he’s family? I barely see Richie work except sometimes taking orders. He's kinda lazy. No hint or discussion of this anywhere, even if it isn’t carried through.

Left-wing director Lina Wertmueller's 1974 "All Screwed UP" 

TRENDS

The Bear shows the modern foodie obsession with hipster, tattooed chefs. The series hints at the transition from traditional blue-collar comfort food to something else in the U.S. Meat is still its center, as some old ways don’t change in the stereotype of big shoulders' Chicago. Richie pretends to stand up for ‘blue collar’ food in one scene, as any imported menu item will attract white collar professionals. A newspaper review praising one of Sydney’s new dishes almost breaks the place with a huge rush of new customers, and Richie blames it on Sydney. This chaos harks back to a standard segment in Kitchen Nightmares.

Many movies and TV series wallow in the stupidity, arrogance, emotionalism, nastiness or childishness of the characters. They are celebrations of screw-ups, which gets tiring. This story seems to have a bit of this too, with Richie leading. Are these methods describing … or proscribing?

The last episode ends the season with an unbelievable happy ending on the finance issue. Evidently the writers fail to actually understand the restaurant business or debt, banking and tax rules. Or perhaps it is a celebration of theft. They replace a probable reality with a fun, unbelievable fantasy.

Chicagoans will enjoy the series, as it’s an improvement over dreck like Chicago Fire/Med/Police. It has a good rock and roll soundtrack, as so many high-quality series like Big Little Lies and Peaky Blinders do now. Ultimately this is a familiar story about an entrepreneur who makes a small business grow. It is part of the bootstrap boondoggle, the ‘be your own boss’ thinking, the capitalist myth of escaping wage slavery. Cafes and restaurants actually have a terrible record for longevity, as do most small businesses. In this case, the real misery looks like it’s not quite worth it.

Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “Waiter Rant,” “Behind the Kitchen Door,” “The Poklikker Papers,” “Manny’s Steakhouse,” “The Customer is Always Wrong,” “Super-Size Wages,” “Shopping World,” “To Serve God and Wal-Mart,” “Salt, Sugar, Fat,” “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking,” “A Foodies Guide to Capitalism,” “Vegan Freak,” “Deadwood.”

The Cultural Marxist

January 3, 2023 (Happy Winter!)