India

The Book of the Week is “India, A Million Mutinies Now” by V.S. Naipaul, published in 1990. While visiting India a few times, in 1962, in the 1970’s, and the late 1980’s, the author interviewed several Indians from a range of castes, and reminisced with them about how cultural mores changed through the decades. The author provided a bit of historical backdrop with each vignette.

The author was born in 1932 in Trinidad, to which his ancestors migrated from India. They were peasant farmers. The Indian diaspora (prompted by political, religious and economic turmoil) spawned new Indian communities. Through the decades after the 1947 establishment of India’s partition with Pakistan, the culture of the people who left India diverged with Indians who stayed. The former were subject to the culture of their adopted countries. They moved to, in addition to Trinidad– Fiji, South Africa and England in large numbers.

The author interviewed someone who practiced the (extremely non-violent) Jain religion. By the 1960’s, a devout believer such as the latter could no longer work in the construction industry in India, as organized crime had forced him out. He could, however, make a living in the securities industry.

Over the course of half a century starting in the 1930’s, the Untouchables caste (or the Dalits, as they were renamed) had been slowly achieving upward mobility, helped by the inspirational leader, Dr. Ambedkar, who died in 1956. By the 1980’s, they had allied with the Muslims, other victims of discrimination. Speaking of oppressed groups, “The sexual harassment of women in public places, often sly, sometimes quite open, was a problem all over India.”

On his last visit, the author commented on the horrible air pollution in Bombay. Local residents breathed brown-black smoke emanating from motor vehicles fueled partly by kerosene. He also remarked on the Indian mentality, that natives were willing to make the sacrifice of living in the most disgusting, cramped conditions imaginable, thereby saving money on housing, in order to get started making money; then move to a better place later, when their financial situation improved. One indication of this was a humungous shantytown just outside Bombay, where a range of different groups (from the political to the swindling) were just beginning their struggles in the capitalist vein.

The author described conditions back and forth in time, including the atrocious religious, ethnic and skin-color conflicts between and among all different Indians.

In the 1930’s, India practiced segregation in public facilities between Brahmins and other castes similar to the way Americans did between its light-skinned people and those of other phenotypes. Beginning in 1937 in the Indian state of Tamil-Nadu, there was the Hindi-language war in education similar to the mid-1990’s ebonics controversy in Oakland, California (except that the former forced the schools to use Hindi only). The year 1967 saw Brahmins (the top caste) in the southern part of the country violently expressing their hatred for the non-Brahmins in the north. The Dravidians were fighting the Aryans.

On another topic, in India it was commonplace for a bride’s family to incur excessive debt due to various customs, including paying for: all of the venue and food-related expenses of wedding guests comprising the family’s entire community, two days’ worth of traditions, rituals, and a dowry that in modern times involved expensive toys such as motor scooters or electronics, clothes, jewelry, cookware, housewares, bedding; plus ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. A family of sons paid only for their education.

Just to push the point on how universal some of India’s problems are that prompt political upheaval: “Where there isn’t a sense of history, myth can begin in that region which is just beyond the memory of our fathers or grandfathers, just beyond living witness.”

Read the book to learn much more about India’s political, economic, cultural and social problems, as seen through the eyes of all different Indian castes, ethnic groups and religions (such as Jains, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs) in different decades (1930’s through the 1980’s) in different Indian regions, including Bombay, Calcutta and Lucknow.

Somebody Down Here… / How Football… BONUS POST

The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Somebody Down Here Likes Me Too” by Rocky Graziano with Ralph Corsel, originally published in 1981.

Born in January 1921, Graziano grew up in Little Italy and the East Village in Manhattan. However, when he wed in 1943, he moved in with his wife’s well-to-do family on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn; of which he nostalgically remarked, “They got Coney Island and Nathan’s hot dogs and Sheepshead Bay with all that good seafood, and they got Ebbetts’ Field and the Dodgers and a few bums like Leo Durocher…”

Nonetheless, his poverty-stricken childhood experiences and abusive father soured him on life at an early age. He continually ran afoul of the law, but his mother, who loved him unconditionally, kept bailing him out. For such boys in his generation (rejected by the military because he was an ex-con), the only way to escape his bad environment was to succeed in the “rackets” or make it big in show business or become a professional boxer. Read the book to learn how he turned his life around when he put his mind to do two of the three.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “How Football Explains America, by Sal Paolantonio, published in 2008.

Incidentally, Vince Lombardi sought to recruit wayward boys such as Graziano for the high school football team he coached in New Jersey in the late 1930’s. He used the Englewood police department as his talent source.

Another interesting bit of information from the author in describing how professional football evolved into its current state: safety rules had to be imposed so the sport could turn its barbaric reputation around. For, in 1905, there occurred “…battered faces, broken ribs, bloody skulls, and at least 18 recorded on-field fatalities.”

Read the book to learn many other ways football and American culture became intertwined.

One for the Earth

The Book of the Week is “One for the Earth, Journal of A Sierra Club President” by Susan D. Merrow with Wanda A. Rickerby, published in 1992.

The Sierra Club, founded in May 1892, began with about one hundred members. Its original goal was to prevent the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California from becoming further polluted. Sadly, through the decades, the need for such an organization has grown exponentially. The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, a group that began using the Club’s name, actually helped raise more funds than otherwise for the Club, but took public stances with which the original group disagreed.

Beginning in May 1990, Merrow was appointed president of the Club for a year’s term. She had acquired previous experience teaching adult education classes and lobbying the Connecticut state government on environmental matters. Her new job– for which she received no salary, only reimbursement of expenses– required constant travel. Volunteers did the bulk of the Club’s work. Her and her employer’s major frustration with the then-federal government was that it was regressive in connection with all kinds of energy issues.

The Club’s lobbyists were awfully busy contacting politicians about: incinerators, recycling, composting and source reduction, increasing gas mileage and decreasing emissions in newer cars, advocating for stopping oil drilling in the Arctic, reducing pollution on land and in the sea and in the air, and arguing for stricter waste-disposal laws, etc., etc., etc.

It might be recalled that a year prior, the Exxon Valdez oil spill left about 380,000 birds dead, and resulted in severe health issues for many animals and plants, including hundreds of species of mollusks, fish and coral-reef animals, dolphins and whales. The then-legal case that might compensate injured parties (Alaska and the United States) for the disaster was still pending. However, in April 1990, Exxon suggested that it pay $100 million to settle the civil and criminal charges against it. Tens of studies done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed grievous (and probably irreparable) harm that (if a dollar value had to be put on it) was estimated at $1.1 billion.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, astute people knew that the Clean Air Act that was then working its way through the Congressional-passage process would become diluted by profiteers aided by propagandists. In autumn 1990, the Bryan Bill– mandating the manufacturing of more fuel-efficient cars– was stalled too, by lobbyists in the oil and auto industries, and by other presidential supporters.

The First Gulf War wreaked environmental destruction (now forgotten by Americans) consisting of “… soot from 600 burning oil wells… cloud over farmland and villages in Turkey and Iran… rain filled with toxic chemicals, polluted both the air and water. Severe respiratory illness, cancer, and ruined crops…”

On a diplomatic mission, the author visited staffers at three different magazines: Good Housekeeping, Sports Illustrated, and Seventeen. She hoped to get articles published for targeted readers of their respective, widely different demographic groups in whose interest it was to save the earth.

One concept the author conveyed was that protecting the habitat of one species, aids in the survival of all of the other species in that habitat. So ensuring a safe environment for the bobolink helps: “…lichens, apple trees, ladybugs, sumac, earthworms, chipmunks, monarch butterflies, white birches, wild blueberry bushes, goldenrod, red foxes– even humans.” The flip side is that one negative consequence leads to another when the food chain is disrupted (See this blog’s post, Rat Island).

Read the book to learn what happened to the Johnston-Wallop bill, and much more about the author’s trials, tribulations and triumphs.

Back to the US-Threats War – BONUS POST

In case you missed it: Facebook is the new USSR.

Back to the US-Threats War

sung to the tune of “Back in the USSR” with apologies to the Beatles and rights-owners it may concern.

Facebook got outed on its policies.
The website didn’t work last week.
I couldN’T keep in touch with my families.
The press enjoyed a dreadful leak.

Back to the US-threats war.
We know how disruptive you are, yeah.
Back to the US-threats war.

Been away so long, I was bored to tears.
Gee it’s good to see my wall.
You can’t wait to REsume inciting fears.
Some say you’re heading FOR a fall.

Back to the US-threats war.
Back to the US, back to the US.
Back to the US-threats war.

Well, your Instagram really tricks it out.
It’s addictive and unkind.
And all those haters make me rant and shout.
That highest bidder’s always on your, your, your, your, your, your, your, your, your, mind!

[Bring it on, yeah sure alright yeah yeah]

Hey, back to the US-threats war.
We know how disruptive you are, yeah.
Back to the US-threats war.

Well, your Instagram really tricks it out.
It’s addictive and unkind.
And all those haters make me rant and shout.
That highest bidder’s always on your, your, your, your, your, your, your, your, your, mind!

Oh, show me round your polarizing political fights.
Take me to your lies and smears.
I unwittingly help the infoTAINment dance.
I love to see my allies’ jeers.

Back to the US-threats war.
We know how disruptive you are, yeah.
Back to the US-threats war.

[Really, really ?!]

We’re back, we’re back…

Dianne Feinstein

The Book of the Week is “Dianne Feinstein, Never Let Them See You Cry” by Jerry Roberts, published in 1994.

Born in June 1933 in San Francisco, Feinstein was the oldest of three sisters. Her uncle inspired her to become a politician. In November 1969, she was sufficiently popular to get elected not only to the board of supervisors of San Francisco, but also get elected its president. However, in 1974, she lost her primary campaign for mayor, though she was good at fundraising, and adopted moderate views on most every issue.

A number of traumatic events occurred in the mid to late 1970’s in the Bay Area, some of which ignited controversy around Feinstein:

  • Beginning in October 1973 – the “Zebra” killings, which left fifteen dead and fanned the flames of racial tension in San Francisco;
  • February 1974 – Patty Hearst’s kidnapping in Berkeley;
  • January 1975 – mail bombs were sent to San Francisco politicians but were defused by law enforcement;
  • Beginning in 1975, the New World Liberation Front (NWLF) sent threatening messages to Feinstein and other local politicians, that they better help the poor or else;
  • August 1975 – San Francisco police officers and firefighters went on strike;
  • September 1975 – assassination attempt on president Gerald Ford in San Francisco;
  • December 1975 – an explosive device failed to go off, that might have killed Feinstein’s teenage daughter at their residence, and the NWLF claimed responsibility in demanding better prison conditions;
  • November 1978 – murders and mass suicides at the compound of Jim Jones’ cult in Guyana, and around the same time, the mayor of San Francisco and a member of the board of supervisors were shot and killed.

With regard to the last two aforementioned deaths, “The speed with which the lobbying began reflected the political reality that a massive vacuum of power had suddenly opened in the polarized city.” Within days, the opportunists made Feinstein mayor.

  • In May 1979, when the verdict and sentence on San Francisco’s political murderer was announced, rioting ensued around City Hall.

Feinstein had a reputation for favoring gay rights, up until her actions during the above rioting. Also, in late 1979, local religious authorities of various stripes convinced her to veto a bill that conditionally treated co-habitating lovers like common-law marriage partners so that they got certain government benefits. After that, gays criticized her. But, she acted early and often and decisively to stem the AIDS epidemic beginning in 1983.

In summer 1982, she signed a bill that banned handguns in San Francisco. She started by turning in her own handguns. Nevertheless, California state courts ruled that the city’s law was unenforceable. Unsurprisingly, her gun-control stance did not sit well with the NRA. In 1983, her enemies tried to petition for her to be recalled as mayor.

Read the book to learn much more about Feinstein’s political career, all of which was spent in a male-dominated field, and a quarter century of which was spent in an urban area with a unique geographic, demographic and political composition.

Flying Close to the Sun

The Book of the Week is “Flying Close to the Sun” by Cathy Wilkerson, published in 2007.

Born in January 1945 in Hartsdale, a northern suburb of New York City, the author spent most of her childhood in Connecticut. At a young age, she was drawn to politics. At Swarthmore College, she joined the group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and engaged in political activism for decades. Many young people were brainwashed into thinking that the revolutions in China, Vietnam and Cuba had been successful in creating a societal paradise.

In turbulent 1960’s America, the counter-cultural attitude was:

“If corporations were stealing from us and selling us products that killed, then we too could steal from them and support the movement.”

As is well known, during the Vietnam War, more than a few American companies were cooperating with the U.S. government to supply the U.S. military with napalm and agent orange, two chemicals toxic to vegetation as well as humans.

In June 1969, SDS held a convention for its chapters across the country. However, there was lots of infighting over ideology and the direction of the movement. Later that month, a few SDS members wrote a paper that said that the United States government should be overthrown because it was imperialist, and oppressed blacks and the poor. The plan was that the revolutionaries would impose Marxist-Leninist socialism so that Americans in the new world order could live happily ever after.

The paper inspired some SDS members, including Wilkerson, to form a new group which called itself the Weatherman. She began to think that the only way to change the world was through revolution. Weatherman started to provoke the local Chicago police the way the Black Panthers had been doing. The former became very focused on the Black Power movement, at the expense of the women’s movement.

Wilkerson gave talks that advocated working with women of all ages around issues of domestic violence and workplace harassment. She was bullied at a self-criticism meeting about not being more against racism. She was told she was being selfish; that blacks were being treated worse than women. SDS leaders said that’s why blacks deserved more attention. The group should focus on the blacks and when they achieved equality, then women’s equality would follow.

In summer 1969 in Columbus, Ohio, two dozen SDSers recruited high schoolers in their hangouts such as streets, beaches, bars, etc. In three not-so-great neighborhoods, they incited blacks to riot and commit violence against the police. Unsurprisingly, the mayor called in the National Guard.

That same summer, SDS member Mike Klonsky resigned. He had realized that violence was a childish way to resolve conflicts, and suggested that instead, people work through their anger about injustice by pressuring politicians to combat racism, and raise awareness in workplaces.

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s saw incidents of unrest that scarred the American psyche; the most well-publicized included: Columbia University in spring 1968, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, San Francisco State College beginning in late 1968, and Kent State in Ohio in May 1970. Wilkerson and others in the “movement” thought that these incidents indicated that activists were catching on and making progress.

As a low-level member of Weatherman, Wilkerson lived in the collective, and did what they did. She learned martial arts, exercised, and discussed and argued for hours about the agenda of the organization. The collective voted to do away with monogamy, as that would allow full participation of all members. The group wanted to have a collective sense of humanity– it was bigger than oneself.

Read the book to learn of a game-changing event that occurred in March 1970 involving Wilkerson, that radically changed her group’s and her circumstances, and of much more about her life and times.

The Cult of Smart – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Cult of Smart, How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice” by Fredrik deBoer, published in 2020.

The author discussed trends that have already been ongoing for decades. The government agencies that make or change policy blame teachers and schools for the failings of the American education system, because those are the elements in the system that they can control.

The author argued that one major elephant in the room is inherited traits of the students, which educrats obviously can’t control. But bringing up that issue invites accusations of racism or eugenics– both taboo topics that might result in cancel culture.

Studies have shown that genetics plays a larger role in a student’s ability to learn than policymakers want to acknowledge. Instead, government is perpetuating the elitism of American education because educrats themselves want to stay in power and /or make money, or are deluding themselves into thinking they’re bettering education. In reality, the monetization of the system has pressured a huge number of interested parties to lie with statistics, and simply lie.

Two misleading claims included those with survivorship bias. In 2013, Stanford University, in updating a study, omitted 8% of the data consisting of underperforming charter schools (which had been closed since the first study). They then bragged that the charter-school students had made modest gains against public-school students, in standardized test scores. The other example was an elite New York City public high school whose entrance exam allows the school to select the cream of the crop when accepting students; in this way, it could boast of its high number of celebrity alumni.

One issue the author could have mentioned relevant to genetics and academic ability, included that of the American college entrance exam, the SAT. It used to be called the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The definition of aptitude is talent, which is genetic– innate ability– for which students cannot study. When educrats realized this, they changed the name to Scholastic Assessment Test. This way, the test might validly measure students’ skills that could be learned. But it might not.

One concept the author could have discussed– that would jive with his view of a more relaxed way of preparing young people to become mature, responsible adults– is that of the two kinds of smarts: street smarts and academic (book) smarts. He thought that kids who are not cut out to be students, could be counseled to acquire the former, which is learned; whereas, he believed the latter involves inherited traits.

It is interesting to note which American presidents, beginning in the twentieth century, possessed each of the two smarts. It is easy to see that having either one or both, does not necessarily indicate a president’s success in office, given: how history has treated him, and historical events during his tenure.

It can be argued that the presidents all had street smarts, else they wouldn’t have previously won any elective office. Yet, they could have been elected because they surrounded themselves with crack political strategists and public relations experts who burnished their image– although they acquired reputations for incompetence or wrongdoing in office. But street smarts could mean the ability to emerge unscathed from scandals.

Presumably, there is general consensus on academic smarts– when the president graduated from an Ivy League college, or earned a law degree, or was known as an intellectual (but there are exceptions). Here they are:

SS = Street Smarts; AS = Academic Smarts; both; neither.

Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson: both.

Warren Harding: AS only.

Calvin Coolidge: both.

Herbert Hoover: neither.

FDR: both.

Harry Truman: SS only.

Dwight Eisenhower: SS only.

JFK: arguably AS only.

LBJ: arguably neither.

Richard Nixon: AS only.

Gerald Ford: both.

Jimmy Carter: arguably neither.

Ronald Reagan: SS only.

George H.W. Bush: AS only.

Bill Clinton: both.

George W. Bush: neither.

Barack Obama: both.

Donald Trump: arguably neither.

Joe Biden: arguably SS only.

Anyway, read the book to learn of the author’s recommendations for an approach to American education that is socialistic, kinder and gentler; one he thinks that would improve it immensely.

Made In China

The Book of the Week is “Made in China, A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Costs of America’s Cheap Goods” by Amelia Pang, published in 2021.

“A guard grabbed a prisoner by his hair, twisted his head, and smashed his face into a heater… They beat him with electric batons until his body convulsed, then hung him by his wrists for two weeks– with his toes barely touching the ground.”

No, the above describes not the Holocaust, not a lynching, but a forced-labor camp in China in 2008 (!)

In the last few decades, the Chinese government has committed human rights abuses against its own citizens– not only dissidents, but also against a group called the Falun Gong (a group that practices exercises, meditation, and espouses certain lifestyle choices). Such citizens are sent to slave-labor camps, where they are tortured and starved but kept alive long enough to serve their sentences by making consumer goods (for export) for no pay amid extremely squalid conditions; they are charged with crimes and punished through what would be considered a complete violation of American-style due process.

In China, as of 2013, the camps numbered an estimated one thousand, at minimum. The author wrote that in all her research, she found only one American company that was ever prosecuted for importing consumer goods from such a camp in China, in the course of twenty years. The camps are bad enough, but to add more shock value to the already unspeakable horrors, the camps are a source of black-market transplant-organs in China, estimated to be worth $1 billion. In December 2013, China said it would be converting its reeducation (brainwashing) camps to ones that imposed labor for drug rehabilitation instead. However, the lipstick on the pig didn’t change the pig.

The main focus of the book was the true story of a man named Sun– a Falun Gong member who was sentenced to two and a half years to an aforementioned camp. He risked his life to hand-write a note containing a desperate plea for help, that ended up in the package of a Halloween product purchased by a woman in Oregon in the United States.

In 2016, Big Brother was growing ever more intrusive in China, as Turkic Muslims (the Uyghur tribe and Kazhaks), were targeted for “blood tests, fingerprints, voice recordings, and facial scans.” An estimated three million of twelve million of them are detained in the camps. They live in a location where China borders more than a few strategically located nations on the Silk Road– still a crucial trade route. The Chinese government doesn’t want any rebellious behavior from them. Reeducation is the goal, besides the economic benefits for China. All of them are forced to speak Mandarin, or else.

The author wrote with some alarm, that the torture chambers for victimized ethnic groups are arguably genocidal. She suggested that China’s atrocities might become comparable to the Holocaust all over again. But– this is not a Hitler situation, and is unlikely to become one. This, because Hitler had grand designs to take over the world through arming a military that committed imperialism, and creating a master race through eliminating the Jews and others he deemed genetically inferior– through genocide.

Matters will eventually come to a head when a significant proportion of the two minority populations are in the camps, and the export market is oversaturated with goods made by them, sold through big-name companies like Nike, Apple, BMW, Amazon, etc. An economic slowdown will mean a reduction in the need for the camps. (That’s NOT to say that the camps should exist, or that nothing should be done to stop the atrocities.)

International outcry will eventually reach critical mass, so that pressure will be brought to bear on China to reduce its human rights abuses, through economic punishments. Unlike most of the rest of the world, –like clockwork every two years– the United States holds elections for some powerful federal and state offices during which, a significant number of Chinese voters can influence political candidates to take a stand on this issue.

Anyway, read the book to learn additional details about Sun’s fate, and how the situation can be changed for the better.

Ode to My Online World – BONUS POST

ODE TO MY ONLINE WORLD

sung to the tune of “How Sweet It Is” with apologies to James Taylor.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.
How desperate I am to be liked by you.

I’m a political grandstander and social media whore,
and there you are.

I need to tell the world about my ups and downs,
and there you are.

I believe all I see, so don’t argue with me.

I want to be a COP, and globally shame villains.
I want the world to STOP, exploiting me, yes I do.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.

My profile’s a goldmine.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.

I get depressed at night, wishing celebrities were in my life.

I’ve convinced myself I’m not a bore.
I POST photos and Tweet more and more.
But you occupy all of my days with time-wasting in so many ways.

I want to be a COP, and globally shame villains.
I just want the world to STOP, exploiting me, oh yes.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.

I get outraged sometimes.

How desperate I am to be liked by you. Whoa, yeah.

Everyone’s better than me. I’m not proud of myself.
You’re my whole life. I do nothing else.

I want to be a COP, and globally shame villains.
I just want the world to STOP, exploiting me, oh yes.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.
How desperate I am to be liked by you. Whoa, now.
How desperate I am to be liked by you.

I’m like, tag me, baby, oh now.

How desperate I am to be liked by you.
I’m like money to Big Tech, baby.
How desperate I am to be liked by you…

The Last Idealist

WARNING: This is a long post.

“They watched him bang away at Berkeley and other campuses, a man nearing eighty-one commanding the attention of student crowds usually scornful of anyone over thirty.”

NOT Bernie Sanders. Norman Thomas.

The Book of the Week is “Norman Thomas, The Last Idealist” by W.A. Swanberg, published in 1976.

Born in November 1884 in Marion, Ohio, Thomas began attending divinity school in 1908, pursuant to his parents’ wish for him to become a Presbyterian reverend, like his father. He espoused the political ideology of a socialist, believing that antisocial behavior could be eliminated if people the world over were provided with a decent standard of living, as there would be no class resentment.

However, Thomas’ marriage to an heiress allowed him to live better than those he aided financially. Initially, the couple lived on an ethnically mixed, high-crime block in East Harlem, among Irish, Jews, Italians and Hungarians. He ministered to parishioners and established social programs at various churches.

Thomas was a charismatic public speaker and a pacifist, keeping busy “eight days a week” with all kinds of political, social and religious groups. He rubbed shoulders with the political influencers of the day, including president Woodrow Wilson. During WWI, he asked the president to refrain from conscripting conscientious objectors– both the devout and those who held sketchy religious beliefs like atheists (and agnostics like himself).

Thomas got in trouble and was forced to resign from his various groups for pacifist speechifying and distribution of pacifist publications (which were censored)– a clear and present danger once America entered WWI. Conscientious objectors and pacifists like himself were getting arrested and jailed. He railed that all Americans had a right to free speech (and later helped found the ACLU); hypocritically, the country was fighting the war in order to combat the fascist Prussians.

Although in 1917 Thomas endorsed the Socialist Party candidate Morris Hillquit for mayor of New York City, Thomas actually delayed joining the Party until the end of the war. Hillquit thought Thomas could be instrumental in getting more Gentiles to join, as the New York City chapter was overwhelmingly Jewish.

Both the Socialist and Communist parties ran candidates for mayor even though they knew they would lose. Each hoped to convert the members of the other’s Party to join their own. The socialists’ enemies smeared them all as Bolshevists (though only a few were on the far left fringe), as the Russian Revolution heated up.

In the 1920’s, the ruling class committed a lot of violence against the working class when there occurred labor unrest. The Palmer raids resulted in beatings, arrests and jailings. The government reasoned that violence was a necessary (temporary!) evil in restoring democracy. That was the same thinking of the Communists in America who felt the Soviets were creating the right kind of political system, but that the oppression would eventually cease.

Thomas wisely stayed Socialist through the decades, as he saw that Communists were totalitarian. Nevertheless, he was conflicted, as he took heart in the fact that the Russians fought against Fascism: by aiding the Loyalists in Spain during its civil war, and during WWII. Some American Communists were thrown for a loop after Stalin made a pact with Hitler in 1939; others, when Khrushchev revealed Stalin’s human rights abuses and atrocities in 1956.

In 1920, New York State Assembly speaker Thaddeus Sweet, a Republican, took the undemocratic action of suspending five New York State Assembly members just for being in the Socialist Party. Their constituents included sixty thousand voters in New York City. The Assembly voted 145-2 to expel them altogether. They were accused of seeking to break up traditional families, being anti-religious, and opposing capitalism.

In 1933, membership in the Socialist Party reached its peak, numbering about nineteen thousand. But those who had been spellbound by the shrewd, entertaining Thomas, began to back FDR instead; the latter began to offer similar social programs and was already president. Many voters thought the evils of capitalism had caused the Great Depression. Others turned to hatred spouted by rabble rousers like Father Coughlin, Hitler and Mussolini.

In the 1930’s, there were heated discussions, debates and decisions that never pleased everyone, between and among all the different factions (Communists, Trotskyites, Old Guard, Militant-Centrist, etc.) in election years and at political conventions. Up until 1936, they used various communications outlets to spread their gospel: the Rand School, the Jewish Daily Forward, a radio station, publications like the New Leader, and a summer camp.

In 1940, the American Labor Party favored FDR, who supported capitalism and war. Thomas acted as a spoiler, as he was still an anti-capitalist and pacifist. He bristled at Britain’s colonialism in India. Jews in New York City felt the need to fight Hitler, so their allegiance lay with FDR, especially after December 1941.

Arguably, Thomas engaged in hypocrisy in his choosing to ally with the Nazi-friendly Charles Lindbergh, but only because the latter wanted America to stay out of the war. Lindbergh, and Joseph P. Kennedy were the kinds of individuals who attached themselves to Hitler because they thought Germany would win the war. That way, in the end, they’d be on the winning side. They would get the spoils. Fortunately, on WWII, they guessed wrong.

Fast forward to spring 1960. After the U-2 incident, Thomas wrote, “… in the widely played game of peacetime espionage, we lie and cheat like the rest of them– only better, we now boast, because of our technical skill. In the anarchy of sovereign nations there are no morals, there is no crime, except to be caught.”

In summer 1963, Thomas, a Princeton University graduate, got his article published in the alumni magazine. He expressed his dismay that the school received a bit more than half (!) of its total budget from federal grants. He wanted to know what proportion of those were made on behalf of the Pentagon. No word on whether anyone answered him. Later, Thomas was bothered that the younger generation was rooting for the NLF and the Vietcong rather than trying to lobby LBJ to stop the Vietnam War. He advised them to wash, instead of burn, the American flag.

In the mid to late 1960’s, Thomas was able to push his causes because his articles were printed in the national, high-circulation Life and Playboy and Esquire magazines; he also did TV interviews with highly rated shows. Unfortunately, publicity is only a small ingredient that is part of the planning process in getting people to adopt causes. Thomas, even with all his popularity, lacked the other ingredients on and off during the entire course of his career: funding and executing (actually getting elected to office).

Read the book to learn of the numerous elective offices for which Thomas ran as a Socialist and his adventures in connection therewith globally: speaking, publishing and socializing with diplomats; of the details of decades-long Socialist Party infighting; the shocking revelation that came to light about the CIA in 1967; and much, much more.

ENDNOTE: This blogger would like to clarify once and for all, what characterizes a few different economic and political systems.

First:

With SOCIALISM, the people collectively own entities, and share and share alike. These can be profit-seeking businesses. The government can own entities that provide essential services, that should not be profit-seeking (but some of their subcontractors are, anyway), such as libraries, welfare, healthcare, early childhood education, infrastructure, and social programs.

With COMMUNISM, the government owns profit-seeking entities (businesses) in whole or in part (as in the former Soviet Union and China). So yes, these include public-private partnerships in which there are clearly outrageous conflicts of interest that result in patronage and profiteering. So, arguably, the former Soviet Union and China have both Socialism and Communism to a large degree.

Also, see a bunch of this blog’s posts: Wikinomics, Here At the New Yorker (beginning with the 9th paragraph), Street Without A Name, Against the Grain, Crossing the River, and Patriot Number One. Lastly, see a bunch of excerpts from this blog’s posts:

  • Klima got a job with a construction crew [in Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s], where he got his first taste of socialism in action. “No one could earn more than was necessary for daily subsistence.” The government was stealing the economic surplus from the people. That was why corruption came into play. He was pressured into joining, surprise, surprise, the Communist Party. He said, “I was stunned by how the environment bubbled over with rancor, continual suspicion, malicious gossip, and personnel screening.”
  • Fast forward to 2007. Dubai’s small population of about a million citizens (mostly royal family members) allowed the government to adopt a socialist policy of generous entitlements, including an average annual $55,000 in stimulus money, and low-cost or no-cost: cooling of their lavish homes, car-fuel, food, education, healthcare, and water.
  • In late 1993, mayor Chirac [in Paris, France]– a socialist at heart– agreed to start a (no-charge) ambulance service for the homeless in Paris. By 1995, via the city council, against the wishes of the socialist (federal) government, he provided free medical care to 150,000 homeless people.
  • In the early 1920’s, “After 2 decades of debate and agitation, the rise and fall of Populist, Progressive and Socialist parties…” and lots of labor unrest, there was general consensus between government and American business “… that the role of government was not to supersede or control the corporation, but to legalize and legitimize it by regulating its excesses.” [As is well known, capitalism flourished until the late 1920’s.]
  • Because East Germany was a police state with a socialist mentality, the people availed themselves of a free university education. Merkel got hers, as well as a doctorate in nuclear physics. In exchange, she was required to work for the government for a specific period.
  • They examined democratic, autocratic and socialistic models of leadership. The most mature group was found in the first model. The second spawned a form of Nazism. The third model’s group members displayed resentment of lazy and non-cooperative individuals.
  • Although Communism preaches godlessness, the supervising Soviet government [in East Germany] allowed some religious activity among the local citizens. Merkel’s family was spied on by the Stasi- the secret police. It was cost-effective and efficient. For, all the socially dangerous elements (potential subversives) were in one place.
  • For four decades, Czechoslovakians forced to live under Communism had been told everything was great. In January 1990, Havel truthfully told his countrymen that the nation was in an economically, infrastructurally, environmentally and ethically horrible state. The younger generation who had been born into the Soviet mentality– unless they were dissidents– were obedient robots. So converting people to a capitalist, liberated, honest way of thinking was very difficult.
  • Blakely thought that bringing capitalism to them [Siberian people] would be a good thing. However, they soon developed an insatiable appetite for consumer goods. Once they were made of aware of their severe deprivation by the media and increased their connections with the rest of the world, they became depressed. Previously, they had been happy due to their ignorance of how materially poor they were.
  • After the Korean War, the Communist Party of North Korea oppressed business owners– who were considered evil capitalists, but praised farmers and peasants– who were considered virtuous; they served the Party. Adults were forced to attend self-criticism meetings every Saturday morning. The meeting leaders punished them by making them stand up against the wall while others stared at them. Around the time she started school, Jang and her mother went to a theater for the first time. They saw a movie written by their fearless leader, Kim il-sung. Of course, it ended happily because the peasants conquered the landlords.
  • Once in power [in 2000, Communist] Putin actually kick-started the Russian economy by nationalizing oil companies, and taking control of the gas industry and television.
  • In order for any native (Chinese) to prevail at a journalism career, joining the Communist Party was mandatory. This involved attending Party conferences on some weekends.
  • Under Vladimir Lenin in 1918 Russia, “The very notion of pleasure from flavorful food was reviled as capitalist degeneracy.” Millions died of starvation under [Communist] Stalin in 1927 when he took over the means of grain production.
  • It examines the issue of whether Berlusconi practiced Fascism, not necessarily through creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, but through monopolistically broadcasting propaganda in the guise of education, to the masses. He combined his business dealings with politics to amass a staggering amount of power, with the usual conflicts of interest that come with the territory.
  • He [Charles Koch] became a convert to it [Libertarianism] in its most extreme form. It espouses the belief that a purely capitalist society is the best economic system. This means total deregulation, no entitlements such as government-administered retirement or medical plans, no unions, no socialism of any kind, no income tax, and a government whose role is only to protect citizens and property from each other and outsiders, and from fraud. As a result of their political mentality, Charles and David could have cared less about the environmental destruction and wrongful deaths their company caused due to poorly maintained oil and gas pipelines. Perhaps to salve his conscience, David made huge donations to cultural institutions, especially in New York City. The liberals (hypocritically) gratefully accepted the money, notwithstanding David’s political activities that led to rack and ruin.
  • In the early 1990’s, [Soviet] leader Boris Yeltsin became a convert of [Jeffrey] Sachs. The result was mass corruption. On the other hand, this has helped the United States and other nations with already evolved [mostly] capitalist systems to maintain their economic dominance in the world. This blogger is not saying such a goal is right or wrong, but merely suggesting that this might have been Sachs’ goal.

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