Story Days

STORY DAYS
sung to the tune of “Glory Days” with apologies to Bruce Springsteen

We always had a prez who was a big storyteller, every administraTION.
They could throw that fairytale by you,
make you look like a fool, son.
Remembered them the other night watching politics on the tube.
I’m a, news junkie. They were, politicians throughout.
I argue all the time with friends over drinks.
But all we keep talking about is

story days.
DisTRUST at an all-time high. Story days.
In the wink of a speechwriter’s eye. Story days, story days.

Well, Bush 41 told Americans
“Read my lips, no new taxes” when he ran in ’88.
Anytime I want a laugh I’ll look at
all the bragging or denying
Donald Trump has done of late.
He and his party, well they split up.
He’s in limbo, it’s some months gone by now.

I just sit around, getting riled up on social media.
When I see the lying I start chuckling, commenting about

story days.
DisTRUST at an all-time high. Story days.
In the wink of a speechwriter’s eye. Story days, story days.

Think I’ll stay at home tonight
and spout my opinions till people caps-lock my ass.
And I hope no more presidents say,
“I did not have sex with that woman”
[bleep me]. Sorry to be so crass.
Yeah thinking back when Dubya boasted “Mission Accomplished.”
What an inSULT, the bleep bleep.
My faith slipped away.
Obama promised I could keep my doctor, but
bleep story days.

Story days.
DisTRUST at an all-time high. Story days.
In the wink of a speechwriter’s eye. Story days, story days.

Story days.
DisTRUST at an all-time high. Story days.
In the wink of a speechwriter’s eye. Story days, story days.

Story days.
DisTRUST at an all-time high. Story days.
In the wink of a speechwriter’s eye. Story days, story days.

Well all wrong, oh no.
Well all wrong, come on now.
Well all wrong, oh no.
Well all wrong, come on now.
Tell the truth, tell the truth.
Tell the truth, tell the truth.
All wrong boys.
No more ducking now.
We keep on going but
we reap what we SOW now.
Bring it home yeah.
Bring it home.
All wrong, all wrong, well all wrong.
Well all wrong, well all wrong.
Well all wrong, well all wrong.
All wrong, let’s go.

The Most Dangerous Man In Detroit

The Book of the Week is “The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor” by Nelson Lichtenstein, published in 1995.

Born in September 1907 in West Virginia, Walter Reuther was of German ancestry, raised Lutheran. He quit high school to learn the tool and die trade. In February 1927, he and a friend moved to Detroit for better pay and hours. He eventually made his way to Ford Motor Company, where he quickly rose through the ranks before the Great Depression hit America.

In the early 1930’s, Ford opened a plant to manufacture its Model “A” in the Soviet Union. Americans who believed in socialism were aware that the Stalin-led Soviet government ruled via one party– the Communist, and was perpetrating human rights abuses. But they liked certain economic aspects of its experimental “Five Year Plan.”

Beginning in early 1933, Walter and his brother Victor bicycled a distance of approximately twelve thousand kilometers during the nine months they were meeting with their European political contacts in various countries. In spring 1933, they were already seeing Fascist oppression in major German cities. In late 1933, they began working in a few Soviet industrial complexes to see labor and political conditions for themselves.

By the late 1930’s, the famine caused by Stalin’s disastrous agricultural-reform program prompted peasant-farmers to go to work in the factories that made steel, cars and tractors. In mid-1934, since they were foreigners and skilled middle-managers (training workers in tool and die making), Walter and Victor were permitted to travel between Stalingrad and Moscow to visit construction projects, collective farms and tractor factories. They were chaperoned by Party bureaucrats. They got special treatment, so perhaps they did not see the abuses suffered by unskilled workers. Their experiences led them to believe that the Soviet system was far less of a police-state than Germany’s.

Walter and Victor wanted to believe so badly in a Soviet workers’ paradise that they rationalized away the serious problems (such as impossible-to-meet production quotas, and reports of fancifully high numbers of vehicles manufactured). In 1934, on supervised tours, the brothers also took a look at labor conditions in China and Japan. October 1935 saw them return to the United States.

On May Day of 1936, in major cities across America, various political groups were speaking in the public square with the goal of unionizing workers; some of them– the Socialists, Proletarian and Communist parties– united to form a Popular Front (the joke in Spain was, “the girl with the Popular Front”).

By the mid-1930’s, the auto industry (which included carmakers, parts suppliers, tool and die makers, etc.) consisted of about a half million union members, thirty thousand of whom were in the United Auto Workers (UAW), a national union. In autumn 1936, Walter became a member of that union’s executive board. He planned and got employees to execute work-stoppages and sit-down strikes in order to get the big automakers like GM, Ford, Chrysler and Dodge to grant collective bargaining rights exclusively to the UAW. Other workplaces such as U.S. Steel were inspired to take such actions, too.

Ford was particularly hostile in its anti-union activities, as it had an in-house security department that spied on workers, fired some, and used violence against photographers. GM took measures to protect against productivity losses by rotating its parts suppliers and building new plants in different locations.

In the late 1930’s, Walter launched propaganda campaigns with the distribution of leaflets, and ran pro-union candidates in local political elections in Midwestern cities. In October 1945, he knew that his UAW workers couldn’t win their strike on just solidarity and militancy. He needed support from other ordinary Americans and the federal government. In January 1946, union workers in a bunch of other industries struck, too; electrical, meatpacking, steel milling, and iron mining.

By the late 1940’s, the power of the unions and corruption in government skyrocketed, so that organized crime used bribery, patronage-contracts and and physical violence in order to rule the “… construction industry, short haul trucking, East Coast longshoring , and the bakery and restaurant trades.”

It is a little-publicized datum that in 1962, president Kennedy granted a cut to all taxpayers that favored corporate America, which also got tax breaks. The rich got richer. That same year, members of the UAW executive board included 21 Caucasians, and one African American, whom they knew wouldn’t buck the status quo.

By then, Walter, a liberal, realized he had been incorrect in thinking that the American labor movement would eliminate discrimination in the workplace when the unions and the economy were strong. But he was still stubborn in insisting on an all-or-nothing egalitarianism. Others of his political ilk, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson were willing to compromise with the Dixiecrats (Southern Democrats who opposed civil-rights legislation) to make a little progress rather than none. The following year, Walter had become more flexible, as he was friendly with JFK and his brother.

In July 1967, the race riots in Detroit resulted in the deaths of 43 people and $250 million in property damage. The mayor, and the governor of Michigan assigned a 39-member panel of leaders and influencers in the community to suggest solutions for quelling hostilities. Various actions were taken; among the major ones:

  • throwing money at low-cost housing;
  • hiring of black workers at Ford and GM; and
  • throwing money at black community groups

but nothing seemed to help. The automakers moved their plants from Detroit to Troy and Dearborn.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional information on Walter’s trials, tribulations, triumphs, and disputes with the AFL and CIO (unions competing against, and with different views from, the UAW); the growing-pains of the labor movement– how it was affected by: the WWII years (hint– the government ordered it to make war weaponry), political elections, regulation of pricing / wages / production in the steel industry, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War; how and why different automakers’ compensation structures changed, and much more. See this blog’s post “See You In Court” for more information on the pros and cons of unions in America.

Tough Love – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Tough Love, My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For” by Susan Rice, published in 2019.

Rice– of Jamaican ancestry on her mother’s side, and African American on her father’s side– spent her childhood in Washington, D.C. She was a key player in foreign policy during the presidential administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

In economics and foreign policy, president Ronald Reagan truly led a “Revolution” that has lasted forty years. American political, economic, and even cultural hegemony began to be taken for granted. The way his administration papered over the downsides of the United States’ military intervention in the world’s hotspots (except for Lebanon), made “might makes right” acceptable again, less than a decade (!) after Vietnam.

Rice (post-Obama) had an awakening similar to that of Jeanne Kirkpatrick (post-Reagan) when she naively wrote, “At the time, the notion we could send U.S. forces to a faraway land to save innocent lives only to have our lives taken away was infuriating and bewildering.”

Yet Rice sometimes favored sending in troops (through the UN) during the many instances of bloody unrest (some genocidal) that reared their ugly heads on various continents in the 1990’s into the 2000’s. She put in her two cents in heated, emotionally stressful debates over civil wars in Somalia, Rwanda, Libya (which eventually became a quagmire– unsurprisingly), Syria, etc.

Often, the alleged initial mission of NATO was to stem the proliferation of deaths of civilians. But in the long run– even with all kinds of assistance (military, political, humanitarian) from democratic countries– civilians in the Third World cannot break their homeland’s vicious dictatorship cycle (See this blog’s entire category “Third-World-Country-Victims of War and/or Dictator”).

Another set of repeated epic fails through the decades (as recently as the 2010’s) has been the United States’ attempts at “Vietnamization.” During 2012, Rice and other high-level officials wrung their hands regarding Syria. Rice wrote, “President Obama decided in 2013 to join our Sunni Arab and Turkish partners in arming and later training vetted Syrian rebels who were fighting Assad [Syria’s leader]. Some were terrorists.”

A simple reason for the failure of “Vietnamization” is that the people are being given fish (short-term handouts) with too much emphasis on military operations. This quick fix is provided by short-sighted politicians who have their eye on reelection or political expedience. The alternative is teaching the people how to fish (a system of democracy that jives with their culture), which is expensive, and takes years or decades, and might not be worth doing, pursuant to the strategic interests of the “liberators.” Installing democracy is like installing new software– it’s initially problematic, and it will require frequent patches and updates, and occasionally third-level tech support, indefinitely.

Read the book to learn of the smear campaigns launched against Rice (including that led by Lindsey Graham after Benghazi), how she built her career and what she did, the different mentalities of the UN and U.S. government agencies that handled foreign policy, the different personalities of all kinds of people whom Rice encountered in her lifetime, and almost everything you ever wanted to know about her life.

Politics of Conscience

The Book of the Week is “Politics of Conscience, A Biography of Margaret Chase Smith” by Patricia Ward Wallace, published in 1995.

The author wrote,

“Or perhaps it was that after four years, the nation had witnessed his unseemly bullying, insulting, and humiliating tactics for too long…”

of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). In the spring of 1954, the U.S. Army held hearings in order to give McCarthy a taste of his own medicine.

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) took over her deceased husband’s U.S. Senate seat when he died, and was reelected in 1940. She received special treatment from Bangor Daily News columnist May Craig, in that Craig was assigned specifically to favorably cover Smith, but hardly ever, any other politician.

Smith was best known– aside from her gender, along with six other senators– for issuing a “Declaration of Conscience” in June 1950, that took McCarthy to task (even though she and he were both Republicans) for his dictatorial methods in rooting out accused Communists.

After Smith delivered an accompanying speech on the Senate floor, her group took no follow-up actions, ingenuously thinking that that one act of protestation would convince the rest of the government and ordinary Americans that McCarthy was violating people’s civil rights in capitalizing on Cold War hysteria. He retaliated against her, (as politicians of his ilk will) by pressuring senate-committee-leaders to deny her membership and assignments she wanted.

In 1952, the book U.S.A. Confidential was published. It was full of lies and smears against all parties who were automatically treated as guilty of associating with Communists (many through only the most tenuous of connections), or who were automatically Communists by virtue of simply being accused (by their enemies, of course).

Smith sued the book’s authors and publisher for libel, as several of the book’s pages mentioned her. The defendants used every possible tactic to delay litigation, but finally agreed to settle the case in autumn 1956. It was a hollow victory for Smith.

In the 1950’s, some members of the United States government galvanized citizens to turn their fears of nuclear war into hatred of one enemy: the former Soviet Union. Nowadays, fears and hatreds are scattered between or among all kinds of groups, absent the threat of nuclear war.

One way American governmental authorities are again attempting to galvanize the people against one enemy is to direct it against a disease, through controlling the population in various ways.

And yes, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is soon to arrive, bringing with it threats to national security. But the government has known this anniversary would arrive, for the last twenty years; the most recent administration, for the last eight months. Just a thought.

Read the book to learn much more about Smith’s career, life and times.

The Rape of Bangla Desh

The Book of the Week is “The Rape of Bangla Desh” by Anthony Mascarenhas, published in 1971.

In March 1969, Pakistan got a new leader named Khan. The reason was that dissatisfaction with Khan’s predecessor had reached critical mass among various parties that were keeping him in power, including the military.

Khan made the following campaign promises: “drain the swamp” in the government, and hold elections that would establish parliamentary (representative, civilian rather than military) government, pursuant to a constitution. The sovereignty of Pakistan had not held elections since its 1947 inception via the partition of India (amid excessive bloodshed, religious hatreds and a caste system that retarded the country’s economic, cultural and social growth for decades; see this blog’s post, “Freedom At Midnight”).

In November 1969, Khan claimed he was still working on the new constitution. He made other announcements on other issues that made it pretty obvious to politically astute people that he was turning out to be yet another dictator. He declared that Sind, Punjab, Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier (in West Pakistan) would become separate states again, and changed how votes would be tabulated, territorially.

Khan set dates for steps that helped Pakistan prepare for its elections, which would allegedly be held in October 1970. But they weren’t. In early November 1970, a tidal wave and cyclone hit the coastal areas of East Bengal. Khan then had a great excuse to postpone the elections until December.

Khan wrote the new constitution, which contained “small print”– a Legal Framework Order– that basically gave Khan unlimited powers; plus murky language that would cause endless arguments over the application and jurisdiction of laws between the provinces and Pakistan’s federal government.

However, in his evil scheme to become Pakistan’s supreme ruler through “divide and conquer” Khan’s new vote-tabulation method allowed Bengalis (of East Pakistan) to obtain too much representation in the national assembly, in the elections (when they were finally held). West Pakistanis became resentful, although they had previously enjoyed the lion’s share of control of governmental affairs for decades.

By February 1971, Khan had been executing various political machinations, including dissolving his civilian Cabinet. He said that he couldn’t let civilians rule Pakistan’s government just yet, as there was a national-security emergency– conflicts among East and West Pakistan, and India. The military had to handle them.

Unsurprisingly, in the first week of March 1971, there began more than three weeks’ worth of violence, rioting and looting, with Bengalis’ agitating to become an independent Bangladesh. To sum it up, “Pakistanis are intensely patriotic people and could not for one moment believe that their government was deliberately misinforming them so terribly.”

Read the book to learn the details of this “textbook example” of how actions taken by an alpha male with hubris syndrome (whose actions backfired!) led to circumstances that resulted in independence for a specific group of people in a particular territory (not without: serious sacrifices of human lives, the usual ethnic, tribal and religious warfare– including what some have defined as genocide; plus linguistic and other issues, and millions of refugees).

Scandal’s In the Air

SCANDAL’S IN THE AIR
sung to the tune of “Love Is In the Air” with apologies to John Paul Young

Scandal’s in the air
with every news item I see.
Scandal’s in the air.
Impeachments, fill people with glee.
Trump, Cuomo and Biden are targets.
Greene and Norman were actually fined.
Due process, we must believe in.
But justice is not always blind.

Scandal’s in the air
with every celebrity I see.
Scandal’s in the air.
Zuckerberg’s money bothers me.
People don’t like, to see Obama maskless.
Others feel Britney Spears’ pain.
Bill Gates met Jeffrey Epstein.
Some say, what Fauci says is inane.

Scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Scandal’s in the air
with every doomsday thing I see.
Scandal’s in the air.
Earth is burning with a capital B.
The Pope was saved from dangerous mail.
Spain was offended by a Snickers ad.
Barbie wasn’t Asian at the Olympics.
Kim Kardashian’s mask pics were “bad.”

Scandal’s in the air
with every news item I see.
Scandal’s in the air.
Impeachments, fill people with glee.
Trump, Cuomo and Biden are targets.
Greene and Norman were actually fined.
Due process, we must believe in.
But justice is not always blind.

Scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Oh, scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.
Scandal’s in the air.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

The Book of the Week is “The Anthropocene Reviewed, Essays on A Human-Centered Planet” by John Green, published in 2021.

In this collection of essays which reviewed (on a five-star scale) a variety of places and things– the author wrote that he continually sought beauty, hope and a reason. He should have rated people as well. Sounds as though his Alabama high-school roommate Todd deserved five stars, Elizabeth Magie should have received four stars; Hasbro and Charles Darrow, two stars each.

In one of his essays, entitled “Bonneville Salt Flats” the author revealed an important component of a good marriage. Besides each other, husband and wife should enjoy a “third thing” together. This could be eye-candy sunsets, scenery or other beautiful visual experiences they both appreciate, or an activity in which they engage in friendly competition. At this point, additional pop psychology is in order. That “third thing” could also be called “shared experience” as described below in the second kind of marriage.

The best, lifelong monogamous marriages can be one of two kinds (the second is superior):

1) attraction to a mate due to inherited traits– re-creating a family situation with which one feels comfortable

2) activity partner– doing things together and then talking about the shared experience, which is in itself, a shared experience

The single biggest factor in beginning a relationship: HONESTY. If one starts out lying, no one will be happy for long.

Other factors that make the relationship even better:

  • both parties are retired and children are grown or nonexistent, so that the parties have few daily stresses
  • consistently good sex life
  • agreement on major lifestyle choices– where to live, what car(s) to drive, how to manage money, what to do on a day-to-day basis
  • both parties feel the same way about various life aspects– family, how to spend leisure time, etc.; their political views need NOT necessarily coincide, and if there is disagreement– the parties agree NOT to discuss them with each other
  • both parties have already done the psychological work involved to make themselves maximally attractive– they’ve gotten healthy, practiced tolerance for others’ choices, etc.
  • both fulfill the other’s psychological needs for companionship and growth.

Read the book to learn of a few of the author’s personal struggles, and little-known facts on all kinds of subjects from science to popular culture.

ENDNOTE: The contents of this book deserve four out of five stars, for entertainment value and / or gems of wisdom. However, the overall writing quality deserves two out of five stars– as numerous, lesser-known errors (grammatical, especially!) were repeatedly made. Grammar perfectionists will cringe.

It seems that the kinds of errors that appear over and over in books published in the United States in recent decades, the kinds that also appear below, are on the increase; perhaps due to changes (for the worse!) in the teaching of writing in American schools, and / or the trend toward cost-cutting and dollar-chasing in the publishing industry:

The author wrote, “… or they’d ask me questions as if I were the protagonist.”

The corrected wording should be: “… questions as though I were the protagonist.” [as though instead of as if]

“… time to create art, almost as if art…” should be: “… create art, almost as though art…”

The author wrote, “…asked me if I also, as the narrator…”

The corrected wording should be: “… asked me whether I also…” [whether instead of if]

“… asked me if I liked romance…” should be: “… asked me whether I liked romance…”

There were numerous occasions when the word “only” was misplaced in the sentence:

“The five-star scale has only been used…” should be: “used only in…”

“In fact, it may only take life…” should be: “… take life on Earth only a few…”

“They only left after a…” should be: “They left only after…”

“I can only give Canada geese…” should be: “I can give Canada geese only…”

“… and the corporation can only exist if…” should be: “… and the corporation can exist only if…”

“They only want to know if I believe in God…” should be: “They want to know only whether I believe in God…”

“… poem, but it only works because…” should be: “poem, but it works only because…”

“… Saunders envisioned would only become a reality…” should be: “… Saunders envisioned would become a reality only many decades…”

“… it’s possible that James was only referring to Wendover’s…” should be: “… James was referring only to…”

“… cholera is successful only in the twenty-first century because…” should be: “… cholera is successful in the twenty-first century only because the rich…”

“… future, I start to only see the…” should be: “I start to see only…”

“I have only been here a little while…” should be: “I have been here only a little while…”

There were numerous occasions when a noun should have been possessive in the sentence:

“Part of our fears about the world ending…” should be: “… the world’s ending…”

“… the way of Hank being the wise…” should be: “… get in the way of Hank’s being…” [this is a poorly worded sentence to begin with {as were several other sentences in this book!} or as an old-school English teacher would describe it– “awkward”]

“I wouldn’t bet against us finding a way to…” should be: “I wouldn’t bet against our finding…”

“… imagine one killing a human…” should be: “… imagine one’s killing a human…”

“… within a decade of the first Piggly Wiggly opening.” should be: “… of the first Piggly Wiggly’s opening.”

“The story concluded with Saunders appealing to…” should be: “… with Saunders’ appealing to…”

“… broadcast began with Turner standing behind…” should be: “… began with Turner’s standing behind…”

“… is on Facebook– has led to me making…” should be: “… is on Facebook– has led to my making…”

“A story of capitalism working turns out to be a story of capitalism failing.” should be: “A story of capitalism’s working… capitalism’s failing…”

“… to one person without risking everyone hearing.” should be: “… without risking everyone’s hearing.”

“… when Scott writes of nature having a…” should be: “… of nature’s having…”

“…noise of graupel bombarding the ground.” should be: “… of graupel’s bombarding the…”

“… way toward Wisconsin abolishing the death…” should be: “… Wisconsin’s abolishing…”

“… handwriting (hence it taking an entire line of…” should be: “… handwriting (hence its taking an…”

The phrase “because of” should be replaced with “due to” when ultimately followed by a noun:

“… largely because of processed, prepackaged foods.” should be: “… largely due to processed…”

“Neither” requires a “nor” and vice versa, and the two should negate two items, neither three nor more.

“We don’t see much about climate change on CNN, unless a new report is published, nor do we see regular coverage…” should be: “On CNN, we see neither much about climate change, nor regular coverage… unless a new report is published.”

In a comparison, “different” should be followed by “from” rather than “than.”

“Robert Burns originally had a different tune… than the one…” should be: “… different tune… from the one…”

P.S. Yes! The Liberty auto insurance TV commercial has a misplaced “only.”