Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Buffalo

This nice little video of Lake Michigan at New Buffalo, MI, where I grew up, was taken by my brother Bob on Tuesday.




The lake on that day was what I'd call mildly displeased. It can get pretty angry with waves of twenty feet and more that occasionally sink the ships that traverse the Great Lakes -- ocean going ships that come up the St Lawrence River and even the huge ore boats that carry iron from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the steel mills that line the lake near Chicago.

New Buffalo's population was 1,883 in 2010, according to Wikipedia, where I found this picture of the beach on a sunnier day. It was taken from almost the same place as Bob was standing to shoot his video.



We always said New Buffalo's population was 2,500 so I don't know what's caused the decline. A lot of people have left there like I did. Also, being across the bottom of the lake from Chicago it's a resort town. People from the Chicago area and northern Indiana have summer homes there but 20 or 30 years ago began buying homes in New Buffalo and the surrounding countryside. Perhaps they've displaced some of the permanent residents. "Chicago people" as we called them once owned primarily the houses along or near the lake, which now sell more than one million dollars.

Those big gray rocks in the left part of Bob's video extend from either side of the mouth of the Galien River and form a little manmade harbor. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers just before I graduated from NBHS in 1971 and was a big deal.

Before, every year the mouth of the river would fill up with sand washed up by waves until it was only a few feet deep and would have to dredged out so motor boats from the marina that stretches along the river and a couple of the creeks that empty into it could reach the lake.






Sunday, June 11, 2017

Next Blog >> gems



Contd










Why Corbyn Won


"For too long now the rich have got ever richer whilst those struggling have had no hope of improving their lot. That’s just wrong as well. We cannot continue along this path. There is a new movement in Britain demanding social change and the millions who voted for the Labour Party cannot and should not be denied." Jeremy Corbyn



Corbyn campaigned on an explicitly Socialist platform of free college tuition, saving Britian's universal health care system and re-nationalizing industries that had been privatized by Margaret Thatcher and her successor, the architect of "New Labour" -- the UK's Bill Clinton -- Tony Blair.

In America the rich still get richer and the poor poorer and Democrats show zero inclination to do anything about it. Read through their public utterances in the press and on social media and see for yourself that they post absolutely nothing, ever, about wealth and income inequality in the US. It's pathetic. We're going down and they're attending LGBT and green energy photo ops with people who are doing pretty well. A wave of public revulsion over how the Democratic Party has sold out the working class may yet drive it back to its roots, but Neoliberal, Reaganomics Democrats are still in control of all party mechanisms so there's no reason to think it will be any time soon.

In any event, change originates outside the political system and it will require an uprising of the people, and it must be an informed, class conscious people or we'll end up right back where we are now.






Saturday, June 10, 2017

Again Number One In Badness

Atzlan Entrepreneurs Turn Dusty Settlement Into Bustling Business Center

Albuquerque Free Press has a story about our surge to becoming number one in the country in car thefts, but it never once mentions the titans of the industry, Mexicano entrepreneurs who masterminded big, profitable business enterprises, that support thousands of well-paid professional jobs. From CEO to crack car liberator to people spread across an international distribution network to the grandmother who makes a deposit on the other side from time to time. These are bad ass Mexicanos. They made us number one and are due their proper due.












Friday, June 2, 2017

The West West

My house seems like it was designed in such a way that if you stand in the hallway you have a good, clear rifle shot at the front doorway.


Anyone coming into the house from a sun lit outdoors wouldn't see you standing in the shadow and you could get off several rounds before they knew what hit them.

Was the house designed that way? It's the basic tract house of a type built in 1949. Whether you needed that defensive feature in New Mexico in 1949, I don't know. In other ways, however, the house is exactly suited for its environment and its environment shaped how the house was designed and built. It has inch thick concrete walls covered with an insulating fiberboard and then stucco that stay cool practically all day and warm pretty much all night. A slight breeze will ventilate the entire house. Air flowing over the flat roof creates a vacuum on the leeward side windows and the layout of the rooms and opening between them aids in the circulation process. The people who designed and built it knew what they were doing. Would they have also put some thought into making the house easy to defend if need be?

I like to say New Mexico is the last remnant of the wild, wild west. That's a play on the name of the old TV series The Wild, Wild West, but I say it because of the close connection between present day New Mexico and its past, which, after all, represents the real American West that was here centuries before the Anglo west of dime store novels and Hollywood movies got conjured up in creative 20th century minds. 

The actual West of New Mexico's past is carried on in the culture here. The past remains in force in many ways and compared to many places remains relatively undiluted. Much of New Mexico has remained relatively physically isolated. The closest big cities, that might have been the source of other cultural influences, are at least 500 miles in any direction and probably more than a week's travel away before paved roads became common.

Those strong cultural influences may explain why Native and Native Hispanic New Mexico are wild, or untamed you might say, in another sense; people here never submitted and became servile to an outside government. That's also true in parts of the US South, but the prevailing culture here has been in place much longer and is not so much a reaction to the prevailing American culture as it predates it by several centuries.









409.org

I assume everyone has heard by now that the "Paris Climate Accord" President Trump announced he is pulling out of was actually nothing but a publicity stunt engineered by Barak Obama that didn't obligate the United States or any other country to reduce greenhouse gasses by one iota.

Although Obama left office with a reputation as an environmental president, during his tenure the concentration of Co2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere increased at the same rate it had been increasing before that, and if anything sped up, and a big reason is that every year Obama would go to that climate summit in Paris and make sure the final declaration didn't contain any language that obligated anybody to do anything to reduce greenhouse gasses. They agreed instead that each country would voluntarily come up with their own greenhouse gas and pollution "targets."

The conventional wisdom for why Obama did that is that since he knew he'd be judged by how the economy did while he was in office and not by the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, he wasn't going to do anything that would hurt the economy such as impose regulations on the business world. That's correct except that Obama did it not so much to help the economy as to make sure he didn't interrupt the flow of campaign cash from Wall Street and big corporations into the accounts of the Democratic Party, the same reason he did everything else, the same reason he never allowed any legislation to be introduced that would increase wages or strengthen unions or in any other way redistribute any wealth back into the accounts of the people whose labor had originally created it. Conservative Democrats like Obama, the Clintons, and the kind we have in New Mexico decided a long time ago that they'd try to cling to power by doing the bidding of the wealthy, and an affluent layer of  feminists, Blacks, gays and other identity politics adherents, instead of serving the interests of the mass of working class Americans.



Note: One of the big environmental groups is 350.org. They want to decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere until it's down to 350 parts per million, or 350 ppm. As of now it's at 409 ppm. Below are two graphs that show how CO2 concentration has increased in recent years and over the long haul.














 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Anything But A Democrat


"There is now a sizable list of election results involving Republican candidates who survived seemingly unsurvivable scandals to win higher office."

"The lesson in almost all of these instances seems to be that enormous numbers of voters would rather elect an openly corrupt or mentally deranged Republican than vote for a Democrat."

Rolling Stone magazine's Matt Taibbi makes this point in a new article with the understated title The Democrats Need A New Message.





Friday, May 26, 2017

How Many Votes Does The Working Class Have?






The thinking on the Left is that the Democratic Party establishment has forgone the notion that the party represents the working class (people who live off paychecks and not investment income or rent) and has made a conscious effort to redefine its base in a way that doesn't include the working class or at least not most of it; namely that the party sees its base as being a multi racial milleau of upper middle class socially liberal professionals (including people who have "made it" and those who hope and expect to "make it") and people who identify with some type of identity politics such as many feminists, Blacks and gays do.

That scenario matches the reality that the Democratic Party has become more business friendly and seeks out and receives more campaign money from "Wall Street" - i.e. big banks, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOs, law firms and the like. I often say today's Democrats are Republicans who are in favor of gay marriage and abortion and ours in New Mexico are prime examples. The never talk about, or put forth legislation to promote, economic equality, better working class pay and benefits, or to remove the formidable barriers to union organizing that have been erected over the years. On economic matters they vote with Republicans and they vote to cut social spending and to hike military spending.

Many radicals and many of the thousands of people flocking to Socialist organizations have sworn off the Democratic Party and will not vote for a Democrat, and there are those whom you might call Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren Democrats, i.e., the party's left wing, who only vote Democratic because they fear Republicans more and would vote for a viable alternative if there was one.

All this raises questions like how many actual votes are in the working class., and would a class based Democratic Party attract many working class Republicans? What if it campaigned on economic issues and let people make up their own minds about abortion, gay marriage, women's rights and civil rights?







Look at the top right pie chart that shows that almost everyone makes $60k or less. These graphics say families that take in $50 to $60,000 per year and less, are, by a wide margin the majority in America.

But what about civil rights, women's rights, gay rights? Those peoples lives matter certainly. They vote, and if you removed them from the graphs above the $50K and under families would probably no longer be a majority by itself.

That's the kind of calculation that has led the Democrats, their consultants and polling firms to where they are, beholden to big business and with living standards for the majority in decline, and unable to win elections like the one last night in Montana and the one Donald Trump won in November.














Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good News, Love On A Picket Line, Trolls

It's good to be back home in New Mexico after spending time up in Michigan helping Mom out and celebrating her 91st birthday with brothers and sisters, their kids and kids' kids and some close family friends. Below is a picture of Mom, Agnes May (Stull) Conway, with brothers Bob, Bill and Frank behind her and flanked by sisters Jackie Poff and Sandra Mortenson. The pretty brunette next to me is artist Kathy Goldstein of Jackson, MI, a good fiend of the family who I got to come down and surprise Mom.




Hometown New Buffalo is on the lake in the state's southwest corner and was once a big port town. It was named by its founder, Buffalo, New York merchant marine captain Wessell Whittaker, who turned developer in not long after he shipwrecked in 1834 on what is now New Buffalo's beach. The main street, which Whittaker named for himself, ends at Lake Michigan, next to the mouth of a beautiful, lush estuary that winds through the wooded sand dunes where I romped and tromped and sometimes hunted and fished as I went through that process where everything becomes less and less certain that we know of as growing up. 

Properties on and near the lake sell for more than a million dollars. Those are the "Chicago people." The working class of New Buffalo, including some in my family, do the Chicago peoples' carpentry, remodeling, painting and wallpapering, mow their yards, do their plumbing, electrical work and lay their carpeting. While I was home I spent a few days helping Bill paint a house a few miles up the lake in Bridgman.

The picture below is of a little creek that runs through Mom's seven acres, which is across the New York Central passenger tracks from the lake. You might be able to pick out the gravel embankment of the C&O freight switching yard. I grew up to the rumbling of switch engines and the banging of rail cars as they were shunted off to different tracks, but the yard isn't used any more. Michigan has been de-industrialized by Capitalism and its Democrat and Republican handmaids.






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The above picture shows where the estuary I mentioned empties into Lake Michigan at a nice little US Army Corps of Engineers built taxpayer funded harbor. One river bend away from there is the beginning of a lush duneland ecosystem supported by a marsh populated with deer, ducks, geese, herons, foxes, cougars and all kinds of birds and critters.


Photo by Kevin Dooley - flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/




Love On A Picket Line

One of the long conversations I had with Mom during my visit led to her telling the tale of how she and Dad met. I'd never heard before and am very glad to have now. It goes like this: One morning in 1944 she was on her way to work in the office at the big Oliver Farm Equipment company in South Bend, IN, and there was a picket line in front of the plant. Mom did the "foreign billing." Lots of farm equipment was being sold to Cuba.

There was a man  in a suit and tie there who represented the International -- union headquarters in Washington -- and who also operated a steam powered crane in the plant's foundry, my dad, Maurice Conway. She asked him what she should do and he said she should go down to the union hall and have a doughnut and coffee.

What he meant was, 'Don't cross the picket line.' This is something you don't do in union country. My Mom knew about such things. Her family had fled the potato famine that followed the Revolution of 1848 along with millions of other Germans who helped build the American Labor Movement and who spread prairie populism through US farm country, built Grange halls, formed grain and milk cooperatives and burned their crops and dumped their milk on the ground in fights with the big distributors. She went down to the union hall and he came down later, sat across from her, they started chatting, one thing led to another.

The union my Dad was a member of, Mom said, the United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers Of America, would soon be disbanded by the government because it's leaders were Communists, and after that the workers were represented by the United Autoworkers Union.

I searched for more details about that and they weren't readily available, but I did come across a web site that talked about the Farm Equipment union becoming the subject "raids" by the United Auto Workers and the UAW forcing the Farm Equipment union out of some workplaces.

Both stories are in keeping with the history of the major industrial union leaders' collaboration with the US and state governments in their McCarthyite witch hunts for Communists and their suppression of Socialism in the Labor Movement. Most of the big unions at the time conducted well publicized purges of their Communist members. Recall also that the then president of the actor's union, the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, was giving the names of friends and colleagues who he suspected of being Communists to the FBI, leading to them being blackballed and usually ending of their careers.



And Not Even A Trot Line Was Thrown Out

A retired male nurse trolls my blog and leaves comments that I delete without even reading because they never vary in tone or content. He concocts arguments against me by saying I said this or that when I never said this or that and is seemingly obsessed with getting his version of what I said into print. At one point he tried commenting anonymously using a John Wayne-like alter ego he slips into now and then.

He wanted Hillary Clinton to be president and like many people simply can't wrap his head around the fact that her and her brand of conservative, corporate friendly Democrat, who completely control the party apparatus,  have been nothing but one big disaster for the American working class, even worse for working people in other countries.

People really do need to get a grip. For all the horror and panic about Donald Trump you hear he's accomplished nothing and his prospects for getting anything accomplished diminish every day and with each gaffe, overreach, tweet and ignorant misstep his bumbling administration takes the opposition to him grows, enabled by massive working class resistance to everything Trump tries to do that affects working peoples' bottom line.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, there would be no resistance. Government would be working smoothly and relentlessly on behalf of corporations and the wealthy and no one would even notice because the media would be going about business as usual, willfully oblivious as Clinton and her $250,000 per paid speech Wall Street benefactors further eviscerated American living standards and murdered countless innocent brown skinned people abroad with complete impunity.

No one makes an argument against that. There isn't one. The argument people use is that they can't believe anyone would ever want Donald Trump to be president and not Hillary and they stew in childish anger until they find an object for it that they can lash out at.