Pinstripe Capitalism

The Yankees Show How the Economy Works

©Robert Buzzanco

It’s been refreshing, for the past decade or so, to see Capitalism become an increasing topic of discussion in the media, among activists, and even in the political classes.  Throughout the 20th and into the 21st Century, Americans focused so heavily on whatever rival ideology existed, especially Communism, that they took for granted that the U.S. system of private ownership of the means of production and financial and services institutions with heavy government input through tax breaks, subsidies, favorable laws, state suppression of labor and other perks (socialized debt and private profit) was just the natural order.  But the Great Recession of 2008 and subsequent crises, especially the 2020 pandemic with the attendant economic crises and the clear failure of the U.S. healthcare system made it impossible to ignore Capitalism’s flaws any longer.

Still, we could know a lot more about how this system works.  We’re seeing workers take a more assertive role in their work lives right now—with organizing drives and strikes at places like Amazon, Starbucks, John Deere, and elsewhere—but one of the biggest labor, or more accurately anti-labor, actions just occurred not with working-class people but with a group of billionaires going on the attack against a group of millionaires—the Major League Baseball lockout, which lasted 99 days and just ended a couple weeks ago.

I’m not here to write about the lockout, but to suggest that, even though we’re talking about a labor conflict that involved 1 percenters vs. 1/10 percenters, it’s a good way to understand how Capitalists operate.  And when you’re talking baseball, there’s no better example than the most famous franchise in sports history, the New York Yankees, and its owner, Hal Steinbrenner  (Steinbrenner had a big role in the lockout too,  but that’s a story for another day).

The Yankees are the most valuable baseball franchise by a lot, valued at figures between $5.25 and $6.75 billion (see Forbes estimate and Sportico numbers).   Most striking, that’s about $2 billion more than the next wealthy franchise the L.A. Dodgers, which has the highest payroll in the major leagues. The late George Steinbrenner bought  the franchise in 1973 for $10 million (not a typo), and spent freely to purchase free agents and try to win championships (the Yankees won 7 World Series during his ownership before his death in 2010), but now his son Hal  runs the club, much differently than his father.  According to Forbes, the Steinbrenners are among America’s 75 wealthiest family, estimated at about $4 billion (according to Forbes ).  By comparison, the Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and K.C. Royals are the least valuable franchises, worth about $1 billion each. The Yankees also own the YES Network, which broadcasts its games, and which it purchased for about $3.5 billion in 2019.  As Alex Rodriguez, ex-Yankee and now a broadcaster on ESPN, likes to say, “The Yankees print money.”

The Yankees are the Microsoft or Apple or Amazon of the sports world, a financial behemoth which operates in the biggest market in the country, with a national following (really a global following….in Cuba in 2017 I had a Yankees shirt on and it started conversations with about a dozen people), a decided competitive advantage, and tons of cash.   Yet….as we’ve seen recently, the Yankees like to make money, not necessarily spend it, and that’s how Capitalism works.  Just as Amazon or Starbucks is trying to keep its wages down despite record profits, the Yankees would rather get the benefits of league-wide TV and marketing contracts and (despite constant hand-wringing about the game going downhill) massive attendance numbers, while not spending as much as they could, or as wisely as they’re able…….

The franchise has not won a World Series since 2009, an eternity in Yankee years, yet its value continues to rise.  It’s also, like virtually every other pro sports team, benefited from a great amount of public largesse—which, despite the rhetoric of “free markets” and “keeping the government off our backs” is precisely how Capitalism was always designed to work.  Every major industry and its leading corporations, banks and services receives huge amounts of government aid (fossil fuels, the biggest global industry, receives $5.9 trillion in subsides all over the world and about $20 billion, a conservative estimate, in the U.S. alone).   Yankee Stadium, the ballpark-cum-shrine where the team plays, was built in 2008 and cost more than $2.3 billion.  The Yankees were on the hook for about $670 million of that and the rest, $1.2 billion, came from public money and tax breaks.

And just as other corporations put the bottom line, profits and value, above the product or services they provide (Boeing has seen its planes crash in Indonesia, Ethiopia and China since 2018 with 478 people killed, yet none of its executives have been held legally liable and its stock prices have barely fallen and remain above what they were just a few weeks before the crash). the Yankees don’t seem to be interested in putting the team in its best position to win another title.  To be clear,  fatal air crashes and lackluster baseball are not equivalent, but both show how Capitalists are more concerned with profits than product, and yes, Boeing is an extreme example, but it’s also a useful one because that’s how the oligarchs operate.

In the recent offseason, the Yankee-Capitalism model was on full display as the team, coming off several disappointing seasons in a row, had the opportunity to significantly upgrade on the field.  It was a banner year for free agents, ballplayers whose contracts with their previous teams expired and were thus able to sign with anyone else, and especially at key positions the Yankees needed.  Most striking, shortstops like Javier Baez, Trevor Story and especially Carlos Correa were free agents, as was First Baseman Freddie Freeman, and those two positions were the Yankees’ biggest needs.  Additionally, other high-end players at those positions were available via trade.

Amid this bumper crop of free agents, the most valuable sports franchise did……nothing.  In fact, they did worse than nothing.  They actually let the Minnesota Twins hoodwink them into a trade for aging 3d Baseman Josh Donaldson and mediocre-to-adequate Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who combined make about $30 million a year, which opened money for the Twins to sign Correa on what was a bargain in baseball terms—a 3-year deal for $105 million with opt-outs after the first two years.  So the Yankees got a good but often-injured 3d baseman and a run-of-the-mill shortstop for just $5 million less than Correa’s contract.  Freeman also escaped the Yankees—who made no serious run at any decent free agent, though they did re-sign their own First Baseman Anthony Rizzo to a relative cheap $16 million deal—and signed with the Dodgers, who have had no problem throwing their money around, and have been in 3 of the past 5 World Series. 

Currently the Yankees are also in a dispute with their best player, and one of the 5 best players in Major League Baseball, Aaron Judge, over a contract extension.  Judge in in arbitration right now because he asked for $21 million, a bargain for someone with his skills, and the Yankees lowballed him at $17 million.  While there’s a good chance the sides come to agreement on a settlement soon, the very optics of it show how Steinbrenner views his company.  Judge is already financially secure for life, but that $4 million difference in salary proposals at that level is not unlike the way bosses nickel-and-dime low wage employees as well.

And there’s one group that I haven’t mentioned and is completely left out of Yankee planning and considerations . . . the fans.  The Yankees are always in the top 2 or 3 in attendance in the major leagues, averaging 3 to 3.5 million people attending the 81 home games in the publicly-subsidized stadium.  Gate receipts alone account for about $250-300 million in revenue annually (which is more than Yankee payroll) and that doesn’t include the money spent on parking, concessions, and Yankee shirts and other souvenirs.  The Yankees also get about $100 million from their local TV contract, plus their cut from MLB’s national television deals with ESPN, FOX and other media.  According to Forbes, total revenues for the team are $482 million. As one NFL owner years ago described their business model, regarding the league-wide TV and marketing deals, “basically, we’re 28 Socialists who vote Republican.”

Probably a big majority of Yankee fans (of which I am one) judge the team’s performance by one criteria—winning the World Series, and the current run—just one title since 2000—is the worst in the franchise’s famous history.  In fact, the Yankees have not only just not won a World Series since 2009, but haven’t even been the American League champions since then.  In that period from 2000 to the present, their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox, have won 4 titles and the San Francisco Giants have won 3; the St. Louis Cardinals have 2 titles in that time and the Chicago Cubs won their first championship since 1908; even the Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals, generally near the bottom of the standings, have each won as many titles as the Yankees have.  In the past few years, the Yankees have been disappointing, with only two American League Championship Series appearances even since 2012.

So Yankee fans were impatient during the offseason, after investing so much passion and especially money into following the team, and expected Steinbrenner and General Manager Brian Cashman to go out and spend to get free agents.  As noted above, they did not.  So the odds on the Yankees breaking their drought and winning the World Series aren’t great. With the baseball playoffs expanded to 6 teams, a playoff appearance is quite possible if not likely, but Las Vegas bookies aren’t real strong on the team’s chances to win it all.  Again, fans are likely to be disappointed and lighter in the wallet.

In fact, Hal Steinbrenner, while boasting of historically high payrolls and goals of winning championships, made it clear in a widely-tweeted comment that did not please the team’s fan base that his job was to “maker sure that we’re financially responsible.”  He pointed out that “I’ve got a lot of partners & banks & bondholders & things like that I answer to.”  This commentary is not to suggest that Yankees players are somehow an oppressed working class—the league minimum salary is $700,000, more than most Americans would make in a decade or so—but that discussing a famous sports franchise and its financial operations make it easier to understand how Capitalism works. 

The Yankees “going cheap” and putting out an inferior product is exactly how the economy operates. Now, take that business model and apply it nationally, or globally, to people who are struggling for a living wage and you see why people are living in precarity all over the world.  Baristas and fast-food workers and Amazon warehouse employees and miners and meat-packing industry workers and pretty much everyone else is feeling the pinch, stuck between owners who, like Steinbrenner, won’t put out their best product and need to be “financially responsible” and workers who are paying more due to inflation while wages have not kept up and the minimum wage hasn’t budged in 13 years now, remaining at an unlivable $7.25 an hour.

Billionaires vs. Millionaires isn’t a great example of class struggle and it’s nothing that Karl Marx envisioned, but it’s a good way to explain the economy.  No one needs to feel any deep sympathy for MLB players to see how billionaires control markets, give priority to financial issues rather than product or performance, have little regard for consumers, spend unwisely, and alienate employees in order to understand how American Capitalism works.

So when bosses complain that “people don’t want to work” or that raising the minimum wage will make it difficult for them to survive, think of the way the most famous and wealthy sports franchise in America operates.  If the Yankees don’t care enough about their fans and their team performance to spend a few extra million dollars, then you can be sure Starbucks isn’t going to want to give a barista a couple extra bucks and hour and Wal-Mart isn’t going to provide good benefits to its employees, and will forcing them onto the public dole where taxpayers will provide SNAP aid and other benefits, essentially subsidizing billionaires.

I’ve seen Yankee zealots complain on social media that Steinbrenner isn’t a good businessman because he’s not spending a slightly bigger portion of his abundant wealth to win a title.  But in reality he’s doing exactly what a Capitalist does……..

Copyright by Green & Red Media, Robert Buzzanco, and Scott Parkin. 

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K thru 12

The Remarkable World of Kelsey Niccolò Sandino Buzzanco, 26 December 1988-11 March 2010

I went outside to ask him if he was hungry and he told me “no, I have the sun in my mouth.”  That was Kelsey when he was 3—he was thermonuclear but it came naturally. The sun was his fission and he led a life full of meteors, sun flares, eclipses, shooting stars, and dark midnights. 

Nothing was easy for him, nothing was mundane.  It was all a series of galaxies and lightning and thunder and volcanoes—he was fulminous.  When he was little he never stopped moving, like a shark.  His mind was always running, far ahead of the rest of him, and often thinking about things that little kids don’t think about, can’t think about. Don’t get me wrong—he enjoyed little kids books and videos and games and the monkey bars and swings and playing with other kids, but there was something else going on inside of him too.  He was so smart and yet so lost.  Like he didn’t have a home in this world anymore for his mind and soul—it just all went by so fast. 

(Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light)

He always liked the kids who were on the outside of the circle.  He walked toward kids who were bullied, kids who didn’t have a lot of friends, kids who weren’t from River Oaks or didn’t have parents who drove luxury cars.  He felt at ease, like he was one of them. He liked being in a room with rounders, and also really smart people–the kind of people I had around a lot. He fit in.

Some of Kelsey’s preference was due his own sense of self-limits. There were times when he didn’t really like himself or what he did.  But a lot of people who are self-loathing do it for a reason or purpose, because they do awful things and when they get called on it they want to be the victim. They’re incapable of remorse and regret, but he wasn’t. He owned what he did, and very few people do that; it’s a sign of wisdom and self-awareness, which is really ironic for someone whose mind worked in the Rube Goldberg kind of way that his did.

But he also had a good heart.  He loved dogs.  What’s a better test of character than that?  Lots of times I told him he was a Somali Pirate, but he was sometimes Mr. Rogers too. He was full of joy playing with little kids. We watched countless episodes of “The Simpsons” together and laughed and messed with each other—and that’s a beautiful memory. But an odd kid…..Nothing was consistent.  He had moments of joy and laughter, and if you look at pictures of him with his friends, all the way through his final days, he was often laughing and smiling, and they remember him that way. 

(I don’t feel good don’t bother me/I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind/America when will you be angelic?)

But I saw different versions of Kelsey, different seasons.  Occasionally it was Spring, with cool breezes and a mild sun. But it was often a season of ice with him, a season of darkness, a season of anger and fear, winter….that’s how his mind was built.  I think everything about Kelsey was in the genomes…….

I once thought that Kelsey looked at life like there was a broken mirror in front of him all the time. On one side it was him—whole, real, one person, unified.  But he didn’t know that person, so he always looked at the other side, the broken mirror, with 100 different versions of himself, all cracked, different angles, different images, different ideas.  And he never figured out which one was real, so they waged battle in his head and created dust and smoke and a brilliant sense of humor and no fear of crossing dangerous lines or fear of even death.  It was just all part of the same thing—all was seamless.  Being led into nothingness, existence took you to non-existence, living bled into the Big Sleep.   Nothing had to be decided.  Things just took care of themselves…..something always came up.

Now, Kelsey’s darkness was also his brilliance. He was the smartest guy in the room more than a couple times but where I reveled in that, he hated it.  Being considered smart created expectations, which he hated more than anything.  But he understood things when he was 10 that I didn’t get until I was twice that age.  He just “got it” and kept it in his mind.  He picked up a violin and was really fine at it. He had great musical tastes, not the computerized gravel-grinding people listen to today.  I explained currencies to him and he understood the Bretton Woods System.  I took him to the park and threw him a few pitches and he hit line drives (though baseball was far, far too boring for him—he had to always be moving).  He signed up for his SATs—I made him take them on campus while I was teaching so I’d make sure he got to them—and did zero preparation, and pulled in a 2100+.  He had the second highest PSAT in his high school, yet his grades sucked.  They weren’t the lowest in Faber history but they were the worst in Buzzanco family history—and yet he was the smartest Buzzanco I’d ever met.

We were frustrated with each other a lot.  I tried to get him to just stay out of trouble.  He said “all you do it bitch at me all the time.” And I’d respond “Just stay out of trouble!”  After you Alphonse—no you first Gaston.  We had a lot of joy together, I don’t want to forget that.  We rode bikes—he was a maniac on his R6 and I was the dignified guy on the Moto Guzzi.  He was pure energy (thermonuclear, remember?) and I was like and old man in a Cadillac.  But we had fun.  We went kayaking a lot and he’d always just leave me in his wake.  We rode bicycles all over Houston and often relaxed and made a lot of jokes. We shot jumpers at the hoop I put up in the alley. We went out to eat all the time.  He was a connoisseur.  Most little kids wanted hot dogs and chicken tenders.  He’d eat steaks, sushi, Thai food, and once made me take him out for duck quesadillas. He told all his friends about how great my Italian food was, which always made me happy.  He also ate steaks raw.  That’s not a typo.  Not rare……

But it was never a complete package.  Months of “normalcy” might lead to crisis, without knowing why.  The season of ease became a season of tumult, and no one knew why and it became a season of death.  Genomes…..?   He’d go from just chilling out, going to work, watching “Office Space” ten times a week, to a world full of pitchforks, heavy winds, rising tides, crows flying, sabers rattling, and dogs baying.  Like  a New Orleans funeral and I suspect his head was full of kettle drums and tambourines.  I’ll never know why but I’ve quit trying to figure it out. Seasons changed with no warning. The answers are literally gone on the wind and his energy is just floating around the cosmos.  Meantime, I, and his mom, have grief and loneliness—indescribably, immeasurably, infinitely.

(Oh we, who wished to lay for the foundations for peace and friendliness
Could never be friendly ourselves/And in the future when no longer
Do human beings still treat themselves as animals/Look back on us with forebearance).

Death is  brutal teacher but you learn lessons that you can’t get anywhere else. Suicide especially makes you lonely and scared. You see people at their worst when someone dies—that’s my takeaway.  People run away, as if your tragedy is contagious.  Those who knew you well now look at you like you’re a killer—you couldn’t keep your kid alive (and I’ve felt that way every day for a dozen years now). People give you assurances and then disappear.  You’re weakened, and what doesn’t kill you still kicks the shit out of you, and you feel it in every failure, every disappointment. You’ve already had the worst day of your life, but that doesn’t mean the rest isn’t painful too. People see your weakness after tragedy, your vulnerability, and they pounce, and then walk away casually.  But I’ve never been mad at Kelsey or blamed him. He was troubled, he struggled, from the first.  Whatever was inside his head was both beautiful and toxic, serene and explosive, and they weren’t separated. 

(The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity).

The angels and demons were were integrated, unified, homogenized, and excessive too.  That mix was who he was and it was beautiful.  And I’ve learned from it.  People will tell you they care about you, that they’re loyal, that they’ll be there for you, and then they’ll just go away.  Kelsey disappeared, without warning, without a discussion, without any instructions……but that was, I think, always going to be the way he left the building. He didn’t think anything could get better, and the pain was too great.  I couldn’t save him, but I don’t know if that was even possible…..

The was a lot of despair and disgust in his life.  Like Dylan said, I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast.  But who can figure it out?  Genomes.   He was honest. He never faked being happy or content. He’d unleash on me and rely on me.  I signed him up for classes at UH, took care of his parking tickets, got him lawyers when he needed them, and I always had 50s and C-notes around the house to give to him when he visited.  Like my father was to me, I was Kelsey’s consigliere and bodyguard.  Genco and Luca all in one. Until I wasn’t…..

I don’t believe in any kind of conscious afterlife—and I’m not sure what he thought about that mystic shit either; I don’t think he gave much thought to spending time with either Jesus or Old Scratch.  We live in this world and we’re part of the dirt after.  He’s not going to some magical place where he’s playing with Ginsberg and talking to my dad.  He lives every day in my mind, always.  Every moment.  And I hope there are always people who remember him. 

I think that’s why we live—so we can be remembered when we’re gone, not just flushed away like our life was no big deal.  We don’t want to be easily disposable, unloved, and yet we are.  Kelsey reinforced the lessons my Sicilian father taught me—trust only the closest family and assume everyone else has malign intent.  The world is full of horrible and shitty people, and you have to ride it out. We offer up our innocence and get repaid with scorn. It’s a dark and depressing view of the world, especially in these times, but I haven’t been disabused of it……

Kelsey finally met up with the Grim Reaper, as we all will.   He had more than a few brushes with him before March 11th, 2010, but this was the big one.  The Grim Reaper is undefeated—he knocked out Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Ali—who else has done that? Kelsey was another best mind of his generation destroyed by madness.  Kelsey’s with The Elders now, his atoms floating around in the cosmic dust.  I told him an old Italian adage my dad used on me, “O mangiar questa minestra o saltar questa finestra,” and maybe he took it to heart all the way.

It’s been a dozen years since he left the world, without even saying goodbye.  The ultimate ghosting, huh?  Every day I wake up and there’s a nano-second before I’m conscious where I think of him, as if he’s still around.  It’s literally less than an eye-blink.  Then my heart sinks and I know he’s gone.  I look at his pictures and usually I just say “I love you Kid” and sometimes “you crazy little bastard.”  But it’s always with a smile amid the tears.

(I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco or Ashtabula
You’re gonna have to leave me, now I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

No matter the season, I’m thinking about him—seasons of hope, seasons of despair, seasons of ice and darkness. Winter.  He’s always there. As death gets nearer, day to day, I think about him more. 

The world he’s missed out on for 12 years has been a rotten one.  Maybe he had some kind of ESP to look into the future and wanted out.  But I wish he was going through it with me now.  I have conversations in the dark with him, but he doesn’t answer.  I guess butterflies took away his tongue.

Or he had too much sun in his mouth.

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Green & Red’s Best of 2021

Green & Red had a hell of a year in 2021! It wasn’t the best of times. It was mostly the worst of times. But we did some fantastic shows.Here’s a (too long) list of some of my favorites (not really in any specific order, I just listed them as they came to mind. They’re all great!). We’ve seen a really big increase in listeners this year, so keep spreading the word about Green & Red so we’re more than the best lefty podcast people haven’t heard……

Episode 91. Interview with Noam Chomsky about the 1960s. ‘Nuff said.

Episode 127. Johnny Cash’s Politics with author Michael Stewart Foley of “Citizen Cash”

Episode 69. Professors Fired at Collin College. The new McCarthyism on campus. Suzanne Stateler JonesAudra Heaslip

Episodes 114 and 119. The Best Lefty Political Movies and and

Episodes 72, 74, and 76. Texas Freezes Over. Featuring background on the Texas power grid crisis, and how activists were providing aid in a time of great need. Debbie RussellClayton ELustBryan ParrasJamie Henn and and

Episode 61. Capitol Hill Riots and the Ruling Class. Our unique and compelling perspective on the events of January 6th.

Episode 86 (parts 1 and 2). The reality of Jimmy Carter, Neo-Liberal and War Criminal. and

Episode 77. Background on U.S.-Iranian relations with Professor Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi.

Episode 103. What the Left Owes Cuba. A rejoinder to “leftists” who support Miami-inspired subversion in Havana.Episode

118. 80,000,000 Bombs in Laos, with Sera Koulabdara of “Legacies of War”

Episode 96. Tribute to Walter LaFeber and the New Left.Episode

128. Alex Vitale on “The End of Policing”

Please listen, SHARE, subscribe, rate and review, follow, etc.And tell us what your favorite episodes were!

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Democrats Won’t Save You . . . Virginia and Buffalo

Yesterday’s elections have provided a great example of the futility and fecklessness of the Democratic Party not even one year into the Biden Administration. In Virginia and Buffalo, the Democrats undermined their own agenda and sold out the people who voted for them in November 2020, and now you can be sure they’ll go looking for scapegoats rather than be self-reflective. In the end, it’s more proof that electoral politics, while a tactic that can be used productively (like getting rid of Trump), is wholly inadequate to actually fix the various systemic crises we face and to make a better world.

Notes On the State of Virginia

Ronald Reagan once infamously said “facts are stupid things,” and that’s more true than ever. But still, it’s useful to discuss the reality of what happened in Virginia yesterday.

We’re seeing a ton of post-mortems blaming “the left” for McAuliffe’s dismal defeat–it’s on Sanders, AOC, etc. for not “compromising enough” on the BBB bills, while Carville blames “woke politics” for the Democratic disasters.

Hillar Clinton and Terry McAullife

Here’s what’s real. It’s not a “left” bill, it’s Biden’s original plan, one that was strongly popular when announced last winter, and it’s only half of that now in fact. The “left” didn’t kill it, The Squad, despite some rhetoric about it, always fell in line. It enjoyed big support but that waned over time because nothing got done. That’s on Manchin and Sinema, and hence Biden, but not Sanders, et al.

Family leave and reduced med prices are hugely popular, yet Manchin etc. has killed them without any real resistance from the White House. And today Manchin is invoking the Virginia results as vindication for his support of GOP politics and absolving himself for sinking any real bill that might help people in need rather than take care of oil companies and oligarchs.

I’ve followed the VA race a bit the past couple months, and the polling there showed McAuliffe in trouble weeks ago. And the polling also showed a high level or dissatisfaction or anger with the failure of Biden and the Dems to do anything, such as actually enact programs that big majorities of Americans supported. Significant numbers of voters who chose Biden last year either didn’t vote or opted for Youngkin because the Democrats have done nothing. So the fingerprints on this defeat go all the way to the White House.

Yes, Youngkin’s bullshit about Critical Race Theory and a teenaged boy being traumatized by Beloved didn’t help, but the reality is that McAuliffe and Dems, lived up their status as the #WashingtonGeneralsofPolitics, and never really took that on in a strong way.

Liberals love to be on the defensive and love to be victims so they can blame others for their failures rather than be held accountable for being so elitist, condescending, and inept.

And maybe most importantly, McAuliffe is an old, recycled Clintonian hack as well as a Carlyle Group alum. In 2016, the thumping Jeb Bush took in the GOP primaries should have been a canary in a coal mine for all politicians, but only Trump seemed to get it. McAuliffe was Clinton’s main money guy, and is a corporate lackey all the way. The Dems almost suffered the same fate in New Jersey, where Phil Murphy, a mega-rich Goldman Sachs executive, barely won reelection in a state where Dem registration outnumbers the GOP by over 1 million voters. The Dems are still living in 1992, or 2008 if I want to be charitable.

They have no new blood, no new candidates, no new ideas. They keep putting out the same lineup even though they look more like the 62 Mets than the 98 Yankees. They live for “moderation,” which means constant right-wing drift without any benefits for the people–the working class and poor–they claim to represent.

I’m sure liberal hacks like E.J. Dione, T.B. Edsall, and the fetid Ruy Teixeira will be gloating “I told you so” that the left killed McAulliffe, but Neera Tanden fanboys don’t have a clue. Despite the rhetoric of reform, the Democrats haven’t done anything meaningful since 1/20/2021 to indicate they actually care deeply about the interests of working-class or poor people, and we saw the consequences of that yesterday at the polls.

Shuffle Off to Buffalo

In Buffalo, India Walton, a self-described democratic socialist, won the Dem primary against the incumbent Byron Brown and would have cruised to victory in the general election.

But Brown won yesterday as a write-in candidate.

How did that happen?

As soon as Walton won, the NY Dems began a huge attack on her and supported and coordinated Brown’s write-in campaign. It was an inside job by the Dems.

The GOP embraces the craziest and most dangerous people in politics. They have QAnon members and sex offenders in the U.S. House of Reps, and they’re fine with it.

The Corporate Dems meanwhile actually reject the will of their own voters and defend and remain loyal to people who are enemies of those voters.

Upon minimal reflection it’s not surprising that the Dems lost Virginia and stabbed their own candidate in the back in Buffalo, and you can expect 2022 to be bloodbath and Trump 2024 seems more likely each day . . .

Electoral politics is a tactic, but as a solution to the crises we face, it’s a dead end. Organize autonomous communities, start mutual aid groups, start or join a union, go on strike, union or not, and get into the streets to put pressure on politicians, the business community, the schools, and any other group that has any kind of power–you know, like the Right has for decades now.

It’s been clear for a loooooong time that the Dems aren’t gonna save you and the GOP is simply going to double down on its cruelty and ignorance because there’s no real opposition to stop it.

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Doing Miami’s Dirty Work (Wittingly or Not): Responding to “New Politics”

A few days ago, the self-described socialist magazine New Politics put out an editorial, penned by Lois Weiner and Daniel Fischer, titled “NP on Cuba: Consistent Oppostion to US Imperialism and Support of Democratic Rights.”  The image attached to the editorial was a Green and Red Podcast Facebook post that I had put up featuring an article by Greg Shupak  titled “Solidarity With Cuba More Important Than Ever,” and I indelicately finished my post by writing “Viva Cuba and F**k You to New Politics and other jargon-laden ‘leftists’ who are on the wrong side of history.”

It wasn’t the first time either I or the Green and Red Podcast had specifically endorsed articles or essays in support of the Cuban people and the Cuban state amid a 60-year war of aggression coming from the United States and more specifically after a series of protests in Cuba on July 11th that many self-described leftists supported. 

New Politics and writers associated with it like Samuel Farber (a Cuban-born socialist who’s made a career by attacking socialists and communists), Charlie Post, and Ashley Smith had been writing strong endorsements of the July 11th protests since they happened (and not responding to Green and Red’s critique of their pieces, choosing to ignore us rather than defend their position).  This wasn’t surprising since New Politics has for 60 years considered itself a Third Camp publication, neither capitalist nor “authoritarian or totalitarian” Left.  Their writers are experts at “equivalency.”

New Politics, in its articles and its response, took a “both sides” approach to the Cuba issue, rightly offering rhetorical condemnation of the U.S. embargo but strongly supporting the protests as an organic and legitimate expression of the democratic rights of the Cuba people to stand up to a dictatorial regime.  This was not a position exclusive to the magazine as other people on the left and self-described anarchists on social media also weighed in on the side of the protests.  What was striking about the New Politics editorial, however, was that it offered no specific reason to support the Cuban protests, but merely repeated and cited arguments and articles it’s been making since it began publication.  It took several ideas that it has been cooking for decades, put them in the microwave for 3 minutes, and then served them disguised as a new gourmet meal. 

My point, like many others on the Left (and I’d especially recommend a Manolo De Los Santos and Vijay Prashad article “If You Grew Up With the U.S. Blockade as a Cuban, You Might Understand the Recent Protests Differently”), was that no discussion of Cuba can take place without an overwhelming emphasis on the U.S. embargo and six-decade war of aggression, heightened by a new set of 200+ sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the beginning of a thaw between Washington and Havana initiated by Barack Obama and Raul Castro, and that any protest inside Cuba, no matter the intention, was going to have U.S. and Miami fingerprints on it and serve the interests of the Miami mafia and the American “National Security” establishment. 

Condemning the embargo while supporting the protests, I contended, was intellectually vacuous and politically reactionary and served no purpose but to strengthen the forces that would remove socialism from Cuba and turn it into its pre-1959 status as an economic outpost for American oligarchic interests. Nothing in Cuba takes place without some, substantial in fact, involvement from Miami, and it’s been that way since January 1st, 1959.  In addition, these supporters of the protests neglected to consider just how much progress Cuba had made under socialism, with a gold-standard health and education system and support for liberation movements worldwide. 

The best example of my argument came during an episode of Green and Red Podcast with my co-host and comrade Scott Parkin which we titled “What the Left Owes Cuba” and which, I strongly presume, no one at New Politics heard or watched (I also spoke on this at some length in an interview on “Flashpoints” with Dennis Bernstein).  Perhaps if some of these “even-handed” leftists had listened to our argument, they’d have been able to offer some substance to their critique, rather than condemn it because it didn’t fit their ideological predispositions.

What Cuba has Done

I don’t see any point in repeating what we said on that podcast in detail here.  If New Politics editors or anyone else on the Left wants to understand our support of Cuba, it can listen to our detailed explanation on the podcast.  But there are a few things worth mentioning as a rejoinder to the shameful position that people who call themselves socialist but support the Miami-inspired attempt to overthrow socialism in Cuba have taken.

On the podcast Scott and I discussed with many specifics the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution.  They are well-known and can be heard on that episode  or easily researched on the internet.  Just to name a few, Cuba now has a life expectancy exactly the same as the U.S (see World Bank data on Cuban Life Expectancy here ).  Cuba’s health care system ranks 39th in the world, just two spots behind the U.S., yet its health care expenditures are 181st, while the U.S is 1st.  The U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba, and African Americans have an infant mortality rate three times higher.  Cuba spends more on education than any country in the world, 13 percent of its budget. 

Health care in Cuba is obviously socialized, so no one is denied medical treatment and no one goes bankrupt due to illness.  More recently, Cuba has a COVID rate of about 250 deaths per million, which is about one-eighth of the American COVID death rate. It’s now vaccinating children as young as 2 against COVID and has developed vaccines for cancer and hepatitis. Its medical internationalism is well-known as Cuban doctors have saved lives across the globe (anecdotally, I was in Italy at the outbreak of COVID in early 2020 and while the European Union sat on its hands, Cuban doctors arrived in hard-hit Lombardy to help deal with the Coronavirus outbreak and the Cubans are appreciated and loved by a large segment of Italians).

Cuba, with all its problems, is a model for the less-developed world, with quality-of-life indicators superior to most American-supported countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and even some of the larger states like India or Russia. And I’d also suggest that the residents of a typical poor neighborhood in a larger American city (Detroit, New Orleans, D.C., Cleveland, and others) would gladly trade their standards of living and healthcare with Cubans without thinking twice about it. Yet Leftists in the U.S. rather than showing solidarity for Havana, are undermining it and ignoring so many of its accomplishments.

Cuba has also trained doctors in the U.S. and even sent a delegation to Chicago to help address the crisis in infant mortality there. Cuba also  has been deemed to have the world’s best sustainable agricultural system (see “Cuba Ranks as World’s Most Sustainable Developed Country”).  Most of this is already known or easy to learn, so I’ll just leave this topic here, but you can also check out “Cuba Has Trained 170 Doctors from the U.S. for Free” and Vijay Prashad, “Why Cuban Doctors Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.”

We also talked about the vital role Cuba has played in supporting liberation movements across the globe, especially in apartheid southern Africa, in Vietnam, in Palestine, and elsewhere.  Again, these stories are well known and easily researched, and I’ve written a couple pieces on them—“Cuba, Race, and African Liberation,” and “Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and Global Solidarity.”

Oh, and they know how to rebuild from a hurricane too.

Is Cuba a Repressive State?

The key point in the New Politics and other Leftists support of the July 11th protests is that it was an organic and internal expression of displeasure with the regime.  And on this point, there is no doubt that a number of Cubans surely had and continue to have grievances with the government in Havana. There is no place in the world that does not have people who are unhappy or angry. Cuba is a very poor country which has taken even more serious hits the past couple years, especially with the Trump sanctions and the huge loss of tourism money during COVID.  Any state would have serious problems weathering such crises, yet the Cubans have been living under such duress for decades now and made impressive progress nonetheless.

Anecdotally, I spend a couple weeks in Cuba in 2017. I arrived the day after Trump reversed the Obama program for rapprochement and introduced new sanctions, and I heard a significant number of Cubans—drivers, vendors at the local market, people who stopped me to talk about baseball because I had a Yankees shirt on, and others—complain in strong terms about the situation there (and I make no claim to being an expert on Cuba after two weeks there, but I have studied Cuban-American relations throughout my academic career and have read extensively in the literature on Cuba and countless documents released by the NSC, CIA and other government agencies and have communicated with Cuban scholars and many Americans who’d been to the island with the Venceremos Brigade and other groups… I do know a little bit). 

They told of not getting as much food as they had before, of paying high fees for licenses to drive or sell goods at the markets, of a small number of Cubans holding the majority of dollars, of neighbors snitching on them. Universally, they expressed their contempt for Trump but also spoke of wanting to visit New York, Miami, and even Houston. A few, while pointing out how safe Cuba was (a vital point that rarely gets mentioned in these condemnations from the Left), also used the term “security state” to describe the way the government ran the country. There are documented cases of opposition political leaders who have been harassed or detained or jailed.  No one the Left really supports a system where people get in trouble for free expression, but political conditions in Cuba are not easily described and not always what they seem to be, especially when an immense embargo and Miami-sponsored terrorism is involved.

So, yes, of course, there are disaffected and angry Cubans, but the ease with which they complained also undermined the idea that Cuba is a totalitarian state where free speech is policed and forbidden.  Especially when compared to other societies, like the U.S., say, Cubans experience political limits on par with most other places.  I don’t know if there are Cubans who call the police on Black men who are bird-watching at local parks, but I do know that the Cuban authorities don’t kill people at anywhere near the rate that American cops do.  Again, a few anecdotes which really were enlightening (and in the absence of official data, sometimes narrating experiences is useful). . . . .

When I arrived, I met up with an educator with whom I had an acquaintance in common.  We walked to Old Havana and while on the way encountered large numbers of Cubans just living their lives.  They were outside with their neighbors, drinking rum and listening to music.  They were hawking cigars on the street.  We walked past a busy park where younger men and women were showing off their cars (and Cuba’s restored cars are well-known and a sight to behold) and listening to music and dancing and drinking and he nudged me, smiled, and said “look at all that repression in Cuba.” 

On the day I was leaving to go to the airport, the woman who was taking care of the apartment where I stayed (who came from a working class family with a daughter finishing medical school) was seeing us off when a fumigator sent by the city came to the door (yes, Havana sends out people to kill cockroaches) and she told him to come back because the guests were still there.  My Spanish is really limited, but I could make out that he wanted to get the job done at that point but she admonished him to come back later, and he left.

But the incident that stood out the most, especially when compared the way police in the U.S. act, occurred one day as I walked along the Malecón.  Two young men, probably late teenagers, were walking along with their shirts off.  A cop, who was unarmed by the way, told them to put their shirts on, which of course was a ridiculous expression of power.  But what shocked me was that the kids started mouthing off to the cop.  I was frightened for them, assuming that the police would use coercion to force compliance.  But they continued to argue back and forth for a minute and finally the cop made an expression with his hand as if he was writing, to imply that he’d issue a citation to the kids.  So they finally began to walk away, but ever-so-slowly put their shirts on and looked back at the cops and made hand motions the whole time.  It was the behavior of teenagers anywhere in the world, but it was also immediately clear to me that the precise same encounter in the U.S. between young Black kids and American cops would possibly, if not likely, end up with the young people arrested, pinned to the ground, or maybe even shot and killed.

The question of basic freedoms and liberties in a socialist state is not one that any Leftist should take lightly.  Ideally, we’d all live in societies where we could express ourselves freely without any fear of penalty or retribution.  Cuba has over the years taken a hard line against and even imprisoned some critics of the state.  While I believe (see below) that these critics are wittingly or not working on behalf of the interests of the Miami mafia, it’s still unfortunate.  But at the same time it’s important to understand that Cuba’s restrictions on civil liberties are, unfortunately, typical of any state in the world. 

It’s also worth noting that on July 11th, amid the protests, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel went out into the streets of Havana and talked to some of the demonstrators, which is something Fidel Castro did countless times as well.  Compare that to Donald Trump’s armed photo op at St. John’s last summer and the distinction could not be more obvious.

Moreover, when compared to repressive states in the so-called Third World, like Colombia or Guatemala or Haiti or El Salvador or Honduras or Brazil, Cuba genuinely stands out for the comparative freedom its citizens have–I always use the phrase “at ease” to describe the Cubans I met; they’re not constantly anxious or angry and living on Xanax or anti-depressants.  But even here in the most wealthy state in the world, I as a professor in Texas have been told I am not allowed to even mention to my students that they should wear masks amid a massive deadly pandemic.  And last summer we all saw how the forces of order attacked peaceful protestors, including medics and journalists and walls of moms, in the streets.  So the idea that Cuba is somehow uniquely oppressive is simply wrong.  We’re not talking about the Khmer Rouge here (and even the Miami mobsters, while generically condemning the government in Havana, don’t allege anything like you’d see in various U.S. client states), yet the people at New Politics and elsewhere offered little nuance in their condemnations.

Cuba’s not paradise, as we all know, but it’s hardly the repressive caricature that Miami or New Politics have put forth.

Who Benefits from Cuban Instability?

Obviously, Cuba’s main enemies are just north of the island.  In the aftermath of the Revolution, Cuban oligarchs fled to the U.S., especially Miami, and basically set up a rump state there and began organizing and conducting terrorist activities against the government in Havana, the best-known of which was the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. In fact, in my research I’ve seen stories about various terror groups training in the Everglades and elsewhere that were so matter-of-fact that they read like an engagement announcement on the society page.

Despite that American-sponsored invasion and countless other attempts to subvert Cuba or assassinate Fidel Castro—well-documented in the Church Committee findings—socialism in Cuba survived, but at a huge price.  The U.S. has placed the most brutal embargo in history on Cuba for six decades, causing perhaps $1 trillion in damages to the Cuban economy (U.S. estimates are much lower but still substantial), a massive price for a small island of about 11 million people. 

It has prevented Third countries from selling goods to Cuba and prevented the Cubans from getting even medical equipment.  It would take far too many pages to explain the damages done to the Cuban economy by the embargo but even the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has pointed out that it has been terribly destructive and needs to end.  See its “Report of the UN Secretary-General: Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (A/68/116).”

Indeed, on June 23d, 2021 the U.N. voted on a Cuban motion to end the blockade, and it was supported by 184 countries while two, the U.S. and Israel, voted no.  It was the 29th year that the U.N. voted to end the embargo. 

And it was the 29th time the U.S. ignored the U.N.  Helen Yaffe, a well-known scholar and author of We Are Cuba, an incisive look at the way that Cubans have dealt not only with the embargo but also the end of Soviet support in the 1980s and 1990s, has shown how the Cubans have introduced select market reforms (which are obvious to anyone visiting the island), while it maintained important social programs, created a sustainable agricultural system, developed globally-recognized biotech industries, created an important energy sector, and kept its gold-standard health system. But, as Yaffe wrote, “Cuba’s critics blame the government for the daily hardships Cubans face, dismissing US sanctions as an excuse. This is like blaming a person for not swimming well when they are chained to the ground. The US blockade of Cuba is real. It is the longest and most extensive system of unilateral sanctions applied against any country in modern history. It affects every aspect of Cuban life.”

The American Left doesn’t have to like everything the Cuban government does; it doesn’t have to expect every “victim” to be upright and beyond reproach (what I call “the Rosa Parks Syndrome”). It’s simply facile to suggest that the Cuban government should be condemned for having an imperfect and at times illiberal political system when its internal conditions are so often conditioned by outside forces it cannot control, and when we tolerate far worse elsewhere, including inside the U.S. New Politics has expectations and set standards for Cuba that no state, especially a smaller and poorer country under siege, could meet, and yet it condemns it for containing forces that would overthrow its entire social system.

American politicians, especially Cuban-Americans, have also had a huge role in suppressing Cuban development and keeping Cubans impoverished.  Senators from Florida and New Jersey, as well as many representatives from the southern Florida area, have led the long-term American effort to tighten the embargo against Cuba in the hopes of ousting the socialist government there.   Various foundations, working closely with the U.S. government, have worked with anti-Castro groups that have used propaganda and terrorism (most notably the bombing of a civilian airliner which killed all 76 people on board masterminded by  Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile working with U.S. government agents and later given refuge in Florida) against the people of Cuba.  Their goal is simple: to overthrow the Cuban government and return to power the thugs and gangsters and U.S. corporate allies who ran the country during the Batista years, when Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth became bigger than U.S. Steel.

In the most recent protests the U.S. media and many of these leftist anti-Cuban writers have emphasized the role that “marginalized youth” as well as rappers, rock musicians, artists, and journalists have played in the street actions of July 11th,  spouting the slogal “Patria y Vida,” or “country and life,” a contrast to the revolutionary slogan “Patria o Muerte,” homeland or death.

But those groups are not simply organic pockets of protest but bear the imprimatur of Miami.  In a recent article in The Intercept by Max Blumenthal (if that troubles you, just imagine it was written by “Joe Smith” and appeared in The Nation because the information is spot on and vital, and the article was reprinted in MR Online) he detailed how groups like the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID, working with Department of State officials and other right-wing Latin American groups (like those that have supported the claims of U.S. client Juan Guaido’ in Venezuela) have sponsored the “San Isidro Movement” and other protestors who claim to be merely Cubans disaffected with the government but are actually doing Miami’s dirty work. Indeed, the San Isidro group even received an award from the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation,” a Republican-affiliated think tank that includes Nazi soldiers in World War II on its list of the victims of communism.

Again, the role of Miami in undermining, subverting, and terrorizing the people of Cuba is well established and can easily be researched. That doesn’t mean that Cubans went out to protest with the intention of aiding Miami, but any disaffection in Cuba is generally engineered and absolutely and inevitably exploited by Calle 8.

What’s Your End Game?

Finally, I think the crucial question, perhaps the one that overwhelmingly matters the most, is “what are you trying to do with your criticism?”  To the editors of New Politics and to other self-described radicals who attacked the Cuban response to the protests of July 11th and supported the people in the streets (and, by the way, it’s useful to note that the “massive” protests described by many of these critics involved perhaps 500-1000 people in about 8 cities) I would ask “what’s your end game?”

What will Left criticism of Cuba accomplish? How will it benefit the people in the streets of Cuba protesting? Where’s your solidarity?

Díaz-Canel isn’t going to read New Politics and say “well, the U.S. Left is critical of me……I better change course,” nor should he.  The underdeveloped world will continue to remember the solidarity, the spirit of Tri-Continentalism, that Cuba has displayed over the past sixty years.  Indeed, the day after the protests, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not support the demonstrators but instead said “the truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba as the majority of countries in the world are asking. . . . That would be a truly humanitarian gesture. No country in the world should be fenced in, blockaded.”

What will the so-called left attack on Cuba mean? People on the Left in the U.S. and Europe are pretty well established in their support or opposition to the Cuban government.  The response to the July 11th protests fell along traditional lines, with many on the Left supporting the Cuban government while others, especially Trotskyists like you can find at New Politics and elsewhere, supporting the protests.   The impact on the Left of these critics was negligible if there was any at all.

Ah, but what did it mean in Miami?  New Politics and other Leftists who attacked the Cuban government due to the protests served Miami’s interests.  Let’s not go overboard here and suggest that Miami needed help from insignificant Left publications, but the reality is that any time a U.S. “radical” criticizes Cuba or any other socialist or non-Capitalist country it serves the interests of the Empire.  Miami Cubans can, and have, said that “even American radicals” know that Cuba’s government is a dictatorship. They can call for armed intervention against Havana and invoke Americans who have criticized the government.  They can advocate for even more sanctions and an even harsher embargo because the U.S. media has featured alleged Leftists who have supported the protests. 

The U.S. has no foreign power attacking its sovereignty or clamping it down with the biggest embargo in history or meddling with domestic groups to serve its own interests (indeed, look at how incensed and often irrational Americans became at the RUSSIA! story), so Americans have no sense of what it’s like to be under 24/7/365 siege. Under such conditions in Cuba, any demonstration is a gift to Miami and any support shown for those protestors is a blow to the Cubans. The events of July 11th, which were limited in scope and then enlarged by the U.S. media, have been already used by the Empire and its apologists against Havana and they will continue to be invoked to justify intervening against and eliminating socialism there.

The U.S. Left is not big enough or important enough to have a huge role in American policy toward Cuba—if it was, the embargo would be spoken of in the past tense—but it is adds another piece to the Miami attack on Cuba and when it serves the interest of empire, as Farber, Post, Smith and others have done, it will be used by the ruling class media.

And finally we should remind ourselves and our comrades on the Left, especially those who are so critical of socialist states, as Vijay Prashad did in a recent discussion over the work of David Harvey, that “you live on the other side of imperialism.”  There are plenty of governments in the world that are both repressive and are victims of the U.S. empire.  One need not support the regimes in Beijing or Damascus or anywhere else to oppose the empire, but in the case of Havana, defending the benefits of its revolution and its global solidarity isn’t a hard call. And in any event, no matter where, the U.S. Left must take an unconditional stand against the Empire. The Left needs to give anti-imperialism equal billing to class solidarity at home. They’re symbiotic and you can’t demand fundamental change inside the U.S. and simultaneously defend meddling in Cuba.

If I were to give the Left 100 reasons to support Cuba, numbers 1-100 would be simply “End the Embargo.” Publicly undermining Havana doesn’t help the Cuban people, as anyone on the Left who has called for an end to sanctions against Venezuela or Iran or other places in the U.S. crosshairs already knows. For sixty years, the U.S. goal has been to destroy the chance for socialism in Cuba to develop and mature, and it has failed for sixty years, but at a great cost to the Cuban people. The American aggression continues unabated and with the help of New Politics and others on the Left helping with the heavy lifting.

Inside the U.S., most people on the Left support African Americans who are on the receiving end of police violence and kept under siege by a racist state without reservations.    Most people on the Left support a women’s right to an abortion without conditions.   Most people on the Left support the right of working people (cops aren’t proles) to organize unions and strike without any hesitation. Most people on the Left unwaveringly support the right of Palestinians to self-determination regardless of the deeds of the P.A.  It’s easy to claim neutrality, but at some point you have to declare whether you’re a union man or woman, or a thug for J.H Blair. 

It’s one of the most fundamental questions the Left can ask and answer—which side are you on?  New Politics, wittingly or not, has chose Miami.

Posted in Colonialism, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Foreign Policy, History, Imperialism, Military, Politics, Protests, Repression, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Noam Chomsky talks about the 1960s on Green and Red Podcast

We recently had a great, lengthy discussion with Noam Chomsky about the 1960s radicalism, the New Left, The Black Panthers, SDS, the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, Student protests, feminism, “woke” politics, and much more. We also provided some edited clips of his interviews on our YouTube channel to highlight some of the more intriguing parts of the discussion.

Green and Red Podcast – Media for Scrappy Radicals

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Here’s a list of all the Chomsky interviews and where you can find them:

Full interview on YouTube:

Full interview Podcast:

NC on “The Responsibility of Intellectuals”:

NC on Identity Politics and “Wokeness”:

NC “Bragging” about debating McGeorge Bundy and getting thrown out:

NC on the Black Panthers and 1960s Campus Radicalism:

Posted in Civil Rights, Colonialism, Constitutional Crisis, Education, Foreign Policy, Free Speech, History, Liberals, Middle East, Military, Politics, Protests, Repression, Vietnam, War | Leave a comment

Coda: Collin College Fires Another Professor

Matkin’s Offensive against the First Amendment gets worse!

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote, and the Green and Red Podcast interviewed, two professors from Collin College who had just been fired–Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip. See, “Professors Fired for Covid Concerns.” and Podcast interview, at “Professors Fired from Collin College. Retaliation in Texas.”

As we’ve seen with right-wing Texans, when they’re caught doing something despicable (as in their handling of COVID and the recent power grid failure), they double down.

And so it is with Collin College, as President Neil Matkin, a right-wing ideologue himself who fired Jones and Heaslip simply for questioning the schools COVID reopening policies and being active members of the Texas Faculty Association Union (and he wasn’t cryptic about it, making it clear publicly that the reason for their termination was clearly retaliatory) has now fired another professor, Lora Burnett.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, in the context of the Jones and Heaslip firings: “To muddy the whole episode up a bit more, another professor at Collin, Lora Burnett, has been put on notice that her job is in jeopardy because, during the Vice-Presidential debates she put out a tweet basically calling Mike Pence demonic. She received the now-to-be-expected online attacks and threats, and the school essentially joined in, condemning her words and not defending her right to have her own opinions. Burnett’s Tweet, Matkin said, was “hateful, vile, and ill-considered.” Like unionization, free speech is in Collin College’s crosshairs too.”

To add a bit more background, Burnett was clearly on notice but she, like the others had the support of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which filed a Texas Open Records Request with Collin College to get access to communication between Matkin and other Collin administrators and local Republican elected officials who were pressing Matkin to fire Burnett. Though Collin refused, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Collin must release records of correspondence between Matkin and legislators.

Burnett is convinced, with good reason, that a GOP representative from Plano, Jeff Leach, was the principal force behind getting her fired. Leach, to be kind, isn’t the brightest bulb and publicly celebrated what he thought was Burnett’s firing on twitter……last week, writing “

“The fact that you are no longer paid and your maniacal, obscene rhetoric no longer supported with Collin County taxpayer dollars is a win! A BIG WIN!”

Burnett then pointed out that she was still employed, to which Leach responded with a gif of a ticking clock

After Burnett informed Leach that she’s still employed, he responded with a gif of a ticking clock.

Even though Leach had outed himself as a conspirator with Matkin to fire a professor because of her tweets–a First Amendment exercise of free speech–Matkin hasn’t backed now and has now fired Burnet.

This situation isn’t just critical to three professors who have lost their jobs–meaning they’ve lost their paychecks and insurance–but to all of us, whether in education or not.

A situation as outrageous as this really deserves a national show of support to the 3 women who have been fired, whether they’re well-known academics from the East Coast or “just” professors at a community college outside Dallas.

If these attacks on higher education, free speech, and unions continue, then we’re all at risk and any one of us could be next.

Please share this story and do what you can to help.

To start, you can send a message to the Collin College Board of Trustees, click here

Or you can email them individually….

Posted in Civil Rights, Education, Free Speech, Repression | 1 Comment

Texas Energy Corporations make billions, but weatherization was too expensive…..

Among the many utterly ridiculous claims made by the Texas GOP and “energy” industry, is that they couldn’t have foreseen a “Black Swan” event like the winter storms in Texas (because the 2011 Super Bowl Storm,, was so long ago) and it would have been too expensive to weatherize the infrastructure–natural gas, coal, nuclear, and oil (because wind, the scapegoat for Texas politicos right now makes up barely 10 percent of the power grid and wind turbines can work perfectly fine in cold weather, as in Antarctica and Alaska).

Image inside Entergy Texas Plant

So below is some data on just how much the major energy companies in Texas raked in. I guess when you’re making $9-12 billion a year, you can’t afford to plan for a rain, or snowy, day. Maybe a GoFundMe page is in order?

NRG Energy Revenue, 2006-2020

NRG Energy annual/quarterly revenue history and growth rate from 2006 to 2020. Revenue can be defined as the amount of money a company receives from its customers in exchange for the sales of goods or services. Revenue is the top line item on an income statement from which all costs and expenses are subtracted to arrive at net income.

  • NRG Energy revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2020 was $2.809B, a 6.24% decline year-over-year.
  • NRG Energy revenue for the twelve months ending September 30, 2020 was $9.261B, a 3.71% decline year-over-year.
  • NRG Energy annual revenue for 2019 was $9.821B, a 3.62% increase from 2018.
  • NRG Energy annual revenue for 2018 was $9.478B, a 4.45% increase from 2017.
  • NRG Energy annual revenue for 2017 was $9.074B, a 1.78% increase from 2016. ****************************

CenterPoint Energy Revenue, 2006-2020

CenterPoint Energy annual/quarterly revenue history and growth rate from 2006 to 2020. Revenue can be defined as the amount of money a company receives from its customers in exchange for the sales of goods or services. Revenue is the top line item on an income statement from which all costs and expenses are subtracted to arrive at net income.

  • CenterPoint Energy revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2020 was $1.622B, a 2.17% decline year-over-year.
  • CenterPoint Energy revenue for the twelve months ending September 30, 2020 was $12.120B, a 41.24% increase year-over-year.
  • CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2019 was $12.301B, a 16.17% increase from 2018.
  • CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2018 was $10.589B, a 10.14% increase from 2017.
  • CenterPoint Energy annual revenue for 2017 was $9.614B, a 27.71% increase from 2016. *******************

Top Recipients of Oil and Gas Donations (from Open Secrets)

2020:  Top recipients were Trump and Biden.  After that, #1 was Cornyn, @  $1million

In House, top 2 were McCarthy and Scalise—GOP leaders.  After that it was Pfluger, Crenshaw, and Hunt, all Texas GOP

2018: Top recipient was Cruz, second was Beto O’Rourke, just a little lower was Cornyn (not even on ballot that year)

In House, top 10 included Hurd, Brady, Culberson, Sessions-all Texas GOP

2016: Cruz was top recipient with $1.7 million (more than Trump and Clinton)

2020 Vote: Counties with oil/coal industry voted 65% Trump; without oil/coal voted 45% Trump

Oil and Gas campaign contributions to Texas Republicans

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Worthy Victims? Two Professors Fired in Texas…..mostly crickets

Outrage over Nathan Robinson is fine….but others need help too

To begin, I have no issues with Nathan Robinson, have never met him, and think that The Guardian’s cancellation of his column over a sarcastic comment about U.S. support of Israel is an outrage--and he deserves support from the Left and from anyone who believes in free expression.

And he’s getting that–lots of it. Since the episode blew up last week, I’ve seen countless social media posts about it, from some of the biggest names in the lefty media pundit celebrity world, and articles about it in various media internationally. I’m glad. People who criticize Israel have been the targets of smear campaigns for too long (I have my own personal experience with that–from the allegedly radical Pacifica Network no less). So, Nathan Robinson is a worthy victim–as Herman and Chomsky wrote about long ago….no doubt.

But while the Left is publicizing the cancellation of Robinson, another episode, one with a much worse outcome in fact, has been taking place at Collin College, a community college a bit north of Dallas. Two Professors there, Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip, HAVE BEEN FIRED for questioning the school’s COVID reopening, asking for a COVID dashboard, and for simply being union members. I wrote an article about this, “Profs Fired for COVID Concerns,” and Scott Parkin and I interviewed the two professors on the Green and Red Podcast, “Professors Fired from Collin College, Retaliation in Texas.”

These two women are also worthy victims. In fact, they price they have paid–getting fired means you have no paycheck and no healthcare, along with the intense levels of stress and anxiety and potentially career-destroying attacks on your reputation–has been far greater than Robinson’s. While the context of being sacked by The Guardian, punishing any type of criticism of Israel, should appall us all and motivate action, Robinson should be fine–he’s the Editor-in-Chief of Current Affairs Magazine, he has a J.D. from Yale and is working on a Ph.D. from Harvard, and he’s already published several books. And he’s a luminary on the Left whose own reputation from this unfair debacle has been elevated.

Jones and Heaslip….not so much. Not much at all. When Scott and I wrote about and interviewed them, we put it out all over social media, with over 150 names specifically tagged. We asked, by name, people who are known Leftist media experts, faculty and others involved in the Academic or just education world, and activists. I made it clear that I was tagging people with whom I’ve had issues in the past and I acknowledged that they might not support me or the Green and Red Podcast, but the issue of two profs being fired superseded all that, and Audra and Suzanne deserved our support, with no reservations.

With all those efforts, we got maybe a couple dozen people to share the article and podcast–more activists than any other group, and more profs from small Texas colleges than elsewhere. How many left media pundits and Brooklyn radicals came to the support of these two profs from a small community college outside Dallas? Near as Scott and I can tell, zero

If you’ve read my blog or listened to our podcast, we clearly let people know how we feel about Jacobin, Chapo, Jimmy Dore, Krystal Ball, and other lefty media celebrities.

Well, this proves our point.

We do realize that we are mini-Davids, specks of dust,virtually unknowns, on the left media scene, but the issue at hand is a huge one. And two profs being terminated, losing it all, in the hinterlands of Texas doesn’t register on the radar in Brooklyn and its media-Lefty satellites.

If Jacobin believes it’s more important to publish an embarrassing, cringe-inducing, onanistic ode by Micah Uetricht to celebrate Bernie Sanders zinger during a debate with Clinton five years ago–“Henry Kissinger is not my friend”–and suggest that a single soundbite made it “all worth it”–that “all worth it” would be $180 million raised, millions and millions of human labor hours volunteered, immense psychological investment and often depression–but can’t even share a call for support for two female profs who were fired for simply criticizing COVID policies, what purpose does it serve, other than self-promotion and reveling in its media-recognized status as the voice of the Left? Maybe Jimmy Dore could give a shout out to a couple profs being crushed by the new McCarthyism instead of canoodling with the Boogaloo Bois?

Nathan Robinson should be defended….he’s a worthy victim. And he has been.

Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip are worthy victims; they have impeccable teaching and service credentials, are popular with and respected by their student, and held in the highest regard by their colleagues. They should be defended too, even if they’re “just” community college profs in Texas and not a well-known columnist an an internationally-famous newspaper.

In fact, it would be awesome if someone could tell Nathan Robinson about them and get a statement of support from him. He seems to understand the importance of solidarity, and I bet he’d do it.

So help out. To start, you can send a message to the Collin College Board of Trustees, click here

Or you can email them individually….

Posted in Civil Rights, Education, Free Speech, Politics, Repression, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Professors Fired for COVID Concerns

President Neil Matkin doesn’t care about health, safety, or free speech at Collin College


[Green and Red Podcast interviewed Professors Heaslip and Jones today about this issue, and it will be published shortly. You can find it at . You can follow Green and Red on Facebook, Twitter, IG, etc. Visit the Green and Red Media page on Medium. You can find us on YouTube. Please share, rate and review, subscribe, etc.].

For a list of articles and other resources on this issue, visit


Audra Heaslip and Suzanne Jones are well-established and highly-regarded professors at Collin College…..for the time being.  Both were fired this past week by Collin’s President, Neil Matkin, for expressing their concerns about the college’s (non)response to COVID, as well as for their union activities.  It’s a textbook case of retaliation and Matkin and the College administrators aren’t really trying to hide it.  If Heaslip and Jones can be terminated and possibly lose their jobs, their careers, their security, paychecks, healthcare, then everyone in the academic world is at risk—a tenured professor at celebrity university, or an instructor at a community college, or a K-12 teacher anywhere in America……..

We are all Audra Heaslip and Suzanne Jones right now

When the COVID pandemic first struck last spring, Collin College, a multi-campus institution north of Dallas with administrative headquarters in McKinney and about 60,000 students, shifted to online classes, but Matkin immediately made plans to get in-person classes going as soon as possible, COVID be damned.

Many faculty had other ideas, and Heaslip and Jones were among the most important critics of Matkin’s recklessness.


On June 30th of last year, the Collin Faculty Council passed a resolution against holding in-person classes on campus.  Matkin waited two weeks to respond, made no commitment to considering remote learning, and created a difficult bureaucratic process for professors who wanted to teach online for health or other reasons, forcing them to go through HR and get permission.

Image result for neil matkin
Matkin, far right, next to Gov. Abbott

Matkin himself is hardly the stereotypical college president.  He looks like a 1960s sheriff out of central casting (kind of a cross between Bull Connor and Herb Tarlek). He has a degree from Ambassador College, a school run by the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, one of the first televangelists to get a national following in the 1960s and 1970s. So his ideological foundation is pretty obvious. There’s nothing remarkable, to be charitable, about his background.  While his political connections are not clear, he does seem fond of having his photo taken with Texas’s right-wing governor Greg Abbott, whose COVID non-responses have created a humanitarian disaster throughout the state.  And as faculty concerns over COVID rose, Matkin’s response, like Abbot’s, became more harsh and retributive.

It’s also worth noting that Heaslip and Jones are active in the Texas Faculty Association (TFA), and have been campus representatives and organizers. Texas is one of the states more hostile to labor and especially with unions like the TFA, or my union, the  TSEU (Texas State Employees Union), which have, in effect, a consultive and symbolic role.  At one point the state TFA website included a list of the campuses at which they had members and Jones and Collin College were included on that roster.  Matkin would later use that to make the case against her termination (but as soon as Jones was told that the website affiliation was an issue, she had TFA take it down). By the way, I am a professor at the University of Houston and a union member. According to Matkin, that statement is a firing offense.


To muddy the whole episode up a bit more, another professor at Collin, Lora Burnett, has been put on notice that her job is in jeopardy because, during the Vice-Presidential debates she put out a tweet basically calling Mike Pence demonic.  She received the now-to-be-expected online attacks and threats, and the school essentially joined in, condemning her words and not defending her right to have her own opinions. Burnett’s Tweet, Matkin said, was “hateful, vile, and ill-considered.”  Like unionization, free speech is in Collin College’s crosshairs too.

Amid all the Burnett furor, the COVID issue became even more important, and ultimately cost Heaslip and Jones their jobs.  In an August letter to Collin Trustees, Matkin wrote that “the effects of this pandemic have been blown utterly out of proportion across our nation and reported with unfortunate sensationalism and few facts regardless of which news outlet one tunes into.”  With such little regard for a disease that had caused about 200,000 deaths at the time, it was not surprising that Matkin ignored a faculty request to create a COVID dashboard—a record of the number of cases and deaths by COVID at the college.  At a faculty meeting in mid-September the Vice-President of Campus Operations, Toni Jenkins, saw  “no reason to promote and report presumed cases” and the adminstration simply rejected the dashboard suggestion. 


At the beginning of Fall semester, 130 Collin faculty also supported a resolution, authored by Heaslip, calling for the school to switch to online classes as COVID numbers remained huge, another requested rejected by Matkin.  Frustrated and frightened, many faculty began to speak about the COVID issue more publicly, especially Heaslip and Jones.  In November they began to speak to media about the COVID dashboard issue and Collin’s general refusal to do anything about campus safety regarding the Coronavirus. 

The Collin administration was angry of course.  Matkin, for his part, sent out a “Happy Thanksgiving” email to the entire campus community and in the 22nd (yes, twenty-second) paragraph notified them that a Collin faculty member had died of COVID a few weeks earlier.  The media began to pursue the various Collin stories with more energy and was told by PR person Marisela Cadena-Smith that the school would not comment on personnal matters “in concert with Collin College core values, particularly dignity and respect.”  That would not be the last time the Collin leadership would team would talk about “personnel matters”……


Heaslip and Jones continued to bring attention to the COVID issue at Collin, however, and that cost them their jobs.  Last week, on January 28th, both were called into private meetings with administrators and HR representatives and told that their contracts, which had been renewed in the Fall but not yet “stamped” (that would happen in March) would not be renewed (January 28th, by the way, was also the date of the first TFA organizing meeting of the semester). 

Both Heaslip and Jones have exemplary reputations and teaching records.  Their slate is absolutely clean.There are no legitimate grounds on which to dismiss them.   And Collin didn’t try to hedge about the reason for its actions.  It cited Heaslip and Jones for violating “personnel matters,” telling them that questioning Matkin’s COVID policies and going public with their dashboard concerns was hurting morale at Collin and making it look bad in the public, and that having Collin included on the TFA website was a firing offense too.

In Jones case, they added another cause—in 2017 she had been a signatory to a public letter, with Collin used as an identifier, calling for the removal of Confederate statues.  You read that right.  Matkin included Jones’s public opinion that confederate statues should be removed as a cause for firing—so on that issue Heaslip and Jones are on the same side as the JCS, most Republican senators, NASCAR, and pretty much every corporation in America, while Matkin is on the same side as Trump and most of the thugs who invaded the capitol on January 6th.  They were fired for their COVID concerns, union activities, and signing a public letter.  The administration said all that.

That’s not the interpretation of an angry victim. That was Collin College’s public rationale.


If you’ve ever been a professor or instructor or grad student, this story might not appear to be so shocking, even though it’s clearly horrible, but it should outrage you.  Universities, despite the rhetoric of free expression, are authoritarian to the core and anyone who irritates the chancellor, president, provost, dean, chair, etc. can get in grave danger. There is generally no due process, as Heaslip and Jones have discovered.  Complaints can be made anonymously. Your typical American courtroom, as terrifying as it can be, often offers you better protections than a university or college disciplinary hearing.  To some point, that’s the job of administration—to make life difficult on faculty, especially left-wing, or radical, or activist faculty and grad students (one of my proudest moments came when someone told me, long ago, that a higher-up in the Provost’s office said I was “the biggest asshole on the entire UH campus”). 

But there are recognized lines that can’t be crossed—and Matkin and Collin have blown past them here (repeatedly, it would seem).  Heaslip and Jones are doing what they do because it’s the right thing to do, protecting the health and safety of a much larger community.  No one who’s ever endured anything like this would do it for kicks. It’s all-consuming, scary, and potentially destructive.  Amid a horrific pandemic they sought to make themselves, their colleagues, and the students safer. They sought information.  They believed in solidarity among the various parts of the campus community. 

And they were fired—for asking too many questions, criticizing too many policies, seeking too much information, and telling people at the daily hazards of life on Collin’s campuses. They were fired for their ideas, not deeds.  As one would assume, the entire campus has been rocked by this.  “If they’re willing to get rid of people like us just because we disagree,” Heaslip said, “then I really fear for the future of the culture at the college.”  She added,  “It’s getting really bad. I mean, the fear is just out the roof.”

Establishment media loves to write stories about silly leftist campaigns on campus to cancel a speaker or get a safe zone created because they distract from the far more frequent, and damaging, campaigns waged by presidents, provosts, and deans against professors who challenge university administrators on issues of workplace safety or unionization, among other concerns. Fortunately for Heaslip and Jones, the media has been talking to them and covering this story, and the response has been very positive. Their union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have also been on top of this and supporting their efforts to get their jobs back (See FIRE letter to Collin, February 4th).

The rest of us have a role to play here too. If you’re in any way connected to the academic world–like if you sat in a classroom one day–this is an important issue. The email addresses for the Collin College Board of Trustees are below, so contact them to insist that they reinstate Heaslip and Jones. If you’re a tenured professor, or in you’re in a Texas union, you can do more. They don’t have tenure at Collin College so those of us who do can use it on their behalf.

Martin Luther King often said that long after we’ve forgotten the angry words of our enemies, we’ll still remember the silence of our friends. If you can lose a job at which you’ve excelled for years because you got on the wrong side of a college president who refuses to protect the health and safety of his campus, who is aggressively anti-union, and who simply does not respect the idea of Free Speech, then you’re never going to be safe at anytime or place ……

Posted in Education, Free Speech, Politics, Repression, Uncategorized | 3 Comments