Teaching Industrial Relations in Vietnam: a US Labor Academic at a Union-sponsored University

In order to translate the core assumptions of collective bargaining for Vietnamese undergraduates, I have had to turn my attention to the way democracy is actually practiced in our own country.

Three ways of looking at a pancake — March 24, 2020

Three ways of looking at a pancake

March 24

Nine turtles not contributing anything to the economy up at Jewell Lake

Bernie lost a bunch of states, came in about even in Washington; Elizabeth “paused” her campaign, Bernie and Biden debated to an empty room, with Biden doing better than I’ve ever seen him and Bernie seeming a bit weary but still able to hit the main points — that he’d voted the right way on a lot of hard bills and Biden hadn’t. Then Ohio postponed their primary and the national attention turns to the COVID 19. Bernie has been holding Town Halls; I haven’t seen anything from Biden but heard he was staying home.

Last week, when a journalist asked Trump (in a White House Press Conference) when emergency supplies would reach the states, Trump said, referring to the federal government, “It’s not a shipping clerk.” Yesterday I watched too much CNN, enough to be able to hear Trump boost a medicine used for malaria as a “game changer” (it was tested once for flu — in France, on 20 people, and about 10 of them recovered, one walked away, five got not results, one or two went into the ICU and one died — not good, in other words) and promise that the general shutdown would be over by April 6 — in two weeks or less. “Before this happened, our economy was blazing” and the “cure could be worse than the disease.”

That made me think. Apparently this quip came from a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday morning.

The cure, here, is the shutdown, which is intended to slow the spread of the virus until our healthcare system is geared up to be able to handle all the sick people. Everyone, apparently, will get this virus — the question is when. Ideally, we would slow down the spread enough to keep our healthcare system functioning until the time comes — 6 months? a year from now — when there is a vaccine that can be given to people so that they won’t catch it, or at least won’t die from it. So the shutdown is the cure.

So shutdown could be worse than the disease, which is the corona virus. Worse — why? Because the shutdown is causing the stock market to plunge. People are staying home, not buying stuff, trade has stopped, not only small businesses but big businesses are losing money. But mainly the stock market. So the shutdown could pancake the economy, so to speak.

Thus he says it would be better to stop the shutdown and let the healthcare system get overwhelmed — meaning people with ordinary illnesses and emergencies couldn’t get care, either — and people die not just from COVID 19 but from everything people usually get sick with, including car accidents and heart attacks — that would be preferable to letting “the economy” slump into a recession.

The guy really wants to kill a lot of people.

Here are the three ways I have in mind:

  1. The shutdown is good for the earth — animals are showing up on the street, birds seem to be coming back, the air is clearer, who needed all that stuff anyway? Let’s take this as a lesson in living smaller and quieter. God bless the internet, though, especially Zoom.
  2. Weren’t people already talking about a general strike? isn’t this a general strike? Wasn’t this what we hoped it would look like back when Oakland held it’s OCCUPY day of not going to work? What’s the difference? Aren’t we in the middle of a general strike? MAybe we can use it for something (note — disaster capitalism is something else.)
  3. There is a lot of money (or wealth still in the earth — gold, coal, lumber) but there are really too many people, especially retirees and un-contacted tribes in the Amazon, and people in nursing homes — all of whom are not producing any additional wealth — they’re just living their lives — so really, we’re better off sweeping them off the planet.

People on our street doing ‘social distancing” last week

All three ways of looking at the pancake.

The first leads to a vision of a world without people, but skips over what getting rid of all of us would look like. Big slice missing, here.

The second might be useful — if people started putting signs in their windows, “On Strike,” or “General Strike.” But we didn’t prepare for that in advance. But maybe someone is figuring out how to do disaster socialism….maybe Bernie’s working on it.

The third means simply sweep away the people who can’t produce more than they consume and get the rest back to work. Triage by job readiness. This is the worst case scenario but I don’t think it’s anything new.

The pancake is the economy, in case you wondered. And society.

March 10 primaries — March 10, 2020

March 10 primaries

Today Washington State, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Mississippi and Democrats abroad are voting. Bernie has spent most of the week in Michigan, which he won in 2016 but where he is predicted to “have problems” this time. Cory Booker is out campaigning for Biden. So far, all the other ex-candidates of note (except Elizabeth and Tom Steyer) have endorsed Biden. People under 40 double digits pro-Bernie; the older folks are pro-Biden. Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race, apparently. How did that happen? She got 15% of some poll? Or someone decided that the two-white-men race suddenly didn’t look good?

Protesters disrupted a Biden rally in Michigan last night. Watch it. Watch Biden look around in confusion — then hear him ask if the protestors if they are Trump supporters; then he says the Bernie Bros are here:

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/10/joe-biden-detroit-protests-sanders-124874

Working Families, which had endorsed Elizabeth, has now endorsed Bernie.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/09/working-families-party-endorses-bernie-sanders-124267

Here is a link to what unions have endorsed a candidate;

https://intercom.help/unionbase/en/articles/3782859-who-has-endorsed-who

Meanwhile, Italy has locked down internal travel because of the corona virus, the Grand Princess is unloading its sick or contagious passengers into Oakland (they will be transferred to two military bases in CAS or somewhere in Georgia), the Dow is down hundreds of points and MIT is closing its dormitories. Lots of desperate-sounding email messages about “democratic unity” from the Democratic Unity Fund, etc.

This is the guy that we’ll have to get exited about in order to help him beat Trump:

It won’t happen.

Votes in as of 10 pm Tuesday night, Biden carries Michigan 51-35 (delegates), Missouri 41-23-, Mississippi 39-2, Idaho 47-42, but Bernie is ahead in North Dakota 44.7 – 34.2 and in Washington State, with 67% of votes in, it’s Bernie 32.7 to Biden 32.5.

March 8, the two-man race — March 8, 2020

March 8, the two-man race

Now things pivot to it being a two-man race –two old white men. Bernie has to make a different kind of speech — not his regular stump speech that covers all his issues. Now he’s got to differentiate himself from Biden. Here he is in Arizona on March 6, before going to Detroit for the Michigan Primary on Tuesday the 10th:

He begins by acknowledging that it’s a two-man race, the winner has to take on Trump. Trump will use anything, true or false, to attack — you can see it already in what he’s doing to attack Biden. Bernie does not list what Trump has done or might do to attack him. He doesn’t mention it — it would just give Trump more weapons. Let Trump figure it out. Bernie also says that he will support the nominee and has said so all along; he and Biden are friends, and Biden has “indicated” that he would support Bernie. Then Bernie moves into comparing their records: Bernie was on the right side in NAFTA, TPPR, the Hyde Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Iraq War, and Don’t Ask-Don’t tell. “These were difficult votes. Which candidate has the guts to cast the right vote at a difficult time? ….I was on the right side.”

Most of the questions are about turnout and demographics of the horse race: seniors (who are more conservative); African Americans, youth. Someone asks about a swastika that was apparently displayed at a rally last night (that would have been March 5) and Bernie doesn’t dwell on it; he thanks the police for handling it and turns the topic to the horrors of fascism.

Although sometimes he seems to be referring to notes, he is calm, steady, competent, informed, and fully in control of the way his personal story ands record has to be publicly compared to Biden’s. Joe points out that he’s using the pronoun “I” more often now — yes, because it’s now him vs Biden.

Bernie Surrogate Linda Sansour

On Al Jazeera the moderator is interviewing “national Bernie surrogate” Linda Sansour and Lindy Li from the Biden campaign. Both women. Linda Sansour is dressed in full Muslim women’s clothes, head scarf,etc. She is way ahead of the Biden surrogate (not called a surrogate — she’s called a spokesperson, I think). Sansour is strong, confident, informed, articulate, adult — a very good example!! The two women actually get into an argument and the moderator allows Sansour to go ahead; the Biden spokesperson, Lindy, seems to scramble for ways to make points. She (Linda) references her family’s experience in Communist China when the question of socialism comes up.

What about Elizabeth Warren?

So far, no word from her. Jesse Jackson has endorsed Bernie. Kamala has endorsed Biden.

It’s International Women’s Day, too. From The Nation, part of an article describing the role of sexism in Elizabeth Warren’s failed campaign:

Kamala Harris was held to devastating account for her record that genuinely troubled criminal justice reformers, while Biden gets a pass for actually writing the laws people are now desperate to reform. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign didn’t even get off the ground because people resented her for holding Al Franken to account. (Yes, I’m aware that Tulsi Gabbard is technically still in this race. No, I have no idea why.)

Well, yes, plenty of sexism at work in this campaign. For an experiment, I tried imagining Elizabeth in men’s clothing and with a man’s self-presentation. (I really like the way she chose to dress, by the way; narrow black pants, black top, and then these loose but shaped smocks of different colors. Eileen Fisher? Comfortable, not like the pantsuits of the Hillary campaign period.) Anyway, sorry for the digression. I would say that if Elizabeth had been a man but was otherwise exactly the same, she would be the undoubted candidate.

A day later: I’ve been criticized now both for mentioning Elizabeth’s clothes and for calling Biden “limp,” in each case because they show sexism but especially because using the word “limp” is a lot rougher than mentioning clothes. I let my remarks stay in because my impulse to say them was so strong that I wanted to put it out there and see why. So later I got another glimpse. I have a friend back East who told me she just voted for Elizabeth. “I voted for her because she is a woman,” she said proudly, but added, “You probably think I should have voted for Bernie.” Well, yes, I said, and the conversation went on, covering a lot of topics including her recent job searches, which have turned up nothing but short-term barista gigs. She has also experienced extended homelessness and struggled to get on various kinds of public assistance. She is, in fact, an academic, but one who never got one of those jobs. I knew most of this already but the penny suddenly dropped: a vote for Elizabeth is a vote for what she herself could have been. I said, “You know, in the country that Bernie’s agenda would give us, with Medicare for All, free college tuition, higher minimum wage, forgiveness of student debt — you would have a social safety net under you that would make your life a lot less dangerous and scary.” Sudden silence on the end of the line.

So identifying with the candidate is a big deal. Who is going to identify with Biden, though?

Friday March 6 2020 — March 7, 2020

Friday March 6 2020

The delegate count is now 664 to Biden 573 to Sanders. A difference of 91. Still counting in California. Biden creeping up.

Larry Hendel and Joe Berry, coordinating the Labor for Bernie network for Northern California.
Larry Hendel and Joe Berry are cordinating the Northern California Labor for Bernie (L4B) network; so far about 5 messages gone out, list still getting tuned up but responses coming in

The COVID-19 virus, we are told, will eventually reach everyone. The best website information is at:

cdc.gov

And today, in case anyone was wondering if we do or don’t need a full-on national health plan and a national health service, a judge in Texas struck down Obamacare in its entirety, including coverage for preexisting conditions and for children under 26.

Happy Birthday

A lively birthday dinner for our neighbor, with a guest list averaging age 70, myself being on the upper end. Twelve people eating and drinking and talking. Some Bernie supporters, some Warren supporters, perhaps a Biden supporter here or there — I can’t tell, because not everyone confessed to whom they voted or campaigned for.

Our host spoke of the concept “least harm,” meaning that you would support the person who would be likely to do yourself and your community the least harm. Biden would be that candidate; a stretch of smooth road ahead, at least for a while.

For someone my age, who may or may not be around to see a second term of the new president, that might be an attractive choice. “He would get me through to 80 years old and that’s enough,” I might say. After that, let whatever happens happen.

However, given the climate crisis and all the other crises that are aspects of that, I see that no matter who is elected — Trump, Bernie, or Biden – we will be moving steadily into a deepening conflict over how to manage our communities. So instead of a road that leads to the single destination of the November election, I see a sequence of landmarks on a road that goes beyond that. First, the rest of the primaries; then the convention; then, no matter who the candidate is, the election; then the inauguration and then the next term beyond that. Each of these changes the context for the next landmark. All of these, no matter who wins the primaries and becomes the candidate, take place in this landscape of fallout from the climate crisis (wildfires, storms, pandemics, drought here in California, hurricanes like the F-4 one on Super Tuesday in Tennessee that killed 18 people) but also energetic grassroots struggle by the people who are currently involved in the Bernie campaign and who are also committed to a different kind of country.

So Biden becoming the candidate won’t stop the movement that supports Bernie from continuing to organize and push forward. Electing Biden won’t mean buying a few miles of straight road; it will just mean that the work will continue at the bottom, at the grassroots level. This will look like conflict, if the massive teacher strikes of 2018-19 looked like conflict. The 1000 Grandmothers blocking a street to protest fossil fuel probably looks like conflict. I guess the firing of 54 grad student employees at UC Santa Cruz looks like conflict, too. It certainly feels like conflict to them. But the version of conflict carried on by the right involves not only legal measures (like knocking down Obamacare) but also guns, cars being driven into crowds, etc. To say nothing of putting children in cages on the border. So all this will escalate.

Still coming on — March 6, 2020

Still coming on

Vote count by state, as they are still being counted

This morning Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race. She did not turn around and jump to endorse anyone, the way Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klochubar did. She’s waiting and thinking. That sounds right. It looks as if the votes that went to her were probably votes that might have gone to Bernie, so they cost him some states. And he cost her votes, too.

Biden’s delegates have crept up during the late count, by 1 in Colorado, to 10 for Biden and 20 for Bernie, and by more in California. It’s now 186 for Bernie and 146 for Biden, 15 for Bloomberg and 5 for Warren. Still counting, as far as I can see.

Rachel Maddow interviewed Bernie last night and he said that, as far as he was concerned, the person with the most delegates at the convention wins the nomination. No second ballot, no super-delegates. This is brave and smart. It focuses on his ground game and challenges the other candidates to win on the basis of what people actually choose when they vote in their primary. It defies the corporate Dems who have lined up super delegates to fix any problems if such should arise. It’s like saying, “If you guys bring in enough delegates to nominate Biden on the first ballot, he’s all yours and we’ll all deal with the consequences in November and years coming forward.” The young activists aren’t going away. The climate crisis isn’t going away.

Apparently Sunday night before the primary, Black Lives Matter activists climbed onto the stage at Amy Klochubar’s rally in Milwaukee and wouldn’t let it go on; she had to cancel it.

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/03/01/protesters-take-stage-at-site-of-klobuchar-campaign-rally

The news is mostly corona virus, which our healthcare system is completely unprepared for. The real danger, I’m told, is not that a whole lot of people will die –the mortality rate is lower than flu – but that our healthcare system will get overwhelmed because of so many people getting sick at once, and no one will get care, no matter what they’re sick with. I heard one interviewee on KQED naming Trump’s de-funding of the CDC as a cause, but others, speaking on CSPAN in various hearings, dance around placing blame for being unready for a pandemic.

Children apparently don’t get sick with it, by the way.

The market is whaling around up and down as trade and travel grind to a half.

The Day After SuperTuesday — March 5, 2020

The Day After SuperTuesday

Day after SuperTuesday March 3, 2020

Which is two days after our son Jake’s birthday, by the way.

Last night Joe and I attended a DSA Bernie Watch Party at a venue near the West Oakland BART station called 7West.  From what I could tell driving through the neighborhood in the dark, it has gentrified like mad in the last 10 years; no longer artists’ lofts, warehouses, empty lots, debris left over from the 1989 earthquake that knocked down the freeway where the four-lane Mandela Expressway now runs. But this transitional quality makes it a great venue for places where you need parking and space to dance and not pay a lot of money: it was huge; tables, a long bar, a big dance floor near the band, and then a big outdoor fenced-in area with bike racks and picnic tables.

And it was jammed, even when I got there about 10:30 pm, and Joe said that thousands of people – kids, from my point of view, human beings less than 40 years old (Jake is 44) – had been there earlier. The bike racks were overwhelmed. Pretty white group, though, from what I could see.  There were two TV cameras, one apparently from a British station, doing interviews. 

For us, a peak moment was when they projected the words to Solidarity Forever on the screen above the band and started playing it and people turned toward the bandstand, stopped talking and sang.  They seemed to be familiar enough with the song to match the words to the tune.  I hugged Joe and wondered aloud if we had ever had the experience of being in a group of people singing Solidarity where one of us wasn’t actually leading it.  Not for a long time, I’m sure. I remember my first time hearing it sung by a crowd, at a CFT labor ed summer school, and being astonished and a little embarrassed by the sincerity of the old people who were singing and holding hands.  No sign of that here. The kids were happy and seemed to know what the words meant.

There was a lot art around, including a be-flagged pickup truck with a big puppet head of Bernie on the roof of the cab. Apparently there were 3 art trucks like this circulating in the Bay Area yesterday.  They did an “art-build” day where people painted and constructed signs, posters, T-shirts, puppets.

Getting back to the details

So here’s what appears to be going on.  We knew something like this would happen but of course there’s expecting it and then having it happen.

Bernie won Vermont, where people think of him and friendly, smart and reliable but not particularly radical.  He won Colorado. He won Utah. He had already won Nevada and New Hampshire. He really won Iowa, although he did not get the majority of the delegates coming out of Iowa – Buttigieg did.  Bernie had about 6,000 more actual votes than Pete Buttegieg did but the party awarded Buttigieg one more delegate than Bernie. I remember watching CSPAN that night and seeing someone from the Bernie caucus stopping by the caucus manager’s desk and asking why.  The answer was something like, “That’s the way it’s done,” or “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

At that point, a little over a week ago, Bernie was on a roll – a ”surge” as the media is calling it. 

Then a week ago last Thursday, two days before the South Carolina primary, an elderly Black South Carolina Senator, Senator Clyburn, endorsed Biden.  Up until then Biden had been viewed as a dead man walking, a limp campaign that wasn’t going anywhere. Not just among my friends, but all over the country, people would say, “Biden…..ugggh. Can you picture him on a stage with Trump?”  Then came the endorsement from Clyburn and apparently Black voters who had been waiting for some guidance turned out for Biden and Biden won South Carolina.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/clyburn-knew-democrats-needed-a-signal-to-rally-around-biden-his-endorsement-created-a-political-surge/2020/03/04/2f0c0a60-5e33-11ea-b29b-9db42f7803a7_story.html

I saw Clyburn on CSPAN being interviewed immediately after the Senate voted to acquit Trump. He struck me as someone who had been in office for a long time and was used to wielding the power of his base, and not shy of the camera. Compared to Julian Castro’s comments on leaving the chamber, given what just had happened, Clyburn’s were not sharp.  

After the South Carolina primary, which Biden won, the landscape changed abruptly.  The limp campaign turned into a firestorm — but with the same candidate at the center. Tom Steyer dropped out. Then the moderate-center of the Democratic party — the DNCC — jumped up to “coalesce” around Biden and sure enough, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klochubar announced that they were dropping out of the race, too, and would endorse Biden. So did Beto O’Rourke in Texas, who had dropped his campaign at least a month ago.  Then Bloomberg said he was pausing his campaign.

As the results were coming in last night and Biden was racking up the states, I was driving back from orchestra rehearsal and listening to KQED and heard a pundit say that the only reason Bloomberg joined the race at all was to stop Bernie – he was the party’s Bernie insurance, because Biden looked so limp and weary that the Party was afraid he wouldn’t attract voters and beat Trump.  But after South Carolina, Biden became the candidate of choice, the Not-Bernie. Same guy as before, but suddenly a hero.

By Super Tuesday, of course many California voters had already mailed in their ballots, voting for Klobuchar, Steyer, Bloomberg or Buttigieg.  

NewYorker.com/news/election-2020/2020-live-democratic-delegant-count-and-primary-election-results

Delegates: However, Bernie was strong in some states where he lost

The Democratic Party awards delegates to the convention based on the number of votes a candidate receives. A candidate needs 1991 delegates out of 3,979 in order to clinch the nomination on the first ballot of the convention. As of this afternoon (March 5), Biden has 566, Bernie 501, and Elizabeth 61.  Bloomberg and Buttigieg between them share 79, but by now they have dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden. They are still counting votes in Texas.

In states where Bernie won, he won by a landslide.  I’d call it a landslide if the winner won by about 3:2 or better. These are delegate numbers.  

California: 93 Biden, 155 Bernie

Colorado: 9 Biden, 20 Bernie

Iowa: Biden 6, Bernie 12

New Hampshire – Biden 0, Bernie 9

Nevada – Biden 9, Bernie 24

Utah – Biden 1, Bernie 9

Vermont – Biden 5 – Bernie 11

Biden got a landslide, according to my definition, in the following states.  All of these but Oklahoma are Old South states. These are states with a significant African American population. People are talking about “the legacy of Obama” in these states, but I think that we should be looking at the role of the historic Black institutions that are alternatives to the white institutions.

Alabama – Biden 41, Bernie 7

Arkansas – Biden 17, Bernie 9

South Carolina – Biden 39, Bernie 15

North Carolina – Biden 65, Bernie 35

Oklahoma Biden 21, Bernie 13

Tennessee – Biden 29, Bernie 15

Virginia – Biden 66, Bernie 31. 

But in other states where Biden won, the difference was not as great; these were close races.

Maine – Biden 11, Bernie 9

Massachusetts – Biden 36, Bernie 29 even with Elizabeth getting 23

Minnesota – Biden 38, Bernie 26

Texas – Biden 111, Bernie 102.  Beto O’Rourke came out here for Biden.

Pbs.org/newhour/politics/what-super-Tuesday-data-tells-us-about-who-voted-and why

In Texas, Latinos aged 18-44 voted 53% for Sanders.   Among older Latinos, only 25% voted for Sanders. 

I am going to have to stop here. Too much is happening.  Elizabeth dropped out but hasn’t endorsed anyone. You can imagine the phone calls going on – “My people will talk to your people.” Maybe I will have to do this more frequently.  Right now (as of Thursday morning) Biden has 565 delegates to Bernie’s 506, due to some re-allocation in Texas. Note that the headline says “Biden increases,” although relative to Bernie’s last number, it was Bernie who increased:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/elections-2020/biden-increases-delegate-lead-over-sanders-after-more-allocated-in-texas/ar-BB10NoIH