Working Class Bar: Toki-Ona Neptuno Bar in Havana!!

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In bustle of Central Havana, lies one of the cities hidden gems. Toki-Ona Neptuno Bar is a open and inviting place to stumble upon. The building has breezy Spanish colonial design in which allows for crosswinds to cool off patrons sipping on their coffees or mojitos. The large bar and seating area can accommodate 70 or 80 of your closest friends.

Immediately upon entry, the bartender greeted us with a warm hello.  We made the kind of small talk that makes a traveller feel like you have been transported to your favorite neighborhood bar. In this case it just so happens to be in Havana. One of the bartenders was kind enough to share with us the recipe to an old Cuban cocktail named “El Negron Cubano”.  Which was delicious, by the way.

The crowd in the bar was a mixture of locals taking a break from work and a few tourist who were more on the adventurist side. Because of this dynamic, the bar is unpretentious. Even the music is content to hang out in the background as if it was listening to the nuances of your conversation. When the bar gets livelier, musicians brighten up the scene playing traditional Cuban son music.

If you happen to be in Central Havana and want to experience a slice of what life has to offer to locals, go the Neptuno Bar. It has great food, great drinks and a cool environment. A wonderful working class bar.

Happy May Day!!

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We started a podcast!

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Check out our first episode of the Modern Socialist! Join us as we hear more about the vibrant co-op culture of Milwaukee’s River West neighborhood and explore a neighborhood gem in Savannah, Georgia.

Working Class Bar: “The Original” in Savannah GA

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I have been traveling a lot these days. But everywhere I go, I seek out a familiar place. A place where people come and go but know the ends and outs of everyone’s lives. A place where people celebrate, mourn and unwind from a hard day’s work. I don’t call them dive bars because I feel these places are the sanctuaries of the working class. When I was in Savannah last week, I walked into the Original.

The Original is located only a few blocks away from the touristy downtown area but it’s a world of difference from the drinking establishments you would find on River St.  It’s intimate U- shaped bar and cozy booths makes it a great place to let your hair down after your work shift. The music is rocking but not intrusive, perfect conversation level. The bar is full of old Pabst advertisements and one centrally placed ” I Closed Wolski’s” bumper sticker( FYI- Wolski’s is an awesome bar in Milwaukee everyone needs to close at some point). Drinks run from your classic domestic beers to classic cocktails. I must clarify , this not a cocktail bar where drinks are an artistic statement but more a bar with well crafted cocktails your grandpa still enjoys.

Behind the bar that evening was owner/bartender Matt Garappolo. With swift hands and great stories, Matt puts everyone at ease. This is the kind of place one would fall into becoming a regular.

Although the Original opened up this year, the bar is on the previous site of Pinkie Master’s. Pinkie Master’s was a neighborhood bar where the occasional politician may walk into. After a history that extended back 1953, the bar had several ownership changes until the final owner filed bankruptcy after a stabbing incident. Out the ashes of the Old Pinkie’s rose the Original. A great working class bar.

9/11 Patriotism: Why is this still a thing?

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September 11th, 2016 is the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These attacks were the catalyst for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and countless displays of patriotism around the country.But 15 years later, why are we still so consumed with these images of destruction? Why is the flag and other symbols of nationalism intertwined with the calendar date 9/11 ? Is there a purpose for all of this pageantry? Why is this still a thing?

Reason 1: People have suffered.

Many Americans lost their lives, jobs or loved ones in the attacks, therefore there is a psychological need to talk about this trauma. This is why there are still 9/11 memorials to remember the victims. Those who were harmed but survived bear the physical reminders of the attacks to this day.

Reason 2. We went to war out of vengeance.

Immediately afterwards, we went to war with a sovereign nation because they refused to extradite the allege mastermind of the attack. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives were lost on top of the few thousand Americans lost on 9/11. We later went to war in Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction and we weren’t going to wait for the next attack on America soil. We became proactive. We were the aggressors and thousands more had to die in the name of American security.

Reason 3. Industry benefitted from war.

America had to buy the bombs from somewhere and defense contractors lined up in droves to fill that need. They also created new services and technology to feed the war machine. Everything from drones to security forces, the companies that offered these services raked it in big time.

Reason 4. War is a good military recruitment tool.

It so good that the military pays for and provide personnel for stadium flyovers and 9/11 memorials in their marketing budgets. It also has the benefit of keeping the military in an exalted position in American society.Our troops and later firefighters and policemen are heroes, remember?

Reason 5. 9/11 patriotism obscures our leaders rationale for perpetual war.

15 years later we are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan to name a few. As we get further from 9/11 our justification for the war machine became national security and our national interest. Still, 9/11 gives us a warm fuzzy feeling for spending billions of dollars around the globe killing people. Our national security has rarely been tested, and our national interest, which is making record profits for corporations, has rarely been better.

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Why We Need Bernie’s Revolution…

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“Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.” -Bernie Sanders

The war is on. The corporate media, dying for another establishment democrat to challenge Clinton, lost all hope when Joe Biden decided not to run.  They are left now to confront their fear of the fact that Bernie Sanders has a shot. The informal polls believed he won the debates, despite what the corporate pundits state. He continues to raise significant funds despite not having a super PAC or Wall St. money. Why is this man a factor in this election cycle? Obviously, a socialist from the ice cream state of Vermont can’t be a serious candidate? He is a factor due to you.

The citizens of the United States are fed up with politics as usual. We understand that something is wrong with the system. From the criminal justice system, healthcare, environmental abuse, campaign financing,  public education, stagnant wages, immigration, LGBTQ rights, and the fact we have to explain why Black lives matter is enough cause us to seek out a new path.  Bernie will explain before the next Democratic debate that this new path leads us directly to a more democratic socialist future. However, with so much opposition one man cannot do it alone. We as a country need Bernie’s Revolution, but the question remains: Who is willing to fight with me?

~ Brandon Payton-Carrillo

Socialist Movie Review: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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 This past weekend, my socialist comrades rushed to the theatre to see the new movie about the Black Panthers. After all, a movie which tagline is “Vanguard of the Revolution” doesn’t warm your lefty cockles nothing will. I was left with many conflicting thoughts that needed to be discussed. Before we get to my thoughtful ruminations, let’s start with a brief synopsis.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution chronicles the rise and the fall of both the founders of the organization and their rank and file members. They cover the meeting of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, and how the organization with the addition of Eldridge Cleaver grew with multiple chapters across America. The movie attempted to explain the impact of Panther community actions such as the free breakfast for children program and the sickle cell anemia drives. Through these programs, the party attacted many diverse allies from the student movement, feminist groups and others.The Panthers were eventually the target of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover’s scorn.  Through the implementation of COINTELPRO, the Panthers were infiltrated by informers and agents on a mission to disrupt their operations. The government succeeds and the leaders of the Panthers wind up dead, imprisoned, in exile or on drugs.

The movie was well made and visually interesting with wonderful interviews and vintage film and photos from the era. The film is not flawless. Those who were involved with the Panthers may have a problem with the chronology of the film. Others may wish there was further coverage on the women panthers or rank and file members of the group. However, I had one major complaint. The directors edited around the fact that the Panthers were a socialist organization. I almost comical to hear all the past socialist slogans and propaganda without the use of the words Socialism, Communism, or any of the other -isms we support on the left. I hope this omission was an oversight and not an attempt by the director to make the organization more palatable to people who are ignorant to the issue of socialism. I highly doubt it.  I just hope this is not another attempt to defang the potency of leftist groups by disassociating the optimism of their ideals from the ideology.

Arizona: “We Balance Our Budget by Screwing the Poor!!”

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This week, the State of Arizona decided to cut the lifetime limit of welfare recipients to 12 months. The cut in benefits will likely create a 4 million dollar savings in order to make a dent in the 1 billion dollar budgetary shortfall. Is 4 million dollars worth 1,600 families, including 2,600 children, losing their benefits as of July 2016? Is it safe to say that those who run Arizona don’t care about the poor?

Well, let’s run through the shortlist of why Arizona doesn’t care about its poor or building a middle class. First of all, Arizona has been a Right to Work state for decades now, so there’s a good chance that your Union maybe under-powered or non-existent. Secondly, if you happened to have employment and were laid off, in Arizona you have 26 weeks of benefits. Not a lot of time to find a job that particularly matches your skill set. Let’s say you’re lucky enough to find a job again, but your new job doesn’t offer healthcare. Arizona has been fighting the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act since its inception. The reason why Arizona is systematically dismantling the safety net is to become “friendly to business.”

Has Arizona actually become more attractive for business? Nope! According to Forbes Magazine, Arizona is ranked 22 in states best for business and number 47 in economic climate. You can see those numbers here. My question is: Why do it? These policies make it harder for working people to rebound from a setback and for poor people to survive. Is the sacrifice of the average taxpayer worth attracting outside investors at any cost? I think not.

A Defense of Grace… Socialist Style!!

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 I came across an article the other day, that happened to be posted by one of my more right-wing friends on Facebook. I could tell by the title that the article was very critical of the Fight for $15 movement. My friend proclaimed that the article had a ” Good point”, so I bit. The point the author made was” Who do these fast food workers think they are to deserve 15 dollars an hour?”. That statement rubbed me the wrong way for a few reasons.

I could spend time arguing that these are people who are exploited and work too hard to be paid so little they need to be on government assistance. However, I would like to talk about Grace. I would like to talk about the type of grace that is shared among all people. Grace is not only an act, or attitude but a way of being. Grace can be as simple as having a disposition towards kindness and courtesy. It can also be mercy. So what would happen if we as people gave each other more grace?

We would treat others the way we want to be treated. Fairness would be a virtue. If someone struggled with a problem, whether it be an addiction or providing for their family, we would help as opposed to create barriers that keep them from helping themselves. We would assume goodwill in each other until proven otherwise. Also, we should give grace to ourselves, because we are all worthy of love and we can’t give grace or love if we have not experienced its power.

In the situation of workers and corporations, these institutions would value the people who work together for their collective success.Those who run the corporations would understand that paying employees is the cost of business and paying them a living wage is just the right thing to do. Wages are not charity but a reflection of the energy one puts in on the behalf of another’s vision. Unfortunately, larger corporations are responsible to their shareholders and not their employees. Profit over people wins again. But there is another way. Grace. And as far as I am concerned, democratic socialism has grace in spades.

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A Music Industry Revolution or A One Percent Hustle?

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 Last week, Jay-Z announced with the a bevy of music superstars at his side that they were launching a new music streaming service named Tidal. Tidal was created from the acquisition of a Norwegian company for about $65 million big ones. The investors in this project include some of the largest artists in the world from Daft Punk, to Chris Martin of Coldplay, to Madonna. The talking point was that Tidal was the world’s first global artist owned music streaming service. The question remains: how will this impact small, independent artists?

Spotify, the largest music streaming service, pays the artists only fractions of a penny per stream.This payment model equals out to be only slightly better than not receiving shit for the artist. My first question for Tidal would be what is the compensation per stream? One would assume that if a company mission statement is to be more artist friendly, then the compensation would be one more equitable to the artist. But you know what they say about assuming…

My second question is how will Tidal seek investment? Their monthly rate of 20 dollars monthly is higher than any other streaming service but most likely won’t cover all the costs to run the company. Will they allow other artists to invest for a share in the company? Will it be run as a cooperative or just as an employee-owned corporation?  Will the company just be a vehicle for these established one percenter artist to cash in at the expense of the under-capitalized  majority? My guess, due to the pressures of capitalism, would be the later. A world where artists are exploiting other artists isn’t new, but doing so under the guise of altruism on this scale is a new phenomena. I hope I am ultimately wrong.

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Right to Work Legislation Leads to the Nomination…

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 I have a prediction. Scott Walker will win the Republican Party nomination. Why you might ask? Because Scott Walker will be the beneficiary of much of the 900 million dollars the Koch brothers pledge to raise. With the signing of “Right to Work” legislation and his proposed state budget, Walker has displayed his commitment to free-market and union busting ideals which endears him to the Kochs.

 Scott Walker’s proposed state budget for the fiscal year is an ALEC wet dream. With Wisconsin facing a 2 billion dollar shortfall,  Walker took advantage of this to slash education spending by 300 million dollars. He has also opened Downer Woods, a preserved woodland on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, to development. He is essentially privatizing Wisconsin’s long term care system. His budget expands the school voucher system, which undermines public schools in favor of the education entrepreneurs. He added a provision in the budget to drug test people who apply for or have Badgercare (State Healthcare), foodshare programs and unemployment insurance.  Oh, and college campuses no longer have to provide students with information on sexual assault or report sexual assault statistics to the state Department of Justice.

The Wisconsin House of Assembly and Senate is controlled by Republicans which almost guarantees that the Koch/Walker agenda will be implemented. On the campaign, Walker can claim that he is a tough fighter that got things done in Wisconsin. If he doesn’t continue to completely suck on foreign policy his accent into the nomination is almost certain. I hope that I am ultimately proven wrong.

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