Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Greetings! For giver me that I have not communicated with you, but I have been finishing up my graduate work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies. This is a vital program, since workers must know the forces arrayed against them. For further information, please look up https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/. Such education is important especially in this time, with an idiot contaminating the White House and a Congress that has just passed a bill cutting taxes for corporations and the highest echelons of wealth, and granting temporary tax breaks for low-and middle-income people-which will last briefly-and cut out such tax breaks they benefit from, like for interest on student loans and on state and local taxes. Remember, instead of holding hearings on the bill, the Republican leadership rushed it through to a vote, before the public could learn about what was in it. But the word is out, and it bodes ill for working-class Americans. Protestors have been out in force in the halls of Congress against the bill, venting their displeasure the THEIR elected officials (and getting arrested for it)-but who speaks loudest in Washington, the voices of the people, or the scribbling of pens on checkbooks from corporate campaign donors? They must answerer for this next November. The Republicans also threw stuff in the bill that had nothing to do with taxes, but were cookies for the Religious right: lift the “Johnson Rule” prohibiting churches from endorsing candidates (which would have jeopardized their tax-exempt status) and have citizenship rights for unborn fetuses. Plus at the last minute until the vote, more items were placed in the bill’s margins by hand, and once-supposedly principled Republican senators who progressives hoped would go with the people went along with it, with the venerable Washington tradition of throwing in stuff benefitting specific constituencies and interests in their states. Your taxpayer dollars at work, folks! The Republican myth, dating back as far as Ronald Reagans “supply side economics,” states that corporations and wealthy people need more money-besides the trillions they already have-to invest in companies so they can upgrade equipment and hire more workers. However, just about every economic research group, like the Joint Committee on Taxation of Congress, predicts that instead the deficit will increase by $1 trillion. And the way to cover the deficits, the Republicans say, is to cut back on such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social security, VA, etc.-the supposed economic growth stimulated by the tax cuts-they say-will bring more revenue into the federal treasury, to pay for the programs. Of course, there is the upper-class class warfare waged on low- and working-class people, exemplified by Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, while discussing the estate tax: “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing — as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” As if only rich people can have fun! As if low-income people must spend every waking moment slaving for someone else, and not have time for their families, or for themselves! the estate tax, however, affects only those individuals whose estates exceed $5.49 million, and that only two out of 1,000 people would owe the tax. (https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/ten-facts-you-should-know-about-the-federal-estate-tax). Does Greasley know ANY thing about the people who vote for him? Do the people who vote for him KNOW what he thinks of them? And how about the wisdom of Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, while discussing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything.” The august Senator fails to realize that SOME people are elderly, retired, underage children, or physically or mentally “handicapped”-should they keep working forever, particularly for someone else’s profit? Apparently they do; they think labor, necessary for the person and society as it is, is the only virtue, and that people don’t need time to rest, to educate themselves, to be with families. Nor do they acknowledge that factories have been, since at least from after the Second world War, moving towards low-wage areas, either outside the city limits, or in another state, or even outside the country- but the capitalists and their political and media handmaidens failed to admit this. As is common in congressional wrangling over tax bills, there will be specific industries demanding tax breaks-cruise lines, craft beer, auto dealers, wine producers, the oil and gas pipeline industry-but especially the commercial real estate industry, where Donald Trump and his son-in-law/advisor/pet boy Jarred Kushner inherited their fortunes. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/business/economy/tax-bill-real-estate.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news) Tell me please how the “free market” figures into this? The common complaint by conservative Republicans is that US corporations are overtaxed and that does not make us competitive in the global economy. But research by the Tax Policy Center shows that as of 2015, tax revenue constitutes 26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the US economy, well below the 34 percent average of industrial nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-us-taxes-compare-internationally). So that myth is busted. To me, the real goal of the Republicans, mainly the conservative element in it, is to undo each and every attempt to use the federal government to lessen the effects of economic inequality, to control the excesses to the capitalist system, and to allow people of the lower rungs of the economy to rise further than ever before imagined. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida, announced that since there would be a federal deficit, it would (I’m sure he’s crying about this) demand “structural changes” in Social Security and Medicare, such as cutting payments for future beneficiaries and raising the retirement age. (http://theweek.com/speedreads/740454/gop-senator-says-tax-cuts-must-followed-by-structural-changes-social-security-medicare) But if, as the Republicans say, the tax cuts stimulate economic growth and thus bring in more revenues, then it would not be necessary to cut these programs. Like I say, the real target of these tax cuts is NOT the deficit, but the programs of the New Deal and Great Society-laws supporting workers’ right to organize; secure funds for retirees; the right to a job, housing, education, and other needs of life no matter ones’ race, religion, gender, etc.; and controlling the behavior of large corporations, which have and still to inflicted great damage to the country in their pursuit of profits. The further historically the nation has gotten from the era of the New Deal, I believe, the less conservatives comprehend why they oppose so-called “big, excessively spending government.” They have no recollection of what prompted the New Deal, what issues FDR had to deal with-the 1929 Depression; the millions of jobless, homeless, and helpless men scrounging for work to feed their families; the refusal of President Herbert Hoover to move away from the laissez faire orthodoxy; the unwillingness of the capitalists of that day to concede that anything was wrong; and the rise of the Communist party, promising-and to some, threatening-a revolution which would right the nation’s social and economic wrongs. This is the historical reality that the supposedly hard-headed, practical and realistic conservatives could never comprehend. We must keep these events, past and present, in mind, read about them and discuss them. But how can we be properly informed about them if the corporate news media-you know, the “fake news,” the “left-liberal-slanted news media-“ falls into fewer and fewer corporations that think of the bottom line, please the advertisers first, and real news dissemination last? Media mergers coming about include AT&T purchasing Time-Warner, which the FCC rushed (not conducting a public interest review), but Trump’s Justice Department is trying to block; I’m not comfortable with corporate mergers in the media industry either, but trump is trying to punish CNN (owned by Time-Warner) for its all too real “fake news” about the administration. I have a feeling from what I’ve read that some kind of deal will come about. Just the fact that they’ve been talking about merging the two companies is enough to worry about the quality of media product, the corporate control over news and information. In the corporate media, the news is just another commodity. The Meredith Corporation-publishers of such household magazines as Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens, is purchasing Time Inc., publisher of Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, with money from Charles and David Koch, the two brothers who have been the biggest paymasters of the American right-wing, subsidizers of political action groups, think tanks, and journals that have pushed for weakening environmental laws (the Koch fortune comes from oil and gas maintenance), anti-union laws such as the “paycheck protection” bills, and laws preventing municipalities from implementing their own gun control laws. In spite of what the Koch brothers say about just being “passive” investors, have no doubt they will use these venerable magazines for their agenda. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/dealbook/time-inc-meredith-corporation-koch-brothers.html) We also have the Sinclair Broadcast Group; they own 193 TV stations in the most mid-level TV markets, and purchasing the Tribune group and its 42 stations, some of which are in the big markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sinclair has dictated to its local stations which news segments with a strong pro-conservative, pro-trump slant; Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, is a political commentator for the Sinclair group. All this is taking place with Ajit Pai, the current Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) approving these kinds of mergers that would dictate to Americans what to think on issues. The “net neutrality” rule, which dictates that all persons and all web sites have equal access to the internet, is in danger. With the elimination of this rule, internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast could charge you, and certain sites, extra for going outside their data plans and for online streaming, or outright blocking certain sites. This would make gathering information over the web (like I’ve been doing) next to impossible, except if you’re a huge corporation. Another merger is that of the pharmaceutical firm CVS purchasing the insurance company Aetna, for $69 billion. Supposedly it would improve services to health care consumers-but, in the myth of the “free market,” companies are competing with each other to provide better products at the least cost. This merger would only boost stock prices and make money for attorneys negotiating the merger. This is another sign of the pattern of capitalism since right after the Civil War-companies buying up each other, leaving ownership in fewer and fewer hands. THIS is what the tax cuts for the rich and corporations are for! The only other thing the corporations and plutocrats have invested the money they save from taxes is offshore bank accounts in countries willing to hide them. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) along with the news organizations they affiliate with, has documented the Panama Papers, showing how a true rogue’s gallery of world leaders, their families, and their lieutenants have stashed their fortunes, through the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca, out of the way of the tax authorities of their home countries. (https://panamapapers.icij.org/) ICIJ is working on another scandal, this one made public this year-the Paradise Papers, received by the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, showing how over 120 world leaders and over 100 corporations-with the help of the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby-use the weak tax laws and enforcement of several jurisdictions to had their billions. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/world/paradise-papers.html) This is class warfare, being waged on working and poor people. This also shows the need for a gutsy, independent news media, telling the truth so that we the people know what goes on. You know I’ll do my part. Upcoming events-I will join in the Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, to be held from 3:00-5:00 PM, on Sunday, December 17, at Thomas Paine Plaza, 15th and JFK Blvd. On Wednesday, December 27, I will be at Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM, where I’ll sign copies of my anthology, All Of The Above, and my two poetry volumes, along with a poetry reading with Frank Sherlock, Irving Jones, and me, followed by an open reading. I believe poetry and nall the other arts are for all of us. (https://www.tattooedmomphilly.com/events/list/?tribe_paged=2&tribe_event_display=list) I hope to see you at both places. I bid everyone a happy holiday season, and all the best-in spite of everything-for the new year. Bye
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Greetings! I have celebrated my 60th birthday on August 1st, and I know my best days are ahead of me. I thank everybody for joining me on my life journey. Charlottesville, Virginia, is, like the rest of the country, a flashpoint for the racial problems and hostilities plaguing our nation; one hundred and fifty years or so after the Civil war, fifty to sixty years after the start of the contemporary Civil rights movement, race is still the great dividing line of the nation. (Class is also a real issue, even though we still don’t talk about it.) A gathering of neo-fascist groups, called “Unite The Right,” took place in Charlottesville, around the statue of Robert E. Lee, the great Confederate general-he was indeed a great military strategist, as well as the focus of great sentimental historical revision. The neo-fascists marched through Charlottesville, which is from what I hear a lovely university town-the headquarters of the University of Virginia- carrying tiki torches (like Klansmen have done) chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” like straight out of the Third Reich. Counter-demonstrators challenged them; there was violence, with the deaths of Heather Heyer, a fine progressive activist, and two Virginia State troopers whose helicopter crashed as the monitored the march-Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates; may their memory be a blessing. The immediate cause for the march was to resist the taking down of various statues of Confederate “heroes,” such as Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. These statues were a form of propaganda, “art” used for a political purpose; they were set up during the time, after the Civil War, when the “Jim Crow” segregation laws were being enacted, and again during the rise of the Civil Rights movement. It was to remind African-Americans so was still in charge. The rewriting of the Civil War’s history was also part of the propaganda; the war, historically proven to be based on the determination of the seceding states to maintain their slave systems, was now seen as merely a clash of differing ideas about what America was to be like, etc. The Robert E. Lee myth, that of the kindly Christian gentleman-warrior, who sought to reconcile the nation after the war, was part of this. As a recent article in The Atlantic shows ( https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/) , Lee indeed oppose slavery, but only because it was bad for white people; He once wrote, “I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild &melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.” How did our Commander in Chief handle this situation? First he said there was violence “on many sides,” then his staff urged him to make a real condemnation against racism and bigotry, then he went back to talking about the good people on the white nationalist side. He is either to gutless to stand up to his base (many of the racist marchers in Charlottesville wore his “Make America Great Again” caps), or he is too ignorant of the reality of racism contaminating our nation’s psyche-OR, more than likely, he’s a stone-cold racist himself. His wealth and power don’t bring him and more knowledge or wisdom, even though we are taught to revere the wealthy as geniuses. What are we to make of trump supporters, people who stick with him right or wrong, sink or swim? He is not a friend of working people, but you hear so much about how working-class white people love him, and who love his bad-ass talk about building the wall and being allowed to beat up dissidents, like he urged them to do in his rallies. Many trump lovers are our friends or relatives whom we love, and we certainly can’t cut them off-trump isn’t worth it. “Populist” is a word bandied about in the news media, like a kind of shorthand, to describe low-income racist politics. The origins of the word “populist” come from the movement in the US, the Populist Party, which was an alliance of farmers who were oppressed by railroads charging too-high rates for shipping their produce, and banks charging too-high interest on their mortgages. It was a movement of low-income people against the corporations dominating the nation’s politics and government, and it allied with labor unions and the women’s suffrage movement. One of its greatest activists, Thomas Watson of Georgia, spoke of the need for Black and White farmers to unite against the common enemy, but Watson and other Populist Party leaders succumbed to the white supremacist idea, for getting who the real enemy was. It’s a fight, but we’ve had our fights before-organizing workers for their benefit, women organizing for their right to vote at the minimum, people of color working to have their American dream, LGBT people fighting for their right to love-we have a tradition to fall back on, and we have living elders who can tell their stories and inspire the young ’ins, who will add their chapters to the history of the struggle. What will I be doing in the fight? On Monday, September 4 I’ll march with other Labor activists in the 30th annual Tri-State Labor day Parade and Family Celebration, where we honor the working people of America-that is, US-our institution the labor unions, and the accomplishment we have made for our class and our nation. We are more than worthy of a party. On Wednesday the 6th I’ll take part in a meeting of Philly for Change, a group which came out of the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004. This group discusses campaigns around legislative district boundaries (and the problem of “gerrymandering”), environmental and gun laws, and LGBT rights, to name a few. Bye!
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Greetings! I’m experimenting with a new format, as I am with other areas of my life. I’m approaching my sixth decade, and I feel great. I’m carrying on with my classwork at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in Labor Studies, and I will pass on what I have learned to other working and low-income people. This has been the 241st anniversary of the founding of the nation-or is it? In June of 1776, the Continental Congress, meeting in what is now Independence Hall in Philadelphia (yay!), listened as Richard Henry Lee, delegate of Virginia, read his resolution “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.” That resolution put into words the reality of what went on at the time; the Continental Congress already authorized the Continental Army under George Washington, along with a postal system-the kinds of things governments do. In January 1776, Thomas Paine-a person that needs more mention in our nation’s history books-published the small book Common Sense, which also put into words the movement towards independence by the colonies. There were however still members of the Congress who hoped for some form of reconciliation with Britain, fearing catastrophe from an all-out war. (Revolutions are not ONE spectacular event that makes for a great movie; a revolution is a series of events challenging the legitimacy and the power of the old regime, and eventually a political body forms to give it focus and a system of directing the revolution, be it the Continental congress of the United States, or the Bolshevik party of the Russian revolution.) A “Committee of Five” was formed by the Congress to draft a formal resolution as to the reasons for declaring independence. In that committee were John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert Livingston of New York; Jefferson, being known as a polemicist for the colonies’ cause, had the job of writing up the draft of the Declaration, with some changes recommended by Adams and Franklin. On July 2, the Congress read and began debate on the Declaration, along with revisions and editing; finally, on July 4, 1776, the congress formally adopted the Declaration. (There was much political wrangling over the Declaration, this being a political event worked on by politicians; but that does not make it any less an important document.) What do we have to be proud of this holiday? Not our “President,” a “man” consumed by his ego and ignorance, a schoolyard in the most powerful office on the planet, a man who uses his office to line his pockets in his real-estate holdings, a man who insults women and uses them as sex toys (including HIS OWN DAUGHTERS), a man who hints at violence in his rallies and in his Twitter tweets- BUT, you say, all of this is a distraction, we have to focus on the substantive issues of the day, the terrible stuff his administration does-like pushing the “health care” bill that not only seeks to destroy Obama’s legacy, trump’s reopening of the digging of the Keystone XL pipeline and of the Dakota Access pipeline-environmental catastrophes waiting to happen-weakening environmental regulations on coal mining, and banning people from majority-Muslim countries (that is, those he has no business dealing with). I agree, we MUST be on top of trump and his minions, and the policies they implement. BUT, let’s not be either-or here-EITHER focus on his bizarre behavior OR his policies. It’s these silly antics that show us the kind of man he is, how he views the world, how he would use the office of the President of the United States to carry out what he would deem to be “Correct”-but correct for WHOM, his family, his bottom line, or his country? IF he is pulling all these silly stunts to distract public attention from his policies, could he NOT have found a more dignified way to do it? Or is dignity something he doesn’t understand? How does it look like, to have our commander-in-chief acting like a damn fool to implement policy? Hopefully the trump experience ends the idea of having a “businessman” put in elected office to run the office, and the country, in a “businesslike” manner. A corporation is an organization formed solely to make a profit for those invested in it; a government is an organization formed to administrate the needs of society, answerable (hopefully) to the general public. And what kind of business model does trump have? He purchased real estate in New York and Atlantic City, promising that everything he touches is grand and spectacular, and he is worth more money that God; and, when he went bankrupt, instead of being monitored and harassed like any of US who would be in debt, finds a way to cut a deal to satisfy the banks he owes money to, along with refusing to pay contractors who did work on his buildings. The bankruptcy laws of this country are twisted to the benefit of the rich deadbeats, and we little fish are at their mercy. Still-I am pleased that the REAL patriots are stepping up, not intimidated by the trump regime, using both the internet and good ol’ shoe leather to let the members of Congress who precisely they are to represent-in town halls, in public demonstrations, in visiting Congress-members’ offices-when they're not hiding from their constituents’ ire. And what are we to make of trump’s supporters? The story goes in the commercial media is that trump’s voters are working-class people who are afraid of losing their jobs, or have lost their jobs, and trump is giving them some hope, however false. Another story is that trump’s voters are the same balls-out racists and haters who could not stomach an African-American man as President, and the traditional racial order is again attacked. Could BOTH be true? The bottom line-BOTH parties have failed the American people. The Republican party has, since the Jimmy Carter administration, been a home of religiously based haters, fearful of the advancement of LGBT people, of honest sex education in schools, of the challenge to traditional gender roles and to what is a “man” and a “woman” in our culture, hoping that their attaining state power would restore “traditional family values;” and also, since the Richard Nixon campaign of 1968, a haven to conscious or sub-conscious racists fearful of the advancement of races they have been traditionally taught to consider less that human, fearful that THEY themselves would be in a subordinate position, and associating certain races to such social maladies as crime and drugs. The Democratic party? Since the New Deal and the Great Society, the Democratic party has had the aura of carrying out needed social legislation and advancement of traditionally put-down people: workers and unemployed in the 1930s, African-Americans and other minorities in the 1960s. But the Democratic party sought to attain control of these groups and their activities, so that they would not go “too far” against the some political system that benefits BOTH parties, while adopting the proposals of the protest movements. Now, the Democratic party is once again just as decadent as the Republican party. After the Mondale loss of 1984, “moderate” elements of the party sought to remove from power the so-called “special interest groups,’ a code word for unions, minorities, etc., forming under the banner of the Democratic Leadership Council, at one time led by Bill Clinton. And the same groups, labor, minorities, etc., are told they have NO choice but to still stick with the party, since the Republicans would be FAR worse (setting the bar pretty damn low). To both parties, the American voter is ignorant, bigoted, and swayed by tough talk against some perceived enemy that really doesn’t pose a threat. Trump, just as much a product of the social-economic elite, thinks the same way about the same people who voted for him, picking up the “birther” movement and cheering on any assaults his followers make on protestors, calling for brute force at home and abroad, and he tries to connect with them-as does every other aristocrat seeking working-class votes-by acting like “I’m just as ignorant as you are” (and indeed, they’re not all that wonderful, in spite of their wealth). This is the task of REAL American patriots, to make our stand against trump and his minions, but raise American to a higher self, to make it great for all its people; and WW the people, the working and low income people of America, are the TRUE loyal opposition, and WE are the ones who can and will carry this work out. Bye!
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Greetings! I have been celebrating May Day, THE international day honoring workers and our achievements in organizing for our rights, and what we accomplish if the workers stand together and fight the bosses and their political minions. I have been active in these campaigns-don’t worry, we’ll still have Labor Day in September. The origins of May Day are in the struggles in this country for an eight-hour working day, led by the Knights of Labor. The American origins of May Day have been obscured by the appropriation by the Soviet Union, China, and other Communist regimes of revolutionary culture to further their ends, which have not been revolutionary; it gave the regimes the appearance of being radical and revolutionary. Now, the truth has been coming out, and I urge you to look up the web site, maydayusa.org. (This raises the question: what other things have we been lied to about, in schools, media, and politics?) We need to have such solidarity in these times of trump as our “president,” and I have NO obligation to show him ANY respect! A woman was arrested for laughing at Attorney General Jeff Sessions-laughing! Political satire, laughing at the doings of our elected (by whom?) officials is a venerable American tradition; currently, we have seeing a new golden age of it, with the work of Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert-who recently faced trumpist howling after a great monologue. “Fake News,” one of trump’s favorite lines, reminds you of one of Hitler’s favorite insults, “lugenpresse,” “lying press,” against the news media of his day. The news media is not perfect, it is more corporate-slanted towards what is acceptable or palatable to corporate interests; but it so far has helped in keeping an eye on the trump regime and how the trump family-including Jared Kushner, the son-in-law-in-chief-have used these connections to further their business interests. The Republicans in the House of Representatives (of whom?) finally passed the trump “alternative” to Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act, and are celebrating that heroic act of stripping health insurance from millions of Americans, while providing another tax break for the billionaire class. All through the Obama administration, Republicans have tried SO hard to have it repealed, even though the Obama plan in partially based on the plan in Massachusetts while Mitt Romney (no Trotskyist he!) was governor. How much did racism play in the Republican crusade against “Obamacare”, which is a term Obama himself wore as a badge of honor? It was from the debates over health insurance that near-riots and threats emerged during congressional town halls in 2009, and I was sure then that some group or agency was behind this; lo and behold, it turns out the tea party movement is what is termed an “Astroturf” movement (as opposed to a ‘grassroots” movement), artificially created by corporate interests, in particular the Koch brothers and others. The Republican Party establishment has long looked for foot soldiers, along with the plutocrats writing the big contribution checks, to do their voting, show up at rallies, yell at and intimidate their opponents, hand out leaflets on the streets, and fold and mail said leaflets. In the 1970s through the 1990s it was the religious fundamentalists, led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson; now it’s the tea parties worked up about supposedly being taxed to death to pay for lazy welfare recipients, who are, in their mind’s eye, people of color. Now, the foot soldiers have taken over the general staff; Republican leaders, no matter how conservative they have been, are not conservative enough for the Republican base. This is why the republican rank-and-file cast aside politicians, who actually have occupied political office and have strong conservative programs, for a reality-show star whose political leanings consist of his own publicity, whose business record is one of bankruptcies and not paying contractors, who allowed a foreign power to assist him in his campaign and thus undermine our elections and what remained of our democracy. What are we to make of the trump voters? Are they frightened people worried about the fate of their nation, disgusted by our political elite, and therefore waging a “populist” movement? Or is it a collection of infamous racists and bullies, who enjoy his calls for banning Muslims, his contempt for women, his supporting violence against his enemies? It’s all on video: the punching of protestors at his rallies, the racial slurs spouted by the attendees, the racism and anti-Semitism, and the Confederate flags, on display. It’s not being “elitist” to call out people like this; it’s telling the truth, and it’s calling for challenging the racism that has been a pre-existing condition in our country that needs to be cured once and for all. We must plainly tell any fellow citizen, most particularly any working person, who engages in violence against Muslims, African-Americans-LGBT people, or any minority, “Brother, sister, you’re+ wrong to do this. It’s not worthy of an American.” Since the Civil rights movement, so much has been made of the ‘white working class,” as if they are one homogeneous group, violently opposed to any minority group-women, African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTs, what have you-asserting their rights. Commentary I have heard says that the Democratic Party lost its way, made a big mistake, by seeking the votes of these former outgroups, and neglecting the “white working class” voter. Is this true? Should, therefore, the needs of the former outgroups be ignored so that the party could attain once again the “white working class” voter? Is this an either-or situation? I don’t see the logic in this idea. This bifurcation, if it truly exists, is not inevitable. Due to my education in Labor Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I have learned that issues of race and class in this country are inseparable; the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s-Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin-sought the labor movement as allies in the struggle for equality for African-Americans, the vast majority of whom are working class, just as Americans in general. The March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom of August 1963-where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech”-pointed out the problems the nation faced with racial and economic inequality. Civil rights Activists worked closely with progressive Labor groups, such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and King worked with the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) and the United Automobile Workers of America (UAWA) under Walter Reuther. Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, brought together over 800 trade union and civil leaders to take part in the march, along with the International Fur and Leather Workers Union (IFLWU), the Seafarers International union, and several public sector unions, all with an interracial membership. Along with this Randolph and Rustin organized a group of economists, trade unionists, and civil rights activists to draw up the “Freedom Budget,” released in 1966, which called for job-creation programs to combat unemployment, a guaranteed annual income for poor families, and increased federal spending on schools, eradicating slums, and public works. I have just come from voting in the local elections here in Philadelphia-District Attorney, Controller, judgeships-mundane stuff, but these offices it most directly affect our lives, and this is where Presidents, Senators, and other officials get their start. It’s at this level where we begin to know the kind of elected officials they would be, and it’s where progressives needs to start to bring the party into a more people-oriented direction. Plus, people coming out for such unexciting races as for township supervisor, county commissioner, and city council-member sends a message that we the people are paying attention to the affairs of our community, and are willing to hold our officials accountable. This is something we must continuously work on-especially in this dangerous era-for the sake of our children-bye!
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Greetings! I bid everyone a Happy and prosperous new year in 2017-in spite of everything. We pinned our hopes that the Electoral College members would select any other person besides Donald trump-alas, it didn’t happen. The institutions that run our country have failed us-the Electoral College, the two party system, the FBI, the news media-failed us. It was only Jill Stein, candidate of the Green Party, and NOT Hillary Clinton, who went to court to challenge the election results, showing that the Democratic party has lost its backbone, it will not fight for its rights, it would allow itself to be bullied out of its legitimate claim to state authority. This is a repeat of 2000, when Republican activists started a riot during the counting of the ballots to prevent it from happening. Our political establishment, including the news media, pretends that nothing is wrong, that it’s the normal transition of power from one party to the other. But this is not normal times. Racists of all stripes are crawling out of the woodwork, encouraged by trump’s election and his campaign rhetoric accusing Mexicans of rape and drug dealing, and threats of barring Muslims from entering this country. Racism and neo-fascism are about to return to the political and cultural mainstream; people with racist tendencies will feel safe to spout their racism venom, and two-bit hack politicians will think it’s politically expedient to bash minorities to gain votes. Elements that such conservative legends as Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley condemned-the Birch Society, the disciples of Ayn Rand, the total racists around the George Wallace Presidential campaign-have taken over, and the more mainstream Republican politicians feel they have to work with them. Let us once and for all time end the myth of the political “center,” the place where we come together, put our differences aside, cut deals, and work things out for the greater good. Democratic Presidents such as Carter, Clinton, and now Obama tried to reason and deal with the Republican Party, under the control of the right-wing element, which kept demanding more, more, more of the elimination of every socially-beneficial program since the New Deal. (Newt Gingrich admitted as much.) As any Union rep will tell you, it does no good to make concessions to the other side; they don’t want compromise, they want dominance. No more concessions! No more dealing! I say we stand fast to say NO to any attempt to privatize Social Security and Medicare, which is the Immediate Republicans demand-IF they get that, how much MORE will they demand? After we stand fast, I say we move forward in our work to expand and build on Obamacare, to make it a “Medicare for all” system (like what Lyndon Johnson originally plans to do, but dealmaker that we was, he took what he could get and waited to get more later). As we defend what we DO have, like Social Security and Medicare, we advance for what else we need to improve the country; one fine model is the “Social and Economic Bill of Rights” published by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which calls for such things as a job that pays a living wage, safe and affordable housing, sufficient and nutritious food, long term health care, free and quality education, and the right to leisure time. These are NOT luxuries; these are things that help develop a total human being, not just a 9-to-5 inmate that sells his/her soul to make someone else richer. The Social and Economic Bill of Rights can be found at http://www.dsausa.org/a_social_and_economic_bill_of_rights. The Democratic Party, through the Democratic Leadership Council, sold its soul trying to appease Wall Street elements, hoping to gain corporate campaign contributions by advancing trade deals like the North American free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); agreeing to the welfare “Reforms” of 1996 that the Republican-controlled Congress demanded, which treated low-income and poor people-many of whom DO work, even though they still need assistance-as leeches and incompetent people with no “work ethic”; and agreeing also to draconian drug laws that put behind bars people whose only crime was a few tokes on a joint, in spite of the fact that Clinton, Limbaugh, Gingrich, etc. dabbled in the weed back in the day. The other half of this was to take away the influence of the “special interests-“ Labor, minorities like the LGBT community and Hispanics, women-in the affairs of the party, to act as if their problems are not legitimate, and they are a burden on the party. This promotes the idea that there is only one viable option for the political elites of both parties, the “shun-the poor-low-income-and-minorities” attitude, and so what chance do activists for these groups have of influencing the upper echelons of the party? What has “go along to get along” with the Republicans done for the Democratic Party? Even after Clinton conceded to the republicans everything on NAFTA and welfare “reform,” the Republican-dominated Congress STILL impeached him in the Lewinsky case, for the same thing so many of THEM had been doing. And on through the Obama administration, the Republican leadership worked (if you call what they do “work”) to undermine each of Obama’s initiatives, like national health insurance, along with fostering the Tea Party movement and its accompanying racism. As I said, making concessions gets you nothing; the enemy will see you as weak and demand more. Whatever the party does or doesn’t do, we must work to stand fast against those who would take our rights away-after we finish celebrating the New Year. Bye!
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Greetings, and happy holidays! Yes, I am over the shock of the reality of Donald trump becoming the next president of the United States, keeper of the nuclear codes, leaders of the “free world.” How did it come to this? Was Trump really the avatar for change he made himself out to be? Donald Trump-a billionaire (as far as we know) real-estate tycoon who inherited the business from his father (who discriminated against minorities renting is apartments; who used his father’s connections to attain deferments from the draft for Viet Nam; who has insulted almost every one of the “other” demographic groups-Mexicans, Muslims, the physically handicapped; who acts like women are his playthings to just grab wherever he chooses; who offered simple sound-bite rhetoric to complicated foreign policy issues, like the civil war in Syria; who joined the ‘birther” crusade that said Obama was not born in this country; who, in spite of his “protectionist” talk on trade, had his brand of ties made in china, his brand of clothing made in Mexico, and the furniture for his hotels made in turkey. Now, barring a miracle in the Electoral College, he will be our President, the face we have to show the world who and what we are as a people. Is it anything to be proud of? The Trump campaign has brought out of the woodwork the racism in this country, against African-Americans, Asian-descended people, Muslims, Jews, and LGBT people-swastikas sprayed on walls, arsons fires in churches, taunts of kids in schools, and physical assaults. How can we tell kids that bullying and terrorizing minority kids is wrong, when they see the President of the United States do it and get away with it? Racism, long confined to such code works as “inner city” or “law and order,” has returned into the political mainstream, due to Trump’s campaign. Along with endorsement of such veteran racists as David Duke-who bragged that Trump campaigned on what he, Duke, has preached all along-the movement called the “alt-right” has stepped from the shadows; it shows itself to be savvy with the internet, but it’s really a rebranding of the same old racism and white supremacist claptrap. And of course the “left-liberal slanted” commercial news media presents like there’s nothing wrong, it’s a normal transition from one administration to another, and the white supremacists around Trump are no big deal, downplaying the racist nature of the Trump support. Also, there is the tired old trope of the “white working class” which supposedly was all in for Trump, as if working-class whites are more susceptible to racism than other white economic groups. And the talk is revised complaining of “identity politics,” that in our endeavor to deal with racism and sexism in this country, we have neglected the problems of low-income white. (Calling this “identity politics” is a way of trivializing racial and gender issues; many people don’t like politics, seeing it as campaigning over nothing.) The media idea is you have to work on EITHER race and gender issues OR class issues-as if they were separate; I have seen much overlap of them. Why not BOTH AND? We CAM and MUST simultaneously take on the issues of race, class, and gender, they are intertwined. So many occupations are dominated by particular racial and gender groups, such as the sleeping car porters, almost all African-American, organized by A. Philip Randolph. It is Native American people, standing fast at Standing Rock, North Dakota, who are taking the lead against the Dakota Access pipeline, which would run through their ancestral lands and contaminate the drinking water of everyone in several states. (That leads me to the geniuses in charge of our glorious “free enterprise” system, the great entrepreneurs who, is you keep the government off their backs, will usher in an era of prosperity, just by allowing them to take as much money as they want for themselves. They know the technology for non-fossil energy systems in available-wind turbines, biofuels, solar panels-but they want to stick with the only thing they know about, good ol’ dead dinosaur carcasses turned into oil and gas after millions of years-the process of extracting the oil, gas, and coal has been a ruin for the environment and a disaster to surrounding communities of people who have to breathe the fumes and smoke of these fuel sources. Can’t these “geniuses” think of anything else?) And what of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton? During the primaries, the DNC apparatus was biased in favor of Clinton against the insurgency of Bernie Sanders, a man of decades of experience in political and social activism, and who has galvanized a generation of young activists, who has identified himself proudly as a “Democratic Socialist,” and who has flooded stadiums and assembly halls with enthusiastic young supporters, and who has funded his campaign with small donations averaging $27.00 apiece, who has inspired art and song in support of him. BUT the party apparatus, in its “wisdom,” loaded the primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton, the safe, Wall Street friendly, “don’t cause the corporations to worry” choice-and failed in the long run. It’s as if our political leadership has no recourse except candidates that say nice things about racial and gender minorities but don’t want anyone to interfere with their domination of the economy, which Bernie Sanders (God bless him!) has challenged. We have to be careful about the election results. This is from NBC News: 231,556,622 people were eligible voters; 46.9% did NOT vote; 25.6% voted for Clinton; 25.5% voted for Trump. Not much of a mandate for Trump, is it? Recounts are taking place as of this writing, and the popular vote has been growing for Clinton. Yet Trump won the Electoral College vote, of an institution dating back to when the Constitution was written in 1787, when low-income people were deemed unsuited to decide political issues, when the vote was limited to white male property owners, the economy was primarily agricultural, and communication was through dirt roads. This is a governmental dinosaur long overdue for extinction, an elitist body that mocks whatever ‘democracy” we have left in this country. And of course Clinton and the democrats, instead of fighting this injustice, are expected to give up, not fight it, just as they did in 2000, even with ample evidence of voter suppression in Florida-it didn’t hurt George W. Bush that his brother Jeb was Governor-and the screaming mob of Republican activists yelling while the votes were being recounted. (Liberals are expected to always defer to their conservative superiors.) All attempts to protest these problems are called “sour grapes, get over it,” like it’s little league baseball, and not the fate of the most powerful nation on the planet. Did the Republicans graciously handle their loss in 20087 to Obama? No, they went to work almost immediately to undermine his presidency, formulating the “tea party” movement which terrorized congress-members in town meetings-as opposed to the reasoned debate we’re supposed to have in a democracy-bringing forth the “birther” movement that stated that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not the legitimate President, putting forth racist cartoons about him, linking his policies with the now-extinct Soviet Union, and blaming Obama for George w. Bush’s trillion-dollar deficit-so much for “personal responsibility.” (That is the point of conservative politics all along, since the New Deal- Formerly dominant groups, either based on economic class, race, or gender, have had their dominance challenged, and these former out-groups have entered positions formerly reserved by the dominant groups; the former dominant groups had the idea that if they were Not dominant, they would be subordinate, like they could not comprehend the idea of equality, which they juxtapose against “Liberty,” meaning “If the government gets out of the way and not interfere with the natural order of things, the dominant groups would stay dominant.” The former subordinate groups are seen as usurpers against the rightful rulers, affluent white males.) And let us spend some time with the religious right movement-the same movement that would eliminate abortion and the right of women to control their bodies, would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people based on religious excuses, and who in general would make their idea of “Christianity” the law of the land (even while getting hysterical about Islamic Sharia law). After their chosen candidates, like Ted Cruz, failed in the primaries, the religious rightists jumped on the Trump bandwagon, knowing him to be a dirty-talking whoremaster, corporate conniver, racist, and tax cheater, just so they can get some of their own people into cabinet positions. Are they facing a period of decadence, a downslide? And, let us note the cynicism you hear out there-“Trump is in, there’s no point in protesting, they won’t pay attention, and so what’s the point?” The point is we come together as a group, to know there are many more of us who want to fight back against any injustice Trump may think up, to give confidence to politicians who want to fight the Trump agenda, and-possibly-to convince other officeholders that it’s safe to challenge trump and all he stands for. That’s what we’ll do-take to the streets, write to our editors and politicians, and let them know how we stand-bye!
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Greetings! You simply MUST get out and vote this November 8; the stakes have never been higher for this country for a long time. Donald Trump is simply unfit to be President of the United States. His calling to build a wall against Mexico, characterizing all Mexicans as criminals, rapists, and drug dealers; his call for a ban on Muslims entering this country; his contempt for women in any capacity but subordinate to him; his associating with the most infamous racists like David Duke, and aligning with the racist “alt-right” movement; his encouraging assaults on protestors in his rallies; his willful ignorance about foreign affairs and the launch system for nuclear missiles; his refusal to say he would abide by the election results, win or lose-all these indicate the kind of President he would be, a dictator. A myth in our politics says that “If we give the running of our government over to businessmen, they’ll run it as a business, efficiently and cost-effective.” Well, let’s see how businesslike Trump has been-Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump Shuttle airlines, trump magazine, Trump World magazine-all failed business ventures. Trump University-charged with fraud. His casinos and hotels-bankrupt. He has been able to negotiate his way out of trouble, since the bankruptcy laws are so weighed in favor of corporate types like him; but does he think that Putin, Kim Jong Un, or the Ayatollahs of Iran would cut him any breaks, give him any favors? And Hillary-there is no other choice but to vote for her. Hillary Clinton DOES have political and governmental experience, albeit too much playing safe on the side of corporations. I fear that, IF we the people don’t constantly monitor the Clinton administration 2.0, it would be just like Bill’s regime, too much in favor of the corporations and shying away from those nasty unions, signing such trade deals as NAFTA in Bill’s time, and TPP, which lies dormant in Congress like a disease. I believe a collapse, or at least a severe alteration is the “two party system,” is on the way; the most successful insurgencies in this election, in each of the parties, have come from people from outside the major parties-Bernie Sanders in the Democratic party, Donald Trump in the Republican-representing the aspirations of each party’s base. But look at the differences between each party’s base! Bernie Sanders’ who wears the title “Democratic Socialist” with pride, spoke out against the corporate corruption of our democracy with their campaign “contributions,” and has mobilized a new generation of young activists, who can run for officer lower down the ticket-Senator, Governor, US Representative, state legislators, municipal council-members, township supervisors; those lower-tier offices, while they don’t usually generate the press coverage that a presidential run would have, would be the offices that have the most direct impact on people’s lives. This new generation does not fear the word “socialism,” like back in the Cold War era, and they don’t share the idea that something is no good if it doesn’t increase the profits of hedge-fund managers. As for Trump, he has reaped what the Republican party has sown-coded appeals to racial animosity formed the staple of republican campaigns, such as the Goldwater campaign of 1964, to the “law and order” and the Southern Strategy of the Nixon campaigns of 1968 and 1972, the Reagans campaign of 1980, where, in Mississippi, near where three young Civil rights activists were killed by the Klan, he proclaimed, “I believe in States Rights,” the slogan for the effort to suppress the Civil rights movement, and to preserve the slavery system before the Civil War. Plus, we can’t forget how that genteel country-clubman George HW Bush was not above allowing his manager Lee Atwater to bring out the Willy Horton ads, with the fear of Black men being released from prison to rape and kill white people. A part of the phenomenon of working-class people voting for obvious plutocrats is fear-the fear of losing their jobs and their source of income to pay bills and provide for their families; not at all a small thing. Also, people are socialized to go to the same place and the same time and leave at the same time for work-it becomes an ingrained habit, and the worksite becomes like a cult, where the devotees depend on the Leader. Commentary has mentioned how these tactics of fear around race, and how racial prejudice among working-class white people is effective in bringing out the votes for Republicans, has been SO effective; but think about it-what has this meant for working people of all races and demographics? How have they benefited, besides a false sense of security? These same politicians who worry so much about the safety of the public give tax breaks to corporations and allow them to export jobs to nations with poor human rights records, to utilize their impoverished workers who are beaten down when they even think of organizing into unions. Sooner or later, the tactic of race-baiting stops working, and workers know who their real allies and enemies are. I take this time to talk up the Labor Studies program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where I am studying now. It is a valuable program, providing education for union activists and officials in Labor Law, Comparative Labor Movements, Labor History, Labor and the Media, among other topics. Now, following good capitalist logic, the administration of the university plans to eliminate the program because it is not “profitable”. (Does a thing HAVE to make someone else richer to be of any use to society?) I am one of several students taking part in a movement to preserve the program, and we are joined by labor bodies in the nation. To join the movement, please look up http://savethelaborcenter.weebly.com/. And AGAIN, get out there and VOTE like your nation depends on it, because it does. Bye!