Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Mason Missile, 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

The Mason Missile, 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

The Mason Missile, 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!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Mason Missile, September 11, 2016

Greetings! At LONG last, I am retired from the City of Philadelphia. Thanks to the efforts of trade unionists who came before me, I can retire in relative comfort, and work on projects I enjoy doing. However, I WON’T retire from the movement. Later this month I will receive an award from the Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), named after America’s leading African-American trade unionist, who in the 1920s and 30s worked to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in the face to the counterattack by the Pullman company, and attained their contract. Please check the web site, apri.org. What a political season we’re in now! We have two presidential candidates who are not popular with the public, but we’re stuck with them. Actually, the “lesser of two evils” idea is all too true now; I will have to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States-in spite of her support for the unwarranted and unnecessary war in Iraq in 2003, in spite of her trying to use Republican rhetoric in the issues of welfare and crime. I’m voting for Hillary because I DO NOT WANT Donald J. Trump-plutocrat, racist, sexist, fanboy of dictators like Putin, briber of public officials-anywhere near command of the armed forces of this country, or access to the nuclear codes to launch the missiles when he feels like it. Trump is not an anomaly-he represents the class of people who run our economy and control our politicians, like the Clintons-you’ve seen the pictures of Trump and his wife (either one of them) having fun with Bill and Hillary. It’s the same little club they’re all in, the same people knowing each other, going to the same schools, clubs, and restaurants; we the working people can’t seem to find a way into that. Or can we? After beating Trump, and after a well-deserved breather, we go back into opposition mode against the person we voted for. That is how screwed up our politics is, a perfectly fine candidate with the people’s interests at heart-thank you Bernie Sanders!-can’t get through the party machine, and the candidate of the machine, so couldn’t fill a hall in her rallies and for whom no one cares about, get the prize. But this is the situation we have. I agree with Bernie’s idea, he urged his supporters to go with Hillary, sure, but he also urged them to run for offices lower down the ballot, from Senator and Representative down to state legislator, county commissioner, municipal council, and township supervisor. These offices have a more immediate impact on the public, and they will HOPEFULLY put pressure on Hillary to do the right thing for working people. Progressives have used this strategy on the Democratic Party-how effective has it been? Have progressives tended to be co-opted by the party bosses? That’s always a worry among progressive activists. And this leads to “let’s form a third progressive party,” and that brings up “That’ll split the Democrats and the Republicans will win.” There is NO easy answer, except to continue to work with what we have, to continue to meet to plan strategy-the realities of the political situation always changes, and is never constant; it was not so long ago in our history-a mere fifty years ago that LGBT people were a despised minority, hoping for some way to assert their civil and human rights in the face of violence, both physical and social; at this time, after decades of organizing, after referendum losses and electoral successes, after ceaseless organizing and educating in the face of religiously-excused hatred, the LGBT civil rights movement racks up victories. The same hold true for the African-American Civil Rights movement-there was the constant and courageous work of activists, and there were the differing approaches: integrate into the larger community, or organize a separate state? Advance through capitalism or communism? Work through the business community, or through organized labor? These discussions went on throughout the movement. Also there was the feminist movement- Once “women’s lib” was a punchline for a joke, and we have the prospect of a female President, following decades of organizing and educating though whatever institutions or tactics were on hand. There is no magic bullet, no quick and easy way to victory for progressives; merely continuing the fight, knowing that others will carry it on. Do our opponents think they can reverse things to some idyllic era of some unknown past, and puts the above groups into their former state of inferiority? I believe it’s more of a passive-aggressive rear guard action; they know these groups won’t concede anything of their rights and achievements, but they snipe at them, attack them, by other means: since African-Americans are advancing in some areas, the reactionary forces attack them with myths of welfare and urban crime, and the commercial media, the “left-liberal slated media,” pick up on this idea. The reactionaries can’t stop the advancement of women and LGBT people, so they attack them with restrictions on abortion and lack of funding for HIV/AIDS and for intelligent sex education based on science and not superstition. The Republican Party is the home now for the haters-the racists, religious fundamentalists, hard-core capitalists who hate the government because it won’t do their bidding. The party brought them together since the Civil rights movement; instead of accepting the Civil Rights cause as legitimate, instead of seriously taking on the malignant strain of racism in this country and seeking to cast it off, the party, starting with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, appealed to white working class fears of “those people taking our jobs,” and with scares of lazy shiftless welfare recipients, and the Republicans allowed these white voters to create the image of a BLACK lazy welfare recipient, even though statistics prove that whites are in greater numbers in the welfare systems o this country. This carried on through Nixon’s “southern strategy” in 1968 and 1972, and the news media complied with it, never mentioning what the call to “limit the role of the federal government” meant in practice, or which programs would be cut out. This continued through Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, when, at the location of the murders of three Civil Rights activists, he proclaimed, “I believe in States’ Rights”: that was the slogan of the pre-Civil War South, the right to oppress another race of people. That has been the Republican tactic for fifty years; it’s one thing to spout toned-down racist slogans on the stump, and it’s another to run a government and implement policy and affects all the citizens. Now, the Republican Party has as its standard bearer Donald Trump, a billionaire racist and misogynist, a man who thinks he connects with the working people of American with racism and threats of violence, and has fun doing it. THIS is how the Republican Party is destroying itself, folks, so don’t cry over its demise. I DARE to have a more positive vision of America and its working class than this-that Americans of all races join together to work for the common good, to overcome those two-bit politicians who want to divide us instead of govern us, and to celebrate our diversity. I KNOW we can do this. Bye!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Mason Missile, July 9, 2016

Greetings! Later this month I will attend more graduate-level classes in Labor Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; this is a serious subject, therefore we must take this movement, and the greater movement for social and economic justice seriously. Later in August, I will formally retire from 30 years of servitude in the city of Philadelphia. It is through the labor movement, and the blood, sweat, and dedication of the men and women who came before us and built the movement up, that I am able, as others, to enjoy a comfortable retirement, so I’ll be free to follow my favorite pursuits and to practice more self-care. We must continue to make our trade unions strong and growing, we owe it to those who came before us and to those who come after us. The vultures are coming home to roost in the Republican Party, with the election of Donald Trump as its candidate, defeating people who actually held public office. Trump’s appeal is to older white males, who hope to restore the former white male hegemony in this country, and who enjoy appeals to force and violence, like when trump supporters beat up protestors, and Trump talks about how we need to “get tough” against “those other people.” Trump is no champion of the proletariat; he is the son and grandson of men who got rich in real estate, and claims his time in a posh military academy, catering to upper-class juvenile delinquents, qualifies as real military service, even though his father got him several deferments from the draft during Viet Nam. Trump has touted his business experience as proof of his ability to govern-but running a private corporation is not the same as running government-two different kinds of organization with different functions. Trump as depended on what I call the “cult of the businessman”, the idea that business executives can do anything and everything. Yet each of Trump’s business ventures-Trump Airlines, Trump vodka, Trump steaks, Trump University, Trump Magazine, Trump World Magazine, the Trump chain of hotels and casinos- all were failures or led to bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy laws get him out of trouble. Don’t cry over the upcoming demise of the Republican Party-The decline started with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, and his opposition to the Civil Rights legislation and his appeals to the white racist vote. George Wallace bolted from the Democratic Party in 1968 and had a strong white racist appeal also, and Richard Nixon sought those votes also in 1968 and in 1972. After that, the serious media kept up the idea that the “white working class vote” was inherently racist, and that the “white working class” was susceptible to racially-coded appeals, such as Ronald Reagan talking about “welfare queens” and “crime in the streets,” hinting that progressive should give up on them. (I say “no way” to that; we must always go for the better instincts of all working-class and low-income people of all colors.) The Democratic Party, alas, also is corrupted by corporate campaign money, thanks to such acts as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision-and don’t tell me the Court is not susceptible to politics. Officials of BOTH parties act like they must accommodate the Wall Street gangsters, the plutocracy, to attain contributions to campaign with, and so the pro-worker and pro-low-income legacies of the New Deal and Great Society-which, despite the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, DID indeed nudge low-income people of all races into the middle class-are being undermined. The New Deal and Great Society never did challenge capitalism in this country, but instead they made capitalists realize they had to adapt to the needs of its workers and of low-income people, so that they could earn wages and attain educations so they could enter the middle class, serve in their corporations, and buy their products-thus putting the liaise-faire myth to rest, except in the minds of the disciple of Ayn Rand-who herself, as she caught lung cancer from smoking (which she called “man’s victory over fire”), applied for Social Security and Medicare, and got it. The free-enterprise myth continued, influencing the economics of both parties, both saying “government can’t do anything for workers, low-income people, or minorities,” and so both parties cut funding for schools, water treatment, sanitation, roads, bridges, hospitals-all essential to maintaining capitalism; and the corporate, “left-liberal slanted news media” pass this idea on, no questions asked. But there is always money available for wars, like in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for military hardware that not even the Pentagon brass wants or needs (a fact the “left-slanted news media” never brings up). Giving up on challenging the capitalist-conservative hegemony in this country is a long haul, and you have your defeats; but it’s something you must never desist from taking part in-and you eventually win. My ideal in this is the LGBT movement, which seriously started, after much under-the-radar work by brave and dedicated activists, from the Stonewall riots; and after that, it has flourished into hundreds of specialized organizations, with such various emphasis as religion, race and ethnicity, professions, legal, political, medical, etc. There have been setbacks, such as the referendum in Miami-Dade County in 1977 led by the gospel singer Anita Bryant, where gays suffered an electoral loss, and the gays were expected to just put up with discrimination. But the movement continued, and we have gays now openly serving in our military, enjoying the institution of matrimony, and holding elected office. This has been activism for the LONG haul. Let us remember this, and move forward. Bye!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Mason Missile, April 12, 2016

Greetings! Happy New Year! In January, we once honored the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who seriously challenged the established order of this country-and for that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover tried to slander him, including the infamous letter, after he won the Nobel Prize, telling him to commit suicide. THIS repression was aimed at a man who practiced NON-VIOLENT forms of social protest-a far cry from the sanitized saint King had become in our culture. The established power in our society is as much threatened by non-violent resistance as they are with an armed uprising. I hereby make my endorsement for President of the United States-BERNIE SANDERS. It’s not about winning or losing, or personalities, or who and what looks good over the media; it’s about bringing out solid social change in this country, and Bernie Sanders has demonstrated such a commitment since his days in the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, getting arrested during Civil Rights activism-and who wouldn’t like a politician arrested, but for a righteous cause? Are we so programmed in this country to just accept the “lesser of two evils,” to accept how dumbed-down and corrupt our political system is, in BOTH parties? Oh, sure, the Republican party keeps calling itself the “party of Lincoln,” even while chasing after racist white voters with such slogans as “law and order” and “welfare queen,” and even the old pre-Civil War slogan of the ante-bellum South, “states rights” (to oppress and enslave a race of people); and the Democratic party touts itself as the heir of the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, while agreeing with the Republicans to dismantle the protections that placed limitations on the power of corporations to oppress workers and consumers, and to restore the plutocratic class that led us into the 1929 Depression, and the 2007-08 Recession, to power. To me, both of the political parties are as much part of the US state apparatus as the Army; both are on the ballot in every state, and both have erected requirements that would make it close to impossible for alternative parties of the left or right to get on the ballot. And either of the two major parties would get all the national media coverage, while alternative parties would be lucky to get on a local college stations. (Fortunately, alternative parties could use the internet-podcasting, YouTube, etc.-to get their message across.) With the candidacies of Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, I am seeing the beginning of the end of the old two-party system. The two major parties have been mainly bureaucracies, with their national, state, and lower-level organizations, and activists on the left and right using the party bureaucracies to get their agendas across-the liberal, labor, and Civil rights activists utilizing the Democratic Party, and the secular and religious rightists utilizing the Republican Party. Now, we see the politicians of both parties have been stringing along the activists, talking the talk of the activists’ causes, while entering office and doing everything possible to stay in office; and we have to still support our party’s candidate, selected by the other party officials, because the other party’s candidate is a HELL of a lot worse. The uselessness of the traditional party system is also seen in the PACs, where wealthy donors could contribute money to a candidate’s campaign-who would the candidate be beholden to, the voters or the donors? With the Citizens United decision, where money was equal to speech, the floodgates of campaign donations, and political corruption, came loose; our government is fast losing the last pretentions of “democracy” and is becoming an outright plutocracy. (It was this same political class, in both parties, that led us into the debacle of the Viet Nam war, where both political parties, and officials calling themselves both conservative AND liberal, tried showing how “tough” they were in fighting the Communist menace by propping up the sorry-ass regime of kleptomanical thugs calling themselves generals, who were more skilled in graft than combat, and who were at war with their own people. The arrogance of presuming that WE, a powerful foreign nation, but a foreign nation nonetheless, knew more than the indigenous people about THEIR OWN country would appall any thinking person.) (I’m not saying that ALL foreign intervention is inappropriate, and I don’t advocate a form of neo-isolationism-the US of A is too much the international power to go back to that, and all nations are tied into each other, through trade and communication.) Yes, indeed, upheaval is in the air. This year marks the centennial of the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Ireland, where Irish citizen-soldiers raided the General Post Office in Dublin and declared Ireland an independent republic-and the forces of the United Kingdom went in and crushed the rebellion, executing many of its leaders, including the socialist and trade union leader James Connelly. It was also pointed out to me (Thanks, T.) that next year will be the centennial of the Russian Revolution, and it would be good to have some conversation about the history and effect that the Revolution had on world history, what it did right and wrong-and we can’t have any excuse-making of the terror and repressiveness of the Soviet regime, which went against ANY real Socialist ideals. These were not spontaneous flashes of emotion; Lenin and Connelly did not press a button and say, “Comrades, do your thing.” These events had behind them years, centuries, of combustible materials behind them-labor unrest, political and cultural repression, illiteracy, a wealthy and arrogant oligarchy on top of millions of impoverished workers and farmers. In each of these events, there were precedents of earlier attempts at addressing the problems of these nations, such as parliamentary politics, labor organizing (which included Marxism), literary endeavors. And the ruling classes kept acting like they would stay on top forever-until it finally burst upon them. It’s out now-John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon’s domestic policy advisor, was quoted in an article in the April 2016 Harper’s magazine that the “war on drugs” was really a war on their domestic opponents, African-Americans and anti-war activists. The idea was to associate anti-war activists with weed and African-Americans with heroin, to demonize both groups in the media-news and TV fiction, like cop shows- and make it easier to demand draconian laws, supposedly against drug use, but really as a way to harass and incarcerate the regime’s enemies. And the “drug war” still goes on, with no end in sight; in spite of the marvelous surveillance of the government, the “just say no” sloganeering, the lectures in school, the drugs somehow keep coming in, and people keep taking them. As with every other war, there are the profiteers, rich people who get richer from the war-drug cartels with their monopolies, banks where the drug money is stored, law-enforcement agencies that get government grants and also make money from seizures for drug possession. It’s time to call a truce in the “drug war,” and treat it like a public health issue rather than a law-enforcement issue. Racism has been the real motivating factor of the “War on Drugs,” way before Nixon. Harry Anslinger, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, needed an excuse for his agency to exist, so he latched upon the fear that marijuana would make otherwise rational people into raving homicidal maniacs, including associating marijuana with Blacks, Filipinos, Mexicans, and jazz music; quoth he: “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing” "Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.” William Randolph Hearst, the infamous newspaper publisher on the hunt for a wild, sensational story-who led us into the Spanish-American war, a war merely about imperial power- also took part in the birth of the “War on Drugs,” also our of self-interest; he invested heavily in timber for news paper pulp, and he feared competition from hemp paper. Plus, DuPont had just patented nylon, and feared competition from hemp as a source of fabric, along with pharmaceutical firms that feared competition for their overpriced manufactured medicines. (I thank the web site Drug War Rant, http://www.drugwarrant.com, for this great historical information.) For decades, going on a century, we have been lied to about the phony Drug war, part propaganda, part money maker, part scare tactic. This makes you wonder, what the HELL else have we been lied to about? Let us begin the work of liberating our minds, after which we’ll liberate our nation. Bye!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Mason Missile, December 26, 2015

Greetings, and best wishes for the New Year! It has happened-According to a report from the Pew Research Center, the American middle class, once the backbone of the economy, is now in the minority. Persons identifying as “middle class” are finding it more difficult to make ends meet; the numbers of “middle class” has shrunk from 53 percent to 44 percent. According to the Pew survey, the number of people who identify as “lower middle” or “lower’ class has risen to 40 percent, as opposed to 25 percent in February 2008. Here is the “free market” working its magic- the idea that if we just let the capitalists do their thing, without the government intervening-except to grant tax breaks and repress dissidents, like workers organizing-we would all prosper, and not just stockbrokers and hedge-fund managers. We are returning to the period just after the Civil war, the “Gilded Age,” when capitalists dominated the government and all public discussion, when workers-including the women and children-worked from before sunrise to after sunset, in mines loaded with poisonous gasses and ready to collapse, working for close to nothing and having to pay for the equipment to use for the bosses’ prosperity, watched over by supervisors who had no respect for workers and could shoot them if they got out of line-these are the days we’re returning to. BUT-we do have a history, which I and other Labor scholars are digging up, of resistance to corporate tyranny, of workers organizing for their rights, their lives, and their dignity. Contrary to what you might have been told, they did NOT passively accept their industrial fatalities, their poverty, their sickness and oppression as their fate, they organized-making mistakes along the way-demanded respect from their employers, and THIS is how the American middle class, the envy of the world, was born-a level of society that we could all hope to get into. From good-paying union jobs, workers could buy houses, send their kids to college, and have leisure time to do other things besides work. From the union movement, workers has a mechanism to work out disagreements between supervisors and workers, attain medical care, and develop skills to advance in the company. But alas, the number of union workers has declined to around eleven percent. Any progressive revival in this country MUST include a revival of the union movement, and I DARE to believe we can do it. (It’s better to believe we can do it, as opposed to corporations and their media dictating to us what or what not to believe.) The latest epitome of capitalism at its finest, and its ultimate logic, is Martin Shkreli-the hedge fund manager (with no background in medicine or pharmaceuticals) whose company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, jacked up the price of Daraprim, a life-saving drug used to kill parasitic infections (particularly in HIV-AIDS and cancer patients) from $13.50 a tablet to –get this-$750.00 A TABLET! A jump of 5000 percent! This had nothing to do with medicine or healing sick people-it was just a way to make money for investors, and for Shkreli to line his own pockets. And in the CBS News interview, Shkreli acted like, “What’s the big deal?” Fortunately, Shkreli has been arrested for securities fraud, transferring money from one company to pay off the debts in another; he was defrauding other investors and capitalists, but ripping off the public is the “free enterprise system” at its finest. The only damn thing Shkreli did, that was different from other corporate types, was that he was so public and he got caught. THESE are the people we are expected to trust our economy with, according to the Republican right-wing politicians and media. THESE are the people our working-class forebears fought against while organizing for their rights and their benefits, who OWNED the government-with its police and militias-and used it to beat down efforts by workers and other repressed groups fighting for their rights. THESE are the people who run the government, at the local, state, and federal levels-party has nothing to do with it-and we the working and low-income people are NOT part of the discussion about our economy, our society or our future as a nation. Alas again, for TOO long, the idea has continued, that working-class white men are irredeemably bigoted on the basis of race and religion, and so many liberal commentators also pick up on this idea. This, supposedly, is the basis of the appeal of Donald Trump, the billionaire real-estate tycoon running for President, calling for a “stronger” wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.” Also, Trump has played on the legitimate fears of terrorism, talking about banning ALL Muslims from entering this country, including citizens traveling outside the country-would that include persons in the military service of the United States not being able to return to the country they served, and their loved ones? Trump, the billionaire bigmouth, has become a rallying point for racists to come out of the woodwork, receiving the endorsement of notorious neo-Fascist hate groups. (And we have had white so-called “Christians” as terrorists, no religion is safe from its extremists.) We have seen the videos of white males beating up non-white people at the instigation of Trump’s rhetoric. And Trump is part of the same capitalist-plutocratic class that has ruled the country with impunity since the Reagan administration “got the government off the backs” of racists and oligarchs. Here is the ultimate realization of the “southern Strategy” of Nixon and the Republican party-play on the racial hatreds and fears of working-class whites, who had finally attained some economic security and are afraid to lose it, and blame African-Americans, women, and other minorities asserting themselves and their liberal enablers, for whatever difficulties they have. And many pundits have treated this tactic like it was a stroke of political genius, as if racism could not be removed from our minds and our politics. Now we have Donald Trump as the front-runner among Republican presidential candidates, and the party bosses are nervous. But THIS is the monster they have created, along with the tea party movement-appealing to subtle racial signals and short-term self-interest-“It’s not happening to me, so why should I worry? And I want to save on my taxes.” Sure, but your taxes cover the tax breaks of corporations, like Shkreli’s and Trump’s, which are supposed to pay for reinvestment in new equipment and hire more workers; but they have NOT brought about these things, they have enriched further an already rich plutocratic class, which has set up plants in countries with low wages, corrupt and compliant governments, and paying workers pocket change as wages-which is where WE were in this country, and which we are headed back to, IF we don’t organize and educate ourselves about the issues that really affect us. Let us resolve to do this in the new year 2016-Bye!