Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Mason Missile, December 29, 2018

Greetings! I hope you’re enjoying your holidays. Unfortunately, there is the new December tradition-along with caroling, the ugly sweater, and Aunt Clara’s fruit cake- of religious extremists demanding everyone say “Merry Christmas,” complaining that they’re not allowed to talk about Christmas. For conservatives, it’s a zero-sum game for them: more rights for traditionally oppressed minorities-like Jews and Muslims in this country- means less rights for the traditionally dominant groups, as if rights were a tangible commodity. The reality doesn’t matter to them, it’s their perception of reality; they project what they want to impose on others-like the dominance of Christianity to the exclusion of other faiths, or no faith at all- upon others. It’s like the homophobic bully who beats up gays because he himself is afraid that he’s gay (like it’s a bad thing). Look at Wisconsin and Michigan- Democrats have won governorships in those states in 2018, and the lame duck Republican legislature- “elected” from heavily gerrymandered districts-got to work in passing legislation stripping the new governor of his authority to make appointments to certain agencies; in Michigan, Republicans did the same to the newly-elected governor, attorney-general, and secretary of state (all women). In 2016, in North Carolina, Roy Cooper, the Democrat, defeated Pat McCrory for governor, and the Republican legislature proceeded to strip the governor of some of his authority. Fortunately, the efforts by Republicans are being challenged in the courts and by grassroots activists-did they think we would just take it lying down, allow ourselves to be oppressed and repressed? Apparently they do, they act like there would be no resistance. In Georgia and Florida, during their gubernatorial elections, there were voting applications placed “on hold,” voting stations closing, efforts to discourage people from voting-like when, in Georgia, county officials ordered people at a senior citizens’ center off the bus taking them to the polling station-and absentee and mail-in ballots all of a sudden going missing. Remember, Brian Kemp, who ran against Stacy Abrams in Georgia, was still serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State, supervising the election system. Remember this when Republicans whine about “elitist” Democratic liberals, and pretending to be of, by, and for the people; if they were so damn confident about their popularity, why repress voting? Do they expect us to, like I said, just take it? Are they just trying to wear us down, drain our financial and emotional resources so we give up? There might be a hiatus, a time-out, but we get back into the fight. (Still, burnout, wearing one’s self out, is a problem among activists. We need to take care of ourselves; don’t worry, there will be others keeping the fight going while we’re on vacation.) Frontiers of Free Enterprise- General Motors, like the other auto giants, took a bail-out package from the federal government after its bankruptcy in 2009, costing taxpayers $11.2 billion, after the government spent $49.5 billion to save the company. (Last I heard, there were no cries about “lazy welfare moochers” then.) (http://time.com/82953/general-motors-bailout-cost-taxpayers-11-2-billion/) Plus, the tax cuts the Republicans passed in 2017 were-the same old line that nobody believes-to stimulate the economy, rebuild equipment and hire more workers. BUT- Right after Thanksgiving, GM announced it would close down five of its plants in North America, thereby laying off 14,700 workers. (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/26/general-motors-set-to-cut-workforce-as-slowing-sales-and-steel-tariffs-bite) Meanwhile, GM CEO Mary Barra received a salary on $22 million. (https://moneyandmarkets.com/barra-most-unpopular-ceo-gm/) Even while crying poormouth, cutting salaries and jobs for workers, and demanding tax breaks, corporate executives continue to attain huge perks. The same holds true for another venerable American brand, Sears, under its CEO Eddie Lampert, formerly of Goldman Sachs, a disciple of Ayn Rand, and with no experience in retail sales; applying the idea of cutthroat competition to units of his company (which acquired Kmart) and demanding they compete with one another. (https://www.salon.com/2013/07/18/ayn_rand_killed_sears_partner/) Sears under Lampert sold off and closed hundreds of Sears brand and Kmart stores, and laid off thousands of employees-while paying its executives $9.9 million in perks. (https://thinkprogress.org/sears-lavishes-ceo-with-pay-and-perks-while-laying-off-workers-and-bilking-taxpayers-d6dabcf9762d/) Instead of more employees, fewer and more laid off; instead of more facilities, stores and plants closing. Corporate executives prosper from their incompetence, and workers get nothing. That was the same model practiced by Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney. The ideas put forth in the Preamble of the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World are even truer now than back when the IWW was founded in 1905: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. “Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.” I’m not entirely into the IWW program, but the idea is the same-we workers, and low and middle-income people must educate ourselves and then organize to reclaim what remains of what we call “democracy” in this country, and to move it further. And on that note, Happy New Year!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Mason Missile, November 23, 2018

Greetings! I hope everyone within the sound of this newsletter voted. I did my modest role in the process; as a committee-person in my division, I handed out flyers throughout my ward, and I served as Clerk in my division’s election board, taping up posters and helping take the information from the machines after the election. In my division, it was an epic turnout; serious issues were at stake in this election, such as the environment, tax codes favoring the wealthy and placing the tax burden on already stressed working families, dilapidated schools, and aging infrastructure-along with a commander-in-chief who runs the government like a mafia family, who does not honor military veterans or people who died in the service of their country, and whose deepest thoughts are on Twitter (nothing against social media, he’s not that deep a thinker). But it shouldn’t take an impending national catastrophe to motivate people into voting; politics, and the issues of the community affected by politics, are the concern of each person. Now that the election is (for the most part) over, we can take a breather-burnout and wearing down are problems for activists-then continue our work on educating ourselves on the issues and meeting to plan strategy; politics is not about elections, it’s about working with, and on, the governing system for the benefit of the entire community. I’m pleased with some of the results; we didn’t get the Senate, but we have the House, with a new cadre of women members-over 100 at last count; recounts have added to the number. A definite, long-overdue sea change is coming to our politics. We have Sharice Davids in Kansas (Native American and gay), Deb Haaland in New Mexico (Nate American), Rashida Tlaib in Michigan (Muslim) and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota (Muslim and Somali-American), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York (Hispanic and the youngest female member elected). In Colorado, Jared Polis (Democrat) will be the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state (Kate Brown of Oregon is already the first openly bisexual governor of a state). Marsha Blackburn will be Tennessee’s first female US Senator. The question-Should there be new leadership for congressional Democrats? Often congressional Democratic leaders, like Steny Hoyer and Chuck Schumer, have gone along too much with accommodating Republicans, giving up too much to them; and Majority Leader (and possible Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi does not want to take the radical measures necessary for the country and the economy, like “Medicare for all,” to make our health care system closer to Canada’s single-payer system, preferring to stick with the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”). Alas, taking corporate money, and the Clinton “centrist” tendency to imitate the Republicans in accommodating corporations with “free trade” deals detrimental to workers, like the North American free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have rendered the Democrats incapable of challenging the Republican program. And so we have been taught that “free trade” is the new normal, the reality we have to accept, and any challenge is just plain silly. Oh? This new crew of Democrats in Congress hopefully could challenge this belief. But do we have to accept Pelosi as Speaker again? Would any attempt to dislodge Pelosi weaken the Democrats in Congress, at a time when the Republicans are now weakened by their own President, and may not ever recover? This is a great test of political skills for the new crew, to be ready to deal with the established leadership, but from a position of strength, to advance their agenda within the framework of the party caucus. The party leadership would have to consider first the needs of the American people and the issues Americans face on a daily basis, and the leaders would have to finally be weaned away from the corporate trough. The new members represent the American people as they are-not so affluent, not so white, mainly female, many not heterosexual, and not all of them identifying as Christian. Eventually, with practice of political skills like committee work, public speaking, and negotiating, these newbies will attain leadership positions. The new congressional crew will have to deal with such serious issues as income inequality, health insurance, dilapidated schools and infrastructure, the environment, factories closing and jobs moving to low wage regions, then overseas (a phenomenon dating back to the fifties and sixties, supposedly a golden age for the American worker). For the good of the nation-seriously-the new crew and the old heads must come together for the people’s welfare. (I’m not an either-or thinker; the new crew and the old veterans have their virtues, skills, experience, and energy.) This election has also exposed the terrible reality of voter fraud, particularly in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, during their senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. How interesting it is that while people were exercising the most simple and basic act of a citizen-voting-machines, lost electric power or were not open on time, absentee ballots were misplaced until the deadline for counting them passed, and people suddenly found themselves NOT on the voting rolls, even though they voted for decades. Fortunately, the results of these voting suppression schemes are observed and challenged. And IF these candidates are “elected” by fraudulent means, like Brian Kemp in Georgia (who, while running for Governor, was still the state’s Secretary of State, in charge of the voting system), we don’t have to accept them as the legitimate holders of those offices. This is not about “being a good sport” and “you lost get over it.” This is serious business, not a kid’s backyard ball game. These offices affect how people’s lives work-law enforcement (will it turn into state repression?), pollution, discrimination, you name it. And do the conservatives think that we the people will take this? NO! We will continue our work of activism, agitation, education, and voter mobilization. Rest assured I’ll do my part, and if we all come together in this work, we can and will win. Please forgive the cliché, but “Many hands make light work.” Bye

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Mason Missile, August 27, 2018

Greetings! Upcoming is Labor Day, the holiday commemorating the working men and women of America. What is there to celebrate lately? Here we have a “populist” President, supposedly the champion and voice of (white) working-class Americans-always assumed to be white-who signed a tax bill favoring the wealthiest Americans, and fighting against the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” trump’s attitude, and the attitude of plutocrats in this country, is one of condescension towards(white) working people, that they are too addicted to opioids and the drug of racism to see who their real enemy is-the same plutocratic class- and they feed working-class people with racially-coded fears of “law and order,” “crime in the streets,” “lazy welfare bums,” “affirmative action programs taking jobs away from deserving white workers,” etc.-trump updated this tactic to rail about “MS-13” and “rapists” coming over the border with Mexico- not mentioning that our tax policies have been long skewed in favor of corporations and the wealthy-people who pay lobbyists to alter the tax code in their favor, and to approve federal contracts with certain defense industries. (The news media, also large corporations, have played along with this; however, I think they’ve been pretty good lately at standing up to the trump tantrums.) Along with this is the Supreme Court’s decision on the Janus case, which limits the ability of public-sector unions to do their work in representing their clients; I have no doubt the learned justices of the Court welcomed this decision, for they sympathized with the corporations-and the Koch brothers-trying forever to weaken and finally destroy unions in this country. The decision upset me terribly. However, I have been buoyed by the Labor victories throughout the country, the successful teachers’ strikes in such conservative states as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona; and the voting down of the referendum in Missouri for “right-to-work” (for less)-in Missouri, another conservative Republican state. We have to overcome the idea that the plutocratic class would automatically rain their blessings on us proletarians, that they know what is best for all of us with their nearly total control of the economy; as a Democratic Socialist, I believe that we the people should have a say in the economic destiny of the nation, since it deals with OUR jobs, OUR ability to pay our bills and purchase OUR groceries, etc. An editorial in the New York Times of May 9, 2018 tells about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is now the wealthiest man in human history, worth $131 BILLION! (I could live easily on one lousy billion.) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/opinion/jeff-bezos-spend-131-billion.html Since Bezos can’t spend all that money, what does he plan to do with it? Not charitable donations, like the old Robber Barons like Carnegie and Rockefeller carried out with their fortunes (made with the sweat and muscle of workers they overworked and underpaid). Bezos’ bright idea is space travel, including regular trips to space-space tourism! We have problems aplenty on THIS planet-global warming through the use of carbon-based fuels, illiteracy, unemployment, infrastructure (roads, bridges, electric power stations) collapsing, famine, genocide-and Bezos wants frequent-flyer points to Mars! Bezos can do whatever the hell he wants with his money, okay, I’m cool with that; but with the constant deregulation of business practices, the weakening of trade unions, the tax policies favoring people wealthy enough to buy and sell members of Congress, it has led to widening extremes of wealth and poverty-the likes of which eventually leads to violent social upheaval-let’s say it, revolution. We HAVE to educate ourselves on the issues, organize at our communities and our worksites, and get out and vote this November Also upcoming are the High Holy Days, Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, where we re-assess our lives, give up what no longer is good for us, and realize whatever good is in us and around us. Currently we are in the Hebrew month of Elul, when we sit back and reflect on our lives over the past year. Self-improvement is a long process, taken step by step; if you slip and fall on your way to advancing and improving, that’s okay, it’s all part of the learning process, just get back on your feet and keep walking. An excellent guide to the High Holy Days, and the other Jewish holidays, is Seasons of our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Arthur Waskow, one of the leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement and head of the Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org/). On that note, I bid everyone L’shana tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous year to you all.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Mason Missile, July 30, 2018

Greetings! August 1 is my birthday-I won’t say which one. I’ll just say I have plenty of miles ahead of me, many goals I’m going to fulfill. I continue to be disgusted at how our alleged Commander-In-Chief, supposedly a big strong Alpha Male, capitulated to Putin in Helsinki; the vast array of intelligence agencies-including the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees-agree that computer hackers, commanded by Russian military intelligence agents, entered into the computer system of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and stole information; which, the reports say, were passed on to WikiLeaks. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/07/16/us/elections/russian-interference-statements-comments.html https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/politics/russia-hack-report.html https://www.vox.com/2018/7/13/17568710/mueller-russia-gru-email-hacking-indictment-trump https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/16/17575940/russian-election-hack-democrats-trump-putin-diagram The US intelligence agencies are certain the Russian agencies will work on hacking into the nation’s electric power system, just to show they could do this, as was done in the Ukraine. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/27/us/politics/russian-hackers-electric-grid-elections-.html. This is another area where the security of the country is in jeopardy. Still, trump (I’ll never treat him with any less than the greatest contempt!) chose to accept the word of Putin, the former KGB officer, over the professionals of his intelligence agencies with their vast resources. Plus, I do believe the Russians have stuff on him, not discounting the alleged pee-pee tape with the sex workers in Moscow. trump, having been declared bankrupt, could not attain financing for his projects, so he turned to Russian oligarchs and mafia dons, particularly those close to Putin, for financing. Plus, trump, having such a fragile ego, needs to have it flattered constantly-recall if you will the cabinet meeting, as shown by Huffington Post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZNj_9sPgI . The worst part is, several of trump’s supporters act as if the Russian intervention was either a wonderful thing-keeping the evil Hillary away from the Presidency-or else it was no big deal, on the vein of “Everyone does it.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/trump-voters-putin-russia/565592/ (These are about the same ones who are so morally absolutist when opposing same-sex marriage or birth control.) The neo-Nazi-white-nationalist movement, in particular (one of the main pro-trump movements), have boasted of their connections to Russia and its own neo-Nazi movement, as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/07/19/weekend-read-white-nationalists-who-shouted-%E2%80%9Crussia-our-friend%E2%80%9D-weren%E2%80%99t-just-whistling ) (https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/10/10/when-white-nationalists-chant-their-weird-slogans-what-do-they-mean) . It’s all about protecting trump as he implements policies that the supporters hope are harmful to people of color, not thinking about how his policies, like the bungled tariff or the corporate tax cut, could also harm them. I have been reading Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Leon Trotsky, who along with Lenin was one of the leading live wires of the Bolshevik phase of the Russian Revolution. After the downfall of the Tsar-urged on by the generals after the disasters of the First World War and the bread riots in Petrograd-which developed into mutinies in the Army and among the elite Cossack regiments-there existed alongside the Provisional Government the Soviets (councils) of Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants, challenging the established government from the tsarist regime, presenting a revolutionary alternative to the government. The leaders of the old regime and the elite of Russia, fearful of loss of privilege after the failure of the coup attempt by the Cossack general Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov, the same elite looked forward to occupation by their German enemies to repress the Revolution-after accusing Lenin of accepting German financial support for the Bolshevik movement and to reenter Russia. I sense something like this among elements of the supposedly “patriotic” far right in this country with trump-accepting interference by a foreign power-Russia attacking our election system-so as to “protect” whatever illusory privilege of white skin they feel they need. In their view-like with the pre-revolutionary Russian elite-“Patriotism” is whatever benefits them and their illusions of privilege. That is as dangerous a narcotic as any opioid. You can bet I’ll play my role in fighting the Tangerine Tumor as I call him, and I urge you to do the same. In August 10-12 I’m going to the Delegates’ Assembly of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981, in New York joining other freelance writers in working for each other’s interests and the interests of other Americans. Also, as a committee-person in my ward, I’m going around urging people to register to vote, and then go out TO vote. Use your vote, or lose it-it’s the weapon of the conscious American worker. Bye!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Mason Missile, July 2, 2018

Greetings! This is Independence Day-what do we have to celebrate? We have a regime (I won’t call it an “administration”) that separates immigrant children as young as several months from the parents, as a bureaucratic form of punishment for entering this country “illegally” (which is classed as a misdemeanor). That has never happened before, and this practice inflicts trauma upon these children and their parents-but what to the alpha males ruling our affairs care? They show what kind of big strong men they are by terrorizing people who can’t resist, talking about a “zero tolerance policy,” and have sadistic fun doing it. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the Bible, the Apostle Paul letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verses 1-7, (RSV) as an excuse to justify this: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” That verse had always been a favorite of slaveholders and authoritarians, using some biblical justification for their domination of their subjects. It would not hold sway except for some true believers of the Leader. (Were he to go further down the chapter, Sessions would have found verses 8-10 “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”) This is the kind of thing that conservatives, who have whined about “big government taking control of our children,” have warned us about- but it’s happening to dark-skinned foreigners, so they say nothing. I’m pleased, though, that people have risen up against this; I doubt, though, if it would influence this regime from ending the practice, but hopefully, it would make people on the ground ashamed to implement such policies on behalf of their superiors up the chain. There is also institutional resistance to this evil practice, as several state governors have refused to send their National Guard units to the border for this kind of duty. There is also publicly confronting the top officials responsible for these policies, such as the crowds shaming Stephen Miller and Kristjen Nielsen-as they ate at MEXICAN RESTAUANTS-and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the little restaurant. Now the conservatives complain that the officials are being oppressed and bullied-any worse than the little kiddies in the detention centers separated from their families, scared out of their minds, feeling lost and abandoned, put through possibly all kinds of abuse, not knowing if they’ll ever see their parents again? Can’t we look at THAT, Americans, and know the shameful thing going on in our name, and with our tax dollars? With protests against unjust conditions, there are always complaints about how the protestors behave-“They’re not polite, they’re not civil, they use such bad language!” But what about trump’s line in a rally, “I’d like to punch him in the face”? His instigating violence against protestors by his fans? The incidents of white people calling the police on African-Americans for such crimes as sitting in a Starbuck’s, playing golf, napping in a dorm at Yale, holding a cookout in Oakland, mowing a neighbor’s lawn for a few bucks, selling water for money for tickets to Disneyland? It’s as if we need permission by our conservative superiors to protest unjust conditions, from which they benefit, and the consequence of which they don’t suffer (so it’s no skin off their asses)-and such permission won’t be forthcoming. No one will give us our rights-we’ll take them. It’s just a way for them to not deal with it-but there are people who deal with it every day, and they won’t take it anymore, and will let everyone know they won’t take it. Again, let’s discuss “big government“-the boogie of right-wing propaganda for decades, since the New Deal and beyond. This is the scare used when the issue is using the mechanism of government, local, state, or federal, to restrict the ability of corporations to swindle consumers and oppress workers. Added to this is the Labor movement, the institutional gathering of workers for their mutual benefit, to prevent corporate bosses from forcing workers into long hours, in oppressive and unsafe worksites, for merger pay. With the Janus decision of the Supreme Court-which says workers who don’t want to be in a union do not have to pay the “agency shop” fee, but would still be protected by the union-The ability of unions to protect workers is in trouble. But do we take it lying down? No, we organize, just like our forbearers did a century ago, in the face of company thugs, police and militias, and hostile courts, judges, and governments. We have a history and tradition to draw our strength from. Indeed, activism abounds throughout the nation against the trump agenda-and NO, I will not show him any respect! Along with the protests against the immigration policies along the border, there are protests by high school kids against the gun violence they witnessed, when they had to see their friends killed by gunmen who had too easy an access to an AR-15, and the #MeToo movement of women who refuse any longer to put up with sexual harassment from rich and powerful men. The Labor movement can tap into that energy, and once again be the insurgent force our plutocratic masters fear it to be. Bye!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Mason Missile, May 9, 2018

Greetings! Forgive me for not posting more; I am concluding my graduate work in the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies, where I shall attain my Master’s degree, on May 11. Education remains the greatest form of self-empowerment, for an individual and a class, particularly the working class. Please look them up at https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/. We have just commemorated the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, as he was in Memphis to support the strike by sanitation workers who tried to attain a decent wage from the city. This was made in conjunction with the Poor People’s March, the movement to challenge economic oppression, just as King challenged racial oppression. To King, and to anyone paying attention, the two struggles are synonymous; oppression based on race and class are equally reprehensible, and the pitting of low-income whites against African-Americans has been a longstanding tactic to prevent the two sides from working together for their mutual benefit. King advocated the unity of working and low-income people against the systems of oppression keeping all of them down, and the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Civil Rights movement in general, were to him all of one piece. Along with this, King challenged the justice of the Viet Nam war, as only a person loving his country could; paying for the war meant taking money from the programs of the Great Society, to continue a war that Lyndon Johnson knew could not be won, to support a gang of “generals” in Saigon posing as a government and robbing and terrorizing their own people. King knew that was not what America was supposed to be about, and he sought to raise the nation to a higher vision. This opposition to the Viet Nam war, and his organizing the Poor People’s movement, cost him the approval of the media of the time and from the Johnson administration, and from the Liberal-moderate politicians who supported King previously. The Gallup poll of August 1966 rated King: Total favorable, 33% Total unfavorable, 63% At this time, King started to challenge racial bias in housing in the northern states; King was struck in the head by a rock by counter-protestors during the march in Marquette Park in Chicago. It was only after his murder that he started becoming the sanitized saint we see on the news media. Now we see the movement of athletes, like Colin Kaepernick, “taking the knee” during the National Anthem to protest police violence against racial minorities, and taking the heat for doing so, being accused of “dishonoring the flag,” when in fact the knee-taking calls out America’s failure to the “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It’s like that with social movements; they challenge existing social and economic structures, which have been accepted as normal and natural by just about everyone-except those in the movements-and people’s thinking would have to adjust to the ideas the movement present; butt after the passage of time, the new ideas evolve into the new orthodoxy. (But still, the old social-racial-economic ideas have their believers, and they pull back and wait for when their old ideas and be put into place-often repackaged as something “new” and “revolutionary,” like the “new and improved” label on a box of detergent.) No matter what an important social movement does, no matter how well-behaved its activists and participants behave to seeking their rights, the conservative forces-yes, I’ll use that word-act like they’re doing something terrible, or unpatriotic, or oppressing or slandering the adherents of the old order. (It’s a zero-sum thing with conservatives; they act like a formerly oppressed group standing up for their rights means rights being takin from the once-dominant group.) Liberal-moderate politicians try to make the government a neutral arbiter between the two sides, to work out a compromise beneficial to both; but the once dominant group complains of having their rights taken from them-as if they have the lord-of-the-manor right to oppress whoever they choose, and they don’t believe in giving up any of their power or in dealing with the former out-group. We see this in the writings of Ayn Rand, coming out just after the New Deal was settling into the minds of Americans, and workers were allowed-under the National Labor Relations Act-the right to organize unions (Awful nice of the rulers to do that). In Rand’s world, capitalists, once the dominant force in politics, are now starving, oppressed geniuses tyrannized by government officials and unions of workers, and by the larger voting public which, as presented in Atlas Shrugged, have no business in the affairs of the business tycoons; in Rand’s view, the public should let the capitalists do their capitalist thing of getting as much profit as they can out of whatever they do for their own greed and avarice, and through the magic of the Free Market, EVERY body benefits, because of that we will ALL prosper from the capitalists’ greed and selfishness. Rand wrote about this like it was something radical and revolutionary, something never done before, but in reality it’s the old plutocratic order reclaiming its throne. (Interesting-the conservative “hard-boiled realists” who supposedly know so much of how the real world works, as opposed the dreamy-eyed liberals-socialists-communists and their utopian ideas-the same conservatives look to a poorly made work of “fiction”, populated by written-down cartoon characters, as their guidebook to economic reality, how to grow the economy.) I have also been celebrating May Day, the international holiday honoring workers, which was given a bad reputation by its association with the Communist regimes in Beijing and Moscow; but the real history of May Day, coming out of the struggles for the eight-hour day in the United States, is getting more attention. Let us keep that work up of educating ourselves and our fellow workers. Bye!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Mason Missile, 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