Sunday, December 29, 2013
Greetings! I honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years during the fight against the Apartheid regime in South Africa; then, after his release from prison and his election to the Presidency of his country, worked to reconcile the racial groups of South Africa-Black, White, Colored (mixed-race) and Asian-into a “rainbow nation.” Much work still needs to be done; there is still a great economic gap in that country (like here is the US of A) between a wealthy elite and workers and other low-income people, due to a reliance on the “free market” , along with a grave crime rate, also like here. Still the fact that the Apartheid system has been overturned is amazing, due to the perseverance of brave and dedicated activists. I have been impressed by the mile-long lines of people of all races getting ready to vote in the first multiracial election in 1994. Alas-Our own government has done whatever it could to prop up the Apartheid state. There is evidence that the CIA helped the South African police to capture Mandela and other ANC activists. The Reagan administration’s policy of “constructive engagement” meant that there would be no pressure on the Apartheid state to change or end the system, or to release Mandela and other ANC leaders. Conservative journalists and activists in this country worked to make excuses for the regime, acting like the only alternative to the Apartheid system would be a Communist takeover. Plus there was the attitude, sounding like Tarzan movies and Donald Duck comics, that the Africans were not ready for democratic self-government-as if the regime would allow them to be! The government and the conservative movement in this country refused to take seriously the horrors of Apartheid, with a “What’s the big deal?” attitude. Thus, with the fall of the Apartheid system, conservatives have been, once more, on the wrong side of history, siding with a regime that did nothing but hold off the inevitable. William F. Buckley described a conservative as “a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop! ‘“ Well, conservatives have proven to be no more than speed bumps, slowing down the advance of freedom for downtrodden people (maybe), but the conservatives get run over anyway. Case in point-so far 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. This is almost a decade after the 2004 election, and the strategy of George W. Bush's political adviser Karl Rove to have ballot initiatives in certain states concerning gay marriage, which brought out the religious conservatives to vote against them and for Bush, thereby “proving” that the US of A is a “conservative” nation where people are only motivated to vote on “moral” issues. Still, same-sex marriage is now being acknowledged as a civil and human right, with even conservative states like Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico legalizing them. However in Utah, it has been a federal court that struck down Utah's laws against gay marriage, and the conservative argument has been to have the public, rather than the courts, decide the issue; but do people really need other people's permission to have equal access to public facilities, education, housing, veterans' benefits, health care, etc.? How is the existence of a gay-lesbian-transgender-bisexual-whatever-else person working with you, or shopping at your local store, a danger to you? Once again I performed at PhillyCAM, on the show “Conversations Across Time”; this time I portrayed George C. Wallace, the legendary segregationist Governor of Alabama. From my reading of his career, as a judge he was “moderate” on racial issues, speaking respectfully to African-American attorneys; but after losing election as Governor to a hard-core segregationist, Wallace vowed, “I’ll never be out n----red” again!” It was out of political opportunism that Wallace became the symbol of racial animus he is remembered as now, with the image of him standing at the entrance of the University of Alabama to prevent Black students from attending-which was a big show, since he had no power to stop them. Still, his fame as a segregationist hero grew, and in 1968 he ran for President under the American Independent Party, and there was the possibility that his candidacy would put the election into the House of Representatives, since he could have had some Electoral College votes. But after the attempt on his life in 1972, which put him in a wheelchair and in great pain for the rest of his life, he had a change of heart, becoming moderate again and even appointing Blacks to his cabinet. Still, the damage was done to our politics; Richard Nixon saw Wallace's appeal to racist whites, and played into those sentiments during the 1972 election. How it affected the running of government, and to whose benefit, it didn't matter to Nixon or Wallace; instead of trying to govern for the benefit of all the people, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, whatever, the idea was to rile up one group against another, not using racial slurs-they could not even do that, which in itself was a victory for liberals-but the tactic was to use such phrases as “welfare bums,” “crime in the streets,” “excessive government spending,” while knowing their core constituents would, in their minds, associate minorities with these things. (At this writing, I recall how Newt Gingrich referred to President Obama as a “fried chicken” President and a “Food Stamp” President.) I believe the tide is turning in progressives' favor; rolling over and playing dead, or even trying to meet the Republicans half way or trying to reason with them, is no longer an option. In this new year, I myself will continue the good fight, and I know you will too. Happy New Year!
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Greetings! I bid everyone L'Shana Tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous new year-we all could do with one. On Monday September 2, I marched and rallied and partied, in the rainstorm, with many other Philadelphia area trade unionists in the Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration. we deserve the commemoration of our part in developing the country-it is US who are the engines of American prosperity, and without us, the corporate masters would have to do all the mining, manufacturing, and service themselves-scary thought. I have also celebrated the High Holy Days, Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur, with the brothers and sisters of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir (leyvhair.org). The idea of the hlidays are sinking into me, that we all deserve a fresh start; learn from the past-it has no hold on you at all, you are not bound by it-and start anew. For Yom Kippur I had the honor of reading the d'var torah on the Book of Jonah; God orders Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them to change from their wicked ways. But Jonah instead gets on a ship to get away from performing the task God called him to do; did he think he could get away from the omnipresent Deity? Did he think going to another place would get him away from the Ruler of the Heavens and the Earth? After being thrown overboard and swallowed by the fish, Jonah prays-for himself; he does not follow God's command to preach to Nineveh. Inside the fish, Jonah prays for his own safety in the most terrible conditions, but he doesn't care about the people of Nineveh. The fish spews out Jonah, and God calls him again to preach to the people of Nineveh. The Nineveh-ites accept the message, and they repent and change from their sins, hoping to avert God's punishment. But Jonah is not happy with the result of his preaching, but is upset with the people of Nineveh repenting-why? Did he desire the Nineveh-ites be punished? Did he not see that God also cared for the people of Nineveh? There are people who are only concerned with their own spiritual welfare, but not with that of others. We've seen people like that, people proud of their own piety and indifferent to the problems of others. I wondered, why is this story told on Yom Kippur? It's the story of a people warned of their sins and shortcomings, and they and repent, turning their lives around. That is the message of Yom Kippur, finding out where we've gone wrong, where we've gotten off track from our true selves, so we can realign with who we really are. It also tells of the negative voices, inside and around us, that say you can never change, that voices that don't want you to improve, and so you can recognize them and resist them, so you can find your true, positive, God-oriented state. On September 26, I went to the studios of PhillyCAM, the public access able channel for Philadelphia (phillycam.org), to act in a taping of a new show of their, “Conversations Across Time,” where historic figures discuss historic events-in this case, the overthrow of the government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 by the CIA. I played John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, and I did a fabulous job of acting-a nice side gig after I retire, but I’m not giving up writing. As part of my research, I read All The Shaw’s Men, by Stephen Kinzer, a history of the events in the history of Persia/Iran leading up to the coup, including the effort by Mossadegh to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which was controlled by a British firm, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as British Petroleum, or BP), the economic sanctions the British government imposed on Iran for this effrontery, the refusal of President Harry Truman to go along with efforts by British intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh, and of the Eisenhower administration, urged along by John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles (CIA Director) to pick up on the British plot and carry it through-and of the spinelessness of the Shah through all this, constantly having to be bullied into signing the decree ordering the ouster of Mossadegh. This was how our government operated through the Cold war era: a government somewhere decides to put the well-being of its people ahead of multinational corporations, and our government, allegedly “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” overthrows it, and in its place is a regime that tortures and murders its people. This also was the situation in 1954, when in Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman took unused farm lands from multinational corporations, like United Fruit, and distributed them among poor peasants. The Dulles brothers had stock in United Fruit, but they treated the Guatemalan land reform as a leg of the International Communist Conspiracy, and supported efforts to overthrow Arbenz, with a combination of training anti-Arbenz troops and propaganda that portrayed the Arbenz government as “Communist.” The coup thus produced a series of military regimes that declared war on its own people, in the name of “fighting Communism.” I don’t believe we Americans were well-served by our government or by the “news” media during the Cold war era; every regional conflict was explained in too-simplistic terms, as a good-guys-bad-guys scene: it was the United States of America, land of freedom, filled with God-fearing people, as opposed to the Soviet Union, an oppressive dungeon of a Godless nation-which side were you on? There was no consideration of the situation inside these nations, the efforts of their governments to improve the lives of their people. The same is true with the plot by the CIA, under Richard Nixon, to overthrow the elected government of Salvador Alliende in 1973, and replace him with Augusto Pinochet, who instituted a reign of terror over his people, costing the lives of thousands; while discussing Alliende, Henry Kissinger said, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much to important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves." If the leaders of our government think this way about the people of another country, I don't think it would be much of a stretch to think they think the same about US, the people of THIS country, in whose name these crimes are being committed. We are especially NOT well-served in the current debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling and being able to pay for government functions, such as national defense (including paying our military members, who also have families to care for), national parks and monuments people visit, services like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), the WIC program, Head Start for school kids-why? To prevent the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act (the dreaded “Obamacare”) which would contribute to helping people have access to health insurance? I agree, it’s not a perfect plan-I would prefer a Canadian-style “single payer” system-but it’s a start, all programs have to work out some glitches. The very fact that people ARE applying for health care through the ACA “exchanges” shows how important health insurance is to working Americans, of which around 55 million have NO health insurance. This is NOT a luxury, it is a necessity, like education, clean drinking water, and food-and the federal shutdown affects such functions; these are no federal employees to process student grants for education and Head Start programs, no EPA inspectors to watch out for corporations polluting rivers, no USDA inspectors watching meat in the slaughterhouse for unfriendly bacteria, and you can't leave these functions to the "free market." It was from the agitation, the campaigning, the marching and demonstrating against abuses in the social-economic-political system that we have such mechanisms in place-but the conservative propaganda machine and the commercial news media don't tell you this. In fact, throughout history, governments in this country and throughout the world have erred on the side of the wealthy elite, be they industrial capitalists, bankers, or agrarian plantation owners. Also throughout history, it has been the work of dedicated lower-class people-small crafts people, small farmers, and industrial workers, along with decent upper-class people on their side-that challenged these power arrangements and made governments work more for the benefit of the vast majority of the people. Do the tea party types in Congress know they are doing the work of undoing over a century of social progress like this? Are they conscious of who their policies are benefiting to the detriment of the greater masses of people? No matter-I urge everyone to continue the fight to make our government more user-friendly, to make it work for ALL of us. Let us educate ourselves on these issues, and learn the appropriate course of action. Bye!
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Greetings! The first week of July commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, where is early July 1-3, 1863, the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee fought Union forces under General George G. Meade, which ended in defeat for the Confederates and was the turning point of the Civil War. The period 2009 to today has been the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and I was afraid the event would start nostalgia for the "lost cause," especially after the election of our first African-American President. From the end of the Civil War, the history of the event was altered to be a war among brothers, and the Confederacy was recast as a "noble cause," a conflict for "states rights" against an oppressive federal government-and slavery had nothing to do with it. The Civil War, among southerners, was called the "War of Northern Aggression," and the term was used as early as last year by Jim Porter, President of the National Rifle Association. Slavery had nothing to do with secession? Here is an excerpt from the Texas Ordinance of Secession, ratified by the Secession Convention in February 2, 1861: "She (Texas) was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy... "The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretenses and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States." Here is the Secession Ordinance of Georgia, January 29, 1861: "For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic." The ordinance complained about the new Republican party as "admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state...While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen." Finally, here is the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, issued in December 24, 1860: "We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. " For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that 'Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,' and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction." So, this is the "noble cause," the right to own and keep other human beings as slaves, livestock. This has been the basis of "states' rights," the code word for maintaining supposed privileges based on skin color. This went on after the Civil War; Andrew Johnson, who became President after the murder of Lincoln, had a reputation of hating the planter aristocracy that led the South into secession; but he hated Black people even worse, and he allowed the former Confederate states to implement "Black Codes" to control the newly freed slaves, who, although physically liberated from slavery, had no economic base to protect themselves, no land of their own to build farms on. The Black Codes of South Carolina, for instance, prohibited Blacks from possessing firearms, making and selling liquor, entering the state without possessing a bond of "good behavior," prohibiting them from selling farm products without the permission of the white employer. The codes used "vagrancy laws" as an excuse for sheriffs to imprison Blacks and send them into hard labor, and to "hire them out" to private employers-slavery in another form. Is this what the South is commemorating? (You can read about Andrew Johnson, ranked by historians of the US Presidency as among the worst Presidents, in the biography Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed. Gordon-Reed writes of the time, during Lincoln's second inauguration, when Johnson comes across Frederick Douglass, the great African-American abolitionist; "The first expression that came to his face," Gordon-Reed quotes Douglass writing, "and which I think was the true index of his heart, was one of bitter contempt and aversion. Seeing that I observed him, he tried to assume a more friendly appearance, but it was too late; it was useless to close the door when all within has been seen." Douglass came to the conclusion that "Whatever Andrew Johnson may be, he is not friend of our race.") These issues haunt us through to this day, even after the Civil Rights movement of the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. African-Americans were elected to positions of power in this country, including the South, but the racist feelings did not remain dormant; they were given new code words like "welfare queen," "urban crime," "racial quotas," and "war on drugs." Nixon, Reagan, and lesser Republican politicians afterwards utilized these subliminal, racially-triggering phrases. Read the posters at Tea Party rallies, with insulting racist images of Obama on them; look at the efforts in state legislatures to pass "voter ID" laws, that target students, minorities, and seniors, constituencies that mainly vote Democratic. Such efforts to limit voting by unacceptable persons gained momentum after the US Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, voided Section Four of the Voting Rights Act, implemented to protect the right to vote for minorities. The purpose of the act was for the federal government to approve or veto changes in voting laws that would discriminate against minorities. After that, Texas, North Carolina, and other states reintroduced voter ID bills in their legislatures. In its ruling, the Court noted, "Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, '(v)oter turnout and registration rates' in covered jurisdictions ’now approach parity. Blatant discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office in unprecedented levels.’...The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years.” The Court acts like racial discrimination and prejudice no longer exist. But it does, as I pointed out earlier. The voter ID laws are the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of state legislators and corporations formed to promote bills in legislatures that benefit corporations, such as “tort reform” bills to protect corporations from lawsuits; anti-immigrant bills that would incarcerate undocumented persons in privately-owned prisons, such as those owned by ALEC donor Corrections Corporation of America (CA); bills that would inhibit a state government’s ability to tax or regulate corporations, in the name of the “free market”, thereby forcing state and municipal governments to lay off employees; “right to work” (for less) bills that would limit unions’ ability to organize and support favorable candidates for office; and the “stand your ground” law, like the one in Florida, which George Zimmerman invoked after killing Trayvon Martin. (By the way-Let us take up the case of Marissa Alexander, an African-American Florida woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive husband. She invoked the “stand you ground” defense, but the judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison. Laws like “stand your ground” were designed to be discriminatory, and the Justice Department has begun to look into this. Let us do what we can for Ms. Alexander’s defense, and take these laws off the books.) On a more positive, personal note-My 56th birthday comes up on August 1, and that puts me one year into the City of Philadelphia's DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) plan. After three years more working in the City records Department, I will retire with a pension, a bonus, and money from the Deferred Compensation plan. After I retire, I'll have more time to devote to afflicting the comfortable oppressors and comforting the afflicted, to let them know their affliction is not inevitable. The right to a safe, dignified retirement has come through the efforts of trade unionists over the years. (Hint, hint!) Also-On August 4, I will be interviewed for my writing work over FoMerlot Entertainment, one of the programs over the internet radio site Blog Talk Radio. The site for the show is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fomerlot. I'll let you know how it turns out. Bye!
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Greetings! On Memorial Day, I have been honoring the persons who fell in the military service on the United States-which is not the same as honoring the wars they were made or conned into fighting. Coming up will be Independence Day, where we recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document which speaks of all men being equal-a document, alas, written by and among wealthy white men who were born in a highly hierarchical society. In American society there was to hereditary nobility, but there was a sense of hierarchy, the idea that owners of land and slaves were inherently superior to bricklayers, cobblers, and other working people. Laws in the Revolutionary and immediate post-Revolutionary (Federalist) era limited the right to vote to white males who owned so much land and so many slaves, and the laws would be to the benefit of such a class, since people of such a class interacts with each other, and believes that their benefit is the benefit of the entire nation. Alas, we have not been faithful to the ideals of the Declaration; at home, we have tolerated and abetted oppression of non-white minorities-Hispanic, African-descended people, and Native people-and have violently repressed workers attempting to organize for their rights; abroad, our government has overthrown democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, supported the Apartheid regime of South Africa, and upheld such pet dictators as Bautista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Marcos in the Philippines, and Somoza in Nicaragua. As patriotic Americans, we have to learn and pay attention to this; I believe a true American, either native-born or an immigrant, believes and acts upon the belief in equality and democracy-even though the Constitution does not use the word "democracy." It may be necessary, now that I think about it, to review the Constitution to update our governmental system, to remove impediments to good laws being passed. The Constitution was written and ratified in the late 1780s and early 1790s, an era, like I said, of hierarchy in society, when laws were written by and for rich, white, slave-holding males. The rules of the United States Senate were written so that one single senator could deny permission for the chamber to proceed with business; the southern senators used those tricks to block much of the Civil rights laws of the 1950s and 1960s; that needs revising. The Electoral College, the source of trouble in the 2000 election, the manipulation of which brought George W. Bush into office (and Dick Cheney into power) definitely has GOT to go. Another thing that needs revising is the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which reads thus: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." this was written at a time, just after the Revolutionary War, when one of the grievances of the colonists was being forced to house British soldiers, and the fear that a standing army could be the instrument of power for a dictator. The Framers of the Declaration of Independence, brought up in the European Enlightenment and English history, knew of Roman history, of Caesar marching on Rome with his legions and dominating the world, and of Cromwell establishing his Puritan state in England. The military was NOT the trillion-dollar colossus it is today. Therefore, the bulk of the military at that era was a militia comprised of every white male in the community, and it was mandatory for them to own a firearm-and the firearms of that era were single-shot muskets, where after you fired a shot, you poured the powder in, stuffed the wadding paper in, rammed the ball in, and then you fired again. If there were at that time Uzis and AK47s, would the Second Amendment not be amended somewhat? I think so. The conservative movement shows again its institutionalized ignorance in the non-scandal over alleged monitoring of Tea Party groups in Ohio by the IRS. The tea parties started with yelling at and threatening Congress-members at town halls during the debate over the Obama health care plan (which, by the way, is very good for the health insurance companies), and yelled at and spat at members after the vote was taken, and who shot at Congressional offices. People like that, gullible people who could be riled up with hysterical lies, are not interested in anyone’s civil liberties. Unfortunately, the Obama administration announced they would take these allegations seriously, and the IRS official at the center of this got into trouble. It’s the same with the Department of Homeland Security report in the first Obama administration, which showed how right-wing extremists are a threat to national safety and security, and the Fox News crowd and its allies howled that their rights were being taken from them, and DHS disregarded the report, even though the report, and the threat was real. The conservative movement remains the spoiled children of American politics, which even the most Liberal President (whoever s/he is) simply MUST satisfy and make happy-but it never happens that way, it never works. Bill Clinton tried to co-opt the conservatives’ crusade against “welfare as we know it,” using their slogans to his own campaigns, and signing the draconian welfare “reform’ law; but they still tried to have him impeached over a blowjob. Similarly, Obama feels he has to appease the Republicans sometimes, but they remain the party whose base is full of people who refuse to believe he was even born in this country, who refuse to accept the scientific fact of global warming and the danger to the environment, and who refuse to accept the right of same-sex couples to marry or of women to control their own birthing processes. The conservative movement has long used “law and order” as a slogan, using fears of crime-and who isn’t afraid of getting robbed, raped and killed?-to gain political mileage? And the liberals played along, not wanting to be “soft on crime.” On the global scale during the Cold War, liberals had to prove they also were not “soft on communism,” and that led to having to support dictators, like the ones I mentioned above, at war with their own people. But conservatives, still in denial of the failure of the “free enterprise system” to solve the 1929 Depression, and of the necessity of state intervention in the form of the New Deal, still linked liberals with Socialism (like it’s a BAD thing), and Socialism with Communism, a repressive system indeed, a diseased mutation that has nothing to do with true Socialism. The conservatives are the heirs of those who glorified Joe McCarthy, whose congressional inquisitions terrorized people into silence over social issues, and cost talented people their jobs. The important movements of the 1960s, Civil Rights and anti-Viet-Nam War, were accused of Communist infiltration, by the Birch Society and the FBI, and were heavily monitored and infiltrated in the COINTEL program, where the FBI sought to disrupt and undermine the movements; the Bureau also spied on and infiltrated groups in the '1980s that opposed the Reagan administration's support for the Nicaraguan contras and the juntas in El Salvador and Guatemala, and the groups opposed to the Bush II administration's disastrous war in Iraq. Compromise is not in the cards is our current politics; we must stand fast on our principles, and take pride in what we believe in. Let us rest up during the summer, enjoy the cook-outs and days at the beach, and then get ready to rumble for the people. Bye!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Greetings! At this present time I'm working on my relaxation skills; I have spent a LOT of time on my job and outside activities, I have to take time for ME, for MY benefit and health. This advice comes from my counselor at the Council For Relationships (councilforrelationships.org), and I'm following up on it. we all deserve downtime; we can't keep pushing ourselves like pack mules, we can be our own worst taskmasters. I have been, with my wonderful congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir (leyvhair.org), celebrating Purim, the wild and crazy holiday where we commemorate the downfall of the tyrant Haman (boo!), prime minister of the Persian king Ahashueras (eh!), at the hands of Mordechai (yay!) and his niece, the beautiful queen Esther (woo hoo!). The Megillah of Esther reads like a weird, comedy-soap opera, with the most implausible situations that just happen to work together, but the point is the downfall of a tyrant and the raising-up of those the tyrant would kill. I have also been celebrating Pesach, or (Passover), the celebration of the liberation of our ancestors, the ancient Israelites, from slavery in Egypt. The crossing the Red Sea symbolizes, to me, the point of no return back to slavery; but the Hebrews, to the constant grief of Moses, maintain a slave mentality, fearing the unknown, having no faith in themselves due to their former slave masters telling them they were nothing but dumb cattle to be worked to death, whining about returning to Egypt where at least they had SOME food. Both holidays represent, to me, the overthrow of tyrants, internal and external: external, meaning tyrants and dictators, be they large scale despots like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, the apartheid regime of South Africa, Marcos in the Philippines, Battista in Cuba, or Somoza in Nicaragua-or an abusive spouse or insulting boss at work; internal, the voices in our minds that tell us we’re not smart enough, or pretty enough, or worthy for any good thing to come our way. The external tyrants use the internal tyrants-fear, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, the feeling of powerlessness-to control us, to make us believe they’ll never get out of our bad situation, that they’ll always have power over us, that oppression is our fate. We must challenge that every day. Here is one challenge we are facing now-the march to plutocracy in this country, and the inability of the democratic state to enforce laws for the benefit of people. Attorney-General Eric Holder has spoken of the hesitancy of the government to prosecute the big banks-such as HSBC, found to have laundered money for terrorist organizations and drug cartels. The government, he said, finds these big banks "difficult for us to prosecute" because "some of these institutions have become too large...If you bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy." SO, the federal government is afraid that if the banks were prosecuted, it would create further damage to the economy and undermine whatever recovery there is. It has come to this, that the corporations are more powerful that the civil state. The slogan is the banks are “too big to fail” so they received huge funds for bailout-cal it the WELFARE program for corporations it is!- and now they are “too big to jail” due to their power in the economy. They act like John Galt and his billionaire buddies in the Ayn Rand rag of a novel Atlas Shrugged; they go into Galt’s Gulch and the economy goes to hell until they have their way. We must either nationalize the banks, or the banks and other corporations will privatize the government, to their benefit. How far will our capitalist class go to preserve their hold on our government? At the start of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in 1933, leaders of industry and finance opposed to the New Deal-and were fans of the Fascist regimes of Germany and Italy- organized the American Liberty League, a forerunner to Americans for Prosperity; they plotted to organize a coup d'etat against FDR, using a private army of military veterans as a gun to the head of the government. The plotters, who led such conglomerates as Du Pont, Bethlehem Steel, Goodyear, and JP Morgan, contacted Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, a legendary Marine Corps officer, to lead the military force. But Butler, remembering his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, turned against the plotters and reported them to the McCormack-Dickstein committee of the House of Representatives-but alas, the same kid gloves with which our contemporary capitalists are treated were used on the plotters against the government back then; the committee report on the plot was suppressed, and the plotters were never prosecuted. All of this is in the book The Plots Against The President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right, by Sally Denton. It is this opposition to FDR and the New Deal that is the basis of the contemporary right-wing movement, a denial that their precious “free enterprise” failed the nation, and that the corporations’ power had to be curtailed, for THEIR good and the good of the general public. Could they try something like that again? I would NOT put it past them; they have been shown to have no morals, no sense of responsibility to the society or the public, and no scruples about keeping and maintaining their power. And what ARE the results of allowing the capitalist class to do what EVER it wants? We can see it in the tragedies of West, Texas, where chemicals in an unregulated fertilizer plant exploded, killing and injuring workers and leaving a town devastated; and in the building in Bangladesh, which held garment factories and collapsed on workers earning pocket change for an hour’s work, killing and injuring many. Tragedies like these come from the idea that corporations are always right and the government MUST follow instructions from them, or there will BE no economic prosperity. We the working and low-income people of America must continue to educate and organize ourselves to what is really going on in the country, to use our own minds and talents to defend our rights. WE are the ones who, by our work and talent, bring the economy into being, and so make the capitalists look good. WE must organize for OUR benefit, and the benefit of our children and our communities. Bye!
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Greetings! We are in the middle of African-American History Month, where we honor those in the African-American community who have contributed to this country, in spite of racism and persecution. Traditionally such history has deliberately been hidden, hence a month dedicated to it; it takes its origins from the historian Carter G. Woodson and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, declaring the second week of February "Negro History Week," February being the birth month of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. I would like to bring up a couple of African-American men who I don't believe get enough press; they were fundamental in the Civil Rights and Labor movements (and there has been tremendous overlap between the two movement; they are one and the same). The first is A. (Asa) Philip Randolph, who was a Socialist of the Eugene V. Debs era, and came out against the First World War; and editor of the radical newspaper The Messenger. In 1925 a group of sleeping car porters asked Randolph to lead their union-organizing effort, for better wages and conditions from the Pullman Sleeping Car Company. The Pullman company did the usual tricks in trying to break the union, such as calling favors in Black newspapers to publish articles against the union, calling on ministers to preach against the union, hiring goons to terrorize the workers, and threatening porters with firing. But, after ten years of struggle, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) won a charter from the AFL, and a contract from the Pullman company; from that the Sleeping Car Porters became some of the most prosperous workers in the Black community. (This might not seem like much, organizing workers, but it’s basic; a person MUST have a decent livelihood to advance in life, be able to pay their utilities, their mortgages, and their kids’ way through college. Randolph, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, knew the importance of economic democracy along with political democracy; what good is having the right to go to college if you don’t have the money for it?) As the United States prepared to enter the Second World War, Randolph campaigned for a march on Washington in 1941 to advocate for the end of racial discrimination in armaments industries; President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which prohibited discrimination in defense industries. In 1947, Randolph organized a campaign of civil disobedience to end racial discrimination in the military; in1948 President Harry S. Truman, who was briefly in the Klan, signed Executive Order 9981, which ended military segregation. Another figure I salute is Bayard Rustin, who since before the Second World War, to the time of his death in 1987, was a champion activist for Civil Rights and opposition to war, pioneering nonviolent civil disobedience as a tactic for social change. Rustin endured prison for his beliefs and activism, including opposition to US participation in the Second World War, and for riding desegregated buses in the South. Randolph selected Rustin to organize the logistics of the 1963 March on Washington, with such things as organizing train and buses to take marchers to Washington, organizing press relations, and first aid stations. (It’s these unsexy, mundane, logistical things that activists work on that make social change movements work) Like Randolph, Rustin worked for a close alliance between the Civil Rights and Labor movements, understanding that economic class issues were, and remain, as important as racial issues. But-Bayard Rustin was a Gay man, in a highly homophobic era, even among otherwise progressive activists, and so had to be more in the background, as they say “taking one for the team.” I contribute to the long-overdue honoring of the life and work of Bayard Rustin. I delight at the self-destruction of the Republican party, due to its pandering to racism, sexism, and homophobia. In 2009 the “Tea Party movement” was formed by two basic organizations, Americans for Prosperity, founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, and FreedomWorks, founded by Dick Armey, who was Republican House leader. Now the Republican party has found what kind of monster it created, with Tea Party oriented candidates for President-Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Rick Perry-displaying willful ignorance about which government agencies to eliminate, the names of former Soviet republics, and the scare of Muslims infiltrating the government. Such behavior attracted racists, people who denied provable scientific data on climate change, people who could not accept a Black man as President (“birthers”), disciples of Ayn Rand. THIS is what the Republican base has become. SO, in an effort to clean up its image, if not its act, Karl Rove, the campaign genius behind slanders that got George W. Bush elected and re-elected, organized the Conservative Victory Fund, to run candidates against the Tea Party types. They say pretty such the same thing, and it’s two sets of plutocrats-Rove and his financial backers on one side, the Koch brothers and Armey on the other-at war with each other, it’s not at all a rebels versus establishment thing. Dating back to at least Richard Nixon’s presidential campaigns, the Republican party has used racial resentment as a motivating tool to attract white voters, a strategy outlined in the book by Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority. Using phrases like “law and order’ and “welfare queen,” thus triggering racial stereotypes in white voters’ minds, Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and II got elected with white Southern votes. (There were some commentators after Nixon’s death, even on NPR, that acted like Nixon’s race-baiting was a stroke of political genius, and not the disgusting playing to racial hostility and ignorance to get elected, as opposed to dealing with serious social problems and thus alleviating racial hostility.) SO, the Democratic party, at least its establishment (i.e., millionaire) wing, told itself and the public that it should not get too close to these “special interests,” unless they were really hard up for votes. The “special interests” definitely were not oil companies, or the NRA, or any other deep-pocket financial donor; after the loss of 1984, gays and lesbians were identified as the “special interest’ to shun, but, to my mind, the LGBT community was another code for all other minorities, such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and the Labor movement. All of a sudden, these oppressed minority groups are now oppressors to be liberated from; and the Democratic party is just as in bed with corporations as the Republicans, and just as willing to shun the African-American community, as with Bill Clinton’s baiting of Sister Souljah. We can NOT rely on our political class, especially our “allies.” No matter-I take the LONG view of social change. Forty years ago or so, Feminism and Gay Rights were taking off as movements, and they were treated as late-night talk show jokes, when they were mentioned at all; later on they were taken seriously enough to have counter-movements against them, such as the anti-ERA campaign of Phyllis Schlafley and the anti-Gay campaign of Anita Bryant in 1977. Female and LGBT candidates ran for offices, and women and Gays entered every field imaginable. There have been roadblocks, which I see as passive-aggressive forms of resistance to these groups DARING to assert themselves-resistance to same-sex marriage, fighting the right to abortion by terrorizing women seeking them. Still, the rights of women and LGBT people have advanced to where same-sex marriage is not only morally right, but popular; and women in military service (God watch over them all!) are now entering traditionally “manly” combat specialties. Such is the result of brave and persistent work by dedicated activists who, in earlier times were told to give up and go back to their closets or kitchens, and resisted cultural conditioning by all forms of media to win. Thus, we continue the struggle, and who know WHAT the next level would be? I’ll be on the train-bye!
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Greetings, everyone. I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year. I see we survived the scare of the Mayan calendar apocalypse, the idea that the world would end on December 21, 2012. People actually believed this idea, circulating among New Age circles and websites, and made such preparations as building their own arks, like Noah, and their own bunkers with food, power generators, and water filtration systems. We've been through this before, last year, with the evangelist Harold Camping predicting the end of the world on May 21st. (Always the twenty-first of the month-why?) I, on the other hand, believe in Tikkun Olam, the repair and healing of the world. The doomsday scenarios talk about the destruction of the world, and what to you should to do disengage yourself from it when it occurs; I believe in engaging the world fully, to work towards fixing what needs to be fixed, such as seeing that all workers have good jobs with good pay and benefits, and that health insurance, food, and education are provided for to all, and not treated like luxuries. In last year's Yom Kippur service, I had the honor of giving the D'var Torah on the Book of Isaiah, Chapters 57 and 58, where the Prophet condemns: Because on your fast day You see to your business And oppress your laborers! Because you fast in strife and contention And you strike with a wicked fist! And the Prophet continues: No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. This is appropriate to think about, with the upcoming celebration of the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. This is a great time to perform acts of Tikkun Olam, such as helping a returning veteran write his resume so he can get a job, or helping any unemployed worker find a job, or working at a food bank passing food out to low-income people, or helping at a battered women’s shelter. You need to see what a social problem looks like-it’s not statistics or theories, it’s living, breathing people having troubles. But then you have to ask-why can’t this veteran who served his/her country, or this perfectly competent worker, find a job? Why do decent people have to ask for food in this so-called wealthy nation? Why does a man strike his wife? This is the idea of Tikkun Olam, to repair the world so that none of this happens. we must concern ourselves with the well-being of our fellow humans, and that requires being engaged in it. Religion-real, effective religion-is what we do outside the sanctuary of our house of worship. It’s how we treat the poor and oppressed, the powerless in our community, and help them find their power to change things. As Dr. King put it, “A religion true to its nature must...be concerned about man's social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself. This means, at bottom, that the Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed. Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion. Such a religion is the kind that Marxists like to see - an opiate of the people.” (This is the Martin Luther King Jr. we have to understand, not the sanitized saint put forth by our brain-damaged media, but the man who challenged his nation, and his religion, to live up to their professed ideas.) The apocalyptic idea has played out after the presidential election, with the futile political game playing about the “fiscal cliff,” the impending disaster that would come if the House, Senate and President did not come to an agreement on spending and taxes. The goal of the “Tea Party” hard-liners would be to save millionaires and billionaires from having to pay their fair share of taxes, even though so many of the multi-billion corporations, such as Exxon-Mobil and Whirlpool have paid ZERO in taxes-and, in spite of the rightist propaganda, have NOT created any new jobs or plants in this country to hire America workers, but have treated their CEOs, no matter how incompetent they proved to be, with bonuses and raises, among many other perks. (Unfortunately, the political squabbling and horse-trading dominated the news, while the needs of the people, the effect of cuts in funding worthwhile programs and the effect on the people they help, never came up. Oh, yes, we do SO need our own people’s media.) The Republicans thought they could use the Tea Party “movement” to motivate their base and reclaim power; but the Tea Party-ites refused to go along with any compromise on the budget and the fiscal cliff, determined to make Obama look bad, even though they instead made the Congress look bad, with approval ratings lower than those of the Communist Party. They have even been plotting to remove John Boehner from the Speaker’s chair, believing that no one in far enough to the right for them. And what are the things the Tea Party crew getting steamed about? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and funding for relief for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. It’s purely out of dogma that they behave this way. Yet, through gerrymandering of congressional districts by their home state legislatures, they have a safe berth in Congress, enjoying the free health care and other benefits our taxes provide for them-unless, of course, we educate ourselves and our neighbors about what goes on in the world, in Congress, and our neighborhoods; yes, we ARE our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Again, have a safe and prosperous new year-bye!