Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Mason Missile, December 26, 2015

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Mason Missile, August 23, 2015

Greetings! Sorry I’ve been late in putting this out, I’ve been busy with class work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies-and yes, the role of organized Labor in the building of this country, is important. We need the power of organized workers, who are also members of the community, and members of religious congregations, in short, our neighbors, friends and ourselves. There are forces in our politics and our society that would destroy any and all efforts to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the rights of workers to organize into unions for their mutual protection, voting rights and Civil Rights legislation, among other things. People over the decades have worked and died for those benefits we now enjoy, they did not come about from the beneficence of a government, whose tendency is to use its force to defend corporations and to repress workers and other malcontents. Conveniently, this history is far enough in the past that no one remembers those struggles, so the reactionary forces can act like rebels against a “liberal” status quo; such is the basis of Ayn Rand’s raggedy-ass “novels” like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Conservatives act like there was no history before such programs, or the movements that campaigned for them. Plus, corporate conservatives act as if they lost control of the government; formerly, the government’s function was to put down by force anything and everyone who stood up to the corporate masters that dominated it and used it for their purposes (as they still do). The advent of popular movements such as Civil Rights, feminism, LGBT rights, and definitely Labor, have brought forth political activists who entered the political system to alter-a little bit-the system for the benefit of these former outgroups, with Civil Rights legislation, occupational safety and health laws for the workplace, minimum-wage laws, laws combating housing discrimination, etc. But in the conservative mind, if you are not the dominant group, you are in the subordinate group-this is the either/or thinking permeating conservatives, with no concept of “let’s make a deal” or “let’s meet half-way.” The conservative mentality is that when a traditional out-group asserts its rights, it’s not raising itself up, politically or socially, with the dominant group, but dragging the dominant group to their “inferior” level. In the Civics-class politics I’ve been taught in school-along with much other nonsense-contending parties sit down with one another, and negotiate a deal that benefits almost everyone as far as possible, in the horse-trading tradition of politics in this country. However, with the militancy of the far-right emerging with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, conservatives inside the Republican Party have abandoned the idea of dealing and compromising, with the long-term goal of disempowering their opponents and returning the government to being an instrument of plutocratic repression. Of course, the advent of Fascism proves that a plutocratic regime needs some foot soldiers from the lower classes to do its bidding. Much of the appeal of Fascism is the glorification of force and violence the regime uses to put down its enemies, and that along with the cult of the BIG STRONG Leader appeals to people who have enemies they would like to smash, such as racial, ethic, and sexual minority groups who DARE stand up for themselves. People like this, mostly male, believe it’s a sign of true masculinity, real manliness, to put down their “inferiors;” and a Fascist Leader Cult would draw men who are insecure about their masculinity. Here, also, we find the true meaning of the dreaded term “bleeding-heart liberal,” or just plain “liberal’ (when it’s used as an insult), talking about those of the dominant race or group who feels compassion for the oppression of the subordinate groups and would ease their suffering; real strong brave virile men, again, make no concessions with their “inferiors,” they keep them “inferior” and remind them how “inferior” they are. (To me, Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” of Objectivism and her writings, for all their whining against the evil state and their talk of ignorant government bureaucrats, and a form of Fascism, the glorification of the Great Genius-Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, John Galt in Atlas Shrugged- being limited by inferior people in government, and who enforce their will, even to the point of raping women; the glorification of violence and force, and the contempt for “inferiors.) THIS is the political movement we are up against-financially powerful, contemptuous of any law but its own will, delusional about human history and nature. Another issue we have to confront is apathy-the feeling of “IT is what it is, it’s unjust, let’s live with it.” There are indeed many unjust things in the world-unemployment, war, hunger, official oppression, domestic violence, poor schools, needless illness, to name a few. And again, we are told to accept is as “How it is” and “reality.” And so the implicit message is “Don’t bother challenging or changing this situation.” We hear this, that any attempt to challenge these unjust systems are a joke or “Utopian,” and we are made to be ashamed of ourselves for being silly enough to believe in changing it. (IT DOES, incidentally, create a threat to SOME powerful interests who benefit from the terrible situation.) But-do we need anyone’s permission, particularly the approval of those who would oppose us? Not at all. Ask the Labor movement, risking their lives to make the lives of workers, better, or even possible; ask the African-American Civil Rights movement, with a Black man as President of the United States; ask the Feminist movement, with the possibility of a woman as President of the United States; ask the LGBT movement, starting from a riot at a skuzzy bar in New York now attaining marriage equality; yes, ask them if they needed permission to fight for their rights. Let us ponder this as we come to Labor day, the holiday of, by, and for workers and their families-bye!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Mason Missile, July 5, 2015

The Mason Missile The E-newsletter of John Oliver Mason July 5, 2015 Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. -Ralph Waldo Emerson Greetings! I hope everyone has had a good holiday weekend. Recently, we have had events showing how far we have to go in this country towards truly fulfilling democracy for everyone in this country, even after nearly 240 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. One is the shooting in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June, resulting in the deaths of nine parishioners, including the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and State Senator; also the Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Reverend Sharonda Singleton, and the Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr. May their memories be a blessing. The shooter was Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old consumer of racist internet propaganda. I got the sense his acts were racially motivated when we saw the pictures of him in his jacket with the flags of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and of South Africa in the apartheid era. His website sowed him burning the US flag and holding the Confederate “battle flag”, which was really the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War, commanded by General Robert E. Lee. As he was shooting, Roof was alleged to yell, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country! You’ll have to go!” In his website which he called “The Last Rhodesian” a hat tip to another racist regime), Roof wrote of how we received information about racial issues from the Council of Conservative Citizens, which comes from the White Citizens Councils of the ‘sixties-the “uptown Klan,” the respectable business and professional people who used economic and political pressure to keep whites from deviating against the old “Jim Crow” segregation order. Later in the web site, Roof talks about how he considers African Americans “stupid and violent,” but “At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick.” There is the tendency to accuse people of anything, even if they contradict each other. Roof’s manifesto adds that slavery wasn’t all that prevenient or widespread in the Ante-bellum South, that slaves were not abused by their owners, and that racial segregation was meant to protect Whites from Blacks. Ever since the shooting, calls have revived to remove the Confederate rag from public monuments and confine it to museums. It would be a great step, but hopefully one step towards fighting against what Dylann Roof, and that flag-rag were about-racism, the subjugation of one race by another, and with it segregation into inferior housing, education, services, and treatment as a human being, to which African Americans were expected to accept, on pain of death, officially by the police, unofficially by the friendly neighborhood Klan (the same thing but at different times). The Confederate “battle flag” was restored in the 20th Century in resistance to the rise of the Civil Rights movement, gaining momentum in 1948 from Strom Thurmond’s “Dixiecrat” presidential campaign (which did not stop Thurmond from having sex with a Black housemaid and having a child from that liaison). After that campaign, and all through the Civil Rights struggle, the “Confederate battle flag” was waved in Klan rallies and put on the official flags of some of the Confederate states. As I pointed out, the flag in question was not THE Confederate flag; the original flag of the Confederate States of America, the “Stars and Bars,” was of one big red stripe, then a big white stripe, then a big red stripe, and in the upper left corner was a blue field with a circle of stars representing the Confederate States. The next design of the official Confederate flag, “the stainless banner,” was the battle flag in the upper left corner and a white field. The designer, Georgia newspaper editor William T. Thompson, said of the flag, “As a people we are fighting maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.” (This is more proof that, in spite of neo-Confederate apologists, the southern cause in the Civil War was about maintaining the slave system.) But this flag, critics said, would be considered a flag of truce or surrender. Finally, they designed the “Blood-Stained banner,” maintaining Thompson’s design but putting a red stripe at the far-right end. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of the monumental events in LGBT rights history, now known as “Remembrance Day;” in 1965, forty activists of the “homophile” movement (the origins of the current Gay rights movement) marched in a circle in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, holding signs saying mind reformist things as “Homosexuals should be judged as individuals;” “Homosexuals are tax-paying citizens,” like that. This mild protest by the pioneering Gay activists-the men in nice suits and ties, the women in nice dresses, like they were going to the office- was also fraught with danger for them; to be identified as “homosexual” ran a person the risk of job loss, social ostracism, and violence, even death. It’s good that this piece of Gay Rights History is known and recognized for its importance; it has not gotten the attention of the Stonewall riots, when, in June 1969, patrons of a crummy bar owned by a mob associate-mainly young street hustlers and drag queens- fought against riot police for three days, thus making public the Gay rights movement we know today. Remember the historical context: In 1965, the earlier activists hoped for reform and trying to reason with the government and other institutions to accept same-sex-loving people as fellow citizens, and this went on during the Civil Rights movement for African Americans, which emphasized non-violent resistance to Jim-Crow laws. (But, it was resistance nonetheless, and it still terrified J. Edgar Hoover and the other enforcers of the status quo at that time.) In 1969, however, the nation was rocked by the murders of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy, three men symbolizing the idealism of that time; the Viet Nam war raged overseas, with Americans divided over the rightness of the war, and campuses turned into war zones; and Feminism was in its rebirth as a movement, with its raising questions about what is a “woman” and what is a “man.” The non-violent, let’s-sit-down-and-talk-shall-we approach of reasoning with the oppressor was indeed brave and dangerous for the beginning Gay activists; but the Stonewall riots, made up of young men who had nothing to lose but their chains, and who were sick of police abuse and harassment, fought back violently and now the LGBT movement is in full bloom, winning such things that the earlier activists could never have imagined, such as marriage equality, openly serving in the military, and cultural acceptance-who doesn’t know anyone who is gay? This leads to one more question-When does non-violent protest stop being effective, and when do you have to use force to defend yourself? I don’t adhere to the “turn the other cheek” talk used to tell people to put up with being picked on and being abused, for the sake of the dominant power’s peace and quiet. Telling someone to not resist being physically or otherwise attacked, I have come to conclude, is foolish and cruel. I have a lot of good friends who identify as Christian, and who engage in non-violent Civil Disobedience work and other activities in order to combat militarism and state and other forms of oppression. I commend them. And I myself am not crazy about a lot of violent upheavals; but I WILL NOT take anyone putting their hands on me as I work to attain my rights. It’s not a cut-and dry situation. But it’s something to think about, after we finish our holiday partying. Bye!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Mason Missile, May 30, 2015

Greetings! I take this time to brag of my wonderful great grades in the University of Massachusetts. I WILL go back again in July and continue the work. One of the things I’ve learned in the Labor Law class is about English Common Law, which is the basis for law in this country; this is law that is made and decided by judges on a case-by-case basis, using precedent from earlier cases. The premises of Common Law are: employees will be irresponsible unless they are supervised; production must continue unhampered; employees have limited status on the job, and must therefore show respect and deference to their employer (right or wrong); the business is under management’s control, the employer’s property rights are paramount, and employees cannot be full partners in the business or that would interfere with management rights. This attitude is still prevalent in law schools in this country, and I believe this is one of the pillars of capitalism in this country, along with chattel slavery. Earlier this year we have celebrated the march on Selma, Alabama, in March 1965, when Civil-Rights activists led by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the rights to vote for African-Americans, and were assaulted by local and state law enforcement-the same people who are supposed to protect us, the citizenry. This courageous march led to the passage and signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And what have we done with the right to vote? So many of us, TOO many, don’t bother with the simple yet profound act of going to the polls and voting, let alone the ancillary acts of signing petitions, participating in rallies, listening to debates, etc. People have literally died for the right of the rest of us to vote. We must keep in mind the number of voter restriction laws passed in state legislatures, in an attempt to keep minorities, students, seniors, and others from voting; and in the recent police violence incidents where African-American men have been killed by law enforcement. We’re heading backwards fast in Civil Rights. In Texas there are military exercises going on called Jade Helm 15, where our most elite military forces are training for desert combat; but through deranged blogs and small town radio there is the idea floating around that Jade Helm 15 is a plot by the Obama administration to “invade” Texas-you DON’T invade you own damn country! - arrest “patriots,” and detain them in abandoned Wal-Mart stores. (This was prior to the flooding in Texas, when Governor Abbott appealed for federal relief; THIS kind of invasion they don’t complain about.) There were mainstream politicians- Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, among others-acting like this bit of hysteria is something to take seriously. Combine the racism lurking deep in the dark id of American politics-which has not been eradicated as the commercial media has led us to believe-belief in the most fantastic fables going through the internet, the passion for firearms, the fact that whites will be the minority in a few decades, and poor education, and you have a dangerous mixture, the Republican right-wing base. THESE are the types of people Republican presidential candidates feel they have to pander, THESE are the hardliners who vote to the primaries, and THESE are the people who would elect the next President of the United States. THIS is why voting is so damn important. This is the fight we have ahead of us; let us study these issues and arm ourselves intellectually, to inform ourselves. Bye!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Mason Missile, April 11, 2015

Greetings! Forgive me for being so late, I have been busy getting educated. I’m continuing my classwork at the University of Massachusetts Amherst via e-mail, and it’s working out fine. Education is one of the most important things for personal enrichment and empowerment, and empowering communities. There is a war on science and intellect and education in general. This is found in the movement against vaccinating kids; denial of global warming by carbon-based fuels; religiously-based “creationism” as opposed to Darwinian evolution; gay to straight conversion “therapy;” alleged terrible health consequences for women having abortions; and abstinence-only “sex education,” which does not keep kids from going ahead with it. This is supposed to be based on religious belief about morality, how to raise children, and the origins of the world. Okay, religious belief is fine-but does “religious belief” have to be an excuse to be ignorant of the world, and to force your ignorance upon others? Just because you don’t want to learn and expand your intellectual horizons, you must prevent others from doing so? Much of the allegedly religiously based cramping on learning is a concession to the politically organized religious right, which scares politicians-not known to be an intellectual lot, with some honorable exceptions-into passing laws that prevent the teaching of Darwinian evolution in schools, or else they have to include some “theory” that accommodates the religious rightists; into passing laws mandating vaginal ultrasound procedures that might frighten women away from having abortions, although these procedures have no medical value; and also laws mandating “don’t do it” as their idea of sex education. (By the way, there have been surveys in the southern “bible belt” states that have “abstinence only” sex education, and those states lead the nation in out-of-wedlock births, sexually-transmitted diseases, and use of internet porn. The sex drive is so strong, it can’t be “educated” out of existence.) You can’t use religious beliefs to be ignorant of the world. We are creatures of God; would God want us to stunt our emotional and intellectual growth? No, the Deity would want us to grow to be the best human beings we can be, and education is the greatest way towards that goal-to attain social engagement and personal empowerment. I was appalled by the video showing the frat brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) at the University of Oklahoma chanting their racist jingle and bragging “there will never be a N-----r SAE!” (Not that they’re missing anything.) Here are some observations: A woman identified as the frat’s housemother was shown in a video chanting the “N” word to a rap song; she MUST have heard the brothers singing and talking that racist stuff. It happens-when young people act up, there will be an “adult” enabler encouraging the kids in their dumb stuff, and participating in it, perhaps trying to be one of the gang. (So many “adults” try to be kids again by acting foolish, and stealing the childhood of others.) In the video, the brothers wore tuxes, on their way to a formal event in a limo bus; these could be the leaders of the community, lawyers, medical professionals, judges, corporate execs, politicians; men with racist attitudes passing judgment on the rest of the community, with some people of color. NOW the university administration heard of the jingle? They hadn’t heard anything of it before? And what’s this again about universities being “hotbeds of leftist propaganda?” What the hell are the SAE guys learning in OU? These SAE guys were as ignorant as any unlettered Georgia Klansman. The struggle for freedom goes on, there is no time limit. There have always been people who fight for their rights, and other people, of the once-dominant group, trying to take back their dominance, often acting like THEY are the oppressed minority. With a history of freedom-fighting behind us, we will continue the struggle, and we WILL win. BYE!