Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Mason Missile, September 3, 2017

Greetings! I have celebrated my 60th birthday on August 1st, and I know my best days are ahead of me. I thank everybody for joining me on my life journey. Charlottesville, Virginia, is, like the rest of the country, a flashpoint for the racial problems and hostilities plaguing our nation; one hundred and fifty years or so after the Civil war, fifty to sixty years after the start of the contemporary Civil rights movement, race is still the great dividing line of the nation. (Class is also a real issue, even though we still don’t talk about it.) A gathering of neo-fascist groups, called “Unite The Right,” took place in Charlottesville, around the statue of Robert E. Lee, the great Confederate general-he was indeed a great military strategist, as well as the focus of great sentimental historical revision. The neo-fascists marched through Charlottesville, which is from what I hear a lovely university town-the headquarters of the University of Virginia- carrying tiki torches (like Klansmen have done) chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” like straight out of the Third Reich. Counter-demonstrators challenged them; there was violence, with the deaths of Heather Heyer, a fine progressive activist, and two Virginia State troopers whose helicopter crashed as the monitored the march-Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates; may their memory be a blessing. The immediate cause for the march was to resist the taking down of various statues of Confederate “heroes,” such as Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. These statues were a form of propaganda, “art” used for a political purpose; they were set up during the time, after the Civil War, when the “Jim Crow” segregation laws were being enacted, and again during the rise of the Civil Rights movement. It was to remind African-Americans so was still in charge. The rewriting of the Civil War’s history was also part of the propaganda; the war, historically proven to be based on the determination of the seceding states to maintain their slave systems, was now seen as merely a clash of differing ideas about what America was to be like, etc. The Robert E. Lee myth, that of the kindly Christian gentleman-warrior, who sought to reconcile the nation after the war, was part of this. As a recent article in The Atlantic shows ( https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/) , Lee indeed oppose slavery, but only because it was bad for white people; He once wrote, “I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild &melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.” How did our Commander in Chief handle this situation? First he said there was violence “on many sides,” then his staff urged him to make a real condemnation against racism and bigotry, then he went back to talking about the good people on the white nationalist side. He is either to gutless to stand up to his base (many of the racist marchers in Charlottesville wore his “Make America Great Again” caps), or he is too ignorant of the reality of racism contaminating our nation’s psyche-OR, more than likely, he’s a stone-cold racist himself. His wealth and power don’t bring him and more knowledge or wisdom, even though we are taught to revere the wealthy as geniuses. What are we to make of trump supporters, people who stick with him right or wrong, sink or swim? He is not a friend of working people, but you hear so much about how working-class white people love him, and who love his bad-ass talk about building the wall and being allowed to beat up dissidents, like he urged them to do in his rallies. Many trump lovers are our friends or relatives whom we love, and we certainly can’t cut them off-trump isn’t worth it. “Populist” is a word bandied about in the news media, like a kind of shorthand, to describe low-income racist politics. The origins of the word “populist” come from the movement in the US, the Populist Party, which was an alliance of farmers who were oppressed by railroads charging too-high rates for shipping their produce, and banks charging too-high interest on their mortgages. It was a movement of low-income people against the corporations dominating the nation’s politics and government, and it allied with labor unions and the women’s suffrage movement. One of its greatest activists, Thomas Watson of Georgia, spoke of the need for Black and White farmers to unite against the common enemy, but Watson and other Populist Party leaders succumbed to the white supremacist idea, for getting who the real enemy was. It’s a fight, but we’ve had our fights before-organizing workers for their benefit, women organizing for their right to vote at the minimum, people of color working to have their American dream, LGBT people fighting for their right to love-we have a tradition to fall back on, and we have living elders who can tell their stories and inspire the young ’ins, who will add their chapters to the history of the struggle. What will I be doing in the fight? On Monday, September 4 I’ll march with other Labor activists in the 30th annual Tri-State Labor day Parade and Family Celebration, where we honor the working people of America-that is, US-our institution the labor unions, and the accomplishment we have made for our class and our nation. We are more than worthy of a party. On Wednesday the 6th I’ll take part in a meeting of Philly for Change, a group which came out of the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004. This group discusses campaigns around legislative district boundaries (and the problem of “gerrymandering”), environmental and gun laws, and LGBT rights, to name a few. Bye!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Mason Missile, July 5, 2017

Greetings! I’m experimenting with a new format, as I am with other areas of my life. I’m approaching my sixth decade, and I feel great. I’m carrying on with my classwork at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in Labor Studies, and I will pass on what I have learned to other working and low-income people. This has been the 241st anniversary of the founding of the nation-or is it? In June of 1776, the Continental Congress, meeting in what is now Independence Hall in Philadelphia (yay!), listened as Richard Henry Lee, delegate of Virginia, read his resolution “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.” That resolution put into words the reality of what went on at the time; the Continental Congress already authorized the Continental Army under George Washington, along with a postal system-the kinds of things governments do. In January 1776, Thomas Paine-a person that needs more mention in our nation’s history books-published the small book Common Sense, which also put into words the movement towards independence by the colonies. There were however still members of the Congress who hoped for some form of reconciliation with Britain, fearing catastrophe from an all-out war. (Revolutions are not ONE spectacular event that makes for a great movie; a revolution is a series of events challenging the legitimacy and the power of the old regime, and eventually a political body forms to give it focus and a system of directing the revolution, be it the Continental congress of the United States, or the Bolshevik party of the Russian revolution.) A “Committee of Five” was formed by the Congress to draft a formal resolution as to the reasons for declaring independence. In that committee were John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert Livingston of New York; Jefferson, being known as a polemicist for the colonies’ cause, had the job of writing up the draft of the Declaration, with some changes recommended by Adams and Franklin. On July 2, the Congress read and began debate on the Declaration, along with revisions and editing; finally, on July 4, 1776, the congress formally adopted the Declaration. (There was much political wrangling over the Declaration, this being a political event worked on by politicians; but that does not make it any less an important document.) What do we have to be proud of this holiday? Not our “President,” a “man” consumed by his ego and ignorance, a schoolyard in the most powerful office on the planet, a man who uses his office to line his pockets in his real-estate holdings, a man who insults women and uses them as sex toys (including HIS OWN DAUGHTERS), a man who hints at violence in his rallies and in his Twitter tweets- BUT, you say, all of this is a distraction, we have to focus on the substantive issues of the day, the terrible stuff his administration does-like pushing the “health care” bill that not only seeks to destroy Obama’s legacy, trump’s reopening of the digging of the Keystone XL pipeline and of the Dakota Access pipeline-environmental catastrophes waiting to happen-weakening environmental regulations on coal mining, and banning people from majority-Muslim countries (that is, those he has no business dealing with). I agree, we MUST be on top of trump and his minions, and the policies they implement. BUT, let’s not be either-or here-EITHER focus on his bizarre behavior OR his policies. It’s these silly antics that show us the kind of man he is, how he views the world, how he would use the office of the President of the United States to carry out what he would deem to be “Correct”-but correct for WHOM, his family, his bottom line, or his country? IF he is pulling all these silly stunts to distract public attention from his policies, could he NOT have found a more dignified way to do it? Or is dignity something he doesn’t understand? How does it look like, to have our commander-in-chief acting like a damn fool to implement policy? Hopefully the trump experience ends the idea of having a “businessman” put in elected office to run the office, and the country, in a “businesslike” manner. A corporation is an organization formed solely to make a profit for those invested in it; a government is an organization formed to administrate the needs of society, answerable (hopefully) to the general public. And what kind of business model does trump have? He purchased real estate in New York and Atlantic City, promising that everything he touches is grand and spectacular, and he is worth more money that God; and, when he went bankrupt, instead of being monitored and harassed like any of US who would be in debt, finds a way to cut a deal to satisfy the banks he owes money to, along with refusing to pay contractors who did work on his buildings. The bankruptcy laws of this country are twisted to the benefit of the rich deadbeats, and we little fish are at their mercy. Still-I am pleased that the REAL patriots are stepping up, not intimidated by the trump regime, using both the internet and good ol’ shoe leather to let the members of Congress who precisely they are to represent-in town halls, in public demonstrations, in visiting Congress-members’ offices-when they're not hiding from their constituents’ ire. And what are we to make of trump’s supporters? The story goes in the commercial media is that trump’s voters are working-class people who are afraid of losing their jobs, or have lost their jobs, and trump is giving them some hope, however false. Another story is that trump’s voters are the same balls-out racists and haters who could not stomach an African-American man as President, and the traditional racial order is again attacked. Could BOTH be true? The bottom line-BOTH parties have failed the American people. The Republican party has, since the Jimmy Carter administration, been a home of religiously based haters, fearful of the advancement of LGBT people, of honest sex education in schools, of the challenge to traditional gender roles and to what is a “man” and a “woman” in our culture, hoping that their attaining state power would restore “traditional family values;” and also, since the Richard Nixon campaign of 1968, a haven to conscious or sub-conscious racists fearful of the advancement of races they have been traditionally taught to consider less that human, fearful that THEY themselves would be in a subordinate position, and associating certain races to such social maladies as crime and drugs. The Democratic party? Since the New Deal and the Great Society, the Democratic party has had the aura of carrying out needed social legislation and advancement of traditionally put-down people: workers and unemployed in the 1930s, African-Americans and other minorities in the 1960s. But the Democratic party sought to attain control of these groups and their activities, so that they would not go “too far” against the some political system that benefits BOTH parties, while adopting the proposals of the protest movements. Now, the Democratic party is once again just as decadent as the Republican party. After the Mondale loss of 1984, “moderate” elements of the party sought to remove from power the so-called “special interest groups,’ a code word for unions, minorities, etc., forming under the banner of the Democratic Leadership Council, at one time led by Bill Clinton. And the same groups, labor, minorities, etc., are told they have NO choice but to still stick with the party, since the Republicans would be FAR worse (setting the bar pretty damn low). To both parties, the American voter is ignorant, bigoted, and swayed by tough talk against some perceived enemy that really doesn’t pose a threat. Trump, just as much a product of the social-economic elite, thinks the same way about the same people who voted for him, picking up the “birther” movement and cheering on any assaults his followers make on protestors, calling for brute force at home and abroad, and he tries to connect with them-as does every other aristocrat seeking working-class votes-by acting like “I’m just as ignorant as you are” (and indeed, they’re not all that wonderful, in spite of their wealth). This is the task of REAL American patriots, to make our stand against trump and his minions, but raise American to a higher self, to make it great for all its people; and WW the people, the working and low income people of America, are the TRUE loyal opposition, and WE are the ones who can and will carry this work out. Bye!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Mason Missile, May 16, 2017

Greetings! I have been celebrating May Day, THE international day honoring workers and our achievements in organizing for our rights, and what we accomplish if the workers stand together and fight the bosses and their political minions. I have been active in these campaigns-don’t worry, we’ll still have Labor Day in September. The origins of May Day are in the struggles in this country for an eight-hour working day, led by the Knights of Labor. The American origins of May Day have been obscured by the appropriation by the Soviet Union, China, and other Communist regimes of revolutionary culture to further their ends, which have not been revolutionary; it gave the regimes the appearance of being radical and revolutionary. Now, the truth has been coming out, and I urge you to look up the web site, maydayusa.org. (This raises the question: what other things have we been lied to about, in schools, media, and politics?) We need to have such solidarity in these times of trump as our “president,” and I have NO obligation to show him ANY respect! A woman was arrested for laughing at Attorney General Jeff Sessions-laughing! Political satire, laughing at the doings of our elected (by whom?) officials is a venerable American tradition; currently, we have seeing a new golden age of it, with the work of Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert-who recently faced trumpist howling after a great monologue. “Fake News,” one of trump’s favorite lines, reminds you of one of Hitler’s favorite insults, “lugenpresse,” “lying press,” against the news media of his day. The news media is not perfect, it is more corporate-slanted towards what is acceptable or palatable to corporate interests; but it so far has helped in keeping an eye on the trump regime and how the trump family-including Jared Kushner, the son-in-law-in-chief-have used these connections to further their business interests. The Republicans in the House of Representatives (of whom?) finally passed the trump “alternative” to Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act, and are celebrating that heroic act of stripping health insurance from millions of Americans, while providing another tax break for the billionaire class. All through the Obama administration, Republicans have tried SO hard to have it repealed, even though the Obama plan in partially based on the plan in Massachusetts while Mitt Romney (no Trotskyist he!) was governor. How much did racism play in the Republican crusade against “Obamacare”, which is a term Obama himself wore as a badge of honor? It was from the debates over health insurance that near-riots and threats emerged during congressional town halls in 2009, and I was sure then that some group or agency was behind this; lo and behold, it turns out the tea party movement is what is termed an “Astroturf” movement (as opposed to a ‘grassroots” movement), artificially created by corporate interests, in particular the Koch brothers and others. The Republican Party establishment has long looked for foot soldiers, along with the plutocrats writing the big contribution checks, to do their voting, show up at rallies, yell at and intimidate their opponents, hand out leaflets on the streets, and fold and mail said leaflets. In the 1970s through the 1990s it was the religious fundamentalists, led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson; now it’s the tea parties worked up about supposedly being taxed to death to pay for lazy welfare recipients, who are, in their mind’s eye, people of color. Now, the foot soldiers have taken over the general staff; Republican leaders, no matter how conservative they have been, are not conservative enough for the Republican base. This is why the republican rank-and-file cast aside politicians, who actually have occupied political office and have strong conservative programs, for a reality-show star whose political leanings consist of his own publicity, whose business record is one of bankruptcies and not paying contractors, who allowed a foreign power to assist him in his campaign and thus undermine our elections and what remained of our democracy. What are we to make of the trump voters? Are they frightened people worried about the fate of their nation, disgusted by our political elite, and therefore waging a “populist” movement? Or is it a collection of infamous racists and bullies, who enjoy his calls for banning Muslims, his contempt for women, his supporting violence against his enemies? It’s all on video: the punching of protestors at his rallies, the racial slurs spouted by the attendees, the racism and anti-Semitism, and the Confederate flags, on display. It’s not being “elitist” to call out people like this; it’s telling the truth, and it’s calling for challenging the racism that has been a pre-existing condition in our country that needs to be cured once and for all. We must plainly tell any fellow citizen, most particularly any working person, who engages in violence against Muslims, African-Americans-LGBT people, or any minority, “Brother, sister, you’re+ wrong to do this. It’s not worthy of an American.” Since the Civil rights movement, so much has been made of the ‘white working class,” as if they are one homogeneous group, violently opposed to any minority group-women, African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTs, what have you-asserting their rights. Commentary I have heard says that the Democratic Party lost its way, made a big mistake, by seeking the votes of these former outgroups, and neglecting the “white working class” voter. Is this true? Should, therefore, the needs of the former outgroups be ignored so that the party could attain once again the “white working class” voter? Is this an either-or situation? I don’t see the logic in this idea. This bifurcation, if it truly exists, is not inevitable. Due to my education in Labor Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I have learned that issues of race and class in this country are inseparable; the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s-Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin-sought the labor movement as allies in the struggle for equality for African-Americans, the vast majority of whom are working class, just as Americans in general. The March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom of August 1963-where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech”-pointed out the problems the nation faced with racial and economic inequality. Civil rights Activists worked closely with progressive Labor groups, such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and King worked with the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) and the United Automobile Workers of America (UAWA) under Walter Reuther. Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, brought together over 800 trade union and civil leaders to take part in the march, along with the International Fur and Leather Workers Union (IFLWU), the Seafarers International union, and several public sector unions, all with an interracial membership. Along with this Randolph and Rustin organized a group of economists, trade unionists, and civil rights activists to draw up the “Freedom Budget,” released in 1966, which called for job-creation programs to combat unemployment, a guaranteed annual income for poor families, and increased federal spending on schools, eradicating slums, and public works. I have just come from voting in the local elections here in Philadelphia-District Attorney, Controller, judgeships-mundane stuff, but these offices it most directly affect our lives, and this is where Presidents, Senators, and other officials get their start. It’s at this level where we begin to know the kind of elected officials they would be, and it’s where progressives needs to start to bring the party into a more people-oriented direction. Plus, people coming out for such unexciting races as for township supervisor, county commissioner, and city council-member sends a message that we the people are paying attention to the affairs of our community, and are willing to hold our officials accountable. This is something we must continuously work on-especially in this dangerous era-for the sake of our children-bye!