Update, September 16, 2018

Thursday, I went to a taping of the show Conversations Across Time, on PhillyCAM  (channel 66 on Comcast, channel 29 on Verizon). There I portrayed Rabbi Stephen Wise, one of the leading figures of the Jewish Community in America, a counselor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and leader of the Zionist movement. With one person playing FDR and the other playing Hermann Goering, we discussed the situation with the tRump regime in America today, with such topics as the recent New York Times op-ed by the “anonymous” White House staffer (we speculated it might be a group of them); the book Fear by Bob Woodward, which shows the tRump White House to be a madhouse; the possibility of impeachment, which is all fraught with politics as is everything else in DC; and the 25th Amendment, whereby supposedly the Vice-President and a majority of the cabinet might decide that the President is not physically or mentally capable of carrying out his duties, and would force him to give up the office to the Vice-President. (Pence would like that; he thinks God has anointed him to be President.)  We cannot count on the hope that sensible people in the right office can save us; only we the people, conscious of the issues at stake and voting accordingly, can save this country. Contact PhillyCAM at https://phillycam.org/.

Friday, I attended the dinner-cruise aboard the Spirit of Philadelphia , of the Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the organization of African-American trade Unionists, founded by A. Philip Randolph, who was America’s leading African-American trade union leader. (I’m Recording Secretary of the Philadelphia chapter.) we held our awards ceremony then:

The A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin Leadership Award went to Sam Staten Jr., International Vice-President of LIUNA (Laborers) and Business Agent of LIUNA Local 332.

The Rosina Tucker Award went to Carla M. Insinga, Director of AFSCME District Council 90.

The A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin Outstanding Activist Award went to Boise Butler, President of ILA (Longshore workers) Local 1291.

The President’s Award went to Dionne Gary, of District 199CC of AFSCME (hospital and health care workers).

Saturday, I went back to PhillyCAM, where I sat in the audience of The Chef Trek Adventures, a cooking show produced by my friend Delmer Gill, who allowed me time to go on stage and speak about my writing career. Delmer’s web site is http://cheftrek.net/.

 

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The Mason Missile, August 27, 2018

 

Greetings!

Upcoming is Labor Day, the holiday commemorating the working men and women of America.

What is there to celebrate lately? Here we have a “populist” President, supposedly the champion and voice of (white) working-class Americans-always assumed to be white-who signed a tax bill favoring the wealthiest Americans, and fighting against the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”

trump’s attitude, and the attitude of plutocrats in this country, is one of condescension towards(white) working people, that they are too addicted to opioids and the drug of racism to see who their real enemy is-the same plutocratic class- and they feed working-class people with racially-coded fears of “law and order,” “crime in the streets,” “lazy welfare bums,” “affirmative action programs taking jobs away from deserving white workers,” etc.-trump updated this tactic to rail about “MS-13” and “rapists” coming over the border with Mexico- not mentioning that our tax policies have been long skewed in favor of corporations and the wealthy-people who pay lobbyists to alter the tax code in their favor, and to approve federal contracts with certain defense industries. (The news media, also large corporations, have played along with this; however, I think they’ve been pretty good lately at standing up to the trump tantrums.)

Along with this is the Supreme Court’s decision on the Janus case, which limits the ability of public-sector unions to do their work in representing their clients; I have no doubt the learned justices of the Court welcomed this decision, for they sympathized with the corporations-and the Koch brothers-trying forever to weaken and finally destroy unions in this country. The decision upset me terribly.

However, I have been buoyed by the Labor victories throughout the country, the successful teachers’ strikes in such conservative states as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona; and the voting down of the referendum in Missouri for “right-to-work” (for less)-in Missouri, another conservative Republican state.

We have to overcome the idea that the plutocratic class would automatically rain their blessings on us proletarians, that they know what is best for all of us with their nearly total control of the economy; as a Democratic Socialist, I believe that we the people should have a say in the economic destiny of the nation, since it deals with OUR jobs, OUR ability to pay our bills and purchase OUR groceries, etc. An editorial in the New York Times of May 9, 2018 tells about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is now the wealthiest man in human history, worth $131 BILLION! (I could live easily on one lousy billion.) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/opinion/jeff-bezos-spend-131-billion.html

Since Bezos can’t spend all that money, what does he plan to do with it? Not charitable donations, like the old Robber Barons like Carnegie and Rockefeller carried out with their fortunes (made with the sweat and muscle of workers they overworked and underpaid). Bezos’ bright idea is space travel, including regular trips to space-space tourism!

We have problems aplenty on THIS planet-global warming through the use of carbon-based fuels, illiteracy, unemployment, infrastructure (roads, bridges, electric power stations) collapsing, famine, genocide-and Bezos wants frequent-flyer points to Mars! Bezos can do whatever the hell he wants with his money, okay, I’m cool with that; but with the constant deregulation of business practices, the weakening of trade unions, the tax policies favoring people wealthy enough to buy and sell members of Congress, it has led to widening extremes of wealth and poverty-the likes of which eventually leads to violent social upheaval-let’s say it, revolution.  We HAVE to educate ourselves on the issues, organize at our communities and our worksites, and get out and vote this November

Also upcoming are the High Holy Days, Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, where we re-assess our lives, give up what no longer is good for us, and realize whatever good is in us and around us. Currently we are in the Hebrew month of Elul, when we sit back and reflect on our lives over the past year. Self-improvement is a long process, taken step by step; if you slip and fall on your way to advancing and improving, that’s okay, it’s all part of the learning process, just get back on your feet and keep walking. An excellent guide to the High Holy Days, and the other Jewish holidays, is Seasons of our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Arthur Waskow, one of the leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement and head of the Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org/).

On that note, I bid everyone L’shana tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous year to you all.

 

 

The Q Conspiracy Theory

During the rally trump held in Tampa, his supporters wore t-shirts with “QAnon” on them. this is a reference to the latest conspiracy theory, favored by trump supporters, which says that an official in military intelligence circles-know simply as Q- is feeding everyone “information,” through the social networks 4chan and Reddit (favorites of right-wing extremists),  of a fight between trump, Robert Mueller, and the military brass on one side, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, Hollywood liberals, billion-dollar corporations, the “deep state,” and a child sex-trafficking ring on the other; that Mueller is not really targeting trump, but has secretly indited the Clintons. This idea all began in 2016, when a gunman raided and shot up a pizza parlor in Washington, thinking it was the center of a child sex slave ring.

Conspiracy theories have a long and sorted history in this country; our own “President” was a leader of the “birther” conspiracy theory, that Barrack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. There have been conspiracy theories centered around Jews, the Catholic Church, and Communists (with some overlap between them). Added to this is the decades-long conservative campaign against the mainstream news media for not “reporting” the news according to their bias, and so the followers of trump and his cronies have to get their “news” from some other source, other than a reliable news organization, in order to make any sense of what goes on in the world.

America’s Shame, July 16, 2018

Donald Trump, supposedly the President of the United States, went to Helsinki to meet Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia and the man helpful to donnie’s getting elected, with the Russian intelligence agents hacking the DNC and the Clinton campaign. In the press conference after the meeting-where there were no one else but interpreters, no foreign policy advisers-donnie commended Russia’s hosting the Word Cup, and took the word of Putin, the former KGB agent-you remember form the Cold war era, the KGB were the villains- over the findings of US government intelligence agencies-the same government donnie is supposed to be running-whether or not the Russian intelligence agencies sabotaged the election of 2016, jeopardizing what’s left of our “democracy,” thus installing a business failure-racist-misogynist-realty-show clown as president.

(Plus in the press conference, trump once again went off on a tangent about beating Hillary Clinton, like he’s campaigning again-but when does he ever stop campaigning?)

trump always had a soft spot in his “heart” for dictators and authoritarians, whether they be Kim John-Un, Erdogan, Recep Dutarte, Ix Jinping, or Putin. “Like takes to like,” as they say, and THESE are the role models trump is trying t follow.

Americans! Let’s stand up for our rights! Don’t wait until November, start NOW! Hit the streets, write to your editors, visit your elected officials!

The 4th of July, What To Do About It

Independence Day, July 4th, the day where we celebrate our liberties, is tomorrow. I said “liberties;” what do we have to celebrate right now? we have a “President” who talks like some drunk in a bar at 3 AM; who brags of his deal-making genius, but has been conned by North Korea, which is continuing its nuclear program, while he called off military exercises with South Korea; who tells his supporters at rallies, “Knock the crap out of them,” and glorifies the days when you can beat up your political opponents; who, daring to call himself a “populist,” brings mockery to that idea by supporting a tax cut for the wealthy, while also supporting cuts in Social security, Medicare, and other pro-people programs; who appoints people into certain agencies who oppose that agency’s mission, such as Scott Pruitt at the EPA; who supports the separation of children from their parents, causing untold suffering to both parents and children; who makes religious and racial minorities, and fine, hardworking journalists into scapegoats for his supporters to hate-the list goes on.

Protests has come about, and are not stopping, against the Muslim ban in immigration, against the taking of the children of immigrants, against the racism he encourages, against the disrespect he has shown to women, among others. Such examples are the confronting of Stephen Miller and Krisjen Nielsen in MEXCAN restaurants for the immigration policies, marches and pickets at ICE offices-all in the finest traditions of American protest. But of course-it’s as predictable as snow in December-people would say, “You’re being too confrontational, it’s not nice what you’re doing, it plays into trump’s hands.” It’s a subtle hint for us to be quiet.

I’m sure the agitators who helped to start our OWN revolution also heard talk like this; but they kept at it, they prevailed, and so our country was formed. Our enemy must not dictate to us what our strategy should be, and we must never stop standing up for what is right, and to what is wrong.

This is serious business, and we should treat it as such; but, we must also take a break and relax, and be fresh for the ongoing fight, so enjoy your 4th.

The Mason Missile, July 2, 2018

Greetings!

This is Independence Day-what do we have to celebrate? We have a regime (I won’t call it an “administration”) that separates immigrant children as young as several months from the parents, as a bureaucratic form of punishment for entering this country “illegally” (which is classed as a misdemeanor).

That has never happened before, and this practice inflicts trauma upon these children and their parents-but what to the alpha males ruling our affairs care? They show what kind of big strong men they are by terrorizing people who can’t resist, talking about a “zero tolerance policy,” and have sadistic fun doing it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the Bible, the Apostle Paul letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verses 1-7, (RSV) as an excuse to justify this: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.  For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”

That verse had always been a favorite of slaveholders and authoritarians, using some biblical justification for their domination of their subjects. It would not hold sway except for some true believers of the Leader.

(Were he to go further down the chapter, Sessions would have found verses 8-10 “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”)

This is the kind of thing that conservatives, who have whined about “big government taking control of our children,” have warned us about- but it’s happening to dark-skinned foreigners, so they say nothing. I’m pleased, though, that people have risen up against this; I doubt, though, if it would influence this regime from ending the practice, but hopefully, it would make people on the ground ashamed to implement such policies on behalf of their superiors up the chain. There is also institutional resistance to this evil practice, as several state governors have refused to send their National Guard units to the border for this kind of duty.

There is also publicly confronting the top officials responsible for these policies, such as the crowds shaming Stephen Miller and Kristjen Nielsen-as they ate at MEXICAN RESTAUANTS-and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the little restaurant. Now the conservatives complain that the officials are being oppressed and bullied-any worse than the little kiddies in the detention centers separated from their families, scared out of their minds, feeling lost and abandoned, put through possibly all kinds of abuse, not knowing if they’ll ever see their parents again?  Can’t we look at THAT, Americans, and know the shameful thing going on in our name, and with our tax dollars?

With protests against unjust conditions, there are always complaints about how the protestors behave-“They’re not polite, they’re not civil, they use such bad language!” But what about trump’s line in a rally, “I’d like to punch him in the face”? His instigating violence against protestors by his fans? The incidents of white people calling the police on African-Americans for such crimes as sitting in a Starbuck’s, playing golf, napping in a dorm at Yale, holding a cookout in Oakland, mowing a neighbor’s lawn for a few bucks, selling water for money for tickets to Disneyland?

It’s as if we need permission by our conservative superiors to protest unjust conditions, from which they benefit, and the consequence of which they don’t suffer (so it’s no skin off their asses)-and such permission won’t be forthcoming. No one will give us our rights-we’ll take them. It’s just a way for them to not deal with it-but there are people who deal with it every day, and they won’t take it anymore, and will let everyone know they won’t take it.

Again, let’s discuss “big government“-the boogie of right-wing propaganda for decades, since the New Deal and beyond. This is the scare used when the issue is using the mechanism of government, local, state, or federal, to restrict the ability of corporations to swindle consumers and oppress workers. Added to this is the Labor movement, the institutional gathering of workers for their mutual benefit, to prevent corporate bosses from forcing workers into long hours, in oppressive and unsafe worksites, for merger pay.

With the Janus decision of the Supreme Court-which says workers who don’t want to be in a union do not have to pay the “agency shop” fee, but would still be protected by the union-The ability of unions to protect workers is in trouble. But do we take it lying down? No, we organize, just like our forbearers did a century ago, in the face of company thugs, police and militias, and hostile courts, judges, and governments. We have a history and tradition to draw our strength from.

Indeed, activism abounds throughout the nation against the trump agenda-and NO, I will not show him any respect! Along with the protests against the immigration policies along the border, there are protests by high school kids against the gun violence they witnessed, when they had to see their friends killed by gunmen who had too easy an access to an AR-15, and the #MeToo movement of women who refuse any longer to put up with sexual harassment from rich and powerful men.  The Labor movement can tap into that energy, and once again be the insurgent force our plutocratic masters fear it to be.

Bye!

Torrey Smith: Donald Trump Reversal of Invite ‘Cowardly’ | Time

via Torrey Smith: Donald Trump Reversal of Invite ‘Cowardly’ | Time

Once again, tRump has shown what a gutless little weasel he is. He keeps saying that the players are against the military and the flag, when he hides behind the flag to attack minorities. The players are protesting systems of oppression, not the military or the flag, and tRump is well aware of this. But, spineless worm that he is, he uses patriotism to insult his opponsents and rile up his base.

Not Our President Poetry Reading

I will take part in the reading of the poetry chapbook Not Our President, an anthology of poems protesting the current inmate of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and everything he stands for. I will join other fine Philadelphia area poets, including Leonard Gontarek, Enoch Guy, and Irving Jones, among others, at Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom Street, on Sunday, November 5th.

For more information, contact http://www.moonstoneartscenter.org/

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!