I speak about the impending indictment of Donald Trump, and of how the craven Republican leadership is responding.
I speak about the impending indictment of Donald Trump, and of how the craven Republican leadership is responding.
Greetings! I’m sorry to be so late; I’ve been doing my work as a Committee-person for my ward in South Philadelphia. Politics, the process of electing persons who run the community’s affairs, are the concern for all of us.
I was delighted by the defeat of Amazon, in its attempt to establish its second headquarters in New York-specifically, Long Island City in Queens-by neighborhood people protesting the disruption of their neighborhoods and the massive tax breaks, up to $3 billion, that the City and the State would have given the company-a company said to have $11.2 billion in profits (including the upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods), and whose CEO Jeff Bezos is worth $130 billion-rich enough to organize his own private space program, SpaceX. There were also worries by the community and the unions-still the best hope for working people-of low-wage work under stressful conditions-there were reports out about those practices at Amazon facilities-and of disruption of neighborhoods and gentrification.
Working-class and low-income people standing up to a corporate behemoth that, for a while, was valued at one TRILLION dollars, (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/04/amazon-hits-1-trillion-in-market-value.html), is something to be proud of. Organizations for tenant’s rights, immigrant rights groups like Make The Road NY, and neighborhood groups joined together to stand up to Amazon and for their community. (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/02/19/organizers-oust-amazon-hq2-new-york?cd-origin=rss#)
Amazon also serves as a poster child for the challenge to the idea that giving corporations tax breaks stimulates the economy, and so state and city governments must offer these to corporations to establish themselves I their communities. That was the way Amazon played it-several cities, including Philadelphia, were on the list to be the site for HQ2, and cities and states offered the company billions in tax breaks. A report by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows that Amazon, with all its billions, has not paid a single cent of federal income taxes last year. (https://itep.org/amazon-in-its-prime-doubles-profits-pays-0-in-federal-income-taxes/) Moreover, Amazon has received a tax REBATE of $129 million.
Another bad example of corporate socialism is Foxconn, the Taiwan-based manufacturer of pasts for Apple. The original deal was that, according to Governor Scott Walker (with Donnie trump going along), Foxconn would set up a factory that would create “up to 13,000” manufacturing jobs, mainly for display panels; for that it company would have the incentive of tax breaks from the state, worth $3 billion, along with three-quarters of a billion from local municipalities. But all of a sudden, Foxconn executives announced that the company would make the site into a research and development “hub,” which would hire approximately 1,000 technical employees. Billions of dollars lost, elected officials groveling to foreign capitalists, hopes raised for jobs for workers who have no jobs-for nothing. ( https://thinkprogress.org/factory-wisconsin-foxconn-billions-to-build-eea422ff0cef/)
May I introduce you to one of the most influential-and malignant-economic thinkers you never heard of: economist James McGill Buchanan, who did his work out of George Mason University. (https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/meet-the-economist-behind-the-one-percents-stealth-takeover-of-america) . Buchanan, like Milton Friedman, Friedrick Hayek, Ayn Rand, and Ludwig Von Misis, has been an influencer to the economic elite, advocating absolute “free market” capitalism, at the expense of workers and community people.
Buchanan has projected upon workers, social activists, and similar enemies of conservatives the traits of utter selfishness-to him, they are people who want to take property away from its owners for their own benefit-but are the capitalists, the owners of said property, not being selfish in bleeding workers and community people for their profit being selfish? Property owners-oligarchs-must, said Buchanan, be protected from working-class and low-income voters standing up for their rights-which, to Buchanan, would lead to tyranny, and so protecting the property of plutocrats-who wouldn’t be where they were without their workers-was defending liberty.
And in defending his idea of “liberty,” Buchanan had the support of Charles Koch-you know, of the Koch brothers-and worked against such threats to “free enterprise” as the environmental movement, feminism, public education, Social security and Medicare, and the civil rights movement-blatant racism was a loser in publicity, so Buchanan’s patrons utilized the arguments of “controlling government spending.” Buchanan’s ideas were antithetical to the idea of utilizing the state apparatus for progressive ends, for the public weal; but he was happy to be an advisor for the brutally repressive Pinochet regime in Chile, and he supported the repression of low-income and working people organizing themselves for their benefit.
The 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has come and gone, and there was none of the defense of tradition that is supposed to epitomize what “conservative” is supposed to mean. There was the old scare of “socialism,” updated to include terrifying pictures of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, and distorted interpretations of the proposed Green New Deal.
One rock-star speaker was Sebastian Gorka, a former trump advisor and member of the Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group founded by that nation’s pro-fascist (and anti-Semitic) dictator Miklos Horthy; members of the group were declared “Inadmissible” into the United States by the State Department. ( https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/trump-anti-terror-adviser-a-sworn-member-of-nazi-allied-group-1.5449737) But that did not stop Gorka from raving against how he interprets the Green New Deal; “They want to take your pickup truck, they want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers! This is what Stalin dreamt about!” said one of the deep thinkers of conservativism today.
Michelle Malkin, another right-wing pundit, raved about the “invasion” of immigrants, both legal and illegal; “Both parties are to blame,” Malkin proclaimed, “and yes, I’m looking at you, retired Paul Ryan. And yes, I’m looking at you, Mitch McConnell. And yes, I’m looking at you, Bush family. And yes, I’m looking at you, the ghost of John McCain.” The crowd cheered at that-an attack on people who were as conservative as themselves, but they disowned them when it suited their purpose. ( https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cindy-mccain-john-mccain-cpac-speaker_n_5c7c225ae4b0614614db7900)
The fear of the “Other,” of dark-skinned immigrants, who don’t look like themselves, was in Malkin’s speech. (Malkin, by the way, is of Filipina extraction, yet she used rhetoric worthy of David Duke. Hmmm…) Blatant white nationalists-like Peter Brimelow, of the racist web site VDare; Gavin McInnes founder of the Proud Boys, the white nationalist thug gang; and Faith Goldy, who has been on podcasts of the racist web site Daily Stormer- people who conservatives of an earlier era would have shunned, roamed the halls of the conference, denying the value of diversity and treating it as a plague. And during the conference, there were reports of harassment of Muslims and LGBTQ people by CPAC attendees. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cpac-harassment_us_58b7360fe4b0284854b3a2a4?fbclid=IwAR3B2uOpF77FJXBsq5NRV36bJYREya5R887z7y37RBdylEZ61CYFt3UJp5E)
THIS is what there up against; and our commander in chief is their enabler and hero. Let us continue to organize, to study the issues, and fight against this menace to our liberties.
The shutdown of the federal government goes on, due to tRump’s insistence that a wall be built to protect us from immigrants seeking a better life than political repression, criminal gangs, domestic abuse, and corruption in their homelands. Included in those federal employees deemed “essential”-they have to work without pay during the shutdown-are TSA agents, the people who check airlines for security, and air traffic controllers.
What kind of morale could they have, working for nothing for a President who uses them like poker chips in a big political poker game? What kind of stresses could they be having-included with doing their jobs, they have to also worry about feeding the kids, paying the mortgage and bills; but certain members of CONgress, and definitely our commander-in-chief, don’t have to worry about that stuff. They are the handmaidens of corporations who pay them off to weaken regulations on food, occupational safety, mines, financial transactions, and environmental quality; and who skew the tax laws in their favor.
Included in these corporations are air lines. I propose boycotting air travel, since the quality of air travel safety is too compromised, and the stresses on TSA workers and air-traffic controllers are too great, to be relied on. It will relieve pressure on the TSA and air traffic workers, who are already too stressed to do their important jobs effectively; and it will pressure the airline companies to pressure tRump to give up his stupid-ass border wall. I think it’s an idea worth kicking around.
I hope everyone within the sound of this newsletter voted. I did my modest role in the process; as a committee-person in my division, I handed out flyers throughout my ward, and I served as Clerk in my division’s election board, taping up posters and helping take the information from the machines after the election.
In my division, it was an epic turnout; serious issues were at stake in this election, such as the environment, tax codes favoring the wealthy and placing the tax burden on already stressed working families, dilapidated schools, and aging infrastructure-along with a commander-in-chief who runs the government like a mafia family, who does not honor military veterans or people who died in the service of their country, and whose deepest thoughts are on Twitter (nothing against social media, he’s not that deep a thinker).
But it shouldn’t take an impending national catastrophe to motivate people into voting; politics, and the issues of the community affected by politics, are the concern of each person. Now that the election is (for the most part) over, we can take a breather-burnout and wearing down are problems for activists-then continue our work on educating ourselves on the issues and meeting to plan strategy; politics is not about elections, it’s about working with, and on, the governing system for the benefit of the entire community.
I’m pleased with some of the results; we didn’t get the Senate, but we have the House, with a new cadre of women members-over 100 at last count; recounts have added to the number. A definite, long-overdue sea change is coming to our politics. We have Sharice Davids in Kansas (Native American and gay), Deb Haaland in New Mexico (Nate American), Rashida Tlaib in Michigan (Muslim) and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota (Muslim and Somali-American), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York (Hispanic and the youngest female member elected). In Colorado, Jared Polis (Democrat) will be the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state (Kate Brown of Oregon is already the first openly bisexual governor of a state). Marsha Blackburn will be Tennessee’s first female US Senator.
The question-Should there be new leadership for congressional Democrats? Often congressional Democratic leaders, like Steny Hoyer and Chuck Schumer, have gone along too much with accommodating Republicans, giving up too much to them; and Majority Leader (and possible Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi does not want to take the radical measures necessary for the country and the economy, like “Medicare for all,” to make our health care system closer to Canada’s single-payer system, preferring to stick with the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”).
Alas, taking corporate money, and the Clinton “centrist” tendency to imitate the Republicans in accommodating corporations with “free trade” deals detrimental to workers, like the North American free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have rendered the Democrats incapable of challenging the Republican program. And so we have been taught that “free trade” is the new normal, the reality we have to accept, and any challenge is just plain silly.
Oh? This new crew of Democrats in Congress hopefully could challenge this belief. But do we have to accept Pelosi as Speaker again? Would any attempt to dislodge Pelosi weaken the Democrats in Congress, at a time when the Republicans are now weakened by their own President, and may not ever recover? This is a great test of political skills for the new crew, to be ready to deal with the established leadership, but from a position of strength, to advance their agenda within the framework of the party caucus.
The party leadership would have to consider first the needs of the American people and the issues Americans face on a daily basis, and the leaders would have to finally be weaned away from the corporate trough. The new members represent the American people as they are-not so affluent, not so white, mainly female, many not heterosexual, and not all of them identifying as Christian. Eventually, with practice of political skills like committee work, public speaking, and negotiating, these newbies will attain leadership positions.
The new congressional crew will have to deal with such serious issues as income inequality, health insurance, dilapidated schools and infrastructure, the environment, factories closing and jobs moving to low wage regions, then overseas (a phenomenon dating back to the fifties and sixties, supposedly a golden age for the American worker). For the good of the nation-seriously-the new crew and the old heads must come together for the people’s welfare. (I’m not an either-or thinker; the new crew and the old veterans have their virtues, skills, experience, and energy.)
This election has also exposed the terrible reality of voter fraud, particularly in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, during their senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. How interesting it is that while people were exercising the most simple and basic act of a citizen-voting-machines, lost electric power or were not open on time, absentee ballots were misplaced until the deadline for counting them passed, and people suddenly found themselves NOT on the voting rolls, even though they voted for decades. Fortunately, the results of these voting suppression schemes are observed and challenged. And IF these candidates are “elected” by fraudulent means, like Brian Kemp in Georgia (who, while running for Governor, was still the state’s Secretary of State, in charge of the voting system), we don’t have to accept them as the legitimate holders of those offices. This is not about “being a good sport” and “you lost get over it.” This is serious business, not a kid’s backyard ball game. These offices affect how people’s lives work-law enforcement (will it turn into state repression?), pollution, discrimination, you name it.
And do the conservatives think that we the people will take this? NO! We will continue our work of activism, agitation, education, and voter mobilization. Rest assured I’ll do my part, and if we all come together in this work, we can and will win. Please forgive the cliché, but “Many hands make light work.” Bye!
On Election Day, November 6, I worked the polls in my division, as Clerk in my division’s election board, helping my fellow board members set up for the voting, and helping people, citizens of our country, exercise their right to vote, which people have died for. It was a long and crazy day, but it was worth it, as I was part of a movement to take our country back from plutocrats and their deranged front man in the White House.
The election results? Not all I hoped for, to be honest; the Republicans, a reactionary parody of their former selves, still have control of the Senate, but the Democrats regained the House; and there are several new members of the House-many of them women, and young, Hispanic, and native-American, reflecting the reality that America is a vast, diverse country, and non-white people are taking part in the system.
Yesterday, I was at the meeting of Philly For Change, at Tattooed Mo, on 5th and South streets. There were no speakers, but we celebrated the victories of our endorsed candidates, Joe Hohenstein and Malcolm Kenyatta in the State House of Representatives. We also discussed he campaign itself, like how we communicate to voters, the campaign strategy of trump, and how to plan for the elections in 2019.
What concerns me is the temptation by the Democratic congressional leadership to think the old rules of politics-sit down with the other side, make deals, and work something out to get things done-are still in effect. This is no longer the time of Lyndon Johnson, who was able to meet with Republican leaders like Everett Dirksen to pass Civil rights legislation; the republican party had “learned” that the way to get ahead in politics is to slander the opposition, not just way they’re wrong but that they’re evil, and never compromise with them, and force your congressional leaders to take extreme stances-the tactics Newt Gingrich was famous for.
As we progressives are working inside the Democratic party, we must demand some backbone from our leaders, and not give in to their demands for greater tax cuts for the plutocrats; the destroying of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; the weakening of regulations on the pollution of our air and water; and tolerance for discrimination against racial and religious minorities; we must also push for the end of being close to wall street, to gain campaign contributions, but to overturn the Citizens United decision and stop treating campaign contributions-to the millions of dollars-like “free speech.” We must prepare for a fight, for our families and our democracy.
This is democracy-people, working people, retirees, young people, claiming a stake in the political system that affects all of our lives. It is an opportunity where a neighborhood person, man or woman you know in your block-such as a retiree-can be a political player. I urge you, in this dangerous period in our nation’s history, to play your role in reclaiming our government and making it work for working people.
In the past couple of days, pipe bombs were sent to the homes and offices of persons and individuals who “President” tRump attacked in campaign speeches-Bill and Hillary Clinton, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, Barrack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, Maxine Waters, Debbie Wassermann Schultz, and Time-Warner, where CNN has its New York Offices. These were serious bombs, not just a high-school prank; fortunately, thanks to the great work of NYPD and the Secret Service, the bombs were rendered harmless.
These persons and institutions, like I said, criticized tRump, as all Americans have the right to do; but trump railed against them in rallies, calling CNN “fake news” and”The enemy of the people.” His fans still chant “lock her up!” at the mention of Hillary Clinton’s name; and trump and Republican Senators, during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, accused George Soros of subsidizing the demonstrations against Kavanaugh’s nomination. (Soros has also been accused of subsidizing the caravan of Centeral American people fleeing the violence and poverty of their nations to come to the “land of the free”; his name is a code word for all kinds of anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering.)
Right after the bombs were found, trump spoke of the need for unity and a call to end violence; this was about as sincere as his condemnation of the racist, neo-fascist marchers in Charlottesville, after he said there were “very fine people” among them. Then, later on, trump tweets that the “fake news” media brought the violence upon themselves, and tells them to “clean up their act.” What does THAT mean? Don’t criticize him or his minions? Don’t report his corrupt tax schemes for his father? His spinelessness after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post reporter, by Saudi operatives, just for a wildly exaggerated arms deal? His brown-nosing of such tyrants as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and Xi Jinping? His blatant lying about the republican tax giveaway bill to plutocrats and corporations? His urging his fans to beat up opponents, saying he’ll pay their legal bills? His mouthpiece Kelly Ann Conway talking about “alternative facts,” deciding which is or isn’t the truth?
Democracy, if it ha any chance of surviving, needs debate and discussion, and that includes a free press-not necessarily the corporate press, but all sorts of voices speaking truth to power, watching the government and other centers of power. Any threats to silence the press of any other forms of discussion will harms us as a society.
we must not give up or shut up. This series of terrorist acts-yes, it IS terrorism, not just some unhappy nutjob-makes voting on November 6 even more essential. Get out and VOTE November 6, and make a stand against trump and his thugs and thuggery.
On Super Bowl Night this year, my friend Sheila Modglin was struck by a car and was severely injured. She is still in rehab and is making slow but sure progress. She is a bartender at my favorite spot, Dirty Frank’s on 13th and Pine streets in Philadelphia, and we at Franks’ and others in the area have come together to raise funds for her, since hospital care is still an expensive commodity in this country. Throughout October, various restaurants and bars in Philadelphia, such as Fergie’s Pub and Franky Bradley’s, will hold fundraising events for Sheila; for information about these events, please check the web site https://www.diningoutforsheila.com/.
We have been through the High Holy Days-Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur-along with Simchat Torah, where we celebrate the cycle of reading the portions of the Torah. In the cycle of our lives, and in the cycle of our reading the Torah and other works, we are not the same person as we were last year; we mature (hopefully) as we go forward, and gain a deeper understanding of our lives and of our learning. Let us keep that work up.
Brett Kavanaugh-federal judge-darling of the Federalist Society, believer that the President could not be indicted for any crime while in office, upper-class party animal at Georgetown Prep and Yale- will become a Justice on the US Supreme Court. This is after three accomplished women have stepped forward and complained about Kavanagh sexually assaulting them at Georgetown Prep and Yale. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had to overcome fear when speaking about the event before the rich old white men of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but she went through it, and I commend her.
Blasey Ford kept her composure-but Kavanaugh later let out a harangue about the 2016 election, the Clintons, and “the Left,” leaving no doubt that 1., he would be a partisan enforcer for the Republicans while using the constitutional powers he has, and 2., he is furious that anyone would dare to stand up to him, showing all the sense of entitlement and his class and gender bestows upon him in this society.
It’s the same sense of power and entitlement that the senators and our commander in chief have; for centuries men like these have controlled the nation, including the media, corporations, the military, and higher education institutions, deciding what would be the facts to present to the rest of us, what goes into the news and history books, where we would fight wars and against whom, and who have profited from the labor of everyone under them. They are the ones who decide the fate of the nation and everyone in it; Kavanaugh is cut from the same cloth as George W. Bush and trump-rich kids who don’t have to worry about paying bills or evading military service or getting the plum positions.
I have with me a copy of the New York Times of October 3, 2018, and I found two very important articles which lead to the same thing-the power and sense of deserving to rule the universe that trump, Kavanaugh, and the rest of the American oligarchy have. The most famous of these is the one showing the various tax dodges trump carried out on behalf of his father, Fred trump, himself a major New York real estate developer. trump inherited $413 million from his father, starting at age 3, and was a millionaire by age 8, and at 17 Fred gave Donnie part ownership of an apartment building.
Fred made Donald a landlord over some of his properties, as well as a manager, banker, and consultant for the properties. Fred also floated Donald loans constantly, many of which went unpaid. (Could you or I get away with that? I don’t think so.) Fred gave Donald money for a car, stocks, hiring employees, and renting and upgrading office space. All of this was to avoid paying inheritance and gift taxes, and it was done in manners that tax experts say were either unethical or illegal; but the courts and the IRS have long been indulgent towards our oligarchs on such schemes. Fred had also been close to Brooklyn’s Democratic machine, which gave him access to political power and legal support.
Another article in the October 3 edition, page A21, tell of Kavanaugh’s fun times at Georgetown Prep, telling of Kavanaugh and his affluent buddies throwing parties where they fought to drain the kegs dry-while under the legal drinking age-and writing rude remarks about girls in the yearbook-and the parents aren’t around, except to bail them out if anything goes wrong. This is the class that rules our lives: they go to the same schools, hang out at the same clubs and restaurants; they write the laws on taxes and regulations from the government, for their benefit; they decide who gets drafted into the military for war; and they know nothing of the lives of minorities or of the lower classes-the same people they would rule over and make judgements on. This oligarchy-let’s call it that, because that’s what it is-looks after itself; their kids will most likely be sent to the Supreme Court or the Senate-or the White House-rather than boot camp in the Army.
I hereby cite a study by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton, and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern, entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens;” (https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746)
(https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B/core-reader) This report shows what we progressives, Democratic Socialists, and labor activists have shown all along, and I cite a quote:
“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”
“A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time, while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time.”
“When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.”
And to conclude: “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
You call this “democracy?” I believe our elites depend on the myth of this country being a “democracy,” mostly in patriotic festivals and reruns of Lawrence Welk, to hide the facts of oligarchy-plutocracy we’re up against.
Do we absolutely HAVE to accept this plutocracy as our nation’s fate? We can’t. This class makes the laws that permit corporations to pollute the air, land, and water we use, leading to future environmental catastrophe (but they only worry about quarterly profits); who draw up the trade agreements, like NAFTA, that move entire industries out of cities and ultimately the country, leaving workers without jobs to feed, shelter, and clothe their families, leading them to finding targets for their anger, like minorities, and looking for false messiahs, like trump; who decide that goes into the media for sports, entertainment, and news; who decide who pays the taxes and how they are to be spent-and we working and low-income people are out of the discussion.
We must NEVER accept this! On November 6, I urge you all to get out and vote-and of course, vote Democratic, since the resurgence of democratic (small d) populism is in the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party in power is running the government on behalf of the corporate oligarchy. (The Democratic party, alas, is also infected by the disease of corporate cash paying for campaigns; but if we go out is a flood to vote, the party leaders MIGHT see that money is not the everything of politics, the party needs to listen to its people.)
Again and again, I say, go out November 6 and VOTE!