Philly For Change, February 6, 2019

This Wednesday, February 6, I joined in the meeting of Philly For Change, held at Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets in Philadelphia. Philly For Change is a progressive group, borne out of the Howard Dean campaign in 2004.

We listened to candidates for various municipal offices, who are running in the primaries on May 21. Addressing us were candidates for Common Please Judge: Wendi Barish, George Twardy, and NIcola Serianni. For City Council at Large, there was Beth Finn, and for Sheriff, there was Rochelle Bilal, President of the Guardian Civic League, the association of African-American law enforcement officers in Philadelphia. For City Commissioners 9responsible for the election system in the city), addressing us were Luigi Borda, Jen Devor, and Marwan Kreidie (full disclosure, I know Marwan from back at Temple). All of these candidates spoke to us how their lives affected their decision to run for office, not for their benefit but for the good of the community. These were everyday people having to deal with the social system, and they want to make it better for all.

Lisa Deeley, Chair of the City Commissioners, spoke to us about the Commissioners’ web site, https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/ .The deadline for registering to vote in Pennsylvania i February 11. Eric Thut, Executive Director of Netroots Nation (https://www.netrootsnation.org/), told us about the group’s upcoming convention on July 11-13, to take place in Philadelphia.

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Philly For Change, January 2, 2019

Tonight, I will attend the monthly meeting of Philly For Change, at Tattooed Mom, at 5th and South streets in Philadelphia (https://www.tattooedmomphilly.com/). Featured speakers tonight will be candidates for this years’s municipal elections:

Melissa Robbins, and Fernando Trevino, running for City Council;

Jen Devor, running for City Commissioners;

and judicial candidates Gregory Weyer, Kay Yu, and Henry Sias.

Please attend and ask questions.

The Mason Missile, December 29, 2018

Greetings!

I hope you’re enjoying your holidays. Unfortunately, there is the new December tradition-along with caroling, the ugly sweater, and Aunt Clara’s fruit cake- of religious extremists demanding everyone say “Merry Christmas,” complaining that they’re not allowed to talk about Christmas.

For conservatives, it’s a zero-sum game for them: more rights for traditionally oppressed minorities-like Jews and Muslims in this country- means less rights for the traditionally dominant groups, as if rights were a tangible commodity. The reality doesn’t matter to them, it’s their perception of reality; they project what they want to impose on others-like the dominance of Christianity to the exclusion of other faiths, or no faith at all- upon others. It’s like the homophobic bully who beats up gays because he himself is afraid that he’s gay (like it’s a bad thing).

Look at Wisconsin and Michigan- Democrats have won governorships in those states in 2018, and the lame duck Republican legislature- “elected” from heavily gerrymandered districts-got to work in passing legislation stripping the new governor of his authority to make appointments to certain agencies; in Michigan, Republicans did the same to the newly-elected governor, attorney-general, and secretary of state (all women). In 2016, in North Carolina, Roy Cooper, the Democrat, defeated Pat McCrory for governor, and the Republican legislature proceeded to strip the governor of some of his authority.

Fortunately, the efforts by Republicans are being challenged in the courts and by grassroots activists-did they think we would just take it lying down, allow ourselves to be oppressed and repressed? Apparently they do, they act like there would be no resistance.

In Georgia and Florida, during their gubernatorial elections, there were voting applications placed “on hold,” voting stations closing, efforts to discourage people from voting-like when, in Georgia, county officials ordered people at a senior citizens’ center off the bus taking them to the polling station-and absentee and mail-in ballots all of a sudden going missing. Remember, Brian Kemp, who ran against Stacy Abrams in Georgia, was still serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State, supervising the election system.

Remember this when Republicans whine about “elitist” Democratic liberals, and pretending to be of, by, and for the people; if they were so damn confident about their popularity, why repress voting? Do they expect us to, like I said, just take it? Are they just trying to wear us down, drain our financial and emotional resources so we give up?  There might be a hiatus, a time-out, but we get back into the fight.

(Still, burnout, wearing one’s self out, is a problem among activists. We need to take care of ourselves; don’t worry, there will be others keeping the fight going while we’re on vacation.)

Frontiers of Free Enterprise- General Motors, like the other auto giants, took a bail-out package from the federal government after its bankruptcy in 2009, costing taxpayers $11.2 billion, after the government spent $49.5 billion to save the company. (Last I heard, there were no cries about “lazy welfare moochers” then.)  (http://time.com/82953/general-motors-bailout-cost-taxpayers-11-2-billion/) Plus, the tax cuts the Republicans passed in 2017 were-the same old line that nobody believes-to stimulate the economy, rebuild equipment and hire more workers.

BUT- Right after Thanksgiving, GM announced it would close down five of its plants in North America, thereby laying off 14,700 workers. (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/26/general-motors-set-to-cut-workforce-as-slowing-sales-and-steel-tariffs-bite) Meanwhile, GM CEO Mary Barra received a salary on $22 million. (https://moneyandmarkets.com/barra-most-unpopular-ceo-gm/) Even while crying poormouth, cutting salaries and jobs for workers, and demanding tax breaks, corporate executives continue to attain huge perks.

The same holds true for another venerable American brand, Sears, under its CEO Eddie Lampert, formerly of Goldman Sachs, a disciple of Ayn Rand, and with no experience in retail sales; applying the idea of cutthroat competition to units of his company (which acquired Kmart) and demanding they compete with one another.  (https://www.salon.com/2013/07/18/ayn_rand_killed_sears_partner/) Sears under Lampert sold off and closed hundreds of Sears brand and Kmart stores, and laid off thousands of employees-while paying its executives $9.9 million in perks. (https://thinkprogress.org/sears-lavishes-ceo-with-pay-and-perks-while-laying-off-workers-and-bilking-taxpayers-d6dabcf9762d/)

Instead of more employees, fewer and more laid off; instead of more facilities, stores and plants closing. Corporate executives prosper from their incompetence, and workers get nothing. That was the same model practiced by Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney. The ideas put forth in the Preamble of the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World are even truer now than back when the IWW was founded in 1905:

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

I’m not entirely into the IWW program, but the idea is the same-we workers, and low and middle-income people must educate ourselves and then organize to reclaim what remains of what we call “democracy” in this country, and to move it further.  

And on that note, Happy New Year!

New Year Party GIF by Omer - Find & Share on GIPHY

Update, November 8, 2018

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.

Election Time 2018

As a committeeman for my ward in South Philadelphia, and as an American, I urge you to get out there and VOTE in the general election. The last day for voter registration is October 9; the last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot if October 30; and the election itself is on November 6. Here are the candidates I endorse:

US Senate from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey; and

Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolfe.

Not only must we get out and vote, but we must do so in record numbers, to show the politicians of both parties that we the people are conscious of what is going on in our nation and in our communities, and we want to hold them accountable and not take us for granted.

Later on the Presidential elections will come up; and hopefully the Democratic party leadership will have learned not to cheat the progressive element of their voice or votes, that the progressives of the party are raising serious issues:

trade treaties that move manufacturing, and the jobs that go with them, out of local communities and cause unemployment for workers, with its accompanying sense of hopelessness;

gun violence that kills young lives;

banks receiving virtual welfare-such as grants from the Federal Reserve-while delivering perks to executives and buyout deals for incompetent CEOs;

tax benefits for corporations and the wealthy which, in spite of the myth, do NOT simulate the economy, but stay in the foreign bank accounts of billionaires;

and the racism crawling out of the woodwork, thanks to (sarcasm alert) the wonderful example set by our commander-in-chief.  This list just scratches the surface.

Not only must you vote, but inform yourself of what goes on in the community an the world, so the politicians see you are paying attention to what is going on.

 

 

 

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 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!

Committeeman!

I have just come from the meeting of the 48th Ward Democratic Committee in South Philadelphia, where I presented my credentials as a Committee-member. we had nominations for officers-Anton Moore, a live wire of a young man who is dedicated to the community, was elected Ward Leader; I myself was elected Assistant Secretary. I will join other great activists in bringing in the people of our neighborhoods into the democratic process, just in time to fight the Trump agenda.

Philly For Change

Tomorrow I’ll take part in a meeting of Philly For Change, a grassroots progressive group allied with Democracy For America, the organization formed after the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. Once a month we meet and discuss various public issues, such as immigration, gun control, legislative districting, and natural gas fracking, as well as listen to candidates for public office tell us their programs. It’s a great combination of serious discussion and good fellowship. Philly For Change meets every first Wednesday at 7:00 PM, at Tattooed Mom, the bar-restaurant-club on 5th and South streets in Philadelphia.