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!

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The Mason Missile, November 23, 2018

Greetings!

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!