Vote By Mail

Yesterday, I received my mail-in ballot, made my vote, and mailed it to my county’s board of elections. It’s an alternative, in this pandemic crisis, of electing our public officials.  It’s especially crucial to vote during this pandemic, so that we can have leaders who will truly  lead, truly work to help us resolve this crisis, and not soak the public of tax money to line their own pockets (like SOME people lurking around the White House!).

For information about voting in PHiladelhia, you can contact the City Commissioners’ website, https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/.  For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (“Commonwealth,” meaning the common well-being of the community), go to https://www.votespa.com/Pages/default.aspx.  Let us come together to vote, so that we have officials worthy of us as a people. We deserve it.

person dropping paper on box

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

 

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Voting, June 2, 2020

June 2, 2020 is the new date for voting in the primary election in Pennsylvania. It is SUPER important all qualified voters to get out and VOTE, so that we can remove those incompetent fools and thieves who have brought us to this disaster, and we can elect those people who are dedicated to the public well-being (they’re out there).

You can apply for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot from the state; for information, please go to the website votespa.com for details.

May 18 is the last day to update your voter registration; May 26 is the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot; and again, June 2 is the primary election in Pennsylvania. Please get out and VOTE, for your family, your community, and your country.

Philly For Change, March 4, 2020

I will attend the monthly meeting of Philly For Change, the progressive activist group, tonight at 7:00 PM, at Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets in Philadelphia.

Present will be:

PA State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta;

Nikil Saval, candidate for PA First Senatorial District;

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley;

Greg Benjamin, candidate for the PA House, 188th District; and

Nikki Bagby, candidate for PA House, 198th District.

There will be discussion of the issues and questions for the candidates, in a relaxed atmosphere. I urge you to participate in the political process, as it affects our everyday lives; and, on Primary Election Day-April 28 in Pennsylvania- I URGE you to vote, to show the people in office that we intend to take back our democracy.

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!

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.

Terrorism USA

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.

The Mason Missile, October 12, 2018

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!

Bye!

 

 

Upcoming October 3, 2018

Tomorrow, October 3, 2018, I’ll take part in the taping of a panel discussion on the show Conversations Across Time, at PhillyCAM (Comcast channel 66, Verizon channel 29/30). This time, we will be ourselves, not playing any roles.

I’ll also attend the monthly meeting of Philly for Change, at Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets. Speaking there will be State Rep candidate Malcolm Kenyatta, and environmental activist Alex Lola. Plus there will be discussion about volunteer work for candidates in the November 6 elections, where we will urge people to get out and vote.