The Mason Missile, April 21, 2019

Greetings!

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Plutocracy on the march! The scandal emerged of the actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman paying bribes of $500,000 to the University of Southern California to have their children admitted; additional charges were of money laundering and fraud. The federal grand jury also charged 16 other parents, including Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Massimo Gianulli. Laughlin and Giannuli have been in denial of the severity of the charges against them, and refused to go for a plea deal, thinking the judge was “bluffing.”

Laughlin and Gianulli tried to have their daughters placed into the rowing team, but one of Laughlin’s daughters Olivia Jade Gianulli, had an indifferent attitude about education, saying in a video, “I don’t know how much school I’m going to attend, but I’m going to go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope I can balance it all. But I do want the experience of game days, partying, I don’t really care about school, as you guys know.” There were reports that Oliva Jade was partying on a yacht owned by a trustee of USC when the charges came for her parents. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lori-loughlin-olivia-jade-money-education_n_5c8f5e9de4b0d7f6b0f5723c) The issue of college admissions favoring the wealthy over talented poor kids goes beyond USC, Huffman, Laughlin, and their daughters, it is endemic.

The march to oligarchy goes one step further with the report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) showing the several Fortune 500 companies not only paid NO taxes-after billions of profits- but attained tax refunds. These include such corporate behemoths as Amazon, IBM, General Motors, Molson Coors, and Netflix. (https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/04119-Corporate-Tax-Avoidance-Remains-Rampant-Under-New-Tax-Law_ITEP.pdf) Meanwhile, schools, roads, libraries, and public health are falling into ruin-we the working and low-income people are paying for this, and our finances are depleting.

Georges Clemenceau once said, “War is too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.” I say capitalism is too dangerous to be left to the capitalists, who donate to candidates and lobby for bill to their liking-many times the lobbyists sit with legislators to write the bills. The idea, promulgated to death by Ronald Reagan and too many others, that if we left the capitalists to do their capitalist thing without the government-i.e., the public-interfering, the economy would flourish, and we the workers and consumers would flourish right along with them.  

Case in point: In February, General Motors announced layoff of 4,000 workers in their North American plants. (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/01/gm-readies-to-make-4000-involuntary-layoffs-next-week.html) Meanwhile, GM CEO Mary Barra was reported to be among the top 20 highest paid CEOs, with an annual compensation of $21.87 million, 281 times higher than the average GM employee. (https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/general-motors/2019/04/18/gm-ceo-barra-compensation-22-million/3415415002/). THIS is the game rigged against workers, folks.

It’s a common idea in American history-the cult of the Businessman, the economic wizard who builds an industry or corporation, and we need him to apply his genius to run our government in a “businesslike” fashion. We had this during the 1920s, with the talk about running Henry Ford-union-hater, anti-Semite, and friend of Adolf Hitler-for President; then came the Depression of 1929, and the corporate elite were shown to be useless in dealing with the problem, other than repressing workers’ struggle to organize, and fighting Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs-which included the Wagner Act,  the basis for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the legal carte-blanche for workers to organize.

Again, the Cult of the Businessman revived, and we have Donald trump touting his business and deal-making skills for negotiating trade deals favoring American workers, saving their jobs. Now we have Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, talking about running for president, publishing his manifesto book (mandatory for presidential candidates today) and threatening to run if the Democrats run a candidate too “radical” for HIS liking, deciding all by himself what the “center” (whatever that is) is, again associating his profits with the good of the nation as a whole. (For myself, I’m boycotting Starbucks until Schultz stops his silly campaign to nowhere.)

These politics of corporate dominance and public exclusion have got to come to an end. The only way is for us to-right NOW-get politically active in our local communities. In Philadelphia, I’m engaged in local elections for Mayor, City Commissioners (in charge of the election system), City Council (district and at-large), Register of Wills, and judge-ships. Becoming active in politics at this basic level is great education for engaging in politics at the federal level, as with voters vetting the upcoming presidential candidates throughout the primaries.

Together, we can reclaim our democracy-what’s left of it-and expand on it.

Bye!  

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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!

 

 

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!

Happy May Day!

I am joining tomorrow with other terrific Labor activists to celebrate May Day (just a little late), the International Workers’ Holiday. The rest of the world celebrates May Day as a worker’s day, but in the US of A we’ve been programmed to think of it as a Commie subversive holiday. Well, reality has changed. There is no longer a Soviet Union to be afriaad of, and the failure of the “free market”, no-regulation capitalist model to provide for everyone, EXCEPT a plutocratic elite. The people, particularly the workers, ARE waking up and rising up.