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!

 

 

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The Mason Missile, August 27, 2018

 

Greetings!

Upcoming is Labor Day, the holiday commemorating the working men and women of America.

What is there to celebrate lately? Here we have a “populist” President, supposedly the champion and voice of (white) working-class Americans-always assumed to be white-who signed a tax bill favoring the wealthiest Americans, and fighting against the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”

trump’s attitude, and the attitude of plutocrats in this country, is one of condescension towards(white) working people, that they are too addicted to opioids and the drug of racism to see who their real enemy is-the same plutocratic class- and they feed working-class people with racially-coded fears of “law and order,” “crime in the streets,” “lazy welfare bums,” “affirmative action programs taking jobs away from deserving white workers,” etc.-trump updated this tactic to rail about “MS-13” and “rapists” coming over the border with Mexico- not mentioning that our tax policies have been long skewed in favor of corporations and the wealthy-people who pay lobbyists to alter the tax code in their favor, and to approve federal contracts with certain defense industries. (The news media, also large corporations, have played along with this; however, I think they’ve been pretty good lately at standing up to the trump tantrums.)

Along with this is the Supreme Court’s decision on the Janus case, which limits the ability of public-sector unions to do their work in representing their clients; I have no doubt the learned justices of the Court welcomed this decision, for they sympathized with the corporations-and the Koch brothers-trying forever to weaken and finally destroy unions in this country. The decision upset me terribly.

However, I have been buoyed by the Labor victories throughout the country, the successful teachers’ strikes in such conservative states as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona; and the voting down of the referendum in Missouri for “right-to-work” (for less)-in Missouri, another conservative Republican state.

We have to overcome the idea that the plutocratic class would automatically rain their blessings on us proletarians, that they know what is best for all of us with their nearly total control of the economy; as a Democratic Socialist, I believe that we the people should have a say in the economic destiny of the nation, since it deals with OUR jobs, OUR ability to pay our bills and purchase OUR groceries, etc. An editorial in the New York Times of May 9, 2018 tells about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is now the wealthiest man in human history, worth $131 BILLION! (I could live easily on one lousy billion.) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/opinion/jeff-bezos-spend-131-billion.html

Since Bezos can’t spend all that money, what does he plan to do with it? Not charitable donations, like the old Robber Barons like Carnegie and Rockefeller carried out with their fortunes (made with the sweat and muscle of workers they overworked and underpaid). Bezos’ bright idea is space travel, including regular trips to space-space tourism!

We have problems aplenty on THIS planet-global warming through the use of carbon-based fuels, illiteracy, unemployment, infrastructure (roads, bridges, electric power stations) collapsing, famine, genocide-and Bezos wants frequent-flyer points to Mars! Bezos can do whatever the hell he wants with his money, okay, I’m cool with that; but with the constant deregulation of business practices, the weakening of trade unions, the tax policies favoring people wealthy enough to buy and sell members of Congress, it has led to widening extremes of wealth and poverty-the likes of which eventually leads to violent social upheaval-let’s say it, revolution.  We HAVE to educate ourselves on the issues, organize at our communities and our worksites, and get out and vote this November

Also upcoming are the High Holy Days, Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, where we re-assess our lives, give up what no longer is good for us, and realize whatever good is in us and around us. Currently we are in the Hebrew month of Elul, when we sit back and reflect on our lives over the past year. Self-improvement is a long process, taken step by step; if you slip and fall on your way to advancing and improving, that’s okay, it’s all part of the learning process, just get back on your feet and keep walking. An excellent guide to the High Holy Days, and the other Jewish holidays, is Seasons of our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Arthur Waskow, one of the leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement and head of the Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org/).

On that note, I bid everyone L’shana tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous year to you all.