John Oliver Mason

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Interview on FoMerlot

Posted by John Mason on August 1, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

 This sunday, August 4, I will be interviewed for FoMerlot, an online radio show on Blog Talk Radio. I hope you'll tune in. I thank everyone for their support.

The Mason Missile, July 28, 2013

Posted by John Mason on July 28, 2013 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Greetings!

The first week of July commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, where is early July 1-3, 1863, the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee fought Union forces under General George G. Meade, which ended in defeat for the Confederates and was the turning point of the Civil War.

The period 2009 to today has been the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and I was afraid the event would start nostalgia for the "lost cause," especially after the election of our first African-American President. From the end of the Civil War, the history of the event was altered to be a war among brothers, and the Confederacy was recast as a "noble cause," a conflict for "states rights" against an oppressive federal government-and slavery had nothing to do with it. The Civil War, among southerners, was called the "War of Northern Aggression," and the term was used as early as last year by Jim Porter, President of the National Rifle Association.

Slavery had nothing to do with secession? Here is an excerpt from the Texas Ordinance of Secession, ratified by the Secession Convention in February 2, 1861: "She (Texas) was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy...

"The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretenses and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States."

Here is the Secession Ordinance of Georgia, January 29, 1861: "For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic."

The ordinance complained about the new Republican party as "admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state...While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen."

Finally, here is the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, issued in December 24, 1860: "We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

" For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that 'Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,' and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."

So, this is the "noble cause," the right to own and keep other human beings as slaves, livestock. This has been the basis of "states' rights," the code word for maintaining supposed privileges based on skin color.

This went on after the Civil War; Andrew Johnson, who became President after the murder of Lincoln, had a reputation of hating the planter aristocracy that led the South into secession; but he hated Black people even worse, and he allowed the former Confederate states to implement "Black Codes" to control the newly freed slaves, who, although physically liberated from slavery, had no economic base to protect themselves, no land of their own to build farms on. The Black Codes of South Carolina, for instance, prohibited Blacks from possessing firearms, making and selling liquor, entering the state without possessing a bond of "good behavior," prohibiting them from selling farm products without the permission of the white employer. The codes used "vagrancy laws" as an excuse for sheriffs to imprison Blacks and send them into hard labor, and to "hire them out" to private employers-slavery in another form. Is this what the South is commemorating?

(You can read about Andrew Johnson, ranked by historians of the US Presidency as among the worst Presidents, in the biography Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed. Gordon-Reed writes of the time, during Lincoln's second inauguration, when Johnson comes across Frederick Douglass, the great African-American abolitionist; "The first expression that came to his face," Gordon-Reed quotes Douglass writing, "and which I think was the true index of his heart, was one of bitter contempt and aversion. Seeing that I observed him, he tried to assume a more friendly appearance, but it was too late; it was useless to close the door when all within has been seen." Douglass came to the conclusion that "Whatever Andrew Johnson may be, he is not friend of our race.")

These issues haunt us through to this day, even after the Civil Rights movement of the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. African-Americans were elected to positions of power in this country, including the South, but the racist feelings did not remain dormant; they were given new code words like "welfare queen," "urban crime," "racial quotas," and "war on drugs." Nixon, Reagan, and lesser Republican politicians afterwards utilized these subliminal, racially-triggering phrases. Read the posters at Tea Party rallies, with insulting racist images of Obama on them; look at the efforts in state legislatures to pass "voter ID" laws, that target students, minorities, and seniors, constituencies that mainly vote Democratic.

Such efforts to limit voting by unacceptable persons gained momentum after the US Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, voided Section Four of the Voting Rights Act, implemented to protect the right to vote for minorities. The purpose of the act was for the federal government to approve or veto changes in voting laws that would discriminate against minorities. After that, Texas, North Carolina, and other states reintroduced voter ID bills in their legislatures.

In its ruling, the Court noted, "Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, '(v)oter turnout and registration rates' in covered jurisdictions ’now approach parity. Blatant discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office in unprecedented levels.’...The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years.” The Court acts like racial discrimination and prejudice no longer exist. But it does, as I pointed out earlier.

The voter ID laws are the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of state legislators and corporations formed to promote bills in legislatures that benefit corporations, such as “tort reform” bills to protect corporations from lawsuits; anti-immigrant bills that would incarcerate undocumented persons in privately-owned prisons, such as those owned by ALEC donor Corrections Corporation of America (CA); bills that would inhibit a state government’s ability to tax or regulate corporations, in the name of the “free market”, thereby forcing state and municipal governments to lay off employees; “right to work” (for less) bills that would limit unions’ ability to organize and support favorable candidates for office; and the “stand your ground” law, like the one in Florida, which George Zimmerman invoked after killing Trayvon Martin.

(By the way-Let us take up the case of Marissa Alexander, an African-American Florida woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive husband. She invoked the “stand you ground” defense, but the judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison. Laws like “stand your ground” were designed to be discriminatory, and the Justice Department has begun to look into this. Let us do what we can for Ms. Alexander’s defense, and take these laws off the books.)

On a more positive, personal note-My 56th birthday comes up on August 1, and that puts me one year into the City of Philadelphia's DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) plan. After three years more working in the City records Department, I will retire with a pension, a bonus, and money from the Deferred Compensation plan. After I retire, I'll have more time to devote to afflicting the comfortable oppressors and comforting the afflicted, to let them know their affliction is not inevitable. The right to a safe, dignified retirement has come through the efforts of trade unionists over the years. (Hint, hint!)

Also-On August 4, I will be interviewed for my writing work over FoMerlot Entertainment, one of the programs over the internet radio site Blog Talk Radio. The site for the show is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fomerlot. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Bye!

 

 

Militant Writers

Posted by John Mason on July 22, 2013 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am a freelance writer AND a strong trade union activist. They come together in my work with the National Writers Union (NWU), a trade union of, by, and for writers who take their work seriously enough to get paid and treated decently by editors and publishers. NWU is classes as UAW Local 1981, in an effort to bring freelance workers into the union movement for their empowerment. NWU helps writers deal with such issues as contracts and copyrights. (I happen to be the secretary of the Phildelphia unit.) 

In August, I will join other NWU members in the biannual Delagates Assembly, which is like a convention. It will take place in Chicago, a city rich in Labor history-the Haymarket incident of 1886, the railway workers strike against the Pullman company led by Eugene Debs in 1894, and the founding of the Industirial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905; it is still having struggle today, with cities like Detriot forced into bankruptcy and mayors attacking the hard-earned benefits of municipal workers-such as my fellow city workers attacked by our own mayor in Phildelphia.

If you are a writer, and you care about yourself and your fellow writiers to stand up for your rights, join the National Writers Union, nwu.org.   

Self-Esteem

Posted by John Mason on July 22, 2013 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I, for the longest time, have worked on my self-esteem-how do I see myself? Do I like myself? Do I approve of myself? All through childhood and adolescence, I was bullied, teased, harrassed, and told I was no-good and useless as a person. Having moved from that little, nowheresville town in upstate Pennsylvania, and moved to Philadelphia, I have truly found a home. I have surrounded myself with clusters of positive, supportive people. Plus I have come to support myself, to think highly of my OWN self, to understand my value as a human being.

That is important, is you come across someone yelling at you, and you don't think it's justified; are they trying to tear YOU down to make their OWN selves look good in their eyes? Are they trying to point out a mistake, or are they using your honest error to say YOU ARE a mistake?

For counselling on this and other issues, I recommend the Council for Relationships (councilforrelationships.org). For reading about self-esteem, I recommend Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem; Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning; and Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD.

Treyvon Martin, Marissa Alexander, and What Passes for Justice

Posted by John Mason on July 16, 2013 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I. like all other thinking people in this country, was appauled by the "not guilty" verdict for George Zimmerman in the killing of Treyvon Martin. I got owrried when the judge admitted testimony about whether Martin smoked marijuana-as if that had anything to do with anything. It's a case of the piling on of racially-motivated stereotypes, making Martin look like a hoodlum who, whether he accutally DID anything or not, was no good anyway, and never mind whether or not he was a perfectly decent kid.

The defense of Zimmerman was based on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which perportedly gave a person the right to use whatever force they deem nessesary to defend themselves-even though the police instructed not to engage Martin. Did Zimmerman think we was a hero, carrying a piece?

Contrast this to the case, also in Florida, of Marissa Alexander; she fired a warning shot at her abusive husband, the bullet hitting a wall, and she also used the "stand Your Ground" defense. But Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison, even though the husband had a restraining order on him, and she was in real danger.

Are SOME laws set up to target SOME groups for persecution and let others get by? Let us continue to work towards a day when violence in unused and unnessesary.

 

Birthday Resolutions

Posted by John Mason on July 8, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Again I have written a list of resolutions for my birthday, coming up August 1. It's good to take time to reflect on your life, to see what you did right and where you can improve. (I focus on the positive, becausewhat you focus on expands.) Here are my resolutions for my 2013 birthday:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self respect, thinking positively about my life and my future.

I will continue to develop my art and business as a writer.

I will continue to be faithful to Jewish religion, history, culture, Israel, Kabala, Yiddishkeit, etc.

I will continue to be loyal to, and active in, my various social and political causes.

I will continue to know the love of women and the joy of Sex.

I will continue to improve my financial situation.

I will continue to eat and exercise in moderation.

 

 

 

July 4th Ruminations

Posted by John Mason on July 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

This is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, where, accoriding to tradition, we honor the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with the line "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

The problem is, do we put those ideas into practice? Currently we are in a time where extreame conservatives in various state legislature (including my home state of Pennsylvania) have worked towards restricting the avalability of contraceptive services, including abortion, for women, even though they have the legal right to it. (It begs the question, what do we mean by "law"?)  This was prominant in Texas and North Carolina, where, in the latter state, the anti abortion provision was put into a law banning Sharia (Islamic) law in the state, while banning abortion has been the goal of Christian extreamists. In one state, each abortion has to be approved by the governor, who may or may not have an MD degree. (Wasn't the Republican party supposed to be the party of limited government interference?)

Plus the efforts continue to limit people's right to vote, using the voter ID laws, demanding forms of ID that certain demographic groups-African Americans, seniors, students-might not have; and the forms of allowable ID are specific-a veteran's disability card is not acceptable, neither is a university ID, but in Texas an expired firearms liscene is acceptable. These efforts reviatalized themselves right after the genuis Supreme Court took out provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 monitoring certain states for voting irregularities. 

SO, with all these efforts to roll back the rights of women and other formerly disenfranchised groups, the establishment of the country, and its accompanying news-entertainment media, must think we're going to roll over and take this. NO! In Texas there were demonstrations at the state capitol, following the wonderful filibuster of the anti-abortion bill by state Senator Wendy Davis, numbering 5,000. In North Carolina, labor, religious, and other activists have staged "moral Mondays," campaigns of good-old fashioned Civil Disobendience in the state capitol, inviting arrest to protest the stte government.

 Here is what America is supposed to be about-standing for freedom, standing up to oppressive regimes, including those in our states, counties, and municipalities. The people protesing these oppressors are the true patriots, the people who know that, win or lose, we must all stand up for our rights and freedoms. Enjoy your holiday.

NOW is the Time

Posted by John Mason on July 4, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Like many people, I have trouble focusing on the Now, right in front of me. I ruminate about the Past, "What did I do, why did I do this and that, what should I have done right," etc; also the Future, "What should I do next, what should I pay of first, what shall I do over the weekend," etc. I am working on paying attention to the Now, the Present. I can do nothing about the Past, and I don't know what will take place in the Future, so I need to focus on the Present, the Now.

One thing I've been doing towards that is to treat each activity-like my favorate, book-reading-like a meditation. Relax your body and mind and focus on what you are (I am) reading; meditation, the deep-breathing and untensing of the body and mind, and the focus of the mind on either the breathing or the mantra, leads to this. Other activities you have to do will have their time.

I recommend for this Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure you will to. 

The Fall of the Limbaugh Empire

Posted by John Mason on July 4, 2013 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

For two decades, Rush LImbaugh has been the radio voice of the Republican right, and the source of some of the rudest, nastiest comments imaginable. After Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke spoke out for insurnace covering contraception, Limbaugh outdid himself, calling Fluke "slut" and "prostitute," and telling her to post videos of herself having sex.

That was the last straw. A movement assembled to have advertisers take their ads off Limbaugh's show, and thousands have done so, and more will in the future. But Clear Channel, the corporation that owns the Limbaugh show, still has not taken him off the air. Could it be a contractual thing, or the belief that Limbaugh speaks for the majority of Americans?

Welcome Home

Posted by John Mason on July 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This past Saturday, June 29, marks the sixth anniversary of the day I made settlement on my sweet little rowhouse in South Philadlephia. I'm glad I listened to my friend Terri, the real estate agent, who advised me to go for home ownership, and my friends in my office who encouraged me to go for a piece of the American dream (during a nightmare time in our history).

Here is a spiritual aspect to the purchase of the house: two days before I made settlement on the house, Terri and I drove to the house for the final inspection of the meters, gas, electric, etc., and her car radio played NPR. We got to the house, and I opened the door, and the radio in the living room played-NPR (!). To me, it's God's way of saying "Welcome home."

There are tax advantages to owning a house, such as deductions on mortgae payments and real estate taxes; plus there is a cultural bias in favor of home owners, who are more likely to stay in one place; while apartment dwellers are considered more transient. I'm glad I did it.


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