Saturday, December 15, 2012

From The American Left History Blog Archives (2007-08) - On American Political Discourse – Labor News (2007)

Markin comment:

In 2007-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers party that fights for a workers government . More than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then does not a bad feel to it. Read on if you like     

Labor News  (2007)

A recent news item from the Associated Press reported that the AFL-CIO, one of the two main labor federations in America, was trying to raise 200 million dollars and round up 200, 000 volunteers. At first glance my response was-be still, my heart. Why? I thought the American labor bureaucracy was finally responding to the drastic decline in trade union membership by rolling up its sleeves and going out to organize the unorganized workers who desperately need such collective action. I had visions of the money going a long way to fund the estimated 3000 full time labor organizers that many sources have stated are necessary in order to organize Wal-Mart. A task that would go a long way to a labor rebound. Or some cash might go to organize the notoriously anti-union sweat shops in the South, the first stop on the run away shop trail in the global race to the bottom. And maybe a few dollars might be thrown in to defend the masses of immigrant workers against the governmental onslaught and fight for a real amnesty program for undocumented workers. I thought the 200, 000 volunteers might be the ready reserves organized to defend any labor actions that might ensue from the above stated tasks. Silly me.

After reading the fine print what the story detailed was the apparently fervent wish of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy to raise 200 million dollars and find 200,000 volunteers in order to support, presumably Democratic Party, candidates in the upcoming 2008 elections- by any means necessary. The article noted rather poignantly that this same labor group raised about 150 million for the ill-fated 2004 presidential and congressional elections. No figure was given for last year’s congressional elections but one can assume that it was substantial. And for all those millions spent what result? To date- mainly an almost criminally inadequate raise to seven dollars and some change in the federal minimum wage. It does not take a capitalist financial wizard like Warren Buffet to know that this is one poor investment of one’s financial resources. As         

 As a unionist I have fought, and I urge other unionists to fight, against use of COPE money for contributions to political parties. Organizing the unorganized, organizing Wal-Mart that is where I want my dues to go.   


From The American Left History Blog Archives (2007-08) - On American Political Discourse – YOU DON’T NEED SEYMOUR HERSH TO KNOW WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS. (2007)

Markin comment:

In 2007-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers party that fights for a workers government . More than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then does not a bad feel to it. Read on if you like     

In the wake of Seymour Hersh’s revelations in the New Yorker concerning the Bush administration’s potential military plans, including a possible nuclear option, toward Iran there has been a hue and cry in political circles against some of the rasher aspects of such action. From the traditional opponents of such an action plan -the Left? No! From liberal politicians? No! If anything those types have been more belligerent and to the right on the issue of Iran than the Bush administration. The cry has come from conservative think tank magazines and hawkish political commentators like New York Times writer Thomas Friedman. After the disastrous consequences of their support for the adventure in Iraq as least a few of the more rational conservatives have learned something. Whether they continue to hold out once the onslaught of patriotism and so-called national interest comes into play remains to be seen. However, their self-made dilemma is not what interests me.

As I write these lines the paint has not even dried on my poster in opposition to the continuing Iraq occupation for an anti-war rally. Now that the newest plans of the Wild Boys in the basements of the White House, Pentagon and State Department have been “leaked” I have to add another slogan to that banner- Hands Off Iran! Overreacting one might say. No!! If we have learned anything in the last few years from the Bush Administration it is that the distance from “war games” and “zero sum game theory” to front page newspaper and television screen casualty counts is a very, very short elevator ride away.

That, however, begs the question of whether the current Islamic leadership in Iran is a threat. Damn right it is a threat. This writer opposed the Shah of Iran when he was an agent of American imperialist interests in the Persian Gulf. This writer also opposed the rise and takeover by the Islamic fundamentalists in 1979 when many Western leftists were, overtly or covertly, supporting these elements as ‘anti-imperialist’ agents of change. Unfortunately, many Iranian militants also supported these same fundamentalists. That did not stop the mullahs from rounding up and executing or imprisoning every leftist or militant worker they could get their hands on. The fate of the Western leftist supporters of the ‘anti-imperialist’ mullahs was almost as tragic. They, at great personal sacrifice, mainly went on to careers in the academy, media or parliament.

So let us have no illusions about the women- hating, anti-Enlightenment, anti- post 8th century hating regime in Teheran  (Except apparently, nuclear technology. Did anyone else find it surreal when a recent photograph showed several thousand heavily- veiled Iranian women demonstrating in defense of a nuclear facility?). However, do we really want to outsource “regime change” there to the Bush Administration (or any administration in Washington)? No!!! Just as working people cannot outsource “regime change” in Washington to the liberals here this job of ousting the mullahs belongs to the Iranian workers, students, poor slum dwellers and peasants.

Let’s be clear here though. If the United States, or an agent of the United States, moves militarily against Iran all militants, here and worldwide, are duty bound to defend Iran against such imperialist aggression. Even with the current mullah leadership? Yes. We will hold our noses and do our duty. Their ouster is a separate political battle. We will settle accounts with them in due course.

The anarchists and others have it all wrong when they confine their slogan to Class Against Class in a conflict between capitalist states. Yes, in the final analysis it will come down to that. The problem is today we are dealing with the most powerful military power, relatively and absolutely, the world has ever known against a smaller, almost militarily defenseless country. A victory for American imperialism is not in the interest of the international working class and its allies. Thus, we have a side under those circumstances. And we certainly do not take some ‘third camp’ pacifist position of a plague on both your houses. IMMEDIATE UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ!  U.S.HANDS OFF IRAN!! BETTER YET- HANDS OFF THE WORLD!!!

From The American Left History Blog Archives (2007-08) - On American Political Discourse – The Slippery Slope to War-Iran

Markin comment:

In 2007-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers party that fights for a workers government . More than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then does not a bad feel to it. Read on if you like     


The Slippery Slope to War-Iran

The recent swirl around Iran makes me nervous. Every since Seymour Hersh’s article on White House Iranian war preparations in the April 2006 New Yorker I have been taking sideway glances at developments around that issue closely. I do not like what I see right now.  Let me just summarize the litany here.

·        Over the past several weeks General Fallon, the head of U. S. Central Command (that means the  Middle East), has been knocking over or kicking downs doors all over the capitals of most Middle Eastern countries giving the word on American intentions toward Iran. Fallon, like all top American generals, is not known for ‘blowing smoke’ when war is in the air. He is also not known, when the deal goes down, for being slow on the trigger.


·        The French Foreign Minister has ‘accidentally’ mentioned that the military option was not off the table in order to resolve the Iranian situation. His boss immediately reigned him in on this but the ‘cat is out of the bag’ now.   


·        The United States Senate, the same people who couldn’t muster up the energy to pass the placid Webb amendment on ‘troop rest’ has this past week gone out of its way to vote to label the nefarious Iranian Revolutionary Guard that sprung forth from the United States Embassy takeover in 1979 a “terrorist” organization. That means something unlike the non-binding tripartite partition of Iraq resolution. I note that leading Democratic presidential contender Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the designation. Thus bi-partisan support for any future actions against Iran has a running start. This time it would be nice if Senator Clinton and the others at least read the documentation before they vote for war. Vain hope.  


·        The periodic talk, recently louder, about the Iranian role, and the need to call them to account for it, in providing powerful IED’s that are claimed to be the number one of death to American troops to both Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq.


·        Reports that Iran is shelling in northern Iraq in an effort to break one of its internal oppositional guerilla groups based in that area.


·        The ongoing international pressure to increase various sanctions against Iran in order to halt its nuclear development program. Many of these types of embargos  and boycotts are ‘acts of war’ under international law.


·        The recent visit of the cunningly bizarre Iranian president to New York where he was cheered and jeered, mainly jeered with a frenzy that matched some of the buildup against Saddam Hussein (remember him) before the occupation of Iraq. Whether the president is anything more than a front man for the mullahs on the Supreme Council he is still the ‘face ' of Iran to the international public.

·        Finally, the key to the whole situation, one George W. Bush and his coterie. Bush, already in a neck and neck race with Millard Fillmore for the title of least popular president, has nothing to lose. He is probably thinking why shouldn’t he go out in a blaze of glory. And if he is not up to it, his puppet master Karl Rove, oops, fellow draft dodger Vice President Dick Cheney certainly has the appetite for it.

 There are some impediments in the way like a depleted American army in Iraq but where there is a will there is a way. In some ways there is a hell of a lot more going on concerning Iran than before the run up to the Iraq war. Yes, I am definitely nervous. A three front war strategy is in the air. We better have a three front anti-war strategy. Better dust off the old slogan-Hands Off Iran!

  Lest anyone think that I wish to ‘coddle’ the Iranian lead ship I have posted a commentary around the time of the Hersh’s article from my blog. Hersh’s intelligence report probably needs some updating but the thrust of his article and my comments still retain there validity.


From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Garry Wills “Nixon Agonistes”

Short Book Clip

Nixon Agonistes, Garry Wills

The English poet and Cromwellian revolutionary John Milton had his Samson struggling against forces that he did not understand and that in the end he was unable to overcome. Professor Wills in his seminal contemporaneous study of the career through his successful run in 1968, up close and personal, of one Richard Milhous Nixon, former President of the United, common criminal and currently resident of one of Dante’s Circles of Hell tries to place the same spin on the vices and virtues of this modern “Everyman”. He takes us through the hard scrabble childhood, the formative Quaker background in sunny California, the post World War II start of Nixon’s rapidly advancing political career, his defeats for president in 1960 and for California governor in 1962 and his resurrection in 1968. And through his discourse, as is his habit, Professor Wills runs through every possible interpretation of his rise and what Nixon symbolized on the American political landscape. If one has a criticism of Wills it is exactly this overkill to make a point but make your own judgment on this one as you read through this tract.

However, as well written and well researched as this exposition is it will just not wash. Nixon knew what the score was at all times and in all places so that unlike old Samson there was no question of his not understanding. As Wills points out Nixon had an exceptional grasp of the ‘dark side’ of the American spirit in the middle third of the 20th century and he pumped that knowledge for all it was worth. Moreover, rather than cry over his self-imposed fate one should understand that he liked it that way. There is no victim of overwhelming and arbitrary circumstances clouding his fate. Enough said.

It is perhaps hard for those who were not around then, or older folks who have forgotten, just what Nixon meant as a villainous political target to those of us of the Generation of ‘68for all that was wrong with American political life (although one Lyndon Johnson gave him a run for his money as demon-in-chief). Robert Kennedy had it, as he did on many occasions, very eloquently right when he said that Richard Nixon represented the ‘dark side of the American spirit’. For those who believe that all political evil started with the current President George W. Bush, think again. Nixon was the‘godfather’ of the current ilk. Some have argued that in retrospect compared to today’s ravenous beasts that Nixon’s reign was benign. Believe that at your peril. Just to be on the safe side let’s put another stake through his heart. And read this book to get an idea of what a representative of a previous generation of political evil looked like.

Nixon Agonistes:

The Crisis of the Self-Made Man
Front Cover
1 Review
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970 - 617 pages
From one of America's most distinguished historians comes this classic analysis of Richard Nixon. By considering some of the president's opinions, Wills comes to the controversial conclusion that Nixon was actually a liberal. Both entertaining and essential, Nixon Agonistes captures a troubled leader and a struggling nation mired in a foolish Asian war, forfeiting the loyalty of its youth, puzzled by its own power, and looking to its cautious president for confidence. In the end, Nixon Agonistes reaches far beyond its assessment of the thirty-seventh president to become an incisive and provocative analysis of the American political machine.
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From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man”

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man.

DVD Review
The Wrong Man, starring Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, Warner Brothers, 1956

Yah, they, the they here meaning the New York City cops, the fuzz, New York’s finest, the big bad blue line, the line that keeps eight million stories from totally being about guys croaking each other (and gals too) back to Adam and Eve time, got the wrong guy on that Associated robbery (armed from what I heard, Christ, armed for nickels and dimes, a couple of hundred bucks max, which might have been some dough back then but is strictly walking daddy money now), some square gee from over in Jackson Heights, a guy named Manny. Yah, a square named Manny (played by Henry Fonda) who kept nine to five hours, except he worked in some two- bit house band playing some sad ass bass, no be-bop Dizzie or hothouse Coltrane rip stuff just trip over your partner, your drunk partner, dance plug music, for the Mayfair swells over at the Stork Club so his nine to five was night time. And except that he was a gee that was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he tried borrow a little dough off of his wife’s insurance policy for coffee and cakes (okay, okay some wife’s serious dental work) from Associated over in some sleaze back alley office building filled with failed dentists, fledgling lawyers, repo men, and claims adjusters. And surprise, surprise since Associated had dough on the premises right in the cash drawer they got knocked over a couple of times by some desperate junkie looking for some next fix dough. Strictly low-rent stuff.
But here is where the wrong time and place come in. The clerks, the female clerks, swore on seven, hell, seventy bibles, that Manny was the guy, the right guy, and told the cops the story that way. And the cops bought it. Bought it number one because no right gee like Manny could be that right, although with all the up front and personal shots of him sweating things out he could have been the guy for a while even in my jaded book, and number two bought it because, well, because it cleared up about a half dozen unsolved armed robberies in the neighborhood with one hand. So they, the cops, showed our boy Manny what justice New York- style looked like (although any amateur or even a fledgling lawyer from that sleaze- ball office building could have had him habe’d out in about fifteen minutes with no third degree, and no heavy lifting) walking him down the line from the third degree room to the police jail to felony court to the big house to bail all in a day’s work. And they were feeling pretty good because they had their man solid.

Of course square gees like Manny are from jump street about the penal system so it looks like curtains for Manny until a little luck comes his way. But that luck, actually some wrong gee that anybody could tell was a wrong gee, needing fix or whatever, went back on the prowl and got nabbed. And those clerks, female clerks, who swore on those seventy bibles that Manny was the one saw the error of their identifications. But here is the really interesting, and sad, big sad, part of this film ((hell, even I knew Henry, oops, Manny was going to walk), Manny‘s ever-loving wife (and mother of his two boys), Rosa (played by Vera Miles), flipped out over the Manny going to the big house scene. I mean really flipped out. See she in her tried and true 1950s golden dreams perfect housewife and companion though she was to blame for Manny’s downfall and nothing could break her from that belief after she worked herself into a lather over her trivialness and such, her bad wife-ness, jesus, well, nothing except a couple of years at a sanatorium to work thing s out.
So New York’s finest got the wrong guy, not for the first and not for the last time. And the Rosas of this world paid the price, not for the first or last time either. And hence this true story film from thriller-master Alfred Hitchcock.

Friday, December 14, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Out In The Seals Rock Inn Night –Ah, Old ‘Frisco, Take Two

Tugboat Annie, not her real name, real name unknown for the simple fact that what she had to say was heard by Adam Evans in passing (actually attempting to pass but stopped, stop momentarily, by Annie’s words, or a certain few of them anyway, and then hooked by the rest), heard in passing down at the edge of ‘Frisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, you know down by the faux, now faux, cannery row shopping stores, old day real cans, fish, seven kinds of eventually canned fish, filling the air with high fish albacore, red scupper, who the hell knows all the names of all the fishes, of the fish guts barely fit for leftover mongrel cats(not be-bop daddy cats blowing high white notes, no, that comes later), stink, and low wages with the braceros, Flip braceros, doing the stoop labor, fruits, seven kinds of fruits from the islands, ditto on the stoop labor, signed, sealed and delivered by Mr. Del Monte and kin, ditto on the six kinds of vegetables, down the end where for a few bucks you can pick up the thrill of riding an old time ding-a-ling open air trolley car watching them turnabout on the roundabout like in the old days over on Powell or Market, tourist stuff, not the faux trolley cars, doubled- up, in need of now roundabout meant for everyday work-a-day ‘Frisco business.

He knew the type though, the type of woman, the had been queen of the waterfront gin mills (Kaki’s, where the Flip drunks hung out between ships, or crops, Katy’s, strictly for the Irishtown crowd , Jimmy the Greek’s, where Jean Genet the tough ass fag author spent some time with the rough trade, Red’s, the Harry Bridges longshoremen hang-out if for no other reason than it was called Red’s before the cold war red scare made them persona non grata, and tavern X, Y, Z where a man, any man, could get a drink, some company, name your flavor, and maybe his lights knocked out, for a dollar and some change), maybe a certain beauty (now certainly not beautiful, not stately seventy- something beautiful although despite the ravages of time a wisp of that ancient beauty in the eyes), a certain rough raw beauty in her time, her flowering (and deflowered, ancient word making you think of Walter Scott medieval romance novels with their quaint sex talk, their indirection missed by ignorant schoolboys, but maybe not schoolgirls who knew the code)1950s time, that old Okie/Arkie heartland prairie beauty one generation removed from the dust bowl, grandparents old dust bowl farmers, parents too, except when Mr. Morgan came for the mortgage they hightailed it out the back door and left no tracks, or only westward trek tracks and those soon disappeared when the dust howled up once too often.

That one generation removed and parents shoved the dust from their feet (shod now not bare-footed) and took up city trades (steady work building city trades with good wages, a car in every port, and extra dough, extra dough for kid allowances and spend it wisely but spend it), maybe Pa went to night school on the G.I. Bill after some hard fighting in funny- named Pacific Islands (Iwo, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and so one) now done. That not from hunger (unlike gaunt grandmother always looking underfed in the father and children first pecking order) corn-fed wheat-fed (ironic, right) look that gave the 1950s beauties that ample bosom, those curved hips and firm thighs that said no way back to that plains goodnight. And their daughters their twice-removed daughters, oh, their daughters turned into those wholesome (although don’t ask any members of the football teams about wholesome) cheerleader try-out girls (also second generation amply busted, nicely curved and even more firmly thighed) who led the crowds in crowded Saturday afternoon golden sun stadia at UCLA, UCal, and Southern Cal, or watched, teeny- weeny bikini (and hence maybe a little less corn- fed shaped , reflecting steady groceries coming in steady houses and choices) golden tan beach watched their golden-haired surfer boys hanging that perfect five wave (or ten or fifteen, or whatever, nirvana number it took and how long) and then headed to that Adventure Car-Hop Drive just up the road surf board dragging out the back of de riguer woodie, or same thing, didn’t watch on the beach but waited, waited impatiently by the midnight phone for some simple-minded Johnnie to call so they could cruise in his father’s hand-me-down car in the Modesto night (shape, female shape indeterminate),or, or, and here is where Tugboat Annie, if she had a daughter, and she probably did although perhaps she did not know the present whereabouts of said daughter fit on the pendulum, some slightly overweight (ample, ample from too many twinkles and wise old potato chips), rowdy back-seat riding mama for some Oakland hell’s angel (yah, this story is filled with all kinds of angels, including angel Tugboat Annie).

So she had had enough beauty, certainly enough anyway for some whiskey-soaked sailor to nuzzle up to after she “enticed” him with that “what are you lookin’ for fella,” and “see what you like baby doll,” maybe not a whore, not a pro anyway, but always sexed-up, juiced up to pass the time of day, when the beat daddies hit town (black and white hipsters, from places like cajun Louisiana, no place Okies, tired out New York cities, with a train of fags from everywhere and nowhere looking pretty or looking for pretty boys to twirl with, like always at sea-change feeding times, and a few old sailor girls like Annie to spice things up) and the be-bop jazz(hell, Lester Young blew some very high notes without even trying, high as a kite on some mad dash mex weed and golden gate bridge sunsets at uptown Red Top, Hi-Hat, Kit Kat Clubs, and blew the white notes after hours, free time after hours when the music, the booze, the dope, the sex, or promise of sex, okay, blended together over at Jake’s Barbary Shore next to Pier 39), came to hang around the town and put sailors in old time tar snug harbor graveyards RIP, she was on to every hipster from old North Beach to the breakers,

Yah, he knew, he knew no hipster ever went within a mile of the breakers but it sounded kind of nautical, kind of fit in when describing Ms. Tugboat- yah, he knew her from ten thousand ‘Frisco nights, fifty years ago, forty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago, hell, maybe yesterday, knew her hard luck story, now, of too many men, too much booze and drugs, and too much of never getting out of ‘Frisco hellhole dives where the sailors probably gave her that name themselves. She might have been a piece at one time. A piece worth going for, rum brave going for, if some old tar didn’t beat you to her, or her to him, if she had her wanting habits on. Yah, that name fit, that name fit with what she had to say, simple as it was, said to no one in particular, although there were a couple of “gentleman friends” nearby within hearing distance, “I ain’t seen ‘Frisco so dead for fifty years as it is now.”

Well, we all, in our cups (although while she was smoking, smoking cigarettes incessantly, some unfiltered things, not rolled, not Bull Durham rolled to save dough or just to inhale cheap tobacco, so she might have had a couple of bucks around, she did not have the apple annie swagger of someone on a toot, or just coming off one), say stuff, say cut up old torches stuff, to pass the time away and Adam Evans though nothing particular of it at the time. Later, middle of the night later, serious sea storm lashing waves across the street from the Seals Rock Inn, in ocean edge‘Frisco, tossing and turning a little from being overheated after earlier having half-consciously turned the thermostat too high to take an early morning chill off startled himself awake with the thought that, damn, sweet angel Tugboat Annie had been exactly right, and he said to himself that had to make sure that the next day he threw her a dollar or two for her wisdom . And here is why Tugboat Annie was wise, and why back in the day she might have been a‘Frisco belle, hell the queen of the ‘Frisco (native- born division) 1950s beat night, and godmother when the trampled, besotted, bedazzled youth hit the coast from wherever they were fleeing (non-native division fleeing) in sometime summer of love 1960s (with or without flowers in their hair).

What know young, very young, middle young, hell, old young quaint 2012 San Francisco, what know they of anytime but earthquake rebuilt times in wharfish cleansed ‘Frisco, what do they know of the times when lions roared out their be-bop beat in holy hell break-out North Beach (locale today unknown to even those who live, Christ, live right on Chestnut or Bay Streets, he checked, jesus, nada ) and flower children spread their seed in just names now Haight Street and blasted the night away at Fillmore concert halls , ah ‘Frisco. What know they that heavy-browed be-bop beat prince Jeanbon (Jack ) Kerouac pidder-pattered down Columbus filled with love (big sky angelic love but maybe a little short, okay very short on human earthly woman love , except, except strange old mere love ), lust (just like those old time sailors, tars all, that he shipped out with in 1942), big tidal wave ocean angers (angers derived from small men beat down, beat around , small men injustices, unspoken, and Lowell mill town boys benighted triple-decker economies) , god angers, shiva angers too maybe, immense hole-up speaks to a blasphemous world, patron saint of the beat down, beat around, beatitude beat (always close etched to mere and mere church clinging old country ways) be-bop singsong breaking his heart or his head over some negro, negress(when such a word was proper, okay, before black devoured the negro night, although still even now possessing, damn those damn negro streets), a waif a misfit in the hell broth ‘Frisco miss-mash.

What know they (except in chisel-etched commemorative stones, or sticks in the ground, or fiftieth anniversary City Lights bookstore editions stitched in fine leathers )that karma sainted Allen Ginsberg, robed, disrobed, bare-ass naked , maybe, howled against the winds, the mad cold war red scare atomic bomb winds and how we got there, up in some north beach garage, howled against mad moloch, howled against his own madnesses (and singing kaddish over mother madnesses), and howled out in those negro streets(those kindred negro streets talk of alienation, jesus, making every poet, every want-to-be poet after wishing, Walt Whitman –wishing, they had thought that plainsong ), those brethren streets, howled hoarse against the machine day, against the quaint faux Tudor buildings (and using that word with no approbation but mere fact, mere can’t go home again fact), against the quaint faux Victorian, against the faux cheeky Spanish fandango that founded the place before the injuns ruined it for every gringo, against the faux, hell against the faux California modern even, calling all to live in hovels, and live well, and loving mankind (and men, okay, before that was okay, when they were queer, hell, when in old Jack Lowell talk and Adam Evans Olde Saco talk, they were fags to be put to the faggots).

What know they that master zen wheelman of the world (of the four –dimensional world) Neal Cassady, all-American low ball golden boy cowboy , sky high benny-bennied, cheap wine on his hip, maybe Thunderbird or whatever three quarters would buy, drove studebaker chariots through the streets of ‘Frisco bringing refugees from the burnt- over east, to feat before the red golden gate sun, before the high priest ocean swirls, and the place of no turning back, land’s end America, making it or leave. What know they too of word gun-slingers, of desperado machine gun words, by the master gunsmith Gregory Corso, drunk, drunk as a skunk on wines, and Chestnut Street old wino leavings (and Jack takings and leavings too). And what know they of be-bop legend followers, of stinking tenements and rooming houses, and mattresses on floors, brother and sister cockroaches, stinking shared urinals and bleached shower stalls stinking of three days, well, stink, and of tea freely smoked and passed and Tokay bottles (cheap okay, maybe cheaper that Thunderbird on the downward spiral) thrown every which way and a new brotherhood, okay, brotherhood formed, and women hanging on to be around that scene when some cool as a cucumber jazzman, black as night, black as the starless night, blessed, big lungs blessed, blew that very, very high white note in some dinge (as in dingy, okay) cabaret cellar. Yah, what know they of that old ‘Frisco, the ‘Frisco when Tugboat Annie knew to her core, or some of her ilk knew (and had the burned- out cigarette scars, the pimp daddies slashes, and the needle marks to prove it) that a new wind had blown in from the Japans, or somewhere and, that she (they) had better ride it, ride it as far as the currents would take her (them).

And what know they of break-out joys, Tugboat Annie (although then transformation calling herself as was the fashion, the new beginning new day “fuck the bourgeois world” plain name game fashion, the tabula rasa fashion ocean frontier found just like in those ancestor Okie plains days, Sister Sabbath, sister of the righteous, sister of the downtrodden, sister of the junkie hipped night, complete with kindly godhead heart tattoo on the back of her right shoulder really just a masterly re-do job by Max, Max from the tattoo shop over in hell’s angel Oakland who did all the low-rider biker work around, of her beat devil’s heart when she rode, minute rode before things got rough, the be-bop beat night with Whip-Saw Larry), she a godmother now and long lost mother of beat-ness once the old gang broke up, split for Oregon, Times Square (or other New Jack City locales), split for Buddha, Hari Krishna, hell, some god. And she, native-born division beat, she couldn’t find herself out of some Larkin Street dump, winos howling to some festering moon then not beat poets proclaiming the new world before the glittering golden sun and wine bottles smashing against back alley doors when the 1960s caravans came.

Volkswagen mini-bus caravans came of course or old beat up, beat down , beatitude beat yellow brick road merry pranksters-styled school buses turned into affordable living (and let breath) spaces, complete with seven sweat-stained mattresses, six unadorned half-empty shelves , five amped-up stereos, four tin- plated tins bent , three forks likewise, two pieces of bread (bread , bread not slang-bang for dough moola , kale but mother earth bread, those Kansas wheat fields left behind made bread) came like some unacknowledged homage to those be-bop daddies that stirred old Tugboat Annie.
Caravans (and one, twos and threes , hitchhiking on those same roads making the coast in a week with good luck and some angel long haul trucker’s loneliness kindness), crossing desperate fugitive pioneer plains playing that same move on game since the republic’s creation after the soil gave out in one spot except now instead of desiccated soils desiccated lives drains of life, crossing wheat field oceans until one was sick unto death of wheat and made solemn promises to not cross back that way, if outlaw crossing back became necessary, crossing sad-eyed injun deserts (taking time out in some flame-flecked campfire splashed canyon to ghost dance , high on peyote, high on something surely, the ancient ten thousand year war dance of the angel bravos before kill battles), treks to find refuge against world hurts, bombs away, jail hurts, and a tryst as some lifer’s honey, wall street hurts , and death to angelic trust funds, mother and father hurts, she doling out the father-earned dough dispassionately and un-motherly, he sneaking, or maybe not sneaking, up to daughter bedrooms, and she, daughter, had to split, or else, machine hurts, just take a number, hurt hurts, immense hurts to be assuaged in golden gate sun, and swept out on some misbegotten current.

And like old beat times Tugboat Annie, uh, Sister Sabbath, feasted, that time dispensing Owsley’s magic sugars out of side streets near Post ,taking tickets at the Fillmore where Grace Slick and the Airplane (no need to say Jefferson Airplane, not to this crowd) held forth needing someone to love (world love, humankind love ,boy and girl love, boy and boy love, girl and girl love, did he miss anybody), shamanic Jim Morrison calling one and all, ghost dancing like out in the canyons preparing his warrior trance, to get west, get west is the best, rolling over a couple of times for some young stud gurus in loincloth from Topeka or Ann Arbor who liked the idea of an older woman (hell, she wasn’t even thirty yet, not when that first way came through, the one right after Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters held forth on Russian Hill at the time when he, Adam Evans he, had made his first trip westward and maybe he had crossed paths with her, angel sister her although he still had pain memories of sweet mama love Butterfly Swirl, in that strobe- lighted night), and available, and not hung up and not worried about forever, and damn, not worried about finding herself, whatever that meant unlike the girls they had headed west with.

Yah, before the ebb she had a hell of a time, sleeping for free here and there on beloved Haight Street (ten million miles away from nasty old wino Larkin Street smashed down once the beat daddy hipsters blew town), smoking dope (and truth, selling a little on the side, good stuff too, Acapulco gold, mex weed, not that oregano-laced stuff the punks were passing off as weed once the hippie-clad tourists hit town about late 1968), standing on the stage when Jerry and the Dead gave their free, yah, free concerts in Golden Gate Park (funny she had never been there before even though it was maybe only twenty blocks from the wharves), and she even donned a buckskin jacket ,real, torn jeans, torn as style, wearing off-meshed color tie-dye tee shirts, and tied her hair in braids, wasn’t that a time. Yah, wasn’t that a time when for just a minute, just a hip, hipper minute the world could have turned on its axis a different way and she would not had to have been standing, chain-smoking some old unfiltered cigarettes, speaking to no one in particular about ancient times when lions roared and flowers were strewn on the free-booting streets of old‘Frisco town.

He went back to Cannery Row that next day, went back a couple of times, dollars at the ready, but no luck, no luck like you would kind of expect from rolling stones moving from place to place, maybe a Sally’s here (Salvation Army), a sailor’s flop house there, maybe in some rooming house over back of the wharves near Third Street, but here’s to you Tugboat Annie, the angel who was around when the lions and flowers ruled the old ‘Frisco night. Ah ‘Frisco.

24 October 2012

BOOKS / Mike Davis : The Reds Under Romney's Bed

The reds under Romney's bed
The image of the Red Cavalry going into battle with the Book of Mormon in their saddlebags is quite a stretch; most of us, on the contrary, would probably vote for Mormon 'socialism' as the ultimate oxymoron.
By Mike Davis / The Rag Blog / October 24, 2012

Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, by John G. Turner (2012: Belknap Press, Harvard Univ); Hardcover; 512 pp; $35.
History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialistic, and Decidedly Revolutionary, by John S. McCormick and John R. Sillito (2011: Utah State University Press); Hardcover; 456 pp; $39.95.

In 1884 the journalist Edward Bellamy, struggling with an idea for a utopian novel, visited the only actually-existing communist society on earth: Utah. More precisely he spent a week in Brigham City, seat of Box Elder County, where Apostle Lorenzo Snow, who would later become the fifth LDS president (and the last to have personally known Joseph Smith), showed him the workings of a dynamic community based on pooled wealth, producer and consumer cooperatives, and the use of labor scrip instead of money.

Bellamy, like many previous Gentile visitors, was greatly impressed by the Mormon gift for disciplined cooperation. A decade earlier the celebrated explorer-scientist, John Wesley Powell, had championed the Mormon principle of communal water-management in his landmark but controversial Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States. But Bellamy -- like Lincoln Steffens returning from Russia in 1921 -- was even more enthusiastic: he had seen the future and it worked.

Looking Backward (1888), Bellamy’s portrait of a prosperous but authoritarian socialist America in the year 2000, became a bestseller and seeded the "Nationalist" club movement that was an immediate precursor of the Socialist Party of America. (The iconic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles was built by a wealthy Bellamy supporter as an anticipation of the architecture of that socialist future.)

The similarities between Bellamy’s collective commonwealth and the Mormon ideal of "consecrated" community, as well his "Industrial Army" and the semi-military organization of Young’s Deseret, have ignited controversy for more than a century. Indeed one rabidly anti-Mormon website currently makes the claim that as Brigham City influenced Looking Backward, so did Bellamy’s novel influence Bolshevism, thus implicating the Romneys through their church in "the horrors of communism."

But the image of the Red Cavalry going into battle with the Book of Mormon in their saddlebags is quite a stretch; most of us, on the contrary, would probably vote for Mormon "socialism" as the ultimate oxymoron. But millenarian ideologies -- whether the Sermon on the Mound, the revelations of Joseph Smith, or the ideas of Karl Marx -- have an unfortunate tendency to be coopted by advocates of antithetical values.

John G. Turner’s new biography of Brigham Young -- a scholarly and judicious book that is unlikely to be burned in Temple Square -- portrays a social experiment, the most ambitious in American history, that until Young’s death in 1877 explicitly rejected the core values of Victorian capitalism: possessive individualism and Darwinian competition.

He emphasizes, for instance, that while “the nexus of American evangelicalism was individual salvation, Young’s theology, like that of Joseph Smith, centered around extended families.” “For Brigham Young, like Joseph Smith, the chief end of humankind was eternal fellowship and familial glory. ‘[If] men are not saved together, they cannot be saved at all.’” And Smith famously vowed that he would rather go to hell with the Saints than to heaven without them. [161]

Moreover classical Mormonism, like Pentecostalism in the twentieth century, was a religion of the poor and the ruined: hard-scrabble farmers, rural laborers, artisans and downwardly mobile craftsmen, failed small businessmen, and, most strikingly, an army of refugees from England’s Satanic mills that Young and others led to America.

Dickensian England was the major target of early Mormon proselytism. Young arrived in Manchester, capital of the Industrial Revolution, in 1840 in time to witness the formation of the National Charter Association, the first working-class political party, amidst epic social turmoil.

Like Friedrich Engels two years later, Young was appalled by the living and working conditions of the factory working class as well as the servility of the poor. Lancashire, Turner tells us, was already over-run with itinerant preachers and tiny sects broken from Methodism, but Young and his companions were more eloquent egalitarians, offering economic as well as spiritual solutions to proletarian misery.

"Mormon missionaries focused on evangelicalism rather than on politics or socioeconomic analysis, but with no ties to British elites or the established order they unflinchingly lamented the poverty of the labouring, classes, denounced the monarchy’s conspicuous consumption, and promised their converts land and employment in Illinois.” [70]

After the exodus to the Great Basin and the establishment of the briefly independent state of Deseret, Young tirelessly preached the impossibility of coexistence between the communitarian values of Zion and the greed-driven capitalism of Babylon (the United States). Indeed even before the Saints’ wagons had reached Salt Lake City he had repulsed mutineers who wanted to keep going to fat valleys and gold fields of California, straight into the open maw of Mammon.

The driving of the Golden Spike in 1869, however, flooded Utah with cheap Eastern goods as well as outlaws, mineral prospectors, and Gentile immigrants. A few years later the Crash of 1873 demonstrated that Utah was no long insulated from what Young denounced as “the oppression of monied monopolies.”

“The sooty misery of working-class England,” Turner explains,” had left Young with a lingering belief that capitalism could produce an existence worse than chattel slavery.” Convinced that the Kingdom of Saints was now threatened with moral and economic absorption into a society run by Robber Barons and stock jobbers, Young launched a Mormon Cultural Revolution: the United Order of Enoch.

Under the Order, “the Latter-Day Saints would consecrate their property and resources to common management, divide labor according to specialized ability, and eliminate disparities of wealth.” (399) Young, although old, fat, and in declining health, spent most of 1874 and 1875 passionately -- and sometimes threateningly -- shepherding his people into lives of deeper generosity and unity. The original template was Brigham City, but some of the poorer frontier Mormons “attempted to fully live out Young’s communitarian vision." (399)

The most complete embodiment was Orderville, east of Zion National Park, where private property had been abolished, members ate in a common hall, and there was no trade with the Gentile world. Turner quotes Wallace Stegner’s estimation of Orderville as a "communism of goods, labor, religion, and recreation such as the world has seen only in a few places and for very short times." [400]

Although Orderville, Brigham City, and a handful of other Mormon kibbutzes survived through 1880s, the United Order encountered intractable resistance from an emerging upper class of Saints, some of them in lucrative business partnerships with Gentiles. A mining boom, meanwhile, diverted the loyalties of many working-class Mormons. Despite Young’s ceaseless campaigning, public enthusiasm for the United Order died within a few years.

This was the major political and spiritual defeat of Young’s reign. At the dedication of a new temple in St. George, the same southern Utah town where he had launched the United Order only three years earlier, the LDS President gave a fierce speech against the corruption of the Morman soul by capitalism, railroads, and mines. He warned his People that they would “go to Hell” unless they repented materialism and greed. For emphasis he pounded the pulpit with his gnarled hickory cane. Six months later, in August 1877, he died.

MacCormick and Sillito’s fascinating history of the Utah Socialist Party in the early twentieth century (it won 115 state and local elections ) includes a detailed account of the Church’s eventual embrace, after Young’s death, of the capitalist civilization and rule of money that he and Smith had so abhorred. This great U-turn was partly driven by heightened inequality, even class conflict within late-Victorian Mormon society. It was also compelled by the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 which confiscated the Church’s assets, as well as disenfranchising women in the territory (they had won the vote in 1870) and disinheriting the children of plural marriages.

Washington’s message to the LDS was simple and implacable: abandon polygamy and open the doors to eastern capital or face destruction. Brigham Young doubtlessly would have defied the Republicans in Congress, taking his people into the mountains or moving to Mexico, but his successors capitulated: abolishing plural marriage in 1890 and sending church leader Heber J. Grant to Wall Street to establish a credit line for the Church. After statehood, moreover, they moved the LDS hierarchy into the ranks of its former archenemy, the Republican Party.

“Thereafter,” write MacCormick and Sillito, “Church leaders would not only feel increasingly at ease with the ways of American capitalists, but they would be beholden -- at least in the short run -- for their services. Within another decade these influences would go so far that muckraking journalists would begin to cast the Church in the role of a Wall Street plutocrat.” [383]

After three generations of persecution, migration, and backbreaking labor to achieve an egalitarian Zion, the conservative reformation in Salt Lake City was deeply disorienting to many Mormons. As original research for Utah Radicalism has established, at least 40 percent of the Socialist Party membership in Utah before 1920 were Mormons, most of them devout.

Many were the children of the United Order, like Lillie Engle who grew up in Orderville and became a Socialist candidate in Emery County in 1912. (In a poignant reminiscence, she equated the “sorrows that only the domestic servant, the widow, the ‘Mormon,’ the unpopular socialist, and the poor oppressed workers of the world know.”)

Despite increasing attacks by the Church on "satanic" socialism, a number of well-known Socialists were able to play prominent roles in both of their faiths, like Bishop Alexander Matheson in Cedar City or Gottlieb Berger, a Socialist who served on the Murray City commission from 1911 to 1932 while president of his ward’s High Priest Quorum. But the most potent individual link between repressed Mormon communism and Debsian socialism was Virginia Snow Stephen, the daughter of Lorenzo Snow of Brigham City fame, who campaigned to save the life of Joe Hill in 1915.

Gentiles, especially evangelical Christians, have obsessed for 175 years about the occult internal doctrines and practices of the Mormons. But secret handshakes and passwords can be found in any Moose Lodge, weird underwear is widely en vogue, and washings, annoitings, and sealings are just so much boilerplate religious mumbo jumbo. The real scandal of the modern Church is that its so-called Prophets refuse to hear Brigham Young, hammering on the ceiling of his tomb with his hickory cane and demanding the overthrow of Babylon.

A version of this article will be published by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

[Mike Davis is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. An urban theorist, historian, and social activist, Davis is the author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles and In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire. Read more articles by Mike Davis on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

15 November 2012

Alice Embree / Terry DuBose : Defend the Soldiers' Right to Heal

Under the Hood contingent at Veterans Day Parade, Killeen, Texas, Saturday, November 10, 2012. Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Defend the right to heal:
Veterans’ Day parade in Killeen
As the deployments wind down from this decade of combat, service members are finding that their access to medical care is restricted, denied, delayed, and stigmatized.
By Alice Embree / The Rag Blog / November 15, 2012
See story by Terry J. DuBose and photos by Alice Embree and Susan Van Haitsma, Below.
Malachi Muncy’s vision was obscured, but he could hear a boy’s voice saying:“It’s a soldier in a pill bottle. Break out! Break out!”
The boy, a spectator along the Veterans Day parade route in Killeen, Texas, got it. So did most of those who saw Under the Hood’s message on Saturday, November 10.

Under the Hood (UtH) is a GI coffeehouse that opened in 2009 in Killeen, a mile from Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military post in the world. The UtH contingent marched for the second time in Killeen’s Veterans’ Day event. Three veterans led the march with this banner: “Honor All Who Served: Defend Service Members’ and Veterans’ Right to Heal.”

Behind the banner, on the bed of a pickup truck, was Malachi Muncy, a veteran of two Iraq deployments, a writer and an artist. Malachi had produced the pill bottle image as a print on paper made of combat uniforms. For the parade he took his art large, constructing a six-foot tall orange pill bottle with a white cap. Malachi, in uniform, stood inside the bottle, occasionally reaching his hands above him into the air. The prescription read: “RX: We Deserve Better.”

Although Malachi’s vision was somewhat limited by the orange acetate he was behind, he could hear the crowd’s response. Those seated along the parade route would begin asking each other what was on the truck, then talk amongst themselves as they realized it was a soldier in a pill bottle. There was occasional laughter, even applause. Some spectators made comments about the medicines they were on.

Along the route, UtH supporters handed out leaflets supporting soldiers’ right to heal -- for real treatment beyond pills for the hidden injuries that are now so prevalent -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Supporters also carried signs with the grim markers of this decade of war.“A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. Stop the cycle!” “There were 154 service member suicides in the first 155 days of this year. 154 suicides vs. 134 combat deaths.”

In an October 23 article, the Austin American-Statesman dug deep into the Texas face of these statistics: “Special Report: Uncounted Casualties,” reporting on the recent Texas veterans who have died of overdoses, suicide, and vehicle crashes.

As the deployments wind down from this decade of combat, service members are finding that their access to medical care is restricted, denied, delayed, and stigmatized. An appeal to Congress for redress for service members’ and Veterans’ right to heal can be found at You are urged to sign this petition and to continue to support Under the Hood -- a space for free speech, peer support, and decompression.

[Alice Embree is a long-time Austin activist, organizer, and member of the Texas State Employees Union. A former staff member of underground papers The Rag in Austin and RAT in New York, and a veteran of SDS and the women's liberation movement, she is now active with CodePink Austin and Under the Hood Café. Embree is a contributing editor to The Rag Blog and is treasurer of the New Journalism Project. Read more articles by Alice Embree on The Rag Blog.]

"Trapped." Print by Malachi Muncy on paper made from old combat uniform.
Malachi Muncy:A veteran artist

Malachi Muncy, a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, uses art and theater to express his frustration, situation, and anger. Two of his prints, “Trapped” and “Escape,” carry strong messages in this era of record suicide rates among troops and veterans.

Malachi prints on paper made from his combat uniforms. As guerrilla theater for the Veterans’ Day Parade in Killeen, Malachi designed and built a giant pill bottle. Standing in uniform in the bottle on the back of a pickup truck his art reached hundreds along the parade route.

Malachi served in the Texas Army National Guard as a motor vehicle operator from 2003 to 2009, with service in Iraq from 2004-2005 and 2006-2007. He has a BA in journalism form Texas State University (TSU) and is currently pursuing a BA in English.

Malachi’s writing has appeared in the Copperas Cove Leader Press, SKUNK Magazine, and at His poetry and prose have been included in the Warrior Writers anthologies. Malachi’s print and papermaking artwork has been exhibited at The National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.

Malachi has volunteered as arts coordinator at Under the Hood Café, a GI Outreach Center in Killeen. He has conducted workshops there on making “combat paper” from uniforms -- transforming war experiences into art. In December he will become the new manager of Under the Hood.

-- Terry J. DuBose / The Rag Blog

[Terry J. DuBose, who was an organizer for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in Texas, is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Diagnostic Medical Sonography at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.]
"Escape." Print by Malachi Muncy.

Photo Gallery:
Under the Hood at Veterans Day Parade

Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Photo by Susan Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog.

Find more photos of Under the Hood and the Veterans Day parade by Alice Embree and Susan Van Haitsma.

The Rag Blog