Saturday, November 19, 2016

An Appeal From Veteran For Peace-It Is Desperately Necessary To Get President Obama To Pardon Chelsea Manning Now-She Must Not Die In Prison!

An Appeal From Veteran For Peace-It Is Desperately Necessary To Get President Obama To Pardon Chelsea Manning Now-She Must Not Die In Prison!

*****Frank Jackman’s Fate-With Bob Dylan’s Masters of War In Mind

*****Frank Jackman’s Fate-With Bob Dylan’s Masters of War In Mind


From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Jack Callahan’s old friend from Sloan High School in Carver down in Southeastern Massachusetts Zack James (Zack short for Zachary not as is the fashion today to just name a baby Zack and be done with it) is an amateur writer and has been at it since he got out of high school. Found out that maybe by osmosis, something like that, the stuff Miss Enos taught him junior and senior years about literature and her favorite writers Hemingway, Edith Wharton and Dorothy Parker to name a few, that she would entice the English class stuck with him with through college where although he majored in Political Science he was in thrall to the English literature courses that he snuck in to his schedule. Snuck in although Zack knew practically speaking he had a snowball’s chance in hell, an expression he had learned from Hemingway he thought,  of making a career out of the literary life as a profession, would more likely wind driving a cab through dangerous midnight sections of town  occasionally getting mugged for his night’s work. That Political Science major winding up producing about the same practical results as the literary life though. Stuck with him, savior stuck with him, through his tour of duty during the Vietnam War, and savior stayed with him through those tough years when he couldn’t quite get himself back to the “real” world after ‘Nam and let drugs and alcohol rule his life so that he wound up for some time as a “brother under the bridge” as Bruce Springsteen later put the situation in a song that he played continuously at times after he first heard it “Saigon, long gone…."  Stuck with him after he recovered and started building up his sports supplies business, stuck with him through three happy/sad/savage/acrimonious “no go” marriages and a parcel of kids and child support.  And was still sticking with him now that he had time to stretch out and write longer pieces, and beat away on the word processor a few million words on this and that.  

Amateur writer meaning nothing more than that he liked to write and that writing was not his profession, that he did not depend on the pen for his livelihood(or rather more correctly these days not the pen but the word processor). That livelihood business was taken up running a small sports apparel store in a mall not far from Lexington (the Lexington of American revolutionary battles to give the correct own and state) where he now lived. Although he was not a professional writer his interest was such that he liked these days with Jimmy Shore, the famous ex-runner running the day to day operations of the store, to perform some of his written work in public at various “open mic” writing (and poetry) jams that have sprouted up in his area.

This “open mic” business was a familiar concept to Jack from the days back in the 1960s when he would go to such events in the coffeehouses around Harvard Square and Beacon Hill to hear amateur folk-singers perfect their acts and try to be recognized as the new voice of their generation, or something like that. For “no singing voice, no musical ear” Jack those were basically cheap date nights if the girl he was with was into folk music. The way most of the "open mics" although they probably called them talent searches then, worked was each performer would sign up to do one, two, maybe three songs depending on how long the list of those wishing to perform happened to be (the places where each performer kicked in a couple of bucks in order to play usually had shorter lists). These singers usually performed in the period in front of the night’s feature who very well might have been somebody who a few weeks before had been noticed by the owner during a pervious "open mic" and asked to do a set of six to sixteen songs depending on the night and the length of the list of players in front of him or her. The featured performer played, unlike the "open mic" people, for the “basket” (maybe a hat) passed around the crowd in the audience and that was the night’s “pay.” A tough racket for those starting out like all such endeavors. The attrition rate was pretty high after the folk minute died down with arrival of other genre like folk rock, heavy rock, and acid rock although you still see a few old folkies around the Square or playing the separate “open mic” folk circuit that also ran through church coffeehouses just like these writing jams.

Jack was not surprised then when Zack told him he would like him to come to hear him perform one of his works at the monthly third Thursday “open mic” at the Congregational Church in Arlington the next town over from Lexington. Zack told Jack that that night he was going to perform something he had written and thought on about Frank Jackman, about what had happened to Frank when he was in the Army during Vietnam War times.

Jack knew almost automatically what Zack was going to do, he would somehow use Bob Dylan’s Masters of War lyrics as part of his presentation. Jack and Zack ( a Vietnam veteran who got “religion” on the anti-war issue while he in the Army and became a fervent anti-war guy after that experience despite his personal problems) had met Frank in 1971 when they were doing some anti-war work among the soldiers at Fort Devens out in Ayer about forty miles west of Boston. Frank had gotten out of the Army several months before and since he was from Nashua in the southern part of New Hampshire not far from Devens and had heard about the G.I. coffeehouse, The Morning Report, where Jack and Zack were working as volunteers he had decided to volunteer to help out as well.

Now Frank was a quiet guy, quieter than Jack and Zack anyway, but one night he had told his Army story to a small group of volunteers gathered in the main room of the coffeehouse as they were planning to distribute Daniel Ellsberg’s sensational whistle-blower expose The Pentagon Papers to soldiers at various spots around the base (including as it turned out inside the fort itself with one copy landing on the commanding general’s desk for good measure). He wanted to tell this story since he wanted to explain why he would not be able to go with them if they went inside the gates at Fort Devens.

Jack knew Zack was going to tell Frank’s story so he told Frank he would be there since he had not heard the song or Frank’s story in a long while and had forgotten parts of it. Moreover Zack wanted Jack there for moral support since this night other than the recitation of the lyrics he was going to speak off the cuff rather than his usual reading from some prepared paper.  

That night Zack was already in the hall talking to the organizer, Eli Walsh, you may have heard of him since he has written some searing poems about his time in three tours Iraq. Jack felt right at home in this basement section of the church and he probably could have walked around blind-folded since the writing jams were on almost exactly the same model as the old folkie “open mics.” A table as you entered to pay your admission this night three dollars (although the tradition is that no one is turned away for lack of funds) with a kindly woman asking if you intended to perform and direct you to the sign-up sheet if so. Another smaller table with various cookies, snacks, soda, water and glasses for those who wished to have such goodies, and who were asked to leave a donation in the jar on that table if possible. The set-up in the hall this night included a small stage where the performers would present their material slightly above the audience. On the stage a lectern for those who wished to use that for physical support or to read their work from and the ubiquitous simple battery-powered sound system complete with microphone. For the audience a bevy of chairs, mostly mismatched, mostly having seen plenty of use, and mostly uncomfortable. After paying his admission fee he went over to Zack to let him know he was in the audience. Zack told him he was number seven on the list so not to wander too far once the session had begun.

This is the way Zack told the story and why Jack knew there would be some reference to Bob Dylan’s Masters of War that night:

Hi everybody my name is Zack James and I am glad that you all came out this cold night to hear Preston Borden present his moving war poetry and the rest of us to reflect on the main subject of this month’s writing jam-the endless wars that the American government under whatever regime of late has dragged us into, us kicking and screaming to little avail.  I want to thank Eli as always for setting this event up every month and for his own thoughtful war poetry. [Some polite applause.] But enough for thanks and all that because tonight I want to recite a poem, well, not really a poem, but lyrics to a song, to a Bob Dylan song, Masters of War, so it might very well be considered a poem in some sense.   

You know sometimes, a lot of times, a song, lyrics, a poem for that matter bring back certain associations. You know some song you heard on the radio when you went on your first date, your first dance, your first kiss, stuff like that which is forever etched in your memory and evokes that moment every time you hear it thereafter. Now how this Dylan song came back to me recently is a story in itself.

You remember Eli back in October when we went up to Maine to help the Maine Veterans for Peace on their yearly peace walk that I ran into Susan Rich, the Quaker gal we met up in Freeport who walked with us that day to Portland. [Eli shouted out “yes.”] I had not seen Susan in about forty years before that day, hadn’t seen her since the times we had worked together building up support for anti-war G.I.s out at the Morning Report coffeehouse in Ayer outside Fort Devens up on Route 2 about thirty miles from here. That’s when we met Frank Jackman who is the real subject of my presentation tonight since he is the one who I think about when I think about that song, think about his story and how that song relates to it.   

Funny as many Dylan songs as I knew Masters of War, written by Dylan in 1963 I had never heard until 1971. Never heard the lyrics until I met Frank out at Fort Devens where after I was discharged from the Army that year I went to do some volunteer anti-war G.I. work at the coffeehouse outside the base in Army town Ayer. Frank too was a volunteer, had heard about the place somehow I forget how, who had grown up in Nashua up in southern New Hampshire and after he was discharged from the Army down at Fort Dix in New Jersey came to volunteer just like me and my old friend Jack Callahan who is sitting in the audience tonight. Now Frank was a quiet guy didn’t talk much about his military service but he made the anti-war soldiers who hung out there at night and on weekends feel at ease. One night thought he felt some urge to tell his story, tell why he thought it was unwise for him to participate in an anti-war action we were planning around the base. We were going to pass out copies of Daniel Ellsberg’s explosive whistle-blower expose The Pentagon Papers to soldiers at various location around the fort and as it turned out on the base. The reason that Frank had balked at the prospect of going into the fort was that as part of his discharge paperwork was attached a statement that he was never to go on a military installation again. We all were startled by that remark, right Jack? [Jack nods agreement.]

And that night the heroic, our kind of heroic, Frank Jackman told us about the hows and whys of his Army experience. Frank had been drafted like a ton of guys back then, like me, and had allowed himself to be drafted in 1968 at the age of nineteen not being vociferously anti-war and not being aware then of the option of not taking the subsequent induction. After about three week down at Fort Dix, the main basic training facility for trainees coming from the Northeast then, he knew two things-he had made a serious mistake by allowing himself to be drafted and come hell or high water he was not going to fight against people he had no quarrel with in Vietnam. Of course the rigors of basic training and being away from home, away from anybody who could help him do he knew not what then kept him quiet and just waiting. Once basic was over and he got his Advanced Infantry Training assignment also at Fort Dix which was to be an infantryman at a time when old Uncle Sam only wanted infantrymen in the rice paddles and jungles of Vietnam things came to a head.

After a few weeks in AIT he got a three day weekend pass which allowed him to go legally off the base and he used that time to come up to Boston, or really Cambridge because what he was looking for was help to file an conscientious objector application and he knew the Quakers were historically the ones who would know about going about that process. That is ironically where Susan Rich comes in again, although indirectly this time, since Frank went to the Meeting House on Brattle Street where they were doing draft and G.I. resistance counseling and Susan was a member of that Meeting although she had never met him at that time. He was advised by one of the Quaker counselors that he could submit a C.O. application in the military, which he had previously not been sure was possible since nobody told anybody anything about that in the military, when he got back to Fort Dix but just then, although they were better later, the odds were stacked against him since he had already accepted induction. So he went back, put in his application, took a lot of crap from the lifers and officers in his company after that and little support, mainly indifference, from his fellow trainees. He still had to go through the training, the infantry training though and although he had taken M-16 rifle training in basic he almost balked at continuing to fire weapons especially when it came to machine guns. He didn’t balk but in the end that was not a big deal since fairly shortly after that his C.O. application was rejected although almost all those who interviewed him in the process though he was “sincere” in his beliefs. That point becomes important later.

Frank, although he knew his chances of being discharged as a C.O. were slim since he had based his application on his Catholic upbringing and more general moral and ethical grounds. The Catholic Church which unlike Quakers and Mennonites and the like who were absolutely against war held to a just war theory, Vietnam being mainly a just war in the Catholic hierarchy’s opinion. But Frank was sincere, more importantly, he was determined to not got to war despite his hawkish family and his hometown friends’, some who had already served, served in Vietnam too, scorn and lack of support. So he went back up to Cambridge on another three day pass to get some advice, which he actually didn’t take in the end or rather only partially took up  which had been to get a lawyer they would recommend and fight the C.O. denial in Federal court even though that was also still a long shot then.  

Frank checked with the lawyer alright, Steve Brady, who had been radicalized by the war and was offering his services on a sliding scale basis to G.I.s since he also had the added virtue of having been in the JAG in the military and so knew some of the ropes of the military legal system, and legal action was taken but Frank was one of those old time avenging Jehovah types like John Brown or one of those guys and despite being a Catholic rather than a high holy Protestant which is the usual denomination for avenging angels decided to actively resist the military. And did it in fairly simple way when you think about it. One Monday morning when the whole of AIT was on the parade field for their weekly morning report ceremony Frank came out of his barracks with his civilian clothes on and carrying a handmade sign which read “Bring the Troops Home Now!”

That sign was simply but his life got a lot more complicated after that. In the immediate sense that meant he was pulled down on the ground by two lifer sergeants and brought to the Provost Marshal’s office since they were not sure that some dippy-hippie from near-by New York City might be pulling a stunt. When they found out that he was a soldier they threw him into solitary in the stockade.

For his offenses Frank was given a special court-martial which meant he faced six month maximum sentence which a panel of officers at his court-martial ultimately sentenced him to after a seven day trial which Steve Brady did his best to try to make into an anti-war platform but given the limitation of courts for such actions was only partially successful. After that six months was up minus some good time Frank was assigned to a special dead-beat unit waiting further action either by the military or in the federal district court in New Jersey. Still in high Jehovah form the next Monday morning after he was released he went out to that same parade field in civilian clothes carrying another homemade sign “Bring The Troops Home Now!” and he was again manhandled by another pair of lifer sergeants and this time thrown directly into solitary in the stockade since they knew who they were dealing with by then. And again he was given a special court-martial and duly sentenced by another panel of military officers to the six months maximum.

Frank admitted at that point he was in a little despair at the notion that he might have to keep doing the same action over and over again for eternity. Well he wound up serving almost all of that second sex month sentence but then he got a break. That is where listening to the Quakers a little to get legal advice did help. See what Steve Brady, like I said an ex-World War II Army JAG officer turned anti-war activist lawyer, did was take the rejection of his C.O. application to Federal District Court in New Jersey on a writ of habeas corpus arguing that since all Army interviewers agreed Frank was “sincere” that it had been arbitrary and capricious of the Army to turn down his application. And given that the United States Supreme Court and some lower court decisions had by then had expanded who could be considered a C.O. beyond the historically recognized groupings and creeds the cranky judge in the lower court case agreed and granted that writ of habeas corpus. Frank was let out with an honorable discharge, ironically therefore entitled to all veteran’s benefits but with the stipulation that he never go onto a military base again under penalty of arrest and trial. Whether that could be enforced as a matter of course he said he did not want to test since he was hardily sick of military bases in any case.                                       

So where does Bob Dylan’s Masters of War come into the picture. Well as you know, or should know every prisoner, every convicted prisoner, has the right to make a statement in his or her defense during the trial or at the sentencing phase. Frank at both his court-martials rose up and recited Bob Dylan’s Masters of War for the record. So for all eternity, or a while anyway, in some secret recess of the Army archives (and of the federal courts too) there is that defiant statement of a real hero of the Vietnam War. Nice right?      

Here is what had those bloated military officers on Frank’s court-martial board seeing red and ready to swing him from the highest gallow, yeah, swing him high.

Masters Of War-Bob Dylan 

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music


Once Again, The Trials and Tribulations of Lance Lawrence-The Senior Set On-Line Dating Woes

Once Again, The Trials and Tribulations of Lance Lawrence-The Senior Set On-Line Dating Woes

By Seth Garth

Sam Lowell had to laugh about his old college roommate and lifelong friend Lance Lawrence as he walked home after another bout with Lance’s problem as described by him sitting at the bar at Joe Daley’s Grille in Cambridge. The problem: Lance Lawrence was running on empty in his latest quest to get a new female companion through this on-line dating service, Seniors Please, a service he had joined a few weeks after he had been issued his walking papers by his long-time companion, Minnie Murphy, who had to get out from under Lance’s jackboot and find herself, or whatever it was that had made them drift apart. Lance was never very reflective about why some women would even think of leaving him despite three, count them, three divorces and a million affairs (some of them during those marriages and grounds for divorce) and this latest serious boot from Minnie who persevered much longer than most, too long according to Sam. Lance, whatever else his good qualities and they were plentiful as Sam always recognized had throughout his life always thought of himself as something on the order of god’s gift to woman. Had the looks, charm, talk, and pure bullshit swagger to pull it off. More than once Sam had been jealous of those abilities, although not recently as Lance and he had gotten much closer after several years absence from each other’s lives.

Sam had to confess that the first time that Lance had mentioned his dilemma since Minnie had left for parts unknown one night a few weeks previously after another drinking bout at Joe’s that he was pretty non-plussed about it. Part of it was that Sam had been half in love with Minnie to no avail as he learned to his regret one drunken night when he had made his intentions clear and she had told him that she had feelings that way too but she was Lance’s woman. That was that. Part of it was that he figured it was just a momentary glitch in the legendary Lance’s prowess for charming and bedding women, a phenomenon that Sam had witnessed many times since the first time when they were assigned to be roommates freshman year and they had not gotten out of the Boston University Bookstore before Lance had some pretty freshman co-ed coaxed up into their Bay State Road dorm room (leaving Sam to wait around the bookstore killing time). The way Lance had figured his drought that night had been that this on-line dating business did not play to his up front and personal charm and chemistry when everything on-line depended on profiles and answers foolish non-descript questions that told nobody nothing. That night Lance had ended the evening giving Sam a blow by blow description of the odd-ball way these “mature” women that he might have the slightest interest in presented themselves on their profiles.

That was then though. Those were the days when Lance was just getting used to having to sweat to even get a response from the women on the site, at least any he would be interested in others contacted him by the score. Now Lance was getting desperate since he not made one conquest, conquest meaning as it had been since he was probably about six getting into bed with some woman and having his way with her. Not from a lack of trying as the now seemingly defeated Lance told his tales of woe. Sam couldn’t decide whether he should, secretly, laugh or cry, laugh because the old bastard finally was getting his comeuppance after all the times he had left Sam in the lurch following the scent of some woman, cry because if the legendary Lance Lawrence was having trouble meeting women where would that leave the much shyer and less aggressive Sam (who had two divorces under his belt, one fairly recently, and was now “single” himself).      
Here is the litany as Lance played it out. The way this on-line dating game worked was that you put in your profile, photograph, answered some questions, inane or not, to give some unsuspecting woman a change to see if you were somebody she might be interested in. Additionally you put in your zip code, distance you would be willing to travel to see the lovely, and age range. Lance, now on the high side of 60 had made his range 50 to 65 although he tended to favor the younger side (his second and third wives were about ten years younger than him). Through all that “work” Lance first “connected” with a late 50s woman from Jamaica Plain, an up and coming neighborhood in Boston. Connected here meaning that he had sent her a message via the site that he was interested in “chatting” with her. And so they did almost constantly over a couple of days. Lance figured this was “pay-dirt,” the old guy still had it. That notion was further cemented in his head when she out of the blue invited him to go to Museum of Fine Arts with her since a new exhibit was opening up. Frankly Lance could have cared a rat’s ass about art (that expression Sam first heard him use back in those freshman days, a carryover from his neighborhood days) but figured she was just looking for a neutral spot for them to meet. So he went along, found the exhibit, and her, interesting and bought her dinner. A pleasant day in which he figured he would play it cool and not try his end-around play to get her in bed that day. They easily agreed to meet again soon. The second date wound up being at a bar where she wanted to watch a Patriot’s football game (he would find out later after many other searches that an amazing number of older women were interested in this sport and this team for god knows what reason). Fair enough although he had long ago given up watching sports on television, watch anything on television and could have given a rat’s ass about watching the game that day. That day also turned out to be pretty good once they got through the game. They agreed to stay in contact and plan for another date. He had asked her if she had wanted to go to his house for a drink but she deferred saying that they should go slow and easy not a good sign for the always impatient Lance. Slow and easy indeed since after that football date he did not hear from her again. Lance would not “lower himself,” his term, to call or e-mail her so that one went off into the sunset.              

Lance then spent a week or so busily sending messages to a scad of other women but nothing panned out mostly because the most interesting looking women had no qualms about leading their profiles with endless photographs of them with their grandchildren, pets, or projects. One had a lead photograph of her with her football player-sized son whose pose spoke of serious mayhem if anybody was unkind to his Mom. So no sale. A couple of weeks later he did go on another date with a fifty-something woman who had never been married and although she had her charms Lance had then vowed never to message any more never married women since they were never married probably because they were frigid or something, or at least beyond his charms. 

Of course in the “mature” searching for love racket everybody unlike the wistful and naïve young carries a ton of baggage, carries every possible quirk and idiocrasy and the next date proved that to be the case. Very seldom in his life had Lance when he saw the slightest chance of bedding some women whatever her looks, personality, or karma never missed an opportunity to play the game until the end. This next date though he threw in the towel after a quick hour in which he kept looking at his watch and trying to figure out how to escape once he realized this one was a bit crazed, had some social issues and would not, maybe could not stop blabbing about the signs of the Zodiac and how when she divined them for her and Lance all the stars were aligned or something like that. Jesus, Lance had looked at Sam with a stare like he was very glad to have escaped with his manhood intact. That was not the last of the goofs though, there would be one more, this one who claimed to be a spiritualist and some kind of Zen Buddhist freak who though everything that had happened, worse would happen in the future was perfect, was immutable. Yes, Lance said he would screen his “women” much more carefully as he expressed a longing for the good old days when there were in the flesh meetings and the glint in a woman’s eye would tell him to go forward or back off.

As Sam and Lance once again departed out the front door of Joe’s to go to their respective homes Lance, as he had on their first meeting over the august question of Lance’s current love life Lance yelled across the street, “I have to go home and check if Illy23 and Hotmama234 (on-line monikers likes Lance’s loveman345) had left a message. Me.” Yeah, some things never change.       

*****Where Have All The Flowers Gone- With Legendary Folk-Singer Pete Seeger In Mind

*****Where Have All The Flowers Gone- With Legendary Folk-Singer Pete Seeger In Mind


A while back, a few months ago now I think I mentioned in a sketch about how I came to learn about the music of Woody Guthrie I noted that it was hard to pin just exactly when I first heard his music since it pre-dated my coming to the folk minute of the 1960s where the name Woody Guthrie had been imprinted on lots of work by the then “new breed” protest/social commentary troubadour folk singers like Bob Dylan (who actually spent time in Woody’s hospital room with him when he first came East from Hibbing out of Dinktown in Minneapolis and wrote an early paean called Song To Woody on his first or second album), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (who made a very nice career out of being a true Woody acolyte and had expected Dylan who had subsequently moved on, moved very far on to more lyrical work to do the same), and Stubby Tatum, probably the truest acolyte since he was instrumental in putting a lot of Woody’s unpublished poems and art work out for public inspection and specialized in Woody songs, first around Harvard Square and then wherever he could get a gig, which to say the least were not among the most well know or well thought out of Woody’s works. After some thought I pinpointed the first time I heard a Woody song to a seventh grade music class, Mr. Dasher’s class whom we innocently then called Dasher the Flasher just for rhyming purposes but which with today’s sensibilities about the young would not play very well and would probably have him up before some board of inquiry just because a bunch of moody, alienated hormonally-crazed seventh graders were into a rhyming fad that lasted until the next fad a few weeks or months later, when he in an effort to have us appreciate various genre of the world music songbook made us learn Woody’s This Land Is Your Land. Little did we know until a few years later when some former student confronted him about why we were made to learn all those silly songs he made us memorize and he told that student that he had done so in order to, fruitlessly as it turned out, break us from our undying devotion to rock and roll, you know, Elvis, Chuck, Jerry Lee, Wanda, Brenda, Bo, Buddy, the Big Bopper and every single doo wop group, male or female. If anybody wants to create a board of inquiry over that Mister Dasher indiscretion complete with a jury of still irate "rock and roll will never die" aficionados you have my support.   

In thinking about Woody the obvious subsequent question of when I first heard the late Pete Seeger sing, a man who acted as the transmission belt between generations, I came up against that same quandary since I know I didn’t associate him with the first time, the first wave of performers, I heard as I connected with the emerging folk minute of the early 1960s. That folk minute start which I do clearly remember the details of got going one Sunday night when tired of the vanilla rock and roll music that was being play in the fall of 1962 on the Boston stations I began flipping the small dial on my transistor radio settling in on this startling gravelly voice which sounded like some old-time mountain man, some old time Jehovah cometh Calvinist avenging angel, singing Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies (who turned out to be folk historian and seminal folk revival figure Dave Von Ronk, who as far as I know later from his politics had no particular religious bent,if any, but who sure sounded like he was heralding the second coming). I listened to a few more songs on what turned out to be a folk music program put on every Sunday evening between seven and nine at the request of some college kids in the area who were going crazy for roots music according to the DJ.          

After thinking about it for a while I realized that I had heard Pete not in solo performance but when he was with The Weavers and they made a hit out of the old Lead Belly tune, Good Night, Irene (a song that in the true oral tradition has many versions and depending on the pedigree fewer or more verses, Lead Belly’s being comparatively short). In those days, in the early 1950s I think, the Weavers were trying to break into the popular music sphere and were proceeding very well until the Cold War night descended upon them and they, or individual members including Pete were tarred with the red scare brush.

Still you cannot keep a good man down, a man with a flame-throwing banjo, with folk music DNA in his blood since he was the son of the well-known folk musicologist Charles Seeger who along with the father and son Lomaxes  did so much to record the old time roots music out on location in the hills and hollows of the South, and with something to say to those who were interested in looking back into the roots of American music before it got commercialized (although now much of that early commercial music makes up the key folk anthology put together by Harry Smith and which every self-respecting folkie performer in the early 1960s treated like a bible). Pete put a lot of it together, a lot of interests. Got the young interested in going back to the time when old cowboys would sing themselves to sleep around the camp fire out in the prairies, when sweat hard-working black share-croppers and plantation workers down South would get out a Saturday jug and head to the juke joint to chase the blues away, and when the people of the hills and hollows down in Appalachia would Saturday night get out the jug and run over to Bill Preston’s old seen better days red-painted barn and dance that last dance waltz to that weeping mountain fiddle.

Stuff like that, lots of stuff like that to fill out the American songbook. But Pete also put his pen to paper to write some searing contemporary lyrics just like those “new breed” protest folk singers he helped nurture and probably the most famous to come out of that period, asking a very good question then, a question still be asked now if more desperately than even then, Where Have All The Flowers Gone.  Now a new generation looks like it too is ready to pick up the torch after the long “night of the long knives” we have faced since those days. The music is there to greet them in their new titanic struggles. 

*****From #Un-Occupied Boston-This Is Class War-We Say No More-Defend Our Unions!

*****From #Un-Occupied Boston-This Is Class War-We Say No More-Defend Our Unions! 



Leon Trotsky -Lessons Of The Paris Commune-Listen Up
Defend The Working Class! Take The Offensive! - A Five Point Program For Discussion

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!


A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

Ralph Morris and Sam Lowell a couple of old-time radicals, old-time now not being the Great Depression labor radicals who had been their models after a fashion and who helped built the now seemingly moribund unions but anti-war radicals from the hell-bent street in-your-face 1960s confrontations with the American beast during the Vietnam War reign of hell were beside themselves when the powder-puff uprising of the Occupy movement brought a fresh breeze to the tiny American left-wing landscape in the latter part of 2011.  (That term “powder puff” not expressing the heft of the movement but the fact that it disappeared almost before it got started giving up the huge long-term fight it was expected to wage to break the banks, break the corporate grip on the world and, try to seek “newer world”).

Although Ralph and Sam were not members in good standing of any labor unions, both having after their furtive anti-war street fights and the ebbing of the movement by about the mid-1970s returned to “normalcy.” Ralph having gone back to work in his father's electrical shop in Troy, New York and which he took over when Ralph, Senior retired and Sam had gone back to Carver to expand a print shop that he had started in the late 1960s after serving an apprenticeship with the main printer in town before he went out on his own. Having come from respectable working-class backgrounds in strictly working-class towns though, Carver about thirty miles from Boston and the cranberry bog capital of the world and Ralph in Troy near where General Electric ruled the roost, they had taken to heart the advice of their respective grandfathers about not forgetting those left behind, that an injury to one of their own in this wicked old world was an injury to all as the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) motto had it.

Moreover despite their backing away from the street confrontations of their youth when that proved futile after a time, especially after May Day 1971 where they first met in the bastinado at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium after being arrested  with their respective collectives and where they got a full dose what the American imperial state could when it pulled the hammer down on dissent, as the Vietnam War finally wound down and yesterday’s big name radicals left for parts unknown they had always kept an inner longing for the “newer world,” the more equitable world where the people who actually made stuff and kept the wheels of society running and their down-pressed allies ruled.    

So Ralph and Sam would during most of the fall of 2011 meet in Springfield and travel down to the Wall Street plaza which was the center of the movement on weekends, long weekends usually, to take part in the action after the long drought of such activity for them personally and for their kind of eclectic left-wing politics (they had gotten more active in the wake of Bush-led Iraq invasion of 2003 when the seemingly endless wars first took hold of day to day American foreign policy but nowhere near the 24/7 efforts back in the Vietnam days when every minute seemed to desperately count against the monster).  They were crestfallen to say the least when the movement exploded (or maybe better imploded, turned in on itself and wound up after a couple of years being just another cheap vehicle for left Democratic Party politicians on the make) after the then reigning mayor and the NYPD  pulled down the hammer and forcibly disbanded the place (and other city administrations across the country and across the world and police departments did likewise in what was determined later when it was too late that had been coordinated efforts across the board to shut everything down, shut it down tight).

Of more concern at the time since unlike the good-hearted but naïve younger people since they had already known from too many uneven battles (remember that May Day 1971 baptism of fire) about what the government could do when it decided to pull down the hammer was in the aftermath when the movement imploded from its own contradictions, caught up not wanting to step on anybody's toes in the movement no matter how hare-brained the scheme or just plain recycled ideas that had not worked in the 1960s and had even less chance now that the state had even more weapons at its disposal, to let everybody do their own thing with or without some kind of coordinated plan that would make the thing more productive,  do their own identity politics, you know gays can only speak of gay oppression straights keep out, women can only speak of women's oppression men, gay or straight keep out, blacks can only speak of black oppression, white males and females, gay or straight keep out and so on, defending their particular turf as furiously as any old-time Tammany Hall political hack, which did much to defang the old movements, refusing out of hand cohering a collective leadership that might give some direction to the damn thing but also earnestly wanting to bring the monster down.

Ralph and Sam in the aftermath, after things had settled down and they had time to think decided to put together a proposal, a program if you like, outlining some of the basic political tasks ahead to be led by somebody. Certainly not by them since radical politics, street politics is a young person’s game and they admittedly had gotten rather long in the tooth. Besides they had learned long ago, had talked about it even over drinks at Jack Higgin’s Grille more than once, how each generation will face its tasks in its own way so they would be content to be “elder” tribal leaders and provide whatever wisdom they could, if asked. Here working under the drumbeat of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up something of a “national anthem” for what went on among the better elements of Occupy are some points that any movement for social change has to address these days and fight for and about as well.       
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

***Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, those who have just plain quit looking for work and critically those who are working jobs beneath their skill levels was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession of 2008-09 highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around to all who want and need it. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.

The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions when the union-run hiring hall ruled supreme in manning the jobs is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling, where, and at what skill level,  and equitably divide up current work.

Here is the beauty of the scheme, what makes it such a powerful propaganda tool-without the key capitalist necessity of keeping up the rate of profit the social surplus created by that work could be used to redistribute the available work at the same agreed upon rate rather than go into the capitalists’ pockets. The only catch, a big catch one must admit, is that no capitalist, and no capitalist system, is going to do any such thing as to implement “30 for 40” –with the no reduction in pay proviso, although many low –end employers are even now under the “cover” of the flawed Obamacare reducing hours WITH loss of pay-so that to establish this work system as a norm it will, in the end, be necessary to fight for and win a workers government to implement this demand.


Organize the unorganized is a demand that cries out for solution today now that the organized sectors of the labor movement, both public and private, in America are at historic lows, just over ten percent of the workforce and less in the formerly pivotal private industries like auto production.  Part of the task is to reorganize some of the old industries like the automobile industry, now mainly unorganized as new plants come on line and others are abandoned, which used to provide a massive amount of decent jobs with decent benefits but which now have fallen to globalization and the “race to the bottom” bad times. (Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the North American auto industry employed almost a million workers but only a third or less are unionized whereas in the old days the industry was union tight.)

The other sector that desperately need to be organized is to ratchet up the efforts to organize the service industries, hospitals, hotels, hi-tech, restaurants and the like, that have become a dominant aspect of the American service-oriented  economy. Everyone should support the recent militant efforts, including the old tactic of civil disobedience, by service unions and groups of fast-food workers to increase the minimum socially acceptable wage in their Fight For $15.

Organize the South-this low wage area, this consciously low-wage area, where many industries land before heading off-shore to even lower wage places cries out for organizing, especially among black and Hispanic workers who form the bulk of this industrial workforce. A corollary to organizing the South is obviously to organize internationally to keep the “race to the bottom” from continually occurring short of being resolved in favor of an international commonwealth of workers’ governments. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.


Organize Wal-Mart- millions of workers, thousands of company-owned trucks, hundreds of distribution centers. A victory here would be the springboard to a revitalized organized labor movement just as auto and steel lead the industrial union movements of the 1930s. The key here is to organize the truckers and distribution center workers, the place where the whole thing comes together. We have seen mostly unsuccessful organizing of individual retail stores and victimizations of local union organizers. To give an idea of how hard this task might be though someone, probably Bart Webber in his more thoughtful moments,  once argued that it would be easier to organize a workers’ revolution that organize this giant mainstay of the run to the bottom capitalist ethos. Well, as to the latter point that’s a thought.


Defend the right of public and private workers to unionize. Simple-No more defeats like in Wisconsin in 2011, no more attacks on collective bargaining the hallmark of a union contract. No reliance on labor boards, arbitration, courts or bourgeois recall elections either. Defeat all “right to work” legislation. Unions must keep their independent from government interference. Period.

*** Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray, the very stray   Republican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012 labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich, make that the very rich but don’t forgot to include them on the fringes of the one percent and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus fruitless efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea presented, an old idea going back to the initial formation of the working class in America, in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor” and the Republicans are the 666 beasts but the Obama administration does not take a back seat to the elephants on this one. The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement. They always have their hands out.

The hard reality is that the labor skates, not used to any form of class struggle or any kind of struggle, know no other way than class-collaboration, arbitration, courts, and every other way to avoid the appearance of strife, strife in defense of the bosses’ profits. One egregious example from the recent past from around the time of the Occupy movement where some of tried to link up the labor movement with the political uprising- the return of the Verizon workers to work after two weeks in the summer of 2011 when they had the company on the run and the subsequent announcement by the company of record profits. That sellout strategy may have worked for the bureaucrats, or rather their “fathers” for a time back in the 1950s “golden age” of labor, but now we are in a very hard and open class war. The rank and file must demand an end to using their precious dues payments for bourgeois candidates all of whom have turned out to be sworn enemies of labor from Obama on down when the deal goes down.

This does not mean not using union dues for political purposes though. On the contrary we need to use them now more than ever in the class battles ahead. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized, organizing the South, organizing Wal-Mart, and other pro-labor causes. Think, for example, of the dough spent on the successful November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio. That type of activity is where labor’s money and other resources should go. And not on recall elections against individual reactionaries, like Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, as substitutes for class struggle when some form of general strike was required to break the anti-union backs (and which was overwhelmingly unsuccessful to boot-while the number of unionized public workers has dwindled to a precious few).  


***End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, we argued, Sam more than I did since he had been closer to the initial stage if the opposition that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (common moniker for the Islamic State) in Iraq we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before that fight is over. Not Another War In Iraq! Stop The Bombings In Syria, Iraq, Yemen! Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East Especially To Israel and Saudi Arabia! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza-Israel Out Of The Occupied Territories. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of Every Single U.S./Allied Troops (And The Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!  

U.S. Hands Off Iran! Hands Off Syria!- Despite a certain respite recently during the Iran nuclear arms talks  American (and world) imperialists have periodically ratcheted up their propaganda war (right now) and increased economic sanctions that are a prelude to war well before the dust has settled on the now unsettled situation in Iraq and well before they have even sniffed at an Afghan withdrawal of any import. We will hold our noses, as we did with the Saddam leadership in Iraq and on other occasions, and call for the defense of Iran against the American imperial monster. A victory for the Americans (and their junior partner on this issue, Israel) in Iran and Syria is not in the interests of the international working class. Especially here in the “belly of the beast” we are duty-bound to call not just for non-intervention but for defense of Iran. We will, believe us we will, deal with the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran in our own way in our own time.

U.S. Hands Off The World! And Keep Them Off!- With the number of “hot spots” that the American imperialists, or one or another of their junior allies, like Saudi Arabia and France over the recent period have their hands on in this wicked old world this generic slogan would seem to fill the bill.


Down With The War Budget! Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars! Honor World War I German Social-Democratic Party MP, Karl Liebknecht, who did just that in 1915 in the heat of war and paid the price unlike other party leaders who were pledged to stop the war budgets by going to prison. The only play for an honest representative of the working class under those conditions. The litmus test for every political candidate must be first opposition to the war budgets (let’s see, right now no new funding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran preparations, China preparations, etc. you get the drift). Then that big leap. The whole damn imperialist military budget. Again, no one said it would be simple. Revolution may be easier that depriving the imperialists of their military money. Well….okay.

***Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All! This would be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The health and welfare of any society’s citizenry is the simple glue that holds that society together. It is no accident that one of the prime concerns of workers states whatever political disagreements we may have with the Cuban leadership like Cuba, and whatever their other internal political problems caused in no small part the fifty plus year U.S. blockade, has been to place health care and education front and center and to provide to the best of their capacity for free, quality healthcare and education for all. Even the hide-bound social-democratic-run capitalist governments of Europe have, until recently anyway, placed the “welfare state” protections central to their programs. Be clear Obamacare is not our program and has already been shown to be totally inadequate and wasteful however we will defend that program against those who wish to dismantle it and leave millions once again uninsured and denied basic health benefits.  

Free, quality higher education for all! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! One Hundred, Two Hundred, Many Harvards!

This would again be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The struggle to increase the educational level of a society’s citizenry is another part of the simple glue that holds that society together. Today higher education is being placed out of reach for many working-class and minority families. Hell, it is getting tough for the middle-class as well.

Moreover the whole higher educational system is increasing skewed toward those who have better formal preparation and family lives leaving many deserving students from broken homes and minority homes in the wilderness. Take the resources of the private institutions and spread them around, throw in hundreds of billions from the government (take a big chuck from the bloated military budget and the bank bail-out money, things like that, if you want to find the money quickly to do the job right), get rid of the top heavy and useless college administration apparatuses, mix it up, and let students, teachers, and campus workers run the thing through councils on a democratic basis.

Forgive student debt! The latest reports indicate that college student debt is something like a trillion dollars, give or take a few billion but who is counting. The price of tuition and expenses has gone up dramatically while low-cost aid has not kept pace. What has happened is that the future highly educated workforce that a modern society, and certainly a socialist society, desperately needs is going to be cast into some form of indentured servitude to the banks or other lending agencies for much of their young working lives. Let the banks take a “hit” for a change!

Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now! Although the worst of the crunch has abated there are still plenty of problems and so this demand is still timely if not desperately timely like in the recent past. Hey, everybody, everywhere in the world not just in America should have a safe, clean roof over their heads. Hell, even a single family home that is part of the “American dream,” if that is what they want. We didn’t make the housing crisis in America (or elsewhere, like in Ireland, where the bubble has also burst). The banks did. Their predatory lending practices and slip-shot application processes were out of control. Let them take the “hit” here as well.

***We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Karl Marx was right way back in the 19th century on his labor theory of value, the workers do produce the social surplus appropriated by the capitalists. Capitalism tends to beat down, beat down hard in all kinds of ways the mass of society for the benefit of the few. Most importantly capitalism, a system that at one time was historically progressive in the fight against feudalism and other ancient forms of production, has turned into its opposite and now is a fetter on production. The current multiple crises spawned by this system show there is no way forward, except that unless we push them out, push them out fast, they will muddle through, again.

Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Socialism is the only serious answer to the human crisis we face economically, socially, culturally and politically. This socialist system is the only one calculated to take one of the great tragedies of life, the struggle for daily survival in a world that we did not create, and replace it with more co-operative human endeavors.

Build a workers’ party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. None of the nice things mentioned above can be accomplished without as serious struggle for political power. We need to struggle for an independent working-class-centered political party that we can call our own and where our leaders act as “tribunes of the people” not hacks. The creation of that workers party, however, will get us nowhere unless it fights for a workers government to begin the transition to the next level of human progress on a world-wide scale.

As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):

“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.” 

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!


Demand clemency for Leonard Peltier

Dear friends
We invite you to sign this petition in support of Leonard Peltier, wrongly jailed for 40 years. Please circulate to your networks.
Many thanks
"It should be remembered that Standing Rock was the site of the 1974 conference of the International Indigenous Movement that spread throughout the Americas and beyond, the starting point for the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP]... I call on all my supporters and allies to join the struggle at Standing Rock in the spirit of peaceful spiritual resistance and to work together to protect Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. I also call upon my supporters and all people who share this Earth to join together to insist that the US  complies with and honors the provisions of international law, as expressed in the UNDRIP, International Human Rights Treaties and the long-neglected Treaties and trust agreements with the Sioux Nation." 
Leonard Peltier, from a 
solidarity statementwith the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.
For more info, contact the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee:

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Don�t let my father die in prison

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My name is Kathy Peltier and I am the daughter of imprisoned Native American rights activist Leonard Peltier.
In 1975, during a confrontation with members of the American Indian Movement, two FBI agents were shot dead. My father was convicted of their murders, but has always denied killing the agents.

Judges and legal experts agree that his trial was unfair. He's been in prison over 40 years - my entire life.
Now his health is failing. My worst fear is that my father will die in prison and I won't have any real time with him.
Help bring my father home: Tell President Obama to grant Leonard Peltier clemency.

Even behind bars, my father is an inspiration. His name is synonymous with the struggle for Native rights, and he recently issued a statement in solidarity with everyone standing together at the Camp of the Sacred Stones at Standing Rock:

"It is an honor to have been alive to see this happen with you young people. You are nothing but awesome in my eyes." 

Many people have called for him to be granted leniency and freedom, but he remains in prison. That's why Amnesty International USA has included his case in its Write for Rights letter-writing marathon.
Join Write for Rights and add your name to this urgent petition: Free Leonard Peltier.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons says it won't take care of my father until his condition - he has an abdominal aortic aneurysm - gets even worse. But I'm afraid it will be too late.

It would mean everything to me if my father could spend a little of his life with me.
Urge President Obama to grant clemency to my father, Leonard Peltier, so that he can live out the rest of his days with his family.

On behalf of my father and my brother, and for all the people you help through your kindness and your activism, thank you.

In solidarity,
Kathy Peltier
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