Saturday, December 24, 2016

President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning-Sign The Petition Now-She Must Not Die In Prison

President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning-Sign The Petition Now-She Must Not Die In Prison    

Happy Birthday
Free her now!
International Actions, 17 December 2016
Organise a protest, a vigil, a party, send Chelsea a message/birthday card! Tell us and we will publicise it!  Take a photo and send to her (as well as us).  Sign the new petition to free her.  Circulate this invitation to your contacts.
Actions planned so far
London 12.30-2pm Vigil on the steps of St Martin in-the-Fields, London WC2N 4JJ
Philadelphia  Plans in progress
Oakland  Plans in progress
Chelsea Manning will be 29 years old on this day.  She is the trans woman, ex-military analyst, who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaksexposing the truth about US, UK and other governments’war crimes and corruption in AfghanistanHaitiIraq,Israel & the Palestinian Authority, PeruVenezuela . . . 
CHELSEA NEEDS OUR SUPPORT URGENTLY!  She has twice tried to commit suicide in prison, the second time after being thrown into solitary confinement for her first suicide attempt.  One of her lawyers, Chase Strangio said: “She has repeatedly been punished for trying to survive and now is being repeatedly punished for trying to die.”  We must send a strong message to the US military and Obama that their torture of Chelsea must stop.  We must get her out!
Chelsea was first imprisoned in 2010, and in 2013 she came out as a trans woman. For six years an international movement has been supporting her struggle in prison, winning significant victories:
·        April 2011: released from Quantico, Virginia, US, where she had been held for months under torturous conditions;
·        August 2013: whilst sentenced to 35 years, the court had to drop the charge of “aiding to the enemy” which carried a possible death penalty 
·       June 2014: Chelsea elected Grand Marshal at San Francisco Pride 2014
·       February 2015: she won “hormone therapy” after 30 organizations from US, UK, Germany and Italy signed a letter in support of her demand
·       May 2016: she lodged an appeal against her conviction
·       September 2016: after a 5-day hunger strike, the Army agreed to provide the gender reassignmentsurgery she is entitled to, a decision that may benefit a great number of trans prisoners.
 However, the army has continued to harass her. 
·       In August 2015, she was threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for possession of expired toothpaste and deprived of her privileges. 
·       In July 2016, when she attempted to end her life the army threatened her with indefinite punishment which, after a public outcry, was limited to 14 days (7 suspended). 
·       In October, she made a second attempt to end her life. 
Chelsea is part of a great movement of thousands of whistleblowers who have revealed abuses and demanded their rights. From prison Chelsea has written against police killing young people of colour in the US, and insupport of immigrants and refugees – including queer and trans people. 
For the last six years, every time she was under threat, people in many countries have organized vigils and protests: petitions reached over 100,000 signatures in a matter of days. We call on the anti-war, anti-racist, anti-sexist, LGBTQ movements, whistleblowers, war veterans, and everyone who stands for justice and against poverty and the arms trade to campaign to Free Chelsea Manning now!
Chelsea is now appealing to Obama “to commute her sentence to time served”.  Sign the petition, read Chelsea’s moving statement and the letters of support from Daniel Ellsberg, Glen Greenwald and David Morris.
Donations to her legal fund are needed also.
Write to Chelsea – Keep her spirits up!For more info: Chelsea Manning Support Network
Last year’s birthday pics

Trump Prepares Vicious Attacks - We Must Prepare Massive Resistance-The Cold Civil War Has Begun-Down With The Trump Government!

Trump Prepares Vicious Attacks - We Must Prepare Massive Resistance

by Tom Crean and Philip Locker

Trump’s victory in the presidential election two weeks ago was a profound shock to tens of millions of progressive workers, young people, immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and LGBTQ people across the US. As Trump’s reactionary cabinet appointments have been announced and the list of targets of his administration has become clearer there is enormous fear and anger in many communities.

Many are waiting to see how events unfold or hoping against hope that Trump will see reason and moderate his positions. But the reported plans to deport three million people, establish a “registry” for Muslims, criminalize dissent, and nominate a Supreme Court justice who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade and shred union rights in the public sector are not idle threats.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets across the country and the mood to resist is growing. Socialist Alternative called many of the first protests which were dominated by young people. But now we are seeing wider forces preparing for what will be truly massive protests around Trump’s inauguration, particularly the Women’s March on Washington DC on January 21. We and Socialist Students are also focusing on building student walkouts across the country on the actual day of the inauguration, January 20, which could become the biggest coordinated student actions since the Vietnam War. Socialist Alternative, with Socialist Students and Movement for the 99%, aims to raise $25,000 by the end of December to fund the youth-led, national mass student walkouts. Please help us reach that by donating $25 today. 
No Mandate
The truth is that Trump’s racist, misogynist agenda does not have a popular mandate. Votes are still being counted but despite winning in the undemocratic throwback Electoral College, Trump only got 46.4% of the popular vote and Clinton now has a lead of over two million.
Some leading Democrats have continued with their pathetic attempt to blame the outcome of the election on FBI director Comey – who reopened the investigation into Clinton’s emails in the final days of the campaign – Bernie Sanders supporters, or even Jill Stein and the Greens. But even those sections of the corporate media which backed Clinton to the hilt have had to partially acknowledge that the outcome was more a defeat for the Democrats than a victory for Trump.
Exit polls showed that fully 20% of Trump voters (approximately 12 million voters) had an unfavorable view of him. As the Washington Post said, “There is no precedent for a candidate winning the Presidency with fewer voters viewing him favorably, or looking forward to his administration, than the loser.”
The underlying reality in the US remains, as we have said, huge political and social polarization. Big sections of society moved to the left in recent years. This was expressed in Occupy, the fight for $15, BLM, mass support for marriage equality and more recently for Native people at Standing Rock. But without doubt the most dramatic expression of this trend were the millions, especially young people, who supported Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution against the billionaire class. At the end of the day, Clinton’s status quo campaign had no appeal to those hostile to the ruling elite and simply failed to energize and mobilize progressive Americans in sufficient numbers despite the fear of Trump. As the roughly 54% election turnout showed, tens of millions of Americans simply saw no point in choosing between the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the country’s history.
This has led to the situation where the right now controls the White House as well as both Houses of Congress. In 23 states the Republicans have control of all three branches of government. This gives the right enormous institutional power. There is also the real danger of an energized hard right sinking roots. But there is huge potential power in the opposition to Trump especially if the social power of the working class can be brought to bear. Trump’s agenda is beatable but it will require the most profound social struggle since the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 60s and 70s.
Trump’s Appointments
In the past week, Trump’s transition team has announced a series of appointments to cabinet and adviser positions in the White House. This includes Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General; Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff; Steve Bannon as Trump’s main adviser and General Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, represents the Republican establishment which is reactionary enough. Bannon, however, who was the CEO of Trump’s campaign in the fall, was previously the chairman of Breitbart News which is one of the central platforms for the hard right, white supremacist “alt-right.” Sessions was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate in the 80s for a position in the federal judiciary because he was simply too racist even for them, while Flynn rants about Islam being “like a cancer.” It is a bit difficult to know which of these disgusting reactionaries we should be most alarmed about.
Further appointments before Thanksgiving include Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development. DeVos is a billionaire advocate of charter schools and vouchers and a vicious opponent of public education.
But in appointing Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, as US representative to the UN, Trump may be seeking to put a bit of balance into this toxic mix. While Haley was elected as a Tea Party Republican she is also remembered for having pushed through the removal of the Confederate Flag as the state’s official symbol after the killing of nine black churchgoers by white supremacist Dylan Roof. This is a bit of a poke in the eye to Trump’s far right fans. Trump may try to go further in this “balancing act”. For example, he now says that he will not pursue further investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation.
Trump’s Agenda Becomes Clearer
But while Trump may try to inject some “balance” in his appointments and talks of “healing the wounds” of the campaign, this should in no way blind people to the deeply reactionary plans for the beginning of this billionaire-led administration.
It is amply clear that Trump intends to deliver on the threat to deport three million immigrants. He intends to do in months what it took the Obama administration eight years to accomplish as it deported 2.7 million. There will also be a special focus on Muslim immigrants under the cover of “fighting ISIS,” with the threat of a national registry of all Muslims being raised.
This will be linked to a recasting of US policy in the Middle East as an existential struggle with “radical Islamic terrorists.” Both Bush and Obama sought to avoid lumping all the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims together as part of the “enemy” but Trump may be prepared to go in this direction. This is highly alarming to US allies who fear that it would lead to a massive expansion of conflict in the coming period even if ISIS suffers further defeat on the battleground.
Clearly Trump will nominate an outright reactionary to the Supreme Court who could go after Roe v Wade and it is very possible that he will be make a further appointment during the next four years. This comes after years of relentless attacks on women’s reproductive rights by Republican-dominated Southern state legislatures.
There is also clear intent to go after union rights. The public sector unions dodged a bullet last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the Supreme Court’s 4-4 tie in the Friedrichs case. The effect of this case succeeding would have meant extending anti-union “right to work” rules which exist in Republican run states to the entire national public sector.
There will definitely be an attempt to revive Friedrichs. Trump’s team sees Scott Walker’s successful campaign to eviscerate public sector unions in Wisconsin as a model. But the administration’s more immediate target will be the unions representing federal employees and those workers’ rights and benefits. They undoubtedly see the federal workforce as a soft target which will not elicit much sympathy. If they succeed this will then allow them to ramp up the anti-union campaign more broadly.
Trump intends to gut environmental protection in the name of “bringing back jobs” as in the energy sector. But the main reason the coal industry has collapsed is due to market factors, especially the extremely low price of oil and natural gas.
Finally there is a clear desire to criminalize political dissent linked to Trump’s ominous talk about a “law and order” offensive. Key Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has talked about bringing back the McCarthy era House Un-American Activities Committee which launched an anti-communist witchhunt in the 1950s. Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, another key Trump surrogate and possible appointee, has described the Black Lives Matter movement as “inherently racist” and “un-American”. Chris Christie claimed BLM called for killing police officers.
Taken as a whole this is the most reactionary agenda of any administration since at least Ronald Reagan. However, to be clear Trump will also push populist measures like infrastructure spending and paid parental leave. He will halt negotiation of further trade deals as part of a protectionist shift. At this point the Trans Pacific Partnership which represented a serious threat to workers rights and the environment is dead in the water. A section of the working class and middle class has real expectations based on Trump’s promises to bring back manufacturing and good jobs. They will be severely disappointed but perhaps not immediately.
The Lessons of the Past
The stakes now are extremely high. Trump will seek to inflict severe and demoralizing defeats by picking off one target at a time. All sections of society targeted by Trump must therefore unite their forces from the start.
The old slogan of the labor movement – “an injury to one is an injury to all” – was never more relevant. And the labor movement has a key role to play in this situation. Despite its long retreat the unions still represent 16 million workers and retain strength in some industrial sectors but especially the public sector and in key cities that will be central to the resistance against Trump.
The social power of working people uniting all parts of a mass movement must be counterposed to the institutional power of the right. The mass protests around the inauguration are a crucial first step. How events unfold after January 20 is very difficult to say but there are critical lessons which must be drawn out from previous battles against the right wing in this country.
After Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the air traffic controllers’ union PATCO went on strike. Reagan decided to turn this into a showdown with labor as a whole by firing all the members of this union which had actually endorsed him in the election! There was an enormous willingness in the still-strong labor movement to fight back. Tens of thousands would have responded to a call from the AFL-CIO for mass pickets to shut down key airports.
Labor Day in 1981 saw 250,000 workers march in Washington DC with the PATCO workers at their head. But the union leadership criminally refused to extend the strike, PATCO was smashed and the labor movement was put decisively on the defensive. The defeat is what is remembered but what is equally important is that Reagan could have been beaten which would have changed the entire dynamic and encouraged the further development of a mass movement to defeat the rest of Reagan’s neo-liberal agenda.
In 2006, the Republican-dominated House passed the Sensenbrenner Bill which threatened mass deportations of all undocumented workers in the US and their families and made it a crime to help them. This sparked the biggest mass demonstrations in US history including the “day without an immigrant” on May 1 which had elements of a general strike of Latino immigrant workers. The movement beat back the bill and also pushed back anti-immigrant attitudes for a period. But although many were sympathetic with the stand of millions of immigrants demanding citizenship rights and “equal rights for all workers,” the native born working class largely stood on the sidelines. This allowed the Bush administration to eventually move to savagely repress the movement especially the section of immigrant workers that was actively moving to unionize.
In 2010, Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin. He and the Republican-controlled legislature moved to impose savage cutbacks in education but also cripple public sector unions by stripping their right to collectively bargain over anything besides wages. Even then they were no longer allowed to negotiate wage increases above inflation. Part of the legislation also stipulated that all public sector unions had to hold recertification votes on a yearly basis. This was the most serious frontal attack on the labor movement since the PATCO strike. Tens of thousands marched on a weekly basis in the state capital Madison in early 2011 in the largest protests in Wisconsin history, and the capitol building itself was occupied for weeks on end.
Beating Walker required escalating the movement. Socialist Alternative argued for a one day public sector general strike as a first step in this direction. There was an enormously positive response from workers to this idea but the national leadership of the AFL-CIO, as in 1981, put on the brakes. Rather than escalate they de-escalated and advocated a campaign to recall Scott Walker, i.e. to get a Democrat elected. This strategy failed comprehensively and Walker is still in office today.
The Right Is Beatable
As in 1981, 2006, and 2011, the right can be beaten but only with an effective strategy and an utterly determined leadership. There are several factors that can help the movement. First of all, unlike in the 1980s when neo-liberalism had a real base of social support including within sections of the working and middle classes, right wing ideology has a weaker social grip today. The far right is emboldened by Trump’s victory but they are far from establishing a mass base in their own right.
Also the ruling class remains on the whole deeply unhappy about Trump’s accession to power. They see him as potentially highly damaging to their global and domestic interests. It is true that at the moment markets are factoring in the possibility of economic growth under Trump because of infrastructure spending and ending DC gridlock. Wall Street also supports his proposals to cut taxes further for the superrich and get rid of financial regulation. But there is real possibility of global and domestic recession in next period which would throw a Trump administration into deep crisis.
With or without a recession sections of the ruling class could begin to exert real pressure against Trump, especially if he overreaches and provokes effective mass resistance. They would do this in the wider interest of the system and precisely to cut across the movement. In this context, it is significant that a number of Democratic big city mayors are promising to resist attempts to ban “sanctuary cities” for immigrants despite threats to cut federal funding. Governor Cuomo of New York, a reliable ally of Wall Street, even declared that he, as the grandson of immigrants, should be deported first.
But where was Cuomo as the Obama administration ramped up deportations to record levels? We must place no reliance on corporate Democrats whose anti-working class policies have driven so many into the arms of the right. Instead, a mass movement against Trump must be centered on the social power of working people mobilized to fight for their own independent class interests.
Working Class Unity Against the Right
There has been a vast amount of ink spilled in the media about the “white working class” either vilifying it as one reactionary mass because it is supposedly in lock step behind Trump or trying to “understand” its concerns. We have consistently rejected the narrative that the support for Trump is simply motivated by racism and sexism although that is a real factor for a section of his supporters. We have repeatedly pointed out that Trump, through a right-wing populist and nationalist appeal, tapped into the anger at the effects of neo-liberalism and globalization especially the massive loss of good manufacturing jobs which was partly the result of trade deals like NAFTA. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000 and 2014.
But while some particularly obtuse liberal commentators seem to think that the question of jobs is about defending “white male privilege” the truth is that de-industrialization and the deep retreat of the unions in the private sector had an even more devastating effect on the black working class.
But neither are we blind to the fact that Trump’s open racism, xenophobia and misogyny resonated with a section of his supporters. This is not the first time in history that the accumulated failures of the left and the labor leadership has opened the door to dangerous right wing ideas. This situation can be reversed with a determined mass movement that speaks directly to the common interests of all sections of the working class and firmly opposes racism and sexism.
The truth is far more complicated and contradictory than most liberal commentators seem able to grasp. What is certain is that the Democratic Party establishment has lost the ability to even pretend to speak to working people’s interests, whether white, black or Latino. What was notable in this election was not just a limited (and frequently exaggerated) turn by white workers to the Republicans, but the lack of enthusiasm among young black workers for the Democrats and the incredible nearly 30% vote among Latinos for Trump. As Mike Davis recently pointed out on, “the lower Black turnout in Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia alone would explain most of Clinton’s defeat in the Midwest.” He adds though that the lower turnout was also due to voter suppression, ie traditional Republican election rigging.
The question of Trump’s working class support is not simply a matter of “understanding others.” It is a very real practical question facing the movement. Simply put, to really defeat the right and begin to resume an offensive struggle for the needs of working people, the movement will need to win over sections of Trump’s base. Sanders’ poll numbers against Trump and the huge response he received among working people generally shows that this can be done.
Another section of Trump’s base will not be reached. But it is possible to isolate and defeat the organized far right forces which at this point remain small, though emboldened, and generally extremely unskilful.
The Democrats, the Unions, and the Role of Socialists
A huge debate is opening up among progressive workers and youth about how to defeat Trump. Packed meetings of hundreds, including many organized by Socialist Alternative, are being held around the country.
One argument which at this point has a lot of support is that we must combine building a movement against Trump with a determined effort to “take over” the Democratic Party and make it an instrument that represents the interests of ordinary people rather than Wall Street. This is the argument of Sanders and Our Revolution, as well as the dominant elements in the Democratic Socialists of America.
Given the crisis that has opened up in the Democratic Party due to their incredible failure to defeat the odious Trump, it is understandable why many would be attracted to this perspective. More than at any time in the past 40 years the “centrist” neo-liberal leadership of the party is on the defensive. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren have been strengthened. They are supporting Keith Ellison, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who is standing for chair of the DNC. While Ellison has also received the support of some figures in the establishment like Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, who are playing for time and want to avoid deeper division, Ellison’s campaign is now running into pushback from the Obama White House.
Undoubtedly, the Sanders position which stresses the need for movements “from below” is far superior to the craven response of Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO and key Democrats who said they wanted to “work with Trump” or have a “seat at the table.”
We believe in the unity of the widest possible forces in common action against Trump’s attacks. But we strongly disagree with the idea that the corporate Democrats can be turned into an instrument for working people. There is a mistaken idea promoted by some on the left that the Democrats once represented the interests of working people. This was never the case. It is true that the party shifted sharply to the right in the 80s and 90s but this reflected the needs of capitalism in a new period.
The question of the character of the Democrats was sharply posed by Sanders historic campaign earlier this year. This led to ferocious resistance by the party establishment. The lengths to which they were prepared to go to prevent Sanders pro-working class campaign winning has now been fully revealed by Wikileaks.
But even if Sanders had somehow managed to win the rigged primary he would have faced the choice of either capitulating to the demands of the neo-liberal party establishment or having to go to war against their sabotage. This would have meant essentially laying the basis for a new party. As Sanders correctly said to Clinton in the debates you can’t serve the interests of both Wall Street and working people.
A party which stands for working people must first of all advance a bold anti-corporate, working class agenda. But it must also require their elected representatives to refuse all corporate donations and accept only the average income of their constituents like Kshama Sawant, socialist councilmember in Seattle. Most Democratic elected officials would choose to leave the Democrats rather than accept this situation. This is why we will continue to argue for a new party of the 99%.
The movement to defeat Trump’s reactionary agenda will face many challenges. But there is no reason for despair. The enormous determination to fight back already being shown by hundreds of thousands of young people, women, people of color and LGBTQ people points to the potential for building the biggest mass movement in American history which can inflict a decisive blow to the right.
But we have to clearly understand the tasks posed and who our friends and who our enemies are. As we have argued here we need a clear strategy based on the social power of working people. Some might despair given the conservative leadership of the existing unions. But there have also been real signs of life like the Verizon strike earlier this year, the biggest strike in nearly 20 years which beat back the company’s attacks. There is also a developing alliance of progressive unions including National Nurses United, the Communication Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union, all of whom supported Sanders and are now supporting the heroic fight of Native people at Standing Rock. The questions of shaking up, transforming and building unions into democratically run campaigning organizations that can organize and lead struggles will be more and more sharply posed.
At the end of the day, Trump’s ascendancy is a reflection of the deep and growing crisis of the capitalist system whose institutions have been deeply discredited during the last historical period and even more during this election cycle. The ruling class is divided, not sure how to respond. The economic collapse of 2008 and 2009 and the millions of jobs lost and homes foreclosed while the rich have got richer has led to a serious questioning of the system along with the looming climate catastrophe and the exposure of searing racial injustice.
Trump’s presidency will deepen the radicalization of sections of society. Poll after poll indicates growing support for socialism especially among young people. Socialist Alternative is working towards building a new socialist party, based on Marxist politics. The movement we are building will need a clear anti-capitalist, socialist force within it that argues for a working class centered struggle against Trump and the entire system which has totally outlived its usefulness. If you agree, join us!
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From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

*****Channeling The Grateful Dead Minus…

*****Channeling The Grateful Dead Minus…

From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

No I was never a “Dead Head,” never would have accepted that designation in any case if somebody tried to lay that moniker on me, tried to tie me down with that crowd who lived and breathed (still do) for every tune the Grateful Dead ever produced. In the old days, the days of the 1960s mad dash to seek a newer world that got trashed about seven million ways before the deal went down and “the authorities,” as my mother used to say when speaking of the ruling class or its agents, pulled the hammer down and soured a whole generation, no, make that three generations now, working on a fourth recently born, since they are still furiously trying to keep us in lock-down mode, I went out in San Francisco by the moniker Prince of Love. So it wasn’t about the moniker, wasn’t about being type-cast, just wasn’t into the group, although half, more than half of whatever group I was travelling with at any particular time would have Dead-Heads and Dead music coming out the sound system to be heard in Afghanistan or some such place, personal musical preference is all. 

By the way that "Prince Of Love" moniker was strictly among the brethren, those who were, literally, my mates on the yellow brick road converted school bus, Captain Crunch's bus purchased according to rumor never confirmed by me or admitted to by the Captain for obvious reasons, obvious legal reasons, by money made in a big dope deal, a marijuana/hash deal with some guys south of the border. Hell maybe I shouldn't be saying anything about the source now because who knows who is listening and looking and who knows if there isn't some infinite statute of no limitations on such transactions although I heard somewhere that murder was the only crime tagged with that designation. That old yellow brick road school bus converted into an itinerant home  for wandering waywards and seekers  was a mode of transportation which while not ubiquitous on the California roads, that distinction would go to Volkswagen mini-buses, they were not an infrequent sight and after a while were not remarked on by anybody but tourists averting their eyes and the eyes of their children aged five and up,and cops, the cops usually looking  for that fatal violation, you know, the rear license plate light out, a sagging tire, too many people on the bus which allowed them to haul the beast to the side of the road and give some each dweller some hassle, some hassle man.( That "on the bus," our version of "on the bus" being an expression stolen from Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, our blessed mothers and fathers who had come on the road a few year before us to signify "cool," to signify that one had made the leap from square-dom, to signify until one "got off the bus," that the iterant life was worth pursuing for a while anyway until the dope, the road itself, or about six thousand other reasons to go home, or go stationary for a while.

A group of us sometimes sticking together for months like the Be-Bop Kid, Peter Markin, my closest friend since he hailed from North Adamsville about twenty miles north of my hometown of Carver, Tiny Slim Tim as you might suspect a giant whose real name was Dexter something and Butterfly Swirl (Catherine Clark) from down in Carlsbad who was “slumming” from the perfect wave surfer crowd she hung with in high school to see what the next best thing was in the frenetic California night until she she decided to "get off the bus" and go back to her perfect yellow-haired pruned surfer boy and who every guy on the bus took a shot at, including Be-Bop, and me stuck together longest. (Markin as it turned would stay out on the road for years after the rest of us "got off" the road since psychologically he had much more invested that most of the rest of us in seeing what he called the "new breeze coming through the land" before he ended up badly down in Mexico, all sister crazy, over a busted drug deal he was trying to put together with the cartel boys who were not pleased).

Others, Mustang Sally (you can figure that one out if you know the song by the same name which went over as a wild rock hit when Mustangs, the cars, became the "boss" vehicle replacing the '57 Chevy in the imaginations of the generation of '68), Reefer Jones (ditto on the figuring out the "reefer" part just throw yourselves back to any urban college dorm, student ghetto apartment, rock concert and high school boys’ or girls’ lav when it filtered down to the teenagers after say 1965, 66 and sniff the air for a second-hand high and you will be on the right track), Guy Fawkes (after the high holy Catholic Church English plotter against the Protestant King James I who has had a resurgence lately between the NSA and the young libertarians, at least for wearing anonymous masks), Digger Stewart (after the 17th century English communists led by Gerrard Winstanley up on Saint George’s Hill for a while anyway, a movement before its time which unfortunately depended on the good graces of Lord Fairfax who soon withheld his favor and the whole affair when tumbling down but communists even today I notice still pay homage to those efforts and there is even an appropriate modern folk song The World Turned Upside Down commemorating that struggle) stayed for shorter periods.

I called the Captain Crunch Express home for a couple of years as we went up and down the coast looking for the heart of Saturday night, looking for the great blue-pink American West night as the Be-Bop Kid described it and everybody kind of bought into that idea, hell, maybe just looking to turn the world upside down like those Diggers up on Saint George Hill just looking to be left along to wander although none of us at the time either wanted to work the land somewhere almost all being strictly urban dwellers or find some old broken down house and convert it into a wayward-driven commune, and see if that life was any better than the gruel that was on tap for us by "straight" society, the gruel force-fed to us for no known reason.

The “Express” named after the guy, Captain Crunch (real name Slade Stokes, Haverford College Class of 1958), an older guy of indeterminate means (nice way to put that dope-injected rumor, right) who actually knew Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, knew everybody who was anybody in the West Coast alternative cultural scene (for example could get “boss” tickets for 20 of us to the Fillmore to see the Jefferson Airplane when the Be-Bop Kid “married Butterfly Swirl, before she tired of the road, and after she tired of me, but that is a long story for another time), who bought and rigged the bus complete with outrageous high end sound system, or wink, wink,  got it in some drug trade barter deal, and was some kind of father we never knew a la Jack Kerouac-Neal Cassady/drug lord/ philosopher king to us.

No, as well, I never went to one of the Dead’s sold-out stoned out concerts at the Fillmore (which the Captain also could get tickets for since he knew the Dead drummer whose name I forget and who I think passed away a few years ago), and something of a ceremonial rite of passage for those who did consider themselves “Dead Heads” and insisted that each and every time out they eat so much acid (LSD, blotter, and so on not battery acid or some such thing), smoke so many reefers (for the clueless see reference above to Reefer Jones, student ghettos, dorms  and the like about 1965 and after), swallow some many bennies (speed my drug of choice then and later in law school where I used them just to get through the damn silly case studies we were required to know at the cost of being berated by some professor who had shark’s teeth and was not afraid to use them or leave incriminating slashes) just like the very first time they heard the Dead in order to get that same guitar rush that drove them to eternal fan-dom.

And taking something from sports figures and their superstitions like the baseball players who eat exactly the same thing every day they on some kind of streak, a positive streak, who wear the same outfit, the same faded denim, throng sandals, flowered shirt, male, granny dress, sandals, flowers in hair, female, each time to be washed clean by the Dead magic. Of course those who never gave up the tradition had pretty threadbare outfits something just south of tramp/bum/hobo before Jerry went over the top, went to see the “fixer” man to get well one more time, one time too many. (Jerry should have read Nelson Algren’s The Man With The Golden Arm to know you can never mess with the fixer man, never trust him either especially if he is a junkie too, can never get washed clean no matter what they say).The fixer man no friend as the lyrics to The Pusher Man by Steppenwolf make perfectly clear, goddam. So like I say despite the voodoo macabre stuff I have any number of friends who were/are ardent fans and they seem to be, well, normal, normal except in those flashback moments where they see “colors, man, colors,”  speak of having “far out” experiences when they would/will get ready for a Dead concert.

Remind me to tell you sometime about a friend of mine, a stone-cold Dead Head, from back in Carver, my growing up hometown about thirty miles south of Boston, who to give you an idea of the tenor of the times back then went from a foul-mouthed corner boy looking to do a nickel or dime in some state pen for armed robbery, or at least straight up robbery although if you are going to make a career of that you should probably be armed against the crazies out there, if the ‘60s hadn’t come along, actually using that moniker "foul-mouth" in high school, he said it turned the girls on, and maybe it did, to “Far-Out Phil” when he came West to join us. So even the best of them would succumb to the western winds and the ghost dance night until the wheels kind of fall off ….for a while.  

But here is my take on the Dead just to keep things in perspective, just to keep things right. I, after a couple of years on the road out there, and maybe not directly in the inner circle of the hippie/drug/literary scene but close enough to get tangled up in the new dispensation I liked to look at the connections, the West Coast connections, where a lot of the energy of the 1960s got its start or if started elsewhere got magnified there. Liked to draw the lines, if you will, from the wild boy alienated, there is no other word that says it so well, bikers over in Oakland and the edges of other working-class towns, mostly white, mostly with some kind of Okie/Arkie background roaring up the streets of Squaresville in search of the village daughters and putting the fear in the average citizen who thought Attila the Hun’s kin had descended, but remember that alienated part that is the hook-in to all the other stuff. Hot rod after midnight “chicken run” runners out in the valleys, alienated too but with a little dough and some swag and a hell-bend desire to go fast, go very fast, if for no other reason than to break out of  valley ennui (although they would punch somebody out, fag bait somebody if they ever used such a word in their presence- if they knew what it meant) and surfer boys, coast boys and with a little more laid back approach in search of the perfect wave (read: Nirvana), maybe not quite so alienated because of that golden tan blonde dish sitting on the beach waiting to see if Sir Galahad finds the holy grail, golden tan blonde dishes like Butterfly Swirl who was a fox even when she wore a granny dress, to the “beat” guys Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg and friends running across America just to keep running, writing up a storm, wenching, whoring , pimping, white blue-eyed hipsters “speaking” be-bop to a jaded world, to sainted Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters (and our Captain Crunch, leader of our own merry prankster psychedelic bus), the Hell’s Angels (bad dudes, bad dudes, no question), Fillmore with strobe light beams creating dreams, et. al and you have the skeleton for what went on then, right or wrong. Wasn’t that a time, yes, Lord, wasn’t that a time. And the Dead were right in the mix.