Saturday, June 30, 2018

When Mike Hammer Prowls The Slumming Streets Of LA Town-With The Film Adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me Deadly” In Mind

When Mike Hammer Prowls The Slumming Streets Of LA Town-With The Film Adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me Deadly” In Mind

By Social Critic Donald MacDonald 
“Don’t let anybody tell, anybody from LA, Los Angeles which what we who were actually born call our town out of respect, anyhow tell you that my man, my lover, my boss Mike Hammer isn’t the straightest daddy who ever put on shoe leather.” Those words from Mike’s long time “secretary,” confidante, bait and whatever else Mike Hammer needed on either side of the satin sheets Velma, Velma Proust which is as a good a name as any to call her since under Mike’s expert guidance she had assumed many names in their little bait and switch divorce case work. See Mike had been for those who have been on some other planet for the last fifty years or so the max daddy private investigator in LA, bar none back in the 1950s when such professionals were worth their salt before they all got boggled up with high technology gadgetry and the professional lost it high-end soul. Mike’s specialty, very profitable specialty, taking whichever side paid the most in divorce cases where adultery was the hook to freedom day. Adultery being the most common but mostly the only way to get a fucking divorce before in those marriage forever bullshit days. And Velma, luscious Velma, who could make a dead man rise from his condition was the bait on the male side, the opposite as a rule of his clients who were mainly women who were to gain by the alimony settlement and thus produced nice numbers for the operation.

Velma continued, “I don’t give a fuck about all that noise about Mike screwing every available dame, meaning every dame, in LA just for the sake of doing the deed. When the deal went down, when it looked like curtains for both of us, my daddy only had thoughts of me, me and the danger I was in. You might have remembered the Albert case, the case where a guy was trying to steal our, America’s, atomic secrets, weapons too for some third party, probably the Russian red bastards and my daddy had to step in and save me, and America. No, it was not the case of those goddam commies, the ones they put in the big step off ‘lectric chairs in New York, those Uncle Joe red bastards the Rosenbergs or whatever their names were, Jews though too. This was about Carl Albert the big art dealer who somehow figured that one big atomic score was worth ten million silly commissions for art’s sake. By the way I might as well tell you right now in case I forget to tell after I tell you my daddy’s off-hand heroics just so all you girls out there know the night my daddy saved me I showed him the best time he ever had, played the flute for him all night until he cried “uncle.” So even if he messes around sometimes like all virile men do you know he has my brand on him, has me deep inside him.

“The case was kind of strange from the get-go. Mike, my daddy, I will probably call him both and maybe a couple of times “that bastard” when he is lifting some other girl’s skirt was coming down the Pacific Coast Highway one night late from up in Monterrey where he had just scored on a big settlement for the wife of Harry Brant, yeah, that Brant, the one rolling in brewery dough who was so easy for me to pick up and get between the sheets that for once I felt sorry for a sucker. I offered after Mike got his nasty photographs of me going down on Harry to do him again I was so sorry for him. He turned me down flat but the offer still holds if he ever gets down Los Angeles way. Mike had also scored some serious “tea” so we could get high as kites when he got back into town.      

“Problem was he never got back that night, at least not in one piece. The way he told the story which at the time I found hard to believe but which later events proved to be true, even if not every bit of the truth came out of his beautiful two-timing mouth. As he was cruising down the ocean fresh highway some blonde dish, Cloris something, maybe Leachman, a Texas place of birth on her death certificate who turned out to have no clothes on under her raincoat stopped him in the middle of the road and gave him a story about how she had been held in Encino, in some funny farm for flipped out drug addicts and hard to handle dames whose husbands have them locked up and the key thrown away so they can go play daddy with some less hard to handle honey.                       

“Mike was non-plussed by her story, thought she was crazy and was going to let her off at her request at the Greyhound Bus Station over in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Her story was that she was being held at the funny farm because she knew too much, knew about some secret stuff that would blow the lid off of the town if it ever got out. Knew the players and the bad guys as well. Turned out she was not bullshitting Mike because before they got within a mile of that bus station they were cut off by some bad guys and taken out in the desert and beaten for information. Cloris wouldn’t talk so she took the big kiss-off and Mike didn’t know a damn thing so before the night was out Mike, this Cloris, and Mike’s beautiful car were found in an arroyo. Cloris long dead, the car totaled and Mike all big wounds and broken ego.    

 “That broken ego part would not last for long because as Mike said no self-respecting private eye could let it go for professional reasons. He always would bring up the famous, maybe infamous, Miles Archer case where he took the big step-off from some dizzy dame up in Frisco and it was touch and go whether his partner, Sam, Sam Spade, was going to avenge his death or go along with the dizzy dame. Sam set the gold standard for P.I.s on that one when he turned the frill over and didn’t think twice about whether she would fry or not after she had led him a merry chase and had been the one who had actually pulled the trigger on skirt-crazy Miles. He said he would cry some tears on lonely winter nights over her but would get over it, get over it fast I figured. I often wondered whether Mike would feel the same way, move on fast if something happened to me but now I know that my daddy would cry real tears and that makes me feel good-and kind of horny.         
“Naturally Mike had to find out more about this Cloris, where she lived, who she was connected with. You know the ABCs that every serious P.I. figures out along the way-or gets bounced more often than not. Mike doesn’t mind tangling with bad guys but he is a sucker for even bad dames and that held him back for a while. Seems this Cloris lived in Los Angeles, in that Bunker Hill section of town, run down with whorehouses, strip joints and B-girl lure low-life bars complete with con artists and an occasional hipster who wanted to get kicks, dope or whatever else he or she might be into. I had a short time job at Eddie’s Bar, a famous hang-out for hipsters but I left shortly thereafter because as much as I like kicks just like the next girl the scene was too weird for me. I went over to Santa Monica near the pier working at The Grille where I picked Mike up one night and he took me out of that life-and put me in this crazy gumshoe life as it turned out.   

“This Cloris had a roommate, or who claimed to be her roommate, Gabby, who turned out to be the bad girl that Mike got caught up with before he found out who she really was, found out she was working for a guy named Sobern, Sobel something like that we never did find out his real name until after the fire when it came out Albert. Her play was to get Mike to protect her from the same bad guys as were after Cloris. She played Mike like a fiddle, he says no but I am sure she took him under the sheets before he consummated the contract, the job. The whole caper involved finding this small box that was supposed to be valuable and would put whoever had possession of it on easy street. Mike figured it was worth a shot and maybe he would get some serious dough for once without having to dirty his (and my) hands with low-rent dirty pictures in a divorce proceeding. To me it sounded like the same bullshit that Mary, Mary Astor I think her name was, threw at Sam Spade about a valuable bird, maybe a falcon, that was just there for the plucking. 

“This Gabby (and Sobel too) thought Cloris had given the box to Mike while she was in the car or at some point so Mike became a central target for the bad guys to follow. Eventually they got tired of following Mike and they picked me up, kidnapped me and took me to a beach house up near Malibu. That got my daddy’s attention alright, got how he felt about me straight for once in his crooked life. He found the small box in some gym locker but before he could do anything about it somebody, one of the bad guys grabbed it. So before the end the small box and I were in the same beach-house. One night Mike tailed Gabby there and that was that that. Well not quite. It seems that Gabby had as big eyes for the easy street as Sobel and she tried to get the damn thing away from him. What she didn’t know, maybe Sobel either, was the thing was radioactive, was a small sample of what any government, any rich individual would pay plenty for to have such power.

“The problem was that if anybody opened the box fully the damn thing would ignite. That is what happened when Gabby and Sobel were wrestling for control. The house began to burn, burn fast. My daddy yelled his head off to find where they had stashed me and he eventually found me. Found me and we ran like crazy away from that blazing inferno. I already told you what I did for my daddy that night. But you know I still wonder about that Gabby, about what she did to get Mike to do her dirty work for her. Maybe I will ask him someday, yeah, maybe.    


On The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967 -Jim Morrison and The Doors- WE WANT THE WORLD AND WE WANT IT NOW!

On The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967 -Jim Morrison and The Doors- WE WANT THE WORLD AND WE WANT IT NOW!

Zack James comment: My oldest brother, Alex, who was in the thick of the Summer of Love along with his corner boys from North Adamsville above all the later Peter Paul Markin who led them out to the Wild West said that the few times that he/they saw The Doors either in Golden Gate Park at free, I repeat, free outdoor concerts or at the Avalon or Fillmore which were a great deal more expensive, say two or three dollars, I repeat two or three dollars that The Doors when they were on, meaning when Jim Morrison was in high dungeon, was in a drug-induced trance and acted the shaman for the audience nobody was better. Having been about a decade behind and having never seen Morrison in high dungeon or as a drug-induced shaman but having listened to various Doors compilations I think for once old Alex was onto something. Listen up.         



In my jaded youth I developed an ear for roots music, whether I was conscious of that fact or not. The origin of that interest first centered on the blues, country and city with the likes of Son House , Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James, then early rock and roll, you know the rockabillies and R&B crowd, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck, Roy, Big Joe and Ike, and later, with the folk revival of the early 1960’s, folk music, especially the protest to high heaven sort, Bob Dylan, Dave Von Ronk, Joan Baez, etc. I have often wondered about the source of this interest. I am, and have always been a city boy, and an Eastern city boy at that. Meaning rootless or not meaningfully rooted in any of the niches mentioned above. Nevertheless, over time I have come to appreciate many more forms of roots music than in my youth. Cajun, Tex-Mex, old time dust bowl ballads a la Woody Guthrie, cowboy stuff with the likes of Bob Wills and Milton Brown, Carter Family-etched mountain music and so on. The subject of the following review, Jim Morrison and the Doors, is an example.

The Doors are roots music? Well, yes, in the sense that one of the branches of rock and roll derives from early rhythm and blues and in the special case of Jim Morrison, leader of the Doors, the attempt to musically explore the shamanic elements in the Western American Native American culture that drove the beat of many of his trance-like songs like The End. Some of that influence is apparent here in this essentially greatest hits album.

More than one rock critic has argued that on their good nights when the dope and booze were flowing, Morrison was in high trance, and they were fired up the Doors were the best rock and roll band ever created. Those critics will get no argument here. What a reviewer with that opinion has to do is determine whether any particular CD captures the Doors at their best. This reviewer advises that if you want to buy only one Doors CD that would be The Best of the Doors. If you want to trace their evolution more broadly, or chronologically, other CDs do an adequate job but they are helter-skelter. This CD edition has, with maybe one or two exceptions, all the stuff rock critics in one hundred years will be dusting off when they want to examine what it was like when men (and women, think Bonnie Raitt, Wanda Jackson, et. al) played rock and roll for keeps.

A note on Jim Morrison as an icon of the 1960’s. He was part of the trinity – Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix who lived fast, lived way too fast, and died young. The slogan of the day (or hour)- Drugs, sex, and rock and roll. And we liked that idea however you wanted to mix it up. Then. Their deaths were part of the price we felt we had to pay if we were going to be free. And be creative. Even the most political among us, including this writer, felt those cultural winds blowing across the continent and counted those who espoused this alternative vision as part of the chosen. The righteous headed to the “promise land.” Unfortunately those who believed that we could have a far-reaching positive cultural change via music or “dropping out” without a huge societal political change proved to be wrong long ago. But, these were still our people.

Know this as well. Whatever excesses were committed by the generation of ’68, and there were many, were mainly made out of ignorance and foolishness. Our opponents, exemplified by one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal, spent every day of their lives as a matter of conscious, deliberate policy raining hell down on the peoples of the world, the minorities in this country, and anyone else who got in their way. Forty years of “cultural wars” in revenge by his protégés, hangers-on and their descendants has been a heavy price to pay for our youthful errors. Enough.

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"- Poet's Corner- Allen Ginsberg's "America"

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"- Poet's Corner- Allen Ginsberg's "America"

In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)

By Book Critic Zack James

To be honest I know about On The Road Jack Kerouac’s epic tale of his generation’s search for something, maybe the truth, maybe just kicks, stuff, important stuff has happened or some such happening strictly second-hand. His generation’s search looking for a name, found what he, or someone associated with him, maybe the bandit poet Gregory Corso, king of the mean New York streets, mean, very mean indeed in a junkie-hang-out world around Times Square when that place was up to its neck in flea-bit hotels, all night Joe and Nemo’s and the trail of the “fixer” man on every corner, con men coming out your ass too, called the “beat” generation.  Beat, beat of the jazzed up drum line backing some sax player searching for the high white note, what somebody told me, maybe my older brother Alex thy called “blowing to the China seas” out in West Coast jazz and blues circles, dead beat, run out on money, women, life, leaving, and this is important no forwarding address for the desolate repo man to hang onto, dread beat, nine to five, 24/7/365 that you will get caught back up in the spire wind up like your freaking staid, stay at home parents, beaten down, ground down like dust puffed away just for being, hell, let’s just call it being, beatified beat like saintly and all high holy Catholic incense and a story goes with it about a young man caught up in a dream, like there were not ten thousand other religions in the world to feast on- you can take your pick of the meanings, beat time meanings. Hell, join the club they all did, the guys, and it was mostly guys who hung out on the mean streets of New York, Chi town, North Beach in Frisco town cadging twenty-five cents a night flea-bag sleeps, half stirred left on corner coffees and cigarette stubs when the Bull Durham ran out).

I was too young to have had anything but a vague passing reference to the thing, to that “beat” thing since I was probably just pulling out of diapers then, maybe a shade bit older but not much. I got my fill, my brim fill later through my oldest brother Alex. Alex, and his crowd, more about that in a minute, but even he was only washed clean by the “beat” experiment at a very low level, mostly through reading the book (need I say the book was On The Road) and having his mandatory two years of living on the road around the time of the Summer of Love, 1967 an event whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year as well. So even Alex and his crowd were really too young to have been washed by the beat wave that crashed the continent toward the end of the 1950s on the wings of Allan Ginsburg’s Howl and Jack’s travel book of a different kind. The kind that moves generations, or I like to think the best parts of those cohorts. These were the creation documents the latter which would drive Alex west before he finally settled down to his career life (and to my sorrow and anger never looked back).              

Of course anytime you talk about books and poetry and then add my brother Alex’s name into the mix that automatically brings up memories of another name, the name of the late Peter Paul Markin. Markin, for whom Alex and the rest of the North Adamsville corner boys, Jack, Jimmy, Si, Josh, and a few others still alive recently had me put together a tribute book for in connection with that Summer of Love, 1967 just mentioned.  Markin was the vanguard guy, the volunteer odd-ball unkempt mad monk seeker who got several of them off their asses and out to the West Coast to see what there was to see. To see some stuff that Markin had been speaking of for a number of years before (and which nobody in the crowd paid attention to, or dismissed out of hand what they called “could give a rat’s ass” about in the local jargon which I also inherited in those cold, hungry bleak 1950s cultural days in America) and which can be indirectly attributed to the activities of Jack, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, that aforementioned bandit poet who ran wild on the mean streets among the hustlers, conmen and whores of the major towns of the continent, William Burroughs, the Harvard-trained junkie  and a bunch of other guys who took a very different route for our parents who were of the same generation as them but of a very different world.

But it was above all Jack’s book, Jack’s book which had caused a big splash in 1957, and had ripple effects into the early 1960s (and even now certain “hip” kids acknowledge the power of attraction that book had for their own developments, especially that living simple, fast and hard part). Made the young, some of them anyway have to spend some time thinking through the path of life ahead by hitting the vagrant dusty sweaty road. Maybe not hitchhiking, maybe not going high speed high through the ocean, plains, mountain desert night but staying unsettled for a while anyway.     

Like I said above Alex was out two years and other guys, other corner boys for whatever else you wanted to call them that was their niche back in those days and were recognized as such in the town not always to their benefit, from a few months to a few years. Markin started first back in the spring of 1967 but was interrupted by his fateful induction into the Army and service, if you can call it that, in Vietnam and then several more years upon his return before his untimely end. With maybe this difference from today’s young who are seeking alternative roads away from what is frankly bourgeois society and was when Jack wrote although nobody except commies and pinkos called it that. Alex, Frankie Riley the acknowledged leader, Jack Callahan and the rest, Markin included, were strictly from hunger working class kids who when they hung around Tonio Pizza Parlor were as likely to be thinking up ways to grab money fast any way they could or of getting into some   hot chick’s pants as anything else. Down at the base of society when you don’t have enough of life’s goods or have to struggle too much to get even that little “from hunger” takes a big toll on your life. I can testify to that part because Alex was not the only one in the James family to go toe to toe with the law, it was a close thing for all us boys as it had been with Jack when all is said and done. But back then dough and sex after all was what was what for corner boys, maybe now too although you don’t see many guys hanging on forlorn Friday night corners anymore.

What made this tribe different, the Tonio Pizza Parlor corner boys, was mad monk Markin. Markin called by Frankie Riley the “Scribe” from the time he came to North Adamsville from across town in junior high school and that stuck all through high school. The name stuck because although Markin was as larcenous and lovesick as the rest of them he was also crazy for books and poetry. Christ according to Alex, Markin was the guy who planned most of the “midnight creeps” they called then. Although nobody in their right minds would have the inept Markin actually execute the plan that was for smooth as silk Frankie to lead. That operational sense was why Frankie was the leader then (and maybe why he was a locally famous lawyer later who you definitely did not want to be on the other side against him). Markin was also the guy who all the girls for some strange reason would confide in and thus was the source of intelligence about who was who in the social pecking order, in other words, who was available, sexually or otherwise. That sexually much more important than otherwise. See Markin always had about ten billion facts running around his head in case anybody, boy or girl, asked him about anything so he was ready to do battle, for or against take your pick.

The books and the poetry is where Jack Kerouac and On The Road come into the corner boy life of the Tonio’s Pizza Parlor life. Markin was something like an antennae for anything that seemed like it might help create a jailbreak, help them get out from under. Later he would be the guy who introduced some of the guys to folk music when that was a big thing. (Alex never bought into that genre, still doesn’t, despite Markin’s desperate pleas for him to check it out. Hated whinny Dylan above all else) Others too like Kerouac’s friend Allen Ginsburg and his wooly homo poem Howl from 1956 which Markin would read sections out loud from on lowdown dough-less, girl-less Friday nights. And drive the strictly hetero guys crazy when he insisted that they read the poem, read what he called a new breeze was coming down the road. They could, using that term from the times again, have given a rat’s ass about some fucking homo faggot poem from some whacko Jewish guy who belonged in a mental hospital. (That is a direct quote from Frankie Riley at the time via my brother Alex’s memory bank.)

Markin flipped out when he found out that Kerouac had grown up in Lowell, a working class town very much like North Adamsville, and that he had broken out of the mold that had been set for him and gave the world some grand literature and something to spark the imagination of guys down at the base of society like his crowd with little chance of grabbing the brass ring. So Markin force-marched the crowd to read the book, especially putting pressure on my brother who was his closest friend then. Alex read it, read it several times and left the dog- eared copy around which I picked up one day when I was having one of my high school summertime blues. Read it through without stopping almost like he wrote the final version of the thing on a damn newspaper scroll. So it was through Markin via Alex that I got the Kerouac bug. And now on the 60th anniversary I am passing on the bug to you.           


There was a time when Allen Ginsberg's poetry 'spoke' to me and, and I am sure, to others from the "Generation of '68". His 'beat'/pacifist take on the struggle for power- heal thyself- rang through many heads-until the beasts got serious at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, and in other locales, before and after, as well. Still Ginsberg's mid-1950's poetry shook things up for lots of people. Here's why.

"America" by Allen Ginsberg, 1956

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet. 
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they're all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the 
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1935 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels--In Pete Seeger’s House- The Real “Walk The Line” Couple, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels--In Pete Seeger’s House- The Real “Walk The Line” Couple, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

DVD Review

Rainbow Quest, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Roscoe Holcomb, Jean Redpath, Shanachie, 2005

In a year that has featured various 90th birthday celebrations it is very appropriate to review some of the 1960’s television work of Pete Seeger, one of the premier folk anthologists, singers, transmitters of the tradition and “keeper” of the folk flame. This DVD is a “must see” for anyone who is interested in the history of the folk revival of the 1960’s, the earnest, folksy style of Pete Seeger or the work of the also tradition-oriented , although that fact was previously unknown to me, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash (she of the famous Carter Family tribe. How is that for traditional bloodlines?). This is not only a musical treat seeing the real subjects of the hit movie of a few years ago, “Walk The Line” that got me interested, at least somewhat, in Johnny Cash’s music but filled with information about the Carter Family that I have been interested in for a long time. Pete, by the way, couldn’t be more pleased in working with this pair and they regale us with some old Carter Family songs like “Worried Man Blues”.

Also included on this DVD is a performance by the legendary Kentucky mountain music man Roscoe Holcombe that John Cohen, a previously reviewed performer on this series with the New Lost City Ramblers, did great service to the folk revival by bringing out of the Kentucky hills in the early 1960s to the wilds of ….. Greenwich Village. Pete wears his “world music” hat in this segment as well as he also brings in Scottish folksinger Jean Redpath in to link up the music of the Scotch-Irish immigrant Kentucky hills and the old country. A nice folk history moment.

This DVD contains some very interesting and, perhaps, rare television film footage from two of Pete Seeger shows, packaged in one DVD, entitled “Rainbow Quest” (the whole series consists of six DVDs). Each show is introduced (and ends, as well) by Pete singing his old classic “If I Had A Golden Threat” and then he proceeds to introduce, play guitar and banjo and sing along with the above-mentioned artists.

One final note: This is a piece of folk history. Pete Seeger is a folk legend. However, the production values here are a bit primitive and low budget. Moreover, for all his stature as a leading member of the folk pantheon Pete was far from the ideal host. His halting speaking style and almost bashful manner did not draw his guests out. Let’s just put it this way the production concept used then would embarrass a high school television production class today. But, Pete, thanks for the history lesson.

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*The Roots Of The Roots- The Old Country (Somebody’s) Roots Music of Scotland’s Jean Redpath

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*The Roots Of The Roots- The Old Country (Somebody’s) Roots Music of Scotland’s Jean Redpath

CD Review

Jean Redpath, Jean Redpath, Philo Records, 1975

Not every roots artist that I review in this space as part of my task of doing my part to preserve and keep alive some of those traditions is on my A-list. Nor is every such artist someone who I have taken notice of from my own personal researches or predilections. That is the case with the Scottish balladeer under review, Jean Redpath. Of course I knew her name, as one must who knows something about the origins of the Child Ballads that form the basis of the music that was brought over to American in the initial WASP waves of immigration, especially after the victory in the American revolution. I also, vaguely, remember hearing her back in the days on those woe begotten Sunday nights when I scrumptiously listened to those folk radio shows I that became addicted to in my youth. What got me thinking about reviewing her work now, however, was a little more indirect, as sometimes happens in tracing the roots of American music.

I have just finished up reviewing a six series set (two one hour shows per set) of Pete Seeger’s 1960s black and white television folk show “Rainbow Quest”. The format of that show was, aside form some stellar solo performances by Pete, to bring in a guest, or guests, from some up and coming “rediscovered” traditional music genre. On one particular show he featured the legendary Kentucky mountain music banjo/guitar/vocalist Roscoe Holcomb (then recently discovered by Pete’s half-brother, the late Mike Seeger, I believe). Old Roscoe put on one hell of a show doing old time, but seemingly familiar, mountain tunes.

Familiar in the sense that one knew the lyrics (or some part of them) or the melody, or something about the songs. And then Pete brings out Jean Redpath who then proceeds to sing the same kind of songs as old Roscoe. You see that part of the American songbook that he was singing from came from his old country, the Scottish/Irish tradition reflecting the backgrounds of those who long, long ago came over stopped for a minute on the crowded coast then moved on and started their westward treks. In a sense then, as you will note here, Ms. Redpath is singing part of the American songbook. Or Roscoe was singing part of the Scottish songbook. Either way this is good stuff. Listen up.

Barbara Allen-Child Ballad-Variation

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
And every youth cried well away
For her name was Barbara Allen

Twas in the merry month of May
The green buds were a swelling
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen

He sent a servant unto her
To the place she was dwelling
Saying you must come to his deathbed now
If your name be Barbara Allen

Slowly slowly she got up
Slowly slowly she came nigh him
And the only words to him she said
Young man I think you're dying

As she was walking oer the fields
She heard the death bell knelling
And every stroke it seemed to say
Hardhearted Barbara Allen

Oh mother mother make my bed
Make it long and make it narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I'll die for him tomorrow

They buried her in the old churchyard
They buried him in the choir
And from his grave grew a red red rose
From her grave a green briar

They grew and grew to the steeple top
Till they could grow no higher
And there they twined in a true love's knot
Red rose around green briar

Notes From The Jazz Age- F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side Of Paradise (1920)-A Book Review

Notes From The Jazz Age- F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side Of Paradise (1920)-A Book Review

Book Review

By Zack James   

This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, New York, 1920     

Josh Breslin, the old time cultural critic, mostly in the music and film milieu but occasionally with an adventurous foray into the printed word which had caused him more anguish from angry authors, had to laugh a couple of years back when approaching retirement after many years of free-lance journalism for publishing houses, small presses and an occasional off-beat journal he decided that he would review a wide selection of books by authors long dead. As one might expect he would therefore not have to deal with those troublesome and irate authors since they would have been long in the grave and beyond care for what some early 21st century adventurer might have to say, or not say, about some literary gem. Or so he thought when he attempted to do a short review of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s early coming of age novel, This Side Of Paradise.     

Now everybody, everybody that counted for Josh anyway, mostly other reviewers and their hangers-on knew that The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald’s masterwork, knew that it was one of the great classics of the old-time “dead white men” pantheon. He would not when reviewing Paradise try to take that masterpiece away from its proper place in the literary pantheon but instead to tweak a few laconic noses he decided to argue that Paradise was on a level with Gatsby, that it should book-end the classic. Published such deliberate effrontery in several small literary journals and more importantly the literary blog, American Musings, a blog which several well-paid professional book reviewers, college professors, semi-literate high school English teachers, a smattering of graduate students in American Literature and most importantly a cohort of doctoral and post-doctoral literary lights out to make a reputation as gunslingers in the mad dash of that lightless world read and wrote for. Naturally the damn thing caused something of a fire storm as a result. Maybe you did not hear about it if you are not a devotee of such endeavors and just went about your life in ignorance of such earth-shattering blazes. But in that good night circle guns were drawn and ready, acid was added to the pen of many who saw that they could take down a two-bit has-been reviewer who obviously had not read anything since about age twelve-except maybe comic books.

That was the exact reaction that Josh had expected, had savored the prospect of igniting on fire. Had worried, worried to perdition that when he wrote the review nobody, no sensible person could, give a rat’s ass (his corner boy expression never entirely dismissed from his adult vocabulary) a couple of books almost one hundred years old from a guy who was on that “dead white men” extinction list mentioned above. He smiled with secret glee when the first review by a lonely undergraduate student who was trying to muscle herself up the food-chain by condemning Josh to East of Eden took him to task for even mentioning both books in the same universe much less in the same small breathe. Dared Josh to come up with one paragraph, one which she put in bold-face for emphasis as if Josh was some errant schoolboy that came up to that last couple of paragraph when voice Nick talks after Gatsby’s bloody demise about the feeling of those long ago Dutch sailors who came upon the “fresh, green breast of land” that would later become Long Island and had upon viewing had inflamed their sense of wonder. A paragraph she had written her freshman term paper on for American Literature which the professor had given her an A on-so there.

Josh, again acting as the provocateur, in return cited the dance scene in the club in Minneapolis with Amory and his prey, Isabelle, as he attempted against all convention to grab a small kiss from her sweet lips. Argued that after all Paradise was about the roamings and doings a young adult trying to figure out his place in the world and who was finding it not easy to find his niche. Josh contrasted that with the too uppity habits of a small-time hood from nowhere USA hustling whatever there was to hustle trying to step up in class out with the big boys and got pushed back down the heap once he got in over his head with Daisy and what she stood for-wealth, conformity and letting the servants clean up the mess.        

That comment seemed to have put that earnest undergraduate in her place since she went mute before Josh’s logic but no sooner had that dust-up settled down that Professor Lord, the big-time retired English teacher from Harvard whose books of literary criticism set many a wannabe writers’ hearts a-flutter took up the cudgels in defense of Gatsby. Pointed out that  the novel was an authentic slice of life about the American scene in the scattershot post-World War I scene and that Paradise was nothing but the well-written but almost non-literary efforts of an aspiring young author telling, retailing was the word the good professor used, his rather pedestrian and totally conventional youth-based comments. Those sentiments in turn got Professor Jamison, the well-known Fitzgerald scholar from Princeton, Scott’s old school, in a huff about how the novel represented the Jazz Age from a younger more innocent perspective as well as Gatsby had done for the older free-falling set who had graduated from proms and social dances. So the battle raged.    

Josh laughed as the heavy-weights from the academy went slamming into the night and into each other’s bailiwicks and stepped right to the sidelines once he had started his little fireball rolling. Laughed harder when he, having had a few too many scotches at his favorite watering hole, Jack’s outside Harvard Square, thought about the uproar he would create when he tweaked a few noses declaring Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as the definite Jazz Age novel and put Gatsby in the bereft dime store novel category by comparison. Let the sparks fly.   

Songs For Our Times-Build The Resistance-Pete Seeger's The Emperor Is Naked Today

Songs For Our Times-Build The Resistance-Pete Seeger's The Emperor Is Naked Today       

During, let’s say the Obama administration or, hell, even the Bush era, for example  we could be gentle angry people over this or that notorious war policy and a few others matters and songs like Give Peace A Chance, We Shall Overcome, or hell, even that Kumbaya which offended the politically insensitive. From Day One of the Trump administration though the gloves have come off-we are in deep trouble. So we too need to take off our gloves-and fast as the cold civil war that has started in the American dark night heads to some place we don’t want to be. And the above song from another tumultuous time, makes more sense to be marching to. Build the resistance!


As the sun
Rose on the rim of eastern sky
And this one
World that we love was trying to die
We said stand!
And sing out for a great hooray-o!
Your child may be the one to exclaim
The emperor is naked today-o!

Four winds that blow
Four thousand tongues, with the word: survive
Four billion souls
Striving today to stay alive
We say stand!
And sing out for a great hooray-o!
Why don't we be the ones to exclaim
The emperor is naked today-o!

Men - have failed
Power has failed, with papered gold.
Shalom - salaam
Will yet be a word where slaves were sold
We say stand!
And sing out for a great hooray-o!
We yet may find the way to exclaim
The emperor is naked today-o!

Originally titled "As the Sun"
Words and Music by Pete Seeger (1970)
(c) 1977, 1979 by Fall River Music Inc.

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-“They Are Starving for Change” - The Struggle for Justice at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GDCP)

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“They Are Starving for Change” - The Struggle for Justice at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GDCP)

Jun 22, 2012
Eljeer HawkinsDelma Jackson

"If you’re black, you were born in jail.” - Malcolm X

The prisoners of Georgia state, California’s Pelican Bay, Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, and the Lucasville prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary have utilized the weapons of strikes and hunger strikes to decry the deplorable conditions prisoners face in the prison-industrial complex.

There are six million people under “correctional supervision” in America. There are more black and brown men in the criminal justice system today than there were in slavery in 1850, as women are the fastest-growing section of the population within the prison system. As Georgia state prisoner Shawn Whatley states: “Prison is the modern-day slavery, the largest slave plantation...All prison labor is done due to force, coercion, trickery, threats of punishment, or after punishment is applied.”

After the historic Georgia state prisoners’ strike in December 2010, the prisoners of the GDCP in Jackson are facing daily violence. The case of Georgia state prisoner Miguel Jackson speaks volumes to the harsh and vile conditions prisoners face. Miguel’s wife Delma Jackson tells his story.

- Eljeer Hawkins for Justice


We Demand Justice for Miguel and the Hunger Strikers
by Delma Jackson

In January 1994, the “Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 440 (SB 440) which gives the Superior/Adult court exclusive jurisdiction over youth ages 13 to 17 who have been arrested for one of seven violent offenses, otherwise known as the "Seven Deadly Sins." These crimes include: murder, rape, armed robbery (with a firearm), aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and voluntary manslaughter.”

In 1995 Miguel was convicted of armed robbery; it was his first offense, and he waived his right to a jury trial. He was convicted and sentenced by Judge William Daniel under the Georgia Seven Deadly Sins law. Judge Daniel was unfamiliar with the new law and he somehow thought that Miguel would be eligible for parole after 10 years. The seven deadly sins law states that parole is not an option if convicted of one the seven deadly sins. Judge Daniel passed away two years after he sentenced Miguel and we have been unable to get his sentenced corrected.

The Day That Shook Our World

On December 31, 2010, Miguel was handcuffed and beaten by correctional officers at Smith State Prison. He was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. That night they took Miguel back to Smith State Prison. The following morning someone took pictures of Miguel and sent them to his mother and I. We immediately drove to Smith State Prison and attempted to visit with Miguel because it was our visitation day. The prison authorities refused to allow us to visit with him despite our deep concerns for Miguel's safety.

They told us that Miguel was okay and nothing had happened to him. Unbeknownst to them, we had pictures that said otherwise. We asked them to just let us see him to give us peace of mind and they refused. They advised us that Warden Donnie Thompson had given them orders that if we did not leave, they would call the police and have us arrested.

Needless to say, we left and headed back to Atlanta to find help for Miguel. We contacted Channel 11 News and they got us in contact with the NAACP. We retained our attorney Mario Williams on Monday January 3, 2011. The following day he went to visit with Miguel, and Warden Donnie Thompson refused to let him speak with his client. Mr. Williams left and spoke with the Superior Court Judge of Tattnall county. He showed the judge the pictures of Miguel, and the Judge called the prison and instructed Warden Thompson to allow Mr. Williams to see his client. Mr. Williams returned to the prison and Warden Thompson would not let him see Miguel.

The head attorney for the Georgia Department of Corrections contacted Warden Thompson and instructed him to allow Mr. Williams to see Miguel and the Warden still refused. Mr. Williams was informed that they would make a way for him to see his client and assured him that Miguel would be moved immediately. He also advised Mr. Williams that he would be able to visit Miguel the following day at the new institution. Miguel was transferred to GDCP in Jackson, Georgia where he has been since January 4, 2011.

Miguel suffers daily for the injuries he sustained at Smith State Prison. He has chronic migraine headaches, a broken nose, and he suffers from post traumatic syndrome. He still has the hammer indentations in his head. He has been complaining about the headaches and has been told that he would be seeing a neurologist, which still hasn’t happened. The medication he was recently given for his headaches is actually Neurontin. Neurontin (gabapentin) is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. It affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain. Neurontin is also used in adults to treat nerve pain caused by herpes virus or shingles (herpes zoster). Why would they give him Neurontin medicine when he is complaining of severe headaches and pain in his knees?

On Sunday, June 11, nine inmates along with Miguel declared a hunger strike stating that they “are starving for change."

The failure to treat Miguel for the injuries he sustained at the hands of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) officers has caused extreme stress and worry for the our family. The GDOC don’t even follow their own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) examples below:

Ref# II0090001 Section N-8: Inmates shall be assigned all of his or her property consistent with the length of assignment and security need of the unit. (INMATES ARE NOT GIVEN THEIR PROPERTY)

Section N-5: Visitation shall be the same as the general population. (General population has open visitation; Miguel's visits are behind a glass)

Section N-10: Inmates may order items from the commissary. Items for the commissary may be withheld if determined by the Correctional Supervisor to be a threat to the security of the administrative Segregation Unit.

Exercise shall be available five hours per week, one hour per day. (This is not happening: there is a shortage of guards, so inmates are not given time to exercise.

Miguel has been held in maximum security for 18 months. He is being punished for officers beating him, and the officers are going on with their lives as if nothing happened. Where is the justice in that?

Urgent Action Needed!

We must demand justice for Miguel Jackson and other Georgia State prisoners who are being targeted and brutalized for exposing their inhumane conditions and standing up for their most basic human rights.

Pastor Glasgow is organizing a solidarity fasting for the hunger strike inmates including Miguel Jackson and against the inhumane torturous acts of Georgia prison officials. He’s hosting a rally at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday June 29,2012 from 12-2pm. Pastor Glasgow is calling on all to come and stand with him and other groups for Miguel Jackson and all inmates being treated wrongly throughout the country.

Please immediately make phone calls and send emails and/or letters to Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, as well as Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (contact info listed below). Also, help spread the word by re-posting this solidarity appeal on blogs, email lists, social media, etc. If you are part of an organization, send letters and make calls in the name of your group.

Please send copies of protest letters to For more information, contact Socialist Alternative at (206) 526-7185 or

Register your protest and support for the 10 GDCP hunger strikers and demand justice by contacting:

Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison
PHONE:(770) 504-2000 / FAX: (770) 504-2006

Brian Owens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections

Call: 478-992-5258 (This is the number for Owens’ administrative assistant Peggy Chapman. Urge her to give him the message.)

Call: 478-992-5367 (This is the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official channel for raising concerns over prisoner treatment)

Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia

Call: 404-656-1776

Send the Governor a letter online by clicking here.

Letters can also be mailed or faxed:
Office of the Governor Nathan Deal, State of Georgia
203 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
Fax: 404-657-7332

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-What Happened to Occupy?

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What Happened to Occupy?

Jun 27, 2012
Greg Beiter, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 Shop Steward, Seattle, WA (personal capacity)

SEATTLE--Groupings within the Occupy movement here in Seattle and around the country called for a May 1 "general strike" to protest wealth inequality and corporate dominance.

Over a thousand came out to demonstrate against the underlying logic of the capitalist system. However, midway through the day, some Black Bloc anarchist protesters smashed windows and clashed with police.

The methods used here by a few dozen anarchists contrast with how the Occupy movement operated in its beginnings last fall in New York City. By occupying Zuccotti Park near Wall Street to protest the massive wealth and power disparity in the U.S. and organizing mass marches, the movement attracted active support from workers and youth and the sympathy of tens of millions.

When videos of New York police pepper-spraying non-violent protesters went viral on the internet and were played repeatedly on TV news, Occupy protests spread across the country nearly overnight.

Despite the movement's rapid initial success, as a whole it has not been able to move beyond occupying public spaces. When local authorities broke up encampments, much of the momentum and direction of the movement was further dissipated.

Tens of thousands came out to protests and occupations. But millions more were radicalized by the movement's message and implicit criticism of capitalism. Unfortunately, Occupy today remains a shadow of its former self. This leaves those inspired to action left without an active movement to join to challenge corporate control over society.

It is important to ask: What went wrong? What can activists learn from this experience to build a more effective movement to challenge capitalism and corporate power in the future?

While Occupy was successful at bringing tens of thousands of young people and workers into action, many for their first protests ever, it was not able to mobilize the wider mass of the population - the tens of millions that opinion polls showed sympathized with the movement's message. Mass movements of millions protesting in the streets are what have brought about every progressive social change in U.S. history – from the right to organize a union to civil rights for African Americans.

Why demands are necessary for successful mass struggle

What could Occupy have done to mobilize its widespread sympathy? This was heavily debated amongst Occupy activists. The key question centered on the issue of demands.

Socialists and other activists within the movement argued from the beginning that to mobilize more working and young people into struggle, Occupy would have to adopt specific demands. Occupy needed to be seen as fighting to alleviate the problems that affect them. They could have done this by calling for taxing the rich to stop budget cuts to public services, for a massive public jobs program, and for student debt forgiveness, among other demands.

Unfortunately, some within the movement opposed the idea of unifying demands altogether. Some anarchists and anti-capitalist activists opposed demands that called for reforms within capitalism, arguing that consciousness within the movement was ahead of this.

While it's true that the consciousness of many activists within Occupy was more radical than the rest of society, the key goal of the movement should be to pull the millions sympathetic to the movement closer to it. During certain historical periods, consciousness can rapidly leap forward as millions radicalize under the impact of events. Occupy's sudden spread from New York City to hundreds of other cities was a small example. But a larger part of this process is the movement engaging with the broad masses of the population, those whose consciousness is moving towards the movement but who haven't yet moved into struggle.

Demands are a key tool for transforming passive sympathy into active support, turning a supporter into an activist. By showing people that the movement has taken up the issues that directly affect their lives and is fighting for them, millions more can be drawn into struggle.

A good example of this is the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and '70s. Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders and organizations, for example, demanded an end to segregation and the creation of jobs in black communities as a way of pulling wider layers of sympathetic African American workers and youth into marches, protests, and sit-ins. Just protesting existing conditions wasn't enough to motivate them to make the sacrifices needed in order to enter into the struggle. They needed to hear what the movement was concretely fighting for, what it was demanding that would genuinely improve their daily lives.

Having slogans like "for the 99%" is useful, but that alone won't advance the movement if further demands don't explain how it will fight for the 99%. Recognizing this fact, sections of Occupy in certain areas have built effective struggles around concrete demands and specific attacks on working people. In Minneapolis and other cities, the Occupy Homes campaign has fought foreclosures and prevented banks and police from evicting struggling homeowners. This campaign has directly linked Occupy activists with working people and raised useful demands like reducing outstanding loan principles on "underwater" homes and calling for city- and state-wide moratoriums on home foreclosures.

From reforms to system change

At the same time, one of the best features of Occupy was that it didn't focus on just one area of oppression or exploitation under capitalism, but called into question the entire system. Anarchists also played a useful role inside the movement by pointing out that capitalism was the root cause of most of the daily miseries of our society. They correctly argued for calling out and fighting capitalism itself, not just its symptoms.

However, our movement won't contribute to bringing about an end to capitalism by just declaring that we are against it. We need to raise demands that would massively benefit working and poor people, like heavy taxes on corporate profits and the rich to fund jobs and social programs, a single-payer healthcare system, nationalizing the banks, and investing in renewable energy. This would win over millions of supporters, who could be brought into active struggle for these reforms.

But even these basic progressive changes would be completely intolerable to corporate America, meaning that a consistent struggle for these demands will quickly be confronted with the need to fight the capitalist system itself. The illusion that capitalism can be reformed to be more humane must be shattered. Socialists have a key role to play by pointing out the ways that big business and the profit system function as the key obstacles to achieving the reforms sought by workers and youth and offering the alternative vision of a socialist society.

In terms of concrete strategy to win, this means declaring political independence from both parties of big business so as to continue to fight for demands on the basis of what working people need, not on the basis of what is “politically realistic” in Washington.

Unfortunately, most people don't just wake up one day and decide they're against capitalism and for a socialist alternative. It typically takes struggle and bitter experience. But the first step is drawing them into struggle, where they can see for themselves how the politicians, corporate chiefs, media, and police are not on their side. When confronted with a movement that challenges their power, those within the establishment either attack the movement or attempt to co-opt it for their own gain.

Again, on this count the Civil Rights movement provides valuable lessons. When the movement began in the 1950s and early '60s, most activists fought only for immediate reforms like an end to segregation and the Jim Crow laws in the South. But by the late '60s, after experiencing brutal repression, the assassination of leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, along with still being stuck in the worst jobs, schools, and neighborhoods, over a million black people drew revolutionary conclusions.

We can't just declare we're against capitalism and expect millions to instantly agree. We need to engage in a dialogue with communities on the issues facing them, distill people’s anger, hopes, and aspirations into fighting demands, and then explain what strategies and tactics we think will be necessary to achieve them. We as a movement need to build a bridge from existing consciousness to the need for an alternative to capitalism. This is why we need demands that advance mass consciousness towards the movement in steps, to draw in hundreds and thousands more into action.

If millions were mobilized into the streets, some of the more immediate demands could be won. This would embolden more to enter the struggle, as they drew the conclusion that mass movements can change society.

New and larger mass movements will emerge in the near future. Occupy will serve as an important point of reference for these movements, allowing activists to draw lessons on how to more effectively pull wider layers of working people into struggle.

However, you don't have to wait for the eruption of struggle in the future to influence what shape they will take. You can join Socialist Alternative today and help us build the movements we are involved in now in our schools, workplaces, and communities. A powerful socialist movement will help ensure that the lessons of past movements can be applied to put our struggles on a stronger footing.

Postal Workers Fighting to Save Jobs! - Hunger Strike to Stop the Starving of the USPS

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Postal Workers Fighting to Save Jobs! - Hunger Strike to Stop the Starving of the USPS

Jun 27, 2012
Dylan Seo

Over four long days, postal workers are taking a courageous and difficult stand by going on a hunger strike. This fast, from June 24-28, in coordination with hundreds of protesting postal workers and community members, is against the proposed cuts to the public service so many of us depend on. Community and Postal Workers United is organizing mass actions in Washington, D.C., targeting the postal head office at L'Enfant Plaza on June 28. This comes alongside a call for local actions across the country, in cities and towns, big and small; together we can make a stand to protect and defend this American institution, the United States Postal Service.

These bold tactics are being used by our brothers and sisters to counter the severity of what is on the table. Nearly half - 229 of 461 - of mail processing plants are slated to shut down or be consolidated. Hours for over 13,000 small post offices will be drastically cut. These cuts are scheduled to go into effect July 1. All of this comes in the aftermath of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, forcing the USPS to prefund retiree pensions, costing the service billions. No other federal agency has to prefund retirement benefits in this way. The propaganda used to justify these plans is the inefficiency of the USPS in our high-tech, fast-paced world. We must see this for what it really is: an attempt to systematically privatize the mail service industry.

These plans will cost hundreds of well paid union jobs, deeply hurt our communities, and ultimately make sending mail more costly for the working class. The issue is not a lack of money, as big business and their government proxies continue to fund wars abroad and give billions to banks and corporations. We must demand for these proposals to be removed, to fully fund the USPS, including retiree benefits, and to do so by taxing the 1%.

Socialist Alternative proudly endorses and stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters putting their health and livelihood on the line. No one should be forced to take such measures to defend their jobs and communities, but when they push too far we must take action. In order to prevent these job cuts and the slashing of services, we must build mass pressure from below. For now, we must stand together in defense of what we have already gained through previous struggles. To truly change the situation requires us to come together into a mass workers’ organization; showing where our real power arises from: we are the 99%, we are the majority.

For more information about local actions planned by Community and Postal Workers United check out their website:

Other sites for information:

A Few Notes On The Poor Peoples Campaign Of 1968 As Food For Thought As We Prepare From The Second And Hopefully Final Campaign in 2018

A Few Notes On The Poor Peoples Campaign Of 1968 As Food For Thought As We Prepare From The Second And Hopefully Final Campaign in 2018

By Seth Garth

Some readers may know that Si Lannon, who usually does film and art exhibitions reviews in this publication (and book reviews at the American Literary Digest some of which find their way into this publication by reciprocal agreement), back on June 23rd of this year had an assignment in Washington, D.C. to write an article on the Cezanne Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. On his way to do that assignment, on that Saturday June 23rd when he exited the Smithsonian Metro stop on National Mall to walk over to the 7th Street entrance to the Gallery building Si noticed a large white tent and further down toward 7th Street proper a large stage flanked by two huge screens and huge banners proclaiming that this was the site of the Poor People’s Campaign, hereafter PPC. When he stopped off at the tent he found out from one young activist who was busy painting slogans on posters for the day’s event that the day was the culmination of several weeks of local state capital actions throughout the country highlighting issues like homelessness, immigration and the war economy. All as they adversely affect the great unacknowledged poor masses in this country who have mainly been the victims of the growing gap between the rich and poor. The 23rd was basically a wake-up call to the federal government and an organizing focus for the PPC cadre who will be working hard over the long haul to achieve some of the goals of the campaign. That morning and afternoon would be highlighted by a rally with the inevitable speakers and a march toward the Capitol several blocks down the Mall.     

Once Si knew what was happening and knowing that a fair number of readers and certainly a fair number of writers at this publication remember the original ill-fated Poor People’s Campaign from 1968 which was short-circuited by the murders Doctor Martin Luther King who originally organized the event and Robert Kennedy who was running for President that year and had endorsed the ideas of the campaign and had visited the encampment set up in that summer before his death he called up site manager Greg Green to see if he wanted Si to cover that event. Greg although about a half generation younger that the average person who would remember that event jumped on it with both hands. Told Si to not worry about the Cezanne exhibit and do a piece on the event, Which he did a good job on and had been posted on this site in late June.  

That would not be the end of the PPC coverage though once Si had done his report. Greg, curious about the original PPC, looked for writers here that might have some information and insights about what happened, or didn’t happen, in 1968 and maybe why. As it turned out the only person who had paid much attention to the event was I. I had actually visited the encampment in the summer of 1968 before I received that dreaded draft notice from “my friends and neighbors” which is the way they introduced themselves at the draft board in Adamsville. I made it clear to Greg that I had not been an activist, a participant but had been down for a different reason, a non-political reason, which is North Adamsville corner boy speak back then meant seeing some young woman. Be that as it may Greg assigned me the piece. I make no great claims about being some kind of PPC scholar but only offer some observation which may alert the current audience to what is happening.     

[This truly belongs as an aside but I could not resist making the point that in the amateur political organizing business some things never change. I refer to Si’s asking what was happening on June 23rd to a young activist who was painting slogans on poster board. I can remember many a night, many an after midnight night, high on some drug of the month, working with a small group of other young activists painting slogans on poster board for some demonstration or other. That is the same part. What nobody, nobody in their right minds does today is take said posters or leaflets and using old-fashioned wallpaper paste put them up on telephone poles and on wall also after midnight to avoid the coppers, and probably high on the drug of the month then too] Seth Garth  

A Few Notes On The Poor Peoples Campaign Of 1968 As Food For Thought As We Prepare From The Second And Hopefully Final Campaign in 2018

[As many of you know this is the 50th anniversary of the original Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968. Over the past several months to a year various individuals and organizations have organized around many of those original themes of bringing the poor into some kind of equality in this society. Over the next several weeks there will be weekly actions here locally and a mass rally in Washington around specific grievances. Smedley is knee-deep in the local planning so to give some thoughts about the original campaign is what our May GM discussion period is about. Since we have a big agenda I have written some notes so that we can go to the discussion part directly and save some time. These notes will also be in hard copy at the GM. Al Johnson]

As a long ago philosopher pointed out those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it. That point is what drives this discussion about what happened to the first Poor Peoples Campaign in 1968. It does not pretend to be all-inclusive nor more than one person’s take on those times and that event.

At the most general level the original PPC was a dramatic defeat for the struggles of the poor and oppressed of this country. To understand some of the reasons behind that defeat beyond the murder of the prime mover of the campaign Doctor King will help us to push forward. In a sense the PPC was poorly timed since 1968 as many of us older activists know was a hell-bent year with the Tet offensive finally showing Americans we could not “win” in Vietnam, the refusal of the sitting president, LBJ, to run again, the two assassinations of iconic progressive figures in King and Bobby Kennedy who were in their respective ways driving forces behind the campaign, the turmoil in the streets here and internationally with the May Days in France and the chaos and horror of the Democratic Convention in the summer of that year. So the PPC had to fight for breathe against those more dramatic events and got pushed to the side rather easily especially after King’s murder and some inner turmoil and in-fighting among the leadership.

The PPC was ill-timed and ill-starred in another way. Frankly the heroic black civil rights struggle down South which brought about massive increases in voting rights and some other positive benefits did not after 1965 put much of a dent in the oppression of black people and other minorities around housing, jobs, education, healthcare and the like. With the Vietnam War sucking the life out of Lyndon Johnson’s modern day version of “forty acres and a mule” the war on poverty at a governmental level fell apart. Liberals, governmental and private citizens, began the long retreat away from governmental attempts to alleviate poverty which continues to this day witness the demise of the social welfare programs started under the Clinton administration. Moreover a reaction set in around the question of race when the cities started burning up as a result of the denial of legitimate grievances by the black community and its allies in other minority communities.

The elephant in the room though and fifty years of myth creation around the hallowed name of Doctor King cannot cover the fact up that he as a leader of the black community had lost some authority by pre-Vietnam speech 1967, has been upended by more militant blacks from various vocal anti-integrationist black nationalists to the upfront romantic if doomed Black Panthers. Think about the evolution of the previously intergrated SNCC once black power became a widespread slogan, especially among the young non-churched types. King was the number one symbol of black integration when the moods in the black community was heading elsewhere. Those of us in the military in those days got a taste of that in off-hours when there was very little interaction between the races. King through his belated and now famous anti-Vietnam War speech and his support of the sanitation workers in Memphis was making something of a “comeback” and the PPC was to be at least the symbolic way to get his agenda back on the front pages.

This political, social and personal backdrop does not take away from what was attempted, and what was necessary given the other factors particularly the retreat by the liberals from advocacy of many social programs and the hostility of others to even dealing with the poverty problem any longer. A look at the PPC program tells us that much. It also highlights not only the social reality of the times but that like the heroic struggle for formal civils rights the poor and oppressed were going to have to fight for the better housing, healthcare, education and the like since few others were committed to their cause. The need for the poor and oppressed to lead and fight for what they need which never really happened in 1968 and is the wave of the future of the current campaigns really is the only long-term way forward in order to break the cycle of poverty and the pathologies that gut-level struggle for survival engenders. Something which grouping up in the projects I was personally painfully aware of as a kid.

A few nuts and bolts facts about the 1968 PPC will show that many of the same issues still need addressing, some of the same organizing tactics are in play as well from multiracial, multicultural meetings of poor people and their advocates which the ruling class in its constant strategy of “divide and conquer” hates to see to some programmatic demands. In March of 1968 many poverty-centered organizations like the National Welfare Rights Organization and the Southern Regional Council joined with Doctor King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in Atlantic to forge a common program to fight on. To list the three major demands today seems utopian (and way underestimating the money that would be needed today) but still necessary to fight around:

·        $30 billion annual appropriation for a real war on poverty

·        Congressional passage of full employment and guaranteed income legislation [a guaranteed annual wage]

·        Construction of 500,000 low-cost housing units per year until slums were eliminated

To highlight these demands the campaign would be divided into three phases, the first to create a permitted shanty town of several thousand people which came to be called Resurrection City on the National Mall, the second to begin protest demonstrations and mass non-violent civil disobedience actions and third to take actions to generate mass arrests like those which brought national attention to the plight of blacks in the South around voting rights. The latter two phases are the touchstone of the 2018 campaign as well.

To bring people to Washington several “caravans” were organized from all regions of the country to meet in June of 1968 with a big solidarity rally which brought some 50, 000 people to D.C. to join the estimated 3000 that were “residing” on the Mall.  

Bayard Rustin put forth a proposal for an “Economic Bill of Rights” for Solidarity Day that called for the federal government to most of which still are the wave of the future:

Recommit to the Full Employment Act of 1946 and legislate the immediate creation of at least one million socially useful career jobs in public service, adopt the pending housing and urban development act of 1968, repeal the 90th Congress’s punitive welfare restrictions in the 1967 Social Security Act, extend to all farm workers the right–guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act–to organize agricultural labor unions, and restore budget cuts for bilingual education, Head Start, summer jobs, Economic Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Acts

I have addressed some of the problems and social conditions which helped undermine that first campaign and others can add more from their recollections of the times including the question of post-King murder leadership and in-fighting. Hopefully the latter will not be an issue in the new movement.      

There are some differences in the current campaign from that of 1968 that I think are worth noting as we gear up the campaign. First, if we are to be successful this time, real poor people and members of oppressed communities will have to take leadership roles, make their mistakes and learn from them. Just like we did, do. Our role is one of support to see that such leadership emerges which I believe was a real short-coming of the “professional” organizer from Doctor King on down model in 1968. Second we are “demanding” similar programs to those of 1968 but not “begging” the government to implement as some criticized the 1968 campaign for doing. Lastly, and unfortunately, there are several more issues that the 1968 campaign did not have to address as forcefully like an end to mass black and Latino incarceration and the war on drugs which has decimated communities of color and sapped it of a young, mostly male, leadership component.