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Some years back the North Coast Journal published an excellent article the history of active communists in Humboldt County. But in skimming through the recently released book The Agitator by Peter Duffy, my mother learned of an aspect of the story they missed. As a teenager I watched Seeing Red, which I consider to be the best documentary about the American Communist Party I’ve seen, and one of the most dynamic of those interviewed was the larger than life Bill Bailey – big tall longshoreman who joined the CP at an early age while working as a Longshoreman.  He was part of the storming of the Nazi ship Bremen when it visited the NYC harbor in 1935 cutting the swastika banner from the post and tossing it into the Hudson River.  He went to Spain to fight with what would eventually be referred to as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  Later during the McCarthy era he stood up to his public interrogators.  He suffered what a number of communists suffered in the 1950s – harassed by the FBI while simultaneously losing faith in the Party for which he had fought. The book only dedicates two paragraphs to the 2 or 3 years he spent in Eureka in the mid-1950s.

Bailey’s circumstances were such that he felt he had to flee San Francisco.  He ran into an old friend who held a senior position with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which under the leadership of the dauntless Harry Bridges, had been steadfast in its defiance of McCarthyism.  The friend suggested that Bailey travel up to the sleepy lumber port of Eureka, where he might find work loading and unloading ships with the ILWU Local 14.  Armed with an introduction letter, Bailey slipped out of the Bay Area, dropping a few hints to friends that he was thinking of traveling to New York to visit a sick relative.  During his exile in Northern California, Bailey found a new life as a longshoreman.  He eventually assumed a leadership role in the local and spearheaded a campaign to institute needed reforms.  He urged the adoption of a nondiscrimination policy that led to the local’s first African American member.  Such was the nature of the radicalism of this enemy of the American republic. 

After years of frustrations with half-witted directives, inexplicable policy shifts, and arbitrary internal punishments, Bailey finally quit the Communist Party.  “I would not fold while the Party was under attack,” he wrote.  But by 1956, with the Red Scare subsiding, he felt he wouldn’t be lending aid and comfort to the witch-hunters.  He was appalled by the Soviet Union’s violent suppression of the Hungarian Uprising, seeing himself not in the armored units of the superpower, but in the students marching in the streets.  He understood now that Joseph Stalin was a murderous thug who had killed millions of his own people.  “He was nothing but a paranoid sick S.O.B. in many cases,” Bailey said.  “And these people who were purged came from the background of fighting for the great ideals of socialism.  They went through all the aches and pains and the terror to create this society only to be taken out later as dogs and shot?”  A few days after he informed the Party leadership of his decision, he heard a knock at the door.  His girlfriend answered to find two special agents of the FBI, who had come to offer congratulations and proposed a meeting.  Bailey slammed the door in their faces.

Reforming the local 14 probably wasn’t the best way to keep a low profile, but obviously the FBI had infiltrated the Party and they knew where he was even if his family hadn’t.  According to the book he returned to San Francisco shortly after the visit to his Humboldt County home.

I wonder if there is any way to track the history locally.  In the acknowledgements, The Agitator references several sources for these paragraphs, including Bailey’s autobiography The Kid from Hoboken.

He died in the mid-1990s.  Throughout the 80s and 90s I would see him at Lincoln Brigade reunions and all the Bay Area political rallies – he was really tall and impossible to miss.  He was a DSA member, wrote, acted, and conducted tours of the SF waterfront to discuss the radical history of the City.

You can watch him and others in Seeing Red in 10 minute parts on Youtube.  I strongly recommend it.  Should be mandatory American high school watching.

The photo at the top is from an interview for The Good Fight, a documentary about the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The NRA’s financial woes. 


One of two progressive candidates running against Rex. Clif is a very good guy and I look forward to his thoughts for the County. It is a steep uphill climb in the county’s most conservative district against a popular incumbent. But as the saying goes, if you don’t have someone on the ballot then you’ve already lost.
Also, don’t worry about progressive candidates splitting the vote. It doesn’t work that way with the Supervisor elections. If one of the candidates gets over 50 percent in the primary, he’s won anyway regardless of the breakdown of the other votes. If the lead candidate gets 49 percent or less, he will run against the next highest vote recipient in the November election. Unless someone runs a write-in campaign for the November election (very poorly written ordinance to allow for that, but it happened in the Second District in 2008 when Cliff Clendenen won in November with a mere plurality). So having two candidates mostly going at Rex is not necessarily a bad thing.
Rex is strong, but he’s not invincible. He’s burned a few bridges. Looking forward to spirited campaigns in the First and Second Districts each of which currently have three candidates (deadline is November, but it’s already late for fundraising). So far no declared opponent for Mike Wilson in the Third District. Can’t see anyone defeating him in the mostly-Arcata District anyway.

Rolling Stone lays it out, but with Biden appearing to lose it and slipping in the polls, Bernie maxed out and unable to move far beyond the activist left and white working class for primary support (so far), and Harris not making much traction even with African American voters, some eyes are turning to look at Elizabeth Warren.

She’s done exceptionally well in the first two debates sans theatrics and overstatement – the intellectual contrast to Trump.  She knows her stuff and doesn’t get baited.

There was, however, that damned specter of “electability” also was wafting through the room. It was much less odorous but no less repugnant. This phantom is conjured in virtually all discussions about the Democratic primary contest, derived largely from archetypes of older white men whom Americans are more accustomed to seeing run for office and therefore electing. It smothers critical thinking about the presidential race so much that it appears that many are convinced that “electability” is indeed a living, breathing thing when it is in fact an apparition, a hasty creation of the party elites and pundit classes that serves as a convenient substitute for the vetting that desperately needs to occur before a nominee goes up against President Trump next fall. Even though more than 160 days remain between now and the first Iowa caucus, this unanswerable question lingers more prominently than do major quandaries about candidate qualifications. 

To the extent polls matter at this point, Warren remains within mere percentage points of frontrunner Joe Biden, despite her constant stream of detailed policy plans seeming to go against the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to focus only on beating Trump to win the nomination. Yes, this can happen for her. 

I’m still supporting Sanders and will until he drops out.  But as everyone is so fond of saying, “Nobody expected Trump to win the primary, let alone the general election.”  There are a million reasons why Senator Warren can’t win.  But there are also a million reason she can.  She doesn’t have corruption baggage, other than the Native American thing which is already old and Trump’s name for her has already pretty much galvanized the Native vote against him if it wasn’t before. They can try to tar her as “far left,” but she makes the sale for her policies, without being too wonkish.

It’s too early to tell, but a President Warren is far from impossible.

My Approved Portraits

Joe Walsh obviously senses blood with the economic news.

But earlier this year there was talk of the RNC and some state parties shutting down the democratic process entirely.

Political rant for the day. This guy is right. The people who come here for health care are people with money who don’t want to wait for services in systems which don’t afford them special privilege because they have money. Right wingers talk about the “lines” in countries with universal healthcare, and yeah, if you have broad or universal access you’re bound to have lines. Bar people from access – no lines. It’s not magic.

But he points out that far more people drive to Canada to buy pharmaceuticals than Canadians who cross the border for care. Moreover, far more people travel to Mexico, India, or other countries for health care because they cannot afford it here.

And he’s also right, we have never had a free market health insurance system. It wouldn’t work because you cannot make money insuring sick people in a competitive system. You need massive economies of scale to make it work and you need young people enrolled and paying premiums towards their future care, and that has never worked well in the free market. Never. Even European conservatives agree with this, but we can’t even get our liberals on board.



Cites an obscure historical theory to blame Muslims for the Holocaust.

Yet another leader desperate to stay in office to stay out of prison.

The video is presented in this article.  Yes, these are reenactments and yes, it’s a year old, but still painful for anyone human to watch.

“In recent years the number of unaccompanied immigrant children migrating to the United States has nearly tripled and they have no representation or legal counsel, leaving them vulnerable and alone,” said Freedman.

According to a 2016 Univision data report, more than nine out of ten children who appear alone in immigration court are deported, whereas nearly half of those who are represented by a lawyer are allowed to remain. Unfortunately, under US law, children arrested for illegally entering the country don’t have the right to demand a court-appointed lawyer or interpreter.


Yes, there are signs of a pending global recession and it has Trump folk freaked out about the potential timing.  The biggest indication is that we’ve had ten years of expansion since the crash in which Obama came to office with the economy hemorrhaging an average of 700,000 jobs per month.  A Republican was in charge when the crash happened, but the causes were bipartisan deregulation dating back to the Reagan years and expanding into the Clinton – deregulation which allowed big scale hucksters to sell off investments representing toxic loans as positive assets, with the ratings companies falling meekly in line with their funders.  And with none of the bankers and investment company reps being charged with crimes, it will probably happen again.

Yes, that crash probably got Obama elected by a large margin, though I think he would have beaten McCain anyway.

Obama didn’t get the stimulus policies he needed once the Republicans took over Congress, and in fact they killed all stimulus possibilities in spending by requiring offsets for any increase of spending anywhere.  So Obama had to resort to monetarist policies being the first President in post-war history to pull us out of a recession without the benefit of Keynesian policy.  Yes, every other serious recession was mitigated by deficit spending, no matter which party was in power – until Obama.  And yes, it was deliberate sabotage on the part of nihilist elements in the GOP.

But Republicans forget about deficits once they have a President in power.  I’m forgetting the name of the Republican strategist who articulated it in detail in the 1970s and 80s, calling it “the permanent war economy” even before Reagan, but the model is true to form.  Republicans don’t even discuss the deficit.  It’s all about keeping the unemployment rate low until after 2020.

Only, they’re learning that there are limits to Keynsenism when you also cut taxes, and limits to the stimulus effect  when it’s capital rather than labor intensive military spending.  Seymour Mellman wrote about it back when Reagan was fueling the economy with a deficit, as of 1984, higher than all the prior deficits back to George Washington combined.  Republicans didn’t care.  They wanted re-election numbers.  The problem with supply side economics is that Say’s Theorem is crap.  A dollar in the hands of a consumer is much more productive than in a supplier, because the supplier is forced to work for the dollar.  Demand side economics is more stimulative (the downside being that it is also more inflation-prone, but we really haven’t had to worry about inflation much since the crash).


So once Trump came to office, the Republicans opened the floodgates of spending with Democrats pulling a Reagan era cave-in so that we have military spending out of control.

But this is not what’s going to cause the next recession.  We are much more linked into a global economy than before, so there is little a President can do to prevent it, and actually very little a President can do to cause it.  No, the reckless trade war with China isn’t helping, and in fact Trump has apparently panicked a bit and dialed back for a while – in a tacit admission that American consumers are paying for the trade war.  But it’s not causing a global slow-down.  Even if you can reasonably blame China’s bad reports on the trade war (you can’t) it certainly doesn’t account for Germany’s.  The global economy is probably going to slow down soon, and while I would love to blame Trump it really has nothing to do with him.

But, the economy is the only thing he’s got going.  He’s managing to keep his coalition together and his supporters don’t even mind when he personally abuses them in front of a crowd for being fat.  They won’t put up with that if they’re unemployed.  Right now I give Trump about a 50-50 chance of getting re-elected if the economy holds to its present course.  If there is a significant recession before next November, he’s toast.  The Republicans will turn on him like sharks in a feeding frenzy.  They support him because they’re afraid of the crazy base, but privately they hate his guts as expressed during the primaries of 2016 before they all grovelled.

I don’t want Trump to win re-election.  But a recession will cause a lot of pain, and as always it’s the people on the bottom who suffer the most.  I hope enough Americans in the few states which actually matter have come to their senses as the polls indicate.  But I don’t want those votes if masses of people have to suffer before voting the way I want them to.  Not that I have any control over the economy one way or another, but Bill Maher’s elitist irony is really out of line.  We’ll survive Trump, even if he wins a second term.  And eventually there will be a backlash that even a long term Supreme Court majority won’t be able to contain.  Hopefully it won’t be too late to save the world’s glaciers and all, but it will happen.

Leave the nihilism to the right wing.  The left is about offering solutions and comfort in response to pain, and not rejoicing in its impact.

“He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay,” Scaramucci continued about Trump. “And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say — he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation.

What did Trump do to get on this guy’s bad side?


August 2019