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At least according to Paris Review.

Pretty cool!

Bridges was of course the most influential Longshoreman’s Union organizer of the 20th century – certainly on the west coast.  He was also a socialist fellow traveler, and a Woody Guthrie type folk intellectual.  Ian Ruskin is the actor.   Hopefully someone at HSU will invite the project for a local performance of From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks.

You can view all five videos of a performance through this link.  Below is a sampling, although it’s really not the best sampling imo. Watch the videos.  There are CDs and DVDs available too, through the website.

What a difference half a century makes.  After the Scopes Monkey Trial, politics had pretty much secularized in the mainstream, until the McCarthy era when political religion was revived in Cold War context and in response to growing culture mediums (rock music, radicals movie makers, etc.).  JFK was under a particular pressure as the first (and only) Catholic President with concern over “Papicism” in terms of social democracy (Rerum Novarum specifically, which would figure prominently in the Second Vatican) more paranoid “apostate church” issues.  This speech was probably designed to ease concerns that he had been elected as Pope-surrogate.

But for the most part, politics had secularized, until the emergence of the Moral Majority during the Reagan Revolution.  Nobody objected to the the notion that a political figures core morality might be rooted in religion, but the concept of a religious political agenda driving electoral campaigns and policy was well out of vogue for two brief decades beginning with JFK.  Does anybody remember Ford’s religion?  Johnson’s?  Some of us touched by anti-war politics might remember that Nixon had been a Quaker largely because of the irony of the situation, and the response from Quakers themselves.  But until the 1980s, we really didn’t know our political leaders’ religious affiliations.  Now even liberal pols are pretty much forced to proclaim their Christianity in personal and political terms, as the liberal pol’s bonafides on the issue are routinely challenged.

In any case, we certainly would not have seriously entertained proposals for “faith based” public funding of privatized social programs, or “vouchers” for public funding of religious education, or official prayer in schools.  It was a brief renaissance in the approach to the Establishment Clause (and yes conservatives, I know that “wall of separation” only appeared in a private letter by Thomas Jefferson).

This speech would be attacked all over Fox News today, and even on the other stations.

Not the popular dodging of the Vietnam War, but the almost universally condemned dodging during World War Two – where war opposition was mostly limited to pro-fascists, crypto-isolationists, absolute pacifists, and dogmatic Trotskyists.  This man, Noboru Taguma nicknamed “Sonny Boy,” did not fit into any of these categories, and I suspect that few would begrudge his position today, even if they disagree with it.  In fact, he didn’t really oppose the war.

An excerpt (But go through the link to read the whole excellent piece):

When Noboru received his draft notice after being in the camps for two years, he refused. He did not need a college degree or a sophisticated understanding of the Constitution to take an impressive stand for the rights of citizenship and to demand some respect for his parents. If his parents were freed from the camps and allowed to go back to their farm in California, he would serve proudly, but until then, he refused. He was one of the first Nisei to refuse the draft. Even though James Omura, later defender of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, suggested that these first Nisei were rash in their arguments and too disorganized to make a difference, Taguma did not back down. The JACL leaders, most notably Min Yasui and Joe Grant Masaoka, came to see Noboru Taguma and the other first four resisters in an effort to convince them to give up the fight. As Taguma recalled, “the JACL say, sacrifice your life to prove your loyalty.” But that was just crazy in Noboru’s mind. “We were loyal to America,” he said, “but the government itself was un-loyal to us.” With the support of his father, who urged him to stick with whatever decision he made, Noboru Taguma resisted the draft and later renounced his citizenship in an effort to bring the family together and to get them to Tule Lake – a little closer to home than Granada, Colorado. Despite the fact that Taguma’s efforts to reunite the family did not work out as planned, and despite the fact that the JACL did not recognize his principled resistance until 2002, Taguma knew that he did the right thing in standing up against injustice during the war.

Salt of the Earth, and among those few who can claim credit for having pulled us away from the brink of self-destruction, just by being who he was.

Addendum:  Thanks to Mitch who found a link to Taguma’s obit, and a pdf of his letter to, I guess whatever was the contemporary counterpart to the Selective Service Administration.  There’s also a photo of Taguma through Mitch’s link in the thread.

A monologue play about the life of the iconic radical singer.  No chance to watch it soon unless you happen to be at Carnegie Hall on February 12.  However, I am informed that Mr. Aluko will be bringing the act to California at a later date. No idea when or where.

Addendum:  A friend emailed some youtube links.  The first is from Showboat, a classic.

And here’s an account of the HUAC, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson incident.

August 19, 1991 – General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev faced a military coup and was placed under house arrest, in my opinion signifying the moment the Soviet collapse became inevitable.  I sort of held my breath for a couple of days there.

I was living in a flat on the corner of Army (Now Caesar Chavez) and Church Streets in San Francisco.  We had a patio on the roof and the fog came in pretty quickly as I was listening to the events as described on KPFA.  I looked down at the traffic, and everybody just going about their lives as normal.  I’ve already posted about the my childhood nuclear war fears – induced by various readings and watching the film On The Beach while home from school sick.  I was not alive at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Nobody, not even the alternative media, was discussing the events of summer, 1991 as a possible chain reaction which could lead to the end of all life on Earth.  I tried not to focus on it that way, but the three days of that coup had me on edge.  I was relieved when the “Gang of Eight” was defeated several days later, and for once in my life I didn’t care the least about the political implications.

I never had any of the dreams again, and I’ve never since – maybe due to a false sense of security – had the feeling that complete annihilation of the human race is a likely possibility, at least not through hot war.  Someone might do something stupid, and maybe the last victims of a nuclear bomb are yet to be born.  But as of 20 years ago, I don’t have that sense of foreboding which led me to be arrested in civil disobedience on different occasions.

It was always speculative to me.  These people actually lived the nightmare.

I only got to visit Playland at the Breakers in SF a few times before it was closed (as I remember, a developer purchased the land, nixed the park, and then went bankrupt so that all we could see was the Playland ruins for years afterward before someone put condos up).  My memories are fond, but this woman had a much different experience.  I loved the disk of death!

It was also the first place It’s Its were sold.  Remember them?  I haven’t seen them in years.

Nation Magazine has a special “sports issue” within which various lefty writers give tribute to their favorite sports heroes – most of them from childhood when we are most influenced by them.  Likewise, my favorite sports hero played during my childhood, and I’ll discuss him in a minute.

If you were to ask me about my second favorite hero I would be hard-pressed for an answer.  Obviously we look for character as well as skill, and perhaps we look to deeds off the playing field/court.  Obviously figures which broke the racial barriers qualify such as Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, and…. well almost, Tiger Woods.  We look to Billie Jean King and Shirley Muldowney for examples breaking sexual molds.  Or figures like Greg Louganis who won a host of Gold Medals including a performance in which he continued to compete after splitting his head open on the diving platform, and yet was deemed lacking in character and heroism required for the Wheaties recognition because of rumors, later confirmed, of his homosexuality.  We have war heroes like Pat Tillman, made even more famous by military controversy rendering him popular even among anti-war activists.

I always liked Rams quarterback Pat Hayden who succeeded despite being short (for an NFL quarterback), and while becoming a Rhodes Scholar.

There are heroes whose careers suffered at least setbacks due to brave political stands such as Muhammed Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and even to a lesser degree John McEnroe who turned down a match against Bjorn Borg in South Africa to honor the boycott of the time – the winner would have taken home one million, the loser $750,000 (Borg had accepted the invitation).  By the way, if you’re interested, here is a list of sports figures with their campaign donations.  Seems like tennis players (except former teen star Andrea Jaeger who is now a nun and gave to the GOP) and basketball players tend to be liberal, while golf players, car racers, and football coaches (except Bear Bryant, who was a liberal?) tend to be conservative.  And there are a few on the list who can’t seem to make up their mind on what their politics are, or completely ignore ideology if they like a particular pol.  The link for former Bengals quarterback Boomer Essiason is broken, which makes me curious.  He was quite a vocal supporter of the NFL strikers despite a number of quarterbacks (who were of course the best paid) crossing the picket line prompting him to call Joe Montana a “scab.”  Of interest in the political evolution department, tennis star Pam Shriver appears to have abandoned her conservative roots – donating to Republicans in her youth, but Democrats later in life, including a donation to Maxine Waters!

Anyway, enough of that.  My favorite sports hero is…. Willie McCovey.  He exemplified the rags-to-riches phenomena coming from very humble roots.  I was only really into baseball from the second grade to about the fifth, when he was traded from the Giants to the Padres.  I went to several games a year at Candlestick, and always looked forward to the number 44 visible from our usual seats behind first base.  He was a clutch hitter in so many instances.   In his last years Willie Mays batted third before McCovey’s “cleanup,” and if Mays made it to second base McCovey was most often walked.

This is a pure sports pic.  I mean, other than being a nice guy off the field, his heroism for me is purely on the field and laced with nostalgia.  He was there for me at a formative time of childhood.  I began to lose interest as a fan when he was traded.  I still watched games, but once Bonds, Sr., Tito Fuentes, Juan Marichal, Chris Speier, and McCovey had moved on to other teams or retirement, I stopped going to the green pages every morning to check the stats and standings.  McCovery actually came back to the Giants briefl, but as I moved into teen years, I got into other things and didn’t pay as much attention.  The Giants always choked anyway.

So who was/is your favorite sports hero and why?

My mother-in-law Toby passed away nearly a year ago and had  apparently asked that I receive these buttons, most of which are Norman Thomas campaign offerings.  But there are a few mysteries, and I know there are a few lefties around here who may have some insight.

I think you can make the jpeg pretty large after two clicks, which helps cut through some of the clear plastic glare from the scanner.

The buttons originally belonged to my wife’s grandfather, Joseph Glass, who was a labor attorney who ran for various NY offices on the Socialist ticket, but I don’t have any buttons from his campaigns unfortunately.  The first button is probably the oldest or the second oldest, as James Mauer was his running mate in 28 and 32.  We’ve already located one online sale of an identical button for $75.00.  It’s probably the most valuable, though I have no intention of selling any of them in my lifetime.  My kids can decide what to do with them when I’m gone.

But the “No AEF” button may be older.  I can’t think of anything it stands for other than American Expeditionary Forces, presumably those which were sent into the Soviet Union just after WWI.  Does anybody have any other ideas?

I am assuming that the Don’t join Jim Crow Army button (two of them in the bunch) was associated with the effort led by A. Phillip Randolph to desegregate the military, and may have been generated for the intended March on Washington?

The lower right corner button is difficult to read.  It reads “Unite May Day for Peace and Security.”  Security?  Post-war, during, or pre-war?  The other May Day (1937) button reads “unite labor against reaction.”  I know the political definition of “reaction,” but I’m wondering about the specific context.
Opposition to the New Deal?

I don’t know who Thomas Nelson was, but I have one of his campaign buttons.

Oh, there’s one which opposed Roosevelt’s third term put out by a group calling itself “the Constitutionalists.”  But I’m not familiar with any applicable Constitutional provisions to prohibit a third term at the time.  Presumably the button was associated with the 1940 Thomas campaign (with running mate Maynard Krueger), but it probably could have been generated by Republicans as well as

The “Keep the US out of war – boycott Japanese goods” also has me curious as to the timing and the precise meaning. It doesn’t say “the war,” and I don’t know how long we were trading with Japan before we were attacked.  And I’m not certain how the boycott would keep us out of war.  Seems like it would make war
with Japan more likely.  But I don’t know the context.  Did it have something to do with “cash and carry” policies?

And I have no clue as to what the “Ford Drive” was or what was meant by “my dollar is paid.”  The button contains the year dates 1937 and 1938.  Was it a labor drive?

The button in the lower left corner reads “there’s a U (you) in the United Nations.”  The left doesn’t celebrate the UN anymore really.  Was the SP gung-ho about it at the time?

I would be grateful for any information about these buttons.  If anyone can point me to anything written by or about Joseph Glass, who died in the early 80s, I would also be grateful for that.

Thanks to John Rogers for scanning them for me.  I was having problems.

I didn’t really cover Maine’s Tea Party Governor’s decision to remove the labor history mural from the state’s Department of Labor, but the SF Bay Guardian points out that it’s far from the first act of history-art censorship.  Progressive politics are not indefinitely sustainable, and so I assume that someday the Lincoln Brigade exhibit at Embarcadero Square in SF will face a similar challenge (even though former Secretary of State George Shultz himself attended the opening).

Probably one of the more ridiculous moments came in San Francisco during the 1950s.  In the Rincon Center near the waterfront are a number of murals inside.  One of them depicts four canons pointing at a monster or something with a swastika on it, each canon containing the logo of one of the four major Allied nations.  There was an effort to have the Soviet cannon painted over on the basis that Stalin’s regime was worse than the Nazis (an early volley in the body count debate) and therefor their participation in the war should not be “celebrated.”  Never mind that the Soviets took a burden which probably outweighed all of the other nations combined, and never mind that they were in fact allies during that war, however uneasy the alliance may have been.

Another silly censorship act was at Brigham University where Joseph Smith’s portrait was removed and replaced with a beardless depiction of their prophet.  Students were not allowed to grow beards while attending, so he was setting a bad example.

During the McCarthy Era there was actually a proposal to ban abstract art as part of the communist conspiracy – the irony there being that communist art, or “socialist realism” has always been straight-jacketed, and despite the radical impulses behind art movements like surrealism and dada, they were rejected by the Soviet authorities as decadent and of course bourgeois.  I’ll try to track down some of the quotations from pro-realism dogmatists of both cultures later.


July 2020