THE LABOR VOTE
I read “New
Dock City” [December 13–19], and I congratulate Steven Mikulan on a fine
piece of work. I must admit that before I read it I was thinking, “What does
this guy know? I was on the docks for 35 years as a longshoreman and clerk,
and this guy goes down there for a couple days — what is he going to know about
the dock situation?” I was pleasantly surprised to hear a voice that wasn’t
the typical anti-labor rhetoric we see in the establishment papers, TV and radio.
It was refreshing to read Mikulan’s point of view. I will look forward to seeing
more of his articles in the Weekly.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Re: Judith Lewis’ “Peace
Gets a Chance” [December 20–26]. Any coverage of any anti-war protest is
welcome. But there have been other neighborhood alternatives to the boring Federal
Building maso-ritual, and the tinsel one at Hollywood and Highland last Saturday
was hardly “the first of its kind to occupy a pedestrian-filled intersection,”
as Lewis writes in her wide-eyed article. People have been protesting without
miss at the Virgil-Sunset-Hollywood-
Hillhurst hub in front of the Vista Theater since September 6, every Friday
between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., with great success and fun. This kind of homegrown
action is the way to go, and your paper should be mentioning all
I have belatedly found out about David Corn’s piece [“Behind
the Placards,” November 1–7]. Mr. Corn’s article took my remarks out of
context, and left out other things to the point that I was badly misquoted.
A few clarifications are in order:
1. The person I spoke to wasn’t David Corn; it was a young reporter who identified
himself as an intern at The Nation. As far as Mr. Corn goes, it was pretty
clear from his piece that he wasn’t at the October 26 rally and march at all.
2. My perspective was absolutely not at all what Mr. Corn reported. The remarks
“Maoist” and “Stalinist” were spoken half-mockingly. I’m no fan of authoritarians
like the WWP, but I also was criticizing those who didn’t come to the rally.
I was talking about the young anarchists, anti-authoritarian and “indie-media”
types who, unfortunately, pretty much avoided this march. This was a shame,
because a tiny police presence would have allowed some pretty impressive breakout
actions. If there is a problem with IAC/ANSWER’s marches, it is that they are
orderly to a fault.
3. Corn starts off mocking some pretty legitimate causes. Free Mumia, Peltier,
the Cuban 5? Sounds good to me, as it might to anyone who actually knows the
details of these cases. Defeat Zionism? As the certified ethnic cleansers of
the Middle East, by all (nonviolent) means! Bring capitalism to a halt? Great
idea! It is true, of course, that these were
peripheral issues for an anti-war rally, but contrary to what one would have
surmised from Mr. Corn’s account, they took up only a small part of the remarks
at the demonstration.
It has now been 10 weeks since you published Mr. Corn’s piece. Churches are
joining the movement in droves. The AFL-CIO has come out against the war. Hollywood
celebs were arrested by the dozens in New York. The war drums of the corporate
propaganda machine called “the media” are playing to smaller audiences every
day. Acquaintances I know who have visited Europe, where they were temporarily
free of the bombardment of U.S. mainstream-
media propaganda, came home realizing that Bush’s imperial foreign policy (not
Saddam) is the greatest threat to the world since Hitler — and these people
are pretty mainstream.
Finally, Mr. Corn insists the anti-war movement should be more pro-American
and patriotic. But the whole concept of “pro-American” is too tainted with the
sacrilege of American exceptionalism — the idea that we are somehow a God-chosen
people with an exceptional political system and society which all the world
must accept. The facts, of course, reflect a different reality. More important,
no principled peace movement can be rooted in any sort of nationalism
or patriotism. In fact, I don’t see any way of abolishing war as long as people
who share a certain fragment of this planet — or language, or religion — can
be convinced by their so-called leaders that they are more important than those
who will perish from bombs, bullets or starvation as acceptable “collateral
damage” in the pursuit of selfish national interests.
Re: Judith Lewis’ “The
Terror War on Drugs” [December 13–19]. A “reform tax” on black-market marijuana
is an idea whose time has come. My local marijuana supplier already charges
a 5 percent “tax” on his product; 100 percent of the “tax” money thereby collected
goes to drug-law reform organizations such as NORML (National Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the MPP (Marijuana Policy Project), FAMM (Families
Against Mandatory Minimums), Common Sense for Drug Policy, Jeff and Tracy’s
Neighborhood, etc. No one complains about the “tax,” because the money is going
to a good cause. If more marijuana suppliers in the country “taxed” their weed,
pot-law reformers would have more funds to battle the estimated $40 billion
spent annually on the drug war.
I find it inconceivable that with arguments for ending the drug war so obviously
holding the higher moral ground, anyone could simply shrug his shoulders and
go on to the next article. But then, that’s precisely why the drug war escalates.
We are very good at shrugging it off, letting it go. It’s a good thing to let
your senators know what you think now and then.
BUCK AND JELLO: The critics weigh in
Re: Jonny Whiteside’s review of Buck Owens’ December
14 date at the Crystal Palace [Live
in L.A., December 20–26]. As an American treasure, Buck Owens deserves any
positive press he receives, and it’s indeed worth the $5 cover and hour drive
to Bakersfield just to hear him perform “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail.” However,
Buck’s mumbling and “lengthy mushmouthed discourses” have nothing to do with
him being “drunk” or a “stroke” victim. He lost part of his tongue to cancer
in 1993; amazingly, it’s never evident when the man sings.
In the Scoring the Clubs spotlight on the Dead Kennedys show at the Palace
[December 13–19], Jonny Whiteside wrote: “Jello [Biafra]’s outta the band now,
and once six-string demolitionist East Bay Ray starts firing off volleys of
his fabulous shrapnel-style guitar, all the self-righteous Biafra cant and rant
fades to happy insignificance.” But the disc in ostensible support of which
the “new and improved” D.K.s are touring in support is nothing but old live
stuff — largely written by Jello Biafra — with Biafra on the cover and on every
track, and in the pictures of the band being used in advertising for the band’s
shows as recently as last month. So much for Ray and his cronies finally “emancipating”
themselves. The old ad slogan is true: There really is always room for Jello,
if he can help sell discs and tickets. Clearly, the D.K.s still need his face,
voice and songwriting for the audience to care about the band. As technically
adept as the other guys are at re-creating the old sound and hitting all the
old notes, the old musical flame doesn’t burn without the fuel of nostalgia.
Without Biafra, those guys are the Dead Kennedys as much as Tito, Jackie, Marlon,
Jermaine and Randy without Michael are the Jackson 5.