City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: October, 2015

Staughton Lynd on employment law

[E]mployment law appeared to offer the possibility that without disguising our class origins or our years of higher education, we could present ourselves as persons with professional training whom workers might find helpful. This is just what occurred. It was as if the unspoken question always hovered in the air, “Who is that guy?” (meaning myself), and the answer, spoken or unspoken, was, “He’s our lawyer.” That said, everyone could relax and we could get down to business.
–Staughton Lynd, in Wobblies & Zapatistas (PM Press, 2008)


Sharon Tate


I was drunk in December
I was driving the causeway
I was missing my car
I was driving the wrong way
My brothers in arms
were off in Barbados
When you’re hungry for karma
you settle for huevos

My radio was on
tuned to the dial
on the Miracle Mile
“Do You Wanna Dance”
always sounds like a coffin
mercy mercy baby
I’m Johnny Rotten

I’m a drummer, a surfer
a Beach Boy, an addict
I’m homeless, I’m hopeless
I’m nowhere, nomadic

& someday I will be buried at sea
they’ll say, he was a man unlike you or me
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

now I hear the wolf howl
& he rhymes with cocaine
take me back
to where I have no name
Hawthorne, Monterey, Cielo Drive
no one here gets out alive
I know there’s a monster
tragic Hollywood fate
but I’m not afraid
of Sharon Tate
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

no I’m not afraid
of Sharon Tate
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

Photo courtesy of

plus ça change (על אחת כמה וכמה, קל וחומר)

The usual Jewish attitude towards the Arabs is one of contemptuous superiority. Our driver northward was a Jew who had fled from the Nazi advance into Hungary but that did not save him from racist habits. When I suggested that we give a boy a lift, he refused, saying the boy was an Arab. When I asked what was the difference, he said Arabs smelled bad. I said that is what anti-Semites said of us Jews in the outside world but this made no impression. His attitude, it is painful to report, is typical…Thousands of Arabs do the menial tasks of Tel Aviv. They find it as hard to obtain decent lodgings as Negroes do in America and for the same reasons; many “pass” as Jews to circumvent prejudice. In Haifa I visited the only secondary school attended by both Jews and Arabs but even there the classes turned out to be separate. The State of Israel has done much in a material way for the Arabs but the sense of humiliation outweighs any improvement. The spectacle fills one with despair. For if Jews, after all their experience of suffering, prove no better once in the majority than the rest of mankind, what hope for a world as torn apart as ours is by tribalism and hate?
–I.F. Stone, “The Racist Challenge in Israel,” June 1, 1964, from In a Time of Torment (Vintage Books, 1968)

The law is necessary but never sufficient

When the sorry state of patient care in this country is being discussed, legal regulation is brought up as a possible solution far more often than strong unions. But one look at the political quagmire surrounding health-care reform dumps a big bucket of cold water on all that. The most workable solution is the most obviously local: patient care issues can be solved on the spot by a strong union that sees these problems as shop floor issues. If the organization of workers in a hospital is weak, nurses will go on working to exhaustion, and patients will go on lying in pain, pressing call buttons that no one answers because one worker is frantically tending to three other call buttons. Even if we could pass laws regulating this sort of thing, the only appropriate enforcers would be the workers in the hospital. This is a problem that has plagued all kinds of efforts at social change, from labor to civil rights to the environment and more: we fight so hard to get the right policy or law, then forget that the only way to enforce it is through ongoing organizing and mobilizing at the base. The only way to stop unfair and dangerous hospital practices is for nurses and hospital workers to build strong organizations.
–Jane McAlevey, Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement (Verso, 2012)

Tales from Oakland, October 2015




More photos

Vatos with gold chains, tshirts & jeans talking outside convenience store on Telegraph Avenue: “It’s lactose-free, but it tastes just like real milk.”

tshirts: I found this humerus, Legalize LA, Highagain

Homeless man on Broadway: “…but I ain’t too proud to beg–”

plus a few NLG meeting highlights:

Bankruptcy lawyer describing how he became a Marxist last summer: “Our planet is a bar run by the alcoholics.”

Me receiving Los Angeles labor lawyer’s business card: “Ah, area code 323.”
Him: “Yeah, to show you how insular LA is, I once called a colleague’s office in the 310 area, and when I gave his secretary my number, she said, 323, where’s that?”

Me: “Finally, someone’s at the Labor & Employment Committee booth!”
Her: “I’m just charging my phone.”

Speaker: “As [name redacted] always used to say– a longtime NLG member for decades, bless her, she’s deceased now–”
Several audience members: “No she’s not! She’s here!!”

You’ve Got a Disease

Republicans have the best sex
but it’s not with you

you were wearing the wrong tiara

I had the wrong name

we had no ticket
to the dance

who knows why Jesus loves me

who told you, what comes in here,
never leaves

words mean what you think
they mean

you & your own eyes

in this waking nightmare underworld

recurring dreams of Gaza
Baptists & bogeymen
obscenities of empire
Jenna with a henna tattoo

wake up
make up what we lost

we own these things beyond ownership
we conjure this too

your body is a tenement
now occupy it

We are (almost) all working class now

The concept of social class…does not refer to income levels, educational attainments, or other static measures of social stratification. A social class in this sense is a social force acting in relationship to other social forces. In the case of the working class, it acts primarily in relationship to the capitalist class which employs the active workers in its ranks. Indeed, the working class is defined by its relationship to, dependence on, and opposition to the capitalist class. This relationship begins in the workplace at “the point of production,” but it extends throughout society, influencing politics, culture, and the quality of life in general.


[T]he working class cannot be understood simply by the products it makes or services it performs. Rather, it is a complex, constantly evolving social formation. In objective terms, its existence as a class is defined by its relationship to capital, not by occupation or industrial status. Moreover, as a social class, it includes not only its jobholders, but those who grow up in its homes and those who retire from the labor force to grow old; in its ranks are those who work at home and raise its children, and those whom it hires to run its unions. It is a web of individuals, families, organizations, and communities, some of which are hostile to each other at one level or another, but who are tied together by a common relationship to an alien economic/social force — capital. Far from disappearing, as some argue, the working class has grown even as it has changed.
–Kim Moody, An Injury To All: The Decline of American Unionism (1988, Verso)

Why my poems & blog posts have one word titles

When I got here people were just people, doing what they had where I came from. …The lack of brand names and consumerism also really hit me. You go into a store and there would be a bag of “rice.” It undermined what I had taken for granted in the absurd zone where people are like, “Hey, I only eat uncle so and so’s brand of rice.”
Assata Shakur