Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Past the ballot box

GUEST: Josh Hoxie, director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies and coeditor of, talks about his new report, Billionaire Bonanza 2017: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us. (Note: due to a studio problem, this program did not play from Vassar College Radio on November 30. It was re-recorded as a podcast and broadcast the following Sunday from 5 - 6 pm on

Josh Hoxie sounded like he was giving a speech at an occupy encampment, with those of us in the audience knowing full well that the outrageous things he was saying were all true. The billionaires are calling all the shots, and they are after the rest of the nation's wealth. 

Now, most Americans recognize that we are all bit players in a well established kleptocracy. The problem is that one way to break the system is to vote for a hate-monger like Trump. We all want to "drain the swamp" of elite rich men who work together in robbing the working class. Bernie had about the same message, without the explicit appeal to racist ideologies. Since Hillary was widely seen as part of the same swamp, the Republican Party seemed a more effective agent of change.

Now that Trump is cornered, he could easily start a Third World War to get himself out of impeachment. We are living in the most dangerous of times. Are these the "end of times" that his fanatical, Christian base so fervently believes in? 

So we can try to elect more Democrats in Congress, as Josh Hoxie urges us to. Or we can recognize that both parties produced the tyrant we now have in the White House. Middle of the road Democratic candidates will give us more Clinton/Obama betrayals, only to be followed by another lurch to the right. The system needs radical changes, starting with the breakup of both corporate controlled parties.

Vote for reformers, and follow up by taking to the streets. We are past the ballot box for really changing the system.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thank you, Eli

Eli has been a cohost on Activist Radio for about three years. He is taking a leave leave of absence for November and may rejoin the program in December. The time will allow him to pursue the issues he has talked about on the air, animal rights, vegetarianism, and meditation.

I have had a number of cohosts over the ten years that Activist Radio has been on the air. Each has brought in new and interesting ideas. But more than that, each has established a camaraderie of the left that I think has benefited our listening public. Here were two people who were not afraid to talk about a political revolution to reestablish our democracy. We were not afraid to attack the racism, exploitation and oppression so endemic in out kleptocratic form of government. Finally, we agreed that the United States is a military empire, whose existence now threatens all life on the planet. As Pete Seeger sings at the end of each show, "We will love, or we will perish."

So thank you, Eli, for a great run. I have appreciated your support these last several years, and will miss your skill as a commentator and provocateur. As David Rovicks sings in "After the Revolution" ...

The debts were all forgiven
In all the neo-colonies
And the soldiers left their bases
Went back to their families
And a non-aggression treaty
Was signed with every sovereign state
And all the terrorist groups disbanded
With no empire left to hate
And they all started planting olive trees
After the revolution

Haiti is a mirror of US imperialism

GUEST: Leslie Mullin, social justice activist, member of the San Francisco-Bay Area based Haiti Action Committee and author of "How the U.S. Crippled Haiti’s Domestic Rice Industry," talks about the struggle against US imperialism in Central America and the implications of race and neoliberalism.

Remember Haiti? Not the earthquake, but the overthrow of Aristide, the first democratically elected president in a hundred years. Of course, the US was behind the coup. Aristide wanted to raise the minimum wage in his country and all the major US corporations that make a killing on Haiti's sweatshops demanded his head. Aristide was overthrown twice, and even removed by US special forces the second time. 

Look in any clothing store like Target to see the labels from Haiti. That is how our particularly vicious form of neoliberalism works; mostly black and brown people in Central America are being exploited for profit. I loved the fact that Bill and Hillary went to Haiti on their honeymoon, while it was under the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier. Their "special relationship" to Haiti is all about exploitation, two grifters set loose on the oppressed masses of Black people. 

Haiti is a mirror of US imperialism. The closer you look, the more you understand the suffering of oppressed people around the world. 

Thanks to Sharon for joining me on this interview.

Obama was only a populist during elections

GUEST: Chris Nineham, founder member of the Stop the War Coalition, a coordinator of the European Social Forum in Florence in 2002, and an organizer of the two million London demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003, talks about his latest book, How the Establishment Lost Control. (thanks to Sharon for help with the interview)

Chris Nineham has written a very encouraging book about social change in England. The resistance of hundreds of like minded groups has made it possible to overthrow Blair's corporatized Labour Party and replace it with something more to the liking of working people.

Like Bernie in the US, Jeremy Corbyn preaches a populism that restores the rights of the vast majority. Such a revolution has not happened in our own country, but the dynamics are similar. The billionaires and their bankers have achieved control over both major parties in the US, leaving little room for substantive change. Obama's "Change You Can Believe In" was a cruel publicity stunt, devoid of any actual passion. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama understood his role as a populist during elections, who gave the corporations what they wanted once in office.

Creating a revolution in the Democratic Party is so much harder in an empire that is fighting wars of domination all over the planet. In fact, Bernie's inability to take on the endless wars and the immense military budget doesn't bode well for actual change. The new, leftist candidates winning elections, however, may force a confrontation with the sellout Democratic establishment.

Chris Nineham points out how all this was achieved in England. Thanks again to Sharon who helped on this interview.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Feed the filthy rich

GUEST: Major Danny Sjursen, a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point, who served with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and wrote a critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge, talks about the hidden costs of empire and the militarizing of US police forces.

Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and Myth of the Surge

The Hazards of Military Worship

Counterinsurgency, Policing and the Militarization of America’s Cities

Many of us have come to realize that the economic system we live under is basically unfair. The billionaires buy the politicians, and rig the system for their own benefit. In the process, wealth is concentrated at the very top, leaving most Americans disillusioned and angry.

What the American people have not as yet realized is the importance of endless war in transferring money to the rich elite. At war for the last decade and a half, the US has spent over 4 trillion dollars on killing people, mostly in the Middle East. That money creates huge profits for the weapons makers of course, but does nothing for those who don't own their stocks and bonds. Four trillion could have provided for universal healthcare, free college tuition, free daycare, and free nursing homes. It could have created millions of jobs rebuilding America's infrastructure, converting the nation to renewable energy, and combating global warming. The tragedy of lost opportunity.

Once citizens come to realize the true costs of America's empire, there will be great pressure to change the "military-industrial-congressional complex" (as it was described in Eisenhower's original speech). That is why the corporate media devotes so much time to glorifying war and cheerleading for our next conflict. War is as much a part of the system as cheating the poor and middle class to feed the filthy rich. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The American Empire

GUEST: Maria Höhn, Professor and Chair of History at Vassar College, author of GIs and Fräuleins, about American troops in Germany, coeditor of Over There: Living with The U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present, and co-founder of The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany, talks about our nation's military troops in foreign lands.

Occupation isn't simple. It is a melding of two cultures, one victorious and the other subservient. But here is much more to it than that. 

Black GIs felt a type of freedom in Germany that they never experienced back home. They were given the same respect as white GIs by a majority of the German population. And since the town of Baumholder, the geographical area of Maria's study, was as devastated as the rest of Germany after the war, its citizens were eager to earn enough money from the American troops as possible. 

German women dated and married American GIs. There were few German men left, and the Americans treated them much better than the occupying French, English and Russians did. 

Seventy years later, US soldiers are still in Germany. In fact, American troops have never really left any county they occupied during World War II. You can hear American radio stations all through Europe, from Germany down through Greece. Studying the US occupation of Germany slowly reveals something else that few of us talk about. The American Empire, built on 800 military bases around the world. 

This interview was somewhat of a coming home for me as well. My father was from Baumholder, and I spent some very enjoyable hours with my Uncle Gerhardt, the town mayor, talking about war and peace in Europe. Shortly after, I was drafted into the US Army myself and spent a year at a US base in Korea. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All together now, in the key of C

GUESTS: Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino, award winning recording artists, folk singers and activists who have made their group, Magpie, one of the seminal voices in labor and social justice music. Their new album is entitled, "When We Stand Together: Songs of Joe Hill, the IWW, and Fellow Workers."

When We Stand Together
Magpie homepage
Magpie - Facebook

It was a nice story. Greg and Terry were passing though Poughkeepsie one Thursday and happened to listen to Activist Radio. They liked what they heard and contacted us about being on the show. We were so lucky to have them.

The history of Magpie goes back to the Kent State massacre, one of the times that US militarism has ended up shooting down its own citizens. Greg and Terry have been signing together pretty much since Kent State, and their vast repertoire is an education in the history of the American left.

Magpie is part of the movement for social justice, for economic fairness, for labor rights, and an end to Jim Crow discrimination. We talked about the other musicians who have chosen to advocate social change, sometimes at the expense of musical fame. Luckily for Magpie, the group is both well known for their musical talent, as well as effective in spreading the word. We the people can form a better world; all together now, in the key of C.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Like fighting any malignant, tenacious disease

GUEST: Peter Heymann, member of The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond and the Anti-Racist Alliance, talks about his Undoing Racism Workshops and the anti-racist structural analysis of educational, corporate and community institutions.

There are surprises to be had when studying racism. The book, "Sundown Towns" reveals how towns all across North America forced their Black populations out, starting in 1890. Another book, "The Color of Law" presents research on how this policy was augmented by local, state and national regulations. Segregation didn't just happen; Blacks were ethnically cleansed. 

Recent studies of Islamophobia reveal the active hand of the Jewish Defense League in spreading hate. The JDL even produced movies equating Muslims with terrorists, and somehow one of these films was used to train police in New York City. 

So racism is complex, with unexpected players. Fighting racism becomes a process of learning the hidden history of our country. And that's before we actually confronts the racism that our culture has implanted in us. Racism from fathers and mothers. Racism from TV shows we have grown up with. Fighting racism is a long term project, like fighting any malignant, tenacious disease.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Palatable to a white majority

GUEST: James Kilgore, college professor, social justice activist, and author of three published novels while he was incarcerated, talks about his latest campaign, Challenging E-Carceration.

It was great having James Kilgore back again, talking about prison reform and e-carceration. 

James reminds us that prison reform won't come through technology, but through a rethinking of racism in America. Of course, we must be aware of the system before we have the moral courage to change it. Racism has long been used by our politicians. Trump is only the latest example. 

Racism, combined with a global crisis of capitalism, puts us in a dangerous time. For the very wealthy to increase their gains, there has to be more and more surveillance and repression. The prison system is built to criminalize poverty and dissent, and racism is the hatred that will make such a system palatable to a white majority. 

Determined to rule the rest of the world

GUEST: Laura Finley, associate professor of sociology and criminology and author of several books on social justice, talks about her current focus on the militarization of police forces in inner city communities.

The price we pay for empire. A society armed to the teeth with weapons and drenched in killing. Gun control is part of the problem. But a society that can somehow justify the killing of millions abroad for corporate profit, is already debased, its humanity already striped away. 

The characteristic that will bring down our species is most apparent in the American Empire and its murderous allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. High tech combined with corporate greed and unrelenting violence brings about a unique form of fascism. Like the Third Reich, there are no norms, no boundaries for bloodshed. 

Americans are unequally unaware of the empire, even though we pay 700 billion a year to feed the cancer. We grieve our losses, but memories are short, and few see the overarching problem of a country determined to rule the rest of the world at any cost.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Opinions too close to the truth

GUEST: Joel Kovel, psychotherapist, college professor, political activist, and author of many books including Enemy of Nature and Overcoming Zionism, talks about his latest book The Lost Traveller's Dream.

Joel Kovel's most recent book is an adventure story, his own wanderings in an often corrupt and morally bankrupt world. 

Often paying the price for writing opinions too close to the truth, Kovel describes his time at Bard College after his Overcoming Zionism was published. It turns out that Bard, supposedly a bastion of liberal thought along the Hudson River, is a hotbed of Zionist machinations. Where else would one find out how many times the president, Leon Botstein, travelled to Israel in one year (10 times), and who pays the bills when Botstein travels abroad as emissary of American neoliberalism (George Soros). 

William Blake's rarely pleased anyone with his attacks on the Church of England, perhaps the moral tyranny of his day. Like his compatriot, Thomas Paine, his expressions were always too harsh, too damning. Blake, like Paine, wanted to throw off the chains of oppression and didn't care who was insulted by his blazing contradictions. 

Joel Kovel thinks that Zionism is but another tragedy for the Jewish People. He thinks that capitalism will inevitably bring about the end of life on Earth. Not popular opinions, of course. But by presenting the contradictions of American life, we can begin to envision a greater truth. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alliances to mute criticism of Israel's apartheid state

GUEST: Donna Nevel, psychologist, educator, writer and long time activist for justice in Palestine and Israel, talks about her Islamophobia training program and the role of the Israel Lobby in spreading racism directed towards Muslims.

Talking to Donna Nevel about American racism is a learning experience. She has thought and written about so many types of discrimination that she can compare and contrast different movements, and even explain their histories.

That is why I am so impressed by her Islamophobia training seminars. Donna is Jewish, but her religion presents no barrier to exposing and attacking racism where it exists. Part of the history of Islamophobia in the US can be traced to Zionist Jewish and Christian groups. Without a full understanding of why the Jewish Defense League pours money into convincing Americans to hate Muslims, we are all powerless to stop this most recent form of racism. 

PEP is the acronym for progressive except for Palestine. Leaving one group out isn't really about human rights at all. It is more about making alliances to mute criticism of Israel's apartheid state. Like  all true progressives, Donna values everyone's rights. Our country desperately needs teachers like Donna Nevel.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Paying my taxes to the empire

GUEST: Robert Piper, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the rank of UN Assistant Secretary General, talks about his role in documenting Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.

Robert called in from Gaza, where he travels through at least once every week. He knows all the players, so his insights were new and interesting.

He had boundaries, of course. The interview taught me as much about the UN as about Gaza. There were positions that could not be taken, like the fact that Hamas is openly resisting the occupation while the PA, bought and paid for the Israel and the US, is content with being the occupation's boots on the ground.

Israel's vicious military slaughters in Gaza were "conflicts" rather than war crimes, with blame attributed to both sides. Were those Robert's observations, or the what the UN, itself under US financial and military control, is forced to say?

Words like apartheid and genocide were not part of our discussion. Can the UN be more that a reporting agency under these restraints? And can the reports it issues really get to the bottom of Israel's 60 years of occupation and repression? 

Like many of us who work on the left, the acceptance of evil makes us into facilitators rather than agents of change. I like to think that I am free to say what I want on this radio program, and I feel very good about that. I have also paid my taxes to the empire for the last sixty years of Israel's occupation. Perhaps we are all facilitators. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Neoliberalism in an app

GUEST: Tom Slee, software industry critic and author of several books including No One Makes You Shop at Walmart and more recently, What’s Yours Is Mine, Against the Sharing Economy, talks about Uber, AirB&B, and the destruction of the commons.

Tom led us into an interesting discussion of the "commons," community structures that people create and maintain for the good of all. Sometimes these commons are monetized, leading to a few people getting rich by selling what many others have created.

The Internet seems to have accelerated this process, first promising an enhanced "commons," but in the end destroying how communities really work.

Tom adds a good deal of research to his book, showing how a current lack of regulation accelerates the ripping off of the public good. Hedge funds pour billions in, and CEO's become desperate to make a return on investments by squeezing employees and cutting down on safety requirements. 

In a sense, these Internet corporations have not resulted in more freedom at all. Just a more sophisticated externalizing of costs and maximizing of profits. Neoliberalism in an app. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Three progams

GUEST: Leah Muskin-Pierret, Government Affairs Associate at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, talks about supporting grassroots human rights organizations and pressuring members of Congress to speak out on Palestine.

The state of Israel has been hell on the Palestinians, 4.5 million people still living under a sixty year old apartheid occupation. Their treatment ranges from daily subjugation and deprivation in the West Bank to the deadly blockade of Gaza. Every few years, Israel unleashes a high tech slaughter in Gaza, killing 550 children in the last bloodbath.

Americans like to stand apart from all this slaughter. Yet we supply Israel's weaponry and veto UN attempts to condemn these war crimes. In addition the US gives Israel over 3 billion each year despite their dismal human rights record.

But Israel is more than an embarrassment to the American people. It has manipulated the US into endless wars in the Middle East, with Iran as the next target. Trillions of US dollars have been spent on these conflicts, and millions of civilians killed.

The biggest danger that Israel poses, however, is the destruction of our Constitution and its First Amendment freedom of speech. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act now in Congress would criminalize the boycott of Israel's illegal settlements, with the possibility of heavy fines and long prison terms.

Our two NY Senators are cosponsors of this bill. They are also among the highest paid by the Israel Lobby. Schumer even brags that he is the "Defender of Israel." Perhaps he will want to add another feather to his cap if this bill passes, "Betrayer of the US Constitution."

In our pay to play kleptocracy, the Israel Lobby has becomes a malignancy.


GUEST: Josh Bivens, Director of Research at the Economic Policy Institute and author of "Failure by Design: The Story behind America’s Broken Economy" as well as "Everybody Wins Except for Most of Us: What Economics Really Teaches About Globalization," discusses how our economy is stacked to benefit the very rich.

The most important thing that Josh had to tell us was that trade policy now is very different than trade policy before the 1980's. Josh reminds us that by 1980, most tariffs had been removed. Imports were not taxed excessively and US exports were not hampered by protectionist laws abroad. Free trade agreements were a no brainer.

But free trade agreements now are written by the major corporation specifically to increase their profits and to reduce their labor costs. Agreements are about extending monopolies on medicines, reducing the dependence on American labor, and eliminating environmental protections. They are wish lists for the well heeled, and death certificates for labor and environmental rights.

Josh takes us through the corporate machinations, and the so called "liberal" presidents who have sold us down the river. Clinton turns out to be the biggest lier on free trade, but the rest are not far behind. Liberal Democrats in the White House, of course, paved the way for the fascist and white nationalist we have now. Like most demagogues, Trump saw his chance in the very undemocratic rule of the economic elite. Neoliberalism paves the way for fascism.


GUESTS: Susan (travel photographer), and Paul Sprachman (academic and translator), will discuss her photography of woman in Iran as well as his translations of Iranian literature. Their presentation "Iranian Women Beyond the Chador" will take place August 4 in Woodstock, NY.

We had an interesting talk with Susan and Paul about Iran. It wasn't political at all, but did portray some of the beauty of the Iranian land and its people.

Now that the empire is convulsing and threatening war in many parts of the world, it is important that we citizens know the terrible price the world has paid for US imperialism in the past: 2 million killed in Korea, 2 million in Vietnam, 2 million so far in the Middle East. The empire is not finished yet, of course, but planning new adventures in conquering foreign lands for corporate profit. You and I watch from the inside hoping to resist in some way. Is that possible at all? Or must the empire run its terrible course to the end?

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
Won't be water, but fire next time.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Get rid of it; it is your right

GUEST: Harvey J Kaye, Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and award-winning author of numerous books, including Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, and his newest book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, talks about the need to rediscover our radical roots.

Rediscovering our roots doesn't sound that radical unless one begins to understand the revolutionary thought that produced the United States of America. 

In a way, our revolution was more a template than permanent way to govern. Try again if things aren't working out says our Declaration of Independence. Your rights come first; discard any rule or government that doesn't live up to your radical expectations. 

Harvey Kaye reminds us that positive changes in American history have always harkened back to these ideas. And it is only because most citizens don't quite understand how dangerous these ideas are that the corrupt leaders of today are able to manipulate both parties and most the media to favor the very richest. The Declaration of Independence has one answer to the kleptocracy that we find ourselves ruled by in this century. Get rid of it; it is your right.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Leaving us all vulnerable

GUEST: Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch who has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization, talks to us about the Cuomo Tax, the billion dollar giveaway to the nuclear energy industry.

Alex took us through the recent history of nuclear energy in New York State. This latest ripoff of the citizenry has a long history of the very rich determining the very worst and most expensive of energy policies for the rest of us. Nuclear power never really made any sense. Not even the immense problem of nuclear waste was addressed, leaving time bombs where nuclear plants are closed down.

Giving billions more to the nuclear industry so that aged plants can last another 20 years is ludicrous public policy. The giveaway will slow down the transition to renewable energy as well. Incentives for  wind and solar will suffer, bringing the specter of global warming ever nearer.

Our political leaders don't care. They just do what the billionaires tell them to. It is an insane system, of course. A failure of our species to adapt, leaving us all vulnerable if not doomed. Too clever by half.

Can the US be far behind?

GUEST: Andy Clarno, assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, talks about his new book, Neoliberal Apartheid, Palestine/Israel and South Africa After 1994 that explores racism, capitalism, colonialism, and empire in the early 21st century, with a focus on the relationship between marginalization and securitization.

Sharon, who is from South Africa, helped me with this interview. I hadn't put neoliberal with apartheid, and certainly didn't know the reasons that South Africa remained mired in extreme poverty even after Black Africans had "won their freedom."

The book is a page turner in that it pulls you into aspects of neoliberalism that you hadn't considered. Could it be that all three societies, South Africa, Israel, and the United States will end up with a tiny percentage on the very top, supported and maintained by a huge security force. It is a dystopian vision, but one that we now see emerging in all three countries. 

The role of the oppressed in joining and protecting this gross division between the halves and the have nots is another interesting consideration. South African Blacks without jobs join security firms to protect the very rich. Palestinian security forces make up a good deal of the repressive apparatus that keeps an occupied people subservient. Can the US be far behind?

Friday, June 23, 2017

The truly ugly part

GUEST: Dr. Reza Mansoor, cardiologist, past president of the Islamic Council of New England, and author of Stigmatized: From 9/11 to Trump and Beyond, talks about his work in combating racial hatreds.

Dr. Reza Mansoor is an articulate and compassionate person. Like all true leaders, he refuses to channel hatred, but instead talks of love and understanding.

I asked several questions about his reluctance to consider the role of the United States in the Middle East. Our country has devastated the region, killing millions and driving many more from their homes. It is, of course, the Project for the New American Century, a plan of global domination drafted during the Clinton presidency. 

The current focus on "reforming" Islam is nothing more than a sham. It's like blaming Blacks in America for being shot by racist, white cops. Did Dr. Mansoor feel that this was a good subject to bring up in his talks about racism?

He didn't deny the role of the United States in creating the bloodbath that is the Middle East. But he said that he preferred to reach out rather than blame the American people.

Muslims constitute about one percent of the US population. Maybe speaking truth to power would enflame the American public even more than the racist language coming from our current president and ruling class. Or maybe it is time to fight back and identify the racist elements in our foreign and domestic policy that have enraged a generation of the world's Muslims. 

I don't know the answer. The United States is not above the neoliberal apartheid inflicted on Blacks, Native Americans and other vulnerable minorities. I do know that it must be hard for people like Dr. Mansoor to keep his civility when attacked for his faith. From that I hear, his talk at the Woodstock Jewish Center was not particularly easy, with several in the audience expressing islamophobic sentiments. That brings us to the truly ugly part of this type of racism, the role of the Israel Lobby and many in the Jewish religious community in promoting race hatred in America. 

Explaining to grandchildren

GUEST: Alice Rothchild, obstetrician-gynecologist, Palestinian human rights activist and writer, talks about the making of her new movie: "Voices Across the Divide."

This interview was done by Sharon, our first Activist Radio field reporter. 

Eli and I sat in the WVKR studio spellbound by the interview. Both women were so articulate in conveying the grief and suffering of the Palestinian people during their 50 years of Israeli occupation. 

Oppression leaves lasting scars, even for those who manage to emigrate to a foreign country. But for the Palestinians still there, life is an unremitting series of humiliation and deprivation. The fact that the United States supports this racist atrocity, the longest running apartheid in the world, will be our country's lasting shame. Many of my ancestors were German, and I know what it is like questioning the morality and even the humanity of my own people. How did the Germans do what they did? How did a society become so debased as to commit genocide? 

The genocide of the Palestinian people is fostered and encouraged by the United States. Our tax dollars buy the guns, the cluster bombs, the white phosphorus, and the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Explain that to your grandchildren if you can.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Women and men fighting back

GUEST: Donna Goodman, long time peace and justice activist in New York’s Hudson Valley, talks about her new book: Women Fight Back: The centuries-long struggle for liberation.

Both Eli and I know Donna well and enjoyed reading her book. How much of women's history I didn't know. 

The history, of course, helps us understand the current fight for women's rights. Will reproductive rights take a back seat to expressing women's desire to express their own sexuality? Reading Donna's book helps us understand the current direction of the resistance. 

Expect to go beyond neoliberalism in considering alternatives that promote better social justice outcomes. But our listeners are ready for that. Donna's analysis isn't full of feel good proclamations, but enables the reader to fully understand how women and men must fight back. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gracious with her time

GUEST: Aliya, college student and a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine at Bard College, talks about the challenges of advocating for Palestinian human rights on campus.

I had done this interview at Bard College right after a Students for Justice in Palestine event. Aliya was gracious with her time (she was taking the two filmmakers out to dinner that night). She was also gracious with her college and her country.

Aliya holds a fervent belief that the human rights of the Palestinians will eventually be upheld. To advocate for the rights of millions being ethnically cleansed from their homeland is simply the right thing to do. Her college will see that, as will her country.

I am not as sure. The colonialism and racism of our current system of government has been with us for a long time. Israel is part of our occupation on the Middle East. Billions depend on it. The oil companies and weapons makers will never sacrifice their profits to do the right thing.

Maybe that is the difference in our ages. Aliya is in her first year of college. I thought the world was changing in the 1960's. Now I see that such changes may not come in my lifetime. But what we do share is a determination to continue the struggle for human rights, believing like MLK that the arc of all life on earth bends toward justice.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Racist actors in the drama of apartheid

GUEST: Richard Rothstein, research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, talks about his recently released book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

Richard Rothstein's book, like James Loewen's Sundown Towns changes the narrative about racism in the United States. Segregation, according to Sundown Towns was mostly done through organized intimidation and violence. Richard Rothstein expands the list of racist actors in the drama of apartheid to include the federal, state and local governments. 

It is a compelling read, history that white people just don't know about. It calls out for a remedy, a legal way to restore our Constitutional rights after decades of racial oppression and injustice.

I think it is amazing the progress the left has made in revealing the structural basis for segregation in our country. All this at the same time as the right wing is stirring up racial hatreds to win elections again. 

We have gone back to the income distribution of the Gilded Age. Who would have thought that we would also be reverting to the blatant racial hostility towards Blacks that characterized the 1890's. It is time for us to march together again for racial justice.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Listening to divergent voices

GUEST: Michael Roberts, London economist, Marxist, and author, talks about the global financial system and his most recent book (written with Guiglelmo Carchedi), The World in Crisis, a compilation of international economists' views on profit and the recurrent crises in global capitalism. Michael Roberts will be a presenter at this year's Left Forum in New York.

Few economists step back and consider the human effects of the policy they study. Marxists do that, so they have become valuable especially in this time of crisis.

But isn't every age a time of crisis? We have certainly seen our share of crises since the Second World War. But only recently have we fully realized that a mistake in policy could be the end of our species. Nuclear war and global warming may not be the most interesting of crises, but both have the potential to be humankind's last. 

Capitalism has become sort of a state religion over the years. Attacking capitalism is like attacking God. It gets you nowhere except investigated by the thought police. But what if capitalism is the problem? What if neoliberalism is the "spiritual death” that MLK warned us about? And what developed country in the world spends a greater amount on "military defense" and a smaller amount on "programs of social uplift"?

A continuation of our species relies now on those who are, in MLK's terms, "the creatively maladjusted." Not on the super rich. Not on the intellectuals who fashion their analysis for money or position (think Paul Krugman coming out for Hillary Clinton). We have to listen to divergent voices to still have a chance.   

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mohammad Sabaaneh's cartoons

Caste system for Palestinians?

Guest: Mohammad Sabaaneh, a Palestinian graphic artist living in Ramallah who is the principal political cartoonist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, talks about his powerful new book "White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine," to be released by Just World Books in early May.

Mohammad got the idea for this book while suffering in an Israeli jail. He also spent time in solitary confinement, which is perhaps the subject of the cartoon on the left.

No charges were ever filed against Mohammad, a very common fact of life in apartheid Israel. Laws differ according to one's religion. Human rights are rarely respected and due process doesn't exist if you are a Palestinian. A huge number of young Palestinians have been imprisoned, much like the statistics one finds on Black incarceration in the US.

In fact, the more one learns about the historical treatment of African Americans in this country, the more dramatic the similarities become. Richard Rothstein's new book "The Color of Law" will come out in a few days, and it proves beyond any doubt that America's federal, state, and local governments actively pursued racial segregation over the last 100 years, along with the banks, real estate firms, insurance companies and even much of corporate manufacturing. Yes, America's treatment of Blacks has created a caste system, the same as has been done by Israel in occupied Palestine. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think outside the two party box

Guest: Caroline Fenner, former English teacher, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, and Director of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance, talks about grassroots organizing to resist the Trump agenda.

Bernie inspired a wave of social activism, even after he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton. On election day, polls had him 12 percentage points ahead of Trump, a lead that he had maintained during the previous year. Sad that Democrats had defeated their best hope of winning in the fall. Sad for all of us.

We are still figuring out how Bernie has changed the landscape all across America. There are huge crowds now demanding that Trump not roll back a half century of social progress. Not only are there lots of people active, but they are willing to organize. In one way, Caroline's organization embodies Howard Zinn's principle that movements, not parties create change. Nixon thought he had no choice but to go along with the Clean Water Act. He tried to sabotage its passage on the sly (Tricky Dick), but found the grassroots environmental movement too strong to openly defy.

The question now is how separate various grassroots movements are from the Democratic Party. Organizations like Citizen Action and the Working Families Party have been tied a bit too closely in the past. For example, when Obama won the presidency the peace movement died. Much of it had been bankrolled by the Democratic Party as a way to win the election. After Obama won, his party didn't need peace anymore. 

That would be our worst nightmare, that organizations like Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance end up working for candidates and not for social change. I would think the group would have been right in there pressuring the Democratic Party to elect reformer Keith Ellison as DNC Chair. Another corporate shill, Tom Perez, was elected instead. Perez won't dare question his party's ties to Wall Street and the one percent, the very issues that lost the last presidential race. 

Can local activists rise to the occasion? Their organizational skills are remarkable as well as inspiring. But can their movement think outside the two party box?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wilson's secrets turn out to be America's secrets

GUEST: Ajamu Baraka, internationally recognized Pan-African human rights activist, editor for The Black Agenda Report, and vice-presidential candidate for the Green Party USA in 2016, talks about race and how the two party system favors the very rich.

The journey is longer than I had thought.

The more I read and hear, the more I realize that my own journey to understanding race in America is far from complete. I had thought that as long as I opposed racism, that I was dong the right thing. But holding to a principle is not as effective as understanding the long term caste system that I have been living under.

Black people have been systematically deprived of their rights in a caste system that appears to have been as rigid as any one might find in India. I learned in history class that Woodrow Wilson was an "idealist" who couldn't compromise his own morality to get important legislation passed. Now I find that he was a hardened racist who demanded that a curtain be put up in federal offices to separate African Americans from whites. He also passed a law forbidding Blacks from supervising white governmental workers, resulting in the firing of many career African Americans.

Wilson's secrets turn out to be America's secrets. Racism was alive and well in government rules and regulations well into the 1980's. FDR's WPA was purposefully segregated. When Black GI's returned from WW II, they couldn't get loans to live in suburban developments. They weren't allowed to buy houses there either.

The hidden history that most Blacks know, but most whites don't.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Those whose greed has erased their wisdom

GUEST: Tom Newmark, chair of the American Botanical Council, the co-founder  of The Carbon Underground, and chair of the Greenpeace Fund USA, talks about his Sacred Seed project and Finca Luna Nueve, his farm and teaching center in Costa Rica.

Tom's interview represented a combination of science and spiritual thinking. I have grown up always putting the former over the latter, as if science alone could help me overcome my anecdotal view of life. But my short experience at Standing Rock has made me question whether science is all important.

Can science bring us to completely understand our place in the organism that is our earth? Scientific studies may get there someday. Maybe humans will eventually be classified as part of the whole, much like electrons spinning around the nucleus of an atom. But now, we must use our other senses to help restore the world around us which is in chaos.

The Lakota use a type of spirituality to govern their lives. Their reverence for the earth and for all the life upon it is wisdom and not science. I think that science at this point cannot save us. There are too many principles to learn in too short a time. The funding for science is now controlled by those whose greed has erased their wisdom, the oil barons and the weapons makers. We have to use our spiritual wisdom to save ourselves.

Missing is labor and social justice activism

GUEST: Jesper Roine, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, whose research contributed to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, talks about income and inequality, as well as his new book, Pocket Piketty, that brings the concept of economic justice to a larger audience.

Piketty's book is now widely read by the capitalists of the world, those in the IMF and World Trade Organization. Something is wrong with the neoliberal model that they have been promoting in the rest of the world.

Roine's Pocket Piketty makes these ideas more accessible (160 pages versus over 600). I did understand most of the concepts involve, the inevitable return of the victory of capital over labor. In Piketty's view, the two world wars and Great Depression destroyed so much capital that the ratio of capital to labor became much more equitable. Starting in the late 1970's however, capital began its climb back to the heights of the Gilded Age. Labor's share shrank until the world was again divided between the obscenely rich and the impoverished majority.

Piketty offers some suggestions for how to turn this around through higher taxation and more government spending on social needs. All these efforts are to avoid the obvious end stage of great inequity, and that is revolution. 

Missing is labor and social justice activism. Piketty has the ruling class making the decision to lessen the gross income inequities that face industrial societies. Maybe the working class would make more permanent adjustments. We will be interviewing some Marxist economists for a more democratic take on how change will come. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The totality of the war's cruelty

GUEST: Jill Carnegie, Co-Founder of VoNY (Vegans of New York), Campaigns Director for NYCLASS (Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets), talks about organizing for the recent Empty the Carriages campaign.

In "Slaughterhouse Five" the principal character, Billy, only cries once despite the universal suffering he has experienced as a prisoner of war in Dresden during the Allied firebombing. 

He is scolded for his mistreatment of  horses by two Germans, and husband and wife pair of obstetricians. When he looks for himself, he finds the horses' hooves shattered and their mouths bleeding. They are dying of thirst. 

Kurt Vonnegut's Billy is only able to feel the totality of the war's cruelty by recognizing his own blindness to animal suffering. There are many ways to interpret Billy's epiphany. Is it irony that the German couple complains about the treatment of animals after what the Nazis have done? The Allies have just incinerated an entire city full of civilians. Do horses matter?

To Vonnegut they do. Much of "Slaughterhouse Five" is autobiographic. He was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the bombing. He suffered the PTSD that many war veterans do their entire lives. There is a link between the suffering of animals and the suffering of humans. Both bring tears of humanity to our eyes.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

State enforced racism

GUEST: Mark Schwartz, activist lawyer and former parent at the Friends' Central School, talks about the Quaker school's decision to suspend two teachers for bringing in a Palestinian speaker, a professor at nearby Swarthmore College.

Is Zionism destroying our First Amendment rights for freedom of speech?

In the nation's schools and colleges, this may well be true. Our elected representatives on the state and federal level are busy plotting how to punish students and faculty members for openly criticizing Israel. To our political leaders, Israel represents Jewish people everywhere, and any questioning of the apartheid state is by definition an attack on Jews. 

But can a state really be a religion? And are states free to commit racism and ethnic cleansing because they call themselves a religious entity? 

Mark doesn't agree with Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. But he is defending the right of teachers to bring in a Palestinian speaker. Denying that right for an educator is as much as saying that all Palestinians are antisemitic, based solely on ethnic identity. And what could be more racist than that? Zionism in its extreme is the demand that educators and students be islamophobic.

This is simply state enforced racism, like the Third Reich. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Solving the racial divide

GUEST: Lisa Lindsley, founder of KarmaKapital and consultant for shareholder activism, talks about her recent work combating racism as part of a new Ulster County chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice SURJ.

What an interesting talk we had with Lisa Lindsley about a new organization in the Hudson Valley, Showing Up for Racial Justice. Of course, most of Civil Rights progress during the 1960's was a result of Black and white activist working together. But it was not always a happy relationship. Towards the end of the Civil Rights Era, whites were forced out of decision making positions in several national organizations. For white people eager to help African Americans achieve economic and social justice there has always been moments of self doubt.

Whites are for the most part not brought up with Black people in our segregated society. Cultural differences abound, and then there is the subject of trust. How can I be white and not have some deeply buried suspicion that I am smarter or more capable? Will I be trusted? Will I be respected, or subtly hated for my privilege? And does an organization like SURJ avoid all these pitfalls by being only for white people? 

I don't know how my country is going to solve its racial divide. As long as the US caste system survives, Blacks will always be poorer and more in need of government support. 

I will never accept or condone a system that treats one group of people as better than another. I have much higher aspirations for myself and my country. Despite what lingering racism I may still have, I am ready to confront it in order to build a better society. At some point, we will march together to demand the type of integrated society that we want for our children and grandchildren.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Don't blame Trump voters

Don't blame Trump voters. Of course, some were motivated by Trump's obvious appeals to racists and white nationalists. But many had voted for Obama when he promised to change the rigged system, and again for Sanders when he vowed to do the same. Most Trump voters just wanted to smash an economic system that only benefited the richest Americans.

Blame the billionaire funded Democratic Party, that couldn't offer an alternative during its last sixteen years in the White House. Hillary, backed by the major corporations and Wall Street, would have been more of the same.

Blame many of the nation's unions, so corrupted that their leaders have long ago given up on strengthening the working class. Now unions are pockets of protectionism that are resented by most blue caller workers.

Blame many of the college professors and the nation's intellectual class, so comfortable with their salaries and fearful of change that they support the kleptocracy.

Blame much of the nation's media, that always reflects the views of the privileged few. Hillary was the media's first pick, and then came Trump. Bernie's revolution was simply never covered at all.

Trump will destroy what is left of the public good, draining the treasury to make billionaires even richer. Health, housing, decent wages and unions will all give way to a permanent police state.

People are finally taking to the streets. This time we won't let a morally bankrupt Democratic Party steal our momentum. We will have change despite the corporate controlled parties.

-Fred Nagel


Some write about the nightmare of the Trump presidency, and the dream of the Sanders presidency that might have been. Let us all keep clearly in mind whom we have to thank for the actual nightmare and the failed dream. Major responsibility goes to the Democratic Party, the place where all good political ideas go to die (and the Working Families Party, which is like unto it. Heck, maybe even worse- WF picked Cuomo when the Dems were still considering Teachout). More specifically, for the current nightmare and dead dream we can thank Hillary Clinton, & Deb Wasserman Schultz, & major Dems like Warren and Schumer, who did not back Sanders.  

And when the Dem machine crushed the Sanders dream, an even better version of that dream was championed by Stein and the Green Party, but oh no, an impossible option to consider, by so many so-called progressives, in thrall to the Democratic Party (or the WF party, where they can vote for the same candidates, like Hil, Cuomo, & let's-build-CPV-toxic-compressor station Sean Patrick Maloney).

And, if Hillary had been elected, we would still be in a nightmare, just a slightly different one. Rather than the rabid wolf version, we'd have arsenic and old lace. No blatant trampling of civil rights, just subtler but equally deadly environmental racism. And continued military aggression, illegal and immoral undeclared drone wars, fossil & nuclear fuels, Monsanto & GMOs, & Wall St well served by its dear friend. 

And would we have Resist, Insist, Persist? Millions marching in the streets repeatedly, town halls, for social & earth justice? Are you kidding?! Because here's the riddle, children: When are fracking, toxic fuels, plutocratic swindling, military atrocities, persecution of whistleblowers, mass invasions of privacy, ecological devastation via Monsanto, all perfectly fine? When done by Democrats, of course, particularly darkskinned or female ones! What could possibly go wrong?!  

You see, my dears, I'm afraid that the GOP is only half of the nightmare.  

-Barbara Kidney