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

Resisting exclusionary rules

GUEST: Father Frank Alagna, priest of the Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church in Kingston, NY, and founder of the “Justice for All” Speakers Forum in Dutchess County, talks about the role of his church in establishing Kingston as a sanctuary city.

Father Frank gave us a look inside a sanctuary city: how it gets started and who does the organizing. He described the support that he got from other churches, synagogues and mosques as he asked the city council to come out in support of sanctuary. It made me realize how important the links between religions are when it comes to social change.

The links, of course, aren't always to the benefit of human rights. When I attempted to show a movie about Palestine at another local church, all the priest could say was he would have to ask the local rabbi. Progressive except for Palestine? It took me a year to show the film, which was made by the Episcopal Church! The film is "Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace," if you want to show it in your church.

For sanctuary, however, there were few holdouts in the religious community. I think the debate has altered many people's positions. Human rights should be our ideal, not the following of exclusionary rules about who gets to cross a border. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Corporate fascism and what's left for the rest of us

GUEST: Lawrence Wittner, history professor, author, and social critic, talks about his latest exposé, the scandal of vast inequality in retirement pay.

Larry spelled it all out: how the retirements of the very rich are obscene, and the retirements of the rest of us, barely keeping food on the table. 

Not surprising, although it is good to have these studies that prove what many workers already know. The very rich are intent on squeezing the last bit of "excess" income from the vast majority of working Americans. Trump's palaces are monuments to greed and bad taste, but US capitalists don't care in the least. As long as he helps them dismantle any programs that benefit the 99%, the rich will be happy. 

Does our corporate society tend towards wage slavery? Our guest next week, Jesper Roine, talks about the work of Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Jesper is the author of the Pocket Piketty, which will be published this month. This condensed version will further spread Piketty's ideas about how inequality grows, and why it is so dangerous.

At the end of the interview, Larry spells out what we as a society must do to stop this dissent into corporate fascism. We have to take to the streets while we still can. Thomas Piketty would, no doubt, agree. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

True peace that comes from justice

GUEST: Jamal Joseph, American writer, director, poet, activist, college professor, and former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, talks about his new film, Chapter & Verse: A Harlem Story.

I really enjoyed this discussion with Jamal Joseph. His life, of course, exceeds even the aspirations of his film characters: Black Panther, prisoner, and finally filmmaker and college professor. 

Was his view of the world wrong as a Black Panther? It doesn't seem as if his politics have changed that much, just his tactics for fighting racism and social injustice. Jamal suggested that I read Malcolm X's talk at Oxford University. Here is the speech in full.

The movie, according to Jamal, was made to reflect Black experiences in the United States, not to point out what whites should be doing about it. That was a response to my question about why the film didn't show more of the racism and social injustice that has left people of color at the bottom of our economic system. 

White people watching Jamal's film will be aware of the forces that have diminished Black Peoples' chances of success: the segregated neighborhoods, the lucrative prison/industrial complex, and the long history of racial injustice. Here is how Black People in Harlem cope, and how they find meaning in a system that has perpetually kept them down. In fact, the white people in Chapter and Verse are for the most part kind and trustworthy. It is the racist system that is broken in this county, and both whites and Blacks must join forces to fix it if we are going to have the true peace that comes from justice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small communities rise to the occasion

GUEST: Sarah van Gelder, co-founder and editor-at-large of YES! magazine, talks about her brand new book: The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America.

This gem of a book takes a quick look at many small revolutions that are happening in America. Each emphasis is slightly different, but they all involve some sort of local community building. Are you reading this on a computer? Well, according to Sarah, you are not really a part of this movement until you are working shoulder to shoulder with those down the block or on the next floor of the local factory. Decisions are made collectively and courage begets more courage in these miniature, alternative worlds. 

Can enough people of the US begin acting outside of the capitalist juggernaut to really make a difference. It is too soon to judge that, since education is really the first step. Let enough workers know how the system works, and someday the corporate owned, two party system grinds to a halt. 

A nightmare, or a chance for small communities to rise to the occasion through farming and manufacturing co-ops that take care of most local needs? Whatever the chances of success, these mostly rural initiatives show us how to start chipping away at the empire's endless wars and wanton destruction of our collective planet. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A way to support Israel without accepting Zionism

GUEST: Alice Rothchild, obstetrician-gynecologist, human rights activist and writer, talks about her new book Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine.

Dr. Alice Rothchild helps us all look at what Israel has become, a violent and racist state. She does this by writing about those who suffer from the illegal occupation, the Palestinians.

She also offers hope. Although the establishment Jewish religion in the US supports almost everything the Israelis do, a younger generation of Jews do not want the apartheid state to define their cultural and religious identity.

How can the religion support human rights, and at the same time defend Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian lands? Dr. Rothchild cites PTSD from the Holocaust. The older generation who lived through the Nazi genocide can't really come to terms with what Israel has become. "Progressive except for Israel" is a symptom of fearful and dysfunctional thinking. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace offer a way to support Israel without accepting Zionism with its ethnic cleansing and racist brutality.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Going beyond mainstream sources

GUEST: Deirdre Griswold, co-founder of the Workers World Party and long time editor of its weekly newspaper, talks about US aggression in Asia and its decades long effects on Korea.

How narrow the political discourse is in the US. With all the talk about how terrible Trump is and how he is threatening our "free press," we often overlook the fact that our media is already hopelessly compromised by establishment thinking.

That is why guests like Deirdre Griswold are so important to a real political debate. What is the reality of the US involvement in Korea since World War II? Have we supported dictators and covered up political suppression and even massacres? Is the Pentagon trying to start another war between the north and south? And what do the Korean people want?

You won't know the answer to any of these questions if you read The New York Times. There are certain types of stories that our newspaper of record consistently distorts to fit the needs of our hidden empire. Coverage of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Korea is worse than inadequate; it is simply state propaganda.

Do I agree with Workers World and its take Korean history? I spent a year there in the US Army, so I try to follow Korea closely, reading every article I can. I think that Ms. Griswold's analysis is much closer to the truth than anything I have read in the US media. That's not to say I agree with everything. But to be informed, one needs to be exposed to a variety of opinions, something that is not very easy unless you read alternative media. The search for truth about the US empire requires going beyond mainstream sources. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Open your refrigerator

GUEST: Mariel Fiori, a professional journalist from Argentina and co-founder / managing editor of La Voz, a Spanish magazine distributed in the Hudson Valley, talks about the needs and rights of the Latino community in the age of Trump.

We had an interesting discussion with Mariel Fiori. Fighting for Latino rights, according to her, means providing critical information to those scared of being deported. That is why La Voz is only printed in Spanish, although some of the stories get translated on the magazines website. 

We did get into her defense of immigrant populations. "Open your refrigerator and tell me what would be there if everyone was sent back," she said. Immigrants, legal and illegal bring value to the communities where they live. They should not live their lives in fear.

The interview helped me understand how sanctuary is the forefront of immigrant rights in the US. Nearby Kingston, NY just declared itself a "sanctuary city," so the resistance to Trump's racist and fascist regime has already begun!

On another topic, Activist Radio is proud to be included on the Progressive Radio Network every Sunday from 5 - 6 pm. Join us there, and take a look at the many other great programs on the network. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

A common narrative

GUEST: Eitan Bronstein, founder of the NGO Zochrot, co-author of "Nakba" in Hebrew, and co-creator of the De-Colonizer website, talks about his personal journey of decolonizing his identity as an Israeli.

Eitan's research fit perfectly into one of the themes in this program: the privilege of doing the right thing.

Eitan is an Israeli who insists that his people acknowledge how the the Jewish state was born, by ethnic cleansing. 

Will our country ever acknowledge the ethnic cleansing and genocide visited on our Native American populations? Or the centuries of slavery and Jim Crow that forced Black people into brutalized and marginalized lives? If we are to be free, of course, we must be honest. Liars are never free from the fear of being exposed, and the American Empire is the most fearful nation on earth. 

So we. like Eitan, will continue speaking truth to power. Only by crafting a common narrative can there be peace. And let's face it, our future is either going to be peace or annihilation.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Send in the gunships!

GUEST: Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center, writer for the Workers World newspaper, and organizer of mass rallies against imperialism, talks about the US "Pivot to Asia" and the threat of war in coming years.

Was it too much of a stretch talking about the Opium Wars to describe what the US wants from China today? 

Sara spent several minutes describing how European gunships forced China to accept the opium trade in the middle 1800's by signing treaties giving sovereignty to Western nations. The US military buildup in the South China Sea might be seen as a similar attempt by the US to control China's trade. We are looking at a century and a half of attempts to dominate China, something our media would never remind its readers of.

Why now for renewed US imperialism in the region? "Free trade" has always meant the right to dictate terms favorable to Western powers. The right to sell opium to the Chinese in exchange for silk, spices, and precious metals was won through military force, with Western gunboats patrolling China's major rivers. The introduction of opium had already devastated large areas of China, but to the Western powers, any trade that benefited their corporations was morally justified. 

So the "pivot to Asia" is really old news. China is asserting the right to trade with the rest of the world without Western intervention. Send in the gunships!

US aggression, however, is a dangerous provocation when both countries are armed with nuclear weapons.