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.