October 31, 2019

Hyper neoliberalism and unvarnished kleptocracy

October 24

GUEST: S. Shankar, Chair of the English Department at the University of Hawaii, novelist, and translator with an interest in postcolonial literature, talks about the US caste system and how it compares to India's rigid social hierarchy. His most recent book is Ghost In The Tamarind.

Does America have a caste system?

Most people know that the US is a caste system, with ever fewer at the top, and millions at the level of untouchable homeless. The media furnishes the mythology that keeps us from rebelling: work hard enough and you will get rich too.

But the odds are just too overwhelming, and most citizens have simply lost faith. It doesn't help that the very rich now take everything, and only spend their billions on buying politicians. Both parties have the same monkey on their backs, the need to spend hundreds of millions to get elected. Politicians and lobbyists are really the same class. Both work to fashion laws benefitting the very richest.

Can a democracy really be a caste system? Most people know the answer to that as well. Democracy is the corporate narrative rather than the reality in these united states. The election of Trump is one sign that the public's faith is gone. He was going to drain the swamp, but was only capable of a cruder version of the status quo. There are those who miss the Obama era. But is a well groomed and articulate lier preferable to a vicious, neurotic clown? Both are products of an unravelling system of hyper neoliberalism and unvarnished kleptocracy. 

Keeping those contractors happy

October 17

GUEST: Andy Pragacz, community radio producer (WBDY), teacher at SUNY Cortland, and a founding member of Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), talks about changing the criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration.

No New Jails in New York State!

I wonder if this movement is all across the country. We know of many locations already, where taxpayers are tired of all the money spent on jails. Here in Dutchess County, the legislature gets unlimited campaign contributions from outside contractors, and guess what, they are building a 200 million dollar new jail.

It doesn't matter that hundreds are in jail because they can't afford bail, are addicted to drugs, need mental health services, or are simply people of color. All the services that could keep people out of join have been cut back or eliminated. Even after serving their time, ex prisoners have to navigate a complex probation maze that often sends them right back to jail. The system is set up to generate convicts. Is it any surprise that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world?

It is well past time to question the prison industrial complex, that mixture of racism and barbarism that ends up calling for endless new jails. Politicians have to keep those contractors happy. 

October 25, 2019

Free expression of ideas

October 10

GUEST: Seth Donnelly, educator, activist with the Haiti Action Committee, and author of the recently published book, The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation, talks about how rich countries rob the poor of the world.

The Lie of Global Prosperity - Monthly Review

Seth Donnelly is a busy man. He teaches at a local high school. He takes his students to places like Haiti for a look at poverty in the Third World. He researches and writes a book on global poverty and exploitation. In short, he is the Social Studies teacher that I wish I had. Maybe learning about US foreign policy would have saved me from being drafted in 1967.

His book explodes a lot of theories we have accepted without much question. Is the IMF trying to reduce poverty? Are the big banks criminal entities when it comes to Third World dept. Treat yourself to Donnelly's essays and book. This is really the free expression of ideas, especially when it comes to the hidden costs of empire.

October 6, 2019

Hit man for the empire

October 3

GUEST: Talal Jabari is a Palestinian journalist and documentary filmmaker who has made a career of covering his people's plight. Talal is the managing director of Radio Alam, an Arabic-language talk radio station. He directed Enemies of the South, co-produced the critically acclaimed film, Speed Sisters and is the cinematographer of Naela and the Uprising. He is currently producing the feature documentary One Night in Tantura.

Naila and the Uprising: Official Trailer

Talal is unabashedly pro Palestinian. We had a good talk about how art can bring out stories that have been ignored by the popular culture. And if any story has been ignored in our mainstream media, it is the plight of the Palestinians.

Their history has been erased, like their towns and cities. The diaspora has been overlooked. The suffering of five million who remain in Palestine has been reduced to arguing about Israel's right to exist. Do apartheid states have a right to exist? Israel insists on being a Jewish state, in spite of the fact that 20% of its population is not. When Israel takes over the rest of the West Bank, than over  half of its population will be Muslim. Will Israel still have a right to exist as a Jewish state?

These really aren't complicated questions. Only the Zionists say that the occupation is too complicated to draw conclusions from. And let's not even call it a "conflict." Was the Holocaust a conflict between the Third Reich and its Jewish population?

Only Americans are confused. Like the viewers of Fox News, we learn less and less about the truth each day. And the genocide directed against the Palestinians will only stop when a sizable number of US citizens demand that our country end it. If there is a holocaust of the Palestinians, it will belong primarily to America. Israel is merely our murderous and misdirected colony, content to be the hit man for the empire. 

We could not be moved

September 26

GUEST: Helene Byrne, author, publisher, and public speaker, talks about her latest campaign to bring the nation together against gun violence, the Requiem and Remembrance Day.

National Sing-In Against Gun Violence on March 8, 2020

Can you have a revolution without art and music? Can gun violence be controlled by millions of people singing about the need to value life over death in our society?

Helene Byrne thinks that people singing together have a unique power. It is not an unusual idea. I remember singing against the Vietnam War in 1969, led by Pete Seeger. It seemed like a whole city block of protesters were suddenly joined together, and that anything was possible. We could sing down the war machine because we were emotionally and spiritually united.

Maybe social change comes when facts and figures are made to rhyme and put to banjo music. We did end the Vietnam War. The mindless militarism and brutality I had experienced in my two years of military "service" had suddenly been put in perspective. People didn't have to act that way. And if we sang together, we could not be moved. 

September 20, 2019

Teaching us how

September 19

GUEST: Lisa Fithian, nonviolent trainer for the Battle of Seattle, the resistance after Hurricane Katrina, Occupy Wall Street, Standing Rock, and Ferguson, explores her fascinating career, and explains why Mother Jones describes her as “the nation’s best-known protest consultant." 

Oct 4 at 6:30 pm. Talk and Book Signing by Lisa Fithian
Oct 5 at 6:00 pm. Talk and Book Signing by Lisa Fithian
Shut It Down: Stories From a Fierce, Loving Resistance

Lisa is an idealist with a mind like a general. She knows her troops for justice and shares their suffering as well as their occasional sweet taste of victory. She is a details person, and recounts her many campaigns in this moving book, Shut It Down.

There is more than a little Abbie Hoffman in her outrageous plans and her sly sense of humor. She has never been afraid to try for the big one, to shut down entire events in the very fortresses of the rich and powerful.

Raphaelle and I had a delightful time reading her book and then getting a chance to interview her. In the end, the hope of Occupy lingers in her writing. We can change the world if we think we can, and are willing to take some risks. Lisa teaches us how. 

Our own place in the American Empire

September 12

GUEST: Ramatu Ahmed, Executive Director of the African Life Center, Bronx, committee member of the U.S. National Council of Women and the Harlem Hospital’s Medina Clinic, talks about the Ghanaian community in New York City and the need for higher education for girls and adult women.

A Celebration of African Women

Ramatu is a very good spokesperson for her people. She is Muslim, an immigrant from Africa and a woman, making her the target of America's new wave of xenophobic, racist and misogynist poison. Trump didn't invent this poison; it has been here since we wiped out the land's indigenous peoples, brought in slaves to make us rich, and then relentlessly oppressed them once they were technically "free."

Ramatu doesn't really want to talk about America this way. Like so many immigrants to our land, she just wants a chance for a better life. We learn courage from Ramatu's advocacy for her people. We don't learn too much about our own place in the American Empire.