October 25, 2013

The fight against sophistry

GUEST: Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English & Writing Center Director at Long Island University Brooklyn, talks about her college's attempts to curtail freedom of expression on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I wish we had longer to talk about this. Perhaps we will ask Harriet to be back on Activist Radio at some point.

Describing herself as a "rationalist" in explaining propaganda and racism, I see several examples of this in our interview. According to Harriet the attachment of Zionism to the Jewish religion was an attempt to keep Jews from wondering too far from their own culture. Israel became the way to protect the Jewish religion in America as more and more young Jews were marrying those of other faiths. She also traced the refusal of her college to grant her a sabbatical to recent fundraising initiatives. How to ask wealthy Jews for contributions when the college is supporting a book writing sabbatical that questions the morality of Israel? These are not devious or sinister pressures against freedom of expression on campus. Just the rational need to increase the endowment. 

I wonder if all immoral actions can be viewed like that. Of course, a dependence on logic can also have its drawbacks. The fight against sophistry can never be as emotionally compelling as the fight against racist injustice. But maybe that depends on what motivates people to do the right thing.  

In any case, Harriet is someone who is deeply committed to social justice and human rights. Perhaps she is just more effective in explaining the illogic of those who would deny us of these basic rights. 

October 17, 2013

Military expenditures and belligerent interventions

GUEST: David Vine, assistant professor of anthropology at American University and author of "Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia," talks about his research into the over 1,000 US military bases in the rest of the world.

We are looking forward to Dr. Vines new book on the US bases that have been established all over the globe. Is it empire? Dr. Vine prefers to call it something else. Why alienate people when you want to teach them something about their country?

The Congressional debate, however, is crying out for a word like empire. Where do our representatives think the money has gone? Cut aid to children, the poor, seniors! Make life miserable for anyone who isn't a multimillionaire! But never mention the staggering cost of America's obsession with occupying the rest of the world. Maybe it's like alcoholics who are often the last to realize that their disease is fatal. Will the American Empire eventually collapse when our military spends too much, and the very rich take the rest? 

“Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.”
― Michael ParentiAgainst Empire

October 13, 2013

Your work shows us the way

GUEST: Alan Levine, New York civil rights lawyer who has written about the assault on academic freedom in the name of pro-Israel orthodoxy, talks about Jewish peace groups involved in the US campaign against Islamophobia.

Alan was forceful and persuasive. It doesn't do Jews or anyone else any good to encourage racism directed at Muslims. In fact, Alan spends a lot of his life defending those who are denied their fundamental rights in America.

When I asked about this, he referred to his religious tradition, noting that Jews have always supported those who have been downtrodden and discriminated against. I left the interview with a lot of respect both for Alan and for that tradition that is so apparent in our nation's history. Whether it was workers' rights in the First World War, or African American rights in the Jim Crow South, Jewish activist have always been there, and have at times payed a high price for their dedication to unpopular causes.

Thank you, Alan. Your work shows us the way.

October 8, 2013

Labor activism that felt safe to the corporate word

Stephen Greenhouse, labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times and author of "The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker," talks about the low wage dystopia being faced by our nation's workforce.

Stephen Greenhouse, labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times and author of "The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker," talks about the low wage dystopia being faced by our nation's workforce.

It was great having Stephen Greenhouse on the show. His book breaks ground, at least for mainstream Americans who read The NY Times. Something is amiss in capitalist America, and even our newspaper of record can talk about it.

Bringing up the history of labor revealed some differences in perception. Stephen maintains that the media has essentially treated the labor movement fairly over the last half century. Critics of the media may find that statement astounding; I certainly did. Stephen also brought up the need for labor to be more "active" if working people are to make any gains in America. But the type of activism that Stephen was talking about didn't include the IWW's in the beginning of the last century, or the wildcat strikes of the late Thirties and Forties. According to Stephen, the IWW included terrorists who "sent bombs to people," and the wildcat strikes "threatened America's prosperity." Stephen meant only labor activism that felt safe to the corporate word of The New York Times.