December 30, 2015

We will rise again, like the good Mary Ellen Carter

GUESTS: Peter Blood and Annie Patterson, creators of "Rise Up Singing" and their followup new songbook, "Rise Again," talk about the process and motivation behind this collection of words & chords to 1200 different songs, just published by Hal Leonard Performing Arts and Publishing Group.

Peter and Annie were great guests. Their enthusiasm for songs and communal singing is evident in just about every topic we covered. Rise Again was published to bring group singing to another generation. 

Pete Seeger often talked about the transformation that happens when people come together to make music. He believed that there was something magical in group singing:
All God's creatures got a place in the choir.
Some sing low and some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on a telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they've got now.
I used to sing that song with my kids, and it was often quite moving to think of all living creatures finding common inspiration, be it in a choir or out loud on a telephone wire. Wonderful words for bringing our family closer together. We were all part of a grand musical plan.

I still play at open mics and music circles. Most of us are from the 1960's, but there are always some younger performers as well. Music brings us hope in an age of greed and militarism. Sharing hope makes us think that nothing is impossible, that we can create a just and loving society one day despite the odds.

We will rise again, like the good Mary Ellen Carter.

December 20, 2015

Easily waylaid by racism and fear

GUEST: Les Leopold, an economic researcher who co-founded The Labor Institute and The Public Health Institute, talks about his latest book: Runaway Inequality: An Activists Guide to Economic Justice.

Les Leopold is a story teller. What happened in the early 1980's that started giving all of society's wealth to the very rich? It is sort of a detective story, with the University of Chicago, and major corporation think tanks playing a role. Somehow, most economists embraced this new doctrine favorable to Wall Street, and the genie was out of the bottle. 

But why bother with understanding how the average wage earner has been screwed over the last few decades? Most Americans know that working people are now under the thumb of major corporations and Wall Street. Why not start the revolution now?

Eli and I had that discussion after the interview. I said that all liberation movements have to start with understanding and self knowledge. Unless people can see the totality of their oppression, they are easily waylaid by racism and fear. That is why we are seeing the return of fascist candidates now, eager to point the finger of blame in any direction but the wealthy elite. 

Eli had a good point too. Both of us had lived in occupy camps, although certainly not for very long. Wan't that a better way to see the emerging of a new world? Isn't it going to be a communal experience rather than a history lesson that really brings change!

Of course, self awareness groups are communal experiences, like our local reading of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Les Leopold's last chapter is all about group learning, facilitators going out into the field to tell the story of Wall Street's takeover. 

The 99% has to be educated and organized to take on the neoliberal national security state. Organize a group and read Les Leopold's book for the new year!

December 12, 2015

Starting to take it apart

GUEST: James Kilgore, writer and social justice activist who spent six years in prison, talks about one of the books he was inspired to write while behind bars: Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time.

James Kilgore presents the case in a way few people have done. I found his narrative very easy to understand, especially the connections he points out between a neoliberal economic system and incarceration of human beings for corporate profit. 

Mr. Kilgore is white, and I asked him if only white people were unaware of what our criminal "justice" system had become. He said that whites were the least informed, of course, because it was mostly not happening to them. Their schools were not in the poorest inner cities, and geared to criminalize student behavior. Their kids aren't stopped on the streets because of skin color. They could afford better lawyers and demand preferential treatment by white judges. Yes, the term "white privilege" is often a mystery to whites. Blacks have felt the pain of racism for centuries.

The movement is more than a wakeup call to whites, however. It is a chance for all of us to work together to undue systemic racism. Understanding Mass Incarceration shows us the nuts and bolts of oppression. It is up to an informed mass movement to start taking it apart. 

December 7, 2015

The Web of Interlocking Oppressions

GUEST: Barbara Smith, author, long time civil rights activist, and subject of the new book Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, talks about the Combahee River Collective and the interlocking oppressions of race, class, sexuality and gender in today's society.

Barbara Smith is very careful about words. The interview started with a discussion of the correct pronunciation of Combahee, not such an important matter in the long run. At some point, she asked to start the "official" interview recording, and we did. Why waste a few minutes on how to pronounce a word, especially since there is no consensus on the correct way? We started the interview again.

I used the above picture, not to represent the whole of Barbara Smith's emphasis, but because LGBTQ rights often get lost in discussions of women's and African American liberation. Barbara Smith explains that the fight for equality involves all groups that are debased by the majority culture, and that we can't achieve true freedom from discrimination unless we achieve freedom for all.

For Muslims too? For Palestinians? That is where Barbara Smith's radicalism comes out. She is soft spoken and articulate, but what she is saying challenges the establishment thinking about freedom. Is the US a land of opportunity for immigrant once they assimilate to American culture, or has our country always been a web of interlocking oppressions beginning with the genocide of indigenous peoples and continuing with the enslavement of millions of Blacks?

We live in an era that wants to separate antiSemitism from discrimination against Muslim Americans. Our country supports a brutal 65 year oppression of Palestinians by the apartheid state of Israel, yet our role in the Middle East is supposedly about bringing human rights to the people. The US also supports most of the brutal dictatorships in the region. Is this another example of interlocking oppressions? Can Blacks, women, and gays ever be free if they support the crushing of human rights abroad by the American Empire? Perhaps we have to rethink what racism is to include the interlocking exclusions upon which our society is built. The white males of Wall Street dictate the endless war against "terrorism" as a way to increase their obscene profits. Are they part of the interlocking oppression? Visionaries like Barbara Smith can show us the way.

November 22, 2015

Rooted in capitalist system ideology?

GUEST: Kaya Weidman, co-founder of Kite’s Nest, an organization that runs the Social Justice Leadership Academy's five week workshop for teenagers in Hudson, NY, talks about teaching community organizing and self expression to Black and Latino students through youth produced radio, music, poetry and public speaking.

This very interesting interview was done well over a month ago. I never thought that I would have a backload of excellent guests, but that is what has happened. We only interview one guest for each show. Perhaps we should expand this and cut back on Fantasy Land Media and our history section. Eli and I are going to review our mix in the coming weeks to see what needs to be changed.

One of the reasons we have so many thought provoking guests is that Gail Leondar-Wright, a book publicist, is sending me such great choices. And she sends me the books well before each show so that I can read them first. In fact, Activist Radio could rely completely on Gail and Just World Books for left oriented writers to interview. But that would leave out local connections to students and progressive community activists. 

Kaya is firmly in the community activist category. What she does in Hudson, NY, would go unnoticed without a local radio station like WVKR. Not completely unnoticed because there are other independent stations in the Mid Hudson area, and because Kaya is a good writer and gets articles published in progressive media. In fact, that is where I found Kaya. 

If you listened to our interview, we talk a lot about community organizing. Do whites have a role in teaching African Americans how to resist the oppression and racism that seems to be part of the fabric of our society? Back we go to Myles Horton and the Highlander Center, such an important part of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Myles considered himself an outsider who was thoroughly committed to overthrowing the status quo. He told us during a short visit I made to the Highlander Center that his type of activism came from an anti-authority streak rooted deeply in Southern consciousness. Early on, Myles had grown up outside the system, reading the Bible and Marx. He put a world view together for himself, free from miccle class influences. I feel that his teaching was equally free from white, middle class moralizing about how Blacks should better themselves. One of his books, We Make the Road by Walking, highlights this method of pedagogy. Myles was a traveler on the road, not a person with all the answers, and his rebellion extended all the way to how we learn in a capitalist society. Do we actually learn, or are we taught what to say and think? And can a person rooted in capitalist system ideology ever value human rights and economic justice for others? 

November 13, 2015

Time of commitment and joy

GUEST: Maria Luisa Rosal, field organizer for SOA Watch, and planner for the upcoming vigil on Nov 20 - 22 to close the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, talks about the disastrous results of US military training being given to Latin American army personnel.

I remember first hearing former Roman Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, at the St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Staatsburg. He has a gift for educating people about the difficult subject of American militarism abroad. Most of his work has been done in Central and South America, a part of the world still suffering from US sponsored death squads and CIA funded coups against democratically elected presidents.

The subject is difficult for two reasons. We as American citizens rarely hear about what is being done to other countries in our name. Our media is closer to state sponsored propaganda than most of us realize, and since The New York Times doesn't cover imperialism in Latin America, we just don't know about it.

It is also difficult because once we learn the full extent of the suffering, we experience intense grief. Tens of thousands of women and children have been murdered by US supported dictators. Some of the worst butchery has been carried out using US supplied guns, ammunition and training. It is only after we have come to terms with this grief that we can organize to oppose US policy.

There is an exhilaration that comes from seeing that we can resist our country's racism and militarism in Latin America. Armed with a knowledge of US oppression, we can expose the long history of wars and military interventions based on US corporate profits.

November 20 - 22 is such a time of commitment and joy.

November 11, 2015

Behind Israel's war crimes

GUEST: Bassem Tamimi, internationally recognized Palestinian human rights activist from the West Bank farming village of Nabi Selah, talks about the weekly nonviolent demonstrations held in opposition to illegal Israeli settlement construction and military occupation.

I found it much harder watching  this YouTube video of this young Palestinian boy than talking to the young boy's father, Bassem.

Bassem Tamimi has a quite way about him, possibly from the beatings and torture he received in Israeli prisons for his activism. As he spoke to me, I became increasingly aware of what the Israelis will have to do to the Palestinians to permanently subjugate them or drive them away from their lands; Israel will have to massacre them. After over 65 years, the Palestinians are still resisting. Not only that, whole families like Bassem's have made keeping their lands and keeping their dignity their most important human value. 

Of course, in trying to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from their homeland, the Israelis have lost their religion as well as their humanity. Occupation does that to the occupying nation. In the end, the occupier must become the murderer. 

Unexpectedly, Bassem talked about the Holocaust with sadness and sensitivity. Jews have suffered greatly, and now it is his people who bear the brunt of hatred and vicious racism. Did he feel a kinship with the Jews being persecuted in Germany during the 1930s? He certainly expressed his admiration for the Jewish Israelis who stand with him against the taking of his land and the murdering of his people. 

Like most human rights activists, Bassem has come to the conclusion that it is the apartheid state of Israel that is responsible for the impending genocide of his people. And behind it all stands the empire, always ready to provide Israel with weapons, billions in aid, and protection at the UN. Yes, behind Israel's war crimes are the American people, you and me. 

October 29, 2015

At the risk of seeming ridiculous

GUEST: Cornell West speaking at Marist College plus Jewish Voice for Peace explaining the Israel/Palestine conflict. Two perspective on state supported racism. Due to a technical problem, Bassem Tamimi's interview will be played next week.

I am glad I got a chance to record and play part of Cornell West's talk. He combines an honest look at state supported racism in America, with a call to join the resistance. It spoke to me, as it did to so many others in the large audience. We become something better when we oppose racism; we act on feelings of love. 

Love has a lot to do with revolutionary change, of course. We want a better world for all its people, and when working and sacrificing for that goal, we get a shot of that nectar of the gods. Love isn't rational, at least by the measurements of philosophy or science. You can't buy it, because it is all about giving of yourself. 
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love."                                                                    -Ernesto Che Guevara              

October 22, 2015

The "privilege" of doing the right thing

GUEST: Noga Kadman, Israeli human rights researcher and author of “Erased from Space and Consciousness,” talks about how Palestinian villages were depopulated in 1948 and then erased from the memory of the Israeli people.
ALSO: Gideon Levy in Greenburgh, NY

Noga's matter of fact approach contrasted nicely with the starling material she has collected. Of course there was massive ethnic cleansing, and here are the towns and cities. Yes, it included massacres of fleeing Palestinians. It's all documented.

What about the "land without a people" Americans keep hearing about. Noga said that nobody in Israel talks about that anymore. Now the narrative is purely how necessary the ethnic cleansing was to create a Jewish theocracy. 

Is it sustainable? Noga doesn't speculate too much. She shows what the history was and presents it as a way to recover Israel's humanity. The Nakba must be admitted before any understanding between Israelis and Palestinians can ever happen. And of course, there never will be any peace for either group until the fall of Israeli apartheid. 

Maybe the only the way to change Israel's oppression of the Palestinians is to convince enough American people to take a stand against war crimes and murder being done in their name. Congress is flush with Zionist money. There has to be some other way to make them pay a price for selling out to the Israeli lobby. Eventually, it has to become an issue when they run for office. "Paid for by the Zionists" must become a label that begins to hurt them in their campaigns. 

Hey, "The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice." MLK was part of that arc, and we all get our chance to struggle for justice. We all are given that momentous gift, the "privilege" of doing the right thing.

October 15, 2015

Free ourselves of their imposed reality

GUEST: Charles Eisenstein, teacher, speaker, and author of "Sacred Economics" talks about money, cultural evolution and the illegitimacy of debt.

Reading Charles Eisenstein can make you uncomfortable. All the things you thought you knew about economics turn out to be not only negotiable but also dependent on community consensus. As he says, the zeros in some bank account somewhere don't have to mean very much.

And since so much of our governmental system is like that, there is room to challenge how everything is supposed to work. Maybe student debt should be bought up by the government and either forgiven or stripped of interest obligations. Maybe countries whose military dictatorships took on huge debts, shouldn't have to pay those "odious" debts back. 

Maybe to save our planet, we will have to stop monetizing every exchange of services and reverse the growth of material consumption. We don't need iPhones and Facebook to have supportive relationships. In fact, technology is often an obstacle to genuine human interaction. We pay dearly to isolate ourselves from what we so desperately need.

The dominance of the ruling class seems immutable, until we begin to free ourselves of their imposed reality. Thank you, Charles Eisenstein, for helping us look for new solutions.

October 8, 2015

The real terrorists are the mega-corporations

GUEST: Kathy Stevens, founder and president of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, talks about the 110-acre haven for horses and farmed animals rescued from cruelty and neglect.

Kathy came to our studio for the interview. She is passionate about what she does, answering the phone at any time of day or night and saving animals from abuse by their owners.

We discussed the links between respecting animal and human life. Maybe one needs a level of empathy to see oneself in another living being. Is that the same type of awareness that enables one to treat different races and ethnic groups with respect, and love.

Animal based agriculture, according to Kathy, is an important component of climate change. But the giant farming and chemical industries want to obscure the fact that eating less meat would greatly reduce greenhouse gasses.

What we were able to agree on is that demonstrators who do civil disobedience against huge factory farms are not "terrorists," as they have been accused of being. The the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is an unconstitutional attack on free speech, pushed through Congress by multimillion dollar corporate lobbyists.

Of course, the real terrorists are the mega-corporations that are ruining the planet and endangering all life on earth. Keep up the good work, Kathy. You have given us a lot to think about. 

October 3, 2015

It is a state secret

GUEST: David Vine, assistant professor of anthropology at American University and author of the newly published "Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World" talks about his research into the over 800 military bases beyond our nation's shores.

We had such an interesting discussion with David Vine. The facts about the empire have been there since our victory in World War II. It is just that nobody important besides President Eisenhower ever referred to it.

I never got around to asking David about the difference between the British Empire and the American one. The British people were proud of their military occupations and bragged about bringing civilization to a backward Third World. Of course, Americans talk about bringing democracy to all the countries the US has attacked and devastated, so maybe that is the equivalent.

Gandhi famously responded to a question about Western civilization by stating that "it would be a very good idea." The British occupation of India had led to at least four major famines that killed millions. Perhaps the same answer can be give to a query about American democracy. In "spreading democracy" around the world, our country has killed millions of people with high tech weaponry. Moreover, the US has a long track record of overthrowing democratically elected leaders and setting up pro-American dictators. Our CIA then trains and furnishes lists to state run death squads that, in turn, murder tens of thousands more. Hundreds of thousands in Guatemala and Indonesia.

Want to learn about this? Read what the major US media is saying about Honduras. Then read alternative media from the rest of the world to familiarize yourself with the daily killings of journalists and labor leaders. Far from nurturing democracy in the Third World, out country spreads terror, led by our own secretive Storm Troopers, the CIA.

It is a system based on corporate greed, and an amoral use of whatever killing machines are most effective. US supported death squads or little silver drones, it doesn't matter. Ours is an empire based on exploitation and death.

No political leader wants to talk about this. Not even Bernie Sanders, the "socialist" running for president. Our newspaper of record has a long history of applauding every American invasion and overthrow planned in the Pentagon. It's no wonder that Americans have never considered their empire. It is a state secret. 


September 26, 2015

Making all the decisions, and talking all the profit

GUEST: Thorne Dreyer, writer, editor, and political activist who played a major role in the 1960s-1970s New Left and underground press movement, talks about the Rag Blog and Rag Radio on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin Texas.

Eli and I had a great time with Thorne. I worried for a time that the conversation was getting too technical, comparing how we do the sound board and book guests. But listening to the interview afterwards, I think our focus was on presenting alternative views to a listening public, always denied critical analysis by the major media. 

Even Bernie Sanders can't talk about empire, possibly the single most important national issue of the last sixty years. More than half our national revenue goes to fighting wars abroad. Our record of killing millions of people and destroying the countries we invade always escapes media criticism. At most, wars like the ones fought in Vietnam and Iraq are deemed "mistakes" made with the best of intentions. But what if these wars were fought for the benefit of oil companies and weapons makers, and had nothing to do with idealism or democracy? That is the question that just can't be asked by our corporate controlled media.

Independent media thus has an oversized role to play in challenging American military aggression and the exceptionalism that allows this war making to be accepted by the majority of our citizens. Without independent media, most Americans passively accept the consensus that is presented to them by the corporate elite. 

Rag Radio and Activist Radio both interviewed Eva Spangler whose recent book exposes the criminality of the Israeli state. Of course, that is another subject that Bernie can't bring up. Major party politics only go so far, and what gets left out is the really important stuff. Americans are a people denied the chance to really consider their alternatives. That's how the one percent can get away with making all the decisions, and talking all the profit. 

So we talked about radio a lot, but as part of the emerging resistance. 

September 18, 2015

Exploring beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks

GUEST: Paul Bermanzohn, local activist and survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, talks about the drug war as a crusade of repression against the African American people, incarcerating millions to prevent a renewal of the struggle for freedom.

Paul came to the studio, always a pleasure to have our guest behind the mic. 

We didn't talk about the Greensboro Massacre, although we probably should have. The idea of keeping the races apart was certainly behind the KKK's deadly attack on this labor rights march some 35 years ago. Here is Democracy Now's coverage of the event at its 25 year anniversary.

The question that keeps coming back to me is how racism becomes so powerful in a society. Does it spring from an innate distrust of people who look and act differently than ourselves? Are we born with the instinct to protect those whose DNA most closely matches our own? Ants sacrifice themselves, as do most birds and mammals when predators appear. Are we similarly oriented to define ourselves by groups, and to act violently towards anything threatening from the outside?

Or are we taught racism to keep working people from organizing against the Capitalist predators who use our labor for their own profit? There is no doubt that US politicians have frequently used racism to gain votes. Encouraging fear of the "other" is an age old tactic of those seeking power within a particular group, tribe or nation. But do appeals to racism always have a class component?

Nixon's call for a War on Drugs may have been a coded appeal to white voters fearful of black uprisings. But at the time, I took his target to be people like myself. I was part of the antiwar movement when I got out of the Army in 1968 and I smoked weed like most people in my generation. I wanted to get rid of all our political leaders, the corporate controlled, warmongering Democrats as well as Republicans. To me, Nixon's appeal to Law and Order was more an assurance to the middle and upper classes that dirty hippies weren't going to intrude upon their sterile world.

Maybe those working in the nation's police forces saw things differently, especially if they were employed in the larger cities. To them, Nixon's call may have meant the arrest and incarceration of Black men. It is amazing how slow we are as a multiracial society to understand the poison of racism in our history. That may be closer to a class analysis that I could agree with. All but the very rich have robbed our society for generations through corporate corruption and endless wars. Yet our mainstream media never really talks about this, as it never gets to the bottom of racist oppression. To be aware, we must explore beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks or The New York Times. People like Paul Bermanzohn are eager to help us expand our vision.

September 15, 2015

Thanks for calling in

Thank you all for calling in and pledging. We only ask for donations once a year and the money we collect during the drive is critical to keeping the station operating.

A good pledge drive assures Vassar College that WVKR has lots of community support. We want to keep offering independent points of view in a sea of corporate controlled media.

Thank you for doing your part!

Fred and Eli

September 3, 2015

Coexist or parish

GUEST: Eve Spangler, sociologist at Boston College and a civil rights activist, talks about her new book: Understanding Israel/Palestine: Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict.

Eve was just as good on Activist Radio as she had been on NPR. There is something disarming about how she presents the history, both of her family escaping the Holocaust and of Israel, destined from the beginning to be an apartheid state.

As she puts it, "The supposed complexities of the conflict are gone." Anyone can find out the real history if they want to. And in terms of the creation of Israel, that history is one of massive ethnic cleansing. 

Talking to Eve gives me hope. She writes books about Palestine and takes groups of students to learn what Israeli occupation looks like. If more academics could be this frank, and use their truth telling to influence students, why someday the Israelis and the Palestinians might actually learn to coexist. 

We must all coexist or parish. This is the lesson the American Empire must learn if the human race has any chance of survival. 

August 27, 2015

Perhaps we should all be disrupters

GUEST: Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, talks about the forces in America promoting war with Iran (pre-recorded at the Woodstock Town Hall).

With a country run by millionaires, there aren't many ways to get the people's voice heard. 

Code Pink is inspired theater, like The Daily Show is inspired comedy. But in a time when our media has completely sold out to the interests of the monied elite, both are so much more. By being provocative and at times outrageous, Code Pink and the Daily Show provide honest feedback on a system that has long since given up on serving the public good. 

In her talk, Medea calls herself a "disrupter." Perhaps we should all be disrupters of the system rather than participants in a sham democracy. Voting is so easy, and holding up a sign and shouting is so very hard. But without disruption, we will not be heard at all, and the oligarchy can role along using racism and fraud to impoverish America's working people.  

August 26, 2015

We make the road by walking

GUEST: Dr. Tom Hansen, Executive Director of the Mexico Solidarity Network and former Director of Pastors for Peace, talks about coalitions that further social justice in Latin America.

Tom and his Mexico Solidarity Network does really amazing work. After attempting to move members of Congress towards a more human and just policy in Central America, the network decided it was a waste of time. Influencing a "bunch of millionaires" to do anything that goes against their elite fundraisers was bound to fail. 

Instead, the network started a mini government in Chicago, intent on solving local problems like poor housing, job discrimination, and racism. The work involved bringing young volunteers in, both as teachers and as participants in educational trips to Mexico. In essence, the participants "Make the Road by Walking," the name of a revolutionary book by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.

Tom and I (along with my brother, Dave) took a truck caravan together to Nicaragua in 1989. We were bringing supplies and medical equipment to the Nicaraguan people, in an attempt to expose the immorality and illegality of the Contra Wars. One of our stops was a visit to Myles Horton at the Highlander Center. We were making the road, and teaching ourselves in the process. 

August 6, 2015

Our state officially murders people, and in large numbers

GUEST: Scott Langley, lead organizer for The Abolitionist Action Committee, an organization devoted to ending the death penalty in the US., talks about this summer's vigil and fast in front of the US Supreme Court.

How to make the right argument against the death penalty? We have all used different tactics with different people. Not interested in considering racism against African Americans? Look at the expense of killing someone versus long term imprisonment. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars!

Perhaps building a constituency for any reform is done this same way. Conjure up enough good arguments, and we have built the critical mass of people needed to force a change in governmental policy.

But what if all murders were treated in the same way? Murdering our neighbor might be considered economically bad for the community, and therefore a crime. I don't think that is the reason why almost all societies have banned the killing of neighbors. It has more to do with the collective lessons of civilization as expressed through religion and philosophy. Thou shalt not kill.

America has made so many exceptions to this basic principal that we have ended up being a murderous state. Obviously, the killing of Native Americans and Blacks have been tolerated for hundreds of years, and sometimes even encouraged by politicians looking for votes. Our ever expanding empire has more and more enemies, all categorized as violent terrorists and placed on the President's drone hit lists. In a country so obsessed with whom to kill, why should we be surprised that our state officially murders people, and in large numbers.

July 31, 2015

Valuing all oppressed groups equally

GUEST: Susan Smith, who hosts a weekly program on WVKR called From Ferguson to Palestine, talks about the violent racism that is the common denominator between Israel's abuse of the Palestinians and The United States' murderous war on its own people of color.

This was the first show without my cohost, Gary. Sorry to see him leave and go back to North Carolina. However, all thinks do pass, and I was lucky enough to find another excellent cohost in Eli, who has pitched right in where he was needed.

Susan Smith was about as easy a person to interview as I have ever had. She is so committed and unshakable in her devotion to human rights that my question about someone possibly calling her an anti-Semite got very little response at first. No one had ever called her that because she simply values all oppressed groups equally. Human rights in Ferguson means the same thing as human rights in Palestine. She opposes violent racism wherever it manifests itself, and Susan's many trips around the globe have been to all the right places. 

I look forward to listening to her show on WVKR, 91.3 FM, from 12 - 1 pm every Wednesday. Tune in; you won't be disappointed.
From Ferguson To Palestine is a weekly talk show concerning issues of social justice and racial equity in the United States and abroad. Hosted by Susan Smith and Daniel Aguilar, and incorporating interviews and discussions from grassroots activists.

July 24, 2015

Subjugated to the propaganda needs of empire

GUEST: Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, and an organizer of the Rasmea Defense Committee, talks about the selective prosecution of Palestinian activists in the US.

Hatem covered the facts of Rasmea's case very thoroughly. The legal question revolves around Rasmea's failure to put her arrest by Israeli authorities on her request for US citizenship. Her defense claims that she was tortured and raped in custody and that her treatment in jail forced her into a false confession. Sound familiar? How many Blacks in America have spent decades in prison after such coerced confessions?

Rasmea's trial judge would not allow any evidence of torture of rape to be introduced at her first trail. Rasmea's obvious PTSD was similarly dismissed. She should get another trial, with her defense given the right to introduce this type of testimony.

I asked why Rasmea and other Palestinian activists have been harassed by the FBI over the last decade. With Rasmea, what made the FBI review her citizenship documents in the first place; she had committed no crime in the US? Hatem responded that our criminal justice system is being used to repress political dissent, something we have seen repeatedly in the history of the FBI. Perhaps a review of COINTELPRO will show how this was done in the 1960's. Our government's phony "War on Terror" has led to the same types of abuses today, with our Constitutional rights are being subjugated to the propaganda needs of empire. 

On another note, this was Gary's last day on Activist Radio. He is moving back to North Carolina, and we will miss his radio skills, his commitment to social change, and his ready wit. He has promised to be Activist Radio's roving reporter in North Carolina, and we will be calling on him for some on the ground reporting on issues like racial justice and labor rights. But it won't be the same. Time moves on. 

July 10, 2015

Awareness of the lunacy

GUEST: Leah Penniman, educator and food justice coordinator for the Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, NY, talks to us about how radical farmers are using food to fight racial injustice and the New Jim Crow.

Leah was such an interesting guest, with connections to indigenous resistance groups in Mexico and Haiti. 

Yes, food production is an important part of the resistance against Neoliberalism in the Third World. What isn't clearly understood is that farming can effectively expose the evils of Neoliberalism in the belly of the beast, the very epicenter of the American Empire. 

We can produce our own food without poisonous chemicals and untested genetic modification of seeds. We can open access to homegrown products and give consumers freedom of choice for themselves and their families. We can work together to increase awareness of the lunacy of our corporate dominated power structure, hell-bent as it is to destroy life on earth through global warming and nuclear conflagration. 

Leah is an articulate and creative activist, dedicated to restoring democracy in America, one plant at a time. Just think if Obama had gone in a different direction. If he hadn't gone to Harvard to learn how to be an elite, privileged, white male. If he hadn't done the Daily Machine's dirty work in running against black progressives in Chicago. If he hadn't privatized public housing in the city, throwing blacks out to gain favors from white real estate developers. If he hadn't quoted Martin Luther King's words to cover up his warmongering and betrayal of working people. If he done anything other during his president than serving the military industrial complex.

Some liberals are even defending Obama today, based on the color of his skin. Scoundrels come in all colors. We are what we try to accomplish for peace and justice in the world. The rest is racial stereotyping that preserves the status quo. 

June 25, 2015


Guest: Ivy Meeropol, director or "Heir to an Execution" (2004) and "Indian Point" (2015). talks about nuclear power and the distortions of the energy industry.

All the facts in the world can't bring the danger home as much as thinking about trying to pickup your children or grandchildren from school after a nuclear meltdown. Ivy lives in Cold Spring, just eleven miles from one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the country. And her children attend the local school.

Imagine the traffic jam trying to even get into the school. And what if the children have already been taken away to "someplace in Carmel"? How would one find them again with the mass hysteria and miles long traffic jams? 

How could any company have built the plant so close to millions of people? And why isn't it shut down now? Indian Point is a wakeup call that those in charge of such things are insane. Paid off by the corporations and heedless of the risks, our leaders politely debate the future of nuclear power as if our lives don't matter. Indian Point is both a constant danger to millions, and a constant reminder that our two party, corporate controlled governmental system is basically illegitimate. 

June 18, 2015

To the streets you squishy liberals!

Guest: Dr. Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen and author of many publications on lobbying and campaign finance reform, talks about defending democracy from the corruption of big money and restoring the voice of the people.

Craig should have his own radio show, that is if he wasn't doing such important work in Congress. Not only does he expose how the rich and their corporations drown everyone else out with their big money, he also works on solutions. Yes, Obama should sign an executive order requiring all companies that do business with the federal government to come clean on what money they give. So, sign the petition:

But trying to change the corruption of our governmental system will take more than that. There has to be a groundswell of angry Americans that forces the two party system off the corporate teat. Now is the time Craig reminds us. Better do something soon before we have no representative government left. 

I was interested in how Craig's advice paralleled what Howard Zinn wrote about social change. Some may call it a form of anarchy, the pressuring of politicians by massive social movements. Black Lives Matter is one such group, demanding social justice in place of the New Jim Crow. Another is the environmental movement, sending a hundred Kayaks out to stop the Shell Oil drilling rig. Yes, we can pressure the crooks to do better, but only if we think big and get ourselves out from under the two party, corporate scam. 

To the streets you squishy liberals! 

June 12, 2015

Informing the debate about African American rights

Guest: Colia Liddell Lafayette Clark, early member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who worked with Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., talks about the importance of Juneteenth Celebration and the illusive goal of social justice for African Americans.

We would like to thank Colia for being on Activist Radio, and coming to the Hudson Valley for our Juneteenth Celebration in Kingston, NY.

-Saturday, June 13, 5 pm, Juneteenth Celebration at the New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone Street, Kingston. Keynote Speaker:  Colia Liddell Lafayette Clark, National Voter Rights Hall of Fame. End the New Jim Crow Action Network is also Including a delicious southern style dinner.

We had a bad phone connection, but we persisted and it payed off. Colia insisted on looking at the history of Juneteenth first, something I thought listeners might want to skip over. But each of her points informed out current debate about African American rights today. Her view that the country was built on racism against many immigrant groups was so interesting. The Irish lynching blacks in New York City during the Civil War period can be seen in this light. Turning one immigrant group against another is a way to control them all, and the tactic is certainly being used today by the 1% to keep from having to share their obscene wealth with the rest of the population.

So we had a few technical difficulties. There was a lot of wind sound, and at one point, Colia was unable to hear Eli's question. But it is good, authentic radio. We want to make you think, the exact opposite of what the mainstream media is trying to do. 


June 4, 2015

The addiction of war?

GUEST: Elaine Trumpetto, Executive Director for The Council on Addiction Prevention and Education of Dutchess County, talks about drug and alcohol abuse and the options available for treatment.

It didn't take us long to get off the well worn track of drug addiction and how intervention helps. There were questions about whether the emphasis on addiction played a role in the arrest and incarceration of people of color. In Dutchess County, African Americans are three times more likely to end up in jail than whites, despite the fact that whites and blacks abuse drugs at very similar rates. 

Then there were questions about why the state defines addictions in such a narrow range. Worrying about high schoolers smoking dope is pretty silly when we think nothing of sending graduates off to fight in the empire's endless wars. Why isn't there a death and dismemberment council in Dutchess County that would warn students not to listen to military recruiters?

In all, Elaine did very well in returning the discussion to education and intervention as a way to improve people's lives. We ended the interview with Eli's poem on the range of addictions that we know are self defeating. I will ask him for it and post it here.

Eli's Poem:

About Addiction

I do it -  it's bad -  I know it. I do it -  can't stop - I know it.

I do it - I like it - Can't stop. I do it - I hate it -  Can't stop.

Drinking, drugging, sexing, working. Shopping, betting, buying, eating. Smoking, stealing, starving, hoarding. Snorting, sniffing, bingeing, whoring.

I do it -  it's bad -  I know it. I do it -  can't stop - I know it.

May 28, 2015

Most will come to recognize the evil of apartheid

GUEST: Lia Tarachansky, who grew up in a settlement in the West Bank, talks about her new film, "On the Side of the Road," the story of how Israel fought to erase Palestine and then created a culture of denial.

We had recorded this interview earlier, so I was listening to it again as we did the program today. 

I was stuck this time as she described becoming aware of apartheid when she moved to Canada. People questioned Lia for the first time about Israel's human rights record, and she decided to do her own research. It was all there, from the Nakba of 1948 to the present day massacres in Gaza. She had spent her childhood and teenage years believing something so firmly that it took a new country to get her to analyze what had really transpired. 

I think that is certainly a major theme of Lia's film. And I wondered during our talk, whether there were listeners out there whose minds might be similarly liberated by our discussion. Zionism is religion in that it requires a blind faith in what was done in the name of the Jewish people. Forced to pay closer attention to the suffering and oppression of the Palestinians, most will come to recognize the evil of apartheid, and the truth will help restore their sense of humanity.

May 21, 2015

How did you let it get this bad?

GUEST: Hatim Kanaaneh, author and Palestinian doctor who has spent decades working with patients in the West Bank, discusses his new book, "Chief Complaint, A Country Doctor's Tales of Life in Galilee" by Just World Books.

Hatim is a very good storyteller. His recently published book of short stories is full of complex and interesting characters, who do their best under the prevailing system of Israeli apartheid. 

Within a page or two in each story, the protagonist becomes your next door neighbor, allowing you to watch the violence and racism right from your bedroom window. 

Americans need to understand how our country funds, arms and protects Israel, the source of all this Palestinian suffering. We need to awaken ourselves and restore our humanity by ending the occupation.

Someday, Hatim will be a hero for writing this book. It will be read in classes by students trying to understand racism and ethnic cleansing. Maybe one of them will ask you or me one day, "How did you let it get this bad?"

May 15, 2015

How political could an author get in the bad old days?

GUEST: Tom Miller, author of "Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro’s Cuba," talks about his views on the end of the 55 year US embargo.

Tom was a very entertaining guest with on obvious love of Cuba (from his Cuban wife to eventing strolls on the Malecón). Most of the interview centered on the readiness of the US and Cuba to put an end to the embargo.

We touched on a few issues. Yes, the US was forced to change its policy, since this country was completely isolated from the rest of the world in its illegal embargo. From the UN to the Organization of American States the rest of the world (except for the pariah state of Israel) had condemned our aggression.

Tom was surprised to hear that the US media never printed anything good about Cuba's revolution, despite its many positive aspects. From universal healthcare and free college education to the absence of childhood hunger and homelessness, The NY Times has never printed a positive fact about Castro's Cuba. 

He had been stopped by the Cuban Police and charged with handing out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (he was innocent of the charge and was released). I have walked all over Havana and talked to many citizens. They had never seemed worried about what they were saying. We had a Cuban restaurant owner get up before about 35 people to say how capitalism would work better in his business (I am sure he could pay his workers less). He wasn't worried about the police in the least. So I think that our media has overplayed Cuban repression and underplayed the many positive gains of the revolution. Of course, our mainstream media has always been guided by Pentagon propaganda. 

Some critics have attacked Trading with the Enemy for being "strangely apolitical." But really, how political could an author get in the bad old days and still be published? Let's see if this new opening with Cuba can free our mainstream media of Cold War distortions.  

April 30, 2015

A system so stacked against the poor.

GUEST: Natalie Ward, recent Vassar graduate and local activist for the Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson foreclosure rights organization, talks about her work for Community Voices Heard.

Natalie spent much of her time with me reviewing the work she does with Community Voices Heard. Perhaps in another country, this work would not seem so exceptional. But in the US, trying to make the lives of the poor somewhat better seems revolutionary. Nobody else does it, and we have a vast subculture of people living below the poverty line.

We are the only advance country in the world without healthcare for all its citizens. Our health system is like a giant parasite, sucking more than three trillion a year from US citizens, while it makes billions for the insurance, pharmaceutical, and private health industries. That's the highest per capita cost in the industrialized world, yet our country ranks 39th in infant mortality and 36 in life expectancy.

And that is just healthcare. Every facet of our economy is set up in the same way, with dollars flowing to the top, and tens of millions in abject poverty. UNICEF rates countries in "children's material well-being." The US ranks near the very bottom, right next to Romania.

So can an organization like Community Voices Heard really make much of a difference against a system that is so stacked against the poor? While we can applaud and contribute to organizations that help the poor, let us not forget that basic structural change to the two party, corporate run plutocracy will require major changes in our governmental system.