December 30, 2016

It will be a movement that restores our democracy

GUESTS: Voices from Standing Rock. The beginning of the veterans' participation, the events of the week, and some of the many groups supporting environmental and indigenous rights over the billionaires and their fossil fuel pipelines.

Voting the "lesser of two" evils" over a long period of time eventually and inexorably brings a nation to a Donald Trump. Having both political parties owned by the very rich produces such resentment and anger that almost anything can happen. In some countries a revolution comes out of the resentment. In others, the elite are able to deflect anger toward minorities, bringing great suffering to already marginalized people. In America we have such a racial and ethnic mix that blatant racism has always been the method of choice for our corrupt politicians. 

Alliances of the non-elites are the best way to fight a system dominated by the billionaire class. And challenging racism is often the spark that leads to a broader, class based change. So it is at Standing Rock, where veterans are standing up against this country's long term environmental and cultural assault on native American populations. 

In coming together, something else happens. There emerges a general consensus that the present system is illegitimate and that many groups can work together to bring it down. When thousands march, local authorities get anxious. When hundreds of thousands march, the whole kleptocracy begins to grow alarmed. The Occupy Movement was only stopped by state violence orchestrated from the White House. The entire corporate controlled media had to avoid any coverage of Bernie Sanders to end his revolutionary candidacy. 

The Standing Rock movement presents another challenge to the system. Here are veterans and Native Americans coming together, along with Black Lives Matter, immigrant groups, labor unions,  LGBTQ activists, etc. We survived a blizzard in our tented community. Perhaps we will bring new hope in the spring after our Valley Forge experience. For it will be a movement such as this that gets rid of the corporate controlled parties and restores our democracy. 

December 23, 2016

How long until we too can rise up?

December 22

GUEST: George Lakey, co-founder of Earth Quaker Action Group, visiting Professor at Swarthmore College, and leader of over 1,500 workshops on five continents, talks about his latest book, Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too.

I was looking forward to this interview. George's book is somewhat of a revelation to Americans brought up on the supposed superiority of our brand of capitalism. 

But here are societies that don't really have poverty. Where all children get enough to eat, and go to college for virtually nothing. Where parents get months of leave when they have a child (yes, both parents). Where daycare and medical care are free for all citizens. Yet, the Viking economies are also more productive and more innovative than our own. 

Try to wrap your head around that. Billionaires run our country, and spend their time trying to such the last dollar out of every working family in America. Billionaires were once the problem in the Nordic countries too. How did they overthrow their kleptocracy, and how do they protect their governments from the US version of savage capitalism?

Read the book. It is at once hopeful, and profoundly disturbing. What suffering and privation the very wealthy have caused us. What endless wars they have waged for economic exploitation. How long until we too can rise up and reclaim our democracy?

December 17, 2016

Free speech a constant battle

GUESTS: Nic Abramson, Helaine Meisler, and Sharon Johnston, three activists from Woodstock Free Speech, talk about their efforts to get a First Amendment resolution, protecting a citizen's right to boycott, passed by the Woodstock Town Board.

People really do rise to the occasion when free speech is threatened by our government. Nic, Helaine, and Sharon explain why. The Woodstock Town Board also understood the issue right away and acted to protect its citizens from government restrictions and blacklists. 

In the age of Trump, free speech will be a constant battle. Trump's authoritarian beliefs will lead to many assaults on our First Amendment rights. But we have fought back before and we will fight back again. This time it is the right to boycott apartheid Israel. It's good place to draw a line in the sand against totalitarianism.

How did we stray so far?

Fred talks about his trip to Standing Rock with Veterans For Peace. The program includes some Lakota songs and drumming recorded over the last week.

When you are with all those veterans, it reminds you of what it was like being in the Army. No one really knows what is happening, so you end up exhausting yourself hurrying and waiting.

2,100 veterans signed up to come to Standing Rock. We think that close to 4,000 arrived. Where to put them all, and what to feed them? Amazingly, the tents went up (great big Army Surplus tents form Korea), and the eight or more kitchens that existed around camp took care of us all. Some 20,000 were being sheltered and fed everyday before we arrived. 

In that way, Standing Rock was like one giant community that worked for everyone. No money changed hands; everything was free. Everyone did their part, from chopping wood to clearing the ground for new tents. Occupy posed a similar threat to the powers that be. Here was a society that thrived apart from the dominant neoliberal system. 

The indigenous peoples had a remarkable influence on the rest of us. When one of our tents blew down in an early morning blizzard, there was another tent waiting to shelter us. Fifty of us made our way hopefully through the snow and the winds, and were welcomed by another full tent, ready to share everything they had with us. In a couple of days, we had become part of a revolutionary community. 

Later, a Lakota woman told me why the second tent had not blown down, despite the walls slanting dangerously inward. We were on the land of Sitting Bull she said. Strong medicine had kept the walls from completely collapsing. 

The religious beliefs that we encountered in living and eating with Native Americans seemed at times childishly naive. At other times, these beliefs appeared to be a voice in the wilderness, telling us to love and respect our environment before is is too late. For all our supposed sophistication, we have missed this most important piece of basic wisdom. All life is sacred. How did we stray so far?

The right time for hugs and tears

GUESTS: Stephen Apkon, director of "Disturbing the Peace," a documentary about former enemy combatants, Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters, who are working together to end the occupation. He is joined by Sulaiman Khatib and Assaf Yacobovitz.

"Disturbing the Peace" plays an interesting role in promoting understanding between Palestinians and Israelis. On a personal level it must work as these previous enemies sit down and listen to each other's stories. 

If the stories are too personal, however, apartheid Israel gets a big break. We don't end up talking about the illegal settlements, the racist laws, and the 60 year history of ethnic cleansing of Palestine. When does personal understanding simply normalize the Israel's war crimes?

I asked this question of Stephen and he gave a spirited response. He stated that one has to start somewhere or the killing will continue forever. I would prefer a start that included America, the enabler of Israel's apartheid state. Americans need to know their role in the suffering in order to resist what our own government is doing. When it is all over, there will be time for hugs and tears.  

Suffering and resistance a common theme

GUEST: Roger Silverman, teacher, author and political activist, talks about his new book, "Defiance: Greece and Europe," that explains SYRIZA's continuing resistance to neoliberal capitalism.

Our discussion about Greece can be linked to my curiosity about how other cultures are organized. 

As an American, I was brought up to revere only one system of government, that of capitalism. And since that religion came to me at an early age, I have never really looked at what that system entails. 

How have other countries structured themselves, and what role has the US played in influencing their decisions? How has American capitalism affected the hidden aspect of our religion: our all encompassing empire?

George helped our listeners understand the horrendous American occupation of Greece at the end of WW II. We know that millions died in Korea, but we don't know our secret killing fields in Greece. The Colonel's Coup came letter, more blood letting instigated by the CIA. Understanding these wars for freedom is the missing backdrop to the current Greek crisis, the key to understanding much of what is going on.

Greece's suffering and resistance is a common theme in our age of imperialism.