Why Is We Americans?

January 16, 2022

Eric Hobsbawm Documentary

April 20, 2021

A new documentary on the life and legacy of the great historian Eric Hobsbawm, The Consolations of History, has been released by the magazine London Review id Books,

Hobsbawm wrote many articles for the magazine as the documentary touches upon but the film’s strength is its focus on his scholarship, the political scope of his work, and the political activism that he was involved in throughout his life.

Hobsbawm was not a neutral observer, a Marxist whose views of history and politics were informed by the class struggle.

I found the story of his childhood to be very interesting. He was a citizen of the world from the beginning of his life.

Also, listening to Hobsbawm speaking in Italian, fluently, was disarming and wonderful.

His four books on world history which cover the time period from the French Revolution through the 20th century are absolutely essential, The depth of analysis and the high quality if the writing are extraordinary.

This documentary provides an insightful and fascinating look at Hobsbawn’s personal, professional, and political life.

Highly recommended.


July 14, 2013

The justice system does not work for us.

There is no justice to be found for blacks, latinos, and all people of color in US courts.

The justice system does not work for us.

It never has and it never will.

The US justice system does not operate in a vacuum.

The justice system is racist and unequal because it is part of a deeply racist and unequal society.

More discussions, more protests, and more attempts for reforms will not fundamentally change a system that is rotten to the core.

That’s been the call for many, many years, and things still remain the same.

It will never work.

US Society and US Courts do not recognize the value and rights of black lives.

It has been that way from the beginning of US history and continues to be a daily reality, through out the years, decades, and centuries.

Right up until now, in 2013.

What happened in that Sanford court today is a daily reality for all people of color.

This reality doesn’t lessen the pain and it doesn’t contain the outrage felt about this latest miscarriage of justice.

The absolute truth about our civil rights and human rights as manifested every day, in every court, in every state, always has been and is still the same:

The justice system does not work for us.

Gideon’s Army

June 27, 2013

America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty

January 3, 2013

America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty

An excellent editorial from the NY Times on the death penalty that touches on all the major points about why the death penalty is wrong and should be abolished.

Springsteen Embraces Occupy

January 21, 2012

The Boss embraces Occupy

Bruce Springsteen’s new single explores income inequality and captures the rage of the 99 percent
By Stephen Deusner

Bruce Springsteen officially announced today that his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” would hit shelves on March 6. Rumors had hinted that this would be his angriest album and that he would be addressing the current recession and the economic travails of middle- and lower-class America. If the first single, “We Take Care of Our Own,” is any indication, this will be to Occupy Wall Street what “The Rising” was to 9/11: the moment when Springsteen takes up a cause and makes sense of an event that has stymied other musicians.

Springsteen’s not the first artist to take up the occupiers’ cause, nor is he the first to filter his outrage through the iconography of Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl folkie who has become, 44 years after his death, the patron saint of the 99 percent. Tom Morello evoked Guthrie’s example when he strolled around Zuccotti Park singing “This Land Is Your Land,” which won MTV’s dubious award for Best #OWS Performance last year.

More recently, Jackson Browne debuted a folksy number at Occupy Wall Street that played against his soft-rock strengths in favor of talking-to-the-masses piety. Guthrie has proved to be a potent symbol of grass-roots dissent, yet these songs make it appear as though the folk singer has been thrust upon OWS rather than embraced by its demonstrators. And it’s a limited view of the singer as well, one that doesn’t accommodate his sense of humor or his sense of wonder.

Click here to view the entire article

The Politics of Upton Sinclair

January 21, 2012

The Politics of Upton Sinclair

I’ve always been a fan of the novelist Upton Sinclair. From the day in junior high that I finished his classic about the US meatpacking industry, The Jungle, up to last week when I finally read his novel about Wall Street and the coal-mining industry titled King Coal, I have always found his novels to be well-told tales of life in the domain of Wall Street.

Although the industrial processes he describes in his books are outmoded, the financial chicanery and greed of the financial giants he despised are only more refined. In my mind his works have taken on a new relevance in this period of market manipulation and destruction of the commons under the guise of a free market.

Biographer Anthony Arthur’s 2006 work on writer and activist Upton Sinclair is an engaging and well-researched discussion of the man that was Upton Sinclair. Like the character in Kris Kristofferson’s tune, “The Pilgrim,” Arthur’s Sinclair is “a walking contradiction/partly truth and partly fiction.”

Reaching into the personal papers of Sinclair, his first wife and a number of his friends and colleagues, Arthur has produced a book that is in fact more than a history of the man who was Upton Sinclair, it is a history of the time he lived in. That time spanned two world wars, several revolutions, at least one economic depression, and multiple episodes of governmental repression. Sinclair responded to them all.

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Jesmyn Ward Interview

December 16, 2011

Jesmyn Ward Talks National Book Award Win and the Will to Write
by Julianne Hing

When Jesmyn Ward’s second novel “Salvage the Bones” was awarded the National Book Award two weeks ago, which she explained to her family as the “Oscars for books,” it immediately propelled Ward, a relative newcomer, onto the national stage. It also shone a light on her story of a poor black family living and loving in a rural backwater Gulf Coast town in the days before Hurricane Katrina.

The place and the people were inspired by her own hometown of Delisle, Miss. In the book, the family of siblings have better things to do than fret about the storm, which is just days away from making landfall. They’re chasing basketball dreams, tending to beloved spouse-pets, and in the case of Esch, the book’s 15-year-old narrator, struggling to accept the new life growing in her.

Ward, who called her recent win “surreal,” chatted with Colorlines.com about conventional depictions of black women, giving life to the stories of people she grew up with, and having the courage to commit to writing.

Click here to view the entire article

Oregon Governor stops executions in Oregon, calls system ‘compromised and inequitable’

November 23, 2011

The best news I’ve heard all week.

A very humane and principled argument made by the Oregon Governor in explaining his decision to halt all executions.

A moratorium is at least a positive first step as the work towards abolition continues.

May the next victory be in Oregon!

Gov. John Kitzhaber stops executions in Oregon, calls system ‘compromised and inequitable’

SALEM — Gov. John Kitzhaber announced today he will not allow the execution of Gary Haugen — or any death row inmate — to take place while he is in office.

The death penalty is morally wrong and unjustly administered, Kitzhaber said.

“In my mind it is a perversion of justice,” he said at an emotional news conference in Salem.

The governor cited his constitutional authority to grant a temporary reprieve for Haugen, in effect canceling the planned Dec. 6 lethal injection of the twice-convicted murderer. Haugen waived his legal appeals and has been preparing for the execution, which would have been Oregon’s first in 14 years.

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John Steinbeck’s bitter fruit

November 23, 2011

John Steinbeck’s bitter fruit

Seventy years after The Grapes of Wrath was published, its themes – corporate greed, joblessness – are back with a vengeance.

Melvyn Bragg on John Steinbeck’s remarkable legacy

I read The Grapes of Wrath in that fierce span of adolescence when reading was a frenzy. I was all but drowned in the pity and anger John Steinbeck evoked for these people, fleeing Oklahoma to seek work but finding nothing save cruelty, violence, the enmity of immoral banks and businesses, and the neglect by the state of its own people in the Land of the Free. The novel was published in 1939 and delivered a shock to the English reading world.

But for years I did not read him. Earlier this year, when asked to make a film about Steinbeck for the BBC, I went back with apprehension. The peaks of one’s adolescent reading can prove troughs in late middle age. Life moves on; not all books do. But 50 years later, The Grapes of Wrath seems as savage as ever, and richer for my greater awareness of what Steinbeck did with the Oklahoma dialect and with his characters.

It is just as alive, with its fine anger against the banks: “The bank – the monster – has to have profit all the time. It can’t wait … It’ll die when the monster stops growing. It can’t stay in one place.”

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