Remembering Howard Zinn and Appreciating Him — from The Progressive Magazine On Line

Many obituaries and remembrances have paid tribute to the life of Howard Zinn.  Sadness is not for the dead but for the living, who would like (as Elizabeth di Novella says) to have read Zinn’s writings on such stuff as the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign funding.  Matthew Rothschild and Elizabeth di Novella have written a celebration of Howard Zinn’s life and contributions, words that will help us recognize that Zinn’s presence will be felt as long as we remember, as long as his writings survive to teach other generations about our history — Lew Rosenbaum]

Thank You, Howard Zinn

By Matthew Rothschild, January 28, 2010

Thank You, Howard Zinn, for being there during the civil rights movement, for teaching at Spelman, for walking the picket lines, and for inspiring such students as Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being there during the Vietnam War, for writing “The Logic of Withdrawal,” and for going to Hanoi.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for always being there.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a man who supported the women’s liberation movement, early on.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a straight who supported the gay and lesbian rights movement, early on.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a Jew who dared to criticize Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, early on.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for being a great man who didn’t believe in the “Great Man Theory of History.”

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for taking the time to write your landmark work, “A People’s History of the United States,” and for educating two generations now in the radical history of this country, a history, as you stressed, of class conflict.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for grasping the importance of transforming this book into “The People Speak,” the History Channel special that ran in December and that should be used by secondary, high school and college classes for as long as U.S. history is taught.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for opposing war, all wars, including our own “good wars,” our own “holy wars,” as you called them—and for pointing out that a “just cause” does not lead to a “just war.”

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for pointing out that soldiers don’t die for their country, but that they die for their political leaders who dupe them or conscript them into wars. And that they die for the corporations that profit from war.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for urging us to “renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.”

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for stressing that change comes from below, and that it comes at surprising times, even when things seem bleakest, if we organize to make it happen.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for stressing the value of engaging in action to make this world a better place, even if we don’t get there.

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for this amazing, inspiring paragraph, which I’ve had on my wall for years now:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for recognizing the beauty and power of culture, and for exalting the poet, the singer, the actor, the artist.

Thank you, Howard, for being kind enough to write your columns this last decade for a relatively obscure magazine called The Progressive, and for doing so with the utmost intelligence and grace.

Thank you, Howard, for calling me your editor.

Thank you, Howard, for your wry and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Thank you, Howard, for your kindness.

Thank you, Howard, for your friendship.

Thank you, Howard.

Thank you.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Remembering Howard Zinn

By Elizabeth DiNovella, January 27, 2010

I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of Howard Zinn. He was a longtime columnist for The Progressive, and his most recent piece, “The Nobel’s Feeble Gesture,” expressed his dismay about President Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I think some progressives have forgotten the history of the Democratic Party, to which people have turned again and again in desperate search for saviors, later to be disappointed. Our political history shows us that only great popular movements, carrying out bold actions that awakened the nation and threatened the Establishment, as in the Thirties and the Sixties, have been able to shake that pyramid of corporate and military power and at least temporarily changed course.”

It was a “classic” Zinn piece—piercing but playful, saying in no uncertain terms what needed to be said. It’s not surprising he was a favorite columnist for many of our subscribers. He was my favorite, too.

On matters of war and peace, he was absolute. In our July 2009 issue, he wrote, “We’ve got to rethink this question of war and come to the conclusion that war cannot be accepted, no matter what. No matter what the reasons given, or the excuse: liberty, democracy; this, that. War is by definition the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers of people for ends that are uncertain. Think about means and ends, and apply it to war. The means are horrible, certainly. The ends, uncertain. That alone should make you hesitate. . . . We are smart in so many ways. Surely, we should be able to understand that in between war and passivity, there are a thousand possibilities.”

What I loved most about Zinn was his sense of humor, which didn’t always translate onto the page. I didn’t know how funny he was until I heard him speak at our 95th anniversary party six years ago. He was gracious enough to attend our recent 100th birthday bash, too.

When I was a just becoming politicized, I read A People’s History of the United States and it blew my mind away. Reading Zinn’s book was a rite of passage in my activist circles, and I hope it still is.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve read A People’s History, and it is no small thrill to be at a magazine that regularly publishes the work of a peace mongering historian, a World War II soldier who flew bombing missions over Europe but later staunchly advocated for peace. That was thing about Zinn—when he spoke of war, he knew what he was talking about.

Back in 2003 when George W. Bush was gunning for Saddam Hussein, Zinn wrote a cover story for The Progressive called “A Chorus Against War.”

This is how it ends:

“If Bush starts a war, he will be responsible for the lives lost, the children crippled, the terrorizing of millions of ordinary people, the American GIs not returning to their families. And all of use will be responsible for bringing that to a halt.

Men who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the American people to take it back.”

I would have loved to read what Zinn thought about the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing even more money into our political system. Or what he would have written after hearing Obama’s first State of the Union Address. The President’s speech hasn’t even started yet tonight, but this much I do know: Zinn would have reminded us, as he did over and over, that we need to organize our neighborhoods and workplaces and schools in order to create change, and not leave it up to the politicians.

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war,” Zinn wrote in a piece called, “Election Madness” back in March 2008. “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Elizabeth DiNovella is Culture Editor of The Progressive.

The Road To Detroit

[The American “rust belt” is devastated.  No news there.  What is news is that Detroit, epicenter of the rust belt, both the symbol and the practical effect of corporate rule, will host the second U.S. Social Forum June 22-26.  Please check the web site at the right (under U.S. Social Forum – Chicago) for the Chicago progress toward organizing for this very important confluence of active people.  It is an opportunity to meet and strategize with others who envision a cooperative world.  The national web site for the forum is <http://www.ussf2010.org/>. This post contains an overview article on the USSF and its implications; an invitation to the Feb. 2 meeting in Chicago to find out more about Chicago plans for participating in the USSF; the announcement of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign march from New Orleans, LA to culminate in Detroit for the USSF; Information on the film The Water Front, along with a poetry video on the water devastation; and links to articles in the Peoples Tribune on the economic devastation in Detroit. — Lew Rosenbaum]

1. http://www.lrna.org/2-pt/v19ed6art4.html
The U.S. Social Forum on the Road to Detroit
Twenty thousand movement organizers and activists from diverse organizations and fronts of struggle across the United States, Canada, and the world are expected to converge at the second United States Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, Michigan, from June 22 to June 26, 2010.
A virtual “ground zero” for the global economic meltdown and social destruction wreaking havoc throughout our communities, Detroit and Michigan are today a battleground around concrete political questions about whom the U.S. government is going to serve. The questions of whether people are going to have housing, water, and schools, and of nationalization of auto and health care, are immediate and real there.
Just like the people of Detroit, Michigan, and the whole United States, participants in the U.S. Social Forum are going to be grappling with the question, “which way forward?” Read more . . .

2.  Chicago USSF Info Session

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Mon, 2010-01-25 22:11

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Date:  Wed, 2010-02-03 02:00 – 04:00

US Social Forum Info Session
Tuesday, February 2nd
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Access Living
115 W. Chicago Ave.
Organizers and activists across the country are building for the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit June 22-26, 2010.

This is the follow-up to the USSF in Atlanta in 2007, which drew some 15,000 people to hundreds of workshops and meetings on how to organize for progressive social change.

In Chicago, activists and organizations are networking not only to attend the forum, but also to strengthen our own organizing in and around our city. With a deep economic crisis, government budget cuts, and rising unemployment and poverty, we need to come together to support each other?s efforts. We?ll strategize together about how to work for a Chicago that puts peoples needs first?now and beyond the USSF.

This meeting will provide an orientation to the World Social Forum movement for those learning about it for the first time. We?ll work together to fundraise, coordinate travel, and plan events to support the participation of youth, low-income, people of color, workers and neighborhood folk from affected communities. Come to the session to see how we can link up and build a Chicago that works for everyone.

For information about Chicago?s road to Detroit visit:
http://roadtodetroit.blogspot.com/2010/01/chicago-info-session-15.html

3. Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
“The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967
The March to Fulfill the Dream launches on April 4, 2010. This significant date is Easter Sunday, as well as the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. We begin in New Orleans, Louisiana and finish our march in Detroit, Michigan on June 20, 2010 for the U.S. Social Forum.

We demand guaranteed healthcare and housing for everyone in the United States.

Rising from the ruins of economic storms, we unite – poor people, homeless people, social workers, activists, artists, musicians, people of faith, students, healthcare workers, lawyers, and more – we rebuild!

Join us. Build the movement to end poverty! click here to go to the march site.

4. The Water Front and Water Warriors are two cinematic approaches to document the severe fresh water crisis that has been facing the Detroit area. This is from the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization web site, which also has links to the the documentary film The Water Front and the poetry video, Water Warriors:

The Detroit area, was a natural venue for the opening of the 6-month tour of The Water Front throughout the Great Lakes region. “With the recent passage of the Great Lakes Compact and the approaching elections, this couldn’t be timelier” said Sam Finkelstein, the tour organizer, as he introduced the film. Residents from the area gathered in Marygrove College, a leader in urban social justice education. “This film shouldn’t just touch you,” said Marian Kramer, who is featured in the film and was at the screening, “it should grab you” – and she gestured as if she was choking. And it did just that, the viewers were grabbed by this film and the subsequent discussions. “How can our water be defined as a product?” asked Lynna Kaucheck of Clean Water Action, as she highlighted the underlying economic and political issues that result in situations such as those we experienced in Highland Park. This screening was a great way to launch this historic tour to over 30 cities!
Sam Finkelstein, Food & Water Watch
September 26, 2008

5.  Links to articles on the Detroit US Social Forum

http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2009.10/PT.2009.10.05.html   A Call to Participate

http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2010.01/PT.2010.01.06.html  Detroit Fights Utility Shut Offs (Voices from the Rust Belt); and Detroot We Do Mind Dying.

http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2010.01/PT.2010.01.06.html#three   Crisis in Funding Michigan Education

http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2010.01/PT.2010.01.12.html#four  Voices from Benton Harbor, MI

When Are Copyrights Wrong? — music writer Bill Glahn explains

photo by Bill Glahn

[Bill Glahn writes on copyrights and wrongs. . . published on the Big O website … he reflets on digitization, downloads, and who the real criminals are, while stepping on the clay feet of some artists like Billy Bragg  —  Lew Rosenbaum]

Note: After Live! Music Review closed up shop, I wrote a series of articles for Counterpunch called RIAA Watch. For purposes of relevance, I’ll defer to one of those articles for this edition of The Best of Live! Music Review. Many updates follow which should be of interest to any in the p2p community who value fair use and developing artists who value the freedom to establish their audience without industry interference.
The RIAA – Artist Friend or Artist Foe? (Part 2)
RIAA Watch [July 1, 2003]

No, No Bono
By Bill Glahn
When Hilary Rosen announced in January that she would be stepping down as head honcho of the RIAA at the end of the year, the spin was that she wanted to spend more time with her children. Since then she has announced a new career with CNBC in which she will appear on no less than three political talk shows and provide coverage of the 2004 elections. That’s a taxing schedule by any measure. So much for the kids.
Ah, but let’s be fair. Rosen’s recent profile has been low key by her normal standards, leaving a bevy of underlings to handle the press’ questions regarding the RIAA’s recent announcements that they intend to alienate music fans on a massive scale. Maybe she is easing into the role of proud papa, at least until she gets her TV gig going.
The speculation over Rosen’s replacement at the RIAA got a fresh injection recently when a spokeswoman for Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono told the Associated Press that the CEO job at the RIAA would be the “perfect job” for Bono. No doubt. A couple of years ago the Human Rights Campaign gave Bono a dismal nine percent positive vote rating. Nothing about her voting record has changed since. Rosen’s assessment of Bono? “I think she’s great.”
Judging by Rosen’s attempts to stifle culture, not only in the U.S. arena, but throughout the globe, that assessment is not surprising. On another level, however, it is. Part of Mary Bono’s voting record includes a vote against same sex partnerships and a vote against gay adoptions. Rosen’s family incorporates both. Rosen has earned a reputation as a team player, but apparently that doesn’t include the “home” team.
Bono has since denied any serious pursuit of the RIAA job. Not that they would hire her anyway. She’s too valuable to them right where she is. She’s already bought. The entertainment industry is her single largest campaign contributor. It’s already paying dividends.
Bono has a reputation as being a follower, not a leader. While she frequently votes as a staunch conservative, she rarely initiates legislation. That could be changing. She has recently formed a Congressional caucus on intellectual property rights which, considering her close ties to the industry (her personal income is largely dependent on royalties from late husband Sonny Bono’s compositions and recordings) will probably end up introducing legislation giving the death penalty for unauthorized downloads. Or maybe extending copyrights to 5 millenniums before they enter the public domain.

Considering the RIAA’s top priority, Internet “piracy”, a more logical candidate for the job of CEO might be Frank Creighton, the head of the organization’s anti-piracy division and a loyal policeman for that organization since 1985. But Creighton has shown little in the way of political savvy and mainly serves as the organization’s media face (a handsome and accomplished speaker when the cameras are on). My money is on lobbyist Mitch Glazier, who has experience at getting the RIAA’s agenda turned into law under cover of darkness. He comes from the same cesspool that launched Rosen’s career. He’s an accomplished bagman. But for now, the RIAA aren’t giving any clues.
[2010 update]
Mitch Glazier did, in fact, inherit Hilary Rosen’s seat at the RIAA where he remains to this day and oversaw the disastrous “sue ’em all” campaign. Mary Bono has headed the Congressional Caucus on Intellectual Property for the last six-plus years and a supporter of far right conservative policies. Hilary Rosen is currently an editor at The Huffington Post and a CNN commentator and a supporter of status quo liberal politics. On issues like intellectual property, they march in lockstep.

When the Whip Comes Down
With CEO Glazier and RIAA president Cary “Sue” Sherman’s alienation of music fans proving to be something far less than a productive strategy, they came up with another one. If the whip isn’t working, get a bigger whip.
In 2007, under lobbying from the RIAA and the MPAA, Mary Bono announced negotiations for a new trade agreement called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). From a Bono press release; “·”I am encouraged by this agreement because it indicates the countries involved in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement acknowledge the importance of strong intellectual property rights protections. Hopefully the days of turning a blind eye to the criminal interests involved in piracy and counterfeiting are becoming less acceptable. If this agreement is able to strengthen property rights, it will be seen as an important turning point in the global struggle for stronger intellectual property rights protections.”
President Bush kept the negotiations secret under the cloak of “national security.” President Obama has chosen to follow Bush’s lead.
So now we have the head of the Congressional Caucus on Intellectual Property, a person who refers to the Fair Use Doctrine as “unfair takings,” a person who also benefits economically from extended copyright, steering an international agreement that for all intents and purposes is self-serving.
Bono uses the same “protect the creator” strategies as the RIAA in her quest to protect her largest contributors and an important income source.
Says Bono, “Everyone who knows me understands that I am a strong supporter of technological innovation, but I believe that the only way an electronic marketplace can continue to sustain growth is if copyrights are protected. After all, the latest and greatest High-Definition television sets and endless amounts of bandwidth are useless if no one is creating content.”
This begs a couple of questions. “Were there no creators before copyright existed?” And “How many songs has Mary Bono been induced to write as a result of her IP holdings?”
But it’s not only Fair Use that Bono is willing to sacrifice in her quest to protect the money streams for her corporate clients. Next up? Due process.
The Whipping Post

Despite the secret nature of the ACTA negotiations, there have been leaks. On November 30, 2009, Dr. Michael Geist posted the following on his blog site. “The European Commission analysis of ACTA’s Internet chapter has leaked, indicating that the U.S. is seeking to push laws that extend beyond the WIPO* Internet treaties and beyond current European Union law. The document contains detailed comments on the U.S. proposal, confirming the U.S. desire to promote a three-strikes and you’re out policy, a Global DMCA**, harmonized contributory copyright infringement rules, and the establishment of an international notice-and-takedown policy.”

* the United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organization
** the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act which went a long way in stripping Fair Use Doctrine
Dr. Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. Speaking in this capacity, he goes on·
“ACTA would render current Canadian copyright law virtually unrecognizable as the required changes go far beyond our current rules (and even those contemplated in prior reform bills).”
It is not only in ACTA negotiations where the MAFIAA, in it’s various international configurations, is actively pursuing three-strikes legislation – the removal of Internet service to anyone deemed guilty of transporting, uploading, or downloading copyrighted content. Under Big Music pressure the governments of Great Britain and France (so far) have proposed three-strikes legislation. Say good-bye to You Tube as we now know it. Watch out for the disappearing blog. Don’t dare e-mail that song lyric to your sweetie that best exemplifies your affection for her/him. Say hello to mandated snooping by your ISP – the proposed policeman in this draconian scheme. Say good-bye to privacy. Say good-bye to due process. And don’t think for a minute that because you have already been handed down a punishment (loss of Internet service), that you cannot be sued in civil court or criminally charged. Say hello to double jeopardy.

Tell It to the Judge on Sunday
“How could such a plan pass Constitutional muster?” an American basking in the notion of guaranteed liberties might ask. Well it could if there was a Supreme Court that is stacked with judges pre-disposed to protecting corporate interests rather than individual liberties. The 1985 version of the Supremes clearly stated that copyright infringement is not theft. The 2010 version, however, seems more sided with Mary Bono’s interpretation. And then here’s the Department of Justice.
As reported by p2pnet·
Thomas Perrelli
, nominated as Associate Attorney General on January 5, confirmed March 12. Perrelli’s position is second-in-command in the DoJ, behind Attorney General Eric Holder. He was one of the leading RIAA lawyers on file-sharing DMCA cases. In one case, he argued for the release of ISP customer information without a subpoena.
Donald Verrilli
, nominated as Associated Deputy Attorney General on Feburary 4. Verrilli’s position is third-in-command in the DoJ, behind Perrelli. He was the chief RIAA attorney in Jammie Thomas case of last year, which was won by the RIAA before being declared a mistrial.
Brian Hauck
, appointed as Counsel to the AAG in February 4. Hauck’s position is to serve as Perrelli’s lawyer. He represented the RIAA in the historic Supreme Court case MGM Studios v. Grokster in 2005, won by the industry. He also donated a combined $1500 to the Obama campaign in 2007 and 2008.
Ginger Anders
, appointed as Assistant to Solicitor General Elena Kagan in March. The Solicitor General represents the government in Supreme Court cases. Anders was one of the litigators in last year’s Cablevision case, which the content industry intended to block the cable company from allowing it to store customers’ recorded programs on its servers.
Ian Gershengorn
, appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney of the Civil Division of the DoJ on April 13. Gershengorn’s position entails overseeing the Federal Programs Branch, which recently announced support for $150,000 monetary damages for pirated files during a copyright case. He also represented the RIAA in the MGM Studios v. Grokster case.
The Public Knowledge website states “Either Jenner and Block lawyers are looking for something to do in this economic downturn, or the RIAA has a direct pipeline to the Justice Department” when reporting the Gershengorn hiring.
The New York Law Journal adds another Jenner and Block name to the mix, Samual Hirsh, “who joined as deputy associate attorney general.”
Don’t be looking for the Department of Justice to pursue price-fixing charges against the MAFIAA with any type of vigor. Do look for them to go after file-sharers and ISPs.

Joseph Goebbels, Step Forward
Any campaign designed to take away human rights and needs a clever minister of propaganda. Big Music has apparently found one in a Bono of a different gender. Paul O’Neil’s buddy, in a Jan. 2, 2010 guest editorial column for the New York Times, claims, “A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators.” Bono uses a false premise to criminalize vast segments of the population. And to give the green light for snooping· “it’s perfectly possible to track content.”
OK – so it’s possible. But is it moral? Perhaps Bono is looking to keep the music industry as “sexy” as he finds Africa – where intellectual property agreements continue to keep the price of AIDS medicine artificially high and the people dependent on the mercy of Bono and his IP cronies.
Apparently, the man who believes Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in the morning has as little grasp on Irish history as he does on American history. From wikipedia’s biography on Turlough Carolan – “the last great Irish harper-composer and is considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer”:

“At the age of twenty-one, being given a horse and a guide, he set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons. For almost fifty years, Carolan journeyed from one end of the country to the other, composing and performing his tunes.” Imagine that – a fifty-year career  pre-copyright.
But Jesus Bono isn’t the only label-affiliated musician looking to preserve copyright privilege. In Great Britain, FAC (Featured Artists Coalition) was formed in March 2009 stating a desire to “give artists a collective voice to campaign for effective laws and regulations, as well as transparent and equitable business practices.” That is label-affiliated artists.
In this Billboard magazine article they also stated “concern about any legal body taking action against fans who were involved in file-sharing and preventing them getting broadband access to be informed about the activities of their favorite acts.” Then FAC did a turnaround and overwhelmingly supported measures in Britain’s proposed Digital Economy bill to include three-strikes measures and a 20 year copyright extension. P2p proponents felt betrayed. P2pnet’s Jon Newton summarizes the situation in an open letter to FAC board member Ed O’Brien (of Radiohead). States Newton, “Well, Ed, it’s not only the recording industry that’s dragging it’s feet. You and your fellow FAC board members are doing the same thing and while you prevaricate, the corporate music industry is driving its wedge ever more deeply between you and the fans you admit you can’t do without. You, (Billy) Bragg, (Blur drummer Dave) Rowntree, (Pink Floyd’s Nick) Mason, and anyone else on the FAC board (Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B, Kate Nash, Marillion’s Mark Kelly and rapper Master Shortie) MUST convince it and other members to revert to the coalition’s original position.”
In October 2009, Billy Bragg, a member of FAC’s board of directors, and Newton initiated a2f2a.com, a website intended to connect artists with fans. In his initial posting to artists Bragg stated “My participation in this initiative is based on my understanding of two principles that are central to the beliefs of the p2p community. Firstly, that there is no technological solution to the problems that artists face as a result of the digitisation of music and, secondly, that p2p users are willing to pay for music if they can be sure that the money is going to the artists whose work they enjoy.”
In Newton’s initial posting referring to fans: “On a2f2a, they’ll be able to do something that’s never been possible before, on- or offline. They’ll talk directly with artists to cut through the lies and disinformation perpetuated by the corporate music industry.”
While encouraging, things didn’t work out as originally envisioned. Bragg stood steadfastly that a 20-year copyright extension (beyond the 50 years past death privilege now granted in British law) was needed. FAC continues to support three-strikes. Bragg has disappeared from the discussion after issuing an “either or” ultimatum. Indiana Gregg, an artist without label affiliation, has been the most active artist participant in recent months. Gregg seems to have shifting and seemingly contradictory alliances. Gregg initiated Kerchoonz in 2008, a social networking site that shares advertising revenue with artists that contribute free downloads. Probably the most beneficial aspect of a2f2a has been the highlighting of new artists who’s careers have been advanced by exploring new business models not dependent on copyright or for-pay downloads.

It is these artists that consistently disprove the dire predictions of Mary Bono, the other Bono, the RIAA, the MPAA, and Billy Bragg. Creators will continue to create. Fans will continue to support them. Three-strikes will fail when the results become apparent to those even outside of the artist and fan contingencies. The only question is how much damage will be done to both emerging artists and their fans before that failure is complete.

Students Bring THEIR Bill of Rights to the School Board – by Jim Vail, in Substance News

[Jim Vail writing for Substance News describes the January 27 School Board Meeting: Go to the Substance News website to get the story.
“Especially moving was the testimony of the students from Julian, Social Justice and Clemente. One student asked Mr. Huberman directly ‘why is there only a bill of rights for students after their school is closed, not all the time?’ It took the Board by surprise, and they had to admit their testimony was strong, powerful and convincing. ”   — Lew Rosenbaum]
January 27, 2010 Chicago Board of Education meeting… More Demanding an End to Renaissance Closings

Jim Vail – January 28, 2010

"Bill of Rights" for students at schools to be closed, unveiled Jan. 17 by Schools CEO Ron Huberman. Photo by George Schmidt for Substance News.

The heat was turned up at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, January 27, 2010, as parents, students, teachers and other community members spoke out against Mayor Richard Daley’s plan to continue closing public schools. The latest list of schools facing closings, consolidations, phase outs and “turnaround” — 14 schools in all — was announced by CEO Ron Huberman, Daley’s latest appointee, on January 19, and people began mobilizing in opposition to the actions immediately. The January 27 meeting was the first indication of how widespread the opposition was going to be.
Read More. . .

Action Alert: NPR and Howard Zinn — submitted by FAIR

[Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting  keeps an eye on the way media distorts reality.  Here is an example and an actionable opportunity — Lew Rosenbaum]

NPR Finds Right-Wing Crank to Spit on Howard Zinn’s Grave
David Horowitz in ATC obituary with substance-free attack
When progressive historian Howard Zinn died on January 27, NPR’s All Things Considered (1/28/10) marked his passing with something you don’t often see in an obituary: a rebuttal.

After quoting Noam Chomsky and Julian Bond, NPR’s Allison Keyes turned to far-right activist David Horowitz to symbolically spit on Zinn’s grave. “There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn’s intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect,” Horowitz declared. “Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the  consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse.”

Horowitz’s substance-free attack contributed nothing to an understanding of Zinn’s life or work, other than conveying that he’s disliked by cranky right-wingers.  (Horowitz has been best known in recent years for his race-baiting and Muslim-bashing–Extra!, FAIR report,  He seems to have been included merely to demonstrate that NPR will not allow praise for a leftist to go unaccompanied by conservative contempt.

Needless to say, it is not the case that NPR has a consistent principle that all its obituaries be thus “balanced.” Take its coverage of the death of William F. Buckley, a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left.  Upon his death in February 2008, NPR aired six segments commemorating him, none of which included a non-admiring guest.  In two segments, All Things Considered (2/27/08) presented the remembrances of Rich Lowry (Buckley’s successor at National Review), his son Christopher and his biographer Sam Tanenhaus.

One of the All Things Considered segments did include a soundbite of Noam Chomsky debating with Buckley: “No, I don’t believe that…. In fact I think that…” But what Chomsky did not believe was unclear, let alone what he actually thought.

Talk of the Nation (2/27/08) featured admirer William Kristol, while Day by Day (2/27/08) had an extended interview with protegee David Brooks. Morning Edition (2/28/08) just quoted Buckley himself.

The celebration of Buckley culminated with Weekend Edition host Scott Simon (2/29/08), who turned the cause of death into a eulogy:  “Emphysema, such an unseemly thing for a man who was so often a breath of fresh air.”

In fact, there was much to criticize about Buckley, who was a supporter of, among other things, white supremacism in the U.S. South and South Africa, McCarthyism, nuclear war against China and the tattooing of AIDS patients’ buttocks (Extra!). Reporting his death, however, NPR didn’t think it was worth bringing on a critic who would take a negative view. Why the same outlet took a different approach when the subject was an intellectual on the left rather than the right is perhaps something the NPR ombud could answer.

TAKE ACTION!

ACTION: Please ask NPR ombud Alicia Shepard why All Things Considered brought on David Horowitz to trash the late Howard Zinn when NPR’s extensive coverage of William F. Buckley included no critical guests.

CONTACT: You can contact NPR ombud through this .

Please post copies of your letters in the comments section on the FAIR Blog.

Howard Zinn Education Project

Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History – a new website with free, downloadable teaching activities.

The Zinn Education Project, a collaborative effort by Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools, has launched the new Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History website. Thanks to the support of an anonymous donor and the Caipirinha Foundation, the site features over 75 free, downloadable teaching activities for middle and high school classrooms to bring a people’s history to the classroom. These are the best history-teaching articles drawn from the archives of Rethinking Schools magazine. The site also lists hundreds of recommended books, films and websites. The teaching activities and resources are organized by theme, time period and grade level. This is the only collection of its kind for educators – print or online – in the country.

Please visit and bookmark the new Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History website. You can also become a fan on Facebook.

Current Issue of the Peoples Tribune On Line: Interview with Daniel Wolff

Chicago school protest, photo by Southwest Youth Collaborative

The January issue of the Peoples Tribune includes an article about the Altgeld Gardens battle to establish a new school in their neighborhood, an interview with Daniel Wolff on problems of contemporary education, and, for those interested in the US Social Forum, soon to be held in Detroit, some critical articles on the state of social destruction in that city.

Read these all at http://www.peoplestribune.org/

Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood: An Essay on Fiction and Revolution

Book cover: The Year of the Flood

Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood ends where  her Oryx and Crake ends.  The characters who inhabit each novel follow different paths to arrive in the same place. Through their journeys Atwood attacks  science as well as religion, or rather  the uses of both. But that is tantamount to saying, she only attacks the Inquisition’s methods of torture; she doesn’t think there is anything essentially wrong.  That is not what is going on here. There is something essentially wrong with a science that commodifies all manner of genetic modifications and creates diseases to reap profits.  In the society of Atwood’s characters, there is nothing to believe in except commodities.  The main characters of Flood, Toby and Ren, survive the catastrophic flood in bastions of the new commodification: Ren is locked inside a sex for hire palace, while Toby is the sole survivor in the cosmetic makeover corporation “A Noo Yoo.”

The “flood” is metaphorical;  by the time of these novels, actual floods are unlikely.  It doesn’t rain enough.  The protagonists of the new novel, Gods Gardeners, are a kind of scientist/Christian cult. In their hierarchy of responsibility, the more responsible are called “Adams” and “Eves” — the leader is known as Adam one.  We come to know each of their original names (Pilar is Eve 6; when she dies, Toby is invited to become an Eve and take over Pilar’s special division of labor).  So Atwood is setting the scene and the players as a group which sees itself as in some sense reorganizing the earth’s population, perhaps literally regenerating it.  Taking its cue from the ark of Noah (and the numerous myths from which that one sprang), the vision of Gods Gardeners is that a waterless flood will envelop the earth. Some biological catastrophe, though they do not know from where it will come.  It is a catastrophe borne of human unwillingness to accept our relationship to the rest of the natural world. Perhaps it is a perversion of science; perhaps it is its logical extension.  Perhaps it is the logical extension of the old time religion as well.

What Atwood is doing follows the tradition of other writers of great speculative fiction — she abhors the “science fiction” label, which she reserves to writers that rely on extraterrestrials, other planets and galaxies, space travel, etc.  Others have mentioned that  her mentors have emphasized that there is nothing new in the novel, that writers re-form what they have read and heard before into their own voices.  So it is not surprising we find elements that we can trace directly back to Orwell and others, whether dystopian or utopian.  The well tempered technique of the writer dissatisfied with the present takes the world as we find it and projects what we see into the future to imagine a world either that we want or that we oppose.  The best of these novels merely extend the trends that they find in contemporary society.  That is, they seize on the objective reality that they find.

In a social scientist’s terms, they tease out from all the experiential information the kernel of what they are living through.  We can call that the content of our times.

Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson

I am not saying, here, that Atwood has conducted a scientific investigation of our reality and said, this is the crux of the matter.  I frankly don’t know. But her background certainly is suggestive.  According to a Guardian profile (April 26, 2003), her father was an entomologist who expected her to enter the sciences as a career (she admits to having done very well in biology in school).  Her brother Harold is a zoologist.  And she herself claims to read biology for pleasure: “Her interests are broad: ‘Pop science – usually life sciences – is my casual reading,’ she laughs; ‘I don’t have to review it or have an opinion, I can just read it for fun.'” And clearly she and her partner Graeme Gibson share a passion for their relation to nature. Both are Green Party members.  Atwood’s web site offers favorite links that are distinctly ecological, with an emphasis on extinctions. She says that “speculative fiction” differs from science fiction in that the latter deals with what might some day exist; speculative fiction takes as its subject matter what it finds at hand. We recognize a lot of our world in the experiences of her characters of this pair of novels.

Here is what Gibson says, in an interview published in the Toronto Star after the publication of his Bedside Book of Beasts:

The Book of Beasts is a logical follow-up to The Bedside Book of Birds, and Gibson spent four years creating it. In the course of that work, he has clarified feelings and thoughts that have been percolating for a lifetime.

“What has happened to us since we became civilized?” he asks. “Well, a relatively small number of people live well in relative security. But most humans have become like ants, huddled together fearfully without any security.”

And what has happened to our perception of animals? Well, many of them have been turned into cartoon characters.

And the more predatory ones, like tigers, lions, falcons, coyotes, hawks, bears and eagles, have had their identities co-opted for naming sports teams. According to Gibson, “We’ve lost our sense of belonging and our reverence for nature.”

What we call civilization is a really a form of becoming domestic and tame, he explains – and in his view, that’s not a good change. (Martin Knelman, Dec. 16, 2009)

Atwood looks at our civilized society and finds it much as Gibson describes above.  She looks at the motive force in this developing society, and finds it in what might be called the scientific industrial complex.  There is little sense, in this novel, of some external dangerous force (nations at war, for example).  (She also, by the way, reads extensively in military history).  In these novels, external forces are other corporations (there is a reference to corporations based in other countries stealing the brains from “our” corporations). The battles seem to be between corporations, economic entities, each with their own military/security forces. The major question facing society, from the point of view of the corporations, is the realization of profit (how can they make goods that sell; how can they find places to sell goods); from the point of view of the ants in society, the very immediate view of survival; from the point of view of the visionaries in society, how to reconstruct a social system that recognizes the advances of scientific understanding and the necessity of cooperative living.

The visionaries in Flood are Gods Gardeners.  In Oryx and Crake, we only hear about them in news reports and in gossip.  What we hear is encoded in symbol.  Jimmy’s mother, for example, is said to have run off to Gods Gardeners, and we are to conclude that that is the case.  In The Year of the Flood, however, the Gardeners take center stage, the action revolves around them, their recruitment, their attempts to recreate the new world within the old, their preparation for the flood that they expect will wipe away (at least most of) humanity.  The Gardeners profess non violence.  That is their creed.  Yet for Atwood’s characters, their consciousness depends on the material conditions they experience.  The Gardener cult is not monolithic.  We can recognize the ambiguity of life in contemporary utopians, the pressures that change their outlooks or that bring opportunists into the fold. When Toby becoms Eve 6 after Pilar dies,  she is reluctant. She has never fully converted to the Gardener creed, but Adam one is satisfied. Not that he believes she is a convert.  He recognizes the imperfection of conversion.  Zeb, one of the Adams who is trusted by Adam one but is also openly defiant (deviant), winds up leading a splinter group from the Gardeners.  He is dissatisfied with the wait and see and non-violently prepare credo. The council of Adams and Eves maintain a hidden lap top computer despite their prohibition against computers for the “lay” persons.  This is a pure society which knows it must compromise with the existing forces in order to survive.

Atwood describes two ideological responses to the anticipated flood in The Year of the Flood.  These parallel her descriptions of the response from within the superstructure in Oryx and Crake.  (There is of course the continued drive for all possible profit before the catastrophe arrives, coming from the corporations and their private militaries that we come to know more intimately in The Year of the Flood).   Crake however places himself in a very ambiguous position.  He is a brilliant researcher whom the head hunters in his corporation need to protect from being snatched away; and they need to give him what he wants to pursue his own research goals.  He uses the gene splicing techniques that have produced a bestiary resembling our cartoon views of animals (see the Gibson quote above).  He creates  a new human-like species that seems to have wiped out aggression, emphasized cooperation, and he’s made these organisms immune to diseases fostered by the corporations.  He entrusts their care to his boyhood friend Jimmy — the surviving “Snowman” of Oryx and Crake. For Atwood, living in the bowels of the corporate culture only allows two “solutions”:  eat, drink, be merry on the way to destruction;  or use science to transcend the destructive impulse with a superspecies that will survive.

The Gardeners have a different ethic and preserving/expanding that ethic makes up the bulk of the plot in Flood. Therefore, in these two novels we find two parallel discussions of the world contemporary to the characters of the story line.  In these novels we can recognize enough of our own situation to see how these stories are projections of our world.  And in these novels we find a world that is changing, independently of the wills of any one person or group of people.  The solution to the problem posed by this changing world depends on understanding that change.  The end of both novels leaves the characters in a predicament that makes it unclear about whether or how they will resolve this contradiction. But one thing is clear: no one can resolve the contradiction of the new world by using the methods of the old.

I think this far, I am not going far beyond Atwood’s own thinking, though that is always a dangerous proposition when talking about a work of fiction.  But now I want to depart from explicating Atwood.  I want to say something about how  Crake and Flood can help us look at our own society, and not speculatively. How the readers grasp the concepts and make those concepts their own.  I want to be more concrete about what I think this work of imagination says about who we actually are today.

First of all, Crake and Flood have very specific applications to the idea of revolution.  There are “revolutionaries” in both  novels.  But what actually is the revolution?  In my view, the revolution is the change taking place in the base of society,  that is to say, the economy.  What is revolutionizing Atwood’s world is the same thing revolutionizing ours.  Atwood describes biological revolutionary techniques;  in our world that is also obvious, but more fundamentally, even to the biological, is the electronic revolution.  Gene splicing would not be possible without the advances in electronic technology which lead every day to more rapid information about genomes, and the electronic technology which makes the splicing actually possible.  For her world as for ours that technology creates a massive unemployment.  Her world is congruent with ours, where there is less a “reserve army of labor” waiting for another job, as it used to be known, but instead a permanent mass of the unemployed. Can those removed from  the system, disengaged from the capitalist system but without a place to go, bring something new to the content of our time? Doesn’t this help us with the idea of “realization” that we are experiencing.

This is a revolution where the revolutionaries are not consciously forming its direction.

The Gardeners, Crake, Zeb and the corporate masters who control the Corporation Security Corps (CorpSeCorps in one of the many puns that litter this novel) all need to form the direction of the revolution.  In real life, corporations need to find a way to retain  private property as commodity production becomes more problematic (realization); the Gardeners need to find a way to promote cooperative resistance to the corporations as fascist control intensifies and before the flood destroys everyone. What seems clear from the novel is that Atwood doesn’t want to give us any formulaic answers, because there aren’t any.  The books help us to understand the ambiguity of our own situation.  If it is up to the survivors of Atwood’s flood to figure out how to survive in ambiguous and terrible circumstances, the same is true for us. But not simply on a subjective we can have what we want.  The Gardeners, Zebs’s splinter group, Crake’s revolution from “above” all have in common  a different partial view of what is actually happening.  At the end of the novels, we have the partial solutions of each confronting each other, kind of what we see in our own society as well.

Rather than reading this pair of novels as continuations of the themes developed in H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell,  I’d suggest reading these are parallel’s to Octavia Butler’s parable novels.  This is because the earlier novelists, also engaged in speculative or science fiction, had to seize what they had at hand to project to the future.  But what if we are facing a qualitatively different situation?  Atwood and Butler both recognize the ecological catastrophe;  both premise some kind of religious awakening that is in line both with science and philosophy;  each one has a different vision of where the dystopia will go.   Butler died before she could give us an insight into the further direction she saw her characters going.  Atwood has, however promised us a sequel. While I am anxious to see what path she takes us on, I am even more anxious that we use these imaginative insights to chart the direction of our own revolutionary process.

Lew Rosenbaum, January 2010.

Suggested reading: An extensive review essay (Oryx and Crake) in The Guardian from 2003:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/apr/26/fiction.margaretatwood

Haitian Art — an Appeal from Kimberly Ford of Ridge Art

[At the Chicago Labor & Arts Festival, we’ve had a long relationship with RidgeArt and its owner, Laurie Beasley.  Her tireless work on behalf of the artists of Haiti and, more recently West Africa and Latin America, has made her gallery a destination to bring visitors to the Chicago area.  In the wake of the disaster in Haiti, Laurie’s assistant Kimberly Ford has posted an appeal, which we repost below.  While you are at it, go from this post to the site of the gallery to get a sense of what they have and who they represent.  The gallery is closed for January;  but January is almost over, so please take the opportunity to visit the gallery and see the stunning and inventive work there in person — Lew Rosenbaum]
To Family and Friends
urgent message from Kimberly Silva Ford
on behalf of Ridge Art

ART CREATION FOUNDATION FOR CHILDREN
JACMEL, HAITI

As many of you already know I have a personal connection with Haiti due to my involvement with Haitian art. I have been working with Ridge Art for over three years and we specialize in Haitian art. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Haiti with Laurie. Since that time, I’ve grown to love Haiti, it’s beautiful culture and people.
Last week the worst reported earthquake in the region in 200 years struck, killing countless numbers of people and wounding many more. According to preliminary reports, 3 million people have been affected by the quake. All the images of Haiti that we have seen for the past several days have been filled with pain, horror and devastation. The destruction and tragedy is overwhelming.
I am sure that all of you want to help. So, I would like to share with you a non profit organization that I have been involved with for over a year. The organization is Art Creation Foundation For Children (ACFFC). ACFFC is a non-profit arts organization created for education and personal growth of children who are extremely underprivileged, in the town of Jacmel, Haiti since 2000. To find out more about the organization please go to www.artforhaitianchildren.org.

Since, the quake there has been hardly any aid reaching Jacmel. All the children and staff has been accounted for. The children, staff, and families are holding their own and helping the community and sharing what little they have. ACFFC has been named central coordinating agency in Jacmel by the International Red Cross. They are expected to arrive via plane or helicopter today/tonight and will use our location as their own!
Nothing is easy in Haiti. It is hard work to make the foundation a reality and we need your help especially at this time. Please give – no matter how little – it really does add up! TO DONATE TO ACFFC SEE BELOW.  If you want to donate to immediate relief efforts beyond Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, etc., I encourage you to do so but do not to forget about ACFFC.
Art Creation Foundation For Children will be a long haul, not a short term fix or band aid.

Thank you.

All consideration and participation will be appreciated.
Here Is How To Donate

visit www.artforhaitianchildren.org (click on the just give button)

by check (information provided on the site)

via facebook page http://apps.facebook.com/causes/138201/111923023

Consulting the Ouija Board for Economic Forecasting? Look to Bruce Instead!

[In a front page story the authoritative journalistic source, The Onion, reported that President Obama is anxiously awaiting the new Bruce Springsteen album, in the wake of his recent Washington D.C. appearance.   The news brief has no byline. — Lew Rosenbaum]

Obama To Wait For Next Bruce Springsteen Album For Word On Economy

January 11, 2010 | Issue 46•02

WASHINGTON—Faced with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the White House announced Tuesday that a cautious President Obama is awaiting the release of the next Bruce Springsteen album before moving forward with additional economic stimulus initiatives. “If Mr. Springsteen puts out an E-Street Band project with one rave-up and several tracks containing an overarching theme of redemption, the president will certainly take that as a strong indicator of economic recovery,” said press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that an album cover featuring an American flag would be “extremely promising.” “However, if he records a stark, haunting, Nebraska-esque exploration of blue-collar life, then it is time to lower interest rates and take immediate steps toward drastically reevaluating our current strategy.” The president has reportedly eschewed the supplementary Mellencamp Little Pink Housing Index used during the Reagan administration, as economists now widely believe it conveys a derivative, shallow view of the American fiscal landscape.