Ry Cooder Responds to Arizona Immigration Law – Guitar Player Magazine

Arizona Immigration Battle Inspires Fiery New Ry Cooder Single Quicksand (Nonesuch) Available Exclusively Via iTunes On June 29

GP Staff

Ry Cooder has recorded an incredible new song “Quicksand,” inspired by the AZ immigration battle.  It will be available on iTunes starting June 29, with all proceeds benefiting MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund), Ry Cooderbut you can hear the song right now at http://n.pr/bZWlLJ
In response to the immigration battle currently raging around the country, six-time Grammy winner Ry Cooder wrote “Quicksand,” a slow-burning rocker that tells the story of six would-be immigrants making their way from Mexico to the Arizona border. The track, which will be released exclusively on iTunes on June 29, features Cooder’s son Joachim on drums, along with backup vocals by Lucina Rodgriguez and Fabiola Trujillo of Mexican roots band Los Cenzontles.  Cooder has chosen MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, to receive all proceeds from sales of the single.

Thirst, hunger, injury and fear befalls Cooder’s immigrants during their journey.   “Quicksand I think we lost direction,” he laments in the chorus, referring to more than just the song’s protagonists, “I think we’re sinking down.” At the border, a vigilante in a Dodge Ram turns away the song’s only two survivors. “I think you’d take more pity on rescue pit bull dogs,” the narrator pleads before turning around to face his death sentence in the scorching heat of the desert.

”The Devil’s Highway has been used by migrants traveling on foot for over 100 years,” says Cooder.  “You should try it sometime. Out there, temperatures can get above 130 degrees.  If you fall down, you have religious hallucinations, then you die, cooking from the inside out.  If you get lucky, you might make it to Yuma, but then what?  That’s no comfort station they run up there, cabron.”

MALDEF President and General Counsel David Damian says, “Defeating Arizona’s SB 1070 – and the potential copycat laws that have since been announced by unscrupulous legislators around the nation – will require a broad national community effort to reinforce the constitutional principles and values that characterize our nation.  Our heartfelt thanks to Ry Cooder for being a leader in that necessary community effort.”

Accompanying the single is original artwork by celebrated Latino artist Vincent Valdez, whose work has appeared on previous Cooder albums and on exhibition in numerous museums including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

About MALDEF: Founded in 1968, MALDEF is known as the “law firm of the Latino community”, and also led the litigation that defeated California’s similarly inhumane Proposition 187 several years ago.  With this experience, MALDEF is working to defeat Arizona’s SB 1070 law and uphold the values of our constitution.  For more information go to: http://www.maldef.org

Musicians & Health Care: Alejandro Escovedo

from the Wall Street Journal blog, Speakeasy

By Steven Kurutz

Alejandro Escovedo has had one of the more varied careers in music. In the late-’70s, Escovedo was a member of the San Francisco punk band the Nuns, followed by stints in Rank and File and the True Believers, several excellent, under-the-radar solo records, a near-fatal battle with Hepatitis C, and, finally, his breakthrough albums of the aughts. On the cover of his latest release, “Street Songs of Love,” Escovedo looks lean and strong, like a man who has fought to achieve his current position and has no intention of relinquishing it. “I’m not new to this business. I’ve been doing it for quite a while,” Escovedo says on the phone from London. ”I’m not about to stop, I can tell you that.”

Your brothers, Coke and Pete, played with Santana; your niece is ’80s pop star Sheila E., and another brother, Javier, formed the seminal punk band the Zeros. And now your son is joining you in the musician ranks. How did music become the Escovedo family business?

There was always music in the house. My father was a musician, a singer. It was just part of our daily makeup as a family. Music was always there. There’s also 12 kids. One of the kids was showing another kid a new dance or how to play a rhythm on a drum. Family gatherings were all about music.

Several musicians, including yourself, have struggled with health problems made worse by not having health insurance. Why is this such a an issue among musicians?

I would first have to say it’s not just musicians. Poor people, old people, people with AIDS, people with cancer -– there’s so many people who cannot find good health care. We should just get over it and have universal health for everyone. It’s obviously harder for a musician. When I was brought down with my illness, whenever I would go to someone for help, there were a lot of people who would refer to this illness as a lifestyle illness, in the same way they did with AIDs. Why should we help this guy because he stayed up too late and drank too much and whatever.

Does this say something larger about the status of musicians in our culture?

To be a musician in America is to be a person who really doesn’t get any respect for what he does. And yet I think that music and the power of music is so important in our lives. The public recognizes the bigger bands. Yet there’s this whole world of bands that travel in vans and sleep on floors. We’re like Fuller Brush salesman; we just go door to door.

Dave Marsh on the US Social Forum

Tales from the Land of Hope and Dreams  by Dave Marsh

I had quite an experience at the U.S. Social Forum (ussf2010.org) on Saturday. It came at a workshop on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/rbwstudy.html) that I attended with my friend, Marian Baker of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization(mwro.org). Her husband, General Baker, of the League of

General Baker

Revolutionaries for a New America (lrna.org), was chairing a discussion by veterans of the League (and its predecessors, DRUM and ELRUM). The next thing I knew, Marian had hauled me  up to the tables at the front of the room and told me to pull a chair next to Gen. I felt pretty weird, the only white guy on the dais and, I think, the only male in the room wearing a collared shirt with long sleeves. Then again, I was sitting next to people I’d known for a few decades. I just could’t figure out what it looked like.  Click here to read more. . .

A Few Words From the US Social Forum — Lew Rosenbaum

First, full disclosure: I am reporting from my safe position behind an information table for the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA).  I say this because I want to make clear that I only had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions, so I am not giving anything like a rounded impression of all that went on.  Also, I’m confining my remarks to some publications I sold or bought during the Forum, and why I think they are important. On Tuesday afternoon, while waiting in the lobby of the COBO Hall convention center, where the bulk of the events took place, I had a chance to catch up with General Baker, one of the founders of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

General Baker (photo courtesy of Speakers for a New America)

(LRBW).  Gen was one of the first to refuse induction to fight in Vietnam, famously proclaiming that he would be happy to serve if the army deployed to fight for the rights of Blacks in Alabama or in Detroit.  Now a retired auto worker and LRNA member, Gen has been advocating for the rights of those destroyed by the implosion of the auto industry. He calls them part of a growing class of dispossessed, a new class permanently separated from connection, through the “point of production,” to capital. While he makes clear Detroit (and the world) is facing something new in history, he respects the legacy of the LRBW.  To this end, he showed me two remarkable documents.  He is selling DVD copies of Finally Got The News a documentary of the formation of the LRBW which creates a compelling visual excitement about the period. (The film was made in 1970 by the Detroit NewsReel group and reviewed in Cineaste by Dan Georgeakas), To complement this cinematic recreation of the LRBW era, Gen also has a cd that contains hundreds of pages of the print documents that provide a treasure trove of research materials unavailable elsewhere.  Later, at the LRNA table, Gen brought down posters of the original DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) slate for union election, a poster which sold out at the convention.  Finally Got the News is available for $20 and the Documents for $25 from the People’s Tribune. One of Gen’s retiree colleagues, who goes by the nickname Waistline, wrote a pamphlet  welcome to Detroit which became the hit of the People’s Tribune table next to me.  I picked up a copy, was immediately pulled in and read it, and was delighted with what I read.  When Waistline came down to the table to autograph copies, I jumped in line to tell him how much I enjoyed it, as much for the engaging writing as for the information it conveyed.  Detroit: A History of Struggle, A Vision of the Future lays out its perspective from the first page: “Detroit is the rise and fall of the heavy metal — the industrial working class.  Our rise was as spectacular as our fall.  Our rebirth will change human history.”   Waistline’s reborn Detroit does not come from urban gardens, though that may play a part. It comes from a class becoming conscious of itself in response to the economic polarization of society, and organizing itself against the corporate takeover of the government.  Waistline’s report comes from the grass roots, from below, from analyzed experience, not from an academic think tank. The pamphlet is available for $3 from the People’s Tribune web site. A couple of years ago I saw a film that simultaneously made my blood boil and chilled me to the bone.  Called The Water Front,  this documentary showed how people living by the side of one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world had no access to drinking water.  The people were residents of Detroit, the victims of privatization of public resources.  The

Image from "The Water Front"

consequences were huge water bills and utilities shut-offs.  Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) spearheaded the fight to preserve the right to clean water, as captured on that film.  Marian Kramer was one of the organizers of the US Social Forum and the water issue was prominent in discussions leading up to the Forum.  I was delighted to find on our literature table a pamphlet inspired by the Detroit struggle,  Water Wars — Coming Soon to Your Town!, written by good friends Steven Miller and Danny Alexander.  According to the authors, “Humanity is up against a global system of private property that is doing a really good job of wrecking the world and not much else.”  Miller has reported elsewhere extensively on how private property is destroying education;  Alexander is intimately familiar with the way the recording industry violates the rights of listeners to and performers of music, in the name of private property.  Here they extend their already detailed knowledge to the privatization of our natural resources, something that faces many cities.  In Chicago, we have lived with encroachments on our public services, and the mayor is threatening to privatize water, the consequences of which we can predict from this excellent pamphlet, available for $3 from the LRNA web site. Another LRNA pamphlet on our table that was extremely popular was entitled Foreclosures: The Reasons, The Results, and The Remedy. The authors of this pamphlet are not willing to accept that banks need to be bailed out.  They are also acutely aware that nationalizing the banks can simply lead to protection for the banks.  In their words, “The struggle for bank nationalization is therefore inseparable from a struggle to remove our current government which is run by and for corporations and replace it by one that is run by and for the dispossessed who are now the majority of our people.”  This pamphlet is available for $2 from the LRNA site. Both Water Wars and Foreclosures include a good list of sources and further readings. Last, but not least,  Rally Comrades! (the political paper of the LRNA) produced a selection of articles over the last two years which, taken together, provide an excellent estimate of our current situation.  It grounds the concept of revolution not solely as a mental construct, an idea around which people fight (although new ideas play an extremely important role).  Instead, On the Edge of History starts with a understanding of a decisive point in the economic revolution that takes place independently of the will of human beings.  The editors posit that unlike previous revolutionary periods, the motion of this revolution is toward a cooperative society.  It is, however, a motion that capitalism is resisting.  The interesting contribution that this pamphlet makes is that just as the existence of the working class is undermined by laborless production, so too is its contradictory pole, the capitalist class.  The reorganization of society must take place — but will it be around the distribution of goods and services according to need?  Or will fascism reorganize society to protect private property at the expense of the people? This pamphlet is available for $3 from the LRNA site as well. Taken together, this series of pamphlets and materials goes beyond the question of individual or small group defensive, survival patterns which our political system encourages.  There is no doubt, for example, that people or communities faced with food that is poisoned or not available will turn to cooperative or individual gardening to help themselves survive.  However the key question left unresolved by these defensive measures is related to class, the state, and the rule of the corporations.  Whether we are talking about the history of Detroit; foreclosures, housing and the banking crisis; or privatization of public resources, all roads lead in the same direction.  If the people do not take over the corporations, then fascism will overtake the people.

US Social Forum: A Press Release From the Organizers

[If you didn’t hear about the events in Detroit last week, well, let’s face it, many more important things intervened.  Just one example: Yesterday the Chicago Tribune wailed about the (possible) breakup of a marriage. A critical story about Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. World shattering. I really understand why this drove any news of the US Social Forum off the front page.  I mean, why would anyone want to know about the almost 20,000 people who attended, what they were talking about, and what conclusions they came to?  That is trivia compared with the implosion of the Chicago Cubs. But if you are one of the few who might be interested in such minor details, check out the first paragraph below and then click on the link to take you to the report and the accompanying slide show.  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Second U.S. Social Forum Opens New Chapter in US Movements for Justice, Equality and Sustainability

06.28.2010 – The United States Social Forum (USSF) closed Saturday with an inspirational national assembly and closing ceremony. Today, the Forum’s National Planning Committee (NPC) declared the forum a great success with attendance of more than 15,000 people from Detroit, from rural and urban areas across the nation, and from countries across the world including South Africa, Palestine, Honduras and Nepal.  Read more here.

Cartier-Bresson Retrospective at the Art Institute

[The following announcement comes from the AIC web site.  To read the entire announcement, click here.]

Overview: Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) is one of the most original, accomplished, and influential figures in the

Henri Cartier-Bresson. Juvisy, France, 1938. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer. © 2010 Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris.

history of photography. His celebrated work of the early 1930s helped to define the artistic potential of modern photography; a decade later, after surviving three years as a prisoner of war, Cartier-Bresson emerged from World War II determined to document a world in the midst of profound change. He did so in 1947 when he joined Robert Capa and others to found the Magnum photo agency, an organization that allowed photojournalists to reach broad audiences through such publications as Life and Paris Match, while still retaining independence and control over their work.  more here .

People’s Tribune, June 2010, on line

The current issue of the People's Tribune asks: "Which Way for America"?

Which way for US education?  How is it possible to foreclose on . . . the homeless?  Isn’t it time to nationalize the energy industries and prosecute the criminals who run them now?  These and many other stories can be found in the June People’s Tribune, which focuses on the causes of the 20,000 activists who, at the time of publication, were on their way to the epicenter of the manufacturing rust belt depression, Detroit.  The paper not only examines the questions that the growing movements have been posing, but brings out some of their answers as well.  Click here to get to the People’s Tribune web site!

The following poem, from the June issue, accompanies the article entitled:  “Defense of the Immigrant is the Path to Democracy for All”:


who came over a desert of his own bones

who came thru the burning heart of his own survival

who came to plant illegal kisses on the smallest cheek

who died coming

and then outlived his own dying

to bring his decency

Thousands converge in Phoenix to protest Arizona’s fascist legislation, SB 1070, that could affect everyone’s future.photo by Rudy Corral

into the factories of prisons

to unlock them with his simply human

and that was his offense

in the place he graces

with simple human beauty

with his coming and being: hermano!

y tu hermana

—Sarah Menefee

Welfare Is Cause of the Fiscal Crisis . . . Corporate Welfare

[This article in the LA Times calls into question the fundamental reasoning behind giving money incentives to corporations — otherwise they’ll go someplace else.  But when you add up all the tax incentives given to corporations, it is child’s play to fix the education budget deficit in every state — a lesson we should apply, for example, to the crisis in Springfield, Illinois (and the city of Chicago to boot).  Thanks to Lorraine Suzuki for calling it to our attention — Lew Rosenbaum]

Corporate welfare and California’s budget deficit

  • Michael Hiltzik

The government handouts include tax breaks for businesses and incentives for some of the state’s largest industries.

By Michael Hiltzik  June 18, 2010 | 6:34 p.m.

I believe we can all agree on the root cause of the state’s $20-billion budget gap.

It’s welfare: all those millions of taxpayer dollars going to recipients who line up for their government handouts instead of competing in the marketplace on a level playing field like the rest of us, who don’t pay their fair share of taxes and who get protected by a politically powerful lobby.

Yes, I’m talking about the business community.

[FOR THE RECORD: The column incorrectly states that $1 billion in revenues from a state oil severance tax would   benefit 1 billion children in the CalWORKS program. As the column states elsewhere, the correct figure is more than 1 million children.]

For all the hand-wringing by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about how there’s almost nothing left to cut in the state budget except services to children, the aged and the destitute, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on handouts to business. That’s despite the lack of evidence that some of these programs keep employers in the state, lure employers from out of state or are cost-effective in any general way.

The governor is asking the Legislature to take such draconian steps as eliminating CalWORKS, the state’s principal family welfare program (serving 1.1 million children), and downsizing child care and mental health programs.

Meanwhile, corporate welfare programs such as tax breaks for some of our largest companies and “incentives” for our largest industries are to survive. To his credit, Schwarzenegger has proposed delaying some new corporate tax breaks.

The state budget is rife with industry goodies. For example, there’s the Hollywood subsidy, currently pegged at $100 million a year in tax credits.

The rationale for this welfare program is to keep productions from fleeing to other states, taking California jobs with them. But you could go blind looking for an independent study, as opposed to studies funded by the state film commissions handing out the dough, showing that such programs produce more in overall benefits than they cost.

Quite the contrary — according to Governing magazine, New Mexico, which had aggressively courted producers with $40 million in tax rebates, concluded in 2008 that for every dollar it spent, it received 14.4 cents in return.

No one knows to what extent the production companies pocketing California’s cash would have filmed here anyway. And the program is hardly aimed at companies on the financial edge — as my colleague Richard Verrier reported recently, $20 million is going to pictures being shot here this year by Warner Bros. The money isn’t allocated according to need but on a first-come, first-served basis among qualified productions, the California Film Commission says. In other words, it’s more a windfall for the nimblest applicants than a program targeted at productions most likely to leave without it. [Click here to read the entire article}

Chicago Sun Times: Karen Lewis Is For Real

[The following profile of Karen Lewis is indeed revealing in the details of her background.  But those who have been reading Substance News and have attended CORE programs and meetings are not surprised.  And we’re glad to see that Sun Times readers throughout the city will have an opportunity to find out about Karen too.  One thing that we’d like to emphasize:  the hardest task is just beginning  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Chicago’s new ‘electric’ teachers union president

KAREN LEWIS | Never hesitated to switch gears to take a chance — and now comes her biggest challenge

June 19, 2010

BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter

The career trajectory of Karen Lewis proves that the route to the top does not always reflect the shortest distance between two points.

The president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union left Kenwood High School in 1970 without a diploma, skipping right from her last day of junior year to a prestigious university, and eventually graduated — “thank-you laude,” as she puts it — from Dartmouth College.

Chemistry teacher Karen Lewis cleans up the Chem Lab at King College Prep High School.
(Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)

Karen Jennings Lewis (back row, second from left) is pictured in the 1970 Kenwood High School yearbook.

A pianist and opera buff, she began college with the dream of becoming a symphony conductor because, she says, “I liked being in charge.” A trip to Barbados changed her life, and she entered medical school intent on becoming a physician on the island paradise. She dropped out instead, turned to substitute teaching to support herself, and found her calling.

Funny, bubbly and even “brilliant” by some accounts, the 56-year-old Lewis is not afraid to switch gears to pursue a passion — to take a chance, to dive into a challenge. She has had more jobs than she has salmon-frosted, manicured fingernails.

On July 1, Lewis will begin the challenge of her life when she assumes the mantle of president of the nation’s third-largest teachers union. [Click here to read more]

WARNING: Coal Pollutes Chicago Neighborhoods

Warning Signs: Awareness Campaign Targets Coal Burning Power Plants in Chicago

Posted June 16, 2010 by Nicolas Lampert

RAN Chicago teamed up with local artists to raise public attention to the Fisk and Crawford coal-powered plants on Chicago’s near south side that have been poisoning the air for decades. Both Plants are located in highly populated neighborhoods – primarily Latino neighborhoods – and have operated with outdated equipment and safety standards that has made Chicago one of the worst cities for air quality in the US. Exposure to these plants has led to an average of 40 deaths a year and high rates of asthma and other upper respiratory ailments. The kicker is that these plants do not even benefit Chicago residents. Most of the power produced is sold on the open grid to Ohio and Pennsylvania while community residents (not to mention the ozone layer) suffers, while company execs get rich.

Local groups – LVEJO (Little Village Environmental Justice Organization), PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization), RAN Chicago, and others are calling for the plants to be closed and for the end of burning fossil fuels as an energy source.  (see  Just Seeds web site)