Culture and Society

Jan
04

Yes, Positivity, Pangloss, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Populism

Eight years ago Yes! Magazine published a political platform of progressive policies, along with polling showing strong majority support for each proposal. Now, eight years later, we can show almost total failure to advance any of the proposals, most of which were focused on the U.S. federal government.

Where there have been any small successes, they have mostly come at the state or local level or outside the United States. New York State just took a step toward free college and Washington State toward shutting down fossil fuels while everyone was watching Donald Trump's twitter feed. Most of the world's nations are working on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons from the earth, while Obama's government has invested heavily in new nukes and (far more offensively, I'm told) Trump has tweeted about them.

The general federal-level failure in the United States is very clearly because the U.S. government in Washington D.C. is a financially corrupted and anti-democratic structure, and because the U.S. public is generally disinclined to hold it accountable. The United States enjoys remarkably less activism than many other countries, and suffers as a result.

A huge reason for the activism shortage is partisan loyalty. Of that minority of people who will do anything at all, many will only make demands of or protest members of one political party. For the other party all is forgiven. And most policy positions are utterly expendable at the slightest shift in the party line. Witness the current Democratic fever for believing the CIA on faith and desiring hostility toward Russia.

Dec
30

Russians, By Fling -- To the tune of "Russians" by Sting

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War, Political Ideas

In Liberal America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria

Conditioned to accept whatever's claimed

As long as it's Donald and the Russians blamed

Mr. Putin says he'll be friends with you

I don't subscribe to this point of view

It would be such an ignorant thing to do

If the Russians hate their children too

 

How can I risk my little boy with Oppenheimer's deadly toy

There is no monopoly in common sense

On either side of all the missile defense

We share the same biology

Regardless of ideology

Believe me when I say to you

The Russians hacked your cell phone too

 

There is no historical precedent

To put a stooge in the office of the President

There's no such thing as a winnable war

It's a lie we don't reject anymore

Obama says we will protect you

I don't subscribe to this point of view

Believe me when I say to you

I know the Russians hate their children too

 

We share the same biology

Regardless of ideology

What might kill us, me, and you

Is if the Russians hate their children too

Dec
27

Talk Nation Radio: Richard Cahan on the Forced Removal and Incarceration of Japanese Americans

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-richard-cahan-on-the-forced-removal-and-incarceration-of-japanese-americans

Richard Cahan is a journalist who writes about photography, art and history. He worked for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1983 to 1999, primarily serving as the paper’s picture editor. He left to found and direct CITY 2000, a project that documented Chicago in the year 2000. Since then, he has authored and co-authored more than a dozen books, including Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows and Richard Nickel’s Chicago. He also works as a curator, creating photo and exhibitions at Chicago museums.

We discuss the new photo book co-authored by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Nov
18

Born on Home Plate

Remember the satirical "Billionaires for Bush" protesters? Around this time in 2008 I asked them to become Oligarchs for Obama, and they refused. But I predict Tycoons for Trump will be born this month. Inequality, like war and climate destruction, has its face now.

Chuck Collins' book, Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good, presents the problem of inequality as well as any I've seen. Collins was born into wealth, gave it away, but still refers to himself as one of the wealthy, perhaps because of all the lasting privileges wealth brought him. Collins sites other examples, as well, of the wealthy putting their wealth to better use than hoarding.

Collins explains how a lot of philanthropy is, however, counterproductive, benefitting those least in need of it. He argues for a popular movement to create progressive taxation and progressive restraints on income. But he also makes a case for appealing to one percenters for solidarity, rather than demonizing them -- apparently because this has proven to work better but also because it's too late for anything else. Wealth has been so concentrated that without defections at the top it will never be truly shared again.

Oct
28

Disobey or Die

Back in the winter of 1982, Air Florida flight 90 took off from National Airport. The first officer noticed dangerous readings on some instruments and pointed them out to the captain. The captain told him he was wrong, and he accepted the captain's authority. He did nothing. Thirty seconds later the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. Everyone on board died except for four passengers rescued out of the icy river.

Oct
04

Talk Nation Radio: Samantha Nutt on the Harm of Weapons Dealing and Investment

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-samantha-nutt-on-the-harm-of-weapons-dealing-and-investment

Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author and acclaimed public speaker. A medical doctor and a founder of the renowned international humanitarian organization War Child, Dr. Nutt has worked with children and their families at the frontline of many of the world’s major crises – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan.

Dr. Nutt is a respected authority for many of North America's leading media outlets. In November 2015, Dr. Nutt spoke at TED Talks Live “War & Peace” at The Town Hall Theater in New York, which aired on PBS on May 30, 2016. Dr. Nutt’s TED Talk can be viewed on TED.com:

http://www.ted.com/talks/samantha_nutt_the_real_harm_of_the_global_arms_trade

Dr. Nutt’s critically-acclaimed debut book, entitled Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid, was released by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. (a division of Random House) in October 2011 and was a #1 national bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. 

For more information, see www.warchildusa.org or www.samanthanutt.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport when I'm able to get the audioport website to work, which is not this week.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Sep
27

Talk Nation Radio: Benjamin Madley on the California Indian Catastrophe

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-benjamin-madley-on-the-california-indian-catastrophe

Benjamin Madley is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is also chair of American Indian Studies. He discusses his new book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can usually download from Audioport, but I couldn't get the sample rate to be acceptable to the website this week, as the show was recorded elsewhere.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Sep
19

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

Tag: Culture and Society, Media, Peace and War

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

Sep
19

The Great Dismal World Outside the Swamp

Tag: Culture and Society

The Smithsonian magazine recently published an article about the Great Dismal Swamp. I picked up the book that the article is based on, but the article does a better job of telling the story; I don't recommend the book.

The Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina appears to have been a place where African, European, and Native Americans found refuge from slavery, indenture, and genocide -- and not just momentary refuge, but permanent settlement that lasted for centuries with little interaction with the outside world -- but also little written record or record of any kind.

Daniel O. Sayers has been digging into the ground of the Great Dismal Swamp since 2003 and bringing out tiny specks of evidence. His conclusion that "some of the most successful and transformative social radicals of the modern era have gone unnoticed and unrecognized for centuries," is based on one very brief second-hand comment that people worked together and treated each other well in the Swamp, plus a good deal of circular reasoning: Because a small group separated from modern enterprise would likely behave as most small groups do and would lack modern enterprise, or because a group of African-Americans would likely rely on some African traditions, Sayers can conclude that the Swamp dwellers lived more communally than did those on the outside.

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