photo by Michael Cantor
photo by Michael Cantor
Pete Seeger turned 90 on May 3rd. They threw him a 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. He is an American icon, a national treasure that embodies the heart of the great American soul of liberty and justice for all.
For more than 70 years he has been singing about freedom, justice, civil rights, human rights, for the workers, for the environment. Wherever someone struggled for freedom in America, Pete was there. On Barack Obama’s Inauguration he sang with Bruce Springsteen and closed out the event with every stanza of “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. He fearlessly and to the glee of the revelers included the long unused stanza that called for the “breeching of the wall of private property.” He bounded off the stage like a man forty years younger. He was hugged and greeted by the new President.
He lives his beliefs as he sings them. When Senator Joe McCarthy and his dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee came after him, he refused to cooperate. He was blackballed and banned for ten years. He said “I don’t give a shit about my career.” When he returned, the Smothers Brothers brought him back to TV. He sang the anti-war and freedom folk song “Waste Deep in the Big Muddy.”
When he helped make Huddie Leadbetter’s, (aka Leadbelly’s), “Good Night Irene” into a hit, he made sure that Leadbelly got the royalties. He did the same for the family of Solomon Linda who wrote the African Freedom song that everyone sang in the fifties, sixties and seventies that became a rock‘n’roll hit, “Wimoweh.” He could have stolen the proceeds of the royalties and kept them for himself, as so many of the unscrupulous did to Black performers. Not Pete Seeger; he lives his life by his word, by work, by his politics, by his beliefs.
I first saw him as a young civil right worker singing with the Freedom Singers in Mississippi, a young Bob Dylan by his side. I grew up with his folk music because my mother always played him.
They say he has memorized more songs than any performer alive. Whenever he hears of a struggle for human rights in America, for the poor, for the infirmed, for our earth, he is there at 90. On his banjo, that he has had for over 60 years, are written the words “this Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender.”
He has become a sage. When asked why, in the face of so much opposition, of so many backward turns and some say the hopelessness of the causes he believes, why does he keep singing, pushing and fighting for justice, he gives a New Testament parable about a soldier who with his sword slashes open a bag of seeds. Some fall on the rocks and die, some seeds drown in the water, some are crushed under foot, but some fall onto fertile ground. They sink into the soil and grow a thousand fold. That is who we are he says. He knows the fight for freedom, for a just world is endless, and that every song we sing, every word we write, every story we tell, every oppression that is pushed aside brings more people to a better world and one day the fertile soil will win.
Peter Seeger, one of the few heroes I have in life …. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all, and to my Mom, wherever your spirit is floating around. I am sure you are having a Guinness and shot. She is the reason that I am so Irish. Well, she was Irish by immersion. Maisie Anne Round Steiner grew up in the north of England, the daughter of North Country miners and a Scotswoman of the MacPherson clan. She was a wild, unruly, alive renegade whose mother sent her to a Catholic convent (though she was Protestant of Baptist/Methodist roots) in the mountains of Wales. It turned out that the nuns were a bunch of Irish pro-IRA radicals who embraced my mom as she embraced them.
So we were brought up on the legends of ancient Irish warrior kings like Brian Baru, IRA revolutionaries like James Connolly, the first Jewish Mayor of Dublin Robert Briscoe and the great Irish poets and writers who graced our bookshelves. The nuns imbued in her a sense of social justice. As a young British woman she embraced the IRA, anti-colonial struggles and love for humanity and human rights. Her mother sent her away to be disciplined and straightened out, so she could act more like an English lady. Instead, she came back with the fire, soul and love of life of the Irish. She passed it on to her children and breathed it deeply with each breath she took. She found four leaf clovers and had conversations with the leprechauns and the spirits. Though Eire did not flow in her veins, it lived in the depths of her being.
Thanks Mom, for making me Irish. I’ll have a Guinness and a shot for you tonight.
I hate watching this happen. It is no small matter for a sitting Mayor to be indicted.
I have known Sheila Dixon for over thirty years. We are not close friends. We have not been in a private social setting together in 32 years. We met when we were both counselors and teachers at Baltimore Prep, a program at Westside Shopping Center for street kids who had just come out of prison or had been kicked out of school, whose lives were on the corner instead of the classroom. Sheila was committed to those kids. She didn’t take any stuff from them and she knew every game they could play, because she came from the same streets that they did. Baltimore Prep is also where she met Mark Smith, who later became her husband, with whom she raised her nephew Juan Dixon and his brother. The boys’ parents had died from heroin addiction. Sheila and Mark saw those boys to manhood. This is the Sheila Dixon I know.
I knew her a little in the intervening years. I remember when she was first elected to the city council. I remember when she banged her shoe on the table exclaiming it was our turn now. She was committed to working class black folks. She lived and knew their pain, joys and struggles. A lot of white journalists, politicians and others thought she hated white people. I don’t know what her innermost thoughts about race were, but I can say that anyone who came up in a certain way who was from a certain place had historical reasons to have a mistrust of white people. Whatever she thought then, however, she has grown from that place, as did William Donald Schaeffer from his place of not caring about Black folks before he became Mayor. She bleeds working class blue in her veins. That is the Sheila Dixon I know.
So, these indictments are just tragic. If they are true, they show stupidity and sheer greed.
As I wrote last week, the only difference between the actions of our city officials and indicted power developers, and goings on in Congress between politicians and corrupt corporate leaders, is the thin but sturdy line of legality.
Politicians are always doing favors for the powerful and their friends. It is part of human existence. Nevertheless, it was not the fur coats that bought Ron Lipscomb city contracts, but rather all of his city and corporate contacts.
I am not excusing anything here. If Sheila and others broke their sacred trust with us, they have to leave elected office at the very least. It cannot be tolerated.
The worst offence would be if she actually took gift certificates that were intended for poor families and children to enjoy Christmas. I hope that even if the bribery and malfeasance indictments are true, that stealing from street kids and poor families is not true. That could break a city’s heart.
That would not be the Sheila Dixon I know. Soon we will know whether she broke the law. If she did, then the court will decide her fate. If she is exonerated, she could become one of our greatest Mayors. If not, she will become one of our greatest disappointments and tragedies.
In 1962 there was a sixteen-year-old kid who had to survive in the streets of this city, terrified.
He was a confused kid in a lot ways. He read Hemingway, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Spinoza, Bertrand Russell and Marx. He was a non-violent warrior in the civil rights movement who experienced the terror of violence by white mobs and cops. He was also a street corner boy. A jitterbug with his 20-inch pant cuffs with pleats, banlon shirts and porkpie hats. Drinking wine, shooting nine ball, looking for parties, talking shit and sometimes getting into trouble. All over the place he was, in the midst of violence but not violent, going for bad because you had to and standing up even when you knew you would be hurt. You had no choice on the corner.
This kid hung out on the Heights, the next neighborhood over was the Junction. Now the boys on the corner from the Heights and the Junction knew each other, didn’t war, walked through each other’s zones, intermingled and went to the same parties often but had different corners they owned and different pool halls and basketball courts they played on.
One day he went into Arundal’s Ice Cream parlor on the Boulevard, that long stretch of street that connected the two corners. Arundals was in Heights territory. They always had better spots on the Heights. Big Hand Bey and Blue Eyed Plu and the some of the boys from the Junction were hanging out there. As was custom, this kid walked up to Bey, a titular top dog from the Junction, and held out his hand palm down to slap five with Bey. Bey didn’t offer his hand, just a glare with a broke down mug that signified something was up and it wasn’t good. The other boys with him just postured and stared.
So, this kid knew something bad was going on and that these guys meant him some harm for some reason. He remembered just months before when Big Hand Bey beat down Blue Eyed Plu into submission on the corner. It was a bad beating but Plu now ran with Bey. At this point discretion was the better part of valor and that ice cream soda could wait a while.
Later that day he went over to the elementary school yard where the boys from the Heights hung to talk, play basketball, shoot craps and do whatever. When he got there Ronald said he should split because Bey and them had been up here earlier looking for him with a .45. All the brothers in the yard turned their backs on him, because he was a marked man and no one would stand with him.
It was a terrifying moment. He was alone. He turned to his walking partners Scott and Methu. They called Phillip Methu because he looked so much older than everyone else. Methu was short for Methuselah. Even though he was 16 he could pass for 21 and often bought the wine and malt liquor everyone loved. Methu was scared of no one.
At any rate, he turned to Methu and Scott and to his best friend Little Billy for help. He knew Scott and Methu would stand, or he hoped they would. Little Billy had taught him how to dance, fight with a knife, talk to girls and survive the streets. There was a deep bond between the two. All three said they would stand with him, as would Taz and Jerry. Taz was Ronald’s brother. Where Ronald was mean and a terror, Taz was sensitive, smart but a brave stand up guy and Jerry was cool. Always dressed cool, knew how win the ladies over and was a damn good boxer and a bit country to boot. Against Bey and them that wasn’t many guys but you knew they had your back.
They said we need a war council, so they all met at his house. To his surprise two of the older heads on the corner who were also two of the baddest boys around, period, Benny Lee and Meathead, showed up at the council that was held in the basement of his house.
Most of them thought that the only way to avoid a throw down with a much bigger force was to have him fight Big Hand Bey straight up, one on one. That was a terrifying thought. Bey was big, strong and bad. He had seem him fight before and knew that he could not win and would be badly beaten in a face off with Bey. He knew he may have no other choice.
If it came down to it on the corner or at a party everyone would throw down with him, come whatever. He knew they would stand with him, have his back, but his loyalty to them did not want to put them through it. The meaning of real and true friendship was defined as never before. That definition would define his life from that moment on.
He couldn’t understand why all this was happening? What was it? What had he done to incur the wrath of Bey and those boys!?
A few weeks earlier everyone had thrown in some money to buy some wine and malt liquor up at the bowing alley. This boy, Binky, took the money to buy everything. When he returned empty handed he gave some of the money back to everyone but him. So he said to Binky, where is my dollar? Binky said he wasn’t going to give him his dollar. Fuck you, Binky said. So, he said, Boy you are going to give me my money back. As Binky took off his coat he knocked him out with a flurry of punches. Then took a dollar from Binky’s pocket and walked away. He thought he was cool but Binky was one of Bey’s boys.
Then there was that night a month or so before when there was a party over on Bentalou. One of those blue lights in the basement parties. He was slow dancing with this girl who this other boy wanted but he kept on with her. He pulled her not the other dude. They went off together but the other boy threatened to fuck him up. He payed that no mind, the girl was just too fine, phat and willing to be with him to worry about that threat. Didn’t know the boy but he might have been one of Bey’s boys, he thought.
Or, was it because he was white? The only white boy on the corner, there weren’t too many like him. An easy mark for many … boys who did not like him, the cops or other white folks who saw him as a traitor and a freak.
Probably it was all of that but being white didn’t help … did not help at all …
One night he was going to visit his girl friend. The same girl he met at the party. Beatrice, really beautiful girl who was down from Harlem for the summer to visit her aunt. It was late. He was walking down a street with few lights but a peaceful, warm, quiet night. Earlier, he was going to go to a dance at the hall in his neighborhood but Scott and Methu said the Junction boys were there and it be best if he did not go. So, he split to see Bea.
As he walked a couple of blocks past the club on a residential street, a car slowed down. He could feel it sliding slowly over his left shoulder. He was aware of it, very conscious of everything around him, then a shot rang out, then another. The boys in that car were shooting at him.
He took the hat from this head and ran hard. Through the bushes, leaping a fence, another shot rang out, he leapt another fence was then faced by a Doberman, but he kept running, the Doberman hard at his heals, but he leapt another fence over into an alley as another shot rang out. He hid, then ran, then crept, knowing they were driving around looking for him. He saw them, but hid in the shadows behind a garage in a dark alleyway.
Then he made a dash for it down the alleys, around the corner and down another alley. He got to Bea’s crib, banged on the door, she answered, he pushed her inside, panting and out of breath, disheveled, socks falling down around his shoes, pants torn, drenched in sweat and fear. He spent the night there in her basement curled up beside her.
Little Billy had given him a switchblade. He wanted a gun. He carried the switchblade everywhere. At night he would walk with it open, up his sleeve. The handle of the knife rested in his palm, the blade resting on the underside of his forearm as he bopped with that pimp walk that was how you did back in the day. He was keenly aware of every shadow, every movement and would walk out into the street when he got to alleyways. He would turn to look down the alley, always terrified, always nervous and jumpy, leaping with fear at the slightest abnormality or sound.
One night he was coming home from a party. Scott and Methu peeled off to head in the opposite direction to their homes, Taz and Jerry walked a way but then they too left, walking west to get to their houses. He was once again alone for the next seven blocks to his house, switchblade open against the sweat of his forearm, head pounding with fear that made the eyes and throat dry and tight.
As he passed an alleyway he sensed some movement. A figure darted out, grabbed his left arm, spun him around. Then another figure punched him hard in the right side of his head, sent him twirling, almost losing his feet from under him. They were on him. The switchblade slid down his palm twisting the blade end out, He lashed out stabbing and slashing blindly as fists swung around him. He felt the knife hit something hard then soft, it was sickening sensation. He kept slashing and stabbing, one boy fell to the ground, and a knife skidded from his grasp down the alley. The other boy staggered back down the alley. He heard screaming and moaning as he glanced at the scene before turning on his heel to run. Run, he ran hard, scared, not stopping for blocks until he got to his house. The knife still in his hands as opened the front door. He ran to the phone, dialed the Operator, said two boys were stabbed in an ally, then hung up the phone quickly. He stumbled into his room, falling into his bed. His hands were covered with blood, his shirtsleeves were red with blood, blood all over his clothes.
What the fuck had he done. What was he going to do? Had he just killed someone? What was he going to do?
I stayed awake all night thinking about those boys. Did I kill somebody?! What was going to happen next. I knew they would find me, my hat was in the alley, they would snitch, one of them would die. I would go to jail forever, no one could save me, just like no one, not my parents, not the cops and not my brothers on the street could save me from the Junction.
I could not get this story of my past out of my head after reading about that 14-year-old child who was stabbed and killed at Lemmel Middle School on Friday. My first reaction was wondering what happened. What fear drove them to carry weapons? What madness lived under the reason for the killing?
At first people were saying it was gang-related. Now, one of the stories surrounding this young man’s death is that he was a bully and the kid who killed him was one of his victims. The child who did the stabbing turned himself into the police.
Many people do not understand the fear that so many of our children in the inner cities of America live with every day of their lives. I would venture to say that the vast majority of young people who carry weapons, be they knives or guns or clubs, do so out of fear and self-protection. You have to live with a mask of neutrality and fearlessness on your face at all times. That joy of youth that so many children in our nation enjoy cannot be allowed to blossom for most inner city kids. When gentleness can be a weakness, the hard cover you are forced to wear keeps the joy at bay.
So, if it is true that the poor boy who died was a bully, and this kid who stabbed him then turned himself in was in a corner with no where to go but slashing his way to escape, then what should our response be as a society who judges actions of others like this?
What do we do with this boy who took a life perhaps defending his own in a world where no one can protect you but yourself? What are we as a society and our government willing to do to invest in these children to be able to learn, live and find joy in their schools? Will we send an army of counselors and therapists into that school to help the children and their teaches cope with what just happened? Will we teach alternatives to violence? Will we invest in recreation centers staffed with counselors to reach out to street kids? Will we invest in the green economy to put their parents to work so we can build stable families?
Can we show we care? Can we build a society that cares enough to put people to work, to eliminate poverty and invest in our children the way we do highways, McMansions and prisons?
We can if we have the will. We can’t lose another child to the streets.
It is interesting to read the New York Times columnists and editorial writers, among many other papers, ridicule the Neanderthal Republicans for voting against and killing the bailout package negotiated between the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House. They seem to forget that 40% of Democrats in the house (90) voted to kill the package, as well.
Click "READ MORE" below!
The Republicans really kicked it out last night. They laid out their battle plan and came out swinging a message that will resonate with that portion of the American public that could go either way in the election. Their votes could be the ones who will decide who becomes the next President of the United States.
Palin proved herself a combatative, tough, smart and savvy politician last night, and those who spoke before her provided a powerful build up to her speech. On Tuesday night, I thought well, these guys are boring and have no spark. I was surprised knowing how smart, and at times underhanded, their campaign strategists can be. They have the Karl Rove team in place, after all.
Click READ MORE below!
My producer Jessica Phillips just wrote a wonderful and intriguing blog that I agree with completely. It is abhorrent and abominable the way some are treating Sarah Palin. It is both sexist and classist (to coin a phrase). I have a known a lot of families like theirs in the rural worlds I have lived in over my life. She is no different than urban feminists, other than she knows how to shoot and dress a moose or that she drives her kids to hockey games rather than playing tennis and golf and driving kids to soccer games. She is a professional woman married to a working class guy. I think they are actually kind of cool. I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say tonight. I have never heard her speak. I want to see what she has to say for herself.
Click READ MORE below!
My nephew, Logan, was born in March of 2007, just about a month after Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I desperately want to use his 17 months on the planet as a metaphor for this 2008 primary season. But I won’t. Instead, I will simply say that after hearing Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, I slept like Logan.
Click READ MORE below
9:13 pm Clinton is here. This is wild-pandemonium. People are cheering louder and longer and madder than ever .. screaming yes yes yes" " .. waving American flags …
"I am here first to support Barack Obama" ... wild cheers ...
Clinton is amazing. Love him or hate him, he engaged at once.
Well, it is the day after Hillary’s speech. She did what she was supposed to do, encouraging her supporters to come out and vote for Barack Obama. It was a stirring speech. While she was unequivocal in her support and insistence that John McCain not be given the Presidency she did not do anything to renounce the negative pronouncements she made about Obama during the primary.
That not withstanding, Hillary Clintons non-keynote keynote, if it was act, was a damn good act.
Click READ MORE below!
The Hillary resistance within the Democratic Party runs very deep. Many women who supported her feel that they would have defended Obama from racist attacks but that he did not say a word when Hillary Clinton was under sexist attacks and ridicule by the media. They felt that fraud took place in the primaries, that the party tried to get her to drop out even as Clinton kept winning primaries, and they are furious that Obama did not offer Clinton the VP spot. Click 'READ MORE' below.
Click 'READ MORE' below.
I am sitting here in a church that is the headquarters of the Progressive Democrats of America. Feels like I am back in the sixties. It looks and feels like the old days. But it is unfortunately a new day with some of the same issues facing with this war in Iraq. Progressives, though most support Obama, want him to push harder for the end of the war, withdraw troops now and tie it to the economy.
Click "Read More" below!
Well, it was fascinating sitting in the Pepsi Center last night. It was something I never experienced before. Watching Michelle Obama so much came to mind. Some positive and some troubling.
Click "Read More" below!
by Marc Steiner, in Denver at the 2008 Democratic National Convention
Everyone is fulminating over Biden. Was he a good pick, should it have been Hillary, the negative things said about Obama in the past …Will Obama have a bounce after the convention .. will it be nullified by the RNC. blah blah blah …The election starts after Labor Day. The one mystery in this convention will be answered on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when Hillary and Bill speak, respectively. Will they behave, will they support Obama unabashedly and fully? And even more important, will they stand with him on Thursday and pledge to campaign with him. That is the biggest question of this convention. It will be the substance that will make or break this convention, Obama’s anticipated awe-inspiring acceptance speech on Thursday, not withstanding. All the rest is pundit window dressing.
What makes a difference now is whether Obama can stimulate the undecided voters who are not racist and would vote for a black man. The Change theme may have worked in the Democratic primary but he has to bring hope with substance to the larger electorate. He has to inspire with creative ideas about how he will rebuild Detroit, create jobs that pay to build new energy, give us our public schools back, and get us out of Iraq with dignity. American voters are as equally divided now as they were in the last four elections. There are more folks than the polls show who would never vote for a Black and can’t stand Michelle Obama as strong Black woman but the demographics have changed. There are more Latinos, Blacks and young people in the population and voting. If he cannot inspire his base to stay with him and come out to vote while convincing those unsure that his message of hope has substance, then welcome John McCain to the White House.
by Marc Steiner
We arrived in Denver. Safe and sound .. all set up and ready to go. Biden is in but there are more important things going on. Justin and I will be moving around Denver going to the Big Tent where the progressive movement is meeting, then we go to Maryland delegation headquarters to interview state chair Mike Cryor and have a discussion with Clinton and Obama delegates, bring sounds and stories from the convention floor and out in the streets. Lea Gilmore will be arriving today so our whole crew will be here.Stay tuned ... write often .. listen every night from 8 to 11 on WEAA 88.9 FM ,and we will blogging and sending all kinds of stories on this website.Off to some of our sites now..back in a bit,marc
It is such a beautiful, unseasonably cool August morning, crisp, cool and a tad cloudy. I picked up the Sunday papers on my way back in from walking our dog, Charley. I opened the Times, put it down and glanced at the front page of the Sun, below the fold on the right hand side. “Community in shock over Harford man’s drug charges … Ecologist, decades long teacher revered by residents.”
My gut told me this was not some heroin dealing, gun toting, cocaine smuggling outlaw swaggering through the
A sixty-two-year-old man who spent his life teaching kids about nature, our environment and love of life. He smokes marijuana and it appears as if he might consume some psilocybin mushrooms sometimes. He must really be an evil man. Pretty soon, all the kids in Harford will be smoking dope, dropping acid, snorting cocaine, having sex and god knows what else. Known as Ranger Bob to all the kids, why, if there ever was a contrived name, Ranger Bob is it. Look, he even has a beard and plays Santa Clause on his Christmas tree farm. That’s how he snares all those kids. The devil in disguise. You think he is really teaching about the earth, nature and our history, respecting life and the planet we live on...
OK, enough with the sarcasm, but this is just madness. I don’t think anyone should go to jail, or have their home or children threatened with seizure, or livelihood taken away from them for smoking, growing or even selling marijuana. Most Americans who are 62 and lived through the counter culture world of hippies, slogged through a rice paddy in
Most people I know, at some point in their lives, smoked dope. There is a reason why we call it dope. So, most of us don’t do it anymore. Most of us don’t get drunk anymore. We have more important things to deal with then people’s personal behaviors.
People should not go to jail for using marijuana. We should legalize it, tax it and let it be. Grow hemp so we can stop cutting down trees for paper, and let marijuana bloom like we grow tobacco for cigarettes and hops for beer and barley for whiskey. Many Indian reservations want the chance to grow hemp for industrial uses. It could help our environment, create new jobs and new industries.
Every 45 seconds someone is arrested on a marijuana charge, and most of those for mere possession. In 2003, the last statistics I could find, there was an all time high (no pun intended) of 755,186 with 88 percent of those arrests were for possession, not the manufacture or distribution, of marijuana. The cost in imprisonment of these offenders’ amounts is conservatively $1.2 billion each year. If you are arrested for growing over 100 marijuana plants you go to jail for a minimum of five years. That is longer than for manslaughter or for grant theft auto. Conservatively, it costs $1.5 billion a year to incarcerate these folks. If you add in law enforcement and courts along with imprisonment, it may be as high as $15 billion a year. We could have spent that money to build new schools, to open homeless shelters or veterans' hospitals, to preserve the environment or even to fund anti-drug programs in schools.
Harvard Economist Dr. Jeffrey Alan Miron produced a highly acclaimed study, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," which was endorsed by hundreds of economists, including conservative leaders like
Dr. Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institute, Dr. George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley, and Dr. Vernon Smith of George Mason University. He concludes that “replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement -- $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels for a combined savings of $10 to 14 billion dollars."
Everyone has statistics. This argument has been going on for a long time. The bottom line is that chasing down pot smokers is a waste of our time, energy and money. People should have the right to have as they wish, consume what they want and pursue their pleasures as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, harm our children or the environment.
Bob Chance, by all accounts from the former Mayor of Bel Air to the head of their county library, is a good soul who loves children and a defender of our environment who loves teaching. He should not have his life destroyed because he likes to smoke pot on his own time. He should be able to wake up on this unseasonably cool August morning not worrying about going to jail or losing his beloved farm.
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized."
Wow, I just read it and sat there stunned for a minute. Then I woke up,
and wondered what I was so shocked about.
Here we have Wal-Mart, a store, that despite its new green image and it’s pronouncements about the Green economy with SEIU boss, Andy Stern, has a history of abusing its employees, paying low wages and few benefits.
Wal-Mart says they are not telling any employees how to vote or who to campaign for. Right, I am working the cash register at Wal-Mart wearing a big Obama button. Oops, is that a pink slip floating after me?! Who’s to know, who’s to protect my rights. Oh yes, that would be Papa Walton.
Let me be clear about my past. I have been a member of union. I have
been a union organizer. I am one of those who believe that if had not been for unions we would have had no middle class in the numbers that we have in America. They fought to ensure that their working class members had a decent life.
Now, unions have become increasingly irrelevant to life in America. Partially of their own making by becoming lethargic corporate giants themselves. Union leaders got too far away from their own members forgetting what it means to work hard to pay your bills and take care of your families. They stopped organizing. Yes, unions were victims of this economy and of the erosion of the industrial base of America. But they have done little to fight it, to change with the times, to organize new workers, to speak up for the unorganized and to enter the 21st century. They became lethargic dinosaurs.
They became easy targets for onerous laws to destroy or curtail or cripple their power to organize. Unions became the media demon and the business
the clean good guys in white shirts that knew how to run a nation.
Unions are only here because so many employees get screwed. It is
interesting I can think of five friends who own companies that don’t have unions. Their workers don’t want or need them. These owners run the gamut from libertarian to progressive to conservative to liberal. They don’t have unions because they treat their employees right. They offer health care, take care of people, worry about their families and take human beings into consideration. They are small companies, too, from 50 to 200 employees. They do it right.
If business leaders don’t want unions, then treat people right. Meanwhile,
America’s laws should be union friendly. Unions need to be protected while organizing and have the freedom to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act that Wal-Mart and others are so worried about is the least our government can do to protect an employee's right to organize and better their lives.
Senators McCain and Obama, what say ye? We are waiting here.
Psst! Looking for Marc's blog post on legalizing marijuana? Click here to read it! We sent the wrong link in the last email! Sorry!
Yesterday's Sun carried a story about Mayor Sheila Dixon's desire to
reclaim control of Baltimore City Schools. She was always troubled
by the state takeover, as were many of us. She is being encouraged by all the other Mayors who have taken control of their city's schools.
I remember when State Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick made her move
to control the management of city schools. We aired a number of
conversations in this debate. I was very doubtful then of the logic
of the move. More importantly the state's bureaucracy was no more
nimble or creative in its work, or willing to take the risks necessary
to change the city schools than the city school's entrenched
It was not until the Baltimore City Board of Education's leadership
and direction changed that things began to move. More importantly it
was not until parents, students and teachers started to demand charter
schools that any movement took place. Ultimately, it was when Dr.
Andres Alonso arrived that our city schools began to make the
radical leaps needed to shake the lethargy out of aging special
interests. Now our schools have begun to blossom. Students,
parents, teachers and principals are beginning to be heard, held
accountable and be made part of running our schools.
The Board and the new CEO and our schools seem to be operating almost
independently of the state or the city. Things are changing. The
state needs to get out of the way. The city should not get in the
way. Maybe an entirely new partnership has to be created between the
city and our schools. Perhaps we have not invented the next step, yet.
The Mayor and the School CEO need some quiet time together to think
this through. City officials, the CEO, the school board, parents,
teachers, students, and our business and philanthropic leaders need to
spend some time thinking calmly and clearly about the future.
There is no going back to old paradigms and designs. There is no
handing pack power to old models of control and management. We need
to be moving forward to new ideas, not stuck in 20th century power
politics playing with the lives of our children.
We have a unique opportunity here. Let's build it not blow it.
That was some game last night at Camden Yards. Hard fought between the Toronto Blue Jays and the O’s. The crowd was on its feet, people did the wave over and over. It was the bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, bases loaded, men walked standing on base, full count three and two, just two runs away from winning the night that was a see saw battle. People were chanting go O’s … then the pop fly … out … it was over. Three men left standing. Oh well, it was beautiful night in our lovely Camden Yards. We had great seats, six of them right down by third base. I bought ‘em at silent auction for Young Audiences, it was a steal. Well, it was a contribution.
But I looked around and the stadium was empty. I was shocked at how empty the place was. It struck me that the more expensive the seats, the more people were in them . The bleachers, such as they are in Camden Yards (I mean by that they are still pricey but there is not a bad view in the house) were the most empty.
The price of a ticket to a game and the cost of having a beer or a soda and some food is astronomical. My daughter Maisie and our friends’ daughter Jahia went down for some food. I bought a beer, two waters, a crab cake, shrimp and box of popcorn. It cost almost fifty bucks. It could have been a $200 night.
No wonder it was empty. The economy is sinking, people are stretched paying for gas, groceries and the essentials. Who can afford baseball or football? To watch on TV you got have cable and that ain’t free either.
The time when you could turn on local TV and watch a game, or go to a game with your family of four or five, buy some food and drink, and have money left over, is gone, long gone.
I sat having another beer, eating some peanuts with our friend Sherrilyn and my lady, Valerie. I remarked how long the game was taking. There used to be just a seventh inning stretch. Now everyone was stretching between every inning. What was that? Well, that was the big screen entertaining while baseball and television made their multi-millions selling advertising on television between each inning. So, a long game is even longer. Have another beer!
With all that money flowing and public money to build private stadiums, why is this simple entertainment costing us so much? It's more than just the huge salaries.
Maybe the owners should open up the park sometimes for less money. Go out to the middle class neighborhoods, the Latino community and inner city. Put some baseball back in the lives of people . Build tomorrow’s lovers of the game.
When the game was accessible on the tube, in your home, it belonged to everyone. I saw a man walking down to his seat with his son. He had on an Orioles jersey with the number 34 on it and the name Hagy above it. Remember him? Wild Bill Hagy, the
He died not long ago. An era went with him.
It was still a great game, though. Great baseball being played. We had a blast. The girls holding up their home made Go O’s signs in orange and black trying fruitlessly to get the camera to see them so the world in Camden would see them waving on the big screen...it was fun.
Beautiful, beautiful stadium, great weather, good friends, good night …
But it ain’t the people’s game no more.
Today I received a flurry of e-mails about the controversy that surrounded last week’s cover of The New Yorker depicting Barack Obama as a muslim in the White House with a picture of Osama bin Laden over the mantle with the American flag burning in the hearth. He is shown fist bumping with Michelle Obama who is sporting an Afro, ala 1960’s revolutionary Angela Davis, with an AK-47 slung over her back, camoflauge pants, and combat boots.
My initial response was to laugh at the satirical absurdity of the cartoon. Ah yes, all of us sophisticated readers of The New Yorker. I am one, I love the magazine. I always find one or two or three articles I can’t wait to read. We are all so erudite, that is why we know how to laugh at the cartoon on the cover, when others do not. (You're detecting my facetious tone I hope.)
But then I stopped a minute. I began thinking about how that cover plays into the hands of racists and those who deeply believe that this cover represents reality. I heard this morning of one blogger who has used this cover in an animated gif. First you see the cover, then a message that reads “Why take the risk? McCain 2008.” The alleged and purported sophistication of many New Yorker readers not withstanding,(and I run the risk of angering some people here) some liberals often lack judgment that may be inspired by a racism that they would deny, or perhaps are not aware even exists within their consciousness. It runs deep in America. Or maybe it is just real satire that New Yorkers and other cosmopolitans get but others don’t. Maybe it is all the above.
I oppose censoring any kind of speech no matter how hateful, racist, sexist, anti Semitic or insulting to any group it might be. I have a deep American rooted libertarian strain in me that chafes at any rules governing an individuals rights to say what he or she believes whether spoken in truth or satire.
Many people coming from minority cultures in America are often accused of being overly sensitive to what can be perceived as hatred, blatant or latent. I am one of those. I feel the anti-semitic and racial stings deeply. When I read Tim Wise’s critique of that cover cartoon, I found his comments to be at the very least latently or subtly anti-Semitic, though there was truth in his argument that the media is loathe to satirize Jews but are willing to do it to Blacks. And of course, we are all willing to satirize images of poor whites.
The New Yorker’s article became just another distraction in what needs to be a real conversation about this race. It even distracted from the interesting article in that issue about Obama’s Chicago political roots by Ryan Lizza. The story gave us new insight into how Obama got his political roots, lending to speculation about what kind of President he would make.
If I was editor of the New Yorker, I would have said no to the cover but maybe yes to it on the inside of the magazine as an illustration to create a discussion. Satire should attract intense debate not distract us from debate.
What did you think?
P.S. Some cartoonists have made their own versions of this cover, swapping John and Cindy out for Michelle and Obama. What do you think?
Another 100 layoffs with 60 from the newsroom. Our once vaunted paper is being decimated. Owner Zell already informed employees, the reporters and journalists that they were expendable and costly. He instituted a mathematical analysis of how many lines a reporter wrote to determine worth and wondered aloud why it takes 5 or 6 or 9 journalists to turn in one story on Iraq. It has all become bottom line and profit. Sure a business has to make money for reinvestment but news should not be entered into to make a financial killing. Maybe all papers should be non-profit, or maybe owners need to be satisfied with a smaller profit margin.
Who do we turn to understand, get stories and analysis from and of the daily news in our city, state, nation and world? Fox? Tabloids? Blogs? A democracy needs a free press that functions.
There was a time, when I was a kid, that the Sun was read every day in the White House. Now it is fast becoming fodder for the parakeet cage.
The writers and reporters at the Sun are some of the best in their world. I admire and feel their frustration at not being able to work their craft. We all deserve better.
Maybe there is an opportunity to create something new with all that talent now on the loose looking for work.
When I got back from Cape Hatteras last week, I was driving down Roland Avenue and saw all these signs saying “Stop Keswick.” I thought maybe all the retirees and senior citizens who live at Keswick Multi-Care Center had run amuck in the streets or became merry senior pranksters.
The Baltimore Sun came out with a story this morning about the Mayor’s former boyfriend, Ronald Lipscomb, being part of a deal that won a lucrative contract even though another firm was given a higher rating, from the city’s housing commissioner, to receive the contract (read that article by clicking here).
I wish I had a dollar for every time we have reported or had discussions on a government contract going to "favored sons" instead of a seemingly more qualified group. I don’t think Mayor Dixon’s relationship with Lipscomb had anything to do with who was awarded this contract. The Sun raises a non-issue here, connecting dots that do not meet.
The real story is the cozy relationship between developers and local politicians. The real story is the inside track conversations that take place between the financially powerful and politically powerful over a drink, on the phone, during dinner or at some high priced ticket event.
It is almost impossible to keep money out of politics. All we can do is pass laws and have rules of ethics that elected and appointed officials of government must follow. We must have watchdog agencies that do not allow the wheels of power to be greased so they speed passed us unseen.
It appears that Mayor Dixon did not follow the rules. Successful politicians and their powerful friends get over on us all because they follow the disclosure rules. Then they go about making their millions perfectly legally (or at least getting away with it because they follow the modicum of procedural rule) though unethically.
Mayor Dixon and Senator Ulysses S. Currie (get up to speed on that story here) appear to not have made full legal disclosure of their contracts and contacts. They did not recuse themselves or make their relationships known before voting on contracts involving friends, clients or families.
Speaking of power and money...
Many of Senator Barack Obama's supporters and others who want to and may very well vote for him were very disappointed when he did not accept public financing of his campaign. I must admit that I was shocked at how he went about this decision.
I was surprised that he, and his advisers, did not enter into serious discussion and negotiations with the McCain campaign to come to an agreement on public financing. If he had entered into those talks they may have come out with a plan that would have worked. Of course negotiations might have fallen apart. If the latter happened then they could have announced no public financing. Instead, they did not even try. He made great statements about public financing before he became the front runner and then presumptive nominee.
Given the legal lay of the land he could have accepted public financing as a show of integrity and still counted on hundreds of millions of dollars not covered by the public finance laws. Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, independent 509 committees and other groups could have raised all the money they need to support anyone’s candidacy.
We should not be surprised. In politics, money seems to be the most powerful medium for alleged free speech.
Many are upset at what appear to be Obama’s moving to the center and changing positions, but we will save that commentary for another time.
What do you think?
Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers. Medgar Evers was a Mississippi civil rights leader, and the head of the NAACP On this day 45 years ago, June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was gunned down in the drive of his home, the same day that Alabama’s segregationist Governor (and later Presidential candidate) stood on the steps of Alabama’s all white university to personally block the entrance of two black students.
President Kennedy gave one of his most impassioned speeches about the moral crisis that America was facing. He sent federal marshals to ensure the safety of those children.
The man who killed Medgar Evers was a man tied to the White Citizens Council, Byron De La Beckwith. He was never convicted in two trials, by two all white juries. They were both declared mistrials. It took thirty years but De La Beckwith was finally convicted of those murders before he died.
I will never forget the photos of Medger Evers, the great civil rights warrior lying in his own blood just feet from his home.
I was thinking about how so many died to end segregation in
They are doing stories on their news about how the Republicans are going to go after Michelle Obama. The title on the screen under the story which ran on TV, that I was shown on the web, said “ Outraged Liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s Baby Mama.”
How outrageous, how disgusting, how blatantly racist. How is it that we have come this far and someone could still think this is ok?!? This is a major TV news operation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, known for its conservative slant and blatant untruths...but this reaches new heights, or should I write, new lows of despicable behavior.
This is the state of our media. This is the mindset that must be defeated. This is why we need to take back our media from corporate, uncaring bottom feeders who only think about the bottom line.
FOX News, Rupert Murdoch, you owe the Obamas, you owe your viewers, and you owe the nation an apology. Local outlets should stand up.
I am outraged.
Since we live here in Maryland, let’s call up Fox 45 to ask them if they will repudiate what their parent company has done.
Medgar Evers and Barak Obama are the bookends of our history of building an
I am not surprised that Steve Larsen resigned as the head of the Public Service Commission. When community activists railed against him and O’Malley as sellouts to Constellation Energy, I always defended Larsen as a man of integrity and honesty. He believed in using the tools of the government to make the public sector more responsive to the citizens. He was a quiet, diligent and intelligent crusader on the inside, whether it was health insurance or regulating energy.
I think he resigned not to go back to the public sector to make more money but out of frustration. When the state reached the deal with Constellation Energy that ensured that the PSC would have no subpoena power, it took the teeth out of the PSC. Larsen would not be able to get to the bottom of any sweetheart deals between the Constellation and its subsidiary BGE to unearth whatever potentially unscrupulous deals were made to purchase energy at the consumers’ expense.
I wondered aloud how long Steve Larsen would stay after this. He was crusader for the people who had his cape destroyed. He chose to walk away rather than plummet to the ground.
Given the price of oil, the cost and real crisis we are facing with electricity generation and looming public wars over our energy future we need more caped crusaders or this secure world of ours could be in trouble. -Marc
Related blog posts:
What would it really accomplish to ban the sale of small cigars in the city of Baltimore? What I am writing about is the Mayor and Health Commissioner wanting to ban the sale of individual little cigars that many young inner city folks use to make into blunts. Blunts are cigars stuffed with marijuana. Many young people and young adults buy the individual cigars because they can’t afford to buy a whole pack. They come in flavors that are very enticing to some such as watermelon, sour apple, and grape. Some people just like to kick back and have a smoke to relax. Much like more well off patrons who go to cigar shops and throw big bucks for a wannabe Havana cigar. I never did like them even when I smoked though I do like a Havana a few times a year.
Let me admit, I always have an initial visceral response to the banning of most anything. Outlawing substances that people choose on their own to ingest does nothing but increase criminalization of what is otherwise activities of individual choice. Tax products, go after unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors, and find creative ways to combat it. Don't ban it.
If you ban the sale of cheap cigars by corner stores in the inner city then some enterprising young hustlers will buy them up and sell them on the street. I understand what the city is trying to accomplish, it is just the wrong way to go about it.
As some City Council representatives said to me “What do we do about the young people on the corner who terrify the older neighbors … it really is a generational thing . .lack of respect for the elders….” The response has to be much more profound than banning little cigars.
Take this to the state legislature, ban the sale of individual cigarettes state wide, tax the cigars, put warning labels on them, take on big tobacco, their Annapolis lobbyists and friends in the legislature, start an education campaign about health and smoking theses little flavored cigars. Open recreation centers, work programs for youth and hit the streets with street workers to challenge the street culture.
Banning cigars sales… a waste of time, money, energy and it is just the wrong thing to do.
Resurrection City, June 1968. Photo by Ollie Atkins. See more.
I remember clearly where I was for all the horrible assassinations of the 1960's.
I remember my quiet walk with Adrienne Cooper (who later died from a back alley abortion) around Stockbridge Bowl the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination. We walked and reflected on the world we lived in light of that horrible event.
I remember two years later standing in line to view Malcolm X’s body as it lay in state in Harlem. I had taken a bus to New York as soon as I heard about the assassination.
I was living in the heart of the D.C. Ghetto, and pulling up to my apartment in my old VW bug when I heard the news on the radio that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I was in the heart of the city, our nation’s capital, and within hours the city was burning all around me. I walked through that rebellion in the wake of his death.
When Bobby Kennedy was killed I was living in a plywood shack between the U.S .Capital and the Washington Monument with thousands of others in a place called Resurrection City.
Resurrection City was an encampment of thousands of poor people-Black, White, Puerto Rican, Mexican American and American Indian. They came from mountain hollers, the rural south, Indian reservations, small mill towns and inner cities. The Poor People’s Campaign, one of King’s last acts before he was assassinated, was an amazing movement because of its racial unity and its class-consciousness. It was led and driven by the poor themselves. They marched on D.C. from a dozen routes from across the nation. They took over the mall, built the city out of plywood. We slept there, cooked our meals there, had meetings, studied, played and created theater. This movement went beyond notions of white power or the new slogan of Black power. This was the people’s power, the power of the poor united across color lines. There were many in both Black Nationalist and white conservative movements who despised the interracial power of this movement and many wealthy supporters of civil rights were put off by the class demands of this group. I think this march may have heralded the end of the civil rights movement. Right now the mainstream media is doing story after story about the magical, mad, terrifying and glorious year of 1968-but in all that reporting, almost nothing has been said about the Poor People's Campaign. A notable exception is the public radio program Weekend America which did a great piece on Resurrection City as a part of their series This Weekend in 1968. Click here to for their interviews and multimedia slideshow.
Bobby Kennedy was one of those who supported the idea of the poor marching on the capital. His death brought a pall over our encampment. His body passed us on the way to the Rotunda. The mourning was palpable, soulful and deep among the thousands who camped on the mall that summer.
It has been forty years since a politician like that captured the imagination of America. Bobby Kennedy was loved by all the communities camped out on the mall that summer and by working and middle class people across our country. You can’t help but ponder what America might have become had he become the President of the United States.
Do we have another running now like that? Do we?
What do you think?
OK, folks we are about to launch our new show on WEAA. In the beginning we will only be on WEAA once a week, but we will be moving to a daily show in September.
For now, join me every Wednesday morning at 9 AM on 88.9, WEAA, for a live show. We will have some town meetings over the summer so you can join us live in the evening, as well.
Tell me what your take is on the Presidential election. What do you make of Hillary Clinton's speech? If the delegate count is what it is and the voting is over then should she not concede? Should she not now unite in a way that allows the increasingly divided Democratic electorate to heal and unite?
In her defense, Senator Clinton has stated that she has won the popular vote. The issue of the popular vote is real given how cheated, dismayed and angry Democrats felt in 2000 after Al Gore won the popular vote but did not attain the presidency. However, is it right that Hillary Clinton's camp counts Florida and Michigan in vote counts when those primaries were invalid? When Senator Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan?
That brings up another issue. I thought it was insane for the Democrats to disallow Florida and Michigan from participating in the primary elections. The whole primary system is ridiculous to begin with. It is an anarchic system with each state vying for supremacy of importance. Iowa and New Hampshire, whose caucus and primary did not come into importance until 1972 and 1953, respectively, are anachronisms. The entire system of primary and general elections needs to be shortened and simplified.
All that not withstanding, should Senator Hillary Clinton concede and bring her troops in for the battle for November? Or should she fight on in hopes of his stumbling bloody before the finish line?
I really want to know where you are on all of this.
Lou appeared on our show dozens of times over the last fifteen years. He was just a lovely and wonderful human being with a powerful mind.
He was every bit of the Marine sergeant that he was as a young man in the fifties. He was a patriot who continued to teach not just at his academic home, UMBC but also at our
He was that unlikely combination of a military and intelligence analyst who was a champion of social justice in
Despite all his work, his first priority was the love he had for his family. As his son Greg Cantori said to me this morning, Lou was the best father in the world. He was always there for them.
Greg also told me the story about when they lived in LA during the mid-sixties. Lou was the head of the West Side Housing Association, fighting racial discrimination in housing at a time when you were allowed to have "Whites Only" and "No Colored" signs in your advertising. The great Carroll O'Conner, Rob Reiner and others were fixtures in their home, as board members of Lou's movement. It was there that Greg first learned about fighting for social justice.
He is a beacon for all of us. He was a tough guy and gentle caring soul, he was a patriot, a progressive, a jarhead (Marine) through and through, a fighter for social justice and deeply devoted father and husband.
Lou Cantori .. I love you and will miss you forever. I will carry your spirit in my heart.
There will be an open house to celebrate his life on Sunday, June 8 at Nadia's home near
Exact details on time and directions will be available soon on our memorial blog/website:
Please check back soon. We will be updating and checking this site frequently.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to either of the following:
UMBC Foundation, Lou Cantori Scholarship Fund, C/O Kim Robinson
Kidsave c/o Lou Cantori Memorial Fund
Lou touched many lives: personally, professionally and in his community and it's been quite a job contacting so many people. Please feel free to forward this message to others that knew Lou.
Our family would like to thank everyone who kept Lou in their thoughts during his illness.
The Cantori Family
The Sun story on Saturday May 10, 2008 of the Juvenile Justice Center being out of control is not new news (read it here). The teachers are fearful and have had enough so they stepped up to the Governor.
Last year, we reported on the Marc Steiner Show about the potential for an explosion and the loss of control at the center. Ray Cook, who works with gangs and inner-city kids in trouble with their lives and the law, through his program On Our Shoulders, was hired by juvenile services after meeting Secretary Donald DeVore on my program earlier in 2007. Ray is one of those unique figures who can walk into a situation and can instantly demand respect and trust on the toughest corners, with young people deeply involved in Bloods, Crips, and other gangs. He is from those streets. He has hustled, led criminal operations and been jailed on those streets. He turned his life around. Now, he’s obsessed with saving the children of our city. He is a father figure to kids around Edmondson Avenue and now down in Cherry Hill. At any rate, Ray took a job with DJS because he thought he could make a difference. Secretary Donald Devore, who I truly believe wants to and is trying to change the system, hired him because he knew Ray could make a difference. Ray, and another man he brought in to the Juvenile Detention, Dante Wilson, who runs Reclaiming Our Children, (ROCAP,) had the hardest cases in that joint listening, weeping and talking and on the move, the slow grueling move, to come face to face with their emotions and turn their lives around. Ray and I spoke everyday that he worked at the detention center. It was tearing him up inside. He kept saying to me “Man, it is out of control. They won’t listen (talking about the bureaucrats.) It is off the hook.” He quit in frustration.
Ray Cook is not a company man but an effective man who knows how to move children who are deeply damaged by the streets and poverty, in a way most with all the graduate degrees in the world cannot. This is not to disparage all the teachers, social workers, counselors, and therapists working with our kids who have been busted, detained, arrested, and jailed. It is a process where all parties and skills are needed to work together to salvage our collective future. It is to say, this is not new news. They would not listen to Ray and the others.
The solutions are right in front of us. Maybe the Juvenile Justice system ought to turn the school and therapeutic sections of that institution over to men and women who can run it successfully. Bring in an independent non-profit designed to do the job right. Give them the independence and power to do it right. Hire people who come from the streets themselves, who have track records of successfully working with children in trouble. Don’t be afraid to hire ex-cons and others who can make a difference. Maybe the state should think twice before building more maximum-security juvenile institutions. Maybe we should start investing in community programs, halfway houses and community corrections facilities instead of prisons. Maybe we should put money into recreation centers and after school programs, turning our neighborhood schools into community schools that operate 24/7. Maybe we should invest the resources we have now in new directions. Maybe spend a little more in the right and most effective places. Maybe the state government and bureaucrats should start listening to and heading the advice of the Ray Cooks of our world.
Then maybe we can start to turn this thing around.
On May 19th, from 6 to 8 PM, I will be hosting a special two-hour, live call-in with Baltimore Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso on WEAA, 88.9 FM, your community radio station.
One of the issues we will talk about is violence in our schools. In many city schools, it is palpable when you walk through their halls or when you talk to students and teachers who are in them every day.
It is fine to give more control to individual principals and schools, but there needs to be a system-wide policy to address what is in their control to address. Violence cannot be tolerated. Students who attack teachers and other students have to be dealt with firmly. Students have to know the limitations. The response can be therapeutic and healing, but it must be swift and with consequences.
Then you can talk about what individual schools can do.
So, please, join us on the 19th; it will be great being back on the air with you and taking your calls.
So, I wandered over to the WYPR website yesterday. Don’t do that often. Actually, this may the second or third time I have done it since they kicked us off the air. I thought I would take a gander to see what was going on.
The Board of Directors meeting scheduled for May 20th at the Learning Tree has been turned into an internet meeting to be streamed live. Apparently, so many folks still outraged by the senseless cancellation of our show called in to say they were coming to attend the meeting. So, the folks at the top at the station said we could be in compliance with Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) open meeting rules by streaming it on the web.
It is amazing they really have no respect for the people of this community or their station’s listeners and members. It is outrageous and very telling when the leaders of that station are afraid to face and listen to their listeners.
For a while a few years ago, I was excited by how much underwriting was being brought into the station. It was to be a model for the nation’s public radio stations on how to address the dwindling federal support for public broadcasting. Then I realized that while underwriting grew, funds for expanding and building membership were being eviscerated at the station. Underwriting accounted for over 53% of funds and membership was down to the thirties. Underwriting by large corporations has steadily grown at WYPR since the station's founding. The influence that the corporate money buys is significant, but that is clearly to the liking of the management.
I now realize that this is not the salvation of public radio, but the bells chiming that could be its death knell. Public broadcasting is supposed to be adventuresome, where opinions outside the mainstream are heard and given voice, where creative experimentation is unleashed, where members and listeners actually participate.
We are losing control of our public airwaves and we must demand them back.
I was reading in the Sun about the MTA light rail dilemma, which got me thinking about mass transit. So, more people seem to be using light rail because of high gas prices. That is a wonderful thing. Most seem to believe we can’t get people out their cars into public transit. Well, I think over the long run we can. Keep gas prices high, stop building new developments, squeeze the auto industry to make hybrid/electric/hydrogen vehicles, and for god's sake put money into mass transit and stop building so many bloody highways. Life can change. It takes, it takes patience …… it takes money.
In the meantime, MTA has to get its act together. The state should take some of that highway money (those highway contractors and developers are powerful lobbies in Annapolis) and put it into MTA and the MARC to buy more cars, high speed (give them a lane) hybrid alternative diesel busses, and more maintenance workers and inspectors. In the long, they should build more rail (so MARC runs faster and the Light Rail has at least two tracks with more routes.)
That is the answer. Short term - buy more cars and busses. Long term - give us more rail.
It can be done. Am I nuts? What do you think?
The common wisdom has been, and primary election vote analyses tell us, that higher income people with more education, African-Americans, and younger voters are voting for Obama and that older voters, white women, Latinos, to a degree, and working people with less education are going with Clinton. No matter what happens, a portion of the Hillary voters will never vote for a Black man and a portion of the Barack voters will never vote for Hillary or a woman. The majority of primary voters, many of them new or voting for the first time in many years, could be Democratic voters in the fall.
It means that the two candidates have to come together and convince their supporters to support a new tomorrow together or they may once again lose despite Americans' frustrations and anger over the state of the economy and the war in Iraq.
They have to ignore the demagogic demons of cable talk TV, these so-called pundits with nothing to say but divisive viscera of mistrust and hate. Democrats have to stop talking about Reverend Wright, ignore and rise above the media’s obsession with their “bittergate" and dividing people with emotionally charged rhetoric over race and class. Sure, race and class are at the core of our fears, our mistrust, and the most horrendous parts of our history.
They have to speak forcefully, passionately, persuasively and intelligently about those things that concern Americans. You have to speak to people’s hopes and fears about the future. There is no reason why the wealthiest nation on the planet cannot guarantee a decent income, health care, and schools that we want our children to go to. Someone has to make sense of immigration and our relationship to the world economy honestly and clearly. People will hear it. Americans want us out of Iraq; we did not want to be there in the first place. Now it has to be clear that the Republican mess has to be cleared up, and it won’t be easy. Say it clearly; it will be heard. Most Americans want large corporations and the financial investment industry to be regulated and allow small business to flourish. People want immediate help and a vision for the future. Most folks don’t mind paying if they know where they are going. That is as long as the paying for is equitable where the wealthiest and the major corporations are carrying their weight and then some.
Talk about those issues and bring our future into the clear light of day and most Americans will go..."Reverend WHO?”
The Republicans have their vision and their candidate(s). The Democrats better see to theirs unless they want to sit by the gates of the White House panting like a thirsty dog for the next four years.
So, one of my favorite spots to eat near our new Hampden office is Soup's On, located on 36th Street in Hampden. They're closing this Saturday for three months. Just two days left to get your favorite soup, salad, chicken pot pie, iced coffee and dangerous cupcakes. The lovely Cynthia, proprietor and creator of Soup's On, is going to have a baby. Get her wares while you can, or wait till the end of the summer.
Also, went to Luca's Café in Locust Point, on Fort Avenue across from the Phillips Seafood HQ. The food was just phenomenonal and prices, well, four of with a few drinks was $96 bucks. Great wine list too. Check it out.
At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students and faculty are putting on four one-act Moliere plays. It runs through Sunday. Don’t miss it. The plays are really well acted by adults and students. My old friend Tony Tsendas is hilarious, right in his element (I think he channels the Marx brothers.) Richard Pilcher directs it all. Don’t miss it. Our School for the Arts (and Carver in Baltimore County) is among the best in the nation.
I am sitting here at my computer; I have not blogged all week. I have really wanted to write something. The week has been taken up with planning the future of the Center for Emerging Media, so we can become the new public media for our community. It has taken time to raise money and plan productions. I am lucky that despite the uncertainty, Jessica Phillips and Justin Levy, my producers, left WYPR to work with me and build CEM.
So, this morning I was all set to wax forth on Presidential campaigns, Obama and Wright, the property tax wars in
And this morning, I was all set to write, when I went outside to look at the field across from our home. A family of foxes dug its den across the road. The mama fox gave birth to five kits the other week. So instead of writing I went outside with my binoculars to watch the kits cavort with one another, leaping in the air and wrestling. Some wandered over to suckle on their mother, who sat calmly watching over her offspring to ensure their safety.
Then, just as I had my fill of my new neighbors the Foxes, Valerie called me outside again. Her hands were cupped around a baby finch that had left its nest too early. It was huddled up on the windowsill of our den. She called the wild animal rescue lady and now has the baby in one of the carrying cases she keeps around to rescue small things lost or injured. My lady is a reiki master and performed her reiki healing on the young bird. We will see how the young, downy-covered boy fairs today.
The spring is full of life and new birth, as I’m witnessing with the exciting and creative growth of the Center for Emerging Media.
We will be sending our fund drive letter out to you all soon, so you can support your new public media meeting ground in
Last night, I was the emcee for a Baltimore Green Week event at
He is right. We have to build industries in this country based on solar and alternative energy technologies. Just retrofitting all the buildings in
This week, I also lectured to a graduate communications class at Morgan and moderated a panel of actors, a writer, director and producer from The Wire at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. You can hear The Wire panel right on our site.
Two weeks ago, it was Goucher, this week Morgan, and I continued to be inspired by this generation of twenty-somethings in our midst. They want to do the right thing, are socially committed, and the graduate students I met at Morgan want nothing to do with corporate media. They want to create their own and say what has to be said.
So, all in all, it has been a good week. And next week, well I promise to write more…and want to hear from you.
Have a wonderful weekend…see you at the Flower Mart in
More about them in a later blog. marc
Our new website is born. So please spend some time with us here. Our endeavor is to create a new public media that crosses all the platforms and makes you part of all that is going on around you. We have archived our Peabody Award winning series, Just Words and the documentary series we produced on the Vietnam War that we taped here in the states and Vietnam. Our new programming, like conversations with folks from the Wire, Phil Donahue, Andre Codrescu and others is here, as well. There are also video, still photography, and places for your comments.
Speaking of places for your commentary, we opened forums for you to comment on anything that is on your mind. It's sort of like open phones on the web. Please join us there and send us some story and interview ideas. Tell us what is happening in your communities and things of interest you think we could share with everyone.
The Pennsylvania primary is tomorrow. Thank God, at last, we thought it would never get here!
I don’t know if you saw last week’s faux debate between Hillary and Barack on ABC. I do mean faux, it was just horrible. What is wrong with major media in our country? Is it just them or are we all becoming that shallow, uninteresting and banal? They are shirking their duty to all of us. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were pushing Barack Obama on his relationship with Bill Ayers, former SDS Weatherman who went underground in the sixties. They're focused on Hillary and her claim that she had to run under sniper fire which turned out to be false. The media created “bittergate” as they call it, and are pushing the capital gains tax! Well that fits, most of the big media stars are so well paid and run with such wealth that I guess they are worried about capital gains. What about the rest of us?!
Where were the questions about Iraq, the economy, health care, our infrastructure, home mortgages, the financial market, No Child Left Behind and our schools, veteran's benefits, Afghanistan, global warming, the environment and the future of this nation?
It is all about selling product and the drivel they think will sell to the masses. Well, give the masses some credit. Those who are involved and voting deserve better.
In Pennsylvania, they could have devoted the debate to the economy. What are their ideas about the financial markets? Do they believe that hedge funds and speculation of billionaires need the same oversight as banks? What role does the federal government play in stimulating this economy? Can we create a green economy and rebuild the infrastructure of America the same we did in the 30’s or in the 19th century when the federal government stimulated growth by building the canal system and then later the railroads?
Give us something! America is at a crossroads with wars, the economy and a 21st world that will be very different that the last century.
One small tidbit that I would like to share. I heard that management will be spending considerable money for an advertising firm to rebrand the station. It feels it must clean its tarnished image of the last several months. It must purge the identification of Steiner with WYPR.
They tried that before, spending at least $20,000 on the 5th anniversary for WYPR.
Oh, well…join me, join us at the Center for Emerging Media as we create a new public media for our community, for all of us, for the 21st century.
This has been an interesting week. First, the Peabody Award comes for our work on the series we produced called Just Words. It was funded by the Open Society Institute and aired on WYPR for a little over a year. We submitted the work for the prestigious Peabody but had no expectations of winning one.
Photo Credit: Wall Street JournalToday, I was a guest on Doni Glover’s show on WOLB. When we finished our conversation on the air, I stumbled into their lunchroom. Everyone was glued to CNN listening to Obama’s speech on race. I sat down. I became glued to the TV, to the words Obama was speaking to us all.
I don’t know how many of you heard it, but you can watch and read it here. I have never heard a politician running for office talk about race in that manner. He tackled it head on.We live in a nation where race has always been at the root of our social and political discussion. Race is at the root of our national persona. It is complex, very complex. Our generation, our race, our region, our gender, and our exposure other races define our feelings and sense of race as a nation. Barak Obama clearly understands the complexity of race in America. My own sense of him is that growing up as a Black child raised by a socially and politically open white mother, with conservative white grandparents in a white world, with an African father whom he did know, defined his own search for racial identity in America. He lived in other cultures and saw race not just through the lens of Black and White but through Asian worlds that most non-Asian-Americans ever touch. This is a life journey that took him, and continues to take him, wrestling with race through all its American complexities. America needs to have this conversation with itself. Maybe Barak Obama is the only one, at the moment, who is able to create this conversation among ourselves. I really understood what he was saying about his minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. White America easily dismisses Reverend Wright because they identify his words with the words of Farrakhan. Most of us in the white world have to be willing to admit that this visceral reaction is what motivates us to become angry at the words of Reverend Wright. Obama said he could no more turn against Reverend Wright than he could his white grandmother. He said Reverend Wright came out of a generation that grew up in segregation and in the face of outright racial hatred in America. He is still a distrustful and angry man. He also said how much he learned about his faith and life from Rev. Wright. Obama went on to say how much his white Kansas rural-raised grandmother loved him. How much she loved this Black child in her life but how he cringed at her racist remarks. This is life in America. This is an America where love and family cross all those lines. This is an America that must have a conversation with itself. When Obama turned his conversation to the white working class of America and its frustrations, it was clear that he understands the anger of white working class Americans who feels like Black folks are getting a free ride, while they worked for everything they have. He understands how that is all wrapped around the economic conditions they face with factories closing, mortgage foreclosures, and crumbling public schools that intensify the anger around race. He understands the responsibility Black America must take for itself. He called on Black fathers to come home to their children while understanding the devastation and desperation of life in the Black inner city streets of America. He also understands that to get beyond race we need to have more than just a conversation with ourselves as Americans. We need to rebuild our economy so that it supports stability and equality. A nation rebuilding its infrastructure, breeding and teaching creative minds, a nation at work with decent paying jobs, a system that provides health care for all its citizens, and public schools where we feel safe and confident sending our children, just might allow us to go beyond race. A movement fighting for this America has the power to transcend race. I hope and pray that Big Media in America will do this speech and this conversation justice. I am not optimistic but will jump for joy if proven wrong. Let’s see what sound bites they use from this magnificent speech. Let’s see if the rabid hosts of hot talk television and radio and the knee-jerk response columnists can keep their powder dry. Let’s see if they can stop to think for a moment and help us have this conversation. I was sitting with a dear friend at lunch (yeah, I can have lunch these days – what a novel idea) who said his liberal Jewish mother and her friends could not vote for Obama if he defended Rev Wright’s words. The first thing that came to my mind was, how short our memories are. His Mom is obviously part of my Dad’s generation. I remember growing up in a world where we Jews lived in our neighborhoods apart from the rest. It was because of discrimination against us and by our own choice to live among one another. Non Jews were not trusted not to be anti-Semitic until we were satisfied they were not. Goyim jokes (jokes about those who were not Jews) abounded in the community. I grew up with cousins with numbers on their arms tattooed on by their Nazi torturers in concentration camps. I knew that at any moment they .. the proverbial they .. could turn on us before sunset. There is a distrust born of being a discriminated against minority. You overcome it, you go beyond it, you fight against it, both in society and within your own being. It is a complex thing. I, too, understand the anger in Rev. Wright and in other dear friends of mine. I don’t agree with it. Race is both deep and superficial. It means nothing in the reality of existence but it defines our every move in America. President Clinton’s conversation on race when he was in the White House was superficial, elitist and detached. Maybe now we can have a conversation based in the material reality of our everyday lives. Obama’s words were eloquent but eloquence is not enough. If he wins, he must build the America he preaches about. If he loses, he has to build the movement he talks about. Words of beauty will only take us so far. I hope the substance is as powerful as the speech. We will see. -marc