Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Movement Strategy

Today, I participated in a panel discussion about the war in Iraq and its connection to domestic policy. Since my own research is on movements around law and prison, I spoke about the history of wartime civil liberties repression and the Guantanmo detentions after cramming a couple of informative books and websites. My reading list included: Giorgio Agamben's State of Exception,
the Patriot Act Debates web page, the ACLU's patriot actinfo, Michael Ratner and Ellen Ray's book, Guantanamo:What the World Should Know, and Roger Daniels' Prisoners Without Trial, about the Japanese Internment. I learned a lot fast.
The scariest thing to me about all this stuff is the arbitrary executive power that's been seized under the presumed "state of emergency" created by an indeterminate "War on Terror." As Ratner's book points out, the claims made under vaguely defined "common law war powers" are much bigger than those handed over to the government in either version of the Patriot Act. There were two other panelists, one who talked about corporations' role in setting US foreign policy, and another about Rosa Parks and the Black freedom struggle in the streets.
However, despite the three panelists all arguing that organizing a mass movement is the way to make a change, the question of "what do we about it?" dominated the discussion. Students in the audience, instead of getting their heads together about to create productive strategies, by asking questions such as, "how do we publicize and rally people around the idea of protections of the rights of people who are generally stigmatized and hated in the United States?" or, "how do we effectively combat corporate-driven foreign policies?" we got into an argument about voting, third parties, running for office, and, briefly and bizarrely, for boycotting CUNY for an entire year in protest of proposed tuition hikes. This really got off the ground when one member of the audience began the question period with what sounded like a plug for third parties and Ralph Nader, which in my opinion derailed the discussion entirely.
I sympathize with people's frustrations about organizing, and I think the conversation of tactics is an important one. When people hear "get out the streets," they hear "march around the capital," and I agree that this strategy is of limited value; marching around Washington, DC or other public places, while it shows that large numbers of people support a given cause, does not create a serious obstacle to the forces of power. Cindy Sheehan, with her Crawford campout was much cleverer, but will also need to developnew tactics, although the use of arrests against Crawford protesters will keep the group in the headlines and adds momentum to the Crawford campers' efforts. These efforts alone, however, merely publicize the issue and gain supporters, but do not create an effective obstacle to the war effort itself.
So, after thinking for a while about this discussion, I have to admit that I feel more committed to the notion that educational fora and talking about the issues in groups of sympathetic (and unsympathetic) people is vital to building a strong social movement. After all, if someone's idea of a revolutionary strategy is boycotting a cash-strapped City University, it's clear that the problem is not a surplus of education and knowledge. If this idea strikes you as brilliant, think about it for a few minutes: even if you could get everyone to do this "boycott CUNY" idea, (which you wouldn't be able to because the economic incentive for education is too great), how would a successful boycott against CUNY challenge the power structure? It seems to me it would provide justification for the people in authority to say , "Poor, urban, minority kids don't want to go to school, so let's get rid of the whole place. Let's use that money to fund something for rich people, or to fund a new jail to put all those unemployed kids in." Asking NYC high school kids to boycott CUNY is like suggesting that flood victims in New Orleans boycott FEMA or the Red Cross because of corruption and cronyism. Ain't gonna happen, and even if it did, what would the result be, besides hunger, exhaustion and the undermining of services?
To any readers out there who say, "more action, less talk!" I agree that the "more action" is needed, but it's vital that the action comes out of a place of thoughtfulness and creativity if it's going to make a significant difference. "action" otherwise either will get sucked into the electoral arena, into individualistic efforts around "buying green," or other lifestyle strategies, or it will perhaps go into futile revolutionary posturing that doesn't approach the real institutions of power. I'm not saying that people have to read a bunch of books to figure out how to organize, but it would help if people could analyze the situation broadly when they went about planning their actions to unseat power. Everyone learns these things in the process of activism, however, if only out of necessity, so maybe my immediate reaction to one student's cockamamie "direct action" strategy is excessive.
While the energy of the students was stimulating on one hand, I left the forum feeling concerned that the left has failed to demonstrate any kind of effective leadership, at least in New York City. The sectarian left has continued to fight smaller battles over preferred strategies that seem to promote particular organizations more than build movement unity. The non-sectarian left, including groups like CODEpink and UFPJ got completely neutered by their focus on the 2004 elections and have yet to find their footing. Meanwhile, students at places like CUNY ping-pong these strategies around. If Cindy Sheehan was this generation's Greensboro sit-in, what role will students play in this anti-war movement?

Monday, November 28, 2005

First Amendment Hero?

Over the Summer, many mainstream news sources described administration toady, Judith Miller as a first amendment hero for refusing to reveal her source inside the Whitehouse during the CIA leak investigation. She spent time in prison! people noted.
While that was going on, another journalist was being held (and is still being held, as far as I can tell) because of what he videotaped in Iraq. CBS camerman, Abdel Amir Hussein is being held indefinetely because what he filmed, said the military suggested he was "too close" to the Iraqi insurgency. I just found out about his case because I was searching for information on the current number of detainees at the various US prisons and his name came up.
According to "Reporters Sans Frontiers " he's among the 115 journalists currently held in prison. around the world

Holiday Update

After several hours of watching "Lost" last night and all weekend, I should probably be doing research on television addiction, but instead I'm in my office catching up on paperwork after my two classes on radical abolitionism and free love.
The Thanksgiving weekend was, as you can see from the pictures below, somewhat typically suburban. In addition to the chameleon in the window, we saw a whole family of deer in the backyard. Then there was the trip to Costco, and the antiques outing to Pittsboro, home of that marvelous palace of chic, "Beggars and Choosers."
Along with these suburban pleasures, Southern nostalgia for me includes the smell of woodsmoke and the tangy taste of pimiento cheese. I am partial to the spread when made with
sharp cheddar cheese
home-made mayonaise
dijon mustard
1 dash bourbon (Bill Neal style)
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Interspersed with the excessive eating, there were more family discussions about politics of many varieties and a trip with the younguns to the white hipster mecca, "the Orange County Social Club" where it was possible to buy four beers for $12.50! which may explain why a single man approached my group of four women (and one man who was married to one of us) and tried to buy us drinks.
For those NYC readers, who want to get a feel for the CH indy scene that congregates a the OCSC think Williamsburg+ college basketball. Oh yeah, it's an indy-rock scene, so there's music involved too. It revolved, when I was there around bands like Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, Zen Frisbee, Picasso Trigger, and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. Now, I have no idea who the latest cool bands are, though I saw an old friend from Zen Frisbee at the OCSC and didn't say "hey" because he stopped being nice once he got too cool and now he looks like an old, sad drunk.
More interesting than this hipster scene, I discovered too late in my own Chapel Hill life, is the old-time music world of the mountains that sometimes makes it into the Piedmont. On Saturday night, I got a chance to catch up with my old friend, CeCe Conway, who told me about the Black Banjo Gathering that she organized in Boone, NC. Partly because of this gathering, a new generation of Black musicians is being introduced to old timey-music. Every year, I want to go down South to the fiddlers' conventions and bring some Yankees with me. Cece coached me in fieldwork when I went to a convention with her, which meant I got to hold the camera, and I hope that I can take advantage of this connection in the future....Going to fiddlers' conventions is fun, but going to a fiddlers convention with an Appalachian folklorist is better.
Back in NY, things are somewhat more workaday, and thus all the way home on the plane I read about the Savings and Loan bailout and the role of that tower of "fiscal responsibility" Alan Greenspan.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Family Arguments, Patti Smith, Starbucks Union and First Ever Starbucks Strike

Happy Thanksgiving, readers.
There's nothing to get the adolescent regression going like arguing w/your parents about the Democrats until you're blue in the face and then spending 40 minutes on the nordic track that's in your converted old childhood bedroom while listening to Patti Smith sing "Horses" which, if you don't know includes the classic lyric, "Go Rimbaud, Go Rimbaud, Go Johnny Go."
So after that, I found my brother reading the Dkos at the family computer page and found out who "anonymous" was. Hammer and tongs out again. sheesh - so my blood was up again, he said "I don't want to get into it!" and I stalked off to the shower.
Finally, I grabbed space at the computer to check my mail and found a message with the press release from the IWW about the Starbucks union efforts.
The IWW has organized the Union Square Starbucks. Read all about it on the Wobblies' web page. Also there, you can read about the New Zealand Starbucks union now on strike and joined by Pizza Hut and other low-wage workers on their picket line.
On the other hand, the holiday started with no new news on the PSC contract. It's getting aggravating. My thoughts on this are that if the leadership really wanted us to act and organize, they would tell us what the hell is still on the table. They must be bound by some kind of agreement not to tell us anything. How annoying.
But, it is a holiday, and time to find out my cooking assignment. I think it's sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More on Murtha, Two Parties and War

I see I've upset an anonymous poster to this blog with my last entry, which discusses the left-of-the-Democrats interpretation of the debate around Murtha and the GOP effort to debunk him. To clear it up, let me begin with this. Being critical of Democrats who voted "no" to immediate withdrawal, and who "backed away" from Murtha in public statements in the press, as did Reid, Pelosi, Kerry and Clinton, does not mean that you have fallen for the Republican line. It means that you have the capacity to be critical of the Democratic Party's failure to oppose the war. Coming out in honesty and saying that makes it harder for Republicans like Bush who want to say that Dems are hypocrites for 'voting for the war and then voting against it..."
I don't have to defend the Democrats' absurd votes for the war because I didn't support those votes then either. The anti-war movement and anti-war sentiment is bigger than the Democrats in congress, and in my opinion, supporting the independent voice of an anti-war movement is more important that defending the Democratic party's mistakes. While a Republican cabal has dragged us into the Iraq war, they are part f a larger US foreign policy which included the crushing sanctions of the Clinton Admin. The war is not a partisan issue, no matter how either party wants to portray it.
60% of the public polled believes that the war is going wrong, supports an asap withdrawl, and believes Bush lied about WMD. However, the Democrats have, with the exception of a few, completely failed to take real anti-war positions. Instead, they have talked, just as republicans have, about some kind of continuing occupation. John Kerry actually ran on the position of bringing MORE troops into Iraq and "winning the war." I guess this was believed to be more politically expedient than the "cut and run" argument.
As Marc Maron might say, "Wake up, Sheeple!" The Democratic Party does not hold a monopoly on left wing views in this country, and carrying water for wimpy democrats is not the best way to end the war. It's a distraction. I sometimes think that even talking about the Democrats, or to Democrats, or even getting into it is just a divisive distraction, but when I read those comments in the press by Dem. leaders about Murtha, I had to say SOMETHING.
So, let me lay out the story as I see it. Murtha, a Democratic Hawk, proposesa six month plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. In a cynical move, Republicans respond with a proposal for immediate withdrawl, which Republicans say is Murtha's proposal, and which Murtha and Democrats denounce as "ridiculous." I agree with the anonymous poster that this certainly shows the Republicans to be cynical assholes - surprise, surprise- who will do anything to discredit and distort anti-war voices.
But the Republican treatment of the proposal isn't the only thing to talk about here. For those of us waiting to see a strong Democratic anti-war position, here was the chance that wasn't taken. And what did the dems do? Did they abstain from the vote, for instance? Did they vote "yes" on the immediate withdrawl? (three brave ones did). Did they come out and call Murtha a hero and say he was right to call for a six-month withdrawal and say they would support it when the real bill came to the House floor? Did they co-sponsor the bill? Are they working on a new version? Did they criticize the pro-war militarist aspects of Murtha's plan?

Maybe they are and I haven't been keeping up, so if they do, I'll happily be wrong.
They voted "no" and actually helped the Republicans to argue that "immediate withdrawl" is a BAD idea. Do you see why this is a problem for the anti-war movement? We can expect the Republicans to do everything shameless, but we don't therefore need to defend the Democrats when they fail to oppose them in a meaningful way.
Here is Gilbert Achcar, from Juan Cole's blog, pointing out that the straw proposal was better than the original one:
Congressional Republicans, in a transparent ploy, offered a one-sentence resolution stating that the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq be terminated immediately. Murtha called this "a ridiculous resolution" that no Democrat would support (Hardball with Chris Matthews, Nov. 18). In point of fact, the resolution was opposed by all of the pro-war Democrats and most of the anti-war Democrats, who (as the Republicans hoped) didn't want to be accused of "cutting and running." But actually the resolution wasn't ridiculous at all understood in the sense we have just explained.

The anti-war movement should and no doubt will relentlessly continue its fight for the immediate, total, and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops and their allies from Iraq and the whole region. Its central slogan "Troops Out Now" is more warranted each day and will keep gaining in urgency until victory over the warmongers is achieved.

As Joshua Frank, author of "Left Out" puts it in a recent Counterpunch article,
A handful of House Democrats did take the podium to express their seething disgust over the Republicans' political feat. Talk is cheap, however. Votes are what count. If there ever was a subject that should gash the thin-skinned Democratic Party, it'd be the Iraq war. But as the House vote verified, the Democrats don't want US troops home now, let alone in six months as Rep. John Murtha proposed last Thursday.
Those whose main goal is not democratic party elections, but a swift end to the war in Iraq have no reason to defend Democratic party hawks like Pres. hopeful Hilary Clinton, who calls Murtha's sympathetic, but unwise. And even the folks at myDD are critical of the Dems. for voting "No" on the resolution. If the so-called left wing political party will not call, over and over again, for an immediate withdrawl, it is up to others to do so, instead of leaving such strategy discussions to the corporate whores on "both sides of the aisle" in Washington.
Focusing on the wickedness of the Republican party, while satisfying emotionally, will not end the war in Iraq.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jeremy Scahill's Must-Read Article on Iraq, Clinton and Now

In the weekend edition of Counterpunch, Jeremy Scahill reviews Clinton's policy in Iraq and asks,
Where were these Democrats when it was Clinton's bombs raining down on Iraq, when it was Clinton's economic sanctions targeting the most vulnerable?
and answers it: Many of them were right behind him and his deadly policies the same way they were behind Bush when he asked their consent to use force against Iraq. As the veteran Iraq activist and Nobel Prize nominee Kathy Kelly said often during the Clinton years, "It's easy to be a vegetarian between meals." The fact is that one of the great crimes of our times was committed by the Clinton administration with the support of many of the politicians now attacking Bush.

Why these questions now?
Now, says Scahill, several powerful democrats, at the moment of opportunity to join him in opposition to the war, instead denounced Murtha's call for "out now" and backed awayfearing "out now" to be too controversial. I heard about Murtha from my Mom, who had been watching the debate on CSPAN on Friday night, and was very impressed. She said all the Dems were giving their time to him and that the Republicans were a bunch of scary wacko extremists. Absolutely true - so I was shocked, shocked when I read in the LA Times that only three democrats had actually voted for Murtha's/Republicans' version of Murtha's proposal following the debate that she watched. Now, those who voted no on the "Republcan Spin" of the Murtha proposal are in the position of arguing vociferously against "Out Now" as an impossible, "wrecker," "agent provocateur kind of provision, introduced by Repubs. to make dems look bad. Only these three were bold enough to vote for it. The worst thing about this Republican strategy was that it's gotten the Democrats to make the pro-war argument even more than they were already.
Here's how it continues to work. Well-informed anti-war people in the general population, such as my Mom, adopt a position against the war and even go out in the streets in the millions (as on Feb 15th 2003) to express it. Congressional Democrats, whom they believe are the ONLY alternative to the Bush regime, and the best means to oust the Bush regime, then go about convincing the left wing of the constituency that the issues are "more complicated" when they get to the political process and that "compromise" positions are necessary if the Dems are to gain sufficient power to oust the evil Republicans whom they blame for the war.
So, remembering that it was a Democratic president who imposed the sanctions is crucial for breaking the anti-war democrats' loyalty to the party, and I think that doing this is crucial for building a successful anti-war movement, a movement that operates on its own strategy and doesn't defer to the ideas of DNC leadership. What will get us out of the war is not ousting Bush and replacing him with a Democrat. What will get us out of the war is growing, widespread, popular opposition to the war.
Instead of following the spectator model of politics, in which activists put aside their own judgements in deference to "professionals" who understand political strategy, people who want the war to end have to be the leaders who push from below, the way the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party did when they rejected "two seats" at large offered to them by LBJ in 1964 at Atlantic City.

People who are currently self-defined radicals, whether they define themselves as socialists, anarchists, or some other type of revolutionary, had no allegiance to the Democrats and were already protesting US policy toward Iraq in the 1990s. During the Ramadan/Monica bombings, I was in NYC for the holidays and marched with a bunch of people who were probably from IAC, winguts surely, but not as bad - or as dangerous- as the Democratic Party leadership. When Madeline Allbright spoke at Minnesota'a graduation, I was one of the anti-sanctions protesters, and when I asked a bombastic and self-proclaimed radical professor of Chicano studies to wear an armband on the stage in protest he said, "I wouldn't want to offend the lady." Pro-Clinton Democrats defended the sanctions, didn't join the anti-sanctions movement, marginalized those who opposed the policies and contributed to the climate that made Bush's war possible. They contributed to the widespread ignorance among the US population about the situation in Israel and the Middle-East.
The stronghold of Democratic party loyalty in the blogosphere is the Dailykos, and Armando has recently posted a request for discussion of how Democrats should relate to Murtha. There, as to be expected, the goals of "getting out of Iraq" and "getting Democrats into Congress" have been conflated almost completely by all but a few dissidents. Among the comments that appear there are the defense of pro-war votes by Democrats on the basis that the president lied to Congress. Bush is arguing that the Democrats are "flip-flopping" in his attempt to recover from sinking poll numbers. They're responding that their vote was based on the false information given to them by the president. However, I seem to recall KNOWING before the war that the WMD and Bin Laden-Hussein claims were without evidence. So, if I knew, surely the same information was available to congress, and to the mainstream media? The problem is, as Scahill put it, the dems. let it get by and didn't challenge the propaganda....and guess why? Even if they're only FOR the war because they think it's politically expedient, they're still FOR The war.
Get it? When it comes to domestic policy, Democrats are different, but even though the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal is evil, getting Democrats elected does not guarantee a dramatic shift in US foreign policy, so follow Curtis Mayfield's advice and don't rest when the wind starts to shift. The time is now.....Keep on pushing.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Caught in a Fruitless Argument for what seemed like Hours, Or My Screed Against Bloomberg and his Ilk.

It's been a long time since I got into a serious argument with someone at a party. I don't know what that's about. Have I gotten mellower since my twenties?
I still remember one night at a party of some policy school people in Minneapolis, my friend Alice and I got into a huge argument about NAFTA. One of the the things that I found difficult about such arguments was that everyone seemed to be operating with a completely different set of facts or a different set of basic principles. From within a Marxist universe, it was quite obvious that "globalization" was not good for the global south. The great "job opportunities" around the world were only better than what was available in the countrysides of those countries because of a context going back at least fifty years since the very beginning of the IMF and World Bank. And every good lefist in the 1990s knew enough to know that no matter what else, the IMF and the World Bank were essentially setting the agenda at everyone of those big multilateral agreements. So often, free trade is argued as the big corporations "giving" people in poverty job opportunities otherwise unavailable AND breaking down US and European trade barriers so that developing countries could export goods there and compete as equals. From westerners, I heard the argument like this: "These backward countries are starting off poor and now we're helping them. Why would a leftist like yourself object to that? You must be just like Pat Buchanan." The argument has variations, but it always ends by comparing people who oppose the terms of the multilateral agreements to Pat Buchanan.
Raise your hand if you've been on the other end of such an argument. I can't count the number of times that I've been. Short of sitting people down for a course in political economy and the history of the current trade agreements, complete with books by Walden Bello, I don't know how to make myself heard in such arguments. I would wind up mostly making the argument by saying, "look, NIKE isn't giving people opportunities, they're taking advantage of cheap labor and repressive anti-labor laws. And they're paying people a pittance in comparison with the massive profits that they accumulate by selling stuff elsewhere, and in the long run, this isn't really a climate conducive to locally run manufacturing or anything run by people from the country, and if you want freedom for capital, you should have freedom for labor too. Get rid of immigration restrictions." At that point, people start exclaiming, "But that's Madness! Madness!" (well no, only in the 19th century would they use such terms, but doesn't it sound right?) The problem in these arguments is that there's a humanitarian "liberal" argument for the neocolonialist globalization project. Bill Clinton spoke it well.
And that brings us to this weekend's argument. Friday night, I got into a real verbal battle about Michael Bloomberg and his marvelous management skills. Here's how it started. I was at Freddy's on 6th avenue and Dean street for a friend's birthday. Freddy's is right in the path of the Ratner plan for the Atlantic Yards, and is therefore an active member of the movement to "Develop Don't Destroy" Brooklyn. This naturally leads to conversations about Ratner and NYC politics. I was chatting with some guys about the latest election and mentioned that I had voted for the "Rent is Too Damn High" guy even though I had never heard of him. (turns out he's an anti-semite, which isn't visible in the summary of his campaign in the voter guide.) I then said I would have voted for Ferrer otherwise. So, this guy standing across from me, looking the part in an oxford shirt and stylish spectacles (no bow tie), says,
"what, you would rather have that weak, democratic machine whore?...Face the facts, Bloomberg is good for New York!" His whole argument was that NYC is a big city, and a weak mayor like Ferrer would get eaten by the competing interests and bureaucrats.
My response was, "If you believe that the job of the mayor is to be a business manager, I guess that makes sense, but I don't think that's what Democratic governments are supposed to do. He gives out money to his corporate friends, and he isn't serving the mass of New Yorkers." I went on to talk about his disgraceful treatment of the city's unions, his overseeing of the policing of RNC protests,the collapsing subway, the buying of the election, and the corporate giveways. I talked about the 1.5% offer made to the CUNY faculty.
This guy, who works in the budget office, had a reasonable, technocratic answer for everything. "look, we're all making do with a limited amount of resources. We're all good people who are trying to make things better."
This is why "working within the system" doesn't work. The guy was so brainwashed by his policy-school business model bubble. During the course of the argument.. these remarks were made.
on public schools.
he says: A study was done that teachers improve dramatically over the first four years on the job, and then improve again on the second four years. and then they level out. Therefore, entering teachers' salaries should be higher....and senior teachers' salaries should level off and there should be "merit pay" The teachers' union is bad because *they* are sacrificing entering salaries for the old-guard.
I said...well, the contract reflects unreasonable mgmnt. demands, not what the teachers wanted. Do you know that 40% of the NYC teachers voted "no" on the contract and hate the concession-taking union leadership, and that the AFT is hated by most teachers and hard to oust from leadership, not because they are unfair to taxpayers, but because they take concessions all the damn time?
He didn't know that, but he kept talking about these various reform efforts for education that must have come from some kind of management friendly studies of "teaching effecitveness." This whole "eight year learning curve" sounds like something designed to support a move to get rid of tenure and get rid of teaching as a career path that people go into with the expectation of retirement. This will lead to hiring "promising young kids" who are on their way to something else and then leave teaching. I don't buy the eight year study, and I couldn't find anything about it on the internet.
Right, I said, $90,000 as a salary is just too much to pay teachers. That's good money for CEOS and salesmen and policy wonks as whoever else is in the corporate elite, but teachers getting paid that much is some kind of outrage.
He argued that Bloomberg was "serving the taxpayers" by fighting things like "social promotion" and that teachers were just looking out "for themselves." I said, the things that teachers demand are often good for the taxpayers. Let's talk, for example, about class size.
He says: you can't just "throw money" at the problem..."small class sizes don't cost out. Those people won't pay back in taxes the amount that it costs to make small class sizes."
I said: Whaaa? How can you even say that? It just doesn't make sense. So, if it doesn't "cost out" we should just say "fuck you" to poor people?
The private-school kindergarten teacher then joined in on the discussion with the fact that her students, whose parents pay thousands in tuition are in classrooms of 17 with two teachers per class.
So, if small class sizes didn't matter, why do rich people spend so damn much money making sure their kids are in small classes. Obviously they think it "costs out" or they wouldn't save up for it. Today, I found some evidence to back up the position from the trenches: evidence.

He says: we've got a small pie, a limited amount of resources.
I said: that's especially true after you give all the money to corporations who don't need it. (those are all separate links, check out the numbers). Right, there's a small pie of what's leftover.

And that's what I think. When you talk about "costing out" you're not looking at the bigger picture and you've already accepted the terms of what government's function is: looking out for business and serving the poor within a climate that is set up against them from the beginning. Look at health care. Look at what happened in New Orleans, look at the South Bronx, look at Bed Stuy, East New York and Harlem. This society doesn't care about poor people and isn't prioritizing this problem. You have to look at it broadly. The gentrifying of NYC's neighborhoods is making these populations more and more invisible to the wealthier New Yorkers who don't see the costs of Bloomberg's smooth management style. If you're in Brooklyn or any other borough, the poverty might also be a bit more visible. Didnt' ask where Mr. Policy wonk lived, but probably Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights.
The buttoned-down policy wonk wanted me to see him and his buddies in the policy world (including that stellar manager, Mr. Bloomberg) as doing the best they can in a "bad situation" by each little piece. Teaspoons from the ocean, I say.
But I think that people like Kanye West and Jerry McMillan, who aren't policy wonks can call it like they see it from their own experience...."George Bush Doesn't Care about Black People" and "RENT is too damn high....all the poor people are being forced out of New York City." (As for the stuff about the Jews, if only McMillan would have taken some classes at CUNY...then he could get turned around.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Question, gardeners. This flower bloomed in my garden last year, but since it was planted by the landlord from a "surprise" bulb selection, none of us knew what it was. Can you identify it? I don't know how to get it to bloom for next year, but I think I might need to cut back the foliage for the winter. Help, help. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tomorrow: We're Not Your Soldier

I just got a notice in my email about tomorrow's "Not Your Soldier" action at Brooklyn College. Unfortunately for me, the protest is going on at the same time that I'm supposed to be guiding my students through CIA memos, so I can't go, but it sounds like a good action. Here's a description:
Join the Brooklyn College Anti-War Coalition in a rally and march against military recruitment. Meet at 1:30 pm in front of Boylan Hall at Brooklyn College for a rally with music and march to the recruiting station on Nostrand Avenue, distributing information on alternatives to the military. Stand with our Brooklyn young people to tell Bush WE ARE NOT YOUR SOLDIER (National Not Your Soldier Day).
There's also an anti-recruitment demonstration today in Brooklyn:
Protest at Downtown Brooklyn Military Recruitment Center

Wednesday, November 16th
12 noon
Armed Services Recruitment Center
41 Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn
B,D,M,N,Q,R to Atlantic Avenue or Pacific Street or 2,3, 4,5 to Nevins

Map is at

I have special warm, fuzzy feelings towards Brooklyn Parents for Peace because when I went to the anti-war march in October of 2001, I met Judith Levine, and marched with her and other WAC people who were among the original founders of the group.
If you can't make the Brooklyn action, there's a War-Resisters' League protest in Manhattan.
* * *
In case you need an extra reason to protest. Here's one.
just after that terrifying and riveting documentary on Falluja was aired on RAI television (and Democracy Now) the Pentagon admits to using white phospherous, not simply as an "illumination" or "cloaking" device, but as an incendiary weapon. According to every source I know, the US signed onto an agreement banning the use of white phosphorous and other incendiary weapons. Most Americans are probably not reading this piece of news, which is widely covered in European papers today, and even made it into CNN. However, the CNN story does not mention the banning of white phosphorous, but SURPRISE, SURPRISE, acts as a stenographer for the Pentagon. In the NYT, there is no story about the admission yet, but there is a story about the Italian documentary and the theories of "intelligence analysts" about such information as a way to find out about potential terrorists. that's right, that's what the article covers. Here's a snippet:
Osint, or open-source intelligence, is a low-cost way to try to understand the Islamic militancy that fuels Al Qaeda or to track subtle shifts in the public statements of Kim Jong Il, the eccentric North Korean dictator. It gleans insights not just from foreign newspapers and television, as its less ambitious predecessor did, but from the ballooning riches of the Web and such diverse sources as Palestinian rap and Indonesian T-shirts.
Since the US papers aren't covering the most newsworthy aspect of this admission, let's review. Here's what white phosphorous DOES, (From Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation):
The medical staff at the Barbir hospital were shocked by these wounds. When the family was brought into the emergency room at the end of July, Dr. Shamaa found that two five-day-old twins had already died. But they were still on fire.
Shamaa's story was dreadful one and her voice broke as she told it. "I had to take the babies and put them in buckets of water to put out the flames," she said. "when I took them out half and hour later they were still burning. Even in the mortuary they smoldered for hours." Next morning. Almal Shamaa took the tiny corpses out of the mortuary for burial. To her horror, they again burst into flames.
and then let's be reminded of the agreement governing the use of incendiary weapons. and here's an additional comment on these types of weapons and weapons agreements.

IS there an international agreement that we haven't violated? An international law that we haven't broken? I'm beginning to wonder. and do people really wonder, "why do they hate us?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You wonder who I went to bed with last night, don't you? Here's the answer Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bob Marley will put anyone in a good mood, Ganja or not

That's how I feel. I'm copying music onto CDs and listening to Bob Marley. In a minute, yeah that's right, in just a minute, I'll be preparing a lecture on the CIA in the 1950s. oh yeah. But until then, it's about a mellow mood and it's hard to feel the angst, or the angst feels even worse; it feels like tragedy. Speaking of which, last night, I freaked out while watching a chilling documentary called "Radio Bikini" about the Bikini atom bomb tests. Just think of those islanders who want their homes back.
So, you could think of it as inducing some sort of higher consciousness, or if you can imagine that pretty Marley voice, you might be seduced away from Noam Chomsky too. Who'd make a better date, Chomsky or Marley? post your votes here.

I'll play your fav'rite song, darlin'.
We can rock it all night long, darlin'.
'Cause I've got love, darlin',
Love, sweet love, darlin'.
Mellow mood has got me,
So let the music rock me.

'Cause I've got love, darlin'.
Love, sweet love, darlin'.
Quiet as the night,
Please turn off your light.

I'll play your fav'rite song, darlin'.
We can rock it all night long, darlin'.

Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Open up your heart.
Open up your heart.
Love love come running in, darlin',
Love, sweet love, darlin'.
Love, sweet love, darlin'.

Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Strike the hammer while iron is hot.
Open up your heart.
Open up your heart.
Let love come running in, darlin',
Love, sweet love, darlin'.
Love, sweet love, darlin'.

Mellow mood has got me, darlin'.
Let the music rock me, darlin'.
'Cause I got your love, darlin'.
Love, sweet love, darlin'.

Love, sweet love, darlin'.

Strike Links

The Bellman blog has a whole lotta links to NYU strike stories. I like this one: Nerds on Strike! and this one: NYU Inc. which has more details on the administration's use of blackboard, including a letter from faculty protesting. Here's Spectre of Marx's Contract Now, with a "point counterpoint" on management's anti-union hogwash.I also like this blog, which has great pictures and song lyrics and more.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

NYU Grad Student Strike....We Knew it Was Coming

Ever since the NLRB ruling last year that graduate students were not employees, it's only been a matter of time until NYU would refuse to bargain with GSOC. More power to NYU grad students, this led them to call a strike. They walked out on Wednesday. The Columbia Spectator has a pretty good article summing up the issues and relating them to other grad student union struggles. NYU's paper has an article with a list of comments that I'll discuss more below. Diane Krauthamer at Indymedia has stories and pictures of the strike.
Jeers to the Courant Institute for threatening striking math students with disciplinary action and cheers to those faculty who, like Molly Nolan, history professor, Historians Against War activist and union supporter, are holding classes off campus. One of the weirdest and most troubling aspects of management's response is the adding of administrators as members to blackboard courses taught by graduate students. The article from "Inside Higher Ed" linked above mentions this event:
Christine Harrington, an associate professor of politics, was fuming when she met her Law and Society class in a church Thursday morning. Harrington noticed Wednesday that two associate deans in the College of Arts and Sciences had been added as having access to the Blackboard account for her course. “What the administration did was to violate your privacy,” she told the students. She said it would have a “chilling effect” on her use of the online resource, for which she had an expectation of privacy. Her students responded with anger at the administration. One said it “thrives on secrecy.”
Beckman pointed out, though, the names of the associate deans were clearly and openly added to Blackboard, and that faculty members in 12 departments were consulted, and said it might help to “maintain communications across the college” during the strike. He added that the addition to Harrington’s account, and several others, was a technical mistake, and that it was meant only for courses taught primarily by graduate assistants. He said that the mistake occurred in courses where a teaching assistant was listed on the account.

In case you're not familiar with the general issues at stake, here they are: With increasing university corporatization, the number of tenured full-time faculty teaching courses at colleges and universities nationwide has declined to well below 50%. The largest group of part-time classes in Universities are taught by graduate students and adjuncts, whose low pay, lack of job security, and no to few benefits means that they are both cheap and have virtually no academic freedom. The grad students who are striking today are being exploited and conned. As grad students, they are being prepared for jobs that no longer exist in any numbers, and yet graduate students are needed to teach undergraduates at places like NYU, so people keep getting in to graduate school. Many of the people on strike now will wind up as adjuncts in the future, living at an even lower status in the university hierarchy than they do as graduate students, because instead of being seen as "potential winners" (of the job lottery) they'll be already losersin the eyes of the academic elite. The crisis in higher education is a serious one that everyone should be concerned about. There's a serious racket going on. I think Universities these days should be compared to the "hiring sharks" that once plagued the West Coast and provoked the Wobbly "Fres Speech Fights" of the 1900s.
Here are some examples from my own experience. Before I had my PhD, I taught American studies and composition courses at the University of Minnesota for about $10,000.00 per year + a tuition waiver. As a graduate student in a major research institution that was in competition with the unionized campuses of Wisconsin and Michigan for grad students, I also had health care benefits that were considerably better than the ones I have now. For that compensation I taught four courses per year. At the time I didn't have a PhD, though, so it made sense that I was paid so much less than a regular professor was, right?
After all, I was being educated, paying my dues, being groomed for a life as a scholar and I'd eventually make a lot more money. Not exactly, when I got my degree, I was entering an academic marketplace in which it was typical, I learned during job searches, for hundreds of people to apply to every open position. There were many searches for which there were 300-400 applicants when I was in my first year out of grad school. It took me awhile to land a tenure track job, so instead of making pots of money with my new PhD I taught more courses, went to more meetings, held more office hours, accumulated debt, and made slightly over twice as much as I had as a graduate student in Minnesota, but now I was living in the twice-as-expensive New York City. At least I still had COBRA for my health insurance. When I got my fulltime job, my salary didn't quite double, but I had made so little for so long, that it was easy for the administrators where I now work to lowball me as much as possible and it still seemed like a great deal. Low wages are never a route to higher ones, only an excuse to pay still lower ones. In every other field of work, people understand this.
Mine is a typical story for a new PhD in the humanities, so how does the NYU administration think it can sell that story of apprenticeship and education as the primary function of graduate students when the grad students that are on strike now are on their way to jobs of "equal or lesser value" in the academic hierarchy?
I hope that the grad students get support from the undergrads, and that the Admin is forced to bend. Let's hope those consumer students realize, as one of the commenters in the "Washington Square News" did, that it's the university that's behaving in a despicable manner by refusing to recognize the union. I say kudos to NYU grad students and their leadership for being strong enough to strike. Grad students, faculty and administrators across the country will be watching them and the outcome of this dispute will have a major impact on higher education labor in general.
Meanwhile, CUNY faculty may soon have a contract to decide on, but all the emails I've been getting from our President Barbara Bowen seem to suggest unspecified concessions, and that's bad. Maybe we'll have to go on strike too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

When there's too much to do and not enough hours in the day

Earlier this week, I found myself nodding off at midnight over a student's midterm exam. Maybe that's how they feel when they're falling asleep in my class? No, it was just too much procrastinating and not enough grading the week before. One of my students had asked me before last weekend, "what are you *really* doing?" when I told them that the exams were going to be handed back the following week. What was I going to say, "Oh, I had a house-guest over Halloween weekend, so I spent a lot of time dancing, going to art shows, and eating." That sounds terrible, doesn't it? I told him I was working on my book.
So, it was the next weekend that got reserved for grading, and the weather was so beautiful that I just *had* to go strolling and exploring in Midwood and couldn't sit inside reading the same passages copied out of the textbook over and over again, not until late afternoon....and that's how it happened that the grading got pushed to Sunday and Monday, and how it was that everything else became so backed up that I have to go into the office today, even if my primary reason for going is to water the plants. As for school, despite their jubilation or despair over their midterm grades, my students said interesting things this week as they discussed Hiroshima, Gar Alperovitz, and in my early American history class, new things they understood about slavery.
From my personal annals...other than grading, delivering the news of the grades, and meeting with students about the grades, I saw the movie "Capote," which is an excellent portrait of narcissism. Yesterday, I planted several bulbs and am now worrying about whether I planted them at the right depth. According to some sources, planting them too deep will result in no flowers. If they're too shallow they might get killed by frost! I planted spring crocuses, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, some lilies, an iris, three different varieties of tulips and several daffodils. Today, I've still got more grape hyacinths to plant and two more irises. Given my general impatience, I don't know how I'll wait until Spring to see them come up. I'm already thinking about going out there with a ruler, digging them up and checking the depth. Planting these bulbs reminds me of putting a cake in the oven. I've always been bad about leaving things alone; the urge to check and check and check is tremendous. Maybe I can just stick the ruler in the soil and see if I got it right? Otherwise, I just buried a lot of money in the ground. The other plan for the garden, which really brings out the cooking metaphor, is to sprinkle cayenne pepper on the flower beds. According to the guy at the garden store, this is the way to keep squirrels from digging up your bulbs.
But that's only the personal news.
Nick Turse wrote a great description of NYC's "World Can't Wait" demonstration in Tom Englehardt's "Tom Dispatch." Doug Irelandhas a good discussion of the Paris riots on Alternet, and my hero, Robert Fisk, did a great interview on Wednesday's Democracy Now discussing the historical roots of French-Algerian relations, and the contemporary use of torture in the so-called war on terror. Although I've seen "The Battle of Algiers" about four times since the late 90s, DN's justaposition of the torture press-conference in that film with the torture press-conferences of our current administration made Pontecorvo's film into an excellent NEW comment on current events.
Finally, this week's Counterspin featured an interview with Joshua Holland about the final report on the "Oil for Food Scandal," which reveals multinational corporations bribing Saddam Hussein's government and no bribe money going to anyone in the UN. Unsurprisingly, the results of this report have received almost no mainstream press coverage.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Damn, Damn, Damn.

quick post, got a meeting in ONE minute.
Maron said this AM that he's going for sure, either Dec. 1, Dec. 15 or sooner, if he blows his top. That's sad. I'm sure there's lengthier discussions out there. It's a bad move. I'm disappointed in AirAmerica and I need something that makes me laugh when I wake up. Perhaps I'll get out of the house quicker now. My new habit is podcasting Amy G. on the train on the way home. Now that's usually pretty uplifting.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I hate grading exams. I hate giving exams. Why do I give exams? Links on French Riots

I hate grading exams because
A) I hate reading the same "copied out of the textbook answer" 100 times in a row
B) I suffer terrible conflict between my obsessive focus on historical accuracy and my recognition that first year college students can't be expected to know that much history or understand the nuances
C) I resent the time taken out of my life that I could be using to read books that are neither blue nor 8 pages long, and that are about things I DON'T already know
D) All of the above.
I hate giving exams. It makes the students nervous and it feels so fakey. Who knows whether it measures what they know or not. I allow them to bring notes, I give them the questions in advance, and as a result, they just copy shit out of the textbook and copy it again into the bluebooks. I mean, really. What's the point?
oh yeah....and weirdest of all: I take it personally when people don't know the answer. Like somehow, I imagine they are doing it to spite me.
Since I know this, at least I don't act on the bizarre feeling.

Oy, peoples. It's going to be a long day. I think there are 60 more bluebooks waiting for me next to the chilling coffee cup. Outside, there are bulbs to plant. There are movies to see.
And yes, there is news to keep up on. So, to answer a question from the indymedia pages, that's why this particular left wing blogger has almost nothing to say about the riots in Paris.

But why isn't there something on Counterpunch yet ?
Instead, there is an article about another article that disses everyone's favorite doom-predictor, Noam Chomsky.
Read it, read it.
OK, so what's going on with the riots. There's a pretty good article in The Independent. Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry about them as well. The wikipedia has a lot of links at the bottom, including this one to "Sketchy Thoughts" an anarchist? in Clichy Sous Bois, who defines the riots as a rebellion and calls the youth a revolutionary vanguard.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Riots, Riots Everywhere

As you get up to the news this morning, I'm sure you're hearing about anti-Bush riots at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, and the anti-cop riots in Paris. Are riots a step away from revolution? What do riots mean? I'm in a rush to get out the door today, so instead of pontificating, or ruminating, or reflecting, perhaps I'll just suggest some of my favorite books about rioting.

There's a whole school of historians that studies riots in Europe that begins with the author George Rude, You can read a collection of his essays called "The Face of the Crowd." and a longer, synthetic work, "The Crowd in History.". He also has one on the "Crowd and the French revolution." Regardless of which Rude you read, you'll find his general argument to be that crowds should not be understood as simply dumb and reactive, but as having a purpose and logic, and even a historical set of behaviors that are socially accepted. Authors in his footsteps are E.P Thompson, whose essay "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd" remains one of the most important things I read as an undergraduate history major. While we thought the word "cheesemongers" was funny, the larger point of crowd action as an expression of political consciousness was important.
In the same vein, Jesse Lemisch's work, and the more recent development of his ideas in Peter Linebaugh's and Marcus Rediker's The Many Headed Hydra, address American revolutionary era crowds and add significantly to any "top down" analysis that marks the American revolution as soley the action of elites. All of these books describe crowd actions in positive and popular terms, explaining crowd behavior as the response of the oppressed to power, domination, or exploitation.
For riots of the interpersonal and reactionary type, it's a good idea to read the books of
William Tuttle
(about the Chicago riot of 1919) and Mahmoud Mamdani, who provides a provocative longterm explanation of the Rawandan genocide, which was not a riot, but similar because of its mass character.

So, lest you are tempted to views this week's riots, in Argentina Paris, and Ethiopia as simply reactions from the gut, or overflows of passion, or outbursts of "ethnic conflict" it's always wise to look deeper. In each case, there's no doubt a much bigger and more complex story than what can be found in the mainstream media. This is true even in race riots. In any "outbreak" of mass violence (see how removed from human motivation even the word "outbreak" is?) there is always some movement of an idea, some kind of logic (however irrational), some complicated interplay of powers, and some kind of organization that keeps it going. I wish I had time to delve deeper into these riots myself, but being far removed from the scene, and tempted by the beautiful weather, I'm postponing, procrastinating from procrastinating, and heading outside to live. now.

Friday, November 04, 2005

World Can't Wait....... How Did it Go?

A friend asked me last night, "How did the World Can't Wait strike against the war" go yesterday? To get reports from the horsie's mouth, go to their web-page, where you can read reports and see pictures. There are some nice ones of Union Square in NYC. Truthout has a piece too.
But I wasn't there, sadly. I went to work, and all my anti-war colleagues and anti-war students were there. I think the WCW group has more of a broad base on the West Coast, judging from these photos from San Francisco, which appeared on the indymedia website for the Bay area.
According to NY1, hundreds of highschool students in NYC came out. Folks in Ohio also left school, and so did people in Missouri, despite threats of being slapped with "truancy."
In Michigan, where attendance was sparse, due to poor planning, a student named Laura Parish read this poem by Eve Ensler, "Fire His Ass":

Since GEORGE BUSH really got in power by corporate take over and not election Since he has behaved like a CEO of a huge corporation called U.S.A. supporting profit in all cases over human interests, we should treat him the way they would treat him in any corporation and


When you start with a major surplus and end up with a huge huge deficit they


When you fail to move a company forward, they


When you are lazy and take vacations at a time of peril, they


When you don't prepare for terrible outcomes and then lose thousands of lives and insane amounts of money they


When you lie to your stockholders and board and then spend nearly 1.3 trillion dollars and kill hundreds of thousands of people for no reason that makes sense to anyone, they


Sometimes they even put you in prison.
When you openly practice racist policies whether they want to or not, they


When you openly break the law, order torture and get caught they


When you hire people who are ignorant and incompetent, they


When you destroy the brand of a company
and alienate potential buyers all over the world, they


We are the shareholders of the U.S.A.
Bush has bankrupted our company, our pocketbooks,
But mainly our soul.
We need to remove this president and his staff
and we need to do it now..


Generally, I think the WCW group is hampered by its ties to the RCP, which always produces great posters and slogans, and is very good at picking up on the popular sentiment and drawing people in for actions, but lacks grassroots organizing. That's my main beef with the RCP: no real organizing. This may be related to the top-down nature of the organization. I had friends who joined Refuse and Resist back in the 90s over doing direct action abortion clinic defense, which was crucial, but when they kept going to R&R meetings, they got frustrated with the leadership and eventually left the group. Seems like the RCP in general concentrates a lot on bringing in young kids from highschools and community colleges, maybe thinking of some kind of youth vanguard...or a highly pliable mass base?
Despite all that, I wouldn't refuse to go to an action they sponsored just because of their political beliefs or even their wacked inner-group methods. I think bringing out numbers to any anti-war, anti-Bush action is important. ....THE WCW, like every other RCP group, brings together a diverse group of people. Plenty of non-Leninists are on their roster of support: Gore Vidal, Robin DG Kelley, Howard Zinn, Eve Ensler, etc etc. and Boots, from the Coup, did their promos on the radio. Plenty of young kids, brown, Black, Asian, white, working class and middle-class are drawn to their call. They seem to me to have more potential to build a "troops out now" movement than either UFPJ or ANSWER - and that is, to me, more important than anything else and all to the good. However, I wasn't there, so I don't know what it felt like at the demos. If you participated in the NOv. 2 actions, please, please post about them here.

Up again to weirdness on Air America

I thought I had the radio tuned to NPR when I woke up this morning to hear Mark Riley taking calls on Air America, and I thought the boom had been lowered after all and that Marc Maron was gone from "Morning Sedition," but Riley announced that Maron would return to the show on Tuesday. On the other hand, when the radio break came and the name of the show was announced it said, "Morning Sedition" and didn't say "with Marc Maron and Mark Riley."
More and more people, including frequent MS guest, James Wolcott, are blogging about it. Here's an offcial "save morning sedition" page. If you love Marc M. write to the following two people:
Danny Goldberg:dannyg@airamericaradio.
(212)-871-8135 is a direct voicemail for Danny Goldberg's personal
snail mail to:

Air America Radio
641 Sixth Avenue
4th Floor
New York, NY 10011

Rob Glaser:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

First Winstead, Now Maron - getting the Axe at Air America? - Updating the Update

UPDATE: I fixed this post on 11/2 because Marc Maron said he might stay on after all. But later the following week, he declared he's out on Dec. 1st officially, Dec. 15th if he's nice, and real damn quick if he says too much. sigh. I hope he starts updating his blog at least.

This morning I was awoken from groggy dreams of my soon-to-be-lecture on Depression era America by Marc Maron talking about his imminent departure from Air America's morning radio show. At least, for some reason, they've given him the opportunity that they didn't give Lizz Winstead, to talk about his beefs with management on the air. Brilliant at Breakfast who's author is die-hard Morning Sedition fan is sure to have many comments about it. The Morning Sedition blog is all about saving the show today.
It reminds me of the days during the fight over Pacifica, when I used to turn on WBAI to hear the "Atlantica" satires created by Kat radio cafe and the Christmas Coup Comedy Players. That revolution was more serious - and also easier to fight - because of Pacifica's non-profit community-based status and its activist listener base.
Maron is a victim of the problem of radio marketing and the ratings system as much as he is a victim of uncreative, bad management (and perhaps, yes, a little bit, a victim of his own narcissism). Focusing on ratings, ratings, ratings always leads to a rush to the center, as this articlefrom the Village Voice on the Pacifica fight explains. It's true that the desire or need in mass media that the need to capture HUGE audiences reduces quality. The quirkyness of the Marc and Mark combination may not work to create the "pseudo-individuality" that mass media craves.
A bunch of blogs are writing about Maron today, mostly conservative oneswho trumpet any bad news for the station that they can. But in addition to Brilliant at Breakfast, and a Dkos "recommended diary," there's Working Families Party Man.
and (update) this excellent description of Maron's show and the background from real radio peeps at WFMU's "Beware of the Blog"
The switches at AirAmerica, which is attempting to be "liberal" rather than radical or progressive radio (unlike Pacifica) and to build up a mass listener base is in the same fix as the Democratic Party, unable to figure out who its base is, and, in true corporate fashion, afraid of building the base in the direction that will bring more people in. If it's true that Danny Goldberg is going to replace Maron with Jim Hightower, it will make the catering to WASP older voters even more obvious than it already is.
In both the Democratic Party and Air America, the question is not about "whether the masses will be attracted to leftist ideas" (of any degree to the left) but about whether a corporate model can ever produce any genuine "mass" appeal.
More on this bigger theme later.