This week’s program falls between the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and the 60 th anniversary of the killing of JFK. There’s a genre of songs about presidential assassination, especially about JFK’s and we’ll hear many of these including those written by Phil Ochs, Lou reed and the Byrds, plus a sampling of tracks from a new album released this week in Dallas called Tragic Songs from the Grassy Knoll. Along the way, a classic folk song about Lincoln’s assassination and a surprising recital of the Gettysburg Address. I learned a lot putting this program together—and so might you!
Culture of protest 11/21/13 6 pm pt kcsb 91.9fm ww.kcsb.org
Tags: jfk assassinaion, gettysburg address, songs about these
Talking and thinking about last week’s Santa Barbara city election, hearing many conflicting notions about how to evaluate the results—I thought I’d share my own reflections.
On one level, the outcome couldn’t have been more predictable. The mayor had token opposition and won handily. The two incumbent councilmembers were re-elected (Bendy White and Frank Hotchkiss) and the third victor, Gregg Hart, was returning to the council where he had served not so long ago. Voter turnout was only 37%--a completely predictable figure given the extremely ‘off year’ character of the election (with not even an interesting ballot measure to draw voters).
All predictable, but not at all the whole story.
First, turnout. This was an all-mail ballot, a process advocated as a way to increase voter participation. And that looks to have been the case. The turnout in Santa Barbara was much higher than in many widely reported local races across the country – and the highest of any city in California. In New York City, less than a quarter of the voters turned out, for example. Our turnout here was the same as in the widely reported New Jersey governor’s race. The turnout numbers here are nothing to be proud of, but they suggest that voter participation improves with access to and convenience of voting. All-mail balloting is a good step in that direction.
Another predictable election pattern: all things being equal, the most likely voters are older, propertied, white… and relatively conservative. In the recent election here, about 6% of registered voters under 30 went to the polls. About 3/4 of the participating voters were over 56. Of the 8000 registered Latino voters in the city, 15% voted. These disproportions are typical in off-year elections.
Despite these disproportions, the election results at first glance don’t suggest a particularly polarized town. Both Bendy and Gregg were backed by a broad spectrum of progressive organizations, but ran first and second in every precinct, from the most to least affluent. Even the upper income precincts tend to be Democratic.
But Frank Hotchkiss, a staunch Republican whose public positions put him at odds with the city’s environmentally conscious consensus and who sometimes wants to afflict the poor and comfort the comfortable, ran a strong third in the upper income precincts that ring the central city. Megan Diaz Alley, with no prior visible public recognition, ran a strong third in all the central city precincts, where young and minority and renter voters live. Hotchkiss carried the election overall in part because the turnout in the precincts he won was 10 -15% higher than in the Alley precincts. Alley came in fifth, 150 votes behind David Landecker, who has an exemplary record of service to progressive organizations and causes, and was endorsed by Helene Schneider, Das Williams and the Sierra club, among others. Landecker and Alley split 11,000 votes so it’s hard to avoid the assumption that Hotchkiss would not have been elected had that vote not been split.
In the post election conversation, some are angry that Megan, so inexperienced and young and untried, ran, undermining the opportunity to elect David Landecker, whose knowledge and leadership would have served the community well—and forcing us to live with another term for Frank Hotchkiss. But there were important reasons why Megan was encouraged to run (starting before David decided to enter), and why she got a wider range of endorsements than he did. If we are to have city government that represents the needs and values of the city as a whole, it’s important to have council members who are in fact representative. Megan on the council would help make it more representative. The fact that her experience bridges environmental and equity concerns , coupled with her energy and quick intelligence, made her attractive.,
The turnout in this election would likely have been quite a bit lower if Megan had not run. Consider this: Megan Alley got virtually the same number of votes as David Landecker. She spent $8 a vote, while he spent almost $16. And she ran third in five precincts, while David never reached third in any precinct. Her candidacy helped mobilize a grassroots ground campaign, organized by groups like CAUSE and the Democratic Party. We might imagine that the chance to elect a young, promising Latina inspired the enthusiasm needed for such an effort. At her election night party, there was a lot of buzz about her potential as a community leader going forward.
Some of us veterans of local progressive politics have long wanted to be able to create a viable and diverse slate that can help spark voter turnout, and that can avoid being undermined by split voting. The Democratic Party County Central Committee, whose members are largely elected by popular vote, has taken the lead in recent years in creating a framework for candidate development and endorsement that has helped us get to that goal. Still, as in this election, some in elective office feel empowered to compete with that process for reasons not always evident. The result in this case was lost opportunity and, worse, ill feeling, anger, division in the ranks.
I’m hoping that some of that ill feeling can get resolved. And given the healthy ambition of many talented people in the community for continuing careers in elective office, it would be wonderful—maybe even really important—that a process be devised that can promote coalition and cooperation rather than fracturing and faction.
Ballots have just arrived in mailboxes of registered voters in the city of Santa Barbara. This election season is a rare one in which there is very little on the ballot, except for the race for mayor and 3 city councilmembers in the city. It’s an “off year” and that usually means low voter turnout. It’s the kind of election where those who vote are likely to be a good deal older, more financially comfortable, and conservative than the population as a whole. And so it’s the kind of election where rightwing candidates, who would have little chance in a high turnout year, can win. And that’s made more likely this year, when there are more progressive candidates than there are seats to fill.
Moreover, one of the candidates running for re-election is, Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss, former chair of the county GOP. Incumbents usually stand a better chance than challengers, so if the voter turnout is typical of off years, we’ll have another 4 years with Frank. If so, we need to recognize that he represents, in a rather sweet, amiable way, the most retrograde politics in the USA. Here’s a sampling of his publicly aired thoughts:
The city general plan shouldn’t be guided by concerns about climate change (like plan-ning for ways to conserve energy, reduce emissions, promote public transit): “Conclusions and proposals based on climate change have no place in the general plan update as they are speculative at best,” he said.
The city should not try to ban plastic bags: “As for the serious charge that plastic bags kill sea life, the good news is that plastic cannot be digested. Polyethylene is nontoxic and indigestible by birds and sea mammals. It passes right through them without effect,” he said. Of course, given the evident popularity of the ban, he wisely voted for it despite his belief that the animals just poop them away.
Mr. Hotchkiss ran initially with a declared hope to offer gang members this choice: "Get out of the gang, or get out of Santa Barbara.". This time he’s more mellow: “I will… encourage people to reject the violent ethos of gang membership and turn to a more productive and satisfying way of life..”
One of the main reasons he wants to continue to serve us: “Four years is more time to address the unsolved problem of transients, vagrants and indigents on our streets. We should insist that they help themselves as we help them on their journey forward.”
Mr. Hotchkiss, as you can see, has lots of street smarts. That was evident, in a public meeting called to deal with local patterns of police profiling of minority youth, when he declared: “there are some universal experiences that sometimes we relate to perhaps our color, or our stature, or our age that in fact are not related at all. I can assure you that no matter what color you are, when you see those flashing lights suddenly come on in the rearview mirror of your car, your heart is in your mouth. So please don't think that that's because of what you look like at all, it's for all of us”. Members of the audience were not enthusiastic about his insights at the time.
Frank Hotchkiss is entitled to his beliefs, even when contradicted by science as well as social reality. And maybe it’s a good idea to have at least one council member who speaks for what we currently label as the “tea party”. But if I were a member of that party, I might feel that Hotchkiss lacks the courage of his convictions. As election day approaches, he tends to vote for the things he previously was denouncing. And if I were a more rational conservative, I’d be pretty embarrassed by his public presence.
So, if you were wondering whether to vote, or to contribute time and money to alternative candidates, consider that non-participation is essentially a vote for Frank Hotchkiss—since the folks who like the sound of his voice always do turn out.
But who to vote for? The problem is that there are four solidly liberal, environmentally conscious candidates running for three seats. A similar situation 4 years ago split the liberal vote, and Republican leaning candidates were elected, including Hotchkiss. This time, the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party Central Committee tried to avoid such a split vote. They listened to most of the Democratic candidates seeking endorsement, and took an early initiative to endorse a slate of 3. It’s a well balanced slate including veteran incumbent Bendy White, long time progressive public official Gregg Hart, and a new young candidate, Megan Diaz Alley, whose personal experience and commitment is to the renters, working people, minorities and women all of whom are presently quite under-represented in local government.
I think Megan’s decision to run, the energy and dedication she’s been showing on the campaign trail, and the support she’s gaining from those sectors of the community who often feel left out of local politics gives all more reason to vote—and to join the campaign.
Every election helps determine the future of the town. Take a look at Megan’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MeganDiazAlleyForSantaBarbaraCityCouncil2013
Let me know what you think about all this! And if you like this post, please share it!
culture of protest this week: we talk with Prof Verta Taylor about SCOTUS DOMA ruling--she just published major book: "The Marrying Kind" tracing the rise of gay marriage protest and the past and future of gay liberation. How did this cultural transformation happen so quickly? What does the marriage issue mean for gay identity? Plus appropriate music!!
culture of protest thursday 6.27.13 6 pm kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
The FBI started tracking me when I was 10 years old. I was a subject of their surveillance for decades after-surveillance that included phone tapping, undercover informants and the collection of all kinds of information about my activities, whereabouts, associations. In 1968, J. Edgar Hoover authorized the sending of a letter, signed by a 'concerned alumnus', detailing information from FBI files with the expressed intent of having me fired from my faculty position at the University of Chicago.
I came to the attention of the FBI as a child because my parents sent me to a leftwing children's camp; presumably everyone attending that camp was somehow identified and had a file with the FBI. IN the years after, the FBI periodically questioned my landlords and neighbors and school officials about my whereabouts-presumably because I was a child with a suspect parentage. Later, I did enough to warrant more aggressive surveillance-having helped found and lead the Students for a Democratic society and, in other ways, opposing the government war policies. I learned about all this in the mid-seventies because of the initiatives of the Church committee—established by congress when, in the wake of Watergate, concern about FBI and other government illegal surveillance became known.
A history of the USA should be written from the angle of how government and private surveillance of political dissenters has evolved, and how such practices have affected the political and cultural life of the society. The FBI—its early staff and methods and files—derived from the Pinkerton company, the private spy agency used by corporations to destroy labor agitation and action. Once established as a Federal agency, J. Edgar Hoover's main preoccupation was to expand the budget and hence the physical capability of the Bureau to conduct surveillance. He sold the FBI for its crime fighting achievement, which included all kinds of technical capacity to track down criminals and develop the evidence to convict them. But its power was greatly enhanced when FDR authorized the FBI to undertake surveillance of both Nazis and Communists prior to the advent of World War II. In the postwar years, the FBI developed an army of undercover agents and much technical capacity for penetrating the Communist Party and other groups deemed subversive by the attorney general and so a list of such organizations was developed. Congress passed laws authorizing the establishment of lists of people to be rounded up and incarcerated in the event of a national emergency. Harry Truman established a 'loyalty' program that authorized surveillance of all federal employees. JFK and Bobby Kennedy authorized an intensive surveillance of Martin Luther King, which included phone taps, bugging of hotel rooms and other eavesdropping.
Hoover routinely used surveillance of presidents and other public figures to gather information that could use to compel them to enhance his power. The Kennedy brothers undoubtedly authorized the disgraceful treatment of King because of Hoover’s blackmail (and he had a lot of goods on JFK). LBJ didn’t need to be blackmailed to authorize Hoover to undertake draconian surveillance of the social movements of the sixties-the resulting 'COINTELPRO' quickly became a framework for illegal surveillance and direct government attack on organizations and individuals (such as myself) without any due process. Nixon planned even more draconian measures, and established his own in house surveillance team aimed at Teddy Kennedy, the Democratic Party and Daniel Ellsberg.
Whistle blowers in the Watergate episode coupled with congressional investigation exposed all of this. The theft of thousands of FBI files by still unknown persons during that period added much to public knowledge of the secret machinations of the FBI. In the seventies, the Freedom of information Act and a new regulatory regime established at the FBI were among the measures that blunted the growing edges of government surveillance of American citizens. But the expansionary drive of the national security/surveillance state was revitalized by 9-11. And now we know a bit more than we did, because of Edward Snowden's gutsy moves, about how far this drive has taken us.
We can learn from the past-if we are aware of it—that the issue isn’t 'privacy'. Everybody knows that most of us have traded a lot of privacy for the magical communicative ease provided by digital technologies. Indeed, 'privacy' sounds like a luxury—and indeed you can get more of it the more money you have. Nor is the issue ‘security’—since no one has been able to explain how the amassing of vast data bases of the electronic behavior of hundreds of millions of people is essential for identifying and capturing ‘terrorists’. Indeed, those who are supposed to oversee these databases have been denying or failing to make clear the full scope of what they are collecting—if we are supposed to be much safer because of all this surveillance, why not give a clue about how that is the case?
The issue instead is what Snowmen says it is—the existence of these capabilities—and the storage of these data—give enormous power to be used, not against ‘the bad guys’ but against anyone or any group that those with access to the data might at some point want to punish or control. That is what Hoover was doing with his apparatus and files, and what Nixon began to do when he sent the ‘plumbers’ into private offices of his 'enemies', among many examples of abuse that have helped shape our history.
President Obama, we might have imagined, would see and know all this. That he has made his own devil’s bargains (less reprehensible I believe than those made by his liberal predecessors), is a measure of the political power of the national security apparatus. But when the president tells us that congress has authorized what has been going on-and when Senator Feinstein, head of the Senate intelligence committee-agrees, the subtext of this is obvious: it is up to congress to do what it did 40 years ago. Set up a committee that will have as its aim the public examination of the intelligence/surveillance apparatus so that we can actually have a public debate (which Obama has called for) about how to control it. Why did Jefferson (or whoever) declare that: 'Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty'? It’s exactly because of times like these.
Fathers Day: there's a large body of song reflecting on fathers- some-sung from the perspective of offspring and some in the voice of fathers. We'll sample from these on this week's program, emphasizing, of course, songs that speak to 'political' dimensions. We'll start off by honoring Nelson Mandela--the 'father of the nation'--as he lies near death in a South African hospital. We'll feature a musical tribute to Medgar Evers murdered 50 years ago. And--a bunch of songs all titled "My Old Man" and lots more...
This week--our annual commencement address in music. We'll feature the voices of contemporary troubadours offering reflections, advice, warnings and hopes in a musical montage for this year's graduating class. Some intriguing themes emerge--especially on the state of the economy and the possibility for hope.
There will be a musical nod to Bradley Manning along the way....
This week on Culture of Protest: a conversation with Kerry Candaele, whose remarkable new film “Following the Ninth” opens in Santa Barbara next ‘Tuesday. A labor of extraordinary love and care, the film show s us how the Ninth has been a powerful resource for resistance and community in many parts of the world: China, Chile, Japan, and Germany. Kerry Candaele is a historian, troubadour, teacher, activist as well as an accomplished film maker. He grew up in Lompoc, one of the sons of Helen Callaghan who was a star in the All American
Girls Professional Baseball league (immortalized in a film made by Kerry and Kelly Candaele—“A League of their own”. We’ll talk with Kerry about his life and work, and listen to excerpts from several surprising renditions of the Ode to Joy.
We're coming on to Memorial Day Weekend and its ten years since the start of the iraq war. Tomas Young, severely wounded in that war, and highly debilitated now, used that anniversary to publicly send a letter to Bush and Cheney in which he declared his intention to end his life of pain. It's a remarkable indictment of them and their war, and we;ll listen to him read it tomorrow night on the Culture of Protest. Tomas was one of the first Iraq vets to oppose the war, and a documentary film, concert and soundtrack album --the "Body of war" project--honored him some years ago. We'll listen to songs from the film and album that inspired his resistance--as well as some other songs that seem appropriate for memorial Day in these times.
culture of protest thurs 5/23/13 6pm pt kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
send me an email if you want to know where to find an archived version of this program: firstname.lastname@example.org
We're back tonight on the radio after 3 eeks away. May is a month in which past and present struggles have onverged--and tonight we'll play a bunch of songs that help us observe these. May Day-international workers day--in 2013 coincided with the horrifying Bangladesh sweatshop catastrophe. We'll play songs of solidarity for the hundreds of workers who died there, in hope that their deaths help rekindle the global struggle for workers’ rights. And this month, across US low wage workers--in fast foods and box stores--have been taking concerted labor action. May Day in recent years has been a moment for mobilization in behalf of immigrant rights. Our songs tonight will reflect the continuing relevance of May Day. May 4 is the anniversary of the Kent State massacre--an event that sparked the largest mass protests in US history in 1970. That event continues to reverberate. Finally, May 3 marked Pete Seeger's 94th birthday. No one has ever one more than he to show how song, struggle and solidarity are intertwined. Tune in tonight; if you want a link to an archived version of the program, send me an email at email@example.com and ell me that.
April is the cruelest month. This week of the new Boston massacre also marks the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. But on a brighter note--it's the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut at Ebbets Field--when I went to my first major league ballgame to see Jackie and mark my 9th birthday. We have some song windows on those happenings. But most of the hour--songs for earth day, new and classic. And we'll play the number one hit song in UK to start things off.
Billy Bragg has been helping make the culture of protest for about as long as we've been doing the radio show (about 30 years). He's got a new studio album just out (first one in several years) and that provides a reason to do a program featuring a sampling of his performance over these years. Another reason is the demise of Margaret Thatcher, whose years as British prime minister helped fuel Billy's political art and action. Moreover, Billy was a prime mover in the glorious revival of Woody Guthrie--having created dozens of new songs based on woody lyrics. We'll explore all this on the radio Thursday evening. And if you;d like to get a link to an archived version of the show, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
culture of protest thurs 4/11/13 6 pm pt kcsb 91.9 fm www.kcsb.org
Tags: Billy Bragg, Margaret Thatcher, Woody Guithrie
The April 4 broadcast of Culture of Protest falls on the 45th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King. It's also 4 days before this year's Yom Hashoah--the designated day of holocaust remembrance. Such remembrance is profoundly important, and songs help us evoke memory and emotion useful for reflection. We'll particularly mark the way songs express and helped advance Jewish resistance in the ghettoes and the camps. And try to tie threads of resistance from the past to the present.
culture of protest thurs 4/4/13 6pm pt kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
Tags: yom hashoah, King assassination, Jewish resistance
Tonight--our annual Pesach Seder on t he air. in the spirit of the Freedom Seder, we feature material--songs and narrative--that links the biblical escape from slavery to African American emancipation struggle in this year of the 150th anniversary of the emancipation Proclamation. And the contemporary struggle for human rights and statehood in Israel/Palestine is part of the observance.
We'll also listen to some pertinent songs by Emma's Revolution. This great duo performs at Trinity Backstage Coffeehouse 1500 State St. Saturday at 8 PM. don;t miss them or the radio show tonight!
Dick Flacks here...sociology professor emeritus at UCSB. Budget cuts mean that I can't continue my annual course on political sociology. Maybe a blog will be a space for me to continue to ruminate and pontificate. And maybe (as a veteran teacher on these matters) I can offer some ways of thinking about what's happening nationally and locally that will be useful, as we struggle to make sense of the tortured complexities of these times.
I've been a leftwing activist for more than 50 years. What we've been struggling for all these years is full democracy--to increase the opportunities for people to have real voice in the decisions that affect them. Step by step over these years we've made some gain...but it is a long march, and one that never ends. The big barrier to democracy in our society is the concentrated power of corporations. At the same time, democracy is undermined by the felt powerlessness of people in their daily lives--the persistent belief that our problems are only our own personal concern. It's a strong cultural theme--such individualism--constantlly reinforced by mass media and everyday circumstance. But the current big crisis of the economy maybe makes it more possible for more people to understand that we've got to have social reform and economic reform. So my writing here is aimed at helping us figure out what to think and act on that so that we can hope for new democratic possibilities. WE'll be talking about the local and the national.
The blog name comes from an old labor union hymn:
Step by step the longest march can be won. Many stones can form an arch...singly none. And by union what we will can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none.
For 27 years I've had a weekly radio show on KCSB (91.9 fm. www.kcsb.org) It's called the Culture of Protest. It's comes from my fascination with music and social movements. I collect 'political' and 'protest' music and that's what we play each week (Thursdays 6-7 pm). So sometimes here we'll share and talk about that.
I'm worried about one thing about the blogosphere. And that's the way that some people use the blog comment space for anonymous nastiness. I'm sick of the kind of political blather that assaults the motives of others, and sees dark conspiracy behind every thing one doesn't like. This kind of stuff is helping to poison the political atmosphere. So I'm going to strive for a civil tone to whatever interaction may happen on this blogsite.