Earl Robinson was one of the leading progressive composers of the depression/ world war II era. His most famous song was "Joe Hill", and he wrote the Three Dog Night hit song "Black & White". Earl lived here in Santa Barbara in the 70s and 80s, and was a guest on Culture of Protest many times. This July 2 marks the centenary of his birth.
On the second installment of the Culture of Protest, Earl and I conversed about his effort to create a body of patriotic song that expressed progressive values. Some of his efforts became standards of patriotic expression, including Frank Sinatra's signature song 'The House I Live In", and the paul Robeson classic, 'Ballad for Americans". This week on the readio we'll re-broadcast that program. Tune in for some surprising insights into the way that much of mainstream 'patriotism is based on cultural materials produced by leftwingers.
Tags: earl robinson, 4th of july, leftwing patriotism
we did our first broadcast in June 1982. We'll celebrate on this week's show with a mix of songs--old and new--that have touched me recently. Songs both musically and politically stirring, that help get me through these times--and maybe you will find this as well. Hope you can tune in.
culture of protest thurs 6/24/10 6-7pm kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
we've got another two hour culture of protest and it will be devoted to an amazing collection of songs inspired by Father's Day--songs that explore from many angles what it means to be a father and to have one.
culture of protest thurs 6/17/10 6-8pm kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
I'm writing this a couple of hours before the Obama Oval Office speech, which is being hyped as a key to the future of his presidency. The progressive blogosphere is hoping that he'll push strongly for energy/climate policy that really pushes toward alternatives. It's a tough act to bring off since he also has to show his leadership in dealing with the Gulf catastrophe as such.
Obama is maybe asserting new leadership on jobs as well. He's called on congress to pass a $50 billion dollar jobs bill that involves support for state and local government and protecting teachers and public safety workers as well as restoring help for the long term unemployed. Media reports congressional leaders reacted coldly, having decided to be scared of the mounting deficit hawker. It's the deficit talk rather than the deficit that is truly scary; as Bob Herbert said today, it's as if you were managing to drive a car up a steep hill with the gas pedal down to the floor and told to take your foot off the pedal just before you get to the top. So its admirable that Obama now is calling for a major jobs bill, but he will have to fight for it . His pedagogical skills with respect to the deficit question need to be displayed as well as his determination to struggle.
I've been hoping to some major grassroots mobilization in this regard. A good sign is the apparent intention of the NAACP and a major SEIU local of a march on Washington for jobs to be called for October 10. The idea however is being resisted by politicos who say that organizing for a march will distract from the need to organize for the congressional election campaign.
The constant warning drumbeats that the Democrats will lose big in those elections have been amplified today by release of an NPR poll, which called likely voters in 60 districts that are regarded as battlegrounds (districts that have been toss-ups between the two parties in recent elections). The poll shows voters in these districts favoring Republicans and disapproving of Pres. Obama. Buried in the reporting oin this poll is that the likely voter sample was heavily weighted toward voters over 60 and greatly under represented young voters. That feature of the poll is the most useful aspect of it for Democrats and progressives: it indicates that the task for the fall is to reach those voters who are most hurt by the recession and at the same time least likely to turn out.
Isn't it possible that organizing by labor and minority rights activists for jobs is a primary way of reaching out to such potential voters? Isn't there a way to frame a march so that it contributes to understanding of what's at stake? Of course, it will be hard to produce that turnout in behalf of blue dog candidates who won't support a jobs program. But it seems evident that the jobs question has to become a real struggle even to change the electoral future. As far as I can tell the so-called 10-10-10 march hasn't yet been made real.
Another potentially positive development in California, as we speak. Assembly speaker John Perez has announced a"California Jobs Budget" challenging the draconian budget disaster Gov Arnold has proposed. Perez' plan is centered on the creation of an oil severance tax and postpones a variety of fairly outrageous corporate tax cuts. He proposes to save thousands of jobs in education, and stop Arnold's proposals to shred the social safety net. As far as I can tell, it's the most progressive initiative that a legislative leader has taken recently in this state.
I'll stop here with this: the news is bad, the times are tough, the poisoning of democracy is astonishing. But I submit that we not buy the media story that the ‘public' is hostile to progressive change. We've just finished a primary election in our county that resulted in progressive victories despite the fact that the electorate was weighted toward the GOP. Organizing pays off, it appears.
every year at this time on the culture of protest we present a graduation speech voiced by a wide range of contemporary troubadours whose songs provide food for thought especially pertinent to young people embarking on their journey.
This week's will be a two hour special (we are subbing for Latin American Journal this week), so there'll be a lot of richness both musical and intellectual, philosophical and political. Special attention of course to the particular destiny of this generation--I.e. saving the earth. And some of the voices will be of songsters about to graduate at UCSB and some who are alumni.
See the next several postings for a whole lot of ideas about what you can do to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the midst of multiple crises. But in cAlifornia--be sure to vote this week. I've a few voting ideas to suggest:
I am voting for Das Williams in our local Assembly primary, who, contrary to campaign propoganda, is a staunch opponent of oil drilling in the channel as well as an outstanding progressive voice.
I am voting against prop 14, which, the more I've pondered it, the more it seems to me to undermine the right of political parties and their supporters to choose their candidates.
And I'm lending my support to Marcie Winograd, the staunch peace activist opposing Jane Harman for congress--Harman being one of the foremost Democratic hawks. A good vote for Winograd would send a good message.
And in the local 2nd district supervisorial race: Janet Wolf to be re-elected. Dan Secord, her opponent, has covered up his backers' intention to redistrict the board in favor of the most backward land interests in north county.
The Keep Our Educators Working Act (S. 3206) provides $23 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This program has helped mitigate some of the recession's most harmful effects on our nation's public education system. The Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812) represents a broader approach to helping localities in distress by providing additional funding for local jobs, but it also includes $23 billion for the SFSF program. There's an attempt to tie this to the wr appropriations measure: ask your congressperson to demand a separate vote.
Regrettably, at the moment both pieces of legislation have stalled and the best chance to attain the funds needed to save jobs this fall is through attaching this spending to an emergency spending bill. There is growing opposition to providing money for educators, so congressional leaders need to hear that members of Congress support the inclusion of funding for this purpose in the emergency spending bill being developed. A simple and public way for members of Congress to demonstrate their support publicly is by signing onto a letter being circulated by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, which calls for the $23 billion to be included in the emergency spending bill being developed.
And here's an idea that came to me after watching a PBS documentary on the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC employed millions of young men to save the land and the forests. Why not a similar sort of program to save the Gulf Coast? A way to create jobs, help restore the devastated region, and engage the people.
Finally-the best online source for understanding the jobs crisis is the website of the Economic Policy Institute. Once you go there you will see how most of what you read in the mainstream press on economic policy is pernicious nonsense. And you will get some very practical understanding of alternative policy proposals that help working people.
Finally, let me repeat my recommendation made in an earlier blog post. Go study this website: Community Wealth. How can communities build wealth without depending on corporate domination?
Thanks to YES! Magazine here are six political demands that we can support:
1. The federal government needs to take charge and put BP under temporary receivership as recommended by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. BP was dishonest about the quantities of oil flowing into the Gulf, and their initial repair efforts have failed. The federal government is accountable to the American people, and it needs to decide what to do to protect our nation's water, wildlife, and shorelines of the Gulf (and wherever else the oil travels). As Reich argues, receivership would allow the government to act with full authority and accountability, and to call on all the expertise available (not just BP's) to help make the difficult calls.
2. The cleaning and protection of coastlines needs to be ramped up. Whether that means hiring more local fishers, bringing in National Guard troops, or deploying citizen brigades on the beaches, the response needs to be aggressive and sustained. Even if the oil stopped flowing today, the contamination would continue washing up in sensitive coastal regions for months or longer. All workers should have training, equipment, and protective gear to keep them from being sickened by the oil and the toxic dispersants.
3. There should be generous pay for the armies of bird-rescuers and beach cleaners, and those out protecting shorelines with boats and booms. Families who are the immediate victims of the disaster should get first crack at the jobs, and their wages will help sustain the region through this economic storm. Charge BP (and any other companies responsible for the disaster) the full costs for as long as it takes to get this region clean, whether it's months or years.
4. Use the least toxic chemical dispersants and insist on full disclosure of the makeup of all the dispersants being dumped into the Gulf. The U.S. EPA should determine which dispersants, if any, are used based on the long-term health of the Gulf and its shorelines and estuaries, not based on which companies have ties with BP or which chemicals will be most likely to hide the effects and protect BP from embarrassing images of oil slicks. Use emergency powers, if necessary, to get a full disclosure of the makeup of the dispersants from BP or whoever is refusing to release it. Without this information, there's no way to keep the emergency responders safe, to properly treat stricken birds and sea life, and to assess the long-term damage.
5. Boycott BP, but also other oil companies. They are all spilling oil (see what Shell is doing in Nigeria, for example), and causing direct environmental damage. But using oil, no matter what company pumps it, is putting our entire planet at risk through disruption of the climate. Melting ice caps, changing rainfall patterns, mega-storms and failing crops are already happening, but that is only the beginning if we start hitting climate tipping points. We must kick our fossil fuel addiction. This is our part of the solution.
6. Begin a massive conversion to energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is a lot of blame to go around for this disaster, from the practice of putting cronies in charge of regulation to the corporate culture of putting profits above all else. But this disaster is above all happening because the oil that is easy to get to is already taken. Now oil companies are trying to get the oil that's hard to reach, from deep under the oceans, from hostile regions of the world, and from dirty and destructive sources like tar sands. We've entered a time that analyst and author Michael Klare calls "The Age of Tough Oil," and the costs-human, environmental, economic, and strategic-are rising with each new barrel. Making our economy more energy efficient and building a renewable energy infrastructure offer immediate benefits in terms of jobs and economic stimulus and will sustain generations to come.
You probably share my feelings of political impotence at this moment of daily emergency, disaster and the multiple follies of leaders. It might be helpful to be aware of a variety of readily available opportunities to merge your voice with others in ways that might make some difference.
Responding to the attack on the freedom flotilla and the siege of Gaza:
o Go to J Street for a ‘pro-Israel' channel supporting a just 2 state solution, and sign their letter to Pres. Obama asking that he use his power to end the blockade and promote peace.
o Go to Jewish voice for Peace if you want to tell the president and congress tocondemn the immoral and illegal May 31 attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, demand a full and independent international investigation and the release of all detainees immediately, and withhold military aid to Israel until it abides by international law.
o Go to the Institute for Middle East Understanding for a pro-Palestinian perspective, including detailed eyewitness accounts of what happened during the Israeli aid. IMEU offers the following information on the consequences of the Gaza blockade-information quite opposite to Israeli claims:
The amount of goods allowed into Gaza by Israel falls far short of the minimum required to avoid malnutrition, poverty, and prevent or treat a variety of illnesses. According to Amnesty International's recently-released annual report, the siege has resulted in "mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages." Consider the following statistics:
61 percent of households face food insecurity, defined as inadequate physical, social or economic access to food, and rely on assistance from aid agencies. An additional 16.2 percent are considered vulnerable to food insecurity. 
65 percent of the food insecure are children under the age of 18. 
10 percent of children under five are stunted (low height for age, usually attributed to a chronic lack of protein and micronutrients, including iron and essential vitamins), a steadily increasing trend over recent years, according to UNICEF. 
More than 10 percent of children are chronically malnourished, according to the World Health Organization, a significant increase since siege began.
The number of children under five suffering from acute malnutrition nearly doubled between 2006 and 2008 from 1.4 to 2.4 percent, according to UNICEF.
65 percent of children aged 9-12 months, and 35 percent of pregnant women are anemic. 
According to a recent poverty survey conducted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the number of Palestinian refugees completely unable to secure access to food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water ('abject poverty') has tripled since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007
A majority of Gazans experience rolling blackouts of up to 12 hours a day, every day as a result of a chronic shortfall in electricity production resulting from the blockade 
Due to insufficient wastewater treatment capacity, Gaza's water authorities release 60-80 million liters a day of raw and partially treated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid sewage flooding residential areas.
Water supply for domestic use is insufficient, raising hygiene and health concerns. In order to pump water to households, the water wells must receive electricity in synchronization with electricity supply to the same households. Almost all the households receive water for only 5-7 hours a day.
If you want to comment here, remember that 'State St. is the right answer!
Tags: gaza, gulf oil crisis, jobs crisis, thigns to do politically right now
there's a body of song dealing with the Israeli-Palestine struggle, songs demanding end to the occupation, calling for peace. In response to the flotilla massacre, we feature a sampling of these expressions on tonight's program. You may be surprised to learn how many Jewishly identified artists have created songs of protest regarding Israel's policies regarding the Palistinians.
culture of protest thurs 6/3/10 6-7pm kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
I'dd like to share the following informtion about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Information starkly contrasting with Israel's official claims that there is no humanitarian crisis.
These data come from the American Near East Relief Association (ANERA), which provides relief to Gazans to the extent permitted by the Israeli (and American) authorities. ANERA is neither "pro-Israel" nor "pro-Palestinian." It has no political agenda at all. It merely determines what human needs are and tries to respond to them.
8 out of 10 Gazans depend on foreign aid to survive.
The World Food Program says Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to meet basic nutritional needs - yet an average of just 171 trucks worth of supplies enters Gaza every week,
Clothes that were held in the port of Ashdod for over a year were released into Gaza but arrived covered with mold and mildew, unusable.
95% of Gaza's water fails World Health Organization standards leaving thousands of newborns at risk of poisoning.
Anemia for children under the age of 5 is estimated at 48%.
75 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the Mediterranean Sea every day - because piping and spare parts are not permitted.
During the 2009 bombing:
More than 120,000 jobs were lost as Gaza's industrial zone was destroyed... 15,000 homes and apartments were damaged or destroyed... 1/3 of all schools were destroyed.
None of these can be rebuilt, because construction supplies are kept out by the Israeli authorities
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.