Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hollywood's CIA Connection

The ultra-rich Hollywood movie and tv studio executives of Wall Street's U.S. media conglomerates have apparently been collaborating with the U.S. government's Central Intelligence Agency [C.I.A.] in recent years. As Texas Christian University Professor Tricia Jenkins recently observed in The CIA in Hollywood: How The Agency Shapes Films and Television:

"...The Central Intelligence Agency...did not hire Chase Brandon as its first entertainment industry liaison officer until 1996...The Agency has...sharped the content of numerous film and television works, including JAG (1995-2005), Enemy of the State (1998), In The Company of Spies (1999), The Agency (2001-2003), Alias (2001-2006), 24 (2001-2010), Bad Company (2002), The Sum of All Fears (2002), The Recruit (2003), Covert Affairs (2010- ), and Argo (in production). CIA administrators have also met with studio heads and theatrical agents in order to influence their ideas about the Agency more broadly, and its retired officers have likewise contributed to numerous films, including Sneakers (1992), Meet the Parents (2000), Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), Rendition (2007), Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Salt (2010), and Red (2010)...

"...Few people know that the CIA has been actively engaged in shaping the content of film and television...Much of what we know about Langley has been deliberately placed in the public domain by the Agency itself, since it realizes the importance of controlling its public image..." 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gordon Friesen's `The Strange Death of Phil Ochs' Broadside Magazine Article of 1976 Revisited

(In the October-December 1976 issue of the now-defunct Broadside: the topical song magazine,” a founder and longtime editor of that non-profit folk music publication who died in 1996, Gordon Friesen, provided U.S. music fans with the following interesting alternative take on the 1960s topical and anti-war protest folk singer-songwriter Phil Ochs’s strange death to that presented in the 2011 documentary film about Phil Ochs, There But For Fortune, which was later broadcast in January 2012 on the PBS series, American Masters)

It is indicative of the depth of the brainwashing to which the American people have been systematically subjected that too many of them accept Phil Ochs’ death as a not too uncommon breakdown of a personality. But the accumulated facts raise more than a suspicion that a plot existed leading to his deliberate destruction. Let us look at some of these facts which would impel the reactionary, fascist-type U.S. imperialists to reach the decision that Phil Ochs must die.

The brainwashing of the people by the U.S. ruling class has created a tendency by artists, especially dissident songwriters, to underestimate the ferocious measures the ruling class will employ to destroy them. We know that the Wobbly balladeer Joe Hill was framed and executed by a firing squad (Phil knew this and even wrote a song expressing his admiration of Joe Hill). The woman radical songwriters, Fannie Sellins and Ella May Wiggins, were shot to death by police. Aunt Molly Jackson and her fellow songwriting relatives, Jim Garland and Sara Ogden, were forced to flee for their lives from the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal fields.

A fascist vigilante mob, aided by N.Y. State and local police, tried to murder Paul Robeson at Peekskill. He was finally silenced and driven into exile by the U.S. government. Even Woody Guthrie stated in print he was under surveillance by what he called the F-B-Eyes. Many Pete Seeger concerts were picketed by John Birchers handing out inflammatory leaflets urging at least by implication, violence against him. In 1940 the Oklahoma Red Dust Players were raided and scattered to the winds.

One can conclude that Phil Ochs was an even greater threat than these to the U.S. imperialists. In his early songs he defended Castro Cuba and the Vietnamese liberation fighters against the imperialistic designs of Washington. His songs became more and more pointed. “White Boots Marching In A Yellow Land”, “Santo Domingo”, “United Fruit” (where he approves of “young men going to the mountains to learn the way of the rifle” instead of slaving at pitiful wages for the American exploiters). But it was “Cops Of The World” with such lines as “here’s a kick in the ass, boys”, and “clean your johns with your flag” because “we’re the cops of the world”, and “Ringing Of Revolution” where he looks forward to the destruction of the last vestiges of the desperate decaying ruling class by the exploited masses, which really stuck like a bone in the throat of the U.S. imperialists.

A special threat was the wide circulation of Phil’s songs abroad. Books containing materials about him and his work were published in Spain, France, and other countries. The Spanish book reprinted “Cops Of The World” for its example of an Ochs song and the author likened Phil’s guitar to a machine gun. The first edition sold out so quickly, mainly to students, that the Franco regime did not have time to suppress it, as it did any further reprintings. Individuals and groups sang his songs in Japan, Scandinavia, Holland, W. Germany and many other countries.

It was naïve on Phil’s part to think when he undertook several jaunts in the early seventies to foreign nations that he would be treated like an ordinary tourist. He was met at two South American airports by police who arrested him, jailed him overnight and deported him the next day. From recent revelations it becomes obvious that the local authorities were acting under orders from the C.I.A. He was welcomed only in Chile where he sang together with Victor Jara, the popular Chilean peoples’ singer (Jara was destroyed in a bestial fashion when the C.I.A.-Ford-Kissinger sponsored Chilean fascists overthrew Allende in 1973. The police smashed Victor’s hands with their rifle butts, gave him his guitar and taunted “Now play and sing.” Then they murdered him).

When Phil tried to visit his ancestral Scotland the London police intercepted him and put him on a plane back to the United States. He got off at Dublin. Here communications between the C.I.A. and the Irish authorities seemed to have lagged, for Phil was allowed to stay all of two days in Dublin before being deported to New York.

On an African trip he was set upon by three thugs who paid special attention to crushing his voice box. Again the participation of the C.I.A. seemed unmistakably obvious. He came home barely able to croak and could never again sing like in the old days.

Meantime the activities and programs of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. were slowly coming to light through hearings in Washington and books by former agents who could no longer endure the inhumanity of these secret organizations—their assassination plots, poison dart-guns, drugs to induce incoherency, burglaries, arming foreign fascists to overthrow their democratic governments, the use of informants and disrupters, spreading of lies, clawing through personal mail, bugging telephones, planting listening devices in citizens’ cars. And so far this seems only the tip of the iceberg.

The F.B.I. even had an elaborate program designed to induce dissidents to commit suicide. They confessed they had tried it on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this instance they failed. But who knows in which cases they have succeeded. In 1965 another Broadside songwriter “committed suicide.” He was Peter La Farge, adopted son of Oliver La Farge, first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—the book was “Laughing Boy,” a sympathetic treatment of the Navajo Indians. The F.B.I. took an interest in Peter and began hounding him when he organized FAIR (Federation for American Indian Rights). Several months before he died, the F.B.I. raided his New York apartment at midnight. They scattered and tore up his papers; they put handcuffs on him and dragged him to Bellevue in his pajamas. They put pressure on Bellevue to declare him insane, but Bellevue could find nothing wrong and turned him loose.

When Phil came back to New York last summer [in 1975] he was still full of plans. He was arranging to go to a place in New Jersey for a six-weeks “drying out” period under supervision by medical experts. Then he planned to set up what he called Barricade House, where he would issue a newspaper, record protest singers and make films. He already had the building picked out in SoHo.

People ask us what motivation would the F.B.I.-C.I.A. have in wanting to see Phil dead when he could no longer sing or write. We answer that this was their motivation: Phil still had tremendous organizing ability, as witness his organizing the Chilean benefit. Barricade House would have been a great threat to the ruling class. We can visualize the F.B.I. doing one of their infamous psychological profiles on Phil Ochs. They asked the computer, what is his greatest weakness? The computer spat back: ALCOHOL! The next step of the F.B.I. is to assign agents to exploit this weakness in their intended victim; I would be very suspicious of the “friends” who attached themselves to Phil and kept plying him with alcoholic drinks.

I am afraid we didn’t take to seriously Phil’s daily insistence that the C.I.A. and F.B.I., and later with the collaboration of Mafia hit men, were out to murder him. He sought a place to hide and tried to hire a bodyguard; he carried an iron bar, a big scissors and other means with which to defend his life.

Where did these threats come from? What really happened? Perhaps some commission five or ten years from now will bring out the true details of how Phil Ochs met his strange death. We should finally learn how the great song-poem “Crucifixion” became a personal prophesy of the fate of its author.

--Gordon Friesen (Broadside, 10-12/76/issue 133)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Columbia University Restricts Campus Access For Obama's Barnard College Campaign Speech

If you’re a neighborhood resident who wishes to protest against Columbia University’s West Harlem/Manhattanville business school construction project, an anti-war student who wishes to protest against the endless U.S. war in Afghanistan or an Occupy Wall Street supporter who wishes to protest against Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs, you apparently won’t be allowed by the Columbia Administration to protest on Columbia’s campus on May 14, 2012 during 2012 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign speech at Barnard College’s 2012 graduation ceremony. As a May 10, 2012 memorandum from Columbia University Vice- President James McShane to “Members of the Columbia Community,” for example, stated:

“On Monday, May 14,…Barack Obama will be on the Morningside Campus to deliver the…address at the Barnard College ceremony, held on the South Field Lawns at 12:30 p.m. This message provides important information regarding the extensive security measures that will impact lower campus operations and access.

“Please know the logistics outlined here may change at any point, subject to White House and Secret Service discretion. Updates will be posted to the Columbia homepage. We ask for your cooperation and flexibility given these extraordinary circumstances. As a precaution, please carry your University ID card with you at all times on Monday.


All gates south of 117th Street, Low Plaza, College Walk, South Field and the following buildings must be vacated and locked down. There will be no entry or activity permitted.

“Lower Campus

“Journalism, Furnald, Lerner Hall, Carman, Butler Library, John Jay, Wallach, Hartley “and Hamilton

“Upper Campus

“Low Library, Kent, Dodge Hall and Miller Theatre


“Entry to lower campus and its buildings will be limited on Monday. Those permitted to enter lower campus will be required to pass through magnetometer screening. Large bags and liquids will not be allowed. Access will be granted to the below groups at the locations specified.

“Columbia University Faculty or Staff Reporting to Work on Lower Campus

“Faculty or staff must have a University ID card and University-issued letter to verify they work in a lower campus building. If you have been instructed to report to work, but have not yet received this documentation, please see your immediate supervisor.

"Lerner Hall and Print Services staff: 115th Street and Broadway, Lerner Hall gate

"Hamilton staff: 115th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Taint gate

“Upon entry to these buildings, staff will not be permitted to exit onto campus.

“Barnard College Ceremony Participants

“Degree candidates and members of the academic procession: Lerner Hall, Broadway lobby entrance

“General Admission ticket holders: 114th Street: Carman and John Jay gates

“Guests with Disabilities, Press and VIPs: 115th Street and Broadway, Lerner Hall gate


"In addition to areas specified here, there may be intermittent street and walkway closures during the President’s arrival and exit.

"Street Closures

"No parking will be permitted on 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. "Additionally, there will be no parking on Amsterdam Avenue from 114th to 125th Street.

"No parking will be permitted on the east side of Broadway from 114th to 120th Street.

"There will be no parking on West 114th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Additionally, this street will be closed to vehicular traffic.

"Pedestrian traffic on 114th Street will be restricted to the south side of the street.

"Sidewalk traffic along campus on both Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue will be restricted, from 114th to 117th Street.

"Campus Closures

"The 116th Street gates, College Walk and Low Plaza will be closed.

"The Amsterdam Avenue overpass will be closed.

The Bookstore, Butler Library, Dodge Hall, Furnald, Carman, John Jay, Hartley and Wallach will all be closed.

"Hamilton, Journalism and Kent will be closed, except for personnel already identified.

"The Intercampus Shuttle 116th Street, Northbound stop will be moved to 117th Street.

"Administrative and Student Mail delivery, as well as external couriers to lower campus will be suspended and the Lerner Hall Student Package Center will be closed Monday.


"Access to Dodge and Kent Halls will be restricted as described above. All other buildings on upper campus will follow normal University operations on Monday….”

Coincidentally, the Barnard College president who invited the 2012 Democratic presidential candidate to give a campaign speech at the 2012 Barnard College graduation ceremony, Debora Spar, also sits on the board of directors of Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs investment banking firm; and a vice-chair of Columbia University’s board of trustees, Esta Stecher, is also the CEO of Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs Bank USA.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

White House Medal of Freedom Winner Bob Dylan's Post-1964 Artistic Direction: Broadside Magazine's 1964 Critique Revisited

(In a 1964 issue of the now-defunct Broadside magazine, U.S. folk music critic Paul Wolfe provided U.S. topical and protest folk music fans with the following interesting historical take on recent White House Medal of Freedom Winner Bob Dylan’s post-1964 artistic direction):

The Newport Folk Festival of 1964 formed an important milestone in the resurgence of topical music. It brought many of the younger performers into first contact with large segments of the folk music world; it proved that topical music, when delivered with artistry and sincerity, can be heartily appreciated by a wide and diverse audience; it outlined many of the goals toward which the various writers must strive.

But the Festival’s most significant achievement was specific and twofold: it marked the emergence of Phil Ochs as the most important voice in the movement, simultaneous with the renunciation of topical music by its major prophet, Bob Dylan. It was the latter event that proved most surprising.

Dylan’s “defection” into higher forms of art was predicted. His preference for free-verse, uninhibited poetry over topical songs has been apparent for quite a while; his dissatisfaction with concert tours and adulating fans is also no secret. But his new songs, as performed at Newport, surprised everyone, leaving the majority of the audience annoyed, some even disgusted, and, in general, scratching its collective head in disbelief. The art that had, in the past, produced towering works of power and importance, had, seemingly, degenerated into confusion and innocuousness. “Your new songs seem to be all inner-directed, inner-probing, and self-conscious,” wrote Irwin Silber, editor of SING OUT!, in an open letter to Dylan. “You seem to be relating to a handful of cronies behind the scenes rather than to the rest of us out front.”

And this disappointment in his new songs was heightened by their juxtaposition, on the stage of Newport, with the eloquent musical force of Phil Ochs. While Dylan was telling his perennial, anonymous girl friend, “All I really wanna do is, baby, be friends with you,” Ochs was informing the leaders of the government, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore!” While Dylan sang "It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and, in the guise of rejecting a persistent female, told his thousands of worshippers to look elsewhere for someone to walk on water, Ochs took the time to denounce the labor unions for their betrayal of the civil rights movement; in “Links On The Chain"—Ochs’ supreme artistic achievement—and perhaps the most important topical song of the year—he calls upon the “ranks of labor” to ponder their own “struggles of before” and tell, ironically, which side they now are on in the Negro struggle for equality.

There, the difference between the two performers became manifest; meaning vs. innocuousness, sincerity vs. utter disregard for the tastes of the audience, idealistic principle vs. self-conscious egotism. And even in his attempts at seriousness Dylan was bewildering. “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man,” while underlain by a beautiful poetic idea, must be termed a failure; somehow, a forced monotony of rhymes seemed much more effective in “Only A Pawn In Their Game.” And in his other song, “Chimes of Freedom,” the bewilderment is raised to the highest degree. In this incredible jumble of confused, obscure images piled atop one another, Dylan traces the pursuit for higher forms of freedom, spanning a human lifetime, encompassing all of human life. This probing journey through anguish begins “far between sundown’s finish and midnight’s broken toe” and ends, some eight grueling minutes later, with the chimes of freedom flashing “for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe.” The fallacy inherent in the concept of chimes flashing is annoyingly obvious. It is also obvious that Dylan was too enmeshed in his own ego and seeming adoration of words (no matter how meaningless his combinations of these words renders them) to consider the absurdity of treating a subject of such scope in a song. As Irwin Silber said, the Dylan we once knew, the author of “With God On Our Side” and “Hattie Carroll,” “never wasted our precious time.” “Chimes of Freedom” brings to mind once again the fable of the Emperor’s new clothes; and a short story entitled “Face In The Crowd” by Budd Schulberg (it was made into a noted movie). The protagonist of that story is a hillbilly singer who, through publicity, slick management and an overpowering ego, rises to such heights of stardom and popularity he thinks he can get away with anything on the public. The tragedy is that he cannot, and, in the end, is ruined.

Does Bob himself give a concrete reason for the emergence of the “new” Dylan? One might be found in the song “My Back Pages” in his latest album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It is an intensely honest, revealing self-portrait, indeed a brutal denunciation of the “old” Dylan. It characterizes the latter as a deceived, impotent “musketeer” whose main stimuli to action were confusion and immaturity, rather than a fiery poetic spirit reacting to the injustice he saw all around him. Thus a seeming disillusionment with both himself and the ideals he fought for looms as a factor.

Other forces shaping his new posture include his own artistic drives and capabilities (which are indeed considerable) running headlong into the limitations of the musical form. As Phil Ochs said in the 1964 Newport brochure: “I think he’s slowly drifting away from song-writing because he feels limited by the form. More and more of his work will probably come out in poetry and free verse, and I would not be surprised if he stopped singing altogether, considering the over-adulation of his fans and the lack of understanding of audiences that identify with him.” Indeed there are reports not only that he is working on a book of his own poetry but that he plans to start up a poetry magazine (further Dylan artistic endeavors include a motion picture, which Dylan has written, is directing, and stars in himself). These varied artistic projects imply his abandonment of topical song writing; an artist must express himself through the most effective mediums at his command. But they do not explain his new songs; nor, if he is discontented with singing, why he continues to give concerts; or why he is still cutting records. Contradictions have followed Bob Dylan from the time his folk-singing career began. Now, seemingly at the end of it, they have yet to be dissipated.

The paths of Bob Dylan bear extreme relevance to the course of today’s topical songwriting. For instance, take Phil Ochs. His career is still evolving and expanding, but considering what has happened to Bob, an inevitable question arises concerning Phil: will he follow in the footsteps of his predecessor? Will Phil too eventually be disillusioned, or in some way become discontented, with his personal messages of protest, and abandon them? Only time—of course—can tell. But an analysis of the facts renders this unlikely. The difference between Ochs and Dylan, both as artists and personalities, are striking. Ochs is much more deeply committed to the broadside tradition. To news and politically-oriented songs, most of which are focused on specific events and do not range into the wide scope of human events and variegated problems that characterize so many of Dylan’s most famous works. In addition, Dylan has undergone repeated metamorphis as a performer; each of his four albums differs radically from the others. This has not been so with Ochs, whose second L-P (by Elektra) plainly will be a continuation of the work foundationed by his first (Ochs’ 2nd L-P is scheduled for release in January 1965). Quite to the contrary, Phil’s basic melody and lyric patterns have remained constant from the very beginning; indeed many of his first songs, notably “William Worthy” and his talking analysis of Cuba and Viet Nam, occupy important positions in his current repertoire. Thus, the constant change of character and outlook, the reluctance to stay in one “bag” of song-writing for an extended period of time, that have engendered Dylan’s renunciation of topical music, are not evidenced in Ochs. Nevertheless, the influences of Dylan have found their way into several of Ochs’ new songs. In “In The Heat Of The Summer” and “The Hills of West Virginia,” Ochs has attempted to subtlety and poetry where before he used power and irony. Thus, those two songs differ artistically from all his previous ones; indeed in the first song, dealing with the recent riots in various Negro ghettos, he goes so far as to abandon rhyme scheme altogether. It is a novel artistic experiment; but, unfortunately, this first attempt at poetry-in-song is unsuccessful. “In The Heat Of The Summer” emerges as little more than an exercise. But in “The Hills Of West Virginia,” some reflections during an automobile trip, Phil’s simple, unpretentious, easy-flowing imagery, encased in what could be his most beautiful melody, weave a sharp and colorful tapestry of observation. It is certainly one of his best songs and proves Ochs doesn’t have to protest to be good. It also proves that one can absorb the good influences of Dylan without being affected by the non-artistic sides of the latter’s enigmatic career.

Many talented people today are writing topical songs. But, to me, Phil Ochs stands virtually alone in his field; very few writers are very close to him in quality and productivity. This is a happy fact for topical music. However, the cash registers are ringing in his ears more and more; legions of adulating fans and his identity as a “celebrity” grow larger as time goes by. Thus, one final question must be posed in connection with the path of Phil Ochs, hence the path of topical music. Can he overcome the pressures, the lures, the rewards and the egotism attached to being a celebrity? Can he maintain a sincerity of principle despite material prosperity? It is evident that he will continue writing protest songs; the question now is whether he will continue meaning them. For Phil Ochs, on whom the future of topical music rides, “these are the days of decision.” 
--Paul Wolfe
(Broadside magazine--issue 53/1964)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Michael Gold's ` Life of John Brown': An Excerpt

U.S. proletarian writer and proletarian critic Mike Gold’s Life of John Brown book of 1960 contained the following interesting passages:

“John Brown’s life is a grand, simple epic that should inspire one to heroism…There are men who have proved their superiority to the pettiness of life, and who seem almost divine. John Brown is one of them. I think he was almost our greatest American. I know that he was the greatest man the common people of America have yet produced.

“He did not become a President, a financier, a great scientist, or artist; he was a plain and rather obscure farmer until his death. That is his greatness. He had no great offices, no recognition or applause of multitudes to spur him on, to feed his vanity and self-righteousness. He did his duty in silence; he was an outlaw. Only after he had been hung like a common murderer, and only after the Civil War had come to fulfill his prophecies, was he recognized as a great figure.

“But in his life he was a common man to the end, a hard-working, honest, Puritan farmer with a large family, a man worried with the details of poverty and obscure as ourselves. Now we are taught as school-children that only those who become Presidents and captains of finance are the successful ones in our democracy. John Brown proved that there is another form of success, within the reach of everyone, and that is to devote one’s life to a great and pure cause.

“John Brown was hung as an outlaw…Some day schoolchildren will be taught that his had been the only sort of success worth striving for in his time. The rest was dross—the personal success of the beetle that rolls itself a huger ball of dung than its fellow-beetles, and exults over it…

“…Working-class Americans, and they are the majority of the nation, did not go to the high schools and universities. Neither did John Brown. But they can read history, as he did at ten years, and they can study and makes themselves proficient in some field, as he made a surveyor of himself by home study. He also read passionately…John Brown never went to school after his childhood; but…he knew how to stir men to great deeds, and lead them in the battle.

“Great men do not need to own a college diploma; they teach themselves, they are taught by Life.

“How meaningless college degrees would sound if attached after the names of…Socrates,…Buddha, Jesus.., Danton, William Lloyd Garrison!

“As for instance: Jesus Christ, D.D.; Robert Burns, M.A.; Victor Hugo, B.S.; John Brown, Ph.D! How superfluous the titles of man’s universities, when Life has crowned the student with real and greener laurels! Yes, there are many things not taught in the colleges!...

“…John Brown saw much farther than his own times. He knew that there were many other things wrong with the social system in America besides slavery….John Brown was one of those early American radicals…who felt that the abolition of slavery was only the first step toward a free America…

“…At first there was a rush of Northern politicians to disavow and condemn John Brown’s deed. Later, there was approval; still later understanding; still later, worship.

“Yes, the old man seemed mad, as all pioneers are mad. Gorky has called it the madness of the brave. But such madness seems necessary to the world; the world would sink into a bog of respectable tyranny and stagnation were there not these fresh, strong, ruthless tempest to keep the waters of life in motion.

“Who knows but that some time in America the John Browns of today will be worshipped in like manner? The outlaws of today, the unknown soldiers of freedom…”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Upton Sinclair's `No Pasaran!'': An Excerpt

U.S. writer Upton Sinclair’s 1937 book, No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass): A Story of the Battle of Madrid, includes the following passages:

(“This book is a cry for freedom, and for decency in human affairs. It deals with one of the great heroic episodes of history, now going on.

“The story of a group of American boys who join the International Brigade and stop the Fascists at the gates of Madrid.”)

“This speaker had not merely watched the outbreak of the rebellion, but he had studied its causes, and undertook to explain them. To understand such a struggle, you had to know the economic forces underlying it. Nearly half the land of Spain belonged to the Catholic Church, and the income from it went to keep a horde of parasites, who taught the women and children superstition, and had kept Spain a backward land ever since the days of the Inquisition. Most of the remaining land belonged to landlords, many of whom lived abroad upon the sweated labor of the peasants. Landless workers earned as low as nine cents a day; and the workers of the city were nearly as badly off—the speaker had seen three married couples living in one room not more than ten feet square.

“Against such conditions the people had been fighting for centuries. Of late years they had done what American conservatives all advised; they had trusted to evolution, not revolution, to ballots, not bullets; their political parties had united and elected a majority of the parliament. It was false to say, as most accounts in newspapers did, that the government of Spain was a `Red’ government; there had not been a single Communist nor Socialist in that government; it had been about what the `New Deal’ government of the United States was, and had tried to pass much the same sort of measures.

“But the landlords and aristocrats of Spain, and the higher prelates of the Church, could not endure to see the power pass from their hands; they were no more willing to surrender their privileges to legislative action than they would have been to physical force. The revolt had been an attempt at counter-revolution, backed by all the reactionary elements in the country, and now by those of the whole world. The people of Spain were with the government, and no one knew it better than the Fascist leaders…

“The second speaker was a woman official of a garment-workers’ union. The task assigned her by the chairman was to explain the world meaning of this war—no small task for a small woman…She talked in a matter-of-fact way, without any flights of oratory…

“The process of competition was one in which the big fellows ate up the little ones; it was obvious, said the woman, that this process must break down when the last little one had been eaten. The rich now got so much, and the poor so little, that the latter could no longer purchase the products of industry, and that was a `depression.’ Big business was driven out to seek foreign markets, and that made war in the modern world.

“It also made Fascism, asserted the speaker; the last stage of capitalism before it collapsed from its internal contradictions. When the capitalists could no longer provide jobs for their workers, and saw them on the point of revolting and seizing the industries, they abolished democracy and set up a dictatorship, to suppress the workers at home, and seize colonies and trade advantages abroad. Fascism had been defined as `capitalism plus murder.’

“The Fascist dictatorships had developed a technique, now plainly visible in action. They started propaganda in other countries, and supplied money and ideas to Fascist groups; a revolt was started, and arms and `volunteers’ were sent to set up another Fascist state. Such was the meaning of Spain; and as soon as that job was finished, the technique would be applied to Czechoslovakia. Next it would be the turn of Belgium, France, Holland…One by one the democratic nations would be undermined…

“…In Germany, Italy, and Japan the whole surplus revenue was going into war preparations; they had solved their unemployment problem that way, and if they stopped arming, there would be starvation and chaos. The very process of arming made war inevitable…

“…In the evening Rudy came home and carried out his promise…to read the pamphlet…Rudy had been putting it off night after night, because of a general prejudice against pamphlets. If a writer had anything of important to say, he would put it into a book, and it would carry the imprint of some established publishing house, and would become required reading in Economics 17a. But a cheap pamphlet, written by a nobody, and circulated by amiable dreamers…In either case, the prospect was boredom.

“Rudy had a good mind, but had seldom applied it, except immediately before exams, and then just enough to get a `gentleman’s C.’ Now he buckled down to the pamphlet, and was surprised to find a clear explanation of depressions and what caused them. It seemed too good to be true—that the vast and universal distress of the world could be analyzed so simply, and made so plain, even to a dub like him. The greatest statesmen and editors were baffled by this problem—and here was a solution offered by an obscure Socialist, no doubt some workingman like that marine engineer whom Rudy had heard, or that woman labor leader. It seemed extremely unlikely that they could be right, and he wished his professor of economics were in town, so that he could ask about it. To think for himself was something that appalled him…

“Try as he would, Rudy could not help being impressed by the clearness of this argument, and also of the remedies suggested. He tried to recall all the things his professors had told him about the fallacies of Socialism…He wished he had paid more attention to their lectures, so that he would not feel so helpless now…”

Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 Democratic Presidential Candidate Obama's Wall Street Connections

In his 2010 book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, a Newsweek columnist named Jonathan Alter wrote the following about 2012 Democratic presidential candidate Obama’s record as U.S. president during his first year in the White House:

“…Obama’s debut was rocky by any standard…The official unemployment rate stood at 10 percent, but that didn’t include discouraged workers no longer in the job market or those seeking longer hours…The stimulus, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was…too slow in creating jobs…He failed…to convince the middle class that he was focused enough on their number one concern: jobs…He failed to attach more conditions to the bank bailout…Obama…refused the pleas of liberals to nationalize the banks…”

One reason that the Wall Street-oriented economic policies of 2012 Democratic presidential candidate Obama’s administration haven’t been very successful in creating enough jobs in the United States to reduce the U.S. unemployment rate to below 3 percent by November 2012 might be because some of the same Wall Street executives and former Treasury Department officials apparently responsible for helping to create the endless Great Recession of 2008 were among the most influential economic advisers of President Obama during his first year in the White House. As The Promise: President Obama, Year One revealed:

“Obama asked his…campaign economic advisers…to assemble a team of 8 to 10 big thinkers for conference calls every 5 days or so…Three former Treasury secretaries were on the list: Robert Rubin, the…senior advisor (and former chairman) at…Citigroup.., Larry Summers, the…Rubin protégé.., Paul O.Neill, the…former ALCOA chairman…Two former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers,…Joseph Stiglitz and Laura D.Andrea Tyson also took part…Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker were often on the line. The second richest man in the world had met Obama in 2004…His endorsement gave the candidate a boost…Volcker…had known Obama since mid-2007…

“…During his years at the top of Goldman Sachs, the Clinton administration (where he…served as treasury secretary), Citigroup, and Hamilton Project…[Robert] Rubin mentored scores of…young policy types. More than a dozen of them eventually worked in important positions under Obama and maintained their relationship with Rubin. [Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Michael Froman, Philip Murphy, Gene Sperling, Jason Furman, Jacob Lew, Gary Gensler, Diana Farrell, Lewis Alexander, Lael Brainard and David Lipton]…Summers quickly became Obama’s dominant economic advisor…

“…Buffet…had invested heavily…in Moody’s, one of the corrupted ratings agencies that gave cover to the reckless…Summers had taken a…hands-off view…of regulating derivatives while at the treasury department in the 1990s and as late as 2008 made more than $5 million consulting on them for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw and Co….The New York Times revealed that Summers was a consultant for Taconic Capital Advisors as early as 2004, when he was still president of Harvard and lecturing faculty members on why they shouldn’t moonlight…”


Friday, May 4, 2012

Black Male Worker Unemployment Rate: 13.6 Percent In April 2012

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Black male workers over 20 years-of-age in the United States was still 13.6 percent in April 2012; while the jobless rate for white male workers over 20 years-of-age increased from 7.3 to 7.4 percent between March and April 2012, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In addition, the unemployment rate for white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age also increased from 22.5 to 22.8 percent between March and April 2012; while the official jobless rate for Black youths between the ages of 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 38.2 percent in April 2012.

Between March and April 2012, the total number of Black male workers over 20 years-of-age with jobs in the United States decreased by 83,000 (from 7,137,000 to 7,054,000); while the total number of Black male workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force decreased by 121,000 (from 8,283,000 to 8,162,000) during the same period.

The total number of all white workers in the United States with jobs also decreased by 292,000 (from 114,697,000 to 114,355,000) between March and April 2012; while the total number of white workers in the U.S. labor force decreased by 314,000 (from 123,713,000 to 123,499,000) during the same period. And the total number of unemployed white workers in the United States increased by 128,000 (from 9,016,000 to 9,144,000) between March and April 2012.

The total number of white male workers over 20 years-of-age with jobs decreased by 146,000 (from 60,192,000 to 60,046,000) between March and April 2012; while the number of white male workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force decreased by 142,000 (from 64,552,000 to 64,410,000) during the same period. In addition, between March and April 2012 the total number of white female workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force also decreased by 38,000 (from 54,473,000 to 54,435,000); while the total number of white female workers over 20 years-of-age with jobs decreased by 154,000 (from 50,873,000 to 50,719,000) during the same period. And the total number of unemployed white female workers over 20 years-of-age in the United States increased by 116,000 (from 3,600,000 to 3,716,000) between March and April 2012.

The total number of white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age with jobs decreased by 41,000 (from 3,632,000 to 3,591,000) between March and April 2012; while the number of unemployed white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age in the United States increased by 7,000 (from 1,056,000 to 1,063,000) during the same period.

The total number of all Black workers in the U.S. labor force decreased by 153,000 (from 18,427,000 to 18,274,000) between March and April 2012; while the number of Black female workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force decreased by 30,000 (from 9,473,000 to 9,443,000) during the same period. And the official unemployment rate for Black female workers over 20 years-of-age in the United States was 10.8 percent in April 2012; while the official unemployment rate for all Black workers (youth, male and female) was 13 percent in that same month.

According to the “seasonally adjusted” data, the official unemployment rate for all Latino workers in the United States was still 10.3 percent in April 2012; while the total number of unemployed Latino workers increased by 7,000 (from 2,491,000 to 2,498,000) between March and April 2012. And, according to the “not seasonally adjusted” data, the jobless rate for Latino youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 26.1 percent in April 2012; while the total number of Asian-American workers with jobs in the United States decreased by 54,000 (from 7,607,000 to 7,553,000) between March and April 2012.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 5, 2012 press release:

“…The unemployment rate was little changed at 8.1 percent…Employment…declined in transportation and warehousing…The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.1 million in April. These individuals made up 41.3 percent of the unemployed…The civilian labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent…The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged in April at 7.9 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

“In April, 2.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force...These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

“Among the marginally attached, there were 968,000 discouraged workers in April…Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them…

“…Transportation and warehousing lost jobs over the month…Transportation and warehousing lost 17,000 jobs in April, with employment declines in transit and ground passenger transportation (-11,000) and in couriers and messengers (-7,000). Employment in…mining and logging, construction, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and government changed little in April…”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

42nd Anniversary of Kent State Massacre

May 4, 2012 marks the 42nd anniversary of the 1970 killing of four students at Kent State University by members of Ohio's National Guard. Barry Levine was the boyfriend of Allison Krause, one of the slain students. In his eulogy for her, Levine described what happened on May 4, 1970 in Kent, Ohio:

"...We stood for a few seconds watching the soldiers move out behind a screen of gas, before deciding to retreat with the crowd of students.

"...A gas cannister landed at our feet, exploding in our faces...

"After a few seconds of recovery, Allison turned in her tracks and froze. She stood in the path of the pursuing troops screaming at the top of her lungs...The hand drawn to her face, holds a wet rag used to protect herself from the gas, and her other hand holds mine, with which I pulled her over the hill and into the parking lot, a safe distance from the troops.

"For several minutes we stood in the parking lot watching these men threaten us with their rifles...And then they turned..."

In his 1981 book, Mayday: Kent State, J. Gregory Payne also noted the following:

In the fall of 1980, additional information from the FBI investigation on Kent State housed at the National Archives was released to the public. This information revealed that President Nixon instructed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover--who thought the four victims `got what they deserved'--to find information in the fall of 1970 to substantiate the Guardsmen's claims about the incident. Nixon's directove was issued during the FBI's investigation of the incident. Despite the recent shocking revalations, thousands of pages of the FBI report remain classified, therefore, unavailable for public scrutiny..."

(Downtown 4/27/94)