Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Studs Terkel

As Ruth points out, there was a great interview on Democracy Now! today. This is the opening of "Legendary Radio Broadcaster and Oral Historian Studs Terkel on the Iraq War, NSA Domestic Spy Program, Mahalia Jackson, James Baldwin, the Labor Movement and His New Memoir 'Touch and Go':"

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Chicago, the hometown of our special guest today for the hour: broadcaster, author, social historian, American legend, Studs Terkel. Born in 1912 in New York City, Studs Terkel moved with his family to Chicago at the age of ten, where he spent most of his life. Over the years he has worked as an activist, a civil servant, a labor organizer, a radio DJ and a television actor. But he is best known as a Chicago radio personality, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
For forty-five years, Studs Terkel spent an hour each weekday on his nationally syndicated radio show interviewing the famous and the not-so-famous. With his unique style, he created portraits of everyday life in America. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the George Polk Career Award and the presidential National Humanities Medal.
Today, at the age of ninety-five, Studs Terkel is still speaking out. Two weeks ago, Studs wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times criticizing the Bush administration's warrantless spy program and congressional efforts to immunize the large telecom companies that took part. And he has just come out with his long-awaited memoir. It's called Touch and Go.
Studs Terkel joins me for the hour here from Chicago. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Studs.
STUDS TERKEL: Thank you, Amy. It's great to be with you. When you speak to me as legendary, there's a joke to the whole thing. I am very inept with mechanical things. I'm of another millennium, the books of the nineteenth century. From the Depression on -- the Depression, the war, the Cold War -- the greatest generation being the '60s and not World War II. It was in the '60s, there was the Civil Rights Movement, flourished, at least for a time, and [inaudible]; the rise, resurgence of feminism; the gays and lesbians coming out as free people. So that's the generation, I think the greatest.
The important thing about that article was: they are un-American. We never called people with tapped phones with the opinion of the government on their side. People disagree with them. Thomas Paine, the most eloquent visionary of the American Revolution, speak of this country in which a commoner can look at a king and say "Bugger off!" And I was telling them to bugger off. I've known this before, because my phone was tapped in the days when the keyword was "Commie."
"Commie" today, the word is "liberal." Our language is being perverted, as well as our thoughts. "Say, I'm not a liberal," says John Kerry, who was on -- he was a guest on our program with [inaudible] officers against the Vietnam War. He was wonderful! He has denied he's a liberal. A liberal means what? The right to speak your opinion and to defend even those who disagree with you. We've made that -- what's the next word? -- "terrorist." We misuse the word, going to the center. What does moving to the center mean? It means moving to the right. You never hear anybody moving to the left called going to the center. You see, that's how we've gone, to pervert our language.
But the big thing that bothers me -- I'm glad if I wrote that piece, but the big thing that bothers me is our own lack of background. "Not our fault." Do we know about the twentieth century? Do you know about the Depression, how it came about and how it was stemmed by the New Deal by government?
We just heard that Greenspan retired. Greenspan, a Federal Reserve man and wise man, his idol was Ayn Rand. It even embarrasses me to say this. Ayn Rand’s biographer, whom I got to interview for perverse reasons -- I have an imp of the perverse in me -- and she said, "Oh, I believe every man on the top deserves to be there who has the guts. And if you're there with your hat in your hand, you deserve to be down there." And she used the word "collective others." So this is the guy we're honoring as he's disappearing.
I remember his opposite number, when I was working on the Great Depression book -- that was the Great Depression, and the crash took place October 1929. And a guy like Greenspan -- only didn’t read Ayn Rand -- he said, "I didn't know what to do. We didn't know what to do. Things went down, stocks went down." The World War I guys were tear-gassed, went to Washington for the bonus, and they pleaded with the government -- they, members of the new religion we have: the free market. I thought of my alma mater, University of Chicago. Most of the free marketers have won the Nobel Prize, didn't know what to do. Variety, the trade paper, said, "Wall Street lays an egg."
So, finally, the government came through with agencies to help those who have, as well as the have-nots. And so, their kids, of their granddaddies, who were saved by a benign federal government, are saying, "Too much government," as Molly Ivins -- we miss so badly -- used to do it in kidding him. So we have an insult to our intelligence.
I know we've been barbarically assaulted, 9/11. There's another insult. That's to our common sense of decency, to our common sense of intelligence. This is there, I know it, and it changes. It must be from "them," the anonymous people, who form more and more groups, as the government and others like those grow more and more insane. A good case in point -- may I go on?
STUDS TERKEL: A good case in point, I said I'm a nut mechanically. So I'm interviewing this woman. I hear about people. A friend of mine tells me about somebody. I run into somebody by accident, whom I find interesting. And she lives in a housing project with three, four kids. Now, I suppose someone from on high, Olympus, 60 Minutes, or Barbara Walters, or whoever it is might come and see them, you behave differently. When someone, a guy like me, who goofed up -- I got my tape recorder, and I'm pressing a wrong button -- and she, this woman in the housing project, says, "Look, you pressed the wrong button." I said, "Oh, I did." And that moment is a key moment. She feels needed. To feel needed is an attribute necessary for all human beings. She counts. That word, "counts." And so, we have a great many people who are unaware of their own strength, provided they join these groups. And so, she’s listening. Finally, we go on. And toward the end of the interview, she hears herself for the first time. She says, "I didn't know I felt that way before." That's a sensational moment. And those are the moments I admire very much.

Norman Mailer died over the weekend. I appreciated his speaking out against the illegal wars in Iraq and Vietnam and it's a loss when anyone dies; however, it didn't hit me. Mailer and women were a distant relationship. On Monday, Amy Goodman rebroadcast his interview in 2004 and it just reminded what a jerk Mailer could be. (I also doubt that if it had been Andy Goodman, Mailer would have been so snappish.) I also never felt anyone got a glimpse of Mailer, he always seemed to busy trying to imitate the public image of Ernest Hemmingway.

Studs Terkel, Gloria Steinem, Howard Zinn, Delores Huerta, Alice Walker, people like that would be a loss I would feel. Mailer was always too bellicose and belligerent for my tastes. He may have reached others but he wasn't anyone who spoke to me.

And, like a number of men, he got even more conservative with age. Not all men, fortunately. But Studs Terkel is someone who really connects with me and, when he passes, it will be a huge loss. So let's make a point to enjoy and appreciate those who speak to us while they are around.

I'm serious. Think about a writer that speaks to you and why that is? Mailer may have spoken to you and that's fine. (And I'm sorry for your pain over his death.) But our reactions to writing (to art) are a very personal thing and we can learn a great deal about ourselves by figuring out which voices speak to us and why.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, attacks in northern Iraq, IVAW announces an upcoming event, the myth of the 'returning home' in Iraq gets challenged and more.

Starting with war resistance. Today on
KPFK's Sojourner Truth, Margaret Prescod spoke with Kenneth Kagan about where things stood for Ehren Watada currently. Watada is the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Kagan, along with Jim Lobsenz, is Watada's civilian attorney and he explained Judge Benjamin Settle's ruling and what it means. Last Thursday, following the issuance of two stays in the US military's attempt to court-martial Watada a second time, Judge Settle ruled that no court-martial could take place until the double-jeopardy issue was resolved and that his opinion was Watada had strong standing on that issue and the courts would find in his favor. Kagan declared that it was highly unlikely that there would be futher court action this year. He also thinks it's doubtful the US military will be able to proceed with a court-martial period. (Following the rest of the year, Kagan ticked off 2008 and the next.) As Laura Flanders (Nation via Common Dreams) notes of Settle's ruling today, "In issuing a preliminary injunction, the Judge concluded that 'it is likely' that Watada will succeed in his claims that a second court-martial would violate constitutional protections against being tried twice for the same crimes. But army officials aren't giving up. In a statement, they said they will file briefs in U.S. District Court to try to prevent the injunction from becoming permanent. Now is the time for all moral men and women in uniform to stand up -- not just behind Lt. Watada, but at his side. So far, not one other officer has followed in the lieutenant's footstep." As Ruth noted, yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Iraq Veterans Against the War's chair Camilo Mejia declared this was a victory, "Here we have the first commissioned officer who at great risks to a public, personal stance on the war calling it illegal and refusing to deploy."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (the official opening night -- but performances are already taking place) and musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who appeared on Democracy Now! Friday addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

The Winter Soldier Investigation during Vietnam took place from January 31st to February 2nd (1971) and was held in Detroit. By holding theirs in DC, IVAW already has improved. That's not a slap at Detroit, that's noting the concentration of media.

Turning to Iraq.
CBS and AP file a story telling us things are good, real good, damn good. Great. No more Iraq snapshots! We get to shut down shop. Oh, wait. It's just another wave of Operation Happy Talk and it's a story so bad it took TWO outlets to write it. But they shouldn't feel that bad, the outlet with the most egg on their face today is Fars News Agency which ran the feel good story of the month yesterday, headlined, "Iraq-Turkey Border Problems Resolved." Oh really now? BBC: "Turkish military helicopters bombed suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, Iraqi officials have said." AP quotes Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring, "This business needs to happen before winter conditions worsen. If we don't see concrete things from the other side an operation is near." Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) report, "Turkey is gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of PKK positions in northern Iraq before starting the operation, Erdogan told party officials in Ankara late yesterday after talks with Ergin Saygun, deputy head of the Turkish military, according to a lawmaker who attended the meeting and rquested anonymity." CNN's Jomana Karadsheh quotes Jamal Abdullah, spokesperson for Iraq's KRG, stating that stun grenades were dropped from "two Turkish military aircrafts crossed into Iraqi border" Monday night. Yahya Barzanji (AP) reports Turkish helicopters firing today within Iraq which the Turkey government denies and Iraqi Col. Hussein Tamir states did take place -- both on the record and, in addition, an unnamed "Turkish government official" states that the attacks did take place. Al Jazeera notes that 4 Turkish soldiers are dead and two more wounded according to the Turkish military. Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) note the US Pentagon continues to maintain they intend to share intelligence with Turkey.

In other reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing this morning left four wounded while two Diyala bombings resulted in the deaths of 2 Iraqi soldiers, two Iraqi soldiers wounded and three civilians wounded. Reuters notes that a roadside bombing outside Baquba claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and left seven more wounded today while a Jurf Al-Sakhar roadisde bombing claimed 2 lives with two more wound while, also yesterday, Col. Samir Atrous was killed in a Samarra bombing that left two of his bodyguards wounded. And the air war continues as well. Reuters reports the US military is claiming 15 'terrorists' were killed in Adwaniya on Monday after they dropped two 500 pound bombs from the air on the area.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer was shot dead and his wife injured in a Kirkuk shooting today while yesterday 2 sons, 2 daughters and a mother from the same family were killed. Reuters notes 1 police officer and 1 Iraqi soldier were shot dead in Hawija today while yesterday a man was shot dead in Kifl.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses in Baghdad and 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk.

IRIN reports "[m]ale gynaecologists are being targeted by Islamic extremists in Iraq as they are accues of invading the privacy of women," that at least 22 have received threatening letters while there is a shortage on male gynaecologists and very few female ones left in Iraq.

In political news,
AP reports that Bahaa al-Araji, apparently speaking for all 30 members of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, has called for the "parliament to be dissolved and new elections held." This takes place while puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet continues with empty spots after he refused to agree to the requests of Sunni ministers. Those who keep giving lip service to a "political solution" that really means a US imposed "political situation" must be hoping no one notices al-Maliki's puppet government is as chaotic as it was in May 2006 when he kept missing deadlines to announce his complete cabinet. The escalation Bully Boy dubbed the 'surge' is ending as it was always planned to. 3,000 US service members stationed in Diyala Province will begin returning to the United States. And what got accomplished in the 'surge'? Puppet al-Maliki traveled a great deal (as did Iraq's president) but nothing's been accomplished. Not even the theft of Iraqi oil -- the White House pushed, big business written bill that would open Iraqi oil fields to foreign corporations and allow them to keep as much as 70% of the profits -- has been pushed through and the year is almost over. The United Nations' Relief Web has a list of things that still show no improvement such as: "Only one in three Iraqi children under the age of five has access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF(4)."

Turning to the myth of civilians returning to Iraq. One return can be verified, McClatchy Newspaper's Leila Fadel has returned to Iraq. Of course, she's a journalist and American but her return can be verified placing her in a minority. As Baghdad Observer,
she explains the checkpoints, the body searches, the delays (including stand-still traffic) and everything else it takes to move through the Green Zone for two scheduled meetings -- one with a US military general: "Two are body searches, two are just badge checks. At one checkpoint pedestrians are asked to walk through a spaceship looking X-ray machine. The elderly Iraqi woman in front of me starts to cry when she is asked to spread her legs and arms and step inside the machine.'I'm scared,' she says between sobs. When I'm done there a dog sniffs my camera, cell phone and recorder for explosive substances." Along with the body searches, "a woman gropes for anything illegal under my clothes and searches through my bag." Meanwhile on the much talked up in the press returns (that cannot be proven), organizations aren't continuing to be silent in the face of these false claims made by the puppet government and the US military. Australia's ABC reports the Red Crescent Society has released their report for September which found "almost 370,000 Iraqis fled their homes" and that "almost 2.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since the US-led invasion in 2003." uruk.net reports the Iraqi Red Crescent has stated the numbers being tossed around by the Iraqi government regarding the internally displace are not accurate and "were not related realities of the situation faced by the displaced," that they stood by their numbers and their methodology (remember, as we noted last week, this is the same nonsense that was pulled with The Lancet study, a push to discredit the science with numbers the US military and the Iraqi government refused to backup by making public their own alleged tabulations) and quotes their statement: "The real number of displaced persons by October (was) well over two million, three hundred thousand displaced inside the country." In addition, the United Nations Secretary General's office today released findings on displaced around the world and included this: "In Iraq, there are some 2.2 million internally displaced that we know of." As the Iraqi government's laughable claims get questioned, Reuters reports, "U.S. Catholic bishops on Tuesday described the situation in Iraq as 'unacceptable and unsustainable,' and urged the Bush administration to pull out American troops in a responsible way as quickly as possible."

Ali al-Fadhily (IPS via Common Dreams) reports, "Claims are going the rounds that sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen, and that the U.S. military 'surge' has succeeded in reducing attacks against civilians. Baghdad residents speak of the other side of the coint -- that they now live in a largely divided city that has brought this uneasy calm." And repeating 'political solution' hasn't happened. Waleed al-Ubaidy tells al-Fadhily, "All that has happened is a dramatic change in the demographic map of Iraq" and that, "Most of the honest journalists have left." While, reflecting Leila Fadel's report on moving through the Green Zone, Ahmad Ali tells al-Fadhily, "Baghdad has been torn into two cities and many towns and neighbourhoods. There is now the Shia Baghdad and the Sunni Baghdad to start with. Then, each is divided into little twon-like pieces of the hundreds of thousands who had to leave their homes."

Along with the human costs, there is the issue of the money.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "A new study by Congressional Democrats estimates the total economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now total approximately $1.5 trillion dollars. The study estimates the 'hidden costs' of the conflict including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars. The Washington Post reports this amount is nearly double the $800 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage the wars through 2008." Josh White (Washington Post) reports that the calculated cost for the Iraq invasion is "$15,900 for a [US] family of four".