Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Howard Zinn DVD and Addition

We make no secret of the fact that we like PM Press and twe're happy to share that they're coming out with a new DVD with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

It is also worth noting that we have a new addition: "The Feminization of Earth First!" by Judi Bari. Enjoy and, as always, spread the word.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Alan Berkman Presente

We wrote about this only a few entries ago, but we didn't realize we'd have to follow it up so soon with such a bummer entry. I didn't know Berkman well, spoke to him on the phone only a few times because of a project I was working on, but he just seemed like a really decent accessible guy.

This got posted online and here it is.

Michael Steven Smith on rembering Dr. Alan Berkman, People's Doctor
After battling recurrent cancers for half his life, Alan Berkman died in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City around seven o'clock in the evening of June 5, 2009. He was under a death sentence with a cancer that was going to kill him. He chose to try a risky stem cell transplant procedure where he first had to have chemo-therapy to knock out his own stem cells and then replace them with the stem cells of a donor. Even finding the donor was difficult, the holocaust having significantly narrowed the gene pool of persons who might have a match. One was found. Alan entered the hospital knowing he might not get out. He understood what his doctor's were telling him. He himself was a doctor, a sixties graduate of Columbia's school for physicians and surgeons and now a professor there in the school of public health.
Alan's first was struck by cancer when he was in prison. He did eight years, four of them in solitary. He diagnosed himself. But to no avail. The authorities would do nothing, as if they wanted him to die. They must have hated Alan. A communist. A Jew. A doctor. A supporter of blacks and latinos and native Americans at the second battle of Wounded Knee. They knew his history. It was quite a dossier. A sixties radical. SDS. Active in the anti-war movement. A practising doctor in New York's poor neighborhoods. Forced underground for years because he wouldn't give up the name of a woman he treated for a gunshot wound she got in a failed Brinks truck robbery that killed two cops and a security guard in Rockland County. Then arrested and convicted and doing hard time in a maximum security prison. He helped a cop killer. And now he is in our hands. But Alan was unbent and unbowed. He was tough.
Finally his family and attorneys got him medical attention. He told me they operated on him while handcuffed to a gurney. Deep stomach surgery where the muscles need to be cut. When he awoke from anesthesia they took the handcuffs off and made him get up off the gurney and walk. He got cancer again before getting out on parol. Amazingly Bill Kunstler and Ron Kuby prevented the State from taking away his medical license. He started working as an AIDS doctor in the South Bronx.
That's when I met him. About twenty years ago. He helped me on a case. We drove out to Brooklyn to see the client and then had dinner, the first of many. A steak and a martini. Alan and Barbara, Debby and me. We four. Good friends and comrades.
We went back to that restaurant a couple of weeks ago, just before Alan checked into Memorial. We thought we would see him the next week at the event honoring him and Dr. David Hoos for co- founding HEALTH GAP. But that was not to be. His doctors couldn't give him the time and he was whisked into the hospital for first the chemo and then the transplant. Alan got the new cells but died before they could take root.
When HEALTH GAP was formed with the help of ACT UP and HOUSING WORKS the anti-viral aids medicine "cocktail" cost ten to fifteen thousand dollars a year. Big pharma controlled manufacturing and distribution with their intellectual property rights. Alan helped change that , not having the requisite respect for private property. Now the drugs cost about eight-seven dollars a year and some four million people are taking the medicine, prolonging their lives.
Alan wasn't religious. Religion to him was superstition. Being part of a sect was too narrow and confining for Alan. The Jewish heretic who transcends Jewry belongs to a Jewish tradition. The historian Isaac Deutscher had a phrase for it, "the non-Jewish Jew." Alan was in line with the great Jewish heretics, rebels, and revolutionaries of modern thought; Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Freud, and Einstein. They too went beyond the boundaries of Judaism, finding it too narrow, archaic, constricting.
I don't wish to stretch the comparison. Alan was not so much a radical thinker as a man of action. But his intellectual understanding - and he was well educated and widely read - powered his activity. He had in common with these great thinkers the idea that for knowledge to be real it must be acted upon. As Marx observed: "Hitherto philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it."
Like his intellectual predecessors Alan saw reality in a state of flux, as dynamic not static, and he was aware of the constantly changing and contradictory nature of society. Alan was essentially an optimist and shared with the great Jewish revolutionaries and optimistic belief in humanity and a belief in the solidarity of humankind.
The stem cell procedure failed to save him. Alan Berkman has passed, but his work and his example have taken root. Goodbye dear friend. We all remember you with the two best words in our language: Love and Solidarity.

by Michael Steven Smith


Monday, May 18, 2009

Alan Berkman is Awesome

Word has come that Alan Berkman is preparing for a medical ordeal. We ask that people keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Why? Because Alan Berkman is awesome.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carol Chomsky

It is with regret that we note the passing of Carol Chomsky. Though her own linguistic work is less familiar to us, like Roslyn Zinn, her presence at the edges of stories casts a long shadow. My parents had dinner with her and her husband a few years ago. They reported that Noam was interesting and very smart, but she was funny and "a real firecracker." Our condolences to the family.


Monday, October 06, 2008

William Ayers

Reading any nonsense against Bill Ayers is frustrating, but in the context of a bomber of children, John McCain, being the leveler, the whole thing has heightened to the empire's usual level of absurdity. Well, Bill Ayers is great (true story: all this nonsense about Obama having a coffee at Ayer's house, and everyone else saying they've had coffee with Ayers, reminded me that I met Ayers at a conference years ago and we got to talking and he took me out to Starbucks. Maybe Ayers just really likes coffee.) and I think the only good thing to come out of listening to an empire's whining, that is literally this instant violently forcing its claws on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, is that more people will read go check out Ayers's blog. I'm not such a fan of Obama, and every time I listen to people distance Obama from Ayers, I just recall Ayers being really friendly, not romanticizing the Weather Underground stuff (this was at an event with about thirty guys silently sizing him up while clearly getting their radical man-crush on and he just wasn't interested in catering to that), and trying to navigate a progressive radical path. On one hand, he's living a chaptered life and he's doing great work in education and people who want to demonize him need to go read some of his books on education and see who he is these last twenty five years beyond combating republican talking points. On the other hand, he supposedly* bombed the place where they orchestrate mass campaigns of murder, pillage and rape, and I'm supposed to root against him?!

*He was part of the WUO; I have no clue if he was involved with the Pentagon bombing.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin RIP

From Carlin's Obituary in the always disappointing New York Times:
Although some criticized parts of his later work as too contentious, Mr. Carlin defended the material, insisting that his comedy had always been driven by an intolerance for the shortcomings of humanity and society. “Scratch any cynic,” he said, “and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”

Still, when pushed to explain the pessimism and overt spleen that had crept into his act, he quickly reaffirmed the zeal that inspired his lists of complaints and grievances. “I don’t have pet peeves,” he said, correcting the interviewer. And with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he added, “I have major, psychotic hatreds.”

Carlin will be missed.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Utah Phillips RIP

The great folksinger and storyteller, Utah Phillips, passed away a few days ago. With the passing of Rosalyn Zinn in the last week, this has been a crummy week. Our condolences with the family.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Roslyn Zinn

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of painter/activist/teacher Roslyn Zinn. While we may only know her through the glimpses, her participating in the stories of Howard's life, the mentions in his talks, for those of us who didn't know her personally, her deepest impact is through his work. Her obituary in The Boston globe quotes Howard Zinn saying:

"I never showed my work to anyone except her, because she was such a fine editor," he said. "She had such a sensibility about what worked, what read well, what was necessary, what was redundant."

As someone who works in media production, I know that there is always more than the single author or director guiding the final vision. As one of the many people who has been profoundly impacted by this body of work, I mourn her passing. Our prayers are with her family and friends.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Aimé Césaire

It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of theorist and writer Aimé Césaire. Our condolences to his family. For those unfamiliar with Césaire, we recommend the excellent Discourse on Colonialism .


Sunday, July 08, 2007


So we wanted the post below to stay at the top a little bit longer, but we wanted to tell everyone about the new additions. Besides a house-cleaning of sorts, fixing old mistakes from the first readings, we added some links into our popular world map. Not all, but some of the locations now link to specific texts in the site about them. That isn't the big news, though. We added a classic text that frankly should've been on the site a long time ago: Carter Godwin Woodson's The Mis-Education of the Negro .
Now, before we suggest that you read our post below seeking assistance from PHP and Drupal people (or funds to hire someone), we'd like to voice a complaint out into the wilderness of the internet. We've been hearing Nina Simone in commercials lately and it is irritating us: Nina is ours, she didn't get the honor she deserved when she was alive with us, and we certainly don't want to continue the insult by using her powerful voice to sell a stupid car. Listen to her music, but don't use it in commercials.
Now read the post below and uh, go stop the war.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Victor Jara

On the train yesterday, I was overcome with emotion reading Joan Jara's moving story of the first days of the coup in Chile, saying good-bye to her husband for the last time, and claiming his body at the morgue. Victor Jara, a popular folk singer in Chile and member of the “Nueva canción Chilena”(New Chilean Song) movement, was clearly a wonderful and courageous man and his widow's writing manages, despite the best efforts of the forces of evil, to bring him back to life.
The coup in Chile was the direct result of American intervention. The absolute horror of it is difficult to convey, but in her words, we can begin to understand the sheer wall of fear and evil. Kissinger should be in prison. Three chapters are now on History Is A Weapon. We encourage you to read them:
Three chapters from Victor: An Unfinished Song by Joan Jara

Charles Horman, an American journalist, was also among the thousand rounded up and executed after the coup. His parents went down afterwards to look for him and his father wrote an amazing book, Missing, that was later turned into a haunting film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. If you get a chance to check either the book or the film, they're worth your time. I remember seeing the film when I was twelve or thirteen and reading the book soon after and just getting dazed. I'm always disturbed seeing Kissinger on shows like Jon Stewart.

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