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The Liberty Tree: Review: A Celebration of the Life and Writings of Thomas Paine

By Adam Sheets
No Depression
December 19, 2010

The most ridiculous and inappropriate trend in modern American politics has been the Tea Party's embrace of Thomas Paine, culminating with the publication of Glenn Beck's book Common Sense, which purports to be a tribute to Mr. Paine's seminal 1776 work. While Beck would probably be in agreement with Paine's assertion that "government, even in it's best state, is but a necessary evil," the similarities end there. I have a strong interest in American history and unlike Mr. Beck,  I have actually read the works of Thomas Paine beyond Common Sense and I'm willing to bet that the Tea Party would be shocked to learn that their hero was not only an early feminist and abolitionist (meaning that unlike many of the "Founding Fathers," he practiced what he preached), but also an outspoken opponent of imperialism (Rights of Man), a strong fighter against organized religion (The Age of Reason), and, perhaps worst of all, an avowed socialist (Agrarian Justice) who proposed taxing the rich in order to pay for social programs. Now, I mean no offense to conservatives. (Although I'm a sort of left-leaning libertarian myself, but many of my best friends are conservatives.) All I'm saying is to find a new icon. Maybe Alexander Hamilton.

Thankfully Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson, two folk singers from Paine's home country of Great Britain are here to set the record straight with The Liberty Tree, an affecting mixture of music and the spoken word spread out over two discs, that serves as both a history lesson on Paine's life and work and a biting commentary on our present shortcomings. Much of the album consists of readings from Paine's best works tied together with a brisk repeated melody detailing his life from England to America to France where he took part in the French Revolution and, finally, back to America. In addition there are also 13 songs, adorned simply with acoustic guitars, dealing with our modern society. Whether these are supposed to be seen as the 21st century voice of Thomas Paine or simply a contrast to Paine's ideals is never clear, but, regardless, these are some of the best topical songs I've heard in years.

The brilliance of Robb Johnson lies in connecting the humdrum nature of everyday life to the sins of government, perhaps most effectively on the stark "Picking Up the Pieces" and the more upbeat but no less vicious "Oliver Twist." As a whole, his songs are almost morbidly bleak. Yet his crowning achievement here is "We All Said Stop the War," a beautiful fantasy in the vein of Ed McCurdy's "Last Night I Has the Strangest Dream" and Phil Ochs' "The War is Over," that envisions "the international sex workers of the world united with the girl and boy next door."

Leon Rosselson, who has been prominent in British folk circles since the 1960s, creates songs that are markedly different from those of Johnson. His songs are much lighter in tone, while still dealing with very serious subject matter. While "Stand Up for Judas" is a bit radical for my tastes, his other tunes, such as the humorous "Don't Get Married Girls" reveal hard truths in an accessible fashion. "On Her Silver Jubilee," for example, may be the most brutal attack on the royal family since the Sex Pistols, while "Palaces of Gold" seems to be the new national anthem for the U.S. government with the recent government bailouts and Obama's latest sellout on tax cuts for the uber-rich.

The styles of these two songwriters couldn't be more different, but both get the point across in their own way and, when working together, fashion a tale which not only does justice to the politics of Tom Paine, but also explores the man's complexities amidst our modern society. This album is in the tradition of Johnny Cash's historical albums of the '60s and '70s: great music that is likely to give listeners an interest in their heritage and their history. Listening to this album is a bittersweet experience that makes one proud to call Thomas Paine on of our "Founding Fathers," while at the same time lamenting how far we still have to go to live up to his ideals. While The Liberty Tree's audience will mostly see it as preaching to the choir, it is also an album that, if sent to Glenn Beck, would be unlikely to change his mind, but would probably make him pissed off at not only Mr. Johnson and Mr. Rosselson, but also his supposed hero Thomas Paine.

Buy CD now  | Back to Robb Johnson’s Page | Back to Leon Rosselson’s Page




WikiLeaks: Who Helped Shape Julian Assange?

George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Among Writers Whose Work Influenced the Founder of WikiLeaks

By Christopher Torchia
CBS News
December 14, 2010

(AP)  At a California forum this year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke calmly about justice and transparency. Then he described how his group once dealt with a legal challenge.

"We crushed them like a bug," Assange said, finger wagging. The belligerence, at odds with his smooth veneer, drew a murmur from the startled listeners.

Assange is an enigma, a mirror of what people want to see: A cyber-villain, or a force for open society. Quirky and complex, he cultivates mystery.

But a look at the thinkers who influenced him, ranging from a German anarchist to American President Theodore Roosevelt, reveals a man incensed by the perceived injustices of big power and fearful of persecution.

The gallery of figures who have influenced Assange, combined with his own writings, provide the intellectual playbook for a 39-year-old Australian with no fixed address who has jolted the world's most powerful country by unveiling the secrets of U.S. war logs and diplomatic cables.

He was arrested last week in a Swedish sex crimes case, and the United States asserts that he has undermined security and may have endangered people cited in the documents. Assange has said the accusations are unfounded, and that he is the victim of a politically-motivated campaign to discredit him and his organization.

His self-styled image as a lone, besieged challenger to the traditional order, one that is gaining currency in some circles, may owe much to his literary roots. Computers are his life, but so are books. George Orwell, who described the corruption of power and the lies that fuel a totalitarian vision, had a big impact. So did Kurt Vonnegut, an American author known for satire and non-conformism, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate who wrote about the horror of Soviet labor camps.

"If there is a book whose feeling captures me it is First Circle by Solzhenitsyn," Assange wrote in 2006. "How close the parallels to my own adventures! ... Such prosecution in youth is a defining peak experience. To know the state for what it really is! To see through that veneer the educated swear to disbelieve in but still slavishly follow with their hearts!"

As a teenager in Australia, Assange hacked into computers. He was arrested in 1991, but got off with a fine in a case that was resolved several years later. His story is believed to be documented in Underground, a 1997 book about hackers that Assange helped to write.

Numerous media reports have identified Mendax, a hacker in the book, as Assange. In a preview of Assange's frequent travel and concern about surveillance in the months leading to his arrest last week, Underground describes how Mendax became increasingly fearful:

"He dreamed of footsteps crunching on the driveway gravel, of shadows in the pre-dawn darkness, of a gun-toting police squad bursting through his backdoor at 5 a.m. He dreamed of waking from a deep sleep to find several police officers standing over his bed. The dreams were very disturbing. They accentuated his growing paranoia that the police were watching him, following him."

Assange provided author Suelette Dreyfus with analysis and technical expertise to write Underground, though she declined to discuss the identities of people in the book. She recalled that Assange was "a big fan" of Orwell's Animal Farm, as well as Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, which is about a man imprisoned and tried for treason during the Soviet purges in the 1930s.

"It is a classic work and perhaps hit a particular chord with him as it set the scene in a fictional manner for how societies without transparency and open government can go sour," Dreyfus wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

She said that, influenced by his mother, Assange came to love the Greek classics, including Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, and that he read them to his own son, Daniel, who now works in software development.

Assange "found the writing very powerful. He knew that the literature of the ancient world provided a moral lens through which to view society, and a way to explore these issues with children while also entertaining them," Dreyfus said.

Underground details the psychology of the hackers, describing their rivalry and nocturnal hours, the egos and compulsiveness, the personal problems of some, and the intoxicating sense of power once they had gained mastery of a network and roamed its inner structure at will. One Australian hacker group that appears in the book calls itself The International Subversives - Assange is believed to have been a member.

"For Julian, the emergence of the Internet in the early 90s in Australia appeared to be the opening up of the lolly shop! He was a teenager and part of a collection of kids who were fascinated by the network and fascinated by the complete lack of security on computers at the time," Geoff Huston, a computer network expert in Australia who gave evidence at Assange's prosecution in Australia in the 1990s, said in an email.

Beyond technology, Assange was developing a keen political awareness at a time of anti-nuclear activism, as well as a sense of underdog individualism reflected in his writing.

"I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully," he wrote in a column published last week in a newspaper, The Australian.

Assange is jailed in Britain on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in Sweden, and the case could lead to his extradition. He was arrested after Interpol put him on its most-wanted list. His supporters allege he is a victim of a dirty tricks campaign; Swedish authorities reject the idea that the case is politically motivated.

Years ago, Assange prefaced entries on a now-defunct blog with a quotation from German Gustav Landauer, an anarchist thinker who was killed by troops in Munich in 1919. Assange alleged some giant corporations amount to virtual nation states, free of accountability.

Yet he counts an American president among his influences, citing a comment by Roosevelt about destroying "invisible government," the corrupt forces in business and politics. He also gave early, unvarnished insight into his thinking on information leaks.

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie," Assange wrote. "Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance."

Some former colleagues have commented on an autocratic, secretive streak in Assange, who extolled activism and self-sacrifice in a lofty blog post in 2007, possibly inspired by his literary icons.

"Try as I may I cannot escape the sound of suffering," Assange wrote. "Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them."

Indulge in a Book | Download e-Book| Back to Author's Page


From hell to Long Beach and beyond

Seattle Examiner
By Ray Murphy
December 30, 2010

Pacific Northwest readers, drenched and shivering in a literary winter of gray sameness, would do well to slip south of the 17th Parallel, or at least the 710 freeway, and smuggle back Michael Harris’ The Chieu Hoi Saloon (PM Press, 2010). 

Chieu hoi translates roughly as “open arms,” but like a canny survivor of the civil war in which it originated, the term seems to have taken two identities. Our protagonist, Harry Hudson, ex-soldier, ex-husband and father, now hack copy editor in SoCal's grittiest beach city, uses it as a verb: when he chieu hois, as so he often does, he punts. Indeed, early on, the novel reads like the story of a man who has come from a small town in Oregon to Long Beach to follow in that city's weaving civic footsteps, that is, to surrender -- in unspectacular if unpredictable fashion -- to internal divisions. But the term also can function as a noun: among the thousands of North Vietnamese who fled south as defectors from the Viet Minh were the infiltrators known as Chieu Hois, who would comprise the fifth column of the Viet Cong. As much as Hudson’s past threatens to undo him, it also serves as his clandestine strength.

As with most of us, the singular event that shapes Harry Hudson doesn't exist. “It was like triple exposure,” he reflects. Instead of the usual, carefully cropped, no-exposure digital image of "seminal event" clipped to the contemporary protagonist's pocket, the“it” here is a unique nexus of experience, and memories and dreams of experience,  that is not so much recollected as continually remade. What causes Harry to be Harry is none other than Harry, evolving. His mother’s death from cancer when he’s seven; his perilous memory of his two-year-old daughter at the edge of a swimming pool; the rueful affair he conducts in his imagination with a Japanese girl in high school; all this blends, and is blended into Harry’s moment of panic in Vietnam, as he ruins an ambush by killing an unarmed Vietnamese civilian on a  bicycle. “He opened his mouth, in Long Beach, in Vietnam, in all those other places, and nothing came out.”    

Oh, but it does. The Chieu Hoi Saloon is less a story (thank god) than a portrait, and less a portrait than a series of quietly magnificent, strobe-lit fragments showing us glimpses of a life splashing apart and coming together. In one flash we see Hudson’s wayward desire as he studies a swingers' newspaper in his rented room at the Reef, and in the next, guilt about his abandoned marriage and lost daughter. In another flash, Hudson leverages guilt as if practicing a technique (CBT -- Catholic Behavioral Therapy?) to control his lust, and in yet another flash, this technique cheapens the genuine pain he feels so that his guilt becomes too attenuated to combat desire, whereupon he's off to the swingers' club in La Mirada… No wonder Harry Hudson reads compulsively about the Civil War. He’s in one. He is one. He’s in one and is one, both double agent and conflict.  The novel’s fractured, incremental, stuttering form creates an organic momentum as eloquent as it is uncertain, like a peasant's bicycle built from spare parts gliding into gunfire.

For not only is this guy a veteran who hasn’t made it all the way home, and an Oregonian who’s never quite left.  He’s literally a stutterer. And as such, Hudson occupies a precarious Demilitarized Zone between silence and speech. The voice he inherits, that of his logger father, makes him susceptible to biases that don’t hold up in the crucible of experience.  The voice to which he aspires, that of a small-town newspaper columnist named Vance Foster, which he hears as “nothing less than the voice of the greater world,” threatens to reduce him to canned language -- you pull for Harry to go right on stuttering. In college, Hudson gets speech therapy from one Doctor Richardson, only to realize that the doctor’s method “had a built-in trap:”

The better he spoke, the more he was tempted to speak automatically, the way normal people did, and that was fatal.  The creature woke up, reached out an exploratory claw and touched his throat.

As ever, normalcy stirs the insurgent within, the stutter, the tongue’s Viet Cong, undermines Hudson, and at the same time, saves him from conventional speech.  If Harry’s world is sordid, it’s rich with newsroom repartee , with slang from Nam to Topeka to Long Beach Boulevard,

What’s so engrossing about this character is not that he’s bent on resolving his conflict, but that he’s bent on living with it.   Free of narrative predestination, Henry Hudson is a survivor, not only of conflict but of literary form, all the way to the end. With all his crazy troubles, he’s not quite like you and me.  But we, with our lesser crazy troubles, have in Harry a fictional peer for whom we feel genuine respect.
And in Michael Harris, we have a writer that readers unabashedly can champion.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Michael Harris's homepage




Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins --An interview with author Staughton Lynd

By Angola 3 News
January 3, 2011

Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins
--An interview with author Staughton Lynd

In 1993, the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the site of an historic prisoner rebellion, where more than 400 prisoners seized and controlled a major area of the prison for eleven days. Nine prisoners alleged to have been informants and one hostage correctional officer named Robert Vallandingham, were murdered. Following a negotiated surrender, five key figures in the rebellion were tried and sentenced to death. Known since as the Lucasville Five, they are Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Hando Shakur (Keith Lamar), George Skatzes and Jason Robb.

The Lucasville Five are now back in the news with an announcement last week that four of the five will be participating in a simultaneous “rolling hunger strike,” beginning today, January 3. They are using the hunger strike to protest their convictions (having always maintained their innocence) as well as their living situation, which is more restrictive than for most prisoners on Ohio’s death row. The statement issued by the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network explains that “the hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.”

Staughton Lynd is the author of the 2004 book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, which asserts that the Lucasville Five are innocent men, who were framed by the State of Ohio. In a review of Lucasville, the news website, Solidarity, concludes that “Lynd presents sufficient evidence and argumentation to cast more than reasonable doubt on the convictions of the Lucasville Five.” The book’s “immediate agenda is to mobilize public opinion to achieve amnesty for the Lucasville Five. In the 1970s, the governor of New York was compelled to grant amnesty to the Attica rebels based upon revelations of state malfeasance. Lynd contends the Lucasville Five’s death sentences should be wiped clean on the same grounds.”

In the foreword to the upcoming second edition of Lucasville, being released by PM Press in February, death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal writes that the Lucasville Five "sought to minimize violence, and indeed, according to substantial evidence, saved the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike…they rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison ‘tribes’ to reach commonality."

Angola 3 News: Can you please give us some historical background on the 1993 uprising and the subsequent convictions of the Lucasville Five?

Staughton Lynd: There were revolts at the old Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus in the late 1960s. The state government decided to build a new maximum security prison in a town called Lucasville, just north of the Ohio River separating Ohio and Kentucky.

The new prison housed between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners. More than half the prisoners at the new Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) were African Americans from cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. Lucasville was all white and inevitably, most of the correctional officers at the new prison were Caucasian.

'Luke' developed a well-deserved reputation for violence. There was a horrible incident in 1990 when, in a sequence of events that remains ambiguous, a black prisoner followed a white teacher into a women's restroom. White guards broke down the door to the restroom and, as they did so, the prisoner cut the teacher's throat.

The State sent in a new warden who instituted 'Operation Shakedown.' Prisoners were allowed one short telephone call a year, at Christmastime.

In April 1993 the new warden proposed to test all prisoners for TB by means of an injection. More than fifty Muslim prisoners protested. They said the injection would contain phenol, a form of alcohol; that this was forbidden by their religion; and that there were alternative means of testing for TB, by sputum or X ray. Warden Tate said it would be done his way, by injection, beginning Monday, April 12.

On April 11, Easter Sunday, prisoners returning from the recreation yard occupied one large housing block, L side. Guards were overpowered. Persons severely injured in the takeover, both guards and prisoners believed to be snitches, were carried out to the yard. Eight officers were held as hostages. In the course of an 11-day standoff, nine prisoners and one hostage guard were murdered. There was a negotiated surrender.

A3N: Why was this story so important to you that you decided to write a book about it?

SL: In 1996 my wife and I became aware that as a result of the Lucasville uprising, a new maximum security prison called the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) was being built in Youngstown. We organized a community forum at which one of the speakers was Jackie Bowers, sister of one of five prisoners condemned to death after the surrender. We met her brother, George Skatzes (pronounced 'skates.') His lawyer told us that we could best help by investigating facts not presented at trial and we have been doing that ever since.

The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Namir Abdul Mateen, are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. One is still an AB leader although Skatzes has withdrawn. These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to 'snitch' on each other.

A3N: What facts do you cite for arguing that the State of Ohio deliberately framed innocent men?

SL: My allegation that the State of Ohio has deliberately framed innocent men is presented in a book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press, 2004), a second edition of which will be published in 2011 with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal, and in a law review article, "Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising," Capital University Law Review., v. 36, No. 3 (Spring 2008) The key fact is that the State made it clear early on that they wanted to put the alleged leaders of the disturbance to death, and built cases against the Five almost wholly on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole.

A3N: Why you believe the trial itself was unfair?

SL: The trials were unfair for a variety of reasons, but the two basic facts were: 1) the Five were tried before so-called 'death-qualified' juries, that is, juries from which persons opposed to the death penalty were excluded; and 2) the prosecution's evidence, as I indicated earlier, came almost entirely from prisoner informants in exchange for bargained-for benefits like parole.

A3N: How has your 2004 book been received?

SL: My book was banned from all Ohio prisons and it provoked a good deal of discussion in Ohio. In 2007, a play based on the book was presented in seven Ohio cities. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed friend of the court briefs, based on the book, in the trials of Skatzes and Hasan.

A3N: Can you please tell us more about the hunger strike? How do prison officials publicly justify these conditions that are being challenged?

SL: As to the goals of the hunger strike, I refer the reader to Keith LaMar's statement. LaMar emphasizes that he understands the prison system's concern for security, but, he insists, a 'privilege" such as the opportunity to touch a parent or other relative does not threaten security. The more than 150 other death-sentenced prisoners in Ohio enjoy such privileges. On the other hand, the Lucasville Five are held alone in their small cells 23 hours a day, and when released for an hour of so-called recreation cannot be in the same space as any other human being.

A3N: Can you please explain why George Skatzes is not currently housed alongside the other four members of the Lucasville Five and how his conditions differ from the others?

SL: George Skatzes was transferred to OSP when it opened in 1998 along with the other members of the Lucasville Five. He was transferred out two years later because the authorities feared that he was so depressed that he might commit suicide. He is held with about thirty other death-sentenced prisoners considered seriously mentally ill at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, north of Columbus.

A3N: How can our readers best help to support the upcoming hunger strike?

SL: Readers can help by contacting Professor Jules Lobel, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, , and Professor Denis O'Hearn, director of graduate studies in sociology at the State University of New York, Binghamton, They are circulating a statement of support nationally and internationally.

--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Staughton Lynd's Author page 




Pike: A Review

By Jennifer  Jordan
Crimespree Magazine
September/October 2010

Over at his blog Benjamin Whitmer said that crime fiction is “supposed to be scary”.  He also says that noir isn’t “supposed to be the police procedurals and wisecracking detective serials that dominate the crime shelves” and that they should be something different: “This is nightmare, hunker-down-in-your-soul, how-deep-can-you-dig, release-the-fucking-bats territory.”
 
Benjamin Whitmer makes these tenants Bible truth in his debut novel Pike.  With this novel Whitmer announces his presence with a kick to the teeth and he is the real deal. 

One of the things that strikes me about Pike is the clarity of the writing.  It says what it needs to say in the clearest and most direct way possible.  The prose is so clear that it enhances the power of the story. 

Clearly this is a novel that has been carefully gone over numerous times to makes sure there are no snags.  

Pike strives for a level of realism in violent actions and weaponry that feels more blunt and powerful when compared to more stylized offerings.  There is something almost elemental in the character Pike as if he sprung whole from somewhere other, somewhere more powerful.  Pike is possessed of a deliberateness in his actions that that adds to this notion of him being more a force then a man – or at least a force of a man.  Pike as the titular character is the one we get to know the most.  We see from his past that he is not a good guy, at all.  But there is this barest hint of something approaching decency at this stage in his life.  He’s not good, he’ll never be good, but there are a couple of facets of him that aren’t totally bad.


Pike may just might be the best noir novel that we’ve seen in years, a true black novel if there ever was one.  I won’t name names but much of the purported noir class of crime fiction just can’t hold a candle to what is on display here, Pike is hardcore and the real deal all others are pale imitators.  In a just world Pike will salt the Earth, forcing others to re-examine what can be done with the form. 

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to author page 




Psycho-Noir: Nigel Bird's Essential Noirs

By Nigel Bird
PsychoNoir
November 19, 2010

Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh.  Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has recently had work published by ‘The Reader’, ‘Crimespree’ and 'Needle'.  He was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series earlier this year, won the ‘Watery Grave Invitational 2010’ contest over at ‘The Drowning Machine’ and has recently made debuts at ‘A Twist Of Noir’, 'Pulp Metal Magazine and ‘Dark Valentine Magazine’. His story ‘An Arm And A Leg’ will appear in the ‘Best Of British Crime’ anthology (edited by Maxim Jakubowski) in 2011 and ‘No Pain No Gain’ has just been accepted by Crimefactory. His blog ‘Sea Minor’ is currently running the ‘Dancing With Myself’ series of interviews. He hopes to complete a draft of his novel by the end of 2010.

Nigel writes:
"My memory for names has never been good. I have to beat around the bush to get to where I need to get. 'That book, you know, the one where god comes down to earth as a human and they nail him to one of those wooden things...'. It’s something I’ve had to get used to. My top 20 noir novels, then, includes those titles that are unforgettable even to me. I’m not the most widely read of individuals, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I do this in the knowledge that my pile of To Be Read novels looks so good it there are definitely going to be a few that would have made the list had I got to them earlier. I’ve also tried not to pick a list of the obvious in a bid to keep the series interesting and in doing so I’m stretching both the definition of ‘noir’ and of ‘novel’ in some cases."

Here goes:
Georges Simenon – The Man Who Watched Trains Go By
Allan Guthrie – Slammer
James M Cain – Double Indemnity
Tristran Egolf – Lord Of The Barnyard
Paul Auster – Man In The Dark
Donald Ray Pollock – Knockemstiff
Benjamin Whitmer – Pike
Albert Camus – The Outsider
Franz Kafka – The Trial
Jim Thompson – The Getaway
Charlie Williams – Deadfolk
Lawrence Block – Eight Million Ways To Die
Patrick McCabe – The Butcher Boy
Raymond Chandler – The Big Sleep
Ray Banks – Donkey Punch
The Longshot – Katie Kitamura
Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon
Don Winslow – Savages
Paul Cain – Fast One
Kate Atkinson – When Will There Be Good News
Joe Lansdale – Bad Chili

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to author page 




Book Report on Sober Living

www.swehc.com
Previously published in Law and Order zine #2, 2010
By Staffan Snitting, Marcus Källman and Fredrik Karlberg

Sober living

While Ross Haenfler’s excellent Straight edge hardcore punk, clean-living youth, and social change from 2006 attempts, and pretty much succeeds, to explain the broad phenomenon of straight edge in North America from a context of sub cultural studies, the brand new, fresh out of the presses Sober living for the revolution - hardcore punk, straight edge, and radical politics (from  now on Sober living) by Gabriel Kuhn (ed.) has a different objective.

Haenfler wrote both for the wider audience, not demanding much pre-knowledge from the reader, and the already sworn in who were given a chance to reflect upon their participation in the collective identity that is straight edge. Kuhn on the other hand presents a chance for the latter to deepen those reflections within a given framework: the revolutionary possibility of straight edge.

While all other books covered in this article have been limited to a specific city, country or continent, Sober living is the first to attempt a more internationalist perspective, deliberately collecting stories and views from Europe, South America and North America, and in the process often dealing with the differences and dynamics between these scenes. Many famous scenesters (Ian MacKaye, Dennis Lyxzén, Robert Refuse and many more) are interviewed and well known articles re-printed, but a lot of space is also given to less known activists of different kinds.

Kuhn does a good job at keeping the content interesting, thought provoking and polemic as different and very much conflicting views are presented. Hell, there’s even opposing opinions within included bands, as Michiel and Paul from Manilftingbanner give their take on straight edge and radical politics. And notes I make in the book’s margin, reflecting my disagreement with certain viewpoints, are on several occasions more or less expressed by others as I read on. Kuhn thereby, in all probability with a well thought out deliberateness, forces the reader to investigate his or her own position.

This being said, I would recommend Sober living not only for the politically interested, but very much also for the more generally historically curious. As in all the other books, there are some absolutely awesome stories in “Sober living” that by themselves, stripped from the political context of the book, would be more than enough to make Kuhn’s work a worthwhile read. I sincerely hope that it will be welcomed with as open arms as the books that only deal with what’s come out of North America.

And even more to come
For those who are not satisfied with the above mentioned books, there’s a lot more to check out. Siri C. Brockmeier has written a thesis at the University of Oslo called “Not just boy’s fun – the gendered Experience of American hardcore”. I have begun reading it but not come far enough to include it in this article. Revelation Records will release Why be something that you’re not in the summer of 2010, covering the Detroit hardcore scene from 1979 to 1985. Everybody’s scene: the story of Connecticut’s Anthrax Club by Chris Daily is an account on that classic club. Trapped in a scene: UK hardcore 1985-1989: frontline reports from the hardcore punk underground by Ian Glasper promises to an excellent and very extensive read (I have not been able to read it thoroughly enough yet to be able to include it in this article). Glasper has also written books on the early punk scene as well as the anarcho/peace punk scenes of the UK. There is also a book coming out that will gather all 22 issues of Touch & Go between 1979 and 1983.

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Pirates and the uses of history

By Martin Parker
Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization
Volume 10(2): 194-198

When research, teaching and writing about history is being done, it is usually justified with reference to the problem of induction. Though induction is called a ‘logic’, it is really a guess about probability. If the sun has risen every day for all of my life, then it will probably rise tomorrow. There is no necessary reason implied here, no deduction from principles, simply a guess based on spotting a pattern and then predicting it into the future. So the largely descriptive practice of history becomes articulated as a search for patterns which trail from then to then, from the crow’s nest of now. Not always, because it could be justified as a literary or cultural practice which is being done for its own sake, or for commercial reasons of selling books and TV series, but when a loftier reason is called for it would usually be about ‘learning’ from history. If you don’t know your past, you are doomed to repeat it. How can we know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been?

In theory then, when it comes to wars, revolutions or financial collapses, we can go back and look at what happened and use it to shape our actions now with the benefit of hindsight. Is the collapse of 2008 like that of 1929, or 1837? There is no certainty in such analogies, and no time is exactly the same as any other, but it’s probably better to have this information than not. Just as telling the story of the holocaust might warn us about what happens when economic crisis meets nationalism, so might the story of the great depression being addressed by the New Deal encourage us to think hard about the possibilities of Keynesian economics as an intervention in the current crisis. In the language of the classroom, the past teaches lessons, and so we need historians to translate the voice of history into stories with morals for policy and politics today.  

There is a second variant in this strategy, one that encourages us to look back so that we can look forward, but by opening possibility rather than suggesting probability. This is the history of things that authors think were rather better then than now, a history that doesn’t so much to explain the present as contradict it. Let’s call this utopian history – the search for reasons why the present doesn’t have to be as it is and the future can be something altogether more exciting.

That is mostly why Gabriel Kuhn is interested in Golden Age pirates from the late 17th to early 18th centuries. He sees them as an example of a proto-democratic and anti-imperial practice, and wants to suggest that we can learn from this past in order to open a different future. Rather than ‘this happened in the past so it is likely to happen in the future’, Kuhn says (against an implicitly neo-liberal present) that ‘this happened in the past so it can happen in the future’. It’s almost the opposite of induction in terms of probability. It’s like suggesting that there was a solar eclipse yesterday so there might be one today, or that the dice will roll snake eyes for the seventh time. Rather silly, you might say, but perhaps also rather important in a historical context where policy makers and politicians assume a broad consensus that global capitalism is the end of history.

Market managerialism and the efficient markets hypothesis then become, ceteris paribus, the answer, and the only interesting thing about history is how long it took us to get there. (Or perhaps merely to distract us on long aeroplane journeys.) Historicizing the present in such a smug contemporary context then matters, but for rather different reasons. If you don’t know your radical past, you are doomed not to be able to repeat it. Or, how can we know where we can go, if we don’t know where we have been? Utopianism is easy enough to criticise of course. Castles in the air seem pretty pointless when compared to real castles, but we’ll come to that in a while. Utopian history is a slightly different matter though, because it must be (in part) judged as history. If you claim knowledge of the 1837 depression, then you need a grasp of the facts that can be known. You need to be able to footnote dusty sources in forgotten corners of libraries, and to claim that you have spent a long time turning pages and bending over desks.

So, if you claim knowledge of pirates, your sources matter here. Kuhn’s book has a problem with this, because the sources are a problem. Though we can infer something about pirates from contemporaneous court records, newspaper accounts, travel books, broadsides and popular ballads, the pirates are always being spoken for in such accounts. They almost never speak themselves, with even their gallows speeches being written by moralists of radical or conservative stripe. Demonized by states and merchants, but glamorised by the common people and those who wished to sell stories, pirates are effectively constructed by the interference patterns between these different sources of representation.

Their reality largely died with them, sunk in blue Caribbean bays or hanging raven-pecked from gibbets. Such lack of evidence hasn’t stopped people from making money by telling their story for three hundred and fifty years. The glamorous rogue of Pirates of the Caribbean has been sold many times, as has the violent psychopath who commits atrocities that are described in detail and then condemned with vehemence. Even the gurning figures of pantomime fun need to be located here, because they establish the conditions of possibility for the man with the hook and a chest full of treasure. Most importantly for Kuhn though, over the past thirty years a radical pirate has been constructed by social historians such as Christopher Hill, Marcus Rediker, Peter Linebaugh, Peter Lamborne Wilson, Stephen Snelders and others.

This sort of pirate didn’t really exist before in anything but fragments, but has increasingly become the representation of a tradition of dissent which carries the skull and crossbones into contemporary debates about intellectual property, via the Paris Commune and G8 protests. Life Under the Jolly Roger adds little to any of these works, since it relies on the same materials, but Kuhn manages to summarise the sorts of issues at stake in this literature, at the same time as he endlessly repeats a warning against the dangers of romanticization. At times, the book is simply a long list of pirated quotations from other authors and ends up reading like a sort of textbook on what people have said about the radical pirate for those students doing a ‘Piracy 101’ module.

To summarise, this guerrilla pirate is an enemy of mercantile capitalism and the imperial state, and a social bandit who is supported by most common people. Such pirates are also tolerant when it comes to questions of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability, and practice a form of rough democracy in which they elect their own leaders and are magnanimous to those who don’t resist them. There is probably some truth in all of these claims, though perhaps not as much as some might like to believe, and hence it should not surprise us that pirates have come to matter for utopian historians. Searching for examples of practice that can shame the present, and shape the future, the historian presents the pirate ship as an anarchist collective populated by diggers and levellers. Educated guesses and suppositions fill in the gap between wishful thinking and desire. It’s enough to make a historian turn in their grave, or break a quill.

I overstate the case, but do so deliberately. Kuhn is very often concerned to withdraw from such strong claims, pointing out that pirates sold slaves and raped women for example, but neither he nor PM Press would want that to be the marketing pitch for the book. The whole point is that this pirate opens things up, and allows for forms of thought about possibility to be laced with the smell of spiced rum and the exciting possibility of blood and shouting. It is fantasy, with all the identifications and projections which that involves, though that certainly doesn’t mean that it can’t be politics too. Kuhn’s pirates also fly some other flags – Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault and Nietszche. They become nomadic war machines, who resist biopolitics in the name of Dionysian excess. Casually dressed in fashionable theory, they swashbuckle their way into the radical imagination, post-structuralists before structuralism, anti-capitalists before capitalism. It’s a powerful brew, and no wonder that writers from a wide variety of backgrounds get seduced by it – even if they work in Business Schools (Land 2007, Parker 2009)

Peter Leeson’s The Invisible Hook (2009) uses the same sort of historical evidence as Kuhn’s book, but reaches some rather different conclusions. Leeson’s book (like Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics and many other similar titles) is a primer in behavioural economics, and the title is intended as an echo of Adam’s Smith’s ‘invisible hand’, the aggregation of individual rational choices. Leeson is concerned to show that pirates were rational economic actors, and not irrational psychopaths whose behaviour was
incomprehensible to all but them. I suppose he thinks that if he can demonstrate the logic of piracy, as Levitt and Dubner (2006) did with drug dealing, he will make some money himself, and prove that behavioural economics even works in the most unlikely situations. He seems to be aiming at rather a straw target, because I’m not exactly sure who Leeson is arguing against, but his analysis of the ‘hidden economics of pirates’ is convincing enough in a peg-legged sort of way. He writes about why spreading stories about torture was a good idea to encourage the development of fearsome pirate reputation, which in turn saved resources when they were attacking ships. He shows how pirate democracy was a response to the principal-agent problem, and the Jolly Roger was a brand which signalled to the market. Admittedly he does make the pirates sound like autistic accountants, but it’s a good yarn that he spins.

There are a variety of ways in which Leeson’s analysis might be deemed a bit thin, as well as ideologically driven, but that’s not really my point here. Whether you buy the book on Leeson’s bounded rationalists in search of strategies to maximum benefit, or Kuhn’s metrosexual autonomists engaged in potlatch economics, doesn’t really depend on the facts of the matter or the quality of the analysis. Neither author can point to indisputable evidence, and both books use the same sources, and tell the same stories. (Pretty much as every book on piracy has been doing since the publication of Captain Charles Johnson’s General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, and Also Their Policies, Discipline and Government in 1724.) It’s rather like a choice between Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp, both pirates who swing around on ropes a lot, but are very different in the way they play their parts. I think that the only basis for a choice between Kuhn and Leeson is what lessons we want to learn from history.

Leeson wants to prove that most people, most of the time, behave according to a calculus of incentive and reward and that economics is the best way to understand what people do. Kuhn is looking for inspirations for a radical politics. These aren’t necessarily incommensurable lessons for an anarchist libertarian, but they are clearly intended to sell to different audiences. Leeson’s book ends up advocating markets and rolling back the state, as well as suggesting that ‘workers democracy’ is all very well, but you can’t run Wal-Mart like a pirate ship. Kuhn suggests that the pirates show us something about the potential for revolutionary organizing, and doesn’t mention WalMart, but I would guess he wouldn’t shop there.

Personally, and for what it’s worth, I think that Leeson’s book is better. It adds to the panoply of ways in which pirates can be understood, and assumes that they were engaged in forms of rational economic action. It doesn’t moralise that much, except about his one dimensional version of economics, and forces you to think about what you know (although he does make some rather odd comments about homosexuality.)

Kuhn’s book is not a paradigm shift, despite his name, and he doesn’t really end up thinking very hard about what he wants the pirates to do for ‘radicals today’. He warns not to get carried away with our romanticization of a bunch of people most of us would cross the street to avoid, but then goes ahead and does it anyway. I prefer my fantasies to be thoroughly fantastic, so Leeson’s determined refusal to attach a politics to piracy ends up being the more challenging thought experiment. I might not agree with Leeson’s version of the imperialism of economics, but The Invisible Hook has a lot to say to present day politics too.

If we take the current examples of piracy off the coasts of Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria and so on, and apply Leeson’s dispassionate calculus, we are left without a peg-leg to stand on in terms of justifying present day policies. If any of us lived in poverty, and saw huge ships trundling along on the horizon, we would probably feel rather hostile to the ‘laws’ that govern international trade and the relations between states. Another book published in 2009, written by balding British TV hard man Ross Kemp, makes this point too. Kemp’s breathlessly ordinary attempts to meet pirates are good ‘content’ for a book and a BBC TV show, but they are also quite convincing demonstrations of the inequalities of the international order. Kemp shows us that pirates have reasons for being pirates, and ironically one of the main reasons is the dominance of ideas of the market which Leeson finds so compelling. I’m not sure that Somalians would see the irony though, as industrial waste washes up on their poisoned beaches, and killing has become a national industry. It seems that the unintended consequence of applying neo- liberal economic policies on a global scale is to provide very rational reasons for some people to fire rocket propelled grenades at container ships.

There is no definitive answer to the question of what we can learn from pirate history, but there are two things that might be provisionally concluded. One is that representations of pirates will continue to be sold by other people for money. Kuhn and Leeson are in that respect not much different from Captain Johnson, Johnny Depp and Ross Kemp. The second is that since we don’t seem to agree about what we learn, we might as well be clear about what we want to learn. There’s an odd paradox in the very idea of historicising the present. It could lock us in to history in ways that make path dependency inevitable, and prevent us from imagining anything that isn’t now. But it could also show us that now wasn’t always the case, and that things have been done differently in other places and times. Leeson shows us that this is not necessarily a romantic or nostalgic argument and he doesn’t need Kuhn’s radical baggage to show why piracy made, and makes, sense. What Leeson lacks is any sense that the future can be substantially different from the past, assuming that the lesson that we learn that is that we should learn the lessons of economics. But if recent history is anything to go by, we would be better assuming that many economists don’t understand politics, and hence the possibility of change in the social conditions that produce rationality and market exchange. It is this very possibility for change that shows us why those sympathetic to pirates should be suspicious of arguments that assume that history teaches lessons, unless the lesson is that the future is open.

references:
Kemp, R. (2009) Pirates. London: Michael Joseph.
Land, C. (2007) ‘Flying the black flag’, Management and Organizational History, 2(2): 169-192.
Levitt, S. and S. Dubner (2006) Freakonomics. London: Penguin.
Parker, M. (2009) ‘Pirates, merchants and anarchists: representations of international business’,
Management and Organizational History, 4(2): 167-185.  
 
Martin Parker works in a leading university based Business School somewhere near Coventry.
E-mail: martin.parker@wbs.ac.uk

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The Chieu Hoi Saloon on MidwestBookReview

MidwestBook Review
By Diane Simmons
January 2011
Volume 11, Number 1

Harry Hudson, the hero of Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon, reminds me of other hulkingly desperate, endlessly searching, secretly intellectual loners of literature. I think especially Thomas Wolfe's Eugene Gant, hurling himself into "immense and swarming" New York City. Perhaps it is only the outsider, the tortured seeker for something that couldn't be found in his nowhere home town, who can truly plumb a great city's depths.

In The Chieu Hoi Saloon, a huge book in which literary meets noir, it's 1980s Los Angeles, a city festering for the eruption that will follow the Rodney King verdict. Harry Hudson, who has fled/deserted a small town up in Oregon, a failed marriage and a little son, stutters so badly that he can barely talk to anyone but himself. His copy-desk job in a dying newspaper world leaves him plenty of time to shadow box with his past, to re-live the moment when, in a young man's "drowsiness and fear," he killed a harmless old Vietnamese, and the even longer moment, fifteen years later, when he was too drunk to fish his little daughter out of the deep end of the swimming pool. With these memories before him, he knows he "has no right ever to feel good again."

Los Angles, as seen here, seems to be a good place to have come if you are looking to run but have no real hope of hiding. Harry Hudson - as he's always called - seeks to find himself, or lose himself, in one dive after another, joints where signs such as "SWINGERS WELCOME" and "ONE AT A TIME ONLY IN THE TOILET" tell you all you need to know. Part-time hookers on their way down are willing to love Harry Hudson a little, accept his money and his support, and he at times he becomes so involved with their lives that the book sometimes begins to speak, successfully I think, in their voices, opening up a second window onto the life of the city.

Does our hero find redemption? Let me not say.

But there is one oasis of hope in the book, the Chieu Hoi (exact translation, I think, to sicken and die) run by a woman called Mama Thuy. Her life has been tough too; a young girl during the Vietnam War, she also left behind a son to make her escape. Still she remains whole: beautiful, tough, decent, courageous. The disreputable crew of saloon regulars - those who have long since "lost the ability to control their behavior well enough to pass for normal citizens" -- are all in love with her, would lay down their lives for her in a minute.

The Chieu Hoi, though it's called a saloon, is really, Harry Hudson, knows a church, a "congregation of fools, of incomplete people gathering around Mama Thuy in hope that, somehow, in this one place, some wholeness might "rub off."

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Storytelling as Organizing: How to Rescue the Left from its Crisis of Imagination

by Adam Kader
In These Times
January, 2011

In an editorial in In These Times'  November 2009 issue, reflecting on the right’s success at re-framing the healthcare reform debate in its favor, Kevin O’Donnell wrote, “When it comes to messaging, Republicans believe in science. Democrats don’t.” To their detriment, “Democrats cling to the idea, disproved by science and electoral experience, that if you present the facts, people will reason their way to the right conclusion.” Republicans, on the other hand, know to use “simple words, short sentences and a heavy dose of repetition.”  



Must one be this cynical in order to win a campaign or a policy battle? Is the way to beat conservatives on important issues to “race to the bottom,” debasing rhetoric, and treating the public as imbeciles? Fortunately, for those looking for a more generous understanding of public discourse, there’s Re:Imagining Change: How to Use Story-based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World (PM Press, 2010), by Patrick Reinsborough and Doyle Canning. 



Reinsborough and Canning provide another way of looking at “the battle of the narrative.” Like O’Donnell, any experienced activist knows that framing the issue matters to any campaign's success. But rather than “dumbing down” progressive campaign messaging, Reinsborough and Canning argue for a story-based strategy that deconstructs dominant narratives and constructs new ones that challenge assumptions and move citizens to action.

The authors encourage readers to re-imagine both how change can happen and what can be changed. They introduce a series of concepts “to win campaigns, build movements, and change the world” based on Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony, which posits that powerful interests exert control through dominant culture so that the status-quo becomes “common sense.” If campaigns are to change the status-quo, the authors argue, they must be communicated in ways that fall outside the narrative categories created by the status quo. 



Just as a successful campaign can change the material conditions of society, Reinsborough and Canning argue, so can it change the way society thinks—it creates change on the level of meaning. In the same way that a direct action physically interrupts a target’s business-as-usual, a campaign has a deeper impact when it also interrupts the dominant narrative about the campaign issue.  



Consider Re:Imagining Change’s example of Greenpeace’s Save the Whales Campaign. When Greenpeace activists took action by literally placing themselves between whaling ships and the whales, it “showed it was the activists, not the whalers, who were the courageous people on small boats risking their lives—not to kill whales, but to save them. In this new narrative, whales were not big and evil; rather it was the giant whaling ships that were the dangerous monsters. The whales were the helpless victims and became sympathetic and worthy of protection...The story changed and the roles of hero, victim, and villain shifted.”

Successful campaigns utilize a “meme,” or a unit of “self-replicating cultural information such as slogans (Just Do It!), iconic images (Abu Ghraib torture), catch phrases (“wardrobe malfunction”) or symbols (the peace sign). Just as engines of dominant culture create memes, so can social change groups.

 Re:Imagining Change's accessible language and hands-on exercises make it ideal for busy community and political organizers. My favorite feature of the book is the “Reflections” box included in each chapter. An example:

What are some assumptions in the dominant culture you think need to be changed?  Make a list.  You can carry this assumption list with you and keep a running tab of times when they show up, or when you surface new ones.  Choose one assumption to work with for the moment...Are there institutions where it lives?  Are there ways it is felt in popular culture?  Now think about actions you could take to challenge that assumption and change the story. Are there physical points of intervention that could expose this assumption?

The exercise pushed me to step back and consider a campaign that my organization, Arise Chicago, and other worker centers around the country are engaged in. The fight against the exploitation of low-wage earners is not new, but our “anti-wage theft campaign” is because of its use of the “wage theft” meme. Before, institutions like the Department of Labor and the mainstream media referred to the phenomena of worker exploitation as “non-payment of wages.” 



Several years ago, however, worker centers designed the “wage theft” meme.  This meme overthrows the dominant assumption that wages are the property of the boss, to be shared with workers.  Rather, in this new narrative, wages are the property of workers that have been stolen by the boss. 



The wage theft meme is deeply effective, because a common defense narrative spun by an employer caught for not paying his workers is that these are hard economic times; that in a difficult business climate everyone has to tighten their belts—that the boss is doing everything he can to keep things running.  



The public is sympathetic to this defense. The employer is understood as benevolent; he is the job provider, the one who can save our economy—the workers, protesting, are ungrateful! They should be thankful to be employed at all in this bad economy! The audience of this dominant narrative will identify with the employer, who is the one struggling to stay alive in this economy.  The workers are troublemakers, trying to take wages away from the employer, a property owner, just like you and me! 

But through the wage theft meme, workers, not employers, become the victims of the bad economic climate. The boss, not the workers, becomes the unreasonable one.  The self-respecting public will identify with the righteous worker who is trying to stand up for their right to recover their private property.  Using the wage theft meme, when my organization fights an employer who is not paying minimum wage, overtime wage, or wage at all, we also are fighting some of the assumptions embedded in the dominant narrative about labor. Accordingly, the media has begun to use the meme when they report on our campaigns and legislators have incorporated the phrase “wage theft” in the names of bills.

All of this is to say that Re:Imagining Change has inspired me to evaluate the choices we’re making in designing and communicating our organizing campaigns. Other progressive organizers should strive to do the same. The left is losing the battle over narrative, which means we often lose the larger war over legislation and fiscal policy. Think of common current rhetoric surrounding climate change legislation (“it kills jobs”), public sector jobs (“we have to cut back to decrease the deficit”), gender parity (“it will result in frivolous lawsuits”), etc. 

Indeed, Sally Kohn of Movement Vision Lab writes: “Over the past year, much of the left has jealously ogled the Tea Party and its apparently up-out-of-nowhere grassroots movement energy.” Kohn locates the origin of this energy in the proliferation of “an attractive story of power and vision—a story in which everyday activists can see themselves and engage.”

That the left needs to develop strong, compelling, narratives is clear. Re:Imagining Change is the resource that can show us exactly how to do so.

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