She Would Not Be Moved by Herb Kohl

August 9, 2008

Herb Kohl revisits the fabled story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, turning it upside down in search of a truth beneath the authorized and largely whitewashed version. She Would Not Be Moved is a small book with a big message—it’s destined to become a classic.


Organizing the South Bronx by Jim Rooney

August 9, 2008

Organizing the South Bronx is a story of heroic and articulate individuals who were able to defy overwhelming odds and build affordable housing in the South Bronx. It is about the process of teaching citizens in a low-income neighborhood how to fully and effectively participate in public life. Very little is written about the catastrophic and precipitous collapse of the South Bronx, although its fate is universally cited as emblematic of urban hopelessness. This inquiry focuses on community organizers sifting through the wreckage and making progress in battling an inept municipal government and the centrifugal forces of decay. The locus is a coalition of forty church congregations who battled the city of New York for vacant land in order to build owner-occupied row houses. It’s a compelling lesson in how to educate adults in a democracy to find their voices and wield their collective power as organized and engaged citizens.

Granny Made Me an Anarchist by Stuart Christie

July 17, 2008

Stuart Christie is the rarest of revolutionaries—a committed freedom fighter and a gentle warrior who can also spin a cracking good yarn. From the working class streets of Glasgow as a wee lad to the gaols of fascist Spain as an 18-year-old anarchist, Christie draws his readers into the thick of things, on the move and on the run. The result is a compelling portrait of both a man and a time.

Granny Made Me an Anarchist picks up where George Orwell left off, in London and Paris and in the fight against fascism. Like Orwell, Christie’s engagements and commitments never overshadow his ongoing search for justice. We feel the thud of the police stick and the searing pain of the interrogation cell, but also the exhilaration of choosing to lead a moral life in a world gone mad, and the power of pursuing a politics based on human freedom rather than power or parties. For anyone troubled by the sorry state of things and searching for her or his own moral compass in the mud and muck of the world as we find it, this is essential reading.

Frederick Douglass— What is your 4th of July?

July 4, 2008

During the 1850s, Frederick Douglass typically spent about six months of the year travelling extensively, giving lectures. During one winter — the winter of 1855-1856 — he gave about 70 lectures during a tour that covered four to five thousand miles. And his speaking engagements did not halt at the end of a tour. From his home in Rochester, New York, he took part in local abolition-related events.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

Within the now-famous address is what historian Philip S. Foner has called “probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speeches.”

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Questions and more Questions

June 26, 2008

  1. If you had the power to bestow on all human beings on earth three qualities (not religious affiliations nor physical attributes nor material goods) what would they be? Why?
  2. Are these qualities embodied in your life? Your home? Your work place? Your community?
  3. What are five things you could do right now to bring those qualities more fully to life in each of these settings?
  4. What prevents you from doing those things?

One World

June 26, 2008

—Besides the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which government permitted the execution of juvenile offenders until last year ( when the highest court in the land rendered a split verdict on the matter) ? (Hint: Recently, China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bengladash, and Nigeria banned the practice).

—Now that Somalia has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, what nation stands alone in refusing to sign?

—Which government stands against 106 other nations in opposing the treaty that developed an International Criminal Court whose mission is to prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?

—With over half the nations of the world committed to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which major country has not signed?

—Which nuclear power withdrew from the treaty barring nuclear testing in space? (Hint: The same power recently scuttled a nuclear disarmament agreement, “unsigned” a global warming treaty, and walked away from a world conference on racism).

Another Quiz

June 26, 2008


  1. Name the six countries bordering Afghanistan?
  2. Which country shares the shortest border?
  3. Which the longest?
  4. Where, when, and under what circumstances did Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ associate, sustain his shoulder wound?
  5. How many Afghans were involved in the September 11 attacks?
  6. What percentage of the world’s people live in the United States? In Asia?
  7. What percentage of the world’s finished products are consumed by people in the US?
  8. What percentage of the world’s energy resources are consumed in the US?
  9. How large are the undeveloped oil reserves in Afghanistan? In Central Asia?
  10. Of the world’s six billion people, how many lack the basics to survive? How many own a computer? How many have a bank account?
  11. If the world were a village of 100 people, how many would be: a) literate? b) Muslims, Christians, Jews? c) hungry? d) homeless?
  12. When President Bush says the US will never reconcile with an unpopular despot who oppresses his own people, is he referring to: a) Saudi Arabia? b) China? c) Iraq? d) Uzbekistan? e)None of the above?
  13. When President Bush attacks the lack of truly democratic practices and institutions is he aiming his rhetoric at: a) Pakistan? b) Cuba? c) Saudi Arabia? d) Kuwait? e) The US? f) All of the above?