Tavis Smiley on Martin Luther King: KPFK 2/4

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The last year of Martin Luther King’s life was “hell”
—that’s what TAVIS SMILEY says. We’ll speak with him about how King’s 1967 speech criticising the Vietnam war was denounced not only by the mainstream media—the NYTimes called it “disastrous and self-defeating”—but also by most of black America as well. Tavis of course hosts a show on PBS; his terrific new book is DEATH OF A KING:The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.

Also: Why I Won’t Serve in the Israeli Army—Israeli refusenik Moriel Rothman explains why we went to jail rather than “be part of a system whose main task is the violent occupation of millions of people.”

Today is a fund drive day at KPFK—we’ll be featuring Tavis Smiley’s book Death of a King as our thank-you gift, along with rare Martin Luther King from the Pacifica Archives. Please call and pledge during the show: 818-985-5735

Gitmo Diary: ‘A Vision of Hell’ — KPFK 1/28

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Guantanamo Diary is an incredible document, the true first-person account of a “high-value detainee,” Mohamedou Ould Slahi—John Le Carre calls it “a vision of hell, beyond Orwell, beyond Kafka: perpetual torture prescribed by the mad doctors in Washington.” We’ll speak with Slahi’s editor LARRY SIEMS and his attorney NANCY HOLLANDER.
WATCH the video HERE.  READ the original manuscript HERE.
SIGN the ACLU petition HERE.

Also: Historian ERIC FONER on the hidden history of the underground railroad—his new book Gateway to Freedom shows how a small number of people can accomplish great things–and change history.
Plus: KPFK Sports! Sunday is the Superbowl, a big day for brain damage. We’ll have comment from STEVE ALMONDhe wrote the book AGAINST FOOTBALL


Becoming Richard Pryor: KPFK 1/21

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Richard Pryor
revolutionized the world of comedy—he was a fearless performer and a truth-teller about race in America. Now there’s a terrific new biography out: Becoming Richard Pryor by SCOTT SAUL—he teaches English at Berkeley, he’s written for Harper’s, the New York Times, and The Nation. The Digital Companion HERE.  He’ll be  at Book Soup Sunday, Feb. 8 at 4 pm.

Plus: JOHN NICHOLS of The Nation magazine will comment on last night’s state of the union speech, where Obama proposed to address income inequality by redistributing some of the wealth that has been locked up by the billionaire class and their banks.

Also: “The brain’s job is to hide the truth of trauma from you” – that’s what DAVID J MORRIS says. His Humvee was blown up in the Iraq war; when he came home he suffered from post-traumatic stress, and now he’s written an amazing book about it, The Evil Hours: A Biography of PTSD. He’s published in the New Yorker, Slate, the New York Times last Sunday.  He’ll be speaking at Vroman’s in Pasadena Thurs, February 19 at 7pm.

‘Selma’ & Voting Rights–in 1965, and now: KPFK 1/14

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The film Selma and the fight for the right to vote – in 1965, and now
: ARI BERMAN of The Nation comments. He’s an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute, is working on a book about voting rights since 1965.

Plus:  Much of the film Selma is based on the work of historian TAYLOR BRANCH.  We’ll speak with him about Selma in his book At Canaan’s Edge: Martin Luther King 1965-1968.

Also: Obama’s liberal apologists: TOM FRANK says they helped torpedo change and make the Democrats safe for Wall Street–and it didn’t have to be that way. Tom writes a column for

And we’ll also revisit a conversation with GARRISON KEILLOR—he says it’s time for all of us to become Republicans.

‘Climate Change is Everything': Rebecca Solnit on KPFK 1/7

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REBECCA SOLNIT says climate change is aboutthe whole planet for the whole foreseeable future.  We’ve made progress in Sacramento and Washington; now it’s time to ban fracking in California. Rebecca wrote about climate for the New York Times op-ed page, and writes frequently for TomDispatch.

Also: This year the US will observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War – and the Pentagon is in charge of the commemoration. But what about the rest of us? TOM HAYDEN will comment. NYTimes p1 story HERE; official commemoration site HERE; Vietnam Peace Commemoration petition HERE.

Plus: RICHARD FORD’s new novel about Frank Bascombe, the New Jersey realtor, is “droll, bemused, hyper-observant, occasionally exasperating and punctuated by sighs of both resignation and contentment” (NYTimes).  The book is Let Me Be Frank with You.

Naomi Klein, Laura Poitras: KPFK 12/31

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Our Year-in-Review show:  The People’s Climate March in New York City in September was the biggest environmental demonstration in history. NAOMI KLEIN published her new book This Changes Everything the week before. We’ll revisit our conversation with her about the march, and the book.

Also: the best documentary film of 2014 is LAURA POITRAS’s Citizenfour, a real-life thriller which follows Edward Snowden as he prepares to reveal the massive extent of NSA bulk surveillance of Americans. Laura will talk about how she made the film and its significance for all of us today.

Finally: Remember the 2014 midterm elections? How bad was it? We have two conflicting views: HAROLD MEYERSON called it “a disaster,” while JOHN NICHOLS called it “a normal midterm result.”

Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album: Is this a joke?
KPFK 12/17

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Bob Dylan’s Christmas album: Is this a joke — or a tragedy?
SEAN WILENTZ explains — he’s official historian-in-residence at the official Bob Dylan website (he also teaches American history at Princeton and is the author of, among other books, Bob Dylan in America.)
WATCH Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa” video HERE

Also: it’s the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of World War I, when, after five months of unparalleled industrial-scale slaughter, British and German soldiers stopped fighting and exchanged gifts of food. Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars, calls it “an outbreak of peace celebrated today with extraordinary fanfare.” WATCH the Sainsbury’s Christmas Truce ad for British TV HERE.

Plus: Why the Puritans banned Christmas: it wasn’t always a festival of domesticity and consumerism. Historian Stephen Nissenbaum explains—his book is The Battle for Christmas.

Prosecute the Torturers: Erwin Chemerinsky
KPFK 12/10

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Torture is a federal crime
, and those who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted:  for comment on the Senate report on CIA torture, we turn to ERWIN CHEMERINSKY — he’s dean of the UCI Law School and author of The Case Against the Supreme Court.  He wrote about prosecuting the torturers for the LA Times.

Plus: Labor’s new reality: it’s easier to raise wages for 100,000 than to unionize 4,000.  HAROLD MEYERSON suggests a strategy for building a low-wage workers’ organization in LA County that isn’t a union, because, much as we’d like to, we can’t get there (unions) from here (America, 2014).  Harold is a columnist for the Washington Post op-ed page and editor-at-large of The American Prospect.

Surveillance and Secret Wars: KPFK 12/03

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Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State: TOM ENGELHARDT
, legendary editor of TomDispatch, talks about something new under the sun: it’s no longer a national security state, but rather a global security one, fighting secret wars that have turned the president into an assassin-in-chief. Tom’s new book is SHADOW GOVERNMENT.

Also: How a despised immigrant cuisine became a dominant force in American eating: UCI historian YONG CHEN tells the story of Chinese food in America, and answers the question, why is Chinese food so popular?  His new book is CHOP SUEY, USA.

Plus: Art, sex, and politics in Manhattan in the seventies: The rise of the gay rights movement and the simultaneous rise of photography in the galleries; photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as the partner of Patti Smith and documentarian of the city’s S&M scene; and then Sam Wagstaff as a legendary curator, and patron of Mapplethorpe: PHILIP GEFTER will explain it all. His new book is WAGSTAFF: Before and After Mapplethorpe: A Biography.

Why it’s impossible to indict a cop: KPFK 11/24

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It’s not just Ferguson, ” says CHASE MADAR — as thousands marched last night in dozens of cities in protest against the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who killed the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.  Chase is a civil rights attorney who writes for The Nation.  Plus BRAD FRIEDMAN of The Bradcast on KPFK.
Also: The war through Afghan eyes: journalist ANAND GOPAL profiles a Taliban commander, a US-backed warlord, and a village housewife trapped between 2 sides.  His book, No Good Men Among the Living, was nominated for the National Book Award.

Plus: the rise of religious fundamentalism across the world’s religions: JACK MILES explains.  He’s editor of the monumental Norton Anthology Of World Religions and won a MacArthur “genuis” award and a Pulitzer.