KPFK Wed. May 18: from L.A. to Baghdad

Antonio Villaraigosa will be L.A.’s first Latino mayor in modern times; meanwhile, back in Washington, the Republican effort to abolish the filibuster–and put lots more far-right-wing judges on the federal bench–begins today. HAROLD MEYERSON will provide comment and analysis; he writes for the LAWeekly, the American Prospect, and the Washington Post op-ed page.
READ Jon Wiener on Antonio’s victory:

Also: John Brown was the militant abolitionist who led an assault on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in the hope of inciting a slave insurrection. Some people call him a terrorist, but he was right about one thing: slavery was a system of violence that could not be ended in the US without war. Columbia University historian ERIC FONER comments. (There’s a new book on John Brown, written by David S. Reynolds.)

Plus: So far this month in the Iraq insurgency, more than 450 Iraqis and dozens of U.S. troops have been killed. We’ll have our update on what the New York Times calls “the mystery of the insurgency” from U. of Michigan historian JUAN COLE: he writes the famous “Informed Comment” blog about Iraq at
Juan Cole is president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, which opposes the British boycott of Israeli academics: Read the MESA statement
Sign the AAUP petition opposing the boycott of Israeli academics.

More stuff to read: Jon Wiener debates Diane Ravich online at on how to teach history:

Quote without comment: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
–President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a letter to his brother Edgar, November 8, 1954. (thanks to Blanche Wiesen Cook for finding this item.)

KPFK Wed May 3: Surveillance, voting & “Americanization”

From Starbucks to the sidewalk to surfing the web, we are being watched. The power and pervasiveness of surveillance technology in America today is unnerving. Robert O’Harrow Jr. will explain: he is a reporter for the Washington Post and author of No Place to Hide.

Plus: We’re still worrying about voting and vote-counting in presidential elections. Andrew Gumbel of The Independent points out that US vote-counting procedures don’t meet the standards we’ve applied to those beacons of democracy Ukraine, Georgia or Kyrgyzstan. His article “Failing the Electoral Standards” appeared at, and his book Steal This Vote will be published this spring.

Also: The most significant conquest of the 20th century may have been the triumph of America’s market empire over Europe. Columbia University historian Victoria de Grazia tells the story of “Americanization” — her new book is Irresistible Empire.

Web extra: May 4 is the 35th anniversary of the Kent State killings — four students killed by the National Guard, which was shooting at students demonstrating on campus against the war in Vietnam. President Nixon had told the media about “these bums, you know, blowin’ up the campuses.” Allison Kraus was one of those killed, shot through the chest 350 feet away from the guardsmen. The next day her father told the press, “my daughter was not a bum.” more info:


SARAH VOWELL is one of the great voices of public radio in America today for her work on This American Life. Now she’s gone on the road to find the locations of American political violence — and to ponder their lessons — in her new book Assassination Vacation.

PLUS: Agribusiness in California: it’s both an economic wonder and an intolerable human tragedy — RICHARD WALKER will explain. His new book is The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of Agribusiness in California. Mike Davis calls it “a magnificent and haunting study.”
READ Jon Wiener’s review of The Conquest of Bread in The Nation Apr. 11:

ALSO: First came collaboration and resistance in World War II — and then came public justice, and private score-settling. JOSEPH KANON has written about that world in his new thriller Alibi. Kanon has been praised as the next John le Carre’ and the heir apparent to Graham Greene.

MORE INFO: Sarah Vowell works with “826NYC,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their writing. 826 believes that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. Their free programs are challenging and enjoyable, and aim to strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice. There’s a branch in LA: 826LA.

KPFK Wed. Apr. 20: John Dean, Maureen Dowd, Victor Navasky

Worse than Watergate“: that’s what JOHN DEAN says about the Bush White House practice of secrecy and deception. John Dean of course served as counsel to President Nixon at age 31, a job he did for a thousand days.
SEE John Dean at the BookFest at UCLA, Sat. 1130am, Korn Convocation Hall

Also: MAUREEN DOWD, the New York Times op-ed columnist: she’ll talk about what she calls “Bushworld“: “It’s their reality,” she says. “We just live and die in it.”
SEE Maureen Dowd at the Bookfest at UCLA, Sat. 1130am, Korn Convocation Hall

Plus: VICTOR NAVASKY: he’s the renowned editor, writer, and teacher who has been at the helm of The Nation for almost thirty years. Now he has a new book: A Matter of Opinion, an extraordinary political document: a spirited, provocative argument for independent journals of opinion as vital to the health of democracy — a wonderful book, and a funny one too.
SEE Victor Navasky at the Bookfest at UCLA, Sat. 130pm Rolfe 1200

AT THE BOOKFEST AT UCLA, STOP BY AND SAY HI: Jon Wiener at The Nation Booth 344, Saturday 300pm.


11:30am: Together at Last: John Dean, Maureen Dowd, and Jon Wiener: Korn Hall
12:30pm: Adam Shatz: “Islam Now”: Haines 39
1:30pm: Victor Navasky: “Hollywood and the Reds”: Rolfe 1200
2:00pm: Russell Jacoby, Jonathan Schell, Amy Wilentz: “Outsourcing Democracy”: Haines 39
3:30pm: Chris Hedges: “Covering War”: Haines 39
3:30pm: Richard Steven Street: “California Farmworkers”: Korn Convocation Hall

10:00am: Katrina vanden Heuvel, “America’s Political Culture”: Moore Hall 100
10:30am: Melissa Boyle Mahle, “The New World Order”: Haines 39
1:00pm: Steve Fraser, Adam Hochschild: “Writing Epic History”: Dodd 147
1:30pm: Marc Cooper: “A Sense of Place” Franz 1178

Complete festival schedule at Tickets FREE but REQUIRED: available at Ticketmaster: info at


Once upon a time — you looked so fine: It’s the 40th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” — GREIL MARCUS will talk about the “explosion of vision and humor that forever changed pop music.” His new book is Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.
Playlist: Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” — Highway 61 Revisited
Jimi Hendrix, “Like a Rolling Stone” — Jimi Plays Monterey
Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” — Live 1966

Also: It’s the 2nd anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to US troops: we’ll speak with Karen Houppert about the lives of military wives, whose ranks range from the gung-ho to the openly rebellious. Karen wrote about “The New Face of Protest” for The Nation; her book is Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military–For Better or Worse.

Plus: VED MEHTA is the essayist who wrote in the New Yorker about his early struggles with blindness–he was a staff writer there for 33 years. He’s been awarded three Guggenheim Fellowships and a MacArthur Genius grant. Now he’s published the 11th volume of his Continents of Exile series: The Red Letters: My Father’s Enchanted Period, about his discovery of his father’s affair with a married woman. The Times Literary Supplement called it “nothing less than a literary masterpiece.”
Ved Mehta will be speaking at the LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA on Sat. Apr. 23, at 1100AM in Haines 39.

KPFK Apr. 6: Amy Wilentz on Gaza

Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel and Palestine: as the Israeli government and military prepare to dismantle the Gaza settlements, the settler movement prepares for massive resistance: AMY WILENTZ will be live in-studio with our Mideast update. Her “Letter from Jerusalem” appears in the April 18 issue of The Nation.

Also: Farmworkers in California history: RICHARD STEVEN STREET talks about his prizewinning Beasts of the Field — it’s a magnificent book, beautifully written and exhaustively researched. It demonstrates how much difference, and how much change, can be found in that history. He’s also published a companion volume, Photographing Farmworkers in California.
Read Jon Wiener’s review in The Nation Apr. 11:

Plus: A park ranger on patrol in the Sierra: JORDAN FISHER SMITH tells his story in Nature Noir. Mike Davis calls it “A walk in the woods like Thoreau never imagined . . . . this astonishing book, with its brilliant interweaving of murder, irony, and natural history, invents a new genre.”

Finally: Our musical tribute to Pope John Paul II from PHRANC, the all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger: “Caped Crusader” — from the CD “Phranc Folksinger” (Phancy Records 2005).


Two segments trace some effects of the war in Iraq:

At home in Illinois: CALVIN TRILLIN reports on the family of one National Guardsman killed in Iraq: Brian Slavenas of DeKalb, Illinois. His father is a strong supporter of the war, but his mother is a long-time antiwar activist. Trillin wrote his powerful “Letter from Illinois” for The New Yorker.

— And in Washington, the pro-war camp is euphoric these days; they say that the “liberation” of Iraq has prompted Arabs to challenge their own regimes in Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt, and that the US stands poised to reap the benefits of “democratization.” There’s one problem with this analysis, ADAM SHATZ argues: it isn’t true. Adam is Literary Editor of The Nation; he has visited Beirut and interviewed the leader of Hezbollah for the New York Review of Books; he wrote recently for the op-ed page of the L.A. Times.

Also: CONSERVATIVES ON CAMPUS: they claim they are vicitims of leftist professors; they say they are “fearful,” and need the government to protect them. RUSSELL JACOBY will explain their so-called “Academic Bill of Rights” being proposed in state legislatures across the country; he wrote about it for The Nation.

Plus: The history of FAILURE IN AMERICA: Scott Sandage has a terrific book on the topic: Born Losers.

More things to read:
“Conservatives have long complained about the small number of Republicans on the faculty at Harvard. My best guess is that this is the result of differences in innate ability.” –Jon Wiener, “(Un)Fair Harvard,” The Nation, April 4:

“California inspires people to think big, and to write big books. Take, for example, Kevin Starr. . . .” — Jon Wiener, “Dreams and Delusions,” five books about California, The Nation, April 11:


KATHA POLLITT, columnist for The Nation, considers the question, “What’s wrong with women — this week?” Last week the complaint was that women weren’t good at science; this week they’re too timid to write op-ed columns.

Also: A memoir about sexual hypocrisy and political corruption: LIPSTICK JIHAD describes an Iranian-American woman’s trip to Tehran to consider the failure of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Author AZADEH MOAVENI will be live-in studio.

Plus: BOB DYLAN‘s Chronicles Volume 1 is a surprising and wonderful memoir — of the eager unknown trying to make it in the Village, and the beleaguered superstar of the late 1960s. We’ll have comment from Princeton historian SEAN WILENTZ — he’s historian in residence at the official website, and was nominated for a Grammy for his liner notes to the album Bob Dylan Live 1964.
Listen to Sean Penn reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles

. . . STILL MORE RADIO: Jon Wiener guests on Air America Radio with Janeane Garofolo and Sam Seder TONIGHT/WED at 830pm on KTLK 1150AM in Los Angeles. ((also on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 144, same time)


The US invaded Iraq two years ago this Saturday (Mar. 19); to observe the anniversary, we’ll talk about two films on the war:

“Gunner Palace” is a wild Iraq war documentary in video-diary format, alternately gripping and surrealistic. ELLA TAYLOR of the LA Weekly calls it “sensational” — she’ll explain why.
READ Ella Taylor on “Gunner Palace”
More on “Gunner Palace” from Stuart Klawans in The Nation
watch the trailer for “Gunner Palace”:
“Gunner Palace” is playing in LA at the Sunset 5, Laemmle’s Monica, and Laemmle’s Pasadela Playhouse — also in Encino, Long Beach and Irvine.

“WMD The Film” is “a comprehensive and devastating critique of the TV news networks’ complacency and complicity in the war on Iraq. . . brilliantly argued and scrupulously documented.” — Chicago Reader. We’ll speak with the filmmaker DANNY SCHECHTER.
“WMD The Film” is playing Friday 3/18, 6:00-10:00pm at Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd in Santa Monica. Q&A after the screening featuring Danny Schechter. more info: 310-434-4000

Also: The Ward Churchill case: the professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado who has been threatened with firing after publishing an essay describing some of the victims of the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center as “little Eichmans.” We’ll have comment from Robert Post of the Yale Law School and the AAUP.
Read Ward Churchill’s interview with Amy Goodman

Plus: JOHN SINCLAIR is a champion of justice, art, and fun. He was manager of the MC5 in their 1960s street revolutionary heyday, chairman of the White Panther Party, pot/political prisoner, and subject of a John Lennon song decrying his incarceration. After he won an early release, he produced the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, and did a long stint in New Orleans in the ’90s as radio deejay at WWOZ. Now he runs Radio Free Amsterdam.
PLAYLIST: John Lennon “Acoustic” CD, track 9: “John Sinclair”
John Sinclair will deejay Wed 3/16 at Amoeba Records, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hywd, 7-8:30 pm — and will read Fri. 3/18, 7pm at 33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective, 1200 N. Alvarado (at Sunset), Echo Park, 213-483-3500

WEB EXTRA: more than 90 per cent of faculty campaign contributions went to the Democrats in 2004 — is that bad? Read Jon Wiener’s piece in the Daily Princetonian.