Thursday, May 18, 2006

Howard Zinn on the Tactics and Language of the Left


Best known for A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn has been a professor, radical historian, social activist, and intellectual leader of the Left for forty years. In over twenty books, he has devoted himself to connecting America's past with its present, providing a frame for left-wing activism and politics. Praised by academics and lay readers alike, Zinn feels more at home on the streets than in the ivory tower.

An excerpt from Shelly R. Fredman's interview of Howard Zinn on the AlterNet:

"SF: Has the Left responded adequately to the kind of fascism we see coming from Bush's people? Street protests seem to be ineffective; it's sometimes disheartening.

HZ: The responses are never adequate, until they build and build and something changes. People very often think that there must be some magical tactic, beyond the traditional ones -- protests, demonstrations, vigils, civil disobedience -- but there is no magical panacea, only persistence in continuing and escalating the usual tactics of protest and resistance. The end of the Vietnam War did not come because the Left suddenly did something new and dramatic, but because all of the actions built up over time.

SF: Don't you believe the Left needs to address spiritual needs to win? How else can we galvanize the heartland, people taken in by the religious rhetoric of Bush?

HZ: Yes, there are special needs and they need to be addressed. But after the last election there was a kind of hysteria among liberal pundits about a "failure" to deal with the moral issues. There is a hard core for whom religion is key. They are maybe twenty-five percent of the population. It's a mistake to try to appeal to that hard core.

I define the spiritual in emotional terms -- to the extent that religion can draw on the Ten Commandments (for example, thou shalt not kill), it is important. And I find the spiritual in the arts, because they nourish the spirit and move people. Artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, for example, and now Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. We need more of these.

It's not that people are turned off by the Left. The Left hasn't reached out to people with a clear, coherent, and emotional message. The Left often does not know how to talk to other people. Tikkun magazine appeals to intellectuals. I've never spoken the language of ivory tower academics. And there are other voices on the Left that speak in understandable language. For instance, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, in which she took menial jobs across the country and wrote about those lives, was a bestseller. There's an emotionalism to her message that makes contact and touches thousands. Michael Moore's movies have been seen by all sorts of people. GI's in Iraq watched his movie. We just have to do more along those lines."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

States starry-eyed over spaceports



"The promise of blasting thrill-seeking tourists into space is fueling an unprecedented rush to build snazzy commercial spaceports. The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing proposals from New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to be gateways for private space travel. Depending on how environmental reviews and other requirements go, approval could come as early as this year and the sites could be ferrying space tourists soon after.

The current spaceport boom recalls the mid-1990s, when the first spaceport fad generated hype but no real construction. Finally, technology may have caught up with starry-eyed plans.
Aerospace designer Burt Rutan, who is building a commercial spaceship fleet for British space tourism operator Virgin Galactic, recently expressed his amazement at the flurry of proposals. "It's almost humorous to watch the worldwide battle of the spaceports," Rutan mused earlier this month at the International Space Development Conference.

For decades, spaceports have been used mostly by NASA and the Pentagon to rocket astronauts and satellites into orbit. Traditional launch ranges are often spartan mixes of lonely launch pad towers, concrete runways and aircraft hangars. Many are located in remote coastal areas -- Florida's Cape Canaveral being the best known -- so that debris won't hit populated areas.
The current spaceport boom promises futuristic complexes that evoke the Jetsons. But cashing in requires a gamble." (CNN)