Thursday, June 30, 2016

Join us for an Interdependence Day visit to the NSA [July 4]/ Letter to NSA director seeking a meeting


   The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will do its annual Interdependence Day visit to the National Security Agency.  We will depart at 10:15 AM on July 4 for Fort Meade, and then vigil at the NSA from 11 AM to noon.  We will then have a 6 PM potluck picnic. RSVP to me at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at  I will inform you as to where we are meeting to carpool to the NSA and the site of the picnic.  Get to know better the government agency which is keeping close attention to you.

Kagiso, Max

Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 Email mobuszewski at; Phone 410-323-1607

June 30, 2016

Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers
Director, National Security Agency
Chief, Central Security Service
National Security Agency
Fort George G. Meade, MD  20755

Dear Admiral Rogers:

  For years, members of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore have expressed a grave concern for the National Security Agency’s role in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the attacks on Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.  The loss of lives, the devastation wreaked on civilian populations, and the resulting instability has only emboldened the terrorists to take advantage of the disarray.  

    Your agency has a well-recognized history of illegal surveillance and other activities which violate the constitution.  The Obama administration is engaged in an assassination program through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.  We believe this program using killer drones is immoral, illegal and unconstitutional.  Even U.S. citizens have been assassinated by drones without a semblance of due process.  Of course, your agency is culpable by providing potential targets for the president's "kill list."

  Because of these concerns, we would like to meet with you or your representative.  The Nuremberg Tribunals taught us that when a government is involved in war crimes, citizens must speak out. As a government employee, you have a responsibility to hear from the citizenry.  We are willing to adjust our schedules to be available at any time or day.  We do plan to be at Fort Meade for our annual Interdependence Day visit.

Fortunately, there is a handful of courageous insiders who have stepped forward to blow the whistle on the NSA. Sadly, if unsurprisingly, these whistleblowers have not been recognized as the heroes that they are for attempting to shine the light on the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional activities.  For example, after blowing the whistle on the Stellar Wind program and revealing key details about the NSA’s illegal warrantless wiretapping and data collection of  U.S. citizens, NSA employees William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe suffered the consequences. After being punished, both chose to accept early retirement packages rather than to work for an agency that was breaking the law.

Unfortunately, NSA psychologists have labeled whistleblowers as mentally ill.  One person who was so labeled was Russ Tice, one of the sources for the New York Times story that first exposed the NSA’s illegal surveillance program.  Because he blew the whistle, he was fired.  NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was one of only four people ever to be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 with the crime of “willful detention” of “national security information.” These bogus charges were eventually dismissed, but his career with the government was over.  Drake accepted a plea agreement to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of “misusing the agency’s computer system.”

The whistleblowers who have probably suffered the most are Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Manning may be incarcerated for decades.  As for Snowden and Assange, they are men without a country. Our government, instead of welcoming the assertions of whistleblowers, severely punishes those who expose serious violations of the law.  Of course, the intent is to remind government employees of the severe consequences meted out to whistleblowers.

On the Fourth of July, we will celebrate these whistleblowers who exposed government malfeasance.  We ask you to join the celebration.  First, publicly acknowledge that the above whistleblowers were right to speak out and that they should never have been punished;  second, say that they must be compensated for their suffering; third, state that all pending and future charges against Assange and Snowden should be dismissed; and fourth, inform the president that he should commute Manning’s sentence. 

 We could provide a long list of the times the NSA shredded the constitution.  Instead, we will mention a few notorious examples.

In 2015, it was revealed that bogus intelligence caused the deaths of Warren Weinstein, 73, an aid worker from Maryland who was a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, an Italian citizen working for a German aid agency, in a U.S. drone strike. Both were kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Pakistan.  

In 2003, the NSA’s Frank Koza was involved in a scheme to spy on members of the UN Security Council prior to a vote on an invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration.  Finally, as you know, the NSA failed miserably to protect us from the 9/11 terror attacks, possibly because illegal surveillance gathered too much data to recognize an impending attack on U.S. soil. 

We hope that you will take our concerns seriously, and decide to set up a meeting with us.  You exist in an insular world, and you could benefit from a meeting with peace and justice activists. At this meeting we will urge the NSA to promote reconciliation and diplomacy and renounce pernicious killer drone strikes and illegal surveillance which violates the 4th Amendment. Doing what we suggest will be a positive step for the National Security Agency to rebuild its tarnished reputation. We look forward to your response.

In peace,

Max Obuszewski
On behalf of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Volkswagen Set for Near $15 Billion Emissions Settlement

A worker at a Volkswagen assembly plant. (photo: EPA)
A worker at a Volkswagen assembly plant. (photo: EPA)

Volkswagen Set for Near $15 Billion Emissions Settlement

By William Boston, The Wall Street Journal
28 June 16

 Volkswagen AG , attorneys for the U.S. government and angry customers are set to announce a package of measures valued at up to $15 billion to resolve the German car maker’s emissions-cheating scandal in the U.S., though European owners of nearly three million tainted vehicles may go empty-handed.

   Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are scheduled to file documents with the Federal District Court of Northern California in San Francisco on Tuesday. The documents will include details of an agreement thrashed out since February in marathon sessions among attorneys for the three sides.

   Volkswagen has agreed to provide compensation for U.S. car owners worth about $10 billion, including an offer to buy back nearly 500,000 affected vehicles and provide car owners additional compensation of between $5,100 and $10,000, according to people familiar with the deal.

   Volkswagen has also agreed to pay more than $4 billion into a fund to compensate for environmental damage and promote environmentally friendly vehicles. The Wall Street Journal reported terms of the agreement last week.

   Volkswagen declined to comment on the details of the agreement with plaintiffs.
Federal Judge Charles Breyer will hold a so-called status conference to discuss the filing with all parties on June 30, but a decision won't be made until July at the earliest.

   U.S. environmental authorities disclosed in September that Volkswagen had manipulated diesel engines to recognize when they were undergoing emissions tests in the laboratory, causing the engines to emit legally allowed levels of toxic nitrogen oxides during tests but exceed those limits in real traffic.

   Volkswagen has since admitted to rigging nearly 11 million vehicles world-wide to cheat on emissions tests and faces civil and criminal investigations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Even as Volkswagen nears its crucial first step in resolving the emissions-cheating scandal in the U.S., its troubles in Europe -- where 2.7 million vehicles are affected -- may just be starting.

   Several lawsuits have been filed in Germany on behalf of investors, including large pension funds such as Calpers, the Norwegian state oil fund, and Nordea, a Swedish investment fund. German courts have yet to rule on allowing class-action suits to go forward, a stricter process than in the U.S.

   News of the impending agreement to compensate U.S. customers has raised concern in Brussels that the much larger number of European customers who bought tainted diesel-powered vehicles from Volkswagen wouldn't receive equal compensation from the German car maker.

   “Volkswagen should voluntarily offer compensation for European car owners that is comparable to what is being paid to U.S. consumers,” said Elzbieta Bienkowska, European Industry and Internal Market Commissioner.

    Volkswagen has repeatedly said that it sees no reason to compensate European customers because of differences in U.S. and European law and environmental standards. Under EU rules, the company has said, Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles don't violate emissions standards.

    It has also said that the vehicles containing the illegal software can be more easily repaired in Europe. Volkswagen is recalling nearly three million vehicles in Europe to remove the defeat devices and make the cars compliant with the law.

    Nevertheless, European officials, consumer groups and plaintiffs’ attorneys in say Volkswagen should compensate European victims to regain customers’ trust.
“Consumers have been massively misled by Volkswagen and this settlement in the U.S. recognizes the damage suffered by car drivers,“ said Monique Goyens, general director of the European Consumer Organization, a Brussels-based consumer lobby. ”It is inconceivable that consumers in the EU get treated differently."

C 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Note what I wrote to The Baltimore Sun, and what was published.

June 28, 2016 --Friends,

Note what I wrote to The Baltimore Sun, and what was published.




Dear friend:

I am trying to understand the situation [NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS, The Baltimore Sun, June 24, 2016].  There was no probable cause, but a black man is arrested for running.  I have never been arrested for running.  I guess it was the “neighborhood.”

Then the prisoner is shackled and thrown on the floor of a police van.  As a peace and justice activist, I have been handcuffed and placed on the floor of a police van.  To say the least, I was in a dangerous and vulnerable position.

Back to the Sandtown-Winchester arrest, when asked in court why the prisoner was not seat-belted, an officer said he didn’t see the email memo.  The excuses kept coming--I was afraid to seat-belt him.  I couldn’t fit in the “cramped” space.

  We all have seen the images of an officer on top of the prisoner and how two of them had to drag him to the van.  Angelique Herbert, a medic who treated the arrested at the Western District Police Station was stunned to see that the prisoner was unconscious.  But why should police be responsible for a prisoner in an obvious life-threatening situation?  They are to arrest and transport.  Based on the decisions reached at trial, the police have no responsibility to ensure that the prisoner is not injured.  But, of course, a police officer can’t tell if a prisoner needs medical assistance.  There is no reason to err on the side of caution.

  Defense attorney Matthew Fraling, of course, blamed the prisoner for his own death. I think Mr. Fraling should be shackled and placed in the police van.  He could then demonstrate how the prisoner got up and broke his neck.

  If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit. So the prisoner is dead, and the police can’t be held responsible as they did “all they could.”  So life or death on the streets of Baltimore goes on. 

  The sun did come up this morning. However, if nothing is done about police misconduct in Baltimore, then we have another travesty of justice.

Max Obuszewski is with the Baltimore Nonviolence Center

No accountability in Freddie Gray's death?
Will anyone be held accountable for an unnecessary death in police custody?
I am trying to understand the situation with the Caesar Goodson acquittal ("Not guilty on all counts," June 24). There was no probable cause, but a black man is arrested for running. I have never been arrested for running. I guess it was the "neighborhood."
Then the prisoner is shackled and thrown on the floor of a police van. As a peace and justice activist, I have been handcuffed and placed on the floor of a police van. To say the least, I was in a dangerous and vulnerable position.
We all have seen the images of an officer on top of the prisoner and how two of them had to drag him to the van. Angelique Herbert, a medic who treated the arrested at the Western District Baltimore Police Station was stunned to see that the prisoner was unconscious. But why should police be responsible for a prisoner in an obvious life-threatening situation? They are to arrest and transport. Based on the decisions reached at trial, the police have no responsibility to ensure that the prisoner is not injured. But, of course, a police officer can't tell if a prisoner needs medical assistance. There is no reason to err on the side of caution.
If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit. So the prisoner is dead and the police can't be held responsible, as they did "all they could." So life or death on the streets of Baltimore goes on. The sun did come up Friday morning. However, if nothing is done about police misconduct in Baltimore, then we have another travesty of justice.
Max Obuszewski, Baltimore
Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Noam Chomsky: We Are Suffering the Major Downside of Corporate Globalization

Published on Alternet (

Noam Chomsky: We Are Suffering the Major Downside of Corporate Globalization

June 24, 2016

The following is an interview with Noam Chomsky, conducted by James Resnick:

  How has the way you understand the world changed over time and what (or who) has prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

  For better or worse, I’ve pretty much stayed the same throughout my life. When I was a child in elementary school I was writing articles for the school newspaper on the rise of fascism in Europe and the threats to the world as I saw them from a 10-year-old point of view, and on from there. By the time I was a young teenager, I was very involved in radical politics of all kinds; hanging around anarchist bookstores and offices. A lot concerned what was happening during the Second World War: the British attack on Greece and the atomic bomb I thought was shattering.

   The things I consider inspiring is seeing people struggling: poor suffering people, with limited resources, struggling to really achieve anything. Some of them are very inspiring. For example, a remote very poor village in southern Colombia organising to try to prevent a Canadian gold-mining operation from destroying their water supply and the environment; meanwhile, fending off para-military and military violence and so on. That kind of thing which you see all over the world is very inspiring.

In your new documentary Requiem for the American Dream, you note that the driving down of tax rates and the outsourcing of lower-skilled jobs has exacerbated inequality in recent years. Both of these phenomena are arguably due to the pressures of globalisation, and so, is this period of rapid globalisation generally bad for workers?

   They could be described as globalisation but it would be a mistake to do so. Globalisation can take all kinds of forms. For example, if there were anybody that believed in free markets they might take Adam Smith seriously. Adam Smith pointed out that the fundamental element of free markets is the free circulation of labour. We don’t have that. We have sharp restrictions on the movement of labour, and so, it not only means that working people can’t come to the United States to work, it means that privileged professionals, such as lawyers or CEOs, can set up protectionist barriers to prevent competition from abroad. Plenty of lawyers and doctors from abroad who are highly skilled could easily meet U.S. professional standards but of course they aren’t allowed in because professionals can protect themselves.

   Globalisation could be designed so that it’s beneficial to the general population or it could be designed so that it functions along the lines of the international trade agreements, including the Uruguay Round, the WTO Agreement, NAFTA, the current Atlantic and Pacific agreements, which are all specifically designed as investor rights agreements, not even trade agreements. Very high protection for major corporations, for big pharmaceuticals, media conglomerates, and so on, and very high barriers through intellectual property rights. Devices that allow corporations, but of course not people, to sue governments action that might potentially harm their profits. That is a particular form of globalisation designed in the interest of the designers. The designers are concentrations of private power, linked closely to state power, so in that system they are consequences of globalisation.

You refer to the impact of the GI Bill of Rights and how in 1950, higher education was largely free and was seen much more as a public good. The period during the 1980s threatened the foundations of these integral institutions that had been established through the New Deal. How and why did these institutions come under attack?

  The 1950-1960s had very high growth rates, no financial crises because of New Deal regulations that were still in place, and relatively egalitarian growth so every quintile grew roughly at the same level. That is what is called the golden age. It ended with the collapse of the post-War Bretton Woods system when the United States under Nixon blocked the convertibility of the dollar to gold which collapsed the international financial system which had all kinds of consequences. One was a rapid increase in the flow of capital and a rapid increase in speculation rather than serious investment leading to the financialisation of the economy which has been a major phenomenon in recent years. A lot of this had to do with the reduction of the rate of profit for manufacturing which convinced the owners of capital that it would be more profitable to shift towards financial manipulation than to actual production.

  Along with this comes the options that were the extensions of a long process that goes way back to try to move production to places where wages are much lower, where you don’t need to worry about environmental standards. It’s not that business began to try to reverse the policies. They also wanted to reverse the policies as it goes back to the late 1930s. By the late 1930s, the business community was appalled at the gains that were being made by working people and the general population. You read the Business Press in the late ‘30s and it talks about the threat of what they call the rising political power of the masses which is going to threaten the needs of American enterprise.

  Businesses are always involved in a class war; sometimes they can do better and sometimes they can do worse but right after the Second World War, the major attack on labour and New Deal measures begun and took awhile to take off but with the breakdown of the international financial system in the early ‘70s, opportunities arose and class warfare increased. You can see that already in the late Carter years and it took off very strongly during the Reagan/Thatcher period where neoliberal policies were instituted and which had a devastating effect on the weaker societies, including the third world. In the richer societies, the United States and Europe, it has the effect of imposing relative stagnation on the large majority of the population while for a tiny sector a huge increase in wealth, but these are just all aspects of a constant class war that is being carried out. If there’s no reaction to it on the part of public organisations, then the class war succeeds.

  Popular public organisations have been under attack and atomised, and the labour movement has been under severe attack. One aspect of the concentration of private wealth is that it sets off a vicious cycle; private wealth concentrates and it carries with it political power. That political power is used to introduce legislation which increase private wealth and so the cycle goes on. It’s not a law of nature, or a law of economics; these are matters of relative power of various classes of people and the ongoing conflicts over the social and political nature of the system. It right now happens to be a period of regression from the general viewpoint of the population. It’s happened before and it’s been overcome. You see it happening in many ways. One aspect is the decline of democracy which is very visible both in the United States and in Europe and has led to the significant decline of the more-or-less centrist parties. In the United States, the Democrats and the Republicans are both under severe attack from popular-based forces, such as Trump and Sanders. People that have very much the same interests and concerns and if they could get together on those issues it would be a major popular force and in Europe you see the same thing. Recently, in the Austrian elections, the two traditional parties that ran the country were out of the elections. The choice was between a neo-fascist party and a green party.

  You reference Martin Gilens’ study that finds that around 70% cannot affect government policy in any form. How has this alienation among the powerless translated in the discourse seen during the 2016 election primaries?

  Very directly. That’s part of the basis of the support for Trump and Sanders. In some respects, they’re pretty similar reactions. There’s a close correlation between effective disenfranchisement and simply abstention which has been studied for years. Walter Dean Burnham years ago did a study of the socio-economic character of non-voters in the United States and what he found is that they’re pretty similar to the people in Europe who voted for Social Democratic and Labour-based parties. Since they don’t exist in the United States, they just didn’t vote. It’s been around for a long time, but it’s just getting exacerbated as large sectors of the population are just cast by the wayside in the course of neoliberal programs. Either they would organise, be effective and do something about it, such as the 1930s with the militant labour movement or just get angry or frustrated, xenophobic, racist, destructive and so on.

  Inequality in all its forms continues to threaten democracy in the United States. Do you see evidence that positive change to reverse these trends will arise, and is there a case for optimism?

  We can be very optimistic. Things like this have happened before and they’ve been overcome. The 1920s were a period kind of like this in many ways, but the 1930s were a significant revival, things changed and there are forces you can easily identify. A lot of the support for Sanders is promising and could have a lot of promise but it depends how it is developed; the same with Corbyn in England and Podemos in Spain. There are reactions to problems that are not easy to overcome, but I think there are plenty of possibilities.

  Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His newest book is Who Rules the World? [3] (Metropolitan Books, 2016). His website is [4].



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baltimore Activist Alert - June 28 - June 30, 2016

24] Social Resiliency in the Built Environment -- June 28
25] Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty – June 29 – July 2
26] "The JCPOA: Looking Ahead After One Year – June 29
27] Tacos for Tails -- June 29 
28] "Approaching Critical Mass: Asia's Multipolar Nuclear Future" – June 29
29] Ban fracking – June 29
30] Teaching for Change Celebration – June 29
32] Anti-apartheid book signing – June 30
33] Fight for $15 – June 30
34] National Lawyers Guild Gala – June 30
35] The Poverty Industry – June 30
24] – Social Resiliency in the Built Environment, hosted by AIA Baltimore, is happening on Tues., June 28 from 6 to 8 PM at the Impact Hub Baltimore, 10 East North Ave., Baltimore 21218.  This Conversation will begin a series on designing Resilient Communities for Baltimore. A definition of Social Resiliency is the result of several community factors working in synergy to create a healthy and resilient society that can withstand disruption. The panelists will discuss public health, community development and involvement, and local job creation. It will be demonstrated how these three components are strongest when building on the natural capacity of the neighborhood by engaging citizens to partner in the creation of their own healthy economic and physical social resiliency. As architects, designers, developers and engineers it is their ethical imperative to design communities and homes that integrate the existing social resources and infrastructures and provide healthy, low energy building options to obtain Social Resiliency in the Built Environment. Go to or call 410.625.2585.

25] –  The annual Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty will take place outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. from Wed., June 29 (all day) to Sat., July 2 (all day). STARVIN' FOR JUSTICE 2016 is the 23rd annual event. Online registration is at Join the nearly 100 anti-death penalty activists who come regularly from across the U.S. and Canada - from Florida to Alaska and everywhere in-between - to vigil outside the Supreme Court.   Participation can be intermittent.  Some people come for all four days. Some locals come for a few hours here and there. Some just attend the evening teach-in programs outside the court.  Some fast, some do not. For the full schedule of events, including details on lodging, travel and other logistics, visit To help with funding, or to volunteer, please contact the Abolitionist Action Committee at 518-768-1867 or

26] –   On Wed., June 29 from 10 AM to 2 PM, William Burns, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and seven other speakers, will tackle "The JCPOA: Looking Ahead After One Year" at the Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at

27] – Tacos for Tails takes place on Wed., June 29 from 11 AM to 9 PM at l JR's Bar & Grill in Locust Point.  The day will feature all-day food and drink specials with a portion of proceeds going to BARCS!  Come for lunch or dinner. And from 6 to 8 PM, there will be a yappy hour, featuring fun doggie activities! Yes, you can bring your dogs! Guest bartenders are donating all tips to BARCS! Go to

28] – On Wed., June 29 from 2 PM to 4:15 PM, Matthew Kroenig, Georgetown University, and three other speakers, will address "Approaching Critical Mass: Asia's Multipolar Nuclear Future." Sponsored by the National Bureau of Asian Research, the event will take place at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at

29] – MDE Fracking Regulations Public Meeting #3 will take place on Wed, June 29 from 5:30 to 8 PM from Garrett College, 687 Mosser Rd., McHenry, MD 21541,  The Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter, is organizing a rally outside at 5:30 PM to call for a ban on fracking! At 6 PM, folks will go in to attend the hearing.  Contact Zack Gerdes at or (301) 717-1972.  Tell MDE how dangerous fracking is and that the people of Maryland want it banned!  Go to¬if_id=1466894673619846.

30] –25 Live: A Teaching for Change Celebration is going to be at 625 Monroe St. NE, WDC, on Wed., June 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Join Teaching for Change for fun, food, and fellowship as we celebrate our 25th anniversary year and honor key allies. Hear from noted educators Greg Carr (Howard University) and Enid Lee (co-editor of Beyond Heroes and Holidays). Honorees include renowned children’s book author Eloise Greenfield, school principals Marta Palacios and Carmen Shepherd, and the SNCC Legacy Project. Special guests also include legendary go-go performers Ju-Ju and Sweet Cherie. Bring books for signing because in addition to Enid Lee and Eloise Greenfield, attendees include James Loewen (Lies My Teacher Told Me) and Marita Golden (Long Distance Life.)  Visit

31] – RON KIPLING WILLIAMS will talk about his book BLACK FREAK MOSH HEAVEN on Wed., June 29 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. This is a poetic autobiography about a black youth who rocks and rolls to his own beat and is forced to battle racism, stereotypes and ignorance. It is a thought-provoking tale of a man who struggles against society's intolerance and fights to create a world of acceptance. It is a literal companion to his autobiographical one man show, Dreadlocks, Rock 'n Roll & Human Rights. Ron weaves poetry and memoir about his life as an awkward black youth living in middle class Washington, DC; his tumultuous familial relationships; his passion for rock and roll and his subsequent foray into the alternative and punk scene; his conflicts between his role within the race and class system and his staunch resistance to it; and his emergence as a free thinking human in a hegemonic society. Call 443-602-7585.  Go to

32] – You are invited to the Book Signing ceremony for  Rev. Dr. Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo’s book   "The  Bryants' Anti-Apartheid Prophetic Activism" hosted by the Honorable South African Ambassador Mniwa J Mahlangu. at his residence on Thurs., June 30 at 10 AM . Bishop John Bryant will be present. For the ceremony, come to  4847 Parkway, NW WDC 20016. RSVP to or 410-233-4649 or 443-739-1217.

33] – Join the Economic Policy Institute on Thurs., June 30 at 10 AM for an important forum outlining innovative strategies that are employed in the fight for economic justice. SEIU 775 Founder and President, David Rolf, leader of the successful living and minimum wage campaigns in SeaTac and Seattle, Washington will present his new book, “The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America.”  A panel will discuss the future of the economic justice movement. This is happening at the Economic Policy Institute, 1225 Eye St. NW, Suite 600 Wellstone Room, WDC, on Thurs., June 30 from 10 to 11:30 AM. RSVP at .

34] – The National Lawyers Guild Gala will be at the Mulebone Restaurant, 2121 14th Street NW, WDC on Thurs., June 30 from 6 to 8 PM.  Celebrate the successes of the progressive legal movement with the DC National Lawyers Guild and its allies at the lovely Mulebone. Join with fellow friends of the Guild at this second annual DC NLG reception featuring food, drinks, conversation, and solidarity.  The DC National Lawyers Guild is honored to recognize two great individuals who have dedicated their lives to the overall mission of the National Lawyer Guild, that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests: Eugene Puryear, activist, community leader, and author of “Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America;” and Michael E. Tigar, Emeritus Professor of Law at Duke University and American University Washington College of Law, author of thirteen books and veteran human rights attorney whose past clients include Angela Davis, Leonard Peltier, and Isabel Letelier.

35] – Daniel L. Hatcher brings his book THE POVERTY INDUSTRY: THE EXPLOITATION OF AMERICA'S MOST VULNERABLE CITIZENS on Thurs., June 30 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201Baltimore is a city of great poverty and great wealth. How do institutions of the state profit from and deepen structural inequality and economic exclusion? Hatcher exposes how state governments and their private industry partners have turned America’s most vulnerable populations into sources of revenue. The poverty industry is taking billions in federal aid and other funds from impoverished families, abused and neglected children, and the disabled and elderly poor. As policy experts across the political spectrum debate how to best structure government assistance programs, a massive siphoning of the safety net is occurring behind the scenes. In the face of these abuses of power, Hatcher offers a road map for reforms to realign the practices of human service agencies with their intended purpose, to prevent the misuse of public taxpayer dollars, and to ensure that government aid truly gets to those in need. Call 443-602-7585.  Go to   

To be continued. 

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Rare Use of 'Strange Fruit' in 'The Birth of a Nation' Previews

The Rare Use of 'Strange Fruit' in 'The Birth of a Nation' Previews
Melinda Newman and Thom Duffy / Justin Chang

Monday, June 13, 2016
Billboard / Variety

Melinda Newman and Thom Duffy

The song is one of the most haunting in American history. "Strange Fruit," recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday [2], was written by New York poet-activist Abel Meeropol after seeing a ­photograph of a 1930 lynching -- "black body swinging in the Southern breeze," he wrote.

"Strange Fruit," which Time named as the song of the century in 1999, now is heard in the preview promoting the October release of the slave-revolt movie The Birth of a Nation, ­distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. It is a rare example of a synchronization license for use of the song, says Miles Feinberg, executive vp at Music Sales Corp., which owns rights to the work.

"The importance of the song is certainly not lost on us," says Feinberg. "It contributed to the civil rights movement, so we've been very ­protective of it."
Feinberg reports that licensing requests for "Strange Fruit" have increased in recent years. His theory? "The song captures an anger and feeling of injustice that's appearing in American culture right now," he says. But Music Sales Corp. turns down most requests, he adds, saying that few match the prestige of the tune.

One opportunity, however, that captured the song's spirit arose after director-actor Nate Parker premiered The Birth of a Nation at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Music ­supervisor Maura Duval Griffin solicited songs for its trailer, seeking music that was "dark and menacing, but with elevated lyrics about race struggles and history." She referenced Kanye West [3]'s 2013 track "Blood on the Leaves," which itself had sampled Nina Simone [4]'s 1965 version [5] of "Strange Fruit."

In fact, West's request to license "Strange Fruit" was one of the few times that Music Sales Corp. approved sampling of the song. The ­publisher suggested use of Simone's version for the film ­preview as well, since it is "a little bit darker and more menacing" than Holiday's ­original, says Feinberg.

With few suitable licensing opportunities ­available for "Strange Fruit," the song "is not a big money earner," says Feinberg. "But it is an ­incredible one to have in your catalog."
Portraying Nat Turner's 1831 slave uprising, The Birth of a Nation is promoted by a preview featuring "Strange Fruit." The iconic song was first recorded by Holiday (inset center) and written by Meeropol (left), with a 1965 version by Simone (right) used in the trailer.
Abel Meeropol: Courtesy of Robert Meeropol; Holiday: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Simone: Daily Mail/Rex

  More often, synch deals -- the use of music in films and TV, as well as advertising and video games -- drive significant revenue. The ­licensing of "Strange Fruit" is just one of the most notable recent examples of synch ­licensing, which is now a $202.9 million ­business in the United States, according to 2015 figures from global music trade ­organization IFPI. And the United States accounts for 57 ­percent of the $355 million generated by synch deals worldwide.
Music publishers don't reveal terms of ­individual deals and synch fees can vary widely, based on factors including the popularity of the song, the medium in which the music will appear, the duration of the piece and the ­geographic scope of the deal. A copyright used in a trailer may earn $30,000 to $100,000, while an ad typically may earn $50,000 to $500,000.

Sundance Film Review: `The Birth of a Nation'
Justin Chang
Chief Film Critic

   It speaks to his ambition that the writer, director, producer and actor Nate Parker [7] chose to title his slavery drama “The Birth of a Nation [8],” though the film would be a significant achievement by any name. Arriving more than a century after D.W. Griffith’s epic lit up the screen with racist images forever destined to rankle and provoke, this powerfully confrontational account of Nat Turner [9]’s life and the slave rebellion he led in 1831 seeks to purify and reclaim a motion-picture medium that has only just begun to treat America’s “peculiar institution” with anything like the honesty it deserves. If “12 Years a Slave” felt like a breakthrough on that score, then Parker’s more conventionally told but still searingly impressive debut feature pushes the conversation further still: A biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, it builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion and inevitable unease. But the film is perhaps even more accomplished as a theological provocation, one that grapples fearlessly with the intense spiritual convictions that drove Turner to do what he had previously considered unthinkable.

  Certain to be the most widely discussed and rousingly received film in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance this year, “The Birth of a Nation” comes to us at a particularly fortuitous cultural moment; not unlike “12 Years a Slave” and “Selma” before it, the movie occupies that rare space where our ongoing conversation about racial injustice converges with the film industry’s slow-dawning awareness of the lack of diversity in its ranks. As a result, this artfully modulated but fitfully grueling picture presents both an obvious challenge and a potentially rich commercial prospect for a distributor willing to match Parker’s passion with its own. Careful positioning, too, will be needed to target open-minded faith-based audiences, and also to address the inevitable backlash in some quarters, given that the film presents its climactic violence in complicated but unmistakably heroic terms.

   No film worthy of this particular historical subject could hope or expect to avoid controversy, and Parker’s well-researched screenplay (based on a story he wrote with Jean McGianni Celestin) offers its own bold take on the widely contested narrative of Turner, a Virginia-born slave and Baptist preacher who led the uprising that claimed 60 white lives and led to the killings of 200 blacks in retaliation, and served as a crucial moment of insurrection en route to the Civil War three decades later. But “The Birth of a Nation” commences long before those fateful events, with a series of scenes observing the Nat’s childhood on a cotton plantation in Southampton County, Va., owned by the white Turner family from which the boy took his surname.

In opening and recurring scenes that remind us of the land and traditions from which these black men and women were uprooted, young Nat (Tony Espinosa) experiences eerie dreams of his African ancestors, anointing him as a future leader and prophet as marked by the circular scars on his chest. “It’s not real,” his mother (Aunjanue Ellis) tells him when he awakens from one of these startling visions, though there’s no relief from the nightmare of their everyday reality — and as it is, they have a somewhat easier time than many of the other plantation slaves in Southampton County. Nat is allowed to run and play with the young Turner heir, Samuel (Griffin Freeman), and he’s treated kindly by Samuel’s mother, Elizabeth (Penelope Ann Miller), who, upon discovering that Nat can read, encourages his studies by giving him a Bible.

   Years later, despite having grown up picking cotton alongside his family in the fields, Nat (now played by Parker, superbly) is a soulful preacher with enough of a rapport with his master Samuel (Armie Hammer) to persuade him to buy a young slave, Cherry (Aja Naomi King), sparing her from a fate even worse than what she’s already endured. Cherry is brought to the plantation, and before long she and Nat fall in love, marry and have a daughter, in scenes that afford a warm glimpse of their close-knit, God-fearing community. Far from sentimentalizing their experience, however, these moments offer only fleeting respite from a life of continual hardship and menace, whether it’s Nat making the mistake of addressing a white woman, or Cherry falling into the hands of the cruel Raymond Cobb (a terrifying Jackie Earle Haley), with devastating consequences.
It’s no surprise the white slaveowners are getting antsy, with talk of insurrection and rumors of violence in the air. Spying an opportunity, the sleazy, self-interested Rev. Walthall (Mark Boone Jr.) convinces Samuel to rent Nat out to other plantations as a visiting preacher, as many slaveowners will pay good money to have a black man address his fellow brothers and sisters, and hopefully quell any revolutionary impulses with a gospel of peace (aka subservience). What makes this development so bracingly ironic is that it’s Nat’s exposure to the appalling mistreatment of blacks in other parts of Virginia that convinces him a few encouraging sermons will no longer be enough. After a borderline-unwatchable scene in which he sees a slave being brutally tortured and force-fed, Nat experiences a reawakening. “I pray you sing to the Lord a new song,” he instructs his humble congregation, and it’s clear that he means to take his own advice.
Parker demonstrates a fine touch with actors (Dwight Henry, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith and Gabrielle Union round out the excellent cast), and his command of mise-en-scene would be impressive even coming from a more seasoned filmmaker. While the movie was shot entirely on location in Savannah, Ga., the visual reconstruction of antebellum Virginia is outstanding: From the drooping willows and white plantation houses of Geoffrey Kirkland’s production design to the muted, bluish cast of Elliot Davis’ widescreen compositions, the movie offers a vision at once nightmarish and painterly. As edited with measured intelligence by Steven Rosenblum (with the exception of one too-slick montage) and set to the stirring if sometimes overly vigorous accompaniment of Henry Jackman’s score, these images conspire to lure us into a world even when the barbarism pushes us away.

  But the film’s most resonant element isn’t its physical realization so much as its spiritual and intellectual acuity, and it skillfully draws us into Nat’s endless internal debate as he presses himself and God about his next course of action. If “12 Years a Slave” astutely mapped out both the ruthless economic machinery of American slavery and the complicity of white Christians who used the Bible to cow their slaves into silence, then “The Birth of a Nation” delves even further into this unholy nexus of capitalism and religion, and Parker’s performance becomes a study in escalating outrage. A figure of warm, earthy saintliness for much of the movie, the actor (“Beyond the Lights,” “Arbitrage”) slowly traces Turner’s moral hardening by incremental degrees, driven by his deepening engagement with Scripture (“Do not become slaves to men,” he quotes at one point, and some believers in the audience might well also turn to “Faith without works is dead”). But he is also driven by his own worsening mistreatment at the hands of Samuel, whom Hammer convincingly embodies as a man whose decency turns out to be strictly conditional.

Turner’s own shift from Christlike grace to Jehovah-style wrath is not without its heavy-handed moments: One crucial scene, in particular, would play infinitely better without the obtrusive positioning of a stained-glass window, and the cutaways to Turner’s ancestral visions begin to verge on kitsch. But at its core, this is as intelligent and probing an inquiry into the uses and abuses of organized religion as we’ve seen in recent American movies, and also the rare slavery drama in which it’s the ideas, far more than the whipping and lynching scenes, that provide the deepest impact. Historians will have a field day debating the accuracy of the man’s dramatic trajectory (as they have since even before the publication of William Styron’s much-disputed 1967 novel, “The Confessions of Nat Turner”), and the urge to contradict a black filmmaker’s interpretation of history will of course be a hard one for many commentators to resist.

  The most vigorous discussion will center on the film’s ferocious, frustrating and inescapably cathartic climax, in which the tremendous strengths of its classical storytelling, as well as its dramatic lapses, stand in perhaps the sharpest relief. Parker’s filmmaking suddenly shifts into the brutal, blood-soaked idiom of the war movie, in which various shades of moral gray are resolved in a queasy eruption of red (at the first Sundance screening, the applause that greeted certain killings proved as telling as the anxious hush that followed others). The Christ-figure overtones hover ever more stirringly, and disturbingly, over the movie’s final moments, and you may be forgiven if your mind drifts for a moment toward “Braveheart.” The movie can be forgiven as well. “The Birth of a Nation” exists to provoke a serious debate about the necessity and limitations of empathy, the morality of retaliatory violence, and the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality in this country. It earns that debate and then some.

Sundance Film Review: ‘The Birth of a Nation’
Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 25, 2016. Running time: 118 MIN.

A Bron Studios, Phantom Four, Mandalay Pictures, Tiny Giant Prods. presentation, in association with Novofam Prods., Follow Through Prods., Infinity Entertainment, Oster Media, Point Made Films, Liberty and Justice Prods., Yesternight Entertainment, Hit 55 Ventures and Creative Wealth Media Financing. Produced by Nate Parker, Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, Aaron L. Gilbert, Preston L. Holmes. Executive producers, David S. Goyer, Michael Novogratz, Michael Finley, Tony Parker, Jason Cloth, Andy Pollack, Allan J. Stitt, Jane Oster, Barb Lee, Carl H. Linder III, Derrick Brooks, Jill Ahrens, Ryan Ahrens, Armind Tehrany, Edward Zwick, Mark Moran. Co-producers, Zak Tanjeloff, Matt Lindner, Harrison Kreiss, Ike Waldhaus, Benjamin Renzo. Co-executive producers, Brenda Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Lori Massini.

Directed, written by Nate Parker; story, Parker, Jean McGianni Celestin. Camera (color, Arri Alexa/Red Dragon HD), Elliot Davis; editor, Steven Rosenblum; music, Henry Jackman; production designer, Geoffrey Kirkland; art director, Jack Ballance; set decorator, Jim Ferrell; costume designer, Francine Jamison-Tanchuck; sound, Whitney Ince; supervising sound editor/sound designer, Mac Smith; supervising sound designer, Brandon Proctor; re-recording mixers, Proctor, Zach Martin; special effects supervisor, Heath Hood; special effects coordinator, Trey Gordon; visual effects supervisor, George A. Loucas; visual effects producer, Joshua Spivack; visual effects, Baked FX; stunt coordinator, Guss Williams; associate producer, Dan McClure; casting, Mary Vernieu, Michelle Wade Byrd.

Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Tony Espinosa, Jayson Warner Smith, Jason Stuart.

[moderator: 'Birth of a Nation" will be released October 7, 2016]


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs