[act-ma] Two great talks from two fine dudes

Roger Leisner rleisnerrfm at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 18 17:56:41 PST 2009

In a way, I'm lucky.  I get to record and listen to speakers that make me think and question.  And that was definitely the case when I hopped on a bus to record Chomsky and Zinn in Boston last week.

Tuesday-November 10
Took the MBTA to Kenmore Square, grabbed a bowl of soup, stopped next to an empty MIT cop car to grab a bowl of Maine green, walked past the Stata Center (Chomsky's office is now located in this maintenance nightmare building) and strolled into the Compton Labs building where Noam Chomsky was scheduled to speak about Human Rights in Iran.  Besides myself, C Way from Boston and O Field from Corinna, Maine, were videotaping.  David Barsamian of Alternative Radio arrived with Chomsky.  Speaking to 400 people in a room that could hold 600 plus, Chomsky's talk was only 30 minutes and to the point, sort of like an alternative State Department briefing.  All four alternative media agreed that it was an excellent talk, because Chomsky makes you think and question.  The only bummer was the failure of my fairly new Canon Digital Rebel still camera.  Since then, I have learned that the camera will be replaced.

I have always been in need of places to stay when I'm recording, and as such, many fine people have come through over the past two decades of Radio Free Maine.  This time, I stayed at the collective home of Susan McLucas, just off of Davis Square in Somerville.  Ms. McLucas is the "Bicycle Lady of Boston", in that she runs a bicycle riding school for children and adults.  Plus, she is director of Healthy Tomorrow-Sini Sanuman which is dedicated to stopping female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as excision, in Mali and world-wide.  Ms. McLucas will be speaking on this subject at an International Conference in the Hague next week.  I'm so lucky to have friends who not only do good deeds, but know how to party.

Veterans Day - November 11
Spent Wednesday returning the Canon, buying a SureShot to take photos that night, eating a delicious lunch at Mr. Crepe in Davis Square, packing up and taking the MBTA to Kenmore in Boston.

Howard Zinn was speaking at the Boston University School of Management auditorium.  Zinn had spent the summer recovering from a back operation to repair his spine.  And just like Chomsky, seems to be doing more in the "fourth chapter" of his life than the previous three.  A series on the History Channel, a comic book version (with Mike Konopacki) of "People's History", editing a series of People's Histories and who knows what else.
Evidently, Zinn is heading to California for the winter.  Will he go to Hollywood or Humboldt County?

C Way and and O Field were videotaping as well as two others, one for Democracy Now (Amy Goodman pays other people to record for her, I hope it's union) and a cable TV guy from the Cape.  The talk was sponsored by the Coalition for Social Justice, a neat group of union, students and community raising hell at BU, home of the infamous academic criminal John Silber.  Union folks told me that the campus is pretty well organized and now the efforts are directed toward the medical and dental schools, plus the bio-hazard lab.  David Barsamian arrived with Zinn and the evening got underway.

Zinn sat down and noted that David Barsamian of Alternative Radio was recording, audience applauds, and so was Roger Leisner of Radio Free Maine, audience applauds, at which point I turned to Barsamian and asked him what the applause meter said.  Zinn proceeded to take the three most sacred "good", "holy" wars of America's past, turn them upside down, inside out, and ask "Did we need to fight them?"  In the Q&A period, there were a number of veterans who expressed their thanks for Zinn's research and insights.
After the event, I packed up my gear and ran into Barsamian and Zinn in the vacuous lobby of this ostentatious building donated to BU by Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri.  I told Zinn that I thought his talk was the best he had made in ten years, and others had agreed with me.  Barsamian echoed my compliment, telling Zinn that he was on a roll.  As we left the building, Barsamian noted the photo of Hariri, a well-known Lebanese terrorist and billionaire.  So much for the legacy of John Silber.

Took the MBTA to South Station, caught the 10:15 pm bus to Augusta and got home at 2:00 am.  Such is the life of a Radio Free Maine videographer.
Noam Chomsky speaking on Student Activism and Human Rights in Iran
MIT Amnesty Human Rights Event on Iran

Speaking to over 400 people at an Amnesty International sponsored event at MIT, Noam Chomsky talked about two approaches to supporting human rights activists in Iran.  The ”feel good” approach is to denounce Iran and support an aggressive diplomatic stance, including boycotts.  A milder version would be to support democracy in Iran and believe “They feel just like us”.

According to Chomsky, the approach we should be taking is to ask ourselves about the nature of western government attacks on Iran and how legitimate they are.  As to aggressive behavior, Iran is bordered by two nations occupied by western powers, plus Israel has invaded Lebanon five times in the last 50 years.  Citing the recent questionable elections in Iran, why doesn’t the U.S. criticize Egypt for its sham elections?  Citing the treatment of women in Iran, why doesn’t the U.S. criticize Saudi Arabia for its apartheid policies toward women?

Chomsky makes you think, and this talk is a good one for thinking.

Noam Chomsky speaks for 30 minutes and answers questions for 31 minutes.

Sponsored by M.I.T. Amnesty International

Recorded by Roger Leisner on November 10, 2009 at M.I.T. in Cambridge, MA
Howard Zinn speaking on Holy Wars

In this Veterans Day forum, Zinn questions three holy wars in U.S. History
“Three wars in American history that are sacrosanct, three wars 
that are untouchable, three wars that are uncriticizable.” 

The Revolutionary War
Zinn asks who benefited from America’s war for freedom and independence?  25,000 people lost their lives in this war (compared to today’s population, that’s over 2.5 million killed), was it worth it?  
An excellent reference for this war is A People’s History of the 
American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence by Ray Raphael.

The Civil War
Zinn asks how can we question a war that freed the slaves?  But were the slaves freed and did we need a war to abolish slavery?  Zinn discusses a recent book by historian Drew Gilpin Faust (also President of Harvard University), This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, which looks at the impact of the Civil War’s enormous death toll on the lives of 19th-century Americans, plus the collateral damage of returning disabled veterans (over 600.000 amputees) and surviving widows and orphans trying to exist in a capitalist society.

World War II
Always referred to as the “good” war where democracy defeated fascism.  Zinn states “You compare something with World War II, you immediately infuse it with goodness.”  Recalling his experience as an Air Force bombardier in the European theatre during World War II, Zinn talks about being involved in the first napalm bombing by the U.S.

Howard Zinn is the author of A People’s History of the United States,
Professor Emeritus at Boston University, historian, playwright and social activist.

Howard Zinn speaks for 58 minutes and answers questions for 30 minutes.

Sponsored by Coalition for Social Justice
The Coalition for Social Justice brings together students and support staff, faculty and trade unions, alumni and community organizations in mutual support, to promote the rights and dignity of working people, institutional fairness, academic freedom and humane social policies at Boston University and beyond.

Recorded by Roger Leisner on November 11, 2009 at the
School of Management Auditorium of Boston University
For information on how to order a copy of this recording, please contact
rleisnerrfm at yahoo.com

Roger Leisner
Radio Free Maine
P.O. Box 2705
Augusta, Maine 04338


More information about the Act-MA mailing list