Von Drehle, David — Triangle, the Fire that Changed America

Until September 11, 2001, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 25, 1911 was the deadliest workplace disaster in the history of New York City.  The fire shocked the nation and exposed the life-threatening conditions in America’s sweatshop industry.  It gave energy to the labor movement and unions, and remade the Democratic Party of the time.

Our guest, David Von Drehle, is the author of “Triangle, the Fire That Changed America,” a book that presents a detailed examination of how this single event changed the course of the 20th century politics and labor relations. In this book, Von Drehle concludes:

“As for the mostly nameless young women and men who went on strike in 1909 and bravely walked those relentless picket lines through a freezing winter—and especially those remarkable young people who later died at the Triangle—their memory grows.  Their individual lives are mostly lost to us, but their monument and legacy are stitched into our world.”

David Von Drehle and I visited by phone from New York City in early September 2003, and began with his description of the fire on March 25, 1911 that changed America.

The book David Von Drehele recommends is “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall” by William Riordan.

This program was originally broadcast on September 9, 2003.

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A Visit with Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Frederick Douglass

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass were good friends from the mid 19th century to the late 19th century, and were active leaders in the fight for the rights of women and blacks throughout their lives.  From time to time they got together to visit and talk about America, as they knew it. In this archive edition of Radio Curious recorded in May 1998, I met with Chautauqua scholars Sally Roesch Wagner and Charles Pace who portrayed Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass. We began our conversation when I asked them each to tell us what it was like to be an American during their life time.

The book Frederick Douglass recommends is, “The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces Together With Rules, Which Are Calculated to Improve Youth and Others, in the Ornamental and Using Art of Eloquence” by Caleb Bingham. The book Charles Pace recommends is, “W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868 to 1919,” by David Levering Lewis.

The book Elizabeth Cady Stanton recommends is, “The Woman’s Bible” edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The book Sally Wagner recommends is, “The Homesteader: A Novel,” by Oscar Micheaux. 

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Adams, Dr. Francis — Are We Still Racist?

“Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans in a White Man’s Land, 1619 to 2000” is a book in part written by Francis Adams, an independent scholar living in Los Angeles, California. The book posits that the drive for equal rights for black people in the United States has never had the support of the majority of America. Rather, racial progress has been made in brief historic bursts, lead by the committed militant minorities of abolitionists, radical republicans, and civil rights activists.

Dr. Francis Adams and I began our conversation when I asked him to explain the importance of the trial of James Somerset that took place in England in 1772.

The book that Dr. Francis Adams recommends is: “Collapse,” by Jared Diamond.

Originally Broadcast: January 29, 2005.

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Herm, Eric — Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth

From the Radio Curious archives we visit with Eric Herm a 4th generation farmer from Ackerly Texas and author of, “Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth: A Path to Agriculture’s Higher Consciousness.” Herm is transitioning his family farm into an organic farm. He recently returned from a march that began in Baltimore, Maryland, in October, 2011, and ended in front of the White House in Washington D.C. to oppose the use of genetically modified organisms, GMO’s. When we visited with Eric Herm from his farm in Ackerly, Texas on October 24th, 2011 began when I asked him to describe his experience in Washington D.C.

The book that Eric Herm recommends is, “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture,” by Wendell Berry.

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Edward Sorel: An Actress, Her Lovers, and a Daft Caricaturist

Edward Sorel, a satirical caricaturist, and cartoonist, whose first book is Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936, is our guest in this edition Radio Curious. Claiming to be daft about Mary Astor for about a half a century, Sorel describes Astor’s career as a Hollywood based actress who seemingly more than enjoyed a lustful and salacious life. Astor’s diary, which allegedly revealed the untold stories of her trysts and lovers, was the centerpiece of the sensational 1936 trial to determine the custody of her young daughter.

Sorel, whose pictorial satires have appeared on the covers of forty-six editions of The New Yorker magazine, visited Radio Curious by phone from his home in Harlem, New York City, on February 27, 2017. We began our conversation when I asked him for the background of his interest in Mary Astor and what drew him to write and illustrate his book Mary Astor’s Purple Diary.

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The books Ed Sorel recommends are: Iron Dawn: The Monitor and The Merrimack, and the Sea Battle that Changed History, by Richard Snowand Terrible Virtue, a Novel, by Ellen Feldman.

Early, Steve: Remaking an American City

The power and success of local political action to meet the needs of a community is revealed in the book “Refinery Town:  Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking of an American City.”

Written by Steve Early, with a Forward by Senator Bernie Sanders, “Refinery Town” describes the political change in Richmond, California, that began in 2000. Richmond was a largely working-class city of 110,000 people, with one of the highest per capita homicide rates, and twice the average jobless rate. Early tells the story of the community organizing that successfully raised the minimum wage, challenged evictions and home foreclosures, and sought fair taxation of Big Oil. In this case, the Big Oil is the Chevron Oil Company, which owns and operates a Richmond refinery, one of the largest oil refineries in California.

Steve Early, formerly a community organizer, activist, lawyer, and union representative, and now the author of “Refinery Town,” spoke with Radio Curious by phone, from his home in Richmond. We began our conversation as he described Richmond’s transformation.

You can listen to the interview here.

The books Steve Early recommends are: “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” by Charlie LeDuff; “Teardown: Memoir of A Vanishing City,” by Gordon Young; and “Home Town,” by Tracy Kidder. This program was recorded on February 20, 2017

Dr. Gordon Neufeld: Hold on to Your Kids (Archive)

The economic and cultural changes that have occurred in North American society in the past fifty or so years have resulted in today’s children looking to and associating with their peers, instead of their parents, for direction; for a sense of right and wrong; and for values, identity, and codes of behavior. This peer orientation works to undermine family cohesion. It interferes with healthy development and fosters a sexualized youth culture in which children lose their individuality and tend to become conformist, desensitized and alienated.

These concepts—and what to do about them to develop strong families and emotionally healthy children—are explained in the book “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers,“ by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Mate, M.D.

When I spoke with Dr. Gordon Neufeld from his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, we began our conversation with a discussion of the importance of developing an attachment between the adult caregiver and the child, beginning at infancy.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is the author of “Hold on to Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. The book he recommends is “The Anatomy of Dependence,” by Takeo Doi.

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This interview was originally broadcast on October 25, 2005. More information about Dr. Neufeld’s work may be found on his website.

Eric Schlosser: Do You Really Want to Eat That? (Archive)

Fast food is what many people eat in America, and increasingly in other countries. It is advertised to be fun, tasty, and easily available. Americans spend more money annually on fast food than is spent on higher education.

Eric Schlosser is our guest in this archive edition.  He’s the author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Schlosser writes that it is not only what is served for human consumption that is the problem, but the art of mass-marketing to children through organized promotions and ads for the products—in school busses, hallways, and even bathroom stalls—has serious side effects on society.

Working conditions for employees at meat-packing plants and the resulting contamination of the product resulted in the July 19th, 2002 recall of 19 million pounds of beef. In addition to the acute health hazards of contamination, a fast food meal often contains more fat in one meal than the average person needs in a day.

This interview was originally recorded in mid-summer 2002.

The book he recommends is “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing,” by Ted Conover.  Click here to listen to a two-part series with Ted Conover, recorded in 2001.

Click here to listen to the interview with Eric Schlosser.

Exxon CEO – Secretary of State?

This program is devoted to the pending Senate hearings and possible confirmation of Rex Tillerson as the next Secretary of State of the United States.

Tillerson, the Exxon Mobile Company Chief Executive Officer, chosen by Donald Trump to the head of the State Department, has a long history in the Russian oil business, as well has having an alleged personal friendship with Vladamir Putin, the Russian President.

Our guest is Andrew Kramer, a reporter for the New York Times, based at its Moscow, Russia bureau for the past ten years.

Kramer shares his reporting on Tillerson’s attempts on behalf of Exxon to gain access to the Russian arctic oil fields, as well as Tillerson’s personal connections to Russia. In addition, Kramer investigated and reported the activities of Paul Manifort in Russia, who within a week after those reports became public, resigned as Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

When Andrew Kramer and I visited from New York Times’ Bureau in Moscow on December 29, 2016, he began by describing Tillerson’s history in Russia.

The book Andrew Kramer recommends is “The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy,” by David Hoffman.

This program was recorded on December 29, 2016.

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Farr, Sam — Trump and 23 Years in Congress

With the massive change in the government of the United States about to take place, I take this opportunity to share with you the views of Sam Farr, who is retiring after 23 ½ years as a member of Congress.  He represented Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties of the central coast of California.  About 80 miles south of San Francisco, this is one of the most beautiful coast lines in the world.

Sam Farr and I visited from his home in Monterey County on December 19, 2016.  That was his first full day at home, with no further responsibilities as a Member of Congress since June, 1993.  While in office he flew across the county twice a week, seven out of every eight weeks.

We began when I asked for his reflections on the changes in Congress between when he first arrived there and the current times.  Further in our visit we discuss what the nation might expect during the presidency of Donald Trump.

The book Sam Farr recommends is “Three Years in California,” by Walter Colton, published December 31, 1855.

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