Sullivan, Michael Gene Political Theater, Black Men and the Police

From the archives of Radio Curious:

Theatre as a commentary on the condition of society is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious.  The topic is the relationship of police and black men in America in 2015.  Our guest is Michael Gene Sullivan, the resident playwright, director and a principal actor in 2015: Freedomland,” this year’s production by the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

The first question and answer on the frequently asked questions page on the San Francisco Mime Troupe website is:  “Why do you call yourself a Mime Troupe if you talk and sing?”  The answer is:  “We use the term mime in its classical and original definition, ‘The exaggeration of daily life in story and song.’”

When Michael Gene Sullivan and I visited by phone from his home in San Francisco on June 29, 2015, I asked him if “2015: Freedomland” was an exaggeration of daily life in story and song from his perspective.

The book Michael Gene Sullivan recommends is “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force,” by Redley Balko.

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Komar, Stefan — Concentration Death Camps

You may remember the Radio Curious interview with Bernard Offen, recorded in May 2005, and re-broadcast the end of May 2017.  In telling the story of his youth in Poland during World War II, being forced into four different concentration camps established and controlled by the Nazis, Bernard Offen characterized those camps as “Polish concentration camps.”   

Soon after the 2017 re-broadcast, I received an email from Stefan Komar, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.  Komar pointed out that calling any German concentration camp in German occupied Poland “Polish,” or referring to a German concentration camp in occupied Poland as “in Poland”, “of Poland,” or “Poland’s,” is insensitive to the families of the millions of ethnic Poles who were killed, forced into slave labor, tortured, maimed, terrorized and starved during the brutal and inhuman German occupation of Poland in the name of “Deuthschland, Deutschland Uber Alles.”

Komar, who was born in Queens, New York, lived in Warsaw, Poland, for about 10 years beginning when he was 12 years old. Currently he’s a Captain in the New York Police Department, after serving with the NYPD for 37 years.

A few days before Stefan Komar, and I visited by phone from his home in Queens, New York, on January  28, 2018, many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times reported a “bill passed by the lower house of Poland’s parliament”  would make it illegal to utter the phrase “Polish concentration camp” or to assign Poland culpability for Nazi crimes committed on its soil.  The Israeli government was Infuriated, as reported in Reuters, among other news outlets, and called the Polish law revisionary history. 

This is clearly a curious issue to follow.  In doing so Komar provided a link to A Platform for Polish Jewish Dialogue,” and a discussion about Polish history, including how the Nazi occupation of Poland may be characterized.  

Stefan Komar and I unfortunately did not directly discuss this new law or the Israeli reaction.  We did however put the topic in context from his point of view.  We began our visit when I asked him to discuss the characterization of these concentration camps.

The books Stefan Komar recommends are “Hollywood’s War with Poland, 1939-1945” by M.B.B. Biskupski; and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century,” by Paul Kengor.  

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Ellsberg, Daniel — The Pentagon Papers and The Post

“The Post” a movie released January 12, 2018, reveals the story of how the release of the “Pentagon Papers” created a fundamental challenge of the freedom of the press and alleged issues of national security.  Few moments in American history have held the tension of the Vietnam war, as was the case in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The national rupture caused by Nixon’s escalation of the war widened.  Young people and their parents, who saw no reason for the United States to be in Vietnam clashed with the so called “silent majority.”

Daniel Ellsberg, our guest in this 1997 archive edition of Radio Curious, copied what came to be known as the “Pentagon Papers,” in the fall of 1969, and released them in 1971.  Those top secret documents unequivocally demonstrated that four previous U.S. presidents had continued to fight and escalate the war in Vietnam, notwithstanding opinions from their many military leaders that the war could not be won.

The “Pentagon Papers” focused national attention on United States foreign policy and on our rights as individual citizens to freedom of the press.  When Daniel Ellsberg and I visited by phone in March, 1997, he began with a description of the context of the time, 1971,  when the “Pentagon Papers” became public.

The book Ellsberg recommended in 1997, when this interview was recorded, is “Our War,” by David Harris.

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Spriggs, Kent — Legal Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

In all successful social and political changes in here in the the United States and elsewhere, civil disobedience plays a significant role. Bus boycotts, sit-ins and marches, coordinated with constitution based legal challenges to blatant racially based restrictions imposed by the white supremacy in the American south, were at the core of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Our guest in this edition of Radio Curious is Attorney Kent Spriggs, the editor of “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections from the Deep South, 1964-1980.”  Spriggs compiled the voices of 26 lawyers, black and white, from the south and the north who began their law practices in the mid-1960s and successfully ended significant aspects of the then existing racial segregation. They describe their backgrounds and provide context for their civil rights litigation and other basic legal rights, as well as how their successes later advanced other movements for social justice.

Kent Spriggs, raised in Washington, D.C. went to the Deep South in 1965 after finishing law school in New York.  He has been a Civil Rights lawyer since he arrived there over 50 years ago. Spriggs, now a resident and former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, and I visited by phone from his home office on December 4, 2017.  We began our conversation when I asked him to describe the contributors and some of their stories in “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers.”

The three books Kent Spriggs recommends are: “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein; “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race,” by Beverly Daniel Tatum; and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcertion in the Age of Color Blindness,” by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West.  

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Best, George — John Brown and Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry National Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the easternmost corner of what is now West Virginia. This tiny national park, just over a square mile in size, is the location of the 1859 raid led by John Brown, a white abolitionist.  Outraged by the sustained existence of slavery in southern United States, Brown and his armed supporters snuck across the river at night attempting to take over of the government arsenal, arm the nearby enslaved people and foment a revolt.  Brown’s intended efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in his conviction for treason and death by hanging.  Nonetheless he foreshadowed the growing discontent of slavery that would lead to the civil war.

I joined Ranger George Best on October 12, 2017, for a tour and stories, which began at the 1848 now defunct armory amid background sounds of the rivers, railroads and other machinery  He begins with a description of the Foundry, Harper’s Ferry largest building.

The books George Best recommends are: “A Walker’s Guide to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia,” by Dave Gilbert, “The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry” by Joseph Berry, and “Harpers Ferry Under Fire” by Dennis Fryer.  

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Cooperrider, Allen & Sid — Trump the Swamp:  It’s All in the Cards

When Donald Trump ran for president of the United States in 2016, he pejoratively pledged to “drain the swamp.”  This metaphor, referencing the policies and politicians which he deplored, refers to the large portion of Washington, D.C., which lies as sea level, and was in fact a swamp, before it became the seat of our nation’s government.

Once Trump took office he appointed people associated with the special interests he condemned during the campaign.  They included corporate executives from Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobile; politicians who sought to curtail, if not dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy for example, and their political allies.  Some say that instead of draining the swamp, Donald Trump trumped the swamp.

In this edition of Radio Curious, we visit with Allen Cooperrider, Ph.D., and Sid Cooperrider, a computer whiz.  This father and son duo created Trump the Swamp, a standard 54 card deck of playing cards that portray and features informative details about the ever-changing cast of characters in the Trump administration, Congress and the so called Shadow Government.  

The Cooperriders are concerned about the damage that they say Trump is doing to our country and are worried that the country is moving toward a totalitarian state. Their Trump the Swamp cards are part of an effort to resist this trend.

When Allen Cooperrider and Sid Cooperrider visited the studios of Radio Curious on September 8, 2017, we began our conversation when I asked Allen, about the genesis of the Trump the Swamp deck of playing cards.

The book Allen Cooperrider recommends is “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder. 

The book Sid Cooperrider recommends is “Minerals for the Genetic Code,” by Charles Walters.

Their website is www.docyale.com/cards.

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Donald Trump’s Russian Connection

This program is about President Trump’s Connections to Russia, and in particular, Paul Manafort. Manafort was the manager of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign until he abruptly quit two and one-half months before the election.

We ask: Who is Paul Manafort, where did he come from, and how did he became Trump’s campaign manager? What aspects of Manafort’s longtime relationships with Russian leaders and President Trump might be revealed in the pending hearings conducted by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee? In addition, we discuss the recent non-permitted demonstrations that occurred in Russia.

Our guest, Andrew Kramer, is a New York Times reporter based in Moscow, Russia. Kramer, fluent in Russian, has been reporting from Moscow for the Times since 2006. This interview is the second in what may become an ongoing series of conversations with him about Russia.

You can listen to the full interview here.

The book Andrew Kramer recommends is “Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism,” by Charles Clover.  The program was recorded on March 27, 2017.

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

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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