Blincoe, Bob — Kurdish People:  Their Struggle to Keep Their Homeland

In this 1997 edition of Radio Curious, we visited with Bob Blincoe, a Presbyterian minister, who lived and worked among the Kurds in the Zagros Mountains from 1990 to 1996.  

The Kurdish people have long been aptly referred to as a “millet.”  This is a Turkish term that originated in the Ottoman Empire when it ruled parts of central Europe to the near east from 1430 to 1921.  It means “any ethnic group.” Until the 20th century millets, were able to control their way of life and effectively rule themselves.  Now approximately 25 million Kurdish people live in the Zagros Mountains, where the borders of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran converge.  These Kurdish people live stateless and many homeless in their ancestral homeland.  Currently they have been able to successfully defend themselves from brutal ISIS attacks. 

When Bob Blincoe lived among the Kurds and worked as a community organizer in their ancestral homeland he first spoke Arabic, so he wouldn’t stand out.  He quickly learned Kurdish which he spoke only with great discretion. His stories of the Kurdish people are important to consider now in light of terrorism and other dangers inflicted against them.

When Bob Blincoe and I visited in the studios of Radio Curious in the spring of 1997, we began our conversation when I asked him to describe the Zagros Mountains where so many Kurdish people live.

The book Bob Blincoe recommends is “A Peace to End All Peace,” by David Fromkin.

This program was originally broadcast in May 1997.

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Farr, Sam — Chaos in Congress: What’s Next?

With Republican John Boehner, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives having announced his resignation at the end of this month, and Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican majority in the House choosing not to be a candidate for Speaker in the election now set for October 29, the House is reportedly in chaos.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Congressman Sam Farr, a long time friend, who has represented Monterey and Santa Cruz counties on the central coast of California since 1993.   We discuss the presence of the “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representatives, and the current consequences of its efforts to unseat Speaker Boehner.   Congressman Farr also explains his views on other current political issues.

Sam Farr and I visited by phone from his apartment in Washington D.C. on October 9, 2015, and began our conversation when I asked him to provide a context to the current political fray in the House of Representatives.

The book Sam Farr recommends is “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough. 

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Pico, Pio & Garza, Robert — Meet the Last Mexican Governor of California

Radio Curious goes back into California history about 165 years, and visits with the last Mexican governor of California, Pio Pico. Born at the San Gabriel Mission in 1801, Pico was of Spanish, Italian, Indian and African ancestry. Both as a politician and as an entrepreneur, he espoused the views of many native-born “Californarios” over distant seats of government.

As the last Mexican Governor of California, he presided over the secularization of the missions, and turned over their vast land holdings to private hands. Although he fled California during the American takeover, Pio Pico returned to build the first major hotel in Los Angeles. Later, he served on the Los Angeles City Council.

I met with Pio Pico, portrayed by Roberto Garza, in February of 1998.  When Pio Pico and I met in the person of Roberto Garza we began when I asked him to tell us about his life.

The book Pio Pico recommends is “Pio Pico, A Historical Narrative,” by Pio Pico. Roberto Graza recommends “Pio Pico Miscellany,” by Martin Cole and “The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890,” by Leonard Pitt.

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Berman, Ari — Using Wealth to Deny Voting Rights

The financing of political campaigns is the subject of this, July 21, 2015, edition of Radio Curious.  Our guest is Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, who writes regularly on election and voting rights issues.  His May 19, 2015 article is titled “How the Money Primary is Undermining Voting Rights.” 

Berman asks:  “When the wealthiest Americans dominate every facet of political life—from who runs, to who wins, to which issues are addressed, to how our leaders govern—what happens to the voting rights of everyone else?”

The consequences of the Supreme Court’s 2010 and 2014 decisions in “Citizens United and “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission provide some insight.

When Ari Berman and I visited by phone from his office in Washington D.C. on June 8, 2015, we began when I asked him to define the word “wealth,” that is being used to deny the right to vote.

The books Ari Berman recommends are “Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” by John Lewis, and “Housekeeping,” by Marilynne Robinson.

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

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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Wallach, Amei — Art Outwitting Oppression:  The Kabakov Story

Amei Wallach, producer and director of the documentary film “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here,” about the lives of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.

Amei Wallach met Ilya Kabakov in 1987, when she was in the Soviet Union investigating the effect of perestroika on the arts.  Unavoidably intrigued, eight years later she published the first biography of Ilya Kabakov, “The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away.” 

“Enter Here” documents not only the lives and work of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Russia’s most celebrated international artists, who are now United States citizens, but also the lives of the average Russian from the Stalin era to the fall of the Soviet Union.  The film will be shown at the Mendocino Film Festival May 31, 2015, at 12:30 pm, in the Village of Mendocino, California.

Amei Wallach says her film documents how “art can outwit oppression.” When we visited by phone on May 10, 2015, she began with an explanation of how art outwits oppression.   

The book Amei Wallach recommends is “Vermeer in Bosnia: Selected Writings,” by Lawrence Weschler. 

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Moglen, Eben — Internet Privacy and the Freedom Box

The best spy system ever created, what the internet does and how it’s controlled by national forces are the topics of this edition of Radio Curious.  We visit with Columbia Law Professor Eben Moglen, a developer of the Freedom Box, which prevents government, businesses and other intruders from obtaining your personal information and internet uses. 

The book that Eben Moglen recommends is, “Free Software, Free Society,” by Richard Stallman.

This interview was originally broadcast in 2011.

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Ellsberg, Daniel — The Pentagon Papers

Few moments in American history have held the tension of the Vietnam war, especially in the early 1970′s. The nation was fundamentally divided between young people and their parents, who saw no reason for the United States to be in Vietnam, and President Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,” causing a rupture particularly connected to the still-escalating Vietnam War. The “Pentagon Papers,” which were released by Daniel Ellsberg, our guest in this archive edition Radio Curious, were published on the front page of the New York Times in June 1971.

They focused national attention on United States foreign policy and on our rights as individual citizens to freedom of the press.  Criminal charges were brought against Ellsberg in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, California; they were later dismissed by the Judge.

When Daniel Ellsberg and I visited by phone in March 1997 I asked him to begin by placing the “Pentagon Papers” in the context of the time.

The book Daniel Ellsberg recommends is “Our War,” by David Harris.

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Totten, Sam — Genocide by Attrition

Black history is acknowledged in the month of February in the United States and is lived every day in the African continent. The history of the continuing genocide by attrition within the nation of Sudan is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious. Sudan is located in northeast Africa, south of Egypt, and east of the Red Sea and the nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The people of Sudan continue to be killed by war and famine as has happened for generations.

Twice Radio Curious has considered this little discussed topic with University of Arkansas Professor Emeritus Sam Totten, author of “Genocide by Attrition: Nuba Mountains, Sudan,” and “An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide.”  Totten is a scholar who has devoted his career to the study of genocide and genocide by attrition. In 2011, we first discussed the disaster in southern Sudan. Again in 2013, Totten described the genocide by attrition of the people of south Sudan, which has continued to become increasingly drastic in the past two years.

Professor Totten continues to follow this crisis between the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Sudanese government in the state of South Kordofan, Sudan. In late December 2014, he returned from what he described as “a tough, tough trip to the Nuba Mountains in order to carry up ten tons of food to desperate civilians who face daily bombing sorties by the Government of Sudan using Antonov bombers.” He reports some very close calls, traveling with rebels to recently bombed villages. When Sam Totten and I visited by phone from his home near Fayetteville, Arkansas, on February 19, 2015, he began with a brief history of this continuing crisis.

The book Professor Sam Totten recommends is “Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” by Kay Redfield Jamison.

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Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two

In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In part one she discussed what she called the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”  In part two of our conversation, recorded from her home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, Isabel Wilkerson describes the inspiration behind her narrative non-fiction story of the six million African-Americans who migrated from the south between 1915 and 1970.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.