Tuesday, January 28, 2014

PETE SEEGER 1919-2014


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Above all — DON’T TAX THE RICH!!!

Stories in yesterday’s news show us again the most sacred political principle for the GOP and all too many establishment Democrats: DON’T TAX THE RICH! Any hardship is acceptable, any inhumane circumstance tolerable, so long as the poor carry the burden and the super rich remain undisturbed.

While Congress fails to extend federal unemployment insurance, states slash the safety net even further. North Carolina leads the way, slashing maximum benefits from 73 weeks to 20. The plight of millions around the country is expressed in a typical story (NY Times, 1/22/14): Alnetta McKnight ran out of unemployment insurance and food stamp benefits and now she and her 14 year old son are living ‘on next to nothing’. “I worked for 26 years; I lost my job through no fault of my own. This is what I get?”

Still, the system really “works”. Unemployment is marginally down in North Carolina. As Wells Fargo’s Mark Vitner notes, “odds are they exhausted their savings, and they’re probably going to go ahead and take a job they wouldn’t have taken previously.”  The news writer comments: “But statistics don’t tell the full story. North Carolina still has nearly 350,000 listed as officially unemployed, and many more, including those living in depressed rural areas, have given up even looking for a job. For them, the safety net is gone, and largely out of sight, countless families have slipped deeper into poverty.”
* * *

Then there is the news from New York. Governor Cuomo has rushed to confront Mayor DeBlasio, who proposes to provide universal free preschool and to fund it through a “small soy latte tax” on New York’s rich. Cuomo, who has previously largely ignored the issue, now says he can fund preschool while actually cutting taxes on the wealthy. As the Times editorializes: “How the governor can cut taxes by $2 billion and provide adequate services — including a new preschool program — is a mystery.”

Meanwhile, the stock market rides along at all-time highs.

Never mind. JUST DON’T TAX THE RICH!!!

(Note added 1/24: One of the periodic tremors shook the market today. Not to worry — the profits of the 1% find a way to go up even when the market "corrects".)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


A few days ago, a big and wonderful surprise came to me by email. It brought to life our bond to freedom fighters across rivers of time. In this case, the bond links two people and their comrades in blood-spattered jail cells in Stamford, Connecticut on May 1st 1930 with one’s great granddaughter and another’s son (me).  It connected the first mass demonstrations for unemployment insurance (not enacted until the New Deal) to today’s fight to extend unemployment insurance over cruel reactionary opposition.

Here’s the email exchange:

January 4, 2014

Hello Mr. Wofsy,

I am the great granddaughter of Morris Fitch.  I was extremely surprised to locate an actual picture of him in a book you authored.  This previous summer I began to research my family and when I googled his name it led me to your book which I quickly purchased. The story was so interesting and insightful.  Morris's daughter was my grandmother Susan who was an orphan as her mother passed during her childbirth.  My grandmother was raised in a foster home.  Apparently he did not raise her but she knew him well and shared that he was an activist.  He died when she was in her teens. She passed away many years ago and had very little information about her family.  With the technology of today I fortunately have been able to locate much of our family history.

I am very grateful for your book and sharing this little known history. I am from Stamford as is the majority of my family.  Many were unaware of the events you documented.  I am writing first to express my gratitude for your work and to let you know my family is so appreciative to have found the picture of Morris and the story of his activism.  We would very much like to have a copy of the article with the picture from the book.  If possible can you please send a copy or advise as to how we can secure a clear and complete copy of the article featured in your book.

Thank you again and any additional information will be much appreciated.


Stephanie Paris-Cooper

As a side note I wanted to add that I am currently a school administrator
in the New Haven Public School System and found it interesting that you attended Hillhouse, a school in which I previously taught.

* * *
January 4,2014

Dear Stephanie Paris-Cooper,

I was thrilled to receive your note. This is an immediate response just to tell you how meaningful it is to me. I am now 92 and I've always been so proud of the legacy represented in that story from my childhood, almost 84 years ago. I've told it many, many times, and always the main heroes in my telling are my own father and the incredibly brave Morris Fitch.

I think I can find and send to you a print of the picture with caption that was in my book (Looking for the Future, 1995). Recently I retold the story in a blog:

I'll be in touch as soon as I can find the print.  I wish I knew more about your great grandfather, his life after May 1, 1930, and some of the history of his (and your) family. Thank you so much for writing to me!

Very warm wishes,

* * *

Here’s the picture (click on it to enlarge):

I’ve told the story before, so here’s just a brief reminder of background. The Mayor denied a permit for the demonstration, as he had done on March 6th when 7,000 demonstrated anyway in peaceful defiance, and several (including my father) were arrested when they tried to speak. My father was given a “confidential” message that there would be hell to pay if there was another demonstration on May 1st. So several, including Morris Fitch and my father, came ready to be arrested, and they were as each spoke up in succession from various places in the huge crowd. All was peaceful until they were in jail. The caption on the picture tells the rest. One addition: they were left to bleed without medical attention until word leaked out, and my mother brought our family doctor to the jail to demand access to the wounded.

My father, brutally beaten himself, always marveled at Morris Fitch who got the worst beating of all.

Need it be noted: how rare it was for comradeship between black and white in a time when Jim Crow ruled with virtually no challenge within white America?