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Happy 95th Birthday Today, Pete Seeger – and That Calls for a Festival!

Mark the dates – Thursday, July 17 to Monday, July 21. Hudson Valley & New York City.

It was an NYC invite-only press invitation gladly accepted earlier this week by broadcast and print media to learn about – and report on – the first-ever Festival/Tribute to be held in honor of the life and contributions of Pete and Toshi Seeger.

“Seeger.” The name alone commands respect. And now, the press learned, that name is going to be further honored by the creation of a festival to celebrate this man’s placement in history. At least, if Pete and Toshi’s grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson and a core of Seeger family members and friends have anything to say about it.

They were there in force. Tom Chapin, The Chapin Sisters, Emma’s Revolution, Rick Nestler, Aurora Brown, Hip Hop artist and poet Nyraine and DJ Kool Herc, all stepping up to the microphone to pay tribute and show support. They will be among a score of musicians who will sing and play at the upcoming fest.

Performances and Protest – Synonymous With Pete Seeger

Think of the occasions through the years. The festivals of Clearwater, Strawberry Festival, Newport Folk Festival (he was a founder), Farm Aid, benefit concerts for migrant workers, college coffee houses, churches, summer camps, world tours, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Union Halls, Carnegie Hall, the Vietnam Moratorium Day, Lincoln Center…any place and time where peace and hope needed to be championed.

Think of the people he sang with, or whose music he influenced. The Weavers, the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, Lee Hays, Cisco Houston, The Byrds, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, The Smothers Brothers, Bob Dylan, Theodore Bikel, Odetta, Don McLean, Bruce Springsteen, and on and on.

Think of the songs he wrote or made famous. If I had a Hammer. Turn Turn Turn. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Waist Deep in the Big Muddy. Midnight Special. What Did You Learn In School Today? Little Boxes. Guantanamera. This Land is Your Land. Worried Man Blues. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. La Qunice Brigada, And, of course, the anthem: We Shall Overcome.

Think of the travails he endured and overcome. They came early and lasted late. His early membership and experience in the communist party, his work on behalf of labor unions, pioneering integrated casts of musicians, and musical lyrics which called for peace instead of war caused him to be the target for right-of-center politicians and the John Birchers of that day.

That continuing, corrosive assault caused his work and his patriotism to be questioned and attacked, resulting in a blacklisting of his famous singing group, The Weavers, and radio stations refused to play their music and bookings were cancelled.  The McCarthy era ramped up the venom.

On August 18, 1955, Pete Seeger was subpoenaed to testify before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) where he refused to plead the Fifth Amendment. Rather, he stood on his First Amendment rights of free speech.  The 1957 indictment (from a body itself contemptible – much as today), he was convicted in a jury trial for contempt of congress. In May, 1962, an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and the conviction was overturned.

Blacklisted and unemployable in the industry, he and Toshi survived by earning money as music teachers in summer camps and travelling the college circuit. And, this is where he served as an essential source for the revival of folk music. Pete’s music and causes helped him to worked his way back into America’s heart (where he had never left).  We are the beneficiaries of his life’s work.

And, That Calls for a Festival!

Think of the experience you will have, attending what will surely be a musical love-fest. Artists (and expect surprise “walk-ons”) over the series will include David Avram, Tom Chapin and the Chapin Sisters, Guy Davis, Emma’s Revolution, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, Kim & Reggie Harris, Hudson River Sloop Singers, Holly Near, Paul Winter Consort, The Vanaver Caravan, Dar Williams & Dan Zanes and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and the famous “more.”

Here’s just a partial run-down:

Thursday, July 17 – Opens with a film screening of the Emmy-award winning documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. Pier 46 & The Hudson River. 8:30 p.m.
Friday, July 18 – Memorial Service. Bardavon Opera House, Poughkeepsie, NY. 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 19 – ALL DAY
Events throughout the Hudson Valley, song circle and potluck supper, square dancing, “Rocking the Boat,” and film-and-photography by Pete and Toshi Seeger by El Taller Latino Americano.
Sunday, July 20 – 4 p.m.
Lincoln Center Out of Doors – Memorial Concert for Pete and Toshi
Monday, July 21 – 6 p.m.
New Songs of Justice: An Evening Honoring Pete Seeger. Summer Stage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park

(More complete details for each event can be found at:

The Founder and Executive Producer of Seeger Fest is Pete’s grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, his wife, Jeannine and family friend Kalynda Klementis. The festival co-producers are Gina Belafonte, actress, activists and daughter of Harry Belafonte, Janae Desire, television producer and Jason Samel, music activist and record producer.

As described at the site:

“The Seegers were involved in nearly every cause of the twentieth century. From the labor movement to civil rights to anti-war to the environmental movement, Pete and Toshi were always on the front lines. This five day event will honor their work, remember them as people and shed light on the musicians and non-profit organizations continuing to work for a better tomorrow.”

Your presence, as part of that acknowledgment, is requested.

guitars and banjo

A Wave of Action – Or a Wave Goodbye? It’s Occupy’s Call

What will prove to be either the last gasp of the Occupy Movement, or its Renaissance as a social powerhouse, will lie in the success and its embrace of a highly-publicized #WaveOfAction which launches a major 90-day program of protest and resistance on April 4.

The Wave begins, symbolically, on the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King and ends, symbolically, on July the 4th.  It will run from the date of the death of a dream that will not die to the date of the birth of a vision which has yet to be fulfilled.

 So, what is the purpose of this ambitious campaign, who is behind it, and what can we expect of it – and of ourselves?  The purpose is stated on its website and is quite clear.

We are a Movement of Movements

“The Worldwide #WaveOfAction begins April 4th and runs through July 4th.

During this three-month cycle, people throughout the world will be protesting corruption, rallying around solutions and taking part in alternative systems. The new paradigm will be on full display.

Studies have proven that it only takes 3.5% of the population taking nonviolent action to create meaningful and positive change. The #WaveOfAction gives all of us who want change a powerful opportunity to #EvolveSociety.

Change-makers all over the world will be engaged at the same time in an unprecedented wave of transformation.”

OK, that sounds acceptable (to most of the 99%, and certainly not the 1%).  Now, who is behind this?

I confess that I can’t say that I have figured that out.  It appears to be nobody.  Or, perhaps everybody.  Or, a coterie of patriots/anarchists/misfits who – such as when Zuccotti Park came to be occupied – are taking it upon themselves to rekindle that Occupy fire.

Word has it that #OWS #Anon and its allies put out a call to action for a World Wide Wave of creative community coordination and collaboration this winter.  There were two organizing conference calls prior to April 4.  One on March 25, and the other on April 2.  (David Degraw is one of the facilitators)

For an organizing call, it attracted verifiable luminaries:  Barbara Max Hubbard, Marianne Williamson, Russell Brand, Kevin Zeese, Patricia Ellsberg, Dylan Rattigan, John Perry Barlow, and Lee Camp.  If “you are known by the company you keep,” #WaveOfAction is keeping good company.

Whoever started it, it can be said that occupiers around the world are standing with it, and many called in to declare that support and to announce events they were planning locally.

But, they are coming up against a very familiar foe – themselves.

The Naysayers…and worse

Anyone familiar with Occupy knows that it is rife with the usual suspects:  gripers, snipers and full-blown trolls whose only purpose seems to be that of making sure that “solidarity” will never be had.  “How dare (someone/something) do/be (provide the offense).”  Everything is suspect, and anyone taking a lead roll is to be suspected.   

Whether or not this will affect the success of #WaveOfAction will not be known for some time, but the offenders are being put on notice.  Activist and creater of Occu-Evolve, Sumumba Sobukwe, had this to say:  

“The Irony of those complaining about this ‘Wave of Action’ is that it will only be a failure if they continue to find fault with EVERYTHING that ‘reeks’ of coordination that might make people move beyond facebook, twitter and other social media ‘activism’ as well as their own silos of causes and interests to actually go out and organize with others in the streets.”

He continues, “When did an ‘occupy’ action ever draw more than a few hundred people that didn’t have unions, grassroots or other groups involved? Who are we fooling here? Occupy has ALWAYS been made up of different groups and individuals, and that’s where the concept of the ‘99%’ came closest to being real or at least unifying in theory.”

So, in addition to proving Pogo’s theorem, “We have met the enemy, and they are us,” what other odds militate against the campaign having any major effect?  Let me count the ways:

1. A largely indifferent press.  Activists deride the “MainStream Media” for not paying attention to even the largest of its protests and greatest of its triumphs.  Occupy is hardly alone.  Last year’s March Against Monsanto which attracted a half-million marchers or more worldwide did not find its way into print or broadcast in any meaningful way.  (P.S.  Occupy folk helped make that march happen, as well). 

.         2. A police force dedicated to crushing public dissent.  Naaaah, that can’t be happening here in America, right?  That’s what you find in Russia, or Egypt, or China.  Thank God that “to serve and protect” applies to citizens in the street and peaceful protestors, yes?  Here’s a retired cop who has a word or two on that, Captain Ray Harris. Oh, and not to forget Cecily McMillan’s experience with the Boys in Blue which finds her at risk of jail time for resisting their abuse.

3.      3.  Elected officials.  One would think that people who are elected to represent us will actually represent us, and that they will be at the front of any parade or protest demanding justice and protecting civil liberties.  Think again.  If you ain’t got the money (and few occupiers/activists do), they ain’t got the time.  And, if their party can’t co-opt your movement for their betterment, they’ll be the first to applaud authorities who arrest you. Hell, they will demand that force be used.

4.    The 1%.  You can be certain that the #WaveOfAction will be countered by a #FloodOfMoney spent to discredit its work and mission.  Did I mention Fox?  CNN?  Stay tuned and see how money talks.

So, I leave it to you, the reader.  Will this be a “Wave,” or a “Wave Goodbye” on the part of Occupy and its brother and sister causes?  Will you listen to the detractors within and the enemies without and surrender to the impossible forces against you?

Or, will you take comfort in your own, amazing numbers and brilliance and continue to fight the good fight as so many have before you in America’s history.  You are the dream that Martin referred to, and the nightmare that the 1% are waking up to.

When you realize that, the others in the 3.5% of the population will as well.  Won’t that be exciting.

Occupy Began Here




What’s In a Name? Would You Trade Yours for Money? For Blood Money?

On a sunshine-bright day in late September in front of a cold stone building in NYC, that question was asked of Stephen Feinberg, CEO of Cerberus Capital Management – the firm that owns  a commanding 94% stake in the Freedom Group which is responsible for nearly $900 million in gun sales in the U.S.

It wasn’t a simple call-out.  It had a special importance in that it came from Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim and it came during the Jewish festival of Sukkot: a festival in which freedom and the blessings of life are celebrated along with the need “to stay true to our word to build a safe and just world,” as the Rabbi describes it.

The Rabbi was not alone in questioning Feinberg and Cerberus Capital.

He stood to the side of a crowd of activists which included people from Mom’s Demand Action, the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, NAACP,, the American Federation of Teachers and the Newtown Action Alliance;

Jesse Lewis - 6 Years Old

the latter comprised of neighbors and townfolk who rallied around the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School monstrous killing of 20 children and six adults last December.

His was not the only voice.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was there to eloquently demand that Cerberus keep its word.  As were Geoffrey Eaton, President, NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and Monte Frank, a board member of the Newtown Action Alliance.

All were eloquent, all were passionate, but Rabbi Bachman’s

Rabbi Andy Bachman

Rabbi Andy Bachman

words – the last to be spoken to the gathered crowd – were the most personal in asking Feinberg and Cerberus to keep a promise.  It was, essentially, a reminder from a brother to a brother to remember his heritage and to act from it. 

What was this broken promise, exactly? 

And, exactly what has that got to do with Stephen Feinberg’s name?  The promise was a commitment made by Cerberus shortly after the Sand Hook Elementary School Shooting to divest itself of its holdings in the Freedom Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and marketers of firearms.

You might recognize the name of one of their products:  Bushmaster XM-15.  This was the 30-round magazine weapon of choice used to kill and dismember the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.  The results were so horrific that the Connecticut state Legislature passed a bill modifying the state’s Freedom of Information Act in order to “prevent the release of crime-scene photos.”

That fact that the shooter used a Bushmaster did not go unnoticed by Cerberus.

“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” a statement released by the company on December 18 stated.   It continued, “There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take.  Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group.”

It is two months shy of that deadly day and the carefully-worded statement from Cerberus.  And, not a penny’s worth has been divested.  In fact, it has realized hundreds millions of dollars in sales over the months since their “promise” was made.  The same period of time in which, every 30 minutes, a child is killed by a gun.  Day in.  Day out.

Freedom Group is the same arm of Cerberus which has paid out $1,000,000 to the NRA so that this group can lobby to keep deadly assault rifles on the street; the same NRA lobbyists that have enough legislators in their pocket to obstruct sensible federal gun safety legislation.

“We stand here, outside Cerberus Capital Management, in this season, to ask you, Stephen Feinberg, to reclaim your ‘good name,’ stay true to your word, and divest Cerberus Capital Management from its ownership in the Freedom Group,” Rabbi Bachman intoned.

“We ask you, Stephen Feinberg, we ask you today, what value do you really get from hundreds of millions in profits earned by the blood of innocents?  What value do you get from the profits of weapons made to kill quickly, efficiently, and without feeling?  What value do you get from assault weapons, dead children, grieving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers?”

His ending remarks, in what had now become almost a prayer meeting

טוב שם משמן טוב–Redeem your good name, Stephen Feinberg.  Invest your profits in people’s lives, not guns that kill.  Invest in young hearts and minds, not bullets and bombs.  Not in the violent and darkened past of mankind’s evil ways but in the bright light and hopeful horizon of peaceful present day.

Redeem your good name, Stephen Feinberg.  Redeem your good name.”

“A Line in the Park” – An Occupy Invite and Plea to Prospective NYC Mayor, Bill de Blasio

Well, the tide is flowing in your favor, Bill.  Willy Thompson has conceded, and only one lonely Republican stands between you and Gracie Mansion.  And, such press coverage!

News articles describe your candidacy as “reflecting the new New York”,or less flatteringly  as an attempt to leverage the credentials of an elected office whose basic function is to “call press conferences and denounce things.”

The Nation magazine effusively endorses your candidacy as “an opportunity for New Yorkers to reimagine their city in boldly progressive ways.”

There are thrilling, progressive threads running through these accounts and voiced in your own words:  you are not going to add to the legacy of your predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.  You will tax the rich. You will not allow uncalled-for “stop and frisk.”  You will not close hospitals needlessly. You will enable affordable housing, and ensure universal pre-kindergarten. The unions will finally have a friend in City Hall.

But, what about Occupy Wall Street?

Remember Occupy and its takeover of Zuccotti Park almost two years ago?  Remember how Bloomberg and his police handled (and are still handling) these protestors? Do you remember showing up there, and what you said then?

The Wall Street Journal does.

Your losing opponent, Ms. Quinn, said that she would have been less “adversarial.”  Your likely Republican opponent, Mr. Lhota, said he would act more quickly “now that we know what can be done.” (More pepper spray?  More “kettling.” More arrests?)

In that same piece, you were derided for castigating Bloomberg (back to the art of denouncing things) for his heavy handed approach and proclaiming your desire to “work to build spaces where OWS and government officials could communicate and discuss ways to address their demands.”

That statement will be tested

On Tuesday morning, September 17, Occupy will once again attempt to peacefully assemble in Zuccotti Park as part of a packed, day-long celebration of its second birthday. 

On Tuesday morning, September 17, the police – soon to be your police – will be amassed, armed, and with pepper spray and kettling devices at the ready. 

What happens this day will be either Bloomberg’s final display of force, or your first demonstration of progressive rule.

Will we see you at the Park on Tuesday, Mr. De Blasio?  And, on which side of the barricades? 

Where will you draw that line in the Park?



Wall Street’s Two Least Favorite Birthdays: OWS and Everett Stern (Everett Who?)

Turn the Tide HSBC

You can be sure that TBTF (Too Big To Fail) Bankers will not be donning party hats when these two birthdays roll around: that of Occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17, 2013 when it turns two, and Everett Stern on August 29, 2013 when he turns 29.

Everett Who?

It is safe to say that 99% of the U.S. population is aware of Occupy’s birth on 9/17/11.  And, that these activists have since served as a major thorn in the side of Wall Street.  It is also safe to say that – at least of this writing – that Occupy has not inflicted mortal harm.

Everett Stern is a different matter.  He is the ultimate fear of the banking industry – an insider-turned-whistleblower.  However unknown and unacknowledged by the 99%, he may just be the one to nick that jugular.  The fact that he decided to align himself with Occupiers?  Spine-shivering.

Self-described as a “right wing Republican,” he raised eyebrows when out of exasperation he took his case of HSBC drug and terrorist money laundering to Occupy (  Essentially rebuffed elsewhere (FTC, SEC, FBI, CIA among others), he was determined to find an audience sharing at least one quality in common: a loathing of out-of-control bankers who had not only put our country into an economic tailspin, but actively aid and abet drug lords and terrorist groups. 

Stern was greeted warily by the Occupy “working group” he had chosen, called Alternative Banking.  (It can be argued that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter, and Stein was grilled on that point.  Otherwise, he chose well.)  That meeting is chronicled here:

Since its inception in Zuccotti Park, Alt.Banking’s primary mission has been to challenge the “TBTF” designation placed on Wall Street by governmental agencies.  HSBC had been a favorite target since admitting in 2012 to a decade of money laundering for drug cartels and terrorists and being slapped with a $1.9BB fine.

The latter, without admitting guilt and arranging to see that none of its executives went to jail, infuriated Occupiers.  It just seemed hard to convince others, more conservative, of the crimes being committed.  Until Stern.

This is not a political or a “99 percent issue,” Stern emphasizes. “Banks financing drug cartels and terrorists affects every single American. I went to Occupy not because I am a major supporter of the movement. I went to Occupy because they care enough to hit the streets, carry signs and send a message that I also believe in.”

Want to Blow Out the Candles, HSBC?

After some delicate dancing, Alt.Banking and Stern united to celebrate two occasions.  The first is Everett’s 29th birthday on the steps of the NYC Public Library at 11:45 p.m. on August 29, where Stern will give a press conference detailing his grievances.  Then, with the Occupiers in tow, he will march to HSBC’s midtown offices at 425 5th Avenue to publicly vent his anger on their doorstep.

“I want a criminal indictment against HSBC,” Stern declares, “and fines are not acceptable.  What the public needs to understand is that money is still being funneled through HSBC to buy guns and kill our soldiers.”

“His intentions are pure, and his anger understandable,” one occupier opines.  “His attempts to alert governmental agencies fell on deaf ears.  We at Occupy are neither deaf nor blind and we will serve as his megaphone and ally.”

Stern is returning that favor on September 17

Alt.Banking has in mind a special birthday present, its “Occupy Finance” book ( to inflict more pain on HSBC and the banking community.  The combined effort of the group to explain the dysfunction of our financial system in plain English, it is divided into three basic parts: The Real Life Impact of Financialization on the 99%, How We Got Here, and Things to do.

Consider it “The 99% Guide to Bad Banking and What to Do About It.

The handbook will be formally presented to the public on 9/17/13 at Zuccotti Park at 3:00 p.m.  Stern, now a BFF with Alt.Banking, will be present to help hand out some 1,000 copies.

Which makes you wonder about history repeating itself

Just under two years ago, NY City’s “Finest” was successful in destroying several thousand volumes of Occupy’s own public library of activist literature.  They accomplished this wearing riot gear under the cover of darkness and with strict instructions to keep the press to away until the “clean up” was completed.

Now, in just under a month, 1,000 copies of a lone book will be handed out freely at the same park.  Given that this will take place in the daylight, and with Press invited, do you think they will be as successful?

You may want to be on hand to determine that for yourself.  Bring your party hats