Politics for the People Book Club Recordings — A Conversation with Lois Leveen

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On Sunday, June 3rd the book club had the pleasure of spending an hour in conversation with Lois Leveen, the author of The Secrets of Mary Bowser. You can listen to our full conversation at the end of this post.

Lois says that she “dwells in the spaces where literature and history meet.” She has degrees in history and literature from Harvard, USC and UCLA and has taught at UCLA and Reed College.

In addition to being a novelist, Lois is a frequent essayist and contributor to the New York Times, LA Review of Books, Huffington Post and many other publications, literary and scholarly journals.

In the opening section of the call, you can hear Lois and I discuss how she first met Mary Bowser and decided to write the book.  We talk about the relationship between Mary and Bet Van Lew, the woman who freed her and was her collaborator in spying on the Confederacy.

Give a listen here or below:

 

Caroline Donnola, who orginally recommended The Secrets of Mary Bowser to be a Politics for the People selection, asked Lois how she created and built out the characters of the book, especially Mary Bowser.  How did she decide what she should sound like, how she should think, how she would respond to her many life challenges?  You can hear their conversation here or below:

 

Helen Abel from CA shared that one of the most astonishing parts of the book for her was how Mary Bowser extended the Civil War by withholding particular information so that slavery would become a main issue for Lincoln and not just preservation of the Union. She asked Lois whether she this part of the book was something she uncovered in her research and whether there were other spies who impacted the civil war in this or in similar ways?  Listen to Lois’ answer:

 

Alice Rydel was eager to ask Lois if she considered herself a social activist? Give a listen to her answer:

 

Dr. Jessie Fields shared with us how much she appreciated The Secrets of Mary Bowser, and how much it “…conveys a great deal of African American history in a very intimate fashion, that history also being integral to American history. ” She asked Lois how her study of African American literature influenced the writing of the novel. Lois talked about how much she learned from authors like Richard Wright, James Baldwin and many African American women authors about “how difficult it is to negotiate protecting your family in a place where you legally really have very few or no protection of them.”  She talks about the creation of Mary Bowser’s voice, and the private school education she received.  You can hear the full response here and below:

 

Jenn Bullock, the coordinator of Independent Pennslyvanians commented on how “powerfully and unapologetically” Lois portrayed the racism in Philadelphia, particularly among white progressives.  You can listen to Lois’ response.  She talks about how “not everybody who was antislavery would have described themselves as an abolitionist.”

 

Harry Kresky and Lois talked about Clarence Thomas, Thurgood Marshall, the movie Black Panther and, as Harry put it, the complicated and controversial “issue of what African Americans and others do with opportunity, giving back so called…”  A fascinating conversation to listen to:

 

Julie Leak shared how much she loved the book and some of her reminisces of growing up in the South.  Lois talked about a visit to Richmond during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and emancipation and a visit to Lumpkin’s Alley with an African American woman whose family lived in Richmond for generations.  Give a listen:

 

You can listen to our entire conversation below:

 

And if you would like to learn more about Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew, take a look at this wonderful CSPAN video, “A Spy in the Confederate White House” from 2013. The video features Edward Ayers, President of the University of Richmond; Lois Leveen; and Elizabeth Varon, Professor at the University of Virginia and the author of Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy. 

Lois’ second book is Juliet’s Nurse, which tells the story of Romeo and Juliet through the eyes of Juliet’s nurse.  I have added this to my summer reading list.

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STAY TUNED
We will announce our next selection soon.

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P4P Recordings–A Conversation with Greg Orman

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On Sunday, April 15th, we had the pleasure of spending an hour with independent candidate for Governor in Kansas, Greg Orman.

Greg is a successful businessman and entrepeurner who ran as an independent for the US Senate in 2014 and made national headlines with almost unseating the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.  In 2016 Greg wrote A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.  The book offers a powerful look at independents and our potential role in moving our country beyond, what Greg so aptly calls, weaponized partisanship and is a scathing indictment of the two party system, the duopoly.

You can listen to our full conversation at the end of this post.

In our opening segment you will hear my introduction of Greg and our initial conversation where we talked about what Greg hopes people take away from his book, the unique role he sees independents and independent candidates playing in bringing people together and they dynamics in the current gubernatorial race.  Give a listen:

 

Evelyn Dougherty from the Massachusetts Coalition of Independent Voters asked our first question.  Book club members in MA wondered what were the most important lessons Greg learned as an independent candidate in 2014 that he is taking into his independent run for Governor this year? Here is what Greg shared with us:

 

Steve Richardson, the founding member of Virginia Independent Voters Association and asked our next question about the struggle independent voters face and the need for structural political reform at a state level.  You can listen to Greg and Steve’s conversation here.

 

Dr. Jessie Fields and Greg had a rich conversation about the divisions in the country and how to bring differing communities together. Dr. Fields shared, “My view is that the parties divide the American people and the Black community is being told in many ways that its interests are synonymous with…the Democratic Party in particular.”  Greg agreed and said, “…the two parties tend to want to divide us because it serves their electoral purposes, and yet we all understand how fundamentally damaging that is to our country. And so I think, if you are genuinely an independent and you genuinely put your country and your state ahead of any political party or frankly ahead of any other interest, then ultimately you have to be working in the service of bringing people together. ” You can listen to their full interaction about the African American community and how Greg is reaching out to bring people together outside the parties here.

 

Steve Hough, the Director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries asked Greg his view of the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary System. Greg shared his past support for the system and some of the challenges he believes the Top Two system presents for independent candidates.  You can listen to their exchange.

 

Harry Kresky, Independent Voting’s general counsel asked Greg how he saw the issue of independents having the right to vote in primaries—was it a bottom line issue that the movement could agree upon.  In his response, Greg shared his view, “…One person, one vote is something the Supreme Court has codified in law yet one person one vote doesn’t seem to apply if you’re an independent….There is a basic inconsistency in the law and again courts have consistently confirmed that partisan primaries are private political behavior and yet they seem to not have a problem with the government paying for that private political behavior….I think the way we’re going to start making progress on opening up primaries, particularly in states where there isn’t a citizen driven initiative, is largely going to be through forcing the courts to make a more consistent decision.” You can listen to the full exchange:

 

Sue Davies, the coordinator of New Jersey Independent Voters shared with Greg that she works with independents who are pursuing a strategy of taking over one or the other of the major parties.  Greg shared with us that this is not a strategy that he has given a lot of thought to and pointed out, “…We need to start recognizing that as independents we have the numbers and we have to start coalescing around candidates and ultimately winning some elections is a way to change the perception about the viability of independent candidacies.” Give a listen:

 

George Trapp, a member of Independent Voice of Ohio told us that he was glad to read in Greg’s book his view of the importance of addressing economic mobility and poverty. George asked Greg if there what were examples of the government doing too much and examples of the government doing too little to help poor people. You can hear Greg’s response.

 

You can listen to the full recording of our P4P conversation below.

 

If you would like to stay up to date on Greg’s campaign, please visit OrmanforKansas.org.

 

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Please join us for our next selection:

The Secrets of Mary Bowser.

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

Hope you will pick up your copy of the book today. 

We will be talking with author Lois Leveen 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Give a Listen—Kathy Edin joins P4P to discuss $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

On Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, Politics for the People spent an hour in conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin, one of the co-authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

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You can listen to the whole conversation at the end of this post or take a look at the highlights below.

Dr. Edin is one of the country’s leading researchers focused on understanding poverty in America.  She is a qualitative and mixed-method researcher who has studied welfare, the working poor, family life and the social context of poverty to provide new insights into the lives of the poor in America. She is the author of several books.

In $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathy and her co-author H. Luke Shaefer uncover the growing phenomenon of Americans living with virtually no cash, on $2.00 a day or less.

I think Kathy’s body of work is critically important in demystifying poverty and busting through some of the anti-poor, misguided and commonly held beliefs about poverty in America and the impact those beliefs have on public policy.

Give a listen to my introduction of Dr. Edin and our opening conversation where Kathy lays out how she uncovered the growing numbers of Americans living on $2.00 a day.  I asked how she picked $2.00 a day as the marker for extreme poverty.  She shared with us that they wanted to “…choose a number that would have some resonance with the way we measure extreme poverty in other countries….$2.00 is one of the rubrics the World Bank uses to measure extreme poverty in developing nations.”

Dr. Edin shares with us her approach of spending time in four different parts of the country: Chicago, Cleveland, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta to meet Americans struggling to survive on $2.00 a day and to answer four questions: Was this real? How do people end up here? What’s it like? What are the consequences?

 

In our next clip, two Politics for the People members ask Dr. Edin their questions. Dr. Jessie Fields asks, “In your extensive look at poverty why do you think America, the most financially advanced country, has so profoundly failed to address poverty? ”  Kathy talks about her time in the Mississippi Delta and how it changed her.  Speaking of her time with Tabitha Hicks, she says, “…I’d never met anyone so hungry….At one point I screwed up the courage to ask her, what does it feel like to be this hungry and she said,

Well, it feels like you want to be dead, because it’s peaceful being dead.”

Dr. Edin goes on to say that it is “…the kind of separation we see in the United States that blinds us to the poor.”

Catana Barnes shares a personal experience in trying to access the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program in Nevada, and asks Dr. Edin how many families are actually able to receive meaningful assistance there.

You can listen below or by clicking this link:

 

Harry Kresky asks in the next section, “Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders campaign raised the issue of income inequality.  From a policy, political and moral point of view, what is the relationship between that approach and ending poverty?” Check out what Kathy Edin has to say including her comments, “Is society so unequal that the poor can’t participate? Is society so unequal that the poor are are no longer assigned a valuable place in society?”

Nicole Diaz, a psychology student at Bronx Community College asks Dr. Edin why she decided to write a book about the problems poor people are dealing with and what she felt as she was writing and doing her research.  Kathy powerfully shares her experiences and says, “It’s been the greatest privilege really of my career to write about and represent these families.”  Give a listen:

 

Our final question of the evening came from Tiani Coleman who spoke about her own experiences with family members going through poverty and how difficult it was. She asked Dr. Edin to talk about how she is able to enter people’s lives and earn their trust.  Give a listen to their conversation:

 

You can listen to the full recording of the Politics for the People conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin below:

 

STAY TUNED 

OUR NEXT

POLITICS for THE PEOPLE
BOOK CLUB SELCTION

 WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON

 

P4P Conversation with David Daley, author of RATF**KED

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On Sunday, June 4th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour in conversation with David Daley, the author of RATF**KED: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy.  The book outlines the Republican Party campaign begun after the 2008 Presidential election, called REDMAP, to (rather inexpensively) win a sufficient number of state legislatures to control the redistricting process after the 2010 census (the redrawing of district lines is done state by state every 10 years, following each census).  It is a modern day whodunnit, and examines one of the myriad ways in which our political process is currently run by the political parties at the expense of the American people.

You can listen to the full recording of our conversation at the end of this post, or take a look at the highlights below.

Our first audio clip is my introduction of David Daley and includes an overview of the book and how the Republican Party took the dark art of gerrymandering to a whole new level.  He calls is the “…biggest heist in American electoral political history”.  I ask David if gerrymandering is fundamentally a controversy and fight about which party is going to win over the other.  If so, why should independents be concerned about leveling the playing field between Republicans and Democrats?  It is a rich exchange. Have a listen.

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Politics for the People book club members then joined the conversation with their questions. Tiani Coleman, the President of New Hampshire Independent Voters shared that in reading the book, “…we were able to see how gerrymandered safe districts have created a very partisan, polarized House, where many voters don’t have a real voice because their vote makes no difference, and where the outcome is not reflective of the majority will of the voters.  Do you agree with Larry Lessig that “equality” or lack thereof, is the flaw?  And do you think creating more competitive districts will fully provide that equality to all voters?”  Give a listen to their conversation where David shares his thoughts on open primaries and the importance of competition:

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PJ Steiner, a leader with the Utah League of Independent Voters, talked about efforts he is involved with to reform redistricting.  They discuss the issue of independent commissions.  You can hear their exchange here:

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Dr. Jessie Fields and David talk about how redistricting and gerrymandering impact the African American community, talking about the recent Supreme Court decision in NC.  Jessie expresses concern about the way the African American community is taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  She asks how can we give more power and weight to the voter?  Is the 14th Amendment relative to redistricting reform?  You can listen to their conversation here:

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Phil Leech, a member of Voters Not Politicians in Michigan talked about how fortunate he feels that they have the right to citizen initiative and referendum in Michigan where they are actively pursuing redistricting reform.  He asked David to speak about the prospects for fair redistricting on the national level given that so many states do not have an initiative process.  David shares that there is no easy answer even though “…voters of all stripes and parties” support reform.  Listen here:

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Julie Leek and David talked about Julie’s experience at a civics forum at her home church in NC and the hesitancy of a state Supreme Court Judge to address the issue.  You can hear their exchange here:

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Our final question came from Independent Voting’s general counsel, Harry Kresky.  Harry raised concerns with the Supreme Court’s ruling n the North Carolina case.  It seemed the court was evaluating whether the lines drawn went further than necessary to get the “desired outcome”.  At what point does the judiciary itself become implicated in gerrymandering if outcome is the standard?  Listen to Harry and David’s fascinating exchange here:

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You can listen to the entire Politics for the People book club conversation with David Daley:

 

Stay Tuned

we will announcing our next

Politics for the People

Book Club Selection Soon

 

 

 

Highlights of P4P Conversation with Lisa McGirr

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On Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 the Politics for the People Book Club spent an hour in conversation with Lisa McGirr, a Professor of History at Harvard and author of the book club’s selection The War on Alcohol, Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction. Lisa shares her journey of writing this book, her research methodology, and what drew her to investigate prohibition. We discuss the strange bedfellows that found themselves supporting and then enforcing prohibition. We also touch on the electoral realignment that that took place after prohibition took effect, and discuss some of the lessons that were missed in prior examinations of the failure of prohibition. Listen to our fascinating start here:

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In this next clip Politics for the People, you will hear book club member Michelle McCleary share her emotional reaction to reading Lisa’s book and ask how the revelations Lisa came to in conducting her research impacted on her.

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Arizona P4P member Al Bell asks what Lisa hopes people will take from her book and how they might apply it’s lessons to the war on drugs. Lisa explains that supply side eradication strategies have failed in the past and are likely to do so again in the future, and gives us an alternative by focusing on harm reduction strategies. Hear their exchange below.

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Steve Richardson then delved further into the idea of law enforcement as social control and asked whether fear based government control was a phenomenon that pre-dated the prohibition movement or was it something entirely new? Lisa thinks it’s a bit of both, as you will hear in this clip:

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New Hampshire P4P member Tiani Coleman touched on chapter 8 which focused on the repeal of prohibition. She raised the issue of government regulation, and quoted McGirr when she said that “by lining up in favor of repeal, opponents of reform saw a chance to turn back the clock.” How did they succeed and fail in that regard?  And what happens after the pandoras box that is the ‘newly muscular federal power’ has been opened?

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New Yorker Lou Hinman provides some thought provoking modern parallels he sees with governments enforcement of prohibition, and asks Lisa to reflect on the growth of the penal state since the repeal of prohibition. Listen here:

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Closing out our Q&A session was New York Attorney and P4P member Harry Kresky.  He talked about the extent to which regulation is used to transform the movements and freedoms of particular segments of the population and makes analogies to modern social regulations such as New York City’s outlawing of over sized sugary drinks. Where does one draw the line between productive and destructive regulation? And who gets to define that?

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You can listen to the entirety of our fascinating call with Lisa McGirr below. It was a spirited, thought provoking and enlightening conversation and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all did. Happy listening.

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Stay Tuned

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Politics for the People

We will be hosting a lively exchange of our favorite political poems and some original poetry by our members as well.

NEXT SELECTION

 RATF**KED:

The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy 

By David Daley

We will be kicking off this selection in April.

Our conference call with the author will be on Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST.

 

 

 

Highlights of P4P’s Conversation with Ellen Feldman

 

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On Sunday, Janaury 22nd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Ellen Feldman about her book, Terrible Virtue which is a fictional biography of Margaret Sanger.  I am sharing a few highlights of our conversation below and you can listen to the entire recording at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Ellen, a look at what drew her to the story of Margaret Sanger, a discussion of the controversy surrounding Margaret’s pioneering activism, and discussion of the increased scrutiny Ellen came under when news of her novel’s movie deal went public. Take a listen:

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In this next clip Dr. Jessie Fields shares her fascination with the ways by which we access history.  Why is it that Ellen chose this format, a fictional novel that is firmly routed in fact, to explore the inner workings of a historical figure like Margaret Sanger?    Here Ellen’s explanation below:

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Independent activist Richard Ronner juxtaposed his impressions from the novel that “to be a visionary or make profound change, to be driven in such a way as to spend all of one’s life doing it, is ultimately a lonely and isolating experience” with his own experiences, sharing that what allows him to remain engaged and active is being part of building community. Give a listen:

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Kerry Malloy, an actor and member of the IndependentVoting.org national team, asked Ellen to talk about the experience of selling the rights to the novel to a become a movie. Give a listen to their exchange:

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Juliette Leak spoke with Ellen about the history of contraception being illegal in the US in the clip below:

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Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky touched on the ferocity of opposition to contraception, and how long it took for it to be legal for anybody. Was that a religious issue or was that the result of American puritanical attitudes towards sex? Ellen thinks it is both:

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Activist and P4P member Juliana Francisco struggled to understand why margaret got married – more than once no less – given her apparent aversion to the institution, and was intrigued by Sanger’s relationship to the suffragettes at the time.  In giving voice to suffragette opposition to Sanger and her outspoken approach to female sexuality, Ellen said they wanted to avoid being painted as morally questionable, “we don’t want to dirty our skirts with that, the vote is all that counts.” You can listen to their exchange here:

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As we neared the end of the call I asked Ellen to touch on Sanger’s relationship with the African American community, as we talked about her work with under represented female communities.

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You can listen to the entirety of our fascinating call with Ellen Feldman below. It was a timely treat to explore Margaret Sanger’s life and work with all of you.

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Stay Tuned

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Politics for the People

We will be hosting a lively exchange of our favorite political poems and some original poetry by our members as well.

NEXT SELECTION

 RATF**KED:

The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy 

By David Daley.

We will be kicking off this selection in April and our conference call with the author will be on Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST.

 

 

Highlights from P4P Conversation with Matthew Desmond

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On Sunday, October 23rd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Matthew Desmond about his book, EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Matthew and an exploration of his process, his examination of poverty as a relationship between rich and poor, and how that framework brought him to look at and study the eviction crisis. I also talked with Matthew about the destabilization of New York City’s public housing taking place under the NextGeneration plan. This section ends with some of Matthews most surprising discoveries meeting people living in poverty across the country and the ways in which they refused to be defined by their hardships.  Have a listen:

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Ramon Pena shared his personal experience being evicted in New York City after “20 years of having never missed a rent payment.” He goes on to share his journey through homelessness, the shelter system and finally to a home out of state. Ramon and Matthew explore what our elected officials should be held accountable for. Hear their interaction below.

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Sarah Bayer found out she is a Cambridge, Massachusetts neighbor of Matthew’s as she delved into a fascinating exchange on her 25 years of work within the family shelter system, what she describes as our nations’ own “internal refugees”, and the unique financial constraints placed on a city like Boston. How does Matthew see the role that the shelter system plays in the eviction crisis?

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Tiani Coleman, president of New Hampshire Independent Voters talked about her days of working in the court system in Salt Lake City,

“I did pro-bono work for my church community and was able to see first hand the impact of lack of representation for families that were facing eviction. I had to handle some evictions, and even had opposing council get rather annoyed with me and tell me I was unnecessarily complicating things… What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting the eviction crisis and the representation issue in housing court addressed?”

Matthew began his answer by acknowledging the important kind of community investment Tiani spoke of, “Thank you so much for your work, you were slugging it out in housing court… When folks have a lawyer by their side their chances of keeping their home go up dramatically irrespective of the case.” Hear their interaction below:

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Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky shared his observations since moving to New York city to attend Columbia in 1962. Throughout his time here and through his work on the NYCHA housing crisis he’s seen that increasingly “so much of the face of New York is now for the wealthy people…. A lot of the focus is on so called ‘affordable housing’ which deals with middle class people and union members and people that have political clout,” but troubling to Harry was the absence of a coming together of “the affordable housing people,” and “the people living in intractable poverty and fighting to save public housing.” Matthew And Harry explore why that might be:

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 As we looked forward, Arizona P4P member Al Bell asked Matthew whether he had heard of any members of congress who truly understand this issue of eviction and could potentially become an advocate. Matthew shared some encouraging updates with news of happenings on ‘The Hill’ since the publication of Evicted.  Give a listen:

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Michelle McCleary helped take our perspective from the macro to the micro-level. “If I knew someone was hungry, I’d buy them a sandwich. If they were cold, I’d give them a coat” she shares, “What is our personal responsibility to our fellow man?!’ “I personally think this is where the conversation has got to go if we are going to make any lasting change…” Matthew replied. “By 2025 about 1.6 billion people will live in substandard housing or unaffordable housing… climate change and housing are the biggest issues facing humanity.”

You can hear Matthew and Michelle’s conversation below.

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You can listen to the full conversation with Matthew Desmond below, ENJOY.

goo.gl/xME8VI

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NEWS FLASH

Next Politics for the People Selection:

Terrible Virtue

book-image

by Ellen Feldman

Our conference call with the author

will be on January 22nd, 2017 at 7 pm EST

 

 

 

 

Highlights from P4P Conversation with Megan Marshall

On Sunday, September 20th we spent an hour in conversation with Megan Marshall, the author of MARGARET FULLER: A New American Life.   Here are a few audio excerpts.   You can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come over to the blog.)

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Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Megan, an exploration of how Megan came to write Fuller’s biography, the impact the Conversation series Fuller founded had among women who participated and more…  Give a listen.

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/meganmarshall-cathys-intro-q3.mp3)

For many Politics for the People members, reading the book was our first introduction to Margaret Fuller.  Caroline Donnola asked Megan why Margaret Fuller seemed to disappear.

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/meganmarshall-cdonnola-qa.mp3)

June Hirsh asked Megan to share the impact that writing the book had on her own life and what were some of the discoveries she made in her research.

Megan shared with us how she views the work of a biographer, “In writing biography I often feel a bit like the accompanist with a soloist. I played the piano a lot in my youth and did a lot of accompanying and chamber work,  so I feel- sometimes even as I am writing – I feel as if I am hearing their voices – in the case of the Peabodys, three woman, or Fuller – kind of singing,  there’s some line that I am supporting with what I’m doing as a writer,  I’m giving them the stage.”

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/meganmarshall-jhirsch-qa.mp3)

Dr. Jessie Fields and Megan Marshall explored the role of Greek and Roman Mythology in Margaret’s life and how transcendentalism was important in her development.

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/meganmarshall-jfields-qa.mp3)

In his dialogue with Megan, Harry Kresky shared, “I came of age in the 60’s and the Women’s movement and the gay movement were very very radical and over the years became very much a part of the traditional, or at least the existing political framework. What attracted me to – and I’m not a feminist; probably for that reason maybe other reasons as well – but what attracted me, what I loved about the book and about Margaret fullers  that she seemed completely “un co-optable” and so un-politically correct and yet was maybe the country’s first feminist, so I was wondering if you could share some of your thoughts about that aspects of her, and her life and her attraction.”  You can hear Megan’s response below.

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/meganmarshall-hkresky-qa.mp3)

We covered a lot of terrain in our conversation with Margaret.  I think you will enjoy this rich conversation.

Below is the full recording of our P4P conversation with Megan Marshall

Enjoy!

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/9-20p4p-meganmarshall.mp3)

Highlights of P4P Conference Call with Jerome Charyn

 

Jerome Charyn and Cathy Stewart

 

On Sunday, February 15th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Jerome Charyn about his book, I Am Abraham.  I am sharing a few excerpts and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.  (Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Jerome and an exploration of how Jerome decided to write the novel and find Lincoln’s voice.  This section ends with a fascinating conversation between Jerome and Dr. Omar Ali about history, facts and fiction.  Give a listen.

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/p4p-charyn-intro-to-ali.mp3)

Dr. Jessie Fields asked Jerome Charyn how he made the choice to put the assassination of Lincoln in the preface of the book.

In his response, Jerome shared, “I knew that I wanted to end the novel in Richmond because I thought it was the most important day in Lincoln’s life. Here was the conqueror coming to the conquered people, not as a conqueror, but as someone who was a peace maker…”

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/p4p-charyn-dr-fields.mp3)

Jessica Marta asked : “You pay a lot of attention, in the book, to Mary Todd Lincoln’s decent into madness… I was wondering why you made that choice?”

Jerome responded: “Well, what I wanted to do was show that women in the 19th Century had so few choices. For example, she was much better educated than any of the men around her, certainly much better educated than her husband. But she could not enter public life in any fashion at all. And he never would have become president without her. She was his general… But as soon as he inhabited the White House, he sort of thrust her to the side… You take a very intelligent woman with a very political point of view and you give her nothing to do… she begins scheming. What I wanted to do was try to deal with her madness with as much sympathy as I could.”

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/p4p-charyn-jessica.mp3)

The conversation explored much about the author’s writing process.  At one point Warren Liebesman asked Jerome to talk about how he developed the deeply evocative and poetic voice in the book.  Jerome talked with us the story of the last line of the book as one example. “You don’t know where it comes from and that’s what’s so perverse. For example, if you look at the very last sentence of the book…”

I piped in: “Is it? … and I held him as close as I could?”

 Jerome continued, “No, exactly. You put an extra ‘as’ in there. Now, I wrote that sentence ‘I held him as close I could.’ Now, the copy editor thought, ‘Who is this damn guy? What is he talking about?’ So he or she put in that second ‘as.’ So I didn’t notice it the first time around… then I said ‘Wait a minute. I would never write that sentence. There’s something much more intimate about the lack of the grammar there than it would be if you put in that second ‘as’.”

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/p4p-charyn-warren.mp3)

Below is the full recording of our P4P conversation

with Jerome Charyn.

Enjoy!

(https://politics4thepeople.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/2-15charynp4p.mp3)

Highlights from Book Club Conversation with Danielle Allen

 

Danielle Allen and Cathy Stewart

Danielle Allen and Cathy Stewart

On Sunday, October 19th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Danielle Allen about her book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.  I have pulled out just a couple of excerpts from our conversation. You can listen to our entire conversation at the end of this post.  (Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Here is my introduction of Danielle Allen and the book.

 

In my opening question to Danielle, I ask her to share with us what she thinks the Declaration of Independence offers us today.  At a moment where many Americans are grappling with the rising level of political and social crises and a paralysis and political gridlock.  We face a failing education system, poverty rates that have not budged in decades, environmental and health care crises, and the list could go on… And we’re at a time in our country when 42% of Americans are independents–have left the two major parties that control so much of the apparatuses of our government.  I think you can make a serious case that we are at a moment where the consent of the governed is eroding to a very alarming point.  And–as I said on our call–the two parties have become, perhaps tyrants that have erected many barriers to the full participation of the American people.  I asked our guest if she thought the Declaration was a guide in these times, and what does it suggest the American people should do.  Give a listen to her thoughtful response.

Dr. Jessie Fields and Dr. Allen had a rich conversation about the compromises on slavery in the Declaration.

Here is an excerpt of what Danielle had to say:

“It is important to understand precisely where the compromises are in the document.  There are two compromises. One was a compromise that went in favor of the anti-slavery party and the other was a compromise that went in favor of the pro-slavery party….They did embed a contest in the document. This is where I get to the sort of general point about compromise and democracy. Is it a structural flaw or is it actually a valuable way of working out the hardest problems. So here’s what happens when you have a compromise of this kind.  Both sides think that the tools that they have built will let them get what they want. Only one side can be right about that. So, the virtue of the compromise is that it slows down the process through which people go about figuring out at the end of the day, which side’s tolls are right for the whole country. So although it meant that the struggle would be ongoing, they weren’t going to resolve the issue then, it did mean it was actually possible eventually to resolve the issue in a way that was not possible at that time….It’s one of the hardest and most important questions and I give you this answer, but do I feel that I’ve come myself to rest entirely in thinking about this question, I wouldn’t say so.  I think it’s one we all have to wrestle with perpetually.”

Harry Kresky, IndependentVoting.org’s general counsel asked Danielle a fascinating question:

“What happened…? How did we become disconnected from the process, the activity, the democratic coming together that the Declaration embodies? Is it just a question of periodically having to recharge our democratic batteries or did we… did a series of things happen which has caused us to lose this connection from the activity?”  Give a listen to her answer.

Harry’s question sparked a conversation, one to be continued for sure!

Danielle shared some of her thoughts in response:

“I do think that professional political parties have not helped all in all, and certainly the power of big money has made it harder, I think, to engage people in grassroots activity.  I think all those things are true.  I think that in the academy there’s been a sort of disinterest in some of the core texts that, at least in the American context and tradition have helped sustain an understanding of democracy. That’s something that needs to be rebuilt.  The last thing I would say is that there’s a part of me that thinks that one of our challenges is simply going through another major demographic transition.  Economists talk about the demographic transition of the early 19th Century where populations had been quite stable around the world until the industrial revolution hits and then you have this huge population boom.  The structure of economies generally changes and there’s a period of revolution, upheaval, and social strife and that sort of thing….I wonder about the current population explosion we’re experiencing all around the world and whether or not there’s a sort of scale shift that means we actually have to think afresh about how to build the institutions of mass democracy under different demographic conditions.”

 Here is the full book club conversation with Dr. Allen.  ENJOY

 

And stay tuned–

we will announcing our next selection soon!

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