Posted by TAG - September 28, 2011 | News

Postal Service workers rally on Staten Island
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — September 27, 2001. On Tuesday afternoon members of the four employee unions of the United States Postal Service held rallies across the U.S. to “Join forces with members of our communities to send a message to the nation and its Congress.”

Rep. Mike Grimm (center) with mail handlers and other postal service workers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The union-led rallies, described as “informational” by, were held at the offices of members of the House of Representatives.

The four U.S. Postal Service Unions driving the “Save America’s Postal Service” effort are:
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) – the clerks who work in local Post Offices
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) – the workers who deliver the mail
National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) – the workers who sort the mail (behind the scenes)
National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA) – letter carriers working in rural areas

On Staten Island, Rep. Mike Grimm (R – CD 13), was visited by two dozen postal workers, including members of Local 300 of the NPMHU, the largest mail handlers local in the country. Grimm is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1351, a bill that would allow the release of $6.9 billion from an overfunded pension fund and put it towards this year’s congressionally mandated retiree health care benefit payment which is due September 30.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The bill, a stopgap measure, would address a $20 billion deficit.

The deficit is not the result of losses in revenue but is the product of a 2006 congressional mandate that requires the Postal Service to pre-pay its employees’ retiree health care benefits for the next 75 years. The mandate requires that this be done within ten years. The net result is that the Postal Service is facing a daunting deficit — a deficit that accounts for 100 percent of the agency’s “losses” — despite the fact that the Postal Service has accrued $611 million net profit over the past four years. The Postal Service accomplished this during the worst recession in 80 years — a recession in which housing prices have dropped more than at the worst point in the Great Depression.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The congressionally created deficit need not be a fatal blow to the Postal Service and its union employees.

In addition to an overfed pension system the Postal Service has tens of billions in earned revenue set aside as “surplus funds” — a reserve to be used in a crisis.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

According to, the Postal Service surplus funds are set aside by law and accessible only with congressional approval. These funds could be used by the USPS to meet its financial obligations.

The bottom line: with congressional assistance the U.S. Postal Service, which has not used ANY taxpayer money in 30 years, could easily remain solvent and avoid closures, job losses and privatization.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - September 26, 2011 | News

An artist makes signs at the Occupy Wall Street protest
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — September 25, 2011. It was in 2004 that a police captain — in earshot of dozens of us sitting in holding cells in the Tombs — commented that the activism in the streets reminded him of the Sixties.

A message from the past that continues to resonate
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Old Days

The occasion was the Republican National Convention. During the convention the NYPD mass arrested 1800 protesters, including 500 at one event staged at Ground Zero. It was at Ground Zero that I first saw the orange netting used in the indiscriminate sweeps that produced a number of class action lawsuits against the police department. The netting was rolled out again on Saturday when the NYPD arrested over 80 protesters — in an incident that recalled the RNC in both the level of activism and the police overreaction.

Police surrounding Zuccotti Park shortly after the arrests
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Why did the police overreact, with the media watching? The mass arrest must have been planned in advance — cops don’t drive around with huge rolls of the netting in their trunks — but the excessive force used by the police would seem to indicate little training preceded the police activity. The bad press doesn’t do much for the police department’s image — at a time when Commissioner Ray Kelly is touting the department’s anti-aircraft weapons as some sort of anti-terrorist measure. It’s hard to have confidence in a commissioner who can’t control his officers.

99 percent of the population are not represented by the government according to the protesters
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Saturday In The Park

On Saturday afternoon a march originating in the Financial District’s Zuccotti Park — occupied since September 16 by protesters decrying Wall Street corruption and Government complicity — headed towards Union Square.

It never got there.

One of the issues raised by protesters was the killing of Troy Davis by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The Whole World Is Watching

Police surrounded, netted, and arrested the procession. Allegations of excessive force, made by protesters and supported by video feeds, quickly spread across the internet. Cable news channel NY1 aired footage that showed police dragging a bloodied, handcuffed protester across the pavement. Viewer submitted video aired by NY1 clearly depicted a white-shirted (i.e. senior) police officer pepper spraying a young woman sitting on the ground, crying. The woman was surrounded by the orange netting and police. Among the arrested was an attorney who had been working as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild. In stark contrast to the force used by police in making the arrest the protesters were charged only with disorderly conduct — a violation, not a crime — and released.

Saturday night was tense, NLN photographers observed a long line of police radio cars headed for the small park. Uniformed officers encircled the encampment but did not attempt to arrest any of the occupiers. Eventually the extra police presence began to dissipate.

A member of the Granny Peace Brigade at Zuccotti Park
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Sunday Morning

On Sunday, with the whole world watching, Zuccotti Park was relatively quiet. Police guarded the perimeter, some appearing anxious, some watchful and a number of cops could be seen smiling and talking to tourists and other passersby.

Inside Zuccotti Park CodePINK’s Medea Benjamin could be seen giving an interview to the independent journalists covering the occupation, musicians played as a small child danced, some of the activists ate while others caught up on missed sleep. The iconic Bill Steyert waved his Veterans For Peace flag amidst a sea of handwritten signs, laid flat on the ground forming a mosaic.

The protesters were a diverse group and included some colorful costumes
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As a number of activists swept up, a general assembly was held in the center of the park. Uniformed Marines watched from the periphery and activist Richard Greve discussed the treatment of veterans by the government with active duty Army personnel who had stopped to survey the encampment.

Lining Broadway, beneath the 70-foot-tall red steel sculpture “Joie de Vivre,” activists held up copies of the New York Daily News and the New York Post, both tabloids sporting photographs of police roughing up demonstrators. A short distance away a young activist and a man dressed in a V for Vendetta costume dialogued with a uniformed fire fighter. A calm permeated the occupation as the already seasoned occupiers settled in for what may be a long struggle.

A number of protesters came out to oppose Obama’s wars
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Where Do We Go From Here?

As this reporter made his way through the park the ambience was familiar — like a scene from another time, a time where protest was commonplace and a seemingly interminable war dragged on, destroying countless lives.

Activist Carl Davidson, a former SDS leader, also sees similarities between the Wall Street occupation and the student movement he was a part of in the Sixties.

“But these youth and students are fighting for more than their own immediate concerns. They have raised a whole range of demands – Medicare for All, defending social security, for passing the various jobs bills in Congress, opposing racism and sexism, ending the wars, and abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the recent unjust execution of Troy Davis.

They are the cutting edge of a new popular front against finance capital.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Young rebels often manifest a moral clarity that awakens and prods the rest of us. Through their direct actions, they become a critical force, holding up a mirror for an entire society to take a look at itself, what it has come to, and what choices lay before it. The historic example is the four young African American students that sat at a lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee in Greensboro, North Carolina back in 1960,” said Davidson.

A meditating protester holding quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh and Gandhi
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

While it is certainly easy to believe that the protest will not end corruption and greed in Wall Street and the Government — let alone bring an end to capitalism — as long as there is resistance to injustice, inequality and militarism there is hope. The struggle is long and doubt is inevitable but the activists occupying Zuccotti Park have not given into despair — if I were to attempt to put into words the mantra of this leadersless, diverse, movement I would say it might be expressed as, “Doubt everything but do Something.”

The “Joie De Vivre” (Joy of Living) statue — as seen from below
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

View Photos From The Occupation…

Given the recent violence, perhaps the protesters should police themselves?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike Levinson at an antiwar protest in Times Square in 2011
(Photo: Carol Caver / NLN)

I EXPERIENCED A TREMEMDOUS AMOUNT OF VIOLENCE when I was growing up. Many, many cruel and ugly things happened to me. This led me to develop a very strong empathetic attitude towards other people in the world who were being oppressed and abused–the Vietnamese, Palestinians, blacks in South Africa, American Indians, migrant farmworkers and all others in the world who were being stepped on, kicked around and mistreated. I made common cause with all of these people. I was experiencing the suffering they were experiencing, and I was sharing in their pain.

I AM NOW CELEBRATING THE 52nd ANNIVERSARY OF MY BIRTH and it’s been a long time since I first became an activist at 12 years old. I am proud to say that after all of these years, I have NOT mellowed. In fact, my commitment to nonviolence and anarchism has become even greater. I am now even more of an extremist than before! Nonviolence and anarchism seem extreme, though, only because we now live in a world that is so extremely violent and despotic.

BECOMING AN ACTIVIST WAS NOT ENOUGH. I needed to become a PACIFIST. In order to rid myself of all of the violence in my life, which had already become ingrained in my own personality, it was necessary to denounce all forms and institutions of violence and oppression. All human behavior, political and personal, which resulted in violence and abuse towards others would need to be rejected, delegitimized and declared completely unacceptable. Only then could I move on towards healing. The same is true for the rest of the world.

WE DO LIVE IN A WORLD THAT IS FILLED WITH VIOLENCE, HATRED AND INJUSTICE FOR MANY PEOPLE. If one is to drop out of mainstream society and become a revolutionary for peace, one cannot do it alone. You must become a member of a community of resistance, and join with other activists who are also fighting for peace and justice. This makes sense not only as a political strategy but also as a means towards personal safety. The community of resistance becomes a refuge, and the only place to be in the world.

NONVIOLENCE AND ANARCHISM MEAN EXACTLY THE SAME THING! HOORAY!!! To denounce all of the institutions of violence means to reject all of those forms of human behavior and social organization that lead to bullying, abuse and subordination in political relationships, job relationships and personal relationships. This insight is by no means original. In fact, many activists from the past learned this the hard way. I think of the Russian-American anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman, whose ideas about anarchism were greatly shaped by her personal experiences with violence and abuse at a young age. I myself have become very sensitive and very uncomfortable with specific persons, and those people in general, with whom I’ve wound up entangled in imbalanced power relationships. As an imperfect human being, I even find myself at times feeling strong hostility towards those in my life who are selfish, nasty and bitter, and who take out their anger and unhappiness on me and others like me. For instance, I’ve protested, been arrested and done jail time for taking exception to our government’s policy of torturing prisoners at Guantanamo, yet I leave work some days fantasizing about how I might torture some of my supervisors.

THIS LEADS THE DISCUSSION TO ANOTHER CONFLICT, A SORT OF FAILURE, OR HYPOCRISY. I find, as many activists do, that it can be much easier to fight for the human rights of others around the world while not standing up for my own human rights here at home. I find it easy to stick up for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, but I’m often too scared to stick up for the rights of Mike Levinson in the U.S.A. Here’s yet another related conflict–in New York there were many brave, committed activists who went down South to fight against apartheid, but did nothing to confront racism up in the North. I also remember an activist friend once asked, “How can you expect to talk to the Russians if you are unwilling to talk to your next door neighbor?”

Mike Levinson shows his lighter side
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

IN 1966 MY BROTHER AND I WERE DRAGGED KICKING AND SCREAMING from my hometown in a rural part of eastern Massachusetts and relocated to the New York metropolitan area. The move had a devastating effect on our lives. We left a nice, small, quiet community and found ourselves transplanted into a very hostile environment where the kids in the courtyard of our new apartment complex greeted us with obscene curses I had never before heard. Things went further downhill. Verbal abuse and vandalism to our bicycles led to physical attacks which included me being burned with live cigarettes and my hair being burned with live matches on the back of school buses. Complaints to guidance counsellors were to no avail–these well trained professionals simply chuckled, “Boys will be boys, roll with the punches, it’s all a part of growing up!”

A WELL KNOWN EDUCATOR AND SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR OF BOOKS ABOUT CHILDREN was once interviewed in the Sunday New York Times. He was asked, “You’ve travelled all over the world and visited many devastated countries; where are the most disturbed young people?” Without hesitation he answered, “New York City.” I myself often think that there must be something about crowding so many people together and stacking them up so high that drives them crazy, perhaps even psychotic. I’ve lived with very poor people in the spacious countryside of Nicaragua and found the kids there to be much happier and more mentally stable. Sadly, things often do not change with time, and some people do not mature. The bullies who threw bottles at me from passing cars when we were teenagers are still doing that sort of thing today, even though they too are now over 50 years old.

AN ACTIVIST FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE ONCE SPOKE AT A SMALL GATHERING IN LOWER MANHATTAN, saying that he did not believe that a society’s economic and political institutions can best be built and organized upon cynical foundations such as greed and selfishness. In an interdependent society, you do not act hostile towards your neighbors because you know that next week you may need to borrow their ladder or hammer. In a place like America, however, everyone tries to possess their own ladder and hammer, avoiding any need to maintain friendly ties with other people.


I STILL EMBRACE THOSE WORDS FROM ANNE FRANK’S DIARY–human beings by nature are basically good at heart. In this era, at this time in history and in this part of the world in particular, however, the institutions that control society bring out the worst in people. We must organize ourselves into active communities of resistance, and commit ourselves to turn the world rightside up. As long as there are human beings, there is hope.

SO PLEASE, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, AND TAKE CARE OF SOMEBODY ELSE. That terribly exploited young film actress was absolutely correct–there’s no place like home.


This is one of my favorite poems. It speaks of the redemptive quality of affection. Even though the poet presumably was directing the remarks to one particular individual, I believe that the theme can apply equally to a collective group.

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.” — Obama, January 2011

NEW YORK — September 21, 2011. Today is the International Day of Peace.

The state of Georgia has opted to observe this day by killing a man in its custody.

Troy Anthony Davis is an African-American man who was convicted of killing a white police officer 19 years ago based on the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of whom have recanted. There is no other evidence in this case. Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. tonight, September 21, 2011.

Over 660,000 people signed a petition calling for clemency in the Davis case, including, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory, William Sessions (former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation), President Jimmy Carter, representatives for the European Parliament, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Yesterday, the clemency request was denied by the Georgia Parole Board.

The New York Times is reporting that, “This is the fourth time Mr. Davis has faced the death penalty. The state parole board granted him a stay in 2007 as he was preparing for his final hours, saying the execution should not proceed unless its members ‘are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.’ The board has since added three new members.”

The three new members, like their predecessors, were appointed by Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

During his tenure as a Republican congressman, Deal:

• Voted NO on enforcing laws against anti-gay hate crimes.
• Voted NO on expanding services for offendors’ re-entry into society.
• Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons.
• Voted NO on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals.
• Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder.
• Vote on a bill to make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts.
• Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment.

The decision by the state of Georgia to execute a man whose trial embodies reasonable doubt is disturbing.

Whether the decision is motivated by the personal views of those responsible, by some obscure legal reasoning, or from a desire to pander to biases held by segments of the population it is nonetheless reminiscient of the Jim Crow period of Georgia’s history.

My neighbor, a middleaged white woman, solidly middle class and non-political, commented to me in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Just look how far we’ve come.”

With seven of nine witnesses recanting and no other evidence; a former President (himself a former governor of Georgia), a former FBI director and the Pope petitioning for basic human decency — one would think that the responsible parties might pause to reflect on the character of what they have set in motion.

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed today, the International Day of Peace, at 7 p.m.

Author Shirley Jackson once described a fictional public stoning taking place in a modern setting — townspeople turning on another who was randomly selected via a lottery. With relief and perhaps blood lust, the crowd stoned this person to death as she begged for mercy.

Just look how far we’ve come.

The NY Times reported that Governor Deal recently added three new members to the Parole Board.

None dare call it packing the board.

The irrefutable argument against the death penalty is that if the verdict is wrong, if it is overturned, there is no way to reverse an execution. Saying, “I’m sorry, we’re all human, we made a mistake,” just doesn’t right the wrong. Convictions are overturned on a regular basis: police and district attorneys have an unfortunate tendency to withhold evidence, new evidence comes to light, DNA testing clears a suspect, aging or dying criminals confess to a crime another was convicted of, etc. An imprisoned man can be set free and his name cleared. Restitution can be attempted. What can be done for the innocent victim of a wrongful execution?

The New York Times is calling the impending Troy Davis execution “a grievous wrong.”

None dare call it racism.

When a sociopath kills it is called murder. When the state does it, it is called justice.

Given the all too human propensity for error it seems clear that the death penalty is ill-advised. Nathan Deal is an unrelenting advocate of the death penalty.

When the state executes an innocent person, based on the ideology, political aspirations, or simple ignorance of its governor, is that an act of murder?

When an elected official executes more than one innocent person does that make him or her a serial killer?

Occupied Wall Street — The Movement Responds To The Economic Crisis
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — September 18, 2011. The media hyped it, the Movement did it, the mayor promised to respect it as First Amendment protected free speech — is Bloomberg a civil libertarian now? — and Bud Korotzer photographed it.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

On Saturday thousands occupied Wall Street to protest the Financial Sector’s raping and pillaging of the American Dream — and the Obama administration’s cozy relationship with those persons and entities responsible for the meltdown that is the U.S. economy today.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NLN’s Manhattan photog, Bud Korotzer, was there to capture the Moment in images.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class is a new collection of 12 essays and documents from the New Left of the late 1960s, gathered and commented on by Carl Davidson, a national leader of SDS at the time.

Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class contains key sources illuminating a critical transition period in the American left, as well as a number of ideas still relevant.

Described by editor Davidson as the most important piece in the work is the Port Authority Statement, actually titled Toward a Theory of Social Change, and written by Robert Gottlieb, Gerry Tenney and David Gilbert. Passed around in mimeographed form, only about a third of it was ever put into print in SDS’s newspaper, until factional struggles set it aside. Meant to replace the Port Huron Statement, it is remarkable for many insights still holding up today.

The collection includes other Praxis Papers, including three by Davidson, the Revolutionary Youth Movement documents that replied to the Weatherman faction, and the original White Blindspot documents. About half the content has been scattered across the internet, but much of it has been newly digitized and now available in both e-book and paperback form from Changemaker Publications. Visit the website for the full table of contents. For bulk rates, contact the editor at carld717 AT

The “shot of the day” — a member of the Federation of Black Cowboys
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — September 18, 2011. Cowboys on horseback in Staten Island?

You bet.

Rev. Kathy Barrett-Layne, one of the event organizers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

It happened on Vanderbilt Avenue: a comfortably cool September day, a sunny Saturday morning, and a popular local event.

Members of the Cheyney University “Soulfull Sound Band”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The kickoff location for the Black Heritage Family Day parade was the “corner” — triangle actually — of Richmond and Vanderbilt Avenues. At 11:30 a.m. the site was busy as various contingents formed up and prepared to march.

Spirits were high at Saturday’s “Black Heritage Family Day”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

But one group was unique. Cowboys on horseback are not a common site on Staten Island. And not just any cowboys — but members of the Federation of Black Cowboys.

Some younger participants
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As I walked along Vanderbilt Avenue, past the marching bands, the Freemasons (who are great subjects for photos — always eager and very photogenic), the Shaolin Ryders Motorcycle Club, the College of Staten Island contingent, and the local chapter of the NAACP — led by my friend, the indomitable Ed Josey, I came upon two cowboys. Their mounts were busy chewing on some local weeds, most likely wild millet, while a throng of children were excited to be petting the handsome creatures.

The NAACP contingent, Ed Josey is on the right
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Staten Islanders don’t see many cowboys on the street, despite the borough’s reputation as the greenest part of the Big Apple. The Federation Cowboys were a big draw, for kids of all ages.

Elected Officials: Diane Savino (center), Debi Rose (in green shirt), and Matthew Titone (right)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Walking up on the rustic scene were some local elected officials, just getting into position to march: State Senator Diane Savino, who donated $2000.00 to the event, recently married — and openly gay — Assemblyman Matt Titone, and the grand marshal: City Council member Debi Rose.

The contingents slowly lined up behind Ms. Rose as spectators looked on.

An African ceremony kicked off the parade
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Kicking off the parade, a woman in traditional garb performed an African ceremony, accompanied by a drummer.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

And then the parade was underway.

Sorority sisters enjoying themselves at the parade
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Matt Titone smiled and clapped as Debi Rose opened her Ashanti umbrella and led the procession down Vanderbilt Avenue towards Tappen Park.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Colorful, dramatic, picturesque, the parade — larger and more festive than in previous years — made for several nice photographs.

But the shot of the day came with my very last frame.

The final contingent was on horseback. Members of the Federation of Black Cowboys smiled for the camera as they passed by my vantage point. At the last moment the last cowboy urged his mount from a slow walk to a gallop. Nostrils flared, the horse responded and leapt forward.

Sometimes photographers don’t know what they have until the editing is done. Other times they think they have something great only to find a lighting or other problem. But occasionally a great event yields a great photo.

And you know it immediately.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - September 18, 2011 | Special To NLN

Carl Oglesby at Brown University in 2006
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Carl Oglesby, one of the most eloquent leaders in the movement against the war in Vietnam, died of cancer on September 13. He was 76.

As a Students for a Democratic Society member in Oklahoma, I first heard of him in early 1965 through a long mimeographed article about the war that he wrote that was sent out to chapter leaders. Along with Robert Scheer’s pamphlet, How the U.S. Got Involved in Vietnam, it convinced civil rights and anti-poverty activists that they had to take action against the war. Its prose sizzled with persuasiveness and urgency.

My first physical view of him was at that year’s SDS convention. I was curious to see the man behind the article and he was every bit as impressive in person as he had been on paper. He was tall, thin, and bearded with the intensiveness of an engage scholar — more than a little like the character played by Marcello Mastroianni in The Organizer.

SDS was running on a high. Two months earlier it had organized the first march on Washington against the war, the success of which had exceeded everyone’s expectations and the organization was in the national spotlight. At the march, SDS President Paul Potter had delivered a searing indictment of the war that went straight to the moral and historical responsibility to stop it.

For reasons that I don’t know, the organization was locked into changing presidents every year. Al Haber, Tom Hayden, and Todd Gitlin had been the first three before Potter. Now the organization would have to choose another president who would instantly become the focus of intense national and international scrutiny. It was a key decision for the 200 or so people at the convention.

Potter and the previous presidents had all been long time members active in national meetings. Oglesby was not. He had been living in Ann Arbor while working for a defense contractor, a job he had taken after not being able to earn enough as a writer. He had a wife and three children, a suburban house, and was a good ten years older than the average late teen, early twenties SDS member. As the U.S. was beginning to escalate the war, he became increasing aghast and joined forces with SDS members at the University of Michigan.

There were a number of strong candidates for President, but the convention was smitten with Oglesby and a few months after joining the organization he was its new president.

A month after the convention I went to work in the national office in Chicago. Oglesby came through on his way to Japan, where he had been invited to represent the U.S. antiwar movement. On his way back we learned that he had caused a near scandal by challenging well known Japanese intellectuals on television to take a position on the war. The Japanese press buzzed with coverage of this audacious American.

That November there was a second, even larger, march on Washington, and he was the star speaker. He began: “Seven months ago at the April March on Washington, Paul Potter, then President of Students for a Democratic Society, stood in approximately this spot and said that we must name the system that creates and sustains the war in Vietnam?name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and change it.”

Oglesby went on to identify the system as corporate liberalism, showing how obedience to corporate interests, domestic liberalism, and imperialist aggression could all be wrapped up into one unitary dominant politics. He exposed cold war liberals for what they were and set SDS to their left.

It was a speech the articulated and oriented the sentiments of the movement.

The response was overwhelming. News organizations identified SDS as the epicenter of the movement against the war and flooded the national office with interview requests. Each day’s mail brought scores of letters from students inquiring about how to organize new chapters. There was excitement in the air.

Oglesby toured campuses and spoke widely elsewhere in and out of the country, on his way to becoming an international celebrity, a status he would occupy for the rest of the 1960s.

In Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention demonstrations, I remember him speaking to a large crowd as the police began moving in and clubbing. As I was running to escape, I heard his surreal indignant words over the loudspeaker, “Are you surprised?”

What those of us who were ten years younger were not sensitive to at the time was that it was not so easy to suddenly assume the role of full time activist when you already had a family that included three children, to move from a middle class income and stability to a hand to mouth economic existence. He had made an existential decision to give his life to the movement come what may and it took a toll that eventually led to the family breakup.

He was also became involved in wrenching disputes with the Weather faction and feminists.

By the 1970s as the crowds were waning and the movement was losing steam and breaking up, Oglesby became like everyone else, a veteran. Five or six years earlier we had all believed that the movement would keep growing until the whole society was transformed and then we would be involved in its reconstruction. But that was not to be.

People adapted in different ways. The Weather people went underground. Some went into Marxist-Leninist party-building as a kind of organizational tightening to compensate for the increasing loss of public resonance. Some went into the Democratic Party and tried to move it to the left. Others got involved later in solidarity for third world revolutionary organizations. Still others went into what later become known as identity politics. Many dropped out of activism altogether. A very few went to the right.

Oglesby struck out on an eclectic path. He recorded two music albums. He delved into conspiracies around the Kennedy assassination. He invented and explored in writing the useful Yankee-Cowboy thesis as a way to analyze divisions in the American ruling class. He ended up flirting with right wing libertarians.

His trajectory was consistent with a kind of radical eclecticism that existed in some quarters of SDS — an umbrella organization that had contained disparate and sometimes contradictory tendencies. (It was in SDS that I met an ideological species that identified itself as anarcho-Maoist.)

I saw him in 1974 in San Francisco. A neighbor of mine, the creator of Young Lust comics (don’t ask), was having a wedding reception at the warehouse of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers — another underground comic. I spotted Oglesby and we chatted for a while. He was excited about libertarians he had met. He said that they had the same interests we had. I expressed my doubts and we let it go at that.

He struggled to remain relevant in a historical period marked by the end of the movement and the decades long ascendance of the new right. In retrospect, it can be said that he had already made his mark on a particular historical period that was intense but short.

But he made quite a mark. Bob Ross, a former SDS vice president, wrote, “Edward R. Murrow said of Winston Churchill in 1940: ‘Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world. … It sustained. It lifted the hearts of an island of people when they stood alone.’ John F. Kennedy glossed this when, presenting Churchill with honorary citizenship he said: ‘He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.’ Well, Carl Oglesby was our Churchill. In the year he was SDS President, and after that, Carl was our Tribune. With infinite eloquence he mobilized our forces against an unjust war. His passion in words led our passion in the streets.”

I will always remember Carl Oglesby for having shown those of us in the movement at our best by articulating most eloquently our highest ideals and intelligence. In his historical moment, he made you proud to be a part of the same common movement.


James W. Russell was the first editor of New Left Notes, the SDS national newspaper. His newest book, Escape from Texas, a historical novel about slavery and the Texas War of Independence, will be published later this year.

“The financial burden of the war obliges us to cut millions from an already pathetic War on Poverty budget. But in almost the same breath, Congress appropriates one hundred forty million dollars for the Lockheed and Boeing companies to compete with each other on the supersonic transport project-that Disneyland creation that will cost us all about two billion dollars before it’s done.”

“We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed. It will not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it. Those allies of ours in the Government – are they really our allies? If they are, then they don’t need advice, they need constituencies; they don’t need study groups, they need a movement. And it they are not, then all the more reason for building that movement with the most relentless conviction.”

— Carl Oglesby, November 27, 1965

Click Here to read”Let Us Shape The Future” by Carl Oglesby

A couple of UAW members at Saturday’s parade
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — September 10, 2011. The stereotypical writer is a loner and an introvert but on Saturday a group of unionized writers took to the streets — marching up Fifth Avenue in the annual Central Labor Council Labor Day parade and standing with striking restaurant workers at Central Park’s Boathouse Restaurant.

Brian Schneck (r), President of UAW Local 259
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The National Writers Union (NWU) is Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers. The UAW is a storied institution — once surveilled by J. Edgar Hoover — so there is something poetic and fitting in writers and auto workers, as well as office professionals and other UAW Region 9A workers, marching together in observance of Labor Day.

Region 9A leader Scott Sommer and Larry Goldbetter (foreground)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The New York City Labor Day parade itself is historic — the first observance of the holiday in the U.S. occurred in New York in 1882.

The UAW represents a variety of workers — including attorneys
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Organized by the Central Labor Council the parade up Fifth Avenue to Central Park is now held on the second Saturday in September.

The UAW contingent at this year’s parade formed up on 44th Street and Fifth and stepped off around 10:30 a.m. The lead element wore bright red t-shirts emblazoned with bold white letters.

The United Auto Workers is a storied union, one that cares…
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“UAW Cares,” the shirts proclaimed.

Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter marched behind the larger of two NWU banners in the second UAW element.

“As our brand new banner says, we’ve been fighting for freelancers for thirty years,” Goldbetter said.

The Bush/Obama wars hurt everyone, said NWU’s Larry Goldbetter
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The National Writers Union recently became an affiliate of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Goldbetter said, pointing out that the Bush/Obama wars have devastated the U.S. economy, adversely affecting all workers, union and unorganized.

Making their way up the Avenue the UAW and NWU marchers passed the reviewing stand as City Comptroller John Liu walked by. Liu turned to this reporter’s videocamera and gave a pro-union thumbs up.

The New York Post pro-labor?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The official parade ended at 72 Street but a number of Writers Union members made their way into Central Park where they joined a picket line.

After management allegedly rigged a union certification election by firing pro-union staff, restaurant workers at the Boathouse Restaurant walked off the job. Citing claims of sexual harrassment by restaurant owner Dean Poll and alleging that the restaurant had a long history of selling tap water as bottled water, the strikers settled in for what might be a long strike.

A familiar sight at picket lines – the corporate rat
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Since the strike began, on August 9, 2011, the workers have gotten favorable press from the Daily News, the Times and even the New York Post, a publication not known for its pro-labor perspective.

Boathouse strikers on the picket line
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On Saturday, the strikers were pleased to see members of the UAW, the Transit Workers Union (TWU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) joining them at a boistrous picket.

Novelist Timothy Sheard (r) leaflets for the strikers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As drummers banged out their message of resistance and two large inflatable rats stared down the restaurant PSC leader Barbara Bowen, the NWU’s Goldbetter and “Big Mike” Filippou — a leader in the Stella D’Oro strike organized by BCTGM Local 50 stood with strikers and organizers from the New York Hotel Trades Council, the union leading the organizing drive at the Boathouse.

The pickete line was a lively place
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As NWU members leafleted and strikers gave out balloons that read, “Dump Dean,” cyclists, joggers and pedestrians were directed to other local eateries.

“Big Mike” Fillipou and Larry Goldbetter
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

It would appear that the strikers’ efforts are paying off and momentum is building — according to Crain’s, restaurant owner Dean Poll has announced that he will recognize the union — and talks are ongoing.

PSC’s Barbara Bowen (r) on the picket line
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Surveying the lively scene on Saturday, Goldbetter said, “You see what happens when they get a little support?”

View Photos/Videos From The March and Picket…