Episode 60 — The Great Stagnation

Recorded January 9, 2016. Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay, members of the Chicago Political Economy Group, review the political economy of 2015 and speculate on 2016.

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Episode 59 — Reproductive Justice

Recorded December 12, 2015. Peg Strobel interviews three activists from the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF): Brittany Mostiller-Keith, the Fund’s Executive Director, and CAF board members Lindsay Budzinski and Sekile Nzinga-Johnson. They discuss the history of the CAF, how it operates, and most especially the concept of Reproductive Justice, including ongoing efforts to repeal the notorious “Hyde Amendment” that prohibits any Federal funding of abortion. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of California, would insure abortion coverage under Medicaid and other insurance programs.

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For More Information:

Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2015 (search for HR 2972 at the Library of Congress)

National Network of Abortion Funds

Chicago Abortion Fund

Reproductive Rights and Women’s Health

Repeal Hyde Art Project (The graphics above are the work of Megan J. Smith. You can see — and buy — more of her work at the project.)

Episode 58 — Norvelt: Hope Only in Hard Times?

Recorded November 21, 2015. It is ironic that today planned communities are private affairs, such as gated communities for the fearful well-to-do or age-segregated retirement resorts for get-off-my-lawn geezers or even large scale condominium developments. But in the 1930s, the New Deal had ambitions to build nearly 100 new towns that were intended to relieve destitute poverty and slavish conditions of industrial employment. Influenced by the British garden city advocate Ebenezer Howard (who in turn was greatly influenced by Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, a work that in turn had helped inspire Eugene V. Debs and the socialist movement here in the States) and by the ideal of Jeffersonian agrarian independence, these communities were intended to provide all the means of livelihood without the residents having to commute elsewhere. Not everyone in these towns might be self-employed, but economic depressions and recessions and capitalist greed would be cushioned by backyard agriculture and cooperative community enterprises. Thus these new towns were called “Subsistence Homesteads”.

One of the more successful examples of a subsistence homestead was Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Originally named Westmoreland Homesteads when ground was broken in 1934, the residents renamed the settlement in 1937 on the occasion of a visit by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, combining the last syllables of her name. As a relief measure, these settlements were an outstanding success. The residents knew it. They appreciated it. They voted for it. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and Norvelt has become deeply conservative, Republican territory, a politics that would not ever consider, never mind tolerate, a government program like subsistence homesteads. What happened?

This episode of Talkin’ Socialism examines Norvelt and the subsistence homestead program through the lens of this question. It features Peg Strobel in conversation with Margaret Power, co-author with Timothy Kelly and Michael Cary, of Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression, wherein this still-unfolding story of transformation is examined. In this episode, Margaret Power explains how her own personal history intersects with the history of Norvelt and offers some of her ideas about the changing politics of the area.

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Episode 57 — The Transcendence Triptych

The Transcendence Triptych

Restorative Justice can be individual and it can be social. It addresses the past but it encompasses the future. Bellissima Opera, based in Oak Park, Illinois, has begun a major project celebrating people who transcend racial and political divides.

The Transcendence Triptych is an operatic triple-bill.

The first piece is Outside the Ring. It is based on the friendship that developed between two boxers, the German Max Schmeling and the American Joe Louis, after their fights in the 1930s.

The second, Reconciliation, highlights an extraordinary act of forgiveness that happened during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in post-apartheid South Africa.

Future Perfect draws its inspiration from workshops with Chicagoland youth on themes of diversity, interconnectedness and transcendence.

Richard Pokorny interviews Bellissima Opera Artistic Director Christine Steyer about this work in progress: Its origins, its current state, upcoming events, and how you can become involved. This episode includes the Chicago première performance of the aria “Transcendence.”

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Episode 56 — Students and Labor

Fight for 15, 04/15/2015
USAS Local 15 participated in Fight for 15 strike on 04/15/2015; click photo for more.

Recorded September 12, 2015. Over the past twenty years, the student-led organization United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) has run dozens of strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. With some 150 campus “locals” in the United States, more in Canada, and a formal partnership with the AFL-CIO, USAS represents a genuine, grass-roots labor youth movement.

As current, former, and future workers, USAS organizes around the principle that universities must respect all workers throughout their campus and within their supply chains. In past years, members of USAS at the University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC) have led students onto critical faculty strikes on their campus, successfully cut the university’s apparel contract with VF Corporation in solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers, and are currently mobilizing on the offensive for a $15 wage for all campus workers.

Martin Macias, community activist and journalist, interviews Kiera Bouton and Jeff Uehlinger, members of USAS local 15 at the University of Illinois – Chicago. Bouton and Uehlinger discuss the international campaign to End Deathtraps and their personal experiences fighting the corporatization of higher education. They also share their views on the role of students in the labor movement and the need of incorporating collective liberation.

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For More Information:

Out of the Ashes: Creating Change from Tragedy in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry by Ann Kelly

Students Ask Why JanSport Parent Company Won’t Sign Bangladesh Worker Safety Agreement by Michael Arria


Niketown Chicago 1998
Anti-sweatshop demonstration at Niketown in Chicago, 1998.

Episode 55 — Burge, Torture, and Reparations

“Lady Law never stands so tall as when she stands on someone’s hand.”

In November of 1983, Darrell Cannon was awakened by the Chicago police smashing through his apartment door, hell-bent on clearing a homicide case from their docket. Taken to a remote location in south-side Chicago’s industrial waste-land by officer Jon Burge and an eager crew of homicide detectives, Cannon was tortured into saying whatever was needed for a “confession”. Convicted on the basis of this “evidence”, Darrell Cannon spent the next 24 years in prison, much of it in isolation at the TAMMS Super-Max prison.

Chicago DSA’s Bill Barclay interviews Darrell Cannon about how he eventually was able to get his conviction overturned, the campaign for reparations for survivors of Chicago Police torture (stemming from a complaint to the United Nations), and most especially the terms of the reparations passed by the Chicago City Council and the consequences for policing in Chicago.

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About Darrell Cannon

Darrell Cannon is an activist, inspirational speaker and leader in the movement for reparations for the Chicago Police Torture survivors. Darrell was tortured on November 2, 1983 by white detectives working under the supervision of the torture ring-leader, the notorious former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. After being electrically shocked on his genitals with a cattle prod, subjected to mock execution with a shot gun, hung by his handcuffs and tormented with racist slurs and epithets, he confessed to being an accomplice to a murder.   The confession led to his wrongful conviction for murder and twenty-four years of incarceration, ten of which he spent in Tamms Correctional Center, a super-max prison that he worked with scores of others to close in 2013.

He has testified before Chicago’s City Council in support of the reparations ordinance. He also has spoken to countless numbers of people, in small, intimate audiences to wide lectures halls, at high schools, universities, churches including Operation Rainbow Push, as well as national gatherings convened by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He has also appeared on numerous television shows, including on Democracy Now and Al Jazeera, and his work and story have been covered in numerous articles in print media including Mother Jones and the Chicago Reader, and he has been quoted at length in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Reporter, DNAinfo, Final Call and other news outlets.


For More Information

Reparations, Torture, and Echos From the ‘House of Screams’

Reparations Won!

Reparations: A Blueprint to Address Systemic Police Violence by Joey Mogul

Chicago’s Reparations for Police Torture Victims Offer a Glimpse of the Power of #BlackLivesMatter by Kirsten West Savali

Good Cop? Bad Cop? No Cop! Queer Resistance to Policing by Therese Quinn and Erica R. Meiners

Poverty Crime, Privileged Crime by Kristian Williams


Episode 54 — Mercy Killers

It’s a free country. Here we have the best health care only money can buy. And if you’re sick and without money, you’re free to die.

Dr. Anne Scheetz interviews actor and playwright Michael Milligan about his one-man play, Mercy Killers. Milligan tells about his experiences with the U.S. health care “system” (such as it is) that inspired the play and the post-performance stories and commentary from the audience that reveal both the depth of unmet needs and the variety of experience and perception regarding health care in the United States.

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Dr. Anne Scheetz practised primary care internal medicine and geriatric medicine in Chicago for 30 years before retiring from clinical practice in 2010. She now works as a full-time volunteer community organizer, speaker, and writer for single-payer national health care. She is a long-time member of Physicians for a National Health Program, and a founding member of the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition.

Michael Milligan: Since writing Mercy Killers in 2012, Michael has performed his solo play about the American healthcare system over 230 times around the US. Mercy Killers was a recipient of the Fringe First award at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In addition to theatrical runs with the Assembly, Working Theater, Pillsbury House Theater, American Theater Company and Amphibian Stage Productions, Michael has also played for many leading university arts presenters such as the Zoelner Center for the Arts at Lehigh, The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond and many others.

Mercy Killers has also been incorporated into the curriculae of top medical schools such as the Keck School of Medicine which hosted a performance in affiliation with USC’s “Vision and Voices” program. The “ Mercy Killers Tour” is an ongoing barnstorming operation which collaborates with advocacy and activist organizations. The “tour” often uses and transforms donated space into improvised theaters. The “tour” has been presented in church sanctuaries, union halls, libraries, lecture halls, living rooms, community centers, movie theaters, town halls, and even the House of Representatives at the state Capitol in St. Paul. Tour partners include the Illinois Single Payer Coalition, California Nurses Association, National Nurses United, League of Women Voters, Physicians for a National Health Program, Put People First PA, Healthcare is a Human Right/Maryland, Vermont Workers Center, Healthcare for All Colorado, Eastern Panhandle Single Payer Coalition, NAACP local chapter in West Virginia, International Brotherhood of Electricians, Progressive Democrats of America, Labor Campaign for Single Payer, SPAN-Ohio, Healthcare for All Minnesota, Healthcare for All Texas, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Living Hope Wheel Chair Association, Healthcare for All Oregon, Missourians for Single Payer, Ethical Humanist Society/St. Louis, and many others.

Since graduating from Juilliard where he was awarded the John Houseman Prize, Michael has performed at many of the nation’s top theaters including the Guthrie, The Shakespeare Theater, Westport Country Playhouse, The McCarter Theater, etc. He performed on Broadway in August: Osage County, La Bete and Jerusalem. Off Broadway credits include The Golem, Mercy Killers, and the original run of Will Eno’s Thom Pain.

Michael’s other plays include Heroine, The Sublet, The Sea Wolf, Phaeton, Urgent: Aliens, and a musical adaptation of Aesop’s Fables written in collaboration with The Grand Slambovians and directed by Ted Mann at Circle in the Square. His play Phaeton has received several workshops and productions including a reading featuring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley.

In addition to writing and Acting, Michael also teaches and directs at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting where he is a proud associate artist of the Harold Clurman Lab Theater.