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January 28, 2010

2010.01.28: In Memoriam: Antiwar Historian Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

Filed under: Antiwar — nyclaw01 @ 11:36 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2010 11:36 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: In Memoriam: Antiwar Historian Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87

January 27, 2010 08:20 PM

By Mark Feeney and Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as “A People’s History of the United States,” inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

“He’s made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture,” Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. “He’s changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can’t think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect.”

Howard Zinn.


ARCHIVE | 4/1/08

Zinn turns to comics

Chomsky added that Dr. Zinn’s writings “simply changed perspective and understanding for a whole generation. He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement.”

For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. “A People’s History of the United States” (1980), his best-known book, had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers — many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out — but rather the farmers of Shays’ Rebellion and union organizers of the 1930s.

As he wrote in his autobiography, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” (1994), “From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than ‘objectivity’; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.”

Certainly, it was a recipe for rancor between Dr. Zinn and John Silber, former president of Boston University. Dr. Zinn, a leading critic of Silber, twice helped lead faculty votes to oust the BU president, who in turn once accused Dr. Zinn of arson (a charge he quickly retracted) and cited him as a prime example of teachers “who poison the well of academe.”

Dr. Zinn was a cochairman of the strike committee when BU professors walked out in 1979. After the strike was settled, he and four colleagues were charged with violating their contract when they refused to cross a picket line of striking secretaries. The charges against “the BU Five” were soon dropped.

In 1997, Dr. Zinn slipped into popular culture when his writing made a cameo appearance in the film “Good Will Hunting.” The title character, played by Matt Damon, lauds “A People’s History” and urges Robin Williams’s character to read it. Damon, who co-wrote the script, was a neighbor of the Zinns growing up.

“Howard had a great mind and was one of the great voices in the American political life,” Ben Affleck, also a family friend growing up and Damon’s co-star in “Good Will Hunting,” said in a statement. “He taught me how valuable — how necessary — dissent was to democracy and to America itself. He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally and I will carry with me what I learned from him — and try to impart it to my own children — in his memory.”

Damon was later involved in a television version of the book, “The People Speak,” which ran on the History Channel in 2009, and he narrated a 2004 biographical documentary, “Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

“Howard had a genius for the shape of public morality and for articulating the great alternative vision of peace as more than a dream,” said James Carroll a columnist for the Globe’s opinion pages whose friendship with Dr. Zinn dates to when Carroll was a Catholic chaplain at BU. “But above all, he had a genius for the practical meaning of love. That is what drew legions of the young to him and what made the wide circle of his friends so constantly amazed and grateful.”

Dr. Zinn was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants, Edward Zinn, a waiter, and Jennie (Rabinowitz) Zinn, a housewife. He attended New York public schools and was working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he met Roslyn Shechter.

“She was working as a secretary,” Dr. Zinn said in an interview with the Globe nearly two years ago. “We were both working in the same neighborhood, but we didn’t know each other. A mutual friend asked me to deliver something to her. She opened the door, I saw her, and that was it.”

He joined the Army Air Corps, and they courted through the mail before marrying in October 1944 while he was on his first furlough. She died in 2008.

During World War II, he served as a bombardier, was awarded the Air Medal, and attained the rank of second lieutenant.

After the war, Dr. Zinn worked at a series of menial jobs until entering New York University on the GI Bill as a 27-year-old freshman. He worked nights in a warehouse loading trucks to support his studies. He received his bachelor’s degree from NYU, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University.

Dr. Zinn was an instructor at Upsala College and lecturer at Brooklyn College before joining the faculty of Spelman College in Atlanta, in 1956. He served at the historically black women’s institution as chairman of the history department. Among his students were novelist Alice Walker, who called him “the best teacher I ever had,” and Marian Wright Edelman, future head of the Children’s Defense Fund.

During this time, Dr. Zinn became active in the civil rights movement. He served on the executive committee of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most aggressive civil rights organization of the time, and participated in numerous demonstrations.

Dr. Zinn became an associate professor of political science at BU in 1964 and was named full professor in 1966.

The focus of his activism became the Vietnam War. Dr. Zinn spoke at many rallies and teach-ins and drew national attention when he and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, another leading antiwar activist, went to Hanoi in 1968 to receive three prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Dr. Zinn’s involvement in the antiwar movement led to his publishing two books: “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968). He had previously published “LaGuardia in Congress” (1959), which had won the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Prize; “SNCC: The New Abolitionists” (1964); “The Southern Mystique” (1964); and “New Deal Thought” (1966).

He also was the author of “The Politics of History” (1970); “Postwar America” (1973); “Justice in Everyday Life” (1974); and “Declarations of Independence” (1990).

In 1988, Dr. Zinn took early retirement to concentrate on speaking and writing. The latter activity included writing for the stage. Dr. Zinn had two plays produced: “Emma,” about the anarchist leader Emma Goldman, and “Daughter of Venus.”

On his last day at BU, Dr. Zinn ended class 30 minutes early so he could join a picket line and urged the 500 students attending his lecture to come along. A hundred did.

“Howard was an old and very close friend,” Chomsky said. “He was a person of real courage and integrity, warmth and humor. He was just a remarkable person.”

Carroll called Dr. Zinn “simply one of the greatest Americans of our time. He will not be replaced — or soon forgotten. How we loved him back.”

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Zinn leaves a son, Jeff of Wellfleet; three granddaughters; and two grandsons.

Funeral plans were not available.

January 22, 2010

2010.01.22: Facts About U.S. blocking Haiti Aid

Filed under: International Human Rights,Palestine,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 3:37 pm

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, January 22, 2010 3:57 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Facts About U.S. blocking Haiti Aid

As reflected in the following reports, Doctors Without Borders, Haitian grassroots activists and many others say that the U.S. and its allies (yes, including Israel) have exploited the disaster, rather than providing the necessary aid.


Haitian empowerment must be the prime goal (January 22, 2010)
As a result of the US decision to prioritise the accumulation of foreign soldiers over the distribution of emergency supplies, untold numbers of people have died needlessly. We demand that US commanders immediately restore executive control of the relief effort to Haiti’s leaders, and to help rather than replace the local officials they claim to support.

Nightmare in Haiti: Untreated Illness and Injury (January 20, 2010)
Partners in Health, an organization that has been providing health care in Haiti for two decades, estimated that 20,000 Haitians were dying daily from lack of surgery.

Doctors Without Borders Plane with Lifesaving Medical Supplies Diverted Again from Landing in Haiti (January 19, 2010)
“We cannot accept that planes carrying lifesaving medical supplies and equipment continue to be turned away while our patients die. Priority must be given to medical supplies entering the country.”

Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises (January 17, 2010)
“There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti,” said Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the agency’s Haiti effort. “But most of those flights are for the United States military.  He added: “Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync.”

Video: Haiti: Guns or food? (January 18, 2010)
Peter Hallward: Arrival of US military raises questions of motivations and memories of recent interventions.

Security “Red Zones” in Haiti Preventing Large Aid Groups from Effectively Distributing Aid (January 22, 2010)
As thousands of well-equipped US soldiers pour into Haiti, there is an increasing concern about the militarization of the country, supporting the soldiers and not the people. Or, as one doctor put it, “We need gauze, not guns.” Relief workers continue to report dire shortages of food, aid and medical supplies, amidst fears the dire conditions will spark outbreaks of infectious disease.

“The Real Looting in Haiti” (January 20, 2010)
Author Naomi Klein reported that within 24 hours of the earthquake, the influential right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation was already seeking to use the disaster as an attempt at further privatization of the country’s economy.

Doctor: Misinformation and Racism Have Frozen Recovery Effort at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince (January 19, 2010)
Racism has slowed the recovery efforts of this hospital. Security issues over the last forty-eight hours have been our—quote “security issues” over the last forty-eight hours have been our leading concern. And there are no security issues.

US doctors beg their government to admit critically injured children from Haiti (January 18, 2010)
“We can’t evacuate any Haitian patients to the US,” John McDonald, from the University of Miami Medical School, said. “Our country treats the Haitians like s***. The people land, they get sent back. When Cubans land, they open restaurants.”

US accused of annexing airport as squabbling hinders aid effort in Haiti (January 17, 2010)
The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières complained about flights with medical staff and equipment which were redirected to the Dominican Republic. “We are all going crazy,” said Nan Buzard, of the American Red Cross.

Video: Disputes emerge over Haiti aid control (January 17, 2010)
As we do our best here to ensure that people are donating and taking action in some way to assist in the relief efforts in Haiti, news updates indicate that alot of this aid is being delayed by certain forces, namely US and UN officials.

Many flee Haiti capital, govt plans tent cities (January 22, 2010)
France’s Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet told The Associated Press that he had filed an official complaint to the U.S. government after two French planes, one carrying a field hospital, were denied permission to land.;_ylt=AmGVtowiA6AaCmUGC2zbJX5BXYh4;_ylu=X3oDMTM4b2MzbGcwBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwMTE2L2NiX2hhaXRpX2VhcnRocXVha2UEY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcmllcwRzbGsDaGFpdGlhaWRmbG93

Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza (January 18, 2010)
The remarkable identification with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza. . . . The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork.

Haiti: An Israeli Public Relations Moment? (January 20, 2010)
Israeli publications ran opinion pieces Monday and Tuesday accusing Israel of using the disaster for publicity points or of ignoring a humanitarian disaster on the country’s front step in Gaza.

2010.01.22: Rally @4 p.m. Today: Stop Blocking Aid to Haiti — No to U.S./U.N. Occupation

Filed under: Antiwar,International Human Rights,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 10:53 am

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Friday, January 22, 2010 10:53 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Rally @4 p.m. Today: Stop Blocking Aid to Haiti — No to U.S./U.N. Occupation


Rally: Friday, January 22 at 4:00 p.m.

Outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, 140 East 45th Street, Manhattan (between 3rd Avenue and Lexington, take any train to Grand Central)

With up to half a million Haitians feared dead under the rubble following the earthquake, Haiti needs robust Emergency Assistance. The first 48 hours in the aftermath of the earthquake were very critical.

The Haitian people have been helping one another with their bare hands from the very first few moments of the earthquake. People everywhere are striving to support the Haitian people any way they can.

Yet, the U.S. military having wrested total control of the ports and the main airport in Port-au-Prince as well as throughout the country is refusing to allow cargo planes from different countries such as Turkey, Iran, Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba to bring urgently needed medical supplies, water, food, and medicine to the people in Haiti.

Planes with field hospitals from France and Doctors Without Borders were denied landing rights. For days, the US and UN officials on the ground stopped volunteers from distributing supplies to the people in the hardest hit places. This is mass genocide. There is a real Humanitarian crisis in Haiti and it must be dealt with as such.

The Haitian people must be assisted and not be portrayed in the media as animals and criminals. The Haitian masses – as the US masses did in New Orleans during Katrina – are doing the best they can in mobilizing themselves to deal collectively with their situation. These efforts must be supported in all aid programs. Volunteers must be facilitated to distribute the aid provided by other countries around the globe and should not be suppressed.

The United States, instead of providing the immediate aid necessary in the first critical hours, mobilized a whole arsenal of military hardware and personnel with at least 11,000 soldiers to reinforce the occupation of Haiti adding to the 9,000-strong UN military force in the country. The Haitian people need Humanitarian assistance – water, medicine, medical supplies, healthcare workers – not a military arsenal. We say NO to this military deployment in Haiti. We oppose the occupation of Haiti now and forever.

We demand:

1) Let the aid get through to Haiti! Let the Haitian People organize!

Stop U.S. Military interference with international rescue & Humanitarian aid. THIS MUST STOP!

2) Stop denying Humanitarian entry into the US for Haitians whose lives are at risk!

3) END U.S./U.N. occupation of Haiti!

4) Stop the cruel and unjust IMF/World Bank/USAID structural adjustment progam in Haiti!


Phone: (646) 898-7328 E-mail:

January 13, 2010

2010.01.13: Haiti Relief & Analysis

Filed under: Antiwar,International Human Rights — nyclaw01 @ 12:59 pm

From:  Letwin, Michael
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 12:59 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; 1199 Members
Subject: Haiti Relief & Analysis

Urgent Appeal from the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund
“Grassroots organizers are doing what they can – with the most limited of funds – to make a difference. Please take this chance to lend them your support.”

Democracy Now: Haiti Devastated by Largest Earthquake in 200 Years, Thousands Feared Dead
“Due to US economic policies over the past three decades, millions of people have been pushed out of the countryside into the cities, where they live in makeshift shacks built up on usually state land along the perimeters of the city. It is usually shacks, you know, cinderblocks, tin, sometimes straw. And they very easily fall down in something like this.”

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