The Hal Ginsberg Morning Show: Interviews


February 29, 2016 My interview starts around the 57 minute mark http://halginsberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2ms29.mp3


February 15, 2016 My interview starts around the 57 minute mark http://halginsberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2ms15.mp3


February 8, 2016 My interview starts around the 55 minute mark
http://halginsberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2ms8.mp3


January 28, 2016 My interview starts around the 10 minute mark
http://halginsberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/1ms28.mp3


January 5, 2016 My interview starts around the 31 minute mark
http://halginsberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/1ms5.mp3



Snowy Roofs And Cheap Oil

A few years ago my wife and I had a new roof put on our house. During a casual conversation with one of the contractors I learned that snow can be much more damaging to a roof than rain. The heat that rises through the attic or crawl space can cause ice dams. Once ice dams are formed water seeps into the crevices of shingles and flashings. The picturesque snow that sits peacefully atop your house can do more damage than the heavy rains that accompany violent tropical storms and hurricanes. Our media does a great job covering the big storms that threaten to knock out power and delay travel, but it's often the innocuous run of the mill snow day that causes more damage your roof than a torrential down pour. This is analogous for what it means to be the working poor. Dramatic swings in the stock market get the headlines, but it's the daily economic grind that's eroding you from the inside out.

Since June of 2014, oil prices have steadily fallen. There are several reasons for this, some more right than others, but all worthy of consideration. If you do a Google search on dropping oil prices you'll find dozens of articles written by economists linking the precipitous drop in oil prices to declining demand in Europe and the shrinking Chinese economy. That same search will net articles written by foreign affairs experts who see the drop in oil prices as proof of the United States' and Saudi Arabia's micro-aggressions against the Russians, Syrians, Iranians, and/or Isis. I read one article that suggested the OPEC nations were allowing oil prices to fall so the fracking industry in the United States would be hurt. All of the these things could be true, but for the working poor none of them matter as much as the money they're saving. Often, it takes longer for Wall Street's bad news to affect someone who doesn't have a 401k. On a long enough timeline Wall Street's pain is always shifted to everyday people, but the early stages of a financial meltdown often go unnoticed by people happy heating oil and gasoline are cheaper this year than last year.

Oil futures closed at $32.30 today (January 27th), but that price remains in flux as OPEC nations and Russia try to negotiate a way to cut production without giving up market shares. A few months ago I remember reading an article that said $80 a barrel was the new normal for oil; today I read an article that said Oil could sell for $20 a barrel by the end of February. For what it's worth, last week, Jim Cramer said he thought oil could drop as low as $10 a barrel like it did in 1986. The truth is: no one really knows. There are people who, because of their access to information, are in a better position to guess what could happen next, but that doesn't equate to certainty. There have been numerous instances where leaked information or misinformation have caused wild swings in the price of a stock or a commodity. Information is often acted on so fast that due diligence is sacrificed for the sake of executing a well timed trade. A lie can be just as financially rewarding as the truth depending on the position you're holding. More of the experts have been flat out wrong than right when it comes to predicting trends in the market. At the center of so many bad predictions is uncertainty.

There are some, generally accepted, major causes behind the big sell off on Wall Street: dropping oil prices, questions about the Federal Reserves plans to raise interest rates, leveraged positions many investment banks hold in the shale oil industry, and the implosion of Chinese markets. The investment banks have held the Fed hostage over interest rates since Janet Yellen was sworn in; every time the Fed floats a trial balloon about raising the rate the market responds with massive selloffs. This reaction is so predictable that I can't believe it still works. Of the issues hampering the U.S. economy the Fed rate is the only one the investment banks can directly influence. They can't make people in the developing world spend money they don't have, they can't make OPEC reduce oil production, and they can't get out of the leveraged positions many of them have in fracking. I'm curious as to what could happen in March if the interest rate is finally raised.

Wall Street is setting up for what looks like a class 5 hurricane. I hope I'm wrong. If the market continues down this path it could hurt the Democrats chances of holding the White House in 2016. The positive jobs numbers we trot out as proof our economic policies are working will easily be forgotten by a public feeling the sting of economic hardship, and a media looking to sell an election. It would be a cruel twist of irony for the Democrats to be punished by the same kind of market instability that President Obama benefited from in 2008. While progressives, moderates, and neoliberals debate the electability of Bernie versus the inevitability of Hillary, economic forces beyond our control could dramatically impact this election. Theodore Adorno once said, "There is no history that leads from slavery to freedom, but there is a history that leads from the slingshot to the megaton bomb." In the spirit of his argument. I know the history that leads from feudalism to capitalism, but I don't know the history that leads us from market economy slavery to freedom. While the media covers the massive selloffs that cause two hundred and three hundred point losses on an almost daily basis, no one is writing articles asking Kraft, Smithfield, Tyson, Kellogg, or any of the other multinationals why their prices haven't fallen at the same rate they were raised a few years ago when oil was trading at $110 dollars a barrel? The storm is over, the lights are on, and traffic is moving, but there's still snow on the roof. 

I Don't Care About The Oscars


In the last few days I've had friends and colleagues ask me about the Oscars controversy and the boycott some actors and activists are calling for. It's not that I don't care about black actors being slighted for their hard work, it just seems like our time could be better served worrying about the plight of African Americans outside of Hollywood. I could be wrong, but this fight seems like a small battle in the war for equality. I'm more concerned that too many graduates in the class of 2016 will be forced to work jobs instead of find careers. There are too many places in our country where education, accomplishment, or work ethic can't pierce the unconscious and conscious discriminatory practices used in human resource offices. I live in a town that's never had a black person work at a bank. Banks have been here for over two hundred and fifty years and not one bank has ever found a black person who could count. Why should I care more about a fight happening at the top of the socioeconomic scale when there are several winnable battles to be fought in our own communities?
I understand the desire to have black excellence recognized and rewarded, but all of us (independent of the physical, biological, or psychological traits that classify us as "other") should be more vigilant in accepting ourselves. Waiting for acceptance from society, is a trap; a trap that causes some to do or say anything.
For me, the most interesting part of this story was the Stacy Dash angle. I'm fascinated when members of the black bourgeois make comments counter intuitive to the black community as a whole. Usually, they do so with the understanding that the privileged bubble they live in is delicate. Their bubble only protects them as long as they have the approval of the people who put them in it. Once this became a big story the conservative media, trotted out their stable of black faces to refute the claims of racism. These folks are willing to spew any rhetoric that distinguishes them from the communities they're identified with. They exist in the space between rejecting their ancestral background and wanting full acceptance from greater society. No matter how fast they run from their roots there are no open arms waiting to embrace them. They live on borrowed time, but most of them haven't figured that out yet. They don't understand how fast America can fall out of love with them: see O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Bill Cosby.
In 1986 Out of Africa won seven Oscars including Best Picture. That same year The Color Purple was nominated in eleven categories and didn't win any. Thirty years later Alice Walker's book is required reading in a number of courses throughout academia, and the play is in its twelfth year on Broadway. History always has the last word. If Will Smith winning an Oscar could further contribute to the clothing and feeding of kids living in poverty then I would be more upset. Yes, this passes the preliminary smell test for racial suspicion, but it's a footnote. I'm not pressed about the Oscars and most of you shouldn't be either. in 30 years we'll know which movies and actors defined this moment in history.

Dr. King, Donald Trump, And The South

The last few days have been very interesting in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Saturday January 16th people attending celebratory events in Lexington, VA were greeted by Confederate flag wavers. Since the removal of the flag from South Carolina's state house the Stars and Bars has been ubiquitous in this part of the country. In addition to the gatherings on public and private property there was an unusual amount of traffic on the highways- not exactly a parade, but definitely a strong show of force.

On Sunday as my wife and I made our trip to the campus of Washington and Lee University to be part of the events, which featured a keynote lecture by Dr, Michael Eric Dyson, we saw an abundance of Confederate flags in places we hadn't seen them before. From a strictly phenomenological perspective, is there any ambiguity in the message being sent by people waving a Confederate flag at someone walking to a breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? I try to give our "heritage not hate" brothers a fair shake, but it's hard for me to come up with a motivation other than hatred for this kind of activity. I support their right to assemble, but it's hard for me to take your claims of heritage serious when you are jeering at people who lived through Jim Crow in southwest Virginia.

On Monday Donald Trump gave us the gift of 2Corinthians at a campaign rally disguised as a MLK convocation at Liberty University. Trump, the self crowned king of Protestantism, didn't just trip over the scripture; he read it in such a wooden and laconic way that demonstrated an unfamiliarity with the text. I went back and listened to the whole event, and it dawned on me that he might know more about Jesus than he does Dr. King. His time was filled with one recycled exhortation about greatness after another. He spent very little time talking about Dr. King. He stood in front of a conservative Christian audience and used the occasion to repeat his desire to grow the military; something that further distanced himself from the legacy of Dr. King. His religious faux pas, like his other transgressions, won't have any bearing on his support. We're at the point in the game where most people in our area have stopped pretending their support for him is based on the issues. 

Several weeks ago I went on a rant about the endorsement several prominent black pastors gave Donald Trump. I thought the endorsements flew in the face of what the black church, at its best, stood for. My criticism had nothing to do with his party or policies. I was upset that pastors could overlook the racial undertones, xenophobia, misogyny, and the overall vindictive rhetoric Donald Trump uses to dismiss his political opponents. I was upset that a legacy built by men and women with scarred backs and busted lips and noses was so easily co-opted. I was upset because men who claim to hold Dr. King in high esteem provided cover to a man who hasn't shown the ability to engage in civil discourse with anyone who disagrees with him. Donald Trump speaks worse about his political opponents than Dr. King spoke about the people who were trying to kill him. Pastors are people, and people compromise their beliefs, principles, and even the institutions they govern for wealth, prestige, and power, yet it hurt me to see the legacy of the black church traded so freely. 

The issues beneath the surface of the Trump phenomenon affect me. I'm more interested in understanding the kind of person who supports Trump than understanding Trump himself. I live in a community where often times I’m the only black man in a restaurant, sporting event, or church service- depending on denomination. When you're a black man in a community like this there's no hiding from race. There’s no amount of denial that can change the reality you find yourself in. People who only know me through my writing think I’m obsessed with race, but the reality is: I can't escape it. The election of a black man didn't improve the quality of life for black people in the south; not because there was some legislative omission or failure, but because while it symbolically lifted the spirits of blacks it simultaneously knocked another layer of armor off the myth of white supremacy, and sadly for too many in this area the myth of superiority is all they have left.  I've been told that racism was over, but Barack Obama made things worse. Somehow his two electoral landslides reminded people they didn't like blacks. This was always a disingenuous and elementary argument. I feel the heat from the rhetoric and blatantly racist attacks on him, his wife, and their kids. The Stars and Bars, nooses, and other relics of America’s dark ages are common place in this part of the world.  

I can't wait til the south's dream of taking their country back comes true. Instead of focusing on that which truly unites us we dissect the culture we share, and use our language to form words we can use as weapons against each other. Until we come to grips with the legacy of racism in America, and the systematic way racist policies have destroyed the bodies of black people, and the minds of white people we'll never appreciate the beauty of Dr. King's dream. I'm not attempting to hold anyone more accountable for the country we inherited. If we're serious about driving racism out of public life we need people willing to address it head on. Refusing to acknowledge race isn't a cure for racism. After President Obama last days in office are over we, in the south, will return to our corners where we will cast our distrusting gazes upon each other, we will fake smiles and engage in the kind of chit chat designed to make uncomfortable situations tolerable. We will do this because that's what we do. We will do this because it's what passes for civility. 


Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, And Mental Blocks


Disclaimer: If you're easily offended, or try to avoid controversial subject matter please stop reading. This isn't a provocation or click bait; I'm not concerned with hits, likes, comments, or shares. I genuinely care about people, but I won't consider anyone's feelings as I make my way through what I see as the potential weakening of the progressive movement.
Too many of our young allies are being stripped of the opportunity to develop a thick skin. Progressives need to end the safe spaces and trigger warnings cult before it ends us. Just for the record, I believe that in a free society everyone's safety should be a priority. I'm not advocating we return to a pre-modern world where machismo and brute force determine outcomes. As a society, we should make every effort to protect people from emotional and physical abuse; I do, however, reject the notion that people need to be protected from ideas- especially ideas that should be confronted. If safe spaces are defined as areas where the dignity of every person is affirmed, and any attempt to diminish that dignity is rejected then, of course, I'm for safe spaces, but let's not fool ourselves: safe spaces and trigger warnings weren't deemed necessary until kids named Hunter, Madeline, Reilly, Emma, and Colin were confronted by aspects of life that made them feel uncomfortable. We have very privileged children joining our ranks who've never learned how to fight.  
Maybe we should modify the old adage: I'd rather have smart enemies than stupid allies. I believe It's better to have brash political opponents than meek political allies. Whether we admit it or not the right-wing has masterfully redefined the rules of political engagement. Not calling someone a n*gger is the new political correctness. Donald Trump's campaign is, in some ways, fueled by the conservative rejection of the safe space, trigger warning society. Many of our political allies refuse to read the writing on the wall. They're convinced that a more nuanced approach to presenting our views will cause an ideological renaissance in America. They fail to recognize the mental blocks at work in the minds of some of our political opponents. We have political adversaries who trust the guy who hooked up their WIFI more than the scientists who developed the technology. Many on the right don't respect the universities where our ideas are cultivated. Climate change is a joke to someone who doesn't respect the institutions that produced the data that supports it. 
If the university is the progressives minor leagues, what kind of damage are we doing to our future prospects by coddling them? Yes, we need thoughtful and articulate young people who are sensitive to the feelings of others to help advance our social and economic agenda, but we also need courageous warriors. It's easier to get a hundred undergrads to sign a petition against an energy company polluting the environment than it is to get a dozen to stand up against police brutality. I'm not just attacking the children of wealthy suburbanites who make up the majority of our campuses; even at HBCU's where social movements are a rite of passage there's been a drop off in those who participate in mass movements. I could be wrong, but I believe some of that drop off could be linked to a generation of kids raised by helicopter parents and universities where confrontations are avoided. The University of Missouri stood out because they forced a change, but their numbers were meek compared to the size of the campus.
The anger expressed by conservatives on television, radio, and the campaign trail is multiplied by their base on social media. Instead of laying out another set of arguments designed to invalidate the roots of that anger, maybe we should just accept the fact that their anger is real to them. The far right isn't just mad; they're willing to fight for their beliefs. I 'm worried that twenty years from now the populist anger we see on the right will go largely unchecked. I know there will always be progressives willing to fight for the cause of social justice, but if your social media experience is similar to mine then you notice that there are more on the right willing to express inaccurate memes and posts than progressives willing to correct the record. It might seem like a leap, but there are too many in our ranks who avoid all forms of conflict. This needs to stop. Twenty loud voices spreading a lie are more useful to a cause than twenty people who know the truth, but are too scared to stand up. We need to match the level of intensity coming from the other side. We're viewed as soft, and I don't see any signs of us shaking that perception.

I Support The Oregon Militia...

I support the Oregon Militia and the dozens of interlopers who've joined their ranks. I think mandatory minimums are unjust. I've helped inmates in the Commonwealth of Virginia fight against Draconian sentences handed down by judges with reputations for, "laying brothers down". I support the idea of civil disobedience. The most important component of protesting is the disruption of the natural order of business. As far as protests go, they've succeeded in getting media attention. I'm not invested in the outcome of this situation. I'm not a rancher, nor have I ever visited a National Wildlife Refuge. I'm not concerned with the legitimacy of the claims the protesters are making. I don't care who stole the land after America stole it from the Indians. The material facts of this case are unimportant to me. I have one responsibility in this piece: I have to point out, for the 2,456,473 time, the hypocritical media coverage and law enforcement response to armed white men doing things that would get me and the men of my church killed. 

We live in a country in where the Second Amendment rights of armed white men are more respected and vigorously protected than the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Amendment rights of minorities. I would feel better if we, as a country, would be honest and say the Second Amendment rights of white men supersede every right people of color think they have. Usually this line of criticism is dismissed as "race baiting" -a term I've never understood. After your arguments are dismissed, you get classified as another "angry" black man. I've embraced this title; the shoe fits. I'm tired of seeing black people killed by the same law enforcement agencies that strategically negotiate with the likes of armed militias to insure there's no escalation of tense situations.

If groups like the Brady Center and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence were smarter they would hire a couple hundred well armed African Americans, Arabs, and Latinos between the ages of 18 and 30 to march on the steps of every capital in every state until comprehensive gun reform measures are enacted. That's what it would take to for their causes to lead to the legislative solutions they're seeking. Many of our Second Amendment warriors either don't know or care that their hero (Ronald Reagan) supported and signed into law several limitations to their Second Amendment rights. If you mention The Mulford Act their eyes glaze over and they do a quick Lexis Nexus search of words Glenn Beck or Alex Jones taught them. Black Panthers marching on the capital in Sacramento accomplished in a few short weeks what dozens of well meaning gun control control groups have failed to accomplish in decades of fighting.

Make no mistake about it Oregon is about President Obama. Even when his name isn't mentioned the underlying, unifying force behind the Tea Party, the original Bundy supporters, Donald Trump's meteoric rise in the polls, and this Bundy 2.0 upgrade is the president's radical alterity. Almost seven years into his presidency he still has the ability to unify militias, Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and other anti-government groups. I know that these groups have a long history. I concede the point that Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and a slew lesser known incidents happened before 99% of the country ever heard the name Barack Obama, but I can't pretend that these groups haven't had a Renaissance since 2009. Their reflexive hatred of President Obama allows them to engage in, what some people view as, treasonous behavior. As long as the face of government tyranny is President Obama these groups won't have any problem recruiting. The minute a white male or military uniform replaces the president as the de facto face of the government, my hunch is that many of the weekend warriors who dress up and play soldier will go back to their individual pastimes.

Again, I support this group's right to protest laws they feel are unjust. I won't be on the front lines with them, but I won't stop someone from joining their ranks. My animosity stems from the fact that too many people in our country seek to use every method possible to deny what's right in front of them. We have too many shoot first ask questions later cops patrolling our cities. I don't want this Oregon situation to end in a hail of bullets. I want the impossible: I want us to, collectively, admit that there's a problem. One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes is, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." I want to turn on the news and hear Black Lives Matter activists covered as fairly as this group. I want to hear one of the major network anchors admit that a group of minorities would never be afforded the kind of leeway this group has gotten. I want to stop writing about this kind of hypocrisy, because so many of my white brothers and sisters have used up all of the good words and made every necessary argument.  




What Does It Mean To Be A Progressive?

"My constituency is the desperate, the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the despised. They are restless and seek relief. They've voted in record numbers. They have invested faith, hope and trust that they have in us. The Democratic Party must send them a signal that we care."  To Be Revealed Later

What does it mean to be a progressive? This isn't a rhetorical question. I came to my political awareness in the mid 90's; back then, there were very few self described progressives in my circle. I was in my twenties, and most of the people I knew identified as liberal. That was before the right-wing think tanks and commentators masterfully shifted what it meant to be a liberal. If being a progressive means being a Bernie supporter does that automatically make Hillary supporters liberal or neoliberal? This might seem like a frivolous line of questioning, but it matters more now than it did in 2008. The choice between President Obama and Hillary Clinton wasn't as politically pronounced as the choice between Bernie and Hillary is today.   

I don't know if Bernie can win in a general election. This is more than a statement grounded in political uncertainty. It's a thinly veiled question some in our ranks ask themselves. Bernie Sanders is an ideological Rorschach test. To his young, enthusiastic base Bernie represents a clean shift from the status quo they learned about in history and Political science classes. He resonates with their desire to try something completely different as a way of avoiding the economic outcomes they see on the horizon. For his older, somewhat politically jaded, supporters he represents the hard left turn they've been waiting for the Democratic party to take. Many pragmatic- dare I say conservative- Democrats have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the argument that Bernie can't win in November. Maybe he can't; maybe the country isn't ready for a Democratic Socialist. Labels matter; the fact that Socialism has been such a loaded term for so long might affect his ability to gain the moderate and independent vote, but what if now is the perfect time, politically speaking, to usher in an era of progressive politics? How many of us could sleep knowing we missed our chance? 

This isn't an endorsement for Bernie or a hit piece against Hillary. I'm convinced that both of them would be far better stewards over the economy, better for the long-term national security of our nation, and would pick better Supreme Court Justices than their Republican rivals, but most of us already believe this. If Bernie doesn't get the nomination, but forces the national conversation to move to the left on government spending, Social Security, minimum wage, and affordable college would Hillary use that political cover to advance the progressive agenda? How many progressives are supporting Hillary because they're afraid our ideas are still too far ahead of the electorate? 

These questions matter. We have to be honest about how far we're willing to go in the direction of progressive ideas. We have to be clear about what our priorities are. If Hillary wins the nomination how do we force her to move from the center to embrace Bernie's supporters? If the centrist argument against Bernie hinges on the perception that he can't get votes from the center then wouldn't the same argument work in the opposite direction against Hillary? I've talked to young Bernie supporters who view the Clintons as Republican lite. Whether their critique is right or wrong is a immaterial to the fact that they believe it. If a portion of Bernie's supporters sit out of the 2016 election, and minority turn out is low in purple states the game is over. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio will be the next president. If Hillary wins the nomination we can't ask Bernie supporters to make all of the concessions necessary to form a winning coalition. We need to create an atmosphere where Hillary has to move left to embrace them.

The far-right is dominating the media. Many national on-air personalities no longer question negative statements made about Progressive policies- no matter how false they are. The quote from the top of this post was from Jesse Jackson's speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Almost thirty-two years later those words still describe many in our ranks. Too many of us are getting crushed under the weight of a global economy that demands a more productive and cheaper labor force, and the cost of college and health care are still rising. How much further down this moderate path will we allow the Democratic party to pull us before we admit that walking on the Republican path gets us where they want us to go just at a slower pace?