Author Archives: Howard Lisnoff

Kissing our a*#@s goodbye in a nuclear war

The late novelist Kurt Vonnegut recounts the horrors of the firebombing of Dresden, Germany in both the fictional work Slaughterhouse Five and his book of nonfictional essays, Armageddon In Retrospect. Vonnegut was a World War II veteran who had his boots on the ground, so he pretty much knew his subject. He makes a point that the death toll from firebombing cities was not too much different from the two atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped over Japan in August 1945. But with the advent of the hydrogen bomb, mass annihilation is a safe bet today. Continue reading

The Kent State massacre 45 years later: Where is justice?

This article is dedicated to those who were killed and injured at Kent State and Jackson State in May 1970. Continue reading

History trips and the vanished left

Visiting the FDR Library and Museum is like journeying to a place where time has stopped and a world much different from the one we now inhabit exists. I hadn’t been to the FDR Presidential Library in several years and eagerly anticipated seeing the newly renovated museum at the library. Here there are no disappointments. FDR’s New Deal and progressive/left politics jump out from every nook and cranny of the exhibit, and the interactive displays of his presidency are so well done that they immediately catch museum goers’ attention and interest. Continue reading

Targeted killings, the laws of war, and the Justice Department memo

Reading the memo in which the U.S. government rationalizes the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is something akin to reading the melding of “Alice In Wonderland: and “1984.” Continue reading

Raffles of death

The flyer for the giveaway of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, on March 23, reads “Does the Bible defend my right to keep and bear arms?” With the donation of the rifle from a local gun shop, the church’s pastor, the Reverend John Koletas said he was “honoring hunters and gun owners” by holding the raffle at the church (“Troy pastor’s AR-15 rifle giveaway creates controversy,” Times Union, March 7, 2014). Continue reading

“Freedom of Speech”

Norman Rockwell seemed to me to be an artist and illustrator who would appeal to members of a group like the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ignorance is difficult to dislodge. Preconceived notions sometimes fill the mind with blinding misconceptions. Continue reading

May 1970: A retrospective

The Ferncliff Mausoleum is remarkable for the serenity of the grounds that surround it and the imposing granite of its construction. Two great gold doors mark its entrance. It was May 2nd, two days before the forty-third anniversary of the Kent State killings. The day was warm and the sky a crystalline blue, both hallmarks of the season and much too beautiful and enticing for a journey to pay respects to one of the many fallen on that horrific day of so long ago. But history has its claims and marking that tragedy is necessary. Continue reading

The flag flies at half-mast

There is a cemetery in rural Massachusetts where the U.S. flag flew at half-mast on Saturday. Cemeteries in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts have both a haunting and historical character. Their graves are often stained from centuries of wear and mark the places where people often lie long ago forgotten. Continue reading

The legacy of horror for children in Iraq

Children are innocent and often the innocent victims of U.S. warfare. Despite protections, most written after the carnage of masses of civilians during World War II, the U.S. quickly jettisoned its commitment to the protection of civilians and children by the rules of international and U.S. law as soon as the burning embers of war cooled. Continue reading

Jews on the Left and a Palestinian state

The brilliant scholar and spiritual leader Hillel, who lived 100 years before the Christian era, summed up the central thrust of Judaism in his most famous pronouncement of Jewish values: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah (The first five books of the Old Testament), the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Continue reading

‘From every mountainside, let freedom ring.’*

I never came face to face with the reality of poverty in the U.S. until I took a train from Augusta, Georgia to New York for the holidays, following completing basic training in the military. Continue reading

The perfect education storm in Chicago

There is a perfect storm brewing in Chicago. But, unlike the book (The Perfect Storm, Junger, S. 1997) of the same name in which three storms converge to kill fishermen off of the coast of New England, this storm is the convergence of over three decades of the anti-union, the anti-teacher, and the anti-public education agenda in the US. Continue reading

‘A Walk on the Moon’*

In the 1999 film A Walk on the Moon, set in a Catskills, New York, bungalow colony in the summer of 1969, the characters Pearl and Walker develop a relationship over the course of that momentous summer that saw the Woodstock music festival staged in nearby Bethel and the iconic actual walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong just weeks earlier on July 20. Pearl and Walker make love for the first time in Walker’s RV/retail “blouse shop” while an unwatched portable TV documents the first steps that Armstrong took on the lunar surface. Continue reading

Voices from the streets: May Day in New York City

May 1 began with rain and heavy clouds in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. Since it has been an unusually dry and cool spring in New England, I worried that the May Day demonstration planned by Occupy Wall Street would not draw the crowds so essential to keep the momentum of the movement going. Continue reading

Who’s worthy of rescue?

If you’re old enough, the image of the 50s and 60s pop singer Chubby Checker encouraging dancers to scurry under the limbo stick is a picture that stuck in the mind, with Chubby singing the lyrics “How low can you go?*” When I think of the housing debacle that has gripped this nation since 2006, that is the image I have. How low will the equity and prices that sellers get for their homes go? How low will we all go? Continue reading

Coming apart at the seams

The Democratic Party will never rescue this nation from over three decades of unbridled corporate power and militarism! How could they; they’re behind it. Neither will groups like MoveOn, a group that tinkers at the edges of reform while Rome burns. Continue reading

The last bastion of hate

I wasn’t ready for the intensity of ridicule from the comments in a class that I teach dealing with reading skills and strategies at a community college in upstate New York! The class was working on making inferences from a sociology article about sex and gender when the issue of homosexuality was raised by a student. I thought for a moment, given the meanness of responses from five of the students in a class of 20, that the class had been transported in a time warp back to the 1950s! Continue reading

Colleges and universities fuel the race to the bottom with adjunct faculty

Hiring adjuncts to teach university courses is big business. In the 1970s, adjunct instructors made up a tiny fraction of university and college faculties, mostly teaching specialty courses or teaching as guest lecturers (including filling in for professors on sabbatical). By the 1980s, according to Elaine McArdle in “The Adjunct Explosion” (University Business, 2006), adjuncts made up 20 percent of all courses. By 1998, according to the US Department of Education, as cited in McArdle’s article, adjuncts made up 43 percent of faculties across the nation. From 1970 to 1998, the article cites an increase in community college adjuncts from a low of 20 percent to a high of 60 percent. At New York University, adjuncts fill a whopping 70 percent of core courses. Continue reading

A perspective on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations

Last month, both Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the United Nations’ General Assembly. Both the leader of the US and the leader of Israel spoke against the impending bid by Mahmoud Abbas for the recognition of a Palestinian state. Almost as if out of the realm of the surreal, Barack Obama’s speech before the UN was to the right of Netanyahu’s. The cheers must have been deafening at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Continue reading

The saga of my FBI record

My saga with the Federal Bureau of Investigation began in 1971. Over the course of the previous year, I had fought the Army’s attempt to order me to active duty. During the previous two years I had been a member of both the National Guard and a Reserve unit. Following the murders at Kent State and Jackson State, and the increasing brutality of the Vietnam War, I stopped attending Reserve meetings and petitioned the military for a discharge. Continue reading

The road trip

Standing by the side of the road, the passage of the past four decades can almost seem palpable: some days it seems like only a moment has passed, and other days the journey seems like it happened eons ago. It was the July 4th weekend of 1971. Joe and Judy and Dawn and I were on the road. More accurately, as Judy likes to say now, it was “our” road trip. How magical to be coursing up through the middle of Connecticut, out through the Berkshires of Massachusetts, along the turnpike snaking up into the higher Taconics of New York, and then finally out onto the open rural highway that cuts along the backbone of New York between the Adirondack and the Green Mountains of Vermont toward the Canadian border. Continue reading