Tag Archives: Connecticut

Is Working a Labor of Love? It is for My New Radio Show!

On Saturday, I return to radio with a new weekly talk show titled “Working New York”.

MR.studio
Mark Riley in studio

The program will allow me to give full voice to something that’s been articulated before, but needs to be shouted from the rooftops now. That is, working people, those folks who keep this great nation alive, deserve the respect of all of us.

And these days, working America is under siege.

The program airs on WWRL 1600AM radio in the New York area, and is on the Web at http://www.wwrl1600.com.

The concept for the show goes back deep into the earliest stages of my own life. My father was one of the hardest working Americans I’ve ever known. When I was small, I’d watch him leave for his job at the post office, and I would marvel at the ritual of his latching his keys to his belt, putting on his suit jacket on top of his shirt and tie, and telling us, “I’m off.” I didn’t know at the time that he’d been doing this same routine for nearly 40 years.

He retired from the post office when I was eight years old. I remember him taking me on the train as he went in to sign the final papers that signaled his retirement. I didn’t understand how sad it was for him, at least, not then. My dad then went on to work for an additional 15 years at a hospital in Connecticut, where we moved after he retired. It was a different place, different circumstances, but the same steady, everyday work ethic.

You see, my father never had to sit me down and tell me to respect working people. He was one, and he led by his example. It didn’t matter to him what a person did for a living, or how much they got paid. What mattered was that they worked, and if they were good at what they did, they were deserving of respect. And all this he taught us without really ever saying it.

Elwood Riley and Mark Riley
Elwood Riley and Mark Riley

There are a lot of people in media and politics today who purport to speak for working people. In too many cases, these same blowhards wouldn’t spend five minutes with sanitation workers, having a conversation with people working in a hospital, or listening to the problems farmers are facing in the 21st century. I like to think I’m different.

My dad belonged to a union all his life. I have an abiding respect for unions, though I know they, like us, aren’t perfect. Whether someone changes a bedpan or is a Starbucks barista, an electrical worker or an IT specialist, whether you pump gas, flip burgers, whatever, you’re an American worker.

You deserve affordable healthcare, a good education for your kids, and an affordable, safe place to live. The program “Working New York” is for you, if you’re working now, looking for work, or have worked all your life. It’s centered in New York City – well isn’t everything – but it speaks to workers everywhere. So if you can’t tune in via radio, tune in via your computer from wherever you are in the world. I’ll be posting a phone in number, and if you shout loud enough the station may set up texting capabilities. before you ask, podcasting is in the pipeline too!

My father is part of all of you. Help me kick it off with a bang, in his in honor and for the late Studs Turkel!

Studs_Terkel_2007
Studs Terkel

“Working New York” airs Saturdays from 2-5PM on WWRL, 1600AM in New York City, and on the Web at http://www.wwrl1600.com.

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Will There Ever Be Another "Uncle Walter"?

On Walter Cronkite’s passing last Friday at the age of 92, the nation quickly divided into two groups. There are those who are old enough to remember the period between 1962 and 1981 when he was the public face of American television news, and those who are too young to have had that experience. As one of the former, my mind flashed back to a junior high school in Connecticut on November 22nd, 1963.

Obit Cronkite

It was Walter Cronkite’s voice over the school loudspeaker that brought the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

Even though I didn’t see his face at that moment (we were in class), there was no one else I expected to be delivering such sad, earth shattering news. Sure there were other network news anchors (Huntley-Brinkley), but Walter Cronkite WAS the news to me as a 12 year old.

And so it went, through the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, to his questioning of US objectives during the Vietnam War, to his coverage of the counterculture and so many other signposts in the lives of those of us of a “certain age”. There was a gravitas to Walter Cronkite such that, as I started down my own career path in the early ’70s, I aspired to be just like him. When he signed off each night with “And that’s the way it is”, no one doubted that he was right.

I was one of those who wondered what CBS was thinking when they put him out to pasture in 1981.

Sure, Dan Rather was young and vigorous, but Walter Cronkite was timeless, ageless, and had so much more to report to us. And so he did. Freed of the constraints of “objective” reporting, Walter Cronkite in his later years was one of the first to decry the rise of monopolistic, corporate media.

What he warned us about through the 80s and 90s has come to pass, sadly. That we didn’t pay closer attention is to our collective shame. Walter Cronkite warned us about journalism as a shoddy, celebrity/profit driven profession that has lost the ability to make huge swaths of America believe what it says. And look what’s happened .

The short answer to the question at the top of this post is, “of course not”. There will never be another “Uncle Walter”, because media can’t make as much money having one man or woman possess the kind of credibility we took for granted in Walter Cronkite. After all, Rush Limbaugh calls himself an anchorman, and he does so with a straight face.

So, goodbye, Walter Cronkite. Those who saw your face every night will miss you terribly.

And we’ll miss what you represented even more.

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Did Hal Turner Cross the Free Speech Line?

It really was a toss up, whether to talk about now disgraced South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (I’m guessing he’ll soon be ex-Gov.) or a guy that’s much closer to home, Hal Turner.

Don’t know the name? Neither did I until recently. Hal Turner is a white supremacist blogger based in North Bergen, NJ. In addition to being arrested on charges he encouraged violence against two Connecticut lawmakers, he now stands charged with threatening three Chicago based federal judges.

One thing’s for sure. Hal Turner  gets around. He used to have an Internet radio program where he seemed to advocate violence against people he disagreed with.

Hal_Turner2

Yet it’s his blog that seems to arouse the interest of law enforcement. In the Connecticut case, for example, his targets were two lawmakers who introduced a bill that would have created a mechanism for monitoring how the Catholic Church handles its finances.

In his blog, Turner said he “advocates Catholics in Connecticut take up arms and put down this tyranny by force. It is our intention to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die”. And that was just in Connecticut.

My blood runs cold when I see this guy described in articles as a radio host. Still, I have to examine in my own mind whether Hal Turner’s speech, at least in the Connecticut case, is protected by the First Amendment. That’s because I tend to be absolute about the right of free speech.

imprisoned_speech

As my brother Clayton once told me, “You can’t be halfway for the First Amendment”. Yet somehow, encouraging people to go out and kill a state senator and assemblyman just sounds cowardly.

If Hal Turner’s blog postings in Connecticut don’t appear to be criminal on their face, his rant about the federal appeals court judges is beyond the pale. This time Turner allegedly wanted to retaliate for a recent ruling that upholds handgun bans in Chicago and a nearby suburb. Again, from Turner’s blog. “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed“. Turner then posted photos of the judges, phone numbers , their work address and room numbers.

This could get him ten years in prison if convicted. Hal Turner may find the First Amendment doesn’t shield everything, least of all calling for the assassination of judges. Turner also posted a chilling reference to the 2005 killings of the mother and husband of Illinois federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Maybe he should have considered leaving America and settling in a country that applauds those who advocate hatred and death. Such places do exist.

So, after all these years, I finally found a case where free speech has been taken too far.

What do you think? Did Hal Turner cross the line of free speech?

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