Understanding Joni Mitchell


The beginning of my “Understanding Joni” playlist.

This playlist is meant to provide an entry point to Joni Mitchell in addition to offering a more profound exploration of her work. It goes far beyond the singles and her early successes, which are brilliant in their own right, to get at the tracks that are easily missed, overlooked, or overshadowed.

For Part 1, here are 12 songs that span the breadth of her career, stylistic changes, and themes.

I’m starting with Little Green, possibly a familiar song, off of Blue (1971), because it holds the key to understanding much of the melancholy that marks Joni’s work. While obvious in hindsight, at the time of it’s release it wasn’t known, beyond a few individuals, that Joni had to give up her daughter, Kelly, about whom this song is written. We get rich imagery of nature, seasons, sadness and celebration, and an unaccountable man–all of which are central themes throughout Joni’s career.

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Cincinnati pride Socialist speakout: build lgbtq/immigrant solidarity


Right now there are thousands of immigrant children and parents sitting in cages, separated violently by ICE. They might never see each other again. Though the separation policy was rescinded, its not retroactive. Raids on businesses and neighborhood sweeps will continue to rip families apart. Zero tolerance continues and new families arriving will be thrown in prison camps together.

What does this have to do with Pride? It wasn’t too long ago that LGBT families were torn apart by the state and reactionary vigilantes. It wasn’t too long ago that just being LGBT was criminalized.

Those victories are fresh and setbacks like the bathrooms bills and continued violence show they aren’t permanent. We should also acknowledge that the recent resurgence in violence against lgbt people came alongside the attacks on immigrants. And it’s shameful!

We have to fight back! We need mass movement that link up our struggles. We are here because we are saying make pride political!

This month, corporations plaster rainbows over their logos. But these measures are only surface level–take it from me, I work in marketing–providing cover for the fact that their material interest—the pursuit of profit—go against that of working people.

There is so much wealth in the world, but inequality is worse than ever. Jeff Bezos, CEO of amazon, is the richest man in the history of the world. This month his company is running pride stories on their homepage. Bezos personally spoke out against a measly tax that would build public housing for homeless people in Seattle. He sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a repeal effort that scared 7 democrats on the city council into a repeal.

All workers face historically high rates of homelessness or lack of affordable housing, of joblessness or underemployment, of lack of access to healthcare. And for LGBT people, the problems are compounded.

We are 40,000 units short of affordable housing in Cincinnati. And finding good housing or a good job is harder if you’re black or trans and have to face bigoted landlords and bosses. 50,000 families were evicted in the last few years here. 800 lgbt youth face homelessness in Cincinnati each year, a problem so bad that lighthouse youth services opened a shelter just for LGBT teens. Nationally, 40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

The rich will exploit you for your labor and pay you a measly salary. What’s worse, immigrants, undocumented or not, along women and lgbt people are sometimes forced to work criminalized jobs to make ends meet all while laws are passed to make our survival harder. Capitalism forces you to live your life a certain way. When you look or sound different, bigots will kill you or lock you in cages.

This much us true: if we let them get away with rounding up immigrants, of ethnically cleansing through criminalization and deportation, don’t expect them to stop there.

How do we fight back? Though we face the wrath of Donald Trump, the solution isn’t to allow ourselves to be used as props by opportunistic politicians and businesses try and get reelected or sell their products, nor is it for us to cast damage control votes and stop there.

A socialist transformation of society is the only way to challenge the underlying motives that use lgbt people and immigrants as bargaining chips in the petty battles of the ruling class.

Equality means nothing if we can’t make ends meet!

Solutions could start with taxing the rich and corporations and funding Medicare for all and housing for all. This benefit everybody in the 99%, but especially lgbt people, women, people of color and immigrants. We can fight against the laws that criminalize trans kids and dreamers, fight for protections for sex workers and undocumented workers.

LGBT people aren’t just allies–we have to be accomplices in the replacement the system we have today with something better and more just.

What does that look like? Let’s take an example. In the case of marriage equality, though it was the court that made the decision, WE won in the STREETS. We posed a threat to the ability for business as usual to continue.

Strategies that relies on court decisions aren’t viable in the long run. We’ve seen how the foothold that was left for pro-life forces in “Roe v Wade” has been torn open in an all out assault on privacy and reproductive justice that reaches far beyond pregnant people. Lobbying and professionalism aren’t substitutes for mass action.

Instead, a mass movement fighting for a socialist program is the only alternative that can turn the tide of the oppression that hurts all of us as long as it hurts one of us. Liberation for LGBT people is tied up with the liberation of immigrants.

Pride is political, it’s a celebration and a protest!

We will not stand silent as families are torn apart, as people sleep on the street, as people die from lack of health case, as abortion is criminalized. And we sure as hell won’t go back into the closet.

What is our next step? Come out on June 30 at 1pm at Washington park for a mass rally calling to reunite families and protect immigrants! Bring a sign and be ready for more actions in the future.

Visit Socialist Alternatives table for more information.


When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!

When trans people are under attack, what do we do?

When working people are under attack, what do we do?


We need to build a movement that demands

  • an end to the separation of families, for end to the mass incarceration and gestapo tactics by ICE.
  • For taxing the rich and corporations, including many represented here today,
    • And using this money to build quality affordable housing and medicare for all, including abortion and reproductive coverage.

The Transitional Program and its use today


This was prepared as a discussion lead-off for a day school of the Ohio chapters of Socialist Alternative. Page numbers refer to the American SWP’s edition of the program, which I highly recommend.



The Transitional Program is the founding document of the 4th International, also called the Trotskyist international, and though it was written and adopted 80 years ago this year, still serves as a beacon for our movement today. Though much has changed since that time, the basic premise of the problem that the program seeks to solve still exists, in a discussion before the first congress of the 4th international, the most prominent member Leon Trotsky said “The whole Transitional Program must fill the gaps between consciousness today and soviets tomorrow” (101).

We face the same dilemma of being in a decidedly pre-revolutionary period. The objective factors–the economic conditions–for socialist revolution are present: there is both a high level of development, but a failing return on new measures and innovations meant to solve the problems of the stagnating system. Thus, like in the 1930’s we find ourselves in a time of crisis that ought to be ripe for a revolutionary movement.

But we also know that the subjective factors for revolution are not there. The working class, the agent of revolution, knows neither the root cause of the problems they face, nor the way to solve those problems. Mass movements like Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, the West Virginia teachers strike, and the Gun Control student march spring up in response to oppression symptomatic of capitalist exploitation. But the root cause is deliberately obscured and are rarely taken up in a serious manner by these movements, so they get suppressed, co-opted or ignored and die out.

The Transitional Program seeks to bridge the gap between the pre-revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary conditions through an escalating series of demands that begin at the level of mass consciousness as we encounter it and points toward revolutionary conclusions.

In this way, the program seeks to solve the second issue that is really the root of the gap: the historic crisis of revolutionary leadership. Betrayals by Stalinists, petty bourgeois opportunists, naive ultra leftists and retrograde fascists have lead to the brakes being pumped on various revolutionary movements. It is our job to be more effective leaders in those movements when they arise, and the Transitional Program offers a framework for intervention that continually pushes those movements forward, neither halting them nor moving them backwards.

I’ll cover three parts today:

  1. I’ll offer a brief historical background to contextualize the 4th international and the Transitional Program.
  2. I’ll talk about the program itself, the types of demands it raises and what we can learn from the document directly.
  3. I’ll talk about the usefulness of the program in our time and what parts we can keep and what parts we need to change for the 21st century.

I hope to clarify the program’s purpose and usefulness to underline the necessity for us to utilize the methods laid out in it as the starting point in our approach to revolutionary politics.

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Gentrification and the Library.


These remarks were prepared for a meeting on the “future of our libraries” which was held on March 26 2017.

My name is Ben and I’m a member of Socialist Alternative and the Our Library Our Decision coalition.

When I spoke in August my task was to place the closure and sale of the north building in the context of various other public spaces that had been leased or sold in the last period of redevelopment–like Fountain Square, Washington Park, Music hall–and I acknowledged that the city, 3cdc and redevelopers have been quite successful in reshaping these places for their own profiteering, sometimes even in the face of resistance.

So it was a huge surprise and a victory that is far too rare for us to have beat back the attempt to sell the North building.

What I want to do today is advance a political argument that covers three topics mainly

  1. What factors would lead to things like the sale of the North Building
  2. How we averted that sale, at least for now
  3. And what we’re up against in our movement’s future, both at the library specifically and generally against development profiteers

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