Monday, October 1, 2012

We mourn the loss of Barry Commoner and Eric Hobsbawm

 From: Peter Dreier [] On Behalf Of Peter Dreier
Sent: Monday, October 01, 2012 9:40 AM
Subject: We mourn the loss of Barry Commoner and Eric Hobsbawm

An occasional message from Peter Dreier
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Dear Friends and Colleagues,
An occasional message from Peter Dreier  
Two legendary figures --  environmental scientist and activist Barry Commoner and historian Eric Hobsbawm -- died on Sunday, both at the age of 95.  Both changed the way we view the world.  Both influenced scholars and activists alike.
  • Barry Commoner: I posted a tribute to Commoner on the Huffington Post and The Nation.  He followed Rachel Carson as America's most prominent modern environmentalist. He viewed the environmental crisis as a symptom of a fundamentally flawed economic and social system. A biologist and research scientist, he argued in his best-selling books and many articles that corporate greed, misguided government priorities, and the misuse of technology undermined "the finely sculptured fit between life and its surroundings."  He insisted that scientists had an obligation to make scientific information accessible to the general public, so that citizens could participate in public debates that involved scientific questions. Citizens, he said, have a right to know the health hazards of the consumer products and technologies used in everyday life. Those were radical ideas in the 1950s and 1960s, when most Americans were still mesmerized by the cult of scientific expertise and such new technologies as cars, plastics, chemical sprays, and atomic energy. Commoner linked environmental issues to a broader vision of social and economic justice. He called attention to the parallels among the environmental, civil rights, labor, and peace movements. He connected the environmental crisis to the problems of poverty, injustice, racism, public health, national security, and war.
  • Eric Hobsbawm:  Hobsbawm was a great historian and wonderful wordsmith who, like Howard Zinn, looked at history from the "bottom up." I read one of his early books, Primitive Rebels, in college, which revealed how everyday acts of resistance can lay  the groundwork for broader political movements. His sweeping studies of world history -- The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848,  The Age of Capital: 1848-1875,  The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, and The Age of Extremes: The Short 20th Century,1914-1991 -- were brilliantly mind-boggling. His writing was somewhat tainted by his Communist Party ties, which he maintained into his later years, but  he was nevertheless an influential scholar who examined the impact of class and culture on history. He also wrote widely and insightfully about jazz, a lifelong love. Obituaries in the Washington Post, the UK Guardian, and the Financial Times, don't do justice to his work and influence.
Josh Freeman's Post-war History:  Josh Freeman's new book,  American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945-2000, is in the Hobsbawm tradition.  It is a broad history of post-World War 2 America.  As Tom Sugrue writes in his review in The Nation, "American Empire is comprehensive in its sweep, but returns to three major themes: the country’s extraordinary economic growth, especially in the quarter-century following World War II; the proliferation of mass movements to bring the promise of democracy to fruition on the home front; and the dramatic expansion of American power in the world."
My New York book tour:  I'll be giving two talks in New York City this month about my new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.    On Tuesday, October 16, I'll be speaking at the New School (Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang Building, 65 West 11th Street, 5th floor). The event starts at 6 pm.  On Thursday, October 18, I'll be speaking at the think tank Demos with Bill Moyers. It will start at 6:30  pm at Demos' offices (220 Fifth Avenue, 2nd floor).  I'll also be speaking at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff next Monday, October 8th at 6 p.m. in the Cline Library, Assembly Hall.
Sarah Silverman Takes on the GOP:  This video, "Let My People Vote," is hilarious and serious. Sarah Silverman speaks out about the Republicans' voter-suppression campaign.
Kuttner on Scott Brown:   In an article in Huffington Post, Bob Kuttner reveals that Sen. Scott Brown's attempt to rebrand himself as a Republican moderate is "hogwash."  Brown is facing Elizabeth Warren, the courageous progressive who is considered Enemy #1 by the banking industry, which has poured huge sums into Brown's campaign coffers.
The Truth Behind Proposition 32:  Proposition 32, which will be on the California ballot next month, is touted by its supporters as a magic bullet that will stop influence peddling in Sacramento by corporate and union interests alike. However, beneath the ballot measure’s lofty rhetoric lies a radical truth: Prop. 32 will almost exclusively silence the voice of organized labor while deeding the state’s political landscape to big business and the independently wealthy. Matthrew Fleischer's fantastic investigative reports about Proposition 32, published on the feisty Frying Pan News website, gives readers the truth about this dangerous initiative.  This Wednesday, October 3, Crosby, Stills & Nash, along with Tom Morello, will be performing at a concert to raise awareness about the dangers of Proposition 32.  It starts at 7 pm at the Nokia Theater in downtown LA.  Tickets are free.  Check this website for more information.
Governor Brown's Outrageous Vetoes:  On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, an important piece of legislation that would have provided key workplace protections for nannies, housekeepers, and other domestic workers. Here is the reaction from Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She'll be speaking at Occidental College on October 23.  On the same day, Brown vetoed two bills that would have improved working conditions -- and prevented serious injuries and deaths -- for California's farmworkers, according to the United Farm Workers union, which supported both bills.  Donald Cohen and I explained why these bills were so important in an article on Huffington Post a few weeks ago.  In contrast, Brown signed a bill to allow young undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.   Many of the farmworkers and domestic workers who lives will be hurt by Browns' vetoes are the parents, brothers, sisters, and other family members of the young undocumented immigrants who will be helped by being able to get drivers licenses.  California's business groups lobbied hard against the bills to protect domestic workers and farm workers. When it comes to protecting the state's most vulnerable workers, Brown -- who in an earlier life was an ally of the UFW -- is now on the wrong side.
Angelica Salas at Oxy:  Immigrant rights activist (and Occidental College alum) Angelica Salas will be speaking at Oxy this Tuesday (October 2) at 7 pm about "Dreaming Big: Immigrant Rights and the 2012 Election."  As the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), she is one of the most impressive and effective activists in America today -- a national leader of the immigrant rights movement, a frequent guest on national TV and radio shows, and often quoted in the local and national media. She’s met with President Obama at the White House as a representative of the immigrant rights movement and has played an important role in the successful campaign for the Dream Act.  Several years ago,  Oxy gave her an honorary degree for her service to the community.  Her talk will be held in Mosher Hall, lecture hall 1, on the Oxy campus.
Oxy's Campaign Semester:  Thirty-two Occidental students are now working on Presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns in key swing states, including Florida, Hawaii, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, Montana, Massachusetts, and Virginia.  In Hawaii, we have Oxy students working on both sides of the U.S. Senate race.  These students are all participating in Oxy's Campaign Semester program, which began in 2008.  They get a full semester's credit. After the election is over, they return to campus for an intensive five-week seminar.  Their weekly emails about their experiences are inspiring to read.  They are learning a great deal about the real world of politics and about themselves.  As far as I know, it is the only program of its kind anywhere in the country.
The opinions expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of Occidental College or its employees. Occidental College is not responsible for the content of this communication.



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