Archive by Author

Saul Alinsky Elementary School?!

24 Jul

Saul Alinsky Elementary School?

Gloria Steinem Middle School?

Pete Seeger High?

Seem far-fetched? You’d be surprised by all the radicals and progressives whose names adorn public schools and other public spaces.  My article in today’s Huffington Post provides a list.

Who Is the “Greatest”?

20 Jul

When Matt Lewis, a conservative blogger, interviewed me on his “Daily Caller” radio show last week, he mistakenly (and perhaps inadvertently) called my new book, “The 100 Greatest Progressives of the 20th Century.” In fact, the book is called “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.”  But his confusion is understandable, because most lists of “greatest” Americans include the usual suspects like Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, John Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan,  Walt Disney, Louis B. Mayer, D. W. Griffith, and even Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley.  You won’t find any of those names in my book.  They may have been accomplished in their specific fields, but they did not contribute to making America a more just, equal, or democratic society, which is how I define “greatest.”  Most of them, in fact, actively opposed movements for social justice. Henry Ford was a reactionary, an anti-semite, a vicious union buster, and an admirer of Hitler. Aviator Lindbergh shared Ford’s anti-semitism and admiration of Hitler.  Rockefeller, Disney and Mayer were corporate tycoons, right wingers, and union busters. Filmmaker Griffith was a pathbreaker in his use of camera techniques, but he was a rapid racist, as revealed in his most famous movie, The Birth of a Nation, which included positive portrayals of slavery and the Ku Klux Klan and outrageous stereotypes of African Americans. Reagan, a one-time union president, became a right-wing Republican and foe of progressive movements. Babe Ruth was a fantastic athlete and Elvis was a remarkable entertainer, but neither meet my criteria for greatness. Muhammad Ali used to call himself “The Greatest.”  He was referring to his boxing skills. If that was his only claim to fame, he wouldn’t be profiled in my book. But he was not only an outstanding pugilist but also a fierce opponent of America’s war in Vietnam who defied his government by refusing to be drafted, risking prison and the withdrawal of his boxing title.  Ali transcended his role as a sports figure to become a man acclaimed around the world as a person of conscience. So he does belong in my book of 100 Greatest Americans of the 20thCentury, along with folks like Eugene Debs, Jane Addams,  Emma Goldman, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Dorothy Day, Norman Thomas, A.J. Muste, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Saul Alinsky, Pete Seeger, Howard Zinn, Gloria Steinem, Michael Harrington, Ted Kennedy,  Barbara Ehrenreich, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Moore.

TUNE IN! KCRW tonight @ 7 p.m.

19 Jul

I will be speaking on Warren Olney’s show tonight about my new book.

Tune in at 7 p.m. on KCRW (89.9 FM)…

Tune in for some straight talk about social justice!

The Sweatshop Olympics

18 Jul

Out of nowhere, members of Congress, including Republicans, are outraged that the uniforms for the 2012  U.S. Olympic team are made in China. Some of them even want to burn the uniforms and force the US Olympic Committee to purchase American-made versions.  But what’s outrageous is not that the uniforms are made in China, but that they are made in sweatshops! And the same Republicans who pretend to be outraged at the Olympic Committee’s out-sourcing haven’t lifted a finger to deal with the exploitation of Asian workers toiling for US-based corporations like Wal-Mart, Nike, and most other global companies that produce clothing, toys, and computers. What did they expect? The US Olympic Committee raises its money from private corporations who, in turn, expect their corporate names and logos to be attached to the Olympics in endless ways. The American team uniforms were made by Ralph Lauren which, like almost every other apparel corporation, produces its clothing in Asians sweatshops.  There IS an alternative, however – trade agreements that set standards for workers’ rights.  And for a real-live example of a clothing factory that respects workers’ rights, read about the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republican, which I wrote about for the Nation last year.   (By the way, most American flags are made in China!!)

HOT review from Frying Pan News

17 Jul

“Writer/professor Peter Dreier’s new book is called The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, a nervy title that dares readers to take a poke at the author’s chin. A corrective to Greatest Generation blather, Dreier’s 100 profiles refract a century of progressive movements through the lives of leaders whose native radicalism helped push America toward a more humane vision of society.”

Check out the rest of the article here.

Visualize Our Lopsided Economy

16 Jul

I’m often impressed by how some people with better graphic skills than me can put together graphs and charts that explain key aspects of our economy that are easy to understand but not over-simplified.  The Telltale Chart website is one of the best, including this graphic, Robber Barons Revisited showing the increasing share of our GDP that goes to owners (versus workers).  The ConnecttheDotsUSA website has this fantastic graphic revealing Wealth Distribution: Perception vs. Reality. It reveals that Americans are much more egalitarian than most media or politicians give them credit for. And thanks to the progressive think tank Demos for this series of easy-to-read charts tracking the reality of poverty.


15 Jul

Matt Lewis, a conservative blogger, interviewed me about my new book on his “Daily Caller” radio show. Most of his radio guests lean to the right, but I was impressed that his questions were fair and balanced (to coin a phrase), and that he’d obviously read the book!  You can hear the 30-minute interview here. Barry Lynn interviewed me today on his syndicated “Culture Shocks” radio show about my book. You can hear the 40-minute interview on the show’s website, linked here.  Jon Wiener, the respected historian who writes frequently for The Nation, interviewed me on his KPFK radio show last Wednesday (7/11), which you can hear here.   

The Homeowner Bill of Rights: brought to you by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

13 Jul

The Homeowner Bill of Rights is a HUGE victory for progressives. This article explains why it will help lot of homeowners facing foreclosure. But, in a ridiculous example of “he said/she said” reporting, the reporter quotes an economist hired by the banking lobby to defeat the bill, but doesn’t explain that this victory was the result of an incredible two-year grassroots campaign led by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), which isn’t even mentioned in the article. The ACCE-led coalition beat the combined power of the banking, real estate, and business lobby, including the Chamber of Commerce.

Woody Guthrie and Occupy

12 Jul

In a wonderful accident of good timing, the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth (July 14) comes as the Occupy Wall Street movement is re-energizing the American Left. Guthrie viewed his music as part of the struggle for social justice. He wrote songs about families facing foreclosure by unscrupulous banks, migrant Mexican farm workers exploited by agribusiness, and politicians who turned a blind eye to the widespread suffering — topics that unfortunately still resonate today. He also penned patriotic songs about America’s promise and its natural beauty, and angry songs encouraging Americans to organize unions and protest against injustice.

This year, the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum and the Guthrie Foundation and Archives is sponsoring “Woody at 100,” a series of concerts, conferences and museum exhibits to celebrate the life and music of the radical troubadour and songwriter, including a tribute concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on October 14. Guthrie’s daughter Nora (who oversees the Foundation and Archives) hopes that the centennial celebration will introduce younger Americans not only to Guthrie’s music but also to the tradition of linking songs to social protest. Tulsa’s George Kaiser Family Foundation has purchased the comprehensive Woody Guthrie Archives and has opened a downtown space to display parts of the collection later this year.

Read the rest of this article here.

Resurrecting Saul Alinsky

11 Jul

In the 1960s and ’70s, Saul Alinsky, often considered the founder of community organizing, was a popular figure among liberal activists, based primarily on his how-to manuals, Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, and his reputation as a tough-talking, street-smart agitator who helped poor and working-class Americans gain a voice in battles with politicians and corporations. Now the Republican Party and its right-wing echo chamber are trying to make Alinsky, who died at 63 in 1972, famous all over again, by linking him to Barack Obama and demonizing the president as a dangerous radical.

During his primary campaign, Newt Gingrich constantly invoked Alinsky’s ghost. “The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky,” he said in stump speeches and television appearances. Or variously: “If you believe as we do in the Declaration of Independence and you think that’s a better source than Saul Alinsky, welcome to the team.” “The president believes in a kind of Saul Alinsky radicalism which would lead to a secular European socialist model.”

Read the rest of this article here.