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New Review from Robert Elias in Peace Review

16 Jul

What makes a person a “great” American? The question lies at the heart of the book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century. According to the author, Peter Dreier, a “great” individual displays a “commitment to social justice and a record of accomplishment, of using their talents to help achieve important progressive change.” His “greatest” include “organizers and activists who mobilized or led grassroots movements for democracy and equality.” Or, they were “writers, musicians, artists, editors, scientists, lawyers, athletes, and intellectuals who challenged prevailing ideas and inspired Americans to believe a better society was possible.” Or they might have been politicians who “gave voice to social justice movements in the corridors of power and translated their concerns into new laws that changed society.” Using those guidelines, and what seems to be his near-encyclopedic knowledge of the history of twentieth-century political and social movements, Dreier lays out his choices, chronologically, in one hundred, short, provocative biographical essays.

Download the full review (PDF)

Robert Elias (2013) Peter Dreier, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 25:2, 322-325, DOI: 10.1080/10402659.2013.785790

Oxy’s Campaign Semester is “the only one of its kind”

5 Nov

You can read all the textbooks in the world about campaigns and elections, but until you’ve worked on one, you don’t realize how chaotic and exciting it is.

Read more about Oxy’s innovative Campaign Semester where students earn credit to work on campaigns on The New York Times.

Pre-Existing EVICTIONS…

31 Oct

Wells Fargo Bank and US Bank have chosen to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month by trying to evict breast cancer survivors from their homes.

Last week, Ana Casas Wilson — a wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy and terminal stage-four breast cancer, and who has struggled for months to get Wells Fargo and US Bank to accept her money and stop foreclosing on her home of forty years — received a final 5-day notice to vacate from LA County Sheriff Lee Baca’s office. Wilson and her family briefly fell behind on her payments after she had to go into the hospital for a double mastectomy, as I described in an earlier post. She and her friends and supporters have launched a round-the-clock vigil at her home in a blue-collar suburb outside Los Angeles (8968 San Juan Ave., South Gate, CA 90280) to resist eviction, as the Los Angeles Times reported last week.

It turns out that Wilson isn’t the only cancer victim that Wells Fargo and US Bank are trying to evict. Community groups around the country have met with others in a similar situation. One of them is retired police detective Jacqueline Barber. She spent 20 years on the Atlanta police force, only retiring after she was injured by a car in the line of duty. In 2009, the predatory loan on her house caused her monthly payment to go up by $1500, and she fought to stay current, according to a local Atlanta news outlet. Then she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and had to undergo aggressive treatment to save her life. She fought back against the disease, and spent months filling out forms and asking Wells Fargo for modifications to her mortgage.

A Wells Fargo Executive Vice President assured he they were working on her case. Instead, they sold her loan to US Bank at foreclosure auction, and now she’s fighting imminent eviction. The banks are refusing even to sell the home to friends and family who have banded together to help Jacqueline.

We all know that increased stress makes it harder for the body to fight back against serious illness. There is little in life that is more stressful than being evicted. By pursuing these foreclosure evictions US Bank and Wells Fargo are hurting the lives of Ana and Jacqueline.

Send a Signal to Wall Street

23 Oct

Ana Wilson is a courageous 50-year old woman confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy and stage-four breast cancer, who is fighting Wells Fargo and US Bank’s efforts to foreclosure and evict her from her home. As I’ve written in an article on Monday for Huffington Post, Wilson has told Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca that she will refuse to leave her home if his deputies try to evict her.   (The Sheriff’s five-day “notice to vacate” expires on Tuesday).  Ironically, this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Is Sheriff Baca aware that he may be evicting a woman with stage-four breast cancer?

You can help save Ana’s home — and also help put the nation’s foreclosure epidemic and “underwater” housing crisis on the public agenda. 

Along with her supporters from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and other organizations, Wilson has informed Sheriff Baca that she is willing to risk arrest to stop an eviction.  They will hold a press conference at 11 am Tuesday at her South Gate home, then will caravan to Baca’s Monterey Park headquarters. Tuesday night they will attend the South Gate City Council meeting asking the City for assistance.

As I describe in my article, in 2009, Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She fell behind in her mortgage payments after she was hospitalized and had a double mastectomy. Her husband, a school custodian, had to quit his second job to take care of her and the family income fell.  Soon the family’s finances stabilized and they asked Wells Fargo (which is servicing the loan) to renegotiate the mortgage, but the bank refused to do so or accept her payments. In desperation, Wilson and her supporters resorted to a protest in April at the $5 million San Marino mansion of Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s senior executive VP and chief financial officer, where she simply wanted to give him a check for her mortgage. Instead, she was arrested, as I reported in a Huffington Post article two weeks ago.  Her trial is scheduled for next month. Meanwhile, she could lose her home if Wells Fargo gets its way.

Wilson is one of a growing number of Americans who are refusing to leave willingly when the bank or sheriff come knocking on their doors. Wall Street banks created this epidemic of foreclosures and they should be held responsible for fixing the problem, as I discuss in my article.

Wilson does not want to be among the 4 million Americans who have lost their homes to foreclosure in the past few years, often as a result of circumstances beyond their control, including banks’ illegal and/or predatory lending practices. Another 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so behind in their mortgage payments that they soon will be confronted with losing their homes.

In the past six years, housing prices nationwide have fallen by a third. Families have lost nearly $7 trillion of home equity.  About 15 million homeowners are “under water” — they owe $700 billion more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Many economists agree that the most effective solution would be for the federal government to require banks to renegotiate mortgages for “underwater” owners to reflect the new market values of their homes. The Obama administration has created several programs to help families facing foreclosure, but has resisted the idea of requiring banks to repair the damage they caused. The bank industry lobby, including Wells Fargo, has fought to stop any legislation mandating “principal reduction.” Instead, they want any mortgage re-sets to be entirely voluntary.

If you’d like to help Ana Wilson keep her home — and by doing so send a signal to Wall Street bankers and elected officials that the banks, not the victims of the mortgage crisis, should be punished — there are three things you can do:

  • Call Sheriff Lee Baca at (323) 267-4800 to request that he not enforce the eviction order for Ana Casas Wilson, given that Ana and her family can afford modified payments and given Ana’s medical condition.
  • Call Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at (415) 396-7018 to request that he reconsider loan modification for Wilson and her family.
  • Add your name to the more than 13,000 people who have already signed this petition on behalf of Ana Casas Wilson:


My interview on Tavis Smiley’s show

22 Oct

I was happy to be included on Tavis Smiley’s show the other day on PBS!

“For more than three decades, Peter Dreier has been involved in urban policy as a scholar, a government official, a journalist and an advocate for reform at both the national and local levels. He’s written widely on American politics and public policy and is a frequent speaker to a wide variety of professional, scholarly and civic organizations. He’s currently professor of politics and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Los Angeles’ Occidental College. In his text, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, Dreier profiles the century’s most effective and influential reformers and radicals.”

Please see my interview with Tavis Smiley here.

In honor of opposition to Mr. Schwarzenegger

6 Oct

I never had any intention of purchasing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pathetic new biography, so it would be disingenuous to say that I am “boycotting” the book.

What you use those muscles for Arnold?

The truth is, few people of conscience — who certainly abhor Schwarzenegger as both a person and a politician — are likely to buy the book. But to register my protest against his behavior toward his wife, his children, women in general and the people of California, I’ve donated the price of the book — $35.00 – to the Feminist Majority Foundation. and to the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Where these websites ask “donation in honor of,” I wrote, “Opposition to Arnold Schwarzenegger.” I encourage others to join me in this protest.




5 Oct

See my discussion with Joan Brunnwasser of OpEdNews about my recent article Meet the Bank CFO Fighting to Foreclose on a Wheelchair-Bound Cancer Patient.

You can find the article here.

Tim Sloan: A face from the 1%

4 Oct

Wells Fargo CFO Tim Sloan makes $8 million a year and lives in a $5 million house in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. His bank is trying to evict Ana Wilson from her tiny home in blue-collar South Gate. Wilson, a wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy and breast cancer, missed several mortgage payments while she was in the hospital. Frustrated by Wells Fargo’s refusal to renegotiate her loan, Wilson went to Sloan’s mansion to protest her mistreatment. San Marino cops arrested her.

Who is the real criminal here? Read more about Tim Sloan vs. the 99% here.

New York Book Tour…

27 Sep

I’ll be giving two talks in New York City in October 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 7 pm at Demos’ offices (220 Fifth Avenue, 2nd floor).  I’ll have more details in my next message, including news about another possible speaking gig.  I’ll also be speaking at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Monday, October 8th at 6 p.m. in the Cline Library, Assembly Hall.

Who you calling “dependent,” Romney?

19 Sep

Speaking to a group of like-minded conservatives, Mitt Romney disses the 47% of Americans who, he claims, “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Raise your hand if you:

  • went to a public college or university
  • work for government (i.e., cops, teachers, firefighters, military, social workers, librarians, school janitors, judges, court reporters, bus drivers, etc),
  • borrow books from a public library,
  • work for or own stock in a defense contractor,
  • get your electricity or water from a government-owned utility,
  • went to, or send your kids to, public school,
  • ride on government-run buses, subways or light-rail,
  • use or work for the post office,
  • went to college on the GI Bill, Pell Grant, state financial aid program,
  • are retired and get Social Security payments,
  • ever used food stamps,
  •  lived in public housing or had a Section 8 voucher,
  • used a wheelchair ramp mandated by the Americans for Disability Act,
  • get your health care from the Veterans Administration hospital,
  • go boating or fishing in a government-run lake,
  • have a job whose workplace is safer because of OSHA rules
  • work for a company or nonprofit organization that has a contract with the local, county, state or federal government
  • have a family member who depends on a government-subsidized home health care aide,
  • pay for your medicine and medical care with Medicaid,
  • got a tax subsidy for your mortgage interest and/or property taxes,
  • recycle your garbage through your city’s sanitation department,
  • took a vacation in a national or state park,
  • own a family- or corporate-owned farm that is irrigated by a government-owned dam,
  • played baseball or soccer or used the see-saw or swings in a public park or playground,
  • got your polio and other vaccination shots at your public school,
  • traveled with a government-issued passport,
  • used an elevator inspected for safety by the local building department,
  • eat food inspected for safety by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
  • went to a restaurant inspected by the local Health Department,
  • were helped by a police officer, park ranger or firefighter,
  • have a savings account in a bank regulated by the Federal Deposit insurance Corporation
  •  flew on an airplane inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration