Does San Francisco Need an Amusement Park?
by Randy Shaw‚
Nov. 27‚ 2013
New York City has Coney Island, Chicago has Navy Pier, Los Angeles has Universal Studios and nearby Disneyland, and San Francisco has….well, until 1972 the city had Playland at the Beach. Playland was demolished to make way for new condominiums, whose subsequent mold and financial problems were seen by many as cosmic justice for the tearing down of the city’s beloved Playland. Three years ago I reviewed James Smith’s book on the early years of Playland, and he has now produced a second volume, San Francisco’s Playland At the Beach: The Golden Years. Sadly, the “golden years” were not sufficiently profitable. Children still enjoyed Playland but adult attendance fell off. It was not recognized at the time, but Playland’s demise was part of a larger decline in San Francisco’s attractions for young people, as bowling alleys, pool halls, and pinball arcades also bit the dust.
New Book Offers Training Manual for Winning Social Change
by Steve Early‚
Nov. 07‚ 2013
(Ed Note: This review first appeared in Social Policy. Author Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron}
Randy Shaw’s Activist’s Handbook is a book with legs. First published in the early 1990s, it has now been updated as a guide to “winning social change” in the new millennium. If you’re a long distance runner in any U.S. social movement—or trying to figure out how to become one—this is the training manual for your team.
The appearance of a second edition has given the California-based author and community organizer a chance to expand upon the case studies he utilized in the initial edition, adding new material about protest activity not yet stirring two decades ago. The eclectic mix of older and new material makes the information and advice that Shaw dispenses even more useful to organizers of all types. His latest Handbook examines “new strategies, tactics, issues, and grassroots campaigns, and revisits whether activists have learned from past mistakes.”
A Movement to Free time
by Bernard Marszalek‚
Oct. 24‚ 2013
We are living in a time of dis-ease, when the millions who are consistently working long hours pass by the millions of unemployed as ships in the night. The former, physically exhausted from overwork, share with the “chronically unemployed,” themselves psychically drained from months of fruitless search for work, the continuum of employment as the extremities – from none to too much. The most obvious solution – to share the work – never enters the popular discourse. Instead, we are forever bombarded with nostrums from a plethora of pundits, left and right, who must acquire their sagacity from the backs of cereal boxes. They mouth the need for more job training, more government work projects, more tax breaks for the “job creators,” more “insourcing” and so forth.
Fortunately, Benjamin Hunnicutt in Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream provides some clarity regarding the sharing of work by telling the story of US workers’ fight to reduce their hours of toil. If that were all that this book covered it would be noteworthy since most people seem to believe that the 40-hour workweek was inscribed in the Constitution. More significantly, however, Hunnicutt makes clear that the century long fight for more free time, from twelve-hour shifts to ten, and from ten to eight and less, was a vital aspect of original American Dream.
FDR and Jews: Setting the Record Straight
by Randy Shaw‚
Oct. 10‚ 2013
In the historic 1932 presidential election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt got stronger support from the Jewish community than any other constituency. The same was true in 1936. Yet despite FDR’s strong Jewish support and appointment of record number of Jews to key positions, two falsehoods have emerged to tarnish his legacy. First, it is widely believed that FDR denied a shipload of refugees from Nazi Germany safe harbor in the U.S. and that they were returned to their oppressors and killed. As meticulously documented in Richard Breitman and Allan J.Lichtman’s new book, FDR and the Jews, this is false. The ship returned all passengers to democratic countries and none went back to Germany. Second, many, including former president George W. Bush, believe that FDR jeopardized Jewish lives by failing to bomb concentration camps. The authors also refute this common belief. If you are among those who believe that historical truth matters---and the Republican Party seems to believe otherwise---than you will cheer the authors for writing this book.
The Shipping Industry’s Troubling Underside
by Chris Tiedemann‚
Sep. 19‚ 2013
Ninety Percent of Everything, Rose George’s new book about the international shipping industry, gives new importance to “buy local” campaigns. Regardless whether our coffee is fair trade or the factories that sew our t-shirts adhere to international labor protocols, those goods, and ninety percent of everything we use, travel on large cargo ships owned by the international 1%. Ninety Percent of Everything describes the modern shipping industry and documents its terrible labor practices, pollution of the oceans and atmosphere, killing of sea life, and ability to avoid regulation in ways that big banks have never imagined possible.
Have Corporate Interests Controlled U.S. Economic Policy Since the New Deal?
by Randy Shaw‚
Sep. 05‚ 2013
G. William “Bill” Domhoff is among the leading intellectual figures of the past fifty years. Best known for his 1967 book “Who Rules America,” Domhoff has long combined meticulous research with persuasive reasoning to reach conclusions about politics in the United States that overturn conventional wisdom. Domhoff’s latest book, “The Myth of Liberal Ascendancy: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recession,” may be his most contrarian book yet. Domhoff challenges the thousands of books and articles that see the New Deal through the 1960’s as an era of progressive gains, with corporate dominance not holding sway until the 1970’s. Instead, he argues that corporate interests won on all major issues from 1939 through today, and have been particularly successful at rolling back labor rights and the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act. Domhoff’s focus is on economic policies, and he does not question the major progressive gains in areas of civil and human rights, environmental protection, and other issues not directly related to the distribution of America’s wealth. But for those who have been frustrated with President Obama’s surrender to corporate interests, and who believe things were different under FDR and LBJ, Domhoff mounts a powerful case to the contrary.
Book Review - Hardhats for Peace
by Michael Hirsch‚
Aug. 15‚ 2013
Not only does an image like that of construction workers attacking protesters (as famously occurred on Wall Street in May 1970) justify foreign interventions and military spending, it stigmatizes dissenters as illegitimate and alien to the body politic. That grossly distorts real working class sentiment or the class composition of protesters, all to divide critics themselves.
A lot of books get published. Some are worth reading. Occasionally one comes along that is so complete, so thoughtful and so well-argued that not only does it move the discussion, it closes it. In Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, City University of New York sociologist and labor educator Penny Lewis does that to a reigning myth - that the mass movement against the United States' war in Southeast Asia comprised mainly spoiled college kids, and that the true, authentic blue-collar Americans backed the war with brio. That's a slick line to propagate. Not only does an image like that of construction workers attacking protesters (as famously occurred on Wall Street in May 1970) justify foreign interventions and military spending, it stigmatizes dissenters as illegitimate and alien to the body politic. That grossly distorts real working class sentiment or the class composition of protesters, all to divide critics themselves.
The Unsinkable Jerry Brown
by Randy Shaw‚
Jul. 11‚ 2013
California Governor Jerry Brown is the leading California political figure of his time. He is also among the most important elected officials of his generation. While Brown never became President, no politician of his generation matches his diversity of elected experience and his track record of success. How did Jerry Brown, an iconoclast loner who avoids the stereotype of the back-slapping, hand shaking politician, reach such heights? That’s a question Chuck McFadden addresses in his new book, Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown. McFadden, who long covered Sacramento politics for the Associated Press, traces Brown’s life from his earliest years through his return as Governor. While it is far from the definitive work on Brown---its 180 pages is a fraction of the length of most biographies---McFadden offers many valuable insights into a politician who has maintained his privacy while living a very public life.
Walkability Key to Urban Revitalization
by Randy Shaw‚
Jun. 20‚ 2013
The most popular neighborhoods and cities in the United States have one feature in common: they are walkable. From Jane Jacob’s West Village in New York City to Santa Monica’s oceanfront to San Francisco’s North Beach, Hayes Valley and Mission Districts, it is the vibrant street life driven by pedestrians not cars that makes the difference. Jeff Speck, a co-author of the classic Suburban Nation, describes how to create these thriving city environments in a new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time (the subtitle is misleading, as Speck focuses on cities and urban neighborhoods, not simply downtowns). Speck has taken his extensive experience to come up with “The Ten Steps of Walkability” that local governments should take to make their cities more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly. Speck pulls no punches in describing the chief obstacles to walkable cities, which include traffic engineers and traffic studies. His candor makes for a book that is both lively and persuasive; Speck also provides the research to support his conclusion that walkable neighborhoods are healthier, more enjoyable, and central to economic revitalization.
Detroit and the Reimagining of America’s Urban Crisis
by Randy Shaw‚
Jun. 06‚ 2013