UC Press Podcast: Joshua Bloom on the Rise of the Black Panther Party

Black against Empire cover imageIn the latest episode of the UC Press Podcast, Black Against Empire co-author Joshua Bloom talks about the political and cultural dynamics that gave birth to the Black Panther Party, why Oakland in particular was the perfect setting for a dawning revolutionary movement, and the lasting historical impacts of what the Panthers fought for.

Bloom is a Fellow at the Ralph J. Bunche Center, and editor of the Black Panther Newspaper Collection at UCLA, the pages of which inform the richly detailed history in the book. Black Against Empire analyzes key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling.


Orrin Pilkey in the New York Times: How Not to Cope with Rising Sea Levels

The World's BeachesWhy do we rebuild our beaches, homes, and roads close to the shoreline only to see them washed away time and time again? Orrin H. Pilkey, emeritus professor of Earth Sciences at Duke University and author of The World’s Beaches, takes on this controversial subject in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. Pilkey addresses the impulse to “come back stronger and better” in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, arguing that “though empowering, [this] is the wrong approach to the increasing hazard of living close to the rising sea. Disaster will strike again. We should not simply replace all lost property and infrastructure. Instead, we need to take account of rising sea levels, intensifying storms and continuing shoreline erosion.”

Noting a personal connection to the havoc natural disasters wreak—his parents’ home in Mississippi was flooded and subsequently destroyed in two separate hurricanes—Pilkey writes:

That is madness. We should strongly discourage the reconstruction of destroyed or badly damaged beachfront homes in New Jersey and New York. Some very valuable property will have to be abandoned to make the community less vulnerable to storm surges. This is tough medicine, to be sure, and taxpayers may be forced to compensate homeowners. But it should save taxpayers money in the long run by ending this cycle of repairing or rebuilding properties in the path of future storms. Surviving buildings and new construction should be elevated on pilings at least two feet above the 100-year flood level to allow future storm overwash to flow underneath. Some buildings should be moved back from the beach.

Although local governments are spending millions of dollars replenishing beaches, he says, “this is not the time for a solution based purely on engineering.” Ultimately, Pilkey argues, “officials should seek advice from oceanographers, coastal geologists, coastal and construction engineers and others who understand the future of rising seas and their impact on barrier islands.”

Read the full article in the New York Times.

The UC Press Guide to the Affordable Care Act

Inside National Health Reform

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you may want to take a look at Inside National Health Reform, John McDonough’s firsthand account of the intense effort required to bring this legislation into law. McDonough served as Senior Advisor on National Health Reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions between 2008 and 2010, and served as an advisor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

In the book, McDonough describes the ACA’s inner workings, revealing the rich landscape of the issues, policies, and controversies embedded in the law yet unknown to many. Taking us through the Act’s ten titles, he clearly explains what the law means for most Americans’ health coverage, and what changes we can expect to see over the next few years.

For more from McDonough, listen to this interview with him on Public Radio’s KERA, or read this discussion of the role he played in the legislation in The New Republic.

And once you’ve become an expert on national health reform, dig into UC Press’s entire list of books on Health Care Policy!

UC Press Podcast: A People’s Guide to Los Angeles

A People’s Guide to Los Angeles offers an assortment of eye-opening alternatives to L.A.’s usual tourist destinations. It documents 115 little-known sites in the City of Angels where struggles related to race, class, gender, and sexuality have occurred. They introduce us to people and events usually ignored by mainstream media and, in the process, create a fresh history of Los Angeles. Roughly dividing the city into six regions—North Los Angeles, the Eastside and San Gabriel Valley, South Los Angeles, Long Beach and the Harbor, the Westside, and the San Fernando Valley—this illuminating guide shows how power operates in the shaping of places, and how it remains embedded in the landscape.


And here’s a capsule review of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles from our friends at Booklist to give you a bit more context about the book.

Author Reflections: In Your Eyes A Sandstorm

Arthur Nelson is a remarkable man. Late last year we published his book, In Your Eyes a Sandstorm: Ways of Being Palestinian. Starting with the basic question: “Who are the Palestinians?”, this compelling book of interviews reaches beyond journalistic clichés to let a wide variety of Palestinians answer the question for themselves. Beginning in the present with Bisan and Abud, two traumatized children from Jenin’s refugee camp, the book’s narrative arcs backwards through the generations to come full circle with two elderly refugees from villages that the children were named after.

As compelling as this is, and what isn’t compelling about someone willing to contribute understanding and perspective to the ongoing Palestinian discussion, it wasn’t what ultimately moved me to push “Publish” on this post.

What did, and I certainly hope you find it compelling as well, is this article from The Guardian. In 2009, while working in Gaza, Arthur was attacked on the street by a knife-wielding stranger. Last year, the Guardian commissioned him to interview the man who attacked him. This is the resulting feature article.

That said, Arthur has put together a first-rate website to give readers deeper context to his articles and books. Speaking of books, here are reviews of In Your Eyes a Sandstorm from The Jewish Daily orward and The National.

Deeper Context: Eating Bitterness

Have you noticed how far a newscast will go to slap a “local interest” angle on an otherwise perfectly newsworthy international story, as if we couldn’t possibly care about something happening on the other side of the globe without seeing another American somehow involved?
Take China, for instance. Every year over 200 million peasants flock to China’s urban centers, providing a profusion of cheap labor that helps fuel the country’s staggering economic growth. In her new book, Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration, award-winning journalist Michelle Dammon Loyalka follows the trials and triumphs of eight such migrants—including a vegetable vendor, an itinerant knife sharpener, a free-spirited recycler, and a cash-strapped mother—offering an inside look at the pain, self-sacrifice, and uncertainty underlying China’s dramatic national transformation. At the heart of the book lies each person’s ability to “eat bitterness”—a term that roughly means to endure hardships, overcome difficulties, and forge ahead. These stories illustrate why China continues to advance, even as the rest of the world remains embroiled in financial turmoil. At the same time, Eating Bitterness demonstrates how dealing with the issues facing this class of people constitutes China’s most pressing domestic challenge.

Beyond that, Michelle has created a great supplemental website to give much of the background and context to her book.

One would think that this alone would make for a compelling story, but say you also drop a common American object of desire into the mix, namely either an iPhone or an iPad,  and suddenly the issue is brought into sharp focus with an ABC “Nightline” feature and a front page New Times story. One of the other valuable voices in the Times was an op/ed by Michelle seeing the issue through the research she’d completed for the book. This, also, appeared in the Times, this time from their tech and gadget reporter, David Pogue.

The Occupy Movement as a Teachable Moment

As the Occupy movement continues to grow and influence the global economic debate, two of our editors came forward with what titles they would recommend people consider if they want to gain perspective on the issues behind the debate. If you have any UC Press titles you’d like to add to the list, please us know in the comments.

From Naomi Schneider, Executive Editor:

Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America edited by Kim Voss and Irene Bloemraad




Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression by Dale Maharidge and photographs by Michael S. Williamson, with a foreword by Bruce Springsteen




The Activist’s Handbook: A Primer, Updated Edition with a New Preface by Randy Shaw





Changing Inequality by Rebecca Blank





Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged by Katherine S. Newman and Rourke O’Brien





From Niels Hooper, History Editor-

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige




The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All by Peter Linebaugh





Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, A new direction for labor by two of its leading activist intellectuals by Bill Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin




Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics by Rebecca Solnit





The Modern World-System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914 by Immanuel Wallerstein

London’s Riots and the Politics of Race: Guest Post by Natasha K. Warikoo

Balancing ActsOn August 4th, British police shot Mark Duggan, a black British criminal suspect, in Tottenham, London. A peaceful demonstration of Duggan’s supporters demanding to know just what happened and why policed fired at him quickly turned into violence and looting that spread to all major cities of England. Much of the media coverage of the events in Britain and abroad suggested that race was driving the malaise felt by looters and rioters across the country. However, soon writers could not ignore the diverse faces of rioters and looters on the streets of London and beyond, most obviously demonstrated by the London Metropolitan Police’s flickr.com site devoted to identifying criminals caught on camera. In a twist on the recognition of the multiracial nature of the 2011 riots, British historian David Starkey, in an interview aired on BBC, suggested that “the whites have become black”, attributing a negative, anti-society culture to black Britons that is now spreading to the white working class. Although Starkey’s racist comments were simplistic and offensive, they demonstrate that those on the left and right in Britain now understand that conflicts between police and young men in Britain are not limited to or even preponderant among black young men.

Aside from socioeconomic conditions, repeated police encounters like Duggan’s anger young men. However, in contrast to the United States, young white working class men in Britain also frequently experience random “stop and searches”. In my research with teens attending diverse secondary schools I found that both Afro-Caribbean and white working class young men in London were frequently stopped by police. In Chapter 4 of Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City, I describe how these encounters usually happened on the student’s public housing complex, and students perceived that their style—especially hoodies—had something to do with police perceptions. This finding contrasted with what I heard in New York, where black young men were overwhelmingly more likely to have been stopped by the police than their white and Asian peers.

The politics of race in Britain and the United States differ sharply, and those differences come into sharp relief in Balancing Acts. I found that students at a New York high school were much more racially divided than Londoners. They identified their school’s social groups by race and ethnicity, they were more likely to share friendships and date in-group peers, and they identified who they were comfortable with and uncomfortable with in racial and ethnic terms. Londoners, in contrast, were more likely to think about race-based styles and tastes. For example, one young woman in London told me this about the social groups at her school:

It’s like, there is all black in my group…There is one mixed race person and there is one white person, but the white person…she is more, like, you know, black. The way she behaves is like a black person, and she likes black things….And then you have the all white girls group. It’s mixed—it’s got, oh you might get a one black girl in it. She behaves like more like a white girl….

Race absolutely matters in Britain, and has played a role in social exclusion, for sure. But, it doesn’t always explain social phenomena the way we think it would from the vantage point of the United States.


Natasha Kumar Warikoo is Assistant Professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

What if There Were Nutrition Labels For Drugs?

drug fact box
An example of a drug fact box for Abilify from the New York Times

What if drug companies made simple, easy to understand labels for your prescription, the way food companies do with nutrition labels? According to Steven Woloshin and Lisa M. Schwartz, the authors of Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics, consumers might make different choices about which medicines to take.

They advocate for drug fact boxes like the one pictured at left on all prescriptions in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. Woloshin and Schwartz write that “Federal regulations already require disclosure of important side effects. But there is no rule about how this data should be presented, and no requirement at all to provide data on how well drugs work compared with placebos or other drugs. Unlike the case with other products, consumers can’t learn how well many medications work just by trying them.”Know Your Chances

Unfortunately, the authors say, the Department of Health and Human Services was asked last year to investigate the drug fact boxes and provide a recommendation on whether or not to require them, but has declared it needs another three years to come to a decision.

For Woloshin and Schwartz, the evidence in favor of requiring the boxes is clear. They say “the only way [patients] can come to an informed decision is by seeing the data. Otherwise, they can only guess — and studies show that they usually guess wrong.”

Read the full op-ed at the New York Times’ website, and learn more about how to sort through the daily barrage of health warnings and interpret the numbers behind them in Know Your Chances.

What Passes for Victory in California

California CrackupMark Paul, one of the authors of California Crackup, addresses the state budget and the low, low bar for success in his recent blog post, “Defining Failure Down.”

Paul writes: “One of the consequences of having the least functional governing system in the world is that the bar for determining what constitutes success gets set very low. Even the most ordinary and trivial things in California get counted as a victory.

A case in point is George Skelton’s column in the Los Angeles Times, triumphantly announcing “that Proposition 25 [the majority-vote budget measure] worked. California’s Capitol has become less dysfunctional.”

Yes, the Legislature and governor have enacted a budget before the July 1 start of the fiscal year, a rare event in Sacramento over the last quarter of a century. It’s good to have a budget in place as the fiscal year begins. It lets the state borrow the operating cash it needs and avoids the messy business of delaying payments to vendors and local governments that happens when a budget isn’t enacted before the fiscal year begins. …”

Read the full post on Mark Paul and Joe Mathews’ website, The California Fix.