Monthly Archives: September 2009

Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell trio at the Chicago Jazz Festival

September 3, 2009
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Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell trio at the Chicago Jazz Festival

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Wildfire and the Literary Imagination

September 2, 2009
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Wildfire and the Literary Imagination

The wildfires in Southern California, which began last week and have yet to be brought under control, now cover 140,000 acres (and can be seen from space). Firefighters continue today to battle the blaze, which comes as California is seized by a budget crisis so severe the governor is putting state property up for sale. (On a local note, the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory, which was once in the path of the flames, seems out of harm’s way for the moment. The iconic structure was designed by Daniel Burnham, who also happened to plan our fair city. Burnham’s plan of Chicago turns 150 this year, and our book The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City is the current pick for the One Book, One Chicago program.) Though wildfires grab headlines, the men and women who work tirelessly to fight them are often overlooked. The dangerous profession—two firefighters have already perished in the California blazes—makes for fascinating reading, and it has been the subject of two University of Chicago Press books. Burning to death is a hellish way to die. Yet every year men and women across the country risk their lives for low pay . . .

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The Whole Foods boycott and the history of consumer activism in America

September 2, 2009
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The Whole Foods boycott and the history of consumer activism in America

In a posting for the Washington Post‘s Short Stack blog Lawrence B. Glickman, author of Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America weighs in on the recent calls for a Whole Foods boycott in protest of an article written by company executive John Mackey critical of Obama’s health care reform program. With a large customer base of progressives ardently in support of reform, many feel betrayed by a company which they assumed would share their political and social agenda. Glickman’s article points out the long history of consumer activism in the United States and the influential role it sometimes plays in American politics (think Boston Tea Party), yet as Glickman writes: Despite their frequency throughout U.S. history, boycotts have rarely achieved their intended goals.… In the early 1900’s, African Americans in twenty-five Southern cities initiated boycotts of segregated streetcars. Most of these campaigns were short-lived, unsuccessful, and lost to history. Yet they marked an early step in the campaign against segregation, which culminated in large measure with another, successful effort—the most famous boycott in the history of the United States: the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and 1956. That movement not only ended Jim Crow transportation in that . . .

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Press Release: Rowland, Giordano Bruno

September 2, 2009
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Press Release: Rowland, Giordano Bruno

New in Paperback—Giordano Bruno (1548—1600) is one of the great figures of early modern Europe, and one of the least understood. Ingrid D. Rowland’s biography establishes him once and for all as a peer of Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Galileo—a thinker whose vision of the world prefigures ours. Writing with great verve and erudition, Rowland traces Bruno’s wanderings through a sixteenth-century Europe where every certainty of religion and philosophy has been called into question, and reveals how he valiantly defended his ideas to the very end, when he was burned at the stake as a heretic on Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori. Read the press release. . . .

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A politics of fear

September 1, 2009
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A politics of fear

Yesterday on Good Morning America, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge tried to quell the storm of reaction to his recent claim that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft pressured him to raise the terror alert level before the 2004 presidential election. “Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld,” Ridge writes in his new book, an excerpt of which was published yesterday at ABC.com. “There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.” But how, exactly, do threats of terrorism affect the opinions of citizens? Speculation abounds, but until now no one had marshaled hard evidence to explain the complexities of this relationship. Drawing on data from surveys and original experiments they conducted in the United States and Mexico, Jennifer Merolla and Elizabeth Zechmeister demonstrate how our strategies for coping with terrorist threats significantly influence our attitudes toward fellow citizens, political leaders, and foreign nations. In their forthcoming Democracy at Risk, the authors reveal, for example, . . .

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