California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Hector Tobar in the LA Times: “California is free, vibrant and diverse”

The estimable Hector Tobar in his column today (7/28) in the L.A. Times makes the case that for all its troubles, nostalgia is just nostalgia, and in many ways, California’s golden age is now.  To bolster his points, he interviews historian Kevin Starr, who points out to him that for all its troubles, California is a much more just place than it was when it seemed that government worked like a well-oiled machine.

Tobar and Starr focus on two monuments to California history, the now-nearly forgotten Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial on Hill Street in downtown L.A., dedicated in 1957, and a more recent monument, to the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga, at the Universal City Red Line subway stop.  About the latter monument, Tobar writes:

The brightly colored tile murals installed by Margaret Garcia inside the Universal City Metro Station are under the site of the signing of the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga, which brought an end to the fighting in California.

A fraction of the size of the Ft. Moore memorial, they detail the exploits of the U.S. military men like John Charles Fremont, but also the courage of the Californio resistance leaders like Doña Bernarda Ruiz.

It was Ruiz who helped make the treaty possible, by writing a letter to Fremont proposing “to put an end to the war . . . upon such just and friendly terms of compromise as would make the peace acceptable and enduring.”

This newer monument may be buried under the Hollywood Freeway, but I think its message of compromise and diversity deserves to last a little longer.

To read the whole column, click here.

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Jon Rowe: Thank You, Sarah Palin

CSA steering committee member Jonathan Rowe has a new piece in Slate that wonders if Sarah Palin isn’t onto something with her opposition to cap-and-trade climate policy. “Let’s take her advice one step further,” Jon suggests.  “Put cap-and-trade aside—and consider another way to curb carbon emissions. The Alaska way.”

He continues:

We would start by repealing the federal income tax on individuals—most of them, at least. Alaska has no personal income tax at all. We could alter that a bit and keep the tax on, say, the richest 5 percent, for reasons I’ll explain later. We would keep the corporate income tax, however, and at a high rate, as Alaska does.

Second, we would increase federal spending per capita to roughly the level of Alaska, which is the highest in the nation. I haven’t done the math, but this would help pay for universal medical care—whatever plan Congress adopts.

The upside looks pretty good.

This dividend—plus the elimination of the income tax for most of us—would take at least some of the sting out of higher energy taxes. And you’d get the dividend whether or not you used a lot of fossil fuels. The less fuel you burned, in fact, the more you’d gain, because then your dividend check would be pure gravy, rather than just a kind of tax rebate. Drive a hybrid, or walk, or take the train, and the people in the SUVs would in effect be paying you to do so.

The result would be a climate dividend for citizens instead of a cap-and-trade system quickly gamed by Goldman Sachs.

Who knew Sarah Palin was such a visionary?

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Julia Stein at the LaborFest BookFair

CSA steering committee member Julia Stein will appear on two panels at the LaborFest BookFair, Sunday July 26 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.  Here’s the scoop from the LaborFest website, which has all the program information.

1:00 PM Poets and Musicians
Poets Avotcja, Julia Stein, Alice Rogoff, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and others.

2:30 PM Panel Discussion

Women Organizers During the 1930s & 1940’s
With Elisabeth Martinez, Julia Stein, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and others.
Women workers during the depression and the 1930’s and 1940’s were battling for justice and survival. This panel will discuss who some of these women workers were and what they did to build the labor movement.

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L.A. Times reports on proposals to remake California government

In a front-page article today, the Los Angeles Times summarizes various movements in the wings to remake California’s government in the wake of the current fiscal crisis. From the article:

A bipartisan organization sponsored by several foundations is finalizing a menu of potential solutions. Those are expected to include a change in budgeting practices and a possible shift of state-run programs such as health, education and welfare to local governments that may enjoy more public trust.

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Newish Blog: The Edge of the American West

Eric Rauschway’s blog called “The Edge of the West” has some interesting content on the West and a smattering of other national politics and culture. It’s a very good one for western historians and seems to be getting a lot of traffic.–ed

About The Edge of the American West

* Ari Kelman, Kathy Olmsted, and Eric Rauchway teach history at a fine public university at the western edge of the American West.

* Scott Eric Kaufman earned a doctorate in English at a closely related fine public university in a similar location.

* Neddy Merrill teaches philosophy at an American liberal arts college.

* David H. Noon teaches history at a fine public university at one of the many edges in the American West.

* Dana McCourt is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at an American university.

* Vance Maverick holds a PhD in computer science and develops software at the westernmost edge of the American West.

* David Silbey teaches history at a small American university that is, technically, in an extremely eastern part of the American West.

Your guess is as good as ours, but this blog seems to be about history, philosophy, literature, and selected political and cultural observations with a strong bias toward yiddishkeit, WASPhood, the 1980s, Canadiana and, most of all, the Muppets.

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Hidden Stories in Santa Monica: African American Beach Culture, 1900s-1960s

Hidden Stories in Santa Monica: African American Beach… – Eventbrite.

Hidden Stories in Santa Monica: African American Beach Culture at the Site Controversially Known as “the Inkwell”, 1900s-1960s, lecture with Alison Rose Jefferson

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (PT)

Santa Monica, CA

5:15-6:15PM Docent tours at the Guest House

6:30PM Lecture

In 2007 Ms. Jefferson created the language engraved on the plaque: “The Ink Well”: A Place of Celebration and Pain, that graces a marker in the City of Santa Monica located along Ocean Front Walk at the end of Bay Street. The monument commemorates the Jim Crow era beach site used by African Americans as a gathering place and Nick Gabaldon, the first identified surfer of African American and Mexican descent. Her independent research, of people and places which have been overlooked in the ‘collective memory’ of the heritage of the Southern California region, also resulted in the 2005 designation of Phillips Chapel, a 100-year-old African American church as a Landmark in the City of Santa Monica. An article on her research will appear in Southern California Quarterly, Summer/July 2009 issue. Ms. Jefferson earned a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation in 2007 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Stop by early for Beach House tours by docents from the Santa Monica Conservancy before every evening event, first come, first served.

Tickets: All events are free but seating is limited and reservations are required. If you would like to attend, please reserve online. Please plan to arrive by 6:15pm to retain your reservation. Late seating is not guaranteed. To adjust or cancel your reservation for this event, email We appreciate your keeping in touch!

Parking and Driving directions: From the Pacific Coast Highway north of California Incline, turn at the Beach House Way traffic light into convenient parking ($4/hr, $8/day, disabled placards and Santa Monica senior beach parking passes accepted).

Other events:

To view & make reservations for other Beach=Culture events, visit

For more information about events at the Beach House, visit


“Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963,” Kevin Starr’s latest, reviewed by Tim Rutten

The latest and concluding volume in Kevin Starr’s eight-volume series on the history of California, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963, has now been published.  Tim Rutten reviewed the book in today’s (July 8, 2009) Los Angeles Times.

The review concludes as follows:

The unspoken subtext of this book is the loss inherent — and unavoidable — in California’s greatest era of success. Population growth, suburban expansion and unprecedented economic development did despoil many places that held a kind of sanctity for generations. One can celebrate, for example, the creative, almost Alexandrine ferment that cultural diversity has given Southern California and still (as native Californians of a certain age will) regret that our own children never will sit on their grandparents’ porch and smell the perfume of orange groves blooming around them — or drive from Santa Barbara to San Diego passing quaint little beach towns strung like white stucco beads along strands of empty sand.

One feels the loss and yet knows, as Starr so clearly does, that, whatever it ultimately may mean, the dream of California will most surely die if it is denied to those who come after us. Aside from his official credentials, Starr also is deeply schooled in Catholic theology, with a long association with the Dominicans at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union, and something of the outlook of tragic Christianity informs this final volume. In an interview about California some years ago, he invoked that viewpoint’s patron saint, the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who “called it the ‘tragic sense of life’ — when bounty and beauty no longer come as unearned increment.” California, Starr said, “is increasingly difficult, competitive, and aware of enormous challenges that are forcing its citizens and institutions to struggle mightily. The typical American dreamer can no longer merely say, as he once did: ‘The solution is that I have come to California.’ The ante has been upped.”

With “Golden Dreams,” Starr has completed a magnificent gift to the people of his native state. No other in the union possesses so intelligent, humane and comprehensive a synoptic account of its origins and development. That’s all of a piece with the author’s convincing notion of California’s singularity. He has given his contemporaries and generations to come a story filled with heroic examples and tragic caution. Most of all, it is a series of histories that — like any life worth dreaming of — is worthwhile from beginning to end.

The blog will link to more reviews of the book as they become available.

–Frank Gruber

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Joint Venture Joins Bay Council in Call for Constitutional Convention

Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network joins the Bay Council in the business association push for state constitutional reform. Here is JV:SVN’s press release.–ed.

Joint Venture SV logo


9:30 am
Opening Remarks
Russell Hancock, President & CEO, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
Jim Wunderman, President & CEO, Bay Area Council

9:50 am
The Need for Reform: A Silicon Valley Perspective
Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors (invited)
Richard S. Gordon, San Mateo County Supervisor
Lawrence E. Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor

10:20 am
The Legal Path to a Constitutional Convention
Andrew Giacomini, Managing Partner, Hanson Bridget

10:40 am

10:55 am
The View From Sacramento
Mark Paul, New America Foundation
Robert Cruickshank, Courage Campaign

11:15 am
Dialogue & Discussion

11:55 am
Next Steps, Concluding Remarks
Russell Hancock
Jim Wunderman

Free, but limited to the first 300 respondents)

California is broken.

I won’t belabor the point, because it’s already obvious to anybody who’s been conscious lately: billions in debt, the state is issuing IOUs; our schools have dropped from first to worst; our infrastructure is crumbling; our prisons overflow; and because our districting system elects ideological extremes we’re stuck with dysfunction in our state capitol.

Joint Venture has signed on to a monumental effort to change it, and we’re convening our first town hall meeting July 31st to talk about it. We hope you’ll join us.

What’s the effort? The Joint Venture board of directors voted unanimously to join the movement calling for a new constitutional convention and to work as hard as we can to deliver Silicon Valley’s support for that undertaking. And to get the ball rolling we’re inviting people to the AMD conference center in Sunnyvale to talk about the process and listen to citizen feedback.

The meeting will feature panel discussion and learned commentary from constitutional experts, but most of all it will feature your own comments and advice for us as we move forward. It takes place as follows:

Date:   Friday July 31, 2009

Time:   9:30 am to 12:00 noon

Place:  AMD Commons Building
991 Stewart Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94085 (map)

The meeting is free and open to the public, but limited to the first 300 people to RSVP. Hasten your reply! We’ll look forward to seeing you on the 31st.


Russell Hancock
President & Chief Executive Officer

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Lawmakers want apology for anti-Chinese measures | Sacramento Bee

Lawmakers want apology for anti-Chinese measures – Sacramento Politics – California Politics | Sacramento Bee.

Lawmakers want apology for anti-Chinese measures

Published: Monday, Jul. 6, 2009 – 12:00 am | Page 4A
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 6, 2009 – 10:16 am

It’s not a pretty history.

But, two California legislators say, it’s time to admit it and apologize for how Chinese immigrants were treated during and after the Gold Rush.

Assemblymen Paul Fong and Kevin de Leon are sponsoring a resolution that recognizes Chinese laborers for mining ore, building levees to create farmland and constructing — at great peril and for less pay than whites — 80 percent of the western half of the transcontinental railroad.

While the Chinese toiled, the assemblymen say, California‘s 19th-century politicians passed law after law segregating the Chinese and, when their labor was no longer in high demand, tried to drive them out.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 42 calls for an apology for forcing the Chinese to pay higher taxes on gold than whites; barring them from holding certain jobs, owning property or testifying in trials; and segregating them and forbidding them from marrying whites or bringing family from China.

California politicians, the authors also note, were instrumental in persuading Congress to pass the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred more Chinese immigration.

“It’s a shameful chapter in California legislative history,” said Fong, D-Cupertino, who is of Chinese descent.

“We should recognize this as part of our history,” he said, “say our regrets and move on.”

Fong’s great-grandfather worked in California, but when Fong’s grandfather wanted to immigrate to the state in 1939, the only way he could do it was with fake papers identifying him as the Chinese-born son of a family in California that pre-dated the Exclusion Act, Fong said.

“That was the system for getting in at that time,” he said.

Fong’s grandfather farmed near San Francisco but had to rent land. State laws on the books until 1952 barred him from owning property.

De Leon, D-Los Angeles, the son of Mexican immigrants, approached Fong about a legislative resolution to make amends for this history.

De Leon’s district contains the city’s Chinatown and one of the nation’s most diverse immigrant populations.

“The Chinese deserve an acknowledgment, even if it’s a century late,” de Leon said.

Californians, he said, have a long history of benefiting from foreigners’ labor and lashing out at them during tough economic times.

“The Central Pacific Railroad went across the Pacific to recruit the Chinese. And then as soon as a project was done, the state legislators initiated ways to chase them out,” de Leon said. “I don’t think a lot of people today know that.”

In 1879, California‘s Legislature targeted the Chinese by voting to “impose conditions” to remove foreigners and protect the state from “the burdens and evils arising from the presence of aliens, who are, or may become vagrants, paupers, mendicants, criminals, or invalids afflicted with contagious or infectious diseases.”

The law was passed just 10 years after thousands of Chinese recruits hand-drilled through the Sierra Nevada to help finish the transcontinental railroad.

To prepare their resolution, Fong and de Leon consulted Bill Hing, a UC Davis immigration law and history professor.

“What happened to the Chinese,” Hing said, “is what’s happening today — let’s face it — to the Mexicans.”

Just as they have since, Hing said, California politicians then called for voter referendums on immigrants. In 1879, Californians voted overwhelmingly against Chinese immigration.

In the 19th century, racism was naked and led to laws targeting immigrants by race, Hing said.

Today, he said, many people say they resent illegal immigrants because they don’t wait their turn and enter legally.

What many people don’t realize is that there is no line for many foreigners to join, Hing said, adding that the immigration system has encouraged unlawful entry because visas don’t exist anymore for most of the jobs immigrants fill in the United States.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee passed the Chinese resolution on June 23, with no opposition.

Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, who is a member of the committee, abstained from voting. He also requested to delay a vote in the full Assembly so he could study the bill more.

“I’m not denying that what happened, happened,” Knight said. “But our job as legislators is to move the state forward.”

He said he’s worried other wronged groups will ask for more apologies.

In fact, in 2005, the Legislature passed an act apologizing for California‘s part in rounding up and deporting about 400,000 residents of Mexican descent, many U.S.-born, during the Great Depression. Nationwide, about 2 million people of Mexican descent were forced to go to Mexico.

Fong and de Leon said they believe their resolution, eventually, will easily gain approval in both the Assembly and the Senate.

They’ve received some criticism, mostly anonymous Web site postings, for pursuing a symbolic act while the state is mired in a budget crisis.

But some messages were racist, Fong said, including one that said: “Go home, gook.”

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From Wharf Rats to the Lord of the Docks: The Life and Times of Harry Bridges | KQED Public Media for Northern CA

From Wharf Rats to the Lord of the Docks: The Life and Times of Harry Bridges

Upcoming Broadcasts:

Duration: 1:26:42 CC Stereo DVI TVG

Directed by Academy Award-winning director and cinematographer Haskell Wexler, this is the film of a truly unique event – Ian Ruskin performing his one-man play to a packed house of 1000 longshore workers in San Pedro, California. The result, with appearances by Elliott Gould, Edward Asner and members of ILWU Local 13, and with music by Jackson Browne, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Tim Reynolds, Ciro Hurtado, and others (including the world premiere of Woody Guthrie’s song about Harry, sung by his granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie) is an inspiring story. It is an intimate exploration of the life and times of this extraordinary man – “a hero or the devil incarnate, it all depends on your point of view” – full of the high drama and biting humor that ran through his life. And it is a springboard into understanding the parallel issues – globalization, global responsibilities, wars on terrorism, surveillance and privacy, and the widening gap between rich and poor that we face today.

Channels and Airdates:

KQED World

Mon, Jul 6, 2009 — 1:00 am

Wed, Jul 8, 2009 — 8:00 am email reminder

Wed, Jul 8, 2009 — 11:00 am

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CSA Steerers: Two New Books, Ramparts Magazine and the Golden Gate Bridge

Paying the Toll CoverRamparts Cover

With the flurry of activity around our April conference on the Silicon Valley, we have been tardy in reporting on two new books from our own ranks. Earlier this year, Louise Nelson Dyble’s book, Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics, and the Golden Gate Bridge, came out. Dyble is chair, ex officio, of the CSA. Peter Richardson’s book on Ramparts Magazine, A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America,  is due out in a couple short months. Richardson is the current chair of the CSA.

Check out Paying the Toll here, and Richardson’s report on Dyble’s book here, where he notes her appearance on Jonathan Rowe’s KWMR radio show.

Take a look at Dyble’s very interesting blog on issues around her work at

Richardson’s blog is here, containing general information around California studies from Richardson’s “at large” activities,including updates on Ramparts goings-on.

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UC Press Awarded Major Grant for California Studies Initative from Mellon Foundation

UC Press Awarded Major Grant for California Studies Initiative

via University of California Humanities Research Institute.

UC Press Awarded Major Grant for California Studies Initiative

April 2009

University of California Press (UC Press) is pleased to announce it has received a major contribution from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a strategic initiative in California Studies. The $722,000 grant will support the creation of a journal, working papers collection, and annual conference in this emerging field.

Creating a multi-campus research and teaching initiative in California Studies is among the University of California’s most important current priorities. “Support from the Mellon Foundation is critically important at a variety of levels,” states University of California (UC) Vice Provost Daniel Greenstein, “lending credibility to an evolving field of scholarly inquiry while at the same time enabling substantial innovation on the part of UC Press and the partners it has invited into this venture.”

The collaborative project will be led by UC Press in partnership with a number of organizations both within and outside UC, including the UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), the UC California Studies Consortium (UCCSC), and the California Digital Library (CDL). The interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, which will be published in both print and digital editions, will draw on perspectives from numerous disciplines, including history, literature, anthropology, sociology, politics, ecology, and the visual arts. The journal will be supported by a collection of working papers, which will allow scholars in the field to post work in progress and invite comment. In addition, an annual conference will help guide the continuing development of the field.

UCHRI Director David Theo Goldberg states, “This project is crucial to the long-term viability, stability, and expanding capacity of UC’s California Studies Initiative to impact scholarship across a range of fields. Furthermore, it is instrumental to reaching citizens and policymakers outside of academia, as well as communities beyond state borders.”

Books on California and the West have formed a major part of UC Press’s editorial program for decades. In recent years California has become a vital topic of research, teaching, and policy debate. Recent trends suggest California has assumed a level of demographic and economic power that is reconfiguring the politics and economics of the United States, the Pacific region, and the world. The state’s increasingly global reach is evident in its immigrant population, which is among the most diverse anywhere.

“The relations between California and the larger world constitute subjects of compelling importance not only for scholars but for the public at large,” asserts Louis S. Warren, W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U.S. History at UC Davis and a member of the UCCSC steering committee. “To my mind, there could be no better home for the new journal than UC Press, one of the nation’s leading academic publishers and one of the few in the world that has the ability to bring scholarship to a broad public audience.”

The Mellon Foundation’s grant will enable UC Press and its partners to broaden the forum for scholarly communication in California Studies, provide an interdisciplinary venue for new research findings, foster interconnections among scholars, and serve as an incubator for more extensive research and publications.

“We are deeply grateful to the Mellon Foundation for fostering scholarship in California Studies at this critical moment,” notes UC Press Director Lynne Withey. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners throughout the scholarly community to disseminate the results of the Foundation’s investment to a wide and diverse international audience.”

For more information, please visit or contact UC Press Regional Publisher Kim Robinson at or 510-643-3741.

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LaborFest Schedule Now Online: EVENTS July 2-July 31

LaborFest 2009
July 2 – July 31

LaborFest 2009 Schedule is up

This year is the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco General Strike and the West Coast maritime workers strike. The ‘34 strike and maritime strike was an important point in  strengthening organized labor and bringing hundreds of thousands of workers into our unions.  In commemoration of this significant historical anniversary for San Francisco and Northern California labor, LaborFest will be having many special events including an art exhibition, presentations, a labor jeopardy contest as well as a labor film festival that will include videos of the San Francisco general strike.

There are also plans for a commemoration march and concert in San Francisco and educational conference.

LaborFest this year will also be honoring the workers who made the strike, the role of the San Francisco Labor Council and the workers who have built the Bay Area including building the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and the newly constructed Al Zampa Bridge which is the first major bridge named after an iron worker. Labor faces great challenges today as it did 75 years ago and the need to learn about our history, and how we won victories in the past is vital for today.