“So as to give them courage we must teach people to be shocked by themselves.”

Tag Archives: Obituaries

Richie Havens (1941-2013)

Havens’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”:

Tramp the Dirt Down

A key figure in the rise of neoliberalism, Margaret Thatcher, died just a few days ago. For many British people her policies represented the betrayal of a basic social contract devoted to social welfare in place since the 2nd World War. Here is Elvis Costello’s “Tramp the Dirt Down,” recorded live in 1989, one of many pop songs criticizing Thatcher.

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Hugo Chavez (1954-2013)


Jayne Cortez (May 10, 1934 – December 28, 2012)

A longer poetry reading:

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012)

The historian Eric Hobsbawm– author of a tetralogy of seminal works on the rise of the modern world including The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire, and The Age of Extremes– has died. He wrote on a variety of social and historical topics including banditry, jazz, nationalism, the industrial revolution, social movements, and marxism. Hobsbawm was a cosmopolitan figure. Born in Egypt of Jewish parents, raised in Austria and Germany, he and his family emigrated to London with the rise of the Third Reich. The Books section of the UK Guardian has an obituary:

Alexander Saxton (1919-2012)

September 1, 2012
From the NY Times, an obituary for Alexander Saxton:

Alexander Saxton, who would go on to become a prominent historian of race in America, summed himself up in a blurb on the dust jacket of his first novel, “Grand Crossing,” published when he was 24.

“At various times,” he said, he had worked as “a harvest hand, construction gang laborer, engine-wiper, freight brakeman, architectural apprentice, assistant to the assistant editor” of a union newspaper, railroad switchman and columnist for The Daily Worker.

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Robert Hughes 1938-2012

Robert Hughes, who popularized art criticism with his remarkable series The Shock of the New and other television documentaries, has died. Author of many books– including a polemic on American politics, The Culture of Complaint, and a celebrated history of Australia, The Fatal Shore– he was an enthusiastic and exacting critic. His essays on Andy Warhol, for example, make the case that the fame of Warhol’s paintings– “feeble, repetitious kitsch”– was less a result of the artist’s technical skills than a function of capitalist culture’s attention-deficit disorder. In an age when the virtual society of the internet asks us to uncritically “like,” Hughes will be missed.

Alexander Cockburn 1941-2012

Alexander Cockburn, prolific journalist and publisher of Counterpunch, has died.  The UK Guardian, which seems positively radical in the comparison with the US’s shrill but quiescent mediascape, has an obituary that gives a sense of his vast energy and iconoclasm. In an era afflicted by a historically illiterate and often docile, if not sycophantic, press he never failed to challenge and vex even his political allies. While I often agreed with his assessments of US empire, I was irritated that he persisted in minimizing the significance of climate change.

On Sept. 11, 2001, in a statement that will seem prescient only to those who retain illusions concerning the character of US global power at the beginning of the 21st century he wrote:

The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects: rogue states, (most of which, like the Taleban or Saddam Hussein, started off as creatures of US intelligence). The target at home will of course be the Bill of Rights.


The explosions of Tuesday were not an hour old before terror pundits like Anthony Cordesman, Wesley Clark, Robert Gates and Lawrence Eagleburger were saying that these attacks had been possible “because America is a democracy” adding that now some democratic perquisites might have to be abandoned? What might this mean? Increased domestic snooping by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies; ethnic profiling; another drive for a national ID card system.


The commentators were similarly incapable of explaining with any depth the likely context of the attacks; that these attacks might be the consequence of the recent Israeli rampages in the Occupied Territories that have included assassinations of Palestinian leaders and the slaughter of Palestinian civilians with the use of American aircraft; that these attacks might also stem from the sanctions against Iraq that have seen upward of a million children die; that these attacks might in part be a response to US cruise missile attacks on the Sudanese factories that had been loosely fingered by US intelligence as connected to bin-Laden.


“Freedom,” said George Bush in Sarasota in the first sentence of his first reaction, “was attacked this morning by a faceless coward.” That properly represents the stupidity and blindness of almost all Tuesday’s mainstream political commentary. By contrast, the commentary on economic consequences was informative and sophisticated. Worst hit: the insurance industry. Likely outfall in the short-term: hiked energy prices, a further drop in global stock markets. George Bush will have no trouble in raiding the famous lock-box, using Social Security Trust Funds to give more money to the Defense Department. That about sums it up. Three planes are successfully steered into three of America’s most conspicuous buildings and America’s response will be to put more money in missile defense as a way of bolstering the economy. (cf. Raytheon wins $636 million US missile defense contract)

Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)

A NYT article.

Duck Dunn (1941-2012)


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