Thursday, October 06, 2005


After 45 hours on a bus, these evacuees find generosity, but more frustration, in Boston . " For Ray Garland and Tamara Bernard and her six sons, the unexpected trip from their native New Orleans to Boston began shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck, when a dozen people crowded into Garland's mother's van and drove four hours over clogged roads to Baton Rouge, La., which is usually less than an hour away. The trip ended at 10 a.m. Saturday when, tired and hungry and carrying blankets and backpacks, 45 hours after they left Baton Rouge, they stepped off a bus in South Station and hugged the minister who brought them here." ...

After their ordeal, a family gets a taste of Northern hospitality. " Ray Garland was nervous yesterday morning when a limousine pulled in front of the Framingham hotel he's called home for the past four days, ever since he and Tamara Bernard and her six sons took a bus from a shelter in Baton Rouge, La., to rebuild their hurricane-shattered lives in Boston." ...

Katrina evacuees struggle to find comfort in normal routines of everyday living. "Finally, 12 days after Ray Garland and Tamara Bernard and her six sons stepped off a bus from Baton Rouge, they have a home -- or what is home for now. It is a modest, three-bedroom, one-bath frame house with gleaming floors, and a picnic table out back, rented with the aid of two Newton families determined to help this family made drifters by Hurricane Katrina. Finally, as of Friday, almost four weeks after they fled New Orleans, all the boys are back in school." ...

Please stop fetishising integration. Equality is what we really need.

From The Guardian. Gary Younge writes, "Where race is concerned there are, it seems, some words that just don't go together. No matter how many young drunken white men beat each other up over the weekend, there is no such thing as white-on-white crime. No matter how many non-white people flee inner-city neighbourhoods for better schools and services, there is no such thing as "black flight". And no matter how bitter their ethnic divides, white people never engage in "tribal conflict"." ... Read more: Equality is what we really need.

UK prisoners should get vote, European court rules

From The Guardian. "Ruling in the case of a former prisoner against the United Kingdom, the Strasbourg court said the disenfranchisement of 48,000 convicts in British jails violated the European convention on human rights.

It said that with the exception of the right to liberty, lawfully detained prisoners continued to enjoy all the rights guaranteed in the convention - including political rights and freedom from inhumane and degrading punishment." ... Read more: UK prisoners should get vote, European court rules .


From The Black Commentator. "Comedian Richard Pryor posed a question about how and whether America saw black people in its future. He noted that futuristic science fiction films rarely if ever had black characters. Was this absence a creative oversight or were we being given a hint?" ... Read more: Freedom Rider: Bill Bennett's Fantasy.

From The Nation. "What's most striking about this little flap is not the lunacy of Bennett's remark, recycled as it was from an old theory advanced years ago by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt. Nor is it the speed of the response from the White House, which has been on permanent damage control since Katrina struck. Bennett's take on race as a key determinant of criminal behavior is so unsettling because it reveals in such stark terms the conservative conflation of poverty and race in America and exposes the racist fears that underlie our criminal justice policy." ... Read more: Bill Bennett's Abortion Fantasies.

From Salon. " Black babies come into the world burdened with the prejudice that they will become criminals, probably violent criminals, and that it would be better for America if their lives were cut short. His words give no thought to what it might cost America to lose these black babies -- to what leadership, what innovation, what artistry might be forgone. Every black mother must take note of the fact that this view is still extant; their children are considered by some to be a drag on the bright, boundless promise of America. To some, there is no upside in sustaining or investing in their lives." ... Read more: Are babies not equally innocent?

BOB HERBERT ON BILL BENNETT: Impossible, Ridiculous, Repugnant

From The New York Times. "A lot of people are upset over comments made on the radio by the former education secretary and guardian of all things virtuous, Bill Bennett.

A Republican who served in the Reagan cabinet, Mr. Bennett told his listeners: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could - if that were your sole purpose - you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

After making the point that exterminating blacks would be a most effective crime-fighting tool, he quickly added, "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."

When I first heard about Mr. Bennett's comments, I wondered why anyone was surprised. I've come to expect racial effrontery from big shots in the Republican Party. The G.O.P. has happily replaced the Democratic Party as a safe haven for bigotry, racially divisive tactics and strategies and outright anti-black policies. That someone who's been a stalwart of that outfit might muse publicly about the potential benefits of exterminating blacks is not surprising to me at all.

Listen to the late Lee Atwater in a 1981 interview explaining the evolution of the G.O.P.'s Southern strategy:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

"And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.' "

Atwater, who would manage George H. W. Bush's successful run for the presidency in 1988 (the Willie Horton campaign) and then serve as national party chairman, was talking with Alexander P. Lamis, a political-science professor at Case Western Reserve University. Mr. Lamis quoted Atwater in the book "Southern Politics in the 1990's."

The truth is that there was very little that was subconscious about the G.O.P.'s relentless appeal to racist whites. Tired of losing elections, it saw an opportunity to renew itself by opening its arms wide to white voters who could never forgive the Democratic Party for its support of civil rights and voting rights for blacks.

The payoff has been huge. Just as the Democratic Party would have been crippled in the old days without the support of the segregationist South, today's Republicans would have only a fraction of their current political power without the near-solid support of voters who are hostile to blacks.

When Democrats revolted against racism, the G.O.P. rallied to its banner.

Ronald Reagan, the G.O.P.'s biggest hero, opposed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960's. And he began his general election campaign in 1980 with a powerfully symbolic appearance in Philadelphia, Miss., where three young civil rights workers were murdered in the summer of 1964. He drove the crowd wild when he declared: "I believe in states' rights."

Bill Bennett's musings about the extermination of blacks in America (it would be "impossible, ridiculous ... morally reprehensible") is all of a piece with a Republican Party philosophy that is endlessly insulting to black people and overwhelmingly hostile to their interests.

But that white racist vote, once so important to the Democrats and now so important to the G.O.P., has been steadily shrinking. The U.S. is less prejudiced than it was 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, which is why George W. Bush had to try so hard to disenfranchise black voters in Florida in 2000; and why Jeb Bush had to call out the state police to try to intimidate black voters in Orlando, Fla., in 2004; and why Republicans in Georgia have come up with the equivalent of a poll tax (requiring people without a driver's license to pay $20 for a voter identification card), which will hurt poor, black and elderly voters.

Bill Bennett's twisted fantasies are a malignant outgrowth of our polarized past. Our job is to keep them from spreading into the future.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"This is slavery"

"I have a problem with death penalty abolitionists," said Paul Wright, the editor of Prison Legal News and a former lifer, released in Washington State in 2003 after serving 17 years for killing a man in a robbery attempt. "They're positing life without parole as an option, but it's a death sentence by incarceration. You're trading a slow form of death for a faster one."

Mr. Arroyo shares that view.

"I'd roll the dice with death and stay on death row," he said. "Really, death has never been my fear. What do people believe? That being alive in prison is a good life? This is slavery."
Read more.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Jailed for Life After Crimes as Teenagers

"About 9,700 American prisoners are serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they could vote, serve on a jury or gamble in a casino - in short, before they turned 18. More than a fifth have no chance for parole. ... The United States is one of only a handful of countries that does that. Life without parole, the most severe form of life sentence, is theoretically available for juvenile criminals in about a dozen countries. But a report to be issued on Oct. 12 by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found juveniles serving such sentences in only three others. Israel has seven, South Africa has four and Tanzania has one." [...]

"It broke my heart," said Steven Sharp, the foreman. "As tough as it is, based on the crime, I think it's appropriate. It's terrible to put a 15-year-old behind bars forever."

What is appropriate about putting a 15-year old in prison for the rest of her life? Life without parole. That person has ceased lives social and psychic death. That person is sacrificed so that those not-sacrificed can feel free. They are among the people we "clean ourselves on." (What Toni Morrison writes that people did to Pecola Breedlove. "We cleaned ourselves on her.")

Read more.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


From The Nation 25 Questions About the Murder of New Orleans. Mike Davis & Anthony Fontenat write, "We recently spent a week in New Orleans and southern Louisiana interviewing relief workers, community activists, urban planners, artists and neighborhood folks. Even as the latest flood waters from Hurricane Rita recede, the city remains submerged in anger and frustration." ...


From Guardian UnlimitedAbort all black babies and cut crime, says Republican . "George Bush has distanced himself from comments made by a leading Republican crusader on moral values who declared that one way to reduce the crime rate in the US would be to "abort black babies". ...


BENNETT STATEMENT [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
From the Desk of William J. Bennett

September 30, 2005

"On Wednesday, a caller to my radio show proposed the idea that one good argument for the pro-life position would be that if we didn't have abortions, Social Security would be solvent. I stated my doubts about such a thesis, as well as my opposition to such a form of argument (the audio of the call is available at my Website:

"I then stated that such extrapolations of this argument can cut both ways, and cited the current bestseller, Freakonomics, which discusses the authors' thesis that abortion reduces crime.

"Then, putting my philosophy professor's hat on, I went on to reveal the limitations of such arguments by showing the absurdity in another such argument, along the same lines. I entertained what law school professors call 'the Socratic method' and what I would hope good social science professors still use in their seminars. In so doing, I suggested a hypothetical analogy while at the same time saying the proposition I was using about blacks and abortion was 'impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible,' just to ensure those who would have any doubt about what they were hearing, or for those who tuned in to the middle of the conversation.

"The issues of crime and race have been on many people's minds, and tongues, for the past month or so--in light of the situation in New Orleans; and the issues of race, crime, and abortion are well aired and ventilated in articles, the academy, the think tank community, and public policy. Indeed the whole issue of crime and race is not new in social science, nor popular literature. One of the authors of Freakonomics, himself, had an extended exchange on the discussion of these issues on the Internet some years back--which was also much debated in the think tank community in Washington.

"A thought experiment about public policy, on national radio, should not have received the condemnations it has. Anyone paying attention to this debate should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me, distorted my meaning, and taken out of context the dialogue I engaged in this week. Such distortions from 'leaders' of organizations and parties is a disgrace not only to the organizations and institutions they serve, but to the First Amendment.

"In sum, let me reiterate what I had hoped my long career had already established: that I renounce all forms of bigotry--and that my record in trying to provide opportunities for, as well as save the lives of, minorities in this country stands up just fine." National Review.