Friday, October 28, 2005

Readers Write: Self-Control

From The Sun Magazine "Self-Control"

model of self-control. I didn’t eat too
much, drink too much, or spend too
much. I never called in sick at work or
let my finances get out of hand. I was
punctual, reliable, and always there for
friends and family.
Then I met my boyfriend. Suddenly all
those things that once had been important
now seemed minor in comparison
to him. I left my husband and our giant
house, and gave up my possessions, my
security, and my friends. My orderly existence
quickly vanished.
I don’t regret a thing; I’ve become a
new person in the process.
My boyfriend, though, has a lot more
self-control. He is unable to leave his wife
for me.
Name Withheld

Gentrifying Diversity

Mike Davis. From Alternet: "Gentrifying Diversity"

In a recent email to Louisiana officials, FEMA curtly turned down the state's request for funding to notify displaced residents that they could cast absentee ballots in the city's crucial February mayoral election. FEMA also declined to share data with local authorities about the current addresses of evacuees.

In the eyes of many local activists, FEMA's refusal to support the voting rights of evacuees is consistent with a larger pattern of federal inaction and delay that seems transparently designed to discourage the return of black residents to the city. As one Associated Press dispatch presciently warned, "Hurricane Katrina [may] prove to be the biggest, most brutal urban-renewal project black America has ever seen."

Ethnic Cleansing, GOP-style

In the weeks since Bush's Jackson Square speech, FEMA has alarmingly failed to advance any plan for the return of evacuees to temporary housing within the city or to connect displaced locals with reconstruction jobs. Moreover for lack of a tax base or emergency federal funding, local governments in afflicted areas have been forced to lay off thousands of employees and are unable to restore many essential public services.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Katrina: The Movement"

By Makani Themba-Nixon From Alternet: "Katrina: The Movement"

All around the country, a storm is gathering. The aftermath of Katrina is gaining power and energy in churches, barbershops and rec rooms, on campuses and online. A growing number of advocates are finding common cause in preventing the next "perfect storm" of racism, government neglect and divestment. And they are already chalking up some victories.

It started with targeted pressure on FEMA that forced the agency to reassess its no-bid contract process and got Congress to look up from its partisan playbook and actually take FEMA to task. Of course, it wasn't enough to overhaul the process -- yet. However, it was the first substantial chink in the Bush armor since he took office. And this is only the beginning of what we can do.

Groups like the Young People's Project's Find Our Folk initiative are out speaking directly to survivors across the Katrina Diaspora, listening to their issues and giving form and voice to their outrage.

"Regarding the Pain of Others"

From Alternet: What Does a Torturer Tell His Kids?

By Richard Thieme

A newsletter for former intelligence officers contained two requests this week from researchers. One is a Washington Post intelligence reporter who wants information about "that particular moment in a clandestine agent's life when he/she tells the children what they really do for a living."

The other request came from a social psychologist "preparing a utilitarian assessment of torture interrogation of terrorists to submit to a military ethics conference." His study is focused on institutional consequences of state-sponsored torture interrogations such as the involvement of the biomedical community. He is especially interested in "testaments to the efficacy of torture interrogation in eliciting accurate and crucial information."

I hope those researchers get together. It would be interesting to know about the moment in a torturer's life when he or she tells the kids what they do for a living." ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


That is, Manderlay, the second film in Lars von Trier's trilogy set in the US . Manderlay, the Film.


This is the strange, disturbing story of the Manderlay plantation.

Manderlay lay on a lonely plain somewhere in the deep south of the USA. It was in the year of 1933 that Grace and her father had left the township of Dogville behind them. Grace's father and his army of villains had spent the entire winter seeking out new hunting grounds in vain, and now they were heading south in one last attempt to find a favourable location in which to take up residence.

By chance their cars stop in the state of Alabama in front of a large iron gate bearing a thick chain and a padlock. Beside the gate, a dead oak tree towers over a heavy boulder with Manderlay hewn in monumental letters into the granite.

Just as Grace, her father and his men are about to leave after a short break and a quick lunch, a young black woman runs up to the car. She knocks on Grace's window. She hammers at the glass in despair.

Ignoring her father's advice to leave others to their own affairs, Grace follows the girl through the gates of Manderlay and there, she finds a group of people living as if slavery had not been abolished seventy years earlier, with white masters and black slaves...

Grace believes that she has a duty to make it up to the slaves for injustices they have suffered at the hands of her kind: 'we brought them here, we abused them and made them what they are', as she argues to her father; and she decides that having liberated Manderlay, she will remain at the plantation until she has seen them through their first harvest.

Her father grudgingly leaves her with four henchmen and a lawyer, warning Grace that he won't be there to pick up the pieces when her plans for the resurrection of Manderlay fall apart... Trust Film.


Anatol Lieven: America and its Army

From LRB We do not deserve these people.

A key justification of the Bush administration’s purported strategy of ‘democratising’ the Middle East is the argument that democracies are pacific, and that Muslim democracies will therefore eventually settle down peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic country, and becoming more so:

at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The scepticism about arms and armies that informed the original Wilsonian vision, indeed, that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamoured with military might.

The ensuing affair had, and continues to have, a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue. Read more.


"Mrs. Parks's arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest," Dr. King wrote in his 1958 book, "Stride Toward Freedom. "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices."

Her act of civil disobedience, what seems a simple gesture of defiance so many years later, was in fact a dangerous, even reckless move in 1950's Alabama. In refusing to move, she risked legal sanction and perhaps even physical harm, but she also set into motion something far beyond the control of the city authorities. Mrs. Parks clarified for people far beyond Montgomery the cruelty and humiliation inherent in the laws and customs of segregation" Read more.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hurricane horror stories

From today's Salon. Why did false tales of rape, shootings and murder flood out of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina?. Aaron Kinney writes, "By the time Brian Thevenot, a reporter for the Times-Picayune, arrived at the New Orleans convention center on Monday, Sept. 5, the makeshift emergency shelter had achieved mythic status as a place where unspeakable crimes had been committed. Police Chief Eddie Compass had told the media that people were being raped and beaten inside. The New York Times had reported that evacuees witnessed seven dead bodies lying on the floor, and a 14-year-old girl who had been raped. Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and other television news channels had repeated stories of rape and murder there." ...

Kinney can't or won't tell "us" why. The article doesn't really offer anything new. That's why Zizek's "The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape," is one of the better pieces that I've read on the assigning of "truth" to the stories of black looting, rape ( of first women, then children, then babies), and gun violence.

He writes:

" Even if all the reports on violence and rapes had proven to be factually true, the stories circulating about them would still be “pathological” and racist, since what motivated these stories were not facts, but racist prejudices, the satisfaction felt by those who would be able to say: “You see, Blacks really are like that, violent barbarians under the thin layer of civilization!” In other words, we would be dealing with what could be called lying in the guise of truth: Even if what I am saying is factually true, the motives that make me say it are false."

"Of course, we never openly admit these motives. But from time to time, they nonetheless pop up in our public space in a censored form, in the guise of denegation: Once evoked as an option, they are then immediately discarded. Recall the recent comments by William Bennett, the compulsive gambler and author of The Book of Virtues, on his call-in program “Morning in America”: “But 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. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” The White House spokesman immediately reacted: “The president believes the comments were not appropriate.” Two days later, Bennett qualified his statement: “I was putting a hypothetical proposition … and then said about it, it was morally reprehensible to recommend abortion of an entire group of people. But this is what happens when you argue that ends can justify the means.” This is exactly what Freud meant when he wrote that the Unconscious knows no negation: The official (Christian, democratic … ) discourse is accompanied and sustained by a whole nest of obscene, brutal racist and sexist fantasies, which can only be admitted in a censored form."

Read more.