Friday, November 18, 2005

"With friends like FEMA, who needs Jim Crow?"

Photo and text via In These Times

"When Hurricane Katrina came ashore in New Orleans, it destroyed half the city’s voting precincts and scattered 300,000 of the city’s residents, most of them black, across the country. With citywide elections still scheduled in February and March for 20 key public offices—including mayor, criminal sheriff, civil sheriff and all city council members—restoring the city’s democratic capability might seem an urgent task to some, but not to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)." more

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mar Caribe (detail) - Tony Capellon

From an exhibit we saw this summer at the Peabody Essex Museum

Online Island Thresholds.

No Joy for Katrina survivors

Via Le Colonel Chabert

You know, it's hard to imagine anything worse than coming back to your home in New Orleans and finding it completely destroyed. But, tonight, as you're about to hear, there is something worse, much worse. Dozens of families have returned to what is left of their homes and found, lying amidst the mold and the wreckage, a body, forgotten, abandoned. Maybe it's their mother or their grandmother, sometimes even their missing child.

The state called off searching house to house in New Orleans well over a month ago. They said they completed the job.
There was no joy for Paul Murphy (ph) in this homecoming. When he walked into his house in New Orleans' Ninth Ward last month for the first time since Katrina, it was shock and anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I'm thinking that, OK, I was going to come and salvage a few pictures or something. And I walk in here. I found my grandma on the floor dead.

DORNIN: Since November 1, 10 bodies have been found in the ruins of the Ninth Ward. The last area, known as the Lower Ninth, will open to residents December 1. Coroner Frank Minyard worries about what people will find.

(on camera): You're fully expecting that more bodies will come in once they open the Ninth Ward?

FRANK MINYARD, ORLEANS PARISH CORONER: Yes. And I think it's -- it's going to come in for a good while. There's so much rubbish around that they might find people in the rubbish. DORNIN (voice-over): They already have. And there are still many bodies left unidentified and unclaimed.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: You warned us October 3. When the state stopped house- to-house searching for -- for -- for the deceased, you said, it was a bad idea, that there were more people out there. Now the death toll, it turns out, has jumped by 104. And -- and families are returning to find the bodies of their loved ones still in their homes. How does -- it's got to infuriate you.

JACK STEPHENS, SAINT BERNARD PARISH SHERIFF: Well, you know, you just wonder what provoked that decision.

A month ago, we were still very much in the midst of a -- of a crisis. And the National Guard was conducting the house-to-house searches. And if you go through, Anderson, the neighborhoods right now that were searched then, a lot of them bear the mark of "N.E.," which means no entry.

I was always under the impression that there would be a hard- target search at some point following that to determine whether or not there were any casualties left in those dwellings. As of right now -- in fact, the day before yesterday, in my own jurisdiction, a family came home to discover a family member who had been reported missing.

COOPER: Oh, my God.

STEPHENS: It was a horrible -- it was a gruesome sight. Very -- and again, people don't deserve any more grief and pain than they're going through right now. I mean, this whole process has been so excruciatingly screwed up and slow that, I mean, you're starting to feel a real sense of anger and hostility on the part of people locally and, my God, it's well-deserved. more

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"We Are All Products of the United States" - von Trier

From Der Spiegel

SPIEGEL: Your new film, "Manderlay," doesn't have to do with the American art of baking cakes but deals with the issue of race. You show former slaves who, after gaining their freedom, wish for the old order. Isn't this some sort of white man's fantasy?

Trier: No, the inspiration came from the introduction to the erotic novel, "Story of O," with the title "Happiness in Slavery." The French writer Jean Paulhan tells of the former slaves on the Caribbean island of Barbados who ask their former master to take them on as slaves again. When the man refuses, he and his family are massacred.

SPIEGEL: Paulhan also wrote about prejudice in his essay. He talks about an Englishman who, in Calais, steps on French ground for the first time and sees a red-haired woman in the harbor. From this, the Englishman concludes that all French woman have red hair. Isn't this similar to your way of working?

Trier: A little, but as opposed to this idiotic Englishman, I actually didn't travel to the country I'm making films about. You can see some things better from a distance than if you were standing directly in front of them. The distance gives me more artistic freedom. I can ask naive questions which the Americans themselves aren't allowed to ask. more

"Daily Humiliation"

From Le Colonel Chabert

Daily Humiliation

"Constantly stopped [for questioning and id] by the police." Of all the complaints made by the youth of this country in revolt, this omnipresent checking/questioning and the interruptions of their normal lives, this endless harassment, is the most constant and the most widely shared. Do we understand what this complaint really means? What kind of humiliation and violence it represents?

I have a 16 year old adopted son who is black. Let’s call him Gérard. No sociological or misérabiliste « explanations » can be applied to him. He grew up in Paris, well off. Between 31 March 2004 (Gérard wasn’t yet 15) and today, I can ‘t even count the number of times he’s been stopped by the police. Innumerable - there is no other word. Arrested: six times! In 18 months. What I mean by arrested is when you are taken, in handcuffs, to the police station, when you are insulted, latched to a bench, left there for hours, sometimes kept for a day or two. For nothing.

The worst elements of persecution are often in the details. I’ll tell you then, bstep by step, about the last arrest, the whole thing. Gérard, along with his friend Kemal (born in France, therefore French, from a Turkish family) at about four-thirty is outside a private high school (attended by young girls). While Gérard was flinging forth his gallantry, Kemal was negotiating the purchase of a bicycle from a student from a different school. Twenty euros, this bicycle, a bargain! Suspicious of course. We understand meanwhile that Kamal has a little money, not much, because he has a job: he works as assistant and apprentice at a crêperie. Three "petits jeunes" come up to them. One of them, with an air of being a little outraged, says "That’s my bicycle, a guy borrowed it from le an hour and a half ago and never gave it back." Yikes! The seller is, it seems, a "borrower." Dicussion ensues. Gérard sees only one solution: give the bike back. Ill gotten gains not worth it. Kemal agrees. The guys go off with the machine.

It is at this point that up to the curb, breaks squealing, pulls a police car. Two of its occupants leap out and jump on Gérard and Kemal, throw them to the ground, cuff their hands behind their backs, then put them against the wall. Insults and threats follow: "Enculés! Connards!" [both approximate to 'assholes', a bit nastier] Our two heros ask what they did; "You know very well! Turn around" -they have them all this time cuffed, facing people in the street - "so everyone can see who you are and what you did!" Return of the medieval pillory (half an hour exposed like this), but, the novelty is this was done before any judgment, even before any accusation. more

"Badiou's l'Organisation politique on the French Situation"

From infinite thought

On Riots that come after Pain…

I. The 27th of October in Clichy-sous-Bois, three adolescents chased by policemen hid in an electric transformer. Two of them, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré died from electrocution. The third, Muttin Altun, was severely burned. The Minister of the Interior and the Prime Minister immediately declared that these youths were wanted following a burglary and then, later, of a theft from a construction site. They denied any chase by the police. But these are patent lies. Not only was there neither burglary nor theft, not only did the policeman chase a whole group of adolescents, who were coming back after a football game, and saw them go into the transformer, but they did not warn the EDF [French electricity company] who could have cut off the current and prevented the terrible accident. That day the daily harassment of the youth of the estates by the police ended in crime. The crime of the police covered by the lies of the highest authorities of the state.

Ever since the night of the 27th of October, confrontations have taken place in Clichy between dozens of youths and the police. Cars have been burned, a school, stores and bus shelters have been attacked. The following night, these confrontations spread to Montfermeil. Some days later, the CRS [Compagnie Republicane de Securite – riot police] threw a tear gas grenade at the entrance of a mosque in Clichy. Once again the government denies that the police are responsible. During the night of the 31st of October the riots spread to the whole of Seine-sans-Denis and to other estates throughout France. more

"New Orleans, Two Months Later"

From Counter Punch

"But there is another New Orleans, less than a mile away. I made a point of seeing both. By day, Lakeview buzzes with construction workers, most of whom wear masks to protect against the dust. The whole area is brown and dusty. Streets were never smooth in Lakeview, thanks to a habit of shoddy construction and the rapid subsidence of the soft soil--the same soil, it turns out, that was used to construct the levees which, it turns out, did not protect the city. Now driving is downright hazardous, with household debris and tree branches complementing the uneven roads. We have country roads in the city.

It wasn't entirely clear to me what the construction workers in Lakeview were doing, but it seemed like their primary job was just to clear the debris from roads and from homes. There are literally mountains of it: the highest point in the city is now somewhere in the middle of West End Boulevard, where a steady stream of dump trucks deposits people's sheet rock, furniture and memorabilia. I imagine my stuff will end up there, too." more

"Gulf Coast slaves"

Photo by Roberto Lovato from Salon

"Martinez, 16, speaks no English; his mother tongue is Zapotec. He had left the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, four weeks earlier for the promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board, while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job was helping to clean up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "I was cleaning up the base, picking up branches and doing other work," Martinez said, speaking to me in broken Spanish.

Even if the Oaxacan teenager had understood Bush when he urged Americans that day to "help somebody find shelter or help somebody find food," he couldn't have known that he'd soon need similar help himself. But three weeks after arriving at the naval base from Texas, Martinez's boss, Karen Tovar, a job broker from North Carolina who hired workers for a KBR subcontractor called United Disaster Relief, booted him from the base and left him homeless, hungry and without money.

"They gave us two meals a day and sometimes only one," Martinez said." more

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality" - James Baldwin

Gary Younge in The Guardian: "Riots are a class act - and often they're the only alternative."

"'If there is no struggle, there is no progress," said the African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. "Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

By the end of last week it looked as though the fortnight of struggle between minority French youth and the police might actually have yielded some progress. Condemning the rioters is easy. They shot at the police, killed an innocent man, trashed businesses, rammed a car into a retirement home, and torched countless cars (given that 400 cars are burned on an average New Year's Eve in France, this was not quite as remarkable as some made out). more



Back view of the Butcher Boys (1985/6)

William Kentridge - History of the Main Complaint

William Kentridge, Johannesburg, South Africa (1955 - ).

Jane Alexander - Butcher Boys (1985/6)

Jane Alexander, Johannesburg, South Africa (1959 - ).