Saturday, December 17, 2005

Post Secret

I still frequent post secret.

The Nation: Katrina Three Months Later

The Nation

Susan Straight, "Katrina Lives": "Years from now, when someone says to a man, "What happened to that '56 Chevy you used to have?" he'll say the one word. When someone says to a teenager, "You were born in New Orleans but you graduated from high school here in Minnesota?" the girl will think the one word.

When someone says, "Your grandfather died in 2005?" there will be the unspoken lament. When someone says to a whole generation of Louisianans, "What happened?" there will be the one-word answer.


In that way, her name will be added to the list that every black American knows, from both handed-down and newly created stories, told by grandparents or children. The names that call up shared knowledge and define moments in hurt and rage--Tuskegee, Tulsa, Rodney King and before him Eula Love, Scottsboro, Jonestown and MOVE and SLA.

Katrina." (more)

Ari Kelman, "In the Shadow of Disaster": "The flood was voracious; it swallowed whole neighborhoods, ending hundreds of lives. But the battered levees have been repaired. They again stand between New Orleans and catastrophe, holding the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain in check. The antique drainage system, too, is back online. Any water that falls in the city, every drop of rain or tear shed, ultimately flows through canals until it's pumped over the levee into the lake. This is how New Orleans has been engineered: to control stray water, to clarify the border between the city and its surroundings.

It has been a losing battle. And yet, though it sounds particularly odd following Hurricane Katrina, the city's efforts have been spurred by the notion that nature favors it. From New Orleans' founding near the mouth of the Mississippi in 1718, the city has banked on geography to sweep it to greatness. Long before technologies circumvented the vagaries of geography, boosters claimed the city would reign over a commercial empire. But the local environs rarely cooperated with imperial visions. The lake and river loom above the city. Much of New Orleans lies below sea level, atop a high water table; there's no natural drainage. And pestilence thrives in the steamy delta. Scholars call this the disjuncture between "site"--the actual real estate a city occupies--and "situation"--an urban area's relative advantages as compared with other places. New Orleans, with access to the river and the gulf, enjoys a near-perfect situation. But it has an equally horrid site." (more)

2005 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

Anne Winters' The Displaced of Capital won the 2005 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

In The Front Table

"The displaced of capital have come to the capital." This first line in the second stanza of the title poem in Anne Winters' latest collection, The Displaced of Capital encapsulates the overarching concern of her latest edition. Winters' 'capital' is New York City and her 'displaced of capital' are those economically and/or geographically marginalized. Many of these poems deal with immigrants, those "who have come to the capital," with dreams in their hearts. The pieces' subtly, yet strongly, outline their predicament: the face of the city as both oppressor and liberator, a place of both local inclusion and larger exclusion. In this title poem, for example, Winters initially etches out her themes through a more detached observation, one nonetheless politically sharp: "the subsistence farms of chickens, yams and guava / are bought by transnationals... ." And then: "and now it seems the farmer / has left behind his ploughed-under village for an illegal / partitioned attic in the outer boroughs... ." The finish of this piece yields a lens of personal reflection, sympathy, and, almost, cultural guilt: "... so how can I today / warm myself at the sad heartening narrative of immigration?" Winters does not exactly warm herself, but narrate she does. In "An Immigrant Woman," Winters tells the tale of her friendly relationship with a neighbor, Pilar; their local fight against city practices which had been adversely affecting the neighborhood; and the tragic blameworthy loss of Pilar's daughter. Here again, Winters maintains an astute cross-pollination of personal lyric and understanding of political injustice, and, as is true throughout most of the edition, she often does so through her attention to objects and space. Architectural elements, foodstuffs, and sharp descriptions of people and street life all give the reader (and one would assume, the writer herself) a visceral connection to the subject matter. In "Mill Race," for example, Winters' notes on the mill-workers are astute and telling: "In close-ups now you can see it in every face..." / "It's gravity, spilling in capillaries, cheek-tissue trembling / despite the make-up... the mass-market designer scarves." The Displaced of Capital proves an evocative portrayal of the city and its often invisible citizens. Front Table

"Left to Die" Incarcerated in New Orleans

In The Nation

"If, as Dostoyevsky claimed, the degree of civilization of a society can be measured by the treatment of its prisoners, we are in even deeper trouble in New Orleans than many realize. In this city, under the radar of most media, the biggest prison crisis since Attica is unfolding. And no one seems to care, because despite Hurricane Katrina's having "exposed" American poverty and racism, mass incarceration of poor black Americans remains an accepted, if overlooked, fact of modern life. After all, the thinking goes, they did the crime, now they have to do the time. However, like everything else in New Orleans, it's not so simple. [...] Despite the universal awareness of the risk of flooding in the city, the low-lying jail failed to execute any real evacuation plan. Instead, even faster than New Orleans police abandoned the citizens of New Orleans, many of the sheriff's deputies who guard the city's prisoners abandoned their charges and left men and women wondering whether they were going to die as water rose in their locked cells. As prisoner Dan Bright told Human Rights Watch, "They left us to die there."

Prisoners helped one another escape the flood by prying open cell doors, breaking through windows and finding higher ground in the jail. While officials deny that any bodies were found, many prisoners who were there insist that they saw floating bodies. Those who made it out were rounded up by the few remaining guards and gathered on a nearby Interstate overpass. People remained there for almost two days--without water, under the sun--appearing as a blur of orange jumpsuits from the CNN cameras in helicopters flying above. They were left to urinate and defecate on themselves, hampered by restraints so tight that a month later attorneys who visited them could still see dark purple bands around their wrists. Eventually buses arrived and the detainees were transferred randomly to prisons around the state, but without the papers that might easily distinguish a person who had been arrested for illegally reading tarot cards or "angling without a license" from someone charged with a serious, violent crime. (more)

Some of (Katrina's) Victims and Their Stories

From The NY Times I hope they follow up and do a profile of every person.

"Workers in New Orleans Denied Pay, Proper Housing and Threatened with Deportation"

On Democracy Now

"Well, the workers that I encountered were men who had been recruited from a homeless shelter in Atlanta. There was several dozen of them. I actually met them at a tent city that had sprung up there that was housing people who had nowhere to live. Individually they started coming up to me and all told me the same story, being recruited by a gentleman who promised them, you know, good hourly wages doing hard labor, hauling debris, for the most part, some construction work in New Orleans. They got on this school bus that was provided. They came down, and most of them had worked several weeks, and each week when they asked for their pay, they were told, “It’s coming. It’s coming.” Eventually they got fed up and they left. I went to the house where they said that they had all been put in rather undesirable conditions, thirty or so men to the house. And there were more men there. They all told me the same story. [...] The big problem with these men was just finding out who was actually supposed to pay them. Their assumption, of course, was that the man who had recruited them and promised them the pay should pay them. However when they asked him for the money, he said, “Well, I can't pay you because the company that recruited me hasn't paid me.” So I spoke to that company, and it said, “Well, the company that’s supposed to pay us hasn't paid us, so we can’t pay them.” I followed this all the way up the chain, and that is where the problem lies, with the number of subcontractors that are doing business in the Gulf region. A gentleman from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers I spoke to said, “It’s not unusual to have fifty subcontractors working beneath the prime contractors.”

AMY GOODMAN: And who are these prime contractors?

TINA SUSMAN: Well, there are several. In the case that I followed, the prime contractor is ECC out of Burlingame, California. It has about a $500 million contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. (more)

New Orleans Residents Face Eviction From Homes as Rents Skyrocket and Legal Protections Remain Weak

On Democracy Now

"So we think the problem is major, and we took some steps so far to address that problem by actually bringing a suit, declaring that it was unconstitutional for landlords to be utilizing a procedure of notification that existed pre-Katrina that allowed landlords to file for eviction actions and post notices of those eviction actions on people's doors and have a hearing scheduled for them within three days. The concept pre-Katrina being if the person lived there, they would come home within that time, see the notice and be able to get to court, because that's their home. Of course, post-Katrina we have a situation where people have been scattered to all corners of the U.S., and to be utilizing such a procedure as if that is really a mechanism for really providing notice to people of their property being taken and their homes being taken from them was absolutely ludicrous.

So we brought the case, and we actually were able to settle the case, because the Orleans Parish city officials and the Jefferson Parish city officials and FEMA were all in a position, because of pressure being asserted on them from tenants and people all across the U.S. who have been displaced and affected by this tragedy, to do something right. They were feeling that pressure in the courthouse, and they actually came to the table trying to reach some agreement, because they didn't want the case to go to court and have a situation where the whole law was declared unconstitutional.

So we won that case, and we actually got the procedure changed for notifying people of their homes being taken. The procedure now is that if a landlord comes to evict the person from their home, the parish officials have to send a notice out to people at their last known address and also contact FEMA for any updated information on where they're at and if that information is updateable, when they receive that updated information, they have to send notices to people at their updated addresses, and they have to give people 30 days before any hearing can be held. (more)

The Year of Living Dangerously for Black Folks

Glen Ford and Peter Gamble in The Black Commentator

"It is a new experience, to witness this scale of dereliction among our political class. Clearly, a significant number have been bought. That’s what corporations do. They buy people.

In the process, the space for a Black dialogue has been narrowed. Automatically, this means that progressive conversation in the United States is crippled. The Black Commentator is the foremost communications organ for social change in the nation, but we find ourselves isolated from our natural allies: the most progressive unions and civil rights organizations, who nevertheless count on corporate funding. (more)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Dealing With The Demographics"

On Democracy Now Again via lecolonelchabert

"In this country, the New York Times is reporting hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast families are being denied government loans to rebuild homes lost or damaged in Hurricane Katrina. According to the Times, the Small Business Administration -- the federal agency in charge of the main disaster recovery program for businesses and homeowners -- has processed only a third of the 276,000 loan applications it has received. Of those that have been reviewed, the government has rejected 82 percent of home loan applications – over 77,000 rejections. In New Orleans, approved loans appear to be heavily tilted towards wealthy neighborhoods over poor ones. Herbert Mitchell, director of the Small Business Administration’s disaster assistance program, told the Times the government could not risk taxpayer money by lending to people with low incomes or poor credit history. Mitchell said: "We're just dealing with the demographics in the area."


What do you think?

peas in a pod

hysterical blackness plays with flash (minus any animation)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Does 30,000 Mean Anything to Bush?

Matthew Rothschild in Common Dreams

"On Monday, for the first time, Bush acknowledged that his Iraq War has taken a large toll on the Iraqi people. But he fobbed it off as if it were nothing.

Taking questions after his speech at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council, Bush was asked right out of the chute how many Iraqis have died.

Here’s the exchange:

“Q: Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I’d like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators.”

“Bush: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say, 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops.”

Bush may have severely underestimated the total number of Iraqi dead.(more)

"Cartoon Empathy"

KGH hipped me to this in the NY Times Magazine

By JOEL LOVELL "Cartoon Empathy"
For anyone who pays even the slightest attention to cartoons, the scene is familiar: birds flying, bunnies hopping, floppy-hatted Smurfs singing and dancing around a campfire. Then without warning a group of warplanes arrives and starts carpet-bombing. As the Smurfs scatter, their mushroom village goes up in flames. After the last bomb falls, amid the burning rubble and surrounded by dead Smurfs, Baby Smurf sits alone, wailing.

The scene comes from a 30-second TV commercial that began being shown on Belgian national television this fall, as part of Unicef's campaign to raise money to help rehabilitate child soldiers in Sudan, Burundi and Congo. The decision to use cartoon characters in the ad, rather than show images of actual children, was calculated not to lessen the horror but to amplify it. "We've found that people have gotten used to seeing traditional images of children in despair, especially from African countries," says Philippe Henon, a spokesman for Unicef Belgium. "Those images are no longer surprising, and most people certainly don't see them as a call to action."

Unicef's goal was to convey to adults the horror of war by drawing on their childhood memories, and Smurfs, Henon says, "were the image most Belgians ages 30 to 45 connect to the idea of a happy childhood."

The spot has generated a considerable amount of controversy. "People have been shocked," says Henon, who emphasizes that the ad is intended for an adult audience and is shown only after 9 p.m. "But we've received a lot of positive reactions. And this has also been apparent in the donations."

Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith, a psychologist at the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, agrees that it makes sense to reframe the constant stream of images of suffering from Africa: "The more horrible the thing you're trying to raise awareness for, the harder it is for people to wrap their minds around it. We run up against that in America all the time. Maybe if we showed this stuff happening to Charlie Brown and Lucy and the gang, we'd break through." (more)

See the video (I'm having trouble getting it to work so I'm posting the link instead): (more)

"Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority"

Keeping those priorities "straight."

Jonathan Weisman and Alan Cooperman in Washington Post "A Religious Protest Largely From the Left"

"When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them. [...] Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.

"It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important," said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. "But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that. [...] Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at the Christian group Concerned Women for America, said religious conservatives "know that the government is not really capable of love."(more)

Cashing in on Katrina: Guess Who's Coming out a Winner

Gary Rivlin in NY Times "Bright Spot on Gulf as Casinos Rush to Rebuild"

Anyone visiting this town in the days after Hurricane Katrina might reasonably have concluded that it would be a long while before slot machines were again ringing their incessant chimes. The storm destroyed 9 of 10 floating casinos in Biloxi, and the tenth suffered significant damage.

Yet so well financed is the gambling industry - and so profitable the facilities that line the beaches here - that one casino is set to open its doors to the public on Dec. 22. Another is to reopen the day after Christmas. A third, the Palace Casino, will have spent $23 million in four months to reopen by New Year's Eve, said the general manager, Keith Crosby.

All 10 Biloxi casinos have told the city they will rebuild, and most plan larger, more elaborate facilities. One, Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's largest gambling company, has told city officials that it plans to invest as much as $1 billion in a new resort-casino - a figure sizable enough to catch people's attention even in Las Vegas. And a growing list of investors, looking to take advantage of a new state law allowing the first-ever land-based casinos, is seeking an audience with city officials or state regulators in Jackson.(more)

Read that against David Weir in Salon "Everything's broken"

(...) Until Katrina, a series of large barges anchored offshore served as casinos, and were by far the largest employers in the area. When the storm pushed the barges ashore, they cut wide swaths over the land, taking out everything in their path. Today, they sit far inland, with more than a few flattened houses and possibly bodies still underneath.

Soon after the storm, local and state officials announced that from now on they will locate the casinos on land, within the first 800 feet of Biloxi's shore. Some of this new development will cut directly into East Biloxi's worst-hit sections.

Not surprisingly, rumors fly around these neighborhoods: "The remaining houses will all be flattened for new casinos. There won't be a place for any of us to live around here anymore."

The threat seems credible. Amid a total pre-storm population of about 50,000 in Biloxi, the casinos accounted for some 30,000 jobs. The first casino reopenings are scheduled for later this month.

"Nobody -- the local, county or state government -- wants to put anyone out of their home," says Councilman Lawrence. "But it's going to be hard for our people on minimum incomes to rebuild here now. Houses will cost $60,000 to $100,000. It's hard to secure a loan.

"Our old way of life in Biloxi is gone," he concludes. "What we got now is gaming. Where we lived will probably be a prime onshore gambling site now. We will lose a lot of the outer perimeter of East Biloxi."

Now that it's winter, cold fronts are sweeping down from the north, so volunteers from Hands On USA deliver blankets and coats, items the poor of East Biloxi used to own but now do not." (more)


Maybe someone can explain to me where Indigenous people fit in in this "ancestry map."

Total population: 21 million
Australian: 6.7m (38.7%)
English: 6.4m (36.5%)
Irish: 1.9m (11%)
Italian: 800,000 (4.6%)
German: 742,000 (4.3%)
Chinese: 557,000 (3.2%)
Scottish: 540,000 (3.1%)
Greek: 376,000 (2.2%)
Dutch: 269,000 (1.5%)
Lebanese: 162,000 (0.9%)
Indian: 157,000 (0.9%)
Vietnamese: 157,000 (0.9%)
Polish: 151,000 (0.9%)

The article it accompanies appears below:

"Despite the fact that right-wing pamphlets have been circulated, the violence does not appear to have been co-ordinated from the wings by extremist groups, but to be the result of large groups of youths fuelled by mass hysteria.

It does, however, come against the backdrop of long-term racial tensions in Cronulla - a predominantly white community with a beach easily accessible on the train from Sydney's western suburbs, which are home to a large Muslim population." (more)

"Everything's broken"

David Weir in Salon "Everything's broken"

At first glance, East Biloxi looks like a ghost town. But poke around a bit and people start emerging from inside their crushed houses, from tents pitched out back, or from some of the new FEMA trailers that have recently arrived. Most of the survivors still seem to be trying to just grasp the scope of what has happened to them. They are confused as to why so little help has yet arrived. And they're angry.

Despite the rhetoric of government leaders, and large relief organizations, not to mention the massive media coverage in the weeks following the disaster, these people sense now that they are the leftovers, the ones who, if they are going to rebuild their lives, apparently will have to do it on their own.

Lee Smith is one of the locals who's been waiting for months for help to arrive. "Till last week, every time you call them, they got a different lie to tell you," says Smith, 55, recounting his efforts to get answers from his insurance company and from officials at FEMA. "I've just been waiting on them for something to happen."

As others have noted, Katrina laid bare a dirty secret in America -- a secret with many names. We know it's about race and class but it's about other things as well, things less easily labeled. The storm provided a visible reminder that progress in this country for some always comes at a cost to others. One thing about living in a society that regularly scrubs itself of its collective memory is we keep having to relearn the lessons of the past. (more)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Obama says Republicans practice "Social Darwinism"

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a fast-rising Democratic star, told Florida party members that only a philosophy among Republicans of sink or swim explains why some Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans still live in cars while Republicans in Washington prepare next week to enact $70 billion in tax breaks.

"It's called the 'Ownership society' in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism," Obama said late Saturday at the Democrats meeting at Walt Disney World. (more)

At The Executed Murderer's Grave

From (wood s lot)

At The Executed Murderer's Grave
James Wright
December 13, 1927 - March 25, 1980
Why should we do this? What good is it to us?
Above all, how can we do such a thing?
How can it possibly be done? --Freud
My name is James A. Wright, and I was born
Twenty-five miles from this infected grave,
In Martins Ferry, Ohio, where one slave
To Hazel-Atlas Glass became my father.
He tried to teach me kindness. I return
Only in memory now, aloof, unhurried,
To dead Ohio, where I might lie buried,
Had I not run away before my time.
Ohio caught George Doty. Clean as lime,
His skull rots empty here. Dying's the best
Of all the arts men learn in a dead place.
I walked here once. I made my loud display,
Leaning for language on a dead man's voice.
Now sick of lies, I turn to face the past.
I add my easy greivance to the rest:
Doty, the rapist and murderer,
Sleeps in a ditch of fire, and cannot hear;
And where, in earth or hell's unholy peace,
Men's suicides will stop, God knows, not I.
Angels and pebbles mock me under trees.
Earth is a door I cannot even face.
Order be damned, I do not want to die,
Even to keep Belaire, Ohio, safe.
The hackles on my neck are fear, not grief.
(Open, dungeon! Open roof of the ground!)
I hear the last sea in the Ohio grass,
Heaving a tide of gray disastrousness.
Wrinkles of winter ditch the rotted face
Of Doty, killer, imbecile, and thief:
Dirt of my flesh, defeated, underground.
... (more)

Blogging on Australia. Racist? Who're you calling a racist?

Some interesting posts on the racist (but not according to John Howard) violence in Australia.

"But it’s the Prime Minister’s denials of racism that are the most affective and therefore perhaps the most effective in squelching any prospect of thought or of politics:

I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country. I have always taken a more optimistic view of the character of the Australian people. I do not believe Australians are racist.

So, saying that Australia is racist suggests the absence of a sunny disposition, and who would want to be accused of that? This country is so fucking infantile - this resort to charges of being impolite, unsociable, not getting along are standard, and across the political spectrum. A nation of tiny tots in a schoolyard, it’s all about playing nicely." archive s0metim3s

Can we just think of Australia's history? Aborigine's?

And from another psot on s0metim3s: Speaking of “Under the beach, the barbed wire”

The appalling treatment of asylum seekers? From The Guardian" Australia has acquired a reputation over the last few years for having one of the world's toughest immigration policies. Asylum seekers who arrive there without proper papers have been automatically bundled off to remote islands or desert camps behind razor wire, where they are sometimes kept for years. Illegal workers and overstayers get much the same treatment. Australia's determination to keep unwanted migrants out is a message that has gone round the globe." more

Pro Death

As in experts at death. As in unequivocably in favor of death. At least the death of poor and black people. And better yet poor black people. Redemption. What's that? Keep the killing machines of the state working.

Schwarzenegger's statement denying clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams in pdf format at the LA times via professor kim

But roll out the pro life machine for Terri Schiavo. For the "unborn." (But not the black unborn. Recall Bill Bennett.) Fuck the black, fuck the poor. Only the rich can buy redemption. Start up the amnesia machine. Tookie who? Death penalty what?

And it begins again.

Monday, December 12, 2005

On Richard Pryor

Earl Ofari Hutchinson in Counterpunch "Richard Pryor Wasn't Crazy"

"Only twice can I remember an entertainer agitating audience members to the point that they stormed out of a performance or sat stone silent. Richard Pryor was that entertainer. The first time he did it was at a concert I attended on New Year's Eve at a small club in Hollywood. Pryor cut loose with a bitter, expletive laced, diatribe on black and white relations. He aimed his sharpest barbs at the whites. He needled, hectored, and browbeat them for their racial sins. Midway through his rant, the predictable happened. A trickle of whites made a beeline for the door. Pryor, nonplussed by the sound of their marching feet, didn't relent from his verbal tongue lash. The trickle quickly turned into a stamped. Even then Pryor didn't miss a beat he continued to hurl barbs at their backs. [...] more

Seth Sandronsky in Counterpunch "Thank You, Richard Pryor"

"...Listening and re-listening to Pryor caused me, slowly but surely, to reflect critically on what I thought I knew about blacks and whites, and the over-all status quo. With each laugh, I grew more aware of the concept of race and class inequality.

Insanity, I thought. Though dimly aware of it at the time, I was beginning to question what black author James Baldwin termed the "lie of whiteness."

What? Whiteness is a racial identity built upon negation.

One is white or believes in whiteness because s/he self-identifies as being non-black, non-brown, non-red, and/or non-yellow. This is not an affirmation of one's humanity but a declaration of one's un-humanity.

Here then, is what I understood to be a major social truth Pryor wrestled with in his performances. Maybe this is why when I finally saw him he smiled without a sign of it in his eyes. [...]more

Mel Watkins in New York Times "Richard Pryor, Iconoclastic Comedian, Dies at 65"

"...In his autobiography, "Pryor Convictions," written in 1995 with Todd Gold, he allows Mudbone, the down-home raconteur who was perhaps Mr. Pryor's most unforgettable character and in many ways his alter ego, to comment, "the truth is gonna be funny, but it's gonna scare . . . folks."

In fact, Mr. Pryor's often harsh observations and explicit language did offend some audiences. But he insistently presented characters with little or no distortion. "A lie is profanity," he explained. "A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth, especially about oneself." [...]more

Thousands of young white men attacked people of Arabic and Mediterranean background on Cronulla Beach on Sunday.

BBC "Second night of riots hit Sydney"

"A reporter in the suburb of Cronulla, where dozens were arrested after riots on Sunday, described scenes of "chaos".

Police said carloads of people had come into the area from other parts of Sydney and committed violent acts.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard condemned the weekend's attacks by thousands of young white men on people of Arabic and Mediterranean background.

"We have shops damaged at Caringbah, cars damaged at Cronulla," said a spokesman for New South Wales police. "We have six arrests at this stage."

A reporter from the ABC national radio network said some of the people coming into Cronulla had carried out attacks on property."more

Howard's denial, ""I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country," he said.

BBC "Howard condemns riots in Sydney"

"Attacking people "on the basis of their race, their appearance [and] their ethnicity" was unacceptable, he said.

Thousands of young white men attacked people of Arabic and Mediterranean background on Cronulla Beach on Sunday.

The fighting injured more than 30 people, including police officers, and at least 16 people were arrested.

The clashes follow an assault on two lifeguards last week, reportedly by youths of Middle Eastern origin.

Mobile phone text messages began circulating after the incident, encouraging people to retaliate.

Their revenge began on Sunday afternoon, when thousands of white youths converged on Cronulla Beach.

Chanting "No more Lebs [Lebanese]" and "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie... Oi, Oi, Oi," mobs of drunken young men attacked anyone who looked like they might have come from the Middle East."more

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking

Am I the only one who read this book and really, really disliked it?

On Torture

March 2004, "This creeping sickness": The Guardian

"Truly we live in dark times. A sure sign that the nights are getting longer, even as springtime approaches, comes from the intensity of anxieties about torture. All the time there are reports of new atrocities - in Sudan, among British victims in Saudi Arabia, and of course in the war on terror. Later this month in Geneva, the World Organisation Against Torture will tell the UN Commission on Human Rights that "since the attacks of September 11, numerous states have adopted or announced measures that are incompatible with their obligations under international law". At the same time that we face new atrocities in Madrid, we hear the voices of the first Britons released from Guantánamo Bay where, according to former detainee Jamal al-Harith, they endured a regime of unremitting cruelty." more

" Wrongly Held, Never Tried, Fighting Back"

In The Nation

In the fall of 2001, in the midst of the US war in Afghanistan, Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul traveled from their native Tipton, England, to attend a wedding in Pakistan. Once in the region they decided to extend their trip, eager to learn more about their Muslim roots and to offer help in the humanitarian crisis across the border in Afghanistan. On November 28, 2001, the men--who would come to be known internationally as the Tipton Three--were picked up by bounty hunters of the Afghan warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

With some 200 other suspected terrorists, the men were packed in shipping containers in the presence of US forces, according to a report issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights. They were shipped to Sherbegan prison, a former Taliban fortress, before being placed formally in US custody. Near suffocation, Iqbal passed out and awoke gasping for air at the small holes Dostum's guards had created by firing machine guns at the containers. One of the bullets had hit Iqbal in the arm, giving him a wound that soon became infected for lack of medical care. Ahmed says that all three men suffered "cold, dehydration, hunger...uncertainty," as well as dysentery and other injuries. During the brutal eighteen-hour transport, only twenty of the 200 captives survived.

The story of the Tipton Three--their detention, transport, torture and release--is no more or less outstanding than that of any others who have been swept up in the "war on terror," disappearing into what Vice President Dick Cheney has referred to as the "dark side" of the intelligence world. What is remarkable about these men is that we know their story, and it is one of the clearest failures of the Administration's use of extra-legal methods to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists: They were wrongly held and never tried.more

The Death of Richard Pryor

A while ago KGH and I were talking about Pryor. It was, I think, in reference to a documentary called "The N-word" part of a week in 2004 hosted by Chuck D on Trio. She talked about Pryor after his visit to Africa. When he said that one thing he saw was that "there weren't any niggers in Africa." (From the NYTimes "After returning from a trip to Africa in 1979, Mr. Pryor told audiences he would never use the word "nigger" again as a performer. While abroad, he said, he saw black people running governments and businesses. And in a moment of epiphany, he said, he realized that he did not see anyone he could call by that name.")

Death of an American City: NYTimes Editorial

In TheNYTimes

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles. [...] If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.complete editorial