Saturday, January 14, 2006

"The Continuing Reality of Racial Segregation"

Douglas S. Massey in The Next American City

"Every day that our nation was segregated was a day our nation was unfaithful to our founding ideals." So said President George W. Bush, in the wake of Senator Trent Lott's controversial remarks on Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday. Unfortunately the President's use of the past tense is unjustified. In many ways the nation is segregated and we are unfaithful to our ideals. Americans of all races may endorse the principle that people should be able to live wherever they want to, regardless of race. That is far from how we actually live.

According to census data from the year 2000, 48 percent of all African Americans in U.S. metropolitan areas experience conditions of residential isolation so extreme that they satisfy the criteria for "hypersegregation." Within hypersegregated cities, the typical black resident lives in a neighborhood that is virtually all black. These neighborhoods are packed tightly together around the urban center. An additional 21 percent of African Americans in 2000 lived in conditions of "high segregation"; only one-third of urban African Americans lived under conditions of low or moderate segregation.

Historically in the United States, very few other groups have ever experienced high segregation, and never for long periods of time. Segregation levels for Jews, Italians, and Poles, while briefly "high" during and after the great migrations of the early-20th century, fell sharply in the ensuing decades as generations wore on and socioeconomic status rose. We observe much the same pattern among Latino and Asian immigrants today. No other group in the United States besides African Americans has ever experienced hypersegregation, with the exception of Latinos of Afro-Caribbean origin. Indeed, the only other historical example--anywhere in the world--of such high levels of segregation persisting over a prolonged period of time is South Africa under apartheid, where levels of segregation were only slightly higher than those observed today in the hypersegregated cities of the United States. (more)

"Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961"

From NPR

In 1961, the Freedom Riders set out for the Deep South to defy Jim Crow laws and call for change. They were met by hatred and violence -- and local police often refused to intervene. But the Riders' efforts transformed the civil rights movement.

Jim Farmer's unexpected departure placed a heavy burden on Jim Peck, who suddenly found himself in charge of the Freedom Ride. As Farmer left for the Atlanta airport, Peck could not help wondering if he would ever see his old friend again. They had been through a lot together -- surviving the depths of the Cold War and CORE's lean years, not to mention the first ten days of the Freedom Ride. Now Peck had to go on alone, perhaps to glory, but more likely to an untimely rendezvous with violence, or even death. When Peck phoned Fred Shuttlesworth, the outspoken pastor of Birmingham's Bethel Baptist Church and the leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, to give him the exact arrival times of the two "Freedom Buses," the normally unflappable minister offered an alarming picture of what the Freedom Riders could expect once they reached Birmingham. The city was alive with rumors that a white mob planned to greet the Riders at the downtown bus stations. Shuttlesworth was not privy to FBI surveillance and did not know any of the details, but he urged Peck to be careful. Peck, trying to avoid a last-minute panic. (more)

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Nobel Lecture


This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man's chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man's ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war. [...]

The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path. [...]

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for "the least of these". Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority. (more)

The Impeachment of George W. Bush

Elizabeth Holtzman in The Nation

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so. (more)

Gore to Address "Constitutional Crisis"

From The Nation

In a major address slated for delivery Monday in Washington, the former Vice President is expected to argue that the Bush administration has created a "Constitutional crisis" by acting without the authorization of the Congress and the courts to spy on Americans and otherwise abuse basic liberties.

Aides who are familiar with the preparations for the address say that Gore will frame his remarks in Constitutional language. The Democrat who beat Bush by more than 500,000 votes in the 2000 presidential election has agreed to deliver his remarks in a symbolically powerful location: the historic Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution. But this will not be the sort of cautious, bureacratic speech for which Gore was frequently criticized during his years in the Senate and the White House.

Indeed, his aides and allies are framing it as a "call to arms" in defense of the Bill of Rights and the rule of law in a time of executive excess. (more)

Now IRS is Harassing the Poor

From common dreams

Some of the press are starting to get the drill. Give us something like the West Virginia coal mine disaster, and instead of standing around emoting like Geraldo Rivera, a few reporters have enough sense to ask the obvious question: What is this mine's safety record? And when it turns out to be abysmal, a few more reporters have enough sense to ask: Who's in charge of doing something after a mine gets 205 safety violations in one year? Where's the Mine Safety and Health Administration? Who runs it? What's their background — are they professionals or mining industry stooges? Who's the Michael "Heckuvajob" Brown in this outfit? Why are so many jobs at MSHA just left completely unfilled? How much has MSHA's budget been cut since 2001 to pay for tax cuts for the rich? [...]

Hundreds of thousands of poor Americans have had their tax refunds frozen and their returns labeled fraudulent, according to the IRS's taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson. Testifying before Congress this week, Olson said the average income of these taxpayers is $13,000. Olson and her staff sampled the suspected returns and found that, at most, one in five was questionable.

The poor citizens are seeking refunds under the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Reagan program to help the working poor. The total possible tax fraud amount involved in these returns is $9 billion — compared to the $100 billion problem with fraud by small businessmen who deal in cash. That's the kind of shrewd administration we've come to expect from the Bushies. Olson points out it is not only unfair, but also a waste of time. Meanwhile, mind-boggling sums in taxes are being evaded by those at the other end of the income scale. (more)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Living just enough, for the city

I live in the Boston area. The murder rate for 2005 was the highest in 10 years with the majority of the murders occurring in black communities. This has been big news on wbur for the last couple of months. Big news in terms of cracking down on black people, doing random sweeps of neighborhoods, locking people up and getting folks to stop selling the "stop snitching" or "no snitching" (I forget which) shirt.

Then, a few days ago there was a murder in Brookline in a halfway house. This was the first murder in Brookline in three years. The police made sure to reassure the residents of the city that they were safe. There was no murderer in their midst. This was a one-time event.

I was struck, once again, by the very acceptabilty of the violent loss of black life. No one reassures the community in Roxbury that they're all right. No. They've got to stop allowing this in their midst. The community has got to do something, etc., etc., etc.

The cheapness of black life.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Bush on New Orleans: "It's a great place to find some of the greatest food in the world and it's a heck of a lot of fun."

"From when I first came here to today, New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to visit," the president said today at a roundtable discussion with 11 small business owners and community leaders. "It's a heck of a place to bring your family and have some wonderful fun."

He went on to say: "If folks around the country are looking for a great place to have a convention, I suggest coming here to the great city of New Orleans." (more)

"Man jailed for Africa sex tourism"

From BBC

"A sex tourist arrested in Milton Keynes has been jailed indefinitely for making trips to Africa to abuse poor children. Alexander Kilpatrick, a father-of-two, will serve at least five years and four months for 17 counts of sex offences.

The 56-year-old made "harrowing" films of the abuse, said Judge Roger Chapple, at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court.

Kilpatrick, banned from Africa and other sex tourism hotspots, is the first man to be jailed using laws to prosecute those who abuse abroad. [...] (more)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

US army in Iraq institutionally racist, claims British officer

Richard Norton-Taylor and Jamie Wilson in Washington. From The Guardian

"A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations. [...]

What is startling is the severity of his comments - and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them.

American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were "almost unfailingly courteous and considerate". But he says "at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism" (more)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Teens sent to prison for lynching"

Ann O'Neill on CNN:

"Before lawyers could begin opening statements Tuesday, the teens pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault and battery and second degree lynching.

South Carolina legally defines lynching as a mob attack against an individual where the victim survives.

Prosecutors said the five, riding to a nearby drag strip in three pickup trucks, accosted Clyburn on July 7 as he walked along a rural road in Cherokee County, South Carolina.

One of the defendants shouted a racial slur. Another, identified as Christopher Scott Cates, challenged Clyburn to a fight, and the others surrounded Clyburn, beating and kicking him, prosecutors said.(more)


Greg Palast via I cite

"Today and tomorrow every 8-year-old in the state of New York will take a test. It's part of George Bush's No Child Left Behind program. The losers will be left behind to repeat the third grade.

Try it yourself. This is from the state's actual practice test. Ready, class?

"The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year."

And here's one of the four questions:

"The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played

"A two matches in one day
"B against each other
"C with two balls at once
"D as partners"

OK, class, do you know the answer? (By the way, I didn't cheat: there's nothing else about "doubles" in the text.)

My kids go to a New York City school in which more than half the students live below the poverty line. There is no tennis court.

There are no tennis courts in the elementary schools of Bed-Stuy or East Harlem. But out in the Hamptons, every school has a tennis court. In Forest Hills, Westchester and Long Island's North Shore, the schools have nearly as many tennis courts as the school kids have live-in maids.

Now, you tell me, class, which kids are best prepared to answer the question about "doubles tennis"? The 8-year-olds in Harlem who've never played a set of doubles or the kids whose mommies disappear for two hours every Wednesday with Enrique the tennis pro?

Is this test a measure of "reading comprehension" -- or a measure of wealth accumulation?

If you have any doubts about what the test is measuring, look at the next question, based on another part of the text, which reads (and I could not make this up):

"Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs. In this sentence, a club is probably a

"F baseball bat
"G tennis racquet
"H tennis court
"J country club"

Helpfully, for the kids in our 'hood, it explains that a "country club" is a, "place where people meet." Yes, but which people?
President Bush told us, "By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, we are regularly testing every child and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing."

But there are no "better options." In the delicious double-speak of class war, when the tests have winnowed out the chaff and kids stamped failed, No Child Left results in that child being left behind in the same grade to repeat the failure another year.

I can't say that Mr. Bush doesn't offer better options to the kids stamped failed. Under No Child Left, if enough kids flunk the tests, their school is marked a failure and its students win the right, under the law, to transfer to any successful school in their district. You can't provide more opportunity than that. But they don't provide it, the law promises it, without a single penny to make it happen. In New York in 2004, a third of a million students earned the right to transfer to better schools -- in which there were only 8,000 places open. NO CHILD'S BEHIND LEFT: THE TEST

Zizek on 24 "The Depraved Heroes of 24 Are the Himmlers of Hollywood"

The message of the TV series, that torturers can retain their human dignity if the cause is right, is a profound lie
Slavoj Zizek Common Dreams

"The pressure of events is so overbearing, the stakes so high, that they necessitate a kind of suspension of ordinary moral concerns; displaying such concerns when the lives of millions are at stake means playing into the hands of the enemy. The CTU agents, as well as their terrorist opponents, live and act in a shadowy space not covered by the law, doing things that "simply have to be done" to save our societies from the threat of terrorism. This includes not only torturing terrorists when they are caught, but even torturing members of CTU or their closest relatives if they are suspected of terrorist links. [...]

Therein also resides the lie of 24: that it is not only possible to retain human dignity in performing acts of terror, but that if an honest person performs such an act as a grave duty, it confers on him a tragic-ethical grandeur. The parallel between the agents' and the terrorists' behaviour serves this lie.

But what if such a distance is possible? What if people do commit terrible acts as part of their job while being loving husbands, good parents and close friends? As Arendt says, the fact that they are able to retain any normality while committing such acts is the ultimate confirmation of moral depravity. (more)

Monday, January 09, 2006

"America: 'Forever Free,' but Not Yet Whole"

Eric Foner on Fresh Air "America: 'Forever Free,' but Not Yet Whole"

" In the period after the Civil War, former slaves were made promises of equality and citizenship by the federal government. Historian Eric Foner analyzes the fate of those promises in Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction.

The drastic changes in American society are pointed up by three amendments to the Constitution: the 13th abolished slavery; the 14th guaranteed birthright citizenship and equal rights for all Americans; and the 15th barred states from discriminating on the basis of race in voting rights.

Foner writes, "The unresolved legacy of Reconstruction remains a part of our lives. In movements for social justice that have built on the legal and political accomplishments of Reconstruction, and in the racial tensions that still plague American society, the momentous events of Reconstruction reverberate in modern-day America." (more)

"Belafonte Calls Bush 'Greatest Terrorist'"

Ian James Common Dreams "Belafonte Calls Bush 'Greatest Terrorist'":

"The American singer and activist Harry Belafonte called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" on Sunday and said millions of Americans support the socialist revolution of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Belafonte led a delegation of Americans including the actor Danny Glover and the Princeton University scholar Cornel West that met the Venezuelan president for more than six hours late Saturday. Some in the group attended Chavez's television and radio broadcast Sunday.

In this photo released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press, American singer and activist Harry Belafonte speaks as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez looks on during Chavez's weekly television and radio program in El Consejo in Venezuela's Aragua state, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006. Belafonte called U.S. President George W. Bush a 'terrorist' while warmly praising Chavez and criticizing a U.S. press that he said has ignored the achievements of his socialist programs. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press, Marelo Garcia)
"No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution," Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast. (more)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"War News Radio"

I read about War News Radio in the December 26 & January 2 New Yorker. They are a group of students at Swarthmore College who speak with people in Iraq who are willing to tell their stories. Here's the write up for a sample show. From December 09, 2005:

Images of War

This week, from War News Radio, Images of War. We hear about the Iraqi film industry from an aspiring filmaker in Baghdad.

And we look at the images Americans are getting - and not getting - of the Iraq war.

Last, we visit with an Iraqi artist about how he improvised in order to keep painting through the invasion of Iraq.

These stories and the week in review, this week from War News Radio.

"Pip at sea: loneliness, blackness"

Tom Dumm's article in Massachusetts Review 46, 3 (Fall 2005) via I cite. Jodi writes:

"A fantastic article from my friend Tom Dumm in Massachusetts Review 46, 3 (Fall 2005). I'll blow the ending: he argues that Ishmael is Pip. Tom reads Moby Dick in part out of his interest in loneliness. He writes: "To be lonely in America is to be black, and brilliant, constantly in danger of being bought and sold, rooted in the deepest genealogy of power and loss, and secret witness to a catastrophe that only deepens over time." More of Dumm's article Who Is Ishmael?

"When Democracy Died in Wilmington, N.C."

Brent Staples in the NY Times:

"A draft of a voluminous report commissioned by the North Carolina legislature has recently outlined a grotesquely violent and stridently racist version of state history that rivals anything ever seen in the most troubled parts of the Deep South. The report, by the Wilmington Race Riot Commission, has thrown a klieg light onto a coup and riot that were staged in Wilmington, N.C., in 1898 - and that still have an evident impact on the political landscape of the state.

The uprising was engineered by white supremacists who unseated a government that had been elected by an alliance that included black citizens and white progressives. Scores of black citizens were killed during the uprising - no one yet knows how many - and prominent blacks and whites were banished from the city under threat of death. White supremacists hijacked the state government, stripped black citizens of the right to vote and brought black political participation to a close.

The events outlined in the report provide a ready explanation for why black people in North Carolina remained politically docile for so long and why the civil rights movement was so slow to reach them. The speed with which the coup and the accompanying riot were papered over and swept from public awareness reminds us what a powerful force cultural amnesia can be in shaping how we see history." (more)

Haiti and the "Impending Slaughter"

lecolonelchabert has running posts on the crisis in Haiti.

"Haiti UN mission chief found dead" more

38,000 Dead Each Month

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) an estimated 38,000 people die each month largely from malnutrition and preventable diseases. But, "Since the war began in 1998, some 4m people have died, making it the world's most deadly war since 1945." (more)

Blood on your cellphone. "The European lobby groups, like the regional analysts, say that coltan production is fuelling the war in Congo." (more)

See also: (Congo War and the Role of Coltan)

Facing Starvation

Kenya: 2.5m people
Somalia: 2m
Ethiopia: 1m
Djibouti: 150,000
Source: FAO
(From BBC News) "The Kenyan government has said it will buy up all the country's available maize stocks to feed those in the drought-stricken north-east.
Describing the situation as "very severe", it said it would put aside $14m (£7.9m) to purchase the maize.

Kenya says its main priority is to feed the 2.5 million people at immediate risk, almost 10% of the population.

The United Nations food agency has warned that 11 million people across the Horn of Africa need food aid.

The Kenyan government has said conditions in the north-eastern provinces are a national disaster, with 2.5 million people expected to need aid to survive beyond the end of February." (more)