Thursday, January 19, 2006

Katrina Round up

Glen Ford & Peter Gamble in Black Commentator "Fighting the Theft of New Orleans":

"The overwhelmingly Black New Orleans diaspora is returning in large numbers to resist relentless efforts to bully and bulldoze them out of the city's future. "Struggle on the ground has intensified enormously. A number of groups are in motion, moving against the mayor's commission," said Mtangulizi Sanyika, spokesman for the African American Leadership Project (AALP). "Increasing numbers of people are coming back into the city. You can feel the political rhythm. [...] It is in this context that one must view Mayor Nagin's statement to a mostly Black crowd gathered at City Hall for a Martin Luther King Day march, on Monday: "I don't care what people will say - uptown, or wherever they are. At the end of the day, this city will be chocolate…. This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans." (more)

Michelle Roberts in Yahoo News "More Than 3,200 Still Missing From Katrina":

"NEW ORLEANS - More than 3,200 people are officially still unaccounted for nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and the state medical examiner wants the search to resume for those missing from the most devastated neighborhoods.

A total of nearly 11,500 people were reported missing to the Find Family National Call Center, a center run by federal and state workers. The reports included people from throughout the Gulf Coast area, but most were from Louisiana. (more)

Check out the January 9, 2006 New Yorker article on New Orleans if you can. Really problematic.

Iris Young in Dissent "Katrina: Too Much Blame, Not Enough Responsibility" (via wood s lot):

"The events and discussion around Katrina revealed shared responsibilities that existed long before—and still exist. Rhetorics of blame can get in the way of taking action against structural injustices for which many of us share responsibility. Katrina opened a new discussion about government capacity and spending priorities that we should keep going." (more)

In Memory

of my mother (d. January 19, 1998)

Monday, January 16, 2006

"The Imperial Presidency at Work"

Editorial in The NYTimes

"You would think that Senators Carl Levin and John McCain would have learned by now that you cannot deal in good faith with a White House that does not act in good faith. Yet both men struck bargains intended to restore the rule of law to American prison camps. And President Bush tossed them aside at the first opportunity.
Mr. Bush made a grand show of inviting Mr. McCain into the Oval Office last month to announce his support for a bill to require humane treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and other prisons run by the American military and intelligence agencies. He seemed to have managed to get Vice President Dick Cheney to stop trying to kill the proposed Congressional ban on torture of prisoners.

The White House also endorsed a bargain between Mr. Levin and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, which tempered somewhat a noxious proposal by Mr. Graham to deny a court hearing to anyone the president declares to be an "unlawful enemy combatant." The bargain with Mr. Levin removed language that stripped away cases already before the courts, which would have been an egregious usurpation of power by one branch of government, and it made clear that those cases should remain in the courts.

Mr. Bush, however, seems to see no limit to his imperial presidency. First, he issued a constitutionally ludicrous "signing statement" on the McCain bill. The message: Whatever Congress intended the law to say, he intended to ignore it on the pretext the commander in chief is above the law. That twisted reasoning is what led to the legalized torture policies, not to mention the domestic spying program.

Then Mr. Bush went after the judiciary, scrapping the Levin-Graham bargain. The solicitor general informed the Supreme Court last week that it no longer had jurisdiction over detainee cases. It said the court should drop an existing case in which a Yemeni national is challenging the military tribunals invented by Mr. Bush's morally challenged lawyers after 9/11. The administration is seeking to eliminate all other lawsuits filed by some of the approximately 500 men at Gitmo, the vast majority of whom have not been shown to pose any threat.

Both of the offensive theories at work here - that a president's intent in signing a bill trumps the intent of Congress in writing it, and that a president can claim power without restriction or supervision by the courts or Congress - are pet theories of Judge Samuel Alito, the man Mr. Bush chose to tilt the Supreme Court to the right.

The administration's behavior shows how high and immediate the stakes are in the Alito nomination, and how urgent it is for Congress to curtail Mr. Bush's expansion of power. Nothing in the national consensus to combat terrorism after 9/11 envisioned the unilateral rewriting of more than 200 years of tradition and law by one president embarked on an ideological crusade."

'We the People' Must Save Our Constitution'

Al Gore speech published in Common Dreams:

"At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently. [...] An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. [...] For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world." (more)

"Racial Profiling in Public Schools"

UPDATE: I HAVE a friend who is in a program and teaching in a midwestpublic school system. This is what happens in her school.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson in common dreams

"More black students than ever are getting the boot from public schools. Things are so bad that the NAACP plans to hold public hearings nationally on the racial disparities in school discipline. It's none to soon. In a report on school discipline, the U.S. Dept. of Education in 1999 found that while blacks made up less than twenty percent of the nation's public school students they comprised nearly one out of three students kicked out of the schools.

Five years later nothing had changed. In a report the Children's Defense Fund branded "Educational Apartheid in America's Public Schools," it found that black students are still expelled and suspended in disproportionate numbers to whites. And that's not all. A recent study by the Advancement Project and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on school discipline procedures in Denver, Chicago and Palm Beach County, Florida found that black students are getting expelled or suspended in high numbers, and many of them also wind up in police stations and courtrooms after being expelled.

In the past year black students have gotten dumped from classrooms or hauled off to jail for using a cell phone, talking in class, or simply calling names. And those being severely punished are getting younger. The arrest and manhandling by police of a five year old in Florida earlier this year ignited a firestorm of protest. The child's arrest cast an even harsher glare on the stiff punishment school officials routinely dish out to black students who allegedly misbehave. (more)

"The Pressure to Cover"

Kenji Yoshino in The NYTimes ""The Pressure to Cover" :

It was only when I looked for instances of covering in the law that I saw how lucky I had been. Civil rights case law is peopled with plaintiffs who were severely punished for daring to be openly different. Workers were fired for lapsing into Spanish in English-only workplaces, women were fired for behaving in stereotypically "feminine" ways and gay parents lost custody of their children for engaging in displays of same-sex affection. These cases revealed that far from being a parlor game, covering was the civil rights issue of our time.

• Renee Rogers, an African-American employee at American Airlines, wore cornrows to work. American had a grooming policy that prevented employees from wearing an all-braided hairstyle. When American sought to enforce this policy against Rogers, she filed suit, alleging race discrimination. In 1981, a federal district court rejected her argument. It first observed that cornrows were not distinctively associated with African-Americans, noting that Rogers had only adopted the hairstyle after it "had been popularized by a white actress in the film '10.' " As if recognizing the unpersuasiveness of what we might call the Bo Derek defense, the court further alleged that because hairstyle, unlike skin color, was a mutable characteristic, discrimination on the basis of grooming was not discrimination on the basis of race. Renee Rogers lost her case.

• Lydia Mikus and Ismael Gonzalez were called for jury service in a case involving a defendant who was Latino. When the prosecutor asked them whether they could speak Spanish, they answered in the affirmative. The prosecutor struck them, and the defense attorney then brought suit on their behalf, claiming national-origin discrimination. The prosecutor responded that he had not removed the potential jurors for their ethnicity but for their ability to speak Spanish. His stated concern was that they would not defer to the court translator in listening to Spanish-language testimony. In 1991, the Supreme Court credited this argument. Lydia Mikus and Ismael Gonzalez lost their case. [...]

This distinction between being and doing reflects a bias toward assimilation. Courts will protect traits like skin color or chromosomes because such traits cannot be changed. In contrast, the courts will not protect mutable traits, because individuals can alter them to fade into the mainstream, thereby escaping discrimination. If individuals choose not to engage in that form of self-help, they must suffer the consequences.

The judicial bias toward assimilation will seem correct and just to many Americans.


"Homeland Security Ate My Speech"

Ariel Dorfman "Homeland Security Ate My Speech":

"On December 27th, at 11:31 in the morning to be precise, agents of the Homeland Security Department detained me at Miami International Airport and proceeded to impound a speech I was supposed to deliver in Washington, D.C. to a plenary session of the Modern Language Association of America.

Well, not quite.

It is true that this is what I told some two thousand university professors of language and literature who had gathered at a forum on the "role of the intellectual in the twenty-first century" in the Washington Hilton. I explained to them that the actions of the Department of Homeland Security had made it impossible for me to convey the words I had originally written and that instead I would narrate the strange, drawn-out conversation I had held with those two intimidating men in a windowless room at the airport as they discussed my speech on how exactly to think ourselves out of the catastrophe of our era?" (more)

"The Promised Land" Why We're Still Waiting

Anthony Asadullah Samad in Black Commentator:

"As we approach a significant benchmark in the celebration of the King holiday, its 20th Anniversary, we should pay special attention to what King really stood for and how he's been "commercialized" in his afterlife. Signed into law in November of 1983, the first official "legal" holiday (off day) was Monday, January 20, 1986. King tried to bring America together via the politics of moral suasion - adherence to not only what is right, but what is just, justice being the standard for all that is right (not the other way around). What some think is right isn't always just, but what is just is always right. King understood that - America didn't, and 38 years after his death, 20 years of celebrating the message of America's Prince of Peace, leader of the non-violent social revolution whose life ended so violently, we are still grappling with issues of social injustice and economic inequality. And we're still waiting to get to "the promised land" that King prophesized we would reach without him ("I might not get there with you…"). [...]

By using "King-isms" to deflect the same arguments for racial and social equality King made in his last two books, Why We Can't Wait and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (two books I read during every King week to not get caught up in all the "dream talk"), America was able to stop King's revolution of conscience right in its tracks. They took our focus off achieving equality, or reaching a "promised land," and put it on celebrating a holiday - in rhetorical ways that suggest that they too believe in King's "dream" of a colorblind society. Yet, colorblindness has become a barrier to discussion about what made the King phenomenon: racial inequality and social injustice. The desire to be a "colorblind society" called a halt to the discourse on race in America. Without being able to talk about race, you can’t talk about racial disparities, thus you can’t address racial inequities. But, we all profess to believe in the doctrine of King. Not really." (more)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A World without Race: Does black nationalism have to go too?

The Boston Review has a review by Dorothy Roberts of Paul Gilroy's Postcolonial Melancholia

"The renewed acceptance of inherent racial differences has gone hand in hand with intensified state surveillance of inner-city communities: racial profiling, mass incarceration, welfare restructuring, and the removal of children from families into foster care. As its lineage foreshadows, the biological definition of race provides a ready rationale for this disenfranchisement of black citizens and complements colorblind policies based on the claim that racism is no longer the cause of social inequality.

Given this alarming convergence, black intellectuals today face a critical question: how can we fight systemic racism without relying on the idea that biology divides human beings into races?

Paul Gilroy’s Postcolonial Melancholia is a deeply engaging exploration of this question. The book, Gilroy’s most recent assault on both racism and the concept of race, examines Britain’s urban centers to extend the cosmopolitan anti-race project he began in his influential books, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack and Against Race. Here, Gilroy applies the Freudian concept of melancholia, as it was adapted by German social psychologists to explain Germany’s postwar reactions to its “loss of a fantasy of omnipotence.” He argues that, while Britain attempts to deny the contemporary effects of its imperialist past, it has effectively reaffirmed the colonial order, with its racial divisions, through the post-9/11 “politics of security.” At the same time, this reaffirmation neglects the spontaneous and vibrant multiculturalism that has emerged in British cities and that might, Gilroy argues, provide a “bulwark against the machinations of racial politics.” (more)

"What does 2006 have in store?"

From openDemocracy "Forty-nine of openDemocracy’s distinguished contributors, from Mariano Aguirre to Slavoj Zizek, Neal Ascherson to Jonathan Zittrain – offer their predictions for the coming year. Since this is openDemocracy, we did not expect them to agree. We were not disappointed." Gopal Balakrishnan writes "An englobing, plebiscitary logic"

"2006 will provide a few occasions to assess the true extent of American power and the resilience of the international ranking system of power and wealth on which it stands.

What explains the catastrophic strategic miscalculations that led to the debacle in Iraq? All the main trends of the previous decade seemed to point to the dawning of another American Century: ever-widening spheres of geopolitical action, a new wave of technological dynamism powered by financial markets, and the steady advance of the liberal-democratic mission civilisatrice.

Across the political spectrum most observers assumed that, for better or worse, the next chapter of world history would remain legible in terms of the intersection of these three secular developments. Accordingly, “globalisation” was the master category of the first post-cold-war decade. The scrambling of this picture in the aftermath of 9/11 has created an historical context whose elements have yet to settle into an intelligible pattern. What are the starting points of an investigation into the conjuncture that began with 9/11 and is now entering a new and dangerous phase? I would like to propose the following three.

The first thing to register is the opacity surrounding the operations of increasingly imbalanced global financial markets that price the value of assets – and thus the wealth of entire nations — on the basis of ever edgier methodologies of risk assessment. The latter have spread from the world of business and accounting into the control centres of strategy and intelligence.

The second thing to consider is the post-cold-war breakdown of a balance-of- power scheme that previously compelled the United States to measure its capacities and assess geo-political risk in a more transparent, conventional strategic field of relative power positions. Lastly, one must register the impact of what Guy Debord called “the Spectacle” on the contemporary practice of imperial statecraft. The strategic direction of the US state has become increasingly subject to an englobing, plebiscitary logic of incessant televisual staging and spinning.

For Debord, this cretinisation, so advantageous to rulers, owners and rentiers, nonetheless comes at a price for would-be empire builders: “Once the running of the state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, the state can no longer be led strategically.” An observation by US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld encapsulates this moment in history: “We lack the metrics to know whether we are winning or losing the war.” (more)

"GLOBALISATION: Salvation or threat to humanity?"

From Antigua Sun via political theory an article on globalization

"Globalisation refers to a set of economic, political and cultural processes of increasing special and temporal interdependency. It is also a process of political and economic, as well as cultural evolution. The United Nations Development Project (UNDP) states:

“Globalisation is both a description and a prescription. The description is the widening and deepening of international flows of trade, finance and information in a single, integrated global market.

“The prescription is to liberalise national and global markets in the belief that free flows of trade, finance and information will produce the best outcome for growth and human welfare.” (more)

"What is a Living Wage?"

JON GERTNER in New York Times:

"[Kern] and her colleagues at Acorn witnessed an energetic grass-roots campaign in Baltimore, led by a coalition of church groups and labor unions. Workers in some of Baltimore's homeless shelters and soup kitchens had noticed something new and troubling about many of the visitors coming in for meals and shelter: they happened to have full-time jobs. In response, local religious leaders successfully persuaded the City Council to raise the base pay for city contract workers to $6.10 an hour from $4.25, the federal minimum at the time. The Baltimore campaign was ostensibly about money. But to those who thought about it more deeply, it was about the force of particular moral propositions: first, that work should be rewarded, and second, that no one who works full time should have to live in poverty." (more)

Poll results (10:09 am)

Should the minimum wage be raised, and if so, by how much?
No, it should not be raised from $5.15/hr.:
Yes, to $6.25/hr.:
Yes, to $7.50/hr.:
Yes, to $9.50/hr.:
Yes, to an amount above $10/hr.:
This informal survey and its results are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those who have chosen to participate.