Friday, January 27, 2006

Al Gore's documentary: An Inconvenient Truth

Julian Borger via common dreams :

"It does not exactly have blockbuster written all over it. The film is a documentary about Al Gore, the famously wooden vice-president and failed presidential candidate, wheeling his suitcases from town to town and presenting a slideshow about climate change.

Yet An Inconvenient Truth is getting standing ovations at the Sundance film festival in Utah this week. The festival guide describes the film as a "gripping story" with "a visually mesmerising presentation" that is "activist cinema at its very best". In Nashville, Mr Gore's home town, fire marshals had to turn away hundreds of fans trying to get into a screening.

The film's unlikely success may have something to do with the producer, Lawrence Bender, who also made Pulp Fiction. But it is hard to imagine two more different films.

An Inconvenient Truth follows Mr Gore as he undergoes the daily indignities of emptying his pockets and taking off his shoes at airport security screens, sitting alone in hotel rooms working on his computer, and warning audiences around the world about the imminent danger of global warming.

Unlike his former boss, Bill Clinton, who is making millions on the lecture circuit, Mr Gore tells his story for free. In the film, he comes across as funnier and more self-deprecating than the stiff performer of the ill-fated 2000 presidential campaign.

He reveals that his commitment to the environmental cause was, in part, triggered by the near death of his son in a car accident in 1989, which he says forced him to ask: "How should I spend my time on this earth?"

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Editorial, "Madness of King George" :

"Contemporary experts as diverse as Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and one of the foremost scholars of the conflict between the demands of national security and the Constitution, and Bruce Fein, a key player in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, have identified the Bush Administration's wiretapping as a dangerous assault on our basic freedoms. Turley says, "What the President ordered in this case was a crime." Fein adds that Bush is claiming "more power than King George III had at the time of the Revolution, in asserting the theory that anything the President thinks is helpful to fighting the war against terrorism he can do." (more)

Medea Benjamin, "When Will US Women Demand Peace?" :

"Whenever I travel to international gatherings to talk about the war in Iraq, economic development and women's rights, the question I get asked most frequently is: "Where are the women in the United States? Why aren't they rising up?"

I hear it from women in Africa, who have lost funding for their health clinics because of the Bush Administration's ban on even talking about abortion; from Iraqi women, who are suffering the double oppression of occupation and rising fundamentalism; from European women, who wonder how we can tolerate the crumbling of our meager social services; and from Latina women opposed to unresponsive governments that represent a tiny elite.

The question is variously posed with anger, contempt, curiosity or sympathy. But always, there is a sense of disappointment."


A sampling from The Nation:

Jesse Jackson, Jr. "The Right to Vote" : ""The vote" is a human right. It is seen as an American right. In a democracy there is nothing more fundamental than having the right to vote.

And yet the right to vote is not a fundamental right in our Constitution. [...]

In four states, if you're an ex-felon you're barred from voting for life. There are 5 million Americans (including 1.8 million African-Americans, mostly in Southern states--where 55 percent of African- Americans live) who have paid their debt to society but are prohibited from voting. At the same time, in Maine and Vermont you can vote even if you're in jail." (more)

MAJOR OWENS: "Education Mobilization" : "The United States spends a far smaller percentage of its national budget on education than other developed--and developing--nations. Not only do we lack the skilled workforce we need; we are accumulating masses of dysfunctional citizens who imperil our society.

The only solution is to aggressively place education at the top of our federal budget priorities, where military spending now sits. We must increase the federal government's share of public education financing from 8 to 25 percent.

Nothing less than a plan for total national mobilization will suffice. (more)

DENNIS KUCINICH: "The Big Fix" : "The Big Fix" : "Soon after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and jobs, President Bush said the region looked like it had been obliterated by a weapon. It was. Indifference is a weapon of mass destruction. And the Bush Administration's indifference to the economic security of New Orleans residents continues to this day.

For the 500,000 evacuees still not back in their homes, unemployment is epidemic: About one-quarter of whites, and one-half of African-Americans, are still out of work. It's not because jobs are scarce; in fact, there is a labor shortage in New Orleans. Most of those who have returned from the Katrina diaspora have found jobs. The massive unemployment is caused by the lack of housing near the reconstruction job sites." (more)



the phrase "the war on terror." Call it perpetual warmaking, profiteering, the onset of the dictatorship, etc.

the phrase "extraordinary rendition" to speak about kidnapping and torture; the "outsourcing of torture."

to talk about army prison guards torture of Iraqui prisoners as an aberration when this too is the "outsourcing of torture" from the US prison system to prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.

to be surprised by the arrogance of this admistration.

to use the phrase African-American to describe all black peoples (African descendants to be sure) in the US.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just Us: The Nation Reviews 3 books on Race & Racial Inequality

David Oshinsky in The Nation "When Affirmative Action Was White" :

"Katznelson owes a large debt to other recent studies, particularly Lizabeth Cohen's superb synthesis of citizenship and prosperity, A Consumers' Republic. He begins with Lyndon Johnson's magisterial address at Howard University in 1965. "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair," the President declared, adding: "We seek not just freedom but opportunity.... not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result." By then, Johnson was a devoted advocate of civil rights. Since this was not always the case, Katznelson uses LBJ's remarkable transformation to show how Southern politicians helped craft social welfare legislation to benefit white men in particular, while insuring the continued subordination of blacks. The key decades were the 1930s and '40s--the era "when affirmative action was white." [...]

"As Katznelson notes, it was Southern Democrats who helped craft the Social Security Act and the Servicemen's Readjustment Act (commonly known as the GI Bill). Though "colorblind" in language, these laws selectively excluded blacks from reaping the economic rewards they offered. The Social Security Act, for example, did not apply to predominantly black occupations in the South, such as domestic service and farm labor; worse, the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance and Aid to Dependent Children rested with the states, leaving local white bureaucrats in control." (more)

Letter from a Haitian Prison: By Fr. GERARD JEAN-JUSTE

Fr. GERARD JEAN-JUSTE in Counter Punch "Letter from a Haitian Prison":

"It is not easy for me to communicate to you through the media. It is forbidden by my jailers. That order comes from the Big Boss, the invisible one in Haiti.

With heart broken I have followed most of the big events in Haiti. Year 2005 has been very rough in Haiti. Tragedy after tragedy. As we have survived it, I remain grateful to God for you and for me." (more)

Blogging from the Gulf Coast

Courtesy of racism ain't over:

"While New Orleans caught one edge of Hurricane Katrina, the storm hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi head on, causing unfathomable destruction. Nonetheless news coverage of New Orleans has overshadowed, Mississippi. When the mainstream news media does report on Mississippi, we may hear about places like Waveland, Pass Christian, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and Biloxi, but we don't hear about the African Americans who live there. There are few images of Black Mississippians from the Gulf Coast and no discussion of their communities. Except for Waveland, all of these cities have African American populations that are larger than the national average of 12.3%. As of Census 2000, Pass Christian is 28.2% African American. Gulfport is 33.5% African American. In Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, the numbers are 16.6% and 19%, respectively.

As I have pursued writers who are local activists and survivors from the Gulf Coast region, I have been moved by the experiences of African American activists in Gulfport and Biloxi, whom I have had the opportunity to talk to. In Mississippi, as in New Orleans, the slow responses of FEMA and the Red Cross have harmed storm victims of many ethnicities and economic backgrounds. In both places, however, government inaction has especially harmed African Americans. At this writing, as recovery gets underway, white neighborhoods in Biloxi have been substantially cleaned up; on the other side of town, the African American neighborhood still looks like a bombed out war zone." (dollars & sense)

AND "Before Katrina: Modern Day Debtors' Prison In Gulfport, MS" :

"Last July, a homeless man named Hubert Lindsey was stopped by police officers in Gulfport, Miss., for riding his bicycle without a light. The police soon discovered that Lindsey was a wanted man. Gulfport records showed he owed $4,780 in old fines. So, off to jail he went.

Legal activists now suing the city in federal court say it was pretty obvious that Lindsey couldn't pay the fines. According to their complaint, he lived in a tent, was unemployed, and appeared permanently disabled by an unseeing eye and a mangled arm. But without a lawyer to plead his case, the question of whether Lindsey was a scofflaw or just plain poor never came up. Nor did the question of whether the fines were really owed, or if it was constitutional to jail him for debts he couldn't pay. Nobody, the activists say, even bothered to mention alternatives like community service. The judge ordered Lindsey to "sit out" the fine in jail. That took nearly two months." (more)

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I've been on a post-tenure leave this semester & finishing manuscript revisions. As I prepare to re-enter the classroom I'm wondering what classes & materials other people are teaching & what classes people are taking. What books, theorists, concerns are at the center of your classes? Your own work? What are you reading & thinking about?