Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Surviving to tell the tale of torture"

Olga Talamant in the LA Times

"THE BURLAP BAG felt rough and scratchy against my cheek, but it also smelled earthy and deceptively comforting. Thick tape already covered my eyes, so the bag's only purpose was to frighten me. And it worked. I knew I had entered another dimension.

A day earlier I had been a not-too-unusual 24-year-old American student from UC Santa Cruz, working with the Peronist Youth organization for social change in Azul, Argentina. For the next 16 months, I would become one of thousands of political prisoners and torture victims taken into custody as Argentina first declared martial law and then later suffered a right-wing military coup. But I was one of the lucky ones — a survivor, thanks to family and friends in the United States who won my release on March 27, 1976.

When I returned home to California and testified about the torture, my stories horrified listeners. But we could feel safe here because torture was the province of brutal, unsophisticated despots. It was a time when the average American could not imagine our soldiers abroad participating in anything remotely similar. Now, three years into the Iraq war, we have seen the images of Abu Ghraib and read accounts of the atrocities at Baghdad's Camp Nama.

Americans once shocked by my experience now hear officials defend torture as a necessary evil in the war against terrorism. But it is only evil. read more

More Than 500,000 Rally in L.A. for Immigrants' Rights

My brother called from the march in LA and said it was amazing, that it was LA like he'd never seen it before. That he stood in place for almost 2 1/2 hours there were so many people marching.

The LA Times is estimating 500,00- which means there are probably many, many more than that.

Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border. Spirited crowds representing labor, religious groups, civil-rights advocates and ordinary immigrants stretched over 26 blocks of downtown Los Angeles from Adams Blvd. along Spring Street and Broadway to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). The crowd, estimated by police at more than 500.000, represented one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.

The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county. [...]

Saturday's rally, spurred by anger over legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last December, was part of what many say is an unprecedented effort to organize immigrants and their supporters across the nation. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is to take up efforts Monday to complete work on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal. Unlike the House bill, which beefed up border security and toughened immigration laws, the Senate committee's version is expected to include a guest worker program and a path to legalization for the nation's 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants.

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have staged demonstrations in more than a dozen cities. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious communities have launched immigrant rights campaigns, with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony taking a leading role in speaking out against the House bill and calling on his priests to defy its provisions that would make felons of anyone who aided undocumented immigrants. In addition, several cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions against the House legislation and some, such as Maywood, have declared itself a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

"There has never been this kind of mobilization in the immigrant community ever," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "They have kicked the sleeping giant. It's the beginning of a massive immigrant civil rights struggle." read more

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kristof, "Suburban Safari"'s and "Invisible Children"

KGH told me to read this Nicholas Kristof opinion in the NYTimes "On the Road, You and Me"

"Where's the best place to get an education? Some might say Harvard or Yale, Oxford or the Sorbonne. But maybe you should add Ndjamena to the list.

Universities are — oh so slowly — recognizing that they need to prepare students to survive globalization. But most overseas studies programs are both too short and too tame. They typically involve sending a herd of students for a term in France or Italy, where they study a little and drink a lot together, amid occasional sightings of locals.

That's why I bring up Ndjamena, this dusty capital of one of the poorest countries in the world. A student living independently here could learn French and Arabic, and would emerge with a much richer understanding of the world than could be taught in any classroom.

Traditionally, many young Britons, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders take a year to travel around the world on a shoestring, getting menial jobs when they run out of money. We should try to inculcate the custom of such a "gap year" in this country by offering university credit for such experiences.

So here's my proposal. Universities should grant a semester's credit to any incoming freshman who has taken a gap year to travel around the world. In the longer term, universities should move to a three-year academic program, and require all students to live abroad for a fourth year. In that year, each student would ideally live for three months in each of four continents: Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

A student might, for example, start off teaching English and studying Latin American history in Ecuador, then learn Chinese intensively in Chengdu, then work at an AIDS clinic in Botswana while reading African literature on the side, and finish up by studying Islamic history in Istanbul. In each place, the students would live with local families.

Since the best way to learn about public health challenges is to endure them, I would also suggest offering extra credit for any student who gets malaria.

The cost of a year of travel would be far less than the annual cost of attending many colleges in the U.S. Third-class trains and buses are incredibly cheap; you can sometimes ride free on top of the trains. As a student backpacker myself in India two decades ago, I once lined up with the beggars and lepers of Amritsar to get free gruel from a Sikh temple — but that embarrassed even me.

In any case, all this suffering builds character. And students would get far more out of a year of travel than a year in classrooms.

Meanwhile, there's no need for universities to take the first step. Spring break season is upon us, and university students are dashing off to party in Mexico and Florida. So, you student readers, how about dashing off instead to Mongolia, where you'll find plenty of sand — the Gobi Desert — and get a truly exotic alcoholic drink: fermented mare's milk.

As for parents, if you have a child graduating from high school or college this year, forget about a conventional graduation present. Instead, send him or her off with a friend with a one-way ticket to Timbuktu.

Over a year or so, the kids would figure out how to catch rides with trucks north over the Sahara, then hitchhike through the Middle East and across Central Asia. After a temporary job in Calcutta to earn a few rupees, they could migrate through East Asia and then make enough money as tutors teaching English in China to buy cheap air tickets home.

Now, that would be an education!

You may not know that one of the most cosmopolitan states is Utah. That's because so many young Mormons spend two years abroad as missionaries. They learn languages, live as the locals do and bring back a worldliness that stays with them forever.

All this has been throat-clearing for my own announcement: In an effort to put my company's money where my mouth is, I'm sponsoring a contest in which I'll take a university student with me on a reporting trip to a remote part of Africa. We'll visit schools, clinics and villages, perhaps chatting with presidents in their villas and Pygmies in the rain forest. The winner will write a Weblog for and prepare a video blog that will be shown on mtvU.

So if you're a masochistic student — or if you have an ex you want to send into a malarial jungle — you can find out more information at

And even if you don't win, you can do this kind of thing on your own. So I'll hope to see you hanging out in Ndjamena by the Chari River, as the hippos bellow nearby."



the movement

the trailer

the teaser

The W Word

There's a really good post on black prof called "The W Word." It begins:

"On Wednesday, March 22, 2006, NPR Morning Edition, a report titled “Zimbabwean Farmers Find a New Life in Nigeria” actually used the W word. White. Somehow, the report is a success story. It’s set up this way: “This next story is about white farmers in a majority black country. Zimbabwe’s white farmers were forced off their farms. It was part of an infamous land reform program instituted by President Robert Mugabe. Some of those farmers are getting a second chance in another African country.” And then the report begins with a proudly Zimbabwean voice: “What do you want to know? What can I tell you. It’s a lekker place, Nigeria. We are very happy. We are working ourselves to death.” The reporter `translates’ lekker as sweet, and omits to note the language is Afrikaans. This matters because near the end of the report, we are told that things are changing in this corner of Nigeria, but we’ll come to that in a bit.

A year ago thirteen white farmers moved, or fled, or according to the report `were wooed,’ from Zimbabwe to outside Shonga village, in Kwara State, west central Nigeria, and today they’re doing fine. With government subsidies and only “a handful of local farmers displaced”, they have set up farms of 2500 acres or so each. With direct and implied government assistance, modern technology, they now boast swimming pools and good harvests. Fortunately, they brought their Black Zimbabwean housekeepers, so, you know, it’s all good.

The Black Zimbabweans come into the picture as children, literally, singing a song in Shona, the majority language of Zimbabwe. It’s explained that the language and culture of Shonga, a Hausa speaking area, is encountering changes. For the Black Zimbabweans, in this instance Tapera Manyika, his wife Yeukai Sam, and their three daughters, life has improved. With less violence and a viable local currency, it’s all good." read more


A Critical Queer Theory in Law? Like Critical Race Theory (in relation to Critical Legal Studies)-- but, to quote E. Patrick Johnson, a Critical Quare Theory. (Quare is, for Johnson, "thinking racialized sexuality"––see Black Queer Studies.)

Am I forgetting something obvious?

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

Over at slant truth Kevin Andre Elliott posts on Michael Franti and the Disposable Heroes:

Earlier today I was listening to the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury . Remember them? Michael Franti’s second group (after the Beatnigs and before Spearhead) along with Ron Tse. Back in the early nineties, when this album came out, it was the shit, but I would have expected it to have grown stale with time. Fortunately that’s not the case. In many ways, I find the album more relevant now than ever. The lyrics from the title track:

Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

Life these days can be so complex
We don’t make the time to stop and reflect
I know from first hand experience one can go delirious
seriously it can be like that
But before I put my foot in my mouth
cause that’s what I’m about to start talking about
Please let me confess before all the rest
that I’m afflicted by this addicted like most in the U.S.
It’s tough to make a living when you’re an artist
It’s even tougher when you’re socially conscious
Careerism, opportunism
can turn the politics into cartoonism
Let’s not patronize or criticize
Let’s open the door and look inside
Pull the file on this state of denial

Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury

Raise the double standard

The bass, the treble
don’t make a rebel
Having your life together does
has an image of a young one
fast living not give an expletive
no respect for his
or the lives of those around him
Suicidal, homicidal or at very least
extremely unbridled
How convenient for those
who would like to destroy him
The problem has never been our political logic
but the way we enact it
We can imagine a perfect society
but can’t maintain a decent relationship
The failure found in the luxury, not in the hardship

Hipocrisy is the greatest luxury
Raise the double standard

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Iraqi Exile Speaks Out Against the Targeting of Gay Iraqis by Shia Death Squads

From democracy now

"Shiite death squads in Iraq have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution. The attacks follow a death-to-gays fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last October. In a question and answer section of his website, Sistani says homosexuality is "forbidden" and calls for the killing of gays in the "worst, most severe way."

ALI HILI: Iraq, at the time of Saddam, was -- I mean, I'm talking about as a gay Iraqi -- it was not as bad as we can see now. In fact, it was a little bit -- we have a little bit acceptance. We have little bit of -- not too many intimidation. People are really accepting gays, especially in theater, in entertainment and media. We had several actors, singers, which was very popular before. There was no homophobic attitudes toward gay and lesbians. Most of them are welcomed in the community and the society. And people just -- we indulgence with the rest of Iraq.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what has happened in the period since the U.S. occupation?

ALI HILI: Well, we started to receive information, in particular, the last two years, when we made contact with our friends, in particular, my old friends in Baghdad. And horrific, horrific details about, I mean killing, intimidation, harassing, arresting. It's a very dark age for gays and lesbians and transsexuals and bisexuals in Iraq right now. And the fact that Iraq has been shifted from a secular state into a religious state was completely, completely horrific. We were very modern. We were very, very Western culturalized -- Iraq -- comparing to the rest of the Middle East. Why it's been shifted to this Islamic dark ages country? read more

"Spate Speech or Honest Mistake"

From acephalous "On his show this morning, Dave Lenihan attempted to list Condleezza Rice's qualifications for NFL Commissioner:

She's been chancellor of Stanford. She's got the patent resume of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football. She's African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.

The link to the audio on The St. Louis Post-Dispatch warns potential listeners of the clip's "offensive language." People were certainly offended by it. KTRS station manager Tim Dorsey fired Lenihan a scant twenty minutes after his self-described "slip of the tongue." According to Dorsey, Lenihan's "slip"

was a most unfortunate racial slur. There can be no excuse for what was said. Dave Lenihan has been let go. There is enough hate. We certainly are not going to fan those flames. That is not what we're about.

St. Louis' NAACP chapter president, Harold Crumpton, called Dorsey seeking an explanation. Dorsey explained that Lenihan had already been fired. Crumpton sounded pleased, noting that "coon" is a word "intended to inflame passions . . . like the 'n word.'" I emphasize the word "intended" because the intention is there only in a general sense. It fails to account for the specific context of this utterance.

His unfortunate "slip" immediately follows a conversation in which Lenihan agrees with a caller who said she'd make a "fantastic President." He accidentally calls her a "coon" while trying to refer to the "coup" her ascension to NFL Commissioner would be. I grant you that the word "coup" immediately following the phrase "she's African-American" reeks of tokenism. But to claim that he "intended to inflame passions" by praising her qualifications for both the office of President of the United States and the Commissioner of the National Football League irks me.

This kind of unintentionally offensive comment differs from those which result from unacknowledged privilege. Lenihan's language isn't "unintended" in the "I'm unaware of the structural inequalities inherent in contemporary America" so much as the "I tripped over my tongue and out came what sounded like a racial epithet" way. (Unless you believe that in praising Rice he intended to denigrate all African-Americans. One could argue that Rice fits into the old "one of the good ones" mold and that Lenihan did intend to belittle the majority of African-Americans. None of the talking heads I've watched have forwarded that argument though.) read more

Scott Eric Kauffman's slip in the title is of a different but related order than the slip in the broadcast. Both speak some larger "truth." Spate is a "flood or inundation; A sudden or violent outburst or outpouring of some quality, feeling, etc." And coon "a Negro" (slang, derogatory). SEK, "Short of granting the existence of a psychoanalytic unconscious which reveals itself through such slips, I can't see how someone would ascribe ill-intention to them. However there are times when they may be the product of conscious thought interfering with articulation." I don't really think it's intention at all here for Lehihan (given his response) but both slips are a form of flooding, a form of remembering but Lenihan acknowledges his and SEK, here, seems not to want to acknowledge his own.

The Need for Struggle: Blacks at a Political Impasse

Glen Ford and Peter Gamble in black commentator

"We have arrived at, and long passed, the juncture in Black politics when we can afford a false unanimity. Although there does exist an overwhelming consensus of progressive opinion among African Americans at-large, there is a deep and widening chasm between the people and those who purport to represent the masses - such as has not been seen since the mid-Sixties, when distinct strains of divergent Black political opinion gave motion to various oppositional movements. These movements were not opposed to each other, but were joined in opposition to racial oppression.

The result was a social transformation of America - accomplished by Black people - and which spawned the women's and anti-war movement: children of the Black movement, without which these social advances would not have been possible. The entire society was restructured, for the benefit of most citizens. But there was a price to pay - a great "white backlash" that has been most dramatically manifested in mass Black incarceration as a national policy since the early Seventies, the white reaction to Blacks stepping out of their place.

At the same time, during the early Seventies, we saw the ascension of a newly liberated class of Blacks who had cashed in on the chips that the Freedom Movement had provided. These African Americans saw a clear cut through the forest to the sunlight of profit - and took off like gazelles. The masses of Black folks applauded them, believing that their political and financial victories were our own. But they were not. [...]

Black Commentator is concerned most of all about Black political development, not because we are Afri-centric, but because we understand that nothing happens that is progressive in this nation that we have built occurs unless Black people are in motion.

It is therefore time for us to stop censoring ourselves, to stop biting our lips, and to speak the truth as we know it. Forget the Black business-leadership class. Replace them. They are no use, and they do us no good. read more

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Remember those Hallibuton Concentration Camps and that "immigration emergency"?

By Juan Santos in dissident voice Brown Skin/Yellow Star: Turning the Corner Toward Fascism

People in Los Angeles know; over half a million people in LA are expected to march against these anti-migrant laws on March 25th. The march is being promoted on all the Spanish language media.

This essay is both a plea and a demand: you must march with us on the 25th; somehow you must take action...

We won't need a yellow star.

The color of our skin will mark us as suspects, as felons, as threats to "the homeland." Any cop will be free to stop us at any time, under any pretext, to check -- not for dope -- but for our "papers."

At first it won't seem like much. Quietly, at first, a few of us will begin to disappear, just like some 60 thousand immigrants of Muslim and Arabic descent have disappeared since the onset of the Patriot Act; without a word. Like them, we will become targets of the so-called "war on terror."

First it will be dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands.

Mothers will disappear walking to the corner store. Fathers will never come home from work. Children will be left behind, sobbing in apartments empty of food, warmth, money and life. The neighbors will be afraid. The tens of thousands could readily become millions. read more

(Burnt) Cork Makes a Comeback

Black.White Carmen, Bruno, and Rose with none of the affect of Griffin's Black Like Me or even the (more) dubious Soul Sister. (The message of black.white seems to be: WE (white people) don't believe you.)

From NY Times Kate Valk in "The Emperor Jones."

"The petite, Caucasian, obviously female Ms. Valk is playing the title role, Brutus Jones, a venal black train porter turned despot, in O'Neill's hypnotic play about the destructive impact of history on the shaping of personality. And she is playing it in blackface." read more

In print:

Susan Straight's latest (blackface/voice) A Million Nightingales

Stephen Wright's Amalgamation Polka

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


From truthout Katrina Survivors: Don't Abandon Us: A Film by Chris Hume video

From NY Times "Evacuees' Lives Still Upended Seven Months After Hurricane" read more

Bruce Dixon in black commentator "Walkin' to New Orleans: Uphold the Right to Return, Rebuild and Remain Progressive forces in motion":

"The man-made tragedies of the Gulf Coast and its mother city New Orleans are never far from our thoughts these days. The eyes of black America, though half blinded by the lack of mainstream news coverage, remain fixed on the unfolding spectacles of profiteering, privatization and ethnic cleansing.

The wholesale displacement of black New Orleans seems to have been in the cards from the first hours following mass evacuation. The week after the hurricane this reporter made it down to Baton Rouge. I interviewed dozens of evacuees from New Orleans, Jefferson and Metarie in the big Red Cross shelters at Southern University, the convention center and elsewhere. I talked to local pastors, volunteers and business people who shared their churches, homes and resources with evacuees, and spent hours with Red Cross staffers running the big evacuee centers. It was immediately clear that the Red Cross was spending the generous donations of thousands of business people and millions of individual Americans on relocating as many New Orleans residents outside the Gulf Coast region as quickly as possible." read more

Sandra Day O'Connor says the "D" word (dictator)

From the guardian published in common dreams Former Top Judge Says US Risks Edging Near to Dictatorship:

"Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the judiciary.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University, reported by National Public Radio and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ms O'Connor took aim at Republican leaders whose repeated denunciations of the courts for alleged liberal bias could, she said, be contributing to a climate of violence against judges.

Ms O'Connor, nominated by Ronald Reagan as the first woman supreme court justice, declared: "We must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary."read more

One more for the Road - Crash

From dissident voice “Crash” and the Self-Indulgence of White America :

"So, “Crash” is white supremacist because it minimizes the reality of white supremacy. Its faux humanism and simplistic message of tolerance directs attention away from a white-supremacist system and undermines white accountability for the maintenance of that system. We have no way of knowing whether this is the conscious intention of writer/director Paul Haggis, but it’s emerges as the film’s dominant message.

While viewing “Crash” may make some people, especially white people, uncomfortable during and immediately after viewing, the film seems designed, at a deeper level, to make white people feel better. As the film asks us to confront personal prejudices, it allows us white folk to evade our collective responsibility for white supremacy. In “Crash,” emotion trumps analysis, and psychology is more important than politics. The result: White people are off the hook. read more