Saturday, May 06, 2006


(Watch this video) Thanks BFP.

"Mission Akkomplished"

Ariel Dorfman reprinted on counter punch

I blinked at the words on my screen. I had been trolling the internet, looking for reasons why the US does not celebrate its workers on the same day as the rest of the world, even if the origins of that date happen to be profoundly American: 1 May 1886, when demands for an eight-hour working day by Chicago trade unions (mostly made up of European immigrants) were met by violent police repression. When my search engine turned up an unknown website,, I almost decided not to explore its contents. Of all Americans, the one least likely to be linked to May Day was George W Bush, notoriously uninterested in history or, for that matter, the working class. [...]

It is hard to believe that an incompetence so drastic and so persistent is not deliberate. It's crazy, I know, but George W Bush has acted as if he had indeed received secret instructions many years ago to ruin his land and lay low the American empire, make sure that, no matter what happened to the Soviet Union, it would not be the United States that would inherit the earth. Hard to believe and yet, I must confess . . .

I made it all up. The eccentric web- site. Its mysterious disappearance. The riotous accusations. All of it invented by me as a way of using that May Day landing on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln three years ago to ask ourselves what George W Bush has done to America, where has his mission finally landed us all?

It turns out that, despite all his efforts, the mission is far from accomplished. Just look at those millions of undocumented men and women who advanced through the avenues of Lincoln's country on this 1 May 2006, marching through its hopes and through its fears. Look at them, risking everything, crossing deserts and dodging bullets, exploited by bosses and discriminated against by vigilantes, just to be part of the American dream.

It's time to recognize that hidden truth: those illegal workers marching along the avenues and into the memory of America believe more in the promise of the United States than its president does. They are doing more, day and night, to keep their adopted country running and alive than the man who is not, of course, a KGB agent but, sadly for his fellow countrymen, continues to act more and more like one with every passing day. (read the entire article)

Friday, May 05, 2006

The "controversy": Viswanathan, Harvard, and the (un)Making of an "exceptional" brown girl

Mark Lawson in the guardian "Fingers in the word-till"

"This panic about language-theft is prompted by Kaavya Viswanathan, the teenage American writer whose debut book - How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life - has been withdrawn from bookstores and her publishing contract cancelled after the discovery that her first novel incorporated portions of books by four other writers, including Megan McCafferty and Salman Rushdie.

This case seems to have some similarities with those of two American journalists - Stephen Glass of the New Republic and Jayson Blair of the New York Times - whose writing was proved to be fraudulent, although the techniques slightly varied: Glass was fictionalising material, Blair stealing it from others. Viswanathan seems to have combined these approaches by passing off the fiction of others as her own." read more

Motoko Rich, 'Opal Mehta' Won't Get a Life After All read more in the new york times, Motoko Rich and Glenn Rifkin, "For a Harvard Student and Aggrieved Novelist, Plagiarism Generates Interest," read more

Stewart Klawans in the nation "Sloppy Seconds"

"So what makes the Opal Mehta case such a thirsty blotter for news ink? The word "Harvard" may have something to do with it. I suppose Ms. Viswanathan would not have gotten so much attention as a student at Tufts--or, for that matter, if she were named Carla Nathan. Wild speculation on my part, of course; but maybe newspaper readers take special interest in the affairs of celebrity universities, and in the overreachings of the dark-skinned and ambitious. Maybe--an even wilder speculation--newspaper editors don't mind encouraging such interest." read more

Finally Sandip Roy in Salon "How Opal Mehta saved our lives,"

"I know this must come as small consolation to you these days, as dreams of book deals, film projects and maybe even Ivy League futures seem to wither on the vine. But as one Indian-American to another, I say thank you. I have to confess to a sneaking sense of relief when Opal Mehta's life came crashing down around you. It's not schadenfreude. It's just this relief that finally we can fail, that we can screw up spectacularly and live to tell the tale." read more

A Few Links On Blacks and Latinos in the US

How do you tell the histories of immigration and slavery together; slavery and freedom? How do you tell it any other way?

Margaret Kimberley in black commentator "Immigration and America's Bad Karma"

"New immigrants from Mexico to the American west are just going back to their old neighborhood. What goes around does quite literally come around. Of course, Mexico was Indian territory stolen originally by the Spanish. So much bad karma, so little time.

America cannot have an honest discussion about immigration without revisiting its sordid more

Tanya Hernandez on black prof Is There Racism in Latin America and What Does That Mean for Race Relations in the United States?

"The existence of racism in Latin America is an under-examined topic. Yet the growing demographic presence of immigrants from Latin America in the United States means that understanding race relations in the United States will more and more mean learning to understand the racialized contexts Latino immigrants emanate from. The one consistent commonality throughout Latin America is that while racialized hierarchies are manifest, each nation-state insists that racism does not exist. Because the scholarship about race in Latin America has focused on Brazil, examining the Brazilian context provides useful details about Latin American racism."read more

Rachel L. Swarns, Growing Unease for Some Blacks on Immingration in the new york times

"But despite some sympathy for the nation's illegal immigrants, many black professionals, academics and blue-collar workers feel increasingly uneasy as they watch Hispanics flex their political muscle while assuming the mantle of a seminal black struggle for justice.

Some blacks bristle at the comparison between the civil rights movement and the immigrant demonstrations, pointing out that black protesters in the 1960's were American citizens and had endured centuries of enslavement, rapes, lynchings and discrimination before they started marching.

Others worry about the plight of low-skilled black workers, who sometimes compete with immigrants for entry-level jobs.

And some fear the unfinished business of the civil rights movement will fall to the wayside as America turns its attention to a newly energized Hispanic minority with growing political and economic clout.

"All of this has made me start thinking, 'What's going to happen to African-Americans?' " said Brendon L. Laster, 32, a black fund-raiser at Howard University here, who has been watching the marches. "What's going to happen to our unfinished agenda?" read more

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Bush challenges hundreds of laws"

Charlie Savage in the boston globe

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.
But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override. read more

Sunday, April 30, 2006

What Kind of Card is Race? The Absurdity (and Consistency) of White Denial

Tim Wise in counter punch

Recently, I was asked by someone in the audience of one of my speeches, whether or not I believed that racism--though certainly a problem--might also be something conjured up by people of color in situations where the charge was inappropriate. In other words, did I believe that occasionally folks play the so-called race card, as a ploy to gain sympathy or detract from their own shortcomings? In the process of his query, the questioner made his own opinion all too clear (an unambiguous yes), and in that, he was not alone, as indicated by the reaction of others in the crowd, as well as survey data confirming that the belief in black malingering about racism is nothing if not ubiquitous.[...]

Since the O.J. trial, it seems as though almost any allegation of racism has been met with the same dismissive reply from the bulk of whites in the U.S. According to national surveys, more than three out of four whites refuse to believe that discrimination is any real problem in America (2). That most whites remain unconvinced of racism's salience--with as few as six percent believing it to be a "very serious problem," according to one poll in the mid 90s (3)--suggests that racism-as-card makes up an awfully weak hand. While folks of color consistently articulate their belief that racism is a real and persistent presence in their own lives, these claims have had very little effect on white attitudes. As such, how could anyone believe that people of color would somehow pull the claim out of their hat, as if it were guaranteed to make white America sit up and take notice? If anything, it is likely to be ignored, or even attacked, and in a particularly vicious manner.

That bringing up racism (even with copious documentation) is far from an effective "card" to play in order to garner sympathy, is evidenced by the way in which few people even become aware of the studies confirming its existence. How many Americans do you figure have even heard, for example, that black youth arrested for drug possession for the first time are incarcerated at a rate that is forty-eight times greater than the rate for white youth, even when all other factors surrounding the crime are identical (4)? read more