Thursday, May 11, 2006

Beloved -Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years

New York Times

Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." [Read A. O. Scott's essay. See a list of the judges.] Following are the results.
This feature will appear in the May 21 issue of the print edition of the Book Review.
In Search of the Best: An Essay by A. O. Scott
The Judges
Forum: Discuss the Choices

Toni Morrison
Review read more

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: The NSA record collection program

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added. read more

Some Responses to Steinberg

Gregory D. Squires "Reintroducing the Black/White Divide in Racial Discourse" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Gilbert Jonas "Another American Dilemma:Race vs. Immigration" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Alan Aja "The Intra-Immigrant Dilemma" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Ron Hayduk "Alliances Needed" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Peter Drucker "Mobilizing Immigrants and Blacks" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Michael Hirsch "Finger-Pointing Toward "Freedom Now!"" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Steinberg responds

Stephen Steinberg "Response" in New Politics 40, volume X, 4 read response

Stephen Steinberg "Immigration, African Americans, and Race Discourse"

New Politics, Vol. X, No. 3

IN 1971, THE Amsterdam News, New York City's oldest African-American newspaper, published a cartoon by Melvin Tapley that gave vent to a uniquely black ambivalence toward immigration. The cartoon portrayed a downtrodden black figure crouched on the ground, labeled "US Folks," a double entendre for "us folks" and "U.S. folks." A chain of other figures, representing Spanish Americans and the foreign born, climb on the back of the crouched black figure, to pluck fruit off the tree of opportunity. Tapley had no illusions about the struggles of these immigrant minorities. Although he portrays them as getting ahead on the backs of blacks, immigrants too must climb over the wall of prejudice, and they reach only the lowest branches on the tree of opportunity.

The accompanying editorial read as follows:

News from the Census Bureau that Spanish-speaking Americans are now able to earn higher incomes than Blacks will not come as a surprise to many of us.

Since our arrival here in 1619 as slaves, Black Americans have watched millions of European immigrants arrive and within a short time hold jobs and reach levels of incomes Blacks were not allowed to attain.

In fact, during the early part of the century the hordes of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, German, Scottish, Greek, Spanish, and other European immigrants frequently replaced Blacks as longshoremen, street-car motormen, construction workers, jockeys, blacksmiths, and able-bodied seamen. Outright, rank racism, and discrimination were the tools by which Blacks have been deprived of work over the decades. read more

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chicago's Abu Ghraib: UN Committee Against Torture Hears Report on How Police Tortured Over 135 African-American Men Inside Chicago Jails

Amy Goodman on democracy now

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Chicago, where we're joined by three guests: David Bates, Flint Taylor and John Conroy. David Bates is one of dozens of men to come forward with allegations of abuse at the hands of the Chicago police. Flint Taylor is an attorney with the People's Law Office in Chicago, which he helped found in the late 1960s. He has represented many of the torture victims and was directly involved in spearheading the special prosecutor's investigation. And John Conroy is a journalist and author who's covered the case for over a decade. He’s written several articles for the Chicago Reader and is the author of the book, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture. We welcome you all to Democracy Now! I want to begin with Flint Taylor for an overview. You have been working on this case for years. You have represented people who said they were tortured. Give us the scope of this story.

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, the scope started out with one man who was tortured by electric shock and having a plastic bag put over his head and being beaten by Jon Burge and others at the Area 2 police station. He, on his own, brought a lawsuit in the mid-‘80s. That lawsuit, we got involved in, and over the years we were able to uncover, with the help of journalists such as John Conroy, others such as David Bates, who had also been tortured and had told their stories in various courts, but no one had put all this evidence together.

We were able to assimilate, over many years, over 60 cases of torture, and when I say “torture,” I mean electric shock, I mean suffocation with bags, I mean mock executions, I mean racial attacks, that kind of thing. And they were all coming out of the same station, and they were all headed up by this man, Jon Burge, who came out of Vietnam, started out as a detective and quickly rose in the ranks through sergeant, lieutenant and commander. This went on -- the actual documentation now shows that this went on for over 20 years, from 1972 to 1992, when in fact Burge was finally, after community outrage, suspended and fired from his job. read more

Two by Ishmael Reed

"How the Media Uses Blacks to Chastise Blacks," The Colored Mind Doubles in counter punch

ITivo Don Imus as much as I can because his putrid racist offerings are said to represent the secret thinking of the Cognoscenti. Maybe that's why journalists like Jeff Greenfield and others admire him so much. He says what they think in private. [...]

Clarence Page and others are regularly blaming the victim. Harvard's Orlando Patterson is also brought in by the Neo Con op-ed editors at the Times to characterize the problems of African-Americans as self-inflicted, using the kind of argument that would be ripped to shreds in a freshman class room.

Even Bob Herbert, a liberal and the token black on the New York Times' Neo Con editorial page, has to take the brothers and sisters to the woodshed from time to time in order to maintain credibility with his employers. He too says that Gangsta Rap is the cause of society's woes. (David Brooks, who promotes some of the same ideas as David Duke, but has a more opaque writing style, even blamed the riots in France on Gangsta Rap). read more

Learning About Racism, Live on NPR and CNN, Ishmael Reed, "The Furor Over the "Colored Mind Doubles" in counter punch

Maybe if those who manage airport services and the presidents of the airline companies knew how it felt to sit in a place like the Phoenix airport as the sole black person, while watching CNN, surrounded by people, all of whom look like Bush supporters, they would end this service. At home
you can always change the channel. Here you're stuck.

Within an hour CNN broadcast stories about the alleged rape of a black college student by white members of the Duke University lacrosse team. The report was biased in favor of the white players. When a black man is suspected of a crime, the cable networks are pro prosecution. When whites are involved, like the kids who killed a homeless man in Florida, the kind, who are attacking the homeless all over the country, the suspects are given the benefit of the doubt by the media.

CNN ran the arrests of two black security guards who were the first suspects in the kidnapping of Valerie Holloway, even after they had been released! read more

Blood on our Hands - Jodi Dean on White privilege

Here's the post in full:

How many of us have blood on our hands? Do we acknowledge it, atone for it?

I almost titled this post: what racism did for me. I benefitted concretely and materially from Jim Crow laws. I may have said this before, but I think it is important for me to bear it in mind, to remember it, to mark it. Because of Jim Crow laws, my white grandfather--who grew up 'so poor the poor folks called us poor,' as he used to say---with barely a high school education, a 16 year old share-cropper wife, and a new, sick baby, was able to flourish as a small businessman in southern Mississippi.

After the Depression and the end of prohibition--during which he ran a bar for his bootlegging brother--my grandfather opened the only furniture store in Pascagoula, Mississippi that sold to blacks. (Not the term he used.) Or maybe just the only white owned store--I don't know for sure, and all those who would know have long passed. It was called Home Furniture Store. His black customers called him Mr. Home instead of Jake, J.C., or Mr. Runnels. Was he one of the few white progressives? Not really. He was a businessman who could identify an untapped market. Had the market been tapped, he may not have done so well.

His wife bled on and off for a couple of years after giving birth to my mother in a shack near Macedonia, Mississippi. So, they only had one child. She benefitted from her father's business sense. And from segregation insofar as she could become valedictorian of her high school and get a scholarship. Maybe she would have even had the schools been integrated. Thing is, we won't know.

Even if it is exaggerated to say that there is blood on my hands with respect to these matters, and I think it important to consider the other matters perhaps more relevant to this topic, it is not exaggerated to call oneself to account for the way in which one benefits from the suffering of others. It may be that in understanding how we have benefitted from the suffering of others, in recognizing how our privilege has nothing to do with our own acts, our 'merit' as some liberals would like us to think, we can hear the call to do our best to eliminate such suffering. read more