Monday, November 30, 2009

If this app also shows In-N-Out Burger locales, I'm for it

"You have to wonder why anyone in the U.S. would want to help someone else break the law," Nunez said. "I find that unconscionable."
Former U.S. Attorney & current immigration policy prof Peter Nunez must be talking about some other U.S.-- maybe the one in which people (like his former constituents) don't hire illegal immigrants. The one in which people don't use marijuana... the one in which people don't bootleg videos... the one in which...

REGION: Cell phone tool could help illegal immigrants
UCSD professor says his device would avoid deaths at the border

By EDWARD SIFUENTES - | Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2009 5:25 pm |

A UC San Diego professor said he has developed a cell phone tool that may help guide illegal immigrants safely across the border.

Similar to the way hungry drivers can find a restaurant through the global positioning system devices in their cars and cell phones, illegal immigrants soon may be able to plot their ways across the treacherous border between the United States and Mexico.

"It shares some aspects of the GPS systems that people have in cars," said Ricardo Dominguez, a professor of visual arts at UC San Diego. "It locates where you are in relation to where you want to go, what is the best way to get to that point and what you can expect when you reach the endpoint."

Dominguez, an activist and artist, said the reason for developing the technology, which he calls the Transborder Immigrant Tool, is to keep people safe.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Texas remains entertaining in its intolerance

Hat tip to rikyrah at

This is just too funny. Baby, meet bathwater! Whatever the intent, well, the law says what it says. I'm making popcorn for the ringside seat when this goes to court.

Texas' gay marriage ban may have banned all marriages
By Dave Montgomery
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — Texans: Are you really married?

Maybe not.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman." But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I hate the Confederacy, Part II: Editing Black folk out of movies

In response to outrage over the move, a Universal spokesman said the altered poster aimed "to simplify the poster to actors who are most [recognizable] in international markets."

I watch a lot of old movies-- with a strong bias toward musical comedy, film noir, and Westerns-- and in adulthood I have noticed the clever direction and editing of the films themselves, if not their marketing. Black people, especially entertainers, often appeared in segregated, self-contained scenes which could be literally cut out for showing in locales where it would have been, er, imprudent to show the races as equals.

This is most easily observed on cable nowadays, as many of the oldies have been restored to their former glory, warts and all. The most recent example I saw was just a few days ago, in Hollywood Hotel (1937). Benny Goodman conducted an all-white band practice, followed immediately by a segment with Goodman "practicing" with a jazz combo featuring Lionel Hampton. I sadly imagine the many theatergoers of the time who never even realized that Hampton was in the film at all.

The studios' process and reasons are documented in many places, but I will cite liberally from Chapter 5 of Donald Bogle's seminal work Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks (1973):

Like the servants of the 1930s, the entertainers, too, set out to delight and please without at all changing anyone's life. Yet unlike the servants, whose familiarity with the stars of the 1930s films had irritated some patrons, the entertainers syndrome was clearly a safe device. Because musical numbers were not integrated into the scripts, the scenes featuring the blacks could be cut from the films should local (or Southern) theater owners feel their audiences would object to seeing a Negro. The whole procedure now seems ridiculous and archaic; it was but another way in which motion pictures catered to audience prejudices.

Ridiculous and archaic indeed. Bogle goes on to discuss in detail the specific cases of Hazel Scott and Lena Horne, and I recommend his entire book. It is astonishing (though some would wryly disagree, saying it is no surprise) that decades later, studio executives would use similar reasoning to come to the same result-- disappeared black people! But as the pullquote at top suggests, plus ca change...

The most recent case involves Faizon Love and Kali Hawk, as seen (or not seen) in promos for Couples Retreat:

Universal's UK 'Couples Retreat' Poster Brings Cries of Racism by Removing Black Actors
by Matt Ufford
November 16, 2009

A racially-tinged advertising decision has gone awry for the movie "Couples Retreat."

Marketers of the Vince Vaughn comedy, which stars four couples in a tropical paradise, removed black actors Faizon Love and Kali Hawk from the promotional poster used in the United Kingdom after the U.S. version used all four couples.

Both posters (US and UK) were heavily Photoshopped. But I think Photoshopping someone into the ether is going a bit far. The studio spokesperson's statement contains an ironic Catch-22 (okay, that's redundant) in that the two black actors were removed so as to retain those most recognizable, yet it is unlikely that they will ever become more recognizable if they aren't in the marketing!

Oooh! ®


Monday, November 16, 2009

The British taught us everything we know about child labor

When Prometheus 6 pointed out the ABC News story about child labor used to harvest U.S. blueberry crops, I did what we so often do. I expressed momentary outrage, made a comment on his blog, and went to the next issue. Child labor as known in the U.S. would certainly go to the back burner after the Nightline video aired on October 30th.

Now, what would trump migrant child labor in the U.S.? How about the British and Australian governments doing the same to their very own kids who are British citizens?

As they were compulsorily shipped out of Britain, many of the children were told - wrongly - their parents were dead, and that a more abundant life awaited them.

Many parents did not know their children, aged as young as three, had been sent to Australia.

Care agencies worked with the government to send disadvantaged children to a rosy future and supply what was deemed "good white stock" to a former colony.

If you want a bit of irony (and I'm sure you do) I'd like you to meet Baroness Amos, Britain's high commissioner in Canberra as she explains the forthcoming official apologies from the British and Australian PMs. (I'm not great at manually embedding video that doesn't want to be embedded, so please click through below.)


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sane Men Love Gwen Ifill

This weekend I got the rare opportunity to spend an hour and a half with commentator Gwen Ifill, who is neither common nor a 'tater. This was not in person, of course-- don't be silly.

Many Friday evenings I ensconce myself at home (those days y'all were just thinking of are mostly past, thanks). I while away the hours not conferrin' with the flowers, but kicked back in the company of three intelligent women: Rachel Maddow (her eponymous show), Belva Davis (This Week in California), and Gwen Ifill (Washington Week). Friday the 13th was such an evening.

The extra hour with Gwen happened Saturday morning because she had a live appearance on BookTV (C-SPAN2) which was at the Miami Book Fair. Usually the Miami Book Fair gives us more than our RDA of Carl Hiaasen, and nothing against Carl personally-- his shtick is entertaining and all-- but it was nice to see Gwen holding court with the appreciative Miami crowd, and actually taking questions from people of color. (If you think I'm incorrectly implying something about that particular book fair, I won't argue. I don't watch every minute of it.)

Since this was a book tour appearance for The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (just released in paperback, new afterword, blah blah) Gwen did not have to maintain her journalistic game face. This allowed her fine sense of humor and some decent mid-level snark to come through. As a bit of a curmudgeon myself, I appreciate the well-placed one-liner or clever aside, and she came through.

Gwen was also as courteous as possible, but no more so, to a woman who tried to hijack the Q&A portion to preach about a personal crusade against child labor. This was quite the professional save as Gwen let her know that a question was required if you were going to hog the mike. She disengaged the woman from the stand by accepting a brochure, and went to the next person in line, just like that. No fair security required. Well done.

The final question asked about an online project that was new to me, and would have been worth the hour even if Gwen hadn't been fascinating and snarky enough. The question gave her an opening to discuss her involvement with The HistoryMakers, which has been compiling African-American video oral histories for some years. Gwen has done a few of these interviews and you can access them directly here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Justice Scalia Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Hat tip... Cross-posted from Prometheus 6.

“Piece of cake,” Justice Scalia said, his voice dripping with disdain. “Piece of cake. Following the ‘values.’ ” He spat out that last word as though he had just taken a spoonful of anthrax.

But Justice Scalia did not give a direct answer to how he would have voted in Brown.

“As for Brown v. Board of Education, I think I would have” — and then he changed directions. He said he would have voted with the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the case Brown overruled.

He would have voted to follow the founder's intent, which was to maintain a racist society.

From 19th-Century View, Desegregation Is a Test


If there is a topic Justice Antonin Scalia does not relish discussing, it is how he would have voted in Brown v. Board of Education had he been on the Supreme Court when it was decided in 1954.

The question came up last month at the University of Arizona in what was billed as a conversation between Justice Scalia and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. The discussion, between the court’s two primary intellectual antagonists, bore the relationship to a conversation that a fistfight does to a handshake. The justices know how to get under each other’s skin, and they punctuated their debate with exasperation, eye-rolling and venomous sarcasm.


Later in the Adam Liptak NYT article, Scalia says:

“The test is over the long run does it require the society to adhere to those principles contained in the Constitution or does it lead to a society that is essentially governed by nine justices’ version of what equal protection ought to mean?”

On this we agree. "What equal protection ought to mean" gave us Plessy v. Ferguson, after all, and even Scalia says he would have dissented on that one. We disagree, however, on the nature of those Constitutional principles. Scalia, after choking on his own bile, suggests: Transportation: everybody gets to ride. Education: don't worry about it.

Oooh! ®

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Avoiding blog bankruptcy with blackface

Around the time I decided to go for a broader presence online-- i.e., do more than just comment on other folks' posts, or e-mail with the more "mature" friends/family who don't thumb-type the living daylights out of each other-- I just knew there would only be the occasional day or week in which PL (physical life) would interfere. I knew wrong.

"Ha ha," the fates scoffed, as they recited the oft-misattributed maxim "Coincidence means you weren't paying attention to the other half of what was going on."

And when I'm not paying attention, I'm an easy mark. Ask and it may not be given, but it will definitely be added to my to-do list. This peaked about a week ago with a request for cross-pollination of class projects, wherein I would collaborate with two other faculty members who teach the same cohort of students. Yes, I do know that co-teaching doesn't reduce teaching time as it takes more time to plan than teaching alone. But I fell for it. So much for leisurely blogging time.

You should know that when chores, duties, commitments and over-commitments pile up on me, I gradually get curmudgeonly and start to kvetch and lose sleep until even I can say NO to new requests. I'm there. Now I'm shoveling projects back off my plate. Rather than pull the plug here at TOTF or over at The Joshua Fit while I regain my professional bearings, or maintain that nothing of import happened in the whole dad-blamed universe in the past week and nothing is happening now:

We look through the lens but not at the lens itself:
'America's Next Top Model' Creates Stir After Bi-Racial Photo Shoot
Thu Oct 29, 12:28 PM PDT

Weeks after an Australian variety show made headlines around the world after a group of white performers donned blackface to perform as the Jackson brothers, Tyra Banks is making headlines herself for turning her latest "America's Next Top Model" candidates bi-racial for a photo shoot.

I am not really outraged. Disappointed, perhaps. Tired, definitely. At the other end of the awareness spectrum, Bob Herbert chastises me for my enervation:

From Herbert's October 27 column:

Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening) degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.

This is so wrong. It is the kind of thinking that would have stopped the civil rights movement in its tracks, that would have kept women in the kitchen or the steno pool, that would have prevented labor unions from forcing open the doors that led to the creation of a vast middle class.

All right, fair enough. A good night's sleep, then, and then get back to shoveling nice-guy ProfGeo projects off my plate.