Sunday, December 19, 2010

I am usually not qualified to discuss this

h/t the exceedingly odd but always interesting Xeni Jardin at

When people are right, they're right, even if they're in a minority position on the Internet. The linked image (start of a rather lengthy cartoon commentary) is a reminder that the "default" online presence remains straight white male, due emphasis on male, even in 2010, and minority presence includes female.

Now I have to figure out how to share this further on my other social media feeds without startling the hell out of my more clean-cut contacts. Don't worry, they all know I'm black, I'm not that anonymous nor would I care to be. They also know I associate with certain brash, trash-mouthy folk of various ilk even if I don't personally bandy about "certain language." But in deference to my own sincere Christian relatives and friends, I usually don't put the coarser language a mere click away, I tone it down or buffer it a bit.

So go ahead, click through above. Be patient if it's slow-loading. Note for the record that certain text at the other end is NSFW.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't ask some black folk to be consistent. Don't tell them equality covers anyone but themselves.

UPDATE, Christmas Eve 2010: Since President Obama signed the bill repealing DADT earlier this week, it's been pretty quiet on the objection front. I assume it's because people in black churches everywhere are getting ready to welcome black LGBT folk with open arms this Sunday.

I usually make my comments on Don't Ask, Don't Tell elsewhere, because elsewhere is where I encounter most of the jarring statements, inconsistencies and cognitive dissonance. Some black folk, though they know discrimination first-hand and are quick to point it out, will gladly, smugly, gleefully continue discrimination against others-- now it's gays in the military, next time it will be someone else if we don't learn from our own history.

It's weird to have to argue that DADT was a mistake that should not have been enacted as military policy in the first place. The arguments in favor of it, never that strong in the face of military reality since the 1980s, have been overturned, most recently by a survey of people actually on active duty. But argue we must.

When DADT was enacted I was on active duty. Deep down, I knew from the outset it was wrong in concept, hard to comply with, and hard to enforce, but it was what we called a lawful order or regulation . It seemed a way to move on an issue that needed to be dealt with, or if you prefer, "dealt with." The late Reagan and early Bush years brought a heightened awareness of gay presence in the military to the ostensibly straight majority. More women filled non-traditional positions in the 1980s and that brought (inevitable?) accusations against them. The AIDS scourge, little understood at the time, made every male who got mysteriously ill a suspect. Sexual orientation was not a constant front-burner topic but somehow it got enough public attention to warrant action at the highest levels-- hence, DADT.

I should not claim I was born with a view of non-discrimination towards gays or the rest of the LGBT community, or was brought up with it, or entered the military with it. In my childhood, it was all about racial and religious equality in our household. (To my recollection, gender equality was never a topic. We pretended my dad was in charge.) Sexual orientation was never discussed directly.

In my case it took actual service with people who were obviously leading closeted lives. (They were doing so before, but my blinders are pretty darn good.) There was no epiphany, no singular event. But there was a point at which I realized I would never turn anyone in for being gay even if I knew it (as opposed to wondering, suspecting, or some other indefinite state). This point was a bit before DADT, so by the time the policy came into being my attitude had already hardened in favor of just leaving people alone.

DADT doesn't leave people alone. It's past time to get rid of it.

House approves repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

The 250-175 vote is aimed at putting new pressure on the Senate to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military.

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau
December 15, 2010, 2:31 p.m.

Reporting from Washington — After stumbling last week, the effort to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military received a boost Wednesday, as the House approved a measure repealing the policy in an effort to force the Senate to do the same before lawmakers go home for the holidays.

The House vote on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- essentially a repeat of a similar vote in May -- puts fresh pressure on the Senate leaders to prioritize the repeal as they struggle to schedule votes on a handful of last-chance priorities for Democrats.

The final tally was 250 to 175, mostly along party lines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

To paraphrase politely, Haiti can't catch a darn break

Imagine living in Haiti. Now, imagine Sarah Palin showing up to see how you're doing.

Published: Dec. 13, 2010 at 9:29 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Americans shouldn't forget about Haiti and the devastation remaining from a monster earthquake in January, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said.

Palin, her husband Todd and her daughter Bristol traveled to Haiti to view relief work led by Rev. Franklin Graham, leader of the non-profit Samaritan's Purse and son of evangelist Billy Graham, The Miami Herald reported Monday...

Next, imagine bipartisan U.S. support for withholding funding.

...Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., both voiced concerns about the Haitian election. Leahy last week urged Washington hold back funding to the Haitian government until officials ensure a "fair and democratic outcome" to the presidential vote.

h/t this Twitter Trail: Farai Chideya --> Kai Wright --> Mac McClelland --> Jonathan M. Katz

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Paul Farmer offers "5 lessons from Haiti's Disaster"

h/t Balloon Juice.

Paul Farmer of Partners in Health wrote a short article for Foreign Policy that could be a wake-up call for some deserving nation. Can't imagine which nation that would be. Said wake-up could be for how to consider treating Haiti in the future (like a sovereign nation?) or it could be for how to heal the deserving nation itself, as it is in a bit of trouble these days. I'll list just the five lessons, and you can read the details over there.
  1. Jobs are everything.
  2. Don't starve the government.
  3. Give them something to go home to.
  4. Waste not, want not.
  5. Relief is the easy part.

Friday, December 3, 2010

All the prisoners that will fit

Earlier this week, there was a flurry of articles about California's overcrowded prisons, and how that didn't bother Gov. Arnold (or, one presumes, many other Californians) one bit. The overcrowding has been in and out of the news over the past decade, but in the courts consistently. The case Schwarzenegger v. Plata has finally reached the Supreme Court, hence the current spate of articles.

The most influential jurist along the way has been Federal District Judge Thelton Henderson, an African American who is Google-worthy in his own right. In 2004 he threatened to take over the California corrections system, and in 2006 he got fed up and made good on it, putting prison health care into receivership. In 2007, the Supreme Court weighed in by saying California judges did not have enough discretion in sentencing. Since then, the state has made a show of adjusting sentencing laws and new prison construction, but Judge Henderson says they're foot-dragging and that he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Here's one sample from this week. I like the Ifills, so this is from The Root:

In a case before the Supreme Court, California Gov. Schwarzenegger is arguing that judges have no right to tell states to reduce their prison populations.
By: Sherrilyn A. Ifill | Posted: November 29, 2010 at 6:05 PM

America's prisons, like many of our public schools, reflect our country's most shameful and profound failings. This week the U.S. Supreme Court takes on one aspect of our nation's love affair with incarceration.

In Schwarzenegger v. Plata, the state of California has challenged an order issued by a three-judge federal court under the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which requires the state to reduce its prison population to deal with overcrowding. The court found that overpopulation is directly responsible for the failure of the California system to provide inmates with adequate physical and mental health services. California argues that the prison reduction order issued by the three-judge court under the PRLA goes beyond the scope of the statute and infringes on the state's power.

This case is likely to play out before the court and in the media as a battle over states' rights -- in this case, the right of the state of California to manage its own prison system -- and against the encroachment of federal judges supplanting the judgment of elected leaders with their own version of appropriate public policy. Indeed, 18 states have joined in a brief supporting the state of California and making this very argument.

But there's much more at stake in this case than the age-old "state sovereignty versus federal courts" story. In fact, the federal court's prison reduction order in this case is something of a last resort -- imposed only after eight years in which the state of California, while conceding the unconstitutional overcrowding in its prison system, has failed to reduce its prison population. The Plata suit stems from an action filed back in 2001. The state conceded in 2002 that prison overcrowding threatened the constitutional rights of prisoners...

Much more at the link!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shirley Chisholm: Acknowledge

Suspending curmudgeonly comments for a moment, Nov. 30 was Shirley Chisholm's birthday. Here are two items I saw in the past 24 hours that resonated:

(1) Avoice (one word) is a site about African Americans in Congress. Here is the Shirley Chisholm page at Avoice. Short but sweet.

(2) The Daily Kos has a nice multimedia tribute to Shirley Chisholm on Black Kos (Tuesday's Chile).


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Silly me, I thought THAT "master narrative" was back-burnered

Cross-posting a couple of Civil War celebratory items, courtesy of Tuesday JJP commenters:

(1) From Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, who states: "I think we need to be absolutely clear that 150 years after the defeat of one of the Confederacy, there are still creationists who seek to celebrate the treasonous attempt to raise an entire country based on the ownership of people."

NOV 29 2010, 10:54 PM ET

The Times notes that in Charleston, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are planning a 150th anniversary "Secession Ball." Jeff Antley, a member of the SCV, explains:

"We're celebrating that those 170 people risked their lives and fortunes to stand for what they believed in, which is self-government," Mr. Antley said. "Many people in the South still believe that is a just and honorable cause. Do I believe they were right in what they did? Absolutely," he said, noting that he spoke for himself and not any organization. "There's no shame or regret over the action those men took."

It really annoys me the that Times used someone who they felt they had to ID as a "liberal sociologist" to counter Antley. Far better to simply quote from the founding documents which those 170 people authored. In that way we can get some sense of precisely what they were risking their lives for, and the exact nature of the fortune they were protecting:

We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof. The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River...

(2) From Katharine Q. Seelye at the New York Times, who reminds us: "Commemorating the Civil War has never been easy. The centennial 50 years ago coincided with the civil rights movement, and most of the South was still effectively segregated, making a mockery of any notion that the slaves had truly become free and equal.

"Congress had designated an official centennial commission, which lost credibility when it planned to meet in a segregated hotel; this year, Congress has not bothered with an official commission and any master narrative of the war seems elusive."

Well, let us not say that a master narrative is hard to find-- we seem to be tripping all over them-- but I suppose she meant that in another sense.

November 29, 2010
ATLANTA — The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South.

And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacy are planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union.

The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.

In addition, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and some of its local chapters are preparing various television commercials that they hope to show next year. “All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves,” says one ad from the group’s Georgia Division...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Voting rights in the South: a drive-by update to push your hot buttons

I am in the throes of pre-Thanksgiving Week weirdness (have you ever SEEN a gaggle of caged, crazed college students planning & executing a prison break?) so with hat tip to Prometheus6, here is a must-read from The Defenders Online.

Posted By The Editors On November 16, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

Alabama case threatens to have ‘heart’ of VRA declared unconstitutional

(New York) – Yesterday the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a brief in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of two core provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The law requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to have voting changes reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice or D.C. District Court to ensure they are free from discrimination.

LDF’s brief asks the District Court for the District of Columbia to deny Alabama’s motion for summary judgment –which seeks to have the Section 5 preclearance provision declared unconstitutional based on recycled arguments that have been rejected previously. Instead, LDF asks the court to grant its motion for summary judgment on the grounds that a detailed Congressional record demonstrates that ongoing discrimination remains pervasive in those states and jurisdictions around the country where Section 5 applies...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What do Godot and Lefty have in common?

by Brian Edgar

Someone walking out of the theater having just seen Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for “Superman” shouldn’t be blamed for feeling a breezy confidence about the direction we should be headed with our nation’s schools. “The problem is complex, but the steps are simple,” the film assures us. We simply need to build more charter schools, get rid of lazy and incompetent teachers, create accountability regimes and—oh yeah—hire better teachers. But, first we need to get rid of the archaic bureaucracies and unions that protect these cretins. This would be great if it were true. Unfortunately, the film amounts to propaganda for the reform efforts beginning with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative of 2001, not a prescription for reform.

Superman tells the story of five children as they attempt to transfer from their local public schools (and one parochial school) for better opportunities at nearby charter schools. These stories are poignant and devastating as we watch families pin their hopes and their child’s future on lottery systems to gain entry to charter schools with few openings. Guggenheim’s film creates a sense of urgency about the problem—low graduation rates, poor literacy and math skills, and the associated costs of an inadequate educational system on individuals and society. This sounds like a snoozer, but the film is emotionally charged, compelling, and well-made. While the film does a good job of depicting the overall context of reform from the policy perspective from charter schools, standardized testing, and merit pay, it cherry picks its cases to push an agenda and fails to illuminate what these reforms mean to teachers and students in the classroom, where learning presumably takes place...

More at The Brooklyn Rail

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not sure what else to say post-Election Day

From Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985):

"What do we look for now, Joe -- space ships?"

Monday, November 1, 2010

Proof of citizenship? Not so fast, Arizona

In a serious smackdown of Arizona, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals apparently wants people to vote. It gets a bit conflicting as you look at various provisions and rulings on showing ID and proving residency, but this particular decision means proof of citizenship is not a valid state test.
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A state can't require people to submit proof of citizenship when they register to vote, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in overturning a key provision of a 2004 Arizona initiative.

Federal law already requires voters to swear that they are U.S. citizens and meet age and residency criteria, and a state can't impose additional rules, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 2-1 ruling.

The 1993 national law was intended "to reduce state-imposed obstacles to federal registration," the court said.

The majority included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Arizona legislator and state judge who has been temporarily assigned to various federal appeals courts.

The court unanimously upheld another section of the Arizona law that requires voters to show poll workers proof of their identity. The judges cited a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing Indiana to require photo identification at the polls.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arizona's pre-Election Day rainbow shades

At the risk of skewing Google Analytics yet again, here is a 3-dish selection of late-breaking news from the Grand Canyon State as November 2nd approaches...

1. Remember Ward Connerly? Yep, while we have been focused on immigration & SB 1070 he's been laughing all the way to the bank. I apologize to all for missing this:

by Dianna M. Náñez - Oct. 30, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Arizona's effort to ban state-sponsored affirmative action has intensified in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's election. But people on both sides agree on at least one thing: If the measure passes, it will trigger similar proposals nationwide and reignite debate over whether America has moved past the racial and sexual discrimination that spurred the 1960s civil-rights movement.

Proposition 107 is a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw affirmative action in state, county and municipal government, higher education, contracting and hiring, unless prohibiting it would result in the loss of federal funds or violate a court order. If voters approve the measure, Arizona would become the fifth state to pass an affirmative-action ban.

Although such laws have spread slowly, starting with California in 1996, supporters and opponents of Prop. 107 say affirmative-action bans will gain greater publicity if the measure passes because the nation is focused on Arizona's politics and immigration laws. Opponents say they expect several of the states that plan to mimic Senate Bill 1070 to also try to pass affirmative-action bans.

Passing Prop. 107 in Arizona is part of a broader strategy to target states by region, said Ward Connerly, who heads a California-based non-profit focused on dismantling affirmative action in all 50 states...

2. SB 1070 lawsuits in progress-- as summarized by the Arizona Republic. Here's an example of each, more at the link:

Appeals court

- The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit goes before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Monday. Gov. Jan Brewer is appealing U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling to halt the enforcement of four parts of SB 1070...

District court

- Bolton dismissed a couple of the legal arguments in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and several other legal groups but is moving forward with several others...

3. Are the parts of SB 1070 in force actually changing anything? A longish (for newspapers) analysis of law enforcement, policy changes, and community impact at the link:

by Alia Beard Rau - Oct. 29, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The nation's toughest immigration law has been in effect for three months. But after the federal courts prevented key portions from going into effect, it has failed to live up to both opponents' worst fears and supporters' greatest hopes.

Immigrant-rights groups and major Arizona law-enforcement agencies say they've heard of no arrests made or citations issued using the statutes created under Senate Bill 1070, and no Arizona resident has taken advantage of the portion of the law that allows them to sue an official or agency that is not enforcing federal immigration law to the fullest extent...

But several state statutes created under SB 1070 went into effect on July 29. Individuals on both sides of the issue said after Bolton's ruling that the law still had teeth.

New statutes

The statutes allowed to go into effect do several things:

- Require government officials and agencies to enforce federal immigration laws to the fullest extent permitted by federal law and allow Arizona residents to sue if the official or agency adopts a policy that violates this requirement.

- Allow law enforcement to pull anybody over for any traffic violation if the driver is suspected of engaging in the "smuggling" of human beings for profit or commercial purposes. This could include stopping a driver for a secondary offense such as not wearing a seat belt, which in every other circumstance can be cited only if the driver is stopped for a separate primary violation such as speeding.

- Make it a crime to pick up or be picked up as a day laborer if the vehicle is stopped on a road and impeding traffic.

- Make it a crime to encourage an illegal immigrant to come to Arizona or transport, conceal, harbor or shield an immigrant if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact the immigrant is in the country illegally. This offense has to be during the commission of another criminal offense...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Voting early in CA? Watch this

Or at least watch/read some equivalent, as there are local/regional options if you dig around the news & TV outlets. Embedded below is the always-convivial This Week in Northern California, this episode from October 22. Briefly covers some of the state propositions and races, also Bay Area measures.

State propositions are summarized with the official brief explanations here:

Hard copy voter information guides are sitting in all public libraries waiting for people who prefer paper.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NPR Women on Williams (Juan, not Armstrong)

The Williams men (who are probably 23rd cousins or something, aren't we all) continue to put themselves out there. One more drive-by from me here, this time on Juan. Then, unless they do something else to raise their profiles, I'll move on. Today's Juan Williams revue (sic) is from two women with strong NPR connections and reason to have inside knowledge, Farai Chideya and Michel Martin.

Farai Chideya, formerly of NPR, now of Pop and Politics, has this, which I cross-posted at JJP if it looks familiar at all:

Posted: October 23, 2010 01:44 PM
What Everyone Is Missing About NPR's WilliamsGate

"juan, gettin ugly. wonder if it will result in him severing ties, or mutual"

That was my note at the top of an email I sent back in September of 2007 to a colleague at NPR. In full disclosure, I am a former employee of NPR, let go in 2008 as part of the cancellation of three shows, including one I hosted. In the email, I'd forwarded a Washington Post column by Howard Kurtz dissecting a Fox/NPR/Juan Williams triad of recrimination. The headline: "NPR Rebuffs White House On Bush Talk -- Radio Network Wanted To Choose Its Interviewer." In Kurtz's words:

The White House reached out to National Public Radio over the weekend, offering analyst Juan Williams a presidential interview to mark yesterday's 50th anniversary of school desegregation in Little Rock. But NPR turned down the interview, and Williams's talk with Bush wound up in a very different media venue: Fox News. Williams said yesterday he was "stunned" by NPR's decision... Ellen Weiss, NPR's vice president for news, said she "felt strongly" that "the White House shouldn't be selecting the person."

This incident is more telling than the oft-dissected statement Williams made on Fox that Michelle Obama had "this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going." Juan Williams and NPR have been a mutual mismatch for years. In this volley, Williams -- with his reported new $2 million over 3 year contract with Fox -- is the clear winner; with Fox a close second; and NPR left holding the bag. It need not have been this way.

If NPR had such clear concerns over how Juan Williams fit into their organization, in the amorphous role of "news analyst," then they had an opportunity to let him go a long time ago. They could have decided he didn't fit their needs, and moved on in a less polarized time. But by firing him now, in this instance, after years of sitting uncomfortably with his dual roles on NPR and Fox, they made a few crucial errors. They chose to fire him for doing what he has done for years... be a hype man for Bill O'Reilly. Why now?...

More at:

In addition to the rest of her write-up, at the above Chideya linked out to Michel Martin's Tell Me More segment on Williams. Here is the intro:


I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Today, we are going to talk about another controversy involving the media, ethnicity and ethics. Just recently on this program, we have talked about the firing of CNN anchor Rick Sanchez and former White House correspondent Helen Thomas over comments that each made in public forums that many people considered ignorant and even anti-Semitic. And the question was what kind of dialogue crosses the line between legitimate commentary and bigotry, especially inappropriate for journalists to engage in.

Today's story is along those lines, but it hits even closer to home. It's about the decision by this network, NPR, to fire its longtime employee Juan Williams. Juan has been a host here, a correspondent, and most recently, he has had the title of senior news analyst. And for long stretches of time, he's been one of the few consistent African-American males on the air here. And for a number of years, he's also been a regular contributor to FOX News Channel. And therein lies the issue.

He was fired Wednesday after comments he made about Muslims in an appearance on FOX News' "The O'Reilly Factor." Those comments and NPR's response to them has generated a controversy that has engulfed both networks and the blogosphere. For example, by midmorning today, some 15,000 messages have been blogged about this on NPR's home page.

Later in the program, we'll ask the Barbershop guys to weigh in because they are also a group of journalists of color who are often called upon to speak off the cuff about controversial topics. So we will hear what they have to say.

But first, we've called Asra Nomani, the author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam," and a scholar in the practice of journalism at Georgetown School of Continuing Studies. Also with us, Richard Prince, he's an editor at The Washington Post, who writes an online publication called "Journal-isms," where he focuses on issues around diversity in the media. And John Watson, associate professor of communications law and journalism ethics at American University. And they're all here with me in the studio and I thank you all so much for joining us...

Listen at:

Lagniappe: h/t to a JJP commenter for this, since Williams is easily frightened:
This Wordle seems to suggest I reconsider which words I use a lot:
Wordle: Blog post - Juan Williams

Friday, October 22, 2010

Haiti cholera outbreak

It continues. I just got the annual United Way flyer from my employer today and I am going to choose sides. Contribution going directly to PIH. Sorry, employer.

Reuters video at:

LA Times story:
Aid workers scramble to contain Haiti cholera outbreak

At least 140 people have died from the water-borne disease in central Haiti, as aid agencies fear it could spread rapidly in the unsanitary conditions in camps for displaced quake victims.

By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
October 23, 2010

Doctors and aid workers scrambled Friday to rein in a cholera outbreak in central Haiti that has killed 140 people, while warning that the crisis probably would get worse in a country where tent camps are still teeming with people displaced by the January earthquake.

"There's no reason to anticipate that this wouldn't spread widely," said Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer for Partners In Health, a Boston-based relief organization that runs three hospitals in the area.

The acute bacterial illness, spread primarily through contaminated drinking water, has struck more than 2,000 people throughout the farming valley along the Artibonite River, with the highest number in the port city of St. Marc...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is an Anita Hill

Mrs. Thomas jumped the shark credibility-wise quite a ways back, so one can only conjecture why she thought it a good idea to contact Anita Hill and dig up memories of the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings of 19 years ago. And instead of apologizing on behalf of her husband, she had the unmitigated gall to ask for an apology for HIll's testimony? Is she daft, or is it a setup two weeks before an election? Oh, where is my ballot? I'm voting early.

I have commented briefly elsewhere on this inanity, so let me just give a hat tip to NewBlackMan, and link to a Huffington Post article that may be the only good thing to come out of this minor media frenzy-- a reminder that harassment is not a one-time, isolated thing that just happens to people you don't know.

I Was Anita Hill
by Duchess Harris

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yuckiness at Ebony/Jet: Armstrong Williams

I'm not a frequent visitor at many sites (there are just too many, and frankly, I do have an outside life). But I went to the Ebony/Jet site yesterday on a photo hunt and found a pretty cool video about their 65th anniversary issue's cover shoot. (Doesn't seem to be embeddable but it'll load in a new window if you click.)

I went back today to dig around for still photos, but their home page gave me a stomach flip-flop. Dang if they weren't leading with an article by known arch-enemy Armstrong Williams. I guess you can't keep him down.

OK, here is a link to his article "The Browning of the GOP" about how impressive the Republican Party has been over the decades. He's left out a little history, like the flocking of white supremacists to the GOP, preferring to emphasis the black reaction of moving to the Democratic Party.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roland Martin calls out Tom Coburn re: black farmer settlement

I let an anonymous comment through on a post from a few days ago. Although the writer was a bit too busy venting to be 100% clear, I gathered there were two possible objections to my original.

Bottom line on one of the objections is, I don't know whether Roland Martin knows any black farmers or not. (For the record, one of the few black farmers in Iowa was a good friend of the family and I spent enough time on the farm to claim the experience. I didn't know Thomas Jefferson or Jack Kennedy, though.)

Roland, however, does defend black farmers and I should confirm that in this space. Here's his latest, posted on his blog on Oct. 7:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Steve Erickson, Arc d'X anyone?

Curse me for a novice, but is anyone out there familiar with Steve Erickson? I just picked up a copy of Arc d'X (1993) which is billed as being in the "avantpop" genre. I'm mentioning it here because Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings play significant parts in the novel.

Any info (comments, suggestions, criticisms) from anyone who's read Erickson would be appreciated!

P.S. I purchased this (on sale, mind you, for 50 cents) in clear violation of the "2 out for every in" book rule I established over the summer. Apologies to my shelves.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This political video is better than it should be

Hat tip rrp who no doubt needs to hat tip somebody else.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grumpiness about Democrats, and I'm an independent

I was being a curmudgeon over at Prometheus6 this morning (something about coastal fog, knowing that the sun's out elsewhere). Commenter no1kstate was lamenting those wimpy Democrats (and I so fret that the phrase is becoming redundant):

So, what's the problem with the pros? Where's Donna Brazille?

Then I sez, I sez:

We don't expect (at this point) Clintonite Paul Begala to jump in on this, as he will still be employed regardless of who controls Congress. Maybe not Roland Martin either (he's sympathetic to black farmers at least but must never have known any) but somebody should be in somebody's face. Dang, I guess it's Rachel. The first 4 minutes of this is classic and should maybe be a top-level post, ahem ahem (I said I was in a mood):

More from Facing Race via JJP

Here's another installment about Facing Race 2010 over at JJP:

an interview with Melissa Harris-Lacewell after her keynote speech. h/t to The Christian Progressive Liberal who was there and shared notes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Facing Race just happened

I was not at Facing Race 2010 and it appears we missed a good one. It seems that rising star Melissa Harris-Lacewell was the keynote speaker and knocked it out of the park, if she will forgive the sports metaphor.

The following is lifted from a post at JJP by the Christian Progressive Liberal.

Oh, my, where to start in reporting about my experience at “Facing Race”?

First off, let me say this – “Facing Race” is not your parents’ Diversity Conference. In fact, it’s not a diversity conference at ALL.

Facing Race is not for the faint of heart – nor is it for people who work in diversity and are usually mandated by your job to be in attendance. It is not for those who can’t stand to hear the painful, honest truth about race; yet these are the very imbeciles who think if they attend a diversity conference or two, that qualifies them to lead discussions on race and racial issues from THEIR perspective, and not the perspectives of the people of color who suffer and live with race on a daily basis.

Facing Race does just what the name says – FACING the Issues Regarding RACE. No “Kuubaayah” moments in this set.

And what a profound experience it was. When 800+ people attend such a conference because they want to really unite our communities; not because they are mandated; not because they are curious:

You have a conference that really does the meat and potatoes discussion of race issues, where POC cheer, and any whites not Tim Wise will wince, moan, groan, leave the room – anything to avoid hearing the hard TRUTH about Race in America, and not how the media wants to frame the issue.

This is the first part of a series of articles I will be doing on “Facing Race”, a nitty-gritty conference held every two years where practitioners attend to plan, organize, strategize and mobilize on the ground forces to facilitate true democracy and equality By Any Means Necessary.

“We don’t do “Diversity” at this conference”, said Rinku Sen, the Executive Director of Applied Research Center, and publisher of the magazine, “Colorlines”, and host of this conference. “We discuss real issues of race – this is a community of people who care about race gather, and aren’t afraid to confront issues of race in a real and forthcoming way.”

“We are trying to consolidate the base and continue to build the community,” Rinku told me. “We share are collective learning experiences in modernizing the racial justice movement. Where there is ‘motion’, we claim it as a ‘movement’”.

ProfGeo note: If you are reading this post, white, and "not Tim Wise" (which is not exactly how I would've put it, but I think CPL was in the heat of the moment) I would encourage you to click through and read the post anyway as it lays out some specifics from Dr. Lacewell that are worthwhile for discussion and maybe for wide adoption.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Net Neutrality

OK, tags are good for something. Here is an interesting selection of three "net neutrality" articles posted over at NewBlackMan. Two are recent, one not so but it still deserves a timely review due to the current election cycle. The issue across all three articles is disparate impact on minorities.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just because it'll upset some people

White House Photo of the Day for September 16, 2010:

President Barack Obama fist bumps Vice President Joe Biden, with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett looking on, before a meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) [emphasis added]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I think Dinesh & Newt are in a fever dream about the younger Bush president

So, because G.W. Bush wanted to finish up in Iraq for his daddy, they think Obama must be up to something because of his daddy? At this point, I suspect these folks are just playing old Bush-era video, grabbing a random sentence, and applying it to Obama, all just to see if people will fall for it. (We already know Fox will run it, that's not the question.)

Sep 13th 2010, 17:11 by M.S.

I DON'T find it at all difficult to understand how Barack Obama thinks, because most of his beliefs are part of the broad consensus in America's centre or centre-left: greenhouse-gas emissions reductions, universal health insurance, financial-reform legislation, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and so forth. Dinesh D'Souza, on the other hand, appears to have met so few Democrats in recent decades that he finds such views shocking, and thinks they can only be explained by the fact that Mr Obama's father was a Kenyan government economist who pushed for a non-aligned stance in the Cold War during the 1960s-70s. Since the majority of Democrats don't have any Kenyan parents and have no particular stake in the anti-colonialism debates of the 1960s-70s, I'm not sure how Mr D'Souza would explain their views. In any case, Mr D'Souza's explanation of Mr Obama's views doesn't make any sense on its own terms. This, for example, is incomprehensible: "If Obama shares his father's anticolonial crusade, that would explain why he wants people who are already paying close to 50% of their income in overall taxes to pay even more." Come again? Progressive taxation is caused by...anti-colonialism? Message to American billionaires and the people who write for them: many events and movements in world history did not revolve around marginal tax rates on rich people in the United States.

In other words, while I don't have any trouble understanding how Barack Obama thinks, I have a lot of trouble understanding how Dinesh D'Souza thinks...
Stephen R. Covey has oft said, "First seek to understand, then to be understood." He means shut up and listen, make sure you've got the other person's viewpoint straight before jumping to conclusions. This may be an exception. We have plenty of material on D'Souza and serial-marrier Gingrich, who by now should be in America's dustbin with John Edwards. Time to move on.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two thought-provoking 9/11 items

Well, two and a half items. Call it a lagniappe. (You're welcome.) The first item-and-a-half involves Fareed Zakaria, who always makes my IQ go up when I listen to him. The second item is not one I totally agree with, but the writer does use 9/11 to discuss religious tolerance and national holidays in a more creative way than most I've seen.

1. Here's a video of Fareed Zakaria and Peter Bergen forcing Anderson Cooper to have a non-sensationalistic conversation for a few minutes. No shouting or interruptions from anyone. Don't watch it if you can't handle people talking in complete sentences and not frothing at the mouth:

1.5. The CNN page containing the above video has a more extensive text interview with Zakaria. Not the same as the video, but complementary. Worth the click-through:

2. The following Slate article by Jack Shafer (h/t to a JJP commenter for pointing me to it) actuallly woke me up by being a bit impertinent at the outset. But it kept me tuned in by referring to how we, as a nation, observe the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday (and a few others).

One thing that I noticed in Shafer's article was what wasn't there-- the dog that didn't bark, if you will. He doesn't discuss how the U.S. military and defense establishment treat 9/11, year after year. They mourn and observe, of course, and then get back to work. They don't make a big deal out of it, not compared with New York and politicians of all ilks. They don't claim to "own" it because of the Pentagon strike, which killed people as surely as the Twin Towers attack.

The other thing was a somewhat divergent discussion about holiday observances, including the "blanding" of the MLK holiday and others. He's more right than he knows, as I have already seen January sale ads with caricatures of King. "Content of their character, 50% off and more!" Not quite that bad yet, not like Presidents Day with idiots in Washington & Lincoln costumes, but wait for it.

And the World Trade Center site is not hallowed ground.
By Jack Shafer
Posted Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, at 5:36 PM ET

Every year, the custody battle over 9/11 becomes more contentious. The current furor over the proposed construction of an Islamic center a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center footprint has made this anniversary of the carnage at the towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa., more prickly than usual... [much more at link]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Compromise? Maybe it's time to try something else

I've been tossing and turning too much, thinking about this. A recent thread at Prometheus 6 helped it to gel.

The use of the term compromise has been bugging me more than usual since Barack Obama got elected and it became obvious that there would be no compromise on high-profile issues. So far it's resulted in gutted initiatives, the Republicans more than earning the "Party of NO" epithet and being proud of it to boot, etc.

I took formal mediation and conflict-resolution training back in the '90s and learned that even when both parties are interested, compromise is usually not good enough for either party. It's what people settle for when they can't do any better. But getting past it, to a collaborative or jointly-developed solution that benefits both parties, is exceedingly difficult.

Compromise is unlikely in the current Washington, and I would guess in many states. That means coming up with truly beneficial solutions is even more unlikely.

Compromise has been ineffective throughout American history. The compromises of 1820, 1850 and 1877 come to mind as examples that didn't do black folk any good. You could go all the way back to the original three-fifths compromise but that's a given in this space.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Black farmers getting plowed under like unwanted crops

Recent article from The Root, a story worth spreading and keeping alive. Somebody needs to remember this on November 2nd.

h/t P6 & JJP &...

Apparently, the votes of white farmers in a key state trump the USDA's settlement of long-standing discrimination complaints -- especially in an election year.
By: Frank McCoy | Posted: September 2, 2010 at 5:32 PM

The ire that black farmers and their advocates are currently feeling has two targets: the Senate's failure to vote the money to complete the farmers' settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and President Obama's recent generous offer to white Arkansas farmers. Both examples of political expediency are bitter reminders of black farmers' second-class status.

For five months, the Senate has blocked passage of legislation that contains money to fund the USDA's $1.25 billion settlement of the second bias suit lodged by black farmers. The agreement, called Pigford II, is supposed to redress past USDA racial discrimination cases...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I can't apologize to a blog better than this teacher did

The Grand Champion, instant classic, Hall of Fame apology for not posting regularly was on educator colleague Ms. B.'s blog a few days ago. She talks directly to the blog-- the readers are apparently independent sorts who can take care of themselves. And there is a critter cute enough to make a Sarah McLachlan SPCA ad run through your head all day long:

As I must relearn each and every semester, there will never be more time. Yes, the focus shifts, this cause or that, but the clock is really the same clock. This Paul Madonna illustration is now my desktop wallpaper (really):

Does wallpaper work?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The 2010 Black Weblog Awards

Usually I don't pay any mind to awards. However, I gotta acknowledge when someone I know wins one in a domain I personally know to be difficult to navigate, like running a consistent blog over months and years. Even if the award winner is a person I just "cyber-know" as is the case here, someone I've been reading since the hoary old listserv days when text was king and people needed you to copy/paste Web page contents for them because they only had e-mail, and weren't quite sure about that browser stuff.

In other words, from before there were blogs.

And the winner of the Aaron Hawkins Award is…

Earl Dunovant!

Earl Dunovant is a web developer and political activist who has blogged at Prometheus 6 since January 2004. Dunovant is also a member of the Media Bloggers Association, has attended presidential debates as a credentialed blogger, and has been featured on NPR as part of News and Notes‘ Bloggers Roundtable.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Michel Martin takes the floor and darn well keeps it (CNN Reliable Sources)

The first segment of this Reliable Sources, August 22 episode, has seen considerable play around the ol' blogosphere. (I will take credit or blame as you wish.) Michel Martin simply does not let host Howard Kurtz simplify or whitewash the New York mosque issue or the "Dr. Laura and the N-word" issue. She kicks serious butt all over the whole panel and takes no prisoners. And explains why the Dr. Laura thing has nothing to do with "debate" or the 1st Amendment better than most of us could. We need more of Michel, everywhere.

I'm still getting my fall classes going (students still come first, so there) and I hope this item, even if a repeat, has value for you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How many Senators does it take to avoid paying black farmers?

Once again, here's a timely update to the plight of the black farmers who STILL aren't paid, months after the February 2010 court settlement, thanks to inexcusable delays in the Senate. Hat tip to rikyrah at JJP for posting story & link where I would see it. Comments have been light (nonexistent) on this update over at JJP so I'm cross-posting here for possible penetration.

Black farmers ask why some get aid and they wait
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:45pm EDT

(Reuters) - Black farmers involved in a decades-old discrimination case are questioning why the Obama administration has promised to hasten aid for some large-scale farmers in the South while their case is held up in political wrangling.

The administration pledged last week to find $1.5 billion to help farmers hit by natural disasters after it appeared unlikely the Senate would promptly fund the package.

Black farmers reached a historic $1.25 billion civil rights settlement in February to compensate them for being left out of federal farm loan and assistance programs for years due to racism, but are still waiting for funding.

There have been seven failed attempts by the Senate, including one last week, to fund the settlement...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quote of the Week (Aug. 1-7, 2010)

Much as we are enamored of appropriating the "never forget" philosophy and applying it to the Dred Scott case & Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney (h/t to Wikipedia for providing more than the bare-bones quote):

It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

...for the early 21st Century we defer to this more abbreviated statement from Cnu, the author of the subrealism blog, ostensibly debating only gay rights but it's never that simple (if you think it is, let me help you onto this truck, watch your step):

Who are these people to demand any sort of rights I'm obliged to recognize?!?!?!?!?

Friday, August 6, 2010

That pesky 14th Amendment again

Between the black "Tea Party Express" folk selling us out at the National Press Club, the Proposition 8 discussion pretty much leaving out LGBT people of color, and a rise in racist stuff claiming not to be racist, I'm starting to feel like an "all other person" again.

So here is a post from rikyrah at Jack & Jill Politics that, while not exactly what I would say about current right-wing and so far all-white attacks on the 14th Amendment, it's close enough:

Remember, when you were in school and you had to pass the U.S. Constitution test to graduate 8th grade? You had to memorize the Amendments to the Constitution…and there were groups, the two most distinct being: 1st 10 – Bill of Rights, and then the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments, which you could shorten to SLAVERY (13), CITIZENSHIP(14), RIGHT TO VOTE(15).

So, I watch from the sidelines, as the folks on the right keep on bringing up REPEALING the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

AND the silence from our so-called ‘ leaders’.

WHY does the right care about this Amendment?

THEY SAY, it’s because the children of illegal aliens, born in this country, and are U.S. Citizens, is a perversion of the Amendment.

So, what exactly does the 14th Amendment say:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 1 is what deserves the focus.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

This means that the children of illegals born in this country ARE United States Citizens. They’re talking about this because the majority of the children that qualify -ARE NOT WHITE.

I simply don’t believe that they would care if the majority were from, say, Canada, Ireland, Scandinavia, and nothing will convince me otherwise...

Read the rest + comments at: Jack & Jill Politics

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote of the Week (August 1-7, 2010)

The quotation below is from a letter by H. P. Lovecraft to Elizabeth Toldridge. It was used as an epigraph in A Specter Is Haunting Texas, which novel I wish I had read years ago as it does not hold up well aesthetically. It makes for tough slogging now, tougher certainly than Fritz Leiber ought to be, even though it portrays the state/empire of Texas exactly as I picture it, attitudes forever entrenched by Southern/cowboy testosterone and fear, unchanged even by atomic war.
One thing I'll say for labour (the British Labour Party); and that is, that it isn't as offensive as the corresponding mutatory force which now threatens culture in America. I refer to the force of business as a dominating motive in life, and a persistent absorber of the strongest creative energies of the American people. This intensive commercialism is a force more basically dangerous and anti-cultural than labour ever has been, and threatens to build up an arrogant fabric which it will be very hard to overthrow or modify with civilized ideas.
     --H. P. Lovecraft, 1929

Friday, July 30, 2010

2 reasons I keep up with Lawrence Lessig

UPDATE (8/6/10) on Lessig's video:
On the morning of August 6, I (and a zillion others) got a tweet from Lawrence Lessig saying he has pulled his "Of/By/4" video due to a probable misquote of Lincoln in the video. Read more about it here:

When there's more I will post it separately. Meanwhile, let's all aspire to half as much integrity as Lessig showed. No whining, no excuses, just the correction. Now go enjoy some other Lessig videos.

-----update ends-----

I first stumbled upon Lawrence Lessig while investigating better ways for my students to do presentations besides "standard" PowerPoint slide drone-o-rama. Turns out that beyond the technology, his ideas on intellectual freedom mesh rather well with mine, and can inform my thinking & writing whether I believe it happens or not. He's on hiatus from the blogosphere but remains quite active on Twitter and elsewhere.

(1) I like the Lessig method of presentation and wish I had enough TA support to do more of it myself. He hasn't broken anyone's PowerPoint addiction, a pet peeve I tackle with my students in my academic life, but he's managed to work with and build around the core software, and he keeps his talks moving visually so you don't care that they're based in PowerPoint. You learn not to blink much.

(2) He makes sense. We need more "angry white men" who channel it this way. In the below TEDx talk titled "of/by/4" he quotes many people-- yes, his share of "dead white males" and a few live ones (including David Byrne, one of my creative faves who also knows how to liven up PowerPoint) but I admire his selective skills and the lack of women&minorities does not offend. He frames this talk with a pertinent quote from Thoreau:

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

Therefore, I dedicate this post to all the progressives who are running around in circles, independently making sense, yet rarely converging to actually bring "progress" writ large. So carve out 18 minutes, not necessarily all at once but it helps. Watch and learn. When done, check out his other presentations at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No justice, no peace for Janet Jackson: Timberlake as Boo-Boo?


Oh, this cannot end well... Take me back, please, to "Hey, There, It's Yogi Bear!"

by Matt McDaniel July 28, 2010

He's certainly smarter than the average bear, but he's always been flatter than one, too.

That's changing this December when Yogi Bear makes the leap from 2D TV cartoon to 3D live-action movie. Like "Scooby-Doo" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" before it, "Yogi Bear" will have human actors sharing the screen with computer-animated versions of the animal characters. But what is different in this flick is the big names lending their voices to the CGI stars: Dan Aykroyd as Yogi, and Justin Timberlake as his buddy, Boo Boo.

Guest Quote of the Week (July 25-31, 2010)

Occasionally I will visit Edge of the American West as I have some family roots in that region and I can usually translate what their bloggers "must really mean." That blog has a current thread on Inception -- which film I have not yet seen -- and a commenter ("Anderson") posted something that I believe can be generalized to the world at large:

People who think Inception was “a royal piece of smoldering crap” haven’t seen enough genuinely bad movies, and really should never leave the safety of The Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two books out, painlessly again

This book reduction activity is anything but a habit yet, so pardon me for choosing another couple of easy candidates. One fits into a clear category from the original PostBourgie list (as reproduced at Racialicious). The other isn't per se a book directed at African Americans but I'ma count it anyway because it still gets a book out of the house.

I. Native Stranger: A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa, Eddy L. Harris (Category 11: AFRICA)

Why I bought the book: Already familiar with Harris through Mississippi Solo, interested in anything he writes in English. He has since gone the expatriate route and lives in France. I am interested in checking out this 2005 documentary about him, Eddy L. Harris: A Writer in France.

Why the book is going to someone else: This is the paperback edition, and I already had it in hardback. Duh on me for not catching it. (But then, that's one reason I started this project.) The good news is that I bought the paperback secondhand, at "popular prices."

BTW if you ever, I mean ever, confuse Eddy L. Harris with E. Lynn Harris, go sit in the corner for an hour.

II. Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde (Category: none)

Why I bought the book: Having listened to two Fforde audiobooks and read other Fforde, I find he creates a fantasy/alternate universe of a literary Earth that is-- sacrilege alert for some readers-- more entertaining to me than, uh, certain more established universes in the genre.

Why the book is going to someone else: Swapping it out for the 1st edition hardback, a copy of which I stumbled upon a few days ago. To be fair, I should count the hardback as my "in" for the above two "outs."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Van Jones doesn't seem thrown under the bus

Here's an interview with the recently emancipated "green guy" Van Jones at Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas (h/t JJP). He seems to be doing OK in his post-White House life. Runs about an hour. First several minutes is an intro by Howard Dean.

"I'll Make Me a World": One book in for the last two out

Earlier in these pages, I reported on two books that I gently set free in my "2 out for every in" project. At the time, I did not say what I actually did with the books, and whether I immediately brought a new one in. In this round, I donated them to a library in my area. Because I went back a day later, I can verify that Push was already snapped up, while The Haunting of Hip Hop was still available.

Also because of that return visit, I can claim one of those small, early successes touted by business books as being important when dealing with change. There was a slim, dark-spined volume that I almost overlooked, and I am exceedingly glad I pulled it off the shelf to examine it. It's one of those books that simply can't be reproduced with justice as an e-book, at least not until they can duplicate the tactile (and maybe the smell). 3D visual will help, but it still won't be good enough.

"The Creation" is a well-known poem by James Weldon Johnson. In 1972, an attractive Hallmark Crown Edition was published under the title "I'll Make Me a World": James Weldon Johnson's Story of the Creation. Here's the descriptive copy from the final page:

"Photographic composition and styling by Jim Cozad. Special photographic techniques were created by back-lighting transparent dies (sic), oils and crystals. To achieve the images, the photographer combined macro-photography and special darkroom techniques. The type is set in American Uncial, a calligraphic typeface by Victor Hammer and in Optima, a sans serif typeface created by Hermann Zapf. The paper is Hallclear, White Imitation Parchment and Ivory Fiesta Parchment. The cover is bound with natural weave book cloth and Torino paper. Book design by Jay Johnson."

Holding this little gem is a sensory treat due to the cloth and paper. The page edges are sort of scalloped but there's probably a technical term for it I don't know. Anyway, it adds to the experience and such a fetish may partially explain why I don't part with more books faster. I'll post a photo or scanned sample of a page, but meanwhile here's an Amazon link with cover image and one additional page:

And the full text of Johnson's poem can be found at Project Gutenberg (search the page for "The Creation") or at (on its own page but with annoying ads).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two Out for Every In: Easy victories

I am reminded by the reviewer's blurb at Cats and a Book to "be gentle"-- so in my book reduction project (as described in my previous post) I'll remain respectful of writers as I may be kicking some of their favorite children into the street to suffer a Dickensian winter. This is all a two-edged sword anyway, as readers could jump into the comments here with "You had what on your shelf?! For how long?!"

That said, let's get started with our first set of newly-orphaned books.

I. The Haunting of Hip Hop, Bertice Berry

"A ghost story with a beat... a mesmerizing cautionary tale about urban hip hop culture..."

Why I bought this book: (1) Caught my eye because it was a signed copy at a good price. Never mind to whom it was inscribed-- may have been just another book signing, may have been a best friend or relative! (2) The bio in back described the author as an "inspirational speaker, doctor of sociology, and former stand-up comedian." I often pick up books that meet either of these criteria, signed with interesting inscription, OR an intriguing bio. Both criteria and I'll give it a try for sure.

Why this book is going to someone else: I've read it, not likely to reread or refer back to it anytime soon.

One thing I'm keeping from this book: John Oliver Killens. This book had epigraphs at the beginning of some chapters. One that stuck was: "Time is swiftly running out, and a new dialogue is indispensable. It is so long overdue, it is already half past midnight." This is from "The Black Psyche" by Killens.

I started looking for his original. This led me to stumble upon a different Killen article, "The Development of a Black Psyche: An Interview" ( which I would never have heard of otherwise. I therefore thank Dr. Berry for writing the book.

Best as I can tell from the Googles, Dr. Berry is doing some commendable work out there. For example:

II. Push, Sapphire

"A stunningly frank effort that marks the emergence of an immensely promising writer."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Eventually Push became just a bit more well-known, due to being filmed as Precious. I have commented previously here and here on book and film phenomena.

Why I bought this book: Caught my eye due to excellent cover design (paperback, Vintage Contemporaries Edition, May 1997). Rave reviews.

Why this book is going to someone else: I've only picked at it over the past few years, reading a few pages here or there. I always feel better when I put it down, including today as I am writing these words.

Why I'm tempted to keep this book anyway: Resale value. Although prices vary wildly, this particular pre-film edition seems to do well enough on Amazon. I'm doing the karma thing in any case, and giving Push to an area library for their book sale.

In an upcoming "2 out": Which motivational speaker motivates me to get rid of his books?