Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wake up, Dorothy. You were never in Kansas

[Big ol' tip o' the fedora to Prometheus6 for snapping me out of "too busy to post" mode.]

Apparently you can make death threats against a Presidential candidate (translation: a black candidate, specifically Barack Obama) on the Internet and get away with it.

Man's call for Obama assassination is free speech, not crime, court rules
July 19, 2011 | 4:27 pm

A La Mesa man who posted racial epithets and a call to "shoot" Barack Obama on an Internet chat site was engaging in constitutionally protected free speech, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in overturning his criminal conviction...

...the statute doesn't criminalize "predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president," said the majority opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

"When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words’ utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them," said the 2-1 ruling in which Chief Judge Alex Kozinski joined but Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw dissented.

Quick now, who's surprised? And who thinks this would be consistently applied to threats against a white candidate? And who thinks the (two) judges in the majority are sure in their own minds that race played no part in their decision?

Full decision here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Crooked Timber takes another whack at the prison system

Crooked Timber tends to come at issues from an academic's angle. Not always scholarly and not always literary, but highfalutin enough to ward off the kiddies who have just learned to keyboard and post. Not always right, but they tend to think through posts before they go live. Often a bit smug and ivory-tower and detached (exception: when one of their own was affected by the Wisconsin protests of late winter), but usually self-aware enough to know they're doing it.

Yesterday, CT's Eszter Hargittai put up a side-door post about the recent narrow Supreme Court decision that admonishes the California prison system for its perennial overcrowding and lack of health services. This ties back to a recurring TOTF theme.

The CT commenters are covering the bases fairly well from their perspective, with a bit less snark than is their norm (yes, a bit less) so take a look, in the spirit of well-roundedness. They do tend to belabor and over-argue certain points that may be self-evident to some of us. (OK, fair enough, "some of us" would probably include anyone who's been a person of color in the US for more than three days.)

Haiti is not rebuilt but we must have our priorities

While the media and many in the blogosphere are seemingly obsessed with how a couple of politicians' personal lives are melting down, I'm reminding by rikyrah at Jack and Jill, who was reminded by BooMan, whom I don't cite often, that Haiti is still under the imperial thumb of yore.

Believe me, if I had a better term than "imperial thumb" I'd use it. But the same external influences (socioeconomic, cultural, religious) that have been punishing Haiti since it dared attempt independence are still in full play...

And if nothing else we should remember that they had an earthquake too.

Because BooMan breaks it down like a fraction* better than I can paraphrase on this rainy Saturday morning, I will just link through. Enjoy and be enlightened.

This also reminds me that I'm overdue for a contribution to Partners in Health, one of the few NGOs that seems to just stay there and help people directly, before, during and after earthquakes. I'll take care of that today.

*Don't worry, I will stop saying "breaks it down like a fraction" after a while.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day and the Former Slaves Who Started It

h/t Kris Broughton at Big Think/Resurgence for starting me on this trail. I'm all for honoring the fallen each Memorial Day. I want to honor all the fallen, though, and this is my contribution to that end. From another perspective it's a good case study of how history may be "lost" and how it can be rediscovered.

Broughton's May 30 post popped up on my Blogger reading list with the headline "S.C. Black Freedmen Organized First Memorial Day Celebration In 1865"-- and after replacing my uppers, I went straight to Wikipedia, font of all wisdom. Sure enough, the Memorial Day entry says, and I quote:

Formerly known as Decoration Day, which was first recorded to have been observed by Freedmen (freed enslaved southern blacks) in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, at the Washington Race Course, to remember the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Today, what is now known as Memorial Day, is a day of reflection and recognition of ordinary people who sometimes visit cemeteries and graves to honor their deceased relatives while also commemorating all U.S. Service Members who died while inmilitary service.[2] The recognition of the fallen victims was then enacted under the name Memorial Day by an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)[3] — to honorUnion soldiers of the American Civil War. Over time, it was extended after World War I to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

I knew about the expansion after WWI part, but not the prior history of the holiday. That never got mentioned, somehow, in the required history that was covered during my military service.

After a quick skim of the Wikipedia entry, I dutifully went to the Broughton post. Seems he had been inspired by a Ta-Nehisi Coates post at The Atlantic... (with some quite cogent comments there, by the way, and not too much racist chaff, as TNC screens for that)

...which was in turn inspired by an excellent David Blight article in the New York Times...

...which drew upon research Blight had done some time earlier, and earlier discussed near the end of...

...a lecture he gave about the end of the Civil War called "To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings." [video at the link, transcript available here]

Back to the Resurgence/Big Think post, there was one link I had skipped so I went back for it. The link leads to an article titled "Slaves Started Memorial Day" that was republished in May 2010 by the L.A. Watts Times. (This Brian Hicks article first appeared under the title "The First Memorial Day" on May 24, 2009 in the [Charleston, S.C.] Post and Courier. It may be read here.)

The Hicks article also brings a bit more of the local view and that makes it worth a read.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Later" turns out to be "now" for California prisons

There's a new conversation at subrealism about the Supreme Court decision on California prisons. Too many prisoners, too little space, too few services. (Services, if you're concerned about taxpayer dollars, are things like just enough medical care to keep the state out of "cruel and unusual punishment" territory if administered properly.)

We've known the extent of the problem for some years, thanks to Judge Thelton Henderson's constant admonitions, but as a state we kind of dragged our societal feet until, oh, right this minute. Shifting prisoners to the county jails and declaring victory is not going to work well, as there is overcrowding and underfunding there too, and the sheriffs are pretty upset about the whole thing. Add potential layoffs to the mix and it's even less pretty.

ProfGeo comment is at the "new conversation" link above, with some informative discussion from CNu and the crowd as well. Please check it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A "Fair Use" shot across the bow

The folks at Racialicious have heard from New York magazine over a recent (May 13) post that quotes from an article on Asian Americans. My guess is they are discussing the amount of the article that is quoted vs. the amount of new commentary from the Racialicious blogger. I don't think the magazine is trying to shut down discussion of the subject matter itself, in this particular case.

Those of us who largely blog in "reactive" mode, citing the news of the day, should take note of the proceedings. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, there are four tests for fair use and a body of case law. There is no simple, hard and fast rule that applies to everyone all the time. We are concerned in academia as well as in the everyday world of sharing.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) didn't help. The waters have been further muddied over the past several years as certain outlets (e.g. major networks like MSNBC; TED...) have actively promoted embedding and in some cases even provided tools to selectively clip/edit their stuff for sharing. New York is old school print and they seem to be reacting to Racialicious from that perspective.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why, Clearly, America has a Fighting President, not just a Black President*

Since Sunday night, May 1, when President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed, the tenor of media coverage everywhere has changed. Although some right-wingers are paying left-handed compliments to our left-handed President, at least they're compliments for the moment.

MSM have resurrected a few media zombies such as Paul Wolfowitz, Alan Dershowitz, Michael Steele (who never really disappeared) and let them take the bit in their teeth. There is some second-guessing over whether to release photographs of the body, but everything else is like water off a duck's back, a bit of unseemly but not unexpected quibbling.

There has been a lower-key response from the more peaceful and peaceable among us. Some with Buddhist perspective, most about the sanctity of life, most, I believe, a reaction to the finite-game, sports-victory home-team aspect of the "spontaneous" celebrations Sunday night. (Where did they get all those flags that late at night, anyway?)

But for the moment, the President is just the President. I choose to savor that part of it.

*This post's title is dedicated to Gene Wolfe.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tell Bill Maher: stop legitimizing Andrew Breitbart

Tell Bill Maher: stop legitimizing Andrew Breitbart

James Rucker (ColorOfChange) makes the case that Maher should not be re-booking Breitbart, or at the least should come clean about Breitbart's record and not softball him. Cross-posted from JJP.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why We Fight, or: Clearly, America has a Black President, not just a President

On the night of April 27, 2011, the night of the day President Obama called a special press conference to personally release his birth certificate, thus "showing his papers" to the country, Rachel Maddow was smart enough to turn her show directly over to Goldie Taylor of The Grio. Goldie explains, through a story about her own family, how this aspect of race in America has shown the constancy of the trade winds.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Once you have absorbed the video, I recommend to your attention the full text of Goldie Taylor's column at the Grio.

ETA: I am reminded by rikyrah at JJP to remind you to check Baratunde's April 27 video as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Digital Africa (cross-posted, sort of)

I just don't want to lose this item from Intelligent Life magazine (from The Economist) before I've had a chance to reread it. I think you'll find more on topic re: technology and Africa, or corporate dominance and Africa, elsewhere... I focused on this article in the first place due to coverage at CNu's place of Libya's impact across Africa.

In a continent with few computers and little electricity, a smartphone is not just a phone—it’s a potential revolution. J.M. Ledgard reports from Somalia and Kenya ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Spring 2011

The front-line in Mogadishu was just beyond the ruined cathedral. You could hear the small-arms fire of the al-Qaeda fighters and the return of heavy machinegun-fire from the sandbagged positions of the African Union troops. But the scene on the sun-washed street in the Hamarweyne district was calm. Women were shopping for fruit and vegetables, and the ciabatta and pasta Mogadishu gained a taste for in its Italian colonial days. A couple of cafés, serving also as electronics shops, were crowded, with people inside making voip phone calls and surfing the internet. Outside on the street boys were fiddling with mobile phones, Nokia and Samsung mostly, but also those fantastical Chinese models you find in poorer countries, nameless, with plastic dragon-like construction, heavy on battery-guzzling features like television tuners. I asked my Somali companion what the boys were up to. He wound down the window and summoned his gunmen to go and ask. The answer came back. “They’re updating their Facebook profiles.”

According to a recent intelligence estimate by a defence contractor, 24% of residents in Mogadishu access the internet at least once a week. This in a city in a state of holy war, too dangerous for foreigners to visit freely, where a quarter of the 1.2m residents live under plastic sheeting, infested, hungry, and reliant on assistance brought in on ships that are liable to be attacked at sea by pirates. Half the population of Mogadishu is under 18. Some of these teenagers end up uploading and downloading ghoulish martyrdom videos and tinkering with websites celebrating the global jihad. But far more spend their time searching for love, following English football teams, reading Somali news sites uncensored by the jihadists, and keeping track of money transfers from relatives abroad. It takes more than violent anarchy to extinguish the desire of the young to stay connected, and to keep up with the contemporaries they see on satellite television.

When it comes to electricity, Africa remains the dark continent. There are a billion Africans, and they use only 4% of the world’s electricity. Most of that is round the edges, in Egypt, the Maghreb and South Africa. The rest of Africa is unlit; seen from space, the Congo River basin is as dark as the Southern Ocean. Demand for power is already outpacing economic growth. With its population expected to double to 2 billion by 2050, Africa will have to build entire new power grids just to stand still. So far, the failure has been systematic: of Nigeria’s 79 power stations, only 17 are working. All of this increases political risk. Some African countries could collapse by 2020 unless they can power an industrial base. Yet Africa’s virtual future is not dependent on its physical future. You don’t need much electricity to run a phone network. You need even less to run a phone itself. Even the scabbiest African village has worked out how to charge mobiles and other devices using car batteries, bicycles and solar panels. Connectivity is a given: it is coming and happening and spreading in Africa whether or not factories get built or young people find jobs. Culture is being formed online as well as on the street: for the foreseeable future, the African voice is going to get louder, while the voice of ageing Europe quietens.

What makes this possible is a series of undersea cables which have finally hooked up Africa to the rest of the internet. EASSY (the East African Submarine Cable System) emerged from the Indian Ocean at Mombasa last July, looking as fine as gossamer and delivering 3.84 terabits per second to 18 countries. It seemed inconceivable that it could carry the weight of so much information and so many hopes. But EASSY and other fibre-optic cables are freeing Africa from the costs and failings of the satellite internet, and for the first time making it affordable for Africans to talk to the outside world and, crucially, to each other. Prices are down, speeds are up: it takes minutes now instead of hours to download a YouTube video. The future is not supposed to feel futuristic—it’s usually far more like the present than the novelists and film-makers imagine—but the present in Africa has been rudimentary for so long that this future really does feel like science fiction...

[Much more at the above link on impact of mobile, and influence of Facebook, Google & Nokia]

Friday, April 22, 2011

350 for Earth Day

A neat compilation, "350 for Earth Day: African Americans Enriching Life on Our Planet," at:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Google & minority hiring practices as "trade secret"

Duly noted that Blogger is owned by Google and all that, and people providing "free" services don't have to explain anything, not really. Yeah, I'm glad for the space, having haggled with ISPs in the past. And I can follow that Google's hiring process might be a trade secret. But the actual numbers of minorities employed? Reverse-engineer those numbers to understand Google?
Google won’t release minority hiring statistics, claiming trade secret
By Priyanka Sharma | 17 Apr 2011

The universal search engine may not be as transparent as it claims.

Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” yet when asked to disclose data about its internal hiring process, the company flatly refused.

Google has claimed that its hiring procedures are a trade secret, but other Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Intel, Cisco, and eBay have released their data.

“All we are asking is for Google to show us the numbers,” said Len Canty, chairman of the Black Economic Council. He was among several minority leaders who protested outside Google’s Mountain View headquarters on Feb. 10, rallying for Google to be more transparent about the minorities it hires...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A History of Black Folk on Twitter (cross-post)

Mark Anthony Neal at TEDxDuke 2011:

See more of Dr. Neal at NewBlackMan. But watch the video first...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Black History of the White House (book)

Cross-posted at JJP.

The Black History of the White House on BookTV (C-SPAN2), author Clarence Lusane video at the link:

Book excerpt at City Lights (PDF):

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Budget Deficit Speech

Here's a Wordle visualization of the text of President Obama's speech at GWU on Wednesday, April 13. (The words laughter and applause were removed.) Click on the image for a larger version.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prison Smorgasbord! not exactly all you can eat

I was already piling up some items in multiple browser tabs, hoping the browser wouldn't crash, when Prometheus6 went ahead and posted this item that is exceedingly strange due to the joint appearance of Ben Jealous (NAACP) and Grover Norquist (hater of all taxes all the time):

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

So best for all concerned is for me to just add my bottlenecked items about California's new prison transfer law, AB109; Gov. Jerry Brown's signing message affecting how the bill is implemented; reactions from county/local officials; an item on women and prison reform; and several others. Off you go, then:

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Monday that aims to make a key part of his budget proposal a reality -- AB109, which authorizes the transfer of thousands of state prisoners to local jails (and also shifts various other criminal justice functions away from the state and down to the county level).

One problem: Brown planned to fund the measure with tax increases and extensions -- you know, the ones vehemently opposed by Republicans. The governor had hoped to put those taxes before voters in June, but threw in the towel last week after being stymied by that GOP opposition.

But Brown had to do something -- if he didn't sign of veto AB109 by Monday, it would have gone into law automatically. So he attempted to soften the blow by writing in his signing message that AB109 will not take effect until the state has figured out way to pay counties for the extra responsibilities...

Governor signs bill returning prisoners to local jails
Herald Staff Writer
Posted: 04/06/2011 01:42:46 AM PDT

Law enforcement officials in Monterey County are preparing for the return of some state prisoners to county custody even as they try to discern exactly what that would mean.

Late Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill authorizing the return of certain "low-level" nonviolent offenders to California counties — with the caveat that it won't happen until the money is there to help counties accommodate them.

The bill approved by Brown says the "realignment" is scheduled to begin July 1 — but can only go into effect "upon creation of a community corrections grant program to assist in implementing this act, and upon an appropriation to fund the grant program."

Despite that provision, some local police leaders fear the state won't follow through with adequate funds.

"The California Police Chiefs Association has had a lot of trust in Governor Brown since he was attorney general," said Marina Police Chief Eddie Rodriguez. "He normally does what he says. The only problem is the state is in a fiscal crisis and we don't know where that money will come from."

"I don't think 'make sure that it's fair' is part of the paradigm," said Sheriff Scott Miller. "It's not going to be a pretty thing."

But Miller said he has a more immediate concern than the money — where to put the returning prisoners.

The county's jail runs about 200 to 300 inmates over capacity every day...

INTERMISSION: Here's a San Francisco Chronicle cartoon that sums up the above two articles, I think. Click the jammies to see the whole Tom Meyer cartoon.

Timothy P. Silard,Lateefah Simon
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If we want to fix California's broken criminal justice system, let's start by changing our approach to incarcerating and rehabilitating women. That is one of the key proposals offered in March by a panel of law enforcement and social justice leaders on California Attorney General Kamala Harris' transition team. Here's why:

California holds the largest number of female prisoners in the country...

How we re-enter women into society affects entire families and communities...

Our current way of doing business makes no fiscal sense. We spend about $52,000 to keep each woman behind bars for one year; the two largest women's prisons, both in Chowchilla, cost $278 million to operate annually. Annual costs for social services for children of female inmates are estimated at $56 million.

The costs we incur make even less sense as the vast majority of women behind bars today are classified as low-risk and were convicted of nonviolent crimes...

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press
Saturday, April 2, 2011
(04-02) 08:32 PDT ATLANTA (AP) --

As costs to house state inmates have soared in recent years, many conservatives are reconsidering a tough-on-crime era that has led to stiffer sentences, overcrowded prisons and bloated corrections budgets.

Ongoing budget deficits and steep drops in tax revenue in most states are forcing the issue, with law-and-order Republican governors and state legislators beginning to overhaul years of policies that were designed to lock up more criminals and put them away for longer periods of time...

Prison guards, supervisors rack up millions of hours in paid time off
Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
(03-08) 04:00 PDT Sacramento - --

California prison guards and their supervisors have racked up 33.2 million hours of vacation, sick and other paid time off - an astounding accumulation that amounts to nearly half a year per worker.

It also adds up to a $1 billion liability for taxpayers of the deficit-plagued state.

Poor management at California's prisons has for years allowed workers to stock up on generous amounts of paid time off - a benefit that employees must either use or cash out when they retire. But the numbers swelled when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed furloughs in 2009, forcing prison guards and their supervisors to take unpaid days off each month to help save state cash.

Furloughs are problematic at California's 33 state prisons, all of which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have thousands of unfilled prison guard positions. Workers have been coming in on their furlough days and banking paid time off.

"You can't shut prisons down," Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said. "You have to keep them operational. You have to cover every post. You don't want to endanger staff by not doing that."...

Monday, April 4, 2011

As soon as anti-immigrant folks stop speeding, using drugs, and paying employees under the table, let me know

I think I could be OK with people who say "Illegal means illegal" if I didn't know so many so-called upstanding U.S. citizens who regularly broke the law as described in the post title.

n Arizona-like law to combat illegal immigration has a snowball's chance in Phoenix of passing the California Legislature, but freshman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County) is giving it a shot.

Donnelly, who has patrolled the California-Mexico border as part of the militant Minutemen citizen group, held a rally at the Capitol today for his bill, AB26. The bill would make a number of changes in state law, including requiring law enforcement to verify the immigration status of anyone who is arrested and suspected of being in the country illegally...

The rally attracted about 100 participants, along with a good number of television cameras, and the crowd largely consisted of folks wearing Tea Party T-shirts and other Tea Party garb...

The rally did not go off without a protest, though, as about a dozen people marched and shouted "Si Se Puede" a few hundred feet away. An immigration rights group called the bill "dead on arrival" as it faces its first legislative hearing on Tuesday.

"Simply put, California is a very different place than Arizona. We are proud of our state's spirit of inclusion," said Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Policy Center...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I need to find time for Inherently Unequal

BookTV (C-SPAN2) just showed Lawrence Goldstone on Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903 over the weekend and it's available on demand at their site.

May have to multitask and watch it today, even though such practice continues to be decried.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Race-neutral, my eye: William Julius Wilson changes his mind

The American Prospect Q&A linked below is interesting for where Wilson agrees w/ President Obama (e.g. Promise Neighborhoods) and where he doesn't (e.g. lack of united Democratic Party & administration message against right-wing racism). Wilson's call to bring race back into the political discussion on the left is a change of his 1990s position, which was based on the political situation at the time (Reagan-Bush years).

Personally I'm still impressed w/ the President's Univision town hall* on March 28 which shows the that the President CAN go to specific audiences that are deemed controversial by right-wingers and directly address issues that affect POC. They just have to keep the ball rolling. If they choose to. Okay, here's Wilson:

ETA: A version of this item is cross-posted at Prometheus6 where there's a bit of conversation on Wilson.

*Obama/Univision Mar. 28 text here. Full video is here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It has begun

Today, in front of a fairly liberal small town's post-office on California's Central Coast:

Just sayin'.

Freezing Over, Redux: First I cite Matthews, now Dyson

That's Michael Eric, not Esther. On Republicans' continuing disrespect for the office of the Presidency and for our current President in particular. On open fabrication, making things up out of whole cloth, followed by "who, me?" claims to have "misspoken."

(h/t NewBlackMan)

Clutter: Not about the stuff, though stuff is all about you

Two posts that remind me of how I've totally fallen off the wagon with my book-reduction project:

1) Hoarding Insecurities from Andrew Sullivan, who apparently is still at the Atlantic right this minute. How did he decide on exactly 200 books, not 100, not 250, to be read in his dotage?

2) Deep Cleaning and Other Cosmic Issues from Claire B. Potter, which apparently inspired Sullivan to inspire himself and indirectly to chastise those of us who will certainly someday most assuredly get around to sorting through whatever there is a pile of in our vicinity. And I will verify for Potter that it's not just a white thing.

The flaw in both the Sullivan and Potter posts is their reference to a "pile of unused CDs," which argument makes not the least dent in the hoarding guilt-armor (pun not intended) of anyone who still has a substantial number of vinyl records.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blogger in hospital

FYI, our pal at Prometheus6 is in the hospital (which is why it's been quiet over there) and he could use some positive thoughts, I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Better'n Black History Month?

Just a reminder:

February, 2011 is "America STILL Has a Black President" Month.

(paraphrasing Kris Broughton who said this a ways back, but it bears repeating.)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Just when I thought I'd never cite Chris Matthews

Have a look at this, from Chris Matthews in response to Michele Bachmann on how hard the Founding Fathers fought against slavery.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

ETA: hat tip Prometheus 6 where I saw this first (sorry about that)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A diversity effort I agree with: Fred Korematsu Day

People who encounter me elsewhere (e.g. at Prometheus6) know I retain a certain cynicism over "diversity efforts" writ large. I dislike those that try to leave our collective checkered past unexamined. I like those with an atonement factor, in which government openly acknowledges past wrongdoing. This is one of the latter.

Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ines Trinh scanned her class of 29 fifth-graders in San Lorenzo on Friday and took a deep breath. It was time to make the lesson personal.

"Just imagine, you're told to leave your home, you've got to pack up and you have only two suitcases for everything," Trinh told them. The Lorenzo Manor Elementary schoolkids' eyes widened. "I want you to think about it. How would you feel?"

Ten hands shot up. "Mad," said the first boy. "Sad," said a girl. "Insulted ... guilty ... lonely ... disgusted," intoned others.

Trinh smiled. Sixty-nine years after U.S. soldiers herded 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II, she was able in one moment to make her young charges gain a new understanding of racial discrimination in America - and it was all really thanks to one man.

That man is Fred Korematsu.

Sunday is his day in California, the first in U.S. history to be officially named after an Asian American, and more than 500 teachers like Trinh are using it to tell elementary and high school students about his life and its landmark place in the annals of civil rights.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's easy to be here and not in Haiti

My biggest problem right now is not anywhere near as bad as the average problem in Haiti, so here is an update from a set of folks who are actually getting work done there, in and around the organizations that are holding up the show. They were working before the January 2010 earthquake, during the quake, and after the quake.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Everyone should post an MLK item. Here's Grace Lee Boggs and Vincent Harding

Today, I only want to add my appreciation for any MLK posts anywhere that go beyond the one part of the one speech we all know and love and (if we are not careful) take out of context. I present this example for your appreciation. Off you go, then:

A favorite piece on MLK, from the YES! archive. A conversation between Grace Boggs and Vincent Harding

by Grace Lee Boggs
posted Jan 17, 2011

Over the holidays my old friend Vincent Harding, the African-American historian who worked closely with Martin Luther King during the 1960s (Harding drafted King's 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech) spent several days with me. When he couldn't make it to my 90th birthday party in June, Vincent explained, he resolved to visit me during my 90th year and before I might be leaving this life.

A lot of our discussion centered around how in the last three years of his life, King called for a revolution in values against the triple threats of racism, materialism, and militarism. Why do most King celebrations back away from or ignore this message? Is it because he was going where most Americans don't want to go — so that there was almost a sigh of relief when he was assassinated?

King's challenge was not only directed to white people. As Vincent put it ten years ago: "All we need to do is look around us and see how much over the past 15-20 years we black folks have decided (consciously or not) to fight racism by seeking equal opportunity or a fair share in the nation's militarism and materialism. In other words, we have chosen to fight against one of the triple threats by joining the other two."...

Read the rest of Grace Lee Boggs/Vincent Harding at: YES!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why did you back-burner Haiti?

The media are doing ritualistic "one year later" stories about the Haiti earthquake as one would expect. If you just went "Oh! Right, mustn't forget," what does that say? Check the photos at the link but don't skip the commentary. I think "indecision" is the word that best applies, after "tragedy."

Monday, January 10, 2011

I can't top this Shakesville post on the Tucson shootings, so just go read it

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written a piece that deserves to go viral. This is my small contribution to that effort. Here is your teaser:

Posted by Melissa McEwan at Monday, January 10, 2011
[Trigger warning for violent rhetoric of many different stripes.]

Both sides are, in fact, not "just as bad," when it comes to institutionally sanctioned violent and eliminationist rhetoric.

An anonymous commenter at Daily Kos and the last Republican vice presidential nominee are not equivalent, no matter how many ridiculously irresponsible members of the media would have us believe otherwise.

There is, demonstrably, no leftist equivalent to Sarah Palin, former veep candidate and presumed future presidential candidate, who uses gun imagery (rifle sights) and language ("Don't Retreat, RELOAD") to exhort her followers to action.

There is no leftist equivalent to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group which was created from the mailing list of the old white supremacist White Citizens Councils and has been noted as becoming increasingly "radical and racist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies the CCC as a hate group—and is nonetheless considered an acceptable association by prominent members of the Republican Party, including a a former senator and the last Republican presidential nominee...

...This is not an argument there is no hatred, no inappropriate and even violent rhetoric, among US leftists. There is.

This is evidence that, although violent rhetoric exists among US leftists, it is not remotely on the same scale, and, more importantly, not an institutionally endorsed tactic, as it is among US rightwingers.

This is a fact. It is not debatable.

And there is observably precious little integrity among conservatives in addressing this fact, in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords...

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