Saturday, August 30, 2008

State of the art weirdness

I've been too busy with other matters to really fully appreciate McCain's choice as a running mate. About the nearest I can make of Sarah Palin is that she seems like some twisted and bizarre combination of Desperate Housewives character Bree Van de Kamp and actress Sally Field. Maybe Jonathan Schwarz is right when he says:
Whether McCain wins or not, Sarah Palin is a harbinger of the future. The fact there was no one able to prevent McCain from choosing such an obviously inadequate imperial manager, and choosing her in such a bizarre, panicked way, indicates that—as during the decline of Rome, or the last years of Saddam's regime—everyone sane has already been eliminated from the power structure. And thus we're left with nothing but the whim of whoever's clambered to the top of the Crazy Pole.
Praise the Lord and pass the Thorazine.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Three years later:

WOC PhD list some of the problems that still plague New Orleans:
  • 81% who received state administered Road Home Grants fell short 35% or higher of their need
  • 70,000 homes remain vacant many of them in black and queer neighborhoods
  • thanks to relief related gentrification and the President’s plan to turn NOLA commercial - rent has gone up 46%
  • only 19% of public housing remains
  • only 20% of section 8 housing remains
  • only 30% of low cost housing remains while 60% of high cost housing has been rebuilt
  • According to a Women’s Policy Research Report (2007) the housing crisis is increasing domestic and sexual violence
  • the devastation to the largest Native Nation in the area has gone largely unnoticed (see the youtube below)
  • public transit is only at 21% of its pre-Katrina service (and as you may recall many in NOLA do not have alternative mode of transport)
  • African American population in the city went from 70% to less than 50% (again something both GW Bush and Laura Bush praised during the crisis)
  • The entire staff of the public school system was fired and the state refused negotiation with Teacher’s Unions (NOLA schools were extremely bad, however this decision was excessive and it took leadership for school reform from the hands of committed teachers and local parents)
  • the school system went from 128 schools to 88
  • 124 schools run by the school district is now 38 schools; the other 50 are charter (private) schools
  • the school system is run by 42 different entities in total making the system so widely variant and inaccessible as to render accountability largely void
  • 40% fewer special ed students are being served
  • there are no concrete numbers on how many students are being left behind in this system as most of the articles are focusing on the advanced pedagogical strategies and curriculum for those who make it in (again a much better system than many of the previous schools; the problem is the reforms are not reaching the entire population)
  • Charity Hospital and many of the mental health facilities for low income people remain closed

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quotable: on eliminating diversity

Jay Taber sez:

Removal of the unusual and exclusion of the non-conforming is the primary purpose of state-sponsored education. Aboriginal knowledge centres, on the other hand, stress the importance of making a place for everyone and everything.

Promoters of superficial education like to pride themselves on the practicality of career-oriented institutions of higher learning, but one look at the world they created should give one pause to think.

As aboriginal cultures understand, knowledge cannot be fast-tracked; the path to wisdom is a slow, arduous undertaking. As more of us now realize, short cuts in learning are literally dead ends.

Given some of our own struggles as of late, it seemed like a very timely statement.

Talk about lousy timing

I just love this headline: Gustav Threatens Gulf, G.O.P. Convention Plans. About three years after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast (it's hard to forget the devastation to places like New Orleans and Biloxi), exposing FEMA as a hollowed-out shell of an agency and demonstrating the importance of wetlands preservation and proper levee maintenance, Gustav is predicted to hit near the same area. That's a great time for the GOP convention to be held, eh? Oh, and look who was partying with Bush on August 29, 2005. Call it a friendly reminder.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Music with a message

Robert Johnson's great blues tune, Crossroads (also known as Cross Road Blues):



H/t Bernard Chazelle at A Tiny Revolution. Some words:
I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please."

Mmmmm, standin' at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Standin' at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

Mmm, the sun goin' down, boy, dark gon' catch me here
oooo, ooee, eee boy, dark gon' catch me here.

I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that love and feel my care

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
You can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe,
I believe I'm sinking down.

Powerful stuff, and yeah, the polyrhythm stuff is pretty fascinating in its own right. Bernard goes on to discuss the prevalence of sundown towns in Johnson's day (although much more prevalent outside of the southern US than in the south itself). David Neiwert has written quite a bit about sundown towns at Orcinus, as has his blogging partner in crime, Sara. Both draw heavily from the research of James Loewen, who has a section of his site devoted to the phenomenon of sundown towns. Here's Neiwert quoting Loewen:
What exactly is a "sundown town"? Loewen defines the term [pp. 28-30] thus:
A sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus "all white" on purpose.

... Beginning in about 1890 and continuing until 1968, white Americans established thousands of towns across the United States for whites only. Many towns drove out their black populations, then posted sundown signs. ... Other towns passed ordinances barring African Americans after dark or prohibiting them from owning or renting property; still others established such policies by informal means, harassing and even killing those who violated the rule. Some sundown towns similarly kept out Jews, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, or other groups.

Independent sundown towns range from tiny hamlets such as DeLand, Illinois (population 500) to substantial cities such as Appleton, Wisconsin (57,000 in 1970). Sometimes entire counties went sundown, usually when their county seat did. Independent sundown towns were soon joined by "sundown suburbs," which could be even larger: Levittown, on Long Island, had 82,000 residents in 1970, while Livonia, Michigan, and Parma, Ohio, had more than 100,000. Warren, a suburb of Detroit, had a population of 180,000 including just 28 minority families, most of whom lived on a U.S. Army facility.

Outside the traditional South ... probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans.
Moreover, as he details, the appearance of sundown towns occurred in every region, every state:
There is reason to believed that more than half of all towns in Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, the Cumberlands, the Ozarks, and diverse other areas were also all-white on purpose. Sundown suburbs are found from Darien, Connecticut, to La Jolla, California, and are even more prevalent; indeed, most suburbs began life as sundown towns.
These towns formed neither naturally nor accidentally, but emerged well after the Civil War as the embodiment of emerging white supremacist beliefs, particularly eugenicist notions about the evils of "race mixing" and the innate inferiority of nonwhite races.
As one continues to read, Bernard Chazelle's quip that today we call sundown towns "exurbs" is not mere snark. A blogger who runs BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS, earlier this year listed a number of communities which are apparently still sundown towns (h/t Siditty):

Sundown Towns still exist all across America in the 21ST Century:

-Towns County, Georgia

-Deer Park, Washington

-Anna-Jonesboro, Illinois

-Vienna, Illinois

-Marion, Ohio

-Elwood, Indiana

-Owosso, Michigan

-Lamar, Missouri

-Vidor, Texas

-Berwyn, Illinois

-Cut and Shoot, Texas

-Ironwood, Michigan

Sundown suburbs:

-Levittown, Long Island, New York (now called Willingboro)

-Livonia, Michigan

-Parma, Ohio

-Cicero, Chicago, Illinois

-Darien, Connecticutt

-Naperville, Illinois

-Edina, Minnesota

The whole post is worth reading. Even in my corner of the world, there may well have been (and perhaps continue to be) sundown towns, including Boise City and Hooker. About Oklahoma in general, Loewen writes:
In the 1870s and 80s, many African Americans fled the former Confederacy and settled in Oklahoma. But by the time Oklahoma attained statehood in 1907, Democrats were in control and towns went sundown all over the state.
Sara has some tips for outing potential sundown towns, for those interested in doing some of the necessary legwork. One message to take from reading this material is that although the former Confederate states were and still are quite unfriendly to Black men and women, the so-called enlightened northern states tended to be every bit as segregationist, if only employing different means to achieve that particular outcome. For me it's a fairly old enough message, that dates back to my early interests in social psychology (I can't recommend strongly enough James Jones' classic book, Prejudice and Racism). Another huge message - equally old to me - is that the myth of America as having moved past its racist roots (one that Obama's probably successful run for the White House will only perpetuate) is seriously in need of busting.

Making America safe from underwire bras

Homeland Insecurity's insanity is the gift that keeps on giving:

For Kates, on Sunday, though, the security check got too invasive. A big-busted woman wearing a large underwire bra, she set off the metal detector. She was pulled aside and checked by a female TSA agent with a metal-sensitive wand.

"The woman touched my breast. I said, 'You can't do that,' " Kates said. "She said, 'We have to pat you down.' I said, 'You can't treat me as a criminal for wearing a bra.' "

Kates asked to see a supervisor and then the supervisor's supervisor. He told her that underwire bras were the leading item that set off the metal detectors, Kates said.

If that's the case, Kates said, the equipment must be overly sensitive. And if the TSA is engaging in extra brassiere scrutiny, then other women are suffering similar humiliation, Kates thought.

The Constitution bars unreasonable searches and seizures, Kates reminded the TSA supervisor, and scrutinizing a woman's brassiere is surely unreasonable, she said.

The supervisor told her she had the choice of submitting to a pat-down in a private room or not flying. Kates offered a third alternative, to take off her bra and try again, which the TSA accepted.

"They tried to humiliate me and I was not going to be humiliated over this," Kates said. "If I was carrying nail clippers and forgot about them, I wouldn't have gotten so upset. But here I was just wearing my underwear."

So she went to the rest room, then through the security line a second time. Walking through the airport braless can be embarrassing for a large-chested woman, not to mention uncomfortable. The metal detector didn't beep on the second time through, but then officials decided to go through Kates' carry-on luggage, she said.

The whole undertaking took 40 minutes, Kates said, and caused her to miss her flight. JetBlue put her on another one, but she was four hours late getting to Boston.

"It's actually a little funny in a way, but a sad, sad commentary on the state of our country," Kates said. "This is bigger than just me. There are 150 million women in America, and this could happen to any of them."

I wonder when the geniuses at the Department of Homeland Insecurity will deem Victoria's Secret a terrorist organization. Somehow a J. Geils Band tune "Concealed Weapons" seems appropriate:



Hunter S. Thompson sez: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

Some Groucho Marx for Tuesday morning. Enjoy!

I've actually been in a real riot

Michelle Malkin needs to buy herself a clue. Here's a quick video that seems to capture the flavor of the demonstrations held in Denver while the DNC holds its lovefest:


Yes, I have seen a real riot in action. Let's flash back in time to 1988. Yes, kids, that was 20 years ago. I and a friend were at a concert that included a number of great acts, including Living Color, Public Enemy, and the headliners, Fishbone. Most of the gig was great, but in the middle of Public Enemy's set, a full-blown riot broke out. At first, there merely seemed to be more activity in the pit than there had been. Given my ties to the punk scene, I initially thought that moshing at a rap gig was a bit odd, but why not? It became obvious that there was definitely something other than moshing going on when the pit began to clear, save for a bunch of young men (well, about my age at the time) brandishing fists and knives. Thankfully there were no guns, and no one got killed. Needless to say, my friend and I cleared out of the pit until the vibe was a lot more chill.

Somehow, a bunch of folks marching and shouting slogans doesn't quite seem like the same thing as a riot. Then again, not only are we in the midst of our quadrennial political psychodrama, but we're in the midst of a decade in which the American Zeitgeist can best be characterized as paranoid (or at the least, much more paranoid than usual) - so much so that a bunch of people - some of whom may well have been wearing "Free Mumia" t-shirts - peacefully protesting the DNC's own complicity in our nation's warmongering are characterized as rioting. Oh yes, up is down, black is white, and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

There is some serious weirdness afoot, but it's not to be found in the streets outside the DNC schmoozefest. Rather, it's best to look at the professional weirdos who are so desperate for outrage that they can't rest until they can find a terrorist on every street corner.