throw stones

29 06 2007

The White House is falling down. Metaphorically speaking.

I mean, of course, that the Bush administration has been playing an impossible game of Jenga for the past four years, and it’s finally starting to topple in a stunning display of unprecedented Congressional chutzpah. C.I.A. leaks. Bold healthcare statements. Cheney exposed for the psychopath he really is. It’s an era liberals have only thusfar dreamed of.

And today something big happened. After six long years of bad behavior at Guantanamo Bay, the Supreme Court has decided to “reverse course” (as the Times aptly put it) and begin hearings from detainees on their right to challenge the federal court:

The decision, announced in a brief order released this morning, set the stage for a historic legal battle that appeared likely to affect debates in the Bush administration about when and how to close the detention center that has become a lightening rod for international criticism.

Thank God. Because when the Bush administration suspended habeas corpus last year with the Military Commissions Act, only the “radical” liberals batted eyelashes. Sure, it provided a lot of column fodder for some of the best and brightest journalists, but it also kinda put a damper on human rights as we know them. Ah well, right?

Of course, then you start reading the stories about Guantanamo Bay. This one, for instance, details a compellingly horrific tale of those detainees who, outraged at the conditions of the base, have gone on hunger strikes. The writer, an attorney who has been graphically detailing her experiences for In These Times magazine, describes the situation thusly:

…there are two cells with force-feeding chairs. Each day [my client] is strapped tightly into the chair with 13 straps. The guards begin with the feet straps, then his waist. Then they fasten one wrist at a time. There is one band around each shin, one on each wrist, one on each elbow, one strap that comes down over each shoulder and one around the waist. Three straps are used to immobilize his head. The ankles are shackled to an eye on the chair, and then they pull a mask over his mouth.

What follows is enough to make you want to happily eat your least favorite food every day for the rest of your life.

Equally striking is a documentary which came out last year called The Road to Guantanamo. It tells the story of four Pakistani Britons who traveled to Pakistan for a wedding but decide to visit Afganistan, which was being bombed by American forces post 9-11, to see what war can really do to a country. Then they were captured by Alliances forces and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they were tortured in an attempt to get them to confess to being terrorists.

Huh.

For almost six years we as an American people have allowed this to go on, despite countless grisly reports and irrefutable evidence of ethical unjustness. Progressive Democrats in Congress have been too terrified of scaaaary middle-of-the-road voters who might accuse them of being soft on terror. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has literally stepped all over that outdated old document we like to call the Constitution so this country could commit acts of terror every day. All of this is nothing new.

But today the Democrats finally sprouted a pair and, in the face of the nation’s increasing progressive population, did the political equivalent of quoting a Twisted Sister lyric: they said, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

There’s skepticism from all sides, of course. The important thing, though, is that the downward spiral America seemed to be headed down just six months ago has miraculously taken a turn of course in the last week.

Maybe we can start putting American flags on our car bumpers again soon.





invisible race

28 06 2007

The New York Times just broke this story which reports on a court case today which takes a huge leap backward in race struggles which have been slowly improving for the last century:

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected diversity plans in two major school districts that take race into account in assigning students but left the door open for using race in limited circumstances.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity.

It was a split, 5-4, with Alito passing the fifth important vote (which his predecessor Sandra Day O’Connor, who I’m not all that keen on but regardless, would doubtlessly not have passed if precedence is any indicator) actually bringing the American education system back to the year 1954 in one fell swoop. Pretty soon they’re going to start bringing students on field trips to the Creation Museum after riveting lessons on the integral role of storks in the baby-making process.

I get that conservatives think we are actually moving forward on this whole “race” thing. They’re saying, “Come on, man! It’s not 1965 anymore! We haven’t hanged anybody in decades. Racism is a thing of the past — it is time to move on.”

They’re asking for “race-neutral” solutions to problems. What was that line that The New York Times said the Bush administration used? Oh that’s right: “Racial diversity is a noble goal but can be sought only through race-neutral means.”

That’s kind of like saying, “Lower carbon emission is a noble goal but can only be sought through a hydrogen vehicle that won’t be ready for who-knows-how-many years.” Wait. The Bush administration used that one already? Go figure.

Seriously, though. You can’t use “race-neutral means” to achieve something when race-neutrality doesn’t exist. Regardless of how easy it might be for the Bush administration to sweep under the rug (what with all the other earth-shattering mistakes they’ve been making to distract us from the race/ class issue), racism is still a very real and thriving institution in this country. Just because we don’t want it to exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t.

Through progressive educational movements in the last few decades, racial integration and educational equality for all people have come a long way. That has now been flushed down the toilet by (surprise surprise) five white, male Republican judges who have likely never set foot into an inner-city high school.

In Chicago, Illinois, is it an accident that the overwhelming majority of Blacks still live in the Southern part of the city? Which is (coincidentally?) also by far the poorest, most “dangerous,” and least federally cared-for part? Or what are we to think when we look at the racial make-ups of private, liberal arts colleges? Do those White kids just work so much harder and put so much more into their education that they, indeed, deserve to be there more? Or is it possible that class and race are still so often indistinguishable that minority students don’t have the money or the means to attend schools like that? Wake the fuck up, America, racism is still an issue, and it must aggressively be confronted.

That’s why racial integration in schools is such an important idea. If we want to obliterate this racist sensibility that we as a country continue to propagate, it is our responsibility to forcefully teach our children that judgment based on skin color is completely unacceptable. I want my children to feel sick if they are sitting in a classroom where only one race is represented.

Today, I saw that dream go right out the window. Thanks a lot, Mr. Alito.





sick, slick

20 06 2007

According to Best Week Ever’s blog, there are now two tweenaged boys who are official and high-paid paparazzi. This makes me wonder whether I should have lived in Los Angeles as a child. Would that have started my journalism career? Would I be, right now, sporting a high-tech Canon and taking unauthorized photographs of Keira Knightly drinking a Diet Sprite?

Why are pictures of celebrities so compelling? I guess when you’re a lonely supermarket shopper, celebrities are your best friends and worst enemies. Personally, I like Nicole but hate Paris; love Mary Kate Olsen (Ashley’s aight, but not nearly so compelling) and hate Mischa. I have a love-hate relationship with Angelina, too. I’m lonely. I need cats.

Seriously, though. Aren’t children supposed to, you know, go to school? Learn about arithmetic, reading, etc.? It’s a sick, sad world out there. But Daria could have told us that years ago.





talent, talons

20 06 2007

I found out that this man Amiri Barksdale who works at The Nation creates intensely beautiful works in oil (I assume), and has a great Web site to boot. He has a fantastic show right now (I mean, I haven’t been to it, but I assume it’s fantastic because his work is really great) at a restaurant called Camaje located at 85 MacDougal Street.A lot of this whole “New York” thing is very intimidating. At least some of the best art in the world is here. And art is my number two favorite thing. Of all things. Many would say that “art” is a boring second favorite thing, but at least it’s honest.