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The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation, a nuanced and moving history of race, slavery and the Civil War


The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation sat in my pile for too long, and it shouldn't have. I loved The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, the previous effort by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell, so I should have anticipated how good this new one would be. Having (belatedly) gotten around to it, I can finally tell you that this is an extraordinary, nuanced history of the issues of race and slavery in America, weaving together disparate threads of military, geopolitical, technological, legal, Constitutional, geographic and historical factors that came together to make the Civil War happen at the moment when it occurred, that brought it to an end, and that left African Americans with so little justice in its wake.

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White, right-wing terrorist busted...and hardly a peep


Last week, the FBI arrested Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas. Talbot was the self-styled head of the American Insurgent Movement, which openly plotted to massacre Moslems at mosques and kill them with automatic weapons, sought to rob armored cars, and recruited followers to sow more mayhem. Talbot is a violent Christian fundamentalist who advertised his intention to murder people wholesale.

Kudos to the FBI for arresting this fellow, but as Death and Taxes point out, where the hell was the national panic that attends every arrest of a jihadi terrorist, no matter how cracked and improbable his plan happened to be? Nowhere to be seen.

Now, if this was a recognition by the press that lone kooks are not an existential threat to the world -- even if they are capable of committing horrible, isolated crimes -- I'd be standing up and cheering. But if Talbot had been a brown-skinned conservative Muslim who'd been arrested after planning to attack Christian churches in America with bombs and machine-guns, I suspect there would have been screaming front-page headlines and round-the-clock intensive CNN coverage for days, not to mention grim, determined reporting on Fox News.

Stop-and-frisk as the most visible element of deep, violent official American racism


Christopher E Smith is the white father of a black, biracial son, and it is through his son's experience of being black in America that he has learned just how pervasive and humiliating and violent officialdom is to black Americans, a fact embodied perfectly through New York City's notorious, racist stop-and-frisk program. Smith describes how his son, interning on Wall Street, has been repeatedly stopped by police, once made to lie face down on the filthy sidewalk in his best suit while police went through his pockets (former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg was a staunch supporter of this program). He describes the experience of his black in-laws, who are stopped by police-cars en route to family gatherings, who have guns aimed at their heads, and who are then released with a shrug and a nonsensical excuse. He describes how driving over the US/Canadian border with his son is totally different from driving on his own, and how the customs guards routinely stop the two of them, and make them wait out of sight of their car while it is searched.

As an aside, I've experienced this myself. I've driven across the US/Canadian border literally dozens of times and the only time I was stopped was when I gave Nalo Hopkinson and David Findlay -- who happen to be black -- a ride to a Clarion reunion at Michigan State University. At both border crossings, the car was searched from top to bottom, with officers taking out books and shaking the pages to look for contraband. It's never happened since. The only difference between that drive and all the others was that there were some brown-skinned people in evidence.

Smith proposes a thought experiment in which stop-and-frisk searches were mandatorily applied in keeping with overall demographics, so for every three black people that the NYPD pull over and humiliate without warrant or suspicion or probable cause, they would have to do the same to ten white people -- and suggests that this would end the program of stop-and-frisk in a heartbeat.

I think he's right.

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Incredibly dirty R&B: gloriously filthy music from the 30s-50s

Glenn sez, "R&B music was pretty bawdy before its entered the era of white appropriation and radio play. Leah Reich, an ethnographer by training and a music lover and singer by love, takes a stroll through some of the filthiest, wonderful era before all this stuff was cleaned up. Tons of links to Youtube videos and other sources."

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Talking diversity in comics with John Ridley, writer of 12 Years a Slave


Zack Smith writes, "I recently got to talk to John Ridley, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, about his past writing superhero comics and cartoons including JUSTICE LEAGUE and THE AUTHORITY. Ridley had a number of smart things to say on such topics as the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Humnan Torch, working with the late Dwayne McDuffie on the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie 'Starcrossed' and his own experiences working in the comics industry. Though he's obviously gone on to big things, Ridley still has a great deal of passion for comics and the people who create them."

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Chicago PD's Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling


The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its "predictive analysis" system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a "heat list," are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime in a city that has struggled with street violence and other forms of crime. Wernick's approach involves seeking through the data for "abnormal" patterns that correlate with crime. He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there.

This is a terrible way of running a criminal justice system.

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Comic explains problems with Oakland's Domain Awareness Center surveillance plan


Hugh sez, "What's wrong with Oakland's proposed Domain Awareness Center? This new comic by Susie Cagle lays out the issues."

The Testing Ground for the New Surveillance (Thanks, Hugh!)

Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children


Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

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Fogcon: cozy, Wiscon-style San Francisco science fiction convention

Keyan sez, "FOGcon is a literary speculative fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now in its 4th year, it's big enough to be fun, still small enough not to overwhelm. This year, the theme is Secrets, and the Guests of Honor are Seanan McGuire, Tim Powers, and the late James Tiptree, Jr. It's on March 7-9, 2014."

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declares "Bob Marley Day"

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared yesterday to be "Bob Marley Day." It's hard to read the tea-leaves on this one: is it a wink-wink reach-out to the stoner vote from a mayor who admitted to smoking crack and who has been accused by his staff in sworn affidavits of both smoking weed at work and offering weed as a ransom in exchange for the return of his lost mobile phone? Is it a charm offensive aimed at Toronto's large Jamaican/West Indian population, many of whom were offended by the mayor's drunken impression of an angry, ranting patois-speaker? Is it a totally non-ironic celebration of a great musician and great political thinker (albeit one whose politics ran totally contrary to the mayor's own)?

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What it's like to come home to America if your name is "Ahmed"


Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.

His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat,

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford curses in a jafaican accent when he's loaded

A video of Toronto Mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford drunk and bellowing obscenities in a jafaican accent has surfaced. Ford, a luminously white and privileged man who was born into millions in a quiet suburb of Toronto, affects an embarrassing West Indian accent as he thunders to a captive audience at a west-end steak joint.

The subject of his rant was Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who instigated the long-running investigation into Ford's association with drug-dealers and gangsters, and which surfaced evidence that the mayor had smoked crack, driven drunk, and lied to the public and to council. In the video, Ford calls Blair "Cocksucking fucking Chief Blair."

He also says "bumbaclot." A lot.

When the scandal broke, Ford admitted to his drug use and swore he'd gone sober. But he told reporters who questioned him about this video that he was drunk, and that the events depicted in it were his "my personal life, with my personal friends, that's up to me. This really has nothing to do with you guys."

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How to talk about race, productively

Introducing Moving the Race Conversation Forward, a new research report by Race Forward, the amazing Jay Smooth talks about one way that we can talk about race productively: by focusing on systems, rather than individuals.

Moving The Race Conversation Forward (via Waxy)

Freedom Maze: brave, uncomfortable YA time-travel novel about race


The paperback edition of Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze is out today. It's a subtle, nuanced, uncomfortable and brave young adult novel about racism and time-travel. I reviewed the hardcover in 2011 (I've reproduced the review below), and since then, the book's gone on to win a slew of awards and recognition: the Norton award, the Prometheus award, the Mythopeoic award, the Tiptree honors list, the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and the Kirkus best of 2011 list.

I can't recommend it highly enough. Here's my original review:

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Australians ask their government for humane refugee treatment for Christmas


Australian Asher Wolf's taken to the Guardian to explain why her family is spending Christmas petitioning for humane refugee treatment from the Australian government. Wolf enumerates the conditions under which Australia keeps refugees in its off-shore camps -- conditions that Amenesty considers to be torture, conditions where basic sanitation and health-care are denied to families fleeing war, torture and death threats. Deprived of the shoes, hearing aids, and medicine they managed to smuggle out of their own countries, these refugees, including children, are denied sufficient water, exposed to malaria and TB, and are brutalized into suicide attempts. Gay detainees are sent to camps in PNG, where homosexuality is illegal. Orphans get it even worse -- though the immigration minister Scott Morrison is their legal guardian, these children are left with no one to advocate for them.

According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, the Australian government is spending 1000% more torturing and detaining migrants than it would spend on "community processing" on the mainland. But wasting money on cruelty curries favour with racist voters, so it is the preferred option. For now. But, perhaps, not if Australians in great number write to the minister to explain that his cynical games with innocent human lives will cost him more votes than they win.

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