Category: Journalism

City of Fear: Los Angeles 1935-1965 – The Nation

Wed. June 11: I’m preempted on KPFK today for the fund drive . . . . but there is more stuff to read, at my review of The Shifting Grounds of Race by Scott Kurashige:

From 1920 to 1960, Los Angeles was the whitest and most Protestant city in the United States, and the American city with the smallest proportion of immigrants–just 8 percent in 1960. By the end of the twentieth century, it was a multiracial place: 3.7 million residents, with 30 percent white, 10 percent black, 10 percent Asian and almost half Latino. During “the white years” in LA history, you might think Asian immigrant groups and black migrants from the South lived in separate worlds. The truth is more complicated: sometimes they were pitted against each other, sometimes they fought–and sometimes they joined forces in left-wing campaigns for jobs, housing and political power. Those competitions and alliances are the subject of Scott Kurashige’s fascinating and important new book, The Shifting Grounds of Race.

. . . continued at (and in print in the June 11 issue).

We Still Live in Nixonland: The Nation

“Nixonland” – that’s Rick Perlstein’s term for the political world where candidates win power by mobilizing people’s resentments, anxieties and anger, where politics destroys is victims. Perlstein’s new book is Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.

Jon Wiener: Do we still live in Nixonland?

Rick Perlstein: Yes we do. I don’t mean that the political anxieties and passions today are as great as they were in the late sixties. But the way Richard Nixon used the sixties to define the ideological contours of American politics is still with us. On right wing radio today, they keep talking about how snobby and elitist the liberals are — just like Richard Nixon did.

You are suggesting there was a time when the Republican Party did not win power by mobilizing resentment and anger.

In 1960, there was a strange creature called the Liberal Republican. When Richard Nixon ran for president in 1960, his platform wasn’t all that different from Kennedy’s.

A key turning point in the history of Nixonland is the invention of the “hardhat” as a political figure, which coincided with the rise of the flag as a partisan political symbol. We can identify that moment precisely: the riots on Wall Street following the Kent State killings in 1970.

On May 8, 1970, anti-war students rallied at the statue of George Washington in Lower Manhattan to protest the war and the Kent State Killings. Then 200 construction workers from the area marched in on their lunch break, wearing hard hats and carrying the American flags that topped off building sites. They complained to the cops that flags were not flying at Federal Hall. The reason in fact was that it was a drizzly day and the flag is not allowed to be flown in the rain. But they decided that the kids had taken down the flag, and started beating the protesters. Crowds of people from Wall Street cheered them on.
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J. Edgar Hoover, Author: The Nation

J. Edgar Hoover was FBI director for forty-eight years, and he was also an author–a bestselling author. His Masters of Deceit, published in 1958 by Henry Holt, spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 250,000 copies. In paperback it sold more than 2 million. But dealing with the director presented unique challenges for Holt. . .
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Tibet in Exile: Pico Iyer Interview–Dissent

Born in Oxford, raised in California, a resident of Japan, Pico Iyer has captured his itinerant life with books and essays that document his journeys to Nepal, Cuba, and most recently, Tibet. His new book is The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Jon Wiener: There are six million Tibetans. But you write in your new book that Tibet today is “slipping ever closer to extinction.” Those are chilling words.

Pico Iyer: I wish they were overstated words, but they’re not. The Tibet autonomous region is more and more a Chinese province. Lhasa is now 65 percent Han Chinese, so Tibetans are a minority in their own country. The Chinese are practicing what the Dalai Lama has called “demographic aggression”—trying to wipe out Tibetan culture through force of numbers. Two years ago they set up that high speed train, which allows 6,000 more Han Chinese to come to Tibet every day. I first saw Lhasa in 1985 just when it opened up to the world. It was still a classic Tibetan settlement—two story traditional whitewashed buildings, and the Potala Palace, the great residence of the Dalai Lama. If you go there now, sadly, it’s like an eastern Las Vegas—huge shopping malls, blue-glassed department stores, high rise buildings. From most parts of Lhasa you can’t even see the Potala Palace.

. . . continued at Dissent Magazine online.

Speech Patterns: An Interview with Richard Price – Dissent

After writing novels located primarily in the Bronx and New Jersey, New York-native Richard Price has written a new novel, Lush Life, that captures the vivacity of life and language in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Dissent’s Jon Wiener (“The Weatherman Temptation,” spring 2007) interviewed him this month.

Jon Wiener: Lush Life involves several worlds that exist side by side on the Lower East Side today—tell us about them.

Richard Price: Right now it seems like the place belongs to young, white middle-class kids in their twenties. It’s become their Montparnasse. But there’s also a big housing project population. There are tenements that haven’t been caught up in the real estate rehabbing game, and they are filled with Hispanics and Chinese and old hippies. There are the orthodox Jews, who are in a world unto themselves down there. And there is this huge population of Fujianese immigrants, some of whom are undocumented. All these people are occupying the same sidewalks and not really aware of each others’ existence.

J.W.: What did you learn about the Fujianese immigrants?

R.P.: They’ve got it really tough. Historically, the Lower East Side had the highest population density in the world circa 1900. Forget Calcutta. And that was mostly Eastern European Jews. But the Fujianese are living just like that, cheek and jowl, while in the next building are yuppies with a floor-thru that cost two million bucks. The burden that these guys have, that nobody before them had down there, is that they have to pay somebody to smuggle them into the country. So the minute they step off the boat they are $70,000 in the hole to the snakehead who got them over. On top of everything else, working seven days a week, they’ve got to pay off a mammoth debt.

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McCain’s Medical Records: Why the Delay? – HuffPost

The mainstream media ask Obama why he doesn’t wear a flag pin, but they aren’t asking McCain why he doesn’t release his medical records. McCain, who would be the oldest man ever elected president, had surgery for melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, eight years ago — the scar is still prominent on his face. He has promised several times to release the records, but each release has been postponed.

It makes you wonder: is there something in McCain’s medical records that he doesn’t want you to know?

The McCain campaign’s explanation: his doctors are too busy. “The reason for the delay is because they want to gather all his doctors for a press conference to answer reporters’ questions,” CNN reported, “and May is the soonest that can be done.” Three doctors are expected to answer questions, according to the Arizona Republic.

You’d think that it wouldn’t be that hard to get three doctors together to say that the Republican candidate for president was in good health.

. . . continued at the Huffington Post.

Obama and the Palestinian Professors: The Nation

Edward Said Ten years ago, Barack Obama went to a lecture by Edward Said, the prominent Palestinian intellectual. Should that be page one news now? The LA Times thinks so – they ran a story on their front page on Thursday on the event, headlined “Campaign ’08: Allies of Palestinians see a friend on Obama.”

Obama’s attendance at that speech is news today, of course, because of the Jewish vote. The Times made that clear when it quoted Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who expressed “concern” about Obama’s “presence at an Arab American event with a Said.”

Said, who was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University before his death in 2003, is identified by Times reporter Peter Wallsten as “a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement.” It would be more accurate to call him “a Palestinian and a leading American intellectual.” The author of more than a dozen books, his 1978 book “Orientalism” became the founding work of the new field of cultural studies, and is now assigned at hundreds of colleges and universities and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

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George Bush: “No Gene Kelly” – The Nation

When New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote recently that George Bush has “turned into Gene Kelly,” she set off a firestorm of protest from fans of the late dancer, director and choreographer.

Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, declared that “If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.”

In a letter to the Times, she wrote that “when Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker — particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing — would have sent him reeling.”

Dowd’s column, “Soft Shoe in Hard Times,” asked “why the president is in such a fine mood” – at a time when “the dollar’s crumpling, the recession’s thundering, the Dow’s bungee-jumping and the world’s disapproving.” Nevertheless, she noted, Bush “has turned into Gene Kelly, tap dancing and singing in a one-man review called ‘The Most Happy Fella.'”

Kelly’s widow contrasted her late husband’s achievements with those of the president. Kelly, she wrote, “graduated with a degree in economics from Pitt,” and, unlike the president, was “a most civilized man. He spoke multiple languages; wrote poetry; studied history; understood the projections of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. He did the Sunday Times crossword in ink.”

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Hillary’s Iraq Vote, Five Years Later: HuffPost

The fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war provides an appropriate moment to revisit Hillary Clinton’s argument in favor of authorizing Bush’s use of force, and to contrast it with the case made at the time by Bush’s opponents.

In the last few years, Clinton has defended her vote by arguing that “if I knew then what I know now, I would never have given President Bush the authority” to attack Iraq.But a majority of Democrats in the House knew enough “then” to vote against the resolution – as did 21 out of 50 Democratic senators.

In Clinton’s Senate speech, still posted on her senate website, she began by accepting Bush’s premise that “if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”The question, she said, was whether war was the appropriate means of stopping those developments.

In supporting Bush, Clinton claimed to be taking a middle path between two extremes – on the one hand, those who believed we should go to war only if the UN Security Council approved it, which she considered absurd, and on the other, those who favored “attacking Saddam Hussein now.”But not even Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld favored an immediate attack at the point the Senate debate occurred — October 2002 – so she was rejecting an argument no one was making.

. . . continued at the Huffington Post 

Peter Carey: Growing Up Radical: Dissent

Peter Carey has won two Booker prizes: the first for Oscar and Lucinda, which was made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett; the second for The True History of the Kelly Gang, which sold two-million copies worldwide. Now he has published his tenth novel, His Illegal Self, which tells the story of a seven-year-old whose parents are in the Weather Underground. I spoke with him in Los Angeles.

Jon Wiener: In His Illegal Self, the year is 1972 and the characters are set in motion by the Weather Underground. I’’m reluctant to talk about the plot because one of the pleasures of the book, especially at the beginning, is figuring out the plot—, told mostly from the perspective of an seven-year-old boy. Could you explain what you want people to know about it?

Peter Carey: This is the number one issue for me at the moment. I spent two years building this book, which really depends on withholding information. It delivers a whole series of surprises and thrills for the reader, I hope, which was not easy to achieve. But we live in a culture where people confuse “story” and “art,” and where reviewers are called upon by their editors to report the story. So while they are praising this book, they are sort of destroying it by giving away all these things.
. . . continued at Dissent magazine HERE