Getting Past the Bad Math of the #MuslimBan

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As someone who studies global migration for a living, it has been hard to choose where to begin when it comes to denouncing Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  Where to start?  There is, of course, the Order’s bedrock of Islamophobia: Trump has ignorantly conflated Islam with terrorism. And then there’s the constitutional angle: the Order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, among other things.  Or we could counter with the fact that more than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed national origins bans with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Or the statistical “probabilities” generated by think tanks: The CATO Institute says that your chance of being … [Read more...]

A Brief History of Sanctuary Cities

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As everyone with a twitter feed already knows, Donald J. Trump is no friend of immigrants. In a spate of hot-headed executive orders this week, he slammed the door shut on refugees, banned visitors from seven Muslim countries, and promised to build a “Great Wall” physically separating us from Mexico. But his wrath extended past Mexican day laborers and Muslim asylum seekers to take aim at the traitors within. In an executive jeremiad, Trump torched “sanctuary jurisdictions” for “willfully” violating federal law and causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” To such harmers of the Republican Fabric he threatens to withhold all federal funds, … [Read more...]

A Blaxican’s Journey through Fresno’s Racial Landscape

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In the summer of 1973, DJ Kool Herc tried something new on the turntables: by extending the beat, breaking and scratching the record, he allowed people to dance longer and entertained them with his rhymes as an MC. After that moment, everything changed. The sound that emerged out of the South Bronx in New York City led to a cultural movement that changed the lives of generations around the world.[1] For Phillip Walker, a mixed race kid from Fresno, California, hip-hop not only served as the soundtrack of his youth, but provided a way to understand his neighborhood and build a multiethnic community. Phillip Ernest Walker Jr. was born on January 28, 1976 in Fresno, California. He is the son … [Read more...]

The Fight to Exonerate Ethel Rosenberg

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Why is the sixty-five year-old spy case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg back in the news? Anderson Cooper reported a segment for 60 Minutes, and Democracy Now joined numerous newspapers in continuing the siren’s call.  The case is grabbing unprecedented attention because the Rosenberg sons – Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol – want to get President Obama’s attention before he leaves office.  They are asking him to posthumously exonerate their mother – Ethel Rosenberg – for being wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed in 1953. They have good reason to ask.  The 1951 trial was a mess, plagued with shocking irregularities and illegalities.  President Harry … [Read more...]

The Story of Boogaloo Sam as Told by Izel Gaye

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We all have that one piece of clothing, be it a fresh new hat or a favorite pair of jeans, that when we slip it on it makes us feel like a million bucks.  You walk a little taller and feel as though your outlook for the day may be brighter simply by adorning yourself in this one item.  For Izel Gaye, a 58-year-old man who has lived most of his life on the west side of Fresno California, that special item is a pair of dancing shoes that were given to him by his friend, Poppin’ and Boogaloo icon Sam Solomon. “When he gave you something,” Mr. Gaye reflected in a recent oral history, “It was like oh boy you better hang on to this… it's got the magic touch.  Then when I put ‘em on I feel like I’m … [Read more...]

Kennan, Putin, and the Danger of Thinking Your Opponents Are Irrational

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Years ago, I was in a stupid bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  We used to go there after work because they had ridiculously cheap Long Island Iced Teas during Happy Hour, which was almost always a mistake.  (Actually, not "almost"--just "always.") And one day a musclebound, intense-looking middle-aged white guy was there at the bar.  Somehow we got into a conversation.  He claimed to work for Blackwater, the mercenary company that the George W. Bush administration outsourced its foreign military misadventures to, and he said he was waiting to turn over his identity to some agent at that very bar, that very night. I would not have even given him the benefit of the doubt except that … [Read more...]

Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City

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New York City in the 1980s and ‘90s was home to a squatting movement unlike any other in the United States. Drawing on their diverse radical and progressive roots, squatters claimed and occupied city-owned abandoned building with a winning combination: a Yippie sense of drama and fun, punk rock aggression and subcultural grit, and urban homesteaders’ earnest appeals to American values of self-sufficiency and initiative. When faced with eviction they learned how to build barricades and booby traps and drum up riots from their European counterparts, and each attempt to evict Lower East Side squatters from the late ‘80s on brought newly escalated police and squatter tactics.  By the mid-1990s, … [Read more...]

Is Trump Sui Generis?

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Given Donald Trump's ongoing meltdown, all of this may be moot. But even a catastrophically failed presidential campaign has ramifications that can unfold for years, even decades to come, as well as lessons to teach us about the country. After all, many at the time saw Barry Goldwater's 1964 landslide loss as a fluke; the takeover of a mainstream party by a noisy, right-wing minority supposedly spelled the end of conservatism as a political force in the country. Yet historians now recognize that, even in defeat, Goldwater pointed the way to a major conservative revival. In contrast, Walter Mondale's historic drubbing in 1984 said a great deal about where the Democratic Party was coming from … [Read more...]

Is Hillary the Most Qualified Nominee for President Ever? HRC’s Résumé in American History

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“I can say with confidence: There has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.” –President Barack Obama at the 2016 Democratic National Convention In his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the President praised Hillary Clinton’s peerless résumé and called her the most qualified person ever to seek the presidency. Although the President is doubtless the foremost expert on the qualifications for his own job, his claim is inherently subjective. So how do Hillary Clinton’s twenty years as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State really stack up against the other … [Read more...]

Settin’ the Woods on Fire in the Countercultural South

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I recently contributed an essay to a volume that’s forthcoming from UNC Press called The Bohemian South.  You can count me as one who is skeptical of a tradition of bohemianism in the South, at least as it is now manifested and understood. Whatever bohemianism means, it is not skinny jeans and food trucks—a familiar scene one can find in the trendier lanes of Atlanta or Durham or Richmond these days.  Sure, there was North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, where Robert Creeley and John Cage cavorted in the 1950s, as well as a smattering of other avant-garde cultures in the history of the South. But the bohemianism of today’s urban creative class seems like just a hipper … [Read more...]