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If there is any justice in this world, Bush, McCain and their cohorts will continue to flip, flop and flounder

until Election Day, when they will be put out of their misery and Obama will be elected president.

Given the circumstances, however, that will be cause for muted celebration at best.



Does Wall Street Bailout Doom New Orleans Recovery?
A New President, a New Depression: The Moment of Truth

By J.B. Borders


It's almost here.  D-Day 21. The real beginning of the 21st century, the 2008 U.S. presidential election.  The day the game changes for good. After all the slimy stunts some Democrats pulled to try and block Barack Obama from winning their party's nomination, I expected even worse shenanigans from the Republicans in the run-up to November 4. 
I have not been disappointed.

This election will be held in the midst of what many experts now call "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression"—possibly the worst economic meltdown of all times. It's a debacle triggered by the avarice and greed of millions of Americans, but it was wealthy Republicans who led the charge.

I suspected all along that they would fight like the devil to stay in power and use every dirty trick at their disposal to remain Masters of the Looniverse. I even assumed that there was a strong possibility Condoleeza Rice would be picked for the vice presidential slot as a last ditch effort to counter the Obama momentum.

Black for black. Brainiac for brainiac. And a female to boot. That move could have put a lot of sisters and some of their Latina and Caucasian girlfriends in an awkward position.  But the Republican brain trust decided the situation wasn't that desperate. Or maybe they just weren't that bright.

At any rate, the McCain campaign opted to play to their party's base and stay behind the color line. Though they did indeed pull a woman out of the hat to run for vice president, they went trailer park instead of Park Avenue. Seems it was crucial to find a running mate who wouldn't make McCain look dumb by comparison. They succeeded. (Remember how much "irrational exuberance" there was over her selection—at first?)

Earlier in the year, I also thought there was a strong possibility the Republicans might engineer an invasion of Iran in an effort to create a crisis that would help keep the presidency in their fold.

I was wrong again. The scamps didn't invade Iran. They blew up Wall Street instead— and, in the process, tried to raid the federal treasury for an amount equal to the cost of the Iraq war.

There are, of course, right-wingers who blame the country's financial troubles on "minorities and risky folks" who were granted subprime mortgages by "respectable" lending institutions. But these nut cases conveniently forget that those loans were made under the guise of creating an "Ownership Society," as Bush the Younger termed it. In fact, he sold it as a cornerstone of his compassionate conservatism agenda—let's give our less fortunate black and brown brethren and sistren their chance to own a piece of the American Dream, a home of their own. Meanwhile, his handlers were all giggling about it behind his back. They knew it was strictly a hustle. They were following the numbers. They knew those rip-off predatory loans had mushroomed from 8.6 percent of all mortgages in 2001 to more than 20 percent by 2006—or more than $600 billion in overpriced long-term deals packaged and sold as sure-fire, high-profit securities to other suckers.

It's no wonder that also in 2006 Wall Street firms reportedly paid out $62 billion in bonuses to executives and other staffers. Much of it was fed by the Ownership Society bonanza. You know nearly everyone who pocketed the bonus money had to realize they were scamming the system somehow. They had to know it. They were the best minds of their generation. And now all they offer in defense of their actions is a bromide like "Don't hate the playa, hate the game."

Worse, instead of offering to pay back any of their fraudulent gains, the Wall Street crew now wants Uncle Sam - the lender of last resort - and the folks on Main Street to give them even more money or else, they claim, the whole world's economic system will go down the drain.

Of course, many in the rest of the world say such talk is pure hyperbole. "We must not allow the burden of the boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all," Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, told the United Nations General Assembly a day or two after U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Wall Street tycoon at Goldman Sachs, demanded the $700 billion ransom and the unfettered authority to spend it on his cronies as he sees fit.

Many Chinese experts also think the American doomsday scenario is a bunch of malarkey. They say everyone knows the U.S. economy is on the decline and that China's is on the rise and that it was just a question of when China would claim the top spot. They say the U.S. sissies need to stop all the whining and start accepting their place as beta, not alpha, dog. Or in the words of that classic Motown tune, "Things just ain't the same/Any time the hunter gets captured by the game."

And so, barely 40 days and 40 nights before the presidential election, the chief ideologues of Free Market Rugged Individual Uber-Capitalism have turned the United States of America into a semi-socialist state. They have folded up faster than the former Soviet Union.

If there is any justice in this world, Bush, McCain and their cohorts will continue to flip, flop and flounder until Election Day, when they will be put out of their misery and Obama will be elected president. Given the circumstances, however, that will be cause for muted celebration at best.

The realists among us knew a black man wouldn't get a chance to run this country and be leader of the free world until it was on the brink of collapse. And we do know some racists will blame him for the collapse even though it was not of his making.

Today, more than 75 percent of the homeowners in the U.S. are saddled with upside down mortgages—they owe more than their houses are worth on the open market. That gap is only going to keep growing unless something is done either to reverse the declines in home values or to restructure those loans. As things stand now, the Center for Responsible Lending estimates an additional two million homeowners will be forced out of their houses in the next few years. A large number of those families will be black. And putting a sensible black man in the White House may be the best opportunity to save their skins.

As for New Orleans, what does this national financial meltdown and bankrupt banking system portend for us?

Though Hurricane Katrina slowed the growth of predatory lending in our city, we're screwed anyway—in the short term, at least. Bye-bye 100-year levee protection system. Bye-bye new schools, roads, hospitals, jobs. Bye-bye volunteers and crazy fat grants from national foundations. Everybody else is going to be too broke to give away any more money or time to us. We're on our own—until we can get some foreign aid from China, India, Brazil or one of the Arab kingdoms.

But let's party anyway. Decision-Day 21 will be momentous, historic and uplifting. It won't mark the end of our troubles, but we've been in tight spots before and have prevailed. We'll do it again. We're made that way.

The moment of truth is almost here. Our time has come. Let's not get distracted, deluded or discouraged. Even if we're only able to afford red beans and rice for the next four years, the neo-redneck-policy alternative would have been far worse.

J.B. Borders is a social commentator and cultural critic. He is also president of J.B. Borders & Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, fund development, and program implementation and evaluation for nonprofit organizations. Borders was the founding editor of the New Orleans Tribune and an erstwhile editor of The Black Collegian Magazine. He has also served as managing director of the National Black Arts Festival and executive director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Borders earned a bachelor's and a master's degree at Brown University, where he co-founded Rites & Reason Theatre in 1969.

James B. Borders IV / J.B. Borders & Associates / 3655 Piedmont Drive / New Orleans, LA 70122-4775 / 504 945-7015, voice & fax
504 442-1645, mobile /

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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P.B. Young, Newspaperman

Race, Politics, and Journalism in the New South, 1910-1962

By Henry Lewis Suggs

P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young's personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.

Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young's personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void  . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.—David B. Parker,

Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.—Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.

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A History of the Black Press
By Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson II

In this work, Dr. Wilson chronicles the development of black newspapers in New York City and draws parallels to the development of presses in Washington, D.C., and in 46 of the 50 United States. He describes the involvement of the press with civil rights and the interaction of black and nonblack columnists who contributed to black- and white-owned newspapers. . . . Through reorganization and exhaustive research to ascertain source materials from among hundreds of original and photocopied documents, clippings, personal notations, and private correspondence in Dr. Pride's files, Dr. Wilson completed this compelling and inspiring study of the black press from its inception in 1827 to 1997.

This is a major and noteworthy contribution to scholarship on the African American press. As Washington Post columnist Dorothy Gilliam concludes in the foreword, “Pride and Wilson’s comprehensive history is a lasting tribute to the men and women within the black press of both the past and the present and to those who will make it what it will be in the future.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 1 October 2008 




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