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Monday Must Reads (Views and Listens)


The terrible fact is that a staggering 48-percent of all African American males will drop out of high school. Tavis Smiley explores what amounts to a national tragedy and looks at what to do about it.

The PBS show debuts Tuesday night in LA, but check listings for your cable provider to find out what time and which PBS station will have it.


The Times editorial board makes an interesting and worthwhile argument. I still don’t happen to agree with them, but their points in Monday’s editorial are good ones and essential to consider as you make up your own mind.


This story is from Sunday’s Wired Magazine by Ryan Singel, and is a definite must read. Here’s a clip:

Former AT&T engineer Mark Klein handed a sheaf of papers in January 2006 to lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, providing smoking-gun evidence that the National Security Agency, with the cooperation of AT&T, was illegally sucking up American citizens’ internet usage and funneling it into a database.

The documents became the heart of civil liberties lawsuits against the government and AT&T. But Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), voted in July 2008 to override the rights of American citizens to petition for a redress of grievances.

Congress passed a law that absolved AT&T of any legal liability for cooperating with the warrantless spying. The bill, signed quickly into law by President George W. Bush, also largely legalized the government’s secret domestic-wiretapping program.

Obama pledged to revisit and roll back those increased powers if he became president. But, he did not.

Mark Klein faded into history without a single congressional committee asking him to testify. And with that, the government won the battle to turn the net into a permanent spying apparatus immune to oversight from the nation’s courts.

Klein’s story encapsulates the state of civil liberties 10 years after the shattering attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. After a decade, the country is left with a legacy of secret and unilateral executive-branch actions, a surveillance infrastructure whose scope and inner workings remain secret with little oversight, a compliant judiciary system that obsequiously bows to claims of secrecy by the executive branch, and a populace that has no idea how its government uses its power or who is watching out for abuses.

Read the rest.


Hector Tobar’s LA Times story is one you shouldn’t miss. Here’s a clip from the story’s opening:

Before this week, the last time I’d seen Obed Silva was in an immigration court in downtown L.A. On that day, he rolled his wheelchair to the witness box and explained to a judge why he shouldn’t be deported.

That was in 2009. Born in Mexico but raised in Orange County, Silva is a 32-year-old former gang member paralyzed from a gunshot injury who reinvented himself as a scholar. It was the errors of his youth — as a teenager he shot and wounded a man at an O.C. party — that led to the deportation proceeding.

Professors at his alma mater, Cal State L.A., testified in immigration court on his behalf. After I told his story in this column, even a conservative talk-show host said he deserved to stay in the U.S. And in December, the government agreed to stop the deportation proceedings against him.

After nearly four years of court dates and adjournments, Silva’s final appearance before a judge lasted only a few minutes, he recalled. “Next thing I knew, the judge said, ‘You’re free to go.'”

This week Silva and I met again, at his mother’s home in Buena Park. I’d come to see what he was doing with his second chance.

He’s teaching writing at Cypress College and tackling his own painful story in a book. Much of his manuscript is about another man born in Mexico, a heavy drinker who was deported many years ago, and who isn’t missed on this side of the border:

Obed’s father, the late Juan Silva.

Juan Silva was, as Obed writes, “an alcoholic, a drug-addict and a wife beater.” Juan Silva, aged 48 at his death, was one of those fraught men who live hard and leave a lifetime of wreckage in their wake.

“I came to this country to run away from him,” Obed’s mother, Marcela Mendoza, told me. Juan Silva was, by Mendoza’s account, obsessed with the family that had escaped him. Soon after they left, he followed them northward……


“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In the spring and summer of 2010, law professor and researcher Lucian Dervan
, traveled to prisons in the United States, The Netherlands, and Israel to “compare the way each country detains its most violent and culpable residents.” The results of this research, he wrote afterward, “indicate something quite striking about what makes prisons around the world successful.” His results also indicated an alarming view of the way the United States treats its prisoners and what results from that dehumanizing treatment.

Here is a long clip from Dervan’s conclusions. (You can download the entire paper here.)

What makes one prison a violent and uncontrollable badland, while another is a calm, relatively safe, and productive facility for both staff and inmates? From my travels to three continents in search of an answer to this question, one aspect of each prison seems to contribute significantly to its success or failure. Where prisoners believed they were treated like human beings and were provided with reasonable living conditions and opportunities to utilize their time in meaningful ways, the prison environment was relatively healthy and rates of violence were low. In comparison, [in U.S. prisons] where prisoners were subjected to abhorrent living conditions and no efforts were made to treat them with a modicum of respect or provide them with even a scintilla of meaningful stimulation during the day, the prison environment was poisoned and violence ran rampant.

One final story from my travels will summarize the distinction between treating inmates like human beings and treating prisoners as mere objects for confinement.

[W]hen I traveled to Israel three prisoners were asked if they would volunteer to meet with me and, for their services, they were personally thanked by a prison official. During my visit to the state maximum-security prison, however, the treatment of the prisoners was quite different. At one point, a prisoner was sitting inside his cell reading a book. A
guard, who was showing me this particular wing of the facility, decided to demonstrate how he could control the lights inside this prisoner’s cell from outside. Without acknowledging the prisoner was even present, the guard then began switching the light on and off several times. When he was finished with his demonstration, still not having even acknowledged the presence of the prisoner inside the cell, he simply continued to walk down the corridor. It is striking to observe that the guards at this state facility treated prisoners with considerably less respect than the officers tasked with supervising convicted terrorists in Israel.

In conclusion, it is important to clarify why we care what type of environment exists inside a prison. It is certainly not clear that how prisoners are treated has any positive impact on recidivism rates. In fact, of the four prison systems examined in this Article, the one with the highest rate of recidivism is The Netherlands.Nevertheless, the environment inside prisons is vitally important. First, prisons in which inmates feel a sense of community appear to be less violent than those that serve as little more than warehouses for the one out of every hundred Americans currently behind bars. Second, prisons with high rates of violence are expensive facilities to administer because they require large staffs and incur incidental costs associated with medical treatment, overtime, and sick days. As such, prison systems can perform their functions in a more economically efficient manner by creating environments where prisoners are provided with incentives to cooperate and reject violence. Finally, treating prisoners as human beings and creating positive prison environments is simply the morally correct manner in which to administer a penitentiary.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky stated, “The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.” Even without the significant added benefits of reducing violence and lessening the administrative costs of running our prison systems, treating prisoners with dignity is the moral duty of any government. That abiding by this duty creates a safer environment for both staff and inmates and provides for the possibility of creating better prisons with less money should merely be considered a significant and
wonderful ancillary benefit.


Like most news outlets, NPR had a string of good 9/11 stories. This, about the death of NY City Fire Department chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, is a particularly sweet one.

Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan friar and a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. He was also a true New York character. Born in Brooklyn, Mychal Judge seemed to know everyone in the city, from the homeless to the mayor.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Father Mychal arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit. And as firefighters and other rescue personnel ran into the North Tower, he went with them.

Bill Cosgrove, a police lieutenant, was also there. When the South Tower collapsed, it sent debris flying into the neighboring building. When the dust cleared, Mychal Judge was dead. Soon after, Cosgrove found him. Then, Cosgrove and a group of firefighters emerged from the rubble, carrying Father Mychal’s body….

Listen to the rest here.


As you may or may not know by now, Fox Sports ran a video about the inclusion of two more college teams—Utah and Colorado— in the PAC 10, which will now be the PAC 12. In order to publicize the change on Fox’s college sports show, the show’s “reporter” Bob Oschack interviewed students at USC about their reaction to the new of the change, and asked them to “give a good old fashioned American welcome” the two new schools. Oschack, however, did not interview just any USC students. He picked only Asian students and only Asian students with strong accents. The result was racial caricature that was utterly flabbergasting in its creepiness.

The story was first reported by the Colorado Daily Camera and in short order calls and emails began to stream into the network, Fox Sports at first issued a tepid apology that was little more than an “Ooops. Our bad.” Then, a few hours later, as the fury over the vile video grew, there were evidently some hurried meetings in FoxLand because the apology from the Fox Sports head got a little bit stronger—but not much.

We sincerely apologize to President [C. L. Max] Nikias and the entire USC community for the production and posting of the video. The context was clearly inappropriate and the video was removed as soon as we became aware of it. We will review our editorial process to determine where the breakdown occurred, and we will take steps to ensure something like this never happens again.

The fury continued, thus on Wed, Fox cancelled its college sports show, The College Experiment which had produced the horrid segment, yanked videos from the network site and Hulu, and apologized all over again. (Of course Fox couldn’t stop a million video flowers from blooming on YouTube and the like. For example, here at KCET in it is posted along with a commentary by blogger/teacher Ophelia Chong, which—by the way— is very much worth reading.

Although the news on the incident died down over the weekend, all is far from forgiven. After all, said one Asian commentator, Fox is the network that called Obama’s birthday party “a “hip-hop BBQ” that “didn’t create jobs”—and other fun racist moments. In other words, they created the environment in which it was only a matter of time that the racist crap on the news segments would bleed into areas like sports coverage.

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