I stumbled upon Angela Davis’s book The Meaning of Freedom And Other Difficult Dialogues in the basement of the City Lights bookstore. It seemed like a great find at the time – I’d love to hear what Angela Davis has to say! And although something like the “meaning of freedom” is a huge and slippery topic, I’d expect Davis to make some profound contributions.
Unfortunately, this book disappoints. Rather than being one book-length discussion of freedom, or even a progression of inquiries, it is a collection of speeches Davis has made over the last twenty years. Each speech is remarkably like the others, which is fine if you’re taking one speech and tailoring it for different audiences and developing it over time as you tour. But it doesn’t make for a great book of essays read one after the other.
I’m in general agreement with each essay. Davis problematizes our understanding of freedom by focusing on questions of race, racism, and incarceration in the US. (She also explores a little bit how the US model of incarceration – the prison-industrial complex, we call it – has been exported to the rest of the world.) In particular, she shows how the prison-industrial complex functions to keep black Americans, in particular, as less than full citizens. She speaks often of prison abolition by analogy to the abolition of slavery, and considers incarceration the modern-day incarnation of slavery. She makes a lot of connections between the “civil death” of prisoners and that of slaves.
These are ideas I’d heard before, but it was useful to absorb them laid out the way Davis does. It would have been much better, however, for her to distill her thoughts down in a small booklet, rather than have similar points repeated so many times.
On Friday, March 29th, I went to the Hall of “Justice” in San Francisco to watch part of a hearing related to the case of the so-called ACAC19. These are 19 people who were arrested during a “Anti-Colonial, Anti-Capitalist March” on Columbus Day, 2012.
I was there for the whole afternoon – the hearing had apparently started in the morning, and will be continued at 9am, April 17th. The spectacle was fascinating in a sick way – so this is the other side of how the sausage is made. Apparently this hearing was about a motion to suppress certain evidence. A couple of cops testified and a video was played. There was no jury; just a judge, a prosecutor, and 19 defense attorneys, one for each defendant.
The hearing started out with the prosecutor showing the following video of events near the intersection of Battery and Sacramento:
Go to https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/13/18762796.php
and play the video about halfway down
First of all, I was astonished by just how much detail one can miss, which became clear when the cops were questioned by the defense attorneys. After watching that video (only 1 minute 39 seconds long), can you answer the following questions?
Continue reading “So This is the Other Side of how the Sausage is Made” →
Here is a small but very important and effective way you can improve life for two million people in the US and their families.
From the excellent SF Bayview newspaper I found out about this promising proposed rulemaking by the FCC. As you may know if you have ever had to communicate with somebody in prison, the phone rates are exorbitant. There can be per-call and per-minute charges, as well as usurious fees simply to transfer money into a prisoner’s account. The boyfriend of one prisoner writes:
My girlfriend is currently incarcerated in Kentucky. Every time she calls me through the prison call system it costs $8.17. On top of that, every time I put money on my account with Securus, whether it is $10 or $500 it costs $6.95 per transaction. It has cost me almost $100 for eight phone calls lasting fifteen minutes each.
Continue reading “FCC Proposed Rulemaking on Prison Phone Rates” →