Monday, March 31, 2014

I just finished a new book manuscript entitled: "Everyone is a Terrorist Now: Suspects and Surveillance in Post-9/11 America."

The manuscript is about 300 pages (excluding Index and Bibliography). 


Introduction: Usual and Unusual Suspects
So Few Terrorists
Chapter Overview

Chapter 1: Protest as Terrorism
What is Terrorism?
Studying "Suspicious" Behavior
Spying on OWS
Online Media Surveillance
Video Surveillance and Human Informers
The Police Crackdown

Chapter 2: Your Data is Showing
FBI Data Mining
NSA Mass Surveillance
Is Snowden a Hero?
Blowing the Whistle
Can Privacy Be Saved?

Chapter 3: Complaints about Terror Screening

Chapter 4: Arab and Muslim Americans under Attack
Mapping New York’s Muslims
Mistrust of Police
Privacy Deficit
Suspects and Immigration Policy

Chapter 5: Torturing Suspects
FBI Surveillance and Counterinsurgency
The Politics of Torture
Interrogation Techniques
No Legal Accountability
Interrogations at Home
The American Public Responds to Torture
Recent Guidelines

Chapter 6: Liberating the Terrorist Suspect
Terrorist Watch List
Deadly Silencing: The Kill List
The Idea of Emancipation
Emancipation from the Bottom Up

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ethnic Conflict in Greenwich Village (NYC) during the 1970s

A few years ago, I spend about two hours with my girlfriend, Nancy, at the annual Italian American San Gennaro Feast in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. The Feast or Festival used to anchor the Little Italy neighborhood that now virtually is gone, a victim of gentrification. I tell Nancy I always went to the Festival as a child living nearby at 110 Bleecker St. in New York University (NYU) housing during the early 1970s. The Festival has been a yearly event since immigrants from Naples launched it in 1926.
I remember vividly a few things about that evening.
Halfway through we stop at the Spring St.Tavern for a beer. I begin to tell stories of growing up near Little Italy and my encounter with neighborhood kids from the hood. "They wanted to fight us. We would run away." The rival Jewish and other kids from NYU housing faced off against the young toughs from Thompson St. We were friends with them in some ways. They wanted to play football and hockey against us. They always challenged us. We never challenged them to a game. Once, we played a street hockey game against the Little Italy crew and I played goalie. I must have been about 12 years old. It was a close game but they won: They had some excellent sharp shooters. As goalie, I testify that their players shot the rubber puck harder than our guys. I was a little scarred. But our guys were as fast or faster on their roller skates. I remember a few people looked on to watch the game. I believe the final score was 5 to 4. The game took place on an open paved lot that today houses a large gym facility for NYU.
We also used to play touch football, and sometimes tackle football without any pads, on a nearby green lawn at the Silver Towers.  Several times a week after school, about eight of us would gather for some tossing of the ball.  A few times, some of the Italian kids in the hood would come by and challenge us to a football game.  We always tried to wiggle our way out of that game. Once or twice we ran away.  Hockey was one thing; football was another.   In hockey bodies collide in an impersonal manner.  In football, touching or tackling is more intimate. The bodies come too close together.  It seemed dangerous.
During the conversation with Nancy, I hear a white woman sitting near me with a friend commenting on my discourse. She says, "They all wondered what happened to those kids. They really tortured you guys. Do you know what they became?" Nancy and I look at her but remain silent. Nancy says to me, "Do you know what just happened?" Yes, I am aware of it. This woman appeared to have grown up in Little Italy and is familiar with my story. She knows of the conflict between the youth of Little Italy and the youth of NYU housing nearby. What did these Italian-American kids become? For that matter, what did the children of NYU faculty and staff become?
After we left the bar, we walked down Mott St. and encountered the Festival’s Clown, who eggs on the crowd to throw at him and drop him into a container of water. The Clown's face is made up; it is impossible to make out his skin color or other defining features. "This is about male aggression," I say to Nancy, "Let's watch." A young Latino man says next to me, "Oh, shit." Nancy notices the Clown is race-baiting a Latino thrower to fuel his anger so he throws really hard. The young Latino man hears Nancy refer to race and says, "Yes. Just wait till later. We are going to fuck them up. You can't talk to us like that." Nancy is horrified and begins to walk away. I mutter to her lowly, "There's going to be a mini-race riot."
I also tell Nancy, who is an expert in Italian-American history, of the occasion when a group of about 50 youth from Little Italy are focused on my older brother Michael in front of my building. They were mocking him. It looked like violence might break out. I ran inside my building, nervously took the elevator to our apartment (#11B) and told my father: "Hurry. You got to come down downstairs. Michael is about to get beat up real bad." On the street, my father talks the crowd out of violence and retrieves Michael and me from the situation. When the three of us reenter our building, we breath a big sigh of relief. My father was in shock. I believed I saved my brother from a group beating.
There are many other stories to tell. In those years, ethnic tension was real in the neighborhood. There is an affinity to what Jonathan Rieder found among Italian and Jewish youth in the mid-1970s Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie: They generally did not mix. Some of the NYU kids were told by their parents not to stray too far into the Italian hood. My parents made no such prohibitions. I had an Italian-American friend despite the ethnic conflict. He once invited me to his apartment. I remember the disapproval of the boy’s mother when she asked about me, realizing that an outsider was inside her home. It was my only visit.
            I heard rumors on more than a few occasions that the Italian hood youth roughed up African Americans who strayed into their turf.  A friend tells me, “Did you hear, two black guys were riding their bikes down Houston St. and got beat up near Thompson St.?  Their bikes were stolen.”
These youth lived in an area where the Gambino crime family had its roots.  Of course, most residents were not in the Mafia, but the crime family’s reach undoubtedly affected the culture and politics of the neighborhood.  It was the era of Martin Scorsese’s magnificent movie Mean Streets (1973), where small-time Italian American hoods, played expertly by Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, struggle to survive in the same Little Italy.  Scorsese grew up in the neighborhood and the film is drawn extensively from personal memories. Of course, I did not know this inner world, but the depiction of gritty danger in the film fits with how I remember interactions with my Italian American neighbors.  There is a very good description of the film by Lucia Bozzola: “Scorsese's exceptional grasp of the texture of day-to-day life, the rhythm and cadences of street talk, and cinema's visual and aural possibilities makes Mean Streets one of the pivotal films of the 1970s…”  The reviewer Mark Deming also evokes the cultural feeling of the neighborhood.Charlie [Harvey Keitel] seems to have one foot in the present and the other in turn-of-the-century Sicily, and the soundtrack, which combines the rickety Italian folk melodies of the Feast of Gennaro with classic jukebox rock-and-roll (drawn from records in Scorsese's own collection, complete with scratches), plays this duality for all it's worth.”
            I also experience race difference while I attend a “rough” junior high school, I.S. 70, located on 17th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues.  It was called “rough” because more than half of the student body was working-class African American and Puerto Rican.  (They did not use the term Latino back then.)  Some other white friends I knew went to private school to avoid the minorities.  My parents were firm advocates of public education.  Private schooling was anathema to them.  It promoted the wrong values hanging around only privileged, rich, white kids. In the schoolyard at I.S. 70, I ventured to play basketball with the black and Puerto Rican kids.  I was a decent player.  It helped that I was tall.  Entering those basketball games was an assertion of toughness and coolness.   I could hold my own with the “rough” crowd.  It was not only race difference but class difference.  The white kids at I.S. 70 had mostly middle-class backgrounds.
            It is hard to imagine today that I.S. 70, in the neighborhood known as Chelsea, was then a poor area.  The extraordinarily expansive New York housing stock of the 21 St. century had not touched such areas back in the pre-gentrified 1970s.
 In later years, I strongly value my public school education, as it opens my eyes as a child to black and Hispanic cultures and nurtures a lasting multiculturalism.  One effect is that I start to do street graffiti with some friends in Manhattan.   We put our “tags” on buildings and subway cars with magic markers.  I never graduated to spray paint.  My tag names were BJ 45 and Sweeney.  BJ were the initials for the middle names of Benjamin and Joseph that my younger brother and I had been assigned at birth.  The practicing of transgressing – keeping an eye out to write your tag without a police cop seeing you – proved fun and exciting.  Traveling the subways in New York City, I constantly was amazed at the colorful and elaborate spray-painted words and images on passing trains.   
            My older brother used to call me “Chico” because he said my skin was darker than most whites.  He had a strong racial sense of humor.  He would hold out his hand palm side up and say, “Slap me five.”  Then he would turn his hand over so the palm faced down and add in a rhyme, “On the Nigger side.”   He would let out a big laugh.  I did not approve of his use of the word Nigger.  It offended me.  Still, the idea that white people are colored in some ways is a current topic of interest thanks to DNA tests demonstrating complex family backgrounds.  The popular television show hosted on PBS by Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, African American Lives, traced the genealogical backgrounds of well-known people using DNS testing documenting diverse cross-race ancestries.     
            At the about the age of 12, I began to be conflicted about my own Jewish identity.  My mother was an atheist, although she hides this view from us.  Rather, she just expressed no religious enthusiasm whatsoever.  My father, too, was secular in his viewpoint.  I don’t really know if he believed in God as an adult.  He did attend synagogue as a child.  The conflict for me arose when my parents decided not to enroll me in Hebrew language training in preparation for a Bar Mitzvah.  They did not want to deal with a Rabbi and institutional Judaism.  I do not recall significant protest on my part for not having a Bar Mitzvah. I still remained in Jewish subcultures, but not to the exclusion of others. My parents had many close Jewish friends, and so did I.  But, still, at the age of 13 I had rejected a critical component of religious faith.
            Some of my Jewish peers joked I really was not Jewish.  This sentiment not only hurt my feelings.  It created some confusion.  When I attended other children’s Bar Mitzvahs as a guest, I felt out of place.  I tried to hide the fact that I did not have a Bar Mitzvah of my own.  With a name like Greenberg, most people assumed my Jewish identity was strong.  In fact, as one of my father’s professor friends explained to me, I had roots as a Kohen – a priest in the religion dating to ancient times, when this status was conferred on Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his sons as an everlasting covenant.  The authority of a Kohen included responsibility for teaching on the law.  The Kohen line has been passed from father to son for more than 100 generations.
            I experienced very little anti-Semitism in New York City during the 1970s.  It was a very tolerant setting for Jews.  In fact, in 1974 the city elected its first full Jewish mayor, Abe Beame.  Beame was succeeded as Mayor by Ed Koch in 1977, who also was Jewish and had been my Congressman from Greenwich Village.  The very high level of race and ethnic diversity in New York City certainly produced an urban setting that might be marked by a high degree of intergroup conflict.  Such conflict was probably worse during the 1980s than during the 1970s. At least, several big cases exposing intergroup conflict erupted then.  Koch was mayor at the time.  Progressives thought he had not worked hard enough toward uniting the city’s many population groups.  Indeed, to some extent he proved to be a divisive figure in his response to these cases raising, rather than lowering, ethnic and racial tension.  But in my world of the 1970s, my Jewish peers were pleased “one of the tribe” (Beame, Koch) led the city.  It made one feel more included in the life of the city, and the country as a whole.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A short article I just wrote, "Putting 'American Hustle' in Proper Historical Perspective"

There is a lot of buzz at the present moment about American Hustle, which has received ten Oscar nominations.  While the film is characterized by excellent acting, it provides poor historical context to fully understand the FBI's ABSCAM investigation of the late 1970s.  The viewer is led to believe the investigation of members of Congress on bribery charges inadvertently fell into the lap of the bureau, instead of being part of a major FBI program aimed at "public corruption."  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter named a former federal judge, William Webster, to the FBI director's post and Webster made public corruption an early priority, doubling the number of cases in this area to about 1,000 within his first year in office.  In addition to investigating members of Congress, the FBI went after other elected officials -- governors, state legislators, and mayors... 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My new article, "Impossible Unity: Adjuncts and Tenure-Track Faculty," appears in New Labor Forum (Winter 2014).

On the Contrary:
  • Ivan Greenberg
Impossible UnityAdjuncts and Tenure-Track FacultyNew Labor Forum
In 2005, an estimated 42.6 million Americans (about 31 percent of the U.S. workforce) toiled as contingent workers outside full-time, regular year-round employment. And the problem is getting worse. By 2020, more than 40 percent may work under insecure conditions: underpaid and without job protection as well as lacking many benefits such as health insurance, pensions, and vacations with pay. Unionizing this large segment of the workforce has proved difficult. Only about 6 percent of part-time employees are union members, compared to 12.5 percent for full-timers. As the labor movement increases efforts to reach these workers, questions remain about the best organizational forms to represent them. Should contingent workers join locals that enroll full-time employees in their industries or should part-timers form their own independent unions? Can solidarity exist between full-timers and part-timers within the same organization?...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My new book chapter, "Schools for Justice in the United States"

In the history of American education, adult schools for social justice are a little-noticed, but important development that brings into focus ways education can promote social change. Since the early twentieth century, these schools created an alternative pedagogy to help “ordinary” people understand their subordinate place in society, the sources of their oppression, and to think about ways to become empowered in liberation struggles. Attention is focused on schools for immigrants, workers, radicals, civil rights activists, and women. Working-class adults often embraced collectivist traditions, stressing mutual aid. Visions of social transformation based on universalistic values and personal expression are most effective when combined with an approach that privileges solidarity in groups and identifies and confronts power structures.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I submitted an artwork to the National September 11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero, NYC

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My new article, "Everyone is a Terrorist Now" in the journal Radical Criminology

Political policing (or state "high policing") usually is defined as activity which is directed, through surveillance and counterinsurgency, to control particular groups and communities. It is not deviant behavior but a core function of government to protect a political regime. In the U.S. context, the practice has deep historical roots and almost always is done secretly because it undermines the intention of the First Amendment, which protects free speech and assembly. Until the mid-1970s, most American political policing was directed against actors identified as "subversive." Afterwards, the category of "terrorism" became the legal basis for most domestic security investigations While this change from subversion to terrorism was intended to reduce government spying, one effect has been stigma and marginalization: the labeling of protest as terrorism undermines the legitimacy of a wide range of political expression. In the era of the "war on terror" against radical Islam, the concept of what constitutes terrorist activity is thoroughly confused. The American state deliberately makes little distinction between fighting violent terrorism with overseas roots and fighting peaceful, legal, domestic political activity. In the FBI's view, terrorists are found everywhere there is disagreement and conflict in society. Indeed, the very act of criticizing the government outside of a protest movement can result in being labeled a terrorist. Even though American radicals rarely commit crimes, the FBI claims they pose a major challenge to peaceful order in society. The terrorist label so broadly has been misapplied that it has lost most significance and meaning.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Charting my Writing (Daily and Weekly)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Charting my writing (daily and weekly)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Working on a New Book Manuscript

For the last year, I have been working on a new book-length manuscript entitled, "Everyone is a Terrorist Now." I have written parts of seven chapters, totalling about 220 manuscript pages so far, and am seeking a book contract.