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Theodore Hamm

From The Editor

The Brooklyn Rail Person of the Year 2007

It’s safe to say that 2007 wasn’t a banner year. No matter how many awards Al Gore received, the climate still got worse. Two trillion dollars later, Afghanistan and Iraq remained in shambles. The endless slog otherwise known as the U.S. presidential campaign didn’t exactly produce Lincolnesque debate.

A Crisis Without Management

The numbers are shocking. According to a new study by the Community Service Society, just 52 percent of New York City’s black males between the ages of 16 and 64 were employed in 2003.

The Joy of Being Wrong

As recently as a few months ago, a prediction of a Rudy vs. Hillary showdown seemed likely to come through. Now, I must borrow a favorite phrase from McCain and say: My friends, I can't tell you how glad I am that I was wrong.

A Net Loss

The mythology of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the borough’s leading developer told New York magazine recently, is "nice nostalgia, but we have to get beyond that. In a metaphorical way, we have to get over the Dodgers."

The End of City Politics?

For the better part of a year now, the primary focus of city politics has been on whether the mayor would run for president.

From The Editor

It Tolls for…

On the last Friday morning in April, upon hearing the verdict in the Sean Bell case, I had the worst of all possible reactions. Instead of outrage, I felt utter resignation. I even found myself saying things like, “the cops could shoot unarmed people 500 times and they still would not get convicted.”

From The Editor

Men of La Mancha

For most of us who grew up in the 20th century, two things seemed certain never to happen in our lifetime: a black person getting elected president of the U.S., or the Cubs winning the World Series.

The People Have Spoken

It has been a summer of striking contrasts. Banks collapsing, inflation skyrocketing, and New Orleans threatened again—yet record audiences for the glittering spectacles in Beijing and Denver.

Man, What a Show!

September was one helluva ride. It came in with a hurricane that blew the president and vice president off the RNC stage.

One Giant Step Forward...

What a difference a day makes. Tuesday, November 4, 2008 brought the election of the nation’s first African-American president, a milestone by any standard.

Minding the Store

A new era has begun, in earnest. Our president will no longer fiddle while the fires burn. Both science and the Constitution will be respected. And the looting of the federal coffers won’t be sanctioned—or at least one hopes.

From Here to Canarsie

“Forget New York, it’s Over!” So says Whitney, a cantankerous fixture on Lorimer near Metropolitan.

Time For Action

These are Dickensian times in the arts world. Across the boroughs, grand new art centers are being planned, opened, and expanded, but meanwhile, here in Williamsburg at least, artists are being evicted at an alarming rate.

We’ve only Just Begun…

I would say that I’m ready to lay down my sword and shield, except that I own neither. I also could serve up a cliché about pens and swords, but it seems totally irrelevant.

Two Men Named Davis

Out of the torrent of news reports about the recent tragedy at City Hall emerged a portrait of City Councilman James Davis as a charismatic, streetwise and principled progressive politician—responsive to his local constituents, and, perhaps, accessible to a fault.

The Days of Dogs

Even before last year’s momentous events, I’m certain that I was not alone in thinking that September is the cruelest month.

The Saga Continues...

On two rather significant issues, the war in Iraq and the financial bailout, President Obama is listening to the wrong advice.

A Rail Glossary

One simply never knows who might turn up in the Rail. Readers of the Brooklyn Papers are surely familiar with Patrick Gallahue, a veritable one-man wire service, whose byline graces nearly every front-page article.

The Rail’s Person of the Year, 2005

In 1927, four years after its founding, Time Magazine launched its seminal “Man of the Year” award.

From The Editor

Fair is Foul

Amidst the rightful popular outrage against the continued handouts to Wall Street, one man has stood defiant—the mayor of New York City.


The atmosphere was electric last Thursday night at the swinging '60s Senior Center in Greenpoint. “Old ladies never die, they just play bingo”, read a sign at one end of the meeting room, while a large American flag hung from the other.

An Open Invitation

“What the hell is The Brooklyn Rail?” asks a notable voice on the other end of the line. By now quite familiar with the question, I could hardly be indignant, and so give my standard line: it’s a Brooklyn-based paper about the arts and politics.

All Aboard!

Don’t blink. You may have missed another Rail event. Our most dazzling art show, “Made in Brooklyn: Selection 1,” curated by our publisher, Phong Bui, just closed in early March.

Out of the Ashes

Our compass has been reoriented. For residents of Brooklyn through North Jersey, the Twin Towers no longer define Lower Manhattan; and as a nation, we are being told to prepare for a prolonged conflict in Central Asia.

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I’ve bee sitting at a different desk for the last few issues, and not a little—to say the least—has happened in that time. Here’s a brief roll call of some important names: Katrina, Rita, Michael Brown, John Roberts.

The Meaning of Express

This issue launches the Rail’s new editorial section. Longtime readers may of course say, “but I thought the entire Rail was an extended set of opinion pages.”

From The Editor

A War That We Can Win

This past summer, all of us involved in The Rail agreed that in order to gain a toehold, and eventually a foothold, in the publishing world, we would need to make each of our issues flawless in terms of production.

From The Editor

The Song Remains the Same

Rather than “run the risk” of repeating myself, I have opted for certainty. Four years ago I wrote the following about the city’s last mayoral campaign—and alas, history is repeating itself, too.

Brooklyn Counts!

If separated from the rest of New York City, our beloved borough of Brooklyn would be the fourth largest city in the United States. 

Memories of a Not-So Distant Past

“Today the real problem is the future.” —Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, sometime between 1955 and 1976.

From The Editor

A Time for "Real Results"

My mailbox is suddenly empty. Familiar public figures no longer bother to call.

Help Haiti Now

Our heart is with the people of Haiti. Here is a list of a few relief organizations.


The Iraq War turns seven this month, and some folks seem really eager to blow out the candles on the birthday cake.

From The Editor


Reading a book called The History of White People on the subway is a disorienting experience. Each time I look up, I encounter a spectrum of skin colors, from pasty winter white to deep African black—with numerous shades in between.

Running Local

For at least the next few issues, my column no longer will appear on this page. Instead, an expanded version of it will be found in the Local section.

Party at Ground Zero

There is no reason why instead of an Islamic cultural center, the former Burlington Coat Factory at 45-51 Park Place could not become an interfaith cultural center.

From The Editor

Coming this Week

The Rail's extra-special 10th anniversary issue will be out by 10/7. Please join us in celebrating at one (or more) of our upcoming events.

From The Editor

An Imperfect 10

Dogmatic chronologists may debate whether the first decade of the 21st century C.E. actually ended last December. But this month clearly marks the end of the initial 10 years in the first century A.B.R. (Anno Brooklyn Rail).

From The Editor

Twain and Trane

Other than their iconic status in the world of letters and notes, Mark Twain and John Coltrane seem entirely remote from one another.

From The Editor

On Trump and "The Blacks"

Donald Trump’s recent claim that “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks” has rightly earned him much ridicule, mostly for his anachronistic, and condescending, choice of terms. Yet few critics seem to be asking whether the statement itself is true.

From The Editor

On the Road in Dakar

A tale involving a moral panic, government corruption, and burning diapers.

From The Editor

CITY NOTES: Thanks, Banks?

More than a few observers sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street protests have criticized the movement for a lacking a traditional organizational structure and a clear agenda. But not doing so may be precisely the gathering’s most salient message.

From The Editor

The Rail’s 2011 Player of the Year

The Rail’s Player of the Year Award annually goes to the most surprisingly influential performer on the political stage. This year's candidates include a testy lawman, a horny congressman, and Swing State actuaries.

Summer of Fear?

This summer is in many ways shaping up as a scary one. As Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller recently warned, everyone and everything could be the target of a terrorist attack, which could happen at any time. Rightly skeptical as one may be of any statement coming from a Bush administration official, only a fool would deny that these are indeed dangerous days.

From The Editor

CITYNOTES: Honor in the Court

In late March, the legendary federal judge Jack Weinstein issued an opinion notable for both its legal and intellectual range.

A New Anniversary

As fall comes, and the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 goes, it’s worth considering what’s changed in the past decade.

A Time for Talk and...Action

The Muslim world erupts in reaction to the juvenile provocations of a reactionary Danish newspaper. The Vice President fills a hunting partner full of buckshot and then makes Harry take the fall. The Democrats take a hard line on the United Arab Emirates but have no position on the war in Iraq. It is indeed a cartoonish moment in world affairs.

From The Editor

The city and the country

It goes without saying that New York City used to be a different place.

From The Editor

Stranger from Another Planet

Last month in this space I suggested that New York City needs to regain its identity as a place unlike the rest of the United States, and that to do so, it must resist the wave of fundamentalism sweeping across the heartland.

From The Editor

The Man Who Would Save the Earth

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is a rather unique hybrid vehicle, as it’s in large part an earth science lecture with a campaign biopic running through it.

The $64,000,000 Pyramid

More than anything else, money has been the determining factor in the most lopsided mayor’s race that, mercifully, will end in early November.

From The Editor

Welcome to Bono’s Borough?

A sure sign that a neighborhood is over is when its real estate starts to be marketed to “rock stars” seeking to “avoid the paparazzi.”

The lessons of 9/11?

It goes without saying that 9/11 was the worst day in the history of our city.

King of New York

Say what you will about Mike Bloomberg, but this fact is indisputable: he is the most powerful mayor in the history of New York City.

From The Editor

Fun While it Lasted...

Halloween both came early and lasted long for the Democrats this year, as they donned the costumes of an antiwar party. ...

Learning from New Orleans

Some may consider New Orleans after Katrina to be a tragedy—full of sorrow, fatally flawed by its geography, and now lacking any good options in terms of what to do next. However, after going there this past month, I would simply call it a national disgrace.

We’ve only just begun…

It’s one year before the 2008 presidential primary actually begins, and already the field is overflowing with contenders, pretenders, rock stars, hangers-on, early risers, late bloomers, and nice guys who will finish last.

A Real Legacy

The Bush administration will best be remembered for its destruction of two of the world’s great cities, Baghdad and New Orleans.

From The Editor

Long Live the RNC?

The recent revelations that the NYPD had spied on everyone from grannies to indie rockers across the country prior to the RNC are surprising only because of the operation’s scope.

From The Editor

Summer Break

I’m on-leave for the next few issues, in order to work on a political campaign.

From Blacksburg to Baghdad...

From Blacksburg to Baghdad, April was indeed the cruelest month. After buying a Glock 19 and a Walther 22 in nearby Roanoke, Cho Seung-Hui went on a senseless rampage at Virginia Tech. Less than 48 hours later, 183 people died when car bombs exploded in a crowded Baghdad market.

Make a Better NYC

Now seems like the right time to imagine a better New York City. Everybody’s doing it. Bloomberg has his PlaNYC. It’s time for Rail readers to create their own blueprint, too.

Empire of the Senseless

I’m writing this on Wednesday morning, November 3, and, judging by the popular vote, our future looks extremely dim. Then again, perhaps this is because I’ve not yet seen the light. For those in red state America, that light clearly shines powerfully—so bright, in fact, that it has apparently caused epidemic blindness.

A Wide Stance

A family-values Republican senator from Louisiana shows up on the client list of a DC madam. A month later, the Bush administration’s architect of doom, Karl Rove, bows out of the White House, in the process issuing Dr. No-like battle plans for the 2008 election.

Speaking of Iraq…

I’m not trying to be the guy who gets heavy on you at the bbq, but at the very, very least, revivifying local discussion of the war is way, way overdue.

Send in the Clowns...

Like it or not, the Republicans are indeed coming to town. At first thought, exactly what achievements they will be celebrating may seem elusive, but here are my speculations.

A Time for Peace!

Pride and the Yankees

It’s not easy to talk baseball with Yankee fans. All one hears about is the hallowed history. So many championships, so many legends, even a Broadway musical. Well, congratulations. Some of my best friends are Yankee fans.

A Better Idea…

Hold on a minute. A developer buys a basketball team, then immediately lays claim to land owned by the state. Via eminent domain, he then gets to take a wrecking ball to an existing neighborhood.

Editor's Letter: The Issue is Free Speech

Although a party convention, by definition, is a large political event, our city leaders have presented next summer’s Republican gathering in a different light. According to Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels, who also heads the city’s tourism agency, “The convention coming to New York is so important economically and emotionally that it’s necessary for all 8 million New Yorkers—no matter what their party stripes are—to support this event.”

The Brooklyn Rail’s Person of the Year 2008

Two thousand eight was a rather momentous year, not least for the startling cast of characters on its political stage. The starring role was played by a certain senator from Illinois, but his entrance into the spotlight really began in 2004. Launched in 2005, the Rail’s Person of the Year award has gone to the political figure who provided the most surprising drama of the year.

The Rail's PLAYER OF THE YEAR 2010

American politics has been a Grand Guignol stage in 2010. A horror show full of headless bodies, witches, and Mama Grizzlies ended with a shellacking, making one long for the sober docu-drama of a year ago.

City Notes

Kevin Powell vs. Ed Towns, Round Three; Nora Sayre's New York


In early October, after eleven years, two months and a handful of days in the same apartment, I moved out of Williamsburg. Perhaps you missed this somewhat-less-than-momentous news, but in my world, it was the stuff of banner headlines.

Mayor in the Middle?

The Mayor hates politics. Oxymoronic as that statement sounds, it in many ways should have been clear from the get-go.

Power (Plant) Politics

Where did these guys come from? Such was the first question on the minds of everyone who came to the Polish National Home in Greenpoint on a Thursday night in mid-July for the last scheduled public hearing on the power plant proposed for a site on Kent Avenue between N. 12th and N. 14th Streets.

In Conversation

CHARLES BARRON with Theodore Hamm

Since taking office in January of 2002, City Councilman Charles Barron has constantly been at the center of controversy for his outspoken views.

Woman vs. the Machine: Jo Anne Simon

Jo Anne Simon is one of seven candidates running for office in the 33rd City Council District, which runs from Greenpoint-Williamsburg along the Brooklyn waterfront through DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, then spans Boerum Hill through northern Park Slope.

Inequality in Brooklyn

Until recently, a “Brooklyn booster” was more than likely a con artist trying to sell you a proverbial piece of the Brooklyn Bridge. These days, however, the Bridge itself is actually up for sale, and large swaths of the borough are awash in developer dollars.

LiveWork: The Struggle Continues

On a steamy Sunday evening in late July, the LiveWork Coalition hosted a rooftop party and awards ceremony. The loft tenant organizers did so as a way of saying thanks to their political allies, and of rallying the ground troops for more battles ahead in the fall and throughout the winter.

Who Shares the Pain? NYC and the Future of Globalization

In our last Rail entry, “New York City, LLC” (March/ April), we outlined the inequalities, as well as contrasting priorities, that shape the debate regarding the city’s current fiscal problems.

From The Editor

Party at Ground Zero

There is no reason why instead of an Islamic cultural center, the former Burlington Coat Factory at 45-51 Park Place could not become an interfaith cultural center.

Norman Siegel Runs for Public Advocate

“The decline of Brooklyn as a borough,” a certain legendary sportscaster used to say, “is directly traceable to the day the Dodgers left town.” Like all nostalgia, such a belief carries with it elements of both truth and wishful thinking.

Red Remembers Brooklyn

I used to hate the Boston Celtics. Going to high school near Philly, I had no choice. The year after a magical rookie killed my beloved Sixers, Boston soared back from a 3-1 series deficit.

New York City, LLC

It is by now commonplace to say that the city has a “new C.E.O.” Hardly a day has passed during Michael Bloomberg’s fist two months in office without the introduction of some sort of new “efficiency” or “downsizing” initiative, cloaked in management-speak, and presented by one or another nicely-suited new city officials. 

In Conversation

A Check and a Balance? JOHN LIU with Theodore Hamm

"I will be far more aggressive in every aspect" of the Comptroller's office than Bill Thompson, says Liu. "For one, because of my financial sector training, I’ll be able to hit the ground running. And number two, I’m just a very excitable person."

MoCADA Show Takes On the G-Word

Over the past two decades, Brooklyn’s artistic renaissance spawned the borough’s neighborhood reformation.

Seeing the Navy Yard

In his photo book The Brooklyn Navy Yard (powerHouse, 2010), John Bartelstone takes us on a voyage into a world that—despite its proximity to downtown Brooklyn—seems a strange and distant land, where great industrial beasts once roamed.


In announcing his bid for governor in late May, Andrew Cuomo put forth a comprehensive plan for reforming Albany.

City Notes

Starting in our June 2010 issue, Williams Cole and I began to republish nonfiction pieces from our archives, as part of a “Best of a Decade” celebration. Originally, we planned to create a contest out of these selections, and I even managed to persuade five estimable friends of the Rail to sign on as judges.

Some Formative Moments in the First Decade of the Rail

I must confess, I don’t remember the exact moment when I named the Brooklyn Rail. It was 1998, and Ted and I were on the L train back to Brooklyn.


It was in the spring of 2001 when Williamsburg-bred basketball legend Red Auerbach first asked “What the hell is the Brooklyn Rail?” Not long afterward, that very same question was posed to the two of us by a current Brooklyn figurehead, who followed it by saying, “You’re the guys who want to live here; we’re the ones who couldn’t leave.”


One longs for the day when local sports execs at least spoke of their “civic responsibilities.”

CITYNOTES: Honor in the Court

In late March, the legendary federal judge Jack Weinstein issued an opinion notable for both its legal and intellectual range.

Gil Scott-Heron Remembered

One way to look at Gil Scott-Heron’s passing in late May is that we were lucky to have him around for 62 years. An even better way to understand him is through his own words. In our November 2007 issue, we were fortunate to run Don Geesling’s conversation with the poet and musician.

A New Anniversary

As fall comes, and the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 goes, it’s worth considering what’s changed in the past decade.

OWS, From A-Z

A=arraign; arrears; arrests Many came to Occupy Wall Street because they are in arrears, only to be arrested, some even arraigned.

Letters to the Mayor

(11-15-11) The argument that it’s the Occupy Wall Street protesters who are the ones violating the First Amendment is a truly novel claim—perhaps even a prize-winning work of legal fiction.

Fear of the First Amendment

According to Sean Barry of VOCAL-NY, the “fear of police contact is a major problem” for those trying to mobilize the city’s poor to attend political protests.


I just picked up a great “new” book about the old Brooklyn. And better yet, I found it in the lobby of my apartment building.

Party No More

The Chicago teachers’ strike illustrated the depth of the Democrats’ commitment to education “reform,” which by any measure is designed to undermine the power of teachers’ unions.

Viva Menchaca?

Many Sunset Park residents see Carlos Menchaca, councilperson Sara González’s current challenger, as new blood.

Weiner’s Most Dangerous Fetish?

Anthony Weiner surely has many warped inclinations, but in my view his most peculiar fetish does not involve sex at all.

Unlikely Sparks in Brooklyn D.A.’s Race

Why 1199 is backing Ken Thompson’s bid to unseat Joe Hynes

Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and the 99%

There may be only one “true progressive” in the mayor's race, but there’s also only one real populist.

The Political Education of Young Wilhelm

What radical ideas were in circulation during Bill de Blasio's Sandinista days?

The Legacy of Pier 57

The silence has been deafening. Despite the extensive press coverage of the RNC arrests—which shows that Pier 57 was either the site of wholesale preventive detention or of gross incompetence by the Bloomberg administration and the NYPD—none of the city’s top public officials have spoken out on the matter.

Save Our City

The battle lines have been drawn. From the West Side of Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, from Harlem to Long Island City, and from Red Hook to here in Williamsburg, large developers—with help from their many, many friends in city government—are getting to build exactly what they want.

Norman Siegel and the Race for Public Advocate

It’s 6:00 on a Thursday night in late March, and Norman Siegel is speaking at a small campaign fund-raiser at the Bowery Poetry Club. The Dance Liberation Front organized the event, and the room is filled with a collection of activist types, who some might view as oddballs and misfits but who proudly call themselves “deviants for Norm,” as one speaker puts it.

In Conversation

Tony Avella with Theodore Hamm

Democrat Tony Avella, a City Councilman representing Northeast Queens, is running for mayor in 2009.

Notes on the War

Along with millions of people around the globe, I have marched repeatedly against the war. Along with many of my loved ones, I have walked through the streets of Washington, DC, San Francisco, and most recently, those of New York City. Individually, each of us is but one of the mass at such events.

In the Spirit of Paine (and Pleasure, too!)

It’s an early Saturday evening in mid April and SoHo is full of people doing their usual SoHo things: carrying shopping bags; stumbling around in heels; chatting over expensive fare.

Murphy’s Dissent

Frank Murphy’s dissent in the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu case seems mighty timely today.

As the Curtain Closes…

For the last several years, the Rail’s Player-of-the-Year award has gone to the most dramatic actor on the year’s political stage. For reasons dubiously heroic, and at times heroically dubious, the honorees have included the late John Murtha and Hugo Chávez, and the very much alive Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

One Saturday in Queens

On a recent Saturday afternoon, my pal Alvaro and I set out for central Queens in order to feel the pulse of the new city. Having read many stories about the experience of riding the globalized 7 train, I was more curious about the street life below, so we got off at 74th and Broadway in Jackson Heights and began to walk up Roosevelt Avenue.

Inside the Hackworld: How a Do-Nothing Became a Lame Duck

It’s Primary Day, Tuesday, September 13th, and we’re feeling pretty good. Outside polling places in the Upper West Side, West Village and Park Slope, most everyone is happy to see Norman.

William Thompson’s Challenges

It’s not easy managing the city’s money these days. The late 1990s, when the city budget was flush with Wall Street money, seem like a distant memory. Lingering job losses after 9/11, a nationwide recession, the costly war and postwar occupation in Iraq, national Republicans hell-bent on tax cuts, state Republicans not at all eager to help NYC— it’s hard enough to keep the city running, much less try to renew its liberal tradition.

Stars Come Out in Brooklyn

The current contest for city council in Fort Greene-Clinton Hill-Prospect Heights is shaping up as a track meet, with several well-known locals stepping up to the starting block.

Race Is On for the Future of Central Brooklyn

More than a few onlookers have characterized this political season’s most exciting local contest as a battle over race.

In Conversation

Pete Hamill with Ted Hamm

In his latest book, Downtown: My Manhattan, the legendary New York City writer Pete Hamill offers his own unique geography of the city.

Kelly by the Numbers

Even as opposition to one of his staple policies grows, so too does Ray Kelly’s approval rating.


With slightly less fanfare than the Constitutional Convention of 1789, the city’s Charter Review Commission has been debating the present and future structure of city government.

In Homestretch of NYC Mayor’s Race, Watch for John Liu

Why John Liu's poll numbers are a sucker's bet.

Arthur Miller’s Brooklyn Legacy

Most of the tributes to Arthur Miller upon his recent passing paid scant attention to the influence of his Brooklyn upbringing on his life and work.

Givin’ the People What They Want, pt. 1

Developer Bruce Ratner calls New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to talk shop. “Mike.” “Yes, Bruce.” “I’ve been thinking about something, Mike.” “What’s that, Bruce.” “Mike, do you really think people want stadiums everywhere?” “Now Bruce, I’m not hearing doubt, am I? Remember, I’m counting on you to take care of the people of Brooklyn.” “Mike, it’s just that people are starting to hate me, that’s all.” “Take it from me, Bruce, that’s ok. I know what it’s like to be hated.” “How’s that, Mike?” “Well, it started when I took away people’s cigarettes. Now, I’ve started firing people who won’t flunk third graders, and my poll numbers spiked. People say I’ve finally found my ‘inner Rudy.’”


It was a hot afternoon in July when I first felt the sting. As I approached my destination on the D train, the conductor announced the stop’s new name, “Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center.”

CITY NOTES: Brooklyn Is Everywhere

Two new books about Harlem make the writer wonder where Brooklyn "is."

Lights On in Fort Greene

Open Book producer and host Ina Howard-Parker tours the streets of her neighborhood with many leading writers who have also called Fort Greene home.

The Brooklyn Rail’s Player of the Year 2009

If 2008 was the year of the Western gunslinger showdowns—Hillary vs. Obama, Obama vs. McCain, McCain vs. Palin—the past twelve months have been most notable for never-ending docudramas.

"The President is Not a 'Moron'..."

I. Trouble Inside the Beltway, late March 2004. White House Senior Adviser Karl Rove calls Vice President Dick Cheney to talk about the campaign.

The John Kerry Story: How a War Hero Did, or Did Not, Win the 2004 Election

Senator John Kerry calls Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McCauliffe to talk about the campaign.

Beyond Civil Rights

Ever since the 1960s, the term "civil rights" has come to mean many things. It is now synonymous with campaigns both against police brutality and for affirmative action. After the successes of the civil rights movement in eradicating formal segregation in the mid-1960s, civil rights leaders have pushed for enforcement of laws against discrimination as well as advancement into the political and economic mainstream.

Viva Rudy?

I arrived in Mexico City on the night before May Day. This was my third visit there, but my first since the downfall of the PRI. More important, this was my first trip in the Giuliani era.

Will There Be Another FDR?

The prevailing wisdom among left-liberal critics is that the Democratic Party needs to restore the New Deal to the center of its agenda. With an economy teetering on the brink of depression, a government abdicating any responsibility for the well-being of society’s least well-off, and an opposition party groping for direction, it does seem like the early 1930s all over again.

The Party of Michael Moore

One month after Fahrenheit 9/11 made its opening splash, Michael Moore became a controversial presence at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. It was here where he finally got to climb in the ring with Bill O’Reilly.

In Conversation

A Party of Frauds? Glenn Greenwald with Theodore Hamm

Our political culture is broken—not on the margins but fundamentally—and the vapid, trashy political press plays a big role in that," says's Green Greenwald, author of Great American Hypocrites.

In Conversation

From Brooklyn to DC: Kevin Powell with Theodore Hamm

"Hip-hop values include making something out of nothing, winning on your own terms. That's why I'm running for Congress," says Powell.

Man, What a Show!

September was one helluva ride. It came in with a hurricane that blew the president and vice president off the RNC stage. In their place stepped a hockey mom who knows how to field-dress a moose.

My Begrudging Admiration for the Indianapolis Colts

Growing up next to Chicago, I never though much about Indianapolis. Nor did I have any reason to: Until the mid-1980’s, Naptown had only one professional sports team, the Pacers, who weren’t exactly noteworthy in those years.

The Battle of Seattle and Beyond

Commager, a historian, launched his criticisms at the outset of the cold war, a period during which freedoms of speech or association would be anything but sacrosanct. Such repression was justified

In Conversation

Learning from Vancouver: Matt Hern with Theodore Hamm

In his new book Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future (AK Press, 2010), radical urbanist Matt Hern critiques his home city of Vancouver, paying particular attention to the contradictions in how the city presents itself to the world.

From The Editor

A More Decent Republic

Just in case we forgot, during the State of the Union address President Obama reminded his audience three times that as Americans, we are nothing if not a “decent” people.

Questions for Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali will deliver a talk, “Obama’s War,” at the School of Visual Arts on Monday, April 19, as part of the London Review of  Books’ 30th anniversary celebration.  Ali’s Night of the Golden Butterfly, the final novel in his critically acclaimed Islam Quintet, comes out this month from Verso.

In Conversation

Inside the Tropic of Chaos: CHRISTIAN PARENTI with Theodore Hamm

Christian Parenti is a contributing editor of the Rail and the Nation and a visiting scholar at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center. His latest book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (Nation Books) is based on more than six years of research and travel to war zones, slums, and failed states across the world.

The Rail’s 2011 Player of the Year

The Rail’s Player of the Year Award annually goes to the most surprisingly influential performer on the political stage. This year's candidates include a testy lawman, a horny congressman, and Swing State actuaries.

In Conversation

ABBIE HOFFMAN with Abbie Hoffman

“Political irrelevance is more effective than political relevance,” says Abbie.

The Brooklyn Rail’s Player-of-the-Year, 2012

Volumes of horse race punditry notwithstanding, the 2012 presidential campaign seemed like anything but a day at the track.

The Brooklyn Rail’s Player-of-the-Year, 2012

Volumes of horse race punditry notwithstanding, the 2012 presidential campaign seemed like anything but a day at the track. Instead it felt more like we were waiting at the 18th hole in a golf tournament that kept getting rain delayed.

New Look for Rail Books

This issue marks the dawn of a new era in our coverage of books.

Notes on a Fallen Star

From a very early age, my sister was a whirlwind of energy and achievement.

In Conversation

DERIC LOSTUTTER with Theodore Hamm

KnightSec’s leader may face more jail time than the Steubenville rapists his hacking helped expose.

In Conversation

Left on the Inside: Robert Scheer with Theodore Hamm

Born and raised in the Bronx and a graduate of City College, Robert Scheer is the former editor of Ramparts, the leading radical magazine of the 1960s.

In Conversation

Bring on the Iraq Syndrome

In the 1960s Tom Hayden was a founder of the Students for a Democratic Society, a member of the Chicago Eight, and a leading figure in the movement against the Vietnam War. His latest book, Ending the War in Iraq, was published in June by Akashic Books.

From The Editor

Campaign Notebook: Obama at Philadelphia

Widely viewed on YouTube and much discussed across the political media, Barack Obama’s mid-March speech about the need for a national discussion of race indeed emanated from a historic place.

OPINIONS: A Brief History of the Brooklyn Rail

On the occasion of the Rail's 10th full-format issue, the editor reflects.

South American Diary

Everyone talks about politics here. Although there were plenty of celebrations when Michelle Bachelet was elected in January, this is the inauguration weekend, with plenty of state fanfare and nearly round-the-clock TV coverage of the new president and her cabinet (10 of 20 of whom are women)

Have the Democrats Become the Party of Al Franken?

In the month of October, as the Plame Game dragged on and the hard right scuttled Harriet Miers in favor of Samuel “Little Antonin” Alito, all of the leading figures in the Democratic Party watched quietly from the sidelines. Except, of course, for Al Franken, who, though ostensibly a political commentator and satirist, actually has become a leading voice of the Democrats.

In Conversation

Chisholm’s Legacy: Shola Lynch with Theodore Hamm

A regular on Sesame Street in the 1970s, Shola Lynch is now an acclaimed documentary filmmaker.

Dan Burley’s Original Handbook of Harlem Jive (1944)

Harlem in the early 1940s was a place in flux. Though the Renaissance had ended a decade or so earlier, the cultural scene was still quite vibrant, with legendary jazz musicians, dancers, and entertainers of all sorts performing regularly in its many nightclubs.

The Brooklyn Rail’s Person of the Year, 2006

Satan played a starring role on the world political stage during 2006. His presence was felt from the Persian Gulf to the banks of the Mississippi. Other than the devil’s handiwork, how else to explain why Iraq became hell on earth, and New Orleans remained in tatters?

In Conversation

André Schiffrin with Williams Cole and Theodore Hamm

In The Business of Books (2000), André Schiffrin memorably recalled the heyday of intellectual publishing in the U.S. Schiffrin had directed Pantheon from the early 1960s through 1990, when it was closed by Random House. Pantheon had helped a wide range of authors, including Chomsky and Foucault, reach a large commercial audience. In 1990, Schiffrin launched the New Press. In his new memoir, A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York (Melville House Publishing), Schiffrin discusses his life before Pantheon, paying particular attention to the political climate of the 1940s and 50s. The Rail’s Williams Cole and Theodore Hamm recently sat down with Schiffrin at his Upper West Side apartment, which contains one wall of books Schiffrin’s father had published in France and then when he directed Pantheon in the 1940s, and another wall of those of that Schiffrin published when he took over Pantheon in the 1960s.

RANT RHAPSODY: Memories of San Quentin

Odd as it may sound, I’ve lately found myself feeling rather nostalgic for San Quentin. That sensation is even more peculiar when I remind myself that etymologically, nostalgia means homesickness.

King's Legacy

Few, if any, of the tributes capture the full spectrum of King’s message at the time of his assassination.

Some Keys to Obama’s Success

The meteoric rise of Barack Obama is already the stuff of mythology.

Touring Detroit

Takin’ pictures of the ghetto? a local woman asks me.

In Conversation

RUDY WURLITZER with Theodore Hamm

Rudy Wurlitzer’s early 70s novels Flats and Quake have just been reissued by Two Dollar Radio. They came out at the same time that Wurlitzer wrote the screenplays for Monte Hellman’s cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).

The 2006 Democrats, as Seen by Future Historians

The destruction of Iraq, the looting of the national treasury, and the unregulated growth of corporate power were not of concern to the Democrats headed into the midterm campaign of 2006.

Notes on the Many Wars

t’s by now a commonplace that the mission has not been accomplished. More than a year and a half after W.’s less than prophetic statement, U.S. troop levels in Iraq top 150,000, including many well past their prime fighting years; the city of Falluja lays in ruins; and the national elections slated for late January hold little promise of turning the tide.

Campaign Notebook

As February turns to March, Barack Obama and John McCain stand as the two frontrunners in the 2008 presidential campaign. On matters of age, race, and many policy issues, the two figures are vastly different.

Twain and Trane

Other than their iconic status in the world of letters and notes, Mark Twain and John Coltrane seem entirely remote from one another. One was a writer and the other a saxophonist.

In Conversation

HOWARD ZINN with Theodore Hamm

Brooklyn native Howard Zinn is the author of more than 20 works of American history, including A People’s History of the United States and, most recently, Terrorism and War (Seven Stories) and Emma (South End), a play about the anarchist Emma Goldman.

In Conversation

JOHNNY TEMPLE with Williams Cole and Theodore Hamm

Johnny Temple is the bassist for Girls Against Boys, New Wet Kojak, and publisher of Akashic Books. The following conversation took place in late February at Akashic’s home in Fort Greene.

In Conversation

Victor Navasky: A Life on the Left

Victor Navasky is Publisher and Editorial Director of The Nation, and Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of Naming Names, which will be republished by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the spring of 2003, and he is currently at work on a book about dissenting journalism.

A Tribute to Eros

When Ralph Ginzburg died this past July at age 76, he was variously remembered as a controversial publisher, foe of both Bobby Kennedy and Barry Goldwater, successful photographer, leading opponent of circumcision and a master of disguise, his most favorite being that of a minister. Here, Theodore Hamm delves into what one of his publications, Eros, was all about.

The State of Things

I’d like to say a few words about the fucked-up state of things. And I may also ruminate about the things of state—you know, the lies, the money, and all the rest. Figuring out where to begin is almost as much of a problem as where it ends.

In Conversation

Katrina vanden Heuvel with Theodore Hamm

Katrina Vanden Heuvel is now both editor and publisher of the Nation. At the end of November, Rail editor Theodore Hamm sat down with her to discuss the state of the world, and the future of the Nation.

In Conversation

The Left and Air America: Danny Goldberg with Theodore Hamm

Danny Goldberg, former CEO of Artemis Records, is the new CEO of Air America. He is the author of How the Left Lost Teen Spirit, which will be published in paperback this month by Akashic Books. Rail editor Theodore Hamm recently sat down with Goldberg at Air America’s corporate headquarters in Chelsea.

"The President is Not a 'Moron'..."

White House Senior Adviser Karl Rove calls Vice President Dick Cheney to talk about the campaign."Dick." "Yes, Rover." "We’ve got a problem, Dick." "Which one, Rover?"

Notes from Rio

I went down to Rio in mid-March with no agenda other than to soak up some sun and sand and to experience that great city for the first time.

ARCHIVES: Best of a Decade

This October marks 10 years in print for The Brooklyn Rail.

Off the Shelves

On May 4, 1886, Chicago’s anarchists and radical labor leaders gathered in Haymarket Square to protest ongoing police violence against the movement for the eight-hour workday. Although some leaflets in circulation at the event called "workingmen … to arms!!!," most of the speakers at the rally discouraged any resort to violence.

In Conversation

Jonathan Lethem with Theodore Hamm

Over the summer, Jonathan Lethem spoke to the Rail about Fortress of Solitude, his sixth novel. Theodore Hamm (Rail): Your story is set against the backdrop of gentrification. We’re sitting here in Halcyon on Smith Street, a café that sells music along with ’70s furniture. Did you ever think that when you were growing up around here in the ’70s that your neighborhood would become trendy?

In Conversation

John Strausbaugh with Theodore Hamm

John Strausbaugh is the former editor of New York Press. His book Rock ‘Til You Drop (Verso) is now in its second edition. The following conversation took place on a Saturday afternoon in early February 2003, at Montero’s Bar and Grille.

Newfield’s New York

Jack Newfield, Somebody’s Gotta Tell It! The Upbeat Memoir of a Working-Class Journalist (St. Martin’s Press, April 2002) $30 hardcover.

A Pacifist in the Trenches

John Dear’s mission in Living Peace is twofold: to promote spiritual renewal through non-violent collective action.

Race In Brooklyn

The legacy of slavery is written onto the streets of Brooklyn. Lefferts, Boerun, Meserole, Skillman, Pierrepoint—these and many more street names commemorate influential local families who held slaves.

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

I never did make it to see Johnny Cash. My wife Emily, our friend David and I had tickets for his show in Reno, the place he made mythic. It was October of 1997, and although Johnny had already started to take ill, we had no idea it would be one of his last performances.

In Conversation

Echoes of a Bygone 'Burg: TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and Gerard Smith with Theodore Hamm

"You always have this weird thing in the back of your head when you start sculpting something; you want it to flow at least as well as this thing you've read," says TVOTR's Tunde Adebimpe.

Interview With Edward Bunker

In Education of a Felon (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), Edward Bunker describes growing up on the fringes of 1930s Hollywood, where his father worked as a stagehand and his mother danced in Busby Berkeley musicals. Bunker, though, soon fell adrift in the world of make-believe.

Everyday People

Sometimes the biggest issues can only be dealt with in the smallest stories.

Hank Thompson’s Blues

You might not remember me, and if you did, you’d probably rather forget me. Most days, I’d rather forget myself. Problem is, I can’t.

Hank Thompson’s Blues

You might not remember me, and if you did, you’d probably rather forget me. Most days, I’d rather forget myself. Problem is, I can’t.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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