Archive for December, 2006

Oakland’s #1 Youth Killer: Murder

December 20, 2006

Last week the Oakland tribune reported the very depressing fact that homicide is the #1 killer of youth in Alameda County at about 3 times the national rate. Considering that there are many cities in Alameda county that have few or no murders, you can imagine that the statistics are actually even grimmer for Oakland and even more specifically Oakland’s young black (and to a lesser extent Latino) men.

So let me skip to the recent killing of Sean Bell in NYC by the NYPD, which is certainly an issue to be concerned about. Many progressives rightly bring up the issue about the (lack of) value for black life in America and in particular treatment of blacks by the police. I hope the family of Bell’s can achieve some modicum of justice in that situation.

Which makes me wonder, where’s the progressive outrage at the urban carnage taking place in cities like Oakland? For every unjustified cop killing there are hundreds of everyday homicides of urban residents, with young, black males the primary victims (as well as the perpertrators). Oakland is currently on an early 90’s and near record homicide clip this year. Again where’s the outrage?

to be continued later…. Here’s the tribune article. Here.

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Iranian Student Protests

December 20, 2006

I had a somewhat random conservation with an anti-authoritarian leftist Iranian guy who had recently spent a fair amount of time in Tehran. His report was that their was significant hatred of the Iranian regime and that all Tehran over young people were rejecting religion. He mentioned that blogging was a popular (and risky activity) among regime oppositionists. I’ve read that their are estimates of around 80,000 to 100,000 blogs happening in Iran. Here’s some videos on the recent student protests against Iran’s president Ahmadinejad.

Hat Tip: Harry’s Place

Two critiques of “What’s the Matter with Kansas”

December 16, 2006

While I’ve liked Tom Frank’s journal “The Baffler”, I generally think his politics, which I’ll sum up simplistically as bringing back the New Deal via the democrat party, is going to go nowhere quick. While I’m all for the American left to have a lot more class-oriented politics, Frank’s economic populism ain’t the ticket. Here’s two writers who argue with Frank’s analysis from his book “What’s the Matter with Kansas”:

Larry Bartel’s “What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter with Kansas”

And from the recently deceased Ellen Willis “What’s the Matter with Tom Frank (and the lefties who love him)”

La Muerte y La Doncella

December 12, 2006

Recommended Reading: Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden (La Muerte Y La Doncella) is a short play about a torture victim, who confronts a man who she alleges (but never saw) to be her former torturer and rapist. Her husband, is a doctor has been named to the country’s human rights commission to investigate past abuses. He doubts his wife story and acts as the defendent’s lawyer in a sort of mock trial. The tension builds as to whether the accused is guilty and to what type of justice is going to be met out. The story takes place in an unnamed Latin America country, which is assumed to be based on Dorfman’s home country of Chile where Pinochet’s reign of terror was unleashed.

Machuca: A review of the 2004 Chilean film

December 11, 2006

A common misunderstanding among Americans leftists/liberals is that Chile’s former dictator Pinochet was simply a product of the CIA. While the US government and Kissinger certainly had their bloody hands on the 1973 Chilean coup, the 2004 Chilean movie Machuca harshly dramatizes the class conflict that was happening within Chilean society that led up to Chile’s 9-11, the 1973 coup.

In brief the movie is about some poor Chilean kids, including one named Machuca, that get enrolled into a private school of primarily middle and upper class students. The background is the social conflict that is breaking out in 1973 Chile and how this entwines with two children from starkly different backgrounds who become friends. A progressive priest tries to mediate some of this the conflict at the school, but throughout Chile things escalate until the brutal coup.

The movie demonstates that a big portion of Chile’s middle and upper classes supported Pinochet. Pinochet wasn’t simply a US puppet but had a large social base within Chile. Pinochet was the man who once said, “Human rights is a marxist invention”. For his supporters in the “better” classes Pinochet was the man who saved Chile from communism, and where the ends justified the means– 3,000 murdered and 30,000 tortured.

Recommended.

Pinche Pinochet is dead

December 11, 2006

Last night I walked by La Pena, a Berkeley cultural center that was established in 1973 for Chileans fleeing Pinochet’s terror. There were some TV cameras, 3 dozen or so people, and a banner out front saying something like justice was denied in regards to putting Pinochet on trial. I imagine the pain still runs deep, 30 some odd years later, for those who escaped Pinochet’s torture chambers.

I don’t have much to offer in commentary that isn’t going to be said better by others about the death of Pinochet. I would recommend checking out Marc Cooper, Salvadore Allende’s former translator for some perspective here.

Letter from Afghanistan (it’s bad there too)

December 10, 2006

Many Afghans are turning toward the Taliban writes Anja Haveda an editor with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in Kabul. From the online journal Democratiya go here.

Iraqi Refugees– 2.3 Million of ’em

December 10, 2006

And the news out of Iraq keeps going from grim to grimmer. Refugees International has put out recently a report here that there are now 2.3 million Iraqi refugees with 1.8 million having left the country and another 500,000 internally displaced. Since Iraq’s population numbers around 27 million that’s nearing 10% of the population. And I have more than a little feeling that this is going to get a whole lot worse as the civil war escalates.

Most of the refugees leaving Iraq are locating themselves in neighboring Jordan and Syria, while Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have closed the door. Human Rights Watch has a report here on the situation of Iraqi refugees face in Jordan.

I recently heard somebody compare Iraq to Humpty-Dumpty, as in it’s impossible to put something like this (Iraqi society) back together after all the chaos that has been unleashed by the Iraqi war. I don’t have any answers in that department, but I would say that the U.S. has a responsibilty to deal with the Iraqi refugees. The anti-war movement, for what its worth, should raise the demand for opening our country for resettlement and also reparations payments. As Colin Powell said, “You break it, you own it.”

Bitch Lab Hacked

December 7, 2006

In the very brief life of this blog, I have had exactly one (glorious) comment left here. That was from the blogger who does the blog Bitch Lab, which I would describe as a perpetually mouthy piece of left-wing feminism with a sex-positive punch.

Anyways I’ve posted a few comments over there, the last one supporting the idea of putting nails into the coffin of Leninism (as in Vladmir Lenin). It looked as though an argument was about to breakout between me and a leninist defender of Hezbollah and the Iraqi resistance. Unfortunately before I got to let loose a little diatribe, Bitch Lab went offline. Apparently some knucklehead who doesn’t like Bitch Lab decided to hack her website, by leveling a DoS attack (whatever that is) on her server.

That’s uncool!

So anyways here’s her blog. I think she might appreciate a donation, also.

Darfur: A political not military solution is needed

December 3, 2006

Alex de Waal, a member of the African Union mediation team, advocates for a political solution in Darfur in the most recent issue of the London Review of Books

He writes:

Military intervention won’t stop the killing. Those who are clamouring for troops to fight their way into Darfur are suffering from a salvation delusion. It’s a simple reality that UN troops can’t stop an ongoing war, and their record at protecting civilians is far from perfect. Moreover, the idea of Bush and Blair acting as global moral arbiters doesn’t travel well. The crisis in Darfur is political. It’s a civil war, and like all wars it needs a political settlement. Late in the night of 16 November Kofi Annan chaired a meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa at which he, the AU and the UN Security Council reaffirmed this basic fact. When he promised to bring the government of Sudan and the rebels who are still fighting around the table within weeks, the outgoing UN secretary general was adopting a simple and correct rationale: fix the politics first and the peacekeeping will follow. It’s not a distant hope: the political differences are small.

Long neglected conflicts first exploded in February 2003, when the newly formed Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) launched guerrilla raids on government garrisons, and the government responded with its well-tested counter-insurgency tool of unleashing militia – in this case the Janjawiid, drawn from Darfur’s indigenous Arabs. It was three years before a workable peace agreement was tabled. And it very nearly succeeded. Everything hinged on a few weeks this May, when the Darfur Peace Agreement was finalised and signed by the Sudan government and one of the rebel factions. Continued here: