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.


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:

Danny Hoch and Seinfeld

November 26, 2006

We can chock up this post as another comment from the peanut gallery about the whole Seinfeld/Kramer/Michael Richards spectacle. In this linked video Danny Hock who, for better or worse puts his leftism to a hip hop beat, tells his experience of being asked to do a “Ramon the pool boy” character on the Seinfeld show.

I occassionally watched Seinfeld and thought it was funny in a meaningless sort of way, which is to say it wasn’t my favorite style of humor. Humor is pretty subjective and I guess my personal preference is for comedians who throw sometimes uncomfortable ideas into the audience’s lap. I guess I prefer people like Chris Rock, George Carlin, and certainly Richard Pryor who could make people squirm a bit. Borat made me laugh pretty hard and I did feel a little guilty at my enjoyment at the lack of compassion he showed for his victims. Anyways to each his own.

Oakland Murders and Milton Friedman

November 24, 2006

When it comes to talking negative about the recently departed, I’m generally for biting one’s lip. Uncle Milt, the world’s best known free market fundamentalist is probably an exception to the rule, but I’ll let others do that honor. As Johann Hari points out, Friedman probably got one thing right: the war on drugs is a failure. Friedman estimated that 10,000 homicides in the US are caused by drug prohibition. It’s no secret that the majority of Oakland homicides usually have drugs somehere in the mix of motivations. So while most of the advanced economies of the world move towards various policies of decriminalization and harm reduction, the US seems forever trapped in its failed policy. Even Mexico, who some might not think as progressive in terms drug policy, got within a presidential veto (with no small amount of pressure from Bush) of legalizing small amounts of drugs.

Anyways Johann Hari on Friedman’s slap down on the war on drugs: