Monday, March 28, 2011

Malalai Joya allowed visa, calls for US withdrawal

Recently, the US government refused a visa to Afghan activist Malalai Joya for a trip to the US to promote the sescond edition of her autobiography, A Woman Among Warlords. Following a public outcry, the Obama administration has relented and allowed Joya into our country. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Joya on Monday morning. Part I of the interview describes the recent situation in Afghanistan and why the US government initially denied Joya entrance into the US. In Part II of the interview, Joya calls for the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Egypt faces possible counter-revolution

Blogger Mark Levine on Opinion - Al Jazeera English interviews Egyptian pro-democracy activists who fear for the future of their revolution. One of these activists, Ramy Essam, was arrested and tortured by Egyptian security forces last week.
Ramy: What most people who have heard of what happened to me do not realise is that I was not there protesting that day. I was actually on my way to a concert downtown, but while I was on my way, I heard sounds and attacks coming from Tahrir, so I rushed there to see what is going on. I saw the army attacking the people on one hand, and on the other hand there was that group of thugs, pointing out certain people to the army officers so they would arrest them, and they pointed me out too, so I got arrested.

I decided to stay calm and not react in any violent way and see what happens when I meet the higher rank officers and talk to them to see what is going on. But as soon as we entered the museum, for 4 hours they kept beating us constantly, stripped us, shocked us with teaser guns, and even cut my pony tail. They were beating me so hard; at one point they held me on the floor and one of the officers jumped up in the air and then landed with his both feet right on my face.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Supporting one dictator while bombing another

Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman discusses the US government's covert support for the dictatorship in Yemen with author and journalist Jeremy Scahill. On Friday, the forces of President Ali Abudullah Saleh killed 45 people and wounded 350 when they fired into a peaceful demonstration in the capital of Sana’a. This massacre prompted the resignation of a dozen of Yemen's top military leaders on Monday. Jeremy Scahill describes how President Saleh, a master manipulator, cooperated with the US "War on Terror" in order to defuse the hostility of George W. Bush--and used US aid to attack his own internal opponents. The clip takes about nine minutes to watch, and it's fascinating:

Look at this way cool Web site

I'm talking about the Web site of MADRE :: Demanding Rights, Resources & Results for Women Worldwide. When I visited the site, they had excellent analyses of the US war in Afghanistan, a shelter for rape survivors in Haiti, the situation of women in Guatemala, the pro-democracy movement in Iraq, and the work of the Zenab women's organization in Sudan.

I discovered this website by following a link to this thoughtful post about the situation in Libya, posted on Facebook by Feminist Peace Network.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Libya Dilemma

Once again, a US president has launched military action against a brutal tyrant that our government previously courted as a friend. The contradictory history of the US government's relationship with Libya raises serious questions about whether the US can be trusted to intervene in Libya in a helpful way. As a feminist, I wonder why macho strategies involving missiles and bombs are promoted as the most effective way of dealing with foreign dictatorships?

The editors of The Nation pointed out recently that creating a "no-fly zone" is far from a foolproof plan for helping Libya's pro-democracy rebels. There is a serious risk of civilian casualties, and military action can divert attention from other, more effective means of pressure:
Financially strangling the regime by cutting off all sources of money from abroad, sharing real-time intelligence with the rebels, working with others to facilitate the flow of assistance to them while stopping the flow of pro-Qaddafi mercenaries into the country, if done in cooperation with the Arab League, all have as much or more promise with less risk than does the far more dramatic gesture of a no-fly zone.
Veteran journalist Robert Fisk argues that the motive for these military strikes is racist and imperialist rather than benevolent:
Yes, Gaddafi is completely bonkers, flaky, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad of Iran and Lieberman of Israel – who once, by the way, drivelled on about how Mubarak could "go to hell" yet quaked with fear when Mubarak was indeed hurtled in that direction. And there is a racist element in all this.

The Middle East seems to produce these ravers – as opposed to Europe, which in the past 100 years has only produced Berlusconi, Mussolini, Stalin and the little chap who used to be a corporal in the 16th List Bavarian reserve infantry, but who went really crackers when he got elected in 1933 – but now we are cleaning up the Middle East again and can forget our own colonial past in this sandpit. And why not, when Gaddafi tells the people of Benghazi that "we will come, 'zenga, zenga' (alley by alley), house by house, room by room." Surely this is a humanitarian intervention that really, really, really is a good idea. After all, there will be no "boots on the ground".

Of course, if this revolution was being violently suppressed in, say, Mauritania, I don't think we would be demanding no-fly zones. Nor in Ivory Coast, come to think of it. Nor anywhere else in Africa that didn't have oil, gas or mineral deposits or wasn't of importance in our protection of Israel, the latter being the real reason we care so much about Egypt.
Fisk's analysis rings true to me. As horrified as I am by Qaddafi's atrocities, when I think back over the history of US military intervention in my lifetime, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan (to mention a very few instances), it has not gone well. Before this weekend, my country was already immersed in two undeclared wars. Now, as John Nichols points out, we've got a third. Nichols says that the results are as corrosive to our own democracy as they are destructive to the people we are purporting to help. I agree with him.

Finally, this morning Democracy Now! broadcast an interesting analysis of how the US government has orchestrated the war against Qaddafi under the cloak of a UN Security Council Resolution.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

US government censors Afghan woman activist

Can it happen here? reports that the US government has refused to allow Afghani feminist and peace activist Malalai Joya to enter the US to promote her book A Woman among Warlords. As blogger Janinsanfran notes:
Apparently the current State Department doesn't want people in this country to hear from a distinctive Afghan voice -- a woman's voice at that -- opposing our war in Afghanistan. Several Congress members are pushing for a reversal of the denial of Joya's visa.

Now that we live in age of YouTube, visa deniers have a harder time keeping us from hearing people they wish they could silence. Here's a clip of Malalai Joya taking on some folks who are a lot more dangerous than the average US consular flunky. At Afghanistan's Constitutional Assembly nearly a decade ago, she denounced war lords who intended to keep their power by becoming politicians under the newly imposed regime. Her daring act was electrifying; the response was ugly.
Here is the video Janinsanfran posted so you can judge for yourself:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who's afraid of radical feminism?

Jonathan Dean has an interesting analysis of radical feminism in the context of the case of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Dean questions the idea that Assange couldn't get a fair trial because Sweden's chief prosecutor is allegedly a "malicious radical feminist."
So what is radical feminism? Historically, radical feminism was a specific strand of the feminist movement that emerged in Europe and North America in the late 1960s. Distinctive to this strand was its emphasis on the role of male violence against women in the creation and maintenance of gender inequality (as argued by the likes of Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon). And while a minority of radical feminists – most infamously Valerie Solanas – were hostile to men, radical feminism was much more instrumental in generating widespread support for campaigns around issues such as rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.

However, in Britain at least, radical feminism has never been particularly dominant, partly because – in the eyes of many socialist and postcolonial feminists – it has been insufficiently attentive to the intersections between gender inequality and other categories, such as race and class. So Rod Liddle's peddling of the tiresome rightwing idea that radical feminism has destroyed the family, along with Dominic Raab's assault on "feminist bigotry" and the Vatican's efforts to address "distortions" caused by radical feminism, rest on at least two implausible assumptions. First, they reduce feminism to a horrifying caricature that never really existed and second, they make the frankly bizarre suggestion that radical feminism is the dominant ideology of our times. It would seem that not only do these radical feminists commit the outrage of not wearing makeup, but they use the time this frees up to consolidate their world domination. Or an alternative explanation might be that these are the paranoid anxieties of fearful anti-feminists.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Iowa woman jailed for thinking about abortion

Thanks to Feminist Peace Network for a link to this story about an Iowa woman who was thrown in jail after confiding some of her thoughts and fears about her pregnancy to an emergency room nurse. Christine Taylor had become light-headed and fallen down a flight of stairs in her home. As blogger fiver explains:
Yes, as if Ms. Taylor's existing problems weren't enough, the anti-choice zealots got her jailed for 2 days for thinking of having an abortion, even though she voluntarily went to the ER to assure the health of her fetus. Funny how "pro-lifers" have never met a victim they don't want to punish. After three weeks, the District Attorney declined to prosecute, but not because of the obvious encroachment on a woman's right to choose (similar laws for which this woman was held exist in 37 states), but because she was only in her second trimester, and not third when she fell.
Fiver provides a link to the original story on

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Register NOW to vote in OKC council runoff April 5

If you live in Oklahoma City Council Ward 2, you'll have the opportunity to vote in a runoff election April 5. The candidates will be BancFirst Senior Vice President Charlie Swinton and Dr. Ed Shadid. If you're not already registered to vote, you need to have your voter registration form postmarked by tomorrow, March 11, if you want to vote in this run-off.  According to the Oklahoma Elections Board "Voter registration applications are available at your County Election Board, post offices, tag agencies, libraries and many other public locations."  Or you can download a voter registration form right here.

How can you tell if you're in Ward 2?  In general, Ward 2 is bounded on the north by Northwest 122nd Street, on the south by Northwest 23rd Street. For the most part, the eastern boundary is I-235, and the western boundary is Portland Avenue. If you want to be sure, you can consult this handy map.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why does OKC have so little citizen involvement?

Last week's Oklahoma City election for city council members was, by local standards, a high-profile event. The Sooner Tea Party and the firefighter's union jointly supported two candidates. The local business elite had its own de facto slate of candidates, funded in part by the shadowy Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum.

All this excitement drew droves of voters to the polls March 1, according to In this case, "droves of voters" translates into oh, eleven or twelve percent of registered voters.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Oklahoma City has less citizen involvement in local government than any place I've ever lived. Is it because ordinary people who want to be politically involved use their limited time to work on state and national issues? It is because of a lack of high-quality journalism covering local political issues?

I moved here from western Oregon nine years ago, and frankly, I don't get nostalgic for the place very often. It rained eight months out of the year, and despite its liberal reputation, it was infested with neo-Nazis and the anti-gay, anti-woman Oregon Citizens Alliance. But one thing Oregon did have--at least in Eugene, where I lived--was widespread citizen involvement in local issues. The business elite usually triumphed in the end, but at least we put up a fight.

As far as I can tell, there were two concrete differences between Oklahoma City and Eugene.

First, in Eugene, city council meetings were held in the evening. When controversial issues came up, those meetings were sometimes very well attended. In Oklahoma City, by contrast, city council meetings take place on Tuesday mornings. In all the years I've been here, I've never been to a city council meeting. Have you?

Second, in Eugene, city council elections are held in even years, when voters are also voting for statewide and national elected offices. In Oklahoma City, city council members are elected in off-year elections when fewer voters are likely to head to the polls.

But are these two things causes of low citizen participation, or are they an effect?  I would sure appreciate any comments from anyone who has some insight into this situation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mainstream Politics 101

Rachel Maddow actually makes a good case that the two mainstream political parties are not exactly like. Who would have thunk it?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Economic Justice 101

I like this post that picked up from the Guardian. Richard D. Wolff, an emeritus economics professor form the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explains how lower taxes on the ultra-rich have made life worse for the rest of us. For instance:
the richest Americans take the money they don't pay in taxes and invest it in hedge funds and with stockbrokers to make profitable investments. These days, that often means speculating in oil and food, which drives up their prices, undermines economic recovery for the mass of Americans, and produces acute suffering around the globe. Those hedge funds and brokers likewise use part of the money rich people save from taxes to speculate in the US stock markets. That has recently driven stock prices higher: hence, the stock market recovery. And that mostly helps – you guessed it – the richest Americans who own most of the stocks.

The one kind of significant wealth average Americans own, if they own any, is their individual home. And home values remain deeply depressed: no recovery there.

Cutting the taxes on the rich in no way guarantees social benefits from what they may choose to do with their money. Indeed, their choices can worsen economic conditions for the mass of people. These days, that is exactly what they are doing.
The whole post is well worth reading. Professor Wolff also has an interesting web site.