Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silence is not golden

Killing Activists in Honduras:
“As a revolutionary I will be today, tomorrow and forever on the front lines of my people, all the while knowing that I may lose my life.” - Walter Trochez, 25, murdered in Tegucigalpa on 12/13/09

The bodies of slain activists are piling up in Honduras. While it’s being kept quiet in most Honduran and international media, the rage is building among a dedicated network of friends spreading the word quickly with the tragic announcement of each compañero/a.

Now that the world heard from mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times of a “clean and fair” election on Nov. 29 (orchestrated by the US-supported junta currently in power), the violence has increased even faster than feared.

The specific targets of these killings have been those perceived as the biggest threats to the coup establishment. The bravest, and thus the most vulnerable: Members of the Popular Resistance against the coup. Their friends and family. People who provide the Resistance with food and shelter. Teachers, students, and ordinary citizens who simply recognize the fallacy of an un-elected regime taking over their country. All associated with the Resistance have faced constant and growing repercussions for their courage in protesting the coup. With the international community given the green light by the US that democratic order has returned via elections, it’s open season for violent forces in Honduras working to tear apart the political unity of the Resistance Front against the coup.

The killings are happening almost faster than they can be recorded.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, a group of six people were gunned down while walking down the street in the Villanueva neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. According to sources, a white van with no license plates stopped in front of the group. Four masked men jumped out of the van and forced the group to get on the ground, where they were shot. The five victims who were killed were:

· Marcos Vinicio Matute Acosta, 39
· Kennet Josué Ramírez Rosa, 23
· Gabriel Antonio Parrales Zelaya, 34
· Roger Andrés Reyes Aguilar, 22
· Isaac Enrique Soto Coello, 24

One woman, Wendy Molina, 32, was shot several times and played dead when one of the assassins pulled her hair, checking to see if anyone in the group was still alive. She was taken to the hospital and survived.

The Honduran independent newspaper El Libertador reports that the group members were all organizers against the coup. According to a resident in the area, “The boys had organized committees so that the neighbors could get involved in the Resistance Front.”

This massacre was part of a string of Resistance-related murders during the past few weeks alone. On December 3, Walter Trochez, 25 a well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was snatched off the street and thrown into a van, again by four masked men, in downtown Tegucigalpa. In the report that he later filed to local and national authorities, Walter said he was interrogated for hours for information on Resistance members and activities, and was beaten in the face with a pistol for refusing to speak. He was told that he would be killed regardless, and he eventually escaped by throwing open the van door, falling into the street, and running away.

Make sure to read the rest. Of course a right-wing government installed under very shady circumstances suits the US government just fine - it's what our elites refer to as "democracy." The casualties, however, of this form of "democracy" demand justice. Their voices deserve to be heard.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We definitely come from different planets

I caught this quote as I was checking through a few of my favorite news sites and feeds:
I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era – peace, tolerance, due process, progress (as opposed to skepticism about human perfectibility).
What I find fascinating among movement conservatives is that they seem so pessimistic about humanity that they cannot fathom the notion that digging on such concepts as peace, tolerance, due process and progress and having some skepticism about human perfectibility are far from mutually exclusive. Speaking only for myself, I find both quite compatible, and I'm more in the radical lefty camp. Maybe it was all that exposure to the existentialist writings of people like Sartre or Fanon when I was an undergraduate, where the conversation on "human nature" for lack of a better term was decidedly neutral. Like a lot of existentialists and existentialist-influenced individuals, I tend to share that neutrality. I don't see members of my species as perfectible, nor as inherently evil, but merely as a mixed back that simply is. One thing else that I learned from those early influences on my thinking was simply that the lack of peace, tolerance, and due process coincide with a great deal of violence; and we each make choices with our words and deeds that will influence the extent to which there might be peace and tolerance or violence in its myriad forms (interpersonal, organizational, structural) practically with every breath we take.

Phenomena such as conflict, misunderstandings, and general fuck-ups are going to happen as long as our species exists. However, perceiving those happenings from a value system that places primacy on peace (or nonviolence), tolerance, and due process increase the odds of handling them with hopefully minimal damage, or even with all parties involved better for the experience. Coming at the same situations from a vantage point that already expects the worst strikes me as something that would lead to some nasty self-fulfilling prophecies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

These roads make driving in Oklahoma City seem like a walk in the park

10 of the world's most dangerous roads (h/t BLCKDGRD).

Same sex marriage legalized

in Mexico City. The city, unlike the federal government, is dominated by the leftist PRD. The usual suspects - the Catholic Church and conservative groups - lobbied against it. Just to give you a run-down of where same sex marriage is legal on the American continents:
A handful of cities in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia permit gay unions.

Uruguay alone has legalised civil unions nationwide and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.

Last month, an Argentinean court narrowly blocked what would been the continent's first gay marriage.

In a last-minute challenge, a court referred the case to the country's Supreme Court, which is due to rule on the issue.
Baby steps, to be sure. Still it's nice to see some progress in the name of civil rights and dignity.

Monday, December 21, 2009

National mythology and dog whistles

I ran into this very interesting essay over at BroadSnark, White America's Existential Crisis. The author writes a great deal on some themes I've touched upon briefly since late 2008. A few excerpts are in order:
There is a certain segment of the American population that really believes in the American foundational myths.  They identify with them.  They believe that America was built by a handful of white, Christian, men with exceptional morals.  Their America is the country that showed the world democracy, saved the Jews in World War II, and tore down the Berlin wall.

These people have always fought changes to their mythology.  They have always resented those of us who pushed to complicate those myths with the realities of slavery, Native American genocide, imperial war in the Philippines, invasions of Latin American countries, and secret arms deals.

And we have been so busy fighting them to have our stories and histories included in the American story that we sometimes forget why the myths were invented in the first place.

[snip]

Marginalization and myths have always been about economic exploitation.  White supremacy is not simply personal bigotry.  It is the systematic exclusion, dehumanization, and erasure of the majority in order to preserve economic dominance for the wealthy minority.  And while white men may be in most positions of wealth and power to this day, only a very few of them really benefit from our current economic system.  White supremacy helped distract poor and working class whites from targeting their economic exploiters.  White supremacy helped mask the lie of equal opportunity.

[snip]

When Americans vote for a president, they want to see that heroic version of themselves looking back at them.  They want to see that free cowboy of the mythology.  No matter how poor or exploited white people were, they could always take subconscious comfort in the fact that, when they looked at the highest power in the land, they saw an idealized version of themselves.

And then came Barack Obama.

Pop.

It’s a powerful thing to be able to identify with the people who are your leaders, to feel like they are one of you.  It’s a feeling that many people in the United States felt for the first time when Barack Obama was elected.  It’s equally powerful when your elected leaders are clearly not like you, when the fact that they do not represent you is glaringly obvious.

[snip]

Many of these angry people are the very white, Christian, men that this country was supposedly built by and for.  And this is the first time the myth of America has been unmasked for them.


Undoubtedly, there are some bigots out there who are just angry that they have a black president.  Clearly, even for those who don’t feel motivated by personal bigotry, there is a healthy dose of racism underlying the fact that it took a black president for them to realize that their government is as dysfunctional as it is.  But I doubt the people we are talking about have an understanding of the difference between bigotry and racism.

And I don’t believe it is just blackness that makes Barack Obama different and symbolic.  It is also his intellectual cosmopolitanism.  He is a symbol of the privilege that is replacing whiteness – the educated professional/managerial class.  And there is a significant amount of animosity directed towards those people who justify their privilege by virtue of their intellect.

And so these people who have lost their foundational myths are out in the streets.  They are using all the synonyms for “bad” that our pathetic school system and media have taught them – communist, fascist, totalitarian, socialist, nazi.  All the words are interchangeable.  They all mean not American.  They all mean not them.
That I believe is the key to understanding something about the psychological makeup of a large portion of the American population, and to understanding their dog whistles. Structurally, we're still a highly racist and classist nation, and it's no surprise that our national myths reflect and support the structure. For those who've found some comfort in our mythology, the recent election of a leader who doesn't quite fit the mold has caused a near meltdown - not only among the obvious hard right, but also among some elements of the PUMA crowd from the 2008 silly season.

Now of course I might have some quibbles. However, whatever quibbles I might have aside, there is no doubt that the Pope of Hope symbolically represents a different demographic than our aging and shrinking WASP population. It is against that backdrop that we might best understand what is really being said by those who shout about "taking back their America" from "socialists", "Nazis", "Islamists", or whatever flavor of the month label one might use (a sizable proportion of the Tea Party crowd), or who make endless demands for the current prez to produce a birth certificate (i.e., the birthers, whom I might add could be transported back in time to the very delivery room where Obama would have been born in Hawaii, and witness the appropriate paperwork being signed and submitted, and still remain unsatisfied).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Due process is dead. Long live due process.

What was already on life support thanks to Bu$hCo is now officially dead:
If the president or one of his subordinates declares someone to be an “enemy combatant” (the 21st century version of “enemy of the state”) he is denied any protection of the law. So any trouble-maker (which means anyone) can be whisked away, incarcerated, tortured, “disappeared,” you name it. Floyd’s commentary:
After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
It is hard to overstate the significance of this horrid decision. The fact that the Supreme Court authorized this land grab says we no longer have an independent judiciary, that the Supreme Court itself is gutting the protections supposedly provided by the legal system. Per Floyd:
In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.
Now Floyd saw this mainly as an issue of the treatment of enemy combatants and Obama hypocrisy about torture, which is bad enough:
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of “national emergency.” And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
And yet this is what Barack Obama — who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer — has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution….let’s be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand — in court — that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities.
Yves here. The implications are FAR worse. Anyone can be stripped, with NO RECOURSE, of all their legal rights on a Presidential say so. Readers in the US no longer have any security under the law.

Some new links

The Copenhagen climate summit is something I've had to follow from the sidelines. Well, we know that it ended with very underwhelming results. In fact, if we look at the possible scenarios that face our planet over the remainder of this century, the scenario (h/t The Oil Drum) currently considered most probable (where our planet's average temperature goes up 3 degrees Celsius) is downright awful. Well, knowing that this is a pressing concern that will not go away, I've added a new section  called "Climate Action and Info" (go to the right sidebar and scroll down). For now, all I have are 350.org, The Climateers, It's Getting Hot in Here, The Climate Community, and Climate Indymedia.

Quotable

A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate.
Those words come from dissident Iranian Ayatollah Montazeri, who died today at 87. The egalitarian in me would probably split hairs about condemning only the jailing of the "enlightened and elite of society for false reasons" - jailing anyone regardless of their education or societal prominence is sufficient to make a government's legitimacy suspect. Beyond that, though, those are words to live by.

Bigotry rears its ugly head

This comment grabbed me:
A professor I studied with when I was in grad school was murdered in his office a few weeks ago. I went to his hometown newspaper to read his obituary, expecting to find anecdotes and memories of a kind and gentle academic.

Unfortunately, the grad student who stabbed him to death was an Arab (as was Professor Antoun, who was an Arab-American and a Unitarian).

I was shocked by what I found. The comments were past inappropriate, exploiting a tragedy to spew vile accusations against Arabs and Muslims. These geniuses also assumed that the victim was Jewish or a tall blond, blue eyed Scandinavian (!). When I googled his name I was directed to Michele Malkin’s blog where some of the postings were word for word identical with the comments from the obituary comments.

As I get older, I’ve become convinced that in the end civility is the only thing that maintains our humanity. God help the Republic.
Really I don't think I could add much more here.