This week, articles critique the spotty broadband coverage in the United States, our complacent foreign policy in the Middle East, the idealistic education proposals in Barack Obama's State of the Union address and the role of police abuse in creating vigilantes like Christopher Dorner.
— Alleen Brown focuses on education.
“Behind Obama's SOTU Remarks on Vocational Education, Germany, and American High Schools,” by Dana Goldstein. DanaGoldstein.net, February 12, 2013.
Dana Goldstein unpacks some of Obama's State of the Union education proposals, asking how he will pay for expensive high school vocational training and universal preschool. She calls out Obama's anomalous highlighting of the "radically different" German education system, which she said puts only one-third of the country's students on track to attend a liberal arts college.
— James Cersonsky focuses on labor and education.
“Demand Rights, Don’t Ask Nicely,” by Michelle Chen. CultureStrike (via Cuéntame), February 11, 2013.
What would immigration reform look like if it were actually driven by immigrant justice? Here, Cuéntame puts aside the "lawyerly squabble" and demands real talk.
— Catherine Defontaine focuses on war, security and peace-related issues, African and French politics, peacekeeping and the link between conflicts and natural resources.
“UN condemns North Korea nuclear test.” Al Jazeera, February 13, 2013.
North Korea’s underground nuclear test has sparked off international anger and worldwide condemnation. This third nuclear test involved a new “miniaturized” device and the explosion was significantly larger than North Korea’s previous tests in 2006 and 2009. The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea’s test, which was in violation of Security Council resolutions. Even China, North Korea’s staunchest ally, has asked the country to cease its bellicosity as China intends to improve its relationship with the United States.
— Andrew Epstein focuses on social history, colonialism and indigenous rights.
“American Blowback,” by George Ciccariello-Maher and Mike King. CounterPunch, February 8-10, 2013.
Few would try to excuse the actions of Christopher Dorner, the ex-police officer and NAVY reservist whom the LAPD likely burned to death Tuesday night after he allegedly killed at least four people. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand the context in which they occurred. From repressing the urban movements of the 1960s to this year's "Jump Out Boys," the LAPD "has long played a vanguard role in white supremacist policing in the United States," as the authors put it. If Dorner's manifesto is to be believed—and the LAPD's sordid history certainly makes it plausible—he witnessed and was targeted by years of systemic racism, violence and corruption. Instead of investigating his claims, they fired him. Meanwhile, one of Rodney King's assailants remains a police captain. As occupations grind on both at home and abroad, expect more Christopher Dorners.
— Luis Feliz focuses on ideas and debates within the left, social movements and culture.
“The Communist Hypothesis,” by Alain Badiou. New Left Review, January-February 2008.
In a cogent essay in 2008, Badiou analyzed the presidential victory of Nicolas Sarkozy through what he called the "fear of fear." Though intended to shed light on French politics, this “fear of fear” may also illuminate how the Democratic Party has come to represent the only alternative in this country. For one, Obama’s re-election was a vote of fear to keep the reactionary Republicans at bay, but on the international front his second term meant something entirely different; the looming fear of a terrorist threat renewed the president’s imperial mandate with the broad support of the mainstream left and the tacit consent of the populist right. From an international vantage point, Obama’s re-election was a vote for a cop that can keep us safe and secure not only from terrorists, and reactionaries, but from fear itself. It is in this the context that we can best interpret the legal memos controversy.
— Elana Leopold focuses on the Middle East, its relations with the US and Islam.
“Chas Freeman to the Middle East Policy Council: ‘American diplomacy has been running on fumes for some time. It is now totally out of gas,’” by Annie Robbins. Mondoweiss, February 13, 2013.
Chas Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, offers a smart, wide-ranging critique of current Middle East foreign policy. Placing Israel's self-destructive domestic policy, as well as American complacency, at the epicenter of a failing and unstable approach to the region, Freeman argues that the US must fundamentally reconsider its tact. Employing examples from Egypt, Turkey and Syria, among others, Freeman explains that, given recent regional upheaval, even formerly dependable allies with overlapping short-term goals have largely divergent long-term interests. Freeman's description of the current Egyptian administration—a shift away from Pro-Israeli and American Mubarak-era policies—while certainly accurate, is interesting in light of Egypt demolishing tunnels used to circumvent the Gaza blockade, and Morsi's continued interaction with the IMF in lieu of localized policy making.
— Alec Luhn focuses on East European and Eurasian affairs, especially issues of good governance, human rights and activism.
“From Guilt to Sickness, Part I: Looking for Plague in All the Right Places,” by James T. Hong. E-flux, February 2013.
The author follows the traces of the infamous Unit 731 almost like a holocaust tourist on a trip to Zhejiang Province, China, for a ceremony memorializing the Japanese biological attacks there. The diary format seems to remove many of the usual lenses from between the reader and the storyteller, leaving Hong's undisguised impressions to strike a blundering yet incisive chord. I liked the tension: A distant undercurrent of xenophobia seems to flow through the interactions between the Japanese and Chinese (and the American narrator), threatening but never quite bubbling up to the surface. The local professors and students are preoccupied with how to apply in the twenty-first century the Russian revolutionaries' undying question "Who is to blame?" given the failure to prosecute the perpetrators of one of history's great atrocities. Meanwhile the "left-wing" Japanese on the tour seem to wrestle with an ill-defined, awkward sense of guilt, alternately too complacent or too overbearing as they peer through their unblinking cameras. It is this inheritance of guilt that the narrator ultimately discusses.
— Leticia Miranda focuses on race, gender, telecommunications and media reform.
“DC think tank tells Americans that their broadband is really great,” by Cyrus Farivar. Ars Technica, February 13, 2013.
Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica took a short-sighted report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and turned it into an opportunity to break down some myths about the quality of broadband Internet in the US. The report seems to be loaded with wonky tech language and Farivar effectively translates some of these terms for users to understand the foundation's unqualified arguments. While the article doesn't explain every detail like the differences in broadband speeds or the difference between fiber broadband and wireless, it's a good place to start deconstructing some of the myths of US broadband Internet.
— Brendan O’Connor focuses on media criticism and pop culture.
“Don’t Be a Stranger,” by Adrian Chen. The New Inquiry, February 13, 2013.
New Inquiry editor and Gawker staff writer Adrian Chen offers a personal counter-narrative to the recent outburst of skepticism expressed towards relationships—both romantic and otherwise—that begin on the Internet. He also shares a lovely history lesson on the primordial social network Makoutclub, founded in the year 2000 CE. (The mind reels to imagine the kind of shenanigans 11-year-old Brendan would have gotten up to had he known about Makeoutclub.)
— Anna Simonton focuses on issues of systemic oppression perpetuated by the military and prison industrial complexes.
“Christmas in Prison,” by Brendan Kiley. The Stranger, December 19, 2012.
Right as I was moving from Washington State to Washington DC to intern with The Nation, Seattle's alt-weekly newspaper published this excellent article detailing the conditions that members of my community have lived under since being imprisoned for refusing to answer questions in front of a grand jury. I missed the original article, but this update published last week led me to it. The grand jury that incarcerated Katherine (Kteeo) Olejnik, Matt Duran and now Maddy Pfeiffer, was ostensibly convened to investigate property damage that occurred during last year's May Day rally in Seattle. However, its real purpose seems to be to stifle political activism in the Pacific Northwest. So far, that effort is failing. The strength and commitment of the grand jury resisters has served to bolster the determination of thousands of activists worldwide who have shown support for these young political prisoners.
— Cos Tollerson focuses on Latin American politics and society, and United States imperialism.
“Honduras: War on the Peasants,” by Eric Holt-Giménez and Tanya Kerssen. Upside Down World, February 11, 2013.
Throughout Central America during the Cold War, the US cited the threat of communist expansion to fund repressive security forces that shielded the region's oligarchs from challenges to their economic and political control and protected U.S. corporations' interests. Decades later, this Upside Down World article exposes a disturbingly similar process. It explains how, since a 2009 coup in Honduras, the remilitarization of the country—now justified by the "War on Drugs" rather than the "communist threat"—has facilitated violent land expropriations that benefit a small national elite at the expense of the nation's vast majority.
— Sarah Woolf focuses on what’s happening north of the US border.
“RCMP calls for more info about abuse claims in B.C.'s aborginal communities,” by Christina Commisso-Georgee. CTV News, February 13, 2013.
Calls for a national inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women in Canada—made by community groups for many years—may finally get some traction after the release of a damning report by Human Rights Watch in British Columbia. At a press conference Wednesday, lead researcher Meghan Rhoad described the "continuum of mistreatment" that Indigenous women and girls face in their interactions with police. The report includes testimony of an interviewee who was raped by police officers in July. But the rush to defend the RCMP has already begun: this CTV article, for instance, was initially entitled "BC Mounties accused of raping, abusing aboriginal women and girls." Over the course of Feb. 13, the message was diluted multiple times, with the title ultimately morphing into a more innocuous depiction: "RCMP calls for more info about abuse claims in BC's aborginal communities."
The 22nd Annual Women’s Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women takes place on February 14, across Canada.