Friday, February 27, 2009

Tim Wise, an invaluable political voice

I heard Tim Wise speak about racism and white privilege about 10 years ago. He impressed me with his insightful critique and depth of knowledge on these topics, but since then, my mind had always boxed him into the category of "antiracist" and nothing more. That just changed. I heard him interviewed on KCSB a few minutes ago, and was thoroughly impressed by the depth of his analysis of politics and social movements as well. Whether you are a liberal who is hopeful that Obama will change this country, or a radical who scoffs at the notion, or someone else who is just curious about U.S. politics and racism in 2009, I highly encourage you to CHECK THIS GUY OUT. His new book is Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama.

The importance of upcoming Salvadorean elections

The March 15 presidential elections could be a major step forward for progressive politics in El Salvador, strengthening the recent wave of left-leaning governments across Latin America. Check out this video to see what is at stake and see the CISPES webpage for how you can make a quick, easy call to your member of Congress, and ask her/him to support U.S. neutrality in the elections.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homelessness and cluelessness

Santa Barbara has a serious problem, and her name is Gina Perry. She is a columnist for the Daily Sound, a diminutive local newspaper, and perhaps the least qualified opinion columnist I can recall. Anywhere. She's something like Rush Limbaugh with a laptop and an old Jennifer Aniston haircut. Her writing makes the UCSB Daily Nexus opinion section look like Pulitzer material.

Earlier this month she published a column called "If you think chronic homelessness isn’t a dire problem in Santa Barbara, think again," in which she calls homeless people "eyesores" and "hazards to public health." It only gets worse from there.

Here is my response, as printed in the Feb. 12 edition:

Dear Editor:

I am astounded by the insensitivity of Gina Perry’s Feb. 5 column on homelessness. Yes, this certainly is a serious issue, most of all for the people who have no homes. As Perry pointed out, many homeless people have mental illnesses and/or addictions. I would add that others are escaping domestic violence, cannot find work, have been evicted or financially ruined by medical bills, or are kids whose parents have kicked them out for being gay. Whatever the factors that put a person there, living on the street can be tremendously stressful and difficult to escape.

In many countries of the world, homelessness is not the problem that it is in the United States, a land of extreme individualism with a growing gap between rich and poor. Despite talk of “family values,” many people do not help their relatives or neighbors in tough times. We do not have enough mental health services, affordable housing, or job programs to realistically address the root causes of homelessness.

Instead of analyzing these larger issues and showing compassion for people on the street, Perry calls them “eyesores” and “health hazards,” saying she won’t go downtown anymore because of having to “dodge” them. Well Ms. Perry, do us a favor and stay home. To paraphrase your last paragraph, I would like to be able to stroll Santa Barbara’s beautiful streets without encountering such selfish, spoiled snobs. I enjoy reading the Daily Sound and appreciate differing opinions based on solid arguments. This kind of uninformed, self-absorbed writing, however, does not reflect well on the paper, and I ask the editors to show better sense than to publish it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Portland craftiness

M. Ward: Pursuing his own Oregon trail | Pop & Hiss | Los Angeles Times

A charming article on M. Ward and a very talented circle of Portland musicians and artists who are friends of my sister, and I'm a fan.

But Ann Powers' assertion that gentrification in Portland has felt "less perilous or politically incorrect than in more diverse locales" is dangerously out of touch. Who did she interview on the subject? The super funky NE Portland neighborhood around Alberta street, to which many such bohemians have flocked in the last decade, is a classic case of rapid-fire gentrification. The largely working-class, African-American population that has lived there for generations is quickly being pushed out by rising rents and taxes, and the new culture of white hipness that no longer feels like home. I appreciate the glowing article on Northwest D.I.Y. culture and craftsmanship, but let's not ignore the other realities that come with them.

Friday, February 13, 2009

David Bonior: Schools Score Points by Standing Up for Workers

by David Bonior
Huffington Post
Feb. 13, 2009

"Responding to news that Russell Athletic, a leading U.S. apparel manufacturer, had shut down a factory in Honduras in retaliation for workers having organized a union, [Duke and Georgetown Universities], along with others such as Columbia, Miami, Rutgers and Wisconsin, announced that they are discontinuing the company's license to put their logos on its sweatshirts."

Click the headline for the full article.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Film at UCSB this Wednesday

Jill Freidberg
Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad
Wednesday, February 11 • 6 pm
Film Screening and Discussion/MultiCultural Center Theater

Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad (A Little Bit of So Much Truth) captures the unprecedented media phenomenon that emerged when tens of thousands of school teachers, housewives, indigenous communities, health workers, farmers, and students took 14 radio stations and one TV station into their own hands, using them to organize, mobilize, and ultimately defend their grassroots struggle for social, cultural, and economic justice. Filmmaker Jill Freidberg will host a brief discussion and Q and A after the film. Directed by Jill Freidberg, 90 minutes, 2008, Oaxaca.