Saturday, January 29, 2005

PLASTIC BAGS FOR THE PEOPLE!

San Francisco is considering charging fees at stores for plastic bags. The idea is that plastic bags are bad for the environment and are prone to being picked up by the wind and cluttering the city more than other kinds of garbage. My problem with the idea is that it will hurt many of the more environmentally friendly residents of this city - people, like me, who don't own cars and walk or take public transportation.

It's a minor inconvenience for those folks with SUV's and garages. Simply walk your unbagged items to your vehicle in your shopping cart, or have one of the grocery store employees do it for you. The only hard part after that is getting the unbagged items from your SUV to your kitchen, bathroom, etc. If you have an attached garage, this isn't much of an inconvenience at all.

For us non-car folks, we have to figure out how to carry our groceries home and possibly on the bus or train. The truth is, it's probably not that difficult - just buy a couple of reusable bags, maybe the city should distribute reusable bags to low-income residents. But the point is, it will be more problematic for us (non-car owners) to make this transition.

Anyway, it is probably a decent idea, but wouldn't it be better to go after people who drive too much first if you care about the environment? Maybe add a fuel tax to help clean up the plastic bags while discouraging driving to help clean up the air. I get the feeling a lot of the people pushing this policy care less about the environment and more about the appearance of the city to tourists and big-spending consumers.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

NEIGHBORHOOD #5: ALL THE SHAH'S MEN

A critical piece of American/Middle-East history is captured in the book I finished a couple of weeks ago: All The Shah's Men: An American Coup And The Roots of Middle East Terror. It details the raw imperialism that drove Britain's meddling in the region, and its uncompromising desire to keep pumping oil from the country, exploiting the Iranian people and keep nearly all of the profits for itself. It wasn't a great leap from that raw colonialism to a more nuanced imperialism masquerading as anti-Communism that convinced the Eisenhower administration to not just support British action, but to lead a coup against a democratically-elected and very popular leader. When Mosadegh was violently removed from power, the Shah was imposed on the people as a dictator. The West once again controlled the oil. America was beginning a brisk business of deposing democratically-elected leaders. And more people around the world were learning to hate the U.S.

It's a great book, in part, because it provides some excellent context. The second chapter gives the relevant history of the region: "Many countries in the Middle East are artificial creations...Just the opposite is true of Iran." Then the book sweeps through 4000 years, giving the reader a better understanding of Iranian nationalism.

Most of the book, however, tells a detailed story of how Kermit Roosevelt - an American CIA operative - organized the coup as ordered by his superiors in Washington. There were bribes and promises of positions of power in the new government. He essentially purchased mobs to take over the streets and paid for lies to be published in newspapers. It is also clear that this American meddling has led directly to a lot of America's problems in the region today. Iran was a young democracy when the U.S. imposed its will on the people. Years later, it was disgust with the Shah by the people of Iran that led to his forced removal and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. And it was this violent reality that people throughout the Middle East have intimately known, but that Americans have known almost nothing about. This is why many Americans believe terrorists blow up buildings because they hate freedom. Why else would they target this great nation?

While not outlined in the book, it is also clear that this type of covert activity is normal practice for the United States government. Many of these details have come out slowly over decades. What is the U.S. doing now in Iran? Iraq? Venezuela? We may not really know the truth for years. Don't believe a word out of Condaleeza Rice's mouth.

Anyway, I recommend the book. On a lighter note, I also recommend the Arcade Fire album, Funeral. It's brilliant. About 5 of the songs are mini-anthems. A couple of them build to a rhythmic pop-crescendo. There is a feel to the album, but each song is very distinct. My favorites are "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)," "Rebellion (Lies)," and the best song on the album "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)."

Friday, January 14, 2005

MORE WISDOM ON GONZALES

There is more wisdom, and it isn't coming from Ruben Navarette of the Dallas Morning News. He is defending Gonzales with every drop of ink. What is great is that he wouldn't need to devote so many column inches trashing Gonzales' appointments, who he simply labels as "liberals," if folks like the National Lawyers Guild and People for the American Way weren't doing such a great job. Remember, when he was first suggested, he was not controversial at all, and Latino organizations were drooling over him. I think we've muddied up the waters as much as we could under the circumstances.

Here is a post from Zafar I think is appropriate: Despite repeated questioning, Mr. Gonzales declined to state whether he stands by the now-repudiated Justice Department August 2002 opinion that the president, as commander-in-chief, has the power to suspend international treaties and federal law governing torture. [more]

hmm. maybe if we put a hood over his face, clamp a car-battery charger to his dick and let the dogs out at him, Gonzalez might reconsider. just a thought.


And here is an opposition statement from The National Latina/o Law Students Association:

Greetings NLLSA Members and Supporters, Our organization was asked to consider whether or not to support the appointment of Judge Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States. We felt that it was important that we take a stand on this issue as there seems to be division amongst our community regarding Judge Gonzales¹ qualifications. The National Latina/o Law Students Association cannot endorse the appointment of Judge Gonzales for the following reasons.

First and foremost, Judge Gonzales has not effectively shown us that he isan advocate for human and civil rights, immigrant rights, or affirmative action, all key issues that NLLSA promulgates and considers to be basictenets of achieving equality in this country. Our mission statement wasexpressly written to include these and other important human rights concernsand as NLLSA¹s Chair, I am charged with a duty to advocate on behalf of mymembership when these concerns are threatened. Today I am asking that othernational and local student organizations join us in opposing the appointmentof Judge Gonzales.

Second, as law students and future legal advocates it is our duty to abideby the laws of this country and by the treaties that this country makes. We are taught how to interpret, analyze and follow the law in the bestinterests of not only our clients, but our communities as a whole. We do not have the freedom to say that the law will apply to some and not toothers, or even that the law can be set aside under special circumstances orby certain people. In this respect, law students are taught to be ethical. By choosing to stay silent or by choosing to support the appointment of Judge Gonzales our organization would be condoning unethical practices in order to achieve success.

The fact that Judge Gonzales is aMexican-American who has worked his way out of poverty deems much respect. However, these two facts alone, should not automatically garner the supportof our community. As Dr. King once said, we should all be judged by the content of ourcharacter and not by the color of our skin. We are not opposing a brownman. We are opposing the ideology that would allow a human being to be tortured, detained without legal counsel if the situation was deemed fit, not given the opportunity to seek legal counsel from their home country, or sentenced to death without an adequate exercise of their rights. With all due respect, the National Latina/o Law Students Association opposesthe appointment of Judge Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of theUnited States.

Sincerely,
Mercedes V. CastilloChair, NLLSA