In Brief: Consenting to American Exceptionalism

By Yousef K.B. 

The way that American foreign policy under the Obama administration has been talked about and analyzed publicly and especially by progressives (or those who call themselves progressive/leftist/radical/social justice advocates etc. etc.) is very disheartening and dare I say dangerous.

I know by now we’re all familiar with the list of foreign policies of the Obama administration that many critics point to, but just as a reminder let me throw out a quick list:

  • Drone attacks over sovereign territory
  • Continued imprisonment and torture of individuals deemed as ‘terrorists’ or harbingers of ‘terrorists’
  • Imposing debilitating sanctions outside the framework of any international laws
  • The continued occupation of Afghanistan and full fledged support of the economic policies of the previous administration in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • The murder of people who retroactively are labeled as enemy combatants
  • Continued support of neo-liberal development programs (including free trade, privatization, and de-regulation) that devastate economies and lives throughout the world
  • Full fledged support for the policies of Israel as well as despotic regimes based on some notion of US national interest
  • The mass deportations of people (Don’t forget Obama was deporter in chief)
  • Sustaining and increasing surveillance of peoples in the US
  • Increased militarization of not only the US border but borders throughout central America
  • The continued promotion of the war on drugs outside of the US
  • I can go on, but I think you get the point.

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Filed under In Brief, The Body Politic

Thank You, New York Times, For Making Us Free

By Mohammad T.

This article was written originally for KABOBfest, and can be viewed here. Big shout out to the editors there for accepting this contribution.

I’ve never seen an Iraqi break dance before. But apparently Tim Arangon and Yasir Ghazi have.

You see, these New York Times reporters are truly on the cutting edge. They dig deep. They unearth the worms. They uproot the, well, roots. Everybody else is too lazy, or too stupid, to do any serious journalism. Everybody else covers the same old Negative Nancy material. Continue reading

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Irvine 11: Victims of Penal Code Section 403

Below is a brief analysis of the recent Irvine 11 jury verdict and thoughts on moving forward by a Southern California based lawyer from the community. It is a unique angle on the case and provides relevant suggestions as how to orient upcoming campaigns. I hope you take further action upon reading this piece. Please check out the website of the Irvine 11 for further details on their case and things you can do.

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I recently finished reading this  piece from Sajid Khan, a public defender in San Jose, who gave his take on the Irvine 11 jury verdict.

I thought the most important sentence of Sajid’s article was this:

However, as much as people are condemning the jury verdict as unjust and a blow to free speech rights, it merely was the jury doing their job: applying the law, as stated, to the facts of the case.

I agree with Sajid.  Despite a great effort by the legal team for the Irvine 11, I had real concerns with the potential outcome of the jury trial.   As I saw it, the jury trial was where the defendants had the weakest shot of winning, specifically because the judge and jury were hamstrung by California Penal Code Section 403 and how it’s been interpreted in California courts. Continue reading

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The “War on Terror” and Undefeated Despair

By Yousef K.B.

I heard the news when my brother called me as I was getting home after a long drive, “are you watching the news? Obama is about to announce that they killed Bin Laden.” Surprised, I told him I’ll call him back, and hurried to unpack my luggage from my car, turn my computer on and search for streaming coverage of Obama’s statement online.  My heart started to beat faster, and I was filled with emotions, but I couldn’t understand them. I kept asking myself how I was feeling, but I couldn’t make it out. Was I sad? No, I despised Bin Laden and what he stood for. Was I happy? No. I sure wasn’t indifferent to the news. As always my mind had to work hard to catch up to my heart. I listened attentively to Obama’s speech. His detailing of the mission, his effort to take credit for the operation in anticipation of his electoral bid, the invocation of the 9/11 attacks, remembering the sacrifices of American military, their families, and the families of those who died in 9/11, and his complete silence on the misery felt by the rest of humanity that had suffered as his government waged the “war on terror.” After the speech, the coverage turned to pictures of a thousand or so, mostly young people who had gathered outside the White House enthusiastically jumping up and down, shouting “USA! USA! USA!” I sat back on my chair, and realized that what I had been feeling was undefeated despair.

I had been here before. Continue reading

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Taxpayers vs. Citizens: The Battle for the Soul of America

By Yousef K.B.

The last election cycle in the United States was permeated with concerns over the economy.  As the economy entered its third year of crisis, and with continued cuts to public services until only recently the only movement that can be heard of was that of the right-wing Tea Party.  Albeit a very heterogeneous and decentralized movement, its key figures speak of the movement as one that is mainly concerned with economy.  Specifically they decry increase in spending, increased government bureaucracy, tax increases and increasing budget deficits.   What makes the Tea Party worth mentioning is that they are the extreme manifestation of what is mainstream common sense across the US: budget deficit is increasing and that is a threat to all Americans, the national debt is growing and that is a threat to future generations in the US, and the deficit and the debt are the major roadblocks to economic recovery.  Based on this rationale it is argued that the deficit must be reduced immediately and this reduction can only come through a drastic cut in government spending and size, as taxation should be out of the question.   Taxing Americans would result in a slow down in the economy as people have less to spend, businesses would stop investing and hiring people, and even worse the money raised would only help to increase the government’s size adding to its already inefficient structure.  I’m sure you’ve all heard this pitch, whether in the last elections or currently as the budget debates heat up in D.C.   I’m sure you can make a plausible argument against taxation during economically hard times, but the rants and rhetoric against taxes have become a dominant mantra with the emergence of the conservative movement that propelled Reagan to the presidency.    So powerful is this idea that no policy maker dares to speak of new taxes––in good or bad economic times.  The result has been a steady erosion of public programs across the US.  The disproportionate victims of this erosion have been those at the bottom of the labor market as they depend more on these programs, but the so called “middle class” has also been a victim of this tax cutting to an extent that no one wants to admit. Continue reading

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Hollow humanitarianism: A review of Lynn Nottage’s “Ruined”

By Mohammad T.

On Friday night, I attended one of the closing showings of “Ruined” at the Berkeley Rep Theater, a play written by Lynn Nottage about the plight of women during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s civil war. I was moved enough by the play, and the one rather profound weaknesses of that play, to write up a short piece on it. I don’t intend to write a review of the play (you can find those here, here, and here), nor do I intend to share insights about the historical, social, and political background of the situation that the play has a conversation with. Instead, I want to discuss the play in terms of how it contributes to a problem that I believe infects the way we interact with situations such as the DRC’s.

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The Libyan State and the Opposition

By Yousef K.B.

The Libyan revolt has transitioned from initially an unarmed protest movement calling for Muammar Gaddafi to step down, to a protest movement with an armed guerilla wing attempting to drag down Gaddafi. Protests began in the east of Libya in Benghazi and within days they spread across the country, reaching Tripoli. Gaddafi who was at first hesitant about the possibility of a mass movement against his country responded violently against the protesters. His son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi came out within two days of the uprising and warned that if the protests continue blood will be shed, a civil war can begin, and Libya might break apart into pieces in the East, West, and the South.

Gaddafi unleashed his military on unarmed protesters thereafter shooting at people with live rounds, heavy artillery, and at times air power. Gaddafi’s use of extensive violence as a last ditch effort to hold on to power, forced some protesters especially those in Tripoli to hide in their homes, and for others to arm themselves.  Some protesters, turned into armed rebels, attacked arms depots, police stations, and army barracks occupied them and stole their weapons.

Protesters were able to drive out Gaddafi’s forces from cities such as Benghazi and Baydha relatively quickly.  Continue reading

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