Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

Why I walked away from Daily Kos

Tina EnglerI first thought that something was wrong when comedian Bill Maher was invited to give the keynote address at the University of California Berkeley commencement in December, 2014. A small group of Muslim students there didn't like it, and several articles in Daily Kos took up the "islamophobia" cudgel.

One question you could ask is, if you're not a student, a member of the faculty or staff of UC Berkeley, or even root for their athletic teams, why is their choice of a commencement speaker even any of your business? Another valid question is, what exactly is this "islamophobia" that is a common insult hurled at Daily Kos?

If you were to ask Salman Rushdie about it, he would tell you that the religion of Islam is something to be afraid of. So would the employees of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. And the friends and relatives of people killed in the September 11, 2001 attack. And women forced to wear burqas and put up with all sorts of other restrictions on personal freedom.

Further, Maher has had several Muslim guests on the show in recent years; Maajid Nawaz, Nayyera Haq, Asra Nomani, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Keith Ellison.

This doesn't matter to the Haters. And although the stated objective of Daily Kos is to "elect more and better Democrats", it doesn't matter that Maher contributed a million dollars to the Democrats in 2012, and has committed another million to the Democrats for 2018. I wrote this article in response to the UC Berkeley dustup: Maher spoke at UC Berkeley commencement, world still turning

Two Mexican journalists banned from the US for five years

Hérica Martínez Prado

A resolution by San Miguel Center, PEN International

Endorsed by PEN México

Hérika Martínez Prado and Luis Christian Torres Chávez are Mexican journalists. Sra. Martínez Prado works for the France Press Agency (AFP) and the newspaper El Heraldo de Mexico. Sr. Torres Chávez works for the Xinhua News Agency.

They were working on a story about the detention center for migrant children in Tornillo, TX. On June 18, 2018, they accidentally strayed across the Mexican-US border south of Tornillo while attempting to take pictures of the detention center. This was an understandable mistake. In that area, the border is the Rio Grande, and at the time, the Rio Grande was a dry gravel bed.

Martínez Prado and Torres Chávez were arrested by agents of the US Border Patrol. They were detained for 16 hours, and released after signing a “voluntary deportation” order. They are now banned from entering the US for five years. This is in spite of the fact that both of them had valid B1/B2 Visa Border Crossing Cards; Sra. Martínez’ card was valid through November 11, 2020.

Martínez Prado and Torres Chávez are journalists with jobs to do. As an organization supporting the rights of journalists, the San Miguel de Allende Center of PEN International calls for lifting the travel ban immediately. We also call for an apology to these two journalists from the government of the United States.

Free your vote 2.0

Guest blog by Paul George

“Your input will help shape the future of our democracy,” declares a November 17 BC government press release. The release announces the BC government has introduced legislation to hold a referendum in the fall of 2018 through a mail-in vote that will ask voters to decide whether BC should keep our current voting system (First-Past-the-Post) or move to a system of Proportional Representation. https://engage.gov.bc.ca/howwevote/

It also introduced a public engagement process with feedback via an online questionnaire to help shape the referendum. Public input ends on February 28, 2018 at 4PM, after which the input will be compiled into a report by the Ministry of Attorney General and made public.

But before the government’s process was even launched, the BC Liberals were vigorously fighting against any electoral reform. Why? Why not give the process and ultimate proposal a fair hearing?

The Liberals had a different tack after they won the 2001general election. That election blatantly illustrated the unfair results that a first-past-the-post voting system can deliver in multi-party democracies. The Liberals, with 57% of the popular vote, elected 77 MLAs, a whooping 97.5% of the seats in the legislature. The NDP, with 21.5% of the vote, won just two seats (Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan). The upstart Green Party, with 12.4% of the popular vote, got no seats, no representation and no chance to present its ideas in the legislature for debate.

Book review: Private Places, Public Spaces: a woman at home in the world, by Lucina Kathmann

This is a collection of 22 non-fiction essays, written over a period of 20 years, some of them previously published. Some of them are based on the author’s long involvement in PEN International. One such essay is “The suffering word: cases of repression of women poets in Mesoamerica”, in which she documents massacres of the Maya community in Guatemala and imprisonment of women writers in Cuba.

Ms. Kathmann tells us quite a bit about herself in “Maru’s door” and “The currency of love”. Maru was a neighbour in San Miguel de Allende who died in childbirth. Lucina and her husband Charlie adopted her six children. Why? “I saw that there was no other way.”

“Social siege: African women writers” tells three stories. The first is about Awu, whose husband died in an accident, and thus became the “property” of his brother. The second is about Doshi, whose father sold her to be the fourth wife of a very old man. The third is a poem, “A mother’s lament”, by Fatou Ndiaye Sow, a very touching and sad piece about a mother whose son has been taken away, permanently, to attend a Koranic school. It’s a type of school where students learn very little, except how to be cannon fodder for somebody’s wars.

The story I enjoyed the most, though, was “Destination Kurdistan”, although I can’t easily explain why. The author documents a two-week tour of Kurdistan, eastern Turkey, and northern Iraq. She describes an area and a people that the rest of the world knows little or nothing about. She describes towns that are thousands of years old, and the gracious people she met, who are making a valiant effort to build their society after being oppressed by Turkey and Saddam Hussein.

Seven Mexican journalists murdered in first half of 2017

Javier Valdez Cárdenas

Mexico continues to be the one of the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist. Martín Méndez Pineda of Acapulco tried to get asylum in the US, but after being detained for 100 days in not-very-good conditions, he gave up and returned to Mexico. He is not safe there.

Patricia Mayorga of Chihuahua did better. She fled to an unidentified country.

The seven journalists murdered so far in 2017 include two high-profile ones, Miroslava Breach Velducea of Chihuahua and Javier Valdez Cárdenas of Culiacán. Breach was the Chihuahua correspondent for La Jornada, a major Mexico City newspaper; her beat was crime and politics. She was shot eight times as she was leaving her home. Valdez wrote several books about narcos, edited an award-winning weekly, and was a correspondent for La Jornada. He was dragged out of his pickup truck and shot several times.

Book review: One Life, by David Lida

David Lida is an author who found a home for himself in Mexico 25 years ago. He tells the story of his first visit to Puerto Escondido, when he started wondering what life is like for the Mexicans who live a few blocks away from the centre of town. Thanks to the Lockett v Ohio Supreme Court decision of 1978, he got his wish, along with a means of living in Mexico and earning a living.

The deal is, in all cases in the US where the death penalty is in play, a mitigation study must be done on behalf of the defendant. If the defendant is Latino, it’s important that the person who does the study is capable of speaking decent Spanish, and can interview relatives and contacts (teachers, former employers, etc.) in all parts of Mexico. So, Lida landed a job as a mitigation specialist.

What Lida has done, by publishing this book, is let us in on some of the many insights into Mexico’s less-prosperous areas that he has developed. The main character of One Life, Esperanza, is obviously a composite. She grew up in a dirt-poor Mexican town. She goes to a city, where conditions are better, and gets a job as a housekeeper. She meets a guy who is no good, and loses the job because of it. She goes to Ciudad Juarez (a very dangerous place for women) for a job in a “maquiladora”. Eventually, she ends up in New Orleans working to clean up the Hurricane Katrina damage. (That’s right, Mexicans and other Central Americans did this.) She has a child, the child dies, and she is accused of murdering it.

That’s where the narrator, Richard, enters the story. His task is to go to different places in Mexico and Louisiana to interview people who knew Esperanza, with the hope of getting some infomation about her that her lawyer can use to convince the prosecutors that she does not deserve the death penalty. The reader gets, through Richard’s eyes, insights into Mexico that are rarely found elsewhere. And it isn’t just about the poverty mentioned elsewhere in this review. Richard describes the quality of the food and the coffee, the religious celebrations, and how Mexicans outside Mexico’s affluent areas live their lives. Lida’s attempt to communicate to us what life is like for millions of Mexicans is a success.