Archive for the politics Category

Commentary- Dialogue. Human Rights

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been questioning the sanctity of commentary a bit as of late. Thanks to fevers and homebody time and, of course, multiple other factors. This morning, however, I got a welcome reminder of what the point of it all is. That’s right friends, Dialogue. It’s all about the discussion, debate, free share, book club style, writing workshop, round table chat. Sometimes we find engaged minds in non-cyber life that want to dig into our topics with us, while other times we find these passionate opinionated folks online. After I posted my recent interview with Pamela Yates, the director of The Reckoning on the Huffington Post, as promised, this lively multi-voiced dialogue ensued. In progress, and quoted full text, here are our comments.

godlessliberal I’m a

Great interview. It’s sad, a story about Sarah Palin can garner up to a thousand comments but a film about the International Criminal Court has one lonely comment, it speaks volumes about our priorities as a collective people. I, for one, am looking forward to watching this film to get a better understanding of the kinks that still need to be worked out within the court and why our government refuses to sign on as a member state.

Posted 10:27 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Thanks, I’m glad the post has sparked your interest in the ICC. It is such significant work, quietly being hacked away at in the Hague and I agree that more of us should know about the court and our countries opposition to it.

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:45 AM on 07/15/2009

As a member of one of the communities that has dealt with the aftermath of ICC indictments — the ICC has a long way to go in terms of implementation. Especially in Uganda, we’ve witnessed a lot of double standards. The Ugandan President and Moreno-Ocampo attended a press conference together to announce the arrest warrants.

After seeing that, it was clear there would be no accountability or justice for crimes the Ugandan government had committed either in Congo or Uganda. Justice is a two-way street. This is one are the ICC must work on in order to garner popular support.

A couple of interesting articles:

Waiting for Bashir: http://ugandagenocide.info/?p=1527

The ICC is a Western Tool But Can Be Improved: http://www.blackstarnews.com/news/122/ARTICLE/5828/2009-07-01.html

Posted 07:05 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Hi, thank you for your comment. Yours is an important perspective, could you tell us more about how the ICC is experienced on the ground in Uganda? The film definitely delves into the criticisms the court has received from African member states and their citizens. What do you see as the way forward?

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:49 AM on 07/15/2009

Thanks for the questions.

For many, the experience of the ICC in Uganda has been tinged with a lot of contradictions and confusion. People can see the government using the ICC when it is convenient, to garner international support, but the law has not been applied to the government itself.

(Right now, Uganda is presiding over the UN Security Council, and ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo is in Uganda to convince Ugandan officials to arrest Sudan”s Al-Bashir, who will be visiting later in the month� in 2010 the ICC review conference will be in Uganda ” these facts alone bring up many contradictions.)

There is a national Amnesty Act for former rebels — this adds to the confusion of whether ICC law or Amnesty will be applied. A war crimes court is another confusing option.

Direct communication with the ICC has been difficult. Victims have written the court to raise issues of systematic government abuse but have received little response from the court. Meanwhile, the Court is spending money to “sensitize” victim communities about their rights.

Posted 10:29 AM on 07/15/2009

FindingTruth I’m a fan of th

(Continued Thoughts)

Many people see the court as a walking contradiction. I have a relative who is a member of the Ugandan army – he said the investigators were only interested in interviewing child soldiers. He raised the question of how truthful the child soldiers might have been, due to army presence.

Most people are afraid to speak too loudly about the history of serious human rights violations by the government. (It was stunning to see the people in the film speaking out.)

From a survivor perspective, the crimes of the government are worse than those of the LRA, yet it is only the LRA”s crimes that are being addressed. This is where the ICC’s lack of effectiveness is most apparent.

Amnesty International Report: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/09/19/uprooted-and-forgotten

Many politicians and civil society groups who have raised issues of justice around the LRA issue have been targeted for intimidation by the government ” the conversation in Uganda around the ICC/LRA/Justice is far from free.

The way forward in Uganda: interpret the ICC Statute as it is written and aid the Chief Prosecutor in neutrally applying the law to both sides. The Court also must recognize that governments do not have the ability to try themselves!

The other issue is execution of the warrants. Perhaps the warrants need not be made public? The court’s current system of relying on member countries for arrests hasn’t been successful.

The dialogue is still in progress. To read the actual interview with Pamela Yates click here.

Tony Blair in Person

Posted in politics, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

92Y Tony Blair 1

Yesterday was exciting, not only did I get to while away the late night dancing to some determinedly old school djs at the Nightlife Preservation Community party, but I also was among the security cleared crowd at Tony Blair’s talk at the 92 Street Y.

Having been a History student and residing in the British empire during much of the reign of Blair, and most memorably during his decision to go to war in Iraq based on imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction, I was very interested to see what he had to say for himself.

Charming to a tee, it was clear how he had managed (at least in part) to ascend to the highest level of office. Within the span of little over an hour he quoted Rabbi Hillel and Winston Churchill, did impressions of Americans who have mistaken him for the actor in The Queen and of his cockney friend who always gives him good advice.

Where was that helpful mate in 2003 when it came time to issue the command for war? Although Blair channelled him and his other cast of colorful cultural references to please the crowd, he was undeniably uncomfortable when Mathew Bishop the interviewer leading Blair’s Q&A asked him point blank if he regretted the decision.

Blair gripped his chair with both hands and stuttered through a long explanation of how he admits that the intelligence was faulty, but they believed it at the time and any way the world is still “better off without Sadam and his two sons ruling the country.”

When asked whether he thinks that the war in Iraq has actually increased Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and ill feeling towards the west, he said absolutely not. “The responsibility for terrorism lies in the hands of the terrorists.” he said.

At the moment the former PM’s main activities are his work with the recently formed Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Africa Governance Initiative, the Climate Group and his position as a negotiater of sorts for peace in Israel/Palestine.

On climate, he seemed to grasp that it is a very real and pressing issue, yet one of the main solutions that he proposed is Nuclear power- in my mind a terrible idea.

On Africa, he said that aid alone is not enough, governments have to be taught (by him) how to operate. He proudly asserted that he is working on bottom up state building in Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

On the Middle East. “For Israel the only Palestinian state they will be able to accept is a secure and well-governed state.” Blair said. He is working on state building there as well. Well clearly Britain and its former leader know best. Perhaps those good old imperialist days are not yet over after all.

He said many additional things about religion, democracy and justice, but I am more concerned with what he didn’t say. Bishop actually selected my audience question, “What was the most significant mistake you made as Prime Minister?”  Blair’s response, “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” A chilling thought.

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

The Girlfriend Experience, Fixer, Print vs Blog

Posted in film, Food, Party, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s been another busy week friends. Since last I wrote I saw The Girlfriend Experience and  Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi at the Tribeca Film Festival, went to a Print vs Blog talk at the Tribeca Y, had a poetry reading and danced the blues off at two Brooklyn house parties. Plus, I had another successful meal at Buttermilk Channel, this time brunch. Their biscuits are pretty good, but not as good as mine! I also had a chance to live it up a little bit on Saturday while actually reading peacefully in the sun in Choice Greene’s backyard patio. On the way there I passed an awesome kids clown show on Grand, in front of the Still Hip clothing store. Apparently they are having them every Saturday, if you love costumes and clowns, and environmentally themed, musical children’s performances as much as I do, then definitely check it out!

First a note about Brooklyn house parties and then onto my film reviews. Note: They rule! Ha, ha, no really they do. OMG Michelle played at the one on Friday night, which was at this house called Mansion (not to be confused with the snooty Manhattan club, Mansion.) DJ Designer Impostor played and on Sat, DJ Shomi Noise was awesome. Aside from being my friend, she is also a generally great DJ!

Ok film. So, the two films were extremely different than each other, the first Steven Soderberg’s new opus on high class prostitutes, who give their customers the illusion that they are somehow in a loving relationship with each other, was less than spectacular. Although the directer himself, with huge successes like Erin Brochevich, Sex Lies and Videotape, and Traffic under his belt, was wildly confident during the Q & A after, several elements of the film caused me to take pause.

He typecast, if you will, non-actors to play the roles of the prostitute and her personal trainer boyfriend. He didn’t give them a script and instead set them up with a situation and encouraged them to ad lib. Although this technique was quite successful in Ballast it fell very short in The Girlfriend Experience. Soderberg claimed, during his talk back, that if people didn’t know that was his method, we never would have noticed. I beg to differ.

The holes in the dialogue were obvious. The language was incidental and often seemed forced. Many of the relationships were unconvincing and the main character, played by porn actress, Sasha Grey, was stiff and boring to watch. If you made a film about me walking around NY having somewhat random conversations with strangers, I’m sure I would also be stiff and boring to watch. Why? Because I’m not an actor and films which follow non-actors are usually called documentaries. Why not just call the whole thing off, and make a documentary about a real prostitute who offers the girlfriend experience? Just asking.

Speaking of documentaries, let’s talk a bit about the really good film that I saw at Tribeca. But first, a note about opinions. Yes everyone has one, and some people start blogs and share them, people like me. But Tony Ortega, editor, and Michael Cohen,  publisher, of the Village Voice have a bit of a bone to pick with people like us. However, the founder of Gothamist and a writer from Mashable, who sat on a panel with them on Thursday, they kinda think us bloggers are great. If you’re interested in finding out more about this secret society who is bringing down the media oligarchy, come to the Brooklyn Blogfest on Thursday, that’s where most of our upcoming schemes for world domination will be hatched.

No, to be fair, Ortega claimed to support bloggers, to want to maintain the integrity of the Voice, and most shockingly, he insisted that the Voice is still making good money.  Strange, those claims seem to run counter to the Voice‘s recent massive layoffs and to their stubborn attempt to remain the source of NYC event advice. Unless they become a little more cutting edge with their suggestions, I don’t see people continuing to look to them to find out what’s happening.

But that’s just my opinion, and it’s here in my blog, not pretending to be impartial in some newspaper. Anyway enough angst right? Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi without necessarily seeking to do so, makes a very different and much more compelling argument in favor of the old media establishment. There is absolutely a place for researched, well-sourced journalism, especially in terms of foreign correspondence.

Fixer is a documentary that follows Christian Parenti, a Nation journalist, on a fact gathering trip through Afghanistan. As he travels around the country, meeting with Taliban leaders, villagers and any other potential sources of information, Ian Olds, the filmmaker is in the back seat of the car, a fly on the wall, observing Parenti’s transactions.  In order to navigate this active war zone, Parenti requires help from what is known in the journo trade as a fixer.

A fixer is a local person who makes contact with potential sources, estimates the level of risk in traveling to various areas and then facilitates the actual journey by driving the foreign journalist to the rendezvous points and serving as translator while there. More than a middle man, Parenti’s fixer, Ajmal Naqshbandi was a journalist in his own right and as portrayed in the film, was a very savvy and intelligent individual. He died not long after the journey that Parenti and Olds took with him.

On another fixer job, working for an Italian journalist, Naqshbandi and the Italian were both kidnapped by a notorious Taliban leader. This man is known to have kidnapped and brutally executed several people. We are told at the start of the film that Naqshbandi died in this cruel way, but that his Italian employer was released relatively unharmed. The rest of the film navigates how the fixer got to that point and questions why he was not saved.

I was glad to see that Fixer won best documentary at Tribeca. It is truly an interrogative film. It forces us to question A. what is really going on in Afghanistan, B. how much that self-government and democracy actually protects Afghan citizens and C. How we would  even begin to answer these questions without the field researched findings of foreign corespondents funded by media institutions.

1 point scored for blogs and 1 for old media. Looks like a tie Tony.

Brooklyn Socialite on Huffington Post-Bedstuy Meadow

Posted in film, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I hope you all have had the chance to check out my Huffpo post on the Bedstuy Meadow project. Here’s a little excerpt below and a link to rest of the post. Tonight I’m going to check out a doco on Al Franken at Stranger than Fiction. Report back to come, and I hope to see you all there!
R

Last week I interviewed a Brit, Andy Lang, about his new film based in Cuba. I was thinking Global then, but this week’s interview is all about acting local. Saturday morning I woke up early and suited up in full-body rain-gear, then trudged through the downpour to my rendezvous point in Zone 4, which happened to be about 3 blocks from my apartment. I was feeling quite stealth and shrouded in mystery as I arrived at lab 24/7, a basement apartment, which doubles as an event space. There I met, for the first time, about 30 of my neighbors and was given a seed bag, a map and a small team to work with. Me and my new planting crew then spread out over Bedstuy to begin scattering wildflower seeds. There were 5 meet-up zones and 100 volunteers in total. We all found each other and signed on to the project after a new website sprung up, promoting the Bedstuy Meadow Project, created by one woman who envisioned it all, Deborah Fisher.

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Brooklyn locavore at Full Frame

Posted in film, Food, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

We’ve discussed my vegan-envy in the past, but this sentiment has now reached new heights. After seeing Food Inc. I’ve been pretty much unable to eat meat, and quite uncomfortable with eating corn products.

True, it’s only been 2 days, but I feel pretty serious about this new conviction. The film details the social impact of the meat industry, as well as its environmental impact and effect on animal welfare. Meatpacking and processing is now one of the most dangerous jobs in the country and the very small number of employers actively recruit illegal Mexican immigrants to work in the plants. Under constant threat of deportation, the workers will then submit to the most dangerous conditions and minimal salaries.

Farmers who raise soybeans, corn and chickens fare no better within the American food industry. Monsanto, famous for having created Agent Orange and for championing genetically engineered food has  patented the soybean. That corporation now owns a piece of natural life. This means that all over the country farmers are being sued and harassed for growing non- Monsanto seeds. Since the dawn of agriculture farmers have saved their own seeds, but now the law says that only corporate owned and sold seeds are permissible, seeds that require toxic Monsanto fertilizers in order to grow.

It gets worse, remember Mad Cow disease, aka  E. coli. This is not a mutant strand that appeared out of nowhere, it is a disease created by the meat industry’s practice of feeding cows corn, in place of their natural grass diet and confining them in inhumane conditions, where they are left standing in their own feces. When one cow contracts this virus, it easily spread to the others, and it then finds itself mixed into meat at processing plants.

These are just a few examples, the list of abuses is long. Yet, because of the powerful legislative bargaining power of corporate food interests, there is no law in place to require labelling of GE or cloned foods and Kevins Law,  the legislation that would  hold the meat industry accountable for e coli deaths, and protect against further infections has still not passed 7 years after its proposal.

I have long been an organic food eater, have tended to favor local over corporate and am even a member of my local csa( community supported agriculture), but I wasn’t exactly a purist before. I’d eat microwave popcorn and dubious diner hamburgers, but I’m just about ready to make a locavore pledge… To Know Where my Food has Come From and to understand its true social, environmental, and animal welfare costs.

The Food Inc trailer- Directed by Robert Keener

The South…..Brooklyn Socialite takes Full Frame-Wounded Knee

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow guys,
Its been a busy couple of weeks. Aside from working like crazy(as always), I’ve been traveling and socialiting, rest assured. Now I’ve finally gotten the chance to breathe and blog, of equal priority right? Yes. So gosh, where to begin. I’ll start by talking like a southerner, saying this like, “oh gosh” and ma’am. Except, no way am I saying that to anyone and I wish that I could stop them from saying it to me. I’m not your mama, your mom, your missus or any combination of those terms. I am from New York, and no that’s not why I’m being rude. I’m being rude because you are looking at me like I’m an Alien. I’m not an Alien, am from Brooklyn and don’t like your fashion sense either thank you very much. Whew, now that I got that out of the way, lets talk film.

This afternoon, I saw Wounded Knee , which is a great new film, directed by Stanley Nelson about the second Battle of Wounded Knee. The first took place in 1890 and is considered to be the end of the Great Indian Wars. Over 300 Native Americans were massacred. This event would usher in the period of forcibly removing children from their homes to send them to de-Indianization boarding schools. The second battle at Wounded Knee began when the Oglala Lakota who lived on Pine Ridge reservation teamed up with the American Indian Movement(AIM) to occupy the village of Wounded Knee as a bargaining tool. The demands that they placed on the table, were that Dick Wilson, the so called Tribal council leader (this was an appointment made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not by way of local election) and his goon squad be removed from power. They also requested that the government money and food supplies that were being funneled into the reservation, actually be distributed among the people (rather then kept by Wilson and his cronies).

After trying all legal means to redress their grievances, the Oglala Lakota called in the, at time militant, AIM leadership and membership to take up arms and escalate the fight for their people. The seizure lasted for 72 days and was met with an occupation by federal marshals and other agencies under the aegis of the U.S. government. The media extensively covered the event, reporting favorably on the movement, and Indians from all over the U.S. came to join the struggle at Wounded Knee. The film deftly captures the conflict and provides useful background into the childhood experiences and historical understandings of many of the people who were involved in the standoff. Take note: These events, which took place in 1973, set the stage for a continued reign of terror by the goon squad, and the eventual arrest of AIM leader Leonard Peltier, who was  accused of killing 2 FBI agents and remains in jail to this day.

Ok, lets stop there, got to go see another film…but I promise I will be keeping a daily Full Frame diary. Back soon! Robyn