Several premises of Laura Flanders' article on Iraq are absurd
Bomb on Baghdad Story," April 2). It is impossible for journalists
to check where bombs fall in Baghdad because the Iraqi regime does
not allow them to visit such sites. The Baghdad regime is also known
to scour hospitals to find "appropriate victims" to show the press
following bombing raids. I am not defending the bombing raids--I
have great sympathy for the gist of her argument--I'm just saying
that the abhorrent behavior of the Iraqi regime is no less responsible
for the current political quagmire than U.S. or British policy.
Saddam Hussein was reported last year, for instance, to have emptied
Baghdad's Radwaniyya prison of several dozen young, mostly Shi'ite
opponents, taken them by bus to a remote location, then buried them
alive in a pit. The West is clearly committing injustices in maintaining
sanctions on Iraq's people, but Saddam is a disgusting thug. No
question about it, and never forget that, or else your defense of
"the poor Iraqi civilians" becomes a lame, limp argument without
While Sandy Zipp definitely does a better job of illustrating the
gentrification process than the Rebecca Solnit book he reviews ("The
Battle of San Francisco," April 2), he lets her off the hook
too easily and also omits questions of race and class--a discourse
that artists conveniently ignore.
Property values are racialized. A building, with solely black or
Latino tenants has a lower value. But once a white "artist" moves
in, the property value goes up. Evictions and displacement were
already a fact of life for blacks and Latinos in San Francisco in
the '60s (thanks to urban renewal and despite white flight). Now
that the ghettos are becoming no more, blacks and Latinos are losing
their community to the sons and daughters of white flighters and
being forced out to the least desirable postindustrial suburbs--where
they still pay more for both housing and transportation to their
The sons and daughters of the white flighters celebrate an imagined
community of artists and wannabe-sophisticated types. These middle-class
kids pretending to be poor only hurt those who are involuntarily
poor, disrupting everything from access to low-cost housing to bargains
at the Goodwill. The imitation poor move in, prices go up, and the
real poor have even less consumer power.
The crisis that Solnit talks about is only a crisis because it
affects her tribe of urban missionaries, homesteaders and outcasts.
The artists that she defends are not as numerous as she would imply--just
large enough to homestead on the city's real estate frontier. Having
been born and raised in San Francisco, the only artists I knew growing
up were graffiti artists and muralists attempting to claim the Mission
District as our turf while city planners tried to remove us.
There are more than two sides to this story, and this one needs
to be included.
Not long ago I was in a restaurant in Lake Tahoe outside of San
Francisco, sitting, I soon learned, next to a table full of developers.
Three couples composed of plastic women and well groomed, seal-like
I couldn't help but overhear their conversation, which turned on
the profitability of developing various properties around the city,
and eventually settled on the new board of supervisors who were
"undemocratic" and "positively dictatorial."
They found themselves surprised to be fans of Willie Brown. "Who
would imagine that I'd be voting for Willie Brown," one surprised
matron commented, "the lesser of two evils."
"You knew what you got when you bought Willie," said another.
"Yes," the matron concurred, "he stays bought. And that's the best
you can ask for in a politician."
Indeed, San Francisco was sold out by a mayor bribed by developers
maximizing their profits at the expense of the majority of the residents
and thereby making the city a bedroom community for the Valley,
a semi-suburban playground for wealthy commuters carefully expunged
of the less wealthy, the discomfiting and ultimately of all character.
I moved to Oakland.
We Love You Too
I've been reading In These Times since the mid-'70s, when
I was a high school kid in rapidly deindustrializing Chester, Pennsylvania,
dreaming of a career in journalism, inspired by things like the
anti-nuke movement and Woodward and Bernstein. I was a news junkie,
and noted that In These Times was a tabloidish publication
that seemed to publish the really important stories three years
ahead of everybody else. In These Times taught me what news
really was, and even six years at the Annenberg School in Philadelphia
couldn't take that away.
Over the decades, In These Times has been a constant, as
is my recommending it to anybody who'll listen. I just renewed my
subscription for two more years, even though occasionally you do
something really stupid, like blast Nader voters and demand we cash
in our consciences for strategic support of the Democratic Party
that has been turning its back on people like mine. Even so, the
arrival of each issue is cause for excitement in this household.
There are so few truly, sustainedly progressive "discursive spaces"
to go to these days. In These Times always stays grounded
in issues, like equity, not in labels like socialism, and that is
such a breath of fresh air.
I moved from Wisconsin to San Francisco two years ago (terrible
timing, by the way) and am now in Berkeley. There is something of
a true progressive renaissance going on here, owing to the excesses
of the Silicon Oligarchy. But having just gotten back from my 10th
Organic Farming Conference, I still feel that the Upper Midwest
is where progressivism is incubating, and where it is radiating
from. In These Times has three fingers, Chinese-medicine
style, on the pulses of Robert LaFollette's dream, as well as the
Every so often I like to toss you a few lines and rave about how
glad I am that In These Times exists and continues to be
so damned outstanding. Only a few institutions have earned my undying
loyalty, and In These Times has been one of them for over
25 years, right up there with constitutional democracy and the State
Capitol Credit Union in Madison.