Category Archives: Politics

Love the Player, Hate the Game

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. 
By Tony Kushner
Directed by Tony Taccone
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, May 16–June 29

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Mark Margolis (Gus), Tina Chilip (Sooze), and Joseph J. Parks (Vito) in Tony Kushner’s “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.” Photo courtesy kevinberne.com.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Mark Margolis (Gus), Tina Chilip (Sooze), and Joseph J. Parks (Vito) in Tony Kushner’s “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.” Photo courtesy kevinberne.com.

There is a phantom haunting the theater—the phantom of socialism. Look to the Bay Area theater scene, and you’ll notice an array of socialist playwrights and subject matters: Berkeley Rep just opened The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, its second definitively radical show, after Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. All of California Shakespeare Theater’s non-Shakespeare shows this season were written by socialists (Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun [read our review] and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion). The (Tony-winning) San Francisco Mime Troupe is avowedly far-left, but then they’ve always been. Remarkably, Shotgun Players just wrapped up a trilogy of Tom Stoppard plays about obscure Russian radical Alexander Herzen, “the father of Russian socialism” (I am unsure which is more shocking—that they decided to put up the entire trilogy, or that Stoppard’s yawn-worthy dialogue resulted in the trilogy’s run being extended).

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The Drive and Dump of the American Dream: An Alien Ethnography

When I relocated from The Netherlands to Silicon Valley, I was invited to an “ice-cream social” in a cul de sac of Eichler homes. We got talking about the environment—a popular topic in Northern California—and one professor proudly announced that this was the street with the most Priuses in the country. It was also a street that, despite the constant sunshine, did not boast one clothesline; clothes dryers, along with a vehicular commute to the local supermarket, were, it would seem, the most convenient option. Conspicuous consumption is also convenient; it is much easier to buy coffee in a 60% recycled cardboard cup or pay luxury money for a Prius to rack up some nice middle class enviro-points than it is to make arduous lifestyle adjustments. Lifestyle is what you buy, not what you do.

After this experience, conspicuous environmental consumption and absolution by-product became something of an obsession for me living as a tourist to this squeaky-clean dream. I had come to study—or “scrape the fat,” as I like to refer to it—at the prestigious Stanford University, which entailed a generous stipend to fund my voyeuristic fascination with American culture. On my first day I was dumbfounded to find the waste bins full of biodegradable corn starch forks and brown paper cardboard plates. It seemed that having to wash up was too much to ask—as was a functioning compost system to facilitate the actual biodegradation of food and forks.I figured that since I was going to be living without any money for the next six weeks while waiting for my scholarship to come through, I could at least make a meal of the cutlery. Unfortunately, they didn’t taste so good and turned out to be surprisingly unsuited to the microwave.

condoleeza_rice_fork_sm

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Can Oakland buck the gentrification trend?

A series of civic dialogues have been taking place in Oakland on the subject of development and gentrification. Oakland Reconstructed: The Birth of a District was one such event, billing itself as an attempt to “bring as many un-likeminded people as possible together to have as honest a discussion as participants were willing to engage [in].” PopFront will be covering this and future forums in Oakland as they progress.

As the tech boom creeps north and east, it seems inevitable that Oakland will face the same structural changes that remade San José, the Peninsula and now San Francisco. But is redevelopment inherently harmful? On April 2nd, a town-hall style forum was held in midtown Oakland to tackle this very topic. The group that hosted the event, Top Ten Social Club, titled the evening “Oakland Reconstructed.” The panel featured Jahmese Myres, a local Senior Research Associate at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE); Jeremy Liu, a Bay Area native and Co-Founder of Creative Development Partners (CDP); Orson Aguilar, Executive director at the local Greenling Institute; Alan Dones, an Oakland Native and principal of ADCo, LLC and managing partner and co-founder of SUDA, LLC; and Mike Ghielmetti, a local founder and president of Signature Development Group.

From left to right: Calvin Williams, X, Jahmese Kathleen Myres and X. photo by Dakarai Towle.

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In Defense of Venezuela, Part 2: Different Class, Different Interests

Today we continue the second part of a two-part series on the ongoing protests in Venezuela. In part one, Nicholas Laursen wrote about the history of the Venezuelan constitution, the oligarchical parties that dominated the political landscape until 1999, and the Chávez administration’s dedication to a democratic process of constitutional revision. Now we move from history to a discussion of the current situation.

burned-venezuela-seal

What drives the current opposition to Maduro? The answer is mostly economic—the current protests are related to a rise in crime and inflation, as well as shortages. However, at their core, these grievances are more the ails of the wealthy, propertied classes, and they highlight the economic tension and disparate interests between rich and poor Venezuelans.  In order to understand these, however, we have to go back to economic history. Continue reading

This is Class War: In Defense of Venezuela

Coat_of_arms_of_Venezuela

In considering the political firestorm in Venezuela, it may be best to start with a quantitative measure of populist will: elections. The government of Hugo Chávez—and the associated Bolivarian Revolution, more movement than literal revolution—came to be in 1999, following the elections of 1998 in which Chávez won a majority, 56%, of the national vote. In second place came the center-right candidate, Salas Römer, with 40% of the vote. Chávez’s margin of victory was particularly impressive given Venezuela’s abundance of political parties.

After less than a year of governance, the Chávez administration called a public referendum to approve the creation of a Constitutional Assembly, which would be charged with the task of drafting a new constitution to replace the outdated and outstanding one written 39 years prior by rural and business elites, and engineered to preserve their interests. The referendum passed with an unprecedented 88% of the vote. Continue reading

Mayor Lee’s Civic Priorities

Civic Center poverty

In an editorial entitled “SF needs to make the Main Library safer,” the San Francisco Examiner lauded Mayor Ed Lee’s effort to “institute stronger consequences for breaking the rules” at the main branch of the San Francisco public library. “Give Mayor Ed Lee credit,” wrote the editorial staff. “[Lee] is right in making a big push to rid the Main Library of what he called [the] ‘small number of people who create disturbances and commit crimes, tarnishing the experience for everyone else.’”

“People who commit crimes” is a rhetorical construction designed to obfuscate. If the Examiner were being truthful, they might have rephrased this sentence to something like: “people—many them poor, and many of whom have untreated mental illness, and have no where else to go—whose desperation leads them to commit crimes.” The truth is that poverty in San Francisco’s civic center is nothing new—nor is the civic tendency to criminalize them.

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