A Tale Of Determination

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June 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on A Tale Of Determination 

Israeli settlers taunt a Palestinian woman who has just been evicted from her home



By Mohammad Arafat

The Gaza strip is located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and is an important link between Asia and Africa. The traders of Asia and Africa used to cross Gaza in their comings and goings between the two continents. That importance no doubt made it attractive to the Israelis in their occupation of Gaza and all of Palestine in 1948. The Palestinian people have fought back against the occupation and massacres. They have forced it to withdraw from Gaza and we hope all of Palestine one day.

The Palestinian resistance made Israelis leave Gaza, but that occupation is still in control because Israel besieged Gaza by cutting power and water.  It controls our food and the cooking gas. In December of 2008, F16 warplanes and lots of missiles fell on us. Read more


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June 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on SURVIVING THE WHIPLASH EFFECT OF L.A.’S CULTURE CLASH 

The Hollywood Sign

By Bob Vickrey


Several years ago I found myself doing a double-take as I noticed two familiar looking men mingling with a large group at an author speaking engagement in my local bookstore. The scene there was one that utterly embodied the ever-enduring clash of diverse Los Angeles cultures.


The sight of a well-known author who was in the company of a popular actor was so common in West Los Angeles that it normally would not trigger such a head-turning moment. But when I spotted writer Jonathan Kirsch and actor Charlton Heston in the same contingent, I quickly remembered that Kirsch was the author of a biography entitled Moses, A Life; and here he was rubbing shoulders with the actor who had portrayed the Old Testament prophet decades earlier in the movie, The Ten Commandments. That particular scene represented the very essence of the intersection of the worlds of literary and popular culture—a setting that plays out often in the city where I live. Read more

Mixville shopping center’s movie ranch

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Tom Mix of Mixville

By Phyl Van Ammers


Whole Foods will soon occupy a building in the strip mall on Glendale Boulevard.   This is an important historic location without even an obscure plaque to show what was once there.


Along Glendale Boulevard, but closer to downtown and near the maw of the 2 Freeway, is the site of the Selig Polyscope movie studio.   Around 1910, Selig recruited a cowboy who had ridden with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders when he was a teenager, served in the Boxer Rebellion, broke horses for the English in the Boer War, served as sheriff, U.S. Marshall, Texas Ranger, and who wanted only to live on the plains and own a ranch but felt he needed to raise the money himself and organized ranch shows.  He and his horse Old Blue performed terrifying tricks in the ranch shows that later became part of the Tom Mix films. Read more


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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on LIONEL’S LAMENT 

Lionel holding forth at the Griffith Park Observatory--photo by Kurt Olerud




As bombs were blowing up in Boston, I was sitting in my doctor’s office in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and he was telling me that he had no medicines to deal with my painful swollen legs, knees and feet.


Now I know that human misery is a constant, but when you’re experiencing it personally, so is the world. Bombers in Boston, sinkholes, tsunamis, wars, nuclear accidents, meteors hurling toward cities, earthquakes, mad cops running amok, ships crashing into shore as they navigate into port, all somehow equate with my increasingly wobbly legs.


Now I’ll grant there is no apparent connection between a major American city being under siege by a couple of mad bombers and the pain in my body. But it feels as if the world and the lives of all of us in it, are going bonkers in droves. The news is becoming madder by the day. Nothing is left to shock. Read more

The Hip Dictator and His Opponents

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Leslie Evans

 The Dictator’ Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy. William J. Dobson. New York: Doubleday, 2012. 341 pp.

Former Foreign Affairs editor William J. Dobson has been making the rounds of dictatorial states for the last half decade, interviewing the autocrats’ top functionaries as well as leaders of their democratic opposition. From Putin’s Russia to Mubarak’s Egypt, Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysia, Chavez’s Venezuela, and, of course, the very model of the modern authoritarian state, China. He concludes that dictators have smartened up since the heavy handed days of yore, when they had to give themselves 99 percent in every election and sealed their borders, preventing people from leaving and trying to prevent information about the outside world from getting in.

The totalitarian regimes of the far right – National Socialism and fascism – were destroyed in World War II. Those of the left – the Soviet Union and its East European client states, Maoist China – collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, or in the case of China, underwent major reforms. This has left North Korea as the sole indisputable exemplar of the totalitarian model.  Cuba stands somewhere between there and the states labeled authoritarian. Read more

Two Views of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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April 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Two Views of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 

We open this month’s Boryanabooks selection with two views of the seemingly endless clash between Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. From Mohammad Arafat, a writer and resident of Gaza, we have an anguished account of his experiences during the Israeli invasion of 2009, of homes bulldozed and a neighbor’s daughter killed by an Israeli air strike. Leslie Evans offers a longer piece, criticizing much of the Western Left for placing all of the blame in this bitter ethnic conflict on the Israeli Jews. He traces Left animosity to Jewish national identity to the beginnings of the socialist movement in Europe and calls for support to the two-state solution to resolve the impasse.


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April 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on LETTER FROM GAZA 


The View From Gaza


Israel began to build its country in the Palestinian lands and began to control the Palestinian people at the beginning of 1948. It forced them to escape from their homes to other countries or cities. Many of those immigrants went to the neighboring countries like Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and the others went to Gaza and the West Bank. This occupation made many massacres in those lands, like Deir Yassin, where everyone was killed. The Israelis took about 70 percent of Palestine.

In 1994 the Israeli armies put Gaza and the West Bank under Palestinian authority. In spite of that, the occupation did not stop massacres inside Gaza and the West Bank. There were numerous invasions during the 2000 Intifada, but the most dangerous and terrible time was the 2008/2009 war on Gaza and its people. Read more

The Left and the Jews

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Leslie Evans

From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel. Robert S. Wistrich. University of Nebraska Press, 2012. 625 pp.

Mr Deasy to Stephen Dedalus: “Ireland, they say, has the honour of
being the only country which never persecuted the Jews.
Do you know that? No. And do you know why?”

“Why, sir?” Stephen asked, beginning to smile.

“Because she never let them in,” Mr Deasy said solemnly.
A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat
dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm.

-James Joyce, Ulysses

I first had to think much of anything about Israel, the Arab states on its borders, and the subset of Arabs who were beginning to be called Palestinians in June 1967 during the Six Day War. I was living in New York at the time, a member and staff writer for the Socialist Workers Party, the largest of the American Trotskyist groups, revolutionary Marxists who revered Lenin as well as Leon Trotsky. On June 5 war erupted between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, three of the four countries on its borders, all vastly larger. Fighting on three fronts, the Israeli Jews in a few days defeated the massive Arab armies thrown against them.

The SWP leadership declared the party firmly on the Arab side, not shrinking from unreservedly endorsing the declared Arab war aims of destroying the Jewish state altogether. There were twenty-two Arab states and a single Jewish one. Forty-six years later the population of the Arab states stands at 350 million; Israel’s is 8 million, of whom only 6 million are Jews. Read more

The California Road Scholar Talks About Mining

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Mural in the Martinez, California post office. "The Road to El Dorado, painted by Edith Hamlin and Maynard Dixon in 1939. http://livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu/projects/martinez-post-office-mural-the-road-to-eldorado-martinez-ca/


By Phyl Van Ammers

The quicksilver, gold and coalmines in this state helped create its cities and transformed its legal, political, economic and environmental landscape.

A petroglyph at Hickison Recreation Center in Nevada on Highway 50 shows stick figures that have enormous heads.  They look like sticks with light bulbs on top. Behind them in one collection of stick figures a line represents mountain by inverted VVVVVV, an ideogram rather like saw teeth. “Sierra” in Spanish means both mountain range and saw.  “Nevada” means snowfall, descent of snow, a heavy fall of snow, or white as snow.

Read more


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April 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on A SOUTHERN VOICE FOR THE AGES 



By Bob Vickrey


When his literary agent once asked best-selling writer Pat Conroy why there was not more sex included in his novels, he responded quickly, “Because my grandmother is still alive.”

When he tells that story at writing seminars and on the banquet circuit, there is always an eruption of laughter and applause in the room. Everyone in attendance fully understands the precarious minefield a writer navigates when it comes to family matters.

He has traditionally offered a serious challenge to young writers, however, as he encourages them to “be bold” and tell their stories courageously without worrying about who is in the audience. Read more

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