{ metropolis devoured }
a tribute to my san francisco

3/4 oz scotch whiskey
3/4 oz local politics
1/4 oz public policy
1/4 oz disaster preparedness
1/2 oz alamo square

Shake over neighborhood dives & venues, strain into a chilled cocktail dress, garnish with a sprig of gov 2.0, and serve.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Afghanistan's top woman cop murdered September 27, 2008...

I've been putting off writing about the unfortunate death of Malalai Kakar, the top-ranking female police officer in Afghanistan, because the fact is I'm not a skilled enough writer to properly express my disappointment, and I didn't want to settle for just a blurb. But now it's been over a week and I still haven't gotten anything together, and something is better than nothing. In sum, Malalai has reached heights previously inaccessible to modern-day Afghani women, and that alone made her a Taliban target. She worked in a city recently overrun by the re-emerging Taliban, a considerably dangerous environment for men, let alone those relegated to second class citizenship (women, minorities, foreigners). At some point (why don't online versions of publications date their stuff??), Marie Claire ran this excellent article on the "top cop":

Malalai heads for the squad room, where she removes her burka and straightens her uniform. She wears a crisp navy-blue safari shirt with the sleeves rolled up and matching canvas pants gathered in folds around her hips, held up by a thick black belt. Clearly, the Kandahar Police Department never planned on providing a uniform for someone with a 24-inch waist. Against her bone-thin, five-foot frame, the 9-mm pistol strapped to her hip looks comically large.

Kandahar is, hands-down, one of the world's scariest cities. In spite of the U.S. and NATO street patrols, the Taliban seem to be everywhere. "They come out almost every night now," says Malalai. "They're responsible for drive-by shootings, bombings at police posts, and the daily mortaring of a NATO base outside town." Residents are on edge. Foreigners keep to themselves and live behind high walls with armed guards. Police at checkpoints look jumpy, and men with submachine guns wander the hotels. Nearly everyone on the street carries a weapon.

Malalai became a police officer, just like her father and brothers, to ensure that women would have a chance at a fair and just system of law enforcement - or access to it at all.

As a female police officer, Malalai is able to speak directly to women who are victims of violence. Recently, she started investigating a spate of suspicious murders and cases of abuse involving women in Kandahar. "These are things that I do that men just won't," she says. "I remember this one case, when I knocked on the door but the children would not let me in. From under the cover of my burka, I told them I was their long-lost aunt. They opened the door." Malalai (who says she often wears a burka to disguise her identity) searched the house and found a woman and her son chained by their hands and feet. They'd survived for 10 months on crusts of bread and cups of water. The woman, a widow, was handed over by her in-laws to her brother-in-law after her husband passed away. The brother married her and divorced her, a major taboo that guaranteed she would be a social outcast for the rest of her life. When she went to pick up her belongings, the brother-in-law forced her and her son into a cage and held them captive.

"The Taliban may threaten me," Malalai says. "But because of stories like rescuing this woman, the women and children love me."

The Taliban did more than threaten her. On September 27th, a spokesperson for an extremist Taliban movement which targets government officials gave the following statement:

“We killed Malalai Kakar. She was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target.”

This just can't be tolerated.

Other relevant articles: Trailblazing detective pays with her life [The Star]

Kandahar’s Only Policewoman Walks a Tough Beat — Veiled [ABC news]

The Hidden Half: A Photo Essay on Women in Afghanistan [Mother Jones] (read the comments)


Monday, October 06, 2008

Time to let go of our antiquated agrarian nostalgia.

Slate has an interesting article up about American perceptions of what is "real" American and what is not, the Alaska vs. Hawaii argument. Read the full article here. I agree that there's a certain amount of romance left to the country lifestyle, but it's time to stop pandering to one demographic more than the others. Go where the voters are!

... Alaska leans Republican while Hawaii leans Democratic, and the GOP long ago intimidated the media into believing that only Republican strongholds represent the "real America." These Republican strongholds are usually sparsely populated, and I suppose the media's been sold on the idea that because the United States started out as an agrarian nation, rural areas are somehow more authentic than urban ones.

But if it's really true, as Palin said in the debate, that Americans are tired of "constantly looking backwards," then perhaps it's time we noticed that, as Rachael Larimore points out in Slate's "XX Factor" blog, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas. We city-dwellers make no claim to being more "authentically American" than Alaskans or the inhabitants of any of this country's many other big open spaces. But we are, by dispassionate numerical reckoning, more typical. And while most people probably don't think of Hawaii as an urban state, 70 percent of its 1.3 million inhabitants live in and around Honolulu, the state's biggest city. In Alaska, by contrast, only 42 percent of its 670,000 inhabitants live in and around Anchorage, that state's biggest city. So if either of the last two states admitted to the union has any claim to being more characteristic of the nation as a whole, it's Hawaii, not Alaska.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Palin, a "master... of nonanswers"? Why, Andrew Halcro, you don't say! Tomorrow's much speculated upon Veep debate should be interesting, although already predictable: everyone's going to hit on the fact that she's vague and noncommittal to her answers, that Biden struggles to make an impact when compared to his press-ready opponent, that we didn't learn anything new from either candidate or their positions. I learned a thing or two about "feminism" this past weekend at the Women's Policy Summit and I'm looking forward to seeing how she shines as a feminist, though I do think it's unfair that a woman running for office can't just openly say that she isn't one.