Saturday, August 31, 2013
There’s nothing so ardent as the indignation of children. This small boy in Belfast prepares to take on the British army with a home-made lance (in 1981).
In 1981, the second hunger strike ended after ten Irish political prisoners, including Bobby Sands, had died in prison. The hunger strike was in response to the British government criminalizing political prisoners & eliminating the status of political prisoner (akin to prisoner of war status).
I visited Belfast (& Derry) at that time & asked a group of small boys in Belfast to show me the murals painted on walls in the Catholic neighborhoods to support the hunger strikers. The murals were extraordinary but as the 8 to 10 year-olds guided me through the streets they would stop to lob rocks at constantly passing caravans of British armored vehicles. I, being no coward (at least all of the time) stayed with the boys though I was scared silly. Their bravado may have been partially to impress me--& that sure worked--but it was also heartfelt. When I parted with the group at the end of the day I asked them if they would like me to send them copies of the photos I had taken. “No,” said one young boy. “Use them to show people what is really going on here.”
(Photo by Ian Berry)
“Enrique’s Journey” is a 2006 book written by Sonia Nazario based on her Pulitzer prize-winning series of articles in the LA Times in 2002. Enrique was a 5-year-old Honduran boy when his mother, Lourdes, unable to feed her two children, left to find a job in the US. At the age of 15, he left Honduras to take the treacherous journey north to the US to reunite with the mother he felt bereft without. This book is the grisly account of that journey.
Pulitzer Prize or not, it isn’t a great book because Nazario pulls her punches politically & settles for evoking pity rather than igniting fury. She followed the journey made by Enrique & the 50,000 unaccompanied minors per year who leave Central America to find mothers in the US who had previously left to find work. Nazario made this arduous trip riding on train tops with the help of Mexican authorities & the train companies.
These immigrants--some as young as 7-years-old--endure assault, robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, repeated deportations back to their own countries. Nazario describes these with wrenching frankness but she skims the surface of the important problems exposed & identified by the children themselves. Why can’t their parents find work in their own countries? Why is there such violence against them in Chiapas & who are the perpetrators? Why are Mexican police officials identified by immigrants as the most frequent robbers & rapists? Why do train lines not allow immigrants to board stopped trains but require them to leap aboard moving trains--resulting in hundreds of dismemberments & injuries? Why do US immigration policies & border patrol agents cause such gruesome deaths for so many immigrants with impunity rather than criminal prosecution?
The book was written before passage of Central American immigrants through Mexico was legalized by the Mexican senate--which has not lessened the violence they sustain by an iota. In fact it has increased, with mass executions, dismemberments, & mass graves. Piles of dismembered bodies are dumped on highways & exposed to public view--while 50,000 Mexican troops are prowling the countryside for drug peddlers they can’t manage to find. The story doesn’t add up!
One of the heartening stories Nazario tells is of the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico--a key transit point for the trains. Here the working poor who live on the side of the train tracks have organized themselves to provide assistance & defense for the immigrants. With each passing train they line up with bags of food, clothing, blankets, & solidarity. In some instances they have defended immigrants from attacking police agents & other goons. This photo is the hands of residents passing food to Central American immigrants as they pass through the town of Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz. (One of the most gruesome mass crimes against immigrants was in Veracruz--most likely as a warning to residents to cease their humanitarian aid & solidarity.)
One important thing Nazario highlights--albeit in a moralistic way--is how immigration has fractured family relationships in societies which cherish them. Men forced to migrate are torn from children & spouses, mothers are torn from small children, children are left bereft & grieving. Addiction among immigrants & among those left behind is often a consequence. These are not reasons for pity & crocodile tears. These are reasons to demand the US open its damn border & tear down its monstrous wall.
This moving video shows the faces of Central American immigrants (refugees really) & the dangers they face getting on & off moving trains. They are our brothers & sisters, not marauding enemies from the south:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GODYdoACCeQ
Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!
(Photo by Don Bartletti)
Young children standing up against bulldozers has become an iconic image not only in Palestine against the Israeli military but in Kashmir against the Indian military. It’s part of intifada in both countries. But regrettably it has become a common David vs. Goliath experience in the Israeli-occupied West Bank & around the world--because military occupation & brute force are increasing to enforce tyranny.
Unarmed civilians of every age, from young kids to the elderly stand with rocks, slingshots, & burning tires against tear gas, water cannons, grenades, rubber bullets & live ammunition, attack dogs, armored vehicles, & 60-ton tanks & bulldozers. The most memorable moments include the anonymous Tank Man standing unarmed against a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989; fifteen-year-old Palestinian Faris Odeh in 2000 holding off a bulldozer with only rocks (10 days later he was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers); Rachel Corrie, the US activist mowed down by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003; the small Kashmiri boy facing off an Indian army tank after another young boy shot by the Indian army died in his arms in 2009.
But from resistance to English occupation of Northern Ireland to the uprisings in Egypt & Bahrain to resistance against slum eviction in the Philippines, we have seen the oppressed defy superior military might with nothing but rocks & defiance. This photo is from a protest in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum. This is not an iconic moment but a weekly event as Palestinians resist continuing Zionist land grabs of their property. Armored bulldozers serve many aggressive purposes in the ongoing land theft--in particular demolishing Palestinian homes. These vehicles, used mainly by the Israeli military, are made by Caterpillar & paid for by the US government as part of its aid to Israel.
Media commentaries on this phenomenon draw on the least enlightened sources for explanation. Little brother Odeh is called an “adolescent daredevil” who didn’t understand the dangers; a French philosopher made himself comprehensible for one brief moment to utter the Islamophobic banality that martyrdom like this is due to the Islamization & “culture of death” of Palestinians; mental health practitioners without a political bone in their bodies claim intifada is a distraction for children who don’t understand the dangers. Which doesn’t explain the old ladies throwing stones.
These worthless commentators don’t have a clue about commitment to justice that is not reckless or fearless but that will brave all against tyranny & oppression & occupation; in their privilege & sniveling cowardice before power, they cannot hope to understand this spirit of rebellion & resistance to oppression, especially in the young.
Cynics & ideologues of Zionism claim the conflict between Palestinians & Jews is too intransigent for resolution & necessitates a separate, apartheid, “Jewish” state. But the only thing that separates Palestinians from Jews is Zionism--a repugnant, right-wing, racist & colonial ideology that promotes Jewish isolationism & religious & ethnic superiority over human solidarity. The symbols of Zionism are this bulldozer & the apartheid wall.
Palestinian & Israeli visionaries have long fought for a unified democratic, secular state incorporating Jews & Palestinians as brothers & sisters. There is nothing intransigent or impossible about this political perspective. It is the imperative of progress & justice. If we want to facilitate this political process, it begins with demanding “No US aid to Israel,” with boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), & supporting the cultural boycott of Israel.
(Photo by Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday, August 30, 2013
If riot cops in South Africa, Kashmir and elsewhere can use water cannons filled with purple dye against protestors & striking workers then protestors can use paint bombs in their own defense--& union protestors in Greece & student protestors in several Latin American countries have distinguished themselves in this regard. When used against protestors however it evokes outrage but when used against riot cops it evokes hilarity.
Students in Bogota, Colombia gave riot cops a snoot full of technicolor indignation at a march yesterday to support striking farmers & truckers who are blockading highways to reduce fuel prices, increase government farm subsidies, & cancel free trade agreements giving foreign food conglomerates advantage over local farmers. Are we wrong to laugh!?
(Photo by Fernando Vergara/AP)
Opposition to US-NATO intervention is not an endorsement of Assad’s regime. It is an endorsement of Syrian democracy, of opposition to foreign meddling aimed to protect tyranny in Syria under another guise & it is to allow Syrians to finish the job of social transformation they began in 2011.
This is a video of Ibrahim Qashoush, a 34-year-old fireman, poet & songwriter who led protest anthems during the uprising. In July 2011, he was kidnapped & thrown into a river with his throat cut & his vocal cords ripped out. After his murder, he was hailed as the "nightingale of the revolution,” the troubadour of social transformation in Syria.
May our brother Ibrahim Rest in Peace & may we honor him by demanding “Hands off Syria!” so that the cause he & thousands of others have given their lives for can be completed.
In human history, there has been no greater obstacle to social transformation than war & as a result nothing separates wheat from chaff faster than war. Fault lines get exposed, political ruptures that could previously lie low emerge as pro-war patriots line up uttering time-worn banalities endorsing “humanitarian interventions” & take their distance from antiwar activists, accusing them of rigidity & ossified politics stuck in the bygone era of Vietnam.
Those reactionary forces write the history books & make the films promoting WWI & WWII as the good wars fought for democracy & against genocide when in fact they were at heart inter-imperial conflicts over the division of colonial plunder. There wasn’t a damn good thing about either war--& WWII had nothing to do with stopping genocide in Europe.
So here we are on the threshold of another US-NATO military conflagration in Syria. If there’s one thing those governments know how to do it’s propaganda & milking tears out of the tender-hearted champions of war. “We can’t stand by & do nothing,” they cry out. (The use of the royal we, identifying with their own governments, is the first clue to where their loyalties lie.) And of course their governments haven’t stood by & done nothing. For the past few years through covert operations, they thwarted a popular revolution against the tyranny of Assad & turned it into a barbaric civil war.
To suggest that US-NATO forces have humanitarian intentions or could possibly achieve some peace for the millions of Syrians bombed out of their homes & sent to flight in other countries is to be either unforgivably stupid or irredeemably pro-war. One only has to look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, DR Congo, Uganda, Libya.
Human rights organizations take the cake in this regard, in particular Human Rights Watch (HRW) & Amnesty International. Amnesty has already won its Nobel Peace Prize; HRW is probably angling for one right now. Neither corporate-funded group can bring itself to denounce this pending war in no uncertain terms; that would upset their benefactors & curtail philanthropic largesse (otherwise known as hush money).
Amnesty issued a six-point manifesto on the Syrian intervention chiding the bellicose nations to take it easy on civilians. The statement will have you in tears as they beat the war drums against Assad--& you wonder why they haven’t long-since done the same for Iraq, Afghanistan, & elsewhere. HRW issued a statement saying they don’t take a position for or against intervention but you wouldn’t know that from their statement which also blisters Assad without mentioning US-NATO occupations. HRW cautions bellicose nations to “adhere to the laws of war” & discriminate between civilians & combatants. Does HRW have its head stuck up its ass? Can it think of a single war in human history where civilians weren’t the primary targets & victims!? Or is it covering for US-NATO aggression?
The only possible principled position is “No US-NATO intervention in Syria!” War against Syria would only replace the tyranny of Assad with the barbarism of US-NATO occupation. There are no humanitarian interventions, at least by US-NATO armies.
Hands off Syria! No covert intervention & no military invasion! It needn't be said that opposition to war does no good sitting in people's heads but can be actively expressed in antiwar protests & rallies.
(Photo of Syrian refugees & littlest civilians near border between Syria & Turkey taken in March by Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Somebody needs to explain why nations formulate international law in impressive manifestos like the Geneva Conventions & then flout every damn one of their terms. What’s the point in all that judicial hot air if there are no provisions for enforcement? US-NATO marines run roughshod over a dozen countries, the Obama regime terrorizes millions of civilians with drone attacks, Israel is an ethnic cleansing catastrophe & in response there are no protests, let alone sanctions from the forces that formulate these laws.
That’s why political movements for social justice have devised their own methods for sanction. One of them is the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel to apply economic & political pressure against Israeli occupation & colonization of Palestinian land, for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, & the right of return for Palestinian refugees. BDS was effective against South African apartheid & is proving a powerful political weapon to support Palestinian self-determination.
The BDS movement is growing internationally but so has Israel accelerated its colonization of Palestinian property & land along with its global search for Zionist settlers to move in & take over Palestine. One of the sarcasms of Israeli immigration policy mocking its infamous law of return (which allows Jews from anywhere to become citizens of Israel) is that hundreds of Zionist settlers fail the DNA tests looking for that oh-so-special Jewish chromosome. Parties of settlers from Ethiopia, India, Peru, & elsewhere were persuaded by fundamentalist Christian missionaries that they were members of a lost tribe of Israel & have been granted immigration rights on that claim. Does construction of a master race get wackier than that!?
The entire project of Israel since 1948 is a colonial enterprise. But in the past several months Israel uprooted several Bedouin communities by designating their areas as military zones; for the past many years they have militarily occupied & aggressively confiscated acres of Palestinian farm land in the West Bank, tearing up olive trees & fields, bulldozing homes & animal pens, & poisoning water wells; in East Jerusalem, they’ve simply gone hog-wild since its occupation in 1967 in an attempt to force Palestinians to migrate out of Israel. The fact that all this violates the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting forcible transfers of civilians within occupied territory hasn’t deterred Israeli ethnic cleansing in the least.
According to reports by the European Union & several Israeli & international human rights groups, Israel has constructed housing for nearly 200,000 Zionist settlers from all over kingdom come to move into East Jerusalem while hundreds of Palestinian homes are being zoned out of legality & bulldozed & thousands of Palestinian residents made homeless or forced to live in tents, makeshift huts, & temporary shelters. Adding barbarism to barbarism, Israeli bulldozers then mow these emergency structures down & the Israeli government sends residents a bill for the cost of demolition.
This photo is of Khaled Zir & his family whose home was demolished several years ago by Israeli officials. Zir built a makeshift tin shack for the family but when Israeli goons recently bulldozed that, they were forced to move into a cave that formerly served as their animal stable. They had no place else to go.
Oppose Israeli apartheid & support justice for Palestinians by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), support the cultural boycott of Israel, & demand “No US aid to Israel!”
(Photo by Sebastian Scheiner/AP)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Homeless in Thessaloniki, Greece: holy McGillicutty, that IMF-European Union bailout has done wonders for working people in Greece! They get to sleep al fresco. They’re free to beg for food.
This is not an old man but after a few months living on the street you won’t know the difference. Neoliberal plunder has taken his life from him & reduced him to street litter. Greek working people have fiercely resisted these predations & shown human solidarity in the midst of it all--with farmers distributing cheap & even free food to the hungry.
Their inability to reverse the plunder is not a sign of impotence or the impossibility of social transformation but points to the need for international collaboration & solidarity. Ridding this planet of its thuggish oligarchs is a monumental historic task; this is where that “workers of the world unite” thing kicks in to become not just a mantra but a battle cry.
(Photo by Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP)
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
When the hell did slut-shaming become a theoretical concept in feminism? Why is it that male radicals discuss feminism only in terms of porno & prostitution & slut-shaming? Why are they preoccupied with sex workers & not much with sweatshop or office workers or underpaid & unemployed women or the serious challenges to reproductive rights? Quite frankly, it’s not only a disturbing development; it’s outright creepy.
When did the broad concerns & achievements of feminism start going down the tubes to a banal focus only on sexual exhibitionism & the prurient? And how the hell did raunch get all confused with female sexuality? Are male radicals watching too much MTV or reading too much porn? And then trying to justify it by long quotations from Marx & Engels?
Feminists who object are told with insular stupidity that we are sex-negative & politically passé. But bucko, there’s another explanation for our protests. We don’t like when men, who quite frankly don’t know a damn thing about feminist history or theoretics, try to control the renewal of feminism that is erupting like wildfire by taking hold of the debate & channeling it into their pornographic notions of our sexuality & human potentials. Imagine people who call themselves socialists who can’t imagine a world without prostitution, where women’s bodies are commodities!
They chide the women’s movement for lack of intersectionality & then consider the racist slut walks of half-naked women promoting prostitution as the epitome of feminist activism. They laud FEMEN for showing up bare-breasted even though they’re chanting racist crap against Arabs & Muslims. They ignore the veiled women leading revolutions in the Arab countries, the Egyptian women fighting for their place in Tahrir Square, the Mayan women taking on a corrupt regime for genocide & rape, the Dalit & other oppressed castes in India standing up against rape & sexual violence, & against land grabs, the mothers of Bhopal continuing to fight for over 30 years for justice for their children. What about them, bucko? Do they have to show up naked to get your attention or your approval?
When you wonder how Israel can perpetrate such vile outrages & human rights crime against Palestinians look no further than media coverage like in the NY Times whose choice of language alibis the crimes--as it did for apartheid in the US South & in South Africa. What delicacy they employ describing Israeli atrocities; what inflammatory adjectives they use describing Palestinian resistance! What big lies they tell!
Despite the linguistic delicacies to cover for ethnic cleansing, an atrocious crime was committed Monday when a unit of Israeli border cops in armored vehicles entered Qalandiya refugee camp near Jerusalem at 3:00 am to arrest Yousef al-Khatib, a Palestinian prisoner released two years ago after spending 10 years in an Israeli prison for rock throwing & who Israeli cops now label “a hostile terrorist activist.” For throwing stones again!? For speaking out against ethnic cleansing!? For protesting occupation!? According to an Israeli spokesperson, “After his arrest a mob of about 1,500 residents began a disturbance, throwing petrol bombs & stones, endangering the lives of force members, who responded with riot dispersal means." Another Israeli spokesperson said, The mob had become "so large & violent that it was vital for forces to assist in containing it."
The Palestinian version of events--which is actually credible--is that al-Khatib escaped to a neighbor’s house but was caught up with by the Israeli border cops & beaten. In his defense residents surrounded the Israeli cops who then called in military patrols waiting outside the camp for reinforcement. Three Palestinian men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd with live ammunition. At least 19 were wounded, with six now in critical condition. Most of the injured were shot in the head, chest, & upper body, according to medics. That is called a shoot to kill mission. More broadly, it is called ethnic cleansing.
The funerals of Robeen Zayed, 32, Younis Jahjouh, 22, & Jihad Aslan, 20, were held yesterday after the military rampage. After the funeral, Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint, the main crossing between the West Bank & Jerusalem where Palestinians routinely face abuse. Israeli border patrol responded with volleys of tear gas & rubber bullets. Here a Palestinian protester is lobbing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli troops. Some may call stone-throwing a provocation. Others call it intifada--or as the rebelling prisoners of Attica once called it, “the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.”
It’s regrettable to report that after a brief recess the phony-assed US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will resume to establish a Palestinian bantustate in the areas occupied by Israel--after Israel just announced plans for more settlement construction on the West Bank, despite continuing arrests of Palestinians ‘suspected of planning terrorist acts,’ & after gunning down three young, unarmed Palestinians.
Support Palestinian human rights by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), by supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, & by demanding "No US aid to Israel!"
(Photo by Darren Whiteside/Reuters)
In February, peasant farmers in Colombia began striking over government refusal to negotiate development projects that would ameliorate growing poverty in the agricultural sector. The government attempted to discredit the protests by claiming they were infiltrated by guerillas (particularly the FARC) & army & riot cops used what even UN observers called “excessive force” to stop farmers from blockading highways. Four protestors were killed & dozens arrested--but the protests were temporarily halted a few times after the government agreed to negotiate. So much for the promises of hoodlums!
On Monday, after government negotiations for economic reforms again proved unproductive, protests & highway blockades resumed in a national strike of truckers demanding cheaper gasoline, coffee growers demanding extension of government subsidies, potato & onion growers demanding lower prices for fertilizer, & farmers opposing free trade agreements with the US & European Union which threaten their entire livelihoods--but which would enormously enrich a handful of Colombian oligarchs.
Government officials say the strike is a ploy to extort more benefits from the government. Well you certainly can’t say the government is stupid. But in fact, most peasant farmers haven’t received a single cent of government subsidies or any type of assistance since the subsidy program was initiated last October & when they agreed to implement a direct payment system after a previous farmer strike in February.
In Bogota, thousands of students, health workers, agriculture & mining workers joined support rallies for the national strike; in Medellin, protesting farmers littered the streets in front of the Coffee Growers Federation with coffee beans. Media reports some protestors are pelting riot cops with rocks & homemade explosives. Meanwhile riot cops are charging protestors with tear gas & “excessive force.”
No explanation is given for why seven riot cops are ganging up on & kicking this unarmed guy at a protest in Ubate (north of Bogota). The media caption says the kneeling cop is attempting to protect the man. Well bully for him.
(Photo by Fernando Vergara/AP)
Monday, August 26, 2013
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the deadliest diseases of our times--nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria causing it, chronic active cases of TB are estimated at nearly 14 million people with millions of new cases every year (since the disease is contagious as hell), nearly two million people die from it every year, & it is one of the top three killers of women aged 15-44.
The global distribution of TB comes as no surprise, with 80% primarily in Asian & African countries (euphemistically referred to as “developing countries” when they would be more aptly called plundered nations). We’re informed by several sources that TB is due to compromised immunity which they attribute to HIV infection & AIDS, called the most important risk factor globally but especially in sub-Saharan Africa. So of course the solution they devise is more pharmaceuticals to throw at the disease.
Well if drugs solved the problem, throwing vaccines at it would be swell (even without the rise of drug-resistant strains) but they’ve known for well over 100 years that TB is one of the principal diseases of poverty, of malnutrition & overcrowding & it’s also a major occupational illness, especially among miners all over the world suffering silicosis & chronic lung disease. Since it’s a pulmonary disease, it sure doesn’t help if you smoke or drink but they are aggravators, not the cause. Those scientists (of the kind that sing for their supper) who claim they’ve found a genetic susceptibility to TB should be dismissed with a kick in the ass.
There are some things in life human beings cannot live without. We can live without palatial estates or even McMansions; we can live without fancy cars or second homes or annual vacations. But we cannot live without adequate clean food & clean water; we cannot do well without sanitation; we require housing that is clean & spacious enough so we’re not living on top of each other; & we require health care when we’re sick. The problem is neoliberal capitalism finds these incompatible with their insatiable greed. TB & cholera & leprosy can be wiped out but not without addressing social inequality & colonial plunder. When the pharmaceutical industry throws drugs at these health crises it is to mask the political, social, & economic plunder causing them in the first place.
These fellows are scavenging a garbage dump in Mumbai for recyclables they can sell. This is how hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including children, are forced to earn a meager survival. These piles of decaying food, feces & manure, filth & decay compounded by their poor nutrition are a breeding ground for TB & a dozen other respiratory diseases.
(Photo by David Rochkind)
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970, the demonstration which launched the women’s liberation movement of that era. Betty Friedan initially proposed the action to the National Organization for Women (NOW) though as more radical women & socialists joined the organizing efforts both Friedan & NOW became reluctant to participate & played very little role in building the demonstration, even if today they are given sole credit.
There was considerable wrangling over the demands of the march but the more radical versions prevailed: equal employment opportunity with equal pay; free 24-hour childcare; & free abortion on demand--no forced sterilization. The demands were more a wish list than a program for action but political debate was sharp & rancorous & exposed the chasm between women who wanted the movement to remain an elite club & those who wanted an all-inclusive social movement.
“No forced sterilization” was added to the demand for reproductive rights because a strong political force within the abortion rights movement were eugenicists who wanted to legitimize the sterilization of Black, Latino, & Native American women without their knowledge or consent. This arrant racism had been common medical practice for decades; at that time, over 30% of women in Puerto Rico had been forcibly sterilized. This was certainly the most immediately actionable demand of the three. It was also feminism throwing down the gauntlet to eugenicists--not just distinguishing ourselves from their racism in no uncertain terms but going to battle against it. Women will control our own bodies--not the church, not the state, & certainly not creepy eugenicists!
The media certainly had plenty to draw on for its caricature of feminism as a middle-class movement trying to break a glass ceiling rather than a movement to redress the grievances of working class, Black, Latino, & Native American women. Friedan only came to two organizing meetings in the last several months, arriving after the meeting ended & only because her tailor was in the same area. She didn’t inquire about how things were going but would pull out a suitcase of new dresses & try them on for us, one after the other. Her book “The Feminine Mystique” never spoke to me; it spoke for elite women & had nothing to do with my life. I had come to feminism through rebellion against unequal treatment of men & women in the Catholic church. So as a young activist watching her try on the dresses, I wasn’t disappointed so much as appalled at the disrespect she displayed for our efforts. After August 26th I attended a meeting at her home where the door was answered by a Black woman in a maid’s uniform. Her suitcase of dresses & that maid’s uniform dramatized for me the great class divide that was eventually to weaken women’s liberation as a social movement.
My job on the organizing committee was publicity director. In that capacity I would go for radio interviews though I was still a provincial kid unfamiliar with the sophistication of New York City. On a few occasions I was interviewed with Gloria Steinem who though less flamboyant than Friedan was also elitist. She was a decade older than me & a leading light in New York literary circles. Though I was intimidated by her confidence I was much more perturbed by her refusal to look at me or address me during these interviews--like I wasn’t sitting next to her or even in the conversation.
The best part of publicity director was the nightly forays of activists to wallpaper the city in march posters. We put our rollers of glue in pizza boxes & headed out all over town. We got hauled in by the police on only a few occasions--once for wallpapering the windows of the Playboy Club.
We worked tirelessly to build that march, uncertain if more than a handful would show up so you cannot imagine how overwhelmed we were when thousands of women filled Fifth Avenue & Bryant Park for the rally. Estimates of the crowd vary from 10,000 to 50,000--but whatever the size, it was a confirmation for feminist activists that we were not alone, that we weren’t just malcontents, or (as the media portrayed us) man-hating lesbians, crazies, & spinsters too ugly to get a man. Feminism entered history again, declaring opposition to inequality & demanding its redress. And despite the hiatus after elite women (including Friedan & Steinem) railroaded the movement into the Democratic Party in support of politicians, it aint going away until that mission is accomplished.
This audiotape of two interviews with me at an August 26th organizing meeting is fun for me to haul out on this day since it captures the hilarity of our postering forays: http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2010/mar/08/celebrating-international-womens-day-a-look-at-how-we-got-here/
(Photo of August 26th 1970 march in NYC by John Olsen)
Saturday, August 24, 2013
These young guys who migrated from all over India work in a tailoring shop in Mumbai. Though they work 16 hours a day stitching clothes they don’t earn enough money to rent rooms to live in & are forced to sleep on top of each other in the workshop.
We aren’t told if they’re stitching for foreign retailers or the local elite but the sale price of one garment would likely pay the rent to live like human beings. We are told a local NGO lectures them on the TB risks of sleeping together in such cramped quarters. If the NGO shut its trap & listened to these workers they’d probably learn a thing or two themselves--about indignity & exploitation, about unsafe work conditions & the need for unions. Being poor doesn’t make you stupid. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the sweatshop catastrophes in Bangladesh & elsewhere, it is that being unorganized does make you weak. Building unions is the first step in opposing sweatshops--& affording a room of your own.
(Photo by David Rochkind)
A military court has just sentenced Robert Bales to life in prison without the possibility of parole for massacring 16 Afghan civilians in June 2012. The entire court-martial proceedings were a mockery of justice since witnesses had to travel 7,000 miles to testify through interpreters in a foreign courtroom rather than in their own language in the jurisdiction where the massacres occurred. No one should get too excited about the sentence since in a matter of time it’s likely to be commuted.
During the Vietnam War, Lt. William Calley was charged with 104 counts of murder in the 1968 massacre of Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai--although the actual number of villagers slaughtered under his command was 500, including mostly women, children, & elderly. In 1971 a court-martial sentenced Calley to life imprisonment & hard labor at Fort Leavenworth prison. The very next day President Richard Nixon ordered him transferred from the prison to house arrest on a military base. In a series of legal maneuvers orchestrated by the White House & Pentagon, the sentence was repeatedly reduced & after only 3-1/2 years of house arrest Calley was released in 1974.
We can expect similar maneuverings by the Obama regime & Pentagon. Soldiers are trained & expected to commit atrocities. That’s why so many of them end up with mental health & addiction problems & why the suicide rate from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is now higher than the casualty rates. That’s what PTSD is all about.
The US government will protect Bales from accountability for his war crimes because it is responsible for sending Bales there in the first place after indoctrinating him with racist ideology to make atrocities just another day of work in war & occupation--& it is just as responsible for the massacre in Kandahar province as Robert Bales. If it does not protect soldiers from accountability it cannot rely on them for executing atrocities which are the nature of US wars.
Meanwhile Chelsea Manning will spend many years in prison for exposing these war crimes & the Obama regime & Pentagon will exert every effort to make sure her sentence is not reduced by a day.
Antiwar protests are scheduled for this fall to oppose the continuing war in Iraq (calculated one way it’s gone on since 2003; calculated more accurately, since 1990) & the 12th year of war & occupation in Afghanistan. It will be the best place to defend Manning & to speak out against the US-NATO wars.
This photo is of Masooma with her children; her husband was one of those slaughtered by Bales. Is that how the US emancipates women in Afghanistan?
US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!
(Photo by Anja Niedringhaus/AP)
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Over the past several months elderly poor citizens have repeatedly rallied at the Indian parliament in New Delhi to demand a universal pension system for those above 60 years of age. In 1995 India did set up a pension system which is stingy in disbursements & apparently a labyrinth of disqualifiers. The closest analog in US politics is Obamacare--except the Indian pension plan may be more readable.
The pension program, called the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, is not universal & provides only some Indians over 65 years old & living below the poverty line of 82 Rupees (US $1.25) per day with a pension of 200 Rupees (US $3.00) per month per beneficiary. In order to bring elderly up to the paltry poverty line the government would have to cough up over 2,200 more Rupees (US $34.00) per month.
That’s why thousands of elderly protestors are demanding a universal pension of 2,000 Rupees a month, still shy of the poverty line requiring 2,500 Rupees (US $38.00) a month--so the largesse is all on the side of the poor.
Though it may be inspiring to see elderly people on the battlefield against shysterism & greed, this woman should not have to spend her senior years fighting for her due after working all her life in factory or field. Our fullest solidarity with their fight.
(Photo by Altaf Qadri/AP)
There’s something so endearing about this photo of children at an evacuation center in Marikina (east of Manila, Philippines) eating donuts & sharing friendship under an umbrella while watching the massive flooding by Tropical Storm Trami that has paralyzed Manila. To a child, such disruptions can seem exciting rather than traumatizing.
But of course that’s not true for the estimated 1.5 million street children in the Philippines or the many thousands left homeless by gentrification or the last typhoon in December. Photojournalism has recorded images from around the world of elderly homeless people & those with disabilities struggling against flooding, of others trying to retrieve meager belongings from the onrush of flood waters. These are the stories not told since urban homelessness is seen as an eyesore & deterrent to tourism by politicians whose hateful disregard for human life probably views flooding as a final solution to poverty & homelessness.
In its greed capitalism is like an out of control train barreling down the tracks, taking everything out in its path. Or is it more like a hurricane? As a system it cannot ameliorate the global plunder & destructive policies leading to global warming & massive flooding (like tearing down rainforest to build plantations & dams) because it is driven by antisocial compulsions that place greed & private wealth over human life.
Global warming & environmental havoc make social transformation a necessity but the most compelling indictment of its antisocial character is the thought of small children, disabled, & elderly struggling to survive against the onslaught of flood waters. It’s time to take this unnatural hurricane out!
(Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. He will get "credit" for the 3-1/2 years he has already spent in prison & will be eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence--which means he could be released in nine years at the age of 33 but without continued defense from us is more likely to rot in jail until he's an old man.
He is still able to petition for a reduced sentence & his case can go to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals where he isn't likely to get a more sympathetic ear.
There are rallies around the US today proclaiming he shouldn't be spending another day in prison but should be feted as a champion of democracy.
On Tuesday, the sentencing phase began in the court-martial of Robert Bales, the soldier who shot up & massacred 16 civilians in Afghanistan in June 2012. Despite the fact that prosecutors have a phone audiotape of him & his wife laughing it up about the charges against him, Bales is unlikely to face the consequences of his crimes--though coming so soon on the heels of the Manning sentence may not serve Bales. It will be harder to give him a mild reprimand after such a draconian sentence for Manning.
Free Bradley Manning!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Several years ago in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts I came across a temporary exhibit of Hawaiian paintings. As a graduate of US public education, I knew nothing about Hawaii, only remembering the hoopla when it became a state. I don’t recall much about the exhibit or who the artists were because I was overwhelmed with the artistic rendering of massive US violence against the Hawaiian people--which came as a shock since we are taught it is a paradise.
Hawaii was a sovereign kingdom until it was violently overthrown by US marines in 1893 at the behest of sugarcane corporations; the US annexed it as a territory in 1898 & made it a US state on August 21, 1959. Like many former colonies (as in the Caribbean), it has become a play ground for wealthy tourists & the site of second homes for celebrities. Most native Hawaiians are unable to afford living there & have been displaced by golf courses, shopping malls, & swanky resorts or have been reduced to second class servant status by the tourist industry. Many natives live in squalid diaspora in the continental US grieving for their homeland & cultural cohesion.
Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole (1959-1997), a native Hawaiian singer & ukelele player, was the troubadour for Hawaiian culture, rights & independence against what is essentially an occupation by well-heeled colonial settlers. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral & gathered to scatter his ashes into the Pacific Ocean in July 1997 which is featured in this video of “Over the Rainbow.” Although the organized movement for Hawaiian independence appears to be relatively weak the indigenous sentiment supporting it remains powerful & massive including among those in diaspora.
In 1993 the US government made a formal apology to native Hawaiians for the 1893 catastrophe but took no measures to redress it; to make sure there were no confusions on this score or potential law suits, the US Supreme Court (in 2009) made a ruling to deny any claims of sovereignty or compensation based on the apology--giving the apology the full authority of used toilet paper.
(Photo from freehawaii.blogspot.com)
Were it not for social media, most outside the Middle East who don’t read Arabic would not hear the voices of the Egyptian revolution or of the other Arab uprisings. We would witness the elemental force of rebellion but not hear the cacophony & conflict of ideas propelling these movements forward--& sometimes backwards.
Channeled by media into Islamophobic conclusions, this can lead observers to believe these historic upheavals are inchoate & amorphous, guided by fury alone & not by conflicting ideas & class forces. That’s why the oppressed & rebellious must always speak for themselves--lest they be misinterpreted.
The LA Times in its report on Mubarak’s pending release from jail informs us that millions of Egyptians are now rallying around the military in its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Where they get that information no one knows since the military is still shooting up the streets of Egypt from caravans of armored vehicles in what is called the “bloodiest internal conflict in its modern history.” It’s likely most Egyptians are holed up in their homes so as not to be mistaken as a member of the MB & mowed down in a strafe of bullets.
There’s no question some Egyptians remain confused about the treacherous character of the military; it’s likely the least democratic forces hope the military will rid politics of the MB. But it stretches credulity to the absurd & insults the political intelligence of the Egyptian people to say they have forgotten 60 years of military tyranny, the prisons & mass incarcerations of dissidents, the torture chambers & virginity tests in military prisons, the hundreds murdered in the Egyptian uprising to depose Mubarak, the women assaulted by undercover agents in Tahrir Square, the concrete walls built all over Cairo to prevent public protest, the pitched battles in the streets against soldiers mounted on camels & tanks.
We may not yet hear the voices of revolution; we certainly won’t hear them in the media. But we can be sure there are millions of Egyptians & Arab revolutionists in other countries who are horrified & outraged at the violence against the Muslim Brotherhood. In Egypt, we can be sure that revolutionists who fought street battles last fall against the MB stand with them today against the military. There are unconfirmed reports that indeed thousands of Egyptians marched in solidarity with the MB against the violence.
The military regime, including under Morsi’s presidency, was unwilling to prosecute Hosni Mubarak for crimes against the Egyptian people. Today they are on the threshold of releasing him from prison & allowing him to retire to his swanky chalet bought by the blood of martyrs. It is inconceivable this would not be viewed as an affront to the revolution & to those who gave their lives for human freedom.
It needn’t be said that bloodbaths & martial law drain psychic & revolutionary energies & take a toll on insurgency--even those as massive as the Egyptian revolution. Time is needed to recoup, assess, rethink, regroup. The tear gas & trauma have to dissipate before fury again pokes its head outdoors to assert “This is not what we meant; this is not what we meant at all!” In that time, our solidarity can take up the breach as we continue to demand “Hands off the Muslim Brotherhood, hands off Egypt, no US aid to Egypt.”
This brief interview with a 12-year-old Egyptian boy is worth reposting to remind us of the powerful ideas inspiring millions to stand against the military fortress of Egypt & its allies in the Pentagon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXtDflT38AQ
(Photo from Giza of MB member armed with a stick being bullied by a cop is by Imad Abdul Rahman/AP)
Monday, August 19, 2013
Please tell me the US is the only country on Earth where Willy changing his kid’s diaper is newsworthy, including a one-hour TV special. Willy said he was so traumatized by changing the kid’s diaper he couldn’t concentrate at a recent polo match. Horse manure is one thing; baby poop is for nannies to handle.
But are we really being asked to believe that a guy who has valets brush his teeth & wipe his ass actually changed the diaper on his own kid? Call us credulous but we aint stupid.
For some reason, the kid reminded Willy of wildlife in Africa--elephants & rhinos specifically. Something tells me this kid has a bumpy road ahead--unless the nannies rescue him pronto.
Although Irish immigrants to the US were once viciously discriminated against, their ancestors today are completely integrated into the power structure. John Brennan, the creep who currently heads up the CIA, would be a leading & ignominious illustration of that. Most of the US Catholic hierarchy have traditionally been Irish & many cities have been ruled for decades by mafias of Irish politicians--most notably ( though not only) Boston & Chicago. When St. Patrick chased the snakes from Ireland they came here & morphed into politicians.
What’s curious is that Hollywood hasn’t caught on to this integration yet. The depiction of the Irish in US movies is simply deplorable--& they seldom include the prelates or the politicians where the whammy of condemnation is fully applicable. The Boston Irish are made to typify American-Irish & although they can be a fairly rough-hewn lot, they are not all terrorists & homicidal criminal enterprises like Whitey Bulger as many films depict--from the Harrison Ford series about the IRA to the Ben Affleck & Matt Damon films on Boston to the Clint Eastwood film & many others.
It’s not something many Irish can take personally since for most of us it’s been a long time since Tipperary. And we can always find a parish priest or city mayor who will commiserate with us if we do take umbrage. In a Matt Damon film on Boston we are told Freud complained that the Irish are the only people impervious to psychotherapy. Given what we know now about some of Freud’s theories & practices, this may be high praise for the Irish--though not enough to counterbalance those reptilian politicians.
As capitalism advances further into its barbaric phase known as neoliberalism we ought to take a global survey of its achievements to see if it has a single redeeming political, social, or economic feature left. Nope--the evidence is overwhelming: global warming, a contaminated food supply that even those who can afford to eat should not, global plunder & massive immigration to escape plunder, burgeoning refugee & prison camps, massive homelessness & growing slums, wars & civil conflicts everywhere.
What about culture & the vaunted creativity of capitalism? Have you taken a look at the fashion boardwalks lately where rhinestone gas masks & disfigured women are the norm? Or the lipstick & shampoo aisles in Walgreens where chemical toxicity await? Or the pharmaceutical revolution that has made addiction massive & ambulance-chasing lawyers filthy rich? Or cinema that from Bollywood to Hollywood makes “straight to video” synonymous with straight to hell. Growth in creativity has only meant more cheap cell phones to choose from & more corporate scams to rip us off. No hope there either.
Events in Egypt & the setbacks in the other Arab uprisings along with resistance in Greece, Spain, Portugal, & elsewhere show how complex social transformation is--though complex does not mean impossible. What we have to decide is if we want to settle for barbarism (which only grows without resistance) & hope capitalists will satisfy their greed before human civilization is reduced to savagery or decide they have already demonstrated their utter incapacity to run this planet & need to be bounced ingloriously.
This disturbing, Armageddon-like image is homeless kids playing with a destroyed army vehicle in Grozny, Chechnya during the first Chechen war (1996) between post-USSR Russia & the Chechen republic. This is not just where neoliberalism is headed; it’s long-since arrived.
(Photo by Eric Bouvet)
Sunday, August 18, 2013
In Egypt, military tanks are still prowling the streets, riot cops & soldiers along with armed vigilantes in the pay of the regime are still hunting down unarmed civilians to shoot down in cold blood, tear gas & the stench of slaughter still fill the air. But such carnage cannot deter media smart alecks & cynics who pass themselves off as political commentators from farting out glib obituaries not just on the Egyptian revolution but all of the Arab uprisings. With the contempt for humanity so customary to the cynic they pass off lame humor as political analysis, express disappointment at the naiveté of revolution, & chide the Egyptian people for bringing this on themselves by not being patient enough to wait for another election. At least a postmortem has the advantage of analysis but this the smart-asses are incapable of; sneering is where they reach their political depth.
Those who claim impatience caused this carnage, that Egyptians should have held on till the next election are captive to parliamentary forms completely flouted under tyranny. They do not understand the elemental force of revolution is like a volcano that will not be capped when it is ready to erupt. The political, social, & economic pressures bearing down on Egyptian working people had reached the eruption point & no amount of indignant homiletics about parliamentary patience could change that. That fury & thunder is what gives power to revolutions; it is the molten lava of social transformation. Egyptian working people had been patient long enough. In social transformation, long-suffering is not a virtue; in revolution, it is not possible.
Arabs in several countries under the whip of militarism, dictatorship, & neoliberal austerity rose up to defy all that in numbers not seen in human history. They challenged US military might like no people have dared since the Vietnamese. They tried (& this is by no means past tense) to make social revolution. This is momentous, this is a colossal historic task. But there’s no denying that after nearly three years of social revolution in Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, & Libya, the political terrain is perilous & violent. In truth, things could not look worse. Cynics grasp on this to document their misanthropy; Islamophobes grasp on this to prove the barbarism of Arabs.
Revolutions are messy things not because the Arab peoples have failed at their historic mission but because the ruling elites are using every resource at their disposal to thwart & outsmart social transformation & revolution--including the most extreme violence as in Egypt today. In Syria we can see just how far they’re willing to go. So now we know revolution takes more than elemental molten fury. It takes a thought out program for action & a proven & uncompromising leadership forged in struggle that can unite the disparate political forces. The Arab uprisings have not failed. They are under siege. And they are learning & schooling us in what it takes to stand up & risk everything to make this world a suitable place for human beings to live & love in.
By contrast, working people in the US are still sitting on their duffs patiently enduring several US wars & occupations, other international treacheries, bank bailouts & corporate ripoffs galore, massive home foreclosures & evictions, the shredding of the Bill of Rights & the installation of a surveillance state. Is that kind of long-suffering preferable? Only to the oligarchs!
This is not the time for obituaries & postmortems. What is needed is active solidarity of the kind shown yesterday in Dublin, in Toronto, Montreal, & Vancouver & elsewhere with protests outside the Egyptian & US embassies demanding an end to the violence, demanding “Hands off the Muslim Brotherhood, hands off Egypt, no US aid to Egypt.” We have no idea what energy is smoldering in these revolutions but our solidarity can help bolster the beleaguered spirits of those who have fought so intransigently against such odds. The future of humanity is at stake--& that is not an overstatement.
(Photo of Cairo street in Ramses Square from CNN)
Friday, August 16, 2013
The book “Orientalism,” by Edward Said (1978) is the first volley of postcolonial theoretics against the writings of Marx & Engels about colonialism in “the Orient,” particularly the Middle East. Although Said claimed it was a caricatured misunderstanding of his book, the term Orientalism has become an epithet & insult signifying western superiority, Eurocentrism, & a colonial mindset in commentary by westerners (including Marx & Engels) on Middle Eastern culture & politics. In interviews, Said acknowledged his strongest influence was Sub-Alternative historical studies in India & rued a similar lack of influence among Arab & Islamic scholars.
There is no question western scholarship on Middle Eastern countries is up to its eyeballs in racist caricature & misrepresentation (often camouflaged with incense & romanticism). That is just as true of US scholarship on Black & Native American history in the US. Scholars are remunerated handsomely for promulgating racist horse manure in place of scholarship & obsequious social climbers in academia dutifully sing for their suppers. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that racist US scholarship on slavery, Reconstruction, civil rights was challenged by the new generation of Black scholars & Black studies departments. The Arab uprisings are likely to have a similar profound affect on Middle East scholarship by westerners.
The problem with Said’s postcolonial perspectives is that they muzzle & undercut international solidarity. They make people timid about speaking out about things like the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt lest we betray a sense of western superiority over Arabs--as if we’re lecturing them on how to conduct their political affairs or attempting to speak for them. The problem with Said’s theoretics is that they treat Middle Easterners as an alien species from westerners & ignore the human & political universalities that bind us together as the human race.
Democracy (circumscribed in only its parliamentary form) is usually defined as western culture & barbaric violence inculcated by the Quran defined as Middle Eastern. These kinds of views are not merely Orientalist; they are arrant racism & stupidity & no part of the thinking of Marx & Engels on colonialism in the Middle East. Solidarity with the colonized was the sine qua non of their theoretics--no matter how many things they may have gotten wrong. That solidarity means not keeping your trap shut when unarmed civilians are being gunned down. Expressing international outrage isn’t exposing some insidious power inequality or patronizing Egyptians with a homiletic rendition of Kumbaya or the Internationale. It is reaching out in the spirit of fraternity & sorority to express an active solidarity, a solidarity which demands of the US (which is bankrolling the bloodbath) “Hands off the Muslim Brotherhood,” “Hands off Egypt,” “No US aid to the Egyptian military regime,” “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
(Photo is cover of “Orientalism,” which continues to have importance & influence whatever ones view of Said’s theoretics.)
A propaganda war is on to justify the massacres & brutal military siege against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. How anyone who claims to stand for democracy & social transformation can defend these barbarities is one of the unfathomable enigmas of cognitive dissonance! (And that would be giving defense of barbarism its most charitable twist.) What is happening is a political process separating the wheat from the chaff in revolution & the revolutionist from the Islamophobe.
It is one thing to denounce the torching of Christian churches. One can even allege with some certainty that the MB was involved--although given the military siege & the use of divide & conquer by the regime, it is likely agents provocateurs from SCAF, the US Pentagon, CIA, & Mossad are also implicated. All that would have been sorted out in a court of law if the military regime allowed the rule of law.
It is another thing entirely to ignore the massacre of hundreds of unarmed MB civilians & focus ones reporting on denouncing the torching of police stations & writing sentimental obituaries for the riot cops & soldiers getting caught in the crossfires of the carnage they are creating. That kind of reporting is a dead giveaway to whose side you are on & it typifies the coverage on the Facebook wall of Egyptian Streets.
Media are already using the massacres to beat the drums of Islamophobia. Cynics will use the carnage to document their conviction social transformation is impossible against the mighty fortress of US & Egyptian militarism. Revolutionists will not wait for the tear gas & the horror to dissipate before examining with the most careful attention & closest approximations how the counterrevolution gained the upper hand in Egypt.
One thing is already certain: regime change is an insufficient program for social transformation; the military runs the show in Egypt & they must eventually be forcibly challenged & dismantled down to the last bullet & tear gas canister. A full program that incorporates that monumental task & addresses the political, social, & economic problems of Egyptian working people must be developed.
Egyptian working people have been a beacon of revolution over the past few years & activists around the world have learned much from observing their struggles--but their leadership has been forged in the cauldron of revolution against tyranny & they have demonstrated the capacity to develop a program for action that will teach people around the world how to stand successfully against defeatism & what seem insurmountable odds.
Supporters of the Egyptian military siege use guilt-baiting & call those outside Egypt know-it-alls for taking a stand against the massacres of MB civilians. They suggest only an Orientalist would take a stand against bloodbaths. It’s takes a whole lot more than name-calling & guilt-baiting to silence the international voices of outrage at the crimes of the Egyptian military regime & their Pentagon & Zionist allies.
(Photo of family & friends grieving as they come to mosque to identify their loved ones by AP)
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Egyptian troops today opened fire on thousands of Moslem Brotherhood (MB) protestors demanding the reinstatement of deposed president Morsi & moved in tanks & tear gas in a violent assault to clear their protest camps. The regime also imposed a month-long state of emergency. Many MB supporters are reported dead from gunshot wounds in the head, giving evidence of a shoot to kill mission.
It would be safe to say the counterrevolution has begun in Egypt. The Egyptian regime in collaboration with its US benefactors is employing the classic political strategy of divide & conquer--turning those who should be allies against each other in cut-throat & violent conflict.
The elite strata of the MB, including Morsi, colluded with the military & the US. When the MB were found inconvenient allies due to popular opposition to their conservative & neoliberal policies, the military dumped them & is now scapegoating plebeian MB supporters.
It doesn’t matter one iota what one thinks of MB ideology or politics; it’s irrelevant what they did or would do if they ran the show again in Egypt. They didn’t have a right to impose those views on the majority of Egyptians but what matters now is that they have a right to hold & promote & protest for their views. The regime is not going after them with tanks & tear gas because of their ideology & politics--which were previously entirely compatible with military tyranny. They are targeting them in order to destroy democracy, especially the rights of protest & freedom of expression won by the historic Egyptian revolution begun in 2011 with the ouster of Mubarak. This state of emergency is an assault on the revolution; it is the beginning of a counterrevolution. Those who support social transformation & oppose tyranny in Egypt stand solidly with the MB today against the violence of the Egyptian military regime & its US allies. The guns trained on the heads of the MB today will be trained on the revolution tomorrow.
Hands off the Muslim Brotherhood! No state of emergency! No US aid to Egypt!
(Photo of MB woman overcome by tear gas by AFP)
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Am I the only skeptic in the world who finds that Oprah handbag story fishy? After all she is a narcissist given to self-dramatization & self-aggrandizement. She claims she wore no external evidence of her wealth--like the $1,500 Christian Louboutin heels she usually wore on TV. Well of course not; you can’t walk in the damn things. But her casual attire down to her underwear was probably worth twice the annual income of the average union worker. For sure it wasn’t minimum wage wear or Walmart crap. Any clerk in a swanky shop would spot that in a New York minute--even if she was the only person in the entire world who didn't recognize Oprah.
The CEO of the Swiss store is apologizing for the incident; for heaven’s sake, Switzerland is apologizing. They’re not declaring war since Oprah’s security detail is bigger than the Swiss army. So where were they when Oprah was rebuffed like a scullery maid?
Good on Oprah for highlighting the indignities faced by most Black shoppers even if she is exaggerating her own treatment. But over a $40 thousand dollar handbag? She ought to be embarrassed at admitting such excesses when poor kids without free school lunch programs are prowling the streets of dozens of US cities desperately looking for food.
There are several ways one can view this picture of Palestinian men using a rope to “illegally” scale the 8 meter (26 feet) high Israeli barrier wall separating the West Bank from Jerusalem: one can view them as lawbreakers, as do Zionists; or one can admire their tenacity & fearlessness in crossing in such a makeshift & dangerous way, risking possible injuries to find under the table work in Israel.
Anyway you look at it, it this monstrous impediment fully deserves the appellation given it by Palestinians: the Apartheid Wall.
(Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)
This Palestinian child mourns at the funeral of his father, Huseen Awad. The media caption tells us that according to the Israeli military, Awad was shot to death by Israeli soldiers as he “crossed in from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, fearing he was a security threat though he proved to be unarmed.”
There are as yet no full reports of this incident because a full accounting will certainly indict the Israeli military for ethnic cleansing. What made Israeli soldiers fear Awad was a security threat? Did they think he was carrying a bazooka under his shirt or a Molotov cocktail in his underwear? Was he trying to get through a military checkpoint without proper papers? Did he talk back to an aggressive border guard? What about him would induce soldiers to summarily execute him? Was being Palestinian sufficient cause? And what the hell does Hamas have to do with shooting an unarmed man down?
May Huseen Awad RIP. And may we support the Palestinian's just cause by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729) & by demanding “No US aid to Israel!”
(Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters)
Monday, August 12, 2013
My apologies for not being able to post and update. My son was rushed to hospital Friday mid day and was in need of surgery in two stages that aren't quite finished yet. Naturally, having my mind focused on this issue and with only my phone to communicate it was (and still is) hard for me to attend to the blog. This situation may have to continue until Friday. Not exactly sure either.
Posted by thankgodimatheist at 3:48 PM
Friday, August 9, 2013
Last March, after several years of conflict (since 2006), Shock Battalion troops from the Brazilian military violently evicted indigenous peoples who had created a squatter settlement in an old natural history museum in Rio de Janeiro. Since it abuts Maracana Stadium, the residents (from several different tribes dispossessed of their lands by neoliberal land grabs) named it Maracana Village. Under the stadium’s multi-million dollar restoration plan for the 2014 World Cup soccer games & 2016 summer Olympics, the crumbling museum was to be bulldozed to make room for a swanky shopping mall & parking lot for well-heeled sports fans from around the world.
Within a week of the eviction (where police used tear gas, pepper spray, & rubber bullets), an umbrella group representing the several tribes filed lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Brazilian government from proceeding with the demolition. The lawsuit is brilliant but it would likely have been chewed up in the Brazilian judicial system were it not for the national uprising which began in mid-June & brought out over a million Brazilians protesting the government’s profligate spending on the twelve 2014 World Cup & 2016 Summer Olympic game stadia.
Indigenous peoples were & remain a central part of the ongoing protests. Here an indigenous man leads a protest near Maracana Stadium on June 30th. The banner reads "Maracana village resists.” Sergio Cabral, the cocky governor of Rio, talked tough for months saying ‘FIFA wants Maracana Village down & that means it’s coming down,’ but he's singing a different tune after the protests & now pledges to call off the bulldozers.
To make sure such an unreliable scoundrel as Cabral doesn’t go back on his word, the indigenous peoples recently re-occupied Maracana Village & say they will remain there until it is turned into an indigenous cultural center managed by them. They spray painted “Indigenous University” on the facade of the museum complex. In their brilliant & continuing lawsuit, the tribal coalition noted that the property of the old Indian Museum is located in the historic center of resistance against the Portuguese invasion where spirits of their ancestors dwell & “it was time to return home.” Indigenous activists have developed educational programs for “deconstructing the distorted history of our peoples in the majority of textbooks” & they want to build a communal center at the old museum dedicated to preserving indigenous history & culture. The tribes involved include the Pataxo, Tukano, Guarani, Puri, Apurina, Tupinamba, Kaingang & Satere-Mauwe peoples & they want to continue calling the center Maracana Village.
(Photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Qatar’s Bay’ah to the Saudi King
by VIJAY PRASHAD
Things are not looking good for Qatar under its new emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, age 33. This weekend, a Qatar Airways flight from Doha (Qatar) to Tripoli (Libya) had to be diverted to Alexandria (Egypt) and returned to Doha. Gunmen seized the control tower at Mitiga Airport, whose runways were then closed to this daily flight from Doha. A day before, gunmen entered the Qatar Airways office at the airport and threatened to do what they did the next day. They also said that they planned to run Qatar Airways out of their downtown office in Tripoli Towers.
Posted by thankgodimatheist at 4:45 AM
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Why does the BBC plead ignorance on Palestine?
Thumbs up for war crimes: Tzipi Livni is no stranger to BBC’s flagship current affairs program. (Sandy Teperson/Flickr)
In my monitoring of the BBC’s frequent inaccuracies, misleading statements, and more or less complete lack of balance in covering Israel-Palestine, I often find myself wondering if the BBC is genuinely biased as an institution against the Palestinians or simply incompetent?
Thumbs up for war crimes: Tzipi Livni is no stranger to BBC’s flagship current affairs program. (Sandy Teperson/Flickr)
In my monitoring of the BBC’s frequent inaccuracies, misleading statements, and more or less complete lack of balance in covering Israel-Palestine, I often find myself wondering if the BBC is genuinely biased as an institution against the Palestinians or simply incompetent?
Posted by thankgodimatheist at 4:22 PM
“Japanese doctors said that those who had been killed by the blast itself died instantly. But presently, according to these doctors, those who had suffered only small burns found their appetite failing, their hair falling out, their gums bleeding. They developed temperatures of 104, vomited blood, and died. It was discovered that they had lost 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles. Last week the Japanese announced that the count of Hiroshima’s dead had risen to 125,000.” — From the article “What Ended the War,” LIFE magazine, Sept. 17, 1945
“Four months after the American B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, killing roughly 70,000 men, women and children outright and dooming tens of thousands more to either a torturous recovery or a slow death by radiation poisoning, burns or other lethal injuries and afflictions, Alfred Eisenstaedt made this portrait of a Japanese mother and her child amid the ruins of the city.
Beyond the eternal debate about the “morality” of the bombing of Hiroshima and, two days later, Nagasaki; beyond the political and scientific factors that led to the development of nuclear weapons in the first place; beyond the lingering shadow cast by the Atomic Age and the Cold War — beyond all of those considerations, Eisenstaedt’s picture quietly commands us to pay attention.
This is not a political or a philosophical or an ideological photograph. It is a portrait of two human beings in extremis.
For the questions that we read — or that we think we read — in their eyes, there’s no ready answer.”
This description from Life magazine--let’s call it what it is--bullshit--is pawned off on US citizens as political insight. There’s “no ready answer” to barbarism!? This is just a “portrait of two human beings in extremis?” Nuclear slaughter is just a portrait with no explanation?
Justification for mass slaughter & genocide certainly did not begin with WWII or Hiroshima & Nagasaki. That began with the very conquest of this continent against the indigenous peoples which spread like a diseased virus around the world in the form of colonialism.
Those of us who live in the Americas wish we could blame it all on Europeans from whence a lot of us derived. But playing the shame/blame game has no place to go politically. Understanding what actually happened, how millions of human lives were affected, why the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki were such atrocities? Politically priceless!
(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaed/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
In an interview today Carl Bernstein fully expressed the contradictions & sycophancies that make up not just the persona of Carl Bernstein but the crisis of investigative journalism. He is a Pulitzer prize winner, which has the political cache of the Nobel Peace Prize & Charmin toilet paper ratings. The investigative journalist cum ass kisser became famous for his reporting with Bob Woodward on the Watergate scandal associated with the Nixon regime in the mid-1970s. Quite frankly, since then it’s been all down hill for our boy--from muckraking to gossip journalism.
For Bernstein to have the temerity to suggest Edward Snowden is a coward for “running” rather than stand his ground & take his medicine like a man isn’t just political naivete; it is treachery & the sign of a man too compromised by fame & vanity to respect.
Alain Gresh in Le Monde Diplomatique: Morsi’s departure is a clear victory for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
“The army had a guarantee from Saudi Arabia that it would come to Egypt’s aid provided the army removed from power the Muslim Brothers, who are hated by the Saudi royal family, and treated ex-president Hosni Mubarak better. (Saudi Arabia, which took in Tunisia’s former president, Zine al- Abidine Ben Ali, was unhappy with Mubarak’s treatment.) King Abdullah was among the first to congratulate the new leadership in Cairo and offer $5bn in aid: $1bn in cash, $2bn in oil and $2bn in bank deposits.
"Morsi’s departure is a clear victory for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and a setback for Qatar. After a smooth transition of power in Qatar with the accession of the emir’s son, there might be a less interventionist policy. However, there will still be rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, even if both depend on their strategic alliance with the US......"
"Morsi’s departure is a clear victory for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and a setback for Qatar. After a smooth transition of power in Qatar with the accession of the emir’s son, there might be a less interventionist policy. However, there will still be rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, even if both depend on their strategic alliance with the US......"
Posted by thankgodimatheist at 4:45 PM
An Afghani boy tells Canadian soldiers how he really feels about their part in the “emancipatory” US-NATO occupation. Minutes later his elders made it perfectly clear when they attacked the soldiers with grenades as they passed through the village.
If you believe Pentagon propaganda, the soldiers would have been met by a chorus of Afghani women lined up singing hallelujahs for the new freedoms installed by the occupation along with their children waving US flags & cheering for candy thrown from armored vehicles. But that only goes to show you the banality of war propaganda.
In October the war will have gone on for 12 years, causing destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, fields, massive impoverishment, homelessness, over 6 million refugees--& entailing a brutal suppression of Afghani opposition to occupation. Yet the defiant spirit of this small boy prevails; his is not merely boyish bravado.
Antiwar actions around the world are now being planned for this fall to express active solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. There are many ways to support the actions--from sending dough, to attending organizing meetings, to making placards, to above all showing up to demand “Out Now!” “No US war in Afghanistan!"
(Photo taken in 2010 southwest of Kandahar by Anja Niedringhaus/AP)
Monday, August 5, 2013
US government think tanks have been working overtime, paying well-schooled, high-paid patriots to come up with schemes to counter the revelations of Edward Snowden about data trawling & invasion of privacy. For all that money & energy you’d think they could come up with something better than the comic opera of closing down 22 US embassies in “the Muslim world” (for a week) & issuing one of their global travel alerts! US citizens are advised to beware of public transportation, including boats, trains, planes, & subways.
It’s difficult to read the media reports when you can’t stop rolling on the floor laughing. In a grave & somber tone they cite the three things that led to this dramatic action. The most damning is an intercepted message between “senior al Qaeda operatives” which--they make sure to mention--was intercepted by the NSA surveillance trawling equipment so objectionable & antithetical to democracy. And for this, they have to read all our emails, listen in on all our phone calls, & snoop over all our shoulders when we’re cruising the internet!? Why don’t they just listen in on al-Qaeda now that they know their email address? Or is al-Qaeda just an invention of these think tanks too?
The second reason for the closures is alleged al-Qaeda-organized prison breaks in Libya, Iraq, & Pakistan where “hundreds of terrorists & other criminals” escaped. This reason must have been published on the notion that the dumber the lie the more believable it becomes. The third reason given for the closures is the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan. No explanation that makes an iota of sense is offered for why these festivities would compel closure.
In the grand tradition of muckraking & investigative reporting, CNN (the giant media titan) admits it is kowtowing to a Obama regime request not to publish additional details “because of the sensitivity of the information.” That probably means the NSA is still working out the plot line.
But according to CNN, the Yemen regime (which allows US drone aircraft to bomb its own people) is on high alert because the NSA knows from that data trawling system that al-Qaeda in Yemen are “in the final stages of planning for an unspecified attack.” Well if they weren’t so busy trawling our emails they might have caught it in the early stages. And if they know it’s going to happen in Yemen, why the hell close the embassies in 21 other countries!? Why not just high-tail it out of Yemen?
The only thing that could improve the safety of cities with US embassy closures is to close them down permanently & deport all the personnel, especially the CIA operatives attached to them.
Perhaps the only thing that isn’t a belly-laugh in this alert is the US might actually engineer some catastrophe to counter the devastating impact of the Snowden revelations.
(Photo of protestors outside US Capitol last month by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The NY Times just published an article entitled “In a West Bank Culture of Conflict, Boys Wield the Weapon at Hand” about Palestinian children lobbing rocks at armored Israeli military vehicles & at settler vehicles. The information in the article is actually useful, though guarded in describing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; in particular, it includes the recent UN report on abuses, incarceration, & torture of Palestinian children by the Israeli military. Between 2002 & 2012, at least 7,000 minors were arrested & jailed, mostly for rock throwing.
According to the article, small children play a game they call Arabs & Army to train for the big leagues of rock throwing described as “a rite of passage & an honored act of defiance. The futility of stones bouncing off armored vehicles matters little: confrontation is what counts.”
So the violent Israeli military occupation to protect settlers from around the world taking over Palestinian lands is now a Palestinian “Culture of Conflict;” rock throwing is a boy’s rite of passage through adolescence & puberty & a pointless act of defiance! If that’s true, why have they now locked up & tortured well over 7,000 kids for rock throwing!?
The NY Times can’t posture itself as the media of intellectuals & also play Waldo the Dunce about what is going on in Palestine. Palestinians have no military to defend themselves against Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles, in riot gear armed with tear gas, grenades, skunk bombs, rubber & live ammunition--all propelled in the spirit of apartheid & ethnic cleansing. The children are defying all this with the only weapons at their disposal: stones & the spirit of Intifada.
Boys defying occupying armies & tyranny with stones is hardly just a culture of conflict unique to Palestinians. Mexican boys on the US-Mexico border against US border patrols, Catholic boys in Northern Ireland against British soldiers, Kashmiri boys protesting Indian military occupation, Iraqi & Afghani boys against US-NATO troops: in all of these instances unarmed children have pelted superior military might with rocks & sling shots. Many children have not only been arrested; they have been shot & killed.
US war propaganda has images of soldiers throwing candy from tank caravans to cheering children; they omit the racist taunting of children along with videos showing armored vehicles running gauntlets of Iraqi & Afghani children lobbing rocks.
Here Israeli soldiers stormed into the home of 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Hashem at 4 am last month to arrest him in the West Bank town of Beit Ommar. It was his 4th arrest in three years for rock throwing. His five brothers have all been arrested for the same “offense.” Last year, three of them & their father were in prison at the same time. That is the determination of intifada!
Palestinians have a right to defy tyranny & defend themselves by any means necessary. Support their right of self defense by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729); by supporting the cultural boycott of Israel; & by demanding “No US aid to Israel!”
(Photo by Rina Castelnuovo/NYTimes)