Betty Windsor’s minions: the judges’ gallery in parliament

British judges at Betty's speech (Alastair Grant:WPA Pool: Getty Images) May 29 2015

This is the British judges’ gallery at Betty’s parliament speech. Thank heavens they aren’t handling the big questions like human & democratic rights wearing those silly wigs. Such a courtroom is no place for levity. These are the traffic & small claims court guys. The judicial hotshots get to sit right up close & personal to Betty. All the better to kiss her butt.

It must have been about parliament that Shakespeare wrote: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

(Photo by Alastair Grant/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Betty Windsor’s 2015 speech to parliament: more cutbacks, same sour puss

Betty May 2015 (Getty) May 29 2015

Betty’s gunning for somebody. She’s making her way here through all the toadies & minions that serve the Commonwealth to parrot a speech dictated by the Conservative government. You need a legal eagle to figure out what they proposed–except the part where there’ll be cutbacks for working people.

So if you total up the cost of the 2012 London Olympic games, the spectacle of the Diamond Jubilee with that flotilla up the Thames, & the pomp of this speech alone, it’s quite a bundle. The payroll costs must have been staggering–even though Betty is a notorious cheapskate. Reportedly the people she hires to brush her teeth & wipe her butt earn less than minimum wage. For the speech there were soldiers, yeomen, parliament staff, carriage drivers, a cavalry & horses, train bearers, & all that lost time for the parliament when they could have gone straight to slashing social services.

If Betty merely functions as a ventriloquist dummy for the oligarchy (to which she belongs), if she ostensibly can’t play a political role, what exactly is her function? Royalists believe that blue-blood stuff. Let them have their feudal fantasies. They’re not all there. But what’s with the liberals who say she’s worth her weight in tourist revenue? They could just as well hire re-enactment performers–thereby eliminating the flatulence problems of Phil, the personal scandals of that hapless lot, & they could come up with a Betty-double who would smile once in a while.

It’s so easy to be smug when you’re sitting in a post-feudal society but it’s getting harder all the time. Curtsying, kiss-ass, & other feudal practices have been brought back here big-time–led by our movie stars & politicians. Though for other countries the US regime seems to prefer skipping the regression to feudalism & going straight to slavery.

Speculations for why Betty is scowling here include the ching-ching of lost time she thinks better spent on her dole allowance.

(Photo from Getty)

Urban slums and the myth of overpopulation in Manila

Philippines Baseco district (Dennis M. Sebangan:EPA) May 29 2015

Manila, Philippines isn’t the most populous but it is considered the most densely populated city in the world based on the number of residents per land area. It has an estimated 15 million residents. Four to seven million Manila residents live in filthy, squalid slums often built in disaster zones vulnerable to tropical storms & typhoons.

Some observers look at the squalor & conclude Manila has an overpopulation problem. In their jeremiads they explain that megacities (those with over 10 million people) are springing up all over the globe in “developing countries.” In 1985, there were only nine & today there are at least 26.

Marinated in the ethos of capitalism, they see humanity engaged in a competition for land, food, water, & fuel & they attribute environmental disaster & endemic disease to all those babies.
They’re not particularly insightful observers or they would question: Why did this problem become so massive in the eighties? How did the population of Manila grow from 1.6 million in 1950 to 7 million in 1985 & now to 15 million? Are the Filipinos having that much sex?
Nor does it ever dawn on some of these observers that it is absolutely outrageous for privileged white people to take a tour of slums anywhere & conclude there are just too many black & brown babies.

Of course all that alarmism takes them nowhere. What could they possibly propose to solve the overpopulation of poor people? Do we need another “modest proposal” like that of Jonathan Swift to get rid of too many poor Irish babies by plumping them up as livestock to serve on the tables of English aristos? He meant it sarcastically, of course; they took it for good coin & thought it a worthy proposal.
The growth of cities is a problem. The dispossession of farmers & rural working people & scorched earth policies of neoliberal economics are a bigger problem–at least for the poor. Manila also has one of the highest slum eviction programs in the world because the oligarchs are trying to gentrify the place to put in swanky resorts & mega-malls. The real estate developers are making a killing–at the expense of all those babies.

Of course the Catholic church’s proscription of birth control is a problem among Catholic Filipinos. It’s a problem everywhere. Because, just like the population control freaks, it cuts across women’s right to control their own reproductive lives. But to endorse population control programs rooted in racist eugenics rather than in women’s rights (involving prenatal care, postnatal care, pediatric care, women’s health care, etc.) is putting yourself in the camp of neoliberal racism & misogyny & siding with the filthy rich against the poor.

These little kids are from the Baseco district near the Manila Bay. As charming as the little snot-nosed boy is, he likely has health problems. It’s a particularly squalid slum with high rates of infectious disease like TB & pneumonia, cholera, dengue fever. It’s frequently targeted for evictions & torching & often hit by typhoons. If you look at their lives & cry “overpopulation” rather than demand a program of public housing or an end to dispossession, ‘you might be a redneck’ & not a progressive at all.

The kids are mugging for the camera while demolition crews move in to dismantle their homes.

(Photo from December 2012 by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA)

Once again on the militarization of the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean

Afghan refugee in Greece (AP Photo:Thanassis Stavrakis) May 29 2015

This is an Afghan refugee trying to hide on a truck bound from Greece to Italy. The caption to the photo read that the EU “wants to launch a security operation in the Mediterranean to eliminate the trafficking operations.” They, of course, will not be torpedoing African immigrants in the western part of the Mediterranean while leaving Afghan, Syrian, & others get into Europe through Greece. The crackdown & militarization of this crisis will include the eastern Mediterranean.

Truth of the matter is, there is no resolution to this tsunami of human suffering & dislocation as long as the US & European countries are bombing & occupying several countries, arming tyrannical regimes, imposing draconian economic, social, & political policies that make life unbearable for millions of people. It’s not possible to simply manage this situation which is exactly why the EU is resorting to the insanity of a military operation. It’s why they allowed thousands of immigrants to simply drown without lifting a damn finger.

There are arguments up the wazoo explaining why European countries are unable to handle & integrate the massive numbers of immigrants–beginning with the strain it will put on social services. Well that’s just too damn bad. Because if European regimes hadn’t cooperated in US wars, meddled to undermine the Arab uprisings, & if European corporations weren’t milking African countries dry of their natural resources, there wouldn’t be this massive dislocation.

But let’s get real here. As we know from Betty Windsor’s recent speech to the British parliament & from protests all over Europe now going back nearly a decade, austerity for all working people is the neoliberal gestalt of the day. It’s a replay of that “let ’em eat cake” thing. Only worse. Refugees can’t strain social services that just barely exist.

The problem isn’t refugees. The problem is neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, where oligarchs finally have us where they want us–fighting over crumbs, treated like trash, working like slaves.

The great problem for humanity is figuring out the most effective strategies to end this tyranny before this tyranny ends us.
In the meanwhile, immigration is a human right. Open the damn borders.

(Photo by Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Purple rain spray from apartheid in South Africa to Indian occupation in Kashmir

Srinagar (EPA:FAROOQ KHAN) May 29 2015

It wouldn’t be a protest of Kashmiri government workers if Indian police weren’t assaulting them with purple rain from water cannons. Purple rain was first used against protesters in apartheid South Africa in 1989 but is now used by riot cops in several countries. The chemicals which are toxic are used primarily to identify protesters for arrest.

Year after year, these workers have been protesting despite extreme violence, tear gas, purple rain, & other assaultive weapons. They are demanding the regularization of their jobs from contractual day work. Indian police arrested dozens today. There are no reports on the number injured.

Perhaps those from Kashmir can elaborate on this & other struggles.
Our fullest respect & solidarity.

(Photo by Farooq Khan/EPA)

Police brutality against protesting workers in Indian-occupied Kashmir

Srinigar, India strike (Danish Ismail:Reuters) May 28 2015

What terrible crime could this unarmed man in Srinagar, India have committed to provoke the cop into beating him so violently with a truncheon? Did he assault a defenseless woman or senior? Did he steal someone’s handbag or try to pick someone’s pocket? Or did he do much worse? He must have done something worth a good beating since India is the “biggest democracy in the world.”

Well it’s quite disheartening to learn that in such a bastion of democracy & due process the fellow being beaten is a government worker protesting to regularize their employment from temporary & contractual to permanent work which probably has some benefits involved. They also demanded payment of wages in arrears. Since 1994 they’ve been working as day wagers despise promises their work would be regularized. It’s a mystery why such a democratic regime would go after such protesters & striking workers with heavy tear gas shelling & truncheons.

Perhaps someone from Kashmir can explain to us why workers have been striking over these same issues for years without resolution? The workers have been intransigent against extreme police belligerence, including the use of water cannons with toxic purple dyes.

Our deepest respect to these government workers for their determination.

(Photo by Danish Ismail/Reuters)

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to be force relocated to cyclone prone island

Rohingya in Bangladesh (AM Ahad:AP) May 28 2015

The scale of inhumanity & barbarism toward the Rohingya is finally being exposed for all the world to see. And the crimes involve several regimes. While there are still up to 4,000 Rohingya adrift at sea, the big-assed Indonesian military can’t get helicopters out there scouting for them or ships to rescue them. And in Thailand, close to the Malaysian border, they’ve found several concentration camps with dozens of graves believed to contain bodies of murdered Rohingya.

Last week, the president of Ecuador offered assistance & refuge to those adrift in the Andaman Sea. No sightings yet of Ecuadorian ships looking for stranded Rohingya. Big talk doesn’t cut it.
The president of Gambia has offered refuge to the Rohingya but you’d have to think twice about moving to a country just recovering from the Ebola epidemic where over a third of the people live under US $1.25 a day–especially when thousands of Gambians are risking their lives to immigrate to Europe.

In 2012, when Rohingya were sustaining a violent siege, thousands fled to Bangladesh & were forcibly turned away by border patrols. There are already an estimated 250,000 Rohingya in exile in Bangladesh but only 32,000 of them are registered with the UN refugee agency. Being unregistered means you’re on your own & don’t get the miserly assistance handed out by the UN. Of course neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, has created so many millions of refugees it must be near impossible for the UN to keep up with aid–especially when they’re also bankrolling troops like in DR Congo & Haiti.

Now the Bangladeshi government has announced they will relocate Rohingya refugees from camps near the Myanmar border in order to accommodate a neoliberal gentrification scheme turning the area into a tourist zone. There will be those who ask “Why should refugees be allowed to stand in the way of development?” And the answer is, “Development for who?” Bangladesh is a sweatshop haven with a large number of billionaires & millionaires, many who made their fortunes in real estate & all who made it in grand larceny & exploitation of labor. Nearly 35 percent of Bangladeshis live below that lousy US $1.25 poverty line. None of the poor will derive a penny out of that resort.

But the ugliest thing of all is that the Bangladeshi regime is preparing to move the Rohingya to Hatiya Island in the Bay of Bengal. Is there any infrastructure for them to earn a living? Probably not, since the island is frequently subject to cyclones & tsunamis. A UN official said the forced relocation would be “very complex & controversial”. You bet your sweet ass it would be; right along with cynical & genocidal.

The UN should muster up a little more that a plaintive rebuke & do something to stop this barbaric madness. Forced relocation has been condemned umpteen times in human history–unfortunately decades after they were carried out. Originated in colonialism, they have found new purpose under neoliberalism.

This photo is a senior Rohingya with his grandson standing in one of the squalid refugee camps in Ukhiya, Bangladesh.

(Photo by AM Ahad/AP)

Texas students will be packing; professors will no longer flunk anybody (if they’re smart)

The Texas legislature is trying to pass a bill allowing guns on university campuses. Wasn’t mass murder of students pioneered at the University of Texas in Austin by a deranged ex-Marine in 1966? Sniping from the observation tower on the main building he killed 16 people & injured 32 others.

Texas is where the “American Sniper” came from–a psycho killed by a mentally ill war veteran. Being bred on machismo, then trained in guns & psychologically devastated in war is a deadly combination.
The derangement in Texas goes all the way to the top–with legislators who think there could possibly be a good reason for a student, teacher, or staff to enter the campus packing.

Cynicism making a comeback. It’s still plug-ugly.

There’s a political journal that just started in England with the mantra “Your hope disgusts us” & counseling readers to “abandon hope.” That resonates with the inscription over the gate of Hell in Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Not an auspicious inspiration for what is likely to be a brief tenure in journalism.

Cynicism is making a comeback because so many millions have fought for justice & seen their struggles apparently come to nought. Tyranny & human suffering increase around the world without any obvious solutions. So many people of good-will, especially those who are not activists, feel the only explanation is the irredeemable corruption of humanity & turn to despondence & cynicism. Even snide contempt.

Those who came of political age in the 1960s & 1970s were part of the gestalt of social transformation, inspired by possibilities after the horrors of WWII. Many activists around the world from that era carry that vision & continue as the backbone of social protest because we know what human beings are capable of in social struggle. We are unwilling to relinquish or cheapen the vision of a world without racism, war, misogyny, colonialism. An entire generation was changed–some of us forever–& became unwilling to settle for less than the best for the human race.

After so many decades in political struggle, which necessarily includes debate & conflict, we cannot be accused of naiveté for holding steadfast to a belief that working people are the agents of social change, not corrupt governments.

It’s very acceptable, especially against feminists but also in other social movements, to diss senior activists as all washed up & politically living in the past. In truth, young activists have a lot to learn from seniors. And vice-versa. And the most important thing to learn is to never give up the vision of a world based on human solidarity & the belief that working people can be the agents of social transformation. That’s why the seniors are still active.

Cynicism & abandoning hope will get you nowhere. Why go to hell before you die?

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