Haiti reconstruction five years on from the 2010 earthquake

Haiti ( Gregory Bull:Dieu Nalio Chery:AP) Jan 19 2015

In January 2012, on the 2nd anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, Oxfam issued a report saying reconstruction was moving ahead “at a snail’s pace,” that 500,000 Haitians were still homeless, most didn’t have running water, a toilet, or access to a doctor in a cholera epidemic caused by UN troops–but there was progress because half of all earthquake rubble had been removed. Unicef issued a similar report about the evidence of “meaningful & positive change.”

This photo is Port-au-Prince taken nine days ago. There are still 400,000 homeless living in tent camps without water or toilets, & it’s reported that 91 out of 250 cholera treatment centers have been closed. The Martelly regime, associated closely with the Obama regime, is now forcibly evicting people from the tent camps to live on the streets so land developers can take over. This might be the time for Oxfam & Unicef to make a further accounting–since we don’t expect any accounting from the US & other international donors.

Most of the billions of pledged international aid was never delivered. USAID is hardly a model of transparency but what they did report is that nearly 90% of aid delivered to Haiti was to US companies & NGOs for “agriculture, infrastructure & other projects.” Projects like the $300 million sweatshop complex set up by the Clintons, the power plant that dispossessed hundreds of Haitian farmers, & the airport so Haiti can develop its tourist industry. But no homes or toilets or clinics.

US companies actually set up a lobbying group called the Council of International Development Companies (CIDC) so they have a voice in the US Congress to drown out the voices of the Haitian people. But there have been many protests in Haiti which UN troops & Haitian riot cops have fired on. So much for that UN peacekeeping crap! The UN refuses responsibility for the cholera epidemic & doesn’t even have the elementary decency to maintain clinics for those afflicted.This is what you call plunder & colonialism & it would be good if the hundreds of NGOs operating in Haiti would speak out about this. Or is the aid they receive from USAID nothing more than hush money?

Our fullest solidarity with the people of Haiti. It’s long-since time we get off the schtick & make it an active solidarity.

(Photo by Gregory Bull/Dieu Nalio Chery/AP)

On Clint Eastwood and psycho snipers

“American Sniper” is Clint Eastwood’s new film based on the 2012 biography of Chris Kyle, a US Navy Seal from Texas. Kyle, who served four tours in the Iraq War, has several combat medals from the Navy & Marine Corps. He claimed with pride to have taken out more than 255 people in long-range kill shots & described killing as fun & something he loved to do. “I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He also bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina. He & another guy were murdered on a gun range by a Marine Corps veteran with PTSD in 2013.

Reviewers tell us “American Sniper” is a morally ambiguous, emotionally complex film. Morally ambiguous, my ass! You don’t have Bradley Cooper, Hollywood’s hunk du jour, play Kyle unless you’re trying to whip up sympathy with him–& quite frankly with his racism & Islamophobia.

Eastwood is a right-winger & in no way distinguishes himself from the spate of films & TV series glorifying US assassins & spies & misrepresenting US military policy. You can look for nuance in this damn thing but that doesn’t raise it above the level of propaganda. How many shades of psycho are there?

Increasing popular opposition to neoliberal plunder in Africa

Burkina Faso (sopitas.com) Jan 17 2015

Bono & Bob Geldof have been excoriated (even if not enough) for their paternalist & white supremacist humanitarian aid campaigns for Africa. The same treatment needs to be accorded A-list Hollywood who make a seamless transition from strutting the red carpet to touring conflict zones in Africa not just touting humanitarian aid but US foreign policy in Africa. The list of movie stars playing great white savior is a mile long but George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio distinguish themselves in an unfortunate way.

Whether their concern is genuine isn’t relevant. What does matter is what political forces they ally with & what political agenda they promote for Africa. All of them are in league with the highest echelons of US government power–from the Council on Foreign Relations to the Pentagon & US Congress. Even their so-called humanitarian aid foundations are linked to US power.

Clooney operates in league with John Prendergast, a shadowy figure identified as a human rights activist in Africa but more likely a CIA operative who has numerous connections to US government agencies. The two frequently grandstand in Congress to testify for US military intervention in Darfur. Prendergast has a few foundations which media cite authoritatively on politics in central African countries. Last year, the Guardian reported Prendergast’s Enough Project (with links to the Clinton & Obama administrations & World Bank) declared the mines of DR Congo out of the control of war lords & the metals extracted conflict-free due to a US federal law passed in 2010. That absurd claim takes consumer heat off companies like Intel & Apple, leaves the mines in the hands of foreign mining interests strip-mining them for profit, & the continuing 17-year civil war inscrutable.

To promote US intervention in Darfur & other African countries, Prendergast, Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, & other Hollywood hot shots formed Not On Our Watch Project. The Project gave half a million bucks to Oxfam in the Chad-Darfur region in 2008–a grant that likely involves less largesse than drawing NGOs into collusion in the region. It also provided seed money for the Satellite Sentinel Project founded by Clooney & Prendergast to do satellite surveillance of the region.

Jolie operates most often through the UN as a goodwill ambassador. Most recently (2014) she collaborated with William Hague, then a British Secretary of State, about the use of rape as a weapon of war, especially in DR Congo. She also frequently tours refugee camps in Africa–without ever bringing an iota of insight to what is causing the mass rapes or the refugees. One could claim that humanitarian aid is above politics except that such a distinction is entirely false. And Jolie as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations knows that. One of her frequent collaborators in the field is the International Rescue Committee, Kissinger’s group which is funded over 50% by the US government.

Affleck formed his own foundation, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) in 2010 focusing on DR Congo which allows him to promenade media & testify in Congress as an expert on Africa. The co-founder of ECI is Whitney Williams, who also set up Matt Damon’s foundation for Africa. Williams is a humanitarian aid consultant with links to the Clintons, USAID, the Gates Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, John Prendergast & the Enough Project, & Bono’s foundation ONE. In 2011 ECI & the Enough Project jointly called on the US to intervene in DR Congo around elections. It’s all of a piece & not just of noblesse oblige but to serve US foreign policy & neoliberal plunder.

This narrative of Africa as a continental basket case of war, genocide, & famine is curiously at odds with investment agencies promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. Since the late 1990s, the UN, World Bank, other investment groups, & Forbes magazine have issued regular reports that rue the lack of FDI & promote African countries as among the fastest growing economies in the world. In fact, in that period FDI grew from $9 billion to $62 billion, mostly in the mining industries. In a recent list the World Bank listed the DR Congo as among the top six African economies. The DR Congo has been in a 17-year civil war with over four million civilian deaths & is occupied by UN troops. How the hell is economic performance calculated?

Mauritius, a small island country off the east coast of Africa, is held up by the World Bank & economist Joseph Stiglitz as the “Mauritius miracle” & among the top forty best economies in the world for doing business. What price glory! Sweatshops where workers earn pennies an hour, sleep 16 to a ward, have no labor rights; child labor; child prostitution for the tourist industry; sky high property costs so most workers can’t afford homes or rent.

Investment bankers project growth in Africa from a US $ 2 trillion to a $29 trillion economy by 2050 but their measure of growth & that of Africa’s working people is entirely different. A couple years ago the African Development Bank (a major player in all this) issued a report on Africa’s growth touting the extraction of oil & minerals as the primary source of economic growth. They didn’t elaborate that much of this depends on the dispossession of small farmers & the use of child labor. They reported major inroads into poverty so that those living below the poverty line of US $1 a day has fallen from 51% to 39%. They gloat that now 350 million Africans (out of 1.11 billion) earn between US $2 & $20 a day. $730 or $7,300 a year is nothing to gloat about. They never addressed the estimated one million African refugees every year making arduous treks to Europe, Saudi Arabia, Israel, & elsewhere seeking asylum & economic opportunity.

Foreign investment is in fact draining Africa of resources. An estimated $134 billion flows into the continent each year, in the form of loans, investment & aid, but an estimated $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58 billion a year. That’s called plunder.

The basket case narrative serves a political purpose or it wouldn’t be promoted. Partially it’s to cover for IMF-World Bank austerity programs which dispossess farmers & rural workers, create urban slums, destroy public health, education, & social services, allow multinational corporations to strip mine & wreak environmental catastrophe, & allow foreign corporations to maraud & freeboot in the name of development.

There have been popular uprisings in nearly 30 countries against pauperization & neoliberal plunder. These are seldom reported because they are at odds with both the basket case narrative about Africans & the promotion of FDI. These aren’t just spontaneous inchoate uprisings but involve political groups with explanations for the neoliberal devastation in their own countries. In the period after independence from colonial powers & before the onset of neoliberal plunder, there was considerable economic & social development that is being reversed. It is in these rebellions that the future of Africa lies–not in movie stars with white savior complexes.

Last fall, uprisings in Burkina Faso in western Africa deposed the president who was one of Africa’s longest serving leaders. Hundreds of thousands protested to stop him from running for a fifth term & after months of protest, he fled the country in October. This photo is of a protest in the capital Ouagadougou.

(Photo from sopitas.com)

Ayotzinapa protests continue in Mexico against disappearance of 43 student teachers

Guerrero, MX (Jorge Dan Lopez:Reuters) Jan 13 2015

The defiance of protesters against superior armed force not only evokes immense respect but also an understanding of the depth & power of their fury. This activist in Guerrero, Mexico is kicking the shields of military police as protesters tried to enter an army base near the town of Iguala. Such defiance is remarkable against an army that has killed over 70,000 people & disappeared thousands just in the past decade. The Mexican government admits to 8,000 disappeared & blames it on criminal gangs; human rights groups estimate the disappeared at 30,000–& we don’t know if that includes undocumented immigrants from Central America. We now know the distinction between the Mexican regime & criminal gangs has become irrelevant since last September local officials handed over 43 student teachers to a criminal gang to murder & incinerate–like they were garbage.

In Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, teachers broke into several public buildings including the ministry of education. They evacuated staff & painted the number 43 on the walls. They broke into the national election commission & said they would not allow scheduled elections to be held on June 7th. They moved on to the State Congress & Government Palace facilities, broke windows, & painted 43 on the vehicles in the parking lot. Those who consider this lawless should keep in mind they have been stonewalled nearly four months by the Mexican government in answering questions about the crime, taking responsibility, & finding the remains of the 43 students.

There must be a considerable amount of fear among teachers & activists that such a large group can be picked off so easily & disappeared with no accountability. It sends chills just thinking about it. The only way to oppose such horrors is the kind of mobilization & fearlessness they are showing now. We need to find ways to build active solidarity with the political movement in Mexico especially in the US since the US bankrolls a good share of the operation.

Our fullest respect & solidarity with the activists of Guerrero. Give ’em a good kick for us!

(Photo by Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Starvation in Afghanistan and emancipation US-style

Kabul child (Omar Sobhani:Reuters ) Jan 13 2015

Caricature this. Emancipation US-style: this little guy is lined up with his mother at a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan to receive food from the World Food Program (WFP), a UN agency. Studies done by the World Bank & WFP show that nearly one-third of the 31 million Afghanis are “food-insecure.” In normal language that means they don’t have enough food to eat. A staggering 60% to 85% of children suffer chronic malnutrition. One study parsed things even finer & said about five million more people are “borderline food-insecure.” You have to admire the bureaucratic mind that can make a distinction between starving & borderline starving. How do you measure that? Does a spud a day tip the balance?

Afghanistan has an agricultural economy. It grows potatoes, wheat, cereals, several fruits & nuts, & of course, poppies for the opium market. But much of this is for export & all is governed by the market economy. The food prices are reportedly sky high & if you don’t have money, you don’t eat. That makes sense under capitalism.

The WFP is the very soul of diplomacy in explaining why so many Afghanis are starving. They talk about uncontrolled grazing, illegal logging, drought, environmental degradation. They say “insurgent activity & military operations have affected food security in some regions.” Maybe they could spell it out & admit that farmland for food staples is more profitably used for poppies & that war & drone bombing have proven incompatible with farming.

In 2009, WFP announced it would provide food for 8 million people. Two years later, it announced it would cut food aid to over 3 million Afghanis because of a shortage of money from donor nations. Just like in Haiti & Gaza, regimes pledge donations they never deliver. WFP said then it needed at least $220 million more to continue at previous levels.

In 2014, USAID claimed it provided over $30 million of “in-kind food assistance” to WFP operations to feed 3.6 million people through 2017. What in the hell is “in-kind food assistance”? Can you eat it? Is it a chit for the supermarket? USAID also boasted it was the largest contributor of food assistance to WFP in 2014 but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the money it usually spends bribing Afghani officials.

It should be said that a country that occupies another, destroys its agriculture, creates millions of homeless & refugees, & makes life a living hell for millions has a hell of a lot of nerve treating humanitarian aid like noblesse oblige.

(Photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Cartoon art and condemnation of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing

Netan-psycho cartoon Jan 13 2015

This cartoon of a thuggish Netan-psycho-yahu building a wall with the blood & bodies of Palestinians was published in the London Sunday Times in January 2013. It is by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe & provoked immediate denunciations of antisemitism from the likes of Tony Blair, Israeli politicians, Zionist organizations.

Knesset politician (now Israeli president) Reuven Rivlin wrote a letter of protest evoking the holocaust, saying ““For me & for other Israelis, this cartoon was reminiscent of the vicious journalism during one of the darkest periods in human history” & argued that it “blatantly crossed the line of freedom of expression.” Rivlin is an outspoken advocate for the outright annexation of the West Bank to Israel so he has a quite limited understanding of the concept of freedom of expression. Palestinians who do not agree with him are assaulted, dispossessed, & incarcerated.

Natan Sharansky, a Russian emigrant now head of the Jewish Agency (which promotes Zionist immigration to Israel to settle on Palestinian land) drew a connection between the cartoon & an increase in antisemitic violence in Europe. “There is a very tragic alliance between primitive, anti-democratic, nationalist, racist, fundamentalist forces who are committing most of the violence, & enlightened, liberal, intellectual representatives of the intelligentsia in Europe.” Sharansky wanted Scarfe branded as an antisemite.

Daniel Taub, Israeli ambassador to London, said the depiction of Netanyahu went too far, crossed “a red line,” drew on “classical antisemitic themes,” & he would be marching right on down to the editor to express Israel’s concerns.

Truth of the matter is, this is a somewhat flattering depiction of Netanyahu & lets him off quite easy given the scale of Israeli barbarism in Gaza. Blinking back tears about the holocaust & evoking antisemitism no longer deters criticism of Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing. You’re reaching to find antisemitism in this cartoon & doing so only to shame criticism of Israel. But you also demean those millions who lost their lives in the holocaust by using them for such purpose. That’s Eely Weasel’s schtick.

If Rivlin & all the boys have objection to “primitive, anti-democratic, nationalist, racist, fundamentalist forces,” they should raise them about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons because the massacre now makes Jews targets along with Muslims. Criticizing cartoons for racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia is not the same as demanding they be outlawed.

(Cartoon by Gerald Scarfe from the Sunday London Times)

Democracy and racist caricature in the cartoon tradition

Nast:Reconstruction Jan 13 2015

There is probably no more democratic art form in the European tradition than political cartooning–even though it now more often serves the status quo on the op ed page. It emerged in the 17th & 18th centuries with the democratic revolutions that overthrew feudalism & brought in capitalist states. Cartooning signals a shift in power relations between church, monarchies, & plebeians by the ability to lampoon power. The obsequious posture of serfs is replaced with defiance & ridicule.

Because colonialism was a political feature of those states, racist caricature has always been part of cartooning–particularly in depictions of the Irish, Jews, Blacks, Arabs. George Cruikshank, the great English cartoonist of the 19th century, originated the simian comparison on the Irish. The simian portrayal of Blacks has long been used to incite violence & social hatred & plagues caricature to this day–including of Obama & elite athletes.

Thomas Nast, in the 19th century, considered the pioneer of US cartooning, also portrayed the Irish as simian. Nast campaigned against political corruption & was an ardent supporter of the Civil War & Black Reconstruction; he championed Chinese immigration at a time when they were under attack & often attributed the violence to Irish immigrants. His caricatures however of Chinese appear quite racist to the modern eye, schooled by the Civil Rights Movement. His depictions of Blacks are often decidedly simian even while he championed Reconstruction. (Reconstruction was the political conflict between the white power structure & remnants of the Confederacy against Blacks to keep the latter out of political power in the south after the Civil War. It has been flagrantly misrepresented in US history.)

Dr. Seuss, the cartoonist & beloved writer of nearly 50 children’s books, spent most of his career drawing racist caricatures of Blacks, Arabs, & Japanese both for commercial ads & WWII war propaganda.
It serves no purpose to suggest free speech should be curtailed for racist cartoonists. That’s a classic case of cutting off your head to spite your face. Because it isn’t racists that need free speech. It’s dissidents who oppose all forms of racism & social hatred. Why drive hate into hiding when we need to know exactly what we’re up against? And when every foray we make against free speech will be used against us?

Despite the progressive thrust of his politics, most of Nast’s caricatures of Blacks are unusable today. This pro-Reconstruction cartoon is the best of a bad lot. What the movement for social justice needs is Black, Latino, women caricaturists who can put ugly on the face of power, who can take caricature back from the obsequious & restore the luster of rebellion & defiance against tyranny.

(Cartoon by Thomas Nast, 1866)

Update on neoliberal plunder in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake

Haiti:Cité Soleil  (Susan Schulman) Jan 12 2015

Few countries show the depravity & barbarism of neoliberal capitalism more starkly than the US & UN in Haiti. The scale of depredation, the racist hatred, the callous indifference to massive human suffering render words inadequate.

Five years since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti: 50 regimes pledged nearly $9 billion for reconstruction. The Red Cross alone collected $486 million in donations for earthquake relief. There are reportedly 10,000 NGOs operating there. Only a tiny percent of the pledged aid was ever delivered ($686 million) but there is still nothing to show for the $1,172 billion that was except a $300 million industrial park housing sweatshops in rural Haiti, where most people don’t live. Under political pressure, the Red Cross finally released an accounting, saying all of the dough had been dispersed & used to provide clean water & sanitation services for over 545,000 people, but they can’t point to a single port-au-potty as proof.

An estimated 400,000 people still live in 123 camps without clean water, garbage removal, without shower or toilet facilities. Only 5,700 permanent houses have been built, mostly by aid groups such as Habitat for Humanity. Only 15,000 homes have been repaired with reconstruction assistance. Only 125,000 transitional one-room plywood houses were built–not earthquake or hurricane-resistant in an area where hurricane season is annual. The Haitian government does not have a housing reconstruction plan or program. Not a dime of US aid went to housing.

During his election campaign in 2010, President Michel Martelly (who stinks from corruption & collaboration with the US) pledged to close all camps within six months but his pledge did not mean relocation to new homes; it meant forcible eviction, often without prior notice. Rather than building & reconstructing public housing, the Haitian government along with private landowners, police & UN peacekeepers are on a rampage to clear the camps at gunpoint, using tear gas grenades & live ammo. Paramilitary groups armed with machetes & clubs have attacked camps, assaulting people & setting camps on fire. With no homes to go to, 60,000 have simply been made homeless.

This is a photo of Cité-Soleil, a section of Port-au-Prince with about half a million people. It’s been there since the late 1950s but when Haiti began implementing US free trade policies & neoliberal agribusiness in the 1980s, over 830,000 rural Haitians were dispossessed, displaced & ended up in urban slums. Like the temporary camps, Cité Soleil has no sewer or sanitation system, no access to potable water, & few health clinics.

The colonial overlords, orchestrated by the two Clintons, considered it more important to set up industrial parks & sweatshops than provide sanitation. What takes your breath away is that Haiti is going through a cholera epidemic brought on by UN troops in 2010. An estimated 700,000 people have contracted cholera & over 8,000 people have died. In 2012, Ban Ki-moon pledged $2.27 billion in UN funds to fight the epidemic but once again there are still not enough clinics to serve the afflicted so what the hell are they doing with the money?

Last Friday, a US federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against the UN to hold them accountable for the epidemic. The judge claimed UN immunity against such charges. The suit was brought by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti to provide compensation to the victims of the epidemic. The decision will be appealed but may not see more justice than Bhopal victims against Dow Chemical.

Impunity pretty much sizes up UN operations in Haiti. They’ve occupied the country since 2004 & are frequently used by the regime against democracy protesters & against “armed gangs” in Cité Soleil. Allegedly these gangs are completely lawless, engaging in murder, rape, kidnapping, looting, shootings which terrorize the area. Since 2007, UN forces regularly flood the area & engage in shootouts with the gangs–not unlike the LAPD in the Black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Which makes the story worth questioning. In neoliberal parlance, outlaw gangs is code for Blacks or very poor.

Of course not all of the NGOs working in Haiti are washouts like the Red Cross. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) runs a hospital in Cité Soleil & Samaritan’s Purse built a large free cholera treatment center there. What little has been done is mostly by these NGOs, many of them religious groups.

Haiti’s in a hell of a spot & like so many other peoples, has stood alone a long time. It’s long since time for the big battalions of international solidarity to enter the fray & begin to educate about what the US & UN are doing there. It’s just a matter of time before they start doing it here. And if we stand silent, that will be a matter of chickens coming home to roost.

(Photo by Susan Schulman)

Neoliberal plunder and the Haitian earthquake

Cite Soleil *Susan Schulman) Jan 12 2015

This is the fifth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti & in preparing an update on developments there I came across this post I wrote October 25th 2012 which lays out US neoliberal plans for Haiti & the role of the Clintons & their entourage of movie stars. I’ve only updated the photo which is from Cité-Soleil, a section of Port-au-Prince with about half a million people & one of the poorest slums in the Western Hemisphere. It plays an important role in the UN occupation which I will describe in my update:
Haiti is open for plunder! Both of the Clintons joined Haitian president, Michel Martelly–along with a glamorous entourage of movie stars Sean Penn, Maria Bello, & Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan, model Petra Nemcova, British flyboy Richard Branson, USAID & State Department functionaries, bankers from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) & other investors–in the opening ceremony of the $300 million Caracol Industrial Park in northern, rural Haiti. According to media flattery, the work of both Clintons in Haiti–in particular this industrial park–will shape their political legacy. Damn straight it will! It already earns them a special place in hell & merits them a special tribunal for human rights crimes against the people of Haiti. But loathsome as the Clintons are, they are not down there in some rogue capacity; they are agents of US government policy.

After the January 2010 earthquake, US & other international power brokers moved swiftly to establish a decision-making system in Haiti which took all power out of the hands of Haitians & institutions run by & accountable to them. They set up the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) headed by Bill Clinton–not because of his organizing talents but because of his treachery. Michel Martelly was the IHRC candidate of choice to run for president in 2011. Martelly is a former honky-tonk singer, committed Duvalierist, & admitted participant in the Tonton Macoutes, paramilitary death squads Duvalier used in a reign of terror against political opponents: hundreds of thousands of people were disappeared, tortured, murdered, stoned, burned alive, their corpses put on display & often hung in trees. Family members who tried to remove the bodies for burial often disappeared themselves.

When the Clintons speak they are at pains to explain how they’re “working for the Haitians,” are “Haitian-led” & “helping the Haitian people to achieve their own dreams.” If that’s true they have to explain why this project is at odds not with the dreams but the expressed demands of the Haitian people. The Clintons, et al, explain this industrial park will bring up to 65,000 Haitian jobs. But of course, just to remove the earthquake rubble, find ways to reuse it, construct & repair homes, build sanitation systems, health clinics & schools would take even more workers–in the cities where they live & not in the countryside where they don’t. The IHRC has prioritized & fast-tracked infrastructure projects like this industrial park, highways, telecom, building the tourist industry, & privatizing public services not because these are the dreams of Haitians but because they suit the needs of international capital & exploitation which wants to turn Haiti into a Caribbean sweatshop.

Even a cursory look at this park project will expose the truth since it’s what’s not explained that damns the whole project: first of all, more than 300 small farmers were forcibly displaced from their holdings to make way for the industrial park; the Haitian government simply claimed the land as state property. It is prime agricultural land & environmentally essential. Turning it into a giant sweatshop reduces the already compromised ability of Haiti to produce food for its people, & the oil-burning power plant funded by USAID will destroy the environment.

The park’s anchor tenant is Sae-A, a South Korean garment company notorious & nearly run out of Guatemala on a rail for egregious labor violations, including violence against workers. They expect to pay workers $5 a day to make clothes for stores like Walmart & the Gap. In fact, Sae-A recently shipped its first order of Haitian-made garments to Walmart. They were persuaded to set up the sweat shop by walking into a ready-made factory with tax & tariff accommodations to make it super-profitable to them. Sean Penn, the willing stooge of US colonialism in Haiti, lauds Sae-A for their “maverick nature” but sycophants like him can’t distinguish the antisocial from the maverick. The only other tenant so far is Peintures Caraïbes, a Haitian paint manufacturer, who expects to hire 300 workers max. Their presence is a gesture to cover the colonialism of the whole project.

The reason Penn & the other movie stars are there is to help peddle this crap not just to Haitians but to the rest of us; the reason Karan is there is likely so she’ll get her ritzy clothes made there cheap; & the reason Branson is there is because building up tourism is part of the master plan for Haiti, which includes expansion of the Cap Haitien airport to accommodate international flights. Of course, this master plan was determined by international power brokers & predators, not subject to the voice of the Haitian people themselves. The good news is there are reports of massive protests in Port-au-Prince against the policies of Martelly & neoliberalism. Demand the US & its predatory allies get the hell out of Haiti; Haiti for & by the Haitians!

(Photo by Susan Schulman)

Feudalism stands up for Charlie Hebdo

Felipe VI on CH (Imago:Barcroft Media) Jan 12 2015

Satire just can’t keep up with reality. They report the news, you think you’re in the Fourth Dimension. First we have the assembly of international mass murderers leading a march for free speech in Paris–because if anyone is going to be taking people out for what they stand for, it’s going to be them. They adhere the right of terrorism entirely to themselves.

Feudalism has its own contribution to make to this travesty. This is Felipe VI observing a minute’s silence in Madrid to support the Charlie Hebdo rally. He looks like a fool but at least he had the good sense to stay home since Spain is trying to impose a draconian Public Security Law gagging free speech & outlawing all protest.

When Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, the satirist Tom Lehrer declared satire dead & went back to teaching math. George Carlin & Lenny Bruce are dead. Today we’re left with Charlie Hebdo & Bill Maher-type satire that draw laughs from social hatred.

Satire isn’t dead but we shouldn’t have to go back in history to find great stuff–like Daumier & Swift. Young writers with an eye for the ironic & an outrage at injustice need to start sharpening their tongues because we’re going to need a lot of laughs to get us through the barbarism of neoliberalism. Cynicism is not an option. We have a world to change.

(Photo by Imago/Barcroft Media)

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