The Bernie Sanders political revolution: feel the baloney

Sanders rally 1:23:2016

I must be out of the socialists for Bernie Sanders loop since the national March for Bernie came & went yesterday & I didn’t hear a peep about it till it ended. They say it took place in 35 cities but was postponed on the east coast due to inclement weather. Good thing nature intervened since it appears they were sidewalk events most places–though sizable in a few. The indomitable antiwar movement hasn’t drawn sizable crowds for a long time either so no one ridicules a movement for size. Only for folly.

Loath am I to rain on a good parade, but if you want a political revolution it might be better to march for an end to US wars–the very wars Sanders votes appropriations for. Our man has got a movement going. His followers are calling for political revolution. But against what, for what? All things bad & all things good? What about immigration rights, Black rights, Palestinian justice, war & drone bombing–all of which Sanders stinks on?

Some of his supporters criticized the march because they thought participants should have been phone banking, canvassing, registering voters. We’ve heard that one before. Those who put their hope for change primarily in a candidate/savior rarely get off their asses to protest US policies. In elitist, solely electoral politics, protesting is for plebeians or just a waste of time.

Some may think the “Feel the Bern” phenomenon should be seriously analyzed rather than ridiculed. It has been ad nauseam ever since the Democratic Party started throwing up left shills like Sanders. Pardon me if after several decades I leave that chore to others. Sanders’ politics are what interest me & dispelling popular delusions about what his politics really are.

(Photo is March for Sanders in Seattle, WA)

The softer, gentler side of barbarism: EU refugee policy

Refugees in thermal blankets ( Boris Grdanoski:AP) Jan 24 2016

This photo shows the softer, gentler side of EU refugee policy. This refugee mother & child in Tabanovce, Macedonia near the border with Serbia were given thermal blankets for the 180 km/113 mi walk in freezing temperatures from the Greek-Macedonia border. You don’t see humanitarian largesse like that every day.

The blankets were likely given to them by volunteer groups since the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) appears to spend most of its time hand-wringing & shaking the naughty finger about the crisis.

This barbarism is the softer, gentler side of EU refugee policy since this woman & child, most likely Syrians, were actually allowed to cross the Greek-Macedonia border & proceed north. Thousands identified as “economic migrants” are detained in abandoned Olympic stadiums to be processed for deportation or they are kept in Moria, the refugee camp on Lesbos which is more like a concentration camp.

Most reports say Afghan refugees are allowed to cross the border for asylum since they’re fleeing a war-zone but photojournalism belies that, showing especially single Afghan men in the stadiums to be processed for deportation & at Moria.

Moria was an abandoned prison or army base (media can’t get the story straight) with a capacity of 410 which now warehouses up to 4,000 refugees separated by barb wire fencing. Since there aren’t enough shelters, no sanitation, & no garbage pickup, refugees sleep in the rough, often in trash. Volunteers reported a recent scabies outbreak.

Documentation that the EU is flagrantly violating umpteen international laws governing treatment of refugees does not have UN officials jumping up & down like monkeys–like they do when they pass one of their resolutions sanctioning war. Perhaps the EU & UN serve another master than justice & human rights & need to be reconsidered.

Immigration is a human right. Open the borders.

(Photo by Boris Grdanoski/AP)

Israeli colonial policy & the demolition of Palestinian homes

Demolition of Palestinian home (REUTERS:Mussa Qawasma) Jan 23 2016

This photo is a Palestinian man arguing with Israeli soldiers, trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank village of Beit Ula. The soldiers are there to protect the bulldozers in the process of demolitions.

About 25 percent of Beit Ula (about ten kilometers from Hebron) is located in Area C, a designation of the Oslo Accords which bargained away Palestinian self-determination. Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank, is under complete Israeli control & Israel treats it not like occupied territory but as an annexation.

About 70,000 Palestinians live in Area C but Israel is trying to drive them out with land expropriations & home demolitions. It is the area where most Jewish settlements, all illegal under international law, are being built. Under the colonial policy called the Israeli Law of Return, Jewish settlers are being moved in & Palestinians are being evicted.

This photo explains the vigor of Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonialism which they have the right to oppose by any means necessary. We can stand with them by building & honoring the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel. Buy nothing with barcodes beginning with 729.

(Photo by Mussa Qawasma/Reuters)

Child labor in the US & around the world: a scourge to undercut adult labor

Child tobacco worker in US (from HRW) Jan 23 2016

This is a child tobacco worker in the US where child labor is legal for industrial farmworkers & where there are an estimated 800,000 child farmworkers. In 2012, an initiative from the Department of Labor (DoL) to institute protective & safety laws for child farmworkers was vigorously opposed by the Obama administration which mandated the DoL never raise the issue again. Neither of the US labor federations did a thing to oppose this. Obama’s politics are a seamless whole–from war & drone bombing to child welfare.

Child farmworkers face many safety & health dangers on industrial farms:
exposure to pesticides (often sprayed directly by planes as they work); snake & insect bites; razor-sharp tools & lack of safety equipment; dangerous farm machinery (without safety devices like seat belts or roll-over bars); extreme heat; chemicals & explosives; work at extreme heights in silos & grain storage facilities; work in manure pits (with E. coli contamination). On tobacco farms, dermal exposure puts them at the same cardiovascular & cancer risks as active smokers.

Wisdom Blow has just reposted this article I wrote in 2012 on child labor explaining its place in neoliberal capitalist economics–the economics of war & sweatshops. Child labor serves primarily to undercut & disempower adult labor, create a compliant exploitable workforce, & eliminate all rights & safety protections for workers. It is a scourge, not a necessity & building strong, democratic unions is the alternative. Child labor is not just a human rights issue, but a labor issue.

The racist refugee politics of French president Francois Hollande

CALAIS ( Michel Spingler:AP) Jan 22 2016

Anyone who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck knew French president Francois Hollande was grandstanding when he promised to take in 30,000 refugees after the attacks last November & when he promised to invest $53 million for refugee housing. Our man is obviously a political weasel & cannot think socially. We know that from his policies of the past several years toward Roma–evicting them from longtime settlements, razing their shanties, & deporting them to Romania where they did not come from, in violation of EU visa-free policies.

We also got confirmation of that from the treatment of refugees on the Italian-French border over the past few years. French gendarmes blocked entry, forcibly removed refugees, & in one instance stopped & boarded a train, removed all refugees & deported them back across the Italian border.

Those who managed to get across the border ended up in squalid makeshift camps without basic social services like toilets, food, medical assistance, & the Hollande regime would send in demolition crews to take down the camps near Paris & in outlying areas. Many refugees including women with children, elderly, infirm, & disabled ended up living on the streets.

Hollande’s barbaric treatment of refugees at Calais may not be more egregious than it has been all along but it is certainly raising questions about racist distinctions in selecting which refugees will be granted asylum & which will be hassled, incarcerated, & deported. Those refugees massing in Calais because they are unable to move forward to the UK appear from photojournalist accounts to be in their majority Africans, refugees who entered on the north Africa to Italy route. Are they being processed differently than other refugees? Are they being subjected to more violence?

The EU is not forthcoming about the numbers of refugees each country is accepting, about the asylum process, or about the criteria for who will stay & who will face deportation. But Hollande would not be the guy to put in charge if there is to be any measure of propriety even by low EU standards.

This is winter. The temperature in Calais today is 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit. These are refugees running from tear gas thrown by French gendarmes as bulldozers move in to raze their tents. This is documentation of human rights crimes against refugees & violations of several international laws governing the treatment of refugees.

Immigration is a human right. Open the borders!

(Photo by Michel Spingler/AP)

The shameful political, economic, & military nexus between India & Israel

Kashmiri protest over Bhat murder (Dar Yasin:AP) Jan 22 2016

Kashmir, the other Intifada: without identification, it would be impossible to distinguish this photo of Kashmiri opposition to Indian military occupation from one of Palestinian opposition to the Israeli occupation. These youth are protesting today in Srinagar against the murders of 20-year-old Shariq Ahmad Bhat & 25-year-old Parvez Ahmad Guroo on Wednesday & Indian police are firing tear gas & rubber bullets to disperse them.

There is a political, economic, & military nexus between India & Israel that inextricably links the struggles for self-determination of Palestinians & Kashmiris. In 2014, bilateral trade between the two countries, excluding military sales, stood at almost US $5 billion, including $45 million in blood diamonds from Israel. (The breakdown is exports from India to Israel: $2,241 billion & exports from Israel to India: $2,286 plus the $45 million in diamonds.)

Since the 1980s Israel has been one of the world’s top arms producers & exporters with an estimated $7.47 billion a year in sales. Israel shrouds these transactions in secrecy but it has for decades operated as a US proxy in armament deals to oppressive regimes like Guatemala & Colombia, & conducts freelance profiteering in countries like apartheid South Africa & Iran under the Shah. Military links between India & Israel have grown exponentially since Modi took power in May 2014. The current 41 billion rupees (US $659 million) of Israeli arms sales to India is more than Israel’s total military exports to India for the three years before Modi took power.

Arms deals don’t mean just guns & bullets. India has billions of dollars & rupees in deals with Israel for counterinsurgency training services; assault & sniper rifles with ammunition; night vision devices; laser location & targeting equipment; drones; laser-guided bombs; high-tech surveillance equipment; anti-tank guided missiles & launchers; aircraft, cruise, & sea-to-sea missiles; border monitoring equipment; artillery radars; fast attack naval craft. You name it; Israel sells it to India. And India uses most of it against Kashmiris to maintain its force of 700,000 soldiers, paramilitary forces, & counterinsurgency thugs.

Israel’s counterinsurgency training services to India go back over a decade. It has trained thousands of Indian commandos in the brutal methods used against Kashmiris & others in India because Israel was founded by death squad battalions & has perfected its brutalities on the bodies of Palestinians.

Both India & Israel are central to US geopolitical designs & the nexus between them includes the Obama regime & the Pentagon which have brokered military contracts worth billions with both countries.

Incorporating Kashmiri solidarity into Palestinian solidarity does not weaken either but strengthens both & helps expose the roles played by India, Israel, & the US in violently opposing democracy around the world.

(Photo by Dar Yasin/AP)

Michael Douglas joins Israel’s propaganda campaign against BDS

Michael Douglas

As an illustration of how Israel uses culture & celebrities to legitimize colonialism, they’ve enlisted the actor Michael Douglas to join Natan Sharansky for a speaking tour of US campuses to address “heightened anti-Israel activity on campus” & to talk about Israel & the Jewish people “at a time when certain individuals & groups in the academic community as well as other forces are making sustained efforts to delegitimize Israel.” Do you think they might mean Palestinians & BDS? Golly it sure sounds like it.

The tour is sponsored by the Genesis Prize Foundation, the Jewish Agency for Israel, & Hillel International. Genesis is a prize founded in 2012 by Netanyahu’s office to promote “Jewish values.” Since it comes from Netanyahu there’s some confusion about whether genocide is included as one of those values or not. Douglas got it last year but no one is sure why since he only became Jewish again a few years ago after he nearly croaked.

Sharansky heads up the Jewish Agency for Israel which is the main Israeli agency to promote “aliyah,” the immigration to & colonialism of Palestine. He’s the guy responsible for recruiting & moving in settlers to take over Palestinian lands. He’s actually Russian & a real rightwing piece of work. It may not be Israel’s best idea to send him out on the trail for PR.

The tour begins at Brown University on Jan. 28, Stanford University on Feb. 2 & the University of California at Santa Barbara on Feb. 3. People might want to bring BDS banners to the events–since certain individuals & groups in the artistic community as well as other forces are trying to legitimize colonialism.

(Photo is from flickr)

Media coverage of Indian occupation of Kashmir moves from blackout to grayout

There is increasing media coverage of the Kashmiri struggle against Indian military occupation. It’s not an avalanche nor certainly hard-hitting investigative reports but a trickle of the kind of dishonest, tripe coverage we’re accustomed to about Palestinians.

It’s isn’t a matter of something being better than nothing since half-assed reporting trivializes conflicts & tunes readers out to understanding them since there’s ‘no there there’ to the news. But the internet does make it possible for us to take a snatch of information or a photo & do our own investigations. Social media makes it possible to interrogate participants & confirm things.

It isn’t that we want to know about all the human suffering in the world but that knowing what’s happening to our brothers & sisters means we can build bonds of understanding, respect, & solidarity.

Oceans are becoming plastic waste dumps

Plastic waste Jan 21 2016

According to a report released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by the year 2050. Plastic packaging leaks into the oceans at the rate of one garbage truck full per minute because there is no unified global system for recycling. Currently only between 5 percent & 14 percent gets recycled; 40 percent ends up in landfill, & the rest in the oceans.

The plot sickens: plastics production has increased twenty times since 1964 & is expected to quadruple by 2050. We’ll be awash in plastic without clean water to put in it. Water has become a catastrophe zone–including the oceans; Flint, Michigan; water tables contaminated by fracking. There are major alerts just in this region where towns are urged not to drink, cook, or bathe in the water.

One would think persuading the politicians, bankers, & corporate muck-a-mucks at Davos would get thinks rolling but we know from all previous environmental conferences held by the elite that nothing will come of it except public relations. They’re running our planet into the ground.

We have some hard choices to make & not a lot of time to do it.

Photo is rubbish floating in Naifaru Harbour, Maldives, Indian Ocean, January, 2015.

(Photo by Rosemary Calvert/Getty Images)