If you’re going to speak for Jesus, act like Jesus!

You can tell a lot about political commitments of the unstated kind when people express commiserations about the Har Nof synagogue in West Jerusalem attacked by two Palestinians but don’t say boo about the 161 mosques destroyed in Gaza during Operation Ethnic Cleansing, or the mosque torched last week in the West Bank near Ramallah, or the sustained military assaults & denial of Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem.

That judgement regrettably includes Pope Francis who condemned the attack on Har Nof but has yet to say a word about Gaza or Al-Aqsa. When it comes to justice, you just can’t have it both ways. You can’t denounce a violent act by one side & remain mute on a system of apartheid & ethnic cleansing. If you’re going to speak for Jesus then for heaven’s sake act like Jesus who drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip.

Arsenic in the food supply

You can run but you cannot hide from capitalism. They got it all sewed up, especially the food & water supply. Five international conglomerates now control all the world’s food–which explains why most vegetables & fruits grown today taste like raw potatoes.

Several weeks ago for health reasons & as part of going vegan, I divested my diet of all sugars & grains except rice & quinoa. I was feeling mighty smug at my success in overcoming cravings & losing weight until I read the entire rice supply, including brown & organic rice, is contaminated with arsenic & they don’t know where it’s coming from. If you wash it before eating, only 30% of the arsenic is removed.

Arsenic contamination of groundwater affects millions of people around the world. Several years ago, it caused a massive epidemic of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. It is used in industry & agriculture in insecticides & as a feed additive to poultry & swine. So if you’re eating chicken with your rice, you’re getting a double whammy of the stuff.

Arsenic is a carcinogen & the way the FDA & other health agencies around the world deal with it’s ubiquity is to parse out just how much is legal which has nothing to do with what is safe.
Some times you just can’t look at these things too carefully; you have to eat something. But it may mean the mono-diet approach to nutrition is problematic. Capitalism is going to take us out, one way or the other. Navigating the system is like a minefield. But if you want to stick around to see if it get’s its comeuppance you have to choose wisely.

Media’s delicacy with the truth about Palestine & Israel

Gaza boy (Mahmud Hams:AFP:Getty Images) Nov 20 2014

Media has such a way with words, such delicacy in telling the truth when it comes to Palestinians. They don’t always lie but they never tell the truth. This is 3-year-old Shareef al-Namla who lost his foot “during the conflict between Israel & Hamas last summer.” So deftly, Operation Ethnic Cleansing becomes “the conflict”–like there was any kind of military symmetry between Gaza under embargo & Israel with one of the mightiest military machines in the world.

Those who don’t understand the ebbs & flows of social movements are bewailing that mass protests against Israeli barbarism have subsided & they assume this means a return to political indifference & continuing isolation for Palestinians. On the contrary. Political movements can’t stay mobilized without respite–though this can be a hard thing to accept. There will continue to be rallies around the world but the focus now is on building the cultural & economic boycott (BDS) of Israel, on broadening educational work so that mobilizations in the future will be even more massive.

Everyone can participate in evangelizing for BDS through schools, churches, unions, community groups. You don’t need a podium or a campus. Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza was a historic turning point when that Exodus narrative was exposed & blasted into little tiny bits. Solidarity activists have an opening now to tell the truth & have it heard.

Build the cultural & economic boycott of Israel! Demand “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

We’re not ‘going gentle into that good night’ until we’ve kicked some more ass

Seniors protesting Nov 20 2014

Pensions & education are two of the things targeted by neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. All over the world, there are pitched battles over these issues with seniors, students & teachers arrayed against regimes. Both are central to why Mexico disappeared 43 student teachers.

In the US, where higher education has always been expensive, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that working class kids had a shot at going to college. They needed more workers with high-tech learning & made student loans more readily available. It still wasn’t easy, but it was possible.

The seniors they’re battling today over pensions are from the glorious 1968 generation that included uprisings in several colonial countries & in France, Czechoslovakia, the US, & elsewhere. Did they think we would “go gentle into that good night” while they absconded with our pension plans?

We have seen relentless battles over education on every continent because for the oppressed there’s no going back from learning. For the privileged, learning is often something one flaunts to show superiority–like a pedigree. For the oppressed, learning is a way to understand why inequality is so exacting–or it’s a ticket out of hell.

Speaking personally, I have always taunted that if capitalism hadn’t fought me so hard on getting an education, I might be a Republican or Democrat today. Once they fry your ass on something so fundamental, there’s no amnesty granted tyranny.

(Photo from Massachusetts Senior Action Council)

On Bono, the minstrel of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism

Apparently Bono (the minstrel name for Paul Hewson) sustained more serious injuries in that bike accident than at first thought–when they say he swerved to avoid hitting another biker. Given the reception for the last U2 album, foul play may be involved. Either that or a publicity stunt.

When they were producing the album earlier this year, Bono admitted “We felt like we were on the verge of irrelevance a lot in our lives.” Musical fans have been feeling the same thing for a long time now. Political observers are more damning & eschew the judgement of irrelevant for that of obsequious before power. What other self-respecting Irish citizen would accept an honorary knighthood from Betty Windsor for humanitarian service to Africa? The British moochocracy & former colonial power wouldn’t know humanitarian if it came up & kicked them in the ass. And neither would Bono.

First the rear hatch flew off his plane mid-flight; now this bike incident. At first it looked like karma. Now it’s looking more & more like someone’s out to get him to keep the band from touring. Whatever works.

U.N. goes after North Korea. Ignores Mexico, U.S., Haiti, Brazil, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq

A UN Commission of Inquiry has laid out a slate of accusations against North Korea for wide-spread human rights abuses & crimes against humanity including torture, political repression, executions, labor camps. Based on interviews with unspecified witnesses, the commission claims North Koreans face “unspeakable atrocities” & it’s trying to get the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Wow! Things must really be bad over there. We didn’t realize the UN could take such drastic action on the basis of second-hand information. It does make you wonder though why the US isn’t charged with something for shooting hundreds of unarmed Black kids down in the streets, for tossing thousands of them into prison for minor offenses like scratching their asses in public? Why aren’t they charging Mexico with some heavy accusations for disappearing at least 30,000 people in the past 8 years & for the deaths of 100,000 civilians in their so-called war on drugs? What about Israel & Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza & the violent land expropriations in the West Bank? And come to think about it, what about Brazil, Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq & a dozen later places? They wouldn’t even have to rely on second-hand testimony for those countries.

Even the Pope can’t have it both ways

Pope Francis Nov 18 2014 (Fox news)

The one thing you can say for sure about Pope Francis is that he knows how to play both sides of the street. He’s been stringing gays along for a while now with equivocal comments about gay sexuality, same-sex marriage, & their place within the church. But equivocation is reaching its limits & the one thing that has become certain is that the pope will remain Catholic.

A few weeks ago he convened The Synod on the Family, a meeting of cardinals in Rome to reconsider the church’s traditional views on same-sex & divorced families. They concluded that God likes things just the way they are, in accordance with the prejudices of the College of Cardinals.

Now this week Pope Francis convened an ecumenical Vatican conference called Complementarity of Man & Woman. Well it’s ecumenical only in the religious sense with Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, & a pile of Catholic prelates. But that ecumenical thing really takes a beating when it comes to politics since most of those attending are about as right wing as they come. They’re the “traditional family values” crowd.

That complementarity thing has other limits, since of the 30 speakers asked to address relations between men & women, only six were women. One of them was a nun named Sr. M. Prudence Allen. Sr. Mary Prudence is an advocate of the New Feminism based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II who tried to root the complementarity stuff in his Theology of the Body–which looks to most like Sex Education 101: the physical make-up of the genders makes it appear they’re made for each other. How astute an observation! But from physiology John Paul II leapt to the social conclusion that women should reject male models of “domination”, value their roles as mothers & caretakers, & honor the “feminine genius” of empathy, emotive capacity, subjectivity, communication, intuition, interpersonal relations. And he thought he was being so original! When you translate that from Vatican Latin, it means the pope wants things too stay just like they were in 1952. Well you can take that empathy stuff as an excuse to deny women justice & shove it. John Paul is not the first to pull that stunt & he won’t be the last.

The big quote from Pope Francis coming out of the complementarity conference is that “children have the right to grow up in a family with a father & a mother.” Well that’s a problem in the real world. Because if neoliberal barbarism has done anything, it has smashed the foundations of stable social life, including family relations. War, immigration, unemployment devastate social life, separate families in the most wrenching ways. For example, it would have been good if Pope Francis had thought about the affects of Israeli ethnic cleansing on families in Gaza & it’s not too late for him to speak out.

Pope Francis has really taken up the mantle of New Feminism–which is the old family values schtick–& will be attending another conference on complementarity in the US next year. A lot of people hold out hope for the pope but he’s proving more & more that the new Vatican is very much like the old Vatican.

(Photo of Pope Francis from Fox News)

Tranquility in Afghanistan is a relative term

Afghan girl Nov 19 2014

This little Afghan girl is harvesting cotton in the Balkh province, considered one of the most peaceful in the country. Of course, in a US-NATO occupied country, peaceful is a relative term signifying only that presently they’re not bombing it into smithereens & doesn’t include the barbaric conditions in the local coal mines. The tranquility here is only apparent.

Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital of the province & was the first city to fall to US forces in 2001. US Special Forces rounded up 8,000 Taliban fighters who had surrendered & massacred them. An Irish documentary titled “Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death” investigated those allegations & the filmmaker claims mass graves of thousands of victims were found by UN investigators. The Bush regime tried to block the investigation of what is an extremely gruesome war crime.

The Taliban were transported in closed trucks holding about 200-300 men each to a prison & denied water along the way. Witnesses claim when they cried out for air & water, soldiers fired holes into the trucks killing several prisoners. When they arrived at the prison, blood was leaking from the trucks & many were already dead. Some drivers were ordered into the desert where those prisoners not already dead were simply shot & dumped in mass graves. Witnesses also claim that those who arrived at the prison alive were tortured & murdered under US supervision. Such is the nature of emancipation US-style.

US-NATO out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!

(Photo by Sayed Mustafa/EPA)

On the “lesser evil” shell game in U.S. politics

When Hillary Clinton, whose personality is wooden, if not robotic & whose politics reek of corruption & criminality, is considered not just the lesser of two evils but a desirable candidate, the US political system stands indicted. Her conduct as the shill of US foreign policy was despicable in so many countries but perhaps most evident in Palestine & Haiti. US policy in Palestine bankrolls apartheid & ethnic cleansing & she collaborated with Netanyahu to enforce them. She collaborated as Secretary of State with her husband who was freebooting in Haiti to set up that country as a sweatshop haven for US businesses.

In lesser evil politics, why is so much ignored? Why so many monstrous crimes forgiven or denied? Is ethnic cleansing a gentler thing when Democrats are behind it? Are sweatshops less oppressive? Some will say, “well at least a Democrat will defend women’s reproductive rights.” That hasn’t been demonstrated much in history but even were it so, is that an acceptable tradeoff? Is that what’s meant by lesser evil? That here some get the lesser evil & Palestinians, Haitians, & others get the greater?

Pussy Riot moves from iconoclasm to Islamophobia

The Russian dissident group Pussy Riot responded to the Maher-Affleck dust-up over Islamophobia by posting “We love Bill Maher – he is always extremely funny & smart.”

Has something been lost in translation? And going both ways? Have they misunderstood Maher & have we misunderstood them? Or does it all just signify the shallowness of political iconoclasm & grandstanding stunts?

In 2012, they walked into a cathedral wearing neon masks, stood on the pulpit & screamed punk songs with lyrics like “Virgin Mary drive Putin away!” They certainly shouldn’t have been prosecuted & sent to jail. And they certainly should have been defended. But they might want to spend some time developing a deeper social critique lest they end up a caricature like FEMEN–& also in the camp of Islamophobia.

Critiquing the role of religion in society is important but iconoclasm is more an assault than a critique.