Refugees harassed in Balkan countries

Macedonian-Greek border (Robert Atanasovski:AFP:Getty) July 13 2015

These are refugees on the Macedonian-Greek border where they will try to catch a train to Serbia & move on to northern European countries if they are able to traverse the razor wire fence put up by Hungary at the Serbian border. Thousands of refugees are trekking through the Balkans. Military & covert operations & economic plunder by the US & European regimes in league with reactionary regimes have completely undone several countries in the Middle East & Africa (& the Americas) & created one of the most colossal breakdowns & refugee crises since WWII.

According to Amnesty International estimates, the number of refugees apprehended trying to cross the Serbia-Hungary border increased from 2,370 in 2010 to 60,602 this year. Apprehended & not allowed to move on because Hungary (an EU member) is now functioning as proxy EU immigration control in the way Greece did before SYRIZA (& in the way Greece is certain to again under Troika austerity). The Hungarian parliament recently passed legislation tightening asylum rules. Those able to enter Hungary are abused by authorities, arrested & placed in overcrowded squalid conditions.

Their treatment in Macedonia & Serbia is not better. In fact, Amnesty accuses the Balkan regimes of abusing refugees passing through their territories in a replay of what Central American refugees face passing through Mexico: extortion & assault by both police authorities & criminal gangs. Last month Serbian authorities arrested 29 police officers & nine customs officials for accepting bribes to let refugees pass into Hungary. What likely rankled the regime was not the extortion & corruption but allowing refugees safe passage.

Refugees report being pushed, slapped, kicked, & beaten by Serbian police near the Hungarian border. An Afghan refugee told Amnesty they witnessed a pregnant woman being beaten. They are also arrested without legal recourse or the possibility of asylum in either country. Serbia gave refugee status to one person in 2014 & Macedonia to only ten. One Amnesty official called the Balkans a “no-man’s land” for refugees. And you can bet your bottom dollar both regimes are operating in league with the EU from which they derive no benefits.

Immigration is a human right–a right writ large in human history. Open the damn borders!

(Photo by Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty)

On Donald Trump’s idiocy again

The runner-up in Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant was Miss Texas, a woman of Mexican ancestry from here in McAllen. She arrived home today to media applause for ignoring all that conflict around Trump. There’s big money in those pageants; that’s how they convince many women to participate in them. One could ask of this young woman, what price dignity!? But it must be said, most Americans are far removed from their immigrant ancestors & don’t identify in solidarity or insult.

Bank bailout in Greece a war on working people

Homeless in Greece (Emilio Morenatti:AP) July 13 2015

Part of the problem in understanding what’s going on in Greece is that they’re using the language of war: euphemisms. So media tells us that ‘before receiving the €86 billion euro loan package from European institutions, the Greek parliament must approve a catalog of budget cuts & economic reforms, including tax hikes, spending cuts, pension reforms, privatization.’ When you translate that gobbledy-gook, what it means is that European banks will rescue Greek capitalism (for the moment anyway) from the bankruptcy mess it’s in because capitalism doesn’t work, even on paper. The bailout is no solution, but just a stop-gap method to prevent collapse.

And the way the Troika intends to do that is a frontal assault on working people. In the proposals, farmers will lose fuel subsidies; the retirement age will be raised to 67 & early retirements (usually for medical reasons) will be denied; medical costs for pensioners will increase, when already nearly 50% live below poverty levels; public sector workers will face wage & benefit cuts; collective bargaining rights will be abridged; a revamped tax agency will be hunting down tax evaders–by which they don’t mean the millionaires stashing money in Swiss bank accounts but ordinary working people; unemployment which is already massive will increase & tens of thousands will be forced to leave the country for work; homelessness which was over 50,000 people three years ago will go through the roof–& many of them will be elderly & children. Anyone who has experienced the terror of homelessness knows it scrambles the brain in a phenomenon akin to PTSD–& that is particularly so for small children.

They’re also going to be privatizing which means a fire sale on state assets like utilities, airports, sea ports. And of course privatization includes health care, education, social services of all kinds.
What we’re looking at is a bank bailout & a war against working people couched in the language of reforms. They claim military spending will be slashed but you can file that under fat chance because coercion will be fundamental to implementing these “reforms.” The only thing that will be increased is the military budget.

We don’t have to speculate on what this might mean for Greek working people. We can look at Mexico, the Philippines, every Central American country, Brazil, Peru, every African country where neoliberal scorched earth economics has left millions of working people impoverished & dispossessed.

We are looking at neoliberal economics, the reign of terror under the barbaric phase of capitalism. And we need decide if we think human beings are on this earth to serve mammon & an elite handful of predators or for the pursuit of health & happiness for all of us.
Our fullest solidarity with Greek working people.

(Photo by Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Military parades in Gaza

Al-Qassam Brigades parade (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa:Reuters) July 14 2015

Now here the Guardian-UK goes being sleazy again. There’s likely no country in the world that has more martial displays than the US. Military bands & formations are so chock-a-block in St. Patrick’s Day & 4th of July parades that they outnumber high school bands by a long-shot. It’s all about celebrating & strutting military might. And the same looks true for the UK & India.

But when media really want to scare the bejeezus out of us, they show photos of the goose-stepping North Korean army, the Russian army strutting in Red Square, ISIS formations tearing through Iraq & Syria, & the al-Qassam Brigades on parade in Gaza. The Guardian caption to this photo identified it as “the marine unit of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, taking part in an anti-Israel parade” in Rafah, Gaza Strip.

They can’t show pictures of military parades in Israel since they reportedly stopped holding them in 1973 for financial reasons. But they still hold annual weapons exhibitions & it must be quite a display since the US Pentagon arms them to the teeth with the most sophisticated weaponry.

The al-Qassam Brigades held another parade last December, just a few months after the cessation of Israeli carpet bombing. Israeli media claims these military displays are a show of strength, attempts at psychological warfare against Israel. The fellows here are naval commandos. Their swimming goggles & flippers & even their guns shouldn’t be that intimidating to a military that has bombers, tanks, naval ships, electronic surveillance systems, guided missiles, that impressive Iron Dome, & an active army of 176,500 personnel with a reserve force of 445,000.

Quite frankly, these Hamas parades may be less directed at Israel, where there is no possible military parity, than at Palestinians & their children who must be sustaining massive PTSD from 51-days of bombardment. Trauma of such a scale takes years to resolve. Helping people regain psychological equilibrium & not feel like a target is a worthy purpose for parading naval commandos & rocket units because if Palestinians are to survive in Gaza against genocidal sieges & the blockade, they need a fighting spirit, a sense they are not sitting ducks for Israeli bombers.

They also need political solidarity, to know they no longer stand alone in one of the most important anti-colonial struggles in the world. That solidarity is best rendered by building the hell out of the economic, cultural, & academic boycott (BDS) of Israel.

(Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Loudmouth racism versus urbane racism

Paul Krugman photo

Paul Krugman, the NY Times columnist, nailed Donald Trump as a “belligerent, loudmouth racist with not an ounce of compassion for less fortunate people.” So uncouth, so lowbrow, so unlike Krugman who for 20 years has written effete & urbane odes to sweatshops. If you’re gonna be a racist, you ought at least do it with class.

(Photo of Krugman)

The trauma of Gaza’s children & media lies

Gaza children's theater ( Mohammed Salem:Reuters) July 13 2015

These are Palestinian actors doing children’s theater in front of a bombed-out house in Gaza City. The Guardian-UK caption said “witnesses” claim the house was “destroyed by Israeli shelling” during Operation Ethnic Cleansing last summer. Does that mean the jury is still out on whether evil fairies from outer space might have done it? Why doesn’t the Guardian drop the nonsense!?

The caption did cite a “global children’s charity” that the children of Gaza show signs of extreme distress & trauma. Good thing they had that charity because God knows, you can’t trust the parents of Gaza when they say the same thing about their kids. They could be the same people as those “witnesses.”

Thousands of children hunted & traumatized by bombers, watching their terrorized parents scramble to protect them, watching their homes reduced to rubble, & now living in homelessness must be hell on earth. It’s wretched enough to contemplate.

There is no reason for despair but only cause to become evangelists for the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel (BDS). Spread the word.

(Photo by Mohammed Salem/Reuters)