Good morning, Vietnam! Neoliberalism has arrived.

Hanoi (Kham:Reuters) Mar 30 2015

Good morning, Vietnam! Neoliberalism has arrived. When millions around the world opposed the Vietnam War, it wasn’t to defend socialism but to oppose US military barbarism–though many hoped ending US intervention would lead to the free development of a socialist society. But in the 1980s, the leadership of Vietnam cast its lot with the IMF & World Bank & transforming the centralized-planned economy into private enterprises in a market-based economy began. Thousands of companies have been privatized since then. Just between 2014 & 2015, Vietnam has targeted the transfer of 432 businesses to private investors.

Only twenty years ago, bicycles were the dominant mode of transport in cities & there was an extensive, state-subsidized public transportation system. Under IMF privatization, public transportation has been destroyed & mopeds & automobiles dominate the streets & continue to increase in numbers, traffic congestion, & pollution.

This is where neoliberalism conflicts with coherent urban planning (not to mention social life) & where there are apparent disputes between the Vietnamese government & IMF/World Bank advisors about how to proceed. Vietnam wants to reduce city traffic by building satellite townships outside Hanoi with business parks & industrial zones. Both the regime & IMF identify poor infrastructure as a major obstacle to economic development but when they speak of infrastructure they don’t mean improved roads & railways for public transportation but to transport goods from the growing sweatshop enterprises to waiting planes for delivery to US & European retailers.

The regime & IMF are in complete agreement on seeing too many people as the problem behind traffic congestion & compulsory population control programs have been operative for years. Women played a leading role in opposing US intervention & now their rights to reproductive freedom are being sacrificed to neoliberalism & private profit.

Until recently, most of the privatization was in light industries, trading, & tourist services. The government dominated in telecommunications, air traffic, railways, & energy. The IMF is dissatisfied with the rate of privatization & profit & is putting the screws on the regime to step it up which only means more economic & political dislocation & stress for working people. Hopefully the skills used to defeat the mightiest military machine in history & send them packing in 1975 will be used against the regime & a free society built to honor the sacrifice made by so many.

(Photo of Hanoi by Kham/Reuters)

Homeless in Bangladesh

A street child in Srimangal Railway Station, Bangladesh (from Eikipedia) Mar 24 2015

This is an undated photo of a street child near the Srimangal Rail Station in Bangladesh. There are millions of little kids like him around the world–truly the wretched of the earth in a world chock-full of sentimentality about ‘kids being the future, blah blah blah.’

The face on this little guy captures just some of the social isolation & terror homeless children sustain. If we investigate how human society came to this, to a point where millions of children are cast-offs hunted by starvation & violence, we’re likely to find ourselves back to the origins of capitalism. If it didn’t always exist, perhaps we can & should make it go away so we can create a world suitable for the little ones to come of age in, to live & love in.

Social hatred like racism or misogyny is a malignant thing but hate itself is too much maligned. If we didn’t hate the sight of children suffering the unbearable, we might just try to coast our way through life & make the best of a bad system. Homeless children make that choice completely unacceptable.

(Photo from Wikipedia, by unidentified photographer)

Boko Haram and the Nigerian army terrorize Nigeria

Nigeria (Emmanuel Braun:Reuter) Mar 30 2015

These apprehensive little girls are in Damasak, a town in northeastern Nigeria taken back last week from Boko Haram by a joint operation of the Nigerian army, foreign mercenaries, & a coalition of military forces from Chad, Cameroon, & Niger. They’re watching soldiers investigating a mass grave where they found up to 90 decomposed bodies decapitated or with their throats slit. It isn’t certain the crime was committed by Boko Haram since many Nigerians are almost as terrified of the army & police as they are of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria since 2009, attacking schools, churches, mosques. An estimated 11,000 people have died & hundreds have been kidnapped, including 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok one year ago next month. They are still missing & the corrupt, kleptocratic regime of President Goodluck Jonathan is accused of doing little to find them.

The joint military operations which managed to push Boko Haram out of all but three of the 20 districts they once held was likely an election maneuver on the part of Jonathan who was running for another term in last Saturday’s election. He was running against General Muhammad Buhari, a former president & military dictator who The Economist called “the least awful” candidate. Both candidates are completely beholden to the IMF & World Bank who are squeezing with deadly force. In the era of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, austerity & political repression are essential to plunder.

According to several sources, systemic political corruption has fed & not fought the Islamist fundamentalism & terrorism of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Critics of the regime include entirely establishment NGOs like Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch as well as the US State Department who all accuse the regime of egregious human rights problems including torture & degrading treatment of prisoners, rape, arbitrary arrest, denial of due process, extrajudicial killings by security forces, summary executions, violation of privacy rights, massive repression of civil liberties. The US wouldn’t see such atrocities as a problem so much as signs of a perfect ally.

It’s unspeakable that these little girls have to come of age & are completely vulnerable in a situation where the “liberating” armies are as dangerous as the vanquished irregular forces. Changing the world to make it safe for children is the most historic task facing humanity.

(Photo by Emmanuel Braun/Reuters)

Amnesty International’s shameful report on Gaza

Gaza destruction (Heidi Levine) Mar 28 2015

There is only one appropriate response to Amnesty International’s (AI) report issued today accusing Hamas & other groups in Gaza of war crimes during Israel’s Operation Ethnic Cleansing last summer–& that is to tell them to take that report & put it where the sun don’t shine. It’s utterly shameful because AI knows exactly what is going on between Israel & Palestinians: apartheid & ethnic cleansing. And if you stand for human rights, you don’t pull your punches in proclaiming that.

Previously, AI has cited Israel for assassinations, illegal detainment & torture of Palestinian prisoners, & systematically using Palestinian civilians as human shields. After Operation Ethnic Cleansing last year, AI issued a report accusing Israel of “callous indifference” & “shocking disregard” which in some instances amounted to war crimes. Oh the delicacy in describing 51 days of carpet bombing of hospitals, schools, mosques, & entire residential districts, including describing survivors frantically digging through cement rubble searching for their children & other loved ones.

AI goes on to say Israel hit “possible military targets” (like the school run as a UN refugee center?) but that “the devastation to civilian lives & property…was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.” If you want to learn the art of equivocation you can start with that shameful sentence. “Possible military targets” justify carpet bombing entire neighborhoods? Would bombing hospitals, refugee centers, & apartment buildings have been all okay if Israel gained some military advantage at the expense of hundreds of Palestinian civilians? Aren’t there some international laws against that? The question must now be asked: does AI have its head stuck up its ass?

Not content with equivocation, AI’s report today is a moralistic piece of rubbish that might fly at a right-wing Evangelical convention but is loathsome to those who deal with political reality & justice. The report cites UN data (when it comes to Palestinians the only source more questionable than Israel) that 4,800 rockets & 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza toward Israel while Israel was laying down megatons of bombs on Gaza. Because of Israel’s Iron Dome missile system only 224 landed. Why is there so little evidence of the hits? Why haven’t they produced some photos of the destruction? The AI report masthead had a photo identified as a missile being fired from Gaza to Sderot, Israel. The same Sderot where psychos pulled up easy chairs in the hills to cheer on genocide in Gaza during the entire siege?

The report was very damning of the indiscriminate projectiles used in self defense against those megaton bombs. AI objected that they were unguided & couldn’t be accurately aimed at military targets. That’s what happens when you’re forced to improvise with second-rate munitions. And that’s a war crime now? Can AI cite the article in international law? Isn’t it more like “callous indifference” than war crime? Carpet bombing may involve some war crimes but unguided missiles definitely do?

The report stoops to its lowest when it accuses Palestinian armed groups of storing rockets & munitions in civilian buildings & near where civilians were taking shelter, “including UN schools.” So when Israel bombed that school used as a UN refugee center with mostly women & children they saw some military advantage so it’s all okay with AI? They must have missed Israel’s admission that there were no munitions in the center. Just the kids they were targeting.

AI wants Palestinian groups to “avoid locating fighters & arms within or near densely populated areas.” The way Israel is setting the whole thing up is a case of shooting fish in a barrel since Gaza is such a small territory so what AI is really suggesting is that Palestinians do nothing to defend themselves against barbarous assaults by land, air, & sea.

Over 2,191 Palestinians were killed, including 530 children, & thousands of homes were bombed to smithereens. Over 12,000 people were injured, including 3,374 children, 2,088 women, & 410 elderly people. The UN estimated 1,000 of the children will suffer lifelong disability, including loss of limbs, & 373,000 require psychosocial support. There were 6 Israelis killed, no reported injuries. And AI says only some of the carnage in Gaza amounted to war crimes when the entire operation should be denounced as a genocidal assault. When you parse justice you end up serving genocide. And issuing reports better used as toilet paper.

Build the economic & cultural boycott of Israel & demand not a penny of aid of any kind to Israel.

(Photo by Heidi Levine/SIPA/Rex)

Airlines cut costs at passenger’s peril

I don’t know a damn thing about piloting but I do have three in my family: an older brother who flew combat in Vietnam (& I assure you that is not a boast!) & who went to work for an airline when he retired from the military after 20 years; & a niece & her husband who started flying with small commuter airlines after a few years of flight school.

Given the considerable pilot unrest in the past years & what I know from my family members, it seems airlines are attempting to cut costs by hiring what are essentially rookies. I don’t mean to impugn the abilities of my niece & her spouse or for heaven’s sake suggest combat pilots are mentally sound, but I do think the new employment culture at airlines likely played a role in the pilot who just committed suicide & murder. Along with hiring untested rookies for chump change they are probably not screening them sufficiently for mental or physical problems.

Zionism destroys cognitive faculties

Gaza (Heidi Levine) Mar 27 2015

The intellectual, cultural, scientific, & political contributions of Jews have long been disproportionate to their numbers–not because they are inherently more gifted but because as a persecuted people they considered education a liberating force (as it was for Blacks in Reconstruction after the Civil War & for women always). Jews also were mostly an urbanized people & had access to education.

Not just because of the Jewish history of pogroms & the WWII holocaust but because of their monumental contributions, it is disheartening that Zionism has corrupted so many & rendered them idiotic. A political anatomy would be useful to see why such a repugnant, supremacist ideology could take hold in those who should be providing insight into oppression & leadership against it. You can bet your bottom dollar class & colonialism play a big part in that corruption.

To see what that degeneration has led to intellectually, these are just a few droppings gleaned from Zionist sites on FB: One writer trying to answer charges of genocide said Israel cannot be accused of genocide because it drops leaflets, makes phone calls, & gives warning shots before bombing residences & then provides medical care to the victims. She explained away the high civilian deaths in Gaza by saying “in virtually every war the West fought” civilian deaths always outnumber that of soldiers. That’s the least incoherent part of her rant; most of her argumentation is so mangled & dishonest you can’t make head nor tail of it.

Another article titled “Islam’s Kiddie Sex Slaves & Suicide Soldiers For Allah: Bought At Auction!” claimed slavery was part of Islam & jihad (the non sequiturs are entirely the writers) & went on railing against US Blacks: “In reality, generations of White Americans have paid penance for a history which had nothing to do with them. Not only that, but Black America has more than caught up, so much so that two Blacks, the POTUS and his AG, are ruling over America with the biggest racial stick in U.S. history. Blood suckers. Iron fists too. For crying out loud.” The racism is beneath contempt.

Jeffrey Herf writing in The Times of Israel must consider his readers completely stupid. In discussing Palestinian objections to Zionist settlements he said they haven’t had the “conversation about race” & that Jew-hatred makes them object to having Jews as neighbors in the West Bank. Not content to leave bad enough alone, Herf went on: “Would Jews be allowed to run in elections in a Palestinian state if they chose to remain there? Or would they be forced to flee to save their lives if such a state came into existence?” So you see? It’s Palestinians who are being unreasonable & oppressive when Zionist settlers take their lands & build tenements. Palestinians aren’t up to date on that multicultural thing. Who has the stomach to argue with such insanity?

The saddest & most damning comment of all was the briefest. On an article showing photos of the rubble in Gaza, someone commented “Karma!”

The irrationality of all this is disturbing but this is what Palestinians are up against, along with endless excoriations of Hamas, the all-purpose whipping post of Zionists. You can’t really debate this manure or the people who hustle it. Power is what is needed & that means building the hell out of the economic & cultural boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729) & demanding not a drop of aid of any kind to Israeli apartheid.

Photo is Ramba Kafanah as she breastfeeds her newborn baby standing in her bombed out home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza (last October), just a couple miles across the border from Sderot, Israel, where Israelis pulled up easy chairs for a front row seat on genocide.

(Award-winning photo by Heidi Levine/SIPA/Rex)

Protests continue in Mexico over Ayotzinapa 43

Mexico City ( Ronaldo Schemidt:AFP:Getty Images) Mar 27 2015

Although the Mexican regime of President Peña Nieto has been trying to close the case of the 43 Ayotzinapa disappeared student teachers, protesters continue regular demonstrations all over Mexico demanding the students be returned alive. This young woman is at a protest yesterday in Mexico City marking six months since the students were abducted by soldiers in the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army. The soldiers took them from a hospital where they sought treatment for their injuries in the bus attack.

Parents & family members of the students are presently on an educational & solidarity tour throughout the US making the case of abduction by the army at the behest of the regime. They think for good reason their sons are being kept in a clandestine prison & they want them returned safely.

The attached schedule shows where the families will be speaking & holding rallies at Mexican consulates in the US & a place where people can donate to building the tour.

(Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Farmworkers strike in Mexico

Baja MX strike (Don Bartletti:LA Times) Mar 26 2015

More than 50,000 farmworkers across Mexico’s Baja California peninsula (about 200 miles south of San Diego) have been on strike for over a week against low pay, harsh working conditions including unpaid overtime, & labor abuses including sexual abuse. Millions of dollars of produce, mostly tomatoes & strawberries slated for export to US supermarkets, are rotting in the fields.

Strikers are demanding health benefits, overtime pay, days off, water, work breaks, an end to arbitrary firings & abuse by field bosses & for wages to be raised from US $8 to $10 a day to about $20. They’d have to raise the wages to at least $100 a day to get out of the realm of the outrageous.

According to reports, the area lacks access to water, sanitation, power, healthcare, schools, adequate housing. Many farmworkers are from indigenous communities & speak limited Spanish so agribusiness companies must have thought they were ideal victims for exploitation. The situation must be bad since not long ago agribusiness firms were accused of holding farmworkers in slave conditions. And Mexico’s Human Rights Commission is not only investigating allegations of abuse but had to rescue 200 workers from a farm where they were abused & required medical care.

The agribusiness industry saw this strike coming because about a month ago they began promising reforms & compliance with labor law. Farmworkers recognized the promises as a stunt & went out on strike. They’re blocking major highways & stopping 18-wheelers carrying produce north, bringing them into conflict with police & military who are probably in the state to facilitate drug trafficking to the US. More than 200 strikers have been arrested “after protests devolved into riots, rock-throwing, & vandalism” according to the Los Angeles Times. Hasn’t the LA Times ever seen a strike before? What do they think happens when you send in the army to prevent strikers from obstructing scabs trying to break a strike?

Today the big talkers of the agribusiness coalition offered a 6 percent wage increase which farmworkers called a slap in the face. That’s about 55 cents max per day. One should keep in mind that strawberries in a US supermarket just across the border cost at least $4 or $5 a pint. One hopes in response to such an outrageous insult the strikers do a lot more “rioting, rock-throwing, & vandalism” until those vile produce companies are brought to their knees.

In this photo strikers in Vicente Guerrero, Baja anxiously awaited news from the negotiations today because when you make $10 a day, you’re hurting without several days of pay. Strikes take quite a toll. That’s when the companies offered them the chump change of 55 cents.

The graffiti on the wall reads, “We want a life.” To get that they may need a revolution.

Our fullest solidarity with their strike. And our deepest respect for their willingness to take on the neoliberal vultures.

(Photo by Don Bartletti/LA Times)