E-waste dumping in Ghana

There are many things that damn capitalism & you don’t have to read Marx to know what they are. This little girl’s life says it all. Eight-year-old Fati moved with her mother Rahinatu from northern Ghana to Agbogloshie, the slum outside Accra, so Fati could work in the e-waste dump & Rahinatu as a porter. Rahinatu had to leave behind three boys when she fled an abusive husband.

Little Fati uses a magnet to sift through mounds of old electronics–most of it illegally dumped by other countries. She wears no protective equipment since her mother wasn’t informed of the toxicity of metals in monitors & chip boards. She’s an unhappy little girl because she wants go to school but between her & her mom they don’t earn enough money to eat every day. She also has a headache from untreated Malaria & a harsh cough from inhaling the smoke billowing off the dump site.

While Fati’s life energy is being corroded in that dump, environmental groups are negotiating with the Accra city council & Ghana government for laws dealing with the environmental impact of the e-waste while taking into consideration that people’s livelihoods are involved. And that’s a dilemma that only makes sense to those without an ounce of political vision. When millions of people around the world are forced to make bare subsistence off the toxic detritus of a system based on waste, it’s long-past the time of monkeying around with legislation to make things a little better & time to start working on systemic change. The environmental groups have found the government to be quite slow in their legislative deliberations. But isn’t that always the case when profiteering conflicts with human health & well-being? The stalling & deliberations can go on for years & if they do come up with model laws there’ll be no money allocated to enforce them. That is one of the oldest ruses in the book.

Some discussions of the Agbogloshie dump & of Ghana’s economic problems point to an economic division between the northern & southern regions of Ghana since many of the young people working the dump site immigrated from the north to find work. The commentators don’t understand why capitalist economists consider Ghana one of the fastest growing economies in Africa due to new oil production & increasing foreign “investment” when there is such gruelling poverty. Some commentators looked to the US economist Jeffrey Sachs for an explanation. Sachs is the guy who advised the former Soviet Union & several Eastern European governments how to transition from the mess they called communism to the disaster of capitalism. The travesty of his work speaks for itself. What he dismantled were the basic guaranteed social services like health care & housing & replaced them with massive homelessness, impoverishment, & gangster capitalism.

Untroubled by the carnage in his wake, Sachs stalks the globe advising regimes in Latin America & Africa, marauding like the Godzilla of neoliberalism. (Just hope he doesn’t come to your continent soon.) He’s had some born-again moments & has written books like “The End of Poverty” & “The Price of Civilization”. He even lobbied to become head of the World Bank so he could turn it into an anti-poverty agency. He’s of the same political genre as Bono & Angelina Jolie, only even more stupid & cynical. Despite witnessing overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he really believes capitalism works–& this explains the banalities of his writings.

He’s been advising in Africa for nearly 20 years & the pinnacle of his political thinking was summed up in “The End of Poverty” when he declared, “Africa’s governance is poor because Africa is poor.” Most of his political thinking is that primitive. For him, Africa’s development problems are rooted in geography & climate, due mainly to being landlocked & he quotes Adam Smith from 1776 to enforce his views. In Ghana, he sees the problem of the north-south divide as a matter of port accessibility but he thinks this can be overcome. He thinks he’s being profound here but he doesn’t address the legacy of colonialism, the depredations of neoliberalism, or IMF & World Bank austerity policies. He also doesn’t address Africa’s immense wealth in natural resources, or the military build-up in African countries by foreign armies. In short, Sachs is a fool. But a savvy fool, not to be trusted.

Ghana was a British colony & in 1957 became the first African country to declare independence under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was inspired by the writings of Marcus Garvey, CLR James, W.E.B. Du Bois. (Du Bois actually moved to Ghana to collaborate with Nkrumah & is buried there.) Nkrumah had a strong influence on the Pan-Africanist & Black power movements in the US. He was involved in founding the Organization of African Unity (1963-2002) for collaboration among African countries to root out all forms of colonialism. That’s why, according to declassified CIA & National Security Council documents, the US (under the regime of Lyndon Johnson) engineered the 1966 overthrow of Kkrumah as president of Ghana.

If we want to know where social transformation in Ghana will come from, it will not be from the likes of Sachs, Bono, or Jolie. It will be from among the dispossessed & dislocated like little Fati who grow up with a belly full of injustice & hatred for capitalism. We should all hope to live long enough to see that glorious day.

(Photo by Renee C. Byer from “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives & Faces of the World’s Poor)

Crocodiles take exception to comparison with Henry Kissinger

Perhaps I should reconsider my comparisons of the crocodile to the detestable Henry Kissinger after viewing this photo. Such an endearing creature & such an ignoble comparison!

How did it happen in human history that animals were once the models of stupidity, cruelty, & violence & now it’s politicians!? Maybe in the future when we want to make a point about bestiality & depraved behavior we can just reference Kissinger & leave the animals out of it.

(Photographer not identified.)


Snakes banished from Ireland by St. Patrick end up US mayors

Irish archaeologists have recently solved an ancient problem in US politics. For too long we’ve thought politicians in many major cities were morphed from the snakes St. Patrick banished in the 5th century. Though they claim Irish ancestry, most Irish eschewed their reptilian ways & wanted no part of them. Neither did those descended from Irish immigrants of human origin. Their corruption & servility to power was unseemly, but mostly it was outright criminal.

So now archaeologists have found the skull of a Barbary ape at an ancient goddess site in what is now County Armagh dating back from the Neolithic period (390 to 20 BCE). The Barbary ape is a species of monkey unique to North Africa & the island of Gibraltar. Speculations are they were brought to Ireland as pets by traders from the Mediterranean area.

Now there’s surely no offense meant to the Barbary ape who by all accounts has a stellar simian nature. The problem is it makes an admirable pet. It may have fled Ireland under the lash of St. Patrick’s wrath since they’re now all gone from Ireland as surely as the snakes. So it’s entirely possible those politicians have some simian mixed with the reptilian, making the unfortunate political mongrel that claims Irish ancestry in city halls across the US.

This is only reported to redeem the reputation of the Irish from US politicians who have maligned it with false claims. It should be made clear, there’s nothing at all wrong with monkeys or snakes nor even a mongrel of the two. But somewhere in that morphing process something went awry, similar to the Frankenstein phenomenon. It was an alchemy of political shame that spawned a cornucopia of stereotypes & parades complete with green beer & phony leprechauns.

(Photo of Barbary apes from Wikimedia. If you look closely enough, you’ll see a distinct resemblance to Richard Daley.)

FIFA getting nailed for corruption and contempt for human rights–again!

FIFA (the managing body of the World Cup) is getting hammered this week with exposés about its shady dealings with Qatar & the anti-World Cup protests in Brazil. Allegations & investigations of financial & political corruption have long dogged FIFA (& its counterpart, the International Olympic Committee). There are no human rights violations either won’t tolerate if there’s enough money in it for them.

Qatar is one of those peculiar formations that came out of British colonialism; it’s less a nation-state than a feudal monarchy with capitalism. It has no working class so foreign workers mostly from Nepal, India, & Bangladesh are allowed entry for work. Sepp Blatter, the venal & contemptible head of FIFA, is accused (again) of taking money under the table for awarding the FIFA venue to Qatar in 2022–which requires extensive construction of stadia. Qatar uses the Kafala labor system which requires immigrant workers to relinquish their passports so they can’t quit their jobs or move back to their home countries, often forces them to work without wages, dictates where they live under squalid conditions in labor camps, doesn’t allow them to drive.

The absolute monarchy that rules Qatar responded to public exposure of its labor practices by doing an investigation of the labor camps & concluded 964 immigrant workers had died between 2012 & 2013. That figure should certainly be multiplied (lord knows how many times) but the mortality rate is not the only measure of violence. Thousands of immigrant domestic workers are subjected to violence & abuse in the privacy of homes.

Blatter-ass might be able to walk away from these allegations were it not for the massive protests against the World Cup & FIFA in Brazil. Thousands of Brazilians, including students, striking school teachers, bus drivers, Indigenous tribes, favela dwellers, homeless activists, are out in 12 cities & setting up roadblocks & Occupy-style encampments; protests are being organized in up to fifity cities. Banners declare “FIFA go home,” “The cup without the people, all to the streets again!” & “Na Copa vai ter luta” (The Cup will have protests).

This is a whole new twist on that “bread & circuses” thing from ancient Rome where athletic exhibitions were used to distract & appease public unrest & depoliticize the population. These elite games are peddled as a form of international entente when in fact they are fun & games for the neoliberal elite paid for by the blood & sweat of working people. Brazil paid a (seriously under-estimated) amount of $15 billion to bankroll the games out of the public coffers. Meanwhile education, health care, housing, transportation are in shambles & many Brazilians are protesting the number of construction workers who died because of the push to get the stadia built by the June games. Attendees at the games will pay an average of £6,000 (over US $10,000) to park their asses in their swanky boxes. If you can afford that kind of price tag, you can afford to bankroll your own amusements. Meanwhile, only a handful of the Brazilians who paid for the stadia will be employed to sell peanuts to the privileged.

Our fullest solidarity with the immigrant workers in Qatar; may they bring that feudal monarchy to its demise. And our fullest solidarity & gratitude with the working people of Brazil whose protests are helping take out FIFA; exposing neoliberalism’s version of bread & circuses; & challenging neoliberal plunder.

(Photo of Sao Paulo anti-FIFA protests by Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Nakba 2014 commemoration: 66 years of Israeli ethnic cleansing

May 15 marks Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) day. In 1948, over 780,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homeland by Zionist paramilitary terrorist squads under the protection of the British. Over 500 Palestinian villages were depopulated & destroyed. Nakba day follows the day Zionists celebrate as Israeli “independence” day. That is a linguistic deceit to mask the political barbarism of Nakba.

More than 7 million Palestinian refugees, one of the largest refugee communities in the world, continue to live in exile & in refugee camps, while 5 million Palestinians are living in Gaza, called “the world’s largest open air prison.”

On the 66th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, join the campaign for Palestinian justice & say no to Israeli apartheid, colonialism, & occupation. Support the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel by boycotting Israeli products (barcode beginning 729); support the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, the end of the military occupation of the West Bank, & the end of the siege of Gaza; support the cultural boycott of Israel; demand “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo of Nakba in 1948 from http://rehmat1.com/)

Mexico militarizing US-Mexican border in failed strategy

Media here (just a few miles from the Mexican-US border) are reporting an accelerated militarization of the border by the Mexican government to obstruct traffic in “people, drugs, & guns.” A high official of the Mexican regime came to Reynosa (just across the border from McAllen) to outline the new so-called security measures which include more check points, more high technology, more soldiers.

Drug traffickers & gun runners are in no peril & are likely facilitated by both US & Mexican officials. In Hidalgo County, where McAllen is situated, the long-time sheriff, his cop son, & several other cops were recently prosecuted for involvement in drug trafficking. Their sentences were minimal because the judge said they showed remorse. Crocodile tears don’t serve most defendants in a court of law but if you’re a corrupt cop they’ll get you a light sentence & praise from the judge. (Of course the judge himself may well be dealing on the side.)

Former president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) deployed upwards of 50,000 soldiers ostensibly for the drug war & when he left office an estimated 60,000 civilians had died, 20,000 people had disappeared, claims of human rights abuses by military personnel had crescendoed, US government agents were exposed for gun-running to the drug cartels, & drug trafficking had increased exponentially. So much for that strategy.

Since public opposition to Calderón’s strategy was growing, current Mexican president Peña Nieto pursued another approach which appears to consist mainly of a news blackout. None of the soldiers were sent back to barracks, US military, special operations, & other creepy personnel were deployed to Mexico, & now there is increased surveillance & militarization.

This war on drugs thing is a fiasco, a charade, & a cover for what is really a war on undocumented immigrants, on journalists, & on labor activists. Thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America & Mexico have died or disappeared in the past several years. Their bodies have been found in mass graves or dismembered & piled on the side of highways. These crimes against human rights have the distinct odor of paramilitary violence. Defending immigrant rights is pivotal to ending this violence.

Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

(Photo of undocumented immigrants from thebentangle.wordpress.com)

Eamon Delaney plays leprechaun for Donald Trump in Ireland

Ireland has produced some marvelous satiric writers–probably none better than the unintentional ones who think they’re writing political commentary. A contemporary case in point would be Eamon Delaney who calls himself an author, journalist, & former diplomat. We haven’t read his novels but if his journalistic drivel is any guage, Irish literature is in for trouble. Apparently his political commentary isn’t that well received since a conservative magazine he edited only lasted a few years. They blamed its demise on the recession but it may be more because of his idiotic claims that the Irish are “essentially British.”

There’s no public record of his eight years as a diplomat, a post he likely got through nepotism or bribery. But if dates are checked, it’s likely his tenure would correspond to Ireland’s economic eclipse.

Being a second-rate thinker has not stopped our man from prolific commentary & he felt compelled to chime in to defend the unseemly groveling over Donald Trump at Shannon. He lauded, without an ounce of shame, the violinist, harpist, & traditional Irish singer greeting Trump’s entourage coming off the plane. If he’d has his way though, there would have been a chorus of leprechauns too. The Irish officials thought that might me a wee bit over the top, making a gratuitous concession to stereotype. Our man just thought it good craic & said the Irish official greeting Trump treated it as a bit tongue in cheek. He didn’t specify which end of “the Donald” that cheek was on.

Our man is annoyed that the “begrudgers” (by which he means the Irish who object to groveling) are ignoring all the jobs Trump will bring to County Clare. Since there’s no evidence Delaney has ever worried his head about the working people of Ireland we can only conclude he just can’t help himself; he’s an unreconstructed, irredeemable groveler. He also says Trump has transformed New York & Las Vegas & he wants that for County Clare. He can hear the ching-ching of the roulette wheels now & he prefers that to Irish singers any day.

The next time Betty Windsor visits Ireland, she can leave her toilet valet at home & just hire Delaney. Or when he can’t earn a living from writing swill, he could hire out at Trump’s golf course as a leprechaun for tourists.

(Photo from YouTube; please note violist, harpist, & singer on the left. If you want to see how over the top this spectacle was this is the video Delaney posted on his blog–definitely worth a few laughs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE00VMP5w-0#t=67)

Turkish mining accident demands justice

This despondent man is a coal miner in Manisa, Turkey waiting for hundreds of other miners to be rescued from a mine explosion on May 13th. Several media sources report Turkey has one of the worst safety records in the world in number of accidents. Thousands have been killed & tens of thousands permanently disabled by accidents. Of course, mine safety does not just include prevention of methane gas explosions but also protection from black lung disease which kills & disables tens of thousands of miners. And since they’re now shooting down striking miners in cold-blood (the Marikana strike in South Africa, 2012), mine safety also includes the right to strike & demand workplace safety.

It’s hard to see how international comparisons of workplace safety can be reliable when reporting agencies are governmental. The data collected is subject to alteration, obfuscation, & outright deceit. Does any country really want to publicize the number of child miners? The lack of safety equipment? The coercive & brutal labor-management relations & repression of labor organizing? The devastation of the environment?

Some media quote unidentified experts who claim Turkey’s mine safety record is due to poor safety regulation, which does not distinguish it one iota from the US, China, Brazil, South Africa, India, Bolivia, Peru, & elsewhere. In 21st century US, mining regulatory agencies are still formulating safety rules & mining union officials don’t seem in any rush for them despite continuing accidents & deaths, especially from black lung disease. In one ten year period in the US (1995-2005), 10,000 miners died from black lung disease.

The experts (whose names are best left anonymous to protect them from shame) claim cultural attitudes toward workplace safety are involved in Turkey’s disregard. What cultural attitudes would those be? And how do they differ from greed in the US or China or India or South Africa or elsewhere? Or are experts again talking through their hats?

You give some experts long enough & eventually they get around to spilling the beans; they don’t know when to shut up: what’s really behind this outrageous safety record they claim is the lack of education & low level of organization among Turkish miners. We can dismiss that lack of education thing as an insult directed at working people from a whole repertoire of degrading put-downs. But the low level of organization thing, meaning strong unions, matters quite a lot. Many Turkish miners are unionized but judging from public response of union officials to the numerous accidents, it is likely as compromised as miners unions elsewhere which also think occasional peeps of protest suffice in place of militant action demanding safety.

Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan is being chided (when excoriation would be more appropriate) for saying: “Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” & he reeled off a list of global mining accidents since 1862 to prove his point. Fact is (& as despicable as Erdogan is), they do happen all the time–like the 2010 Chilean mine collapse where 32 miners were buried alive for two months. Last year, after a three-year mock investigation, prosecutors dropped any possible charges against the mine owners. So these accidents don’t just happen; the mine owners get to walk away scot-free from prosecution.

Workplace safety is a pivotal issue around the world & not just in mines. We only need look at working conditions for sweatshop workers, including fires & building collapses. Formulating & enforcing safety regulations is good. Working people organizing & demanding safe work conditions without compromise is infinitely better. Rules are good; kicking ass is more decisive.

(Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency)

Did Irish rebels die so Irish politicians can grovel with the worst of them?

First the Irish government fetes Betty Windsor, now they’re fawning over Donald Trump. Is this what Irish rebels died for!? Or are they turning over in their graves so fast they’ve become an important new source of energy?

As far as we know, Irish media isn’t known for radical sympathies but even they took issue with this unfortunate scene at Shannon airport, calling it depressing, a pity, & “pathetic gombeenism of the shabbiest & most insecure kind.” We don’t have a clue what gombeenism is but certainly hope it’s sufficient damnation for such groveling. If it isn’t, we leave it our modern Irish rebels to do it in with justice.

“The Donald,” as this nincompoop likes to calll himself, is there to set up a $50 million golf-hotel complex in Doonbeg, County Clare. There goes the neighborhood.

(Photo by YouTube from IrishCentral.com)

The barbaric immigration policies of the European Union

Most people around the world feel cynicism toward their governments; contempt might be more appropriate but that would be too equivocal. What their actions merit is nothing less than hatred for the breathtaking disregard they show toward human life. Hatred is maligned but it’s the very life force of justice. Governments belong to the oligarchs who see working people as mere chattel. Justice holds human beings, of whatever stature in life, as brothers & sisters. Every violation of that trust deserves nothing less than hatred.

So when we read yet another report of undocumented immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross to Europe, we take that very personally. The young immigrants in this photo are disembarking from a rescue vessel in Piraeus, Greece after a boat carrying them from North Africa capsized on May 5th. The Greek coast guard said 36 people were rescued & 22 people drowned, including four children. Several are missing & may never be accounted for. What the hell does the coast guard think happened to them? That they miraculously incarnated back on the coast of North Africa? They drowned due to the European Union’s (EU) barbaric immigration policies.

This was the third fatal immigrant boat disaster just this year off the Greek & Turkish coasts, including one in January & one in April. Traumatized survivors speak of the horrors of watching their spouses & children drown. Many children died in the January capsize. But there are just as frequent capsizes & drownings all over the Mediterranean. There was in fact another just yesterday off the coast of Libya where 36 immigrants died.

The Libyan official who addressed the disaster blamed immigrants for the spread of crime, drugs, & disease in his country. (And here we thought it was the corrupt officials.) He blamed the accident on human smugglers, & pledged to continue functioning as a southern flank of EU immigration policy. He couldn’t even be bothered to express condolences to those who had lost beloved family members.

Even a Greek official expressed mock condolences, saying he was “devastated” by the May 5th disaster–though he went on to blame it on “modern-day slave traders” making a killing on immigration. A UN refugee agency issued its usual wimply condolences, saying it was “deeply saddened” by the deaths; it should have denounced EU immigration policies for the unspeakable violations of human rights.

Most of the immigrants in the three disasters off the Greek & Turkish coasts were from Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, & sub-Saharan Africa. In other words, most were coming from war-torn regions & were in fact refugees, not immigrants–in the shabby sense that international law parses these differences among immigrants. Rather than condolences, the UN might consider some criminal actions against the EU & every government complicit in these crimes against immigrants.

And there’s one more matter to be addressed: accounts of the Greek coast guard & immigrant survivors from the January 2014 disaster (that killed so many children) differ on the circumstances of that accident. According to immigrant witnesses, the capsized vessel was being towed by the coast guard at high-speed while people were screaming for help. These are criminal allegations of the most consequential sort, violating so many international laws that the UN’s failure to demand an investigation amounts to collusion. Let’s call a spade a spade!

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders! (We would add, Deport the oligarchs but there isn’t a nation that will take them. They’re worthless & don’t know how to do a damn thing.)

(Photo of immigrants from AFP)