How’s US emancipation working out for Afghanistan?

Afghan coal miner (Anil Usyan:Reuters) coal dump site outside Mazar-i-Sharif Nov 12 2014

When we read about the US-NATO mission in Afghanistan, which gets improvised & modified every so often, we wonder how that emancipation of women thing is going. After they set up the vaunted nail salon in Kabul have there been any other developments? Have Afghani women objected at all to having their homes, schools, clinics, mosques, fields bombed & their families killed now that they can get their nails done?

Apparently the marines have been so busy with that salon & facilitating drug trafficking they haven’t gotten around to dealing with barbaric labor conditions. But what’s emancipation for if not a manicure!? Part of the war propaganda is demonizing Afghani men & we get the full panoply of charges: honor killings, child brides, forced marriages, women as chattel. And that’s supposed to make us want to bomb them.

Well take a look at this fellow, a coal miner at a dump site outside Mazar-i-Sharif, & see if you’ve got it in you to take a drone after him. Or if instead you identify with him as a human being & fellow worker subjected to unspeakable labor conditions & exploitation.

Get a gander of the safety equipment he is wearing. Nada, zip, nothing–nearly 200 years after doctors identified the causes of black lung disease. It is caused by inhaling coal dust. It is debilitating, often fatal, & there is no cure. According to two centuries of substantial data, people in coal mining communities have increased risk for many chronic illnesses, skin disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema (that means they can’t breath), fibrosis & necrosis of lung tissue, high blood pressure, high mortality rates. All these health threats to people with little access to health care, eating inadequate diets, living in poor housing conditions, & living in a war zone.

Of course, in the US–the valiant emancipating country–black lung disease still kills over 1,000 coal miners a year; in China it kills over 6,000 miners a year. And when you include the death figures from the many other countries engaged in barbaric mining practices, you’ve got quite an indictment on your hands. Black lung cases in the US have more than doubled in the past 15 years because safety laws have been strip mined in the interests of increasing production. Coal mining isn’t just dirty energy; it’s dirty business all around when you subject millions of workers to health problems & premature death.

But hey, in Afghanistan, the men are a piece of work–not at all like the US marines sent to liberate the women. Those soldiers only rape, torture, massacre, mutilate & piss on corpses in the interests of freedom & under the banner of democracy. Too bad the women can’t hear the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” over the sound of drones. But at least they have their nails done.

(Photo by Anil Usyan/Reuters)

Michael Moore’s shabby little defense of social hatred

Moore Nov 12 2014

What’s not to love about Michael Moore’s defense of Bill Maher!? It’s a shabby little testament to stupidity & corruption & to the crisis of comedy in the service of oligarchy. They aren’t the first comedians to sing for their supper & they won’t be the last. No one says comedians need be social critics; you can be like Jerry Seinfeld & crack jokes about nothing. At least he’s funny. Or you can be like Andrew Dice Clay & Eddie Murphy & try to pass off social hatred as humor. Or you can be like Bill Cosby & Chris Rock & pander to racism so you get gigs in the bigger venues. Or you can just be tamed like Whoopie & Rosie O’Donnell & take up hosting banal talk shows. But if you’re going to pretend you’re a social critic like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, or George Carlin, you can’t try to pawn off misanthropy, misogyny, & Islamophobia in its stead.

Moore flattered Maher for “speaking truth to power.” (When you lack thinking skills or you’re talking ragtime, you have to resort to cliches.) Both men operate as social critics within parameters–& very circumscribed ones indeed. So Moore can spout off about gun control & Maher can snarl on about religion. They can even express opposition to the war in Afghanistan & other government policies that don’t distinguish either one from millions of people around the world. Taking swipes at politicians is not speaking truth to power. Maher is an echo chamber for reactionary political forces & by no means breaks new ground in politics or wit. Or is someone going to argue his Islamophobia is different from that of Pamela Geller? Maher is a misanthrope who holds the human race in contempt & hates some more than others. His rancid hatred of Muslims is only matched by his hatred for women. When Moore defends this crap he only exposes his own political & moral bankruptcy.

Moore was really scraping dregs when he said, “Comedy is & should be a dangerous business. But in order to encourage them to take those chances, we have to give them some leeway, give them a break when, in our mind, they’ve crossed that line.” Oh really!? What kind of crap is that!? Unless you have a stunted sense of humor, Maher hasn’t been funny for a very long time, at least not since hate took over his psyche & buried what little wit he had in stinking manure. What kind of leeway are we being asked to give social hatred & stupidity? Anything goes if you couch it in a quip & have the canned laughter ready?

When does the comedy start? Laughter is one of the loveliest things about human beings & it’s universal. But laughter at the expense of those who are fat or homely (to a twisted mind) or disabled or female or gay or anything else is not humor. It is anti-social hatred which does not recognize the beauty of human beings but instead preys on vulnerabilities & supposed flaws.

Some may say it’s hypocritical to skewer those in power (like politicians & the moochocracy) in attempts at political satire. Those many need to understand the function of power relations in humor. Maher & Moore both do. Which is why their humor is a sustained paean to the status quo & which is why neither is very funny anymore. Kissing ass & social hatred just aint that amusing.

Things are looking up for feminism

Carnival in Cologne, Germany (Martin Meissner:AP) Nov 12 2014

Things are looking up, sisters! Feminism is attracting new forces despite the sustained attacks on feminism & the wretched attempts to misrepresent it as uniformly white, racist, & pro-war; despite men, including Hairy Windsor, who think they’re going to lead the women’s movement cause the girls just aint cutting it; & despite Antony Loewenstein, the bozo from Australia who wrote a column in the Guardian so chock full of prejudices & idiocies about feminism that it created it’s own smelly vortex. And to think he thought he was being brave by entering the fray denouncing feminists. Does he think he’s original? Bozos like him are a dime a dozen & if he keeps it up, he’ll get picked off just like the rest of them. That would be the forte of feminism.

There are many currents within feminism & always have been; one could call it a cacophony of often competing currents. But it’s portrayed as white & privileged. The participation of working class women is ignored. Black & Latina women have been completely & dishonestly written out even though they held massive conferences numbering in the thousands to address their special concerns as feminists. In that regard it must be asked what is the operative distinction between those who write these women out of feminist history (to discredit the women’s movement) & white supremacist writers who write them out of all history?

In the women’s movement of the 1960s & 1970s the big battalions included counter-cultural women whose feminism was personal transformation & whose social politics were quite frankly insufficient. But they also were the groundbreakers in women’s health initiatives & made pagan goddess worship one of the fastest growing religions of the times.

Lesbian feminists fought for their place in the movement & many allies stood with them. One of the quainter debates in the movement was over separatism, the idea that women could somehow live apart from men like the mythical Amazons. There were ferocious political fights involving extreme red-baiting over attempts to hitch the movement to the Democratic Party. Socialist feminists were a key part of broadening the movement while sustaining constant attacks on their legitimacy as feminists, charges of infiltration, & accusations they were male-dominated. Out of such cacophony a movement was forged & rights long denied were won.

Those who try to discredit feminism betray themselves & their ignorance when they refer to feminism as a “western” thing or a white thing. Feminism was international & touched women in almost every culture & religion & country. This alarmed the ruling elites who quickly moved to co-opt the movement & make it elite. Hillary Clinton led that initiative for the US. She still does.

Third Wave feminism, mostly an amorphous & diverse current of bloggers & academics, got much of that history wrong by relying on media’s version of feminism. Call it naiveté about media, call it sloppy scholarship, but they have done a grave disservice to the history of women’s struggle against oppression. Many women journalists & bloggers, feigning support for women’s rights, attempt to create an unbreachable chasm between white, Black, Latina, & Native American women. There is no “we” in feminism they claim but only us & them. They scorn solidarity, denouncing it as an act of noblesse oblige, of privilege, of supremacy.

The problem with this ‘there is no us’ stuff is that it substitutes guilt-baiting for politics & not for the first time. But more than anything, it treats women’s oppression like a Mickey Mouse operation when it is built into the very structure of society & the deepest psyches of humankind. When we look at the massive & varied forms of violence against women around the world–& in this regard, cut the crap on holding up the US & Europe as standard bearers of female liberation–we understand that challenging that edifice is a monumental, historic task requiring the strongest & unbreakable unity. Those who piss around with the guilt-baiting (like our hapless Loewenstein from Down Under) don’t have a clue what the stakes are for women, have no respect for feminist unity, & a pitiful grasp of the meaning & power of solidarity.

That doesn’t mean Black & brown feminists have to eat it when it comes to racism within the movement; rather it demands they do not tolerate it in any form. Those who have been part of social movements like the civil rights & feminist movements well know their transformative power & ability to overcome the deepest indoctrinations of social hatred.

So things are looking up because we have a new battalion entering the fray & taking up their posts. No they’re not Amazons but they do ride brooms. They also teleport, shape shift, communicate intergalactically, & they have cauldrons where big machista egos get melted down to molten stupidity. Tell us again boys, that you’ve come to save us & you’ll see the inside of one of those cauldrons faster than you can emit a whistle or a fart.

(Photo of witches at carnival in Cologne, Germany by Martin Meissner/AP)


On royal blood and other idiocies

Nov 11 2014

Someone has reported with chagrin that Betty Windsor refuses to acknowledge her German ancestry. Do they mean the demented trolls in the Black Forest from whence all European moochocrats derive or the ones who collaborated with Adolph Hitler? Or perhaps her own husband who has uttered more political profanities than any one person should be allowed in a lifetime. He once said ‘in the event he is reincarnated, he would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.’ If he was active enough to get off his lazy ass, he could be declared a deadly virus now & one wonders why the British health authorities haven’t done so.

So now we learn belatedly that Betty is not a rightful claimant to the throne according to the rules of succession. Apparently 500 years ago in a “royal” history that reads more sordidly than gossip tabloids, some “queen” had a son with a lowly plebeian & he became ancestor of the present moochocracy. The real blood line declined into mere aristocrats–lowly earls–& the last man standing migrated to Australia where he became a gruff republican.

English historians of feudal moochocracy share the spirit of celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. It’s all tittle & tattle signifying nothing but nosiness & upscale groveling. It’s as though they don’t know how feudalism operates or in fact how capitalism works. You shouldn’t have to explain to grown men that there is no such thing as royal blood. And there’s no tooth fairy either. So they can get up off their knees, dust them off, & try to act like they have even a shred of self-respect.

Tony Robinson, who narrated the tale of Betty’s plebeian heritage, tries to make it look like investigative reporting by following the story to interview “King Mike” in the Australian outback. One feels more pity than respect. Since he was knighted by Betty in 2013, he’s unlikely to improve. She probably gave him that “Sir” title to shut him up. And quite frankly, we hope she succeeds.

This is photo of either Mike or Betty’s ancestor. We don’t know if he’s royal or plebeian. It was so hard to keep up with all the gambling & liaisons & intrigues of the feudals. But it’s clear Betty came by her addiction to horse racing honestly. She may well be the progeny of a bookie.

(Photo is screen shot from mockumentary titled “Britain’s Real Monarch” narrated by Robinson)

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down!”

Apartheid wal West Bank village of Ezariya near Jerusalem (Mahfouz Abu Turk:Reuters) Nov 11 2014

In “Mending Wall”, the poet Robert Frost said, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down!” The demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989 after 28 years would be the most dramatic demonstration of that. Two years after the wall went up (1963) US President John F. Kennedy stood on a platform in West Berlin & did some Cold War grandstanding by pronouncing “”Ich bin ein Berliner”. 

This is the 25th anniversary of the destruction of that wall & Palestinian activists celebrated it by hacking away & breaking holes in the Israeli apartheid wall which Zionists call the “anti-terrorist fence.” Amongst the graffiti on the apartheid wall you can see “”Ich bin ein Berliner” in a few places. The irony is that now the US bankrolls the wall & lets Netan-psycho do the grandstanding. US politicians are better known as dull-witted than for bon mots but it was Janet Nepolitano who said about the US barrier wall on the Mexican border, “You build a 50 foot wall, somebody will find a 51 foot ladder.” Because “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

Nevertheless, ignoring the testimony of poetry & history, in the past twenty years barrier walls are having a barbaric resurgence & 6,000 miles have been constructed in the past ten years alone all over the planet. They’re not just eyesores; they are an assault on human freedom. They’re constructed of steel, concrete, razor wire, they’re electrified & surrounded by moats. There are watchtowers & electronic surveillance including underground sensors & infrared night scopes. In short, they are monstrosities. On the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River there are signs posted warning immigrants of alligators & US politicians actually proposing alligators be used to keep the undocumented out. There are no alligators in the Rio Grande but if there were it would be good to throw them some politicians to gnaw on beginning with Bill Clinton who first began militarizing the border as he advanced neoliberal plunder in Mexico. (The more you know about Clinton, the more you want to prosecute him. Actually he makes you want to skip due process altogether & go straight to lynching. But we leave barbarism to the barbarians.)

The Great Wall of China had military purpose. These modern walls are the stigma & hallmark of neoliberalism, which is the barbaric phase of capitalism. They’re intended to keep immigrants out & they seriously endanger, not to mention humiliate them–& they are found on every major immigration route. But they’re also intended to keep people in–like a prison. Like the apartheid wall around Gaza & the one around the West Bank. Or as Robert Frost put it, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.” Because that’s what walls are intended for–to wall in or wall out. Unlike Frost’s neighbor, we do not believe “Good fences make good neighbors.” And neither do those who build them.

Those who stand on the just side of history take a stand against these walls, against every impediment to human freedom & free movement. It’s our planet & we need to take it back. The Palestinian struggle is pivotal because they are tearing down those apartheid walls & leading the fight for human freedom. Ich bin ein Palestinian!

This is photo of apartheid wall near the West Bank village of Ezariya near Jerusalem with a Palestinian activist who found the metaphorical 51 foot ladder.

(Photo by Mahfouz Abu Turk/Reuters)

International solidarity with the 43 disappeared Mexican student teachers

India solidarity w MX Nov 8 2014

It’s always seemed some of the southern US states have the world’s dumbest & most corrupt politicians–most evident in their immigration policies. But Mexican politicians are giving the US a run for its money–& not in a good way. With the eyes of the world on their response to the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Iguala, Guerrero, MX, officials have managed to blunder every step of the way including President Peña Nieto’s delayed, wimpy, & evasive response to the crimes; a delayed search effort; official’s lies & contradictions about DNA testing on bodies found in mass graves; attempting to bribe the parents of the missing to remain silent with US $8,000 (100,000 pesos); & claiming a recent mass grave of completely incinerated bodies are the missing students without sufficient forensic evidence or investigation.

Truth of the matter is, some of those officials likely know exactly what happened to those students & who did it. Because if there is one thing their blundering has exposed it is the links between organized crime, cops, & the highest reaches of the Mexican government. There’s been a little official re-shuffling, with the governor of Guerrero removed from his post & the mayor of the city of Iguala & his wife arrested for putting out the hit. But in the end, this will all be blamed on corrupt cops on the take from organized crime & most officials will walk away scot-free. Thirty cops have been arrested so far & according to the Mexican Attorney General, the three arrested suspects from organized crime admit to killing the students upon orders from their leader. The question is, who is their leader & who is he taking orders from?

One of the most horrifying discoveries of the search for the students has been the discovery of 60 unidentified mass graves near Iguala since September 26th when the students were disappeared. There are 242 disappeared Mexicans just this year in Guerrero. Since 2007, there are 30,000 disappeared nationally & 100,000 killed. These figures likely don’t include the thousands of Central American immigrants also disappeared, murdered, often dismembered, & dumped in mass graves.

The shadow partner in all this is of course the US which supplies the dough & personnel to counter human rights in Mexico in order to jam through neoliberal policies resisted by Mexican working people & turn the country into a narco-state. Teachers have been in the leadership of opposition for a long time. Many teachers in the neighboring state of Oaxaca were forced to flee to the US as undocumented immigrants to escape being murdered or disappeared.

There have been solidarity rallies around the world, from NYC to Sydney, Australia, to Toulouse, France, to McAllen, Texas, to New Delhi, India. In the tradition of honoring those who gave their lives for justice, the rallies have held up images of the missing students. This young man is at the rally at JNU University in New Delhi, India.

This is a video of the JNU rally which is a simple & powerful act of solidarity:

The price Afghanis pay for US drug trafficking

Afghanistan (Steve McCurry) Nov 7 2014

When US-NATO invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, the rationale was retaliation for 9/11, to hunt down Osama bin Laden hiding in a cave & kill him, & to rout out Al-Qaeda & kill them. We’ve heard several other reasons as the US extemporizes it’s way through an illegal occupation for now 13 years. While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said the US should “get the people who attacked us” but she never explained why that entailed bombing out the whole country & facilitating drug trafficking. Obama called the war the necessary war but he’s never explained what it is necessary for.

Now we’re told the US continues to run thousands of drone sorties to help the Afghan government build up their own military & build Afghan institutions so the country has good governance–because we all know from the Pentagon that Afghanis are too primitive to do it themselves without the prod of massive bombing. That also explains why US military planes fly tons of drugs out for processing in other countries.

Switch & bait has become an invaluable propaganda device; during Israel’s Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza Zionists beat it to death asking why over a million people around the world marched in solidarity with Palestinians but paid little heed to Syria. They emphasized their point by comparing death figures between Gaza & Syria. This was not an expression of solidarity with the people of Syria either against Assad or the US but an attempt to make Palestinian solidarity activists appear anti-Semitic.

Although Palestinian solidarity protests dwarfed those against US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, & elsewhere, the antiwar movement never made such detestable comparisons but was among the most active builders of Palestinian solidarity. There was no axe to grind, no ulterior motives involved, no second-guessing of political movements, but only an understanding of the connections & the need for solidarity.

The important question of why the antiwar movement is so weak when the need is so great has not been sufficiently addressed in any political venue so that activists can understand & not be discouraged. But Palestinian solidarity forged new allies, new collaborations, & brought in tens of thousands of new forces who can help regenerate not just the antiwar movement but the entire movement for international solidarity. The gospel & iron law of social transformation is “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

This photo of a bombing victim in a Kabul hospital shows the price Afghanis are paying not to keep the streets in the US safe from Al-Qaeda but to keep them flooded with illegal drugs from the international drug trade which the US government facilitates. That is not a matter of conspiratorial speculation but is fully documented, including by Congressional hearings held by John Kerry.

(Photo by Steve McCurry)

Beam me up, Scottie: Part 2

Karl Rove Nov 7 2014

Our man Rove looks like an overgrown Boy Scout & a complete putz. In the words of another Texas putz, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, “Karl Rove, you’re no cowboy!” Now you know why in Texas dumb-assed Democrats look so good in comparison. It answers all your questions about George Bush–& then some. But it does raise other questions better left unanswered about the political character of Texans.

Beam me up, Scottie!

John Boehner & Mitch McConnell (J. Scott Applewhite:AP) Nov 6 2014

Somebody is always badgering me about ridiculing the elite, whether it’s Betty Windsor’s mutant clan or politicians. I like to pretend it’s political satire when it’s just plain old garden variety scorn. But hey, what’s fair is fair! Or should I frankly say, we have reason to be alarmed. These two bozos–& there’s no way anyone can call them handsome–are US senators Boehner & McConnell. I’d say this calls for a lot more than ridicule; I’d say we have reason to panic. These guys are what some refer to as “lesser evils” but they’re indistinguishable from Beelzebub & Lucifer–or more aptly, circus clowns. Beam me up Scottie!

(Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)