Governments around the world institutionalize SWAT team policing

Bahrain (Mohammed al-Shaikh (AFP) Jan 5 2015

This young guy is part of massive protests (now in their 6th day) in Manama, Bahrain against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, a leading democracy activist. Neoliberal capitalism hasn’t a lot of options for managing the global crises of their volatile system. Austerity programs aren’t working & are creating widespread resistance. That’s where repression comes in. The endless proliferation of “think tanks” haven’t been sitting around doing nothing. They’ve been devising contingency plans to deal with social unrest & resistance to impoverishment of the many to lard the asses of the few. All that thinking & all they can come up with is militarizing the police, equipping them with flak jackets, tear gas, stun grenades, & armored vehicles. Any thug could come up with that.

In the past few years, several countries have implemented repressive internal security programs: Australia, Bahrain, China, Turkey, Pakistan, Mexico, the US, Spain, Kenya, Uganda, Russia, Israel, Haiti, Egypt, the Philippines (& many others). It isn’t from a confluence of the stars that regimes develop similar programs. They collaborate with each other, share malignancies, even conspire to maintain some semblance of stability & coherence for their system. You’ll find the same correspondences in immigration policies or divide & conquer strategies, especially around the use of racism.

SWAT team policing is now accepted as the norm internationally & that’s what makes todays protesters under repressive regimes like Haiti or Egypt or Bahrain so remarkable. They know they might get beaten, possibly arrested, & certainly tear gassed & still they stand their ground, including this guy against a moving tank. We saw the same thing in the Black community in Ferguson.

The only defense against all that is international collaboration & solidarity of our own & massive numbers. There has been discussion lately among new activists expressing anxiety over the possibility of being attacked by police. It’s an absolutely valid concern. But the political movement in many countries is well developed & experienced at coordinating peaceful protests & non-violent self-defense. Of course you could be an ace at all that in Chicago & it would serve you no good purpose in Port-au-Prince or Manama or Cairo–or Ferguson. For that, international solidarity is the sine qua non. And it might be added, a solidarity that is long over-due & grows more urgent as neoliberalism tries to reduce more & more working people to the equivalence of feudal serfs.

Our deepest admiration for this young man in Bahrain & for the Kenyans beaten last week at protests against new security laws, for the Haitians brutalized recently for demanding free elections, & for the thousands of other protesters around the world who stand so steadfast against tyranny.

(Photo by Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP)

The Bahraini uprising against tyranny continues

Bahrain (Photograph- Hasan Jamali:AP0 JAN 5 2014

The Arab uprisings which erupted now four years ago were remarkable for the prominent role of women. (Women have always played central roles in social upheavals but when the history got written they were left out. The internet ended the reign of that kind of “history” & misogynist glory-mongering.) After a decade of justifying the US-NATO war in Afghanistan with baloney about liberating women, women revolutionists by the thousands across the Middle East showed the world what resistance to tyranny looks like. Thousands of them were veiled head to toe.

Reportedly, wearing a full veil (niqab) is not required in Bahrain but during protests almost all women wear them so as not to be identified by the cops & as protection against tear gas. Marches conform to religious tradition by marching in different groups when men & women protest at the same time but there are also women-only marches. The women have made it quite clear they are not mere auxiliaries to the democracy movement but among its leaders. Photojournalist documentation makes that irrefutable.

In 2012, Hamad al-Khalifa, the hereditary dictator of Bahrain, hired John Yates, a corrupt UK cop famous for his use of wire-tapping & police surveillance, & John Timoney, a US cop notorious for militarized methods against peaceful protestors (rubber bullets, tasers, concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, electrified riot shields, baton charges) & police agents. Ostensibly this “dream team” of thuggery were hired to reform police & military to conform to “international standards” (comparable to using Joseph Stalin as the gold standard of policing) after Bahrain was cited by an international commission for using excessive force, torture, summary execution, & countless other human rights crimes to crush the democracy movement which erupted February 2011.

The UK has been involved in Bahraini military & intelligence training for decades. Along with Yates, a team from Scotland Yard trained & directed the police force & trained Saudi national guards deployed in force against protestors in Bahrain in 2012. The UK has a long history of orchestrating police violence in Bahrain–from 1966 to 1998, Ian Henderson, a former British colonial officer led Bahrain’s secret police, gaining the sobriquet, “Butcher of Bahrain” because of the extreme kinds of torture used against thousands of dissidents, including children. Repeated calls for the UK to prosecute Henderson under international law have been ignored because of Britain’s close ties with the Bahraini dictatorship.

Both the US & UK have economic, political, military, & strategic interests in Bahrain which conflict with the democratic needs of the Bahraini people. That’s why the US & UK continue to stand by the murderous regime with armaments, combat vehicles & helicopters, communications equipment, & a missile system. Both countries play a training role in the use of death squads. And of course without doubt, the CIA is there training torturers. The US & UK claim the weaponry is for Bahrain’s external defense but Bahrain is not a country under military siege by outside armies; it is a regime conducting an all-out war against it’s own people.

Such nefarious allies have emboldened the regime to escalate violence & repression; they use special force units to target & round up human rights activists; death squads; torture, beatings, kidnappings, disappearances (including of children); indiscriminate but methodical use of tear gas in residential areas (termed “carpet gassing”) resulting in maiming, blinding, deaths; incarceration; house raids; road check points for routine stops, searches, & intimidation.

It’s already been a few years since media began writing triumphal obituaries about the end of the “Arab Spring.” But if the Bahrain, US, & UK regimes were confident of the stable restoration of tyranny they wouldn’t need to turn Bahrain into a gulag & the regime into an armed encampment against the people of Bahrain.

Protests erupted in the past several days after police re-arrested Sheikh Ali Salman, a leading democracy figure who heads Bahrain’s largest opposition group which was inspired by the 1979 revolution against the Shah of Iran. He was charged with trying to change the regime by force. The charge is baseless since he is a known opponent of guerrilla or military methods of resistance.

The full range of Salman’s political ideas are not elaborated in media but Salman wasn’t picked up because he poses any military threat to the regime. Let’s get real! One reason may be because because he’s been cautioning for a very long time against the regime’s use of divide & conquer.

It’s been very clear from its inception that this is a democracy movement but the al-Khalifa regime (certainly under advisement of the US & UK) have relentlessly pursued a divide & conquer strategy of demonizing Shiites as extremists & pitting them against Sunni. Factional conflicts that have emerged are orchestrated from the Pentagon, not rooted in theological disputation. This strategy has proven effective & massively destructive (in Iraq, Pakistan, & elsewhere) of united opposition to tyranny & to US interference. It goes without saying that corporate media echoes that line in reports on Bahrain in an attempt to make the conflict seem irrational & over theology rather than political & class divisions.

The women in this photo are in Manama, the capital city, demanding the release of Salman. Here they are taking shelter from excessive tear gas. Our fullest solidarity, deepest respect, & honor to these mothers & teachers of revolution.

(Photo by Hasan Jamali/APO)

The Gateway to Hell lies with fracking

This burning crater called “The Gateway to Hell” is in the Karakum desert of Turkmenistan. If reckless plunder weren’t the neoliberal ethos, it would stand as a giant red alert against fracking.

In 1971, Soviet petroleum engineers began excavating for oil & came across one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. But the ground collapsed during drilling, creating this sinkhole. Fearing the crater would emit poisonous gases & thinking to outsmart nature, the engineers set the thing on fire expecting it to burn off. Forty-four years later it’s still burning, emitting the noxious smell of sulphur.

About five years ago, the president of Turkmenistan named Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, showed he hasn’t learned a damn thing from the sinkhole & ordered it sealed so it won’t impede efforts to increase production of natural gas for export. And still it burns.

Berdimuhamedow’s regime has been cited by several groups for all sorts of human rights violations including discrimination against ethnic groups, suppression of freedom of the press, religion, & dissent, & restrictions on citizens traveling. Not unlike Stalinist regimes & very much like neoliberal regimes. The country is something of a gulag with a personality cult around the less than redoubtable Berdi. Last year a Chinese oil company, likely sucking up to Berdi to get a leg up on plunder, paid Jennifer Lopez $1.5 million bucks to sing “Happy Birthday” to him in a private performance. She later apologized saying she wasn’t aware of Berdi’s human rights record. She should fire her minions but it still doesn’t erase the unseemly image of her groveling for money.

(Photo by Igor Sasin/AFP/Getty Images)

Alan Dershowitz doesn’t like being identified as a child rapist

Alan Dershowitz complained to the Jerusalem Post today that “anti-Israeli zealots are loving” accusations against him. Actually we’re sickened that he would rape young girls. We’re outraged this degenerate creep would touch innocence to harm. We’re just not surprised.

What we do love, without apology, is that one of his victims is bringing him down. And we love that henceforward he won’t be able to show his ugly face & spew his rancid lies about Palestinians without the stench of child molestation filling up the venue.

British sitcom on genocide in Ireland

A British network has commissioned a sitcom about the Irish “famine” to be titled “Hungry” written by an Irish halfwit named Hugh Travers. Travers defended his monstrous idea by saying “Ireland has always been good at black humour.” Let’s hazard a guess that such insularity is due partly to privilege (which often makes one stupid) & partly to sucking up to British prejudice to achieve fame. He wouldn’t be the first to sell his paltry soul.

The potato famine in the 19th century (1845-52) was while Ireland was a British colony. It is now recognized as genocide & called that by historians not wedded to idiocy. It killed one million people & forced two million to emigrate. It was not a famine since plenty of other crops were grown beside potatoes. The water mold that attacked the potato crop devastated because it was the cash crop used by peasant farmers to pay their English landlords & (to show the affinities between colonialism & neoliberal plunder) while the Irish suffered starvation & disease, other crops were exported to England & elsewhere–including wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, beef, pork.

British landlords evicted starving tenants & whole villages were taken out with cholera & typhus when they ate the rotten potatoes; many resorted to eating grass. People died on the side of the road. We haven’t seen such horrors since the last news report on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. (Another affinity between colonialism & neoliberal predation.)

Entire families were sent to overcrowded, squalid workhouses which was considered a death sentence. Ships carrying diseased & desperate immigrants became known as “coffin ships” because often over a third of passengers died on the voyage.

Any Irish writer who can find humor in that history has to have their head examined–or has their head stuck so far up the butt of the British elite they can no longer think. And there is that privilege thing again. Travers is playing the Paddy to get laughs from a British public still steeped in hatred of the Irish & likely taught as malformed a view of English colonialism as kids in the US get of Black, Mexican, & Native American history.

What’s most monstrous is that the historic record has not been sufficiently corrected & the terminology of famine replaced with genocide. What is needed is not foul humor at the expense of history but excoriation, including in the form of satire, not sitcom banality. The world doesn’t need more court jesters like Travers; it needs more satirists like Jonathan Swift who wrote “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, & for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick” (1729) satirically suggesting Irish babies be plumped up for the British meat market. The difference between Travers & Swift, between groveling & satire could not be more damning.

(Photo of “Burying the Child” by Lilian Lucy Davidson is provided by Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut)

US and UK governments cover for sexual predators of children

We are accustomed to reading of scandals involving sex abuse & pedophilia among the British elite, including politicians & the moochocracy–most notoriously Betty Windsor’s kid, Andrew. We are also accustomed to police investigations of the elite pedophile rings going nowhere even though accusations include murder of children used as sex slaves.

The US ruling elite has been more effective in covering up such crimes. Most politicians here are ridiculed (in the wink-wink way) for getting caught with prostitutes, not children. A recent federal lawsuit in Florida against the US government may change that–though the outcome of a coverup will be the same. Four women allege the US government violated the rights of crime victims when it made a plea deal in 2008 with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sexually abusing minors & providing them to powerful figures. The charges were criminally serious but as a result of the plea deal Epstein only spent 13 months in jail.

Andrew Windsor & rabid Zionist Alan Dershowitz are exposed in the Florida suit for having sex with minors provided by Epstein. Bill Clinton & Kevin Spacey have been cited in other lawsuits involving Epstein. None of those creeps face criminal charges in the suits.
As ugly as this stuff is, the protection of children demands we pay attention because the courts & cops will no more address justice than the British courts or Scotland Yard. The women’s movement of the 1970s was the first to put the spotlight on sexual crimes against children & skewer the “Oedipal conflict” promoted by Freudians as a dismissal of claims by men & women of childhood sexual assault.

The protection of children from sexual predation is the responsibility of all & the exposure of these crimes, as hard as they are to face, must be demanded. It’s not sufficient that the perpetrators rot in hell; they need face justice & shame in a court of law.

Major mining spill in Mexico

Sonora river basin (Photo- Regeneración) Jan 1 2015

If you live a cloistered life in an ashram or monastery in the Eastern Hemisphere it’s understandable you wouldn’t know about what is called the worst environmental disaster in Mexico’s history on August 6th, 2014 in the state of Sonora about 40 miles from the US border with Arizona. But it doesn’t make sense for those of us who follow news. For the media to bury this story behind celebrity gossip about Kim Kardashian’s butt speaks to everything that is contemptible & dishonest in corporate journalism.

The story of that mining spill is extraordinary: 11 million gallons (42 thousand cubic meters) of sulphuric acid, arsenic, cadmium, copper, chrome, & mercury was spilled into the Bacanuchi & Sonora rivers, contaminating the water supply for several municipalities (including the downstream capital city of Hermosillo with one million people), destroying the local ecology along the river & the livelihood of thousands of farmers, making the area uninhabitable for local flora, fauna, wildlife & for birds on a major north-south migration route. The story involves the wrenching battles fought between Mexican corporations & the labor movement to impose a neoliberal business model & culture.

The spill happened at the Buenavista del Cobre mine in Cananea which played a role in the Mexican Revolution of 1910 & has a long history in the labor movement. Mining was not nationalized & placed under government control like the oil sector but was included in the process of expelling foreign investors & “Mexicanizing” industry. The Mexican state owned controlling shares & had monopoly control of what was then named the Cananea Mining Company. Mexico was a capitalist state & its mining operations still routinely dispossessed small farmers & Indigenous peoples for mining expansion, controlled the unions mafia-style, & did not implement environmental regulations. But neoliberalism is the barbaric phase of capitalism

Under the whip of an IMF-World Bank restructuring program in the 1980s, the Cananea Mining Company was put up for sale by the regime of Carlos Salinas. They sold it in 1990 at less than a quarter of its market value to Grupo Mexico, half owned by Germán Larrea whose father was well-connected to the Salinas regime. The three richest men in Mexico today were the main beneficiaries of privatization. One of them, Carlos Slim, is the richest man in the world. Larrea’s fortunes now include Grupo Mexico (GM), the largest mining company in Mexico with subsidiaries in the US & Peru; a majority of the rail lines in Mexico, including the infamous La Bestia which Central American immigrants ride north (Larrea’s ownership explains why the trains do not stop so immigrants can board & discharge safely & many are killed or maimed); a stake in an airline; & he’s now bidding on a new TV network. His personal worth is over $15 billion & he ranks #67 on Forbes annual list of the richest people in the world.

It’s worth noting that Asarco, the GM subsidiary in the US (based in Arizona) has been cited multiple times for violations at 20 superfund sites & is the subject of considerable litigation. In 2009 alone, Asarco paid the US government nearly $2 billion to settle hazardous waste pollution claims in 19 states. It’s Peruvian subsidiary, which controls two mines opposed by local residents, flew past Peruvian regulators with favorable environmental impact reports prepared by a company GM hired & likely a lot of greased palms.

Miners in the Cananea mine resisted the neoliberal way of doing business which cannot coexist in harmony with even company unions. There were immense labor battles at the mine, including extreme violence, to lower wages & sabotage safety regulations. Striking miners were fired wholesale, the regime sent troops to break the union, & many miners became undocumented immigrants to the US in fear for their lives. The name change to Buenavista Copper Mine signals a new regime where no locals nor family members of those in the former union are hired, & the union is completely controlled by Grupo Mexico.

When the spill happened on August 6th (& again in mid-September), the neoliberal grand-master president Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican Congress, government regulatory agencies were all talking tough & calling for sanctions because Grupo Mexico failed to report the spill, lied about its causes to the authorities, failed to carry out an industrial cleanup, & attempted to bribe & bully mayors in the municipalities affected by forcing them to sign affidavits the cleanup was conducted & threatening to withhold clean water from residents. When the mayors did refuse, state officials in Sonora began withholding water delivery services from tanker trucks. The truth of the matter is, a company as reckless as Grupo Mexico hasn’t a clue how to proceed with cleanup & isn’t willing to pay for the expertise or necessary industrial equipment.

At first Grupo Mexico suffered on the stock exchange but when it weathered the fallout–that is, the plaintive whimpers of the Mexican regime–neoliberal plunder was good to go. It’s now recovered & considered prime stock. GM, which has an annual net income of $2 billion (half from the Buenavista mine) was able to walk away with a nominal fine of $150 million (which may or may not be dispersed) & an offer to give 2,000 pesos (US$150) to each person affected on the banks of the rivers. One report says the state officials are doling out 804 pesos (US$61) per week to those affected along the river banks. It’s not certain what that means since the disaster reaches far beyond the river banks & those who live adjacent to it.

Sinaloa Collective Actions & their lawyer Luis Manuel Perez de Acha are preparing a lawsuit against Grupo Mexico but the way neoliberalism works, Grupo Mexico has the courts all wrapped up in deals at the country club. The only way out of neoliberal predation is to overthrow it.

This is a photo of the Sonora river basin after the Buenavista spill.

(Photo from Sonora river basin from Regeneración)

Giant chasm opens up in desert of Sonora, Mexico

Mexican chasm  Jan 1 2014

This 3,300 feet long & 25 feet deep (one kilometer & 8 meter) chasm opened last August in the desert outside Hermosillo, Mexico in the state of Sonora (on the US border with Arizona). The Washington Post published an article claiming “scientists” said it was nothing to sweat about. Turns out the “scientists” are just one guy who chairs the geology department at the University of Sonora named Inocente Guadalupe Espinoza Maldonado. Professor Espinoza called the chasm a “topographic accident” & “no cause for alarm” because “These are normal manifestations of the destabilization of the ground.” He might reconsider that judgement if it went through his living room or interrupted one of his lectures.

He considered it unlikely to be tectonic or seismic activity & more likely due to decades of over-pumping groundwater for agricultural irrigation which caused the surface to collapse. He claimed large-scale agriculture is going on in the area of the fault though you wouldn’t know it from this picture. There isn’t a shrub in sight.

It well may be from excessive extraction of water & intrusion of saltwater from the nearby Gulf of California, as the good professor claims, but that sure as hell is not “normal” or “no cause for alarm.” As we can see in this video, the fault went right through a highway. He might enlighten the residents of Hermosillo by explaining if local geologists were monitoring the situation & warning public officials that faulty irrigation methods could cause “topographic” problems. It would also be important for him to explain how the August 6th mining spill of copper sulfate acid into the Sonora River 183 miles (294 kilometers) upstream interacts with all this. The Sonora River supplies water to nearly one million residents of Hermosillo & hundreds of thousands of people along the river & empties into the Gulf of California. Upstream the water is orange, mucky, undrinkable, & unusable in every other way. And it’s likely to stay that way since the mining company & Mexican government are colluding & obstructing cleanup.

There is crescendoing alarm about the relationship of fracking, sinkholes, & earthquakes & the connection of all that to climate change. These are important questions that cannot be left to conspiracy theorists & other crackpots. Responsible geologists & other scientists cannot be cavalier because people are asking serious questions involving the survival of the human race. The planet will survive neoliberal depredations. The question is, will we?

(Photo is screen shot from video of Sonora fault. Please view the brief video to see how scary the damn thing is.)

The phony US-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan

It’s regrettable to start 2015 with bad news but are US-NATO pulling another Iraq War-style withdrawal from Afghanistan? They held a military ceremony with lots of saluting & a flag lowering but they’re leaving 20,000 troops in Afghanistan. What about the massive drone operation?

At this time last year, the US was arm-twisting & threatening then president Karzai for refusing to sign a security agreement that would negate Afghan sovereignty by allowing US troops to stay with impunity for criminal acts committed. He accused the US not only of fostering conflict with the Taliban but of playing both sides of street. Karzai was never anybody’s hero but even he couldn’t stomach the subservience to the Pentagon.

The new president, Ashraf Ghani, who won office through election fraud, is as sycophantic to the US as Karzai when he won office through election fraud. Ghani was in office for only moments before he signed the security agreement which sanctions continued US occupation under the guise of “counterterrorism operations against the Taliban & other insurgents.” What a multitude of crimes are contained in that vague formulation, including US military involvement in drug trafficking, drone bombings of civilians, terrorizing of the population, massive homelessness & millions of war refugees.

You gotta hand it to Ghani: he’s handsome, a spiffy dresser, & credentialed up to his eyeballs with academic honors but he’s as corrupt as everybody else in Afghanistan who makes league with the US government against the people of Afghanistan.

The US-NATO war in Afghanistan has not ended & frankly we’re tired of Obama’s (speaking of handsome & spiffy dressers with academic honors) grotesque shell game. The antiwar movement has only one response to the news of US-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan: we continue marching to demand US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!