Scavenging, prostitution, & child labor are scourges that unionizing won’t ennoble

Sumatra, Indonesia scavengers ( Dedi Sahputra:EPA) Nov 30 2015

No one knows for sure how many people worldwide subsist off scavenging landfill. One estimate is 15 million just in the “developing world”–a euphemism covering a multitude of colonial crimes against humanity. But millions of people, including children, earn pennies a day picking for recyclables through stinking, fuming, gaseous mountains of decaying food, putrified waste, animal & human poop, toxic medical waste, animal carcasses, toxic chemicals & metals, rodents & roaches.

The majority of these scavengers were impoverished by neoliberal policies, particularly rural land grabs. They survive because under neoliberal capitalist policy, waste management has been privatized, massively neglected, & dumped on “developing” countries or on Indian reservations in the US for the poor to scavenge at peril to their own health & wellbeing.

Adding treachery to wretchedness, it’s now in vogue to ennoble this work. To apologists for the status quo of human misery, nothing stinks under neoliberalism. The World Bank says “waste pickers make a significant economic contribution by saving municipalities money in the management of solid waste.” Scholars & academics struggle with just the right term to call this work that won’t demean & outline the social benefits of scavenging like job creation, public health & sanitation, reducing pollution & mitigating climate change–& above all, municipal savings. Media writes laudatory articles on scavengers building & decorating shanties with scavenged goods. Well-heeled professionals from one NGO after another talk about organizing scavengers into unions & cooperatives.

This kind of ennobling is not just massively patronizing toward the poor but more than anything represents reconciliation with the status quo of growing inequality & impoverishment. Why the hell should poor people have to pick through other people’s poop to earn a living? Why should their & their children’s health be compromised & their lives shortened? Why should they have to endure respiratory & skin infections & numerous health problems because governments don’t want to pay for waste management & don’t give a damn about dignified job creation?

This ennobling of scavenging crap is of a piece with ennobling prostitution as just another way to earn a living when it remains what it has always been–the sexual exploitation of women & children. It is also of a piece with attempts to legitimize child labor by organizing kids into unions rather than working tirelessly to eradicate it & get kids in school & on playgrounds. It represents nothing less than a conservative, reactionary attempt to legitimize exploitation.

No one objects to impoverished, exploited workers forming leagues to protect themselves but most of these initiatives come from people not engaged in these dangerous forms of work but in attempts to normalize degradation & accept neoliberal policies. They’re either stupid or in league with neoliberal agencies like the World Bank, not with the forces of human emancipation.

Scavenging, prostitution, child labor are scourges on humanity. There is no way to ennoble or justify them. If your highest vision of human freedom is unionizing all that, you may be sniffing too many toxic fumes emitted by neoliberal apologists. For sure, you are on the wrong side of human justice & the fight for equality.

This is a rubbish dump near Sumatra, Indonesia in a region where mostly immigrant labor lives.

(Photograph by Dedi Sahputra/EPA)

Europe’s xenophobic restrictions on refugees from Iran, Morocco, Bangladesh, Pakistan, & Palestinians

Iranian refugee at Mac:Grk border (Yannis Behrakis:Reuters) Nov 30 2015

Refugees from Iran, Morocco, Bangladesh, Pakistan, & Palestinians (likely from refugee camps in the war zones) have been protesting for over a week against restrictions debarring them from moving north in Europe–where they can join thousands of Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi refugees locked out on the borders of Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia.

The checkpoints on the Macedonia/Greek border now require passports which many refugees may well not have–like thousands of Central American & Mexican refugees entering the US. The xenophobic restrictions were put in place after a forged Syrian passport was found next to the body of one of the attackers in Paris–a story that stinks to high heaven even if you’re not a conspiracy theorist. And of course, it is just the pretext the EU was looking for to justify denying asylum to tens of thousands of people.

There are compelling reasons for the flight of those now denied refugee status. According to a BBC report, the Iranians “appear to be from Iran’s Kurdish minority.” (One wonders why the BBC reporter didn’t simply ask them.) But Kurds are a persecuted minority in Iran. Under international law that means they have rights to demand asylum.

Morocco, Bangladesh, & Pakistan are all up to their eyeballs in sweatshop economics, with workers earning chicken feed, treated like slaves, & unable to support families. If the EU doesn’t want refugees from sweatshop countries, it can damn well stop using them as slaves. In addition, tens of thousands have been displaced by massive flooding & years of US bombing in Pakistan. Palestinians, of course, have long been displaced by Israeli ethnic cleansing. All of those nationalities have every right under international law to demand asylum & the EU has every obligation to extend it–with or without a passport.

This photo of an Iranian refugee blocking train tracks in Greece against a phalanx of riot police is worth a thousand condemnations. Those refused entry to Macedonia vow to stay put & continue their protest. We need to render solidarity by demanding the EU open the damn borders.

Immigration is a human right.

(Photo by Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)


Who will write the history/obituary of neoliberal barbarism & its wars?

Refugee at Macedonian border (Robert Atanasovski:AFP:Getty Images) Nov 29 2015

Who will write the history of this era? Who will chronicle the barbarism of wars that drive millions to flee but allows them no place to go? That draws on the sewers of racism to vilify refugees as terrorists hellbent on taking out ‘western civilization’? That parses distinctions between those fleeing war & bombing from those fleeing starvation & destitution? Such is the legacy of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

This refugee father is trying to protect his tiny child from winter rains after crossing the Macedonian border from Greece. There are thousands of children, elderly, infirm, disabled, people with special needs & rather than provide shelter & transportation, European countries are putting up razor wire fences fortified by phalanxes of riot police & soldiers with assault rifles–against unarmed refugees. What the hell is this world coming to!?

The Greek-Macedonian border has become the first line of defense for European Union (EU) treachery. Army engineers put up fencing, militarized the border, & Macedonia, Serbia, & Croatia are restricting passage to northern Europe to refugees from Syria, Iraq, & Afghanistan. All others, including Iranians, Moroccans, Bangladeshis, Palestinians, & Pakistanis are being turned back as economic immigrants. According to media reports, 1,000 refugees are stuck in Greece with no social services or shelter. The number stuck there is likely much higher. Macedonia is of course not just extemporizing refugee policy. This is a coordinated criminal policy formulated by the EU to keep refugees out of northern Europe.

There are protests on the Macedonian border against the exclusion of certain nationalities–including Iranians who sewed their mouths shut & over a thousand Iranians, Moroccans, & Pakistanis who blocked train tracks to oppose their exclusion from heading north.

Immigration is a damn human right. Open the borders. Hopefully the history of this era will be part of the obituary for neoliberal capitalism which brought nothing but barbarism to human civilization.

(Photo by Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images)


PBS outranks even Dysentery (i.e., Commentary) magazine in lies & deceit about Palestinians

Pal protesters group (Mohammed Abed:AFP:Getty Images) Nov 28 2015

PBS did a segment last Tuesday titled “Why 20,000 Israelis are suing Facebook over Palestinian attacks.” Other than the Zionist & right-wing Dysentery magazine (also called Commentary), the first three minutes rank among the most dishonest pieces of journalism about the current Israeli pogrom against Palestinians.

The segment was framed around the October 13th stabbing death of Richard Lakin, a 76-year-old Israeli on a Jerusalem bus–allegedly by a Palestinian youth. In umpteen articles we learn Lakin, who moved from the US to Israel as a settler at the age of 45, was a grandfather, retired elementary school principal who was once active in the US civil rights movement, wrote a book about kindness in the classroom, & worked for peaceful coexistence between Israelis & Palestinians. Sounds like a fine fellow indeed–despite his Zionist & colonial ideology.

PBS interviewed Micah Avni, the son of Lakin, who said he began searching the internet struggling to understand what would incite young Palestinians to gruesomely stab old men. This is where you wonder how such a prince among men raised such a bold-faced liar.

Avni claims he found thousands of sites on FB, Twitter, YouTube inciting Palestinians to stabbing & other violent acts against Israelis & Jews including instructional videos showing how to skewer them to death. Avni is shown looking at the site “Cyber & Jihad Lab,” a project of the notoriously disreputable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) which identifies these sites. MEMRI is an Israeli propaganda front group with non-profit status from the US government–part of the largesse of US support for Israeli apartheid. It is repeatedly accused of selectively translating & mistranslating from Arabic to make Palestinians & Muslims look violent.

But Avni’s lies don’t begin there. He didn’t just sign on to the class action lawsuit against FB after his father’s murder. He’s been involved with promoting it for a long time & has also been campaigning in the Knesset for regulation (i.e., abridging freedom of speech) of social media under the guise of prohibiting incitement to violence–as though it were really a major problem among Palestinians.The family added Lakin as a chief litigant in the suit–exploiting his death to make a shabby case compelling.

PBS producers know all that. To peddle this stinking kettle of fish as journalism, the PBS segment cited the Israeli Foreign Ministry as their source that as of October 1st there were 70 Israeli targets for the “kitchen knife Intifada.” They claimed 21 Israelis were killed & 184 wounded–“the vast majority by stabbing”–by Palestinian assailants as young as 12 & 13. They added (almost parenthetically) that 86 Palestinians were killed, “shot during or after carrying out attacks or in clashes with Israeli forces.” Interesting that those figures don’t agree with a single other media report where only 11 Israelis are reported killed by stabbing & nothing approximating that number of wounded.

The rest of the segment was interviews with Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American who was dismissive of this rubbish & pointed out that FB has many sites inciting against Palestinians & which cheered on ethnic cleansing in Gaza in 2014. There was also an interview with legal scholar Jonathan Turley on the danger of abridging free speech & free association.

There is no problem on social media worth a lawsuit. The lawsuit is part of the gangster tactics used by the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin which won a suit in a New York court against the Palestinian Authority for inciting terrorism & is now targeting BDS groups around the world. Shurat HaDin, which has ties to Israeli national security, uses methods taught to its director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The intent is to tie up resources & bankrupt political opponents. It’s an association the SPLC has yet to account for.

The lawsuit intends to force FB to set up its algorithms to identify & remove material & to prevent “violent-minded Palestinians” from connecting with each other. Let’s get real here. There isn’t enough such material to warrant a class action lawsuit. The intent is to silence the voices of Palestinians, obstruct the growth of BDS & Palestinian solidarity under the guise of ending a “stabbing Intifada” & a “FB Intifada.” Free speech, freedom of association, & justice for Palestinians is what is at stake.

This photo shows the real relationship of forces: unarmed Palestinians against one of the most ruthless & well-armed military forces in the world.

Stand with Palestinian justice; build BDS.

(Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)


Alexis Tsipras meets Netanyahu. Grovels & betrays Palestinians

credits:photos - KOBI GIDEON: GPO Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Nov 25, 2015

Isn’t this a regrettable–if not also entirely predictable–moment in politics? Netanyahu greets Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras last Wednesday in Jerusalem. Tsipras is the head of Greece’s Syriza government. Syriza (an ostensibly left-wing political party) was elected by almost two-thirds of the Greek people in January 2015 on an anti-austerity program. The expectation of Syriza was that they would stand up to the IMF & reject programs impoverishing working people & pensioners to enrich German banks.

Before the election, Syriza opposed military cooperation with Israel & supported Palestinian rights to bantustates–so when it came to Palestinian self-determination their leftist views didn’t go that far. If justice were incorporated into their political program, they would call for a democratic secular state for Palestinians & Jews. Tsipras publicly denounced the Israeli carpet bombing siege of Gaza in 2014 calling out Israel for targeting children & calling for solidarity with Palestinians. In 2011, he had even been slated for a flotilla to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade. The flotilla was not allowed to leave the Greek port by the then Greek regime.

Before Syriza was elected, Tsipras also opposed the draconian austerity measures imposed on Greek working people by the EU-IMF. Betrayal came quickly to him. On the morning after his election, his first act as prime minister was to form a coalition with a far-right political group & within a few weeks he’d brokered an agreement accepting the austerity measures. Tsipras & his party are the kind that give the left-wing a bad name & make them indistinguishable from their right-wing allies.

By July of this year, Syriza had signed a military alliance with Israel similar to the kind the US has with Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, is attempting to forge with Japan, & that Israel has with India, the US, & Myanmar. Greek military forces will train in Israel; Israel is already doing combat training & joint exercises in Greece with helicopters & bombers–the very bombers targeting small children in Gaza. Where are Tsipras’ alligator tears now?

Tsipras isn’t the first Greek official to visit Israel. He was preceded by the Greek Defense Minister & member of the right-wing coalition party who signed the military accord with Israel on behalf of Syriza–& also by the Greek Foreign Minister who held talks with Netanyahu on strengthening alliance between Greece & Israel.

According to media, Tsipras & Netanyahu discussed uniting against terrorism, increasing Israeli tourism to Greece, & exploiting those newly-discovered natural gas fields in the region. It’s likely Netanyahu was not coy in suggesting Tsipras revise his views & public statements about carpet bombing Gaza.

High-tech military alliances are daunting opponents in the struggle for Palestinian justice. Building BDS among working people in Greece & around the world is a powerful counterforce. International solidarity is a powerful force that cannot be overestimated.

Build BDS.

(Photo of Tsipras the betrayer & Netanyahu by Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Homeless in L.A.


Los Angeles homeless people (Martin Schoeller) Nov 22 2015

According to some estimates, on any given night in the US nearly 580,000 people are homeless–meaning they sleep outside, in a shelter, in their cars. Los Angeles, which is probably the US capital of millionaires, is now nicknamed the homeless capital of America. The county recently declared a state of emergency over rapidly increasing homelessness. There are an estimated 254,000 men, women, & children homeless during some part of the year & 82,000 on any given night.

The demographics on the homeless in LA put the shame to US public policy: 5,000 to 10,000 are unaccompanied youth; 20 percent are veterans; 50 percent are Black; nearly 50 percent are women & girls, including single mothers with children; 20 percent have disabilities; nearly 20 percent have jobs; 25 percent are mentally ill; a large percentage have substance abuse problems.

Many commentators try to write off these damning demographics by attributing homelessness to personal pathology–like substance abuse & a high rate of sexual abuse among homeless people–pathologies which prevail in the US population as a whole. To them we simply say, “it’s the rents, stupid!”

The average one-bedroom apartment in LA is over $1,800 a month. What retiree, fast-food or minimum wage worker can possibly afford those rents–even if four people in the family work?

One of the most urgent needs in this country, as any single mother or retiree on Social Security can attest, is for affordable housing. Instead, out of the US 2015 fiscal year budget of $1.11 trillion, military spending accounts for 54 percent ($598.5 billion) & the housing & community category accounts for a pittance of 6 percent ($63.6 billion). Lord knows what the hell the dough is going for since there certainly aren’t new housing projects for the poor & homeless anywhere.

These beautiful young faces are some of the homeless in LA who posed for photos.

Housing is a human right.

(Photos by Martin Schoeller)

Emancipation US-style: heinous US war crimes in Afghanistan

Afghan man making tea ( Rahmat Gul:AP) Nov 23 2015

Emancipation US-style: heinous US war crimes in Afghanistan have recently been exposed–including bombing the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz & the torture & murder of Afghan civilians by Green Beret operatives in Wardak. Since the Obama regime has been touting the downsizing of troops (after 14 years of war), one would expect media to be all over the country to investigate what the US is actually doing there. But instead of war journalism, we get this photo of a man in Kabul making morning tea. Simply charming; but not a story of consequence in Afghanistan any more than making morning tea in Tallahassee.

The story in Afghanistan is not old men making tea but US generals making war. What is of consequence in Afghanistan are the estimated 26,000 civilian deaths since January 2015–men, women, & children killed by bombings, crossfire, improvised explosive devices, assassinations, night raids into homes.

Hospitals in Afghanistan treat large numbers of burn victims & amputees from US cluster bombs & unexploded ordnance dropped in this & previous wars. The Afghan Ministry of Public Health reports two-thirds of Afghans suffer mental health problems like PTSD. Thirty years of war have created massive poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, poor sanitation, infectious diseases from lack of clean water, & millions have fled as refugees.

A great tragedy of our era is the weakness of the international antiwar movement in responding to the horrors of US wars. Nothing is more imperative than marshaling men & women of good will in defense of Afghans who have sustained over 30 years of war. Find a rally or organize one to demand “US out of Afghanistan!”

(Photo by Rahmat Gul/AP)

Donald Trump moves from buffoonery to fascism

D. Trump

Trump (& for that matter, Ben Carson) has moved way past buffoonery in his rhetoric. Now he’s talking the language of fascism with calls for special databases & ID tags for Muslims & imbecilic claims he saw thousands of Arabs in New Jersey cheering on the fall of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He justified an assault by his supporters on a Black activist & continues his outrageous rants against immigrants & refugees. He’s become an outright danger to US democracy.

Then we have Clinton falling all over herself for Israeli apartheid & Zionist money–even equating ISIS to Hamas when she would more accurately equate ISIS to Saudi Arabia, the staunch US ally who also beheads people. Whatever will the lesser evil voters do when she becomes the candidate?

However did US democracy come to this? But of course that’s almost a stupid question since the US is founded on colonialism, bred to racism & white supremacy. Its wealth is based on militarism.

The beginning of undoing all this is rebuilding the antiwar movement. But it means eventually dismantling the entire edifice on which this country is based. Zionists freak when it’s suggested Israel as a theocracy must be dismantled & replaced with a democratic secular state. Name a country–beginning with the US–where dismantling what exists is not essential if humanity wants to survive the predations of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

(Photo is Trump talking through his ass)


The continuing cycle of Israeli violence against Palestinians

Pal protesters at Hebron ( Nasser Shiyoukhi:AP) Nov 22 2015

The Guardian-UK is masterful in using brief captions on photos to tell mouthfuls of lies about Palestinians & Israel. This one is a lulu. It reads: “A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.” No big deal that. But here’s the kicker. They added: “In the West Bank’s most troubled city & its peripheral villages, these familiar clashes are part of a continuing cycle of violence.”

“A continuing cycle of violence,” but no mention of the illegal occupation by Israeli troops; the growing settlements & aggressive settlers from all over Kingdom Come who feel entitled to Palestinian land; the apartheid conditions in Hebron, partially under direct military control–with curfews & restrictions on movement for Palestinians; nor mention of the demolition orders for those “peripheral villages.”

Looks like that “stabbing Intifada” rubbish is running out of steam for lack of evidence & because it’s such brazen nonsense the media can’t sustain the narrative without exposing themselves to ridicule.

These are urgent times for Palestinian solidarity. Just because the current Israeli pogrom is not receiving news coverage doesn’t mean it’s abated. Media just needed space to beat the drums of war.

Our historic task remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement & make Palestinian solidarity a central part of that.

(Photo by Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP)


Art & the occupation of Gaza

Al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza (Majdi Fathi) Nov 21 2015

We live in grim times–& it’s not coincidental that the horrors commenced & coincide with the emergence of capitalism whose creativity is now absorbed in the development of scams & the weapons of mass destruction.

The world can become too much with us & the odds against human civilization seem overwhelming. Many become not so much demoralized as exhausted by war & what often appears to be a collapse of human society. Bombers everywhere & ISIS too.

Cynics & misanthropes claim we’ve reached the end of times but their’s is the philosophy of defeatists & conformists to the status quo. Human beings aren’t asked to take on the whole world of human misery but only to play a part in social transformation so that society serves human & animal life–& to do that as intelligently as we can.

The human race is a marvelous species–filled with music, art, poetry, magic, & laughter. We express that inner beauty in the worst of times & in the most unlikely places. Because our magic will be out & because we need it to make sense of our world.

This is a photo from Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Shati was established in 1948 for Palestinians fleeing Zionist paramilitary terrorist squads. Today nearly 88,000 refugees live there–nearly 10,000 unregistered & denied UN refugee benefits. The camp was bombed during Israel’s carpet bombing siege in 2014. In one strike, 8 children were killed. It’s a grim place for children to come of age in. But this photo shows one of the murals in an art project where over 30 artists created wall murals in the camp. Human beings need art not only to unravel the meaning of oppression but to formulate resistance to it.

Long live Intifada! Build BDS.

(Photo by Majdi Fathi)