The “comfort women” deal between South Korea & Japan is shabby & not a bit historic

Deceased comfort women (Kim Hong-Ji:Reuters) Dec 30 2015

We should take a moment to stand with these students in Seoul, South Korea to honor the tens of thousands of deceased Korean “comfort women” who did not live to see justice. Not that this current agreement between South Korea & Japan, 70 years in the making, is justice. We should note that sexual slavery by the Japanese military occupation included women throughout Korea, now divided into North & South.

The deal is being heralded as landmark & historic. Enough with the hyperbole. It’s a shabby agreement based solely on the expediences of military collaboration between South Korea, Japan, & the US & the need to make the issue to go away if military buildup in the region is to go forward without popular resistance.

These students hold weekly rallies with portraits of the deceased women in front of the Japanese embassy. There is little available information on the role of Korean & Japanese feminists in educating about & protesting the issue of sexual slavery by Japan. Since prostitution remains an issue in both countries because of the US military presence of nearly 100,000 troops, we can be sure they have been a central part of that campaign from its inception–as the “comfort women” survivors themselves have lead it. Any information on that would be appreciated.

Our deepest solidarity with the women survivors who are our sisters & with those men & women who continue to campaign for justice in both countries. You can see in the photos that many of the women survivors were part of that campaign. Our deepest respect & honor. It isn’t just a matter of acknowledging the past but of changing the future for women & our girls.

(Photo by Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The Nation magazine & Islamophobia: a regrettable tale

Color me vengeful but over a day ago I commented on The Nation article entitled “Is hijab really a symbol of liberation when millions are oppressed into wearing it?” by a Muslim woman named Arshia Malik. Shades of Asra Nomani. Over 24 hours later & the comment objecting to the article has not been published.

The Nation is seen as a liberal publication but it’s similar in many ways to the Guardian-UK: sometimes it’s liberal, sometimes–especially on issues of Islamophobia & Zionism–it skirts right-wing. To me, it’s always been a bore. I’m no sophisticado but it’s just lowbrow intellectualism & often politically banal.

Katha Pollitt was their resident feminist writer & a few years ago they did publish my comment on one of her Islamophobic articles. I don’t recall now what the exact issue was. The point is, The Nation has a pattern when it comes to Muslims & Palestinians.

I don’t care if they post my comment. It’s not like burning down the library at Alexandria. I’m posting this because their refusal to publish my objection is an editorial choice & one which sides with Islamophobia. That should be noted.

Japan offers paltry contrition & chump change for decades of sexual slavery involving thousands of women

Comfort women (REUTERS:Hong Ki-won:Yonhap) Dec 29 2015

It’s politically fashionable these days to defend prostitution as just another way for women to earn a living & to rebrand the commodification of women & children’s bodies as “sex work.” That approach derives from the prostitution industry itself (much like the 2011 “slut walks” phenomenon) as a public relations stunt to legitimize prostitution which has taken in many elite feminists as well as leftist anti-feminists. Flaunting a regrettable disdain, they think it suitable work for poor & working class women but not a career choice for their own daughters. Rebranding & cinematic glorification notwithstanding, prostitution remains what it has always been–the often violent sexual exploitation of poor women & children. And for the record, it is not the ‘oldest profession for women’. That would be farming.

Those unable to envision a world where women are not for sale, or even worse, women & children are not trafficked, are suffering the cognitive dislocations of misogyny. Part of the cognitive problem is the denial of realities about the character of prostitution which begins with economic coercion, proceeds with degradation & violence, & often ends in murder. It has an astronomical humiliation & homicide rate which office & factory work do not.

Prostitution & the trafficking of women & children is inextricably connected to militarism. It’s often the place young men are introduced to the notion of women as commodity & where they develop a violent twisted attitude toward sex & women. There is an excellent library of research by feminists on the relationship of prostitution & militarism–most of it difficult to read because of the sadism & hatred involved in the flesh market.

Now we are confronted with the undeniable realities of militarism & prostitution in the agreement reached between the governments of South Korea & Japan over the Japanese military practice of sexual slavery in WWII & earlier involving an estimated 200,000 to 410,000 “comfort women” from countries occupied by Japan. (The numbers are disputed–especially by Japan.) Women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Portuguese Timor (now East Timor) were forcibly relocated to military brothels in those same countries as well as New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, & French Indochina. Some Dutch & Australian women were also involved as sex slaves.

Most of this history was buried because of the social shame involved & more importantly, the massive physical & psychological trauma suffered by so many women. They began to speak out in the 1950s & since then considerable research & political agitation has been done to demand the Japanese government face the music for these monstrous crimes against so many women. It’s taken over 70 years for Japan to even acknowledge what it did.

The agreement reached Monday between South Korea & Japan was brokered by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe whose own father was involved in sex trafficking for the Japanese army. The agreement doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Japan made a reluctant apology & pledged $8.3 million to provide care for the women who are now in their 80s & older & suffer many health problems as a result of the violence & psychological abuse. Paltry contrition & chump change is not what justice demands. There are only about 50 South Korean women still alive. What about the women from the other countries involved?

Media is portraying the US as a morality broker in this dispute just as they were often portrayed as liberating the “comfort women” when they defeated Japan. It’s like a rendition of Hollywood WWII movies glorifying the US Marines. Except that the US still has nearly 100,000 troops in South Korea & Japan where prostitution serves as an auxiliary force. It may not be sexual slavery but it does involve children–which is rape. The US war in Vietnam created massive problems with prostitution in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, & elsewhere in Southeast Asia. There were lawsuits by Filipino women against the US Navy because it administered prostitution, including children, & when it pulled out left thousands of orphaned homeless children by US soldiers without providing for their welfare.

The remilitarization of Japan & the entire US buildup in the region going on now is a direct threat to women & children. That’s why it is so important to oppose the current in US feminism supporting war as a way to liberate women. That’s why it’s so imperative that the antiwar current in feminism become more assertive & organize women to oppose every damn US move to war.

The women here are former South Korean “comfort women” watching television news about the new agreement. They reside at the House of Sharing, a special shelter in Gwangju, South Korea for Japan’s sexual victims from the occupation of Korea & WWII.

(Photo by Hong Ki-won/Yonhap/Reuters)

Ethan Couch escaped a life sentence when I wasn’t chosen for the Texas jury

Ethan Couch

Good thing I wasn’t on the jury for the “affluenza” kid who got away with vehicular homicide using the defense his parents never said no to him. I’d have sent him up the river just for the snotty look on his face. News today is they picked him & his mother up in a resort area of Mexico after they went on the lam. Nothing like being a fugitive living the high life in a luxury suite.

The best response is from Martha Odom: “What now…a good spanking?”

(Photo of the snotty kid, Ethan Couch)

Shooting of Tamir Rice: unfortunate mistake or part of war on Black youth?

Tamir Rice  (the Jan 9 2015

This is 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was fatally shot by Cleveland police in November 2014 while playing in a park with a toy gun–what media refers to as “brandishing a replica gun” to make the crime less odious.

A grand jury refused to bring charges against either of the two officers. The prosecutor, who set up the case probably to create that eventuality, said there were a series of mistakes that led to the shooting but no criminal culpability. It was just an unfortunate accident.

Accidents do happen, including to well-trained policemen. But when these accidents keep happening between Black youth & police officers in cities around the US, they move beyond unfortunate mistakes to patterns of oppression.

People around the US have been protesting & demanding accountability. The family has filed a civil suit but nothing will compensate for the loss of this young boy except justice.

Our deepest condolences to the family of young Tamir. May he RIP.‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬.

(AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)

Feminism on forced march in China?

Chinese flight attendants (Xinhua Press:Corbis) Dec 29 2015

So glad to see feminism making such headway in China with the audition of these prospective flight attendants: conformity, uniformity, & preoccupation with youth. This must be where you graduate to from sweatshops. If they don’t make the cut with the airlines, they can join the army.

What part of China’s mixed economy is this? Communism or capitalism? Or a regrettable hybrid of the both? Thank heavens for China’s working people rising up more often in rebellion. It will be thunderous & glorious when they once again throw off the shackles of tyranny. Hong Kong activists are leading the way but they are not alone & they are up against a mighty, well-armed force.

This isn’t said boastfully when US working people are still sitting on their leaden asses. Rebellion has a conservative inertial dynamic since it’s only safe in numbers & with a clear perspective. But when it comes, it comes like a force of nature & has the capacity to change the world to make it suitable for human beings to live & love in. Now a vision, this can be a reality.

(Photo from Xinhua Press/Corbis)

Arshia Malik: another Muslim feminist shilling for Islamophobia

Kashmiri women : Dar Yasin:AP Dec 29 2015

It may come as a surprise to many but Islamic feminism is a vast field of study. At the University of Texas library where I do research, there is a considerable section of books on the subject–far more by several shelves than on the subject of Kashmir. One doesn’t even know if Islamic feminism should be a distinct subject since there is no field of study identified as Christian feminism–though Zionists have made Jewish feminism quite a preoccupation. Of course it’s true that culture, & religion as part of that, gives women’s oppression a particular cast requiring analyses sensitive & cognizant of differences.

There is no theoretical matrix that feminism must adhere to. It’s not an authoritarian creed. But the problems women face in every culture are all expressions of the same phenomenon–the violent, hateful, & insidious disrespect of women in private, social, & political life.

Women’s attire has always been a subject of scrutiny by feminists–from the scanty outfits worn by women athletes relative to males; to the misogynist promotion of naked protesting; to the Islamophobic fetish with the veil Muslim women wear. There are many clothing issues but when the veil takes priority over sexualized attire in political discourse to represent male dominance, we ought to smell a stinking rat.

Ironically, feminism & the social movements of oppressed nationalities have made society sensitive to that thing called “multiculturalism.” Even the white supremacist David Duke tips his hat to it to peddle his rancid message. So it’s obvious they can’t drag non-Muslim feminists out to attack the veil. Instead they beat the bushes for unsavory characters like Asra Nomani who calls herself a Muslim while excoriating Islam & denouncing the veil & doing so in a way non-Muslims could not pull off & principled people would not whilst Muslims are under international attack. Now the Nation magazine has published an article titled “Is hijab really a symbol of liberation when millions are oppressed into wearing it?” by a Kashmiri Muslim woman named Arshia Malik.

Her argumentation, such as it is, is absolutely banal & directed at feminists like me who defend women’s right to wear whatever the hell they want without damnation. In her contorted logic, our solidarity places us in league with the Taliban & Wahabbist/Salafist forces in Muslim societies. Is she for real? She cannot, or will not, distinguish between societies like Iran & Saudi Arabia that impose the veil & women who choose to wear it.

Malik doesn’t have to like wearing the veil; I didn’t like the veil when I was a nun because it was too hot in the summer & I don’t like things on my head even in winter. But that’s all personal. Why can’t Malik see what’s going on politically? She lives in Srinagar where women in veils are leading protests against the Indian occupation. She knows damn well Islamophobia is the ideology of war-mongering. Is she more in accord with that so that she can turn her back on Muslims under attack to join the pack of wolves attacking them?

Most non-Muslims don’t know much about Islam; most Christians, at least Catholics, are hard-pressed to explain their own catechism. Catholics don’t even read the Bible. We don’t know if the Quran requires the veil or not. Who cares? The Bible doesn’t say you can’t smoke, drink, dance, or play poker but many Christians still ban all of them like interdiction came from the mouth of God.

Women in veils are leading popular uprisings in several countries, including Kashmir where Malik lives. If at any time they decide the veil is oppressive, they will remove it & they don’t need polemical discourses from anyone to decide if they want to or not–including the likes of Malik. If Malik wants to serve the cause of feminist justice, she ought to write about the affects of the Indian occupation on Muslim women in Kashmir instead of pandering to Islamophobia among the liberal readers of the Nation with banal arguments indistinguishable from right-wing Zionist Phyllis Chesler.

And for the record: how come no one goes after Mother Teresa for wearing the veil? Is it because she was so in tune with the power elite?

Photo is Kashmiri Muslim workers demonstrating against the government in a one-day general strike, 2012. Do they look like they need remedial intervention about their veils?

(Photo by Dar Yasin/AP)

Texas to become open carry state in January 2016

It’s so not comforting to enter January 2016 knowing open carry of pistols becomes legal in Texas. Guns have to be holstered but I’ve watched shootouts in old westerns. You can can probably still win a gunfight by tipping the holsters up & blasting away. It’s scary as hell that women & children especially become more vulnerable to any number of crimes–robbery being the least of them.

Turds of a feather: David Duke expresses affinity with Donald Trump

David Duke, the prominent US white supremacist & former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan has produced many videos ostensibly to support Palestinian justice which frequently circulate on social media.

No Palestinian supporter or progressive of any kind should touch this pasty-faced creep with a ten-foot pole. He identifies as a “European American” & his only interest in Palestinians is as a way to have a go at & do harm to Jews. But when people object to his videos we are often told he is a changed man who acknowledges what a steaming pile of manure he once was.

Do a google or YouTube search of David Duke on Donald Trump to see the recent video interview where he expresses admiration for Trump as a ‘defender of the traditional values of European Americans’, thinks there is massive racism in the US against whites, opposes immigration because it threatens the “demographic annihilation” of European Americans.

His affinity to Trump is evident & should suffice to cleave all connections between him & us.

PS: I’d post the video here but he tends to stink up the place & it can easily be found on YouTube.

Ayotzinapa 43 protest in Mexico City on Christmas Day

Ayotzinapa protest Mx City ( Marco Ugarte:AP) Dec 27 2015

It was nearly one year & a half ago the Mexican military–which functions as an occupying force in its own country–disappeared 43 student teachers from the Ayotzinapa teachers college near Iguala, Mexico. After a phony investigation, the government of smooth-talking president Enrique Peña Nieto tried to declare the case closed. Only one of the students was found buried but in the search by family & volunteers, the bodies of 100 other unidentified disappeared Mexicans were found in the area.

The families of the Ayotzinapa 43 believe their sons may be held in secret prisons enduring torture & eventual murder & they have not ceased protests demanding the regime come clean about the fate of their sons & return them home alive.

Kidnapping & disappearing activists is one of the most monstrous methods used under neoliberal capitalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people have been disappeared, tortured, & dumped in mass graves like rubbish. Somewhere near fifty regimes employ or have employed this method in the past several decades.

During the “Dirty War” in Argentina between 1976 & 1983, human rights groups estimate 30,000 were disappeared–including by taking them over the ocean & shoving them out of planes. In the Sri Lankan civil war of the 1980s, estimates are from 12,000 to 20,000 disappeared by the military. In Guatemala, over 45,000 were disappeared by the military between 1960 & 1996. In Kashmir, Indian military & paramilitary forces have disappeared over 8,000 (as of 2009). In Mexico, the estimates of disappeared since 2006 are between 26,000 & 30,000. (It doesn’t appear that Central American immigrants disappeared as they travel through Mexico to the US border are included in the estimates of the Mexican government.) Disappearing is also used as a weapon of war by the US in Afghanistan & elsewhere & appears to be the modus operandi of special forces like the Green Beret, who are nothing more than psychotic death squads valorized as heroes.

Disappearing people is a particularly heinous crime because it allows families no resolution to grief. Since the grief cannot be resolved until families have their loved ones back to bury & honor–& thus becomes more wrenching–the disappeared remain an active part of social struggle. They will haunt justice until it is addressed. Decades after the crimes, families display photo montages of those lost. They’re still showing such montages from the thousands disappeared by Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s & still demanding justice. It should also be considered a remarkably stupid crime because it forever indicts the regimes that use it.

As governments try to skirt & trash civil liberties in the so-called war on terror, they will employ more of this method since it short-circuits due process & prosecution for an actual crime rather than just protesting for justice. Educating ourselves & others about this vile crime is part of the struggle against it.

Our fullest respect & solidarity with the families of the Ayotzinapa 43 & with the Mexican people in their struggle to end military occupation which has also taken over 100,000 civilian lives, made Mexico an extremely dangerous country for journalists & Central American immigrants–but a paradise for drug traffickers.

Photo is protesters, including family members of the Ayotzinapa 43, at a Christmas Day rally in Mexico City.

(Photo by Marco Ugarte/AP)