Salman Rushdie’s high-flown sentiments to cover for going after Muslims

This meme from Salman Rushdie is circulating on Facebook: “The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” Such high-flown sentiment sounds so damn noble but it often masks a steaming pile of social hatred.

“Satire” when wielded by the elite against the oppressed is nothing but demeaning lies, ridicule, prejudices, stereotypes. It becomes abusive, violent, & the ideology of oppression. Blacks, women, Palestinians, Kashmiri, Dalits & other oppressed castes, Rohingya, Guarani & other indigenous peoples, & hundreds of other groups can testify to the psychological, economic, social, & political damage of that kind of satire. And to its utter repugnance.

And then there’s the satire of the oppressed where ridicule is reversed & turns power relations upside down; where social prejudice is scorned with contempt & takes no guff from power. That kind of satire has been violently repressed throughout human history & been forced to go “samizdat.”

The power elite have all the freedom in the world to ridicule & vilify the oppressed. Why do they find our satire so threatening & so insurrectionary? And what kind of satire is our man Rushdie talking about?

Sycophancy is a slippery slope: it begins with youthful snobbery & ends with senior groveling & drooling all over yourself

The learning curve in politics can be a rocky one. Sometimes you have to learn from fools what you stand for & what you won’t. Years ago I knew a socialist fellow who was pretentious about his intellectual achievements so as to make others feel small. Done in by elitism, he went on to a respectable academic career writing tripe in defense of US wars & particularly odious crap in defense of Israeli apartheid. Advanced degrees couldn’t save his ass from the fatal flaw of thinking he was better than others & wanting to suck up to the status quo.

He’s now a regular cornucopia of rightwing rubbish who can’t or won’t distinguish fact from propaganda. Periodically, when I survey pro-Israeli walls, I include his to get the latest & came across an article titled “Pew Poll: 63 Million Muslims Support ISIS in Eleven Countries.” Well isn’t that an alarming statistic–even though it’s transparent baloney with the cachet of a Charlie Hebdo piece.

Is it possible our fellow got all the way through to a professorship in an elite university without the research skills considered de rigueur to an honest 7th grader? The article he posted dated November 2015 is from a blog called “The Gateway Pundit” run by a disreputable rightwing creep & notorious liar named Jim Hoft, a Tea Party activist often cited by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, The Drudge Report, FOX news, & the Breitbart tabloid. The source would have sent up red alerts to any serious intellectual or even an emeritus hack who wants to cover his ass.

It took just five minutes to find the Pew Research Center report (from November 2015) titled “In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS.” What did it lose in translation from English to English filtered through the evil-eye of propaganda?

Sycophancy is a slippery slope. You start out wanting to be somebody & treating those you deem inferior in a contemptuous way. You end up a hack, a man who sings for his supper. A regrettable fate for a better man but in this case, his due.

Robert De Niro is a champion of Israeli apartheid

For a long while different memes have circulated showing photos of Robert De Niro with quotes condemning Israeli apartheid. They’re entirely fabricated, lying-assed things & whoever produces them should be held suspect–or at least in contempt. Palestinian solidarity only requires the ugly truth, not deceit.

De Niro is in fact a bold-faced, ardent supporter of Israel & a regular on the Hollywood pro-Israel circuit of fundraisers & private dinners with Netanyahu. He’s also a regular on the Democratic Party celebrity circuit. He often plays antisocial characters, which may not be far removed from type, & has never exhibited an iota of political rebellion against the status quo.

He’s the Vietnam War generation & I don’t recall a single instance when he spoke out against one of the endless US wars of the past 50 years. So when he takes a public & laudatory stand with Israeli apartheid, you get a measure of his politics. They stink. So stop the memes.

Obama’s phony-assed crocodile tears

Obomba crying (REUTERS:Carlos Barria) Jan 6 2016

A portrait of stinking hypocrisy: Obama shedding tears while making a statement about what his administration will do to reduce gun violence in the US.

Obama–the Commander-in-Chief of long, barbarous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen; the military supplier & financier of ethnic cleansing in Gaza & drone bombing in Pakistan & Yemen; the deployer of psychotic special forces to several African countries; the man who promised in his campaign but has not closed Guantanamo & other CIA torture prisons; whose administration has reduced countries like Somalia & Libya to political chaos & rubble; whose administration bankrolls the military dictatorship in Egypt & the feudal dictatorship of Bahrain; who turns a blind eye to genocide of Rohingya in Myanmar; whose administration has not prosecuted police violence in the Black community. This criminal is dropping tears over gun violence?

He’s playing us for schnooks. He can put a sock on the melodrama.

(Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Breitbart tabloid & epidemiological xenophobia about refugees

UnCalais refugee (Philippe Huguen:Getty Images) Jan 5 2015

In December, the rightwing Breitbart tabloid published an article titled “EXCLUSIVE: Syrian Refugees Bringing Flesh-Eating Disease into US?” The question mark doesn’t make the xenophobic fear-mongering one bit more respectable.

The Breitbart article (with subheadings like “Volcano-like ulcers”) is about an infectious disease called Leishmaniasis caused by parasites & spread by sandflies. For over a year, health agencies, epidemiologists, & infectious disease specialists have been reporting an outbreak of Leishmaniasis starting in 2012 in Lebanon among Syrian refugees in the border region. The reports of medical personnel said the outbreak was treated with medications & contained.

The rightwing twitter world became abuzz with reports that ISIS was causing the “flesh-eating disease” to spread in Syria hoping it would wend its way with refugees to Europe & take out the population like the Black Plague. This likely came from the head of the Kurdish Red Crescent who in February 2015 claimed the leading factor behind the spread of the disease was ISIS dumping the corpses of their victims in the streets. But the sandflies which spread the disease don’t eat rotting bodies; they suck blood from living people.

Far more likely than ISIS intentionally spreading the disease–which would take out their own forces–is the complete destruction of the Syrian healthcare system as a result of Assad’s bombing. Recently, there are also reports of Russian bombers directly targeting hospitals & ambulances.

Health agencies (including the UN, World Health Organization, & the US Center for Disease Control) & epidemiologists report that Leishmaniasis is endemic to 16 of the 23 countries in the eastern Mediterranean region, including Afghanistan, Iraq, & Syria & is always a major health concern. They also pointed out that over four million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries are living in overcrowded makeshift settlements without sanitation, access to clean water, & thus increased exposure & vulnerability to disease.

The pathology of the disease, which varies by climate from Syria to India to Brazil to West Africa, is scary as hell. There are 20 different species of it. Some cause skin ulcers, some fatally attack visceral organs like liver & spleen, & children are the most frequent victims.

According to a WHO factsheet, the primary risk factors for Leishmaniasis are poverty, malnutrition, lack of health care, deforestation, urbanization. About 12 million people in 98 countries are currently infected with about 2 million new cases & up to 50,000 deaths every year. Because epidemics are among the world’s poorest people, pharmaceutical companies are not motivated to develop new drugs or vaccines & it is considered a neglected tropical disease. In other words, it’s a neoliberal pathology–caused by barbaric economic policies that destroy people’s livelihoods along with their healthcare systems.

Any reputable news service would do a little homework on Leishmaniasis before they started sending out red alerts. Breitbart isn’t that. But we will take advantage of their irresponsible, racist scare-mongering–what has been called “epidemiological xenophobia”–to learn about this disease & the pathology of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

Photo is a refugee in the Calais camp where thousands unable to move forward to the UK live in squalor without sanitation, access to clean water, or healthcare. Conditions are the same in Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, & elsewhere. To prevent the spread of infectious disease, the answer is simply open the damn borders & provide refugees healthcare & shelter.

(Photo by Philippe Huguen/Getty Images)

Tribute to Louis Braille: champion of disability rights

Indian students reading braille ((AP Photo:Mahesh Kumar A.) Jan 5 2016

Yesterday marked the 207th birth anniversary of Louis Braille, the French inventor of the system now used by the blind in almost every language. Braille was blinded in both eyes at the age of three by playing with a tool in his father’s workshop. His parents went on to raise him without patronizing his disability or treating him as insufficient.

He attended one of the first schools for the blind & found the reading system then taught to be cumbersome. He was a creative, inventive person & at the age of 15 adapted a military code system into the braille reading system using an awl to create a raised dot pattern. An awl is the very tool which blinded him. Braille went on to teach history, geography, & algebra at the school but his reading system was not accepted in his lifetime. His lifetime however was brief & he died from respiratory illness at the age of 43.

Braille was an accomplished cellist & organist & adapted his reading system for musical notation. Today, his system incorporates braille computer terminals, email delivery systems, & a system for mathematical & scientific notation.

Until disability rights erupted in the 1970s, blind people were massively patronized & instructed in helplessness even at schools for the blind. Obsequious & dependent were considered virtues. Braille was ahead of his times in rejecting all that which came primarily from sighted people inept in understanding disability. He said “Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals & communication is the way this can be brought about.”

We should tip our hats to Louis Braille who not only developed a communication system between the blind & sighted & opened the world to those with visual impairment but has made the sighted see the folly of prejudice & of patronizing those with disability.

These blind students at a government-run hostel for those with disability in Hyderabad, India are studying a book in braille.

(Photo by Mahesh Kumar A./AP)