Chelsea Handler looks for Jewish roots; finds Nazi grandfather

Handler and Peres

Chelsea Handler tries to compensate for her banal comedic talents by grandstanding–like sitting on a camel topless except for Star of David pasties while on a visit to Israel.

Handler visited Israel in January 2015 ‘to explore her Jewish roots” for a personal documentary & referred to Israel as her “homeland.” While there, she did the obligatory photo op with Shimon Peres. There’s a problem with that narrative. Handler was raised in Livingston, New Jersey & has zilch relationship to Israel. Her American father was Jewish & her German-born mother was the daughter of a Nazi. How does that make Israel her homeland? Does she identify with storm troopers?

Handler portrays herself as a blunt-spoken liberal but now that she’s adopted Israeli apartheid, she’s talking the talk. Last Saturday, on an episode of her Netflix show “Chelsea Does,” she said, “This is not a popular thing to say, but if Muslims are primarily the people that are blowing up planes, then I would like the TSA to be searching Muslims before I get on a plane.” When millions of people are watching your show, you ought to try not to talk stupid. Can she point to a single incident of a Muslim blowing up a plane?

It’s regrettable when you fritter away your meager talents like Bill Maher did before you–by peddling prejudice, stupidity, & social hatred & trying to make it seem just honest humor.

(Photo is Handler with Peres)

World Bank, stinking with largesse, raises global poverty line

Czoton, Dhaka- child balloon worker

There’s some economic news coming out of the World Bank (WB) that many may have missed.  As of October 2015, the World Bank raised the new global poverty line from USD$1.25 a day to $1.90 a day.

The increase is the World Bank’s version of a cost-of-living adjustment except that they say the $1.90 was set using 2011 prices. Why not 2015 prices? Or those of 1892? Originally, starting in 1990, the World Bank had set the poverty line at USD$1.00 a day & increased it to $1.25 in 2008. The problem of course is that it doesn’t make a lick of sense by any measure of economic well-being. In any country in the world, you could earn double or triple the official poverty line & you would still be living in miserable conditions.

In their FAQ sheet on the increase, the WB said over 900 million people globally lived in extreme poverty under the poverty line in 2012 & projected that would decrease to 700 million by 2015. What the hell does that mean? What do you do with that kind of information?

This idiotic measure of poverty has nothing to do with quality of life for poor working people & everything to do with the World Bank’s political manipulations of poverty. The WB exists & works in collusion with the IMF to enrich & promote neoliberal multinational mining & agribusiness enterprises expropriating millions of farmers & agricultural workers. It imposes austerity conditions on countries that ravage social services like health care, education, social services for elderly, infirm, & disabled, makes millions homeless, & creates massive child labor. The WB is a key operator in the impoverishment of millions of people on every continent & doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens to them. African refugees can give volumes of testimony on that score. Witness Greece, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, India, Myanmar, a good share of Latin America, & all of Central America.

In contrast, Jim Yong Kim, the current WB president earns $848,542 a year in salary ($476,360) & benefits ($372,182). Economists at the WB earn $124,000 a year; consultants earn $45 an hour, interns $23 an hour. This is the “let them eat cake” mentality writ larger than grotesque. Are analysts in the top strata of earners in the entire world really suitable to the task or capable of understanding grinding poverty? Can they possibly give a damn except with some twisted sense of pity or noblesse oblige? Who in their right minds can consider $1.90 ($64.60 a month) the poverty line when it’s not even close to what is required in any country to live a worthy life?

This little guy is 7-year-old Czoton, a worker in a balloon factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He’s one of those living under the official poverty line. Balloon workers earn between $10 to $25 a month. The imaginary poverty line doesn’t mean squat to him or his fellow workers. And it doesn’t to anyone without the political purpose of justifying poverty.

(Photo of Czoton is from 2009; photographer unidentified)

As a postscript: It’s of considerable interest that our man Kim, who is a medical doctor, was a cofounder of Partners in Health (PIH) with Dr. Paul Farmer–because it’s not irrelevant to how the ruling elite manage poverty, it should be noted that Farmer has created quite a humanitarian PR image of himself & the work of PIH which many Haitian & human rights activists challenge.

In 2009, he was named UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti serving under Bill Clinton as UN Special Envoy. That would explain why the good doctor with a heart reeking of compassion never made a peep when the UN rejected compensation claims from victims of the cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN occupying troops. It doesn’t explain why Farmer didn’t object to Clinton’s collaborations with former dictator Duvalier or with president & former terrorist Michel Martelly; didn’t object when both Clintons operated as Obama’s agents to turn Haiti into a sweatshop haven; or didn’t notice the Clinton Foundation wasn’t delivering anything for the millions in donations it received. Is the good doctor stupid or has he been corrupted?

Politically compromised Feminist Majority foundation endorses politically bankrupt Hillary Clinton for president

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Andres Martinez Casares:Reuters) Jan 27 2016

Feminist Majority (FM), the foundation behind Ms. Magazine, just announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. Using only hyperboles & outright lies about her actual achievements, they claimed their endorsement was based on her “stellar women’s rights & equality record, but also on her vision for the future.”

There is nothing surprising in a conservative group of Democratic women endorsing Clinton; it was a foregone conclusion that FM would do so given the political composition of the board of directors & the regrettable way they misuse feminism. Clinton’s gender wasn’t the determining factor in the choice but her stinking reactionary politics are because they accord with the politics of the FM board.

FM & its associates have led the monstrous campaign in support of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan under the guise of liberating women from the Taliban & the burqa by bombing the country into smithereens. Board member Dolores Huerta who founded the United Farmworkers accepted the 2011 Metal of Freedom award from Obama one month after his administration permanently barred the Department of Labor from pursuing safety & protective measures for children farmworkers. Board member Lorraine Sheinberg has political connections to & has been honored by the most reactionary Zionist organizations in the US; her husband Sidney is a key player in American Zionism. Eleanor Smeal who announced the decision for FM has always played a central role in yoking the women’s movement to the Democratic Party & counterposing electoralism to independent movement building.

Truth of the matter is Hillary Clinton hasn’t done squat for women’s rights nor for that matter children’s rights. The screeching testimony to that is Haiti. When US Secretary of State, she worked in league with her husband as Obama’s representatives to turn Haiti into a sweatshop haven for women & children workers. She collaborated with the Clinton Foundation in massive theft of contributions for personal enrichment. One could write volumes on the Clinton’s crimes against the people of Haiti.

All the millions the Clinton Foundation raised for Haiti relief & not a damn thing to show for it. Not even port-a-potties for people still homeless from the January 2010 hurricane. The Red Cross at least has six shacks to show for the millions they raised.

These kids are crossing a polluted canal in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where the Zika virus is being reported. The mosquito which spreads it thrives in rainwater, open sewers, garbage, polluted canals which abound in Haiti six years after the hurricane. Zika is apparently a relatively mild infection–unless you’re pregnant or your health is already compromised by homelessness, poor nutrition, stress, lack of medical care. Since the Clinton Foundation didn’t do a damn thing to address the cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN occupying troops, it’s unlikely it’ll do a damn thing to address Zika. But it should provide sufficient documentation that Hillary Clinton & her unsavory consort have never had the best interests of women & children at heart & even have a criminal relationship to them.

Enough with the lesser evil justifications! What about standing steadfast with the women & children not just of Haiti but of Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, & US children farmworkers?

(Photo by Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

An appeal to give abandoned animals a chance

About three or four months ago I rescued a mother dog & her puppy from an abandoned lot where they were scrounging for food. I didn’t relinquish them to a rescue society since I feared they’d be separated & didn’t think that a good idea for either. For a long while, they were all each other had.

The baby, now named Bellissima, fit right into her new family but the mother, named Bella, was a lost little soul. Eyes are the window to the soul in (other) animals too & hers were empty & confused. She didn’t know what to do with affection & was wooden when she received it. But she watched with an eagle eye when I smooched up her baby.

There comes a point in rescue when you see the dog has come to trust & feels his/her place in the family. You can see it in their eyes. I can see it in Bella’s now. And it is truly lovely to see. The baby has become a spoiled brat–which is the way it should be.

Greek seniors again protest gutting of pension system by Eurozone & Syriza

Athens Greece senior (Alkis Konstantinidis:Reuters) Jan 27 2016

When the obituaries are finally written for the neoliberal phase of history, special condemnations will be needed for the treatment of children & the elderly. It is an era disgraced with child labor & sweatshops & massive impoverishment of seniors–all sanctified in IMF/World Bank policies. Greece isn’t the first or only country to face the wrath of capitalist greed but it is a bellwether of what will happen if these attacks on working people are not decisively thwarted & reversed.

This elderly man is at a protest in Athens, Greece over the government’s attempts to ravage the pension system. They’ve reduced pensions already a dozen times at the demand of Eurozone bankers, raising many questions including that of national sovereignty. But of course that whole Eurozone contraption was a method devised by European capitalists to sustain their system of private greed against meltdown.

The capitalist form of solidarity requires assaults on the historic (albeit insufficient) achievements of working people in moderating the inherent inequalities of capitalism–like social security, unemployment insurance, pensions, disability benefits, child welfare benefits, universal health care.

Can you imagine that one of the primary targets of the Eurozone bankers is seniors too old to work but not to old to want to enjoy not working!? None of the criminal partners in this pension heist are providing an actuarial analysis of the cutbacks they’re demanding & media estimates don’t agree. But beside raising the retirement age, seniors are being asked to live on pensions of €360 (£275) (US$391) a month. A one bedroom apartment with essential utilities in Athens costs US$422 a month. That’s what’s called an abomination.

The Pensioners protesting have been joined by thousands of farmers using their tractors to block highways & thousands of other workers because part of the attacks on pension rights includes exorbitant taxation & higher contributions to pension plans. The tangerines being given free to this protester are being dispersed by protesting farmers. The solidarity is magnificent but seniors should not have to depend on free food to eat a square meal.

Unions have also called out their members, on one occasion for a 24-hour strike. Enough with the paltry solidarity, the political equivalent of shaking the naughty finger at the government. What is required is the coordinated exercise of political power, shutting down the country if necessary (which is the very power of working people) to end these monstrous policies turning seniors into impoverished beggars & children into sweatshop workers.

We stand squarely with the protesters of Greece. Je suis Greek seniors! May they bring the bankers to their knees.

(Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

Neoliberalism in Myanmar: a criminal cabal of military junta, IMF, World Bank, & Asian Development Bank

Yangon, Myanmar slum eviction (Nyein Chan Naing:EPA) Jan 26 2016

Under the military junta that ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011, forcible eviction of slum dwellers was frequently used to terrorize & break up the social cohesion of communities. But after the military (which continues to rule behind a flimsy facade of parliamentary democracy) joined economic forces with the IMF & World Bank, whole new dimensions of barbarism are being attained.

The paradoxical hallmark of the IMF/WB is at once the growth of slums through increased impoverishment of farmers & working people & the destruction of slums for purposes of gentrification & development. Development in IMF/WB terms means land grabs for multinational mining & agribusiness operations for an export economy; free trade zones & sweatshops; a tourist economy complete with resorts, swanky shopping malls, tourist accommodations.

The criminal enterprise between the Myanmar generals & IMF/WB is a showcase for the descent to barbarism under the scorched earth policies of neoliberalism in league with crony capitalism & militarism.

The 2011 transition to nominal civilian rule & political liberalization appears to be primarily a PR maneuver engineered to remove US & European sanctions against the regime for documented human rights crimes including child soldiers, child, forced, & slave labor, systematic use of sexual violence for social control & human trafficking, genocide against the Rohingya. Removing the image of a brutal, undemocratic state & ending sanctions opened the country to multinationals who poured into the country to compete with Chinese & Indian business enterprises. It’s not that the US & European regimes let genocide stand in the way of business & profiteering. Scruples over massive barbarism wasn’t the issue, but doing business without scrutiny or criticism from human rights activists.

Capitalism in Myanmar is a mess & that’s glaringly obvious if you read the accounts balances between the military, IMF, World Bank, & Asian Development Bank. The military junta is living high on billions in loans & deficits so they need foreign investment to bail them out–but at the expense of farmers & working people. The regime is mortgaged up to its eyeballs to the IMF/WB.

Through fifty crony companies fronting for a military-owned holding company, the junta has seized hundreds of thousands of acres of land for personal gain, new industrial zones, urban development, & in joint ventures with foreign mining & agribusiness firms. It’s plunder on an epic scale, involving the destruction of schools, monasteries, entire villages, & massive destruction of the environment. Those resisting expropriations have been attacked with water cannons, tear gas, smoke grenades, & white phosphorous incendiary devices.

In all of this Aung San Suu Kyi has shamelessly & publicly stood with the military & neoliberal predation. On one occasion, in defense of a military land grab, she told dispossessed farmers & villagers, “I think we have to deprioritize our emotions & needs when it comes to the greater good.” The villagers booed & heckled her in no uncertain terms. They should have had her prosecuted for treason & felonious banality.

Not only have thousands of rural residents been forcibly removed & forced to relocate to urban slums but thousands of urban slum residents have been forcibly removed & their homes razed, leaving them homeless. The junta is targeting some of the outlying relatively undeveloped areas of Yangon (Rangoon) for development. Many, like Mingaladon (where the airport is located) lack basic municipal services like water, sanitation, & power.

This woman holding her 14-day-old infant weeps as her home is destroyed by government bulldozers in a Mingaladon slum. She is the face of military “liberalization” in Myanmar in league with the IMF, World Bank, & Asian Development Bank. It’s called barbarism.

(Photo by Nyein Chan Naing/EPA)

My political education in Palestinian Intifada

Kamal Boullata

When I became active in Palestinian solidarity at the University of Minnesota after the 1967 war, it was a handful of Arab foreign students & myself. None of them were Palestinian–although it was a lone Palestinian picketer at the student union who drew me to the movement. They all came from quite wealthy backgrounds (& returned to those backgrounds) & their political perspectives were more conservative than my own. It was pre-feminist movement days & I once had to put my foot down about meeting in a local strip joint to discuss activities. But we worked out our collaboration to good purpose.

At one point, Jerusalem-born Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata held an art exhibit at the University. He is a profoundly intellectual man & was (& I believe remains) an activist who spoke, wrote, & contributed substantially to creating political art & posters for the movement. It was from Kamal’s commitment & explanations that I began to understand deeply what the Palestinian struggle was all about. Though he had long been in diaspora, there was no detachment in his politics, which had been an issue in the U of M group. I doubt if my commitment would have been sustained without what I learned from him.

As an aside to this story, I moved to NYC in 1970 for the women’s movement & kept up Palestinian activism at NYU where I worked. Zionist organizations called a Sunday morning rally in the Wall Street area & Palestinian groups called a counter-protest. The rally was massive with hundreds of Zionists & a handful of Palestinians plus myself behind a police barricade across the street. Without provocation, the police came after us with billy clubs. It felt like I was in some kind of space warp as I watched police beating the hell out of the Palestinians, including chasing them down into the subway & continuing to pummel them mercilessly. Though I was in the midst of the counter-protest, the police never even looked at me, probably assuming I was an accidental participant. All of them were injured; I walked away scot-free but traumatized.

I still have a collection of Kamal’s political posters which have historical & current political value. When I retrieve them from storage, I will find a fundraising event to offer them for the children of Gaza.

(Photo is one of Kamal’s current art works)

Attempts to portray refugees as terrorists & as rapists

There’s an attempt shaping up to associate refugees with criminality, in particular assault crimes against women. It’s a clever maneuver to taint them not just as potential terrorists but also as potential rapists–which explains why they’re targeting single men among refugees for deportation. It’s good that attention is brought to crimes against women since we’re more accustomed to having them dismissed as exaggerated claims. But this is just another twist on the theme of using feminism to promote racism, xenophobia, & militarism.

It’s hard to find meaning in the statistical comparisons of rape from different countries. They’ve been done but you can’t figure out what they mean. Quite frankly, they’re almost worthless. We know sexual assault against women & children is a massive problem everywhere but on face value, in the statistical charts, the highest rates are in places like Australia, the US, Sweden, Costa Rica, South Africa, Belgium, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Israel. The countries from whence the refugees are coming have the lowest rates.

Of course there are criminals among the refugees–like in any society this side of Utopia. But this scare-mongering is nothing more than the age-old technique of discrediting refugees & immigrants by associating them with criminality, including drugs. They’ve been doing that with Mexicans & Central Americans for decades but repeated studies by reputable research institutes going back nearly a hundred years show they have considerably lower crimes rates across the board than native born residents.

Let the xenophobes put that in their pipes & smoke it.

BDS victory: Donovan, the Scottish singer, cancels concert in Israel

A victory for the cultural boycott of Israel: Donovan, the Scottish singer, has cancelled his performance scheduled for this Wednesday in Israel. He was going to perform some kind of phony peace concert but the many appeals by BDS activists on his Facebook wall must have made him realize the clash of such an event with Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing. We respect people who do the right thing.

A photo of EU refugee policy worth a thousand condemnations

Syrian mother and children in box (Petros Giannakouris:AP) Jan 25 2016

It’s probably sufficient to let this speak for itself as a photo worth a thousand condemnations of EU refugee policies–not to mention media coverage of the crisis.

This Syrian woman & her two little kids ended up on Pasas, an uninhabited Greek island in the Aegean, & found shelter in this box. How in the world did they end up there? Did their raft sink? Were they dumped by human traffickers? Did they think they were landing on Lesbos? Did anybody else land with them or are they alone? Whatever has jaded media’s investigative faculties so badly that her plight does not merit some elaboration?

Consider the possibilities for what might have happened to them if the photographer hadn’t been around. Consider the barbarism of war & EU refugee policies that she could have died with her children on a deserted island.

The EU, & Greece as the front line of immigration policing, are flouting international law governing treatment of refugees–just as Syria, Russia, the US & the whole criminal coalition are flouting international law governing war.

Immigration is a human right & those who obstruct it should be prosecuted. War is an abomination & it should be opposed.

The historic imperative remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement & open the borders.

(Photo by Petros Giannakouris/AP)