All posts by BabakJoy2014

Save the Children just another corporate front group for neoliberalism

Someone has asked me to post about Save the Children giving their Global Legacy Award to war criminal Tony Blair–awash in the blood of Iraqi & Afghani children. Will it suffice to say they can stick their organization & the award where the sun don’t shine?

The leadership of Save the Children is entirely corporate–insurance companies, investment firms, pharmaceuticals, & the ubiquitous Coca Cola. They are clearly not an improvement on the Nobel Peace Prize committee that selects the likes of Henry Kissinger & Barack Obama. It’s all of a piece with neoliberal power-broking: “you scratch my ass, I’ll scratch yours.”

What’s important is that through these corporate front groups the ruling elite attempts to co-opt & preempt social justice. They do the exact same thing with human rights groups (like Human Rights Watch). A troubling variation on this theme is their co-optation of long-time civil rights groups like the NAACP & the National Organization for Women as well as immigrant rights groups by throwing substantial amounts of hush money at them.

The big bucks assure the ruling elite these organizations will operate within narrow parameters of political defiance, tied to the Democratic Party & electoral politics, & steadfast against independent political action (like the Civil Rights Movement). The big bucks assure that at a certain point what is left of political resistance to injustice becomes indistinguishable from outright groveling.

So it’s just swell Save the Children exposed themselves in this unseemly way. Maybe people will start vetting the trustees & boards of directors before dishing out money to save neoliberalism’s image.

Was Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza genocide or ethnic cleansing?

Gazan girl Nov 21 2014

There’s apparently a fair amount of controversy about the distinction between ethnic cleansing & genocide & when you look at Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza you can sure see why. According to those who parse these things, genocide is intent on mass extermination of a particular ethnic or religious group. Ethnic cleansing includes trying to destroy the entire culture of a group as well through taking out homes, social centers, farms, monuments, places of worship, infrastructure along with forced migration & population transfers. That means in ethnic cleansing they give some of the targeted group a chance to run for it before they mow them down. That also means Operation Ethnic Cleansing was both a genocide & an ethnic cleansing because Israel & Egypt had the borders sealed up tighter than a drum & there was no place for Palestinians to flee from carpet bombing.

So Israel was on a mission–not just to take out Hamas rocket nests or destroy the smuggling tunnels transporting vital needs like medicine & foods banned by the embargo–but to destroy homes & mosques. That would explain the destruction of 161 mosques in Gaza & (according to the UN) 100,000 homes, leaving 600,000 Palestinians homeless. But here’s where parsing gets confusing: what is it when Israel bombs hospitals & ambulances & targets small children?

These legal definitions only matter because they’re used to sidestep condemning Israel or holding them accountable with sanctions for the destruction of Gaza, the murder of 2,200 unarmed people & the injuries to 11,000 people, including debilitating shrapnel damage to children, amputation, & disfigurement.

In the midst of all this there are those who survived & the children who cannot be protected from the terror of ethnic cleansing/genocide. This is 9-year-old Yarra Ziada from the Shujayea neighborhood in Gaza City, an area especially targeted by Israeli bombers. The photographer asked several children to talk about their loss. They’re not old enough to elaborate distinctions; they only know the terror of fleeing bombers.The kids told the reporter what they missed from before the bombing. This child, sitting in the rubble of her bedroom, said she misses her games & red dress & is afraid the bombings will start again. Other children said they missed their dolls, teddy bears, posters, computers, books, clothes, playstations, & kites.

According to Oxfam, given the current state of progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza. Actually, Israel has no intention of letting Gaza get rebuilt. The continuing Israeli embargo of Gaza is ethnic cleansing by other means than bombs. Or is it genocide?

Building the cultural & economic boycott of Israel is absolutely vital to Palestinian justice & solidarity. Gaza is entering the winter season with thousands living in rubble. Those who have means should consider contributions to relief agencies; some may even want to consider a drive for dolls & teddy bears which are not frivolous but have always played an important role in the lives of children. We need to find out from those agencies in Gaza what it is they most need.

Boycott all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729)! Demand “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills)

Obama’s immigration scam

Honduran woman looking for son (John Moore:Getty Images) Nov 21 2014

Who really knows at this point what will come out of Obama’s executive order tonight on immigration? A presidential executive order has the full force of law but can be challenged & struck down & this one certainly will be by the loud-mouthed Republicans acting out their part as bad guys in the shell game of two-party politics.

Obama’s order is not an amnesty like the US granted to about 3 million undocumented immigrants in 1986. It is also not “sweeping immigration reform” as it is being called in media. The Obama regime has set all-time records for the number of deportations & thousands of them are ruthless–grabbing people in workplace dragnets, holding them in substandard, crowded detention centers, busting up families, putting thousands of kids in foster care, & dumping people across the border

Under Obama’s sketchy proposal (& in immigration the devil really is hiding in the details), about 4.5 million of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants will be allowed to remain in the country temporarily without the threat of deportation. They will be allowed to legally work but the restriction is they were resident in the US for at least 5 years & their kids were born here.

The proposal appears to be basically the same offered a few years ago to the “dreamer” generation, that is, those who came here as young children with their parents. It’s now being extended to their parents–& the problems are the same. It’s temporary with no indication of just how long that is. Is it a couple years, a few decades, until reactionary congressmen get a court to strike it down, or until Obama’s term ends? You also have to register with the government so when that temporary provision runs out, immigration knows just where to pick you up.

One should not be dismissive–completely. This proposal will certainly be a monkey off a lot of people’s backs, a respite from being hunted like animals by immigration authorities & deported. But it is not immigration reform & it is not immigration rights & it is not to be trusted. It remains to be seen whether it will mean significantly fewer deportations.

This grieving woman is 61-year-old Blanca Lydia Valenzuela from Honduras. She is the face of US immigration policy. She is at a shelter for undocumented immigrants in Tenosique, a town in southern Mexico. She comes to Mexico twice a year to search for her son Manuel Hernandez Valenzuela who disappeared while crossing Mexico to the US in 2003. He had been working in New Orleans for three years but got deported back to Honduras.

Though it is now legal under Mexican law for immigrants from Central America to travel through the country, in fact Mexican police & military function as the southern flank of US immigration policy. They are certainly implicated in paramilitary & gang violence against immigrants which includes robbery, extortion, rape, assault, disappearance, murder, dismemberment, & burial in mass graves. Thousands have gone missing. Every year caravans of mothers from Central American countries tour with Mexican human rights groups hoping for a clue about where their children are. Senora Valenzuela will most likely never hear from her son again.

Immigration is a human right! Full amnesty for all! Open the borders!

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

If you’re going to speak for Jesus, act like Jesus!

You can tell a lot about political commitments of the unstated kind when people express commiserations about the Har Nof synagogue in West Jerusalem attacked by two Palestinians but don’t say boo about the 161 mosques destroyed in Gaza during Operation Ethnic Cleansing, or the mosque torched last week in the West Bank near Ramallah, or the sustained military assaults & denial of Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem.

That judgement regrettably includes Pope Francis who condemned the attack on Har Nof but has yet to say a word about Gaza or Al-Aqsa. When it comes to justice, you just can’t have it both ways. You can’t denounce a violent act by one side & remain mute on a system of apartheid & ethnic cleansing. If you’re going to speak for Jesus then for heaven’s sake act like Jesus who drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip.

Arsenic in the food supply

You can run but you cannot hide from capitalism. They got it all sewed up, especially the food & water supply. Five international conglomerates now control all the world’s food–which explains why most vegetables & fruits grown today taste like raw potatoes.

Several weeks ago for health reasons & as part of going vegan, I divested my diet of all sugars & grains except rice & quinoa. I was feeling mighty smug at my success in overcoming cravings & losing weight until I read the entire rice supply, including brown & organic rice, is contaminated with arsenic & they don’t know where it’s coming from. If you wash it before eating, only 30% of the arsenic is removed.

Arsenic contamination of groundwater affects millions of people around the world. Several years ago, it caused a massive epidemic of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. It is used in industry & agriculture in insecticides & as a feed additive to poultry & swine. So if you’re eating chicken with your rice, you’re getting a double whammy of the stuff.

Arsenic is a carcinogen & the way the FDA & other health agencies around the world deal with it’s ubiquity is to parse out just how much is legal which has nothing to do with what is safe.
Some times you just can’t look at these things too carefully; you have to eat something. But it may mean the mono-diet approach to nutrition is problematic. Capitalism is going to take us out, one way or the other. Navigating the system is like a minefield. But if you want to stick around to see if it get’s its comeuppance you have to choose wisely.

Media’s delicacy with the truth about Palestine & Israel

Gaza boy (Mahmud Hams:AFP:Getty Images) Nov 20 2014

Media has such a way with words, such delicacy in telling the truth when it comes to Palestinians. They don’t always lie but they never tell the truth. This is 3-year-old Shareef al-Namla who lost his foot “during the conflict between Israel & Hamas last summer.” So deftly, Operation Ethnic Cleansing becomes “the conflict”–like there was any kind of military symmetry between Gaza under embargo & Israel with one of the mightiest military machines in the world.

Those who don’t understand the ebbs & flows of social movements are bewailing that mass protests against Israeli barbarism have subsided & they assume this means a return to political indifference & continuing isolation for Palestinians. On the contrary. Political movements can’t stay mobilized without respite–though this can be a hard thing to accept. There will continue to be rallies around the world but the focus now is on building the cultural & economic boycott (BDS) of Israel, on broadening educational work so that mobilizations in the future will be even more massive.

Everyone can participate in evangelizing for BDS through schools, churches, unions, community groups. You don’t need a podium or a campus. Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza was a historic turning point when that Exodus narrative was exposed & blasted into little tiny bits. Solidarity activists have an opening now to tell the truth & have it heard.

Build the cultural & economic boycott of Israel! Demand “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

We’re not ‘going gentle into that good night’ until we’ve kicked some more ass

Seniors protesting Nov 20 2014

Pensions & education are two of the things targeted by neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. All over the world, there are pitched battles over these issues with seniors, students & teachers arrayed against regimes. Both are central to why Mexico disappeared 43 student teachers.

In the US, where higher education has always been expensive, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that working class kids had a shot at going to college. They needed more workers with high-tech learning & made student loans more readily available. It still wasn’t easy, but it was possible.

The seniors they’re battling today over pensions are from the glorious 1968 generation that included uprisings in several colonial countries & in France, Czechoslovakia, the US, & elsewhere. Did they think we would “go gentle into that good night” while they absconded with our pension plans?

We have seen relentless battles over education on every continent because for the oppressed there’s no going back from learning. For the privileged, learning is often something one flaunts to show superiority–like a pedigree. For the oppressed, learning is a way to understand why inequality is so exacting–or it’s a ticket out of hell.

Speaking personally, I have always taunted that if capitalism hadn’t fought me so hard on getting an education, I might be a Republican or Democrat today. Once they fry your ass on something so fundamental, there’s no amnesty granted tyranny.

(Photo from Massachusetts Senior Action Council)

On Bono, the minstrel of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism

Apparently Bono (the minstrel name for Paul Hewson) sustained more serious injuries in that bike accident than at first thought–when they say he swerved to avoid hitting another biker. Given the reception for the last U2 album, foul play may be involved. Either that or a publicity stunt.

When they were producing the album earlier this year, Bono admitted “We felt like we were on the verge of irrelevance a lot in our lives.” Musical fans have been feeling the same thing for a long time now. Political observers are more damning & eschew the judgement of irrelevant for that of obsequious before power. What other self-respecting Irish citizen would accept an honorary knighthood from Betty Windsor for humanitarian service to Africa? The British moochocracy & former colonial power wouldn’t know humanitarian if it came up & kicked them in the ass. And neither would Bono.

First the rear hatch flew off his plane mid-flight; now this bike incident. At first it looked like karma. Now it’s looking more & more like someone’s out to get him to keep the band from touring. Whatever works.

U.N. goes after North Korea. Ignores Mexico, U.S., Haiti, Brazil, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq

A UN Commission of Inquiry has laid out a slate of accusations against North Korea for wide-spread human rights abuses & crimes against humanity including torture, political repression, executions, labor camps. Based on interviews with unspecified witnesses, the commission claims North Koreans face “unspeakable atrocities” & it’s trying to get the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Wow! Things must really be bad over there. We didn’t realize the UN could take such drastic action on the basis of second-hand information. It does make you wonder though why the US isn’t charged with something for shooting hundreds of unarmed Black kids down in the streets, for tossing thousands of them into prison for minor offenses like scratching their asses in public? Why aren’t they charging Mexico with some heavy accusations for disappearing at least 30,000 people in the past 8 years & for the deaths of 100,000 civilians in their so-called war on drugs? What about Israel & Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza & the violent land expropriations in the West Bank? And come to think about it, what about Brazil, Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq & a dozen later places? They wouldn’t even have to rely on second-hand testimony for those countries.

Even the Pope can’t have it both ways

Pope Francis Nov 18 2014 (Fox news)

The one thing you can say for sure about Pope Francis is that he knows how to play both sides of the street. He’s been stringing gays along for a while now with equivocal comments about gay sexuality, same-sex marriage, & their place within the church. But equivocation is reaching its limits & the one thing that has become certain is that the pope will remain Catholic.

A few weeks ago he convened The Synod on the Family, a meeting of cardinals in Rome to reconsider the church’s traditional views on same-sex & divorced families. They concluded that God likes things just the way they are, in accordance with the prejudices of the College of Cardinals.

Now this week Pope Francis convened an ecumenical Vatican conference called Complementarity of Man & Woman. Well it’s ecumenical only in the religious sense with Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, & a pile of Catholic prelates. But that ecumenical thing really takes a beating when it comes to politics since most of those attending are about as right wing as they come. They’re the “traditional family values” crowd.

That complementarity thing has other limits, since of the 30 speakers asked to address relations between men & women, only six were women. One of them was a nun named Sr. M. Prudence Allen. Sr. Mary Prudence is an advocate of the New Feminism based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II who tried to root the complementarity stuff in his Theology of the Body–which looks to most like Sex Education 101: the physical make-up of the genders makes it appear they’re made for each other. How astute an observation! But from physiology John Paul II leapt to the social conclusion that women should reject male models of “domination”, value their roles as mothers & caretakers, & honor the “feminine genius” of empathy, emotive capacity, subjectivity, communication, intuition, interpersonal relations. And he thought he was being so original! When you translate that from Vatican Latin, it means the pope wants things too stay just like they were in 1952. Well you can take that empathy stuff as an excuse to deny women justice & shove it. John Paul is not the first to pull that stunt & he won’t be the last.

The big quote from Pope Francis coming out of the complementarity conference is that “children have the right to grow up in a family with a father & a mother.” Well that’s a problem in the real world. Because if neoliberal barbarism has done anything, it has smashed the foundations of stable social life, including family relations. War, immigration, unemployment devastate social life, separate families in the most wrenching ways. For example, it would have been good if Pope Francis had thought about the affects of Israeli ethnic cleansing on families in Gaza & it’s not too late for him to speak out.

Pope Francis has really taken up the mantle of New Feminism–which is the old family values schtick–& will be attending another conference on complementarity in the US next year. A lot of people hold out hope for the pope but he’s proving more & more that the new Vatican is very much like the old Vatican.

(Photo of Pope Francis from Fox News)