Category Archives: News

26th commemoration of massacre at Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Tank Man (Jeff Widener) June 5th 1989

This of course is the iconic image of the unknown protester dubbed Tank Man taken June 5th, 1989. He was particularly courageous in stopping a line of tanks heading for Tiananmen Square, Beijing, because the day before on June 4th, 26 years ago today, the Chinese regime violently suppressed pro-democracy protests. The death toll from that assault remains disputed–some claim hundreds, others estimate thousands. It led to a regime crackdown on democracy which has not yet eased but only gotten worse.

Every year, including today, tens of thousands of democracy activists in Hong Kong commemorate the Tiananmen massacre. As we know from the protests & occupations last year, they have their own beefs with the Chinese regime over undemocratic elections & massive inequality.

Every year also commemorations of Tiananmen confront the falsification of history by those who deny a crackdown & massacre ever took place. Perhaps they’re too young to know it was followed live on international television for days. There were millions of witnesses; the documentation is beyond dispute & only the most cement-headed ideologue of Chinese communism would be so foolish as to try.

Reclaiming the history of Tiananmen Square is part of advancing the struggle for democracy in China. Chinese students studying abroad are circulating a letter, now with 100 signatures, detailing the violence which is not taught in Chinese schools. A Chinese newspaper denounced the students as influenced by “some overseas hostile forces.” Of course it wouldn’t be believable & denunciations obviated if it didn’t resonate completely with the lack of democratic rights in China today.

There are reportedly thousands of protests in China including labor disputes since it’s become a sweatshop haven & neoliberal austerity is fully operative–& environmental disputes, since the rivers are overcome with green slime & toxic effluents from factories. When the massive battalions of Chinese working people re-enter the historic battle against tyranny, neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, is confronting a force much more powerful than a phalanx of tanks. In the parlance of the street, tyranny can kiss its ass goodbye.

Our solidarity with the tens of thousands who gathered in Hong Kong today to commemorate the democracy movement of 1989. We stand with you.

(Photo by Kin Cheung/AP)

Treachery and “rescue” for Rohingya

Immigrant in Myanmar (Reuters) June 4 2015

Does this picture remind anyone else of Auschwitz? The young man is a refugee off one of the boats “rescued” by the Myanmar navy–likely one of the last navies in the world you would want rescuing you. He’s being “processed” by immigration authorities. A total of 208 refugees & 11 crew members came off the boat last week. All but eight of them declared they were Bangladeshi & are being held at a prison camp a few kilometers from Bangladesh. Myanmar said Bangladesh has agreed to take 200 back & authorities are processing them for deportation. There’s no report about what happens to the crew members.

The eight Rohingya “rescued” are being held for “investigation” & authorities will not permit media to visit them. Those are the ones we have to worry about. They put a spotlight on Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing. They exposed that phony-assed Nobel Peace Prize winner as a pietistic baloney artist. They’re threatening all those business deals the military junta struck (let’s not be coy about who runs Myanmar) with multinationals.

Like the Palestinians & like the Kashmiris, the Rohingya have stood alone long enough. It’s time to start beating the drums heard round the world calling men & women of good will to stand with justice against a barbarous regime under the clarion call that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Our fullest solidarity with our Rohingya brothers & sisters.

(Photo by Reuters)

Rohingya “rescued” by their persecutors

Rohingya landed in Rakhine (REUTERS:Soe Zeya Tun)  June 4 2015

The 727 immigrants “rescued” by the Myanmar navy in a leaking boat on Friday have disembarked after being kept on the ship for four days. They disembarked in Rakhine state, Myanmar–the very place they were fleeing from. This ship is thought to be mainly Rohingya refugees though hundreds of Bangladeshi refugees have been “rescued” on other boats & detained in Rakhine. They are apparently trying to get the hell out of there & be deported back to Bangladesh fast because the situation is Rakhine is not only surreal but treacherous.

The Myanmar government said authorities are moving the immigrants to a “safe” location where their identities can be determined. One report says some may face prosecution for illegal immigration–meaning they embarrassed & exposed the Myanmar regime before the world as monstrous ethnic cleansers & they will be punished for that. Others will surely be incarcerated & tortured. If they survive they will end up back in the concentration camps the regime runs for Rohingya.

It’s impossible to imagine what these young men & others must be feeling as they’re moved around like livestock–unwilling to stay, unable to flee, in fear for their lives & those of their beloved.

Now that we know what’s going on, we cannot turn away. We need to begin elaborating a committed, coordinated, international campaign of political education, solidarity, & political pressure, including demanding sanctions on the Myanmar regime.

Our fullest solidarity with the Rohingya. Your grief & your outrage at oppression is ours.

(Photo by Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

On the objectification of Caitlyn Jenner

Feminists who object to the corporate presentation of transgenderism also objected to the corporate cooptation of feminism through such figures as Madonna–where sexual exhibitionism was promoted as “empowerment”–so that now one can’t distinguish porn from empowerment.

Feminists are being shouted down as hateful & intolerant because cheesecake is a stereotype we object to. Transgenderism is being used–often by males–to castigate & divide feminism as many have tried to divide whites from Black, Latina, & Native American feminists & feminists around the world.

Feminism is an emancipatory vision with a wide spectrum of differences to be resolved. This might be the place to ask men to “know their place.” Women don’t need men to tell us how to think.

Refugee crisis of Rohingya in Andaman Sea by no means resolved

Myanmar navy intercepts Rohingya ship (REUTERS:Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) June 3 2015

Lest for one moment we think the refugee crisis in the Andaman Sea has resolved, we should remember there are at least four thousand people still adrift in boats without water, food, or medical care. There was some big talk from the presidents of Ecuador & Turkey about sending ships & aid which has not transpired. Military aid they can get anywhere in a flash but humanitarian aid never seems to get beyond big talk.

The Myanmar navy intercepted this drifting boat with 727 refugees fleeing Rakhine State, Myanmar & held it offshore for more than three days. Journalists on small boats attempting to document the event were turned around by armed naval patrol vessels & ordered to delete any footage from their memory cards. They were also ordered to sign documents promising not to attempt to return.

The person on this boat gesturing to journalists is a Myanmar military officer who commandeered the refugee boat. Today it’s being reported that after three days of detention & starving at sea, the refugees are being transported back to Rakhine State–likely so Myanmar can get their persecution out of the public eye.

Politicians like Obama are making wimpy-assed statements of protest to the Myanmar regime. They should be issuing international sanctions & ceasing all business with Myanmar. The regime should be isolated & sealed up tighter than a drum until the Rohingya are granted full citizenship, full rights, & the end of persecution. Of course the criminal US regime is in no position to protest; it’s the braying of a jackass. But we have every obligation to justice to demand our regimes sanction Myanmar & cease all business ventures until violence & persecution of Rohingya have ended.

And one last question: where is the UN–so Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to sanctions for war purposes? If they were actually what they claim, shouldn’t they be holding emergency sessions of the General Assembly to impose sanctions on Myanmar?

If you live long enough under neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, without questioning, you end up thinking & braying like a jackass too. Spare yourself that ignominy & stand with the Rohingya until they have found a safe haven now & justice in Myanmar.

(Photo by Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Tsunami of immigration continues in Mediterranean

Africans landing in Sicily (Antonio Parrinello:Reuters) June 3 2015

This is a group of rescued immigrants jubilant after being rescued by an Italian coastguard vessel in the Mediterranean. Over 400 men, women, & children disembarked in a Sicilian harbor. Military operations against immigrants are scheduled for launch this month led by the Italian navy & including several other European countries with warships & surveillance helicopters.

These jubilant young men may not yet know they will more than likely be processed, fingerprinted, & deported back to their home countries. Very few will be given residency & work permits in Europe. But at least they got on shore without drowning or before the EU starts torpedoing ships under the guise of taking out traffickers. Immigrants & refugees will not be the “collateral damage” rued by the murderous EU but the intended victims.

When you contrast the resources deployed by the EU to rescue thousands of drowning refugees to the resources used to terrorize & deter them, it says everything you need to know about EU immigration policy: in any sane society it would be called barbarism.
Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

For the moment, we celebrate with these young refugees & wish them Godspeed on their way.

(Photo by Antonio Parrinello/Reuters)

Dr. Bronner’s soap and apartheid Israel: you can’t wash ethnic cleansing away with organic olive oil soap

Dr. Bronner's liquid soap June 2 2015

Recently I told a teenage friend I would get him my protocol for acne control. After I was laid off my job of 25 years, I studied Chinese medicine & combined that with a study of physiology for classes I taught on skin care (including sun protection) without chemicals.

Sulphur is the basis of all remedies in any modality for skin problems, especially pimples–from homeopathy to drug store products. My protocol included organic sulphur capsules (MSM) & a Dr. Bronner’s olive oil soap diluted with aloe vera juice. (Homeopathic sulphur works well but the cost adds up.)

The boycott of Israeli products has thrown a monkey-wrench into the protocol. The labels on Dr. Bronner’s products are covered with spiritual slogans about world peace but their political savvy is nothing to sniff at. In 2007, a few years after BDS was launched by Palestinians, the company announced they were sourcing 90% of their olive oil (150 metric tons per year) from Palestinian producers in the West Bank through the trading firm Canaan Fair Trade (CFT) working with the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA)–both organizations founded by an American-Palestinian entrepreneur.

This is where the plot thickens. According to Dr. Bronner’s, the other ten percent of their olive oil comes from Israel, including an unspecified amount through Sindyanna, a fair trade business in Israel run by Jewish & Palestinian women. A closer look at Sindyanna suggests they are not so much New Age or apolitical entrepreneurs as compromised with Israeli apartheid. Another unspecified portion of that ten percent from Israel is from what Dr. Bronner’s calls the “Jewish Israeli Strauss family farm.” Here’s where things get real dicey indeed.

The Strauss firm is hardly a family farm. It’s Israel’s foremost food & beverage company; in 2004 the Israeli Antitrust Authority labeled it a monopoly–an enterprise engaged in all sorts of felonies. The Strauss family has deep connections to the Israeli military (IDF). From 1975 till 2001, the company was run by Michael Strauss, a former elite IDF scout. It’s now run by his daughter, Ofra, who posted not just support for but “adoption” of the Golani & Givati Brigades of the IDF on the Strauss website.

The Golani & Givati Brigades are elite units of the Israeli military in operation since the 1948 war to dispossess Palestinians. Both have been involved repeatedly in Israeli wars against Palestinians, including every murderous siege on Gaza.

Well now, Dr. Bronner’s can’t have it both ways. You can’t be all New Age on your labels & continue doing business with ethnic cleansers in your board room. It isn’t splitting hairs to say Dr. Bronner’s should be boycotted until they get rid of that 10% from Israel & sever business (& probably political) relations with Strauss.That 90%-10% split between sources for olive oil may well not be reliable–any more than their designation of Strauss as a family farm.

Some may say, well that’s a lot of business for olive producers in the West Bank to lose if Dr. Bronner’s dumps them as a supplier. The first response is “what is the price we place on human lives in Gaza?” Less than 150 metric tons of olive oil? And the second response is, trust in the power of BDS to bring Dr. Bronner’s to its business senses.

(Photo is of Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle)

Sepp Blatter-ass hits the road

Sepp Blatter-ass, the president of FIFA, resigned today, less than a week after being re-elected to another term. Things weren’t looking good for our man: FIFA was exposed as a criminal syndicate, the long reach of the law was circling his cement head, & he, along with other top officials, couldn’t attend the women’s soccer games in Ottawa, Canada without fear of being arrested & extradited to the US.

Our man’s resignation was probably forced on him by the big guns behind him who want to save not just the image of FIFA from infamy, but FIFA itself. There’s way too much corporate money involved to let it go down the tubes. Sending Blatter-ass packing is a damage control stunt, leaving FIFA completely corrupt & unreconstructed.

Protests in Burundi and neoliberal plunder

Burundi protester (Goran Tomasevic:Reuters) June 2 2015

This is a Burundi protester against the regime of president Pierre Nkurunziza who is attempting to run for a third term of office in the election this month. The dispute is likely less over the illegalities of his campaign so much as what his tenure in office represents. One could be confused & think the protester just got off work at the cassava mill & didn’t have time to wash up but the state of democracy is so volatile in Burundi that protesters show up in disguise, including under foliage headdress, to avoid identification by the regime police.

Burundi has been in a state of acute social crisis since the country became independent in 1962, including a 12-year civil war that ended in 2005–not because the people are belligerent & can’t get along but because colonialism left a hell of a mess & aggravated class divisions. They were still reeling from that misery when neoliberalism moved in to implement the updated form of colonialism.

Nkurunziza is a guy who plays ball with the IMF & they want to see him re-installed. Which is probably why they gave him a nearly $7 million loan in April & have promised $14 million more next year. They’re given Burundi nearly $42 million over the past three years. The country, considered one of the poorest in the world, appears to be living on the dole, with nearly half of the 2015 national budget of $966 million (1.5 trillion franc) funded by “international donors.” Whoever the hell they are, we can be certain they aren’t doing it in a spirit of largesse but to facilitate plunder.

The IMF reports their “economic reform program” for the country is moving a little slow but all-in-all the outlook for plunder is positive: coffee plantations are exporting; infrastructure projects including fiber optics, hydropower, & roads to serve the plantations are proceeding; healthcare & education are in a shambles. Eighty-percent of 10 million Burundians live below the poverty line & the country has the miserable distinction of being the hungriest in the world. Things couldn’t be better from the IMF point of view.

Protests against Nkurunziza’s regime have been going on for weeks. Media reports about 20 protesters have been killed. This is almost certainly an underestimate & doesn’t include the number of those injured & arrested. They are also reporting 90,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, including many leaders of the protests.

Rebellion against neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, may take on what seem inchoate political forms. But to paraphrase Black prisoners from the 1971 Attica prison rebellion in New York, ’tis but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.’

(Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Cassava production in Africa: the neoliberal form of “let them eat cake.”

Cassava worker in Bujumbura, Burundi (Bujumbura, Burundi ) June 2 2015

This extraordinary photo is a young man working in a cassava processing plant in the town of Bujumbura, Burundi in central Africa. Media coverage (what there is of it) of civil conflict there focus on disputes over undemocratic elections. You don’t have to investigate the history but only view this image to know the causes of massive protests go much deeper than which politicians are administrating tyranny.

Cassava was a staple food for pre-Columbian peoples in the Americas, particularly the region now Brazil. It was taken to Africa along with maize culture by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. Under the whip of neoliberal agribusiness, called the Green Revolution, African farming is now switching from maize growing to cassava production. Nearly half is intended for industrial use, including animal feed, glue, bio-fuel, & glucose syrup; the other half is used as a food staple in several African countries. This may be one of the worst cases of “let them eat cake” that human history has ever seen because it’s unlikely Bill & Melinda Gates, whose foundation is promoting cassava production in Africa, consider cassava edible in any form. After all they’re not livestock but the elite.

Ostensibly cassava production is being promoted because it’s a hearty plant that will grow almost anywhere–which doesn’t particularly speak to its nutritional value. The chief problem is its high toxicity in cyanide. In food preparation, people use several different detoxification processes including drying, boiling, fermenting, & elaborate cooking methods. Because if they don’t, they’re subject to any number of catastrophic health problems; acute cyanide poisoning can bring death within hours. Among the health consequences are endemic goiter; neurological disorders, including spasms & loss of control over bodily movements; cognitive disability; & in pregnant women, toxicity can cross the placental barrier & affect the fetus. All of these health problems are showing up among people in African countries where cassava has become a staple food & at a time when neoliberalism in agriculture is accompanied by neoliberalism in health care–the kind of health care systems that facilitate such things as the Ebola epidemic.

This is much worse than a case of “let them eat cake.” This is unspeakable, cynical, treacherous. The people of these countries understand what cassava is doing to them & their children but, given the state of neoliberal isolationism, they often have no alternative for survival. In one instance of drought in Mozambique, all food crops were lost except the most toxic variety of cassava. Due to urgency, processing was curtailed & there was insufficient detoxification. Many died within a few hours with symptoms of nausea, vertigo, & confusion.

So if cassava has to be processed before it is non-toxic, why is this worker in a cassava mill not wearing protective gear? He’s sucking it into his lungs, swallowing it in his saliva & the Gates Foundation didn’t consider safety protection for these young workers an essential part of cassava production? The mind reels before neoliberal barbarism.

The neoliberal agencies promoting this misery are rooted in the US & Europe & the greatest solidarity we can render to our brothers & sisters is to rout them out, not just from Africa, but out of the US & Europe. They’re entirely incompatible with human life.

(Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)