Category Archives: News

French “socialist” regime demolishing refugee camps

French refugee camp dismantled ( Joel Saget:AFP:Getty Images) Oct 2 2015

French president François Hollande is the same kind of socialist as Bernie Sanders–the racist, xenophobic kind that oppose immigration & support war. His regime has shamefully been razing the shanty towns of Roma & deporting them to Romania in direct violation of the Schengen Agreement allowing working people free movement across borders within EU countries. France & Romania are both EU members. Actually many of them never lived in Romania but grew up in France.

So it comes as no surprise that Hollande’s regime has been less than hospitable to refugees–using police violence against them at Calais & demolishing refugee camps set up near Paris under train trestles & elevated metro lines, in outlying areas, & across the county.

Conditions in the camps are deplorable & squalid since families, numbering from 200 to 400 in each camp, are not provided with basic necessities like toilets, food, medical assistance. What they receive is only from the kindness of French citizens. Under international law, refugees who request asylum, as many camp residents have, qualify for accommodations at a local hotel–not forthcoming under the Hollande regime. Instead they send in demolition crews talking mealy-mouthed about public health concerns. Whose public health? Because with no place to go, women with children, the elderly & infirm will end up living on the streets & there are fewer more dangerous threats to health.

This is a Syrian women waiting with her kids as the demolition crews move in on a camp under a metro line in northern Paris. The UN refugee agency does not provide assistance to makeshift camps so they have no place to go.

So much for socialism Hollande-style!

(Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Satire is the voice of the oppressed. not the oppressor

The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili

PBS did a special report tonight on the 10th anniversary of the Muhammad cartoon controversy when a Danish newspaper published twelve editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in demeaning & outrageous ways. The publication set off protests by Muslims around the world–which media characterized as violent riots.

The PBS report interviewed the editor of the paper & two of the cartoonists who all live under guard because of death threats. The entire coverage was about the right of blasphemy in democratic societies & included homilies about how Muslims have to learn tolerance & put up with ridicule in the interests of democracy. The assumption is that all Muslims are involved in the threats rather than just some extremists–because of course, all Muslims are terrorists.

Iconoclasm is an old tradition in art. Dada art in Weimar Germany used it to pillory the corruption of the power elite & did not exempt religion in their sarcasms. But just as old as that artistic tradition are protests & even vandalism by religious groups against insults to their beliefs. There are thousands of protests by Christians against films like The Exorcist, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, The Passion of the Christ; protests against art exhibits like that of Robert Mapplethorpe (for pornography), Chris Ofili & Andres Serrano (for blasphemy), even Picasso for Guernica; protests against writers like Salman Rushdie, Henry Miller, even Gustave Flaubert for Madam Bovary.

Much of the stuff is offensive if you consider respect for religion important even if you don’t agree with the beliefs. Many people don’t have that respect & want to push the limits of free speech with insult. Others are just working out psychological conflicts in their break from religion or over sexuality. Iconoclasm is risky art & hardly all worthy. If you’re going to produce it, you probably hope it will offend–which doesn’t mean you deserve a death sentence but does mean you’re going to get some flak.

The difference with the Muhammad cartoons, like the Charlie Hebdo crap, is that the works are not directed at abuses of authority but intended to offend the believers themselves & are an act of aggression & contempt. Satire directed against power is a weapon of the oppressed but against the marginalized & persecuted is nothing but lowlife ridicule to make them feel small & powerless.

In 2005, when the Danish paper published the cartoons, the US was using Islamophobic social hatred to justify its barbarisms in Afghanistan & Iraq. While Christians are not persecuted in most places, Muslims were & are sustaining ethnic cleansing in several countries like India, Kashmir, Burma, China, Bosnia, Sri Lanka.

Those who defend this iconoclasm against Muslims point to Islamic fundamentalism & repressive Islamist regimes. There are compelling social, economic, & political reasons for the emergence of Muslim fundamentalism & these need to be studied. Shooting your mouth off in one genre or another contributes to persecution & violence against Muslims & has precious little to do with free speech.

This is not a defense of fatwas or vandalism against artists but a simple assertion that when the target of blasphemy & insult are people whose practices are being outlawed, mosques torched, & countries bombed, then iconoclasm in art becomes a weapon of oppression & not an expression of human freedom.

The photo is The Holy Virgin Mary by British artist Chris Ofili which provoked protests & threats when it was hung in the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 because it includes elephant dung. It was eventually vandalized.

What Palestinian bantustate does that flag waving at the UN represent?

Gaza (EPA) Oct 1 2015

Can someone explain, to those of us who are confused, what Palestinian state that flag now flying at the UN represents? Is it the bantustate of Gaza which the UN says could be uninhabitable in less than five years? Where half a million people are displaced, homeless, & living in cement rubble? Where 75 percent of the households are “food insecure” & which Israel still controls with an economic blockade?

Or is it the West Bank bantustate under military occupation by Israel–the one surrounded by a cement wall where Palestinians have no rights, where settlers torch homes & mosques, poison water wells, uproot olive trees, brutalize & murder children with impunity? Where Israel keeps confiscating lands for Zionist settlements? Where Palestinian protesters are incarcerated for at least four years for throwing rocks against rubber bullets, grenades, tear gas, armored vehicles?

Or is it East Jerusalem where Israeli police are assaulting & rounding up Palestinians trying to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque from being vandalized?

Are we missing something in that flag thing or is it just another empty gesture? Because to some of us, that banner waving in front of the UN–which has stood solidly on the side of Israeli apartheid–seems like a mockery, a sarcasm, a slap in the face to justice & Palestinian self-determination.

Build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel & demand no aid of any kind to Israel.

(Photo of Palestinians living in their bombed out homes from EPA)

Barbarisms in Bangladesh tannery factories

Bangladesh tannery workers (Abir Abdullah:EPA) Sept 29 2015

During the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (last week), thousands of animals are slaughtered & now is the busy season for the tannery industry to process the hides. Leather tanning is done in many countries but at least 60 percent is done in “developing countries” as Bangladesh is called–a political misnomer since the economic value of working people in those countries is not based on backwardness but on super-exploitation. There’ll be no “developing” going on–except in the number of Bangladeshi millionaires profiting from dirt cheap labor costs & no labor or environmental protections. That’s what sweatshop economics are all about.

These young men work in a tannery in Hazaribagh, a section of Dhaka, which has about 95 percent of the tanneries in Bangladesh’s growing, lucrative leather industry. Leather & leather good (shoes, handbags, suitcases, belts) exports ballooned from USD $663 million to 70 countries a few years ago to over $1 billion in 2014.

The government provides millions in incentives & subsidies to tannery owners without requiring them to enforce environmental or labor laws. There has been international exposure of conditions in the tanneries by human rights groups but no improvements.

Environmental depredations include unregulated daily efflux of at least 75 metric tons of solid waste (containing animal flesh, dissolved hair, fats) & liquid waste (a toxic potpourri of dyes, chemicals, pesticides, lime, formaldehyde, bleach, heavy metals, sulfuric acid, lead). Not a single Hazaribagh tannery has an effluent treatment plant to process waste which flows through open gutters (where people live & children play) & into Dhaka’s main river, the Buriganga.

Labor law violations include child labor & lack of any safety protections. As a result, tannery workers suffer many debilitating health conditions–particularly skin & respiratory ailments & disfigured or amputated limbs. They endure discolored, itchy, peeling, acid-burned, & rash-covered skin; fingers corroded to stumps; aches, dizziness, nausea. According to the World Health Organization, half of Hazaribagh’s tanning workers have respiratory disease, including the children, & 90 percent will die before they turn 50. What kind of crap is that!

Contaminated leather waste products are processed into feed for the growing poultry industry in Bangladesh. It doesn’t require a single epidemiological study to understand that feeding animals chemical, contaminated offal will compromise animal & human health, yet there is no government monitoring of poultry feed production.

How has it happened that human beings have become not just the chattel but the offal of the global production system? But Bangladeshi workers are standing up by the thousands against these conditions despite massive labor repression. International solidarity is required not to take away their jobs but to enforce the highest standards of protection.

Photo is tannery workers in Hazaribagh working with several toxic chemicals but completely unprotected.

(Photo by Abir Abdullah/EPA)

Attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque are a call to arms for Palestinian supporters

Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque are an extremely threatening provocation & a call to arms for Palestinian supporters around the world. Emergency rallies at Israeli embassies should be considered.

Here in McAllen, on the US border with Mexico, we are assembling local activists for a rally next week. We have no Israeli embassy so will be protesting at the US federal building.

It only takes a placard & commitment. My introduction to Palestinian solidarity was during the 1967 war. I was troubled by the pro-Israel hysteria in media & when I saw a lone Palestinian picketer in front of the student union at the University of Minnesota, asked him why he was picketing. He answered–probably afraid of being attacked–that “they stole our land.” I knew something was off in media & his picket prompted me to seek out answers.

Rallies are educational events that make people question what they hear on the news. So consider a rally–even if it’s only a few.

Media’s lying-assed reporting on assaults on Al-Aqsa mosque


Media reporting of what’s going on at Al-Aqsa mosque takes the cake for lying-assed journalism. That’s nothing new; it’s gone on for 67 years twisting colonialism into an epic Exodus myth. We can thank our lucky stars the Palestinians called for BDS, the boycott of Israel, which has broken through the propaganda wall & allowed humanity to see the truth of apartheid Israel.

According to media reports, which are based on Israeli police statements, Palestinian youth have barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque & are lobbing firebombs, rocks, & other projectiles at Israeli police. They’re not supposed to be there, according to the police, since males under 50 have been banned for months. Media can’t even report that fact honestly–let alone condemn it as an abridgment of religious freedom. They claim Israel imposes that ban “at time of unrest,” though it’s been in effect for nearly a year. They also say women of all ages are allowed, ignoring that just a few weeks ago Israel imposed a blacklist on certain Palestinian women entering the mosque.

The police spokesperson claimed the security guards of the mosque (associated with the Jordanian trust that governs the mosque, not with the Israeli police) allowed the “desecration of the sanctity of the place.” They didn’t say if the mosque guards are armed but we know the Israeli police are shooting off rubber-coated metal bullets, stun grenades, pepper & tear gas with no regard for the sanctity of human life let alone the mosque.

In what seems like a non sequitur, police report that Monday was the first day of Sukkot, a week-long Jewish holiday about the exodus. What the hell does that have to do with the mosque since Jews & all other religions are forbidden to worship there by agreement between Israel & the Jordanian trust? All the reported clashes going on in alleyways leading to the gates of Al-Aqsa are because Israeli police are allowing political extremists, religious nut-cakes, & Israeli “tourists,” to enter the Noble Sanctuary to provoke & cause trouble. They are waging a campaign to destroy the mosque & reclaim the site for Zionism–the only religion they swear fealty to. Prayer is the last thing on their mind but if they feel the need to talk to God, they can walk around the compound to the Wailing Wall & pray up a storm in the plaza Israel built where Palestinian homes used to stand.

According to Haaretz, Israeli police ushered in 729 visitors, including 592 Israeli “tourists,” while Palestinian protesters are being arrested all over East Jerusalem. How stupid do they think we are!? This is nothing but a provocation.

This is a very serious situation. Israeli provocations at the mosque caused the second Intifada, a period of intense conflict between Palestinians & Israel that lasted from 2000 to 2005. Is that what Israel is trying to provoke in order to massively increase violence against Palestinians?

Calling emergency protests at Israeli embassies in defense of Al-Aqsa is certainly in order. Build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel & demand no aid of any kind to apartheid Israel.

Photo is Israeli police patrols in the alleyways of the Old City where protesters like this woman stand steadfast.

(Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Kanye West is a political loser

Kenye West will perform in Tel Aviv tonight despite appeals from Palestinians to honor the cultural boycott. That he’s a punk is not news–especially since he visited Israel just a few months ago with his family. You always hope for the best in people, even those certain to disappoint you.

There’s big money invested in getting performers to ignore BDS but on top of that West appears to be an incorrigible meathead. Put him on your punk-list.

Pope Francis meets Kim Davis on the sly

Kim Davis (Timothy D. Easley:AP) Rowan KY county clerk :Sept 30 2015

The lawyer for Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis, who denied marriage licenses to gay couples, reported yesterday on CBS news that his client met with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington, DC, during his recent visit. A Vatican spokesperson initially dodged questions about the visit but told the NY Times he “did not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add.”

According to the lawyer, the pope thanked Davis for her courage & told her to“stay strong.” They exchanged embraces, felicitations, & the pope gave her a rosary–even though she’s protestant.

There can be no possible objections to Pope Francis meeting with Davis or, for that matter, political opponents of funding Planned Parenthood, which is now being debated in the Congress. That’s his right, & if he believes birth control & homosexuality are evil, his duty to the church.

It is not anti-Catholic then to criticize Pope Francis when he enters the political arena. When he challenges the political rights of women & gays, are we to stand by silent in the interests of diplomacy & religious freedom? He can say whatever he wants from the pulpit & in his bulls but when he actively engages in politics, then he no longer acts as a pope, ex cathedra & all that stuff, but as a political opponent of women’s & gay rights. And we have a right & duty to respond sharply since it’s our rights he’s messing with.

That’s why the meeting with Davis was so hush-hush; that’s why he came & left the US without openly speaking against birth control. He would have lost a lot of enthusiastic support if he had–including from Catholics.

(Photo of Davis by Timothy D. Easley/AP)

The refugee crisis today is a family affair


The young mother weeping & holding her children just spent five hours on a dinghy crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. The man with his child was injured when Hungarian riot police attacked refugees with tear gas, water cannons, & truncheons. The traumatic stress parents & children sustain dodging border patrols, crossing oceans in flimsy boats & enduring violence from criminal gangs & police must rearrange the brain cells in their heads.

Media, at the service of the European Union, would very much like to portray the refugee crisis as hordes of young men entering Europe–which is very much how they portray African refugees. It panders to the lowest levels of racism inculcated by colonialism & inflames ultra-right nationalists. But because of the nature of war & neoliberal colonialism, immigration & the refugee crises today are a family affair. The crisis on the US southern border is also very much women with children.

The central issue of World War I was competition between European nations over colonial division of the world–issues which remained unresolved in World War II. The current crises are a continuation of European & US attempts to politically & economically control immense regions of the earth where they have no damn right to be. It should be remembered that underlying the two world wars–& despite episodic military alliances–there were irreconcilable economic & political conflicts between the regimes involved. The US aligns with Russia & Israel today in support of Assad but such tenuous alliances can shift overnight.

This situation is not going to get better as Russia, Israel, the US, Australia, Turkey, & other regimes send weapons to Syria along with war planes, special operatives, even submarines off the Lebanese coast. Flight from the war zone will continue. But more importantly, those unable to flee will be subject to unspeakable military barbarisms. It is extremely threatening to the Palestinian struggle.

We should continue to demand our governments open the borders & provide assistance to find housing & social services as should be dictated in international law if it isn’t. The most imperative political need now is to re-assemble the international antiwar movement to demand no military intervention by any country into Syria & for Assad to stop bombing his own country.

(Photo of woman & children is by Santi Palacios/AP; photo of man & child is by Karnok Csaba/Reuters)