Farmworkers in Baja California, Mexico reach settlement with agribusiness

Fidel Sanchez:Mexico (Don Bartletti:LATimes) June 7 2015

More than 50,000 farmworkers across Mexico’s Baja California peninsula (about 200 miles south of San Diego) have been on strike since mid-March against low pay, harsh working conditions including unpaid overtime, & labor abuses including sexual abuse. An estimated $80 million of produce, mostly tomatoes & strawberries slated for export to US supermarkets, rotted in the fields while strikers demanded health benefits, overtime pay, days off, water, work breaks, an end to arbitrary firings & abuse by field bosses & for wages to be raised from US $8 to $10 a day to about $20. Very modest demands when a pint of strawberries sprayed with pesticides sells for $4 to $5 a pint in US markets. The strike crippled the Baja state’s agricultural export economy.

The farmworkers have now accepted a settlement, which is hardly optimal, including an average $4 a day wage increase. The Mexican labor department helped negotiate the settlement & pledged to ensure agribusiness compliance because it needs to protect its agribusiness export economy & assure investors Mexico is a safe haven for super-exploitation. Mexico is where agribusiness first employed the neoliberal methods of the so-called Green Revolution & is a showcase of land expropriations from small farmers, chemical farming, & cheap & child labor.

Fidel Sanchez, the farmworker negotiator shown here (overcome with tears at the end of the strike), & some other strike leaders were farmworkers in the US for different periods of time. Without an ounce of sarcasm, media reported that after labor activism in US fields they became more militant & less tolerant of rotten labor conditions in Mexican fields. They certainly didn’t learn their militance from the US labor movement but from organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) which employs consumer boycotts & other pressure tactics against agribusiness, fast food joints, & supermarkets. The US labor movement couldn’t even get off its ass in 2012 to oppose the use of child labor in US agribusiness or to implement safety & protective laws for them. Over 800,000 child farmworkers work without water, with pesticides, using dangerous tools, & around livestock.

In truth, the US labor movement may have learned much more from the immigrant workers since many militant striking teachers & miners from Mexico were forced to flee here against threats of violence & death after their role leading strikes. And that remains a problem for Sanchez & the other strike leaders–highlighting their immense courage & our need to maintain vigilance lest a consumer boycott & other political actions become necessary in their defense against the Mexican government & agribusiness.

Our deepest respect to the farmworkers of Baja & to their leaders. Their intransigent stand against agribusiness has the potential to inspire others–& not just farmworkers.

(FYI: Driscoll’s is the US strawberry distributor most involved in this strike.)

(Photo by Don Bartletti/LA Times)

Refugees in Kos, Greece obstruct tourists view of harbor (more’s the pity)

Syrian refugees in Kos ( Dan Kitwood:Getty Images) June 5 2015

Thousands of refugees continue to arrive on the Greek island of Kos from Turkey which is only two-miles away. The Kos economy is based mainly on farming & tourism & reportedly is a favorite resort for Britons because of its historic ruins & beautiful beaches.

According to some British media, tourists are becoming quite disgruntled with the thousands of immigrants & are threatening to boycott the island. They’re tired of having to push luggage & bicycle past crowds of curious immigrants, having their view of the harbor obstructed, seeing laundry drying on guardrails, having their sunbathing disrupted, & seeing immigrants sleeping on benches & public streets. Hopefully that means they’ll go straight home & organize protests against the wars & violence perpetrated by their government which is causing this tsunami of fleeing refugees.

Some of the media coverage is indistinguishable from farce–so reminiscent of the hysterical propaganda (in both the sense of hilarity & panic) circulated during the McCarthy era in the US. Communists then were hiding in the bushes & putting fluoride in the water to corrupt the morals of youth. Now they report the “human trafficking” trade out of Turkey is thought to be controlled & financed by ISIS & that ISIS operatives are on the dinghies posing as refugees. Boogey men are everywhere.

They also report that in 2010, before US-NATO bombers took out Libya, Gaddafi demanded 5 billion euros a year from the EU to block the flow of immigrants from the North African coast to Italy or he threatened to “turn Europe black.” Media reports say that Gaddafi’s deeply repugnant proposal (which has only been reported in tabloids so could be fabricated or exaggerated) may be a key strategy of ISIS to crush the West. Of course nothing has proven more effective in creating massive immigration from North Africa than the US-NATO war against Libya.

Media report the claims of unidentified “European intelligence agencies” that ISIS has already started a “psychological attack” on Europe by flooding the continent with refugees using Kos as their entry point & ruining the vacations of white tourists. There are always new lows to white supremacist anxieties & derangement & to war propaganda–just when you think they can’t go lower.

It’s a pity that refugees are interrupting vacations in Kos. Lord we wish we cared. The photo is a Syrian woman with her children just rescued in a drifting dinghy offshore.

Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Tribute to Li Wangyang, a tribune of democracy in China

Li Wangyang (Vincent Yu:AP)

Li Wangyang was a worker in a glass factory & a democracy & labor rights activist in Shaoyang, China, who advocated & set up labor unions independent of Chinese government control. In 1989, he helped found a workers’ association to support the democracy movement throughout China that became known as Tiananmen Square & put a poster on a city traffic sign urging a general strike.

Following the massacre of activists by the military on June 4th 1989, Li organized a memorial for the victims. As a result of his activities, he was arrested & served 21 years in the Chinese gulag on charges of counterrevolutionary propaganda, incitement, & subversion. During that time, he was subject to hard labor, torture, beatings which caused blindness & loss of hearing, & solitary confinement.

In May 2011, Li was released for reasons of poor health & checked into a hospital for treatment of diabetes & heart disease where his devoted sister visited him daily. Despite the torture, Li was not cowed. “To accelerate the arrival of a democratic society, to accelerate the arrival of a multiparty system in China, I won’t retreat, even if it means I will lose my head,” he said in an interview shortly before his death.

On June 6th, 2012, his relatives found Li hanged in his hospital room, suspended from a thin ribbon around his neck. Officials declared his death a suicide–& there isn’t a single person outside the Chinese government stupid enough to believe that because Li was blind & had difficulty standing or moving without help. Li remained outspoken until his death in demanding vindication of those massacred at Tiananmen Square. He was murdered because he could not be broken.

Thousands of protestors marched in Hong Kong days after his death to mourn & honor Li & to demand a formal criminal investigation of his death. We should take a moment to honor this remarkable man. May he rest in peace; may his life & death keep us steadfast & inspire a whole new generation of freedom fighters not just in China but throughout the world.

Photo is poster of Li Wangyang at Hong Kong protest.

(Photo by Vincent Yu/AP)

You can’t reason with lesser evilism in US politics

You can’t reason with lesser evilism in US politics. If you try, your eyes go crossed & your brain cells get scrambled into new configurations that make a hurricane look like a balmy day. It’s a peculiar form of cognitive impairment, hopefully sui generis to the US & the rest of the world has been spared, only because they have more worthless bums to choose from than two flanks of the same party.

It’s hell to go through every election when the range of candidates go from war criminals & thieves to the deranged–& lesser evil advocates can parse a significant difference. You can’t endure it if you don’t view their public statements as a low form of satire. Take Huckabee, for example. The list of his idiocies grows with every utterance but at least he expresses the racist & misogynist sewer that is his mind. Hillary Clinton postures as a populist while openly serving Wall Street & militarism & lesser evil voters don’t bat an eyelash when they defend her.

Truth of the matter is, most of the eligible US electorate don’t bother to register; those who do don’t bother to vote & the president is chosen by a minority of the misguided. Bernie Sanders is nothing but an operator using a cagey, though time-worn device to garner support for Clinton. In a speech in Boston in the 1980s, when he still had an ounce of political integrity left & wasn’t just a smooth-talking gasbag, he said the majority of people not voting could reflect good judgement about politicians; it could also reflect political passivity, a cynicism that goes nowhere. That might be the last time he had an original thought & didn’t just play populist.

Sanders was right in that Boston speech. The only alternative to lesser evilism is for US voters to recognize there are no saviors; populist rhetoric will not save the US from growing inequality & militarist destruction. We have to act on our own behalf to bring the changes necessary. When US voters & non-voters alike get off our leaden asses to affect change, that’s the dawning of a new day. Those people around the world being bombed by US drones or with bombs supplied by the Pentagon will at last see something worth respecting in the US.

Tony Blair, the “gassy eruption stinking of farts & sulphur”

Tony Blair  (Chris Jackson:PA) June 4 2015

Tony Blair, described so aptly as “a gassy eruption stinking of farts & sulphur,” has moved from special envoy for the Middle East Quartet (The UN, US, EU, & Russia), interfering against democracy in the Middle East, to a new position chairing the European Council on Tolerance & Reconciliation dealing with antisemitism.

Despite his cowardly & sniveling demeanor he must be held in high esteem by the international oligarchy–likely not for any political creativity but for his more greasy qualities–those indefinable somethings that make him so repulsive. If he worked in a factory, he’d soon have to face the music of his repugnancy & would only be able to survive through his talents of toadyism.

Why anyone would put a hapless character like Blair to deal with the rising incidents of antisemitism in Europe is only a mystery if you believe the European Council on Tolerance & Reconciliation actually deals with xenophobia & antisemitism. If in fact it deals with xenophobia, why doesn’t it incorporate the even greater increase of violence against Muslims, including governmental restrictions?

In fact, the council is a right-wing Zionist group embedded in the highest levels of international Zionism, allied with Israel, & with US & EU neoliberal plans for the Middle East. What that sniveling ‘eruption of stinking farts & sulphur’ will be doing is coordinating campaigns to disrupt BDS & discredit & smear Palestinian solidarity as antisemitic. Really, it will be quite a seamless transition from what he did in the Middle East as envoy for the ME Quartet.

Many cannot resist the temptation to spit or hurl when they see his image. It leaves a toxic miasma wherever it’s posted, requiring exorcism. Feel free to perform one by hurling horse manure at his photo. Regrettably, as we continue to build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel, we will be running up against this decaying wretch who feeds off human suffering. Let Palestinian solidarity be the movement that buries him.

(Photo by Chris Jackson/PA)

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.

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