Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

This man is Everado Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras who was arrested yesterday near here with 79 other immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, & Guatemala. Most of them traveled nearly 2,000 miles, some paid thousands of dollars, & most have gone through unspeakable suffering to find work in the US. Many have come to locate or reunite with family members.

US immigration arrested 132 others this week in a location just miles from where the others were found. They were living in what is called a stash house until their transportation further north past border patrol stations on the highway could be arranged. Senor Sanchez & the others were living in the scrub under tents camouflaged by cacti & mesquite trees, sleeping on cardboard, & with little food or water for at least a week. After being arrested, they were all handcuffed & herded on to buses as though they were criminals.

All in all, the US border patrol boasts of over 154,000 arrests last year in this part of Texas–mostly immigrants coming from Central America, & thousands of them unaccompanied minors. Most of the children will be stuck in detention centers, including abandoned military bases; most of the adults will be dumped back in Mexico to fend for themselves. Every morning you can see border patrol buses dropping them off on the Mexican side of the bridges. Most of them have exhausted their resources for survival & wouldn’t be coming here if they could find work in Mexico or in their home countries. Many will attempt to cross the Rio Grande again but on their own, without “coyotes” to guide them. If they are picked up a second time, the border patrol will simply dump them further south in Mexico.

This is barbarism. If neoliberal plunder, including US corporations, were not laying waste to their livelihoods they would not be forced to leave their families & cultures to move here. The grief on Senor Sanchez’s face says everything we need to know about US immigration policy. Let it be damned! And let us do our utmost to join with immigrants in demanding the US open the damn borders. This land is our land; this land is their land. Immigration is a human right!

(Photo by Gabe Hernandez/The Monitor/AP)

May Gabriel García Márquez RIP

When someone in your life dies there is always a sense of something left undone. At first, you chide yourself for the times you lost patience or didn’t give sufficient attention when they wanted it. But later, it’ll be taken over by a sense you didn’t let them know often & strongly enough how much you loved them. This beautiful quote by Gabriel García Márquez from “One Hundred Years of Solitude” summons that feeling so well:

“If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.”

Kim Novak denounces misogynist trashing of older women

What is not to respect about Kim Novak publicly denouncing the ridicule she received at the Oscars awards & the ridicule of Liza Minnelli by Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres? She likened the treatment of older women, including those using plastic surgery, to the bullying so destructive to teenagers.

The obsessive & vicious media scrutiny of celebrity women compels them to starvation diets, dangerous & multiple cosmetic surgeries, umpteen beauty enhancers & prothetics. They are humiliated, even lacerated, publicly for any deviation from the odious standards of being perfect at all times. Their “baby bumps” get monitored, their post-pregnancy recovery to body-beautiful is commented on (the quicker it is, the more admirable it is considered), every weight gain is monitored with scathing disapproval, eating disorders are pilloried, they’re commented on in every gown, in bikinis, in gymwear, & they are recoiled from if they dare appear without full makeup.

You needn’t read celebrity magazines to know all this; you catch it in the checkout line at the supermarket or on the nightly news. No wonder so many young women grow up with an encompassing, even disabling, sense of insufficiency. It’s a misogynist outrage that young women don’t get to enjoy their beauty & their bodies & the vibrant energy that characterizes them. Their so-called imperfections put those loathsome–& let’s be frank, white supremacist–beauty standards to shame. Nature is not improved on with identical prosthetic masks. (Though a little lipstick is always good.) And aging isn’t deformation; it’s a different kind of beauty.

By speaking out, Kim Novak has done all women a great service & we should tip our hats to her beauty, her intelligence, her dignity, & her sense of solidarity with the rest of us. She makes us older ones damn proud.

(Photo from yahoo)

The Rwandan genocide

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide where one million people died horrific deaths. The commemorations of that event necessitate a serious study to understand what happened & why. All the commemorations share the common repugnance of treating it as inexplicable, having to do with religious & tribal differences, & a primally savage African character–a convenient & racist mystification & ruse to mask the colonial politics & forces implicated in this massive crime.

In attempts to study Rwanda & the genocide, I visited two libraries in the area & found six books, five in the juvenile section & one in the adult section. Putting aside the baby talk of the juvenile books, I was interested to read a scholar from Harvard explain that the book, wheel, & hoe were brought to Africa by white slave traders in the 17th to 19th centuries. I’m still scratching my head wondering how that one lone book in the adult section made it out of juvenile detainment since it is nearly as imbecilic & just as dishonest. The two authors of the adult book have missed their calling in fairy tales. This situation is worth ridicule but it is also deplorable since this is where US kids are schooled in racist idiocy & ignorance that serves war & colonialism so well.

Public education in the US is a travesty–& intentionally so–but I’ve always thought libraries (which are usually jam-packed with patrons in any city I’ve lived in) could help counter the weaknesses of schools. This is National Library Week & I would love to report that is so–but that judgement must be modified. I registered suitable complaints with the head librarians.

Many of you well-schooled foreign observers think you’re so damn smart compared to us but we just need a little remedial assistance–like some decent books &, it should be added, the education one only gets on social media from having foreign pen pals.

This photo is part of a project called “Portraits of Reconciliation” by Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer who paired a Hutu perpetrator with a Tutsi survivor. He was commissioned by the Association Modeste et Innocent which counseled the participants & ended the project with formal requests by Hutus for forgiveness from their paired Tutsi victim. So touching & so dishonest! Colonialism gets to walk away scot free.

Israeli army illegally uprooting Palestinian Bedouins in West Bank

There is a genre of portraiture from the late 19th-early 20th century US of Native Americans. The works were mostly commissioned by capitalists like J.P. Morgan to fill the natural history museums they were building at that time as anthropological archives for “primitive” peoples. This was the post-Civil War era of ferocious US Army campaigns against native tribes west of the Mississippi River which exterminated thousands & routed survivors onto reservations. The photos are magnificent but glorified images of vanguished peoples & were intended to be anthropological records of peoples going extinct.

The violent realities of that transition for Native Americans was much uglier than those portraits show; in fact, the photos are very much a form of propaganda & were intended to be. The real faces of people dispossessed of their entire way of life & railroaded by armed militias onto barren lands must have been very much like the face of this small Palestinian Bedouin child who watches as the Israeli army demolishes the tents & sheds of the Bedouin town of Tubas in the West Bank (Apr 1st 2014).

Last year, Israel proposed the Prawer Plan, a barbaric scheme to uproot an estimated 30,000 to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic homes in the West Bank to make room for Israeli military bases, Zionist settlements, & to accelerate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Not just by the unenforceable terms of international law, but by the terms of the Oslo Accords, Israel has absolutely no right as an occupying army to evict or relocate a single Palestinian in the West Bank. But Israel believes its Zionist project puts it above the law.

After repeated protests by Palestinians & Israeli human rights groups (& a few peeps of protest from the UN), Israel formally abandoned the Prawer Plan in December 2013. But it has not abandoned the policy & the Israeli army continues to rout thousands of Bedouins from their villages & demolish their homes. It claims they will be relocated to modern facilities. They of course will actually be getting the squalid equivalent of an Indian reservation. But it doesn’t matter if they were being moved to the Taj Mahal; Israel has no rights whatsoever to mess with the heritage, land rights, property, & culture of thousands of Palestinians.

Just as Israel has been schooled in treachery by the extermination of native peoples in the Americas, so too we must be schooled in opposing such treachery by the history of human solidarity against oppression. The increasing struggles of native peoples, not just in the Americas but around the world–including the Palestinians–have the potential to rout every last one of those colonial schemes & campaigns & archive them in a museum where such primitive things belong.

Support Palestinian Bedouins by supporting the boycott of all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), by supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, & by demanding “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Mohammed Ballas/AP)

Sweatshop industry waging public relations campaign for respectability

The sweatshop industry isn’t going down without a fight. To counter the harrowing images & news from Bangladesh & Cambodian garment factories, they’ve launched a public relations campaign. They’ve thrown down the gauntlet & are going to fight their way back from damnation to respectability. The first volley came in a Los Angeles Times series by a reporter named Kenneth R. Weiss. Our man Weiss holds many journalist awards–which says nothing about his talents but plenty about the state of US journalism. Suitably, he holds a bachelor’s degree in folklore & probably a minor in active imagination. He was given a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to fabricate fairy tales on sweatshop workers in Bangladesh.

In the banal journalistic style so popular today, Weiss picks out a single Bangladeshi woman to give testimony to the emancipating affects of sweatshop work on her life. He probably had to bribe her with a couple free meals since sweatshop wages aren’t enough to buy food.

Weiss does make an obligatory reference to “horrific industrial accidents & accusations of labor abuses” but says the picture of sweatshop labor “gets more complicated” when you account for the lack of options for women “in this poor, traditional Muslim society.” So our man makes the case for sweatshops as part of women’s liberation & gets to throw in an Islamophobic swipe as well.

More important than knowing your opponents in politics is knowing your allies because the phony ones line up to position themselves for a more bitter betrayal. Weiss quotes Sajeda Amin as an authority on how sweatshops have created greater independence for women in Bangladesh. Amin is a sociologist from Bangladesh working for the Population Council in New York & has a whole list of impressive credentials–particularly from the eugenics movement. She has a special interest in young women since she wants them all sterilized to address overpopulation & poverty. Sustainable wages are no part of her equations.

Then Weiss drags out Charles Kernaghan, the director of Global Labor & Human Rights & a frequent spokesperson on Democracy Now about sweatshops. Hopefully Kernaghan is misquoted when he reportedly said ‘It’s fantastic they have this common industry to put women to work.’ Sweatshops are just barely a step above outright slavery & Kernaghan considers them “fantastic” rather than deplorable?

We would be wise to ignore these pathetic fools & apologists for exploitation & listen to the voices of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, & elsewhere around the world since sweatshop manufacturing is the wave of the future under neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. They tell a different story, filled with violence. We must respond to the mythology being stitched in media newsrooms & eugenics think tanks with the truth about sweatshop workers & their increasing strikes & struggles for economic & political justice.

Weiss is also preparing a series on overpopulation, hunger, & women’s rights & is being treated as an authority. He’s no longer receiving a wage from the LA Times but there’s no need to wonder who his paymaster is now. He hit the double jackpot for media jackasses & is likely collecting checks from both the sweatshop & eugenics industries. Shame on his sorry ass!

This photo of a sweatshop in Bangladesh accompanied the article by Weiss. Please note how spiffy & clean it looks & how well-dressed the sewers. It probably cost Walmart a bundle to stage that tableau.

(Photo via Pulitzer Center)

Hucksterism & shysterism in US politics aint Irish

Irish, the sister website of two Irish-American newspapers, bills itself as the website for the “global Irish diaspora,” whatever the hell that is. It’s been a long time since Tipperarry for most of us but now we can claim to be part of a diaspora. I feel like a refugee already & my family has been around these parts for 100 years. Wait till the German side of my family catches on to all this; we’ll be laying claims to Westphalia.

Sometimes the site has useful news; other times it’s making foolish boasts about Obama’s Irish roots as the great-great-great grandson of a carpenter from County Offaly or B. Clinton’s Irish heritage as the great grandson of immigrants from County Fermanagh. One of their newspapers actually named Clinton Irish American of the Year in 1996 & inducted him into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2011. Are they that desperate for heroes or do they just like sucking up to power?

Today they’re reporting about the scandals surrounding Al Sharpton. They’re aghast & simply nonplussed that such an unsavory fellow with a long rap sheet of fraudulent misconduct, including mob connections & being an FBI informant, would have his own MSNBC show. Worse than that, his virtues are extolled publicly by both NYC mayor de Blasio & Obama.

This isn’t the first time Irish Central has displayed a credulity indistinguishable from idiocy. They broke the hard news in 2009 that billionaires Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller Jr., George Soros, & several others were meeting secretly. Have they ever known them to scheme publicly? In the same year, they reported rock star Bono snubbed George Bush by dodging a hug from him. Bono wasn’t snubbing Bush, for heaven’s sake; he was trying to get to his ass so he could kiss it. Irish Central has got to get its stories straight.

The successes of Al Sharpton are no mystery at all if you pull your nose out of a phony Irish history of leprechauns & green beer & look US politics straight in the eyes. Sharpton is from the same political tradition as Clinton & Obama–& that aint Irish! It’s called hucksterism & shysterism.

(Photo of Sharpton from Irish

The perils for Central Americans immigrating through Mexico

Maybe it’s the dirgeful music in this video that evokes such sadness, maybe it’s actually seeing the danger of hopping on & off moving trains, but it’s more likely seeing these young immigrants from Central America trying to mask their terror & tears as they explain why they’re taking this immensely hazardous trek through Mexico to the US border to find work. They have spouses, children, & other family members dependent for survival on their successfully getting across the border. Thousands of minor children are among those traveling. Their lives are endangered every mile of the way as a result of US & Mexican immigration policies which are nothing less than barbaric & racist as hell.

Immigrants, typically starting their trip in Chiapas, MX, have to hop on & off at least ten or fifteen freight trains during the 1,500 mile trip. The trains are called El tren de la muerte (The train of death) or La Bestia (The Beast) because so many immigrants who fall asleep riding the top are jolted off & lose limbs or are decapitated. The crime statistics are harrowing: 80% will be assaulted or robbed; 60% of the women will be raped; according to Mexico’s human rights commission, thousands will be disappeared in mass kidnappings; hundreds will be found in mass graves & others will never be found.

While the train companies & the Mexican government show such unspeakable & criminal contempt for human life, thousands of poor Mexican families & immigrant & human rights groups provide food, shelter, clothes, medicine, alerts about danger, & emotional support along the way. Many of them may well have family who made the same trip; most just know the full meaning of human respect & solidarity.

This governmental treachery is repeated around the world, affecting the lives & well-being of millions of people. Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

(Photo of 29-year-old Honduran man is from video)

Cow fighting in Switzerland: another silly human sport

Anyone who admires cows will at first be quite indignant at this story. Every spring in Switzerland, cows & heifers from the Herens breed (Eringer in German) are made to fight one another in cow fighting contests. Unlike the barbarisms of bull-fighting, it is cow against cow, not human against bull to the death, but it still attempts to turn one of nature’s most docile & peace-loving animals into fighting machines.

They say the Herens girls are a feisty breed, more aggressive than an Angus or a Holstein or all the other breeds, but when it comes to aggression that sure isn’t saying much. To a cow, feisty means stomping hooves, bellowing & mooing, a little pushing & shoving, maybe a some head-butting & locking horns–& drooling, lots of drooling. These days, the Herens are bred specially for cow combat rather than milk & meat since the winner is crowned queen, garnishes a fancy cowbell & big bucks at market. (Now we know where beauty contests came from.)

The Herens are big girls but apparently have no killer instinct at all & are completely easy-going toward humans–except against the cow fighting officials who use cattle prods to induce them to exhibit some of that feisty. Those guys, called rabatteurs, apparently have to worry about a stampede from bovines reluctant to hurt one another or to engage in even mock warfare. One cow-fight enthusiast likened them to the Monty Python soccer game between German & Greek philosophers: lots of rumination, very little action.

An anthropologist from the University of Geneva studied cow fighting & concluded the competitions were used to resolve conflicts between people. That might be giving them more dignity than they deserve. But even an animal rights group that showed up to protest thought the cows, showing more aggression toward officials than each other, got the upper hand.

Humans can learn a lot from our bovine sisters: the next time military recruiters come calling, start mooing & pawing the ground & making like there’ll be a stampede.

(Photo by Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone)

Homeless in Shanghai, China

Homeless in Shanghai, China: There’s an entire bible of aphorisms on how to judge the character of a society. The touchstones include the treatment of women, animals, & the weakest (defined as children, elderly, & those with disabilities). Malcolm X, Gandhi, Einstein, Mark Twain, Dostoyevsky, & umpteen others have all weighed in; no less a bonehead than deceased US vice-president Hubert Humphrey made his own pithy contribution. Chances are if a society is abusing any of these groups, there’s a whole raft of policies it can be damned for, making the pithiness nothing more than pieties. One would hope the few extant socialist societies would measure well on these standards against capitalism in its barbaric phase. But China, in particular, appears to be racing neoliberalism to the bottom.

Since the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the country has been engaged in what is called the most massive urbanization in human history involving the relocation (& often forcible dispossession of lands) of millions of rural residents to find work in the cities. This is a wrenching dislocation since an estimated 61 million children live apart from their parents in rural China while their parents stream into urban factories looking for work. China plans to create 400 new cities by 2020 to cope with this urban growth. (Whether they’ll be affordable is another question.) Part of urban development schemes in the major cities is also a building boom of skyscrapers–a building boom involving the forcible eviction in the past decade of an estimated 4 million people from old tenements to make room for luxury high-rises.

Estimates of homelessness in any country are completely unreliable not just because it is difficult to assess but because governments have a vested interest in lowballing the problem. That would be especially true of a country purporting to be socialist. Then there are those with right-wing agendas who want to exaggerate the problem. One source claims China had 2.41 million homeless adults & 179,000 homeless children in 2011. Another source claims 200 million adults, & 4 million children. Neither seems at all credible but even the lesser estimate is completely unacceptable in any society. In a society claiming to be socialist, it’s a travesty.

Many attribute most of the homelessness to the hukou system instituted in 1958, an abomination if there ever was one. Hukou is a system of residency permits & a method of social control registering people in their birth provinces, limiting their social benefits to that province, & restricting rural to urban migration within China. In essence, it’s an internal passport system which creates discrimination against rural Chinese. Those who migrate to cities are not eligible for basic welfare & social service programs, including public education. But they are subject to super-exploitation by employers in the same way as undocumented immigrants in Europe & the US.

Hukou is absolutely implicated in the level of homelessness in Chinese cities. But so are the forcible evictions of urban residents to make room for skyscrapers–especially as there is no mention of massive public housing projects. The Chinese government also has a different standard for poverty than the World Bank figure of US $1.25 a day. China is shamefully even stingier with a poverty line of US $1.00 a day. The Economist magazine did its best to parse that figure, claiming it has purchasing power of $1.83 in the US but no matter how you shake those pennies, it’s all chump change. While we’re at it, we should mention the wages in relation to rents: in Shanghai, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment goes from US $525 to US $960. At the Chinese poverty rate, you won’t soon see housing & starvation is a very likely possibility.

For those who think this too harsh on China, who want to blither on about the difficulties of development, please explain why China is lending the US trillions for war rather than investing millions in public housing?

(Photo of homeless in Shanghai by Greg Girard in “Phantom Shanghai”–taken some time between 2000 & 2007)

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