Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Bad News Blog is Back

The Libyan conflict  is what concern us these days, but there are other issues as well.  Events are moving very rapidly in Libya and elsewhere and it is impossible to keep up with a bi-weekly human rights blog, but I will do my best. I will rant and rave to the best of my ability.

It appears that the Security Council deliberations will fall victim to a Russian veto just as the initiative against the Darfour genocide was blocked by China. It is to be hoped that some way can be found to prevent a bloodbath and a return to full power of a ghastly dictator. Indeed, the entire Western democratic world has much to answer for, in particular the blind support for such dictators. The UK alone sold Ghaddafi GBP200,000,000 worth of military hardware that is now being used against the Libyan people. For an update  go to   the BBC news link.
The battleground

Roger Cohen in the NYTimes  makes a point about the moral bankruptcy of the West and why it is hard to justify a unilateral intervention now, since it would be regarded as illegitimate by the Libyan people. It is extremely difficult to decide how to intervene without creating an impression that neocolonialism is behind it. As a result of this dilemma, lives were lost in Rwanda, Darfur and Sierra Leone, to name a few. In a few cases, such as Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, the former colonial power did eventually intervene, but today it seems inconceivable. The imposition of a no-fly zone would at least ground Ghaddafi's mercenary pilots, change the balance of power and give the rebels a chance

The wave of revolution spreading across the Arab world will certainly spread elsewhere. China certainly is ripe for an uprising of the exploited working class in this supposedly socialist country. Others may be in the queue. Here are some predictions by  pundits , for whatever they, both the predictions and the pundits, are worth.  Of course, pundits can make useful contributions to the energy balance and even help with pollution, well sort of.
New Yorker but of universal relevance

(thanks to the New Yorker, I hope they forgive me for linking this in) .

China, which relaxed the grip a bit during the Olympics in 2008, is showing all the signs of  paranoia. After threatening Norway with "dire consequences" for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize  for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China  it now is reacting with panic to the threat of the Jasmine Revolution, i.e. casual strolls past ministries and reporting by foreign journalists

I recall a conversation in 2008 with Alex Gileadi, the Israel member of the IOC, who said that the Olympics would serve to crack the Chinese Wall, just as the 1980 Moscow Olympics started the cracks that eventually brought down the Soviet Union. I wonder--maybe he has a point, but it also seems possible that in the short run the dictators will hang on because of the lassitude of the so-called international community. There are also many nay sayers and racists, including  Israelis and Jews, who fear the new winds blowing in the Arab world and talk about the danger of the liberated Arab masses turning against Israel. I suspect that the new governments in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere will have more pressing problems.  I also believe that the work of Fayyed in cleaning up the administration of the Palestinian Authority is worthy of our respect and not of our disdain.

SLAVERY Yes, the next rant has to do with slavery. It has not gone away and the UN estimates that about 27 million people throughout the world satisfy the definition of forced work without compensation. Possibly the worst hell hole of slavery is Mauritania where it was indeed abolished formally in 1981, but the holding of slaves was  made a criminal offense only in 2007. As one might expect,. there have been no indictments under the law and the government is in a state of denial.
Please go to this petition site  and take action.  We have no Mauritanian embassy in Israel, but if there is one in your country, please find it and give them a piece of your mind.  You also would do well to tell your Foreign Ministry how you feel about this subject. People who are trying to fight slavery on the ground are incarcerated for their pains.

CHILEAN MINERS You will recall the Chilean mine disaster and rescue. You would have thought that something would happen with mine safety laws, especially in light of the investigation results. Wrong!!  Broken promise: Chilean miners are still waiting for reform of mine safety laws Immediately after  the successful rescue of 33 copper miners in Chile on October 13, 2010,  President Sebastián Piñera proclaimed to the world that within 90 days Chile would reform its mine safety laws.   In fact,  he has done nothing of the kind. Nearly five months on, Chilean miners are still waiting. The ICEM, the global union federation that represents miners around the world, is calling for a massive online campaign to flood the Chilean government with emails of protest. Please take a moment to send off your message by clicking here.   Just erase my pre-entered data and insert yours before sending it off.

This week I am going to rant about my birthplace, the USA, which has turned away from its own fundamental values in ways that are shocking. I am indeed pleased that an African-American was elected to the presidency, but since then the wellsprings of evil greed and racism have burst out along with what amounts to a takeover of the country by the oligarchy. They are getting back at Roosevelt and basically attempting to turn back all social progress that has been made since the New Deal. Of course, the people elect these clods, but then we elect the Likud and Lieberman, so I suppose I should not bitch. Nonetheless, I am going to raise a few issues with Uncle Sam before getting on to the home scene.

Let me start with the war on unions in Wisconsin   that is showing its main impact  in my neighboring state but is spreading. In the latest New Yorker,(not linkable because of copyright rules)there is an article on the decline of the labor movement in the US and it is sad indeed. The Supreme Court unleashed the oligarchy as a political monster and we are seeing the results. The start of the reaction of the people is under way and we can only hope that indeed Robert Reich is right about the birth of the people's party.

Then we have the power of religion that can trample on everyone. We see the anti-abortion fanatics coming up with a new way of justifying the killing of abortion doctors. It is done by means of  laws that allow "justifiable homicide" to protect a fetus.   South Dakota has a proposal for  allowing a woman, her husband, or her family to commit "justifiable homicide" in defense of a fetus.  Nebraska would apply those same protections to any third party.  Pro-choice supporters suspect  that  the intent is to create a possible broad defense for attacks on abortion providers.  For details see Mother Jones.

Amos Guiora, blogging from Oxford , points out the danger of fundamentalist religion in a piece that should be required reading for all progressives and believers in liberal democracy. Of course, you have a body like the Catholic Church, that is busy trying to overpopulate the planet, while not doing a very good job on cleaning up its own house, as we can see from what is happening in Philadelphia. In general, while all child abuse is execrable, there is something special about it when it comes from priests, rabbis, any religious functionary in whom families expect to be able to place infinite trust. It makes me foam at the mouth beyond the usual rant.

GUANTANAMO Candidate Obama promised to do away with the military commissions serving in place of courts and the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. He has not done a very good job and we are back at square one with the commissions.  Amnesty International is protesting  but to deaf ears.


Freshly arrived some good news, the state of Illinois has abolished capital punishment!  The governor had a hard time with it but eventually signed the bill into law after two months of agonizing.  Thank you Governor Quinn.

Women's Day came and went this week. I want to mark it with a poem called Refuser and some comments by the poetess. Instead of a link, I am posting the entire text. 

The 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

By Eve Ensler, Reader Supported News
08 March 11

For the Builders, the Planters, and the Refusers, on the 100th Anniversary of International
Women's Day
n this, the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, I want to take a minute to honor grassroots women's activists across the planet - women, like those working tirelessly in Haiti, who have inspired their communities, united their communities, and led their communities, holding them together and pushing them forward.
Today, I want to particularly honor the women on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have organized and worked for peace and freedom over the many years of conflict that has been fought in their country and on their bodies. On February 4, the women of Congo, in partnership with V-Day and the Fondation Panzi (République Démocratique du Congo), opened the City of Joy, a revolutionary leadership community for survivors of sexual violence that will be the headquarters of a grassroots women's movement in Eastern, DRC.
A group of women, called "Friends of V-Day," built the City of Joy - they were possibly the first female construction crew in Congolese history. These women mixed the cement, carried loads on their shoulders, made the bricks. They built the City of Joy with their own hands, understanding, with each careful step, that making a world and living in the world are not separate. Each day that the women built, they took time to dance and sing. It was part of the day's work, and now that spirit is literally built into the walls of the City of Joy. These women were aware that it takes a very specific constellation of ingredients to create a community, the way water, sun and earth all come together to build a new world. In the final days before the opening, the women planted grass, blade by blade, on the grounds of the City of Joy. That is how movements are born - individual green blades, planted one by one, nurtured by water and light, protected until they have grown into grass.
Today, I dedicate my piece, REFUSER, to all the builders, all the grass planters, all the individual, green, sparkling blades of grass. I dedicate it to all the girls and women joining forces across the earth, to create change and revolution.

From the Lebanese mountains
To the Kenyan village of El Doret
We are practicing self-defense
Versed in Karate, Tai Chi, Judo, and Kung Foo
We are no longer surrendering to our fate.
Now, we are the ones who walk our girl friends home from school.
And we don't do it with macho. We do it with cool.
Our mothers are the Pink Sari Gang
Fighting off the drunken men
With rose pointed fingers and sticks in
Uttar Pradesh.
The Peshmerga women
in the Kurdish mountains
with barrettes in their hair
and AK47's instead of pocket books.
We are not waiting anymore to be taken and retaken.
We are the Liberian women sitting
in the Africa sun blockading the exits
til the men figure it out.
We are the Nigerian women
babies strapped to out backs
occupying the oil terminals of Chevron.
We are the women of Kerala
who refused to let Coca Cola
privatize our water.
We are Cindy Sheehan showing up in Crawford without a plan.
We are all those who forfeited husbands boyfriends and dates
Cause we were married to our mission.
We know love comes from all directions and in many forms.
We are Malalai who spoke back to the Afghan Loya Jurga
And told them they were "raping warlords" and
She kept speaking even when they kept
trying to blow up her house.
And we are Zoya whose radical mother was shot dead when Zoya was only a child so she was fed on revolution which was stronger than milk
And we are the ones who kept and loved our babies
even though they have the faces of our rapists.
We are the girls who stopped cutting ourselves to release the pain
And we are the girls who refused to have our clitoris cut
And give up our pleasure.
We are:
Rachel Corrie who wouldn't couldn't move away from the Israeli tank.
Aung San Suu Kyi who still smiles after years of not being able to leave her room.
Anne Frank who survives now cause she wrote down her story.
We are Neda Soltani gunned down by a sniper in the streets of
Tehran as she voiced a new freedom and way
And we are Asmaa Mahfouz from the April 6th movement in Egypt
Who twittered an uprising.
We are the women riding the high seas to offer
Needy women abortions on ships.
We are women documenting the atrocities
in stadiums with video cameras underneath our Burqas.
We are seventeen and living for a year in a tree
And laying down in the forests to protect wild oaks.
We are out at sea interrupting the whale murders.
We are freegans, vegans, trannies
But mainly we are refusers.
We don't accept your world
Your rules your wars
We don't accept your cruelty and unkindness.
We don't believe some need to suffer for others to survive
Or that there isn't enough to go around
Or that corporations are the only and best economic arrangement
And we don't hate boys, okay?
That's another bullshit story.
We are refusers
But we crave kissing.
We don't want to do anything before we're ready
but it could be sooner than you think
and we get to decide
and we are not afraid of what is pulsing through us.
It makes us alive.
Don't deny us, criticize us or infantilize us.
We don't accept checkpoints, blockades or air raids
We are obsessed with learning.
On the barren Tsunamied beaches of Sri Lanka
In the desolate and smelly remains
Of the lower ninth
We want school.
We want school.
We want school.
We know if you plan too long
Nothing happens and things get worse and that
Most everything is found in the action
and instinctively we get that the scariest thing
isn't dying, but not trying at all.
And when we finally have our voice
and come together
when we let ourselves gather the knowledge
when we stop turning on each other
but direct our energy towards what matters
when we stop worrying about
our skinny ass stomachs or too frizzy hair
or fat thighs
when we stop caring about pleasing
and making everyone so incredibly happy -
We got the Power.
Janis Joplin was nominated the ugliest man on her campus
And they sent Angela Davis to jail
If Simone Weil had manly virtues
And Joan of Arc was hysterical
If Bella Abzug was eminently obnoxious
And Ellen Sirleaf Johnson is considered scary
If Arundhati Roy is totally intimidating
and Rigoberta Menchu is pathologically intense
And Julia Butterfly Hill is an extremist freak
Call us hysterical then
Eminently obnoxious
Tattoo me
Give us our broomsticks
And potions on the stove
We are the girls
who are aren't afraid to cook.

"Refuser" is published in Eve's newest work - "I AM AN EMOTIONAL CREATURE: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World," just released in paperback from Villard Trade Paperbacks.
Eve Ensler, a playwright and activist, is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. In conjunction with "I AM AN EMOTIONAL CREATURE," V-Day has developed a targeted pilot program, V-Girls, to engage young women in our "empowerment philanthropy" model, providing them with a platform to amplify their voices.
I hope you read it.  I have nothing to add.

The Israeli flag-draped coffin of Avi Cohen is seen during a special public memorial service at a football stadium near Tel Aviv December 29, 2010/Nir Elias
ORGAN TRANSPLANTING is an area in which medical technology and science have outstripped the social advances needed to cope with the problems that are raised. Many moral and ethical issues dog the path of saving lives. Ideally, the default should be the automatic use of organs of any person who dies and certainly of someone who wills his/her organs. On the other hand, because of the shortage of organs a criminal black market has developed. In Israel, we also have the superstition that masquerades as the Orthodox brand of Judaism which  prevents many donations. The case of the soccer player , killed in an accident, who had willed his organs but whose wishes were blocked by rabbis gave rise to a surge of donations. I bring this up because of an ethical dilemma in the US. Normally the organs of executed prisoners are not available for transplant because, as we saw in China, this leads down a slippery slope to executions for organs. Now a man facing execution in Oregon wants to donate all his useful organs, but the state is blocking it. I suggest you read this as food for thought.

Here in Israel the country staggers along under a government composed of crooks, fascists and idiots, which, as I look around the world, does not make us unique. The reaction of our genius defense minister Barak to the wave of rebellion in the Arab world is to ask the US for $20 billion in military aid, i.e. there is no capability for any thinking .except in military terms.

In our society we see racism booming. We have rabbis, such as Dov Lior, who pump out poison to young people and when the police try to investigate their actions, simply tell the state to eff off. He supported a book by one of his colleagues "The King's Torah - The Laws for Killing Gentiles" that called for killing Gentile children. For the full scale
rant on this issue,  I refer you to Sefi Rachlevski 

Our ex-president Moshe Katzav has been  convicted of rape and other sex crimes.  He received a letter of support from another fascist rabbi, Shlomo Aviner in which the victims are slandered and the judiciary is heavily maligned. Some  voices of protest have been raised  but the government just lets it go by.

The question of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) as a means of influencing policy in Israel has always been problematic for me since it is an overly blunt instrument. I note that Pete Seeger has signed on to it and I find my arguments becoming weaker and weaker. I see what the Jewish National Fund is doing in El Arakeeb and I am troubled that my grandchildren in Canada are being encouraged to support it. Note that this complaint does not come from some marginal  left wingers, but from a mainstream political party, Meretz.

This blog is far too long, so let us wind up with some serious stuff from Andy Borowitz about a joint interview on CNN with
Jesus and Satan 

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