Music for a Sunday: In the arms of another young hood

Think protesting doesn’t work?

Think again. Here’s how it worked out for Baltimore:

According to local US congress member Elijah Cummmings, street protests brought about the indictment of the six cops currently accused of killing Freddie Gray. That’s good work!

Happy May Day!

This version of “The Internationale” comes as a coda to another song, which was cut off. According to the YouTube link: “In 1944, to honor the Allied victory in Italy, legendary counductor Arturo Toscanini — a refugee from Fascism in his home country — decided to conduct a performance of Verdi’s ‘Hymn of the Nations’. ‘Hymn’ is a composition that Verdi orginally built around the national anthems of Britain, France, and Italy.”

And for all my fellow pagans, a little something seasonal:

The ugly truth about Baltimore

crime-by-color

Her sign says it all. Photo: Harry Fear.

Whenever I hear about Baltimore — Maryland, that is, as there’s a Baltimore, Ontario not far from where I live — I can’t help but recall this Countee Cullen poem I first read in high school:

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

The poem is called, simply, “Incident”.

Baltimore, it seems, is characterized by just such incidents. A few days ago, I’m pretty sure, certain Baltimoreans were saying that and other such things to a young black man named Freddie Gray, as they were beating him to a bloody pulp. Quite literally, too, as his spine was crushed in eight places.

Freddie Gray was buried just the other day, and the good people of Baltimore turned out in force to mourn. And to protest, too — peacefully, as good people do. And the protest stayed peaceful, according to The Real News (which is headquartered in Baltimore), until a gang showed up to cause trouble.

Now, this gang is feared throughout the city, but especially so in the black folks’ part of town. Their color is blue. Their badge is in the shape of a shield. You can never miss them coming, because they have flashers and sirens on all their cars. They are heavily armed and known for their violence.

And if your color is black or brown, you run from them on sight. Run like hell. Run like Freddie Gray. You run by instinct, because you know they mean you no good.

Sure, some say that if Freddie hadn’t run, if he hadn’t resisted, he’d still be alive today. But the black folks of Baltimore know the ugly truth about the Baltimore Police Department. They know that even if Freddie had just dropped to the ground, flat on his face with hands behind his back, waiting to be cuffed, they would probably still have kicked the shit out of him. Maybe he’d have lived, but he wouldn’t have come away unscathed. The BPD, the biggest, meanest gang in Baltimore, was out for blood, and they got it.

After all, gangs need to have their blood rites, do they not? Sure they do. And the BPD has sought to gain legitimacy with other big gangs all around the world. Why, they’ve even been to Israel, where a gang calling itself the IDF (colors: white and blue; insignia: six-pointed star) taught them and many others how to rough up rock-throwing little brown kids. And since the IDF has a decades-long history of gang-banging the Palestinians, they were a natural choice for the BPD to go to when it came time to hone their racial violence skills for the modern era. You could see just how much they learned when they turned out to suppress the peaceful protests following Freddie Gray’s funeral just the other day. They even threw rocks right back at those who tried to fend them off, those understandably angry that the cops wouldn’t even let them call for justice in peace.

Yes, the BPD learned a lot from the IDF on how to crash protests and turn them into “riots”. They learned a lot on how to find flimsy pretexts for violence, and even how to generate them if their victims failed to provide one as expected.

You say you don’t mind people protesting, as long as they do it peacefully? Well, neither do I. Only a fascist or a fool would mind! But here’s the rub: As long as police have been a force for protecting the interests of the most powerful, it’s been their habit to turn even the mildest of protests into a free-for-all. To goad people into fighting, then beat the shit out of them. Result: Rioting, looting, a veritable free-for-all. And inevitably, on the heels of such a clash, comes martial law, complete with the deployment of the army (or in the US, the National Guard). Curfews are imposed; armed gangs in green patrol the streets. And these gangs are even more fearsomely armed than the gangs in blue. They have tanks and machine guns, cannons and grenades.

Like I so often say: It’s never a riot till the cops show up. And it’s never a war until the army shows up.

If Baltimore looks like a war zone right now, that’s because it is. Two gangs are fighting for turf supremacy there. But the gangs aren’t black. They are not Crips and Bloods. They are the BPD and the National Guard, they are overwhelmingly white, and they are fighting not against each other, but side by side against a bunch of blacks, mostly young and powerless, with little or no means of self-defence. They are doing their damnedest, in this so-called post-racial era, to keep blacks down. And the best way to do that, it seems, is to keep the old lie of the violent gang-banging black man alive by galvanic reanimation.

The major media — another gang, this one with the colors of the various news channels — aids and abets them in this lie. They show only “rioters”, not peaceful protesters (who still vastly outnumber the looters and shop-burners). They make it look like Baltimore is under siege from a bunch of angry black kids, not from the gangs in blue and green. The mayor comes on to talk of “outside agitators”, and she’s right — there are plenty, but the agitators aren’t in the protests. They’re the gang in blue, whose members all live out of town, often even out of state. They have trained out of country. They have trained in a land of apartheid, to bring back apartheid in their own land.

Today it’s Baltimore. Yesterday it was Ferguson, Missouri. The day before, it was Sanford, Florida.

And in the last 50 years, it appears nothing has changed:

This is footage from the Watts “riots” in Los Angeles in 1965. It could just as easily be Baltimore…just the other day.

Economics for Dummies: The African refugee situation, summed up

african-refugees

It’s not just boats that are sinking. It’s PEOPLE. The fact that so many Africans are fleeing from their homes and drowning off the coast of Italy makes me think that, just like the Haitians who are still being punished for their slave revolt 200 years later, so Africans are being punished for their efforts to throw off various colonial yokes that keep being foisted upon them. Once it was European countries doing the colonizing; now it’s multinational foreign corporations taking up where nation-states have left off. Resources that should belong to the people of the land are being plundered, and private armies of mercenaries are ensuring that no pesky locals get in the way of that. Result: people paying extortionate sums of money, and even going into debt, to traffickers who abandon ship as they near the Italian coast, leaving the refugees to sink or swim…and since most can’t swim, they drown.

If you want to know what will REALLY end the seemingly endless influx of boat-people from Africa, the first thing you will need to do is kill off capitalism. Then, kill imperialism. And while you’re at it, also kill racism. Then, and only then, will you have begun to create a climate where it’s safe for them to go back home again.

If they still have a home left to go to, that is.

Music for a Sunday: Don’t call the doctor…

“In Tatjana’s Shoes”: German art students taken on prostitution, human trafficking

tatjana-shoes

“In Tatjana’s Shoes”, a street art exhibit by a group of students from Osnabrück, Germany. Photo: EMMA.

Human trafficking and prostitution are big topics in Germany right now. A law reform is on the table, but the real debate is happening on the streets. And a group of university students from northern Germany decided that the best way to show the impact of the two interconnected issues was to find the kind of shoes a woman or girl in the sex trade might have worn, and set them on the street with a “price tag” beside them. EMMA reports on the impact of this stark, simple exhibit:

An unusual scene recently appeared on the main shopping street in Osnabrück, Germany: An orderly rectangle filled with women’s and girls’ shoes. Each pair of shoes had a price sign next to it. By the pink pumps: “Tatjana, 16, blowjob, 15 euros”; by the purple high-heeled sandals: “Olessia, 17, anal, 65 euros”. And next to a pair of children’s shoes: “Newborn girl, 1000 euros.” The people behind the exhibit: a group of art students from Osnabrück University. They wanted their project to raise awareness of human rights abuses in prostitution. We asked them: How did you get this idea? How did people react? And what’s next? Here is their answer:

“We are a group of art students from Osnabrück University (four women, one man). We are between 21 and 25 years old. Last winter semester, we took a course on artistic interventions in public and semi-public spaces. The need to take on a political subject was important to us. At some point the topics of human trafficking and prostitution came up, since they moved us the most, shocked us, and we felt the need to share our bewilderment about them.

“We decided on the symbol of dirty, worn-out, but milieu-appropriate shoes. We also wanted to shock people with the hand-written cardboard signs. If you take the children’s shoes with the label ‘Newborn girl, 1000 euros” as an example of the reactions of passersby, then you could see, especially in women, shock, rage at the circumstances, bewilderment and disgust. ‘Really terrible to see children’s shoes in this context.’ Or, ‘The shoe sizes are crass!’ One could also see the passersby explaining the topic to one another. Some debated whether there was still forced prostitution…

“Lots of them turned the signs back over, if the wind had blown them down, in order to read them. Passersby bent down to get a better look at the shoes, read every sign systematically, circled around the rectangle, and shook their heads. A bunch of boys knocked a pair of shoes over and read the signs to each other in broken German. Others set the shoes back up. Some stepped into the middle of the rectangle to get a good look even at the shoes there, and be able to touch them.

“Sometimes people talked to us about the project, and asked how we’d come up with it. Whether it was real stories that we were showing, and what moves us personally the most about it. Many of them also told us that they needed more explanation. Others were of the opinion that it all spoke for itself.

“This was our first exhibit in the area. We’re still feeling our way around, and hadn’t expected that our début would make such big waves. We are all anchored in different areas of art. Until now, we have preferred analog photography and painting. That’s why such projects and interventions are a bit of new territory for us. We plan to show the exhibit again, in other cities.”

Translation mine.

More photos at the link.

“Dear Madame Minister”: A German ex-prostitute’s open letter

bordello-raid.jpg

The no-doubt-ironically-named Paradise bordello…just one of several German brothels which were recently raided by police on suspicion of human trafficking.

Think Germany is a paradise for women in prostitution? Think again. A formerly prostituted woman has written to Manuela Schwesig, a government minister in charge of updating German prostitution laws. And what she has to say about the proposed changes is important, but it’s not an easy read:

Dear Madame Minister Schwesig,

I’m writing you today because I can see that the just-unveiled prostitution-law reform proposal has the clear markings of the bordello and pimp lobbies. That’s why I want to ask you to finally confront the reality of the red-light district instead of going on listening to people who keep retelling the fairytale of the self-determined, happy hooker.

I am exited from prostitution, in which I spent ten years. Thus I know well whereof I speak. The reasons for my entry were many: a difficult family origin, in which I was massively and also sexually traumatized by violence against my mother and myself, has had an influence on me, as did the then-widespread fairy tale about the happy prostitute. Also financial need and a lack of social and psychological help played a role.

Yes, if you like, I entered “voluntarily”. I’m one of the oft-cited “voluntary prostitutes”. But what is “voluntary”, Frau Schwesig, when a person traumatized by child abuse comes to this decision? For me, prostitution was a step up, because I had already learned that I, because I was a girl, am so helpless and without rights and am sexually abused. So I could also take money for it right away, and at least secure my own survival.

If you think that I’m a sad isolated case, I must contradict you. In those ten years I met many prostitutes, and there was not a single one among them who was not abused as a child, beaten, or raped as an adult. I have seen a psychic compulsion to keep repeating and repeating the trauma (in prostitution), and self-esteem broken by violence, in so many prostitutes. Of violence in the milieu, of the johns — who do things to us that you don’t even want to think of in your dreams — I don’t even want to start here.

Those are the realities of the milieu, Frau Schwesig, and that’s just the “voluntary” prostitutes. And yes, they too suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, drug and alcohol addictions, because they can’t stand it. I really don’t want to talk about the fact that 90 percent of all prostitutes in Germany aren’t even from Germany. Your imagination will suffice to imagine what their life circumstances are.

Last November I wrote an open letter, because I couldn’t stand it anymore that the pro-prostitution lobby tells such fairytales as that of the free, self-determined whore. I’ve linked it for you, in case you’d like to read what it’s really like to prostitute oneself. Why do you hear that so rarely? First off, because the pro-prostitution lobby intimidates us (ever since that letter, I get really nasty e-mails, full of spite and threats), and secondly, because we exited women are too traumatized to speak.

Even non-prostituted women are affected by prostitution, because the johns are their men, and they take what they’ve learned in the brothels — namely, to despise women, to buy them, to torture them — back home to the bedrooms of their own women. Society gets brutalized, Frau Schwesig. It is an endless loop: When prostitution is legalized, the demand grows, because men learn that it’s all right to buy women’s bodies, overstep boundaries, abuse power. Availability grows, which means there is also more forced prostitution. This, again, increases the acceptance of prostitution in society, then demand grows, and so on.

90 percent of all German men have already been in a bordello. Every third one does it regularly. Do you know what goes through their heads, Frau Schwesig? I know, because I lived through it in the whorehouse. The same men, who shake your hands in a friendly way today, will spit in a prostitute’s face tomorrow during the act, get off on her gagging when she has to swallow sperm, and learn to enjoy women’s suffering. Would you like to live in such a society? That can’t be your vision!

There will never be a sexually equal society as long as men buy women and can abuse them. And there is also no “clean” prostitution!

That’s why I’m urging you not to listen to only those in favor of prostitution, who are incidentally mostly being guided by bordello owners. Go a little further into the swamp, and you’ll land among human traffickers and organized criminals. Listen to trauma therapists and exited women, too. The prostitution lobby does NOT speak for us prostitutes and ex-prostitutes! It doesn’t consist of even 100 people, who do not represent us, the 300,000 prostitutes in Germany, but intimidate us and work against our interests!

We don’t want to do this job. We don’t need legalization! We don’t need anyone who claims that we don’t want registration, mandatory condom use, etc.! Yes, we do want those things! And we would like more than anything not to have to do this job anymore. And that the men who abuse(d) us should be punished. We need alternatives, not more entanglement in the destructive, inhumane powers of the milieu!

Dear Frau Schwesig, it’s not so long ago that I left prostitution: three years. I had my first john at 18. Do you know what I would have needed most in the ten years that I was in prostitution, in which I was beaten, raped, retraumatized, despised, dehumanized and sick in body and soul? Help and a sensitized society that don’t expect me to want to “live it up” and even enjoy being abused.

I don’t know any prostitute who does it willingly. I don’t know any ex-prostitute who doesn’t have post-traumatic stress disorder. All the women I know have been wrecked in prostitution.

Please ban this inhuman, undignified prostitution. And if that’s not possible for you, then please rein it in as much as you can. Many thanks for reading my letter.

Huschke Mau.

Translation mine. Linkage as in original.

So there you have it. What’s being sold as a “paradise” is only that for sex capitalists — pimps, human traffickers, brothel owners who charge extortionate daily room rates for the women — and maybe the johns, too, who get to act out all their violent fantasies for increasingly lower flat rates, and maybe take home a whole new bag of ugly tricks to spring on the wifey. Along with a fine dose of the clap, since no one’s stopping them from insisting on condomless intercourse (it’s even advertised on the brothel menu as “AO” — “Alles Ohne”, or “everything without”. The only ones NOT benefiting from all this are, as usual, the women…German and otherwise, prostituted or not. For them, it’s a hellhole. And the government is still not listening.

PS: Huschke Mau’s first open letter is translated here. Scroll down.

Cuban anti-cancer vaccine heads to Roswell Park, NY

candace-johnson

Dr. Candace Johnson of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, speaking at a press conference in Cuba. Behind her, at left, is New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Well. If THIS isn’t historic, I don’t know what is:

The Molecular Immunology Centre of Cuba and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute of New York signed an agreement today to export to the US a therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer developed on the island, so that clinical trials can soon begin.

[…]

It concerns the therapeutic anti-cancer vaccine CIMAVax-EGF, created by Cuba in 2011 after 15 years’ research, with worldwide patent rights.

The vaccine is registered in Cuba and Peru, but countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are in the process of registration, and others such as the UK and Australia have begun clinical trials with it.

Translation mine.

I do believe I blogged on this a few years ago. At the time, Cuban vaccine developments were studiously ignored by the major US media. That all has changed now, as this Time Warner article makes plain:

Roswell Park Cancer Center Director Dr. Candace Johnson said Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology has developed a lung cancer vaccine and following an agreement Tuesday, Roswell will set up clinical trials to test the drug. Before that’s done, Roswell must submit an Investigational New Drug Application to get the vaccine FDA approved.

“They’ve agreed to share that information with us, and we will now prepare the IND that will go to the FDA to get approved,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the way the vaccine works is unique.

“This is an anti-growth factor vaccine. The growth factor is called EGF, and that’s unique. It’s not killing the tumor cell directly. It’s taking something the tumor needs to grow away, and so it has less toxicity associated with it,” Dr. Johnson said.

She said in addition to treating cancer, it could have the ability to prevent cancer.

Johnson said she has no hard timetable on when the clinical trials will begin, but hopes to start in about eight months.

Roswell Park is as big a name in cancer research as it gets, at least on this side of the pond. For them to be expressing interest in a Cuban vaccine is HUGE. No doubt the scientists have been following this development even if the media did not. And now that the US and Cuba are on the way to normal relations, they wanted to be first in the door, testing out Cuban products that they know to be promising. Cuban industry is bound to get a big boost from this if they decide to licence Cimavax for production and use in Canada and the US.

Most of all, though, this validates the Cuban socialist program, which placed universal health care, along with education, at the top of their list of national priorities. Cuba exports doctors to poor countries all over the world, and trains doctors from all over the developing world as well; Cuban doctors were recently among the heroes of the West African Ebola virus outbreak. Their teamwork and co-ordination did not go unnoticed there.

It’s obvious that none of this would have been possible if Cuba were not socialist, and very conscientiously so. Just look at how the arch-capitalist US fumbled their own role in the Ebola crisis, for example. Capitalism, with its emphasis on greed and competition, is no match for socialism’s “all in this together, all hands on deck” approach. Disease outbreaks demand great effort; huge egos only get in the way. And Cuban doctors already know this full well from their cost-free training on the island, which is rooted in socialist philosophy from grade school on up.

And oh yeah, the Cuban socialist program also set aside the budget for medical research. Something that capitalist governments seem to have a lot of trouble doing efficiently, but which a little island with not much money has managed with shocking ease. Little wonder that they managed to sneak an effective anti-cancer vaccine past the so-called First World.

By now, nobody can deny that history has indeed not only absolved Fidel Castro, as he predicted, but vindicated him as well. There may be US trade, but no US annexation. Cuba will stay Cuban, and the rest of the world will beat a path to Cuba’s door. If they’re smart, they’ll follow the Cuban path themselves when they all arrive back home again.

Quotable: Eduardo Galeano on Utopia

The recently deceased poet of Latin American journalism reads one of his loveliest, truest and most poignant pieces aloud. The on-screen translation’s a bit wonky, but I think you’ll get the idea:

PS: According to one of the commenters on YouTube, this was a TV segment for a program called “Singulars”, by the Catalan channel TV3, Televisió de Catalunya (Televisión de Cataluña). So it’s quite clear that his words also have resonance in Spain.

Posted in Artsy-Fartsy Culture Stuff, Paraguay, Uruguay, Quotable Notables, Under the Name of Spain. Comments Off on Quotable: Eduardo Galeano on Utopia »