The ugly truth about Baltimore

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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.

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

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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.

Cristina’s pet gloat

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Hey! Remember how Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2001? And how it kicked out the IMF a short time later? Well, looks like that was a smart decision. And the significance of yet another IMFer being in deep shit was not lost on the president of that South American land:

Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner spoke out on Thursday over the detention of Rodrigo Rato, formerly of the International Monetary Fund, who in 2005 proposed to Argentina reform plans and protection of public accounts, and those of the bank, even at the cost of job losses.

“Today I learned that the former IMF official, Rodrigo Rato, ex-minister to José María Aznar, is in jail for money laundering. Those who came to us to tell us how to conduct our politics…in jail for money laundering. Moreover, those who came accusing us of corruption,” said the Argentine president during a public speech in Buenos Aires.

The economic vice-president of Spain during the terms of José María Aznar, ex-president of Bankia and former director of the IMF, Rato was detained on Thursday by Spanish police. The detention followed a search of his home in Madrid by the Revenue Agency of the Madrid Public Prosecutor’s Office. Rato is accused of fraud, money laundering and concealment of assets.

Rato’s office was searched again on Friday while the former vice-president was at home, according to investigative sources.

Translation mine.

Oh Cristina, you sly minx. Well might you gloat, since it was your own husband who basically kicked the IMF out, with a little help from Chavecito and Venezuela. I can’t really blame you for being just a wee bit smug at seeing this odious fucker — a former government minister for the fascist ex-PM of Spain, no less! — getting his comeuppance at last. Granted, his scandal isn’t as salacious as Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s chambermaid-rape and sex-trafficking ring, but coming at a time when most Spaniards are chafing under imposed austerity measures as a result of odious debts racked up by the fascist turdling & company themselves, I’m sure there will be all kinds of hell to pay.

Meanwhile, this song bears replaying, does it not?

Summit of the Americas: Venezuelan fascists and Che’s murderer get precedence over their own victims’ families

Lt. Yendry Velázquez, 36, widow of a Venezuelan soldier murdered during last year’s guarimbas, confronts Lilian Tintori outside the Americas Summit in Panama City. “Your husband is still living, mine is dead thanks to yours,” she says.

And that’s not the only outrage going down at the forum right now. Here’s a backgrounder, via Aporrea:

Members of the Committee of Victims of the Guarimbas clashed on Thursday in Panama with Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo López, leader of the ultra-right party, Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”) and intellectual author of the fascist activities which took place in Venezuela between February and May 2014.

According to Telesur, while Tintori was outside the forum parallel to the Summit of the Americas, agitating for the freeing of her husband, victims’ families were not allowed to participate in this activity, even though their accreditation had been previously confirmed.

February 12, 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of the demonstration known as “La Salida” (The Exit), a putschist plan activated by the Venezuelan far-right and supported by the US government, whose objective was to undermine peace and institutional order in Venezuela. During the violence that followed, 43 persons died and 878 were injured.

Translation mine.

And speaking of fascists and outrage, get a load of who else was roaming free in Panama City, much to the disgust of HIS victims:

The children of Argentine-Cuban guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara rejected the presence of Félix Rodríguez Mentigutía in Panama City on Thursday, at the summit of the Americas. Rodríguez, 73, a former Cuban agent of the CIA, was a key participant in the capture and killing of their father in Bolivia in October 1967.

“One might forget the past and present of one who has not stopped boasting of having lent his services toward imprisoning and later killing Che Guevara in Bolivia. Perhaps those who invited them or organized the symposium didn’t know that he was and is a servile slave of the Yankee powers,” reads a note published in Havana. The note was signed by Aleida, Celia, Camilo and Ernesto Guevara March.

In the late 1980s, Rodríguez wrote a memoir, Shadow Warrior, in which he tells of the CIA’s operations in Latin America and of the final hours of Che. Rodríguez has publicly acknowledged that he ordered the Bolivian soldiers to kill Guevara and appears in a photo alongside him after he was captured.

An official delegation of Cuban civil society members travelled to Panama to participate in parallel forums, and to denounce the presence of Rodríguez and “dissidents”, whom they accused of being Washington’s mercenaries. On Thursday, Cuban television transmitted images of a violent clash between Cubans of both delegations, who were separated by Panamanian police.

Translation, again, mine.

This is going to prove extremely awkward for His Barackness, in light of the much-vaunted defrosting of Cuban-US relations. Not only because old CIA assassins are apparently roaming free in Panama, but also because so are the putschists who are trying to destabilize Cuba’s greatest ally (and architect of all the improved inter-American relations), Venezuela.

And just to add to the awkwardness, those putschists are the forces in Venezuela with which Obama’s government has stupidly decided to align itself. Yes, that’s right…they’re favoring blatant lawbreakers, fascists and violent assassins, over democratically elected, popular socialist leaders. In other words, business as usual for the US government.

If I were Raúl Castro, I’d have an awful lot of trouble keeping a civil tongue in my head. After all, Che was his and Fidel’s dear friend, way back in the day. And Nicolás Maduro, whom Washington’s toadies keep trying to topple, IS their friend, here and now.

Posted in A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Cuba, Libre (de los Yanquis), Fascism Without Swastikas, Huguito Chavecito, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Illegal?, Obamarama!, Spooks, The United States of Amnesia. Comments Off on Summit of the Americas: Venezuelan fascists and Che’s murderer get precedence over their own victims’ families »

Argentina: Once more, the plot thickens in the Nisman case

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Are these Argentines still “Nisman”? They might not want to be anymore, if the latest news on the sensational case of the maybe-murdered-maybe-suicided prosecutor has any bearing on the matter:

Some 400,000 people marched in Buenos Aires less than two months ago, on February 18, under the slogan “We Are All Nisman”, paying tribute to the Argentine prosecutor who turned up dead with a bullet in the head a day before he was to appear in Congress to explain his denunciation against Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. However, Nisman went from hero to pariah as his ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, and the prosecutor on the case, Viviana Fein, fought one-on-one in the courts to try to put their theories before the judge: Arroyo is convinced that it was a murder, and Fein is not ruling out suicide. The ex-wife accuses the much-criticized prosecutor of “lacking objectivity and neutrality”, and the judge must decide how to proceed with a case that will not advance.

This face-off between Arroyo and Fein before the judge on the case comes amid a powerful campaign on the part of the government itself against Nisman. The prosecutor’s image has sunk since photos appeared of him with women much younger. The photos were on his cellphone and the judge is investigating the police for leaking them. But above all, what has sunk Nisman is that it is known that he had a secret bank account in New York which he shared with the computer expert who gave him the gun [that killed him], Diego Lagomarsino. This tells that he gave half his salary — publicly — to Nisman.

The circle is complete, such that a prosecutor is now trying to impute Nisman’s mother, his sister, and Lagomarsino for tax evasion and money laundering by way of that account. Thus the denouncers have become the denounced. The prosecutor could not accuse Nisman because he died, but his mother and sister, yes. In Buenos Aires there are also placards with the photo of Nisman with women at a party, and the question: “Are we all Nisman?” Lest there be doubts of the government’s position, the chief of Kirchner’s cabinet, Aníbal Fernández, was very clear: “Nisman dedicated public funds to going out with women and paying ‘ñoquis’ (functionaries who are paid and do nothing, via Lagomarsino). A shameless man as few have seen in this land.” At the time, in some neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, there were placards in favor of Nisman and his denunciation against the president.

Argentine judicial sources believe that the case will become complicated because many mistakes were made in the first hours after the killing, when the investigators arrived, and that will make it much more difficult to know the truth. Any investigation is marred by the decisions of the prosecutor and the movements of the police in those first hours, they said.

The government’s offensive is not only against Nisman, but above all against Antonio Stiusso, who until December was the most powerful spy in Argentina and directly linked to Nisman, who tried to talk with him shortly before his death. President Kirchner believes that he was the brains behind the prosecutor’s denunciation against her. Stiusso faces charges of money laundering and has fled Argentina to evade imprisonment. On Monday, he was summoned to the government seat, the Casa Rosada, for a type of political trial. He didn’t show up, and now he will face not only the government, but the judicial machinery for his dark dealings. Stiusso was very close to the Kirchners, and no he is Public Enemy Number One, as Óscar Parrilli, current chief of the secret services, made clear last week: “Lamentably, for 30 years, democracy coexisted with this man. From 1983 onward, nothing got done, and this man was acquiring more and more power, and no one was able to stop him.”

The latest episode in the government’s offensive against Stiusso and Nisman came late Tuesday afternoon, Argentine time. Parrilli, the Argentine spy chief, held a press conference at the Casa Rosada to announce that the government had formally charged Stiusso with violation of his duties as a public functionary, and for hiding from his agency the activities he carried out, in connection with Nisman, in the case of the bombing of the AMIA (a Jewish-Argentine association centre) in 1994, the origin of the denunciation. Parrilli accused Stiusso and Nisman of not having done their work well. “In 20 years of investigation, no suspects have been found. Nisman and Stiusso’s work has produced no results,” Parrilli said.

Translation mine.

If that’s not an indictment of the sorry state of Argentina’s fragile democracy, it’s certainly an indictment of the miserable state of law and justice there. It’s been over thirty years since the military junta fell, and in that time, corruptos have flourished in an atmosphere of near-total impunity. Opportunists like Stiusso and Nisman are dime a dozen in Argentina; what sets these two apart is the high offices they held, and the sheer chutzpah they exhibited in their abuse thereof. Nisman, for example, even sought to blame the president herself for an alleged cover-up of the AMIA bombing, deflecting the world’s eyes from the most likely culprit: not Iran, but Israel.

The Shin Bet and the Mossad are well known for their dirty tricks, and they are not above killing their own people — or Jews from other countries, such as Argentina. Nor has it been any great secret that Israel’s government would love to see Iran branded a sponsor of terrorism, and sanctioned accordingly all over the world. So far, they’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful at it.

And with incompetent corruptos like Nisman and Stiusso as their primary local agents, it’s hardly any wonder at all. Israel’s spook agencies are starting to look just as stupid as their US counterparts.

Maybe they’d like to pick up the clue-phone. Or should I say, the shoe-phone?

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Bill C-51: Are you on Harpo’s enemies list yet?

If not, shame on you. Watch this and learn why it behooves you to become an enemy of PetroState Canada and Fortress North America:

Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and political association, the indigenous peoples, the right to a clean and healthy environment…all these and more are now under fire. And if you believe in them, and take your belief in them to the streets, congratulations: You are An Enemy of the State. USA PATRIOT Act North, otherwise known as Bill C-51, is aiming to make YOU illegal.

And if you couldn’t make it to the streets, don’t worry. You can still put a fire under your Member of Parliament. Use this letter-writing tool and in a few minutes’ time, you too can be a proud member of the Enemies list.

Now go, and be the best fuckin’ subversive you can.

In Germany, fear is prostitution’s constant companion

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Remember how, back in 2002, progressives from all over the world heralded Germany’s suddenly liberalized prostitution laws? Finally, they said — the “oldest profession” would become a job just like any other! Unionization! Freedom of sexual expression! Workers’ rights for sex workers! Street prostitution will become a thing of the past! Everyone will work independently indoors, where it’s safe! And on and on.

Well, that hasn’t happened. What happened instead is that this well-intended but badly flawed legislation came together with the neocapitalism of Eastern Europe in a perfect storm of open borders, organized crime, and near-total impunity. So what effect has all of that had? The Frankfurter Rundschau news team went on the streets, and what the women there have to say may shock you…

The well-tended, good-looking woman — let’s call her Anna* — knows whereof she speaks. “Ever since the East Bloc arrived, prices are kaputt. Lots of johns are really shameless. Everything’s turned around: once, the ladies named their price. Today, the men tell them what they’ll give. And if I say ‘I won’t do it for 15 euros, and definitely not without a condom’, then he’ll keep on driving. And later he’ll honk going by, to show me that he found a Bulgarian or a Romanian who will do what he wants.”

Anna is prostituting. For 25 years, as she herself says. It’s cold this evening on the street corner of the Theodor-Heuss-Allee in Frankfurt. Anna stands there in an open down jacket, with a low neckline and high boots. It all comes bubbling out of her: “Ever since I started, lots of things have gotten worse. Respect is gone. But it’s all right for me, I have lots of regulars and don’t have to hop into every car. In the end, you just don’t want to do everything.”

Not everyone radiates so much self-assurance. 100 metres away is Anna’s transsexual colleague, Mia*, who’s happy just to have 50 euros in her pocket at the end of the night. “For having sex twice.” Five years earlier, she used to make several hundred euros a night, says the Bulgarian with the big, sad eyes. She earns a little extra with table-dancing. Otherwise, she has to stand on the curb.

“Earning good money fast” — you can still do that, says pretty young Dana*, on the other hand. Seven months ago, she quit her job as head salesclerk in a supermarket in Bulgaria — “badly paid 12-hour days”. Today she earns a lot more (“25 euros for 15 minutes”) and is, so she says, content. If only she weren’t afraid. Above all, of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Dana keeps hearing from the men that they’re married, after all, and she looks quite healthy. “Sometimes they agree when I insist on a condom. And then suddenly, in the middle of sex, they yank the rubber off.” Would a condom requirement help her? Dana smiles bitterly: “Only a few Germans would stick to that, the ones that follow rules. My other customers, probably not.” With those, she often senses their disdain, finds them aggressive.

Dana, who works for her “boyfriend”, also fears the other pimps. “They’ll pull women into their cars, beat them up, and drag them off to someplace. Last year, a woman disappeared from here.” All the same, there’s no question for her of working in a bordello, where it would be less dangerous. She shakes her head energetically. She feels “protected” by her boyfriend, who always waits on one of the side streets. “He’d be here in three to five minutes.” But above all, what she earns matters to her. “In a bordello, the clients pay less.”

Only a few women are still working the streets of Frankfurt, maybe about 30. In any case, fewer than 50, according to chief criminal inspector Jürgen Benz. In total, some 1200 to 1400 prostitutes are offering their services in the city. Benz and his colleagues in the K62 Task Force against human trafficking in the Frankfurt Police Presidium are particularly busy in the brothels. There are 18 of those in Frankfurt, with 750 rooms in all.

Above all, the “East Bloc”, as Anna calls it, has arrived: Since the eastward expansion of the EU in 2007, Bulgarian and Romanian women have been flooding the German sex market. In the brothels of Frankfurt, some 90 percent of the women are Eastern Europeans — poverty prostitutes, who unlike Dana have never had a job they could give up. Uneducated — many can’t even read or write — and often experienced in violence. They come from slums, from conditions that no one here can imagine. And they land in circumstances that no one here would wish.

Brutally and unscrupulously, the pimps take advantage of the precarious situation of the mostly very young migrant women, taking a majority of their already meagre income. “With a woman, a perp can earn 70,000 euros a year,” Jürgen Benz estimates. The brothel owners also cash in big-time; the “business landlords” charge 125 euros per day. “A woman has to sleep with 200 men a month — just for the rent”, says Benz. And even though the officer, who used to work in narcotics, isn’t easily shocked, in his sober words there is an ominous tone: these figures scare even him. “A woman who is out sick for one week would be 1000 euros in debt after that week,” Benz continues. That’s why there’s the great danger that she will continue.

That many prostitutes are “in a pitiable state of health”, Elvira Niesner also emphasizes. She’s the head of the group “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” (FIM, by its German initials). In Frankfurt, the organization has its offices near the red-light district; from there, in the evenings, street workers fan out to provide women on the streets and in the brothels with condoms, to advise them, and to offer help. The social workers speak the women’s languages, even if they can’t speak German despite years in country.

Niesner describes the changes in the sex market as dramatic also, particularly the degree of exploitation, foreign control, and violence. “Many women don’t even know in which city they currently find themselves,” says the sociologist and shakes her head, as if she herself can’t believe it. Pimps cart the young women from one brothel to the next, in order to offer the johns variety — “Fresh meat”, they call it in the trade. Thus isolated, the women are easier to exploit. “They don’t know that prostitution is legal in Germany, and that they can work without pimps.”

Most Eastern European women aren’t forced prostitutes, in the sense that human traffickers have lured them from a good job in housekeeping or gastronomy with false promises. Not only the former chief supermarket clerk, Dana, has made a conscious choice. As social workers keep reporting, the women knew that they would be working as prostitutes in Germany. However, the boundary between free choice and compulsion is fluid. Because the perps have deliberately left unclear what actually awaits them: a job that will physically and psychically wear them out. And the way out of this destructive dead-end street is blocked off. Because the pimps won’t let them go, because they’re in the debt trap, and above all, because they have no alternatives.

How different is the picture of sex work which the representatives of the prostitutes’ unions paint, the ones who often set the tone in public debate. To work on one’s own terms, to decide for oneself whom to service and how. A lucrative profession, which one can confidently proclaim. One might suspect that this picture is too rosy. But in fact, the daily routine in a nudist “oasis”, a flat or an escort service is a completely different reality. A high priced-part of the sex market. Or — depending on your viewpoint — an antisocial subculture. And pretty please keep politics out of it, say the “whores’ unions”, who dread fresh interference from the prostitute protection law being tabled in Berlin. That would be understandable, if they did not hand-wave away human trafficking, forced prostitution and exploitation in the same breath.

On the other hand, the women of FIM emphasize that “the biggest group are the poverty prostitutes”. They hail the decision of politicians to concern themselves more with the shabbier side of reality. FIM is hoping that the prostitute-protection law will give a boost to protection for victims. Niesner supports, for example, the planned requirement for health checks, which are under heavy dispute. Critics speak of stigmatization. FIM’s women, on the other hand, see more of a chance to reach the sealed-off women and build contacts based on trust. But: “Health checks must be tied in with consultations with qualified social workers, with low thresholds, in the women’s native tongue, and personal. It’s all about strengthening the women.”

Such structures are lacking in many places at the moment. And they will still be lacking, when the law maybe kicks in next year. But Niesner harbors the hope that they will be brought about under pressure of the law.

And what do the women in the Theodor-Heuss-Allee say? Would they find mandatory counselling discriminatory? There are no clear answers to that question. But it’s plain to see that the street workers are welcome among the prostitutes, even when they come, as on this cold March evening, with two politicians and two journalists in tow. Federal representatives Michael Brand (CDU) and Kordula Schulz-Asche (Greens) tell them again and again that they are working on a new law for the trade, and for that reason want to know, how politics can best be of help. Puzzled faces, embarrassed smiles, shrugging shoulders — I can’t be helped, seems to be the message. “A different job,” says Ilona* (41), eventually. But she can only dream about that. The mother of three children, from Hungary, is drug-addicted and homeless.

“Do you regret your decision to come to Germany?” asks Brand of former supermarket clerk Dana. Anger flashes up in her eyes: “I’m not ashamed of what I do,” she replies, defiantly. That’s not how the question was meant. It’s more about finding out whether it’s true that most prostitutes don’t want to exit. In fact, the social workers of FIM have made exactly this finding. Only a few Latinas have exited lately. Encarni Ramírez Vega, who looks after this group, describes them as “self-aware pros” who didn’t want to go along with bargain-basement prices. The others, to her, are captives of a destructive lack of perspective.

Even the fight against human trafficking is in trouble. The number of legal cases has been declining for three years, but human trafficking hasn’t. It used to be that women would seek police protection. “Nowadays they only rarely come to us,” said police commissioner Benz. “We have to go to them.” And repeatedly, so that they lose their fear of the police and learn to trust. Only that way would there be a chance that they could testify against their tormentors. “No testimony, no trial.”

The commissioner is, for that reason, in favor of legislation requiring registration for prostitutes. “Because whenever I speak with a woman who could be the victim of a crime, then she’s already not there anymore the next day. Where the pimps have brought her, I can’t find out without mandatory registration.”

This proceeding, however, is particularly controversial. It is a delicate matter of personal privacy, and many prostitutes oppose it as discriminatory. Above all women in rural regions fear for their anonymity, and dread a “forced outing”. Anna is afraid that her information could end up in the wrong hands, maybe even those of a client. That couldn’t be very possible. But Anna holds firm: “Later one of them will be at my door, harassing me. No, what I’m doing here must remain discreet.”

Translation mine; * denotes a name changed to protect privacy.

So much for the sex-workers’ paradise of liberalization. Not only has it not cleared the streets of streetwalkers, it hasn’t empowered them one whit. It hasn’t even empowered those in the “safety” of the brothels — a relative term, that “safety”, given that cheap flat-rate sex is the new normal, and room rates are extortionate, and there is no guarantee that brothel keepers will protect anything but their own bottom line. The girls get trucked in from all over, and trucked around until they don’t even know where they are anymore, much less how to speak a word of German beyond what it takes to reel off a menu of acts and (low, flat) rates per.

But hey, at least the johns don’t have to duck their heads anymore when they walk in, eh? Their part of the whole exchange, at any rate, is now loud and proud. That of the ladies, not so much. As even Anna, the most self-confident of them says, she fears the johns. All the girls fear those guys. They’ve gotten cocky, and they are spoiled for choice, thanks to the glut of desperate, impoverished girls from Eastern Europe. And some of those even end up on the street, where it’s not only cheaper to buy one, it’s also dead easy to just yoink one into a car, drive off to someplace where no one can see or hear, and do whatever. For a paltry few euros, anything goes…even without condoms, a fact shamelessly advertised by flat-rate brothels all over Germany.

And of course, no health checks, either. A perfect breeding ground for every STD under the Sun, and probably quite a few we haven’t yet heard of. The rationalizations abound: “I’m married, and you don’t look sick.” That’s as good as a condom, isn’t it? And if the long-suffering wife does end up with a case of the clap, you can always pretend it’s the fault of some public toilet seat, even though that is, in fact, never the case. Prophylaxis: what’s that? And why should it matter?

And if a girl goes missing…well, who’s going to notice or care? As long as she’s not registered, and doesn’t want to be, the johns can literally get away with murder.

And that’s not even counting the pimps. You know, those Eastern European mafiosi who truck the girls in, and around and around until they’re dizzy with disorientation, so that the johns can have the eternal illusion that they’re getting fresh meat, and so no girl sticks around in any one place long enough to form a relationship with a potentially sympathetic client…much less local social workers or the police. Who are effectively hamstrung when it comes to helping or protecting them, as it currently stands, and probably will continue to be when the new law passes. Whenever that is.

Yeah, a hell of an improvement that 2002 law has been. And wow, such empowerment for the prostituted. Yay, sex capitalism.

Meme du jour…

Cristina kicks Israel’s ass; Bibi own-goals himself before US congress

A half-hour portion of Cristina’s speech before the Argentine parliament the other day, which lasted about four hours in all. This portion specifically concerns the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombings. If you can understand Spanish, you really need to see this. It’s just stunning. She calls out ALL THE BULLSHIT. And all the bullshitters, too.

Hot off the dismissal of a scandalous so-called case against her by a prosecutor later found dead of an apparent suicide, the president of Argentina is turning the spotlight on the very country that wants this negative attention the least. No, it’s not Iran. Guess again…

Argentine president Cristina Fernández requested of Israel that the former ambassador, Itzhak Aviran, testify in regard to the cause of the attack on the Jewish mutual centre, AMIA, in 1994, in order to explain why he said months ago to the media that his country killed the terrorists.

During her speech opening the legislative year, the president announced that “since no judge has requested it”, she herself will “formally request of the state of Israel that ex-ambassador Itzhak Aviran please come to testify”, so that Argentines may know “at least, [who were] the material authors” of the AMIA attack.

Aviran, who was ambassador in Buenos Aires between 1993 and 2000, caused a great controversy early in 2014, when he stated in an interview that “the great majority” of those responsible for the attack that left 85 dead in 1994 “are now in the other world, and we ourselves did that”, referring to the state of Israel.

The Argentine foreign office at the time deemed the declarations to be of “extreme gravity” and accused Israel of concealing information, but the Israeli government denied the information and called Aviran’s statements “pure fantasy”.

“21 years have passed and we don’t have a single person sentenced, nor even one prisoner due to AMIA,” the president said, accusing the Argentine judiciary of failing to advance in investigating the attack, as well as that against the Israeli embassy two years before, which left 29 dead.

“It has always strongly called my attention, I still can’t understand why the state of Israel accuses [Argentina] over AMIA, and not for the bombing of its own embassy,” Fernández pointed out.

“Does anyone know, can anyone inform this president what is the result of the investigation (of the attack against the embassy) by the Supreme Court? Can anyone inform me why the state of Israel isn’t making accusations about the embassy?” Fernández asked.

The attack on AMIA has come to the forefront of the political scene after the death, in circumstances still unexplained, of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor charged with the investigation, who was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head on January 18.

Four days before, Nisman had presented a denunciation against the president, foreign minister Héctor Timerman, and several directors of the ruling party, over a supposed plan to cover for the Iranians suspected of carrying out the attack.

The denunciation was dismissed last Thursday by magistrate Daniel Rafecas, on the basis that there was no evidence to support the accusations.

Translation mine.

Well. Wasn’t that a party? Cristina sure knows how to drop a bombshell, doesn’t she. Imagine an Israeli ambassador — or former one, rather — being called to testify before an Argentine court about the attacks on his country’s embassy and on the AMIA centre, too! I doubt he’d show (because diplomatic immunity blah blah, and also BAWWWWK buk buk bk bk), but it sure would be interesting to hear him clear up his statements to the effect that Israel disposed of the guilty parties already, without so much as a word of by-the-way to Argentina! Because if Israel did that, then why this twenty-year campaign to pin the blame for the still-unresolved crime on Iran? And why the current campaign to discredit Argentina in the eyes of the world? And if the assassins were in fact, as Israel insists, Iranian — then why hasn’t there been an international incident in which Iran declares war on Israel as a result? Because I doubt very much that Tehran would take the murder of Iranian nationals lying down, especially if Israel were behind it.

All of this comes at a very interesting time for Argentina, when the country has shrugged off its debts and kicked the vulture capitalists out of country. Little wonder, then, that the right-wing international media are out to demonize Cristina Fernández by any means possible — even publishing that ridiculous, superstitious bullshit about her standing godmother to a Jewish young man in order to save him from becoming a werewolf! Can’t let her look good for righting the dire economic situation that led to Argentina’s debt default in the wake of the crash of 2001, can we?

All this comes at a very inconvenient time for Israel, too, since Bibi came to blah-blah, without presidential invitation, before the US congress. This is not only irregular, it’s illegal, and 56 US representatives have boycotted the speech in protest. It’s unleashed a torrent of blatantly racist hate from one teabagger crapagandist, who wants to see the dissenting parliamentarians strung up and lynched. How fitting that a troll who clearly learned nothing from history would allude to Jim Crow-era practices in defence of an apartheid state where black and North African Jews are treated as second-class citizens, to the point where some are even covertly chemically sterilized. It’s like they learned nothing from their own history, either — else why recapitulate the sort of things that one expects to hear about, say, a Josef Mengele?

And suddenly the bizarre accusations of Alberto Nisman start to make a horrible kind of sense. If Nisman was indeed working at the behest of Mossad handlers, then we can place him (and maybe his death as well) in the context of a demonization campaign by Israel against Argentina. And this in the face of all Argentina’s extensive efforts to co-operate with Israel. Talk about bad faith!

In the end, this will be an own goal for Israel. And they’re already losing badly on the global stage, so they can ill afford to look any worse.

After 40 years, a victim of Franco’s Spain tells her story

lidia-falcon

Lidia Falcón in an archival photo, likely taken before her seventh and final arrest under the Franco dictatorship. The leftist lawyer and feminist was falsely linked to a crime allegedly carried out by Basque separatists in Madrid in September 1974. A café frequented by secret police was the target. Falcón had nothing to do with the attack at all, but that didn’t stop the dying dictator’s sadists from doing their worst to her. For 40 years she was unable to talk about it. Now, she tells her story to Público:

Lidia Falcón was tortured to the limit in the fall of 1974. She was beaten, insulted and humiliated. But not only in prison. In the official media as well. The daily newspaper, ABC, didn’t hesitate to publish her photo on the front page and link her to an ETA attack on the Rolando coffeehouse in Correo Street, near the Puerta del Sol, on September 13, 1974. Falcón had nothing to do with that massacre. But for the police, the Franco régime, and for its hangers-on, it was all the same. She was arrested in Barcelona and transferred to Madrid three days after the attack. She thought she would never get out of jail. That they would kill her first. Franco was near death, and the hatred of his Political and Social Brigade was running rampant throughout Spain. Tortures unimaginable today were commonplace.

The lawyer, writer and founder of the Feminist Party has taken 40 years to recount that dramatic episode of her life. The nine months she spent in prison and the nine days she suffered the interrogations of Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa. She kept it hidden as much as possible, she doesn’t really know why, she says. Every victim manages the trauma of torture as well as they can. Every person has their own defence mechanism. Silence and pretending were the methods Falcón chose.

Today, forty years later, she has decided to put those tortures in writing and present a denunciation before the Argentine embassy in Madrid as part of the so-called Argentine Case, the only judicial proceeding currently investigating the crimes of the Franco dictatorship and the Spanish Civil War.

“They arrested me seven times between 1960 and 1974, but no one has ever been told what I lived through during that last detention. Why? I don’t know,” Lidia Falcón told Público. She says she finally decided to take that step and make the denunciation in order to “help my comrades who are making such a great effort to put an end to the impunity of Franco-fascism.”

On September 16, 1974, three days after the ETA attack, the Politico-Social Brigade (BPS) arrived at Lidia Falcón’s office to arrest her and take her to Madrid, accusing her of taking part in the attack by planting an explosive charge in the Rolando Coffeehouse in Madrid, a place frequented by the BPS police. They had no evidence. They probably also knew that Falcón was not implicated. But it was all the same to them. They forced her into a car and drove her to Madrid. The same for her daughter and her companion, Eliseo Bayo. They wouldn’t even let her go to the bathroom during the 12-hour trip.

The worst, obviously, was still to come. Falcón spent nine days in the Franco-fascist terror’s station. “They threw Grimau out the window there. They tortured him to the point of uselessness. One thinks it’s possible not to talk about it, that it not come out,” Falcón said, in front of the Argentine embassy in Madrid. “They were furious and hungry for revenge. We can’t forget that 13 people had just died, and there were 84 injured,” Falcón continues.

A doctor examined her upon arrival. “Do you suffer from any illness?” he asked her. “I’ve recently had hepatitis,” she replied. Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa now had the perfect target to destroy their victim: “They hit me in the stomach and in the liver and tugged at my arms until I thought they’d fall out.” This for three days. No sleep, no food, no drink. Between beatings, they talked about her daughter: “She’s in jail. Maybe she’ll find a boyfriend.”

After 72 hours in detention, she was visited in her jail cell by the instructing judge, the commander of the First Military Tribunal of Judges and Officials of Madrid, and after a lengthy interrogation, Falcón signed a declaration in which she did not confess to participation in the attack, nor any relations with the terrorists. “I’ve asked myself whether the CIA was implicated in the attack,” Falcón remembers, describing how the judge thumped his chest and exclaimed, “I will not allow betrayals of this uniform!”

After the official left, she was returned to her cell. The next day, Billy the Kid and Conesa came back for her. They handcuffed her to two hooks in the ceiling, but Falcón’s wrists were too small. Her 50 kilograms of body weight were not enough to fill the cuffs. Falcón fel again and again. Finally, they tied her with ropes and began to punch her in the abdomen, stomach and liver.

“Do you recall anything Billy the Kid said to you during the interrogation?” asked a journalist.

“Yes. Of course. There’s one thing that I’ll never forget. Ever. While he was beating me about the stomach, he said to me, ‘Now you’ll never stand up again, whore,'” replied Falcón, recalling that after the interrogations, she had to have five surgeries to try to repair the damage from the tortures to her shoulders, stomach and uterus.

Like other victims of Antonio González Pacheco, alias Billy the Kid, Falcón remembers his face well. Those eyes that sparkled upon seeing another’s pain, which enjoyed inflicting terror and exercising the superiority of having a victim tied up and free rein to torture. “He was a sadist. He liked it. You could see he was enjoying those moments,” Falcón adds, recalling that she finished most of the torture sessions by losing consciousness.

When she fainted, they untied her and laid her on the floor. They woke her with a bucket of water. Then the doctor examined her, checking the whites of her eyes and her blood pressure. “Let her rest,” he usually recommended. She remained on the floor, wet, for hours, until they brought her back to her cell. The next day, the tortures continued. On the sixth day, the torturers could not continue with the same abuses. They could not hang her from the wall because she would lose consciousness quickly as a result. Then, when she awoke, she went on receiving punches and kicks while lying on the ground.

On the ninth day, they transferred her to the Women’s Prison of Yeserías in Madrid. The tendons of her arms were torn, as were her uterus and abdominal muscles. She spent nine months in that prison. On June 11, 1975, they gave her provisional freedom and a fine of 30,000 pesetas. Though she had been accused, she never went to trial. In fact, No one ever went on trial for that ETA attack. Neither she, nor the other 21 accused.

Years later, Falcón went to the Historical Archive to look for the documents from her stay in prison, her detention, and the seven arrests. They didn’t exist. Her name only appears on a document which recounts a conversation between two police officers. “Everything has been eliminated. It’s part of the pact of silence of the Transition. Everything stays behind. There are no guilty parties. No one was sentenced. No investigations. Spain is a single country, and bipartisanism shares a big part of the blame,” Falcón says.

Translation mine.

In case you wonder why Argentina should be involved in this case, you may recall what I blogged a few weeks ago about the exchanges between the military academies of Spain and Argentina. Even as Franco’s régime was in its last gasps (literally, since the dictator was on his deathbed), that of Argentina was just around the corner. Already the fascist (“anticommunist”) brigades, both military and civilian, were harassing Argentine leftists, and bodies were beginning to fall. In a country with a long history off generals-as-presidents, a military coup is never far behind, and in 1976, it finally happened. The fragile Argentine democracy crumbled even as an equally fragile and uncertain so-called democracy emerged from the dictator’s death in Spain. It was like the two countries sat at either end of a see-saw: as one went up, the other went down.

But even as the public balance was shifting, something covert was going on, something that would assure the continuation of fascism, its migration between one Spanish-speaking land and another. Spanish and Argentine military officers were involved in an exchange program, and specifically one dealing in so-called “counterinsurgency” methods. In plain English: Terrorism, murder, torture, abduction, permanent disappearance of victims, and erasure of their very names from the records. Officers from one country went to train in the other, and vice versa. The new Spanish democracy was a sham, as much as the former Argentine one had been. In truth, fascism would continue unabated, hidden. Just as the Argentines had their secret prisons in places the public never suspected, so did the Spaniards harbor their torturers in plain sight. And this even with Franco in his grave, and a two-party electoral system supposedly now in place. Officers and torturers of both régimes enjoyed total impunity, and some still do to this day.

It’s getting late, and yet there is so much still to be done to bring real democracy to Spain and Argentina. As long as the victims live, the torturers’ crimes can still come to light…even after 40 years or more.