And in light of today’s events, what better than a Greek tune (in English) to celebrate the victory of NO?
Oh, I know: How about this one, too, in honor of another legendary Greek named Alexis?
And in light of today’s events, what better than a Greek tune (in English) to celebrate the victory of NO?
Oh, I know: How about this one, too, in honor of another legendary Greek named Alexis?
His suit is baggy; his face is saggy. He’s missed a lot of scheduled appearances. It’s apparent that the president of Mexico is not a well man. But there’s no official word as to what’s troubling him. So unofficial word will have to do, and the rumors abound:
It isn’t true, as the official bulletin claims, that in the early-morning hours of Friday, June 26, he began to feel abdominal pains and wound up in surgery at the Central Military Hospital.
Already on Thursday afternoon, at the latest, it was announced that he would not be appearing at Bellas Artes to inaugurate an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The reason? No one would say.
A little later, Los Pinos announced that the journalists of the presidential news service would not be covering his visit to Guatemala. Reason? Again, no one was saying, but it was obvious that, much earlier that morning, Enrique Peña Nieto was already considering cancelling the tour.
So he was not suffering a “sudden” illness, but the consequences of something which has been hidden from us. “Peña Nieto often enters and exits the Central Military Hospital,” a doctor told me last week. “He’s receiving chemotherapy. The nodule they removed from his thyroid [on July 31, 2013] was malignant, and now there are metastases. It’s gone into his liver.”
Liver cancer? “His eyes are yellowish, his face looks sunken, it’s in his bones,” my informant explained. “He has from now until December to bring out the necessary reforms, because after that, he won’t even be able to stand up.”
We hear such things every day. However, when a concrete fact appears, speculation makes sense. Where did they allegedly operate on his gallbladder? In the Central Military Hospital, where, according to my source, he is receiving periodic chemotherapy.
Where is the news of yesterday’s operation? Why don’t they show us video of the surgery, photos of the removed gallbladder? Several newspaper headlines from two days ago read: “Peña Nieto rushes through Social Security reforms”. Rush? Someone’s in a rush? Why, if his six-year term of office ends in December of 2018?
“Peña Nieto urges cabinet members to redouble efforts to formalize reforms in progress”, was the headline in several media yesterday, at the same time as the president’s gallbladder was under the knife, according to the vague and dubious official bulletin.
If one googles “Peña Nieto cancels visit to…”, many options come up. Why has he not completed so many of the items on his agenda? Nothing to indicate that he’s doing it for the same reason as he went back on his campaign promises, but what’s certain is that his time is running out, and that of his team as well, so much so that it’s wearing out the patience of tens of millions who are not only already resentful of the ravages of the perpetual crisis, but must now conceal their indignation at the sluggishness, corruption and stupidity prevailing in the highest spheres.
As of next Wednesday, we’ll be paying a 16% value-added tax on all foods sold at Oxxo, Seven-Eleven, supermarkets and…even in movie theatres? Mega-delinquents such as Alejandro Ramírez of Cinépolis and Germán Lelo de Larrea of Cinemex, who sell hot dogs at eight times the price of those on the street, will also be adding 16% to their candies?
After the oil-price collapse of 2014, Hacienda applied, starting in February 2015, a 124-billion-peso cut to social service spending. Since this government decidedly isn’t working for anyone, social service spending will further contract, in 2016, to 135 billion pesos.
During the electoral campaign of 2012, Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered a 50% salary cut for all upper-level bureauccrats, and other measures, to achieve an annual saving of 300 billion pesos. At this level, it would have been possible to save — and apply to works of collective benefit — close to a trillion pesos.
Meanwhile, so as not to lessen the privileges of ministers, magistrates, secretaries, counselors and other parasites of public administration, Hacienda opted to take from the populace 269 billion pesos between 2015 and 2016, without mentioning that they’ll be sucking us dry with the price of fuel and taxes for which we, in return, will get shitty governmental services.
The planets appear to be lining up: Peña Nieto is leaving us, slowly, but he’s leaving us; his economic project is inviable, and the people don’t want more violence but is not disposed to suffer any more humiliations and, as much as it can, will emulate the people of Ocotlán, Jalisco, who threw out the PRI from the Municipal Presidency where it had ruled from time immemorial, through a sudden shortage of chairs.
Let me explain. On the night of Thursday, March 19, an attack of the Jalisco “Nueva Generacíon” Cartel (CJNG) on the Federal Police station left so much blood in the streets of Ocotlán that the local authorities had to wash it away with high-pressure hoses.
Two months later, on the night of May 21-22, 42 men of various ages, who were sleeping in a ranch in Tanhuato Michoacán, very close to the Jalisco border, were surrounded by Federal Police agents and in some cases, arrested and tortured with infinite cruelty, and others gunned down at point-blank range.
During the operation, the Army fired on the Federal Police, causing a casualty. The casualty was attributed to the victims. But these, as has been proven by photos of their cadavers, before and after they had long guns planted on them, never participated in any combat. Much less “ambushed a military convoy that was patrolling the zone,” as the Secretariat of Defence routinely informed us.
Identified by relatives as residents of Ocotlán, the 42 presumed members of the CJNG wound up in the Morelia morgue, where coroners found that 11 of them had had their testicles cut off, others had their eyes put out, others had their arms broken, others had been sexually violated with metal objects, and others had had their teeth beaten into their jawbones. And all this courtesy of Enrique Peña Nieto.
The problem of the chairs began when the remains of the 42 were brought to their homes and, to organize the respective wakes, the families called businesses which rent chairs for dances, weddings, baptisms and other social events. But upon seeing the amount of demand, the owners of said businesses bought hundreds of chairs from local furniture factories to satisfy the needs of their clients.
On June 7, in that village that was chock-full of PRI voters, the people voted massively for a candidate they hadn’t even seen, and that good man, who had never expected to win, did so by a landslide. Is the day drawing near when the same will occur throughout the land?
Maybe what we most urgently need is not the medical part of Peña Nieto’s surgery, but an autopsy of the Mexican political system, that corpse in an advanced state of social decomposition amid whose remains, as the Argentines would say, we are rotting and re-rotting.
So, it would appear that the president of Mexico, the same who rose to power under inauspicious circumstances, is not only sick, but terminally ill. And Mexico, under his power, is a fester of rotting corpses and buzzing flies. Innocent persons accused of belonging to drug cartels get slaughtered by the dozens on the regular — does that sound like a healthy body politic to you?
And remember, it is none other than Enrique Peña Nieto himself who authorized all this cracking-down of the military and the federal police on the villagers of those humble districts. Operations of that size require presidential sign-offs, no? After all, it has to look like SOMETHING is being done to curb all the rampant drug-trafficking and its attendant violence and mayhem.
Mexico today is like Colombia in the 1980s, only worse, if that’s even possible. Everyone from the president on down has a stake in the drug trade, and also in the show that gets put on by the media to convince us all that it will, someday, be got under control, when all the gang bosses are dead or in jail. As if! The gringo appetite for dope of all kinds is what’s really driving the trade, and if that were to end, one would see all this banditry go the way of the dodo as well. But since gringos like their cocaine, their crack, their crystal meth and so on, of course it won’t. The so-called War on Drugs has done nothing but to create demand, driving up prices and making the whole business all the more attractive to all manner of bottom feeders.
And Peña Nieto, as Washington’s man in Mexico, is happy to play along, for as long as his faltering liver (appropriately, the organ responsible for neutralizing and disposing of all manner of toxins, including drugs and alcohol) holds out. But, as his jaundiced eyes and gaunt face have given us to know, that won’t be for much longer.
Remember when Argentina was under attack from a flock of circling black birds with briefcases in their claws? Well, those same birds are now circling around the isles of Greece…and Puerto Rico. And a certain lovely lady president, who is all too familiar with their dirty tricks, has called them out:
The president of Argentina, during a speech in recognition of the work of Argentine scientists, stated that what the Greek people are living through is exactly what the Argentine people have lived through.
“Today, 60 percent of young Greeks don’t have jobs. You know that Greece is spending 2.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on military spending, for purchases made from France, Germany and the US, because Greece represents a strategic position, due to its location on the Mediterranean. For that reason, I believe that we must look very closely at the world, and not just at ourselves, because sometimes, decisions are made which require global recognition.”
The president added: “We have achieved a victory before the World Trade Organization (WTO) in that the US will open its markets to Argentine meat […] After 15 years, Argentina will once again send meat to the US.” What that means is that “we have lost 6.2 billion dollars in meat exports.”
Cristina Fernández also brought up Puerto Rico, since “25 percent of its economy is controlled by hedge funds”. The president stated that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is going out of fashion, and that “there are other actors who are now imposing conditions on countries”, alluding directly to the “vulture” funds.
Oh, that Cristina. Never shy of telling it like it is, eh? A six-billion-dollar stealth blockade of Argentine meats is a helluva punishment for not selling off the country at fire-sale prices to foreign “investors”, but Argentina stood firm. So did Cristina.
And today, she’s vindicated. The vultures have backed off, and Argentina is back at the table, this time with dignity.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has found out the hard way what it really means to be an undeclared US state, with second-class citizenship, at that. 25% of the nation’s economy in vulture capitalist claws? What better reason to declare Puerto Rican independence, and kick the feathery bastards out?
And Greece is now looking at a referendum to decide whether to accept or reject the EU’s vulturish “conditions” for staying in the Eurozone. If they’re smart, they’ll say “Ochi” (“no”) to the Germans all over again, same as they did way back in World War II, when Greece was being run by Nazis. Because, in the economic sense, that’s exactly what this situation is…and Cristina, never one to clam up when there’s something in dire need of saying, has pegged it. Fiscal imperialism is just one more form of fascism without swastikas, and poor countries are getting tired of paying for the sins of the rich.
Plus there’s the inconvenient fact that Germany owes Greece war reparations for those said Nazi times…reparations which have never been paid. If they’re smart, they’ll cancel the Greek debt and let that country breathe again. But what are the odds that they’ll do the smart thing, as long as the vultures are still circling and crawking for their pound of souvlaki?
Stompin’ Tom is sorely missed, but he’s still here in spirit, never fear.
And here’s another notable Pied Piper of Canadian music…bandleader Bobby Gimby, opening Expo ’67 in Montréal:
No, I don’t have poison ivy…but the part about the ocean of calamine lotion sounds awfully familiar to me right now.
In light of all this past week’s head-spinning events, here’s one pic to summarize them all.
If things keep going on at this rate, we’ll soon not recognize that behemoth to the south of us. And I mean that in the nicest way.
Another day, another rampage, another vigil. This time, it’s in the downtown pedestrian zone of Graz, where a young man drove at full speed into a crowd…on purpose. What lurks behind such “senseless” violence? EMMA investigated, and found the following:
Just imagining it puts a lump in one’s throat. On a summer day around 12 noon in the middle of Graz, a man flooring it at 150 km/h in a pedestrian zone kills three people. Exactly where passersby stroll and people sit at café tables. He just mows them down with his green SUV, adults and children alike.
Then he gets out and attacks a couple with a knife. Gets back in, and races on through the inner city. Three people die immediately, 36 are injured, some of them clinging to life. “The inner city is like an open wound. It will take a long time to heal,” says Austrian minister of the Interior, Johanna Mikl-Leitner.
The man in question is a 26-year-old truck driver. He grew up near Graz, after leaving war-torn Bosnia with his family as a small boy. He is believed to have suffered a psychotic break on the day in question, according to authorities. But at the same time, he must have planned his crime exactly. Otherwise it would be impossible to explain how he could have backed up for such a distance with his SUV before he hit the gas and then raced toward the people and chased them down in a targeted manner. Psychologist Salvatore Giacomuzzi, of the University of Innsbruck, speaks of “ice-cold calculation”.
The Bosnian man who drove his green SUV into the pedestrian zone is now sitting in the Jakomini jail in Graz. His process has just begun; until now, he was impossible to talk to. So we still know very little.
In the report of the rampage in the Styrian capital city there is, however, another detail that brings a lump to one’s throat. But the fear, in this case, creeps up rather slowly. When local police director Josef Klamminger speaks of a “relationship crime”. The 26-year-old has already previously “shown himself to be violent”. But not in public; behind closed doors at home. In May, he was charged with violence against his wife and two sons in their home. Even before that, the police had been called to the scene several times. Once, the police confiscated a rifle. The wife, according to various media, has fled with the children to Bosnia. According to other press reports, the wife was arrested and interrogated in Graz on Sunday, but had known nothing of her husband’s plans. She had filed for divorce some time ago.
A man very injured in his pride, who is capable of driving his SUV at 150 into a pedestrian zone — what could he be capable of doing behind closed doors, where no one can see him?
Of course, such a rampage doesn’t just create a nationwide shock, but a wave of sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, too. Of course such rampages are followed by expert analyses over violence in general, and the question of what could drive a 26-year-old to do such a thing, and how it could be prevented in future.
But just as naturally, precisely because of its details, this case should become an occasion to talk about a form of violence that, even in 2015, is blanketed in silence and in this case, is directly connected: Domestic violence. Which happens every day, without anyone knowing about it. Which unleashes no national shock or public mourning. Even though thousands, if not millions, are affected by it. All the women, who fall victim to the terrorism of their boyfriends and husbands each and every day: rampagers behind closed doors.
In Austria, on average, an estimated 30 women are killed by their (ex-)husbands or (ex-)boyfriends every year. “Often, the murder is the terrible climax of a long history of violence, and usually, the murderers make their crimes known ahead of time,” according to the Austrian Women’s Help Line Against Violence in their yearly report from 2014. The femicides are “just the tip of the iceberg; the level of reported violence against women is very high and the number of unreported crimes is presumably much higher still.” Of the more than 8,000 callers to the hotline that year, 7,000 were female.
Meanwhile, the Agency of the European Union for Basic Rights found in a Europe-wide study that every fifth Austrian woman over the age of 15 falls victim to physical or sexual violence. Every tenth one suffers violence from a partner or ex-partner. In Germany, it’s no better: Every third woman falls victim to physical or sexual assault, every fifth one within or after the breakup of a relationship. Germany represents the European average with those figures. And this too is in the report: The majority of these victims don’t report partner violence to the police or an aid organization.
Even rampages, according to recent history, are all too often motivated by hatred toward (strong) women. Two examples among many: In Montréal, Québec, in 1989, Marc Lépine opened fire on female students in an engineering school with the words: “I hate feminists!” 25 years later, in Santa Barbara, California, mass killer Elliot Rodger wrote, before his rampage: “I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman….I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB.”
Such statements, so far, are not known in Graz. But looking at the depressing details of that rampage, one question keeps coming up: How can we get large violent outbreaks under control, when we ignore the small ones so criminally? It’s not surprising that violence that goes on unhindered for months or years behind closed doors can explode, can at some point break out on a larger stage — such as the downtown core of Graz. Above all, when the lightning rod suddenly disappears. For the wife of the rampager of Graz has dared to do something, that most victims of domestic violence take a long time to do, if at all: She escaped from her tormentor.
So we can see a number of layers of social trouble at work here. Domestic violence as precursor to violent rampages in the street; the lingering mental torments of the Balkan wars in survivors; the shockingly high number of assaults on women by intimate male partners in both Austria and Germany (and remember, these countries represent the European median for inter-partner violence of this nature); and the prevalence, throughout the world, of spoiled, entitled males exacting a gory “revenge” on women when they don’t get their way, be it in work or in love.
Most significant, for me, is the fact that this man (and presumably, his wife as well) is a survivor of the Bosnian conflict. In the Balkans, violence against women was a weapon of war, and a grotesque means of “ethnic cleansing”. Raping a woman on the enemy side, leaving her pregnant with an enemy’s child — this happened thousands of times. It’s a trauma that has marked and scarred women and girls from the 1990s to this day. Yet as traumatic as it is for the female survivors, none of them to date has gone on a violent rampage. It’s always been their partners. Why?
Could it be, maybe, the fact that their “manhood” was somehow offended by all the mass assaults on “their” women — a reproach against their “failure” to “defend” their “honor” properly? And that ever since that time, they’ve been trying to “get their manhood back” by taking out their rage and controlling impulses on the women, rather than dealing with the unresolved pain of that time in a more constructive manner?
If that’s the case, then it’s little wonder that this one ran amuck when his wife left him. When she escaped his violent, bullying control, she stripped him of what was left of his perceived “manhood”.
The only really surprising thing, in the end, is that this hasn’t happened more often. It’s not as if there’s any lack of motives, means or opportunity. Machismo and sexism are global problems. And that’s why trying to prevent individual rampages like this will probably fail; society is failing to tackle the root causes of male rage and vengefulness. Instead, it’s putting the onus and the blame on women, when it should be teaching men to stop viewing women as “property” that is “ruined” by another man’s hand. Until we collectively make machismo, rage and violence obsolete, we can only expect more of the same.
Karina Alteweier, a physician assistant in Leverkusen, Germany, points out an example of the kind of advertising she’s fighting in her city. Right next to it, a children’s musical is advertised. The brothel’s name, address, and other details are blocked out, but you can see that a day pass to enter the premises costs 55 euros. That’s dirt cheap, considering what it costs the women and girls who are typically imported from Eastern Europe to service those places (because there are not many German women who would freely contemplate such a job). EMMA interviewed Karina about what she does when she sees such ads…which, by the way, are illegal according to the local vice code.
EMMA: Frau Alteweier, you’ve been fighting for years against brothel advertising in your city. You’ve even gone to the complaint department of the mayor’s office.
KA: Exactly. I informed them there that according to Paragraphs 119 and 120 of the vice code, advertising for brothels is not allowed.
EMMA: How did you get involved against brothel advertising?
KA: One morning in 2011, on my way to work, I saw a huge billboard for the megabrothel “Pascha”, in Köln. My head exploded. I can’t accept that prostitution gets advertised as if it were ice cream — as if it were the most normal thing in the world. For me, as a woman, that’s discriminatory. And what image of women does that give our young people? I’m the mother of a 21-year-old son, and it’s horrific for me to imagine him going to a bordello. When I asked him about it, he got mad and said, “Mama, how can you think such a thing?”
And moreover, what effect must such an ad have on the victims of sexual abuse? For a woman who was abused as a child or a teenager, it must be like a slap in the face to see the sexual availability of women being advertised so casually.
EMMA: What did you do?
KA: I complained everywhere. I even called the police. There, they were very cranky and downright rude. And at the company that rents the ad space, an employee waved me off: “What’s the matter with you, that’s a chic photo!” So I went to the city offices, where there’s always an open ear for me. I also turned to the press. They reported it in a big, critical way. Some of the ads also hung along a school route, and mothers protested against that as well. Then the ads disappeared.
EMMA: The Pascha ads haven’t appeared again since then. But now there’s a megabrothel in Erkrath advertising for some time with the headline “100 Girls”.
KA: It all started with small flyers pasted up on bridges. I also complained about that to the city. So then the city put up signs in various places: “No advertising!” Meanwhile, this brothel has been putting up huge billboards. I counted them. Here in Leverkusen alone, there are at least ten. So then I called the city offices and had those ads taken down too, but it took three weeks. So my complaints have almost always had results.
EMMA: But that’s not enough for you.
KA: No. I don’t want to have to complain again and again every time there’s an ad. I want the city to make clear that it won’t tolerate any brothel advertising, and that ad space must not be rented to brothels in the first place. For that reason, on May 11, I wrote another letter of complaint to the city and asked to make use of my right to speak to the complaint department.
EMMA: How did the department react?
KA: Before the session, they sent me back a letter saying that there is a “changed understanding on the part of the public regarding prostitution”, and that one would have to deal with the advertising on a “case by case” basis. For instance, one would have to see if there were hints of “forced” prostitution, or “prostitution of minors”. As if they would write that on their billboards! Also, there are other cities, like for example Bremen, that don’t allow any brothel advertising at all.
EMMA: How did the complaint department respond to that?
KA: I told them again that advertising for prostitution is illegal, and then read them the corresponding paragraphs. I also told them that I know many people in my area who are not at all tolerant of prostitution, and don’t find this brothel advertising acceptable at all. But some of the department members didn’t listen to me at all, and just talked amongst themselves. They didn’t want to discuss it, either. After my presentation, they decided to keep things as they were. Luckily, a lady from the press was sitting next to me. She was disgusted at their ignorance and offered to write an article about this consultation.
EMMA: Meanwhile, you have the support of equality commissioner Sabine Rusch-Witthorn.
KA: She accompanied me to the sitting at my request, and plans to keep going with the topic.
EMMA: You too?
KA: Naturally! I have so much support. My chief physician and my colleagues all share my opinion completely. Whenever they read an article on the matter in the paper, they say: “You’re completely right, we see it that way too!” And there are always lots of supportive letters from the readers. That affirms and encourages me, naturally. I’m sticking with it; I can’t do otherwise. Every time I see such an ad, my motor starts running again.
Karina’s battle is uphill, and little wonder: Germany’s bordellos bring in billions of euros a year in gross revenue. There are nearly half a million women in prostitution there, most of them foreigners. It’s a vicious circle: Legalization creates normalization; normalization creates demand; demand spurs traffickers to increase the supply of prostituted persons from out of country; more supply, more normalization; more normalization, more money!
And as long as the brothel operators pay their taxes and the police don’t get too many calls about violence on the premises (even though it happens, and far more often than is mentioned in the media), the city authorities don’t much care what goes on in there. It takes nothing less than the most flagrant human rights abuses, disease outbreaks, and accusations of human trafficking that stick before a bordello gets shuttered. The money apparently matters more than the well-being of the girls, who are typically under 20 and speak little German (or English) beyond what it takes to reel off a price list and negotiate a transaction. It’s a situation where abuse isn’t a glitch, it’s a feature.
And if you think it’s any safer in brothels than it is on the street, read Rebecca Mott’s interview here and find out why pro-prostitution campaigners are so eager to push the “indoors = harm reduction” meme. You’ll see it has a lot less to do with prostituted people’s safety than it does with lack of accountability, and the abusers’ and exploiters’ ability to get away with everything (up to and including murder). Off the street is out of sight, and out of sight is out of mind…or so the pimp lobby reckons.
Of course, as brazen as they are, they reckoned without the likes of Karina and her colleagues, who aren’t fooled by all this defensive, dismissive talk of a “changed morality” in Germany. It’s a bald-faced lie that all German women support prostitution, seeing it as an “escape valve” for “dangerous impulses” that would otherwise lead to rape. Rape is still happening, and in fact is more rampant than ever; unprostituted women are now afraid to walk through red-light districts because drunken brothel patrons often accost them on the street! (Normalization creates demand, remember?)
It’s also a lie that the country is better and happier since prostitution was legalized in 2001. It might be richer in some small parts, thanks to horny foreigners on sex tours, but that’s not an improvement! The wealth is not trickling down. Most prostitutes are desperately poor when they enter, and no better off when they exit. Women are still being assaulted, abused and murdered, and many of them are in prostitution when it happens. The closed doors of the brothel conceal a multitude of crimes against humanity. And the spillover from that reaches onto the streets, too…where prostitution hasn’t exactly abated, either.
These activists, however, know their local laws and are disgusted with the blatant abuses going on under their noses. And they will not stop opposing the pimps’ efforts to turn a profit at everyone else’s expense. Even those with no children to worry about can figure out for themselves what it must feel like to someone who was sexually abused at an early age to see acts similar to those committed against her being “legally” advertised for sale…on a billboard, a wall, or a city bus. To such individuals, the city authorities’ reluctance to step in and stop it must feel like a whole fresh round of abuse.
This is the strangest life I’ve ever known…