Gaza in the Stone Age [Daily Digest]

Gaza is being driven into the Stone Age by the blockade as sewer-contaminated waters flood the streets and fuel and electricity outages grind garbage collecting and indoor heating to a halt in the midst of rains and unusual cold and snow.

Meanwhile, the leading American Jewish publication, Forward, headlined the thousands of Israeli homes without power in its article on the snow storm. Clearly, the brief and quite unusual interruption of power in some Israeli homes due to nature is the important point to emphasize.  For 1.5 million Gazans, that is a far less novel state of existence. Israeli finally transported some fuel into Gaza over the weekend to allow for home heating.

Federal judges are blocking the attainment of minimal justice and accountability for police officers in New Orleans who went on killing sprees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the apparently sincere efforts of the Justice Department, convictions are being overturned left and right owing to the pro-cop bias of the federal judiciary system.

The deep historical roots of the IWW.

The communist left in Germany 1918-1921 – Gilles Dauvé and Denis Authier. First published in France in 1976, as ‘La Gauche Communiste en Allemagne (1918-1921)’. English translation by M. DeSocio published in 2006. Taken from the Collective Action Notes website.

“The IWW, an organization of radical economic struggle, born in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century, had historical roots which extended back to Owen’s theory of One Big Union (ca. 1830).”

The Chinese public has been less conditioned by imperial propaganda than the American people – hardly a surprise given China’s still far more limited global influence. Notice the preferred code language for superpower domination: “global leadership”.

“While a majority of elites on both sides believed their own country should play a role in global leadership, only 45 percent of the general public in China thought that way about their nation — compared with 74 percent of the U.S. public.”

The humble origins of the Catholic Workers; and a bit on Saint Francis that falls within the always fascinating topic of Christendom’s socialist roots.

“Peter Maurin, the French peasant and vagabond father of the Catholic Worker movement, spoke tongue-twistingly about “creating a new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new.” Or rather, he added, “A philosophy so old that it looks like new.” .…

As Francis of Assisi wandered shoeless around the 13th-century Italian countryside, he defined what he and his followers were striving for as the “highest poverty” that Christ had modeled—possessing nothing, needing nothing, proclaiming the kingdom of God. In the midst of church institutions that gave the impression of being especially corrupt, including monasteries, Francis’s example exploded into a popular movement. Everyone wanted a piece of his poverty.

The Franciscan emphasis on poverty, for Agamben, represents a critical extension of the monastic rules. Clare of Assisi, who led the female branch of the Franciscan movement, insisted that Francis had given her not a rule at all but merely a “form of life.” He taught his followers by example and by preaching, eschewing the decrees one might hear from a monastery’s abbot. When his followers failed to listen, he didn’t police or punish. “I do not want to become a persecutor to pursue and frustrate them, like the power of this world,” Francis reportedly said.

Rather than isolating himself in a monastery and relying on scripted liturgies, Francis lived in the world but not of it. He discovered, by trying to follow the example of Christ, that poverty could liberate one from the world’s principalities and powers even more completely than a cloister. He stressed that his brothers should wear the simplest of clothes, and eat what is placed before them, and claim ownership over nothing. They should never handle money. .…

Agamben focuses especially on one debate that held the “highest poverty” in the balance — the question of whether Franciscan communities would have to hold property, even if individual friars couldn’t. Franciscan scholars developed sophisticated legal arguments (as Francis himself never bothered doing) to insist that the friars could have use of necessities like food and clothing without actually owning them. It’s an intriguing and dangerous notion, alluding as it does to the possibility of life without private ownership. They cited the economy of the Garden of Eden to this effect, a state of nature in which “all things are everyone’s.”

When you see a Franciscan friar for a couples’ therapy session nowadays, however, you’ll receive a bill at the end. The empire won out. In 1322, Pope John XXII rejected the distinction between ownership and use; the Franciscans would be expected to hold property, and property would doom them to bureaucracy. .…

More than 50,000 people live homeless in New York City, she observes, and the city’s largest landowner is the Catholic Church.”

I don’t go in for institutional leaders much, and I haven’t followed his record in any detail, but from this distance, Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, continues to impress.

“If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay‘s president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle. .…

The president is a former member of the Tupamaros guerrilla group, which was notorious in the early 1970s for bank robberies, kidnappings and distributing stolen food and money among the poor. He was shot by police six times and spent 14 years in a military prison, much of it in dungeon-like conditions.

Since becoming leader of Uruguay in 2010, however, he has won plaudits worldwide for living within his means, decrying excessive consumption and pushing ahead with policies on same-sex marriage, abortion and cannabis legalisation that have reaffirmed Uruguay as the most socially liberal country in Latin America. .…

But the man who is best known as Pepe says those who consider him poor fail to understand the meaning of wealth. “I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live,” he said. “My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I’m the son of my history. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress.”

He shares the home with his wife, Lucía Topolansky, a leading member of Congress who has also served as acting president.

As I near the home of Uruguay’s first couple, the only security detail is two guards parked on the approach road, and Mujica’s three-legged dog, Manuela.

Mujica cuts an impressively unpolished figure. Wearing lived-in clothes and well-used footwear, the bushy-browed farmer who strolls out from the porch resembles an elderly Bilbo Baggins emerging from his Hobbit hole to scold an intrusive neighbour. .…

Uruguay’s options to improve society are limited, he believes, by the power of global capital.

“I’m just sick of the way things are. We’re in an age in which we can’t live without accepting the logic of the market,” he said. “Contemporary politics is all about short-term pragmatism. We have abandoned religion and philosophy … What we have left is the automatisation of doing what the market tells us.” .…

2012 Announces that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless. Meanwhile, Mujica continues to live in his small farmhouse outside Montevideo.”

Andrew Sullivan underlines the profoundly anti-Christian nature of the “Christian” right.

“It has been fascinating lately to watch Fox News go after the Pope for reiterating long-standing Catholic and Christian doctrine about the false god of materialism. .….

Jesus was not a Northern European white person, but a Middle Eastern Jew. And as a Middle Eastern Jew under the Roman empire, Jesus was at the bottom of the heap in the power-structure of his time. And that’s the point. The Messiah came from the lowest rung, not the highest. The comfort that white people feel when they are a majority in a democratic society is about as far away from Jesus’ experience of the world as it is possible to get.

She’s also wrong in even considering the color of Jesus’ skin – something unmentioned in the Gospels – as relevant. Of the great Pauline statements about Christianity, the following is among the most thrillingly liberating:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The categories of race, of gender, and of social class are abolished in the Christian vision. This doesn’t mean they cease to exist as part of the world, for reasons of biology and social construction. But it does mean that Christians will never seek to underline these distinctions, to build a politics out of them, or to identify a nation according to them.”


Joan Southgate: Walking to Retrace the Underground Railroad

In 2002, at age 73, Southgate began walking the 519 miles from Ripley, Ohio to St. Catharines, Ontario, Harriet Tubman’s terminus on the Underground Railroad. Traveling 10 miles a day, she visited Underground Railroad sites, gave presentations at schools, and slept in the homes of welcoming strangers, her own “safe houses.” Cleveland’s Underground Railroad codename was “Hope” and Southgate, motivated by her pilgrimage, founded Restore Cleveland Hope to save the city’s only remaining Underground Railroad house from demolition. To raise money for the project, Southgate, at age 80, walked another 250 miles from Canada back to Cleveland, completing the final mile with 170 companions inspired by her journey.

The house will open next year as an Underground Railroad teaching center where Southgate hopes people will learn “what is possible in the way of changing the world and loving people.”

Quiet terror attacks…

Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights.

Amira Hass last week wrote about the “quiet terror attacks,” the ones Israelis don’t hear about. They occur on an almost daily basis and they are directed at Palestinian agriculture. Time after time, Palestinians’ trees are set on fire, uprooted or cut down. Time after time, it happens in an area that is under Israeli control. Time after time, it happens within spitting distance from Israeli settlements or outposts that are surrounded by soldiers, policemen, security cameras and more. Time after time, the people responsible evade justice.

It was not a coincidence that the fire broke out just before harvest time: that’s how our dear brothers make clear to Amer and his ilk that there is no point in continuing to fight over the plot: anonymous saboteurs will reach it, year after year. Wouldn’t it be better to give up the dwindling property and the heartache, and emigrate – as did, for instance, many of the villagers residing next to the outpost Adei Ad?

Amer has almost given up. He is unwilling to waste the time needed to file a complaint with the police. After all, its failure rate in investigating damage tocrops is more than 97 percent. This isn’t a coincidence; this is the commander’s spirit we’re seeing. And Amer is not alone: time and again, we receive reports from Palestinians about incidents, saying they are unwilling to press charges because there is no point, but they want the incident to be published somehow. The chopping down of Amer’s trees won’t appear in the statistics of the police, and therefore it will mostly fade away. It is an actual event, but the self-enforced thought-police of the Israeli media will negate it.

U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet friend… Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain


More than two years since the Government of Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the country, arbitrary arrests, injuries to protesters and politically motivated prison sentences continue.  Numerous Bahrainis remain behind bars today, including more than a dozen prisoners of conscience.

With these injustices firmly in mind, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) announces the launch of a new campaign: Champions for Justice: Bahrain’s Prisoners of Conscience.

This campaign aims to raise awareness of those in political detention, as well as the broader problem of ongoing human rights violations—and impunity—that continues to be perpetrated by the Government of Bahrain. Each month, ADHRB will focus on one human rights advocate currently imprisoned in Bahrain. The first prisoner to be featured in ADHRB’s campaign is Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, a mechanical engineer, prominent blogger, and human rights activist who has promoted human rights as a member and leader of multiple political societies, including Al-Wefaq and the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy.

Dr. Singace was arrested in 2011 for his participation in the peaceful protest movement. During his initial detention, Dr. Singace was confined to a 1 x 3 meter cell and subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including forced standing, verbal and sexual assault, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement. He was tried in the National Safety Court in June 2011 and sentenced to life in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the government.

The banality of poverty in the wealthiest country…

Kathryn Baer

Now, here’s an interesting fact to chew over. If the wealth in this country were evenly distributed among adults, each of us would have $301,000.

By this measure, we’re not the wealthiest country in the world. That distinction goes to tiny Switzerland, according to the latest Global Wealth report from Credit Suisse.

But we’ve got, by far and away, the highest percent of millionaires (42%) — and an even larger share (46.5%) of all the people with more than $50 million in the 19 countries the Credit Suisse analysts could compile data far.

At the same time, we’ve got 15% of the population — 46.5 million people — so poor as to fall below the Census Bureau’s very low poverty thresholds.

Blogger Matt Bruenig crunched some numbers and found that it would take $175.3 billion to lift every one of them out of poverty, as officially defined.

That may seem like a great deal of money. But it’s only a bit over 1% of the value of the goods and services our country produced last year — and according to my number-crunching, only about $3,770 per person.

Repression reports around the empire…

11 November 2013

Honduras: Update – Incidents of harassment of human rights defender, Aureliano Molina Villanueva, and his lawyer

On 8 November 2013, human rights defender, Mr Aureliano Molina Villanueva was followed by two cars on his way to Esperanza. Two days previously, his lawyer, Mr Víctor Fernández, was also followed while driving.

Aureliano Molina Villanueva is a member of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations). COPINH is currently involved in a campaign for the defence of the Gualcarque river and oppose the construction of a dam by transnational corporations DESA, Sinohydro and FICOHSA group, which have launched Zarca Water Hydroelectric Project against the will of the indigenous inhabitants, the Lenca people, in clear violation of ILO Convention 169.

On the afternoon of 8 November 2013, Aureliano Molina Villanueva noticed two cars without licence plates following his vehicle on the road from Siguatepeque to Esperanza. Both were Toyota Hi-Lux, Type 3, with tinted windows; one white and one grey – they are reported to belong to the transational corporation, DESA. The cars remained behind the human rights defender’s vehicle and persistently flashed their lights, which he viewed as an attempt to distract him while driving and possibly cause an accident.

On 6 November 2013, Aureliano Molina Villanueva’s lawyer, Víctor Fernández, was pursued by a white Toyota of the same description as that which followed Aureliano Molina Villanueva.

Aureliano Molina Villanueva was driving to Esperanza in order to comply with a judicial order requiring him to sign in at a police station every fortnight, an order which was issued on 20 September 2013. At that hearing, a magistrate also ordered the pre-trial detention of human rights defender Ms Berta Cáceres, general co-ordinator of COPINH,on charges of usurpation of land, coercion, and causing more than $3 million in damages to DESA, a hydroelectric dam company. The case of Berta Cáceres is one of 6 featured in the current Front Line Defenders radio campaign in Honduras.

Front Line Defenders reiterates its belief that intimidation targeting members of COPINH forms part of an increasing tendency towards militarisation and suppression of human rights defenders in the country and calls for the charges against the above mentioned human rights defenders to be dropped immediately, as it is believed that they are solely related to their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

For more information on the cases of Aureliano Molina Villanueva, Berta Cáceres, and other members of COPINH please see the urgent appeal issued on 27 May 2013 and updates on 18 June 201312 September 2013 and 25 September 2013.

Context for the above… A High-Stakes Election in Honduras By Dana Frank, November 6, 2013

“Four years after a military coup deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans have a chance with their November 24 elections to restore a measure of democracy. The stakes are high: either Honduras will plunge deeper into its vortex of violence and repression, or it will have a fighting chance to begin to re-establish the rule of law and construct a viable economy. On a broader level, the Honduran elections will test whether Latin America’s transition to democracy and social justice will be permitted to advance-in what Secretary of State John Kerry still refers to as “our backyard.” … The man to watch is Juan Orlando Hernández, the candidate of the ruling National Party, ahead in some recent polls. Hernández has proven adept at undermining the rule of law. As a leader in the Honduran Congress, he enthusiastically promoted the 2009 coup. In December 2012, as its president, he led the “technical coup” in which Congress illegally deposed four of the fifteen justices on the Supreme Court and named replacements the next day. In August, Congress illegally named a new attorney general for a five-year term. As a result, Hernández and his party control all the key reins of state power, including the electoral machinery and the military. Most chilling, Hernández has built his candidacy around the promise of “a soldier on every corner.” It’s well established that the country’s police, judiciary and prosecutor are corrupt, interlaced with drug traffickers and organized crime. The police are directed by Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, an alleged death squad leader. Lacking the political will to clean this up, current President Porfirio Lobo and the Congress are instead sending in the military to take over police functions-supposedly to protect Hondurans from the very dangers the government is responsible, in part, for creating. Yet the military itself has a track record of repression and corruption. On July 15, for example, the Engineers’ Battalion shot and killed an indigenous activist, Tomás García, as he peacefully protested construction of a dam. In the Aguán Valley, the Fifteenth Battalion has committed widespread human rights abuses. Constitutionally, the military oversees the balloting process. In this context, prospects for a free and fair contest are grim. According to Rights Action, at least eighteen LIBRE activists and candidates have been killed since May 2012-more than from all the other parties combined. At least sixty-seven lawyers and twenty-nine journalists have been murdered during the Lobo administration, but only in four cases was anyone convicted. Meanwhile, the Honduran government is increasingly criminalizing peaceful protest. It is aggressively prosecuting indigenous leader Bertha Cáceres, for example, on trumped-up charges. Although Ambassador Lisa Kubiske has stated that the United States is not taking sides and that it is important the elections “are carried out in a free, just and transparent manner,” the indications so far suggest that the embassy may legitimate a fraudulent victory. It has not spoken forcefully against the illegal naming of the attorney general, the militarization of the police or the technical coup. It has never publicly protested the killings of LIBRE activists and candidates. It is promoting election observation but continuing to work closely with Bonilla, the corrupt police and the dangerous military. The US Congress, however, is watching Honduras carefully. In June, twenty-one senators, including top leaders, co-signed a letter from Senator Benjamin Cardin questioning US support for Honduran state security forces and raising concerns about the elections. In the House on October 15, several members, led by Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, expressed similar concerns. Will the State Department engineer what used to be called a “demonstration election,” managing the illusion of democracy in Honduras so that Hernández can win and the United States can continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into the security forces in the name of the “war on drugs”? Or will Hondurans be allowed to take a small step forward? That’s what the world should be asking.”


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