Archive | June 2011

2011 Human Trafficking Report

The 2011 Department of Justice Human Trafficking Report has recently been released. It provides country by country profiles of human trafficking and slavery for every country on the planet, and ranks them according to the level of effort given by governments to control the problem of human trafficking and slavery. There are four levels, Tier 1 being the highest (proactive effort) and Tier 3 being the lowest (no effort at all). Naturally, the United States, the author of the report and the creator of the ranking system, ranks at Tier 1.

The report, though, bluntly describes the situation of human trafficking and slavery in the US:

“The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, document servitude, and sex trafficking. Trafficking occurs for commercial sexual exploitation in street prostitution, massage parlors, and brothels, and for labor in domestic service, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, hospitality industries, construction, health and elder care, and strip club dancing. Vulnerabilities are increasingly found in visa programs for legally documented students and temporary workers who typically fill labor needs in the hospitality, landscaping, construction, food service, and agricultural industries. There are allegations of domestic workers, foreign nationals on A-3 and G-5 visas, subjected to forced labor by foreign diplomatic or consular personnel posted to the United States. Combined federal and state human trafficking information indicates more sex trafficking than labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions, but law enforcement identified a comparatively higher number of labor trafficking victims as such cases uncovered recently have involved more victims. U.S. citizen victims, both adults and children, are predominantly found in sex trafficking; U.S. citizen child victims are often runaways, troubled, and homeless youth. Foreign victims are more often found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. In 2010, the number of female foreign victims of labor trafficking served through victim services programs increased compared with 2009. The top countries of origin for foreign victims in FY 2010 were Thailand, India, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.”

Human trafficking is a global market. Some countries supply modern day slaves and some countries demand their services and profit off the buying and selling of human beings. Clearly, developed countries with their vast financial resources and demand for cheap labor facilitate human trafficking by expanding markets for sex work, domestic servants, construction and agriculture. Until the US is willing to drop conversations on “illegal immigrants” and start facing the real questions of wage slavery and human exploitation, the situation will never change.

Included is a map of country rankings worldwide, which I have posted up to the left. It would have been helpful to include a map of estimated numbers of people enslaved in each country as well, but this obviously would not bode well for developed nations nor for the citizens which are complicit in insuring that more people are enslaved in the 21st century than in any other time in human history.

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Systematic Rape by the German Military: Did it happen or not?

Recently, news bastion CNN published a lengthy (for CNN) article on allegations of rape by the German military during World War II. There can be no question as to whether any level of rape occurred during WWII in the European theater. Rape occurs in every war. I think it’s lost on people that the principal victims of every war are not soldiers, but common individuals including women, children and the aged. I never got why we have these grand celebrations for soldiers and not for all the nameless victims of senseless warfare.

Maybe I do get it.

It has always been interesting to me that the issue of rape has been so widely downplayed in commonly published historical accounts of the Holocaust. Accounts of systematic rape, particularly in Nanking, China are common in discussions of the Japanese occupation of East Asia during the early half of the 20th century. To be fair, it was not until the late 20th century that it became a major issue in Japanese politics and discussions of its wartime past. It continues to be the subject of contentious debate amongst conservative war revisionists and groups that seek to minimize the strong right wing presence in Japanese politics.

I am absolutely certain that rape and sexual abuse occurred in German concentration camps. I cannot really see how it couldn’t happen under conditions which promoted the total dehumanization of a particular group of people. Rape as a tool of war is as old as war itself. Every group on earth has practiced it in every conflict that has ever occurred. Some, though, were more skilled than others.

In my opinion, there are two possibilities. First, rape by the German military in World War II was not systematic, only sparsely occurred, the result of a few “bad eggs.” Second, rape by the German military was, in fact, systematic, was encouraged or intentionally overlooked by military planners and was an important tool in the complete obliteration of Jewish people, culture and identity.

If the first case is true, as has been implied by critics of the allegations in the CNN article, then there is a story to tell, but one in which the German people and the German military have nothing to answer to. We should be familiar with this scenario. This is the option that the Bush admin would have us believe about military scandals such as Abu Ghraib. Bush and Company really only followed a tradition of other American Presidential administrations which covered up military complicity in scandals such as the Mi Lai massacre and a host of other atrocities: that the crimes committed by soldiers are of their own accord and are the actions of only a few rogue soldiers. Not only is this convenient for the military administration, but it is also convenient for all of us, collectively.

Clearly, such a narrative is far too easy, and it should be noted that the major proponents of such a message are those with the most to lose.

Obviously, assuming that rape occurred (of which I am certain), the second possibility is the most likely. German military authorities knew that the conditions for rape were there, and intentionally chose not to enforce policies which would have reigned the reprehensible behavior of its soldiers. Shades of Abu Ghraib.

That millions of people were systematically killed simply for being member of a particular ethnic group is terrible, but (oddly) palatable to most. That women and children were sexually violated, raped and mutilated by low level soldiers who could be one’s sons, brothers, fathers or neighbors is quite another matter. It is of no surprise, therefore, that conversations of war are disturbingly muted on the subject.

Plants of Michigan

I’m behind on blogging because my life right now consists of hauling garbage all over Washtenaw County, but I had some time at least to enjoy the Michigan summer.

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Movie of the Week: “Blood in the Face” (1991)

There are people who would have you believe that racism does not exist in the United States anymore, that the Civil Rights movement eliminated the capacity for racial and ethnic hatred in America by Americans. Given, racism in 2011 has taken on insidious and less obvious forms, most notably in the form of “English Only” rhetoric and heavy handed legislation intended to single out undocumented workers, not due in the least to decades of denial by racists and Americans who choose not to see it.

In the late 80’s, I heard about the book “Blood in the Face” from Michigan racists, who took it as an affirmation of their hate based faith. “Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, the Rise of a New White Culture” by James Ridgeway dissects the then growing trend of white power groups throughout the United States. It was a terrible time, coming on the heels of the end of America’s manufacturing era, and I feel very unfortunate to have ever crossed paths with these morons.

Ridgeway, an investigative journalist, traveled to the bowels of an insignificant township in Livingston County, Michigan to attend a sparesely attended KKK convention. Tagging along was lefty idol Michael Moore (back when I liked him), who engaged members of these groups in pointed interviews. Some of these groups state their message of hate clearly, A buffoon in a pseudo SS uniform stupidly calls for a reservation style, “whites only” takeover of Idaho.

Others, including the girlfriend of racist murderer Bruce Pierce, attempt to dress it up in guises of “cultural pride” and skirt away from the true issues of violence, hatred and exclusion. This, despite that her boyfriend clearly and savagely murdered a Jewish radio announcer, Alan Berg, simply because of his particular religious and political affiliation.

Telling are interviews with the largely aged “movement leaders” who apparently have nothing better to do than sit idle all day watching television. One laments increasing appearances of minorities on television comedy shows, of course neglecting to mention decades of systematic exclusion in Hollywood. Another believes that “Wheel of Fortune” should stop asking questions about the Holocaust.

Most bizarre, are interviews with a so-called pastor of “Christian Identity,” whose racist theology is based solely on the Hebrew meaning of “Adam.” The Biblical knowledge of everyone in this film is suspect; they constantly grab at straws for even the most basic of Biblical parables. Supposedly, “Adam” means to become red in the face. Redneck logic attempts to imply that since Caucasian people, more precisely defined as those above Milano, Italy, are the only people that can blush, Adam must have been white. I guess he’s never been out drinking with Japanese people.

The movie is laughable, and supporters may say that these groups have been misrepresented. I don’t see, however, that it is possible to skirt around the issues of race based violence among these groups, nor around the greater issues of race, ethnicity and exclusion that dominate every facet of life in the United States.

VICTORY! Catherine Ferguson Academy to Remain Open for 2011-2012 School Year

Principal Andrews and Danny Glover

Today we went and checked out what was to be an event in protest of the closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women in Detroit. It turned out, instead, to be a celebration of its remaining open for the next school year. Though the school will become a charter school, CFA will remain as it is, a safe place for young mothers and an example of excellence in a crumbling world… for now.

The turn out for the event was nothing short of inspiring. Present and former state and local politicians showed up to speak, along with a few celebrities, including “Lethal Weapon 3″‘s Danny Glover. Principal Andrews and just about everyone there was moved to tears when she made the formal announcement that the school would remain open. Representatives from many organization, including BAMN and the UAW were on hand to make speeches in support of public schooling and CFA.

While the situation is NOT ideal, let’s hope that law makers see the incredible outpouring of support for CFA and public education. let’s hope that the present trend of privatization, and thus degradation of public schools does not continue.

EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT.

Osaka Bookseller, Kenichi Sakamoto

Kenichi Sakamoto at Aozora Books

I’m slowly sifting through the 10,000 plus photographs that I took in my recent trip to Japan and was fortunate enough to find the photo to the left.

This is Kenichi Sakamoto, an 87 year old bookseller in the now fashionable Nakazaki-cho section of Northern Osaka.

I passed by the bookstore, “Aozora Shobo (青空書房)” (“Blue Sky Books”) on my way to meet a friend. It looked welcoming enough and I decided to kill some time inside. Mr. Sakamoto struck up a conversation, asking me where I was from, why I was in Japan, etc. so I drilled him with questions of my own. It turns out Mr. Sakamoto opened the store in 1947 and has been running it ever since. Amazingly, he is celebrating his 65th year in business.

Aozora Books

Sakamoto originally wanted to be a painter, but poverty forced him to start selling off his books to support his impoverished family after the war. After buying and selling books for some time, he opened his tiny store in a shopping area of Nakazaki-cho. Reflecting his artistic past and humble beginnings, Sakamoto stocks all kinds of book on art from all over the world, along with low-priced literary paperbacks.

I found out that Sakamoto is originally from Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the recent earthquake. A donation box for earthquake victims can be seen on the left side of his desk.

He wasted no time in expressing his sympathies for all affected and leveled his own harsh criticisms of the government’s slow response. He said he hoped that young people make the effort to be mindful when choosing their leaders, but that hope for Japan’s future rests on the proactive efforts on individuals. He believes that Japan’s people shouldn’t wait for the government to take care of things, but rather should do as he did and make use of whatever opportunities are in front of them.

Collection of Essays on Aozora Books

Bookstores in Japan range from massive chains to these incredible used stores which stock their shelves with care. I’ve included some pictures of a few below. Sakamoto’s store was particularly friendly and inviting.

I discovered while walking away from the store that someone published a collection of essays written by Aozora Shobo customers. Not many bookstores can claim such an incredible distinction.

Protest the Closing of Catherine Ferguson Academy for Girls this Thursday at Noon

Catherine Ferguson Academy

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Girls, a school for pregnant teens and young mothers in Detroit, is slated for closing at the end of next week. I, personally, am not confident that the decision of the DPS Emergency Financial Manager will change. However, demonstrating on behalf of CFA will help send a clear message to policy makers and the general public that educational opportunities are dwindling for the poor.

When policy makers chip away at public education, they chip away at our future, insuring that the incredible divide between rich and poor becomes even wider.

Tell everyone that you support public education. Privatization of public schools will only insure that children like those which are served by CFA will have no future, neither for themselves or their children.

Access to education for all is a human right.

The BAMN website has details of the event. THe details are aimed at DPS students, but all are welcome. Reports indicate that people are coming in from all over the state.:

RALLY STARTING AT 12 NOON
2750 Selden Street, two blocks north of MLK/Mack, one block east of I-96
Defend Your Right to a Quality Education!
Unite in Action with The Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women (CFA)!

**After you pick up your report card on the June 16th at your school, come directly over to CFA. Transportation and food will be provided in all areas of the city and neighboring areas (call or text 313-585-3637)**
Background and news coverage at the CFA Information Page

Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) is a Detroit Public School. CFA is a JEWEL of DETROIT and it is about to be stolen from our community- we must defend it and defend ourselves. CFA students are standing on their feet fighting to defend public education, fighting to stop the destruction of programs in all of our schools through class size increases and elimination of our teachers, and against the closing of all of the public schools on the closing list. CFA is on the list to be closed. It is a school for pregnant and parenting teenage girls. At CFA, our sisters, cousins and friends, are not treated as outcasts, but are cared for and treated as fellow persons with value. CFA is a regular comprehensive high school, where the students can bring their children. There is early childhood development and pre-school, and nurseries. There are doctors, nurses and others who come to the school to provide services for the students and their children to make sure that they are all successful. There is also a wonderful farm with goats, ducks, chickens, honeybees, fruit trees, vegetables and even a horse. In a society where being a teenage mother enslaves most to a life of poverty and limited opportunity, CFA is like the first “safe house” stop on the underground railroad to freedom, a place of new beginning and hope for young women who have been told by so many that their own lives are over.

We can save all of our schools and programs by uniting in action at CFA to make it clear that the new “Jim Crow”, second class treatment of black and Latina/o and other minority students has no place in our city. On April 15, 2011, the brave students of CFA led Detroit and shook up the nation by sitting down and refusing to leave the school over spring break. This action resulted in numerous schools coming off of the closing list. However, CFA is still on the closing list and is being used as a “political football” between the Democrats and the Republicans, both of whom could keep the school open, but neither will without a fight led by the students to make them keep it open. Next time at CFA, if hundreds, not just dozens of people are gathered outside to defend the school, we will save CFA and win more of our demands. Just like the auto workers forced the powerful auto companies to recognize their union in the 1930’s through sit-down strikes, and black high school and college students in the South broke the back of segregation by sitting down at lunch counters, and the hundreds of Northwestern High School students in Detroit kept their school open by walking out and marching together last year, we must recognize, just as Dr. Martin Luther King did, that if young people act on “the fierce urgency of now,” we can move mountains.

In addition to closing CFA and numerous other schools, class sizes in all DPS high schools are being threatened to increase to forty-five (45) students per class starting in fall of 2012. Schools that offer a college prep curriculum will no longer be able to effectively do so in reality. And neighborhood schools will lose electives all together, as well as many extracurricular activities. We must organize a massive mobilization to save CFA and preserve the quality of all DPS schools. Anyone and everyone can and should come – people of all ages, schools, cities, etc., but the students have to lead!

At this point, we have so much power at CFA because of the first set of actions. Students at Southeastern walked out three times and won the right to sing at the MSVMA choral festival, and led a successful campaign to defend the rights of a transgendered classmate. If more students and youth in Detroit stand up and fight, we will win much more. Now is the time to stop listening to the naysayers in our life–three Ps–parents, principals and preachers, who too often speak out of fear and not strength, telling us to just keep our heads down and not to fight for what we know we deserve and believe in. They say that there is another way, and that the adults will take care of it, but the adults have not and will not do what is necessary to fight and win. Join the movement and fight for your dignity, equality and hope for your future.

Have your school adopt the following demands:

•Defend Public Education
•Keep Catherine Ferguson Open
•No School Closings
•Keep All Detroit Public Schools Public – No More Charters or Privatization
•No class size increases, reduce overcrowded classes
•Maintain all Magnet Programs and Schools
•Reinstate all programs and services that have been eliminated, including art & music as well as counselors & social workers, AP classes, robotics, and other special programs at all schools
•Student Control of Curriculum and School Character to assure that every Detroit school provides equal, quality education for all
•No discipline or retaliation against any of the participants in the occupation or any other collective actions taken to defend public education

The enemies of public education know that their plan is not about balancing the district’s budget. They are fully aware that their statistics are wrong and fabricated and that this plan will make the district lose money. For example, they say CFA costs the District $2.7 million (Detroit News 5/27/11) when it really only costs $750,000 and the rest comes from special federal and state funding, not the DPS general fund. The racist, white billionaires, who do not want to pay for public education anymore, believe that the people of Detroit do not have value and want to fulfill that prophecy through force. This is about implementing the New Jim Crow and forcing people to defer their dreams by blocking any opportunity for them to lead and shine. It is their intention to destroy public education, and get away with it with only minimal objections from the community, without any serious consequences, without Detroiters organizing and raising total HELL to stop the destruction of our schools and our neighborhoods.

Roy Roberts and other pessimistic politicians, whom of which are backed by a tiny minority of billionaires, ARE NOT OUR “FRIENDS”. They are overseers hired to implement and enforce the New Jim Crow system of education on black and Latino/a students – separate and completely unequal once again. It is for this reason that they want to close special Detroit schools such as CFA and destroy Renaissance and Cass and creative and loved programs in neighborhood schools like music and robotic programs, will all be in the past and no longer exist for black and Latino/a students in Detroit. Then, wealthy white people can say to working class and poor white people, “you may have a poor education system that we refuse to pay for, but at least you are not black or Latino/a.” They are closing schools and firing teachers to drive students out of the district and gentrify the city by race and class. A few middle-class students will go to private schools or leave the city, and the rest will be warehoused in inferior, overcrowded schools. Whether or not our schools stay open or teachers keep their jobs depends on whether we can overcome our fears and express our anger in a collective manner, and put our foot down and declare that Detroit students, our schools, our programs, our neighborhoods and our city are not for sale.

We can end the regime of overcrowded classrooms, police in the schools doling out repression and brutality, and turning what should be places of learning, where we can express and develop our full creativity and humanity, into cheap, stripped-down, prison-like holding cells. We want and deserve the full range of subjects and extracurriculars – art, music, dance, theatre, sports, AP and foreign language courses, chess, etc. – that a first-class comprehensive public education has to offer. To the extent that any school becomes a charter, if they do not meet the full standards of the students and parents, they must lose their charter immediately!

We CAN defeat this plan, but only by getting off our knees and fighting back. It’s time to heed the words of Frederick Douglass, one of the greatest leaders in the history of our nation, who said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

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Take action and organize your school– Join BAMN (The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, BAMN) at 855-ASK-BAMN (855-275-2266), or email BAMN Coordinator Donna Stern at donna.stern@ueaa.net http://www.bamn.com
Follow us on Twitter @followbamn

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