Monday, September 24, 2018

Found Art: Meditating on The Cherry Orchard w. When I Write My Masters Thesis, John K. Samson

Found Art: Meditating on The Cherry Orchard
Ink Drawing, Artist Unknown, found at the end of The Cherry Orchard
in a 1968 pocketbook printing of Four Great Plays By Chekhov

Musical Accompaniment:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Kavanaugh Nomination, Corbyn Smears, Amazon & more -- The Week in News, Opinion and Videos September 16 - 23

This week's list of articles, news items, opinion pieces and videos that I see as a must if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of September 16 - 23.

There are several articles from prior to the period that have been incorporated into the post.

1) General Strike Mobilizes Costa Rica

Elena Zeledón, Left Voice

The strike has led to Costa Rica’s largest mobilizations in years, and it has left the government isolated and on the defensive, even from its own supporters in the National Assembly.

2) Venezuela, China Sign Security, Energy, and Finance Agreements


China and Venezuela signed 28 bilateral strategic cooperation agreements in the areas of oil, mining, security, technology, finance, and health during the closing ceremony of the XVI High-level Diversified Commission meeting in Beijing Friday.

3) The Underbelly of the Sex-Trade Industry

Amelia Tiganus, Truthdig 

When I was 17, I was sold by a Romanian pimp to a Spanish pimp for 300 pounds [roughly $350]. But the total debt I was told I owed my new pimp was 3,000 pounds, after he had bought me and paid for my travel, documentation, clothes and the “facilities” that they put me in. Like many Romanian girls, I was totally vulnerable, not only because of economic poverty but also because of social exclusion, and being stigmatized for suffering multiple rapes at the age of 13.

4) Michael Gove refuses to condemn Viktor Orban amid row over Tory MEPs backing far-right Hungarian leader

Mikey Smith, The Daily Mirror

It follows claims MEPs backed Orban in the European Parliament because he will be helpful to Britain in Brexit negotiations.

5) The United States Was Responsible for the 1982 Massacre of Palestinians in Beirut

Rashid Khalidi, The Nation

Washington had explicitly guaranteed their safety—and recently declassified documents reveal that US diplomats were told by the Israelis what they and their allies might be up to.

6) 'Why were they killed?': Saudi-UAE attack hits children in Yemen

Al Jazeera 

At least two children were killed in raids on Saada province as UN special envoy arrives in Sanaa for peace talks.

7) Politicians, Organizations Reject Almagro's Threatening Military Intervention In Venezuela


Organizations and political leaders are rejecting statements by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, for inciting military intervention in Venezuela.


The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned that the "conspiracy" against his government "remains underway with the support of the United States", during a press conference Tuesday less than a day after he returned from an official visit in China.

Daniel Finn

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have been subjected to an outrageous campaign of scurrilous smears.

T. J. Coles, Counterfire 

History shows that the deep state will always mobilise all its resources against even a relatively moderate left-reformist like Corbyn

Via Facebook

11) California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Emma Brown, The Washington Post 

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.

12) Kavanaugh And Accuser To Testify Publicly Before Senators Next Week

Scott Horsley, NPR

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexual assault more than three decades ago, Christine Blasey Ford, will both testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 24. The committee was supposed to vote on the nomination this Thursday but faced pressure after Ford went public with her allegation over the weekend.

13) Republican men — and not a single GOP woman — will be Christine Blasey Ford's interrogators on the Senate Judiciary Committee

Alexander Nazaryan, Yahoo News

That has some wondering whether the hearing will go through — and, if it does, how hard 11 men will work to discredit a single woman.

14) Kavanaugh’s accuser had to move out of her home after getting death threats

David Gilbert, Vice News

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh won’t have to face the woman who accused him of sexual assault just yet.

15) The Brett Kavanaugh case shows we still blame women for the sins of men

Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian 

We have been here before. We have been here over and over in an endless, Groundhog Day loop about how rape and sexual abuse happen: offering the same explanations, hearing the same kind of stories from wave after wave of survivors, hearing the same excuses and refusals to comprehend from people who are not so sure that women are endowed with inalienable rights and matter as much as men – or, categorically, have as much credibility. We are, with the case of Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee for the US supreme court, who has been accused of sexual assault, revisiting ground worn down from years of pacing. Kavanaugh denies Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he forcibly held her down and assaulted her when both were at high school. We have only the accounts of the participants, and these, it seems, will always contradict each other. The allegation and the denial put us back in a familiar scenario.

16) After the Kavanaugh Allegations, Republicans Offer a Shocking Defense: Sexual Assault Isn’t a Big Deal

Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker 

Ever since the professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed that she was the woman who had accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, in a previously confidential letter, the conservative attempt to protect Kavanaugh from her story has been, to put it mildly, forceful. Ford claims that, in the early nineteen-eighties, when they were both attending prestigious private high schools in suburban Maryland, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party. Republicans have framed this story as a craven act of character assassination rather than an account worth investigating before Kavanaugh receives a lifetime appointment to make pivotal decisions about the future of the nation—including decisions about, for example, the options that will be available to women if they get pregnant after being raped.

17) Spokesman for GOP on Kavanaugh nomination resigns; has been accused of harassment in the past

Heidi Przybyla, NBC News 

An adviser for the Senate Judiciary Committee has resigned amid questions from NBC News about a previous sexual harassment complaint.

18) Court Employees Ready To Come Forward About Brett Kavanaugh, But Fear Retaliation

 Steph Bazzle, The Hill Reporter

Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump’s pick for the SCOTUS seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and he’s increasingly surrounded by controversy. After a woman who says Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school came forward to share her story, an attorney is sharing a letter he says he sent to Senators in July, letting them know that federal court employees also have concerns.

19) Jian Ghomeshi Doesn’t Deserve Anyone’s Pity

 Manisha Krishnan, Vice News

Life has seemingly been hard for disgraced former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi since he was publicly accused of abusing at least 23 women and fired from his job.

20) Fact-Checking Jian Ghomeshi’s Comeback Attempt

Jesse Brown, Canadaland 

Had The New York Review of Books bothered to look into Ghomeshi's claims before publishing his essay, this is what they would have learned.

21) Freddie Oversteegen, Dutch resistance fighter who killed Nazis through seduction, dies at 92

Harrison Smith, The Washington Post 

She was 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance, though with her long, dark hair in braids she looked at least two years younger.

Victor Jara was killed at the age 40, but his trove of music and poetry along with his tragic destiny has made him into a celebrated symbol against the brutality faced by those judged persona non grata by the Pinochet regime.

22) Argentina: 10,600 Public Workers Let Go in Just Two Months


A new report shows that since President Mauricio Macri took office in late 2015 over 33,700 state workers have been laid off. Unemployment rose 2.6 points.  

23) Unionized Canada Line janitors lose jobs as new company gets cleaning contract

Carlito Pablo, The Georgia Straight

It’s the end of the line for 50 janitors belonging to Local 2 of the Service Employees International Union.

24) Davos For Fascists

Brendan O’Connor, The Nation

Last weekend, at an airport hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, hundreds of aging Caucasian conservatives gathered for a three-day long conference attended predominantly by Republican white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and European neofascists. The event was co-organized by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum—a militantly anti-feminist, anti-choice, paleoconservative organization founded in 1972—and The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that peddled so many anti-Clinton hoaxes during the 2016 election that it obtained a White House credential.

25) German Holocaust Controversy Reveals Brazil's Growing Alt-Right


Brazil has a long history of German migration that dates back to the 19th century. Many Nazis fled to southern Brazil and other South American countries after World War II, including Josef Mengele of Auschwitz notoriety.

26) Murder Trial of Berta Caceres Suspended in Honduras


The first trial for the murder of Honduran Indigenous activist Berta Caceres was suspended on Monday in Tegucigalpa. Caceres was assassinated on Mar. 2, 2016 in La Esperanza in western Honduras, after battling for years to stop the construction of an internationally-financed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River which the Lenca people consider sacred.

27) The Number Of Workers Wanting To Join Unions Is The Highest In 40 Years

Sahid Fawaz, Labor 411

More and more non-union workers want to belong to a union.

28) 'Dumbest Policy in the World': Report Details How Canada's Massive Fossil Fuel Subsidies Undermine Climate Action

Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Working to curb emissions while using public funds to subsidize oil and gas industry "is like trying to bail water out of a leaky boat"

29) I worked in an Amazon warehouse. Bernie Sanders is right to target them

James Bloodworth, The Guardian

In some US states, nearly one in three Amazon workers are on food stamps. Sanders would rightly tax companies whose employees require federal benefits.

30) The dangers of not vaccinating are horrifying and graphic. Government warnings must show that

Jason Chung and Sabrina Jeanty · CBC News · 

Canada has managed to find the most predictable and mundane way to deal with a burgeoning public health crisis.

31) ‘Tied to trees and raped’: UN report details Rohingya horrors

Michael Safi, The Guardian

UN investigators publish report detailing evidence for accusation of genocide against Burmese military.

Via Appalachia Revolt on Facebook

32) Sexual violence and non-consensual sex rising due to porn, finds survey

Simon Collins, NZ Herald

Rape culture and sexual violence may be gaining ground in New Zealand because of pornography, a new survey has found.

33) Ontario’s appeal court sides with Ford government, paves way for 25-ward Toronto election

Nick Westoll and David Shum, Global News

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has granted the province’s request to stay a lower court judge’s decision that set aside a law slashing the size of Toronto city council.

34) UN chief: World has less than 2 years to avoid ‘runaway climate change'

Aris Folley, The Hill

António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, told global leaders this week that the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change.”

35) SQ officers ignore repeated calls to remove 'solidarity' symbol from vests

Catou MacKinnon · CBC News

Indigenous leaders, inquiry witnesses call red band worn by SQ officers ‘intimidation and provocation’.

36) Voter fraud isn’t real. Voter suppression is

Denise Balkissoon, The Globe and Mail

“You just keep saying voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud, rampant voter fraud, voter fraud – until it sounds like the truth.” That, said professor Carol Anderson, is how politicians get away with introducing restrictions aimed at stifling certain voters.

37) 5 ways Puerto Rico is forever changed by Hurricane Maria

Alex Lubben, Vice News

A week before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican police found millions of water bottles that were never delivered to survivors at an airstrip near the island’s east coast. The discovery raised, yet again, the question of whether authorities responded to the disaster effectively.

38) Palestinian Poet Dareen Tatour Released From Israeli Prison


Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was released early on Thursday after serving a month and a half in an Israeli prison over posting a resistance poem on social media in 2016. She was accused of 'incitement to violence' and 'supporting terror' through her social media posts.

39) Rural postal carriers to get big pay hike

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

Rural and suburban postal workers across Canada celebrated Thursday after an arbitrator ordered Canada Post to pay them more — much more — as part of a long-awaited pay equity decision.

40) Jordan Peterson Threatened to Sue a Critic for Calling Him a Misogynist

Irin Carmon, The Cut

Best-selling author Jordan Peterson first shot to fame by styling himself as a free-speech warrior at the University of Toronto, where he teaches psychology. Objecting to trans people’s requests that he use their preferred pronouns, Peterson said in 2016, “I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them.” Later, he told the BBC, “I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time — for 40 years — and they’re [sic] started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory.”

41) Lengthy labour dispute in Newfoundland offers refresher course in picket-line reality

Jim Stanford, The Globe and Mail

Union work stoppages have become quite rare in Canada. In the current decade, strikes and lockouts have accounted for less than one-30th of 1 per cent of all working time – down more than 90 per cent from the strike-prone 1970s. The year 2016 set a new postwar low: just 631,870 days lost, breaking the previous record set in 1960 (even though today’s work force is more than /three times bigger). And more of those disputes these days are lockouts – when employers stop production until the workers concede – rather than strikes, when unions take the lead.

42) Ontario students walk out of class to protest sex-ed curriculum changes

Nicole Thompson · The Canadian Press

Students across Ontario walked out of class on Friday to protest the provincial government's decision to repeal a modernized version of the sex-ed curriculum.

43) Now Israel Has a Race Law

Gideon Levy, Haaretz

From now on by court decree, two types of blood exist in Israel: Jewish blood and non-Jewish blood.

On this day, 21 September 1976, Chilean socialist refugee Orlando Letelier and think tank worker Ronni Moffitt were murdered in Washington DC by a car bomb planted by Pinochet's secret police. The killings by agents of the US-backed dictator General Pinochet were part of Operation Condor, a Latin American anti-communist program supported by the US which killed up to 60,000 working class militants, socialists and anarchists.

Via Working Class History on Facebook

44) Windrush generation members to be refused UK citizenship, government announces

May Bulman, The Independent

Critics say it is 'scandalous' that Home Office should subject Windrush citizens to conditions other British citizens are not and raise concerns around absence of appeals process.

45) ICE is arresting immigrant kids’ sponsors because they are also undocumented

Tess Owen, Vice News

The Trump administration has been arresting dozens of undocumented individuals who offer to host immigrant children. And a significant number of those arrests were for immigration violations rather than criminal activity.

46) Chile Convicts 20 Pinochet-Era Intelligence Agents for Role in Operation Condor


The former agents were found responsible for the kidnapping, torturing, murdering and disappearing 12 civilians.

47) A man was ignored to death in an ER 10 years ago. It could happen again.

Jane Gerster, Global News

“Brian Sinclair died because he was Indigenous,” Lavallee says, “full stop.”

48) Doug Ford Caught Posing for Photo With White Supremacist Sympathizer Faith Goldy

North 99

Well-known Canadian alt-right and white supremacist sympathizer Faith Goldy was caught posing for a photograph Premier Doug Ford during Ford Nation, Doug Ford’s annual community event.

See also: Notwithstanding, Indian Protests, Tesla & more -- The Week in News, Opinion and Videos September 9 - 16

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dispatches from the American terror state

There is a profound irony to the persistence and acceptance of the notion that the United States is somehow a "free" country whose citizens and residents do not have to worry about state terror or to "live in fear".

When on September 12  "An unidentified gunman shot and killed five people in a series of shootings on Wednesday in Southern California before taking his own life" the county sheriff said “This is the new normal, if you look across the country”. 

No question. Though not really all that new.

Perpetual violence has long been a norm, especially when directed at people from racialized or marginalized communities.

Many of the victims have been killed by the armed wing of the state, the police.

Between January 1, 2017 and June 20, 2018, American cops killed 1,506 people. Despite representing only 13.4% of the population African Americans were at least 21.58% of those killed.

These numbers are far in excess of police killings - actual or proportional - in any other "developed democracies". As just one example Germany, with a population of 82 million, had just 14 killings by police in all of 2017 versus 987 in the land of the free.

If you are not getting killed by the cops, your fellow Americans will oblige. In just one 48 hour period this past week the headlines read "Gunman wounds 4 in Pennsylvania court building lobby, is killed by police" and "Woman kills 3 before fatally shooting herself at Rite Aid distribution center in Maryland, officials say". The only remarkable aspect to this commonplace American news was that one of these mass shootings involved a woman shooter, an occurrence that is extremely rare.

Approximately 17,250 Americans will be murdered in 2018, and over 12,000 of the murders will be committed by a gun. "The U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries." In excess of 21,000 Americans will commit suicide using a gun while the "U.S. gun suicide rate is eight times that of other high-income countries".

The American terror state has more than one way to ruin your life or kill you though. Thanks to a political class beholden to business interests and grotesque libertarian narratives, Americans remain the only people in a developed nation without some type of system of universal health care.

This leads to such awful spectacles as that of a "6-year-old selling lemonade to help with mom's chemotherapy" in Texas. As of May, 2018, the "number of uninsured adults between the ages of 19 and 64 rose to 15.5 percent in March 2018, up from 12.7 percent in 2016. An estimated 4 million people lost individual coverage during that period"

Of course, many millions of Americans are a pay check or two away from destitution or no medical insurance, living in a state of perpetual financial anxiety. In 2017 a survey by the US Federal Reserve found that "Some 44% of people said they could not cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense or would rely on borrowing or selling something to do so".

Further, some "50.8 million households or 43 percent of households can’t afford a basic monthly budget for housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and a monthly smartphone bill". 

This is nearly HALF of all American households.

40.6 million people in the United States live in poverty. 

"According to the World Bank, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013; they are the world’s very poorest. Of these, 3.2 million live in the United States." In what is seen as the wealthiest nation in the world.

This has countless ripple effects. "Infant mortality rates in the US exceed those in all other developed countries and in many less developed countries, suggesting political factors may contribute".   It also means that "Americans lead shorter and less healthy lives than people in other high-income countries" and "the largest share of the American health disadvantage is likely to be borne by the poor and least educated, who have much higher rates of disease and death than their counterparts in Europe".

Meanwhile American business interests have been so successful in destroying the rights of workers and in creating neo-feudal "right to work" and " at-will employment" anti-union states that you can have a situation where "Employers can fire employees who evacuated for hurricane in North Carolina". And some employers did.

In these states "private-sector employees can be fired for any reason – or no reason at all", leaving workers in a place where the guillotine is always over their heads.

Unsurprisingly, given this, "Americans are piling on debt way faster than the economy is growing"

Remember none of these things are "tragedies" or somehow random events. They are directly the result of choices made by the American state and its officials and representatives right or "left". The consequence of the destruction of the very temporary post-war "social compromise". The creation of a political, intellectual and business class that wanted to ensure the permanent disenfranchisement, debasement and disempowerment of working people, the marginalized, the racialized and people living in poverty.

Daily violence, death and suffering rising out of the ashes of a class war that the corporations and wealthy have unequivocally won.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko calls anti-Nazi war hero a "terrorist" while labeling an American war criminal a "hero"

This is Ivan Kudrya. Kudrya was an anti-Nazi Ukrainian resistance hero who was brutally murdered by them in November, 1942 after being tortured for months.

As background about Kudrya:
A Red Army officer, he remained in Kiev after the Red Army retreat in 1941. He managed to organize a group of anti-fascist fighters, blowing up bridges, railroads and offices.
Ivan Kudrya’s subversive anti-fascist group managed to blow up many buildings in Kiev center during the occupation, along with an old church that was frequently visited by Nazi officers.
In late 1941 they blew up 2 cinemas in Kiev full of Nazi officers. Fluently speaking German, members of the group posed as German officers, arresting some Ukrainian Nazi collaborationists. In August 1941 they managed to kill some leaders of Ukrainian fascists from OUN. In late 1941 they blew up the hotel where the Nazi headquarters in Kiev was situated, killing some 320 Nazi officers and local Nazi collaborationists. In 1942 Kudrya’s group burned an oil-refinery and a dozen warehouses in Kiev.
He worked with fellow resistance fighter Kiev Opera singer Raisa Okipnaya, She was also eventually caught and executed at one of the Babi Yar massacres.

For his heroic actions a street in Kiev was named after him in 1965.

Recently Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko suggested that this street should be named after American war criminal John McCain  -- who he described as a "hero of Ukraine" -- instead. Kudrya, on the other had, he described as a "terrorist".

It is an interesting regime that sees a man who gave his life fighting the Nazis in his homeland as a "terrorist" while viewing as a "hero" a man who illegally carpet bombed Vietnamese civilians and supported many other American war crimes as a reactionary American Senator. 

Further Reading:

News of the absurd: NDP MLAs get "Hammer and Sickle" vodka pulled from Alberta stores

Secrets and Lies -- Chrystia Freeland's grandfather and collaborating with the Nazis

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic 1987: Photos, Culture, Economy, History & more -- Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union Series

In the mid-1980s the Soviet press agency Novosti released a series of small books looking the USSR's 15 republics. Each book dealt with a republic's history, culture, development, industry, agriculture, etc. They provide a fascinating look at the Soviet Union's accomplishments and plans. The series was known as the "Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union".

Over the coming weeks we will be taking a look at these books and the republics. The books will be slightly edited for length and repetition in some cases and the photographs and illustrations will be dispersed more evenly throughout the text.

In our first post we looked at the Kirghiz SSR. Here we look at the Tajik SSR which bordered the Kirghiz and Uzbek SSRs as well as China and Afghanistan. Written by Mukhamed Asimov, the booklet touches on the ancient past of the Tajik people and the dramatic growth of its economy, educational facilities, healthcare, etc, during the Soviet era.

It also provides an interesting history of the revolutionary struggle in the region during the civil war including the fight against counter-revolutionary bands, the ouster of the final Emir in 1921 and the examples of figures like Zainabbibi Kurbanova, the first woman to head a district Soviet, who was murdered by anti-communists.

There are pages of photographs showing the people and places of Tajikistan, including sports, traditional costumes, tourism and more.

Other interesting topics include the development of the cotton industry and farming more generally, the fact that the Soviet system adapted itself to Tajik culture by decentralizing workplaces to accommodate cultural traditions, the rise of scientific institutions after the revolution, and festivals and traditions such as Gushtigiri (a sport whose winner was awarded a young lamb) and Nowruz, the Persian New Year (called Navruz here).

Also included are looks at the rise of the Tajik capital of Dushambe  (or Dushanbe) from a town of 6,000 in 1926 to a metropolis of 600,000 in 1987, the importance of bazaars to Tajikistan, issues around a lack of architectural diversity reflective of traditions due to rapid urban expansion and the remarkable work of Soviet and other archaeologists at the time to investigate the Tajik past. 

(Click on scans to enlarge)