Wednesday, July 11, 2018

El Niño Perdido: Piecing together our government's lies about lost children

     There's a legend that is often told along the Texas-Mexico border.  It's called "El Niño Perdido," a story about a lost and abused child -- and it's guaranteed to make you cry if you have any heart at all.  Eventually this child became a folk saint in honor of his suffering.

     There is also an old Hispanic legend about La Llorona, a ghostly mother who is perpetually forced to travel the world desperately searching for her lost children.  Another version of this story has an evil La Llorona running around the countryside kidnapping hapless Latino children.  Sound familiar?

      But here in America we have a different legend about children, thanks to Walt Disney.  "If you tell a lie, your nose will grow."  Seems like almost everyone in Washington DC these days should also have noses the length of redwood trees because almost every word out of their mouths is a lie -- especially regarding the bloody and murderous "wars" on Syria, Yemen, Palestine, etc.  But let's just focus here on the lies told to us by I.C.E.

     But before we chat about all these new lies they've been telling us recently, let's take a look at one of their older ones.  "Turns out that the kids being held in the Fairfield Detention Center in California are not newly-kidnapped children after all," I was recently told by a friend.  "No, the kids in that jail, mostly pre-teens and teenagers by now, have already been there without habeas corpus or without bail for over two years."  Wha?  Isn't that illegal?  No wonder they are lying to us.  Sounds like poor Rapunzel trapped in a tower to me.

     Next lie.  "We know where all the asylum-seekers' babies are right now and can easily reunite them with their parents," I.C.E.'s boss tells us.  Pants on fire!  All those babies have been deliberately misplaced, possibly forever.  Wha?  Shades of Red Riding Hood -- only with the wolf winning out instead of the woodsman.

     We misplace our glasses or misplace our car keys.  No one misplaces babies -- unless one is a wicked witch like the one that picked on poor Hansel and Gretel or the one that Dorothy dropped a house on.  Or unless one is employed by I.C.E.

     Next lie:  "We can reunite all the babies with their parents by July 10."  So far, only four (4) babies have been reunited with their parents.  No "happily ever after" involved here.

     Next lie.  "Those brats are here illegally."  And I.C.E.'s nose grows even longer.  The rule of law in America states that if asylum-seekers can make it across our borders, they will be here legally.   If a Canadian citizen crosses into America while trying to escape the horrors of poutine for instance, that Canadian is here legally.  And so are all those poor sweet Hansels and Gretels that are fleeing American-supported dictators in Central America.

     Next lie.  "Those children are all safe and sound."  Yeah.  Sure.  Tell that one to Jiminy Cricket.  Oops.  No.  I forgot.  I.C.E doesn't have any conscience.


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Saturday, July 07, 2018

No joke: Getting serious about Syria

     Remember back to that very sad day when you finally found out that there wasn't any Santa Claus?  That everything your parents had ever told you about Santa Claus was a lie?  And not only that, but then you also found out that millions of other kids in America, just like you, had been systematically lied to as well?  And that the culture of an entire nation has colluded to make YOU believe in cute little elves and Mrs. Santa and chimneys and cookies after midnight and some happy workshop at the North Pole....

     And then one day your mean older sister gleefully told you, "Guess what?  It was all a big fat lie.  There is no Santa.  Sucker!"

     And we Americans have also been systematically taken in by that other fantasy myth about what is happening in Syria right now as well.  "That evil Assad!  America is saving the world for democracy!  Good guys always wear White Helmets!"  I hate to be the one to burst your bubble for you -- but none of that particular fairy tale is true either.  And the really sad thing about all this myth-bedtime-story-lie about Syria that we've been coerced into believing is that we are no longer children.  We are adults now.  There is absolutely no excuse for us to still believe in Santa Claus -- or to still believe that whatever they tell us on the six o'clock news about Syria is even anywhere near true.

      "Mommy, please tell me that story again about Assad being a horrid boogieman in Syria -- please, Mommy?"  And so Mommy once again tells us just what we want to hear.

     "Once upon a time..."

     But the actually real truth is that the boogeyman in Syria is actually America.  What a joke on us!  Or at least it would be if the horrendous death toll in Syria doesn't keep growing and rising every single hour of every single day -- and not just on Christmas.

      "But Jane," you might say, "have you any evidence?"  Good grief yes!  International news, social media, eye-witness accounts -- all of that stuff practically screams out at us "There is no Santa!"  And also that "Assad isn't a dictator either.  And Saudi Arabia and Israel are.  And you've been had.  And all this will cost you your future and your self-respect and you freaking belief in the Tooth Fairy too!"

     But no.  Americans still insist on teaching their children to believe in Santa Claus.  "What harm does it do?"  No harm at all.  Have fun with it -- as long as we adults don't start believing it too.  And vast amounts of harm does accrue when we adults still keep believing that America's "war" on Syria is anything but the sadistic, greedy and tragic misadventure that it actually is.

       It's time for Americans to block up the Pentagon's chemical-factory chimney and put Lockheed's deadly milk and cookies away.  And those are NOT benevolent Boeing reindeer out flying happily over sweet little Syria with sleighs loaded with Christmas presents for all.  Those are American F16 bombers carrying billions of dollars worth of deadly "payloads".  Those are American chemical attacks.  Those are tons of American weapons found in the hands of ISIS.  Over six hundred THOUSAND Syrians are d-e-a-d because of this myth.

      It is time to get serious about Syria.

PS:  It is also time to get serious about America's reality too.  We are currently over TWENTY TRILLION DOLLARS in debt.  That would equal enough $100 bills to wallpaper the entire state of Idaho -- three inches deep.  And at least a trillion of those mysteriously-disappearing dollars have been spent on deep-fat-frying Syrian babies and keeping ISIS afloat.  Is this really the way that we want to squander America's money?  Really?

     I'm truly surprised that hordes of Americans  carrying torches and pitchforks haven't descended on Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court already.  But myths are powerful things -- nothing to joke around with.  And Americans have been totally hooked on this myth.

PPS:  A friend of mine just drove me through the heart of the horrific California-Oregon border fire destruction.  It looked like a war zone.  And if this is what "war" looks like, then America needs to be more careful what it pays for in the Middle East.

    Lindsey Graham just gave his same old tired rehashed doggerel speech in Syria that I heard him give in Iraq ten years ago -- about how American forces need to stay in (fill in the blank) so that (add some cheesy reason here that involves weapons manufacturers and greed).


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Kiddie jails: "Stop in the name of love..."

     In the entire history of the whole wide world, has any other country (besides the good old USA) ever before had the cruel and cold heartlessness to drag hundreds of sweet little human babies off to jail?  What would Diana Ross have to say about this?  "Think it ov-v-er..."

     Has America just reached a new world-record low?  But -- oh -- no -- wait.  Not exactly.  The Nazis already did that.  And didn't some slavers on the Ivory Coast do it too?  Does America really want to be in the same class as, say, Josef Stalin or Pol Pot or that Saudi Arabia guy who is always murdering Yemeni children for fun and profit?  Or those evil Zionists who threw young Ahed Tamimi in jail?  Apparently so. 

     "Baby baby I'm aware of where you go..." each time a child is jailed.  Huddled on cold concrete floors without love or their parents.  America goes to Hell in a hand-basket, that's where.  "Think it ov-v-er..." 

      So yesterday I went out to the West County Detention Center (the # 71 bus will deposit you right at its doorstep) to see what was up.  Apparently plans are afoot to house immigrants inside of that structure or else in tents next to it.  Didn't see any immigrant babies.  Didn't see any tents.  Didn't see much of anything -- except for a whole bunch of gigantic business warehouses located right down the street.  Warehousing people right next to warehousing things?  How appropriate is that?  

       But then I discovered that the detention facility abuts right up against the Pinole Regional Park -- so I hiked around that for a while and took photos of what I could see of the detention center from the rear.  Not much.

     I also learned that this whole area used to belong to the Ohlone Indians.  How ironic is that!  Now the Ohlone Native Americans are long gone -- but they are about to be replaced with even more Native Americans.  Lest we forget, most immigrants from Mexico and Honduras are Native Americans too.  Shouldn't they have first dibs to this land instead of having to sneak into it like thieves in the night?  Shouldn't the Ohlone and the Cheyenne and the Sioux also be protesting the cruel and unusual incarceration and torture of their brothers' children?  And, BTW, shouldn't the rest of us be protesting this too?  We are all our brothers' keepers.  "Send not for whom the bell tolls..."

      And to quote Diana Ross again here, "Come see about me -- see about your baby."  And The Supremes are also right on message when they sing about love.  Love is so much more better than hate.  Hell, love is better than anything.

     But forget about love.  This whole miserable ugly sewer-like stain and blot on the history of America is basically ALL ABOUT MONEY.  If any of those cruelly-incarcerated immigrant families had been born with silver spoons in their mouths, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.  They would have been flown to Washington in private jets and put up in the best hotels.  They would have been feted by Congress and served state dinners at the White House using the good china -- no matter what they have done.  Members of M-13?  Not a problem. 

     For example, both Netanyahu the Butcher of Gaza and that evil Saudi prince who murders babies in Yemen are treated like royalty in Washington.  Why aren't these hard-working decent immigrant families coming to America given the same treatment instead of having their children cruelly ripped away?  Ha.  In America today, the rich always get richer -- and always at the expense of you and me.  Always.  It's the law.  Just ask the Supreme Court.

PS:  If you too want to go "see about your baby" and caravan to one of the many detention centers in the United States that taxpayers are paying for instead of sending their kids to Harvard, there is information on how to do it at

     Just form up a caravan, collect some stuffies and blankies for these sad and lonely children and off you go.  And thanks.

PPS:  And the slogan on my favorite red T-shirt is still as true today as it was the first time I washed it, a decade ago.  "Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved:  World Peace in one generation!"

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Border War:  Mexico to break diplomatic ties with the US?

     How do I know that all of the brutal atrocities now being perpetrated by America down at the US/Mexican border do indeed constitute a real authentic genuine war?  That's a no-brainer.  Because there are whole bunches of American war-profiteers now lined up in Washington knee deep -- with their hands already shoved deeply inside the federal piggy bank.  And everyone knows that America can't just stage a war unless there are war profiteers involved!  It's practically a law.

     We saw this happening before in all those wars-for-profit forced down the throats of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Guatemala, Honduras -- even Gaza.  To paraphrase Billy Idol, "With a greedy yell they shouted 'More!  More!  More!'"

     So.  If Latin American governments are going to maintain any self-respect at all, Mexico, Honduras and all those other countries south of the border that have been victims of American imperialism urgently need to sever diplomatic relations the US in protest until this dirty little "war" is over -- and to throw out all those greedy American corporations who are making mucho profits down there too.

     "Why did you even come here?" I recently asked one desperate immigrant who I ran into on the street while he was searching for shite jobs that no American would even want.

     "I came here after the Gringos took everything I had -- just like the Spaniard bastards before them did.  I am only trying to take back what used to be mine before NAFTA, before the Alamo, even before the US seized Alta California."  Oh.

      War profiteers are now raking in whole mountains of our tax dollars along the Mexican border.  That's blood money now used to house kidnapped babies that we could be using to fix our bridges and send our kids to college instead.

     And as for the immigrants themselves?  They don't want to be here.  Hell, it's cold up here, housing costs are through the roof and nobody even speaks Spanish.  They are only following the trail of their stolen wealth.

     So let's see if all those Latin American governments can finally go all machismo for a good cause this time -- and shut down their embassies and consulates in protest of America's dirty little border war-for-profit, its dirty little war on children.

PS:   I myself was planning to join a caravan of cars going from Berkeley down to the Texas/Mexico border in order to protest this outrage against human decency -- but it looks like I won't have to go that far after all.  Apparently the US Navy is planning to warehouse 45,000 immigrants over in Concord, CA, just a 20-minute BART train ride away from me.  I can go protest in Concord and still be back home in time for dinner.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Two book reviews: One on apartheid & one on Jim Crow

     I'm probably the very last person in Berkeley to read Isabel Wilkerson's excellent book, "The Warmth of Other Suns".  And how do I know this?  Because when I filed a hold-request for it at the Berkeley Public Library, I ended up being something like 60th in line for the next of 25 copies then out on loan.  However, it was well worth the wait.

     Wilkerson's book describes the insanely brutal Jim Crow practices that took place in the American South -- and in such scary detail that it made me cry.  Jim Crow policies were in several ways even worse than slavery.  "But, Jane," you might say, "nothing could have been worse than slavery in the Ole South."  Yes it could.

     With slavery, at least slave owners were slightly constrained with regard to the physical damage they could do because of limitations inherently imposed on them by not wanting to damage their own property.  With Jim Crow, however, there were no such constraints.  Torture and lynchings were every-day occurrences in the "post-bellum" South -- and they were common occurrences there for over 70 years.  This book was chilling.

     Then author Richard Hardigan asked me to review his new book, "The Other Side of the Wall," which is about every-day life in Occupied Palestine for the last 70 years.  And it was deja vu all over again.  Jim Crow had apparently left the American South and moved over to Palestine.

     Hardigan's book is a fascinating account of a heinous caste system in Palestine that is very similar to the heinous caste system in the American south under Jim Crow -- and just as cruel too.  And, much to my surprise, Hardigan's book was also an intriguing page-turner -- although, unlike Wilkerson's book, no one yet knows how this story will end.  However, reading these two books side by side at the same time, I was struck by the parallel similarities between how White Southerners had set up their caste system and Israeli neo-cons have set up theirs.

PS:  Sometimes referred to as the Negro Holocaust, untold numbers of lynchings took place in the American South before the Civil Rights movement tried to put a stop to this ghastly behavior.  And in the Jewish Holocaust, approximately six million Jews were murdered.

     Imagine what it would be like if the troubled souls of Negro Holocaust victims could look down on us today, only to discover that much of America is still almost as racist as ever.

     And imagine what it would be like if the troubled souls of six million Jewish Holocaust victims could look down on Israel today, only to discover that Bibi Netanyahu and his neo-con friends are shamelessly using their six million brutal, torturous and genocidal deaths as a propaganda tool and lame excuse for inflicting those same brutal tortures and genocidal massacres on Palestinians.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

NYC Book Expo: "Books are my only friends..."

     Six years ago, my three-year-old granddaughter Mena was spending the night with me.  All evening long she had been wheezing, listless and pale.  Finally at around 2:00 am, she practically crawled into my bedroom, coughing, choking and white as a sheet.  "Gaia, I need to go to the hospital -- now!" she said.  I didn't waste any time.

     We were still in our nightgowns when the doctor told us, "Worst case of asthma I've ever seen.  A few more minutes and she would have been dead!  You saved her life."  No, I didn't.  Mena saved her own life.  And since that day, I've always listened closely to everything she was telling me, just in case.

      Later that month, Mena also told me, "Toys are my only friends."  What could I say to that?  I told her the truth.  "Sometimes I think that books are my only friends."  So when I recently went off to the Javits Center in New York City to attend the 2018 "Book Expo America" being held there -- and walked into a whole giant building all filled with nothing but books, I couldn't help but think that I had just entered a building filled with hundreds and hundreds of my very best friends.

     Once the doors of the Book Expo opened, I immediately made my way down to Soho Crime's exhibit booth and scored an advance-reader copy of the hilarious new Colin Cotterill book, "Don't Eat Me" (and, yes, I did feel rather strange reading a book with a title like that on the subway -- but well worth every stare).

     I also gleefully swept up five other murder-mystery books by some of my favorite Soho authors -- Martin Limon, Timothy Hallinan, Mick Herron, Gina Apostol and James R. Benn.  I love murder mysteries because, unlike in real life, justice is always done by the time we reach the last page.

     The next evening Bernie Sanders spoke at the Book Expo.  Gotta love Bernie.  Good grief, how I wish he was in the White House right now instead of having to helplessly watch Trump's yard sale of everything that is American.  I voted for Bernie.  The only thing that used to be wrong with Bernie was his tolerant policy toward Israeli neo-colonialist state-sponsored terrorism.  But recently he has been wising up -- as have the rest of Americans who actually keep up with the horrors happily inflicted onto the rest of the Middle East by neo-con Zionists.

     How does that joke go?  "We should make America name Israel as its 51st state," someone recently suggested to Benjamin Netanyahu.

     "Why should we do that?" answered Bibi.  "Then we would only have two Senators in Washington.  Right now we already have 50."  And yet people talk about Russia buying our elections?  Donnie the Mole and Crooked Hilary could never have been bought off by Russia -- because Israeli neo-cons already owned both of them body and soul.  Humph.

     While at the Book Expo, I also tried to get a few publishers interested in re-publishing my book "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East". 

     "But this book was written in 2007," one publisher exclaimed.

     "So what," I replied.  "It's still totally right up-to-date.  In the Middle East?  Nothing has changed at all in the last decade.  Americans, Israeli neo-cons and Saudis are still brutally slaughtering anything that moves."  Except that now they are getting even better at it.

    And then I had lunch with my friend Dinky -- who casually mentioned that her son had just won the Pulitzer Prize.  "What!"  Wow!  And her son, James Forman Jr, also spoke at the Book Expo.  And thus I was gently reminded that books weren't my only friends.  But books, however, will always remain my really really good friends.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Fathers Day: America's grim tradition of stealing children from their parents continues...

     America's current moral decline and decay can easily be traced back through its barbaric treatment of children. 

     First there were those nasty "boarding schools" for the thousands of terrified Native American children who were dragged screaming away from their helpless parents.

     Then there were those ghastly slave markets that ruthlessly dragged young children away from their mothers and heartlessly sold them into wretched lives of hard labor and chains.

     And now Americans are at it again -- dragging young children away from their undocumented Latino parents and shoving these human babies into cages as if they were animals in a zoo.

     Not exactly a good way to celebrate Fathers Day, America.  What's with that? 

PS:  America's foreign policy, however, appears to more closely resemble King Herod rather than Oliver Twist.  With the possible exception of paying for those infamous Israeli neo-colonialists' prison camps for Palestinian children, America's foreign policy tends more toward Herod's "slaughter of the innocents" in places like Syria, Central Africa, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, Vietnam, etc.

     Am I being too hard on America here -- or not hard enough.  Either we are decent and moral people  -- or we are not.


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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

There's a Whole Foods in Harlem now...

     I was raised in the suburbs.  Back in the Boomer days, suburbs were spozed to be wonderful places where residents could relax, enjoy nature and be happy.  Funny how it didn't work out that way.  My father commuted to his job Monday through Friday, was gone from 6:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night and also worked a second job on weekends to pay off our suburban mortgage.  So much for smelling the flowers.  And my college-educated mother was bored out of her freaking mind with her life there as chief maid, cook, bottle-washer and nanny to her mostly-absent husband and two ungrateful brats.  Ah, white flight.

     There are clearly a whole lot of advantages to living in a city.

     However, for Black people who were forced to live in cramped city slums, who had no access to decent employment or education and who were the targeted customers of their drug-dealing CIA sales reps, urban life was a nightmare.

     "Wanna change places?" bored suburban commuters and housewives suddenly started asking Black people.  "We'll take back Harlem and you can go enjoy the wonders of nature by living in a tent under a bridge."

     Can you believe it?  First Black people were forced into Harlem because nobody else wanted it.  Red-lining, slumlords and all that.  Crappy schools.  Unemployment.  Bigotry.  80% of the housing stock in Harlem was under-code and sucked eggs.  "But those are genuine brownstones!" the Yuppies and Techies suddenly cried -- and suddenly their race for real estate in Harlem was on.

     Black people originally came to Harlem in desperate flight from the extreme brutality of Southern Jim Crow.  Seeking their freedom in New York City, they soon discovered that they were living in a concentration camp instead.

     Back in those days Harlem may not have been surrounded by barbed wire like Manzanar or Auschwitz or Gaza, but the iron fist of American social norms (not to mention the New York PD's iron fist) kept Black people trapped there just the same.  And so they did the best that they could and made this new Harlem concentration camp their home -- "made something out of nothing".  But now they don't even have that.

     I just got back from a walking tour of Harlem.  In Harlem today, signs reading "Condo for Sale" are now a common sight.  There is even a freaking Whole Foods located right there on the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 125th Street.  So much for white flight.  Goodbye Harlem.  It's now called Central Park North.

     And when brownstones in Harlem are sold for several million dollars each (one seller was asking over six million bucks), who gets all that money?  Does it go to the Black grandmother who had religiously paid her rent every month for the last 50 years?  Even though her landlord never made any repairs and yet charged her double the amount that White people were paying for the same sized unit elsewhere in Manhattan?

     Or do those millions of dollars go to the slumlord who had already made more profit on each brownstone than is morally possible?  What would your educated guess be?


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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Meeting the Buddha for lunch in New York City

      For some unknown reason, I've only been able to do a half-fast for Ramadan this year.  Here's me, barely limping along without food until mid-afternoon, never quite making it to sundown.  My bad.  But I'm doing the best that I can -- in solidarity with the millions of tortured, vilified, starving and endangered people in Gaza, Bethlehem, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc.

     On Sunday I broke my fast with a nice bowl of rice pudding at Barney Greengrass's famous kosher restaurant on the Upper West Side, an area that many former Israelis have immigrated into lately (apparently one in six Israelis no longer live in Israel and have been voting against Netanyahu with their feet).

     On Monday I broke my fast in Harlem, eating shrimp and grits at that iconic luncheonette founded by "Sylvia, the Queen of Soul Food" -- followed by a quick trip to the Apollo theater to buy an iconic T-shirt and reminisce on the good old days when I used to buy a seat in the second balcony every Saturday night for only a dollar and change.

     On Tuesday I broke my fast with some kosher rice pudding from B&H Dairy -- after a morning spent at the historic Riverside Church.  Long story.  Here's the abridged version.  The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa is the latest reincarnation of a long line of Karmapas going back almost to the Buddha himself.  This Karmapa talked to us about compassion, the highest form of human emotion.  And right then and there, in the 26th pew on the left, I had a sudden enlightening realization -- that most of our leaders in Washington are totally lacking the compassion gene and will probably be reborn as toads.

     So.  After this powerful experience with the Buddha, I'm now starting to wonder exactly who I will be having lunch with next.  Mohammad, Abraham, Jesus?  I'm sure that each one of them would all serve up a nice hot dish of compassion too.

     The moral here?  Human beings today are starving for compassion -- not for wealth or power.  And they are certainly not starving for more "war".  We have totally grossed out on all that shite already.

     And I betcha anything that Jesus would never want America to spend a trillion dollars on some stupid 2000-mile-long border wall -- and that Abraham would never want America to spend a trillion dollars on some stupid Wall in Palestine either.  And surely Mohammad would never want those freaky-weird spoiled-brat princes in Saudi Arabia to join with America in spending a trillion dollars slaughtering Muslims in Yemen and Syria either.


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