I want to thank you all who took time to read what I said about Sandipta. It was nice to see so many thousands of readers came to visit my little blog. I want to thank those of you who commented on it. It was reassuring to know that people still care about life, and death. Through this very unfortunate experience, a small group of people came together, and shared their pain and sorrow. It was a matter of the soul. It was a spiritual experience.
Thank you so much for your compassion for this young sister who left us so suddenly, and so untimely.
Then, I found some Twitter messages Sandipta wrote in her last few days. One message was a re-Twit about Shiv Sena, India’s KKK, and its just-deceased chief Bal Thackeray. The message Sandipta re-Twitted was on 17th November. “[Shiv Sena chief] Thackerey’s … editorial very sweetly compared women journalists to prostitutes.”
This was from a 1991 editorial Thackeray wrote in his Marathi-language publication Saamna. This is just before the time when SS butchered poor Muslims in Bombay, right after the Babri Mosque demolition that took India into a new bloodbath. Sandipta reposted the message for her friends — without any personal comments.
It gave me the courage to write again. It made me remember the young, vibrant, Tagore-loving Indian journalist Sandipta Chatterjee whom I knew for five years. I remembered how in many Facebook conversations, we often talked about and shared our similar opinions on rights, justice and dignity for all — especially Indian women. I kept tagging her on my blogs — particularly the ones that talked about racism, bigotry and lies.
Most of the time, she would simply not comment. Once in a while, she would, in her usual soft, subtle way. Being a part of the Indian corporate media world, she did not want to be too explicit, and I always honored that ethical boundary. She was not nearly as political as me, either. But I knew she had support for honesty and truth. She had to: she was a graduate from Tagore’s university.
I am afraid I still don’t have enough energy to write too much. I just had to write something because it’s so relevant right now. My apologies if I sound too abrupt and too brief. I invite you to read some of the other articles I posted here on my blog over the past few months, if you’re interested to know indepth about these subjects. I invite you to read what I wrote about India’s corrupt sell-off political leaders, role International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Wall Street are playing in India right now — puppeteering profiteers as I call them — to destroy the Indian economy once and for all, and how Indian corporate media are cheer leading the ruling class without ever exposing the horrendous truths from a global point of view.
There is hardly any comprehensive discussion on Indian media (which is now officially a clone of global corporate media organizations and their profit-only business) on how IMF, World Bank, Wall Street corporations such as Wal-Mart, Disney, Monsanto, General Electric, McDonald’s, Exxon-Mobil or Coca Cola have destroyed economies and environments across the world. There is no discussion on Indian media about the connection between the thousands of farmer suicides in today’s India and the hundreds of young women burnt to death at garment sweatshop factories in Bangladesh just two weeks ago. There is no conversation to correlate these gruesome tragedies with the Union Carbide worker slaughter that happened in Bhopal three decades ago: to show that the global profiteering saga at the expense of poor peoples’ lives has reached a new low.
There was no discussion on the fact that for the first time in a very fractious India, political rivals such as CPI(M) and the left, BJP and the right, and grassroots Congress-breakaways such as Mamata Banerjee the West Bengal chief minister came together on an economic platform to stop the aggression of sinister, global corporations and their devastating profiteering — in the name of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Very soon, just like Indian farmers have been killing themselves in thousands — the largest number of farmer suicides in human history — small businessmen and farmer’s market vendors sitting for centuries on urban and rural markets of India will perish with their familes and children.
Congress Party and its media blast this coming together of right and left: they call it hypocrisy. Yet, just a couple of months ago, Congress got crucial support from India’s KKK Shiv Sena to elect its IMF-sponsored president Pranab Mukherjee. There was no comprehensive discussion of that scandal either!
Finally, before I run out of steam, a word about India’s cricket. This is of course the one of the largest, thriving, for-profit industries in India now. In fact, it is the only sports industry in the entire world that has a major portion of the country’s wealth played into the hands of mafia, underworld bookies, media corporations, politician-turned-administrators, and cricketers who keep making billions in a country where at least three out of four people do not have enough to eat, can’t send their children to school or sick parents to a hospital, or must walk miles every single day to fetch water to drink.
Here, this one game India invests so much money on, and a game only ten countries play (and nobody knows about it outside of the past British colonies they now call Commonwealth). There is no accountability for failures and no media discussion on how much money these players and administrators and underworld bookies actually make.
The game’s star player Sachin Tendulkar is now a Congress Party-nominated parliament member. Now, here is one interesting fact to reflect on.
During the very important FDI debate in Indian parliament, where Congress Party allegedly bribed some small, caste-based politicians to get their crucial, numerical support to pass the Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s foreign direct investment, Sachin Tendulkar was supposed to be present in New Delhi during that vote. But he was playing cricket in Calcutta exactly at the same time! Even though he was not able to pull the dismal Indian cricket out of a defeat by England (critics say he has hardly ever done it in his entire career: to pull the Indian team out of an imminent defeat!), he displayed perhaps one of the most egregious breaches of workplace ethics (I wonder if it’s illegal too), by working for two employment places exactly at the same time — also perhaps making money from the two places exactly at the same time!
And this entire breach of workplace code of conduct was done in front of one billion Indian people. Like, he was naked in front of all of them.
Well, I have said enough already. I am a poor, powerless man. I should not say so much. People are angry.
Guess what, I still have the Obama-2008 bumber sticker stuck on my old American car.
We all thought you were going to use your enormously powerful position to drive this country and virtually the entire world back to the direction of the ordinary working people and families, promote economic equality, hold the corporate criminals accountable and bring them to justice. We thought your leadership would stop global warfare and bloodshed, and bring some peace to mankind especially after the horrors of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft.
I am very sorry and dejected to tell you that you have not fulfilled our hopes, dreams and aspirations. You have let us down.
Of course, at that time very few people thought you could lose; and I wrote the article even before that scandalous and racist “47 percent” Romney speech Mother Jones magazine broke: speech at a $50,000 per plate fundraising dinner Romney had in Florida ($50,000 is the average annual income for an American family; in many Third World countries, it’s the annual income for an entire city, perhaps). When that exposé came out, hardly anybody thought you could ever lose; in fact, even diehard Republicans thought Romney threw the elections straight in your lap; the Florida speech was so devastatingly damaging for him and the Republican Party. But who knows, maybe, that episode had made you overconfident, and you took the first presidential debate casually with no preparation whatsoever; your election prospects since then took a nose dive. Boy, how quickly things turn!
You took that debate with your now-familiar demeanor: you took your audience — your supporters and sympathizers and onlookers across the country — for granted. That non-performance in the debate was really symptomatic of your four years of non-performance. That abject failure to rise up and overpower your fierce, well-oiled opponents and their media with measured documents and reasons was symptomatic of your four years of abject failure to rise up and do the right thing at the most critical moment.
You’re going to be paying a hefty price for that non-performance. And you’re going to drag us all down with you, by your non-performance and lackluster presidency. Your elite circle of advisors — dubious and ill-reputed political insiders who are really part of the now-infamous 1 percent, exposed because of Occupy Wall Street’s resistance and challenge — have ill-advised you. You believed in them, and took us for granted. Your drones killed many innocent people overseas; your political actions killed hopes and dreams of many here in the U.S.
President Obama, let me be clear. I would be very sad and disheartened if you get a shock defeat in this election. I would get a chill in my bones if someone like Romney whose racism and hypocrisy is now exposed becomes the president of America. I know he’s going to start another devastating war in Iran: the war industries and Karl Rove are working hard for his victory. I would be frozen to death if a social and economic extremist like Ryan with his Tea Party Glenn Beck doctrine becomes the vice president of this country. I know he is going to kill off the last remnant of the New Deal, including Medicare and Social Security as well as collective bargaining and such precious rights of the working people of America. His party will probably overturn Roe v Wade too, destroying women’s precious reproductive rights. Corporate America, NRA and Koch Brothers as well as organized bigoted groups are working hard for his victory.
Even though I have serious, major issues with your presidency and every single day, I feel cheated by the promises you and your administration didn’t keep, just because I NEVER want a racist and a bigot become the world’s top leaders, I would want you to win.
The only problem is that deep inside, I feel you are not going to win. And you can blame nobody other than yourself for this looming, historic defeat. Your likely loss would be the final letdown of the billions of people — particularly the young generation here in America and peace and democracy soldiers all across the world — who believed so much in your message of hope. They believed in YOU!
You let them all down. How terrible this letdown has been!
NOTE: IT’S NOT THE INDIVIDUAL I’M TALKING ABOUT. IT’S THE POLICY HE AND HIS PARTY ARE FOLLOWING. TOGETHER, THEY HAVE BEEN DISASTROUS FOR TODAY’S INDIA.
You perhaps know that Manmohan Singh is the head of the country of India — its prime minister.
Do you know who Mir Jafar was? And why I called Mr. Singh Mir Jafar? Believe me, a lot of Indians — including some of my best friends — would be terribly upset when they see this article. The most common reaction would be: “Please, Manmohan Singh and Mir Jafar? We are familiar with your hyperbole, but this is a new low for you.” Another common response would be: “We all know Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi, and we also know he failed to lift India out of its horrific corruption, but he is a decent, honest man.”
But truly, I’m not the first person making such a comparison. Recently, when West Bengal’s firebrand chief minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the election of India’s longtime finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, an IMF-chosen leader, as the next president of the country, Singh and Mukherjee’s ruling Congress Party (especially its Bengal leader Adhir Chowdhury) called Mamata a Mir Jafar (reference: Ananda Bazar Patrika, Calcutta’s major daily, March 15, 2014) for her lone opposition from the ruling coalition’s side (she left the coalition since then). Mir Jafar, for historical reasons, has become synonymous with someone people consider a national traitor.
So, I’m only following the footsteps of those Congress Party leaders.
It’s a very sensitive subject: calling the prime minister of India a traitor is no trivial matter. I must come up with evidence to prove my point. Plus, like I said before, it’s more about the policy than the person. Let’s be clear on it.
I have decided to take on this subject after a lot of thinking. I have decided that someone must tell the true story of India — a country that I identify with very closely — that connects India’s dark, colonial past with the presently-unfolding new colonialism. This is a very scary neoliberal, economic takeover and occupation of modern India — neocolonization that would completely devastate and disintegrate the country and its one billion poor people, and that too, in a very short time. I have written about it before. If you’re interested to read about it, please click on this link.
But in order to understand the story, I seek your permission to give you a quick history lesson.
In 1757, East India Company — a British merchants’ group — came to then-prosperous, undivided India with a sole, sinister motive: to occupy and colonize the country. Over the previous few decades, they used India’s fractious sociopolitical system with no central rule and Hindu kings and Muslim nawabs fighting with each other, and by using various methods — bribes here and battles there, took over huge areas of land paying minimum taxes to the local rulers, and started shipping raw materials from India to Britain to run the engine of a new Industrial Revolution.
But then they decided that they would completely displace the Indian sociopolitical system with a colonial rule, and thus they created desperate situations where the otherwise lazy nawab of perhaps the most prosperous place of all — Bengal — decided to resist the British onslaught in a war now known as the Battle of Plassey. Muslim Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah had a big, formidable army with cannons and Hindu generals such as Mohan Lal known for their bravery, and it was apparent that the British army would be no match for the unified Hindu-Muslim regiment.
But the British had other plans.
The British commander in chief Lord Robert Clive had found a few senior, corrupt confidantes of the nawab and promised them tons of money and gold and also tax-free, fertile Bengal land. Jagat Seth, Umi Chand and such traitors with their leader Mir Jafar betrayed the nawab, divulged the top secret battle plans to Clive, moved their own regiments away from the battlefield at a very crucial moment, and the British army in the Battle of Plassey vanquished Nawab Siraj Daulah. The gallant generals under the nawab perished in the war, Clive beheaded the nawab, and after conquering Bengal, East India Company slowly declared the land of India to be a colony of the British monarchy.
Mir Jafar was made the ceremonial nawab of Bengal — only to be replaced by another puppet in a few years.
For the next two hundred years, British Raj plundered Bengal and India, brutalized and exploited their Indian subjects, forced them to plant indigo in fertile rice fields and manufacture other products used in Europe for their newly developing industries, looted coal, textile, and enormous amounts of gold and diamond. They created famines — unheard of in Bengal before they took over — and millions of farmers with their families and children died of starvation. All the rebellions across India against the British Raj were ruthlessly crushed for two centuries, and the rebels and revolutionaries were shot to death, hanged or imprisoned for life.
In 1947, the British finally gave up on the colonial rule of India, mainly because of critical economic and political turmoil in their own country in the aftermath of World War II, and left after partitioning the country in three pieces, creating incredible misery and bloodshed.
The British also left, putting their handpicked feudal Indian rulers — ruling class that would later continue the British colonial system in a so-called free country.
That is modern Indian history as we all know it — until the next episode.
In late December of 1984, two Sikh bodyguards of India’s mighty prime minister Indira Gandhi shot her to death, allegedly as a revenge for the leader’s desecration of a major Sikh temple in Punjab. Indira Gandhi, just like her father Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India, pampered and perpetuated a dynasty rule, and her elder son Rajiv Gandhi who had no experience or interest in politics suddenly became India’s “leader.”
He chose Dr. Manmohan Singh as his director for India’s Reserve Bank (RBI); later, Singh became the national finance minister. With help from IMF, World Bank and Western corporate world, Singh massively deregulated and privatized India’s erstwhile semi-socialistic market. Foreign corporations entered the newly-opened floodgate, and very soon, India saw a huge spike in prices of essential commodities that was always kept under control for the poor, drastic devaluation of its currency, and even more outrageous income inequality that the country had ever seen. At the same time, middle class Indians with this new economy saw prosperity that they hadn’t seen before, and however temporary the luxury was and however far their personal debts grew, were greatly reassured by this so-called prosperity. Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and corporate media showered praise on this new “reform.”
Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated a few years later by Tamil extremists, and after a couple of short stints of prime ministership by non-Gandhi-dynasty politicians, Manmohan Singh became the prime minister — this time, with the return and patronization of Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi whom the Indian and Western media soon made the de facto queen mother of India’s politics. Manmohan Singh has since been India’s prime minister for almost ten years, blessed by Sonia Gandhi and sponsored by India’s corporate media. In these ten years, India’s politics and economy has created the worst-possible corruption, largest rich-poor divide, steepest inflation with out-of-control price rise of oil and essential commodities, horrific human rights violations, and most drastic devaluation of the Indian Rupee.
I have emphasized a number of times how with help from India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the country’s official IMF director during his tenure, Manmohan Singh promulgated IMF-dictated Structural Adjustment Program, and privatization and corporatization of the Indian economy have risen up to a new level.
Now, just a few weeks ago, since Pranab Mukherjee the IMF-chosen finance minister became the president of India, Manmohan Singh with blessing from Sonia Gandhi has taken it to a new level. He announced that India’s economy is not growing at the rate IMF and World Bank would like to see, and therefore he said he would open up India’s economy to foreign markets even more widely. One of the primary policy changes Singh announced was in the area of FDI or Foreign Direct Investment: he invited retail chains such as Wal-Mart to open up their shops in India, and he also made sure global corporations such as the infamous oil companies, or Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Network, would get major access to the Indian market. To expedite these processes, Singh government began distributing enormous amounts of India’s land — much of it fertile, agricultural land that Indian farmers have depended for their living for centuries — so that the foreign corporations could start constructions there immediately.
Following a massive policy change proposal in the U.S., the Singh government also has proposed privatization and investment into the private equity market India’s vast life insurance sector — a public sector — putting in severe peril the only life’s savings ordinary people managed to have.
Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi call this process necessary for jump starting India’s economic growth; Indian and Western media have again showered high praise for Singh’s “bold and courageous” stand. Media compared Singh a “roaring lion.”
People and politicians who challenged this completely outrageous economic overhaul that in their opinion would destroy India’s national economy (of whatever was left after the first decade’s “reform”) were quickly blasted by the Congress Party, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and Indian and Western corporate media. Mamata Banerjee has become the whipping horse for the press: there is little discussion on WHY her quitting the privileged position in the national government is a principled, pro-people stand. On the other hand, the largest opposition party in India — BJP — has always been lamblasted by India’s media on the pretext that they are far right and always against anything liberal; BJP’s social and religious dogma mimicking the Republican Party here in the U.S. did not help them either to be at the forefront of any economic policy discussion. Further, Congress Party has characteristically bribed and bought off some other opposition parties to find support for this newest round of “reform.”
This new round of reform is IMF and World Bank dictated, and their neoliberal reform policies have devastated other countries in recent months. Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have been the latest victims. Argentina went through their horror a decade ago. Unemployment, inflation and massive layoff of public sector workers have gone out of control. Just like the Indian president, IMF has also chosen their men to be presidents of Italy and Spain, and Greece is going through a horrendous turmoil because they refused to let IMF select their own destiny.
Labor unions and teacher unions and student unions have took the hardest hit — because of their resistance and opposition to this new, horrendous, anti-people “reform.”
For India, this so-called reform at the behest of Manmohan Singh would be even more catastrophic and millions of poor people will starve and die. I have written about it before. I have also written about Malaysia’s former prime minister Mohathir Bin Mohamad who resisted the IMF onslaught a few years ago before he became a slaughter lamb himself for his outspoken criticism of this new global economic terror.
India is country where I still have a lot of belongingness. I feel very strongly for India even after being in the U.S. for twenty five years. I can see how Wal-Mart, GE, Monsanto (which in ten years has forced 200,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide), Fox, Coke, KFC, MTV and McDonald’s — along with their Indian corporate counterparts and cheerleading media — are going to change the face of the country, once and for all.
I can see how the farming lands and forests and villages and their people who have survived and prospered since the ages of Ramayana and Mahabharata will soon be destroyed, once and for all.
British aggressors forced Indian farmers to plant indigo in their fertile rice fields. Now, the new FDI and IMF aggressors will force Indian farmers to simply go extinct.
This is neocolonization happening right in front of our eyes. And it is going to enslave one billion poor Indians for many years to come, just the same way the British once colonized India with help from the country’s Mir Jafars. Mir Jafars sold India off to foreign traders.
It’s a very scary, bone-chilling deja vu unfolding right now.
Manmohan Singh once said after the horrific Union Carbide disaster: “Bhopals will happen, but India must move on.”
Are we okay with that kind of moving on?
MAMATA BANERJEE IS NO MIR JAFAR. I KNOW IT REGARDLESS OF MY SUPPORT OR OPPOSITION FOR HER.
Anyway, either title would have been just as fine. I could’ve also included IMF and 1% in the title. All of the above would have been just as fine. And just as true. And just as powerful. And just as appropriate.
But I settled on the Obama and vote title. Just because I thought it might find a wider audience if I made is a little more controversial, sensitive, sexy.
Now that Rahm Emmanuel has found such strong support from Romney and Ryan — Republican candidates one of whom is far right Tea Party and the other is a known union basher and private outsourcer — who’s going to block his path? Plus, Koch Brothers and Murdoch and Heritage Foundation and some other big media (and foam-in-the-mouth Rush) will pump in big money and other resources to support Rahm. Who knows, maybe, he will be the education secretary in a new Romney-Ryan cabinet!
Unbelievable to see the anti-labor-union sentiment in this country called USA where the entire middle class was built with the blood, sweat and tears of the working people and labor unions — for at least forty years. Most of these people who are calling the striking union names, blaming the teachers for all the problems of the poor and failing students, and expressing outrage that these teachers are asking for better wages and benefits either lie about or are ignorant about that glorious history from not too long ago.
It’s absolutely unbelievable to see that there is so little in-depth information and analysis on mainstream media about the key demands of the striking teachers and what forced them to finally come to this point where they have no other way but to strike. Why historic? Because they risk losing and they’re fighting to expose both big parties and their anti-union agenda — one explicit and the other hidden.
Even in the mighty, all-important New York Times, there is hardly any serious analysis of the CTU strike with drawing connection between this strike and other recent strikes across the U.S. and other places of the world. I have already mentioned the UPS strike of 1997. There is hardly any serious discussion of labor unrest and what economic and political games global powers are playing to crush organized labor. How many people know what International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Program is that works so closely with global political powers, as well as multinational corporations — GE, Wal-Mart, Disney, McDonald’s or Monsanto — that are so infamous for their long history of oppression and violence on any labor mobilization?
How many people know the deep-rooted connections between all these dots?
Yet, that discussion would be so critical at this point. New York Times and Wall Street Journal and CNN would not get into that discussion. So, as I often say, the onus is on us.
Now, today on September 11, Jobs with Justice — an activist group that emphasizes rights and justice for the working people of America — threw their support behind the CTU strikers, and huge rallies came out on the streets of Chicago. That is reassuring, even though I have doubts how long the public school teachers’ union would be able to sustain their energy and strength, especially when mighty forces such as Obama and Clinton on the Democratic side and Romney and Ryan on the Republican side would clamp down on them so heavily, with help from corporate and mentor media.
I have worked with unions closely here in America, and also in India — for many years. My father was a factory employee most of his life. I have seen good unions with honest and caring and efficient leadership. I’ve also seen unions with dishonest and inefficient bosses.
But regardless of the good or bad union bosses and their good or bad politics, I have every drop of blood in my body to support the cause of organized labor. Labor unions are the last stumbling block for the elite, powerful 1 percent and their absolute, global economic tyranny against the poor and middle class working people and families. I’ve talked about it before. Check it out here.
Now, people who are expressing their outrage at the striking teachers of Chicago, have the same-old points that anti-union power such as Scott Walker or Mitt Romney or the union-busting corporations (yes, some companies only specialize in union busting, for a hefty fee) always use. They are:
(1) Union workers (in this case, the striking public school teachers) are asking for too much salary and benefits; they already make a lot. Plus, this is the time for austerity: the country is going through a severe recession. There must be austerity now.
(2) Students are failing because these teachers are incompetent and lazy. So instead of giving them tenure, the education department and mayor should fire them.
(3) Labor unions (in this case, the striking teachers) only care about themselves; they don’t care about the larger society, or the students or their parents. That’s why the striking teachers are against the teacher evaluation system.
(4) Union leaders are all thugs and crooks; they make big money and cut secret deals with the government.
(5) Public sector enterprises (in this case, public education system) have failed; it’s time to kill the government and government organizations. People should not finance public employees, public teachers and public health officials, etc. with their hard-earned money and taxes.
There may be more points. I am sure you can find more points to add here.
Sure! We all know where you’re coming from. You can find it all in Heritage Foundation or IMF’s manuals. Or, just read Ronald Reagan’s biography.
Let’s take these points one at a time.
1. Union workers make too much money. — Chicago striking teachers make too much money already. How much do they make? In a major city like Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston or New York, where the living expenses are way too high, a $70,000 per year salary for a family of four is not that high. In fact, if you have to pay back your high income taxes, student loans (or help your grown-up children to pay back theirs), car loans, house mortgage (or apartment rent) and car insurance (most places in America do not have public transportation: you must have a car to go to work) on top of your other monthly expenses, it’s definitely not much. In fact, with that kind of salary with no perks or bonuses, you have to be very careful not to get into additional debt.
But most importantly, why not talk about the obnoxious, outrageous, unconscionable income gap that middle class (including these teachers) has with the affluent of this country? I’m not even talking about the nauseating money Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, Chase or AIG executives made before or even after the 2007-2008 crash. How much Lehman Brothers CEO made when he was actually driving his company into ground? I’m not talking about how GE didn’t pay their income taxes. I’m talking about an AVERAGE worker’s salary at Goldman Sachs, which is over $600,000. Why do they make so much, and produce or manufacture or create NOTHING (except more wealth for themselves), and yet nobody talks about their outrageous earnings?
Why don’t these people talk about the fact that in the U.S., an AVERAGE CEO makes 450 TIMES more than the average working person at the same company? In other words, for an average worker to make the kind of money their CEO makes in one year, they have to work for 450 years. Nice!
What about the corporate reformers who always tell us that teachers make too much money? Here’s a recent chart.
2. Students are failing because of these incompetent teachers. — Is it really the teachers or a failed education system that funnels and shifts money and resources from public education to charter schools or other elite schools, sucking the already-malnourished public schools dry? I’ll give you two examples from my own experience. I know very well about Stuyvesant High School, located next to Ground Zero (today is a stark reminder: some of our students saw the WTC terrorist attack from their chemistry lab on 9/11). New York City pumped in maximum resources for their prestigious public schools such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech — and you wouldn’t believe how affluent these schools are. Yet, so many public schools in the vicinity of Stuyvasant have practically nothing: they are in such as sad state of affairs with no money to repair their classrooms, fix their toilets, and upgrade their chemistry lab. Or, maybe, they don’t have a chemistry lab. I know they definitely don’t have an Olympic-size swimming pool that Stuyvesant has — indoor.
I also worked with an East Harlem public school when I was a journalism student at Columbia University; I wrote a feature on one of the teachers there. She showed me their biology lab; the entire high school had only one microscope for its entire body of students. She showed me how the ceilings were leaky and students sometimes had to sit outside of the classroom when it rained hard. The students told me how they worked hard, but were depressed that they would not be able to go to a good college because they were not well-prepared, or didn’t have money for college.
And I’m not even talking about the privileged private schools. Even within the public school system, there is so much outrageous disparity. Teachers’ fault? Really?
3. Teachers are against the evaluation system and uncaring about the students and parents. — I’ll answer the second part first. I have been a teacher all my life. I have taught in an extremely poor village in India for years before coming to America. Here in the U.S., I have taught at schools near Chicago and then I have taught in two cities in New York. I am a teacher now. Teachers care. Teachers care about the students, and teachers care about the parents. Teachers go out of their way to help their students. This is true across the board — public or private school teachers. Guess what…many of these teachers are parents themselves! They experience the process of education both various sides of the issue. In fact, these teachers know how parents feel when the student doesn’t do well; they know what needs to be done. But again, public schools everywhere have gone through major budget cuts draining their scant resources even more. In many places in the U.S., pro-privatization governments with help from corporations have funneled money from public schools to charter schools.
In case of the striking Chicago teachers, they have never said no to a fair evaluation system. But Rahm Emmanuel’s administration has imposed more and more rigorous and threatening evaluations on the teachers: they’ve recently increased the share of student performance in the evaluation process from 25% to 40%. Teachers failed to negotiate with the arrogant mayor; in fact, Rahm refused to see the teachers at the bargaining table for months. Many say that had he not been so arrogant to sit down with the teachers, this strike would not have taken place.
4. Union leaders are all thugs and crooks; they make big money and cut secret deals with the government. — This is a ploy anti-union politicians and media use all the time — all over the world. But U.S. media have taken it one step further. You never hear a pro-union story on radio, watch on TV or read in the big newspapers. You never get to see the working, struggling side of labor. You never get to see the Labor Day parade. You never know the contribution of the labor movement in building a strong middle class. Organized labor, through many years of anti-labor propaganda on the media, has lost its popularity and reputation it had. Most people here in America believe that labor union is a bad thing and has no relevance in a modern society. Nobody knows that Dr. Martin Luther King was a labor leader too; in fact, the last speech he gave the day before his assassination in Memphis was to a group of poor, striking sanitation workers. Nobody knows what collective bargaining really means. Nobody knows what some of the rights and benefits we enjoy today — and ALL workers blue-collar or white-collar enjoy them — ONLY because labor unions fought so hard for them, for generations. Anti-union propaganda has really reached a new low in this country. I know from personal experience that India is the other country where similar propaganda has tarnished the image of labor unions.
5. Finally, pro-privatization forces are now extremely powerful. USA and India are two places I know where the public sector has suffered enormously. Public schools, public hospitals and health care facilities, public employment, public transportation and all such government programs especially for the poor and middle class have declined miserably. Conservative think tanks and corporate media have blasted anything connected with the government; in the U.S., the schools of Ayn Rand, Milton Freedman and Alan Greenspan with their powerful libertarian followers in the seat of power have maligned the concept of the government altogether. Now, both the Tea Party far right in the Republican camp and Blue Dog Democrats have given away the economy of this country to private corporations. That was the primary cause of the current financial disaster.
With help from IMF, World Bank and such global organizations, and with special help for corporate media, a so-called economic reform has neocolonized the entire world: the two largest democracies such as the U.S. and India perhaps have suffered the most. In my classes and workshops, I simply this process for the students and show them the four most important policy doctrines that have expedited this global economic aggression. They are:
(A) Deregulation of every aspect of the economy, which has caused havoc to the U.S. economy.
(B) Tax cuts for rich individuals and corporations, which has created even more debt to an already-depleted U.S. treasury. Federal Reserve, which is anything but federal, has been given historic, unprecedented powers by the government to print money and loan it to the government itself, at a high interest rate. Major wars have contribute to the debt.
(C) Drastic cuts in public assistance and welfare for the needy and underprivileged. Ronald Reagan started the process, and Clinton continued it through cutting the U.S. welfare system, virtually ending the New Deal economy that was the cornerstone of American democracy for forty years.
(D) Clamping down on labor unions. There won’t be any collective bargaining anymore. Do away with all the pro-labor laws that working men and women fought for over centuries.
I began this article with a few other tentative titles for it. I mentioned Bangladesh to show how in the less-law-enforced Third World, labor leaders who are mobilizing against this global tyranny are being repressed and killed. Just a few days ago, Aminul Islam — noted textile workers’ leader in Bangladesh — was killed. In the eighties, many say, CIA broke down a massive textile workers’ strike in Bombay, India and planted its own man Bal Thackeray — who has turned out to be as much a bigot and fascist as there can be: perhaps only KKK would come close. In more law-enforced countries such as U.K., Italy, Greece or USA, the people in power and their media have clamped down on the labor movement differently. The newest barrage of hate on the right-wing media and more subtle, moderate-looking opinion pieces in so-called neutral, liberal media are doing just the same.
Who could have saved labor unions, and at this particular moment, the striking Chicago teachers, from such draconian repression?
I would think it’s someone like Barack Obama.
Think about it, Mr. President. I don’t have much power. But I SHALL decide on my vote — based on your actions.
I came up with a list of questions that I think media — big media, corporate media, multinational media, mentor media — should ask Romney and Ryan. But I have a feeling they won’t do it.
So, I guess the onus is on us. Let’s do it ourselves.
(Update on September 18: Especially after today’s breaking news that progressive publication Mother Jones exposed Romney’s gravely disparaging comments that 47% Americans love to live on government entitlements and don’t pay any taxes, mainstream media such as New York Times are jumping all over it, and conveniently ignoring many other issues. Hence, it’s even more important to address these issues now. The political debate is getting shifted from economy to race, etc., and while race is extremely important, this election should be primarily about the economy and the 1%. We must not let vested interests to shift the debate from the economy.)
American media’s coverage of the Republican National Convention was as usual shallow, superficial and sentimental. Just like the previous conventions I’ve seen since Reagan, corporate media didn’t provide any serious analysis on any serious subjects. Its big-name journalists and experts did not show any critical thinking at all. It was all glossing over, spinning, twisting and distorting.
Question: Why is it always that way? Answer: Either they are stupid or they’re not doing their job on purpose. I think it’s the latter because these otherwise well-dressed and articulate (and definitely well-paid) people and their [very well-paid] bosses do not want to lose their tons of ad dollars and traditional viewers that might switch channels once real debates, controversies or unpopular, unpleasant narratives are brought in. It’s like, if someone on TV presents serious research data that among ALL the developed countries, USA has the highest income inequality and also highest social and health problems because of the grotesque divide (these are all facts — look it up here), most people would not like to hear it. They have been brainwashed for decades. They would switch channels.
It’s pathetic to see how American media have totally degenerated especially since Reagan. There is no hard-hitting journalism at all! There is no real analysis that matters to real people and their real lives. The whole RNC 24/7 coverage was, just like before, done almost in a vacuum — as if, it was a fantasy world out there! I have a feeling the Democratic convention will be this way too.
I also have a feeling we’ll see another pathetic repeat of the above when time comes for the so-called presidential debate with similar hoopla and meaningless moderation. I have a feeling it’s going to be another exercise of naiveté, glossing over, window dressing and scratching the surface — with exclusion of critically important issues.
Maybe, Karl Rove and Koch Brothers, among others, are watching over these media establishments. That’s why they’re so afraid to ask the right questions!
However, if I were one of these big-name media personalities with big privilege to work with these politicians, I’d ask them some straight-shoot questions. But because I do not have that privilege and I have no other power than writing them down in this blog for my friends, readers and sympathizers — now surprisingly from many near and far corners of the world — I’m writing them down here. My hope is that you find these questions worthy of asking; and in case you are one of those privileged journalists with access to these big-name politicians, please see if you can ask some of these questions — and get some meaningful answers that everybody can understand.
So, without further ado, here’s my short wish list. I know, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, you are extremely important and busy. Therefore, I’ll only ask you about a handful of topics. I’ll save the others for later.
Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan, either of you can answer them. Considering you are planning to be commanders in charge of not just America, but de facto of the world, consider people like me all over the world are eagerly waiting for your honest, thoughtful and straightforward answers. Don’t haze it. Don’t faze it.
Thank you for your time, Honorable Sirs.
Question 1. Trickle-down economic policies have failed us the middle majority, working people. Giving tons of money and power to the rich at the top of the pyramid didn’t work. It has caused enormous income inequality, and the middle class has suffered greatly. What is your plan to change the course of our economic policy and actions?
Question 2. You propose more tax cuts for the rich — individuals and corporations. And, in fact, richest corporations now Supreme Court-validated as individuals — such as General Electric — do not pay any taxes. Don’t you think it’s unfair that we the ordinary, low-income people are paying about 33% federal income taxes (some say, to pay back to Federal Reserve which is a private, all-powerful entity that nobody really knows); yet, the richest corporations are not paying any taxes? For that matter, you said you paid only 15% income taxes yourself. Isn’t that outrageous discrimination against us who make so little?
Question 4. Bush-Cheney’s brutal genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan has destroyed world peace, bled American taxpayers (i.e., us) to death, caused a catastrophic budget deficit, and tarnished the American image (whatever was left) worldwide. Now you’re drum beating another war as soon as you come to power — perhaps against Iran (or is it Syria?). How do you think that would promote either peace or economic prosperity — two things you frequently talk about?
Question 5. Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, in 2003 stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer to protest against Israeli government’s demolition of houses of Palestinian civilians. The bulldozer crushed her to death. You blasted Chinese government’s human rights violation when its tanks threatened to kill Chinese protesters at Tienanmen Square a few years ago. Do you think you can show the same resolution to protest against the action of the Israeli government when they killed Rachel Corrie?
Question 6. At the RNC in Tampa, you and your party’s top leaders such as Chris Christie have championed the cause of the American workers and families who are going through a horrendous time because of high unemployment that some compares with the situation during the Great Depression. Especially younger people, according to some research, have 30 percent joblessness, which is a record in American history. The economic situation our young people are in is simply horrible — check these facts. Are you going to create new jobs within America by supporting traditional job bases such as manufacturing and construction, and stop U.S. corporations’ massive outsourcing of these jobs to China, India and other countries? Are you going to take on Wal-Mart or Apple and their massive outsourcing?
Question 7. Multinational, U.S.-based companies such as Monsanto, Union Carbide, Coca Cola, Chevron and Disney (among many
others) have caused havoc in many other countries because of their ways of doing business. For example, over the past decade, 200,000 Indian farmers (yes, you’ve heard it right!) have committed suicide — the largest in human history — because of Monsanto’s permanent seed replacement with their own genetically engineered products and false promises of crop yield. Union Carbide’s infamous toxic gas leak in Bhopal in 1984 had killed thousand of poor workers and their families; women who suffered are still delivering crippled babies. Are you going to bring these companies to justice and compensate the victims for the disasters they went through?
Question 8. It seems both of you and your colleagues such as Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal — and of course, Scott Walker — have fiercely anti-labor-union position. Can you please tell us if you’re in power, are you going to destroy organized labor once and for all? Are you going to take away their non-violent weapons such as collective bargaining?
Question 9. Are you going to overturn Roe vs. Wade and bring American women back to the coat-hanger alley days, with help from a partisan Supreme Court?
Question 10. Are you going to follow the dictates of your party’s “mainstream voice” Tea Party and abolish the separation between the church and state? Are you going to mandate Biblical prayers in U.S. public schools?
Question 11. Are you going to destroy Social Security and Medicare? Yes or no?
An unprincipled, corrupt political system with an unprincipled, corrupt media just elected an IMF-nominated and Corporate-America-backed career-partisan politician as the new president of India — a man who as the longtime finance minister has brought the country’s economy to the bring of doom. It is truly a sad day for India and her people — a country and the people I so deeply know and care about.
I hope you read this little blog and the accompanying blog on IMF’s global terrorism, and share them with your friends, family and colleagues. Thank you for your time for reading, thinking and sharing.
Trayvon Martin would still be alive today if his killer Zimmerman had no gun. It’s simple. As simple as the bullet that killed the poor kid.
As Bill Cosby said just a few days ago, and I am paraphrasing: “It’s not about race. It’s about guns.” That is where the debate and action should be.
I know what I’m talking about. It’s very real for me.
My uncle Buddha — my mom’s youngest brother who was like a big brother to me — was shot and killed by a gun.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time and words on this subject. I don’t have to. It’s pretty easy to get.
Did you read the paper, watch the TV, or follow the news on the radio? In the last few weeks, almost every single day, some people — innocent people including children — got killed here in America because of guns. Somebody found a gun. Somebody bought a gun from Wal-Mart or some place like that. They brought the gun to school. They brought the gun to their workplace. They brought the gun to a shopping mall. Then, they shot and killed people. They blew skulls out. They destroyed lives. They destroyed hopes and dreams.
Let there be no illusion. Let there be no confusion.
Guns kill. Guns kill the innocent. Guns kill children. Guns can kill my children. Guns can kill your children.
Let’s be afraid of people who’re pushing guns. Just the same way we should be afraid of people who push drugs. Or, those who push pornography. All three forms of vicious killers — guns, drugs and pornography — are abundant now in America. They are beyond control.
They can all kill us. They can all kill our children. Some do it slow. Some do it fast. But, they all kill.
Guns kill fast.
Does the above sound like a sermon? So be it. I have no other way to put it. I don’t have to spend a lot of time and words on this subject. I don’t want to. It’s pretty easy to get. (Even though watching American media, you wouldn’t get it. They don’t mention guns much, if at all.)
Without mentioning the drive for profit, and that too at the expense of hundreds of innocent lives, the big Bloomberg talk against NRA is meaningless.
If you talk about NRA, you talk about the gun industry. You talk about the war industry. You talk about the pervasive culture of violence — promoted by media and TV and Hollywood. They promoted it in USA. They promoted it all across the world. Guns and bombs and grenades and mines and remote-control explosives and computerized drones are big business.
Let’s face it: you cannot talk about one element and exclude the others. They are all connected to each other.
I have no sympathy for the culture of violence. I know Obama frequently talks about Gandhi and his so-called non-violence. Good. But Obama never speaks against the all-powerful NRA. He’s afraid to upset them and lose the Southern conservative votes (and Northern gun owners). Neither does Clinton — either the man or the woman. Republicans and conservatives and American feudals and cave men and women tout the Second Amendment to tout their God-given right to carry a weapon. Good. At least we know they are primitive. But Democrats — the so-called civilized, modern people also never take on NRA and the gun lobby. I believe they are either hypocrites or stupid. I don’t care. Either one is bad.
In 2009, guns took the lives of 31,347 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. This is U.S. government’s data.
Think about Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, San Francisco, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Trayvon Martin. It’s simple logic. Had the killers carried a baseball bat or knife or sword or poison or drugs or pornography, would they be able to kill so fast and so massively? If the guns and ammunition were not so easily available, would the killers be able to use them so easily?
The same NRA and gun lobby and conservatives and feudals and primitive, pre-historic profiteers and politicians and press often tout God especially during election times. Would God — any God — approve such massacres? Would Jesus approve it? Would Moses approve it?
I don’t want to spend any more time and words on this subject. It’s fairly simple. Guns kill. Nowhere in the civilized world outside USA people carry guns, or buy and sells guns at Wal-Mart and such places. It’s unthinkable. And those countries and societies do not lose their children every other day because of gun violence at a shopping mall or school or day care center.
I do my part. You do yours. Stand Your Ground.
Shun the Gun.
Or, one day, just like my uncle Buddha, somebody in your family might get killed. It’s a very real possibility.
Believe me, I’m not making it up.
Trayvon Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had no gun. It’s simple. As simple as the bullet that killed the poor kid.
I was stuck on the G subway for an entire hour today. That was a full sixty minutes.
I felt shitty.
Nobody on the train knew what was going on. The almost-inaudible announcements — don’t you love to hear them — said words like “signal problem,” “stalled train ahead,” and “sorry for the inconvenience.” The voice said it five or six times over the one-hour period. I don’t know about the other “customers,” but I was hoping to hear some new information about the progress, or, what was being done, or like, how long it would approximately take to fix it. It was never disclosed.
I was truly inconvenienced. I was beyond inconvenienced. It was not good. In fact, it was bad.
The only “good” that came out of the entire ordeal was that I now had a subject to write about on my blog. Heck, what else could I do? There was not even a person at the station to bitch about it. Write a letter to the subway authorities? To MTA? Like, are you kiddin’ me?
So, I decided to write a blog. And I then realized Sex and the Shitty was not even a unique title. I felt shitty again. Like, not even profanity is untouched! How uncool!
See, I could’ve named it The Sexy and the Shitty. Or, because I’m also going to talk about clubs — different types of club — I could’ve named it Sexy Clubs and Shitty Clubs. Etc. But because Sex and the Shitty is more catchy and more sexy, I thought, what the heck! Let’s replay. Like, it’s not a trademark or anything, right? Nobody is gonna sue me for it, right? So what? If some people think I’m swearing too much these days and getting more profane, and clearly losing my once-vouched modesty, and then unsubscribe from my blog out of frustration, disappointment and disgust, so be it.
Adios, Sir. Apologies, Ma’m. Sorry for the inconvenience.
See, I came to terms with the hard fact that sex and shit are two important elements of my life. They’re like gem, and how could I not talk about them? How can I hide them — no pun intended — when they are so real? Food is real, money is real, my heartburn is real, that damn G-train ride today was real, and when I was stuck on it, getting claustrophobic on one hand and pissed off by the repeat stupid announcement, that was real too. I was also getting red in my face because I desperately wanted to pee, but could not. I was, like, getting sick.
That feeling is what I call feeling shitty.
Now, what does it have to do with sex? Or, for that matter, why the hell did I mention those clubs?
Pause for a moment.
When I was waiting on the stuck G train, red-faced, clasping with my hands the invisible chair handles and with my thighs my desperate urge to pee, I looked out to see Mademoiselle Liberty standing across the Brooklyn Bay. If you know the G train, you know it goes above ground for a couple of stations before it goes back underground again. From the above-ground stations, you can see the sun or snow, the mega Manhattan skyline on one side and minnow Jersey skyline on the other. You also get to see the statue and Liberty Island on the New Jersey side. It’s a pretty picture — almost phony-perfect like a post card.
So, I was looking out the train window and enjoying the post card, with hope that in that ordeal that would be my last-gasp refuge. Then, I also noticed a bunch of helicopters flying over the Liberty Island — crisscrossing New York and Jersey. I suddenly remembered I saw a number of helipads right next to Wall Street, on the bank of West River. I remembered many of those helicopters were actually transit copters, carrying big Wall Street executives to their New Jersey homes — homes they built in Jersey because of close proximity to the big casino (I mean…stock exchange and Goldman Sachs and stuff), lower taxes and higher privacy than Manhattan, and cheaper real estate for their palaces.
Did I say privacy? Yeah, man, that’s kinda important…especially for them air-commuting New York and Jersey. You need a lot of privacy…especially if you got to hide a lot. America is big on privacy. New York is even bigger. It don’t matter what Supreme Court says about searching your genitalia. It’s not gonna be their genitalia. You can bet on it.
In that one-hour window, in the midst of that claustrophobia, repeated inaudible announcements and my persistent effort to resist a bad-timed nature’s call, a number of things zoomed past my mind — like a fast-forward cinema. I thought, those private helicopters and the privileged customers they carry — they don’t have to get stuck on a subway train and wait helplessly. Some of those privileged customers might be flying to their golf clubs. I could never afford to be a member of a golf club. I heard they were not cheap. I thought, those privately-flown executives might be flying over some place else — I recently saw in a new movie how some of them spent lavishly on sex clubs and drug clubs — doing cocaine and concubines. I could never afford to be a member of a sex club. I heard they were not cheap either. Even if I wanted, I simply could not buy it.
Then you have cricket clubs, croquet clubs, fine wine clubs, dance ‘n dine clubs, fashion cat clubs, Russian pony clubs, poker clubs. You got your broker clubs. You then got your like…Congress clubs. Senate clubs. Business Deans clubs. Democracy clubs. Aristocracy clubs. Fun clubs. Gun clubs. And God knows what other clubs. Elite clubs. D Litt clubs.
I kept thinking. I could never be on any of those clubs. I won’t be on any of those clubs.
I felt shitty again.
In that one frozen hour, a realization newly developed in my mind. I said to myself, New York has so much to offer…literally…in the same city…I mean, just look out the other side of the G train…here’s the dilapidated, forlorn Third Avenue and Smith Street and 9th Street…that desolate corner is a bunch of shuttered-down shops and failed restaurants…in the wee hours, who knows, you might even find a few men and women standing in the corner buying and selling sex…but by no means you can call these New Yorkers privileged members of those uppity sex clubs. Some of them do drugs too, but their habits are not nearly as savvy as those Wall Street executives the new movie showed so vividly.
They do clubs. They fly on their choppers. They are blessed. They’re highly connected too. They never get busted by cops. In fact, they have their own cops.
They are like, sexy.
I felt shitty again. (I know. I’ve repeated my stupid announcements.)
Post Script. — The G train finally walked again. After I walked off and out of it, the first thing that came to my mind was to look for a rest room where I could release my bladder. Then it was time to release a little bit of steam.