Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Western Companies are Connected to Child Exploitation/Beatings in Bangladesh?

The Guardian has a story up about police in Bangladesh who reportedly beat workers in response to their demand for back pay and fair wages. As can be seen from the story's main picture, some of the reportedly abused workers are children.

Witnesses said at least 30 people, mainly workers producing garments for global brands, were injured. Pictures showed children apparently being beaten. Ten policemen were also hurt.

Although there has been violence for several weeks, today saw workers erecting barricades, pelting police with stones and attacking cars. Police described the fighting as the worst yet seen.

Children under the age of 14 are banned by law from working, but campaigners say many can still be found in the sprawling factories. Hundreds of teenagers took part in running battles with police today.


Many of the rioting workers are employed by plants which make ready-to-wear garments for sale in western high street stores.

"We worked for them," shouted one striking worker. "They are doing business and making money, but not paying us."

(Emphasis added).

As noted above, there is a direct link between the less than attractive (to put it mildly) working conditions and private clothing companies from the west -- but what companies??? Reading through the rest of the story, one ultimately gets the sense that this is an isolated domestic issue, impacted solely by Bangladeshi institutional conditions, not global business connections.

The garment industry accounts for more than 80% of impoverished Bangladesh's £10bn annual export earnings, according to commerce ministry data. The minimum wage, which is set by the government, was introduced in 1994 but remained unchanged despite soaring food prices until 2006.


The report cited a survey released last month by the Bangladesh Factory Inspection Department which showed that almost 15% of employers did not pay their workers on time between January and May. Many other factory owners did not pay overtime, while several continued to pay less than the government's minimum wage.

The garment industry accounts for about 40% of Bangladesh's total industrial workforce. Campaigners say wages have been cut by 20 to 30% recently in a country where almost half the population is already living below the poverty line.

Low levels of unionisation and organisation have meant protests that are chaotic but difficult for the police to predict or break up. Raids by protesters on well-known factories are frequent occurrences. Owners have hired their own gangs to protect their production lines.

In looking at the institutions mentioned in this story, they are all likely Bangladeshi: the "government" sets the minimum wage; the "Bangladesh Factory Inspection Department" ostensibly oversees working conditions in factories; the "factory owners" are likely middle managment contractors hired locally by the true corporate owners who are probably located back in high-income countries; "campaigners" would be grass-roots activists in Bangladesh that help with local "unionisation"; and finally, the "owners" (again, locally contracted middle management) hire local "gangs" to protect the factories.

It is as if the central corporate entities back in the west who truly drive the garment industry do not even exist, and therefore hold no responsibility in creating these oppressive, violent working conditions. Who are these companies? Why not name them? Are they not an important entity in this story and others like it around the world?

Here's the kicker line from the story: "Factory owners argue that the unrest risks frightening away western clients who need reliable deliveries." The irony in this statement is sickening. All that matters to the local factory owners is making sure Bangladeshi employees keep the peace (i.e., remain passive while being exploited) so that rich western clients don't take their business elsewhere. The western oppressors at the top of the food chain remain physically removed from the violence, exonerated from improving working conditions, revered by those in Bangladesh with the most power, and invisible in readers' eyes.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gendered Promoting of Mixed Martial Arts: Strikeforce's Progression

I gotta give it up to Strikeforce here. Not too long ago (August '09), the MMA promotion, Strikeforce, promoted the mega-fight between Gina "Conviction" Carano and Chris "Cyborg" Santos. It was great -- the promotion set the match for five 5-minute rounds, made the match the main event, and promoted the heck out of it. The match had as much crowd energy as any mega-fight in the UFC.

However, one promotional aspect that merited critique was the obvious gendering of Gina "Conviction" Carano (emphasized femininity) versus that of Christiane "Cyborg" Santos (at least in contrast to Carano's presentation, masculinized). See here:

Then last night, Strikeforce promoted their MMA card by highlighting both Fedor Emelianenko and Chris Santos pretty darn equally. Check out this promotional video:

Santos gets nearly as much time, if not equal camera time and respect as Emelianenko. One could argue with validity that in the more recent video, Santos is not masculinized because Carano is not present as a contrasting feminized entity. However, there is progress in that Santos is not eclipsed by Emelianenko (who holds a more impressive record, with a longer history in the sport).

Both stars are distinguished as incedibly dominant athletes, period. Strikeforce has done more than any other MMA organization to promote their female athletes (and there's not too many of them). The journey has not been perfect, but as shown in this latest example, progress in the way of promotion is definitely being made. Good job!

And here's a very gendered comment. I hope for the sake of women's MMA, that Fedor's 1st legitimate loss does not harm the promotion too much.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

U.S. Spends Most on the Worst Health Care

Big surprise? Those who flippantly or strategically state that "Obama-care" is full-on socialized medicine need to re-think their statements and ideology. Not that health care will be revolutionized in the U.S. under Obama, but by looking at this latest piece I caught over on NPR, we need drastic change.

According to a
Commonwealth Fund study (be sure to clink on the link and see the graphic), the U.S. spends the most per capita in comparison to six other high-income countries. However, our overall ranking is last. The rankings, presented below, are based on an equation accounting for quality care, access, efficiency, equity, and patients' lives (the way those contructs are operationalized can be seen at the webpage by clicking on "view indicators"):

Health Expendituers/Capita (2007):
  1. Netherlands ($3,837)
  2. United Kingdom ($2,992)
  3. Australia ($3,357)
  4. Germany ($3,588)
  5. New Zealand ($2,454)
  6. Canada ($3,895)
  7. United States ($7,290)

The U.S. scored last on every indicator except "quality care," where it scored 6th, edging out Canada. Those who argue that by leaning a tiny bit more towards socialized medicine, the quality will decrease, are terribly misguided. We currently spend over twice as much in health care per capita than the U.K., Australia, Germany, and New Zealand, and nearly twice as much as the Netherlands and Canada. Neverthelss, all those countries with the exception of Canada have higher quality care than the U.S. Moreover, every country, including Canada, outranks the U.S. on the other constructs. Wake up people.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

White Privilege/Hegemonic Masculinity in China

Anyone who thinks white male privilege does not exist in the global economy, read on.

All you need to be is a white male, presumably well groomed, and business-looking, and you can pose as a quality assurance figurehead in China. Seriously? Talk about symbols of white male privilege operating in real life! From NPR, "
Job Ad In China: White Man. No Experience Needed" (original story in The Atlantic):

There's opportunity in China even if you're a Westerner with no skills. If you're a white male and have a nice suit, you can get a job that pays well — and requires no work.


Mitch Moxley, a freelance writer who lives in Beijing, discovered that with just those assets, he could make a living as a fake American businessman.


Moxley says his guess is that companies hire white people in suits to gain "a bit of credibility." He says that connections in China are important, especially in business.

"It was pretty funny. The whole thing was a little bit surreal," he says. "We were down there and were being paraded around a half-built factory and we had to sit in temporary offices the rest of the day, not really doing anything. ... We were sleeping at our desks or reading magazines."

But Moxley says he and the fake businessmen got the "red-carpet treatment" at the opening ceremony for the factory.

Not good enough to be a woman, from any background, or a male of color. But if you're a western, white man, irrespective of your experience or skill set, you're good to go. People will just assume your authority and expertise, and you can literally get paid simply to parade your demographic around, cruizing back in a fake office in between "inspections."

This is a perfect example of hegemonic masculinity. No, there's no reference to physical strength, sexuality, or violence, but what we do see is the ongoing dominance of Caucasian males in the global economy. Perception outweighs merit, in this case perpetuating minorities' already degraded image in the business world. White males are good enough to evaluate Chinese factories, to oversee the lowly Asian workers and middle management; minorities supposedly don't have those evaluation skills. But even the white males who truly don't have those skills get the evaluator jobs, to do virtually nothing.

Sometimes I wonder how these types of stories make it on NPR without more critical analysis.

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Globalization of Sport: Nike and LeBron James

ESPN's SportsCenter had a very interesting pice on LeBron James tonight, "Courting the King: Nike's Influence" (note: I don't think these links or videos last that long). I've blogged before on Nike's slave-like practices in the global economy, and I'll get to that later.

The ESPN piece discussed how James's Nike marketing team intends to expand his global influence, specifically now in China, where as the piece states, approximately 300 million people play basketball -- about the same size of the entire U.S. population! Here's the video (while it lasts):

What this piece illustrates is the globalization of sport, of American popular culture, and further, how American companies will take their products (in this case the "LeBron James brand") overseas to the biggest market. That's not saying anything terribly insightful. It's basic capitalistic business I suppose.

However, as China continues to grow as the next global super power and its population is increasingly seduced by an American-like consumer culture, we will see further unethical business practices by transnational corporations (TNC), like Nike. And it's not just the U.S. With China's economic influence across Asia and Africa, we can expect to see more of their TNCs riding their own and others' consumer culture into outrageous profits.

Update 6/22/10:
Benjamin Barber's influential essay published in The Atlantic magazine, "Jihad vs. McWorld," provides a strong theoretical backdrop to Nike's push for the "LeBron James brand" to go global.

All national economies are now vulnerable to the inroads of larger, transnational markets within which trade is free, currencies are convertible, access to banking is open, and contracts are enforceable under law. In Europe, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, and the Americas such markets are eroding national sovereignty and giving rise to entities—international banks, trade associations, transnational lobbies like OPEC and Greenpeace, world news services like CNN and the BBC, and multinational corporations that increasingly lack a meaningful national identity...

As stated quite clearly in the preceding video, from the Nike perspective, it is crucial that James win an NBA championship, not so much to cement his status as an NBA legend, but so that he can become the most effective (i.e., marketable) global icon. By eroding national boundaries through this version of pop culture, Nike creates "LeBron wannabe's" across the world, who will buy his signature shoes, jerseys, headbands, t-shirts, and so on. The production of all those goods will pose the bigger problem.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Ethnocentric, Biased Media: "Strangle" those Palestinians

Mark LeVine is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and not just because he's faculty over at the University of California, Irvine (GO EATERS!). Levine's latest piece over on Al Jazeera, titled "The meaning of strangulation," demonstrates an extraordinarily biased and ethnocentric American media.

Many will recall the recent comments made by White House reporter Helen Thomas, who said Jews "should get the hell out of Palestine." Why will so many recall these comments? Not only because of their content (anti-Israel), but also because they made headlines all over the American media. Heaven forbid an elderly, retiring reporter with Middle Eastern roots express her opinions on a charged political issue, let alone an opinion that challenges Israeli occupation. In any case, the point here is, her comments made big news and threatened to taint her legacy as a reporter.

I hadn't realized, however, what LeVine points out:

Thomas was forced into retirement for declaring that Jews "should get the hell out of Palestine," but New York Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful politicians in the US, has avoided any criticism or even major press coverage for remarks he made only days later that supported the continued "economic strangulation" of Gaza; in part, because, he essentially argues, the inhabitants of the benighted Strip are not Jewish.

Schumer made his remarks during a brief talk to the Orthodox Union, a well-known politically conservative Jewish educational, outreach and social service organisation.

The talk covered several foreign policy issues, including Iran and Israel/Palestine. When the topic turned to the Israeli attack on the Gaza aid flotilla Schumer began by explaining that the "Palestinian people still don't believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution". But that is not all, he continued: "They don't believe in the Torah, in David."

Because of this, and because they chose to elect Hamas, Schumer went on to argue, Israel is right - and the US should support its desire - "to strangle them economically until they see that's not the way to go".

I, like most Americans, was made well aware of Thomas's statement, but not Senator Schumer's. LeVine then extrapolates on the social significance of Schumer:

...through his representation of New York, the state with the largest Jewish population in the US, he is a leading pro-Israel voice in congress who has the ability directly to impact the nature of US policy towards Israel and the Middle East more broadly.

In other words, what Senator Schumer says actually can cost people - Palestinians, Israelis, Americans - their livelihoods and even their lives, not to mention help prolong or alleviate one of the world's most intractable conflicts. And yet no one in official Washington even blinked.

To consider the implications of these comments, it is worth considering what would happen if any Arab or Muslim, never mind a US senator, explained that because Israelis do not support a two-state solution, and do not believe in the Quran - that is, have not converted to Islam - and have voted in one of the most right-wing governments in their country's history, the US, or the world more broadly, is justified in trying to "strangle Israel economically" until it moderates its policies.

Imagine the uproar. Consider what would happen to the person - a columnist or congressman - who made such a comment. Yet hardly anyone has even noticed, never mind considered the implications of Schumer's remarks, which on YouTube have garnered about 1,500 views.

I've re-presented a good portion of the essay, but there's a lot more. Excellent read. And here's a clip of Schumer's speech, along with a general summary of LeVine's points afterwards:

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mixed Martial Arts and Masculinity: The Epic Heavyweight Match Up

The examples of traditional masculinity showcased through the sport of mixed martial arts are truly endless. The casual, commonplace verbal spats demonstrating homophobia abound (see here, here, and here for a few recent examples). And I won't provide specific examples at this time, but rest assured, it would be extraordinarily easy to locate quotes where MMA fighters and promoters use feminized terms (e.g., "bitch," "little girl") to demean their opponents.

Okay, before any readers who are fanatic MMA supporters stumble upon this blog entry and want to run me over the coals, I'll be among the first to say the MMA community (fighters included) is more diverse than the average outsider thinks, and I probably went overboard in
my book trying to illustrate positive dimensions to the sport. Nevertheless, MMA is a violent, male-dominated, collision sport, so like gridiron football, hockey, and basketball, dimensions of traditional masculinity are going to emerge.

To see the latest example of hegemonic masculinity promoted through MMA, we can look to the upcoming super fight between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champ, Brock Lesner, and Interim Champ, Shane Carwin. Hegemonic masculinity refers to the multiple social qualities honored at a given moment in time that privilege men over all women (and girls) and other men. Since MMA is generally a competition between men, the ways that men emasculate one another is partiularly germane here.

Back in the late 1980s, heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson was labeled "The Baddest Man on the Planet." He was the smaller sized heavyweight who tore through bigger, slower oppents with an explosive fury. Outside of his minority status as an under-educated African American, Tyson exemplifed virtually every other key aspect of hegemonic masculinity; he was big, strong, violent, and wealthy. He carried multiple levels of power, which were perpetuated through his ongoing domination over women privately and other men publicly.

In today's world of combat sports, the "Baddest Men on the Planet" are said to be mixed martial arts' elite heavyweights (notably, both of whom are white). Check out the following promotional YouTube video, featuring Lesner and Carwin. Note the obvious visual and verbal references to physical strength and size, and at 4:17, pay attention to UFC President, Dana White: "At the end of the day, what really means something, is to be the baddest dude on the planet. I'm the Heavyweight Champion of the World."

UFC 116 Lesnar vs Carwin Promo (HD)

So while this is not an all encompasing example of hegemonic masculinity (for instance, education and technical prowess are not promoted), the promotional tactics used here certainly highlight what qualities are defined as masculine -- size, power, the ability to unleash physical violence -- and how much those qualities are valued in the excessively masculine domain of MMA.

Two weeks before the big July 3 competition. More to come...

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Teaching Sociology: Over-population, Religion, and Sex Education

I find one of the most effective ways to illustrate how major institutions (government, religion, education, the family, work) influence individuals and the broader society is through discussion of over-population in various countries. The Philippines in particular stands as a perfect example.

Back in March 2009, Al Jazeera's "People and Power" program put together a great documentary titled, "
Critical Mass in the Philippines." The 12-minute YouTube video demonstrates how the Catholic church impacts the Philippine government, families, and schools in such a way that the already over-populated country has generally done nothing to address population growth, despite extensive poverty levels. See the video, below:

IRIN has a more recent story covering the country's evolving movement to curb over-population in the Philippines: "
Sex education plan sparks furious debate." From the IRIN story:

A controversy is raging in the Philippines over a sex education programme aimed at cutting the population growth rate, which is blamed for massive poverty in the Southeast Asian country of about 92 million.

Openly talking about sex remains taboo in many quarters of Philippine society but all that is changing as the government introduces a controversial sex education programme to public school pupils.

The influential Roman Catholic Church is demanding the plan be scrapped, but the cash-strapped government is struggling to contain an annual population growth rate of more than 2 percent.

It's interesting to note the different values being expressed by leaders of the sex education movement versus those being expressed by the Roman Catholic chuch.

“Our role here is to educate the young people on issues that directly affect them and empower them to make informed choices and decisions,” Valisno told reporters, explaining that the sex education modules would be integrated in various subjects, including science and health.

Topics will range from personal hygiene to reproductive health. Issues relating to pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy, as well as HIV and AIDS, will also be discussed, she said.

And the church's point of view:

“These issues are not for children,” said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, CBCP’s media director. “This is better left to the parents. This will just lead to promiscuity. Sex should be taught as a gift from God and not just the physical aspect of it.”

Lots of other related issues can also be discussed as they relate to over-population.
Kevin Bales, for instance, argues that over-population is among the most influential causes of contemporary slavery.

And finally, comparative research can be pulled into the discussion. At least in developed countries, Alexander McKay has conducted some of the most influential research on the topic. A very recent 2010 study speaks to the importance of sex education, teen pregnancies, and women's rise along the socio-economic ladder.
Quoting McKay:

In general, young women who are feeling optimistic about their futures tend to delay childbearing, he noted.


"As soon as we start to see the socio-economic circumstances of young women in Canada deteriorate, we can expect to see a parallel increase in the teen pregnancy rate," he said.

"In order to keep the teen pregnancy rate low, we have to ensure that teenage women in Canada are receiving high-quality sexual health education and access to sexual and reproductive health services. If those decline, we will also be seeing an increase in teen pregnancy rates going forward."

McKay cautioned that not all teen pregnancies are necessarily a bad thing.

"In some ethno-cultural communities having a child at the age of 18 or 19 can be an expected and normal thing," he said.

"But what we do find in the bigger picture is that high rates of teen pregnancy can be quite clearly linked to socio-economic disadvantage among young women in particular communities. So for example, where you see high rates of inner-city poverty in the United States, that's clearly linked to higher rates of teen pregnancy."

As sex education, hopefully quality sex education, begins to matriculate into developing countries, it will be interesting to see how effective it is in impacting teen pregnancies. In all likelihood, progress will be slow, as religious groups will probably slow these programs' growth. Still, small evaluation studies could be carried out, which could then pave the way for future public/educational policies at the national level.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Enoying the World Cup? Doubt it if the slaves are.

I get that it's symbolically important for developing countries to host these massive sporting events. And it's important that privileged countries in the global north are not the only countries hosting the Olympic Games and World Cup. At the same time, when these international sporting events extend the most horrific of crimes, governments, major corporate entities (FIFA), and the profiting criminals must be held accountable.

Saw this January 2010 story from
Time Magazine analyzed with tons of other important information and linked over on

Despite more than a dozen international conventions banning slavery in the past 150 years, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Slaves are those forced to perform services for no pay beyond subsistence and for the profit of others who hold them through fraud and violence. While most are held in debt bondage in the poorest regions of South Asia, some are trafficked in the midst of thriving development. Such is the case here in Africa's wealthiest country, the host of this year's World Cup. While South Africa invests billions to prepare its infrastructure for the half-million visitors expected to attend, tens of thousands of children have become ensnared in sexual slavery, and those who profit from their abuse are also preparing for the tournament. During a three-week investigation into human-trafficking syndicates operating near two stadiums, I found a lucrative trade in child sex. The children, sold for as little as $45, can earn more than $600 per night for their captors.

Slavery in contemporary society is best analyzed through the prisim of critical criminology, which illustrates how those in power profit by crime and are protected by laws which govern society. The most vulnerable are used as pawns by criminal enterprisers, turned into victims (in this case slaves) and/or low-end workers that take the fall for the criminal elites. The criminal elites also collude with enforcement and other governmental agencies in order to maintain their free status. One of a few differences between slavery now and yester-year is that today, sex slavery so often leads to an early death sentence due to AIDS. More from the Time story:

Although its 1996 constitution expressly forbids slavery, South Africa has no stand-alone law against human trafficking in all its forms. Aid groups estimate that some 38,000 children are trapped in the sex trade there. More than 500 mostly small-scale trafficking syndicates — Nigerian, Chinese, Indian and Russian, among others — collude with South African partners, including recruiters and corrupt police officials, to enslave local victims. The country's estimated 1.4 million AIDS orphans are especially vulnerable. South Africa has more HIV cases than any other nation, and a child sold into its sex industry will often face an early grave.


At best, the South African government's response to child sex trafficking has been superficial or piecemeal; at worst, some officials have actually colluded with the traffickers. American and South African law-enforcement sources described how police at all levels have solicited underage prostitutes in Bloemfontein, Durban and other World Cup cities. South African officials claim that Parliament will pass a comprehensive law against human trafficking in early 2010. For now, enterprising police officers who take on human traffickers do so with few legal tools at their disposal. Convictions for trafficking-related offenses typically bring little or no jail time.

Organizations have made important campaigns to reduce these crimes against women and children (see
here and here). However, these efforts have a massive uphill battle against the much larger patriarchal machine that intertwines the legal system, law enforcement, and criminal enterprises.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

"Outsourced": Using the Global Economy to Make Fun of Brown People

So NBC is coming out with a new sitcom called "Outsourced." The name itself reflects what's been happening across the world since transnational corporations (TNC) realized giving Americans decent wages and benefits didn't stand in line with greedy desires for outrageous profits. Hey, instead, take production and/or customer service to a low-income country, save money on worker fees, but maintain income in sales. Justify it by saying you're bringing development to the low-income countries, but don't pay the workers there adequate wages.

In countries like India and the Philippines, where English is fairly widely spoken, outsourcing of customer service call centers is big business for companies in the U.K. and U.S. (see Slumdog Millionaire?).
Kiran Mirchandi (2004) aruges that call centers in India offer a multitude of social experiences for employees, some of which include making fun of American callers. However, the reality is not always rosy:

You need at least three to four hours of sleep in the night. That’s what makes the big difference. …That is what is making it difficult. I’m losing my appetite, I’m losing my weight … suddenly we were told we would be having our [shift] from twelve [midnight] to eight. It was very difficult to adjust in the first few weeks. Then I got adjusted to that time. Then again we were told that you’re having your shifts from 7.30 till 4 a.m. And this shift, I find it very difficult to adjust. That is because I get home around 7 a.m., and it’s very difficult to sleep in the morning because people wake up, they go around here and there. (p. 364, 365).

Yet this is considered "privileged" work in a low-income country like India. Again, this notion of being a corporate benefactor to the Indian economy is mere justifcation by TNCs for making money and taking away jobs/benefits from American workers.

Of course in the realm of popular culture, these issues will not be addressed, or perhaps they will be glossed over in humorous bits. The "Outsourced" trailer:

Note also in the trailer how accents, names, attire, and popular culture (e.g., music) are intertwined to make fun of Indians. Will American audiences really interpret the cheezehead and other American artifacts in ways that make fun of American culture? Or are they used to further make fun of Indians and India as a whole?

So what we have here is popular culture making fun of the new globalization, of the ways that colonialism operates in the twenty-first century. I wouldn't be surprised if this show is a big hit.

Citation: Mirchandi, K. (2004). Practices of global capital: gaps, cracks and ironies in transnational call centres in India. Global Networks, 4 (4), 355-373.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

American Culpability in Israeli Occupied Territories

A few days ago I briefly suggested that the global community (okay, I mean the global north) held some complicity in allowing Israel to continue their oppression over the Palestinian occupied territories.

Mark LeVine (professor of history at U.C. Irvine) articulates this stance much more eloquently, and drives the point to another level in his piece, "Israel's 'friends' also to blame." LeVine argues that the United States' motivation in supporting Israel has nothing to do with supporting Israel or political ideology.

Rather, our support of Israel lies covertly in bolstering the private weapons manufacturing industry:

We have pretended to be its friend, but we are the friend in the way your drug dealer is your friend, sitting with you late at night listening to your problems while hooking you up with your next fix - only in strange twist, the American people rather than the Israelis are paying for the habit their government and corporate elites grow richer sustaining.

We are the ultimate facilitators of this insane and immoral arrangement, which is part of our larger addiction to war that now reaches $1 trillion per year.

LeVine goes on to tie the United States' ongoing relationship with Israel to the broader Middle East and connects our current militaristic efforts to American history:

And now at least 10 people are dead because of the shame, because of the inability of Israel's best friends to look it in the eye and say: "Stop this insanity. Treat Palestinians like humans before you destroy not only them, but you."

We cannot say that because we are guilty as well, and the US has proved singularly unable to come to grips with our own culpability in occupations from Iraq and Afghanistan to Gaza and, of course, our own original sin, which demanded millions of dead native Americans to ensure the creation of the very country that now supplies Israel with its weapons and tells it everything is going to be okay.

Some day you can let the Palestinians have casinos and they will thank you.

Highly recommended read.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sports Leadership among Males in Preventing Violence Against Women and HIV in South Africa

For those who wonder how male athletes can begin shifting gender norms in society, check out the campaign against gender-based violence and HIV involving a handful of male pro athletes from South Africa. Notably, levels of HIV and violence against women in South Africa are outrageously high (see HERE and HERE).

This report by IRIN News overviews the media campaign:

These sporting talents will be Sports Ambassadors for Brothers for Life, a national campaign encouraging men to take a stand against gender-based violence and HIV.

They will promote messages on television, radio and outdoor advertising about the risks of alcohol and unprotected sex in relation to HIV, and support a national HIV
counselling and testing drive launched in April by President Jacob Zuma.

Although fewer men go to be tested or seek HIV/AIDS treatment than women, they have not been the main focus of previous prevention campaigns. Now, the Sports Ambassadors will be calling on men to "yenza kahle" (do the right thing).

"When good men don't stand up to be counted, HIV and AIDS spreads," said South Africa's Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe. "We call upon men of all classes and races to join the fight against HIV and AIDS, occupying the front trenches in this war through their social conduct."

The campaign begins strategically just before the World Cup kicks off, which will undoubtedly provoke excessive drinking, sex, and violence.

So now the question is, with South Africa's extremely high rates of HIV and violence against women already existing, will these male-led prevention efforts continue after the 2010 World Cup ends? If they do continue, kudos. If the campaign abruptly ends with the World Cup's departure, then we will know it was created simply for the theater -- to improve South Africa's international image while it hosts a major sporting event.

To be continued...

More on World Cup and South Africa's Homeless

Another good, quick video illustrating how the World Cup impacts the underprivileged in South Africa.

Original story: 'Clearing up' for the World Cup

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The World Cup as Oppressive Big Business

Those who support major sporting events going to various locales often argue the events will bring in international money via tourists and build a long-term infrastructure that supports the local economy. That might be true for locales that are already well off, but for regions that are hurting, the sporting events do little if anything in the form of long-term sustenance. The 2004 Olympics were held in Greece, and look at Greece now.

The Independent has an insightful piece up titled, "
The ugly truth about the beautiful game," which documents the problematic dimensions of the World Cup being held in a vulnerable country, with beneficiaries being wealthy industries outside of South Africa:

...radical Sowetan columnist Andile Mngxitama said all Fifa is giving Africa is a month-long feel-good episode which will do little, long-term, to change perceptions or economic realities. "The World Cup is a colonial playground for the rich and for a few wannabes in the so-called South African elite," he argued. "Whereas in the past we were conquered, the South African government has simply invited the colonisers this time."

Additionally, World Cup organizers are doing more for countries outside of the African continent:

In the light of low international take-up of tickets, Fifa and its sponsors have organised "Fan Fests" with large screens in major European cities. But none are planned for the African continent outside South Africa. Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said television rights had, however, been offered free to national broadcasters in most African countries. "Municipalities in African capitals are free to organise large screens for fans," he said.

There are few signs that the South African World Cup has rubbed off on the rest of the continent. In the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, restaurateur Tegenaw Gashaw said his television would be switched on but that it always was anyway, for the English Premiership. "We are proud to know the World Cup is being hosted in an African country but we worry, because of South Africa's terrible reputation for crime, that it is all going to go wrong and do more harm than good for the continent."

written before on the ways that major sporting events can increase crime and exploitation in host cities. Really, major sporting events, such as the World Cup and Olympics, are indicators of globalization where big business gets what it can financially out of a particular locale temporarily, and then bails out after the hoopla is over, or where higher-income countries strong-arm lower-income countries into agreeing to long-term, oppressive labor contracts for their assistance in funding short-term sporting events.

Al Jazeera has done the best job of illustrating this phenomenon as it relates to the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Rio, in this 2-part series:

And for another great piece on exploitation through soccer specifically across Africa, watch this Al Jazeera video:

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Why Rocky Inspires

NPR has a story up titled, "The Rocky Balboa Metal Montage Workout," noting how inspirational the film's theme song is for those who want to hit the gym. The piece isn't intended to be terribly deep, but one might question why the Rocky theme song and filmatic series is so inspirational, and for what demographic?

The entire Rocky series was about making working-class white men minorities who could overcome all obstacles (i.e., black men with more resources) with hard work and a supportive wife. Thus, no matter how talented were the black fighters, no matter how many steroids Russian fighters took, Rocky could take 'em out.

From a macro point of view, governmental programs (e.g., affirmative action) are not needed, and the white race is ultimately superior due to their better work ethic; governmental policies that make up for past discrimination are unnecessary -- if Rocky can rise from poverty strictly through hard work, so can those lazy minorities (sarcasm). And then there's more pointed aspects of race and masculinity.

While Eddie Murphy's standup comedy had its own forms of discrimination, for instance homophobia, his analysis of Rocky with regard to white men's insecure feelings is right on. Though minorities gained power since the Civil Rights Movement, Rocky, reinvigorates their sense of power and entitlement (warning: strong language):

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Human Trafficking by Taiwanese Fishing Companies

Another example demonstrating how slavery operates in the 21st century:
  • Tricked by fake agents in their home country who are paid upfront by workers
  • Promised a larger salary by fake agents
  • Forced through intimidation to work unreasonable hours
  • Once labor used up, fake agents are out'a there
From IRIN:

Ko Hla* paid an agent US$800 and then started work on a Taiwanese fishing ship, thinking it was good money at $260 a month. He toiled 18 hours a day.

“We weren’t allowed to complain, we weren’t allowed to contact our [families]. Often we were beaten and intimidated,” the 30-year-old said. “It wasn’t what we expected.”

He quit 16 months later and returned home to find that the agent, who was supposed to send his salary to his family, had run away without making a single payment.

Due to limited job opportunities and low incomes, tens of thousands of Burmese seek work abroad, hoping to earn a better living, but many like Ko Hla and his friends fall prey to human traffickers.

And of course slavery follows gendered patterns:

According to the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), Burmese women, children, and men are trafficked to Thailand, China, Malaysia, South Korea, and Macau for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labour.

Myanmar is also a transit country for trafficked Bangladeshis to Malaysia and Chinese to Thailand.

The Burmese government says China is the main destination, followed by Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Women and girls are trafficked to China for forced marriage and sex work, while adults and children are sent to Thailand and Malaysia for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

“The victims of trafficking blindly believe whatever they’re told by the brokers without trying to get correct information regarding the job,” Nan Tin Tin Shwe, anti-trafficking coordinator of the international NGO World Vision, told IRIN.

This is the typical system that emanates from unregulated capitalism and greedy capitalists. Examples abound...

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"This is Alabama. We speak English."

Anti-immigration sentiment continues to sweep across sectors of the United States. In this ad gone viral, Tim James, who hopes to be Alabama's next Governor, proposes public policy denouncing aspects of inclusive multiculturalism -- English-only drivers license exams. James appears to be riding the political wave that crashed on Arizona last month.

Of course such policies are justified by arguing that coerced institutionalized assimilation helps non-English speakers blend into American workplaces and other social settings. If this policy were implemented, however, finding work and/or getting to work would be all the more difficult for English Language Learners who needed to drive in order to pursue their occupational goals.

Also of significance, James ties English Language Learners (i.e., immigrants) to increased state costs. No surprise here -- scapegoat "alien" people of color by connecting them to the recession.

Using restrictive means to push for assimilation does nothing to help coalesce society. Knowing most immigrats want to learn English, provide for effective bilingual education.

Globalization, Corrupt Government, and Ubiquitous Violence: Papua New Guinea

Nothing terribly new here. However, if one is looking for an example of how governmental institutions and international big business contribute to civilian exploitation and increase the likelihood of violence across societal domains, take a look at Papua New Guinea.

Extensive ethnic conflict tore apart PNG throughout the 1990s due to mining companies' oppressive work conditions. Now,
IRIN News reports how the law has been re-structured, such that indigenous persons cannot assert their land rights when the government colludes with private "developers.":

Papua New Guinea’s indigenous people have lost their right to challenge developers and the state over deals involving their land and resources.


The changes remove the rights that Papua New Guineans have had for years to protect their property from environmental harm and the right to sue for compensation for environmental damage and the customary rights to claim compensation for environmental harm.

Disputes concerning land and resource rights between indigenous groups, the government and corporate entities are not uncommon in PNG. While figures vary significantly, more than 5,000 people lost their lives on the island of Bougainville off the east coast of PNG between 1989 and 1999 following a bitter fight over compensation between Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), an Australian-owned mining company, and the hundreds of indigenous landowners it displaced in Panguna.

The conflict escalated into a bloody civil war between members of the indigenous population and government troops.

The PNG state is further bolstered and protected by a violent police force, that
according to the United Nations, utilizes torture to control prisoners:

The expert said the standards of hygiene at Mount Hagen Police Station were “beyond description,” and detainees were forced to urinate and defecate in bottles and plastic bags, which were then picked up by female detainees and piled up in the small common space.

Mr. Nowak was also concerned that “prisoners who escape are subjected to severe punishment, amounting to torture, including through brutal beatings with bush knives and gun butts, shooting detainees at close range and cutting their tendons with axes and bush knives after they are apprehended, with the intent of disabling them.

“The victims are usually kept in punishment cells, without any medical treatment, which sometimes even led to their death,” he added.

Considering that the state utilizes violence to extract the country's natural resources and control resistent members of the population, it is hardly surprising that family violence and violence against women is high in PNG.

The concept of "structural violence" suggests that those who are oppressed tend to utilize the same forms of oppression committed against them, upon others. This is because in experiencing their own oppression, they learn how to best acquire power from their oppressors, in this case through highly violent means. However, since they do not have the means to revolt against their oppressors, they use their oppressors' tactics on those less powerful, in this case women and children:

Of course since PNG is a small country in the Pacific, these cases of ubiquitous violence that stem from macro structural exploitation, generally stay off the international media radar.

Expulsion as an Option of Dominant-Minority Relations: Israel and the Occupied Territories

"Expulsion" is defined as "an effort to drive out a group that is seen as a social problem rather than attempting to resolve the problem cooperatively. This policy often arises after other methods, such as assimilation or extermination, have failed" (Parrillo, 2008, p. 137).

A good example of expulsion, in combination with extermination, occurring right now is the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territory of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces. In the aftermath of the 2009 Gazan War (in which the death tolls were substantially higher among Palestinians), Isreal's sanctions have become even more ugly. A fairly balanced, rationale perspective from The Independent, "Leading Article: A costly misjudgement by Israel":

Confused though the picture might be, however, what has so far emerged conforms to a pattern that has become all too familiar. Confronted with a situation it saw as threatening, Israel applied massive armed force – force that would appear, at least, to have been out of all proportion to the circumstances. Acting apparently without warning, Israeli forces closed in when the boats were still in international waters, 40 miles from the coast. At that point there was no immediate threat, as most people would see it, either to Israel's blockade, or to its national security – and these are not necessarily the same thing.

Yes, it can be argued that the aid flotilla was conceived by the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) as a deliberate provocation. The presence of elderly people and at least one baby on the boats does not detract from that. And yes, it can be argued that the plan to breach Israel's sea blockade of Gaza was foolhardy. Israel insists that its blockade is designed to thwart arms shipments destined for Hamas. It was never going to stand idly by as the ships came within reach of the coast, however peaceful FGM's leaders might have professed their intentions to be.

The catastrophe and the shame is that this is not the first time such an unequal confrontation has taken place. Time and again, Israel has found itself applying military force and swiftly prevailing, only to lose whatever moral high ground it had at the outset. No one – at least no one in an internationally recognised government with the possible exception of Iran – disputes Israel's right to defend itself if its security is threatened. But since Hamas seized control of Gaza three years ago, Israel has repeatedly shown itself at its worst. It is not only the vast imbalance between Israel's professional military might and the armed fighters of Hamas. Nor is it only the suffering caused to Gaza's residents and the apparent irrationality of many aspects of the blockade – including the ban on building materials needed to repair the war damage.

Above all, it is Israel's abject failure to devise ways of defending itself other than by overwhelming military force. Faced with mass demonstrations or aid shipments that are cast by their organisers as peaceful, Israel still has no answer beyond a call to arms. It cannot, therefore, be surprised when most of the rest of the world then judges the means to be excessive and disproportionate to the ends.

As clearly stated, it is Isreal's dominant power (i.e., "gunboat diplomacy") in the form of militarisitic might that is a central variable in this violent mix. Irrespective of who fired the first shots in this latest tragedy, the ongoing imbalance in death tolls (even on ships hoping to provide humanitarian aid) demonstrates how discimination can mainfest in its most extreme forms (explusion and extermination) when power disparities widen.

As the global community continues to watch, or simply condemn Israel, the social dynamics that enable these tragedies will persist.

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