Sunday, July 24, 2005

Brazilian unconnected to bombings shot by London Police

In Charles Todd's blog yesterday, he argued that the extra-judicial killing of a man in the London tubes reflected very poorly on the London police in particular and on the Western anti-terrorism tactis in general.

Well, it turns out the "suspect" was a Brazilian electrician "unconnected" with those bombings. Just another reason to oppose the death penalty in all of its manifestations.

Update from Bill Quiqley

I received the following update yesterday, but have been without power since last night. Below is an update on the beating and arbitrary arrest of a Haitian priest who has been active in the fight for democracy in Haiti.
By Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University
New Orleans School of Law.

A half an hour ago,over a dozen masked policeofficers with machine guns, forced a handcuffedFr.Jean-Juste into a police van and sped away.

As he was being put into the police wagon heyelled to the officers and the onlookers "Where is thejustice in Haiti? I am a priest. Why do you treatpeople like this? Vive Aristide!"

No one yet knows where Fr. jean-Juste has beentaken. No written charges have been made against him.

This afternoon Fr. jean-Juste was still in Petitionville jail, where he shared a single toilet with over 40 prisoners. There were no beds and norunning water.

He had a quick hearing with a justice of thepeace, who refused to wait until Mario Joseph, his Haitian lawyer could be present. No written chargeswere shared - again questions were like, what party doyou belong to? can you explain your presence at thefuneral of Jacques Roche? Do you know why the banditskilled him? Do you visit the poor neighborhood ofBel-Air frequently?

At the conclusion of the meeting with the justiceof the peace, we took a harrowing ride with policemachine guns downtown to the prosecutor's office whereno questions were asked and no conversation was held.Papers were signed and Fr. Jean-Juste was placed inhandcuffs and taken away.

Mario Joseph, of the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and I will continue to try to findout where Fr. Jean-Juste is over the weekend and will report what we know. The only thing we know for certain is the answer to Fr. Jean-Juste's cry to the soldiers, "Where isjustice in Haiti?" If there is to be justice in Haiti, it rests with those who are willing to struggle

Freedom is coming, but only if we keep up the pressure.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Haitian Priest Assaulted at Roche's Funeral and Arrested for Murder

It seems that the anti-Lavalas attack in response to the killing of journalist Jacques Roche has already begun. I just recieved this email below from Bill Quigley in Haiti. Apparently Roche was associated in some way with the "Group of 184" which was an organization of business people and "elites" that worked for the overthrow of Aristide and in support of the recent coup.

Since Roche's body was found in a poor neighborhood, it was assumed by much of the Haitian media that the Lavalas Party was behind the murder. Furthermore, there seems to have been an organized campaign against a Pro-Democracy priest Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was a friend of the Roche family as well as an ally of Aristide. Jean-Juste is now in jail for the murder of Roche. The evidence that the state has is "public clamour" in the form of vociferous and baseless accusations against the priest at the funeral for the slain journalist.

Please read all the way to the end, and take the action steps suggested by Mr. Quigley, whose contact information is available to any inquiring journalists.
Haitian Priest Assaulted by Mob at Funeral andArrested for Murder.
By Bill Quigley, in Port au Prince. Bill is a lawprofessor at Loyola University New Orleans and is co-counsel with Mario Joseph and the Institute forJustice and Democracy in Haiti. Mario Joseph can be reached at (contact information available upon request).

On Thursday July 21, 2005, Fr. Gerard Jean-Justewent to St. Pierre's Catholic Church to be one of the priests participating in the funeral of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche. Fr. Jean-Juste is a cousin of the Roche family and members of the Roche family protected him from a mob earlier in his life. He went to express spiritual comfort and reconciliation to the family.

The tragic kidnapping and death of Jacques Rochehas been taken up as a cause by those opposed to the Lavalas party. Jacques Roche was identified as a supporter of the people calling themselves the group of 184, who overthrew by force the democratically elected goverment of President Aristide, the leader ofthe Lavalas party, in February 2004.

Oppononents of Aristide say that because the body of Jacques Roche was found in a poor neighborhood that he was executed by the Lavalas party who is very strong in the poorest neighborhoods. For those of us in the US, this is much like blaming John Kerry for inner city deaths because most of the people in the inner city vote democratic.

Fr. Jean-Juste went to the funeral expressly to pay his respects to the family and express his open remorse and opposition to any killing of anyone, no matter their political affiliation.

Jacques Roche's coffin was in the chapel next to the sacristy and main area of the chuch. At 10 o'clock the bishop and about seven priests robed in white with purple stoles or sashes paraded out of the sacristy of the church to the chapel next to the main area of the church to say blessings over the coffin of Jacques Roche.

When Fr. Jean-Juste walked out, people started yelling at him in the chapel. They called him"assasin" and "criminal" and yelled out to "arrest and kill the rat."

Fr. Jean-Juste has been publicly accused in the last several days of "a plot against the security ofthe state," smuggling money and guns into the country, and of being behind all the kidnappings. All clearly false charges but widely reported by unfriendly press.

People knew Fr. Jean-Juste was coming to the funeral because that was printed on the front page of a conservative paper the day before.

As the well-dressed people continued yelling at Fr. Jean-Juste, the prayer service nearly turned into a riot. The other priests turned to leave and a well-dressed crowd of screaming people surrounded him. I went out to be by his side. Some plain clothes security people and a few priests surrounded us and helped push us through the increasingly hostile crowd back into the church sacristy.

The other priests then persuaded Fr. Jean-Juste not to continue in the funeral service. So we stood aside as the priests and the funeral crowd filed pastus into the main church.

Well-dressed men and women continued to scream and threaten Fr. Gerry as they moved by us into the church. Then a crowd of 15 or 20 or more young men, not dressed at all for the funeral came into the sacristy and the mood turned uglier and more menacing. At that point, the security forces melted away.

The young men continued the screaming started by the well-dressed people and then started pushing and hitting Pere Jean-Juste. At that point a young woman came out of the funeral crowd and embraced Fr. Jean-Juste shielding him with her body from the blows and the increasingly loud and angry young men. She started praying loudly and saying "mon pere, mon pere."

A man in a suit, who identified himself as head of security for the funeral, rushed back in from the church area - only a few feet away and in plain view-and told Fr. Gerry these people were going to kill him there in the sacristy unless he fled. Fr. Jean-Juste knelt to pray and the woman and I knelt with him in the middle of the growing crowd.

At that point people started slapping Fr.Jean-Juste on the head and face and spitting on him and the other two of us. Something then hit Fr. Jean-Juste in the head. Someone punched him in the eye. We stood up and a few UN CIVPOL officers showed up to help us leave the sacristy of the church. As we tried to get to the stairs people continued pushing and screaming and shouting threats. They continued to call out "assasin," "criminal," and "kill the rat." The crowd now overwhelmed the police. More people spit on us and hit Fr. Gerry, even in the face, while others were grabbing his church vestments trying to drag him off the church steps.

The CIVPOL were trying to hold back the crowd but were still well outnumbered and were not able to halt the mob. We moved up the steps into a narrow dark corridor while the crowd pushed and shoved and spit and hit. We then retreated into a smaller corridor and finally to a dead end that contained two small concrete toilet stalls.

The three of us were pushed into the stalls as the crowd banged on the walls and doors of the stalls and continued screaming. The woman held the door closed and prayed loudly as the people outside roared and the CIVPOL called for reinforcements.

After a few minutes, reinforcements arrived andthe hallway was finally cleared of all but us and the authorities.

A man in a suit identifying himself as secretary for security for Haiti told us that he was going to have to arrest Fr. Jean-Juste because public clamor had identified him as the assasin of journalist Jacques Roche. The police would bring him to the police station for his own safety. Fr. Jean-Juste told the man that he was in Florida when thejournalist was killed and he wanted to return to St.Claire's, his parish. The man left escorting out the woman who helped us.

In a few minutes, CIVPOL police, including troopsfrom Jordan, surrounded Fr. Jean-Juste and I and ran us out of the church to a police truck. The truck with police with machine guns sped away from the church and took us not to Fr. Gerry's parish but to the police station in Petitionville.

For the next seven or eight hours we were kept in aroom while the UN forces and the Haitian forces negotiated about what to do. Fr. Gerry read his prayer book while we waited. We were told informally that the UN wanted to escort Fr. Jean-Juste back tohis parish but the Haitian government was insisting that he be arrested.

The attackers were allowed to go free and not arrested, but they wanted to arrest the victim!

Fr. Gerry told me "This is all a part of the death sentence called down upon me on the radio in Miami. The searches at the airport, the visits to the police stations, the mandate to appear before a criminal judge yesterday, and now this. It is all part of the effort to silence my voice for democracy."

At about 6pm, several Haitian officers came intoour room and ordered Fr. Gerry and I and Haitian attorney Mario Joseph to come with them.

The officers held out a piece of paper that they said was an official complaint against Fr. Gerry accusing him of being the assasin of Jacques Roche. The complaint was based on "public clamor" at the funeral identifying him as the murderer. They refused to let Fr. Jean-Juste or the lawyers see this paper. It was their obligation, they said, to investigate this public clamor identifying him as the murderer. If Fr. Jean-Juste chose not to talk with them, they would put him in jail immediately.

Fr. Jean-Juste agreed to the interrogation and it went on for over three hours. He was growing increasingly sore and tired from the beating he took, but was not bleeding externally. When the lawyers argued with the police, Fr. Gerry read his prayerbook.

The police already knew that Fr. Jean-Juste was in Florida at the time of the kidnapping and death of the journalist, because the police had already interviewed him several times in the last few days in connectionwith the other false allegations against him, but asked him many questions anyway. How many cell phones did he have? What is his exact relation to Jacques Roche? Why did he go to the funeral? Can he prove hewas in Florida? Since he was on the news in Florida can he provide a copy of the newstape showing he was in Florida? When Aristide was president was he provided with armed security? What happened to the pistols that his secutity had? Could he find out and have any pistols returned to the government? Why did he go to the funeral? Did Lavalas promise Aristide to execute someone from the group of 184 in retaliation for them taking power? When was the last time he was in the US? Are the Catholic sisters in Bel-Air with you when you got to demonstrations there? and on and on.

After over three hours, the interrogation finished.

With great solemnity the police told Fr. Jean-Justethat he was being charged with participating in the death of Jacques Roche and not returning state property. The said the law orders that he will be brought before a judge within 48 hours for further decision.

At exactly 10pm, Fr. Gerry handed me his keys and church vestments and was locked into the jail cell at Petionville with many, many others. He was holding a pink plastic rosary, his prayer book and a roll of toilet paper.

He flashed a tired smile and told me: "Now you see what we are up against in Haiti. If they treat me like this, think how they treat the poor people. Tell everyone that with the help of God and everyone else I will keep up the good fight. Everyone else should continue to fight for democracy as well. The truth will come out. I am innocent of all charges. I will be free soon. Freedom for Haiti is coming. The struggle continues."

As I left him, a very tired Fr. Gerard Jean-Justewas being greeted by all the prisoners in the very crowded jail cell as "mon pere!"

Action: Write or fax UN Special Representative, Juan Gabriel Valdés, urging him to release MINUSTAH'sprison report immediately, and to resist pressure from the Haitian police to minimize the number of casualties. A sample letter is below.
Mr. Valdés speaks English, French and Spanish.

His fax number is(dial 011 first from the US for an international line)509 244 3512.
Mr Juan Gabriel Valdés Special Representative of the Secretary-General United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
387, avenue John Brown
Port-au-Prince, Haiti


Contact Information:U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James B. FoleyUnited States Embassy
Port-au-Prince, HaitiTelephones: 011-509-223-4711, or 222-0200 or 0354
Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038Email to Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer:
Canadian Ambassador to Haiti,
Claude BoucherEmbassy of CanadaPort-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509- 249-9000Fax: 011-509-249-9920
Ambassador of France in Haiti, M. Yves GAUDEUL
Embassy of France
51 place des Héros de l'Indépendance - BP 312
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509-222-0952
Fax : 011-509-223 5675

Haiti Authorities:
Fax. No. 011-509-245-0474
Me. Henri Dorléans
Ministre de la Justice et de la Securite Publique
Ministre de la Justice19
Avenue Charles SumnerPort-au-Prince, Haiti

blogger's note:
sample letter will be posted shortly(hopefully)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Murder of Journalist Jacques Roche in Port-Au-Prince

BBC is reporting that Haitian journalist Jocques Roche was kidnapped, tortured and shot to deat in Port-Au-Prince. They don't give much background on who this reporter is, who he works for, or what he wrote about. All they say is that the body was found in a "slum district" of the capital. This is perhaps meant to suggest that the crime was due to armed gangs or "armed gangs loyal to former President Aristide" which they blame for Haitian "instability" in the dated, poorly researched analysis of the Haitian crisis called "Aristide's Shadow".

The BBC's reporting on Latin America is usually pretty lacking, but it is downright terrible with regards to Haiti. The fact that "Aristide's Shadow" piece is the best analysis of the situation that they can do for so many months straight suggests that the organization as a whole doesn't really care.

But back to the point. Does anybody know who this journalist is? I just saw "The Agronomist" about a great Haitian journalist, Jean L. Dominique, who spent his life fighting for justice against tyranny in Haiti. He was shot and killed, and most people credit his murder to a corrupt police chief that switched sides from being with the dictatorship to working for the Lavalas government.

In any case, it seems a fearful situation when journalists are just gunned down, especially if that leads to increased violent repression and worsening news information. By the language of the BBC article, I suspect that the repression, state-violence and non-state violence are going to continue for some time now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bloggistan for Haiti

Bloggistan for Haiti

While the UN attack and murders of July 6th were met by a deafening silence by mainstream media. It has really resonated in the activist community in a way that the Haiti issue hasn't previously. Indymedia has a front page article about it, andDemocracy Now! ran a story on it with interviews of human rights investigators. These two occurances are not out of the ordinary for such news, nor perhaps were the article in the Village Voice and Naomi Klein's piece in The Nation. The interesting thing about the indymedia story is the announcement of a campaign that has been organized by bloggers to respond to this silence with incessant reporting. Other groups and individuals organized media blitz's to call reporters and editors and try to make the invasion of Cite Soleil a story.

I have contributed my own 'granito de arena' to the movement at La Luchita blog, but it remains to be seen if this campaign manages to crack an official silence on Haiti's plight. However, it does show that time is right to massively organize on the issue of Haitian democracy, taking advantage of the new organization of bloggers last catalogued on monday july 18 by Charles Todd .

While Todd spends today's post lamenting what has been a painful month for Free Haiti Activists, his information from Fact-esque that "Luigi Einaudi, the (American) Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of American States has said that the only thing wrong with Haiti is that it is run by Haitians." This type of hypocrisy and the continued violent repression in Haiti catalogued by the Haiti Information Project in places like Haiti Action show the vulnerability of the entire imperial enterprise in Haiti if a concerted effort is made to make the truth accessible to more people and to encourage individuals to work for a Free Haiti.

Rove and the Morality of outing CIA agent Valorie Plame

cntodd reposts comments by Nathan Newman about the ambiguous moral implications of outing a CIA agent reproduced below

But making a principle that exposing CIA agents is always wrong sticks in my craw given the history of the national security state's cloak-and-dagger destruction of democracy around the world…The 1982 law which we are debating so fervently was, at least partially, designed to protect the identity of those assisting dictorships and helping to torture labor activists like those in Turkey. It might be sweet irony to see the Bush administration pilloried on these rightwing security state rules, but I can't with a straight face make violating that law the core sin by which to judge the administration.

While in general, I have the same ambivalence with regard to this issue of the identity of CIA spooks who may be involved in illegal activity, I think there is more to this case than people are mentioning.

As Juan Cole has pointed out, beyond the legal implications of Rove's smear tactics, there is a central question of morality and hypocrisy. Specifically, Valerie Plame worked in 'WMD,' presumably meaning she tracked the movement of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons technology.

If there is one department of the CIA that is doing legitamate work to non-violently prevent terrorism, it is probably Plame's department.

In short, it exposes the dishonesty and hypocrisy of this regime that while they are in a violent world-wide "war on terrorism," they are purposefully underminning the work of WMD related intelligence in the US in order to have a more firm grasp on the reigns of power in this country and in this world.

What conclusion can we then draw?

The wars that the US are involved in have little to do with security and WMD, and a whole lot to do with holding power.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Blogistan for Haiti

The story about the massacre in Cite Soleil is finding some resonance in the activist community who launched a media blitz. Though it may not have cracked mainstream beyond pacifica, bloggers are now getting into the democracyforhaiti fold. Indymedia has a front page story on the whole thing. Someone else did the translation into Spanish, I guess i was sleeping on the job (or actually working my two other jobs).

cntodd has a Free Haiti campaign for Bloggers. Calling all bloggers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More on Cite Soleil Massacre

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has a very good report summarizing the July 6 U.N. military raid on Site Soleil and a call for action.

Everyone should at least take the time to read that article and listen to Amy Goodman's interview with a representative of human rights workers who were in Haiti last week. Their testimony is very damning of the UN, suggesting that the UN killed civilians and did not care to find out the body count, let alone help provide any health care to civilian deaths. In the words of the interviewee, the UN command characterized the poor neighborhood as an "outlaw community."

The delegation also said that his impression of the attack from a trip to Cite Soleil was much like what he imagined a "Warsaw ghetto attack" would have been like.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Haiti Translation Project

In the past week I, with the invaluable help of several supporters, have published my first translation for the Haiti Information Project. The Spanish version of the article There Is No Political Persecution in Haiti has been published on several Latin American Indymedia sites, and I hope to continue publishing it farther and working on new stories.

The article is complete with photos like the one below. The original story carries the "warning : images depict graphic evidence of political repression.

"Following another peaceful Lavalas demonstration on May 18, the Haitian police gunned down Sanel Joseph as he returned home. The rhetoric calling for U.N. military actions against the poor neighborhoods intensifies in the Haitian press as accusations of human rights abuses by the Haitian police are conveniently forgotten."

Masscre in Cite Soleil by UN forces?

The Haiti Information Project is reporting that "Haiti's UN forces Carry Out Massacre of Haiti's Poor in Port Au Prince." This is about an all out seige of the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil that has been surrounded and under low level attack by Haitian police for at least a year. It seems that the UN forces stormed in and finished the job off claiming to be routing out "gang violence." However, it seems that any poor citizen living in the neighborhood was fair game as the troops attmepted to literally clear out the whole neighborhood.

HIP is reporting that fleeing citizens were shot in the back, and at least one resident seems to have been killed as they sat on the toilet.

The international media seems to have been silent about this, while the death toll sits at about 50.

How do we make this a story? It is already a week old and NO ONE knows that it happened

Monday, July 11, 2005

Working Situation

For those who don't know me personally, I am working this summer to save up money for a trip to Mexico. Until recently, I was earning money by pulling shifts as a waiter at Plato's diner in College Park. Many people including my girlfriend had told me not to work their because they had seen the place "chew up and spit out" those working the night shift (where new waitors are all placed).

The pay there usually isn't bad, all tips considered, but the hours for the night shift are pretty inconvenient to say the least. During the weeknights, most people work from 4:30 or 4:45 PM until about 2:00 AM. On the weekend, the clock-out is closer to 4:00 AM, although if a rush comes in late people have been known to stay until almost 6:00 AM. Working a 12 hour shift can be tough as a waiter, especially when the take-home tips tend to be in the $70-80 area (as they have been for me personally this summer). Furthermore, new folks are always scheduled for the least desired shifts, weekend nights.

I was lucky enough that the night manager Sal, generally agreed to be the meanest and worst manager on staff, quit the night before my first shift. Well, actually I showed up to work under him, and he sent me home. I had tried to switch shifts with someone to work a Wednesday night, but the general manager had neglected to add me to the schedule. When I showed up to work that Wednesday, Sal told me that I wasn't on the schedule and should go home.

Because of that oversight, a senior staff member was pressured to pull a double shift. Sal never showed up for work the next night (the angered wife of an owner showed up 45 minutes late and was on the phone the whole shift demanding some days of vacation over the next month). Sal has not showed up to work since. Though the general manager called Sal an "idiot" for sending me home, management claims that he is only taking a month off due to a "family emergency." I guess they figure that no one from the night shift will be there in a month to notice that Sal had not returned.


I figured that I would be OK at Plato's despite the warnings I had been giving because I am not the type of person to take shit from anyone, especially employers. Furthermore, since the first day I worked there, I had been looking for other work.

I first got in trouble with management with friendly suggestions on my first full shift that night staff turnover would be lower if staff was paid a minimum wage once the doors of the restaurant closed for the night. For those who don't know, people who work for tips (such as waiters) can be paid as low as $2.85 an hour, and it is typical for businesses to give these workers "side-work" for them to do after serving tables for the night. At Plato's the night staff worked for about an hour average cleaning tables, vacuuming, pouring old ketchup into new bottles, restocking the shelves, and windexing the glass. After my unsolicited advice, I was told that I should "stop talking about things [I] know nothing about," and that "if [I] don't like working at the restaurant, THERE is the door!"

Perhaps my friendly suggestion might not have gotten me in much trouble at work, but my next night I asked to be sent home early several times because business was so slow and there was a lot of waiters working that night so my section was very small (and so was the tips I earned that night consequently). More importantly, I learned I had been scheduled for a shift over July 4th weekend that I knew i could not make. Plato's policy states that anyone who doesn't fill a shift they can't work is fired, even if they explicitly asked not to work that shift before the schedule was made (as I had done).

Expecting to be fired for not showing up to work on July 2nd, I considered walking out the entire night of my last shift before that date. However, I had several diners complement me on giving them "the best service they had ever had at Plato's" to the hostest, and business was ok. Plus, despite the scolding I recieved from management for talking to the hostess early in the night, I was starting to get comfortable waiting and actually having a good time.

At the end of the night, I spent about an hour cleaning, including vacuuming with a back-up mounted machine. I realized that while I was earning $2.85 for doing this work, the Salvadoran immigrants who did this work at the University of Maryland were getting more like $9.00 an hour plus benefits for doing the work. They are hard workers, and I respect many of them as colleagues and friends, but I have spoken with many who complain that the back-pack vacuums put a difficult stress on their backs and aggravate muscular injuries. I wondered what they would think to learn that their interpreter was vacuuming the floor for a fraction of what they earned.

After I was asked to clock-out for the night, others requested I help them finish our side-work wrapping silverware in napkins. I replied "Shoot, as much free labor as this place gets out of me, if I start doing more side-work, I am going to have to clock back in and get my $2.85." Though no manager was present at that time, that comment would apperantly be my downfall.

Another waitress (the most senior on staff that night since she had been working since MAY), had taken up the resposibility of barking orders at me all night. I had let her know that she was not my supervisor and would not talk to me in that demanding tone. She apperantly went off to the general manager with a laundry list of real, invented and exagerated offensive examples of my "bad attitude." I went home that night with $78 dollars for 9.5 hours of work.

The next day when I showed up to discuss my July 2nd dilemma with the general manager, I was advised that I was being taken off of the schedule until further notice. Because my "bad attitude," was "contageous" and infecting other staff, I would be suspended until the general manger got back from her vacation on July 11th. When I picked up my 2 week pay check the next day, I was reminded why I had wanted for more money after- hours work, it was $42.56 for my bank account.


For those who don't know College Park or who have not yet realized it, Plato's has a permenant "now hiring" banner above the front door. The people who complain that the place "chews up" new waiters generally quit without giving any notice. In the three weeks that I worked there, at least two staff that started with me or after me quit. On the my last night working there, the acting manager had been there for 2-3 months the previous summer and another couple of weeks this summer. She was the most senior staff available to work that Sunday night. On some shifts, I was the only individual able to communicate with both the Spanish language kitchen staff and the English language staff out front (since the disappearance of the bilingual night manager).

When I searched for people to cover my shift on July 2nd, I was told by every waiter either "I don't work Saturday nights," "I am out of town," or "I am working that night" (one person told me they were working both saturday and sunday day shifts and so could not also work the night shift, which would have been about 24 hours of work over a 24-26 hour period).

Your response, Sr. San Martin?

I considered some dramatic response to my quasi-firing, but I had not confirmed subsequent employment (until later that day, thank you AFSCME local 1072). What I really wanted to say was "damn, with an attitude like that, Why do you think you got a permenant now hiring sign out front."

Poor management

As is typical with authoritarian anti-worker styles of management, they were wasting more money firing and losing people like me than if they would have paid time and a half (about $4.00/hour) for all work done after the restaurant had closed. Each new employee must work for a minimum of 12 hours of "training" at minimum wage ($5.85). During that time, they get in the way more then they contribute to the functioning of the restaurant. In my three weeks working there, it was rare to see a day shift without at least one person training. In fact, on one shift I counted one person training, one person on a "test shift" (they take a test and then only wait on one table all night if they pass), and one person on their first full-fledged shift.


So, my final words to Plato's, when this is all done, not only will I never walk into that restaurant, but I will tell my friends and family not to go their either. Not only are they rude to their waiters, but I wonder if they pay some of their kitchen staff a minimum wage ($5.85/hour). Not to mention the shopping list of health-code violations witnessed my friends and colleagues (someone should post that up on the wall so management takes more notice of this problem). Try Siri's Chef Secret on Greenbelt Road as your College Park staple restaurant, or give the College Park Diner farther north a try (though I cannot vouch for their hygiene, that place is suspicious too).

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Religious extremists in Israel

This past week as revealed the ugly face of Israeli extremism. Usually when "religious extremism" is mentioned with regard to Israel, it is a reference to one of the islamic armed movements that attacks civilians like Hamas or Islami Jihad. There is usually a media oversight of the violence of Israeli power structure. For example, few are aware of the fact that the Israeli military has killed more civilians since the beginning of the recent intifada than have armed Palestinians.

That being said, this past week Israelis motivated by religious extremism have acted with such arrogance and violance that it is astounding. Beside the protesters in Israel that through nails and oil on major highways to cause accidents in protest of the withdrawel from Gaza, other protesters in Gaza threw rocks and fists at Israeli soldiers. They were very enraged that jewish israeli soldiers were treating jews in a harsh manner by arresting them. BBC shows a picture of a young boy in New York protesting Sharon's removal of settlers because forced removals are for Palestinians, the signs said "Don't do unto Jews what you won't do to Arabs."

Someone should remind them how luck they are not to be Palestinian. Palestinians who throw rocks are often killed by angry soldiers. This past week even saw the conviction of an Israeli soldier for manslaughter in the killing of the Briton Tom Hurndell. Hurndell was shot in the neck by a sniper for guiding children out of the line of fire. Some of these same extremist explained his death by repeatedly stating that he was wearing a gun and camoflouge at the time of his murder.

Lynch mob

CNN reported that a group of the Gaza extremists nearly killed a Palestinian who had the misfortune of being too close to the mob. They even showed footage of the man being beaten with rocks until he was unable to walk himself to safety. The last I heard was that he was in critical condition in the hospital.


While much talk has been made of the demolitions of settlements, BBC also reports that the Israeli military is stepping up home demolitions and the construction of the separation fence or "apartheid wall" (from the Afrikaans root meaning apartness or separation). This Gaza withdrawel is unfortunately working as a distraction from the continuing systematic violence of the occupation, and over-reassuring the Israeli public. The problem is that the withdrawal is limited, since the Israeli government promises continued military incursions while the territory remains unstable. Furthermore, the most ecomically viable Palestinian region (the West Bank) continues to be polluted, divided, and subjugated by the Israeli military and civilian authority.

A final word on Israel and Palestine

People who don't know me personally may take this commentary as "one-sided" or "anti-Israel." Unfortunately, Israel and the United States of America are two of the few countries that you are not allowed to criticize without being called hate-filled, anti-(place your fatherland here), or (in the case of Israel) anti-semitic (or a self-hating Jew if you, like me, are Jewish yourself).

Let me just say that I am equally dismayed by the religious extremism rising up in the Palestinian territories and the rest of the Muslim world. My Palestinian friends speak with frustration at how the democratic and pluralistic atmosphere of the first intifada is being replaced with religious-based intolerance and dogma.

However, in the case of much of the Muslim world, I have been told that Islamic fanaticism takes root best in areas (like Palestine) when hope in secular or humanistic politics seems to have failed or been crushed to a point of hope beyond hope. In areas where there is little or no hope, what will you put your trust in, a left-leaning populist who may be killed or be coopted? A secular system that may put food on the table ten years ahead while you are hungry now? Or will you put your faith with the almighty ruler and creator of the world, who promises hope beyond this life and immortality in faith?

I am more frustrated in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic extremists who are using religious ideology to further their own political and economic power. The Christian right shows immense hypocrisy and dangerous arrogance when it advocates war, economic, and AIDS policies that are designed to enrich themselves while others suffer. Would Jesus not throw the money-begging televangelists out of the temple? Would he not nail himself to the cross in protest for the sins of war? Would Jesus not side with the victims and potential victims of AIDS in search of prevention strategies (and condoms) as he walked with the prostitutes two thousand years ago?

And how can the Israeli extremists advocate racism and violent displacement against the citizens of Judea and Samarra (what Jewish fanatics call the West Bank as a reference to the Torah and a claim to ownership)? Is this not a selective reading of the Torah and a complete ignorance of some of the central themes of judaism like Tikkun Olam and Tzedekeh? Is it not also a reproduction of the spirit of racist Aryan entitlement of Europe that underpinned Nazi ideology?

In the Muslim world, one can easily condemn and vilify the puritanic authoritariansim embodied by the Iranian board of clerics and the violent acts of Pakistani local power structures that are justified by the religion of Islam. The indisciminate violence of Al Qaeda, underscored by the mass murder in London this week, is all the more despicable because the purveyors of this death claim heavenly rewards for the attackers.

Nevertheless, I wonder if the secular regimes in the region that have historically been supported by American politics have not done more harm and commited more murders and acts of violence. I am thinking of the governments like the ones based out of Baghdad (before 1990), Cairo, Damascus (on and off until the present date), and the house of Saud among others. The fact that racist neoconservatives and others are now calling for the toppling of these governments does not give them the right to ignore their own role in the violence and religious extremism sweeping the world.