There is no God but God….

So I dropped my car to be hand washed this morning, inside and out. They told me to come back in an hour. It’s a nice area near the lake, it was sunny and a great place to take the dog for a walk. A cafe too but I don’t like to rush in a cafe so skipped it. I came back in an hour and they said it wasn’t ready because it was really dirty. Well, it has been a long winter. “Come back in half an hour”, they said. Damn! I could have stopped in that cafe but now there wouldn’t be time. So I went shopping at the bazaar across the street and came back in 40 minutes and it still wasn’t ready.

The young man says, “One more minute. I’m just putting on the finishing touches. I took extra care and time on your car because of the poster in your trunk.”

“Oh, the one that says Stop Racism and Islamophobia? That was from a demonstration I went to a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah”, he says. “I just converted to Islam and really appreciate your sentiment.”

13055161_10207713185139353_6460555796666444198_o (1)

Notes from a Birmingham conference

 

13072917_10207686474071593_2977676192660342047_o

The best thing about Birmingham is Stratford on Avon, an hour away. Where Birmingham is all glittering shopping malls and restaurants (reminds me of Beijing, actually), Stratford has 14th century buildings and zoning laws.

 

13047660_10207686474911614_5316807513826340750_o

 

 

12973396_10207660150573522_7350999023006767623_o

12973026_10207660150613523_1269335084528318976_o

High tea..

Birmingham has all the shopping your soul can desire. From Armani to TJMaxx but not in the same buildings, God forbid. I took a canal tour which left right outside the Conference Center and was only an hour long, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. This was NOT Amsterdam or Venice but nevertheless interesting in an Industrial Revolution sort of way. 13055094_10207686506832412_8369299327892486184_oThere were mostly people from the conference but a few REAL British tourists. They said they came to Birmingham for a weekend. Why? I wanted to ask.They tore down all the good stuff, gentrified the center, full of expensive lofts and restaurants made of red brick in keeping with the original Victorian buildings they just tore down and so ubiquitous throughout the gentrified, working class parts of European cities, the architecture and design so similar to the rest of the new, focused on money Europe. 

This was my walk home after I discovered it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

So much better than a busy, ugly street filled with traffic. This is the canal district full of restaurants and bars. Notice there are no railings. I wonder how many fall in after a night of drinking? I found it a bit scary so I always hugged the building side. Anyone could just push you in but that’s the American in me talking. No one else seemed to worry as they walked, ran and rode their bikes along the edge.

 

The best part of the Teaching English conference was the Cuban session or teaching English as Revolution. 12973085_10207653563528850_6388986204140124134_oThis had to be one of the most interesting workshops I’ve ever attended at a conference. First of all, the audience was full of Marxists – from teachers to publishers. Secondly, at the end of the session, half the room wanted to sign up and go to Cuba to teach ESL while the other half offered to publish or give free materials. That was certainly better than cutting sugar cane, the mass volunteer program of foreigners in the 60s. 12961428_10207653563488849_1929156753020971860_o

And finally, where else would the participants start handing out copies of the Morning Star, a British socialist newspaper? And political networking? Amazing….

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Notice the Ché shirt…

 

And why do they need English so badly? For the usual reasons. For example, to continue their medical programs around the world.

 

 

 

 

So now I’m back in Warsaw after an event filled departure. And it all started out so well. An excellent breakfast at the Radisson in Birmingham (order the omelet), then the Business Class lounge at the airport, even though it was pretty 3rd rate after Warsaw. I mean, tomato soup as the meal? Really? But lots of alcohol and I mean lots. I couldn’t get to the water because of the crowd standing around the bottles of gin, whiskey vodka and everything else. Everyone was mixing drinks and coming back for seconds and thirds and the fact that it was only 11AM mattered not. One can only wonder where they were flying to where it would be acceptable to arrive drunk. The flight was over an hour late so I missed my connection in Frankfurt and had to wait 2 hours for the next one. While waiting to get off the plane, I’m talking to the stewardess about the chances of making my flight. I had 10 minutes. “No chance at all,” said the man in front of me. “There’s a bus instead of a walkway.” “Why? I whined. Very un-German, I thought. They knew I had a plane to catch and I was in Business Class. Business Class should get a walkway at the very least. Actually, they should pick us up in carts. “Because we’re coming from England which is not a Schengen country. This exit is only for Schengen so they are going to another terminal. And it’s not yours. By this time we’re walking down the the stairs and I say, “How do you know all this?” “Oh, I fly a lot,” he says as he gets into a Porsche waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. “Hey, take me with you,” I yelled, but he slammed the door and sped off. Who was that man? So off I went to the Lounge where there was lots of alcohol too, but everyone there was eating. It was 4 pm after all. There was soup, salad, chicken nuggets and lots of other things.

13047964_10207686659156220_6117786858197973210_o

 

And a sleeping room even.

 

 

 

 

 

Warsaw Business Lounge still had the best food in IMHO.13041346_10207686631635532_6618685971691566493_o

 

 

They are Poles after all.

Democracy in Action on YouTube.

Did I mention I’m half Ukrainian? So I follow the situation closely, now that the US has gotten its fingerprints all over it. How many failed states does it have to its credit now?

Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has announced his resignation following a political crisis that has paralysed the government and frozen the release of western aid for months. Approval rating of Yatsenyuk’s party stands at 2% after painful economic reforms and perceived inability to tackle corruption. I do not need to add that he was installed by the US after the US engineered coup two year’s ago.  How do I know? Here is the phone call:

 

 

“From today onwards I see my goals in a broader light than just heading the government,” Yatsenyuk said. Yeah, like checking his Panama accounts or a lobbyist in DC for the Ukrainian/US oligarchs, oops, I mean CEOs. You heard it here first.

Read more here:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/10/ukraines-prime-minister-arseniy-yatsenyuk-quits

 

Parliament tried to make him resign last year this way, but it didn’t work. Democracy in Action….

 

“Be realistic, demand the impossible!”

From yesterday’s demo. I have to say that after living in Poland for over 30 years, Poles have always been at their most creative in protest.

This is an official information sign, required on every building site.
12938214_1326790080683990_4585091584587281869_n

 

Type of Structure: Oppressive
Address: Republic of Poland
Permit Number: None
Construction Supervisor: None
Investor: The Church
Contractor: The Government
Head Contractor: Beata Szydło (Prime Minister)
Production Manager: Andrzej Duda (President)
Construction Manager: Father Rydzyk (right wing, influential, media priest)
Project Head: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of PiS, the real behind the scenes leader of the government.

 

 

 

 

The government might have opened that can of worms finally. As you can see, the second pro choice demo was much more organized. Everyone was there, the New Left, the Old Left, KOD, the self proclaimed guardians of the constitution. They had their own petition about the constitution because the abortion issue is “too political”, unlike the constitutional crisis. Welcome to Democracy 101!!!

Poland along with Ireland (see Irish post for reasons why) has Europe’s most restrictive abortion law, only allowed in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother’s life or extreme deformities of the fetus. Incidentally, this law was passed in 1992 by the newly democratically elected government of the “new” Poland with a woman as Prime Minister.

12983280_10207617216460196_507850054594927469_o

History of abortion legislation

 

It replaced the abortion on demand regulation in place since 1952 by the new Communist government. So history repeats itself in an ironic way.

 

 

 

12961433_10207617225660426_7774749039278258426_o

The Old Left was out this time gathering signatures not to keep the current law but for a referendum to liberalize it. I was wondering last week why they weren’t doing it then. My motto always is, stolen from the Paris demonstrations of 1968, “Be realistic, demand the impossible!”

 

 

 

 

12794600_10207569065416450_2390959769123979745_n

Abortion is a woman’s right.

 

 

Of course my own personal motto for these Polish protests is, “I can’t believe that after 40 years, I’m still protesting this shit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12961386_10207617221700327_6788415973872072587_o

Abortion on demand around the world (white).

 

 

 

12957563_10207617215020160_7598918228083056825_o

Your chapels, our wombs.

 

The Calendar is Lying When it Reads the Present Time…..

The Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, said she backs moves towards a total ban on abortion. The bishops do not care if a woman dies.

Szydło is a puppet. The abortion ban was the condition of the church’s support for Law & Justice.

“We saw it under Hitler and Ceaușescu and now we are seeing it under Law & Justice.

24  Hour Notice for Pro-Choice Demonstration, thanks to Facebook.

12957523_10207569067256496_4963444423891618737_o

12794600_10207569065416450_2390959769123979745_n

Abortion is a Woman’s Right. I can’t believe that after 40 years, I’m still protesting this shit!

 

12891501_10207569066536478_31427299769151361_o

Not a bad crowd for a 24 hour notice.

 

12417518_10207569067776509_6829797135476710064_n

Complete bans on abortion by……

 

12670687_10207569068096517_7823756169001711333_n

No more hangers……..

12931247_584328701735190_8498694503124600103_n

12671684_584333391734721_1846141820574159750_o

 

12495137_10209249997948668_2442757877229150586_n

Post protest: “We have 10,000 hangers. Who wants them? Only serious offers, please.

Read more:

here and here

Pity the Poor Immigrants

 

This excellent piece got me to thinking about my own bad neighbourhood.  I grew up in the North End  of New Bedford in the 50s and 60s. We started off on Washburn St, moved to Beetle, then Holly and finally Deane, when I finally moved up into the middle class world by renting a flat with my boyfriend in a Victorian house on Allen and Orchard. From there, I never looked back, although I sometimes drive down those mean streets with Bruce Springsteen’s, My Hometown playing in the background.

“These jobs are going boys, and they ain’t coming back to your hometown..”

 

Although they were poor neighbourhoods, they weren’t “bad”. We all knew each other, the streets were full of kids that played together, we didn’t have drugs nor very much violence and we weren’t afraid. All of the people were poor immigrants or just poor Americans. I remember our landlord coming every week for the rent and how my parents would be respectful and subservient to him. They called him “The Boss”. His son went to high school with me and it was just embarrassing to see him in the halls and we never talked. Now I know, he should have been the one to be embarrassed that his father was a slum landlord. I mean, couldn’t he have fumigated the place to kill the cockroaches, insulate the place so the ice didn’t form on the inside of the windows in the winter and clean out back yard so the rats wouldn’t make a home there?

From the New Bedford Standard Times:

Very few times in 16 years in New Bedford have I been scared in broad daylight on a city street.On Wednesday, someone fired six shots into the front of the Pimentels’ triple decker in what Maria says was a drive-by shooting between two cars belonging to bad guys on the street. Just after I entered Maria’s handsome wood-framed front door, she wanted to take me back out onto the porch to show me the bullet holes.They call it their “‘hood,” said Maria and they do what they what want in it.But her problem is not with the changing ethnicities. Her problem is with a slumlord named Ron Oliveira and his company, the Landlord Connection.No one seems to work in the properties, she said, quickly rattling off three neighbors who she said receive their monthly disability checks for being mentally ill, or having substance abuse problems, bad knees, bad backs.And you’d be surprised, she says, by the people who come to the neighborhood to buy drugs — the well-to-do as well as the poor. And plenty of the middle-class, as far away as the Cape.Ron collects his rents from the street, the tenants come down to give him their money. “I think he makes himself superior if they go to him,” says Maria, who works as a translator for SouthCoast Health. Other than when there’s an emergency, she says she never sees Oliveira do anything to maintain the properties and it’s fair to say, the buildings are shabby. On one, there was so much trash in the driveway it was hard to imagine you could get to the garage. Carlos, who owns a small landscaping business, says the city’s new problem properties’ ordinance should throw a little scare into him, at least once a year.Ron doesn’t often return Standard-Times’ phone calls and he didn’t return two of mine left on his business answering machine Saturday or two of our reporter Curt’s Brown’s on Thursday.So we write about Ron Oliveira and the Landlord Connection, and his “hundreds of apartments,” every once in awhile. And the city, from year to year, decade to decade, struggles on and on to come up with a solution to the problem of bad landlords and bad tenants, bad guys who take neighborhoods away from good people like Maria and Carlos Pimentel.No one, it seems, has found a solution.

Mayor Jon Mitchell has called him out a number of times, including this week when he said “It’s no secret that Ron Oliveira’s properties are the source of a disproportionate amount of illegal activity.”

The Pimentels say they’ve tried to talk to Oliveira but he seems to take their concerns as a joke. “Are you keeping your neighbors in check?” they say, he asks.

She tells of one woman who knocked on her door looking for “the Spanish Lady” to buy.

The start of the month is the worst, she said. When the checks come in, the drug activity picks up and the street is noisy, almost like a celebration.

Maria tells me that the Landlord Connection owns the properties on either side of her and across the street. The drug-dealing and partying goes on day and night. And then there’s the fights. Over perceived insults. Over territory. Over drug deals gone bad.

Maria’s family has been part of the Cove Street neighborhood since 1966 and she’s seen it evolve from a neighborhood of French-Canadian and Polish immigrants, to one dominated by the Portuguese to one dominated by Latinos and African-Americans.

Maria’s family has been part of the Cove Street neighborhood since 1966 and she’s seen it evolve from a neighborhood of French-Canadian and Polish immigrants, to one dominated by the Portuguese to one dominated by Latinos and African-Americans.

read more