Saturday, June 1, 2019

Isn't She Lovely

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't, yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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                                  Just Who IS This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Dana -- A Gentlereader
Iggy -- A Sticky (GT*)
Marie-Louise -- My Muse (GT*)

"You know, Saudi Arabia has a lot of poverty also. Regardless about what you hear about the viceroy and people being rich, et cetera."
                                   -Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

The next time life jumps out from behind a rock and kicks you in the nether regions, remember, it could always be/get worse.

What OPEC does, what it exists to do, is illegal in America and no shortage of other countries. Price fixing by any other name is price-fixing. However, if you're a sovereign nation there's nothing stopping you from forming a club (in more ways than one) and openly colluding with the other members to stick it to the rest of the world.

In fact, you don't even have to hold secret meetings in the back rooms of sleazy saloons 'cause you're embarrassed about it.

You can set up your headquarters in Vienna, Austria (where price-fixing is illegal) and maintain a website to let everyone know what you're up to and not have to worry about even the usually useless United Nations giving you grief. I mention the UN because if you didn't know better, you'd think that's the place a global price-fixing cartel might be of interest. 

But OPEC isn't really what I want to talk about.

However, while doing some research on what I do want to talk about -- the kafala system in general, Saudi Arabia specifically -- I came across/was reminded of the preceding. All will become clear, your honor, I'm establishing a pattern of conduct.

As many of my Gentlereaders are no doubt aware, recently an unnamed family in Saudi Arabia (If any news source names the family its news to me) became infamous for tying their Filipino maid, Lovely Acosta Baruelo, to a tree for leaving some furniture out in the hot sun. They were apparently returning the favor.

Saudi Arabia, a (founding) member in good standing of OPEC, is also one of a number of Middle Eastern countries that participates in the kafala system. According to Wikipedia the kafala system " a system used to monitor migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors..." in various and sundry nations in the Middle East.

The same Wikipedia entry goes on to state that according to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report "the combination of the high recruitment fees paid by Saudi employers and the power granted them by the kafala system to control whether a worker can change employers or exit the country made some employers feel entitled to exert 'ownership' over a domestic worker" and that the "sense of ownership ... creates slavery-like conditions."

"...over 2.5 million domestic workers in the Gulf countries, the majority of whom are female and hailing from Asia and Africa..."

I went looking for numbers and found one in a story published on the website of the Pulitzer Center.

About: "The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an award-winning, non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting on critical global issues to educate the public, promote solutions, and save lives."

Question: Why are all those Muslims fleeing North Africa and the Middle East knock, knock, knocking on the Infidels doors when they have oil-rich brothers and sisters living in their neighborhood? Neighbors who are apparently suffering from such a severe shortage of Humbles that they have to import them? 

Answer: The same reason people are fleeing the corrupt gummits, crony capitalists, and drug cartels in Mexico and points south. "When ya ain't got nothin', ya got nothin' to lose." -Robert Allen Zimmerman

[For the record I'm not an open borders guy, I'm a put your own house in order, good (virtual) fences make good neighbors guy. Perhaps the United Nations could help.]  

Why Pick On Saudi Arabia? 
After all, there's no shortage of nations in their corner of the world who prefer a culture that combines an interesting mix of life as lived in the Middle Ages with modernity... 

[Announcer: Yes, you can have it all. Beheadings and slavery, skyscrapers and swimming pools, vacay in the new Middle East!]    

Well, we've had full diplomatic relations since 1933 and in exchange for being a good customer, they've often (but not always) served as our local proxy. Friends don't allow friends to drive drunk. Friends don't allow friends to enslave. 

Drill, Baby, Drill! Or better yet, Free the Atom, Revive Nuclear Power! (but that's another letter). Poppa loves you. 

Have an OK day. 
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©2019 Mark Mehlmauer As long as you agree to supply my name and URL (Creative Commons license at the top and bottom of my website) you may republish this anywhere that you please. Light editing that doesn't alter the content is acceptable. You don't have to include any of the folderol before the greeting or after the closing except for the title. 

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