« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

April 30, 2006

Is Chavecito channeling El Predicto too?

Sure sounds like it...

This century will see the end of the US empire, said Hugo Chavez on Saturday during a rally in Havana, where he highlighted the progress of Latin American integration efforts.

Addressing thousands of youth present at a rally, Chavez proclaimed "you will witness the fall of the US empire, since this century will see the birth of our common homeland."

Saturday's rally marked the first anniversary of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas agreement (ALBA), a regional integration initiative initiated by President Chavez.

"Cuba and Venezuela have jointly promoted ALBA, an effort against the US-led Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement (FTAA)," said Hugo Chavez, as he expressed his government's determination to support Bolivia in its development efforts.

The Venezuelan president announced a joint project between La Paz and Venezuela in the oil sector with the setting up of an oil processing plant in Bolivia.

Hmmm. A visionary in more ways than one, it seems.

April 28, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito goes native

As in, Native (North) American. Here he is receiving a prayer staff and eagle feather from a Penobscot chief, James Sappier, in recognition of Citgo's compassionate 40% discount on oil for poorer communities:

Hugo Chavez honored by Penobscot chief James Sappier

(Photo credit: Gregory Wilpert, Venezuelanalysis)

April 27, 2006

Quotable: John Perkins on American imperialism

"I kept coming back to one main question: if the objective of foreign aid is imperialism, is that so wrong? I often found myself envying people like Charlie who believed so strongly in our system that they wanted to force it on the rest of the world. I doubted whether limited resources would allow the whole world to live the opulent life of the United States, when even the United States had millions of citizens living in poverty. In addition, it wasn't entirely clear to me that people in other nations actually want to live like us. Our own statistics about violence, depression, drug abuse, divorce, and crime indicated that although ours was one of the wealthiest societies in history, it may also be one of the least happy societies. Why would we want others to emulate us?"

--John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

April 26, 2006

Hu does she think she is?

Ignore-ance is bliss for Bush and Hu

April 25, 2006

Here's one for the ol' El Predicto

Who will advance to the second round of the Peruvian elections? O Wise Swami, who knows all and sees all, gaze into thy crystal ball.

And lo! Here are the standings so far, according to El Beebo:

Ex-army officer Ollanta Humala seems certain to face former President Alan Garcia in Peru's presidential run-off, partial first-round results suggest.

With just one percent of the vote left to count, Mr Humala leads with 30.7%, followed by Mr Garcia on 24.3%.

Conservative candidate Lourdes Flores is trailing by a fraction on 23.7%.

The election campaign was dominated by the rise of Mr Humala, a leftwing nationalist, but polls do not suggest he would be certain to win a runoff.

The narrow gap between the three main contenders has delayed final results from the 9 April election from being released - an excruciating wait for the candidates.

With no candidate passing 50% support, the two leading candidates will proceed to a second round, scheduled for 28 May.

So it looks like it will come down to a contest between centre-left and just-plain-left here. That's not necessarily good news, and here's why:

Mr Garcia presided over Peru from 1985 to 1990, during a period of hyperinflation and a bloody insurgency by Shining Path guerrillas.

But he has promised to create jobs and to divert more of the country's mineral wealth to the poor by taxing mining firms' profits.

[...]

Despite Mr Humala's first-round lead, analysts predict most of Ms Flores' supporters would be likely to turn to Mr Garcia in a run-off.

A Datum poll published on Tuesday suggested Mr Garcia would win a run-off against Mr Humala, with 54% against 46%.

And that, for me, is what's not good about this. The fact that the right-wing candidate's voters are likely to swing behind the more centrist of the two, means he can campaign from the left but will rule from the right when he wins. Where have we seen that before?

Oh yeah...Ecuador. Where Lucio Gutierrez promised to make like Hugo Chavez, got his ass elected on that, then went back on his word, kowtowed to the IMF, and got run out of town on a rail for it. El Predicto informs me to watch for similar patterns in Garcia if he is elected.

On the other hand, if by some miracle Ollanta survives this second round with a commanding majority, El Predicto sez he'll face the wrath of the Economic Hit Man. Just as in Ecuador...

Either way, El Predicto's crystal ball is full of dark and scary clouds.

Cool beans? You're damn (not) tootin'!

And look where they were developed!

A Venezuelan team says fermenting beans with certain friendly bacteria can cut the amount of wind-causing compounds, and boost beans' nutritional value.

The research appears in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Flatulence is caused by bacteria that live in the large intestine breaking down parts of food - such as soluble fibre - that have not been digested higher in the gut.

Beans, such as the black bean commonly eaten across Central and Southern America and tested by the team, contain many of these compounds.

Researchers from the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas found that by boosting the natural fermentation process by adding a particular type of bacteria , called Lactobacillus casei (L casei), the amount of these indigestible wind-causing compounds were reduced.

Soluble fibre was reduced by two thirds and the amount of raffinose, another flatulence-causing substance, by 88.6%.

But the amount of insoluble fibre, which is thought to have a beneficial effect on the gut and help the digestive system get rid of toxins, increased by 97.5%.

The team concludes that fermentation involving L casei could decrease flatulence compounds and increase nutritional quality.

They suggest the bacteria be used by the food industry to create better bean products.

That sounds like a plan.

Failing that, you can buy L. casei at your local health-food store; look in the probiotics section. You'll probably find it packaged with L. acidophilus, its close cousin (and a common "live culture" found in natural yogurt).

One Chavecito Burrito, por favor.

Wolfowitz Bank: yet another BushCo fuck-up

Oh, the ignominy of seeing yet another imperial money machine get trashed!

The World Bank has been accused of publishing false accounts and wasting money on ineffective medicines in its malaria treatment programme.

A Lancet paper claims the bank faked figures, boosting the success of its malaria projects, and reneged on a pledge to invest $300-500m in Africa.

It also claims the bank funded obsolete treatments - against expert advice.

[...]

The Lancet study also alleges that the World Bank hyped the results of its malaria control programme in India.

They quote the bank saying that it reduced deaths from malaria in the Indian states of Gujarat by 58%, Maharashtra by 98% and Rajasthan by 79%.

The authors say they doubted malaria could be reduced so markedly in such a short time and requested and obtained official statistics from India's own national malaria programme.

According to India's Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, deaths from malaria rose in all three states in the 2002-3 period in question.

"Because we were refused access to the original data sources, we cannot discern the cause of the bank's many statistical errors and particularly whether those errors arise from unintentional mistakes or from intentional data falsification or fabrication," the authors say.

[...]

Dr Attaran and his colleagues go on to call for the World Bank to hand over the $1bn due to be invested in malaria programmes worldwide to a separate body, saying the bank's role should be reserved only for funding.

But the bank says: "World Bank Group President, Paul Wolfowitz, has put the full weight of his leadership behind the Bank's renewed commitment to malaria, with a strong emphasis on results."

"Strong emphasis on results", eh? With Wolfowitz in charge, this was bound to be a farce. Let me refresh your memory about the last thing Wolfy touched:

The day after the September 11 attacks Wolfowitz authorized the creation of an informal team focused on ferreting out damaging intelligence about Iraq. This loosely organized team soon became the Office of Special Plans (OSP) directed by Abram Shulsky, formerly of RAND and the National Strategy Information Center (NSIC). The objective of this closet intelligence team, according to Rumsfeld, was to "search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists." OSP's mission was to create intelligence that the Pentagon and vice president could use to press their case for an Iraq invasion with the president and Congress.

The OSP played a key role in providing Rumseld, Cheney, and the president himself with the intelligence frequently cited to justify the March 2003 invasion. By late 2003 the OSP was closed down, having accomplished its mission of providing the strategic intelligence cited by the administration in the build-up to the invasion. OSP's staff and operations were folded back into the normal operations of the NESA and into its Office of Northern Gulf Affairs.

In other words, Wolfy was a chef who helped cook up the fake intel leading to Gulf War II. The results continue to speak for themselves.

Personally, though, I'll always think of him as the guy in Fahrenheit 9/11 who goobed on his comb to save a few bucks on hair gel. It just seems...so...metaphorical, somehow.

April 24, 2006

Oh, the Berluscoglioni...

Silvio Berlusconi doesn't want to go, even though he's had an unequivocal heave-ho from Italian voters:

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to admit defeat in last week's Italian election despite a court ruling in favour of his opponents.

The Supreme Court has confirmed a narrow win for the centre-left opposition led by Romano Prodi.

But after a meeting with his advisers, Mr Berlusconi let it be known he was considering a further legal challenge.

His economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, told Italian TV that some "anomalies" were yet to be cleared up.

The national co-ordinator of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, Sandro Bondi, said the court should widen its review to include "irregularities" in overseas voting.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Prodi had won the lower house by a margin of some 24,000 votes - a similar margin to the one previously announced.

The court had reviewed 2,100 ballots not immediately included in the overall count, as the voting intentions were not clear.

A review of another 3,100 disputed ballots in the Senate was still under way, but was not expected to affect Mr Prodi's slim Senate victory.

After the ruling, Mr Prodi said there were "no further doubts about our victory".

"We will work to deserve the trust that our voters have shown us and to earn the trust of those who have legitimately decided to vote for the other coalition," the 66-year-old Mr Prodi said.

Asked if he had received a telephone call from Mr Berlusconi, Mr Prodi said: "I'm waiting."

I found this photoshop while googling the terms "Berlusconi" and "ass":

Hoist him by his coglioni

Don't know if I'm translating this correctly, but I think it says "The power of a dream: To hoist him by his testicles."

Could that be a rather unsubtle allusion to the last Italian leader who had far too much power, and refused to step down quietly?

Il Duce and his puttana, Clara Petacci

Apparently this post-execution hanging was more than just a macabre display of justice done:

The corpses of Mussolini, his mistress Claretta Petacci, and his henchmen are hanged in Piazzale Loreto in Milan on public display, April 29, 1945. They had been executed the day before some 50 miles to the north in Mezzegra and were now offered to the people who spat on the corpses and kicked them. They were then hanged by the feet. In medieval Italy it was the custom to hang crooks or embezzlers, by one foot. The fact that Mussolini was hung by two feet suggests the deep level of rage and betrayal felt by the people towards their once beloved "Duce".

Word to the wise (of which Berlusconi probably isn't one): You'd better not push your luck. Remember what Santayana said?

Another reason why Osama got trotted out...

Dubya's poll numbers have slipped yet again. Less than a third of US citizens are now hardcore stupid.

Meanwhile, Chavecito just keeps going from strength to strength. That evil tyrant!

Another evil thing to come out of Cuba

And it's one that might just put Big Pharma out of business...

The diluted venom of the blue scorpion has been used in Cuba as an anti-carcinogenic for more than a decade, though the scientific community is cautious about employing the formula, which is still in the research phase.

A queue of people can usually be found at the pharmaceutical laboratories Labiofam in the outskirts of Havana, waiting for the chance to try the product. It is provided free-of-charge if doctors determine it to be appropriate for the individual's case. Patients from abroad head to Labiofam as well, drawn by the success stories circulating about the venom.

''For the last year I have been taking 15 mm a half-hour before each meal to let the stomach absorb it. My last visit to the doctor showed that the tumor in my lung had disappeared,'' says Eva Gutiérrez, a 42-year-old woman from Venezuela.

There are many other testimonies like hers. In Jaguey Grande, 200 km from Havana, an adolescent girl, 14, was on the verge of death, her body invaded by cancer. Ten years later, she is a healthy woman with a normal life, though she has never quit the venom treatment.

The final product of the scorpion venom is registered under the name Escoazul at the Cuban Office of Industrial Property, but it remains to be seen if it can be more broadly marketed - it depends on the outcome of the clinical trials underway.

More than 3,000 people have participated in studies conducted in the province of Guantánamo, 970 km east of Havana, and many individuals are receiving the ''medicine'' directly from the Labiofam laboratories.

Actually, this is should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. I've blogged on this topic before. Cuba is the best-kept secret in the biotech world, and small wonder: does anyone want it getting out that a little island full of communists is actually an industry powerhouse? Without capitalism and all its wonderful incentives? Heresy!

Of course, at the rate things are going, Cuba will probably be bombed for having biological weapons. Just like that Sudanese aspirin factory back in the day...

Kenny Boy is in the dock

Finally.

Do you suppose this is why the compliant media has trotted out yet another "Osama" tape? Remember, Kenny Boy was a leading contributor (no, make that THE leading contributor) to the Bush 2000 campaign war chest, not to mention awfully tight with Dubya. Now, suddenly, Dubya doesn't know him anymore. Poor Kenny--and after all that sucking-up he did, too! (Ahhh, the magic of Diebold...which renders guilty association so unnecessary!)

Meanwhile, the War on Terra isn't going all that well, either. But damned if Rummy's gonna let THAT stop him. The Decider is right behind him, all the way. And he's just okayed something that smells awfully vile. And don't doubt that he, too, is relying on that latest tape to provide him cover, so that all this flies completely under the radar.

Heads up, Chavecito. The War on Terra might soon land on your doorstep. And we all know that terrorism won't be the true reason, either. Haven't they shown as much by not letting you put a real thug on trial?

April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day, dear Repugs!

You say there's no such thing as global warming? Ha! Triumph the Insult Dog poops on you!

And, on a more serious note, so does Seed Magazine.

April 21, 2006

"A president under arrest"--and guess who saved his life?

It's often said that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and it's true that there are no presidential elections in the apparently one-party republic of Cuba (although there are local ones, interestingly enough.)

And given what happened in Venezuela for the 40 years of supposed "democracy" (the infamous Punto Fijo pact, which basically made sure the same shit always happened, no matter who the asshole in power was), it's clear that no true democracy pertained there either. At least, not until Hugo Chavez--formerly a failed military coup plotter!--stood as a civilian and a democrat for the first time in the 1998 elections and bested his nearest competitor by more than a 15-point margin.

Now it turns out that Castro, the once isolated communist dictator, has emerged as an unlikely savior of the young, fragile true democracy of Venezuela. In an interview with Ignacio Ramonet (of Le Monde Diplomatique), he reveals fully, for the first time, the key part he played in the reversal of the 2002 coup that toppled and nearly killed his friend:

Ignacio Ramonet: Have you followed closely the evolution of the situation in Venezuela, particularly the attempts to destabilize President Chávez?

Fidel Castro: Yes, we have followed events with great attention. Chávez visited us after being released from prison before the 1998 elections. He was very brave, because he was much reproached for traveling to Cuba. He came here and we talked. We discovered an educated, intelligent man, very progressive, an authentic Bolivarian. Later he won the elections several times. He changed the Constitution. He had the formidable support of the people, of the humblest people. His adversaries have tried to asphyxiate him economically.

In the 40 famous years of "democracy" that preceded Chávez, I estimate that about $200 billion fled from the country. Venezuela could be more industrialized than Sweden and enjoy Sweden's levels of education, if in truth there had been a distributive democracy, if those mechanisms had worked, if there had been some truth and credibility in all that demagoguery and all that publicity.

From the time that Chávez took office until currency controls were established in January 2003, I estimate that about $30 billion flew out of the country—capital flight. So, as we maintain, all those phenomena make the order of things unsustainable in our hemisphere.

IR: On April 11, 2002, there was a coup d'état against Chávez in Caracas. Did you follow those events?

FC: When we learned that the demonstration by the opposition had changed direction and was nearing Miraflores [Palace], that there were provocations, shootings, victims, and that some high officials had mutinied and come out publicly against the president, that the presidential guard had withdrawn and that the army was on its way to arrest him, I phoned Chávez because I knew that he was defenseless and that he was a man of principle, and said to him: "Don't kill yourself, Hugo! Don't do like Allende! Allende was a man alone, he didn't have a single soldier on his side. You have a large part of the army. Don't quit! Don't resign!"

IR: You were encouraging him to resist, gun in hand?

FC: No, on the contrary. That's what Allende did, and he paid heroically with his life. Chávez had three alternatives: To hunker down in Miraflores and resist to death; to call on the people to rebel and unleash a civil war; or to surrender without resigning, without quitting. We recommended the third choice, which was what he also had decided to do. Because history teaches us that every popular leader overthrown in those circumstances, if he's not killed the people claim him, and sooner or later he returns to power.

IR: At that moment, did you try to help Chávez somehow?

FC: Well, we could act only by using the resources of diplomacy. In the middle of the night we summoned all the ambassadors accredited to Havana and we proposed to them that they accompany Felipe [Pérez Roque], our Foreign Minister, to Caracas to rescue Chávez, the legitimate president of Venezuela. We proposed sending two planes to bring him here, in case the putschists decided to send him into exile.

Chávez had been imprisoned by the military putschists and his whereabouts were unknown. The television repeatedly reported the news of his "resignation" to demobilize his supporters, the people. But at one point, they allow Chávez to make a phone call and he manages to talk to his daughter, María Gabriela. And he tells her that he has not quit, that he has not resigned. That he is "a president under arrest." And he asks her to spread that news.

The daughter then has the bold idea to phone me and she informs me. She confirms to me that her father has not resigned. We then decided to assume the defense of the Venezuelan democracy, since we had proof that countries like the United States and Spain—the government of José María Aznar—who talk so much about democracy and criticize Cuba so much, were backing the coup d'état.

We asked María Gabriela to repeat it and recorded the conversation she had with Randy Alonso, the moderator of the Cuban TV program "Mesa Redonda" [Round Table], which had great international repercussion. In addition, we summoned the entire foreign news media accredited to Cuba—by then it must have been 4 o'clock in the morning—we informed them and played them the testimony of Chávez's daughter. CNN broadcast it at once and the news spread like a flash of gunpowder throughout Venezuela.

IR: And what was the consequence of that?

FC: Well, that was heard by the military people faithful to Chávez, who had been deceived by the lie about a resignation, and then there is a contact with a general who is on Chávez's side. I talk to him on the phone. I confirm to him personally that what the daughter said is true and that the entire world knows Chávez has not resigned.

I talk with him a long time. He informs me about the military situation, about which high-ranking officers are siding with Chávez and which are not. I understand that nothing is lost, because the best units of the Armed Forces, the most combative, the best trained, were in favor of Chávez. I tell that officer that the most urgent task is to find out where Chávez is being detained and to send loyal forces there to rescue him.

He then asks me to talk to his superior officer and turns me over to him. I repeat what Chávez's daughter has said, and stress that he continues to be the constitutional president. I remind him of the necessary loyalty, I talk to him about Bolívar and the history of Venezuela. And that high-ranking officer, in a gesture of patriotism and fidelity to the Constitution, asserts to me that, if it's true that Chávez has not resigned, he continues to be faithful to the president under arrest.

IR: But even at that moment nobody knows where Chávez is, true?

FC: Meanwhile, Chávez has been taken to the island of La Orchila. He is incommunicado. The Archbishop of Caracas goes to see him and counsels him to resign. "To avoid a civil war," he says. He commits humanitarian blackmail. He asks [Chávez] to write a letter saying he is resigning.

Chávez doesn't know what's happening in Caracas or the rest of the country. They've already tried to execute him, but the men in the firing squad have refused and threatened to mutiny. Many of the soldiers who guard Chávez are ready to defend him and to prevent his assassination. Chávez tries to gain time with the bishop. He writes drafts of a statement. He fears that once he finishes the letter, [his captors] will arrange to eliminate him. He has no intention of resigning. He declares that they'll have to kill him first. And that there will be no constitutional solution then.

IR: Meanwhile, was it still your intention to send planes to rescue him and take him into exile?

FC: No, after that conversation with the Venezuelan generals, we changed plans. We shelved Felipe's proposition to travel with the ambassadors to Caracas. What's more, shortly thereafter we hear a rumor that the putschists are proposing to expel Chávez to Cuba. And we immediately announce that if they send Chávez here, we shall send him back to Venezuela on the first available plane.

IR: How does Chávez return to power?

FC: Well, at one point we again get in contact with the first general with whom I had spoken and he informs me that they've located Chávez, that he's on the island of La Orchila. We talk about the best way to rescue him. With great respect, I recommend three basic steps: discretion, efficacy and overwhelming force. The parachutists from the base at Maracay, the best unit of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, who are faithful to Chávez, carry out the rescue.

Meanwhile, in Caracas, the people have mobilized, asking for Chávez's return. The presidential guard has reoccupied Miraflores [Palace] and also demands the president's return. It expels the putschists from the palace. Pedro Carmona, president of the management association and very temporary President-usurper of Venezuela, is almost arrested right there at the palace.

Finally, at dawn on April 14, 2002, rescued by the faithful soldiers, Chávez arrives in Miraflores amid a popular apotheosis. I almost did not sleep the two days of the Caracas coup, but it was worthwhile for me to see how a people, and also patriotic soldiers, defended the law. The tragedy of Chile in 1973 was not repeated.

It's an amazing interview. Be sure to read the full piece (which is actually a book excerpt) at the link.

Suddenly, it all becomes clear as to why Chavez is engaging in so much trade and other normalizing relations with Cuba. He can't be unaware that his mentoring, life-saving buddy is getting on in years and won't be around for much longer. So it's more than possible that he wants to create a stabilizing transition process, and bring Cuba in from the cold...before Uncle Sam can horn in. And we all know that whatever Uncle Sam has touched in Latin America, hasn't turned out all that well.

Cuba, which has indisputably given a great deal to Venezuela, surely deserves a better fate!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Ask a silly question...

The Chavez question

"Hugo Chavez: visionary or hallucinator?"

The Chavez answer!

I think we all know the answer.

April 20, 2006

Spot the repressive dictatorship

Isn't it nice to know that China doesn't have a monopoly on suppression of dissent?

President George W. Bush apologized to Chinese President Hu Jintao after he was screamed at by a Falungong protester during an official ceremony at the White House.

Bush was visibly embarrassed by the incident in which the woman, accredited as a reporter for a newspaper founded by the spiritual movement, repeatedly shouted "Falun Dafa is good!" as Hu made a speech.

The woman was detained and charged and the US president "expressed his regret" to the Chinese leader as soon as the "restricted session" of the summit started, according to US national security advisor Stephen Hadley.

Bush said "this is unfortunate, I'm sorry that this happened," according to another security council official, Dennis Wilder.

"President Hu was very gracious about it," Hadley told CNN television, calling the incident "a blip".

He added: "It's unfortunate. It's really not about freedom of speech."

No, of course not. We all know it's not free speech in America anymore unless it agrees point for point with the latest gassings from the Shite House. And if it doesn't, the speaker gets bundled out of sight and never heard from again...just like that guy who confronted the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Whatever did happen to him?

BTW, here's Attytood's take on it all. Seems CNN is looking more like the Chinese state media everyday, too.

Freedom, anyone? Democracy? Peaceful protest? Free press? Dissent? Anyone???

Oh. Wait.

China owns a huge hunk of the US debt, doesn't it.

Never mind...never mind.

(PS: Today is the anniversary of Hitler's cursed birth. How singularly appropriate!)

(PPS: Just wrote to Mike Malloy, under the header "Have you forgotten what day this is?": "It's Hitler's birthday. Isn't that just so appropriate, considering Bush just told Hu Jintao, in effect, to 'watch this drive'?" And Mike read it on the air! Yes!!!)

April 19, 2006

Now we KNOW Ortega will win

After all, there's no endorsement like Uncle Sam's disapproval. Or BushCo's:

The United States has called on Nicaraguans not to vote for the former leftist leader, Daniel Ortega, in November's presidential elections.

A state department spokesman said politicians like the Sandinista leader were "discredited figures from the country's political past".

Mr Ortega's Sandinistas led Nicaragua in the 1980s with strong US opposition.

And looky who the US funded to oppose those pesky Sandinistas.

No wonder no one listens to the US anymore.

Simple Scotty and Unka Karl--out, OUT!

Not only is it a two-fer, but there's also been an "incident" concerning those two, and Bush's presidential helicopter, Marine One. Whatever could it be?

As Rat Sludge would say, "DEVELOPING..."

Naomi, you should know better!

The ongoing saga of the Duke University lacrosse team and the black stripper accusing them of sexual assault sure is manna for all the woman-hating wingnuts out there. Not to mention the self-hating women among them. Just look this pile of drivel that's turned up in the good old Wall Street Journal lately, under the unlikely section labelled "Taste":

If you have attended college any time in the past 20 years, you will have heard that if a woman is forced against her will to have sex, it is "not her fault" and that women always have the right to "control their own bodies." Nothing could be truer. But the administrators who utter these sentiments and the feminists who inspire them rarely note which situations are conducive to keeping that control and which threaten it. They rarely discuss what to do to reduce the likelihood of a rape. Short of re-educating men, that is.

Well, duh. That's the whole idea behind "no means no", isn't it--re-educating men? Feminism doesn't exactly operate in a vacuum, any more than your average woman does. So why stop short of re-educating men? Seems to me that some of them could do with it.

After giving a sop to the notion that maybe feminists might have a point, and that sociopathy just might exist on university campuses (well, duh--again!), the author, one Naomi Schaefer Riley (gawd, I just love these anti-feminists who use a double-barreled surname to lend them faux-feminist gravitas!) goes on to blame...no, not sexism...no, not racism...wait for it...DRUNKEN JEZEBELS GONE WILD!

What to do? For starters: Be wary of drunken house parties.

Now, readers may well assume that this advice is obvious and that no Duke coed would ever do what the stripper, by her own account, did: Upon finding 40 men at the party instead of the four for whom she agreed to "dance," she stayed and performed anyway. When the partygoers began shouting what she described as racial epithets and violent threats, she left but returned after an apology from a team member. A stripper with street smarts is apparently a Hollywood myth.

But smart women at top schools are engaging in behavior that is equally moronic. In another recent incident, a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., apparently got so drunk on two liters of wine and a couple of glasses of beer that she didn't know that she had had sex with a Naval Academy midshipman until he told a friend of hers the next day to get her the morning-after pill.

In a survey conducted two years ago by the Harvard School of Public Health, one in every 20 women reported having been raped in college during the previous seven months. Rape statistics are notoriously unreliable, but the kicker rings true: "Nearly three-quarters of those rapes happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse." And those are just the ones who admitted it.

"Admitted it"? Naomi, you sure sound like you're blaming the victims. You forget it's the perpetrators, not the alcohol, doing all the raping!

But oh, listen to me. I'm talking from the viewpoint of basic common sense here. I'm also speaking as a woman who's had too much to drink in all kinds of company, and somehow managed not to get her impudent ass raped for it. I've managed to walk five miles along a busy stretch of highway in the wee hours with a dozen beers in me, and come out of it in far better shape than the macho guy I was with. I've even taken it for granted that, drunk or sober, men would only lay unwanted hands on me at their own peril. (My basis for doing so? The law, kiddies.) And yes, I've had the audacity to assume that I have just as much right to drink as any man, and a right to drink as much as he. I've put quite a few guys under the table; some were twice my size. Consequently, I simply don't see rape as the moral price of my daring to act on an equal footing with any male. And worst of all, I'm daring to defend my boozy jezebellion on the grounds of...gasp...evil, disinhibiting RADICAL FEMINISM! Oh, the humanity!!!

But soft. This isn't about li'l ol' lucky-ducky me. It's about Naomi the Victim-Blaming Conservative Scold. Let's get back to her intemperate ramblings, shall we?

The odd thing is that feminism may be partly to blame. Time magazine reporter Barrett Seaman explains that many of the college women he interviewed for his book "Binge" (2005) "saw drinking as a gender equity issue; they have as much right as the next guy to belly up to the bar." Leaving biology aside--most women's bodies can't take as much alcohol as men's--the fact of the matter is that men simply are not, to use the phrase of another generation, "taken advantage of" in the way women are.

Well, here's another "duh" for y'all. There's a very good reason why women don't take advantage of a drunken man: why they don't rip off his pants, saddle up and ride him to Queendom Come. It's a fact that too much booze tends to make a gal sleepy, weepy or pukey, not horny. It also owes something to the deleterious effect that being passed-out drunk has on a man's genitalia, never mind his sex appeal. Here's equality for you, Naomi, with a vengeance: DRUNKS OF EITHER SEX MAKE LOUSY LOVERS! I'm sorry, but I don't know of any more delicate way of putting it so that I don't offend your vaporous sensibilities, dear...

Radical feminists used to warn that men are evil and dangerous. Andrea Dworkin made a career of it. But that message did not seem reconcilable with another core feminist notion--that women should be liberated from social constraints, especially those that require them to behave differently from men. So the first message was dropped and the second took over.

Now, this just makes no sense whatsoever--and now I know that someone here has had one too many, and it ain't me. There were never two messages, Naomi, just one: WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL AND SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED AS SUCH UNDER THE LAW. I don't know what kind of straw-woman you've got in mind for a radical feminist, but I suggest you burn it and get a more lifelike model.

And just so's you know, I'm a radical feminist (radical = pertaining to, dealing with, or coming from the root) and no one ever told me that men are evil and dangerous (except, maybe, conservative pundits like you, trying to scare girls out of a little fun.) In all the time I volunteered at my university women's centre, no one ever told me that I must hate and fear men while simultaneously trying to live on an equal footing with them. (Now how can that be? I must not have gotten that directive from Radical Feminist HQ. Damn! Out of the loop again!)

Mind you, it's not that we didn't speak out against rape. I remember how a bunch of male students decided to mock the campus "No Means No" campaign by posting signs in their dorm windows, giving vent to such charming sentiments as:

NO MEANS SHE'S A DYKE

NO MEANS MORE BEER

NO MEANS KICK HER IN THE TEETH

and others that don't really bear repeating here; you get the idea.

The guys were high-fiving each other over this little coup for common sense and good old-fashioned values and morals. They also thought it was funnier than hell. But women who've actually endured that treatment, who are by no means uncommon (and certainly weren't unheard of even on our ivory-towered campus), somehow failed to get the joke. Hmmm, maybe they were all just humorless bitches? The guys who perpetrated that "joke" sure tried to convince us that was the case.

We didn't let them.

We wrote letters to the student newspaper (and endured the obligatory nuisance phone calls, initially disguised as "polite" efforts to get us to "reconsider" our "extreme" views. Suffice to say, though, that the callers didn't take kindly to our calmly and rationally sticking to our guns.)

In the end, we got those unfunny signs torn down. We also got people thinking harder than they otherwise might about the unfairness of the booze/rape/sexism dynamic, which is about as much as you can ask under the circumstances. Yeah, you might even say we re-educated some men. What a concept! (And it works, too!)

But try telling that to the dry, humorless Ms. Riley, who ends her screed thusly:

The radical-feminist message was of course wrongheaded--most men are harmless, even those who play lacrosse--but it could be useful as a worst-case scenario for young women today. There is an alternative, but to paraphrase Miss Manners: People who need to be told to use their common sense probably didn't have much to begin with.

One would have to be pretty trashed to swallow this hodgepodge holus-bolus. We are basically being asked to believe that (a) the lacrosse team is innocent (just because most men are!); (b) any woman at a party is fair game, especially if she's drunk and/or black and/or a stripper; and (c) women are still to blame for whatever a man does to them, and so should just hold themselves to a higher standard while not expecting the men to change. Rubbish, all of it!

If you had any common sense or good manners yourself, Naomi, you'd withhold all these trite little value judgments until the verdict comes back--and you might want to stop blaming women for the acts of men lest you yourself ever get caught in that trap. Exercise a little basic logic: Do we hold men accountable for what women do? No. So, then, why defend a daffy double standard that hurts you as much as it does any other woman?

You, of all people, should know better.

April 17, 2006

45 years ago in Cuba...

Here's another little snippet the CIA would rather we all forgot, courtesy of Prensa Latina:

The smoke of the battle of Playa Giron dissipated 45 years ago when the Cuban people defeated the mercenary attack concocted by the US to destroy the then-emerging Cuban revolution.

The goal of the mercenary brigade, trained and armed by the White House to invade Cuba, was to make a beachhead and install a counterrevolutionary government in three days, composed of people from the US military base of Oppalocka, FL.

That puppet government, following its recognition by Washington and the Organization of American States, would request direct US military intervention in Cuba, disregarding the number of people probably killed or the international laws violated.

The General Staff and then President John F Kennedy approved the invasion and planes camouflaged with Cuban flags took off from Central American nations on April 15, as Operation Puma to destroy Cuba´s air defense, bombing the airports in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

The CIA called that plan "Operation Pluto" and the 1,400 mercenaries who invaded the Island were backed by 30 planes, a tank company, ten trucks with machine guns, 19 mortars, 18 cannons, rifles, bazookas and ammunition.

The fleet included five gunboats, two war units, three landing craft, tanks and trucks with artillery emplacements and four vessels to transport troops. Marine units made up of at least two destroyers and an aircraft carrier also backed a battalion of parachutists dropped at three points to consolidate control of the beachhead.

At the UN, the US claimed the invasion, of US-armed, trained and transported mercenary brigade 2506 that landed in the Zapata Swamp on April 17, was a local uprising against the revolution.

The invaders were made to believe they would be warmly welcomed in Cuba, although the leaders knew most Cubans supported the Revolution, and the bravery of Cuban militiamen gave a quick revolutionary victory and shattered the plans.

In only 66 hours the Cubans, led by President Fidel Castro, defeated the invaders who surrendered at Giron Beach on April 19, 1961.

The first program of State terrorism the US elaborated against Cuba was thus destroyed.

And we all know who's been bitter and unforgiving ever since. And willing to do anything, including sponsor further terrorism, rather than leave Cuba in peace to pursue its own course.

What's really comical about the Bay of Pigs invasion (and everything since) is how it has only served to further entrench the rule of Fidel Castro, rather than unseat him. To this day, the wily old cat is still flipping the bird at Miami and Washington, with no signs of let-up.

While I'm not sure what to make of his policies (real, unbiased news from or about Cuba is damn hard to come by), I can only admire his tenacity, his resourcefulness and of course, his humor. Can anyone deny the hilarity of an overweening government (which styles itself as the world's policeman), its supposedly top-notch spies, and its expensive, high-tech military machine--all arraying themselves futilely against one elderly, stubborn guerrilla leader thumbing his nose at them from an impoverished little island ninety miles offshore? If this were a movie, it would be a screwball comedy, along the lines of The Gods Must Be Crazy or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (Or, if it were on TV, it'd be a cross between Soap and I Love Lucy.)

Now, if only certain people would get a sense of humor...and lay off Cuba at last. But since they're bound and determined not to, I rather hope Fidel outlives every last one of them, and dies with his thumb firmly pressed to his nose.

He probably will, too.

US Congresscritters find their gonads

Well, some of them, anyhow.

They've written a letter to Dubya, urging him to send known terrorist (and former CIA asset) Luis Posada Carriles back to Venezuela to face justice, and to refuse him citizenship in the United States.

The following congresspeople are true heroes:

Dennis J. Kucinich

Raul M. Grijalva

Jose E. Serrano

Barbara Lee

Cynthia McKinney

Maurice Hinchey

John W. Olver

Bobby L. Rush

James P. McGovern

Edolphus Towns

Donald M. Payne

Sam Farr

Lane Evans

Bennie G. Thompson

Carolyn B. Maloney

Ed Pastor

Tammy Baldwin

Sheila Jackson Lee

Lynn Woolsey

Maxine Waters

As for the rest, I guess they're just not serious about fighting terrorism...and no doubt some of them would prefer to harbor--or even negotiate with the bastards instead of bringing them to justice.

April 16, 2006

Happy Easter to all...

And to all, a good bunny!

My butt hurts!

April 15, 2006

Headline Howlers: You found a what? WHERE???

"FBI probes Nuclear Reactor Hole".

Please, do NOT use your tongues, fellas.

April 14, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: An easy cross to bear

Hugo Chavez celebrates Palm Sunday

Hugo Chavez celebrates Palm Sunday on his TV show, Alo Presidente.

Happy Easter, Chavecito!

Too true to be truly funny

Tom Toles 'toon, too true

This would be a good time to start rethinking all that, yes?

I can think of many things worse

I'm not sure in what spirit this article was written, but if it's a spirit of regret for die Vergangenheit, the author really ought to reconsider. And count the blessings:

For decades, Latin America was referred to as the United States' "backyard." Today, such a statement could be regarded as reckless, since the United States appears to be losing allies by the handful in the region. Almost all of South America appears to be shifting to the left, partially because North America has abandoned the region, but also due to deception of native upper-class criollo [native] oligarchs.

A Washington Post article last week suggested that while the Bush Administration sinks deeper and deeper into Iraq, abandoning Latin America and contributing only a paltry sum of money in aid, Venezuelan Head-of-State Hugo Chavez distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to allied parties and governments throughout the hemisphere.

Talk about historical ironies. For decades, the United States sponsored corrupt military dictatorships in Latin America with no regard for establishing democracy or stimulating economic growth in the region. Now, Hugo Chavez finances parties with dubious democratic credentials, who are burdened by the resentment and confrontation between social classes. In this sense, the right seems to be more independent of Washington than the left appears to be of Caracas or Havana.

The United States isn't "losing" Latin America. Rather, it is us, Latin Americans, who are losing our own countries, our own democracy, our own social peace, and our liberty.

(Footnote): In one day, the United States invests in Iraq the same amount that it will donate to Central America in an entire fiscal year. This figure dramatically reflects U.S. abandonment of the region.

(Italics as in the original.)

This ties in quite neatly, albeit not consciously, to this BBC article, in which the B-word ("backyard") is also bandied about:

There is trouble ahead for Uncle Sam in his own backyard. Big trouble.

It is one of the most important and yet largely untold stories of our world in 2006. George W Bush has lost Latin America.

While the Bush administration has been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America have become a festering sore - the worst for years.

Virtually anyone paying attention to events in Venezuela and Nicaragua in the north to Peru and Bolivia further south, plus in different ways Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, comes to the same conclusion: there is a wave of profound anti-American feeling stretching from the Texas border to the Antarctic.

And almost everyone believes it will get worse.

President Bush came into office declaring that Latin America was a priority. That's hardly surprising. It's been a priority for every American president since James Monroe in 1823 whose "Monroe Doctrine" told European nations to keep out of Latin American affairs.

In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.

For his part, President Bush even suggested that the United States had no more important ally than... wait for it... Mexico.

None of that survived the attacks of 9/11.

Mr Bush launched his War on Terror and re-discovered the usefulness of allies like Britain.

While Washington's attention turned to al-Qaeda, the Taleban, Iraq and now Iran, in country after county in Latin America voters chose governments of the left, sometimes the implacably "anti-gringo" left, loudly out of sympathy with George Bush's vision of the world, and reflecting a continent with the world's greatest gulf between rich and poor.

Now, the Beeb's author is making this sound like a Very Bad Thing. Why? Certainly I don't get the impression that the poor of Latin America have any regrets about it all. If they did, they'd be casting the ballots with one hand and holding their noses with the other, and the "anti-American" (actually PRO-American, in the sense of being pro-Latin America, and therefore anti-Bush and anti-interference) candidates wouldn't have the convincing leads (and in many cases, outright majorities) that they do. That's not happening. Instead, they're all apparently thanking heaven that Bush's attention is elsewhere. And that's quite the change from 20 years ago.

For those whose memories need refreshing, I offer the following link: Rotten.com's inimitable summary of the Iran-Contra scandal. Now, this was Washingtonian interference at its scungiest. It allowed the proliferation of all kinds of terrorists: Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and a vast assortment of pseudonymous drug-traffickers who, with the CIA's connivance and co-operation, were able to ignite the devastating inner-city crack cocaine epidemic of the latter 1980s. All of this was covered beautifully by the late Gary Webb, whose collection of articles, Dark Alliance, is a classic of investigative reporting (and also damn hard to find anymore, even used, at least up in my neck of the woods. Thank heaven, therefore, for the Internets!)

The Contras were styled by Reagan's propagandists as "freedom fighters", but they were the polar opposite of that. As their training manual revealed, they were well versed in tactics that would, by any reasonable standard, be called terrorism.

Of course, right-wingers not being reasonable, they persisted in referring to the Contras as "freedom fighters" long after it became clear to the rest of the world that freedom was the last thing these cockroaches would ever fight for. Some poor dumbfucks are still calling them that. Probably because the same terrorist tactics used then, are still in use today--most notably in Abu Ghraib. And we all know how they are about the difference between a rape room under Saddam, and one under the US Armed Forces...

Oh, and get this: A leading financier of those phony "freedom fighters" was none other than Hugo Chavez's would-be nemesis, Pat Robertson. (Quick refresher on his past dalliances with strong-armed dictators--real ones--here.)

So...Uncle Sam's "backyard" is Uncle Sam's no longer. Oh, and it's not the backyard, either. It's called Latin America, and it's steering a new course that looks suspiciously like its very own. Poor rightards--and after all that hard work, too! Now they're seeing it slip out of their clutches because they're too busy dealing with blowback from other black ops gone seriously awry...

The only other people bemoaning this situation (besides the Miami "Cuban exiles", who like to foment anti-leftist sentiment and terrorism, even in places that shouldn't concern them) are the local pro-Washington elites and oligarchs, who are accustomed to selling out their country and banking their share of the spoils (in US dollars, naturally) elsewhere. And who spend so much time in Southern Florida that they might as well call themselves gringos. For them, the glory days of easy, pilfered money and all the undeserved power it could buy are history. For them, nothing less than the world's smallest violin will do...

The poor folk they used to trample, however, can think of many things worse. So can I.

April 13, 2006

Venezuela to SEC: So long, suckas!

Now THIS is sovereignty with a vengeance...

Venezuela's state oil firm has said it will no longer disclose information to US financial regulators after paying off debts in the US.

PDVSA said it was no longer obliged to be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after buying up $83m in US-traded bonds.

[...]

PDVSA had been obliged to disclose financial information to the SEC because it held bonds which were traded on US markets.

With this no longer the case, the company said it would make its last disclosure to the watchdog in May, outlining its 2004 performance.

Currently, details of profits made by PDVSA through exports, refining and production are publicly available in the US.

Venezuela has sought to reduce its dependence on the US for oil exports, signing deals with other Latin American and Caribbean nations such as Jamaica and Cuba.

I don't know how to say "Fuck you" in Spanish, but I'm glad someone else does.

How singularly appropriate

As the line in the Gilberto Gil song, "Soy loco por ti, America" goes: El nombre del hombre es pueblo...

The life of Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, is to be turned into a film.

Producers plan to use a TV reality show to cast those who will play him at different stages of his life. Viewers will choose who gets the coveted roles.

In Search of the Southern Cross will depict Mr Morales from his modest beginnings in the Andean Plateau all the way to his presidential victory.

A former coca grower, Mr Morales is the first indigenous person to rise to the country's highest office.

The film's Bolivian producer, Wilson Asturizaga plans to shoot the project on a very modest $50,000 (£28,500) budget.

That is well below the tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, spent on a typical Hollywood blockbuster in the United States.

The main character will not be named Juan Evo Morales Ayma, President Morales' full name.

Instead, he will be called Juan Pueblo, or Joe Public, in a tribute to the fact that Evo Morales is just like everybody else and not a member of Bolivia's wealthy elite.

The producers hope to cast the film in May and to have it ready for release by October 2006, in time for the third anniversary of the street protests in 2003 in which 60 people died.

It was those protests which eventually forced the resignation of then President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and paved the way for Evo Morales' final ascent to the top.

(Added links mine.)

Could there be a more singularly appropriate way of telling the story of Evo Morales than this--a movie with an extremely modest budget, with actors chosen by popular vote? (This is the president who cut his own salary, and has the largest ever popular vote count in Bolivian history.)

The name of the man is Public, indeed.

Finally, a good use for camera-phone technology!

Fuck yeah! And not a minute too soon, either. I was getting so sick of hearing about all those slimewads who use them to photograph what's up women's skirts (a gross violation of privacy and personal space, BTW...and just one of the many reasons why I love my pants.) For that matter, I'm also sick of those slimewads posting bogus trackbacks to here...which of course, will net them no publicity as they're automatically junked.

Anyhow: If you haven't been there yet, you MUST see HollaBackNYC. Sure to become more than just a Noo Yawk thing very soon. It's a blog dedicated to, as the name implies, hollering back at the harassers and the look-at-her-ass-ers that seem to abound just about everywhere, and who exist, it seems, just to piss us off.

The idea is beautifully simple, too...just snap a shot of the shit, write a post explaining where it happened, what was said, etc., and e-mail it to the blogger.

Some posts, like this one, really don't need a whole lot of explaining. It's one I can so relate to, as I once faced down a curb-crawling wanker of mine own. He asked me for directions, and if I hadn't glimpsed some motion out of the corner of my eye, I'd never have known. Put me off my feed for weeks, man. Who ever knew a penis could be so butt-ugly? This one was damn near unrecognizable. Yes, it was that bad. And I had studied anatomy the previous year, so I was pretty much inured to bizarre sex organs, pickled and dissected to boot. But then again--they were dead. Once I realized what the guy was bouncing around in his hand, I was anxious to get away. But at the same time, I had to try to make it look like I hadn't even noticed. And since I was within two city blocks of my apartment--a basement apartment, where I lived alone--well. All's I can say is, it's a good thing the guy was apparently stoned and really slow on the uptake.

And speaking of stoners slow on the uptake, check out this guy. I swear, that's the dickweed my sister finally dumped after 5+ years of icky. Looks just like him except for the chin hair. Ewwwwww!

But for the real joy of guys-you'd-never-have-sex-with, the Holla Shame is a must. It's the sweet side of sour. Seeing a clever chick sending up these asshats is a gas. Almost makes one wish for an opportunity of one's own...

...but guys, PLEASE. Don't push your luck. There's a reason why I flip you off when you honk from the curb expecting me to get out of your dreams and into your car!

April 12, 2006

It happened before. It can happen again.

For some strange reason, I find this news item very disturbing. See if you can tell me why...

Military maneuvers in the Caribbean are being carried out by the US, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and countries from the hemisphere -- excluding Cuba and Venezuela, which are the potential objectives of this demonstration of force.

The USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Strike Group is leading the "Partnership of the Americas" air and naval exercises.

Along with the carrier will participate a destroyer, the USS Stout; a guided-missile frigate, the USS Underwood; possibly two nuclear submarines, and some 6,500 sailors, reported Prensa Latina news agency.

According to public statements, the objectives are to "strengthen military relations between the US Navy and countries in the region" and to "join forces to fight drug trafficking and terrorism."

Nonetheless, regional analysts think that this air, sea and ground reconnaissance could be aimed at evaluating the potential of an attack by the US against Venezuela.

Future exercises will involve roughly 4,000 soldiers from the US, Holland, Belgium, Canada and France, who are scheduled to participate in a maneuver being dubbed the "Joint Caribbean Lion," to take place between May 23 and June 15 in Curacao and Guadeloupe.

This military exercise will be one of the largest organized in the last several years and will have its headquarters at the Hato Rey naval base in Curacao.

Meanwhile, the United States and the United Kingdom have recently concluded the "Trade Winds" military exercises in Jamaica, which included ground, air and sea operations.

And now, a blast from the past:

Wayne Madsen, a former intelligence officer with the US navy, told the Guardian yesterday that American military attaches had been in touch with members of the Venezuelan military to examine the possibility of a coup.

"I first heard of Lieutenant Colonel James Rogers [the assistant military attache now based at the US embassy in Caracas] going down there last June to set the ground," Mr Madsen, an intelligence analyst, said yesterday. "Some of our counter-narcotics agents were also involved."

He said that the navy was in the area for operations unconnected to the coup, but that he understood they had assisted with signals intelligence as the coup was played out.

Mr Madsen also said that the navy helped with communications jamming support to the Venezuelan military, focusing on communications to and from the diplomatic missions in Caracas belonging to Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq - the four countries which had expressed support for Mr Chavez.

Navy vessels on a training exercise in the area were supposedly put on stand-by in case evacuation of US citizens in Venezuela was required.

In Caracas, a congressman has accused the US ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, and two US embassy military attaches of involvement in the coup.

"Stand-by in case evacuation was required", my ass. They were probably only on standby in case Fuerte Tiuna was retaken by the Chavistas (which, in fact it was--and so was Miraflores Palace.) More likely, the vessel served as an alternate command post.

There's a reason why I'm putting this up here today. Scroll down a bit and see if you can tell me what it is.

They tip over in those desert winds...

Surprise, surprise. Those WMD trailers BushCo used as their pretext to declare war on Iraq? Turns out there was nothing in 'em...

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The authors of the reports were nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons -- who were dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers. Their actions and findings were described to a Washington Post reporter in interviews with six government officials and weapons experts who participated in the mission or had direct knowledge of it.

None would consent to being identified by name because of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized. Their accounts were verified by other current and former government officials knowledgeable about the mission. The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

(Emphasis mine.)

So, Liberal US Media (so-called), answer me this: Why weren't you hammering away at this nonsense? How could you be so damned uncritical? Why were you leaving it to the foreign media, the alternative media--and assorted beyond-the-pale unbelievers to whom no rightards listen?

Oh yeah, that's right...you were afraid of losing your precious White House press passes.

You may now go back to your regularly scheduled snoozing.

Brownfield's barrio gambit: what really lies behind it?

NOW the truth comes out!

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning acts of violence against US Ambassador William Brownfield on Friday.

Acting Minister Alcides Rondon confirms that Venezuelan Ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez has received a formal complaint from State Department sub- secretary, Nicholas Burns, alleging inappropriate protection on the part of Venezuelan security forces.

Burns states that Venezuela's domestic security agencies are fully informed of Brownfield's official program and failed in their duty.

The Ambassador was pelted with eggs and harassed by motorcyclists during a visit to a Caracas barrio to donate baseball equipment.

The State Department has threatened to restrict Ambassador Alvarez's movements outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington in retaliation.

Rondon affirms his government's resolve to honor its international obligations, such as the Vienna Convention but says Brownfield's visit to Coche was ill-advised since there is a controversy regarding control of said sports ground.

Rondon also doubts that the State Department will restrict the Venezuelan Ambassador's movements.

The Ministry has also questioned the US Embassy's treatment of Venezuela's State Political & Security Police (DISIP) units that protect the Embassy. On February 10, a unit was withdrawn from the Embassy entrance and since then has remained on the outer protection circle.

"The Ambassador accepted the measure at the behest of his security chief ... since then, the Ambassador's agenda is unknown to our security organs."

Rondon insists that given the country's political situation there are places where some people are not welcome ... "I'm certain that the Mayor or DISIP would have advised against the visit at that particular moment."

But of course, Brownfield chose to disregard any such advice, assuming he was even receiving it; he could very well have instructed his staff to ignore anything coming from the Venezuelan authorities. One might wonder why, if, unlike me, one hadn't been paying attention lately. But here's what's really going on:

Right now, Venezuela is marking the 4th anniversary of the coup of 2002, which nearly resulted in the murder of President Chavez. The coup lasted from April 11 to 13; Chavez returned to the presidential palace, Miraflores, soon after the coup plotters were surrounded and forced to surrender. It was cooperation between civilians and loyal army soldiers that brought him back; the loyalty of the army, in particular, was what saved his life. They had orders from the US-backed putschist dictator, Pedro Carmona, to "rub him out", but they knew that their own lives would be worth nothing if they carried those orders out; a solid majority of the population was behind Chavez. Two US military men were directing operations at Venezuelan military headquarters in Fuerte Tiuna around the time Carmona gave the orders to suspend all democratic institutions in Venezuela. And most incriminatingly, the US ambassador at the time, Charles Shapiro, was seen leaving a consultation all huggy-kissy with Carmona himself, so there is no WAY he could not have known--or not placed the US State Dept.'s seal of approval on it all.

The fact is, any BushCo-appointed ambassador to Venezuela will be less a fair-minded diplomat than a loyal dog (of the pit-bull variety; see for example Otto Reich). BushCo is extremely hostile to Chavez; this is no secret. And the people of the poor barrios of Caracas have certainly not forgotten the part a US ambassador played in the coup of 2002, so there is no reason why such a lame effort to buy their sympathy would succeed.

The US embassy's refusal of DISIP protection and/or its ignoring DISIP's (and the mayor's) advice to stay out of the barrios therefore plays into the desire of BushCo to paint itself as a benevolent martyr facing down a bunch of uncivilized third-world ingrates, and to portray Chavez as a dangerous dictator who refuses to protect foreign diplomats. Absolute nonsense, of course, when you consider the fact that the Canadian ambassador is still entirely safe, has not had her movements in any way restricted, and has had nothing bad to say about local authorities, even after the recent murders of three Canadian/Venezuelan kids and their driver by kidnappers who held them for ransom. The opposition is trying to use THAT particular tragedy against Chavez, over the request of the boys' own mother, to all parties, not to do such a thing. (Report on that here, in Spanish, with video.) Not only that, but they've apparently taken to attacking cars at random themselves (report here, also in Spanish, with several incriminating videos!)

You have to wonder who the real third-world ingrates in Venezuela are...so far as I can see, they're the sort of people that are always begging Washington to come "liberate" them from the evil "dictator" Chavez. That sort, interestingly enough, lives not in poor barrios but in well-to-do gated communities. One really wonders what they're so afraid of, since they haven't exactly been cast into poverty themselves, nor have their liberties (including the "right" to thuggishly molest random motorists) been in any way curtailed by the "dictator" they never miss a chance, however contrived, to denounce...

By contrast, the most I've seen in the news about Canada/Venezuela relations since that incident is stuff like this little item, in which it's announced that Air Canada is hoping to make daily flights between Caracas and Toronto by 2007. Doesn't sound like they've been frightened away; quite the opposite. With jet fuel prices as high as they are, this announcement strikes me as a quiet vote of confidence in the Chavez presidency and the improvements made to life in Venezuela since he came into office. (So does this recent article, in which Ambassador Wielgosz visits--and praises!--the Mision Mercal stores and community kitchens that help keep barrio residents affordably and nutritiously fed.)

So it seems Canadian diplomats are safe in Caracas. But then again, Caracas is also safe from the depredations of Canadian diplomats! There's nothing to even suggest the Canadian embassy being involved in any anti-Chavez plots. Big surprise there, eh: Our government isn't BushCo. And our diplomats, so far as I know, really ARE diplomats--and not covert agents of a foreign policy based on anti-democratic disruption.

Criminal charges for Colonia Dignidad

The Beeb updates an ongoing story:

A Chilean judge has indicted 18 people linked to a former German colony in southern Chile over human rights abuses committed during military rule.

Among them are two former commanders of the Chilean secret police, as well as Paul Schaefer, the colony's founder.

The judge says the security services used the sprawling property to hide kidnapped dissidents.

Last year, the state took control of the enclave. Mr Schaefer is in jail facing separate child abuse charges.

In January, Judge Jorge Zepeda inspected a suspected mass grave at the enclave, known as Colonia Dignidad.

It is thought dozens of bodies were buried there but later moved.

The judge accused the colony's former leaders of allowing the security services to use their 13,000-hectare (32,000-acre) farm.

His indictment said "members of the colony armed themselves and developed a precise system of co-operation with the security services of the military regime," the Associated Press reported.

It said this allowed the secret service to kidnap civilians who were taken to the colony and kept there.

Among those accused are retired generals Manuel Contreras and Pedro Espinoza, commanders of the secret police, Dina, during General Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

Both are currently serving prison sentences in connection with other human rights cases.

Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi and Baptist preacher, established the colony in 1961, after fleeing Germany to escape child abuse charges.

Most of the commune's residents are believed to have been held there against their will.

A Chilean congressional report has said that Colonia Dignidad operated as a "state within a state" during General Pinochet's regime, thanks to Mr Schaefer's close ties to the country's ruling elite.

It's high time someone was held accountable, but the biggest lump of scum in this whole affair is still free...and still thumbing his elderly nose at justice. Somehow, I don't see him being brought to justice within his own lifetime.

April 11, 2006

There once was a man from Nantucket

There once was a man from Nantucket...

April 10, 2006

Can you tell the difference?

I'm having trouble...

Abu Ghraib brutality Nazi brutality

It's getting harder and harder to stop comparing Bush to Hitler, isn't it?

So much for the evil Chavez vote-rigging accusation!

Looks like one more blob of blogospheric bunkum has now been debunked!

A Chicago alderman suggested that voting machines sold by a company with Venezuelan owners are part of a plot by President Hugo Chavez.

Alderman Edward Burke made the accusation during a hearing on problems with the Sequoia voting machines. Sequoia President Jack Blaine spent two hours answering questions.

'Of course I think it is a crackpot theory,' Blaine told reporters afterwards.

Sequoia is based in the United States. But Burke said its owners are Venezuelan, and control it through shell companies in the Cayman Islands.

'I am saying the potential for tampering with the American electoral process where presidential elections can be determined by just one state exists here,' Burke said.

Blaine said the parent company, Smartmatic, has no ties to Chavez, who is notoriously at odds with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Langdon Neal, president of the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, believes the city has enough controls in place, including a paper record of every vote, to prevent fraud.

Unknown News and Leigh Saavedra have already done an excellent job of deconstructing the disinformation campaign against Chavez, so I'll provide a link to their work.

I'll add that the guilt-by-(very loose)-association conjured up by one Richard Brand, writing for the Miami Herald (that bastion of excellence!) is a fine example of how not to convince anyone of anything:

In fact, Smartmatic International is owned by a Netherlands corporation, which is in turn owned by a Curacao corporation, which is in turn held by a number of Curacao trusts controlled by proxy holders who represent unnamed investors, almost certainly among them Venezuelans Mugica and Anzola and possibly others.

Gee, Mr. Brand, could you possibly get more vague? Maybe you'd better stick to learning to lawyer your way out of a wet paper bag. I hope you're more diligent at that than you are as a writer and researcher--because if I were your editor, I'd have spiked that piece on the grounds of its sheer sloppiness. If you can't even trace a paper trail to its source, your future in the lawyerly field is as doomed as your journalistic prospects. Unless, of course, you're planning to represent Diebold or ES & S, in which case your prospects are bright indeed. For then, your talents as a propagandist and an obfuscator can truly shine!

Astute readers of this blog will, of course, recognize the general pattern of right-wing propaganda hacks at work here: don't deal in facts, just throw out insinuations and trust your readers to run with them as if they were facts. It may work if you're a stupid sheep, but anyone with a modicum of critical thinking ability won't be fooled.

And don't be fooled: This is all part of an effort to paint Hugo Chavez as an anti-American "strongman" out to subvert democracy--a complete 180 degrees' remove from the truth. And of course, all the lies point in one direction: a plot to get Chavez out of the way, one way or another. Who's the real antidemocrat, again?

Meanwhile, Edward Burke is making vague accusations based upon more vague accusations. He discredits himself in so doing. He would do better to stick with the facts at hand.

Of course, if there IS something wrong with the machines, regardless of where they come from, the solution is as clear as what we use up here: PAPER BALLOTS ONLY, COUNTED BY HAND. But that would undoubtedly show the Republicans losing in the most irrefutable, concrete (and unhackable) way--and in a way completely impossible to blame on evil, wicked Venezuela.

Couldn't have that right as Dubya's approval ratings are so low and Hugo's are so high, could we.

April 9, 2006

Quotable: Woody Guthrie on refugees

"You know, there are different kinds of refugees. There are people who are forced to take refuge under a railroad bridge because they ain't got noplace to go, and there are those who take refuge in public office …"

--Woody Guthrie

One of the few celebrities actually worth celebrating

Susan Sarandon is one; Tim Robbins is another; Sean Penn is a third. Why? Because they dare to take a stand for what's right, whether or not it's popular at the time. Now, Charlize Theron makes four:

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation presented its Vanguard Award to Theron at the 17th annual GLAAD Media Awards for increasing "visibility and understanding in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

"This is very surreal for me because two years ago, I stood right here and won my Oscar for 'Monster,'" Theron said in ceremonies at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Her portrayal of lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster" won her the 2003 Academy Award for best actress.

Last year, Theron told TV's "Extra" that she and her partner, Stuart Townsend, would not wed until gay and lesbian couples attained the legal right to marry.

"I feel so fortunate that I am in a relationship with a wonderful man," Theron said Saturday night. "I find it incredibly unfair that because of our sexual preference, we have the rights that we have, and that, because of someone else's sexual preference, they don't have those same rights."

Hey, Char, good on ya. I could say the same thing myself, but I'm Canadian. Same-sex marriage is legal up here. So the only thing keeping me from marrying is the fact that I just plain don't want to. But all the same, I know a brave stand when I see one, so I salute thee. You're a big soul in a pusillanimous world, and a bravura performance like this is entirely in character for you.

Now, some dumb rightards might sniff and say big deal, what did you expect, Hollywood is liberal! But as I've blogged before, it's really not. And no one knows it better than gay actors who, even now, are still largely closeted. The reason? Money. As long as gay is seen as not quite normal, "out" gay actors and actresses will simply not command the high salaries and box office receipts of their straight counterparts.

And isn't it interesting that when gay roles do go 'round, they often get straight actors to fill them? And vice versa?

Not that it's a bad thing for a straight actor to play gay; it goes a long way toward raising consciousness and acceptance. But still--isn't it odd how there are not so many queers playing queer?

And how much of an actorly coup is it to be attracted primarily to the opposite sex, but kiss someone of the same sex on screen, really? A kiss is still a kiss, and so far's I know, the same mechanism applies no matter who's kissing whom. And since love is the same emotion regardless of the sexual orientation of the lover, it's hardly playing against type to play a person in love--even if the loved one is not someone you'd pick in real life. Happens all the time in the movies; you can both be straight and not feel a thing for each other but still play red-hot lovers with ease and conviction. So, why not gay playing straight--and the other way 'round?

Maybe there'll come a day when it no longer matters if you're gay or straight. Then, those in the vanguard will become the norm. Until then, there's a lot of in-your-face activism still crying for famous faces to play their parts. I guess that's the reason this is such a big deal right now. But who, honestly, isn't looking forward to the day when queer ceases to be such a big deal, and becomes simply...normal?

April 8, 2006

Quotable: L. Ron Hubbard on cult mind control

"THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM..., because the second you start telling anybody close to the truth, you start releasing him and he gets tougher and tougher to control."

--L. Ron Hubbard, from the Scientology Training Routines

April 7, 2006

Screw Tamiflu--drink white wine!

More good news for us wine lovers. Now, it's not only red wine that's good for us. White wine, it turns out, can help us ward off potentially deadly flu viruses:

White wine may prove to be effective in combating bird flu, according to a study cited by the Italian Wines Union(UIV).

Scientists have known for some time that white wine, like red wine, is beneficial in combating cholesterol. However, a recent study found that white wine and white grape juice contain the active ingredients in Tamiflu, considered by many experts to be one of the most promising medicines against bird flu.

The study was published by the British Medical Journal and found that white wine grapes contain shikimic acid and quercitin, the primary ingredients in the Chinese star anise plant used to make Tamiflu.

According Alberto Bertelli, a University of Milan researcher and scientific advisor to UIV, while caution is needed consuming star anise, the same benefits can be achieved by drinking a glass of white wine or white grape juice a day.

Furthermore, while there is an abundance of white wine in the world, supplies of Chinese star anise are limited and there is the risk of mistaking it with the Japanese star anise plant, which is highly toxic.

Drinking white wine is apparently also good for the lungs. According to a June 2002 study by the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, people who drink white wine regularly have healthier lungs than people who do not drink alcohol at all, and those who drink beer, spirits and even red wine.

A flood of scientific studies have shown that drinking two glasses of red wine has a beneficial effect in preventing diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinsons as well as cholesterol-related cardiovascular conditions.

This is because the alcohol and antioxidants in red wine help increase the levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol and lower the levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and even eliminate it from the heart and blood passages.

The prime substance in red wine which produces these benefits is resveratrol, which is found in red grape skins.

More recently, studies have discovered that white wine, which is not fermented 'in the skin', contains tyrosine, a molecule which acts in a similar way to resveratrol.

The positive effects of both red and white wines, experts warned, are only beneficial when wines is consumed in moderation.

Well, on that note--the German in me is very pleased. Make mine a Pieroth Blue--and bottoms up!

And they say they're not racist?

I say BULLSHIT.

A fine Mississippi fella named Herb, who posts as GoldenEagle53 on Mike Malloy's board, shared this with us last night:

Golden Ticket to Republican Racism

As you can see, this is nothing but a thinly veiled bit of right-wing racism. What gives it away as racist, and not merely some tasteless clod's idea of a joke? Well, the cutesy-racist "alternative" spelling of "Golden", for starters. (Do these people think blacks can't read, unless there's a peppering of apostrophes all over everything? Apparently so.)

Then there's the snotty reference to "hair care products" (hello--anyone remember Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the "ghetto slut" who happens to be a congresswoman--and was denied the right to vote by a Kapitol Keystone Kop?)

And of course, "lots o' bling bling" (which is fo' shizzle a dead-ass giveaway that this is being directed at what the painfully honest Kanye West would call "broke niggas", who of course haven't got so much as a single bling).

And of course, there's the reference to voter registration cards. Which is an age-old sore point in Mississippi for reasons I trust I need not go into here. But you can look 'em up if you like.

As for the last bit, that's just plain old poison mean. Do I have to remind anyone of what the Katrina evacuees are actually living like? It damn sure ain't no lap of luxury; FEMA is reluctant to cough up even the bare basics, never mind any luxuries. (Gotta pay for Halliburton's war on someone's back; may as well be that of the struggling poor!)

And who's doing the bitching here? Seems to me that in fact, it's our projecting white Republican rightards, who think they're the only ones who work, pay taxes or are entitled to anything that's on this racist ticket. (Who else would want a Hummer?) The meaning couldn't be clearer: You uppity niggers should just shut up and be thankful we don't send your worthless, nappy-headed carcasses back to the ol' plantation. In fact, you should be thankful for the advantages the plantation gave your worthless ancestors.

And of course, these are the same people who pretend to the world that they're not really racist--after all, they just loves them a good ol' 'ho like Auntie Condi (who, like a true "hard-working" Republican, spent her tax-paid salary on Ferragamos while New Orleans was drowning, and took in a Broadway show to boot.) Clearly Condi has forgotten where she comes from, or who she went to school with, and has chosen instead to sell out and side with the church-burners. Little does she realize that she'll become a scapegoat whenever BushCo decides she's outlived her usefulness as their token house negress.

It's always so good for a cheap belly laugh when those who don't know what real work is, try to tell others who are already struggling with three lousy-paying, labor-intensive jobs--in a city not their home--that they're not working hard enough.

It's just a pity that such laughs don't actually fill anyone's belly.

PS: Just got the following comment, which got the ass of the address-forging troll in question banned. See if you can guess why:

Whose fault is it that the Blacks have become what they are in America? How about the Blacks, and Democrats.

Thanks for making my case for me, Repug dumbass.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Why are these men laughing?

The Three Amigos!

Not sure what's so funny, but maybe they're having a good chuckle over the huge disparity between two approval ratings: that of Hugo Chavez, and that of Dubya.

April 3, 2006

Please tell me this is some kind of joke

Traditional Values has a flag???

Doesn't this look just like the sort of thing the Ku Klux Klan would fly?

The recently recognized Traditional Values Club has won the right to hang its organization's flag in the stairwell of Howell High School next to the Diversity's Club's rainbow-colored flag, which some say represents gay pride.

The Traditional Values Club flag is red, white and blue, symbolizing patriotism, and it features a red "t," which stands for traditional values. The lowercase "t" also resembles a cross, representative of the Christian faith.

Last year, the district was embroiled in controversy after the diversity flag was raised. Students painted the rock in front of the school with anti-gay slurs. In response, other students supporting the Diversity Club then painted the word "Love" over the hate messages as well as spraying the word "Love" more than 25 times on sidewalks and around the school flag pole.

Four students were found responsible caught for painting the "Love" messages and suspended, which prompted ignited hundreds of students to hold a sit-down demonstration in protest.

The Traditional Values flag has yet to be raised in the school, according to Assistant Principal Michael Mulligan, who referred all questions to Principal Marge Hamill. Hamill did not return phone calls from The Detroit News.

The Traditional Values club's chairman, Andrew Cureton, senior class vice president and National Merit Scholarship finalist, applauded the school administration for its their decision to hang the flag.

"We asked to hang this flag to promote equality and acceptance of conservatives within our school," he stated in a release.

The article goes on to cite one Vicki Fyke, organizer of a group calling itself Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE), as saying of the flag: "It's a Christian flag obviously and I'm thrilled the club decided on having a Christian emblem to represent them...I don't think there'll be any more controversy with this flag than the other one. Maybe, it will take away what was dividing (the students). It might be calming thing."

Uh, yeah. And then again, it might not. Especially when you consider that, according to the wingnuts of the Religious Reich, there's a war on:

A summit of evangelical Christians and conservative Catholic and Jewish activists yesterday produced a "Values Voters' Contract with Congress," an outline of what the religiously minded expect their elected representatives to bring about in the near future.

Modeled after the Republican Party's 1994 "Contract with America," the "Values Voters' Contract" stipulated 10 aims, ranging from legislation to keep the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to laws guaranteeing greater religious freedoms in the workplace, prohibiting human cloning and embryo research, and guaranteeing a "right to life" to all children before birth.

"It's time for the values voters to tell the government what we expect of them," said the Rev. Rick Scarborough, founder of the Lufkin, Texas-based Vision America, which organized the summit. "This contract tells Congress they can count on our vote if these things become front-burner issues."

It also addresses President Bush, Mr. Scarborough added.

"With all this discussion of marriage before the election," he said, "we just heard a State of the Union message where there was no mention of a marriage amendment."

The "contract" was released at a "War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006" conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where speakers painted a gloomy picture of a war by "neo-pagans" against "values voters" for about 300 listeners.

"Let's not say, 'Oh, it's not that bad,' " said the Rev. Tristan Emmanuel, director of the Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre in Jordan Station, Ontario. Secularists, he added, practice "Christophobia," which he deemed "an irrational fear of anything Christ-based."

"When you listen to their rejection of our participation in the public square, it's visceral," he said.

Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania Ministries of Garden Valley, Texas, told the audience that only 4 percent of today's "millennial" generation of teenagers are evangelical Christians able to transform the culture.

"If we only have 4 percent, we all lose," he said. "We look at 'In God We Trust' on our money and think [losing] it will never happen."

Five Jewish speakers on one of the afternoon panels seemed unconcerned by other speakers' rhetoric about "losing Christian dominance of America" by noting that their safety depends on the existence of evangelicals.

Jokingly referring to the quintet as "Jewish co-conspirators on the religious right," Jeff Ballabon of the New York-based Center for Jewish Values said today's culture wars "aren't just a war on Christians."

"This is a war on America, a war on God and a war on all believers," he said.

"Our battle," said Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president of Caucus for America, "is the battle of the ages, and that's of great import. We are aligned with Elijah, with Jesus and with Moses."

Values voters are believers aligned against pagans, he said, adding, "Elijah went up against the pagans of his day. We should be happy this day we can fight the battle of God."

This pagan says: Just try it, you bastards. You do anything of the jihadist sort, and you'll get hexed straight into the next fucking millennium. You wanna feel what it's like to take a karmic drop-kick straight into the mouth of Nemesis, you go right ahead and make that war...if you dare.

Now go fuck yourselves. And keep your rosaries off my ovaries, y'hear?

Another unsexy post on de-privatized Argentinian water...

...which, if you're smart, you'll read anyway, because one day it could concern YOU. (I'll tell you why shortly...)

Bob Chapman, of the International Forecaster, writes:

Water is contaminated in some suburbs of Buenos Aires and has been since 1993, when the sewer system and water service was privatized and sold to the French company, Suez.

Last week, Argentina announced it was rescinding its 30-year contract and reinstating government control of the water supply.

Five years ago street protests in the Bolivian City of Cochabamba prompted the state to cancel a water contract with Bechtel Corp., which we have previously reported on. Demonstrations in El Alto, near La Paz, led to the suspension of a contract with a subsidiary of Suez. There have been protests in Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico. Last week there were demonstrations demanding the government improve water services without privatizing them.

If nothing else came out of last week's World Water Forum in Mexico City, it voted a decree stating that governments -- not private companies -- should hold primary responsibility for providing safe drinking water.

Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela and Uruguay attached a separate statement noting their profound concern "about the possible negative impacts of international investment agreements and free trade."

There is no reason to have private foreign ownership ... countries and cities have to get their acts together and run utilities properly and they must be adequately funded.

I've seldom seen it put so succinctly.

There are some things the private sector does better than the public; supplying clean, safe drinking water isn't one of them. When even bottled water is often contaminated and the bottler is under no legal constraint to purify it or even label it as unpurified, you ought to be alarmed at what you are buying by the crate at WallyWorld. Yet most consumers of bottled water have no frickin' idea that their crystal-clear elixir of life is in fact a potential health hazard!

And now, here's why the goings-on in Latin America regarding water privatization should concern everybody:

Back in May 2000, a little Ontario town named Walkerton fell victim to a terrible tragedy. Heavy rains swept runoff from a local cattle farm into the town's wells, and with it, a deadly strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli. The water supply was inadequately protected from this onslaught due to poor management at the local Public Utilities Commission, which in turn resulted from an attempt by the Conservative provincial government to privatize all public utilities, starting with drastic cutbacks to what had, until then, been a fully government-run service. Under the new and inadequate system, two brothers who were tasked with testing and chemically treating Walkerton's water against deadly pathogens such as E. coli were, in fact, incompetent at their job. Neither was adequately trained; both obtained their certification without being duly tested. Neither was held accountable until it was too late. Seven people died in the outbreak, and more than a thousand others became ill. Some are still suffering from E. coli-related problems to this day.

In other words: A government's attempt to move the water supply toward a privatized system, resulted in a 19th-century style epidemic at the turn of the millennium. And this happened not in a Third World country, but in a prosperous one that had no excuse for such poor sanitation. But since public health--indeed, all things public, including medicare and environmental protection--had been deemed unsexy by the Ontario Conservative Party under Premier Mike Harris, well...I guess it was just historically inevitable!

But here's another thing that's historically inevitable: a vast push of people-power to make sure that what should be public, either becomes public if it's not, or stays that way if it is. The voters of Ontario became so disenchanted with the Tories as a result of the Walkerton disaster, among others, that they broomed them out of office and voted for the Liberals instead. (It is significant that one major plank of the Liberal platform was the promise of clean, safe, PUBLIC drinking water for all Ontarians!)

But the regressive forces of privatization are only in retreat as long as they've been beaten back. And that's why one has to keep stories like this in mind, and keep fighting that fight.

April 2, 2006

It's Campbell's Soup that makes you poop

...down your leg and in your boot;

Through the hall and out the door--

That's what Campbell's Soup is for!

(Remember that rhyme?)

Campbell's W Soup--Mmm--mmm good!

Mm-mm good!

Jill Carroll: "I did not speak freely"

Remember how all the asshats on the right got up in arms about the last video her captors made of Jill Carroll, the freelancer writing for the Christian Science Monitor? Apparently they really believed her when she said capitivity was plushy. Or at least, they were embittered that she emerged from captivity with her head still attached--to the point where they got to fantasizing that she was having sex with her captors and loving it.

Well, looks like Jill has something very different to say, now that she's free:

During my last night of captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I co-operated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and I wanted to go home alive. So I agreed.

Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not.

The people who kidnapped me and murdered Alan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Alan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends - all those around the world - who have prayed so fervently for my release - through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.

I also gave a TV interview to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after my release. The party had promised me the interview would never be broadcast or aired on television, and they broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely.

Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times. Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: one, that I refused to travel and co-operate with the US military and, two, that I refused to discuss my captivity with US officials.

Again, neither statement is true.

I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage. I remain as committed as ever to fairness and accuracy - to discovering the truth - and so I will not engage in polemics.

But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes.

Maybe this will teach the wingnuts not to jump to any false conclusions before the full story is known...but then again, seeing as the only thing conservatives conserve is the few brain cells they've got, I seriously doubt it.

Would this be illegal in South Dakota?

Hey...it's a pertinent question!

Surgeons operated on a 2-month-old Pakistani girl Tuesday to remove two fetuses that had grown inside her while she was still in her mother's womb, a doctor said.

The infant, who was identified only as Nazia, was in critical condition following the two-hour operation at The Children's Hospital at Pakistan Institute of Medical Science in the capital, Islamabad, said Zaheer Abbasi, head of pediatric surgery at the hospital.

Abbasi, the chief doctor who led the operation, said the case was the first he was aware of in Pakistan of fetus-in-fetu, where a fetus has grown inside another in the womb.

"It is extremely rare to have two fetuses being discovered inside another," Abbasi told The Associated Press, adding that he did not know what caused the medical abnormality. "Basically, it's a case of triplets, but two of the siblings grew in the other."

The baby comes from Abbotabad, about 30 miles north of Islamabad. She is the fifth child of a woman in her 30s, who was at the hospital to be with her daughter. Her father works in the Arabian Gulf.

Abbasi said surgeons removed the two partially grown fetuses, totaling about two pounds, that had died at about 4 months.

What? You mean they performed two second-trimester abortions on the little slut, instead of letting her face the consequences of having sex in utero?

Arrest those doctors! Arrest them NOW, I say!

April 1, 2006

Hell's maw is a-gapin'...

Mike Malloy has a wonderful turn of phrase that I sometimes hear him use on his radio show (which, by the way, you shouldn't miss--it's on Air America Radio, weeknights, 10 pm-1 am Eastern. Webcast available here.) Whenever someone particularly vile is doing something richly deserving of condemnation, Mike'll say something like this:

"I can hardly wait until [name] goes to meet his maker. Because when he does, you just know Jesus is gonna pinch his head off, and toss it into the Lake of Fire for the demons to use as a soccer ball."

Now, Mike's not religious--anymore. He was raised a Southern Baptist, then converted to Methodism, where he came within a hair of going into preaching. I can't recall offhand if he ever mentioned what made him change his mind (and I'm glad he did!), but somewhere along the line Mike lost his religion. So obviously he's not expressing a literal wish here. But the sentiment is still deadly serious.

I bring this up for a reason. Read this and tell me if you can guess it:

Joshua Key, the first U.S. deserter with combat experience in Iraq to apply for refugee status in Canada, told the board he witnessed numerous atrocities committed by U.S. forces while serving eight months as a combat engineer.

Key, 27, said he was never trained on the Geneva Convention and was told in Iraq by superior officers that the international law guiding humanitarian standards was just a "guideline."

"It's shoot first, ask questions later," Key said of his squad's guiding principles. "Everything's justified."

Key is one of five members of the U.S. armed forces asking for asylum in Canada.

But the Oklahoma native is unique in that he is the only applicant that has combat experience in Iraq, said Key's lawyer, Jeffry House. The other are seeking asylum in Canada to avoid being sent there, he said.

"He has boots-on-the-ground experience about what the actual conduct of the war in Iraq is," House said outside the hearing.

With visible bags under his eyes, Key told the hearing he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and frequently has nightmares over what he witnessed in Iraq.

He recalled participating in almost nightly raids on homes of suspected insurgents in Ramadi and Fallujah as a member of the 43rd Combat Engineer Company.

He said that while the raids seldom turned up anything of interest, he often saw soldiers ransack the homes and steal jewelry or money, while superior officers looked the other way.

He also said several Iraqis were shot dead, and that they were cases of soldiers "shooting out of fear and inventing reasons afterward."

In Ramadi, Key said he saw the beheaded bodies of four Iraqis beside a shot-up truck and witnessed several members of the Florida National Guard kick a severed head "like a soccer ball."

Key also said he witnessed one of his "trigger happy" platoon's squad sergeants shoot part of an unarmed Iraqi man's foot off in Khaldia, a village between Fallujah and Ramadi. The man was sitting on a chair outside a store and had raised his foot as a sign of disrespect, he said.

Key added he was never questioned about the incident and was not aware of any charges being laid.

Keith Brennenstuhl, the IRB member overseeing the hearing, ruled at an earlier hearing that the board would not consider the legality of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Key also described seeing U.S. soldiers indiscriminately kick and scream at two hooded and naked detainees while escorting them to a grassy area to relieve themselves.

Brennenstuhl asked Key whether he received any interrogation training before dragging detainees out of their homes during raids.

"The only thing we were told was how to keep them quiet," Key said, explaining that soldiers cuffed prisoners' hands behind their backs and put hoods over their heads.

"Could they breathe?" Brennenstuhl asked.

"I guess it wasn't my concern," Key responded, adding that officers said the hoods were designed "to humiliate them."

Key, the father of four young children, told the hearing he joined the army for steady pay and medical coverage for his family. He said he initially went to Iraq as a willing participant because he believed U.S. intelligence claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

But Key became disillusioned with the war during his service and decided to abandon his contract with the army during a two-week leave from Iraq in November 2003.

He and his family lived on the run in Philadelphia before crossing the border at Niagara Falls, N.Y., on March 3, 2005.

Key now works as a welder in Fort St. John, B.C. He and his wife Brandi have four children between the ages of seven months and six years.

If returned to the United States, Key said he believed the army would "make an example" of him as a way to deter other possible deserters.

If there is a hell--and, though I don't believe in that shit, sometimes I almost hope there is one--someone's bound for it. Several somebodies, in fact. And all of them are responsible for what this young guy has seen. The demons could have a veritable World Cup with all the heads that deserve to roll for this...

On the other hand, I fervently hope the bad karma these individuals have picked up bites their ass while they're still alive and on this Earth. And that the whole world gets to watch the demon soccer tourney play out.

Is your husband on the down-low? Then screw him!

Seriously. This is the best answer the Religious Reich has for black women in Brokeback marriages. You're not having sex with him regularly enough, so he's turning to other men in frustration (as if other women willing to do the deed didn't abound). The only way to turn him back is to boink him, and boink him OFTEN!

Married black women who do not have regular sex with their husbands are to blame for the "down low" and the rise of HIV infection among African Americans.

That was just one message delivered during a two-day summit on "Protecting the Biblical Institution of Marriage and Family Values," held March 25-26 at Kingdom Builders Christian Center, a large predominately black church in Norcross.

"Apostle" Jamie Pleasant presides over the congregations, which cites more than a thousand members, according to its web site. He has a doctorate degree from Georgia Tech in Business Management and started the church in 1995.

Addressing the "down-low," a term that describes married black men having sex with other men in secret, Pleasant told hundreds of worshipers March 25 that God intended man and woman to procreate.

"The marital duty is not being fulfilled," Pleasant said. "Why are we with you women? Just think about it…we have a strong sex drive. You need to do your part and keep the marriage bed pure. Whenever your husband wants sex it is your duty to say yes."

I don't know what's most offensive about this preaching, coming from a straight white man--the sexism, the racism or the homophobia. What in frignation gives him the right?

I think what pisses me off most is the bad science underpinning it all--the idea that straight sex can cure gay urges. Um, how? This straight chick says there's no way in hell. I once fell in love with a gay man. Trust me, I tried everything I knew (admittedly not much, since I wasn't brought up by the most socially aware of parents), but there was just no damn way I could lure that sweet, lovely guy into my bed. I honestly thought there was something wrong with me, until he told me--or rather, I guessed it, in one of those wild shot-in-the-dark moments that hit the heart. And even then, I still thought there was something wrong with me. How could I have been so blind?

Well, of course, I was 19 and hadn't yet grown a gaydar at the time, so that's how. Had I been able to tell, I might have been able to tailor my expectations accordingly, rather than wind up poring forlornly over a copy of Goodbye, I Love You.

But hey--I survived. And a couple of years later, I danced at my friend's gay wedding, the first "Holy Union" ceremony of its kind performed by our university chaplain. And this was in 1990, long before same-sex marriage was legal up here. I danced with my friend's dad, who confessed to me a little shamefacedly that he wished it were me my friend was marrying, instead of this tall, charming, intelligent other guy. Yeah, well...once upon a time, so did I. But I got over it. So did my friend's dad.

And isn't that the better way to deal with this whole closeted-gay (or down-low, if you're black) thing? Come on out and get on over it? No, too logical. Fosters too much self-esteem. Doesn't put more money in the pockets of the Fake-Based Initiatives. After all, this is one of those, and they rely on your continuing to live a lie and fret under a neurosis.

Oh, you hadn't heard of this?

Rev. Lou Sheldon, chair of the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative group opposed to gay civil rights, was the guest speaker for the weekend. His organization is actively recruiting large black churches in its effort to battle the "homosexual agenda."

In January, Sheldon, who is white, and 70 black pastors who supported President George W. Bush met in Los Angeles. The summit yielded the "Black Contract with America on Moral Values," the Los Angeles Times reported.

In exchange for black churches focusing on defeating marriage for same-sex couples, the churches will receive money through the government's faith-based initiative programs, the paper reported.

Sheldon, who told the Norcross congregation that he has been fighting "gay rights" since 1972, began his sermon by declaring, "Preachers never lie."

"We have a battle on our hands," Sheldon said. "The homosexuals lose every time an issue is on a ballot but more and more activist judges and legislators are supporting them. It is important that people of color speak up because the press will listen to you."

Sheldon then played a video to illustrate his point. Images of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights marches were mixed with photos of leather-clad men, drag queens and topless women marching in Pride parades.

"The homosexual excuse is 'we want civil rights,'" Sheldon said after the video. "Have they ever been denied the right to vote? Have they ever had to sit in the back of a bus? They have hijacked the freedom train to Selma."

Funny, but I don't think the late Coretta Scott King would have said anything like that. I do, however, feel absolutely certain she would have called this unreverend out in no uncertain terms for hijacking the imagery of her husband's fight for civil rights in service of civil wrongs!

Of course, there's racism inherent in this whole "freedom train" statement, too--the idea that blacks should feel content to have voting rights, and not strive further for social justice. Okay, we gave you pickaninnies the right to vote...now get back to your cotton-pickin' and smile nicely for Ol' Massa! And make lots of good slave babies, y'hear?

Unfortunately for the rightards, but very fortunately for the rest of the world, progress doesn't stop short just when one goal is achieved. Black civil rights leaders knew full well that voting was just the beginning; that the greater fight was against racism, and the greatest fight of all was against prejudice itself. And to that end, people are coming out of the shadows to speak out:

The National Black Justice Coalition, a black gay group focused on fighting both racism and homophobia, works to refute claims by anti-gay groups that the majority of African-Americans oppose same-sex marriage.

Sylvia Rhue, NBJC director of religious affairs, attended the meeting in Los Angeles this year where Sheldon addressed black church leaders.

Despite his anti-gay rhetoric, Rhue said Sheldon, 72, is not as effective as many people believe.

"His words and shenanigans are impotent, incompetent and ignorant," Rhue said. "His pronouncements shrivel and die in the light of truth and show how desperate he is. They cannot win by telling the truth and we cannot lose by telling the truth."

Ahhh, truth. That's what it keeps on coming down to, isn't it? The fake-based agenda melts like a snowball in the light of truth. No wonder the fakeful have to keep fudging up the lies. It's a desperate race of lies against truth, and guess which one will ultimately win? (Hint: Recall the fable of the hare and the tortoise, and also Mark Twain's saying about how a lie will get halfway around the world before the truth has its boots on. The race is not to the swift.)

No, this initiative will not prevail. It can hang around for an appallingly long time, getting sicker and sillier with every repetition of the big lie, but the truth will invariably come out of the closet, one failed Brokeback marriage at a time. And when it does, no prejudice or bigotry will be able to stand up to it anymore.