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July 31, 2006

O death, where is thy sting?

Right here, baby!

Researchers have developed a "man-made" scorpion venom to be used in the treatment of brain tumours.

The venom is used as a carrier to deliver radioactive iodine into tumour cells left behind after surgery has removed the bulk of the tumour.

So far the technique has been tested in 18 patients and further trials are under way, a report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says.

Initial findings suggest the treatment is well-tolerated and may be effective.

Gliomas can be a particularly aggressive form of brain tumours, with only 8% of patients surviving two years and 3% surviving five years from the time of diagnosis.

Despite advances in surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, there has been little improvement in length of survival for patients with gliomas.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in California, carried out a study using TM-601, a synthetic version of a peptide that naturally occurs in the venom of the giant yellow Israeli scorpion.

Unlike many substances, the peptide can pass through the bloodstream into the brain and can bind to glioma cells.

Patients in the study first had surgery to remove their tumour.

Then 14 to 28 days later, a single, low dose of TM-601 with radioactive iodine attached was injected into the cavity from which the tumour had been removed.

Six patients were given additional doses of the drug.

The main reason for the trial was to check tolerance of the dose and the researchers said there were very few adverse effects.

Median length of survival for all patients was 27 weeks, but two patients had no evidence of tumour and were still alive 33 and 35 months after surgery.

Analysis showed that most of the radioactivity delivered by the drug had disappeared after 24 hours.

Any radiation that was left was localised to the tumour cavity, suggesting the drug was binding to the tumour cells rather than normal brain cells.

The drug also binds to other types of tumours and the researchers are planning further studies.

Study leader Dr Adam Mamelak, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said: "We're using TM-601 primarily as a carrier to transport radioactive iodine to glioma cells, although there are data to suggest that it may also slow down the growth of tumour cells.

"If studies continue to confirm this, we may be able to use it in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, because there may be a synergistic effect."

Ed Yong, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Treating brain cancers with radioactive scorpion venom sounds like science fiction.

"But this preliminary study shows that this approach is safe and has potential. Now, larger trials are needed to work out how effective it is.

"This study highlights the varied and ingenious approaches that scientists are using to improve cancer treatments."

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I mentioned Cuba as a leading researcher in the scorpion-venom cancer cure. This only serves to confirm that Cuba is, indeed, ahead of the curve!

Fair trade: Not just for food, but medicine too

Well, who knew?

The purchase of surgical equipment should be bound by the same fair trade rules as foodstuffs like coffee, sugar or bananas, a researcher suggests.

Dr Mahmood Bhutta said he had anecdotal evidence there was exploitation of workers in developing countries.

In the British Medical Journal, the ear, nose and throat doctor said it was down to purchasers such as the NHS to press for fair trade.

The Department of Health said buying equipment was down to NHS trusts.

But Dr Bhutta said no systematic investigation had been undertaken into the sourcing of healthcare goods from developing countries.

Pakistan and Malaysia are centres for surgical instrument manufacturing.

Dr Bhutta, whose family comes from the Sialkot area of Pakistan - a centre for instrument making - has interviewed a number of workers and focussed on issues relating to global health and medical ethics.

He wrote in the BMJ: "When surgical instruments have come from manufacturers in the developing world then, as is the case with other goods, the trade may be open to the exploitation of power by transnational companies, driving down prices and labour standards."

The global trade in hand-held stainless steel surgical instruments was worth at least £352m a year, he added.

In developing countries, much of the early stage of manufacture - forging, filing, grinding - is subcontracted out to workers employed in a small workshop or their own home.

Manual labourers are paid per instrument, and Dr Bhutta said workers often earn just $2 a day, with no job security, medical insurance or education for their children.

He highlighted past research which has shown many subcontracted workers in developing countries are children.

Only finishing and quality checks are carried out by companies in-house.

Fair trade would be a good start, but the NHS is dropping the ball in a big way by passing the pound. Clearly, what's needed above all is to treat medicine as a public service, not a profit-making industry as it currently is in far too much of the world.

Evo gets fouled!

Gotta love those weekend warrior types. Even the president of Bolivia is one:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has suffered a broken nose after being fouled by a goalkeeper during an indoor football match.

The president's team was playing a local side, the Independence Warriors, in the rural region of Cochabamba.

Mr Morales was treated at a local clinic and order to rest for two days, his office said.

President Morales is said to be passionate about football and often plays at the weekend.

"In the game's 32nd minute, with the score tied 2-2, the local team's goalkeeper committed a foul against the President of the Republic that produced the injury to his nose," a statement from the president's office said.

After a brief and routine operation, the president was advised to rest.

The injury means he might not be able to take part in a match next Sunday between government representatives and special guests invited to the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly, who are expected to include Brazilian President Lula and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Oh no...you mean I'm gonna miss seeing my two favorite presidents, sitting side by side and doing this?

Evo lacing up his sneaks for the Big Game

Damn!!!

July 30, 2006

Douglas MacKinnon is to be shunned

Sometimes, Google Alerts do the most amazing things. Their emphasis on the right-wing falsification of the news cannot be underestimated. Partly, I think, the vast right-wing crapaganda machine is to blame, but sometimes I wonder if Google isn't complicit. It's either that, or they're being gamed--and someone's gotta call them on it. Fair and balanced they are not.

Take, for example, this charming screed by one Douglas MacKinnon, which landed in my mailbox today. It's called, evocatively enough, "Chavez is to be shunned":

Late last year, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez attacked me by name on his national television program. He said I was a spy for the CIA getting paid to orchestrate a propaganda campaign designed to hurt his re-election chances this December.

In reality, I'm nothing more than a private citizen married to a Venezuelan, and deeply worried about the massive militarization of Venezuela and the non-stop courting by Chavez of terrorist leaders around the world.

With those worries in mind, last Wednesday evening I turned on C-SPAN to watch a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives with regard to Chavez, terrorism, drugs and airport security. To my horror, as a native of Massachusetts, I watched as Rep. William Delahunt went out of his way to deflect attention from Chavez, his terrorist leanings and his intentions to do great harm to the United States.

Like Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Chavez has assembled his own collection of "useful idiots" here in the United States. However, as I watched Delahunt wax on in his defense of Chavez, I realized that he had gone from being a tool of Chavez to an apologist for a man the opposition in Venezuela, and many in our own government, consider on par with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

The latter two, who, as I write this, Chavez is flying to meet.

Many I have spoken with in our government, including career diplomats, consider Chavez to be ultimately a greater threat to the national security of the United States than Osama bin Laden or any terrorist group operating out of the Middle East. Having been in Venezuela many times and having met with the opposition leaders in that country, I strongly agree with that assessment.

Again, as I write this, Chavez has just finalized a $3 billion deal with Moscow to buy 24 fighter jets and 53 attack helicopters, Russian submarines and 100,000 AK-103 Kalashnikov machine guns, and to have the Russians build him a Kalashnikov factory in Venezuela so he can manufacture his own weapons.

But, what's that to Delahunt as long as he gets to do photo-ops delivering "cheap" Venezuelan oil to the poor of Massachusetts.

Just as I'm assuming Delahunt had no problem with Chavez hosting the president of Iran in Caracas last year, where, on the agenda, was the topic of "introducing nuclear elements" into Venezuela. While Chavez says he only wants nuclear reactors from Iran, many experts fear he is trying to import Iranian missile technology and, potentially, weapons grade uranium. All of this, a mere two-and-a-half-hours south of Miami by jet.

While Delahunt clearly has no problem collaborating with a man who denounces the United States daily as the "number one terrorist nation on earth," others, thankfully, do.

No one need take my word for it. Simply speak with those in the duly elected government of Colombia. Some will flat out tell you that they believe Chavez represents the greatest single threat to our hemisphere.

Speak with the newly elected president of Mexico and he will gladly tell you that he owes his election to the fact that he ran not primarily against his socialist opponent but against Hugo Chavez with the promise to the people of Mexico that he would not let the Venezualan infiltrate the country or help elect a hand-picked stooge.

As Chavez accumulates more oil money, more power and more terrorist allies, he will try to make covert and overt moves against the United States. And when he does, we all need to remember and identify his apologists here in the United States.

At the top of that list is Rep. William Delahunt.

Whooooee! Sure takes a noseplug to read that, doesn't it?

Well, I did a little extra digging, and here's what I found on the endearing Mr. MacKinnon:

First of all, he is not an ordinary "private citizen married to a Venezuelan", as he disingenuously claims. He's a former press secretary to Bob Dole and currently a hack for the Washington Times--Sun Myung Moon's reactionary toy newspaper and all-purpose right-wing crapaganda mill. He has repeatedly appeared on Fox News (or Fux Snooze, as it should be called), and Media Matters has a modest dossier on him. Not surprisingly, the cueball-headed Mr. MacKinnon is one of those attack poodles who bayed for the blood of the New York Times and Washington Post because they had the temerity to stand up on their hind legs just once and reveal the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, which has been in place since before 9-11.

Furthermore, this is not the first MacKinnon psy-op against Chavez. He's a repeat offender. And, given the outlets he's worked for, Chavez's charge against him doesn't sound so paranoid after all. The Washington Times's right-wing bias, and its close ties to the Bush White House, are well known. (Less known, but equally deserving of recognition, is the Moonie Times's attempted foray into Latin America. Alas, it was a flop. And how I wish someone would mention BushCo's secret ties, via Moon, to Kim Jong Mentally Il's North Korea--especially since Chavez's own name has been joined to Kim's in yet another bogus "Axis of Evil" drive!)

BTW, Chavez is NOT meeting with Mentally Il anytime in the near future. Please pass along the memo.

Ahem. Where was I again?

Oh yeah, that funny-looking MacKinnon dude. Bill Berkowitz, of WorkingForChange, has him down as also being a "former White House and Pentagon official". Curiouser and curiouser! It's almost as if he could be CIA after all; I frankly wouldn't be surprised if he were.

Now, about that "massive militarization" stuff: Chavez is in fact only replacing old existing arms, and jets the US reneged on its contract to maintain. Nothing sinister about that, unless you're the sort of person who likes to see old planes fall from the sky! The fact that MacKinnon is so touchingly "alarmed" about it tells me that he'd rather see Venezuela completely helpless, like Iraq was, when the inevitable US oil-grab comes.

And LondonYank, on the Daily Kos blog, has a most interesting dissection of MacKinnon's "crapulous warmongering" (I love that phrase). You really must read it; you'll learn so much interesting stuff about MacKinnon and his fishy motivations. LondonYank has found that he beats on Charles Shapiro--none other than the US ambassador who backed the 2002 coup--as being "weak"! If Shapiro is too weak, I'd hate to see what MacKinnon calls "strong". (The excremental blog entry I linked also lists MacKinnon as a "novelist"; I'd say he writes a lot of pulp fiction for the media, too.)

Never mind that the only things Venezuela and Iran have in common are OPEC membership and a co-operative venture producing...drumroll please...FARM EQUIPMENT! No, MacKinnon probably thinks there are nuclear arms up Hugo's sleeve, or will be when he gets back from his latest trip to Iran. How disappointed he'll be to find out that it was, along with all the rest of his recent overseas trips, nothing more than a routine trade/diplomacy mission. (Someone please cue the Cueball that Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons capability, either, and isn't expected to have it anytime soon.)

And while you're at it, please remind the factually challenged Mr. Chromedome that Vladimir Putin is officially the US's ally in the War on Terra. And that Chavez is no terrorist, has no "terrorist leanings", nor is he cozy with any terrorists. He's not even "courting them nonstop". But the Bush White House plainly is. (Maybe all this repetition of long-debunked bullshit is a smokescreen for that!)

Most hilarious is how quickly MacKinnon stoops to the standard "Chavez is a communist!" parrot-squawk that the rightards invariably reach for when they have nothing else. Just look at his language: Bolsheviks, Lenin, useful idiots, blah blah blabbity blah blah. How doctrinaire can you get? It's like these guys never got the memo: THE COLD WAR IS OVER. RUSSIA IS OPEN TO TRADE WITH THE WEST NOW! (What--does Chavez not qualify as a westerner?)

Besides, that commie stuff is all so old. Justin Raimondo debunked it long ago. If the 'tards are gonna lie about Chavez, can't they at least make up some new shit? Or do they think that repetition alone is sufficient to turn a lie into truth?

Karl Rove mit Plato

Fuhgeddaboudit, fools...wingnuttery won't wash anymore.

Douglas MacKinnon will just have to go on loping lonesomely around the lunatic fringe, where he most definitely belongs.

They forgot Poland!

A little gem of US hypocrisy, pointed out by "The International Forecaster", Bob Chapman, via Vheadline.com:

The Bush administration has again tried to convince Russia not to sell arms to Venezuela. As part of a world tour, President Chavez was in Russia this week, striving for a seat on the UN Security Council and was meeting potential voters.

The US says the sales to Venezuela will upset the balance of power in Latin America ... which is ridiculous.

Chavez was forced to purchase military equipment from other countries because the US refused parts for existing military equipment in Venezuela.

Chavez has already purchased 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, of which it has taken delivery of 10,000 and wants to finalize a $1 billion deal to purchase 24 Russian Sukhoi SU-30 fighter planes plus helicopters.

This week President Chavez visited the Kalashnikov plant in Russia.

Washington wasn't listening last year when the Russians objected to 40 plus fighter planes to Poland.

Emphasis added.

Hey wingnuts, you forgot Poland!

And speaking of Poland, here's that story. Scroll down to the last paragraph.

A tad bizarre, is it not? But I guess it's okay to sell to Poland...after all, they're ex-communist and still quite repressive. Chavez's Venezuela is neither. Yet, for some reason, Poland is allowed to buy fighter jets and Venezuela isn't.

Gotta love that commitment to democracy and free markets, eh?

July 29, 2006

So much for Agent Orange being "harmless"!

Scientists have long been saying otherwise, and here's one more study to prove it...

New Zealand troops who served in the Vietnam War suffered significant genetic damage from exposure to Agent Orange, a study suggests.

The chemical was used by the US military in Vietnam in the 1960s.

It has been blamed for a variety of medical conditions suffered by soldiers and up to four million Vietnamese.

The study by New Zealand's scientists could have a big effect on campaigners' efforts to sue major chemical firms and the US government, correspondents say.

The US military sprayed some 80m litres of Agent Orange on North and South Vietnam.

The aim was to destroy jungle foliage in order to find communist fighters more easily.

Agent Orange contained highly toxic dioxins which have since been blamed for causing cancers and other illnesses.

They have also been blamed for birth defects suffered by the children and even grandchildren of Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese civilians.

This has been strongly contested by the two main companies which made it - Dow and Monsanto - and the US government, the BBC's Bill Hayton in Hanoi says.

A team from New Zealand's Massey University has now shown that the group of 24 Vietnam veterans it tested suffered significant genetic damage, compared with a similar sized group of soldiers who did not serve in Vietnam, our correspondent says.

This may be crucial evidence in the lengthy legal battles still being waged in courts in the US and other countries to prove or disprove the link between Agent Orange and a legacy of illness across three continents, our correspondent says.

Knowing the US government's long history of intransigence on this issue, I wouldn't expect any results soon. Yet, curiously, it does have a web page devoted to the matter. And it lists some truly horrendous effects, such as birth defects, over a dozen types of cancer (some rare, most of them deadly), and type 2 diabetes.

But at the same time, veterans' benefits to those who were exposed have been repeatedly denied. And of course, the companies that produce it haven't coughed up a penny in compensation either, and the government is not holding them accountable. The horrors of Agent Orange are undeniable, but someone's gonna keep denying reality long after it has become ludicrous to do so. Why? Because as always, the Almighty Dollar trumps science and conscience.

Can we also add governmental and corporate schizophrenia to the long list of disorders Agent Orange is known to cause?

A few more chickens come home to roost

How's this for karma being a bitch?

An obscure law approved a decade ago by a Republican-controlled Congress has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of such detainees, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield was needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales declined to comment.

The Justice Department's top legal adviser, Steven Bradbury, separately testified two weeks ago that Congress must give new "definition and certainty" to captors' risk of prosecution for coercive interrogations that fall short of outright torture.

Language in the administration's draft, which Bradbury helped prepare in concert with civilian officials at the Defense Department, seeks to protect U.S. personnel by ruling out detainee lawsuits to enforce Geneva protections and by incorporating language making U.S. enforcement of the War Crimes Act subject to U.S. — not foreign — understandings of what the Conventions require.

The aim, Justice Department lawyers say, is also to take advantage of U.S. legal precedents that limit sanctions to conduct that "shocks the conscience." This phrase allows some consideration by courts of the context in which abusive treatment occurs, such as an urgent need for information, the lawyers say — even though the Geneva prohibitions are absolute.

The Supreme Court, in contrast, has repeatedly said U.S. courts should at least consider foreign interpretations of international treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions.

Some human rights groups and independent experts say they oppose undermining the reach of the War Crimes Act, arguing that it deters government misconduct.

They say any step back from the Geneva Conventions could provoke mistreatment of captured U.S. military personnel.

They also contend that Bush administration anxieties about prosecutions are overblown and should not be used to gain congressional approval for rough interrogations.

"The military has lived with" the Geneva Conventions provisions "for 50 years and applied them to every conflict, even against irregular forces. Why are we suddenly afraid now about the vagueness of its terms?" asked Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.

Since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the Army has accused hundreds of service members deployed to Iraq of mistreating detainees, and at least 35 detainees have died in military or CIA custody, according to a tally kept by Human Rights First.

The military has asserted these were all aberrant acts by members ignoring their orders.

Defense attorneys for many of those accused of involvement have alleged that their clients were pursuing policies of rough treatment set by officials in Washington.

Links added.

Oh, those quaint Geneva Conventions! Looks like the harder they try to find ways around them, the more obvious it becomes that the entire Bush administration are nothing but war criminals. What was that saying again, about how the higher a monkey climbs, the more it shows its ass? Applies here.

And in case anyone thinks that bad presidential orders don't have repercussions outside the US, you may want to read this. Israel, taking its cues from its #1 patron, passed an impunity law of its own. After that, what's to stop the terrorists from just writing the law to suit themselves?

Oh wait. It looks like they already did.

Never mind!

July 28, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Happy Birthday, Chavecito!

Chavecito mit Bolivar!

And may you keep getting more Bolivarian with every passing year.

One more good reason to sleep in

As if you needed one.

Yeek.

Need any more proof that someone's living in a vacuum?

Check THIS out:

Who Backs Ceasefire

So much for that trite "We are all Israelis now" meme.

BTW, GriperBlade has an excellent post with a damning picture unto itself. Perhaps this is what's got the Israel-uber-alles crowd so...isolated?

July 27, 2006

Mystery solved?

A couple days ago, I wondered why the anti-Chavez shadow group Sumate, supposedly an "open book" as far as its finances went, hadn't been listing their most recent cash receipts from the US government. Well, looks like li'l ol' Vheadline has the answer to my question:

A Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) special commission investigating outside funding for Venezuelan civil associations is attempting to sniff out opposition Sumate electoral group's funding sources.

Patria Para Todos (PPT) leader and committee president, Jose Albornoz says the first thing the committee has discovered is that Sumate is not registered with the official exchange administration body (Cadivi).

The discovery came after Albornoz and committee members met Cadivi chief, Manuel Antonio Barroso and his board.

The second discovery is that Sumate has allegedly been receiving dollar remittances from Sivensa and Jantesa industrial companies. Sivensa is a big aluminum company, while Jantesa moves in the oil sector.

Albornoz has stated that Sumate is breaking the law in not declaring entry of dollars from the US Republican Party's National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Any organization that receives more than $10,000 must make a declaration and sell the foreign money to the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV).

Sumate has allegedly received $240,000 from NED.

The next step of the investigation, Albornoz maintains, is to summons Banking Superintendent, Trino Alcides Diaz and Sumate administrator, Felix Sanchez.

Albornoz says private companies could be helping to finance Sumate ... Sivensa and Jantesa have been singled out for investigation after their names were mentioned during a closed door meeting with Cadivi board members.

Sumate has rejected the charges, arguing that Sumate existed long before the exchange rate control came into being and the NED contribution is $107,200, not $240,000.

In earlier reports on Sumate funding, Vheadline.com had suggested the probability of funds from US government organizations reaching Sumate and other opposition groups via third parties/ third flags or green paths (caminos verdes).

And it looks like they've proven correct!

Now, a correction to a minor error above: The NED is not a specifically Republican organization (that would be its subsidiary, the International Republican Institute, or IRI). The NED also funnels money through the AFL-CIO (to influence foreign labor movements), USAID (to give it a "humanitarian" mask), and the National Democratic Institute, NDI (to deodorize it with the apparent sanction of the US Democratic party.) Certainly its meddling in other countries is quite congenial to the Republican mindset, though--and there are plenty of neo-cons on its roster. No surprise there, since their mission dates back to Ronald Reagan--who had an active interest in making sure no democratically elected leftists came to power--or stayed there!

The NED paints itself as a "private, nonprofit organization" whose mission is, nebulously put, "democracy assistance". This alone should raise eyebrows over what it's doing in Venezuela, where democracy already prevails without its "help". Since when does any country's democracy need "assistance" from an organization formed to administer US taxpayer dollars, by US congressional fiat? Is democracy really so fragile? Well, yes...and its biggest enemy is not who you might think. In fact, what the NED is up to all over the world is distinctly antidemocratic. They were behind the illegal ouster of President Aristide of Haiti, particularly via the IRI. And one of their astroturf "reporters" was recently unmasked to loud clamor. Little wonder they're feeling the sting of rejection lately. But they're still full of lies and denial about what's really going on:

In recent years in Venezuela the trade unions have been threatened with dissolution, journalists have been put at risk with their freedom curtailed and democratic institutions and processes have been manipulated and undermined. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports that the conditions in Venezuela "demonstrate a clear weakness in the fundamental pillars that must support the rule of law in a democratic system, consistent with the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments." NED has increased its funding over the past two years for programs in Venezuela that help groups defend basic democratic rights. The objective of the NED's programs in Venezuela, as in all such countries where democratic rights are threatened, has been and remains to support groups and individuals struggling to strengthen democratic processes, rights, and values, irrespective of their political or partisan affiliations. All of these groups represent the most moderate, and democratic elements in what has become an extremely polarized situation.

Sumate, "moderate and democratic"? That's good for a laugh. They are far-right elitist, not grassroots but astroturf, and their only concern is how to oust Chavez and make it look legal. They tried it once before and failed rather dramatically. Shame on the NED for fudging over this fact!

Interestingly, like Sumate, the NED are not mentioning any activities since 2003. Yet according to FOIA documents dug up by Eva Golinger, they have been active in Venezuela throughout the years 1993 to the present, financing Sumate since its inception in 2002, and this year's "contribution" is expected to be their largest yet, though the precise number is unspecified. The reason for this is obvious: Hugo Chavez is up for re-election in December, and all the signs are that he'll coast to an easy victory. (He predicts there will be ten million votes for him; we'll see.) Naturally the NED would be remiss if they didn't try to muck with that.

Meanwhile, here's something to make both Sumate and the NED gnash their expensively-maintained teeth: co-ops are blooming all over Venezuela. These social-democratic groups have government support and start-up money, but many are moving toward eventual self-sufficiency. That's the last thing the wingnuts want for a US "client state"!

(And if you need a good chuckle, click here to read about one of the "better" astroturf candidates against Chavez. If this is the best the interfering Yanquis can do, they deserve to go right on losing.)

In case you're wondering...

...what the current death tolls in the Israel/Lebanon and US/Iraq wars are, clicky da linkies.

And prepare for a nasty shock.

Je proteste!

Condi the bass-ackward Mountie

Now, this is NO way to portray a Mountie. Quite aside from the fact that Condi stands for just about everything unCanadian and couldn't get her man if you dropped him smack on his ass in front of her, I take umbrage at this on the grounds that Mounties only ride black horses. (It goes better with the red serge. No, I'm not kidding.)

Usually, I hate doggy clothes...

...but I'll happily make an exception for this:

Homer the Dog

Isn't that adorable? (And no, he's not my dog. Mine's a big black Lab/Husky cross with blue eyes and white paws.)

You can get what Homer's wearing at Bartcop.com.

July 26, 2006

Watch them spin this as "insanity"...

We just know that the mainstream Venezuelan and US media are itching to paint Hugo Chavez as "loquito", aren't we? Well, here's some more red meat for their attack dogs, courtesy of the Beeb...

The visit by the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Russia is taking the media by storm, with one news agency reporting he has attracted much attention with his "emotional and spontaneous behaviour".

"He calls Christ the first socialist in the world; George Bush an alcoholic; pro-Washington Latin American presidents poodles of imperialism", writes Andrey Yashlavskiy in the Moskovskiy Komsomolets daily.

The military paper Krasnaya Zvezda headlines its front-page article with a quote from the "charismatic" Mr Chavez: "I am a brother of the Slavs."

Channel 1 TV was impressed by Mr Chavez's arrival at Volgograd airport when he was offered a shot of vodka.

"The Venezuelan president demonstrated good knowledge of local traditions," the TV reports, "he drank the vodka from a Cossack's sabre and without eating anything."

The Trud daily is also fascinated by the "extraordinary and controversial leader".

"Hugo Chavez, an indigenous Indian with some African blood in his veins, whose speech is peppered with proverbs and vulgar slang, has a messianic quality, not uncommon in politicians with spice in their blood."

The Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid notes that Mr Chavez "took notice of Volgograd girls" and quotes him as saying: "I have always liked Venezuelan women, but looking at yours, I can see that I have lost a lot."

The paper adds that as he was saying this Mr Chavez put "the heavy hand of a Venezuelan peasant" on the girl's shoulder.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta prints what some Volgograd residents had to say about the Venezuelan leader.

They call Mr Chavez "a unique phenomenon", "a sensible but eccentric guy" - although very few seem to know much about Venezuela as some suggest it is either "a place in Italy" or "in Africa", or "a shop in central Volgograd".

They're gonna leap all over the bits with the added emphasis, I can just smell it; he'll be painted as a wacky, drunken lecher, as well as a tyrant. (Even Alternet, which should know better, has fallen into that trap by reprinting a repulsively spinny Foreign Affairs article saying as much, with scant evidence that Venezuela is indeed a "competitive autocracy", a nonsense term if ever there was one...at least, as far as Venezuela goes. If it were applied to the US, it might make more sense.)

Meanwhile, this is what passes for "serious" coverage in the Russian media. As you can see, it's no better than what you'd get in the "serious" mainstream media here:

The Kommersant daily prefers to concentrate on the political dimension to the visit, during which Mr Chavez is expected to sign arms deals.

"Venezuela gets armed with Russia" write Mikhail Zygar and Tatyana Dmitriyeva.

"Moscow expects bumper arms contracts from the visit," they say, while Venezuela's eyes are on "setting up an anti-American oil bloc".

"Thus Moscow, which has just hosted the G8 summit, shows once again that, when the chance comes, it may respond to criticism from the West by making a sharp U-turn towards the West's foes."

Um, newsflash, Kommersant: Chavez IS from the West. He can't be its foe. And he's not the US's foe either, no matter who paints him that way. In the end, the US will be its own worst enemy, as was ever the case. They don't need Chavez to trip them up; they've been rattling their own sabre so much that they'll fall on it in the end with no pushing from him.

Besides, I thought it was supposed to be a GOOD thing that Russia is now open to doing trade with the West.

I guess some Westerners are more Western than others, eh?

Evo shows his cojones

Get your minds out of the gutter, people. He hasn't turned into a flasher. But he has had a flash of serious statesmanly inspiration:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called for change within the country's Catholic Church, accusing it of acting as in the "times of the Inquisition".

Mr Morales said Catholic leaders should understand the need for freedom of religion and belief.

His government recently announced plans to teach a range of religions in schools, as well as native traditions.

Church leaders have opposed the planned changes, calling on Catholics to defend their faith.

"I want to ask the [Church] hierarchies that they understand freedom of religion and beliefs in our country," Mr Morales said.

"It's not possible to impose their views. I am very worried by the behaviour of some Catholic Church leaders, who act like in the time of the Inquisition."

He insisted Bolivia would continue to respect the Church.

He spoke out after Catholic leaders criticised the planned reforms, which would break the long-standing dominance of Catholicism in Bolivian schools.

The archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazzas, said on Sunday that Catholics were being "passive" in the face of Mr Morales' planned changes.

"Great wars begin with small theories... with this discourse of hate, of rancour, of unforgiveness," he said.

On Sunday the country's education minister, Felix Patzi, said Catholic leaders were "lying" over claims that the government was aiming to destroy the Church.

However, he said the planned changes would allow Bolivians to break down "ethnic borders" that have marginalised native traditions for more than 500 years, the Associated Press reported.

It's kind of funny that the church is so up in arms lately over anything that bids fair to break its stranglehold on hearts and minds. They're pulling the same thing in Venezuela, where the education minister is bent on cutting the old ties between church and public schools. It's a prudent move, designed to render Venezuela's system more like the separation of church and state that prevails in most parts of North America and Europe. But to hear the churchmen tell it, you'd think the Vatican was being firebombed! Nobody's kicking them out of the country, so there is really no reason for them to carry on like this, unless of course they're looking for a "legal" way to maintain a theocratic monopoly on the minds of the people.

Besides, have they never heard of Sunday school?

July 25, 2006

Well, stripe me pink and call me a peppermint stick...

...because the Chavez-and-Castro-hating Miami Herald appears to have had a moment of mournful truth!

Less than five months before a December presidential election, Venezuela's fractured opposition still has no clear candidate to square off against President Hugo Chávez, a charismatic leftist seeking a new six-year mandate.

None of the potential contenders individually is a match for Chávez, whose support stands at about 55 percent in opinion polls. Although there is broad consensus on the need for a united candidacy, there is controversy over the selection method -- and even over whether to take part in the December balloting at all.

On Aug. 13, nine opposition hopefuls will submit themselves to a primary election, organized by the independent electoral pressure group Súmate. But that is unlikely to resolve the issue.

Eight months ago, the opposition boycotted legislative elections, alleging they were rigged. The result was that the government won all the seats in the National Assembly. Many believe that tactic should be repeated, so as not to lend legitimacy to a Chávez reelection.

Participants in the primaries are ''like drunks fighting over an empty bottle,'' said Henry Ramos Allup of the once-powerful Democratic Action Party, a prominent supporter of boycotting the vote.

Meanwhile, Teodoro Petkoff, a leading candidate, former planning minister and editor of Tal Cual newspaper who is a critic of the abstention movement, has refused to participate in the primaries.

Political matters ''should be resolved by politicians and not technicians,'' Petkoff said earlier this month as he rejected what he called an unacceptable ''ultimatum'' by Súmate to agree on a primary.

The organization, which was instrumental in pushing for a 2004 recall referendum against Chávez, is allegedly seeking to oblige any candidates to withdraw from the December election if the government does not meet certain conditions for a fair vote.

''This is all a big comedy,'' said political analyst Fausto Masó. ``Who's going to bother to vote if it's simply to choose a candidate who will ultimately pull out of the election?''

LOL--amazing...not a single piece of bullshit so far! Who slipped them the antivenom, I wonder?

Let's hope the truth serum holds...

Súmate spokesman Alejandro Plaz denies the allegation.

''Once the candidate is chosen, what power do we have over them? It's their decision,'' he told The Miami Herald.

Critics say Petkoff's rejection of a primary reflects his deficit in the polls. He trails the two leading opposition candidates -- Manuel Rosales, governor of the populous western state of Zulia, and Julio Borges of the center-right Justice First Party -- both of whom have agreed to take part.

Petkoff has said that he will step down if it becomes obvious that his candidacy has insufficient support. Some say that decision may be imminent. But he's still warning that a primary could backfire on the opposition if, for example, the turnout is very low.

Well, now that makes a few more damning bits of truth. One, that Sumate is politically lame, lacking the power to even control its chosen candidate and make him run, win or lose. Two, that even the prominent Petkoff, considered by some to be the closest thing Chavez has to a rival, is suffering from a "deficit in the polls" (translation: he doesn't stand a snowball's chance.) And then, of course, the danger of a low turnout for the opposition primary--intimating that these people aren't interested in voting for anyone (so much for their claims to "democracy"!)

Onwards...

Chávez says he will defeat the opposition candidate, whoever it is. He insists he will get 10 million votes, four million more than in the 2004 referendum. And the government says it has no interest in the decision over a primary.

''President Chávez's government does not in any way interfere with opposition politics,'' Vice President José Vicente Rangel said at a news conference Thursday.

What--no opposition cries of "interference" to "balance" that statement? They just let it sit there? Well, I'll be buggered! This is a new departure for the Herald, which usually never misses a chance to slam Chavez and his supporters.

Oh wait, maybe I spoke too soon?

But a group of pro-Chávez legislators has alleged that Súmate is violating the constitution by ''usurping'' the role of the National Electoral Council. They are calling for Súmate's finances to be investigated, alleging it is using U.S. government money to fund the primaries.

José Albornoz, secretary general of the Fatherland for All Party, a Chávez ally and one of those behind the complaint, said they wanted to ''remove the veil'' from Súmate and oblige it to ``assume its role as a political party.''

Venezuelan law bans foreign funding for political parties. Several Súmate leaders are being prosecuted on charges of seeking to undermine Venezuela's institutions, after receiving a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, which is funded by the U.S. Congress.

Albornoz says the primaries will cost $12.5 million -- not the $600,000 that Súmate claims -- and alleges that money has been smuggled into the country to pay for them.

''The ballot papers alone will cost almost $650,000,'' he told The Miami Herald.

Súmate denies the allegation, saying that friendly suppliers have offered special deals. Plaz said its finances are an open book, available via the organization's website, www.sumate.org.

"Friendly suppliers" and "special deals"? That smells strange to me. Anywhere else, that sort of thing is referred to as "influence-buying".

Checking their site, I find:

A PDF showing they accepted money from USAID, which is certainly no domestic organization, and

Another PDF showing they've also accepted money from the NED. Which is also no domestic organization.

Both of those PDFs are dated 2003. Nothing more recent on the site than that. Hmmm, kind of odd in light of the "open books" statement, for here's something that rather contradicts them:

In September 2005, the Miami Herald reported that NED approved a $107,000 grant to Sumate, "a Venezuelan citizens group whose leaders already face charges in Venezuela of using Washington's money to try to overthrow President Hugo Chavez's government. ... Súmate leaders could face prison sentences of up to 16 years if convicted of 'conspiracy to destroy the nation's republican form of government' by accepting $31,000 from NED in 2004. Súmate helped gather the signatures to force last year's recall referendum on Chávez, which the president won handily." The 2005 grant was to train up to 11,000 people on electoral rights, in small groups of 20 to 25.

Well, I'll be. Looks like the Herald occasionally pulls its nose out of the Miami Mafia's ass just long enough to get a whiff of truth. The big question is, why aren't they more critical and curious when it comes to Sumate's contradictory statements? These grants appear nowhere on the 2004 or 2005 statements of accounts, and I'm damned if I could find anything about them on Sumate's site!

In light of all that, the "friendly suppliers" and "special deals" vagueness raises more than a few red flags.

What's even more shocking--and painful to me--is the fact that Canada has also kicked in $16,000 (CDN) to this group as recently as last year. Haven't our feds anything better to spend taxpayer dollars on than undermining democracy elsewhere? Or did someone in Washington put them up to it in an effort to make it look legitimate? Whatever the answer, it's not; it's a crime for foreign governments to try to influence the Venezuelan elections, and it's hard to see how giving money to the aggressively anti-Chavez, openly antidemocratic Sumate could be anything else.

And in case you need anything else to convince you that Sumate has no democratic interests in mind, consider what Eva Golinger has found:

Curiously, Súmate has also received an unprecedented and almost inexplicable level of support from the U.S. Government, and not just financial support, but rather political support on a very public and international level. In November 2004, after an initial court date had been set for the case against the Súmate directors, NED President Carl Gershman, accompanied by Latin America Program Director Chris Sabatini, made a historic visit to Venezuela with the objective of convincing the government to drop the case. Gershman met separately with then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ivan Rincon and Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, threatening both functionaries that if the case were to proceed against the Súmate members, relations between the two nations would worsen and a World Bank grant to Venezuela's Supreme Court for a judicial reform program would be cut. Days afterward, Gershman came through on his promises. The NED, surely with the powerful aid of its boss, the Department of State, had pulled its strings with the World Bank and cut the funding to Venezuela's judiciary, and just twenty-four hours after Gershman returned to U.S. soil, a well-crafted letter from "70 respected international democrats," all either board members of the NED or beneficiaries of NED-related programs, was released from NED's public relations office, condemning the case against Súmate and accusing the Venezuelan Government of political persecution and violation of democratic principles. And before Gershman parted from Venezuela, he revealingly declared to the press, in a fit of anger perhaps for not getting his way, that "Venezuela is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but rather something in between." Clearly such a statement evidences NED's opposition to Venezuela's democratic government.

Just last month, Súmate director and defendant Maria Corina Machado received a surprise invitation to meet with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. Ms. Machado appeared in a fantastical photograph holding hands with President Bush in the Oval Office, smiling from ear to ear. Upon her exit from the momentous visit, Machado gave a press conference on the White House lawn, a place fit for prime ministers, presidents and high-level officials. She was the first Venezuelan during the Bush presidency to be invited and received in the White House, not a single member of the Chávez Government has received a similar invitation. On the contrary, the Bush Administration has participated in and supported a coup d'etat against President Chávez in 2002, a vicious oil industry sabotage that caused almost irreparable damages and an ongoing destabilization campaign, including an international media war intended to discredit the Venezuelan leader, that has polarized Venezuela and fomented violence, conflict and animosity.

Yet Súmate and its members have received the royal treatment from the U.S. Government — Democrats and Republicans alike. Just recently, during a visit of several U.S. Congress members to Venezuela, it was declared that Súmate would receive "even more financing" from the NED and USAID. The day after the court decided to allow the case against Súmate to proceed on its merits, Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State issued a press release entitled "Súmate Trial Decision," expressing the U.S. Government's "disappointment" in the judge's decision to try the Súmate leaders and alleging the Venezuelan Government engages in "political persecution and continued threats to democratic rights and institutions." Once again, the U.S. Government failed to recognize that Venezuela too cherishes the doctrine of separation of powers. The case against Súmate now falls within the judicial power — and the prosecutor's office that is bringing the case falls within the moral power, a branch nonexistent in the U.S. Venezuela has five independent branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial, electoral and moral — neither controls nor influences the other. The U.S. Government has consistently attempted to pressure the Venezuelan executive into acting on the Súmate case, disrespecting outright the independent and separate nature of Venezuela's political system and trying to dominate and intimidate the Venezuelan Government.

So why is the U.S. Government so afraid of the case against Súmate? Most likely because the case exposes the nefarious and deceitful nature of the National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. Government facades for civil society intervention. The NED is a U.S. Government agency, though often referred to as "quasi-governmental" because it insists on its status as "private," despite the fact that 99% of its funding comes from Congress (tax money) and it was established through Congressional legislation in 1983. The NED is also required to report to Congress annually on its activities and exercises its functions under direct supervision of the Department of State. In fact, each NED representative in the more than 75 nations where the organization operates is stationed usually in the U.S. Embassy, working under the supervision of the U.S. Ambassador.

In early 2001, NED quadrupled its financing to groups in Venezuela and increased the amount of grants it was dispensing, funding new social organizations and political parties that had emerged within the growing opposition to President Chávez. NED spokespersons have not denied the fact that all of the entities it finances in Venezuela fall within the anti-Chávez spectrum. Furthermore, after the April 2002 failed coup against President Chávez, the NED received a special $1 million grant from the Department of State for its work in Venezuela. Instead of cutting funding to those groups that had participated in the illegal coup that briefly deposed Venezuela's legitimate government, the NED actually increased such funding, rewarding those very same groups that had wreaked havoc on Venezuela's democracy.

The NED has been engaging in ongoing efforts to strengthen organizations and political parties working to overthrow the Chávez administration or eventually oust the President from power through electoral processes. Its work consistently undermines the objectives and missions of the Venezuelan people and their Government by funneling millions into groups working against the wishes of the majority and providing and resources aimed at building a solid opposition party capable of challenging the Venezuelan Government. While it is perfectly legitimate in democratic nations for diverse political parties and groups to co-exist, such efforts should never be funded by foreign governments, especially those governments with major self-interests in the nation and contrasting political positions.

The NED is one of the U.S. Government's most powerful tools to discretely and subtly promote its interests abroad and penetrate civil societies with the objective of influencing the internal affairs of nations to placate U.S. needs. Ethiopia recently expelled the NED and USAID and their affiliates, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and IFES for "meddling in domestic electoral affairs" (see The Daily Monitor, April 1, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). And in May, 2005, Russia's security chief, accused the U.S. Government of "using non-governmental organizations that promote democracy to spy on Russia and bring about political upheaval in former Soviet republics", referring specifically to the NED and USAID-funded International Republican Institute (see The Guardian).

The NED and USAID played key roles in recent elections in the Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and other Eastern European nations that all resulted in outcomes favorable to U.S. interests. In Venezuela, the case against Súmate is exposing the NED's dirty work and threatening its ongoing existence and success around the world, which is why it has provoked the involvement of the highest levels of the U.S. Government. This case may very well turn out to be the death of the National Endowment for Democracy, or at least the start of its slow descent into oblivion.

And we all know who would NOT want that to happen.

Yoohoo, Miami Herald--what's the matter? NED got your tongue?

July 24, 2006

Excrements in presidenting

While I don't often read Dr. Susan Block's website (it's a bit too fetish-y for my liking), her commentaries on CounterPunch are wildly funny and, as here, incisive as all hell:

With dozens of Iraqis getting killed each day, often by men in police uniforms, central Iraq is obviously boiling alive in a Sunni-Shia civil war. Of course, no one wants to declare this war, since that is a certain way to get oneself killed. Then again, going to work, getting groceries or just sitting in one's house huddled under one's bed are also almost-certain ways to get oneself killed in this once fairly peaceful country that BushCo went and *liberated* into Hell.

Then there's the "shit" between Israel and Lebanon, Israel bombing and slaughtering Lebanese innocents on a level that rivals the American bombing of Baghdad, as Hezbollah lobs Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel, killing civilians and wreaking havoc. In the past, an American president could come in and broker some kind of peace. It would be grudging and temporary, but at least it would save a few lives, humble the militants, and give the locals some breathing space. But the current American president is way too busy wriggling his middle finger up his ass, occasionally removing it to smell the situation which he then pronounces to be "shit." Since he is doing as little as possible about this, as well as the other "shit" in Iraq, not to mention the toxic "shit," ie., waste, that is choking our environment, one can only assume our Commander-in-Chief is a coprophiliac (another fetish he has in common with Der Fuehrer).

And speaking of the Der Scheisser (a nickname I do hope will catch on), don't miss Uri Avnery's excellent dissection of Bush's excrement.

July 23, 2006

Good thing she spoke English...

...or who knows what might have happened to Tina Hannouneh?

This is an interview with Tina Hannouneh, an American of Palestinian origin who was beaten by Israeli border guards, along with her son, at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

Q: I'm speaking with Tina Hannouneh, an American citizen. Could you tell me about your experience at the Allenby Bridge border crossing?

A: Well, you know what, it was really terrible because as soon as we got in they jumped my son and they wanted to take his iPod and they didn't even ask, 'Can you give me this?' He said to him in Arabic 'give me this.' My son, he doesn't understand any Arabic. And he said 'no' and as soon as he said 'no,' they started hitting him. He hit him, dropped him on the floor and started punching him.

I started to interfere, I told him 'you know, he doesn't speak Arabic. Can you speak to him in English?' I told my son to give him what he wants. He hit my face, hit my nose, and broke my nose. I fell down, I hit my nose and head, and have stitches, like deep ones on my left eye. I started bleeding. Another guy had his gun in my face, pointed between my eyes, and he said, ' if you say one word I will shoot you.' I just stayed quiet. And it was really terrible. My son was so excited to come over here, and now he is not. He was so disappointed and he didn't even go to a doctor because he is scared. So I don't know what to tell you. It's really awful.

Q: Did the men who assaulted your son identify themselves as officers?

A: No. Not at all. If they did none of this would have happened. If he did my son would have gave it to him. He thought that any guy wanted to take his iPod and he paid for it from his own pocket. He worked hard for it and he's not going to let anybody take it. If that guy had identified himself as a police officer or security, my son would have given it to him.

Q: He thought it was someone trying to steal the device?

A: Yes.

Q: Why do you think that the security guards at Allenby pounced on your son in such an aggressive way? Why did they target him?

A: I really don't know. I look like an Arab and he's a young kid. As soon as they heard me speaking English to my son, they came from inside running outside, and they said 'Arab-American.' They knew that I'm Arab and my son is American. I think at that time they stopped and they started apologizing and they cleaned up my face.

He was hitting my son real bad. And I was yelling at him until that guy came who said he was going to shoot me if I said one more word. I have dark skin and I look like an Arab, because I was born here in Bethlehem.

Q: You are from Beit Sahour?

A: Yes.

Q: Are you Christian?

A: Yes, I am Christian. I have a Christian family. All of us are Christian.

Q: I think many Americans are not aware of the Palestinian Christian population.

A: Yes that's true. I work in Arizona and I have a lot of people who are surprised to hear that there are Christians in Bethlehem. I tell them that this is the land of Christ and a lot of people are Christian over there. But Most of them, they flee the country because they want to live. They fear for their families, their kids. There are still a lot of them there and they are still suffering.

Emphasis added.

I find it amazing that a Christian woman was treated this way. I thought the Israelis welcomed the Christians.

Oh.

Wait.

That's just the crazy fundie rapturists who support these gangsters because they think it'll bring on the Second Coming when the entire Middle East goes up in flames. (What a Great Disappointment they are in for!)

Meanwhile, this woman got the shit beat out of her because she is PALESTINIAN. I'm guessing she's not a rapturist. And undoubtedly, that's the wrong kind of Christian.

Lucky for her she's also an Arab-AMERICAN--otherwise, who knows what might've happened to her?

July 22, 2006

We are all shitheads now

When I first heard the "We are all (insert name of plucky little hard-done-by country here) now" meme, I was put out by it. It was a little too simplistic an expression of empathy for the victims of the 9-11 tragedy, and besides, it was a bit bass-ackwards, seeing as 9-11 was more like a cold shower of welcome-to-the-world reality for Americans. So when Le Monde proclaimed that "we are all Americans now", my first thought was, I'm unspeakably sad for those whom this has affected, but count me the fuck out of "we". I'm still a Canadian and a citizen of the world, and no amount of terrorism is gonna change that!

Nearly five years later, I still feel that way; if anything, even more so. I was not "Americanized" by 9-11 and neither, it turned out, was the rest of the world, much to the dismay and horror of certain wingnutty Americans. Once the war drums started beating and people all over the planet saw through the Bush Crime Cartel's con, the goodwill wore out its welcome fast. I'm sure the French regretted their "nous sommes tous Americains" lapse, particularly when they took an anti-war stance on Iraq and got gleefully slagged by the more ignorant among les Americains. Suddenly, French fries were freedom fries, French toast was freedom toast, nobody was French-kissing anymore, and well-heeled boycotteurs were making a big show of dumping French wine (for which they still had to pay a pretty centime) down the gutter. Some of the more radical of them were even eschewing Brie cheese (quel fromage!) They utterly forgot who gave them their cherished Statue of Liberty. Strangely, though, I missed all the Dior-dumpings and Chanel-burnings. If anyone knows whether there even were any, kindly drop a line in the Comments section below this thread.

I was ever so touched when, a little over a year ago, the British were hit by the Cold Shower of Welcome-to-the-World themselves, and the wingnuts decided to pick up the "we are all..." meme and pasted Union Jacks all over their fly-blown blogs and fora. Who knew that a few bombs in the London Underground could be such a crazy-glue for international bonding among the otherwise hopelessly self-absorbed American Right? (They were quick to retract the comradely sentiment from Spain, however, after les espagnols, hard on the heels of the Madrid bombings, got fed up with a conservative regime that didn't listen to their strong protests against the Iraq war, and elected a Socialist as their new prime minister. So much for empathy with the terror-stricken.)

And I was moved beyond words when the "freedom-loving" 'tards decided to express solidarity for the right of the ruling class of Danes to maintain its bigotry (laughably termed "freedom of speech") in the aftermath of a certain cartoon fiasco. Never mind that the "story" which provoked the fiasco turned out to have been a massive heap of merde. Suddenly, Danish flags were bristling all over the blogtardosphere, and some of the silliest 'wingers were making a big deal out of eating Havarti cheese. We are all Danes now, the rallying cry went--even if "we" couldn't speak the language or find the place on a map to save their lives!

Now, I aced Old Norse at university, and would probably have a much easier time getting around in Copenhagen than all these shameless self-promoters put together. But I'm damned if I'm gonna go calling myself a Dane, now or ever, over something so patently ludicrous. Blatant bigotry, no matter what rhetoric you dress it in, is simply NOT free speech. Denunciation of such bigotry is. But trust some people not to know the difference--or worse, those who should know better, to pit one kind of bigotry against another in the name of "freedom".

But here's the latest mutation of this absurd meme: We are all Israelis now. Both Ken Mehlman and Larry Kudlow have tossed this cheap line out within the last 24 hours. Three guesses as to why.

Well, I am NOT an Israeli now, either. Although my sympathies lie strongly with Uri Avnery and the good folks of Gush Shalom, I am not joining the fictitious "we" who are always dishonestly honorary denizens of whatever gallant little country is the right-wing radical chic du moment. (Lebanon, unquestionably much harder hit by the current catastrophe than Israel, doesn't rate a "we are all Lebanese now"; the whole country is being held beneath contempt by any good herd-following neo-con, although ironically enough, Mr. Cheap-Rhetoric Kudlow did pull this schtick just last year, trying to cash in on the death of Rafik Hariri.)

And tell me--when's the last time you heard a 'winger say "we are all citizens of Darfur now"? Try googling that, and bonne chance.

What will "we" all be tomorrow? I don't know, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that wingnut "we" to ever count themselves as citizens of the world. That's too large a country, and not gallant, plucky and patronizable enough. They are only "with" any given country long enough to score their cheap political points off it. Once the chic wears off, they forget they were ever Brits, or Danes, or Israelis, or what have you. They revert right back to being the worst kind of Ugly American, with all the attendant xenophobia.

"We" are all shitheads, now and forever.

July 21, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Smiling in the rain

Hugo Chavez in the rain, with Generals Maniglia and Baduel

Even the rain can't dampen Chavecito's spirits...or that terrific smile.

He's flanked by out-going defence minister Orlando Maniglia (left) and his replacement-to-be, General Raul Baduel. Story here.

And hey, cool: Navy Day will be on my birthday!

July 19, 2006

Headline Howler: The LA Whore Times reveals its clue-challenged side

Compare and contrast...

The always reliable Venezuelanalysis: "Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Advances Towards Elections Without a Rival". (Note that a handful of opponents does not a rival equal, since Chavez is pulling a minimum of 55% of the poll respondents, a full 35% ahead of all his declared opponents combined.)

Versus the not-so-reliable Los Angeles Times: "In Venezuela, Chavez's Rivals Plan a Team Effort".

Giggle...

Here's a quarter, LAT:

US Quarter

Dial-A-Clue is standing by for your call!

July 18, 2006

Quotable: George W. Bush on fecal contamination

"The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over."

--George W. Bush, talking to his poodle at the G8 summit

July 17, 2006

Oh, NOW the NY Times catches on...

Took them long enough!

It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration's response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.

Only now?

Um, some of us have known it would be the case since the Florida Fiasco of 2000.

Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.

One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror.

Newsflash, Grey Whore: They wanted to destroy democracy. And you can't declare war on an emotion. The whole War on Terror was nothing of the sort; it's a war on Terra. But to get away with declaring one, you have to abolish as many rules against it as you can, and disregard the rest.

This whole sorry story has been on vivid display since the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions and United States law both applied to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. For one brief, shining moment, it appeared that the administration realized it had met a check that it could not simply ignore. The White House sent out signals that the president was ready to work with Congress in creating a proper procedure for trying the hundreds of men who have spent years now locked up as suspected terrorists without any hope of due process.

But by week's end it was clear that the president's idea of cooperation was purely cosmetic. At hearings last week, the administration made it clear that it merely wanted Congress to legalize President Bush's illegal actions — to amend the law to negate the court's ruling instead of creating a system of justice within the law. As for the Geneva Conventions, administration witnesses and some of their more ideologically blinkered supporters in Congress want to scrap the international consensus that no prisoner may be robbed of basic human dignity.

The hearings were a bizarre spectacle in which the top military lawyers — who had been elbowed aside when the procedures at Guantánamo were established — endorsed the idea that the prisoners were covered by the Geneva Convention protections. Meanwhile, administration officials and obedient Republican lawmakers offered a lot of silly talk about not coddling the masterminds of terror.

The divide made it clear how little this all has to do with fighting terrorism. Undoing the Geneva Conventions would further endanger the life of every member of the American military who might ever be taken captive in the future. And if the prisoners scooped up in Afghanistan and sent to Guantánamo had been properly processed first — as military lawyers wanted to do — many would never have been kept in custody, a continuing reproach to the country that is holding them. Others would actually have been able to be tried under a fair system that would give the world a less perverse vision of American justice. The recent disbanding of the C.I.A. unit charged with finding Osama bin Laden is a reminder that the American people may never see anyone brought to trial for the terrible crimes of 9/11.

The hearings were supposed to produce a hopeful vision of a newly humbled and cooperative administration working with Congress to undo the mess it had created in stashing away hundreds of people, many with limited connections to terrorism at the most, without any plan for what to do with them over the long run. Instead, we saw an administration whose political core was still intent on hunkering down. The most embarrassing moment came when Bush loyalists argued that the United States could not follow the Geneva Conventions because Common Article Three, which has governed the treatment of wartime prisoners for more than half a century, was too vague. Which part of "civilized peoples," "judicial guarantees" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" do they find confusing?

Wrong questions, Grey Whore! There is no confusion on BushCo's part, and never has been.

The terrible truth is, Gitmo is part of a pattern that was visible from a distance long ago. It was set up specifically to evade all accountability, whether at home or internationally! Gitmo was, if you will, the example of what will happen to anyone who's been singled out to be made an example of. Don't look for serious action in the right direction from Dubya; he'll say one thing, then turn right around and do what he wanted to do all along, with no regard for what anyone else thinks. That's the pattern, and was even before he became president.

There's more at the link, but the terrible truth is this: The NY Times has had more than five years to see this coming, and they've remained wilfully blind.

What part of "dereliction of journalistic duty" is confusing to them?

PS: Mike Malloy is going off on this right now, too. Talk about great minds...

July 16, 2006

Give it up for Winnebago Man!

And please, put this potty-mouthed pitchman out of his goddamn fuckin' piece of shit misery. Buy a mini-Winni today!

July 15, 2006

Where's Tina Turner?

Have I got a song for her!

You must understand that his fat pudgy hand pulls the puppet strings

That he gets a big thrill out of making a kill without touching things

Hypocritical

It's political

You must try to ignore that it's Rove who makes kings

Oh oh oh

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

What's Rove but an evil man in motion?

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

He's got no heart, so his heart can't be broken

It may seem to you that you're feeling confused when you read the news

If you tend to look glazed, you're probably fazed by the pundits' views

There's a name for it--

It's right-wing bullshit

But whatever they say, this is no time to snooze

Oh oh oh

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

What's Rove but an evil man in motion?

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

He's got no heart, so his heart can't be broken

Time to get up and reclaim your nation

And throw him in jail

Drag his carcass to the police station

And don't let them give him bail!

Oh oh oh

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

What's Rove but a sick, outdated notion?

What's Rove got to do, got to do with it?

He's got no heart, so his heart can't be broken

Hat tip to Doc at Mike Malloy's board for posting Robert Parry's excellent piece.

Headline Howler: No comment needed

Bush makes babies cry

(AP photo.)

July 14, 2006

Apart from the pig, Mr. President...

Christ. Does anyone need further proof of just how stupid Dubya is?

He kept mentioning a wild boar, slaughtered and roasted according to local tradition, that he planned to share at a dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her home constituency at a Baltic resort.

"I'm looking forward to the feast you're going to have tonight. I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig," Bush told Merkel at the outset of their joint news conference in Stralsund, north of Berlin.

A few minutes later -- after discussing Iran, the Middle East, the merits of press freedoms in Russia and progress on the Doha round of free trade talks -- Bush returned to the boar.

"Thank you for having me," he told Merkel. "Looking forward to that pig tonight."

Bush answered a few more questions before wandering back to the boar for a third time.

"I haven't seen that pig yet," Bush said out of the blue. Merkel laughed and said she had seen television pictures of the boar and could verify it was dead, adding she hoped it was on the spit and ready in time for dinner.

Near the end of the 30-minute briefing, Bush fielded a question about the Middle East with his fourth pig rejoinder.

"I thought you were going to ask about the pig," he told a reporter, who then said he was indeed curious about that too.

"The pig?" Bush said. "I'll tell you tomorrow after I eat it."

Four mentions of a roast boar. Zero words of any substance. America's national embarrassment is, as usual, par for the course.

Now, wouldn't it be a gas if Chancellor Merkel had him carve a plastic "pig"--to go with the turkey he served to the troops for that idiotic photo-op?

To the tune of "I Fought the Law and the Law Won"...

Ahem:

Country's goin' up in smoke--

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

He wanted Wilson to choke--

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

Well, he outed Val from the CIA,

Hoping that she'd croak;

But she's still alive and she's okay--

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

This is more trippy than a skunky toke--

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

Pretty soon Rove will be a bad joke!

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

Well, he outed Val from the CIA,

Hoping that she'd croak;

But she's still alive and she's okay--

I found the law that Rove broke,

I found the law that Rove broke.

Please...don't applaud, just throw indictments.

(Big hat tip to Morrison at Liberty in Chaos for the inspiration!)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Cool shades, dude...

Hugo's Shades?

Actually, they're safety glasses. Chavecito's been a very busy boy lately, inaugurating a new Venezuela-Colombia gas pipeline. Here he is watching the first weld going down.

And speaking of cool dudes in the shade:

Evo in the Shade?

Oops. Looks like Evo inadvertently got himself burqa'd. Here's what happened:

Grand Unveiling!

Evo got caught under the cloth while unveiling the new Venezuelan coat of arms...with a little help from his friends.

July 13, 2006

Where's Michelle Malkin?

I wanna rub her snotty little self-hating nose in this. From Raw Story (mit Video!), a lovely object lesson in what happens when a FOX propaganda hack--er, newsman--reveals a troop position in a war zone:

FOX HOST: Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, says, "Israel's incursion into Lebanon could start a regional war." We got David Lee Miller there, live, in central Gaza. David Lee, I see you have your flak jacket on. What's happening?

DAVID LEE MILLER: Right now, Brian, fortunately, not a great deal. We're on the outskirts of Abala[sic] but yesterday at this very location -- in the city here -- some 12 Palestinians were killed. At least half of them, according to local sources, were militants. One of them was also a policeman and this is normally a very busy roadway. This is Sala Adini[sic] street. This is the main artery that cuts through the Gaza strip. It goes from the very bottom to the very top of the strip. As you can see for yourself, it is a ghost town at this hour. Not a single car is on this road. The reason for that, the Israelis have effectively now, they have cut Gaza in half. There is a strong Israeli presence here. This is the first time that there Israeli troops in Gaza since the withdrawal last summer. And just over my shoulder, off in the distance -- you can't see it in camera range -- there are Israeli tanks. There are Israeli tanks and there has been some military activity from shelling and for that reason, as you point out, we are wearing the flak jackets.

[...]

MILLER: ...and despite this action in Gaza City, targeting the Foreign Ministry building that is all but gutted at this hour, militants in Gaza today did continue to launch rockets from the northern part of the strip, over the border into nearby Israeli towns and... whoa! We just got fired at. That's the end of this [broadcast], I think. I don't know if you guys can still hear us.

Emphasis added.

This is one of those "loose lips sink ships" moments that you simply MUST savor. It's especially sweet since the Wingnut News Network itself--whose pundits have never lost an opportunity to slag presumed "traitors"--is now the "blabbermouth".

Malkin, among others, has claimed that the NY Times staff, particularly editor Bill Keller, should be tried for treason because it allegedly gave away a national secret that actually was nothing of the sort. And just to drive her non-point home, she's padded her shitty blog's "articles" heavily with barely literate letters from other idiotic right-wing nobodies to prove it!

Oh, and she's been on FUX Snooze umpty-ump times herself. That makes her one of the traitors, by her own logic. Guilt by association, and all that other chop-logic those wingnuts love to use when they ain't got nuttin'.

How's it feel to be in bed with the blabbermouths, Michie?

Quotable: Robert Scheer on truth and press freedom

"You know, AJ Liebling said, 'Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.' Well, I now own at least half of one, along with Zuade Kaufman, my publisher. So, you know, you can land on your feet. Your show, which, you know, a lot of us listen to as mainstream media now. And my wife, for instance, she's a deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, she sits in her parking lot listening to your show before she goes into her meetings. So alternative media is no longer really alternative, and we're no longer that dependent upon newspapers, like the Los Angeles Times, for our information. You know, go to BuzzFlash or The Nation or TruthOut or TruthDig. There are many, many sites, as you're well aware. So, I don't want people to think, 'Wow! They were able to silence me.' Nonsense.

"Did they try to silence? Yes. The Tribune Company took over the Los Angeles Times. There are issues of media conglomeration. This was a newspaper that I had worked for for 30 years. The interviews in this book, with the exception of the Playboy interview with Jimmy Carter, were all done for the Los Angeles Times. I was nominated by the paper some 20 times for Pulitzer Prizes. You know, I was a finalist. So, you know, I had a very good relationship with this paper. Chicago Tribune, the Tribune Company took it over. They're very conservative. The publisher definitely was ideologically opposed to my view. I was attacked by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, sometimes nightly on O'Reilly. I mean, he called me the most dangerous columnist in the world or something.

"And I think that one of the problems is that I got it right. Now, that doesn't give me any satisfaction. I would have been much happier if we could go into Iraq, and democracy would flourish, there would be no casualties, the oil revenue would pay for everything, the country was reborn as a democracy. I mean, I think most people who are against the war would have been very happy to have been proved wrong. But to have had your column ended after you got it right all those years, it shows where the paper is. "

--Robert Scheer, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, July 10, 2006

July 12, 2006

REALLY pissing Jesus off

Can you believe this?

Friends and family lauded as a devout Christian and family leader the man who built Enron into an international energy powerhouse before its collapse in the biggest corporate scandal of its time.

Lay's stepson David Herrold told the nearly full First United Methodist Church that Lay was wrongly convicted, and he was angry about the portrayals of his stepfather in the media.

"He did have a strong faith in God and I know he's in heaven, and I'm glad he's not in a position anymore to be whipped by his enemy," Herrold said.

Lay, who was 64, died while vacationing in Colorado on July 5, just six weeks after a jury convicted him and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling of conspiracy and fraud in the 2001 collapse of the energy company.

Lay was found guilty of 10 counts of conspiracy, fraud and misusing personal bank loans on May 25 and was facing decades in prison at his sentencing, which was scheduled for Oct. 23.

Lay was a longtime friend of the Bushes, contributing to their political campaigns and was nicknamed "Kenny Boy" by President George W. Bush.

The former president and his wife Barbara entered and exited the church by a rear exit and did not speak to the media.

[...]

One former Enron employee wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Enron's crooked "E" logo came by the First Methodist Church of Houston but did not attend the service. She said she came out of respect for Lay.

"He was a good person who did a bad thing. Justice was served by finding him guilty," said Marie Watkins, a former tax analyst who worked with Lay at Enron and Florida Gas for 27 years. She said she lost 90 percent of her retirement portfolio when the company imploded.

The Reverend Dr. Bill Lawson compared Lay with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus Christ, and said his name would eventually be cleared.

"He was taken out of the world right at the right time," he said. "History has a way of vindicating people who have been wronged."

"Vindicating people who have been wronged"? Um, exactly how was Kenny Boy wronged? Everything went his way until the guilty verdict finally came in. And even now, everything's going his way. He got out of jail free. He will never face justice on Earth. (In heaven? That's debatable.)

If anyone is wronged, it's the rate-paying US public, who are still suffering under the rotten energy policies that Kenny Boy dumped on them. When will THEY be vindicated, hmmm?

And then there's that woman who showed up to pay respects even though he bilked her out of virtually everything she had saved for her retirement. She lost 27 years of her working life to this scammer, and she still forgives him? Either she's way too kind, or she's hardcore stupid. That is simply unbelievable.

But what really gets me is the comparisons to Jesus and MLK. Exactly WHAT does this conveniently deceased crook have in common with the Christ--or one of his finest earthly followers? Claiming the government "crucified" him is surely the phoniest form of eulogy...especially when you consider that this same government was heavily financed by him during its election campaign, and, along with others, rewrote energy policy to suit him--and he profited hugely from it.

Call me crazy, but I distinctly recall that Jesus did NOT say "screw thy neighbor for every shekel you can get out of him", and neither did Dr. King. And I strongly suspect that both would be deeply offended to be compared with this hypocrite.

If Kenny Boy is comparable to any biblical figure at all, it is surely one of those crooked moneychangers that Jesus drove out of the Temple.

How to turn a right-wing nuthouse into a pro-union hotbed

Very simple...hold the spectre of one Hugo Chavez over their collective head.

My friend CCG sent me this eminently bloggable bit of fun:

Venezuela's New Chokehold on Civil Society

by Stephen Johnson

Executive Memorandum #1005

July 7, 2006 |

Concealed in language that evokes respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, peace, and democracy, Venezuela's National Assembly has drafted a draconian bill that would block foreign donations to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and put such groups under state control. For now, Venezuela's new International Cooperation Law is a framework, but when filled in by President Hugo Chávez, it will muzzle the few voices that still provide a check on his creeping dictatorship.

The United States and democratic allies in the Americas should protest such constraints on basic freedoms of expression and association and press Venezuela to rescind the law. They should also promote action in the Organization of American States (OAS) to clarify the legitimate role of independent civic organizations and foreign donations that support them. Finally, because Venezuela has abused its people's civil liberties, they should oppose its bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council.

My oh my oh my. Such lovely "pro-democracy" rhetoric. One would almost think that the Heritage Foundation had suddenly developed a conscience--nay, a sense of altruism, even. Who knew that they were so touchingly concerned about another country's internal well-being--including, as we shall soon see, its unions?

Well, this scribble talks about "cloaking language", and like all wingnuttery, it's pure projection. They are the ones cloaking nefarious, tyrannical intent in pretty words. Read on, and keep your barf bag handy...

Cues from Uzbekistan and Russia. Hugo Chávez is not the only leader eager to rein in labor unions, political parties, universities, business groups, rights monitors, and special-issue advocates that might challenge his anti-democratic grip on power. Beginning in 2003, the Uzbek parliament reformed laws on NGOs and public foundations, requiring them to pass donations directly to government-controlled banks where authorities could monitor and withhold disbursement. As a result, over 80 percent of foreign grants to Uzbekistan's NGOs have been blocked, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Worried by the central role that NGOs played in defending individual freedoms in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a comprehensive NGO law in May 2006 to increase oversight of activities and monitor foreign funds reaching Russian civic organizations. Heritage Foundation Russia expert Yevgeny Volk reports that rights monitors now fear that this will smother Russian NGOs in red tape, endless reports, checkups, and increased operating costs—all without risking negative publicity by banning them outright.

This is very funny, considering that Uzbekistan and Russia are both still BushCo allies in the War on Terra. For how much longer that might be, who knows? BushCo has certainly done its level best to alienate the people while sucking up to the tyrannical leadership--and furnishing it with plenty of money and weaponry.

Meanwhile, Venezuela under Chavez has an exceedingly healthy anti-terrorism and pro-democracy record...but you'd never know it to hear the way BushCo and their parrots at the Heritage Foundation carry on:

Chutes and Ladders. On June 13, 2006, Venezuela's National Assembly—consisting almost entirely of Chávez loyalists—approved a preliminary draft NGO law that uses devices similar to those in Uzbek and Russian reforms. Like Russia, Venezuela would require all local civic organizations to register as legal entities before a new regulatory body in addition to complying with existing civil code and tax laws. Registered groups would also have to provide detailed information on donations and donors.

As in Uzbekistan, the Venezuelan government would monitor and control all international contributions to civil society groups. Instead of using state banks, Chávez would name a regulatory board to filter donations. This "agency for international cooperation" would have full discretion to issue or withhold funds based on vague criteria. It could also give money to causes that donors never intended to sponsor, including Chávez's support for radicals in foreign countries. In fact, the agency would finally provide a legal channel for such aid. Until now, Chávez had been helping foreign political movements largely off the books.

The law also requires NGOs to provide information about activities and funding to anyone who requests it. On the surface, that might seem like a good way to keep NGOs accountable. However, it could become a harassment mechanism, enabling Chávez's quasi-official militant groups to flood independent think tanks and electoral monitors with inquiries they would be forced to answer or else face closure. Chávez has yet to announce further details.

I have a question for the Heritage Foundation guys: Would you, in the United States, allow Venezuela to finance "pro-democracy" organizations on your turf? Or would you insist on tons of financial monitoring and strict laws against it? (Heh. Looks like my question is already answered. By the same guy who wrote this dreck, no less!)

What Is at Stake. Venezuela has between 4,000 and 5,000 NGOs, including the president's own partisan support groups. Although all activities should be known to the public and foreign donations should be disclosed on annual tax statements, that is as far as it should go. NGOs cannot educate voters, promote just institutions, conduct advocacy for special-interest groups, and enrich public discourse if regulatory bodies interfere with their donations or limit their freedom to communicate.

Chávez already insults and intimidates opponents, and media outlets self-censor to keep their licenses from being revoked. Meanwhile, a rubber-stamp National Assembly and crony courts block checks on Chávez's caprices and whims. The president's new "international cooperation agency" would add more weight to an already stacked deck.

The mind-boggling thousands of NGOs mentioned above are certainly not all above-board, and the kind of "education" they do is dubious. Many of them are nothing more than fronts for right-wing US interests. The biggest one, Sumate, is blatantly anti-Chavez and financed heavily by the National Endowment for Democracy (an ironically named institution if ever there was one.) Eva Golinger has all the goods on the NED, Sumate and others, so I won't duplicate her research here; I'll just point y'all to her excellent site.

And by the way, that pro-Chavez national assembly you slagged off on, Mr. Crapaganda-bot? Democratically elected, by the Venezuelan people. They wanted those deputies, and they wanted Chavez, and that's what they got! And all without any help from US "pro-democracy" moneybags like li'l ol' you. Dang, what a shame!

How to Support Venezuelan Democrats. To defend Venezuela's civil discourse and its citizens' rights to dissent, the United States and its democratic allies in the Western Hemisphere should:

•Protest measures that constrain basic freedoms of expression and association, both in diplomatic contacts with Venezuelan officials and in multilateral forums such as the OAS and the U.N.

•Urge private, international human rights monitors to maintain scrutiny in Venezuela, despite increasing pressure from its government to leave.

•Promote an OAS resolution that clarifies the role of local civic organizations in maintaining space for free public discourse in authoritarian societies and specifies the right to receive domestic and foreign donations.

•Inform Venezuelan citizens of their rights and what they could expect from public servants if their country was a full democracy. International broadcasting to Venezuela should encourage the poor to ask whether they are any better off than they were before the Chávez regime as well as reveal losses to corruption and transfers to political causes outside Venezuela.

•Oppose Venezuela's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council unless President Chávez governs democratically, respects human rights, and lives peaceably with neighboring countries.

Okay, there is an awful lot of bullshit here, so let's dissect it point for point.

Firstly, the best way to support Venezuelan democrats is simple: STAND ASIDE AND LET THE WILL OF THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE WORK. This means no more money to subvert democracy for Sumate or any other NGO from the NED, the IRI, the AFL-CIO, etc., etc.

Next, instead of protesting according to the Heritage Foundation's propaganda and talking points, people in the US should educate themselves as to just how democratic Venezuela really is right now, under Chavez, without US help. If you can't go there, you can at least read Venezuelanalysis for honest, untainted information.

Also, bear in mind that international human rights organizations have not been interfered with; on the contrary, Chavez has welcomed them, particularly the Carter Centre--treating their visits as an opportunity to have his record independently verified.

And don't forget that the OAS has also been in Venezuela, doing some monitoring of its own--and despite some reservations as to how the last round of elections went off, they've also rejected the very things the author of this piece is proposing! How embarrassing...

As for "informing Venezuelans of their rights"--how laughably ludicrous can these punks get? The Venezuelans know their rights already! That's why Chavez has wiped out illiteracy and urged them to read and understand the Bolivarian Constitution (which their own elected representatives wrote, and which they democratically ratified!) Far from dictating to them how they should live and vote, he has urged them to form their own organizations and come up with their own ways to improve community life, and many have taken up his challenge with enthusiasm. For his part, Chavez has freed up money and resources from oil sales and taxes to support those initiatives. Citizen groups can now get microcredits and government grants to do their work; they don't need it from Uncle Sam, unless their purpose is as dishonest and propagandistic as that of the Heritage Foundation. If asked whether they are doing better now, most Venezuelans would answer unequivocally in the affirmative. For the gringos to tell them what their rights would be "if their country was a full democracy" is therefore redundant, patronizing and insulting, not to mention downright mendacious. It IS a full democracy--not merely representative, but a participatory one; it's not Venezuela's fault if the Heritage Foundation has a strange and obtuse notion of what that word means.

Finally, opposing that Venezuelan bid for a seat in the UN Security Council is just plain fucked, especially when you consider the "alternative". A country with a truly undemocratic and foul human-rights record like Guatemala is a shoo-out, and everyone but the US knows it. (Hell, I'm sure the US knows it too, but this is the land where fascist death squads have been more or less successfully spun as forces of democracy holding off the Red Menace of Communism. Never underestimate the power of crapaganda.)

And so we arrive, with no small relief, at the...

Conclusion. In his rush to establish a police state in South America, Hugo Chávez employs new tactics so fast that it is easy to let some slide, but the international community must stand up to his attempts to stifle discourse. This should be done to lend Venezuela's unions, universities, think tanks, political parties, and rights monitors courage, as well as to mark boundaries that no authority should cross in trying to influence citizens' thoughts.

"Police state"? Pardon me while I convulse myself laughing. Where was this propagandroid when Pedro the Brief unleashed a REAL police state for two days in April, 2002? And did so with the help and blessing of union boss Carlos Ortega, who makes Jimmy Hoffa look like a rank amateur when it comes to being mobbed up? And does he not realize how many Venezuelan unionists have broken with the once powerful CTV over that--and are now taking up the struggle in the fractious manner of good old-time organizers? Someone please send this twinkie copies of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and Llaguno Bridge: Keys to a Massacre so he can see what a REAL police state looks like. It may shock him to hear that capitalism has 'em too.

The author has the gall to end on the phrase "...boundaries that no authority should cross in trying to influence citizens' thoughts." How ironic is that, coming from a right-wing foundation that uncritically supports BushCo's "right" to do EXACTLY that--at home and abroad?

And who is the author of this dogpile?

Stephen Johnson is Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author wishes to acknowledge Heritage intern Angelita Ramírez's contribution to this report.Analyst for International Economics in the Center for International Trade and Economics, at The Heritage Foundation.

Figures. His own bio at the Heritage Foundation confirms that he's a dyed-in-the-wool State Dept. operative. And look what he wrote in the wake of the 2002 coup, too. Tsk, tsk.

If the Heritage Foundation seriously wants truth and democracy to prevail in other countries, maybe they'd better clean their own house first. But since it's built of nothing but bullshit, that would mean demolishing it altogether.

July 11, 2006

Phone calls from the dead

Or in this case, the brain-dead.

Last night, on his Air America call-in show, Mike Malloy got a real winner. This dude was clearly strung out on some kind of speed, because he couldn't (or wouldn't) stop gibbering! Here's the MP3, courtesy of my fellow boardnik CaseyBuck. And, for the full impact of the sheer wingnuttery, I append the quick and dirty transcript, courtesy of the intrepid GymGeek (with corrections by Yours Truly):

MM: Jim is calling from Rawhide, MN. Jim, welcome to the program. Hello?

JB: (inaudible)...Yeah, in communion with this suburban cowboy President Bush and taken down the world trade center, do you understand that? Cuz, you know why he's not talkin' about it? It didn't happen.

MM: Now wait a minute, wait, wait, Jim Bob, Jim Bob, Jim Bob, get back on your medication. Stop a minute. Stop a minute, stop a minute. Now start over. Beacuse you weren't... Wait a minute! You weren't connected. Okay, start again, and Jim, talk slowly, start again.

JB: Mike Malloy, are you trying to sandbag me on the air? Just say yes or no!

MM: What?

JB: Are you trying to sandbag me on the air by not letting me know that I'm on the air? Okay, I guess that's against FCC regulations to do that sorts of things to the callers. But then again Mike Malloy, may I ask you a question?

MM: Sure.

JB: When, given that our suburban cowboy president took down the world trade center, and got away with it, when is he going to finally have you buried in that unknown unmarked grave like all the other Nazis used to do to people that used to like, try to expose truth. 9/11 Scholars for Truth? Are you kidding me? Why are they not buried in unknown unmarked graves right now? If they're tring to expose the truth against our Nazi president?

MM: Uh, I dunno. What do you think?

JB: How are you surviving, if you know the truth and I don't? Again by the way--

MM: Now Jim Bob, hold on, I'm a truth seeker, I don't know the truth. Yeah.

JB: Oh, you're a truth seeker? Oh, you mean you can say stuff that isn't true but since you're a truth seeker you can say "well I didn't know at the time it wasn't true" (unintelligible)

MM: What did I say, what did I, what did I...Hold on Jim, get a grip, bite your lip.

JB: Okay, It's Jim Bob, Mike Malloy. It's Jim Bob. It's Jim Bob, Mike Malloy.

[crosstalk]

MM: Hold on. What did I say that's not true?

JB: Okay, for one thing, the WTC really did come down because of two planes crashing into each building on 9-11.

MM: Is this really Phil Hendrie? You're really Phil Hendrie, right?

JB: I'm Jim Bob, and if you want to see my birth certificate you're more than welcome to come see, my birth certificate says James Robert. I like to go by Jim Bob, okay Mike Malloy? I don't like to fib and I detest and absolutely hate liars. Especially people that like to say our President isn't a... (unintelligible)

MM: What did I lie about, Jim Bob? Somebody's playing a prank on me here.

JB: (stammers) I'm not playing a prank on you, Mike Malloy, I want you to answer a question. Given that you think our suburban cowboy president Bush is basically Hitler incarnate, when are you finally going to be married, buried in that unknown unmarked grave like Adolf Hitler did to those millions of people?

MM: Why do you call him a suburban cowboy?

JB: One likes to consider himself a proud neocon-man-servative. I like to have a sense of humor. Now I would have thought you would have appreciated me calling him a suburban cowboy presidnet because you don't think he's really a cowboy and you think he's, uh, just a northeastern liberal carpetbagger down in Texas Kind of like yourself, being a neonational socialist liberal carpet down in Atlanta GA. Right Mike Malloy?

MM: (chuckles) Do you want to be a cowboy?

JB: Mike Malloy, I want you to answer the question.

MM: Sure.

JB: When are you and all your sycophants gonna be finally buried in that unknown unmarked grave, since our honorable President Cowboy Bush is, uh, is obviously Satan, or Hitler, incarnate.

MM: (sighs) I couldn't say it better. What's a sycophant?

[crosstalk]

JB: How much time do you have to live? What is your World Trade Center that you happen to be sitting in wherever you are right now gonna crash and burn, huh?

MM: (humming to himself) I'm sorry, I didn't hear that.

JB: When are you going to finally crash and burn your station, once you catch fire with you in it and all your sycophants that like to say that ...

MM: What's a sychophant? What the hell is a sycophant?

JB: A sycophant, you don't know what a sycophant is?

MM: I have no idea. What is it?

JB: Oh I can't say that on the air, I'm sorry. Excuse me. Uh you don't know what a sycophant is?

MM: I do not, what is it?

JB: Oh, okay. I don't believe you. That's, uh, but. Then again, can you give me an estimated time.

MM: Well, okay... [crosstalk] Jim Bob! Jim Bob! Jim Bob! Wait a minute!

JB: Mr. Malloy can you give me an estimated time, estimated time of death... [gibbering crosstalk]

MM: Jim Bob! Jim Bob! Jim Bob! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! We've already established I'm a liar! Jim Bob, Jim Bob, Jim Bob, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, we've already esatablished that I don't know what I am talking about, please tell me what a sycophant is.

JB: A psycho crazy fan of yours, okay?

MM: (Laughs)

JB: Because. Do you realize there's people that actually beleive this stuff you're saying, Mike Malloy. They're sick in the head. Cuz...

MM: So you wanna know when I'm gonna go boom-boom in the WTC? (burbles) Br-r-r-r-r...

JB: If it were true, then every station, ABC, CBS, TBS, CNN, FOX! would all report it as...

MM: (singing) Here we go gathering nuts in May, nuts in May, nuts in May... You know, you're right, Jim Bob.

[crosstalk]

JB: (unintelligible)...when am I finally going to get to see your death certificate, Mike Malloy.

MM: Jim Bob, you're right. Most sane people....

JB: When is your death certificate going to be mailed to me, because I'll formally request this Hitler incarnate send me a copy of it. Even though your mom and dad won't know where you're going to be buried. Cuz mass murderers like to bury people in unknown unmarked graves.

MM: (Chuckles) Jim, you're all, Jim... (Chuckles) Oh my God. This is astonishing.

JB: Oh my God? You believe in God? You believe in God? Mike Malloy, do you believe in Jesus Christ, the lord and savior or do you believe in some other kind of God? Like a cosmic god, or a Unitarian god?

MM: Jim, I believe in Lord Satan.

JB: You believe in what?

MM: Lord Satan. I'm a liberal whose gonna come and eat your eyes.

JB: (unintelligible) You're joking with me. What God do you believe in? Do you believe in.... (unintelligible)

MM: No, listen to me, listen to me. Jim Bob, I'm trying to tell you if you'd shut up for a second. Oh my God. I believe in Satan. I'm gonna show up with a straw and suck your eyeballs out.

JB: You're more than welcome to come to my house. I'll get you a first class..

MM: Goodbye Jim Bob! Goodbye! Nice talkin' to ya! (burbles) Bl-l-l-l-l-l-l-l! Most sane people actually agree with, uh, your opinion, Jim Bob. They really do. You take it easy, all right?

Where was that guy calling from? Huh? Mars? Oh okay.

Frankly, I'm surprised Mike didn't hit the dumper on this one about five seconds into his harangue, but I guess he was in the mood for a good laugh.

Heaven knows we all were!

Addendum: Military Mentality and CaseyBuck, over at Mike's board, now think this call may have been a prank. Rawhide does not exist on any map of Minnesota. (The guy's accent is all wrong, too--he sounds distinctly southern.)

Still a hoot, regardless.

July 10, 2006

Bushie and Butt-Head

Zizou butts Bush

Ah, if only Zizou had picked his target better.

(Originator unknown.)

Anywhere else, this would be called tyranny

But since it's BushCo USA, it's somehow being spun as "democracy".

US President George W Bush has approved an $80m (£43m) fund towards boosting democracy in Cuba.

The president said the fund would help the Cuban people in their "transition from repressive control to freedom".

The fund is part of proposals put forward by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which is considering a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.

A draft version of the proposals, released last week, drew strong criticism from Cuban officials.

In a statement, the president said: "I approved a Compact with the People of Cuba, which outlines how the United States will support the Cuban people as they transition from the repressive control of the Castro regime to freedom and a genuine democracy.

"The report demonstrates that we are actively working for change in Cuba, not simply waiting for change," the statement said.

Translation: Get set for Bay of Pigs II--Return of the Predator Capitalists.

Everyone knows that the only "Cuban people" BushCo cares about are the right-wing terrorists who are clogging up that sewer otherwise known as Miami. After all, they can be easily bought.

July 8, 2006

D'oh!

Homer Simpson on Climate Change

The sad part is, all of Dubya's appointments have basically amounted to something just like this.

July 7, 2006

Evo's constitutional mandate widens

Prensa Latina has the goods:

After 99.7 percent votes counted, the MAS won 139 of 255 Assembly seats with support from opposition pillars like Santa Cruz and Tarija provinces.

The MAS could run up to 151 seats counting 12 from allied parties like Movimiento Bolivia Libre (MBL), Movimiento Ciudadano San Felipe de Austria (MCSFA) and Movimiento Originario Popular (MOP).

That's up from the 133 seats I blogged on earlier. It's still short of the 2/3 majority needed for outright approval of a new constitution. Here's Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center's Blog from Bolivia (which I read now and again; you should, too) to explain the results of the recent voting:

First, as a measure of popular support for Bolivia's various political parties, it means voters are pretty much exactly where they were in December. MAS [Movement Toward Socialism, Evo Morales's party] holds basically the same strong majority (53% now, 53,7% in December), Jorge Quirga's PODEMOS is a distant second and lost five points (23.5% now, 28.6% in December) and Samuel Doria Medina's UN party still runs a very distant third and also lost support (4.3% now, 7.8% in December).

It is also a pretty good indication that PODEMOS' strategy, of running against Hugo Chavez instead of for any concrete vision for Bolivia's future, well, it didn't work at all. Back to the drawing boards for Quiroga and his campaign consultants.

More importantly, it still means that Bolivia will navigate its political way forward through negotiation. Evo Morales and MAS doesn't have a working majority in the Congress sufficient to do much of want it wants on its own (the convening of the Assembly vote was itself a party-to-party negotiation, which is why political parties ran the show) and it won't have the 2/3 vote required to take action on a new constitution in the Assembly. In other words, whatever happens in the Assembly, and with the implementation of autonomy, will be a negotiation among the political parties.

Negotiation is pretty much what all Bolivian politics is about these days. The government has set a six-month period for renegotiating its contracts with foreign oil companies. It has been negotiating with unions and others over what to do with the collapsing airline, LAB. It is negotiating on land, on teacher salaries, and on a wide range of other issues.

In other words, for those looking for Bolivia to turn into a one party state with authoritarian rule, you just won't find it here. In its place you will find something else, a democracy with many players and a lot of complicated issues to talk through. For a country that had endured far more than its share of dictatorships, that's not a bad thing at all, not by a long shot.

No, it's not bad in the least. It's a move in the right direction. A movement towards socialism? Well, maybe--a gradual one. But as confidence in Evo's judgment grows (guided by the voice of experience, coming from Hugo Chavez), good things should happen.

After all, Evo has vision going for him. That's more than you can say for his biggest rival.

Nice friends Dubya hangs with

And just think, people...this is happening in the same country that owns HOW much of the US debt, again?

China is harvesting organs from live Falun Gong prisoners without consent and destroying their remains, says a report from a former Liberal MP and a Canadian human rights lawyer.

The 68-page document, produced by former MP David Kilgour and Winnipeg lawyer David Matas, is based partly on a series of telephone recordings made by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPFG). The non-governmental group has offices in Washington and Ottawa.

It also includes interviews with Falun Gong practitioners living in Canada and information taken from Chinese hospital and transplant centre websites.

[...]

For years, Falun Gong followers have alleged that the Chinese government harvests and sells the organs of imprisoned Falun Gong members in an increasingly profitable organ trade.

That's a charge China denies.

Of the 60,000 organ transplants the China Medical Organ Transplant Association recorded between 2000 and 2005, 18,500 of those organs came from identifiable sources, said the report.

"That leaves 41,500 transplants from no other explained sources," Matas said during a news conference Thursday in Ottawa.

Matas and Kilgour said they, along with an independent translator, listened to telephone recordings made by the CIPFG to Chinese hospitals, prisons and transplant centres. In the phone calls, transcripts of which are provided in the report, organs from alleged Falun Gong prisoners are promised to prospective buyers within as little as a week.

The report quotes an organ price list on a website for a transplant centre in Shenyang City, which offers corneas for $30,000 US, kidneys for $62,000 US, livers for $130,000 US and lungs for up to $170,000 US.

According to figures from Chinese government departments, the number of liver transplant centres in China jumped from 22 in 1999 to 500 in 2006, while the number of liver transplant operations increased from 135 to 4,000 during that same period.

Kilgour pointed to an interview with the ex-wife of a Chinese surgeon who allegedly removed the corneas from 2,000 euthanized Falun Gong prisoners over a two-year period. All died and their bodies were burned, said the woman, who was not identified.

"There's enough evidence here to take these allegations seriously," said Matas. "It's a crime against humanity. It's very simple."

The report calls on China, which it says has no organized system of organ donation, to record the sources of all organs used in transplants and says Canada should not permit Chinese doctors to do organ transplant training in Canada.

China admitted in 2005 that it harvests and sells the organs of executed prisoners, but says the practice happens with the consent of prisoners or family members.

Kilgour said Thursday that China tortures prisoners to get their consent.

Remember Dr. Wang Wenyi? Back in April, she embarrassed Dubya when he was entertaining a certain Mr. Hu. Turns out, the accusations she levelled in the Epoch Times were all true.

Dubya's totalitarian silencing of her protest is doubly reprehensible in light of this.

So who says you can't have capitalism and dictatorship at the same time?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Another salute!

This one's in honor of Venezuela's independence day, July 5.

Hugo's new sash!

Chavecito's a smash in his new sash. (Note the horse on the coat of arms; it's now racing to the left. Story here.)

Hugo with Kalashnikov

And to celebrate the Venezuelan military's purchase of 100,000 new Kalashnikov rifles, he's also hosting the weapon's Russian inventor, at right. (The man in the middle is the translator.) The other Russian guest of honor was the Sukhoi fighter jet, of which Chavecito is planning to order a couple dozen (to replace the aging F-16 fleet, which the US is reneging on its contract to service).

Four Presidents!

One independence day...four presidents. So much for Chavecito being isolated! Left to right: Nestor Kirchner (Argentina), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), and Nicanor Duarte (Paraguay).

And in any event, the Chavistas won't be throwing in the towel anytime soon:

Hugo on a beach towel

Yes, that's a beach towel. Kitschy? Yes, but I've seen worse.

Headline Howler: The "ebbtide" that ain't

How's this for stupid, from the AP's Mark Stevenson:

"NEWS ANALYSIS: Leftist tide may be ebbing"

Conservative Felipe Calderon's apparent victory could signal that the leftist tide sweeping Latin America has reached its high-water mark, as voters frightened by the radicalism of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez seek refuge in more mainstream ideas across the region.

That trend has emerged with Mexico's presidential vote count Thursday, the setback dealt to Bolivian President Evo Morales in a referendum Sunday, and Peruvian moderate Alan Garcia's victory over Chavez ally Ollanta Humala last month.

Intolerance, confrontation, messianic attitudes and stridency — once staples of Latin America's left — are proving less attractive than leaders who can provide stability and strengthen historically weak institutions, like the separation of powers, independent central banks and judiciaries.

With a less than 0.5% advantage to Calderon, all votes not yet re-counted, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador not conceding because he rightly suspects theft (he is backed up by an unlikely ally, Subcomandante Marcos, in this), and ZERO regime change in Mexico (since when was Vicente Fox, who is of the same party as Calderon, a leftist?), this is premature to say the least. This isn't a "high-water mark", let alone an "ebbing red tide". It's a very disputed, fraud-ridden election that will probably result in serious political instability and mass protest if this claimed result is permitted to stand. Ballot boxes from heavily pro-AMLO districts have been found in garbage dumps. And the Mexican media, unlike that in the US, is not covering it up. Do I have to spell out for you what that could mean?

As for the "setback" dealt to Evo Morales, as I've pointed out, it is in fact a mandate, if a less than overwhelming one. Evo has a majority, but not quite the two-thirds he needs for absolute control. He will be pressing ahead with intended changes anyhow, and chances are good that he'll realize most of them; what kind of "setback" is that? Stevenson's reading comprehension on this is apparently lacking. (Either that, or he wilfully chooses to misinterpret; my money's on the latter.)

And Peru's Alan Garcia is still on the left; he's just not as far to the left as Ollanta Humala. Plus, he has a shoddy record, despite all the trumpeting of his "spectacular comeback", which would force a major rethink among Peruvians if his earlier mistakes make a spectacular comeback along with him. Ollanta's not exactly going away, either; as official opposition leader, with more congressional seats than Garcia's party, he's going to be making plenty of noise. So Garcia won't have an easy ride of it, and may in fact be forced further to the left than he would like to go. Let's hear it for checks and balances...

As for "intolerance, confrontation, messianic attitudes and stridency" being "staples of Latin America's left"--Stevenson, what are you smoking? Banana hash? That viewpoint is SO outdated. Even Hugo Chavez, arguably the loudest and most garrulous LatAm leftist leader today, is downright quiet compared to, say, former guerrilla Douglas Bravo. You want strident, confrontational, messianic and intolerant? Get a load of what the Right is now up to down there...or in the United States, for that matter. Great democrats they ain't. All they're good for is screeching like enraged monkeys because their easy access to the money tree has suddenly been cut off. And whining and crying to Dubya for help in killing that wicked Chavez. Or just more NED money; same thing.

And of course, we mustn't ignore that obligatory backhanded slap at a certain popular, red-bereted ex-colonel. Contrary to his portrayal in much of the foreign media, Hugo Chavez is no tyrant, but a democratic leader whose biggest achievement is to let the people write and ratify the Venezuelan constitution. He is also quite the innovator, for his socialist policies have borne ample fruit even in the capitalist sphere--the GDP is up, particularly in the private and non-oil sectors! And will Mr. Stevenson please tell me what's so "intolerant" about Chavez's repeat calls for cross-continental solidarity against what he rightly recognizes to be a particularly exploitative form of imperialism? I would say Chavez is right to be "intolerant" of that, seeing as how his more "tolerant" predecessors have let it run Venezuela into the ground for more than 40 years. Perhaps Mr. Stevenson begs to differ...

As to the "stability" the rightards have brought, I think "stagnation" might be a better word for it. The worst-off citizens everywhere south of the Rio Grande haven't benefited from it. In fact, they've only been victimized. But hey, at least it's a steady victimization...and one that keeps them scurrying northward to marginally better wages, like a remarkably steady influx of cucarachas. (Which is no doubt how the mainstream US media would like us to see them.)

The rest of the article is basically a mess. There's a lot of backpedalling away from the assertions of the opening paragraphs and the headline, beyond which the average reader probably won't go. I suggest you read it anyway; it's good for a laugh, especially when those quoted actually undermine the author's thesis. They call THAT a "news analysis"?

I call it a pile of horseshit.

July 6, 2006

Quotable: Pete Seeger on democracy vs. capitalism

"There's a politician in my hometown, a very nice guy. He used to be a shop steward for the union in the local factory, but for twenty years he represented our town in the county legislature. And he said, 'Pete, if you don't grow, you die.' One o'clock in the morning, I sat up in bed and thought of the next question. If that's true, if you don't grow you die, doesn't it follow the quicker you grow, the sooner you die? Nobody is facing up to that question, but it's very definitely true. Now the first step in solving a problem is to admit there's a problem. Then we can argue about ways it could be solved.

"I suppose one person will say. 'Well, let a few people have trillions of dollars and the rest of the people obediently do the work, and the people in charge will see that everything is done right.' On other hand, I think what was in the Declaration of Independence is true now, just as it was then. Those great lines, they're written by Ben Franklin, you know, not Jefferson. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that when any government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.'"

--Pete Seeger, as interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, July 3, 2006

Make those hellfires extra hot now

Just heard the news at the top of the hour on Air America. Seems Kenny Boy, even in death, has managed to skate away from justice:

Former Enron CEO Ken Lay maintained throughout his fraud and conspiracy trial that he was an innocent man — a man who never should have been charged, never should have been indicted, and certainly never should have been convicted. After his death from a heart attack early Wednesday, it's almost as if he wasn't. Legally, his case died with him.

By law, Lay had a constitutional right to participate in his criminal appeal. And since he's no longer alive to help his attorneys prepare, the case will be "extinguished" — as if it never happened, explains Houston attorney Joel Androphy, author of the textbook White Collar Crime. "It's as if he was never charged and convicted," says Androphy. "This is the law. There may have been a moral victory for the government, but there's no longer a legal victory."

Lay's death won't stop the civil suits filed against him, however. In a civil case, a person can die and the case can go on; for example, if someone is killed in a nursing home, the family can sue. But Androphy says there will now be some restrictions limiting punitive damages. It's unclear if Lay's estate will be responsible for his criminal fines. Last week, prosecutors asked for $43.5 million.

Last week? LAST WEEK???

My gosh, it's as if the little slimeweasel died right on cue, isn't it. Yeah, tell me he didn't do himself in. After all, it's not as if he had no motive:

"The entire tragedy almost takes on Shakespearean dimensions," says David Berg, a Houston attorney who authored The Trial Lawyer: What it Takes to Win. "His fall from power was so great that it just destroyed him. In some ways, you would think that Ken Lay would rather have died than spent a moment in prison." Lay, who was awaiting sentencing in the fall, faced imprisonment for possibly the rest of his life. "On some subconscious level, it's a polite form of suicide. He was not going to let himself be imprisoned."

"Polite form of suicide"?

Pardon me while I throw up laughing. This isn't a "polite suicide", this is a final fuck-you to all the people he screwed to get to where he did.

Let's hope the civil suits against his estate recoup a little something for those people. They need it a lot more than Lay's heirs ever will.

July 5, 2006

So much for the "miracle" of DDT!

There are some 'tards in this world who want to bring back DDT--to control malarial mosquitoes.

I have just one question for them: Were you breast-fed?

Children exposed to the pesticide DDT while in the womb experience development problems, researchers say.

The pesticide was banned in the US and UK in the 1970s, but it is still used in some countries to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

It was already known DDT was linked to premature births and low birthweight.

The University of California Berkeley researchers say their findings, published in Pediatrics, should be borne in mind when addressing malaria.

DDT, an organochlorine, persists in the environment long after use, accumulating in the food chain and in fatty tissues of animals and humans.

Over time, it degrades into DDE and DDD, which have similar chemical and physical properties.

Thirty-three years after its use was banned in the US, DDT is still detectable in about five to 10% of people, while DDE is detectable in nearly everyone.

The UC Berkeley researchers measured blood levels of DDT and one of its breakdown products, DDE, in 360 pregnant women, the majority of whom were born in Mexico, where agricultural use of the chemical was only banned in 2000.

Factors including age, income, education, marital and work status, the child's gender, duration of breastfeeding and the quality of the home environment for young children were considered.

The researchers tested the mental and physical skills of the women's babies at six, 12 and 24 months using established tests to measure the children's development.

For each tenfold increase in DDT levels measured in the mother, the team found a corresponding two to three-point decrease in the children's mental development scores at 12 and 24 months.

Children with the highest DDT exposures in the womb were associated with a seven to 10-point decrease in test scores, compared to the lowest exposures.

When the children's physical skills were measured, there were two-point decreases in children's scores at six and 12 months for each tenfold increase in DDT levels in the mothers.

Similar, but weaker effects, were linked to DDE exposure.

The team also found that the longer babies were breastfed for, the better they scored on the developmental tests - even though they would have been exposed to DDT through the milk.

Dr Brenda Eskenazi, who led the research, said: "People need to consider these data if they are going to continue using DDT or reintroduce it in countries where it's been banned.

"Given the impact of malaria on child health, I'm not saying that we shouldn't use it.

"But if we do, we need to think of ways to protect women and children."

There's only one way to do that, and that is to BAN THIS SHIT! If you're too stupid to come up with a better way to fight malaria (like, oh, say, A VACCINE!), then you must have been overexposed to DDT as an infant. You would have to be brain-damaged to think that not only birds, but CHILDREN are worth sacrificing just to get rid of a few bugs.

Of course, there are those who still take the incredible angle that "the benefits of DDT outweigh the risks". I hereby invite them to consume a daily diet of it...just to demonstrate their willingness to experience those "benefits" at first hand.

After all, they outweigh the risks...don't they?

Stoke up the fires of hell...

...because one big weenie is comin' right down!

Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, who was convicted of helping perpetuate one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Colorado. He was 64.

The Pitkin, Colo., Sheriff's Department said officers were called to Lay's house in Old Snowmass, Colo., shortly after 1 a.m. Mountain time. He was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:11 a.m. Lay, who lived in Houston, frequently vacationed in Colorado.

[...]

Pastor Steve Wende of First United Methodist Church of Houston, said in a statement that church member Lay died unexpectedly of a "massive coronary."

Wende said Lay and his wife, Linda, were in Colorado for the week "and his death was totally unexpected. Apparently, his heart simply gave out."

Lay was scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23. He faced decades in prison.

Something about the timing of all this is awfully convenient...er, I meant to say odd. After more than a decade high on the hog and arrogant as hell about robbing the US public blind so his "warm, loving and Christian" wife could have an absurdly overpriced birthday--suddenly, just as he's convicted but not yet sentenced, Kenny Boy snuffs it while on vacation?

Coronary, schmoronary. More likely he ODed on something that only makes it look that way.

Besides, we all know that Kenny Boy was distinctly missing something in the heart department. Remember this?

Fires of hell, prepare to swallow Kenny Boy. All his pretend religion won't save him now. In the words of Enron Employee #2: "Burn, baby, burn!"

July 4, 2006

Go fish!

One fish, two fish,

Red fish, blue fish...

Gone Fishin'

...coming-back-to-bite-YOU fish.

What's BP stand for?

Bloody Pathetic. What else?

Venezuela's left-wing government is demanding that BP give up an even greater proportion of the oil produced at its fields in the country, as president Hugo Chavez tries to claw back more of the country's oil wealth from multi-national companies.

BP - the UK's largest oil company - said yesterday that it produced less oil in the past three months than many analysts had predicted, leading some to suggest it could miss its production targets for the year.

The company blamed a more aggressive attitude by the Chavez government, which forced the renegotiation of contracts on three of BP's oil fields in Venezuela. It is believed that BP was forced to give up about two-thirds of the oil the fields were producing, handing it instead to the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

Now a fourth, even more lucrative, contract is also under renegotiation. The field, Cerro Negro, is 83 per cent-owned by Exxon Mobil and PDVSA, but BP still gets an estimated 35,000 barrels per day for its 17 per cent interest, making it its largest single interest in Venezuela.

The Chavez government has been among the most aggressive in pursuing big oil companies for a greater share of the revenues from surging oil prices. Some companies have refused to agree to new terms and given up their interests in the country, but BP said it needed to remain in countries with significant oil reserves.

Venezuela accounts for less than 2 per cent of BP's output, but changes to the first three of its contracts there were enough to push its group production total below most forecasts. In the three months to the end of June, production fell 2.5 per cent to 4.01 million barrels per day, the fourth quarter in a row that it has fallen.

BP also said it would set aside an extra $500m to cover legal bills over the Texas refinery blast that killed 15 people last year. It had previously reserved only $700m for compensation and fines.

The company promised an update later this month on the repair work at its Thunder Horse rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which was damaged during last year's hurricane season.

BP made no mention yesterday of the criminal investigation into its propane trading. It is accused of trying to corner the market by hoarding reserves and driving the price higher. BP suspended three traders on Friday, having fired two from the Houston-based team some time ago.

Emphasis added.

Snivel, whine, and rob 'em blind. That's BP's MO.

You can't trust these pukes any further than you can kick their pathetic, snivelling, whining arses. Just ask Mohammed Mossadegh's ghost.

Evo gets a mandate

Get your dirty minds out of the gutter, wingnuts. It's not a MAN DATE.

This is what it's really about:

Bolivian President Evo Morales' leftist party appears to have won a narrow majority in a new assembly picked to rewrite the constitution.

Early unofficial results suggested he won 133 out of 255 seats - short of the two-thirds majority needed for full control - but Mr Morales was upbeat.

"This support ... gives us the strength to go on changing," he said.

[...]

The assembly will meet in August and spend between six months and one year drawing up a new draft constitution that will then be voted on by the people.

If President Morales' party wins a majority, he will continue with the reforms he has been implementing since he took office.

They include plans to give a greater voice to the majority indigenous population, tighter state control of the economy and more transparency in what has traditionally been a corrupt political system.

For those who don't get what all the fuss is about, Evo just got a popular mandate--not an absolute majority, but enough--to rewrite the Bolivian constitution along the same lines he campaigned on for the presidency last year.

This is an echo of what Hugo Chavez also did when he was elected in 1999 by the Venezuelan people--also on a platform including a promise to convene a democratically elected assembly to rewrite the constitution. He followed up on his promise, and the populace turned out despite heavy rains to ratify the new constitution by a solid majority. Rotten weather couldn't dampen the spirits of the jubilant Chavistas, who danced arm-in-arm through the streets chanting, "It's dead, it's dead, the Moribund One is dead!"

It sounds like shades of The Wizard of Oz, but what they were actually referring to was the 1961 constitution, which Chavez pronounced "moribund" when he swore on it during his taking of office. What he swore, in his unorthodox and unforgettable way, was to give the people "a true Magna Carta of their dreams". His supporters seized on the adjective, though, and used it from then on to refer to the dying old constitution. It became a watchword in the memorable chants the Chavistas so love to use in their popular demonstrations.

Let's see if Evo can mobilize similar sentiments. He's not as famous for wit and fiery rhetoric as his Venezuelan pal, but he's certainly a popular leader in his own right. He led the cocaleros, of which he was himself one, in a massive resistance to the US's anti-coca program. People power has accomplished everything of value that's happened in South America of late. Like Hugo, Evo's got that much in his favor already.

PS: Check out this wonderful interview at Venezuelanalysis. If you doubt Evo's got it in him, this should lay THAT to rest!

July 3, 2006

Evil wicked Cuba sets example again (twice!)

Don't you hate it when things like this happen?

Uruguay's Emergency Plan (PANES) Coordinator, Bertha Sanseverino, announced that the country will introduce Cuba's Literacy Plan, currently applied in many parts of the world.

"Just as Venezuela is supporting us in the productive field, Cuba is giving us assistance in the fields of health and education," Sanseverino commented, as quoted by El Observador daily.

On his part, Coordinator of Education in the Ministry of Social Development, Yamandu Ferraz, said despite illiteracy affects 2.3 percent of the population in the last few years, "it may reach a double-digit figure among the poor population catered for by the PANES.

"We are aware that at least more than 40,000 of over 230,000 poor people in the country have not completed primary education, and many others "may be illiterate or functionally illiterate," Ferraz added.

So now you can add Uruguay to the list. Venezuela and Bolivia are already on it, and Venezuela has had resounding success reaching 100% literacy with Cuban help.

And then there's this:

Cuba continues to develop a large network of labs producing biological pest control agents to favor agriculture, said experts with the island's Institute of Vegetable Health Research (INISAV).

The country's scientific potential allows for the appropriate and rational application of biologic pest control means, which is fully compatible with the environment, said INISAV expert Orietta Fernández-Larrea to the Cuban News Agency (ACN).

Decisions on the variety and amount of live organisms to be produced are made at the country's 175 centers specialized in the field, by taking into account the characteristics and crops of the areas where the biological agents are to be applied.

Cuba began replacing synthetic pesticides in the mid 1980´s, as a result of the advancement of biological pest control efforts, which preserves the local environment with a high quality product, it also avoids imports of chemicals, said the expert.

Ecologically sound methods of pest control? No expensive, imported proprietary crap to gunk up the environment while enriching only an undeserving few? Organic produce for EVERYONE?

HERESY!!!

July 2, 2006

Funny how Pakistan keeps cropping up...

Dude, where's Osama?

I should note, for the record, that while Dubya calls Pakistan an ally in the War on Terra, they are most assuredly NOT a democracy--and worse, are largely responsible for the Talibanization of Afghanistan.

Under that above-mentioned woman president, no less.