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September 30, 2006

Good dictator, nice dictator, good doggie...

...roll over and give Dubya yer oil. That's a boy...

US President George W Bush has praised his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, for transforming the former Soviet republic into a 'free nation'.

After talks between the two leaders in Washington, Mr Bush thanked his guest for backing US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and combating "extremism".

But economic ties between the US and oil-rich Kazakhstan topped the agenda.

US concerns over Kazakhstan's human rights record did not come up when the two leaders appeared before reporters.

In Kazakhstan, the media is controlled by the state and since the country achieved independence in December 1991 no election has been seen as free or fair.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says the US has been willing to overlook complaints about Mr Nazarbayev's autocratic rule.

In a recent BBC interview, the Kazakh president agreed there may be a lack of democracy, but described political freedom as his goal and said the young country needed more time.

Kazakhstan is the closest US ally in central Asia.

Mr Bush thanked Mr Nazarbayev for his role in what Washington calls the war on terror, and its help with the post-war reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Kazakh leader was also praised for his "commitment to institutions that will enable liberty to flourish", and for developing his country into "a free nation".

Emphasis added.

Isn't it lovely? Kazakhstan has no real freedom or democracy, but you'd never know it from the rosy picture Dubya paints. Somehow, a two-bit puppet dictator has turned into the great statesman of a "free nation". Talk about making a silk purse from a sow's ear. Who's Nazarbayev's fairy godmother, I wonder?

I've searched high and low for evidence that the State Dept. is funding opposition parties to the dictator, but so far, none has surfaced. Their own documents (from FY 2002, 2004) are strangely silent on the matter; they only make coy and nonspecific references to "democratic reform", "democratic institutions" and "civil society", but list no groups recognizable as political parties. Still, somehow, such vagueness magically qualifies for multimillion-dollar US assistance--and meanwhile from the State Dept., not a peep about doing away with a real dictator! They also finance healthcare and "economic growth" there, but not at home. For a bunch of Repugs who talk a lot about the marvels of the self-sufficient private sector, they certainly do throw a lot of taxpayer money at it. And for all their talk of promoting democracy abroad, they do a piss-poor job of actually delivering--but what the heck, that's Kazakhstan, which most Americans couldn't find on a map if their lives depended on it! Yes, there'll be an unlimited supply of Scooby Snacks for Central Asian dictators while the homefolks go hungry, 40 million have no health insurance, and those living in coastal regions have to fend for themselves when hurricanes hit. Ah, democracy American style!

Compare that to Venezuela, where the State Dept. is throwing money around like confetti--but only among the opposition parties (some of them remarkably obscure), hoping in vain that enough of it will make the "problem" of that disobedient democrat Hugo Chavez go away. They'll spend plenty on bribes to try to entice poor voters--Chavez's base--into marking a ballot for this or that hand-picked oppositionist. But nothing for healthcare, and certainly nada for anything resembling real economic growth. That's the last thing they want; it pisses them off mightily that Chavez is funneling petro-dollars, not back to the US where they're supposed to go, but to his own people and their economic development, which is going like gangbusters. Someone in Washington is hoping to choke all that off so that support for Chavez falls. When that happens, they expect, Venezuela will come back under US control with its tail tucked between its legs. Just like a good doggie. Never mind if the top dog is a nasty, mangy pure-bred dictator, as long as the tag on his collar reads "US-approved"!

Seems that as long as oil flows unabated and the locals don't actually control it, real democratic shortcomings are overlooked. It's only when sovereignty prevails and oil--and its revenues--come under full local control, that noises get made about democratic deficits.

Especially where there are none.

September 29, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The Sermon at Mount Olive

Danny Glover and Hugo Chavez get righteous in church!

Danny Glover + Chavecito = serious righteousness.

Even more righteous is what Chavecito announced while he was there.

No wonder everyone was singing and dancing!

Hugo Chavez at Mount Olive, with Alaskan native dancers

How do you say "Scoop!" in Spanish?

However you say it, I did it. To one of my favorite news sites--Venezuelanalysis--no less.

They posted on the NY Times' Chomsky/Galbraith mix-up today. I did it two nights ago.

Who's yer momma?

Read a book! Don't be afraid!

Sometimes, Google Alerts turn up some real gems in one's e-mail box. Take, for example, this lovely letter to the editors of the Arizona Republic:

Seeing Hugo Chavez holding and promoting a book by Noam Chomsky struck me as the blind leading the blind!

And then to learn that Amazon reported sales of Chomsky's anti-American book had risen as a result of Chavez's endorsement showed me that there are more than a few blind people among us.

Anyone who thinks Chomsky and Chavez and Co. are right is wrong in my book.

- Stephen Garfield, Prescott Valley

Granted, Arizona isn't exactly a hotbed of progressive thought. This poor projecting simpleton is probably all too typical of his state, where lots of people are tapping around none too gently in the dark with sticks and often cracking the skulls of anyone who gets in their way. I'll bet he hasn't even read the book he's disparaging in such boring, doctrinaire far-right terms. Most of the people who talk this way haven't. In fact, I'd lay good odds that they are not terribly long on reading at all, let alone something so scary-ass challenging as a book. And most certainly not one by Noam Chomsky--that horrible anti-American thug!

But just what is so "anti-American" about Chomsky's book?

Well, as luck would have it, I got my own copy of it months ago; this wasn't the first time Hugo Chavez plugged it, you see. He's been praising Chomsky to the heavens for a number of years now, particularly Hegemony or Survival. And when Chavez talks, I listen--and take it to heart. But not because I'm "blind" and easily led. I do it for the opposite reason: because I'm curious and have a mind of my own. Chavez appealed to that part of me from the moment I first heard him stand up to BushCo, two or three years ago. I found his feisty honesty and independence refreshing, amusing--even downright charming. And as I followed his progress, I've seen just how spot-on his observations on the whole tend to be. For those reasons, I'm especially keen to find out what Chavez sees in the books he cites. And my copy of Hegemony or Survival is already all marked-up with pencilled notations. So I guess that leaves me ideally situated to dissect this particular book and see what the gullible Mr. Garfield is so worked up about.

The front cover alone must ring all the alarm bells for the benighted souls in the "my country, never wrong" crowd, which seldom gets past that part of most books anyway, let alone a leftist one that challenges their myopic Weltanschauung. The full title is Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. I'm guessing that our peevy Stevie objects to that on the grounds that the words "glorious" and "righteous" are nowhere in evidence. How dare Chomsky even leave open the prospect that American global dominance is maybe not such a good idea? Shame on him!

Then there's the back cover. My copy reads:

AN IMMEDIATE NATIONAL BESTSELLER, HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL DEMONSTRATES HOW, for more than half a century, the United States has been pursuing a grand imperial strategy with the aim of staking out the globe. Our leaders have shown themselves willing--as in the Cuban missile crisis--to follow the dream of dominance no matter how high the risks. World-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky here investigates how we came to this perilous moment and why our rulers are willing to jeopardize the future of our species.

With the striking logic that is his trademark, Chomsky tracks the US government's aggressive pursuit of "full spectrum dominance" and vividly lays out how the most recent manifestations of the politics of global control--from unilateralism to the dismantling of international agreements to state terrorism--cohere in a drive for hegemony that ultimately threatens our existence. Lucidly written, thoroughly documented, and featuring a new afterword about the war in Iraq, Hegemony or Survival is a definitive statement from one of today's most influential thinkers.

Well. That just scared the McCarthyite shit right out of me!

I mean, what's more threatening than an intellectual--and an influential thinker, at that--who's renowned all over the world but never once interviewed on FOX News? If they won't talk to him or plug his books, he must be a commie! Or a pinko, which is even worse because it doesn't seem so bad--haven't you heard of Useful Idiots and Fellow Travellers?

Only problem with that idea is, Chomsky's no fellow traveller; he's quite independent, which is why FUX Snooze never interviews him. He's also nobody's idiot, and I've yet to see him used by an actual tyrant or dictator to bolster his evil, imperialistic ambitions. As this cover blurb intimates, Chomsky stands as an antidote to all that. He lays bare not only what's behind imperialism, but also its methods. The more people see through all that, the more they'll be inclined to protest--and the less inclined they'll be to just lie down and let the steamroller of Empire run over them.

Certainly this is the effect it's had on Chavez. This past week showed him to be THE stand-up guy at the UN, and I'm not just talking about his comedic schtick. All aimed-for giggling aside, Chavez was serious as a heart attack when he called Bush an imperialist. The "devil" bit was a joke, but the truth behind it is that Bush is acting downright satanic, scaring the shit out of American so that he can literally get away with murder. And worse, the Black Mass is still ongoing; it is mandatory for those in attendance to kiss the Devil's buttocks as a token of unquestioning fealty. You don't dare poop this orgy unless you want to face a full-on savaging on FUX, as Bill Clinton manfully did, or receive an anthrax threat by mail, as recently happened to Keith Olbermann. No wonder all the pundits and politicians were falling over one another in their haste to denounce Chavez's perfectly acceptable conduct; he was not acting childish, unless perhaps you consider that he was imitating that little kid in the fable who dared to point out that the emperor was stark-ass naked. Which is the very kind of childlike behavior they don't want to encourage. Obedience to the Big King Daddy, yes; anything else--no, no, NOOOOOOO!!! And anyone who says otherwise is anti-American! So there!

Only it's not so pat at all. Nowhere in the book does Chomsky say that the United States are inherently evil and must be destroyed. If he did, it wouldn't be safe for him to go on living there. According to the back cover of the book, he makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts. And if his frequent appearances on Democracy Now (and the various US bestseller lists!) are any indication, this prophet is not without honor in his own land. Strange, is it not, that someone so "anti-American" should be alive and well and published and acclaimed...in America? Now why do you suppose that is?

My educated guess is that it's because Chomsky isn't anti-American. On the contrary, he is quintessentially American, in that he takes the First Amendment seriously. You know, the one that guarantees freedom of speech and says it shall not be infringed? The same one Pete Seeger so famously invoked when anyone else accused by HUAC would have taken the Fifth? The very one that guarantees Noam Chomsky the right to say, among other things, this:

Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom --even to decent survival--should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states, these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the "great beast", as Alexander Hamilton called te people, does not stray from its proper confines.

Or this:

Recognition that control of opinion is the foundation of government, from the most despotic to the most free, goes back at least to David Hume, but a qualification should be added. It is far more important in the more free societies, where obedience cannot be maintained by the lash. It is only natural that the modern institutions of thought control--frankly called propaganda before the word became unfashionable because of totalitarian associations--should have originated in the most free societies.

Or, heaven forfend, this:

Destroying hope is a critically important project. And when it is achieved, formal democracy is allowed--even preferred, if only for public-relations purposes. In more honest circles, much of this is conceded. Of course, it is understood much more profoundly by the beasts in men's shapes who endure the consequences of challenging the imperatives of stability and order.

These are all matters that the second superpower, world public opinion, should make every effort to understand if it hopes to escape the containment to which it is subjected and to take seriously the ideals of justice and freedom that come easily to the lips but are harder to defend and advance.

And all of that is just from the first chapter! Now, does any of that sound anti-American to you? It couldn't possibly...unless you are either a dirty rotten imperialist who hates freedom--or one of the imperialists' useful idiots: the blatting sheep who are too afraid to actually read Chomsky, but who are just brave enough to write ignorant letters to the editor extolling and defending what any real American should find utterly indefensible.

Steve, ol' boy, do yourself and your country a favor: Read Chomsky. Take what he says to heart.

Hugo Chavez recommends Noam Chomsky

And don't be so fucking afraid.

September 28, 2006

We call them bigots

Anybody for a trip back to Uncle Tom's cabin?

Think Progress has a doozer for us. Beware of the bad acid, though:

This weekend, some of the nation's leading conservatives — from Tony Snow and Attorney General Gonzales to Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) to Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity — appeared at the Family Research Council's "Values Voter Summit."

An hour and a half after Snow's speech, Bishop Wellington Boone, founder of the Wellington Boone Ministries, took the stage and announced, "I want the gays mad at me." Boone said that while "the gays" are "saying a few things" about him, "they're not coming at me strong." In an effort to change that, Boone declared:

Back in the days when I was a kid, and we see guys that don't stand strong on principle, we call them "faggots." … [People] that don't stand up for what's right, we say, "You're sissified out!" "You're a sissy!" That means you don't stand up for principles. [Click HERE to listen to the audio.]

As Right Wing Watch notes, another speaker at the conference later claimed "the gay rights movement was inspired 'from the pit of hell itself,' and has a 'satanic anointment.' … He suggested that the anti-Christ is himself gay, citing a verse from the book of Daniel saying the anti-Christ will have no desire for a woman."

Funny...I always thought that Satan was distinguishable by his insatiable concupiscence...for women. I guess the Antichrist isn't one and the same, then? When will these people ever make up their minds as to what's what, anyway? They've been arguing over this one a long, LONG time...

Theological niceties aside, though, I think it's time I said a few things here:

I WANT the right-wing nuts angry with me. They're not coming at me strong, because they are NOT strong. They are weak. They are fools. They have weak minds and even weaker gonads. They have no character, and their sexual insecurities are so obvious. Why else would they scream like little girls and shrink from the sight of a harmless gay guy? Why else would someone, presumably an adult, engage in this kind of kindergarten name-calling? Why else would a lesbian, a transsexual or a bisexual upset their whole concept of the universe? Why? WHY? Because it's founded on NOTHING, that's why!

Remember, people--back in the Middle Ages, persons of this ilk used to debate endlessly amongst themselves about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. It was inane: Who among them had even seen an angel, let alone dancing? And why there, of all silly places? These are the same people who used to kill cats back then, because they thought the cats were witches (or their familiars), and that witches were responsible for the bubonic plague. The upshot is that the ignored rats (which apparently passed muster with theologians) and their fleas (which also passed muster) ran rampant in filthy, stinking cities, and with them, so did the plague. Cleanliness was next to ungodliness, after all.

While these people were in their Dark Ages, the Muslims (the same folks these "Christians" despise today) were making great strides in the sciences--particularly medicine, chemistry and astronomy. The Muslims cherished their cats, following the example of the Prophet Mohammed and, more distantly, the traditions of the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped cats (and not without reason). The Muslim world was, if not spared plagues outright, at least better equipped to prevent and treat them than Christian Europe. That's because sanity prevailed there!

Meanwhile, the spritual ancestors of these people were closing their minds firmly against anything and everything that might be progressive and new, because they thought it was from Satan. Or the Antichrist. Or whomever.

And today, it's the same thing. Anything these people don't understand, they firmly shut their minds against it and declare it to be evil and immoral. It's all from Satan if it doesn't square with what they "know".

Too bad that as a result of all this assiduous mind-closing, they know nothing.

Don't talk to me about "conservative principles"--there is absolutely no such thing. The conservative is inherently unprincipled; his motivations are not about standing up for himself (or anything or anyone else), but about kicking others down so he can climb on top and feel like somebody. Like the ideologies of fascism (which is what their movement is, at heart), the ideologies of "conservatism" are constantly shifting, depending on where they want to exert control over others. Either they want to preserve an untenable status quo, or they want to regress to a Golden Age that never existed; they can't even decide which of these they want. They are total washouts! So why empower them politically, if they are so mentally lacking? All their "morals", "values", whatever the hell they call their hang-ups, have no relation to real morals or values. It's not about what they're holding up, it's about what they're trying to take down. They don't stand on principles; they stand on necks.

And that's if they have anything to stand on at all. I've argued with so many of them by now that I know just what it takes to knock the pins out from under them. No angels on the heads of those!

So let's be totally honest about these people--yes, even brutally so. Where I come from, we don't call them "conservatives", or "values voters", or any other euphemistic, politically correct crap like that.

We call them BIGOTS.

Who killed Noam Chomsky?

Nobody, as the rumors of the good professor's death are premature and grossly exaggerated. And, according to the Chavista news site Aporrea, they are also totally misreported. My own quick and dirty translation from the Spanish follows:

On the TV show "In Confidence", Ernesto Villegas uncovers evidence that the media, once more, are trying to invalidate the declarations of President Hugo Chavez--this time regarding the US writer Noam Chomsky, during his speech at the UN on the 20th of September.

The New York Times reported that Chavez "killed" Noam Chomsky by saying he was dead; other news agencies did the same. The press in Venezuela echoed those declarations, and El Nacional published an editorial on September 25 which made allusion to the "delicious report" the New York daily had printed on the subject.

Turns out that President Chavez didn't "kill" Noam Chomsky, Villegas reports, though many believed he had, and described the Venezuelan president as a person with "cultural gaps".

In the following analysis (video) you can see who really suffers from "cultural gaps" and who "killed" the US writer...

The video (Spanish only) makes clear that Chavez was not speaking of Chomsky as dead, but rather John Kenneth Galbraith--the great Canadian economist who advised Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, and who passed away in April of this year. Somehow, the two intellectuals got conflated in the garbled reporting of the US press (and its Venezuelan parrots, who are all too willing to believe the worst of Chavez anyhow.) What Chavez actually said was that he hoped to meet Chomsky, and also that he wished he could have met Galbraith before the latter died.

Do you suppose the media will correct their mistake, and express regret for "killing" Noam Chomsky?

September 27, 2006

Kudos to Clinton, bravo to Chavez...

...and as for Keith Olbermann, he's the latest on my yum-yum list, along with Chavecito, Evo, Big Dawg, Jon Stewart, George Clooney, and Stephen Colbert. That man is the next frickin' Edward R. Murrow, man.

Seriously.

What happened this past week? It seems that cojones are breaking out everywhere, and suddenly it's open season on BushCo. Is it something in the air? The water? Did the collective anesthesia wear off? What?

Whatever it is, I sense that a tipping point has been reached. Time for the gravitational acceleration to kick in!

September 24, 2006

Bill Clinton rips FUX Snooze a new one

...over accusations that 9-11 was his fault. And it's a beautiful thing to see. He's cool, confident, factual as hell. He's accountable and admits his mistakes (not to mention those of the FBI and CIA, which are crucial), but he doesn't take any shit--or unfounded blame. He makes clear what really happened--and in so doing, totally owns the wingnuts' collective ass. No wonder the host calls it "one of the more unusual interviews" that FUX has done--Clinton had him completely bulldozed by the end of it.

One Good Move has the video. (Part II is also available at the link.)

Highlights, courtesy of Think Progress.

September 23, 2006

Osama bin dead?

Things that make you go hmmm...

France said it could not confirm a report on Saturday that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had died in Pakistan last month.

The French regional daily L'Est Republicain, published in Nancy, quoted a document from the DGSE foreign intelligence service as saying the Saudi secret services were convinced bin Laden had died of typhoid in late August.

[...]

In Paris, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie ordered a probe into the leaking of the classified DGSE document.

A senior Pakistani government official said Islamabad had not received any information from any foreign government that would corroborate the story.

The Saudi Interior Ministry was not available for comment.

"If anyone was in the picture, I doubt it would be Saudi intelligence," said a Western diplomat in Riyadh.

"Even if Saudi Arabia had information, they'd pass it on to the United States, not France. It doesn't ring true."

The French newspaper printed what it said was a copy of the report, dated September 21, and said it had been passed on to Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin the same day.

"According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," it read.

"The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al Qaeda fell victim, while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, to a very serious case of typhoid that led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs."

The report, which was stamped "confidential defense" and with the initials of the French secret service, said Saudi Arabia had first heard the information on September 4 and was waiting for more details before making an official announcement.

Another U.S. intelligence official, who declined to be named, said bin Laden had long been rumored to be suffering from kidney ailments and receiving dialysis:

"We have believed him to be in declining health for some time and there have been other rumors of his demise."

He said bin Laden had "minimal operational involvement at this time" in al Qaeda.

It's not confirmed, and who knows if or when it will be. Some might say it would explain why Dubya recently told Fred Barnes (of the Weakly Substandard) that Osama was "not a top priority". Others might say that's why the CIA disbanded its anti-Osama task force back in July of this year. Why bother to go after a guy who's not much longer for this world?

Actually, though, Osama hasn't been a priority for BushCo since...well, ever. And Dubya himself has said as much, just six months after 9-11. That's another thing that makes you go hmmm, but the Crack White House Press Whores aren't touching it any more today than they were then.

And don't we all wonder why?

September 22, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Hurricane Hugo brings down the house!

As my friend Wren says, to be damned by the devil is to be truly blessed.

Hugo Chavez is a hard act to follow, but this past week he truly outdid himself. He spoke for half an hour at the United Nations, and there was nary a dull moment. Quite the contrary: his captive audience was eating out of the palm of his hand. He even got some giggles for finally saying what someone had to: that Dubya is, indeed, satanic, and that he'd stunk the place up with so much brimstone that even a day later, the stench still lingered.

But Chavecito? Came out smelling like a rose. Here he is, crossing himself for deliverance against all evil:

Dios mio, Hugo Chavez is devout--and a hoot!

And the final flourish:

Hugo Chavez praying for deliverance from Mr. Danger

Look at that lady right behind/above him as he does his playful "prayer" for protection against the Evil One. Do you suppose she's the least bit offended? While every boringly predictable wingnut in America (and Venezuela) screamed, as did two gutless, flip-flopping Democratic toadies, foreign diplomats got the message--and the joke.

Even better is the fact that Noam Chomsky rocketed to the top of Amazon.com's sales ranks after Chavecito plugged him. And the fun didn't end there; Evo also got into the act, as did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Dubster wasn't gettin' any love. No wonder the US seat at the gathering was unoccupied:

A suspiciously empty seat at the UN

Do you suppose Dubya needed a longer bathroom break this time? I think he must have been cowering in the loo off the Oval Office, talking to Beulah on the White Phone.

Meanwhile, Dubya's pet sheepdog got rabid over the whole affair--probably because Chavecito had outdone him at pointing out what's wrong with the UN. John Bolton's problem isn't the way the UN is run, which is Chavecito's beef; it's the fact that the US isn't running the world outright, as he no doubt thinks it should be (and the rest of the world, particularly Chavecito, doesn't). After all, the Sheepdog's on record as wanting to destroy the UN. Somehow, THAT terroristic declaration passed muster.

But that's entirely predictable. After all, just look at whom he serves.

Bush as Antichrist

(Vielen Dank, Sumpfratte!)

PS: How's this for a coda? Chavecito followed up his bravura performance by promising to double his oil contribution to the US poor. The last time he made that promise, he DELIVERED.

Now THAT is what I call sticking it to the Oil Man!

(PPS to the troll at 209.169.210.36: Congratulations, your sick sexual fantasy about Fidel Castro, your spoofed e-mail address, and your using Mike Malloy's name in vain, is three strikes against you all in one. That's good for an insta-ban. I don't publish obscene materials, I take umbrage at e-mail spoofing, and I don't appreciate your trashing Mike either!)

September 20, 2006

Are right-wing talkers all raving asshats?

Do bears shit in the woods?

During an exchange regarding the Havana Summit of non-aligned nations on the September 15 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, conservative Orlando, Florida, radio host Pat Campbell said that "Pat Robertson may actually have been on to something when he suggested possibly assassinating Hugo Chavez." Throughout the segment, host Tucker Carlson suggested that both "the left" in general and Sam Seder, host of Air America Radio's The Majority Report, in particular are guilty of "defending the enemies of America."

[...]

CARLSON: Is it obvious now for the American left, which has supported Fidel Castro all these years, that the guy is kinda evil, actually? Are we willing to admit that or are we still talking about the educational gains or the Cuban health-care system? Is the left willing to admit it?

[...]

CARLSON: But that doesn't change the fact that the left has not just argued against the embargo, it's argued on Castro's behalf for more than 40 years. And it seems to me it's -- there's a come-to-Jesus moment -- maybe that moment's right now -- where the left has to admit, 'You know, we were wrong. We supported this fascist all these years. We're guilty. We repent.' I mean, why aren't we hearing liberals admit that this guy's a really bad guy?

Oh, I dunno...maybe because he isn't? I mean come on: Fidel Castro, fascist? No, that would be his immediate predecessor--and a substantial percentage of the old boy's current opposition. Including, as luck would have it, a certain known terrorist whom the US is cheerfully harboring right now, having found no other country willing to do so for an old CIA asset...

But then, isn't it typical of a callow overgrown kid like the Bowtie Boy to confuse two very different ideologies in his clumsy efforts to step up a discredited propaganda campaign? (Gee, I wonder if he's on the State Dept. payroll, too. Maybe they should start paying for his dancing lessons instead. He's not only tone-deaf to politics, he's also got no rhythm!)

BTW, that Pat Campbell, whoever he is, appears to be quite the cross-threaded wingnut himself. His blog is full of his immature, freepish tendencies, which he disingenuously styles as merely "politically incorrect". Uh, no, dude--they're not that. They're fucking insane. Calling for the assassination of a political leader you don't like, or even just "jokingly" approving of such a call, isn't something an intelligent person would do--and to be painfully honest, it's not the sort of thing I've heard anyone on the left (which is more intelligent on its worst day than the right is on its best) actually say regarding anyone, even Bush!

BTW, I doubt very much that Sam said the US gets 60% of its oil from Venezuela; more like 16%, which is still substantial. Can't the fool at least attribute a statement to him correctly? Oh, that's right...gotta keep stuffin' that strawman!

I guess they'll say and do anything, though, to convince their dwindling audience of...well, whatever it is they're still trying to convince them of. And if it's cowardly, bullying, childish, stupid or even MURDEROUS...well, so be it. If logic doesn't work for you, try bullshit; if bullshit doesn't work, try scare tactics! And if those don't work, well--there's always death threats.

Who's the fascist again?

September 19, 2006

NYT gets Venezuela--and Chavez--wrong again!

Jeez. Cataloguing how often the "liberal" (in what parallel universe?) New York Times is out of touch, is like trying to catalogue sunrises and sunsets. Nevertheless, this op-ed by Roger Lowenstein (echoed in the Taipei Times, which doesn't gate-keep its stories like the NYT does) stands out as a crapaganda hit-piece. I'm gonna dissect the formula for you here, so clean off your eyeglasses and pay attention.

It starts out benignly enough:

Latin America, as the late Venezuelan author Carlos Rangel once wrote, has always had a "love-hate relationship" with the US. The love is expressed in its purest form: imitation. The hate -- more akin to resentment -- boils down to a frustrated desire to get Washington's attention.

Cuba's Fidel Castro pulled it off in the 1960s, torturing the Kennedy brothers with his cigar and his Marxism; and now, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is giving us a rerun. At least, this is the refrain of Nikolas Kozloff, a British-educated American who has written Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Emerging Challenge to the United States.

Kozloff apparently believes that Americans have much to fear from Venezuela. His admiring study of Chavez, an up-by-the-bootstraps lieutenant colonel who tried and failed to take power in a coup and subsequently succeeded at the ballot box, is peppered with phrases like "in an alarming warning sign for George Bush," and, "in an ominous development for [US] policy makers."

Then, it veers off course:

As for Chavez, the author portrays him, convincingly, as a soldier indignant about the moral flabbiness and corrupt ways of the career politicians he replaced. We learn that Chavez's antipathy toward American culture stems, in some measure, from his partly Indian blood lines. So it is that Chavez, a phrase maker to be sure, has rechristened Columbus Day "Indigenous Resistance Day." Resistance to what? He is no fan of liberal economics, free trade, cross-border investment, the prescriptions of the IMF nor, indeed, of capitalism itself.

This is all well and good with Kozloff. His analysis is essentially Marxist -- he sees trade as a one-way street that helps the rich and hurts the poor. His book is filled with the sort of new-lefty rhetoric I had thought went out in the 1970s. He applauds the Venezuelan president's idea for an alternative trade association -- meaning one not aligned with the US -- that, in Chavez's tedious phraseology, would be a "socially oriented trade bloc rather than one strictly based on the logic of deregulated profit maximization."

But neither Kozloff nor Chavez can escape the fact that the 1970s are over. Socialism hasn't worked; it's kaput. Free-market medicine (which Kozloff refers to by the more sinister-sounding "neo liberalism") hasn't always worked, but it's worked better than anything else.

And in fact, Kozloff's fantasy of a US threatened by left-wing Latinos is a vestige of a world that was dominated by a Moscow-Washington rivalry -- a world that no longer exists. The only way Venezuela could truly stop supplying the US with oil (which trades in a global market) would be to stop selling it to everyone, which isn't in the cards.

Finally, it rehashes all the tired, alarmist, and just plain factually wrong platitudes the US has come to rely upon when it comes to Chavez's Venezuela:

The right question to ask is not what the US has to fear from Chavez, but rather what Venezuelans have to fear from Chavez. The answer would seem to be plenty. He has militarized the government, emasculated the country's courts, intimidated the media, eroded confidence in the economy and hollowed out Venezuela's once-democratic institutions.

Chavez's rhetoric has provided a pleasing distraction to the country's poor, but it has not eradicated poverty. The real riddle of Venezuela today, as it was a generation ago, is why, despite its bountiful oil reserves, its fertile plains and its democratic traditions, it has been persistently unable to make an economic leap similar to that of Chile or of the various success stories in Asia. And writers who serve as cheerleaders for the failed idea of blaming the US are anything but Venezuela's friends.

Ooooo, them's fightin' words! (I've underlined the alarmist crapaganda bits, which I'll get to shortly. I've also added italics to the part that actually undermines the author's own thesis--which he assiduously avoids addressing by terming it a "riddle", which it is actually not.)

Nik Kozloff would no doubt take issue with Lowenstein's reading of his work, which is, to say the least, highly subjective and selective--and not terribly close. I happen to own Kozloff's book myself (I pre-ordered it so that it would land in my mailbox the moment it was released), and it is not a blindly "admiring" study of Chavez at all, as Lowenstein insinuates it is. Rather, it's evenhanded--and even skeptical, especially when it comes to the early stages of Chavez's political career. Kozloff doesn't spare Chavez criticism where it appears due:

I was prompted to write this book about Venezuela owing to my recent involvement with the country. My interest in Hugo Chavez goes back some five years or so. The firebrand politician first piqued my attention while I was pursuing research for my dissertation in Caracas. Watching Chavez deliver speeches on TV from my hotel suite, I was struck by his offhand manner, which stood in stark contrast to many wooden U.S. politicians. Typically, Chavez would deliver his speeches before a great painting of Simon Bolivar, the great hero who fouht for independence against Spain. In seeking to compare himself with Bolivar, Chavez seemed to be pitching himself to the Venezuelan people as a revolutionary fighting against an imperialist power, in this case the United States. Chavez rambled on diverse subjects, such as Venezuelan history and the oil industry, occasionally interrupting his speeches by breaking out a tiny pocket copy of the new constitution. Later I watched Chavez take calls from all over the coutnry on his TV show Alo Presidente; he frequently burst into song or played the xylophone. While I found these presentations entertaining, I wondered whether Chavez was more hot air than the real thing. Traveling around the country, I saw little evidence of serious social transformation, although highway banners proclaiming the so-called Bolivarian Revolution were always in abundand supply. What is more, while I agreed with Chavez's criticism of U.S. foreign policy, his origins in the army gave me pause. I have a deep and abiding suspicion of authority and men in uniform, and Chavez's constant harking on military symbolism through parades and regalia struck me as vulgar and crass. Meanwhile, although I had no illusions about the opposition media and their scurrilous attacks against the president, Chavez's constant attacks on the press and his singling out of individual journalists made me wonder whether he really had dictatorial intentions. That was certainly the concern of some students and faculty I met at the Central University in Caracas. They were on the left, not the right, but were wary of Chavez and his long-term intentions. I had similar ambivalent feelings about the man's moves to do away with the old, corrupt labor unions. While I was in Caracas, Chavez tried to enforce state-monitored elections within labor unions by putting a referendum measure on the ballot. Since then, a pro-Chavez labor union has grown in importance and seeks to supplant the older confederation which received funding from the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO. The center had in turn been supported by the U.S. State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (U.S. AID), and the U.S. funded National Endowment for Democracy. Though I did not attach much importance to Chavez's labor policy at the time, clearly it was a first move to assert his control against traditional U.S. influence.

I left Venezuela in August of 2000 and returned to the United Kingdom. Although I continued to pay attention to developments in Venezuela, I put more stock in other social movements in South America, such as the landless tenant movement in Brazil, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), and the indigenous movment in Ecuador. But then, watching the coup d'etat unfold against Chavez in 2002, I was frankly moved by the outpouring of support from the poor people of Caracas. Flowing down from the poor barrios, they surrounded the presidential palace until the coup government was forced to disband. As Chavez quickened the pace of social programs in the wake of the coup, there was no denying that something big was afoot in Venezuela. Intrigued, I started to take a second look at Chavez and wrote a series of reports about Venezuelan developments for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) in Washington, D.C. Today Chavez is making near daily headlines and the time seemed right to write a book that would provide readers with information to make sense of and come to their own conclusions about the Venezuelan leader, independent of the U.S. media establishment which assumes that Chavez is a feared enemy of the United States.

Hmmm...the NYT is certainly as "establishment" as it gets in the US media. And it certainly takes the "Chavez is scary/capitalism is good" line a lot. In fact, in the immediate aftermath of the coup, the Times cheerled blatantly for the very anti-democratic, militaristic band of brigands that unseated Chavez. You don't suppose Mr. Lowenstein (writing for the NYT) skipped or glossed over that, do you?

And that's just a snippet of the introduction; the rest of the book follows on similar lines, placing Chavez in the larger context of leftward shifts throughout South America, which his policies in some part may have influenced. But he is by no means the only game in town. Kozloff never suggests that he is any kind of messiah!

In fact, Kozloff's pieces for Venezuelanalysis alone should lay to rest the notion that he is uncritical. He's actually gone on record as telling progressives to "get it straight" when it comes to Venezuela! This is "serv[ing] as cheerleader for the failed idea of blaming the US"? Um, how? (And more to the point: How the hell is it a "failed idea" to blame the US for its very evident part in the various antidemocratic episodes in Latin American history--particularly in Venezuela?)

Now, on to Lowenstein's crapaganda. Point for point, let us dissect:

"...militarized the government": I believe that what Mr. Lowenstein is referring to here is Plan Bolivar, an interim emergency measure that came early in Chavez's presidency. Its purpose was to have the military deliver economic relief to the poorest of the many poor in Venezuela. This is not a militarization of government, but rather a government mobilization of the military in the interest of social justice! In other words: Chavez has subordinated the military to the needs of the people, not the other way around. Heaven forfend!

"...emasculated the courts": Totally false. The courts of Venezuela, as Gregory Wilpert points out, have always been troubled, and often downright corrupt--that is, emasculated by the oligarchy. By cracking down on corruption across the board, Chavez has begun to clean up the courts. The problem is sufficiently entrenched, however, that he will have to take harsher measures--and so risk criticism for it from the corrupt elites, as well as ignorant US observers, who would all no doubt like to see it "emasculated" in their own favor.

"...intimidated the media": Another howler. What Lowenstein never mentions (but Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain do) is that the Venezuelan media was in fact heavily censored by the government--before Chavez. After, total press freedom has been the norm, often to a fault. Even a cursory glance at the mainstream commercial press and broadcasters reveals an anti-Chavez bias that is so blatant and constant that it makes laughable any suggestion that Chavez has muzzled a Chihuahua--never mind those slavering pit-bulls. What Chavez is trying to do, according to Latin America scholar/analyst Justin Delacour, is institute a libel law--similar to those prevalent in North America and most of Europe--which obliges the media to be fair and truthful in its reporting. Is that so terrible? Only if you have a "do as we say, not as we do" attitude toward Latin America.

"...eroded confidence in the economy": This has got to be a joke. The only ones not confident in Chavez's handling of the economy are the local oligarchs and the foreign oil companies. Lowenstein doesn't seem to think them worth a mention, even though they are the source for all the false assertions he has repeated. Oil Wars, however, has documented loads of good reasons (here, here and here) for being highly distrustful of Lowenstein's glib analysis. The Oil Wars bloggers have also faithfully documented Chavez's successful efforts at tax collection (often of back taxes going way back!), which no doubt enraged those rich enough to be well able to pay. So too, no doubt, did Chavez's insistence that foreign oil companies become junior partners to the state oil company, PDVSA, instead of continually robbing Venezuela under the old "concession" system, and that they pay much higher royalties on the oil they extract. Yet those same measures have, in fact, boosted local confidence in Chavez's handling of the economy, and even increased foreign investment, to boot! In fact, the only time that this was not the case was during the oil lockout of late 2002, when the oligarchy deliberately trashed the national oil industry (and a good part of the economy) in a second failed attempt to oust Chavez. What happened was that Chavez fired the corrupt PDVSA executives who had been moving toward privatization, and the bloated managerial class who had been absconding with oil monies--and brought the state agency back under governmental control, where it legally belonged. Since they were all in legal dereliction of duty for being off the job for months on end, Chavez was well within his rights to do so--and the Venezuelan economy soon rebounded after PDVSA was freed from the predators' clutches. Plus there's the social investment (another "failed idea"!) that improved the lot of virtually every Venezuelan. If this is "eroding confidence in the economy", I'd hate to see what "building" it means to Mr. Lowenstein!

"...hollowed out Venezuela's once-democratic institutions": Biggest, brownest and smelliest steaming pile in the bunch. Chavez's style has been, if anything, hyper-democratic. He's transformed Venezuela from a false democracy to a real one; from an unrepresentative one, to a participatory one. Everything, from the writing and ratification of the Bolivarian constitution to the term limits of the president himself, has been subject to popular vote. (How many? Well, I've lost count. That ought to tell you something!)

Chavez has actually bested the US Founding Founders, but no one's paying attention to that. No, better to listen to the false stories of a tyranny that's never happened! It's a lot easier than actually doing one's homework and seeing that the real danger Chavez represents is not to Venezuela (which has only benefited!), but to the fraudulent global capitalist model (which is really kaput).

Roger Lowenstein really needs to go back to Venezuela and take a closer look. Or at least, learn how to google. He's just embarrassed himself and the NYT big-time.

The Liquid Bullshit Terror Plot

No, it's not an airborne fertilizer bomb. It's not a bomb at all, as an eminent British military scientist reveals.

From Raw Story:

Lieutenant-Colonel (ret.) Nigel Wylde, a former senior British Army Intelligence Officer, has suggested that the police and government story about the "terror plot" revealed on 10th August was part of a "pattern of lies and deceit."

British and American government officials have described the operation which resulting in the arrest of 24 mostly British Muslim suspects, as a resounding success. Thirteen of the suspects have been charged, and two released without charges.

According to security sources, the terror suspects were planning to board up to ten civilian airliners and detonate highly volatile liquid explosives on the planes in a spectacular terrorist operation. The liquid explosives -- either TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide), DADP (diacetone diperoxide) or the less sensitive HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine) -- were reportedly to be made on board the planes by mixing sports drinks with a peroxide-based household gel and then be detonated using an MP3 player or mobile phone.

But Lt. Col. Wylde, who was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his command of the Belfast Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit in 1974, described this scenario as a "fiction." Creating liquid explosives is a "highly dangerous and sophisticated task," he states, one that requires not only significant chemical expertise but also appropriate equipment.

"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

[...]

"So who came up with the idea that a bomb could be made on board? Not Al Qaeda for sure. It would not work. Bin Laden is interested in success not deterrence by failure," Wylde stated.

"This story has been blown out of all proportion. The liquids would need to be carefully distilled at freezing temperatures to extract the required chemicals, which are very difficult to obtain in the purities needed."

Once the fluids have been extracted, the process of mixing them produces significant amounts of heat and vile fumes. "The resulting liquid then needs some hours at room temperature for the white crystals that are the explosive to develop." The whole process, which can take between 12 and 36 hours, is "very dangerous, even in a lab, and can lead to premature detonation," said Lt. Col. Wylde.

If there was a conspiracy, he added, "it did not involve manufacturing the explosives in the loo," as this simply "could not have worked." The process would be quickly and easily detected. The fumes of the chemicals in the toilet "would be smelt by anybody in the area." They would also inevitably "cause the alarms in the toilet and in the air change system in the aircraft to be triggered. The pilot has the ability to dump all the air from an aircraft as a fire-fighting measure, leaving people to use oxygen masks. All this means the planned attack would be detected long before the queues outside the loo had grown to enormous lengths."

Even if it was possible for the explosive to have been made on the aircraft, a detonator, probably made from TATP, would be needed to set it off. "It is very dangerous and risky to the individual," Wylde said. "As the quantity involved would be small this would injure the would-be suicide bomber but not endanger the aircraft, thus defeating the object of bringing down an aircraft."

Despite the implausibility of this scenario, it has been used to justify wide-ranging new security measures that threaten to permanently curtail civil liberties and to suspend sections of the United Kingdom's Human Rights Act of 1998. "Why were the public delicately informed of an alleged conspiracy which the authorities knew, or should have known, could not have worked?" asked Lt. Col. Wylde.

"This is not a new problem," he added, noting that 'shoe-bomber' Richard Reid had attempted to use this type of explosive on a plane in December 2001. "If this threat is real, what has been done to develop explosive test kits capable of detecting peroxide based explosives?" asked Wylde. "These are the real issues about protecting the public that have not been publicised. Instead we are going to get demands for more internment without trial."

And therein lies the REAL ruse behind this non-plot. Yes, there is a liquid-terror conspiracy, but it's not an al-Qaida strike attempt. As James Petras, writing for the excellent French Voltaire Network, points out, this is just too nebulous on too many levels:

Initially the British and US authorities claimed that the explosive device was a "liquid bomb," yet no liquid or non-liquid bomb was discovered on the premises or persons of any of the accused. Nor has any evidence been produced as to the capability of any of the suspects in making, moving or detonating the "liquid bomb" — a very volatile solution if handled by unskilled operatives. No evidence has been presented on the nature of the specific liquid bomb question, or any spoken discussion or written documents about the liquid bomb, which would implicate any of the suspects. No bottle, liquid or chemical formula has been found among any of the suspects. Nor have any of the ingredients that go into making the "liquid bomb" been uncovered. Nor has any evidence been presented as to where the liquid was supposed to come from (the source) or whether it was purchased locally or overseas.

When the liquid bomb story was ridiculed into obscurity, British Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clark claimed that, "bomb making equipment including chemicals and electric components had been found,"

Once again there is no mention of what "electronic components" and "chemicals" were found, in whose home or office and if they might be related to non-bomb making activities. Were these so-called new bomb-making items owned by a specific person or group of persons, and if so were they known by the parties implicated to be part of a bombing plot. Moreover, when and why have the authorities switched from the liquid bombs to identifying old fashion electronic detonators? Is there any evidence — documents or taped discussions — that link these electronic detonators and chemicals with the specific plot to "blow up 9 US bound airliners"?

Instead of providing relevant facts clearing up basic questions of names, dates, weapons, and travel dates, Commissioner Clark gives the press a laundry list of items that could be found in millions of homes and the large number of buildings searched (69 so far). If stair climbing earns promotions, Clark should be nominated for a knighthood. According to Clark the police discovered more than 400 computers, 200 mobile telephones, 8,000 computer media items (items as catastrophic as memory sticks, CDs and DVDs); police removed 6,000 gigabytes of data from the seized computers (150 from each computer) and a few video recordings. One presumes, in the absence of any qualitative data demonstrating that the suspects were in fact preparing bombs in order to destroy nine US airliners, that Commissioner Clark is seeking public sympathy for his minions' enormous capacity to lift and remove electronic equipment from one site to another in up to 69 buildings. This is a notable achievement if we are talking about a moving company and not a high-powered police investigation of an event of "catastrophic consequences."

Some of the suspects were arrested because they have traveled to Pakistan at the beginning of the school year holidays. British and US authorities forget to mention that tens of thousands of Pakistani ex-pats return to visit family at precisely that time of year.

The wise guys on Wall Street and The City of London never took the liquid bomb plot seriously: At no point did the Market respond, nose-dive, crash or panic. The announced plot to bomb airlines was ignored by all Big Players on the US and London stock markets. In fact, petrol prices dropped slightly. In contrast to 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings (to which this plot is compared) the stock market 'makers' were not impressed by the governments' claims of a 'major catastrophe.' George Bush or Tony Blair, who were informed and discussed the "liquid bomb plot" several days beforehand, didn't even skip a day of their vacations, in response to the catastrophic threat.

Now, does that sound like the kind of terror al-Q specializes in? We know their track record, and this doesn't fit in.

No, the terror network in this case is much larger. It is the London-Washington Axis of Weasels. And it is relying on the free-floating--let's call them liquid--anxieties of the modern, post-9/11 era to create terror in the hearts of people around the world. Petras again:

The bomb plot political ploy fits the previous political pattern of sacrificing capitalist economic interests to serve domestic political and ideological positions. Foreign policy failures lead to domestic political crimes, just as domestic policy crises lead to aggressive military expansion.

The criminal frame-up of young Muslim-South Asian British citizens by the British security officials was specifically designed to cover up for the failed Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the Anglo-American backing for Israel's destructive but failed invasion of Lebanon. Blair's "liquid bombers" plot sacrificed a multiplicity of British capitalist interests in order to retain political offices and stave off an unceremonious early exit from power.

British capitalist interests may have suffered, but no doubt the US military-industrial complex isn't hurting.

Toady Blair's bum, however, is quite another story.

September 15, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Who's that skinny young guy?

He looks strangely familiar...

Dossier of the young army recruit, Hugo Chavez

You don't suppose...nahhhh, it couldn't be...

Hugo Chavez, holding his army dossier

UPDATE: This explains what's going on in those shots. Apparently it's an episode of Alo Presidente from two weeks ago.

September 14, 2006

This is why you should promise NOTHING to gun nuts

...no matter how badly you want to be elected. (Yes, Tories, I'm talking to you. Clean out your ears and pay attention!)

The last thing Canada needs is easier access to guns, because things like this have an ugly tendency to happen in countries where gun use is under-regulated.

Police in Canada have named the gunman who went on a shooting spree in a Montreal college, killing a young woman, as 25-year-old Kimveer Gill.

Gill, from Montreal, wounded 19 others in his gun rampage before being killed in a shootout with police.

Six people remain critically ill following the attack at Dawson College.

Gill had a blog on a website devoted to the Goth sub-culture in which he posed with guns and referred to himself as an "Angel of Death".

His blog contains a photo gallery of more than 50 pictures showing the young man in a variety of poses with different guns and wearing a long black trench coat.

"His name is Trench," he wrote in his profile. "You will come to know him as the Angel of Death."

Clad in black and carrying three weapons, Gill opened fire outside Dawson College, then entered the canteen when it was crowded with students and staff during lunch hour on Wednesday, witnesses say.

Now, before anyone takes a notion to blame this on Gill's obsession with Goth culture, I have to say that I've met my share of goths, and most of them are as non-violent of souls as you'd ever hope to meet. A lot of them are animal-rights advocates. Many are strict vegetarians. A fondness for black clothes, hair dye, nail polish, etc., does not automatically add up to a murderer. A friend of mine sometimes calls them "death bunnies", but since he's even better acquainted with them than I am and feels no urge to shun them, I can only assume he's got his vegan tongue planted firmly in cheek. Being a Goth is no more likely to predispose one to murder than being, say, a Marilyn Manson fan. Dubious taste it may be, but pathological it is not.

By the way, my vegan friend who associates with goths also owns and wears a black trenchcoat. So do many perfectly respectable people who've had no contact with that subculture whatsoever. How many businessmen do you know who wear coats like that?

Students said the shooting began at about 1245 local time (1645 GMT) and shots were heard over a half-hour period.

"He said nothing. He had a stone cold face... He just started opening fire," one student said. Others told of how he pursued terrified students along corridors and up stairwells.

Those who could not escape outside barricaded the doors to classrooms and offices and hid under desks.

Dawson College is in central Montreal and has about 10,000 students.

Live television pictures of the scene showed police and emergency vehicles on the streets and crowds of frightened students fleeing the college's buildings.

Six of the victims are in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Montreal General Hospital.

They are recovering from surgery after suffering gunshot wounds to the head and stomach, hospital spokeswoman Sheila Moore told the BBC News website.

Two are said to be in a "very critical condition".

Some of the gunman's victims have multiple wounds. Others were only shot once.

This all sounds horribly familiar. In fact, there have been two other notorious school shootings in Montreal alone: one at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989, in which all the dead were female and the gunman (who later shot himself) an outspoken woman-hater who failed to get into engineering school. Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi, a.k.a. Marc Lepine, was also obsessed with Denis Lortie, the deranged ex-soldier who had shot up Quebec's National Assembly some years before; Gharbi/Lepine blamed "feminism" for his own obvious shortcomings. The other, at Concordia University, was perpetrated by a professor, Valery Fabrikant, who killed four colleagues, apparently in a bitter rage over having been denied tenure.

And then there are other school shootings to recall: the Taber shooting in Alberta, in which a pastor's son died and several others were wounded. (The shooter, who is legally an adult now but still mentally fragile and not safe to release, is currently serving time in a young-offender facility in my hometown, mainly because no one seems to know what else to do with him.) Plus a whole slew of US tragedies.

Of all of these, however, only one other--the Columbine massacre of 1999--featured a "Goth" undercurrent. Yet of all the things for the media to seize on, it was the black trenchcoats and Marilyn Manson music favored by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold--and not their lunacy for guns! Somehow, it's acceptable for a kid in the US to tote guns, but not listen to dark and scary music or wear dark and scary clothes. WTF?

It's instructive to note that the countries with the strictest gun laws (and enforcement) also have the lowest gun-death rates. Coincidence?

All you gun nuts out there, please--spare me that "guns don't kill people, people do" bullshit. Or that "more guns, less crime" bullshit. I don't care what John Lott says--he's a cross-dressing sock puppeteer with all the credibility of that Czarist wingnut who wrote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Guns DO kill people, often quite by accident. Try googling "dog shoots man" sometime; there are plenty of true stories of guns killing and injuring people with no human hand on the trigger.

Go ahead and laugh--it's not you lying there in a pool of blood, after all. But do NOT feed me any crapaganda about how guns save lives--that is not their purpose. They are made for one thing only, and that is to TAKE lives. The latest shootings in Montreal are the dead-eye proof of that. Politicians owe no concessions to the gun guys, no matter how hard they lobby, freep or even sabotage the gun registry. (BTW, the gun registry is NOT a massive federal waste of tax money; it's cheap at the price, and Canadian cops consider it money well spent.)

Trenchcoats and Goth culture don't kill people, GUNS do.

UPDATE: CBC is tackling the "Goth" angle, albeit quite responsibly, right now. They point out that while the Goth subculture attracts its share of depressed and disaffected teens, they are already that way before becoming goths, and are therefore NOT made so by the culture. Meanwhile, the pro-gun lobby is engaging in its usual tired arguments, saying that Gill owned and acquired all his weapons legally, so gun control is useless and should be scrapped; ho, hum. Gun-control activist Wendy Cukier, however, gets it right, by pointing out that loosening gun control is the worst thing that could happen right now. Gun control works, she says; it tends to discourage "casual" firearm purchases. I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and say that more restrictions AND more enforcement can do so much more to keep weapons out of the hands of psychopaths like Gill.

UPDATE #2: CTV, the OTHER major Canadian network, is handling the Goth angle in the opposite way--by sensationalizing it unduly. They're also suggesting video games were to blame. They're focusing on the gore-porn aspect of it, even when the conclusion drawn is the opposite of the angle they're pushing. Typical: the government-financed broadcaster takes the time to get it right; the commercial one, on the other hand, doesn't give a shit as long as it gets viewers' horrified eyes glued to the screen.

UPDATE #3: VampireFreaks.com, the site that gained a lot of ill-deserved infamy as a result of the Gill case (as well as a triple murder in Alberta and the recent "Johnathan" case in Toronto), has issued a policy statement of sorts:

so yes there's been a lot of press lately regarding a shooting in montreal, where the person involved was a member of this site.

i offer my condolences to the victims and their families, it really is a tragic event. however we do not condone or influence this type of behavior in any way. just because someone goes around shooting people and happens to be a member of vampirefreaks, doesn't mean that this website has influenced him to do such a horrible thing. the goth scene is a very friendly, nurturing, non-violent community and we are very supportive of our users and do not condone any illegal activities. we have an excellent team of administrators who moderate the site, and a useful system which allows all users to report illegal and suspicious activity. thank you to all the users who continue to help us moderate the site.

i do think this event is a tragedy, but i feel that this site is wrongly being associated with the shooting. i'm sure this kid also had accounts on various other sites, but the media likes to associate crimes with gothic culture because it makes a better story for them.

so, i just want to ask our members to really try to set a good example to the world, to show that we really are caring, responsible, non-violent people. in fact i believe we are more mature and responsible than other scenes, in that we value intelligence, part of goth culture is thinking for yourself and being more aware of the world, rather than just following the mainstream trends. don't let a few bad seeds ruin our reputation, we are a great community

Toady Blair disappoints the world yet again

Jesus. How many times is it possible to screw the pooch?

The "anti-American feeling" of some European politicians is "madness" as the world needs the US to help tackle pressing problems, Tony Blair says.

There is a danger some countries will "pull up the drawbridge and disengage", the prime minister said in a pamphlet published by the Foreign Policy Centre.

And he said while the "war on terror" is "unconventional", it can be won by promoting values as much as force.

The pamphlet is based on three foreign policy speeches he has made this year.

"The strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in," Mr Blair is quoted as saying.

He called on those with anti-US views to join him by becoming "involved" and "engaged" in tackling global issues such as terrorism.

"The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them."

The prime minister concedes that mistakes have been made in the past in attempts to defeat extremism around the globe.

But countries "are not being bold enough, consistent enough, thorough enough in fighting for the values we believe in", he said.

There will never be real support for "tough action" against extremism unless global poverty, environmental degradation and injustice are tackled with equal vigour.

He also calls for an alliance of moderation "that paints a future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian, Arab and Western, wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other".

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says given that Mr Blair has announced that he will leave office within a year, the publication represents something of a political will and testament.

"This pamphlet reads like a plea for understanding from a leader who firmly believes that he will ultimately be proved right," our correspondent says.

Oh, this is good for a laugh and a half. Doesn't Toady realize yet that Dubya has no interest in fighting poverty, environmental degradation, or injustice--indeed, that everything he's done to date actively PROMOTES those things?

Also, Dubya has no interest in promoting interracial and inter-religious harmony; he's banking on continued divisiveness so that he'll have an excuse to continue wearing out his welcome in the world. Witness the sectarian strife in Iraq; it's his excuse to stay, even though Iraqis from all sides of the struggle are screaming "Go, go, GO AWAY!!!"

It is NOT "anti-American" to oppose the war on Terra. It is, rather, pro-world. It is in the interest of the entire world that no one nation dominate it, or any part of it beyond its own borders--whether in the name of "fighting terrorism" or otherwise!

Let's be painfully honest: the war on Terra has done nothing to stop terrorism, and everything to promote it. Al-Qaida had no presence in Iraq before the US invaded; now it's the most dominant political force there. Guess why. (It's worth remembering that Toady, like his master, repeatedly and wrongly claimed that there were connections before the war. Someone, please inform them both that non causa pro causa is a logical fallacy.)

The "moderation" that Toady seeks will never happen. It's a non-starter. As long as multinational corporations are allowed to exploit at will, and "moderate" governments are too milquetoasty to step in and stop them, the vicious cycle will self-perpetuate. How many years of Moderate Toady have we seen now, and no discernible improvement in the standard of living for anyone but those who are already stinking rich? And how many are that way because Toady is just as much indebted to them as Dubya? It's no secret that he and his party have turned their backs on their voting base in order to court their traditional adversaries. The reason? Same as BushCo's for screwing the world: MONEY.

And, even worse, they've hopped into bed with murderous dictators. And show no signs of wanting to get out.

Worst of all, though everyone is screaming at him to resign, he won't set a date. How remarkably similar to his master's grand plan for Iraq!

Once again, a major disappointment to the world, brought to you by Toady Blair.

UPDATE: Jimmy Carter has blasted Toady for his "subservience" to BushCo. I knew there was a reason I liked him so much...

September 13, 2006

Chavecito: MIHOP man?

Sure looks that way...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the U.S. government may have been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks to help justify invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The theory that is gaining force is that the U.S. empire planned and conducted this terrible act against its own people to justify its aggression," Chavez, 52, said during a ceremony broadcast on state-run Venezolana de Television.

Chavez urged American authorities to look into the theory that the World Trade Center twin towers' collapse was caused by explosions set off after they were struck by hijacked aircraft.

"There was a series of explosions in the towers," he said. "The theory that the towers were dynamited hasn't been debunked."

Chavez, an ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, says the U.S. has plotted to assassinate or overthrow him. He frequently rails against U.S. President George W. Bush. During his weekly television program on March 19, Chavez called Bush a "coward," "assassin," "drunk" and "donkey."

Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization has taken responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed more than 2,900 people.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jan Edmonson declined to comment today on Chavez's accusations.

"I don't think you can print what my response is to that," Edmonson said.

Well, we all know how the State Dept. feels about Chavecito, anyway. We learned all about that on April 11-13, 2002. For that matter, we learned how they really feel about democracy and tyranny during those unreal days, too. So we all know with roughly how much salt to take their "shocked, SHOCKED" response to Chavecito's accusations. After all, they're still licking their wounds over the last time they tried to elbow democracy roughly aside. (And lest you think they've given up, they're gearing up for another go, probably this coming December when Chavez is up for re-election. It's already an ill-kept secret that they're financing the anti-Chavez candidates to the hilt, and that at least one of them is a signer of the infamous Carmona Decree--which puts him squarely in the State Dept's pocket. Yeah, that Chavez--what a conspiracy nut!)

As for the "dynamiting" of the towers--hell, the video alone debunks that theory. I already had at this two days ago, so you know where I stand. I shan't reiterate. In all likelihood, Chavecito just hasn't yet heard an explanation that's to his liking, and like anyone else, he's entitled to keep an open mind and be skeptical of the official version. (You also know where I stand on that.)

But isn't it interesting how Bloomberg's reporter says Osama took responsibility for these attacks? And isn't it even more interesting that Osama's an old CIA asset who, for whatever reason, was never mopped up after he'd served his purpose in routing the Soviets from Afghanistan? (Kurt Nimmo has his own theory as to why, and I must admit it's very plausible.) It would certainly be a mistake to say that the trail of 9-11 leads straight to Osama and then stops there. You'd have to go through an awful lot of other channels to trace it to its true source: Osama-->Taliban-->Pakistani ISI-->CIA-->White House and PNAC.

It's a convoluted web, but connecting the dots creates a startling picture of the truth. And how better to start than examining the motives, means and opportunities of BushCo?

After all, it's not as though the current US government is the least bit above doing this sort of thing.

September 12, 2006

See what you get for that Cuban embargo?

You get a bullet in your own foot!

The discovery of potential deep-water oil and gas reserves off Cuba's northern coast has caught the eye of the world's energy-hungry nations.

India's state-run oil firm ONGC, already signed up to exploration in the area, has just upped its stake - the latest to place its bets on a Cuban oil rush.

The 44-year-old US trade embargo, meanwhile, continues to bar American companies from doing business with the Caribbean island.

But, some observers are asking, can the US really afford to risk losing out on valuable energy resources only 50 miles (80km) off Key West?

The prospect of nations such as China, Venezuela or India lining up to exploit Cuban oil has already led some politicians to call for the embargo to be relaxed.

They want US oil companies to be able to bid for exploration rights - and for environmental laws to be relaxed to allow drilling in the adjoining US waters.

And while the debate over that rages, US companies will effectively be shut out while other foreign firms develop the fields. Among them, no doubt, will be PDVSA, the state oil company of Venezuela, which is already in an agreement to ship oil to Cuba and help it run its state-owned refineries, in exchange for doctors and medicine for poor neighborhoods under the Barrio Adentro program, and also for the teaching materials and programs that recently wiped out illiteracy in Venezuela.

In fact, oil--both in terms of sales and the taxes levied on foreign oil firms--is financing Chavez's Bolivarian project at home, which is wildly popular with the majority of Venezuelans; after all, they are benefiting from it. Even the oligarchy, which never misses an opportunity to complain about Chavez, isn't exactly hurting. Far from it. EVERY Venezuelan's income is up, thanks to Chavez's astute oil policies and his decision to not only make sure the price never drops below a sustainable level, but also to invest the profits back into his country rather than just allowing them to settle in the pockets of an already inordinately wealthy few. Now, just imagine that happening in chronically impoverished Cuba, too!

Meanwhile, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, ALBA--which currently has three signatories, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia--is making inroads. This treaty emphasises fair trade, co-operation and mutual solidarity; it's a home-grown solution to a made-in-the-USA problem, the FTAA, in which trade is far from free--and workers, likewise. Chavez, through ALBA, aims to change all that--and if the recent Mercosur summit in Argentina is anything to go by, ALBA may well find additional Latin American signatories before too long. When other leaders see that social justice is not only politically viable but economically sound, watch for things to get verrrrrry interesting!

And then there's that irksome PetroCaribe thing, which situates Venezuela--and possibly, some years down the road, Cuba--quite nicely to become regional leaders in oil (and other economic) development, as well as major sellers to the CARICOM nations. Once again, Texas oilmen and Miami mafiosi will find themselves out in the cold.

In other words: this is shaping up as one for Latin American solidarity--and one in the eye for right-wing US policymakers, who can't seem to see past the ends of their own noses, and certainly couldn't shoot straight to save their own lives.

Or, for that matter, their economic skins.

Ha, ha, ha.

September 11, 2006

The obligatory fifth-anniversary 9-11 post, with a difference

9-11 Exploitation

Blah, blah blah...

That, Gentle Reader, is the sound of the mainstream media in the US, talking a lot and not actually saying anything. For the last five years, it's been doing nothing but that on one particular day when it owes the public so much more than just some obligatory annual orgy of grief and remembrance with an unholy admixture of misplaced patriotism.

It's not that I begrudge the victims and their families the right to a memorial ceremony. It is right to remember the dead of a major national disaster. It is right to publicly honor them. It is right to do so with the utmost compassion and dignity. What is not right, however, is to piss on their memory by insinuating--or blatting right out--that blood must be avenged by blood, and that war and fascism are the only right and proper responses (besides the Annual Sombre Ceremony, comme il faut) to a terrorist act which nothing more than proper enforcement of existing laws could have easily prevented. Just look at Great Britain.

The Tortoise Wins

And of course, this is what's going on still: the media continues to uncritically broadcast the official BushCo version of the day and what it means. Their coverage of the ceremonies is invariably tainted by commentary to the effect that "this is why we're fighting" or "it's all Clinton's fault", even though it is now manifestly obvious that this was never the case.

I don't expect to see much change to that pattern this year. Or next year, or even the year after that. In fact, until BushCo is out of office, I don't expect to see anything more than the usual blah-blah-blah in the US mainstream media on September 11.

Oh sure, this year we're starting to hear the talking heads coming halfway out of their collective coma and taking on the conspiracy theorists. We're starting to see mention of David Ray Griffin, for example, outside of the 9-11 Truth movement's usual haunts. That's a good thing, right?

Um, no. Not really.

CT Hijack

You see, they're still lumping all CT, from the very respectable to the downright loopy, in the same category: Tinfoil Hat. And of course, they're fixating on the most tinfoily of all CT versions--the demolition theory and the cruise missile theory--as being emblematic of the whole shebang.

This is manifestly unjust to the 9-11 Truth movement on the whole. It barely touches the fact that within the movement, there is an intense debate as to whether BushCo actually made 9-11 happen on purpose (the so-called MIHOP school of thought), or whether they simply let it happen on purpose (LIHOP). It downplays or altogether ignores the most serious lines of reasoning--put out by the most respectable sources, some of them connected to government and intelligence agencies themselves. And when it does touch on any of that, it swiftly retreats to the insinuation that this is is all just chatter amongst a bunch of wild-eyed nutters, and that there's nothing to it--nope, nothing to see here, move on, folks. By implicitly presenting the 9-11 Truth movement as monolithic--and uniformly tinfoil-clad--the mainstream media is signalling that everything they say, no matter how well they back it up, is to be dismissed out of hand. Only the Officially Sanctioned Version (TM) is to be taken seriously.

Of course, all the 9-11 Truthers are doing is pointing out the obvious flaws in the Officially Sanctioned Version. And demanding a better explanation than the one we've had foisted upon us. Lacking an inquisitive press corps and a responsive government, though, they've had to do the answering as well as the questioning all by themselves. And the outcome, while spotty in places, is still undeniably provocative and damning; government and media both come out looking like shit, starting with the mind-boggling fact that $55 million more was spent sniffing around Bill Clinton's zipper than convening the 9-11 commission.

And then they have the gall to call this movement nuts?

9-11 Path Lies

Oh, I'll give them a few bones where due. Some of the movement's more out-there "explanations" don't pan out, or they pick on flaws that aren't; for example, the assertion that the Twin Towers "fell neatly into their own footprints" is readily belied by simply looking at the messy, volcano-like outward eruption of the debris (a controlled demolition falls inward, not out, and doesn't leave huge jagged teeth of ruins still standing.) Likewise, the assertion that "it had to have been a controlled demolition, because burning jet fuel alone doesn't cause such a building to collapse" is easily refuted. It wasn't a case of burning jet fuel alone--it was the impact of two large jets, bigger than the Boeing 737s the building was designed at most to withstand, travelling at full speed and then exploding almost the instant they hit. You can see the bright orange fireball erupting out the other side of the tower. That is no small explosion. The planes both went in on an angle, seeing as they were in steeply banked turns. How many steel supports, and on how many floors, do you suppose the wings sheared on impact? The explosion was so intense that burning jet fuel fell all the way down the elevator shafts of the towers, burning unsuspecting people on their way into the WTC from the subway!

Yes, by all means, let's discuss how WTC 7, which wasn't hit by any aircraft or debris, fell later that day. It is certainly enough of an anomaly to be worth inquiring into, and I don't see that either FEMA or the 9-11 Commission (convened more than a year after the fact, and then only very reluctantly, by BushCo) has addressed it adequately. But at the same time, let's not get carried away by saying that just because WTC 7 smells suspiciously of a "pull", therefore the Twin Towers also had to have been demolished by something other than two careening jumbo jets.

You don't need such far-fetched theories to make a convincing case for MIHOP; hell, even LIHOP, which is my own personal leaning, is entirely equivalent to MIHOP from a moral standpoint. Whether it was made to happen or allowed to happen, either way, it's hard not to see a sinister purpose at work when you connect the dots. Let's do that now, shall we?

Milking the Political Cash Cow

First of all, there isn't the slightest doubt that BushCo knew of al-Qaida well in advance, and still did nothing to stop it. The first thing Bill Clinton did when he handed over the reins of power to King George the Dubya was to impress on him the paramount importance of tracking and eliminating that network--especially its most prominent member, Osama bin Laden. And what did Dubya do? Ignored everything, at times openly dismissing information that was literally shoved under his nose. There was no effort to get the various governmental agencies working together and sharing intelligence, as there had been under Clinton (with some success.) Antiterrorism director Richard Clarke demanded an urgent meeting with Bush to light a fire under his butt. Bush put that meeting off for nine whole months! And when presented by an unnamed CIA briefer with the infamous August 6 PDB that outlined that al-Q was poised to strike on US soil and all but gave a map and timetable, Bush waved the startled functionary off with a curt "All right, you've covered your ass, now."

What do you suppose he meant by that?

Strange, is it not, that a president should speak disparagingly of an alarming intelligence report as being just a "cover your ass" thing? One would think that if he really cared about preventing terrorism, he'd have taken it as seriously as a heart attack. But then again, I'm sure Little Georgie Bushie had bigger things on his mind...

Bush's Pet Scapegoat, Iraq

Ahhhh, Iraq. Root of all evil. The very place PNAC told Bill Clinton about, but which he kept ignoring because he was too busy doing crazy shit, like looking for some dude named Osama elsewhere. Clinton had pegged Osama, and his band of brigands, for the largest non-domestic terror threat America faced. He was like Ahab with Moby Dick, pursuing him everywhere. Afghanistan, Sudan, back to Afghanistan, then Pakistan, then Afghanistan again...sheesh! Who knew that one tall skinny fuck could cause such a fuss?

But Iraq was a menace! They kept repeating it, therefore it must be true. Yes, Iraq must be bombed back to the Stone Age. After all, it's on top of "our" oil. Afghanistan? That was just a dry run. It doesn't have any good bombing targets. Worse, it's a stinking embarrassment to the Forces of Democracy. One would never choose it for a showpiece. It's full of hidey-holes and escape routes. It can't be bombed back to the Stone Age, because it is there already. Plus, it's easier to pipe oil from Iraq through Syria and Lebanon than from the Black Sea over the Hindu Kush. Forward to Baghdad, the Oil Ministry awaits!

But wait! What about the terrorists?

They're worth more to BushCo alive than dead, trust me.

I mean, where else is he going to get the political capital? 9-11 was Dubya's trifecta. He said so himself. Nothing like disaster to give you carte blanche to open a country's veins and suck on 'em till the cows come home.

Or, in Dubya's case, the chickens come to roost.

If not now, then when?

Mass murder on an unimagined scale

People of the United States, it's been five years of unmitigated disaster. You have borne enough. It's okay--you can impeach your bad president.

All you have to do is look around you: do you really feel safer? Is your children's future secure? Are you? Exactly what has BushCo done to merit your annual display of unquestioning, unqualified loyalty?

No Lip Gloss, No Lessons

Trust me, no one will think you're a bad American if you attend the Annual Sombre Ceremony, cry for the lost, and then turn around and say "Fuck Bush, he got us into this." You'd be absolutely right, and truth is a legitimate defence in any court of law, even the martial law that I see hanging over your head like a Damoclean sword right now. You have nothing left to fear; you're already living your worst nightmare. What have you to lose by admitting the ultimate 9-11 truth?

Dubya DID get you into this. He had the reins of the country for nine whole months before 9-11, and that makes it his baby--literally. He fucked America, and this bastard is the result. He ignored every warning, fixated as he was on planning the Iraq war, the gutting of the social infrastructure, and the invasion of your privacy--all of which he was doing even as Richard Clarke was running around with his hair on fire, trying for nine months to get the Chimperor's attention. Bush is worse than Nixon, and that's really saying something. Curse, swear, hate his guts--damn Bush until the bile runs dry, and then damn him some more.

I would if I were you.

Missing: America

PS: Keith Olbermann and Capitol Hill Blue's Doug Thompson both kicked ass along similar lines today. I bow in homage.

PPS: If you're in the mood for some powerful healing tunage instead, check out what my talented friend Tony has put together. It's called Song of Solace, and it kicks ass with compassion.

September 9, 2006

What? Vinnie Barbarino is into GUYS?

Well, it's either that, or John Travolta is, for whatever reason, strangely into kissing his platonic male pals on the lips.

And then there's that remake of Hairspray (which strikes me as utterly superfluous, since the original hasn't aged), in which he reprises the role that originally went to the late, great, holy-shit-he's-gay Divine.

You don't suppose...?

Nahhhhh...

(Better watch it, John...or Fred Phelps will go off on you like he did on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert!)

September 8, 2006

US pays journalists to create crapaganda?

I had NO idea!

At least 10 Florida-based journalists were paid by the US government to contribute to anti-Cuba propaganda broadcasts, the Miami Herald says.

Three writers have been sacked by the Miami Herald newspaper group for an alleged conflict of interest.

One was paid $175,000 (£98,000) for hosting shows on the US-funded channels TV and Radio Marti, the paper says.

The channels are broadcast to Cuba but their programmes cannot be transmitted in the US under anti-propaganda laws.

Pablo Alfonso, who writes an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister paper of the Miami Herald, was paid almost $175,000 to present TV and radio programmes.

The paper's reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla was paid $15,000 and freelancer Olga Connor $71,000.

All were sacked by the Herald.

None made any comment.

Jesus Diaz Jr, president of Miami Herald Media, said the payments violated a ''sacred trust'' between journalists and the public.

''Even the appearance that your objectivity or integrity might have been impaired is something we can't condone, not in our business,'' he said.

The Cuban government has long alleged that journalists writing on US-Cuban politics were in the pay of the US government.

In July a row erupted in Argentina between Cuban President Fidel Castro and Juan Manuel Cao, a reporter for Miami's Spanish-language Channel 41.

Mr Cao put Mr Castro on the spot and the president replied by asking if anyone was paying him to ask that question.

Mr Cao has now admitted being paid by the US government, the Herald reports.

''There is nothing suspect in this,'' he said. "I would do it for free. But the regulations don't allow it. I charge symbolically, below market prices.''

(Emphasis added.)

I love how he invokes the market. Can't stop crapagandizing even when making his excuses, can he?

(All right, so I lied. I figured they'd been up to this for quite some time. If they could do this in Iraq, why not Cuba?)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Just what the doctor ordered!

If this is Tuesday, Chavecito must be in Malaysia. Here he is at a herbal medicine institute, offering a prayer before planting a tree:

Hugo Chavez, green-thumb god

Oops! Spilled some soil...

Hugo planting...oops!

There...all tidied up. Now, some water:

Hugo gives 'er some water

What is this? Surely not snake oil...

Hugo with mystery oil

These would look lovely in the palace garden at Miraflores.

Hugo admiring plants

And finally:

Herbal Hugo!

Medicinal root + Chavecito smile = cure-all tonic!

September 7, 2006

And it's one, two, three--what are "we" fighting for?

You hadda ask?

Gas gauge--oil gouge

Notice that CITGO isn't on there. Hmmmm, I wonder why.

September 6, 2006

My take on the Mike Malloy firing

Someone not brave enough to give their real name and e-mail address asked if I was going to comment on Mike Malloy's recent firing from Air America Radio.

Well, I've written a letter to Air America. Here it is:

To whom it may concern:

I'm deeply disappointed that you have chosen to fire Mike Malloy. He was my sole reason for listening to Air America. I don't anymore.

And neither do a lot of other people I know.

Sincerely,

Sabina C. Becker.

If you're pissed, do your bit. Write to them in your own words:

comments@airamericaradio.com

And that's all I have to say.

September 1, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Awwwwww!

Cute shot of Hugo Chavez and Michelle Bachelet

Just found this today while surfing. Can't imagine how I missed it. Guess it's too darn cute for the "Hugo Chavez is an evil terrorist" bobbleheads of the so-called liberal media, because it never seemed to have made the AP newswires. Gotta stay on message, y'know!

And fer gawdsakes, don't show this to anyone at the US State Department. They're still hoping that Chile won't support Venezuela's bid for a rinky-dink non-permanent security council seat at the UN, and this would just so torpedo their hopes of Guatemala getting it!